Thoughts on The Goldfinch

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The goldfinch is the most remarkable novel I have picked up in recent memory. The daunting 771 pages made it seem like I would never finish, never know what happens to Theo and perhaps more curiously, to the painting. I thought the narration in this book was what gave it its brilliance from the start. I was immediately immersed in Theo’s world and with the turn of every page enchanted by the characters and the city of New York. Theo, and his friends (and guardian) Andy, Boris, and Hobie couldn’t have been more different but were all such key characters to the story. They came and went as the author saw fit and that was the brilliance of this novel. Just like the painting “disappeared” from the museum and then reappeared after quite a journey, people appeared and reappeared in Theo’s life, fleeting moments in a coming of age story for the ages. The loss of Theo’s mother forever haunted him and I believe it caused his downward spiral. And despite his father’s behavior that loss also stunned him. I don’t know who is to blame for the unbelievable drug use in this novel, however I believe Theo and Boris used drugs to numb their minds from reality. What that left me with was Theo’s reality. Maybe I should be incredibly disturbed by this book, but Theo’s story broke my heart and I was truly hoping that he and Pippa would have a happy ending. However, I have heard from someone wise, that sometimes people with jagged edges cut each other until they both shatter. Therefore, The was no way that they could be together and Pippa makes that point herself. This novel shocked me but also made me consider how cruel life can be. I wonder only, how Theo and his life go forward after the events that unfolded in Europe and how despite his travel and unknown status of engagement, how is Theo really feeling inside?

Born a Crime Reflection

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Every time I picked this book up to continue it, it was like reuniting with an old friend that I wanted to learn more about, although I wished I never had to put it down. Sitting in the train station, I read the first 86 pages and as I heard the train approaching I quickly planned my next free moment to continue this reading endeavor: I simply couldn’t wait. Trevor Noah is astonishingly brilliant in how he chose to let us in his world and narrate to us a window into his world, complicated by many things from skin color and the poverty that unfortunately went along with it. A world that would have caused many to lose their way, but Trevor was resilient and his mother helped instill good values in him, despite how poorly behaved he often was. In many ways, I feel this book is a love letter. A love letter to Trevor’s mom. A love letter to his friends and mostly, a love letter to all the parts of his childhood that challenged him and helped him thrive during a time when he wasn’t meant to. The apatherid meant he wasn’t supposed to thrive. And as we saw with his “hulk” friend from jail, the end of the apartheid meant disadvantaged people were forced to steal to feed their families. This book really showed me a perspective I haven’t seen before and I was truly lucky that this book was chosen to be read. I was astounded by what I learned about South Africa. It was fascinating but also very sad to hear. The slaughter and mistreatment of people was shocking to me. The comparison made to Hitler and how there weren’t numbers to account for the deaths like there were in the Holocaust brought a chill down my spine. I could jump around from subject to subject trying to explain all the reasons that I loved this book. The biggest reason is I fell in love with the story. Trevor allowed me in. His raw feelings were all brought to the surface, especially his mother being shot at the end. A relationship changes when someone that you care about lets you fully in and lets you get to know them on their terms. And that’s exactly what Trevor did. Trevor Noah let me into his world, sharing with me and all of us about life’s lessons, and how black, white, colored, or whatever we were, we are all human and deserving of love. And deserving of a good life. Trevor taught me that, and by allowing me into his world, introduced me to a way of examining one’s life that I will never forget.

Review for The Art Forger

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Within minutes of opening this book, my body was floating in a different world. Having just read The Goldfinch and just seen The Wife, I was familiar with the notion of art theft, of creating art for someone because you loved them and wanted them to succeed, and unfortunately the immense pain that causes for so many. The heartbreaks that Claire experiences in this book, the betrayals by the men she falls in love with are so acutely painful, they cause me to reminisce about my broken heart stories. I believe it takes a talented author to cause such a reaction in my heart as Shapiro did with The Art Forger. Claire and Isaac, Claire and Aiden both those relationships were shown through Claire’s eyes and we see Claire’s pain. I wonder if having multiple points of view could help us to better understand the motives of Isaac and Aiden. Something else that I am not mentioning is the way art is eloquently and brilliantly described and the life of an artist, throwing her life into her work another kind of love affair. And that’s the only lover that she ends up with. Her paintings. Was it because she struck that deal with Aiden that fate caused her such great pain? What about the troubled youth she taught and their pain? I believe their pain and her pain were similar and she went there to connect with them because she felt compassion towards them. She had extremely unhealthy eating habits and sleeping, but I wonder if that sacrifice is justified in the name of art. I only wish the best for Claire. How could I wish that when people blame her for Isaac’s death and Aiden is in jail while she is free? I’m afraid it’s too complicated to answer in a few words why I identify with Claire and her journey in this novel. For Aiden and Isaac I believe that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Isaac and Aiden’s power and subsequent greed in the world of art destroyed them. Also, there are so many unresolved issues with Aiden and Isaac in this book that I don’t know where to begin. Am I a fool to leave Claire blameless? No. It is a question we have explored in this group previously that I cannot answer but leave you all to ponder, Was Claire a bad person or was she a good person who did a bad thing?

Twisted Governments, Characters, and Intentions: The Tempest

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We began our talk of The Tempest with some much needed plot clarification as this is one convoluted story. Prospero (the rightful Duke of Milan), Miranda (his daughter), Caliban (his slave) and Ariel (a spirit he freed, also a slave) have been together on this uninhabited island for 12 years or so. Prospero and his daughter were shipwrecked here, but don’t seem to have intentions to leave which we discussed in class as a bizarre choice. Caliban was born on the island to the witch Sycorax, who was sentenced to death but couldn’t be executed because she was pregnant. So she was exiled to the island. Antonio (Prospero’s brother) and his gang of ignorant misfits are now shipwrecked on the island as well, thanks to Prospero’s magic. The final plot point I would like to make is Antonio usurped his brother Prospero as the Duke of Milan, and Prospero left the situation only to be marooned on this island and now is seeking revenge.

We hit a range of topics regarding the story and its characters. In this protokoll, I would like to discuss the three kinds of government that are found on this island and the notion of a hierarchy. Government and politics is something we cannot get away from, even in a story of a shipwreck on an inhabited island. This was something I did not see right away but was appreciative that it was brought to the attention of the class. I would also like to discuss Miranda’s role in this play and the power dynamics that exist between Prospero and his slaves. It is interesting to see how Ariel wants more agency and to be completely free, while Caliban is fine with just having a new master.

The idea of a hierarchy on the island is an interesting one I would like to explore as I believe it is Shakespeare demonstrating that even in a dire situation people will perhaps try to work together, but struggle or even manipulate others to achieve power. All of our readings so far have had this theme of a hierarchy being created. In Arabian Nights, the hierarchy was of the royals and their subjects as well and men and women, but women had a way of finding power in an unexpected way. In The Canterbury Tales, the author harshly judged many of the characters, but we could also create a hierarchy in that text of the different professions and beyond that the gender dynamics were something we explored at length. Women and their strength was also an interesting point in these tales. In The Treasure of the City of Ladies as well as The Battle over Free Will, God is at the top of the hierarchy. In The Treasure of the City of Ladies a hierarchy of women is created as Pizan addresses women from all walks of life, giving them life advice while ranking them in the process. All these texts mentioned had a lot of people in mind regarding the hierarchy that was established so I ask, who is there to even rule on this island?

In terms of ruling people, Machiavelli had very forceful points about how to rule, but the way that Antonio talks isn’t reminiscent of a thirsty power grab. He already achieved that by throwing his brother from his rightful place. It feels more like a sense of entitlement and pretentiousness that propels his discussion and that of his gang what kind of power they will gain while on this island. The three types of government that were brought to light were: Machiavellian – Stephano with his wine, hedonism – Gonzalo with power politics, and Prospero with restoring the kingdom through marriage. Is the idea of creating this system easier because they can start fresh and build upon it due to the lack of people here? From this question I think of the process of colonization due to Prospero wanting control of the spirit and the person that was there before he was. The two that must suffer as a result are Caliban and Ariel, although interestingly, only Ariel seeks freedom.

Caliban and Ariel are the two (person and spirit) that were there previously to Prospero. It seems very unjust to automatically wish to enslave people or spirits upon arriving at a new place. Through history, we see this behavior of conquering, so while unjust it is not surprising. In class, there was talk of the defiance of both Caliban and Ariel in subtle ways but I do not see that happening in this play. While they can push against their master, they must ultimately submit to his wishes. There are two different people here to consider and they want different things from their lives. Caliban is disobedient to Prospero but when Antonio and his gang appear, Caliban seems oddly willing to having some new masters that aren’t any better than Prospero. Ariel, in contrast, was freed from a tree that Sycorax locked him in, and Prospero is really milking that situation unfairly. Ariel wants true freedom but Prospero wants Ariel to continue doing tasks for him and reminds Ariel how he freed him. Another point to consider is that both the slaves are grateful to the master, one for all he learned from Prospero, and the other for being freed. As the story unfolds, we will see how these two characters develop further and we shall see about Caliban’s ridiculous idea to attack Prospero with his new masters. Another character connected to Prospero is his daughter, Miranda.

Miranda is the only female character we encounter and she is intriguing. She is Prospero’s daughter but she seems to have a sense of strength about her. She is inquisitive and curious about what brought her and her father to this island. She is the first to speak in the play before her father, and I wondered if that had any significance in the play or if it was an arbitrary fact that I noticed. Miranda could have developed far more as a character, but upon seeing Ferdinand the only man she had ever seen in her life, she becomes overwhelmed with love and he does as well. I wonder if her father is creating this forbidden love story so they fall more in love is to help her, or if it is his way of maintaining control over her like he does over his slaves. If Ferdinand did not come, I would be curious to see what kind of character Miranda would become. It seems like she was a strong character, until she finds love. Then, she becomes a slave to that love. That concept is particularly interesting because Dido is referred to in the play, and she is a goddess that also was very powerful, until her love for Aeanus and his abandonment of her destroyed her in The Aeneid. Hopefully, there is a happier ending for Miranda. Given this is a Shakespearean comedy I have a hunch that things will work out just fine for Miranda. It seems to be a running theme that when a woman has agency, she loses it, blinded by love. In the conclusion of this play, we have to see what will become of her love and of Caliban’s foolish plan, as well as the building of a hierarchy as the play progresses. What will be the outcome for Prospero’s plans and will Ariel be free? There is a lot to resolve but there are three acts remaining so I have faith Shakespeare will accomplish just that. Perhaps, Miranda will continue to be a strong character despite her new found love.

The “Other America”

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When one is taught about World War II, the genocide of six million Jewish people and other minority groups is usually first to come up. We have all heard dreadful stories about the Holocaust, which came about though the mind of Adolph Hitler. The “final solution” was the German dictator’s plot to rid the world of human life that did not quite meet his outrageous expectations. This might lead one to inquire as to the untold story of the Polish troops and their struggles in their portion of the world. How come we almost never hear about what they went through for the safety of their county? Even though they didn’t win, they put up a fight- like a knife in the dark that you don’t know about. Just like the Polish general had to clash with the Nazis, Pharaoh and Lafayette were forced to encounter dangerous gangs, only on a much different level. The “Other America” is like the stories that are never told, those whose fears are never recognized until it is too late.
Alex Kotlowitz alludes to brushing off violence and its consequences quite often. Almost always it seems our protagonists are off on the railroad tracks or buying fast food so that they can avoid thinking about their father or their neighborhood. Paul survived through a drug overdose because of LaJoe, who pulled the syringe out of his arm and called an ambulance. This incident didn’t change Paul’s actions, and he soon survived another overdose. This particular neighborhood does not help. It is definitely not one that you might see advertised on t. v. or read about in the newspaper. Henry Horner is a place located in the deep South of Chicago, where violence was portrayed as a harsh reality that even the smallest child was bound to face. Pharaoh was never a child for he was never permitted a normal lifestyle. Often he dealt with inescapable shootings correlated with the Vice Lords, a gang that resided in Henry Horner. Even if Jimmie Lee would be some how killed, the violence won’t cease. If anything it would intensify.
In Pharaoh’s America, he had to dodge bullets from gangsters whom he knew or might have even encountered on the streets. Lafayette never helped either, for although he defended Pharaoh, the younger brother always appeared to want to break free of Lafayette’s pressures and demands. Absorbed in school work, it never appeared that he would be drawn into their world and he never was. He realized that to kill innocence people and then act like everything was fine is just ridiculous. The society of the “Other America” is shaken by poverty, poverty on a significant level. LaJoe thankfully had food stamps and other ways of supporting the family, but compared to myself and other parts of the U. S. of A. they were in desperate conditions.
Lafie, as his mother called him, was found guilty of committing a crime, and although never drawn into the black hearts of the gangsters, he came close to following in his older brother’s footsteps, steps which were much like the boy himself- certain but watchful. Lafeyette had in fact, packed his bags and waited to be sentenced to prison for a long time. Although he didn’t go to jail, one may never be certain of what curve balls the streets of Henry Horner may throw mercilessly at the two boys. One thing is for sure, Lafayette and Pharaoh will never take things for granted in the “Other America.”

Pondering on Hamlet

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In Act One, I thought it was foolish for the watchmen to get Horatio for the ghost to talk to. It is interesting because before reading this play, I assumed that only Hamlet saw the ghost, and to find out others could see him too makes things very interesting yet very dangerous for Hamlet. But back to my point, the watchmen, simpletons, must call Horatio, a scholar to talk to a ghost. Give me a break! I don’t think that there is a very high intelligence requirement and that a simpleton may be better because the ghost may confide better in a common person, then a learned person who stands to gain from the information the ghost may have to bestow. Horatio, being intelligent, could manipulate the information somehow. Furthermore, I do not find it plausible that a ghost needs a well educated person to talk to. It is stupid, and makes me think of my parents who have not finished college, yet they know much more than me who is on the journey. There is world experience that they chose to ignore and focus on education. While I think education is vital to the existence of a better world, I also stand by the belief of we are learning all the time and some life lessons are taught outside the classroom.
They are desperately trying to pull out a meaning for why the ghost is here and what it wants to say. Again, for the time frame the symbol of a ghost meant trouble. I am glad I learned that because I was thinking, why are they spending all this time? Another thing that bothers me is this soap opera. Claudius marries Gertrude. Yuck. Why you ask? Because Claudius was old Hamlet’s brother who is dead. So he married his brother’s wife. They all wonder, why Hamlet is so upset? Hello, red flag! Then, Hamlet suddenly has something else on his mind because Horatio tells him of the ghost in full armor is his father! I think Shakespeare invented the Sophisticated Soap Opera. In this Soap Opera, Hamlet finds out from his father, the ghost, that he did not die but was murdered! By Claudius. Hamlet’s world keeps getting worse. I really feel badly for him.

In the Second Act, there is an unbelievable amount of manipulation I cannot stand or wrap my head around. Claudius is such a jerk and a terrible stepfather. I don’t understand why it is not okay for Hamlet to have feelings and just be human. I get it, he is the prince. He must be normal at all times. Everyone is pushing Hamlet and I feel like no one is on his side. They want him to behave normally to save face and not because they actually care about his well being and that makes me furious because I can completely relate. I have a medical condition that physically manifests itself and my mom hurries me inside. But this is not to help me or calm me down I discovered. I think it is wrong to hide pain and emotions, but in this play and in my real life hiding emotions is a big part of life. Everyone does it, pretending things are fine when they are not. It is a dangerous game that everyone plays, everyone except Hamlet. I admire him for being a male and not being this annoying macho guy who hides everything.

In the Third Act things get really interesting when Hamlet has a play put on to extract guilt from Claudius. He needs the proof. The ghost wasn’t enough for him. In some ways this is clever. But I think, why the proof? However, I was delighted when Claudius left very upset and Hamlet knew he was guilty. There is one part of Act 3 that I disagree with. Hamlet has a chance to kill Claudius, but because Claudius is praying Hamlet does not kill him, because if he kills him and he is absolve of his sin Claudius will go to heaven and Hamlet wants him to burn in hell for what he has done. Since I have not come across such circumstances, I do not know what I would do. Truly, I do not think I have the ability to harm another individual let alone commit murder. I worship peace and the value that violence solves another. Isn’t it sick then how suddenly I am cheering Hamlet to get this revenge that is eating away at him? How I am suddenly morphing into this monster that approves of murder? I just discovered that it is easy to tell someone else to go ahead and do awful things. When it comes to it, it is just a play, isn’t it? However, maybe this behavior of immediately saying Claudius should die begs the question; do two wrongs may a right? Does Hamlet killing his uncle repair the fact that Hamlet’s father was killed? There are moral dilemmas that are very deep here that Hamlet probably ponders as well.

Acts Four and Five
So I was just pondering the many facets of murder in my previous journal. How it is something I could never do. I hope it would never come to a point where I would have to decide between killing someone and them killing me. It is the ultimate cold act, to take a human life. And mostly importantly, how Hamlet ponders and pours over not only whether to kill Claudius, but how to kill him and when he is praying was not the time because he would not burn in Hell. Then suddenly, a monkey wrench is thrown in all my thoughts when the castle is in turmoil because Hamlet has killed Polonius because he was hiding behind a curtain and Hamlet just stabs him. What happened to contemplation and carefully planning out your steps, Hamlet? You just stab someone who is hiding and then drag them out of the castle? This is madness. Hamlet in pretending to be crazy seems to really have lost all his marbles. Maybe since it was the queen’s chambers he assumed it was the king listening in on his conversation. Well, it was not, and Hamlet has killed someone. He has committed that act that I wondered about myself, and I was even cheering for him to do. Now, Hamlet is to be sent to England? What if he just kills more people? His behavior is irrational and this is a tragedy after all. Maybe he has really snapped.
Now, the Final Act is occurring. I have been waiting so long to see what happens. I don’t believe Gertrude deserved to die. She did not know about the plot. Throughout the play, while she does not speak out for Hamlet, she does act like a loving mother. So, she married Claudius her late husband’s brother. People do crazy things in grief. Maybe she had a motivation I do not yet understand but I do not believe she should have died. She should not have been around for the fight period. I don’t understand what she was doing there. It seems being a woman would have played to her favor. Maybe one would say, “Oh, this is no place for a woman!” She didn’t need to be there. This just speaks of Claudius and his character and if he wanted his wife out of danger he would have made sure she was.

Thoughts on Snow Falling on Cedars

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Winter winds may be enclosing me on either side, but I will not acknowledge the ice or the cold. The tiny princess in the pale blue gown has transported me back to the distant lands of my childhood. Although she is just on the other side of the window pane, I feel like she is dancing right beside me. The harsh cold only intensifies my stare despite the gentle tug of my friend, who is pleading with me to enter the nearest store. I finally flutter back to reality and accept his jacket, as we meander on Chicago’s streets. For a brief moment the Christmas tree nearby sets off recollections of past winters, but I recognize that the cold is pushing my body too far. As we hug for warmth I know that it was something worth waiting for. This magnetism with winter is what compelled me to select this book. Snow Falling on Cedars sounds like an image snatched from the mind’s eye and recreated on paper. This beauty is immensely difficult to capture, and the local theater can exemplify such disenchantment often.
The artificial world of Holly Weird depicts many summertime beaches in movies, and mostly neglects winter. This novel was made into a movie, which I haven’t viewed but assume that some winter scenes are present. Winter in itself may be an element that will affect the mood of the book, and change my emotions constantly. Like many actions in the book that are simple, putting on gloves is something so simple, but it can trigger such excitement of things to come. The snow that covers the world is just a big comfortable blanket that warms my heart, as opposed to warming my numb fingers. I assumed that Snow Falling on Cedars would have some nice images too. The shop windows and the falling snow keep calling back to me, causing me to fall in love with winter more and more every snowfall. My friend is there too, holding my waist gently, but firmly. We can glance forever at the delightful world around us and watch the stars dance to music that we can’t quite hear.
From the moment I picked up this book, I thought about thumping through wet snow while snowballs are being hurled at me. Guterson surprised me because winter was not there at the very beginning of the novel like I had anticipated. Instead I learned of the main character, who is a man that is between a rock and hard place inside a courtroom. The word choice Guterson selects in the first chapter is careful not to worry me but rather entice me to read on about this strange fellow. Also, there is a great deal of Japanese culture which stems from his character, which can show me a new world.
Nature is eventually brought into play and that adds an exotic feeling of ecstasy; another guarantee that I will enjoy this book. “The branches of the Cedars were hung with it and beyond them the sky lay immaculate and decembral, the starts chilled points of light.” On page 443, David Guterson sketches this portrait of a winter night and the mystery of what is to come, and it thrills my senses. I know one thing for certain; the cover will stay with me forever. It brings to mind a quote that paints a similar image of being cast under the gleam of a moon, despite humans being world-losers and world-forsakers. Being a “music maker and dreamer of dreams” myself, snowflakes will be falling frequently into the locks of my hair, even if my eyes see the April sun. My heart will allow this deception, for the flakes of snow are not easy to brush away and they can make me blissful when everything else fails to.