September 22, 2012

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Read: September 2012
Rating: 4/5
"Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the over-compensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn't nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand."
In Brave New World we see a society of happy people, not bothered by diseases, feelings, thoughts and even death. A society in which everyone is brought up to be contented with his social rank and not to wish for any other fate. The reader is allowed to follow a life cycle of a man in this world, starting from the incubator and conditioning center, proceeding through the shallow divertissements of the youth (and everybody is young here until the death) until the hospital for the dying.

There are still places in this new world where people live as "savages", having parents and marriages and religion. The world of reservation is contrasted with the civilized world through the few characters, that are allowed to move from one world to another. Their convictions are contrasted with the ways of the society behind the barbed wire and the consequences are grievous.

The novel begins as a usual Utopian excursion, but ends as reflections about religion and mankind. For me this change was a bit unexpected, and I can't say that I enjoyed all the biblical allusions in the last part of the book. I prefer a dystopian novel to stay a normal dystopian novel, not to turn into a religious treatise. Apart from this, the book is terrific, and is definitely a must-read, especially for those who enjoy utopias and science fiction!

Can't refrain from comparing Brave New World to 1984 here, and I must say, that growing children in the bottles and "conditioning" them in the necessary way seems much more effective than controlling their whole life. If you have brought them up so that they do not think, do not feel and do not want anything, you don't need to control them at all, in fact. And the few who happened to develop some thought can be sent to islands and forgotten. In this aspect Huxley's dystopia seems to be more believable than Orwell's. Makes me think!


This book is from my Classics Club book list. Of course, it is not "classics" from the "classical" viewpoint, but it is definitely the classics of science fiction and dystopian literature, so I think it fits perfectly. The ideas from this book are still powerful today and keep repeating themselves in the works of fiction. What is it if not the definition of classics?

September 19, 2012

In Brief

1) My reflections on The Martian Chronicles have appeared in my portfolio.
2) The Moby Dick Big Read project is fabulous! I've only listened to the first chapter so far, and Tilda Swinton has done the reading perfectly. So I'm going to read along (free ebook here, BTW), especially as it is on my Classics Club list, and million thanks to the fellow bloggers who have posted links to the project!

September 16, 2012

The Martian Chronicles revisited

This is definitely not the first time I read The Martian Chronicles, but it is still amazing. I've read it twice in Russian and once in English in my teens, and it charmed me with its poetic descriptions and seemingly impenetrable depths of meaning. Although I DID prefer "A Medicine For Melancholy" and "The April Witch", you can imagine :)
Anyway, as Bradbury has been my favourite  since then, I was thrilled by this reading, especially as I wanted to compare the way I felt about him when all the life was no more difficult than his stories, and how I would take it now. 
I must say, that some of the charm stayed, which of course gladdens me, but it is not so overwhelming and intense any more. I took it more detached this time (no more crying, no-no!), but I think I can also see the meaning much better now.
Although most of the stories take place on Mars, and the novel does tell about its colonization, it is not about Mars at all. It is all about the ways of the society development on Earth and what can be the consequences of it. Of course, now the threat of atomic bombs and Third World War subsided, but the critique of the way Earth men treat other cultures is still topical. It seems that Mars was chosen as the scene of action just to expose all the wrong ways of humankind in contrast with some other, old, beautiful and wise civilization, which is not spoiled by technology, has not forgotten art and religion, and has found some universe purport of life. And men do look unsightly in this comparison.
So now I only need to write something super-clever about it in the essay, and my head is completely occupied with the university studies that start tomorrow. It is a completely new field of study in a foreign country and in a language I have studied for only a year! I have every right to be very nervous about it, I guess :) So wish me good luck!

September 14, 2012

Schleicher's fable / Басня Шлейхера

Good old linguistic entertainment - try to read this fable in reconstructed Proto-Indo-European language. Without googling the answer, of course, just some basic Wikipedia information and linguistic intuition!

Внезапно вспомнила старое доброе лингвистическое развлечение - попытайтесь прочесть эту басню, написанную на восстановленном праиндоевропейском языке. Нагугленный ответ не считается, только базовая информация из Википедии и лингвистическое чутьё!

Avis, jasmin varna na ā ast, dadarka akvams, tarn, vāgham garum vaghantam, tarn, bhāram magham, tarn, manum āku bharantam. Avis akvabhjams ā vavakat: kard aghnutai mai vidanti manum akvams agantam.
Akvāsas ā vavakant: krudhi avai, kara aghnutai vididvantsvas: manus patis varnām avisāms karnanti svabhjam gharmam vastram avibhjams ka varna na asti.
Tat kukruvants avis agram ā bhudat.

The Classics Club List

I've decided to join the Classics Club, and here is the list of 50 60 70 79 books I'm going to read in the next 5 years (although, I hope, there will be more!). So, start 14/09/12, finish 15/09/17, go!
UPD: I'm the worst at sticking to lists, so if I read some classics which are not on the list, I'll just add them here on the go. But I'll NOT delete anything from the list unless I'm completely desperate :)

- read books are crossed out, and the final review is linked to them.
- books in progress are in pink
- abandoned books are in grey
- books marked with an asterisk* are re-reads.

VI century B.C.:
  1. Aesop: Fables

V century B.C.:

  1. Sophocles: Oedipus the King 

I century: 
  1. Ovid: Metamorphoses 

II century:
  1. Apuleius, Lucius: The Golden Ass

XI century:
  1. Nennius: Historia Brittonum

XII century:
  1. Geoffrey of Monmouth: Life of Merlin
  2. Geoffrey of Monmouth: The History of the Kings of Britain
  3. Troyes, Chrétien de: Cligès
  4. Troyes, Chrétien de: Erec and Enide
  5. Troyes, Chrétien de: Yvain, the Knight of the Lion
  6. Turold: The Song of Roland 

XIII century:
  1. One Thousand and One Nights 

XV century:
  1. Chaucer, Geoffrey: The Canterbury Tales
  2. Malory, Thomas: Le Morte d'Arthur

XVI century:
  1. Shakespeare, William: A Midsummer Night’s Dream 
  2. Shakespeare, William: Henry V
  3. Shakespeare, William: As You Like It 
  4. Shakespeare, William: Julius Caesar 

XVII century: 
  1. Milton, John: Paradise Lost 
  2. Shakespeare, William: Macbeth* 
  3. Shakespeare, William: Twelfth Night

XVIII century:
  1. Laclos, Choderlos de: Dangerous Liaisons 
  2. Prevost, A. F.: Manon Lescaut
  3. Radcliffe, Anne: The Mysteries of Udolpho 
  4. Swift, Jonathon: Gulliver’s Travels 
  5. Voltaire: Candide
  6. Walpole, Horace: The Castle of Otranto 

XIX century:
  1. Alcott, Louisa May: Little Women
  2. Austen, Jane: Mansfield Park 
  3. Austen, Jane: Persuasion 
  4. Balzac, Honore: Eugenie Grandet
  5. Brontë, Charlotte: Jane Eyre*
  6. Chekhov, Anton: The Seagull
  7. Dickens, Charles: A Christmas Carol
  8. Dickens, Charles: Great Expectations 
  9. Dickens, Charles: Tale of Two Cities 
  10. Dickens, Charles: The Old Curiousity Shop
  11. Eliot, George: Middlemarch 
  12. Gaskell, Elizabeth: Wives and Daughters
  13. Hardy, Thomas: Tess of the D'Urbervilles 
  14. Hoffmann, E. T. A.: The Life And Opinions Of the Tomcat Murr
  15. Hugo, Victor: Les Miserables 
  16. Irving, Washington: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow 
  17. Melville, Herman: Moby Dick
  18. Scott, Sir Walter: The Lady of the Lake 
  19. Scott, Sir Walter: The Bride of Lammermoor
  20. Trollope, Anthony: the Warden
  21. Twain, Mark: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court 
  22. Zola, Émile: Germinal 
  23. Zola, Émile: The Fortune of the Rougons

    XX century:
    1. Borges, Jorge Luis: Ficciones
    2. Chekhov, Anton: Three Sisters 
    3. Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan: The Lost World 
    4. Dreiser, Theodore: American Tragedy 
    5. Du Maurier, Daphne: Rebecca 
    6. Eco, Umberto: The Name of the Rose
    7. Faulkner, William: Light in August 
    8. Fitzgerald, F. Scott: The Beautiful and Damned 
    9. Fitzgerald, F. Scott: The Great Gatsby
    10. Harper, Lee: To Kill a Mockingbird
    11. Hemingway, Ernest: A Farewell to Arms
    12. Hemingway, Ernest: For Whom the Bell Tolls 
    13. Huxley, Aldous: Brave New World
    14. Joyce James: Ulysses 
    15. Kerouac, Jack: On the Road
    16. Kundera, Milan: The Unbearable Lightness of Being 
    17. Mann, Thomas: Death in Venice
    18. Marquez, Gabriel Garcia: One Hundred Years of Solitude 
    19. Maugham, W. Somerset: Of Human Bondage 
    20. Orwell, George: Animal Farm 
    21. Rand, Ayn: Atlas Shrugged 
    22. Steinbeck, John: The Grapes of Wrath 
    23. Stoppard, Tom: Rosencratz and Guildenstern are Dead 
    24. Waugh, Evelyn: Brideshead Revisited 
    25. Waugh, Evelyn: Vile Bodies 
    26. Wharton, Edith: The Age of Innocence 
    27. Williams, Tennessee: A Streetcar Named Desire
    28. Woolf, Virginia: Mrs. Dalloway
    29. Woolf, Virginia: Orlando 
    30. Woolf, Virginia: To the Lighthouse

    September 12, 2012

    A Princess of Mars & Herland

    This essay was the most difficult to finish so far, not only because there is nothing so very deep and not obvious in these books, but also because I'm generally tired of writing the same 320 words every week. But if somebody is still interested, my pull-it-out-of-yourself essay is here.
    This said, I don't think those books are so terribly boring as most of the people on the forums seem to think.
    I have really enjoyed A Princess of Mars, and exactly because of its pulp nature. It is so naive and simple, and John Carter is so perfectly plain! And I liked the ending. Really, it reminds me of "The Door in the Wall": the guy is there, seemingly dead, but do we really know where his soul is and has he reached what he wanted to reach? If only I didn't know that there were 11 books more!
    Herland has no action in it, and most of the novel is just a discussion of the differences between men and women cultures. But the dialogues are very witty at times, and I like some of the ideas too. We all know this is not gonna work in real world, but they are original and interesting nevertheless.
    I've been in some kind of a nasty depression this week, be it connected with the readings or not, and now I'm waiting for Bradbury to bring me back to life!

    September 7, 2012

    "The Door in the Wall and Other Stories" by H.G. Wells

    Photos by Alvin Langdon Coburn for The Door in the Wall and Other Stories (1911) by H.G.Wells
    I find Wells' short stories far more powerful and gripping than his novels. And these illustrations suit them so well! This edition includes the following stories: The Door in the Wall, The Star, A Dream of Armageddon, The Cone, A Moonlight Fable, The Diamond Maker, The Lord of the Dynamos, and The Country of the Blind. All of them are illustrated here, and special kudos for those who can guess which photo illustrates which story!

    September 4, 2012

    The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

    I have always hated "The Invisible Man", and I can't say that rereading it for the course helped me tolerate Griffin. But I tried to concentrate on ideas rather than on characters, and ended up writing about Nietzsche's notion of the "overman" reflected in Wells' "The Island of Doctor Moreau" and "The Invisible Man". The essay can be found here, as usual.

    September 2, 2012

    21-30 из "1001 фильма"

    21. Стачка (1924). Сергей Эйзенштейн
    Нет, Эйзенштейн, может, и велик, но точно не для меня. Мелькание кадров при «интеллектуальном монтаже», интертитры, состоящие, в основном, из одного слова, причём часто это слово – междометие… Нет, наш уважаемый пролетариат правда так говорил? Тогда о каком «интеллектуальном» монтаже может идти речь?

    22. Алчность (1924, Greed). Эрих фон Штрогейм
    Такое впечатление, что Штрогейму сразу давали самую плохую плёнку, зная, сколько он её изведёт и на что. До урезания фильм был длиной 10 часов, так что спасибо, что хоть 5 часов убрали. Если бы он был нормального формата, то, наверное, мог бы даже мне понравиться. Особенно хороши эксперименты со спецэффектами: раскрашивание золотых предметов и канарейки и целиком «золотые» кадры.

    23. Шерлок-младший (1924, Sherlock, Jr.). Бастер Китон
    Отличная короткая комедия сами знаете с кем:)  Рекомендую!

    24. Последний человек (1924, The Last Laugh). Фридрих Вильгельм Мурнау
    Фильм без единого интертитра, в котором и так всё понятно: человек сам по себе, без своего мундира и социального положения ничего не значит. Фарсовый хэппи-енд, добавленный по настоянию продюсеров только подчёркивает его невероятность. Безусловно рекомендуется!

    25. Семь шансов (1925, Seven Chances). Бастер Китон
    Тоже хорошая комедия, но, скорее, проходная. Хотя сама идея отличная!

    26. Призрак оперы (1925, The Phantom of the Opera). Руперт Джулиан
                Фильм - шедевр! Может быть, тут сказывается моя личная любовь к этому произведению во всех его проявлениях, но в этом фильме всё как надо: призрак оперы ужасен, когда открывает своё лицо, подвалы оперы мрачны и торжественны, сюжет очень близок к тексту романа. Рекомендую!

    27. Броненосец «Потёмкин» (1925). Сергей Эйзенштейн
                Ну… из всей Эйзенштейновской трилогии этот фильм, пожалуй, наиболее нормален. Хотя всё равно слишком наиграно, нарезано и утрировано.

    28. Золотая лихорадка (1925, The Gold Rush). Чарльз Чаплин
    Хотя Китон мне нравится больше Чаплина, это надо смотреть! Комментарии к этому фильму, пожалуй, излишни, однако особенно понравилась воображаемая с голодухи курица вместо человека. Ну и многие другие моменты попросту гениальны. Рекомендую!

    29. Большой парад (1925, The Big Parade). Кинг Видор
    Фильм, вроде бы, о войне, но на самом деле о дружбе, любви и о том, как радоваться жизни даже в самых невыносимых условиях. Отличный добрый фильм, особенно если сравнивать с кровякой во все стороны, которую сейчас считают неотъемлемой частью любого военного фильма. Иногда отсутствие спецэффектов – ещё какой плюс! Рекомендую!

    30. Метрополис (1927, Metropolis). Фриц Лэнг
    Потрясающая кино-фантастика! В огромном городе-антиутопии люди ждут прихода Мессии, который освободит их от рабского труда. Чтобы подорвать людскую веру, Марию, главного пророка этого кружка, заменяют на робота, который в её облике становится предводителем разрушительного восстания. Причём актриса поразительно хорошо играет и скромную Марию, и развязного, агрессивного робота в её обличье. Вот актёр, играющий главного героя, только руки патетично заламывать умеет, ну да ладно, ему это простительно, он же Мессия. Рекомендую!

    September 1, 2012

    Brainstorming The Island of Dr. Moreau

    This time I tried writing down all the ideas that came to my mind while reading "The Island of Dr. Moreau" by H. G. Wells to see how it will help me with the essay.

    1) The Creation, inverted Eden, mad professor acting as a "creator" and other components of Eden complex  - pretty obvious now. Prendick leaves the island in the rain season - the Flood? Art of fire lost after the creatures are reversed - knowledge lost.

    2) The teller is abstinent - reliability of narrator. Plus comments of his nephew and description of a "real" island.

    3) Social hierarchy - "man with a whip", revolt (first silent, then outburst), revolt leaders (hyena-swine). Creation of a religion to maintain obedience. On the other hand - no human community without laws and obedience. Slavery question in USA: "It is when suffering finds a voice and sets our nerves quivering that this pity comes troubling us", the men are of dark skin, and nobody on the ship wants them nearby, comparison of the monkey-men and negroids. Moreau says that if he had experimented on people they would have imported them, as if it was OK. "Salute! Bow down!" commands.

    4) Connection with Frankenstein - creatures made against nature, one of them stalking Prendick in the forest. Moreau takes no interest in them when he understands they are not what he intended to do. "The Thing" - no names. Also vegetarians, but it is imposed.

    5) Again the question of what is pardonable for science: things that criminals and Inquisition did for their purposes Moreau thinks are OK if they are done scientifically.

    6) What exactly is the difference between a man and an animal? Moreau thinks - not pain should drive a man, but rather some big goal which more important than everything else, no sympathy. Also, "it takes a real man to tell a lie", as Prendick says. Tasting blood and drinking alcohol - return to the beast-self.

    7) Inner beast in us? First the creatures seem to be normal people, Prendick even could imagine meeting them in the street, but then every now and then a beast "flush out upon" him. Drinking reveals beast in them as well as in Montgomery. Animal features in men: blind devotion (dog), hyena-swine as a secret instigator, etc. When Prendick returns to people, he feels animals inside them and is afraid that they will degrade too.

    P.S. And I just wonder if "Animal Farm" was inspired by Moreau's island..
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