Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Back to Scheduled Programming


You, my loyal readers, might have noticed that I’ve been a very lazy blogger this May. My posts have been mostly reviews, and, while there’s nothing wrong with that, I usually strive to inject little personal elements into my blog. I’ve also failed to return comments regularly.

Things have just been hectic this month, and, most of the time, I just wanted to curl up in bed with a book I wouldn’t have to review. I’ve been reading Jane Eyre lately, and I’m really taking my time with it, savoring each chapter and marking passages I like. I didn’t put any pressure on myself to finish it at a particular date, and I’m enjoying the experience. So far, I’ve read only four books this month, and I feel only a little guilty.

This will be back to regular programming this June. More or less. :)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Me and the Boy Who Lived


I bought my copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the fourth grade when I was nine. So, basically, the book is a decade old.

Things weren’t going so great for me back then. My parents had just split up, and, since I was an only child, they were fighting over who got to keep me—like I was a pet or something. I turned into a total freak over night. I stopped speaking during class, but I managed to piss off both my teachers and classmates every time I opened my mouth. The confusion, pain, and shock of it all forced me to dig a hole inside myself, and I just burrowed in, wishing everything would go away.

During one of our rare trips to the mall together, my father bought me a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I was addicted to Nancy Drew mysteries at the time, and I don’t know why I chose the book with a strange-looking boy on the cover. Maybe it intrigued me. I forgot.

This might sound cheesy but Harry Potter became the figurative light at the end of the tunnel. Here was a boy who was completely miserable, and, suddenly, he found this amazing magical place where he was famous, and all sorts of adventures were waiting for him. I walked into Hogwarts, and never wanted to look back. Harry Potter showed me that someone could possibly be more miserable than I was, and, somehow, I stopped feeling so alone.

Today, more than ten years after I first grabbed the book with my grubby nine-year-old hands, I started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone again, and it’s still as amazing as I first thought. If the world suddenly makes me want to be invisible again, I have a feeling Harry Potter will still be the figurative light at the end of the tunnel. No matter how old I am.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Curtains Were Blue


I can't think of anything to post today, but I saw the above photo on Tumblr. As a Literature major, I found it hilarious. Do you agree?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Thoughts: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

I’m temped to post a title, and leave this whole post at that. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland can do that to a person.

The whole thing starts when a little girl named Alice sees a rabbit take out a pocket watch. Out of curiosity, she follows him down a rabbit hole, and encounters creatures like the Mad Hatter, a sleeping dormouse, a smoking caterpillar, an insane queen, and more out-of-this-world characters/people/animals.

I’m going to be honest here. I didn’t understand Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland very well. Okay, I didn’t understand it at all. Maybe I could have understood it better with an annotated version? Or SparkNotes? But maybe it’s not supposed to be understood. Maybe it’s supposed to be a fun, nonsensical book for kids. Or maybe that’s just me making excuses for myself. Har-har.

I do think that the book was written by a very intelligent person, though. It’s crazy, but it’s the kind of crazy that’s intelligent. While reading/absorbing the craziness, I almost started to feel like I could actually understand it, that a dormouse who talked in his sleep actually made sense. Aside from that “almost sane” feeling, there’s also a ton of wordplay, and fun little poems.

Overall, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was a fun read. I didn’t stop to think about the characters’ movies, the theme, or THIS-IS-AN-IMPORTANT-PIECE-OF-LITERATURE. I just let the prose and Alice’s thoughts wash over me. No pressure.

Rating: 4/5

Monday, May 16, 2011

"I so loathed the old man's touch..."

I once posted on Dickens' extra-marital affair with Ellen Ternan here. Recently, an anonymous person left a very interesting comment--so interesting that I simply had to repost it for all of you to see. Here it is:

"Reflecting on Dickens' relationship with Ellen Ternan adds much to your study of his life and enjoyment of his works. He was discreet about the affair out of concern for his image in the Victorian Era and potential impacts to his literary and commercial success, revealing a great deal about his human nature and personality. She was also generally secretive about it but (gossip though it may be) is alleged to have said in later life "I so loathed the old man's touch".

Speaking of secrets, imagine Miss Ternan mourning his death for some time, passing herself off as a 23 year old at 36, marrying a 24 year old clergyman, and living out her life in Victorian respectability. Discovering after her death that she was older than known and had been an actress, her son burned her papers.

A web search will turn up photos of her at various ages, and even the grave to which she took her secrets. Likewise, of course, for Mr. Dickens, adding color to our considerations. It really is a shame that so much of Dickens’ papers were deliberately destroyed by him and others. Deprived of the sweet details in their own words, the whole truth regarding their feelings and motivations will forever remain a mystery. So, we pursue our reveries and console ourselves that the mysterious is yet more delicious than the known."

Whoever you are, thanks for leaving this comment, and, wow, it looks like you've done a ton of research on this whole Dickens/Ternan thing. Readers like you are the reason why I love blogging. Before you left your comment, I didn't even think about analyzing the affair from Ternan's perspective. Dickens seems like such an intriguing person now, perhaps even more intriguing than his novels.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Quick Thoughts: The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy / A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen

I love talking about books. Really, I do. Once I get started on the topic, it’s usually very difficult to get met to shut up. Some books come along, though, that render me speechless. It’s not that I disliked the aforementioned books. I just can’t think of anything to say about them.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
The Scarlet Pimpernel is a crusader who, along with his band of Englishmen, rescues French royalists from Madame Guillotine during the French Revolution. His enemies try to find out who he is, and there are a lot of disguises, stolen documents, and traveling-by-night involved.

This book has been called “the first spy novel” quite often, so I guess my expectations were a little high. I was also expecting something along the lines of The Count of Monte Cristo, but The Scarlet Pimpernel was just, well, less epic. I was even more disappointed, because the edition I own features a swordfight on the cover. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but there ISN’T A SINGLE SWORDFIGHT in the novel.

And the prose felt clumsy at times. There’s a character named Marguerite in the novel, and it was repeated over and over that she’s the cleverest woman in all of France. Yes, I get it. She’s wildly intelligent. You don’t have to repeat it every time she’s in a scene.

Overall, I liked The Scarlet Pimpernel, but I was more than a little disappointed. It just didn’t have as many intrigues as I expected.

A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen
I feel really guilty about not liking this one. A lot of bloggers absolutely love it, and I’ve heard from a ton of sources that it’s supposed to be a very important feminist work of literature. Now, I’m the kind of girl who’s really into all things feminism-related, but A Doll’s House just didn’t do anything for me.

The funny thing is I loved analyzing A Doll’s House, just picking apart the pieces and figuring out what the author is trying to say about a woman’s role in society. This is a problem, however, since I mainly read for entertainment… and I wasn’t very entertained. I thought the characters, especially Dr. Rank, were weird, and a couple of events seemed unexplainable for me.

I do intend to reread this in the near future, though. Something tells me that I’m going to like this more after a second reading—or maybe after seeing a live performance.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Thoughts: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen


"I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible." - Jane Austen (Northanger Abbey)

When I first read Northanger Abbey a couple of years ago, I though it was dreadfully boring. As a self-professed Austenite, finding an Austen novel boring is unacceptable for me. So, I decided to give Northanger Abbey another try—this time with more knowledge about Gothic novels, The Mysteries of Udolpho in particular.

Catherine Morland is a seventeen-year-old girl who loves reading Gothic novels. When her rich acquaintances take her to Bath, a new world is opened up to her—a world where her imagination is allowed to flourish. She meets and attracts the attention of Henry Tilney. General Tilney, Henry’s father, invites her to visit them at Northanger Abbey, a place where Catherine’s Gothic fantasies might turn into reality.

On my second reread, I absolutely loved Northanger Abbey. This reread reminded why Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors—her acerbic wit, her drool-worthy heroes, and, basically, her sense of humor. There’s a part in the novel where Catherine, Henry, and Henry’s sister Eleanor are taking a walk in the woods. Henry’s dialogue is so sarcastic, so pitch-perfect, I couldn’t resist laughing out loud.

Despite being a parody of Gothic novels, Northanger Abbey was oddly realistic. You can really see how Henry and Catherine fell for each other. The funny thing is, Catherine fell for Henry first, which is a first, I think, in an Austen novel—the other exception might be Mansfield Park.

Overall, Northanger Abbey was a quick but awesome novel, one I won’t hesitate to reread when I have the time. Pride and Prejudice is still my favorite Austen, but Northanger Abbey certainly climbed up the list.

Rating: 4/5

The Dueling Authors: Austen vs. Dickens is hosted by The Classics Circuit here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dueling Authors: Austen vs. Dickens


The Classics Circuit is hosting a Dueling Authors: Austen vs. Dickens tour this May, and I’m one of the participants. Basically, after you sign up, you have to read either a Dickens or Austen novel, and write a post about it. We’re all waiting to see who can knock the other out and emerge as the victor.

An unread copy of A Tale of Two Cities sat in my TBR pile, but, in the end, I decided to read Austen’s Northanger Abbey. I read it a couple of years ago, but I don’t remember anything about it. At all. However, I’ve come across numerous bloggers saying they loved Northanger Abbey, and thought it was hilarious. I couldn’t even imagine Northanger Abbey and hilarious in the same sentence, since I thought it was ridiculously boring.

But then I realized something.

When I read Northanger Abbey a couple of years ago, I had no idea who Anne Radcliffe was and had never heard of The Mysteries of Udolpho. Most of the humor in the book, according to numerous sources, relies on knowing the basic premise of The Mysteries of Udolpho—and having an appreciation for dark castles on stormy nights.

So, I’m going to see for myself.

I’m off to reread Northanger Abbey now.

It’s too late to sign up, but the tour schedule can be found here.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Thoughts: Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster

Like Anne of Green Gables, I first encountered the anime adaptation of Daddy-Long-Legs, and didn’t find out it was a book until many years later. I came across a ton of reviews that compared Daddy-Long-Legs to Anne of Green Gables, so I really had to see for myself.

Daddy-Long-Legs is about an orphan named Jerusha Abbott who prefers to call herself Judy. A board member of the orphanage Judy is staying in notices her, and offers to pay for her college education—including her board, allowance, basically everything. The rest of the novel tells Judy’s adventures in college, especially as she becomes acquainted with Jervis Pendleton.

I recently read Anne of Green Gables, so I guess it’s unavoidable that I’d compare Judy to Anne. They were both orphans who did well in school. Both love literature, are frank, and have wild imaginations. The difference is that I loved Anne from the very beginning, while I felt an overwhelming urge to slap Judy with a hardbound book most of the time. Judy did grow on me, though, in the last couple of chapters, but she's ridiculously annoying in the beginning. I couldn’t even believe she was eighteen, because she acted like a twelve-year-old.

Funny enough, I liked the setting of Daddy-Long-Legs more than Judy herself. I found the experiences of a 1910s college girl very interesting. I guess, at the time, everybody must have been talking about women’s suffrage, and I felt that the author expressed her views on the subject quite clearly in the book. There were also little details, like how most of the girls in Judy’s school grew up with Little Women. I loved that.

I liked Daddy-Long-Legs, especially the ending, but that was it. I thought Dadd-Long-Legs’ identity was predictable, and that spoiled the book a bit for me. It would have been more fun if I kept guessing. So, a little MEH on this one.

Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Thoughts: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables, the Japanese anime, was a huge part of my childhood. I was fascinated by Anne’s love for reading and writing. It wasn’t until I reached high school that I learned Anne of Green Gables was actually a book, and a series at that. I have no idea why I only read the novel this year.

The novel actually begins with a mistake. Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert want to adopt a boy to help out around Green Gables, their farm. Instead, they get Anne—with an E—Shirley. Anne, however, manages to charm and convince them to let her stay. When Marilla finally relents, Anne’s various misadventures involving Gilbert Blythe, raspberry cordial, schoolteachers, and more follow.

First of all, I want to say that I absolutely loved Anne Shirley. She’s probably the reason why I liked this book so much. If she existed today instead of as a fictional character in the 1800s, we would probably be best friends—that is if she would actually consider me a kindred spirit. She used big words, and renamed ordinary places with names like the Lake of Shining Waters. Who wouldn’t want a friend like her? Yes, she did get carried away sometimes, but, at the same time, Anne managed to make ordinary things seem exotic or special.

I also loved L.M. Montgomery’s prose. If I have to use one word to describe her writing, I would use the word lush. Green Gables and the rest of the places in Avonlea and Carmody came alive for me through Montgomery’s writing. She’s an expert when it comes to writing amazing, not to mention beautiful, descriptions for places like haunted woods or ordinary schoolhouses. I felt like I was right there, experiencing everything with Anne.

I completely loved Anne of Green Gables, and I can’t wait to read the rest of the books in the series. This was a breath of fresh air from all the somewhat depressing classics I’ve been reading lately. My only regret is that I didn’t read this when I was little. Harry Potter might have had some serious competition if Anne Shirley entered the scene.

Rating: 5/5

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