Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde is a well-crafted story of extreme beauty and even more extreme hedonism. It is also a story filled with psychological analysis, both of Lord Henry analyzing Dorian and of the reader analyzing all the characters and the story in general. Art is a key theme in the book, and the artist and his subject also play important roles in showcasing the beauty of youth, as well as beauty in general. A passage from the book that I believe epitomizes the entire story and its feel is the conversation backstage between Dorian Gray and Sibyl Vane after her first listless performance. She is an exquisitely talented and lovely actress whose skill upon the stage leads Dorian to fall in love with her. He goes to see her every night and marvels at her ability to play multiple characters so beautifully. However, one fateful night, she acts without feeling or emotion, and confused, Dorian goes backstage to discover why. She says that she did it because her work and subsequent “loves” on the stage pale in comparison to the actual love that she has for Dorian. This infuriates him and thoroughly disappoints his image of her as an actress.
She says: “Don’t be cruel to me, because I love you better than anything in the world. After all, it is only once that I have not pleased you. But you are quite right, Dorian. I should have shown myself more of an artist. It was foolish of me; and yet I couldn’t help it. Oh, don’t leave me, don’t leave me!” A fit of passionate sobbing choked her. She crouched on the floor like a wounded thing, and Dorian Gray, with his beautiful eyes, looked down at her, and his chiseled lips curled in exquisite disdain. There is always something ridiculous about the emotion of people whom one has ceased to love. Sibyl Vane seemed to him to be absurdly melodramatic. Her tears and sobs annoyed him.
This passage is an excellent example of good storytelling in the novel because it shows the theme of pleasure that consistently reappears throughout the novel. Because of Lord Henry’s (his friend) influence, Dorian becomes more and more hedonistic and believes his life to be like a Greek or Shakespearean play in which he is the perfect Greek sculpture and everyone around him must live to suit his romantic fancies. And his simple discarding of Sibyl Vane after she has ruined herself in his eyes because she has forgone her art is a prime indicator of the future path this interesting novel is taking.
Brave New Worlds is a diverse collection of dystopic short stories that I fully recommend. I happened upon the book by accident in my local bookstore, however I am extremely glad that I found this literary gem. The dystopias in the story are a wide-ranging bunch that include near-future worlds where the general populace is under some form of oppression. However, that is truly the only overarching framework between these short stories as there are many different looks at the various forms of state oppression. Examples range from a world were almost all are underground miners who are subject to terrible conditions by the ruling company to a country where a few ordinary citizens are given a red card which allows them to kill anyone of their choice. It also includes classics like Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery and Philip K. Dick’s The Minority Report (later made into a Tom Cruise movie).
My three favorite stories in the book are
3. “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman by Harlan Ellison
–A future in which the world is run precisely on time and on schedule or else the Ticktockman (the enforcer of order, schedule, and time) will cut time off the lives of those who are tardy until they reach a point where there is simply no time left. A Peter Pan-Robin Hod combination of a rebel opposes this regime and provides for the development of the story’s plot.
2. Ten With a Flag by Joseph Paul Haines
–In a future state where a number system dominates social and political systems, the lives of a middle-of-a-road couple suddenly change permanently when they learn that their unborn child has a rare and prestigious rating of a ten, albeit with a flag (which denotes a sacrifice of a sort has to be made). This story has one of the best endings in literature and the story itself is very scary in its portrayal of governmental power and surveillance.
1. Of a Sweet Slow Dance in the Wake of Temporary Dogs by Adam-Troy Castro
–Wow. One of the most thought provoking pieces of writing I have ever seen. The story takes place in the fictional land of Enysbourg, a place of vibrant and beautiful life unlike any other n the world. Enysbourg is so heavenly and incredible as compare to rest of the otherwise stale and gray world that, through the means of advanced technology, it forces its citizens to go through one day of sheer hell per every nine days of energetic, perfect paradise. Castro’s excellent word choice and florid descriptive language help to create a picture of incalculable beauty as well as gruesome images of utter pain and destruction. The story is one of the best I have ever read and brings up the question of whether one wants to live a safe, but monotonous and boring daily life or if they would choose to have the best and most memorable times of his or her life 90% of the time, punctuated by brief spites of equally memorable times of loss and despair.
You can find the book on Amazon here.
Recently, I had to do an exercise about the whitewashing of Huck Finn concerning the “n-word” and how I felt about it either way. Here is my response…