Authors We Love: Herman Melville

Herman Melville - Wikipedia

Herman Melville (1819-1891) was one of the greatest American novelists, essayists, and poets of the 19th century, along with Nathaniel Hawthorne. Melville, who received little attention during his lifetime, rose to prominence in the 1920s and is generally regarded as one of the highest figures in American literature. Maugham considered his Moby Dick to be one of the world’s top ten literary masterpieces, ranking higher than Mark Twain and others in its literary history. Melville is also known as the “Shakespeare” of America.

In “Bartleby, the Scrivener”, Melville, through the interpretation of Bartleby’s silent struggle, powerfully responds to the over-optimistic transcendentalist worldview and expresses his own different views. Transcendentalists believe that “god is merciful, and nature is an incarnation and symbol of god, as well as the embodiment of god’s mercy; The soul of man is divine, so man’s nature is good, and he is one with nature.” And for Melville, nothing is absolutely good or absolutely evil. Emerson’s transcendental optimism does not really help the development of individuals in a vast society. The power of individuals is small, unable to fight against the society. Emerson is only describing to us an ideal state of human life, which can never be reached, but a castle in the air, which is desirable but unattainable.

In addition, Melville was deeply influenced by biblical stories. Not only did many of the characters in Moby Dick take their names from the bible, but he was also influenced by the simple ecological views of the bible. In the bible, although nature is god’s tool to punish human beings, human beings have to overcome the harsh natural environment in order to survive outside the garden of Eden, but this does not mean that human beings have to conquer and transform nature in order to survive. In fact, the bible calls for careful control of nature, not unbridled conquest. In addition to giving man the right to rule the earth, god demands that man must protect and nurture nature which espouses most of Melville’s thinking and shaping of plot lines.

The works of Herman Melville are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky: 9780451531520 | PenguinRandomHouse.com:  Books

Like most of Dostoyevsky’s novels, “The Idiot” has a tragic ending, but that doesn’t make “The Idiot” a work of pessimism. The tragic ending of the protagonists reflects the author’s pain caused by the yearning for a better future. The positive ideal put forward by Dostoevsky has been bankrupted, but the ardent yearning for the good ideal is forever shining with the radiance of humanism. The novel gives a broad description of the Russian upper class after the reform of serfdom, involving complex psychological and moral issues. The good, tolerant Prince Myshkin is powerless to influence or benefit those around him, a Quixotic figure whose futile efforts show the disillusionment of the author’s attempt to save the world through faith and love.

“The Idiot” develops themes of indignity and victimization. The strong rebelliousness of the heroine Nastasya Filippovna and the kindness and purity of the positive character Prince Myshkin give the novel a bright tone. But some nihilistic images used to attack revolutionaries have weakened the novel’s revealing power. The development of bourgeois social relations and the disintegration of old social relations are observed and expressed from the perspective of moral psychology. The plot of the novel takes the emotional entanglement of the hero Prince Myshkin, Nastasya Filippovna and Aglaya Yepanchina as the second main line of humanitarianism about kindness and love.

Although he was clearly called an idiot by many people around him at that time, people close to him showed to him that in the social environment at that time, people were ashamed to show their love and supreme trust and their sincere yearning for truth, goodness and beauty under the cover of false and vain appearance. The main idea of a novel is to portray an absolutely beautiful character, and there is nothing more difficult than that, especially now. All writers, not only In Russia, but all over Europe, feel powerless if they wish to depict absolute beauty. Because it’s an incredibly difficult task. Beauty is the ideal, and the ideal, whether for us or for civilized Europe, is far from being formed. There is only one absolutely wonderful person in the world – Christ. Therefore, the appearance of this incomparable and infinitely beautiful figure is certainly a permanent miracle. That’s what the Gospel of John means. He sees miracles as mere manifestations of beauty. The author modeled Prince Myshkin according to the image of Christ in his mind. He was the spokesman of Christ and the embodiment of moral beauty. As an image of pure moral beauty, Prince Myshkin embodies all the virtues of Christ — love, humility, obedience, patience, open-mindedness, selflessness, repaying good for evil, faith, keeping the suffering of mankind in one’s own heart, always ready to sacrifice for others. In Prince Myshkin, morality is religiously incarnated, that is to say, morality finds its home in faith in Christ.

The implementation of morality is guaranteed by religious belief and its system. The life brought about by the moral efforts of the inner self is also the sublimation of the soul brought about by salvation. Only the moral binding force of religion can bring people from vulgarity to sanctity, from humble to sublime. Therefore, “The Idiot” reveals that moral belief and sanctification are the only way to play the role and function of society, and the moral destination is religious faith, the Russian Orthodox Christ. The so-called “beauty” refers to the personality and moral beauty embodied in Christ, and the spirit of Christ’s beauty is the only power to save the world from suffering. Christ is the ideal entity of moral perfection, and man’s redemption in this world is Christ who is the symbol of moral perfection after the baptism of suffering, the purification of love, the removal of evil from good. In fact, the religious belief in “The Idiot” is rooted in moral necessity. Thus, on the surface, the work is a loud call for the return of religious belief and a repeated argument for the existence of God, while the real concern is that without the shadow of religious belief, morality will become homeless. If there is no God, everyone can do as he pleases. Therefore, God is needed to restrain people to realize the perfection of people and the ideal harmony of society.

At the same time, for individuals in the real society, the practice of morality should be reflected as a kind of behavior of consciously obeying the teachings and strictly complying with the moral laws of religion in the world. The core of Christ’s beauty is love, and love is the eternal content of moral law. A man should be an enhancement of Christ’s virtue. The moral concept of “The Idiot” reflects a moral ideal, which in real life is more reflected as a man-made act of peace, and becomes the state of personal cultivation and pursuit to achieve. In this state, it is assumed that being is realized in love and that the development of being is accomplished in love. Love first, regardless of logic, only then can you grasp the meaning of life. If you love life, half the battle is yours. In a society where everyone loves each other, the world is becoming more and more beautiful, and all human beings are marching towards messiah and universal harmony. This is the beauty of Prince Myshkin to save the world, and this is the heaven on earth that Prince Myshkin wants to create. “The Idiot” ends with Parfyon Semyonovich Rogozhin killing Nastasya Filippovna, thus pushing human sin to an extreme. This destructive act means salvation for both Parfyon Semyonovich Rogozhin and Nastasya Filippovna. The scene of Nastasya Filippovna’s death was somewhat similar to the crucifixion of Christ in Golgotha; her body bore a striking resemblance to the image of the dead Christ hanging in Luo’s room. Nastasya Filippovna takes her name from the Greek word Anastasius, meaning resurrection, and receives death with equanimity, exactly like Christ. To her soul, death meant resurrection. She sacrificed her life to atone for her sins and overcome her spiritual death. In addition, Parfyon Semyonovich Rogozhin’s name is most likely borrowed from Moscow Rogozhkoe cemetery where he is on the verge of death, signifying the possibility of a new life.

-Coreen C.

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips

Sometimes judging a book by its cover is an incredible thing. For instance, take a look at Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips: an orange background adorned by a marble Adonis in purple boxers.

I mean, how can you not want to read that book?

While it’s definitely R-rated in some scenes, this novel is a more crass Percy Jackson. I remember desperately trying to throw myself back into Riordan’s series in middle school, only to be entirely bored. I’m pretty sure my heart fully stopped during The Battle of the Labyrinth.

But it was no fault of the books! They had stayed the same, and I had merely grown out of them. I needed my fix of mythology from somewhere else.

Marie Phillips manages to recapture the magic of Greek gods and goddesses living in the modern world. London, England, Modern World, as a matter of fact. Crammed in a tiny house, a handful of minor deities work in satirical jobs amongst mortals, have startling amounts of sex, and are generally terrible to one another.

They rally against the loss of their power, feeling lost as the world slowly forgets about them.

This book is very British, in addition to being extremely funny. It is one which can jump-start a fading love for reading. I would recommend it to anyone who doesn’t have too delicate of sensibilities, and is looking for a quick romp through the lives of Olympians.

-Zoe K., Grade 11

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Webtoon Review: For the Sake of Sita by Haga

A short but heartwarming tale of a medical student who falls love with a fallen goddess in Nepal.

He meets Sita in a sidestreet alleyway where she sells herself to earn enough money to survive day to day. He quickly falls in love and marries Sita. He returns with her to his home, but she unfortunately dies within a year. Desperate, he asks the gods to save Sita. A goddess answers him and asks him what will he give in exchange. He agrees to anything and for an unknown price is give the chance to save Sita, but in a unexpected way.

This story is based of the tradition of Kumari in Nepal.

In a sense, it could be called the story of a real love. It is hard to say much without giving away the whole story. It is short, which is a plus as it length allowed for just enough development that it was complete and satisfying without loose ends. The characters are rounded and can make you laugh and cry. The artwork is simply fantastic. It pays homage to the beautiful art and colors of the Nepalese society. I am not a huge fan of pure romance stories, but this is one of the few which I would recommend. Of course this is only my opinion, try reading it for yourself and decide.

This webtoon is licensed by Line Webtoon and is free to read online.

-Sarah J., 11th Grade

Kamisama Hajimemashita (Kamisama Kiss) by Julietta Suzuki

kamisama_jsuzuki

Cinderella got her stroke of luck by meeting her fairy godmother and loosing her glass slipper. Mulan got her stroke of luck by (in the movie) taking the place of her father. Monozami Nanami got her stroke of luck by getting homeless and chasing a dog away from a god.

After a little while, she doesn’t seem to think she’s lucky. Although she did get a house after her home was confiscated because her good for nothing father didn’t pay the bills, she did get the new place from a creepy man who’s scared of dogs and hasn’t been home for twenty years. Worse yet, he made her the new land god by kissing her forehead, and with that job comes a whole lot of responsibility, chores, and a handsome kitsune (fox yokai) familiar, Tomoe. Tomoe hates Nanami’s guts because she’s human and not spiritually strong enough to do a proper talisman. Add a tengu teenage idol, a swamp koi yokai who’s in love with a human, and an evil yokai running around, and this wacky manga adventure will keep you laughing.

This manga has over 130 chapters, and continuing. Although it is a comedy, it is steeped in Japanese yokai folklore, weaving kitsune, kappa, and tanuki into the plot. There is also some famous Japanese gods, such as the god of Yomi, Azanami. Additionally, this is a heartfelt romance, with relationships such as Nanami falling for Tomoe and others. Most importantly, this is a manga where the plot will keep you wondering what would happen next.

This is a must read if one wants a girly manga with romance, adventure, and comedy.

-Megan V., 10th grade