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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Apparently, M. Paul supposedly dies.

Being a grad student also means that you read books alongside others who are (a) literarily-inclined (it’s my blog, I get to make up words here), (b) intensely smart, and (c) who are PhD’s.

This means that when you discuss Villette as a group and someone casually mentions M. Paul’s death, and nobody else seems confused by this statement, and you say “Wait, what? M. Paul dies? When did that happen?!” Everyone else looks at you with their smug, accusatory “you obviously didn’t finish the book” faces. Like this:

Image result for j'accuse! meme

And then you go in to objection/defence mode and start raving: “No, seriously, I thought he came back and they got married. IT SAYS HE COMES BACK AND THEY GET MARRIED! It was all arranged. Look, right here, on page 545, it says ‘Mr. Emmanuel’s return is fixed.’ SEE! IT WAS FIXED!”

But everyone is still looking at you like

Image result for you tryna tell me blank

And they try to plead with you “but the storm, Catherine,” “He couldn’t have survived, Catherine,” “it was implied, Catherine.” And now YOU start looking at THEM like

Image result for you tryna tell me blank

And you remind them that it says “Let them picture union and a happy succeeding life” at the end of the book, and that is exactly what you’re doing!

That, my friends, is how you become the dreamer, the optimist, the desperate hopeless romantic in a room full of intellectuals.

I’m going to sit in a corner with John Lennon and we’re going to talk about how Paul made it through the storm.

Plus, the book does not definitively  say that M. Paul dies. Ambiguity was Bronte’s thing. It was her calling card. It was what she did, people! This whole book is a giant ambiguous mess! That was literally the point! But, oh, the only thing that apparently was not ambiguous is the death of M. Paul? Nope. Nope. I’m nope-ing all over that.

IN FACT, it was conceded that there is a reading which supports M. Paul surviving the storm and coming home (read: my reading) AND THAT Bronte admitted to her publisher that there were two possible readings of her ending (HA!). HOWEVER the general consensus, and the author’s intention is that M. Paul dies.

Apparently the way Bronte originally wrote it, M. Paul does die. 100%. None of this “there was a big storm that probably killed him but I’m not going to say that it definitely happened, only hint to it and let my readers draw their own conclusions” bullshit. As the story goes, Bronte’s dad didn’t like this ending, he thought it was too sad, and so Bronte changed it to leave the door open for the possibility of M. Paul surviving the storm.

Image result for so you're saying there's a chance gif

I’m just saying, is all. Hasn’t anyone seen the ending of Dexter? Even if M. Paul doesn’t make it back to Lucy (which, let’s be honest, is not the worst thing, the man is kind of a jerk), it’s still entirely possible that he survived the storm and is off being a logger somewhere.

dexter

J’accuse Pikachu: https://cdn.meme.am/cache/instances/folder616/49397616.jpg
You tryna tell me kid: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/BvBEVInCcAAYa1k.jpg
Dumb and Dumber: http://i.memecaptain.com/gend_images/cg_TpQ.jpg
original Dexter image (unedited): http://uproxx.files.wordpress.com/2013/10/dexter-finale-death.jpg?quality=90&w=650&h=356

Feelings are for suckers.

31168Shirley was an interesting read. From the introduction to this book, you would expect the book to be about nothing — like the Seinfeld of Victorian England literature, but without the comedy. Although, I must admit, there are some moments of humour, when it seems Bronte can’t hold herself back and the narrative is so thick with sarcasm and satire that it’s impossible to ignore.

The introduction to this edition, written by Lucasta Miller, a Bronte scholar, informs the reader (i.e. me) that Bronte took a particularly ‘masculine’ approach to the narrative voice in this text…whatever that means. You see, apparently people had begun to suspect that Currer Bell (Bronte’s pseudonym) was a woman. Suddenly, in light of this new information, Jane Eyre went from being praised as original and intense to being “an affront to femininity,” “morally suspect,” and “politically subversive” (xii). So you know, normal Victorian gender biased bullshit. Of course, I’m not suggesting that Jane Eyre was not all of those things — I haven’t read it (yet), but if it’s anything like Shirley, it probably was guilty on all charges. In Bronte’s defence, the definition of femininity at the time was crap, morals were a bastardisation of Christian values loosely applied to men and used a tool to control women, and politics can always use a little subversion, can they not? So, there’s that.

The first half of this book is kind of boring…but on purpose, so Bronte gets a pass. Apparently she was trying to appear more masculine and throw off the sent of her femininity (good luck, doesn’t she know our smell is so strong it attracts bears?). According to Miller, ‘more masculine’ means writing frivolously about womanly things like feelings and romance. What is funny, though, is that this book does involve a romance. Two key romances, actually…so nice try, Bronte. But, the men are the ones who have all the feelings and need help controlling their emotions, so that’s pretty funny.

Anyways – I’m off to read Bleak House and try to wrap my head around Jameson’s theories on cognitive mapping.