Authors We Love: James Agee

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Born on November 27th, 1909 and died on May 16, 1955 was this brilliant American poet, novelist, and writer for and about motion pictures. Written about in Encyclopedia Britannica, Agee grew up in Tennessee’s Cumberland Mountain area, went to Harvard University, and wrote for Fortune and Time after he graduated in 1932. Although his movie criticisms weren’t widely known, his humorous comments on movies still gained a lot of support from the audience instead of merely evaluating musicals and movies like an insider.

If you don’t know yet, his book A Death in the Family actually won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Now, I think this has a lot to do with his experience as a child, as this is an autobiographical novel. Not only the name “Rufus”, who was the main character in that particular novel but moreover it was James Agee’s middle name. His father, Hugh James Agee, like Jay Follet was killed in an auto accident when he was merely seven.

In addition, just when he was ten years old, his mother enrolled him in Saint Andrew’s boarding school. Remember something now? Yes, this is exactly the same setting as his other book The Morning Watch.

Although I haven’t read or watched all his other plays and featured stories, there is one thing I can tell: James Agee is a legendary author who utilizes his own family background and experience to produce outstanding stories and mold characters into the best shapes he can.

-Coreen C. 

The works of James Agee are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Resurrection

In A Tale of Two Cities, a historical novel which is written by Charles Dickens. Sydney Carton, one of the main character, achieved a form of resurrection by sacrificing himself. At the beginning of the novel, he used to be a drunken lawyer, lacking true care for others, but then Carton literally changes his characteristic. “I am the resurrection and the life says the Lord: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whoever lives and believeth in me, shall never die” (Carton 372). Sydney Carton goes through several levels of spiritual renewal. His Christian sacrifice allows Charles Darnay to survive and thrive.

This selfless act and his good deeds for the world saves Charles’s life. He has never done anything good for anyone in his life, including himself. He shows his great love for Lucie. Later on, they exchange successfully. The moment when Sydney Carton stayed in prison alone gives rise to the sense of empty and fearful. “The door closed, and Carton was left alone. Straining his powers of listening to the utmost, he listened for any sound that might denote suspicion or alarm” (Dickens 417).

Sydney Carton saves Charles Darnay from being convicted and executed in England, agrees to switch places with him in the Conciergerie. Heavily religious language surround these resurrections which compare Carton’s sacrifice of his own life for others’ sins to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. He proves the most vital character in the novel. He dies for love which fulfills the happiness for Lucie and achieves the value of his own life and spirit.

-Xiaoyu Z.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Recalled to Life

A Tale of Two Cities is a historical novel written by Charles Dickens. The story happened in England and France since 1775 which occurs during a period of social unrest and turbulence.

The forces that lead to the French revolution, clash with a group of people in England and lead to their fates irreversibly intertwined. The novel focuses on the resurrection through the setting of the French revolution. Thereinto, “Recalled to life” , the most significant part in each book, presents a prominent tale of resurrection. In A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens examines the theme of resurrection through the character of Dr. Alexandre Manette and the event of rescuing Charles Darnay.

Dickens elaborates resurrection with the character of Dr. Manette, who stayed in Bastille and suffered the mental pressure for 18 years. In Chapter 2 Book 1 of A Tale of Two Cities, Mr. Lorry gives a message to Jerry which Jerry will transfer to his bank. “Jarvis Lorry states, Jerry, say that my answer was, ‘RECALLED TO LIFE’”(Dickens 14). Jerry Cruncher, the messenger, gets confused about this blazing strange answer. Jarvis Lorry’s answer reveals a surprising piece of information regarding Dr. Manette. In fact, Dr. Manette reappears in public which nobody knows whether he lived or died in the past because of such a long time. His eighteen-year imprisonment has constituted a sorts of death which makes “Recalled to life” indicates that Mr. Lorry brings him back to life from the “death”.

-Xiaoyu Z.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. 

1984 in 2019

I read the book 1984 a while ago at school and wrote a research paper. Thought I could share some of it.

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The concept of war is fascinating in itself. Does it cease to be dangerous when it is never-ending? George Orwell seems to think so, as the author of 1984, a book illustrating a dystopian, totalitarian world. In this society, a perpetual war creates infinite tension in its people. This technique is used to keep them satisfied and ignorant of the government’s true intentions. Orwell’s uncanny ability to predict the future in his book set in 1984 is extremely applicable to the constant state of war the United States seems to be in.

Is perpetual war actually applicable to 2019? The best answer comes from a report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “If one counts the Cold War, the United States has been at war for virtually every year since 1941”. Because there are no direct benefits of perpetual warfare, this fact alone is shocking that we have been fighting wars for almost 80 years in a row.

The only reason it is valued by the government is that it can control the mindset of the masses, like those living in the totalitarian society of 1984. They believed “the essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labor. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent”. The government in this novel use the technique of continuous “battle” to control the resources available to common people, making their lives more difficult, and in turn, creating a nation constantly living in fear. In the world of 1984, war is more of an internal struggle, no longer battles of epic proportions.

It’s obvious that the Iraq/Syria and Afghan Wars, for example, are completely irrelevant to our goals as a nation. Not only is the United States constantly fighting others and draining its livelihood, but there are also real people behind the casualties of war that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Audiobooks for Shakespeare

My AP Literature class just started reading Hamlet by Shakespeare and I have come to realize how audio books can help. Like all Shakespeare plays, Hamlet’s language is difficult to read at best and sometimes people cannot understand what is going on in the story. My class read the first scene in school and my teacher played the audiobook while we read. This made it much easier to understand.

Not only are you able to grasp the tone of the situation as performed by the readers on the audio book, but voice inflection and use of the complex, old words allows for an enjoyable read. I went home and downloaded the audio book off of Amazon so that I could listen and read at the same time for homework, and it truly makes a difference.

The audio book downloads right to your phone as well so you can take it with you wherever you go. I use the Archangel audio book if anyone would like to know. I have never used an audiobook before, however I can say for sure that I understand Hamlet, and actually enjoy it as well now.

-Kyle H.

Want Shakespeare on audio? Downloadable titles are available on Overdrive and Hoopla.

Gee, Caesar, What Should We Do About the Barbarians?

The love-hate relationship (one-sided) between Rome and the Germanic “barbarians” is very complicated yet very interesting. There are so many stories about Rome’s ransack of Germanic homelands and the heroic uprisings from the barbarians who almost took over the hub of the Roman Empire. Nonetheless, while the Germanic people wreak havoc in the city, surviving Romans gathered at the hill and was able to protect themselves with cunning deceits and its disciplined military, thus originated the meme — “when you bribe a barbarian tribe you bribe to get rid of a barbarian tribe you bribe to get rid of a barbarian tribe you bribe…(you know that this is going to go on f.o.r.e.v.e.r….or…maybe not)”. And this is how the Romans annexed the barbarian lands into their own provinces.

Over the time period 753 BCE to 476 CE, Rome’s relationships with foreign peoples reversed chronologically from a dominant power an unstable and declining empire. Rome’s change in power is directly relevant to its political shifts, which closely resembles that of a roller coaster — first it went upward. The escalation towards the peaks precedes the rapid downward gradient until it crashes to the ground. The early conquering of Germanic states was gory and violent, it laid foundation of enmity in the hearts of the barbarians. It raises up from the rules of the seven kings to a republic, around 500 BCE as Rome’s early expansion.

Then in 27 BCE, the establishment of the Roman Empire made way for a golden era of peace and prosperity, and that is when the roller coaster reached its peak. Rome’s superior power has become insuppressible, and the Roman Empire has had enough of bloodshed as well as warfare. As a turning point, Rome changed their approach to its conquered peoples, granting them Roman citizenships instead of treating them as war slave. In return, the subordinate provinces were willing to fight for Rome and acknowledged the Empire’s dominance and superiority (whether forcibly or voluntarily). Nevertheless, they fear Rome.

However, Rome entered its downfall in 5th century CE. The riders and citizens of Rome alike are screaming with shock and agitation against this quick turn of events. Along the downward slope, emperors came and died and was replaced by another, whether they were barbarians or natives, they could not survive the curse of the Third Century Crisis.

But who knew that a even greater danger was coming towards Rome amidst of this chaotic era?

The entrance of Attila the HUN, famous for his nosebleed, changed the relationship between the century-old nemeses. When previously, the two groups fought each other with contempt for their ill-treatments to each other “vanished” under Attila’s banners. The once glorious Roman Empire “bowed down” to the Germanic people and “humbly” asked for alliances to defeat the horrifying monster-from-the-east.  The Visigoths consented to Emperor Valentinian’s wish. The consent signified the decline of Rome’s military power, as it was insufficient to defend itself from the Huns.

Funny thing is, Emperor Valentinian’s sister Honoria once wrote a letter to Attila for help, as she expressed her love for Attila and her desire to escape from Rome. In return, she would give half of western Europe as her dowry. This scheme was uncovered by Emperor Valentinian, but it showed that Rome was not a unified state any longer, its internal instability helped the to ensure its faltering authority.

Eventually, Rome was sacked by the Visigoths few years after their “alliance”. The once omnipotent empire collapsed at the hand of its Germanic enemies.

-Kate L.

A Bike Ride

I finally felt stable in my life; the first time in years, there weren’t different screams from different feelings yelling at each other and fighting over who would win, it was as the screams settled down, but now there was nothing, nothing shouting, nothing screaming, no fights from the different Inside Out characters, it was as a giant black hole pulled them inside its body. The black hole seemed to get bigger and bigger by the second absorbing all the thoughts I cherished and sucking them up until I couldn’t go back to them and all that remained was emptiness in my dull mind. The only thought remaining in my poisoned mind was: “Would I rather have different feelings fight over, causing me to feel too strong, or have no war and only have emptiness float through my mind?”. It’s like riding a bike through a flower field, until it begins to rain and the tires get caught in the mud and so then you fall, while your bike breaks.

When it would stop pouring, I would pick up my bike and try again, with a broken leg and a flat tire, but as soon I would do this, the clouds would flush down its water, as it were laughing at my failure. I would keep trying and trying, until everything in my body was snapped in half, and all that remaining was the bell on my bike. On the other fields, I would see kids riding the same bike, except none of them had rain being poured down and they kept peddling, until their bellies ached from laughing too hard, when would I have that? My belly would only ache from falling on it too much.

I soon realized that I couldn’t go further and would die from the aches and pain. At least my skull would be buried with the sunflowers I never had.

-Kimi M.