"I may not know how to fly but I know how to read and that's almost the same thing."-- Gregory Maguire, Out of Oz

"...while finding true love was one of the most splendid things that could happen to you in life, finding a friend was equally splendid." -- Felix J Palma, The Map of the Sky

 photo treediv_zps8acbd086.png

Friday, May 15, 2015

Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley

"Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow."
Robert Walton failed writer turned sailor, opens the story by writing to his sister Margaret. He is sailing far north, when the crew rescue Victor Frankenstein who is lost upon an ice flow. Victor is a broken man with a story to tell. Even if you haven't seen the movies, even if you haven't read the book, you're probably familiar with the concept of Frankenstein: a mad scientist sews a body together and restores life to dead limbs, creating a hideous monster.

This book wasn't at all what I was expecting. After Victor's mother dies he sent away to university where he studies science and discovers how to reanimate the dead. He becomes obsessed with his science experiment shunning all social contact and working tirelessly on proving his theory right. This story has been so puffed up that I expected more from the reanimation scene. But to my surprise there was little or no detail on how Victor figured out the key to life, to my greater surprise, Victor is instantly horrified by his creation and for much of the story they are separate. Victor falls ill and the creature runs away.

The monster winds up living in a pig sty attached to a cottage, where he watches, learns from, and grows to love the family that lives there. Meanwhile Victor is nursed back to health by a friend. By the time Victor is healthy, Frankenstein has been chased from his refuge. Victor is returning home to Geneva and the creature is hell bent on vengeance.

 This story was sadder than it was scary, and I admit I sympathized with the monster. The monster didn't have a choice, he was brought to life by an egomaniac who then rejected him. He struggled to survive, to find a family, but being hideous there was no one who could understand, no one who could love him. Everywhere he goes, he's met with hatred until he becomes the monster everyone thinks he is. A similar idea is displayed with Justine; accused of murder, she's eventually convinced to confess to a crime she didn't commit. It's an important concept: hate and ignorance breeds hate and violence. You have to wonder if Victor had tried to care for his creation, would his creation have turned out differently?

I also want to point to female characters versus male characters in the storyline. In classic lit, it's pretty much expected not to expect a whole lot from the ladies. And at first glance, this follows the usual generalization. Women as beautiful, compliant, care takers. But take a closer look at the men in this story. First Robert Walton, who writes his sister complaining that he has no friends on the ship; he requires a male companion who is an intellectual equal. He's failed at being a writer, and he's on the brink of being a failed explorer, but he can't recognize that someone else on the crew might add value to his own life. Victor Frankenstein spends most of his time talking about how brilliant he is, and how no one can ever compare... But he consistently fails. He created a monster but failed to control it. He watched as a maid is punished for crime she didn't commit, failed to tell the truth and free her, somehow managed to make her execution all about himself. Despite being intellectually superior he was incapable of understanding that his creature was planning to make Victor suffer and Victor failed to protect those closest to him even after he'd been warned...

Now take another look at the women. Elizabeth takes over the mother figure role when Frankenstein's mother dies. She's consistently willing to sacrifice her happiness for the good of her family. She doesn't try to be a good mother, she just is. Then there is Justine who fled from an abusive mother to help take care of the Frankenstein family in their time of need, and later returned to her mother, when her mother needs help. There is also Saffie the Arabian woman, born to a rich father, who refused to join a harem and bravely fled from a patriarchal society. She ran to a country whose language she couldn't speak, in hopes of marrying the man who maybe loved her, to help care for the family that promised her free will if they had nothing else to offer.

Although the male characters are centerstage, the female characters are doing brave things successfully, while the males flounder. What does it say that the failures of man are broadcast loudly while the successes of the women are merely glanced at? A study of snobbish male ego, maybe, or maybe it's a reminder that women are hardly inferior. I also thought it was interesting that the monster, was the only male character who considered a female to be a suitable companion equal to himself. That's right, The Monster, whose presence no one in their right minds could bare, and his only request was for a lady friend. Again I wonder: How would the monster think and act had Victor raised him? Victor, who even at Death's door, could not put away his sense of self importance and accept friendship...

 Overall I enjoyed this read, it was surprising and I'm glad I finally got around to this story. I suspect this is one of those stories where you see and understand more, the more times you read it.

Rating: 4/5

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Coyote Stories by Charles de Lint

"You and me, everybody, we’re a set of stories..." 

This was a very smart story written in a very silly way. The narrator is telling a story about a homeless Native American man, who goes by many names, but refers to himself as Coyote. He left his home a long time ago and lost himself. Coyote likes to scam and drink, but mostly Coyote likes to tell stories...

This is a story about the importance of stories.

Stories help us avoid painful truths and bring us comfort when there's nothing else. Stories speak to our heritage and remind us who we are, where we come from, and why we're living. They remind us that no matter what other people think of you, you are your own story, and it can't be summed up in one sitting or one hurtful word, it will take a lifetime to tell. Stories have the capability of unifying us, and a person's story lives on in the minds of those who witnessed that first story, to be retold and incorporated into other stories.

Maybe what separates men from animals, isn't thumbs, but the ability to achieve immortality through a good story, if we're only brave enough to remember.

Short Story Sunday

Monday, May 4, 2015

A-Z Reflections

I had a surprising amount of fun with my first A-Z Challenge! It made me remember why I started a book blog in the first place: so I could give my opinion on bookish subjects, to people whether they wanted my opinion or not! My blog had grown a bit stagnant lately, I was growing bored with memes and there was a lot of time lapse between reviews. I felt unsure of myself. The A-Z Challenge made me realize that I don't need to wait for a book to review or meme to schedule; if I have something on my mind, post it and someone will read it.

It also got me a little more exposure as my follower count has doubled, and I'm hoping they will continue to follow (and interact with me) now that the challenge is over. I've also found some great blogs that I otherwise never would have seen, and added to the list of blogs I want to read more from.

With that let me take a moment to share the love and list my newest reading material:

I also want to give a special shout-out to the following blog: Tiny House Homestead, who I am also newly following. Although not a participant of a A-Z Challenge, the author kindly let me use a photo from her blog as a reference in one of my posts.

I do admit one aspect of this challenge was disappointing: not everybody I visited and commented on, felt obligated to visit and comment back. I was also surprised that people who did take the time to comment didn't necessarily leave clear link backs to their own blogs; turning the blog hop into a scavenger hunt. But given the increase in comments and followers alike, I've chalked it up to people being too busy or uninterested in my subject matter... It happens, it's not the end of the world.

If anything, the non-commenters made me very grateful to those who were consistently interacting; by Z = Zombie, I was very proud to find not a single letter was missed and my following was still expanding.

 Which brings me to say:
Thank you for stopping by; thank you for your comments, words of encouragement, and book reccs! And really, really thank you so much for deciding to stick around!
I also want to acknowledge the sheer size of the experience because it gave me something incredibly beautiful to observe: Smart, creative minds at their finest and kindest, on an international level. I was seeing blogs from places like Switzerland, Australia, and India from people who were devout Catholics, Mormon, and Muslim about farm living, city living, and just living (among other things,lol)... And all these people were managing to do the same exact thing for 26 days without conflict.

If I was on Twitter I would pair AZ Challenge with #faithinhumanityrestored... But since I'm not on Twitter, maybe one of you fine people can help me out.

 Peace, Love, and Books!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

In Which We Meet Jilly Coppercorn by Charles de Lint

"We live in a consensual reality where things exist because we want them to exist."

A wizard named Bramley Dapple entertains Jilly Coppercorn's questions; she wants to know why she can see things other people can't. Things like Goon, Bramley's goblin butler who is serving tea...

This is a story about belief. It's important for anyone who's ever felt different or out of place. It's important for anyone who's ever wanted a little more magic in life. And whether you're a devout Catholic looking for the hand of God or just a dreamer looking for the extraordinary in an ordinary place, your belief and strength of conviction is paramount. Because what you believe in life matters, regardless of what other people think.

Short Story Sunday