Shirley Jackson and Her Subtle, Masterful Creepiness

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Just two weeks ago, I purchased a copy of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, a now-classic novel that was originally published in 1962. This was Shirley Jackson's final book before she died in 1965, and it's a book I've repeatedly told myself to pick up. I'm glad I finally got around to reading it.

This eerie tale is narrated by Merricat Blackwood who lives on their family estate with her sister, Constance, and their uncle. There used to be seven Blackwoods in their estate until one night, a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl. Later, after Constance was acquitted of the murders, she has returned home and it's Merricat's mission to protect her from the curiosity and hostility of the villagers in the town. They happily stayed put in their home until their cousin, Charles, appears. Only Merricat can see the danger and she must try every possible way to keep Constance away from him.

The premise is enough to capture any reader's attention; it is full of intrigue and mystery! Add to that the never ending praise this novel has gotten over time and I found myself expecting something from this book as I was reading it. I have to admit that I wasn't sure what to think. I spent most of my time trying to find the 'creepy parts' that everyone keeps talking about. I was waiting for the horror part of the novel. It didn't come for me, and when I finished it, I felt disappointed because I wasn't creeped out at all. I mean, yes, it was perfectly paced, excellently told, effortlessly written, and it was so easy to read and get through. However, something seemed to be missing for me while I was reading it.

Then that night, I found myself laying in bed, ready to sleep, but unable to, as images of the Blackwoods sisters kept creeping into my mind. It was such an uncomfortable situation, being bothered by a story I thought I was done with. I even ended up having a dream about some events in the book. When I woke up from my dream, I felt disturbed.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is, Shirley Jackson proved to be a master at creating subtle, eerie moments that will sneakily creep up on you when you least expect it. As the reader, you will surrender yourself and be lost in the world Shirley Jackson created. You might be like others who will get lost in her world while reading it or you could be like me, who won't experience the book until right after. Either way, her stories will feel real. They will be raw and they will make you feel something; it's incredibly immersive, sometimes uncomfortably so. It left me disturbed, but also wanting more from Shirley Jackson. What a fantastic writer and storyteller, and I'm so happy I finally got around to reading this. It's been a long time coming.

Why Everyone Should See The Revenant (even though it's not for everyone)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

I saw The Revenant the day it came out. I was waiting for this movie for a while due to the promising trailer and anticipation from others, and I was so excited to see another Leonardo Di Caprio film. I also could not wait to watch another film directed by Alejandro Innaritu. After seeing his creative work in Birdman, I craved his sense of style - original, transcendent, and artistic.

The Revenant certainly did not disappoint. Leonardo di Caprio delivered a haunting performance. He played it with the kind of passion that is unforgettable. He is unrelenting, and it was easy for me to personally empathize with the character, completely forgetting that this was the same actor who starred in many other familiar movies. He was just different here! He truly captured the anguish, sorrow, despair, and many other emotions stirred in this film.

Of course, Innaritu delivered as well. I believe that there hasn't been a film that has offered a more visceral experience than this. He truly made the world immersive, and he made it as realistic and believable as possible. I'd like to mention that when filming this, he only used natural light and they only shot during certain times of the day, aiming to capture the raw essence of the environment. That to me is dedication.

Innaritu (left)
I also have to mention the cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, as his shots, to put it simply, were magnificent and unforgettable! Both Innaritu and Lubezki showed the harshness of their unforgiving location and they showcased its undeniable beauty. They both truly partnered into creating a one-of-a-kind piece of art.

As for recommending this movie, I do think this movie is not for everyone. In fact, certain moviegoers would think of The Revenant as an absolutely boring and slow film. Some would say the story is mediocre. While I personally don't see it that way, I do see it from their perspective. Now the reason why I still think everyone should see the movie whether or not one might like it is simply because it is different. It does not dumb itself down, it is serious, it is aggressive. It is slower paced than most movies nowadays, which is something not everyone's used to. It took its time telling its story and it developed the suspense, thrilling the audience with its slow peak to an epic conclusion. As for the story, it may seem like a mediocre story but the film showed how magnificent Hugh Glass's story is. Learning more about him is great enough, but seeing it told in a visual way like this gives it a bit more of a relatable feel.

All in all, I believe The Revenant demands to be seen and it deserves to be seen by everyone, whether  or not you might like it. You could very well hate it, but you might also appreciate it for what it is and for what its goal is - to give the viewers the ability to have a visceral cinematic experience. Any movie that is as ambitious and creative as this is a winner in my book. 

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Rating: 4.5 stars
The Master and Margarita is one of the seminal works of twentieth-century Russian literature. In this book, the devil is disguised as a magician who goes to Moscow in the 1930s, accompanied with a talking cat and an expert assassin. Admittedly this crazy-sounding story intimidated me, and I wasn't wrong to feel this way. As everyone has warned me, it is quite an unusual story. To be honest, I'm not even sure I fully understand it, but it has sparked my interest and I've been reading essays on this, learning more about others' take. Generally, I think it is a satirical and philosophical look on communism, religion, history, and maybe even fantasy. It is quite strange but beautiful at the same time. With a genius prose like Bulgakov's, you can't go wrong. I do this it is entertaining on its own, so if you're looking for a well-written story, go for it. However, understanding the subtext and deeper messages make it even more hauntingly substantial! Overall, I thought it was unnerving, poetic, funny, terrifying, and truly transcendent.

Recent Acquisitions: Which One To Read First?

Monday, March 14, 2016

I rarely treat myself, but after working a bit and not buying anything for myself, I decided to treat myself and buy some books. These titles have been on my wishlist for a while now. Since our local bookstore was having a 40% off sale going on, I decided to take advantage of this.

As expected and just like any other reader, I am having a hard time deciding which one to read first. Should I pick the memoir of a neurosurgeon faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis? I keep hearing how astounding it is. Or should I finally dig into this eerie classic by Shirley Jackson that I shamefully haven't read even though I should've by now? Or maybe I should start with H is for Hawk, which has been getting all the hype and accolades lately. Help!

Just Finished and Currently Reading

Monday, March 7, 2016

I finished The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett and as it promised, it really was a "delightful tale of love and bibliophilia." This fictional novel is about a young antiquarian bookseller who relocates to the English countryside, hoping to outrun his grief from the loss of his wife and rediscover the joy he once took in collecting and restoring rare books. This premise automatically caught my attention as I was craving a bookish book.

I thought that it was an effortless page-turner that is charming and compulsively readable. It was hard to put down, and it was so easy to read that I just went through it pretty quickly. I did like the relationships in this story, especially the romantic connection between two characters as I thought it was believable. However, there were admittedly some parts of the book that were just too over the top and not as realistic as I wish it was. For a book that calls itself a mysterious thriller, I felt that it lacked that thrill I was looking for. That being said, I still thoroughly enjoyed my time reading this novel. I would recommend it to readers craving for a very bookish book as it is essentially a novel for bibliophiles. 

Currently, I am reading The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. This novel is considered a phenomenon and is one of the seminal works of twentieth-century Russian literature. In this fictional story, the devil is disguised as a magician and he goes to Moscow in the 1930s, accompanied with a talking cat and an expert assassin. Yes, you read that right. A little odd? I guess you could say that. I am really liking it so far though, even though it is a bit of a strange novel. We'll just have to see what I eventually think of it when I'm finished with it. 

What was the last book you read and your current one? Would love to know! 

Books Are Everything

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Books are everything. They are loyal and constant companions. They accept our unpredictable moods, understanding when we want to take a break from reading and welcoming us back with open arms when we want to start over again. They offer much-needed escapism, but they also force us to see both the beautiful and harsh realities of life. Books of course also educate and inform. They broaden minds and open worlds we otherwise would never know about. We learn about people, about situations, and different scenarios. They show pathways in life and they mirror life itself. 
Books have opened doors to endless opportunities for learning and discovery, understanding and empathy. They make us more well-rounded and more sensitive individuals. To me, books are more than just a hobby. It is a necessity. Although yes, let's be honest - it is undoubtedly one of the most fun and relatively affordable forms of entertainment. Simply put, books feed one's soul.