You Are My Basil Plant: Middlemarch and Audiobooks

 

Have you ever heard anything quite as romantic as “you are my basil plant”? I’m going to hold on to this gem of a quote for a long time. Reading Middlemarch (MM) would have been worth it for this quote alone.

The book does have more to offer than 1 quote (it has a few gems – I shared them on my Goodreads if you’re interested). With MM, George Eliot (real name Mary Anne Evans and hereafter “Evans”) set out to depict provincial life at the time. Well, if early nineteenth-century provincial life was all about the drama consuming the local medical community, young men struggling to be adults, and young women realizing that marriage isn’t sunshine and unicorns, then I’d say Evans really nailed her depiction.

MM was a mammoth of a book and I feel accomplished as hell having finished it, but I won’t miss it. Despite having buckets of melodrama – from love triangles to secrets to suspicions of murder – this book had many plateaus that I struggled to break through. Hence my taking so long to read it. So, so long.

Enter my audiobook. One of my best strategies for breaking through a plateau in a book is to listen to the audiobook while driving. This gets me through whatever part of the book I’m struggling to read so that I can pick it back up without falling asleep. This happened a lot with MM; I’d pick up the book, read a few pages and tah-dah, just like that, I’d be asleep. As you can imagine, this rendered making any kind of significant progress a challenge. How was I supposed to get through 889 pages if I couldn’t read more than 3 without passing out?

Enter the audiobook and my daily commute. Thanks to these 2 things, I was able to get through this classic beast over the period of a few weeks, instead of what had been, up until that point, taking me years.

The highlight of this novel, for me, was the character development. Evans does an incredible job of building rich, interesting, and varied characters to make up the Middlemarch community. Men and women alike are developed in unique, intriguing ways that, while giving a generous nod to the Victorian characters we have come to expect and recognize (the snotty gentry, the rebellious woman, the Jane i.e. genteel virginal flower, the rake…), succeeds in carving out individual identities that make them stand apart.

I also like that she gave her main character, Dorothea, room to grow and change her mind and to be strong as well as flawed. The contradictions in Dorothea throughout the text illustrate how someone can not only change their opinions over time, but also how our values and opinions may change depending on the context of the relationship or situation.

Good stuff.

Okay, bed now. Pride and Prejudice is up next, so hopefully you’ll get an update on that from me soon(ish).

Goodnight!

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Middlemarch: Ducking Useless Fred Vincy

The only thing more satisfying than progressing through a Victorian tome of a novel is to do so in good company. I already knew this to be true – this belief is essentially what led me to start this blog in the first place – and my current experience reading Middlemarch at the same time as a friend of mine is only reinforcing this belief.

Reading the same book at the same time as someone else has once again opened the door for me to have magical exchanges such as this:

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This is awesome.

It’s a bit late in the game now for me to be making predictions, but what the heck – let’s do it anyway!

  1. Fred Vincy will marry Mary Garth and utterly ruin her life as well as bankrupt her family (who has only recently managed to bounce back from the last time he bankrupted them)
  2. He will bankrupt her family by running Caleb’s business into the ground and getting him fired.
  3. Dorothea will marry Ladislaw, making some grand speech about how money doesn’t matter to her because she’s “always had too much of it”.
  4. She will finally build her cottages.
  5. Lydgate also dies – he will die from an overdose.
  6. Rosamund rebounds and marries Riggs.
  7. The new hospital will burn down.
  8. Someone’s gonna get super sick again. Fred’s already had his turn. I vote Dorothea or Ladislaw.
  9. Doctor street brawl.
  10. Mr. Brooke gets elected.

But who will Farebrother marry? Hmmmm.

Update: I have no idea what happened to this post, but it apparently deleted itself and reverted back to an earlier draft? I’m not writing it again. Here it is, in all of its original draft glory.

Why am I [not] doing this?

Why haven’t I posted lately? It isn’t as if I haven’t been reading – I have, albeit slowly. But that hasn’t prevented me from posting in the past…and I enjoy this. I enjoy the exercise of extracting (admittedly, though, sometimes forcibly) my reflections/thoughts about what I’m reading out of my brain and onto this screen. I also am absolutely addicted to the process of creating a living record of my reading.

Yes, Goodreads does this too, but Goodreads doesn’t give me the same opportunity for expression. I don’t use it in the same way. Yes, there are reviews, which I could use to record my assessments and thoughts about a book: “There, done!” But it’s not the same…

THE POINT IS: I have no idea why whilst I have been reading lately I have not been blogging. This includes List books.

So, enough. Update time. Let’s do this, people. Let’s get you caught up.

where i am now

Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys

After wrapping up Jane Eyre, I devoured Wide Sargasso Sea (finally!). I could. not. wait. to read this book. It was quite possibly (almost definitely) the only reason I was able to get through Jane Eyre at all; it was my carrot. And you know I needed one because my lady Charlotte is hard to get through. Many have heard me say that Charlotte is “the worst of all the Brontës” and I will defend that position to the end. Anne is tragically underrated, for the record.

WSS was infuriating but also validating. A friend told me that it would only make me hate Rochester more (not possible, I thought, already have the lowest opinion of him possible sooooo) but they were right, I did hate him more! Because he’s a terrible human being who deserves nobody’s sympathy. The worst.

Rather than being able to recall the details of WSS with any kind of specificity, my memory is instead overwhelmed by a feeling of anger and bewilderment directed at Rochester. So that is what I will leave you with, lest I manage to later clear the fog of rage and reveal any insights, at which time I shall return forthwith! (who says “forthwith” anymore, Catherine?)

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl

I actually really wanted to write a blog post about this book while and after reading it because I had a lot to say. This book is creepy and twisted AF and seriously grapples with issues of enslavement, abuse, and violence against children.

But before we get to all of that, can we talk about how Charlie had the option to bring TWO people with him, and this asshole only brings Grandpa Joe? YOU COULD HAVE BROUGHT SOMEONE ELSE WITH YOU DON’T YOU THINK MOM OR DAD WOULD HAVE ENJOYED THAT TOO OR MAYBE ANOTHER GRANDPARENT? Jerk.

Okay, now that I got that off my chest, let’s focus on the Oompa Loompas. Wonka tempts them into indentured servitude on the promise of…cocoa? They have to live in his factory, aren’t allowed to leave (do they even have access to clean air? What’s the air filtration and circulation like in there?) and Wonka’s pitching this whole “white saviour” BS that I’m not buying. I think he even teaches them how to speak English…bit of a blunt instrument, there, Dahl. Maybe that was the point, though…so many potential papers…

Then there’s the disappearing children. Where is Helen Lovejoy when you need her?
Children are literally disappearing, being harmed, and potentially dying (being killed) throughout this book. And when you get to the end *SPOILER* you discover THAT THIS WAS WONKA’S PLAN THE WHOLE TIME. IT WAS THE WHOLE POINT OF THE GOLDEN TICKETS: “You see, Charlie, I knew that while my factory would maim and potentially even kill many of the children I brought in here, I knew one would survive! Congrats on not dying!” (Wonka, somewhere near the end, paraphrased).

Willy Wonka is an old man in a van luring children in with candy.

A Wrinkle In Time, Madeleine L’Engle

I read this at some point in elementary or high school and wanted to reread it before seeing the movie. I forgot how strong the religious messaging of this book was. I still want to see the movie, though, and while the whole “I know I’m on the right side because God is with me and God is light” POV dominated much of the narrative, I still found merit in some of the other storylines, characters, and themes. Meg is an obvious standout, and Mrs. Whatsit was one of the most endearing characters I’ve ever come across.

Valdemar: Last Herald Mage Series, Mercedes Lackey

I picked these up on the recommendation of a friend, who gifted me the first book in the series. They credited this book with getting them into the Fantasy genre, so I was immediately intrigued and jumped in. The writing is okay and Lackey’s style of plot development is non-existent, but that kind of works for her. Essentially, what I took from Lackey’s style is that she DGAF about denouement; for serious, as an example, two people go from being strangers to lovers in what seems like all of 2 sentences (and when I say “lovers,” I don’t mean that in a passive way, I mean that in a “we are now ‘lifebonded’ and I will never love another and our souls are intertwined” kind of way).

But that’s okay because that’s not where her story happens. I don’t fully understand how she does it, but she manages to make the story happen elsewhere. It’s not dialogue, that’s pretty blunt too,* and it’s not exposition, because I would have HATED that (looking at you, Tolkien). For me, her ability to normalize certain aspects of her narrative were the most remarkable accomplishments of her stories. The plot itself is fairly trite: an outcast youth discovers they have powers and that they are the only ones who can save the world. Fantasy and adventure ensue. The world is saved. The end.

Lackey uses the comfortable familiarity of her plot and the straightforward, “no frills,” style of her writing to sneak characters, themes, and images that challenge conventions past her reader. Well played. I really enjoyed this approach.

I need to let these ideas develop some more before I can competently write more about them, so I’ll leave it there for now.

What Happened, Hillary Rodham Clinton

I have no freaking idea, Hillary.

Love’s Labor’s Lost, Shakespeare

I didn’t enjoy this one. That being said, I will admit that much of it went over my head. This play was more about the dialogue and clever play-on-words than it was anything else and when you’re trying to follow that solo with Shakespeare, it’s rough. For me it was, anyway.

What I was able to follow seemed mean-spirited and I often found myself puzzled at the characters’ logic. Some decisions and actions made absolutely no sense to me. For example, why pretend to be Russians to go visit the women? Okay, you’re sneaking out so no one sees you breaking your oath, but once you’re there what’s the point of keeping it up? And what’s the point of tricking your love interest into thinking you’re someone else? Maybe I need someone who ‘gets’ Shakespeare to walk me through this one…

Somehow it’s way past my bedtime now so I’m going to end it here. Hopefully, I don’t let as much time go by before my next post.

Although I am working on Middlemarch again (yay) so no promises (that book is huge).

*I’m reread this now and I don’t think “blunt” is an accurate characterization of Lackey’s dialogue. That was a misnomer on my part (my bad). Her dialogue is pretty flowery…and can be extensive, detailed, and full of emotion, so “blunt” is definitely not the right word. Instead, I’d say it is often melodramatic and…not blunt but…obvious.

Jane Eyre

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Another one crossed off the list!

And that’s about all I have to say about Jane Eyre. This was not a particularly exciting read for me. Again, I’m fairly certain that this is because I knew the storyline fairly well prior to even picking up the book. It’s hard to get into a story when you know what’s going to happen – none of the twists and turns are actually twists and turns, just eventualities. And that ruins all the fun, doesn’t it?

Overall Impressions

Unsurprisingly, the primary male characters in this novel did not endear themselves to me. Rochester is a self-centered, indulgent, whiny jerkwad. Who locks one wife in their attic then seduces their 19-year-old governess (a thankless trade already associated with prostitution) into a fraudulent engagement and then has THE NERVE to act like he’s the injured one when she leaves? Jerkwad.

St John is not much better but I’m willing to chalk his behaviour up to being socially awkward and singularly focused on his own pious ambitions. Selfish and a bully? Absolutely. Deliberately manipulating a young woman with false promises and emotional blackmail? Nope. Yes, he pulled some HARSH guilt trips to try to get her to go to India with him, but what good Christian doesn’t? Amiright.

Overall, I give this book three shattered hopes out and twelve empty promises out of a lifetime of submissive servitude.

Okay, okay, fine. Rant over.

Overall, I’m happy to have this classic under my belt. Before I had read it, I always felt like I was missing something, like I was a fraud myself pretending to be part of the book-lovers club without having paid my dues. Especially since I’d read so many of Bronte’s other books, it felt just…incomplete…to not have read the one that made her famous, at least by modern standards. I think I would have gotten a lot more out of this book had I had the opportunity to study it in an academic setting; similar to my sentiments towards Emma. Had I read Emma on my own, I don’t think I would have liked it very much or at all. But reading it for critical discussion and dissecting it, analyzing it in detail, and building a thesis around it gave me a finer appreciation for it. As a result, I would say I’m a fan. Maybe, if Jane Eyre had been given the same chance, I might feel differently. I guess we’ll never know.

The good news is that I have started reading Wide Sargasso Sea which everyone tells me is magnificent, so I’m excited for that!

More later, stay tuned!

 

 

The Motivational Power of a Library Notice

This is an automatically generated reminder. Please do not respond via email. Your library material will be due back shortly.

I’ve been dragging my feet pretty hard on reading lately but am trying to jump back in. Amazing how something like a library notice can help motivate me to finally pick up that Judy Blume book I’ve been ignoring for the past few weeks. I’ve hit my renewal max on this one, so I either have to return it unread or burn through it in the next two days. I think I can do it.

Forever is only 209 pages long and recent experience has taught me that I can definitely read that much in two days, given the right motivation.

So far I’m just under 30 pages in and there’s something reminiscent of Alice Munro’s Lives of Girls and Women here. Methinks a young woman is about to discover herself through sexual experimentation and exploration. I’m in!

Lots for me to connect with already. For example, Katherine, the main character, describes an ex-boyfriend, Tommy Aronson, who dumped her because she wouldn’t have sex with him. I was transported back to a similar youthful experience wherein a boy broke up with me because he didn’t feel we were “connecting in the right way”. Mmmhmmm. Gee, I wonder what he meant by that? Although he wasn’t as direct as Katherine’s Tommy Boy, I’m fairly confident in my reading of my cowboy’s farewell words; I think I know exactly which parts of us he didn’t think were “connecting in the right way” if you know what I mean…

In other news, I’m still working on Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies which is getting…weird…to say the least.

Jane Eyre is at a standstill. It might join Watership Down in a side-pile of “I need to read you but you’re so just not doing it for me” list books. I haven’t given up yet though. I know it seems like I have, but I haven’t. I really want to read Wide Sargasso Sea. 

More updates to come, stay tuned!

 

New Pretty Town Sounds Fun

 

"Uglies" by Scott Westerfeld - book coverIn his series, Uglies, Scott Westerfeld introduces readers to Tally Youngblood, a young heroine (I mean, I’m assuming that she’ll turn out to be a heroine, giving her the benefit of the doubt here by upgrading her from ‘protagonist’ to ‘heroine’) who is about to turn sixteen. In her weird and messed up society, turning sixteen marks a rite of passage in a young person’s life. At this point, they undergo extensive plastic surgery to correct all of their natural “ugly” features, surgically replacing them with idealized ones. Whose ideals, you ask? I’m not entirely sure. Apparently, it doesn’t matter because humans are biologically wired to respond to a “certain kind of beauty”:

There was a certain kind of beauty, a prettiness that everyone could see. Big eyes and full lips like a kid’s; smooth, clear skin; symmetrical features; and a thousand other little clues. (Westerfeld 16)

I mean, that does sound like Beyonce and I do have a biological response to her soooo

BUT LET’S BE SERIOUS. This is a load of crap. There is no “certain kind of beauty” that everyone biologically responds to. I would buy that everyone is socially conditioned to respond to “a certain kind of beauty,” but even then my use of “everyone” is flat and problematic so…

OKAY BUT THIS IS A PIECE OF FICTION, CATHERINE. You know, “fiction,” as in not real.

Right. Fine. I was just saying.

So in this FICTIONAL world, after you turn sixteen and undergo this transformation, you become what’s known as a “Pretty”. Before that, in all of your natural glory, you would be an “Ugly.” The Pretties live in New Pretty Town and the Uglies live in Uglyville.

Uglyville sounds like a police-state ghetto, whereas NPT sounds like what would happen if you turned an entire town into a VR night club. There are fireworks, parties, sex and alcohol everywhere. Everything appears to be free. Pretties appear to have zero responsibilities. Party robots patrol the town to encourage people to party harder. Everything is rigged so that people can’t hurt themselves or each other. All the fun with none of the consequences. God I am so worried for everyone in this town.

I gotta say, Westerfeld, I hope that your lack of creativity on the nouns in this book is an indication of greater effort spent on the story’s formal elements because *holy lord dyin’* these are bad:

  • Tally Youngblood is primarily defined in the beginning of the book as too young to be a pretty
  • Society is divided between attractive people called Pretties and unattractive people called Uglies
  • Pretties live in New Pretty Town and Uglies live in Uglyville

It’s as if he put these names in as place-keepers until he finished writing the rest of the book and then, once finished, he thought “Aw, screw it, good enough, let’s get this puppy published already”. That’s purely conjecture, of course (Does anyone know if this happened for real? Because I would 100% believe it)

In terms of plot, I’m only four chapters in, so not much has happened. I’ve met Tally who wants to be a pretty so bad it hurts. Not because she wants to be “pretty” per say (she does, though) but because she wants to be reunited with Peris, her BFF. She wants to be pretty for him. I think I know where this is going.

SO. Peris is three months older than Tally and has already been mutated into this “pretty” thing. Tally sneaks over to New Pretty Town, where Uglies aren’t allowed to go, and finds Peris—she had to talk to him, you guys. REASONS—and he promptly tells her to GTFO of there and to only come back when she’s pretty like he is: “I want to see you pretty” (18), he tells her.

I don’t know about the rest of you but this sounds a lot like high school.

Whilst attempting to escape NPT (she’s being chased at this point because she’s been discovered as an intruder), Tally meets Shay, fellow soon-to-be-pretty trespasser and they manage to get back to Uglyville without being caught. They bond over their ostracism and estrangement from newly-Pretty friends and Shay teaches Tally how to ride a hoverboard.

That’s it, you’re caught up.

Now it’s time for everyone’s favourite: PREDICTIONS!

  1. Tally will not become a Pretty
  2. She will try to ‘save’ Peris from being a Pretty, she will try to get him to see her inner beauty and understand that “beauty is not just skin deep” but he’s too far gone. She has to leave him behind.
  3. I’m betting this whole “Uglies” and “Pretties” thing is the result of a reproduction crisis of some kind, a la Children of Men
  4. Shay and Tally fall in love (this probably won’t happen but the text is PRIMED for it so I’m putting it out there)
  5. Tally gets arrested for something, meets “Uglies” who think that this whole Ugly vs. Pretties system is a bunch of BS
    • Shay is already one of the leaders of this underground resistance. That’s what she was really doing there that night.
  6. Tally starts/joins a rebellion against the Pretties/Uglies system

That’s all for now! Coffee beckons.

The “Dust Land” Series aka Hunger Games aka Abstinence Fiction

Image result for raging star dust lands

As per my Goodreads review – these books are so very problematic. They are essentially an abstinence pamphlet disguised as a YA trilogy. How so? Well, it turns out that the only thing more dangerous than giant eyeless, clawed desert worms is female desire. Who knew?

I’ve read the first two books in the series and of all the deaths which have occurred so far (wich is a lot) all but two of them result from female desire. The two exceptions are the protagonist’s parents who die in childbirth (which, actually, is kind of related to female desire and sexuality) and in an attempt to protect their children from kidnappers.

From the moment Saba leaves home, it seems all deaths and bad decisions are the result of her being tempted/blinded/seduced/distracted by sexuality/romance/love/desire. Sure, give her some fire and the girl can last a full night in a Dune-esque desert with hordes of giant sandworms with claws attacking her, but put an older & shirtless man in front of her and she’s defenceless against him.

I’ve decided to walk away from this series after the first two books. I started Book 3, Raging Star, but I’m not going to continue reading it. The second book ended on a note that suggested that the whole thing is going to come down to a jealous boy whose feelings were hurt by romantic rejection and that the fate of the world rests in this boy’s ability to deal with said rejection (hint: he’s not). Either that, or the fate of the world rests in Saba’s ability to resist giving in to her sexual desires (just don’t sleep with the bad man, Saba, and everything will be okay! or – Just don’t make Tommo jealous, Saba, and everything will be okay!). After that, I found I had simply lost the motivation to keep reading.

The other side-reason why I’m walking away is because, to be honest, thank you but I’ve already read The Hunger Games so I don’t need to read it again. I can draw a straight line between characters and key plot points between these two series. Except I loved The Hunger Games.

Ultimately, Young’s books show flashes of technical writing skill and style. This is a shame because otherwise her ability as a writer is buried by a distracting dialect which distracts from the plot.

I’ll see what Female Rebellion has to say about these books and then move on. I’ve got Judy Bloom on deck and just picked up Uglies from the library. Then there’s the List too, which is being very patient with me…

Anyhoo – off to work!

image source: Goodreads

I missed it

I’ve ditched…no halted?…no…strayed…yes, strayed from Jane Eyre in favour of Jim Butcher’s Captain’s Fury (Book 4 of the Codex Alera series) and Milk and Honey, Rupi Kaur’s book of poetry.

I know, I know.

I said I wouldn’t.

I know, I know.

I already did when I read Interview with the Vampire, and Anatomy of a Girl Gang, and Hag-Seed.

I know, I know.

I’m still working on Female Rebellion in Young Adult Dystopian Fiction and if I’m going to diverge from the List AND my “On Deck” lists AGAIN don’t I want to prioritize the primary texts discussed therein?

I know, I know.

But.

I missed it.

I missed that feeling of being hungry for a book. I missed day-dreaming about “what’s next?” and being entirely distracted by a plot. I missed nodding “yes” and saying “uh huh” feigning attention in a conversation while secretly all I’m actually doing is thinking about the book and waiting for the next break in whatever-it-is that is demanding my attention so that I can escape back into that world.

And I’m not hungry for Jane.

I wanted to be absorbed, and so that’s what I’m chasing right now. That’s why I picked up the next book in Butcher’s “Alera” series. They are long, but they’re easy to read and they’re fun and they pull me in.

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Fun Fact: I read online somewhere that the “Alera” series was born out of a bet for Butcher to write a story based on Roman legions and Pokemon. Crazy, right? There is no way that’s true, right? That’s what I thought, too. But, as it turns out, IT IS TRUE! Isn’t that so much nuts stuff? I found an interview Butcher did with Fantasy Literature.com where he confirms the whole thing! (You can read it here).

To those of you out there thinking “Ummm, yeah, Cat…we already knew that…this news is like…eight years old…keep up, GAWD” Well, you would be right, but this is still new to me and therefore it is exciting to me and this is my blog so THERE.

Image result for i have the microphone adam sandler

I’m still listening to Jane in the car sometimes just so I can say that I’m still making some progress there. And, admittedly, to get me closer to Wide Sargasso Sea a little bit faster.

I’ve also picked up Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur, because it’s been on my shelf since Christmas and it lends itself better to short, fragmented reading sessions, such as over lunch or five minutes in the morning.

So. Yes. I’m straying. Again. And I don’t care because I missed it, and the List will still be there waiting for me after I get my fix.

 

Image credits:
Captain’s Fury cover: Goodreads
The Wedding Singer: TuneCore Canada

Now What?

Finishing the coursework portion of my MA means that I’m back to free-reading and HOLY LORD DYIN’ I want to read everything. I am overwhelmed by choice. I *thought* I had prioritized a short list of books to read first. I even made a shelf on Goodreads for it – I called it “On Deck”:

on deck

For those of you keeping up, which of course is all of you, naturally, you already know that I decided to read Interview with the Vampire first because I’ve always wanted to and I failed the first time around. Then I picked up The Tempest and Jane Eyre because I was reminded oh-so-many times throughout my MA that I needed to read these. I finished The Tempest in about a day (I think – you can read about that here) and am still slogging through Jane Eyre. 

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Charlotte is not my favourite. Her writing lacks energy and pizazz (yes, “pizazz” is a legitimate literary measure. I almost have an English MA now, so you can trust me). It doesn’t help that I already know the story, and so there is no suspense. I’m basically going through the motions with that book so it feels more like a chore and less like fun (Hey, Cat, do you think maybe your attitude is the problem and not the book? Nahhhhhhh). I’m also reading Day/Green-Bartlett/Montz’s Female Rebellion in Young Adult Dystopian Fiction because, somewhat astonishingly, theory and criticism are still interesting to me.

A side-effect of reading literary criticism: you want to/need to read the primary texts discussed. So that’s added about thirty new books to my ever-growing “To Read” list. For the most part, these are YA titles though, so they should take me no more than a few weeks to inhale.IMG_0761

Shortly after finishing the winter term, I also read Anatomy of a Girl Gang by Ashley Little. I intended to read this book during my MA as it is written by Laurier’s current Author in Residence. I prioritized course reading at the time, however, and this one fell to the bottom of my stack. I did get it signed by the author, though!

In addition to these books, there’s also the books that are still on my shelf from before my MA waiting for me to read them. Books I purchased or obtained eons ago which I haven’t gotten to yet because I keep getting distracted by shiny, new Others.

Case in point: according to my “On Deck” list, I need to finish Jane Eyre and then get into Wide Sargasso Sea – a book I’m actually really looking forward to after reading so much of Gilbert and Gubar’s The Madwoman in the AtticDespite this, I’ve managed to get distracted by Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed which is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series, which is basically the coolest thing ever. Despite my personal feelings towards Atwood, my love of Shakespeare has me intrigued by this series and as a result, I have been waiting for titles to publish. Sometime before my MA began, I became aware of the project and Atwood’s contribution to it; a modern retelling of The Tempest, which provided yet another reason why I needed to read that damn play. At the time, Hag-Seed was the only published book in the series of which I was aware. Since I recently checked The Tempest off the list, I couldn’t resist picking this one up from the library (therefore satisfying my curiosity without giving Atwood any more money – haha! Moral loopholes for the win!). And now there are seven more titles added to the series – one of which has been nominated for a Lambda Award! So, again, my To Read list keeps on growing.

hogarth

Add to those this year’s Canada Reads books, the books I keep adding to my reading list whenever I go in for one of my shelf-reading shifts at the library, the books I have independently developed an interest in reading, and, oh yeah, that List of 145 books I’m still working my way through, and you can understand why I am struggling to focus on one book at a time.

I just want to read everything. And I will. Just you wait. You’ll see. I’ll show you all!

 

I read all the things! Again!: MA Winter Term Recap

youdidit

The card is right – I did do it. Shortly after submitting the last paper of my winter term, and therefore completing all assignments for the coursework portion of my MA, my partner surprised me with this card (which preceded an excessively extravagant gift) and made me cry, which was nice. That’s how you know you’ve got a good one – when they keep secrets and make you cry for good things.

Other things that are amazing: doing an MA in a discipline you’re passionate about. Term 2 was amazing, just as this entire experience has been. I read 6,970 pages, made up by twenty-one books, two plays, two books of poetry, and a stack of theory & criticism and wrote submitted 32,552 words (about 108 pages by my calculation). Those numbers seem low to me, though. While this term seemed (to me) to have a heavier workload than the fall term, the numbers are, in actuality, near identical (6,923 pages and 30,584 in the fall). Weird.

Now, what you’ve all been waiting for: here is what I read in the Winter term:

Here is a list-version, in the approximate order they were read. Favourites indicated by an asterisk(*):

  1. Oedipus the King, Sophocles
  2. The Father and Daughter, Amelia Opie
  3. Canadian Crusoes, Catharine Parr Traill
  4. i is a long memoried woman, Grace Nichols*
  5. Anne of Green Gables, LMM
  6. The Polished Hoe, Austin Clarke
  7. Unity (1918), Kevin Kerr
  8. Emma, Jane Austen
  9. Hold Fast, Kevin Major
  10. Autobiography of My Mother, Jamaica Kincaid*
  11. Heave, Christy Ann Conlin
  12. The Pagoda, Patricia Powell
  13. Kiss of the Fur Queen, Tomson Highway*
  14. A Small Gathering of Bones, Patricia Powell
  15. Hiroshima, John Hersey
  16. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Brontë*
  17. Return to Arcadia, H. Nigel Thomas*
  18. Lives of Girls and Women, Alice Munro
  19. Cereus Blooms at Night, Shani Mootoo
  20. The Children of Men, P.D. James
  21. land without chocolate, Faizal Deen
  22. Olive, Dinah Mulock Craik
  23. What We All Long For, Dionne Brand
  24. Tongues on Fire, Rosamund Elwin
  25. North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell

Fun observations about the list above: (1) Anne is a (way) better author than Charlotte. Sorry, Charlotte, you can’t win ’em all. I haven’t read any of Emily’s stuff yet, though, so she’s still in the running to be Literature’s Top Brontë; (2) Elizabeth Gaskell was both the first and the last author I read for my MA – happy coincidence since I had never heard of Gaskell before and it would appear that she is a big deal; (3) The Tempest is the most alluded-to text in literature and therefore should be prerequisite reading for any English or Lit program; (4) The Taming of the Shrew is one of the most adapted plays of all time – I’m pretty sure both Emma and Tenant are adaptations/retellings.

I also read a heap of poetry as part of the assigned reading for the first-year course I TA’d:

  • “On an Occasion of National Mourning,” Howard Nemerov
  • “History Lesson,” Jeannette Armstrong
  • “The Convergence of the Twain,” Thomas Hardy
  • “The Iceberg,” Charles G.D. Roberts
  • “The Lost Worker,” Billeh Nickerson
  • “Erosion,” E.J. Pratt
  • “In Time of ‘The Breaking of Nations’,” Thomas Hardy
  • “Dulce et Decorum Est,” Wilfrid Owen
  • “Munition Wages,” Madeline Ida Bedford
  • “The Second Coming,” W.B. Yeats*
  • “The Hollow Men,” T.S. Eliot
  • “Höfn,” Seamus Heaney
  • “Darkness,” Lord Byron

And a couple of short stories:

  • “Jesus out to sea: a Louisiana lament,” James Lee Burke
  •  “Diary of an Interesting Year,” Helen Simpson

So, that’s it, I’m done now. Well, the coursework portion, anyway. I begin my professional placement next week, which gives me the opportunity to work for a literary magazine publication for six weeks as part of my program. Amongst other things (showering, dressing like a real person every day), this means that for the first time in nearly ten years, I will have regular work hours. Wish me luck!