Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Efferent vs aesthetic reading

Louise Rosenblatt [110] explains  that readers approach the work in ways that can be viewed as aesthetic or efferent. The question is why the reader is reading and what the reader aims to get out of the reading. Is the text established primarily to help readers gain information with as little reading possible, or is the site established in order to create an aesthetic experience? 

  • Efferent reading: reading to “take away” particular bits of information.  Here, the reader is not interested in the rhythms of the language or the prose style but is focused on obtaining a piece of information.  Rosenblatt states, “the reader’s attention is primarily focused on what will remain as a residue after the reading — the information to be acquired, the logical solution to a problem, the actions to be carried out.” An example would be a deep sea fishing guide to decide where to go fishing, or a textbook to learn about the economic causes of the Great Depression. 
  • Aesthetic reading: reading to explore the work and oneself. Here, readers are engaged in the experience of reading, itself.  Rosenblatt states, “In aesthetic reading, the reader’s attention is centered directly on what he is living through during his relationship with that particular text.” [110, p. 25 ] An example would be reading Hemingway’s Old Man and The Sea to live through a deep sea fishing adventure, or the Grapes of Wrath to plumb the emotional depths of living through the Great Depression. One would not read the Old Man and The Sea to learn how to deep sea fish, nor the Grapes of Wrath to examine the economic factors that caused the Great Depression.

Thus, according to Rosenblatt, reading — and meaning-making? — happens only in the reader’s mind; it does not take place on the page, on the screen, or in the text, but in the act of reading. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The book thief- Markus zusak

The book is classified as young adult fiction but I think it's suited for an older audience as well. The story is so beautifully written that it kinda takes one's breath away. 
The story was narrated by Death. Death first encountered Liesel Meminger, the title character, on a train to Molching when her six year old brother died in his sleep. Death was intrigued by Liesel enough to keep watch over her. Liesel stole her first book when a grave digger dropped a grave digger's handbook in the snow while burying her brother. She was illiterate but she kept the book, perhaps to remember the moment her brother was buried forever in the ground. On Himmel street in Molching, Liesel found herself with a new set of parents - Hans Huberman and Rosa Huberman. Hans was a kindly man and Liesel immediately bonded with him. Rosa was loud and argumentative, and perhaps slightly abusive but she too had a big heart. It was Hans Huberman who painstakingly taught Liesel how to read. For her birthday, even though the family was scrapping by, she received books as gifts (Hans had traded his beloved cigarettes for them).
On Himmel street, Liesel befriended Rudy Steiner her neighbor, after a race in the mud. The bet was a kiss from Liesel if she lost the race. They tied and became the best of friends. Of all the characters in the book, I love Rudy Steiner the most. He was fiercely loyal to Liesel and cared for her in the tenderest of ways that a boy of 13 could ever care for anyone. Rudy was there when Liesel decided to steal books from the mayor's house out of spite for firing Rosa as their laundry woman; Rudy was there to cheer her on when she was humiliated for being illiterate; Rudy was there when Viktor the bully threw Liesel's book into the river-without a second thought, Rudy had jumped straight into the freezing waters to fish her book out of the river. Rudy asked for his kiss whenever the opportunity arose but we knew deep down that he was afraid of that kiss, just as Liesel was afraid too. There were several occasions when Liesel so wanted to kiss Rudy but decided not to.
Rudy eventually grew disgruntled after his father was sent away to serve in the army. He proclaimed his hatred for the Fuhrer and he empathized with the Jews. Rudy began giving out bread to the Jews who paraded through their town and on one occasion, witnessing a crashed enemy plane and a dying pilot, he placed a teddy bear next to his shoulder to offer a little comfort to the dying. Rudy stood up for his weaker friend, Tommy Muller, who was bullied in the Hitler's Youth training school. He got himself punished for helping Tommy. Rudy was such a beautiful character but we knew about halfway through the book that he was going to die. I found myself wishing and hoping that it wouldn't happen, that somehow a miracle would happen, and Rudy would be kept alive. Unfortunately that was not how the story went. Rudy, the Hubermans and all on Himmel street perished during a surprise bombing. Liesel was the lone survivor as she was writing her story in the basement of her home.
The basement was previously used to hide a Jew, the son of a man who had saved Hans' life. Because of a promise he made to the wife of his savior, Hans risked his and his family's lived by helping Max Vanderburg. Liesel and max became close friends, with Liesel treating Max like a precious pet. Liesel was worried when Max fell ill and became unconscious for days, she was grieved when Max eventually left after a careless (but kind) act by Hans. It did feel like Liesel was in love with Max but in the end, we knew who her heart was for. 
My heart broke at the end of the book when Liesel found Rudy's body. She finally told him how much she had loved him and gave him what he had always asked for. It was all too heartbreakingly late. I was reading this part of the story on the subway and was trying really hard not to cry. I had to close the book several times and distract myself with other thoughts, when the tears threatened to fall.
Strangely, I couldn't imagine how Rudy looked like. In my mind's eye, he was scrawny, with lemon hair, scruffy looking and with tattered clothes but I just couldn't "see" his face.  
the story of the book thief was lost during the bombing of Himmel street but it was picked up by Death. The book was returned to its writer when Death came to retrieve the soul of an old woman -Liesel. 
I really like the ending of the book when death wondered "how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and it's words and stories so damning and brilliant." I agree that human beings could be so ugly when we perpetrate violence and hate on each other and yet, human beings are capable of such great love and courage at the same time - we are a real paradox.
13/7 - 20/7/2016

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Into thin air- Jon Krakauer

I guess I've had my fill of mountaineering books for now. Into thin air was much better than a thousand summits, as krakauer really draws readers into the horrors of 1996's tragedy on Everest. Interest in the story was revived after the book by beck weathers (if I rem correctly) was made into a film. Beck weathers was one of the miracle survivors from the tragedy. I'll review the book more thoroughly next chance I get. Time to get cracking at a book I've hunted for so long- The Book Thief

10/7/2016 - 13/7/2016

Thursday, July 7, 2016

One mountain thousand summits - Freddie wilkinson

Couldn't find into thin air so I settled for this. The book feels a little too journalistic, very factual with I feel, very little human emotions. I guess the author's objective was to present the plain facts to readers of what was essentially a chaotic tragedy. The human memory is unfortunately not what we confidently believe it to be what it is. Oftentimes memories are laced by our perceptions, beliefs, emotions, etc. these plus the fact that the witnesses were all at an elevation of >8000m and were turning hypoxic, made it hard for a "true" picture to emerge. I found it hard to follow through about who's who, especially the Sherpas who shared similar names. The "star" of the story seemed to be an Irishman named Gerard McDonnell, who was a kind, affable man well-loved by many who knew him. He was always willing to help and was empathetic towards everyone. I can imagine what a lovely person he must have been and his helpfulness was what killed him eventually on K2. 
I'm not sure if the writer was biased against the Koreans but it did seem they were painted in a very bad light. Slave-drivers, a strong sense of the master-slave relationship thereby mistreating several of the Sherpas and porters they employed, stubborn, result-oriented, etc. it did really make me want to strangle Kim Jae-Su the leader of the Korean expedition who didn't seem to feel the least bit remorseful for his decision to summit despite warnings from one of the Sherpas that it was too risky. Based on some of my observations (and thus my biases), I was inclined to believe the writer. Some mountaineers also believed that above 8000m, it is every man for himself. This certainly gives the sport a bad rep- lack of sportsmanship among mountaineers. However, in Gerard, one finds the contrary. It was mentioned in the story that during one of his hike in Alaska(Denali?), he had went out of his way to help a group of Taiwanese and South Africans who were having trouble on the mountains. 
I think it goes to show that one should always respect the conditions of the mountains and know that we are at the mercy of them. One should know when to stop, when to try when the mountains let you, and not take unnecessary risks that result in the deaths of others and oneself. Not too bad a read 3/5
Completed 7/7/2016

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Two all-action adventures - bear grylls

Felt a little cheated when I thought the first story seemed familiar.. It was printed word for word in his autobiography mud sweat and tears. The second story was about his Arctic adventure, where he and 4 other crew members journeyed from Halifax, passing by Greenland and Iceland back to Scotland on a RIB-rigid inflated boat. It was absolute madness to try crossing the freezing ocean on a small open boat, with no place to hide from the elements of the weather and waters. It took the team about 16 days to complete their expedition, with two violent storms in between when they thought they were sure to die. After two years of hunting for sponsors and building up the boat, the crew finally set off into the unknown. Grylls was the leader of the crew and had to make tough decisions on whether to sail off through impending storms, call for rescue, setting up a rota, etc. the crew saw 20-foot high waves crashing down on them, making them cold and wet and at risk of hypothermia. Whilst crossing the Labrador Sea, the storm slowed down their advancement and sucked up their fuel, leaving them with the possibility of being stuck in the storm. Grylls prayed and prayed but didn't get the answer he wanted. Eventually he called the team's "PA" to call his friend at 3am to pray for the storm to cease. The prayer was answered. Again, I am in awe of his faith, that he truly believed in a God who watches over his people and saves them in times of trouble. 
After the desperate call for prayers, grylls woke up to a calm sea and they sailed incident-free to Greenland. Upon reaching Greenland, the crew was looking forward to days of rest to recover from the toll the storm had taken on them. Alas, after checking the weather forecast, grylls had to break the bad news to them. Because of another impending storm, they had to leave almost immediately, otherwise they would face being stuck for weeks. After much mulling, the entire crew decided to go with his decision to continue on their journey. 
They were unfortunately again hit head on by the storm and the crew took a worse beating than the previous trip. The boat's electrical powers were also starting to get whacked. They eventually lost all communication with base station and their tracking system. Family and those at the base station were frantic and thought they might be in serious trouble and were debating to launch rescue by the Icelandic coast guards. However, they knew if they were to call for rescue it would cost the team a large amount of money as well as rendered the expedition a failure. They set a time to initiate a rescue if they did not hear from the crew then. By some miracle, the rescue was almost about to happen at 1930hrs and the crew managed to get cell signal at the very last minute and called the base station at 1929hrs.  The rescue was immediately called off. If this wasn't a work of God, I don't know what is. After the ordeal, the crew reached Iceland safely and for the rest of the journey home, all was good. 
Fantastic read once again. I think grylls has a knack for drawing readers into his adventures. It feels almost as if you were there with him as part of the crew crossing the North Atlantic Ocean.

I like these passages as well as a poem that Mickey Grylls (bear's father) wrote :
I have passed on.
Remember my time with you.
Treasure all those moments together ,
Those moments of fun and laughter,
As you remember, know that I am with you.
It is not the number of years we live that counts,
It's how we live that matters.
As you live your lives, remember that I am with you.
Build on the beliefs we created together.
Hold on to that which is right. 
Discard all that is wrong.
When you are happy, know that I am with you.
When you are sad or in pain, know that I am with you. 
True love does not need a physical presence;
What is called death is no more than the removal of the physical being. 
Now that I have passed on I understand it all. 
I am hand in hand with our Lord, yet I am with you. 

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Martian- Andy weir

Absolutely fantastic book. Love the cleverness of the story although it is sometimes (actually most of the times) mind-boggling with the math, the physics, and the chemistry. I love the dry sense of humor of watney and I could see why he was a character well-loved by his team mates. 
On a mission to Mars, Watney was injured by a displaced antenna during a storm. Thinking that he was probably dead and in desperation not to lose more lives, his team mates had to abandon him. However Watney made it alive despite the breach to his suit. We saw how desperate to stay alive Watney was and how creative he was in finding various ways to solve problems that hit him over and over again- an explosion while trying to separate hydrogen in the Hab, fixing the pathfinder to establish communication with Earth, modifying the Rover to travel long distance to a MAV, etc. he was a mechanical engineer and botanist by training but he was forced to become an all-rounder maverick being the only person on Mars. It was funny when he said he was the first for everything that occurred during his stay, the first man to grow potatoes, the first man to travel xxx distance, the first man to reach a certain landmark, etc. 
I would love to re-read this book some day again; it was plain fun! 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

I'm drifting in the in-between
What makes reality and
What makes a dream?