I miss reading books on American Literature thanks to ‘Genius’

genius the movie

I really love ‘Genius’ (2016) for one particular thing: I hope I can read books by American authors in near future. What more powerful can we say on how influential a movie is other than making its viewers doing something exclusively after watching it?

Not only the movie successfully prompts me reading novels by Thomas Wolfe, the film also does its good job presenting a well-known editor, Mark Perkins. He is the one who ‘catches’ the unique talent of Wolfe, making the newbie author believing his writing magic.

Colin Firth acts really well as the editor. Cool-headed, calm, smart, straight-forwarded person.. But his most distinctive trait is he knows how to handle Wolfe, the rising author who is emotional and explosive. The friendship between the two is the highlight of the movie. I really love how they befriend as workmate and pal.

Two people with different characteristics and life goals (Wolfe is an adventurer while Perkins is a family man) can get along very well. They work together making Wolfe’s Long Homeward, Angel and Of Time and the River as best-selling books at that time.

Making films about certain famous authors are ordinary but creating story about editor is quite rare. When it is done well, the movie becomes really something to watch. People usually know authors but not all of them wish they know how firstly ‘find’ the talent, especially if the authors are newcomers. Also, not everyone wishes to know who edit, give advice on title and sentences, and all that trivial things to make their books marketable.

I love Perkins. The kind of person who looks reserved everywhere he goes in any kind of situations, including when Wolfe’s girlfriend (played by Nicole Kidman) threatened him by a gun. The sort of editor who knows exactly what he looks for a good book then stand by his choice despite oppositions from the author himself, Wolfe.

His choice is extraordinary. In short, he is the most-fitted man for his job. Personally, I love Perkins because I, too, work as an editor though, yes, not as grand as his job is. But I can get his difficulties going through hundreds of pages then finding what are about the work that can be sold and make its way out of millions of books out there.

Colin Firth and Jude Law are very compatible as leading actors. I love the way they argue on editing Of Time and the River. Also, the way they defend each other’s opinions about their ways of lives become the very prominent scenes of all.

Though at the end of the movie they don’t meet anymore up til Wolfe’s sudden brain attack, the deceased’s letter showcasing his admiration on his co-worker really touches my heart. Such a rare thing to witness a friendship between a writer and an editor like them. A very beautiful thing to see.

After the movie I browse to the internet about Long Homeward, Angel and Of Time and the River. I like the first sentences as they move so poetically though quite long. That’s more than enough to encourage myself putting the books on my to-be-read list.

Thank you ‘Genius’ for not only making me wanting to read the titles, loving literature even more but also realizing how heartwarming a friendship between the two distinctive well-known literary figures can be.

The picture is taken from here.

Even John Steinbeck can be dull sometimes

It takes many months for me to have completed reading ‘In Dubious Battle’. After enjoying marvelous stories by John Steinbeck in ‘East of Eden’, ‘Of Mice and Men’ and ‘The Grapes of Wrath’, it is hard to believe that ‘In Dubious Battle’ is written by the same author who is my most favorite author, in par with Thomas Hardy.

‘In Dubious Battle’, now a major motion picture, is so vocal about labor movement and its relation with politic at the time when the book is composed. I don’t really mind about that. John Steinbeck is said to put much focus about politic. Reading ‘Travels in Charley: In Search of America’ makes me realizing his huge love for his country. He is a nationalist by the heart.

What disturbs me so much is how the plots are woven. They are like cut shorts here and there. Dialogs are made so frontal. John Steinbeck lets his writing style so straight-forwarded in the work that I don’t enjoy reading it at all. Despite the tone of the book that is ‘furious’ I instead feel unmotivated because of his technique.

I hope ‘In Dubious Battle’ is as emotionally-moving as ‘The Grapes of Wrath’. Both speak much about poverty and labor issues. Yet, the ways each of the novel tell stories are way different. ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ completely stresses me out in good ways. I am so absorbed by the plots. The book leaves me with mixed feelings. John Steinbeck’s way of writing is superb. Beautiful, deep, philosophical. No wonder that the title brings him wining Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962. He is so total in producing the story in terms of plot, message and storytelling style.

But in ‘In Dubious Battle’ I can sense that he seems in a rush. He looks like forcing himself doing the work. The finale is clear yet he doesn’t work well in bringing readers into imaginations. Lack of emotion as well.

Looking at the two titles somehow reprimand me that even brilliant author like John Steinbeck can mess up. Not all his ideas are well-executed. I haven’t researched what prompt him creating ‘In Dubious Battle’. Whatever reasons behind the book all I can tell to myself that being good writers take a bloody efforts. Doing so doesn’t necessarily guarantee your books will score massive successes. Well, defining success can be relative but at least you can sense whether you make it or not by reading your own books.

“East of Eden’ is his first title that really wows me. The self-influenced novel grabs my attention to his name. It so moving, the words are so wonderful, and the message is so related to my life and I think people’ lives in general.

As much as I love ‘East of Eden’, John Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’ is my most beloved title of his, as a matter of fact, ‘Of Mice and Men’ is my most favorite novel thus far. It cuts so deep. It is better than ‘East of Eden’. ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ gives me another chill because the book is so powerful. It is a boom!

Reviewing all experiences regarding all of the titles I can sum up that proficient authors like John Steinbeck can sometimes have hard times. He can make very wonderful fictions but not free from making bad ones. Men, he is a human being after all. Being at the top throughout his whole life sounds godly, too good to be true.

Lessons learned is this: while worldly-proven authors can be bad sometimes then why can’t I be? This doesn’t mean to aide myself whenever I am lazy to write or read but the point is creating fictions is a very long process. I can be at the high but down sometimes. Or in between. The key is accepting who I am and what I can achieve at whatever level I am at.


#TheUglyTruth: The Second Thought on ‘The Catcher in the Rye’

I’d like to annul what I had said about ‘The Catcher in The Rye’. In a post on Facebook, years ago, I said that I really loved it. I even declared it as an excellent story about ‘the saddest fall of an idealist’. My notes about the book caught the attention of some good friends of mine that they eventually read it, too.

I had written how I admired Holden Caulfield, the major character in the fiction. I saluted his honesty, bravery, idealism, which I thought way above his peers at school. Probably this was because of his bitter stories when he was still at humble age. His narrative was crazy, totally bold and completely shocking, I said to myself at that time.

The book was quick-read not only because it was relatively short but also because its content put me head over heels. What made me loving it was when Holden decided not to leave his family because of his huge love for his sister, Phoebe. My feelings were mixed up. I was disappointed at the finale but at the same time I understood it.

I read the book long before I experienced the joy of classic readings. And now after years of reading journey across culture, authors and themes, I have to say that my previous opinions about ‘The Catcher in The Rye’ are no longer as bombastic as they once were.

I firmly hold my stance on the concerns  J.D. Salinger wants to convey; about negative impacts of broken family, on the effects of the society pressures on young generations regarding their future and about moral problems arising in the U.S after it gets rid of the Great Depression and starts becoming more liberal and capitalistic.

However, after reading novels from Victorian era, now I can shape my own kind of favorite reading type. I adore beautiful words, the show-not-the-tell sort of writing and very detailed tale. At this thing, I’d like to say that I dislike the Salinger’s writing style of the book. Too straight-forward and full of craps. I used to love this phrase ‘craps’ but not anymore.

I shouldn’t exaggerate the previous opinion on the ending of the book. Without reducing melancholy feeling that comes whenever Holden expresses his dear love to Phoebe, I shouldn’t say his decision not leaving her as something betraying his idealism. Holden is a teenager after all. He does visualize living an independent life but still, he hasn’t tried doing it. His view of life is still limited. I shouldn’t say his decision refers to ‘the saddest fall of idealist’ because I think Holden hasn’t earned that status.

#TheUglyTruth: I Don’t Enjoy Reading ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’

to kill a mockingbird

thank you http://www.dailymail.co.uk for the picture

For very subjective reasons, I confess that I didn’t enjoy reading ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. I bought it a couple of years ago despite the fact that I had known I would haven’t loved it after reading the first few pages of the book. But the novel was hugely popular for so many years and I thought I should have gone with the trend, said I to myself at that time.

So I kept purchasing it and my instinct was correct. I was trying to enjoy reading it but no avail. I admit the novel conveys very strong messages. The ending of the book rings my ears until today. It leaves me with mixed feelings. It’s the same as coming out from a cinema after watching a good movie.

But just as that. Good but not great. Not emotionally moving as I expected it to be. For how many times I can’t remember I have written in this blog that I prefer reading books that show not tell me because they encourage me to think, feel, imagine on my own kind of ways. While the telling-me method easily bores me because it leaves me with very little room to think.

‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ does enrich my knowledge but it fails to touch the deepest part of my heart. Simply to say, I’m not the kind of reader who loves Harper Lee’s writing way . My favorite books should be those that nourish my mind, touch my heart and feed my mind. ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ just doesn’t do all of that.


Mr. Steinbeck


Dear Pat,

You came upon me carving some kind of little figure out of wood and you said,”Why don’t you make something for me?”

I asked you what you wanted and you said “A box.”

“What for?”

“To put things in.”

“What things?”

“Whatever you have,” you said.

Well, here’s your box. Nearly everything I have is in it, and it is not full. Pain and excitement are in it, and feeling good or bad and evil thoughts and good thoughts — the pleasure of design and some despair and the indescribable joy of creation.

And top of these are all the gratitude and love I have for you.

And still the box is not full.


(from the front page of East of Eden)


Ad Astra Per Alia Perci

Throughout his life Steinbeck signed his letters with his personal “Pigasus” logo, symbolizing himself “a lumbering soul but trying to fly.” The Latin motto Ad Astra Alia Perci translates “To the stars on the wings of a pig.”


It is such a shame that I read none of John Steinbeck’s novels during my college years. I get stuck on romance-kind-of books and postmodern dramas, one of which becomes my subject of graduating paper. Once I leave the university seat, I go to one of the cities bookstores and find this book. I already know Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath but not this particular book. I remember I get to know this title from GoodReads.com. The analogy of Adam and Eve in this novel leads me to learn “family” side of Steinbeck. News has it that he wants to explore his family anchestor through this book. One prominent reason on why I am deeply in love with this man is that he is such a great obverser who is able to write novels from everything and everyone who is nearby. What lies in front of his eyes become miraculous ideas. Below are some of his quotes from East of Eden. I read it years ago thus I hardly remember his beautiful quotes. P.S: The book is quite expensive, in my opinion, but really worth reading.

Do you take pride in your hurt? Does it make you seem large and tragic? …Well, think about it. Maybe you’re playing a part on a great stage with only yourself as audience.”

“I think I love you, Cal.” -Abra
I’m not good.” -Cal
Because you’re not good.” -Abra

“But you must give him some sign, some sign that you love him… or he’ll never be a man. All his life he’ll feel guilty and alone unless you release him.

Regarding “thou mayest”:
And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected.”

All quotes are from his own family saga


What if John Steinbeck were still alive? Hmmm…


I have been searching for Travels with Charlie: In Search of America, but to no avail thus far. Can one of you guys, if happen to find this book, buy it first then I will compensate it?

Or may be below quotes may attact you as well…

“I was born lost and take no pleasure in being found.”

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”

“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we not take a trip; a trip takes us.”


Laugh your ass off! Tortilla Flat is way a lot of hillarious, ridiculous, witty. Precious lessons of life is rich in this book. So, its not really easy reading. The book is so funny that I disbelieve it is John Steinbeck who writes it. The novel revolves around the lives of silly people called paisanos. They are drunkards, thieves, ruffians, and vagabonds, but they are also surprisingly good at heart; requiring little more from life than friendship and a little wine. Among these paisanos are Danny, Pilon, Pablo, Jesus Maria, and Big Joe Portagee.

Spoiler: I dislike the ending. Thats all! All in all, the book is such an amusement!

Jose Maria Corcoran: What’s the matter with him? Is he crazy?
Pablo: “A little love is like a little wine. Too much of either will make a man sick

Pilon: He makes a good speech.
Daniel Alvarez: Yeah, like an old goat in the moonlight!

“Time is more complex near the sea than in any other place, for in addition to the circling of the sun and the turning of the seasons, the waves beat out the passage of time on the rocks and the tides rise and fall as a great clepsydra.”


This is the first, and strongly hope, the last of his book, that puts at very stressful condition while reading it. In Dubious Battle is the first kind of politic and labor themes book that I read, and I dont think I am trying to read another similar novel both from Steinbeck or other authors. The book is just too heavy for me. And to be honest, the flow of the story does no run well. I mean, I hardly grasp emotional thread in between characters. If I were driving a car, I feel like I hit small rocks along the way. So I think, Mr. Steinbeck admits he does find troubles while creating this piece of work. Below is his opinions prior to the publication of the book:

“This is the first time I have felt that I could take the time to write and also that I had anything to say to anything except my manuscript book. You remember that I had an idea that I was going to write the autobiography of a Communist. … There lay the trouble. I had planned to write a journalistic account of a strike. But as I thought of it as fiction the thing got bigger and bigger. It couldn’t be that. I’ve been living with this thing for some time now. I don’t know how much I have got over, but I have used a small strike in an orchard valley as the symbol of man’s eternal, bitter warfare with himself. “



John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men, Tortilla Flat, East of Eden, Travels with Charley: In Search of America, In Dubious Battle

Going back at school

thank you to coe.jmu.edu for the pict

I feel like I am trapped in a strong whirlwind of questions when it comes to continue my study. For years, I have been dealing with so many things that I still find it hard to make up my mind on what exact steps should I take to be at the university seat again. The problem is I am a visioner. I’ll never take serious steps without knowing in advance on what will I do in the future. Thankfully, I was not that serious back at senior high school. If I was, I would not choose English Literature as my major during college.

Getting a Master scholarship is not easy, at least in my opinion. I believe that scholarship providers carefully select most eligible candidates based on their previous education backgrounds, current professions, and future plans. In my story, problems are like this.

First, I love English literature. I find myself so much in love with the subject after I graduated from the university. When I was a college student back in Gadjah Mada University, I didn’t enjoy literature as much as I feel right now. I strongly believe that I can conquer all problems once I really love at something. Sounds over confident but that proves right for me. The problem is I have to be realistic for a few points. First, my job has nothing to do with literature let alone English novels or poetry. I translate and write news every day. Sadly, when I was still a reporter, I had never had any chances to write something about literature, especially on English or American literature. Second, I have to be honest with my future job. I have no passions in teaching and very few jobs are available for literature writers in Indonesia. Alas! I even have no interest in Indonesian literature, probably closing all chances to work in local-based publishers or media, for instance. When I selected the major for undergraduate level, I just followed my heart and cling hopes on bright jobs ahead. That proved to be fruitful. Should I apply that for now?

Second big matter for me is I have to be realistic amid unclear profession.

I always find it hard to choose between literature and journalism. I love both. Although my education background is literature, I earn most of my income by working as a journalist and translator. And for me, news are everything. I can’t imagine working without dealing with news and media. But also, I don’t wanna be a journalist covering day-to-day conferences, spending hours at a corruption watchdog office for nothing once I return from studying for my Master degree. Working as a journalist in Indonesia is very tiring with unfair salary and holidays. I can no longer tolerate for that.

My friends, who receive scholarships, have a linkage between their past studies, current jobs, and interests. They can come back to where they currently work once they finish their study. I am doubtful that will apply to my conditions. Suppose, I could just choose and completely clueless about future plans then enjoy my life in foreign lands. But I can’t think that way…

This time around, I will not carry myself in uncertainties for any longer. I must decide which one is the best for me and start fighting for staying at school again. It will be very awesome to take notes while listening to lecturers’ preaches, I mean explanations, like the ones I experienced in Yogyakarta. All in all, studying brings headache but can be very fun!