“I guess we can’t just pick the good things to remember, can we?”: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz

“I guess we can’t just pick the good things to remember, can we?”: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz

“The thing is, I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to know what it felt like to be drunk. You want me to explain this with logic? Well, where was the logic to loving? Where was the logic to dying in accidents? Where was the logic to cancer? Where was the logic to living? I was starting to believe that the human heart had an inexplicable logic. But I was also starting to get drunk, so I wasn’t trusting anything I was thinking.”
-Salvador from The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Do you know about the Sewol ferry disaster in South Korea? If you don’t, then check this link out: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinking_of_MV_Sewol

Just when I was finishing this book, my co-workers and I were talking about this incident. Something about the idea of “inexplicableness” of life that Benjamin Alire Saenz portrays in his novel seemed to click with the “inexplicableness” of the incident of the Sewol ferry disaster. That day, as my co-workers and I remembered the tragedy, and I was finishing Saenz’ novel, rain poured down all day from the sky, and I thought that the sky, too, must have been crying over the loss of many innocent lives.

This is something that always puzzles me. There are people in the world who commit horrendous crimes who get to live luxurious lives, while there are people who spend their lives working hard and trying to do good who never get what they truly deserve. We grow up, learning from our teachers that we need to work hard and do what is right. Why bother teaching kids this when the world doesn’t work this way? And, really, what kind of world do we live in? How can our world be explained “logically” and “sensibly”?

Salvador’s father, Vicente, is a gay man. He and Salvador’s mother had both been students at Columbia, and when Salvador’s mother realized she was going to die without anyone to look after her baby, she asked Vicente to look after him, and he agreed. That was how Vicente and Salvador’s mother were married. Even though Vicente is not Salvador’s biological father, Vicente loves Salvador and cares for him as if he were the biological father, and Salvador also loves Vicente as if he were his biological son. “Logically,” this situation is a teensy bit complicated to make sense, but that’s how it works in Salvador’s world.

Salvador shares a memory:
The sky had cleared after a summer storm. I’d been crying, and he (Vicente) tried to get me to smile. “Your eyes are the color of sky. Did you know that?” I don’t know why I remembered this. Maybe it was because I knew he was telling me he loved me.

There are many things in Salvador’s life that don’t make sense – his grandmother’s cancer, his best friend Samantha’s mother’s death, and his warm-hearted friend Fito and his cold-hearted family – but with the guidance of his father, he is able to take things one step at a time. Saenz’s novel made me wonder about the illogical, unfair, and inexplicable things that happen to people, and how, most of the time, people miraculously make it through. Who can possibly provide a logical explanation as to why Salvador’s grandmother had to die from cancer, or why Samantha’s mother had to die from a car crash? That day, before Samantha’s mother had died, she had written on the bathroom mirror with lipstick, “Just because my love isn’t perfect doesn’t mean I don’t love you,” a memory Samantha will carry with her always. Where is the logic to these things? And, what does it matter that Salvador’s dad isn’t his biological father? Who decides these things anyway? The more I think about the logic of things, the “certain things have to be done in these particular – a, b, c – ways,” the more unsure I become. The most hardworking, honest person can get killed in an unexpected accident. At the same time, the person who causes that accident can live a long and prosperous life, maybe not even remembering that he/she had caused a person’s death. There is no logic to many things that happen in our world.

Vicente had been there when Salvador’s mother gave birth to him, and so, really, from the very beginning, Vicente had loved Salvador with all of his heart. Vicente had always been there for Salvador, and when Vicente’s mother suffered from cancer and eventually passed away, Salvador had the chance to be there for his father. In one scene, the narrator describes the conversation between father and son:
I (Salvador) sat on his bed. “Dad?”
“I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”
“It’s hard,” he said. “Grief is a terrible and beautiful thing.”
“I don’t think it’s so beautiful.”
“The hurt means you loved someone. That you really loved someone.”
“Dad.” I reached for his hand. “I’m here, Dad. I mean, I’m really here.”
My dad took my hand. “This is a good hand,” he said. “A very good hand.”

Work Cited: Sáenz Benjamin Alire. The Inexplicable Logic of My Life. Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017.

“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.

“Wishing You More Happiness Than Can Fit A Person”: We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

“Wishing You More Happiness Than Can Fit A Person”: We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

“I wonder if there’s a secret current that connects people who have lost something. Not in the way that everyone loses something, but in the way that undoes your life, undoes yourself, so that when you look at your face it isn’t yours anymore” – Marin

How wonderful would it be if everything in life worked out the way we wanted? If things happened the way we expected them to, the way we wanted them to, then there would be no unpleasant surprises. When Marin, the protagonist of We Are Okay by Nina LaCour, was staying in an empty dorm room, dreading the visit of her friend, Mabel, I assumed that the two girls had had a fight. What the fight was about, I couldn’t guess. Much later in the story, when Mabel confronts Marin about her disappearance, Marin can’t bring herself to talk about her experiences, not because she doesn’t want to talk to Mabel, but because talking about it is too much for her. When she is finally able to talk, she tells Mabel about being questioned by the police, about staying at the motel where a woman was constantly wailing, and the man next door kept staring out the window without moving for days, and where Marin felt scared that she would go just as crazy.

This scene struck a chord in my mind. Marin and Mabel had been best friends for years, and had shared so many memories, but at that moment, when Marin and Mabel are sitting across from each other, Mabel is looking at Marin with a look in her eyes that Marin doesn’t recognize. Perhaps this is because the lack of recognition is mutual – Mabel doesn’t recognize Marin either, the two friends have become strangers. What’s sad about this moment is that Mabel had assumed Marin had been okay, but Marin was far from it. What’s worse is that, if Marin had told Mabel, things could have been different for both of Mabel and herself (or am I wrong in assuming this?). Have you ever experienced that feeling? Of thinking that you knew your friend, but finding out that there were so many things you didn’t know about them? And feeling that you have failed them? In this particular scene, I found myself wondering what I would have felt in Mabel’s shoes, rather than relating to Marin, the protagonist, because I have been there. I had stood on the other side, trying to understand the person whom I thought I knew and understood.

In the end, nothing turns out the way Marin may have wanted, or expected, but Marin is going to be okay. I mean, what else is new? Does anything ever happen the way we want?

My favorite quote is when Marin and Mabel are at the store, shopping for Christmas presents, when Marin looks at Mabel, and thinks, “I wish her everything good. A friendly cab driver and short lines through security. A flight with no turbulence and an empty seat next to her. A beautiful Christmas. I wish her more happiness than can fit in a person. I wish her the kind of happiness that spills over.”


<Works Cited>
LaCour, Nina. We Are Okay. Dutton Childrens Books, 2017.

“Smile With Your Liver”: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

You were given life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight” – Liz Gilbert

Liz Gilbert has a successful career, a house, and a husband. But she realizes that she doesn’t want what she has, and that she doesn’t want to have kids with her husband. This makes her feel like a horrible person, and she feels terribly guilty. She decides to get a divorce, quit her job, and go on travelling around the world. Her destinations are: Italy, India, and Indonesia.

This book made me think about what it means to go on a journey to find what you truly want in life. It is difficult for people these days to find enough time just to get everything they need to get done. Most people spend their entire lives working. It is amazing and unbelievable that Liz Gilbert was able to put everything she had behind her to spend a year for herself.

As a person who has never been to Europe, and has never been on travel for more than 2 weeks, Liz Gilbert’s story made me wonder what it would be like to do what she did. Would I really be able to put everything I have on hold, and to go travelling for a year? Is traveling to different destinations for a year enough to make a person change? Or would you need to have a solid purpose and reason, like Liz did, in order to truly notice a chance? Or maybe, going on a year-long journey doesn’t have to be about change, and it can just be about finding a different side of yourself? Where would my three destinations be?

The book is divided into three parts, and is divided into tiny chapters. Maybe it was because I was reading the book with my Kindle, but I found it hard to concentrate on this book for some reason. I did like Liz Gilbert’s witty and hilarious voice throughout the story.

If I could set aside a year to travel on my own, just for myself, I think I would like to spend some time in Korea, where all of my family is, and then in Europe, where I have never been before. For my third destination, I think I will have to give myself a few months before I figure it out. If I did set off on this journey, I definitely do think I will be able to find a different side of myself. I say this because I went to NY to visit my sister this weekend, and even though it was only for a few days, I felt refreshed and better in general. It makes me wonder what kinds of feelings and thoughts I would have if I had a whole year. Yet, I don’t know if I will be able to have a revelation like Liz did during her journey.

For me, the most important message from this book was that, sometimes, in order to help those around you, you need to help yourself.

“And I will leave with the hope that the expansion of one person – the magnification of one life – is indeed an act of worth in this world. Even if that life, just this one time, happens to be nobody’s but my own” – Liz Gilbert.


<Works Cited>
Gilbert, Elizabeth. Eat, pray, love: one woman’s search for everything across Italy, India and Indonesia. Riverhead Books, 2016.

“Jude = x”: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

“Jude = x”:
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

When Brother Luke convinces Jude to run away with him, promising him a happy life, Jude is desperate to leave the monastery where every day had been filled with nightmares. When I think about this moment, I think about how horrible it is that people like Brother Luke exist, and how unfortunate it is that they do unimaginable things to people like Jude, who deserve a better life than the one he has been given. Brother Luke gives Jude so much hope, then snatches it away when Jude needs it the most.

When Jude finds Malcolm, Willem, and JB in college, he never reveals anything about himself, both because he doesn’t want to, and because he thinks telling them about who he really is will make them hate him and be disgusted with him. Jude believes this because this is how he feels about himself. The world has treated him horribly from the beginning, and Jude doesn’t want others to find out how insignificant he is. And yet, even as Jude refuses to talk about himself, he becomes friends with people like Willem, Harold, and Andy, who provide an anchor for him to hold on to, as he struggles to barely hold on each day. Jude doesn’t understand why they hang around him, and yet, without them, Jude wouldn’t have a reason to struggle through another day.

At a certain point, Jude wonders about the discrepancy between how he views himself vs how his friends view him:

“[Jude] feels…that his life is something that has happened to him, rather than something he has had any role in creating. He has never been able to imagine what his life might be; even as a child, even as he dreamed of other places, of other lives, he wasn’t able to visualize what those other places and lives would be; he had believed everything he had been taught about who he was and what he would become. But his friends, Ana, Lucien, Harold and Julia: They had imagined his life for him. They had seen him as something different than he had ever seen himself as; they had allowed him to believe in possibilities that he would never have conceived. He saw his life as the axiom of equality, but they saw it as another riddle, one with no name—Jude = x—and they had filled in the x in ways Brother Luke, the counselors at the home, Dr. Traylor had never written for him or encouraged him to write for himself. He wishes he could believe their proofs the way they do; he wishes they had shown him how they had arrived at their solutions.”

The world has made sure Jude believed in his own insignificance. Yet, Jude makes many loyal and loving friends, who are extremely intelligent and successful in their careers. They choose to befriend him, and to take their time and energy to get to know him. In the end, Jude even becomes adopted by Harold and Julia. What is it about Jude that, despite all of his secrets and his reluctance to talk about himself, draws people in?

For me, I think the reason why Jude’s friends value and love him is because Jude provides them with all the love and forgiveness that he does not give himself. Whereas he hates himself and will not budge when people tell him to think otherwise, Jude acts differently when it comes to his friends. Even though there are a few times in the book where Jude’s beauty is mentioned, I think what his friends really value in Jude is his genuine interest, love, and forgiveness for them. Jude accepts them for who they are, and maybe this encourages them to reciprocate the same feelings to him, even if Jude does not believe them. Somehow Jude is able to bottle up all of his hatred for himself, while showering his love and affections to his friends.

There were many horrifying and uncomfortable moments in this book, and after I finished it, I thought about the title, A Little Life. Assuming that this is alluding to Jude and his life, I thought it should be mentioned that, despite everything Jude went through, he still made something out of his life, and that’s admirable of him.


<Works Cited>
Yanagihara, Hanya. A little life: a novel. Random House Inc, 2015.

“from what we cannot hold the stars are made”: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

“from what we cannot hold the stars are made”:
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

“Do you think we’ll ever discover all the secrets of the universe?” (231)

Ari asks this as he and his friends, Susie and Gina, sit in the bed of his truck and look up at all the stars. It is Ari’s favorite thing to do – to drive out to the desert at night in his truck so he can watch the stars.

It starts one summer (for some reason, things always start for Ari in the summer) when Ari’s mother is at him again about how “he doesn’t have any friends”. Even though she isn’t wrong, Ari still resents her for saying it. And on that hottest day of summer, he decides he will go to the pool to spend his time. That’s when Ari (Aristotle) meets Dante, and also when, for Ari, “Dante bec[omes] one more mystery in a universe full of mysteries” (19).

One day, Ari comes down with the flu. While he is bedridden, Dante comes to keep him company. Dante gives Ari a book of poems so he can read while Dante sketches him with charcoal on his drawing pad. Ari falls asleep, and when he wakes up, Dante is gone along with his drawing of Ari, but there is a drawing of Ari’s rocking chair that he left behind. In this drawing, Ari notices how Dante has captured the “afternoon light streaming into the room,” and “the way the shadows fell on the chair and gave it depth and made it appear as if it was something more than an inanimate object” (73). But mostly, he notices how Dante has captured something “sad and solitary” about the chair, and he wonders if this is how Dante sees the world, or if this is how he sees Ari’s world. As an Asian American female, I do not share a lot of similarities with either Ari or Dante, and yet when Ari looks at the picture of the chair and tries to figure out whose world Dante has drawn, I find myself thinking that Dante may have drawn a little bit of each of our – the reader’s – world in that picture, too.

One day, a group of boys shoot BB guns at a bird in a tree, and after Ari manages to scare them away, he notices Dante staring at the dead bird on the ground, with tears running down his face. Ari wonders why it is that “…some guys had tears in them and some had no tears at all?” (55). To be honest, Ari did not feel much for the bird. Yes, it was sad that the innocent bird was killed by stupid boys, but in the end, Ari felt that it was only a bird. However, Dante is heartbroken, and as usual, his face acts as a window to his feelings. On his way home, Ari thinks that, “Dante’s face was a map of the world. A world without any darkness…How beautiful was that?” (55).

To be honest, Ari has a lot going on in his life. His brother is in prison, and everyone acts as though doesn’t exist, even though Ari has dreams of his brother. His father, after coming back from the Vietnam War, has been unreachable, choosing not to share his memories or his haunting dreams with his son. Everyday, Ari misses him more. On top of it all, Ari is a teenager, and he is trying to figure out who he is. And Ari is scared of Dante, because Dante means a lot more to Ari than he would like to admit.

Nevertheless, from his journey with Dante, Ari learns that “One of the secrets of the universe was that our instincts were sometimes stronger than our minds” (261) and that “Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere. The clearest summer morning could end in a downpour. Could end in lightning and thunder” (261). If your friend was standing in the middle of the road, and you saw a car on the other side coming full-speed at them, would you throw yourself at your friend to save them?

That day, when Dante had given him the book of poems by William Carlos Williams, Ari, flushed with embarrassment and conscious of Dante’s focus on him, had read a line from the book: “from what we cannot hold the stars are made.” (73), and even though he had not understood what it meant, he had thought it was beautiful.


<Works Cited>
Sáenz, Benjamin Alire. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Kindle Edition.


“The Little Dipper to Bring You Home”: All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

“The Little Dipper to Bring You Home”:
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

Butch, who is Wavy’s stepfather’s friend, says:
If anybody wanted to know why that kid never talked, I could’ve told them. That’s what happens when your mom grabs you by the hair, clamps her hand over your mouth, and gives you a good shake while screaming in your face, “Don’t you ever talk to people! You don’t talk to anyone!” (Greenwood)

Wavy (formerly known as “Vonnie”) is a girl with “translucent” eyelashes and eyebrows to match the “silver-blond” of her hair. Most people assume she is shy or a little bit “slow” at learning, since she never talks and never eats in front of them. But Wavy’s cousin, Amy, knows that, if you looked deeply, you will see a “bottomless look” in Wavy’s eyes, and that you will see that there are “dark and full of a long view of the world.” People simply do not imagine that Wavy’s parents are drug addicts with frequently-changing moods, who force Wavy and her younger brother, Donal, to face the world on their own.

While most people are busy trying to fill up Wavy’s silence with their own chatter, and trying to find solutions to Wavy’s problems, Kellen is the only person who leaves enough space for Wavy to fill, even if she chooses not to. The author, Bryn Greenwood, describes Kellen as man who is “six-and-a-half-feet tall, over 300 hundred pounds, with a beer belly and greasy hands” (White), who tends to frighten people when he stands up. He has muscled arms that are covered with tattoos, and he is an ex-convict with a tendency to lose his temper easily. He is not exactly a ladies’ man, and Dee even thinks of him as “undiscovered species of redneck biker Indian” until she gets to know him better.

When Wavy and Kellen fall in love with each other, the problem is not that Kellen is an ex-convict, or that Wavy has problems with not speaking, sneaking out at night, and eating out of the trash. The biggest problem that people have with their relationship is the fact that Kellen is around twenty years-old, while Wavy is only eight. Unsurprisingly, society does not accept their love. Yet, from all of the ugly and the beautiful things that she has dealt with in her life, Wavy proves to readers just how much strength and endurance a person can have.

Here is how Wavy and Kellen first meet:

One night, when the moon is only a “tiny sliver of fingernail” in the sky. A young man named Kellen is riding on his motorcycle. Whether it is because he felt someone staring at him, or because he simply wants to look around at his surroundings, he notices a girl who is standing at the edge of the woods. With her silver-blond hair that trails down her shoulders, and her white dress that matches the brightness of the moon, Kellen thinks he is looking at an angel. He loses his control on his motorcycle, and ends up on crashing himself on the gravel road, bruised and bloodied, with a sprained ankle and a few broken bones. Wavonna, the girl who has been watching him, comes to help. After using the phone for the first time in her life to call for help, she comes back to Kellen. When she notices that Kellen is about to faint, she puts her hand on his cheek and calls his name to bring him back to her. Then, pointing her finger up to the North, she says, “Cassiopeia. Andromeda. Perseus. Cepheus. Cygnus. Ursa Minor.” And she keeps naming the stars until help arrives.

The reason why Wavy names the stars is because, as Wavy explains, “Mr. Arsenikos said if you knew the constellations you would never get lost. You could always find your way home.” This is why, before cancer took her grandmother away, Wavy drew the Little Dipper in the palm of her grandmother’s hand, so she could find her way home.


<Works Cited>
Greenwood, Bryn. All the ugly and wonderful things. Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martins Griffin, 2017, AxisNow, www.axisnow.com/#q?epub=https%3A%2F%2Fnode.axisnow.com%2Fcontent%2Fstream%2F9781466885806&.

White, Mara. “Bryn Greenwood: All the Ugly and Wonderful Things.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 6 Sept. 2016, www.huffingtonpost.com/mara-white/bryn-greenwood-all-the-ug_b_11857790.html.

“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.

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain: Is It Possible to Love Someone Too Much?

“Sometimes I wish we could rub out all of our mistakes and start fresh, from the beginning…And sometimes I think there isn’t anything to us but our mistakes” (McLain, 220).

This is what Elizabeth Hadley Richardson says in The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. She is the first wife, “the Paris Wife,” of Ernest Hemingway (he has a total of four wives in his life). After their divorce, Ernest Hemingway moves on to become the famous author that we all know – the author of The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, The Old Man and the Sea, along with others. Meanwhile, Hadley is left with a broken heart. Even though she eventually remarries, she is never able to fill up the space in her heart that was taken by Ernest (at least, that’s the impression I got from reading McLain’s novel). After all, Hadley is the one who told Ernest, “I’d love to look like you…I’d love to be you” (58). How much do you have to love someone in order to want to be them?

The main reason for Hadley and Ernest’s divorce is Ernest’s affair with Pauline Pfeiffer, Hadley’s friend. Pauline Pfeiffer “Pfife,” and Ernest start spending more time together and meeting up in secret behind Hadley’s back. However, that is not to say that Hadley is unaware of their love affair. It’s shocking enough that Ernest and Pfife continue their affair right under Hadley’s nose. What is worse is that Ernest wants to keep both women. Why can’t he do what every other man around him is already doing? The narrator says:

[Earnest] loved them both and that’s where the pain came in. He carried it in his head like a fever and made himself sick thinking about it. And sometimes, after hours lying awake, it came to him clearly that he only had to change his life to match his circumstances. Pound had managed it. He had Shakespear and Olga both and no one doubted he loved them. He didn’t have to lie; everyone knew everything and it all worked because he’d kept pushing and hadn’t compromised or become someone else…Why couldn’t Pfife be his girl? (256)

It needs to be acknowledged that Ernest is surrounded by people who are always drinking and throwing lavish parties and showing off their wealth, and that Ernest is inevitably influenced by this to a certain degree. However, the idea of wanting to keep a wife and a lover at the same time seems to be too much. It is not fair to use the excuse that everyone else is doing it, so why can’t he?

Ernest’s foolish hope of wanting to keep both his wife and his lover is not fulfilled. However, “Ernest Hemingway spent the last months of his life tenderly reliving his first marriage in the pages of his memoir, A Moveable Feast” (331), and this was the last thing he wrote before his death. Why did he relive his marriage with Hadley in his memoir when he had been so cruel to her when they were together? Was he really resentful of her losing the valise containing all of his work of writing? Is it possible that he missed her even while he was with his other wives?

A sidetrack: There is a song, called “Destiny” by a South Korean group called “Cool”. This song came out in 1996, I believe, and contains a storyline that is similar to the one of The Paris Wife. The protagonist of the song “Destiny” already has a girlfriend when he meets a girl who is everything he has ever dreamed of. He believes this new girl is “the one,” and is now torn between his girlfriend and this other girl. He says something along the lines of:

If I ask my girlfriend to leave me because I’ve found “the one,” it will ruin me.
But if, because of my girlfriend, I can never meet this other girl again, then I’ll be ruined, too.
It’s so frustrating, I can’t stand it, what should I do?
I can’t keep them both with me.
I’m so mad, I can’t let go of either.

Whenever I would hear this song, I used to feel nostalgic because of the way it brought back memories of when I was living in Korea with my family. However, my feelings towards this song changed while reading The Paris Wife. I still like the song, but because I’ve recently finished reading The Paris Wife, all of the pain and suffering Hadley had to face is brought to my mind when I listen to the lyrics. I think it’s wrong to love two people at once. You’d only end up hurting more people than you need to in the end.

In the end, Ernest Hemingway commits suicide by shooting himself. When Hadley hears of this, her husband, Paul Mowrer, asks her if he can get her anything, to which she says no. She says:

There was nothing Paul could possibly do for me except let me go – back to Paris and Pamplona and San Sebastian, back to Chicago when I was Hadley Richardson, a girl stepping off a train about to meet the man who would change her life. That girl, that impossibly lucky girl, needed nothing. (314)

When Hadley wishes she could go back in time, I’m reminded of how she wished the same thing when she realized that she and Ernest’s marriage was beginning to fall apart. It seems that sometimes people fall in love, and sometimes they fall out of love. Hadley had fallen in love with Ernest and had done everything she could to try to keep their love strong. As much as people try to keep their love, and their marriages intact, it does not seem to be as easy as they would like. Still, Hadley Richardson’s story makes me wonder, can a person can love someone too much? What are the consequences of that?


<Works Cited>

McLain, Paula. The Paris wife: a novel. Ballantine Books Trade Paperbacks, 2012.