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Favorite Quotes:

“Ars longa, vita brevis est.” – Hippocrates (Life is short; art is forever)

“Where words leave off, music begins.” – Tchaikovsky (via Heine)

“Stop thinking, and end your problems.” – Lao Tzu

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates

“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so” – Shakespeare (Hamlet)

“What is the meaning of life? Life has no meaning. We bring meaning to it.” – Eckhart Tolle

“Where your wound is, that is where your genius will be.” – Robert Bly

“Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” – Bible

“According to your belief, so be it unto you.” – Bible

“Present fears are less than horrible imaginings.” – Shakespeare (Macbeth)

“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation, but your thoughts about it.” – Eckhart Tolle

“What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; ’tis dearness only that gives everything its value.” – Thomas Paine

“Some of the worst things in my life never happened.” – Mark Twain

“We read to know we’re not alone.” – C.S. Lewis

“We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.” – Anais Nin

“What you see depends on what you’re looking for.” – Sir Anthony Hopkins

“Smile when you are ready.” – Fortune cookie

Favorite Books: (In progress)

David Copperfield – Charles Dickens. The literary voice of young David is authentic and genuine, and it is therefore easy to sympathize with his childhood woes and innocence. This is one of the most likable characters in all of classic literature. The large cast of supporting characters are also expertly drawn (even their names! Dickens and Shakespeare both excelled at naming their creations), and the passages flow like poetry.  Consider this vivid memory of David’s, wherein he has been locked away in his room by his stern and disapproving stepfather:

The length of those five days I can convey no idea of to any one. They occupy the place of years in my remembrance. The way in which I listened to all the incidents of the house that made themselves audible to me; the ringing of bells, the opening and shutting of doors, the murmuring of voices, the footsteps on the stairs; to any laughing, whistling, or singing, outside, which seemed more dismal than anything else to me in my solitude and disgrace—the uncertain pace of the hours, especially at night, when I would wake thinking it was morning, and find that the family were not yet gone to bed, and that all the length of night had yet to come—the depressed dreams and nightmares I had—the return of day, noon, afternoon, evening, when the boys played in the churchyard, and I watched them from a distance within the room, being ashamed to show myself at the window lest they should know I was a prisoner—the strange sensation of never hearing myself speak—the fleeting intervals of something like cheerfulness, which came with eating and drinking, and went away with it—the setting in of rain one evening, with a fresh smell, and its coming down faster and faster between me and the church, until it and gathering night seemed to quench me in gloom, and fear, and remorse—all this appears to have gone round and round for years instead of days, it is so vividly and strongly stamped on my remembrance.

What a scene-painter Dickens is! The details in this passage so effortlessly put me, the reader, inside David’s wretched experience that they brings tears to my eyes, as if I were him. Movies can play with our emotions like this fairly easily, thanks to the aid of visuals and music to accompany the script, but it is much, much harder to accomplish with just the written word, with description only. Because Dickens is so good at getting us inside David’s head, because his reminiscing through David is so poignant, heartbreaking and at times hilarious, this book is a delight to read. My personal favorite.

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte. I see this as the sister book to David Copperfield, with Jane being the female version of David (and an introvert!). Both have sad, deprived upbringings and cruel, rigid caretakers, but are blessed with a few good saviors around them and considerable fortitude to help them bear their burdens. In this passage, the normally reticent and long-suffering Jane finally tells off her cold and self-centered guardian (something David is too polite to do), and the shocked reader cheers inside:

“I am glad you are no relation of mine. I will never call you aunt again as long as I live. I will never come to visit you when I am grown up; and if any one asks me how I liked you, and how you treated me, I will say the very thought of you makes me sick, and that you treated me with miserable cruelty. . . . You think I have no feelings, and that I can do without one bit of love or kindness; but I cannot live so: and you have no pity. I shall remember how you thrust me back . . . into the red-room. . . . And that punishment you made me suffer because your wicked boy struck me—knocked me down for nothing. I will tell anybody who asks me questions this exact tale.”

’Ere I had finished this reply, my soul began to expand, to exult, with the strangest sense of freedom, of triumph, I ever felt. It seemed as if an invisible bond had burst, and that I had struggled out into unhoped-for liberty. . . .”

Frankenstein – Mary Shelley. This book gets a bad rap thanks to the more familiar movie versions of it, which are rather empty and campy in comparison. The writing is poetic, philosophical  and deeply insightful, and the story more profound than anything you’ll see on the screen. There is much food for thought here, and you will develop great sympathy for Dr. Frankenstein’s hideous, self-loathing creation (which, incidentally has no name):

“Hateful day when I received life!’ … Accursed creator! Why did you form a monster so hideous that even you turned from me in disgust? God, in pity, made man beautiful and alluring, after his own image; but my form is a filthy type of yours, more horrid even from the very resemblance. Satan had his companions, fellow-devils, to admire and encourage him; but I am solitary and abhorred.”

Macbeth – William Shakespeare. I’ve loved this one ever since studying it in college psychology class, no doubt aided by my professor’s impassioned lectures about it. The witches’ prophecies, the gracious and unsuspecting king, the criminals tormented by guilt, and, ultimately, the payback for an evil deed all combine for a thrilling story. Here, Macbeth numbly frets about the brevity, tediousness and folly of life right after his wife’s death:

“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.” 

The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas. A gripping (and quite long) adventure story arranged in short chapters that’s a real page turner. Our young, dashing hero is unjustly accused and imprisoned, and loses everything. Not only does he get it back – and then some – but he also wins a chance at getting even with his accusers. Who doesn’t like reading about revenge? Along the way, he gets plenty of good advice:

“Those born to wealth, and who have the means of gratifying every wish, know not what is the real happiness of life, just as those who have been tossed on the stormy waters of the ocean on a few frail planks can alone realize the blessings of fair weather . . . Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes.” 

More to come . . . including Mysterious Skin, She’s Come Undone, Wishin’ and Hopin’, The Butcher Boy, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.