Friday, November 30, 2007

The Haunted House

What a strange story. I’m not sure what to make of it. Normally, I love Dickens. David Copperfield and Great Expectations were fabulous novels. From that experience, I was quite eager to read The Haunted House. Now, I don’t really understand what kind of conclusion I am supposed to draw.

I read the introduction to the collection (something I don’t always recommend doing; they often give away the story). I’m glad I did. Maybe I should go back and read the section on Dickens again. (I skimmed it when it was giving too many details). It’s good to know that this story is actually an introduction to a collection of Dickens’. There is a lot of character and scene introduction. I wondered why. Byatt thought to include this story, because it does have a sense of being complete. I disagree. You could feel that something was missing. I’m sure something better could have been selected.

Perhaps, with the rest of the collection, everything will be easier to understand.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Sacristan of St. Botolph, by William Gilbert

The Sacristan of St. Botolph was written by William Gilbert in 1866. It is a part of the Oxford Collection of English Short Stories. When they say ‘English’ they don’t mean written in English, they mean England. A. S. Byatt edited this collection and sought stories that were really English, with English sensibilities. If this first short story is any indication, I think that I’m going to quite enjoy the rest.

The Sacristan of St. Botolph is really about truth, inner truth. Through devious means, the little imp helps the sacristan to become a better person. The sacristan, though by all appearances a faithful church-goer, in reality is a bad man. Not that he’s a murderer; he’s just selfish and prideful. Why does the imp bother with this man? Perhaps beneath this exterior, the imp knew there was true goodness within. Perhaps not. Perhaps this was a test, a test that in some way another man might fail. It was exactly what it seemed.

The next story is by Dickens. I can’t wait to get started.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

In All It’s Glory

I’m at work yesterday, trying to get through the day, when someone walks into the storefront. Naturally, I go up to meet her. She’s an older lady, at least in her sixties, with the look of time pressed upon her. As I walk up towards her, I catch her eye. She has the look of someone wanting to sell me something, like those people going door to door in this plaza offering “promotions.” I internally prepare to politely say, ‘no thank you,’ when she hands me two small paper books, says that it’s for anyone in my workplace who is interested and walks away. Who was this woman? A Jehovah’s Witness.

Honestly, I didn’t know they were allowed to come to your workplace. The expression on her face, her attitude, her general approach made it feel to me, as though she was soliciting; getting me to buy her product. You really shouldn’t have to “sell” your religion, should you? There is nothing I feel against Jehovah’s Witness as a religion, or any religion. I believe that an individual has the right to believe or not to believe whatever they choose. I believe that in a secular nation like Canada, citizens should be free from attempted religious conversions. I also believe in freedom of speech; each individual has the right to express their beliefs.

Based on these freedoms, I have nothing against someone coming in and handing me a booklet or pamphlet. This isn’t the first time or first job where it has happened. I recall getting several Christian “save your soul” pamphlets in the years I worked at Staples. In their respected faiths, they are charged with spreading “God’s word.”

The part I don’t like is when they come back. They want to discuss what was in the booklet. Then they ask why you haven’t read it. This is unwanted conversation. If I haven’t read it, there is a reason. If I did and want to discuss it, I know where to go. If I’m at work, I don’t have time to talk about religion when I’m at work. At 8am on a Sunday, I don’t want to be talking about religion. I feel as though it’s almost demeaning to the religion. It should be attractive on its own, shouldn’t it? Faith shouldn’t need sales people.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


George Orwell's 1984 is an absolutely powerful novel. It is a real vision of the future; conceivably plausible. This future can be imagined even now, 58 years after it was written. It is a horror that exists somewhere in the minds of those who've read 1984.

I hoped for rebellion. I hoped for change. I hoped for some sign that the future maybe better. Winston said repeatedly that the hope was in the proles. I kept thinking that somewhere in the story, there would be a sign that one day, his hope would be fulfilled. If you take the appendix as part of the narrative, then you can infer that Winston’s hope was realized and the world of Ingsoc and Oceania is part of the past. If you don’t, well, there is no hope for the world of 1984

Winston’s “discussion” with O’Brien is fascinating. There is a real argument regarding the nature of reality. I’m surprised this novel never came up in one of my philosophy classes. Winston clings to solipsism, the idea that if nothing else exists, your mind exists (someone correct me if I’m wrong.) “My mind is the only thing that I know exists.” It is very closely related to Descartes’ “I think therefore I am.” But after beatings and torture, Winston loses his grip on this belief and doubts his mind. If you can’t be sure of the existence of your own mind, how can you be sure of anything else?