Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

Mindy Kaling's hilarious collection of essays was so good I started reading it this afternoon and didn't stop until I had finished it. Split into six sections detailing Kaling's childhood, post-college life, hollywood, romance, appearance, and her legacy, her unique and honest voice shines through. Not only is she absolutely laugh-out-loud funny, she is as a refreshingly grounded celebrity and positive role model. I loved her section on best friends, a list of "Best Friend Rights and Responsibilities":
But you can't get mad if I can't keep track. Robby? Don't we hate him? No, we love him. Okay, okay. Sorry.
As one review states, "By the end of this book, you will want Mindy Kaling to be your best friend, and you will want her parents to adopt you." (x) Her autobiography/memoir/insight on the tv industry makes you fall in love with her completely. Her style of writing is forthright and honest. She also has a very large twitter following (currently 2.1 million followers and rising), which is another way for her to comment on her life/what she finds interesting. For example, right before Beyoncé's halftime show at the most recent superbowl:
The New York Times ran a profile on Kaling when her book was published in 2011. In it, she was quoted as saying "You know the whole thing where if it takes a long time to write a poem, then you probably shouldn’t be writing poetry? With Tweets, if you’re sitting around for more than 45 seconds, it’s probably not the medium for you." Her twitter is outrageously hilarious, just as her essays are. But, obviously, her essays touch on much deeper subjects than her tweets (such as body image). The book isn't really a memoir, it's more like a letter to a friend. A current bestseller, I would definitely recommend this light, easy read. And, for the record, Mindy, I would love to hang out with you. Rating:★★★★★


The Satanic Verses

One of the most controversial novels ever published during the modern era, The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie is a masterpiece. Set in a modern world filled with "mayhem and miracles," the novel tells three stories; the main one is the tale of Gibreel and Saladin, two Indians who miraculously survive a terrorist bombing of a London-bound plane. Magically, Gibreel takes on the personality of the Archangel Gibreel and Saladin of the devil.
One man's breath was sweetened, while another's, by an equal and opposite mystery, was soured. What did they expect? Falling like that out of the sky: did they imagine that there would be no side-effects? Higher Powers had taken an interest, it should have been obvious to them both... (137)
After their fail, they struggle to get their lives back together and deal with what they now embodied: good and evil. The second story re-tells some stories of the Prophet Muhammad, based partly on historical fact (Ibn Ishaq's biography of Muhammed, The Life of Muhammad) and on Rushdie's imagination. It is partly recounted through Gibreel's eyes in the city of Jahilia (Mecca) about the founding of Islam- when Muhammad had his conversations with the archangel Gibreel about the will of Allah. As history goes, the people of Mecca were not open to conversion - Rushdie writes, "There is a god here called Allah (means simply, the god). Ask the Jahilians and they'll acknowledge that this fellow has some sort of overall authority, but he isn't very popular: an all-rounder in an age of specialist statues." (101) Here, you can see the satire and humor that permeates most of the novel. Rushdie has stated that The third story is about Ayesha, an Indian peasant girl who claims that archangel Gibreel has directed her to lead her village on pilgrimage to Mecca by foot, claiming they will be able to walk through the Arabian Sea.
It was really difficult for me to get into the novel in the beginning. Part I is the lives of Gibreel and Saladin before they were on the plane, and I was very confused by what was going on. But once you get through Part I, the story picks up.
Question: What is the opposite of faith?
Not disbelief. Too final, certain, closed. Itself is a kind of belief.
Doubt. (9)
There has been criticism that Rushdie wrote the novel intending to stir controversy, and an international incident did erupt over the novel. The controversy was in relation to story #2, the title The Satanic Verses "refers to an incident in the life of Mohammed, recorded by two early Arab historians (al-Waqidi, A.D. 747-823, and at-Tabari, A.D. c. 839-923), discredited by later commentators on the Koran, but taken up in Western accounts as the 'lapse of Mohammed' or his 'compromise with idolatry.'" (xAyatollah Khomeini, a Shia Muslim leader, issued a fatwā calling for the death of Rushdie and his publishers. Rushdie had to live under armed guard until it was rescinded. Nonetheless, it is still an impressive, beautifully written (albeit complex) novel. Rating: ★★★★★


Wide Sargasso Sea

Jean Rhys rose to fame with her novel Wide Sargasso Sea. At 16, Rhys left Dominica and moved to England. When Rhys read Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre as a young girl (see my post on Jane Eyre here), she began to imagine the Caribbean upbringing of Rochester's infamous Creole wife, Bertha Mason. Years later, Rhys decided to "try to write her a life." And Wide Sargasso Sea resulted, telling the story of Antoinette Cosway (later Bertha Mason) and her madness.  "The result is one of literature's most famous prequels, a novel that seeks to humanize the racially pejorative characterization of a West Indian madwoman." (x) The novel highlights themes of racism, the oppression of slavery, and the link between enslavement and madness. As Rochester begins to question his hasty marriage to Antoinette, he becomes more abusive and paranoid towards her. In turn, Antoinette sinks into further despair. One of my favorite quotes of the novel is when Rochester is writing about his motivations for leaving the Caribbean;
I hated the mountains and the hills, the rivers and the rain. I hated the sunsets of whatever colour, I hated its beauty and its magic and the secret I would never know. I hated its indifference and the cruelty which was part of its loveliness. Above all I hated her. For she belonged to the magic and the loveliness. She had left me thirsty and all my life would be thirst and longing for what I had lost before I found it.  
In Jane Eyre, the reader doesn't understand why Rochester has locked his wife in the attic, or how that situation came to be. Rhys gives them a backstory that is wonderful in itself. It isn't simply a retelling of Jane Eyre - it is a masterpiece in itself. Even if you haven't read Jane Eyre, Wide Sargasso Sea is still a powerful novel that I recommend. Rating: ★★★★

Jane Eyre

I read Jane Eyre by Charolette Bronë last year for English class. I'm just deciding to write about it now because I recently finished Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys' novel (post to be published shortly here) that was written a century later as a prequel to Jane Eyre. But more on that coming up. Jane Eyre is a classic story that everyone must read at some point in their lives. I must admit, at the beginning I found the novel dreadfully boring. But once I pushed myself to get into Jane's story, I became mesmerized with Jane. In the readers’ eyes, Jane grows from a bitter and emotional orphan girl to a student learning about morality, from a love-struck woman who accepts a marriage proposal against her principle to a woman who makes a choice to live her life based on her morals, and finally, to a perfect balance of all her experiences and the wife of Mr. Rochester. Her choices aren’t only made consciously by her, but are impacted by her location. With each decision, Jane becomes a stronger person, yet she never looses who she was in the past. She serves as a role model for generations of young women attempting to become independent. The novel serves a critique of Victorian assumptions about gender and social class, became one of the most successful novels of its time. It has also been adapted into a movie version multiple times, and I have seen the 2011 adaptation which I recommend. The story, as I mentioned before, takes some time to get into, but once you do, you can't stop reading. A thrilling mystery and romance, this is a classic you definitely should read. Rating:★★★★★