Log in

#78. Ulysses by James Joyce

James Joyce Tower

Ulysses, a novel by the Irish writer James Joyce, was first published in installment-form from March 1918 to December 1920 in The Little Review, an American journal. It then was published in whole-form by the Parisian Sylvia Beach in February of 1922. Critics consider Ulysses to be one of the most important works of Modernist literature, and claim it to be a “demonstration and summation of the entire movement”, considering that no fiction writer before Joyce had so “foregrounded the process of thinking”. In its eighteen episodes, the entire book chronicles the passage of one Leopold Bloom through Dublin during an ordinary day that happens to be June 16th, 1904. The importance of the day is not to Leopold, but to Joyce, as it is the day of his first date with his future wife, Nora Barnacle. To Joyce fans worldwide, June 16th is celebrated as Bloomsday.

The title of the book comes directly from the Latinized name of Odysseus, Joyce’s favorite childhood character and the hero of Homer’s poem The Odessey, and, in its approximately 265,000 words, it establishes multiple parallels between the characters and events of the novel with the infamous poem (Leopold Bloom, a bourgeois Odysseus for the 20th century with his compassion as heroic, Molly Bloom to the perceptive Penelope’s remorse of conscience, Stephen Dedalus (a harshly drawn version of Joyce himself at age 22) to Telemachus’ quest for paternity). It was explained that each of the 18 episodes has a theme, technique, and correspondence between its characters and those of The Odyssey, but it neglected to actually have episode titles, and I had to refer to outside chapter analysis to understand the connection. A further disadvantage is that I have not yet read The Odyssey. It is claimed that the book has careful structuring and experimental prose, but I found that all the puns, parodies and allusions were difficult to follow. I had to constantly refer to chapter summaries to understand what the intent of each chapter actually was. It felt as though he was reading several different books as he was writing this one, and thought “oh, I like this style of writing!” and consequently started the next chapter in that style of writing. I also felt that all his digressions were distracting, and his lists were merely showing off. Joyce once said that he had “put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant”, which would earn the novel “immortality”; however, from a personal point of view, it made it a very difficult and unenjoyable read. I have no problem with the shifts of narrative style as much as I have a problem with the lack of punctuation. Big words don’t make you intelligent if people cannot understand you. While many claim to understand and comprehend Ulysses, I doubt that very many do, and only claim to do so to fit into a very small and unique clique. The average reader will “glean little or nothing from it – even from careful perusal, one might properly say study, of it- save bewilderment and disgust” (Dr. Joseph Collins). And, sadly to say, his “message” was lost on me, but at least I was able to push through to the end! I still feel that it was a total waste of my time.

I understand that Ulysses was banned from the United Kingdom (until the 1930’s) after the publication of the Nausicaä episode led to an obscenity prosecution in 1920; however, sections of the novel did appear in The Egoist, a London literary journal. The prosecution was after the passage in the book dealing with Leopold Bloom masturbating, despite it being given in metaphoric language. The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, an institution dedicated to supervising the morality of the public, was the pushing force behind the actions attempting to keep the book out of the United States. The 1921, the trial resulted in the novel being declared as obscene, and banned from the United States with the USPS burning copies as they found it throughout the 1920s. The Random House publisher and lawyer Morris Ernst made all necessary arrangements to import French editions. He contested when customs seized the cargo, and a new trial date was set. On December 6th, 1933, in United States v. One Book Called Ulysses, U.S. District Judge John M. Woolsey ruled that the book was not pornographic and therefore could not be obscene. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling in 1934, making the United States the first English-speaking country to have the book freely available. While Ulysses was not banned in Ireland per say, it definitely wasn’t available there, either.

Remember, it was written during the years of the Irish bid for independence from Britain. After a bloody civil war, the Irish Free State was officially formed—during the same year that Ulysses was published. Even in 1904, Ireland had experienced the failure of several home rule bills that would have granted the island a measure of political independence within Great Britain. The failure of these bills is linked to the downfall of the Irish member of Parliament, Charles Stewart Parnell, who was once referred to as “Ireland’s Uncrowned King,” and was publicly persecuted by the Irish church and people in 1889 for conducting a long-term affair with a married woman, Kitty O’Shea. Joyce saw this persecution as a hypocritical betrayal by the Irish that ruined Ireland’s chances for a peaceful independence. Accordingly, Ulysses depicts the Irish citizens of 1904, especially Stephen Dedalus, as involved in tangled conceptions of their own Irishness, and complex relationships with various authorities and institutions specific to their time and place: the British empire, Irish nationalism, the Roman Catholic church, and the Irish Literary Revival.

James Joyce was Dublin born in a Catholic middle-class family that would soon experience extreme poverty. Jesuit schools led to the University College (Dublin) where he would begin publishing essays. In 1902 he traveled to Paris with the intention of going to medical school, but soon abandoned that avenue and devoted all his time to writing poetry, stories and theories of aesthetics. In 1903, he returned to Dublin with the passing of his mother, and met his future wife, Nora Barnacle. It was during this time that he began the autobiographical novel Stephen Hero, but never followed it through to the end. Instead, he salvaged the piece, transforming it into A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. It contains the very same Stephen Dedalus, which experts think is an autobiographical character, and tells the story of his youth until Joyce departed for Paris in 1902.

In 1904, Joyce and his wife moved back to main body Europe, and spent the next 11 years living in Rome and Trieste, Italy. While he taught English, he became the father of two children, Giorgio and Lucia. In 1907, Chamber Music, a poetry book was first published in London. In 1914, Dubliners, a book of short stories was published, along with A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in installments (in The Egoist) in London. The year 1914 was a busy year. WWI erupted and Joyce began work on Ulysses in a self-imposed exile. He moved to Zurich, Switzerland when the war broke out. In 1916, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was published in book form. In 1918, Exiles was published, and the first episodes of Ulysses were published in serial form. In 1919, the Joyce family moved to Paris, where Ulysses would be published in book form in 1922. Ulysses was first conceived as a short story to be included in Dubliners, but as it progressed, he knew it would be too long to be included with the other short stories, and looked at it as a sequel to A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Joyce noticed diminishing eyesight in 1923, but began work on Finnegans Wake. It was published in 1939. During this time, Lucia, his daughter was diagnosed by Joyce as suffering from schizophrenia. She was analyzed by Carl Jung, who after reading Ulysses, concluded that her father also suffered from schizophrenia. Jung said Lucia and her father were “two people heading to the bottom of a river, except that he was diving and she was falling”. In late 1940, Zurich welcomed Joyce back as he was fleeing from the Nazi occupation of France.

On January 11th, 1941, Joyce endured surgery for a perforated ulcer, possibly a result of his excessive drinking habit. He improved in health, at first, but despite receiving several transfusions, he lapsed into a coma. He awoke one time, and one time only, at 2 a.m. on January 13th, 1941 and asked for a nurse to call his wife and son. Fifteen minutes later, while Nora and Giorgio were in route, the world lost James Augustine Aloysius Joyce. His remains were interred in the Fluntern Cemetery near Zurich Zoo. Nora rests beside him, as does his son, Giorgio. Lucia rests in Kingsthorpe Cemetery near St. Andrew’s Hospital in Northampton, where she was sent for treatments for schizophrenia and lived out her remaining days.

#78 – 2003 BBC Big Read
#78 – BBC Top 100 Books of 2011
#75 – BBC Top 100 Books of 2012
#2 – 20th Century Greatest Novel
#27 – 2013 Classics Challenge
#4 – TheGreatestNovels.com
#18 – Koen List
#44 – The Library Journal List
#28 – LeMonde’s 100 Books of the Century
#1 – Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels
#11 – Modern Library Reader’s Choice List
#6 – Radcliff’s Rival 100 Best Novels List
#47 – World Library’s Best Books of All Time List

Holds positions on the following lists:
The Best 100 Novels of All Time
Telegraph’s 100 Novels Everyone Should Read
World Book Day Poll Top 100 Novels
The Guardian’s Top 100 List
The Guardian’s Definitive List Everyone Must Read

#82. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

You may recognize the name Dodie Smith thanks to the popularity of The Hundred and One Dalmatians.  She was already established as a stable playwright, but her first novel before The Hundred and One Dalmatians was I Capture the Castle, which appeared in 1948, written while Smith was living with her husband in California.  She was missing England and happier times, and thus wrote about it.  Critics think that the storyline time period, while unspecified, is between WWI and WWII.  The beautifully written novel is told in the first person narrator form coming from the personal journal of seventeen year old Cassandra Mortmain, an extremely intelligent teenager who writes about her family’s struggle with life while living in genteel poverty while living in a decaying English castle. 

While I felt strongly that there would be a castle in the novel, I couldn’t imagine what the storyline would be exactly.  I pictured knights, or, in the very least, boys playing, but I was very wrong.  The diary tells of an extraordinary family and their home inside a crumbling Suffolk castle.  Cassandra’s father was once a famous writer, but now he mainly reads detective novels while his family slides into genteel poverty.  Her sister Rose is bored and beautiful, and desperate to marry riches in order to rescue herself and her family from its penniless rut.  Their step-mother Topaz has a habit of striding through the countryside wearing only her wellington boots.  But all their lives are transformed by the arrival of new neighbors from America, and the rest would be considered a spoiler.

I Capture the Castle is a melodrama, and a comedy rolled up in one book.  The dialogue rolls freely as we are given a mental image of the castle and its surrounding countryside.  As the layers of the story are peeled away, and exposed to the reader, we learn that Cassandra’s perceptions of life and her family change, and we witness her wondering if she really ever knew her family as intimately as she thought.  Through her eyes, we see how her perceptions and opinion changes as she matures, and this is what I feel the book is mostly about.  It was an easy read, and devoured in just 2 days.  Cassandra’s diary entries do not ramble, and yet, they contain enough descriptions to give you a taste of everyone involved, although limited to just what she perceives or knows.  While a likeable character, I cannot help but wonder if this limited Smith in just what could be shared in the story.   I honestly feel that I can say Dodie Smith has created a modern version of Jane Austin.  An outstanding accomplishment, indeed.

I question if the book is truly for “young adults”, as it is brimming with emotional and erotic subtlety, but perhaps that is okay for today’s youths.  Unrequited love, games of “second best”, and failing to win true love is a huge component of this novel, a theme which has propelled it forth into other entertainment forms.  The first play based on this book appeared in 1954.  The screen adaption was written by Heidi Thomas and filmed by Tim Frywell in 2003.  The movie featured Romola Garai as Cassandra and Henry Cavill as Stephen.  Teresa Howard and Steve Edis collaborated on a musical based on the book.  It was performed at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 2012.

#82 BBC Big Read 2003
#82 BBC Top 100 Books List of 2011
The Guardian’s Definitive List Everyone Must Read

#58. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

In 1877, an English author named Anna Sewell published Black Beauty, an infamous novel told in autobiography form from the point of view of a horse, revealing the horrors of animal welfare.   This was revolutionary in the literary community of her era.  She skillfully spun the tale in a very convincing manner, drawing the reader to happily accept the tale coming from “the horse’s mouth”, so to speak.  Upon the original cover, text cleverly declared that the novel was translated from the original equine language, cultivating suspense and curiosity in the would-be reader.  This is somehow all the reader needs to get over the hurdle of the fact that horses do not speak English.  With that being said, like Dickens and other important authors of her time, she also stressed the importance of treating people with kindness, sympathy, and respect. 

“… there is no religion without love, and people may talk as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be good and kind to man and beast, it is all a sham… “
(page 141)

During her childhood, Sewell injured both ankles during a rain storm and found that she would never be able to stand or walk for any length of time for the rest of the her life.  Still driving to be useful, despite being disabled, she spent many hours driving her father to and from the train station, and learned about horses in the process.  Part of her respect for horses developed from her reliance upon them for transportation.  As a youth, Sewell helped edit the pieces written by Mary Wright Sewell, her mother, who was a deeply religious author who wrote juvenile best-sellers. 

After reading “Essay on Animals” by Horace Bushnell (1802-1876), she decided her “destiny” was to write a book to inspire kindness, sympathy, and understanding in the treatment of animals.  Black Beauty’s portrayal of the plight of the working animal brought attention to and support for the improvement of their treatment, as readers related to the pain of the victimized horses.  The book was credited for being instrumental in the abolishment of the hideous and cruel usage of the checkrein, or bearing rein, as it is commonly called, a strong leather strap that is used to keep horses’ head “fashionably” high, common in Victorian England.  If used for too long, or is too tight, it is very painful and will damage the neck muscles and ligament of the pull horse.  Not only will it cause permanent spine problems, but it can hinder breathing and make many animals useless for pulling.  While users of the bearing rein suggested that high head carriage was a sign of nobility or pride, many 19th century critics of the bearing rein applied the pejorative meaning “patient endurance; suffering without complaint”.  Sewell also touched on the issue of the usage of “blinkers” on horses.  “Blinkers”, also known as blinders, restrict the visual range of the animal.  Today, they are banned from many equestrian events. 

Her life being void of a spouse or children, she visited many European spas for her health.  During these visits, she met many artists, writers, and philanthropists.  She became inspired and prepared to write her masterpiece.  Black Beauty was written between 1871-1877.  Suffering from an illness, possibly hepatitis or tuberculosis, she barely could leave her Old Catton home bed.  Her mother assisted Sewell throughout her illness, and took the initiative to sell the book to Jarrold & Sons, local publishers for a mere 20 pounds.  It was an immediate best-seller, becoming one of the best-selling books of all times, with over fifty million copies sold, eventually becoming the sixth best seller in the English language.  Unfortunately, Sewell would never see the ultimate popularity of the book, as it was published five months before her death.  She did, however, live long enough to be able to see the initial success of her first and only book breaking existing sales records before she succumbed to her illness on April 25th, 1878.  On the 30th of April, 1878, she was laid to rest in the Quaker burial ground at Lammas near Buxton, Norfolk.  Her birthplace in Church Plain, Great Yarmouth is now a museum.

Two years after its release, there were over one million copies in circulation in the United States alone.  Even today, barely a year goes by without seeing a new print edition being published, thereby continuing the life and success of this book.  The original introduction of Black Beauty, written by Sewell herself, indicates her intent and purpose of her producing the novel.  Despite being labeled as children’s literature, it was Sewell’s intent for Black Beauty to be more instructional as an equine care manual rather than an entertaining story.  Valuing education, Sewell wanted to induce an understanding of the proper treatment of horses, giving a clear picture of a replacement for the current practices of her day.  It was noted by animal activists that one could read Black Beauty and have a fairly good grasp on the proper treatment of horses.   Worldwide, it was common practice for animal rights activists to hand out copies to horse drivers and people who worked with horses.  Claudia Johnson and Vernon E. Johnson, authors of In the Encyclopedia of Animal Rights and Animal Welfare, have referred to Black Beauty as being “the most influential anticruelty novel of all time”.  It is often called the “Uncle Tom’s Cabin of the Horse”, and is listed with Uncle Tom’s Cabin when considering social protests inspired by novels in the United States.  The strong degree of outrage and protest action that was inspired by Black Beauty that snowballed in the form of action and legislation was truly the intention of Sewell. 

Black Beauty is the forerunner to the pony book genre of children’s literature, although she did not intend for the book to fit that genre, as clearly mentioned by Sewell. 

It’s a strong possibility that Tracy Park in South Gloucestershire, which is now a golf club, is the inspiration for Sewell’s Birtwick Park. 

#58 on BBC Big Read of 2003
#58 on BBC Top 100 Books List of 2011
The Guardian’s Definitive List Everyone Must Read

#87. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

Charlotte"s Web    Charlotte’s Web is a heartwarming children’s novel written by the American author E.B. White and published by Harper & Brothers in 1952. The original novel that I read was illustrated by Garth Williams. This classic, written in a dry, low-key style, spins a tale about the life of Wilbur, a pig and his first and most dedicated friend, Charlotte. White credits his summers in the Belgrade Lakes of Maine and his passion for nature as to the warmth and inspiration for his children’s books, including Charlotte’s Web.

    In 1948, White published an essay for the Atlantic Monthly titled Death of a Pig, a personal account of the death of a sick pig that was bought to fatten for butchering, and his sense of failure at not being able to cure the animal. In each little detail of the slow spiral downwards we can feel White’s pain and his sense of helplessness at being unable to heal this pig. Is it possible that Charlotte’s Web is White’s way of redeeming himself by saving the pig in the story? Ursula Nordstrom, White’s editor recalls the day in 1952 when he handed her the only known copy of the manuscript out of the blue after three years of diligent work. She was extremely pleased with the results. Originally, this story opened up with an introduction to Wilbur and the Zuckerman’s barnyard, but after contemplating an opening from the humans’ point of view, he pushed the original scene back and labeled it “Chapter 3: Escape”. Maria Nikolajeva, author of The Rhetoric of Character in Children’s Novels, proclaimed the new beginning a failure, for starting with, but then abandoning the human dimension, specifically regarding Fern. But Seth Lerer, author of Children’s Literature lifts White’s presentation of humanity and the strong feminine creativity and composition that he found in Charlotte, and compared her to female characters of other well-known children’s literature, such as Jo March in Little Women and Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden. Nordstrom thought that a different ending might have worked better for the novel, but try as he might, White couldn’t produce anything else that surpassed the existing conclusion. At her coaching, he did rename Chapter 21 from “The Death of Charlotte” to “The Last Day”. This simple change alone was the only alteration made to that original manuscript before publishing. Fifty thousand copies were printed immediately, and by the time the 2006 film adaption was released, the book had sold more than 45 million copies according to the film publicity, and was translated into 23 languages. The critic Anne Carroll Moore, a powerful head of Children’s Services of the New York Public Library wrote in The Horn Book that White’s book was “hard to take from so masterful a hand”. It’s often thought that Moore was the main reason that Charlotte’s Web was the runner up in receiving the gold Newberry Seal in 1953, losing to the obscure The Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark.

    The protagonist Wilbur is under a constant threat of death. First, as the runt of the litter, Mr. Arable is determined to end what he feels is a life that will never amount to anything. This is derailed by the determination and compassion of his young daughter Fern. Later, as Wilbur grows in size, he experiences the threat of being slaughtered. His fate and security is sealed by Charlotte, a grey barn spider. She spins words such as “Some Pig” (Page 77) and “Terrific” (Page 94) into her webs. Mr. Zuckerman and his household view the appearance of these words as a “miracle” (Title of Chapter 11). Through these animals of the barnyard and such miracles as Charlotte’s web writings, White is able to bring such qualities as friendship, loyalty, death and valor down to a child’s perspective. While some may view Charlotte’s Web as a slightly pessimistic book, the overall sentiment of love that saves Wilbur is an underlying positive theme.   It is a carefully told tale of the circle of life, as we are mystified by Charlotte’s entrance into the tale (Chapter 4: Loneliness, page 31) and saddened by her exit (Chapter 21: Last Days, page 171).

    The inspiration behind Charlotte was originally a Grey Cross spider, the scientific name of which was originally as Epeira sclopetaria, but later changed to Aranea sericata. He called her Charlotte Epeira. Later, giving the final touches to the novel, he gave the full and slightly different name of “Charlotte A. Cavatica, for the barn spider, an orb weaver whose scientific name is Araneus cavaticus. White used information from American Spiders by Willis J. Gertsch and The Spider Book by John Henry Comstock. Williams originally drew Charlotte with a woman’s head, but White sent him a copy of Gertsch’s book and encouraged a realistic spider for this story.

    The first animated featured adapted from this book appeared in 1973. Hanna-Barbera Productions and Sagittarius Productions collaborated on the animated musical that generally received positive reviews. The year 2006 was a busy year for Charlotte’s Web. A live-action film rendition was released December 15th, 2006, and casted such stars as Dakota Fanning, Julia Roberts, and Steve Buscemi. A video game was also released in the same year.


Best-Selling Children’s Paperback, Publisher’s Weekly – 2000

Newberry Honor Book – 1953

Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal (for Charlotte’s Web & Stuart Little) – 1970

National Education Association “Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children” – 2007

School Library Journal “Top 100 Chapter Books” – 2012

Massachusetts Children’s Book Award – 1984

Horn Book Fanfare

#170 BBC Big Read – 2003

#87 BBC Top 100 Books List – 2012

GoodReads “Books Everyone Should Read

#64 TheGreatestNovels.com

#46 NPR: 100 Years, 100 Novels

#13 Radcliff’s Rival 100 Best Novels

World Book Day Poll Top 100

Good Omens                             Good Omens is a humorous collaboration between two famous authors, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, and published by Workman Publishing Company in 1990. This unique alliance was the idea of these two friends, who have known each other since 1985. Gaiman claims that the book was originally began as a parody of the William series by English author Richmal Crompton. It was to be called William the Antichrist. But it soon grew into something so much more with the addition of Pratchett to the project. Due to the fact that Gaiman was also working on comics for Sandman magazine, and that this was novel, not a graphic novel, Pratchett was the overall editor or the project, and responsible for the stitching, filling and slicing. An interesting game of sending floppy disks back and forth and daily phone calls brought on the creation that holds the sixty-eighth position on the 2003 BBC’s Big Reads. In the end, the book was by two guys who shared the money equally and did it mainly “for fun”.

The book offers a comical perspective of the birth of the Antichrist, and the collaboration of an unlikely pair to divert the final battle, the end of the times. Through the third person omniscient point of view, we learn that the demon Crowley and the angel Aziraphale are quite comfortable with the lives on earth and have made a deal with each other to protect that lifestyle, which means derailing both Hell’s plans for the Antichrist, and Heaven’s plans to bring on the Final Battle. Both are, however, extremely pleased with the lifestyles they have acquired on earth, and admit that both Heaven and Hell lack the things that please them the most. Crawley, later renamed “Crowley” because “Crawley” didn’t fit him, was the very “snakey” demon who tempted mankind out of the Garden of Eden. He loves his black 1926 Bentley and his fancy suit. Aziraphale, the angel assigned to the east gate of Eden, cherishes his books that he stores in his Secondhand Bookstore Soho, from which he never sells a book. He also loves music, and worldly foods. While everything is presented in a lighthearted manner with eccentric characters, the book presents some deeper thoughts very real perspectives of the world.

They lost the Antichrist!” I tell my husband. And because of this significant fact, Adam Young, the real Antichrist has grown up without diabolical or divine influence and guidance. The failure or success of the Final Battle, depending on what side you are on, ultimately depends on the decisions and actions of this little boy. Adam steps back, in the end, and leaves the ultimate decision of man’s fate to man himself. The book, while never questioning God’s existence, does question the visual often portrayed by clergymen, of a giant cosmic chess game between God and Satan, suggesting that this scenario brings God down to Satan’s level.

God plays an ineffable game of his own devising; which might be compared from the perspective of the other players, to being involved in an obscure and complex version of poker in a pitch dark room, with blank cards for infinite stakes with a dealer who won't tell you the rules and smiles all the time.

It can't be a cosmic chess game, it has to be just very complicated game of Solitaire. If we could understand we wouldn't be us.” (page 360, para. 8)

With this statement, the authors acknowledge that God’s nature is impossible for ANYONE, whether mortal or immortal, to really understand.

A secondary plot emerges with the arrival and meeting of the Four Horsemen. For those of you who are not familiar, the Four Horsemen are the very same mentioned in several books of the Christian Bible, but most specifically in Ezekiel and Revelations 6:1-8. From this, we learn that the Four Horsemen represent War, Famine, Pestilence and Death, but as a comical twist, we are told in Good Omens that Pestilence retired in 1936 after the discovery of the wonders of penicillin, and Pollution has stepped up to take his place. With the 4th Horsemen, we are connected to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, as Good Omen’s presentation of Death is too similar to that of the personification of Death in his series to be considered a mere coincidence. Upon his final interaction with Adam, the Antichrist, he even calls himself Azrael:


I read the American version of this book, which features a 700-word section at the conclusion, tying up a few loose ends about Warlock, the American diplomat’s son that was mistaken for the Antichrist by all those who were watching. It also features footnotes that are absent in the British editions to help explain some of the words and phrases. I enjoyed that there were no traditional “chapters”, but rather time-labeled sections that grouped the corresponding activities and plots. It allows the reader to incorporate everything that is going on into one story pushing towards the climax by inserting the subplots into the main plot at the key moments. On the back cover, it showed a comment by the New York Times as: “A direct descendant of The 'Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy'” but I have to completely disagree. I cannot see relating a book like Good Omens with a book written on a third grade reading level.

An interesting note is that the names “Nutter” and “Device” are actual names of people accused of witchcraft in the Pendle Witch trials of 1612. Elizabeth Device and her children James and Alison Device, along with Alice Nutter were amongst the twelve that were accused of witchcraft in and around the Pendle Hill area in Lancashire, England. They were executed at Lancashire on the 20th of August, 16I2, for having bewitched to death 'by devilish practices and hellish means' no fewer than sixteen inhabitants of the Forest of Pendle. Amongst those who died “at the hands of witchcraft” were Robert Nutter, John Device, Ann Nutter, and Christopher Nutter, the family members of the accused. The trial took place on August 18-19, along with the Samlesbury witches. This trial is amongst the most famous and best recorded trials of English history of the 17th century. Interestingly, many of the allegations resulted from accusations that appear to have been made from competition families who were trying to make a living from healing, begging and extortion.

So do you think that you might recognize the names of these authors, but cannot place them? You may recognize some other works by them. Some other pieces by Neil Gaiman, as Coraline, Mirrormask, Stardust, and American Gods. Terry Pratchett is infamous for the Discworld series.

World Fantasy Award Nominee for Best Novel – 1991
#68 BBC Big Read – 2003
#68 BBC Top 100 Books List – 2011
Locus Award Nominee for Best Fantasy Novel - 1991

#83. Holes by Louis Sachar

is a young adult mystery novel written in 1998 by Louis Sachar and was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux .  It took him a year and a half to write this book, and Holes is probably his most successful book.  It’s about a boy who seemingly has a string of bad luck, a curse stemming back to an unfulfilled promise by his “no-good-dirty-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather”.  Circumstances find the protagonist Stanley Yelnats in the wrong place at the wrong time, and with a pair of stolen sneakers when the police find him.  Faced with the snap decision between Camp Green Lake and juvenile detention, Stanley chooses “camp”.  The warden makes the “campers” dig holes to “build character”, but it quickly becomes evident that there’s more going on at Camp Green Lake than building character.  They are digging 5x5 holes, and the warden is searching for something.  Stanley must survive the antagonist, the rugged conditions at Camp Green Lake, and rise against this family curse and the people of the camp to secure his freedom, from the camp and from the curse.  Interestingly, the working title was Wrong Place, Wrong Time, Wrong Kid.  The name Holes seems to be more appropriate for the novel, as there are plenty of holes in the story.  The boys must dig holes at Camp Green Lake, there are “holes” in Stanley’s lonely unhappy life, and the narrator tells us:
You will have to fill in the holes yourself.” (in reference to tidying up the story, Part 3, Filling In the Holes, page 231, para. 1)
We gather from this statement that all the holes need to be filled in for a happy ending.
The story is told from an omniscient uninvolved narrator who shifts between 3 time periods: the present time of Stanley’s life (late 1990’s), the life time of Kate Barlow (late 1800’s Texas), and the life time of Elya Yelnats, Stanley’s great-great-grandfather (1800’s Latvia).  When speaking of the present, it unravels like an adventure, and the narrator tells the storyline mostly, but not exclusively, from Stanley’s point of view, his thoughts, and his actions.  The historical aspects are presented like a core of old folk tales, a spool for this adventure to be wrapped around. Ever so slowly, the tale unravels and exposes itself for the viewing pleasure.  By injecting dark humor and irony into the narration, readers are encouraged to form their own opinion and conclusions to the events being presented.  This triple storyline can be difficult for some readers to accept, creating a slow read, until the historical pieces fall into place. 
The power of fate is probably the most influential theme of this story.  There are too many “coincidences” in the story to allow them to remain titled as such.  Was it coincidence that brought Stanley and Zero together, two names that were entwined in history, two people that needed each other to set all records straight?  Can we call it coincidence when Stanley slipped in the mud and found the onions that ultimately cured Zero and protected the boys from the yellow-spotted lizards?  Wasn’t it more than coincidence that Kate Barlow robbed Stanley’s great-great-grandfather and buried all the “treasure” in the case with his name on it?  Are you still prepared to give credit to coincidence that Stanley found that case?  I think it’s clear that fate played a big part to bring these two names together to fulfill the promise that was left uncompleted by Elya.
The importance of history in everyday life is a theme that should be prevalent today, but is often ignored.  Had Zero and Stanley known their history, specifically their family history, they may have put “two and two” together.  As the reader, we are only aware of the history that the narrator provides, just as Stanley and Zero are only privy to the history their families have passed down to them.  It is intriguing that both know the folk song ditty without questioning it further.  Fortunately, Stanley recalls the tale of his grandfather being robbed and surviving at “God’s thumb”, as this is the key to the survival of the boys after their escape.  The readers are privileged to know the history of Kate and Sam, and learn from that history that after the boys find the loot, that they are actually safe from the yellow-spotted lizards due to all the onions they ingested. 
Laced throughout the book are the benefits of friendship, true and false as they may be.  Elya Yelnats had a true friendship with Madame Zeroni, and he betrays her in his humiliation of unreturned love.  The “curse” is activated at this betrayal and pursues the Yelnats family throughout the pages of history.  The very real friendship between the descendants, Stanley and Zero, allows the boys to survive their escape, and ultimately bring the circle to a close.  X-ray’s type of friendship was grown in threats and selfishness, and hence did not bear the desired results.  Camp Green Lake warden and staff operate under a system of threats and rewards, but accomplish nothing beyond cultivating the same behavior as we say in X-ray.  Stanley and Zero both learned that through real friendship a person can find happiness and satisfaction and earned them their freedom and fortunes.
Cruelty runs rampant throughout Holes, and Sachar is quite successful in relaying the evidence of the destructive nature of it throughout the tale.  The characters presented are often struggling with situations where they are not able to possess complete knowledge to successfully navigate their particular circumstances.  We learn quickly not to judge people based on first presentation.  Once we know their full stories, we are bound to step back and form different opinions more suitably rooted in sympathy.  While Kate Barlow was an outlaw who robbed and murdered, she started out as a warm and sincere school teacher whose life was completely destroyed by townsfolk who murdered her love interest because of his race, killed his beloved mule, burned her school, and disrespected her person.  She could not have known how violently the citizens would react to the kiss between her and Sam.  As a result of the cruelty experience, Katherine Barlow became “Kissin’ Kate Barlow” and sought her revenge.  We hear the family refer to Elya Yelnats as a “no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather”, when in actuality, he broke the promise accidentally after reeling from a brutal unreciprocated proposition of love.  Elya could not see that Myra Menke, the girl he fell in love with, was as empty upstairs as store shelves in the south after the word snow was mentioned.  As a result of this blunder, he forgets to carry Madame Zeroni up the mountain, and the curse is exacted on his head and that of his descendants.  Zero is presumed by the Warden and guards to be stupid because he cannot read when actually he is incredibly intelligent and math whiz.  He quietly endures the taunting and misconceptions from people who misjudged his intelligence.  But there comes a time when he can tolerate no more, and he lashes out at Mr. Pendanski smashing the counselor in the face with a shovel before escaping.  Even the warden is an example of the cyclic damage of cruelty.  As a child, she was forced to dig holes to find the loot, “every weekend and holiday.  […] Even on Christmas.” (page 206, para. 5)  We also witness the passing of cruelty when Mr. Sir received punishment from the Warden, he in turn unjustly punishes Stanley.  Society has this preconceived idea that if you tell the truth you won’t get into any trouble, and only criminals plead the 5th.  Stanley’s mother believed that if he just told the truth, everything would be fine.  As we, the readers, know, it doesn’t happen like that very often, as the tale showed us.  This novel challenges those stereotypes and encourages the readers to look deeper within people, only taking their facade and initial presentation in consideration and conjunction with the real person beneath all those layers.
In Holes, the onions symbolize everything that is good and pure in the story.  Sam sells the onions in all forms to fight off many illnesses and dangers, and, in the present, they are pivotal in the survival of Stanley and Zero.  They are unknowingly used to expel the bad bacteria that plagued Zero and restores him to health.  They also, once ingested, help thwart bites by the yellow-spotted lizards.  The holes, on the other hand, come to symbolize everything that is negative or bad at Camp Green Lake.  Several times, the warden and the “guidance counselors” referred to the holes as graves.  These holes were a refuge for rattlesnakes, scorpions and the yellow-spotted lizards, and after the boys dig them, they spit into them.  Remember that these holes are dug to build the boys’ character, and therefore are a form of punishment to them.  While a hole stops Stanley from taking the truck to rescue Zero, he would have missed his friend hidden underneath Sam’s old boat in the middle of the dry lake bed.  The biggest metaphoric hole of all is Stanley’s life.  Being overweight and having a low self-esteem courted Stanley to his position of a misfit and a target for school bullies like Derrick Dunne.  It is through friendship and a sense of belonging that Stanley fills in his “hole”.
It was the inspiration of the movie Holes, a 2003 Walt Disney Picture.  Henry Winkler played Stanley’s father and Shia LeBeouf, of Transformers, played Stanley.  Sachar wrote the screenplay.  This Walden Media production was the last feature film that actor Scott Plank performed in, as the character Trout Walker.  Mr. Plank succumbed to injuries sustained in an automobile accident in Los Angeles, and the movie was dedicated to his memory.
U.S. National Book Award for Young People’s Literature – 1998
Boston Globe’s Horn Book Award - 1999
New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of the Year
ALA Best Book for Young Adults
ALA Notable Children’s Book
ALA Quick Pick for Young Adults
NCTE Notable Children’s Book in the Language Arts
Newberry Medal – 1999
2003 BBC Big Read - #83
2011 BBC Top 100 Books List - #83
A Christopher Award for Juvenile Fiction
A Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Blue Ribbon Book
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
A Publishers Weekly Notable Children's Book of the Year
A Publishers Weekly Bestseller

A Horn Book Fanfare Title
A Riverbank Review 1999 Children's Book of Distinction
A New York Public Library Children's Book of 1998-100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
A Texas Lone Star Award Nominee
A NECBA Fall List Title
Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment
a novel by Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoyevsky, a Russian author from Moscow who was obsessed with crime, criminality and vice. It was first published as twelve monthly installments to the conservative literary journal The Russian Messenger, run by his publisher Mikhail Katkov. The first installment made its debut in the January 1866 issue, and the twelfth, concluding the book, appeared in the December issue of that year. The Russian Messenger was also an outlet for the great Ivan Turgenev and Leo Tolstoy. While this is the second book following his incarceration in Siberia, it is considered to be the first masterpiece of the novels written after he matured and settled into his style. House of the Dead was the first written after his release from Siberia, and was based on his experiences while incarcerated. He was imprisoned in Siberia for five years for controversial politics. Despite it being one of the first books on Russian prisons, it was not well received. The change came when he decided to write about familiar things. Dostoyevsky was familiar with poverty and gambling, and he chose to stick to writing about things that he understood. Many of his characters, pre- but mainly post-incarceration, are polyphony and autobiographical, or, at least, semi-autobiographical. Within its covers you will find a “repulsive array” of crimes, from murder to child abuse, with a variety of victims.

During the summer of 1865 the seed of Crime and Punishment was sprouting, but was known as The Drunkards in the earliest stages. It was to address the complicated consequences of drunkenness, in all aspects of life, including family life, but more specifically on the children. At this time, Dostoyevsky owed large sums of money to creditors and was more often than not unable to afford proper meals. By this time his wife, Maria Dmitriyevna Isayevna (1864), and his brother, Mikhail Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky (July 22, 1864), had died. He became responsible for not only his step son Pasha, but also for his brother’s family. The drive to succeed intensified and he became more focused. The elements were not fitting neatly together and the story was not flowing smoothly. Dostoyevsky then focused on the case of Pierre Francois Lacenaire, and the sprouting seed transformed into Crime and Punishment, tracking Lacenaire’s crime to the letter, and the theme of drunkenness moved to a secondary position seen in the role of the Marmeladov family.

Dostoyevsky actually didn’t foresee a novel springing from this idea, but rather was focused on a short story or a novella, but as the protagonist developed and new characteristics emerged, he saw that the tale could no longer fit within the covers of a short story. He shifted to a unique third-person form, and 600+ pages later, Crime and Punishmentsprung from the pages! In the past, Dostoyevsky had avoided publishing anything in Katkov’s paper, but in great need of money, and nowhere else to turn he was forced to swallow his pride and approach Katkov. In a letter to him (September 1865), Dostoyevsky shared his ideas of his work, stating that the piece was to be about a young man who yields to “certain strange, ‘unfinished’ideas, yet floating in the air”; he had thus embarked on his plan to explore the moral and psychological dangers of the ideology of “radicalism”. According to letters written to Katkov in November 1865, Dostoyevsky finally realized that this was to be no short story, but rather a full scale novel.

As he returned to St. Petersburg from European travels, Dostoyevsky found himself behind schedule in both Crime and Punishment and The Gambler. A friend recommended the hiring of a secretary to assist in this monstrous commitment. After contacting Pavel Olkhin, a stenographer in St. Petersburg, he hired Anna Grigoryevna Snitkina, the Olkhin’s pupil. She was able to help him finish The Gamblerin 26 days, registering his dictation in shorthand. Crime and Punishment was kept on its monthly commitments to The Russian Messenger. Even halfway through its reign, it was successfully received by the readers. An anonymous reviewer wrote that “the novel promised to be one of the most important works of the author of “The House of the Dead”. Even Nikolay Strakhov, a conservative belletrist admitted that Crime and Punishment was a renowned masterpiece of 1866. Simon Karlinsky, a distinguished scholar of Russian literature proposes that Dostoevsky and Crime and Punishment is a Russian Rorschach Test in an essay, that it is written loosely enough to host a wide variety of interpretation by readers.

Dostoevsky was paid handsomely for his piece, but the 7,000 rubles he received for finishing Crime and Punishment barely paid off his debts. He would eventually marry Anna (February 15th, 1867) and would gamble away all her money.

While Crime and Punishment was written in a monthly issue format, (similar to what Charles Dickens frequently did), Soviet editors sought to reassemble and print the notebooks that Dostoyevsky maintained during the creation of the novel. This created a working draft of the original storyline in the novella form. Readers are able to access these through the Wiesbaden edition, the Petersburg edition, and the “final plan”. The Wiesbaden edition follows the aftermath of the crime in rough conjunction with the letters received by Katkov. The “final plan” introduces the shift from the typical first-person narration to the unique third-person form introduced by Dostoyevsky. This third person form, considered third-person omniscient, allowed him to create a smooth flowing feature and incorporate all his thoughts and ideas to round out the storyline. Dostoyevsky was pleased with the final draft, but there was a mysterious conflict between him and the editors of The Russian Messenger. It appears that the original manuscript turned in to Katkov was misplaced, and so the world may never know what was so objectionable about it.

The protagonist is Rodion Raskolnikov, an impoverished University dropout living in St. Petersburg, Russia. The novel centers around his mental anguish caused by the mental and moral dilemmas that surround a murder he commits. Earlier, in his university days, he wrote an article declaring that a certain category of people have the right to commit crimes providing that they are done in the ultimate benefit of humanity, for a higher purpose. He contemplates the murder of an old pawnbroker that he considers to be a parasite upon society. He reasons that he could be doing society two goods with her murder, the first being to remove the presence of vermin from society, and the second to utilize the money he acquires by the act towards good deeds. Before and after the murder, he views the vile act as a test of his hypothesis of the previously written paper, and ultimately justifies himself by comparing himself to Napoleon Bonaparte. This is a test, however, that he fails. We walk with Rodion, from the contemplation and completion of the murder, to the spiritual resurrection with the guidance of Sonia, the prostitute, to his incarceration in Siberia. We witness a man who is in complete control of his mind; break into pieces under the weight of his own guilt, and then reborn with new values and ideas. He has numerous blackouts or fainting spells that although attributed to the weight of guilt upon his mind, is not unlike Dostoevsky who suffered from epilepsy.

There is much to be said about translating a classic from one language to another, and reading a book from a different period. Without mentioning the supposed interpretations and “freedoms” that many translators are accused of, it’s fair to say that much is lost in that translation. The expectations of the typical 19th and 20thcentury readers include linear plots and systematic narration that reveals all. This can cause Dostoyevksy’s work to appear untidy to modern readers unaccustomed to pieces of that period. In his creative style, he assigned different characteristics in speech patterns and sentence lengths representative of each character, and this is considerably diminished with the translation. Also lost in translation is the significance of the novel’s name. In Russian, Преступлéние и наказáние is not equivalent to the English title Crime and Punishment. “Преступлéние” literally means“stepping across”, and relates to the image of crime as stepping over a boundary or barrier set up by society. This also has religious connotations, where the title refers to religious implications of a transgression, while English refers to it simply as a sin rather than a crime. We, the English readers, are also unaware of the meaning of the names he assigned each character. Following is an explanation for the more important characters in the story:

Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov is the lead protagonist and his name is centered around the Russian word “raskol” which means “a schism or split”. “Raskolnik” is a person “who splits” or a “dissenter”, which is what we see between from the beginning when he is in control of himself and in possession of his values, to later in the novel where he completely falls apart. The verb “raskalyvat” means “to cleave, to chop, to crack, to split, or to break”. This can be symbolic of the way he murdered the pawnbroker, or of the way his personality split up and fell to pieces.

The other names are not so in-depth, but should be mentioned:
Pyotr Petrovich Luzhin extends from the word “luzha” which means “a puddle”, a great way to explain the personality of the suitor of his sister. Dmitri Prokofich Razumikhin extends from the word “razum” which means “rationality, mind, intelligence, an excellent description of his scholarly friend. Alexander Grigorievich Zamyotov extends from the word “zametit”, which means “to notice, to realize, a quite precise description of the head clerk’s role in the conclusion of the investigation into the crime. Andrey Semyenovich Lebezyatnikov extends from the word “lebezit”,which means “to fawn on somebody, to cringe”. This is quite descriptive of his personality as he catered to Luzhin until the moment where Luzhin attempted to frame Sonia. Samyon Zakharovich Marmeladov extends from the word “marmelad”, which, obviously means “marmalade or jam”. A sweet indulgence is quite representative of the drunk who catered to, wallowed in, and indulged himself in his own suffering. Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigaïlov comes from the name “Svidrigailo”, who was a Lithuanian duke of the fifteenth century. This duke was locked in dynastic struggles with family, and, before his assassination, gave away his possessions. Arkady was locked in struggles with his late wife, and gave away his possessions before committing suicide. Porfiry Petrovich extends from the name “Porphyry”, and it is thought that the detective investigating this crime was possibly named after the Neoplatonic philosopher of Tyre, or perhaps the Russian “porphyra” meaning “purple or purple mantle”.

Suicide, poverty, human manipulation and morality are prevalent themes in Dostoyevsky’s writings. Prior to his incarceration, the main theme centered on interactions between the poor and the rich. Post-incarceration found his work laced with a more religious motif. Frequent references to crosses and crossings are scattered throughout the book. The cross is representative of Christianity and Christ’s suffering for the good of humanity and the greater good. It is first brought to our attention through Samyon Zakharovich Marmeladov, the drunk.

Why am I to be pitied, you say? Yes! There’s nothing to pity me for! I ought to be crucified, crucified on a cross, not pitied! Crucify me, oh judge, crucify me but pity me?” (Part 1, Chapter 2, page 36)

According to Christian theology, Christ was void of sin, and could therefore be a vessel for the sins of the people. While Marmeladov was considered a sinner, he felt guilt, and suffered immensely, showing that he was not beyond hope. By begging to be crucified and suffering immensely (as Christ had), or in the very least proclaiming to WANT to suffer, leads him to believe that he will be forgiven in the afterlife.

Rodion also mentions Christ’s crucifixion in a roundabout way when, in response to the plan of his sister Avdotya Romanovna Raskolnikova (Dounia) to marry Pyotr Petrovich Luzhin , he retorts “Bitter is the ascent to Golgotha.” (Part 1, Chapter 4). He accuses her of offering herself up for his sins, making herself a martyr. He feels that he frees her from this path by murdering the pawnbroker. He never uses this thought pattern to justify his crime, though.

Sonia brings the most obvious cross references into the story. From her referencing the necklaces that were exchanged between her and Lizaveta Ivanovna, to her proclamation to Rodion that they will go together to Siberia:

We will go to suffer together, and together we will bear our cross!” (Part 5, Chapter 4)

It is quite possible to feel that each had their own cross to bear, Rodion for his murder and lies, and Sonia for being a prostitute. It’s important to note that unlike her father, Sonia looked upon the cross as a symbol of possible redemption in this life, as well as the afterlife. Through this, it seems that Dostoevsky seems to be saying that suffering isn’t the destination that punishment is to lead, but rather redemption, and, ultimately, happiness. But for Rodion, this cross does not symbolize any sort of redemption, or anything close to what Sonia feels the cross represents. For Rodion, it denotes the thread of recognition of the sins he committed, the sins not only against society, but also against himself. It is, however, through Sonia, her interpretation of the symbol and her love that he will find his way back to humanity and ultimately save him. When Rodion and Sonia became engaged, she chose to use crosses instead of rings. Could this be representative of her devotion of her religion, or a result of her poverty?

The list of examples goes on and on. Upon searching for the word “cross” in the text of an electronic form of Crime and Punishment, the viewer will see that Rodion is consistently crossing something, a bridge, the street, the market, the room… Is this mere coincidence or symbolic representation of Rodion’s desire to cross into the desired new reality, or actual transition into various phases and new experiences?

Time is a major theme in the book, and it can walk hand in hand with another theme: versions of reality. As the book progresses, he becomes ill from the stress and guilt of his crime. He falls in and out of delirium, and loses track of time. Even when he is told the time, he immediately forgets.

Sometimes he fancied he had been lying there a month; at other times it all seemed part of the same day. But of that – of that he had no recollection, and yet every minute he felt that he had forgotten something he ought to remember.” (Part Two, Chapter 3, page 82)

The dreams that he has during his feverish sleep demonstrate his conflicted conscience. The dream of the beaten mare shows a society that is both vile and unforgiving in the form of the group beating an unfit mare. (Was this Dostoyevsky’s nihilistic views peeking through the fabric of the storyline?) Rodion was very distressed at viewing this abuse but was powerless to do anything about it. Was this his conscience attempting to challenge his concept of justified killing? This very dream is mentioned again later when we learn that Sonia is essentially pimped out for the existence of the Marmeladov family as a direct result of Marmeladov’s inability to find and maintain work due to his alcoholism. Could the dream also be a foreshadowing of his crime? We can only speculate that the final dream sequence of the novel that Rodion has at the prison hospital, of a nihilistic plague a rearing snake of Dostoyevsky’s personal beliefs. Janko Lavrin, a war correspondent for Slovenia and professor of Russian literature during WWI era, deemed this final dream sequence as “prophetic in its symbolism”.

There is consistent reference to Napoleon Bonaparte throughout the text. It wasn’t so much the actual man that Rodion compared himself to, as it was the idea or type of man that Napoleon was, a superman who was above the moral rules governing the rest of humanity. Here was a man who was a powerful man that had Europe cowering at his feet. Despite the amount of blood that would forever coat Napoleon’s hands and the thousands upon thousands of deaths he was responsible for in his pursuit of power, he was a revered and celebrated man, even if it was after his death. It was this form of power that attracted Rodion, and he justified the murder of Alyona Ivanovna as steps towards this power; however, after the crime, this defense never withstands even his scrutiny. It is the conviction to belonging to this elite group that accompanies Rodion in his downward spiral with insanity, coping with the guilt and the reality that he has contradicted his true nature.

I wanted to make myself a Napoleon, and that is why I killed her…” (Part 5, Chapter 4, the confession of Rodion)

America is an interesting symbol used by many authors of these specific decades. While the symbolic representations vary in specifics, the overall opinion seems to be a lawless land that will accept anyone and where they can disappear, if desired. During this time period in the United States, the Civil War was raging, and there was great upheaval in the average citizen’s life. Rodion says:

They’ll find me, Razumihin will find me. Better escape altogether… far away… to America, and let them do their worst!” (Part 2, Chapter 3).


But if you are convinced that one mustn’t listen at doors, but one may murder old women at one’s pleasure, you’d better be off to America and make haste” (Part 6, Chapter 5).

Does Rodion feel that in America one’s right to privacy outweighs the rights of the victim? Is it some distant paradise, as unknown as, let’s say, Australia is to the typical American? America becomes a climatic point for Arkady Ivanovich Svidrigaïlov when sees that his life is going nowhere. At this point, he has unforgivably disrespected Dounia, and, after attempting to shoot him, she tells him that she could never love him. He is betrothed to a juvenile, comparable to a child molester. Running a parallel course as Rodion, he is suspected of murder, although more than one. He looks to do the greater good, with his charitable acts of giving money. He gives a sizable contribution to the Marmeladov children that enter an orphanage, three thousand rubles to Sonia, and the remainder being bequeathed to his juvenile fiancé. He loses track of time in feverish dreams, and finds himself at the gate of a grand house. As he approaches the guard, a small staccato dialogue ends in Svidrigaïlov’s suicide. Perhaps he realized that the paradise land that America represented was unobtainable by the likes of him.

“‘When you are asked, you just say he was going, he said, to America.’ He put the revolver to his right temple.”(Part 6, Chapter 6).

While only mentioned once, the prison hospital is a pivotal symbol. Throughout the period of guilt, the prison is never something feared, but rather a step forward towards redemption; however, at the prison, he still became ill. It is made quite clear that the source of the illness is not prison life, but rather the inmates, of which is an outcast. When he was admitted into the hospital, he viewed it solely as a place of healing. This is the first time he’s been a place whose one purpose is to heal. It is here that he dreams about a virus and ideas. It is through the window of the hospital that he sees Sonia, and realizes and acknowledges that he indeed is in love with her. This change in attitude alters his perception of his place amongst the other inmates, whether it actually changes or the changes are in his mind, it is unclear. You may point out that he had indeed been seen by a doctor earlier in the book, but it must be remembered that he was in his loft room, a place that assisted in bringing about and perpetuating his sickness to begin with.

Other secondary symbols should be mentioned. Saint Petersburg, a city unrelieved by poverty, and its problems, are connected, in Dostoyevsky’s mind, to Rodion’s thought patterns and subsequent actions. It is a dirty city, filled with drunks, abuse, inequities, prejudices and deficits. It is only through his confession that Rodion can escape not only his guilt-induced insanity, but also the clutches of this merciless city. The color yellow is used to represent suffering and mental illness, from Sonia’s yellow ticket to the walls of rooms of both Rodion and Alyona, the pawnbroker. Interesting enough, the Russian term “zholti dom” literally translates to “yellow house” and is applied to Russian lunatic asylums.

This book appears on the following lists:
#60 – BBC 2003 Big Read and BBC Top 100 Books List of 2011
#27 – BBC Top 100 Books List of 2012
#21 – TheGreatestNovels.com
Best 100 Novels of All Time
GoodReads Books Everyone Should Read
Noughts and crosses

Noughts and Crosses
is the first book of five by English author Malorie Blackman. It is written in a first person viewpoint of the protagonists, alternating between the two, Sephy Hadley and Callum McGregor. Society is split in two by a racial hierarchy: the black, dominating and ruling upper class Crosses and the white, subservient subhuman lower class noughts (never with a capital “n”). Sephy is a Cross, and Callum is a nought, echoing Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet, and just like Romeo and Juliet, it is a story about love encased in violence.

The book was chosen due to its appearance on the 2011 BBC Top 100 Books List. I confess that I knew nothing about Malorie Blackman when I picked up the book, and thought that the “racist” attitudes and propaganda in the book were broader than the limited “black and white” theme that has plagued our society. Perhaps it’s due to having experienced racism for my skin color, and witnessing more aspects of racism where the victims were not black led me to this opinion. Discrimination against Native Americans, against other religions, against political party members, sexism… predominantly in my experience. I therefore was forming a much broader opinion based on more recent discrimination in the world, as those mentioned above. Only once I read about the author did it clear up where her focus was. Blackman’s story flipflops what our society is groomed to expect. Slavery has ended, but the conditions for the noughts are still deplorable. Reflective of the southern blacks? Or reflective of Jews pre-WWII? Native Americans in the United States from the 1800’s on? The Kurds in Iraq? The Pagans of Europe? Blackman is careful to point out that when you’re the majority, you don’t necessarily see what is going on. By turning the tables, she felt she was opening up eyes. It was definitely effective in presenting distressing and sometimes disturbing acts of discrimination, injustice, and consequential violence. It forces the reader to be more scrutinizing about the questions surrounding color, class and social injustice that runs rampant in our world today. Blackman stated that for years she had resisted writing about racism. Due to the containment of terrorist acts, Blackman couldn’t find a single American publisher willing to take on the book. Soon after 9/11, it was published in the UK. Terrorist activity takes the forefront, as Callum and other noughts feel that violence is the only route left for them to take to change the situation.

A series of events lead each character to develop as their personality dictates. Both Sephy and Callum fight the racism in their own way. One uses violence and the other pursues it through non-violent means. Many noughts turn to the Liberation Militia, an activist group that feel that violence is the only way for noughts to escape their positions in life. Ultimately, the McGregor family is decimated due to the path of violence they take through the Liberation Militia. The noughts use the slanderous term “daggers” for the Crosses, and the Crosses use the denigrating term “blankers”, meaning blanks, zeroes, nothings, “a waste of space”, for the noughts. Life is hard enough growing up in our world. Add the extra complications of their world and it becomes next to impossible to accomplish their goal of remaining friends, and later, of being together as lovers. Sephy makes a few poorly-thought out and costly blunders along the way in the name of love, but her young age and the consequential immaturity hinders her foresight. She sets out with the mindset to show that she is not afraid to be friends with a nought, and it inadvertently backfires. Callum, on the other hand, has endured a more consequential upbringing and is more reserved in his actions.

This book is on the reading list for 14-16 year-olds in UK High School. I don’t think this book is quite appropriate for children younger than that, considering the level of violence and subject matter. Racism and equality are not common topics for Young Adult books.

This book has received the following credit and awards:
#61 on the BBC 2003 Big Read and the Top 100 Books List of 2011
Lancashire Children’s Book of the Year – 2002
Red House Children’s Book Award – 2002
Sheffield Children’s Book Award – 2002
Wirral Paperpack of the Year Award – 2003
Fantastic Fiction Award – 2004
Berkshire Book Award (shortlist) – 2005
Lancashire Children’s Book of the Year (shortlist) – 2005
Redbridge Teenage Book Award (shortlist) – 2005
Lancashire Children’s Book of the Year (shortlist) – 2006
Staffordshire Young People’s Book of the Year – 2006

The Noughts and Crosses Series
1. Noughts and Crosses
2. An Eye For an Eye
3. Knife Edge
4. Checkmate
5. Double Cross

The Light Between Oceans

Light between oceans

The Light Between Oceans
is the debut novel by London attorney M. L. Stedman, published on July 31st, 2012. The main characters, a WWI veteran and his wife, find themselves living on an island off the coast of Western Australia tending a lighthouse. Stedman writes with great knowledge and conviction of the area, which is her home territory, and her passion for the region swells from within, in the book’s imagery. She said a mental picture of a woman and a lighthouse is what inspired her to write this book. She followed the mental thread and the story unfolded across the pages.

Several characters throughout the book face difficult ethical dilemmas. Even cocooned upon Janus Rock, decisions that the couple makes have profound unforeseen effects on others, and the poor decision becomes a question of being of low integrity or human weakness. It is the clash between moral truth and human instinct. The survivor-guilt-ridden, rule-observing lighthouse keeper sacrifices his principles to accommodate and placate, for better or for worse, his traumatized barren wife. At times, we may perceive that our decisions impact only ourselves, the decision makers, and this is accentuated by the isolation of Janus Rock, but in reality, everyone is affected in ways that we were blind to, as becomes evident when the truth emerges. Although it’s obvious that the title refers to the lighthouse, could it also be symbolic of the happiness that the couple felt on its island when they found and raised Lucy? I believe so. I found that although some made poor decisions, the style of writing and character presentation helped the reader to understand each character, and ultimately feel some sympathy for them. I confess that I don’t have the drive to have babies, and this left me at a bit of a loss for Isabel’s emotions surrounding her inability to breed. While “walking a mile in the other person’s shoes” is a common old saying, one must understand that what one person might feel to be good and moral may be different from another’s viewpoint. To be human is a complex scenario that is bound to see errors in its course, but as the decisions age, they become more complex and difficult to untangle, and the consequences more costly. It’s through compassion and mercy that will allow society to heal when we do error, as we saw in the end when Hannah decided that forgiveness and sympathy were the better route over revenge. I also feel that Stedman is trying to emphasize that there are more areas the shade of grey, than black and white. Who was the perfect one to raise Grace/Lucy? While the Germans were the enemy during WWI and WWII, Hannah’s husband was innocent, and suffered at the hands of veterans and a community who had suffered at the hands of Germans. Is this justified? Is this excusable, or prosecutable?

“The town draws a veil over certain events. This is a small community, where everyone knows that sometimes the contract to forget is as important as any promise to remember. Children can grow up having no knowledge of the indiscretion of their father in his youth, or the illegitimate sibling who lives fifty miles away and bears another man’s name. History is that which is agreed upon by mutual consent.” (Page 155, para. 7)

Prevalent throughout the text is loss of love, or in the very least, the fear of its loss. Without love, a very basic human need, does life have any meaning? This is what each character must decide for his or herself, as well as the sources of that love. The storyline was well-structured and moved fluidly and consistently across the timeline, possibly a credit to Stedman’s career as an attorney. Weaving along the coast of Western Australia, the story finally concludes in the only way it realistically could. It’s not the fairytale ending we’ve come to expect of our childhood stories, but it concluded in a realistic and believable denouement.

This novel was voted as the Historical Novel of the Year – 2012 by the GoodRead’s reading community and was on the New York Times Best Seller list. An interesting note is that Dreamworks scooped up the Hollywood movie rights, and have David Heyman (Harry Potter) lined up to produce the feature. 

The Remains of the Day“Lesser butlers will abandon their professional being for the private one at the least provocation. For such persons, being a butler is like playing some pantomime role; a small push, a slight stumble, and the façade will drop to reveal the actor beneath. The great butlers are great by virtue of their ability to inhabit their professional role and inhabit it to the utmost; they will not be shaken out by external events, however surprising, alarming or vexing. They wear their professionalism as a decent gentleman will wear his suit.”

(The Remains of the Day, pages 42-43)

The Remains of the Day is a novel written by Kazuo Ishiguro and published by Faber & Faber Limited in 1989. This English Aristocratic novel is considered a tragedy, and is told from a first person point of view, from that of Stevens, a butler who served Lord Darlington prior to and into WWII. It is thought that Lord Darlington was most likely a composite of the various British appeasers of the upper class who were in Halifax’ and Chamberlain’s corner prior to the start of hostilities in WWII. These individuals maintained a pro-German stance and warm relations with Germany favored by quite a few British aristocrats in the early 1930’s, not very much unlike that of Lord Londonderry. The novel spans from the early 1920’s through July of 1956, but spends most of the time reminiscing about the years leading up to WWII. At which time, the American Mr. Farraday purchased the house and kept the main employees, including Mr. Stevens intact.

The Remains of the Day hangs upon the backbone of true historical events. In the pages are mentioned the Treaty of Versailles, the rise of Nazism, and not only the cunning nature of the Nazi regime, but also the gullibility and amiability of influential people. The Treaty of Versailles was just one of the peace treaties at the end of WWI, but the one that dealt specifically with Germany. In this treaty, Germany had to accept responsibility for causing this war (along with Austria and Hungary). They had to disarm, make substantial territorial concessions and pay heavy reparations to countries that formed the Entente Powers (France, Britain, Russia, Italy, Japan, Belgium, Serbia, Greece, Montenegro, Romania, and Czechoslovakia). These war reparations totaled 132 billion Marks in 1921. In today’s value, that equals (2013) roughly$442 billion / £284 billion. Many economists, including John Maynard Keynes declared that the amount was excessive and counterproductive. Minor restrictions included the occupation of the Rhineland (Part XIV), military restrictions, and territorial changes. The determination of the French was to have Germany as weak as possible. When Germany failed to make a payment, France and Belgium led the Occupation of the Ruhr. American and British aristocracies witnessed the suffering of the people and felt that the continued war reparations were inhumane.

Due to the professionalism of Mr. Steven, the tone is extremely proper and formal diction, with many English locutions laced with hints of nostalgia and regret. As he makes his way through the West Country on a road trip to see Miss Kenton, minor events along the way lead him to reflect on seemingly minor events through his service at Darlington Hall. He served Lord Darlington for thirty-five years fulfilling all the needs of the house loyally until the death of his employer. The very real theme of the decline of the British aristocracy can be directly linked to the 1911 Parliament Act and the inheritance tax increases imposed after WWII. The Parliament Act reduced much of the influential power that the gentility had utilized in the past, while the tax increases forced the break-up of many estates that had been passed down through the generations.

Loyalty is an important pillar for a butler, and for Mr. Stevens. When questioned by the god son Mr. Cardinal regarding his employer’s relationship and activities with Sir Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts, and the secret meetings between England’s Prime Minister and German Ambassador Ribbentrop, Mr. Stevens maintains completely loyalty to Lord Darlington and dismisses any thoughts of wrongdoing, whether intentional or unintentional, on the part of his employer.

Mr. Stevens frequently calls on his vision of dignity to help him get through varying levels of situations, from the minor passing non-issue to the most challenging event. He habitually mentions that dignity is not a metaphoric uniform one puts on every morning, but rather is what a person is inside and out. This is the main reason that he does not want to show Miss Kenton the book he is reading when she disturbs his “personal” time (page 167), and the main spur to his reaction when she questions him about pretending to be this unemotional all-business character at all times (page 154). It isn’t because he is ashamed of the book, itself, but rather he feels that a level of professionalism has been breached, and he views that the relationship has grown into something more personal and is unsure how to deal with such. While the whole book deals with his professionalism and his personal relationship with Miss Kenton, he is the last to admit that there is anything of the sort beyond a great working relationship. When he finally admits there is something there, he is unsure how to embrace it, as his whole life has been spent preserving dignity at the expense of such emotions, and this preservation, has indeed, preserved his own identity, to him. He dons the mask of dignity and hides the true Mr. Stevens beneath layers of imperturbability and dignity, but along the way, he has lost both the connection and use of these emotions and his way along the path of life, forging intimate relationships, self-expression and his own beliefs outside of the realm of serving. But, one of the internal struggles within comes down to the relationship of dignity and greatness. He must decide if his proclaimed belief that dignity is a component of greatness is indeed true. He learns that while dignity is an integral part of greatness, it is but a small part that must be balanced and work congruently with other elements. Is it too late for him to exercise and develop these other elements? As he lets Miss Kenton leave on the bus, he acknowledges and admits his heart breaking (page 239) when he begins to cry. Afterwards, while sitting on the pier, he reasons out his own beliefs and justifications for Lord Darlington’s choices and actions during his service, and formulates his own beliefs without shame.

As he motors his way across the country, dignity riddles his memory as he recalls different incidents and events during his time at Darlington Hall. Hindsight is 20/20 says the sayings, and while these events were taking place, he failed to see the bigger pictures. It was not until years after the fact that he puts all those events together like a string of pearls to see the picture that he missed so long ago. Social rules of the time silently stated that servants could not serve in complete devotion if they married, therefore forcing decisions between employment and marriage. While Mr. Stevens is quite aware of Miss Kenton’s feelings for him, he intentionally avoids reciprocating out of devotion to his professionalism and dignity. But it is not until reviewing these interactions during his travels does he grasp the full scope of his feelings and the loss of any chances to regain a possible relationship with Miss Kenton. He realizes that he wrongly situated the blame for bottling and removal of his feelings completely on his definition of dignity and failed to acknowledge his emotional immaturity. The closer to the meeting with Miss Kenton gets, the stronger the tone of regret in his memories, as he realizes the mistaken decisions he made and understands the irreparable losses he has experienced. At the end of their meeting, Miss Kenton also verbalizes her regret in the decisions she has made.

Throughout the novel, Mr. Stevens mentions and stresses over bantering and his inability to successfully deliver. He notices that his new employer Mr. Farraday seems to enjoy friendly non-consequential bantering, something Mr. Stevens has not experienced with the English gentlemen he has served in the past. He is unsure if it is an American “thing” or new tradition elemental in the new breed of gentlemen of the world. As he sits on the pier, he gains advice from the retired butler and insight from the crowd around him. Along his return trip to Darlington Hall, he contemplates the concept of bantering, a skill that requires free thinking and personality, and precision and relaxation in its delivery. The retired butler tells him to quit looking back so much and to enjoy himself, especially the best part of the day, the evening. After all the work is done, but your feet up and enjoy “the remains of the day” (page 244). He comes to the conclusion that bantering is the key to human warmth.

The Remains of the Day made a noticeable mark when it hit the scene.

· #84 on the BBC Top 100 Books List of 2012

· 501 Must Read Books List

· The Guardian’s Definitive List Everyone Must Read 2009

· The Guardian’s Books You Can’t Live Without List 2007

· Man Booker Prize Winners, 1989

· #19 on the NPR 100 Years in 100 Novels

· World Book Day Poll Top 100 Books List.

· Placed 8th on The Observer’s List 2006

The film adaption in 1993 starred Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. There were quite a few variances in the movie when compared with the book. First, the Jewish girls in the novel have worked at Darlington Hall for years while the Jewish girls in the movie were refugees and were in danger of being sent back to Germany when Lord Darlington ordered to have them released. After Lord Darlington’s death, the house is bought by Mr. Farraday in the novel, but is bought by Senator Lewis in the movie. As Miss Kenton is in her parlor crying, instead of Mr. Stevens interrupting and discussing domestic issues, as he does in the movie, in the novel, he stands at the door for a moment but decides not to disturb her, showing how warm-hearted he really is towards her. In the novel, character’s motives are better discussed, making them seem a bit more three dimensional, whereas in the movie, we are left to wonder or interpret decisions based on our own experiences and emotions. When Miss Kenton and Mr. Stevens part for the last time, he is more obviously in distress in the novel than the movie gives him credit for. In the novel, Mr. Stevens sits in on the pier listening to the conversations around him before the lights are turned on with the retired butler, airing his thoughts with the colleague in the novel, but the movie has Mr. Stevens enjoying the lights with Miss Kenton. Despite any differences with the novel, it was, justifiably, nominated for 8 Academy Awards in 1994. In many categories it lost to Schindler’s List. It received 6 Nominations in the 1994 BAFTA Film Awards, 2 nominations for the 1994 CFCA Awards, 1 nomination for the 1994 DGA Awards, 5 nominations for the 1994 Golden Globes, 1 Nomination for the 1995 Goya Awards, 1 Nomination for the 1994 USC Scripter Award, and 1 nomination for the 1994 WGA Award. It won, however, in the following:

· 1994 SEFCA Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins) 3rd Place SEFCA Best Picture

· 1995 Robert Festival Best Foreign Film

· 2nd Place 1993 NYFCC Best Actor

· 1994 2nd Place NSFC Best Actor

· 1993 NBR Best Actor NBR Award Top Ten Films

· 1993 LAFCA Best Actor

· 1994 ALFS Actor of the Year ALFS British Film of the Year ALFS Director of the Year

· 1994 KCFCC Best Actor KCFCC Best Actress

· 1995 Silver Ribbon Best Foreign Director

· 1994 Evening Standard British Film Best Actress

· 1994 David di Donatello Awards Best Foreign Actor David di Donatello Awards Best Foreign Actress Nominated David di Donatello Best Foreign Film

· 1994 DFWFCA Award Best Actor

It also received favorable reviews from Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert, Desson Howe (The Washington Post), and Vincent Canby (The New York Times).



Latest Month

June 2013


RSS Atom
Powered by LiveJournal.com