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 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 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 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. for thought. Anyway, I love, 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 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 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!!


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 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:

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 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 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.


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!!