Thursday, April 27, 2006


Hey all,

This weekend or early next week I'll update the side bar with May's reads. They are, all confirmed, as follows:

1. Inkheart - by Cornelia Funke (Anneke)
2. 'Till We Have Faces - by C.S. Lewis (Rose)
3. The Man Who Knew Too Much - by G. K. Chesterton (Erika); and
4. The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax - by Dorothy Gilman (Sky)

At this point, of course, I'd like to go forward in choosing books for June.

In scouring past entries, I've collected former suggestions and I would propose the following:


1. The DaVinci Code - by Dan Brown (Erika);
2. The Little Prince - by Antoine de Saint-Exupery (Erika);
3. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court - by Mark Twain (Carrie); and

*drum roll, please*

4. Beau Geste! - by Percival Wren (Rose)

Rose suggested that some time back and Karen's
recent blog post on the book has me positively itching with curiosity. It must be satisfied.

What say ye?

As for my current reading status -- the library finally has a copy of Drink to Tomorrow in so I shall devour that sometime early next week and post my thoughts then. I just couldn't stand the thought of attempting another Vietnam based saga so I skipped The Quiet American. Mitford has been far too consuming. However, I can honestly say that there's not a book I'm avoiding during the month of May and I fully expect to get through them all in record time (as I also work my way through the Mitford series which currently has me positively captivated).

Anyway, this would be a good time to share one's thoughts on the suggested list for June. Otherwise I'll assume (as I usually do anyway) that everyone agrees with me completely and will post the list as Confirmed soon enough. ;)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Ani's Future Picks

Two ideas for future reads:

1) I just finished Atonement, by Ian McEwan. Haunting. It was recommended by Dr. Leithart, and I'd like to know what the rest of you think of it.

2) This is for Carrie, after her outburst Re: Amy Carmichael. Pandita Ramabai is known as the first Indian ( east ) woman to speak out on behalf of the plight of Indian women. She believed firmly that her allegiance was to her home country first, instead of to England. She rose against the tide of many Western missionaries who sought to create English churches and culture in India. I'd like to know more about her. Anybody interested in reading a biography about her?

The Quiet American

I started this book with a sense of duty, a novel to be read because it had been assigned to me. After a few chapters, I was drawn in to the Greene's secondary world of war, cynical journalists, and bright young things trying altruistically to solve the problems of the world. I kept reading, not because I enjoyed the descriptions or the scenery, but because I wanted to know what he would say through this novel. I was not dissapointed.
A key theme, as Sky pointed out, is the concept that innocence equals stupidity. Greene wants us to see firsthand why innocence, or naivete, leads to more death and destruction. There are characters, such as Captain Trouin, who have already lost their innocence through the horror of way. There are 'innocents', such as Pyle, who waltz in and try out their easy solutions of democracy. And finally, there are those, such as Fowler, who seek to remain aloof and cynical.
If the main conflict lies between Pyle and Fowler, the turning point occurs when Fowler finally involves himself in the war. As his friend Captain Trouin predicted, 'One day something will happen. You will take a side.' Fowler finds that he can no longer remain aloof. He has seen the destruction of the bomb left in the town square, and knows that Pyle is behind the event. The image of the man without both his legs haunts him. Greene shows the impossibility of remaining uninvolved through a speech of Mr. Heng: 'Sooner or later, one has to take sides. If one is to remain human. ' Yet in plotting the murder of Pyle, Fowler destroys himself. Through his is never arrested for his crime, he lives with the guilt of murder.
As much as I hated Fowler for his selfishness, Greene made me sympathize with him more than with Pyle. Pyle was a 'gentleman', who risked his life to tell Fowler that he loved Phuong. He made no secret that he planned to marry her in America, a 'proper' wedding. But he is naive. He lives with Phuong before the wedding, reasoning that the ends justify the means. He never seems to comprehend the reality of the war. The death of the civilians in the town square is simply a 'mistake', and the extra annoyance of getting one's shoes shined.
Fowler is a cynic but also a realist. He knows that life is not always cut and dried. Also, he alone grieves for the civilians wounded by the bomb. In the end, it is his viewpoint which is the most honest. Life is complicated. There is an ultimate right and wrong, but there is also the lesser of two evils. War is insanity, and one must do the best one can in each situation. There are no easy answers. While it was wrong to kill Pyle in order to regain Phuong, his death may have saved the lives of some civilians. Phuong and Hei both show the impossibility of remaining neutral. Neither seem to realize their connections, but we see that Hei works for the office which plants bombs such Operation Bicyclette. Phuong is involved with Pyle, who also works for the office. Neither realize that civilians have died because of this work. Both characters are 'innocent' in the sense that they are naive, but both have unknowingly taken sides.
I believe that Greene wanted us to see that war is madness in the sense that there are no simple, easy answers. You cannot avoid taking a side. In the end you must take a side and choose the lesser of two evils. The greatest evil is to remain 'innocent', uncomprehending, fighting according to an outdated theory of war and never really seeing or feeling the realities of war. Such people are dangerous because they are blind.

Monday, April 10, 2006


Hmmm....mixed thoughts on this book. Mostly I found it more curious than riveting.

I was annoyed with it at first because every time I read the name Eragon I thought "Aragorn" and every time I read Carvahall I thought "Cair Paravel." I was beginning to have severe doubts towards Paolini's ability to tell an original story when Saphira hatched from her egg. It bore a striking resemblance to Rowling's description of a dragon's hatching in The Sorcerer's Stone. This is to say nothing of the similarities between Brom and Gandalf. Or the dwarves and elves. Esp. the pretty elf that he's attracted to. Sigh.

I imagine its getting harder and harder to be an original, esp. when movies are making certain fantasy stories so popular and well-known. Paolini, I suppose, made a valiant effort. I'm not sure if I'm curious enough to read the rest of the trilogy. He wins points by making Saphira such an integral part of the story. Without her, this book would be lost in the Lord of the Rings and Narnia storm. (Oh. Well, I do have my suspicions about Eragon's parents and I'd probably read the other two books to find out if I'm correct!)

Yup, my opinion it is Saphira who makes the entire book worth it. The other noteworthy thing to mention, of course, is that Paolini was home schooled and wrote this book after graduating from high school at age fifteen. I always like a good successful home schooler story. This seems to be one of them -- even if I don't find it top notch. I was entertained. And sometimes that's enough.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Quiet American

Evidently the title has an unspoken punch line; the only quiet American is a dead American.

What a portrayal of bitterness. I cannot help but wonder if Greene ever met a true American instead of the Hollywood version.

I felt very sorry for the stupid, Alden Pyle. Probably because he is American but partly because I was desperately trying to like someone and I detested Fowler. Pyle's stupid visions and irregular actions did result in his death and the death of his best friend, the only friend he had that was true to the end, Duke. But I feel that the writing of his character smears the men that were a part of the tragedy of Vietnam. Yes it is one of the biggest mistakes that America has ever taken part in but there were some honest, hardworking men who were trying their best to resolve a bad situation. I know, I have talked to them.

Innocence in this book is displayed as the epitome of stupidity.

And I can't help but wonder who in their right mind would send an idiot like Pyle into a situation that he obviously couldn't handle. I guess that comes back to Greene's views of Americans.

I read that some consider Fowler to be the normal British character of instinctive decency and wholesome common sense. I think he is a villain of the worst kind. The kind that stands by and doesn't do enough the kind that betrays by not caring.

"What's the good? He'll always be innocent and you can't blame the innocent, they are always guiltless. All you can do is control or eliminate them. Innocence is a kind of insanity." - Fowler in regards to Pyle.

I think I somewhat get what Fowler was meaning, he was fed up with the stupid Americans who didn't have a clue as to why they were there or what they were doing. In that, he was right.

As for the underdeveloped character of Phuong I can't help but wonder why Greene even wrote her in except to give a very small picture of how women of the East have learned to roll with the punches and do whatever it takes to remain alive. Her impassive countenance and swerving loyalty is evident that she cares not about who she is with but only that she is with one who cares for her needs.

The one I sympathized with was Vigot who seems to be doing the best he could in a time where there was no real Right and Wrong.

In the whole I hated that there were no strong characters, no hope and no real "happy ending".

Am I missing some hidden meaning? Is there more to the story and I didn't see it? I am not very good at defining hidden parallels.
I am looking forward to learning more about this book from y'all.