Saturday, August 29, 2009

Slouching toward Bethlehem

Current book: Things Fall Apart
Pages read: None

I cadged the book off a fellow teacher, but haven't had any time to read. I'm the worst blogger ever. ::hangs head in shame::

Monday, August 24, 2009

Surely some revelation is at hand

Current book: Things Fall Apart
Pages read: None

I still don't have this darn book. It was the first day of school today. What can I say?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The falcon cannot hear the falconer*

Current book: Things Fall Apart
Pages read: None

It's now the end of teacher workshops. I'm still a horrible updater, but I should get the book today, one way or another. I wouldn't hold your breath on an entry until Monday, though.

I didn't even make exciting food. Instead I, you know, got ready for an entire school year. Ahem.

*Did you think I was going to quit with the Yeats? Hah.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The center, clearly, cannot hold.

Current book: Things Fall Apart
Pages read: None

It's the first week of school and I haven't had the chance to get to the library or bookstore. Suck it up.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

It's a matter of life after death.

Current book: Rebecca
Pages read: 167-324 (end)

This book was incredibly entertaining, I have to say. I kind of tore through it and didn't have time to write. It stopped being just a workout book and became my primary book, too, so it got finished more quickly than I intended.

I was totally right about Maxim killing Rebecca. It turns out that she was totally evil and manipulative, and also, apparently, sexually transgressive. The narrator finds out about Rebecca's murder after a ship runs aground in the bay near Manderley, and the diver who's sent down to check out the underside of the ship discovers Rebecca's body in the cabin of her sunken sailboat. Since Maxim already identified Rebecca's body, months ago, things seem a little fishy. While he confesses to the narrator, he doesn't confess to the police, and, after an inquest, is found innocent. Weirdly, the fact that the narrator finds out about the murder brings the couple closer together, and she and Maxim are finally able to be completely in love with one another and happy. Mrs. Danvers, however, devastated and unconvinced, burns Manderley down while Maxim and the narrator are away dealing with the legalities. The end.

Drama! Murder and arson and sex and crazy people! How can you not like this book? Honestly, I feel bad calling it a great novel because it's so damn entertaining, but it's also an interesting and innovative twist on the society novel that reveals the darker underpinnings of the moneyed class and the repercussions of marriages in that world. Nice, Du Maurier. Very nice.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Like an overgrown bat

Current book: Rebecca
Pages read: 7-167

I actually read these pages in two days, but I completely forgot to post yesterday. I offer you the excuse that instead of posting I made sushi for the first time ever. I was just doing vegetable maki, but it came out pretty much perfect. So that was nice. I also worked out, went to the Asian grocery store for the sushi supplies, made butternut squash and mushroom soup, frosted cupcakes, and went for a walk. Of course, today I worked out, went for a walk, cleaned the apartment, did laundry, and made Boeuf Bourguignon, and I’m still posting. So you guys just sit there in awe of my productivity. Because I said.

The book, to come to the point, is excellent. It’s the story of a young woman (nameless, in that mysterious narrator kind of way) of the middle class who marries a society widower named Maximilian De Winter (referred to as both Max and Maxim). Rebecca, Maxim’s first wife, was drowned in a sailing accident about a year before he meets the narrator. The narrator is only 21 to Maxim’s 46; she’s somewhat unrefined, though sincere and kind, and harbors a great deal of self-doubt as a result of her social status. When she arrives at the great manor house, Manderly, of which she is supposed to become mistress, she finds the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, intimidating and controlling. The shadow of Rebecca is everywhere, and though Maxim has chosen to close the wing of the house in which Rebecca used to spend her time, everything else is still arranged to all of Rebecca’s exact tastes and desires. The narrator, understandably, is preoccupied with thoughts of her husband’s first wife, and slowly learns from Mrs. Danvers, the household staff, and the people of the area that she was beautiful, accomplished, and popular. Maxim never wants to discuss his first wife, and seems likely to freak out about the whole thing at any moment.

It’s quite compelling and suspenseful. The continual descriptions of the blood-red rhododendrons that surround the house and darken many of the windows are, I suppose, less than subtle, but that doesn’t mean they’re not effective. The ominous air about the manor house is further thickened by Mrs. Danvers swooping around startling the narrator whenever she looks into the dark and disused areas of the house. I feel like I have no idea what will happen in the end, but I’m fascinated by the possibilities and the foreboding atmosphere du Maurier’s created with them. We might find out that Maxim killed Rebecca, or at least was somehow partially responsible for her death, or maybe Mrs. Danvers will go mad and try to kill the narrator for trying to replace her beloved former mistress. Or maybe Maxim will have a complete breakdown have to be put in an asylum. Anything could happen.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Oh no, not again.

Current book: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Pages read: 1-216 (end)

This book is honestly difficult to assess, due to the fact that I've read it a gazillion* times. It's the story of Arthur Dent, an unassuming Englishman saved by his best friend, Ford Prefect, (a native, it turns out, of Betelgeuse) from the destruction of the Earth. Ford is a researcher for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a snarky encyclopedia of all the knowledge in the universe, and manages to hitch a ride on the ship of the hostile bureaucrats who destroyed the Earth in the first place. Ford and Arthur are promptly kicked off this ship, but miraculously picked up by Zaphod Beeblebrox, the president of the galaxy, and his girlfriend, Trillian, an acquaintance of Arthur's. They're miraculously picked up because Zaphod's stolen a ship powered by improbability, which is Adams's clever way of making his deus ex machina a sharp little joke instead of a weak plot point. The four of them end up visiting the planet of the designers of Earth, who, it turns out, were commissioned to make the planet as a giant computer to determine the question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, to which the answer, it has been previously determined, is 42. The mice of Earth, commissioners of said computer, are quite upset at its destruction, but decide they can get the answer from Arthur's brain, though it will require surgical removal. Due to this threat, Arthur, Ford, Zaphod, and Trillian make a thrilling escape.

It ends rather abruptly, actually, which I had either forgotten or never knew, since I always read the trilogy in a collected edition. I'm also not doing it justice, since you can't repeat the humorous diction and internal dialogue jokes with any success. The jokes, I must admit, get a little stale with repetition, but when you're 12 and reading it for the first time, it's pretty much the greatest thing ever. Best 100 novels? I don't know. One of the funniest 100 novels? Most likely.

* A technical term meaning "so many I can no longer remember the exact number, but I'm pretty sure it's upwards of ten."

Friday, August 7, 2009

The digital watch is a pretty neat idea!

Current book: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Pages read: None

So, I thought about just faking this post and pretending I'd read, because I've read this book...mmm...maybe six times? But I'm all honest and trustworthy, so I'll tell you I haven't started it yet. And I didn't even cook anything fancy. Also, no post tomorrow because I'm out of town. Maybe Sunday, but don't go holding your breath.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Unclad refection

Current book: Naked Lunch
Pages read: 1-195 (end)

Here's the deal with this book. It's a detailed, hallucinatory portrayal of drug use set in an ambiguously futuristic society that's designed to highlight both the modern hysteria about drugs and junkies and the disgusting realities of long-term addiction. It works in vignettes and scenes that are structured to echo the shattered time-sense of the addict and therefore purposefully disorient the reader. Human existence, especially consumptive activities like sex, eating, and violence, are exaggerated to the point of abhorrence and even nausea in order to give the reader a more striking picture of drug use and what it could become in a future overwhelmed by it. This both informs and disgusts the reader while simultaneously satirizing the mass media's obsession with addiction.

Look at that, you guys. Wasn't that a reasoned, logical, and observant reflection? Because what I wanted to say was, "Oh my god, I hated it so, so much! Why can't I unread this book and never have to think about it again? It was nonsensically pornographic drivel!"

I am a model of restraint.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet

Current book: Brideshead Revisited
Pages read: 238-351 (end)

So, during the cruise, when Julia and Charles meet again, they also fall in love and begin an affair that subsequently lasts for years and ends in both of them divorcing their spouses for one another. Unfortunately, they never actually marry, due to the fact that Julia's guilt, as a lapsed Catholic, prevents her from doing so. She's spurred to the pinnacle of that guilt by her father's death, at the very moment of which he crosses himself and accepts, once again, the faith that he'd long ago denied. The end, rather abruptly.

It was kind of an anticlimactic ending that didn't live up to the promise of the beginning of the story, but then, Charles Ryder's life didn't live up to its early promise either, which is sort of the point. It's a matter of realizing that Waugh isn't trying to portray the daring exploits of Charles Ryder and his interesting but tragic friend Sebastian, but rather show us the bleak reality of life: that there is no way of telling how things will turn out. Some things will go well, and others ill, and that's simply how it is. It's really quite elegant.

There are also, of course, some heavy implications about the gradual decline of the English aristocracy, but Waugh treats that with a careful touch as well. There's a gentle sadness about it, a sort of nostalgia for the greatness and beauty of both the old estates and the noble families that are attached to them. It's impossible, however, not to notice the contempt Waugh has for the idea that those families are somehow inherently more valuable as people. Sebastian alone is an eloquent and simple foil to that idea.

Good. Worthy of the list. I'd recommend it.

Stupid Naked Lunch. I do not want to read about drugs and giant insects. God, I hate this kind of thing. On the plus side, it's hard to believe it's going to be worse than what I'm imagining. Dread is an applicable word.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Son of slacking revisited.

Current book: Brideshead Revisited
Pages read: 238-351 (end)

I read, but I just don't have the post in me tonight. Long day. Too tired to analyze literature. Tomorrow.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

O my brothers.

Current book: Brideshead Revisited
Pages read: None

Ok, now I'm just putting off reading because I don't want to read Naked Lunch next. Maybe I'm being unfair and it'll be great, but somehow I doubt it. I saw the movie and I'm not sure I'll ever actually recover. Granted, I was twelve, and that shouldn't really happen to any twelve-year-old, but still. A note, though, to anyone who's got kids: if you have more than two children with any decent interval between them, don't let the eldest one show the youngest any movies until they're both at least sixteen. Seriously. There may be emotional trauma. A Clockwork Orange was another one I saw way too young. Although, frankly, I'm not sure any age is old enough for that movie. I maintain that it deserves an NC-17. This is all totally off the subject of literature. How about that?


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