Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Republic by Plato

I must take a mental note not to read any philosophical book during three of the last months of year! When reports and deadlines occupied most of my brain, I should have chosen some lighter books than Plato! Really… I almost put Republic down in the middle of 200s pages, but I know that if I didn’t finish now, I won’t probably pick it up again in the future. So, I kept on reading. And you know…it turned out to be rewarding in the end!

Republic is a conversation of some Ancient Greek men who were “on the threshold of old age”—one of them was Socrates. From common earthly matters, their conversation moved to a serious one: Does morality rewarding? Socrates thought so, but others disagreed. One of them said that “morality is nothing other than the advantage of the stronger party…” And that led to a discussion about governmental systems—the best and the worst types, as well as the same weighing at human’s characters. They even created from the scratch an ideal community in which happiness is in store for everyone—from the leaders (they call it “guardian”) to its citizen.

So, Republic is not a political book in the first place. First Socrates analyzed positive and negative points from several biggest governmental systems; then cross-referenced them with men’s character types. In the end, they all agreed that morality is, after all, rewarding. And actually, being the title of this book doesn’t mean that Republic is the best political system chosen by Plato. Here is the nomination according to Plato, and agreed by the rest (from best to worst):

- Aristocracy (complies with Plato’s ideal state)
- Timarchy or Timocracy
- Oligarchy
- Democracy
- Dictatorship

Like I said, I have chosen the wrong time to read Republic, so I didn’t have chance to make thorough analysis on the state models, and cannot decide which model is the most ideal.

The idea of one-person-one-occupation is good. That way everyone can work according to his passion and skill; that way he will produce his best, and in the end everyone will be satisfied. I also agree that the ruler (or guardian, using Plato’s term) must be provided with special education, on philosophy, in particular. But I strongly opposed to Plato’s way of exalting the guardian class, to the extent of restraining them from marrying other social classes, and even suggesting that children will be snatched from their parents and raised by the state. I agree that ruler of the state must have certain qualities, but that the kingship should be dominated by certain class… a big no!

To sum up, there are things in this book that are indeed relevant with our issues today; the idea about morality and philosophy really benefit us—and thus make Republic an important reading. But there are also other ideas that was really disgusting.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge


It’s back! After two sabbatical years (is it really two years?) of one of my favorite reading challenges, Adam has decided to host The Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge again, yay! Thanks Adam, for I really need this kick right now to finally take on several books that has been in my shelf for years!

It requires us to read twelve books (with two alternates) from our TBR pile. This year I intended to read all twelve of them, so here they are… (the year is the publishing year of my copy):

Falling Angels by Tracy Chevalier (2002)
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene – Indonesian translation (2003)
March by Geraldine Brooks – Indonesian translation (2007)
Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy – Indonesian translation (2005)
Walden and Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau (2009)
Cleopatra: A Life by Tracy Schiff (2012)
The Siege by Helen Dunmore (2002)
An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris (2014)
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (2001)
World without End by Ken Follett (2012)
Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens (1995)
The Origin: A Biographical Novel of Charles Darwin by Irving Stone (1982)

Now, wish me luck for next year! *fingers crossed*


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Dickens in December: A Reading Event | #DickensInDecember2017

credit for Dickens image

In my bookish life, December is one of the most exciting months of the year (besides April—because of… you know… one particular genius French author I happen to love! 😎). I love organizing, and around December I used to organize my reading schedule for the next year. All with reading challenges that everyone is posting, anticipation of reading (and rereading my favorites), it makes December so full of excitement and anticipation!

There is another thing. Since two or three years ago, I have been cultivating a new habit of reading Dickens only in December. Why December? I don’t know… maybe because Dickens is always associated with Christmas—hey, he is “the man who invented Christmas”, right? Or maybe, December always gives the perfect mood for reading Dickens… do you feel it too?? Anyway, now, I always put a Dickens or two in my December entry for next year reading lists.

And then I thought….why not creating a reading event of Dickens every December, just like what I have been doing with Zola every April (Zoladdiction—if you haven’t been familiar with it)? That will be super cool! And so…. today I am proud to announce my new reading event:


DICKENS IN DECEMBER


Why is it cool?
Reading Dickens IS always cool… do you need any other reason to read him?

How can I participate?
Just by confirming in the comment box, or by copy-pasting URL of your blog post about your intention to participate.

Must I own a blog to participate?
No, you can use your goodreads or Twitter or Facebook or Instagram account, or even… you can just read silently without social media sharings. But please don’t go “anonymous” here; use your alias name, at least. I hate talking to ghosts… 😝

Must I post a sign up post, reviews, or wrap-up post?
It’s you choice. I know December can be hectic (so many reports to prepare, humbug!), and totally understand if you don’t have time to write posts. But if you’d care to share your reading plan with us on the comment box, we’d be thrilled! In my blog I will post a scheduled kick-off post on December 1st and wrap-up post around Christmas so that you can share your thoughts or feelings (or URL of your posts) if you’d like to, as often as you want! You can also share it via social media using hashtag #DickensInDecember2017. Don’t forget to tag me! 😉

So, what MUST I do?
Read, read, and read as many Dickensian book(s) as you can! (books by Dickens or about Dickens) 💓

Last but not least… to spice up the event…

Are you super-excited with the upcoming The Man Who Invented Christmas movie?? I AM!! Here’s the trailer if you haven’t seen it…


You can also share your thoughts on the movie (or any other Dickensian movies) for this event.

Yayyy! See you next month! 🎉


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Mini Reviews - Animal Farm & The Age of Innocence

As usual when the last three months in the year is coming, hectic is all around me. I still can catch up with my reading pace, but not with reviews. So, here are my mini reviews of two books I have finished—the eighth and ninth of my second The Classics Club challenge (three more to go for this year!).


Animal Farm by George Orwell

This is my first Orwell; 1984 will be following soon. It is an allegory of Stalinism—a concept I have had, until now, only a vague notion of. Orwell wrote it to satirize Joseph Stalin, with whom the UK was in allegiance with when the book was published (1943-1944). Orwell did his job well, anyone who read it would clearly see the message, and the fable is convincing and entertaining. I have only one question: What has become of Snowball? While the end of the fable was quite predictable, Snowball’s condition was one thing I looked forward to when approaching the end. But that was not the main focus of this book, of course. All in all, four of five stars I granted for Animal Farm. It is not striking, but quite inspiring and entertaining, and definitely well written.



The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

I have no idea what criteria make a book earning Pulitzer Prize; but to me Wharton’s The House of Mirth is much finer than The Age of Innocence. The story is about old vs modern world of New York society. My favorite character is Countess Ellen Olenska. She is genuine, kind, and brave. She sets the example of being modern woman without compromising her conscience and integrity. Maybe she was to be the “victim” here, just as Lily Barth in The House of Mirth, but my sympathy, instead, is more for Newland Archer. I think he was the real victim; he was dragged by the old and the modern New York. Unlike Ellen, it seems that Newland doesn’t have a firm ground to stand on. And the ending is so devastating. I can’t imagine having a life like Newland’s: dry and hollow… for the rest of his life. All in all, it is not as I have expected, but still a treasure. Four of five stars.


Monday, September 25, 2017

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

It’s official! Willa Cather will join the short list of Fanda’s favorite female writers. Other than Agatha Christie, J.K. Rowling, and Edith Wharton, most of my favorite writers have been males.

Ruth has told me that it is a slow-moving read, very quiet, a-lazy-day reading. And since my previous reading is Siddharta, which was so deep and meditative, I was so grateful to get next into this book (and will definitely read more of Willa Cather!).

Actually Death is based on life and career of two historical French Catholic priests who served as missionaries on the New Mexico around 19th century. Cather then wove them into this beautiful and quiet narrative; following neither plot, nor chronology. From scattered stories or events, Cather took us to learn not only the missionaries’ struggles against rooted faith of the Mexicans and Indians, but also the unfriendly landscape, the corrupt priests, and the injustice suffered by the innocent people.

With her slow pace, Cather was able to show vividly the raw but beautiful wild nature among the desserts and prairies. It is interesting and at the same time entertaining. And she was also brilliant in building the characters and highlighting the two priests’ sweet and mutual friendship. Their friendship, especially, is so sweet—how they were so different, but could understand each other, and always ready to support the other when needed. And through Cather’s deep scrutiny of these two personalities, we can see what make a good missionary.

Bishop (later archbishop) Latour is really fit for the post; he’s intelligent, healthy, mature, organized, with high discipline and self-respect. However he always feels lonely and unfulfilled, though he has achieved his ambition to build a cathedral, in the end his mission felt like a duty satisfyingly accomplished, and that’s all. The very opposite of his archbishop, Father Joseph “Blanchet” Vaillant is a warm, humble, and easy going person with weak health. He might not have had brilliant achievement, but he does his works with humble joy, even when he must sacrifice his own comfort. I think Father Joseph is the true missionary—he is chosen by God to do His Wish. And with his simplicity, he earned many souls. But in the end, both are really chosen by God—side by side, each with all in his power—to plough His Field in New Mexico.

What a refreshing, calm reading this has been!


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Siddharta by Herman Hesse

I have thought that Siddharta was about THE Siddharta Gautama—the Buddha—and that this book is all about Buddhist thing. But after finishing it, I just realized that Herman Hesse did not focus on a certain religion, but in the universal search of our Creator.

Siddharta was not the Buddha. He was a Brahmin son who was thirst of finding the “ultimate reality”. He is a brilliant young man, and when great teaching didn’t quench his thirst, Siddharta shook off his monk robe and took on every worldly habit he got on his way: sex, gambling, business—in short becoming “the child people” as he used to call ordinary people. He enjoyed these habits at first, and believed that only in becoming acquainted with worldly issues, that he would find peace. Instead of peace, he felt terrible emptiness in the end that he felt like jumping in a ditch. And then, while he was at the lowest bottom, his conscience led him to follow the spiritually inspirational river, and becoming a ferryman. Only then and there that Siddharta finally found the ultimate peace.

This little book has so much wisdom to contemplate on. I found it very soothing and calming. One day I brought the book to the apartment’s garden near the pool. There I have a favorite spot near one of the tower’s door to the pool; it is shaded in the afternoon, and quite secluded from the pool. Only people from that tower would occasionally pass there, but usually they just pass by and ignore me (maybe for them I am just a strange girl who choose to read a book in the hot afternoon, while everybody else is swimming!) Anyway, there I was on one hot afternoon, reading the last chapters where Siddharta loves to “listen” to the river’s voice; and I thought how lucky anyone who can lead a peaceful life like that! And I believe, after this, I would never listen to gurgling sounds on the lake or river without remembering Siddharta!

Siddharta’s long journey to find ultimate peace is so relatable to our modern life. Many people have been trying hard to seek God—sometimes by comparing one religion to another—but few really find the Ultimate Truth, and some have never even found it. And many more are still disputing over which religion is better and higher than the other. While the answer is very simple—Herman Hesse has shared it with us all these years through Siddharta.

The most interesting part of this book for me is how Siddharta listen to the voice of the river. I didn’t understand what it means at first, but I think the key here is the serenity. Being in the tranquil river means you can clear out your cluttered mind and soul, and only then that you can really listen to your conscience. The medium can be different for each person—for Siddharta it is the river, but for me, it is the rustling of leaves or the chirping of birds. It is not that Siddharta really sees a person’s face or an event reflecting from the water, but with his mind clear, he can see what is really in the depth of his conscience. So the voice of the river is really the voice of God.

I am very grateful that I have ever read this book—so inspiring, so soothing.


Friday, September 8, 2017

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

This is the first time I read detective novel with Victorian background. Here I can hear you yelling: ‘What about Holmes?’ Well, Holmes is Holmes. I mean, he is a real detective, and his stories were focused mostly on the crime-solving. While The Woman in White depicted ordinary persons who were forced to perform detective tasks to solve their own problem.

In this post, I will not trying to summarize the story, but only jotting down my random thoughts while reading this awesome book.

What I realized immediately after finishing this story is the difference between Dickens’ and Collins’ style. I naturally compared them because they were close friends—Dickens published Collins’ short stories in the periodicals he founded: Household Words—and I assumed Collins style would be closely similar to Dickens. I was not completely wrong, they had a similarity, but I think I like Collins better.

Collins’ characters—at least in The Woman in White; I have not read his other books—are as strong as Dickens’ but more plausible. I felt like knowing Walter Hartright or Marian Halcombe as real persons in real life, not just characters in some tales. Hartright is a drawing master; if he was in Dickens’ novel, he would probably be portrayed as romantic and melancholic person. But Collins made him an intelligent young man with strong will and courage. Laura Fairlie, though not as strong and brave as Marian, still found, now and then, courage to resist under her tyrannical husband.

Dickens’ characters are also mostly typical. Most of his villains, especially, can be detected almost at once. But with Collins, I found that several of the characters are in grey area. Lord Fosco is one example. Everybody tends to like him. Interestingly, it was Laura who first detected something artificial in him. And how he adored Marian, and acted gentlemanly towards his “enemies”. Beyond his lack of moral conscience, nobody would disagree that he is a kind gentleman. Another ambiguous character is Hartright’s Italian friend: Professor Pesca. Who would ever suspect that behind this funny and simple man with extra warm heart, laid a dark secret of being member of a secret organization (by the way, what organization can it be, indeed?)? And how very often do we, too, wrongly judge our friends or close relatives?

To summarize, I did really enjoy The Woman in White. I loved the uniqueness and originality of the characters; loved the neat and smooth plot; loved how Collins built it slowly—neither too surprising nor too predictable. And I also loved the mature love story; and enjoyed the little—just a little—twist of the plot. It is a detective story, but the highest aim is not to punish the villains, or to reveal the truth, or to excite our adventurer side; it is just what one must do for the loved ones—it is the act of love, honor, and humanity. Oh, I just love it!