When I started this blog, I did not plan on writing about fictions, partly because I thought that reading fictions is a waste of time. I have not changed my opinion about this. However, I also think that if you can’t get yourself to do serious readings, then reading novels is the next best thing. It’s better than surfing the internet aimlessly or watching TV to kill time because at least it still exercises your “reading brain”.
Last night, after reading several chapters of two non-fiction books, The Art of Choosing and In Pursuit of Silence, both good books (and I will write about them insha’Allah), I became too tired to think. However, I was not tired enough to sleep, so I went to the basement and sat in the armchair next to our little library, which was largely composed of 1) books bought from library book sales, 2) textbooks, 3) books bought in Taiwan. I sat there and picked up a random book, hoping to replicate what I did earlier in the evening, when I fell asleep reading in the armchair (I was reading 醜陋的中國人). But after I started reading Dear John by Nicholas Sparks, I just kept going. It’s just one of those novels that are so easy to read that you just keep reading as if it’s the most natural thing to do.
But actually, it’s just a regular love story, and I don’t believe in love stories. Or, more accurately, I believe that the most beautiful love stories begin after marriage. Before I read Dear John, I had just read in The Art of Choosing, and knew for a long time, that arranged marriage couples are happier than love marriage couples. Love marriage is a myth, one that has only been promoted in the past couple hundred of years, and it is the philosophy behind most of the modern dramas, songs, movies, and of course sappy romantic novels like this one. Sometimes I feel sick and tired of hearing love being praised all the time. Not that I’m cynical, love is real and beautiful, but I hate the way people do all kinds of bad things (i.e. fornication) today in the name of love. Love is reduced to intense emotion, sex, fast heartbeats, and other hormone-induced bodily reactions. And somehow people believe that without the love thus defined, there can be no marriage. So when the passion wears off, people divorce, leaving the children as the victims of their melodrama. These kids then grow up psychologically incomplete, indirectly causing problems to the society. Then when they get married, they also don’t know how to raise kids well, thereby continuing a vicious cycle. This all begins with the myth of love marriage (which partly has to do with individualism. I’ll talk more about it when I review Iyengar’s book insha’Allah.) The bottom line is that love is more than this selfish emotional/physical thing! Real love is spiritual too.
OK, I will stop my rant here. All this has just been a prologue to say that: By default, I do not respect the philosophy behind contemporary love stories. However, I still indulge sometimes. I mean, what girl doesn’t like a good love story? Unfortunately, I was not very impressed with the one in Dear John. It is extremely unrealistic: How can you fall in love with someone in a week and then never again fall out of love with him/her despite not seeing each other for more than 95% of the time ? I think that’s ridiculous. I think both John and Savannah would have been better off had they never met each other because their love is just one big waste of time (and what happened at the end affirms this). I would be more interested to read about Savannah and Tim, who I think is a much more reliable and mature person than John.
However, I have to admit that the subplot about John and his father brought me to tears. I have a soft spot for old people, especially socially awkward but loving old people like John’s dad. When I was little, lying on my bed, I would sometimes hear an old lady on the street shouting weakly as she tried to sell her steamed buns, and when I heard her voice tears would just come rolling down my eyes. I also remember a scene in a drama where an old man with Alzheimer’s (or something) peed in the elevator. Everyone in the elevator was disgusted, but his small grandson protected him. I was maybe 7 at the time and cried so much. The scene in the movie Click when the main character’s dad walked out the office, crying, also broke my heart. Reading about John and his dad (and his coin collection, oh my!) gave me the same feeling. When my parents are old, I will do all my best to take care of them insha’Allah :3
I kind of like the fact that the story is set in North Carolina though. It gives a familiar and local feel to the story. My city was even mentioned on one of the pages. Even though I didn’t like NC that much when I first moved here, it’s been 10 years since I’ve lived here, and I think I’ve developed a special emotion connected to this land. That’s what we Chinese call 日久生情, haha.
Lastly, to complete the elaboration of my conservative stance, I thought Savannah was a bit hypocritical. Nicolas Sparks seems to like religious girls (A Walk to Remember comes to mind). But if you are a real Christian, you don’t have sex and mingle with boys before marriage, period. That’s called fornication and it is one of the biggest sins in Christianity. And I wish she hadn’t started drinking.
Overall, it’s a very readable book. The writing is simple and straightforward. The story is OK. Read when you need some entertainment. After all, reading is always better than watching TV or playing video games (speaking to my brothers now, aiya).
By the way, I’ve finished 俠客行 yesterday. I thought it was a good story, but I was not very satisfied with the ending. 為什麼不要直接告訴我們石破天的身世呢？真是的。I would have written something about 俠客行 instead of Dear John had I been better at writing in Chinese, because really, the former is a much better story than the latter. Foreigners are missing out on a lot by not being able to read Chinese!