Bossypants :: Tina Fey

I’m trying out a new succinct format of writing from now and just a heads up: my site will be getting a makeover! For now, let me share the good, the bad and the interesting of Tina Fey’s autobiography, Bossypants.

THE GOOD

Judging from Ms Fey’s track record with Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock and possibly the best chick-flick screenplay of all time (see Mean Girls) , I’m sure it comes to no surprise that this book is similarly brings abdominal-pain-inducing laughter. And amongst all the hilarity, lies several nuggets of wisdom making the book a thoroughly enjoyable and easy read.

THE BAD

The book is quite heavily intertwined with her own work and reading some parts of it without familiarity with 30 Rock, particularly, will seem irrelevant and boring. Thankfully, watching 30 Rock is no chore by any means, and watching it will most certainly not be a waste of your time, let me assure you. It does feature quite a bit of M-rated language for those of you who are concerned about it but is not at all, a major part of the writing style.

THE INTERESTING

Having never watched SNL, this book exposed me to a whole new side of comedy. I had always thought that comedy was simply to entertain and naively, to make people happy. This book opened my eyes the knowledge that comedy can be used to subtly used to manipulate peoples’ opinions and perspectives. If you’re still not sure as to how this works, learn it from the master herself:

You all watched a sketch about feminism and you didn’t even realize it because of all the jokes. It’s like when Jessica Seinfeld puts spinach in kids’ brownies. Suckers!

Note: Do not be deterred by the strange/weird/creepy cover. It is only a testament to Tina Fey’s quirky awesome-ness.

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1984 :: George Orwell

After reading Fahrenheit 451 and really enjoying the profound questions it raised, I decided to pick up a copy of George Orwell’s 1984. As a novel, I would place in the category of: the-books-that-are-really-really-really-boring-for-the-first-75-pages-but-get-more-and-more-interesting-as-you-go-along. It is highly political and in my opinion, delves deep into human nature and psychology quite early on in the novel.

The writing itself,  is descriptive and intelligent and yet, quite well constrained in its depiction of London – and fittingly so as it reflected the views of the ‘heretics’ of the 1984 society.

As a modern reader, with modern views on freedom, peace and war (the core contradictions of the Party) I felt like one of Winston Smith’s kind – opposed to the Party’s ways – and a companion of sorts. Of course, this also encompassed the feeling of pride in the main character and his devotion to the supposed Brotherhood. Now, I realise that this presentation of the world that Orwell created was a rather intelligent one, and the well-established link between the myself and Winston Smith (of the novel) was what drove me to read the novel, until the very end – possibly because reading further would perhaps, be alike to reading one’s destiny – and don’t we all yearn to know the secrets of our future? :)

Further along the storyline, he betrays to these values and moreover, he betrays himself and his opinions. Now, instead of  evoking the expected sense of treachery among the audience, it instead, hold an air of inevitability – brought by the thorough and gradual breaking down of the character.  And so, our ‘hero’, Winston Smith, is not really a hero at all, but a standard human with human flaws and desires – a quality that I think, makes this science fiction tale, one of credibility. It allowed me to empathise and truly understand his pain and weakness – eventually lending myself to forgiveness.

What fascinated me the most, was the extent of power and intelligence of the Party. Orwell seems to have combined his political knowledge and perception of human nature as well as human psychology to create a virtually invincible authority. However frightening and fearful it may be, it was unanimously successful in its objective – maintain immortality of power within itself. The depth of the Party’s ideology is astounding and as presented by Orwell, appears infallible. It is as if he is saying, it is here, among the power and the fear, that perfection is found – in the eyes of the Party and its subjects. This idea resonated with me – the idea that perfection can be seen if shown in the correct light – is one that can still be applied to today.

At its core, 1984 is truly centred around Winston Smith and his human journey through hope and belief and his subsequent loss of everything we deem to be human. I, being a person who can be totally absorbed by psychology for hours on ends, cannot even understand how this book changed my perspective on the future and my future but at this moment, it is safe to say that it did – and I am happy for it :)

Life of Pi :: Yann Martel

I read this book in anticipation of Life of Pi [directed by Ang Lee] the multi-award winning film that, as I’m sure you all know, has been getting both public and critic attention as – stated by the Guardian

The most beautiful film of the year, a technical marvel, and magic realism at its most magical.

To be honest, I can’t really see it as a truly masterful film. Yes, the visual aspect of it is stunning – the realism of it all was quite astounding – however, my verdict of this film is rather similar to the one I had of Avatar. Although the films were a spectacle to be seen, I believe that Avatar had a predictable plot, and that Life of Pi lacked the action to drive the film to the end. What made the film disappointing for me, was the lack of detail, so exquisitely and explicitly written in Martel’s novel. In addition to this, I felt the movie lacked a sense of “forever” that the book captured in terms of the length of Pi’s journey to his inevitable arrival on land.

I guess by now, you can deduce that I enjoyed the novel far better than the film, and so, here are a few of my favourite phrases from the novel.

Quote One :: Life & Death

This is so beautiful. I’ve never seen the relationship between life and death described so…well, beautifully

The reason death sticks so closely to life isn’t biological necessity – it’s envy. Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can.

Quote Two :: Time

I have noticed this happen to me many times – when I lie idle ;)

I did not count the days or the weeks or the months. Time is an illusion that only makes us pant. I survived because I forgot even the very notion of time.

Quote Three :: Freedom

Freedom is a very confusing concept – one that I am trying to come to terms with everyday.

I know zoos are no longer in people’s good graces. Religion faces the same problem. Certain illusions about freedom plague them both.

Quote Four :: Survival

I have a habit of dreaming too much and doing too little. Society tells us to dream but fails to really convey the action that is involved in achieving those dreams (and the hard work!)

Survival had to start with me. In my experience, a castaway’s worst mistake is to hope too much and do too little. Survival starts by paying attention to what is close at hand and immediate. To look out with idle hope is tantamount to dreaming one’s life away.

Memoirs of a Geisha :: Arthur Golden

Prior to reading this book, I had almost no knowledge of Japanese geisha or much of Japanese culture. This book however, corrected this, giving me an insight into Japanese culture, ethical and moral and spiritual beliefs and standard of living – perhaps not quite a modern perception but a perception nonetheless.

Arthur Golden seems to be able to capture the essence of the lifestyle of a geisha of Kyoto, without necessarily ‘overdressing’ it, instead, carefully tracing the chronological journey of a young girl riding the waves of adversity that she is met with during the course of her youth and adulthood. It is interesting to read the work of such a skilled author – the language is simple, yet it evokes such a clear image of the world in my mind – so much so that I felt as though I had experienced it all, through someone else’s body, through someone else’s senses.

The strength of the main character (Sayuri) is admirable and with such a detailed account of her life, every action of hers is justifiable and understandable (given her history) thus adding a layer of realism to the novel. As I read the book, I seemed to follow the realisations that Sayuri has of the world around her – some of which I have already learned from personal experience, some of which I have heard word of – thanks to the euphemisms of tumblr :)

Quote One :: Confidence

I had learned of this in primary school, from my inconsistent observation skills during a drama task

A mind troubled by doubt cannot focus on the course to victory. Two men are equal – true equals – only when they both have equal confidence.

Quote Two :: Future & Past

I have heard these kinds of things being said countless times but not quite in this particular way – I have to say, it struck me as quite fascinating when I first read it.

Nothing is bleaker than the future, except perhaps the past.

Quote Three :: The Bright Side of Life

Always look on the bright side of life…dum de dum, dum de dum, dum de dum de dum de…

This song has made me feel even happier in times of happiness, but it has never made my hardships seem not so ‘hard’. Interestingly, it is thoughts of the past and the future that allow me to truly appreciate the present.

I need to be reminded that there is beauty and goodness in the world

Quote Four :: What Isn’t There

I am a dreamer. That is not to say I am not practical or realistic about present actions, but when thinking of the future, I tend to set unrealistic goals and expectations, and sad as I am to admit this, I waste endless hours thinking of how amazing my future could be – the key word being waste. Unfortunately, this time and energy comes out of my application in the present into dreaming of the future, instead of making it happen. This book was a wake-up call, one of those learning experiences gained from observing someone else’s mistake. Needless to say, the following quote had the most impact on me as a growing person.

From this experience I realised the danger on focussing on what isn’t there. What an unbearable sorrow it would be, to realise I’d never really tasted the things I’d eaten, or seen the places I’d been, because I’d thought of nothing but the Chairman [future] even while my life is drifting away from me. I would be like a dancer who had practiced since childhood for a performance she would never give.

Some fun facts about the publication of the novel itself:

Controversy followed the release of the book and the misleading link made within the book between prostitution and Japanese geisha.

It’s supposed to be fiction… but, after the Japanese edition of Memoirs of a Geisha was published, Arthur Golden was sued for breach of contract and defamation of character by Mineko Iwasaki, a retired geisha he had interviewed for background information while writing the novel. The plaintiff asserted that Golden had agreed to protect her anonymity, if she told him about her life as a geisha due to the traditional code of silence about their clients. However, Golden listed Iwasaki as a source in his acknowledgements for the novel.

In 2003, Golden’s publisher settled with Iwasaki out of court for an undisclosed sum of money. Iwasaki later went on to write her own autobiography, an account vastly different from Arthur Golden’s novel, published as Geisha, A Life in the US and Geisha of Gion in the UK.

Please note that I did in fact, use this Wikipedia page to write part of this post.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close :: Jonathan Safran Foer

I ALWAYS read the book before I watch the novel – almost since I could remember…

until a few weeks ago.

I rented Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and expected quite a good film. What I wasn’t prepared for was the sheer volume of tears I shed during the course of the film and afterwards. Astounded by the emotional scope of the film, I decided to ask Lord Google if in fact it was bassed on a book and sure enough, it was. Not only was it a book, but my I recalled a friend of mine recommending it to me. And so, I ventured to the library and came home with a copy.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close :: Book Cover

It took me a while to finish it, mainly because at times, the book was often uneventful but I did end up finishing it end I found it quite an enriching experience. Before I go any further, for those who haven’t read the book or watched the movie, here is a good synopsis.

I found it quite interesting that the book had multiple perspective and at the beginning, their unrelatedness was very confusing and frustrating – especially for me as I have an obsessive need to organise and connect things I learn :) This technique was novel to me at the time that I read it and I found that once the stories did connect, it gave me a better understanding of the individuals within the text. It also helped me realise the relationship between experience and personality (in this post) and I found that it helped make the characters seem more real, by including both their flaws and their positive attributes in an unbiased voice.

The writing voice and style of this novel captured the feelings and thoughts that often, we can’t express through simple words. Emotions that are too complex for organised sentences and yet, this book does just that, through the scattered thoughts of a nine year old boy, and old man, and an old woman. It’s this distillation of emotions that sets this books apart from others into a category of raw and pure writing.

Notably, this and extremely well written novel but evidently, also a well edited one. It is the first novel that I have read that directly represents the characters feelings or thoughts through intermittent graphics (apart from The Invention of Hugo Cabret) and although some reviews found it useless, adding nothing to the plot, I found that it was helpful and gave me insight into the way the characters thought and acted.

Overall, this novel was entertaining and educated me on the truths of experiences of New Yorkers in the 9/11 attacks – some of which I was completely unaware of, and opened me up to a new level of emotional writing with both depth and flair.