I know, this blog has posted about Klingon music before, but this one’s too good to miss:
Seriously, though, one of the fascinating things about reading this book was its blending of West and East. Author Arthur Golden has clearly done his homework here and he does an excellent job of transporting us to the world of mid-20th-century Japan. On the other hand, the Cinderella angle gets kind of obvious sometimes. Read it and see if you can identify Cinderella, the stepsister, the stepmother, the godmother, Prince Charming, and the shoe.
This book is beautiful, just beautiful. It’s so beautiful that this trumps everything that I find disturbing about the book. The language is so powerful that you see this other world and culture in vivid colors. You feel for Chiyo and her struggles even though she’s this heroine whose sole ambition in life is to become a particular man’s mistress. The ending packs a punch and was not at all what I expected.
The story’s written in the form of a memoir, so one gets the funny feeling that Chiyo might not be telling us the whole truth. This unreliable narrator presents herself as such a perfect little damsel in distress. What really happened here? Were Hatsumomo and Mother really as evil as they were made out to be? What was the deal with Pumpkin?
But seriously, just read it for the metaphors.
Hi, everyone. I haven’t posted on this blog lately because I’ve been having some wrist issues. It’s mostly cleared up now, but I still have to be careful how I type, so I still might be posting less often for a while.
In the meanwhile, though, here’s a book review of Fahrenheit 451:
I find myself in a position where I have to write a book review of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I signed up for the Mad Reviewer Reading Challenge, so I have to write reviews of 12 books this year. And I just read Fahrenheit 451. So how do you write a critical review of a classic of world literature? The book is nothing but excellent, of course, because this is Ray Bradbury we’re talking about.
I don’t think I can exactly write a review, but I can put down some of the impressions I had while reading.
For the first few tens of pages, I couldn’t help thinking, Silly, grumpy man. Books are indestructible now. We can back them up on the Cloud. But Fahrenheit isn’t actually about a world without books. People in this world are still allowed to read – the fire chief keeps a manual in the station, for example. They’re just not allowed to read anything important.
I think the story’s really about communication getting faster and stupider. Fahrenheit 451 was published in 1951, just as television was starting to become popular. TV in the early days was really fast and stupid. When Star Trek: the original series came out, where Kirk bonks green-skinned space babes right and left, it was considered the most cerebral show on the air. Most television is still fast and stupid communication, but in the last few years some shows have gotten to be artistically good. I wonder what Bradbury would have thought of Downton Abbey.
Bradbury predicted a future where TV reduces everybody to halfwits, but what we got was something stranger: the Internet. Boy, does it have the potential to be fast and stupid. Just take a look at some Youtube comments. But the Internet can also produce Wikipedia, which is something of a miracle. Could Bradbury have predicted that people all over the world would volunteer to create a compendium of everything that is known, then make it freely accessible for everyone?
And that is my not-a-review of Fahrenheit 451.
Some while ago, Carrie over at The Mad Reviewer nominated me for a Liebster blog award. The purpose of the award is to draw attention to up-and-coming bloggers who have less than 200 followers. Thanks, Carrie!
Here’s how the award works:
I have to post eleven facts about myself.
I have to answer the eleven questions posed to me by the blogger who nominated me.
I have to ask eleven questions.
I then have to nominate eleven other blogs under 200 followers to receive the award.
Eleven facts about myself:
- I am an adult and I am still afraid of zombies in books and movies.
- I find the entire premise behind the Warm Bodies movie to be deeply disturbing. See above.
- I like to stick brownies into the freezer for a few hours and then eat them cold.
- I have grapheme-to-color synesthesia, which means that I always see certain colors when I see different letters of the alphabet and numbers. The letter A is always school bus yellow, for example. It’s a part of its A-ness. The number 3 is always green.
- I spend more time looking at cats with captions than I really should.
- I’m a very neat and tidy person. Everything in my apartment has a place where it’s supposed to be.
- I once tried to teach myself Esperanto. Nowadays, all I remember is that “pordo” means “door.”
- I’m exceptionally bad at going down stairs. Up is fine, though.
- I got to pet a sea hare once. It was awesome.
- I dream of living long enough to see humans discover evidence of life on another planet.
- My favorite movie of all time is WALL-E. My favorite movie robot of all time, though, is Bishop.
Answers to Carrie’s questions:
1. Which post do you feel is your best blog post and why?
“Tongue-Rolling: Lies, I Tell You!” Because it’s an interesting fact that tongue-rolling may not be as genetic as we learned in high school biology class, and because it was fun to take that photo.
2. What made you start blogging?
Purely selfish reasons. I started blogging to promote an early work I’d just put up on Podiobooks. Then, blogging started to be fun and I started getting into it. That book is still mouldering there somewhere inside Podiobooks, but the blog took off.
3. Skittles: Do you eat the red ones last?
What? Is this something that people do?
4. What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Sweetened yogurt. I don’t like the taste, but that’s neither here nor there, it’s just a personal preference. What really bugs me is that sweetened yogurt gets marketed as a health food. Nonfat sweetened yogurt has more calories in it than plain yogurt with fat in it. It’s predatory to sell people a dessert like that.
5. What do you love the most about blogging and why?
Interacting with readers. Writing is a lonely profession, and sometimes you wonder whether you’re sending all your words out into a black, shapeless Internet void. But the interactivity of blogging has been a way to make a lot of new Internet friends.
6. If you had to pick one book that defined your childhood, which one would it be and why?
The Golden Compass and its sequels by Philip Pullman. I read them just as the last book was being published, at the impressionable age of 12. Wow. If you want to talk about an ambitious literary project, the scope of these books is not just the entire universe, it’s the entire multiverse, and God himself makes a cameo appearance.
It terrified me then, and still terrifies me now, that there might be a way that somebody could take your soul away from you. We live in Will’s world, where souls are invisible, so would you know it when it happened? Would you feel it? Would you become like the zombie nurse at Bolvangar?
7. Coca-Cola or Pepsi?
I don’t drink soda pop.
8. What’s your favourite song and why?
Oh, gosh, that’s a tough question. I like a lot of different genres, and what kind of music I want to listen to at any particular time really depends on my mood. So I’ll give you a song that I really, really love. It’s “Ghost Love Score” by Nightwish. The song is an epic that clocks in at over ten minutes. Imagine if Wagner had been born in the modern day and he’d had access to electric guitars. Yeah.
9. What’s your current favourite TV series?
Game of Thrones, but that should come with the caveat that it’s also the only TV series that I’m watching right now. The show is kindof sortof a book, right?
10. What do you think of blog awards? (Like ‘em or loathe ‘em?)
I’ve never tried them before, but this seems like fun.
11. Does bad grammar bother you?
It depends on the situation. If somebody is e-mailing me to ask a question, especially if I know that writing isn’t their thing, I’ll ignore it. But if I am reading a story and I find a grammatical error, that’s it. I’ll stop reading. If you as a writer are serious about the craft, you should take the time to have somebody proofread your story for you.
Eleven questions for the next blogger:
- Can you roll your tongue?
- Is there anything that scared you as a kid that people wouldn’t normally think is scary?
- Have you ever dyed your hair a different color? If so, how did it go?
- What’s the airspeed velocity of an African swallow?
- Are you an early bird or a night owl?
- What’s your favorite robot in fiction? Or do you just not like ‘em at all?
- What was your favorite class in high school and why?
- Do you remember before the Internet?
- What do you least like about the place where you live?
- What was the best pet you ever had in your lifetime?
- Do you like to eat anything weird?
Eleven blogs that I nominate:
The Illustration a Day Blog (I know Kaufenberg is over the limit on followers, but it’s a really good blog.)
Today Carrie from The Mad Reviewer is guest-posting on Antony & Cleopatra.
(Cover picture courtesy of eBooks by Sainsbury’s.)
Caesar is dead, and Rome is, again, divided. Lepidus has retreated to Africa, while Antony rules the opulent East, and Octavian claims the West, the heart of Rome, as his domain. Though this tense truce holds civil war at bay, Rome seems ripe for an emperor — a true Julian heir to lay claim to Caesar’s legacy. With the bearing of a hero, and the riches of the East at his disposal, Antony seems poised to take the prize. Like a true warrior-king, he is a seasoned general whose lust for power burns alongside a passion for women, feasts, and Chian wine. His rival, Octavian, seems a less convincing candidate: the slight, golden-haired boy is as controlled as Antony is indulgent and as cool-headed and clear-eyed as Antony is impulsive. Indeed, the two are well matched only in ambition.
And though politics and war are decidedly the provinces of men in ancient Rome, women are adept at using their wits and charms to gain influence outside their traditional sphere. Cleopatra, the ruthless, golden-eyed queen, welcomes Antony to her court and her bed but keeps her heart well guarded. A ruler first and a woman second, Cleopatra has but one desire: to place her child on his father, Julius Caesar’s, vacant throne. Octavian, too, has a strong woman by his side: his exquisite wife, raven-haired Livia Drusilla, who learns to wield quiet power to help her husband in his quest for ascendancy. As the plot races toward its inevitable conclusion — with battles on land and sea — conspiracy and murder, love and politics become irrevocably entwined.
McCullough’s knowledge of Roman history is detailed and extensive. Her masterful and meticulously researched narrative is filled with a cast of historical characters whose motives, passions, flaws, and insecurities are vividly imagined and expertly drawn. The grandeur of ancient Rome comes to life as a timeless human drama plays out against the dramatic backdrop of the Republic’s final days.
I have sort of mixed feelings about Antony & Cleopatra. On one hand, it has amazing historical detail and Colleen McCullough has brought historical figures out of legend and made them real. On the other hand, it would be difficult to read this book if you had no background in Roman history and there is a lot of telling rather than showing.
I certainly don’t claim to be an expert on Roman history, but I’m pretty sure that thanks to Mike Duncan and The History of Rome podcast I know more than the average person on the street. However, even I had a hard time following all of the Roman names and little events that Colleen McCullough included in this sweeping, 700+ page novel. Of course the main players like Antony, Cleopatra and Octavian get the most page time, but there are some very minor characters that get the spotlight as well. And if you aren’t at all familiar with Roman history, all the names and events are going to seem like a bunch of tedious, completely unnecessary details. Antony & Cleopatra is incredibly historically accurate, with Colleen McCullough filling in gaps in the historical record with plausible scenarios, but sometimes it is accurate at the expense of the story.
If you are familiar with Roman history and are a huge Caesarian or Antonian supporter, this book may shatter the image of your favourite horse, so to speak. Octavian is power-hungry and politically savvy with a bit of a soft side for his beloved Livia Drusilla. Antony is a great general but indulges too much in wine, thus allowing himself to be manipulated by Cleopatra. Frankly, there are no incredibly flattering portrayals of, well…anyone. But are the portrayals realistic?
The main thing I personally had issues with was the telling instead of showing. I didn’t really encounter that problem with the other Colleen McCullough book I read (The Song of Troy), but Antony & Cleopatra was full of author interjections. It’s only kind of annoying to have an author show how Antony was being manipulated by Cleopatra using wine and his own personality faults, but to have the author interrupt the narrative to reiterate this point is most definitely annoying.
I give this book 3.5/5 stars.