Monthly Archives: November 2012

“On The Road” by Jack Kerouac

On The Road, so far, has presented itself to me as quite the unique story. It is a first person narrative told from the perspective of “Sal” Paradise as he travels around the U.S.A .As of now, The story itself has been rather bland. Sal hitch hikes across the country, never staying in one place too long. Although rather boring now, I feel the story is one with a slow start and sense it ascending to something more remarkable. What really stands out about this book to me is the writing style of Jack Kerouac. Kerouac strays from the conventional writing style of most successful authors, and creates his own rushed vague sort of style. He never lingers on one point to long, unless it is quintessential knowledge. He keeps the story at a fast moving pace to keep the reader interested, which I feel is most likely necessary for this stories lengthy and particularly uneventful exposition. This sort of style is also reflective of the narrator. Sal is always rushing along, devising plan after plan, never sure of what is actually going to happen. What makes Sal unique is that he seems to aspire to something his friends don’t.  Unlike his friends, he isn’t a fan of stealing, and is never satisfied too long with the life he’s living. It seems to me that Sal isn’t particularly fond of living day by day. This is partially because of his inability to rebound from long nights of partying like his friends are. He also seems rather depressed. Although happy for the first week or so in any particular place, Sal begins to become overbearingly Cynical. He begins to hate the traits of those around them that he once loved. What I can feel this story leading up to is some sort of large falling through between Sal and his friend Dean. Many of Sal’s more mature acquaintances recognize Dean as a no good con artist, but Sal has grown to fond of him to recognize this himself. I predict some sort of scheme is going to go wrong and Sal is going to be thrown under the bus one way or another. Hopefully though, this will be the event in Sal’s life that puts him on the track to the life that he wants to live.

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“1984” by George Orwell

-Dan Tudorica (A2) 

1984: A book, I think, centered on the corruption of benevolent ideas, the perversion of once noble concepts. In the book, the decadence of the former upper class (which I assume was taken right out of real life) is elaborated upon.  In that time of depression, sadness and poverty, ingsoc (Newspeak English Socialism) must have been a ray of light to the poor, fetid masses. Very likely, any revolution that had occurred had been supported by the lower class. Why then, is the lot of the lower class almost completely unchanged? When asked about the past, an old prole simply remarks that the alcohol was of better quality. Which begs the question, why has nothing changed for the proles? Surely, after a socialist revolution there would be massive economic changes, changes which should have greatly affected the proles. In the first 4th of the book, there are many questions raised regarding the world in which Winston Smith lives: How did such a world come about, why are the proles unaffected, how did there come to be only 3 countries in the whole world. 1984, being a George Orwell novel, will likely only offer hints towards the answers. Going back to the theme of corruption, all the “security measure” present have been put into place, it seems in order to preserve society as it stands, and eliminate any dissidents. To our individualistic culture and minds, this is horrible, a tragedy, an affront to nature. But what of the minds of the people who live in the society of 1984? They seem to be perfectly happy with what we call oppression, and seem to not have any issue with what we view as mass conformism. When first approaching 1984, we view The Party, the ruling government as tyrannical and dictatorial, turning the people into unthinking slaves. However, for a revolution to happen, would it not have to have the support of the people? Asides from the evident indoctrination, could there have been a time when The Party was supported by the people? Therein lies the tragedy of any government controlled by some form of majority rule: The people can be easily deceived. This is evident in how Big Brother managed to vilify Goldstein, how he managed to redirect the hate of the people from where it belongs (the government) to a scapegoat. But surely, someone would eventually notice the obvious discrepancies, despite the ideological editing of history, the lies that are fed to the people daily? Surely, the far-fetched fibs would fool no one? This is the case, or at least it would be in our society. The only reason I can find for the public to accept these lies is if they wish to believe them, if within themselves they wish that that The Party was all it boasted to be.

                This also begs another question: How can any self-respecting human being allow, much less want this to happen? It would seem that such a thought as a people wanting to be deceived is far too extreme to be realistic. We must keep in mind, however, the cultural extremes within our own existence. Take, for example, the feudal Japanese. Their society was one based upon war, killing, and suicide. Matters of honor would be resolved through fights to the death, suicide was glorified as a holy and desirable thing, and the peasants, who would be forced into war, who would have their villages pillaged and their fields razed, were completely fine with the state of affairs. Surely, such a society, one that actually existed, is no more extreme than the case of 1984. There are only two connections that I could make between these two very different nations: Culture and Militancy.

                Culture dictates what is right and wrong in society, in a way, it sets the guidelines for living, as well as the guidelines for morals. It is hard for us Americans to think that any of our convictions, opinions, or even our thoughts be dictated by our culture. And yet, we have seen that as a culture glorifies killing, it becomes acceptable in society. It only follows logically, then, that a society that values obedience would have an obedient populace. The second shared trait between Japan and the country in question in 1984 is militancy. Government is created for the benefit of the people, and left unmolested the government would work for the betterment of the people, because, what else would it do with all its assets? War negates this; a country that is in a perpetual state of warfare does not have to care for its citizens, as war is a more than valid excuse for shirking civic improvement. In this manner, there is no push for liberty, no need to increase transparency. Why, after all, should we spend money on improving quality of life when there’s a war going on? A state of almost continues warfare also achieves another thing: lionization of the warrior class. Even to this day, the samurai is seen as the symbol of the feudal era in Japan. Boris Pasternak once said that the main thing wrong with the early Soviet Union was that all that brave men died during World War I. Society lionizes warfare, and so the young men, the same young men who would lead any prospective revolutions, ship themselves off to war., making revolution an impossibility.

                George Orwell paints a seemingly alien picture with 1984, one warning against mass conformity. The critics among us would scoff, say that there is no danger, that our great human morals would prepare, when in reality, parallels of 1984 have already happened.

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“An Abundance of Katherines” by John Green

By Emily Elott

In typical John Green style, readers are pulled into An Abundance of Katherines by the engrossing, nuanced, and often hilarious characters. Within the first chapter, readers meet Colin, a child prodigy who has dated 19 girls named Katherine. From the beginning Colin’s strange appetite for “Katherines” piqued my interest and encouraged me to keep reading. As I delved further into Green’s latest novel, I experienced both subtle pity for Colin as he attempts to fit in with the world, even though he is so very different, but also hilarity at the situations Colin, and his Lebanese friend, Hassan, who often delivers punchlines in each situation, encounter.

One observation I have noticed about John Green’s novels is that they are formulaic. There is a specific formula Green uses to create effective prose that both delivers deeper meaning and encourages laugh-out-loud moments. After reading several of his other books as well, I have no complaint against this formula, but actually enjoy the stories it creates. Green is an author I keep returning to because, as he does with Colin and Hassan in An Abundance of Katherines, Green has a phenomenal ability to make characters “real.” I relate to Colin on a fundamental level in that I understand his struggles to fit in with society. His decision to go on a road trip resounds with me because, sometimes, the best solution to frustration with high school drama is to gain distance, either literally or figuratively. Colin is  character that seems real to me, which is a quality I have found in many other characters in Green’s other novels.

It is not only that Green’s characters in An Abundance of Katherines are so utterly believable, but it is also the decisions these characters make and the comments they say that have rendered me enamored with this novel. When Colin creates a math equation that he believes solves the confusion and complexity of love, he graphs the curve. What character before Colin has “graphed the curve of love?” Though I may laugh at the silly, innocent mistakes Colin and Hassan make in this first quarter of the novel, at the same time, I want to protect them, two nerds whose intelligence interferes with social adequacy. I want to teach them how to fit in, but if I do this, then all the originality and power this novel conveys so far will evaporate. It is the sheer obliviousness that Colin and Hassan have towards the social expectations around them, but also that they try their hardest to fit in, that pushed me to keep reading, and is what will drive me to continue reading as the novel progresses.

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The War of the Worlds by H.G Wells

From the first ten or so chapters of H.G. Wells novel War of the Worlds, I can tell that the novel will end with a not-so-happy ending like many of his other books. I have read many other of H.G. Wells novels such as The Invisible Man, but this particular novel has surpassed my expectations based off of some of his other works. Plot wise, we have all heard of science fiction tales telling of martian men invading Earth, and how we have to fight them off in order to save humanity, and this novel does not stray far from that common theme. The difference though is that H.G. Wells is the author. Much like Jules Verne, H.G. Wells possesses the unique skill of taking an experience a character has that in the story takes mere moments, and then writing a page long description that captivates the reader. These descriptions are common within The War of the Worlds, and is usually used when describing alien technology or grotesque scenes describing the casualties of war. I will not forget the original description of the monster H.G. Wells created in his novel, with its V-shaped mouth and its pointed upper lip, and the absence of brow ridges and chin beneath the wedge like lower lip. What surprised me was that as the martians first landed on Earth, there was no involvement on the governments part, nor was there any involvement when citizens were killed with the aliens heat rays! This was one of the few flaws that I think may have affected the novel negatively. The real fun started when fighting between the humans and martian began in chapter nine, which is appropriately titled “the fighting begins.” H.G. Wells descriptions of mass panic sweeping the nation and the world is haunting, because of the idea of extra terrestrials visiting us at any moment is a very real possibility. The War of the Worlds so far is thought provoking in a way that asks the question: What happens when we are forced to stop fighting against each other as nations, and start fighting together as a species?

Peter Sukamto

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A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin 8/10

In the novel of A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin, the perspective of the story is told through many different people being a third person omniscient.  It is because of this fact that the story can continue so smoothly.  Without the use of a third person omniscient, the reader would have to stick to one person, only finding out what is happening to this figure and being unaware of actions done to characters elsewhere in the kingdom.  A Game of Thrones also contains a plot that I had never read of anywhere else.  A Game of Thrones consists of several different lords and “sers,” all of which work together except the Lannisters.  However, these groups of Lords are connected to the King with the rest of the other lords and so cannot wage war against them.  Taking place in the 1400’s, the setting helps in creating struggles for the characters to overcome.  These struggles include a lack of correct medicine to counteract poisons which does kill off many people in the beginning of the book.  These assassinations are the main problems of the book, yet as the kingdom quarrels over their own problems, larger matters need to be attended to.  During this time, a neighboring kingdom has grown a large army in order to take the thrown, all of which is not realized by the other kingdom.  So far, A Game of Thrones reminds me of only one TV show which is based on this book.  However, the novel also goes well with an older video I had viewed, called Dragon’s Heart.  In Dragon’s Heart, there is a struggle of gaining power between two large groups of people, much like the quarrels of A Game of Thrones.  The people struggle, fighting over a new open seat of power for the kingdom.  Although packed with action and an intense story line, A Game of Thrones is not a suitable novel for a Freshman English class due to the reason that the author, George R. R. Martin continues to portray scenes with overly grotesque detail.

 

By: Edward Kang

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Finding Forrester Prompt #4

How does Jamal’s understanding of human nature change when he “steps into Forrester’s shoes and walks around in them?”
–this question was brought to you by The Asparagus Wranglers

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Finding Forrester Prompt #3

At the end of reading To Kill a Mockingbird, we discussed the idea that Harper Lee characterizes her novel as “a love story.” In what ways could Finding Forrester be considered a love story? Please again look beyond just the traditional view of romantic love.

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