Sunday, October 15, 2017

Life As I've Seen It by Laya Bajpai Analysis

Reading the book "Life as I've seen it" by Laya Bajpai allows readers to download in the atmosphere of modern India. The book includes several short stories each is with an independent plot. Each of them looks as a glimpse into the life of person, group of people or society. The reading would be compared with watching documentary but reading gives a better feeling of being there.   

The first story was named "The Guilt". It tells the story of a person who betrayed his first love in a dangerous situation, he ran away when the couple met the gang in the Indian town. We don't know what happened with his girl, the author focused on the life of the main character. After his life changed and he moved from India to the USA, the story erased in his memory when he saw the TV program about riots in India. It seems that Laya Bajpai avoided judging him, the author left this to readers. The current life of the protagonist seems unclouded but the guilt of his treachery will stay with him for all his life.

My favorite story from the book was the second one with the title "A strange Occurrence". This story was written from the first face of the narrator. It was her reminiscences of the girl 9 years old who lived in a small town in the state of Maharashtra, in India. The author described the society pointing out the belonging to definite religious group (Parsi, Catholics) and according to their occupations and origins (staying in Sanatoriums, arriving from Bombay). The girl usually came back home from the school with her father on his scooter. Once she said that she was going to stay in school longer and she would come back home alone, by herself, even it was a long way and her father agreed with it. While she was walking home the heavy rain started. This is how it was described by the author:
"Suddenly it started raining heavily and as I had no raincoat or umbrella, I started getting drenched. The distance was long and in-between there was a nullah that had started overflowing and water was coming on to the road. I was terribly scared and also had no money in my pocket to catch a bus, nor did I know anything about the bus routes, so, I started crying."

This passage gives readers a vivid picture of the girl who appeared in the situation where she was not familiar with. Unknown three ladies were sitting on their verandah watching the rain, they asked the girl what happened and invited her to stay for a while with them. They suggested to sit on the veranda and to wait while they prepared something to eat and left her. The girl thought:  "I had heard stories of people who steal children by giving them good food to eat. I was suspicious. So, when nobody came out of the house for quite some time, I quietly slipped out and as it had stopped raining, I walked home.".

The childish imagination often draws in the mind the mixture of fantasy and reality. This feeling is very recognizable and it is what attracts me in this story. This style of writing reminds me the advice given by one very famous author. He advised to write about what you feel and do it sincerely. It is what readers eager to read and this was implemented perfectly in the book "Life as I've seen it".

I had a chance to discuss this story with the author- Laya Bajpai, with whom I had a lesson about English literature.

This book is available for buying on Amazon:

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Happy Failure by Herman Melville Analysis

"The Happy Failure" by Herman Melville is a short story not about success or failure. It is more likely that it is a story about man's attitude to life.

Herman Melville is an American writer of the eighteenth century, well known for his novel "Moby-Dick".  When I read this story and especially when I listened to the audio (both links for these resources put here after the essay) I had a feeling of that epoch. That was a time of great inventions, when the terms of New World (referring to America) and Old World (Europe) were commonly used. But nevertheless, I keep repeating that this story was not about inventions. Let's look to the plot of this story.

The narrator (he was called youngster in the story), a very young man, was called to help his uncle. After the short riding on the boat, the narrator saw his uncle and the servant of the uncle, Yorpy, who carried a heavy, big box.  Yorpy put the box in the boat under many instructions given by the uncle such as "Put it in, you grizzled-headed cherub--put it in carefully, carefully! If that box bursts, my everlasting fortune collapses."

The uncle said that this a deal of lifetime -device for draining swamps-  and he is going to test it on the island located about ten miles up the river. Youngster expressed some doubts about the necessity of such a long trip under a scorching sun and the uncle demanded that he would put him ashore. The major turn of the story happened when the narrator realizes his mistake, expressed support of the uncle's intentions and continued to help his uncle.

When they came to the island, the uncle seemed to notice somebody in the bush, but he was mistaken. The narrator and Yorpy cooperated with the old man and made a deal about searching for strangers on the island. Afterwards, they started an experiment with the new invented device. They continued their actions in that time even though the uncle understood that this experiment was going to fail. The uncle gave for youngster one advice "Boy, take my advice, and never try to invent anything but--happiness." and he said "Boy, I'm glad I've failed. I say, boy, failure has made a good old man of me. It was horrible at first, but I'm glad I've failed."

The last statement was said by the narrator after the death of his uncle with a great respect:
"I seemed to hear again his deep, fervent cry--"Praise be to God for the failure!"

My interpretation of the moral of this story, that action, aspiration is more important than results. The energy of an elderly uncle, this is what moves the progress. We see this energy from the beginning when he exclaimed "Come, hurrah” when the uncle refused the skeptical mood of his nephew when the old man passed his failure and concluded that it is not the end of the world and so on.

It often happens when the elderly people who worked with a great enthusiasm, begin to be ill as soon as they retire. But if they have hobbies, everything changes - they continue living active and happy life.

The importance of being involved in something interesting was illustrated through the statement which the old man said: "Boy, take my advice, and never try to invent anything but - happiness."

These are the links to the text and audio of the story:

Friday, September 29, 2017

Notes from the House Spirits by Lucy Wood Analysis

The short story "Notes from the House Spirits" by Lucy Wood was written in a unique style. While I was reading I had a feeling that the words were flying around. This effect was achieved by using simple sentences, repetition, describing the very recognizable things like dust or sound like the creak of floors.

The storyteller here is the House Spirits, the narrator uses the pronoun "we" (in plural). The narration stretched in time for the period of the time of exiting the house. The reader sees how time is going by, tenants replace each other, the House Spirits adopted to them, estimated and express own opinion about them.

Let's see how the state of silence was described in the story:
"Dust drifts across the room and settles on skirting and curtain rails. We can see it, every single piece, as it piles up and no one brushes it away. Dust is static and lazy; it lands on the first thing it sees. It fills the house bit by bit and no one brushes it away. It is not our job to brush it away." Reading these lines I felt such as my thoughts were described in this paragraph. There are some moments probably in everyone’s life when things which we didn't notice in usual circumstances became very tangible and real. Lucy Wood was able to describe it and make it recognizable.

The Notes includes a number of memories about dwellers of this house. The lonely woman was the first. She left the house suddenly leaving off her belongings. My impression was that the House Spirits described it without emotions: "It is rude to leave suddenly, without any notice. She didn't give us any notice. There weren't any boxes. She didn't take any of her things away. Didn't she like it here? She left all her things behind. What does she expect us to do with it all? There is nothing that we can do with it, except count it, except look carefully through it, and we have done that already."

The author used a good method to summarize each part of the story - putting the paragraph with its own title:
"Things we miss about the one who left suddenly in the night:
Her laugh, which was as loud and sudden as the gas flame igniting in the boiler. ... The way she jumped when the doorbell rang."

More and more new people came and left the house, the emptiness, the details - all these things were described consecutively and thoroughly: "Now we notice what we didn't notice before: that the paint is actually a strange blue, a cold blue, a blue that wasn't the right decision. We don't want that blue anymore." The narrator estimated people, things, animals: "There is a spider's web behind a door handle and one under a light switch. We like spiders; they are quiet and make good use of the space."

The Spirits gave them-self a modest role in explaining their attitude to everything: "we think the voice is familiar – we are not good with voices" or "We think they are the same people but we are not sure. We are not good with faces"

Many characters go through the story and drift away. The time of being in the house was described by a few glimpses, very shortly. This way of writing highlighted the fact of temporal quality of everything, readers can see how time is going by scene by scene, as slides in the presentation change one after each other without any of our participation. People experience the same during pivotal moments of their lives or on the deathbed when reminiscences from childhood, youth, and adulthood are passing in memory for a few minutes.

The separated plotline of the story is growing of the buddleia. This is a quote about this plant from BBC: "More people are buying buddleia for their gardens, but it's classified as an invasive species and is a problem on British railways. It's hard to walk by a railway line in Britain and not see buddleia." I admit that it is a way to represent the flow of time: it never stops.

Lucy Wood was so verisimilar in her story that readers would believe in existence of the spirits, these wonderful creatures who it seemed are interested in all our deals. I noticed this treat in my cat. His name is Lastic and he always comes to the room where something happens: a gathering of family members and so on. We often discuss what could be his thoughts about us, the version of "Notes" from Lucy Wooden could be appropriate.

Lucy Wood is a very young writer, she was born in 1990. There is no Wikipedia page about her, no youtube channel, it seems that she does not care about promoting her works. But she was noticed by The Guardian and she received the​ very positive replies about her literary style. I expect that the Google engine machine will guide the future readers, who will start reading her story, for this analysis and I will take a part of in the distribution of this talented author - Lucy Wood.

Notes from the House Spirits by Lucy Wood

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant Analysis

A very famous French writer Guy de Maupassant described in the short story "The Necklace" the incident which changed the life of a person. It's interesting that it was the second story which I had read in English of this author where one event that had a crucial influence on the future life of the protagonist. The first was "The Log", I have already published the analysis of that story on my blog.

The plot of the short story "Necklace" is about a young woman, Mathilde, who was rather pretty and her prospects in life should have been good and bright. The author believed that "Women don't belong to a caste or class; their beauty, grace, and natural charm take the place of birth and family". But she "had no dowry, no expectations, no means of becoming known, understood, loved or wedded by a man of wealth and distinction; and so she let herself be married to a minor official at the Ministry of Education." Mathilde dreamed about a charming style of life, about beautifully furnished rooms with luxurious chandeliers, about elegant cavaliers who would appreciate and admire her beauty.

Once her husband brought home an invitation for a ball in the Ministry, instead of being glad, she started crying. Mathilde complained to her husband that she didn't have the clothes for the party. For his question how much money for buying appropriate clothes she needed, she answered calculating the price equal to all their savings. Her husband approved it, but it wasn't enough. She felt the need for a piece of Jewellery to go with the dress. Her husband advised her to borrow it from her former rich friend Madame Forestier. So she did as advised, she asked to borrow it for a short period of time and in return to her request received a beautiful necklace for the ball.

Mathilde has a great success during the ball. Every respectable man wanted to dance with her, she was noticed by the Minister. When the party was over the spouses came home and suddenly Mathilde saw she had lost the necklace. This fact terrified the couple. They tried to find the jewelry but without results. They decided to replace the necklace by buying a similar item.

The husband gathered all savings what he had, he borrowed money from all his acquaintances and they bought the necklace which looked similar to the original one. Mathilde returned this replacement to Madame Forestier, she noticed nothing.

Next ten years the spouses struggled to gain money for returning borrowed money. Mathilde "looked old now. She had become strong, hard and rough like all women of impoverished households."

It is how Guy de Maupassant described the climax of the story: "One Sunday, as she was walking in the Champs Élysées to refresh herself after the week's work, suddenly she saw a woman walking with a child. It was Madame Forestier, still young, still beautiful, still charming." Mathilde decided to disclose the story of replacement. Madam Forestier didn't recognize her at first and when Mathilde explained that her exhausted looks were caused by the tremendous efforts to arrange the money for buying the necklace: "Madame Forestier, deeply moved, took both her hands. "Oh, my poor Mathilde! Mine was an imitation! It was worth five hundred francs at most! ..."

This story could be interpreted differently but I'd highlight one very important idea. People could have positive and negative attitudes to the fate and their choice defines the quality of their lives. Imagine the beauty of Nature, a freshness of the air, magnificent Parisian streets (Champs Élysées was mentioned in the text), they are equal for everyone: for rich and poor people. Mathilde could enjoy her life having the husband who loved her, living in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. But no, she separated herself from her family and friends once concluded that she is different.

It is interesting to think about the author's opinion about her. It seemed that Guy de Maupassant sympathized with her (he described her beauty), but I discerned in many details of the story that the author tended to appraise her character as a selfish, egoistic person. In contrary, her husband was looked at by Mathilde as a minor official, good-for-nothing man. After attentive reading, I drew an opposite conclusion.

"The Necklace" might be used as a didactic story for motivating people to avoid focusing on negative circumstances and paying more attention to the positive side of the life.

The story has a surprise ending, almost a twist in the tale which adds to the interest of the reader.

The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant

Friday, September 22, 2017

A Cup of Tea by Katherine Mansfield Analysis

The short story "A Cup of Tea" was written by a prominent New Zealand writer Katherine Mansfield. Before reading I listened to the audio of the story from Youtube (the link is posted in the ending of this review). The tone of voice in the recording was quite ironical, even flippant, obviously, it was made for purpose because of the similarity of literary style of the story. That was a right method indeed, how else can we read this passage: "Rosemary Fell was not exactly beautiful. No, you couldn't have called her beautiful. Pretty? Well, if you took her to pieces... But why be so cruel as to take anyone to pieces?".

The story tells us about one episode in the life of a very rich woman Rosemary Fell. She was used to spending money for any whims of hers. Katherine Mansfield described the scene how the shopkeeper flattered her taste of beauty: "You see, madam," he would explain in his low respectful tones, "I love my things. I would rather not part with them than sell them to someone who does not appreciate them, who has not that fine feeling which is so rare...". The seller asked for the thing (animated composition in the box) at a very high price and Rosemary espoused that the price didn’t shock her, she was able to buy everything that she wanted. Let's look at the text:

"Charming!" Rosemary admired the flowers. But what was the price? For a moment the shopman did not seem to hear. Then a murmur reached her. "Twenty-eight guineas, madam." "Twenty-eight guineas." Rosemary gave no sign. She laid the little box down; she buttoned her gloves again. Twenty-eight guineas. Even if one is rich...

She looked vague. She stared at a plump tea-kettle like a plump hen above the shopman's head, and her voice was dreamy as she answered: "Well, keep it for me - will you? I'll..."

This was a long introduction which was necessary for understanding the moral of the story. The key moment of the story occurred when Rosemary went out of the shop and a young girl asked her some money for a cup of tea. In response Rosemary acted unpredictably, she invited the girl to her home for a cup of tea.

While I was reading this part of Katherine Mansfield's story, another story appeared in my mind. It is a satirical story written by one of the most well-known and recognizable Russian writers Fyodor Dostoyevsky. "A Nasty Story". The story told how one very high-level person, the general, decided to visit the wedding of one of his subordinate and how bad it turned: the tension of awareness having so high boss ruined the celebration. The true intention of the participating in the wedding for the boss was probably the attempt to increase his self-appraisal. I think that Rosemary had the same motivation.

After Rosemary brought the girl to her house, Philip, the husband of Rosemary, came home. He was very surprised, even shocked by the fact of seeing such an unusual visitor. Rosemary insisted that it is not her whim, that she would care about the future of that stranger - the young girl, who introduced herself as Ms.Smith. But the attitude of Rosemary in terms of Ms. Smith was changed dramatically when Philip said that Ms. Smith is pretty.

Rosemary went to her writing-room. "She opened a drawer and took out five-pound notes, looked at them, put two back, and holding the three squeezed in her hand, she went back to her bedroom."After Rosemary removed the threat of having a pretty girl in her house giving three-pound notes and returned back to Philip, she asked: "Do you like me?". He answered, "I like you awfully". "Then Rosemary said dreamily: "I saw a fascinating little box today. It cost twenty-eight guineas. May I have it?" Philip jumped her on his knee. "You may, little wasteful one," said he. But that was not really what Rosemary wanted to say. "Philip," she whispered, and she pressed his head against her bosom, "am I pretty?".

The last question in the story raised doubts about self-confidence of Rosemary. She depended on the money of her husband she wasn't sure about her attractiveness. The last question reminded the humorous episode mentioned in the beginning of the story: "Rosemary Fell was not exactly beautiful. .. Pretty? Well, if you took her to pieces...". One conclusion may be that the theme of insecurity, even for so extremely rich person, was highlighted in the story.

The story may give a lot of subjects for discussing: about relationships in society, about the definition of good and bad, about begging and so on. It is why this story is used as a class material for literary classes and why the name of the author is well known. Katherine Mansfield drew a picture of life in society and made it very well.

A Cup of Tea by Katherine Mansfield links:

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Fur Coat by Sean O'Faolain Review

The short story "The Fur Coat" was written by a prominent Irish writer, Sean O'Faolain. Sean O'Faolain was christened John Whelan but he changed his name to the original Gaelic to show his pride in all Irish things.

There are no many actions in the story, only a few conversations about buying a fur coat. The main idea is to show an internal world of the main protagonist through the prism of her life experience.

The main character of the story is Molly - the wife of Paddy Maguire who became a Parliamentary-Secretary. She "gazed into his eyes and said, adoringly, “Now, Paddy, I must have a fur coat.” Maguire answered admiringly "Of course, of course, my dear,” ... Get two fur coats! Switzers will give us any amount of tick from now on.”. We can see further Molly's motivation of buying the fur coat. She used to be in a hard life's conditions during "revolution, husband in and out of prison, children reared with the help of relatives and Prisoners' Dependents' Fund".

Which thoughts were behind the request of the fur coat and was it a real demand? Through answers to these questions, we can understand the meaning and moral of the story.

She rhetorically asked her husband "You think I'm extravagant!”, she used the provoke statements “Paddy, you big fool, do you know what you'd pay for a mink coat?".

Next day this conversation continued. Molly wanted to be "well-dressed as anybody." But she declared that the true reasons were "wear any old thing under a fur coat.”, in other words, it needs much more money to buy the clothes for being equal to others on this level of the social ladder. Paddy Maguire agreed with all Molly's proposals, he listened to her, thinking simultaneously about some issues of his job, "he was lost in his plans", he worked on the plan of the pier. She wasn't satisfied "Paddy, tell me honestly. Honestly, now! Do you seriously think that I could put eighty-five pounds on my back?”. She started talking about dead animals and how it is cruel to make fur coats from them.

Molly explained emotionally that the cost of clothes is much higher than the price of the fur coat "I'd have to have two shoes and a blouse and hat and gloves and a fur and a purse and everything to match it, and I'd spend far more in the heel of the hunt, and I haven't time for that sort of thing". Paddy Maguire seemed to be confused, he agreed to buy a fur coat, Molly cried “Stop it! I told you I don't want a fur coat! And you don't want me to get a fur coat! You're too mean, that's what it is! And like all the Irish, you have the peasant streak in you. You're all alike, every bloody wan of ye. Keep your rotten fur coat. I never wanted it…

Paddy became perplexed, nobody before called him mean. "He sat miserably at his table, cold with anger. He murmured the hateful word over and over, and wondered could there be any truth in it. He added ten yards to the pier. He reduced the ten to five, and then, seeing what he had done, swept the whole thing off the table."

After three days she found a cheque on her dressing-table. "She went down and put her arms about his neck and laid the cheque, torn in four, into his hand. “I'm sorry, Paddy,” she begged, crying like a kid. “You're not mean".

Instead of describing the last scene of the story, it's better to quote it all: He "looked her straight in the eyes. “Molly. Tell me the truth. You want this coat?” “I do. O, God, I do!” “Then go out and buy it.” “I couldn't, Paddy, I just couldn't.” He looked at her for a long time. Then he asked. “Why?” She looked straight at him, and shaking her head sadly, she said in a little sobbing voice,“I don't know.

I had a mixture of impressions after reading this story. On the first sight, we see here lack of actions, just a few conversations with inconsistent intentions. But during the second reading for purpose of writing review for my blog, my evaluation of the story changed dramatically. I remembered the story “Grace” of a very well known Irish writer, James Joyce (I published the analysis of that story on my blog). The reading had the similar effect. There is something common in the way of thinking, an attitude to life, relationships in society. Reading this story is a next step to the aim of understanding the soul of mysterious Irish character.

The Fur Coat by Sean O’Faolain

Saturday, September 9, 2017

"Break it Down" by Lydia Davis Review

Lydia Davis's short story "Break it Down" explores what love is all about. Not love in general but according to a man, the narrator, who had a few days' experience of being in affairs with the girl for money.

He recounted again and again how much it cost for him to have love with this girl dividing all amount of money by the number of times of being in intimate affairs with her (the price was high in that case) or by all the days spent together (the price became much lower in this calculation).

The main part of the text was dedicated to describing the feelings of the main male character who was in love with the girl. The author, Lydia Davis, is a woman and she made the description of their love affair very sensitive and true to life. Here is the quote from the story, thoughts of the man:

"But it isn't over when it ends, it goes on after it's all over, she's still inside you like a sweet liquor, you are filled with her, everything about her has kind of bled into you, her smell, her voice, the way her body moves, it's all inside you, at least for a while after, then you begin to lose it, and I'm beginning to lose it, you're afraid of how weak you are, that you can't get her all back into you again and now the whole thing is going out of your body and it's more in your mind than your body, the pictures come to you one by one ..."

There is a moment in the story when the narrator concluded that he was in love with the girl and after saying it to her, she answered then she was in love with him too. He took it as returning back polite phrase, not more, and started to calculate the expenditure for being with her again.

The readers may conclude that it was hardly ever happened that they were in love with her even when he explained sincerely his feelings: " ... there was one bad time, when I told her I loved her. I couldn't help it, ... now I was half falling in love with her or maybe completely ..., really I couldn't say anything of what I was feeling because there was so much, words couldn't handle it ..." .

The controversy of his feeling was demonstrated by the author in the scene of their farewell. Saying bye to each other, she gave him her shirt "a green and blue shirt from the hook, and put it in my arms, for me to take away, the soft cloth was full of her smell ...". But in the last line of the story, the narrator said: "So I'm just thinking about it, how you can go in with $600, more like $1,000, and how you can come out with an old shirt."

Lydia Davis left to the reader a freedom to make own interpretation of the story and it doesn't look obvious that she condemned the main character, she might sympathize him.

These are the links to the text, audio, and video about this story:

Break it Down by Lydia Davis

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

"The Summer People" by Kelly Link Review

"The Summer People" by Kelly Link is a strange story but it is also a recognized tale by readers.

The story includes a real part, part of the fantasy and criminal component too. The style of writing is also diverse: part of it written in a very easy for reading. It is a friendly style (the part about the friendship), it seems that it is a description of the kind world, next part is full of mysterious things and last part became ominous, at least for bad people. The circle of everyday life which looked as a trap was torn by the main character but as it was revealed in the end the circle remained, it just became wider.

Here is a short summary of the story:

The main character, Fran (the young girl) was awakened by her father. Her father told Fran that he was leaving home for a while and that Fran had to care about "Summer people". That name initially was used in terms of people who come to this remote place for summer holiday. Father's business is to keep order in their houses. The author described a small informal talk between father and daughter very naturally.

"Fran's daddy woke her up wielding a mister. “Fran,” he said, spritzing her like a wilted houseplant. “Fran, honey. Wakey wakey.” ...

“I know you need to stay here and look after me,” Fran said. “You're my daddy.”

Next day Fran was in school and she felt not well, she caught a cold. She asked her classmate Ophelia to drive her home. "Ophelia Merck had her own car, a Lexus. She and her family had been summer people, except now they lived in their house up at Horse Cove on the lake all year round." Ophelia helped Fran in the deal of preparing flat for "Summer people" - the Robertses whose arriving was expected.

When the girls came to Fran's house, Ophelia offered help to Fran due to her high temperature. In spite of the refusal of Fran, Ophelia visited her friend next morning and delivered her some food. Instead of expected requests such as delivering medicine, calling for ambulance etc, Fran asked Ophelia to visit the home of "Summer people". After that, the story switched to a genre of fantasy. The "Summer people" appeared as magic personages, like dwarfs. They displayed on the walls warning "BE BOLD, BE BOLD, BUT NOT TOO BOLD."

After Ophelia came back with some magic stuff like toys and Fran drank the elixir which was magically produced, she became healthy and Ophelia was amazed and charmed by fabulous things which she saw. This part of the story reminds the reader of famous stories like "Alice in Wonderland" or "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz". Reading this, the reader is probably drawing in the mind the bright and colorful pictures from fairy tales read in childhood.

The plot's line and style of writing were changed dramatically when Fran came back home alone and saw in her home two criminals (Kyle and another guy). They demanded to open them the summer's people houses in hope to rob them. Fran leads them to the mysterious house and the fate of bad people waited for them there. The author didn't describe the scene of execution, for readers was left only a hint "She wondered what the queen would make of Kyle".

We don’t know what happened with Ophelia, probably nothing wrong, she stayed in summer people house and maybe replaced Fran. Thanks this fact, Fran left her home and traveled to Paris. She knew about summer people that "they had winter places as well as summer places". But she missed her home and "She tells herself that one day soon she will go home again".

I read some reviews about this story where the literary style was estimated as beautifully written. Really, the language is easy, but the style changed. Interestingly that readers had very different opinions about the quality of this story: in social network "Goodreads" they graded it from one to five stars.

People were described in the story as weird but they had simultaneously familiar characters. This story would be recommended for reading for people who are ready to dedicate some of their time for unlocking riddles.

This is the link to the text of Kelly Link's story ‘The Summer People'

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Disclosure by Laya Bajpai Analysis

The short story "The disclosure" by Laya Bajpai is written from the first person perspective, the main character is the narrator herself, who is the woman who told the story of her life.

The plot started from the description of everyday life. The narrator with her husband came back to Mumbai from the USA. They enjoyed being home, they drank the tea, relaxed. The narrator had to go for her fund-raising session the next day, her work comprised of helping women become self-sufficient.

The author describes in detail the routine of ordinary life, like waking up, preparing for the meeting. Everything was going well, the narrator seemed to be satisfied by that style of her life.

During the course of the story, the narrator describes seeing in the cupboard the sari gifted by her grandma. Old memories flashed through her mind, and she recalled the life of her grandmother: "I recalled my overbearing grandfather. He was strict and though I saw little of him, as a husband he was not very caring. My grandmother was treated very shabbily. She was confined to her quarters and she was only allowed to come out in the veranda."

The mother had a partly similar fate. The narrator said, "She educated me and married me off at 25 to a nice guy. ". It seemed that the comparison of life of different generations shed light on the advantages of the current life of the narrator. These details of her life were presented by the narrator during the fundraising meeting to the audience. While many women identified with the narrator, one woman who came to the meeting walked across to her and questioned the narrator whether her plight was any better than her grandmother or her mother. This shocked the narrator and she asked the woman what made her make such a remark about the narrator’s life to which the woman replied that she had evidence to prove that the narrator wasn't as happy as she believed. She disclosed the fact that the husband of the narrator had another family and that she was his second wife.

Everything has changed since that time, the narrator divorced and started an independent life. Nevertheless, the author finished the story with a positive mood.

The moral of this story:

The author left the open question for readers about the status woman in modern society and better choice: to be a subordinate on the husband or being independent. Even Laya Bajpai didn't focus on exploring the feelings of the main characters, love is a key element for making a vital decision related to the family. This dilemma is quite complicated and the conclusion about happiness was left for reader's choice.

The emotions:

Despite the fact that the author didn't expose emotions in the text. it is obviously a very sensitive story.

The literate style:


The author drew in the beginning of the story the picture of everyday life'. It was very important to show the rhythm of life, it's routine because it changed dramatically in the ending of the story.

References to memories:

The author used a method of connection between one specific thing - the sari and it aroused the recollection about the past. This is a good way to start writing: one visible thing could link with many hidden others.

The story is short and it gives "food for thought". Here is the link to the story:

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Like the Sun by R. K. Narayan Review

The short story "Like the Sun" was written by a prominent Indian writer R. K. Narayan (1906–2001). The interesting fact about this writer is that he wrote in English but English wasn't his native language. In an interview, Narayan noted, “I was never aware that I was using a different, a foreign, language when I wrote in English because it came to me very easily. . . . And it's so transparent it can take on the tint of any country.

The language of the story is quite simple, the style is similar to a style of children's tales. But the target audience of the story is not the children. The plot is how the main character, Sekhar who worked as a teacher, decided to try an experiment: to speak all day only absolute truth whatever may happen. He compared the truth with the sun, he realized that "no human being can ever look it straight in the face without blinking or being dazed".

His experiment began at home, when his wife in an effort to please him, prepared a new titbit. He didn't like it and he had to say “It isn't good. I'm unable to swallow it”. This displeased his wife but Sekhar was bent on speaking the truth. Later in the day, while he was having a small talk about a person who had passed away, instead of saying something appropriate such as expressing the condolence, he commented that the deceased "always struck me as a mean and selfish brute.”

Next incident occurred when his boss ( the headmaster) shared with him his passion for music. The headmaster yearned to hear something pleasant, being in anticipation of cheering comments, he agreed to allow Sekhar to prolong the time for checking student's test papers (it was what Sekhar wished). But Sekhar wasn't able to endorse the musical performance of his chief, he had to say that the performance wasn't good. Interesting consequences happened later: the headmaster:
- said thanks for telling the truth because he realized that he never would achieve success in music and he was just wasting time and money;
- changed his offer to prolong the time for checking student's works and demanded to complete it in one day.

Narayan focused in this story on the solving of the moral dilemma about lying for the good intentions. It is considered that in definite situations would be better "tempering truth so that it might not shock".

Indeed, avoiding of telling the truth isn't a part of the educational work. Hiding the truth can be aimed at avoiding to harm people. It is forbidden or not recommended by society to reveal the truth in definite situations. When is it possible and when it is necessary. R.K. Narayan put this question for the reader's judgment.

Like the Sun by R. K. Narayan

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Good Country People by Flannery O'Connor Review

Flannery O'Connor is an American writer, famous for her unique style. This style was named a Southern Gothic style and relied heavily on regional settings and grotesque characters.

The short story "Good country people" written by Flannery O'Connor focused on the attitude of people to behave accordingly to their set.

The plot includes a descriptive part with depicting the characters of the story and an action. The place where the story occurred is important, it is a rural area in the USA. Mrs. Freeman works as a servant for Mrs. Hopewell. Both of them used to behave in a very simple way.

This, what the author wrote about Mrs. Freeman: "Besides the neutral expression that she wore when she was alone, Mrs. Freeman had two others, forward and reverse, that she used for all her human dealings." Flannery O'Connor described one of her expression with a great sense of humor: "Her forward expression was steady and driving like the advance of a heavy truck. Her eyes never swerved to left or right but turned as the story turned as if they followed a yellow line down the center of it."

The boss of Mrs. Freeman, Mrs. Hopewell has similar traits, she thinks by using cliches. Mrs. Hopewell liked to tell people that Mrs. Freeman's daughters were the finest girls she knew and that Mrs. Freeman was a lady. In fact, they are ordinary people and nobody except Mrs. Freeman wasn't applied for the job for Mrs. Hopewell. "Nothing is perfect. This was one of Mrs. Hopewell's favorite sayings. Another was: that is life!". The author gave the name of the story "Good country people" because it was important to highlight for readers the attitude of the main characters to countryside people. Mrs. Hopewell "realized that nothing is perfect and that in the Freeman she had good country people".

The daughter of Mrs. Hopewell, Joy was thirty-two years old and highly educated, she had Ph.D. in philosophy and she was an atheist. Joy had an artificial leg. This fact had an essential matter, it was not easy even for her mother to communicate with her. Probably as an example of her hard character was the fact that as she was away from home, she had had it legally changed. Her legal name was Hulga.

One day the salesman, the young boy who represented himself as a Manley Pointer, came to their house. He tried to convince Mrs. Hopewell to buy a Bible."He seemed on the point of collapse but he said in a cheerful voice, “Good morning". He was quite an importunate person and Mrs. Hopewell thought about the way how to get rid of him. But when he said softly, “Well lady, I'll tell you the truth – not many people want to buy one nowadays and besides, I know I'm real simple. I don't know how to say a thing but to say it. I'm just a country boy”, the attitude of Mrs. Hopewell changed, she even invited him for the dinner.

Mrs. Hopewell was afraid that her daughter would say something rude to the Bible salesman and she was very surprised when she saw her daughter friendly talking with him.

Next day Manley Pointer invited Joy to walk with him. He kissed her. "She had never been kissed before and she was pleased to discover that it was an unexceptional experience and all a matter of the mind's control." He talked with her about Christian faith, she was sure that he was a simple country boy. He suggested going into the barn where they continue kissing. He asked Joy to say that she loves him and eventually she agreed to say it. "Okay then,” he said, letting her go. “Prove it.” He leaned over and put his lips to her ear. “Show me where your wooden leg joins on,” he whispered." This request shocked her but she agreed to show. He took her artificial leg off, opened his suitcase where Joy saw that the Bible was hollow and it contained a pocket flask of whiskey and a pack of cards.

The writer described this scene:
"Aren't you,” she murmured, “aren't you just good country people?”
“Give me my leg!” she screamed and tried to lunge for it but he pushed her down easily.
Her face was almost purple. “You're a Christian!” she hissed. “You're a fine Christian! You're just like them all – say one thing and do another. You're a perfect Christian, you're…”
The boy's mouth was set angrily. “I hope you don't think,” he said in a lofty indignant tone, “that I believe in that crap! I may sell Bibles but I know which end is up and I wasn't born yesterday and I know where I'm going!”
“I've gotten a lot of interesting things,” he said. “One time I got a woman's glass eye this way. And you needn't to think you'll catch me because Pointer ain't really my name... you ain't so smart. I been believing in nothing ever since I was born!”

I decided to decorate the end of this essay by the famous painting "American Gothic" by Grant Wood. It seems that the two people in this painting don't look open minded, they are sure that they are always right.

What is right and what is wrong, this a question. This short story gives food for thoughts about many difficult questions and dilemmas:
- about belief, about the word of God;
- about the attitude of people, using a cliche in terms of relationships;
- weakness of an individual would hide under seemingly strongest character.

It is the link to the text of this story:

Here we can listen the audio:

Friday, August 11, 2017

Summer Vacation in Andalusia, Spain (August 2017)

Andalusia is a region in Spain which is located in the South of the country. The part of the region near the sea is named Costa del Sol. English translation for Costa del Sol is a shore of the sun. We stayed in the city Torremolinos on this coast. We had our 12 days summer vacation in hotel Anguamarina.

The beach holiday on Costa del Sol is special due to the temperature of the water in the sea. The temperature in the Summers drops to 16-18 degrees in Celsius but could go even lower! The reason being the flow from the Atlantic ocean. We were fortunate because the temperature of the water was about 23 degrees Celsius, the temperature of the air in the middle of the day was about 33 degrees Celsius.

The beaches in Spain are free of charge, people come to the beach with their umbrellas and a part of the territory is occupied by seaside restaurants, they offer sunbeds and umbrellas. With a fresh breeze from the seaside, we felt comfortable lying on the beach beds. The cost of one seat under an umbrella is 5 euros in a day.

During one excursion I had a conversation with the girl who stayed in Marbella (the town not far away from Torremolinos well-known place for affluent tourist). She said that the temperature of water in Marbella was unbearable, about 18 degrees. The price for the beach beds was 6 euro (more expensive than in Torremolinos).

The town Torremolinos looks quite pleasant, it includes the center on the hills and the coastal area with several well-equipped beaches and long avenue.

The Hillside of the city is different. Bright & shiny pavements are typical of the city of Andalusia.

The railway station is hidden between the ordinary looking buildings: with no signs post, We took almost two rounds before we could locate the entrance to the train station.

Being in different parts of the city, we saw that each district of Torremolinos has a very distinct view and atmosphere: beach avenue near the sea, souvenir shops streets on the hill's slopes, crowded squares, residential districts, villas etc. We discovered that there is a net of supermarkets Mercadona which offers extremely low prices for the goods. The first time I saw the wine which had a price less than one euro for a usual 0.5 liter bottle and not a small brick of chocolate for 60 cents.

Andalusia is a very attractive place for tourists who are interested in historical sightseeings. This region of modern Spain was occupied by Arabs for several hundred years during the Middle Ages. That was the time when Europe was not developed in comparison with highly developed Arabic civilization. Since the time when it returned under the Spanish rule, the most significant palaces, gardens, bridges and so on were kept completely untouched, the other parts were rebuilt according to Spanish traditions.

It takes about 20 minutes to reach Malaga by local train, the price of one ticket is 2.10 euro. Malaga was the first big city which we visited in Andalusia. It’s always better to start exploring the city from the hills (it's better to go by the public bus). The former Arab fortress Castillo de Gibralfaro which was built in the 14th-century is located on the hills. From this high point, the tourists can see the entire city before they go down to the historical center.

The old city of Malaga is not a large area with Cathedral, the museum of Picasso. They are located in the pedestrian area. Apart from the general impression of watching a mixture of Moorish and European architectural styles, one detail stayed in our memories: there is a lot of graffiti everywhere. This picture represents the passion of inhabitants for that sort of art (imagine that the nickname of this building would be The House of Rats).

The center of the old city is not overcrowded by tourists. There is a suggestion to stay in each city of Andalusia at least for one night, in that case, tourist can see the place differently, how locals live there.

Visitors need to pay for entering almost to all tourist attractions in Malaga. Our impression was that Malaga has less interesting places for tourists than other cities in Andalusia but if you are dwelling during a vacation at least for one night in Malaga, it would be more interesting.

The next excursion was Ronda. It is the town famous for surrounding landscape, white streets and for the old bridge between old and new cities. The regular bus goes about 2.5 hours through a serpentine road. Ronda is divided into two parts by a very deep abyss. Staying in front of the great bridge we compared it with a fifty-storey house.

Inhabitants maintain the “white image” of the city. When we passed through the streets in the town, somebody was painting a building, probably, his house.

The number of tourists in this place is high, many wandered around the town, we saw them from above. The place, where Ronda is located, disposes along mountains and the city seems isolated. It was a little bit strange to see so many great constructions in such a separated place.

Next excursion which we had was the trip to Cordoba. The option for a self-organized journey wasn't so attractive because the train from Malaga to Cordoba was quite expensive, the round ticket cost about 40 euros. We found the better option: we bought the excursion trip in a local travel agency for 56 euros. It was a right decision. Our guide told us about a history of the area. The land around Cordoba is called "the ocean of olive trees". The ground and weather condition here is suitable only for this tree. If you have a thousand of them, you are able to serve the family. The olive tree lives hundreds of years and this job passed on from one generation to another.

After passing through olive fields we came to Cordoba. The name of the city is pronounced "Cordova" despite the spelling with "d". Cordoba is the city with incredibly interesting history. There was a time when it was the biggest city in the world, in the 10th century the population there was about one million people! In other times the number of inhabitants was only ten thousands people. The region was occupied by Rome's, Barbarians, Arabs, Spanish.

The main tourist attraction in Cordoba is the Great Mosque-Cathedral, La Mezquita, the world's third- largest mosque. The different parts of this mosque were built in a different time but the architecture's style remained the same: the columns and arches in red and white colors. While we were walking through the mosque, our guide told us about a history of creating each part, it seemed like we traveled on the time-machine. It was amazing!

We can see on the right side of the picture several private churches, they were built by the rich Spanish. After Arabs left the region, Christian's dwellers of Cordoba kept the mosque as a great monument of architecture. One Christian church has been built inside the mosque as shown in the picture below.

When the Christian inhabitants of Cordoba go to church, they don't call it the cathedral, the say "Let's go to the mosque".

It is necessary to mention another wonderful historical attraction - Roman's bridge, it was built two thousand years ago!

After we left the cool shade of the mosque we came out to shining sun, the temperature at that moment was more than 40 degrees Celsius. But this kind of harsh weather condition is also a part of unforgettable Andalusian memories.

Walking in the old city of Cordoba was very pleasant, we had so many opportunities to take beautiful photos which will help to remember this sunny city of Cordoba during the coming cold Russian winters :)

Next excursion which we had was Gibraltar. It is the last colony of the United Kingdom in Europe surrounded by Spanish territory. It occupied the edge of the land near the straits of Gibraltar.

This small piece of land is a reason of permanent arguments between Spain and the UK because of its strategic location. Gibraltar includes two parts: the city-place and the rock.

There are two tourist attractions on the rock: caves and monkeys. The group of caves looks as a large night club as they are illuminated by constantly changing colors of light.

A Hundred monkeys belonging to six families live on the rock in the open. They are not afraid of people, they like the tourists who offer them something tasty, like a nut or a piece of chocolate etc.

Next picture was taken from the rock. It shows the greater part of the city. Owing to its tiny size, the cost of real estates here in five times more expensive than in neighboring Spain.

Next picture represents a runway, an airport in Gibraltar and the border with Spain.

This is the most dangerous runway in the World because it is short, it is difficult for the planes to land. When the aircraft is landing or taking off, the traffic light shows red color and the cars and pedestrians have to wait. It is listed in The Guinness Book as the closest airport to the center of the city which is located only in 400 meters away.

There is only one relatively big street in Gibraltar: "The Main Street". It is just a shopping street, nothing interesting.

But walking through this way we witnessed an interesting action (like short play): how inhabitants of this place gave the keys from the city to Britishers.

This is just legend, it never happened, but citizens of Gibraltar like this version. For justice' sake, it needs to notice that during the referendum a few years ago for the question about staying under British rule 99% of citizens voted for being included in the UK.

Gibraltar is a really small place and it receives a great number of tourists. The main sources of wealth are the income earned from the service of the ships and from tourists. It is also notorious offshore zone.

The last excursion in this summer vacation was to Granada. We had to buy the tickets to Granada from travel agency because it is the only way to visit the Alhambra. It is a medieval Arab palace and one of the most popular monuments in Spain. The Alhambra is located on the Hill overlooking the city of Granada. It was set in the 11th century and the palace flourished from the 13th to 15th centuries.

It was a very important for Caliph to make a great impression on his guests (ambassadors or other rulers). He met visitors sitting in the dark in order to see their faces and remain invisible for them.

Caliph and members of his family didn't have furniture. The hall with the fountain surrounded by sculptures of lions was an exclusive private area for Royal Family. The arches and ceilings are made with great skill. Imagine, it was built in the 10th century!

I especially liked the carvings on the pillars. Symmetrical designs were carved on the stones of the pillars giving the palace a majestic look and feel to it.

We didn’t have much time to see the sights of Granada. We walked near the Cathedral, trying to feel the atmosphere of the city. It was a hot day, about 41 degrees Celsius.

Summing up the impressions for the time of the summer holiday, I would highlight the three most enjoyable things:
- being on the beach (fresh marine breeze, cool water, the sun, comfortable beach beds made this sort of relaxation unforgettable);
- tour to Cordoba and feeling of the history of Andalusia (walking inside Mosque-Cathedral with an excellent guide who told about the history of each part of the mosque, created a fabulous feeling of traveling on time-machine, the link between Arab and European styles of architecture are wonderful);
- excursion to Gibraltar was fulfilled by many memorable things like crossing the border, the view of Africa, monkeys, current events in the city etc.

That's the end of the story about our 12-days journey to the magical place: Andalusia!