Thursday, January 31, 2008

January Readings

This has been a busy reading month.

I read the play Midsummer Nights Dream by William Shakespeare. I remember this being my favorite play that we read in high school. I loved Puck back then, now I see why. He's such a little troublemaker! Of course a rebellious teen would love Puck. I enjoyed the play as much now as I did then. The six plotlines that twist and overlap with comedy are just fantastic! That's Shakespeare!

I read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin. I've also read this before. But I couldn't remember exactly what it was about until I got started. I kept saying "oh yeah!" It was nice to be reacquainted with the girls in the book and the old English manners and behaviors of the day. It still just amazes me that there was a time when a woman's only ambition was to find a husband. Poor Mrs. Bennett trying to find property holding husbands for her five daughters, their character was of lesser importance than their money. I love Mr. Bennett since he was the voice of contention and brought humor to the seriousness of the characters' quests.

I read Mary Wollstonecraft's The Vindication of The Rights of Women. This is a long critical essay about women's rights. Really well written! I loved it! This essay is a great set up for Pride and Predjudice or Wollstonecrafts novel, Maria (which I intend to read someday when I have more time). There is a lot in this reading that still rings true today. But mostly the author points out that women are lacking education, goals, and respect. They are slavic and expected to have a "spanial-like obedience" to their husbands and fathers. Women have come a long way, but there is still a long road to travel to lift the glass ceiling. Mary Wollstonecraft was way ahead of her time. She is the mother of Mary Shelley who wrote Frankenstein. Great authors in those genes!

I read Passing by Nella Larsen. It was about some African American women in the very early 1900s who were not very dark complected, and they could pass as white women while out in public. This book was about race, acceptance, self image, and an inner identity struggle. It was very good and I enjoyed it so much that I decided to write a research paper on the author as my semester term paper project.

I also read Death Comes for the Archbishop by Wella Cather. Another good book. This is a book from the genre of realism, so it isn't really a page turner with a great plotline but it is more of a story that doubles as a regional travel log. It is about two priests who rise in the ranks of the church and they are placed in New Mexico for their mission work. The book discusses the landscape and the native peoples to a great extent. Also the narrative explores how Catholicism works with and against the culture and beliefs of the local people. I enjoyed this storytelling style novel even though it was easy to put down at any given time. The story rolled along nicely at a gentle pace.

I read an excerpt from Plato's Republic. I've read the Republic before, I think it was 3 or 4 years ago now and I remember thinking how Socrates just drove me crazy with all his questions and twisting words around. This was more of the same however I thought the content of what I read this time was very thought provoking. My goodness the world has changed! The topic of discussion between Plato and Socrates in this section called Phaedus was the debate over whether people should learn to write. Yes, should people learn to write was questioned! Who do you know who cannot read and/or write? It is a given these days that everyone will learn to read and write. But they discussed the pros and cons of learning the written word and there were some very good arguments presented. Theirs was an oral tradition of learning, sharing, and knowing. Memory and repetition, public speaking was highly valued. It was thought that writing would devalue a man's wisdom (yes, a man's because women were not educated). Man would not rely on his memory and wisdom but would become lazy and use the written texts instead. Intelligence would suffer from neglect. Audiences would not be able to be chosen if people wrote their speeches and stories. The author would lose control of his own words. What a strange concept to think that people debated over whether learning to write was right or wrong.

I have more to read in February. I'd say January started the year off great with the readings that I accomplished. I didn't realize how much I read until I started making a list of works that I've finished.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Better Late Than Never

I'm going to participate in Karleen's Winter Reading Challenge. I'm jumping in a month late, but she still has the challenge open until mid-March. Plenty of time left!

I am going to college and majoring in Literature, so my reading list is assigned readings for my classes. Although, I have enjoyed most everything assigned so far it is still a list that isn't necessarily popular literature. At this point, I'm not really sure what the reading list completely includes for the Jan - June semester, but I do have a good idea and have gotten started before classes begin.

My reading list thus far includes the following:

Atonement by McEwan
Cane by Toomer
The Dante Club by Pearl
Death comes for the Archbishop by Cather
Farewell to Arms by Hemingway
Invisible Man by Ellison
Known World by Jones
La Mara Villa by Vea
Life in the Iron Mills by Davis
Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway
Passing by
Pride and Prejudice by Austen
Ragtime by Doctorow
So Far from God by Castillo
Tender is the Night by Fitzgerald

and 18 Shakespeare plays, some short stories and who knows what else!

My goal is that by mid-March I will have half of this list completed. The other half of course by the end of May. After that, fun reading for the summer! I usually read a book a week and hope to keep up that pace for 2008. I wish I could squeeze more in, but spare time is fleeting.

Monday, January 7, 2008

12 New Books!

I have been busy buying and selling books lately. Of course my buying is faster than my selling. I bought 12 and sold 5. So far I received 4 of my new books and I have one almost finished. One chapter left.

I love to read books cover to cover, but I have a toddler who demands attention between paragraphs. She also comes to me and shuts my book and says "All done". She prefers that I read her books to her rather than poke my nose in my own books.

Right now I am reading "Passing" by Nella Larsen. It was first published in 1929. I am really enjoying it as it is making me think about how the world is still stuck in a mental rut, and what life must have felt like living back then. It is about three black women who "pass" themselves off as white women. Sure is interesting social commentary and sadly, still rings true. I love the characters in this novel. I highly recommend the book.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Waiting for the Barbarians by James Coetzee

Here is another Coetzee book. I just finished this one last month. It was set in some abstract anywhere colony, could have been anywhere. I like real locations, but that didn't really matter. The book is about colonization. It's about the colonizer and the colonized. It's about politics, ethics, disgrace, violence, and confusion. There is some interesting role reversal. The question this book leaves you with is, "who are the real barbarians?"

Disgrace by James Coetzee

This book won the Booker Prize, and this author has won numerous awards. He's from South Africa where this story takes place. It's a story of disgrace, obviously. It's not a happy story in any way but it sure does make a person think. I read this book two years ago and I still think about it often. I did like it because it is well written. It is about politics, ethics, violence, exile, and disgrace.

Wicked, The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire

Poor green little Elphaba. She was an odd child and grew up to become the Wicked Witch of the West. I loved this book! I can't wait to read more Maguire novels. And I would love to see the play too.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Cute farm animals, power and politics, it's all in there. This book is one that nearly all school kids end up reading at some time or another. Good thing it's a good book!