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;
- the weakness of an individual would hide under the 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!