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Peter Pan

Recently, I took a few days to read the story of Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. Of course, this is a story that I have been familiar with since I was a child. I loved this movie as a kid because I loved the idea of make-believe and Neverland. Therefore, I decided to check out the original source. I am glad I did. Though this story was very similar to the versions I saw as a kid, this story was a bit darker, a bit more gruesome, and a bit lonelier than other versions I had come into contact with.

Personally, I enjoyed this grittier version of the story. Like Grimm’s versions of fairy tales, the darker twist on the stories makes them more exciting. Peter Pan is a boy who refuses to grow up. He takes children from their homes to come play with him for a while in Neverland, an imaginary island populated by children’s imaginations.

I think there is a part of Peter Pan in most of us, the part of us that never wants to grow up. The part of us that wants to continue to play games and pretend. I think that is what makes this story so compelling. At the same time, though, we see how never growing up has affected Peter, and we realize that growing up is a necessary part of life.

Overall, I would say this is a good story. While reading it, I kept thinking, is this something I will read to my children one day? It’s a difficult call. Though the story is something that children would enjoy, some of the content seems more like it was written for an older audience and children would have a difficult time following it. However, this could just be due to the age of the book. Perhaps a hundred years ago when the story was published children had better attention spans than they do today.

Then again, perhaps this story, which is always portrayed as a children’s story, was always intended to be more for adults than children.

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The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde has always been one of my favorite writers. I think he is extremely clever in his writing. When I was in high school, I tried reading his novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, but about halfway through, it became very difficult and I never finished it. A while back, I decided to give it another try.

For those who don’t know the basic story line of this book, it is a story about a young man who has a portrait made of him. The portrait is very beautiful, and Dorian in his vanity, wishes that the portrait could age instead of him. And so it does. Not only does it age while Dorian stays young, but it also carries the weight of the sins he commits in his life while his own face stays young and innocent.

As I was rereading The Picture of Dorian Gray, I was so caught up in the story that I thought to myself, “What was wrong with me when I was younger that I couldn’t get through this?” The story was compelling, witty, and easy to read.

And then I got to the halfway point. This was the spot where I had given up on my last read through, and now I understood why. In the middle of this book is a chapter that works as a transition from the first half of the story to the second half. There is a bunch of summary about what Dorian has been doing during the years in between the two sections of the story, and there is a lot of self-reflection on Dorian’s part. And, well, it’s boring. And long.

However, it is only one chapter. If the reader can make it through that bit, then the story picks back up and the second half of the novel is just as compelling as the first.

I am glad I made it through to this end when I read The Picture of Dorian Gray this time. The final scene in the book really is a great one.

Overall, this book is worth the read, especially if you are a fan of Wilde’s style. When you reach the boring bit, just push through. Once the story picks back up, you will find it worthwhile.

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Pride & Prejudice, & Zombies

I must have been the only girl in my entire Brit Lit class in college who did not enjoy reading Pride & Prejudice. I must have been the only girl in my entire friend group who did not adore Mr. Darcy. So when my fiance suggested I read Pride & Prejudice & Zombies by Jane Austin and Seth Grahame-Smith, I must admit that I wasn’t thrilled about the idea.

“Don’t worry,” my fiance assured me. “The book is much better with zombies.”

If nothing else, I have to admit, he was right on that front.

I’m not a big fan of zombie stories. I don’t like scary stories in general. But zombies definitely brought some life to the relationship that develops between Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy in Jane Austin’s classic. I mean, how could you go wrong incorporating Asian style martial arts into Victorian England?

Elizabeth Bennett as a zombie hunter, devoted to the cause of stopping Satan’s army, is a much more intriguing character than the original Elizabeth who sits around with her sisters and discusses boys (mostly her sisters’ obsessions with them). Elizabeth as a warrior became much more fascinating as her moral line shifted drastically within 19th century England.

And the idea of Elizabeth and Darcy fighting zombies side-by-side? Yes, please!

Though I began this journey full of skepticism, it is a journey that I am ultimately glad I took. The thing I’m most excited about? I read the book just as the movie was coming out! I think I know what I’m going to be seeing next time I get to the theater.

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Brave New World

Yesterday I finished reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. This was actually my first time reading this novel. I teach introduction to literature at the university where I work, but I was not a literature major in college, so I managed to miss many of the classics. I have slowly been working to fix this problem, especially now that I am being asked to teach more literature courses.

Brave New World looks at a future society that runs on efficiency. Under the guidance of the government, the entirety of the population is organized in a caste system, where humans are engineered to fit into a specific caste by insuring their physical and mental ability through conditioning, starting before birth and continuing throughout their lives.

Everybody in this world is happy. Or at least everyone in this world is supposed to pretend to be happy, and whenever they come across something disquieting, they are expected to take a drug, soma, to help them forget about it and regain their happy feeling.

Written in 1931, this novel seems to understand some of the dangers the human race was to face in the near future. Like most English distopian literature, it focuses on the dangers of societal living which neglect the importance of the individual. This novel offers a suggestion regarding how an emphasis on consumerism and bliss can wreck an individual’s spirit to make something of his/her life.

As we learn throughout the novel, the appearance of happiness is only that, an appearance. Many of the characters are not happy but also are unable to express their discontent, so they go on pretending. Only one character, the Savage, knows how to express his emotions regarding this new world he finds himself in. And though he is not a member of civilized society, I think he is a character that many people could sympathize with, as (I believe) they are supposed to.

Is everything about this new society bad? No. Of course not. There are many good things about it. But I am not sure it is somewhere I would want to live. There seems to be something missing from this civilized society that makes it feel empty to the reader, or at least to me as a reader.

This is a book for thinking. This is a book to make you ask, “What if…” It is a book to make you realized that all emotions are human emotions, and make you wonder if trying to live without any of them somehow make us less human.

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