Commence, Russian Literature Addiction!

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Nothing cheers me up than receiving a book on an ordinary day!

Especially if it’s a Fyodor Dostoyevsky novel. 🙂

Truth to be told, I’ve been looking for this novel for years, as my Fiction teacher recommended this one to us. I couldn’t find a copy in the college library back then.  Looking for Raskolnikov, that young and intellectual man, was never easy.

But I knew I always have that knack to get the things I want even if it’d take years, and this is just one of those days.

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Some Thoughts on the Essay Genre

The word essay comes from the French word meaning, “to try”.  In all instances, the genre is an attempt to write about any subject matter – relevant or mundane though maybe on the outset – in the hope to capture an interesting thought, experience and insight from it.  Compared to other genres in literature, essay is the least explored and may be considered to be the least popular, but the scope of this genre is huge, ranging from the formal, clear-cut essays popularized by Montaigne, Addison and Steele and Emerson to the informal loosely-constructed ones popularized by Scott Russell Sanders, George Orwell, EB White and other contemporary writers these days.

The history of the essay goes back to the works of Continue reading

Your Next Read, According to Me!

Last week, I received a request (via comment box, yes) asking me to list down some of my personal book recommendations  that I think everyone should read.  I haven’t been much into reading lately since I’m still oscillating between the demands of grad school and the large pile of work that needs to be done in time.   Right now, I’m currently reading Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Notes From Underground – a very difficult novel, something that requires a higher sensibility, of which I cannot fully give this time around.  So my reading pace lately is slow and halting, but only because I want to experience what Dostoyevsky probably wanted me to experience as well – to eclipse into “the underground” and to look into myself, in a very existentialist manner.  A little bit scary, but most of the time enlightening.

Truth to be told, I have so much books to recommend! But I’ll try to limit the list to a three, a list that constitutes some of my personal favorites.  Of course, I threw in some of the reasons why.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy 

Even William Faulkner said this novel was the best book ever written ever.  If I have to think about my most favorite novel then I wouldn’t have any second thought of choosing this one.  You probably have read hundreds of reviews about this novel but what I like best about it is that it is both an “external and internal narrative”.  A lot of people find this book too difficult to read.  Much of this “inaccessibility” is because the prose requires a lot of thinking while reading it.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Lately, I’m too engrossed with the sixties culture and I was recently introduced to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.  I’ve never read a prose anything like this one – it’s erratic and very beat; it’s the rhythm of everyday life pulsating through you.  Which is a good thing by the way.  I found it hard to get through the book on the outset; I wasn’t used to this kind of prose style as I spent much of my time reading the sophisticated and refined prose styles of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Richard Yates, Vladimir Nabokov, etc.  Kerouac’s prose was something new for me but once I got the hang of it, it was liberating.  He was a prolific speed freak in his words but on an everyday basis, aren’t we all?

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

This is not your average romance novel although the subject is very much cliched in both in literature and film:  a marriage gone sour.  But Richard Yates has a different approach to presenting this subject and this is why I consider his Revolutionary Road the quintessential marriage novel.  Yates is very subtle when it comes to dealing with emotions.  This is not an ordinary, murky romance novel – this is life.

Literature and Photography

If there is such thing as imaginative “writing” in literature, then perhaps there is also such thing as imaginative “seeing” in photography.   Only with this, we would be able to develop a good “eye” for things and study the familiar and the ordinary thing around us, and later on ponder on what these ordinary things reveal to us.

Yet both fields of photography and literature still require the ability to “see” – as if each sight before the writer’s or photographer’s eyes is a different world all through out.  With these, one can enter in a world different from the everyday, and from these, one can increase his or her own understanding of actual experiences.  Photography and literature reveal and/or create emotional truths about our naked selves.

I agree with Eudora Welty when she said that both the writer and the photographer must learn about “accuracy of the eye, about observation and about sympathy towards what is in front of you.”  With this statement, she has asserted that literature and photography have similarities with each other because of those three components.

In literature, we are taught that imagery plays a very important role in creative writing.  In fact, the poet Ezra Pound exemplified much on imagery more than anything else.  Most of the writers believe in the cliché that a picture contains a thousand words, and in special cases, one doesn’t have to tell his feelings or emotions through words, he or she could express them through visual arts especially in photography.

In literature, one must be very accurate in presenting the details in his or her literary piece.  Take for example, in creative nonfiction, a writer must choose carefully the most important details to include in his or her story, otherwise, the story would be ‘fed-up’ and boring because of two many broad details.  The ability to recollect important memories and present them in a creative way would make up an excellent literary piece.

This idea is exemplified in the story “The Little Store”. In the story, the writer Eudora Welty recounted her own experiences through presenting imagistic reminiscences when she was a child.  Because these things that she had done were memorable to her, they were presented in a very specific detailed manner.  Such words like “blackberry lady” and “watermelon man” were few descriptive examples.  but the most interesting imagistic example would be her description about the Little Store: “Licorice recently sucked in a child’s cheek, dill pickle brine that had leaked through paper sack in a fresh trail across the wooden floor, ammonia-loaded ice that had been hoisted from wet croker sacks and slammed into the icebox with its sweet butter at the door, and perhaps the smell of still untrapped mice.”  This example creates a powerful dramatic effect because it appeals to the senses.

On the other hand, photography requires the same components as literature.  One should be visually articulate on choosing the specific details of a certain matter or object best to be captured.  Anything in this world is easy to capture by the camera, but only few things in this world has the ability to make the viewers pause for a moment and ponder the elements of the story behind the photographs.  The pleasure one can find in photography is the pleasure from the idea that photography could evoke feelings to the viewers.  It is the pleasure that a certain photo elicits a certain response of emotion.

In photography certain aspects needs to be considered.  One must take into account the elements of a good photograph like size, space, texture, color, angle, and light and identify them.  Even though these elements sound technical, they should not be taken lightly because each of them constitutes a kind of language or emotion that is very crucial to photography.

A good photograph is that which we see the words circling around it.

Both literature and photography, as what Eudora Welty said, capture the (1) accuracy of the eye; (2) observation and (3) sympathy towards what is in front of you.  Accuracy of the eye is best presented in the author’s accurate and precise choice of specific details – “the particular”, rather than “the universal”. The ability of the author to discern what is only relevant in a particular idea for a story is a good test of his or her aesthetic sensibility.  In photography, this quality is exemplified if the photographer sees an object, and isolates it in a very sharp focus as if it is one unified object capable of drawing out emotions to the people who sees it.

In literature, developing a good story starts with observation of particular thing, action, image or object in nature that may embody universal qualities.  That is why most of the contemporary writers put their ideas and metaphors in concrete specific objects.  Developing a good image in photography on the other hand, starts with simple observation of seeing ordinary things around you and “seeing” them in a different light.  Photographers must see into considerations that the images should provoke people to respond into them readily.  A good photographer should observe how shape, light, color and texture convey different moods that elicit ideas into the viewers’ part.  It is also important to have technical expertise and a seemingly natural flair for good things best to be captured.

One should also “see” the object with sympathy – that is, regard it with a particular significant aesthetic value.  This goes both for literature and photography.

 

With the advent of new technology, one can already used digital cameras and avail specific electronic features from it.  Still, a good photographer shouldn’t just rely on the advancement of his tools, but he should also possess that outstanding creativity to make pictures great and to choose a creative subject matter for photography. Like photography, literature doesn’t rely much on the general view of the world, but it depends on the writer’s keen sense for particular details that would render his or her work powerful and inspiring.

Dr. Faustus

 

“If we say that we have no sin
We deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us.
–Faustus to himself, Dr. Faustus

 

 

No one can deny Dr. Faustus remains to be one of Christopher Marlowe’s famous plays. Personally, I think the play The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus is far better than any plays of Shakespeare and can be equated with the standards of Oedipus Rex by Sophocles.

The story is about Dr. Faustus, a famous scholar in Wittenberg, whose obsession was to know more, and whose passion geared towards studying necromancy, or conjuration of the spirits of the dead. While he was still in his study, the good angel and the bad angel went to him. The good angel persuaded him to stop his ambition to become a necromancy practitioner and fear God, while the bad angel persuaded him that by studying necromancy he could be rich and powerful above all. Things got really dark when Faustus told Mephistopheles that he was ready to surrender his soul to his master Lucifer in exchange of luxurious life and power for 24 years. And so, Faustus made a pact with Lucifer, and for 24 years he traveled the world with evil in his mind. Some of these were drugging the Pope’s ministers with a sleeping potion, convincing the Pope to condemn a man named Bruno, performing annoying tricks to some people, and most of all, condemning the existence of God.

After 24 years, Lucifer and Mephistopheles were now ready to take Faustus’s soul. Although throughout the play he was bothered with repentance and fear of damnation, it was in the end that he finally realized the folly of his actions. But it was already too late for him.

What’s good about Dr. Faustus is that Marlowe incorporated the conflict of the good and evil in the form of good angel and bad angel, and this conflict became Faustus’s internal struggle. But due to his insatiable desires and thirst for more knowledge and supreme power, Faustus is bound to be damned. The readers would feel his moments of contrition, but since he always ended up choosing evil in the end, then we also feel that he should be doomed. He was too driven with greed and ambition.