The Abrupt. (Book Review on “Of Mice and Men”)

I’m going to tell you the moral of the story before even telling you the story: write stories that make you think. And I’m also warning you. I tell the ending in this post. So unless you like spoilers, you might want to refrain. ;)

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Of Mice and Men is considered one of John Steinbeck’s greatest works. It was published in 1937, but when I read it, I didn’t feel like it was written in a different time period. Not that it was poorly written, but Steinbeck took me back to the olden 1930 days and drew me in with the conflicts and dialogue and descriptions. It was very well written. Steinbeck described his characters of the story, the setting of the scene, and the emotion in the room. There was foreshadowing and fantastic themes. I felt like I was really there, and if I had had a choice, I don’t think I would have put it down until I had finished it.

It is a short book—six chapters. But they’re long chapters. Good chapters. Intriguing chapters. The book is about two men, George and Lenny, searching for work on a ranch. Lennie is mentally infirm. He likes to pet soft things—like puppies and rabbits. That’s his character; that’s what he loves. He loves his companion, George, who gets him out of every sticky situation they get into because of Lennie’s stupidity.

Poor Lennie doesn’t know any better, but no one understands that and Lennie doesn’t understand them either. George, Lennie’s caretaker, is the only one who seems to understand both sides.

George and Lennie have a dream to get land of their own one day. George is tired of always being on the run and looking for work. Lennie just wants land with rabbits to tend to. And it seems to be going their way…until Lennie pets the hair of the land lord’s daughter-in-law, she screams, he covers her mouth…and accidentally kills her since she couldn’t breathe.

“I’ve…I’ve done a bad thing,” he says.

When Lennie runs away, George and the other farm hands go looking for him. George finds Lennie and he tells him he’s not mad. He said he still wants to look after him. And Lennie looks off in the distance as George tells him about the rabbits he’ll tend one day. Lennie’s content, and George shoots him in the back of the head.

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Whoaaaaaa. What?

I thought this was friendship? It was. It truly was. And I still don’t understand this ending.

After I read the end of the book, (it ends very soon after the abrupt climax), I put it down and thought for a long time. I couldn’t understand it. It shocked me. I discussed it with other people who have read it before, and they gave me their take on it. Even though I’m still not sure about what to think about it, I’ll tell you my take on it at the moment. Subject to change. ;)

Back in the 1930s, you didn’t have medicine for mental illnesses. You didn’t have ICAP or special schools for people like that, where they learn how to behave, how to act and respond and control. Back then…one didn’t have anything except for someone telling you how to act, behave, speak…

Lennie had gotten into trouble with females before. With their soft dresses and soft hair, it would be easy to think he wanted to rape and flirt. Did he? No! He likes to pet nice things! He only wanted to touch the soft hair.

20 George and Slim

“Didn’t hurt the girl none?” Slim said. (fellow farmhand)

George shook his head. “Hell naw, he just scared her.”

But was what he did worthy of death? Was George right to kill him? Lenny was being hunted for anyway. He was going to get put in jail for who knows how long? And the husband of the murdered wife wanted to kill him. So…was George right to kill him?

I’m undecided. I feel like I would have to think about it more. Everyone I’ve talked to has said yes, George was good to kill him. Not that Lenny needed to die or that he was worthy of death—it was a simple mistake that he couldn’t help. But, so I’ve been told, it was better for Lennie to be killed by George—a friend who loved him and cared for him and knew him better than anyone else—than to be murdered by a revenge-thirsty husband who could care less about Lennie himself.

I tend to lean towards this point of view, but I’m still not sure. Taking an innocent life is one of those things that really get to me—where I have to think twice, and maybe a third or tenth time, before I take a stance on it. This was one of those times. At first I thought it was a horrible ending and I hated the entire book. One girl I know said she wanted to slam it shut and throw it against the wall. So did I. But then I had to think. And I kept thinking. And I still haven’t stopped.

I’ve already told you the moral of the story. Of my story. Write stories that make you think. I finished this book three weeks ago. I’ve refrained from writing anything on it because I had to think about it so much. The ending was sharp, abrupt, and unexpected. Yet it got me to think.

You should want that. Steinbeck was genius. You almost want your readers to be forced to really think about the endings. I could list books with thoughtful endings. I won’t. But they are everywhere. Just read some classics and you’ll find them. I think it’s a major reason a classic becomes a classic: the unexpected, thoughtful endings.

I recommend the book and the movie as well. The abrupt ending in the film is brilliantly done in the movie. And the whole film coincides with the book very well. It awed me even more.

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Go write stories that make you think!

Inspired,

~J.L. Cordova

History Self-Disovery Project (Lincoln Paper)

This was my college project. Experience something hands on, and talk about its history, your experience, and how it applies in real life. Normally I wouldn’t critique movies on this blog. But considering it was a writing assignment, I feel better about it. I’d love your feedback!

During teacher conference week, I went to go see Stephen Spielberg’s new movie, Lincoln. It is a two and a half hour film starring Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln. The story is centered around the 13th amendment to the Constitution. The Civil War is raging on, and President Lincoln is convinced that the only way to end the war is by ending slavery. He believes the only way to do this is by passing the 13th amendment, which would abolish slavery. Passing an amendment is no easy task in the U.S. government, especially during that time. The amendment had to have two thirds of the vote in the House of Representatives, which seated mostly Democrats. And Democrats, unfortunately, were radical advocates of slavery. As the film goes on, Lincoln and his administration try to pass the amendment as quickly as they can, convincing Democrats to vote for it by offering jobs. The climax of the film is the day of the vote in the House. Will there be enough votes to pass the amendment and end the war? Will the North finally win the war? Will there at last be an end to slavery?

The movie had so much historical value. Abraham Lincoln is one of the most famous presidents in United States history. Along with all the pressure from the war, the American people, and his own cabinet, Lincoln also suffered from family tragedy, a difficult wife, and a stubborn eldest son. Lincoln’s true character is brought to life in the movie, as is the entire Civil War era. For example, in the movie, Lincoln rides out on horseback amongst the fallen soldiers on the battlefield outside of Petersburg, VA. Also, earlier on, there is a scene of Lincoln conversing with black soldiers after a battle—casually, as if he were their friend. The real Lincoln really did ride out on battlefields, because he felt that every death in the war was his fault. He felt the burden and the responsibility to end the war and slavery. He spoke to black soldiers and even the black servants in the White House as if they were as white as any other American. He had a deep desire for equality in the country.

Another historical value the movie had was the accuracy of government processions and policy. The movie shows the process of the passing of the 13th Amendment. From bribing Democrats to the Speaker in the House on the day of the vote, the movie really captures the government in action. It also shows how corrupt inside government politics can become. For example, when the House of Representatives convened in the movie, there was a lot of anger and name-calling between the Republican and Democrat parties. Also, the Republicans bribed the Democrats to vote for the 13th amendment by offering jobs and positions. The movie also portrayed the vicious discrimination that lay in the Confederacy. African-Americans, in the South, were thought of as, quite literally, animals. They were not considered human beings. It truly represented that racist part of America’s history.

Because of all this historical value, my experience seeing this film was phenomenal. I learned so much about President Lincoln, his true character, and about the country during the time of the Civil War. It was truly a split nation during that time, and I learned what that actually meant. The movie did seem to drag a little after the passing of the amendment. I thought that too much was added after the vote in the House. However, the ending was powerful. There was a flashback of Lincoln giving his famous Gettysburg Address. Everyone in the crowd was mesmerized by his words, his manner, and his motions. Throughout the movie and even walking out of the theater, I had this strong, revered respect for President Lincoln. I still do, because the movie enhanced my perspective of him as one of the greatest presidents in our history.

I think this movie is relevant for us today because it was packed with rich history, emotion and facts that, today, we sometimes forget about. We forget how horrible slavery was in our country. We see in the 19th and 20th centuries that true African-American equality was extremely hard to achieve. Lincoln reiterates the beginning of that struggle—the beginning of black equality in America. Even today there is racism in our country. The fight still isn’t over. However, we see in the movie (and in any history book) that we have come a long way since slavery and harsh treatment of blacks. A main catalyst for this would be President Lincoln himself.

I learned several things from the movie. Firstly, I learned more about the Executive Branch of government and the role of the President. It is not up to the President to pass a bill or an amendment—it is a tedious process with both houses of Congress as well as the President’s approval. I found it interesting that, in that time, women’s rights were just as appalling and disgraceful as African-American rights. And overall, I discovered more about Abraham Lincoln’s personal life and the burdens he had from the war, the American people, and his own family.

In conclusion, I believe Lincoln was a brilliant film. I would recommend it to anyone. Anyone who went to see it would learn something new either about history, government, or the President himself. From the tedious and suspenseful process of passing the 13th amendment, to President Lincoln’s grieving over his lost son, everyone can enjoy the two and a half hour experience. It is definitely an accurate, emotional, brilliant portrayal of the final abolition of slavery.

~J. L. Cordova

Accomplishment of the Day

I got a 95 on my college writing assignment. That made my day. First grade I got back. It was my History Self-Discovery project. Our assignment was to go out and experience something hands-on, and write about

1. Its history

2. My experience

3. How this experience applies to real life

I did my self-discovery on the popular Steven Spielberg film, Lincoln.

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My professor said it was college level writing. The only things she commented and critiqued on were a few things at the end. Like saying “in conclusion” in the last paragraph was unnecessary, and she suggested leaving out “I believe…” since the whole paper is mine, so its obvious that I’m believing.

Little things like that. Overall, she said I did very well. “Excellent”, she said.

Being a writer, the fact that she said “This is college level writing–excellent!” gives me glorious feelings inside. I think I’ll post it in the Creative Writing category on the blog. I’d love your feedback too.

Encouraged and confident,

J.L. Cordova

Book Review: Perks of Being a Wallflower

I haven’t posted in so long, I almost forgot I had followers. But no matter. I am reading, to be sure.

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“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”, by Stephen Chbosky, is the story of a freshman in high school. Charlie, in the midst of family problems, crushes, and other beginning high school problems, makes friends that love him. Any kid should have that. The story is basically a journal, dealing with a lot of love sagas–sex, drugs, drama, practically anything you could imagine in a freshman boy’s journal. The main conflict revolves arounds Charlie’s deep feelings towards Sam, one of the girls he’s made friends with. Do they get together in the end? Well, think of the most cliche ending you could think of…and you might be surprised.

Did I like the book? It was entertaining. It kept me turning the pages. I must say the love sagas kept me intrigued. I suppose those types of stories will keep anybody reading. No wonder Fifty Shades of Grey is so popular. Charlie, as a character, was well-defined, and I could definitely see him connecting with male readers. In fact, all of the characters were well-defined. There were a lot of funny parts in the book that really brought out the character traits. Patrick, one of Charlie’s friends, was particularly portrayed in numerous scenes in the book. He was no doubt one of my favorite characters.

I love the way the book was written. Yes it was written in journal-style, but Charlie is actually writing to an unknown person. Spoil alert: You never know exactly who he is writing to. He never says. But I think its a good writing technique: to let the reader use his/her imagination, thinking about who the mysterious person could be, rather than tell him/her outright. Admittedly, I was waiting for an epilouge where the mysterious person would finally write back and sign his or her name at the end. But, in the end, I was glad I didn’t know. I wanted the book to go on, because I enjoyed reading it. And because I didn’t know the mysterious person, it’s still going on for me, because I’m still wondering…

Chbosky really portrays the sad, disturbing, and sometimes shameful truth of public high school, hard family life, and the mere temporary satisfaction that teenage sex brings. Temporary content. And following drama and heartbreak that can happen because of it. Parents hitting their children, drugs and sneaking out of the house. Its all there. And its all in Charlie’s perspective, which I think is quite innocent. He doesn’t really know how to react to this new reality of high school and expected maturity. It’s very interesting to read.

The main problem I see with the book is that there is no strong conflict. The main problem of the book is Charlie’s developed crush on Sam, but I thought it was weak, as the book prolonged while mentioning Sam and Charlie only sparingly. The resolution of the book was certainly not what I was expecting, and neither did it leave me with a positive note–a good feeling. It didn’t seem complete to me. I was a little disapointed.

2012, THE PERKS OF BEING WALLFLOWER

The movie, made recently last year, stars Logan Lerman and Emma Watson. I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet, but for those who have. Please comment and tell me your thoughts! Is it similar to the book? Or switched around? You can never know with a movie based off of a book.

All in all, it was a good read. Definitely different from say, Great Expectations or The Great Gatsby or even Harry Potter, but I feel like its good to read a variety of genres and styles. It helps you discover your style and your strong points in writing. Think about your strong points. Story? Character development? Resolution? Or simply writing in journals…?

All due respect,

J.L. Cordova

The End of the World

Did you hear the news? The world will be destoryed in…(checks watch)…24 hours.

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Theories are going around. Most people I know don’t believe it. They bring up a good point. The Mayan calander DID end in 2012, but what the calander did NOT have…was leap year. Do the math, and the world should have ended last year on 12.21.11. But we’re still here. Yet people still predict that it will end, as predicted, on 12.21.12–the day the Mayan calendar ends.

I found this article and video below very interesting. NASA is even in on it, proving that the world won’t end with the help of doctors and scientists.

http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/video/nasa-mayan-apocalypse-world-end-yesterday-sciencecast-youtube-17967187

I always thought the apocalypse was a good story–an action/adventure topic. Books are written and movies are created about it all the time. It’s a facsinating topic. Hope you enjoy the link!

~J.L. Cordova

“My Antonia”

Do you like Little House on the Prairie? I’m not reviewing it. I’d just thought I’d ask.

Reason I brought up that classic is because my recent read is so similar. Great plains, kids growing up, hardships of the farm…de ja vu.

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My Antonia is a book by well-known novelist Willa Cather (1873-1947). The reason her books are loved so much is because she herself grew up on the wild frontier, so everything in her books, most likely, she experienced. You can rely on her historical facts. My Antonia is one of her most famous works. It follows the life of a young boy who moves to the Great Plains, and it talks about all of his experiences. I learned a lot about the frontier by reading this book.

The story covers the life of Jim Burden and life at his grandparents’ house on the Nebraska frontier. After his parents’ death, Jim leaves his old home and moves to the Great Plains with Jake Marpole, a farm hand at his old place. Soon after he settles, a Bohemian family, the Shimerdas, become the Burdens’ new neighbors. The story really tells the life of Antonia, one of their daughters. It tells of her triumphs and struggles through the eyes of Jim. Jim and Antonia become good friends, and Mr. Shimerda asks Jim to teach Antonia better English and more about America. As time goes on, Jim falls in love with Antonia. Later, it turns into a filial love rather than romantic love. Jim leaves for college in the last half of the book, leaving Antonia, the frontier, and everything behind for the big city. It is a long time before Jim returns home. After all his travels and schooling, he visits beautiful Antonia. (I won’t tell you what he finds.) I think the book ends on a positive note, implying that the frontier life never changes, but it changes the people who grow with it.

Hope I didn’t spoil it too much for you…

First, I love the description that Cather writes for every little thing. I have a whole new understanding of frontier life. It was difficult. Sure, there’s rolling plains, lots of space…but there’s much more to it. . Plowing the fields, caring for the animals, making food from scratch, going to town to stock up on supplies—everyone on the farm was working. Also, there was a lack of social life. Even neighbors’ houses were so far apart in distance, they couldn’t visit them very often. There was always work to be done for heaven’s sake! During the winter, neighbors rarely saw each other. Also, out West, they didn’t have high-tech, easy equipment to use around the house. Everything had to be washed, made, cleaned, and worked by hand. This made work harder for everyone on the farm, especially the women and the girls. Yet, despite all these hardships, there was still opprotunity for some farm kids to go off to college in the city. Not everyone did, and those who did were in for a great awakening. Let’s face it: city life is not the same as frontier living.

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I mentioned that this book reminded me of Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It does. Because neighbors lived so far apart, and only the men and boys went to town, farm families really bonded together. You can definitely see the strong bond between Jim and his grandparents and even the farm hands. Friendship and family ties add to any story you write. The fact that Jim was close to both of his grandparents and Jake Marpole (a farm hand) really added to the plot and seemed to lighten up the hard frontier life that he had.

Lastly, I will commend Cather on a wonderful storyline. In the middle, it did drag a little bit. But it followed the life of Jim and Antonia. From thier elementary age to post-college, it tells thier story and experiences, whether together or apart from each other. If I dove into any details, you’d be reading this all day. But the bond between them is always there. It’s a theme throughout the book.

All in all, a wonderful work of historical fiction. Willa Cather really brings out frontier life as it really was. The story was intriguing and it kept me reading. I would definitely reccomend this as a must-read for fans of the classics.

All due respect,

~J.L. Cordova

Review: The Color of Water

Hi everyone! Busy busy life. But I still find time to read.

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I recently finished this book about a woman and her son growing up in the 1960s: The Color of Water by James McBride. McBride, an African-American journalist, wanted to write a book about growing up during the Civil Rights era. But he didn’t feel confident about it. Why? He didn’t have the whole story. He did this by interviewing his white, Jewish mother about her life growing up, which is devestating to read about. The struggle between Black Power vs. racial equality was themed throughout the book.

Rachel Shilsky (Ruth) grew up in a Jewish family, with a racist rabbi father and a crippled, abused mother. Ruth’s father was not well liked. And he was as immoral as they come–going to Ruth for sexual satifaction instead of his own wife, since she was crippled. He forced Ruth and her sister, Dee-Dee, to work his story from the second they walked out of school to the moment he told them they could stop. Since her father was a racist, of course Ruth has to fall in love with a black man. She leaves home completely after her mother dies. She marries a black man and she is completely shunned by her family. Pregnant with her seventh child (James), her husband dies, and she has seven kids to raise.

Another section of the book is the story through the eyes of James, her seventh child. Growing up black with a white mother, it was hard for him to understand why they were different, and why people thought of them as different. His mother never told him directly. “Brown”, she’d say.

“I asked, ‘What color is God’s spirit?’

‘God doesn’t have a spirit,’ she replied. ‘God is the color of water…’ “

Growing up was difficult in those times, since people still didn’t want to accept color equality. Most of the kids that James befriended were black, and he grew ashamed of him mom. But that changed over time, when he began to see her point of view. When he knew of her past. Her pain. Her suffering.

I won’t spoil the storyline too much. My definition of a good read is me not wanting to put it down because I want to know what happens. The Color of Water was definitely a good read.

The way the book is written is really creative. Every other chapter is italicized, which tells the reader that Ruth is sharing her childhood. The regular text is James sharing his. Two different generations, yet they coincide so much. This is the main thing I love about the book: the same feelings, the same struggles, and arguably the same problems, in two different lives. So it’s kind of like one big story, just not exactly in chronological order. This is a good writing technique. It keeps you intrigued.

In addition, there was a lot of symbolism in the book. For example, the second chapter is in James’s point of view, and he complains about his strange white mother riding her ancient bicycle, letting every black kid on the street see her and laugh at her. The bicycle, we find later, was Ruth’s way of grieving–biking away from all her problems and not caring about what the world around her thinks. Throughout the book, everytime someone mentions a bicycle, we think of Ruth.

Also, “the Bird Who Flies” represents Ruth’s mother, who passes away while Ruth is still young. Her mother loved birds. Ruth sings a song at her funeral that her mother sang to her in Yiddish, “Birdie, birdie, fly away.” So “the Bird Who Flies” is Ruth’s crippled, abused, misunderstood…but loving and loyal mother.

Emotion is expressed throughout the book. I guess girls are more avid fans of emotion than guys are, so I can’t speak for everyone. But I will speak for myself: Emotion adds so much to the story. It helps you relate to the characters 10 times more than you would any other way. Because racial equality was a controversial subject for so long in this country, so much emotion is put into it. I think that’s another reason why this book was so powerful.

So. In conclusion. From the story style, to the symbolism, to the emotional aspects, The Color of Water was a powerful novel. I definitely recommend it for anyone interested in that time period. Even someone who just loves a good story. I can guarantee you won’t be disapointed.

Anyone else read the book? What are your thoughts?

Inspired,

~J.L. Cordova