Saturday, June 10, 2006

Adventures of a Trojan Man

Today I finished Homer's "The Iliad" at work. Last Sunday I bought both "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey." I'd read "The Odyssey" in High School, but not "The Iliad." I thought it was pretty good. It suffered from the same problem of The Lord of the Rings series...where a character or place or thing can't just be named. Oh no, we have to know all about it's history (who begat who, and what every ancestor of these people did). And the character names were all very similar Hippoclodes, Hippoclides, hippopotamus! I was surprised that the whole Trojan horse thing doesn't actually happen in "The Iliad." I thought the entire war was covered, but actually, when the story begins the Greeks had been fighting the people of Troy for like 10 years. We don't see it begin or end!

I felt bad for Hector. Poor bastard never had a chance against Achilles. No chance! How can you fight someone who has God in there corner? Sure he had a few Gods who favored him...but Achilles had Zeus. It's easy for someone like Achilles to be brave-I could be a super hero if I knew I was all but invincible. Hector had real courage, because he was just a mortal guy. His parents weren't immortal, and Zeus wasn't slinging lightning bolts just for him. He was a prince yes, but mainly a guy who said "no, you Greek fuckers aren't getting my wife and child and all my worldly goods while I live and breathe."

There are no bad guys in "The Iliad," which I also liked. Sure, I admired Hector for his bravery, but Achilles wasn't a bad person either. He gave up Hector's body to King Priam, so his family and Kingdom could properly mourn him. Achilles was a soldier, not a monster--though he did monstrous things, in the end he's able to tame the beast living inside him. His anger is brought under control in the end, and I liked that too. But back to the whole 'no bad guys' thing...I think "The Iliad" is the best depiction of war (despite the unrealistic Gods/magical happenings) because the people on both sides are just people. They have good reasons to fight. Both sides are given multiple opportunities to end the violence, and the all the bloodshed but because of hubris and pride are trapped in a self defeating prophecy. I think people should look at this story and notice the parallels with all the other wars that have ever been fought. The people who fight us aren't monsters, they're people like you and me. They come from a different perspective, one where they can see how we've wronged them. And we have, the United States has wronged many, many people. Just like the people of Troy and the Greeks...we've had chances to end the cycle of hate and violence...but we opt not to act. Why should we? God is on our side.

Right. Go ask Hector how that line of thinking turns out.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Thoughts on The Giver

This past weekend I finally got around to reading "The Giver" by Lois Lowry. I'd heard about the book for a long time now (it being a quote MODERN CLASSIC). Whenever I'd see the cover, however, my interest in the book would wane. A creepy old guy and some trees? I guess I'm guilty of judging a book by it's cover. So, when my girlfriend started pushing it on me, I was reluctant. Then my mother read it on a car trip we all took. The two ganged up on me and got me to sit down and read it. I read most of it at work, on another 16 hour shift. It didn't take me long to get into the story. I was very impressed with how easy the pages went by.

Even though it's a kids book, I must admit that it was terrifying. "The Giver" is easily one of the scariest books I've ever read. The world Lowry depicts is one that is not only plausible, but one that could easily become reality in this post-9/11 world. Patriot Act anyone?

Like any good book, "The Giver" made me think about some of my own personal beliefs and ideals. I've always been a closet Communist. My argument has always been that on paper, Communism is alright by me. If you were able to remove human corruption from teh equation it would be the ideal society. Lowry's book is about a future world where society has become the perfect Communist state. There is no corruption, the system works perfectly...and boy is it scary. There is no love, passion, or art. People exist to do an assigned task, then they get old and are farmed out until the date they are put to death.

For me, the book fails on a number of key levels (the ending alone is rather pointless). But where "The Giver" stumbles isn't nearly as important as where it triumphs. The creepy, crawly feeling one gets while reading about a smiling man putting a newborn baby to death (for committing the crime of having been the lighter twin)stays with you. The book is very viceral. I'm surprised that the book hasn't been made into a film by now. I can understand why many parents and teachers would/do object to the book...after all--as a 23 year old I found the book to be troubling and disturbing. However, when I was done with the book I felt a strong desire to make sure that the world Lowry created never comes to fruition. I think that if more young adults read this book, some of the problems our country and planet are about to face (or are facing) would be eliminated. The power of science and industry to control our lives has never been greater. As humanity moves futher and further down the timeline, a smaller percentage of us become more and more powerful over the lives and fates of humanity. I have a sneaking suspicion that the cold, emotionally devoid society in "The Giver" wasn't built overnight.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Oliver Twist

Interesting/good quotes from "Oliver Twist," which I finished reading yesterday at work (while working back-to-back double (16 hour) shifts)):

"We need be careful how we deal with those about us, when every death carries to some small circle of survivors, thoughts of so much omitted, and so little done--of so many things forgotten, and so many more which might have been repaired! There is no remorse so deep as that which is unavailing; if we would have be spared it tortures, let us remember this, in time."

"Men who look on nature, and their fellowmen, and cry that all is dark and gloomy, are in the right; but the sombre colours are reflections from their own jaundiced eyes and hearts. The real hues are delicate, and need clearer vision."