Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Tone of the Future

The Circle, by Dave Eggers, is a book so beloved by Emma Watson that the young actress starred as Mae Holland (the protagonist) in the film adaptation.  As a forever faithful fan of Emma, I read the techno-thriller, researched it, and then hit Studio Movie Grill on the premiere night of April 28th.  The first page of the novel unleashes dignified fountains, glass buildings, and Californian hills - a typical image of modernism.  However, beyond the opening, this book depicts the future in a very realistic, almost rustic fashion.

Unlike many dystopian settings (which appear perfect to the naked eye), Eggers shows some tarnish of his fictional world from the beginning.  For instance, Mae was raised in Longfield, "...a small town between Fresno and Tranquillity, incorporated and named by a literal-minded farmer in 1866. One hundred and fifty years later, its population had peaked at just under two thousand souls, most of them working in Fresno, twenty miles away. Longfield was a cheap place to live, and the parents of Mae's friends were security guards, teachers, truckers who liked to hunt" (22). 
Eggers likely located Mae's hometown between Tranquility and Fresno (both in California) because the word Tranquility draws attention to the slow pace of Longfield and Fresno is characterized by a semi-arid climate (which is suitable for farming).  The mention of 1866 (which predates the start of World War 1) paints the image that Longfield is frozen in antiquity.  The total census of almost two thousand is lower than the student population of many contemporary high schools, and the continued need for ordinary professions and hobbies (such as security guards, truckers, hunting) makes the future seem more relatable to the present.

Eggers' world is unique in that its modernism has one single hub - The Circle - and this modernism only reaches the general population through technology (tracking and camera products). This is similar to the present day, where companies such as Apple and Google (which also have headquarters in California) reach the general population through products such as iPhones, Google Maps, etc.  The author accounts for the fact that in the future, our world will still need farms, teachers, and humility (in contrast to science fiction movies that show whole world covered in skyscrapers with service-performing robots).  Egger's use of this rustic and realistic setting, reminiscent of our actual world, makes the story more relatable and believable.  

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Analytics of a Dream

A Midsummer Night's Dream, advertised by the New York City Ballet as "awash with magic at every turn", is a work of art that is too classic to be ignored and too quixotic to fade with time.  This tale has inspired a variance, all the way from a short Disney film (starring Mickey Mouse) to the names of three moons around Uranus (Titania, Oberon, and Puck). The one aspect of this book that is infamous for inspiring moans and groans (the Shakespearean dialect) is one of the reasons that this piece continues to stand out in the genre of romantic comedy.

Early in the play, as two lovers (Hermia and Lysander) confess their escape plans to a friend, Lysander says,
"Helen, to you our minds we will unfold.
Tomorrow night when Phoebe doth behold
Her silver visage in the watery glass,
Decking with liquid pearl the bladed grass
(A time that lovers' flights doth still conceal),
Through Athens' gates have we devised to steal" (1.1.208-213).

The use of the phrase "our minds we will unfold" (as opposed to a modern phrase, such as "we will tell you our plan") heightens the idea that the lovers are very open with Helen and that they trust her with everything that is on their minds. In short, it brings forward the magnitude of trust.  The description of the moon, "Phoebe doth behold", personifies the night and makes it seem alive, and the words "silver visage" (as opposed to the simple word "moonlight") paint a mental image of the lustrous moonlight in contrast with the dark night.  The description "liquid pearl the bladed grass" makes the setting feel whimsical, since magic often comes in the form of liquid potions.  When Lysander tops off his dialogue with the words "devised to steal" (rather than a modern phrase like "run away"), it ensures that each reader feels his clandestine (and slightly daring) determination.

The wording in the passage above makes the reader feel as though he/she is in on a secret.  The Shakespearean use of adjectives makes the reader feel as though he/she is in another, more fantastical world.  While modern English is quicker to read, the descriptive nature of the Elizabethan dialect of Shakespeare shines a light on details of the story that may otherwise have gone unnoticed.

Monday, April 3, 2017

My Passion for the Pages

Sometimes, I feel like Belle, from Beauty and the Beast: a girl caught in a fearless embrace with her imagination, with fingers that love leather covers, and with a heart that falls for romance.
Other times, I feel like Rebecca Bloomwood, from Confessions of a Shopaholic: a young lady who is restless and courted by the glamour of the moment, but who secretly appreciates the unhurried lyricality of words.

I equally adore the balmy after-scent of rain and the eccentric smell of my mother's childhood Narnia edition.  Most of my books have torn covers from traveling around the world with me.  My copy of Harry Potter has been to King's Cross Station in London, and my copy of Anne Frank's diary has been in Anne Frank's very bedroom in Amsterdam.  As a reader, my books are companions.  I read one at a time, I read the words out loud whenever those around me are willing to listen, and I even lend my loyalty to learning half the words by heart.  It is in my nature to fan-girl about great stories. 

 If I set a goal to read more pages per day, I would eventually wind up with a glaring stack of unfinished homework assignments.  Instead, I aspire to boost my reading speed from 300 words per minute to 500 words per minute.  This new speed would carry me faster through books by authors that I already enjoy, and therefore free me with extra minutes to try books that are currently just a peripheral priority.  Increasing my reading rate would also propel me to finish books that I would otherwise abandon, due to the hope of getting through them faster!  I would also like to find a few fresh titles to read (that are more sophisticated than I am familiar with) even if that means reading books that don't have a sequel.  Right now, for my required AP title, I am beginning William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, and it has already opened my eyes to literary allusions that I never before understood (regarding characters such as Puck and King Oberon).

The Tone of the Future

The Circle , by Dave Eggers, is a book so beloved by Emma Watson that the young actress starred as Mae Holland (the protagonist) in the film...