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Posts Tagged ‘To kill a mockingbird’

8. The Wonderful Wizard of OZ – L. Frank Baum, 23/4/2012

Sometimes, I envy children born in western countries. They do what children should do at their age, not like their Asian friends. More importantly, they always have suitable stories for them. I believe there are ancient stories in every culture. However, in the west, people aren’t self-satisfied what they inherited from their ancestors, they create new legendary stories. “The wonderful wizard of OZ” is one of such stories, which was published in 1900.

I believe this story is appealing to most juveniles. I even found it interesting to me as well. Quite often, it would make me laugh. For example, it was very funny that Dorothy’s house was caught up in a cyclone and accidentally killed a wicked witch when it landed in Munchkin Country. The story is full of things that I had never heard before. I also enjoyed it a lot because it makes sense, well, most of the time. I like things that make sense. So I think western kids are very fortunate. When the world is so much globalised today, certainly eastern kids can read western stories. However, I believe it would be even better if they can read stories stemming from their own cultures. Eastern people like to borrow certain things. Maybe they should contribute some occasionally.

7. Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe, 19/4/2012

Firstly, this book is really long. And I found it not very easy to ready sometimes. Now I’m very glad I finally finished it.

The first part of the book wasn’t very interesting to me. Robinson had some other misfortunes before he escaped from a devastating storm and started living on a remote island. His descriptions of things were lack of details. It made me think that the things he talked about were not real. Gradually, it became more interesting. He described his life on the island, alone. Such as how he grew barley, how he tamed sheep and so on. That was kind of new to me. So I think it is like a handbook, very useful for people who will live in a remote place. While he was on the island, it seems his belief in god helped him a lot. His talks with his man Friday about the religion were interesting sometimes. For example, Friday asked Robinson if God is so omnipotent, why didn’t he kill the devils? However, since I’m not a religious person, I didn’t quite enjoy it when pages and pages of what I read were about God. Finally, I found the last part wasn’t quite necessary. The only part that intrigues people would be his life on that island. Once he was rescued, then it could just end there I reckon.

All in all, I found the book a bit interesting since I never read anything like this before. And I realised I could live a similar life like his if I was him.

6. How to stop worrying and start living – Dale Carnegie, 25/3/2012

I am not a person who worries a lot. This is because I’ve seen what worries can do to me long time ago. When I was bothered by something, I found it hard to get to sleep. I would toss and turn over and not feel refreshed in the morning. What made it worse was that I would get more gray hair very soon. Nobody wants gray hair when they are not at that age. So I tried to control my emotions and not to worry. Over the years, I found a few ways very helpful in overcoming worry:

1. Never burden myself with the past. Actually I learnt this from a TV series. I learnt that the past is the past. No matter it was good or bad, I would just forget it. Over the years, I have had the habit of forgetting the past. It just can be done naturally.

2. Also, I don’t worry about the future. Whenever I’m worried about something that is yet to happen and I find that this worry will take me nowhere. Then I will just ask myself to stop. It makes more sense to focus on something that is happening today than something that may or may not happen tomorrow.

3. Sometimes, I think of the people who are fighting for a living, like those in Africa. I also pity poor children living in the countries of China who not only lacks sufficient food, they also don’t get proper education. And they will never get a better life. Compared to their problems, you will also come to the conclusion that: my problem is nothing.

4. Look at the bright side. When I failed in doing something, I would tell myself that good luck is coming since there is a balance between good lucks and bad lucks. And if I really can’t look at it positively, I try not to look at it negatively. What do people say this? Fortune and misfortune are two buckets in the same well. Nothing can be all good or all bad.

Even so, I still found this book very helpful, because there are more techniques to conquer worry. For example, in the future I can do some pep talks. Also, I learnt some ways to relax. Even I finished reading it today, I will still read it again. Like a reader said: this is not a reading book in the ordinary sense; it is written as a guide book-to a new way of life!

5. 生活的艺术 (The importance of living) – 林语堂, 1/3/2012

之所以读这本书,是因为读另外一本书的时候,书中经常引用此书。很多东西说得很有道理,所以就拿来读了一下。结果是那本还没读完,这本差不多26万字的书确读完了。

我认为作者林语堂可以说是个思想家,他对很多东西都很有想法,而且也想得很透彻。所以他写的这本书也不是通常那种只有一个论点,而其他大部分都是为了证明这个论点所写。他的文章有些象是警语。只写自己所想,而且大部分时候是对的。这有些象“论语”。人们觉得“三人行,必有我师焉!”一定是对的,孔子没有论证,而人们也从不怀疑为什么一定要是三个人。

书中作者对很多事情都阐述了自己的看法。想法有时候很独特,也很新奇有趣。试举一两例:

“论肚子”:如果西方人觉得东方人(中国人)是比较拘谨的话,那到了饭桌上就可以看到完全不同的中国人。饭桌上的中国人是精神焕发的,是兴致高昂的。一边津津有味的吮着鸡腿,一边高声赞美可口的饭菜。中国人对吃的讲究,是因为对吃的重视,也是出于一种本能。他引用了一句古人的诗:“肠满诚好事,余者皆奢侈”。所以满足了一个人的肚子,其他的就什么都好说了。这也是为什么中国人喜欢在饭桌上谈问题的原因。他又说:“假使有人去做一次统计,那么他便会发现一个人的宴客次数与他的升官速度是有一种绝对的关系存在的”。虽然他是在大约70年前说的这句话,很不幸的是,今天的中国依然如此。

基督教:我之前对基督教也有一些不解的问题,不过因为了解甚少,也不想去研究。所以也就没有系统地想一下而得到一些答案。林语堂则对基督教提出一些尖锐的问题,比如:其一是,天堂说法的正确性。基督教的理论是,信奉基督教,从而摒除自己的罪恶,死后就可以上天堂,永远陪伴在上帝的左右。而这个说法是和“创世纪”里上帝不要人类永生的原始说法矛盾的。据“创世纪”的记载,亚当和夏娃所以被逐出伊甸园,并不是像一般人所相信的那样,为了偷尝善恶树的果子,而是为了上帝怕他们再度违背命令,去偷吃生命树的果子,因而得到永生。其二是,人类只不过是地球上的一种动物,地球是太阳系的一员,而更大的还有银河系或更大的人类未知的宇宙。如果真有上帝的话,如果真的以为上帝整天会为人类这点小事烦心的话,人类未免也自大了一些。

书中其实讲了很多的道理,表面上看是对中国文化的介绍与推崇,而实际上是介绍东方人如何享受一种悠闲的生活。应该仔细读一下,慢慢体会。不过因为他写得很流畅,而且诙谐有趣,所以我有时一天就会读一两万字。以后闲时应该再翻看一下。

4. To kill a mockingbird – Harper Lee, 2/2/2012

When I tried to borrow this book from the library of the university, I found that it was available in the social science library and also in the law library. So I thought: this book must be very good.

The first part of the book was very enjoyable. The narrator was a little girl, Scout. She, her older brother Jem and their widowed father (Atticus) lived in a fictional town called Maycomb in Alabama. Every summer, a boy called Dill about Scout’s age would come to Maycome and play with them. They did some silly stuff, like every little kid would do. The things told in the book were so real and believable. The author is really a great story teller. It seems that all she did when she was little was writing down the thing that happened each day. Or else, how could she remember all those things? Somehow, it made me bring all my past memories back. I remembered all the stupid things I did long time ago. And it was really nice to remember all those things.

However, when her father, a middle-age lawyer, was appointed to defend a crippled black man, who was accused of raping a young white girl, everything changed. Note that it was when black people were slaves. So her father would be often laughed at and called a “nigger-lover”. Even her father did his best, the black man was found guilty, just as always. There was not much fun in reading anymore. All the incidents happened and conversations between the kids and their father were telling people or implying how to be a decent man, how to treat people equally, how to consider things from other people’s point of view etc. More importantly, her father also set a good example for lawyers.

This book was recommended as one of the books that people should read before they die, ranked even before Bible. For me, I really admired the way Atticus raised his children. Scout and Jem were lucky to have Atticus as their father. On the other hand, they also made their father proud.

3. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain, 18/1/2012

This book was published in 1884. I’ve never finished an English book published before that I guess. And I had no idea what it would be like. Reading this book was like torture sometimes. The differently-spelled words and different grammars made me never stop guessing, trying to figure out the meanings of some sentences. And the accent of black slaves was even worse. Sometimes, I could only get the meaning of one or two sentences of a paragraph. It was even more frustrating when the slave said more than one paragraph. All these troubles made me enjoy less of the book. People whose native language is English will enjoy more.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the adventures of Huck Finn, especially when he and a runaway slave Jim followed the Mississippi River. They had interesting experiences and were later joined with two poor con men, the king and the duke. The novel presents a morally flawed world, when black people were slaves and people were not so civilized. It reminds me that in the movie “Gone with the wind”, the black woman was not just a servant, she was a slave. Tell me if I was wrong. Back to the novel, I didn’t enjoy the last part of it very much, when the very melodramatic prank Tom Sawyer showed up. He and Huck worked together to set the slave free and Tom really messed it up.

All and all, I liked this novel. I will like it more if I can understand every word of it. Twain seemed to have a quick mind and humorous. I laughed now and then while reading this book.

2. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger, 5/1/2012

“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all.  Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me.  And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff.  What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them.  That’s all I do all day.  I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.”

Before I read this book, I thought it was about a catcher or the rye or something like that. Then I would be very interested. However, after a few pages, I started wondering what I was really reading about. So I did a search about the book and found the words above said by the character Holden Caulfield.

The book is about this 16 year old Holden Caulfield, who was expelled from another school after failing four subjects out of five. He decided to leave the school a few days early before the end of term. He could take a short holiday before returning home. By then, he expected his parents to be able to accept the expulsion more calmly. So this book describes what happened to him during a few days, actually three days, from Saturday to Monday. He talked about the activities and the thoughts he had. It seems he had a lot of difficulties adapting to the adult world. He found most people were phony (superficial, hypocritical, or pretentious). He hated that. He hated it all. A few bad experiences that happened to him made it worse. And finally he had a mental collapse.

It kind of drove me crazy knowing that this guy, this good guy would go insane while I was reading. I shouldn’t have read the introduction to this book beforehand. I mean he was a good guy. He would rub off the F word on the walls in his sister’s school. However, he was confused about the environment that he was living in. He couldn’t understand all different human behaviours very well. Teenagers are confused about that kind of stuff. However, most of us went past that phase. It doesn’t mean we all turn completely phony. We just got to know that there aren’t only good and bad people. And most importantly, no one is perfect. We can understand now what we couldn’t when we were teenagers.

The writing style of this book seems a bit different. You would think a book of 70,000 words describing activities happening within three days would be tedious. However, it wasn’t boring to read. Most people will find it depressing though.

1. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter – Carson McCullers, 1/1/2012

I was amazed by the writing talent of the author. She finished this masterpiece when she was only 23. I can’t remember what I was good at when I was at that age. Probably I couldn’t get my writing assignment done well. It seems that she didn’t like to waste any ink on anything, anyone or any events. She could use one sentence to kill one character and then start talking about something else. Yet it doesn’t make you feel strange. She presented a vivid dark world in the 1940s in the South of US. There was no justice, no hope and no change. No one knew how this started. And most importantly no one really knew how to end all this. For all sorts of reasons, the characters were all lonely. They tried to fight their loneliness, but that was just in vain. Yet life still continued. The world she presented was so real that I didn’t feel I was just reading a story. I felt I was seeing that world. Yet it didn’t make me feel desperate, which is very strange. I guess McCullers wanted to make people think rather than just sorrow.

By the way, I got to know from the book that the Americans would buy stuff on installment plans in the 1940s. Oh man, they really know how to live a life.

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