Friday, December 31, 2010

Working, working, working: Catching up and boring you with the details of this last week

No...this week hasn't been a total bust. In fact, lots of great things happened because I got a chance to catch up with a lot of people I rarely get a chance to see these days:

1. I got to see my cousin, T. (Theron), who lives in Oregon. He and his sister and his parents (my dad's older sister and her husband) drove up from Dothan (T. came home for Christmas). We had a nice lunch (grandma went, too! So great to see her up and walking again) and a great visit.
2. I got a chance to have a short coffee break with my former student, Lisa. It was a lot of fun and I wish that I could have stayed around longer!
3. I had lunch with my friend Melanie who is pregnant with her first child! It was great to see her.
4. My friend Kelly came into town for two nights and we had a blast! We spent each evening together, having dinner and shutting down Books-a-Million's coffee shop each night! I miss her already! But, we will have a great time in NYC this summer.

As for movies:
I have seen two: Grand Hotel and Tangled.

I really couldn't get into Grand Hotel, even though it won best picture in 1932. I don't know...maybe I just wasn't in the mood. I just couldn't get into Garbo's acting (here is a clip...won't let me embed it on the blog). I did enjoy Joan Crawford, for the most part (another clip that I can't embed). Oh, well. At least we still have access to these old films!

As for Tangled:

Can I just say that two things...1) I HATE this new animation style...the characters look like plastic dolls. 2) I am so sick of 3D.
The movie was okay. I felt like the songs were rehashed from something like Beauty and the Beast (though not nearly as good) and I really thought that Rapunzel was a canned character. The attempts to make her strong fail, in my opinion. From the beginning, she is a throwback to the stereotypical girly characters: she spends her days in the tower reading about cooking, cooking, painting, making music...all of the traditional 18th and 19th century training for girls. Granted, her struggle with disobeying her "mother's" wishes that she not leave the tower is a fun scene, but I couldn't become attached to her or the "hero"...and he really got on my nerves. She should have married the horse.

But...other than the visiting friends/family and the two movies...here is the boring part of this post:
I have been out of the loop for a few days, trying to catch up on some work (at the magazine and on my dissertation). It is so frustrating. I am going through one of those phases where I just really don't want to work on the dissertation...but I have to do so or I will NEVER finish. Today, I am working on the methodology section of the chapter that we are writing as an article. Ugh. I want this to be over!!! See? I told you this part was dull.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Cary Grant rocks my world...

I own way too many books. This is a known fact. However, perhaps less known, is that I own way too many movies. I recently went through them and decided to get rid of several (esp. those old VHS tapes...don't know why I still had a lot of those!). So, now, after going through everything in a brutal fashion, I have a moderate DVD collection (though, I did keep some movies on VHS because they haven't been converted to DVD just yet...weird...). Anyway, like I said, I did this a few days ago and last night I decided that I wanted to watch an older film. So, I began to go through my collection and stumbled across Charade (Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn).


A very bad summary of the film:In this film, Audrey Hepburn discovers that her husband (who she planned on divorcing but then didn't have to because he ends up dead) has been living a double life. He has stolen money and several people (his spy friends) want it back. They threaten her, people die, but it all comes down to identity and who is really uncovering his identity in an honest way. At the end, you are left with two male characters (Cary Grant and Walter Matthau) needing something very important from Hepburn and she must decide who is telling the truth about his identity. By this point in the film, you know who is lying...but I hate too many spoilers...so watch it yourself.

I had forgotten how much I love this film! It is quirky and really funny. Audrey Hepburn is this strange, yet believable, mixture of flirtation and innocence--but you always know who she is and you trust her. But Grant...yes, I always adore Cary Grant...is great in this film as well. The only word for him: smooth. I love how he just makes any character his own--and in this film, he can be multiple people because he sheds four identities during the course of the movie. The author of The Film Club (see a few posts below) talks about this, too, explaining that many critics believed that Grant was the best actor ever on screen. What is really funny to me is that he doesn't quite know what to do about Audrey Hepburn's character. She seems to just revolve in her own sphere and he can't quite get a handle on who she is--at least until he realizes that she is really just the person in front of him. Hepburn's character, though funny and traditional in a lot of ways, is also untraditional in many other ways. What is disarming about her (and this is still true today when you encounter someone like her) is that she just puts it all out there. Every move she makes is honest and what she is feeling at the time. There isn't a guard up and Grant (due to his job in the film and the age difference) only knows how to put forth a certain persona. You see that drop more and more during the film, as the real version of himself begins to emerge. And that is the central problem for Hepburn, is it not? While everyone in the film knows exactly who she is and where she is at all times, all of the men surrounding her are covering up something, leading double lives. But Grant goes beyond even that bit. He starts, literally, as one person and, four personas later, the audience finds out who he really is.


The theme of identity, with Hepburn as the ideal, is amazingly portrayed in this movie. Grant cannot "get" the girl until he solves the crimes and gets the money (for honest reasons, of course). But he also cannot really have or understand Hepburn's character completely until he learns to shed all of the layers under which his authentic self hibernates. So much could be said about this movie. The search for male authenticity by pairing an older male with a younger female has been done before, of course. But it is different in this movie...more subtle and sophisticated. Yes, it is a fun movie to watch and even quite silly at times. And, maybe if Grant wasn't such a wonderful actor, we wouldn't even care about it today. Maybe he (and Hepburn, of course) is the only reason that the film is pulled off in a meaningful way. Hmmm...food for thought. Anyway, I love Charade...so, if you haven't seen it, you should do yourself a favor and watch it!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

December 25, 2010: Family photos and snow!

Well, another Christmas has come and gone--and it was another great one! It was my first Christmas without my grandmother Frances, so, of course, I miss her. But, overall, things were great.


(Casey in front of the Christmas tree.)

We began the day rather late because we all slept in a bit (Dad was up late having way too much fun reading Twas the Night Before Christmas aloud). Mom, dad, and I opened gifts around 9:30 or so (awesome gift: a 1964 Life magazine that covers Richard Burton in Hamlet!!) and also celebrated Casey's birthday. He is fifteen today! I just can't believe he is that old! He is still doing well, although his back legs give out a bit. Still, he had a great day because he had lots of special treats and...get this...we actually had snow!

YES! SNOW!! Here in ALABAMA! On CHRISTMAS DAY!! No, it didn't stick, but we had lots of big flakes fall. And Casey absolutely LOVES the snow. (Sorry for the caps...it is just in me today.) So, as always when it snows, I took Casey outside for a walk and a picture. We always take a birthday picture, but this year it was a combo birthday and snow photo:


(Of course, you can't see any snow in this photo...but Casey was loving it.)

Then, mom and I called several friends and spent the rest of the day cooking.

Here are my cupcakes!



I drove over and picked up my mom's brother/my uncle, Larry. Then, around 4:30 or so, my Aunt Ginny, Uncle Ron, and cousins, Jeff and Jess, arrived. Grandma and Uncle Chuck came a bit later. We had a lot of fun and ate way too much! Here are some photos...


(From left to right: Me, Jess, and Jeff)



(Ginny and Mom)



(Jess and I)



(Mom and Jeff)



(Jess and Chuck)



(Jeff and I)



(Larry and I)



(Grandma, Ron, and Ginny. We set up chairs, tables, and other things downstairs for Grandma because she is still using her walker after breaking her pelvis.)



(Chuck, Ron, and Ginny. My high school graduation portrait in the background...ugh.)



(Jeff after too much food. However, two minutes later, he lifted me above his head while reclining on the floor!)



(Grandma and I)


(Yes, Jeff. You have been working out!)



(Larry and Dad...and, of course, my bad photo taking skills as seen by the flash in the window!)



(Grandma, Jeff, and Ron)



(Mom and Dad)



(Jess and Grandma)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Another good day! (and a book "review" on the side)

Well, today we traveled to Demopolis, Alabama, to visit with my mom's cousin from Florida (and her family) and my grandfather's sister (i.e. my great aunt). We had a really nice time and it was wonderful to see everyone. Though I see my great aunt occasionally, I haven't seen my cousins from Florida in years.

After coming home, I took a really long nap (didn't sleep at all last night). After, I made cookies (dough was a bit dry...so much for the Good Housekeeping "we tested it three times" assurance). Anyway, I fixed it up and it turned out fine! My dad is such a cookie monster, so he would eat them even if they tasted terrible (which, thankfully, they didn't!).

Now for the book review:


(Source: Photo and another book review)

Like I said in a previous post, I just couldn't figure out what I wanted to read next. So, Monday night, before I took my father (he can't drive anymore) to play in the band at Shelton for graduation, I stopped by Books-a-Million and found another interesting book for a dollar. This one is a memoir by David Gilmour called The Film Club (note: also at a bargain price on Amazon). The book follows the author from the point that his teen son decides to drop out of high school until the point when the son (as an adult) decides to go to college. The father, when the son tells him he wants to drop out of high school, tells his son that he can do so (and stay at home rent free and not have to work) as long as the kid agrees to watch three movies with his father a week.

Yes. It sounds absolutely nuts. But the story is fascinating. Now, that being said, the memoir has flaws. The transformation of the boy is not a strong point of the book. The coverage of the films is excellent as are the conversations between the father and son about the movies and other matters. Still, I don't see the boy changing as much as I think that Gilmour wants us to imagine. (This book is very short, by the way, but is also VERY readable.) When Jesse (the son) finally decides to get a GED equivalent, the moment just doesn't ring true because we haven't been adequately prepared for it. Still, it is fascinating to hear about some of the movies they watched and why (as that was the only education the father felt he could give his son without Jesse feeling like it was an education). I also thought that the background stories were really interesting (between Gilmour and his wife and ex-wife; between Jesse and a girl that haunts him; Jesse's interest in becoming a rap star; etc.).

Still, even though I didn't feel ready for the ending, I really enjoyed reading the book because the narration is strong and keeps the reader engaged. Gilmour also doesn't cover up his son's weaknesses, yet you can tell that he is absolutely in love with his son in a way that only a parent can be. My primary reason for picking up the book was the emphasis on film and curiosity about which films Gilmour would choose to show his son. I picked up some great ideas about movies to watch! But, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Gilmour's writing style and ability to weave all kinds of stories together without the reader feeling overwhelmed or frustrated. I felt like I knew everyone when I finished the memoir...and that is saying something...because, usually, at least in my memoir reading experience, I often don't wonder about every single person I encounter in the book. I might latch on to a few, but that is about it.

So, no--not the best memoir in the world...but it is interesting and different from most I have read! Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Great Day

This morning, I drove to Birmingham to meet up with a friend of mine, Melissa. We met when both of us joined Team in Training and prepared for a full marathon back in 2004...I can't believe it was that long ago! We were both fairly slow, but over the many miles that we walked and ran/jogged, Melissa and I forged a friendship out of stories (funny, sad, personal), show tunes (to get us through those miles when you "hit the wall"), and our woes about graduate school. At the time, she had just started her PhD program in Marketing and I was finishing up my master's degree in English. Last year, I was in her wedding and this is the first time that I have seen her since then (because she and her husband live in Indiana now).


(Melissa and I at her graduation party a couple of years ago.)

Anyway, we had a long lunch and then another chat over coffee. It was great to see her again! It is too bad that she lives so far away. :(

On the drive up to Birmingham, I started thinking about a lot of things. I am still sad over the events of the last five days or so. Even though my family was not directly related to my friend's tragedy in her family, it is still just so sad to me. It has been such a troubling time and I have another depressing thing (not related to my friend) to take care of tomorrow. I can't get into the Christmas holidays at all. It is like everything is happening at such a distance. Nothing is breaking through to even make me feel a little excited about Christmas. Ugh. In any case, I will keep trying and I know that I will enjoy seeing my family on Christmas day, regardless. And I told my cousin Jeff that we are taking some real pictures on that day! I don't have any really good recent photos.

In other news, I did find (or maybe it found me) a great book in the dollar pile at Books-a-Million. I will be writing about it on here soon.

Friday, December 17, 2010

I wish that I had seen this last year!!



Great

Seeing the good

I am amazed at and in awe of my friend who is going through such a sad time. Though she is experiencing a tragic loss, she is keeping track of every good thing that is happening during this time, even if that thing seems incredibly small and insignificant. This is something that we should all do.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What to read?

I just found out that a close friend of mine is going through a very tragic situation. I feel so terrible for her and her family. It makes me so sad.

I just can't read anything funny or light right now, because all I think about is her family. I like to keep track of my reading on this blog, but I am changing my mind about the next book on my list, I think. I just can't engage in light-hearted material right now. Some people might find that therapeutic, but I can't concentrate unless the book helps me get through whatever emotion I have. Does anyone else go through this? So...the question is: What to read next?

I am trying to get through my TBR ("to be read") pile...after work, I will go through it and choose something.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

One of my worst qualities and a New Year's resolution:

My inability to express anger. It is true. I cannot express anger well, even when I have legitimate reasons to be angry. I don't know why this is except that it mirrors the way girls are raised in the south.

I spoke to a friend about this, and she thinks the same thing. As children, many southern girls (and probably girls, in general) are taught silence or flirtation as means to an end in certain situations.

Be nice. Don't be loud. Be sweet. Don't be loud. Don't be mean...


You get the point. And it isn't that being kind to people is a bad thing, of course! But it is destructive if you sacrifice yourself and your dignity in the process. So even if it sounds crazy, this is something I should work on!

The problem is that I developed the habit of covering up anger (and, even lesser unpleasant emotions) to an insane degree. I don't have problems listening or rocking the boat when necessary in my professional life, but in my personal life...well, being strong enough to assert myself is a huge issue. And, really, if you aren't honest about your feelings, then you aren't being honest with the other person. It is just as bad as someone who can't control their anger, someone who lashes out.

So, I suppose that if we are into making New Year's resolutions, then that will be mine. I will agree to break the boundaries of silence, people! I will get angry if I need to get angry. (Easier said than done, I think, but I will still try.)

So, just in fun, here is my polar opposite (thank goodness...I don't have any intentions of going this route, but it is just too much fun not to pass on this clip)!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Top Ten Fictional Friends

Just saw a post for this on So Many Books. The idea is to list ten characters from fiction that you would want to consider as friends in your own life. My list is a bit wonky and I am not choosing these people because they necessarily have high morals or anything (some do, but others don't). I choose them because they are interesting...so here goes:

1. Ariel Manto from Scarlett Thomas's The End of Mr. Y.

2. Lyra Belacqua from Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy.

3. Hermione Granger from Rowling's Harry Potter series.

4. Severus Snape from Rowling's Harry Potter series.

5. "Pandora" from Rice's short novel Pandora.

6. Paige Winterbourne from Armstrong's Dime Store Magic.

7. John Thornton from Gaskell's North and South. (Really, I just want to marry him.)

8. Jo March from Alcott's Little Women.

9. Richard Papen from Tartt's The Secret History.

10. Lady Dedlock from Dickens's Bleak House. (You can't say that the woman doesn't know how to keep a secret.)


Close runners-up: Atreyu, Bastian Balthazar Bux, and the Childlike Empress from Ende's The Neverending Story (grown up, of course!); Margaret Hale from Gaskell's North and South; and too many others to name!!!

Caught up in the holiday chaos...

Now that the semester is FINALLY over and I can take a moment to breathe a little bit (which, really, for me means that I am ignoring all of the other things I need to be doing in favor of reading really cheesy books), I am trying not to fall into my inevitable holiday state of mind that borders somewhere between grouchy and angry. I love the holidays--but only when I am doing things like spending time with my family or friends. I REALLY DISLIKE the craziness that surrounds the holidays, especially in the retail stores.

As I said in an earlier post, my father's side of the family opted out of gift giving in favor of an optional (for each member) donation to a chosen charity. (We are donating to a charity that supports autism research this year.) But, we are still giving a gift to my grandmother. I also had a few other gifts that I had to buy for other people. So, yesterday, a MONDAY, I thought that I would go ahead and finish up my shopping. And I did. But not before I wanted to run out of the stores screaming.

I thought that going on a Monday would be a calmer experience. Oh, no. People are crazy. Completely rude. I hate it when people express a sense of entitlement and when they treat store clerks so horribly. I saw so many instances of that kind of behavior yesterday, and it just made me angry.

Still, I did end up buying some great large-print books for my grandmother. Books-a-Million had theirs "Buy 2 Get the 3rd Free"! Those books are expensive, so it was nice to be able to buy my grandmother several. She is in a rehabilitation facility right now because two weeks ago she fell and fractured her pelvis. She is doing really well, but she has to sit a lot...what else better to fill your time than reading? :)

But at least last night calmed me down.

I had dinner with a dear friend of mine (who told me that she is getting married!) and she always makes the most wonderful food. We had a recipe from The Barefoot Contessa show on the Food Network.
I grated the Parmesan, so it was a banner night.
This is a great meal, though we did alter it a bit. My friend made it for some other people who felt that the arugula was a bit too strong. So, she made it with parsley last night. We decided that next time, we might like to try it with basil. Any way, it was fantastic! As was the time spent with my friend. We don't get to see one another too often, but we always have such great conversation. We run the gamut from Nietzsche to Hardy to Joyce to Jodie Foster. I love friends that follow my weird train of thought! Perfect to center me after a day of retail hell and witnessing depressing materialism. Ugh.

Today, I will be working (as I will for most of this week), but I am still making time to read lots of books that I shouldn't be reading...because I should really be working...and I want to...sort of...but reading over-the-top crazy teen literature just sounds so much more fun right now.

I read a few over the weekend...but I didn't like the author's writing at all and don't really have anything positive to say about the books (they were bundled into one volume, so I read all of them that I had in that book). While I don't shy from criticism (of authors and myself as an author), I don't believe in bashing someone's work. So, I won't be writing about those novels on here!

I have heard really good things about the next book that I am starting, Nevermore, by Kelly Creagh. I will let you know if it is living up to the hype on Amazon! (As of now, it has everything I require, which is really only one thing: escapism. But, I can already say that I LOVE the author's Web site and blog: http://www.kellycreagh.com/.)

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

I wish that I had more to say this week... (and an eventual rant on Meyer's Eclipse)

I really do wish that I had more to say this week, but I am really just trying to make it through till the weekend! It is final exam week here on campus, so I have been grading and averaging until I am sick of it. I am also reminded, once again, how amazing it can be when people suddenly start to worry about their grades AT THE END OF THE SEMESTER. Tip to all students out there: don't do this. Stay on top of your grades and seek help before the final exam. Always a good thing.

Anyway, other than that, I have had a major breakthrough in my dissertation that involves a lot of Dickens research that I have done. So, it looks like my second chapter on Dickens will focus more on Great Expectations than Little Dorrit...and I am so happy about that!

In other news of my boring life: I recently had the opportunity to watch Eclipse (the 3rd Twilight saga movie, for those of you dead to Stephanie Meyer and her clutch on American youth). Don't get me wrong. I have read the books. As I think I have mentioned on here before, I liked the first three (Twilight and Eclipse, really) and hated the fourth...ugh...what a horrible novel. She really needed some editing. Like I said, though, I enjoyed the first three, though I don't think Meyer knows anything about Wuthering Heights and her attempt to pull that metaphor through, but, oh well.

As for the movies: I thought the acting was pretty bland in the first film and that the script was bad in the second film...but, that could just be because I didn't like the book New Moon. (New Moon is to overdone purple prose teen angst as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is to camping.)

The movie version of Eclipse, however, was a pleasant surprise. I thought that the acting was much stronger (except for the secondary characters like Alice...who I still want to mute every time I see her on screen). I just get sick of her girly and baby voice. It is disgusting. I want to say, "You are a vampire. You have it in you to be a ruthless killer. Buck up." I also thought that the script was better this time around.

Still, even though I love popular literature and had a great time reading the Twilight series (minus Breaking Dawn), I do have issues with it. Namely: Ladies, Edward Cullen is not the man you want to pursue. There is nothing romantic about him. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a properly alpha male as much as the next girl, but there is a difference between being overtly masculine and just plain creepy and domineering. I think that Edward's character should have been so much more, especially considering the literary heritage Meyer draws upon in creating him. But, he and Bella and everyone else (perhaps because of the obvious moral agenda in the novels) become stereotypes. Note to fiction writers: don't push your agenda down someone's throat. It makes readers angry. It pushes many of us away. (Example: LOVED Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series...until book 3...and then I just wanted to throw the book away. YES. WE GET IT, MR. PULLMAN. No need to brand us with your philosophy.)

Now, recently, I read an interview with Anne Rice (a video version is posted below). She made several points that I had already thought about and she clarified a comment that she made about Meyer's books. In an initial interview, someone misquoted her as saying that she thought (and I am paraphrasing here) that Meyer's books were ridiculous. What she actually said was that she thought it was ridiculous that immortals would choose to go to high school over and over again.

EXACTLY. And this is the problem I have with the books. Because lets face it: if this is the premise and you have male vampires 80+ years old (a lot older in some cases) going to high school over and over and over again...presumably dating...well, that is creepy. And Edward, like it or not, is verging on pedophilia. Just because he walks around in his beautiful corpse-like sparkled body doesn't mean that his mind doesn't age. He is an old man...really old.

I also hate how his character shifts from book one to book four. He fades so far from his original self. Ugh. Because here is the thing: you are already breaking the rules by pairing an old man with a teenager (a la "May/December" romance novels). He is, at least in the first book, acting the part. His behavior is scary and stalkeresque. He bosses Bella around, invades her mind (in book 2), grabs and pulls on her, and controls her every move. Okay. Seeing the genre (something else Anne Rice talks about very well in her clarification of statement on Meyer's books), I get it. I have seen the scenario a million times in romance novels, and Rice is correct in saying that Meyer is playing with an old formula...in fact, let's just post that conversation here:



I could just listen to Anne Rice all day. She is amazing. Anyway, like I said: I get it. I don't agree with it, but I get it and I even understand Edward's appeal--in the fantasy world--to a certain extent. But I would NEVER want a man like that in my life. Stalking, pushing, pulling, bossing around, chastising: these things do not equal love, as every smart woman knows.

And, again, I am not knocking Meyer's ability to tell a story...at least in the first book. Hey, wish I could come up with something successful. Still, I think we should always end any reading experience (good or bad or indifferent) by asking ourselves why we have had the reaction we have had. AND, then we should force ourselves to look at it from another point of view. It is the only way to learn. So, if you find yourself really loving a book or a movie, after basking in the euphoria of connection force yourself to hate on it for a while. It is a valuable experience (and, the opposite: if you hate something, force yourself to argue for its merit).

Thus ends the lesson. :)

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Thinking about...

...Charles Dickens's Great Expectations. I have read it before, but thought that I would read it again. It is one of those books that I come back to again and again...and I am still not sure what I want to say about it. Well, when I finish this read-through, I will post something.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Feeling restless...

It always happens at the worst times. I love to be writing and working...but, then, I just want to jump ship. I would love, right now, to get on a plane and hide away in Oxford or somewhere in Scotland. I feel inspired already, but I want to be in the land that surrounds me with constant inspiration. Oxford and the Highlands feed my soul in ways that I just can't get anywhere around here. Some might laugh, but I can say that, when I was in Scotland, I felt truly at home. It was as if I had returned to the place where I belonged. I love Oxford and all of the literature and history surrounding it...but Scotland...yes, it is the home of my most very distant ancestors...and maybe there is still a memory encoded in my DNA somewhere.

So, to beat the frustration, I throw myself into work and books. I am in the very frustrating stage of revising a chapter right now (not fun at all...I would rather be writing a new one!). I love my scholarly research, but I would also like to publish a novel or short story one day. Writing and researching and creating...those things are not problems for me (obviously!). But, the publishing world is brutal BRUTAL. I am not devastated by rejection or anything. That isn't what I am talking about. It is just the game you have to continue to play (for most people, for years) before you get someone willing to take your work. So many wonderful authors are turned down. It really has not much to do with talent. It really is just finding the right person at the right time to read your work. Better and worse stories/novels/articles than mine are published every day. It is just how things work.

I do wonder, though, what is going to happen in this age of digital media. The more we turn our tastes to reading digital books on E-readers rather than going out to the store to buy a copy, the more the publishing world will change. Costs of printing are eliminated. Therefore, potentially, more authorship opportunities should open up, right? There is a problem with all of this, however...though we already see it in blogs. ANYONE can publish in this type of world. People who don't edit or who have nothing (or horrible) things to say. I am not advocating censorship. But, I do think that finding good things to read is going to be both overwhelmingly problematic and extremely exciting. The sheer volume of material is going to be amazing.

Like I said, blogs fall into this category already. Maybe I shouldn't be writing either! Maybe all I have to say is nothing. Maybe it is self-serving. Maybe it is the culmination of all vanity to keep a blog. I suppose all of these things are true. But, my blog is sometimes my salvation. It is a place where I can get rid of the tension and the frustration--and just have fun. I don't seek to harm anyone and I hope to provide a record of thoughts and ideas. (I would never, however, bash someone on my blog. That is something that I find revolting.) I also see blogs as the new 18th cent. coffee shop of ideas. (I think that I have written about this before...) Anyway, I spoke with a student (one of my favorites) about this today, and I encouraged her to become part of some community of ideas, whether it be through a blog or a group of another kind. It is all extremely exciting.

Oh, well. I guess that is enough blabbing about nothing for one day. As for future posts: I am still planning on blogging about all of Shakespeare. However, it takes time to get through it and my time is limited. I like to take that seriously, but the dissertation gets all of my serious thoughts at the moment! Still, I hope to blog about a play soon. Maybe I will read one over the winter break. Maybe The Winter's Tale or Troilus and Cressida. I am also fascinated by the Romantics at the moment...Byron has my attention in a new way, so I might have something to say about him soon. (All of this comes from trying to reformat the class I teach next semester. I have been teaching it the same way for a while and want to do something different.) Will be blogging about Elizabeth Taylor at every chance I get! (Oh! And there is a new book coming out about her influence...sometime in the spring...very exciting!). I would like to blog about a few more of her movies: The Driver's Seat, The Sandpiper, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and X, Y, and Zee. Anyway, I never run out of things to talk about. I thank all of you for taking the time to read or browse or look at pictures! Comment whenever you like!

Scarlett Thomas: Our Tragic Universe

I am a fan of Scarlett Thomas. I loved The End of Mr. Y (multiverse theory) and Pop Co. (codes and things). The characters, depressed but thoughtful, always appeal to me, and I love the overarching theories explored in each book. So, I have had her new book, Our Tragic Universe, on my wish list for quite some time.


Source: http://bfishreads.blogspot.com/2010/07/dont-miss-books-to-read-from-bea.html

I searched around for a review that said it just right...and I came across this quote from a New York Times review: "I wanted to root for this novel and its brain-bending, occasionally contradictory signifiers; I also found myself yearning for a way in."

I totally agree.

I wasn't thrilled with the new novel. I didn't hate it. I didn't really even dislike it. But it isn't something that I will remember fondly. Basically, the book is a novel about a novelist writing about how hard it is to write a novel. This in itself is fine. Thrown in there are bits and pieces of ideas about New Age theory, magic, fairies, etc...but it never takes off as a theme in the same way that code breaking dominates Pop Co. or that multiverse theory dominates The End of Mr. Y.

Worst of all? I couldn't care less for Meg (the protagonist) by the end of the novel. It took me a while to develop a relationship with her to begin with and though I was liking her more by mid-novel, the energy just left the prose and it was as if she just faded away. Now, I get that this is all part of the metafiction aims of the book. But, I think that so much more should have been done. When I finished The End of Mr. Y, I thought about it for days. I still carry images from that novel with me (as I do with all novels that I enjoy). But this one? Eh. I just put it on my "read" shelf and am not thinking of it at all (at least, I won't after I write this review).

So, I can't really recommend this novel. I do recommend her other books (they can be complicated but I really enjoyed them...I am not a math person at all and these books have a lot to do with math and science). So, go out and read The End of Mr. Y. If you like it, read Pop Co. But, unless you are just totally hooked (and you may be, like I was), don't feel like you have to buy Our Tragic Universe. Try to get it at the library.

No Life

Sorry, everyone! Real posts to follow! We are nearing the end of the semester and I am super busy! Lots to grade and write! Will post soon!!

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Amazon Link for better plot summary and reviews:
http://www.amazon.com/Magicians-Novel-Lev-Grossman/dp/0670020559.



Basic rundown of the plot:
Quentin, a high school student, is swept into a hidden world and attends a school for magic (it is for five years and the students are, for the most part, adults). He is delighted to be there because he finds out that magic is real, just like he always hoped when he read books about the "imaginary" Fillory world (and the Chatwin children who have adventures there). After graduation, he and his friends (I guess you would call them friends) end up in Fillory where they face off against evil. Tragedy and victory are the outcomes.

Vague? Yes...intentionally so. And, as I will state again, this is NOT a children's novel. It is very adult and explicit.

I have been trying to decide what to write about this novel for a couple of days. I can't decide if Grossman is doing something important in this book or if he is being clever and unintentionally doing something important. Yes, it does interact with Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia (references to both are in the novel, with two--that I remember, anyway--specifically mentioning incidents in Harry Potter). Some say that this is the adult version of Harry Potter. I wonder if this is what Harry Potter would have looked like had it been written by Americans. So, I am going to be optimistic here and give you my impression of the book as something interacting with popular children's fantasy on an interesting (and important, perhaps) level.

Now, going in: this is a very adult and explicit novel. The school of magic in this book is for college-aged students and, therefore, college-type language/activities/incidents take place. So, if you are easily offended or don't want to read about a lurid version of Rowling...well, don't read this book. So, even though it is interacting with children's literature, it is important to note that this is not a children's book.

That being said, the fact that we have characters functioning as adult versions of the Harry Potter characters, living in a school of magic for part of the novel and then leaving after graduation to engage in more useless laziness and lurid activity spawned from boredom, speaks to something important about this very American book. (Note: will probably have lots of people slam me for the following comments, but this is my blog...so, as I have said before, deal with it.) I think American writers (just in general and in what is mass-produced...certainly not everyone) are good at plot and immediate gratification on a sensual level. As my friend Kelly said as we were discussing this book, it is why we place such emphasis on special effects. The movie Avatar was terrible if you just consider the story line. Same crap Cameron always does. We can't slow ourselves down long enough to think about our own lives much less the lives of a character in a book or a movie. If they aren't constantly moving or shooting or something "action-based," then most Americans complain. It takes effort to think and analyze and feel...and why do that in a world where we can instantaneously get most things that we want? Hmmm...and magic can, once you learn it, give you exactly that. Food for thought.

I read through some complaints about the book on Amazon (very divided by the way...about half love it and half hate it). Some of the complaints mentioned that the book was just boring or that the reviewer hated the protagonist and couldn't feel anything for him (Quentin is the main character). I don't agree that the book is boring. There is a plot, but the plot is overridden by the idea that the characters--especially Quentin--are so jaded and living in a world that is unimpressive...even though they are going to a school of magic.

People also don't like the book because Quentin isn't a sympathetic character: he barely works, his relationships are distant at best for most of the novel (and perhaps even at the end), he engages in immoral behavior and feels little remorse at times...and even when he does, he is too immature to move forward as an adult. All true. He is unsympathetic. But I think that is the point. Here is an American Harry Potter: jaded, unimpressed, and not moved to do much because there isn't a need. There was one point, toward the end, where I thought that he was changing, but by the very end of the book...eh...not so much.

As to how this interacts with children's literature in general:
A very peculiar thing happens as you read. In the beginning, at least, you imagine the characters to be much younger than they really are (at least I did, anyway). This is unsettling because of what these characters actually do and say. It is like a perversion of the youthful hero and heroine in classic children's literature.

As I said, I am still trying to figure this one out, but I will try to do so through other responses...

Famous authors and publications have reviewed this novel. Here are a few of their comments and my response to those comments:

From George R. R. Martin (A Game of Thrones author): "The Magicians is to Harry Potter as a shot of Irish whiskey is to a glass of weak tea."
My response: Um, George, I love your books and all, but what the heck were you smoking when you wrote this? No. This is a book that, I think, brutally commentates on Americans and American society, but in no way does that make it a better novel. It makes it an interesting and sad commentary, useful for comparison and critical thought, but is not a classic in the way Harry Potter is a classic.


From The New Yorker: "[The Magicians is] an unexpectedly moving coming-of-age story."
My response: It may be a uniquely American "coming-of-age story" that speaks to our society and how we interact with one another...but "moving" it isn't...and I hope that what it captures is ephemeral.

From The Washington Post: "The Magicians is a great fairy tale, written for grown-ups but appealing to our most basic desires for stories to bring about some re-enchantment with the world, where monsters lurk but where a young man with a little magic may prevail."
My response: What the hell were you reading? Quentin does NOT prevail. The Hermione equivalent saves the day...even though it kills her. Quentin, as he watches her die, wants to go to sleep. Give me a break. Also, it may begin with the intent to give us some kind of nostalgic "re-enchantment"...but that quickly fades. Quentin realizes the difference between his child's imagination and reality, yet the worst part is that he can't carry any of the good from his childish encounter with the fairy tale into his adult life. It also bothers me that we should even think about being "re-enchanted" with something about childhood through this novel. This novel isn't mean to "enchant"...or, at least, I hope it isn't.

So, yes, I am going to go out on a limb here and say that this book is important. Lots of critical work waits to be done using this book and Rowling's work (and Lewis and Tolkien, etc.). But--and this is a big "BUT"--it is not positive. It is not a book that has redemption. It is not a book that has a moral. It is a book with an anti-hero (another common complaint on Amazon)...but these are things that reign in American cinema and television. Hey--I watch Weeds and love it...definitely anti-heroes with no morals in that series. But, when you combine this with children's literature and all that comes with that (the emotion, the symbolism, etc), well, something very surreal happens...and not surreal in a good way.

Do I like the book? Yes and no. I am easily drawn into books that do what this one did: it explores a culture in a slow and methodical way (probably why some didn't like it). It isn't necessarily exciting until the end (and, because it does get exciting, it loses something in the process). But the book is ephemeral...and important because it is so. It isn't, in my meager opinion, a classic (as many reviewers have suggested). But it comments on the classics in a very important way (even if the author didn't intend it...but I think he did).

So, if you are a literature geek like me and love the children's literature, you should at least thumb through it. I had been debating about it for over a year. But I found it marked down to $3.49 at Books-a-Million and thought that I could risk the investment. It certainly won't be for everyone and it won't leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside. But, read through a few pages and see what you think. After all, in the end, reading is a personal experience and it doesn't really matter what I think. :)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Fun!

Well, Thanksgiving 2010 has come and gone. It was a fun night and I know that I ate way too much! Still, what is the point if you don't, right? Here is a little photo coverage of the evening...


Pre-feast, everyone ran around the kitchen, talking, drinking, and just having fun in general!



We all ate too much...including hacking into this cake that I made the day before. It is a pumpkin spice cake with cream cheese icing (with pecans, golden raisins, and cranberries). The cake was huge! I couldn't put the glass cake dish top on it when I was finished icing it. It is considerably smaller now. :)



After dinner, Jessica and my mom enjoy coffee and conversation in the den with Ginny (Jess's mom), Ron (Jessica's dad), and Grandma. But...



...even though Jeff was also in the room, he had passed out by this time. Too much to eat, Jeff?

The only thing missing? My dad's oldest sister and her family! We missed the Wells family! Maybe next year?

We also had our first Christmas charity drawing. Usually, on Thanksgiving, we draw names for Christmas presents. This year, however, my cousin Laura suggested that we not give presents and instead donate as a family to a charity. I was all for it, and so was the rest of the family. So, we all wrote down a charity on a piece of paper, put it into a bowl, and grandma drew one. We are donating to a charity that contributes to autism support and research! It was the charity I had put in, so next year, I will not submit a charity. That way, we all have equal opportunity for our charity to be chosen! It is a good plan and one that alleviates holiday stress and materialism. Kudos to Laura for coming up with the idea!

For those of you who want more Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton trivia...

...here is an excellent article about the places the couple rented or owned during their time together: Daily Mail article.

Some interesting trivia and several photos!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Finally!

I know that this can't be the first time that this has happened, but I came across this book today and nearly jumped for joy when I saw that a black man and a white woman were paired on the cover of a romance novel. I mean, like I said, I am sure that this has been done, but I haven't seen it...and I sure haven't seen a cover like this for a sort-of historical romance novel. But, really...if this is the first time, don't you wonder why it didn't happen until 2010? I can imagine that many contemporary romance covers might have multi-racial pairings depicted (and even in historicals you see Arab, Latino and Spanish, and other ethnicities...but usually not African American and/or Asian men paired with white/Caucasian women).

http://www.abouthappybooks.com/

The second best part of this image is the steampunky-Victorian details. So, I decided that I must read this series. You know me...I love it all. I will read just about anything. Stranger is the fourth of Zoe Archer's novels and I think that they will be great! As I make my way through them, I will let you know. (The order: Warrior, Scoundrel, Rebel, and Stranger.)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hooray!

Chapter 2 (at least the draft) of my dissertation is complete!!! I am officially taking two days off. Thanksgiving is upon us and I will be enacting my inner-Victorian feminine side (ha,ha) as I help prepare Thanksgiving dinner.

As a preview, I am also about half-way through Lev Grossman's The Magicians:



Review to come...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

If I could rename this film (though it would be inappropriate considering how little we see Snape), I would call it Harry Potter and Snape's Billowing Robes. 'Cause that scene as he entered Malfoy Manor really did something for me. (Yes, I am insane.) Anyway, my slight insanity has to do with the fact that I am taking cold medicine and I can't breathe all that well...lack of oxygen makes you think crazy things...

Anyway, on to the REAL review (and not my fantasy world)...though I use the word "review" lightly...nothing scholarly here:

Wow! I have to say that the movie is wonderful and that everyone involved completely redeemed themselves after the travesty that was the last film. (I really didn't like the sixth movie...Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is my favorite book. They completely made it into a joke and left out EVERYTHING important.)

AND...whoever avoided the curse of 9 million pages about Harry, Ron, and Hermione camping in the woods and instead turned it into a fast-paced, intensely rich and personal film...well, that person is a GENIUS.

Best of all, and as will be acknowledged by Snape fans around the globe, is that the filmmakers finally did justice to Severus--at least in this film. Usually (cough...all of the Harry Potter movies...cough...especially Half-Blood Prince...cough), the directors/writers/powers-that-be snuff Snape out. I heart Snape. I have loved his character since the beginning. I am still praying to see a bit of "Severus as headmaster" material, but I am not optimistic, especially as it never really appeared in the book either.

Best scenes of the characters I care about:


THE GOLDEN TRIO:
Harry: Though I know there were more important scenes, I really thought that his reaction to Dobby's death was excellent. I also liked the dance scene between he and Hermione. Of course, the scene where he sees his parents' grave is excellent as well.
Ron: Well...I guess Ron's shining moment for me happens when he helps Harry and the others escape from the dungeon at Malfoy Manor.

Hermione: The very first scene that she is in...when she erases her parents' memory. Very well done, even if it wasn't in the book. Again, the dancing scene with Harry. Also, she was very convincing in the torture screams.


MALFOY:
I really like Malfoy...not as a person, necessarily, but as a character. He is so conflicted. That side of him really comes out in this film. I think his role in the sixth movie was the best role in the film (other than Snape...who they nearly left out completely...in spite of the fact that he is the FREAKING HALF-BLOOD PRINCE). Malfoy's non-verbal communication with Harry in this film was excellent.

SNAPE:
We didn't get much of him, but I nearly cried when I saw the doe patronus. The billowing of the robes as he entered Malfoy Manor was excellent. Also, the expression in Rickman's eyes as he noticed the "Muggle Studies" professor hanging over the table. His reaction, and Draco's, when Voldemort finally murders her is amazing. "Always."


DOBBY:
Poor Dobby. Even in the book, he is the character I cried for when he died--and I rarely cry. He is so noble and good. I loved him. R.I.P. dear Dobby.
On the other hand, I was totally okay with Hedwig biting the dust. I was never that attached to the owl. (Mean, I know...but I don't really like things that fly...they are okay from a distance, but birds and owls freak me out.)

I also enjoyed seeing the Weasleys again.

There are, of course, so many other characters to discuss, but my brain is swimming from being sick and taking cold medicine. Helena Bonham-Carter is amazing--as always, as are the other villains. The new villains are incredible as well.

Overall, this film is amazingly well done. Very mature. Very dark. It is stunning to watch and the actors/directors/writers/everyone else involved did Rowling proud.

Oh, yes, people...it is coming...

...my review of HP7 will be posted tonight!!! I see it in under an hour!

"An Inconvenient Wife" by Megan Chance



Recently, I read an incredibly fast-paced and intriguing novel titled An Inconvenient Wife (by Megan Chance). The book takes place in 1880s New York, and follows the story of Lucy, a high society woman, who has "fits" symptomatic of hysteria (basically, a mental disorder singularly exhibited in women due to malfunctioning or deformed reproductive organs). Lucy's husband, William, is the typical nineteenth-century American husband in high society: rich and chauvinistic. He expects his wife to be the "angel of the house," demure to all of his decisions, and, most importantly, endure her once-in-a-while sexual couplings with him--because God knows that women shouldn't feel sexual desire at all.

As a last resort, William accepts the treatment offered to Lucy by a hypnotist (often referred to as a neurologist in this novel), Victor Seth. From this point forward, one never knows if decisions are being made by Lucy, William, or Victor--and the outcome is deadly.

The novel is important as a historical novel because it delves into uncomfortable territory. So many arguments are made about gender, sexuality, power, perception, reality, illusion, etc. It is fascinating. You never really know how you feel about any of these flawed human beings; and, even at the end, you don't know what is reality. Chance also describes the often brutal and/or degrading treatments offered for hysteria, always pointing out that the woman is on display. The way she does this is subtle but makes the reader feel humiliation right along with Lucy.

The secondary characters are fascinatingly drawn as well, from Lucy's high society friends to William's real family and the servants. It is a fascinating novel that compelled me to want to read it even though I had other things that I wanted to be working on! To me, if I carry the story with me beyond the page and into my thoughts throughout the day, I know that the book is good. This book did that for me.

So, if you aren't easily freaked out by late-nineteenth century medical practices and you want a book that will keep you wondering even on the last page (because I don't really buy that the last words are totally truthful), then read this book!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Two more days!!!



Source: http://hollywooddame.com/2010/10/12/more-harry-potter-and-deathly-hallows-new-posters-%E2%80%93-see-them-here/harry-potter-and-the-deathly-hallows-snape-12-10-10-kc/

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Weeds Finale...

What will happen next?? Personally, I think that it isn't the end for Nancy and Esteban...but we have to wait a whole year to find out! NOOOOO!!!!!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

QUIDDITCH!!!

Today was the "Quidditch on the Quad" event on campus. I had to go check it out, of course...and it was soooo much fun! I wish that I could have stayed longer, but, alas, responsibility calls.

By the way, if you don't know what Quidditch is...well, I am worried. But, you can remedy that by reading the Harry Potter books or you can take the easy way out: Wikipedia.

I finally found the Slytherin field and watched the "Australia" team win by taking the Golden Snitch! It was brutal! A guy ended up with a broken nose and the boy who was the Golden Snitch was almost choked. It was amazing! (Not that I am condoning violence or anything.)

Anyway, here are some photos. Unfortunately, my camera died before I got a picture of the Golden Snitch!









It was a great beginning to what will surely be an awesome Harry Potter week! I didn't know anyone out there, though it turns out a good friend of mine was there. But, it didn't matter because Harry Potter fans are awesome and we all talk without knowing one another anyway! It was great to see so many people enjoying something that came from...dare I say it?...a book. Ah...it made me really want to go to another conference!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Only in the South

The other night, I had the privilege of teaming up with an old co-worker of mine (and close friend), Nancy. She had an extra ticket to hear Pat Conroy speak at the Birmingham Sheraton (benefiting the Children's Hospital in Birmingham). I have read Prince of Tides (long ago), and I was so excited when Nancy asked me to go with her.

We had a great dinner and then made our way downtown to hear Mr. Conroy. Everything was uneventful until we left the hotel. And that was when we had an experience that is only possible in the south.

We were waiting for the cross-walk sign to light up so that we could cross the street just next to the hotel (Nancy's car was parked under the bridge there). Anyway, the sign on our side kept beeping at us, so Nancy started laughing and asked if she was supposed to press the button. So, we did...and then the craziest thing...

Rather than just silencing the beeping, a woman's voice -- a VERY SOUTHERN woman's voice -- comes out of the pole (I am sure there was a speaker, but I prefer to think of the voice just magically appearing), saying: "Please wait for the crosswalk." (or something to that effect...honestly, I can't remember anything past the "please wait" because when it came out, it sounded like "Puhlease wayyitt fuh the cross wawwk").

Yes, I guess a sound clip would be nice, but I am not that tech savvy and don't carry anything to record. Maybe you had to be there, but it was just too funny to have that happen right after hearing one of the top southern writers speak to us about the south.

:)

Monday, November 08, 2010

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Mill on the Floss

I first read George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss about ten years ago (wow...can't believe it was that long ago) in Tuman's class. I remember really enjoying the reading experience and being fascinated with Maggie Tulliver. I decided to use the novel in my dissertation, but upon rereading it...well, I don't like it so much anymore. I don't even want to write about it, in fact. I am hoping that I can be convinced or energized with some discussion about it, because it really could be used productively in my work. Still, I almost wrote to my director today and told him that I was completely frustrated with the book. I know that I should at least try to use it. Still...how do I make myself excited about something that I just want to throw against the wall???

And...how to make myself resigned to George Eliot's narrative voice when I just want to say, "Bite me, Mary Ann."



Yes...this would be George Eliot/Mary Ann Evans. Just look at that smirk. YOU ARE KILLING ME!!!

Ah...the joys of dissertation writing. It is a never-ending road of confusion and frustration.

Monday, November 01, 2010

The Taming of the Shrew

Ah, yes. A classic. And, finally, I am back to posting about Shakespeare. :)

So, I finally have a chance to sit down and think about this play after reading it once more. It isn't my favorite play because it seems to begin so interestingly and end so abruptly. I have read The Taming of the Shrew many times, but, to make it more interesting this time around, I decided to approach it with a question in mind: Why, oh why, is Kate a shrew?

I know that people have discussed this at length. But, remember: I am not in a Shakespeare class and I don't have any professional training in this area (other than a few classes that I have taken YEARS ago) so I am just going with my own thoughts. This question came to me as I watched the Taylor/Burton version on DVD.

As one person put it (and not in these exact words), Elizabeth Taylor comes off as being more than slightly unhinged in the production. And, indeed, many people just play the part that way.

But I never bought that Kate was just a shrew for no reason at all. I wondered more and more about this as I indulged my Taylor/Burton obsession over the summer. In that production, there is so much emphasis on materialism and money, and I started to think about the role of those things in the play. Many people have commented on how the Taylor/Burton production highlights the public fascination of the tremendous fights between the Burtons and their lavish lifestyle. As I watched it, though, it seemed that there could be another meaning behind materialism/money in the play in general.

So, I reread the play recently, and here is what I think: I think that Katharina has very definite reasons for being a "Shrew". Kate, to put it bluntly, is angry. She is angry that she has always been considered an item for trade--and a trade in which she likely (she believes) will not profit.

Her first words are harsh, and they are spoken to her father. He is trying to get rid of her by marrying her off before her younger sister. To this, she responds, "I pray you, sir, is it your will/To make a stale of me amongst these mates?" (1.1.57-58) Her words and her absolute knowledge of what is happening indicate to me that she has known for a very long time the position her father sees her in. He has probably always been very open about what purpose his daughters should serve and she knows that she is at the mercy of a man's bargaining. (Note that the same happens in the Sly plot.)

This message is confirmed, in my opinion, by Act 2, Scene 1. Now, in the Taylor/Burton version, this is the first scene in which we see Taylor as Kate. She is chasing Bianca around, seemingly without reason, and beating her. It just makes Kate look mean and spoiled and, yes, shrewish. But the play's language indicates something different. Building on the brief words mentioned from Act 1, Kate really reveals her issues clearly in her outburst against Bianca in Act 2. Her anger at Bianca has a purpose, I think, in this scene: she wants Bianca to wake up and understand what is really going on--that their father is using them and willing to barter them off to the highest bidder.

Bianca opens the scene by saying that if Kate will just untie her hands, she will give all of her possessions to Kate. Kate tells Bianca that she "fancies riches" (2.1.16). By keeping Bianca's hands tied and talking about riches/material goods constantly, Kate seems to be equating marriage based on a material exchange with imprisonment. Perhaps, by binding Bianca, Kate is trying to force her to see the danger of such an arrangement.

Baptista comes into the scene and says, "Why, how now, dame? Whence grows this insolence?" (2.1.24) He, obviously, doesn't get it. Kate's reply is that Bianca's "silence flouts me, and I'll be revenged" (2.1.29). In my opinion, this response confirms to me that Kate has a purpose in her actions: she wants a response from Bianca. She wants Bianca to realize the truth of their situation!

When Baptista sends Bianca inside, away from Kate, Kate says to Baptista: "Nay, now I see/She is your treasure" (2.1.32) Now, this is not a moment of jealously. I see Kate, instead, saying this disgustedly. She knows that Bianca--even golden child Bianca--is nothing to him. The same type of statement is made in King Lear. King Lear also sees his girls and their "love" as equated with treasure (and says so through his actions)--yet he is seeing their position in the wrong way...and it causes his downfall. We don't get anything so horrible here, but I think that Kate is just so angry that her father cannot love her as a human of worth and value not related to money.

Petruchio's willingness (and need) to use business language allows him to succeed with Baptista, but he knows such language will never work with Katharina...who he insists on calling "Kate." This moment is significant, of course, because he is dominating her through language--not through money or physical force. Baptista continues to "play a merchant's part," but Petruchio knows that he will only win out over Kate by taking away all material goods and talk of money (2.1.329). He makes clear that he will own her, perhaps in seriousness or perhaps in jest, when he says: "I will be master of what is mine own:/She is my goods, my chattels, she is my house,/My household stuff, my field, my barn,/My horse, my ox, my ass, my anything,/And here she stands, touch her whoever dare" (3.2.225-229). Well, yes. She is all of those things because it is the money she brings that will keep all of those things. But, the words are meant to imply ownership on a whole new level...and it is this that leads to how Kate plays the lines at the end of the play (oh, you know them...the whole placing of the wife's hand under the husband's foot thing).

There is a big debate about those final lines, of course. Is Kate really serious? Is she being sarcastic? Has she been tamed to a "household Kate" by Petruchio? In my opinion, yes--as much as can be expected. I totally buy Elizabeth Taylor's sincere reading of those lines. (Of course, the taming in that version had to do with taming a spoiled brat rather than a logically angry woman.) I don't think there is much sarcasm in them, especially in light of how I am reading her "shrewness." Petruchio, as much as I don't like him, has done one thing right. Even though he needs her money Petruchio is not throwing it in her face all of the time. Instead, he only wants her in the role of wife. I don't think that she minds it. She expects him to be like her father (a man incapable of seeing her as a daughter but only seeing her as a good to be traded). When Petruchio appears as just any other husband expecting wifely obedience (as much as I hate that theme, it must be acknowledged), I think Kate really is okay with it all.

Now, as a side note (and I can't remember if I have mentioned this on the blog before), I am using the Royal Shakespeare Company edition of this play (and a few others). I like these editions because they include interviews and notes about stage productions (including photos). However, interestingly, I disagree with most of the commentary included. For example, Fiona Shaw states that Kate falls for Petruchio because he "genuinely wants her." As she says, "It may only be for her money or services...but at least she will be valued for something" (137). I don't agree with the idea that Kate is excited about being valued for her "money or services"...that is exactly what she has been running from during the play.

A comment that I agree with a bit more is this one by Gregory Doran. He says:

"Kate isn't a stereotype, she's an accurate portrait of a woman of low self-esteem, forced to think of herself in the mercantile world of the play as a devalued chattel, until she meets a man with similar problems in his life and they recognize a like spirit." (148)

I agree with everything he says EXCEPT the part about Kate having "low self-esteem." I think he must be reading lines like the "treasure" line as Kate expressing jealously. But, as I said, I don't think that at all. I do think that his acknowledgment of Kate and Petruchio coming to a real understanding is dead accurate. Kate is a woman of intelligence, but she is frustrated and angry. It is only through seeing herself differently in a relationship with a man that she can actually change. It is a profound thing...but not always portrayed in a profound way.


In any case, this is the reading that I have of The Taming of the Shrew. I am mostly satisfied with it, but I still don't like the play. It feels so incomplete to me and I don't think Shakespeare had much to do with the writing of it or had help or just based it off of well-known sources so familiar that he wasn't as careful as he would be in later plays (some of this I read in the intro...and that makes complete sense to me).

Monday, October 25, 2010

Our Country's Financial Crisis: A Rant :)

Today I happened to hear two radio hosts discussing a recent film about the financial crisis in America (and, really, the world). I think (but am not positive) that they were discussing the new Wall Street movie. I have seen it and, though it moves a bit slowly at times, it is a good film.

These hosts, however, were discussing the topic of the financial crisis and saying that the movie (whatever it was) just proved that it was the corrupt people on Wall Street that did this to America. Now, yes, there are corrupt people on Wall Street. But, if they were discussing the recent movie (as I suspect) or even if they weren't, we cannot, as Americans, simply blame the people on Wall Street. The new movie clearly indicates that, at core, the problem has to do with all of us--with our approach to life and wealth and status and material goods. The same thing comes up in Eat, Pray, Love--even though I have big issues with that film (see earlier blog post).

This crisis has been building for years. We have all been too greedy, too expectant of instant success and fulfillment, too eager to find an easy way out. None of this is going away any time soon. As a country and as individuals, we have to reset our brains and our expectations. However, I don't see this happening...and, because of that, things are only getting worse. I mean, in a society where the Jersey Shore cast makes more than enough money in one season to pay off my student loans and set me up in a nice apartment...well, something is very wrong.

We value "nothingness" more than any country in the world. Celebrity is based on "nothingness" now. It isn't based on skill or talent...and, the fact that "celebrity" itself is a goal...ugh. Don't get me started. Where is the art? The thought? The beauty? It is out there, but it is like Hardy's "Darkling Thrush" (see poem: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15506). In this poem, the bird is singing his last song as the nineteenth century dies out and the twentieth century rolls in. Basically, he is the last bastion of art and beauty and the old world dying out as the dying new world takes over. He is losing his feathers but sings as strongly as he can, even as he is dying in a world that he doesn't belong in--a world that is "The Century's corpse outleant" (10).

I love that poem. I also despise it, because I know that Hardy is exactly right. There are good artists and good people out there--people who seek to create for the long term. But they are few and far between, and they seem to be dying out in favor of blaming others or looking for the easy way out.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

"Crazy Date"--My dad's song makes it into the Oxford American music issue!

Congrats to my dad! His song, "Crazy Date," that he wrote and recorded when he was a kid, will be included in the Oxford American music issue (and on their CD!!).

For a great article about the song and its history (and a great link to an MP3), see Sylvia Parker's blog:

http://alabamalama.sylviaparker.net/search/label/Crazy%20Date.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sorry for lack of updates....

...I am working/writing like a mad woman! Here is hoping that I can meet my deadline!

Friday, October 15, 2010

BREAKTHROUGH!!!

Just came up with my thesis for the Wuthering Heights chapter of my dissertation!!! Hooray! The novel is so wonderfully complicated that it was really exhausting trying to discover exactly what I want to say. THANK YOU, KELLY!!! You talked me through it..and off the proverbial ledge.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Squirrels, power surges, and explosions.

I haven't been able to post anything in a day or two, and I am out at the bookstore now...ripping off WiFi. :)

Anyway, we had a bit of a mishap at the house yesterday. The power company was out cutting limbs in front of our house. There was a loud noise and then things in the kitchen started to explode and we had a small electrical fire behind the microwave oven. The fire department came out and inspected everything, declaring no danger, but we lost several appliances (televisions, microwave, dvd players, lamps, alarm system, etc.) due to the surge.

The best part? The power company claims that it was caused by a squirrel.

**It should be noted that there is no charred, dead little corpse outside. Maybe he disapparated...

The fire fighters and our electrician don't believe it any more than we do. In any case, the homeowner's insurance will cover some of it, but it will take an act of God to get the power company to admit any kind of responsibility. Just this morning, they were passing the buck and blaming the contracted company cutting down the limbs. Fascinating, isn't it, how a squirrel--one of the most skittish animals in the world--decided to keep sharpening its teeth on the line (a line so thick, by the way, that the electrician said that the squirrel would have needed a chainsaw) while there were power saws and yelling all around it. That was one brave squirrel. Or, one suicidal squirrel.
The thing that drives me crazy is how people refuse to take responsibility for anything. How are we supposed to admire or trust anyone when this is the norm? Pass the buck, folks. Apparently it is the American way.

All I know is that someone at the power company better be damn glad that my computer wasn't fried by the encounter with "nature." There would be blood drawn.

Just a snippet...

"The crosses are for the evenings you have spent with the Lintons, the dots for those spent with me. Do you see? I’ve marked every day."
"Yes—very foolish: as if I took notice!" replied Catherine, in a peevish tone. "And where is the sense of that?"
"To show that I do take notice," said Heathcliff.

--Wuthering Heights, Vol. 1, Chp. 8

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Spending more time with another favorite person!

This morning, I spent time with former student and now wonderful friend, Lisa. She is a wonderfully talented thinker, writer, and person. We had a three-hour-long conversation about books and the writing process and society. She is so inspiring. I wish more 20-somethings were as balanced and thoughtful.

We had some fascinating conversation about Wuthering Heights and Shakespeare. In discussing The Taming of the Shrew, we both decided that the final speech should be acted with sincerity. I just can't see it done any other way and somehow, when I see it played sarcastically or in jest, it just doesn't ring true.

Anyway, for today, enough of that!

I also had to work today...which took away any hope of working on the dissertation. It is okay, though, because I can spend time on it tomorrow. Also just received my first chapter revision list from my director. It is so helpful and I will have to begin on it soon, too. Still, I feel tired thinking about it...