December 29, 2011

Le Fantôme de l’Opéra

Every New Year’s Eve at my work, we hold a huge party for all of the members and this year’s theme is “The Phantom of the Opera”. This little paperback book had snuck to the back of my bookshelf, slipping from my mind. I had completely forgotten the masterful work of Gaston Leroux.

Reading through the first few chapters last night, I felt shivers run down my spine as I read about the Ghost taking his seat at the retiring managers’ dinner table. The descriptions of his appearance…ah. It is a bit frightening if you allow your imagination to sink fully into the book. 
I enjoy the Phantom, as creepy as he is. His character is such an interesting, complex combination of psychological profiles that reflect mostly from his insecurity stemming from how he was treated at a young age, and how those few first years created the man that wrecked such havoc in the opera house in Paris. 
I also find it interesting in how long he stays within the walls of the Opera. Only having Leroux’s descriptions to go by, I can merely imagine the secret trapdoors and huge echoing basements meant to store the scenery and props of the opera. Why does he stay inside these walls? Wouldn’t it have been better for him to escape it all, to leave it all behind?
The story of love within this novel is amazing. Parental/familial love, unrequited love, obsessive, and romantic. Christine experiences sympathy for her kidnapper, identifying and pitying his sad life, the complex name which escape me right now…i’ll remember soon.
I can’t wait to keep reading this story, hopefully soon I will have more to write for you! 🙂

Posted December 29, 2011 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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June 16, 2011

Middle Earth

Wow.

Just finished his biography. I am stunned. It took him more then a decade to create that story. There is so much more that went into it then just writing down what came into his head. He created languages. I don’t know about you, but I can barely speak Spanish, a language I studied for the three requisite years in high school, plus one extra (don’t have to do it in college now!), let alone CREATE a language.

Middle English, for those who haven’t seen it, is nothing like the English we speak today. To me, it looks more German in it’s form. Tolkien was an expert in that as well, and had a basic understanding of Icelandic and other such languages as well. I am fascinated by Elvin for some reason, possibly because it was the most mentioned in the biography out of all the works he created.

His life as a professor was interesting as well. How he managed to balance his lectures, etc along with writing one of the world’s more well-known series of books amazes me.

The capacity of his imagination must have been enormous. Just some of the names befuddle my simple mind, like how on earth did he come up with such things? And what about the themes of the story?

Why did he choose to discuss the battle of good and evil as his base storyline (although every possible basic theme, like man vs man and man vs himself can be found in his works)? And why a ring? Is it just because a ring is a  general piece of jewelry or does it represent something more? Tolkien is noted in the biography for wanting to avoid all conventions of allegory in his stories (probably to give the critics a harder time, hehe) but with the times in which he wrote (a la World War II), it is hard to not draw a comparison between Mordor and Germany.

A lot of the questions about these works that are floating around in my mind are trying to find the answers within the biography, but since we are in the age of the “death of the author,” I cannot look there for my answers. I have to find them in the works themselves…which are still on hold at the library….

Patience is definitely not my virtue. Hehe.

Posted June 16, 2011 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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June 16, 2011

Watchmen

I have never read a graphic novel before.

I know, I know, in this day and age, that isn’t quite acceptable. I just was never interested. But this masterpiece is blowing me away.

Honestly, I am having trouble getting used to reading in this different format, but for this story, I will work through it. The story is much more complex then I was lead to realize. At the moment, I am in the middle of Dr. Manhattan’s flashback about his relationship with Janey (no, not very far), but again, I couldn’t help but be fascinated by this idea of God.

Dr. Manhattan is God, or something along the lines of that equivalent. I find it fascinating. Dr. Manhattan just lets these things happen. He KNOWS that the women will leave him for whatever reasons, he knows exactly why. But yet he allows it.

Why?

Fascinating.

Posted June 16, 2011 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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June 10, 2011

J.R.R. Tolkien

Recently, I was introduced to the Lord of the Rings series after a failed attempt in eighth grade to read The Hobbit (what can I say, I hold a grudge!). To my eighth grade mind, The Hobbit was a horribly thick novel with so many plot lines and conflicts twisting in upon each other that I could not discern what on earth was going on. To be fair to the novel, however, I barely read it; I scanned it, like most of the other simple novels that were on the English curriculum and expected that my skim would be enough to pass the reading quiz. The Hobbit stands as the only work that wrecked my 4.0 score on those reading quizzes (which were pointless anyway, but I digress…)

The Lord of the Rings series has made such an impact upon the world, and I want to know why. Why have these novels stood the test of time and be relatable to me, in 2011, and something my mom remembers reading in high school and my dad identifies with the “seventies hippy crap” (like he wasn’t a part of it. I’ve seen the photos, Dad). What is so enchanting about novels about an evil ring and the journey of a poor young hobbit named Frodo?

Completely ignoring the set rules of literary theory, I watched the movies first, then read some of the criticisms. It seems everyone and their brother has an opinion about how it should be interpreted. I was more interested in the religious aspects of it all, as that seems to be an important part of myself I am sorting out at the moment. I noticed that in the movies (which I am told are nearly mirror images of the books) that Gandolf was often portrayed as God, the Savior, and the All-Knowing. Huh. My Christian background kicked in, and all those years of religious studies flashed up in my mind. God, as the Christains/Catholics recognize him, is divided in three parts (forgive my rough explanation: my degree is in literature, not religion or philosophy): the Father (Creator), Son (Savior) and Holy Spirit. So if we apply those definitions to Gandolf, he fits into every role but the Holy Spirit. I suppose we could say the job of the Spirit is to spread faith, and I do believe there are a few times were Gandolf attempts to give the soldiers faith while fighting the orcs. The Christian religion also believes that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one entity. Gandolf is one entity. Is Gandolf supposed to be God?

I realize that is a really rough argument for someone who hasn’t read the books yet (they are in transit to my local library) but I am intrigued. It seems that Tolkien is making an extremely strong point about religion in his novels; in fact, I think he is screaming it at the top of his lungs.

But maybe he is trying to speak about the other religions? There are seven races in the books and seven is a number found quite often in mythology and numerology (gotta dig up my myth lecture notes to double check which ones though).

However, there is definitely  a battle between black and white. Tolkien makes a major effort to make sure his audience notices that evil = dark and good =  light. I found that fascinating.

Please don’t take this post as an attack on religion. It isn’t. I have a faint background in the Christian religion from my past and I couldn’t help but notice the symbols screaming out at me from the films. I just cracked open Tolkien’s biography (the one by Mr. Humphrey Carpenter) and hopefully I can get a foundation for the venture I am about to embark on. I can’t wait 🙂

Posted June 10, 2011 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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June 10, 2011

Possession

In my English Literature class, the two people who presented on A.S. Byatt’s Possession did a fantastic job! I was especially intrigued by the many different layers that Byatt had created in her novel, the tragic love story between the two great poets and the more complex love story of Maud Bailey and Roland Michell.

I will admit, I watched the movie first, something I normally don’t do. But it was Netflix Instant and I was home sick…anyway. I loved the movie. I loved the fast-paced mystery and the flashbacks between the two worlds of modern times and those of Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte.

As to what Byatt could possibly mean by such a novel is impossible to pin down. And, as we are in the times of the “death of the author” type of research, I have to look inside myself to determine what the hell this massive novel could mean. I cannot even begin to fathom. I noticed that literary theory isn’t looked too fondly on, and a lot of attention is focused on what the poets (LaMotte and Ash) meant, instead of what it could mean. And how do Maud and Roland relate to these two? Maud, at the end of the novel, discovers a secret about her heritage which makes it a little more clear, but it has been bugging me lately. Are they the new line of Ash and LaMotte? Or is the only intention of the historical romance to enhance the modern day love affair?

Byatt creates such an believable world, especially with her inclusion of the works of her created authors. I sunk so deeply into the world that she created that I forgot Ash and Christabel’s story was false.

I intend to reread this book again and again. Absolutely a masterpiece!

Posted June 10, 2011 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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May 26, 2011

Atonement by Ian McEwan

I watched the movie when it came out a few years ago, and wasn’t too impressed. But, to be honest, I barely watched it, being a little distracted….anyways 🙂 After two fabulous presentations, my interest was piqued. I wanted to know how McEwan had so masterfully created a character which the audience hated and loved at the same time.

I loved Briony. From the first moment, I identified with her. She isn’t the exact definition of a lost child, but she is wandering in the world, looking for her place. She is determined, already knowing exactly what part she wants to play in the world, esp in part one of the novel. To me, the most interesting relationship in this novel is that between the author (McEwan) and his created author (Briony). In the last few pages of the novel, when Briony reveals the truth behind the novel. What point was McEwan trying to make about authors? Are we all authors in our life, adjusting and editing what we see and want to remember?

That seems fairly obvious. Hmmm.

What about the relationship of Cecilia and Robbie? What does their death (as revealed at the end of the novel) say about the course of true love? Is true love means to an end? Relatively speaking, their lives ended when they were caught in the bright spotlight of Briony’s gaze. Their fates were set the moment Cecilia decided to wait for Robbie, alienating her family and disowning her younger sister. There was nothing more for her in the world beside Robbie.

And why nursing? What is McEwan trying to say? Is he giving Briony a profession that is identifiable with compassion and care, the two emotions that she does not show when she accuses her sister’s lover of her cousin’s rape? It feels like there is more hiding underneath the surface of this profession then the casual eye can see, including why Briony and her sister share the same profession. Or is that also a part of Briony’s invention.

More to come as I research on these questions. Didn’t get a lot answered here. = ]

Posted May 26, 2011 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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