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September 13th, 2020
Anime Relations: Gankutsuou
O LORD, thou knowest: remember me, and visit me, and revenge me of my persecutors; take me not away in thy longsuffering: know that for thy sake I have suffered rebuke.
Posted by EggheadLuna | Sep 13, 2020 5:55 PM | 0 comments
September 5th, 2020
Romans 13:1-5

13 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.
Posted by EggheadLuna | Sep 5, 2020 2:53 PM | 0 comments
August 10th, 2020
Anime Relations: Gankutsuou
#1: Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility ★★☆☆☆

This is my first Jane Austen novel. Before this book, I was only loosely acquainted with Austen's works through the BBC adaptation of Emma and Austenland (2013). Though, I was personally not taken with the story or characters, I must admit that Austen has a way with words. Her style is both decorative and pragmatic, the writing is exceptional in a few instances, such as "No; you will continue the same; unconscious of pleasure or the regret you occasion, and insensible of any changes in those who walk under your shade!"

Most of the relationships came off as supercilious, at best. As a fan of the Brontë sisters and Charles Dickens, Austen's Victorian prose is much more concerned with wealth and status, and less on the human condition. The idea of romance in Sense and Sensibility is a man coming up behind up, cutting off a lock of a woman's hair, and kissing it as he walks away. It's a very traditional, romance novel-type of affaire du cœur.

The men in the novel are victims to arranged marriages, which forces the purpose of star-crossed lovers in the narrative. The "trysts" and turns of the story are conveyed through gossip, because all women are apparently gabbling geese, playdates, and dinner parties. It's very easy to see how one could get swept up in the romanticism of it all, but it personally isn't my cup of tea.

#2: Elliot Rodger's My Twisted World ★★☆☆☆

Before I decided to go down the rabbit hole and read Elliot Rodger's so-called "manifesto," what I had heard about his situation was explained away, mostly as an angry incel (involuntary celibate) murder. Upon reading My Twisted World, I learned that there was more than meets the eye: Elliot Rodger is essentially Patrick Bateman from Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho, in an alternate telling, where Bateman is an introverted loser, instead of a "Chad."

Rodger is reveled to be an extreme narcissist; even seeming to be somewhat aware of his mental ailments, but still conceding to the crippling hatred and envy of other people. Because of Rodger's wealthy upbringing, he feels entitled to love and acceptance; despite Rodger's admittance to giving up on reaching out to other people. He mentions having debilitating social anxiety, and yet, from leaked emails between him and his father, he rejects the notion of therapy when it is offered to him.

Rodger is Arthur Schopenhauer's metaphorical hedgehog in his theory, called the Hedgehog's Dilemma. His ego keeps him from approaching other people, and when he does get close, he gets pricked with the ideals and behaviors of other people, and decidedly keeps his distance. In Rodger's case, his spine (ego) is so large that he has created an impenetrable barrier around himself.

This perceived rejection and denial from other people causes Rodger to stew in an embittered soup of resentment for most of his life. Rodger is full of contradictions: he is sexist, having the strange duality of wanting to eliminate all women; yet yearning for them to desire him, he is overwhelmingly racist, another duality that resides within him, seeing himself as aristocracy compared to minorities, and yet, Rodger, himself, is half-Asian, half-white. Overall, Rodger is a misanthrope; he despises that others have what he doesn't and that they do not acknowledge his worth, even though he is too introverted to actually show himself to be worthy of admiration.

Though I could somewhat empathize with Rodger's existential crisis, I think analyzing his behavior any more would be edifying his actions. Rodger was extremely privileged, but wasn't able to realize it, because of his cloistered view of normalcy. A skewed worldview that culminated from residing in the Hollywood Hills of Southern California. Before murdering six innocent people, he had made a habit of assaulting people by throwing drinks at them and running away. He fantasized about peeling the skin off of people he envied and boiling them alive. His cowardice should not be romanticized. His victims aren't able to publicize their autobiographies, so why should he achieve fame from his heinous actions? Elliot Rodger was a monster, a monster that disguised himself as a human being.

#3: Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Grand Inquisitor ★★★☆☆

An excerpt from The Brothers Karamazov, it is an insightful musing on theology versus the state of humankind, but I do not recommend reading it without context.

There are direct parallels to Notes from Underground: Ivan speaks of hiding away underground in the catacombs, whereas the narrator in Underground merely speaks of looking up through the cracks.

In the selection of Ivan’s reading provided in my book, it doesn’t include the part where Aloysha accuses Ivan of being a freemason. The underground part would make sense contextually, in accordance with that.

The freemasons first arose as an underground movement, to escape the corruption of a tyrannical, inquisition-based theocracy. Ivan references the condemnation of heretics, through auto da fé (act of faith).

He ironically invokes the name of an inquisitor, perhaps God, despite being of poor faith. His foil, Aloysha, chastises him for sinking into debauchery. This is a pivotal point in the development of Ivan as a villain, him casting away his devout brother.

#4: Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov ★★★★☆

At its best when it illustrates the virtues of the late Zosima through his disciple (Alyosha), examining Ivan’s twisted ideology, or observing the amoral Dmitri’s haplessness. The excitement wanes in the last ¼.

The book transitions from a masterpiece to droll (600–700 pages in). What had been an excellent study of the psychological & the metaphysical had become bogged down by the constant rehashing of events (during the pre- & mid-trial segments).

Alyosha’s role as the clear, reflective stream had become dominated by Dmitri’s pleading & Ivan’s scheming. The voice of reason was momentarily overtaken & maybe that was the point, but the characters were far less interesting—when they were left uncontested by their foil.

Fetyukovich’s declaration of Dmitri’s innocence acted as a prolonged nail in the coffin. Whereas, Ivan’s admittance of guilt before the judge was marginal by comparison. While Dmitri & Alyosha’s character arcs were wrapped up nicely, there was a lot left to be speculated about Ivan & whether he continued to be accompanied by his vulgar, French-speaking Devil, or if that was all just a metaphor for being “possessed” by one's guilt—similarly to Svidrigaïlov in Crime & Punishment.

Speaking of, I found that Raskolnikov’s epilogue in Siberian confinement was much more satisfying than Dmitri’s. That was probably because Smerdyakov & Ivan were the true criminals. The book makes it clear that Smerdyakov is the murderer but from the beginning, I had suspicions about Ivan. When he kept referring to his father as a “pig,” it made it clear to me that, psychologically, no one would refer to another human being as livestock if they respected life in all of its worth.

If anyone ever compares a human being to an animal especially one that’s raised to be eaten, it’s a red flag that they are likely to feel little or no remorse for murder & it’s evident that the person in question is narcissistic. A real world example of this is Donald Trump referring to gang members from MS-13 as animals & Hillary Clinton’s comment about “super predators,” where she says that she’ll make gang members “heel”—dehumanizing them & comparing [the super predators] to dogs.

Back to the discussion on The Brothers Karamazov, I thought it was interesting that the book frames birds as ethereal, God-like creatures. Zosima claims that God spoke to him in the voice of a bird, one of the courtiers is described as having an avian appearance, and, finally, Snegirev mournfully throws bread crumbs into Ilyusha’s burial hole: hoping that the sparrows will scoop the deceased from his grave. The dichotomy between the three Karamazov brothers was interesting, too, though it became unevenly more of Dmitri’s story than either of the other brothers. Crime & Punishment remains Dostoevsky’s magnum opus—The Brothers Karamazov has brief glimpses of brilliance.

#5: Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground ★★★★★

Nihilism at its finest. In this harrowing tale, Dostoevsky speaks through the lens of an otherwise insufferable anti-hero: a person tormented by the short-comings of others & himself.

Unable to find love because of his inability to come to terms with the wretchedness of being. An existential look at the woes that everyone must contend with as a species. A brilliant philosophical piece on the nature of existence.

#6: Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises ★★☆☆☆

This novel is received with great adulation by the general populace, and for the life of me, I cannot fathom why. Though it contains highly atmospheric landscapes, with a plethora of unusual aphorisms, that really light the stage of the story. The Sun Also Rises lacks in character continuity, and an overall impact.

The dynamic between Jake and Brett didn't make sense to me. Perhaps, I am too young to understand the contradictory complication of adult relationships, or perhaps this is just a period piece that has aged like a rotten peach. Who's to say? The main takeaway that I got from this novel, is that wealthy people love exotic countries, drinking, and sex.

In the end, I was coming to the conclusion that the plot would be about Jake forfeiting his prejudices to come to terms with Brett's feelings for Romero, the charismatic bullfighter. But, instead, the story ends with Brett eventually consummating Jake's feelings, and them riding off into the sunset, with the gentle implication that Jake has lost interest in her. It felt like a retconned Hollywood ending, to appease the masses, rather than something realistic or meaningful.

#7: Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting ★★★☆☆

Note: I have never seen the film, so this is a fresh off-the-pages review!

Trainspotting is a slice-of-life, period piece following the wild misadventures of a band of drug-using, gang-banger miscreants. The novel is mostly laid back, the main two exciting parts being 1) the main cast is diagnosed with HIV, this isn't a spoiler, it is told to the reader at the beginning of the tale, and 2) the heist, which will involve spoilers, so I won't mention them here.

This is my second Irvine Welsh novel, the first being Marabou Stork Nightmares: still my favorite published work by him. Although, I described the story as primarily being "slice-of-life," i.e. a group of thugs bantering to one another, it is compelling. Welsh tends to make every character interaction jaunty, fresh, and humanistic; so, unless you're bothered by the dialogue being written in tangents of Scottish accents, there isn't a problem.

As for the characters, I think the cast was a bit too large and it was hard to differentiate at times. The main two that I remember are Renton and Sick Boy. There was anticipation for Nina towards the beginning, but the only female character that gets a fair amount of interaction is Dianne. The switch in characters and perspectives reminded me of sprawling narrative in David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest.

There were a lot of references to eighties bands: there's a chapter called There's a Light That Never Goes Out, based on the ballad by The Smiths, a nod to Ian Curtis from Joy Division, and a quote from the Sex Pistols (one of the greatest excerpts from this book); "I remember in the punk era, the Sex Pistols saying that 'no one is innocent.' Too true. What also has to be said though, is that some are more guilty than others."

Amen to that.

#8: Violette Leduc's La Bâtarde ★★★☆☆

The icing on the cake is often more pleasant than the taste. It would be easier to describe the points of contentions that I had with the memoir if I compared it to a similar book, Henry & June.

It’s impossible to ignore the similarities between Violette Leduc & Anaïs Nin: both French women from the early 20th century that excelled in writing about their lives, both fell in love with famous authors, both revered the work of psychoanalysts, both had traumatic experiences with late-term abortions and body dysmorphia, both of them received rhinoplasty. The divergence falls in the input of passion: Nin’s passionate love and admiration for Henry James shines through the pages, whereas Leduc’s tryst with Maurice Sachs comes across as passé; abeyant. Leduc is portrayed as fickle & uncaring.

#9: Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights ★★★☆☆

Warning: I am spoiling the whole book in this review. It's difficult to digest what I've just experienced without doing so!

"My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath—a source of visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff—he's always in my mind—not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself—but as my own being."

The etymology for the word passion is interesting, the Greek version of the word: πάσχω, means "to suffer, to be acted on," whereas the Latin prefix, pati (or passus) merely means "to suffer." Catherine suffers because of her passionate love for Heathcliff, and Heathcliff for Catherine. They are one and the same.

This novel is a lot to take in, it examines really heavy topics, such as: an all-consuming love that is forbidden to the two participants, class struggles, and the generational cycle of abuse. This book takes an interesting approach to forbidden love, differing in approach from other tales like Romeo and Juliet, where the point of the conflict is widely interpreted as: These people love each other, their families won't let them be together because of hate, why don't you just leave them be!

Not in Wuthering Heights! In this story, the main male protagonist, Heathcliff, is essentially an anti-hero. He's dark, brooding, hate-filled, and vengeful. Not something that you would typically look for in a suitor. His amour, Catherine Earnshaw, is a flighty, spoiled girl who is insanely dedicated to him—to the point where she is willing to use the wealth gleaned from her betrothed, Edgar Linton, to elevate Heathcliff's status, and right the wrongs of the discrimination dealt upon him.

As you can imagine, all of this ends in a disaster. Not to mention that Catherine's brother, Hindley Earnshaw, is unbearably spiteful to Heathcliff and treats him like a slave; and when his wife passes away, he becomes more antagonistic and cruel, one could even say he has gone mad. Him and Catherine's husband, Edgar Linton, duke it out, Heathcliff swindles Edgar out of his fortune while he's on his deathbed, and all of this could have been prevented if prejudice and classism wasn't a thing.

Heathcliff is described as a nice kid when he's younger, but he gets tormented by Hindley, treated as lesser by Edgar, and perceivably jilted by Catherine because he hears a part of a conversation that she has with Nelly, the narrator, and takes it out of context. Catherine is never even able to clarify the misunderstanding because she's dies in the midst of giving birth to her daughter, Cathy, in the first ½ of the book! The writing in this story is gorgeous, but god, is it a labyrinthine tome to unravel, not to mention a huge downer! Don't read this and expect to feel good afterward!

A misgiving I have with the story is that there are too many characters that don't have a very crucial part in the plot, they just exist to progress the narrative, like: Frances, Joseph, Zillah, Dr. Kenneth, and I believe that Hareton Earnshaw only exists to further incite Heathcliff's rage. It was difficult for me to keep up with who is who in the story, and the official Wikipedia page even has a character flow chart because it gets so convoluted. I read Le Comte de Monte-Cristo, for Christ's sake and I feel like the extensive character count didn't need its own chart!

It's not easy to sympathize with any of the characters, especially Heathcliff. The descriptions of him are nightmare inducing, ghostly and devilish. It's interesting that Emily Brontë chose to tell the story of a cast of unlikable characters, from the point-of-view of their slave! Maybe that's the point, maybe we aren't meant to sympathize with any of them. We are just meant to see their follies from an outsider's perspective?

Then the question really is: If we had seen things from Heathcliff's point-of-view, would he have been more likable?

Though, I can't imagine Heathcliff's brutal beating of Catherine's daughter, Cathy, conveyed as any less horrible from another point-of-view.

I'm still not sure what to think about this novel, other than it made me feel miserable!

#10: J.G. Ballard's Crash ★☆☆☆☆

In a nutshell: protagonist is involved in a collisional manslaughter—¾ of the novel is focused on pure debauchery & finally, more carnage; a cyclical repetition of moral desecration. Basically, an erudite retelling of Jean Genet’s Querelle.

#11: Mark Twain's Letters from the Earth ★★☆☆☆

Twain triumphs in adventurous literature but his dramaturgical rants can be described as self-indulgent psychobabble—to put it kindly. The only segments worth reading are Papers of the Adam Family & The Great Dark.

#12: Pam Grier's Foxy, My Life in Three Acts ★★★★★

Foxy Brown was my initial introduction to blaxploitation film (along with Dolemite); that being said, Pam Grier’s memoir is outstanding! Full of intellect, ingénue, & sincerity! An empowering memoirーthe best I’ve read to date!

#13: Franz Xaver von Schönwerth's The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales ★★★☆☆

Simplicity & moralistic lustration. The best tales are:

• Three Flowers
• The Three Abducted Daughters
• Woud & Fried
• Pearl Tears
• The Ice Giants
• The Sun Takes an Oath

#14: Henry James' The Turn of the Screw ★★☆☆☆

James’ charm is buried underneath excessive alliteration, prosaic repetition, & dissonant personability. The shortcomings in the story are likely due to the nature of its serialization.
Posted by EggheadLuna | Aug 10, 2020 2:54 AM | 0 comments
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