As many of you already know Harper Lee passed away on Friday, 19th Feb at the age of 89. I cannot even begin to describe the debt I owe to Ms. Lee and her fabled book for making me what I am and forcing me to confront truths even when I did not want to. I do not care about her second and more controversial publication, Go Set a Watchman and I do not care about how she has originally intended to portray Atticus. What I do not know is that she alone or in collaboration with someone gave us one of the most humane characters possible and for those of us who took her book to the heart, forced us to look beyond the obvious. I cannot even begin to eulogize about how magnificent or how life changing her writing was. I have in past several times referred to this book and its impact on me and I have often posted about it several time (for instance here and here and here…I think you get my point). Needless to say that To Kill a Mockingbird had a profound impact on me when I first read it at the age of 15 and it still moves me every time I re-visit the book and for me is a novel that defined who I am. I quote from one my old posts to just give you a hint of what this book did to my mind – “This book may not have defined my social or political mores when I was 14. But it did go a long way in making me an egalitarian, an advocating liberalist who believes in equality for all and standing up for what you believe in no matter what the cost. In my small way, I find at times speaking up for what right may cost you something – relationship, money, promotion. But this book made me understand one very important kernel of truth when very young – unless I can look myself in the eye, nothing is worth it!” I even named part of my blog from this book.
What can I possibly write to do justice to the kind of wisdom the book brought forth? I cannot and decide to let Ms. Lee do the taking instead. I want to share those epoch moments from the book, which remain life changing to me. These quotes seem even more fitting now as intolerance and divisions across religion and race are bursting forth practically in all nations, dividing us on false fault lines and taking our attention away from real issues, like poverty, climate and other human security issues.
- The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience
- You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.
- I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what
- People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for
- I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks
RIP Ms. Lee! You helped many of us become better humans.
The Classic Club announced its Classic Club is doing Spin#11 and I came up with The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. Wells has been on my TBR for sometime and I was really happy to finally get the right inspiration to read his work. I got hold of the book and was surprised to see that it was less than a 100 pages; but then most adventure novels of that era were slim reads ( King Soloman’s Mine to cite an example ) and thought it would be an easy read. However I did discover that, do not judge a book by its cover and what appears may not be a true reflection of what is and all those homilies can very much be applied to The Time Machine!
The novel opens with a gathering of gentleman at the Time Travelers house, where the latter introduces them to the Time Machine, which he has invented. To further understand and discuss the machine he has invented, the Time Traveler invites them for dinner next week. The group meets on the appointed day, but there host is missing. While they are about to finish the dinner, the Time Traveler finally staggers in with torn clothes and a bruised appearance and declares that he had traveled to AD 802,701 and narrates to story of the future of the earth. He tells them of two races that inhabit the future earth, the beautiful, simple childlike Eloi and the dark and ape like creatures that stay in the subterranean regions of the earth, called Morlocks. He tells the group how he had found himself stranded in the future and how his time machine had been hidden away and he shares his efforts to befriend these creatures and his efforts to finally get back to his own era, and the tragedy that was the price for this tryst.
The novel is for sure a Victorian adventure tale, very much in spirit of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, King Soloman’s Mine and such like. It is in essence as stiff upper lip as it gets as the British narrator assess his situation and takes action that would for sure impress Her Majesty, the Great Queen Victoria. In terms of plot construction, the story is very linear and it follows the usual pattern of introduction, discovery, crisis and the end. However the concept of Time Machine in 1894 was in itself an originality and an innovation that H.G.Wells richly deserves all the credit. The concept of Time Travel though something bandied about very commonly today, was unique concept, when Wells wrote his novella. There is much to be said about the author’s imagination as creates a world of Eloi and Morlocks as well the variations of earth in future that the time traveler stops at before finally reaching back to his own time. There is a sense of dread and darkness and fear in the narrative as well as a distinctly humane tone as the author gently tells us that the creatures of the future are the culmination of all the actions of the man, partly good and partly bad. The only problem is the boyish adventure tone in which the hustle and bustle of Great Britain meets the dysptopian world. The very English prep school narration seems incongruous with the dark and creepy future world. There are times when the plot sags and there is just too much of discovering this and discovering that….one of the main reasons, why the book lay on my bedside for more than a month after the initial pages had been read!
Overall, its a good novel, but not a great literature. It deserves it cult status because of the uniqueness of the concepts rather than any literary brilliance.
June is here and the heat will not go away….not in the near future!! Oh! How I hate summers!! Sigh!! Winter!! Oh! Lovely winter…Come Soon!! I just realized that I have used more exclamation marks in the last couple of sentences, that I have used words! See..there I go again! I have to stop! Ok….really need to start a new paragraph and subject!!
First of all Reading plans for June – among other sundry and random reading, the following I will complete because of Classic Club reasons or others like I had already begun them –
- The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne – This is a part of my The Classic Club Spin#6. I did have some reservation about this one, but so far and it’s not far, since I have only proceeded to chapter 4, it’s holding up!!
- The Good Soilder by Ford Maddox Ford and Dubliners by James Joyce – While I began reading both in my sudden obsession for the Lost Generation, (Hence the Katherine Mansfield post!), it very nicely coincides with The Classic Club event of the month which they published today was to be on World War 1/The Lost Generation literature
- The Tin Drum by Gunther Grasse – This modern classic is well different. It’s not an easy read and it’s a lot like solving mental math problems except you are kind of solving world problems to really delve into this book about a family surviving World War II and Nazi occupation. This one takes time and I really do not think I will be able to finish it in June
- Gothic Tales by Elizabeth Gaskell – I love Gaskell….love every work of hers; whether it’s a novel with social message like North and South or a comedy of manners like Cranford; but this is the first time I will be reading any of her “gothic” stuff; but I have high hopes….
- The Elixir of Immortality by Gabi Gleichann – This is light reading! At least hope so; the few pages that I have so far ventured does not so far seem like that can be read through a night; but I could be wrong. Reasons for picking this one – Jewish History in medieval Spain and Portugal. I think that just about sums it up!!
Speaking of light reading, here is something I have been mulling over since last night…the last week at work was extremely stressful and all most all the five evenings were spent socializing, leaving me with very little “me” time! The little “me” time I had was spent in reading The Tin Drum or Dubliners, while great books, can hardly be called uplifting, cheery books. By the time Saturday night came, I was tired, sore and completely not interested in meeting anyone or doing anything! I wanted some comfort food (Pizza with all kinds of cheesy stuff! Yes! I know the health hazards, but it was a choice between physical health or sanity and I thought, sanity was kind of more important for the moment!) and some nonsensical book where I have to exercise my brain in very very limited capacity – so I read through two Georgette Heyer – The Grand Sophy and A Civil Contract and two Lisa Kleypas (Yes!! I was reading ‘romance’ novels – how shall I ever hold up my head again!!!)
But now more to the point, I have been wondering, if after all the fine reading, sometimes our minds want to play hooky and just tramp about aimlessly. But then to me reading is playing hookey or rather it is the only way of living and letting my mind wander….then why the high fields or the low fields? Why when I am reading some intense literature for a while, suddenly, I need something absolutely frivolous and nonsensical – I mean like last night, I was so exhausted, I did not even to go to my comfort books like Jane Austen, Agatha Christies or Harry Potters! I needed something completely that was a no brainer and while I LOVE Georgette Heyer, her irony and sense of fun is just brilliant; I can say very little about the Lisa Kleypas novels and even while I was reading them, I knew, there was absolutely nothing in them vis-à-vis intellectual nourishment and though I know many people enjoy her works and I cannot say they are bad (remember I devoured two of them in one go)…they are not me! Yet the only thing my mind could have processed last night were such novels!! Why do you think that happens? Do you have such “interesting” read days?