Posted in book review

‘Owl at Home’, by Arnold Lobel – book review

Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


We all have natural octaves for narratives of ourselves to speak in various notes and tempos. But Arnold Lobel’s is a fugue of loneliness, disappointment, sadness, and longing vested in the good-heartedness and geniality. ‘Owl at Home’ is Lobel’s ballad of melancholic warmth that sings his heart’s song.

This little book tells of an owl who lives alone in the treehouse. The owl has the comforts of life, from a comfy sofa to a pillowy bed and a beautiful teapot set, but not a life companion to speak. So the owl invites winter with a wide-open door, even if the wind sweeps over the house’s warmth rudely. But that’s not it. He makes tea from his tears of sad thoughts by pouring them into a jar. Hence his tea is named ‘tear-water tea.’ Oh, and yes, the lonely owl wants to befriend a moon that he regards too beautiful and lofty to be acquainted with. The melancholy ballad has such a simple loveliness that it touches the reader’s heart and transforms pathos into sympathy.

The book’s genre is officially and publicly children’s literature, but that doesn’t mean that readers aged beyond 18 years can’t. While reading the book, I kept associating the owl, the likable solitary owl, with the author and illustrator Lobel, whose life was also ended in a lonely man’s theme. Bullies tattered Lobel’s childhood at schools due to his weak disposition and shyness, which made him estranged from the crowd of life, being utterly unattached and felt unwanted and unfit for happiness. Likewise, the goodhearted but quixotic owl is Lobel himself at his saddest, loneliest, and paradoxically best because the truth about him lays bare through the narratives. The author’s beautiful illustrations delineate the shape of his heart that is warm and generous and move a feeling of pity for the dreadful solitude to a sense of love with a sound of mirth.





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Posted in book review

‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales: 64 Dark Original Tales’, by Jacob Grimm – book review

Grimm's Fairy Tales: 64 Dark Original TalesGrimm’s Fairy Tales: 64 Dark Original Tales by Jacob Grimm

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


When I was a child, Danish writer Hans Christian Anderson’s light tales were more fun than German Brother Grimm’s comparatively dark tales. Now that I have read Grimm’s Fairy Tales: 64 Dark Original Tales as a child in a grown-up body and mind conditioned in the anfractuous tidal waves of life, I now know why the Grimm’s tales are regarded as classic literature, not just for children for also for adults, especially those with defiant spirits of abandoning power to believe the mysterious and magical, all the spellbinding enchantment springing from these fascinating fairy tales the Grimm Brothers provide to readers.

The book contains 64 stories originally published in the Grimm’s The Nursery and Household Tales from 1812 to 1814 as separate volumes. The original intention of the compendium of oral German folk tales is to study German culture and literature that can also be referenced as an academic text. Both Wilhelm and Jacob were philology students, lexicography, history, and Germany’s literature while studying law at university. For this context, during the Third Reich, the Nazis liked to use the book as a token propaganda textbook to promote their racial ideology against Grimm’s volition to preserve the cultural artifacts and heritage in anthropological perspectives. Suppose the Grimm indeed meant to use the tales to prove Aryan superiority. Why would they include the sinister and even immoral contents of some of the collection’s stories without rewriting them to immaculately vivacious and blissfully happy fairy tales suitable for the best race endowed with goodness and beauty?

Some of the tales are shockingly straightforward about lacerating and killing characters, mostly with axes, even though the wickedness is worthy of such cruelty and urges readers to abandon pity. Even a king wants to marry his beautiful daughter in his beloved deceased queen wife’s likeness, who asked him to marry her mirror image. The incestuous labyrinth story is the queen’s stratagem of not letting her husband marry some other woman than her blood and flesh in the daughter’s form. To my dismay, the daughter at the end finds herself in the arms of her father – as a lover. The tale is too spectacular to suspect my cognitive faculty’s malfunction, but the tale’s re-reading confirms the truth of the incredible love story of father and daughter. The Grimm would have decided not to redact it from the collection to invoke such stupendousness of incestuous infatuation blinded by lust and envy nuanced in the simplicity of words. Otherwise, the tale itself remains a point-blank apocalyptic drama that leaves readers in the spinning saucers to the point of no returning of the senses at wonderland.

All the tales from this book are not, however, akin to the tales from the crypt. The Grimm’s tales are the fairy tales where animals talk, and humans listen, fairies and humans can bump into one another on the way home or work, and peasants marry royals with the help of magical instruments, all of which look common and natural. The Grimm’s fairy tales’ characters inhibit somewhere in the gray world of mirrored reality where the wheel of fortune is spined against in our favor because of the blindfolded goddess Fortuna’s whims and caprice in the game of chance. But however unlucky it may seem, time and opportunity happens to all of us at unexpected times and can multiply the delicious fruits with wits and touches of humor, which are the handmaids to a happy life. Grimm’s fairy tales are not pessimistically gloomy enough to attest to the harsh, treacherous reality of life. Instead, the tales are lessons for insatiable greed, insolent hubris, and uncontrollable passion that bring about downfalls, which are also principal narratives of Stephen King of our time.



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Posted in Miscellany

The Rambler on the interview

In a post-industrial age, when the mingling of classes in streets is a norm, and social mobility is a reality in a society, the stories about royal families become reality period dramas that seem to give them a status that fuses the capriciousness of greek gods with the glamour of Hollywood celebrity.

When I saw twitter’s promotion of Oprah Winfrey’s Harry and Meghan interview, I thought no wonder they were sought-after media darlings, living Romeo and Juliet, and something to talk about when things looked bleak and boring. And I honestly feel no qualms about them being a subject of gossip or the tabloid because they live in public eyes, albeit they most clamor for the privacy of their lives. Otherwise, what is the absolute need to broadcast their stories on a central television station at prime time? (No YouTube, please, in respect of their royalty.) Oprah Winfrey, who now seems to have replaced Barbara Walters’ seat, looks fit to the royal couple pleading for upscaled sympathy from the American public unfamiliar with the constitutional monarchy and possibly slightly partial to the name and images of monarchy without knowing them well.

To put the wedding story of Prince Harry and Actress Meghan Markle on a par with Cinderella story is to ignore the fact she is from a privileged class in the States with expensive private education and parental support. Despite Princess Diana’s aristocratic family background, people sympathized with the lonely Diana because of her doe-eyed, ever muliebral innocent beauty that looked impossible for debauchery. By the same virtue of beauty fused with sensualness of exotic charm, the American actress/model Meghan charmed Prince Harry, who would even venture to Hesperides’ garden to bring her a golden apple should she request. And now Harry lives in the Golden State, the land of his Helen, with a face launching waves of media coverages.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said that beauty tames the savageness of brutes and allays the hardened souls of criminals. Oscar Wilde added that a beautiful woman is the subject of conversations wherever she goes. The lovely Meghan beaming with sparkling amethyst eyes adorned with apricot cheeks reminded me of a modern-day Helen of Troy. After all, Helen’s prodigal beauty saved her from her first the ireful sword of her first and lawful husband Menelaus, the king of Sparta to whom she betrayed the slain Paris’s brother Deiphobus, her third husband. Despite vehement feminist catchphrases brandishing anti-sexism, beauty is still a woman’s privilege to achieve social escalation in work and an undefeatable power to purchase indemnity for all faults and foibles.

In addition to the claimed blackness of Meghan’s heritage, the media seems to shoehorn it to fit her estrangement feeling in the procrustean bed to a histrionic degree because one cursory glance at her wouldn’t strike her as a black woman at all. I honestly think that if a woman is beautiful, then where she comes from does not matter. In fact, I feel something is not quite right when someone in her position keeps playing a race card as a chance gambit to muster her retinue against the criticism raised by her unwilling participation in royal attendances and cavalier attitude towards learning the royal manners, which appear antithetical to her carefree American spirit hard to domesticate.

Call it an acrid narrative of a woman who juggles the daily affairs of life with what she has. Or you may say it is the usual cynical delusion of reference to those who got it all out of passionate envy burned in a fury. Yet, the interview appears to be nothing but their formal excuse for their present life, public proclamation of their still regal sovereignty warning people not to speak ill of them, which is probably directed to the ordinary whom they regard as meddlesome. Well, then let them be whoever they want to be. Playing Romeo and Juliet’s roles in a public theater in long-run shows will only lose favor with the audience, especially with Romeo now being well-stuffed, looking like a rich American, and Juliet still looking fabulous like a luxurious Beverly Hills demimonde.  

Posted in book review, Miscellany

Who discovered America?

 

The question of “Who discovered America?” lends itself to enlightening trivia pastime, spawning a series of plausible answers. Leif Eriksson and Christopher Columbus contend the discoverer’s title, possibly followed by Walter Raleigh and Francis Drake, except one John Cabot whose name is lost with his ship somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean just as his mysterious disappearance during the final voyage. 

Giovanni Caboto, aka John Cabot, was a 15th-century Venetian maritime merchant, emigrating with his family to Tudor England in search of substantial royal sponsorship for his ambitious Far East expeditions. The age of expedition was imbued with the spirit of enterprise that propelled colonialism. England was no exception to the European competition. Spain and Portugal were the contenders for uncharted lands and undreamed waterways discovered by Christopher Columbus, Casco de Gamma, and Fernando Magellan. Cabot promised Henry VII that he would find the ways to the Shangri-La in honor of the land to the king with portions of profit for the homage. The king granted his royal patronage on the expedition in the hope of establishing a British mercantile empire around the world. After two misfortunate voyages, Cabot finally made it to what is now known as America in 1497 and called it “New Found Land.”



However, unlike his contemporary peers whose deaths are recorded either orally or textually, Cabot’s end as an explorer is undeservingly clandestine and amorphous. It is said that Cabot was a victim of mutiny among the seamen on his ship or that he settled in the New Found Land and died there. What is more confounding than the mystery of Cabot’s whereabout is the seemingly less recognizance of his achievement than that of the rival explorers of his time and posterity. Cabot was the first explorer who paved the transatlantic waterways between America and Europe, principally the British Isles, for the progeny.



Indeed, Columbus found the West Indies and the American continent by happenstance. Still, Cabot proved that rapid Atlantic travel was possible by sailing the west through the ocean, more substantially practical and influential than America’s ideologically symbolic discovery by Eriksson and Columbus. Would Cabot’s discovery of America under Henry VII’s banner be an issue for the recognizance of his achievement for independent minds of Americans liberated from the English sovereignty? Or, to put more blatantly, would the English royal sponsorship of Italian native Cabot’s exploration mar the spirit of American liberty? If England were still a Catholic country, would Cabot’s achievement have been of lesser brilliancy than those of his contemporary explorers? The questions of history require answers, but often they remain unheard and trail off in the wind of zeitgeist.