“Never in all human history has there been such glory; never have the eyes of mortals beheld such royal pageantry! Trappers and hunters have perished in the icy wastes of the arctic to bring the ermines and sables in which these queens are robed; divers have been torn by sharks to bring up their pearls from the depths of tropic seas, and miners have been crushed in the deep earth to dig their blazing diamonds; chemists have blown themselves up in search for their cosmetics and dyes, and seamstresses have grown blind embroidering the elaborate designs which twinkle upon their silken ankles. All this concentrated in one brief glory-march— do you wonder that heads are high and glances regal? Or that the crowd surges, and rushes wildly, and women faint, and ambulances come clanging?”—Oil! - Upton Sinclair
“It was a world in which some people worked all the time, and others played all the time. To work all the time was a bore, and no one would do it unless he had to; but to play all the time was equally a bore, and the people who did it never had anything to talk about that Bunny wanted to listen to. They talked about their play, just as solemnly as if it had been work: tennis tournaments, golf tournaments, polo matches— all sorts of complicated ways of hitting a little ball about a field! Now, it was all right, when you needed exercise and recreation, to go out and hit a little ball; but to make a life-work of it, to give all your time and thought to it, to practice it religiously, read and write books about it, discuss it for hours on end— Bunny looked at these fully grown ment and women, with their elaborate outfits of “sport clothes,” and it seemed to him they must be exercising a kind of hypnosis upon themselves, to make themselves believe that they were really enjoying themselves.”—Oil! - Upton Sinclair
“But human beings were miserable, millions of them, and why could they not learn to be happy in such a world? It was springtime all over the country, and yet everybody was preparing to go to war, and form vast armies, and kill other people, also groping for happiness! Everybody said that it had to be; and yet something in Bunny would not cease to dream of a world in which people did not maim and kill one another, and destroy, not merely the happiness of others, but their own.”—Oil! - Upton Sinclair
“Yes, life was strange— and cruel. You lived in the little narrow circle of your own consciousness, and, as people said, what you didn’t know didn’t hurt you. Your Thanksgiving dinner was spoiled, because one poor laborer had slid down into a well which you happened to own; but dozens and perhaps hundreds of men had been hurt in other wells all over the country, and that didn’t trouble you a bit. For that matter, think of all the men who were dying over there in Europe! All the way from Flanders to Switzerland the armies were hiding in trenches, bombarding each other day and night, and thousands were being mangled just as horribly as by a grab in the bottom of a well; but you hadn’t intended to let that spoil your Thanksgiving dinner, not a bit! Those men didn’t mean as much to you as the quail you were going to kill the next day!”—Oil! - Upton Sinclair
“Mihail Fyodorovitch speaks evil of everything. Katya listens, and neither of them notices into what depths the apparently innocent diversion of finding fault with their neighbors is gradually drawing them. They are not conscious how by degrees simple talk passes into malicious mockery and jeering, and how they are both beginning to drop into the habits and methods of slander.”—A Dreary Story - Chekhov
“One is shy of asking men under sentence what they have been sentenced for; and in the same way it is awkward to ask very rich people what they want so much money for, why they make such poor use of their wealth, why they don’t give it up, even when they see in it their unhappiness; and if they begin a conversation about it themselves, it is usually embarrassing, awkward, and long.”—A Doctor’s Visit - Chekhov
“I understood that when you love you must either, in your reasonings about that love, start from what is highest, from what is more important than happiness or unhappiness, sin or virtue in their accepted meaning, or you must not reason at all.”—About Love - Anton Chekhov
“I reflected how many satisfied, happy people there really are! What a suffocating force it is! You look at life: the insolence and idleness of the strong, the ignorance and brutishness of the weak, incredible poverty all about us, overcrowding, degeneration, drunkenness, hypocrisy, lying… Yet all is calm and stillness in the houses and in the streets; of the fifty thousand living in a town, there is not one who would cry out, who would give vent to his indignation aloud. We see the people going to market for provisions,eating by day, sleeping by night, talking their silly nonsense, getting married, growing old, serenely escorting their dead to the cemetery; but we do not see and we do not hear those who suffer, and what is terrible in life goes on somewhere behind the scenes… Everything is quiet and peaceful, and nothing protests but mute statistics: so many people gone out of their minds, so many gallons of vodka drunk, so many children dead from malnutrition…And this order of things is evidently necessary; evidently the happy man only feels at east because the unhappy bear their burdens in silence, and without that silence happiness would be impossible. It’s a case of general hypnotism. There out to be behind the door of every happy, contented man some one standing with a hammer continually reminding him with a tap that there are unhappy people; that however happy he may be, life will show him her laws sooner or later, trouble will come for him—- disease, poverty, losses, and no one will see or hear, just as now he neither sees nor hears others. But there is no man with a hammer; the happy man lives at his ease, and trivial daily cares faintly agitate him like the wind in the aspen-tree— and all goes well.”—
Gooseberries - Anton Chekhov
Although I didn’t particularly like this story, these lines practically reached out of the book and slapped me in my face.
I am so guilty of this, as are we all. As we leave the holiday season where we might send some toys to a shelter, or clothes to the homeless, or food to the food bank, please, pray that we don’t wipe our hands and smugly think of a job well done. Looking at the kids I work with, I realize that the need will ALWAYS be there, 11 other months of the year.
Much as Hallmark and other holiday companies make us feel obliged to buy, buy, buy, I fear that service work is typically only done around this time of year because “‘tis the season.” There is so much desolation in our world, so much sadness, and injustice, and hunger, that we all need to be working 7 days a week 365 days a year for others!
My challenge to myself this year is that each time I hear about some type of injustice or oppression and think, ‘Aww, that’s sad,” to not let that be the end of it…to DO something. Whether it’s writing a check, donating time, or simply just taking a second to LISTEN to someone, this year I’m trying my hardest to really live as a Christian and give myself to others.
Well, I’m a little late, but as the year drew to a close I took a look back on the books I’ve read. It was a weird year… As I think back to this time last year, I remember sitting at the kitchen table at my boyfriend’s parents’ house for HOURS with infinite amounts of coffee crying because I couldn’t get a job. Now I have two, my own place, a dog and an extra cat we are fostering, and a better grip on life lol. Eh shit, that’s a different post for a different time, so without further ado, here is my books o 2012 list
The Lincoln Lawyer - Connelly
The Shut Down Learner - Selznick ( actually a really great quick books on kids with ADHD or kids who are more visual and spatial learners).
The Book of Awesome - Pastricha ( I got this as a Christmas present last year and loved it. It’s super cute and will make you smile, but I also use it to teach descriptive writing to kids. There are plenty of little things that the kids have experienced and they can relate to, so it helps to jump start their creative thinking. Plenty of burping and farting references they’ll love too).
Nine Dragons - Connelly
The Mummy and Miss Nitocris - Griffith (gotta love the free books app on the iPad).
War of the Worlds - Wells
The Beautiful and the Damned - Fitzgerald
Great Expectations - Dickens (UGH. First and last Dickens novel I’ll ever read. I tried).
The Death of Ivan Ilych and Other Stories - Tolstoy
The Possessed - Dostoevsky ( best book ever to travel with! Took it to Boston with me and it was perfect for layovers and long plane rides.)
Wuthering Heights - Bronte (just…..no.)
Main Street - Lewis (and thus begins my love affair with Sinclair Lewis.)
Red Badge of Courage - Crane
The Three Musketeers - Dumas ( I was actually expecting the style to be very dry due to when it was written but I actually really enjoyed it! I will be reading more Dumas this year.)
Just After Sunset - King (okay, I have to admit… I am a closet king fan. I used to buy his paperbacks at the grocery store and read them in high school instead of doing anything productive, but damn, I’ve just never found anyone who can get me with thrillers like he can. This was a collection of short stories— which most king fans know are the best work. Cracking it open was like the first time you drink cold grape soda as an adult…refreshing and taks you back to a good ass time in life.)
The Men Who Stare at Goats - Ronson
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter - McCullers ( okay I cheated, I’ve read this before. I remember it being so sad and haunting and depressing when I first read it at 18. Going back through it I had a chance to focus more on her writing style than simply being wrapped up in the plot, but this still tops my list of must read for everyone!)
The Member of the Wedding - McCullers
Clock Without Hands - McCullers ( this is the first time I read this story and it made me feel much the same way as Heart is a Lonely Hunter did. The characters were so diverse….at one point you fuckin hated them but then found yourself pitying them for some subtle reason. Probably my second favorite story from her.)
Babbitt - Lewis
The Stranger - Camus
Later Short Stories - Chekhov
Schindler’s Legacy - Brecher (really interesting book that was written right around the time Spielberg came out with Schindler’s List. Basically a biographical look at those who were working in that factory and how they adjusted to life after the Holocaust. Some editing bloopers and inconsistencies but all around a fascinating read. It truly is amazing to think of the resilience of the survivors as they just went on to build new lives)
So there it is…my list. Now…what should I read this year? Suggestions?
I am beginning to forget the old house, and only sometimes when I am painting or reading I suddenly, apropos of nothing, remember the green light in the window, the sound of my footsteps as I walked home through the fields in the night, with my heart full of love, rubbing my hands in the cold. And still more rarely, at moments when I am sad and depressed by loneliness, I have dim memories, and little by little I begin to feel that she is thinking of me, too — that she is waiting for me, and that we shall meet…
Misuce, where are you?
An Artist’s Story - Anton Chekhov
Such a beautiful ending to a sad love story… this was definitely one of my favorites in the entire collection.
“Scientific men, writers, artists, are hard at work; thanks to them, the conveniences of life are multiplied from day to day. Our physical demands increase, yet truth is still a long way off, and man still remains the most rapacious and dirty animal; everything is tending to the degeneration of the majority of mankind, and the loss forever of all fitness for life.”—An Artist’s Story - Anton Chekhov
“Having been dragged reluctantly from one of these watering-places to another, I have been more and more struck by the inconvenient and niggardly life led by the wealthy and well-fed, the dulness and feebleness of their imagination, the lack of boldness in their tastes and desires. And how much happier are those tourists, old and young, who, not having the money to stay in hotels, live where they can, admire the view of the sea from the tops of the mountains, lying on the green grass, walk instead of riding, see the forests and villages at close quarters, observe the customs of the country, listen to its songs, fall in love with its women….”—Ariadne - Anton Chekhov
“Why did people in general hinder each other from living? What losses were due to it! What terrible losses! If it were not for hatred and malice people would get immense benefit from one another.”—
Rothschild’s Fiddle - Anton Chekhov
One of the sadder stories in this collection.
I truly believe that laziness is the reason we all hate. If we all took a minute and searched for commonalities between ourselves and others (and believe me, they aren’t that hard to find) I genuinely believe that hate would end.
“We are unjust, we slander one another and spoil each other’s lives, we waste all our powers on trash which we do not need and which hinders us from living; and that frightens me, because I don’t understand why and for whom it is necessary. I don’t understand men, my dear fellow, and I am afraid of them. It frightens me to look at the peasants, and I don’t know for what higher objects they are suffering and what they are living for. If life is an enjoyment, then they are unnecessary, superfluous people; if the object and meaning of life is to be found in poverty and unending, hopeless ignorance, I can’t understand for whom and what this torture is necessary. I understand no one and nothing.”—
Terror - Anton Chekhov
Speaks for itself. When you look at all the extra bullshit we pine for and surround ourselves with, it makes you wonder WHAT IS IT FOR?
“And thinking about his life, he came to the conclusion he had never said or acted upon what he really thought, and other people had repaid him in the same way. And so the whole of life seemed to him as dark as this water in which the night sky was reflected and water-weeds grew in a tangle. And it seemed to him that nothing could ever set it right.”—
Neighbours - Anton Chekhov
Problem the best three ending lines I have ever read in a short story….
“What he had clung to more and more from his childhood upwards, what he had loved thinking about when he used to sit in the stuffy classroom or the lecture theatre— brightness, purity, and joy, everything that filled the house with life and light, had gone never to return, had anished, and was mixed up with a coarse, clumsy story of some battalion officer, a chivalrous lieutenant, a depraved woman and a grandfather who had shot himself… And to begin to talk about his mother or to think that the past could ever return would mean not understanding what was clear.”—
Neighbours - Anton Chekhov
This passage haunted me and nearly made me cry. If you’ve never had serious family issues, I guess it wouldn’t mean all that much to you.
When I was 20, an event happened in my family that literally exploded in everyone’s face and tore us all apart. As two of my family members began mending the pieces back together and sweeping all their emotion under the rug, I couldn’t move on. I was consumed with anger and loathing for the particular person who has caused so much turmoil my entire life… and this final peak event could not be forgiven.
Well, here I am, three and a half years later and still no resolution has been reached. I look back on my childhood (which, while not perfect, certainly was pleasant) and feel unbearably sad that I will never have that again, regardless of how this situation ends up.
Holidays are especially depressing as it leaves me with two choices: 1) go back home for the first time in about two years and pretend like things are okay or 2) fit in with someone else’s family. Neither are what I want.
“God created man to be alive, and to have joy and grief and sorrow; but you want nothing, so you are not alive, you are stone, clay! A stone wants nothing and you want nothing.”—In Exile - Anton Chekhov
i’m not going to say i miss being at flagler college, because believe me, education department and i never seemed to get along, but DAMN i miss living there sometimes :(
thinking about my old shitty apartment on desoto place in lincolnville and how everyone used to cram into there and we’d tell people they weren’t allowed to breathe in the summertime because it makes it too hot.
i miss walking to the american legion on the bay and getting fuuuuuuckkkkeeddd up for less than $15, and THEN going out to the better bars where everyone else was.
i miss all the random townies that would be out and about. like the time some guy just randomly started rapping cyprus hill to us at 3 am by jp henleys, and we clapped at the end of it, and then he was all damn yall couldn’t give me no money for like a soda or somin? or finding drunk ass tourists pissing in front of where we used to work. or egging weirdos on.
i miss flavors, taco shop, pizzalleys bread sticks, getting fucked up in the daytime at chianti room happy hour, and i ESPECIALLY miss waking up on sunday mornings and having schmagels… i crave it every morning.
i miss working during the summertime, when my friends and i all had jobs on the same block. we’d work 10-14 hour days, go get drinks, go home, and do it all again the next day. hardest work ever, but it was so monotonous and predictable that it was almost enjoyable.
i miss the bells.
i miss always being able to run into someone, somewhere. not really ever having to make plans. i miss stealing everyones money saver magazine so my boyfriend and i could steal their cici’s pizza coupons. i miss taco bell. i miss the closet, and loose screws, and whatever the fuck that store was called on st george that had the really pretty lacy dresses that i never bought anything from but always wanted to look inside.
i miss r.b. hunt and the island.
i like my life now. i love my nice apartment with its washer/dryer, dishwasher, and central air (and most importantly, no mold or termites!). i love the school i work at and where my other job is. i like that it is so much more grounded here… those who surround me actually have goals, and ambition, and don’t do a bunch of fucking mouthwork about how everyone is just soooooo closed-minded yet all they do is sit around on their couches and fucking smoke pot all day rather than get involved in a cause. i like how there aren’t really any pretentious people that think they’re better than me because they’re vegan. i like the fact that there’s something to do other than just going out and getting fucked up again. i like the fact that i will never have to deal with flagler’s financial aid department EVER AGAIN IN MY WHOLE LIFE HALLELUJAH.
but sometimes, i wish i could snap my fingers and just go back for one day. no fiancees or “big kid jobs” or loans to pay off. just go back to one day of wasting time until i graduate.
so i’m out walking my dog and i hear all these ducks quacking. my dog — as a bird dog— naturally is excited, but so am i, as i love ducks and they are the best animals in the world.
so there i am, literally spinning in circles in this one spot, not finding any ducks, when i hear someone shout, “hello!”
it’s a man standing on his balcony.
"is that you quacking?" i ask.
"uh….well…yeah…" he says.
"oh. we were really hoping for ducks."
"sorry about that."
so, disappointed i continue, only to hear the man trumpeting out as many duck calls as possible as loudly as possible, and i can’t help but think, why the fuck are you doing duck calls by yourself at 2:00 on a friday afternoon?!
“His whole attention was turned upon the spiritual agony which was torturing him. It was a dull, vague, undefined anguish akin to misery, to an extreme form of terror, and to despair. He could point to the place where the pain was, in his breast under his heart; but he could not compare it with anything. In the past he had had acute toothache, he had had pleurisy and neuralgia, but all that was insignificant compared with this spiritual anguish. In the presence of that pain life seemed loathsome. The dissertation, the excellent work he had written already, the people he loved, the salvation of fallen women— everything that only the day before he had cared about or been indifferent to, now when he thought of them irritated him in the same was as the noise of the carriages, the scurrying footsteps of the waiters in the passage, the daylight…… Of all the thoughts that strayed through his mind only two did not irritate him: one was that at every moment he had the power to kill himself, the other that this agony would not last more than three days. This last he knew by experience.”—A Nervous Breakdown - Anton Chekhov
“'One of two things: either we only fancy prostitution is an evil, and we exaggerate it; or, if prostitution really is as great an evil as is generally assumed, these dear friends of mine are as much slave-owners, violators, and murderers, as the inhabitants of Syria and Cairo, that are described in the 'Neva.' Now they are singing, laughing, talking sense, but haven't they just ben exploiting hunger, ignorance, and stupidity? They have— I have been a witness of it. What is the use of their humanity, their medicine, their painting?'”—
A Nervous Breakdown - Anton Chekhov
Quick note: this story was written in the late 1800s, so the comments about Syria and Cairo are not really present-date.
I know a lot of my friends have been getting into human trafficking awareness and putting an end to it, whether it is prostitution or unpaid labor. A few years ago, I didn’t really feel as though human trafficking had too much to do with me… I felt like it only happened in small countries and not where I am. I’ve started realizing that yes, there’s plenty of injustice going on even in America in terms of slave labor and it has to do with all of us!
Where I used to live, I felt like a lot of people did a whole bunch of mouth-work about how we need to stop injustice in the world, yadda, yadda, yadda, and yet they never bothered to organize or get involved in anything. I think it’s safe to say that everyone here would agree that human trafficking and slave labor is “bad” and “wrong,” and yet we continue to buy from companies that employ these practices. Here in America, so many migrant workers are taken advantage of doing work that most of us would stick our noses up at, yet all we do is complain about them “invading our country.” Do you ever hear about the employers, the CEO’s, the stockholders— who are COMPLETELY aware of what’s going on in their employment practices— getting any jailtime or severe punishment? Nope… instead it’s only raining down on the people trying to feed their families.
So, in other words.. in 2013 I’m really sticking to my life goal of practicing what I preach. Christ is my role model, and I highly doubt that he’d stick with these shit companies who mistreat their workers just “because it’s cheaper.”
The whole secret and magic of her beauty lay just in these tiny, infinitely elegant movements, in her smile, in the play of her face, in her rapid glances at us, in the combination of the subtle grave of her movements with her youth, her freshness, the purity of her soul that sounded in her laugh and voice, and with the weakness we love so much in children, in birds, in fawns, and in young trees.
It was that butterfly’s beauty so in keeping with waltzing, darting about the garden, laughter and gaiety, and incongruous with serious thought, grief, and repose; and it seemed as though a gust of wind blowing over the platform, or a fall of rain, would be enough to wither the fragile body and scatter the capricious beauty like the pollen of a flower.
“To an educated Russian his past is always beautiful, his present a state of calamity.”—Found this gem in the beginning of an introduction and wondering if there’s any truth to it. I know that I definitely feel that way a lot of the time….
I’ve been MIA lately due to my other job and just holiday craziness in general but I’m excited that I finally finished my short stories of Anton Chekhov!! Yayy!
Anyways, two weeks off… not really a good thing, but at least I’ll have plenty of distractions. I’m going to try and finish up this other book that I’ve had forever and post all my books of 2012. I have some lined up for the new year, but I’d love any suggestions… I’m still on my Russian lit kick (which has lasted about 7 years, and doesn’t show signs of stopping) but also am trying to knock out a whole bunch of classics as well.
I wasn’t too, too impressed by The Stranger….came to me as a recommendation and I just felt it was too straightforward. I know that part of its appeal is the style in which it was written, but for me it was too plain. I’m a fan of words strewn together in a way that really can get down to how you really feel about something, and I just didn’t find it here.
As far as the actual story itself, I thought it was okay. It’s a very quick read, I finished it within 24 hours of starting it. If you have some time to kill, give it a shot, someone else might love it. As always, if I’m missing something or you have a much different opinion, I’d love to hear it.
“The trial was adjourned. As I was leaving the courthouse on my way back to the van, I recognized for a brief moment the smell and color of the summer evening. In the darkness of my mobile prison I could make out one by one, as if from the depths of my exhaustion, all the familiar sounds of a town I loved and of a certain time of day when I used to feel happy. The cries of the newspaper vendors in the already languid air, the last few birds in the square, the shouts of the sandwich sellers, the screech of the streetcars turning sharply through the upper town, and that hum in the sky before night engulfs the port: all this mapped out for me a route I knew so well before going to prison and which now I traveled blind.”—The Stranger - Albert Camus
“Afterwards my only thoughts were those of a prisoner. I waited for the daily walk, which I took in the courtyard, or for a visit from my lawyer. The rest of the time I managed pretty well. At the time, I often thought that if I had had to live in the trunk of a dead tree, with nothing to do but look up at the sky flowering overhead, little by little I would have gotten used to it. I would have waited for birds to fly by or clouds to mingle, just as here I waited to see my lawyer’s ties and just as, in another world, I used to wait patiently until Saturday to hold Marie’s body in my arms. Now, as I think back on it, I wasn’t in a hollow tree trunk. There were others worse off than me.”—The Stranger - Albert Camus
Sorry for the Sinclair Lewis-filled extravaganza the last few days. So thankful that I finally started reading him this year! He is the best unofficial psychologist I’ve ever read :/
Anyways, if you couldn’t tell, I fucking loved the book. I want everyone to read it. If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear how you felt about it, if any passages stood out to you. I picked some of my favorites to share on tumblr, as I always do :)
In matrimonial geography the distance between the first mute recognition of a break and the admission thereof is as great as the distance between the first naive faith and the first doubting.
As he began to drift away he also began to see her as a human being, to like and dislike her instead of accepting her as a comparatively moveable part of the furniture, and he compassionated that husband-and-wife relation which, in twenty-five years of married life, had become a separate and real entity. He recalled their high lights; the summer vacation in Virginia meadows under the blue wall of the mountains; their motor tour through Ohio, and the exploration of Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus; the birth of Verona; their building of this new house, planned to comfort them through a happy old age— chokingly they had said that it might be the last home either of them would ever have. Yet his most softening remembrance of these dear moments did not keep him from barking at dinner, ‘Yep, going out f’ few hours. Don’t sit up for me.’
Babbitt - Sinclair Lewis
Love the beautifully worded description of breaks in marriages. This was another sad yet beautiful passage, in that I really, truly believe in marriage.
That moment he started for Zenith. In his journey there was no appearance of flight, but he was fleeing, and four days afterward he was on the Zenith train. He knew that he was slinking back not because it was what he longed to do but because it was all he could do. He scanned again his discovery that he could never run away from Zenith and family and office, because in his own brain he bore the office and the family and every street and disquiet and illusion of Zenith.
'But I'm going to— oh I'm going to start something!' he vowed, and he tried to make it valiant.
“He saw the years, the brilliant winter days and all the long sweet afternoons which were meant for summery meadows, lost in such brittle pretentiousness. He thought of telephoning about leases, of cajoling men he hated, of making business cals and waiting in dirty anterooms—hat on knee, yawning at fly-specked calendars, being polite to office-boys.”—Babbitt - Sinclair Lewis
“With no Vergil Gunches before whom to set his face in resolute optimism, he beheld, and half admitted that he beheld, his way of life as incredibly mechanical. Mechanical business- a brisk selling of badly built houses. Mechanical religion— a dry, hard church, shut off from the real life of the streets, inhumanly respectable as a top-hat. Mechanical golf and dinner-parties, and bridge and conversation. Save with Paul Rielsing, mechanical friendships— back-slapping and jocular, never daring the essay the test of quietness.”—
Babbitt - Sinclair Lewis
Another quote that I found myself really relating to… It is so, so easy for us to get caught up in what we’re used to and comfortable with. I wouldn’t recommend taking the same steps that George Babbitt did in this book, but rather branching out to find more depth in what is included in your life. Hopefully you are able to do something that you love, but if you’re feeling like your church or religion is a desert, maybe it’s time for a change. I know I was HATING church for so long until I found where God needed me to be, and believe, we are quite alive! As far as friendships, this can be painful. I know I’ve had some that I thought were deep-flowing, but given the test of time/life-changes, they really had no girth. It’s tough to go out and make real, true friendships, but sometimes you have to cut off the ones that are unreciprocated.