Sunday Short: “All Summer in a Day” by Ray Bradbury

Welcome to Sunday Shorts, a brand new weekly feature on my little blog! As I struggle to catch up on book reviews, I thought it would be fun if each week I wrote about a short story that has brought meaning into my life.

Why am I doing this? I’m glad you asked.

While I’ve loved writing about books I’m currently reading, I haven’t spent as much time as I want exploring those works that hold personal value. I love short stories, and while I review entire collections in one post, I think that specific individual stories deserve some extra attention. Some of the short stories I review in this feature may be new ones that I’ve recently discovered, while others (like this one) captivated me a long time ago. With summer rapidly approaching, I thought a fitting beginning to this new journey would be a childhood favorite by my hero Ray Bradbury.

ray bradbury
Photo Credit from Literary Hub

“All Summer in a Day” takes place on the planet Venus, in a classroom full of the children of those who had colonized the planet years ago. Due to the weather conditions of always being cloudy and raining, the children have never seen the sun. Once every seven years, the rain stops and the sun comes out for a brief period time before turning back to nonstop rain.

Standing apart from the other children is Margot, who we discover actually remembers the sun. Unlike her classmates who are too young to remember, Margot left Earth two years later. I thought it was a nice bit of setup that Margot stood alone from everyone else. I’ve always loved Bradbury’s poetic way with words, such as this beautiful description:

“Sometimes at night, she heard them stir, in remembrance, and she knew they were dreaming and remembering gold or a yellow crayon or a coin large enough to buy the world with. She knew they thought they remembered a warmness, like a blushing in the face, in the body, in the arms and legs a trembling hands. But then they awoke to the tatting drum, the endless shaking down of clear bead necklaces upon the roof, the walk, the gardens, the forests, and their dreams were gone.”

Bradbury then goes into some details about Margot, such as how frail she is compared to the other children “who looked as if she had been lost in the rain for years and the rain had washed out the blue from her eyes and the red from her mouth and the yellow from her hair.” Each of the children had to write a short piece about how they viewed the sun, and Margot wrote a small poem which was met with jeers. Margot never engaged in games with the other children either. She was an outcast, hated by all of them for being different. This animosity reaches its climax when Margot’s classmates decide to lock her in a closet until their teacher returns.

Without noticing Margot’s absence, the teacher lets the children play outside when the rain suddenly stops and the sun comes out. The children run around, basking in the glorious warmth of the sun. After a while, the rain returns and the sun disappears for another seven years. Returning to the classroom, one of the children suddenly remembers the poor girl they locked in the closet. Margot had stopped crying and was silent by the time she was released.

I love this story for several reasons. While being incredibly short at only four pages, Bradbury manages to tell an extremely emotional story on the horrors of being bullied. I find it a stroke of genius that the story ends suddenly without any of the aftermath of the cruel joke. While we can imagine the devastation of poor Margot, the fact that we are left to complete that journey brings those emotions out that much stronger. Having been bullied myself as a child, this poignant tale has always stayed with me.

Another aspect of this story that I think is worth mentioning is in regards to life’s precious moments. If the sun represents happiness, then it is sad to think about how moments of happiness are few and far between. Personally, I choose to think that Bradbury is teaching us the importance of holding on to those moments that bring us complete fulfillment. Sometimes, those moments are only with us for the briefest of times. Who knows how long before we find that again?

I hope you enjoyed my first Sunday short and will return for the next. Stay gold my friends!

Photo Credit: John Towner

My Personal Canon

For the past four years, I have shared my thoughts and feelings on the books I read. Books are like relationships. Some come and go in the blink of an eye, while others become part of your very essence. While I talk about books often, I rarely share those special ones that comprise my soul. The following list is comprised of the writers/books that have had a profound impact in my life. To refer to this list as simply “favorites” would be a sad misunderstanding of the point of this post. Rather, these are the writers and books that make me the person I am. Through good times and bad, these are the ones that I will return to again and again. They are the select few that walk with me through this wondrous universe.

Thank you Classics Club for providing this wonderful idea for a post! As I’m sure this list will continue to grow and evolve, I may make this an actual page on my blog at some point. Check out my review pages for my thoughts on several of the works listed here.

MY PERSONAL CANON

person inside a bookstore
Photo by Ksenia Chernaya on Pexels.com

Ray Bradbury

The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Illustrated Man, The October Country, From the Dust Returned, and nearly every short story he ever wrote (I would read anything by him).

Haruki Murakami

Norwegian Wood, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, South of the Border West of the Sun, Kafka on the Shore, 1Q84, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimmage, The Elephant Vanishes

Jane Austen

Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Sanditon, Lady Susan 

Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, David Copperfield, Hard Times, A Christmas Carol

F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby, Tender is the Night

Ernest Hemingway

A Farewell to Arms, The Sun Also Rises, The Old Man and the Sea

Charles De Lint

Dreams Underfoot, Memory and Dream, The Onion Girl, Widdershins, Moonlight and Vine

blur book stack books bookshelves
Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

Stand Alone Books

  • Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
  • The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

There you have it, Joel’s personal canon. This is my always evolving playlist of literature. My gratitude to these scribes for making me the person I am. Thank you for making me infinite!

 

 

 

 

 

What Are My Preferred Classics?

Each month, the Classics Club does a monthly meme on an interesting bookish topic. I’ve never participated before, but I was really drawn to this month’s question. Hopefully, I won’t sound too obnoxious and can actually present something insightful.

reading gif
Reading classic lit the proper way!

Without further ado, here’s the question:

When you read classic literature, what’s your preference, or will you read anything? Do you prefer the “literary” authors, like Dickens, Hugo, Austen, Eliot, or Thackeray, or do you like swashbuckling adventures, historical fiction , science fiction, mysteries, children’s literature? Or do you prefer nonfiction? Are you interested in reading books from many different parts of the world, or are you more interested in books from a particular area of the world?

And who are your favorite authors in those genres?

I want to stop and say that figuring out answers to these questions spiked my anxiety into the stratosphere! Hmmm, is there an all-of-the-above answer? That one worked well for me in high school.

Although I’m open to reading most things, I’ve definitely been around the block long enough to know I have some favorite niches. The first classic I ever owned was a lovely illustrated copy of A Tale of Two Cities, and while I’m nowhere close to finishing all of his works, I do quite like Dickens. Years ago, I finished David Copperfield, and was proud of myself for finishing a work that was so long. I think Great Expectations is a work of sheer genius and one of my all-time favorites. Although I have several long books on my list, I tend to avoid them like the plague. I have noticed that my tastes are divided between serious literary fiction and more fun and swashbuckling books. I love Robert Louis Stevenson so much! I’m also quite devoted to Joseph Conrad for his ability to create some really great psychological works, such as Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim (another lifelong favorite). Of course, this may shock all of you but I happen to be a big fan of Jane Austen (gasp!). If you want to know how big of a fan, just read this post on how Jane Austen Made Me a Better Person.

Read Doctor Who GIF by BBC America

Longtime readers of this blog will also know that I LOVE CLASSIC SCIENCE FICTION. Dystopian works along the lines of 1984 ring my bell, as I love to see the every man go against the big bad system. I also enjoy golden age science fiction. Robert Heinlein has become a fast favorite, but my number one will always be Ray Bradbury. His beautiful prose captured my mind and heart as a child, transforming me into the childlike adult that sits before you.

Recently, I’ve expanded my love into some new favorites. I’ve discovered a love for cozy British mysteries (thank you Agatha Christie). Poetry has started to become another of my jams (bowing to you Rilke).

I can’t wait to see how my tastes continue to grow and change. One of my goals is to read more books from different parts of the world. Hopefully, I can make that happen soon. I feel that finding love in classic literature truly has helped me to evolve as a person. There truly is so much wisdom to be found.

series 11 learning GIF by Doctor Who

What are some of your favorite classic books and authors. You can always let me know with a comment below!

Life in the time of COVID-19 (Part Four)

therapist taking notes
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So, how are you doing? How are you holding up? I am doing well thank you.

No, that’s not true. I’m not doing well at all. I’ve actually been struggling. Even at the best of times, my mind is always racing a million miles an hour. When times get difficult, my thoughts start moving faster than the speed of light.

It’s not easy being me. This brain of mine that’s never quiet.

I just had an interesting thought. As these words fly through my fingers as I type, I’m feeling down. But that will inevitably change. Maybe by the time you read my words, those feelings will have changed. Writing is such an interesting process isn’t it? The act exists in the present but the product belongs to the past. The sentence that I just wrote is now the distant past. Every moment, every second escapes my grasp. Time never stops, hurtling me forward into the uncertain future.

See what I mean about being me? Trapped in this head of mine. My intentions were actually to continue to inspire, to look towards the light as it will.

But that’s not honest. Isn’t that the point of all this? To be honest.

I met my new therapist this week. Maybe that’s why I’m stuck in my feels. I think he might be a keeper. It actually went well. In fact, there was a moment when I gained some valuable insight. I’ve always struggled with confidence, not only with myself but the choices in life I make. There was a moment today, as I rambled on and on, that he stopped me and said “you know you just said that sentence with confidence. You know what you want.”

What was that sentence that I said with confidence you might ask?

Sorry. Client/therapist confidentiality.

I’m doing better in taking ownership of my actions. I’m also accepting all the feelings. It’s not easy but necessary. If I want to continue to grow, then I have to allow myself to feel.

My Status: I start seeing some of my clients in person soon. I’m excited but still so nervous about falling ill. I received a long and heartfelt message from the mother of one of my clients who I haven’t seen since March. She said that he’s so happy to be seeing me again soon. It’s times like these that you realize the impact you have on another soul. I never thought I accomplished anything with this particular client. His mother said he really loves just being able to talk about life with me. Those moments are why I love my profession.

Currently Reading: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. This is my second time reading this amazing book on love and loss. It still continues to impress. It’s a stunning exploration of how we can take tragedy and transform it into some form of happiness that allows us to keep going. This book is another strong candidate for best book of the year.

Of course, I continue to binge on Rilke. I continue to find a new favorite every day. Here’s a recent read:

“Love Song”

How can I keep my soul in me, so that
it doesn’t touch your soul? How can I raise
it high enough, past you, to other things?
I would like to shelter it, among remote
lost objects, in some dark and silent place
that doesn’t resonate when your depths resound.
Yet everything that touches us, me and you,
takes us together like a violin’s bow,
which draws one voice out of two separate strings.
Upon what instrument are we two spanned?
And what musician holds us in his hand?
Oh sweetest song.

Currently Listening To: Abbey Road by the Beatles. Fun fact: this was the final album they recorded together (Let It Be was recorded earlier). “Come Together” could very well be the anthem of people coming out of isolation. “Here Comes the Sun” easily one the best Harrison compositions. I really love the song “Because.” The three-part harmonies are beautiful!

Positive Thoughts: I’m taking it one day at a time. Lately, I’ve felt lost in the forest. During those times, I imagine a rope keeping me tethered and safe. May the rope remain strong.

 

 

 

 

“Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower” by Rainer Maria Rilke

bell tower and rooftops
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I’ve been reading a lot of poetry lately and have fallen in love with the words of Rainer Maria Rilke. I’ve always said that I don’t find the books I read; rather, they find me. I’ve been having some emotional struggles as of late, and Rilke has been a comfort during these difficult days. I’ll talk more about his poetry in a future post, but I thought I would share this work that I love.

Quiet friend who has come so far,

feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.

Sonnets to Orpheus II, 29

I love trying to figure out all the meanings. Who is the speaker? Who is the friend? The line I keep coming back to over and over is be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses, the meaning discovered there. I believe that it’s a journey for our spirits, not our minds. We have to reach down within ourselves to find our own personal truths. While I continue to struggle with my own emotional challenges, I know I have the abilities to turn those storms into something constructive.

All I’m trying to be is the best version of myself, a bell that rings beyond the tower.