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Showing posts from January, 2013

Literary Places I'm Going to See, Or So Help Me God

So. Literary Places I Would Like to Visit. Let's talk about them. Because they are all probably way, way awesome.
1. Emily Dickinson's House. Am I even that big a fan of Dickinson? Nope. Can I quote any of her poems? I think...maybe like a line? Something about hope being a bird? Whatever, the point is when I called her museum last year, the people intimidated me, and I respect that. Plus there's this bit of tabloid-like gossip, and I'm all about that.


Also, this basically looks exactly like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's house -- a place I have weird associations with because I had an emotional conversation with a friend in his back garden until we were interrupted by a very forward sort of rabbit.


2. Haworth Parsonage. Um, obviously. If I don't wander on the same damn moors that Charlotte Bronte did at least once in my life, I will have failed. I don't care if someone has to wheel me up there -- when they do, I want to be spun around in little wheely circles, …

What my blog would be if it were cooler

A friend recently suggested I make this a blog that reviews the first 50 pages of books. Because that's about how far I get before I get distracted and skip off to another book.


That's a bit too 'themey' and 'awesome' for me, but I will totally do it right now.

The Vanishers, Heidi Julavits. Heidi Julavits is a badass. I read an essay of hers I totally loved ("Maine, according to this vernacular, is a state filled with people possessed of great, garbled wisdom who eat lobster like it's bologna and die in ironic drowning accidents"), and so I was all "Heeeeell yeah, I'll read her novel." As far as I can tell 75 pages in, it's about a girl with psychic ability who becomes acquainted with an organization that 'vanishes' people who don't want their lives anymore. It is weird but good.

The Silver Linings Playbook, Matthew Quick. I already talked about this. A bipolar dude gets taken home from an institution he's been in f…

Researching Edwin Drood, Pt I

This weekend I frolicked in the rain with my roommate. Yeah, it was freezing rain, and by frolic I mean 'ran pell-mell through the streets of Chicago with one arm covering my library books while yelling 'AHHHHH!' and grabbing onto his hand so I didn't fall on my ass on the ice-covered sidewalk,' but I'm gonna call that 'fun and whimsical' in my head.


I'm still on my Edwin Drood bender. The only time I get seriously serious about academic research is when my subject is something along the lines of "DOES THE TEXT PROVE THAT THESE TWO CHARACTERS WANT TO MAKE OUT?" 

I did this for the opera Carmen (I have a theory using textual proof that Carmen totally does love Don Jose, despite what her outward actions might indicate), Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors (ANTIPHOLUS AND ADRIANA FOREVS), and now Drood with Helena/Rosa. It's the only kind of subject that gets me jazzed enough to put real effort into it. I blame growing up with soap operas a…

Harry Potter Readalong, Week 4: My Favorite Person Arrives

I have an immense fondness for egomaniacal idiots. So when 14-year-old me met this particular idiot:


Well, I've never looked back really.

Second year. Dobby's there, being annoying as shit (I like him in book 7, but you're basically a heartless banshee if you don't like him in book 7), the Dursleys seem somehow worse, Ginny and Harry have Had a Few Moments, my boy shows up and is perfect, the Chamber of Secrets has been opened, and — oh yeah, this:


I like Chamber of Secrets. There's a decent number of good things: it's not really exposition so much anymore; we get to see the Burrow and it is AWESOME; Lockhart, Lockhart, Lockhart; and Hermione is able to brew Polyjuice Potion, which I didn't realize when I read this the first time, but that's HELLA hard to make. And she is 12. Let us all once again realize Hermione is awesome.

Oh! Moaning Myrtle! She showed up. And Colin Creevey, but y'know, eh to him.

I don't think I can overemphasize how much I love…

Femslashing Dickens: I refuse to acknowledge romantic friendship as a thing

Obviously I picked up The Mystery of Edwin Drood again. Obviously.

I'm not very far in (that'd be crazy) but since I know the whole story anyway, I skimmed ahead to see if Helena Landless, Indian (India-Indian) and twin sister of Neville Landless (who I think figures largely in Drood), is in fact a character in the book, or just made up for the musical by Mr. Rupert Holmes because he is awesome.

And she is totally in the book! And the FIRST thing I found for her was a scene at Rosa Bud's boarding school where I guess they're rooming together. Rosa Bud is engaged to Edwin Drood and has been since childhood. Because of the childhood thing, they're not so into each other, and eventually become more like BFFs. So there's that. Here Helena and Rosa are settling down for the evening and fricking Dickens writes this:
"I can answer for you," laughed Helena, searching the lovely little face with her dark fiery eyes, and tenderly caressing the small figure. "…

My Currently Reading pile will be added to until it topples over and kills me

For those who don't follow me on twitter (*peers at you*), you might not know that I am currently majorly obsessed with the musical The Mystery of Edwin Drood. The cast recording is being released next Tuesday, but they're selling copies in the theatre now, SO, I...er...kind of asked a friend of my brother's to go to the theatre, buy a copy and upload it for me. Which he did. So I now have it, thanks to living in the FUTURE.


Speaking of Dickens, I'm working on Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of '80 and it is Not Great so far. Mainly because it's set in 1780 and Dickens has almost exclusively confined his action to a bunch of old men sitting around a tavern fireplace. There was one grumpy guy, but then he left. If someone named something like Alfred P. Whiffersnook doesn't show up soon, I will continue to read this, but under protest.

I've also started The Silver Linings Playbook, and it is AWESOME. I'm gonna go ahead and say it's one of those T…

I suspect all books from the '60s of having been written on hallucinogens

It's the coldest day in two years in Chicago. Which actually wouldn't be that bad, because last winter was eaaaasy, but it is in fact wrenchingly cold outside. "Oh, I shall wear knee socks and my long coat and my legs will be fine," said I. Noooo, Alice. Because halfway through my walk to work, I lost all feeling at the knees and thought I was developing frostbite (there's a frostbite warning and I have a susceptible mind). In my defense, the windchill is -15.

BUT ANYWAY. Books. Warm, cozy books, hopefully read with hot chocolate near a fireplace, or at the very least, a space heater.

Who told me to read Lost Magic? It was charming. All set in medieval times and quoting Chaucer. I like reading medievaly things because the people are all "And then I straightened my kirtle" and I am like "Ha-hah, I shall look that funny word up." Lost Magic taught me 'trencher.' Which is basically like a food tray you'd get at camp. P.S. It was also …

The Looking Glass Wars, or Hey I Finished a Book in Seven Years

January's been the complete opposite of November and December, in that I am actually READING things. How very odd indeed.

So a book I'm actually proud of finishing is one I got through last night: The Looking Glass Wars.

When your mother names you Alice and brings you up with a wardrobe painted with scenes from Alice in Wonderland and a collection of copies of the book, you feel a sort of reluctant obligation to read things about that character. So when I saw this at Borders back in 2006, I thought what the hey. And then I didn't read it for seven years.

Which is a shame, because I mean, the cover's cool, right? And the title seems to imply it's Alice in Wonderland, but maybe dystopiafied, and who doesn't love that.

In the middle of reading it, I would've said not to read it. My current thinking is that if you can read it in like a day, do it. I did it over the weekend, and it was fun enough that I'm still thinking about some of the characters. Also I have…

Harry Potter Week 3: More toilet seats

Oh, the second half of Sorceror's Stone. More specifically, wizard chess (so exciting) and TROLL IN THE DUNGEONS.


How do we feel about this part? The exposition is pretty much done. They're all friends. There've been things set up for the next six books. Snape! It's like he can read minds. The centaurs! There's a prophecy about Harry and Voldemort. Ron and Hermione! Er....nothing really yet.

I believe something was brought up in comments last week about how Harry meeting Quirrell should have made his scar hurt, but that was solved in the second half of the reading, as Quirrell made it clear that Voldemort was not hidden beneath his turban until after the Gringotts failure. Problems: we solve them.

One of the things I never noticed before because I don't think I had enough distance from the books is how Dumbledore is portrayed here. He's this omnipotent, amazing but still father-like figure. If Dumbledore's there, everything will be okay. You can relax.…

Nabokov is not a horrible man

Junior year of college, I took a course on Nabokov. I'd never read anything of his, but a professor I was totally in love with was teaching it, and so I pretty much didn't care what the subject was.

We read eight of his books. Eight. Do you know how many of Dickens's books I've read? Eight. And I LOVE him. Actually, as of now, I've read nine Nabokov books, and that kills me a little bit, but okay whatever.


Lolita was a bit of a problem. I was already frustrated in that class because it had a lot of super-smart grad students. Pretty much all I'd read up to then was Victorian lit, and when it came to modern/postmodern lit, I felt like an idiot. So then we started reading this, what seems on the surface, pedophilic work, and I just hated it.

Our professor said things like "You have to look at it from the side of your eye" and "Don't judge it yet," but I pretty much ignored all that and focused on how yes, the opening lines are wonderful, but t…

I have READ things

January has been a WHIRLWIND MONTH. And we're only halfway through it. What other mysteries do you hold, January!

In addition to personal/professional Life Stuff, I've actually been finishing books. I KNOW. What is even going on.


So let's look at some actual books on this damn book blog.

Gone Girl. Yeah. I read this. And I was reeeeal excited for the first half. Then a thing happened and I was like "...oh. Reall--ok." And then more things happened and then I liked the ending. YOU CANNOT TALK ABOUT THIS BOOK. Because if you give away anything, it RUINS it. Just -- omg, I was going to say a thing, but I CAN'T for the good of those who haven't read it yet. What I CAN say is that Gillian Flynn apparently lives near me in Chicago. So...boom. Also I kind of want to read Sharp Objects, mainly because I saw a girl on the train reading it and the cover looked neato.

Holes. I was 100% more delighted by the twists in this than in Gone Girl. Mainly because I did not know…

internet friends are spiffy

Have you all noticed how amazing internet/blogging friendships are?

They're pretty much an interaction of pure personality. Or at least brain-ness. And yeah, we're pretty censored on our blogs. If this reflected how I actually thought, it'd be a weirdass mixture of how much I need to buy hummus, how fattening Chipotle REALLY is, whether Xena was looking at Gabrielle that way in season one, can I get to the library today, which aria would be best to work on next, does the--hahaha tumblr you are so funny, should I try to relearn the Russian accusative case, and IF I could travel anywhere in time for ten minutes, where would I go.

(fyi I'd sit on the banks of the Chicago River at the Washington/Wacker intersection in 1802)

But nevertheless, I believe our basic personalities show through on the internet. Unless we're very cunning sociopaths with NOTHING else to do.

Book blogging friends are the first internet friends I have made as a fully-fledged adult. The earliest inter…

Harry Potter Readalong, Week 2

*weeps* Okay. We've begun. And it's already been magnificent.

The Dursleys are horrible (MY BELOVED PETUNIA WILL BE UNDERSTOOD LATER), Harry's a wizard, and Draco Malfoy has a weasel face. That's where we ended for this week. Also Quirrell has a mysterious turban and MOST OF US KNOW WHY.

So...there are ten students in each class in each House? So forty new students a year? Out of all of England? HOW SMALL IS THE WIZARDING POPULATION. I have to say, if we're doing any complaining at all, mine has to be that these books weren't NEARLY big enough (not even the super-giant ones, no), because I demand all the information ever. If J.K. doesn't write that encyclopedia, I will protest with glittery but strongly-worded signs.

Because are there other wizarding schools in England? Is Hogwarts IT? They seem to imply there are others, but they aren't named (unless they mention it elsewhere and I am just being lazy). Because if there were only 40 new students a year in…

The Night Watch is exceedingly good

Ok, The Night Watch deserves a better review than just "it's about some gay people in WWII." Because WHILE THAT IS TRUE, it is also about OTHER stuff. And also it's really really good and you should read it.

So Sarah Waters is awesome. If you're looking for lesbian authors who are good/respected/don't only write about sexy lady detectives who fall in love with other sexy ladies, then she should be on your list. In fact, I think it's pretty much her, Emma Donoghue and Jeanette Winterson (but we all know how I feel about Winterson, yes? DEFOGIFY YOUR WORK, WOMAN — "I'm writing about my childhood now....or am I?").

I'd add Dorothy Allison and Fannie Flagg to that list. And probably Alice Walker. But anyway.

It appears that in a dastardly attempt at disappointing my future self, I did not write down quotes from this wonderful book. 


So you shall have to trust me when I say that the writing is clear and wonderful, as is usually the case with Sara…

Libraries are weirdly controversial places for book people

Remember that time on Once Upon a Time when Regina (Evil Queen) showed up to a party and everyone else was all "The fuck?" but Emma Swan made this face?:


Yeah, so Swan Queen is canon. Done.

I think I tend to assume other people have the same relationship with the library that I do. Or at least other book-liking people. Turns out, NOT necessarily the case.

Chicago has a kickass, eight floor, whole-city-block-inhabiting downtown library called the Harold Washington Library Center. It has escalators. It has many many reading corners. It has a convenient popular library on the first floor for the lazy among us who either want the latest Jodi Picoult or free DVDs because Netflix Instant somehow just isn't enough. I love this library.

The main things that seem to keep people away from their respective library branches are: 

 1) Germs are gross. DO YOU KNOW WHAT PEOPLE DO WITH THOSE BOOKS. I don't. But I do know I once dropped a library book in a (clean) toilet. So think on t…

Smile and the world smiles with you, Hardy

When I was at home over Christmas, I found my copy of Tess of the d'Urbervilles. What I'd forgotten was what was done to the cover:


I was in some college class, and a friend said "She looks too sad" and stuck that on there. So I promptly secured it with Scotch tape and it is never coming off. Because it's the best part of the book.

When I was going through my Meryl Streep stage, I very very much wanted to watch The French Lieutenant's Woman, because it looked like it would have all kinds of delightful shippy things in it, and oh what fun. But obvs I had to read the book first, so I got it, read it, was none too into it, BUT Fowles quotes quite a bit of Hardy's poetry in it. 

So I decided to finally read Tess because of that. And then I found out that Hardy was a big Mr. SadPants, which is not so much my thing. So he's all "And then Tess made yet another accidental bad decision which took two seconds but had a monstrous and terrible impact on the r…

Harry Potter Readalong Schedule

All right, Readalongers. Here's the schedule for the first four books. I'll add the others as it gets closer (which won't be for a while, so calm yo'selves). If people want to take certain books faster/slower, we can decide that later.

Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone
January 11th - Chapters 1 through 9
January 18th - Chapters 10 through 17 (end of book)

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
January 25th - Chapters 1 through 10
February 1st - Chapters 11 through 18 (end of book)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
February 8th - Chapters 1 through 11
February 15th - Chapters 12 through 22 (end of book)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
February 22nd - Chapters 1 through 13
March 1st - Chapters 14 through 20
March 8th - Chapters 21 through 28
March 15th - Chapters 29 through 37 (end of book)

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
March 22nd - Chapters 1 through 12
March 29th - Chapters 13 through 20
April 5th - Chapters 21 through 29
April 12th - Chapters 30 through 3…

Mini Readathon: Our Finale or Something

SO. Here we are. Eight hours later. It has been a thoroughly enjoyable day (aside from the coughing and waiting for my roommate to bring home bourbon because I've been told it fixes this). I think I've actually read more than in any other readathon I've done, so SUCCESS.

1) Finished Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

2) Did about 60 pages of Eats, Shoots & Leaves

3) Read two stories in Emma Donoghue's touchy subjects

4) Read the first 100 pages of Harry Potter and awwwwwwwww. "Uncle Vernon, who had gone very pale, whispered something that sounded like 'Mimblewimble.'"

I love everything about this book. But MORE ON THAT NEXT FRIDAY. I actually loved all the books I was reading today, which is obviously great. This is my sixth Emma Donoghue, and I'm super-happy it's a short story collection, because I think her short stories are much better than her novels. Her novels are good! But her short stories are very very good. And usually are …

Readathon, Parte Dos

MIDWAY POINT OF THE MINI READATHON.


I seriously love that we're able to do this. And God bless Twitter, y'know?

So. I have finished Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, and — *sobs* — WHY can't I just live in Whistle Stop, Alabama, WHY.

I get that this is manufactured and not real and helps build the Southern mythology, but I LOVE the Southern mythology, so let's just all believe in it, please.

Started Harry Potter and was delighted by how easily my 12-year-old copy stays open after being read by almost all the kids in the family and carted around by me from home to dorm to Chicago. Also I found this on the inside:

"Alice J. Burton earned this book at Chautauqua, NY in 1999 at the
age of 14 (written in Oct. 2000)"
I'd recently found books by my grandmother with her name + college written in them, so I was on a Mark This Book kick.
I've also read like a chapter of Eats, Shoots & Leaves, my favorite part of which thus far might be:
 When my own moth…

Mini Readathon: The Beginnining!

Despite staying up stupid-late reading Xena fan fiction (the calendar might say it's 2013, but in my room it's always 1997), it is MINI READATHON TIME.

Yes, that magical time when we read for eight hours and then stop because hey, we got other shit to do.

These're my books:

Touchy Subjects by Emma Donoghue, composed of short stories or MINI BOOKS Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss. Grammar is made up of tiny dots and lines and things. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. Um....the town they live in is very small. Almost like a MINI TOWN. Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone, It's the shortest of the Harry Potters, so...like a little mini Harry Potter. Right? Right. These are my snacks:

 I'm actually sick today with some kind of sore throat/flu thing, so I should just be drinking like wheat grass or something, but I bought all these tiny THINGS, so they shall be eaten. Some of them. And look at the spinach back there lookin' all awkw…

Harry Potter Readalong of Amazingness and Jollity Intro Post

The day is here. The time is now. HARRY POTTER READALONG TIME. I realized yesterday I didn't post a schedule, because Alley asked for one and nope, wasn't there, but I WILL POST ONE. Like on Sunday or something. Just know we're doing book 1 in two weeks, posts on Fridays, so next Friday'll be the first half and whatever you want to talk about related to it. We're allowed to reference future events, because if you don't want things spoiled for you, you should've read the series sooner, you wretched human being.

So. I'm Alice. I live in Chicago. I receptionize/sing operatic things/wish I could be looking for proof of the Mothman. I first encountered Harry Potter on vacation with my family in 1999, when a mysteeerious old man started walking next to me as I read, asked what I was reading, and then mentioned some new series I might be interested in about a boy who finds out he's a wizard. I read the first book in the car on the way to Niagara Falls and …