Saturday, 29 May 2010

Community, Identity, Stability

In the week following scientists' announcement of the development of the first living cell controlled by synthetic DNA, I finished reading Aldous Huxley's anti-Utopian novel Brave New World. A coincidence or a mere destiny, I was inspired to think about genetic engineering, technological development, and the advancement of science as it affects the life of human beings.

In the latter half of the 20th century two books have attempted to cast their predictions on our future. While George Orwell's 1984 portrays a form of hard brutal mind-controlling state of Totalitarianism, Huxley proposes a different, softer view, where technology helps achieve the three logos of the World State "Community, Identity, Stability"

Far in the future controllers have created the ideal society through genetic engineering, brainwashing and recreational use of sex and drugs. The standardized citizens are not born, but grown in hatcheries, where under careful hypnopaedia they are divided into a caste system and programmed to love their predestined social role. The inhabitants are beautiful, free, and secure from any diseases and worries, and if anything ever goes wrong, they have the drug soma to help them take a holiday from reality. Knowledge is limited to serve only the social role predetermined to the different caste systems - Alpha Plus individuals are prepared to be the future World Controllers, while lower classes such as Gamma and Delta are happy being servants and workers.

Huxley portrays a society of happy consumers, pleasure-seekers, and promiscuous conformists . Using brainwashing and genetic engineering since infancy individuals are programmed to love the virtues of passive obedience and limited knowledge and to enjoy a uncomplicated life, where everyone belongs to everyone else, where everything is available, but nothing has a real meaning. Sex and drugs are recreational and to commit to monogamy and fidelity is considered unnatural and ingeniously selfish. The only other alternative Huxley presents is living among the Savages, who live in terrible conditions of dirt, fear, diseases, anguish, blood, sweat, but still marry, love, worship, and have FREE WILL AND FREEDOM. The Savage, John, dreams of this "Brave New World", where people are happy and untroubled, but upon seeing it he realizes the artificiality, simplicity, and elementariness of this new world older.

Huxley ingeniously understands that in order to secure a stable totalitarian regime, people must not be forced, but instead programmed to love what they are doing. The Communist regime in Russian and the Nazi take over both began as Utopian visions but failed to create stability through coercion. In Brave New World Huxley offers community, identity, stability and eternal happiness but at what cost? Individuals are standardized to enjoy the limit of their knowledge, the pleasure of sex and drugs, and the carefree and untroubled life. Instead of fighting issues, pain, and anguish World Controllers simply eliminate them. Individuals do not have a free will, but the biggest issue is that they do not want a free will, do not dream of change, do not desire something different because they have been carefully programmed not to.

As scary and extreme as this sounds, one can inevitably question: "Are we that far from that state of life". As the recent scientific invention of artificial cell will allow the creation of good genetics and bad genetics, society will have the chance to design individuals in the way it sees fit. In his novel Huxley presents the inherent ambiguity of human kind: we indeed dream of eternal happiness, health, and sexual pleasures. In the same time, individuals still believe there is some meaning of life beyond simply enjoying it, that knowledge, worship, love, pain, and disease in their real sense contribute to making us really human. Because even though the Brave New World is perfect, it is far from human, as it deprives its members from the possibility of free choice, of real feelings, not constrained by drugs, and of real connection to another human being.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Mirror, mirror on the wall

What benefit earns a man if he sacrifices his soul to conquer the world? 

Oscar Wilde discusses this dilemma in his only novel, and certainly one of his most prominent masterpieces, The Picture of Dorian Gray. The author portrays the conflicting human nature, always striving for power, fame, and immortality. 

Dorian Gray is a beautiful young man, who invokes admiration wherever he appears. When a friend of his draws him a portrait, Dorian is astonished by his own beauty and agrees to even selling his soul to the devil in exchange for eternal youth, attractiveness, and vitality. The portrait bears the marks of Gray's vicious and demoting life, revealing his most disgraceful sins and secrets, while the original remains untouched. Wilde's trademark, his astonishing use of humor and wit, is put once again to use to ridicule the morals and the prejudices of the English aristocracy in the end of the 19th century. In the face of Dorian's friend, Lord Henry, the author satirically portrays the downfall and shortsightedness of society, where beauty, pleasure, and fame are considered most prominent virtues. 

Dorian indeed saves his youth, and vitality but at the price of the only thing that makes him human and distinguishes him from wild nature - his soul. Throughout the novel his eternal beauty leads to insanity, alienation, corruption, and even crime.More than a century later Wilde ideas are still alive and painfully familiar. Ever since we read about the queen being obsessed with Snow White's superior attractiveness, we are bombarded with powerful propaganda on the importance of outward appearance. Society is obsessed with looks, and not behavior, with attractiveness and not soul, with manners and not actions. The degrading results of this dangerous trend are most obvious. In Wilde's novel Gray sold his soul to achieve eternal beauty. In contemporary society girls sell their health and vitality to reach a body image they believe society expects them to have. 

Why do we place such a great importance on beauty in our lives? Are we searching for something to substitute that terrible desolation and alienation, a result from the progress we so intensely pursued? Or do we believe beauty is a universal instrument to attain eternity? I wonder exactly how many of us are ready to sell our soul to the devil in return for lasting youth and charm...Vanity indeed is a powerful weapon. 

"Mirror, mirror on the wall, who in the land is fairest of all?" 

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Carried Away...

No, I am not carried away to some fabulous exotic place. No, I am not lying on the beach, sun-burning, and drinking a pink coctail with a funny straw. Instead, I am stuck in the library, which already has a chair with my name on it (joking, but they should definitely think about it) and I am bored with financial concepts.

As a sweet escape from reality and provoked by my anticipation of Sex and the City 2 this Friday (I know, I am such a girl) I decided to check out Candace Bushnell's novels. I was quite surprised to understand that in 2008 (OK,I am kind of slow) the author announced that she planned to write two books about Carrie's teenage years. Well, the first one is a fact and you can already buy it in every bookstore. The Carrie Diaries is taking us back to Carrie's last year in high school, when she leaves for New York with two things: Samantha Jones's phone number and her dreams. As the author pointed out in interview: "Carrie in high school did not follow the crowd-she led it. It was there that she began observing and commenting on the social scene".

Before you decide to close my blog and probably never visit again, I will try to explain myself. Yes, mostly I enjoy serious books, clasics, novels that shake you, change your perceptions, make you think, analyze, and elaborate. From time to time, though, I need something light, refreshing, enjoyable and positive. I quite enjoyed the show while it was running, although I was very disappointed by the first movie (hopefully the second one will be better). Nevertheless, I intend to spend some fabulous time with Carrie's teenage stories, which I am sure, will be as provocative, cynical, and dramatic as her New York adult life. Although, I would kind of miss Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte.

I already picture myself. The beach, the sun, The Carrie Diaries and a big Strawberry Daiquiri. I am ready to be carried away...

Monday, 24 May 2010

Aimez-vous Sagan?

Another amazing novel by Francoise Sagan left me speechless. As I already mentioned, her works are so intoxicating, so light and enjoyable, yet deep, emotional, and provocative. It took me exactly two days to finish Aimez-vous Brahms and bear in mind I have enough exams to study for.

Sagan has the rare talent to portray a rather simple and everyday story, which we have encountered several, maybe hundreds of times, in a way that raises questions  we never thought of asking ourselves.

Paula is 39 years old with a wonderful job and in a relationship with a man, who values his freedom and his affairs more than her. Feeling lonely, unappreciated, and unsatisfied, Paula decides to start a relationship with 25-year-old Simon. He is everything her boyfriend Roger is not - available, caring, devoted, at times even obsessive. Simon lives for Paula, to satisfy her needs, to make her happy, and to behave in every way she expects him to. Yet, as Sagan ingeniously points out, love is much more complex, irrational, and unpredictable. Paula believes she always wanted a man like Simon, yet she finds it hard to build a life with him. Is his perfection going to be enough for her or is his child-like devotion and obsession too much to bear? Does Paula feel as his lover, his beloved, or his mother?

I love the novel because it stresses on several important issues. Sometimes what we believe we want in love is not what we really need. Even if the white knight comes along, ready to be our servant, our slave, our most devoted lover, if that spark and that connection is missing, the affair is predestined to a tragic end. Sagan once again astonishes with her profound understanding of the human nature and emotions. A novel that will shake you to the core, make you ask questions about love, life, happiness, and desires, but never leave you indifferent.

Friday, 21 May 2010

A classy time with Rhett and Scarlett

When you make a mistake it is the best decision to admit to it, correct it, and share your experience with others so that they do not make the same mistake as well. I quickly judged the sequels on my bad previous experience but fortunately, Donald Mccaig's Rhett Butler's People proved me wrong.

At the beginning, I must admit, the novel didn't grab my attention. The first 200 pages were far from exciting and challenging and I was almost ready to give up the book (which I never do) and start something different. Mccaig spent too much time introducing new characters and Rhett and Scarlett were barely there. However, after having two really stressful exams today, I decided to relax and when into the park. I spent 2 incredible hours walking, reading, and listening to music ( as my flatmate correctly pointed out, we, women, are great at multitasking). I was so drowned into the story that I didn't see anything around me. The result was rather funny as I almost fell several times and bumped into random people.

Back on the novel.Rhett Butler's People is very different from the style we remember from Gone with the Wind. Yet Mccaig manages to tell us a story we already know from a totally different point-of-view - Rhett's. It is not exaggerated to say that we meet a rather different Mr. Butler as from the one we know. However, Mccaig portrays with a sensitive brush one of the most charismatic personages in world literature. He explores Rhett's relationship with his family, his friends, his sister, and his beloved Scarlett. As a bonus, the reader benefits from the author's extensive knowledge on the US Civil War and the difference between the South and the North.

If you miss Scarlett and Rhett, if you thought Gone with the Wind' s end was simply too unsatisfactory and the  lovers deserved one more chance, you will definitely not be disappointed with Rhett Butler's People. Do not expect Margaret Mitchell wearing pants, it's a completely different author with an ingenious approach to the circumstances surrounding the greatest love story I have ever read. I am pleased to say Mccaig didn't spoil my pleasure and impression with Gone with the Wind. Instead he offered me the opportunity to go back and enjoy for one more time Mr and Mrs Butler from a different perspective. Thank you, Donald

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Fun Facts about Me

I guess it is one of those weeks, where several posts unrelated to reading will come on to my blog. After all, we all are diverse people and we do other staff in relation to reading like crazy. Also, I don't have a lot of information about myself on the blog, so I guess this will be a fun and entertaining way for you to learn more about me. Thanks to Michelle for tagging me and if you are into receiving some great advice about make up, fashion, or any other beauty product, check her blog @ You will notice the difference in the eyes of everyone IMMEDIATELY.

Reveal the 8th photo in the 8th folder in my computer

This is me on my prom 2 years ago. I loved my dress. I spent a huge amount of money and time to find it but it was definitely worth it. The people next to me are my grandparents, which have raised me. I love them and I miss them a lot. 

What size shoes are you? 

Favorite piece of clothing you own?

Well, unfortunately I don't really own that dress but I really would love to. It's from All Saints (one of my favorite shops in the UK, where every time I go, I just can't resist to buy something). However, it was quite expensive (130 pounds) and I decided to be mature and I didn't buy it. At least I took a picture to remind me how marvelous it was. 

Your favorite blog
I am quite new to blogging but already I have some favorites: Alexa's Not Enough Bookshelves ( I really liked  the title of that blog cause I literally have the same issue at home), Book Love Affair and of course my friend Michelle's Two Lipsticks and a Cocktail. I am such a mess with make up and beauty products and her advice are really helpful. 

Do you have any pets?
I always wanted to have a dog but my father was convinced that at the end he would have to take care of it. And he is probably right. I had 5 turtles when I was little but then a funny accident (some will call it tragic) happened. My favorite turtle ate the head of the other turtle (because I was feeding the killer with meat daily, so that she becomes big and strong). I was so shocked by the event that I gave all of them away. Now I am laughing as I remember it. 

How many siblings do you have?

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
Paris, definitely. The Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysees, the atmosphere, the culture, the language. Everything

What were you doing before that?
I was in the park reading Rhett Butler's People by Donald Mccaig and listening to music

Your favorite food?
Sushi. I want to learn how to make home-made sushi pretty soon. It is supposed to be amazing as you can experiment and put all those weird staff in. 

Do you have a middle name?
In Bulgaria your middle name is a variation of your father's first name. Mine is Grigorieva since my father is called Grigory. 

Your favorite websites?
I don't have ones. 

Who do you tag?
Alexa from Not Enough Bookshelves and 

Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed this light refreshment in between the lines

A nerd? A passionate reader? A book lover?

Another birthday is over and yet life continues in its normal direction. And for me that direction is rather unfortunate since it involves a large amount of exam stress.

On the subject. As lovely as my birthday was, it was made even lovelier by the amount of books I received as gifts. Only slight concern: do people actually think the only thing I do is read and drink wine?

I got three as different books as you can possibly imagine. My lovely flatmates surprised me in the morning with 101 Essential Tips to Everyday Meditation. I have always longed to try meditating but I always postponed it with the excuse that maybe it is too hard and I won't be able to achieve it. I have no more excuses now so beware meditation, here I come. I hope it really reduces the levels of stress in my life, which are pretty high right now. The next book is Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. As mentioned under one of my posts, it is a necessary complementary reading to 1984 by George Orwell and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Can't wait to be dipped into yet another book about the human race degradation into control, unhappiness, and emotional poverty. As a rule, I saved the best for last. A very special person gave me Ayn Rand's new book We the Living. According to the summary, this novel is going to be both quite different and the same to Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but Rand chooses to focus on life in the USSR and to explore the extreme level of dictatorship in one of the most influential countries. In the same time, the author elaborates on the clash between the Man and the State, which can be related to the clash between the Man and the Society in her two other powerful works.

It is so unfortunate that I have exams right now and have absolutely no time to devote to these three amazing books expecting me on the shelf. Sadly, the only reviews I can write now are about investment analysis and business economics. Three weeks and here comes summer!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

21 Today

A totally unrelated post but I decided to give it a shot. It is officially my birthday now and I am 21. I can't believe another year has passed by and I barely even noticed it. Between the summer and the exams, the happy and the sad moments, the accomplishments and the failures, I managed to get it right here. 

To be honest, I am not where I expected to be when I turn 21. I imagined my year differently, I had different expectations, different hopes, different dreams. Anyways, here I am and that is what I have done. Despite the many (MANY MANY) mistakes I have made, despite the disappointments and the tears, I really did grow up. I grew up more than a year from last 18th of May. I grew not only in age, I grew in experience. I learned one important lesson: I am the one who is supposed to help myself. No one is obligated to take care of me, no one is obligated to lift me up when I fall and no one is obligated to give me courage when I need it. It is the place to quote my favorite author Ayn Rand: "I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for me". And that is what it is. By the end of the day you are alone. And it is your job to make the most of your life, to pursue your happiness, to trust your instincts, and to do only what makes you feel alive. 

Enough of the really "preachy" staff. More importantly, although I am not where I wanted to be, I am hopeful. As a very special person told me today: "It doesn't matter whether this day is what you imagined it to be. It is what you make it yourself". And that is what I intend to do tomorrow. I intend to do the day ONLY ABOUT ME. Because this is the day of the year, which is totally mine. And I will make the most of it. 

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Bonjour Paris!

If you are fascinated with French culture, literature, or simply Paris like me, I would definitely recommend checking out Francoise Sagan's novels.

Sagan is an icon in contemporary  world literature. Her novels encompass the easy, bourgeois lifestyle in Paris, where love is passionate, possessive, but often fleeting. Her characters are young and egoistic, used to the idle and carefree Paris life. However, their love affairs are troubled, complicated by marriage, betrayals, lies, age, and social status. The novels are light and easy to read but at the same time they deeply analyze the nature of human character when standing in front of sophisticated choices. To add, the author was only 18 when she wrote her first novel Bonjour Tristesse. One might easily be mistaken it is written by a woman with years of love experience, as Sagan describes complicated love stories with maturity, sensibility, and often scrutiny.

So far I have read Bonjour Tristesse, Dans un Mois, dans un An and Un Certain Sourire. Francoise Sagan's style is recognizable in all of these novels, yet each and every one of them is different and special, raising yet another issue about love, loyalty, responsibility, and betrayal. Aimez-vous Brahms is her next piece, which is expecting me on my bookshelf right after I finish Rhett Butler's People.

Her novels are usually short, about 150-200 pages. I assure you that if they grab you from the beginning, you won't let go until you read them cover to cover. Personally, I finished those 3 in about 4-5 days. It is that obsessing!. If only I could read them in French, I believe the experience would be much more valuable. Sadly, my French is as good as to say BONJOUR PARIS!

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Hammer & Sickle or the Power of Totalitarian Propaganda

Where did Big Brother come from? If your answer is "Australia", "BBC", or "Niki Kunchev invented him" (you will only get this joke if you are Bulgarian) then you better stick this post on your wall.

As the title suggests I am going to focus on a rather controversial issue: totalitarianism. I am from Bulgaria, once under USSR communist influence, but now a democratic country (at least that's what we believe). I have never lived in communism ( if we don't count those 5 months since I was born and before communism in Bulgaria ended but I don't really have any valuable memories from that time) but my parents and grandparents have. And all I hear is: "Oh, it was safer, people were equal, there was no poverty and unhappiness". To what extent that was true and to what extent were they under powerful propaganda I cannot say and I am not inclined to judge either.

Now on the books. Two novels, which I desperately recommend, have focused on what will happen if totalitarianism not only spread but developped. George Orwell's 1984 presents a utopian world, where The Party controls not only people's lifes, but their thoughts, emotions, and feelings. Big Brother's voice (like in the reality show) sounds in every home, sees everything, and tells people what to do and how to behave. Winston's job is to change history by changing the newspaper's articles depending on the Party's political moves at that time. However, he meets a girl, and together, they try to reveal the roots behind the Party's power over people.

In Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Montag lives in a society where books are illegal (IMAGINE THAT!). His job is to burn all books, except those that serve the Party's propaganda. 451 refers to the degrees, at which paper burns. Similarly to Winston, a woman changes his perspective and provokes him to search for answers beneath the ordered totalitarian world.

Both novels are masterpieces, although I personally prefer 1984. It focuses more on the totalitarian regime and its ways to control people, to ensure their subordination, and to prevent acts of disobedience. I have read the novel twice and it always sends shivers through my body. What if we ever reach that state? Can you imagine being told what to think, how to feel, where to go, and how to act...

I can't wait to read Ayn Rand's essays on the subjects. She had to fleet the USSR and she expresses a rather firm opinion (that's Ayn Rand after all, she always has a firm opinion!) on totalitarianism and capitalism. I am sure here works would be worth reading.

On a final note, if you have never lived in a communist country, if you have lived and you don't remember, or even if you  have spend most of your live under totalitarian regime, these two novels are worth reading. Depending on your moral codex they will astonish you, provoke you, amaze you, or angry you, but one thing is sure - they will not leave you disappointed or indifferent.

Monday, 10 May 2010

A light reading for heavy nights

Searching for something light, enjoyable, and optimistic to read I followed a friend's advice and spent two splendid weeks with Lesley Lokko's Bitter Chocolate. This optimistic novel tells the story of three girls from different backgrounds in their quest for love, marriage, and happiness. Laure leaves for America, where she has to cope with being 17, alone, and without any money. Ameline, neither a servant nor a sister at Laure's family, has no knowledge of her roots or future but she finds happiness in an unexpected place. Melanie is the spoiled daughter of a rock star, who has everything money can buy, but happiness and love.

The book whirls around the destinies of the three girls as they pass through maturity and face lies, betrayals, and death to finally find a place to be themselves. The novel is very optimistic and positive, easy to read and understand, and with no claims to be a masterpiece. If you are looking for a book to raise up your spirit, to motivate you, or simply to make you smile and dream, then I definitely recommend Bitter Chocolate. Not a waste of time, surely.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

To Sequel or Not to Sequel

I have a rather strong opinion on two approaches regarding books: the movie is ALWAYS a mistake (expect soon my opinion on the Dorian Gray adaptation) and a sequel most probably will ruin the pleasure of reading a book.
Among two of my favorite books as a young girl (before I met the literature of Ayn Rand to be specific) were Pride and Prejudice and Gone with the Wind. I have read them a million of times, I know every line and every chapter. So when I realized both of them had sequels, I was quite excited to read them.

Julia Barrett's Presumption focuses around the life and love affairs of Darcy's little sister, Georgiana. My hopes of meeting the clever Elizabeth and the proud Darcy again were unfortunately not met. Instead, this was just another novel about a young girl searching for love in 19th century UK. If the cover didn't actually say it was Pride and Prejudice's sequel, I would have never known. Barrett's style is far away from the satirical, yet clever and amusing approach Jane Austen adopts towards ridiculing stupidity and shortsightedness in her works. It says that Austen's heirs chose Barrett. Well, if I had met them, my suggestion would have been to either read their famous relative's novels CAREFULLY or not to bother finding another author that just ruins the pleasure and expectations of Austen's fans. Is money the root to all of this?

You are wondering why I am bringing the subject on. Well the famous maxim "Leave it. Learn it. " obviously doesn't apply to me. I have given Gone with the Wind's sequel a fair chance to change my opinion. Again, helpful relatives have chosen Donald McCaig to write Rhett Butler's People. I have just started the novel and it focuses on Rhett's life before he meets Scarlett. She is supposed to appear at the end of the novel (again a huge disappointment; Rhett without Scarlett is as good as Poirot without Hastings, Holmes without Dr Watson, or Bonnie without Clyde). So far I am not impressed as it REALLY IS Rhett's people because for the first 80 pages Rhett is hardly in the story. Instead another sister pops up. What's with the sisters, dude?

I will keep you updated but as I see it, it is just another sequel that is going to prove my point.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Books I have read

Dear all,

I have added some features to my blog. I am trying to incorporate ALL the books I have read, which is a really hard work as they are so many of them. I have included a search, as well as a link to library thing, where you can see everything I have read so far. I will keep uploading the list when I have time.


Thursday, 6 May 2010

To meet

Hello you all read addicts. Since you are in my blog, this means we share a common passion - reading. If you are one of those people who never go out without a book in the pocket, who wakeup and fall asleep with one, or who decline an invitation just to finish that last chapter, we are going to have lots to discuss.

As this is my first post, I am going to mention what I try to achieve with this blog. Basically, I love reading. Recently, I even realized I don't have enough bookshelves to accommodate all of my books. Here I will publish articles about books I have read, books that have inspired me, or changed my life and perceptions. I hope you will like the discussions and feel free to engage in them.

The last book I read was Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand so expect my resume pretty soon.