Five Life Skills from Reading Fiction

Reading a decent fiction is becoming a good human being. A creature that is unique, complete and special. Each and every part of the creature has a certain need that requires fulfilment. And it can’t stand alone, much like every human that’s part of society.

Reading a decent fiction offers a greyish area on dealing with life. That good and bad times offer me a various lens through which I can contemplate. Within one wonderful, comical story, such as Tortilla Flat, I can find the bitterest way of life reality. While in one melodramatic novel, like Tess D’Urbervilles, I can sense vague ending that opens up my mind that a human being, once again, needs love.

A serious person like I am, find reading a high-quality novel such a teaser. “You shouldn’t view life seriously all the time, En!,” such are the words if the novel could talk to me. For truly, within one decent fiction, I can relate almost all of my problems with the characters inside the story. To fully extract wisdom and life lesson is the final fruit of hard labor of love that I must undergo. Such a tiring journey that is worth every second I spend on each of the books.

As I grow older, it’s remarkable that I owe this hobby more than I thought of. It’s no longer about enjoying a certain story, looking for happily-ever-after but reading the book has indeed cultivated five skills that I need them more than ever nowadays.

Patience

“Hang on, there, En! More pages until we reach our target today.” I often say those words to motivate myself whenever I read a Victorian novel that’s typically thick, over 400 pages on average.

Reading that sort of book makes me highly value patience. I utilize the virtue for leading me understanding difficult words, visualizing facial expression, scene and place and catching author’s moral message.

Whenever I am to give up, I tell myself to get back to why I buy the book in the first place. Reembracing the intention usually works out for putting me back on the track. Patience is surely a life skill that will help us get through difficult phases in our lives. The good quality teaches us to concentrate on the long-run for indeed, sometimes you can’t reap the benefits of being patient right away.

Uniquely, patience is such a universal life skill that stretches beyond any circumstances. Not only for when facing calamities, we need to cultivate patience for staying on a path for achieving something, from good grades at school to land your dream job.

Persistence

I use reading a top novel as my kind of self-disciplined exercise. I can be hard on myself whenever I cease reading book for good. Middlemarch poses a good example for this. I abandoned the book on my bookshelf for years until one day an article led me reopening it. Then, voila! The book is my most beloved fiction (at least until now).

Whether it’s just one page per day or 100 pages per day, reading such book genre teaches me a lot about persistence. I usually make a personal target after I buy a novel. This time around, I set a target of reading 200 pages for Our Mutual Friend per week. Alhamdulillah (Thanks and praise to Allah SWT) that I am able to meet the target. Now, I’m on the page of 600 something with 200 pages to go.

You can set one-day target or per month target. Reading a classic may take weeks or months because of the thickness and difficulty level. It’s important to set a certain target then stick to it. If you can’t meet it, get back then resume the reading.

When it comes to real life, persistence is what makes extraordinary people different than the common ones. Many people can have the same goal in lives but only those with self-discipline will obtain that because they enjoy and adapt as the process goes.

Focus

Until today, I stick to read physical novels. I find it easier to concentrate through the method. I once tried reading e-novels but it lasted for few pages only. I got tired immediately and I couldn’t remember a lot from what I had read.

And I personally believe that reading paper-based books is better because this drives you away from distraction, if you read at your smartphone. Aside from that, reading the book genre teaches me to always, always focus on big pictures. Reading the book type cultivates my concentration on main characters, plot and author’s idea. You can easily get lost in minor figures, less important events and flowery words given the long reading that you take.

The same with life that can offer us with mundane and small things that don’t matter so much. If we don’t realize then take any actions, we’re bound to spend most of our lives doing things that won’t contribute to obtain our live goals, whatever they are.

Creativity

This is one amusing life skill that I greatly learn from the hobby. Despite the life-long value and wisdom in the book genre, Victorian authors are just creative people who are very good that you may think their stories are real.

From funny names to unthinkable decisions by leading figures, the book type adds knowledge and idea that really helps me for writing. I steal many things from the books that I read then mold them. I apply that for job’s sake to deal with problems in life. Funnily enough that the author’s writing style influences I communicate with myself and other people. I can’t say my talking is unique but, surely, I hope it isn’t boring and plain.

Empathy

I can’t count how many weird characters that I have discovered from reading fiction so far. Add to the list is bad guys, spoiled girl, idealistic doctor, super lovely daughter, materialistic woman, devoted and religious woman, sensitive boy and harsh man. I delve into their personalities so that I know the authors create them and how do they actually feel.

I don’t say that I affirm wrongdoings some of the fictional characters do. Neither I take side with certain figures who take bad decisions. Reading their traits teach me to not be judgmental, even for people who are deemed “not good enough”. The book genre urges me to feel what other people experience.

Believe me, you and I need to be emphatic people in today’s world that is getting unsocial as more and more are fulfilling their greed.

The Many Relationships with English Language

When I was a little girl, English Language was like a toy. It looked intriguing and amusing. The subject was addictive. My head was wrapped in endless questions. New and strange words made me very curious. I memorized new words, from a chair, table, horse and other items. The language invited me to have fun.

When I was at junior high school, I began studying it at the school. My English language teachers introduced me to grammar. More words came into my super tiny vocabulary pocket. Studying grammar wasn’t easy and I wasn’t a genius one. My scores were fair, eight on average. I had classmates who got better grades than I did. But I didn’t really care about that. The thing was the language made me having fun. Still.

When I was a senior high school student, the long affection started becoming a serious thing. It was no longer about entertainment. I still remember the moment when I was standing in front of the classroom reading what I wanted to be. I was marvelled at own story. I didn’t realize that I could write that much and that incredible. My classmates applauded at my presentation. My teacher praised my story, how I composed sentences that were explorative and creative. That was the time when I needed to take the relationship into a higher level. The time couldn’t be any more punctual because shortly after that, I was put into a Social Science class.

When I was at university, studying the language and its literature put me in ambiguity. I realize that I had university fellow mates who are much better than I am. I was very fortunate they were helping me improving the subject. Somehow, it wasn’t about studying it. It was more on how could I make a living with the language given the English Language is no longer a special subject in Yogyakarta or Solo. More English courses have been opened by that time. I was at the crossroad that almost drove me leaving the major. But I held on. I kept studying it although it was so dark and daunting. Until eventually, I knew that I wanted to a journalist for an English-language newspaper.

When I firstly moved to Jakarta, I had the language as my weapon to wither the tough life in the capital. Alas! The language has many faces that prompted me to get back to it as a professional. No more flowery words with spiral-thought writing style as I got used to. I had to use the language in straight forwarded manner. Avoid what was called as “the devils are in the details”. Frankly speaking, I felt stupid during the transition. I felt I had to study the language all over again. At this point, I regarded the language was harsh and difficult. I sought perfection that proved in vain.

When I quitted the profession, the language began friendlier. No more stiff and rigid pressure. As that was persisting for years, I saw my life was much calmer although financially unstable. I resumed embracing the language and the literature through classic books. Something that wasn’t pleasant when I was at the university.

Now that I’m a teacher, I feel English Language is such a faithful friend. I consider myself more as a student of the subject. I start collecting pictures for teaching me on English words like what I did when I was the happy kid. I study about grammar again. This time around, my purpose is for sharing them with my students and friends. Becoming the teacher of the language makes me feeling stupid again. The difference is, I consider that feeling as a privilege because I attempt to make a balance between studying and enjoying the process.

It’s remarkable to take a look back on how I feel with the language that’s close to my heart. Teaching the language humbles me. Every time I am about to teach, I always remind myself that I, after all, is the student of the language. This sets me free from feeling arrogant and selfish. I’m just a pupil. What must I be bragged about?

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!

 

A modern Musa wannabe

I avoided being in a spotlight. Standing in front of a group of people has made me nervous. I have spent years working behind the scene. Writing, translating and editing have been my comfort zones. I feel happy when producing high quality articles. Doing so has kept me away from facing direct criticisms from those who have different opinions with me.

I didn’t realize that focusing too much on writing was feeding my ego. On one hand, I was enslaved to it. There were times when all I was thinking mostly was improving my writing skill. As much as that was inevitable as I worked as a journalist, I was reducing my world into writing and reading spheres. Someone who wrote better than I did became sort of my modern idols. I read books and articles from incredible authors, mostly outside Indonesia, to gain inspiration and sharpen jealousy inside.

Long story short, I have learnt one super bitter truth during eight months of becoming a freelance content writer. I live in Indonesia that doesn’t appreciate writer as a noble profession like others. I know how hard to create a decent article both in English Language and Bahasa Indonesia. Sadly to say, payment for freelance content writers is too low to be mentioned here. Some are lucky to have clients that will pay them with handsome amount of money but most are not. And I fell into the latter category.

I was put in two different scenarios at the end of November 2019. I was looking for a permanent job at that time. One person offered me working as a writer in English Language which, honestly, is my cup of tea. What else can satisfy my brain and soul other than writing? The second one offered me working as a copywriter and English trainer. I am happy with the copywriting job but not so sure with the second role. Teaching English Language is not my thing. I am not comfortable standing then teaching people.  As I was facing the situation, I had been working as a private English Language teacher. Despite the low self-confidence, my students were happy with my teaching. At least that’s what I felt. There was one of them who said he was pleasant with the way I was teaching him and the others.

I was about to take the offer as the writer because once again, who doesn’t want to be in a comfortable zone, right? Deep in my heart, I expected the second offer dismissed. But the circumstance painted me with a hard scenario. I couldn’t tell in details why I eventually went for the second option. All I could share here was that for years I had decided something based on my fondness. This time around, I accepted the second offer because of simple and realistic expectations.

The company that becomes the office I am working at is a growing enterprise. I was laid off twice in 2010 and 2017 when I was working for different companies. One of them were closed for good. The other one remains operational but with different business segment. It felt painful to see your companies crumbling because of financial problems.

No big decision comes without a price. On one hand, I am certain that the current firm will grow bigger as I know the firm is under skilled people. The prospect of the firm is promising as technology is today’s darling industry. On another hand, I have to work super hard to be an English teacher.

Let me tell you, friends. As I’m writing this post, I interviewed my would-be students and examined placement test results they did one week ago. Coming to this period gives me a mixed feeling. I am still nervous, to be honest. Insha Allah there will be 52 students that will be under my supervision. Such an honour but frightening at the same time for an inexperienced teacher like myself.

Whenever I am about to get carried into this anxiety, Alhamdulillah that Allah swt always reprimands me on very basic goal on why I am here in the first place. Seeking halal income while at the same time paying “knowledge tax” for my fellow office mates who need it.

This leads me to the story of the prophet Musa who was very afraid of meeting Fir’aun. I am nobody as compared to the messenger but in one smallest portion, I can tell that my current situation resembles to Musa’s mission. As Musa needed strength and comfort from Allah swt to encounter Fir’aun, I, too, require His counsel and guidance to put me at ease. I need His help to calm me down whenever I overthink on what will happen if things go wrong.

قَالَ رَبِّ اشْرَحْ لِي صَدْرِي وَيَسِّرْ لِي أَمْرِي  وَاحْلُلْ عُقْدَةً مِنْ لِسَانِي  يَفْقَهُوا قَوْلِي

“[Moses] said, “My Lord, expand for me my breast [with assurance]. And ease for me my task. And untie the knot from my tongue. That they may understand my speech”. (QS At Thaha: 25 to 28)

I firstly heard the ayah from my teacher, ustadz Nouman Ali Khan. He mentions the ayah every time he starts a sermon. And how profound the dua is for me and for every one who has problems becoming a teacher, public speaker or the like. The prayer really resonates for me and everyone else who has low confidence.

I attempt to make the prophet as a role as someone who hopes to convey good words from Allah swt to others. Whenever I am about to overthink, I pull myself back to simple goals that land me here. Like the prophet’s mission of trying his best to spread His oneness to Fir’aun, so is my purpose. I want to share things I know for my potential students. I keep myself out from overwhelming myself to make them smart in English Language.

It’s entirely in Allah’s hands that Fir’aun doesn’t listen to Musa’s words finally. I, of course, hope that’s not the case with my would-be students. I sincerely hope that Allah swt makes things easy for me to deliver all lessons. I’am afraid that while in the middle of the lessons, I suddenly get nervous and forget English words that I have to apply. I don’t practice Speaking Skill as frequent as Reading and Writing Skills thereby the fear feels real. And this, again, resembles to the dua by the prophet. I learn that the prophet has problem with speech. It’s surprising that he toppled Fir’aun through his words, not from snake.

And I hope Allah swt helps my would-be students understanding the lessons. Every time I think that the essence of life is moving closer to Allah swt, I can’t think of better ways doing so than becoming an English teacher. Earning a closeness to Him is eventually what I’m searching for. Thinking so makes me at relieved already. It sets me free from unrealistic expectations like making the would-be students knowing all the lessons in short time.

Dear friends, please pray for my new roles as an English teacher. And I pray Allah swt makes things easy for you in whatever affairs you have in your minds at the moment. Thanks so much in advance.

Listening, the neglected skill

I took pride in my reading and writing skills. Years of intensive reading and writing nourished arrogance seeds that existed in the heart unbeknown to myself. As a lifelong student of English Language, I should have known that four skills within the subject can’t live as a self-sufficient entity.

I personally categorize Listening and Speaking Skills are best buddies. Reading and Writing Skills support one another. As I incline to Reading and Writing Skills, I ignored the other two skills, especially Listening Skill. Having no partner for speaking in the language became a lame excuse. Later, I talk to myself in my small, rented room every time I want to. I sometimes talk to myself as I walk down the street after I see no one is around. Such small and weird habits but they help me keeping the passion of speaking in English Language alive.

That’s not the case for Listening Skill, though. I simply didn’t want to “take care” of it. The ignorance grew bigger as I was submerged in smartphone. I thought the skill was getting hard to master. I once missed old times when I was able to listen to lectures while at Gadjah Mada University. My focus was undistracted. I could stand of listening the lectures for hours without interruption from electronic devices. At that time, I didn’t have any cellphones. The technology was such a luxury in the beginning of 2000s.

With just some years of smartphone addiction, I started ignoring the Listening Skill. I am reminded just how beautiful the skill is whenever some friends confide in their stories with me. I feel glad that I can listen to their stories for hours without touching my smartphone. By the time their stories end, I feel heavy and tired. That’s when I realize the skill can take up so much of your energy when you don’t get used to it.

I don’t consider that practice as a “real action” to sharpen Listening Skill. Listening to what your friends say is after all, personal and subjective. What I would like to discuss here is Listening Skill for formal goals. And it comes to my surprise that I am hugely slapped on the skill once I find myself getting used to listening sermons from my teacher, Nouman Ali Khan.

I have to admit that the skill is what transforms my life as it is today. I can’t tell how transformative it is. I want to keep it as a secret between I and Allah swt. What surprises me lies on how Allah swt knows what goes missing in my life, which is Listening Skill. Subtly, Allah swt leads me embracing the skill then tasting how greatly beneficial it is. Because it’s by constant listening to Nouman’s sermons that I turn to Him with all of my heart. It takes years to finally come to this temporary conclusion. And it’s liberating that in certain spiritual journey phases, I take a pause, get down to this blog then share something for you on how fortunate I am to be one of His slaves.

Somehow, it’s strangely incredible that my journey coming back to Him resembles on how Prophet Muhammad saw (peace be upon him) starts his prophethood career. Everything starts from listening, right?

It’s from his ears that the beloved messenger firstly receives the revelation, Surah Al-Alaq ayah 1-5. In the silent and dark Hira cave, the prophet begins his journey. From his ears, Allah swt teaches the prophet to read. How Allah swt, as the Ultimate Source of Knowledge, directly teaches the prophet to read. Masya Allah!

And this story reminds me of a previous knowledge that says Listening Skill is what we firstly acquire once we were born into the earth. It’s the skill that Allah swt blesses each of us with right after we came out from our mothers’ wombs. From Listening to Writing, the latter is the advanced skill that we learn as we grow up.

When I was a student of the university, I thought Writing Skill was the ultimate skill one English Literature student had to master. I came up with the opinion as I had to study it up to the seventh semester while the three other skills ended well before that semester.

As much as Writing Skill is a difficult subject to excel, I shouldn’t ever ignore that a clever Listening Skill is miraculous gateway. Improving your Writing Skill is just one of the abundant benefits I can obtain. Referring back to listening to Nouman’s sermons, the skill opens my heart to Allah’s words.

As the teacher writes in his Facebook post, listening to concise commentaries of tafseer on His words attentively can bring us closer to Him. We can’t taste this closeness even by reading the tafseer, the skill that I put higher than Listening Skill. How hugely incorrect I was!

Which, once again, bringing us back to the beginning of the revelation by the prophet Muhammad saw. Masya Allah! Thank you Allah swt for constantly reprimanding me.

Understanding His Way of Making Me Following What My Heart Says

When I was a senior high school student, my self-confidence was best tested after I was put in a Social Knowledge class because I got 6 for Math. I was very stupid at Math. I always hated the subject, frankly speaking. I yet hoped that I would be put in Science Knowledge class because that was very unfair that I was placed in the Social Knowledge class just because the score I got at the last term of the second grade of the senior high school.

The decision from the teachers had been made. And I had to come to terms with what my friends said about me being put in “low-caste class”. I even still remembered one of the teachers said, what was the use of being a Social Knowledge class student. Your future was uncertain already, she said. Your peers from the Science Knowledge class would fill up your destined subjects at universities, like Accounting and Economy.

I was filling my third year of the senior high school studying harder than I had ever been before. Part of the reasons for doing that was to prove myself capable of enrolling good university, another part was proving the teacher wrong. But deep down in my heart, and Alloh swt knew this very well, I was fortunate that I was one of the students belonging to Social Science classes. Since I was a very little kid, social sciences had captivated my attention as they have now been.

How lucky I was that Alloh swt later granted my wish of studying English Literature. I didn’t know what made me selecting the subject unless for a very odd, simple reason: because I have always loved the foreign language. I didn’t know what would be laying in front of me after graduating. I didn’t have any seniors to look up to in terms of career but I chose the subject anyway.

I was surrounded by amazing friends, lecturers and ecosystem that made me very blessed person in terms of academics. Studying at the English Literature was one of the best choices I had made. I met smart people in their own kind of ways. I couldn’t measure their intelligence because their thoughts were very new and unique for me. To explain this concretely, I had never thought that talking about books, films would be very serious. I used to think fictions, arts were trivial matters.

Yet, mingling with these people have taught me that art, imagination, ideas are not small things. Concepts, knowledge, observance, critics, emotions, to name some of them, are wrapped in one book, one novel, one film, one drama, you name it. Each and every art form carries within it cultural, social, religious, historical, and even psychological values.

Then, again, what would my future be like?

Like my motivation of choosing English Literature, I opted becoming a journalist right after I graduated from the university; because I love reading news and would love to be one seeking information.

Alloh swt, again, made my dream coming true by making me a journalist of an English-language daily in Jakarta. Despite the fact I survived less than three years at the company, I realized how people like me, those who love reading and writing, do find good places in the commercial world. And they are well-respected and well-paid.

Although I am not as bright as them, I was amazed how Alloh swt introducing me into the world I had never thought existed; jobs related to writing, creative writing in particular.

I took several jobs that probably won’t interest people if they bother asking because they are small companies, a few of them are even closed. Looking back at the very beginning of why I make decisions, I don’t regret them all. As silly as this sounds, I don’t pity myself because of the failures in the past because I am satisfied with all of things that I did at each and every firm I once worked at.

Not much money that are left in my bank account, honestly speaking. But as long as the jobs make me enhancing my reading and writing skills, hell, I am thankful already!

 

Fly me to the UK for a literary adventure I’ve always dreamt of

Quoting famous speech from Martin Luther King Jr, ‘I Have a Dream’, well, I have a dream, too, which is to launch what I call as a literary adventure to say hello, take inspiration for writing then say thank you for these literary genius whose works not only entertain my soul but their imaginations and voices have helped me finding my own place in this hectic cum wonderful modern life.
Thomas Hardy
I have been longing for paying a visit to the places that play significant roles in the works of Thomas Hardy, one of my most-beloved authors. If you have bumped to this messy blog then you realize how much I admire his works as his name becomes the most-tagged word in this place, hehe..
If you ask me why do I love Hardy so much, one of my answers is because he knows how to appreciate nature then put them into beautiful words. Reading his novels soothe my heart because his words are indeed pieces of arts, beautifully-crafted.
I would really love to go to the house he was born in a house in Stinsford, a village and civil parish in southwest Dorset, one mile east of Dorchester. Stinsford is the original ‘Mellstock’ in his ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’ and ‘Jude the Obscure’. I haven’t read ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’ but I have enjoyed ‘Jude’.
The first site I wish I can visit is Hardy’s cottage as you can see from the below picture. This is where the poet was born in 1840 then writing ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ in 1872 and ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’ in 1874. I can fancy how peaceful it was when he was working by looking at the cottage and its surroundings. No wonder he was able to produce very fascinating words as its neighborhood was providing him a lot of inspirations to write. Hardy was staying in the cottage until he was 34 years old.

Hardy's_cottage,_Higher_Bockhampton_-_geograph.org.uk_-_480484

He once moved to London but never felt at home in the big city. As such, he built a house namely Max Gate, which is just a few miles from the cottage where he was living before. He and his first and second wife inhabited the house, which I think is quite large and exquisite, from 1885 until his death in 1928. This is the house where he was creating his best fictions; ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’, ‘Jude the Obscure’ and ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ as well as most of his poems. While general fans mostly applaud ‘Tess’, ‘Far’ or ‘Jude’, my most favorite fiction is yes, ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’. I really really admire the book. Anyway, this is Max Gate.

640px-Max_Gate

George Eliot
Mary Anne Evans or mostly popular as George Eliot (12 November 1819 to 22 December 1880) is my second most-adored Victorian novelist. Until now, I don’t know how Eliot produces such an extensive, rich in terms of issues, imaginations and characterizations as in Middlemarch. By the way, my personal favorite is ‘The Mill on the Floss’ as it becomes my first ‘real’ experience reading her works. I read ‘Silas Marner’ back when I was a university student but I don’t consider it as a ‘concrete’ experience because the book that I was savoring was its simplified version. I don’t want to read the unabridged version of ‘Silas Marner’ though because the story is really sad.
So this is Arbury Hall estate. In its South Farm, the very smart baby girl namely Mary Anne Evans was born in 12 November 1819. The estate was belonging to the Newdigate family where which her father was working as a land manager there.

Arbury_Hall_Morris_edited.jpg

In early 1820, the author family moved to Griff House where Mary Anne was living for 20 years. After that, she was travelling and moving to some places. Here is the Griff House:

images (2)

Elizabeth Gaskell
For any Victorian enthusiasts, you should try Gaskell’s books, which move very soft and smooth. ‘Mary Barton’ is my favorite book from her. No wonder she is able to produce elegantly-made words. Gaskell is described as a lady-like person, tidy, well-mannered one. Oh, I can totally associate with her writings, in terms of word choice and placement, characters (esp in ‘Wives and Daughters’) and issue selections. If I have a chance, it will be delightful to stop by in this house, where the author and her family were living for some years. Let me put the address here: 84 Plymouth Grove, Manchester. Oh I love the building. What a lovely sight!images (3).jpeg

The Bronte sisters
Of course, the Bronte Parsonage Museum must be in the list! This is the house where the Bronte family was staying which is in Haworth, West Yorkshire. Looking at the building, I think the family is quite wealthy. My favorite Bronte is Anne because her traits much like mine, hehe. Who is your beloved Bronte, my friend?

300px-Bronte_Parsonage_Museum.JPG
Charles Dickens
So far, I have read ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’. I honestly say I’m not really into his works which is a matter of writing style reason. But if I were in UK, this Charles Dickens museum as you can see below is a temptation I can’t resist, hehe.. The address is on 48 Doughty street, Holborn, London. It became the home for the author from 25 March 1837 until December 1839. Though it was relatively short, the house saw him producing best fictions, ‘The Pickwick Paper’ in 1836, ‘Oliver Twist’ in 1838, ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ between 1838 and 1839 and Barnaby Rudge in 1840 and 1841. How prolific Dickens was!

images (4)

Jane Austen
And here is the queen of all romantic women out there, I included, is the one and only Jane Austen. The picture shows Jane Austen house museum in the village of Chawton, near Alton in Hampshire. She and her family were occupying the house for the last eight years of her life. It is assumed she was revising the drafts of ‘Sense and Sensibility’, ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘Northanger Abbey’ here. Austen also wrote ‘Mansfield Park’, ‘Emma’ (I love Emma!) and ‘Persuasion’ here.
Jane_Austen_(House_in_Chawton)_2
Wilkie Collins
And the last author who recently spurs my adrenaline is Wilkie Collins. He is chubby anyway by looking at his picture. Collins and his wife, Caroline Graves, were occupying Harley Street 12, Marylebone, in the central of London, from 1860 to 1864. I’m not really sure whether he owned the entire building or just rented some rooms of it. Collins is said to have written most parts of one of his best mysterious novels, ‘The Woman in White’, here. I currently look for reading the title after I am so immersed with ‘The Moonstone’. images (5)
So, those are a number of sites that completely attract my desires to go there. I think my bucket-list is already full even before I have enough money to make it, hehe.. Well, never mind. Hopefully the bucket will be filled. Till then, let’s dream again!
Thank you very much for Wikipedia, Wikimedia and Wilkie-Collins.info for providing all the lovely shots.

This mind wrestling after bidding farewell to ”Middlemarch”

I complete reading “Middlemarch” a few days ago, much faster than my expectation. Overall I take about two months reading the masterpiece’s 688 pages. It isn’t the thickest novel I have read so far. ‘’Wives and Daughters” runs more than 800 pages. But ‘’Middlemarch” is way more difficult to read. It takes a lot of efforts than the other title which is written by Elizabeth Gaskell. A lot more characters, more serious issues, much more detailed descriptions about the people and the places in ‘’Middlemarch” are some of the things that make Eliot’s way above ‘Wives and Daughter’. Anyway, I am not going to compare the books in the post, well ever, because each of them gives different nourishment to me, or readers in general.

It has been two days since I close the last page of “Middlemarch”. Call me sentimental but I feel like I have lost my best friend in the past two months, especially when I commute. The fact is I read almost all of its content in a train and public transport vehicle. I carry it when I go to the office. I intentionally use it to shield me away from my smartphone. The book is so thick that I find it hard to put it into my brown bag. So I bring it on hand.

Something breaks my heart when the book is coming to an end. A small crack that still lasts until now. The novel leaves mixed feelings. I am contented that Eliot provides clear and fair fate to each of the book’s major and semi major characters, particularly about Dorothea and Will Ladislaw. I feel so, so sorry with the life of Dr. Tertius Lydgate (will talk about this topic later on in a separate post). Even when I write this I don’t know exactly how to properly express my feeling about the book.

The novel is so remarkable, a wholeness that gets me thinking “how she does this?”

I can’t imagine her writing process hence she can put her imagination into this sort of complete tale. She creates vivid places as the settings of the book. Each and every character is described in detailed ways that they look as if they were real. Eliot also mentions political and social backgrounds that happen in larger scale, not only in Middlemarch. Small gossips, scenes in gambling house are alive, too. Eliot pays a lot of attention to even what look like trivial things.

Every time I get bored when it comes to minor figures which I am hardly able to memorize, the plot quickly shifts to major people whom I follow closely. So the boredom immediately goes away.

Eliot puts quite a lot of wise sentences, which miraculously don’t bother me, as a reader who doesn’t like books that sound preachy. And the most praised aspect of the book is character development. Eliot invites readers to get knowing very humane characters that for myself, will stick at my heart for very long time.

Whenever I look for a female character who is generous, overwhelmed with her wealth, I quickly come to the name of Dorothea. Her interest of helping others is so great that she makes it as one of the factors that makes her accepting the marriage proposal from Edward Ladislaw. She wants to make her life useful to her husband. The reason that later on proves inadequate to make her marriage life a happy one.

When I think about a figure who is too social that he becomes poor, I put Caleb Garth as the perfect example.

Rosamund Vincy, later Rosamund Lydgate, is the typical model for a beautiful woman who cares much about image, social pride, levelling.. as in ‘he is on par with my level’ sort of thing.

I can’t believe there is a man namely Fred Vincy who, despite his gorgeous looking that becomes his mother’s pride, is such a useless man. The kind of person who doesn’t know what to do in life.  An undecisive person, a dumb one. It is so sweet that he has Mary Garth by his side. She is not pretty but her intelligence and vision of life rescues him. Fred and Mary are such a perfect blend where Fred’s physical beauty meets with Mary’s intelligence and cleverness. Thank God, their strong love unites the two. Thank God.

And personally, the character that suits me most is Edward Casaubon. I write about much about him in previous two posts, much earlier than Dorothea and Tertius. I haven’t written about the two leading characters in details (will later work on them).

I can’t think how Eliot makes this book, her creative process. How many books she read so that she can come up with fragments from a lot of poems, proses not only in English Language but also in French Language. How many hours per day she dedicates her time making this story. Does each and every character that she puts into the book goes through thorough research?

Those are some questions that emerge when I read the book then after I conclude it. Too many questions, curiosities that I wish I could get her answers as the book is done reading. The last one is I would like to know how she can make this balanced overall story that makes it so round that finishing reading the novel leaves me a void I don’t know how to fill it up. The book is so exceptional that I find it hard to part with no matter how relieved I am that it ends fairly.

 

Farewell, Edward Casaubon. Never think you will end that much miserable

I wish Edward Casaubon can make it longer than he is in Middlemarch. There is a kind of disappointment that he passes away much sooner than I expect. If you have read my previous post you know why I hope the clergyman lives longer in the masterpiece. Yes, he reflects so much about my personality. It is not because that he says so much about my trait that I wish him surviving through his deadly illness. But it is more because I look forward how he deals with his pride, jealousy, and seriousness in his marriage with Dorothea, his wife.

Yet, George Eliot ends this character too soon, at least according to my opinion. He dies in the morning while sitting in a bench under a tree. Peacefully on the surface but full of turmoil on the inside. The night before his passing, Dorothea can’t decide whether or not she is going to keep her words of obeying her husband’s will. She is confused thus delays telling her decision to her husband. Before she says her words, Edward passes away.

From Dorothea’s point of view, she must be glad that she doesn’t say anything about it. Had she known the will, she would regret it so much because the will declares she would not inherit all the properties left by her husband if she marries Will Ladislaw.

Eliot ends the fate of Edward in such depressing, wicked way. His envy and hatred to Will Ladislaw swallows him so much that he doesn’t want to see his wife happy. Eliot brings such unthinkable finale to the character, much worse than my expectation. He dies while holding a deep grudge. An inexplicable one. I think that is the worst ever fate an individual can withhold.

Picture source 

I wish I were Austen’s Elinor Dashwood

I wish I were a mysterious being like Elinor Dashwood. I hope I have a lot of masks to put on whenever I need it the most just like her. Of all fictional heroines that I have enjoyed so far, Elinor is the one who makes me envious. She is the one of the kind who knows how to handle her heart with so much care. You can call her a hypocrite for frequently hiding her emotions. Once you realize letting them out in whatever moments you are in may cost you a lot, you understand Elinor behaves the way she does.

Elinor is a very interesting character because she is so reserved. She is the sort of person everyone loves being around with. She knows how to interact with the so-knowing-it-all-people affairs like Mrs. Jennings. She can, too, befriend with the woman who steals the heart of the man Elinor admires so much, Lucy. As much as she wants to cry it all out when she knows Lucy is engaged and later is married to Edward Ferrars, Elinor keeps her promises of not telling every one about the secret engagement.

When her heart is still broken because of Lucy and Edward, Elinor manages to console her sister, Marianne, as Willoughby leaves her for another woman. Elinor puts forward her brain and logic when it comes to love that results in the despises from her mother and Marianne. It turns out that Elinor’s suspicions about Willoughby are indeed true.

The way Elinor is so patient with everything happening to her life and those around her is amazing. She isn’t trapped in materialistic view of the people surrounding her. Elinor is very strong woman, so tough that she can withshield the sadness in her heart for months. Even so, her life is so full of patience. On the surface, Elinor’s life seems flat and boring as she has to wait and see for all things to come into her life. Not many active actions she actually does to pursue her dreams, unlike Marianne to Willoughby.

Yet in her circumstances, she has no other better options. She can’t force her feelings to Edward while Colonel Brandon, as I come to the page of 279 out of 367, remains attached to Marianne. So Elinor keeps trying being cool and patient while watching things turning out as they are. And that is the damn difficult thing one can ever have to do.