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Showing posts from September, 2013

Code Name Verity: A book that punches you in the face

Someone (Tika. It was Tika) recommended Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein to me a while back, and I not only put it on hold at the library, but I went there, checked it out, and FINISHED it. This should already be a clue as to how good it is.

The real thing that got me invested was that one of the main characters says "YOU STUPID NAZI BASTARDS" on page five. So right then, I was like "Okey dokey, I am strapped in for this book, let's go."


It's set during WWII in England, and narrated through what are essentially journals. Which is fantastic, because it's first person, but not necessarily first person omniscient (USING THAT WORD IN A MORE SPECIFIC SENSE HERE), because these journals are READ. By the NAZIS. One of the main characters is being held prisoner in France and being forced to tell her story. Fortunately she's charming and hilarious, which I would find it hard to be while held in a Nazi prison, post-torture.
It's mainly a novel about fem…

Hey, is Gone With the Wind ok as a book?

So...Gone With the Wind. I feel like there might be a problem there. Or is there? See, I don't KNOW. Because everyone loves it. No one hates GWTW, which is amazing because it's approximately 85 million pages long and all about a LADY, and who likes books about ladies?


It's beautifully -- nay, MAGICALLY -- written. Scarlett O'Hara is one of the most memorable characters in 20th century fiction. And she isn't even that likable, which is so damn ballsy of Margaret Mitchell. As a work of literature, it seems pretty great. But it makes me ever so slightly uneasy.

Gone With the Wind is Southern apologist fiction. It's a lament for another time when everything was civilized and people went to barbecues and took long naps and, y'know, bought and sold other people's lives. Whatever, everyone's happy, right?

That's not the main point of the novel. I'm gonna go ahead and confidently state that it's a novel of hope about the South and its ability to &…

Night Film by Marisha Pessl: Nope

I can't handle scary movies. I can't handle scary movies to the point where when I watched a documentary on H.H. Holmes by myself, I then called my friend to make her tell me he wasn't hiding in my apartment, AND THEN I CHECKED ALL THE CLOSETS. So I usually don't go out of my way to expose myself to scary things, but when I do, they better actually be scary, damnit.


I'm not sure what gave me the impression Night Film would be scary. Things gleaned from other reviews? The cover? The concept? Not sure. But was it scary? No. No, it 100% was not. And I want the money back that I did not spend because I got it from the library.

The plot is there's an investigative journalist named Scott McGrath (+10 for Journalist-Sounding Name) who's looking into a filmmaker named Stanislaus Cordova who makes the scariest movies in the history of ever that make you reexamine your own life or look into your soul and DEAL with the shit you find there or something like that.

Along t…

Poetry: Let's maybe talk about it I guess.

Poetry is not popular in our time. I'm not sure why.

I'd say it's because we're post-Enlightenment, but the Enlightenment loved the shit out of poetry because it used to be HILARIOUS. Then the Romantics picked it up and...y'know...did their thing with it, and then the Victorians said "OH! We can...um...it can be like a novel! Oh, we love the novel. It is our favorite. Make poetry like that." Then the Aesthetes came in at the end of the 19th century and wrote poems with titles like "Athanasia" and "Penumbra" and wandered down lanes holding flowers in their open hands because it was beautiful.


Then, y'know. We reached the Modern Era and everyone was sick of everything and jaded because of the War and they decided to say "Fuck it" to the past and just go off and do their own thing. Which is particularly nice to read when you've just spent a semester immersed in Browning and Tennyson. "SCREW YOU CONVENTIONS WHAT IF NO…

Opera: Making Books Better (Unless That Book Is Little Women)

Much like the television and movie adaptations of now (Gone Girl the movie is happening, guys — not sure how riveting it's going to be if you already know the twist but OKEY DOKEY), back in the day, people would take books and adapt them for other forms of popular entertainment. LIKE OPERA.


Yes, from early on with Mozart and Beaumarchais's sexy new play Le Mariage de Figaro, to present day with Jake Heggie and Sister Helen Prejean's Dead Man Walking, opera is On Top of It when "It" means giving you that thing you liked already, but now with people singing the whole time instead of just boring words with no music.

What's that? You want to know what popular operas are based on books? WELL THEN.

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Rossini. Because opera likes confusing people, Mozart set the second of Beaumarchais's trilogy to music in 1786, and Rossini set the FIRST to music in 1816. One is clearly better (HINT: it's Barber). While Mozart put a lot of "stuff&quo…

Walt Whitman and Thomas Hardy would be terrible roommates

You all ever read any Thomas Hardy? I did. I read Tess of the d'Urbervilles (which is an IRONIC TITLE, by the way), and if you will remember, did this to the cover because the whole thing is too fucking sad:



You think anyone was ever like: 

"Hey Tom. Tom. Tom. Want to maybe take a walk in a glade? Drink some vitamin C? Get a happier outlook on life?"

"No."

In my continuing If Authors from the Past Were College Roommates series (I know two does not really equal a series, leave me alone), let's look at Walt Whitman and Thomas Hardy.

Whitman: "Eighteen years and now I am here!
Eighteen years and all so radiant
Eighteen years of life, and now we need to figure out
Who gets the desk by the window."

Hardy: 


Whitman: "I am a Nautilus, an ever-curving shellLife is joyous and I will Celebrate itLet's go to that luau they're having this evening.(also I really want that desk)"
Hardy:












Whitman: "Have you pondered the atoms of the universe? Have you …

The books you have do not die with you

I have a grandmother I idealize.

She died of lung cancer two years before I was born, and is the only grandparent I never knew. I didn't miss her until I became a teenager and started actually noticing her books in my grandfather's study. Books on Eleanor of Aquitaine, books by Trollope (whom I still haven't read), books on the history of Africa.

My grandfather died when I was 14, and I asked for and received my grandmother's books, most of which have stayed at my parents'. The only ones I decided to bring to Chicago with me when I moved at age 22 were two of her textbooks from college. One is a book of Spenser's poetry, the other is Milton. I hate both of those men, but I love that she wrote in their books. It's mostly the kind of idiotic notes you take in freshman year lit classes, but occasionally there're things like this:


Because people don't only doodle in the 21st century.

One of the only personal notes I could find was this in the upper right-ha…

Let's take a chance and write about Lindy West

You know whose writing I love? Lindy West's. Like, to a degree where she'll write an article and I'll sit in despair in front of my computer because her writing is SO GOOD and SO HILARIOUS and I'm over here still being amused by repartee like "That's an ugly turtle." "YOU'RE an ugly turtle."

But more often lately, my friends have talked to me about how they don't like Lindy. Sometimes on a personal level, sometimes based on the articles she writes for Jezebel. And I get it. She is a terrifying individual. Hilarious, yes (HAVE YOU READ HER TITANIC REVIEW? I am going to have it framed someday). But still terrifying. Terrifying to the point that I'm scared she's going to find this post and somehow come after me, even though I love her with the kind of love those Siamese children have for the King in The King and I.


But she does this thing. This thing where if her focus is on you and you're at all disagreeing with her, you feel th…

Five Studies in Dickens's Edwin Drood: Nerds Writing Nerdsays

In that fragmentary firmament which Charles Dickens called The Mystery of Edwin Drood the stars shine on, and I may still fix my gaze upon them, seeking for the letters I have yet to learn.
Richard M. Baker...is a giant nerd. And I love him.

In 1948, he published a series of essays called The Drood Murder Case: Five Studies in Dickens's Edwin Drood, which I have just finished after having it out from the library for eight months (to exactly no one's surprise, no one else requested it during this time).

He basically describes himself as a giant Dickens dork who really loves Edwin Drood and so he researched the shit out of it. And oh. Yes he did. For those unaware, The Mystery of Edwin Drood was Dickens's last novel and only half of it was completed when Dickens died, leaving almost no clues as to the ending. This has prompted many scholars to try to piece it together (WHAT'S THE MYSTERY NOW, DICKENS), write books, write novel-form continuations, AND, of course, there i…

August, you were CRAZY. But I love you anyway.

I read a ridiculous number of books in August. Otherwise known as "nine."


And since I've been finding it hard to update the blog this week, let's do that fun thing where I outline said books quickly, which will maybe hopefully perhaps be translated into longer reviews, as I genuinely liked many of these.

Rose of No Man's Land, Michelle Tea. I reviewed this one. Michelle Tea's a damn brilliant writer. You should read her books. I think some people likened this to Catcher in the Rye for ladies, only the heroine complains much less, so you Philistines who don't like CITR will probably like this.

The Gifts of the Jews, Thomas Cahill. The title of this is just weird. Louis CK said "Jew" is one of those words that can sound really racist just depending on your tone, so I feel like I have to be cautious when saying it out loud and when a book title uses it, that increases the danger enormously. ANYWAY. This is about how the Jewish people (ah, nice) and th…