Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Completed the Winter Classics Challenge!

Hooray for me, I have completed the Winter Classics Challenge

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Here are short write-ups for the last two:

Some Prefer Nettles by Tanizaki Jun'ichiro

Interesting story of a young Japanese married couple who grow out of love with each other and instead of the usual tears, accusations or stony silences, they sit down and decide they need to get a divorce. Not too shocking today maybe, but when you consider this book was written in the 1920's in a country known to be rigidly traditional, it is. The wife goes on to take a lover with the knowledge and approval of the husband who feels no passion whatsoever for her.

Although separation has been spoken about,neither husband nor wife seem to want to do anything concrete about it. At first they claim they are still together for appearances sake and for the sake of the son they had together. But as time goes by, the reader senses that they are, both of them, procrastinating about making the divorce final. What one doesn't get is why. Do they fear the unknown? Is it just apathy? Passiveness? This theme of indecision runs through the entire book, which made for very strange (I would hesitate to use the word, disturbing) reading.

While there is nothing outstanding in this story or in the writing, I would say there are some rather nice side stories of kabuki dances, puppet shows, clove-scented baths,love suicides of Chikamatsu and other aspects of Japanese culture.

I guess this was just a mediocre read for me. I realize I just haven't learned to appreciate or understand Japanese literature the way it should be appreciated, oh, Nessie, do help me!

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Listened to this on audio and it was gripping! I really cannot afford to give anything away for fear it will spoil your experience of the book. I'll just say it makes the suggestion that we all possess the dual natures of good and evil within us, as well as the underlying suggestion that evil is potentially more powerful than good.Though it was written in 1886, the language isn't that old fashioned. THis is an immensely enjoyable read or listen!


Sanjay said...

Perhaps it is not to do with your understanding of Japanese lit at all?
Maybe its a sign of the times then and the fact that Japanese culture does value comity and conformity above other things?
Maybe the couple did feel that way to?

Can you elaborate on why this theme of indecision you find disturbing?
Maybe frustrating and even elicit dare I say pity but disturbing implies a bit more of a dark edge?
Were they waiting for something to happen?

OTOH I may be not be making any sense at all.

re: J & K, the concept of good and evil lying within us is indeed timeless. As are perhaps notions of higher powers, which may be something early society came up to instill fear in human of giving in to their dark sides?

And on that note it looks like my comment may be longer than your post! :-/ sorry

booklogged said...

Good for you, Lotus. And you went beyond the challenge with an extra book. I wish I was finished. I am in a reading slump and just want to read those cozy, entertaining mysteries. But, alas, I have started Gone With the Wind and I will finish. Someday.

I was wondering if the Japanese couple didn't follow through with the divorce because things became workable and comfortable they way they were. Maybe?

My daughter asked for the musical version of Jekyll and Hyde for 3 Christmases in a row. I told her there was no way I was buying a musical with David Hasselhoff in the leading role. I finally caved in and bought it for her birthday. It's excellent. He does an amazing job, although he's a pompous #@% after the show ends. Anyway, you may enjoy watching it sometime.

Again, congratulations on finishing the challenge.

Laura said...

You know what is so cool??? You have me considering reading two books I never would have thought about Alice and Jekyll/Hyde!!!!!!! Wild!!!

Literary Feline said...

Congratulations on finishing the Classics Challenge, Lotus! Two of your books are among my must read list: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Good Earth. I have you to thank for recommending Pearl Buck's book.

acquisitionist said...

I think some of the ideas in Japanese literature are disturbing because we don't really share some of the things that make the Japanese condition so intense. Thank you for the review-this is a book I've been wanting to read for awhile. What's the significance of the title?

Sanjay said...

Congratulations on finishing the winter classics challenge! Where did I put my manners? :)

jenclair said...

And another congratulations for finishing the Winter Classics Challenge! I like the variety in your choices, too.

danielle said...

Great job finishing your classics! I am failing miserably at challenges so far this year...but I am with you in spirit! :)

Sugarlips said...

Congrats Lotus :)
Books you read sounds very interesting :)
Since past few days I don't feel like touching books at all :( my grumpy moods are swinging ;)
Did u hear Sidney Sheldon died?

Stay Beautiful..!!

Praveen G K said...

Wow, that's cool to have time to read so many books!!! Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is one of my favourites, but I didn't have any idea of the Japanese book....I also saw the movie of Dr. J and Mr. K....pretty good!!!!

Angela in Europe said...

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-did you read it as the battle between religion and apathy? I remember I read it while I was taking a world religion course and decided it was a religious battle, but not between good and evil, but the ideals of good and evil.

Lotus Reads said...

You ask so many good questions, Sanjay and I hope I can provide useful answers. Why did I find the indecision so strange? I think it's because I was waiting for something to happen and yet, nothing does. We know all is not right with the couple, you keep hoping that one of them will take action to end this pitiful,loveless and boring marriage, but no, there is terrible apathy on both their parts to do anything about it. It's very hard to describe, but I think the reader starts to feel burdened down by the couple's inertia (atleast I did). What I didn't mention is that with the breakdown of his marriage (a very progressive one by any standards)the husband seems to retreat back into his traditional past, almost making it seem as though his western values are now in direct confrontation with his eastern or traditional values...

It's so hard to describe why one gets this feeling of uneasieness as you read...the narrative is calm, almost too calm, and yet, you sense such overwhelming desires beneath the surface. That's the best I can do, Sanjay, you'd have to read it! :)

I do appreciate the questions tho' - they helped me crystallize my thoughts on why the book made me uneasy, tks!

Thank you booklogged I so appreciate you putting this challenge together, it has reignited my love for the classics! I totally understand you wanting th e comfort of the books you enjoy best, challenges can sometimes make you uncomfortable because they keep you out of your comfort zone for a while.

About the Japanese couple, yes, I think there was this emotional inertia and a sadness which paralyses them into inaction.

I have heard so much about "Jekyll and Hyde" the musical - I am definitely going to have to rent it, thanks!

Hi, Laura! I'm glad, I'm glad - you'll enjoy them! :)

You're quite welcome Wendy You know, I would actually like to read "The Good Earth" again some day...there are so many lessons to be learned from that wonderful book!

Lotus Reads said...

Hello Acquisitionist Yes, that's probably why reading Japanese lit. is not the easiest thing for me to do and yet, I am drawn to it. I want to read more books by Tanazaki and also, Kawabata. Thanks for asking me about the title, perhaps I should have explained it in my review - but how I see it is that Kanake, the husband, after the collpase of his marraige, develops this fascination for all things traditional - the weird love stories of ancient puppetry and the old-style geisha girls with their blackened teeth...the very opposite of what he has been used to...it is his new preference, atleast that is how I interpret it. But I will check to see if there is a better interpretation from readers familiar with Tanazaki.

Hey Sanjay that's ok, buddy! :) Thanks!

THank you Jenclair! I tweaked my original list a little - I had "Palace Walk" by Naguib Mahfouz on it but after reading 1/4 of the book I found I just couldn't proceed. I'm glad I made some changes or I might have been struggling at this stage!

Thank you Danielle! THank you for stopping by and I so appreciate the moral support! :) You are always reading such wonderful literature, you don't really need a challenge!

Ohhhh Sugarlips Yes, we all have reading slumps every now and again. I hope you get over yours soon. Yes, I remember Sidney Sheldon fondly. When I was younger I would sneak my mother's Sheldon books into my bedroom and read them by torchlight when everyone was asleep! :)

Hi Praveen! Yes, I, too would like to see the movie or the musical - I am sure it is quite wonderful! I'm sure my library will have a copy of the movie!

Interesting point Angela! Yes, you could definitely look at it as a battle between religion and apathy, but coming from a science background as I do, I was fascinated with a theory (slightly controversial ofcourse) put forward by Anne Harrington in a book titled, "Medicine, Mind and the Double Brain" where she outlines how Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde are actually behaving in accordance with different brain hemisphere tendencies.

Dr Jekyll represents the rational, higher-functioning left brain tendencies and Dr. Hyde represents the emotional, feminine or even child-like right brain tendencies.

In the 19th century, which is when the novel was written, the right brain was supposedly the inferior hemisphere that dominated in women, 'savages'and children. Whereas the left hemisphere dominated in European males...ofcourse, we've come a long way in our thinking since that time, but it is interesting to consider that Stevenson may have been influenced by this as he wrote his book.

Sanjay said...

@Lotus.. Thank you for your reply and kind words. I do ask Qs not sure they mean anything, you are so kind to reply.
Yes your answers do help.
Is it possible that the inertia that you as a reader feel is nothing more than a simple uneasy peace? A loveless marriage? How does that manifest itself?
Oh wait maybe I should just get the book :)
You put your thoughts down very well though!

Asha said...

Hey! You made it!! Lucky girl!:))
I ordered Umrao Jaan after reading your review,still in the mail.I just bought Ismat Chugtai's 'Quilt and other stories' too,haven't read it yet!Thanks for putting up these books Lotus,hugs!!

gautami tripathy said...

I envy you! My reading has gone to the dogs! I am unable to concentrate.

ML said...

Congratulations on completing the challenge, Lotus! I really appreciate your reviews and love your honest interpretation of Some Prefer Nettles. Books have a way of bringing out all kinds of emotions in a person...that's what makes reading fun :)

The Good Earth is on my TBR! Ooooh, now I want to add The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to the ever growing pile.

beenzzz said...

I agree with ML, I too am interested in the Dr. Jerkyll and Mr. Hyde. It's unfortunate that I've missed out on so many books having my nose buried in textbooks and assigned books instead. Though I loved much of what I read in classes, now I can read books I choose!!!! Too bad Some Prefer Nettles was a mediocre read. I just started Umrao Jaan about a week or so ago.:)) So far, so good!

iliana said...

Congrats on finishing the challenge! I'm so far behind I don't think there's any hope for me :) I read Jekyll & Hyde last fall for the RIP Challenge and really enjoyed it. What was interesting for me was that I thought I "knew" the story having seen several movie/theater productions but it is so different. Anyway great read.

lalitha said...

Congrats on finishing your winter challenge.A nice set of books.Have not read Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.I feel that we all have good and evil within us and its us who decides which one will rule our lives. About the Japanese couple.sometimes even though there are in a loveless mariage I think people stay together mostly because of society and then maybe because they were afraid of facing life alone especially if they have been together a long time.It is sometimes more convenient to just stay in the marriage than face the unknown.

Les said...

Hooray! Isn't it a nice feeling to finish a challenge? From your list, I've only read The Good Earth!

BTW, I like your new photo in the sidebar. At least, I'm assuming it's fairly new.

Anali said...

Congratulations on finishing the challenge! You must be extremely organized with your time, because I don't know how you do it all!!

I'm so dreadfully behind in my reading. I usually read at least one book a month, but I've noticed that my blogging has taken away from my reading time. Maybe cooking too! : )

And I'm intrigued by the thought of a clove-scented bath...

Orange Blossom Goddess (aka Heather) said...

Congratulations!! I'm still plugging along as they say.

Nyssaneala said...

Congrats on finishing the challenge!
I'm starting to wish I had signed up for the Classics challenge, as I ended up reading 3 classics in January!

Hmm, maybe I should read the Jekyll and Hyde book. It has never interested me, yet you make it sound so intriguing!

Wendy said...

Yay! Congratulations on finishing the challenge! I have one to go. BTW, I like your new blog look :)


tanabata said...

Yay! Congratulations on finishing! I didn't get much reading time in while I was away for a few days, but I'm glad to be back and reading The Good Earth- I'm really enjoying it.
The Tanizaki book sounds interesting- I'll have to try it someday, but first The Makioka Sisters.

Maggie said...

Congrats!!!! :)

Radha said...

Congratulations Lotus! Thats a lot of reading!!

You know I've never tried an audio book. I thought I wouldnt enjoy 'listening' to a book. But after your review, I think I want to try doing that!

Anonymous said...

rah rah! you finished it!

Lulu said...

hi lotus,
i love your blog! you continue to simply amaze me with just how you get through book after book and then find the time to share your thoughts with us.

you know how much i love food but i have to say that i enjoy visiting your blog much more than any other food blog - it's just so much more nourishing!

jacob said...

well, congratulations. and i got myself a copy of Alice... thanks to you.

jacob said...

well, congratulations. and i got myself a copy of Alice... thanks to you.

Hollydolly said...

Hi Anjali
Congrats on finishing the "Winter Challenge". I have not got out of the starting gate.But I will at some point. Have been in a reading slump the past week, have been battling an injured back, the I developed a nasty tooth absess, oh well, brighter times ahead.

Susan in Italy said...

Congratulations Lotus! And why am I not surprised? You are the most avid reader I know.

Lotus Reads said...

Just want to thank everyone that took the trouble to come over to congratulate me, it was wonderful reading all your comments!

@Asha, hope you enjoy "Umrao Jaan". "Quilts and other Stories" looks like an exciting read, too. Will have to check it out!

@Gautami, yes, it's unfortunate, but we all go through those reading slumps - hope you get over yours soon! You're still writing poetry, though, so that's good!

@ml, I think you're going to love "The Good Earth", can't wait to read your thoughts.

@beenzzz, It's true, reading for school leaves very little time for pleasure reading. Anyway, it will be over soon.

@iliana, yes, as I read "Jekyll and Hyde" this is exactly what I was thinking - that it would make a great read around Halloween! :)

@Lalitha, you are so right. And yet, there was something else, too. Something that made me uncomfortable, something I just couldn't put my finger on. That's the effect Japanese lit. can have on you sometimes...

Lotus Reads said...

@Les, thanks so much! Yes, it is fairly new and the only one of myself with books! :)

@Anali, yes blogging can do that to you. I've found myself putting a book away just so that I can go read blogs instead. It's addictive,what can we say? :)

@Heather, thank you!

@Nyssaneala, three classics this month? Darn it, you should have joined! Perhaps it's not too late?

@Wendy, thank you and soon you'll be finished too! yeay!

@Nat, I'm going to be across shortly. Dying to read what you thought of 'The Good Earth' and yes, after "Some Prefer Nettles", even though I didn't like it that much, I still want to read more Tanazaki, so if you give "The Makioka Sisters" a good review, I will definitely pick it up!

@Maggie, thanks!

@Radha, Audio books are pretty useful. Especially when cooking,driving or doing chores around the house. Try one, don't think you'd be disappointed!

@Nocturne, yeay, my very own cheerleader, thank you! :)

@Lulu, what a very,very sweet thing to say, mucho gracias! I have missed you sooo much, but I knew that settling down would take a while. I'm presuming your new blog is up and running? Yeay! Will update my blogroll and visit you soon! So glad you're back!

@Jacob, yeay, we love Alice in our home - hope you do, too!

Lotus Reads said...

@Sylvia I was wondering at the silence and was about to e-mail you. I'm so glad you wrote. Awful reading about your back and the tooth abcess, you poor thing, how are you now? I don't blame you for being put off reading, that pain can put you off anything. I hope you're well on your way to recovery. Have missed you much!!!

@Susan, aww, thank you! :)

hellomelissa said...

still think you shouldn't have abandoned "palace walk!" i'm really enjoying it. maybe when a good chunkster comes along, i'll rip it in half, and convince you that's it's really TWO SHORT BOOKS! :)

tanabata said...

I've posted my review of The Good Earth. I hope you don't mind I put a link to your review. I'll let you know how it goes with The Makioka Sisters- I'm reading it now.

Lotus Reads said...

@Melissa - LOL

@Nat - Would be honored, thank you so much! Go right ahead!