“I’m never going to fall in love with the idea of someone again”: P.S. From Paris by Marc Levy

“I’m never going to fall in love with the idea of someone again”:
P.S. From Paris by Marc Levy

“Let’s prove we’re braver than fictional characters. At least let’s have enough courage not to leave this table both feeling completely humiliated. Let’s erase everything that’s happened up until now, every word we’ve said. It’s easy — think of it like hitting a key on the computer and we go back and delete the text. Let’s rewrite the scene together, starting from the moment when you walked in” (Levy 86).

This is what Paul says to Mia the first time they meet at a restaurant. Because of the outrageous incidents that have brought Paul and Mia together at the restaurant, when Paul suggests that they “erase everything that’s happened” like “hitting a key on the computer” and deleting the text, Mia is able to smile at him, and Paul and Mia are able to give each other another chance. Even when taken out of context, I thought this idea that Paul suggested was very romantic. How wonderful would it be to be able to hit the delete button and start over a relationship from the start, like a fresh blank page? Obviously, no one can erase the past, and it takes a lot of effort from both Paul and Mia to make their relationship work. But I wonder if effort by itself would have been enough for Paul and Mia. Relationships are unpredictable, and I wonder if “fate” or “destiny” played a role in their relationship as well (I believe strongly in the idea of fate, not just when it comes to romantic relationships, but also when it comes to people we encounter in life, events that take place in our lives, places we go to, etc.).

On a different note, Mia asks Paul, “Do you think a man and a woman really can be just friends without any gray zones? No ambiguity?” (91). Mia and Paul come from completely different backgrounds, and their “friendship” start out on a strange note, thanks to Paul’s friends. Despite Paul’s friends’ intentions, Mia is only looking for friendship. Mia’s question here stood out to me because this question about Paul and herself is relatable for so many people. Many people, myself included, have been wondering the same thing for many years. Actually, I have asked this question to both my female and male friends in the past, and I have received a different answer each time. This question seems to be a tough one to answer because there is no set rule about “gray zones.” Everyone has different standards about relationships, and what one person defines as a “gray zone” may be very different from someone else’s definition. Personally, I hate the idea of being put in a “gray zone.” I’m impatient and I don’t like ambiguities. When it comes to relationships, I like to know exactly where I stand, and many times in the past, I have approached the guy first to express my feelings.

Another interesting question about relationships comes up when the caricaturist in Paris asks Mia, “Why do girls always fall madly in love with men who only make them suffer, while they barely bat an eye at the ones who would move mountains for them?” (67).This is another question I heard people ask millions of times. I myself have expressed similar sentiments, and I think this question is valid for both men and women. I wonder why this happens, why some men and women fall for someone who only makes them suffer. But it’s not like we can help who we like, even when we know that other person is painfully unaware of our feelings. The caricaturist had asked Mia this question because he had to wait two years for his wife to get over this man she was in love with, before she and he got married. He resents the two whole years that were wasted, especially because, one day after they were married, a motorcycle appeared out of nowhere and hit the motorcycle that he and his wife were on, and his wife didn’t survive. As Mia is about to leave him to his work, he calls out to her, “Miss!” When Mia turns around, answering “Yes?” he tells her, “Every day counts” (67).

I didn’t expect this book to be a quick-read, but that’s what it was, and it felt like watching a romantic comedy movie unfold in front of me. Paul and Mia showed that we really can’t anticipate how our stories will unfold, but we can still make an effort to turn our stories into something wonderful.

Work Cited:
Levy, Marc. P.S. from Paris (US edition). Amazon Crossing. Kindle Edition.

“The Geisha With The Blue-Gray Eyes”: Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

“The Geisha With The Blue-Gray Eyes”:
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

*Apparently, Arthur Golden was sued by the retired geisha he had interviewed for his novel because he left her name as one of the sources in his acknowledgements, even though she was supposed to remain anonymous. Check out this article: (http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/story?id=106248&page=1)

“…the ‘gei’ of ‘geisha’ means ‘arts,’ so the word ‘geisha’ really means ‘artisan’ or ‘artist’”
-Nitta Sayuri

Nitta Sayuri, formerly known as Sakamato Chiyo, used to live in a fishing village in Japan, called Yoroido, with her ill mother, her quiet father, and her clumsy sister. But that all changed when Chiyo met Mr. Tanaka, who then brought her to an Okiya (geisha boarding house) in Gion. With the help of Mameha, a beautiful and famous Geisha, who eventually becomes Chiyo’s “Older Sister,” Sakamato Chiyo changes her name to Nitta Sayuri, and makes her own reputation as a well-loved Geisha with startlingly blue-gray eyes. Even though she never knew she would become a successful Geisha, life had many surprises for Sayuri, and as she later confesses, “the afternoon when I first met Mr. Tanaka was the very best afternoon of my life, and also the very worst” (105).

Before reading Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha, I had never understood what a Geisha really was. Reading this novel completely changed my perception of the profession, and I learned that the profession (or the art?) of being a geisha is more complicated and intricate than I imagined.

When Chiyo becomes a Geisha, Mameha, her Older Sister, helps her with her new name. As she explains to her readers:
My new name came from “sa,” meaning “together,” “yu,” from the zodiac sign for the Hen – in order to balance other elements in my personality – and “ri,” meaning “understanding.” (167)

As a famous Geisha, Sayuri goes on to make acquaintances with men from all kinds of backgrounds – a baron, a minister, a chairman of a company, a soldier, among others. But what I found to be interesting is in the “Translator’s Note” in the beginning of the novel. Jakob Harhuis states that the Geisha’s “…existence is predicated on the singularly Japanese conviction that what goes on during the morning in the office and what goes on during the evening behind closed doors bear no relationship to one another, and must always remain compartmentalized and separate” (3). He then wonders, “Why did Sayuri want her story told?” (3). And this question intrigued me. Why did Sayuri want to reveal her secrets and experiences to her readers? Did She want to relive her memories about the man she had loved? Did she miss Okiya, the geisha boarding house, where she had lived with Mother, Auntie, Granny, Pumpkin, and the infamous Hatsumomo? Why did she want to tell a story about the geisha with the blue-gray eyes?

Works Cited:

  • “’Geisha’ Author and Publisher Sued.” ABC News, ABC News Network, abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/story?id=106248.
  • Golden, Arthur. Memoirs of a geisha. Alexandria Library, 2007.


“The History of People Who Have Loved Beautiful Things”: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

“The History of People Who Have Loved Beautiful Things”:
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt


In The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, Theodore Decker says:
What if our badness and mistakes are the very thing that set our fate and bring us round to good? What if, for some of us, we can’t get there any other way? (745-746)

What if the good things that happened in life did not always continue on to good things, and what if the bad things in life did not always continue on to worse things? What if the Good could lead to the Bad, and vice versa? After all, as Theo says, “[W]e don’t get to choose our own hearts. We can’t make ourselves want what’s good for us or what’s good for other people. We don’t get to choose the people we are” (761). If all of this is true, then what can we hold on to? How can we endure?

The story of The Goldfinch starts when Theodore Decker is thirteen. He has a father who drinks all the time and is completely irresponsible, and a mother who loves him and is there to take care of him and all of his worries. But that all changes when a boy named Tom Cable at his school smokes, and Theo, standing by near him, gets wrongfully caught by a teacher. Theo and his mother are called to his school, and on the way to the school, his mother decides they should stop by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of her favorite places in the world, since there is some time left before the meeting. No one knew that there was going to be a bomb explosion at the museum, and that it would take away the life of Theo’s mother along with the lives of many others, including a man named Welty Blackwell. Dazed and confused from the shock of the explosion, Theo finds himself in the destroyed building of the museum, bloodied and bruised, when Welty calls out to him. During the last minutes of his life, Welty makes a surreal yet genuine connection with Theo, where Theo can see, hear, and breathe the things that Welty describes. Welty gives a ring and an artwork, The Goldfinch painted by Carel Fabritius, to Theo, and by accepting these items, Theo goes onto live his unstable and unpredictable life, where he learns much more about life than he may have expected.

Theo has quite a pessimistic view of life. Because of what he has seen and been through since he was young, this is perhaps natural. Theo’s mother once tells him, “People die, sure…But it’s so heartbreaking and unnecessary how we lose things. From pure carelessness. Fires, wars. The Parthenon, used as a munitions storehouse. I guess that anything we manage to save from history is a miracle” (28). This resonated with me in that, indeed, so many people and things are lost due to circumstances that are unfair and cannot be justified. However, I thought it was interesting that Theo’s mother referred to this as “carelessness”. Ironically, Theo’s mother becomes a victim of this carelessness, and her death teaches Theo that life is anything but predictable. His mother had meant the world to Theo. But he did not get to see her during the last moments of her life because no one knew that their time at the art museum would be their last time together. Regardless, Theo remembers all of the small moments. As he says:

I remember a few weeks before she died, eating a late supper with her in an Italian restaurant down in the Village, and how she grasped my sleeve at the sudden, almost painful loveliness of a birthday cake with lit candles being carried in procession from the kitchen, faint circle of light wavering in across the dark ceiling and then the cake set down to blaze amidst the family, beatifying an old lady’s face, smiles all round, waiters stepping away with their hands behind their backs— just an ordinary birthday dinner you might see anywhere in an inexpensive downtown restaurant, and I’m sure I wouldn’t even remember it had she not died so soon after, but I thought about it again and again after her death and indeed I’ll probably think about it all my life: that candlelit circle, a tableau vivant of the daily, commonplace happiness that was lost when I lost her. (7-8)

I have never experienced the death of someone close to me, but I imagine that if someone we loved in our life was taken away so suddenly, these small moments would come to haunt us. My mother lost her father when she was a teenager, and even though she has never shared any details, I know that he showed up a few times in her dreams, because she always mentioned it during breakfast the next day. I cannot imagine how painful Theo’s mother’s death must be for him: the searing pain of having lost someone he loved, and yet not being able to do anything about it. Yet, as a young boy, Theo has to face the fact that he has lost his mother with no way to find out why.

There is a curious connection between Theo and Carel Fabritius’ The Goldfinch. There is something about how the Goldfinch is chained in one ankle that reminds me of Theo. Personally, the painting is nothing that I would have considered to be interesting. I mean, the painting shows a bird with a small chain on its ankle. I probably would have noticed the bird, and not the chain, and I would have probably glanced at it for about five seconds, noting some of the vibrant colors that I liked, and moved onto the next painting. However, Theo sees something different in it. For him, it is “support and vindication,” “sustenance and sum” (559). This is because, from this very painting, Theo learns that “[W]e can’t choose what we want and don’t want,” and that “[s]ometimes we want what we want even if we know it’s going to kill us” (770). And so, just like the painting, Theo reaches out to the readers to add “[his] own story of love to the history people who have loved beautiful things” (771), adding his story of love and life to the multitudinous stories of love and life that we are all living in, and will continue to live in.


<Works Cited>
Tartt, Donna. The Goldfinch: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction). Little, Brown and Company, 2015. Kindle Edition.


“Take It Slow, Romeo”: Learning from Friar Lawrence’s Advice in Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare

“Take It Slow, Romeo”:
Learning from Friar Lawrence’s Advice in Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet, holds an important place in our culture today. The unfortunate story of the two young lovers have been performed, made into movies, and they are still being read and discussed in classes today. The movie edition of Romeo and Juliet by Franco Zeffirelli (1968) stays closely to the setting of the play of 16th century Verona (even though it may never be known exactly how Shakespeare wanted his play to be performed). The movie also emphasizes the bawdy comedy of the play, as well as the tragic end that Romeo and Juliet meet due to their families’ never-ending feud. Because the play contains many universal messages, the setting of the play could be altered to speak to different bodies of audiences. One of these important messages from the play is that one should not act to quickly. One needs to think carefully before taking action.

One of the many prominent themes of the play is love – specifically, falling too quickly in love. It is true that the two families’ stubborn unwillingness to end their feud leads to the deaths of the Montague’s only son, and the Capulet’s only daughter. However, it is also true that Romeo and Juliet fall in love instantly. When Romeo asks Friar Lawrence to marry him and Juliet right away, Friar Lawrence is surprised to hear that Romeo has gotten over his love for Rosaline so quickly. Nevertheless, he agrees to help with Romeo and Juliet’s marriage, in hope that this will help end the two families’ feud. Unfortunately, this is only Friar Lawrence’s hope, and all Romeo hears is a ‘yes.’ And as soon as he does, he is eager to get out of Friar Lawrence’s cell. Even when Friar Lawrence tells him, “Go wisely and slowly. Those who rush stumble and fall” (2.3.101), it only goes in Romeo’s one ear and out the other. If Romeo and Juliet had considered Friar Lawrence’s message, maybe it could have warned them about the consequences of their marriage would have on both their families. Or maybe not, since they were too blinded by love to ever truly consider anything else.

It is important to always take things one step at a time. Friar Lawrence says to Romeo, “…love moderately. Long love doth so./ Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow” (2.6.14-2.6.15). Here, he explains the importance of being moderate by describing the dangers of being too fast or too slow. This advice is not solely relevant to Romeo and Juliet. This is an important message that all of us could benefit from. I wonder if Romeo and Juliet’s story could have turned out differently if they had taken things a bit slower. At the same time, I realize that it had been Romeo and Juliet’s fate to live and die as “star-crossed lovers” (Prologue, line 6) and that they would have met a tragic end, no matter what.

Even though Shakespeare set the story in 16th century Verona, the story of Romeo and Juliet continues to speak to us today. The play’s messages concern love, family feuds, reputation, and fate. These are important aspects of society that continue to influence our lives. And as we read or watch a performance of the play, maybe we ourselves should consider Friar Lawrence’s message: To take things neither too quickly nor too slowly, but to take things one step at a time.



<Works Cited>

Folger Shakespeare Library. Romeo and Juliet from Folger Digital Texts. Ed. Barbara Mowat, Paul Werstine, Michael Poston, and Rebecca Niles. Folger Shakespeare Library, 24 November, 2017. http://www.folgerdigitaltexts.org

Shakespeare, William, et al. Franco Zeffirelli’s Production of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Paramount Pictures Corp., 1968.