Thursday, April 10, 2014

Books Read In March 2014

I've been frantically finishing up summative assignments and prepping for tests, so my blog has been low on my priority list of late, but better late than never.

The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis (re-read)

While re-reading The Silver Chair this time around, my focus was on the future movie adaptation announced last October. My thoughts were on things like how Puddleglum would be portrayed on screen (CGI? Make-up? Both?), how the Prince Rilian flashback would be handled, whether or not the film-makers should re-imagine the scene where Aslan blows Jill and Eustace down to Narnia (which has the potential to look ridiculous on-screen) etc. I also made sure to understand the most important themes, so I could criticize any changes made accordingly. I would say The Silver Chair is about doing your duty even when its hard, even when it leads to death. To find the lost Prince Rilian, Jill is given four signs to follow by Aslan. The signs serve as a metaphor for morality and the climax of the story is when the characters choose to trust Aslan and stick to the signs even though it will probably be the death of them. Puddleglum's steadfastness is the heart of the book. Even though he's sure the worst is going to happen, he is going to do the right thing. The Silver Chair is one of the gloomiest books, but also one of the funniest, with a couple laugh-out-loud moments. Assuming the movie gets off the ground, I have a few years of geeky fun ahead of me.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

After reading Brave New World, I have now read the "Big 3" of dystopias, the other two being 1984 and Farenheit 451. Farenheit 451 is still my favourite by far, but I liked Brave New World better than 1984. Brave New World pictures a world where sex is firmly separated from procreation, promiscuity is the new social norm (with monogamy being the new taboo), and eugenics rule. Every generation is grown in test tubes and carefully conditioned to fit neatly into a societal niche. For example the working class babies are given a dislike of books and flowers to keep them from having a desire to read or move to the country. The people in this society are slaves to their predestined roles in society. The book has a lot to do with the suppression of the individual in society, hedonism, and worship of science, though in this society "science" has ceased to be science. Innovations and discoveries are rejected in favour of maintaining the status quo. The society in Brave New World champions stability and happiness. There is the sense that part of our humanity is lost when we no longer have conflict or adversity. We stagnate and cease to really liveThe two main characters are John, a "savage" who lives with a tribe outside of modern society, and Bernard, a dissatisfied member of one of the higher castes. I highly value individuality and I could empathize with Bernard's odd wish to not be so darn useful to the social body, but to be independent, to be me. This may well be a foolish wish, but I can't help but have it. 

Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis (re-read)

This was a very rewarding re-read. I had been feeling a bit of a spiritual cramp and, while this book wasn't the only thing that got me out of it, it did a great deal. It really reaffirmed a lot of what I believe. Going back to the basics is never outdated. Another thing that hit me was what Lewis said about evil always coming in pairs - an excess and a defect like in Aristotle (and by the way, I saw a lot of philosophical influences in this book from Aristotle, Plato, Kant etc. that I hadn't picked up on before). The point Lewis was making is that politically, we're divided between totalitarianism and individualism, but both will lead to ruin if followed to extremes and what we really need, like usual, is a balance between extremes. This hit me hard, because recently I've been all about individualism as a political theory, but I see now that individualism can't be an end in itself because it would lead to isolation in the same way that totalitarianism as an end in itself would lead to the abolition of the individual. Thank you, Mr. Lewis. I don't know where I'd be without you.