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.

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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.

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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!

 

 

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!

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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

March Madness is real, it just has nothing to do with football.

UPDATE: My husband informs me that March Madness has nothing to do with football, ever. Apparently, it’s a basketball thing. So, shows what I know. Sports, Go Sports!

It’s been a busy month since I last posted…11 1/2 books busy, and I’m behind in my reading. Add to that two weeks of almost zero progress because I was sick, which is just coming to an end now (thank god) and you can see why I’ve been absent (I hope, please don’t leave me, I love you all)

Here’s what I’ve read since we last spoke a month ago:

Sadly, none of the above are on The List. Happily, many of them were awesome. Highlights in this batch included Autobiography of My Mother by Jamaica Kincaid, who is a treasure, and Olive by Dinah Craik, which I had never heard of before but which was surprisingly easy and quick to read for a 19c novel. A little too pious for my personal predilections, but if you read past the “God will save you” and “The only thing standing in the way of our love and happiness is your lack of faith – Convert! Repent! Then all will right with the world” narrative, then I think you’ll enjoy it.

So that was a pretty busy kick, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon. If anything, it’s ramping up.

March Madness is going to be a real thing in my house this year, but for grad student reasons, not football reasons. Because I don’t watch football. I’m talking about book things.

March Madness = two seminars, two proposals, three papers, five books, one micro-teaching session, one mini-lecture, one guest lecture, and essay marking.

It’s okay, I’m not scared. Let’s do this, Lemon.

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source: https://naiomiblogs.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/resolutions.gif?w=676

 

 

Perspective

Thank you,
For the perspective
of what it feels like
to have an entire country vote

to hate
discriminate
subjugate

To rally behind vitriol
RT your hate speech

I thought I knew
sexism
fear

I thought I understood
discrimination

I thought I had experienced it
and could empathize.

Thank you
For the perspective
the correction.
For showing me how wrong I was.

I had not yet
had a whole country
chant that I am unwanted
I did not know

that I am less than my beauty
that I am not enough
that I am crooked
That I am not trustworthy
because I bleed.

Too bad Bernie
didn’t run.
He would’ve won.
A man with a plan,
that’s what was needed.

Not a (wo)man who (over)prepared
Wanted it too much
We’re always so desperate.
It’s pathetic, right?

right?

She smiled too much
or not enough?
She was too cold,
corrupt,

But pay no attention to the migrant workers
immigrants
accountants
behind your iron curtain

Pay no attention to the lies
they are #alternativefacts
Disregard my doublespeak
It’s doubleplusgood

Take it in stride
Take it as blind
as real
as truth
as locker-room talk.

I am not a politician,
I can feel hate
and make mistakes
and contradictions
like you

that’s why they voted for you,
you’re their man.