Category Archives: Literature

You and I at least try

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“What is the point of worrying oneself too much about what one could or could not have done to control the course one’s life took? Surely it is enough that the likes of you and I at least try to make our small contribution count for something true and worthy. And if some of us are prepared to sacrifice much in life in order to pursue such aspirations, surely that in itself, whatever the outcome, cause for pride and contentment.”  – Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day

Just bought this book, so expect a review sometime soon! I’m not too far into it, but I’m already surprised by how different the narration is to Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. I think I’ll like that one more, but this one certainly has great potential already.

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She had left it too late

“A second night. She wanted one more night at least, so that they could finish what they started. How might she say that? She couldn’t, of course. Faint-hearted as usual, she had left it too late. In the future, I’ll be braver, she told herself. In the future, I will always speak my mind, eloquently, passionately.” – Emma Morley, One Day

I’m not a big believer in Valentine’s Day, but if you’ve got someone you’re thinking about, just go for it. Don’t regret that you never tried!

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I thought I’d finally got rid of you

So, I just read One Day. It happened on accident, really—I had no intention of doing so, but a friend of mine threw the book at me and said, “Read it.”

I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting much. Sure, the movie was pleasant, but kind of standard chick-flick fair, and the ending really stood out as jarring and unnecessary to me.

Let me just say, the phrase “the book is better” has never been more applicable than now. Even though David Nicholls wrote the screenplay and the novel, the book is still so much better.
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Don’t you leave him!

‘If you don’t come back, sir, then I shan’t, that’s certain,’ said Sam. ‘Don’t you leave him! they said to me. Leave him! I said. I never mean to. I am going with him, if he climbs to the Moon, and if any of those Black Riders try to stop him, they’ll have Sam Gamgee to reckon with, I said. They laughed.’

– Sam to Frodo, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

 

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Why did you betray your own heart, Cathy?

Wuthering heights

Top Withens in England is believed to be Emily Bronte's inspiration for Wuthering Heights. Photo from flickr via Creative Commons

When I was in high school, they made us read Wuthering Heights over summer break. For one, assigning a sad, epic love story to a happy-go-lucky kid during the happiest-go-luckiest holiday ever was just poor planning. Also, I have to admit, my tastes weren’t as well-developed then as they are now.

Long story short, I hated it.

I didn’t understand why on earth I was reading about a jerk who falls in love with a jerk and they go around acting like jerks and everyone is supposed to be, what? Impressed? I read halfway through, then promptly found a cliff-notes version and managed to write my paper that way.

Skip forward to my sophomore year of college. Something prompts me to check Wuthering Heights out from the library—perhaps because a lot of people in college are jerks that go around acting like jerks and I wanted a greater understanding of them.

Naturally, I loved it. Every page, every scene, every coarse, anguished conversation between Heathcliff and his true love, Cathy. Sure, it can be over the top at times, but you can just feel the passion through the ink. I even have that one, desperate speech of Heathcliff’s memorized. Really.

I also think that Wuthering Heights, though not exactly a how-to on successful relationships, gives a definition of love that feels closest to what I believe. When Catherine is describing her love for Heathcliff to Nelly, she says simply, “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”

So, it’s not just about two jerks. It’s about two jerks who find this impossible, perfect kind of love, only they destroy it because—well, they’re jerks. They can’t help it. Kind of sounds like the entire human race, right?

“Be with me always—take any form—drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!” – Heathcliff, Wuthering Heights

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January 9, 2012 · 12:22 pm

Crybabies in Literature

Recently, I heard a story about a boy who found a lost kitten. This boy took care of the animal, fed him milk and watched over him, but unfortunately the kitten was just too little, and he didn’t pull through.

The young boy cried when his little cat died. And when he cried, his father told him, “Stop being such a pussy.”

I apologize for the language, but I want to put this out there as plainly as I heard it. I’m completely infuriated on behalf of this boy, who experienced what it’s like to love something and have it slip away despite his best efforts. Of course he was sad about it!

I wonder what kind of person he’s going to be, with a father who not only won’t allow for weakness, but who also uses derogatory terms and basically makes fun of his son.

In society, there has always been a huge dichotomy between masculine and feminine. Men are taught they have to be stoic, emotionless creatures in order to be “manly.” They are also taught that open affection between two men is something to be avoided.

With all these messages being shoved at boys from a young age, it’s no wonder there’s rampant homophobia and sayings like “no homo” slipping out of the mouths of boys afraid of being labelled “gay” or “unmanly.”

Now, I don’t know much else about this family aside from this little story, but even so, it inspired me to make a list. The men on this list are great, manly characters, and most importantly, they cry.

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I keep thinking about this river somewhere.

Florence and the Machine, one of my favorite artists, recently released a new album called Ceremonials. It’s fantastic, but lest you think I’m jumping topics, the reason I’m writing about her on a literary blog is because of track number four, “Never Let Me Go.”

Fans of Kazuo Ishiguro will automatically make the connection. if you haven’t had the privilege of reading any of Ishiguro’s work, he released a book of the same name in 2005. It’s one of my favorite books, but I’d almost forgotten about it until I looked at the track list for Ceremonials.

Naturally, “Never Let Me Go” was the first song I listened to, and I admit I was looking for an obvious connection. Ishiguro and his novel are well-known and respected, and a movie has been made featuring Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley. I didn’t find the obvious link, though I still remain convinced Florence had some knowledge of Ishiguro’s work.

Despite the lack of an obvious connection, the song still reminded me of the novel, and I picked up the book and started reading it again. It’s a tragic story about Kathy, Ruth and Tommy, who are actually clones that will have to donate all of their organs by the time they reach their mid-twenties. Weaved into the novel is a beautiful love story between Kathy and Tommy, which started from the time they were children. The tone of longing and the idea of being helpless against the powerful forces around you—their lot in life, the gradual way people change and time itself—is certainly echoed in Florence’s song.

Kathy, Tommy and Ruth cannot control the situation they’re in and do not try; Florence similarly sings of letting the ocean sweep her away and take her under. Both works build a certain kind of peace in letting go; in letting themselves follow the river instead of fighting against the current.

If you’ve read the book, use the song as a soundtrack and read it again. If you haven’t, do so immediately. You won’t be disappointed.

“I keep thinking about this river somewhere, with the water moving really fast. And these two people in the water, trying to hold onto each other, holding on as hard as they can, but in the end it’s just too much. The current’s too strong. They’ve got to let go, drift apart. That’s how it is with us. It’s a shame, Kath, because we’ve loved each other all our lives. But in the end, we can’t stay together forever.” – Tommy, Never Let Me Go

“And it’s peaceful in the deep,
Cathedral where you cannot breathe,
No need to pray, no need to speak
Now I am under.”
– Florence and the Machine, Never Let Me Go

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