Continuing with the series, below are my February TBR’s that I will (hopefully) finish this month. I have set myself a target of reading 100 books this year, and so I am trying to make sure that there is both easy and difficult reads throughout. So without further ado:
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
The Library of Greek Mythology by Apollodorus of Athens
12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
One of the most important Greek mythological figures in shaping humankind today is Prometheus. He is a Titan, culture hero, and a trickster. He is credited with the creation of humanity from clay and who defied the gods by stealing fire and giving it to human civilisation. But instead of being rewarded for his bravery, Zeus gave him a sentence of eternal torment. You’ll get to learn about just what that eternal torment was throughout this post. The first recorded account of the Prometheus myth appeared in the late 8th-century poet Hesiod’s Theogony (507-616). He was the son of the Titan by Clymene, one of the Oceanids. His brothers were Menoetius, Atlas, and Epimetheus. One of the reasons why I like this myth so much is because of how much it relates to humanity today. Though we have the science to disprove mythology, it is still an interesting concept on the basic nature of the creation of humans.
I probably need to start by explaining who Prometheus was and how he came to be known as shaping humans. Zeus gave the task of creating man and beasts to the Titan brothers, Prometheus and Epimetheus. Prometheus was said to be wise and possessed the gift of foresight and often considered what would be needed several years in advance. His brother Epimetheus swiftly created creatures that would live in forests, swim in the seas and fly through the air with the gift of flight. He was quite impulsive and bestowed many gifts upon these creatures, like swiftness, strength and frightening claws. The animals and their characteristics that we see today are all down to Epimetheus. Prometheus, on the other hand, took his time and worked hard to create man from a lump of clay. He aimed to shape man after the image of gods and allowed them to walk upright so that they might look towards the heavens. Zeus, a massive egotist, didn’t like the idea of something being similar to gods so made humans mortal so that they would be lesser beings. When man was completed Prometheus discovered that his brother had bestowed all the gifts from the gods upon animals, and left none for the humans. Man was left naked and weak, with no means to live prosperously. With determination, he defied Zeus and travelled to Mount Olympus and stole fire from the gods, and gave it to man. It was with fire that man began to thrive and become superior to animals.
In the trick of Mecone (535-544), a sacrificial meal marking the ‘setting of accounts’ between mortals and immortals, Prometheus played a trick against Zeus. The sacrifices would set a precedent for future sacrifices. Prometheus placed two sacrificial offerings before Zeus: a selection of beef hidden inside an ox’s stomach, and the bull’s bones wrapped fully in ‘glistening fat’. Zeus chose the bull’s bones, which meant that humans would keep the meat of the beet for themselves, and burn the bones wrapped in fat as an offering to the gods. Zeus wasn’t the nicest guy and was furious that he had been tricked into thinking the bones were more plentiful than the actual meat, So he hid fire from humans. There are other versions of the myth, but in this version of the myth humans already had access to fire but Zeus just took it away from then. Prometheus, being a man of the people, stole the fire back in a giant fennel-stalk and restored it to humanity (565-566). This angered Zeus even more, as he took this to be being made a fool of. Zeus sent the first woman to live with humanity (literally sent women to humans as a punishment, bit sexist Zeus don’t you think?). The woman, named Pandora, was a ‘shy maiden’, and was fashioned by Hephaestus out of clay and Athena had helped to adorn her properly. Hesiod writes ‘From her is the race of women and female kind: of her is the deadly race and tribe of women who live amongst mortal men to their trouble, no helpmeets in hateful poverty, but only in wealth’. Also, if you’re thinking is this the same Pandora from Pandora’s box, then you would be correct.
Pandora was commanded to marry Prometheus’s brother Epimetheus, despite warnings from Prometheus to not accept gifts from Zeus. Before Pandora departed Olympus she was given a box and was warned by gods never to open the box under any circumstances. Knowing humankind, she did. And when did, an endless amount of evil creatures flew out of the box and began to disperse themselves across the earth. Creatures like disease, famine, and plague began to spread across the world and ruin mankind. Pandora, knowing she’d messed up quickly shut the box. She closed the vessel on one last creature, Hope. And while it remains in the box and evil plagues the world, mankind will still have hope.
Prometheus did not go unpunished either. He was sentenced by Zeus to spend eternity chained to a mountain, whereupon every day an eagle would fly down and devour his liver from his body. As Prometheus was an immortal, his liver simply regrew and the wound healed. This meant the eagle could swoop down for all eternity, and devour his liver every single day. Prometheus spent thousands of years in this punishment but was said to never have regretted his decision to steal the fire. A real man of the people is how he continued to be celebrated throughout mythology. Mary Shelly’s classic 1818 novel Frankenstein is subtitled ‘The Modern Prometheus’, as a homage to scientific progress and the dangers that may come with it.
Well, I know that was quite a bulky post but the creation of man is an important one otherwise we wouldn’t be sitting here today. I hope you enjoyed, and comment below what modern connotations of Prometheus exist today!
Wide Sargasso Sea is a story of a feminist and anti-colonial response to Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre, and perfectly encapsulates Bronte’s ‘madwoman in the attic’. The novel, initially set in Jamaica, takes place a short while after the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 which ended slavery in the British Empire. The act which gave black slaves their freedom led to the demise of many white slave owners. The protagonist, Antoinette, is the white daughter of ex-slave owners, and she lives on a run-down plantation called Coulibri Estate. Her father reportedly drank himself to death, leaving her and her mother in a difficult financial situation. Antoinette’s story is one filled with loneliness and hostility, with the setting of a crumbling white aristocracy that leaves them vulnerable.
The life that Antoinette leads is not an easy one. Because of her father’s position, she lives the first part of her life well-off and a member of the elite. But when that all crumbles down she finds herself displaced, not fitting in with the freed slaves nor with the white elite in the town. Even her marriage, hurriedly arranged by her step-father, is one met with heartache and problems. The novel takes place in three parts, in the first she is just a lonely young girl living on the estate. The second part talks of her marriage, whilst the third part is set in England. I think that this is where Rhys was trying to incorporate the response to Jane Eyre. Antoinette spends most of the time in the attic, shut off from the entire world. A real ‘madwoman in the attic’. One of the gentler symbols that runs throughout the book is this garden that Antoinette nurtures. She compares the garden at the Coulibri Estate to the biblical Garden of Eden. Throughout the book, the garden plays a significant role in providing the hope the Antoinette needs.
Having written about slavery in this period for my dissertation, I found this book fascinating. Though a work of fiction and not based on a real person, the experience that Antoinette felt when living in Creole is probably not far from reality. The economy, by the time that the Slavery Abolition Act came into play, wasn’t as reliant on slavery in Britain as it had been previously. The 1772 Mansfield Case had found that slavery was unsupported in English law, and therefore any slave who entered England or Scotland became free. This fueled the abolition movement as if people were free here, why should they be enslaved anywhere else? In 1807 slave trade was abolished, but not slavery itself. In 1831 there was also a slave revolt in Jamaica, known as the ‘The Baptists War’. What started as a peaceful general strike, soon escalated after the Baptist preachers received news that no emancipation had been granted to them by the British King. Violence then erupted, with the burning of crops and plantations. The rebellion was eventually crushed by the slave-owning establishment, but had resulted in many deaths and later on even more executions. It also left the island’s economy and plantation finances damaged. Though the book is set after the abolition act, there is still clearly a racial divide which plays an important role in the development of the novel’s main themes.
Rhys has written a beautifully narrated novel that encapsulates what it was like to be a woman whose life has become a tumultuous existence because of the men around her. Rhys does a fantastic job at touching on the importance of feminism for women, without overshadowing the overall theme of the racial divide that runs in the novel. She manages to pack in a lot to a book that is only 124 pages long. I highly recommend to anyone that they read this!
I was recently scrolling on Twitter when I came across a tweet by Michael Patrick Hicks, in which he highlighted a major disadvantage for authors from Audible. He said that if someone returns a book on the site, then the author has to pay for that book out of their royalties. It’s sort of like if you went into Topshop to return something you didn’t like, and instead of Topshop paying for it, it would be the sales assistant who sold it to you that would have to. I know that’s quite a drastic example, but it was what I could come up with to explain it. I’ve always had my reservations about Audible, but maybe that’s just because I haven’t yet been converted to the world of digital books.
Audible is, according to Wikipedia, a ‘seller and producer of spoken audio entertainment, information, and educational programming on the Internet. Audible sells digital audiobooks, radio and TV programmes, and audio versions of magazines and newspapers’. It’s an online subscription service which enables you to receive 12 audiobooks per year included. According to their website, you can ‘swap an audiobook for whatever reason’ which basically means that once you finish with the book you can return it to be able to get another one. It is giving the consumer the impression that they can treat the site like an online library, as opposed to a bookshop in which whatever book they choose they have to keep. To be honest, I would be quite interested in researching book shop etiquette, but I think that’s for another blog post.
I was only mildly surprised when I learnt what year Amazon had purchased Audible. Because of the recent hype surrounding the company, I had assumed it was a recent purchase, but actually, they had purchased the company back in 2008. I don’t know about you, but I only really starting hearing about Audible when Amazon started paying almost every Youtuber to promote their brand. Audiobooks have always been around as well, they just came in the forms of tapes and CD’s and I can’t say that they seemed to be that popular. This decade has seen double-digit growth in digital sales, with total sales coming to $2.5 billion over the last 5 years. We’re probably going to see a rise over the next five years as well if I’m just guessing.
Let’s get onto my opinions on the pros and cons of Audible. One of the biggest pros of Audible is that it encourages more people to read, as it makes the whole process a lot easier. A lot of people I know who love Audible, like it because they can essentially read books anywhere. You can read whilst driving, going for a run, taking a bath and even cooking. As someone who finds it hard to follow audiobooks, I find that one of the forms of digital content I prefer is podcasts. Personally, I am a massive fan of the variety of podcasts that seem to be appearing. But anyways, another pro of Audible is that the popularity of the app has encouraged more Publishing companies to have an audio division of their book. The Big 5 in Publishing are working towards making a lot of their books available in audio form, which is very good for the people that enjoy that content.
However, there are cons in this business just like in most places. The Big Five, understandably, don’t want to relinquish the audio rights to their content, so the only way Audible gets their hands on the big authors is to put down a lot of money onto the table. I can only guess that this is why the price of Audiobooks on their website is so high. For example, in my research for this post, I found that Audible was claiming that without their subscription service the price for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling would be a whopping £17.99! I mean. Colour me bloody shocked. That’s an obscene amount of money, considering you can pick up a copy in Waterstones for £7.99. Of course, they advertised that with their subscription you can get this book for free, but what if you don’t want to subscribe? Is that really the price you would have to pay just to listen to a book instead of buying it? A quick search in google highlighted some possible answers to this. One was that the production cost was so expensive. For example, a 10-hour long book could cost between $3,000-$4,000 to produce. Let’s do some quick maths though. An American Audible subscription is $14.95 a month. If we put the price of the production at $3,500 then it would take 234 people’s subscription to cover the cost. On the Audible website, the book has 21,980 reviews. That equates to $328,601 if we are using the maths that everyone who wrote a review used their monthly allowance on that book. I know I am being generous with the numbers here, and that a lot more goes into it than just a simple production cost. But don’t forget people that they only have to pay that production cost ONCE before they can start to profit from it for all eternity. A physical book, on the other hand, will always have production costs from being reprinted. After all this maths, I found a handy table on gradreaders.com that shows how Audible come up with the pricing of their books:
Length of Audiobook
Under 1 hour
Over 20 hours
For me, those prices seem slightly unjust and without proper basis but that’s for each person to decide I guess. As someone who loves seeing the books on my bookshelf, I cannot see myself rushing to subscribe to Audible any time soon. But I am glad for all those that find it has replanted their love for reading by being able to listen to them. Like with most companies, they won’t get everything right no matter how much they try. But I would suggest if you’re looking to purchase audiobooks have a look at some independent firms if you have the means, and support authors who don’t have the funds as Audible do. Kind of like buying books from Independent bookstores instead of the big companies.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post as much as I’ve learned from researching it. Until next time,
Here we go again, with another analysis of someone in Greek Mythology. This time I am going to be talking about Narcissus, son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Liliope. I have recently become more interested in psychology, which led me to explore the connection between Narcissus and the narcissism. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a narcissist is someone with ‘too much interest in and admiration for [their] own physical appearance and abilities. They are usually someone lacking in empathy and are ready to exploit others for their gain. By exploring the myth, I hope to gain and provide a clear understanding of who Narcissus was and how he relates to modern-day narcissism now.
The Myth of Narcissus
In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a hunter from Thespiae and was most known for his beauty. Narcissus was proud, and his disdain for those who loved him caused some problems. It was written that some had taken their own lives, to prove their devotion to his striking beauty. There are indeed multiple versions of his myth, But I will be talking about the classic version as featured in Ovid’s book 3 of his Metamorphoses. This is the story of Echo and Narcissus. It’s quite a sad story, though I wouldn’t rank it in the top 10 most heartbreaking Greek mythologies.
Narcissus was taking a walk in the woods, when Echo, an Oread (a mountain nymph) saw him and fell deeply in love with him. She then proceeded to follow him, and Narcissus noticed he was being followed and shouted ‘Who’s there?’. Echo, being an ‘echo’ repeated ‘Who’s there’. I find this quite amusing because had it been probably anyone else, they would have been able to answer the question without the echo. Echo eventually revealed her identity and attempted to embrace him. He stepped away and told her to leave him alone. She became heartbroken and spent the rest of her life in lonely glens until nothing but an echo remained of her. This myth sounds eerily similar to some of my friend’s tales of woes at university about unrequited love. Apart from the last part about becoming an echo for all eternity. To continue though, Nemesis (as an aspect of Aphrodite), the goddess of revenge, noticed this behaviour and decided to punish Narcissus. This myth seems to be full of recognisable modern-day English words; nemesis, echo etc. Nemesis decided to punish Narcissus by, one time during summer after he was getting thirsty, luring him to a pool where he leaned over the water and saw his reflection. He proceeded to fall deeply in love… with his reflection. However, each time he bent down to kiss his reflection, it seemed to disappear. Narcissu grew ever more thirsty, but would not leave the pool for fear of losing sight of his reflection. In the end, he died of thirst, and in his place grew the narcissus flower. There are other endings to the mythology, in which Narcissus commits suicide at being unable to attain his true love.
One of the suggestions you can take from this myth is to be wary of vanity and self-love. There is a danger with social media nowadays to appear overly confident. I am not saying that it is wronge to be confident, but humility goes a long way too. Sometimes we humans tend to get very caught up in our own little worlds, and in convincing ourselves of our worth in this world we go too far the wrong way. It can be argued in this myth that Echo had not enough ego, where Narcissus had far too much. It’s about finding the perfect balance. And if you do find yourself in contact with someone who you think loves themselves a little (I mean a lot) too much, then my advice is to stay away. Narcissists will never have a good impact on your life. Echo would have been better off had she stayed away. Until next time, -S
I’m starting this a little late in the month as I took a bit of a break over December and didn’t want my last posts to be only my TBR list. But this post needs no big introduction, so without further ado here is my list of books I will be reading in January:
The Gift by Vladimir Nabokov
The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope
Candide, or Optimism by Voltaire
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
I’m hoping that I will get these books finished this month, but as most of them are on the heftier side I think I might end up spilling over with this list until February. Let me know what books are on your TBR list this month!
As you can see from the title, this post is going to be a book review of Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. This was one of the books on my December TBR, and I have to say that I have mixed reviews about it. For anyone that hasn’t read the book, this review will contain some slight spoilers. They aren’t big spoilers that will ruin the enjoyment of the book if you find them out, but spoilers none the less. I would also warn that this book is about a paedophile who falls in love with a 12-year-old, so if this is something you’re not comfortable reading then I would click off this review.
As a lover of Russian authors, I find it very interesting that there is a difference in writing between those authors born and raised in Russia, and those Russian but spent large parts of their life in different countries. For example, Nabokov was born and spent his youth in Saint Petersburg, but then after the First World War, his family emigrated to Western Europe. He was enrolled in Trinity College, Cambridge and was trilingual from a young age (English, French and Russian). After spending some time in Berlin, Nabokov and his family fled from the German rule in 1940 to the United States. Nabokov, like all of us, is inherently a product of his surroundings. To me, Nabokov’s work has a different feeling than say that of Tolstoy’s. This is something I might explore in a later blog post, but I was curious if anyone else had the same feelings.
Lolita is a book written in the first person from the protagonist Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged teacher who has a fetish for young girls. His main conquest is a 12-year-old girl, Dolores Haze, with whom he falls in love and ends up engaging in a sexual relationship. His nickname for her, Lolita, is (obviously) the title of the book. In the early stages of the book, Humbert is wary of pursuing her for fear of being found out by Lolita’s mother from who he is renting a room. The mother eventually falls in love with Humbert, unknowing to his fetish. In her world, I think she cannot imagine that she would welcome into her own home, much less fall in love with, someone who was fantasising about her young daughter. After some events occur which enables Humbert to essentially have unfiltered access to Lolita, the novel progresses into following their life together over many years. The ending itself is not unexpected as the reader can guess that it goes one of two ways, either Lolita grows of age and continues in her affections for Humbert, or the pair parted ways permanently. There is one slight unexpected scene in the book, but I am not going to spoil that for you.
I had some trepidations when reading this book. Although it’s a renowned classic that I have heard mentioned by countless people, the actual theme of the book is something to be wary of. I didn’t know how comfortable I would feel reading about the sexual advances of a grown male onto a child. The book was written in 1955, but I can’t imagine that the sentiments towards paedophilia would be that different from what they are now. Apparently, from the late 1950s to the early 1990s, several paedophile membership organisations were advocating for the age of consent laws to be lowered or abolished, as well as for the legalisation of child pornography. They also wanted paedophilia to be considered as a sexual orientation rather than a psychological disorder. Thankfully this was met by the majority with disdain and these groups now mainly cease to exist. This does lead to my bigger query though of whether there should be some topics that are taboo to write about, or whether that inherently defies the freedom of speech that people are so keen to mention nowadays. Having taboo topics leads to problems like who makes the rules and decides what subject is taboo or not? Would a book like Lolita even be picked up to be published by mainstream Publishing houses? One disturbing thing I did come across was that the Guardian had written a review of this book and included it in its Children Books section. Unfortunately, the Guardian doesn’t have a comment section and so I was unable to see if anyone else found this as strange as I did.
Overall, if you’re not faint-hearted and like Russian literature then it’s possible to enjoy this book on its linguistic merits and writing style rather than on the actual subject.
Though not a new series in its entirety, this space is going to be a place where I put all the books that I am planning to read in the month ahead. I think it would be so interesting for me personally to look back in a couple of years time and to see what sort of things I read and when. I also love reading other people’s TBR’s because I find it gives me ideas on what to add to mine. So without further-ado, here is my December TBR list.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Heroes by Stephen Fry
Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan
The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance by Paul Strathern
As someone who likes to keep things organised and in a rhythm, this post is dedicated to the start of another series on this blog. Like my Greek Mythology series this is just an introduction, so people can read where the series is heading etc. I found this brilliant series idea on ‘The Literary Edit’ and thought that I would give it a try. Originally, my idea was to just do one post entitled ‘Three Books to take on a Desert Island’ which was inspired by a recent questionnaire I had to fill out for some work experience. The answer stumped me for a couple of days, as I was taking the question quite literally.
I thought about which books I would take with me if I were to be stranded on a desert island, alone and for the rest of my life. Personally, I had to think in terms of which books could I read again and again a good 50 years without wanting to gauge my eyes out. My conclusion: The Bible, The Norton Anthology of Poetry and Charlotte Bronte’s Villette. I thought that this gave me a good balance of spiritual, romance and diverse reading. I might do a post later delving further into why reasoning for picking these books if anyone is interested.
However, this series will take the answer to the question less literally. I will be talking about books that I wouldn’t mind rereading for the next 10 odd years. I don’t know if that’s cheating, but I figured it’s my blog so I can bend the rules a bit. Throughout the series would love to hear anyone else’s desert island books.
To understand a lot of characters in Greek mythology I should probably start by talking about the most powerful Greek god, Zeus. He was the god of the sky, lightning, thunder and justice. His father Cronus (the god of time) and his mother Rhea (the goddess of fertility, motherhood and generation) did not give him the earliest upbringing. His father, Cronus, swallowed his children as soon as they were born because he had heard a prophecy that foretold that one of them would overthrow him. Rhea eventually grew so desperate to have a child that when Zeus was born she hid in a cave in Crete, and gave Cronus a stone wrapped in swaddling instead. Zeus was then taken away and raised by a goat Amalthea.
Once Zeus grew up, he and Rhea devised a plan by which to avenge the 5 swallowed children. Rhea fed Cronus a potion that made him regurgitate the children, and once he had, to then fall into a deep sleep. Zeus had planned to kill Cronus, but when he tried to pick up the scythe to sever his head, he couldn’t move it. That’s because Gaia, the mother of the earth, had made it for Cronus and Cronus alone to be able to use. The other 5 children of Cronus and Rhea (Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades and Poseidon) emerging as full-grown adults along with Zeus turned into eagles and fled away from Mount Othrys. The Greeks had a bad habit of killing each other, and so this story of Zeus’ beginning is not surprising.
Zeus was the father of all men and the king of Olympian Gods. He was basically the big cheese of the Greek gods. Zeus was also the god of hospitality and fair treatment of guests. Whenever a stranger was treated badly, they would call on Zeus who would then set things straight. Zeus loved getting involved in anyone’s business honestly. Finally, Zeus was the god of oath keeping. If someone broke a vow, lied or traded dishonestly, they could expect a visit from Zeus. And the only way to get back in his good graces after that was to dedicate a statue to him in a sanctuary. It also explains why there are so many statues of Zeus that have survived, probably because there were more statues of him than anyone else. One thing that is interesting about Greek gods, in general, is that they had the strangest etiquettes and morals. For example, the Erinyes, also known as the Furies, were female chthonic deities of vengeance, that could be called on anyone who broke an oath. That could be something as simple as trying to murder someone that you had extended your hospitality to (The story of Bellerophon).
Now, because Zeus is such an important figure there is too much to talk about in just one blog post. But what I have to mention is Zeus and his, how can I put it, uncontrollable libido? Zeus was a bit of a ladies man, and he ended up fathering A LOT of children. Zeus would pursue all women he found attractive, and because he was such an important figure there wasn’t anything anyone could do about it. If he wanted to have his way with you, then he would. He also loved a challenge. For example in one myth, a woman named Danae had been locked into a bronze prison to stop her from being able to have children. Zeus, not deterred by mere bars, turned himself into golden rain, made his way into the chamber, and impregnated her. She gave birth to Perseus, the guy who in my earlier blog post, would end up killing Medusa. In future blog posts, I will most definitely be talking about some of the other children whom Zeus was the proud father of.
For me, when reading Greek mythology it is also important to consider their Roman equivalents. Zeus, in Roman mythology, is named Jupiter. Jupiter was the chief deity of Roman state religion throughout the Republican and Imperial eras before Christianity became the dominant religion. Also, except for Earth and Uranus, all the planets are named after Roman gods. Jupiter was the King of the Roman Gods, so it makes sense that the largest planet in the solar system is named after him. This is just an interesting fact I thought I would include.
For anyone interested in Greek mythology, Stephen Fry has released two books one named Mythos, and one named Heroes that are a very enjoyable read. It’s especially nice having such a wide variety of mythologies in one place, you can expand your knowledge without having to spend hours looking at different sites!