Putting on New Lens for My Second Literary Journey

I may haven’t shared in this modest blog that I planned to no longer read any fictions, including classics, that have been so special in my heart. Last year’s devastating heartbrokenness caused me to abandon any reading-for-pleasure thingy that I thought would pain me even further.

I mostly read books or articles about my religion, Islam, and started learning a bit of Arabic language. The last fiction that I read was “The Invisible Man” by H.G Wells that I didn’t review because I don’t quite like the book.

I enjoyed reading books about Islam, to be honest. During some months of total focus on the book genre, I realized I took classic books too much. I need help to stay positive and upbeat about life. Alas, most of the classics that I admire are stories about longingness, realistic romance, poverty, women rights, social values, idealism, materialism and other heavy stuff.

After reading that kind of books for around 10 years, eventually, there came the time when I was forced to review how my reading had affected my soul and my mind so far. And again, frankly speaking, I couldn’t help feeling sorrowful, pessimistic and unenthusiastic about my personal life and the world. I know that I shouldn’t act that way. That no matter how “close” the classics are to real live and people, they are still the works of imagination and prone to subjectivity. The books manifest their author’s opinions, past experiences and critics.

I admit that I was too much absorbed in the books that let them taking hold of my views about life in general. The heartbrokenness somehow refreshes my thought to finally coming back to read fictions, and of course, classic books, again. Do you know what?

At first, I felt so afraid of reembracing Victorian Literature for the dry wound would bleed again. And poor me! There were moments when I felt I wanted to really leave reading fictions for good. I wanted to ignore the book type because I said to myself the book genre was no good for my life.

During such time, I read printed books, as well. I even thought about dedicating my whole life for reading non-fiction. I resumed reading “Homo Deus” by Yuval Noah Harari. But I dislike the book. Not because I don’t yet accustom for reading non-fiction but the book isn’t well-organized. Too much information in such an overly crowded structure. I don’t know if I want to finish reading it or not.

And then there comes this COVID-19 outbreak. It has been almost two weeks that I have been working from home. Since the stay-at-home campaign was launched early March 2020, I thought of coming to read fictions. I missed being glued in very decent novels by Thomas Hardy or George Eliot. I missed getting lost in beautiful, artsy writing styles of Victorian writers. And yes, I missed imagining how peaceful and sociable life back then. And ah! the dress, the gown.. How I adore lace, pastel colours and a long skirt that make female characters in the book genre so graceful and ladylike, LOL!

Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens

So, last Saturday, I affirmed myself to shop briefly. Of course, I went to Kinokuniya bookstore at Plaza Senayan shopping mall, here, in Jakarta. I couldn’t help myself grabbing a classic book to help to go through yet another week of the stay-at-home period.

I wanted to unwind from getting connected to the internet while couldn’t step outside my room that I rent. Sure enough, I can read abundant articles and stories from my smartphone or laptop but doing so can’t release my mind and put me at ease. Reading printed books can only do that.

I thought of buying one of Sherlock Holmes series. Mind you! After the break, I have decided to limit reading books on fiction. I won’t read about romance anymore and all things that look gloomy and depressing. I couldn’t think of laying my choice any better than to read books about mystery, detective thingy and fantasy, much like Gulliver’s Travels.

And the bookstore offers so many versions of Sherlock Holmes. To my delight, it was easy to choose the Sherlock Holmes options, depending on my budget, LOL! But then, I am not really into Sherlock Holmes, by the way.

I couldn’t resist the temptation of glimpsing into other books, which of course, by famous Victorian writers. So, my eyes caught Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens. I haven’t heard the title. I intended to buy the book after I read the cover text which says the book tells about greed.

Greed, hmm.. Why did the theme suddenly pop up in my head during the coronavirus time? No topics can’t fit today’s pandemic better than this one. When I was looking at the title, my eyes moved to the book next to it.

Voila! It was Our Mutual Friend! Oh my God! I was looking for the book for years until I forgot it. I smiled, then grinned then relieved. I couldn’t find any better companion than this title. I didn’t want to grab it right away for I wanted to greet my friend long enough before officially embarking the second literary journey.

“Oh, you! So happy to see you!” I said to myself at that time as if the book could speak!

I brought it to the store’s cashier section and now, I am on page 200 something. The book is also about greed on money which really suits my search. No need to worry about coming to bleakness because I have Alqur’an as my wise reminder.

My daily reading routine runs like this: at the morning, I will read Alqur’an or listen to its interpretation by ustadz Nouman Ali Khan. After that, I read Our Mutual Friend. Sometimes at night, I continue reading the novel or reading a book about the History of Islam.

Such a packed and fully-loaded reading stuff but I’m happy that I keep myself productive and occupied with positive things. I always, always remind myself to keep reading at balance. Make the activity stands equal between Islam and fiction.

For now, I’m glad to tell myself that I don’t have to leave fiction, especially classic reading, again. I come to it with a brand new perspective and genuine love as I always feel.

Taklukkan Tiga Salah Persepsi Ini untuk Keahlian Membaca yang Optimal

Cukup langka rasanya mendengar ada calon murid atau siswa les Bahasa Inggris yang menyengaja belajar Bahasa Inggris khusus untuk keahlian Membaca. Tentunya ini kursus di luar ruangan kelas ya. Mayoritas orang ingin mengasah kemampuan berbahasa Inggris untuk keahlian Berbicara sebagai keahlian yang paling sering digunakan.

Padahal menguasai keahlian Membaca sangat penting bagi fokus keahlian yang ingin kalian pertajam. Faktanya, empat keahlian dalam Bahasa Inggris; Membaca, Menulis, Mendengar dan Berbicara, tidak bisa dipisahkan satu per satu.

Bagi kalian yang memang tidak suka membaca, menekuni latihan untuk keahlian Membaca dalam Bahasa Inggris memang membutuhkan perjuangan ekstra. Tapi bukan berarti melatih untuk keahlian ini sesuatu hal yang mustahil, terutama bila dibarengi dengan usaha untuk membuang jauh tiga salah persepsi di bawah ini:

  1. Membaca itu Kegiatan yang Pasif

Ya, dalam hal gerak fisik. Tak dipungkiri membaca dalam kondisi duduk memang paling ideal untuk memperoleh fokus yang lama dan tepat. Tetapi membaca di sisi lainnya merupakan jenis latihan yang sangat baik untuk otak kita. Serupa berolahraga membuat badan kita sehat, membaca memberi makan otak kita.

Apalagi yang kita baca adalah materi dalam Bahasa Inggris. Ini seperti memberi makanan bermutu dua kali lipat ke otak kita. Baik fiksi atau pun non fiksi, membaca membawa otak kita, bahkan emosi kita, bepergian dari suatu poin ke poin lainnya. Kita menyelami otak penulis A, penulis B dan penulis lainnya.

Otak kita menjadi terisi penuh. Dengan menikmati bacaan dalam Bahasa Inggris, otak kita mencerna banyak hal. Yang pasti, otak kita menyerap banyak informasi baru. Kosakata kita bertambah. Otak kita turut mempelajari struktur tulisan yang benar. Tata bahasa, hal teknis dalam Bahasa Inggris ikut masuk ke dalam otak sehingga lama kelamaan akan menempel hingga secara tidak langsung mengoreksi kesalahan teknis yang selama ini masih membuat kita bingung.

Bayangkan betapa aktif otak kita dalam membaca sekadar satu atau dua jam saja dengan fokus yang penuh. Tak heran bila setelah membaca, otak kita menjadi lelah dan membutuhkan istirahat.

  1. Materi Bacaan Harus Berat dan Panjang

Tidak harus mengasah kemampuan Membaca mesti melalui bacaan berita terhangat atau membahas isu politik dan ekonomi saja. Tak melulu mengasah keahlian ini lewat buku teks tebal atau novel klasik buatan Charles Dickens atau George Eliot.

Sesuaikan level Membaca kalian dengan bacaan yang akan kalian lahap. Tidak perlu terburu-buru dalam menaikkan level. Carilah bacaan yang pas dan beragam lalu catat kosakata baru dan buatlah kalimat sendiri dari kosakata baru tersebut.

Tips lainnya yakni buatlahh daftar bacaan yang berbeda-beda. Jika minggu ini kalian sudah membaca untuk kategori Ekonomi, minggu depan carilah materi bacaan untuk Kuliner.

Saya merekomendasikan mencari bacaan yang ringan dan menyenangkan bagi pelajar level pemula. Topik seperti makanan, musik dan film, dapat kalian pilih untuk menumbuhkan rasa suka dan penasaran yang semoga berlanjut pada level yang lebih rumit lagi.

  1. Membaca itu Monoton

Jika ada yang beranggapan keahlian Membaca itu hal yang monoton untuk dilakukan, itu kurang tepat. Sebagaimana yang saya singgung bahwa keempat keahlian dalam Bahasa Inggris saling berkaitan, kalian bisa memodifikasi keahlian Membaca dengan tiga keahlian lainnya.

Sebagai contoh, kalian bisa mencoba audiobook. Di sini, kalian bisa mengasah keahlian Mendengarkan dan Membaca sekaligus. Di YouTube, ada banyak audiobook yang membacakan novel klasik. Maksimalkan tips ini dengan membuka buku yang dibuat versi audionya. Kalian bisa mempelajari cara pengucapan yang tepat sembari meningkatkan kemampuan Membaca.

Cara lainnya adalah membaca dengan nyaring. Zaman dulu, pembacaan di depan orang banyak hal yang lumrah dilakukan. Selain membuat bacaan “hidup”, cara kuno ini dapat mengasah teknik pengucapan dan interaksi dengan yang mendengarnya. Ekspresi yang spontan tercipta saat membaca dapat membuat yang membaca dan pendengarnya semakin senang membaca.

Nah coba deh, sesekali membaca sambil mengucapkannya. Jika perlu, bacakan dengan teknik dramatisasi. Selain lebih dramatis, tips terakhir ini dapat membuat kalian menjadi lebih percaya diri dalam berbicara di depan umum, loh.

Nggak percaya? Coba saja!

 

Miss Havisham, most horrific & miserable victim of love I have ever known

MIss Havisham. Source: bbc.co.uk

Miss Havisham is a creepy figure. I need to stop imagining what she looks like because that will make the hairs in my arms get goosebumps. To give you an illustration, she wears a white wedding dress throughout Great Expectations which means for years because Pip is a boy as the book starts and he turns 30-something when the story concludes. She never leaves Satis House, a ruined mansion where she lives with her adopted daughter Estella, for many years. She lets the clock in her room unchanged. She stands still in a world that keeps moving.

Miss Havisham quickly reminds me of Quilp, the main antagonist in The Old Curiosity Shop, another Dickens’ novel. They are of course different characters, Quilp is a very wicked, disgusting fiction figure I have ever met with. While miss Havisham isn’t a cruel one but the two reflects Dickens’ totality in creating very peculiar, distinguishable figures in literature.

As I read along the novel, miss Havisham is abundantly buried in her failed planned marriage. As far as “love is blind” saying is concerned, miss Havisham is about to get married to Compeyson, whom she really, really loves long, long time before she knows Pip, the protagonist in Great Expectations. To he sadness, Compeyson abandons her. He is only interested at her fortune.

Devastated and humiliated, miss Havisham suffers from mental breakdown and “imprisons” herself in the house. Worse, she even asks for mister Jaggers finding her an adopted daughter whom miss Havisham can look after and gradually turn her as a player.

Miss Havisham’s dream comes true as Estella plays with many men’ hearts, including Pip’s. Despite her knowing over Pip’s sincere feeling for Estella, miss Havisham instead asks for her marrying other man. At the end, neither Estella nor miss Havisham are happy.

As a reader, I can’t think of anyone can be that depressed as miss Havisham. She is so captured in the past that she takes revenge through Estella. As impossible as her trait can be, Dickens, here, digs his deepest on human emotion when it comes to love, excessive love, that may turn into severe heartbrokenness. And miss Havisham is such most suitable portrait we can get precious lessons from.

From the beginning, Dickens puts many clues on her collapse. The way she dresses, the ruined mansion that she lives in, her choice of not ever leaving the house after she fails to get married.

I remember one of the scenes where which she explicitly tells Estella not to take into account Pip’s feeling. For miss Havisham, love is like a dead-end matter, that everyone should never ever taste sweet, valuable taste of it. She can only regret her action of persuading Estella marrying Bentley Drummle although she knows him a brutal person.

As the novel comes to an end, miss Havisham asks for Pip’s forgiveness that comes out too late because Estella now becomes Drummle’s wife. Miss Havisham burns herself but Pip saves her. She lives the rest of her life in sickness because of that.

Miss Havisham reminds me so much on dangerous illogical love to others. She is actually warned over Compeyson’s ill motives but she ignores it. She pays all the price in most unthinkable ways I can possibly comprehend. I hope each of us won’t be like her in love-related matter or others.

 

 

 

An Ode to Long, Very Long Reading

In social media era that easily reduces our concentration span, dedicating myself reading long, even very long material is an accomplishment nowadays. As shorter my focus is, my patience runs thinner that makes me realizing uninterrupted long reading experience is now a test of perseverance.

I feel it a bit thankful for myself after completing The Gold Bug, the first short story in short story collection by Edgar Allan Poe this morning. Though the fiction is quite difficult for me to digest, completing reading it is such a relief for me.

I should have finished reading it days ago but I instead spent useless minutes checking Instagram or Facebook. I have managed not to post my daily activity or status as frequently as I do in the past but still, I feel like my fingers are addicted to click the social media outlets.

Even so, I get used to reading non-sense articles with low journalism ethic (believe me, I am a journalist) via LINE or Twitter. What makes me sadder is the tendency how people lately love reading sensational news for the sake of huge number of clicks. For instance, gossip news or those that sell good-looking people get more and more attention.

As much as I love reading high literature works, like from Charles Dickens or Thomas Hardy, current popular reading captures my attention, sooner or later. I know it’s unfair to entirely blame on smartphone but I can’t deny accessibility and affordability play some roles. It’s like why most Jakartans prefer spending weekends in shopping malls or cafés to going to beaches.

Therefore, each time I finish reading fiction and find myself deeply engaged to the book completely gladdens me. I now regard being capable of doing that means I pass patience test. Putting my whole self in adventure with certain authors in the books also mean I still retain the pleasure of being purely entertained with something intellectual. As I grow older, maintaining my focus and remembrance start challenging me. And reading high quality books is one of the effective ways of keeping my brain functions at its best. Add to that enduring patience while enjoying what the authors have in store for me. That is as I called as the ultimate pleasure that doesn’t only entertain my brain but also shakes my heart as a human being.

I have written this type of theme in the blog before to remind myself on the joy of long reading. I think I will write another post on the theme to let myself know that I can still taste it with a little bit challenge.

The Power of Being Under Pressured Completing Reading Pile of Unread Books

Have you got dozens of books unread for months, or even years at the bookshelves in your room? Or, have you felt there seemed to be no time for reading books anymore because, frankly speaking, you are busy scrolling down your social media accounts?

If you have that questions in your mind and wish to get rid of them all or one of them, probably you can try my trick. The key is a little bit ridiculous; buying more titles!

So.. I haven’t finished reading Great Expectations, Homo Deus and The Professor for a few months. Those don’t include Sejarah Islam or The History of Islam, which, oh my God, hasn’t been touched for months, too.

When I bought The Professor, I didn’t need the urgency of finishing reading Great Expectations because honestly, the masterpiece of Charles Dickens is too sentimental to cope with. Later, The Professor didn’t satisfy me that much because too many, way too many statements in French language that I needed to look at the back of the book. I abandoned the title, as well.

Then, I made another mistake. A few weeks ago, I and my pals went to an internationally-scale book affair in Jakarta. To put it shortly, I purchased Homo Deus, a currently-popular book among readers globally. Plus, I am interested at reading books on internet and social media hence the book suits me best. And yes, indeed, until I discovered it too much already when I read the first pages of the book. I have left it untouched for weeks now.

This week, I visited, again, Kinokuniya bookstore, with my best friend, Wida. I didn’t intend to buy novels or books at that time but as we were looking at titles, somehow my mind struck at The Woman In White. I have been looking for the book for months. I almost took it home but Wida reminded me that Dian, our close friend, had bought it for me from Paris. Dian would bring the book next month when she comes back home.

I was trying so hard not to buy it by switching my mind on reading other detective or mystery tales. My head quickly turned to Edgar Allan Poe as his The Tell-Tale Heart became his only fiction that I read so far.

I circled the Mystery/Horror section for some moments, till, yes! Tales of Mystery and Imagination, a collection of short stories by Mr. Poe was put in one of the section’s bookshelf. How happy I was! I bought the book right away, ignoring the fact some titles were crying to be resumed.

After I went back home, I opened the first title of the collective story. The Gold Bug opened the book and I couldn’t stop reading it. I began remembering how genius Mr. Poe was, yet somehow, I looked at The Professor. My guilt started embracing me.

I stopped reading The Gold Bug, reopened the last page where I read The Professor then two days later (today), the novel was finished. I am so glad at the moment because I fulfill the promise that I made months ago. The personal triumph surprisingly comes from the guilt that I feel after buying another book.

 

Currently Reading: “North and South”

I am amazed that I can read “North and South” this quickly. I buy the novel three weeks ago and now I am 70s pages away from the ending (the book is 478 pages in total).

Reading the book relieves me relieve because I start getting addicted to smartphone, reading online stories is one of the activities that I often do. I even question myself if I still have the ability of speedy reading when it comes to enjoy books that lure me so much. My not-so-good experience with Great Expectations adds to my own doubt. Though I initially savor half of the story, I find it difficult to finish the remaining half of it. So, right now I abandon the book though I actually look forward to knowing what the romance of Pip and Estella becomes. Too many minor characters, Pip’s too sentimental traits are some reasons that draw me away from the novel.

And when I purchase Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, I feel not good of buying a new title while leaving unread books at the bookshelf back at the rented room. But it’s North and South, man. The writer of the book is Gaskell, one of my most favorite authors whom I simply love her because of her beautiful way of telling sentences. At the back of my mind, as long as the writer is Gaskell, the story will be a good one. If the essence of the book is ordinary, I will totally enjoy her words, her writing style. In addition, I once see the title at the Kinokuniya bookstore long time ago but I don’t buy it then it’s gone. So I won’t lose the chance this time around. Priced at IDR132,000 I keep buying the novel despite the fact I have to save money.

I bring it back home and damn! I love every page of the story. My excitement of reading decent novel remains the same. I still can read like a maniac. I can still spend hours reading for the sake of the words and of course for the story itself.

And man! North and South way exceeds my expectation. It’s way better than Mary Barton and Wives and Daughters in terms of story, characteristic, moral message and plot. I can’t believe the book runs so quickly without being in rush. It’s compact and solid but her lovely descriptions are still there.

The novel is surprisingly heavy, in terms of themes. Poverty and effects of industry for the Miltons, to be exact. So I can say the novel is bleak and sorrowful in overall. Good point about the book is the characterizations of the major people here, Margaret Hale and John Thornton.

Here, Gaskell crafts her heroine to be a very memorable figure, a complicated person in her simplicity. Loving, caring, empathetic yet carrying a lot of burdens inside her heart. Margaret is a very strong woman, independent but naïve at the same time when it comes to her feeling to John.

That’s all that I can write at the time being. I can’t wait to finish reading the book to be put as another topic for the next post. The thing is I don’t regret buying it, using it as an intermezzo after leaving Great Expectations unread.

And best of all is that I can still read physical books, good ones, in enthusiastic manner as I usually do. Smartphone doesn’t take that away from me. I am beyond happy!

Basic guidance before reading the works of these literary giants (2)

The second part of this long post highlights my short analysis about the novels by the Bronte sisters and Charles Dickens.
Anne Bronte
If you want to read novels by the Bronte sisters, you can begin with those by Anne Bronte. Luckily, I do start with her books. Reading her books make me feel like I get into her personal lives. Plus, she uses first-person narrations in ‘Tenant of the Wildfell Hall’ and ‘Agnes Grey’. As such, her tales can move you so deeply.
Anne voices feminism, too, like Charlotte Bronte, her elder sister. The difficult life of being a governess becomes her source topic. The harsh life of being a single mother who flees from her own husband because of domestic violence I think at that time is revolutionary, particularly the latter one. Anne tries to break all religious rules through Helen Huntingdon.

Alcoholic husband, infidelity issues mark Anne’s writing achievements. Don’t worry, my friends. Anne’s stories end in happy tones!
Charlotte Bronte
Jane Eyre is a very powerful heroine. She is blunt, stubborn, strong and idealistic woman you can ever imagine. Her faith and how she holds her religious values indeed cause her to face difficult situations. I still imagine the moments she starves that she wants to sell her handkerchief but is denied by a potential buyer. Then she eats porridge that is already thrown by former eater to keep her alive.
Reading the book moves me so much. Not only because of Jane’s firmness holding her values, but also the way Charlotte puts her heroine in difficult tests ever since she is a little girl. I am also amazed how the book doesn’t bore me as it is very thick one. Charlotte’s storytelling brings so much joy despite the tribulations Jane has to bear.
Emily Bronte
First of all, I dislike Catherine Earnshaw given her indecisive attitude. Her unwillingness to take risks to fight for her love. Also to be honest, I can’t say what Heathcliff does is correct. Their love story stirs mixed feeling for me. I call it as a deep, wild and destructive romance you can ever imagine knowing.
I have never read this romance-based fantasy as that frustrating, depressing, furious yet very strong at the same time. And Emily’s writing style is beyond my thought. Beware of physical and emotional tortures in the book for if you really feel them so profoundly, you will be haunted by the sensations they leave in your heart.
Charles Dickens
I think Charles Dickens is the most serious and social novelists in the Victorian era. While others take limited range of topics, such as women lives or people’ attitude at that time, Dickens write many books on child labor, the Industry Revolution, crime, legal affairs and many more.
I find it interesting that reading books by Dickens give me another shade of the Britons’ lives in London, a big city that is rarely touched by previous writers since their settings are mostly in rural areas or villages.
So, Dickens adds knowledge to what really happens in the big city when the machine starts taking over the lives of the people and how it leaves many problems. There haven’t been any writers who are very sophisticated in portraying individuals’ conflicts as he is. As such, reading his works challenge me a lot in understanding little things between characters and how their relations develop into something bigger in the end of the story.
Those are my opinions that hopefully can guide you a little bit before diving into that thick pages, hehe.. I hope this helps you, my fellow readers!