George Orwell’s Animal Farm is a short allegorical work that feels like a predecessor to his later work, Nineteen Eighty-Four, being lighter and speaking in terms of literary achievement, less refined. Animal Farm is direct– there is absolutely no question about its intention. But it’s so direct that it’s basically telling you that, “HEY! THESE ANIMALS ARE REALLY US, AND THIS IS ABOUT THE CORRUPTION OF COMMUNISM!” It is, of course, still an excellent read. It follows the trajectory of how idealism can quickly fall to corruption due to greed in a very realistic and understandable way. The allegory is also clever, but it is so thinly veiled, especially with names like Napoleon and Snowball, that there’s no subtlety, no room for that gray area of debate that can emerge. I feel a bit blasphemous criticizing such a respected work, but like a true Orwellian, I must not be censored by the growls of dogs and the incessant bleating of sheep. A must-read for everyone, especially considering it’s a speed-read of less than 100 pages.
Perverse, provocative, and wonderfully peculiar. Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita is hard to review for me, as it was hard to read. However, it was not hard to read because it wasn’t enjoyable. Rather, Lolita is difficult precisely because you feel as if you shouldn’t be enjoying such a purposefully perverse story of romantic pedophilia. It is simultaneously a romantic and repulsive read.
I don’t believe a spoiler alert is necessary regarding the pedophilia, as it is revealed within the first few pages, and because I believe the premise of the novel is quite (in)famous.
The protagonist, Humbert Humbert, is probably the most self-aware pedophile to have ever (fictionally) existed, yet he is obtusely unaware of himself at the same time. He is amusing and despicable in a Wes Anderson protagonist sort of way– much like the most recent Gustav H., played so brilliantly by Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel, or even Max Fischer in Rushmore (though they’re both obviously nowhere near pedophile-status moral wrongness). Aside from the pedophilia, he is a pretentious buffoon who constantly throws French into his speech, which forced me to give up translating them via Google translate due to the excessive use. He is also selfish and scheming, yet it is his frivolity that makes him so damn amusing. I hesitate to say he’s sympathetic, though Humbert can be very persuasive.
You would think that it would be inconceivable to make a work about pedophilia a comedy, but Nabokov achieves this with incredible success. Nabokov de-stabilizes the reader’s moral compass, forcing the reader to assess their own willingness to dive into the depths of moral ambiguity with a narrator taking you, pulling you, by the hand.
Lolita challenges you, in both horrifying and whimsical ways.
Happy Friday and happy reading!
P.S. I was reading Animal Farm at the JJ Beans on Alberni St. in downtown. JJ Bean started my love-affair with coffee. Admittedly, I started drinking Starbucks at a young age because of my older siblings, but it’s JJ Bean that really ignited the passion that I have for coffee. It all began with their mochas which, to my probably around 10 year-old self, were magical with their mocha-flavoured whipped cream. I didn’t care that it always gave me a slight stomach ache after, I’d drink it to the last drop. Nowadays, I’m just drinking americanos everywhere I go. But a good americano is the ultimate test, no? You can’t hide behind creams, and dazzling syrups with an americano. My only problem with JJ Bean is that sometimes their service can be sub-par, usually due to their “I’m so hipster” attitude, but it really depends on the location.