Week #2: Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express”

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I had a little craving for nostalgia, for the times I would sit in the corner of a library and read all the books in the world, because I had all the time in the world. I used to love Christie, and “And then there were None” is one of my favourite murder-mystery novels.

However, “Murder on the Orient Express” was disappointing, even though I was assured by librarian it was one of her best selling books. Maybe I’ve outgrown it, but the characters, the story and the ending (especially the ending), were bland and unimaginative.

This book is like a minimum wage job- making you work hard with little intellectual effort, with a disappointing reward. There are at least 10 different characters in this book that are so thoroughly analysed, with a chapter for each of them. You give yourself to these characters, invest time to get to know them, understand them. It’s almost like a relationship. The names are difficult to pronounce, with Princess Natalia Dragomiroff taking the prize. The characters are clearly defined by their race and ethnicity with “Caucasian” coolness and Italian hot temperedness. But it almost seems worth it; After all, it’s an Agatha Christie novel.

Hercule Poirot, a smug, conceited (and racist) detective who’s been featured in a collection of his own novels by Chrsite, is the man who saves the day; in literally a day. He solves the mystery of the murder of an American businessman, Mr.Ratchett (who’s real name is Casetti- Why Agatha, why?). Due to the snowstorm that befalls the train, the murderer could not have left the train. And so, Poirot sets to find the murderer within the train.

It’s difficult to let one understand the emotions I’m going through right now, in this review, because the real disappointment of the book is the ending, I don’t want to be That Spoiler Blogger.

I guess all I can do is allow you to read the book and feel the defeat for yourself.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/62276182@N00/2821350338″>Murder on the Orient Express</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Boredom Buster #1: The Flame Game

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When I was younger, I used to play a lot of stupidly entertaining games with my friends. “Flames” was one of the future predicting games we used to play. Flames is a game that determines the relationship between two people based on their names. We used to enter each other’s names, names of celebrities and our crushes to figure out if we were going to be friends, lovers, attracted to each other, married, enemies or have a casual fling.

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Yesterday, I found an online calculator that took me back to my childhood days! It’s a lot of fun when you don’t know what you’re doing in life. It’s fun even otherwise. Anyway, this is one of my boredom busters- for at least 20 minutes.

I must warn you, this could be highly inaccurate. So please, don’t leave your partners or break ties based on this game.

My sister is apparently attracted to me.

http://flamesgame.appspot.com

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/lel4nd/5599873685/”>Lel4nd</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

#Week 1: Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead”

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I just got through “The Fountainhead” and it took me a little more than a week- therefore, the delay in this post.

“The Fountainhead” is about a man I’ve characterised in my head to look like Robert Downey Jr., named Howard Roark. He’s a man who loves what he does and does not see any truth in the world society dictates. He’s a modern architect in a time when Victorian and other decorative art forms were appreciated and respected. But he doesn’t care. He will design the way he loves designing, with the reward only being the building itself and not what reviews society gives him.

He’s juxtaposed with a rather weak minded man, Peter Keating. Peter Keating is the topper in his class, knows all about architecture, lands a great job and becomes “successful”. The reason he’s weak is because he is dictated by society in every step of his life. In fact, it’s weird, but, even though the entire book scorns Keating, most of us would identify ourselves with him. We would work hard to get good grades, get to college, get some work experience and finally- be rich. And many times, we wouldn’t love doing what we do. In the end, he sits down to paint and do something he really loved doing, but just isn’t good at it anymore and doesn’t have the time to be good at it. He’s invested too much of his energy in something society thought he was good at.

Before I read it, I read a little about the philosophy that Ayn Rand developed, which has been celebrated by many academia. It’s called “Objectivism”. I wasn’t entirely convinced and neither did I understand the concept in the beginning, but I’d like to think that I have a cursory understanding (at least) of it now.

Rand repetitively says, through the words of Roark, that the only social system that is moral is one that celebrates individualism and “selfishness”. Although, she says, most societies preach selflessness, being selfish is only another way of saying being persistent in the pursuit of happiness. And that is the only way one can be happy.

Although this sounds deep, and it is- it appealed to me in a different way. I felt like the entire book was written based on truth. After reading the book, I grudgingly thanked Ayn Rand for harshly making me realise- Society is a scam.

The story is interesting, following Roark’s determined journey to defy this immoral society, made “hotter” by the character of Dominique Francon (who is played in my head by Saffron Burrows) who’s Roark’s controversial lover. Both Francon and Roark are strong characters, but are also idealistic. They want a world that is unrealistic and implausible, just like Rand.

Anyhow, the book is a great read and is really fast paced except towards the end. The characters are not complex enough, I felt, as they all had either a “objectivist” outlook or not. But then, Rand had written the book to convey the philosophy, and the characters served their purpose.

Overall- Please read to feel inspired about life and pathetic about the pattern of life that society has left for you to follow.

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Mythology: Who would I want to be?

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He ravished me. He couldn’t take his eyes off me and I knew there lay no other pleasure in the world, the knowledge that my beauty had unnerved the mighty God of the Seas. It could not matter we were in the sacred temple of Athena. The white marble had turned blue with age and rage. I scoffed at her warning eye. And closed my eyes.

I awoke, left alone at the temple. A trail of blood and hair at my side. My hair. I touched my head and felt a pool of snakes. I cried, red droplets hitting the floor. I looked up and men were frozen with my unforgiving appearance. Men who wanted me to live only to satisfy their own desires. Who felt I was a burden to the world and had nothing more to offer than a submissive sigh. Frozen.

A power in exchange for my vanity. To freeze. And to be eternally remembered. To realise there is a certain assurance in being able to unleash yourself on an unjust world. To be transformed from a “delicate maiden”, to be freed from the taunting stereotypes that men bring down upon us and to come out just as powerful and even more. I looked up at Athena and thanked her.

I am Medusa.

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/lapicarita/2599369972/”>Glenda Torrado</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

A Personal Letter: The Epistolary form in “The Color Purple”

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Unlike the omniscient narrators in most accounts of the racist 1930s America, Walker allows the reader to understand the inner psyche of the black woman. The protagonist, Celie, writes intimate letters to “God” about her life, depending on his audience to determine her own self worth. The entire novel is narrated with the epistolary technique. Although the omniscient perspective usually gives the reader the freedom to judge and understand the document, the epistolary technique explores the personal touch of the writer- giving it more credibility.

The epistolary technique also gave the readers of the late twentieth century, a sense of realism. After the ideal of fiction transformed from romance to realism, the epistolary form helped fill a psychological function which gave insight to the readers, about the authors. Although the epistolary form is defined as fiction narrated through documents, a diary entry would have significant differences from a letter. Walker combines both in her novel.

“The Color Purple” consists of letters written by Celie and Nettie, two sisters living in Georiga during the 1930s. However, the letters written are unconventional when compared to other epistolary novels such as “The White Tiger” or “Dracula”. Celia addresses her letters to God at first, recognising her voice and her ability to communicate through language. This could be described as a “diary” like entry, because of the fact that they are written without an expectation to be read or written back. It is only later that she reads the letters from Nettie. Celia and Nettie both, are able to draw energy and strength from writing and reading letters. It reflects the theme of communication, that Walker emphasises, for a change to be seen. The letters allow both of them to come into their own being and understand themselves clearly.

In contrast to epistolary novels written in that time, Celie is the antithesis of a usually brave, comfortable yet educated and strong protagonist. She is raped and abused by her father, forced into an unfulfilling marriage and is seen as weak and irresolute. However, the readers are able to develop with her and see her grow throughout the novel. It begins with her ceasing to talk and beginning to write, as she talks about her continued abuse from different men in her life. Her father, who rapes and abuses her is seen as a main patriarchal figure who is then replaced by her husband, Mr. ___. The letters take a very monotonous turn with the various stories of abuse.

The story only develops as Celie finds two women who defy her concept of womanhood. Sofia, a loud and outspoken woman inspires jealousy in Celie because of that very attitude. Shug Avery, is a burlesque dancer, and she does not care for what society thinks of her. With the unintentional guidance and support of these two women, Celie becomes strong enough to realise she is a woman of her own. The discovery of Nettie’s letters over the years bring about a change in her as well. She is now able to think clearly, free from all the men who judged her. She continues writing letters, to Nettie, and not to God. It shows the fact that Celie has found the will to find support and help for herself- rooted in relationships with women. The changing of the recipient of her letters and their relationship is a significant part of understanding the story.

While studying the epistolary techniques in “The Color Purple”, it is important to analyse the structure of the letters as well. There are 92 letters in the novel, and each serves as its own chapter. There are no dates mentioned at any point in the novel and the location is also generally unspecified, other than Nettie being in England or Celie writing from Memphis. There is also no narrator aiming to explain the collection of these letters. However, this brings the reader straight to the point- the fact that these letters were written; and not how they were obtained. The letters also seem to be tampered with in terms of the ordering etc. Nettie’s letters were introduced with notes that could be written by someone else, or could also be the spoken voice of Celie.

The novel, unlike other epistolary novels, does not work on the fundamental drive of a sender and a receiver. Most epistolary novels use letters as a means of communication. Nettie’s letters aren’t received by Celie for most of the book, and there are two writers and three addressees- which makes the exchanging of letters almost impossible. As a result, the reader only knows Celie’s side of the story.

Celie goes through many phases in her life which is also evident in her letter writing. In the beginning of the novel, she addresses God asking him what is happening to her. The second phase is marked by the receiving of Nettie’s letters, where many questions about her life have been answered- such as Alphonso not being her real father- and she begins writing to Nettie instead of God. The third phase is marked by the last letter, where she addresses God as “Everything”. Her perception and concept of God and life have changed and she is a changed woman.

Walker’s creation of a character that can only communicate in the dialect she understands, gives the reader a fresh perspective of the condition of a black woman. Her written word is merged with the way she speaks, which makes the novel more authentic. While her spoken word may not remain, her written words will remain forever, in the letters of “The Color Purple”. Finally, Walker has achieved what she had set out to do right in the beginning- to prove the permanence of communication.

(photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/ennor/40744420/”>Ennor</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;)

Imagine an Imagination: Short Story

Taken from Collective Evolution

The stage lights scorched me. My eyes made their way past the lights to find ignorant people clapping for me. A sense of power electrified my waist, running down my hips, my legs and my toes. It helped me move- I walked- slowly, towards the glittering trophy. Best author of the year, I was told. I took it graciously from the pompous man. He had red eyes and a taunting nose. I looked away and smiled at the unaccomplished crowd. They had irrelevant, unrecognisable faces and I didn’t care. I was preoccupied with more pertinent thoughts.

Schizophrenia. The doctor had diagnosed me with schizophrenia, earlier that evening. Mild, he told me. But what did the doctor know? He said my creativity was fuelled by my ability to see a non existent reality. But I had seen nothing unreal. My manuscripts were on the wall of my room, along with all the other novels I had published. My mother agreed.

With a self affirmed sense of conviction, I walked down the stairs, taking small, dignified steps. I was comforted by the loud cheers of the spectators and the evidence of my genius. I looked up to confirm this feeling.

I saw the people gradually evaporate. The air reeked of their mocking faces.They were turning into yellow dust and red vapour. They sneered at me as they disappeared into the pungent air. It clogged my soul. I couldn’t breathe. I fell to the floor, gasping.

I crawled away, into a darkened space. Crying and heaving, I saw the red eyes again, provocative and challenging. I held on tighter to my golden trophy, knowing I was the best they had seen, and then let my dignity vaporise with my skin.

I collapsed completely, as if I was one with the ground. I looked to my side, only to find my mothers red heels and a pile of unwritten manuscripts.

I closed my eyes.

How hard is it to say no?

When I’m handed candy by a random stranger, I take it- unfortunately. If I find money on the road, I will pick it up. If my friends are going out to eat, and I have an empty wallet, I will go (Just to have a bite or two.)

It’s all about temptation and succumbing to it. Moving on to a slightly related but unrelated note, corruption also deals with the same principle. You are offered money for doing or not doing something, and you take it. Bribes are an important part of a weak government and a passive population. It’s pretty similar to taking candy from a stranger too. In both scenarios, you analyse the source of the reward. If the stranger seems nice enough, you’re going to take the candy. If the man who’s bribing you seems dumb enough, you’re going to take the money.

Before you think Reecha is crazy and she would totally be corrupt, I would like to say that there is a difference between the two. In corruption, or accepting a bribe, your morality plays an important role. Sure, you’d love to buy a car that you’re not going to drive, or build a house that you’re going to give on rent; but is it worth it? If you have a part to play in helping the impoverished masses, or making your country a better place to live in- would you really take the money to eat on a fancier table?

In the end, it’s all about you and the choice you make that makes you. Money can’t be important enough for you to compromise yourself and what you believe in? Unless what you believe in is complete BS.

I think saying no is hard, but once you know what you believe in (which should be what the article says, hopefully)- it is going to be comparatively much easier.