Monthly Archives: February 2015

Wild Cheryl Strayed

Though we have only made it through the first section, I personally believe that Cheryl Strayed’s Wild has exceeded all of our expectations. While I know that many of us began with the assumption and mindset that Wild was a stereotypical “mom” book, designed for book club meetings (I’ll admit, I was one of those culprits), it has proved to be both a human and literary triumph. I honestly found it difficult to set the novel down and bring myself to write this post, as I wanted to genuinely do nothing but to continue reading.

Nonetheless, we must begin the blog posting process somewhere, and I would like to start by focusing primarily on Strayed’s voice throughout the novel (obviously, your posts can be about whatever you wish). I discovered her style to be remarkably intriguing, as she writes with both humor, bitterness, and a kind of twinging literary aspect that is difficult to grasp. She weaves odd symbols into her words so effortlessly that story feels as though it is fiction, and these scenes were merely placed by a wise author. Instead, these metaphors-the note that her mother’s chest was still warm despite her being dead, the horse her mother had so desperately wanted to ride but could not when she got cancer, the “Volkswagen” sized weight of her backpack that made it a burden even for her to stand up, the bull that is only steered away by “the worlds loudest whistle”-all of these genuinely occurred, and Strayed manages to find her own symbolism within real events. When the novel begins, she states that “the trees were tall, but I was taller.” Right away, the reader is introduced to the kind of novel this will be; heart wrenching, and desperately meaningful. Cheryl stands above the towering trees, set apart, different, but not better. Not special. Only higher.

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David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell has proved to be a thought-provoking study in only the first quarter. One repetitive message throughout the section is that often what we view as advantages are often not. So far in the novel, I think the authors way of expressing this theme is very successful. By showing his messages through short stories readers are really able to relate to his messages. For example- haven’t we all experienced thoughtful discussions in around a 25 person class? By using an example that many can relate to, Gladwell is able to have his audience understand and visualize his evidence. That situation reminds people that unlike popular belief, large classes can have benefits, which Gladwell states in his book. Also, the statistics in the book create visuals that keeps the readers attention and allows for a way to convey information easily. I also like the statistics because it supports his opinions and makes them seem believable.

However, I believe that occasionally his opinions are too debatable. For example, he says that Monet’s paintings were better suited at a small art show than at the prestigious Salon showings. Even though Monet received attention in the local and small painting world – wouldn’t he of reached an even bigger audience at an worldly celebrated event? This is just one example where Malcolm’s opinions can easily be challenged.

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I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson is unique and quirky novel that I would not have heard of had it not been directly told to me about. It follows the story of two twins, Noah and Jude. The two narrate two different halves of their lives: Noah narrates at age 13, while Jude narrates at the age of 16, and their stories eventually line up to tell the whole picture that is left to be discovered. While the dual narrating is not a new concept, I thought the way that it supposedly intertwined was the unique aspect. As soon as I began reading, I knew that this book was going to be an adventure-filled read. Both Noah and Jude have different narration styles, but both are rather observant teenagers who know their way around words. Noah, being the more artistic one, occasionally interrupts his narrations with names of art pieces that he ‘draws’ in his head, such as “(PORTRAIT: Mom and Dad with Screeching Tea Kettles for Heads)” (17) when his parents are arguing loudly.  Another example would be when he talks about how Jude is different and more boy-savvy and he thinks of “(PORTRAIT: Jude Braiding Boy After Boy into Her Hair)” (57). In Jude’s narration, she throws in quotes that also relate to her current situation. When she is spontaneously having her picture taken, she thinks, “Every picture taken of you reduces your spirit / and shortens your life” (42).

Between Noah and Jude, I like Noah a lot more. Granted, we have read mostly Noah’s story so far and know much more about him, but he seems to be a more of a pariah than Jude, which allows for a different view on the world around him. His artistic background also contributes to this more careful and observant view of the environment, as shown when he says, “The sky’s gone blue: azure, the ocean bluer: cerulean, the trees are swirls of every hella freaking green on earth and bright thick eggy yellow is spilling over everything” (83). I appreciate his appreciation of nature, as it is something not shown as often in novels, but I think that such imagery should be included more. The colors add liveliness to the scene, and his excitement towards this scene only adds to that feeling of liveliness. His narration has plenty of poetic elements as well, as there are similes, metaphors, symbolism, and imagery constantly. One simple but strong metaphor would be when he comments, “A painting is both exactly the same and entirely different every single time you look at it. That’s the way it is between Judge and me now” (119).

Each chapter is rather lengthy, but I also enjoy it due to how much insight you get into each of their lives. The first quarter has been enjoyable, so I’m looking forward to the upcoming quarters.

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Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand

“An Olympian’s Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive.” This subtitle perfectly describes Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken; engaging yet shocking yet inspiring at the same time. In this biographical novel, Hillenbrand shares the incredible story of Louis Zamperini. She writes from a third person omniscient point of view, including the thoughts and stories of side characters later interviewed. Her voice is a highlight of the book, as she describes not only Louis’s actions but the actions of those around him and even those not around him. For example, Hillenbrand explains what Louis, his friends, Hitler, a random sailor, and even a dog, are doing at the exact same moment. This powerful effect emphasizes that the entire world was deeply affected by the war. Hillenbrand’s writing has opened my eyes to life’s tragedies, especially those that come with war, and how brave individuals can make a difference.

I also really enjoy the character Phil. Although he was recently introduced, his relationship with Louis seems tantamount to gold. Phil reminds me of Reuven from The Chosen. Both characters are loyal friends and contain astonishing bravery. As the pilot, Phil affects Louis’s life, and will take any step to save him. Reuven is also a strong, courageous friend who took the extra steps to help Danny confront his father, sending him down a bright path.

Usually I am not a fan of non-fiction but so far I have immensely enjoyed Unbroken.  Louis’s determined yet mischievous character makes him loveable, yet leads me to question if he will guide himself down a more troublesome road. I am excited to continue reading and discover where Louis and his crew’s footsteps lead.

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Foundation – By Issac Asimov

“Foundation” is a gripping work of science fiction that is based in the far future. Humanity has expanded throughout the galaxy and has colonized every planet under the rule of the Galactic Empire. The Empire, covers the entire Milky Way an is incomprehensible in size. This leads to a view that it is indestructible, and essentially eternal. At least, by most of its residents. Hari Seldon, a psycho-historian (A job that melds both psychology and history to predict broad political trends in the future) predicts a Romanesque decline and fall of the Galactic Empire. More specifically, he predicts that it will take 30,000 years to reform a Galactic Empire and gain back the scientific advances that will be lost. In order to prevent said collapse, he sets up a “Foundation” of science on the edge of the Galaxy, essentially a world filled with scientists who’s job is to catalog science and history. Seldon predicts that the foundation will form a second empire in 1000 years and save the Galaxy many hardships. The reader then sees the future of this foundation in 100 years as it deals with empires in the outer fringe of the galaxy that threaten it. But this whole idea brings up some really fundamental questions about human nature. Why does Hari Seldon go through this ordeal, and it is a huge ordeal, when he wont see even the slightest results? He talks with the emperor about this very thing, and his answer doesn’t seem to be explain much. He just talks about idealism and his identification with the mystical term “Humanity”. Honestly, I think the character point that Asminov is trying to prove is that even the smartest man in the Galaxy, a man who (correctly) predicts what no one else does, doesn’t understand humanity. He realizes the concept, but he cant even explain his own connection with that concept. Even the most brilliant people in the book deal with that idea of connection in a vast sea of humanity.

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Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is shaping up as a truly inspiring book. Louis Zamperini’s story of survival against all odds is so extraordinary that some readers may find it implausible. Every page of Unbroken is filled with small details and facts that are often not mentioned in fiction novels, adding to the verisimilitude of the novel. Another unique point of the book is that often times, a story is told from the perspective of one of the central characters. Unbroken is told through the voices of many people whom Hillenbrand interviewed, making it unique in that it doesn’t have a real narrator, which allows for multiple scenes to be described at one time. For example, the thoughts of all of Super Man’s crew are described, rather than just Louie’s accounts of the war. This style of storytelling also able to foreshadow some events in the novel by jumping through time.

The first quarter of Unbroken strongly illustrates how war can result in so much lost human capital. In the case of Louie, an Olympian runner was sent off to war with a low chance of survival. Imagine all of the young American men who were sent off to fight thousands of miles from their homes in the European and Pacific theaters. Many bright students and hard workers never came back. This is why Louie’s story is such an amazing one. Not only did Louie survive the war, but he survived a plane crash, weeks at sea, and (spoiler alert) time in a brutal Japanese POW camp.

I really enjoyed first quarter of Unbroken. Although the beginning of the novel was somewhat slowed down with Louie’s pre-war life. It served as a decent but lengthy lead-in to the rest of the story, but now the plot has picked up. The conclusion of the first quarter left me with a cliffhanger, with Louie’s plane shot down and his real struggle for survival just beginning.

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