Brief Thoughts on John Milton's Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost by John Milton, Oxford World’s Classics,
Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Stephen Orgel
and Jonathan Goldberg

I have often heard that Paradise Lost is one of the greatest works of British literature, and it feels rewarding to finally have read this renowned work.

Paradise Lost, published in 1667, is John Milton’s retelling and fleshed-out version of the Bible’s telling of God, Satan’s fall to hell, creation, and Adam and Eve’s fall. It is fascinating how Milton took the well-known story of the first parts of Genesis and created an extremely detailed-account, told in the fashion of an epic poem.

There is so much that can be discussed about Paradise Lost, and while I have yet to do more research about this book, I want to share some ideas that were particularly fascinating to me. For one, Paradise Lost gets into the mind of Satan, exploring why he rebelled against God and why/how he plans to disrupt the Paradise God has set up in the creation of Adam and Eve and the garden of Eden. It may seem a bit scary to delve into the logic and reasoning behind Satan’s motives, but it is also enthralling to take a deeper look into the anti-hero of God’s story. As Milton takes the reader into the depths of hell where Satan and his legions are cast, he also takes you into the midst of despair, turmoil, and regret they suffer. Through all of this, the reader can feel everything from pity for Satan, who is given much dialogue about his suffering and his plans of destruction, and also sad anticipation for what we know will unfold.

In another way, Adam and Eve are also fleshed out and wonderfully complex in Paradise Lost. If you have ever wondered how the fall of Adam and Eve actually transpired, beyond what the Bible alone says, Milton seems to offer a valid, detailed explanation of this, as he draws out Adam and Eve’s curiosity and flaws (Adam’s is his infatuation for Eve and Eve’s is her stubborn independence from Adam). Adam and Eve suffer greatly from the sin they commit, and Milton expertly depicts the complexity of their emotions. One passage reminded me very much of something that the creature of Frankenstein says to Victor Frankenstein, when Adam questions, “Did I request thee, maker, from my clay to mould me man, did I solicit thee from darkness to promote me, or here place in this delicious garden?” (Book X, lines 743-746) This brings me to my last point: If you have seen my latest post on Frankenstein, I was excited to read Paradise Lost to see how Shelly alludes to it in her work, and I can see many connections such as this one example.

Thank you for checking out today’s “Brief Thoughts”, and I will be posting again soon on the next work I read, which I plan to update here as soon as I figure out what it will be. As always, happy reading! 🙂

Brief Thoughts on Frankenstein

Happy New Year, fellow bookworms! I hope everyone had a great holiday season. 🙂

Sorry for the late post, but I have been a bit busy with holiday plans. But now that I finished Frankenstein, I want to share some brief thoughts on the book here on the blog.

First of all, after re-reading Frankenstein, I have a deeper appreciation for the creation symbolism set up in the book and the inter-textuality of Milton’s Paradise Lost (which I have yet to read). The monster that Victor Frankenstein creates is in a dilemma in which he feels dejected and alone. His creator has failed to make him happy because he created in his invention a hideous creature who frightens anyone who sets eyes on him. There is so much wonderful dialogue in the monster’s complaints to Frankenstein about his woe and despair in living in such a way.

Even though the monster kills all of Frankenstein’s family and friends, and indeed, is terrifying in his murderous abilities, one cannot help feel pity for him in the end when he claims remorse for all he has done and when he claims he was not originally created with an inclination towards evil acts but committed these actions when he learned what it is to be envious and in deep despair:

When I run over the frightful catalogue of my sins, I cannot believe that I am the same creature whose thoughts were once filled with sublime and transcendent visions of the beauty and the majesty of goodness. But it is even so; the fallen angel becomes a malignant devil. Yet even that enemy of God and man had friends and associates in his desolation; I am alone.”

The monster is complex, and his character is so much like the state of mankind which acts in sin and suffers from its actions. The monster’s complex character is one of my favorite things about Frankenstein.

On another note, on this re-read of the book, I also realized how annoying and frustrating the character of Victor Frankenstein is. He takes forever to take action, thinks way too much about himself, gets physically sick (for months) every time he is distraught, and places his burden on R. Walton by the end of the book when he is supposed to have gained wisdom from his trials. 😛

Anyway, that is it for now! I am aiming to create my reading plan soon, which I will try to post when I have it figured out and more set in stone. For now, I am thinking I will likely begin reading Paradise Lost since it has close ties to Frankenstein. I welcome any comments and opinions related to today’s thoughts, and, as always, happy reading!

Friendship in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Frankenstein or,
The Modern Prometheus
by Mary Shelley.
Illustrated by Larry Schwinger
Grosset & Dunlap Publishers

Hello fellow bookworms! I hope everyone is enjoying this holiday season. It’s technically Christmas Eve Eve (the eve before Christmas Eve), and I am so excited for the next couple of days.

Today, I am going to be writing just a bit about Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. It’s not exactly a book that is fitting for the season, but I chose to start my break and my exam studies by re-reading it, as it is such a fun read.

I read Frankenstein several years ago, and on this second read, I am finding more things that I love about this book. While I’m still at the beginning of the book (I’m currently on Chapter 4), I want to share one section that stood out to me so far. The context of the following excerpt is a letter by Robert Walton, who is on a journey to the North Pole, and is writing to his sister. Like Victor Frankenstein, who he soon meets, he is passionate about his pursuit almost to the point of obsession. In his letters, Walton also shares with his sister a very human concern – the desire to find a kindred spirit, a true friend – and he shares, in his writing, Frankenstein’s own words about friendship:

“I spoke of my desire of finding a friend, of my thirst for a more intimate sympathy with a fellow mind than had ever fallen to my lot, and expressed my conviction that a man could boast of little happiness who did not enjoy this blessing.’

‘I agree with you,’ replied the stranger; ‘we are unfashioned creatures, but half made up, if one wiser, better, dearer than ourselves–such a friend ought to be–do not lend his aid to perfectionate our weak and faulty nature.'”

It seems common for people (myself included) to name several people in their lives as “friends,” but like Walton and Frankenstein point out, a true friend is definitely hard to come by (as cheesy as that sounds). But once one does find that friend – a friend who shares a like mind and makes one a better person – that friendship is priceless.

Franksentein has many great themes and ideas, and I am looking forward to reading more of it and sharing my thoughts with you all next Monday. It may not be a “Christmassy” book, but a message of friendship is fitting for this time of year. 🙂

If you have read Frankenstein or have watched any film that is Frankenstein-related, what is your favorite part of the classic horror tale? Feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments section of this post!

I plan to post again towards the end of the week a tentative schedule for upcoming books I will be reading based on my exam list. Until next time, I wish everyone Merry Christmas, many blessings, and happy reading!

Dark Hacienda by M.T.S. de Guerra & Daggers in the Desert by Marcus Guerra

Dark Hacienda by M.T.S. de Guerra,
Sold by Amazon

Hi fellow bookworms! Today’s blog post will be showcasing two books written by my parents! Since their retirement, my mom and dad have had more time to be even more creative than their usual creative selves.

In the past few months, my mom, M. T. S. de Guerra, wrote and self-published her first novel, Dark Hacienda. Let me first start with giving a short synopsis of the book (without spoilers, of course). The book’s back cover reads: “In a Mexican village stands a 16th century Spanish hacienda 14 nuns call home. Here, two nuns combat evil forces. This is an unforgettable story, based on true events, of a loyal friendship and warfare with the supernatural and a look into the mysterious and unknown world of life inside a convent.” In this mysterious and unknown life of a convent, one nun becomes the victim of a real-world trauma when she is raped by the convent’s hired gardener. The effects of an unwanted pregnancy that make her feel unclean in her religious vows, along with a deed committed in self defense, mentally, physically, and supernaturally haunt the young nun, Sister Corazon, and her best friend, Sister Rafaela, who tries to help her resolve the pains of trauma. 

Dark Hacienda is a story that is told in a detailed and simple writing style that lends to the dark themes of the book. Unsettling at times, the novel causes the reader to feel deeply troubled emotions for Sister Corazon. Meanwhile, the reader will want to keep reading every page to find out how Sister Corazon reconciles her past with her present and future self. Dark Hacienda expertly blends elements of history, culture, and the supernatural, creating a make-up for a novel that is intriguing in more ways than one. If anyone is interested in checking out this great read, here is the link for the Amazon E-Book ($2.99) and the paperback version ($7.99): https://www.amazon.com/Dark-Hacienda-M-T-S-Guerra/dp/168918003X/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=dark+hacienda&qid=1576550629&sr=8-1

Daggers in the Desert by Marcus Guerra,
Sold by Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Covenant Books

Daggers in the Desert written by my dad, Marcus Guerra has also been published recently this year through the publisher Covenant Books. My dad had originally drafted the novel in the late 1980’s before my older brother was about to be born and it was not until this past year, that my mom re-discovered the draft tucked away in a closet and collaborated with my dad to edit and improve his written copy. Here is a peek at the book’s synopsis as told by the back cover: “Daggers in the Desert is a novel of adventure in the life of a simple Mexican cardboard-box collector (cartonero) and a US Border Patrol agent on the Rio Grande border of South Texas and Northern Mexico. Far from the life he had known in Georgia, the agent fights, heat, drugs, coyotes (human smugglers), and himself in the dusty Laredo sector of the 1970s with a 97 percent Hispanic population.” Daggers in the Desert tells multiple stories which converge with one another. In one way, the novel is about Hawk, a US Border Patrol agent from Georgia whose heart is bitter towards the Mexican immigrants he deals with on a daily basis and his journey into loving others. The novel also tells the story of a humble cartonero, Santos, a widower who lives with his young son Emilio in Nuevo Laredo, who crosses the bridge daily with his son to make a living collecting cardboard boxes. 

An adventure-packed story of hardship, transformation, romance, and friendship, Daggers in the Desert, like Dark Hacienda, involves the reader in a tale that is hard to put down. It captures the essence of border life between Laredo and Nuevo Laredo in the 1970’s, as well as creates characters who are real and captivating. If anyone is interested, the book may be purchased from Covenant Books or Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Daggers-Desert-Marcus-Guerra/dp/1645595005/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=daggers+in+the+desert&qid=1576601165&sr=8-1

Or soon from Barnes and Noble in paperback ($18.95) or hardover ($32.95): https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/daggers-in-the-desert-marcus-guerra/1135527033?ean=9781645594994

On a finishing note, I am very proud of my parents for the works they have written, and I am honored to be able to write about their books. They show me that dreams and passions can be lived out at any age. Thank you for reading today’s post, and, as always, happy reading!

Blog Update

Hi, fellow bookworms! There is no book review today, but, as promised, I wanted to update readers on the upcoming content of my blog. For this month, I will be talking about two special books written by my mom and dad! This upcoming Monday, I’ll talk about my dad’s new book, Daggers in the Desert. I will also be talking about my mom’s book, which she self-published this year, Dark Hacienda. I’m very proud of my parents of putting their talents to use, and I can’t wait to talk about their recent books.

For the next couple of months on the blog, however, there is going to be a change to most of the content. As I have mentioned, I am currently a master’s student and will be taking my comprehensive exam in the Spring. So, I have decided to do something that I think will actually be quite fun, and helpful for my studies for the exam as well. While I will put book reviews of new books aside for the present, I will instead be reading literature from the pre-1500 period up to the present over the next two to three months, and I will be discussing what I read here on the blog!

In one way, this will help me study for my exam because I tend to retain information by writing, but, in another way, I’m sure that most of what I read will be familiar to many of you, which will make the blog’s book discussions much more exciting!

I’m looking forward to the next couple of months, and, hopefully, I could squeeze in a few “new” books as well. Stay tuned next Monday for a discussion of my parents’ recent books, and for the next few weeks, discussions of “the classics.” I will update on which books in particular as time goes on in case anyone would like to follow along.

As always, happy reading!

P.S. In spirit of the upcoming holidays, here is a cute picture of my pup. 🙂

Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada

Memoirs of a Polar Bear (2016)
Written by Yoko Tawada
Translated by Susan Bernofsky

Hello fellow bookworms! First off, I apologize for the delay of this book discussion. I had an essay due yesterday, and my brain has been a bit fried. 😛 Anyways, let’s get started in talking about this wonderful book, Memoirs of a Polar Bear, written by Yoko Tawada.

I want to start by saying that I’ve had a growing fascination lately with something called “translingual” literature. It is often otherwise known as “exophonic” literature, and what both of these terms mean is when an author writes in a language that is not his/her “mother tongue.” It can also mean when an author still writes in his/her “mother tongue” but also in another language, so “exophonic” writing can also be a way of complementing multiple languages.

As someone who is monolingual in English, I find it courageous and wonderful for someone to write in a language that is not his/her first. It’s encouraging to think of the possibility of learning another language myself and trying to write in that language one day. What led me to read Yoko Tawada was an author named Ian Hideo Levy who is American and writes in Japanese and now lives in Tokyo. His book A Room Where the Star-Spangled Banner Cannot Be Heard is an amazing read. In a lecture he gave at Stanford (which is posted on YouTube), Levy names Tawada as an influence of his, so I decided to read Tawada for the second essay I wrote for my literature class (the first essay was on Levy’s book).

Tawada was born and raised in Japan and moved to Germany in her early twenties, where she learned German. She writes in both Japanese and German, at times even translating her own works from Japanese to German and vice versa. It was a bit difficult for me to track down what language Memoirs was originally written in because different sources seem to say different things, and the copy of the book in the picture above only mentions its translation from German to English. However, after some digging, I learned that it was first published in Japanese, then German, then English. Therefore, Tawada first wrote this book in her mother tongue of Japanese.

Memoirs tells the stories of three generations of polar bears. The first polar bear is the grandmother polar bear, a former circus star in Russia, who decides to write an autobiography. Interestingly, while living in Germany, she decides she wants to write in German. In a part that is a particular favorite of mine she questions what the term “mother tongue” really means when her supervisor tells her she should not write in German but in her mother tongue:

“You have to write in your own mother tongue. You’re supposed to be pouring out your heart, and that needs to happen in a natural way.”

“What’s my mother tongue?”

“The language your mother speaks.”

“I’ve never spoken with my mother.”

“A mother is a mother, even if you never speak with her.”

“I don’t think my mother spoke Russian.” (p. 51-52)

What I like about the idea contemplated here is that the “mother tongue” is really a complex topic. Tawada seems to question if it can really be simplified as the “language your mother speaks.”

The second polar bear is Tosca, and she is the daughter of the first polar bear. Tosca is a circus star who is being trained by Barbara, whose own story is told in much of the second part of the book. In this section, I love the relationship and bond between Tosca and Barbara. Barbara is the only one that understands Tosca on a deep level and the reverse is true, as well. Like the first part, this section also relates themes and questions about language as Barbara wants to write Tosca’s story, and Tosca wants to write Barbara’s.

Finally, in the third part, Knut’s story is told. He is the child of Tosca and the grandchild of the first polar bear. Both Tosca and Knut are based on real bears; Knut was a bear that was kept in a zoo. In reality, as well as in the book, he was abandoned by his mother while in the zoo. She did not want anything to do with him, so a zookeeper nursed Knut into health and basically raised Knut. The true story is actually really sad, as the zookeeper died at a fairly young age and so did Knut. I am going to link the Wikipedia article here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knut_(polar_bear)

This section seems to be a continuation of thinking about language and the mother tongue as Knut is raised by Matthias, the zookeeper, who he looks up to as a mother. Tawada seems to shows the ways in which boundaries and relationships are more complicated than we like to think. In fact, she talks about this in an interview where she says that she is interested in the crossing of borders between languages, cultures, and beings.

I loved reading Memoirs of a Polar Bear. Not only is it so unique and interesting as a book in telling the story through the perspectives of polar bears, but it is also extremely insightful on the topic of language, human/animal relationships, love, and so much more that I feel this little synopsis of mine cannot really do it justice.

In case you want to hear from Tawada herself (she is incredible!), I am posting an interview with her here, in which she speaks in German, Japanese, and English. Her ideas are beautifully thought-provoking and very human; she is extremely intelligent and yet so humble about her ideas and her writing.

I want to thank you for the time to read my thoughts on this book, and I encourage you to comment with your own thoughts on this book if you read it, or even on any of the ideas presented here (even if you haven’t read it).

I also want to end with saying that I will probably be taking a slightly different approach with my posts from now on, much like how I do with this one. Because I am completing my master’s degree in English, I do a lot of academic writing and I want the blog to be a place where I don’t have to be so worried about writing formally or academically. My reviews will not be official reviews. They really will not even be “reviews” at all but more so my thoughts on a particular book. I plan to talk more about this in the next few days, but for now I will leave off here.

Again, thank you, and happy reading!!

Meeting Rita Dove

While I do not have a book review to share today, I do have an experience to share, which is my opportunity to meet Rita Dove. A few days ago, she gave an amazing reading at a university. She signed my copy of Sonata Mulattica and posed for a picture with me. It was great!

Rita Dove was a sheer pleasure to meet, and I’m so grateful for the chance to have been able to do so.

If you are following along with the blog’s weekly book reviews or simply want to know what’s coming up, I am currently reading a book called Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada. She is a fascinating author who wrote the book in Japanese and translated it herself into German. The book has since been translated by an outside translator, Susan Bernofsky, into English.

I cannot wait to share with you my thoughts on Memoirs of a Polar Bear next Monday, December 2. Until then, happy reading!