Smoke by Ivan Turgenev

Posted 27 August, 2015 by Michael Kitto in Classic, Russian Lit Project / 0 Comments

Smoke by Ivan TurgenevTitle: Smoke (Goodreads)
Author: Ivan Turgenev
Translator: Michael Pursglove
Published: Alma Books, 1867
Pages: 256
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Library Book

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Set in Baden-Baden, a small spa town in the foothills of the black forest, in the south west of Germany, near the border of France and Switzerland. Grigory Mikhailovich Litvinov has arrived in the town after spending years in the west; here he plans to meet up with his fiancée Tatyana. While there, he bumps into Irina an old flame, who is now married to a prominent aristocrat General Valerian Vladimirovitch Ratmirov. This chance meeting derails all Girgory’s plans for the future and sends his life into turmoil. Smoke is a melancholy novel of an impossible romance and an apogee of Ivan Turgenev’s later novels.

I know what my wife would say, this is a typical Russian novel about a man that has a fiancée that has waited for him all these years while he was out west but then an old flame turns up and he doubts his relationship. This is a common trope in classic Russian literature but this is also autobiographical for Ivan Turgenev. At the time of writing this novel, Turgenev was living in Baden-Baden to be near his lover Opera singer Madame Viardot. Creepily, he moved next door the singer and her husband. His relationship with Madame Viardot turned into a lifelong affair that resulted in Turgenev never marrying, although not sure what her husband thought of it all.

Smoke is a satirical novel aimed to highlight the problems Ivan Turgenev found with mother Russia. The conservatives are unwilling to change and adapt to the help modernise Russia, while he believed that the revolutionaries were glorifying a Slav mysticism, which we all know as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. With one novel, Turgenev managed to alienate the majority of Russia in one hit; the book even sparked a heated feud with fellow writer Fyodor Dostoevsky.

While this satirical exposé into his fellow countrymen was met with a lot of criticism within Russia, Smoke was still published in the March 1867 issue of The Russian Messenger. The Russian Messenger is one of the best Russian literary magazines during the 19th century publishing the majority of the great pieces from this country. Smoke may not be the best Ivan Turgenev novel to start with but it was an interesting book to read none the less. The amount of debate it sparked was fascinating to explore and I believe Smoke holds a well-deserved spot in the Russian canon.


Movie Review: Cinema Paradiso (1988)

Posted 25 August, 2015 by Michael Kitto in Film & Television / 0 Comments

Cinema ParadisoTitle: Cinema Paradiso
Released: 1988
Director: 
Giuseppe Tornatore
StarsJacques Perrin, Philippe Noiret, Leopoldo Trieste, Marco Leonardi
Genre: Drama

Italian masterpiece Cinema Paradiso tells the story of the life of fictional film director Salvatore Di Vita. This is often seen as an example of nostalgic post-modernism, exploring the evolution of cinema in the form of a coming of age story. Writer and Director Giuseppe Tornatore has spoken out as saying that Cinema Paradiso was his eulogy to the death of cinema, however after the success of the movie he never mentioned this again.

The 1988 movie is set in the small Sicilian town of Giancaldo where Salvatore (Toto) Di Vita grows up. He befriends the local film projectionist Alfredo and the movie follows this development through the ages of cinema. The theme of censorship plays a big part of the movie, often depicting scenes where the local priest would watch the movies prior to release in order to remove all kissing scenes or anything else that is considered inappropriate. This is in a time where the whole town came together to watch a movie and get the latest news. So there was not much choice in what to see and with the whole family there it needed to be appropriate for all ages. However this does spark many debates on the necessity of censorship and one day I hope to do a blog post on the Hays Code that nearly destroyed America cinema as well as the Legion of Decency, an organisation that would boycott any movie they deemed inappropriate.

While Cinema Paradiso likes to take a hard look at the censorship, it does not take itself too seriously. Stand out scene for this was when a kissing scene finally makes the screen and the priest in an outrage says he would not watch this pornographic movie. Despite the fact that he has spent many hours watching all these movies in the past. As well as looking at censorship I could not over look the nostalgic value of this movie. Depicting scenes from many great movies including; The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Carmela (1942), The Outlaw (1943), It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) and so much more. I am no expert in classic cinema but I really enjoyed the nostalgic approach found within the movie.

I have never seen this movie before and I feel a little shame to admit this. In the future I plan to watch more of the movies found on the 1001 Movies to Watch Before You Die list and blog about them all. Who knows, I might actually get a chance to watch them all. I know I am just a beginner when it comes to critically analysing movies but I am looking forward to seeing the progress I make in the future. I have not talked about the acting or the dramatic use of lighting in the review, I may revisit this film in the future. If you have never seen Cinema Paradiso and are a fan of cinema I highly recommend getting a copy as soon as possible.


It’s Monday! What are you Reading? 24th August 2015

Posted 24 August, 2015 by Michael Kitto in What are you Reading / 0 Comments

It’s Monday, What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted over at Book Journey. I thought I’d join in with this meme as a way to be more consistent with my posting schedule, the idea is to post regularly. As I treat this blog as a book journal I thought it might be nice to have this kind of information documented.

dexter-is-deadDexter Is Dead by Jeff Lindsay

After seven national best sellers and eight seasons as one of the most successful shows on television, New York Times best-selling author Jeff Lindsay bids a thrilling farewell to his uniquely twisted and beloved serial killer, Dexter Morgan. Dexter Is Dead is the definitive conclusion of the character who has become a global icon.

Dexter Morgan has burned the candle at both ends for many years: blood spatter analyst…husband…father…serial killer. And now, for the first time, his world has truly collapsed. Dexter is arrested on charges of murder. He has lost everything – including his wife, his kids, and the loyalty of his sister. Now completely alone, Dexter faces a murder charge (for a crime, ironically, he did not actually commit). His only chance for freedom lies with his brother, Brian, who has a dark plan to prove Dexter’s innocence. But the stakes are deadly, and the epic showdown that lies in Dexter’s path may lead, once and for all, to his demise.

Jeff Lindsay’s trademark devilish wit and cutting satire have never been sharper. Dexter Is Dead marks the end of a beloved series, but is also Dexter’s most satisfying and suspenseful outing yet.

postmodernism-a very short introPostmodernism: A Very Short Introduction by Christopher Butler

Postmodernism has been a buzzword in contemporary society for the last decade. But how can it be defined? In this Very Short Introduction Christopher Butler challenges and explores the key ideas of postmodernists, and their engagement with theory, literature, the visual arts, film, architecture, and music. He treats artists, intellectuals, critics, and social scientists ‘as if they were all members of a loosely constituted and quarrelsome political party’ – a party which includes such members as Cindy Sherman, Salman Rushdie, Jacques Derrida, Walter Abish, and Richard Rorty – creating a vastly entertaining framework in which to unravel the mysteries of the ‘postmodern condition’, from the politicizing of museum culture to the cult of the politically correct.

ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

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What Are You Reading?


Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Posted 23 August, 2015 by Michael Kitto in Horror / 8 Comments

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide LindqvistTitle: Let the Right One In (Goodreads)
Author: John Ajvide Lindqvist
Translator: Ebba Segerberg
Published: Quercus, 2009
Pages: 519
Genres: Horror
My Copy: eBook

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Twelve-year-old boy, Oskar is having a hard time with life. While he has a loving mother, his alcoholic father is very absent in his life. At school, Oskar is the constantly being bullied. One day he meets Eli, and a friendship is formed between the two. However Eli is not a normal girl and it is quickly revealed that she is in fact a vampire. Let the Right One In by Swedish writer John Ajvide Lindqvist is a horror novel unlike any other that I have read before.

While Let the Right One In is a gothic horror that explores the unusual relationship between a 12-year-old boy and a vampire, for me this novel was something completely different. I found this to be a book that explores the darker side of humanity; looking at issue of alcoholism, divorce, bullying, abuse, self-mutilation, murder and paedophilia. Think of it more of an existential look at life and the horrors of the world around us.

I do not want to go into too much detail about what to expect when reading this novel. I just enjoyed the way it looked at the way we handle the horrors of the world from the view point of a struggling boy trying to cope with his situation. The relationship between Oskar and Eli is complicated, and unusual. This allows John Ajvide Lindqvist to explore so many interesting issues and push the reader to contemplate more of the world around them.

Most people would be familiar with the plot of this novel by the movie adaptation done in 2008, which was then horribly remade again by Hollywood in 2010 under the name Let Me In. I saw the Swedish version many years ago and felt it to be a brilliant movie but I have not re-watched it since reading the novel. I did however watch the American addition and it made me very angry. I feel like Hollywood is too afraid to deal with the dark side of humanity if it involves a twelve year old boy. Also America has a terrible habit of trying to remake movies that are already brilliant, I understand some people do not want to read subtitles but they do it to movies that are already in English as well. Soon there will also be a TV show based on this novel, which is set to air on A&E later this year.

I am so glad to have read Let the Right One In; I had a great time exploring the world. This is an extremely dark novel and this will not be everyone. I am curious to see what the TV show will be like but I will not be holding my breath. If you are willing to explore the dark side of humanity you will find Let the Right One In to be a compelling and thought provoking novel.


Movie Review: Trainwreck (2015)

Posted 22 August, 2015 by Michael Kitto in Film & Television / 2 Comments

Trainwreck-posterTitle: Trainwreck
Released: 2015
Director:
 Judd Apatow
Stars: Amy SchumerBill HaderTilda Swinton
Genre: Comedy

The latest romantic comedy from Judd Apatow is something completely different and will hopefully shake up Hollywood a little. In his last movie. Apatow took on the story of life after 40, in the movie This Is 40, which starred Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann. While Judd Apatow’s movies are problematic when he directs a movie, I often get the sense he wants to take on some real issues. Both The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up had some positives messages hidden behind all the cheap gags and as for Funny People, well it was a little forgettable so I could not tell you what the message was with that movie.

Trainwreck was the first movie that Judd Apatow directed that he did not write, with the exception on The 40-Year-Old Virgin which he co-wrote with Steve Carrell. This time the screenplay was written by the lead Amy Schumer. Schumer has been taking the comedy world by storm, after first appearing on NBC’s Last Comic Standing in its fifth season; where she placed fourth. Now she has her own hit show, Inside Amy Schumer as well as being a critically acclaimed stand-up comedian.

In Trainwreck Amy Schumer plays a journalist named Amy working for a men’s magazine S’Nuff. She was brought up to believe that monogamy was not realistic and now Amy spends most nights getting drunk, stoned and getting laid, despite the fact that she is dating a gym junkie (played by pro-wrestler John Cena). She is assigned by her boss (Tilda Swinton) to write an article on a sports doctor named Aaron (Bill Hader) despite the fact the fact she believes sports is not intellectual enough to be interesting. The film continues on the very formulaic romantic comedy path after this.

What I loved about this movie is the way Amy Schumer took the same formula and reversed the gender roles. While this is a boring plot line, the idea of taking the outdated clichés of the dating world and shaking it on its head is very refreshing. The movie does not stop there; there are even slight nods to penicil movies in this genre, including a blowjob scene in shot in the famous location found in the Woody Allen movie Manhattan. If I was a better film critic I would be able to pick up on all the homages made within the movie; one day I hope to be able to do so.

I had a lot of fun watching this movie and I think the stand out performance should go to John Cena for his portrayal of a homoerotic meathead. I did see was more of John Cena than I would like but thankfully his penis was still able to say his catch phrase “You can’t see me”. Even though the formula to Trainwreck is the same old plot, there is still something very true about the movie. I cannot criticise the plot because I have been in the same boat as Amy. Hopefully this is one step closer to a change in Hollywood; Trainwreck has been positively received but only time will tell.


August 2015 Mini-Reviews

Posted 21 August, 2015 by Michael Kitto in Historical Fiction, Romance, Science Fiction / 4 Comments

August 2015 Mini-ReviewsTitle: Black Girl / White Girl (Goodreads)
Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Published: Fourth Estate, 2006
Pages: 272
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

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Black Girl / White Girl tells the story of Genna Hewett-Mead who is reflecting on a traumatic event in her past. Fifteen years ago, in 1975 while attending an exclusive women’s liberal arts college near Philadelphia, her roommate Minette Swift died a mysterious and violent death. Minette was a scholarship student and one of the few African American women to be let into the college. Genna, a quiet woman of privilege got to witness the effects of racism first hand as the racist harassment escalated from vicious slurs to something far worse. However whoever was responsible for this murder still remains a mystery to this day. I had never read Joyce Carol Oates before and I thought this may be my chance to experience her writing. The premise of this novel intrigued me and I was looking forward to uncovering the mystery at play. However, this turned out to be a novel about reflecting on the changing times; I was interested in learning about racism within America during the time of civil rights movements but this focused too much on Genna.

I understand that Joyce Carol Oates may not want to write a novel from the perspective of a person of colour, since she is Caucasian and probably could not do the situation any justice. Rather she took on the perspective of a woman of privilege experiencing the issue first hand. This may have made the book a little more autobiographical and allowed Oates to still explore the issue of racism. While I enjoyed this book, I did not find anything special about it. Maybe this was not the best example of Joyce Carol Oates’ writing but I will try more of her novels in the future.


August 2015 Mini-ReviewsTitle: The Testimony (Goodreads)
Author: James Smythe
Published: Harper Collins, 2012
Pages: 368
Genres: Science Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

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First there was static and the whole world freaked out. Then came a voice that said “My Children, Do not be afraid”. People said it was God, others said it was the government and still others believed it was aliens. The whole world was brought to a halt but no one had the answers. The Testimony details the apocalypse from the perspective of twenty six people around the world. James Smythe is a master at writing science fiction that will really make you ponder life and The Testimony is no different.

I was curious to check out James Smythe’s debut novel ever since I discovered his novels. The Machine was my first Smythe and still remains my favourite although many do prefer The Explorer. For me, while The Testimony was a thrilling read, it just was not on the same level as the other books I have read. Dealing with so many different perspectives was a great way to capture the different opinions and question the events. However this novel was not overly impressive, still a great book but if I compare if to James Smythe’s other novels, it falls short. This is proof on just how far Smythe has improved and makes me excited to read something new by this great author.


August 2015 Mini-ReviewsTitle: The Firebird (Goodreads)
Author: Susanna Kearsley
Narrator: Katherine Kellgren
Published: Sourcebooks Landmark, 2013
Pages: 539
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance
My Copy: Audiobook

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Nicola has a rare gift, she can touch an item and glimpse the lives of its previous owners. When she holds a small wood carving called The Firebird she sees a glimpse of Catherine I, wife and later successor to the Tsar Peter the Great. The Firebird is a fresh take on the time traveling romance genre, blending it with the ever popular paranormal romance genre. This is the second book in the Slains series by Canadian author Suzanna Kearsley.

My wife is a big fan of Kearsley and since this novel is partly set in Russian she thought I should check it out. There is some interesting aspects of the life and times of Peter the Great and allowed me to learn a little more about Russian history and culture. However there is something about this novel that I did not like. The Firebird is a story with no conflict and no antagonist and for me this meant it was a really boring novel. I understand people would read this book for the romance but I was uninterested in that story line, I was reading this for the Russian setting. Obviously I am the wrong person to judge The Firebird, it really was not my type of book.


It’s Monday! What are you Reading? 17th August 2015

Posted 17 August, 2015 by Michael Kitto in What are you Reading / 0 Comments

It’s Monday, What are you Reading? is a weekly meme hosted over at Book Journey. I thought I’d join in with this meme as a way to be more consistent with my posting schedule, the idea is to post regularly. As I treat this blog as a book journal I thought it might be nice to have this kind of information documented.

Valley of the DollsValley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

Dolls: red or black; capsules or tablets; washed down with vodka or swallowed straight-for Anne, Neely, and Jennifer, it doesn’t matter, as long as the pill bottle is within easy reach. These three women become best friends when they are young and struggling in New York City and then climb to the top of the entertainment industry-only to find that there is no place left to go but down-into the Valley of the Dolls.

Sex and drugs and shlock and more — Jacqueline Susann’s addictively entertaining trash classic about three showbiz girls clawing their way to the top and hitting bottom in New York City has it all. Though it’s inspired by Susann’s experience as a mid-century Broadway starlet who came heartbreakingly close to making it, but did not, and despite its reputation as THE roman á clef of the go-go 1960s, the novel turned out to be weirdly predictive of 1990s post-punk, post-feminist, post “riot grrrl” culture. Jackie Susann may not be a writer for the ages, but — alas! — she’s still a writer for our times.

 
 
 
 

You're Never Weird on the InternetYou’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

From online entertainment mogul, actress, and “queen of the geeks” Felicia Day, a funny, quirky, and inspiring memoir about her unusual upbringing, her rise to Internet-stardom, and embracing her individuality to find success in Hollywood.

The Internet isn’t all cat videos. There’s also Felicia Day—violinist, filmmaker, Internet entrepreneur, compulsive gamer, hoagie specialist, and former lonely homeschooled girl who overcame her isolated childhood to become the ruler of a new world…or at least semi-influential in the world of Internet Geeks and Goodreads book clubs.

After growing up in the south where she was “homeschooled for hippie reasons”, Felicia moved to Hollywood to pursue her dream of becoming an actress and was immediately typecast as a crazy cat-lady secretary. But Felicia’s misadventures in Hollywood led her to produce her own web series, own her own production company, and become an Internet star.

Felicia’s short-ish life and her rags-to-riches rise to Internet fame launched her career as one of the most influential creators in new media. Now, Felicia’s strange world is filled with thoughts on creativity, video games, and a dash of mild feminist activism—just like her memoir.

Hilarious and inspirational, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is proof that everyone should embrace what makes them different and be brave enough to share it with the world, because anything is possible now—even for a digital misfit.

Trout Fishing in AmericaTrout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan

Richard Brautigan was a literary idol of the 1960s and 1970s whose comic genius and iconoclastic vision of American life caught the imagination of young people everywhere. He came of age during the Haight-Ashbury period and has been called “the last of the Beats.” His early books became required reading for the hip generation, and on its publication Trout Fishing in America became an international bestseller. An indescribable romp, the novel is best summed up in one word: mayonnaise.

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What Are You Reading?


The Two Faces of January by Patricia Highsmith

Posted 14 August, 2015 by Michael Kitto in Mystery, Thriller / 0 Comments

The Two Faces of January by Patricia HighsmithTitle: The Two Faces of January (Goodreads)
Author: Patricia Highsmith
Published: Sphere, 1964
Pages: 306
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
My Copy: Library Book

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Con artist Chester MacFarland is wanted by the police back in America, but here in Greece, he feels free to roam with his young Colette. That was until he accidently kills a police officer in his hotel room. The young American law graduate, Rydal Keener is there to help them escape the city. This accident has brought the three together but is this for the best or is there something else at play?

Patricia Highsmith is often referred to as the queen of suspense and The Two Faces of January does not do anything to contradict this. The title alone gives the reader a pretty clear idea of what to expect; the month of January is named after the Roman god Janus. Janus has two faces, one looking to the future while the other looks at the past. The term Janus-faced means “having two sharply contrasting aspects or characteristics”. In the biography Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith by Andrew Wilson, Highsmith stated that the title was a reference to the flux-like nature of the characters that she likes to create.

When it comes to character development, Patricia Highsmith really shines like no other. She has a great ability to create complex characters that feel authentic, and that is an ability that I find lacking in a lot of suspense novels. In The Two Faces of January, Highsmith creates a love triangle that is actually interesting to read about. There is the homoerotic relationship between Chester and Rydal and Colette is also quite taken by this young law graduate. This turns the book into more of a psychological look at the shifting nature of relationships rather than a thriller. It does depends on how the reader decides to read The Two Faces of January but for me the depth is what stood out for me.

I probably should mention that The Two Faces of January was adapted into a movie back in 2014 starring Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst and Oscar Isaac. This was the directorial debut for Hossein Amini, who is best known writing the screenplay for the novels Drive and Our Kind of Traitor; he even wrote the script for The Two Faces of January. I know I need to have more Highsmith within my reading life and I am thinking about re-reading The Talented Mr Ripley, before continuing on with the series. I have noticed there are new editions of the Highsmith’s novels lately and I think I should take advantage of the availability while they are easily accessible.


Aquarium by David Vann

Posted 12 August, 2015 by Michael Kitto in Contemporary / 6 Comments

Aquarium by David VannTitle: Aquarium (Goodreads)
Author: David Vann
Published: Text, 2015
Pages: 259
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Paperback

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Caitlin is a twelve-year-old leaving with her mother in subsidised housing next to the Seattle airport. Every day after school she visits the local aquarium where she spends her time studying the fish. She dreams of becoming an ichthyologist when she grows up. One day she meets and befriends an old man by one of the fish tanks. This new friendship leads Caitlin to a dark family secret and causes her once blissful relationship with her mother to fracture.

I have great respect for David Vann as a writer; while I have only read Dirt previously, I have found his ability to write family dysfunction mesmerising. Dirt was a very uncomfortable read and when Goat Mountain was released in 2013 I was not emotionally prepared to tackle another Vann novel. Goat Mountain still sits on my shelf waiting for me but I could not resist picking up Aquarium and reading it.

David Vann frequently writes about the domestic life, exploring the way family members react to each other and often lead to arguments. Within Aquarium, Vann looks at how destructive secrets can be and how the suffering of a parent can greatly affect their children. Parents often have this idea that they need to protect their children from the horrors of the world, which is fair enough. However, what happens when a family secret comes out? In Aquarium, Caitlin’s mother is unable to handle the situation leaving her to try and navigate this big revolution alone.

Aquarium is a coming of age story of a twelve year old being thrust into adulthood and trying to navigate the world alone. Without the family drama, Caitlin has enough to worry about with the changes in hormones and her body. However do not confuse this with a young adult novel; David Vann tackles some dark themes (although this is more accessible than Dirt) and Caitlin is reflecting on the situation later in her life. This allows for a nice blend of maturity and naiveté to come through in the writing.

While this was not as dark as I expected, I think Aquarium is a great introduction to David Vann. I still need to read Goat Mountain, Caribou Island and Legend of a Suicide before I can give a more informed opinion but I recommend Aquarium if you want to try Vann out. If I compare this novel to Dirt, it is a light read about the family life but, in reality, it is a dark grim bildungsroman that deals with abuse and sexuality. Emotionally prepare yourself when going into a book like Aquarium; it is worth the journey.


Becoming a Philosopher

Posted 11 August, 2015 by Michael Kitto in Philosophy / 2 Comments

Friedrich NietzscheWhile watching videos from the School of Life YouTube channel recently, in particular the video on Friedrich Nietzsche. I found myself feeling so envious towards people like Nietzsche and Alain de Botton (who was a founder of School of Life) because they are so smart, talented and make me feel like I have so much to learn. This is interesting, since Nietzsche believes envy is an important part of life; it is useful for understanding what we want to achieve and what we are working towards. In his 1887 book On the Genealogy of Morality (Zur Genealogie der Moral) Nietzsche theorises that the concepts of morality are controlled by the powerful (in his time, the clergy), therefore the concept of good and evil is subjective. While he never talks directly about envy, Nietzsche has often criticised the church for portraying envy as a sin and something we should feel guilty about. This is not the current teaching of the church regarding the seven deadly sins, these are just gateways we should be wary about because they can lead to sin. However this misconception can lead to an emphasis on envy which is leading people to feel insufficient with themselves, and that tends to leads to guilt rather than driving ambition.

Luckily in my case, my envy towards people like Friedrich Nietzsche is making me feel ambitious. I was thinking about life, and I asked Twitter how to become a philosopher and the first response I got back was “Be a dick to Plato”. This may not sound helpful but it really does cut to the core purpose of philosophy. If you look up philosopher in the dictionary you get something along the lines of “a person who offers views or theories on profound questions in ethics, metaphysics, logic, and other related fields.” Critically questioning ideas and theories, even the ones Plato wrote about, in essence would make you a philosopher.

My wife, in all her wisdom, said without thinking that everyone should be a philosopher. The ideas behind philosophy are to think about life and the world around us and to assess, accept, reject or expand on the ideas that have been presented to us. Granted, I have not worked out a way to make a career out of philosophy but the reason I started this blog was to story my thoughts and ideas in the one location. Literature has been a huge part of my life and has helped me to critically question the ideas I am faced with.

I have no formal background but I do believe academia does not have all the answers when it comes to philosophy. In the past education was the job of the clergy and the church. Universities were originally created during the decline of religion as a place for people to find meaning to life, ask questions, share ideas and be part of a community. However if you look at the state of today’s universities, you may not even find anything close to this idea. Rather, it feels like a place to tell people what they need to do in order to be qualified for the degree they are pursuing.  I have been in many classes where there is no questioning, no sharing of ideas and no community; you are given a print out and you get assessed on how well you align to the ideas found on the page. Can you imagine going to university in the hopes to become a teacher and then being taught how to teach a class with methods that are never recommended for a classroom setting?

While it is true that you’ll learn something by reading a piece of paper and writing about it (that is essentially what I do here), academia does not seem to be promoting a philosophical lifestyle. My autodidactic journey feels like it aligns with what I want to achieve more than academia does. I question what I read but when it comes to writing about it, I am doing so for myself. I am not being assessed on how well I align to the teacher’s ideas. Rather, I write to practise expressing my opinions and document my learning process.

Granted, if you want to make a living in philosophy, then working in academia would be useful but I often question the way academic papers are written. Reading some philosophical ideas that are written in an academic format can be very difficult, it makes me feel stupid and question my own intellect. I know I have a lot to learn but I think academic writing is more designed to sound smart so people will think the author knows what they are talking about. If I was to say “God is a woman” you might agree or reject my statement without any thought. However if I say “God is a woman and I have a hundred page academic paper to back that up”, your reaction might be a little different. You may think I am still wrong but it might take longer to reach that conclusion. If you disagreed with me but still chose to read the hundred pages, things could be different once again; you might question your own beliefs before accepting or rejecting mine. The purpose of a paper like this would be to express opinions and challenge ideas, however I prefer a more casual approach to writing.

I believe we can start a conversation about ideas without the need to alienate people with overly complex academic papers. If people are willing to share and exchange ideas there are people willing to listen and challenge. I call myself a philosopher because I like to question ideas and explore my thoughts via my writing. Also my twitter bio says I am a philosopher so it must be true. I hope to continue to learn and explore ideas, to question and challenge my way of thinking and if needed, I will be a dick to Plato.