Bronte-Saurus

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It seems fitting to follow the light and airy Georgette Heyer with my next foray into the roots of romance. Somewhere in the wilds of ______shire (Yorkshire, if you must know), six children were born to the family Bronte. Of the six, four made it to adulthood, three became authors, one became an alcoholic, and all died very young indeed. The three young ladies that managed to narrowly avoid death in their childhood all went on to author classics of literature and die before the age of 40. Quite the track record. The young man, sadly, also died young, leaving no issue and the heir to the Bronte throne has never emerged.

For this #36in12, I have chosen one novel by each of the Bronte girls – Anne, Emily, and Charlotte. I have struggled with the order of presentation, but I think I will just go by age at the time of death: Anne first, since she made it all the way to 29, then Emily, who made it to 30, and finally, the lone survivor of the Bronte girls, who passed quietly from the earth at the age of 39. Between 1816 and 1855, these girls churned out an astounding number of gothic treasures from their quiet rectory on the moors. I would have loved to have been a fly on their sitting room wall, as they talked over their plots and plans. I think they built castles in the air to escape from the lassitude of illness that colored their lives, and a fine job they did of it, too. Reader, the #36in12 project presents:

 Emily

Anne Bronte

Agnes Grey

Anne, the youngest and least known of the sisters produced Agnes Grey in 1847. Agnes is a semi-autobiographical novel, based on her own experiences as a governess. Written in an epistolary style, I felt rather as if I were peeking into someone else’s diary. Going on the Masterpiece Theater theme, Agnes embarks on her career as a governess after being the petted family baby for eighteen years, still being told to go out and play as the family deals with a tragic financial reverse that sends Rector Grey into a permanent decline. Ambitiously, Agnes sets out to find a position and her first effort lands her in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Bloomfield and their completely horrible children. Teachers today, please read of Agnes’ trials. She is reduced to actually holding the children’s’ hands and forcing them to write, suffering physical abuse at their hands, and generally making the average American schoolchild look angelic. The demonic children – possessed of the devil, I suppose – stunningly enough fail to acquire satisfactory progress, are shipped off to boarding school and Agnes is relieved of her command. Really, she was quite relieved.

Agnes’ next situation is better, though she encounters the spoiled country darling Rosalie, who feels it incumbent upon herself to enslave every man she meets. Sadly for Agnes, whose fancy has finally lit upon a worthy subject – the socially awkward but darkly Rochester-esque Reverend Weston – Rosalie finds a way to have a go at him too. Agnes indulges in her emotions only in print – outwardly, she is a model of propriety, but inwardly – oh, the still waters do indeed run deep.

I had never heard of Agnes Grey until a short time ago, when finding that my month was running low and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was long. Therefore, I cannot cross Wildfell from #theLIST, but I have met a new friend. Anne’s writing is strongly reminiscent of Charlotte and Anne touches lightly on themes that are common to all the sisters, but caresses them lightly, as if a rather reserved, old-fashioned friend had come to tell her tale. There is no trace of self-pity throughout her sufferings and a sharp bite of sauce underneath that quiet façade. The knock against Agnes is that the heroine never seems to grow of find fault with herself. I will be truthful here – in my journal, I am always right, too. Therefore, I had no real issue with her long-suffering goodness. I truly enjoyed Agnes Grey, and look more forward to The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Yes, of Anne, I want more.

Emily

Emily Bronte

Wuthering Heights

On to Emily, who passed her 30th birthday and faded from the earth, leaving behind a legacy of an I-don’t-know-what kind of work: Wuthering Heights. Once again, I have managed to avoid this book all my life and I had it vaguely categorized as a tragic romance and a portrayal of deep, undying love. I think I knew there was some star-crossed hi-jinks going on, but my mind had a vision of a tree standing over a barren moor, with Heathcliff standing tall and proud while Catherine claims her place at his side.

Reader, I was so very mistaken that I turn my face in shame.

The story of Wuthering Heights is long and winding, beginning with a man bringing home a child, hinted to be of gypsy origin, to live with his family, particularly his daughter, Catherine. No tales of familial warmth and support. As a matter of fact, the tale seems to wind around the continual theme of man’s inhumanity to other men (and women). Catherine and Heathcliff share a stormy childhood and grow into teens, as told by the faithful servant Nell to the tenant of the Grange, Mr. Lockwood. Yet, suddenly, while courting Mr. Linton, Catherine announces her undying love for Heathcliff, who lingers in the background, in his servant’s/shunned son guise, only long enough to hear that she plans on marrying Linton for his money. He abruptly departs, saying no goodbyes, and leaves Catherine to fumble through marriage to a milk-toast man without an ounce of spirit. Not an ounce. Heathcliff refashions himself as a man of wealth and mystery and returns, marrying Linton’s sister out of revenge, perhaps.

I have never seen so many people go into declines so quickly. Having read a fair bit of Victorian literature, I had heard about the ravages of a decline. People actually died from decline, and, in Wuthering Heights, they did-with appalling regularity.  I believe the decline was epidemic in _______shire during the eighteen-year span of the story.

Upon careful consideration, I believe that I, too, would lapse into a decline if all the awful interpersonal relationships dominated my life. There are incidents ranging from hanging puppies to keeping perfectly capable human beings in ignorance and filth. No one treats their spouse well and only manage to bury them decently grudgingly. Self-centered, uncontrolled passions rule Wuthering Heights, and I find no romance whatsoever.

Finally, Heathcliff loses his strength and falls into a decline too. High time, if you ask me. And we see the birth of the paranormal romance as his ghost and Catherine’s join in the (hopefully) peaceful afterlife. There was certainly no peace in their corporeal form.

The writing is beautiful and the descriptions of conditions are vivid – from the most beautiful to the most appalling. Filth and squalor line up neatly against moors dotted with harebells or covered in deep, silent snow. I certainly was uncomfortable with the people in Wuthering Heights, but I would love to stand on the moors. I suppose that is enough as I put Emily away. I find it very good news that her second (rumored) manuscript has never been found. I don’t think I could bear to read it.

Charlotte

 

Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre

And finally, Charlotte, who was the only sister to marry and subsequently expire during her pregnancy. She has the distinction of being the most prolific writer, simply because she lived ten years longer than either of her sisters. Her first novel, The Professor, did not find favor with publishers, when it made the rounds in the company of Agnes Grey and Wuthering Heights. Undiscouraged, she finished her sweeping epic of love and madness, Jane Eyre. I must confess here that I have long, long, long loved Jane and her tale of hopelessness turned to redemption. Jane is a character of fire, with strong running passions evident from childhood. Passion is, apparently, a bad thing, since she gets shipped off by her uncaring guardian to Lowood, where she suffers deep spiritual and physical privations and manages to lose her first friend from consumption. Charlotte was familiar with consumption, or tuberculosis, intimately, having encountered it in her own school days and losing all of her sisters, eventually, to the disease. The first to go was Maria, who was the saintly model for Helen Burns, over whom I have wept many a heartbroken tear for the last forty years. But Jane is indomitable and manages to survive, only to travel to Thornfield Hall, far away in _______shire.

Here, we once again meet the Byronic hero, Edward Rochester. Not a handsome man, but a man of passion and fire. He is a man of secrets and regrets, which he pours into Jane’s ears, little by little, bringing his tiny, plain, and poor governess into his full confidence except for that one, teeny, tiny fact – he keeps his mad wife in the attic. Now, there is nothing at all unusual about this arrangement.  Lacking in long-term mental health facilities that offered humane treatment to the insane, the attic was a pretty good option. Read about Bedlam and you will agree with me. Still, as Jane discovers this fact she pulls a Heathcliff and disappears in the dead of the night to tread close to death and build an independent life.

Jane’s fiery nature cannot be contained long and Charlotte seems to play with the paranormal as she hears a cry for her return to Thornfield across hundreds of miles. Her return brings a resolution to a long-suffering life, only to be borne because Jane’s spirit cannot be broken. Many are the trials she endures, but she always remains Jane. Jane will always remain, to me, a model of strength in adversity. She endures what she must, changes what she can, and accepts what she cannot. She is a serenity prayer who is not serene at all. Fearless and never helpless, Jane fights, but she fights fairly. When she could have lapsed from her principles or, worse, into a decline, she moves forward. Jane, Jane, Jane – how I love thee.

The Brontes made a mark on Victorian literature early and readers can see the roots of Christian romance (Agnes Grey), paranormal (I hesitate to call it this) romance (Wuthering Heights), and the birth of the Gothic novel (Jane Eyre). These sisters were as influential as any writer in their day, with their books devoured by a secret society of Victorian rebels who read novels when they were not instructive – merely entertaining. Their footprint on literature remains, a permanent impression on the literary collective conscience. This #36in12 was well worth the time and it knocks two off #theLIST. I make progress, I think.

Hearts:

Agnes Grey – 8/10 hearts. It was charming but not very deep.

Wuthering Heights – 6/10. I constitutionally cannot give anyone more if puppies are injured.

Jane Eyre – 10/10. She is my constant companion when there is no possibility for going on a walk that day.

The Year of Reading Dangerously – A Retrospective

Atrix 12-28-2012 377

So, 2012 was the Year of Reading Dangerously and I read #theLIST with, at times, sheer dogged determination. The question remains, was it a noble quest that has improved me as a person, or is it just a completed check box?

First, I will list the memorable highlights from #theLIST:

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

What did this book do for me? It made me, for the first time in 30 years, turn off the movie Blade Runner. It made me think about what is life, exactly, and why do we cling to it. Everyone in that book is doomed to die, decaying into the kipple that will be the last remnants of human kind. Why distinguish whether it is an artificial life? All will perish. It’s just that simple.

Cat’s Cradle

It’s Vonnegut. He looks at the world in a different way. He is sad, weary, and resigned – but he is going out with the last bitter laugh.

Revolutionary Road

This is beautiful and terrible truth that we try to deny – the relationship between men and women when divorce and birth control were unavailable. These gaps led countless people into relationships that are mercilessly exposed in Jack and April Wheeler. Merciless. Everyone and everything is merciless and could, so very easily, be repeated. A cautionary tale that could be a mirror, if one were not careful.

The House of Mirth

There was nothing at all funny about Lily’s descent from the brink of social success to inevitable poverty and shame. But Wharton was a brilliant artist, dazzling us with glittering prose and leading us into ruin, one step at at time.

Now for the Also-Rans:

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Too much science, not enough fiction. A surgical removal of the fish lists would have vastly improved this read.

Atonement

Overwrought prose almost completely obscured a really interesting concept. If stubbornness had not kicked in, I would have missed it because I would have abandoned the book less than halfway through.

Overall, I read about half of #theLIST this year and will continue on that journey. I have taken on a new appreciation for science fiction, thanks to Androids and Fahrenheit 451. I have reminded myself that one can laugh at a disaster, even if the laugh is cynical and sad. I have gone on adventures and seen myself in some not so flattering lights.

Other notable reads this year:

The Hobbit

The Shining

The Things They Carried

The Casual Vacancy

As for next year, I get a new tag: #36in12. After improving my mind so much, I’m going to the romance genre. I owe myself a bit of mind candy. There may also be a #10thGradeEnglish, too, since I read whatever my daughter reads for her literature class. Antigone, anyone?

Quite A Fish Story – 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

200000leagues

I really wanted my last entry for 2012 to be a rip-roaring adventure. I have virtuously wound my way through serious literature – I mean serious literature. I have, at times, been depressed, but I will get to that tomorrow. Today, I must take exception to the scurrilous trick played on me by Classics Illustrated Comics in 1972. Gracing the pages of the graphic novel was a rousing adventure under the sea, led by this man:

 

 

captain nemo

Captain Nemo.

Ah, no. Such was not the case. The creator of the science fiction novel, Jules Verne, concentrated entirely too much on the science and not nearly enough on the fiction.

I read this on a Kindle, so I have no real clue as to how long this book is. It reads like it’s about 500 pages. And parts of it can be traced back to my Classics Illustrated experience. The battle with the giant squids is not to be missed. I mean, really – the dude is out there, slashing off tentacles with an ax. Truly the stuff of adventure!

The adventure part of the book, including the exposition, rising, and falling action, can easily be relayed in 200 really solid pages. The other 300 pages, however, are an author fancying himself a taxonomist, listing every fish, eel, whale, seal, penguin, starfish, and all flora in long, long passages full of scientific terminology. Our hero, Professor Aronnax is a chronicler of the first order and his mission is to catalog all the species of flora and fauna he encounters in his 20,000 league adventure. Sears and Roebuck actually stole this idea for their early advertising, I am pretty sure. This catalog experience blew the promise of adventure out of the water, until I learned to recognize when Verne was about to start listing, at which point I started skipping.

I was also disappointed in the lack of characters. In effect, there were four characters:

Our good Professor, with whose every thought the reader becomes intimately acquainted;

Captain Nemo, about whom we learn little, if anything, other than he has a dastardly side that only reveals itself at 99% finished;

Conseil, the professor’s servant who serves only as an echo and refers to his employer as “Master” – ‘Nuf said;

And finally –

Ned Land, an energetic harpooner who happens to be dragged along for the ride.

500 pages. Fish. And four characters.

No wonder it took me a month to finish it! (I do claim a slight reprieve for having the ‘flu and the holiday season.)

I am not sorry I read it. It is an interesting side trip into the genre that ultimately yielded the disturbing Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? But it does explain a lot about why they invented Classics Illustrated.

So, while I cannot love this book, nor will I be anxious to venture into Verne again, I must give it 6/10 hearts. If they had ruthless editors in Verne’s time, this would have been a much better story.

#Winning with Wharton – The House of Mirth and Ethan Frome

I had never read any Edith Wharton until this year, when I took a left turn into literature and tried to ferret out the undiscovered gems that would make me a better person, or at least a better-read person. Wharton was uncharted territory, miraculously having skipped all of her body of work in my dogged pursuit of English literature. Wharton, ever the American, did not fit into my undergraduate Brit Lit agenda and I dismissed her in favor of Austen and Dickens. I admit it. I was a fool.

When I opened The House of Mirth, an unhappy tale in a supposedly gilded age, I was enchanted by her writing style. Beautiful phrases trickled from the page, bringing me deeply into the underbelly of “getting ahead in society” when “society” had a capital “S”. So beautiful was the language that I almost forgot to notice the steady, downward decline of our heroine Lily Bart. Poised on the brink of social success, meaning marrying into money, she makes a small mistake – hardly noticeable. Well, except that everyone notices. Her prospects shrink accordingly, incrementally over time, leaving her to an inevitable end. Wharton couches the unblinking skewering of societal expectations about the nature and behavior of women in the most beautiful language. As I lose myself in her simple descriptions of snowfall and tears, I almost forget that an ugly, ugly fiasco is taking place before my eyes. She encapsulates the feel of the age – gilded with gold and glitter – with stark reality – not all that glitters is gold. Lily’s gold is lost, and Lily along with it.

Entranced with Wharton, I moved on through The Age of Innocence and finally to Ethan Frome. Wharton’s voice is still clear and she finds magic in the ordinary. Unlike The House of Mirth, she begins with a tragedy that ends with a worse tragedy – it is almost unbearably bleak. This time, Wharton moves away from the society of privilege to the society of poverty – a small, snowbound town in New England. Here, where people “go funny” after a while, Ethan Frome lives out his misery. The story, told by a passing stranger who happened on the town tragedy, is one of unuttered longing and dreams deferred. The triangular relationship between Ethan, his wife Zeena, and her poverty stricken cousin Mattie pops from question to conclusion to question with the regular bounces of an old-fashioned pin ball machine. One minute, the reader thinks one thing. The next minute, the reader thinks another. Step by step, in true Wharton fashion, the characters tread the path of inevitability as surely as they tread the path to the grave. Actions and consequences are astoundingly sharp and the bite of the pain stings even a reader sitting in a comfortable recliner removed in time and place from Ethan. Wharton’s unmerciful pen has created a dark, depressing story in which there is no resolution – and therein lies the tragedy of it all.

Wharton was apparently not at all interested in a happy ending. That is probably why she is overshadowed by Austen and Dickens, who were interested in a happy ending. Her voice is clear, insightful, and rapier-sharp. Her words cut through pretense and posturing to lay bare the souls that mirror our own longings and ambitions. Holding the mirror, she shows us how we may fail and that spectacular success is only balanced by spectacular failure. No one is #Winning in Wharton. I know I will return to Wharton’s world again and again. I will return even knowing that I will walk away with paper cuts on my hands, eating lemons.

9/10 Hearts. I love a disaster.

Sometimes, “Sorry” is Just Not Enough

I had to give Atonement a few days to percolate. There are two sides to this coin and both sides carry equal weight. Like a football captain, I stand on the field and call heads or tails. On each side of the coin, there is a valid argument for why this books is a literary masterpiece and why it is a slog from hell.

Because I like to end on a positive note, I will start with why this entry on #theLIST could be considered an unbearable slog. The major issue, to me, is the interminable (but extremely lushly written) exposition, which lasts for half the book. That’s right. Half the book. McEwan spends the first half of the book on a day or so in the lives of the later main characters. He sets up the characters, inch by inch, revealing by their actions their interrelationship with each other. Sadly, none of the characters are particularly likable, with the exception of Robbie. It is also difficult to wade through the winding, image-laden prose, to the main character points that must be borne in mind for the second half of the book. My entire book club, all of whom made it through The 19th Wife, another story altogether, gave up before getting out of book one. That is when you know the exposition is too long and the prose overwrought. I admit, I had strong thoughts about giving up during Book 1 myself. It seemed as if nothing would ever happen.

And then, something did happen – an action which permanently altered the course of lives. Book 2 moves through World War II years, when Briony and Cecelia become nurses. Ever competitive, the two sisters move through the war, struggling to work out their relationship and balance that with other relationships. Minor characters disappear, except being mentioned in passing, inserting events that would later prove to be important and insightful. This is where Atonement starts earning its accolades. McEwan is a master of dropping a hint, here and there, that leads inexorably to a conclusion that is as unsatisfying as it is realistic. And here is where Atonement earns its literary kudos – in the unfulfilled desire to make amends that can never be made.

On the positive side, I have read a lot of overwrought prose in the last year and McEwan, at least, does it really well. He concentrates on sights, smells, and literary metaphors that play out – like bridges between the past and the present. His writing style feels heavy and sometimes very burdensome, but he creates a world that cradles its people with perfect synchronicity. If you can wade through the jungle of adjectives, you find the core idea. If you cannot wade through the adjectives, you throw the book at the wall and head straight back to whatever you were reading before you started this piece.

Love it or hate it, the realism is gritty, even if it is buried in the appearance of beauty. No one really ends well here, nor should they, if we discount fairy tale endings. The ability to wring so much regret is a great gift. I just wish he would make the payoff a little easier to achieve – when five out of seven avid readers throw the book aside in disgust, it screams for a bit of restraint.

7/10 hearts – and that is only because I finished the book. Had I not made it past Book 1 through sheer, dogged stubborn will, I would probably have given it 4/10.

In Which a Book is Added to #theLIST

Why The Good Earth did not make #theLIST is beyond me. Perhaps I had forgotten, in these many years since high school, the masterful novel following the arc of life for Wang Lung, the poor Northern Chinese farmer. In a revised list, The Good Earth becomes a must – it is a book one should read before one dies.

Much has been written about the main plot points of the story, which begins on Wang Lung’s wedding day to an unseen slave from the House of Hwang, O-Lan. It begins with Wang Lung thinking that his wedding morning would be the last morning that he would be responsible for lighting the fire and heating the plain water that greeted the start of each day for him and his father. And it was the last day that he undertook a task in the household. Thus began the long road of change for Wang Lung. It seems that many reviewers get lost in Wang Lung’s relationship with O-Lan, who is a masterfully drawn sympathetic character. She probably speaks less than twenty lines in the entire work, but her presence is Wang Lung’s first step out of grinding poverty. Where Wang Lung dreams, O-Lan acts. Her stoicism seems admirable and her realistic appraisal of their situation is necessary to move Wang Lung to action.

Early on, Wang Lung is intimidated by the House of Hwang and has little respect for the Old Mistress and Old Lord – particularly the Old Mistress, who is lost in opium addiction. Little by little, Wang Lung raises his family from poverty – even through a stint of fleeing a famine that leaves his first daughter profoundly retarded. He toils in the city as O-Lan , his children, and his father beg. For a year, they make no progress, but fortunate turns of events in a revolution give him and his family the means and opportunity to return to a barren land. There, Wang Lung fills his spirit with working the land, and fills his pride by educating two of his sons. As his prosperity increases, he is able to hire laborers and turn his attention to those things that idle men do. He gives no real thought to the consequences of his actions on the family; he is led astray by prosperity.

Over the course of time, Wang Lung rises to the level of the Old Lord, living in town, in the courts of the House of Hwang, and generally at the mercy of his better-educated sons. Like his father before him, he lays in the son and attends to his fool, the profoundly retarded daughter O-Lan gave birth to during the famine. He strays from his love of the land to grow fat and oily while his sons quarrel and their wives quarrel and his servants quarrel. All his life, Wang Lung searched for peace. The only time he really ever had peace was in his early years with O-Lan and his final years with Pear Blossom. Peace comes hard for Wang Lung, and the final encounter with his sons does nothing to promise him peace in death.

Many reviewers stop with the death of O-Lan, who is the sympathetic character. But it is Wang Lung’s story. His journey from peasant farmer to wealthy Lord is both a testament to the value of work and a caution against losing sight of core values. Wang Lung follows his sons in their paths away from the earth, only to desire nothing more than to return to his earthen hut on the farm to die. Wang Lung seeks peace but there is no peace to be had.

This is not some panoramic epic set against the backdrop of revolution. To the poor, revolutions really have no meaning. The system of government barely scratches the surface of Wang Lung’s life. This is also no love story – this is real life, where love shifts and changes over time. This is no story of rags to riches or the emptiness of worldly wealth. There are a lot of things this story is not. In my eyes, it is the story of a man in a place and time. His joys and his sorrows are laid bare before the reader; his follies and mistakes are matters of fact, not tragedy. This is a story of a soul, not the story of a body. There is no judgement; there is only what is. I saw the world through Wang Lung’s eyes, from their youthful clarity to the aged filminess. And, at times, I saw myself. I am not horrified; I am edified.

Buck’s style is supremely clean – spare but rich. It comes as a breath of fresh air as I have waded through so many works that excel in rolling periods of prose. Buck’s simplicity in style reflects the simplicity that is Wang Lung. The Good Earth is the first in a trilogy that I must complete. As for #theLIST, I hereby evict Jules Verne and welcome Pearl S. Buck as a must-read.

10/10 Hearts. Everyone should read this. We will all see ourselves somewhere along the line, and not always as we would have liked.

Orange and Lemons

They say that the opening line of this book is one of the classic lines in literary fiction: It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were all striking thirteen. Well, it’s a bright day in October and the clock will be striking 13:45 in just a few moments, Central Standard Time.

I read 1984 in high school and somehow failed to recall the total bleakness of this novel. Winston Smith is trapped in a world in which privacy is impossible, personal relationships are perilous, and independent thought is criminal. There is nothing beautiful or moving in this story, nor in the language Orwell uses to convey his nightmarish future. And I remember, in high school, wanting to learn the whole rhyme for the London churches – Orange and Lemons say the bells of St. Clemens/You owe me five farthings say the bells of St. Martins/When will you pay me say the bells of Old Bailey/When I am rich say the bells of Shoreditch. I remember that part. I think I purposely blocked out the rest.

So, thirty-odd years later, thanks to the insanity that has been #theLIST, Mr. Orwell and I are locked in a bitter struggle – we are trying to see if his vision of the future can really happen.

With a sick and sad feeling in the pit of my stomach, I must humbly acknowledge that at least a part of it not only can be, but is.

Political season, you know. Presidential elections in the US – you see boogie men around every placard.

Winston’s job is to alter the past to suit the present. There never was a past – only what the “Party” has approved to be remembered. And, naturally, giving the shifting of time, what can be remembered is altered daily. Winston, himself, alters it. It is a dreary desk job, performed by a colorless man with an ulcerating sore on his ankle and a secret – he commits thoughtcrime daily, without even attempting crimestop, and is forever lost in doublespeak.

The country of Oceania has always been at war. With whom it has been at war changes, and yet does not change. The war is a necessity, for keeping the common man, or proles, from engaging in any sort of prosperity. The destruction of goods is a necessity.

Here, I pause and look over my shoulder. War is necessary. Peace is War. And there is war a-brewing, just waiting for a new catalyst from the United Nations. If I am not mistaken, gasoline prices in California are very high. There is unrest in Syria. There is oil in Syria. The political possibilities, so far out of the reach of my fingers, ring like church bells in my ears. I think I have just committed thoughtcrime – and is it just me, or do those campaign poster eyes follow everyone around?

The destruction of the family is well underway in Winston’s world – while marriage is encouraged, affection is not. Children are little spies encouraged to turn on their parents. Parsons falls victim to this.

And Winston, who knows, continues to alter the past and engage in a pointless affair with Julia, who is only a rebel from the waist down.

Needless to say, Winston does not escape the notice of Big Brother and certainly pays the penalty for his thoughtcrime. It takes a while, though, and he resists through rounds and rounds of torture. Once again, I take my nerd hat off to Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and the episode Chain of Command. In an eerie homage to Orwell, Captain Picard and the The Cardassian played by David Warner, play out the initial phases of Winston’s punishment.

What price a man’s soul? In a soulless world, Winston finds out the price of his own soul. His soul does not come cheaply, but it does come. War is Peace. Orange and lemons. It all flutters to dust in the end. I am saddened and warned and now must return to Netflix and find my Star Trek episode and look at it with new eyes.

What price a man’s soul? What price mine?

8/10 Hearts. This was not a pleasant read, but it is truly necessary.