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review 2020-06-25 14:12
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

TITLE:  Great Expectations

 

AUTHOR:  Charles Dickens

 

PUBLICATION: Penguin Classics Edition [ISBN: 9780141439563]

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DESCRIPTION:

 "Dickens's magnificent novel of guilt, desire, and redemption
The orphan Pip’s terrifying encounter with an escaped convict on the Kent marshes, and his mysterious summons to the house of Miss Havisham and her cold, beautiful ward Estella, form the prelude to his “great expectations.” How Pip comes into a fortune, what he does with it, and what he discovers through his secret benefactor are the ingredients of his struggle for moral redemption.
"

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REVIEW:

 

Definitely better than I expected.  Not long winded at all.  The "peasant dialect" is a bit hard to understand though.  A typical coming of age story.  I love Wemmick.  Too bad Dickens didn't write more about Wemmick.

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review 2019-06-10 03:06
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori
Convenience Store Woman - Sayaka Murata,Ginny Tapley Takemori

[My first full review since April! ::tears of joy:: Maybe I'll be able to write more?]

 

Keiko is a non-neurotypical Japanese woman. As a young child, she learned that she didn't view the world the same way as other people. When she saw a dead bird, for example, other children grieved over it while she thought that it would make a nice dinner for her father. When two boys were fighting and someone yelled that they needed to stop, Keiko hit one of the boys over the head with a shovel. It certainly stopped the fight, but it definitely wasn't considered an appropriate solution. As her parents became more and more concerned about Keiko's inappropriate reactions, Keiko tried to become as normal as possible by being quiet, almost never taking any initiative, and imitating the words, actions, and facial expressions of those around her. For the most part, it worked.

When Keiko was 18, she got a part-time job at a convenience store that just opened up. The store's clearly stated rules and guidelines for employees, which covered everything from what to say to customers to what sorts of facial expressions to wear, instantly appealed to her, and she achieved a relatively peaceful life. Unfortunately, Keiko is now 36, still working at the convenience store (with no desire to leave), single (with no desire to be otherwise), and childless (with zero interest in having children). It's becoming increasingly apparent to her that her way of life doesn't fit in with societal expectations. The question is: what, if anything, does she want to do about it?

Keiko wasn't always a comfortable person to spend time with. She was practical to the point of coldness. The shovel incident is a good example, as is her reaction when her infant nephew starts crying: for just a moment, she thinks that killing him would stop his crying pretty quickly. She didn't act on that thought and didn't generally come across as violent despite the shovel incident, but it was still a chilling moment.

That said, I definitely identified with Keiko's feelings about societal expectations for women when it came to marriage and children. This book was, of course, a statement about Japanese society, but I could see parallels in the US. The path from teen to adult includes sex and dating. You can get away with being single for a while if you have a career, but eventually people want to know when you're planning on getting married and having kids. If you're dating someone, you're expected to one day get married. If you get married, it won't be long before people notice the slightest change in your weight and wonder if you're pregnant. Even if you explicitly say that you have no desire for any or all of these things, people will assume that you secretly do, or that you'll change your mind in the future.

Based on Keiko's own thoughts, I'd say she was a sex-repulsed aromantic asexual. The word "asexual" was used in the text, although I think only as part of Keiko's friends' immediate "let's smooth over this bit of awkwardness" response when she accidentally admitted that she'd never been in love - one of them implied that Keiko might be either a lesbian or asexual, in a way that was maybe meant to be supportive but that instantly got my hackles up. Keiko was annoyed too, at the way they made assumptions about how unhappy she must feel.

As the story progressed, Keiko began to notice how often others would ask when she planned to get married. People were also increasingly starting to notice her habit of taking on others' facial expressions and manner of speaking. The convenience store was her refuge, the one place where she understood exactly what she needed to do and how the world worked, but even that was giving her reason to worry. She knew, better than anyone, that the convenience store didn't tolerate anything or anyone that couldn't fit in. What if, as she got older, she became physically incapable of performing her convenience store duties? What sort of life would be left for her then?

The introduction of a new coworker, a 35-year-old deadbeat named Shiraha, set off some alarm bells in my head, especially after he admitted to Keiko that he began working at the convenience store in the hope of finding a wife. Shiraha was basically an incel, always whining about how society hasn't progressed past the Stone Age, rewarding only the strongest males, the best hunters.

The story went the route I feared it would, at least somewhat, but then jumped the tracks a bit at the end. I'm honestly not sure how I feel about how things turned out. On the one hand, people's reactions to Keiko after the change she made in her life sickened me - I'd like to think that at least a few of them were privately worried that she was making a bad decision. On the other hand, I loved Keiko's confidence and attitude during her early dealings with Shiraha. She was the one letting Shiraha into her life, and she could cut his nonsense off if she wanted to.

(spoiler show)


I think the ending was supposed to be positive, but it was hard to see it that way, knowing that Keiko's fears about her future and problems with her family hadn't been dealt with. Things didn't go as badly as I had worried they would, so there was that, but would things really be okay in the long run? I couldn't convince myself that the answer was "yes."

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2018-11-25 02:01
Hikaru no Go (manga, vol. 21) story by Yumi Hotta, art by Takeshi Obata, supervised by Yukari Umezawa (5 Dan), translated by Naoko Amemiya
Hikaru no Go: Great Expectations, Vol. 21 - Yumi Hotta,Takeshi Obata

[When I added this to my LibraryThing, it notified me that there was a duplicate ISBN in my collection. I checked, and apparently I own this. Huh. I have no idea when that happened.]

 

Ochi beats Waya, qualifying for the Hokuto Cup, but when he sees Hikaru and Yashiro's game, he knows it's several levels above his and Waya's. He asks to extend the Hokuto Cup qualifiers so that the can play against

Yashiro, who lost against Hikaru, and prove to himself and others that he deserves to be at the Hokuto Cup. Unfortunately for him, Yashiro wins and becomes part of Japan's Hokuto Cup team. Yashiro, Hikaru, and Akira stay at Akira's currently empty home for a while, playing nonstop practice matches against each other until they drop. Meanwhile, Akira's dad is playing as an "amateur" in Korea, attempting to become stronger for a rematch against Sai (that's never going to happen *sob*). Also, one of Korea's professional Go players, Ko Yong Ha, disses Shusaku, resulting in Hikaru seeing him as someone who must be beaten.

(spoiler show)


Another fun volume, although, again, I deeply miss Sai. It hurt my heart that Akira's dad was working towards a rematch that he didn't know could never happen. I'm not sure that even a match against Hikaru after he's had a few years to acquire some experience would be good enough.

Oh man, Ochi. If it hadn't been

for his pride, he'd have gone to the Hokuto Cup. That said, I think Hikaru, Akira, and Yashiro were a more fun group than Hikaru, Akira, and Ochi would have been.

(spoiler show)

I liked that Yashiro's unsupportive parents made Hikaru more aware and appreciative of his supportive mom. She may not understand Go in the slightest, but she does her best to make sure he has the time to concentrate on it.

One quote I liked from this volume: "...it must be lonely to be the God of Go. You'd have no equal, no rival." (Hikaru to Akira and the people at Akira's Go salon) I still wonder about Sai. Did he disappear because he'd finally found his perfect rival (Toya Meijin?), or did he disappear because he'd helped lead Hikaru down the path of playing his own kind of Go? Considering the series title, the latter seems likely, although maybe there's an element of both.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-11-07 06:19
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Great Expectations - Arthur Pober,Charles Dickens,Eric Freeberg,Deanna McFadden

This is possibly the oldest book in my to-read pile. My copy of it has "28 Mar 2008" scribbled on the title page, so it had been sitting on my shelf unread for over 10 years (I even found the Goodreads thread where I told a friend that I had just bought it at a discount). Finally crossing it off my list after all these years feels like a huge accomplishment.

I must say the story dragged a bit for me. Every once in a while something interesting happens but then it goes back to its plodding manner, until the third and final part of the book where things really run along. However, some details or minor characters which didn't really interest me earlier or didn't seem like they really matter turn out to be important in the end, so credit is due to Dickens for that. I also liked the comical touches which provides a nice balance to the dramatic plot and Gothic elements of the novel.

The orphan Philip Pirrip (Pip) as the central character of the book—I wouldn't call him a hero—is not exactly a sympathetic personality. He starts out innocently enough but after meeting the rich Miss Havisham and her adopted daughter Estella, he becomes ashamed of his simple country boy upbringing and of his brother-in-law/father figure, the kind but uncouth blacksmith Joe Gargery. Pip is then adopted by an anonymous patron with the promise of making him a gentleman and giving him a large inheritance. Instead of becoming more humble and using his relative prosperity to even better himself, he takes on an extravagant lifestyle and ends up accumulating debt. He can't stand Joe's unmannerly ways and basically cuts off contact with him. He also seems to have a low opinion of servants, errand boys and other people he now considers to be beneath him. Except for him reciprocating his best friend Herbert Pocket's kindness by secretly providing him with a livelihood, Pip's behavior makes it rather hard to root for him as a main character.

While Pip assumes all along that his benefactor is Miss Havisham, I had already been aware prior to starting the book that his true benefactor is the former convict Abel Magwitch, so that part didn't surprise me. What did surprise me, though, was Pip's persistence in his misguided idea that Miss Havisham as his supposed patron intends for him to marry her ward Estella, when he already knows from Herbert that Miss Havisham raised Estella to carry out revenge on all men. She even bluntly tells Estella, in Pip's presence, to break his heart. Maybe his love for Estella just makes him blind. Speaking of Miss Havisham, she is the most bizarre character with the strongest presence in the whole novel, and therefore the most interesting for me. Another favorite character of mine is a supporting one: Pip's ally Wemmick, who maintains a strict, cold demeanor at work as a lawyer's clerk but loosens up and unleashes his eccentricity at his tiny castle-like home.

Dickens is known for his improbable coincidences—which I had felt in A Tale of Two Cities—but some of the coincidental twists in this novel seem rather pointless. That Estella's birth mother is the housekeeper of the attorney Mr Jaggers, Pip's guardian, and that her father is in fact Magwitch don't seem to be very important in the grand scheme of things, since these facts are never revealed to Estella herself. Magwitch being her father also doesn't serve to endear him to Pip, as Pip's opinion of his true benefactor has already softened before he finds out about this. Magwitch's archenemy Compeyson being Miss Havisham former lover who scammed and jilted her years earlier is another revelation which doesn't go anywhere, since Miss Havisham never finds out about it and their relationship happened before Magwitch met Compeyson, so the former had no part in ruining Miss Havisham's life. It just felt like some the coincidences are purely for the shock factor and in order to have the characters connected in some way.

Despite his shortcomings Pip redeems himself near the end, as he comes to appreciate how much Magwitch has done for him and realize how badly he has behaved towards Joe and Biddy, his faithful childhood friend. The most delicious twist in the book happens when Pip, who has given up on Estella and intends to go and propose to Biddy, assuming she has been waiting for him all these years, returns home only to find that Joe and Biddy have just married. It's what Pip deserves, really.

The ending has him reunited with Estella, now a widow after having been ill-treated by her late husband, but it remains vague whether he and Estella truly end up together. Dickens actually wrote that ending after revising the original one, where they meet again after Estella has remarried and there seems to be no hope of them being together. In my opinion there has never been any romance between them to begin with as Pip's sentiments are entirely one-sided throughout the novel, and any feelings Estella might have developed are more likely to be regret borne from her suffering rather than love. But it's left to each reader's imagination whether they will end up together or it is just another one of Pip's great expectations which doesn't turn into reality.

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review 2018-04-03 15:25
The long history of "tomorrow's car"
The Electric Vehicle: Technology and Expectations in the Automobile Age - Gijs Mom

The relative novelty of the electric vehicle today can obscure the fact that it has a history dating back to the beginnings of the automobile itself. For while most people still drive cars and trucks fueled by gasoline, electricity was a motive power adopted by quite a few vehicle manufacturers in Europe and America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In this book, Gijs Mom explores issues of technology, infrastructure, and consumer culture to explain why it was that electric vehicles failed to become the dominant vehicle type in the early years of automobile development.

Mom divides the history of the electric vehicle into three "generations." In the first, which spanned from 1881 until 1902, automobiles were primarily toys of the wealthy and the enthusiast. The technological limitations facing electric cars — the limited rage and lack of places to replenish their motive energy — were shared by their gasoline and steam-powered counterparts. While gasoline-powered vehicles began developing an advantage in range by the end of this period, the zero emissions and overall cleanliness of electric vehicles still made electric cars a preferred option for many drivers in cities, where distance driving was less of an issue.

By the beginning of the 20th century, a consensus had formed that poor battery performance was the main constraint holding back the development of the electric vehicle. During the second generation, which Mom dates from 1902 until the mid-1920s, improved battery designs helped to address this by improving their capacity. Electric cars continued to enjoy a place in the automotive market, particularly for urban fleet usage, the well-to-do, and women. The key appeal for the latter group was the ease of starting electric vehicles, which did not require the physically demanding cranking required of early gas-powered vehicles. It was the adoption of the electric starter by the early 1920s (in essence, the partial "electrification" of the gasoline-powered vehicle) which Mom sees as cementing the dominance of the gasoline vehicle, though he notes the persistence of electric vehicle usage for some organizations well into the post-World War II era, long before the late-20th century revival of interest in electric vehicles asserted itself.

Mom's history of the electric vehicle is a fascinating study of the factors at play in the adoption of technology, in this case one the ramifications of which are still being addressed today. Though his prose is painstaking and occasionally burdened with conceptual jargon, his assiduous research and detailed analysis provides a well-reasoned explanation for the early failure of electric cars to become the dominant automotive technology. With its account of technological cul-de-sacs and cultural headwinds, readers will find within its pages a story with some echoes of the issues facing electric vehicles today, one that gives a new meaning to Faulkner's adage about the past not being dead or even past. For this reason alone it deserves a wide audience among everyone interested in its subject.

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