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.

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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!

 

 

A Selective Reading of The Tempest

Image result for the tempest

I give The Tempest 8 out of 10 magic brushstrokes. This play was shockingly readable for a Shakespearian comedy which sets out to fool the audience from the get-go. It was interesting to read AND I understood everything that was going on, so that’s 2/2 on my Shakespeare scale.

Question: who would win in a fight, Prospero and his magic cloak, Harry and his invisibility cloak, or Joseph and his amazing technicoloured dreamcoat? FIGHT OF THE CLOAKS!

A: This is a great idea for a new broadway musical.

ANYWAYS.

I read Peter Holland‘s introduction to The Tempest in my titanic edition of The Complete Pelican Shakespeare. At the time of writing the intro, Holland was the Director of the Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham, so I guess this guy has some credibility. I should have waited until after I read the text to read Holland’s piece because as it stands I did not understand much of it (as I had no context for it) and remember very little of it. Hang on, I’m going to go scan it again…*scanning*…okay, to recap his article: colonialism, nationalism, performance, ambivalence, and time scale. My recap game is strong.

I can definitely see why the initial exchange between Prospero and Caliban in Act 1, Scene 2 is pilfered by po-co scholars for material. It’s awful and perfect! Especially English language po-co scholars: “You taught me language, and my profit on’t/ Is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you/ For learning me your language!” (1:2:54). Right?! Full disclosure: I am choosing to privilege the ‘po-co/slavery is bad’ reading and ignore the fact that Prospero says he only enslaved Caliban after buddy tried to rape his daughter: “I have used thee/ Filth as thou art, with human care, and lodged thee/ In mine own cell, till thou didst seek to violate the honour of my child” (1:2:53). To which Caliban basically replies “But, babies!” I have to be honest, if I pay too much attention to that little detail, I start becoming WAY more sympathetic to Prospero than I want to be. Because Prospero is a selfish ass-hat and a terrible human being. It’s easier to just ignore details that don’t adhere to my overall sensibilities and preferred reading. I can do that here, because this is my blog, not an academic paper. SO THERE!

One thing I did not understand is how the play ends with Alonso, King of Naples, saying to Prospero: “I long/ to hear the story of your life, which must/ Take the ear strangely” (5:1:117). ERMMMMMM You know the story of his life. You banished him, remember? That was you and his brother, Antonio. You guys did that, together, as a team. Or do you just screw over so many people out of their dukedoms that you can’t remember this one who you put on a boat (with no sails) and set it out to sea (for him to die)? Look at buddy over here, making like this is the first time they’ve met, and Prospero is just going for it, letting it happen. I feel like there’s a murder in their future, for sure.

I digress.

Pro tip: do not watch The Little Mermaid before reading this play. If you do, you will have to constantly remind yourself that Ariel is a male nymph, not a red-headed mermaid who wants to be where the people are.

That’s all for now, I have to get back to research.

Grad research procrastination

Image Sources:
The Tempest: JY Productions, http://www.jyproductions.com/theatre-the-tempest.php
Homework vs Fly: College Xpress, http://www.collegexpress.com/articles-and-advice/grad-school/articles/life-grad-student/20-steps-graduate-researchtold-cartoons/

 

 

 

Okay, Tempest, You’re Up.

A surprising number of the texts I’ve read in my MA have made allusions and references to The Tempest. An exhausting, relentless number of them. It’s been ridiculous, folks.

Having not read The Tempest yet (despite having read METRIC TONS of Shakespeare) this was frustrating for me. Very frustrating. I get it, everyone loves The Tempest.

So now that I’m done my course reading, have some breathing room between papers, and have finished a quick fun read (Interview with the Vampire), I’m listening to the universe and am reading this freakin’ play.

Bring on the storms, boats, islands and magic, Shakespeare!

tempest.jpg

Why Moby Dick is a Classic – from someone more qualified and on a roller coaster

Back when I was reading Moby Dick, I attempted to answer why I thought this novel is considered a classic. I did this mostly in response to the question’s popularity; whilst reading the book, most interactions I had with onlookers went something like this:

Person: Oh, I see you’re reading Moby Dick.
Me: Sure am (*inside voice* and I’m totally understanding it too, not overwhelmed at all)
Person: That’s cool…cool, cool, cool…So. let me ask you something, why do you think it’s a classic?
Me: Well…
Me: You see…
Me: It’s a classic because…
Me:  Image result for bullshit bullshit bullshit sarah marshall

And now, Fine Readers, I am pleased to present you with a much more defensible response to the question, brought to you by Stephen Colbert and Andrew Delbanco, a Melville author and scholar, on a roller coaster:

Go forth and impress people at parties with your new found knowledge!

gif source: https://media.tenor.co/images/d5229344a3a5da8306ecbd42d26bf414/raw

Emma: I bite my thumb at you

threepanelbookreview:
“EMMA by Jane Austen.
”

Another intersection between List and MA, can it be? YES IT CAN! I’ve recently finished reading Emma for one of my classes this term. This is my second foray into Austen, and, if I’m being honest, Northanger Abbey was better.

Perhaps that’s only because it was shorter, though…there are a lot of parallels between the two novels — NA could almost be considered Emma junior. In both novels, a young woman is woefully unable to correctly read those around her, and hilarity ensues. Everyone gets married, the end.

In Emma, however, the main title character is awful. I spent a good deal of the first half of the book yelling obscenities at her, and throwing the book against the wall. Okay, I didn’t literally throw the book against the wall (what kind of a monster do you think I am?), but there was fair amount of eye-rolling happening on my part. As the kids say, I was throwing some serious shade.

Emma’s saving grace in the novel is that Austen saw fit to write in a character we would hate more than her heroine – Mr. Frank Freakin’ Churchill. What a useless piece of human flesh he is. Current theory: Frank’s function in the plot is to highlight the ridiculous impotence and lack of agency women have in their lives – by feminizing Frank and placing him in the predicament of many middle-class women of the period, Austen highlights the ridiculousness of the position. She is saying: “See – if this is a man, suddenly it’s not okay, but this is what you are doing to your daughters. Check your double-standards, people!”

Maybe – that’s one theory. The other theory is that she wanted to a have a foil for Mr. Knightley. This theory is just as credible.

Favourite Moment: That time when she was directly responsible for her BFF’s heartbreak TWICE and then when her friend FINALLY moves on, Emma goes “hmmm actually…Imma marry him…can you not come around here anymore? K, thanks, BYEEEEE”

Other observations:

  • Having a carriage was a big deal – but you had to have a carriage at the right time. A carriage too early was an invitation for public scrutiny. Check your carriage before you wreck your carriage.
  • Gypsies will rob you if you’re nice to them.
  • Doctor wars are intense. Pick your side and don’t back down!
  • Bath was the Las Vegas of 19c middle-class England.
  • Never trust your brand new friend if they tell you someone is in love with you – they are wrong and it will ruin your life.
  • If a lover sends you a surprise anonymous piano, he’s probably not good enough for you.
  • If a lover wants to keep your engagement secret, he’s definitely not good enough for you.
  • Always make sure you have enough apples.

QUESTION: In a contest between Mrs. Elton, Miss Bates, and Anne of Green Gables – who speaks for the longest without pause?

Austen comic source: http://once4511.tumblr.com/

It *Finally* Happened

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For the first time in my graduate career, my class reading and The List have aligned and I can cross another book off The List! *cheering* *the crowd goes wild*

Thank you, Professor Awesome, for including Anne of Green Gables on your syllabus this term. It was hilarious and has gotten me one step closer to my goal.

That’s 65 down, 80 to go!

6 years ago today…Oh, Facebook, it’s so sweet of you to remember…

It turns out that six years ago today I posted the Facebook chain-quiz (note? post? thingy? what do you even call those things) that started this all. Little did I know at the time that six years later, I would not only still be working on that list, but I would have a blog dedicated to the effort, and I would be upgrading my English minor to a Master’s in English.

Life is pretty awesome, I’m a pretty fortunate person.

reading-challenge

SIX YEARS! And I haven’t given up yet. I’m coming for you, List.

 

Rage, My Darling, Rage

Oh Sydney…you fool. I don’t know who broke you, but my heart hurts for you. Isn’t Sydney Carton just the most tragic character you have ever encountered? Move aside, Anna Karenina, you’ve been dethroned.

Reading Tale of Two Cities for the second time was like reading it for the first time, except it was so much better! I can’t account for the difference in the reading experience, I have no explanation, but I LOVED this book the second time around.

Set against the backdrop of revolutionary France and late-18th century England, the history alone in this book was enough to keep me entirely engrossed. It was interesting to see how Dickens contrasted the two cities, and very obvious from how he did so that he was an Englishman…his writing was not unbiased.

His portrayal of the French revolutionaries seemed to be that of a group of wild animals, reacting violently to being held in a life of captivity:

And yet there is not in France, with its rich variety of soil and climate, a blade, a leaf, a root, a sprig, a peppercorn, which will grown to maturity under conditions more certain than those to have produced this horror. Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seed of rapacious licence and oppression ever again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind. (p. 367)

Even though the above seems to absolve them from blame, the revolutionaries are characterised as murderous, blood-thirsty villains throughout the book, which leaders such as Defarge and The Vengeance.

The Reign of Terror was a horrifying time, and yes, France struggled to get their shit together, but the portrayal of the revolutionaries as the villains of the plot is in such contrast to other historical narratives that it sticks out in my mind.

More later – gotta go to school! *YAY*

*title of this post is inspired by Sarah Slean’s song Duncan which you can listen to here

Dorothea doesn’t care about your small talk: Middlemarch progress update and predictions

My progress on Middlemarch has been slow but enjoyable. I’m currently on Chapter 9 and finding George Eliot (née Mary Ann Evans) to be a hilarious writer. Turns out the Goodreads reviewer was right – it is B-A-N-A-N-A-S, and I’ve only just begun!

So far Middlemarch has a real The Awakening/Taming of the Shrew vibe to it. Granted, I haven’t read the latter, but I have seen it on stage and I’ve seen “10 Things I Hate About You,” which we can all agree is pretty much the same thing. Regarding The Awakening, though there hasn’t been any ring-throwing or adultery action yet, I can feel it all coming. It’s going to happen, just you wait.

HOLY CRAP. I just realized that the bathroom scene from 10 Things I Hate About You is from Middlemarch! You know the one I’m talking about. The one where Kate has her mom’s pearls and Bianca wants to wear them. Then Kate is all:

To which Bianca responds:

biancastratford.gif

Guys, Dorothea and Celia have the same exchange in Chapter 1 of Middlemarch. For real.

This just blew my mind. This whole time popular culture was gently nudging me towards Eliot, and I didn’t even realize it. I’ve been subliminally exposed to the classics, people! It’s a conspiracy, is what it is. This obsession I have with The List is simply the natural culmination of years of conditioning.

Maybe I should move on to a new thought now…

A brief overview of MM thus far: Dorothea has accepted the marriage proposal of Mr. Casaubon, much to the dismay of pretty much everyone. She doesn’t mind, though. Dorothea does not suffer fools; she has no time for morons and seeks only the company of those who can stimulate her intellectually. Which, apparently, is an exclusive group of people consisting only of herself and her fiancé. This makes for a narrative full of exceedingly enjoyable contempt.

This contempt is primarily directed from Dorothea towards pretty much everyone around her. Her general opinion of men seems to be that they are boring and unintelligent creatures, endlessly annoying her with trivial small talk. She spends a decent portion of the book so far waiting for James to kindly STFU (and hinting to it not-so-subtly).

Annoyed by stupidity. Bored by small talk. Unimpressed by social decorum regarding grooming and courtship. This girl is playing my jam!

Correction: playing what I wish was my jam. My actual jam is being polite, respectful, and passably assimilated to cultural norms.

Now for my favourite part of reading ridiculously massive classics: PREDICTION TIME!

Full disclosure: I *may* have come across some spoilers online. Predictions still count, though. Called it!

Okay, here we go.

Prediction #1: Celia and Sir James are going to get married. This is barely a prediction, though, it’s too obvious.

Prediction #2: Uncle Brooke dies. I’m guessing natural causes. There will be a long drawn-out illness in which either a) Celia cares for him out of fidelity, b) Dorothea cares for him out of Methodist piety, or c) a random caretaker takes care of him because Celia is too busy having babies and playing house, and Dorothea is too preoccupied with intellectual pursuits. He dies alone. Both his nieces are overcome with guilt and vow to spend more time together lest the same thing happen to them.

Prediction #3: one of the following will occur:

  • Dorothea gets bored of Casaubon and leaves him.
  • Casaubon wants Dorothea to bear children, she refuses, he has their marriage annulled.
  • Dorothea falls in love with the young, handsome carpenter hired to build her cottages, has an affair and leaves Casaubon for him.

Prediction #4: Casaubon is going to end up being awful and I’m not going to like him at all. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I don’t trust him…

Prediction #5: ring-throwing action.

Prediction #6: regardless of how Prediction #3 plays out, adultery is a near certainty as far as I’m concerned.

Place your bets in the comments below.

Until next time, Cat out!

credits:
Lin Manuel Miranda gif: http://38.media.tumblr.com/e9806cf4a8146a2cfbcacebb6eb6ba38/tumblr_nsq8qjj9mN1qgggqfo3_250.gif
10 Things I Hate About You – Kate image: https://67.media.tumblr.com/b4dce9b42e7df483771dc9846215bf5d/tumblr_mu780kxHj71rsyukao1_500.jpg
10 Thigns I Hate About You – Bianca gif: https://media.giphy.com/media/3rgXBz7QgBMAu90Xu0/giphy.gif
Big Bang meme: http://static.topnettools.com/10.jpg