The Perks of Being a Wallflower

July 15, 2008

by Stephen Chbosky.

Here’s how the novel starts. If such a beginning can leave you indifferent, you’re very unlike me.

August 25, 1991
Dear friend,
I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and didn’t try to sleep with that person at that party even though you could have. Please don’t try to figure out who she is because then you might figure out who I am, and I really don’t want you to do that. I will call people by different names or generic names because I don’t want you to find me. I didn’t enclose a return address for the same reason. I mean nothing bad by this. Honest.
I just need to know that someone out there listens and understands and doesn’t try to sleep with people even if they could have. I need to know that these people exist.

Charlie is a high school freshman caught between the colliding forces of inner turmoil and outside influences. The novel tells the story of a year in his life, in the form of letters to an anonymous friend. While it was difficult, at times, to believe that such deep thoughts could have originated from a 15-year-old, that didn’t stop me from feeling and relating with the character.

One could say the novel is a testimony of the friction between two desires: to embrace life, and to run away from life. But it is discussing a lot more than that. Since I have not grown up in an American high school environment, I cannot think of this in terms of “realistic” or “non-realistic”, but it certainly opens a clear and honest window into the world of a teenager.

I find it very lucky, if not downright miraculous, that Charlie manages to find a mentor (Bill, his English teacher) and friends (Patrick and Sam), who are older than him. Bill tells him to participate and stop using thought to remove himself from life. V fubhyq yrnea fbzrguvat sebz gung…

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Quotes from “Charmed Thirds”

July 6, 2008

by Megan McCafferty.

(sequel to Second Helpings, sequel to Sloppy Firsts)

A note on the style of writing… convoluted, antithetic, yet hilarious. Here’s a typical sentence:

“Thus, the of-the-moment, faux-antifashion fashion statement was to go out looking like you really didn’t care what you looked like when you went out.”

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Before I Die

January 5, 2008

This is the saddest book I have read in the past several years; in all my life, maybe. Other people keep saying that it has taught them to appreciate life, to live fully. I didn’t feel that. I only felt sad. Or maybe it didn’t sink in just yet.

Several years ago I have seen “Sweet November” and I thought the final decision was a worthwhile one. This novel made me doubt that. Hollywood is always trying to make things easy.

Their love seemed a bit unrealistic to me. But I think that in such a situation it was only fair for Tessa to “get it right” the first time. I can understand why she wanted to do drugs and break the law. After all, what did it matter? But I don’t see the line of thought behind the “instructions” she left for Adam.

“Look after no one except yourself. Go to University, and make lots of friends, and get drunk! Forget your door keys! Laugh! Eat Pot Noodles for breakfast. Miss lectures. Be irresponsible.”

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The Unbearable Lightness of Being

January 4, 2008

This book was heavier than I expected. Many of the author’s ideas were understandable and I even agreed with some of them, but at the same time those I did not agree with, and those which completely left me in the dark, will make me return to the book and read it again eventually.

This is another book that can hardly be called a novel. First, its characters are deliberately sketchy and incomplete. Second, there is no obvious plot, only a bunch of recurring themes throughout the work. Third, and most pleasantly surprising to me, the author uses an original approach to story-telling: he makes believe he is the omniscient narrator, using the third person to convey the story. But beneath this “believable lie” he stays in the mind of a single character in one part, then he switches to another character in the next (7 parts total). While he is in the mind of one character, he does not infiltrate the consciousness of others. Consequently, he is actually a first-person narrator in disguise, not omniscient in the least. As if that were not enough, he also uses ‘I’ to talk about his characters directly, as if discussing his novel with somebody. Whereas in most of what I’ve read so far the narrator tries to be as unobtrusive as possible, here he steps right out of the shadows, openly admitting that the characters are mere playthings of his imagination. Amazing.

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