Sorry I’ve been so absent guys! I’m really not sure how much I’m going to be able to post if I’m honest with you, as I’m at uni at the moment doing English Literature so my day is already pretty full of literature analysis - but then, I love it, so I guess I can squeeze in a little more from time to time.
If people have specific questions they want to ask me about, I am on my other - much lower-maintenance - blog fairly often, so I’ll be able to see and respond to them as best I can.
It’s really encouraging to get messages from people saying I’ve helped them in some way, but remember I’m not a teacher, just a fairly enthusiastic student! Still, if you think discussing something with me would be helpful, by all means give it a go, even if you just want to ask how you can approach looking at a novel or a poem that I haven’t looked at so far on this blog.
Hope everybody’s doing well - again, I’m very sorry for being so silent!
Ah that’s amazing, I’m really glad I could help! Thanks for telling me this, it’s made my day haha :D xxxx
Rereading at the moment, thought I should make it an official recommendation:
The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
If you like dystopian concepts, post-apocalyptic settings or just fascinatingly well-designed worlds-upside-down, you’ll love this book. It’s a favourite of my mum’s which is how I came across it, but rereading it this week has been really fun. It’s set in a - we assume - post-apocalyptic world overrun by “deviations”: organisms that, due to a genetic malfunction, have mutated in sometimes miniscule and sometimes alarming ways. The narrator of the novel is a young boy brought up in a staunchly Christian society in which only the Bible and a book called “Nicholson’s Repentances” survived the “Tribulation” that wiped out the old people (us) hundreds, if not thousands, of years before. Mutated deviations from what they consider God’s “true image” are condemned mercilessly, and legends abound about the old people and the nature of the Fringes, the Badlands and the Blacklands that lie outside the boundaries of the cultivated and civilised societies that have grown out of the wilderness.
I’m a sucker for an awesome concept, so this book is brilliant for me. If you have the time, you should definitely check it out.
I’m not that far into it yet (exams, revision, stress, yada yada yada) but so far, I am really liking this book. It was difficult to follow at first, but once you get into the rhythm of the diction etcetera, it’s fascinating. Hopefully I’ll finish it sometime soon and give a better review - only twelve days and I’ll be done with exams!
My next literary undertaking: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Having heard so much and knowing so little about this book, I’m excited to start reading it. Look for a first impressions post soon!
So, I finished “Island”. If you’ve read the title of this post you’ll have worked out what I thought of it.
This is an absolutely marvellous book. Marvellous for a number of reasons - upon all of which it would probably take me years to elaborate, so I will only name a few here.
First of all, as I mentioned in a previous post, this novel is incredibly, incredibly well-articulated. The writing style is fluent and vivid but not overcrowded or flowery, the dialogue - of which there is a LOT - clear and natural and easy to read. It would be understandable, I think, for a novelist attempting a story with so rich a web of ideas underpinning it and such quantities of speech being used to get those ideas across, to let their prose slip in terms of readability, but that just doesn’t happen in “Island”. Pages of speech could slip by and it would not feel forced; likewise, the internal commentary of the narrator is sharp and conscious: conscious of imagery and of sound, of building a vivid world for the reader to walk through with them.
And that narrator… I read somewhere that the character of Will Farnaby is “typical Huxley”, and maybe he is, I wouldn’t know - all I do know is that I grew to not only appreciate his telling of the story, but to really like him as a character. The opportunities for cliches within this character type are numerous: he’s a journalist, a single man whose wife recently died and for whose death he feels responsible, he comes from a troubled home, feels plagued by death, and is now involved in sordid deals with a newspaper tycoon whose promises he depends upon but whose values he abhors… And yet, the way that he is fleshed out by Huxley is so skilful as to make all of these possible pitfalls positively beautiful. Will Farnaby is not burdened with the clunky, one-dimensional self-hatred of most characters of his kind - he is complex, self-analysing and yet self-conserving as well, veiling an instinctive romantic streak with a habitual cynicism. You get to know him in the way you would a real person, analyse his psyche as it unfolds over the course of his enlightenment. I, at least, found myself so sucked into his narration that it made all other elements of the novel that much more alive.
And that, perhaps a little tenuously, brings me to my final point: of the novel’s genius as a commentary, even today, more than half a century after its publication. Perhaps it’s the narrator’s razor-keen awareness of the world that makes his messages so potent, but, even though I know little of philosophy, or politics, or much concrete reality to be honest, this book made me reconsider a lot of the ideals our society encourages us to take for granted. It also planted a new idea about the definition of individualism in my head - the idea of an individualist ethic so pure that placing the emphasis on the personal happiness and actualisation of each individual actually leads to a greater appreciation for the group (through the individual respecting everyone else’s rights as individuals) - and I can’t imagine that that’s a negative contribution to my thinking. Plus, there’s that beautifully awful ending: the death of utopia, the tragic conclusion that there can be no oases of perfection in such greedily imperfect seas.
This has been muddled, I don’t doubt (I’m very tired at the moment, as you can probably tell, and there’s music on which doesn’t help my concentration) but I may or may not elaborate on some of these ideas in a future post. Until then, please accept my sincerest apologies for this shambles of a review!
To my great surprise, as recently I haven’t been able to concentrate on very much at all, this week has almost exclusively consisted of me doing the bare minimum of things I have to do, and reading this book. And to my, somewhat even greater, surprise… I really, really like it. It’s such a rich novel in that just within the first few pages I was completely hooked on the kind of surreal imagery used when describing Will Farnaby’s affair, and as to Farnaby himself, I like him very much as a protagonist. On top of all of that, I feel like Huxley walks you through so many complex ideas in each chapter, but he does so on perfectly level ground: you’re not tripped up, as I feel you can be in many other novels, by the author’s precocity, or their desire to be as clever as possible in the space of one sentence, so there’s a really natural pace to all of the events.
Plus, it’s snowing bucketloads where I am at the moment, so it’s nice to escape into a setting that is so idyllically tropical. I will almost certainly be finishing this book soon (fingers crossed!) so look out for a full review then.
Trying and failing to dip in and out of TSoP was draining me, so I decided to go for something entirely new and different to what I’d usually read. Say hello to Island by Huxley. I’m loving it so far - more on this as it develops.
“Island” - Aldous Huxley
I began reading this today and I really like it so far.The imagery in this passage is amazing, I love it.
Sorry to have been so silent for such a long time - I’m sorry, I am terrible, etc. etc.
I’ve been pretty distracted from stuff recently but I’m trying to get back to reading for pleasure, and seeing as I’m already halfway through this one, I will definitely try to finish and review this within the next week or so. Fingers crossed!
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