Finnegans Wake by James Joyce

Finnegans Wake by James Joyce

According to Greek mythology, Athens paid Crete seven virgins every nine years. The children were put into the Minos maze and, no matter how they walked, they died of thirst or were eaten by Minotaur, the monster of the labyrinth. Joyce associated this myth with Finnegans Wake. Finnegans Wake is a maze like the Minos Maze. Joyce created the maze with his own rules, a game he played his own way, in which he no longer had to obey other people’s rules, nor care about their recognition or participation. Just as the fate of children lurks in the Minos labyrinth, so the Finnega’s Wake contains a prediction of the fate of mankind that others may not understand, but will happen as predicted. From this perspective, Finnegans Wake is both a Minos labyrinth and an Eden created by Joyce himself, and also a prophecy about the fate of mankind.

In fact, In Joyce’s mind, Finnegans Wake was a work on a level with the Bible and other human sacred texts that readers must read with awe and shame. Finnegans Wake talks about a letter that the hen is constantly digging. The hen searched all the winding world for a very large piece of writing paper just as the clock struck twelve. The sentence, if read in Joyce’s way of making puns, could also be interpreted as the hen searching through all the complicated polysemous words at the stroke of twelve, looking for a piece of writing paper as big as God. Joyce also makes repeated references to the 6th or 9th century Irish holy book, The Great Book of Gaelic, and the hen digs the letter in Finnegans Wake is a stylistic parody of The Great Book of Gaelic. Historically, The Great Book of Gaelic had been buried like the letter dug up by the hen to protect it from the invading Danes, and centuries later it had been excavated and worn like a letter.

The letter, The Great Book of Gaelic, and Finnegans Wake are the same thing in Joyce’s mind, and if the hen is looking for the letter in a winding world, the reader is looking for clues to the Wake in Joyce’s labyrinth of complex and polysemous words. If the ragged book of The Great Book of Gaelic requires the reverence and patience of posterity, Finnegans Wake demands that its readers devote their lives to a book written, albeit by a contemporary writer. Most notably, Joyce actually regarded his Finnegans Wake as the same holy book as The Great Book of Gaelic. It’s as sacred and profound as The Great Book of Gaelic, and the process of reading it is the same as the process of interpreting The Great Book of Gaelic, the process of interpreting scripture. In this way the reader can understand why Joyce employs such obscure language in Finnegans Wake: Finnegans Wake is Joyce’s use of enigmatic language and content to reveal the mysteries of human destiny like The Great Book of Gaelic.

The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens

The Old Curiosity Shop (Penguin Classics): Dickens, Charles, Page, Norman:  9780140437423: Amazon.com: Books

The Old Curiosity Shop (1841) describes the tragic fate of the collapse of bourgeois in capitalist society. An old man with whom the author has deep sympathy runs an antique shop in a small alley in London. He had to fight against fate to get rich gambling, only to lose the antique shop to the loan shark instead. He and his little granddaughter Nell were ejected from the store. Two people later drifters to the remote countryside and died in the suffering. The kind-hearted little Nell and her grandfather lived together in an old antique shop, a place as magical as a fairy-tale cave. But little Nell did not know that her grandfather, who loved her dearly, hid a secret from her.

There was a crisis lurking in their seemingly uneventful lives — to make a living, and to leave little Nell a legacy that would enable her to live happily ever after. Desperate to get rich, he secretly gambled and borrowed money from the usurious upstart Daniel Quilp. Little did Grandfather think that they had fallen into the clutches of Quilp. Quilp tried to take over the old antique shop and the beautiful Nell. Nell’s sinister cousin, Freddy, had long coveted the business. He teamed up with his friend Dick Swiveller in an attempt to get Dick to marry little Nell, and then they could divide her inheritance between them, but grandfather found out.

Later, Daniel Quilp and his lawyer collect from turent, the old antique shop owner, an insatiable vampire who not only uses usury to take away all the old antique shop’s property, but also wants to take possession of beautiful Nell. Later, Quilp and his lawyer came to collect money from Grandfather, the owner of the old antique shop. The insatiable vampire not only used the usury to take away all the property of the old antique shop, but also wanted to take possession of the beautiful Nell. For the sake of his grand-daughter’s happiness, the old grandfather had to give up his old shop, which he had run for so many years, and take Nell with him to flee from home.

The two were forced to flee London and live a vagrant life of begging. On their way to escape, the two meet a variety of people, some good, some evil intentions, but Quilp has never stopped tracking them. In desperation, a good priest took them in and took them to his orphanage. But here, unfortunately, little Nell became very ill. In the end, the little Nell, who was physically and mentally injured and mentally exhausted, passed away.

Of Human Bondage by William Somerset Maugham

Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham: Very Good Hardcover (1942) |  Randall's Books

“Of Human Bondage” aims to show the reader that once one is born, one has to go through all kinds of hardships — especially in youth — and is bound by all kinds of constraints of life, such as family, religion, school, society, love (including sex), money and so on. The novel shows the dark side of a terrifying real world. All kinds of characters in the picture, driven by the god of fate, drift in the endless dark abyss. The tone of the novel is low and the conclusion is that life has no meaning and death has no significance. Nevertheless, “Of Human Bondage” is positive in its objective effect, for Philip’s personal experience has a considerable degree of social typification.

At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, western capitalist society fell into a comprehensive crisis in politics, economy, culture and other aspects; market depression, social unrest and war are all at hand. Traditional religion, morality, culture and philosophy are showing the tendency of disintegration. In Britain, the false optimism of the Victorian era is long gone, and this novel presents a bleak picture of the real world full of horror. It is a scene in which many characters drift in the endless dark abyss, at the mercy of the gods of fate, neither knowing why nor whither they are to be cast.

The difference between Philip and these characters was that he still wanted to fight against fate, that he tried to throw off his chains. Here, in addition to the shackles he fought against, he also represented a large number of young people who were unwilling to go along with the tide and unable to join in the social reform movement. Although the result of his struggle is only a personal enlightenment, the enlightenment itself is also an indictment and a denial of the society, or at least an expression of a yearning for real humanity and a perfect life. In this sense, “Of Human Bondage” is not only realistic, but also makes a profound criticism of society and life from a special angle.

Philip Galli was a thoughtful, personable young man, crippled by congenital disabilities, solitary, sensitive, and obstinate. His parents died and he spent his childhood in a cold and strange environment. After going to boarding school, he was blighted by an unreasonable educational system. But when he stepped into the society, he was brutally beaten in love. The rough road of his life was full of thorns, and every step he took was tormented by pain and left a wound in his body and heart that could not be healed. All the sufferings in the world are caused by this broken-hearted society. In the novel, the protagonist Philip finally realized the truth of life, in fact, is the author’s own view of life and society after the conclusion: life is meaningless, and can not be changed into another.

It is obvious that this is why Maugham chose “Of Human Bondage” as the title of his novel. Artistically, “Of Human Bondage” fully embodies Maugham’s writing style. First of all, there is a very moving story in the novel. Although the protagonist’s experience has many twists and turns, it is written in a concentrated way without too many clues. Secondly, there is no abstract psychological description in the novel, but all descriptions are very specific. The motivations of the characters are expressed through specific behaviors, thus having a strong sensory effect. Finally, the novel’s style is lucid and unpretentious. The language of his novels aims at fluency, clarity, conciseness and harmony, so he uses colloquial language in both narrative and dialogue, which is refreshing and pleasing to the eye.

Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson

This book was one I randomly picked up mainly because the cover art was interesting and seemingly had nothing to do with the synopsis. (I later discovered that the tent on the cover was intricately woven into the plot, which took me by surprise.) The story line intertwines the lives of three girls from three time eras: Adri from 2065, Catherine from 1934 and Lenore from 1919.

2065: Futuristic Adri is prepping to take a one-way trip to Mars in hopes of finding a feasible way for human life to prosper there. As she trains for her flight, she stays in Kansas at her distant cousin’s house. Here, she finds a journal and letters of a girl that lived there over one hundred years ago, thus leading to a puzzle of the past that Adri is determined to solve.

1934: Living in Kansas during the treacherous Dust Bowl, fear and unpredictability of the future sinks its claws into Catherine’s family and lover. She must overcome all odds and find the strength to do what she deems right to save the person she loves the most. Even if it means running in the opposite direction of everyone’s advice and never looking back.

1919: Lenore struggles to recover from the impact of World War I and the loss of her brother by keeping her chin up and sending letters to her best friend. She decides to move to America in hopes of finding a better, happier life but obstacles make her journey nothing less than arduous.

I thought there was no possible way these three girls could have anything in common, especially if they’re all from drastically different time periods. However, Jodi Lynn Anderson found a clever way to link them all together, while highlighting the balance between family and friends, fate and adventure. All the pieces clicked into place seamlessly and made for a beautiful plot.

Midnight at the Electric was one of those books I couldn’t stop reading and once I finished, I had to take a minute to gather myself before continuing on with life. I definitely recommend this book to those who want something mysteriously intriguing but also touching and easy-to-read!

-Jessica T.

The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

startouchedqueen_roshanichokshiBeautifully illustrated from the first line, Chokshi’s fantastical The Star Touched Queen shows the path an Indian queen who finds her way to the light.  Through thick and thin, obstacles and triumphs, Mayavati searches from hiding behind her own shadows to grasping the stars that lay above her.  My favorite part of the novel was the writing style, especially the amazing imagery used when describing the young queen’s journey.  Mayavati, a very dynamic character, grew along with the words throughout the tale.  At the start, when her story was a routine of palace life and a shameful astrology, the vocabulary chosen was more ominous.  However, there was always a light, a small hope, which rose and fell as Maya (for short) ventured through the times.  And, upon reaching the final few chapters, the writing climaxed to a breath of new life.

At the same time the queen was a strong, ferocious, and gallant leader, she was still the vulnerable seventeen-year-old introduced at the start of the novel.  This clashing of alternate personalities describes teenagers very well.  So, it always brought me back to the song “Vincent” by Don McLean.  The piece, emotional and ballad-like, tells the story of Vincent Van Gogh.  The first line, “Starry, starry night” is a reference to one of his most famous paintings.  But, it also ties in well with Mayavati’s destiny.  The two are both artists:  one, an illustrator of life and the other, a storyteller.

I can usually sense when a book is an author’s first publication.  However, in Chokshi’s case, the novel was very well written, and she was able to truly capture the life of the characters.  In addition, I have no doubt her second book, released in March of this year, will be no different.  It will be in the same universe, but delving more into characters briefly introduced in The Star Touched Queen.  This first book; however, was one of those novels which olds a special place and one I will definitely read again.  So, if you are intrigued, check it out!

-Maya S.

The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library