Elegance of The Hedgehog — in 33 words

Deathly boring bourgeois existence
for little rich girl;
Mask of stupidity
for elegant, philosophical concierge.

Delicate camellias and
arrival of Japanese
brings
realizations of life’s beauty.

Death.

Then appreciation of
always within never.

——————————————

From Trifecta: “This week we’re revisiting an early Trifextra prompt: retelling.  This time, we’re asking you to retell your favorite book.  In 33 words.  Nothing like a challenge.  We are sure you’re up to it.”

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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Book Review

A book that changes your life either strongly reaffirms your own beliefs or causes you to change your beliefs entirely and see the world in a different light.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance did neither.

I did not feel like a new person after reading this, nor did I feel like I had been living my life the entirely wrong way. But I am glad that I read it because it did have some key concepts and ideas that I think are pretty important for people to know about.

My favorite concept from the book is one of the last ones given. It’s a Greek idea that switches our concept of past and future completely around, that we watch the past recede from us as the future comes from our backs, instead of walking toward future and leaving the past behind us.

After thinking about it for a while, it completely made sense to me! We don’t know what the future is going to bring, so how can we look into it? It is the unknown, and therefore we can’t see it until it comes forward. This also got me thinking that the Greeks must have had a completely different philosophy towards life because of this minute difference in viewing time. They must not have had any sayings about running away from one’s past or about chasing one’s future, and they probably had a slower life style, unlike our society, which is always concerned about what the future will hold.

Granted, I could be wrong, and if any of you think differently, please let me know. It just made me think how important our sayings and phrases are, because they describe how us, as a society, thinks and feels.

Secondly, while I was a bit thrown off about all of Phaedrus’ talk of quality (which takes up most to the book) because it is hard to understand something that, if you try to define, is ruined. Though I’m still not sure about everything he was trying to say (if anyone would care to explain, please do so!) I do like the idea that Quality, or the Good in life, is a combination of the classical (analytical) and the romantic (artistic) sides of life. To live a full life, one must be both classical and romantic.

But what I truly enjoyed was the idea that it is the trip, and not the arrival that is the most important. This was also mentioned in The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (SO GOOD btw), and I have to say that I have always believed in this, even before reading these two books.

Though this book did not completely make me reinvent my life, it did cause me to take some time to analyze the book and my life, and because of this, I am now trying to find the quality in everything I do, which includes running up and down the block, pushing a 6 year old in a wagon as she screams “FASTER! FASTER!” (that’s right, I babysat today). I suppose in that sense, it did cause me to change my life, but definitely not as dramatically as my friends and family said it would.

This book does deserve to be read, for the simple reason that it makes you think long and hard about your life and about the values that you have. Don’t read it for the story; read it to learn about philosophy, to force yourself to think about things you never would have, and to simply enjoy. There are some great thoughts in the book that are hidden away, and even though a large portion of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance can seem dense and unimportant, I promise you that you’ll keep on reading just to get to those gems.

Rating: 5/5

Jhumpa Lahiri

I’ve been reading Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri and I think it’s time for me to say what I’ve always wanted to say about a book:

Hotdiggity Damn! This book is good to the last drop!


It’s so truthful and so full of human expression and emotions without being soap-opera, and I just can’t get enough out of it. Each short story makes me want to spend a whole day just digesting what she wrote, poring over every word and letting it simmer in my brain so I never forget it.

Anywho, what I really wanted to say is that Jhumpa Lahiri is most certainly my favorite author (don’t worry, The Great Gatsby is still my favorite book!), and I would love to be able to write like her. She writes with such subtlety, but your heart still melts out of sadness and joy intermingled with each other after each of her stories. She is a master of words, and I think that’s going to be my literary goal: to be able to write like Jhumpa Lahiri, to write about the small but have it mean so much more, and to be able to portray human emotions so tastefully and articulately as she does.

To anyone who is not read anything written by Jhumpa Lahiri, I highly recommend checking out one of her books pronto. You, my literary friend, are missing out.

The Awakening

by Kate Chopin

“She missed him the days when some pretext served to take him away from her, just as one misses the sun on a cloudy day without having thought much about the sun when it was shining.”

“The years that are gone seem like dreams—if one might go on sleeping and dreaming—but to wake up and find—oh! well! perhaps it is better to wake up after all, even to suffer, rather than to remain a dupe to illusions all one’s life.”

These, and many other quotations in The Awakening, are what makes the book so poignantly touching and beautiful to read. However, what interested me the most is the fact that Edna, the main character, has everything society said she should want in life: a doting husband, two beautiful children and a life free of worry, and yet she has nothing, no power, no liveliness, no independence in her life—she is going through life half-asleep. In fact, there are moments of Edna’s growth that parallel my own fears of living a half-life blindly following society’s rules, and I’m sure that as I grow older, I will find more layers in The Awakening about nature, desire, society and be able to connect more with Edna.

Another thing I enjoyed about The Awakening was that the book isn’t merely a story about a love affair or about romance at all—it’s about not letting society possess you and about living your life with your own rules and not merely sleeping through it. I found it a fascinating story about a woman’s own awakening, and I liked the fact that the love affair was merely a tool to showcase this.

For instance, this is why I didn’t enjoy A Room With a View by E.M. Forster, because I felt that the whole story was about going against society for love. I found it simply a sappy love story, and it didn’t help that I didn’t buy their romance for a second. In fact, throughout the book, I didn’t even want the two characters to end up together because I thought that would be a much more poignant ending to show that love does not always conquer all.

However, it’s clear from the beginning that what Edna has with Robert is an infatuation, which she herself remarks upon when saying that “there was no human being whom she wanted more than Robert; and she even realized that the day would come when he, too, and the thought of him would melt out of her existence, leaving her alone.” Their romance is all about desire, which again illustrates that what Edna wants and is attracted to is to leave the boring façade of society (her husband Léonce, who only cares about the appearance of things) and to live as Nature intended, freely. And in the end, I finally got my poignant ending of Robert leaving Edna because of his love for her, and Edna left entirely alone, without society, swimming in the rolling, blue waves of the nature’s sea.

Rating: 4/5

Book Review: The History of the World According to Facebook

For those looking for a quick, entertaining read, The History of the World According to Facebook by Wylie Overstreet is the perfect book. It’s witty, riotously funny and something that everyone who has a Facebook account will love and appreciate.

I get that it does sounds a little strange; my friend told me about it a few days ago and said that I had to read it, and I just thought to myself that I’m not going to waste my time on a book about the world told by Facebook.

I think my friend realized this, since she knows me pretty well, and so today she thrust the book into my hands and told me to read it in front of her. And three pages in, I was laughing hysterically… in my physics class. And even though my teacher was glaring at me, I felt compelled to read more, to go from the Big Bang to our time now. And I did, about 4 hours later, when I sat with my friends and laughed over all of the funny jokes in it.

I highly recommend it to everyone who enjoys a good laugh, Facebook user or not. There’s stuff in it for everybody, for history nerds to science buffs. And even though there were a few jokes that I didn’t get and possibly others won’t either, there are many more that certainly make up for it.

Happy Friday everyone!

The Hunger Games/mainstream novels

“ALRIGHT ALREADY! You were right and I was wrong. Yes, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is a fantastic book, and you have full rights to mock me because, after complaining about how this book wasn’t deserving of all its accolades, I am now in love with it.”

Or at least, that’s what I would have said to my friends if they weren’t so sweet and gracious enough to forget my annoying rants about The Hunger Games and refrain from saying “I TOLD YOU THAT ALREADY, SUCKER!” Instead, they just gushed with me about the amazingness of The Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games is a fast-paced read that deals with a dystopian society, which seems to be a meld of reality TV and barbarianism. I don’t want to give too much away for those of you who still haven’t read it yet, but it’s certainly thrilling and gripping, to the point where I didn’t do any homework, study for any tests or go to sleep at a reasonable hour (read: stayed up until 2 am and only fell asleep because the iPad ran out of battery) because I was so engrossed in it. I even contemplated skipping school so I could read it.

However, it’s just that—just a book that’s exciting and filled with action. It doesn’t have any deeper meaning, and that is just as it should be since it’s a YA novel and doesn’t need to be packed with motifs, symbols and deep ideas…. which brings me to my next point.

In my English class a few days ago, my English teacher started talking about The Help, a book I found to be a wonderful and nice read. Apparently, she thought otherwise. Without explaining why, she told the class never to read The Help, and that it was not at all a good book.

Yes, we’re all entitled to our own opinions, but I had a feeling that the reason she didn’t like it was because she was reading it with the wrong mindset. The Help, while fabulous in its own way, is not a particularly deep or intellectual novel. It’s not even that historical, since many people from around that time state that the situation was much worse than the author, Kathryn Stockett, portrayed it to be. But besides all that, it is a good story about empowerment and finding your own voice.

That said, mainstream novels are not meant to be analyzed or critiqued the way classics are. I would never spend days poring over each color mentioned in The Hunger Games or ruminating over possible symbols in The Help. In fact, I finished The Hunger Games in just over one day, and I listened to The Help on an audiotape. I wonder if this is why my teacher didn’t like the book, and I wish that she had read it with the right mindset, because it is a good novel. Yes, it isn’t a work of art, but it’s a nice book that I enjoyed reading (or listening to, I guess).

Of course, I didn’t say that out loud because she’s an amazing teacher and I would never want to seem like I’m disrespecting her, but I did feel a little sad that we didn’t share the same opinion.

What about you? Have you ever read a book with the wrong sort of mindset and then revisited it later only to find that you love it?

The Hunger Games Rating: 3.5/5

Unaccustomed Earth

by Jhumpa Lahiri

If a mark of a good book is whether or not the book made the reader cry at its sheer wonderfulness, then this is not just a good book, but a FABULOUS book.

Yes, I cried on multiple occasions while reading this book, and then I bawled my eyes out when I got to the last word of the last page of the last short story. In fact, I got a little snippy at my mom because she was trying to console me, and I just had to tell her “Give me 10 minutes alone to process the book and then I’ll be fine—I promise!”

Why did I cry, you ask? First, because the book just speaks to me. Honestly, I thought that Jhumpa Lahiri had written the book as a gift to me, because this collection of short stories parallels my life to a tee. I could relate with her tales of Indian and American cultures clashing, and her main character’s relationship with her father in the first story reminded me of my relationship with my own father.

In fact, I found the parallel between my life and her book a little astonishing when I saw that, in one of her stories, the main character’s brother has the same name as my little brother… except that, in Unaccustomed Earth, the brother is an alcoholic. So yeah, that scared me quite a bit, to the extent that I had to give an impromptu speech to my brother about the horrors of drinking.

That’s why, after finding all of these connections, I was surprised when I read the reviews for the book:

Stunning… Never before has Lahiri mined so perfectly the secrets of the human heart.”—USA Today.

Lucid and revelatory… Universal and deeply felt.”—The Washington Post Book Word.

Turns out I wasn’t the only one who felt connected to her characters and felt that her characters are pieces of myself, of my own thoughts, desires and feelings.

So go read this book! It really doesn’t take a long time to finish it, if that’s a problem, and it is so enriching and beautifully written that it would be a shame not to read it. Yes, at times, the plot line of some stories can be overly dramatic, but there’s a quiet honesty to each story and each character that makes me believe that these situations can and do happen; I just haven’t lived long enough to experience them.

Rating: 5/5