The Decameron

“Essere la natura de’ motti cotale, che essi come la pecora morde deono cosi mordere l’uditore, e non come ‘l cane: percio che, se come cane mordesse il motto, non sarebbe motto, ma villania” – The Decameron, Boccaccio
The nature of wit is such that its bite must be like that of a sheep rather than a dog, for if it were to bite the listener like a dog, it would no longer be wit but abuse. 

The Decameron is 600-years old collection of novellas by Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio. The book contains 100 tales told by a group of seven young women and three men who are sheltering in a villa outside Florence. Decameron apparently has something to do with number ten. Ten nights are spent telling stories. The book is quite humorous, the tales are full of wit and practical jokes and from time to time they offer some wisdom, although some of the tales are quite old-fashioned.

.There’s  a lot to The Decameron and that makes it hard to review it. There’s a lot of sex and many tales center priests and women. On the other hand, it’s always nice when church is mocked. There are many lies and lots of deceit in Decameron and those two are perhaps the core themes here.

“Io ho inteso che un gallo basta assai bene a diece galline, ma che diece uomini posson male o con fatica una femina sodisfare.” – The Decameron, Boccaccio
I have always been given to understand…that whereas a single cock is quite sufficient for ten hens, ten men are hard put to satisfy one woman.

I liked how they were well aware of these natural laws like there was Murphy’s Law Nature, Fate, Fortune No matter what you do in life, life is out of control. Characters in stories are prank each other yes, however there also seems to be a lot of bad luck.

I also liked this tragic backstory. Our storytellers have ended up in villa outside Florence because they are trying to escape the Black Death raging in Florence. Good sense of humor is vital survival skill. I’m rating this book 4/5 stars. It might seem quite high, however I wasn’t expecting anything much from this, in fact I don’t think I have ever even heard of this book so it was quite entertaining read.

How- To Read The Decameron
1.
You should really chew on it. The Decameron has so many themes and many wise lines so just take your time with it.
2. Paperback has almost 900 pages… so definitely take your time. Maybe read one tale a day? Maybe ask fellow readers which tales they liked.
3. If you have to read this for college or for some literature class, just skip reading and wikipedia what happens in book. It will be painful to read this for a class :D
4. Tales about lustful monks might tire you but main theme of Decameron is lies and deceit so it’s quite entertaining even with sex factor. Reading this is like watching a soap opera.
5. If you’re really excited about this, I would recommend you this book called La Divina Commedia from fellow Italian for further reading.

“Leggiadre donne, infra molte bianche colombe aggiugne più di bellezza uno nero corvo, che non farebbe un candido cigno.” – The Decameron, Boccaccio
Charming ladies, the beauty of a flock of white doves is better enhanced by a black crow than by a pure white swan.

This book pretty much  wrecked my Goodreads ‘year published’ stats. There’s no fixing that huge century-long gap… is there. Have you read any books written centuries ago that you have liked? Have you read The Decameron?

//Anastasia

All pictures very kindly borrowed from the internet & Wikipedia Commons.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

 

“Maybe there was once a human who looked like you, and somewhere along the line you killed him and took his place. And your superiors don’t know.”
― Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a science fiction novel by  Philip K. Dick, first published in 1968. The novel takes place in  a post-apocalyptic San Francisco. Post-apocalyptic because life has been damaged by nuclear World War Terminus. The plot follows a bounty hunter Rick Deckard whose job is to “retire” (read: kill) Nexus 6 model androids who have escaped from the outer colonies and try to pass as humans. There’s also subplot that focuses on John Isidore, a man of sub-par IQ who aids our fugitive androids.

“You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go. It is the basic condition of life, to be required to violate your own identity. At some time, every creature which lives must do so. It is the ultimate shadow, the defeat of creation; this is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life. Everywhere in the universe.”
― Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

I’ve long been a fan of Philip K. Dick. I think it all started when I was a kid and my dad brought me a paperback called The Man in  the High Caste. My dad is huge fan of history and probably thought it would be interesting read. It was and so was Do Androids… Author has very fascinating thoughts and he is very deep with them. We can see this already in the title. You can go with androids. Or you can go a step further and ask if they dream…if they dream of electric sheep? The novel beautifully explores topics like: What is real, what is fake what makes us human? In book, the androids are said to possess no sense of empathy. It’s not quite true, is it?  And if to forget about androids, there are other interesting topics to explore too: How UN always makes super clever decisions,  nuclear war: hasn’t yet happened but it could?

 

“You have to be with other people, he thought. In order to live at all. I mean before they came here I could stand it… But now it has changed. You can’t go back, he thought. You can’t go from people to nonpeople.”
― Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

4/5 stars

How- To Read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
1. Read it in English.
I first read this in Finnish and they had translated the title as ‘Bounty Hunter’. Not fun. Many other translators apparently thought the title  was too difficult to translate…In Swedish: Dreams of Androids, Dutch: Electric Nightmares, Italian: Then Hunter of Androids? I can imagine how they translated everything else.
2.
A must read for PKD fans and for those who love science fiction :)
3. Cult classic thing. You know how it is with those.
4. Many interesting adaptations, for example: 1982 film Blade Runner and its 2017 sequel Blade Runner 2049.

Have you read this? Thoughts? What makes you so sure you’re human?
This post is a part of a very happy event called scifi month. Check it out.

“You mean old books?”
“Stories written before space travel but about space travel.”
“How could there have been stories about space travel before –”
“The writers,” Pris said, “made it up.”
― Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Pictures: Black sheep from PixabayDo androids dream of electric sheep? | by Bill McIntyre ,do androids dream of electric sheep? | by cdrummbks

How-To Travel Through Time

“Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and all the gravities of terrestrial life.”
― H.G. Wells, The Time Machine

The Time Machine is a science fiction novel (or a long short-story?)  by H. G. Wells, published in 1895 and it has become a classic. In the book, the narrator introduces us to inventor and scientist whom the reader will know only by as Time Traveller. It’s impolite to call him anything different. In The Time Machine, our Time Traveller travels far into the future, into year 801, 701. There he learns that humanity has evolved when he meets Eloi. Eloi are described as naiive and small post-humans with large eyes and small ears and mouths.

Time Traveller soon learns that sweet Eloi do not inhabit this new world alone. There are also Morlocks who are quite different from the other human species.

“The fact is, the Time Traveller was one of those men who are too clever to be believed: you never felt that you saw all round him; you always suspected some subtle reserve, some ingenuity in ambush, behind his lucid frankness.”
― H.G. Wells, The Time Machine

The Time Machine is epic. H.G. Wells was a pioneer and this is one of the cornerstones of all science fiction works that came after…and especially dystopian genre? I like this novel a lot. I think Wells was one of the first ones to tackle the question of what the world would look like 800 000 years in the future. There is already a gap between people so what if after many millennia our world would look like this? Who would become Eloi and who would become Morlocks? I like Wells’ style, he’s whimsical and yet his language is beautiful and descriptions are rich. What did make me drop one star from the rating was the pessimism. I like to think that there is some hope for humanity. I want to read about people who push above everything, whereas here it just got more and more hopeless.

 

4/5 stars

How- To Read The Time Machine
1. 
Just 118 pages! The perfect read if you’re having a busy phase in your life! Whimsical and beautiful style of writing ought to keep you entertained. You can get the book at Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/35
2. 
Essential read for all science fiction fans and I think this is great piece of work even if you don’t like the genre too much.
3. Plenty of good, entertaining and very different kinds of adaptations.

Have you read this? Thoughts? This post is a part of a very happy event called scifi month. Check it out.

“Face this world. Learn its ways, watch it, be careful of too hasty guesses at its meaning. In the end you will find clues to it all.”
― H.G. Wells, The Time Machine

The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up

“Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up or Peter and Wendy is J. M. Barrie’s most famous work, in the form of a 1904 play and a 1911 novel. It tells the story of Peter Pan, a mischievous little boy who can fly, and has many adventures on the island of Neverland that is inhabited by mermaids, fairies, Native Americans, and pirates.

“Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning. ”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

I think Peter Pan was something that I first learned about through Disney’s film adaptation many years ago. I think no matter in what format you first learned about this story, it will always be a story of making the impossible possible by believing. And that one must believe in fairies.

“When the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces, and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

There are many magical things about Peter Pan’s story. The story is wonderful. Something magical happens and three ordinary kids are taken to a magical land. The Neverland and to find it you must find the second star to the right and straight on ’til morning. And there they encounter many different kinds of adventures.

“Stars are beautiful, but they may not take part in anything, they must just look on forever.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Characters are one of a kind, I think. There’s the one and only boy who would not grow up, Peter Pan, a young boy dressed in leaves and the only one able to fly without the help of Tinker Bell’s golden fairy dust. And Tinker Bell. I understand very well why she became the messenger of Disney’s magic. She’s no fancy fairy, she mends pots and kettles and even though she’s usually helpful and kind to Peter, from time to time she’s also ill-behaved and vindictive.

“Tink was not all bad: or, rather, she was all bad just now, but, on the other hand, sometimes she was all good. Fairies have to be one thing or the other, because being so small they unfortunately have room for one feeling only at a time. They are, however, allowed to change, only it must be a complete change.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Then there’s The Darling Family and the children: John, Michael & Wendy Darling. The lattest one is the eldest one of the children who likes the idea of homemaking and wants to be a mother which she sort of also becomes for the Lost Boys. I never liked Wendy’s character for some reason. & The Lost Boys, sad but fascinating idea about how they turned up in Neverland. And then also one of my all-time favorite villains: Captain James Hook. Who wants to kill Peter Pan. Not so much because Peter cut off his right hand but because Peter drives him to madness. Oh and the ticking crocodile.

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

I really adore Peter Pan, however, I can’t quite bring myself to give it 5 stars review as there were a couple of things that I did not like: Wendy was really annoying and the last chapter of the story was also rather annoying. I think perhaps the book would have been better without it. And then the background of this story is a sad one.

“To live will be an awfully big adventure.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

4/5 stars

How-To Read Peter Pan
1.
A dear child has many names. This novel goes by different titles such as: Peter Pan or Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up or Peter and Wendy. If you’re looking for one with illustrations you might want to look for Peter & Wendy.
2.
There are two prequels to Peter Pan’s story called: Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens: “Before he flew away to Neverland, the little boy who wouldn’t grow up dwelt in the heart of London, with birds and fairies as his companions.” and  The Little White Bird where only few chapters are about Peter Pan and the rest focus on Barrie’s ponderings. I think only Peter Pan’s story matters but if you’re a fan, I warmly recommend the first part too.
3.
You can read and download Peter Pan and all the other works by J.M. Barrie for free at Project Gutenberg: https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/16
4.
Don’t get me started about Disney’s adaptation. I love it. And it’s nice to read the story after you’ve seen the film. The novel is a bit darker.
5. Clap your hands and say, ‘I believe in fairies!’

“Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Thoughts? Did you first read Peter Pan or see the Disney adaptation of it?

Watership Down

“All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed.”
― Richard Adams, Watership Down

Watership Down is a classic adventure novel, written by Richard Adams. It’s set in southern England and the story features a small group of rabbits who escape the destruction of their warren and seek a place to establish a new home, encountering perils and temptations along the way.

“Animals don’t behave like men,’ he said. ‘If they have to fight, they fight; and if they have to kill they kill. But they don’t sit down and set their wits to work to devise ways of spoiling other creatures’ lives and hurting them. They have dignity and animality.”
― Richard Adams, Watership Down

I first read Watership Down approximately ten years ago. It’ll always hold a special place in my heart. The rabbit characters are very sympathetic. Then, I loved the fact that the rabbits had their very own language called Lapine, and they also have their own religion and history. For example, the story of  El-ahrairah, the rabbit folk hero.

“You know how you let yourself think that everything will be all right if you can only get to a certain place or do a certain thing. But when you get there you find it’s not that simple.”
― Richard Adams, Watership Down

I guess it’s hard to write something such as Watership Down and for that I applaud the author. (I was saddened by the news of his passing last year.) I mean story featuring rabbits might sound a bit absurd at first. However, it’s far from absurd because of the well-thought story and the well-written characters as well as the serious tone the whole novel carries. I don’t know, in my experience, it’s something about the genre. If the story is told from the animal’s perspective or narrated by an animal, it eventually turns sad.

“The rabbits mingled naturally. They did not talk for talking’s sake, in the artificial manner that human beings – and sometimes even their dogs and cats – do. But this did not mean that they were not communicating; merely that they were not communicating by talking.”
― Richard Adams, Watership Down

“I’d rather succeed in doing what we can than fail to do what we can’t.”
― Richard Adams, Watership Down

“Men will never rest till they’ve spoiled the earth and destroyed the animals.”
― Richard Adams, Watership Down

5/5 stars

(I suppose most of my reviews here have been four/five stars. I’m mostly only reviewing my favorite books, not every book I read because I don’t have time for it and I don’t see why bad books should deserve more attention)

Tips
1.
It’s quite a long book, nearly 500 pages and I think it gets really interesting only after couple of hundred pages so don’t give up on it right away. If you’re planning on buying this, I recommend buying  40th anniversary edition you can see in the pictures above. It’s just gorgeous.
2. 
I think this is a good book for everyone really. There are so many lessons you can learn by reading this: about the corruption of power and about compromises and about good leadership.  And I guess about how evil humans are but that there are always two sides to a coin.
3. 
If you love animal xenofiction, this one is for you and you’ll probably like other books by Richard Adams too, for example, The Plague Dogs and Traveller.
4. 
There’s a follow-up to Watership Down called Tales from Watership Down which Adams finished nearly 20 years after the first book. I warmly recommend reading it if you want to dive deeper into world Adams had created in this first novel.
5.
There’s an animated film and also tv series of Watership Down…both quite sad.

Have you read Watership Down? Thoughts?

//Anastasia