RE: 2016 Reading Challenge


It’s only the 16th day of the first month, but I’m already three books in. I’m not rushing myself. I’m getting the easy choices done first, that way I’ll have more time to muddle my way through the tougher ones.

I’ve read The Great Gatsby, which I was meaning to read for quite some time. And I’m glad I’ve finally gotten it out of the way. I could safely say that I could lump it with the likes of A Separate Peace and The Catcher in the Rye. It’s not exactly a coming of age story, as both of the previously mentioned books are, but in terms of the narration style, the introspection of the narrator, the familiarity of the narrator to the person he’s telling the story to – we, the  readers – whether he’s aware of it or not (as in A Separate Peace  where he’s returned to his school and is running through the story of his past to himself more than us.  We learn of the charisma of Jay Gatsby, and the awe, then awe-filled pity for the man who was a victim of another punting the blame and consequence of his (the latter’s) own deception    in adultery.

It felt more to me like Catcher in the Rye, almost as if Holden Caulfield had grown up a bit; he’s still in possession of his teen-aged cynical nature, but was tempered by maturity to question and observe before voicing his opinions of others around him. But like Gene Forrester, he’s still a bit player in his own life, with his experiences dependent on the influence and insistence of  another.

In the end, I think I waited too long to be influenced by it. It would have been better to read it on the coattails of A Separate Peace and The Catcher in the Rye, where it would done more in terms of influence. But I could still appreciate it.

Then 1984, that great Orwellian classic. It’s my choice for books published before I was born, Like most distopian settings, I  was drawn to the raw nature of the characters, their defiance, their hope for something more, their depression, their despondency, and cried at their frustration and eventual acceptance. Winston was someone I hoped would be free from the hold of Big Brother. Still, in the end… In these kinds of societies, is there really any way out? The war continues, when civilization picks about up the cycle continues, run away and the troubles will get you. Skynet never dies.

Maybe I’m more Julia. Accepting of and adapting to what happens. Double think. Accept and act, while you reject and rebel. Why fight to destroy it when you could safely rebel from the inside? What Brother doesn’t know won’t hurt you.

Of course, what he allows will.

In terms of the survival in this novel, I know that I would never. The giddy, gleeful talk of the reduction of language and the destruction of the past through language would give me away as a thought criminal. Freedom of speech was already absent. Stealing language from the people and dedicating your life to destroy it I believe is a crime onto itself.

I know why the Caged Bird sings. A book that was once banned. A work of  non-fiction, and a look into the life of a woman who influenced many aspects of life in the 20th century. I’ve read books like this in the past. Merle Hodge’s Crick crack, monkey was a key text in literature in form 5. And it was nice to learn how my country was before 1962. How it affected the wider society. How it affected the individual. What were the influences that shaped Trinidad’s culture (Tobago was never explored as far as the book allowed).

I admit that the life of Maya Angelou was nothing like I imagined it. Neither would I expect Her chosen style of writing. Far from the rhythmic meter of the poetic, it was blatant but not flat; soft, full of the past and the pain.

And out of the three, it was the most captivating.

How could the thought rebellion and hope amidst the frustration of the mere members of a Party they had no recollection wanting to join, past a need for survival in 1984 compare to the real life of a woman who lived through the distopia of America in her own childhood? How could the parties and debauchery of Gatsby  overcome a woman who witnessed scandal before she was 16?




2 thoughts on “RE: 2016 Reading Challenge

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