Week 8: My Son the Fanatic by Hanif Kureishi

When I read Hanif Kureishi’s short story, My Son the Fanatic, one thing that I would like to say about it is that I wish that I was close with my dad that Parvez had in this story with his son, Ali. In this story, Parvez, a 20-year taxi driver, is a single father who is raising Ali, his teenage son. The background of these guys are that they are immigrants from Pakistan who are now living in England.

In a short period of time, Ali has already felt like home in England, which also makes his dad notice his change in behavior and attitude. Parvez then confides about his personal problems in his female friend turned mistress, Bettina, who is a local prostitute in the country. In Parvez’s household, he does not allow Ali to drink any type of alcohol or eat pork meat. One night during an argument, it turns physical when Parvez hits Ali several times. Ali then retaliates by asking a question to his dad: “So who’s the fanatic now?”

At the end of the story, Parvez tries to urge Ali to change his ways, but Ali refuses to do so. Also, Bettina dumps Parvez and they end up never speaking to each other again.

Reading this story, I can understand how it is to be in a father-son relationship. Throughout my life, my dad has pretty much been in and out of my life, but he’s always been close with my two half-sisters and I never understood that. He always had a better relationship with them than he did with me, and it just hurt me to death. I thought he would change his ways when I moved onto my on-campus apartment, but it unfortunately has stayed the same. Whenever I did something that was wrong, he was hardly ever there to discipline me. Hopefully, I will grow up to be a better man than he has ever been.

YouTube links:

Week 8: Seamus Heaney’s Punishment

When I read Seamus Heaney’s poem, Punishment, it was very interesting to say the least. Looking at the background of the poem, Punishment is in Heaney’s 1975 book compilation of poems called North. Heaney’s motivation and inspiration for writing Punishment was when he read a book called “The Hog People” by P.V. Glob. Since “The Hog People” was about The Troubles in Northern Ireland, Heaney thought it was cool to combine that idea with snippets from the past of the European ancestry. To me, I thought that was cool how he tied both of those situations together.

The poem is made up of 11 stanzas that each have 4 lines. The first pair of lines in Punishment describes about Heaney’s very overactive imagination and how he pictures from what the lady in the poem will turn out to look when she is alive before describing what her body type will be before she gets fatally executed for an adultery crime.

The last 6 stanzas in the poem catches the unparallel voyeurism Heaney truly is, in which he describes with a drama: “would connive / in civilized outrage”, they would “understand the exact / and tribal, intimate revenge.” That final line is a straight-up classic to a very good piece of 70s poetry.

YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsoUBO0qRQg

Week 4, Heart of Darkness

Joseph’s Conrad most famous novel, Heart of Darkness, centers on a sailor named Marlow and his trip up to the Congo River to meet Kurtz, who is known to have unique abilities. On his way, Marlow arrives at the Central Station that’s ran by an unfriendly general manager. He finds that his ship got sunk and ends up waiting for months until it eventually gets repaired. Marlow gets more interested in Kurtz grows during this time, but the manager didn’t think so and pretty much saw Kurtz as a threat. Kurtz is rumored to be ill, but it turns out that the rumor is actually true later on in the story.

In the middle of the novel, Marlow and Kurtz end up becoming close friends during the trip and put trust in each other. On the way to Congo, the guys end up getting attacked by intruders and eventually fight back. But as soon as the trip presumed, Kurtz’s health begins to decline day-by-day and ends up leaving the station-house on a stretcher thank to Pilgrims. When Kurtz got better, they guys go down the river the next morning, but Kurtz’s health keep getting worse.

Kurtz ends up dying near the end of the novel, but not before he said his last sentence —“The horror! The horror!”— in front of Marlow. Marlow then gets sick and survives, but he eventually goes back to Europe and runs into Kurtz’s soon-to-be fiancée. Even though it was over a year since Kurtz untimely death, she is still mourning her loss. When she asks Marlow what Kurtz’s last words were, Marlow lies and tells her that Kurtz’s last word was her name.

To hear the entire story itself, click on the link below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wExK37zBmX8

Week 3, Blog #5: Mrs. Dalloway

Mrs. Dalloway was written by British author Virginia Woolf and was published in 1925. Back in the early 20th Century, it was known as one of Woolf’s best-known stories that she has written. Woolf was praised by critics for using a narrative that was known as a “stream-of-consciousness”.

In the story itself, there is a woman named Clarissa Dalloway goes around the city of London, England to get ready for a party that she is hosting later on that evening. The way that she spends the day makes her think about the man she wants to tie the knot with. She ends up getting married to a trustworthy man and a member of the Parliament in Richard Dalloway instead of a control freak in Peter Walsh.

The party that Clarissa hosts that night ends up being a good one although it wasn’t what she expected it to be. It is attended by the majority of the characters she’s met in the novel. The worst part about the party is that she hears about a First World War veteran named Septimus Warren Smith, who pretty much suffered suffering from PTSD. It is said in the book that Septimus killed himself by jumping out of a window. Also in the story, it turned out that Clarissa has a daughter named Elizabeth.

Week 3, Blog #4: The Waste Land

The Waste Land is known to be the best peace of poetry that T.S. Eliot has ever written. The poem is 434 lines long and was published in 1922. The Waste Land is separated into 5 sections and gets more complicated and scarier section by section.

The first section is “The Burial of the Dead”, which exposes the many different themes of disillusionment and despair. The second section is called a “A Game of Chess”. In this section, multiple characters each address one of those themes accordingly. The third section is called, “The Fire Sermon”. It offers the readers some overactive imagination about what death might look like. It also expresses views of self-denial, which is inspired by Augustine of Hippo and other eastern religions. The fourth section, “Death by Water,” expresses a petition of lyrical proportions. The fifth section, “What the Thunder Said,” ends with Eliot expressing what judgment is supposed to look like whether it’s good or bad.

When you hear Eliot and other characters read the poem themselves, it puts your mind somewhere completely different. I was no exception. Hearing those British accents while listening to the poem really sent chills down my spine. If you’re in my shoes, I think you’ll understand.

Week 2, Blog #3: Jekyll and Hyde Summary

In this legendary classic novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the story takes place in London, England. Lawyer John Charles Utterson listens to his friend, Richard Enfield, tell a very scary tale about an assault that Edward Hyde committed towards a young girl. Since both Utterson and Enfield dislike gossip, they both agree to not talk about it anymore.

A year later, a female witness catches Hyde brutally beating an old man named Sir Danvers Carew to death. When the police contacts Utterson, he rightfully believes that Hyde is the killer. When they arrive at Hyde’s apartment, the murderer has already vanished. Shortly thereafter, Utterson again visits Henry Jekyll, who is claiming to have ceased all contact with Hyde for good. Jekyll shows Utterson a suspicious note, allegedly written to Jekyll by Hyde, apologizing for causing pain and misery to everybody he’s hurt. But later that night, Utterson’s clerk points out that Hyde’s handwriting has the same texture as Jekyll’s does.

Later on in the story, it turns out that Jekyll starts hiding in his laboratory for several weeks. But as history would have it, it would turn out that Jekyll and Hyde are actually the same person. How we know that now is because later on in the story, Utterson discovered a letter from Dr. Hastie Lanyon, one of Jekyll’s longtime friends. Lanyon’s letter revealed that he was in disbelief after seeing Hyde drink some serum that made him become Jekyll in the first place. Jekyll controlled the metamorphosis with that same serum, but he ended up becoming Hyde one night in his sleep, which becomes the turning point of the story.

During this time period, Jekyll tries his hardest not to transform into Hyde anymore. But one evening, he ended up relapsing and drinking the serum yet again. Eventually, the serum ends up running low. Realizing that he will likely remain as Hyde for the rest of his life, Jekyll writes a “confession” that said: “I bring the life of that unhappy Henry Jekyll to an end.” With those words, the entire story comes to a chilling end.

To hear the entire novel, copy and paste this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcczA9Cwbow

Week 2, Blog #2: Hymn to Proserpine Summary

One of Algernon Charles Swinburne’s famous poems, “Hymn to Proserpine”, is a 110-line monologue that’s full of dramatic feelings and not divided into any stanzas. According to Swinburne, the poem itself is supposed to be read by the Roman Emperor, Julian the Apostate – who was not a big fan of Christianity. In the 3rd line, the poem says that death is greater than “the seasons that laugh or weep”. Life has its ups and downs like usual, but it ends at death’s door.

Regarding and expressing the regret of Christianity as a whole, the 35th and 36th lines say it best: “Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean; the world has grown gray from thy breath / We have drunken of things Lethean, and fed on the fullness of death.”

Reading this poem in its entirety, it pretty much discusses how Christianity brought some people together and turned other people against one another at the same time. If you want to hear the reading in dramatic fashion, copy and paste the link below to hear the first part of the poem for yourself. If you do, I strongly guarantee that it will get you in your feelings. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCMQL1O4Tkw