Saturday, September 20, 2014

Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray (spoilers)

This seems to me a most horrifying coming-of-age story.

Being around Dorian Gray's age when he was first introduced in the story, I readily stepped into his mind and childish character. Youthfulness make us dream of most unsuitable things. We thought ourselves romantic. We wish to be adventurous. In this wild fancy we so often disregard the consequences.
For Dorian Gray, his portrait took the burden of sin for him. Deep down, I would envy him, except his fate had proven to be more dreadful than fortunate. For us, fated to be scarred by age and our wrong-doings, have been warned. It seems that fear of these scars can save us.

Still, it makes me shudder to think that one can so easily lose one's virtues. How can one choose the right path and not go astray? A sudden strike of fancy for danger, the desires to be extraordinary, or a moment of crazed temper.... Can we ever save ourselves from such menace?

This unhappy story has seemly planted a deep dread. It is so good it pierced my heart and left it groaning and moaning. Even though it has become one of my all time favorites. It has touched me so deeply that I wish never to visit it again. The only consolation is that it has served to caution me against romanticizing rackless evil. I pray that I am thus saved from a lifetime's worth of foolishness.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Review: American Gods

10+ years ago I was a little girl too young to feel comfortable reading a huge hardcover book, but somehow the title and the cover art has stayed with me. Somewhere at the back of my mind I always planed to get back to this book.

10+ years later, I realized I'm still a little girl who'd blush and cringe at every rude joke in the book. Even so, I fully enjoyed the story. Mythology, be it Egyptian, Greek, Norse, or Asian, interests me. Yet one does this book no justice to say it is a book about ancient mythical beings--not to me at least. I love the twists and turns of a mystery, the thrill of adventure, and touches of humanity here and there. "American Gods" has it all.

Reading it was like savoring good wine--over the course of several days. The tastes keep changing. And there is always some kind of aftertaste that lasts through the night, making you dream weird dreams and wake up feeling funny. But guess what? I like that.

Because it feels real.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Review: S by Doug Dorst & J.J. Abrams

This book is cleverly designed such that multiple stories run parallel to each other. The most obvious story is the fictional book written by a fictional author. Another story can be pieced together from the writings of the two college students in between the margins. But there’s more: Pieces of the back story of the two students, the mystery of the author they are trying to uncover, and the stories of people involved are fad to the reader by the evolving, color-coded notes as well as the loose documents that came with the book. These stories blend together, each giving hints to what the others are about. Yet this book is more than a strange tale to be solved. It is a rich combination of mystery, romance, fantasy, and philosophy. Depending on the experiences and individualities of the readers, they will feel resonance with different very different aspects of the book. They would have many different understandings. What it is all about; one can only judge for themselves after reading the book.

My feeling of the book changes throughout the two weeks I was reading it. Sometimes it was an exciting adventure; at time it was creepy to the point of being terrifying, especially when read in the quiet of late night hours; there are sadness, regret, and disappointment, but also warmth, care, love, and understanding. I remember thinking about the things I cared about when I read and how I should took care to cherish them. It is a book worthwhile to be reread it many times.

Reading S also has a lasting effect on my reading and note taking habits. At the time when postcards, letters, and marginal notes are no longer common, I am left with a great desire to share my thoughts by the written word. Like the characters said in the book, written notes transforms a book into a scratch book of our lives, capturing time between its pages. They provide us with a means to speak to ourselves across time. And it is made all the sweeter when we write with a friend. Treating note-taking as a conversation to either me or a potential reader, I think more about my reactions when I write notes. The effect is profound. The new notes I've taken have become more accessible and more interesting. This helps when I came back to the notes days later. There is less perplexity about what I was thinking, or indeed what I meant, when I wrote the notes. Occasionally, a small voice in my head wondered if there will be a day when there is another that will write in my books and share their thoughts with me. With beautifully designed and written books like S, such ideas are bound to take root, and one cannot help but hope and dream.