imagesCAVJZEFCEven though there are about 50 other things I should be doing right now – two, no three large projects, cleaning or packing and so on – I’m taking a little break to do some work that isn’t being demanded of me. I’ll be putting up a summary of the new book I’m reading: Outliers, and don’t forget about the next chapter of Twelve Extraordinary Women.

I feel like I’ve been diving into classics quite a bit lately. Frankly, it’s fantastic. Even though Stoker’s novel holds high acclaim for obvious reasons, I started Dracula to take a closer look at exceptional prose as well. Whether you’ve read the book or not you can probably deduce that the story is about the most infamous vampire of all time. What you may not know is that ram Stotker’s memorable book was many of similar stories published in his time. Goulish fables designed to portray an incredibly repulsive antagonist. Stoker was able to evoke a character and attitude amongst his cast to create a legend that would influence society for generations.

The plot begins with Mr. Jonathan Harker. Harker takes the place of a respected friend when he travels to work for an intelligent, obscure man. Readers soon find out strange things about the mysterious gentleman and begin to fret about Mr. Harker’s survival. All the while this interesting fellow, Dracula, has Jonathan working to help obtain a residence for Dracule in London. Mr. Harker’s fiance, Mina, and her friends Lucy, Arthur, Drs Steward and Van Helsing with many others become involved. After tragedy strikes, the band of loyal companions find themselves hunting down the greatest enemy they’ll ever know. I was questioning their success for a better part of the story. After all, who’s the character we all know best today?


Anna Karenina

To some, including Mr. William Faulkner, the greatest novel ever written.

Leo Tolstoy tells the story of a doomed love affair between Anna Karenina and military officer, Count Vronsky. However, as soon as one ventures beyond the cover, several major characters come into play. The loveable, niave ‘Kitty’ Shcherbatskaya. Practical and warm-hearted Konstantin Levin. ‘Stiva’ and ‘Dolly’, Sergei Ivanovich and of course, Alexandrovich Karenin. If you were unable to tell from the unique names, Anna Karenina was originally written in Russian. The excellent translation of Pevear and Volokhonsky (better than most, I’m told) was able to convey the tone of Tolstoy’s characters and insight to his interest in agriculture, politics and philosophy.

Before I started reading, I was fairly unfamiliar with the plot. And even after the recent movie preview, I’m sure there are still quite a few who don’t realize Tolstoy’s story goes far beyond the passionate affair of Anna and Vronsky. Part One begins with Stiva, Anna’s brother, and his broken-hearted wife, Dolly who has discovered her husband’s affair. (You’re probably thinking, ‘Geez, more adultry.’) As it continues, a number of relationships begin to appear. Levin, a good friend of Stiva’s is madly in love with Dolly’s younger sister, Kitty. Kitty is being courted by Vronsky, who has no intentions of marriage. Along the way, Tolstoy reveals each of his interests with distictive insight and witticism. Often through Levin, as he struggles to find superior ways to manage his farm, understand the elections of provincial leaders and come to terms with his own ideas of faith – which is why his work is recommended for even those who are not romantic. Just a few reasons why it would be wonderful to read the original publication.

Anna Karenina trailer 1

A feeling of contentment perfectly describes how I felt once I finished all 817 pages (don’t let that deter you ;)). Although difficult to get through at times, it left me with a sense of accomplishment, warmth and solemnity. It also further proved how inverted my emotions are as I found the bit about Sergei and Vasenka’s proposal almost more depressing than Anna’s fate. I’m not sure I would go so far as to call it the greatest novel of all time, but you definitely have something to be proud of Mr. Tolstoy.

Don’t forget to tell me your thoughts. If you would like more of the story and another great review: http://notesfromzembla.wordpress.com/2012/05/13/anna-karenina/

The Picture of Dorian Gray

I love it when I underestimate the quality of a book. Needless to say, that’s exactly what I did with Mr. Wilde’s writing, even after a recommendation from a best friend. I’ve come to terms that many of you reading this may not get around to the books I post about. No big deal. And those of you who have won’t mind if I spoil the ending. I’m going to do it just this once anyway.

The story starts off with Mr. Basil Hallward, a very whimsical and introspective creature in my mind. Mr. Hallward is a painter, and his favourite subject as of late is the young Dorian Gray. Dorian is his favourite not only in the sense of art, but in personality, innocence and society as well. Hallward has a sociable acquaintence, Lord Henry who becomes interested in Dorian, too.

Early on, the audience discovers that Lord Henry is completely and utterly full of hot air, and occasionally shares some clever insight on topics from a different perspective. During Dorian and Lord Henry’s first meeting, Hallward creates is greatest masterpiece to date, a portrait of Dorian. Despite Hallward’s best efforts, Dorian soon becomes corrupted by Lord Henry. All three of them are struck by the beauty of the painter’s latest work, which influences Dorian’s growing infatuation with youth and beauty, society and self-importance.

“Some day, when you are old and wrinkled and ugly, when thought has seared your forehead with its lines, and passion branded your lips with its hideous fires, you will feel it. You will feel it terribly.” – Lord Henry

Before Mr. Gray becomes completely consumed with himself, he falls in love with a brilliant, young actress, Sibyl Vane. Once he approaches her and proposes, Sibyl realizes how fake her world of scenes and stories really is. The same night she experiences this epiphany, Hallward and Lord Henry join Dorian at the theatre, only to watch a dreadful performance. Dorian is horribly embarrassed and breaks his engagement with Sibyl. She is heartbroken and takes her life that very night.

Throughout the story, Basil’s infamous portrait of Dorian Gray bears the ugliness of Dorian’s soul. After his life of vanity, rumours and even murder, Hallward’s canvas becomes the home of Dorian’s deception, anger, and shallow actions. A marvelous tale, full of extraordinary and humourous quotes, with a sobering finish. I’m considering a post on quotations alone. Could be fun. Excellent read. Go find out for yourself. Share your opinions!

Oh, I just wanted to throw this in there. I almost considered the title, ‘Girls Gone Wilde’ but I figured it didn’t relate. Maybe next time.

Oh, Tessy!

Pardon my French, but you’re batsh*t crazy! No wonder this classic was completely radical. It’s powerful indictment of Victorian hypocrisy, along with its unconventional focus on the rural lower class and its direct treatment of sexuality and religion, raised a ferocious public outcry. To catch you up to speed, here’s the plot: “…setting a fateful plot in motion, Jack Durbeyfield dispatches his gentle daughter Tess to the home of their noble kin, anticipating a lucrative match between the lovely girl and a titled cousin. Innocent Tess finds the path to the d’Urberville estate paved with ruin in this gripping tale of the inevitability of fate and the tragic nature of existence….”

What isn’t mentioned on the back of the book is Angel Clare or her dying infant. Somehow, while I’m reading the book, I completely missed the fact that Tess got with D’Urberville and ended up pregnant – I didn’t realize what was happening til Hardy mentioned her taking care of the child. I even went back and tried to find what I missed! I guess I was having a couple of those dazing moments where you can read whole paragraphs at a time and not know what you read. And if you think I’m giving away too much detail, don’t worry – this isn’t even half of it. Talk about a girl who can’t make up her mind.

Things I love about the novel: pure language. “Their general likeness to each other and their consecutive ages would almost have suggested that they might be what in fact they were, brothers.” How much more fun is that than simply saying the three were brothers?? Although Hardy unsuccessfully produces an attachment to his characters equal to Austin or Dickenson, he sure knows how to throw in a twist at the end.

Things I didn’t like so much: Hardy creates such a helpless, persuasive version of the female sex. Throughout the pages, Tess constantly blames her troubles on her poor fate, or being persuaded by this man or that for her unfortunateness. Sad thing about it, is that it’s possibly a true account of maybe even a portion of the female sex of that time.

I could go on and on, but this poorly written post probably has enough rambling. Check it out. Let me know what you think. Is this a book you would read? Comment and let me know!

Here’s a little extra – something my crude side found hilarious. http://harmlessnecrophilia.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/tess-of-the-durbervilles/