Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

I've been familiar with this play for quite some time, and to be honest, it's kind of hard to muster up something to say about it. (That's really quite shocking when it comes to Shakespeare, I know...)

As always, Shakespeare is a master of comedy, and this play is no exception. I really enjoyed reading it again, since I haven't actually sat down to read it (rather than watch it on screen or stage) in at least a few years. This time, I found myself more interested in the relationship between Oberon and Titania. It always bothered me that Oberon got the boy (the changeling) in the end, and that Titania appeared to care so very little about the fact that he made her fall in love with an ass. (Pardon my language.) It seemed to me, if I were in a fight with my husband over something and he responded by mocking me in the cruelest possible way, I would be a lot MORE angry at him, not less. And yet, I find it there something wrong with me?

A lot of aspects of the play are really, if you think about them, not funny at all. Helena has so little self-confidence that she begs Demetrius to treat her like a dog. Hermia seems to be a little better, but the second she runs off with Lysander, all he wants is to get it on whether they're married or not, and she has a hard time keeping him off her. Demetrius is a fickle pig (did you know he was actually in love with Helena before chasing after Hermia? I never noticed that little detail before). Hermia and her father, Egeus, don't have a particularly good father-daughter relationship. Most of the characters have big problems, but Shakespeare manages to brush them off. And we actually go along with it.

I don't really know what to think about it. I guess this reading has raised a lot more questions for me than I've ever thought about in the past.

The next play we're reading is The Merchant of Venice, and I'm going to be honest: This is one of my least favorite of the Shakespeare plays I've read/seen. Why? I don't know. Most people love it (well, most people who love Shakespeare, that is). Maybe I just have a hard time getting around the whole anti-Semitic thing the entire play revolves around. Hah. I need some help getting motivated to read it--have you read it? What do you like about it?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Library Books Readathon Wrap-up

Well, this readathon has been fun. I approached it in a very relaxed way, because I was also starting a new term, but it did help me get reading done that I've wanted to do.

Books finished:
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
On Writing by F. Scott Fitzgerald
A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

Books read (but not finished):
My Lost City: Personal Essays by F. Scott Fitzgerald

It's been fun!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Readathon Update and F. Scott Fitzgerald's On Writing

The Library Books Readathon has been going great so far!

I made some good headway on Friday, then on Saturday morning I finished The Happiness Project. I spent the rest of the day generally avoiding the Fitzgerald books, since prior to that I had only been reading snippets at a time, and after The Happiness Project (a very quick and easy read), I wasn't sure I could handle that much wit, sarcasm, and irony all in one sitting.

But on Sunday, I finally got into them. I'm still working on the book of essays, but I easily finished On Writing, a slim little volume of collected quotes. Some were taken from essays I'd already read, so I had an opportunity to see them in and out of context.

On Writing, to be honest, was not quite as delightful as I expected it to be, and I think it's because Fitzgerald is just better in context. When I read the quotes as part of the essays, they were much funnier and more sarcastic; when taken apart, it seems like Fitzgerald is more serious than maybe he would have wanted to be. But then again, this is really a book I should have just kept by my bedside for a while, to pick up and read a few quotes every night; instead, I read it straight through like a novel. (Since it was a library book, I didn't have much other choice.) But there were some gems in it.

I'm still working on Fitzgerald's essays and I've made good progress, but I'm not sure I'll be able to finish them this week, since I also have a ton of school reading to do. I've been reading sonnets for my Shakespeare class, and I need to finish A Midsummer Night's Dream by Friday. Yikes! But thankfully I already know that play pretty well, so it shouldn't be too hard.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Top Ten Books Read in 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

So far in 2013, I've read a whopping...24 books!! ...Okay, that's not very many, but may I add that I've also read at least 200 pages of anthologized, tiny-print short stories, poetry, and non-fiction for school? Not to mention I've been spending a lot of time on various other school reading. That should add at least five books worth of material. 

Anyway, here are my top ten out of those 24, from least favorite to most favorite (does that count as redundant?): 

10. In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. This was a very interesting and refreshing non-fiction book looking at nutrition in a basic, fundamental way. 

9. The Paris Wife. This was such an interesting take on Ernest Hemingway's first wife. 

8. Great Expectations. I'm glad I finally read another Dickens! It was a good, thought-provoking classic. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

I liked this book more than I thought I would. I kind of expected it to be a little more "spiritual," if you know what I mean. (Rubin made some references to that, herself, on occasion.) Instead, it was more organized and methodical, and made a lot of sense! (Not that I'm trying to say spirituality doesn't make sense, but it can be illogical, depending on how it's done.)

Anyway, I also really liked the concept. So much, in fact, that I decided to do a Happiness Project of my own! I'm going to keep a (very low-key) blog about it, which you can visit here, if you so desire.

But lest you start calling me Little Miss Pollyanna, I will say that although I loved the concept of the book, Rubin did occasionally bother me. Maybe it's because I was expecting the spiritual stuff, and instead I got constant waves of hard facts and evidence. Like, this book was the Niagara Falls of scientific evidence about happiness. And although it was often very interesting to learn what the studies said about happiness, there were occasions where I just couldn't help but start thinking threatening thoughts if I saw another sentence that started with "Studies show..." I guess I just feel like, although it can be interesting to learn about more ways to try to be happy, I'm not going to listen to some so-called "expert" tell me what's going to make me happy. Actually, I would consider myself the expert on my own happiness, thank you very much.

But Rubin herself admitted that the studies weren't always right and that ultimately she had to find her own way to happiness, so that was good. But it was just slightly annoying at times that she seemed so addicted to knowing (and sharing) what every single study has ever showed about happiness.

There were other things that annoyed me about Rubin (for instance, her compulsive list-keeping), but most of what I didn't like was just about her personality. I also couldn't help but be suspicious that she was just looking for the million-dollar book, and thought, "Everybody wants to be happy; why not write a book about  happiness? And of course, with the trend nowadays, I'll have to spend a year doing something..." But even though I'm still a little suspicious of her motives, I really do think she was sincere.

Annoyances aside, this was a lovely, inspiring book. I've been wanting to read it for quite some time, and I'm glad I finally did.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

"Howl" by Allen Ginsberg

I'm going to be honest. I've never had much of a desire to read "Howl." This aversion is linked to all kinds of things, involving weird community college teachers, documentaries watched involuntarily, and various other things which I won't bore you by explaining.

But I had to read it for class on Monday. This being BYU, my teacher gave a disclaimer in class, assuring us that we could skim over certain parts if we wanted to, but ended by saying "We're all adults, we can handle it." (In other words, if you skim over parts, you are probably a way-too-sheltered wuss.) Now, let me get this straight--I didn't anticipate having to skim over parts; my aversion to the poem has little to do with skittishness about the dreaded "sexual stuff" and "vulgar language." But somewhere deep down, I kind of said to myself, " we go."

Well, I read the poem. And...seriously? It wasn't half as bad as people make it out to be. And when I say "bad," I mean the "sexual stuff" and "vulgar language" was hardly worth batting an eyelash (particularly when you consider that movies with one "F-bomb" and partial nudity are considered appropriate for 13-year-olds in this day and age). Not that I'm saying I would feel comfortable reading the poem aloud to third-graders or anything, but people really make "Howl" seem like X-rated poetry or literary porn.

The truth is, "Howl" is a really amazing poem. Do I consider it uplifting and inspiring? Would I quote bits of it in church? Erm, no. But contrary to what seems to be popular opinion (among members of my church, anyway), poetry's sole purpose is not always to uplift, inspire, and be fodder for church talks so you can make it all the way to 10 minutes of material. "Howl" is dark and absolutely awful, but also positively entrancing with its ugly beauty. (And its ugliness--not even the worst of it--does not all come from "sexual stuff" and "vulgar language.") Somehow, Ginsberg has managed to take all the worst language in English (and I'm not just talking about vulgarity, but words that are just ugly) and weave it in with some of the most beautiful, corrupting it all and making it all ugly together. That's a pretty amazing feat. Whether it's worthwhile could be debated, but it's amazing.

I don't have any deep insights to relate about "Howl." But I read it. And I lived to tell the tale.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Library Books Readathon Begins: Goals

Books I want to finish: 
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
My Lost City: Personal Essays and
On Writing by F. Scott Fitzgerald

After that, it's free game! 

After participating in two readathons and using different methods for each to track my progress, I've come up with a new way to do it. The first time, I wrote a post about my progress every single day. This was nice because it kept me accountable and I enjoyed writing my thoughts, but after a few days it just got a little stale, and it also kept me online more when I should have been reading. The second readathon (not too long ago), I tried doing what many bloggers do and just keeping a log on a single post of page numbers, what books I read, etc. This turned out to be way too hard for me, and what's more, I didn't want to write any other posts during that week because then my readathon post would keep going down the page until no one would ever see it, even though I kept updating it every day (well, I tried to). 

So this time, I'm going to continue blogging like normal (reviews, etc.) during the readathon, and I'll write a post sometime in the middle of the week to discuss my progress, and then a wrap-up post at the end. Hopefully, this will help me get the best of both worlds! 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Library Books Readathon

So, after my mediocre performance in the last readathon, I need to prove myself with another one, right?


Starting tomorrow, I'll be participating in the Library Books Readathon hosted by Rachael at Rachael Turns Pages:

I am planning on reading my library books first: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, and a couple of F. Scott Fitzgerald books I got out of the school library while I was writing a paper about his short story "Babylon Revisited." However, I'm already halfway through The Happiness Project and it might not take me that long to get through the others. And then, I might have other things to read for my classes that start on Monday. Depending on how things go, I might turn to some of the books I own (or just use it as an excuse to get more books out of the library...).

I'm looking forward to it!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

You didn't think it could get more exciting around here, did you?

Well, it's about to. 

Today (or maybe tomorrow, if I keep procrastinating) I am going to take my final exam for my American Literary History class. And then it will officially be over! 

I have loved every minute (well, almost) of this class. It's gotten me out of my shell and introduced me to some wonderful American authors whose work I'm excited to explore more. It's taught me to be more open-minded and more critical of classic works. And I've read a lot of great poetry, short stories, and creative non-fiction. 

This class was my last 200-level (sophomore level) class to take for my major. Now, I get to move on to 300-level classes! You know what that means, don't you? 

It means I'm halfway through! I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel! I can almost feel the degree in my hands! 

(I always picture my degree as a rolled-up scroll of yellowed parchment, tied elegantly with a ribbon. But I know it's just a piece of paper with fancy gold lettering on it that I get to pay a fortune to have framed. Hooray.) 

But of course, the degree is not the main goal of my time here at college. The goal is a wonderful education. And to be honest, as fun as literary history is, sometimes it focuses a little more on the history part than I would like. (I do like history, but I prefer my literature classes to focus on the actual literature, you know?) I guess what I'm trying to say is, I've loved my literary history classes, but I'm ready to move on to better, brighter things. 

So, next term is going to be absolutely wild with excitement! I'm taking two classes I've been looking forward to since my freshman year: Shakespeare and Creative Writing. Two English classes, and not a single General Ed class to get in the way! (And hopefully, I won't suffer from too many difficult classes, because I will only be taking 6 credits, which is very reasonable for a summer term at BYU.) 

Well, I could probably ramble on about this for several more paragraphs, but I'll spare you. But this time, I'm going to actually write about my Shakespeare adventures (and maybe even creative writing adventures, who knows?) here on the blog, instead of waiting until the last couple of weeks of class to be brave enough to try writing about anything I read for class. (I still have a post on Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" to share with you. I know, you're dying with anticipation.) 

Summer classes start Monday. I can't wait! 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Our Dear Friend Robert Frost (as my English teacher would call him)

I'll be honest: I was not expecting to love Robert Frost. Before I was assigned to read him for my class, I had never really read any of his poetry, but I was quite familiar with the oft-quoted "Road Not Taken" poem. I wasn't particularly impressed by that poem, either, because everyone who ever quoted it seemed to assign a quaint little moral to it (aka "we shouldn't follow everyone else, we should take our own unique path," etc.). And, although this is not a bad moral, I don't like poems that have obvious morals. So that made me think that Robert Frost himself was quaint.

But I should have known better than to listen to all those quoters. Robert Frost is not quaint at all. He's not didactic and his poems don't parade around One Very Specific Moral. (Also, my teacher informed me that Frost actually wrote "The Road Not Taken" to be ironic. I have a feeling that every time that poem gets quoted in church, he rolls in his grave...with laughter.)

Robert Frost is...beautiful. Epic. Fascinating. Intriguing. Melodious. Incredible. And I feel ashamed that I ever underrated him so abominably.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

So, I bought this book at the library book sale because I remembered hearing good things about it. Turns out it was definitely not my kind of book.

Most of it read like a Spanish-language soap opera. I kept hoping it would get better--and then it did! Finally, I started seeing some more complex ideas (Gertrudis's marriage, Chencha's role in the family, Pedro being not-so-nice, etc.). I was beginning to look forward to the end of the book. This might sound terrible, but I was so pleased to know that there would be no completely happy ending. There couldn't possibly be one! I knew that the way the story ended would answer a lot of my questions about what the book was trying to do. What would the ending have to say about feminism? Tradition? Family relations? Race? Sex? Mexican politics and war? There were so many possibilities!

But unfortunately, the book ended pretty much like it began. Like a Spanish-language soap opera. My predictions--which I had thrown out the window in the middle of the book--came true. Drat.

I don't want to totally discount this book, because I do think it probably has some interesting implications about feminism/tradition/family/race/etc., but I felt like the author may have succumbed just a little bit (or maybe a lot) to an obligation to entertain. There was far too much about sex and far too little about, well, everything else I kept hoping to learn more about. Like the revolution, for instance, and John Brown, and Tita's relationship with her nephew and niece. But it was not to be. In order to keep the book short and appease her youthful, female audience, Esquivel had to leave out interesting details and pack it nice and full of sex and ridiculous romance.

The way the book was written was certainly interesting: sort of a hybrid of magical realism and folklore and cookbook and, um, Spanish soap opera? (Ha. ha.) I enjoyed that aspect of it, but that was pretty much the extent of it.

It would be great if somebody out there could comment on this and inform my ignorance on this book. What is good about it? (I actually looked it up on Wikipedia and Sparknotes, and neither one seemed to have much thought I hadn't already considered.) I'm thinking it might go straight back to the library to be sold at another book sale.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

WW Readathon (an actual update)

So, as you can see, I tried to do the kinds of updates you see on other people's blogs during a just one post on which I update my daily stats, like how many pages I read. Well. That totally failed. I thought I would try it so I could see my progress and I wouldn't feel obligated to post my thoughts every day, but it turns out that even though I do like to see my progress, I have a really hard time keeping track of my daily page numbers. And I actually really like posting my thoughts, and I missed being able to do that.

This readathon started out...sort of strong...but the middle has been not so good. I had tons of homework to do since it's almost the end of the term, and on top of that, my husband and I randomly decided to move to a different apartment. And of course, there's this guy around here that I hang out with sometimes.

(That would be my case my terrible joke was lost in the ambiguity that is the typed word.)

I did, however, manage to snatch a few pages here and there, and finally, FINALLY, reached my goal to finish the biography I was working on for extra credit in one of my classes. Yippee! I enjoyed it, but since I don't have much to say about it, I won't be blogging about it. I'm glad to be done with it; I've really had my eye on Like Water for Chocolate. Or maybe one of the other great finds I got at the library book sale.

Even though I probably won't be able to read much before the end of tomorrow, I am mostly just happy that I got that book finished. Hurrah! I hope you're finishing all your readathon goals as well!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Wicked Wildfire Read-a-Thon Begins!

Hey everyone, I am really excited for this week of reading! I'm banning myself from watching any TV or movies alone so that I can use my free time for reading like I should be anyway.

My reading might be a little unusual since I'll be counting reading done for class (literature only, not textbook stuff) as part of my reading. So I'll let you know about the poems and short stories I'm reading. We're getting into postmodernism'll be interesting. Ha, ha! My main goal is to finish a biography I'm reading for extra credit for one of my classes, and then to read whatever I feel like! 

Friday, June 7th
# of pages: 32
Books read: To the Rescue
Where the Red Fern Grows
Books finished: 0
Total # of pages: 32

Saturday, June 8th
# of pages: 107
Books read: To the Rescue
Norton Anthology of English Literature (poems and short stories read for class)
Books finished: 0
Total # of pages: 139

Sunday, June 9th
# of pages: 
Books read:
Books finished: 
Total # of pages: 

Monday, June 10th
# of pages: 
Books read:
Books finished: 
Total # of pages: 

Tuesday, June 11th
# of pages: 
Books read:
Books finished: 
Total # of pages: 

Wednesday, June 12th
# of pages: 
Books read:
Books finished: 
Total # of pages: 

Thursday, June 13th
# of pages: 
Books read:
Books finished: 
Total # of pages: 

Friday, June 14th
# of pages: 
Books read:
Books finished: 
Total # of pages: 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Wicked Wildfire Read-a-Thon

Hosted by April at My Shelf Confessions

Hey everyone! I have a ton of reading I want to get done, so I decided to join this read-a-thon

There's a good chance I won't have a ton of time to read, since I'm approaching the end of the term in school, writing papers, taking tests, preparing for finals, etc. But I have a book I'm attempting to read for extra credit for a class and it's about 550 pages long. I'm halfway through it and it's due in about a week and a half. Yikes! That in addition to everything else! So during this read-a-thon, my goal is to blow through that book and then get a chance to read a bit out of the books I bought from the library, or The Happiness Project if I get it at the library (which I should soon since I put it on hold). We'll see what happens! I'm going to commit to reading a little bit every day. 

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Love at first sight.

Last winter, I fell in love with two things: my husband, and Modernist literature.

I never thought Modernism would be my kind of thing. I've always thought of myself as more of a Victorian kind of girl. You know, Dickens, Brontes, possibly Austen (unless she's a Romantic, which I really can't decide), that sort of thing.

But even though I have a great love and appreciation for these authors, the Modernists are the ones that really get me going. I feel a kinship with Owen Wilson's character in the movie "Midnight in Paris." I would sort of love to go back to the "roaring 20s" and meet all the strange and fascinating authors, watch them dancing and smoking and lying to each other and generally being absolutely intriguing. Maybe even get some writing advice from Gertrude Stein, if I were brave enough. (I totally wouldn't be, of course.)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Library Book Sale!

I've been to many a library book sale, as I imagine plenty of you have, too. Most of my library book sale memories, though, are from my childhood, when I spent my time searching for the rare book that actually looked interesting to me. But even though most of the books looked terribly boring to little me, I still liked looking through the boxes upon boxes of other people's discarded books. 

Today's book sale was even more fun, though, because I was looking for books to add to my collection (and I have a broader interest now). I got books I want to read soon as well as books I just want on my shelves for "someday." 

Here's my haul: