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!

 

Membaca Buku Bisa Berbahaya. Ini Alasannya

Ini bukan berbicara tentang deretan buku terlarang yang selama ini kita kenal. Di balik pengetahuan umum bahwa membaca buku itu bermanfaat ada fakta yang entah disadari oleh semua pembaca buku atau tidak. Ambil contoh saya sendiri.

Walau saya suka membaca buku dari kecil, saya baru menekuni hobi ini setelah kuliah. Saya tidak menganggap kesukaan saya membaca buku saat sekolah sebagai hobi. Lebih tepatnya, hobi saya tersebut lebih untuk menaikkan nilai saya saat di kelas hingga di bangku universitas.

Berhubung saya kuliah mengambil jurusan Sastra Inggris, buku yang baca di sela bekerja adalah fiksi. Saya menyadari ada banyak buku bagus yang belum saya baca saat kuliah jadi seolah balas dendam, saya jadi melahap banyak judul. Ada benang merah dari buku yang saya. Hampir semuanya buku dengan tema sedih, bahkan depresif. Mulai dari Sastra Inggris klasik, Amerika hingga India, semua bertemakan demikian.

Beberapa tahun terakhir saya fokus ke Sastra Inggris klasik saja. Saya dulu merasa bangga dengan kegemaran membaca buku saya ini. Saya sering bilang ke teman-teman saya akan menaruh level tinggi untuk membaca, sedang atau bahkan rendah untuk menonton. Saya bilangnya sih untuk mencapai keseimbangan agar hidup nggak berat-berat amat. Padahal dipikir-pikir, film-film yang saya tonton pun mayoritas komedi satir, romantis yang terlampaui membuai hingga bali lagi, sedih.

Atas nama realistis saya melanjutkan pilihan saya tersebut. Saya fokus menikmati alur cerita, akhir kisah dan pastinya, teknik penceritaan dari masing-masing penulis. Buku dari Thomas Hardy, George Eliot dan John Steinbeck menjadi yang paling saya suka baca. Saya menyukai penulis Inggris zaman Victoria yang hidup di abad 18 dan 19. Tidak bisa dipungkiri, cara penuturan kata, level imajinasi dan kreativitas mereka sungguh detil dan indah. Seni banget, kata saya.

Bertahun-tahun, saya bergantung pada buku-buku mereka di kala waktu senggang. Saya tumbuh menjadi orang yang lebih empati, sabar (sebab satu buku bisa 800an halaman) dan tentu saja menambah kosakata saya. Kreativitas dan observasi saya menjadi lebih baik. Punya teman duduk terbaik saat sendiri atau di kost hingga menambah pengetahuan.

Tapi ada satu dampak negatif yang baru belakangan ini saya mau mengakuinya. Saya tumbuh bersama pemikiran mereka. Thomas Hardy yang cenderung murung melalui karakter-karakternya. Tidak ada yang benar-benar berakhir bahagia di mayoritas novelnya yang saya baca. George Eliot masih mendingan, setidaknya untuk Middlemarch dan Adam Bede. Tapi jangan mengharap bahagia yang eksplosif.

Jika ingin mencari akhir yang riang, mungkin bisa membaca karya-karya Jane Austen. Saya sering mendengar banyak orang mencari buku dengan akhir yang bahagia. Dulu saya suka meremehkan keinginan tersebut karena buat saya ya, itu produk yang terlalu mengikuti keinginan pasar.

Sampai sekarang saya masih berpegang pada prinsip itu, kecuali si penulis memang dari awal jujur akan seperti apa akhir buku yang dia buat. Di lain pihak, saya akhirnya mengakui kegemaran bacaan saya selama ini (ya setidaknya sampai akhir 2018) adalah untuk memberi makan nafsu saya, keinginan saya yang tidak menjadi kenyataan hingga mimpi saya yang saya tahu tidak baik.

Betapa ketidakjujuran tersebut membawa saya ke buku-buku yang ditulis oleh mereka yang sudah wafat dan mempunyai perspektif kurang lebih sama dengan saya. Ini berlaku dalam banyak aspek kehidupan. Memang benar, hidup itu harus realistis dalam artian ada senang dan sedih, kehilangan dan perjumpaan, dan sebagainya.

Dan sungguh kelihaian penulis-penulis di atas dalam menuangkan imajinasi dan pendapat mereka begitu melenakan saya. Hingga saya pun mengagumi mereka melampaui kadar yang semestinya. Saya lupa atau mengabaikan bahwa mereka juga manusia biasa. Masa lalu, mimpi, pandangan pribadi mereka sudah pasti mempengaruhi karya yang mereka tulis.

Saat saya kuliah, hal semacam tersebut sudah sering dibahas. Tapi entahlah, saya memilih menutup mata dan membaca karya mereka murni sebagai fiksi belaka. Hingga akhirnya saya terjerembab dalam jurang kesedihan dan skeptisme yang membentuk kepribadian saya selama bertahun-tahun.

Satu hal yang saya pelajari juga adalah bahwa sastra, betapa pun bagusnya itu, menampung ekspresi manusia. Susah mencari manusia yang benar-benar adil, apalagi untuk sebuah fiksi dimana dia bisa menulis apa yang dia mau.

Kabar baiknya adalah di sinilah tugas seorang pembaca yang baik. Berkaca dari pengalaman saya, sungguh saya mengajak teman-teman, baik yang doyan baca atau tidak, untuk terus mengevaluasi bacaan.

Terus pertanyakan apa tujuan membaca kalian terlebih dahulu. Apakah murni hiburan, mengumpani ego atau nafsu, menambah wawasan atau yang lainnya. Buat saya, pembaca yang baik semestinya tidak membatasi bacaan. Membuka wawasan dengan membaca banyak tulisan dari lintas pemikiran, rentang generasi hingga menembus batasan budaya.

Dan yang terpenting dari semuanya adalah sadari bahwa pada akhirnya kitalah yang harus mengolah apa pun yang kita baca. Jangan buru-buru mengambil pengaruh dari penulis tertentu. Mungkin terbaca agak melompat, tapi buat saya setiap membaca sadari bahwa si penulis tetaplah manusia biasa. Selalu kembalilah ke kata-kata Tuhan sebagai pemilik kebenaran mutlak.

Buat saya sebagai seorang muslim, ya balik ke Alqur’an, lagi dan lagi.. Semakin banyak membaca karya manusia, Alqur’an akan saya terus pegang semakin erat. Insya Alloh..

Mengenal “Living Books”, Cerita Rekaan yang Bukan Sembarang Fiksi

Terima kasih banyak buat sahabatku, Rizki Mahardiani, yang memberiku ide untuk menulis tentang ini

Masih terbayang secara ‘sadis’ pengadilan sosial untuk tuan Bulstrode saat novel Middlemarch menuju akhir setelah perjalanan membaca yang sangat panjang. Dalam forum tersebut, tuan Bulstrode diadili oleh tetangga dan kawan-kawannya usai mereka tahu Raffles, seorang dari masa lalu Bulstrode yang tahu benar cara licik bankir tersebut hingga bisa kaya raya seperti sekarang, meninggal dunia.

Singkat kata, publik menghakimi tuan Bulstrode lah yang membunuh Raffles agar ia tutup mulut padahal tidak sama sekali meski tuan Bulstrode sudah kadung jengkel diperas oleh Rafles jelang kematiannya. Tetap saja tuan Bulstrode tak bisa menghindar dari forum tersebut bahwa memang ia menempuh cara kelam agar bisa makmur. Publik pun menilai uang amalnya ke kaum papa hanyalah semacam “penebus dosa” atas perbuatan jahatnya selama ini. Yang paling menyebalkan tentu saja nasib Dr. Tertius Lydgate, dokter muda penuh bakat yang “kecipratan” reputasi buruk tuan Bulstrode. Publik ikut-ikutan menilai sang dokter mencicipi uang haram tuan Bulstrode hingga akhirnya memaksa Dr. Tertius benar-benar angkat kaki dari tempat itu.

Itu adalah sepenggal adegan dalam salah satu novel yang aku sayangi. Meski bukan buku paling aku favoritkan, Middlemarch merupakan novel kehidupan atau living book yang sangat aku rekomendasikan bagi siapa pun untuk dibaca. Bisa dibilang ini novel kehidupan yang paling kaya, komplet dan mewakilkan kondisi banyak orang di suatu tempat, tak terkecuali di Indonesia. Kesemuanya bisa tercermin secara gamblang berkat kemampuan menulis George Eliot yang sungguh bagus.

Middlemarch merupakan contoh novel kehidupan yang mengandung pesan penting nan berat tetapi membungkusnya dengan fiksi yang menarik. Imajinasi yang detil tentang orang, tempat hingga kejadian membuat pembaca awalnya abai dengan ide yang Eliot ingin sampaikan.

Setelah sanggup menawan hati pembaca dengan cerita yang menarik, barulah mereka akan mulai menggenggam apa maksud kisah ini. Bukan hanya itu, mereka akan akan mulai merefleksikan karakter yang ada di dalamnya dengan diri mereka sendiri atau orang di sekitar mereka, hingga situasi sosial saat ini.

Jika kau adalah putri baik hati, perempuan lembut tetapi kuat, karakter Dorothea Brooke bakal memukaumu. Jika kamu adalah tipikal orang yang sangat idealis, Dr. Tertius akan banyak mewakilkan pandangan hidupmu. Atau jika kamu cowok yang satir dan mempunyai jiwa seni tinggi meski hidupmu pas-pasan, tengoklah Will Ladislaw.

Novel kehidupan mempunyai tipikal fiksi yang dari permukaan dan pada awalnya terbaca ringan, menyenangkan tetapi lama kelamaan begitu pembaca mulai membenamkan hati pada cerita atau karakternya, mulailah novel jenis ini menunjukkan taringnya yang sesungguhnya: kedalaman isu yang ingin disampaikan oleh sang penulis.

Novel macam ini mengajak pembaca belajar, mulai dari berimajinasi, mencerna maksud  penulis lalu memikirkan nasib karakter hingga kemudian mengambil banyak pelajaran dari situ. Hal-hal berat ini bagaimana pun menjadi menarik untuk diselami sebab kita sudah kadung suka dengan cerita, tokoh atau gaya kepenulisannya.

Novel semacam ini banyak ditulis oleh abad ke-17,18 dan 19. Salah satu contoh novel kehidupan lainnya yang saya sukai adalah cerita-ceritanya Thomas Hardy. Sebenarnya mayoritas bukunya muram dan sedih hanya saja saya suka membacanya sebab karakter dia begitu humanis selain banyak mengangkat jati diri perempuan pada masanya. Katakanlah, Micheal Henchard dalam The Mayor of Casterbridge, yang hingga kini masih menjadi tokoh fiksi favorit saya sebab kompleksitas hidupnya sebagai anak manusia, dari orang yang nggak benar hingga menjadi walikota. Tokoh yang semrawut tetapi pelan sanggup menarik simpati saya sebagai manusia pada umumnya yang tak pernah bisa luput dari yang namanya dosa dan kesalahan.

Ada banyak pelajaran yang bisa dipetik dari seorang keras kepala tetapi sangat sabar seperti Jane Eyre. Bagi banyak orang mungkin dia perempuan yang sok kuat tetapi buat saya sendiri karakter dia yang sungguh idealis membuat saya kagum. Saya masih ingat adegan dimana dia harus memakan bubur sisa orang untuk bertahan hidup setelah dia gagal menjual sapu tangannya agar bisa makan. Buat saya novel Jane Eyre memberikan pelajaran sabar yang teramat sangat manis dan indah pada akhirnya, yang sekali lagi, disajikan dalam fiksi luar biasa buatan Charlotte Bronte.

Buku kehidupan memang pada dasarnya hanya berupa cerita rekayasa, nama dan tempat banyak yang tidak ada. Tetapi sukar untuk tidak mengakui membaca buku berkelas seperti ini tidak memberikan kesan selain ceritanya yang bagus atau tokohnya yang menarik. Buku semacam ini selalu bisa meninggalkan bekas berharga bagi saya sebagai manusia zaman modern. Meski beberapa nilainya terdengar klise, seperti belajar sabar, setia, percaya pada orang lain, novel kehidupan seperti yang saya sebut di atas somehow membuat saya untuk mengunjungi nilai-nilai penting dalam hidup tersebut. Baru saya sadar dari novel semacam ini saya sebenarnya banyak belajar tentang nilai penting dalam hidup dengan cara yang sangat menyenangkan.

 

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.

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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.

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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:

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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?

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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!

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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.
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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.

Basic guidance before reading the works of these literary giants (1)

When it comes to wanting reading books by Thomas Hardy, George Eliot, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters and Charles Dickens, surely we must bear in our minds that their works are so lengthy. About 300 pages, depending on the book edition that we have in our hands, are relatively short. Well, yeah. So, first and foremost, we must be very patient, especially those who are first-timers in enjoying their works.
Once we can slowly bury ourselves in the stories, I expect all of you can deeply delve into great literary adventures through their created characters in particular. For each and every author that I mention has the sort of memorable figures that are immersed in readers’ minds.
So here are my thoughts about each of them. I attempt to compose this post according to my experiences reading some of their works. This post may not be fair because of the different number of books that I read from each of the writers but I do hope my share is still worth reading.
Thomas Hardy
You will be wholly entertained by the way he appreciates beauty in daily life. Not only you will absorbed by his way of describing scenery, landscape, but also by his skill of crafting characters.
Hardy’s characters are very strong. His works are associated by characters you won’t forget not only because of their traits but also because of their fates. For instance, Bathseba Everdene who best portrays an independent woman whom, despite her wealthy and high social status, can still be willing to submit herself as a devoted wife.
Or who doesn’t remember Tess Durbeyfield, one of the most beloved literary heroines of all time? Reading her tale makes me learning the beauty of patience, endurance and faith. Her scenes when she walks very long, this happens a few times in the book, still stick in my mind. For me, they depict her struggles in life, the thing we can always look at it as a good example.
All in all, Hardy has special attention to woman issues, their positions in the society, their impacts to the lives of the men they love and their overall personal characteristics we can learn so much.
And by the way, if you dislike stories that end in gloomy, dark and bleak endings then I don’t think his works suit you best. Some of his stories are very depressing, but most of his end in, I call them as ‘realistic way of life that makes you viewing the plots as what human beings normally face in their life stories’.
George Eliot
Mary Ann Evans or popularly known as George Eliot will wow you with her complicated, brilliant way of putting her ideas into a book that hardly bores you. In her ‘Middlemarch’ you will be bedazzled with how she puts and weaves that many characters in the book so as they can relate to one another in such smooth ways.
Eliot’s works touch various subjects. While Hardy puts more focus on women, society and universal moral values, Eliot addresses issues, too, about corrupted religion, sibling relationship, family ties and even politic.
Her writing is very exquisite and deep. Unlike Hardy who prefers ending the fate of the characters in ‘realistic’ ways, Eliot still believes in happy ending, that those do good things completely deserve of enjoying joyful lives.
Jane Austen
Reading Jane Austen’s books is refreshing, silly yet are full of self-mockery. You will laugh at the characters’ behaviors in the novels but at the same time you will like look at yourself at the mirror.
Austen’s works are identified with match-making, dances and parties. You will seem associate them with trivial issues but actually those are the keys of her best works. Because from that social occasions, one can learn into another’s traits, overhears rumors and such. I call Austen’s works are amazing because she takes small things through which she actually voices her criticisms about people at the time the novels are produced.

Three universal values that make ‘Middlemarch’ enduring work

I am so glad that I don’t throw ‘Middlemarch’ away during eight years I immerse myself in other titles. I suddenly want to read the masterpiece after I stumble upon an article about minimalism. The article cites the book so I take it again after two failed attempts and I enjoy reading it very much.
It takes almost two months to complete reading it. The period which I think is kind of short given the almost 700 pages it runs. Throughout the reading process, as I write in previous posts, I can’t help being bedazzled by George Eliot’s story technique, her brilliant ways of giving a life to each of its character, describing the places and emotions, and finally guiding readers to gain so many lessons for the sake of their own interests. The book is full of many life lessons. What makes it sticks into the hearts of so many people is that it doesn’t preach, it doesn’t instruct to do or don’t do specific things.
In fact, Eliot portrays memorable characters that you may find yourself part of their overall traits. If you are a social person, you can be like Dorothea or Caleb Garth. If you find yourself love learning you can look at Edward Casaubon. If you are very easy going person, then may be Will Ladislaw suits you best.
Each and every character in the book carries problems. Eliot mentions their ways of handling the problems according to their given traits and perspectives in such beautiful ways. Hence, readers can embrace many knowledge and even put their feet in the characters’ shoes. With the strong characters in the book herewith I share with you my friends, three values about life that make the book remains so profound. And for me, I can learn a lot and apply them in my personal life:
1. You don’t have to save the world to consider yourself a worthy human being.
It’s completely fine if you have certain mission in your life, be it being a humanitarian worker, beneficial technology inventor, international public speaker/motivator etc. Modern world seems require us to attain specific things or goals in life then show them to the world. For instance, certificates to prove something or meeting important people in your chosen fields. Then you will expect ‘likes’, ‘loves’ and bunch of comments to affirm that you are a ‘successful’ human being. It’s good if you can be one of the people but what if you aren’t?
If you find yourself questioning this sort of thing then Dorothea and Tertius are very good examples you can look at. Both are very kind, idealistic people, who want to contribute a lot of things to the society. Dorothea’s preliminary goal is providing homes for poor people at cheap cost while Tertius’s wish is taking care sick people while enhancing his medical skills in a hospital. As such, he works with Mr. Bulstrode whom he actually dislikes.
But life doesn’t go according to their plans. Their responses are what make the two living happy or unhappy one.
2. It takes years to build a good reputation and only seconds to destroy it

The case of Mr. Buldstrode serves special thing to review. Though he is considered by some, including by his relative, as a cold, wicked person, I am still surprised learning about his past via Raffles. That is why public scorns at him when they know when he gets his wealth and what he does with Raffles in his last days even though he doesn’t kill him.

But rumors and gossips are very deadly. They don’t care anymore about the money the banker puts for the public cause because they immediately consider his deed serves like ‘a money laundry’ for the bad things he does in the past.

What makes me hating the public is their perception about Tertius. They believe the money he gets from Mr. Buldstrode acts as a kind of compensation for helping him killing Raffles without actually having convincing evidence.

At this point, Tertius’s reputation is at stake. Will his care for the unfortunate sick people be helping him out of the mess? Who will actually believe he is innocent?

3. Love can be redefined

The love life of Dorothea is interesting to be talked about. It isn’t about her marrying twice but it’s how she acknowledges her feeling for each of the man whom she marries with.

When Dorothea falls in love with Edward, she is a highly idealistic woman. As much as she admires Edward, a smart, sharp man with good reputation, I think her decision to be united with Edward in a matrimony is partly to her dream of making herself useful.

At this point, she wants to be a useful wife. Their marriage is often marked with reading together, working at the library, trying to submit herself to the study of her husband.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. Because I think marriage aims at making each couple becoming more excellent in their respective fields. But the problem is Dorothea and Edward’s good intention is not enough to save their marriage. Or to be precise, their motive to be as one isn’t that strong. Marrying each other for the sake of helping one another isn’t adequate.

As such, Dorothea says she doesn’t fully submit herself to Edward because her definition of love hasn’t been solid. Sometimes it doesn’t any explanations why you love someone, you just feel it, you just know something unexplainable is brewing inside your heart. It’s you yourself who can feel it.

Such is the feeling Dorothea has with Will, and the former feels the same way, too. She can now whole-heartedly love Will and the other way around. Through pain and death she previously suffers, Dorothea can renew her definition of love, which is indescribable after all.