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.

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..

Even John Steinbeck can be dull sometimes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Reading canon literature makes me snobbish

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If you were a serious reader like me, I’d like to invite you reading this piece of shit. Whether my personality (a blogger says personality is a shitty affair) affects my reading choice or not, it is no wonder that canon literature or say, novels from Victorian Era, is my thing. I have been reading books from American authors with John Steinbeck as my most favorite one and been enjoying stories from Indian writers, but my heart has never been this happy once it has met novels by Thomas Hardy.

It’s like I and those books have finally found each other. How romantic I sometimes think about this.

It’s funny how serious minds are indeed meant for heavy books. See? Romance is not just for less serious or funny people. Even a distressing person like I can have my own love story.

Many have said that novels from Victorian Era set high benchmarks for literary works. You can’t count how many books by Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy and definitely Charles Dickens have been adapted into movies, theaters or other popular shows. There have also been a lot of critics who say how their writing styles or issues are amazing. If I say their works are ‘difficult’ and ‘challenging’ I bet some will agree with me.

So, what happens after years reading books from this era?

At first, what I have immensely loved by reading the novels are the beauty of words and how skillful those authors in describing things and people. Reading this type of novel is like viewing a very wonderful panorama. Later, I call this reading experience as a sort of relaxing trip. The more I read the more I then learn what makes a good novel. Their stories teach me that good books are about people, about who we really are.

I have taken personal lessons just by reading their stories and I have put them into practice. Reading their books have made me a better person. That’s so true.

I still read books by writers from the era. Currently, I read ‘Markheim’ by Robert Louis Stevenson. As I enjoy more novels, a devilish thing sneaks in. The part of me who yearns for recognition, praise shows up. It is called arrogance.

It has been years that I reject books written not by authors by the period. I’d say because I still want to read classic books but sometimes it is more because I think popular novels are rubbish. If they are easy readings, I have no time for them. That’s my principle.

If you said I am smart or anything let me tell you I actually act naive. It’s like opting something difficult for the sake of ‘being who I truly am’ instead of trying to ‘entertain my soul’ via funny or lighter books.

It’s like why am I addicted to hard things while it’s really not sinful to occasionally read something popular. Why do I keep choosing tough lines over mild ones?

Knowing your reading preference is good, always bright thing to do. But putting barrier or walls over things beyond the preference is what makes your ego running wild. That may shield you away from fantastic stories that probably are in easy books you always underestimate.

The picture is taken from this.

When you neglect reading novels in your native language

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As a non-native English speaker, preferring reading novels in English Language is like holding a double-edged sword. People praise me for my knowledge about the foreign language. They wonder how I can speak so fluently. A lot of friends often ask for advice related to English Language. They want me to share some tips to be good at grammars. They wish they were able to speak in English smoothly.

A close friend of mine recently wants to meet me because she wants me to help her writing in English Language. Every time people ask for suggestions how to master English Language skills, my answer is very simple: practice, practice and practice. I tell them that I have learned the language since I was a small kid, probably 10 years old. What they regard as amazing thing is an ordinary one for me because I have grown up learning the language. It is the skill that I have developed entirely out of curiosity.

For a kid growing up in a remote area, very far away from Indonesia’s capital, what I have experienced with English Language is weird. It was love at the first sight. The first time I knew the word ‘the’ my eyes sparkled. I and the language have entwined an intimate relationship since then.

My love for the foreign language has grown deeper when I was accepted as a university student majoring English Literature in 2002. Studying for almost five years in a culture city namely Yogyakarta, I found ‘my tribe’. I have made good friends with classmates, lecturers, seniors, juniors and fellows from other majors who encouraged me loving culture, language and social sciences in general. Spending years in academic environment that puts more focus on math and physics from elementary until middle levels, what I obtained during the college years is enlightening.

If you think my connection with English Language always brings nice stories, let me tell you that is not always the case.

After years reading novels in English Language, especially books from Victorian Era, I now forget how to enjoy reading books in my own language. As strange as it may sound but I can’t ‘read’ books in Bahasa Indonesia or Indonesian Language. Each time I try reading books in Bahasa Indonesia, I can’t put my soul into it. I find a lot of words or expressions that are strange or illogical because my mind has been too westernized.

I limit myself to read short stories in Bahasa Indonesia. I can no longer enjoy digest thick novels. I have spent years reading books by John Steinbeck and Thomas Hardy but not those by Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Indonesia’s most leading novelist. Not only this makes my understanding about local literature is very narrow, I, too, find it difficult every time I attempt to write my own novels in Bahasa Indonesia. How would I write books in Bahasa Indonesia if I knew I wouldn’t enjoy doing it?

The picture is taken from this.

Stepping Out From Reading Comfort Zone

Over the past few months, I have unconsciously stepped out from my reading comfort zone.  I just realize about this today. Books by John Steinbeck and Thomas Hardy are my comfort zones. I love almost everything they write. Especially for Hardy. His writing style matches my fondness. Hardy’s books steal my heart away only by reading their few pages.

It has all started with Anne Bronte and now Charles Dickens. I disliked first-person narrative yet I love Anne Bronte’s ‘Agnes Grey’ and ‘Tenant of the Wildfell Hall’ despite they are written in first-person method. They impress me in different ways. They touch my heart deeper than I expect. They move my emotion.

I used to avoid reading any Dickens’ novels because I know his writing style doesn’t suit my preference. I have to seek Dickens’ titles that I believe will meet my liking and after some attempts I find ‘Our Mutual Friend’ then ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’. Although Dicken’s decision not to further discuss emotional problems regarding Nell Trent’s grandfather stealing behaviors disappoint me, I am profoundly disturbed by the poor girl’s sufferings.

I can’t deny that Dickens is a very great, wonderful storyteller. I am completely amazed by the way he crafts so many characters along with their problems that speak much on what happen at the time. All those fictitious characters, various plots into one just book. Dickens is very brilliant.

After that, I force myself to read ‘Bleak House’. A little bit of force, I mean. I know the novel won’t entertain me as much as I want but I strongly believe it will present me with memorable trip once I finish reading it. I look forward to see what kind of impression that I will obtain after completing reading the book. I gradually learn to cope with things that I dislike because I know I mustn’t get stuck with Steinbeck and Hardy if I want to get more knowledge.

I have to start setting more adventures with authors or writing styles whose books I previously decline to read. The foremost reason is simple; I have to learn about myself on how further I can make peace with things I dislike and that includes books.

How I pick most favorite novelists

What I choose is who I am. My earnest reasons of picking John Steinbeck and Thomas Hardy are because their writings, viewpoints reflect much of my own for either personal matters or general life. I want authors whose perspectives mirror mine; that they speak a lot about me and may be other readers, too. I simply choose favorite authors who can convey my thoughts and opinions about the world. I select writers whose personalities, traits are similar with mine. Simply put, I pick authors who can deliver my message about myself and my views about life.

And among a number of authors whose works I have read and whose biographies I have studied, John Steinbeck and Thomas Hardy are my currently most favorite authors. They share similar viewpoints that somehow resemble with my own.

  1. Both are realistic like I am
    I like the way both authors write much about public at that time. For Thomas Hardy, although he produces a lot of romance stories, he, too, emphasizes on society when which his stories are composed. Class division, public’ view about religion, poorness greatly influence story lines. As a matter of fact, public plays a very important role in the fate of the major characters. While for John Steinbeck, as he lives in much more modern era than Thomas Hardy, gives critics about people at that time in more various ways. For instance, he touches labor issues, poverty in Great Depression,  American Dream, and the like. This kind of issues have been and always interest me so much. I myself prefer like reading realistic-related books to fantasy or mere romance because we are social beings. The way we act is never original. We absorb what our surroundings have in store. We can’t decide and do what we always wish to do.
  2. Plain finale
    In relation to the realistic point of views, they choose to end their masterpieces on plain, depressing, sad, gloomy tones. They rarely close their stories in overjoyed mode. May be some of them are actually happy ending but not overly one. They tend to be concrete, the characters they have crafted can’t solely do what like. Society shape them, force them not to be who they are. I remember one of the most saddest ending of John Steinbeck’s novel is ‘Tortilla Flat.’ What makes me feel so desolate is imagining the late Danny’s friends; Pilon, Pablo, Jesus Maria, and Big Joe Portagee, can’t attend their mate funeral because they are afraid their poorness may taint the image of Danny. The funeral itself is held luxuriously and they can only watch the process from afar. So, what do they relate with me? Well, I am easily moved by surroundings. The more I live, the more I know that happiness is all about contentment and not every one, well as a matter of fact, most people have their own problems which make them unhappy sometimes. Learning more and more about this makes me easily becoming melancholic. I don’t know what makes it different between being realistic and being pessimistic, may be I am torn between the two. All I wanna say here is that all my mixed feelings are best portrayed by these authors. Life is not all about joy, in reality our lives is about being contented whatever lives throw at us.
  3. Indescribable clicks about way of writings, languages
    I think I have said about this point many, many times before and I still find it lacking,LOL. I really, really love the ways they craft their stories. The way of showing not telling, putting bunch of descriptions with beautiful languages completely make me head over heels. Their very superb, outstanding method of writing somehow ‘click’ with my taste. I wish I could write like them one day.

    Thomas Hardy and John Steinbeck thank you for ‘voicing’ my personalities and my views about life. Thank you for your wonderful languages that feel my heart with indescribable enjoyment.

I think I have settled down too early

I miss the days when I have stumbled upon books from various kinds of authors with different backgrounds that transverse time and spaces. The day when I open the first page of ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ is the moment when I launch a literature adventure. Since then, I have absorbed the minds of Nathaniel Hawthrone, Virginia Wolf, some of Indian-born best authors, with the best of all at the first period of the literature trip is John Steinbeck. I have also opened my mind reading a controversial title ‘The Catcher in The Rye’, a very impressive book about religion, survival called ‘The Life of Pi’ and a few good reads by Indonesia writers in my native language, Bahasa Indonesia.

That is when I best call the experience as truly adventurous until I have got ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ and things have changed a lot since then.

Finding favorite authors is like feeling a very rare ‘click’ that somehow connects me with them in some important aspects. I really adore Thomas Hardy. Best of all, each sentence that comes from his pen is truly magical. Each and every word he says is a poem. He is very successful in bringing my mind to wander as I please once I am glued at his books. His imagination is really outstanding. I and Hardy share another obtrusive mindset: realism though he is much gloomier that I am.

I love his preference of people from lower class as the protagonists of his novels. The way he confronts romance against social norms interests me so much. While Hardy becomes my most beloved writer for Victorian era given his beautiful words carrying universal, evergreen messages, John Steinbeck is my best one for postmodern era.

Both Hardy and Steinbeck are serious writers who definitely reflect their views on life. One thing that separates them is that Steinbeck is satirical. While Steinbeck also opts the poor as the main actors in his books, what intrigues me is the outcasts that frequently appear on his novels, such as ‘Tortilla Flat’ and ‘The Cannery Row’.

While I have ‘friends’, very influential ones, who have so many things in common, discovering favorite authors means I indirectly set my reading standards. As such, I become so picky when it comes to reading books from new authors. I will calculate factors like first or third person narration style, diction, and obviously point of view, before I buy new books. I will most likely compare them with Hardy’s or Steinbeck’s. I have tried to break this through, reading books without considering those factors but they all end up in my bookshelf as unfinished materials.

While I can train myself as a consistent reader by choosing not to read materials below my standards, frequent reference to either Hardy or Steinbeck has caused me not to expand my reading horizon. In the past few years, I have stuck in the Victorian era partly because of Hardy and his colleagues.

I want to leave this comfortable reading zone then relaunch literature adventure into the Russian literature or Spanish one but my feet are still buried beneath the ground of the Victorian time. Only Alloh swt knows when and how am I gonna break this cycle…

Three novels that inspire me to write my own

Although ‘Of Mice and Men’ is my all time most favorite novel it’s not one of the books that encourage me to create my own one day. Here I’d love to share three novels that I quickly take inspirations from when it comes to write a novel:

  1. East of Eden

This title is the door of all the novels that I have read so far. It’s true that “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is the first one that leads me to read more about classics but ‘The East of Eden’ is the first that opens my perspective in understanding the truest value of great novels. I love the book, and it remains one of the titles that is very memorable. The story between Caleb and Aron which is inspired by Cain and Abel from the Bible is the part that interests me so much. The different reactions from the brothers when it comes to receiving the fact that their mother, Cathy, is a prostitute, suggest me in learning that imperfection is what makes humans so natural. That’s the grandest message of the book that I don’t only remember but also get my views right. What I’m trying to say is that I have to firmly understand the most essential point of writing great books lies on characterizations. No matter how big topic or social circumstances that become the background of the story, still, stunning novels are all about humans. Thankfully, I read the book at the beginning of the years-long literary trip thus I am not carried away with various, historical events that form some titles that I have read along the way because what I have on the top of my mind is characterization.

 

  1. The Mayor of Casterbridge

 

I think there is no better book to enjoy human inner journey from a bad to good one than ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge.’ What makes the book more fascinating lies on the way Thomas Hardy flawlessy transforms Micheal Henchard through ups and downs, unexpected events, foolishness, wise acts throughout the book. I think Henchard’s life journey perfectly reflect that of us, as human being, though we may not as goosey as him by selling his wife and daughter to a stranger when he is so drank. What I like more from the book is that it doesn’t sound preachy. It describes Henchard as a normal person with all of his mistakes and dark sides. His effort to fix the wrong things that he has done in the past is one of the best lessons that I can draw from it.

 

  1. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

There are three sensations that I get by reading the book. The atmosphere, criminal acts that are mentioned in the book successfully terrify me as I read along the book. Robert Louis Stevenson deploys everything that later on produce thrilling, frightening effects to all its readers. While this has been sufficient for making me glued at the book, Edward Hyde’s struggles to tame his devious side has made the story becoming more complicated. How he acts as a good person in the day then turns into a monster in the night is a good thing to observe. The fact that the evil side eventually triumphs becomes the climax of all and this turns out to be so devastating. Isn’t this so common? That oftentimes are are bound to either follow our good or bad side? The last one if feeling high over heels with the beautiful, civil words despite illicit tone and the puzzled story plot that keeps me reading the book until the last page.

 

 

Five reasons John Steinbeck remains my most favorite author

john steinbeck quotes

credit for this picture goes to www.pinterest.com

I write this post because it has been a long time I haven’t read his another title. So, I kind of missing reading his books then I think of writing these five reasons why he remains my most favorite writer after a number of novels from other novelists that I have read, too:

Common people, the poor are the kings in his masterpiece His magical words put the poor, the struggling laborers truly have their say. He is the first author from whom I learn much to see the big, valuable voice in those unheard men. My most favorite example are George Milton and Lennie Small in “Of Mice and Men” (1937). Also, the Joad family in “The Grapes of Wrath” (1939). All the characters have one thing in common: survival. I think they can represent the society at that time: the dying American Dream in “Of Mice and Men” and the Great Depression in “The Grapes of Wrath.”

The straight-to-the-point language, third person narrative style Reading his books are a joy to my eyes given his straight-to-the-point language. Even if he is a master of storytelling I don’t find his language too wordy. He keeps on his direction when it comes to describe some places, people or events. I can say almost his novels don’t bore me. While third person narrative style is always my preference. The fact that he applies this method entertains me so much because I regard his voices are split into several characters within a book thus making me able to comprehend his stance in each and every character.

He loves writing dark comedy starring the outcasts If you have read “Tortilla Flat” and “The Cannery Row” I bet you’ve got my point. Laughing at the characters’ stupid actions or silly jokes while having a sense of pity for them is what I feel while reading the two. Despite the high humor doses, he inserts good critics regarding the characters. They both reflect the people who maintain their sanity in modern life. Their lives are great samples about those who stick at their given traits and won’t be consumed by materialism. As such, they are poor by intention. They know exactly that their lives are the path less taken.

I can always see the light at the end of the dark tunnel Even after reading more than 500 pages containing problems about poverty, moral crisis, religion mockery, and death, “The Grapes of Wrath” ends in a positive tone. Those who have read “Of Mice and Men” I think will agree with the finale of the book although I have to carry the sadness for quite some time. He lived far before the millennium yet I bet he foresees the world would be much cynical, skeptical than it has already been. I guess the books are best legacy he has left for readers from many generations to come. It’s not a matter of satisfying, happily live ever after endings, it’s more about hope.

Wisdom in the ‘East of Eden’ Although ‘East of Eden’ is a bit preachy I find the book as an exceptionally wise one that thoroughly examines every character’s personality. Reading the novel makes me understand the value of imperfection in human being. It’s the best book where I learn that in order to be a whole person we have to have big hearts in making peace with bitter facts that are against our wishes. The characterizations of Cal and Aron Trask are good samples to observe those values. Years after reading the book, the concept of thimsel ‘thou mayest’ still echoes in my mind, which it best describes the characters’ options to overcome sin in the book. I myself interprets the phrase as life is all about making choices.