one layer at a time

“Goodness comes from within…Goodness is something chosen. When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man”

—   Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange (via bookmania)

Creative Valentine's Day Giftwrapping


I’m baaaaack! Isn’t the beginning of a school semester wonderful? Filled with so much energy and hope and crafty ideas churning in my head—all of which will knowingly be crushed by the bagillion and one things I have to do before graduating from law school (has it been 3 years already?)! But…

This made my heart flutter—so adorable!

“Never know when a gal might need a laser.”

—   From Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon

“You remember those twin statues of the Buddha that I told you about? Carved out of a mountain in Afghanistan, that got dynamited by the Taliban back in the spring? Notice anything familiar?”

"Twin Buddhas, twin towers, interesting coincidence, so what."

"The Trade Center towers were religious too. They stood for what this country worships above everything else, the market, always the holy fucking market."

"A religious beef, you’re saying?"

"It’s not a religion? These are people who believe the Invisible Hand of the Market runs everything. They fight holy wars against competing religions like Marxism. Against all evidence that the world is finite, this blind faith that resources will never run out, profits will go on increasing forever, just like the world’s populations—more cheap labor, more addicted consumers.”

—   From Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon

The Orphan Master’s Son vs. Gone Girl

Oops, did I make a promise to compare and contrast Gone Girl with The Orphan Master’s Son? I am not sure what exactly I had in mind several months ago, but The Orphan Master’s Son is unquestionably, indubitably better so I’m not sure why a compare and contrast is even necessary. But, I gave my word, so here’s a short compare and contrast.

I read Gone Girl immediately after The Orphan Master’s Son; in the former reading, I kept on reading when I desperately wanted to stop, and in the latter reading, I had to stop when I reached the last punctuation mark but wanted to keep going. There you go, that’s my “contrast” part.

While the contrasting point is obvious, the similarities are more subtle. Both books are about perspectives and the manipulation thereof. Both of the plots lead to greater questions and ideas about storytelling. In the The Orphan Master’s Son, Adams depicts the totalitarian nature of the government of North Korea the best in the novel when he writes “Stories are factual. If a farmer is declared a music virtuoso by the state, everyone had better start calling him maestro. And secretly, he’d be wise to start practicing the piano. For us, the story is more important than the person.” Eeeeek, that’s scary—the idea that an individual’s life/story is meaningless. I think the quote leads to a bigger theme that transcends the boundaries of North Korea—to what extent are we in control of our own story? Are we created by stories that other people tell? Or, do we have the power and persuasion to tell the story that we want to tell?

Gone Girl has glimpses of the same theme—the malleability of identify and of one’s self. Nick and Amy are at battle to persuade his or her story is the true story, which leads to me wondering how others see me—how their perspective can alter my own story and image. 

I think this is what I had in mind when I mentioned a compare and contrast a few months ago. The final verdict is that even though both novels have themes that slightly intersect, Gone Girl's biggest fail is its frills and cheap twisted thrills that ends up being a story bullshitting about two awful people instead of an authentic portrayal of marriage. The Orphan Master’s Son, on the other hand, is an authentic exploration into North Korea, propaganda, and the sacrifices made to tell the story we want to tell. In fact, my review does not do the masterpiece justice. Go read it for yourself. Please!

After living in Texas my whole life, I finally got to enjoy autumn in real life via road tripping in the northeast.

“Listen, Robert, going to another country doesn’t make any difference. I’ve tried all that. You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another. There’s nothing to that.”

—    The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Waves. They fade quickly, but can their ripples be felt by somewhere, someone, something? Or do they die and are forever forgotten?

Gone Girl: A Review

I read the first 4 chapters in the span of 5 days, and then the rest in approximately four to five hours. I couldn’t stopped reading, which means I must have loved the book, right?

No, I disliked the book from the beginning chapter to the ending. I found little redeeming qualities with the story. Why didn’t I just stop? Well, I’m a type A personality who likes doesn’t like to half-bake or half-ass. Also, I continued to read because it was SO ridic that I enjoyed making fun of it. And, I’m going to have pleasure writing this review to make up for my displeasure when reading it. I know, I’m shamelessly pretty messed up.

TL;DR This was a gimmicky book filled with twists for the sake of having twists, which is highly manipulative. **SPOILER ALERT AHEAD**

I’m astonished for the high praise given to the Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. In fact, I relied so confidently on those praise that I bought the hardcopy version (or maybe that was the only version Amazon had). Just because a book is full of “original” twists does not make it a good thriller. And are the twists deserving of the adjective “original”? I felt the author merely came up with cliche plot devices and then simply used the opposite of those cliches for the surprise element. That not very original; it’s an easy way to gain readership. 

If I had to pick one thing that I disliked about the novel is that I felt the author intentionally manipulated her readers. I’m personally offended. During the first half the book, the author made it obvious she was pushing her readers to think the husband committed the crime. It was so obvious that I knew the husband could not be guilty even with the excerpts from the diary’s wife (which, I’ll admit, I did not predict the wife made it all up) and even after the revelation of his affair.

Some critics/reviewers described Flynn’s unreliable narrator technique and her writing as “ingenious” and “postmodern”. Dude, whatcha talking about?  I’m going to come off pretentious but even as an noob reader, I have read plenty of books with unreliable narrators, ones that were written decades ago and whose authors utilized the technique more gracefully and subtlety than Flynn. And what’s up with the  exorbitant and unnecessary use of italics? I swear, every page had at least one italicized sentence for no freaking reason like this sentence.

Harsh criticism aside, some of the characters’ thoughts spoke a lot of truth about relationships. However, I still do not recommend the novel just for a few quotes here and there. This book is not an exploration of the psychological mind games of being in a relationship—mind games that you hate yourself for playing but games that you cannot stop playing. It is a book with sick thrills about an innocent, average guy who chooses to be trapped in a relationship with a psychotic woman.

Nevertheless, I’m a hypocrite because I am interested in the upcoming movie version of the novel, directed by David Fincher. But, I have decided a new rule: a book that reads like a good movie is probably not a good book.

PS: I recently read The Orphan Master’s Son, which is a wicked thriller. Perfect opportunity to compare and contrast…soon! There are a lot of similarities between the two thrillers, but The Orphan Master’s Son is more brilliant by miles, by leaps and bounds, by entire libraries of books!