Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Book Review: "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury was a genius. He was aware of his surroundings and how they would ultimately contribute to a Utopian future that would be created by individuals who thought they can achieve perfection, but come to the conclusion that this complete perfection would be achieved by a level of sameness for the general population controlled by a domineering government. In this particular instance, Bradbury uses Fahrenheit 451 to concentrate on a society that uses the tactics of censorship in the form of book burning in order to wipe away the information that has been set to print while brainwashing its citizens to believing that this is a society of ponies and rainbows. After reading this spectacular novel, you will come to believe that, perhaps, banking into the ebook in exchange for the physical one may perhaps mean banking in on a future in someone else's hands.

Fahrenheit 451 was released in 1953 and told the story of a fireman by the name of Guy Montag. The only difference between the firefighters (all of which are men) in this point in time and in our own is that these firefighters do not put out fires, but start them in order to burn books and enforce the laws of the land. This practice, according to their history, was started by in 1790 and the first firefighter was Benjamin Franklin. Such a notion provides the reader with a key example regarding the power of censorship in this particular society, even if someone were to challenge it. Montag is much like the others in the way with which he follows along with the routine on a consistent basis. Montag is NOT like the others in the way that he has an opportunity to understand and then go on to question what occurs around him. This begins when he is approached by Clarisse McClellan, a seventeen-year-old who is close to nature and constantly questions this society and brings up occasions of a much more quaint place to live. The two engage in interaction with one another to the point that Montag is heavily swayed to question.

Montag lives with his wife, Mildred. She represents what could possibly be called the most accurate subject to the brainwashing of the society. She holds more compassion (the little that there is) for her television family that make up three walls of her household over the real, physical people such as her husband. The one thing she desires most is a fourth wall that will allow her to interact even better, not factoring in the fact that it would cost a third of Montag's income for that year. Mildred has completely lost touch with the current society and follows the trend of one who is thoughtless and self-centered, not afraid to detach herself from Montag at any moment.

Beatty, another direct antagonizing figure, plays the role of the closest direct contact Montag has to the law. He is Montag's boss and finds the written word to be absolutely ridiculous to the point that its only purpose is to burn it. He finds Montag's not feeling well as ridiculous following the murder of a woman that refused to leave her book collection. The best way to see Beatty as being the abrasive bully that lays down things as they are meant to be, even if they are not. Encouraging Montag to stray from the path of conformity include Faber, a retired English professor that guides him along through a seashell ear bud, and Granger, who will see later on and leads wanderers that possess the same goal to preserve the written word.

What I am about to say is going to come off as being a SPOILER, so you have been warned. Clarisse is deemed to have been dead toward the beginning of the story (about page 43) due to getting hit by a car following the shunning of her family, deemed strange by society. While the film version was very much a dud, it did include something that Bradbury did not: Clarisse joined the wanderers. Bradbury actually liked this revelation so much that he decided to include this in the rewritten version of this novel. How do I feel? Indeed the alternate ending, for if anyone, Clarisse would be the person Montag would most likely have the greatest connection with when it came to an ideal reunion. Mildred, being out of it completely, would not. A reunion between the two, no matter how hard Montag thought of her, would have felt immensely cold and distant.


Through observation, it seems as if Guy and Mildred Montag are deemed as being Montag and Mildred. Why do this? A reasonable explanation would be to look at Montag's first name as being Guy. I have a strong feeling that Guy was meant to be created as the character that had the most rapid transition throughout the novel. Mildred and Beatty were subjects to society, while Clarisse, Faber, and Granger were subject against. Guy Montag belongs somewhere in the middle, beginning as a satisfied individual before one that strayed toward questioning authority and challenging their deeds. This "guy" could refer to any subject, even if in this particular case, this subject is classified as being male.

Fahrenheit 451 is a brilliant work of literature that deserves necessary recognition and study in a way that will only grow as time goes by. Ray Bradbury has been known to expand on the idea of "what-if," asking questions along the lines of, "What if we went to Mars?" "What if being a pedestrian became illegal?" "What if we went back to time and changed one of its features?" In this case, the question as hand would be, "What if we lived in a future where we were bred and told to think in a specific fashion?" Signs of such a future become clearer and clearer. These are not necessarily identical, but there are definitely parallels. The modern era, instead of advanced televisions, are heavily dominated by smart phones and tablets that are easily accessible and work almost as if they are a battery to their particular subject. It is difficult for several to live without these appendages and Bradbury takes to account these ideas that would be appropriate for 1953. If written today, the advancement of the smart phones and tablets would be taken into account and heavily so.

I read this for the first time as a sophomore in high school. This led to deeper research on Ray Bradbury and assignments that involved choosing one book to save if I could only save one (yeah, like I could answer that question?). While it took me until after this reread to embrace an absolute appreciation for Fahrenheit 451, my appreciation for Bradbury has consistently blossomed since then. I did a research paper on Bradbury, I collect his novels and short story collections, and I finished his sequel to Dandelion Wine, Farewell Summer, in one day (don't worry, I read Dandelion Wine, too). My appreciation for Bradbury is and will continue to grow as I indulge my passion to literature in an even further fashion. To reread this novel, something I rarely do, was an excellent decision on my behalf. I have come to the conclusion that as a whole, Fahrenheit 451 has been deemed as Bradbury's most recognizable and greatest achievement. Bradbury has come out with so many spectacular works, but I will attest that this was his most important. If there was just one work with which he could be attributed to, this would be the one.

Verdict: 10/10

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Short Story Review: "The Judgment" by Franz Kafka

Those who are familiar with the work and the eccentric genius that is Czechoslovakia's very own Franz Kafka knows about his struggles throughout his life. Somebody who struggled mentally and emotionally throughout his life, his relationship with his father was one that created an insecurity with which Kafka would live with and this was reflected within his writing. He had three sisters and both a mother and father that would outlive him (he died in 1924, his parents died in the 1930s, while his sisters died during the Holocaust), but most notably a father that would degrade his son for not meeting his expectations as being masculine enough according to his tastes. Simply put: Franz Kafka's father felt as if Franz failed him. This emotion is explored in the work that I feel does the most powerful job in describing the relationship between Kafka and his father. While "The Metamorphosis" presents a father that is hot-tempered and is perhaps the most notable work within Kafka's life, it is "The Judgment" that puts a concentration on a father that sees his son as being hopeless. The story leaves plenty of questions lingering in the head regarding the question of, "what just happened?" but one can affirm in fact that, yes, this DID just happen.

Georg Bendemann works for his father as a merchant and is spending his time writing letters to an unnamed friend of his who lives in Russia. This friend was struggling at home and made the decision to move where he was struggling even more. Some of these struggles went to the point of being physical, such as jaundice. This friend of his made the decision to remain isolated to the point that his comments were emotionless and indifferent, almost as if the distance made his heart grow colder instead of fonder to the situation. This coldness was demonstrated at the death of Georg's mother. During this time, Georg got engaged to a Frieda Brandenfeld, who objected to such a friend from attending, but the communication between Georg and the unnamed friend continues.

Why have the friend go unnamed? Perhaps this would have to do with building his reputation. To have this friend nameless creates a mysterious emotional cloud to which adds to the enigma of what is his personality. If he was given a name, one may start to build an impression, make judgments, and this would turn into an opportunity to learn much more about this individual. More than likely, Kafka only wants us to know so much about this friend. This "only knowing so much" affair was common for this author, a prime example being a complexity behind the appearance of Gregor Samsa in insect-form in "The Metamorphosis." This same approach is used to provide the reader with scarce details involving Georg's friend. We know enough about him, but not too much.

The key character and the one Kafka probably wants us to pay the most attention to is Georg's surviving father, who lost his wife in what he felt was a larger loss for him. He initially became less aggressive, but this would only be an emotion that was bottled up. He remains within the darkness of his area, which reflects his emotions to the situation. Not only has he lost his wife, but he feels that the relationship with his son is almost nonexistent. He is beginning to lose the ability to take care of himself which leads to childlike tendencies, such as dirty underwear. His son often ignores his basic needs and will only tend to him when necessary, which leads to anger on his father's behalf. With regard to his relations with the friend, he first believes he does not exist. Then, after Georg reminds him, exclaims that he DOES know this friend and that he has betrayed everyone, his friend, his mother's will, and his father's health and well-being, in order to fulfill his sexual desire and go forth with engagement with Frieda. His father adds how this friend turns away from everything he says, but is happy to listen to him, and that he's so obsessive that he is not taking specific priorities into account. Georg's father sentences him to drown, which leads him to be forced away from the house and out to a bridge where he finds himself drowning to death in the water. The ending describes the flow of traffic moving forth and paints a picture of life going by just as it has, ignoring another loss.

Written in 1912, Kafka completed this within one sitting. It demonstrates how close this story really was to the events within his life. Georg is clearly Kafka, while the father in the story can really come off as being Kafka's very own. The fact that the mother dies in this story is a tested variable and not a real life occurrence, but his mother's word was blocked out so much by his father's disappointment that his mother was almost nonexistent and thus the reason to have her die in "The Judgment." Frieda is reflective of someone Kafka had relations with, but in reality, the two never married. Franz Kafka never had the ability to get married and his last relationship with a Dora Diamant ended with his death in 1924. "The Judgment" is clearly an image of Kafka's greatest fears regarding his father and it creates an impression that haunts the reader, a feat he accomplished quite well.

If you look hard enough, chances are you would be able to find a work from Kafka at any local bookstore. Otherwise, I would suggest getting this complete collection of every short story he approved for publication. In fact, this is everything he approved for publication, for he wanted his unfinished novels to be burned (The Trial, The Castle, and Amerika). Here is a link to the complete collection:

I highly suggest anything from Franz Kafka and will continue to read his shorter works with each opportunity that I am able.

Literary Gladiators: Episode 4- "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley

Yes, we were on a bit of a hiatus from uploading episodes. This does not mean we have faded away, for we have done anything but that. The five-part filming session from January is still slated to be released in completion by the beginning of June and this includes the episode that is being released. Here, Nicole Sandra, Chris Steen, Charlie Gulizia, and I discuss and debate Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which could be looked at through two lenses. The first is one of horror's finest works. While it contains plenty of horror elements, it tends to explore a more Romantic background with which plenty of other human flaws and the possession of intelligence are brought into the equation.

I thoroughly enjoyed taping each of the episodes, but this is quite a zany one! The longest of the bunch at over eighteen minutes long, but it shows that this was quite an intense discussion.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Book Review: "The Fault In Our Stars" by John Green

If there is one novel that I am hearing plenty of discussion about on all mutual accounts, all of which being positive, it would be for John Green's The Fault In Our Stars. Surprising enough, it was not with this novel that I first processed his background, but instead through a vlog he conducted on YouTube during a literature club meeting at my college. A friend of mine put on a video with which he was analyzing Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet. I just remember the massive promotion of this novel to the point that I needed to check this out myself. Every reason to which this novel is receiving hype is justified. Every compliment this novel gets is well deserved. Sure, it does play out like a romantic film that deals with cancer patients and it's bound to have its tragedies, but it pokes at the inevitable cliches and there are comedic moments that come with the everyday characters of life. While the sexual encounters play out just like they would in a film, the kiss is somewhat unique in its own little way. I am almost positive that no matter what I say or do not say down below, you will be bound to pick up this novel for yourself, especially since the film comes out on June 6th (if you live in The Netherlands or Australia, it's a day early) and I will make absolutely no notion to stop you, but instead do the opposite and encourage you to fulfill your desire.

Hazel Grace Lancaster is sixteen years old and battling a thyroid cancer that has since spread into her lungs. This has required her to use an oxygen pump to help her breathe. Having been terminally ill since she was a teenager, her mother comes off as being very over the top and demanding of things falling perfectly in place for her daughter. She demands that she remain active by going to a cancer support group and is very compulsive about things being as perfect as possible. One cannot blame her for this, though, for this is a common trait among most parents with terminally ill children and one that cannot be objected. Her father is a bit more subtle, but he deeply cares for Hazel and is very much emotional, crying perhaps more than her mother. This is a first person account told by Hazel, so this really gives you a sense of direction as to where the story is going to go. Hazel is blunt and has a humorous wit to explaining her life, but in a coming to terms kind of way and not a "why me" approach. The cancer support group she attends at the church takes place in the center of a large cross, which is the at where Jesus' heart was. These sessions are led by a guy named Patrick, who survived testicular cancer, which Hazel explained as "cancer in his balls" and that during each meeting, he speaks of his "ball-lessness." Some of the attendees include Isaac, who had a cancer in his eyes that required them to be removed. He is in an over the top relationship with a girl named Monica, whom he is not afraid to publicly display his affection with and exchange the term "always" to, but she eventually leaves him after being unable to grasp his condition. Isaac is left bitter about this, but he begins to stray from such agitation as the novel progresses.

During a group session, Hazel meets Augustus Waters, who is known throughout most of the novel as "Gus." He is in remission from his bone cancer, but it has left him an amputee that has a prosthetic leg. Augustus attracts Hazel near immediate to the point that he invites her to his house to watch V for Vendetta. Augustus' parents are quite outgoing, quick-witted individuals. They have inspirational quotes all over the house and insist that he use the living room to watch the film. He wants to go into the basement, which they object to. When he makes the remark that he wants to show Hazel the basement, his father tells him that he can show her the basement, but he's watching the movie in the living room. Augustus caves in to the obvious parental guidance that is quite logical in an ideal society. The two have an excellent night and while they agree to simply have an easygoing friendship, things begin to catch pace as time goes on.

Hazel and Augustus get into a deep discussion, with which Hazel discusses her favorite book, An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten. Since the novel has to do with a dying cancer patient who is telling her story, it ends either when she dies or is too sick to write, thus the story about her mom, the Dutch Tulip Man, and Sisyphus the hamster are left unwritten. Peter Van Houten, who is from the Netherlands, eventually gets into contact after Hazel writes him on several occasions and mentions she would have to come in order to find out what happens, with fear that she is just another person that wants to make money off of him. She wants to go to Netherlands, but used her "wish" from the Genie Foundation (probably based off of the "Make-A-Wish Foundation") before her first miracle to go to Disney World. Augustus, however, has not used his wish and decides to share it with Hazel and make her dream come true.

Even though doctors comments and an episode make attempts to interfere with the trip, Hazel and Augustus are able to go with Hazel's mother. While Hazel's mother could have easily made this an awkward situation, Green is able to strategically allow the chemistry between Hazel and Augustus blossom by her mother fall asleep quickly and, when in Netherlands, have her do things during her own time. At the same time, she is there for Hazel when she feels immense concern. The use of Hazel's mother was just right. Hazel and Augustus get to meet Van Houten, but he turns out to be an alcoholic prick (putting it bluntly) during their visit. So much so that his assistant, outraged, chooses to resign and take them to the Anne Frank museum. What makes this trip so magical is not the encounter Hazel has with Van Houten, but the interaction she is able to have with Augustus and to greater depths. Van Houten eventually pops up and we get some kind of explanation about him, but he is still very much a caricature of "the author that is idolized by the protagonist, but ends up being a disappointment in real life." Of course, I would imagine and hope that most authors are not like this, it is just the way these characters are portrayed in written work.

The beginning moments of tragedy take place during the trip and it occurs in the way of a twist. That is all I will say about this topic at hand. What I will continue to say is that regardless of what happens within the moments toward the last so many chapters of the book, the moments of passion stick out even more. The note with which it finishes is one of true compassion in which one subject deeply loves another to the point they would do anything and everything to express their emotion. Love is always stronger than loss in the world of humanity and love cannot be stopped by loss among individuals that demonstrate this idea.

I am very glad I took the time to read this. I was wondering how much time it would take me to finish and it turns out that number was roughly three days, the last 150 pages were read within three hours. This novel shows true passion between a hard-nosed muscular cancer survival who turns out being such a softie to the girl he truly loves, who was very intellectual and a cancer patient for the last three years. John Green mentioned at the beginning of the book that this was just a story and was not inspired or connected to anything within his personal life. There is no need to analyze if anything is representative of something else, because this is a fine attempt at a love story between cancer patients that does not take a path of pity, but instead a path of wit. The word "like" is used improperly within conversation, but rightfully so, for that has become a word of connection within the American language (one I do not agree with, but still...).

To some, this may a tearjerker. It was not a tearjerker for me, but that is an area that is almost not touched upon to me. What matters most is that this novel kept my attention and grabbed me to the point that I wanted to and continued to read into the night. When you can do that, you have accomplished something. I am even more happy for John Green for building a reputation as a YouTube commentator and when he decided to release a novel, this was what he came out with. I give him a lot of credit for building his reputation on two fronts. Of course, this is going to be the bigger accomplishment, but a novel and other published works are incredible feats to possess.

Just a reminder, the film will be out on June 6th and will star Shailene Woodley as Hazel and Ansel Elgort as Augustus. In addition, Willem Dafoe will star as Peter Van Houten. Before you prepare to watch the film, however, I urge you to buy the book. You can get it at just about any bookstore that bears a goal of being accessible to human beings with non-used material. I will leave you the link to Amazon, though I would encourage you to take a ride to your nearest bookstore and search for this rightfully notable work of literature:

Verdict: 10/10

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Poem Review: "Stars" by Robert Frost

One of America's finest poets that captures the essence of simple living in America and how rural land makes up its innocent beauty is Robert Frost. He is a four-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize and Poemhunter has him atop their list of the Top 500 poets of all time. Most people know him for perhaps the most noteworthy poem in American literature with "The Road Not Taken," but he has written much more in his long, active life. His first poetry collection was A Boy's Will, released in 1913. One poem in this collection is called "Stars," following a trend of nature and the rural life. This poem immediately caught my attention, for I see stars as being one of nature's finest gifts that provide us with a beauty that mesmerizes us and in effect calms us down. The way in which Robert Frost describes the power of stars during a snowy blizzard shows a demonstration of his endless talent.

The poem begins with describing the multiple number of stars and how they are scattered across a night sky that is also releasing a massive amount of snow among the wintry winds (L 4). The stars do not take this snow into account and Frost is describing how these stars have such a strong, natural, non-human will that allows them to continue shining despite the interruption of the snow. Lines three and four describe these stars to, "which flows in shapes as tall as trees/when wintry winds do blow!" Before we begin to debate a resemblance to humanistic meaning and how these stars can be compared to individuals who have a strong will, do not forget Frost's background. Frost wrote during the Modernist period and he truly fit that particular realm. Most of his writing was not meant to be symbolic, but instead provide an upfront meaning. So instead of taking the approach of comparing the stars to humanity, I would say we just see the stars as being their own being. The first stanza describes how these stars bear what happens to be a universal carelessness, which is similar to how the Naturalists saw that "Mother Nature" reacted to the living species. At the same time, humanity and their reaction to this beauty is the complete reverse. Even when an antagonizing force, such as wintry weather, is blocking their clear view, the stars remain on their mind and make an impact to their thought and well being.

In the next stanza, the stars continue to be described as catching the attention of the human eye. By the inevitable morning, they find a place to rest. Interesting enough, Frost does not describe their disappearance as "going away," but just says they are "invisible at dawn" (L 8). Describing them as "invisible" makes quite a statement that affirms that throughout the cycle of life, night is sure to return. While stars are not visible throughout the day, the sky remains visible. As the sky remains visible, individuals continue to view the sky and its many faces that it has to offer. Just like people, the stars take a rest, even when the snow remains a constant until it is no longer.

The third and final stanza of the poem makes a further exploration into the Naturalist traits of the poem. Lines nine and ten goes as follows: "And yet with neither love nor hate/Those stars like some snow-white." The former line adds on to the stars and their indifference about our emotions that come about when we come across a star or a whole canvas of stars. It is interesting that like the wintry weather, the stars are being described as being "snow-white" (L 10). There is quite a comparison between the snowy sky and snowy stars in a poem that makes every attempt to affirm that the stars remain very much alive even when it is difficult. The last line describes, "Minerva's snow-white marble eyes" (L 11) being "without the gift of sight" (L 12), which explains Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, bringing attention to the viewer without getting anything out of it in exchange.

The most important element with which "Stars" conveys is that stars are beings onto themselves without humanistic qualities, which in a way is what makes them admirable. While Minerva is mentioned, I would say the stars are not being portrayed as godly in anyway, but instead as an ability of nature. While the essence of nature is far more common with the Transcendentalists, Robert Frost provides a loud, powerful voice for nature in his Modernism, providing a straightforward lens for a designated topic at large. As far as I am concerned, I see the stars as being the subject to Frost's desire and a reason to end a day relaxed and relieved. That would be a far more likely approach than the encrypted meaning that is so often used and nudged upon. No hidden meanings here, just a poem meant to spread a message of beauty!

If you are interested in reading a book of Robert Frost's poetry, just like the one I own and am using, check this book out on Amazon or (like I did) buy it at the bookstore in your area. Here is the link to The Poetry of Robert Frost, edited by Edward Connery Lathem, and is the work I used to follow along:

If you do not feel like picking up a collection of Robert Frost's poetry and just want to read this one (which you should read and then read this review again) check out this link:

Of course, I am just getting ready for my summer break from college and this is a poem based on winter, but you are welcome to wait until winter to read this OR go out into the heat and then run back inside to read this poem and pretend that it is far colder when in actuality you are just trying to feel cooler. Seriously, however, I would encourage you to read this mesmerizing work at any opportunity that you are able. It really does bring you into the view of a starry sky on a winter's night.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Renovations For Caponomics

Within the last week or so, we reached 30,000 page views, which is a huge milestone for this blog. I had no idea that the material that I contributed to this blog would result in that many readers, including a handful that remain actual followers. So this leads me to a decision that I have been pondering, but will be going forth with regarding what I should do with my blog next. While I have thoroughly enjoyed discussing anything and everything that has been lingering through my mind, I feel that it is time to establish myself by engaging in discussion of a more designated area. Just about anyone involved in the world of blogging will make mention to the fact that, "the best bloggers are the ones that write about a designated topic." That has always remained in the back of my head, but I have continued to write about the various areas of interest. Everybody has the opportunity to transition, now is that time for Caponomics.

For those of you that have been following, I am beginning to establish myself in two particular areas. The first is with getting my short story, "Pity Teeth," published in the Speculations From New Jersey in March. I hold high hope in moving forward with working on some more written work throughout the upcoming summer. Second, Literary Gladiators premiered on YouTube in February, with two additional episodes in April, and three more that will be coming out within the next few weeks. My goal is to film forty more episodes that will be released on a weekly (roughly so) basis starting in September. In order to fulfill the impression that one may want from a column who has a passion for reading and creating written work, many more of my posts will have to do with writing and reading, books and literature, but without limit to any specific area. I will write book reviews, short story reviews, poem reviews, play reviews, anything within that particular realm. I will be decreasing the submissions of posts in other areas. That does not mean they are going away for good, for I am interested in submitting a Shark Tank post and still want to continue the tradition of predicting the upcoming NFL season. It only means that literature will take the forefront of this blog. In addition to going over work that I have read, I will be keeping you up to date with what I am writing and the progress of Literary Gladiators.

From what I have seen as a result of looking at my statistics, my literature related reviews are garnering some attention. I am getting views for "The Monkey's Paw" by W.W. Jacobs and "The Lottery Ticket" by Ventura Garcia Calderon, both of which are often overlooked, but are brilliant short stories that not only prove a point, but leave you thinking well after you have completed it. The most popular post regarding literature is one I wrote for "The Starry Night" by Anne Sexton. This is one of my favorite confessional poems covering the psyche of a world at lost, the meaning of a "lost world" can be interpreted any which way. I have come to the conclusion that I seek enjoyment out of writing about the written and if I were to only write about one area, this would be it.

Some may say that this is an act of conformity. I have spent three years against going the common grain of picking a designated topic and sticking with it. This is NOT an act of going with the crowd, but more so an act of establishing Caponomics as what Caponomics is meant to be and what I feel it should be. I follow some excellent book review blogs and have garnered correspondence with Carina from Carina's Books and the ladies from Loaded Shelves (which, if you have not checked them out just yet, check them out!). I feel that Caponomics could very easily stray into the category of a book/literature based blog of its own breed, as an opportunity to pull people in with a point of view on a particular work, but on the other hand introduce them to some new works that even I am beginning to discover through my expeditions of exploring the best of what literature has to offer. The ability to spark a reaction from the reader is the most important task I have at hand and however I can do this is the direction I want to take.

What I plan to review first and when will be decided, but I will most definitely share a Shark Tank related post that will be one of the few moments with which I stray from the direction I plan to head and will have the episodes of Literary Gladiators with which we discuss: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, "Howl" by Allen Ginsberg, and The Poetry of Emily Dickinson. I highly encourage you to familiarize yourself with these works, for it will assist you in giving you a sense of direction regarding where the conversation is bound to go. Either way, these are works we encourage you to get your hands on. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Book Review: "The Absolutely True Diary Of A Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie

This semester, I am taking history classes that involve the American West and British Colonies & The American Revolution. This is exposing me through several lenses to the treatment of the American Indian tribes and that when the colonists came to America, they began pushing these tribes off of their land until they would ultimately imperialize the country and leave the Indians with designated areas. While we have tackled the issue of race on plenty of occasions and have accepted those from different countries to create what is a melting pot, the Indian tribes were always left out. The status quo has declared that just because these tribes live a lifestyle that doesn't fall into the category of these newer citizens means they're lesser an individual. Of course, this statement is ludicrous and that's exactly what Arnold Spirit Jr., also known as "Junior," has to go through. While Sherman Alexie grew up in the late seventies to early eighties, Junior is telling this story during the 2006-2007 school year and his freshman struggles are most definitely ones that others can relate to, whether they have an Indian background or not.

Arnold Spirit Jr. lives with his alcoholic father and a mother with a professional disposition. Also making up his family is his sister, Mary, who is known as "Mary Runs Away" due to habits of spending twenty-three hours of the day in the basement and notably disappearing from their home. The fact that she achieves what is meant to be a dream... marrying a man in Montana and living in a trailer... is meant to be viewed as a sarcastic stab at a highlight in one's life. Unfortunately for Junior and his background, this is quite a feat. Junior is also heavily influenced and motivated by his grandmother, who gives him witty advice before falling victim to an unfortunate cause... alcohol (and not through consumption, either). The consumption of alcohol and its many wrong-doings remains a recurring theme in the piece. Junior makes constant mention to the fact that those of the Spokane Indian reservation, as well as those in Indian tribes, have it difficult. Not only are they immensely poor, but there is no direction with which they are heading. This is what drives Junior to leave his own school within the area (inspired by the fact he used the same book his mother did, demonstrating how much of a struggle they are in) and head to a school with a white majority, known as Reardan.

At Reardan, Junior has it difficult, but he fits in relatively quick. As plenty of young adult stories convey, he falls for a girl (Penelope), is harassed by a bigger guy who has popularity as a sports star (Roger), and befriends a smart guy (Gordy). The relationships between Junior and both Roger and Gordy stray away from tradition. While Roger heckles him by shouting derogatory Indian terms (such as "Chief") at first, he eventually begins to respect Junior, even if that means being punched before that happens. Gordy is the intelligent person in the piece, though Junior's friendship with him is only meant to last through school. He contemplated having him over to his place, but this was just a thought. Junior's "partner in crime" is from the reservation and his name is Rowdy. Unfortunately, Rowdy feels betrayed when Junior decides to leave the school on the reservation in what he feels is "betrayal." This tension could be felt when they compete against each other on opposing basketball teams, but nevertheless the two get back together in a moment where actions speak louder than words.

There are plenty of moments that are left open, but that has to be because the story is meant to continue. As with every school year, the ending of the story ends with the end of the school year. Junior finishes his freshman year and it is intended that the story will resume with his sophomore year. Sherman Alexie could write a sequel if he really wanted to, but he most definitely does not have to. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian makes a case that is strong enough with the boundaries that are already formed. Junior writes with a wit that he is not afraid to self-deprecate himself with, as he is not afraid to share information about being born with too much water to the head and having sexual fantasies that just about every single male (and many single females) in his age bracket go through. His thought process is that of most teenagers, even if it means he comes from a different background, but he is not afraid to admit that. The "qualifications" that he holds for people (specifically women) is not rare for someone his age. In addition, Junior is not afraid to embrace his tribal traditions while making a name for himself as an individual.

This novel should definitely be embraced by the public and I hold high hope that in some particular fashion, high school English instructors are fitting this into their curriculum. Sherman Alexie does an excellent job conveying a point of view that is immensely similar to his own and creating a background out of it. He also made an excellent decision to have an illustrator in Ellen Forney come together with providing the art that came with Junior's sketches, for that was his method to escape. This here is young adult gold!

Verdict: 10/10