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Musing Mondays: Book Meme

Musing Mondays2

From the hostess: For this week’s Musing Monday, I’m going to give you the option to answer any of the following questions — or, if you prefer, you can answer them all! Have fun! {questions were supplied by my readers when asked for suggestions}

1. If you had to choose only 3 books to read forever, which ones would you choose?

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. Interesting how I don’t really care for any of his other books, but this one rocks. It is a tale of a master’s journey in unraveling a complicated knot at a sacred institution. Under the veneer of scholastic and immaculate surface is prurient desire for knowledge, covet for power, and scruple for sin against chastity. The interminable discourse on church history and heresy will be elucidated throughout the novel (so don’t be discouraged by the difficult prose), as relevant personalities will recount their involvement with heretics. It’s an ingenious, fine piece of literature that challenges bright minds.
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. Set in the iron curtain of a society that is Soviet Union in 1930s, This iconic novel, banned in Bulgakov’s lifetime, is his response to this fear-struck, panic-stricken era. Despite the atmosphere of terror that deepened all through the years he was working on the novel, the book takes on a surprisingly light tone, one of multifaceted humor, without compromising its philosophical depth. It is Bulgakov’s embittered and sarcastic response (and indictment) to his era’s denial of imagination and its wish to strip the world of divine qualities. It is a product of reconciliation of the absolute opposites: how would anyone ever conceive a world in which God and Satan work toward the same end, and that good is not necessarily better than evil? This is only possible through Bulgakov’s enduring experiences during the remarkable era that powerfully affected his perspectives on politics and life.
East of Eden by John Steinbeck. This novel dramatizes the perpetual conflict between good and evil within the individuals of the Hamiltons and Trasks. While their destinies cross path, Hamiltons serve more as a chronological collage, it is the Trask family on which the reenactment of the fall of Adam and Eve and he vicious rivalry between Cain and Abel are staged. The novel, which is parallel to the book of Genesis, bears the primordial power and sheer simplicity of an allegory. Once you turn the last pages, you’ll realize it is a story about love and how one perceives love. Through a family romance, with betrayal and denial, Steinbeck explores how humans can spend a lifetime trying to decipher their expressions of love. But whether one is really loved sometimes cannot be known. The only love one feels is the love one feels for someone else.

2. Do you read outside your preferred genre? Has your preferred genre changed?

I mostly read literary fiction and high-brow literature unless my trusted book bloggers/mavens convince me otherwise. Over the years my preferred genre has not changed, more like moving from classics that school required to modern/contemporary fiction. Mystery is one genre I would like to explore more at depth.

3. Do you have a favorite book/movie combination?

For the question above about the three books to read forever, I almost pick The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, but I saw this question so I save it for later. I absolutely love Ishiguro’s lyrical writing as well as his keen observations on human foibles. Subtly plotted, the novel gives the impression that characters and scenes in the beautifully paced novel become no more than mouthpieces and backdrops for Ishiguro’s concern for the human condition: A desire to exceed one’s limitations. The film adaptation is just as stellar. I remembered walking into the cinema with little expectation of The Remains of the Day which is based on the novel with the same title by Kazuo Ishiguro. Books and films are completely different in their artistic imaginations. In books, readers can construct the world of the characters from the authors’ words, fill the gap for what’s not said, and speculate from between the lines. So it becomes very subjective, a matter of one’s own interpretation. The film is a manifestation of the story in the director’s perception. So different nuances can be exuded through the appearance of the cast, the scores, and the screenplay, which most of the time would have taken exact words or dialogues from the book, but the context becomes inevitably different. In this case, the film is a very faithful and fair portrayal of the book. There are fine points and nuances in the story that I have to refresh myself to see the film starring Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins, who both deliver a stellar performance. I have a penchant for literature set in early 20th century, and Ishiguro’s ponderous and perceptive writing is always a comfort. Seeping through beautiful and quiet prose is a profoundly compelling portrait of a first-rank English butler who is an effective, dedicated, but also a repressed servant. At the end of his three decades of service at Darlington Hall, Stevens embarks on a country drive during which he looks back and reflects upon his career to reassure himself that, by abiding to principle and dignity, he has served humanity.

4. Name a book that you thought you wouldn’t like much, but you ended up loving.
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. Rand believes that there is only black and white in moral issues; there is no gray. Therefore, giving in a little is not compromise but rather forfeiting one’s values and surrendering to evil. She argues that society, tainted by collectivism, has a herd mentality that corrupts individual mind. One might not meet the living counterparts of her characters in fullness, but one will recognize many a facet of them in people we know. The novel is an American epic because the values and ideals she proclaims can be applied to our world today. She makes a strong case for her extreme philosophy, although it’s difficult to digest and accept in fullness. I personally settle for a middle path, where the call for individualism and acknowledgement for the needs of society are equally important. Following the life of Roark and the insidious orchestrations of his enemies is both fascinating and gripping.

4 Responses

  1. The first two books you mentioned I’ve read many years ago and didn’t like them that much but that may be due to the fact that I found them too complicated and difficult to follow. That’s why I want to re-read them someday. Steinbeck is another thing entirely – loved The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men. I like your short review a lot and plan to read East of Eden at some point.

  2. Excellent post (by the way, I love your blog). I have been meaning to read East of Eden for the longest time! Keep up the great work.

  3. Those are all great choices. But then I know you have excellent taste!

  4. I loved all 3 of your favorites in #1. I read Master and the Margarita for a college course and really enjoyed hearing all of the other student’s insights into the novel. I know I wouldn’t have picked it up on my own and appreciate that the class forced me to read it. Steinbeck is one of my all time favorites and East of Eden is a family saga and a work of genius. I don’t think he gets nearly enough credit for this one. Last but not least, The Name of the Rose. What can I say? I loved the book and also the movie with Sean Connery.

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