Animal Farm – George Orwell

A friend said one can finish this book in 5 minutes. An exaggeration of course but i did cleared it very fast. One thing about not having to deal with exams is that i can actually enjoy my textbook at face level. Evil pigs these are, i tell you, much worse than those in Angry Birds. I shall have pork chop for dinner later.

This read is like a comic relief for me before i dive into the next not-so-thin book. Despite the cuteness of it all, there is a sad moment when blind faith is rewarded with murder. That is truly how the world is, not so much as the fittest survive, but rather, the most cunning thrive.

Politics is well played with conditioning and constant re-conditioning of the minds. The mind is, after all, extremely forgetful. If a lie is repeated every day, the mind will soon accept it to be the truth. This is especially so when the mainstream media – that horrible Squealer – has the ability to turn black into white. Or is it white into black. Whichever way.

My favourite is the cat who mysteriously seems to have vanished mid-way through the book ……….

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Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage – Haruki Murakami

I found such great solace in this read that it is hard for me to express in words. “Some things in life are too complicated to explain in any language”.

The never-ending debate about whether a book is writerly or readerly will always be there. Did the book happen to suit my situation or did i interpret the book accordingly in my situation? Just like many questions in life, there is no answer. And just like many past events in life, it doesnt really matter.

Life, sometimes, needs victims. Whether or not, one is indeed a victim, is simply a perspective. This perspective may or may not change as time passes by.

The good thing is, “not everything was lost in the flow of time.” Each of us definitely retains something precious and continues to hold on to it close at heart. For the living, just do your best to keep on living, even if your lives arent perfect.

The sun will still rise tomorrow … life continues … it is Monday again. Damn.

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Birthday Stories – Haruki Murakami

As the number in age gets greater, the list of reasons (excuses) for not reading gets longer. So now i will continue with a collection of short stories, some of which i like, and some i don’t. Which is my favourite? Read my thoughts below and make a guess …

“The Moor” (by Russell Banks)
Perhaps a trivial truth revealed is what makes the day great.

“Dundun” (by Denis Johnson)
A cycle of life and death as the death of one marks the birthday of another.

“Timothy’s Birthday” (by William Trevor)
A deliberate absence could be the most cruel present ever.

“The Birthday Cake” (by Daniel Lyons)
Is a cake really so important on a birthday?

“Turning” (by Lynda Sexson)
Not every riddle has an answer.

“Forever Overhead” (by David Foster Wallace)
Time comes to a standstill when one is in fear.

“Angel of Mercy, Angel of Death” (by Ethan Canin)
An obvious consistency in the overall inconsistency, be it subconsciously or purposely.

“The Birthday Present” (by Andrea Lee)
A mini escape from routine life under the disguise of an erotic present.

“The Bath” (by Raymond Carver)
Disconnection. Fragments. Questions.

“A Game of Dice” (by Paul Theroux)
For people who cannot be alone.

“Close to the Water’s Edge” (by Claire Keegan)
Close to water, close to grandma.

“The Ride” (by Lewis Robinson)
Side by side, but worlds apart.

“Birthday Girl” (by Haruki Murakami)
What is the (your) birthday wish?

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Lemonade Revealed – Will Chluho

The pretty yellow cover caught her attention. She bought the book and mailed it to me as a Christmas present. This was how it began.

Life is sometimes strange. Things happen for a reason, or perhaps for no reason, or maybe for reasons unknown to us, yet. She got the book purely out of aesthetic value; I read the book simply out of curiosity (obligation too, perhaps?). This is how I fell in love with the book.

Definitely a literature book – this was what I had on my mind while reading the first few pages. A part of my mind was wondering where or how she found this book. This would have been a lovely corpse for me to dissect during my study; I can imagine the fun of tearing out the pages and rearranging them for different perspectives – not to be taken literally of course.

This book offers everything but confirms nothing (a line I picked up from my lecturer previously). Duality is the main theme in this book as everything has two sides to it. It all depends how you want to see it. The choice is yours, as it always has been.

I love this book, for the fact that it does paint a realistic picture, by emphasizing on aspects that are beyond our control, unlike many other inspirational books that offer the notion of “if you think you can, you can”. (Wake up.)

But rather, it encourages people to do their best, and leave the rest (to the wind). Patience and foresight are very much needed then, as immediate results may not always be as desired but could very well be the best outcome at present.

This book has plenty of rereading value as it provides endless insights (but only if you have an open mind). The main takeaway for me in this first read is that “being good is not the same as being nice”; achievable only by people with a strong heart and a firm mind.

A big thank you to her, for placing the book in my path, somehow. I will be reading it again but I can lend it to you first …

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Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift

There are four main voyages in this book and I believe many are familiar with the first two, which are – to put it plainly – the Land of the Miniatures (Lilliput) and the Land of the Giants (Brobdingnag) . Both are quite exciting to read, as Gulliver’s unique size, whether too gigantic, or too miniature, poses a threat to his life in both places. Using his wits, Gulliver manages to secure an identity by taking on different roles that are complimentary to his physical size. He serves as a protector in Lilliput and an entertainer in Brobdingnag.

It is thought-provoking to note that his physical size remains unchanged throughout, but his roles vary in different situations. A leaf can be taken out of this, in the sense that for survival, we will have to be flexible to take on the most appropriate roles when situations arise, but not forgetting that our characters need not necessarily change. It’s a matter of perspective, not principles.

It took me long to get through the third voyage which consists of multiple places that are not as entertaining, for one thing there is no life threatening adventure, for another, it is a little too political. Perhaps the Augustans can relate better to this part, but I guess not so much for people reading this in this era.

Nevertheless, it is amusing to read that there are people who are so deep in thought that they have to be flapped constantly during any conversation so that their train of thoughts does not drift back to their little world.

Another weird group of people would be the ones who are so against right angles that they rather build everything without that, and at the expense of inconveniencing themselves. But sometimes, we also behave like that, to dislike something for the sake of disliking, or to object to an idea for the sake of objecting. It may sound silly, but I am quite sure everyone has some experience in that area.

The next point I would like to mention in this third voyage is that the author affects to some extent, my idea of an immortal. The popular notion is that an immortal enjoys a life of good health and youth that does not expire with age. In this part of the world, the immortal only gets to enjoy a life that does not expire, but has to go through the same aging process that inevitably comes with its share of “usual disadvantages”. Furthermore, communication with the rest of the society is hardly possible due to failing memories and generation gaps as there are very few of these immortals around. Imagine being left alone eternally in a world, where you can hardly communicate with anyone and having a body so old that there is basically no activity suitable for it. Scary, isn’t it?

The last part of the voyage is very engaging. In this Country of Houyhnhnms, mankind is not the most intelligent creature that rules over everything else. The most intelligent ones are the horses. Gulliver then takes on an honoured role to serve one of the horses. Although I find it somewhat disturbing that in the end he turns into a misanthrope, it is a refreshing concept not to have mankind as the leader of the world all the time. Speaking of which, this reminds me of the movie, The Avatar, where the protagonist in the end converts from a human into an alien, instead of a cliché assumption that a human form is the best choice. Perhaps this Houyhnhnm voyage could be adapted into a science fiction movie whereby mankind is waging war with alien horses. Boring, did you say? Oh come on, aren’t you still watching every Godzilla movie?

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Utopia – Thomas More

I came across this title in my course of study two years ago but I never got down to reading it. It was only lately I borrowed it from a friend, that I regret not reading this earlier. Although the content is very much in its Renaissance context, anyone in today’s world can still read and understand it as a unique perspective of an ideal society.

The sense of satirical humour in the text is the element that keeps me going. It is like a serious piece of document, presented in “comic sans ms” font with numerous emoticons that one cannot help laughing at the mismatch between the solemn content dressed in a whimsical tone. To start off, the bulk of the story is related by someone by the name of Raphael Nonsenso. The name itself already implies a nonsensical narration! Furthermore, the content includes places and names such as “Aircastle” and “Flatulentines”. And of course, we should also bear in mind that “Utopia” actually means “noplace”.

There are two parts in this story, with Book One relating the ills of capitalism, and Book Two presenting the solution as a communist state. I personally enjoy Book One more, as it is punctuated with witty humour throughout. The futile attempts of a philosopher with the intent of fairness for the entire society are dramatized in a lighthearted manner that he will appear no more than a fool providing entertainment for the King and his cabinet of advisors.

As for Book Two, it gets a little too idealistic that it makes logical sense in parts but not as a whole. It is only just yesterday that my doctor told me that our brain only takes in 25% of what we see, and we make up the rest to complete the vision. That is the reason why we see different things even though we may be looking at the same objects.

For the entire society to operate on the same principles, same logic, same sense of reason, as well as same preferences, is just too impossible. Conditioning can be done from young to cultivate a similar mentality but that is provided that that society is shut up from the rest of the world. The utopian society seems to operate with a strict sense of monotony and obedience, with just a little variation in religious beliefs. How does such a society come about in the first place when the Utopians have dealings with the outside world all the time? Somehow, the external influencing factor is totally eliminated!

Yet if everyone is supposedly of a similar mentality, then why would there be any differences in religious beliefs? And what would happen to those ladies – when presented naked to their prospective husbands – whom the men deem as unattractive since everyone has the same taste?

On one hand, the impossibility of such an ideal society may appear to imply the absurdity of such a perspective, but on the other hand, there are little practicalities that we can easily relate to our present world. One would be the simplicity of laws. It is mentioned that an average person will not have the capability, in terms of time and effort since he will always be at work earning his bread, to do extensive research on laws. So in order for laws to be effective, they should be as few as possible and as simple as possible, so that an average man can easily understand and remember them, and therefore obey them. The same can be said for policies in today’s context, isn’t it? It will always be hard for a person to abide by something that he doesn’t understand.

Before starting on this review, I also did a quick reading on Thomas More and I am sad to know that he was executed for treason, and no, he didn’t betray the King over to any enemies but simply died as “the king’s good servant, but God’s first.” I believe the scholars could probably have a field day debating on this, but my personal view is that it is merely a difference in religious beliefs and that obedience is a quality that has to be sustained over one whole lifetime. Any instance of disobedience, just one time, is more than enough to knock down the entire wall of obedience built over years.

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