Author Archives: juliadragu

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

“The first rule about fight club is you don’t talk about fight club.”

I just want to start off by saying that this is by far the darkest book I have ever read, and ever want to read. Last year, I had chosen to read Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and in the moment, I found that book to be horrifyingly dark at times. Raskolnikov, the main character, kills his landlady while in a feverish state. The novel follows every dark thought Raskolnikov suffers through, and the reader is given a very real sense of the rage, insanity, disorientation, paranoia, and guilt that Raskolnikov feels throughout the book. I had felt as if Raskolnikov was an unnerving main character, but he is just a normal man who happened to find himself in an unfortunate situation compared to the characters in Fight Club. By the end of Crime and Punishment, I found myself liking a few of the characters, and I was torn as to how I felt about Raskolnikov. I mean, he killed a guy, but he was clearly human. Raskolnikov was capable of guilt. Tyler Durden is far from human.

I can totally see why both the first and second rule of fight club is you don’t talk about it because everyone in fight club is in need of some serious therapy. Fight club was started by two guys in a parking lot. One was the main character, who’s name I don’t think was mentioned at all yet, and the other was Tyler. What started out with two guys requesting the other to hit him soon turned into a full-out club that met in bar basements every Sunday. Not a lot is mentioned about the main character, who sometimes just seems like a narrator when Tyler is around, but what I learned so far is that he suffers from insomnia, and he likes to go to cancer support group meetings to cry because that helps him sleep. Beating guys up and getting beaten up in fight club helps him sleep as well. The main character is not completely unlikeable, but all the likeability just comes from pity, because he did not seem to have a very good life so far. His life is a great example for a discussion of fate vs free will. His father left when he was six, but not before giving him some really awful advice about life, and in the time that his father was around, he and the main character’s mother never spoke. So the main character didn’t get a great upbringing or an inspirational parental figure. And most importantly, he didn’t witness a whole lot of love. The main character certainly did not ask for any of that, and it is really quite unfortunate that he got such a life. In that situation, it’s difficult to argue that he had any choice whatsoever in the kind of person he’d grow up to be. I doubt he even knows that he is not as mentally healthy as he could be. Who he grew up to be most definitely did not happen out of his own free will, but is fate what caused it?

Regarding the character Tyler, he almost seems unreal. He is the creepiest dude I have ever read about. From the moment I learned he likes making soap from fat he stores in his fridge I thought it wouldn’t be surprising if that was human fat from some poor guy he murdered. I wasn’t too far from the truth. Tyler, along with the gloomy, emotionless voice of the main character, makes for a truly chilling novel. Plot-wise, I suppose it is believable, and it does follow the plot of Crime and Punishment in a way, as it follows the making of a criminal. However, while Raskolnikov starts out as just a regular penniless student, Tyler was already doing some petty crime, and the main character was lying about being a cancer survivor.

The biggest recurring theme that I was able to recognize while reading this book was death. Both Tyler and this woman named Marla play around with their lives and often say things about the easiness of death. While shoving his gun into the main character’s mouth and waiting for a building to explode from a bomb he set, Tyler says, “‘This isn’t really death…We’ll be legend. We won’t grow old'” (11). And Marla, while supposedly on a lot of xanax, calls Tyler and says something about “The tunnel, the light leading her down the tunnel. The death experience was so cool, Marla wanted me to hear her describe it as she lifted out of her body and floated up.” Whether Marla was actually possibly dying from all the xanax, or just being overly dramatic isn’t entirely clear to me, but she, along with Tyler, both have little regard for their lives. I’m interested to find out what the reasons behind their dark thoughts are. Tyler had a similar upbringing to the main character, so it’s entirely likely that he is a sociopath at this point, but Marla is still a mystery.

All in all, this book is really dark in a creepy, wikipedia murder mystery article sort of way. Though I normally go for books with a lighter tone, it’s not impossible to read, and I would totally reccomend it for anyone that enjoys tv shows such as Criminal Minds.

Update: I searched up the movie Fight Club and the main character’s name is Edward Norton.

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The Wild Girl: The Notebooks of Ned Giles, 1932 by Jim Fergus 10/10

Jim Fergus’ book is such a fun wild west book that is a great enjoyment to read. Each of the main characters has their own amusing quirks that adds to the story. The book follows a seventeen-year-old boy named Ned Giles. Ned enjoys photography, and after both his parents die, leaving him without any relatives he really knows, he decides to join an expedition heading down into Mexico to save a boy that was captured by the Apaches. Unfortunately, Ned is at first not accepted into the expedition because he is not of the upper class, but he later gets a job as co-photographer of the expedition, along with an extremely unfit man named big Wade.

Ned Giles is a likeable teenage boy that goes through a bit of growing up. However, the plot is not very focused on his journey as a dynamic character. Though I wish Fergus did write in more ways in which Ned could have grown as a character, but the story moves along fine without it. My favorite character was Tolley Phillips: a rich young man who goes through life optimistically, even though life may not always be in his favor. Tolley is capable of turning any situation into a party, yet he also knows when it’s a time to be serious. Then there’s Jesus: a young Mexican boy that Ned hires to carry his camera. Jesus, like Tolley, adds a lightness to the sometimes dark passages of the novel. The Apaches and Mexicans share a violent history, and there is frequent mention of violence, including murder and rape (however, there is usually only mention of such events, the only graphic part is the description of a severed head). Another character who I admire is Margaret. She is a strong female character that gets her fair share of heroic moments, and not without her own tragic back story. I found her to be a very well-developed character that added what La Niña Bronca (Ned’s love interest) couldn’t. La Niña Bronca is an Apache Indian who was captured by a hunter by the name of Billy Flowers, after her home is attacked. She was taken to a jail in town by Flowers, and put on display for everyone around to see, for few had seen a “savage girl” before. The character of  La Niña Bronca can be confusing at times, and though Fergus does a good job of revealing everything that needed revealing about her, it did feel like she lacked something. A little more dimension to her, instead of just depicting her as some marvellous yet mysterious being would have greatly improved her character. Adding onto that, I do think that Fergus dehumanised her in a way by focusing on what made her so marvellous, instead of what made her human as well. Additionally, even Ned often referred to her as “the girl” instead of by her real name, which she tells him a few chapters into the book. That was what I liked least about the book, but the rest was great enough for me to be able to overlook that.

I liked that the book was based on historical fact, and loosely based on actual events. The author did make a note that he could not write the Apache Indians to the fullest accuracy due to lack of resources, but it was nice to be able to hear the sides of both the Mexicans and the Indians from Ned’s narration. Ned (though not without his own prejudices) has been a consistently open-minded guy for his time, and provides a good neutral point of view for the narration of the history of the conflict between the Mexicans and Indians.

Overall, the read has been fairly easy to follow and understand without being too simple. I love the balance of seriousness and humour, which adds to the enjoyment.

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Book One: Dracula

Dracula: 1st half

It is my belief that the 1897 Gothic Horror novel Dracula, written by Irish author Bram Stoker, has been incorrectly named. The novel hardly seems to be at all about the count himself, but rather how the crimes he’s been committing in the background affects the characters residing in the ocean side town in which the count has recently bought a house.

The story begins with solicitor Jonathan Harker visiting Count Dracula in his castle in Transylvania to speak with him about the business matters of the count’s recent purchase in England. Jonathan is excited to be visiting new lands, and to learn about the culture of the country. Though he is confused by the ways of the people. Everywhere he goes, he is met with people crossing themselves, and handing him crucifixes as they learn of his destination: the Count’s castle.

“When I asked him if he knew Count Dracula, and could tell me anything of his castle, both he and his wife crossed themselves, and saying that they knew nothing at all, simply refused to speak further. It was so near the time of starting that I had no time to ask anyone else, for it was all very mysterious and not by any means comforting.” (6)

Jonathan passes off these actions as superstitions of an inferior religion to his own. This gesture is often seen in the country of Romania, of which I myself am from, though in many instances, it becomes apparent that Bram Stoker had never visited the place. And that would have been fine, if his research had been at all correct. First of all, his spellings are horrendous at times, and in many cases, he seems to attempt to write the word in the way that Romanians seem to speak it, rather than how it is actually spelt. One such example is his mention of the gypsies and the “szygany” (spelt țigani, or better known as the Romani) The two names are mentioned as two separate groups of people in Romania, when in truth they are the same. While gypsy is a derogatory term that is frowned upon in other countries, that is a simple fact of what the Romani are in Romania. Regarding some of the mentions of foods, specifically mămăligă, though is correct that these foods exist, and are a common dish to eat, they are most definitely not eaten at the times of day in which Jonathan eats them. The descriptions of the land’s geographical features, and the superstitions and stories regarding Count Dracula are not very Romanian at all, and are rather the anglicised versions of it all. Though I cannot place too much fault on Mr. Stoker for the stories the Romanians in the story told of Dracula, as they were imperative to the story line, I wish he had not made so many attempts to make it be a “realistic” Romania. In short, the country was very unfortunately and falsely stereotyped, yet it does account for the many misconceptions I’ve come across about my home country.

Before ascending into the Carpathian Mountains by way of a carriage, an old woman warns him of an evil that comes out on a night like tonight at the stroke of midnight, and warns him against travel. Jonathan, while this causes a slight feeling of dread, insists on going, and so the woman hands him a crucifix, which is the first and only one of which he accepts, simply out of politeness, as crucifixes are not used in his church.

On the way to the castle, there is mention of a blue flame, which confuses both the reader, and Jonathan himself, and though it is explained later what the blue flame means, it has yet to have any significance in the story, and I have read over half of the book already.

Dracula, may I just add, is nothing like the legends and stories I’ve heard myself from true Transylvanians, but never mind that, as the vampire version of the man is a fictional character, after all.

Jonathan’s stay is recorded through a series of diary entries, much like the rest of the book, which is put together with a series of diary entries and letters that numerous characters have written. His stay is very exciting, and had me at the edge of my seat the entire time. The entire novel so far, in fact, has proven to be extremely captivating. My two favourite characters are Wilhemina (Mina) Murray (later Mina Harker, as she marries Jonathan immediatly upon his arrival since they had been engaged for several months prior) and Lucy Westenra. Both girls struggle with uniting with the men they love, but both girls get the man of their dreams at some point or another in the novel. That adds an exciting touch of romance that ties the book together wonderfully, and adds a touch of tragedy and heartache later. Two characters that I find a little odd however, is the psychoanalyst Dr. John Seward and his patient, Mr. Renfield. The patient seems to hardly have a significance in the story, despite the fact that he has long since been introduced, and has been mentioned numerous times already. In fact, so far I believe the plot would have fared perfectly well without the two of them, or the patient at the very least. That is my main problem with this otherwise captivating novel: the way that random details are added. Many of these details seem to have no business in the story, and it often seems just a bother to have them in there. To many readers however, I should hardly think these details would be any bother, or at the very least far fewer details would seem unnecessary, as many of them have to do with the first quarter of the novel in Romania, and they are the cultural inconsistencies.

On a more positive note, this novel has been amazing to read so far: a perfect blend of horror, mystery, and romance. It’s truly a great novel, and totally worth a read. Thus far, it is a 9.5 out of 10.

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Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

First Quarter:

8/10

Fahrenheit 451, though a relatively short book, is certainly a long read. The wording can be confusing at times, and the author mentions many things that only pertain to the world his novel takes place, with no background information as to what he’s talking about, leaving the reader perplexed. That is the main issue with the novel: the lack of clarification and background on the world he has created.

Every single character, though unbelievably quirky, are somewhat relatable and realistic characters. However, the fact that they are not completely like humans today does help the plot, further exaggerating the difference between the future dystopian society from ours today. The main character, Guy Montag, is a firefighter, though he is not the sort of firefighter one would think of today. Instead of putting out fires, he makes them. As it seems, whenever someone is found out to be hiding away books, which are not allowed in the society as they have been deemed “useless”, he and his team of firefighters must go to the house in which the books are being held and burn the books, along with the house. All is going well, until one day. Guy and his team reach this house in which an old lady has an entire library of books, and she refuses to leave them. Despite their pleads for her to exit the house, she refuses, demanding to stay in the house. Curious as to why on earth she’d rather die than leave her books, Guy takes one home with him, along with the guilt of burning that old woman alive.

When he arrives home, the reader gets to know his wife and house better. His wife is so very odd, and a rude woman as well. She spends all of his money, and is a very unlikable character, the opposite from Clarisse McClellan: an unfortunate girl who Guy had taken a liking to in the beginning of the novel. Clarisse died as she was supposedly hit by a truck, however it became known that the government had been watching her due to her odd sense of mentality. But the oddest and most confusing part of the novel would most likely be the house. From the screaming “relatives” in the parlour, to the fourth wall that his wife, Mildred, simply must have.

There’s an eery mood to this book, as so many things are left unknown and confusing, even to the main character himself. He has no memory of how he met his wife, and he can’t help but feel as if the history of the world that he had been taught is not quite correct. Though the book can get frustrating at times with such little information, it does keep the reader on the edge of their seat, desperate for more.

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The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck 6/10

Many of you might remember John Steinbeck’s novella The Pearl. This book is similar in the sense of it being somewhat of a history textbook. It is packed with facts on how the world was working at the time of which it was written. And that’s all good and well, but I felt as if Steinbeck had focused too much on the book being historically accurate than he had on it being entertaining to read.

The Grapes of Wrath is told mostly from the third person limited point of view of a young man named Tom Joad in the Dust Bowl. No sooner than one finishes the first chapter, it becomes known that Tom has just gotten freed from jail on parole for killing a man in a dispute. He makes his way to the town he used to live in, and finds Jim Casey, an ex-preacher who he had known throughout his childhood. Jim had just come back to town after trying to figure out his life, and the two of them go to the farm on which Tom had grown up on, where his family supposedly was. However, all they came to was an empty farm. But it wasn’t just his family’s farm. Everyone was gone.

It turned out that the farmers had been evicted from the land, as it was not theirs, but in fact, that of wealthy land owners, as it was no longer making profit due to the harsh happenings of the Dust Bowl. Luckily, one stubborn man by the name of Muley had stayed behind, and let the two men know that Tom’s family was staying with his uncle for a few days, after which they would set off west for California, in search of a better life. Determined to reunite with his family, Tom catches up with them only a few days from when they were to leave. His family welcomes him home, and not much later, they set off for California, only to encounter countless bumps along the way, and to find that life in California is not quite the paradise they had expected it to be.

Like in any of John Steinbeck’s books, I enjoyed how he played with the reader’s emotions throughout the novel, and used foreshadowing to create worry for a certain character. This book was filled with facts and experiences in the Dust Bowl that would be difficult to find anywhere else. However, this is not to saw that he used amplification in his writing. Rather, he would defer from Tom’s point of view every few chapters, to speak from third person omniscient, and describe an event happening at that point in time. The majority of these shorter chapters are for the purpose, as far as I can tell, of increasing the knowledge and awareness the reader has of how life was like for his characters. He teaches through sight, and descriptions, rather through plain facts written directly into the novel. The only problem with this is that it seems a little unnecessary at times, and can prove to be quite boring as well. Few of these have actually seemed to serve a purpose in the plot of the story. For this reason, I found the book to resemble a history textbook far too much, as it seemed more keen on informing me of the Dust Bowl than the characters themselves. I would recommend this book for history buffs, and those who enjoy the works of John Steinbeck and his style of writing.

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