What a lot of people don’t know about me is that I am a nerd for murder mysteries. I love Agatha Christie. I love her mustache-twisting, balding, OCD detective, Hecule Poirot and his “little grey cells”. I must have read close to 30 of Christie’s books by now; starting from the age of 10, up until today, at age 16. And yet, I still can’t see the plot twist coming, or guess the motive, or identify the murderer. I’m impressed by anyone who can.
Coming from an Agatha Christie connoisseur, here are my recommendations:
Christie writes about a few different detectives. There’s Miss Marple, Tommy and Tuppence, and my personal favorite, Poirot. If you’re new to Agatha Christie or detective stories in general, you should start one of her most famous, either The Orient Express or Death on the Nile. From there, I would strongly recommend The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Crooked House, or And Then There Were None.
There is supposed to be a chronological order to the stories, but you really don’t need to follow it. Every once in a while, a Christie references another case from another book, but it is of no real importance. My only guidance would be to read Curtain, Poirot’s final case, last.
Beginning in the 1500s when Dr. Faustus was written and spanning to the modern era, the human race has pushed the boundaries of what is natural and tried to become gods. We invented the astrolabe, conquered the seven seas, built nations on the destruction of entire peoples, and constructed skyscrapers which seem to defy every idea of what is possible. Our health has improved, we’ve made life convenient beyond belief, but despite all this achievement we, like Marlowe’s arrogant celebutante “yet art thou still but Faustus, and a man.”
For the past few hundred years mankind has become increasingly involved with the same internal struggle as Faustus. Each new level of knowledge we acquire we become more careless and ignorant. Everytime some new process or physic principle is discovered we slip deeper into the Faustian bargain we call progress. This rat race for discovery becomes paired with this nonsensical notion that we are the only important thing on the planet and that we deserve everything which we can fathom and more. This is the mindset which sent Faustus to eternal damnation, and this is the mindset which plagues the modern world. Regardless of all the power we may accumulate over the natural world we still are humans, flawed forever by stagnant ideas and held to earth by the unrelenting and unstoppable march towards death.
As private school educated students from generally wealthy families, fiscally or situationally, it is easy for us to fall into the Faustian mindset. I’ve been at fault of this, my friends, my family, and classmates––all at some point have looked at the world and thought “I deserve more”. This mindset ruins the last humanity which wisps gently between us, we become stale, ignorant, and spoiled, unable to understand that there are other people around, and even more so, other things. We all too easily divulge in the trap that we can do what we want to the world without consequence.
Just as Faustus enjoyed his twenty four years of power which ended in a no bit unexpected end, mankind is still enjoying its twenty four years marching towards an end we can all see and yet choose to believe is not real. Like Faustus, humans are just people who happen to be in situations of extraordinary power.
If I could have any superpower it would be the ability to press pause. I’d watch as vehicles stopped in their tracks, raindrops hung suspended from the sky and people froze like statues in a museum. I can picture it clearly. My world of chaos would dissipate, and calmness would take its place.
“statues in a museum” PC: The MET
Amidst this setting, I could finally organize the mess that is my life. I’d be able to complete all my homework, chores, and responsibilities, with time to spare. I’d spend hours devouring books, articles, and literature in all its shapes and forms, acquiring knowledge far beyond my years. I’d learn Calculus and how to paint; I’d try a new sport and play piano. I would live lavishly; taking bubble baths and treating myself to spa days. I’d finish all seasons of Gilmore Girls and binge Friends for the millionth time. I would cook myself incredible meals or waltz into a Michelin Star restaurant and help myself to the dishes balancing upon waiters’ hands. I would sit with my thoughts – something which I rarely have the time and space to do – and reflect on my past and my future; who I am as a person, and who I want to be.
Everything would be totally under control. I forgot my computer charger? Pause, and I’ll go pick it up. I’m almost dozing off in class? Pause, and I’ll take a long nap. I would do all this and so much more with all the time in the world. And when I got lonely, I would only have to press play, and my day would resume its natural course.
I wish I had the time to write something good but I am in a rush. Here’s part of an essay from earlier this year in English class:
What servicemen chose to carry revealed who they were. Select 3 of the characters. Explain what each carried and what was revealed about that character.
The Things They Carried is Tim O’Brian’s semi-fictionalized account of his time spent fighting in the Vietnam War. Told in a series of short memoirs, the author jumps from character to character, a story to story, in order to explore a range of themes: from death and ethics, to love and the relationship between truth and fiction. In Chapter I, O’Brien describes the physical items each soldier chooses to carry during their march. With this, the reader gets a sense of the characters, their emotional baggage, and their coping mechanisms; all of which are expanded on throughout the novel.
In just the first few pages of the book, the platoon leader is introduced through his chosen supplies. Jimmy Cross, simply referred to as Lieutenant, carries with him correspondence from a girl named Martha, who lives back home in Ohio. “In the late afternoon, after a day’s march, he would… unwrap the letters, hold them with the tips of his fingers, and spend the last hour of light pretending.” Among these letters are also two photographs and an oval pebble collected from the Jersey shoreline and gifted to him for good luck. The Lieutenant’s memorabilia expresses that he is lovestruck, and wishful and turns to his imagination in order to escape his dire reality. In fact, Cross will one day be so absorbed in his fantasies that when a fellow troop, Lavender, is shot on his watch, he blames himself and burns the letters. Because, while he may be a romantic, the Lieutenant also has a great sense of duty. As the unit commander, “Jimmy Cross carried a compass, maps, code books…and the responsibility for the lives of his men.” Altogether, the Lieutenant’s possessions reveal his sentimental and dutiful true nature – two qualities that he relies on during the intensity of warfare.
There is one word to describe the feeling that I’ve had all day. Scraping. my soul has been aching to claw its way out of me. I know what it wants, it wants to rip my chest open and thrust its way through the bars. My mind is filled with serrated lines shooting across the interior of my skull. I shake because I am so trapped in here. When I look in the mirror I can feel my eyes fall back into my head as they drown in the screams that shatter throughout my brain. I can not see myself. Why can’t I see myself? No matter how hard I glare at myself in the reflection I’ve trained to stay still, I can see my face morph and melt into the person I try so desperately to hide. I like to imagine my hands pulling my face as they slide across my skin, dissolving the only thing that is truly there with me at the end of each night. My skin tingles all the time, it radiates through me like small bursts of electricity stopping the beat of my heart with each one. It was supposed to be easy, “crying doesn’t make things better” I was trained for this. I was trained for this straight face and beautiful smile. Why can’t I see myself? “No one will feel sorry for you with that look on your face” I’m sorry, the tears burn their way through the gloss that shields my emotionless face. They leave scars you know, the tears, they ruin the smile. I was taught to cry only in front of a mirror, that way I can watch them disintegrate my complexion, I force myself to watch as I express the most basic human emotion and torture myself at the very same time. This is how I was taught to feel so excruciatingly uncomfortable in my very own skin.
I’m so tired, so here’s part of my English Essay on The Crucible:
Puritan Attitudes in The Crucible
The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, is a semi-fictionalized play based on the Salem Witch Trials of the Massachusetts Bay Colony (1692-93). Salem is Puritanical, meaning they follow a strict moral code and disapprove of pleasure and luxury. Within this culture, Miller tells the story of a lustful girl, a skeptical farmer, a corrupt minister, and a village brewing with secrets and vengeance. After a strange incident in Salem’s forested outskirts, all become embroiled in a Witch hunt that proves deadly. Through well-crafted characters and other story elements, the author manages to capture the Puritan attitude of the time period.
It is clear from the start that Salem society places an emphasis on the supernatural. Its residents see evidence of God and Satan in all aspects of life. For example, a farmer named Walcott purchases a pig from Martha Giles and blames its prompt death on otherworldly causes. “‘Now he goes to court and claims that from that day to this he cannot keep a pig alive for more than four weeks because my Martha bewitches them with her books,’” Martha’s husband explains in disbelief. Like so many other townsfolk, Walcott is unwilling to hold himself accountable for his mistakes and faults, preferring to lay the blame on witchcraft. Goody Putnam likewise finds the supernatural at the root of unfortunate events, condemning her midwives for a series of seven miscarriages. This habitual blame is wielded as a weapon, and accusations eventually lead to hangings.
This is a vignette I wrote over the summer at a creative writing camp I attended. Enjoy.
Syracuse wound through the maze of a prison, following behind his human who led him by the reins. He kept catching Riven’s eye beside him, but neither of them dared to snuffle or neigh to each other for fear of alerting the things their humans feared to their presence. Their humans seemed anxious enough just from the quiet clacking of their hooves on the concrete.
The deformed humans in the cells stared, but were unable to vocalize in any way. The gouges and scars covering their faces were horrifying even without their monstrous, misshapen bodies, so Syracuse tried to keep his eyes anywhere but on those creepy humans. Riven’s skin twitched when something skittered behind him and brushed against his fetlocks, but he did his best to remain calm so he wouldn’t set off his human.
The ground gradually shifted from concrete, to bricks, to carpeted floor. Syracuse and Riven’s hooves were nearly silent on the carpet, and they stared up in wonder as the scenery around them changed to reveal a room bigger than their stable with gold-embellished bookshelves lining every wall from floor to ceiling. However, no matter how much they wanted to explore, their humans kept tugging at them fretfully and they ended up hurrying through the room without being able to get close enough to see a single book title.
Syracuse and Riven were led through several more halls that seemed like they were part of a residency wing of the castle. After what felt like eons to them, their humans brought them up to a massive set of oak doors.
Riven’s human stepped up and pulled one door open. Despite how immense they were, the hinges were perfectly greased and made no noise as the door swung in and flooded the dark entryway with blinding light.
Syracuse and Riven squinted into the sun as their humans took them outside. When their sensitive eyes finally adjusted, they had to stop to gaze upon the gorgeous, sprawling mountains and sheer, marble cliff sides.
Their humans pulled at the reins again, urging on the horses with clucking noises and kisses, and Syracuse and Riven reluctantly moved. They were led down a winding path, and when the road straightened out again, their humans stopped them so that they could mount.
There was no more time to admire the views once their humans were on their backs. Heels dug into their ribs as the humans nudged them into full gallops to get as far from the dreadful castle as they could.
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