Category Archives: tragedy

Into the Wild

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into the wild

“I now walk into the wild” are the last words that Chris McCandless sent his friend Wayne Westerberg before trekking into the Alaskan wilderness. It’s hard not to be touched in some way by McCandless’s story. Yes he was impetuous, naive, and heedless of the dangers he was facing, but he was also an idealist searching for some kind of meaning in life. Like many people before him, John Muir most notably, he was searching for an answer in nature. Being young myself, I can identify a lot with McCandless. Death seems so remote you don’t even consider it. There’s no way anything bad could ever happen to you. You’re young and have everything ahead of you.

I’m sure in some ways this was McCandless’s thought pattern as well. He was so convinced of his own intellect and knew that he could make it. He had never failed at anything he had tried before and had always been praised for his intelligence and unwavering beliefs. He was a self made outcast. He shed society’s layers as best as he could only to realize that “happiness is best when shared.” I’m a firm believer that it’s the people around us that help us lead a full and satisfying life. It’s people that push us to grow and change in ways that we might not left to our own devices.

One of my favorite aspects of this novel was how thoroughly Krakauer looked into the history of travelers like McCandless. I couldn’t believe that so many people have walked into the wild never to walk out again. There are tales of teens disappearing in the desert, a climber vanishing in the mountains of Alaska, and British soldiers from the 1800’s dying in the arctic. I think in some way everyone is interested in what’s out there. That’s why we travel to other places to discover new things, people, and cultures. Most of us just travel from city to city instead of into the wilds. But we’re all bitten by some kind of wanderlust, an interest in things outside of ourselves.

There are many decisions that McCandless made heedlessly, as many before him had done. Yet, he was not one of the lucky ones. He didn’t survive his trek into the wild. The odds were stacked against him. Yet he made an impact on the world through what he left behind. After reading Krakauer’s novel I feel like I got to personally know McCandless and see a bit into his heart.

Rating: 5/5 Such a compelling, albeit tragic, story.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015.

Never Let Me Go

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ishiguro
All great love stories must end in tragedy. I’m not sure where this thought originated but Shakespeare definitely drove the point home in Romeo and Juliet. “For never was a story of more woe. Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.” Tragedy can make even the most ordinary love stories into epic ones. I think it’s the counterbalance of the idea that love is forever with the idea that life is fleeting. Never Let Me Go is definitely one of these tragic love stories.

The novel begins in the present with Cathy looking back on her life at the boarding school Halisham in England. She presents her memories, from her point of view, on her life and what shaped it. In the present, Cathy is known as a carer, a person who works in hospitals helping donors through their donation periods. But she spends a good portion of the time thinking about Halisham and her friendships with Ruth and Tommy.

The story takes awhile to get going and you do have to slog through a bit of the beginning but it’s worth it. The further you get into the story the more you realize how important the beginning is to set up the events that will unfold. The beginning is almost the ending in a way. It holds the key to the story that you don’t get to unlock until the end. It fills in the missing pieces so that you can see the big picture. And the big picture is terrifying. The author poses so many questions about science and humanity. Whether it’s better to have known something bad all along or only find out in the end. And the negative effects of scientific discovery.

The whole story becomes a lot more foreboding once you realize exactly what’s happening. Especially in contrast to the beautiful love story that begins to form. Again, it takes some time for the love triangle to truly show itself. There’s a lot of backstory to the triangle and the relationships between the three people, Ruth, Tommy, and Cathy. Tommy and Cathy have always had a special kind of relationship where they feel free to talk about whatever is troubling them. Yet, Tommy begins to date Ruth, a beautiful and manipulative person. Ruth represents the basis of Halisham for me. How people have come to form a facade of the real world that the kids take to heart. They then begin to form their own facades and backstories, especially Ruth.

The whole time I was really rooting for Cathy and Tommy. They just seem destined to be together. But Ruth stands in the way for a good portion of the novel. Yet, the caveat is true here. All good love stories must end in tragedy of some kind. And this one does. Perhaps a bit more tragic than most. Every outside force has come against them from birth. The love was doomed from the get go and perhaps that’s why it’s so touching. The greatest loves often involve the greatest sacrifices.

Rating: 4/5

Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015. Happy reading!

Suddenly, Last Summer

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Suddenly, Last Summer

Suddenly, Last Summer is a play of predators and prey. Each circling the other trying to take stock of their surroundings and how best to play off and use the the other. The opening scene foreshadows perfectly how the rest of the play will unfold. In Sebastian Venable’s garden decorated with “massive tree flowers that suggest organs of a body, torn out, still glistening with undried blood.” Noises of screeching birds and hissing insects emanate form the garden, stirring up feelings of foreboding in the reader. That’s when we’re introduced to Mrs. Violet Venable, Sebastian’s mother. She’s talking to a Dr. Cukrowicz about a Miss Catherine Holly, the woman last seen with Sebastian before his death. Instead of taking his ill mother along on his travels, Sebastian took his cousin by marriage Catherine. While on vacation, Sebastian died mysteriously and Catherine has been spouting a damning story that Violet refuses to believe. She asks the doctor if a lobotomy will erase the story from her mind. He says that before he can decide he must interview Catherine and hear the story she has to tell.

This is when things get even hairier. The play is short but jam-packed with images and illusions. Nothing is quite as it seems and everything has a dual meaning. During Catherine’s story we learn a lot about cousin Sebastian and his mother that Violet would rather not have others know. Sebastian and his mother have a sort of Norma Norman Bates relationship. It’s symbiotic, each feeding off the other for something they need that’s definitely a tainted type of love. Even after his death, Violet wants to claim all of Sebastian and paints an image of him that she desires, no matter how truthful an image that is. She wants to believe he was a world class poet that did everything for his art. She’s created this image of Sebastian as more of a living art form than a mere human being.

Art plays a big part in the play. The art of deception and manipulation. In a way, Sebastian is devoured by his own art. He’s destroyed himself through his own ideas and proclivities. Sebastian uses those around him in whatever way suits him in the moment. He continually wants an entourage of adoring people around him but has a hard time acquiring them. That was what Catherine was for. She was there to acquire the people he wanted. She says in the play that Sebastian considered people to be treats. Some were delicious while other were vile.

I don’t want to spoil the play or the ending. This is a must read. It’s short but powerful. The scenes, just like the movie, will play around and around in your head while you try to piece together all of the images to form one cohesive whole. Just like Catherine is traumatized by the image of Sebastian’s death, I had a hard time putting the play out of my mind.

Rating: 5/5

Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015.