The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster

TheMachine Stops

This is a short story initially published in 1909 in the Oxford and Cambridge Review.  The story was then republished in Forester’s short story compilation of The Eternal Moment and Other Stories in 1928.  It has since then received a few awards including in 1965 one of the best novellas and in 1973 it was included in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two.

The author never tells us what year we are being presented with and that is probably for the best because one of the things about Orwell’s 1984 is that I tend to get distracted when reading it and thinking back to that time.  Ok, I know it’s a work of fiction but I can’t help if my brain tends to always attempt to make connections.  In The Machine Stops, Forester introduces the reader to a civilization who lives underground after having developed a “machine” which seems to take care of their every need.  The Machines takes care of their every need.  Food, water, pure air and, in fact, even their spiritual needs.  The “Book” which I liken it to a spiritual manual is seen in the same way as the Christians see the Bible.

People don’t have to ever leave their homes, although it is permitted, in order to “see” family or read books.  The Machine provides for all their needs.  Things have been this way for so long that people don’t actually want to travel and prefer, instead, to remain in their “rooms” and have their lives taken care of.

The story follows two main characters Vashti and her son Kuno.  They live on opposite sides of the world from each other.  Vashti has grown used to the ways of the machine is content with her life.  She enjoys the isolation of her room and the comforts the machine provides without any effort.  Forester talks about how muscles become attrophied and muscles are looked down upon.  There is no need for a muscular body and, in fact, muscular or bigger babies are euthanized because it’s better for them since if they are stronger they will need to exercise and roam and there is no place in the world of The Machine.  The ability to have discussions (exchange ideas) seem to be the past time and that is done through video messaging with the rest of the world.  There is no human or barely any human contact.  Even procreation is regulated by The Machine.

Kuno, on the other hand has grown curious of the world on the surface of the Earth and has ventured there without the permission of The Machine.  While on the surface he was caught by the machine and now faces the possibility of homelessness – being expelled from the underground and perhaps death (I didn’t quite understand if physical death or death from this type of world).  Kuno calls Vashti, his mother, to come see him at his own and although not happy about having to travel she goes to visit him and he tells her that he’s gone above and that he saw life in the surface.  He recounts how beautiful it was up at the top and that even though he is now facing “homelessness” he rather be there where there is color clarity.  However, the Machine brought him back and now he can’t leave because it won’t let him go.  Vashti dismisses him and goes back to her own home where she resumes the “idea” development and discussion with her “friends” from around the world.

Things begin to change.  First travel outside the “walls” of The Machine become prohibited which Vashti agrees with.  “There is no need to go out there.” and then a new religion appears and humans begin to worship The Book – a book of rules for living in the underground.  All this is accepted and humans forget that they were the ones who build the machine and begin to worship the machine instead of using it.  While this changes are taking place the machine begins to break down and the “Mending Apparatus” is no longer able to repair itself.  Humans begin to complain about moldy smells and the food is not so good and the then the beds don’t appear when called and the bath waters are not as they like it.  Eventually, the hum of the machine stops and since the knowledge of how to repair the machine has been lost the machine finally collapses taking with it a civilization that willingly became subservient to it.

Kuno finds his mother in her room afraid to leave because there were too many people trying to climb to the surface and unable to do so they were dying outside her door.  She feared human contact and therefore hid in her room.  Before they both died they realized that the humans on the surface of the earth would have to be responsible for continuing the species and not repeat the mistakes of the past.

This story has been adapted into a television series called Out of the Unknown.  The series was first aired in 1965 and lasted four season until the producers made the transition into horror instead of Science Fiction.

Although the language, at times, was distracting I enjoyed reading this short story.  The description of the humans not wanting or needing to do things for themselves is something we are experiencing to some extent.  We no longer need to travel to see family or keep in touch with friends.  All our communications can be done via video or phone.  We are constantly connected via technology.   Like in the story we can get anything we want delivered right to our front doors.  We can receive an education on line.  If we are hungry we can order food and have it delivered.  Even this book, I was able to just have it magically appear on my iPad and read it the same day.   It’s not a far stretch to the imagination to see some of the passages in the story taking place today.

If you enjoy SciFi and want a quick read I think this book is still relevant.  I would caution you about the language but otherwise I think it’s a good fast read with an interesting concept.

On to may next book.

Ana

 

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Fiction, Non-Fiction and Illustrated

3 Recent Releases

Good morning. It’s Saturday and I just had an idea!!!! Aren’t you excited? Well, I didn’t have an idea because it’s Saturday, but you know what I mean. I thought it would fun to list 3 different releases from different genres every weekend. I can’t think of a good name for the series so I’m just going to list the genres I choose as the title. If you can think of something better, please, feel free to shout it out in the comments.

So, since my coffee is getting cold and eventually I will have to start my day — which does include a trip to the local book store for some Christmas Presents — I will start the list and stop wasting your time. That’s what you’re here for right?

Hurrah for Gin: A Book for Perfectly Imperfect Parents

By: Katie Kirby

Love the stick figures and the fact that she makes it a point to remind you that this is not a “how-to” guide. This a satire book filled with real life and real people (stick people) funny moments of parenthood. I think it makes the perfect gift for a good friend or relative who is feeling stressed out this holiday season (that would be all of us).

Amazon: Paperback ($10.39); Hardcover ($17.48); Kindle ($4.99)

Published on 11/28/17 by Quercus (Reprint Edition); 400 pages

The Keeper of Lost Things

By: Ruth Hogan

What drew me to this book was the cover. This is a beautiful cover and although I know that you should never judge a book by it’s cover….. Can you blame me? Ok, so I came for the cover and stayed for the story. This is a debut novel by this author and it tells th story of possibilities, discoveries, promises that are made and/or broken and things that give meaning to our lives…. I can’t wait to pick this one up…. perhaps on my trip to the bookstore this afternoon.

Amazon: Paperback ($10.99); Hardover ($14.55); Kindle ($10.99); Audio ($17.56)

Published on 11/28/17 by William Morrow (hardcover published 2/21/17); 288 pages.

Principles

By: Ray Dalio

So I’m listening to this one on audible. I find that non-fiction lends itself better to audio books because I keeps my attention. This is part memoir and part guide on how his set of principles guided his every move. I won’t say too much as I am still just starting listening to this book but I am sure a review will be coming soon.

Amazon: Hardcover ($17.99); Kindle ($14.99); Audio ($19.59)

Published on 9/19/17 by Simon & Schuster; 592 Pages

A New Direction

If a book blogger reads but doesn’t post about it, is that book blogger really reading? Is that book blogger a real blogger? The past few months I have been really struggling with the direction of the blog and the reason why I started the blog. I’ve been reading, quite a bit actually but have not felt like I wanted to be criticized for my thoughts of the book.

I really enjoy reading for pleasure and when I started the blog all I wanted was to share my honest thoughts about my experience. However, blogging about books quickly became a stress. Am I reading the right books? Am I reading enough books? When browsing for books I became very critical about the books I was picking up. It stopped being about picking up a book because it looked like something I wanted to read and instead became about the review. Additionally, writing about my enjoyment of the book became less about my thoughts about the book and more of what was expected from a good “book review.” I became a lot more conscious about reading critically which took away from enjoying the reading. In short, it stopped being fun and became a job.

The past few months I’ve enjoyed reading for the sheer enjoyment of reading. I have not thought about posting a review and I’ve regained the momentum which got me on the road to posting about my love of books. I’ve read mostly non-fiction and self improvement books. Not because I prefer that genre to another or because of Non-Fiction November, but because that’s what I wanted to read.

I’ve given the blog a lot of thought the past few months, too. I want to continue sharing my love of books and my love of stories but I will not, or at least I will try, not to fall prey to the pitfalls of the past. The blog will focus mostly on books but I will also be posting about other things when there are no books to talk about about. After all, this is my blog and I will make it what I want. No guilt and no pressure!

Ok. I’m done with my soap box…. how about a little list of of the books I’ve been reading?

 

The Happiness Project

Getting Things Done

Find Your Why

Unshakeable: Your Financial Freedom Playbook

It’s Not Book Related but ….

It’s true.  I have been missing in action and slacking on the reading front but as we all know, life sometimes takes over and … well….. I roll with the punches.  So, because it’s been so busy and I’ve been rolling with the punches most of my reading has been articles, newspapers….. I have not picked up a book in …. well….. months!!! Sad to say!

I am fully aware that in order to stay relevant I really have to make a larger effort and get on here a little more.  I’m sure most of you guys have already moved on and found a replacement for “Ana Talks Books.”  So here I am.  This time I’m going to, instead of telling you about books, I’m going to share some of the best articles I came across in the past few weeks.  I hope you don’t mind and you can hang tight until I get myself untangled from this crazy busy life and get back to serious book business.  So here we go!

Most of us have day gigs, you know that place we go to every morning and if it weren’t for the paycheck some of us would not return the next day.  I will admit that I do enjoy what I do, so I’m not in that category, but I am normal, after all, and as any normal human being sometimes the thought of making the trip to the office makes me cringe.  I am absolutely not into office childish games and sometimes that how it feels.  Well, I found this article to which I’m sure most of you can relate.  Popularity at Work Still Matters.  Let me know what you think.  Doesn’t it hit on all the points?

Beloved Nutella changes its recipe!  WHAT???? We are all going to miss the comforting feel of sitting on the couch, after a very complicated adulating day and enjoying a jar of Nutella, savoring that familiar homey feeling…… ok, maybe that’s just me.  So, yes, I’m a bit charged up about this.

“What’s your current salary?” Has been banned from interviews in New York.  How do you feel about that?  Well, as an employee and a woman I feel really good about this.  No more trying to figure out if I’m selling myself short.  Now I can, instead of saying how much I make, I can actually tell them how much I’m worth.  Isn’t that much better?

There were others but true to form I forgot to save them.  I really need to get with it!!!! Let’s start small and grow from here.

I do hope you are all having a great day and have an awesome weekend.  I’ll try to not go silent for this long again.

See ya!

July Wrap Up and August TBR

Sort Of…..

Hello.  Me again! today with an update on what I read and a change in plans for August.  If you recall, last month I put up a list of what I may be reading in August.  Here is the post.  Yeah, well, that’s not happening.  Hang on, it’s not all bad news.  I plan on reading stuff, just not that stuff.

So, in July I managed to read 4 books.  Here are some of the reviews:

It was a good reading month.  I hope to be able to repeat it this month.  As of right now I’m on track but … knowing me…. it’s all dependent on my day to day job and how busy my weekends are.

Last week I gave myself a goal of completing at least 5 of the Man Booker Prize long listed books (here is the post)  Interesting thing… I went to Barnes and Noble (my town doesn’t have any independent book sellers and could not find any of the books I chose.  I was extremely disappointed but decided to start reading this past weekend and started with Exit West by Mohsin Hamid.  I’m absolutely loving it and basically read it the entire weekend.  I have about 100 pages left to read and can’t wait for the work day to be over so I can finish it.

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Before my brilliant idea of getting hooked on the Man Booker Prize Long List, I had started reading Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen.  This is a part of my “I must read more classics.” It’s on a bit of a hold right now since Exit West is demanding quite a lot of my attention but I am really enjoying the humor and sassiness of Catherine Moreland and Henry Tilney.

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Before all the craziness of Northanger Abbey and Exit West I had started reading my Book of the Month pick:  The Windfall, by Diksha Basu.  I am feeling really bad for this one.  It’s not a bad book.  It’s funny and very much a Summer type of book.  It deals with wealth and friendships.  I think very timely and important topics…… I’m just not feeling it right now, so it’s on hold.  I do want to get back to it…. maybe in August I’ll finish it.

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Yesterday I commuted to the office so I downloaded an audio book.  I’m sure you’ve read all about how difficult it is for me to listen to books as I always find that I get distracted and can get myself to focus on the story.  I read an article recently about how to listen to audio books and the author recommended listening to non-fiction since you don’t have to fully be present and if you get distracted when you come back it’s not like you have missed the plot or something like that so it’s easier to pull yourself back up.

Anyway, all this to say that I am currently listening to Rediscovering Americanism by Mark R. Levin and narrated by Jeremy Lowell.  I have about 3 hours left on this one and I will probably finish it tomorrow.

So, my August Update?  Well, expect that I will finish at least Exit West, Northanger Abbey and the audio book Rediscovering Americanism.  Expect to see reviews for those, at least.  Then I’m thinking I will need to pick up another one of the Man Booker Prize Long listed but I’m not sure which one.  I really want to read Paul Auster but that one is so long, I’m not sure Summer is the best time to get to that one.  Perhaps Ali Smith or George Saunders.

What I will do next is a mystery, even to me.

XoXo

Ana

 

The Man Booker Prize List

The Man Booker Prize was announced last week and all over the internet you will find opinions, lists of lists and various thoughts about this list of “must reads.”  The short list will be coming out in September and the winner will be announced in October.

I am not even going to pretend that I can read all 13 books on the long list before the September 13th date when the short list will announced, nor am I interested in all the books.  However, I feel like I need to challenge myself in some way and made a list of 5 books and hoping that the one I enjoy best will be winner this year.  Last year I did not like the winner, although may other bloggers can’t say enough good things about it.

So for my list of Man Booker Prize Selection:

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

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Autumn by Ali Smith

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Solar Bones by Mike McCoramack

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4321 by Paul Auster

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Lincoln and the Bardo by George Saunders

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I am currently reading Exit West by Mohsin Hamid and so far I am enjoying it.  I’m about 38% into the book and although it’s a prose that to me sounds and feels more like poetry…. It’s a different type of prose than what I’m used to but I am enjoying it very much.  I do not want to read or watch any reviews as I don’t want to be influenced by any of them but I will give you my thoughts once I’m done with the book.

What caught my attention here was three aspects of the story, there is a romance, a raw type of romantic story between Saheed and Nadia, there is the war aspect and how a town taken over by war is surviving or not and then there is the fantasy aspect which is what I was most interested in….. the doors that exit west are just now coming to the surface and I have not been able to stop reading except for the sleep last night.  Going back tot he book after the post….. I’m glad it’s Sunday.

Since I don’t have any of these books right now I’m reading this one on my iPad and right now I’m trying to figure out if I want to continue reading them on the iPad or if I should order the books (that’s a post for another day).

Hope you enjoy the rest of the weekend and I’ll see on my next post.

Ana

Book Reviews – A Rant

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What constitutes literary fiction? Most consider a work of literary fiction to be something which will stand the test of time. However, by definition high quality is quite subjective. What I may consider to be high quality may not be what you, my reader, will consider high quality. For instance, this blog.

There are a few characteristics of literary fiction that are worth mentioning:

There is a concern with social commentary, political criticism or human conditions;
It’s the type of reading that you do slowly. It’s meant to be savored as if tasting a new appetizer for the first time or an old bottle of wine (which even that is pretty subjective too right?)
It’s written to impress, it’s elegant and lyrical.
There is an introspection about the narrative. Something that lingers with the reader which can not be distilled.

The Oxford Dictionary defines “literary” as having its origins in the 17th century and it relating to the letters of the alphabet. It’s rooted in the Latin for letterarius or litters which literally (no pun intended) means letter. So ….. if we are referring to a book, doesn’t it mean that all books are literary? Is this distinction between literary fiction and genre fiction just a way for some people to feel more pompous? It is, in my opinion.

As I am sure you are aware by now, I enjoy listening to book reviews and book recommendations on YouTube as well as enjoying reading recommendations and reviews on various blogs….. I have quite the list. Recently, I noticed that some of the people whose reviews I have been reading or listening for some time have become quite the “professional critics.” To be sure, I mean this in the most unkind of ways. My life is serious enough without making a hobby feel like a chore.

A blog book review or a YouTube book review is being done for the benefit of the lay person reading a book. If my desire were to get a professional opinion (which you may very well be one) I would go find you on the New York Times Book Review or any other literary periodical available. We are not scholars, at least I am not and although I am interested in reading good books I am also interested in the everyday experience of reading those books. Not necessarily an escape but a diversion from my every day life. I do not want to know and I’m almost certain that most people listening to your YouTube Chanel or reading your blog are not interested to know that because there were too many commas or the grammar was not perfect (according to you) they should not pick up blah blah book (real book names have been disguised to protect the innocent and the guilty).

So, perhaps the book I’m reading is never going to be a classic. I will, however, remind you that it is a book and it is all made up of various words (litters) and because it’s fiction, I’m going to say that it is literary fiction.

Perhaps we should consider trying to stop putting so many things into their neat little boxes and we will be better off that way. We try so hard to divide and then complain when things (and by things I may also be talking about people) are divided. Let’s just say a book is either fiction or non-fiction and there are a variety of genres (another problem I have but we will leave this one for a different rant) where they may “fit.”

So, as for me. I will continue to listen to the non-sense about whether or not an author goes comma crazy or if the grammatical errors really were annoying (which they are and shame on the publisher) but only because I just want as many book options as I can get. I’ll overlook the craziness and decide for myself despite the grammatical criticism of the book, if it’s something I want to read. To that end, you can help me with that by just giving me synopsis of the book and I’ll skip your review. It doesn’t really matter to me anyway.

I’m done with my rant. This will happen from time to time.

Ana