Saturday, January 25, 2014

Banned/Challenged Books Book Club: January

Since getting my second job in September, I have been unable to attend my previous book club (sad) but have instead done my own posts about books I read (yay).  I’m actually taking that one step further this year.  I have a theme!  Isn’t it marvellous?!  This year for my book club I will be reading banned or popularly challenged books.  A couple of these are stories I’ve read already but most are books I’ve owned and needed to read, with a few books that I wanted to buy and needed a reason (yes!)

The first book for the Banned/Challenged book club was Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.  It starts with a group of men anchored, when one of them, Marlow begins to tell the tale of his trek in Africa to run a steam boat, though it doesn’t start well.  We start to hear of a mysterious man named Kurtz, who made his way into the jungle for ivory dealing.  Once his ship is repaired, Marlow is enlisted to go into the jungle to rescue Kurtz, who has fallen ill.

I had a difficult time making my way through this relatively short story because I found Conrad’s writing style to be lengthy sentences filled with superior vocabulary.  Which in and of itself is a good thing, but rather hard to navigate and make sense of at times.  I found it to be a story that I might have to reread to fully understand because I’m a fast reader and can miss things at times.

The controversy surrounding this story is the negative portrayal of African natives.  Most often compared to the white characters as savages and unintelligent, the post-colonial comparison has a tendency to rub some readers the wrong way.  I can see why this would bother some people.  I certainly had a difficult time reading some of Conrad’s descriptions.  But I think that Conrad’s story is a product of his time.  Authors have the penchant for writing what they know.  For Conrad, it was a colonial representation of Africa and its inhabitants.  That doesn’t mean Conrad doesn’t have a great story about the darkness within each of us.  It just means at times, the descriptions can be hard to read for open minded and modern people.

These are the quotes I particularly liked:

“I don’t like work--no man does--but I like what is in the work--the chance to find yourself.  Your own reality--for yourself, not for others--what no other man can ever know.” pg. 47

“I know nothing as to the fate of the less valuable animals.” pg. 55  referring to humans (!)

“He was there below me, and, upon my word, to look at him was as edifying as seeing a dog in a parody of breeches and a featherhat, walking on its hind-legs.” pg.61  seeing an African man working next to him on the boat

“To keep the eyes so long on one thing was too much for human patience.” pg. 64  

“You can’t breathe dead hippo waking, sleeping, and eating, and at the same time keep your precarious grip on existence.” pg. 68

“He positively danced, the bloodthirsty little gingery beggar.” pg. 87

That’s all for January, but coming soon (aka next month...aka will probably be a month since my life is crazy) is one of my favorite books, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.  I’m thrilled to be rereading this since I know it has been a while!  I'll probably started abbreviating Banned/Challenged Books Book Club, because that is very long to type. Or maybe just do Book Club like I did before....anywho, see you in February!

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