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Brave New World and Oliver Twist

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

“All right then,” said the savage defiantly, “I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.”

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is a fictional piece about a dystopian future based around the philosophy of Fordism. The novel is written as less of a story and more of an exploration of a world. In this world, people are grown or created in large batches and are predisposed both genetically and mentally to live in, and love, a perfectly formatted and tiered society where everyone has a place and a purpose and peace. This world is one free of history or freedom of knowledge because everyone is bottle feed the “truth” that their society is the best there is and ever was. No one ever questions this because they have had this truth ingrained in both their conscious and unconscious selves since birth.

Huxley sets up this world through a lecture given from teacher to student in the society and then introduces a few characters to look at the world through the eyes of. The book has no climax as it has no central story line, just a slow story to push along exposition. While this works for non-fiction books and some historical-functions, it did not aid itself to Huxley’s story. I found myself constantly bored and had to force myself through the book only fueled by a sense of duty to finish. There are a few points in the story that have some excitement and drama and give the reader a ghost of a promise to deliver more, but nothing substantial ever follows to call the book a proper ‘novel.’

The book is set up in such a way to introduce the dystopian future of Huxley’s mind and contrast it with a more ‘barbaric’ version of our own social system. The lack of a clear story/plot/conflict kept the book moving at a snail’s pace. The first quarter is told through multiple characters jumping between many with no warning or explanation. Then it does settle on a single narrator but even then the story has little coherency. The author tries to make things more interesting by forcing in more characters but it is only made more incoherent by these additions. The second half of the book is marked by the introduction of the “savages” living a world initially marked as bizarre and violent, but it took so long to be introduced that its effect was dulled by the mind-numbing boringness of the book.

In conclusion, I thought this book was based around an interesting idea for a dystopian future but the pace and expositional style Huxley uses ruined it for me.


Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

“Please sir, I want some more”

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens is a fictional novel following, you guessed it, Oliver twist. It is the classic rags-to-riches story set in the 1830’s. The novel was written in installments from 1837 to 1839 as was done by many novels at the time to add to the tension and excitement to the book. The story follows orphan Oliver as he finds his way through a city filled with criminals and lowlives. The book utilizes satire and dark humor in a sociopolitical critique of the time reflective of Dickens’s own early life.

Charles Dickens wrote Oliver Twist from much of his own experience living in London. When he was young, his family was sent to debtors prison and Dickens was forced into factory work to barely support himself. At the current time in London, the middle class was gaining sociopolitical power and was fighting against the stigma against working pushed by the upper class with insistence on the moral integrity of hard work. Unfortunately, the moral value attached to work combined with the middle class’s insecurity about its own social validity led to the stigmatization of the lower classes as lazy bums. As such, many laws were made specifically disadvantaging the poor. Dickens means to demonstrate this injustice through Oliver, an orphan born and raised in a workhouse.

Charles Dickens book would be nothing if not for the masterfully crafted cast of characters. He seeks to enhance his message with the internal paradox of the characters. As one of the first characters we meet, Mr. Bumble is a minor church official. He is filled with the kind of self-righteousness carried by one who believes God is wholeheartedly behind them, while he acts without compassion for those under his care and his motives are nothing short of greedy and hypocritical. The next master Oliver finds himself under is the criminal Fagin, modeled after a workhouse foe from Dickens’s childhood. He acts as if he is a caring father-figure for the boys under his watch, when he trains them to pickpocket, and later take the blame, for him.

Though the book is focused around Oliver Twist, he is more of a representative of an ideal than a character. He is a simple, almost one-dimensional character, that’s never rebellious for more than a few minutes and rarely ever angry. He’s a perfect gentleman who managed to come into this world and out of this novel with a finished code of morals. Even though he is between 8 and 12 through the book, he takes no influence from his surroundings and never seems to have his own reactions past simply refusing evil. Dickens himself has stated that Oliver is “the principle of good” personified to suggest that more is at stake than the life of a single character.

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Thirteen Reasons Why–Jay Asher

This is Barton reading Thirteen Reasons Why (13RW) and as just a note of introduction, I have already completed the television series before starting this book, and so some of my point of views may already be set in stone by how it was acted in the television series. A girl commits suicide and leaves behind cassette tapes recorded before her death leaving her thoughts on the 13 reasons why she committed suicide. She has these tapes shipped to the people who have wronged her (all of her 13 reasons are people).

Reading the first 1/3 of this book, I have already noticed some huge differences between it and the novel. However, both of them are similar in that there is a lot of controversy following the novel/show and I would like to state my position on it. Some people have said that it glorifies important issues like suicide and to be honest, I really think it does. In fact, whenever Hannah (the girl who committed suicide) is talking through her pre-recorded tapes, it just seems to me almost as a kind of sick game. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the show, but in the show I feel as if it was a little more subtle with Hannah’s message. To cause guilt was definitely a part of it, but in the book she seems vicious, almost as if she is exacting revenge on the people that wronged her. By doing so, I think Asher has created almost a starlight for people to view suicide in a different way than what it truly is and can feel for people around them.

Asher also has a weird way of telling the reader when it’s Hannah over the tapes or the main character Clay and his thoughts. Asher italicizes when it is over the tape and uses normal text for Clay. I think it’s a good way to tell them apart, but personally I have found that I had to go back and re-read a section because it didn’t fit a character, probably because sometimes I can’t see the difference between the two writing styles. Sometimes I feel that it breaks apart the story in a negative way and rather than read all of what Hannah is saying, I find myself interrupted by Clay’s thoughts and memories.

There are plenty of good things to say about this novel too. I think the book does a great job explaining the relationship between each of the characters and how they all as a whole contributed to Hannah’s suicide. She spends less time on them compared to the show, but she still does a great job underlining some things that weren’t said in the show that even I thought. For the first 1/3, I read the introduction and four tapes. It was really interesting watching all of the characters and their personalities and roles connect almost like a puzzle for me. There are sometimes where I think that there was no way that the people in these tapes to know that what they did would contribute to what Hannah did, but then sometimes after hearing Hannah’s side of the story, I will become conflicted. Especially with Tape #4 on Tyler Down, the “Peeping Tom.” I didn’t like that Tyler was taking pictures of Hannah, in any way, but I did not expect that to be a reason why she would commit suicide until she explained everything. She said that, “Why didn’t you leave me alone, Tyler? My house. My bedroom. They were supposed to be safe for me. Safe from everything outside. But you were the one who took that away” (89). I loved Hannah’s explanation for this and almost even made me feel guilty for not expecting that to be a reason Hannah did what she did. To feel unsafe is a terrible feeling as security is such a basic human necessity, and taking that away from someone else IS cruel.

Hannah’s narration to me can sometimes seem like a sick game, and sometimes it’s really deep and makes you really think. I also love how complex each character is and I am finding myself excited to read more of Hannah’s commentary on each coming person. The only think I dislike are some choices the author made but are mostly small things. Overall so far, I’ll give it an 11/13 🙂 and look forward to reading more.


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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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Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Brave New World is an engaging sci-fi novel that focuses on artificial reproduction and its resulting dystopian caste system. When I began Brave New World, I immediately thought of A Wrinkle in Time, which I read a while back and vaguely remember as similarly futuristic and complicated. The book is not straight-forward; it revolves around the perspectives of several citizens subject to the controlled and yet chaotic society that Huxley dares to paint a picture of.


The first aspect of Huxley’s writing that immediately came to my attention was the sudden dark tone within the first few pages (and again throughout the book). For example, Huxley conveys a cold, eerie mood with “hands covered with a corpse-colored rubber,” “the light was frozen, dead, a ghost,” and “scarcely breathing silence.” Now, I know these examples are unrealistic. Some people (like me) might feel the urge to ask, “but HOW is light frozen? How can that be? How can light be dead? Silence doesn’t breathe! What on earth is this author trying to describe?!” But what I have realized is that there is (what I like to call) an art to reading these passages. It’s difficult and unreasonable to peruse each sentence, and in fact I find that trying to strain each word of depth and meaning actually takes away from the experience of enjoying the book. Instead, I have been trying to immerse myself in the general mood of the book by using clues like the tone to guide me through the plot. So I don’t need to know what ghostly light or suffocating silence or define the color of a corpse–I can acknowledge and absorb what the author wants me to without tangling myself in detail. So, for example, I note that Huxley deliberately said “corpse” rather than “body,” signifying that no matter the color, it looked like death. Dark? Check. Ghostly light reminds me of a dark and dusty room with a thin sliver of a window opening barely letting light in. Creepy? Check. Suffocating silence reminds me of some power that even silence, one of the scariest sounds of our world, might be afraid of. Dystopian and mysterious? Check. I have found that finding this balance between barely understanding the text and trying to understand it too much is a principal factor in appreciating and enjoying a book. I’ll write more about Huxley’s conveyance of tone and other devices next time. Can’t wait to check back in later!


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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is an incredible book. In many ways, it is a fairly typical YA novel about a teenage girl and has more modern pop culture references than any other book I’ve read, making it feel as though it were truly written by a teenager. However, the book is also unordinary in many ways. The main character, Starr, is an African American teenager living in a black neighborhood but goes to school out of district to attend a better school and deals with an internal conflict similar to Junior from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian in which she feels like she betrayed her community, deals with microaggressions from her friends at school, and feels as though she has to be two different people. However, the main topic of the book is following Starr’s story after she watches her closest childhood friend get shot in the back by the police. As Starr watches as, just as she’s seen many times before, Khalil’s name becomes a hashtag and people march in the streets while the police have no intention of punishing the guilty officer. This raises the point that police brutality is something which is talked about a lot on news and social media, but only in the shallowest, most impersonal ways and justice is rarely delivered. Angie Thomas delivers a strong message about police brutality in America by making it personal for the reader and showcasing the multiple issues with how justice is handled both by police officers and by society. She also brings up the relevance of microaggressions with how Starr’s non-black friends are well meaning but are ignorant about many of the issues Starr deals with and may say things that we, the reader, know are insensitive or offensive without knowing it. Thomas shows how these microaggressions hurt Starr and the different ways she and her friends respond to them. Usually, Starr calls them out on it, and they take personal offense. In one scenario, her friend asks, shocked, if Starr thinks she’s racist after everything they had been through together, to which Starr responds you don’t have to be racist to say racist things. I thought this was a very important statement as often people say things they do not realize are racist due to the society we live in where many things are internalized, and not realizing some things may be offensive is only human. However, once someone has been informed of the issue with their actions, it is their responsibility to own up to it and re-educate themself, because ultimately they are hurting other people. Thomas demonstrates this well as one of Starr’s friends does this well and one does not.

Overall, fantastic, fascinating book so far and I cannot wait to continue reading and find out what happens next.


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Kite Runner

“The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini is about a man named Amir who recalls important times in his life. Most of the events that Amir describes take place in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The story begins with Amir receiving a call from Rahim Khan, who tells Amir to come visit him in Pakistan. This phone call immediately launches the book into its main story. Amir mentions kites and kite flying after he gets off the phone. He specifically mentions an old friend, Hassan, who he labels a kite runner. It seems like a safe assumption that a kite will be a recurring metaphor throughout the novel.


Amir begins his story by fully introducing the readers to Hassan. Amir talks about how Hassan and him used to play together in Kabul, a city in Afghanistan. Right away we are able to see that there is a power imbalance in their friendship: Hassan and his father work as servants for Amir and his father. Added on top of this is the fact that Hassan is a Hazara, which is a minority ethnic group. This imbalance seems to foreshadow how certain events between Hassan and Amir could play out.


As the book progress to Chapter 3 we meet Baba, Amir’s father. Amir describes Baba as the manliest man you’ll ever find. Amir recounts the many stories that he has heard about Baba, specifically one regarding Baba tackling a bear to the ground. Amir seems to idolize his father, but also slightly fear him. Amir continually tries to please his father by following in his footsteps. Here is yet another relationship where power is not shared equally. This pattern of imbalanced relationships suggests to me that the author may have an underlying message about relationships.


Amir goes on to mention a story that he and Hassan used to read together: Rostam and Sohrab. The story centers around Rostam killing Sohrab during a battle and then Rostam going on to realize that Sohrab was his son. This seems like quite the spoiler and metaphor for the story. Based on the already known imbalance in Amir and Hassan’s relationship, I would guess that Amir is Rostam and Hassan is Sohrab. What does this mean for the future. Does Amir literally kill Hassan or metaphorically? The first instance of tension between Amir and Hassan appears later in Chapter 4. Inspired by Rostam and Sohrab, Amir writes his own short story. When he reads it to Hassan, Hassan ries to make a suggestion to Amir. This angers Amir. Amir recounts that he had derogatory and harsh thoughts about Hassan after he made the correction.  Even though Amir and Hassan seem to be friends, Amir still appears to strongly believe in his superiority over Hassan.


This tension eventually resides and Amir shows goes on to show that he is Hassan’s friend. Amir and Hassan are ambushed by Assef, a known neighborhood bully. Assef believes in ethnic purity for Afghanistan, specifically killing Hazaras. Amir is presented with an opportunity here to allow Assef to beat up Hasson so that he can get away, but he doesn’t. Amir stands by Hasson, which causes Assef to attack Amir. Hasson stops Assef with his slingshot, a symbol that he is reciprocating Amir’s sign of friendship.



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The Gunslinger by Stephen King post by Ben Weber

Well here I am again talking about another book I have read and mostly enjoyed. As you read this you may be thinking, “Oh here comes some complicated explanation of a fantasy book that I am never going to read”. Surprising, even myself, this is not the case. I am actually going against my better judgement, and aligning with my Dad’s, and reading a Stephen King book, The Gunslinger to be exact. Anyway now that the creative introduction is finished, I am just going to jump right into the blog post of the first third.

The way that I just am jumping right into the blog post is half of what I am writing about today, King’s intro. Instead of giving detailed background, like most authors do, King gives you just enough information to answer your most prevailing question but not share everything. This helps the story flow and allows the reader not to have to read those long intro sections. (I have been known to skip them on occasion to get to the story). Besides just moving the story along, it also give the reader a yearning to continue reading . The best way to portray this  yearning is a quote by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel saying, “A Compelling whirlpool of a story that draws one irretrievably to its center”. The questions that you still have about the main character Roland or about his quest to capture the mysterious black man always laying traps for Roland will have to wait until King brings them.  At times this frustrates me and makes my fingers itch to wikipedia, I want to read the information as it comes along in the story. Reading it straight through helps with the mystery and the unraveling of the quest letting it play out perfectly.

At first I was wary about reading this novel, because of how the Stephen King books are talked about. This one is not that freaky, and it is more dark humor than horror. Here just so I don’t have to explain this concept is a semi-funny letter from the man in black. It was to Allie (a person that is not important because they die) after he raises a man from the dead, and it goes, “You want to know about Death. I left him a word. That word is NINETEEN. If you say it to him his mind will be opened. He will tell you what lies beyond. He will tell you what he saw. The word is NINETEEN. Knowing will drive you mad. But sooner or later you will ask. You won’t be able to help yourself. Have a nice day!☺”(King 41). Though this is the start of a unforeseen dark turn of Toland having to kill a whole town, it is hilarious how the “have a nice day” and even the smiley face is put in there. I gives a much needed relief from the pressure of the story before hand. This in itself, though King usually writes horror novels, shows he knows how to relieve the stress of a scene.

So don’t be scared and come closer to see this great author at work. Stay away from IT because that is actually a horror novel, but stay with the gunslinger series for it will make you “have a nice day!” It may be a little slow moving at the beginning of the first chapter, but it speeds up with major character development of Roland. I have only read the first chapter on the other hand so what can I say.

(Sorry for the short post the first third was just 74 pages.)


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