Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Animal Farm is a book that I’ve seen everywhere—libraries, bookstores, book lists—and it is difficult to fathom now why it take me so long to read it. I’ve also come to associate the picture of pig on the cover as Animal Farm and sorry to say, I had never bother to find out the meaning of the pig. Heck, I’d never be bothered to read the summary of the book. Then, my brother bought the book for me and everything changed.

This is hands down one of the best books I have ever read! It is knowingly funny, deceptively simple, and deftly ridiculing the hypocrisies and twisted logics of Communism (or any known society is more like it). For a simple tale, it makes me think a lot! It speaks to me and holds timeless truths. For example, Orwell wrote this to satire the Stalinism / Communism in Russia, but whoever read this book presently still can see clearly the parallel between Animal Farm and the modern society. The leaders said one thing today and contradicted it the next day. Then there are the people who blindly followed the so called leaders, putting their faith on them, only to be betrayed by these people, such as in the case of Boxer. Then there is people as represented by Benjamin, who despite possessing the knowledge and noticing things, refused to actively participate because deep down, he already sensed the unpleasant outcome. 
“Life will go on as it has always gone on—that is, badly”, he said.

After the rebellion, the animals put up seven commandments on the barn wall as the rules of their newly established society. Yet over time, the rules are amended to the advantage of the pigs until one rule emerged, the now famous: 
“All animals are equal; some animals are more equals than others” 
And then there is the slogan that is constantly shouted by the goats “Four legs good, two legs bad” that changed to “four legs good, two legs better” once the pigs have mastered the skill to walk with two legs. I remember I laughed hard when I read that despite not wanting to because I was extremely disgusted by the pigs behaviour. The diversion from one major issue to a minor one by a skilled manipulator as depicted by Squealer hit too close to home I felt uncomfortable. Orwell’s observation on human behaviour and condition is sadly true and it can be observed on every level of human interactions no matter the classes.

When I read the last word from the last page, I was left with sadness and awe. I’d hope for things to turn out differently, that maybe the animals will find their courage and strength to fight for their rights and subsequently establish an ideal society. Instead, all I got is this: 
“Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”

Friday, 13 March 2015

Reading Update #1

Currently reading Gulliver’s Travels and Selected Stories of Katherine Mansfield

It’s such a relief to be able to pick up Gulliver’s Travels again after putting it down a few weeks ago. I have made a notable progress by reading through book 2 in only one day. 

I started Selected Stories of Katherine Mansfield a few days ago, on account of it being recommended to me by one of my favourite bookish person on the net. So far I have read three of the stories and kinda like them.

Anyhow, I hope I’ll be able to finish these books and others by 31st of March. I’ve been so busy with works; having to mark over a hundred exam papers, with  each paper consisted of 20 pages is no easy task. 

What is your current read?

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Library Haul #1

Few days ago, I took the time to visit the school library. Despite the lack of titles I wanted, I managed to snatch a couple of books that sounded interesting enough from the summaries. Besides, I've told myself to read more of local (Malaysian) literature starting this year, and the school library is just the place to find such books. Without further ado, here's the library haul.

Library haul:

  • Budak Beca by Ishak Haji Muhammad
  • Glimpses: Cameos of Malaysian Life by Adibah Amin
I have started Glimpses but have yet to finish it since I've been reading another book. Besides, it's an anthology so I've decided to take my time with it.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

The Opposite Book Tag: Classics Edition

1.      The first book in your collection

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

2.      The last book you bought

Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë

3.      A cheap book

The Portable Edith Wharton by Edith Wharton

4.      Expensive book

The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe (Barnes & Noble Hardcover Edition)

5.      A book with a male protagonist

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

6.      A book with a female protagonist

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

7.      A book you read quickly

Evelina by Fanny Burney

8.      A book that took you a long time to read

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov 

9.      A pretty cover

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote

10.   An ugly cover

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe

11.   A national book

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

12.   An international book

Dracula by Bram Stoker

13.   A thin book

The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

14.   A thick book

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe

15.   A fiction book

Lady Audley’s Secret by M.E. Braddon

16.   A non-fiction book

Cosmos by Carl Sagan

17.   A romantic book

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

18.   An action book

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

19.   A book that made you happy

Emma by Jane Austen

20.   A book that made you sad

The Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins

Saturday, 28 February 2015

The Books I Want To Read In March

Books to read in March:

1. Selected Stories by Katherine Mansfield
2. Selected Stories by Virginia Woolf
3. Selected Stories by James Joyce
4. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
5. Preloved by Shirley Marr
6. Ake by Wole Soyinka

Have you read any of these titles? 

Thursday, 19 February 2015

The Haunted Hotel: A Mystery of Modern Venice by Wilkie Collins

First published in 1876, The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins was a supernatural novel. Despite the title, most of the events in the book did not exactly happened at the hotel. Instead, it chronicled the journey of Montbarry's relatives as they finally went to the hotel and uncovered a terrible secret.

I'll start by talking about the less than tasteful aspect of the novel. Agnes Lockwood, the jilted lover, was everything that was expected of a gentlewoman of that time ("...but I am only a woman, and you must not expect too much from me."); she honestly bored me to death and I did not even care for her. I also did not understand her devotion for the scoundrel who jilted her. Agnes was definitely suffering from a case misplaced affection. She was even angry at anyone who dared to badmouth (spoke the truth about) Lord Montbarry. That was laughable after what Montbary had done to her. 

Since the events set in Victorian era, a woman didn't have much future prospect especially one of middle class like Agnes. Her future was mentioned as destroyed after jilted by Montbarry, unless she managed to find a husband, which was considered as almost unlikely because of her age (late twenties). Another example can be taken from the case of Mrs. Ferrari, who was Agnes' former maid. She was abused by her husband, whom, through Agnes' help, managed to land a job with Montbarry. Despite the abuses inflicted to her, she always justified his actions and actually thought him a saint after his death. This made me bristle with indignation.

Anyhow, I still enjoy the mystery even though the author kinda spoiled everything to us readers by his constant foreshadowing and mention of destiny and upcoming. The Countess who was supposed to be the wicked villain with no redeeming quality came off as the most interesting character of the whole. In fact, she was the saving grace of this short novel, in my opinion. Her guilty conscience and the circumstances that led to her ruin were well developed. She probably would have had a different fate if she was not attached to her brother as well as married to someone horrible like Lord Montbarry.

I used to like The Haunted Hotel a lot more when I first read it. I found that the story was fascinating and the unexplained supernatural occurrences to be justified as not everything has answer to it. Upon rereading however, my feeling changed for reasons stated above. The book rating went from 4 stars into mere 2 stars, cause you know, even if it's bad, it's still Collins!

Have you read The Haunted Hotel or any novel by Wilkie Collins?

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

MBTI Personality Tag

I got this tag from my friend, Zell @ zellkrism. For the record, I am an INTP.


1-What makes you angry?
Injustice, double standards, stinky mouth & feet

2-What do you like/dislike most about people?
I like smart, witty, and logical people. Actually, as long as people are kind-hearted, I feel obliged to like them because it is the polite mannered.

I dislike dumb, unthinking, people. I hate it when people answered me with a lazy “No idea.”

3-Do you like animals? why?
Total indifferent. I recently acquired a cat though and I feel really fond and proud of him.

4-What do you like most about the favorite people in your life?
I like that they leave me alone and do not force me to participate in their activities or pressure me into liking what they like. We generally leave each other alone and yet still able to talk about a wide variety of subjects when reunited. 

5-What do you like/dislike most about yourself?
I like my aloofness. It secures me from unwanted attention as people are quick to judge me as reserve, snobbish and shy. I also like that I generally don’t care about people business (unless it interests me—which is rare).

Sometimes I take things too seriously and I dislike that. It makes me feel vulnerable.

6-Do you care about being fashionable? why/why not?
No. I just don’t care. 

7-Do you prefer to fit in or stand out?
Depends on wherever I’m most comfortable.

8-What activities do you enjoy?
Reading, thinking, analysing, dreaming. For rigorous activities, I like walking and hiking because they provide me alone time to do more thinking; alone because none of my family and friends like long distant walking and hiking.

9-What makes you feel secure?
Having my family, money and alone time.

10-Do you like being in a relationship? Why/why not?
I do. He filled in the right space in my life and completed the circle of my family and friends. He provides me with the type of support that is different from those given by my family and friends. More importantly he is smart and successful thus inspiring me to be a better person as a whole. I know myself enough to know I won’t respect a partner who is less knowledgeable than I am.

11-What do you love and why? Could be people, things, places, etc...
I love myself, my family (my cat included) and knowledge.

12-What do you spend the most time thinking about?
Myself and ways to improve my mind.

13-How much have you changed over the years? Who were you as a child?
My outlook and the way I perceive the world change as I read and experience more. Fundamentally though, I’m still the same person; always strive to better myself and feel like an outsider wherever I am. 

So, that's it. Feel free to do the tag.