Light and Night – Charlie’s reading list

I previously posted this on my twitter, so now I’m just compiling more information neatly (?) into a single post with some spoiler comments. Please be warned that the content of a few of the books can be triggering. The official L&N weibo account shared the information on World Book Day (23 April).

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

An autobiographical comedy book written by the South African comedian Trevor Noah

The book details Trevor Noah growing up in his native South Africa during the apartheid era. As the mixed-race son of a white Swiss-German father and a black Xhosa mother, Noah himself was classified as a “coloured” in accordance to the apartheid system of racial classification. According to Noah, he stated that even under apartheid, he felt trouble fitting in because it was a crime “for [him] to be born as a mixed-race baby”, hence the title of his book. (Reference)

Could this hint again that Charlie is mixed, that only one of his parents is 灵族 (spirit clan)?

“Noah’s childhood stories are told with all the hilarity and intellect that characterizes his comedy, while illuminating a dark and brutal period in South Africa’s history that must never be forgotten.”—Esquire

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life. (Reference)

The contrast of humour and dark reality kind of characterises Charlie. Also, the emphasis on the mother and son relationship seems relevant to Charlie too.

Clinical handbook of mindfulness

Over the last two decades, Eastern psychology has provided fertile ground for therapists, as a cornerstone, a component, or an adjunct of their work. In particular, research studies are identifying the Buddhist practice of mindfulness—a non-judgmental self-observation that promotes personal awareness—as a basis for effective interventions for a variety of disorders. The Clinical Handbook of Mindfulness is a clearly written, theory-to-practice guide to this powerful therapeutic approach (and related concepts in meditation, acceptance, and compassion) and its potential for treating a range of frequently encountered psychological problems. (Reference)

Just before the reading list was shared, Charlie’s second trajectory card was just released and towards the end he started to test of idea of hinting/hypnotising (?) himself. It was extremely eerie to see how he constantly kept “treating” himself to blur the lines between real and fake memories, all while addressing himself in third person, as no one could have possibly expected such a past in contrast to how he first confidently appeared in the game.

The mind precedes all things, the mind dominates all things, the mind creates all things. – Buddha

Natural objects … must be experienced before any theorizing about them can occur. – Husserl E. (1981)

This chapter considers the role that mindfulness and compassion can play in helping people who come from difficult and traumatic backgrounds. These individuals often have a highly elevated sense of threat – both from the outside (what others might do to them) and from the inside (feeling overwhelmed by aversive feelings or memories; or their own selfdislike/ contempt for themselves). The basic view is that traumatic backgrounds sensitise people to become overly reliant on processing from their threat systems.

But when the universe becomes your self, when you love the world as yourself, all reality becomes your haven, reinventing you as your own heaven. – Lao Tzu, Translated by Ralph Alan Dale Tao Te Ching

Figurative speech plays two distinct roles in clinical psychology: It serves as a useful clinical tool and guides clinicians’ conceptualizations of presenting problems and subsequent interventions (see Leary 1990, for a discussion of metaphor in the history of psychology). Given its utility it is not surprising that metaphors, allegories, similes, analogies, adages, and maxims are found across therapeutic interventions (Blenkiron, 2005; Eynon, 2002; Lyddon, Clay, & Sparks, 2001; Otto, 2000).

The feeling of emptiness is a common symptom or phenomenological experience found in clinical practice with several kinds of disorders.What is, however, more difficult is finding two patients who describe this experience in the same way. Patients report different experiences: “I feel an emptiness inside,” “everything seems empty,” “I feel like I’m falling into a great emptiness,” “nothing makes sense because of the emptiness,” and many others.

“Nothing is as unbearable for man as to be completely at rest, without passion, without business, without distraction, without application to something.”
In such a state of rest man becomes aware of “his nothingness, his foresakenness, his insufficiency, his dependence, his impotence, his emptiness.”
Incontinently there springs from the depth of his soul “the ennui, the blackness, the tristesse, the chagrin, the spite, the despair.” – Blaise Pascal

Not through actions, not through words do we become free from mental contaminations, but seeing and acknowledging them over and over – Anguttara Nikaya, 557–477 B.C.

I would like to beg you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. – Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926), Letters to a Young Poet

In Buddhist psychology, difficult emotions are defined as forces that visit the mind. Imagine that your mind is like water in a pot and your emotions are the wind. When the wind blows, the water ripples on the surface and the still water below is hidden from view. If you were to gaze at the water’s surface your reflection would be obscured by ripples. Damaging emotions make it especially difficult to see the water’s surface clearly; they make waves, and in the ensuing turbulence you may feel upset and confused. Mindfulness practice helps you see and calm the emotional turbulence, allowing your mind to be clearly reflected on the surface of the water. This is one way we talk to children about their feelings.

“Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore, only kindness that ties your shoes…only kindness that raises its head from the crowd of the world to say it is I you have been looking for, and then goes with you every where like a shadow or a friend.” – Naomi Shehab Nye (Reference)

I think one often wonders, how can Charlie remain so morally upright, kind, steadfast and full of love towards MC despite the multiple setbacks? So I couldn’t help but cite the many parts which I find possibly relevant to Charlie. It is especially enlightening after you just read his marie claire magazine feature, as it is a good summary of him. All in all it really resonates with his quote: “The reason why people lose their way among the hustle and bustle, is because they lack a sober faith, and I am falling in my faith with a sober mind.”

The Book of Emma Reyes: A Memoir in Correspondence

Comprised of letters written over the course of thirty years, it describes in vivid, painterly detail the remarkable courage and limitless imagination of a young girl growing up with nothing. (Reference)

It isn’t so clear as to how this could relate to Charlie so I went to search for more reviews.

It’s described with such quirky grace and raw honesty, such a childlike eye for detail and disarming explanation of the inexplicable, that it is as poetic as it is horrific. A fatal fire caused by fireworks upon the arrival of the governor of the region of Choco into the town of Chaqueta is “the most beautiful and extraordinary spectacle of my childhood”. And on the day her baby half-brother is abandoned by their mother, “I didn’t cry, because tears wouldn’t have been enough”.

Subliminally, since this is childhood memoir, political – as well as human – themes drive the book. Little Emma’s memories recount, without saying so, that her mother, María, is mistress to others whose children she bears, including a politician who becomes the aforementioned governor of Choco.

But she is “born in sin”, according to mother superior and the priest, and comes to realise her worth. She becomes “bored to death sitting through the catechism lessons” and prefers “chatting with God and Mary”. (Reference)

Perhaps a coincidence or not that there is mention of a fire (a running theme for Charlie), a mother’s complicated circumstances, and that her birth is a sin.

Had Reyes known that her letters would be published, she might not have written as candidly as she did about her experiences as an orphan who goes from a kind of hell to a kind of paradise and back to a kind of hell from which she liberates herself.

In the first few pages, Reyes describes one of the onerous chores she was required to perform as a child: carrying the family bedpan full of human feces and emptying it in the neighborhood garbage dump. But she describes it as though she’s on an epic journey that tests her will power and her strength and that turns her into a saint of the down and out.

When one of the priests grabs her and kisses her on the lips, you feel her sense of violation and outrage. Still, from beginning to end, she maintains her sense of dignity and follows her own insatiable curiosity that takes her into forbidden places. (Reference)

Perhaps Emma’s character corresponds somewhat with Charlie. Especially since in his second trajectory card, we saw the setbacks and backlash he faced in his previous occupations. So then how could he still maintain his dignity, righteousness and firm ethics?

Fang Si-Chi’s First Love Paradise

The most influential book of Taiwan’s #MeToo movement, Fang SiChi’s First Love Paradise is a chilling tale of pedophilia, sexual assault, and structural inequality in upper-class Taiwanese society. Author Lin Yi-Han’s intense stream-of-consciousness narrative style brings us directly into the young minds that are targeted, displaying before their and our very eyes how sexual assault can shatter human life, and how far unequal social institutions will go to hide the damage and protect abusers.

Liu Yi-Ting knew the best thing about being a child was that nobody would take her words seriously. She could boast, break her promises, even lie. The things that come out of a child’s mouth are often naked truths. Most adults, reacting instinctively out of self-defense, might reassure themselves: “What do kids even know!” Thus, children learn to tell the truth selectively. This freedom of self-expression allows them to grow up.

I know that whenever I don’t know how to respond to adults, it’s better to say yes.

After thinking for days, I’ve figured out the only way forward. I can’t just like Teacher Li, I have to love him. Your lover can do anything to you, right? Thoughts are such powerful things! I’m a counterfeit of my past self. I have to love Teacher Li or I’ll be in too much pain. (Reference)

Seeing this book on Charlie’s reading list caused a stir among the L&N fans, because it is certainly heavy reading material. Even reading the sample was suffocating for me.

Lin thus reflects the overarching point of departure of the novel, that rape is not simply an issue between the victim and the perpetrator: Fang Siqi’s trauma is inseparable from her social background. To use Michel Foucault’s term, society and the manner imposed on and internalized by Fang Siqi are like a Panopticon that renders her a docile body that is unable to articulate her trauma, a structure that is further exploited by Li Guohua as he is aware that he will not be reported. In fact, it is Chinese society that completes the ultimate silencing of Fang Siqi’s voice and trauma: the novel ends with her going mad and being sent to an asylum, thus ensuring that her voice will not be heard.

Furthermore, as Fang Siqi attests, “I often do journaling now, and I discover […] writing, is reclaiming the power of domination. If I write it down, life will be like a diary that is easy to lay down”

In her book Trauma and Recovery, Judith Herman describes dissociation as a survival mechanism in which “the helpless person escapes from her situation not by action in the real world but rather by altering her state of consciousness” (31). She further suggests that “Dissociation appears to be the mechanism by which intense sensory and emotional experiences are disconnected from the social domain of language and memory, the internal mechanism by which terrorized people are silenced” (172). This very process is reflected most emphatically when Fang Siqi contemplates: “How can a love that cannot be spoken be compared with others’, how can it become ordinary, and how can it be normalized?” (Reference)

Even though the above article has a detailed breakdown of what happens in the book, I do not recommend reading it if the topic is triggering for you. In any case, we know that Charlie’s father’s love and expression of love is not normal towards his wife and own son.

Controlling People: How to Recognize, Understand, and Deal With People Who Try to Control You

Controlling People reveals the thought processes of those who try to control others and provides a “spell-breaking” mind-set for those who suffer this insidious manipulation.

In Controlling People, bestselling author Patricia Evans, tackles the “controlling personality,” and reveals how and why these people try to run other people’s lives. She also explains the compulsion that makes them continue this behavior—even as they alienate others and often lose those they love. (Reference)

This should be a straightforward reference to Charlie’s father.

A Doctor’s Visit

Korolyov, a young doctor, visits the house of Lyalikov, a recently deceased factory owner, to attend to the heiress, twenty-year old Liza, who has heart problems. The factory looks threatening, and Korolyov begins to construct a picture of it in his mind as the Devil’s abode. He can’t help but think of the unspeakable suffering that lurks behind these dark walls. (Reference)

This is actually a collection of short stories by Anton Chekhov. Perhaps only the title story above is the most relevant to Charlie, but I’ll be listing the remaining short stories too in case anyone is curious. They are all quite interesting and a few did seem relevant.

An Upheaval

Mashenka, a young girl who had only just finished her studies at a boarding school, returning from a walk to the house of the Kushkins, with whom she was living as a governess, found the household in a terrible turmoil. Mihailo, the porter who opened the door to her, was excited and red as a crab. (Reference)

There were two extreme analysis on this short story revolving around a stolen brooch and accusations abound. I don’t think it is really relevant to Charlie. But topics include class difference, education difference, and dignity.

Ionych

Several more years pass. Startsev now is a rich man with vast practice, whose only enjoyments are playing Vint and collecting money from patients. In his troika, shouting at cabmen around him, he looks like a ‘pagan god’. Owning two houses and an estate, he is now fat, irascible, and generally indifferent to the world around him. People refer to him as ‘Ionych’, which implies a mixture of familiarity and slight contempt. (Reference)

This is the story of Ionych’s decline into caring only for his money. (Reference)

The other is the central story of Dr Dmitry Ionych Startsev’s descent into a kind of living hell.  As he becomes more financially successful and socially more prominent Ionych becomes increasingly bloated and loathsome. (Reference)

This story is actually made up of five parts, depicting a failed romance and the downward spiral of the main character (who happens to be a doctor).

The Head of the Family

So depressed is Zhilin that he has to take out his grievance on his family, particularly on Fedya. His young son who is unable to tackle or understand his father.

What is also interesting about the story is that Zhilin feels guilty later on in the day about how he has treated Fedya. However Fedya remains in fear of his father. Most likely because he knows his father’s moods can change on a whim or when drinking and gambling are involved. (Reference)

Coincidence or not that a short story explicitly showcases an abusive father and the effect on the wife, but more so on the son.

Volodya

This early Chekhov tale (1887) takes us inside the mind of an infatuated adolescent–his father is dead, his mother is distant and vain, he acutely experiences his own awkwardness and lack of self-worth. “Volodya” presents a convincing example of impulsive adolescent suicide. (Reference)

This is such a depressing story. I’d like to think that it isn’t quite relevant for Charlie.

The Husband

The end of the story is interesting as Shalikov remains in complete control as he and Anna are walking home. Anna wants to say something to scorn Shalikov but she loses the will to fight. If anything Anna becomes submissive to Shalikov. She has given up on the evening and allowed Shalikov to control her. (Reference)

Coincidence or not that this shows a controlling husband and a wife who cannot disobey.

Polinka

Polinka is seduced by the world of the student. She wants to be a part of that world. She wants to be married to a future doctor or lawyer. She wants to move up the social ladder. But Nikolay Tomofeitch knows the pitfalls of her dreams. He knows that in the end she will be an outcast in that loftier world. According to Nikolay Timofietch, Polinka should just accept her fate — she is an uneducated dressmaker and she should marry within her own class. (Reference)

However it is clear that Polinka will not be happy in her marriage to the student but nonetheless she will marry him and forgo any type of happiness with the man who truly loves her, Nikolay. There are two losers in the story both Polinka and Nikolay. (Reference)

A story about love and class difference, though at the moment I don’t think it relates to Charlie.

Anyuta

Anyuta, a small, tired girl lives with Stepan Klotchkov, a medical student, in squalor, serving for him, besides other things as an anatomy model (for studying ribs, among other body parts). She spends her time taking work as seamstress and, talking little, thinking a lot, mostly of how it happens that all of her former student partners have managed to somehow get out of here to some kind of better life while she is stuck in this place… Rather taken aback by his artist neighbor Fetisov’s comments upon the ‘unaesthetic’ conditions he lives in, Klochkov decides to throw Anyuta out, then lets her stay for another week, out of pity. (Reference)

A story which happens to feature a medical student, but at the moment I also don’t think it’s relevant to Charlie.

The Two Volodyas

A portrait of a young woman who has tried to find happiness by marrying a wealthy older man whom she doesn’t love. She tries to deceive herself into believing that she is happy, and that Little Volodya (who never cared for her when she was available) loves her. But Little Volodya is simply pursuing his usual game of seducing married women. Sofya’s vapid life is contrasted with Olga’s presumably more fulfilling life in the religious order. (Reference)

Many of the stories so far have highlighted how unfairly Russian society during that time treated women. How so many highly capable women had to conform or could never live up to their potential. Men had the upper hand and no matter how talented and beautiful of a woman you were — you had to reduce yourself to being with a man (many not worthy)  for money or simply to avoid being seen as an old maid. (Reference)

Another story which I don’t think is quite relevant to Charlie, but it had interesting commentary.

A Nervous Breakdown

Disgusted with the general air of apathy and indifference, he tries to strike up conversations with the women but is shocked by the dullness of the response. His attempts at constructing a more or less logical picture of the inner mechanism of this place, and the motivations behind it, fail too. (Reference)

And the fact that the world works in the way it does is a powerful vindication of the status quo. The tension between personal judgment and social reality is one which we all have to bear. (Reference)

Actually this was the short story that intrigued me the most, as it felt parallel to Charlie facing lukewarm response (especially at his intern reporter job), and wanting to break the status quo.

H.C. Andersens Eventyr og Historier

I think Andersen’s fairytales shouldn’t be a stranger to most. I did check the specific stories included in this particular publication and here we go:

The Little Mermaid, The Neighbouring Families, The Nightingale, The Ugly Duckling, She Was Good for Nothing, The Princess and the Pea, The Tinderbox, The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Naughty Boy, The Wild Swans, The Phoenix Bird, The Old Oak Tree’s Last Dream, The Shirt Collar, The Goblin and the Grocer, The World’s Fairest Rose, The Swan’s Nest, The Beetle, Little Ida’s Flower, It’s Quite True, The Snowman, The Dryad, Thumbelina, The Gardener and the Noble Family, The Last Pearl, The Court Cards, Blockhead Hans, The Steadfast Tin Soldier, The New Century’s Goddess, What the Old Man Does is Always Right, The Daisy, The Ice-Maiden, The Flying Trunk, The Little Match Girl, The Angel, The Galoshes of Fortune, The Thorny Road of Honor, The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep, The Nightcap of the ‘Pebersvend’, The Butterfly, The Snowdrop, The Wind Tells about Valdemar Daae and His Daughters, The Toad, A Story from the Sand Dunes, The Silver Shilling, The Rags, The Gate Key, Vänö and Glänö, Which is the Happiest?, A Picture Book without Pictures etc.

There were references to two of Andersen’s fairytales in Charlie’s fairytale-themed event: The Wild Swans, The Steadfast Tin Soldier. (Somewhat off-topic but the other tales mentioned in that event were: The Wizard of Oz, The Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Prince, Th Selfish Giant, Cinderella.)

Romeo and Juliet

Again, I think that this Shakespeare tale shouldn’t be a stranger to most. Since Charlie reads and watches all romance genre, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this is on his reading list.

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