Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Books I'm In The Middle Of Right Now

This post might just as easily be called 'blog posts I'm in the middle of right now' because holy shit, can I not finish an extended piece of writing lately (hey, good luck with that dissertation, me!) I have been reading, just a little bit, things that aren't related to Shakespeare, and since at this moment I don't want to write anything about Shakespeare, let's talk about some of the books that I've started this year and haven't even come anywhere close to finishing (inspired by Alice's sometimes posts), because that's always fun and hasn't led to the hugest pile of books next to my bed ever.

Please note: There is nothing wrong with these books! I like them plenty! I just have no time and mostly I've forgotten I'm even reading a book so just start a new one and oh god I just need my life back...
Anyway, BOOKS!

Look At Me by Jennifer Egan: I have been reading this for an uncomfortably long time. I might have even started it before I started my MA... As always with Jennifer Egan books, it struggles with not being A Visit from the Goon Squad, but I'm halfway through it and it's fine and weird and I'm not entirely sure where she's going with it so I'm going to have to finish it at some point, I guess...
Chances of finishing come September: 5/10 (I've come too far not to)

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel: I thought I could get away with reading this without guilt because a travelling acting troupe performing Shakespeare in the wake of a planet-devastating epidemic! That's relevant, right?! I've read hardly any of this, but it ticks all of my boxes (Shakespeare, dystopia, weird cults formed out of disaster...) and it's all getting a bit creepy so, yes.
Chances of finishing come September: 9/10 (I'll read it unless I'm wiped out by epidemic)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling: So I had an excellent plan this year to re-read Harry Potter as a de-stressing exercise, which was an excellent plan until the loss of the Prisoner of Azkaban made me want to murder my housemate (I'm pretty sure he stole it) which was quite a stressful way to feel! Nonetheless, the acquisition of the kindle copy of that led me onto The Goblet of Fire, which I now haven't read for so long I've pretty much forgotten where I'm at, except I know that they haven't done any challenges yet. God, I miss reading...
Chances of finishing come September: 7/10 (once I can read whatever I want again, the re-reads may be abandoned...)

Song of Susannah by Stephen King: Obviously I'm always in the middle of a Stephen King. Less obviously, I've literally only read one of his books this (school) year! I may have replaced King with Shakespeare for a year, but that doesn't make it less sad that I haven't read any of my guyyyy all year. How will I ever get onto his newest books?!
Chances of finishing come September: 10/10 (I'll never be done King-ing... Until I'm literally done)

Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill: From father to son... I have actually only recently started this book (like a week and a half ago...) and I'm doing better with it than I've done with Stephen King all year. But this is a ghost story, and it's so creepy and delicious and every time I read it (which is literally only when I don't have a book with me and have to read on my iPad) I just want to speed through it to the end. Which, considering the amount of time in my week I spend waiting for/on trains, may well happen. The point is, it's very good stuff and I can happily recommend it already.
Chances of finishing come September: 10/10 (or maybe even before! Optimism!)

Hotel Iris by Yoko Ogawa: I think I've read about 30 pages of this or something. It's all a bit sinister and could easily turn upsetting because that's what Ogawa books tend to do, but I'm pretty excited to finish it at some point. Since I've only read 30 pages, though, that's probably an indication I'm not obsessed with it...
Chances of finishing come September: 4/10 (because, meh)

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee: Ok, I've only been reading this for a day as of right now, and yet it is all I want to do with my life and yet I cannot. The internal conflict happening in me at the moment is unbelievable, and yet, I'm being so good and reading dissertation relevant things and being a good girl. Ish. *hand creeps towards book* *pulls hand away* *sighs, makes more notes about adaptation and appropriation*
Chances of finishing come September: 55/10 (come on, I'm going to snap before the end of the day and read the whole. Damn. Thing.)

If you want to get technical, I'm also in the middle of at least 6 more books (not including whatever I've started on my iPad), but these are the major started-yet-abandoned-s. Because I know myself pretty well, I'm positive that when I'm allowed to read freely and irrepressibly again, I won't want to at all, but at least I know where I need to start... By finishing.

To conclude: Please don't listen to anything I've tried to say about not having time to read, because it's all bullshit- I've had time to get awesomely drunk (fell right on my butt, oh yeah), watch almost all of Game of Thrones, spend basically every weekend in June with friends (and one day with Orange Is The New Black), and a myriad of other things I really shouldn't have been doing, so... POOR BOOKS, HOW I HAVE NEGLECTED YOU. This winter though... Watch this space.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Go Set A Watchman: Go Set My Excitement to 5,000,000 Then

As you may have noticed since you're probably a fairly literate person (you're reading a book blog, hello!), Harper Lee's sequel-that-was-actually-written-before To Kill A Mockingbird is due to be released next week. My feelings about this have swung grandly from OH MY GOD to ohhhh crap old lady exploitation, but since it was first announced, I really haven't thought about it too much. I can't really pick a favourite book because OH GOD THE STRESS, but if absolutely forced to, I'd probably pick To Kill A Mockingbird, so both my expectations, and my readiness to be disappointed are kind of high for this book.

Yesterday, The Guardian published the first chapter of Go Set A Watchman, and GO AND READ IT NOW because we are going to discuss this thing. Intently. You good? Good. SO. (And, this should really go without saying but SPOILERS APPROACHING) my initial reaction to anything in this chapter was OMG WTF JEM IS DEAAAAAAAAD! I honestly and truly, upon reading that sentence, felt like someone had killed one of my really good friends. It's almost unbearable to think that, as Lee was writing To Kill A Mockingbird, and making Jem awesome, that she knew he was going to die young. That he had already, in fact, died young. Atticus is old and frail, Scout is a grown up and kisses boys... It's a lot to take in!

Above all else, I think what this one chapter has made me realise is that everything from To Kill A Mockingbird- the characters, the setting, the general fricking amazingness- has been internalised into my entire being so that the death of a fictional character (a death that happened before his childhood was even written) could actually come as a great shock. I settled into chapter one of Go Set A Watchman so easily because these are my people, and I love them, and regardless of what might happen to them, I just want to know what that might be. They've travelled so far beyond the page in my mind that they've become almost like real people, and as long as they act consistently and comprehensibly, I want to see how that unfolds.

Immediately after reading chapter one, I preordered the book. My ambivalence and unease about reading it has been replaced with the desire to JUST KNOW what happens to these people (characters... Whatever...), and I'm really excited to neglect my dissertation once again to read it. Just this morning, I've kind of swung back the other way since I read this fuller idea of the plot (Atticus, whyyyyy?) but I reserve the right to filter out of my mind any undesirable things that might happen. There is a reason, after all, that this is not the version of these characters we were really meant to see, and whilst I'm excited to read it, I will do so with a protective layer of bubble wrap around my mental concept of these characters and their 'real' story.

To summarise: my excitement is now high, and my potential for heartbreak is through the roof. And yet, this is why we read, amiright? I know I'm right.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

I am dissertation procrastinating, so let's talk about my dissertation!

Heyyyyy guys, it's me! I know, I know, you've given me up for dead and you're all really sad but that's the way life is. BUT WAIT! It's a Wednesday night and I am in front of my computer, and even though we all know I should be doing work, I think we also know how unlikely that is, and so I'm going to write a stream of consciousness that will probably not really go anywhere but which totally counts as a contribution to the world and... Stuff. 

SO. The way my Masters has worked (apart from taking up every moment of my spare time, thank you very much Shakespeare, it's a good job I like you) is that we submitted two essays after Christmas, two after Easter, and then have about three and a half months to write our dissertations. About a month and a week of that time has gone, and I'm not panicking... At all... Really... 
Well. I'm not really panicking, but I am totally aware that I need to do a lot more than I've done. June has been a total write off, essentially- not only have I been operating under griefhaze (TM) but I had already over-scheduled myself to the point of having all my weekends taken up, and quite a few of the weekdays I have off too. Because I'm a dumbass. Anyway, the moral of this story is, July and August I'm going to have to be ON IT, otherwise when am I even going to write a dissertation?! Exactly.

But anyway. This is really just me complaining when ACTUALLY I want to describe my dissertation to you because I'm pretty pleased with what I'm getting away with in regard to it. Basically, I'm writing my dissertation on Shakespeare in cartoons. What this has so far meant is that I've spent a pretty huge amount of time watching anime, South Park, and reading The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman (There are two comics which relate to Shakespeare, but OBVIOUSLY I have to read the whole thing so that I can catch the other references to him too!) Just today, I've started Kill Shakespeare, which is another comic book series starring many Shakespearean characters, and it is EXCELLENT and I'm pretty much enjoying all these fun parts.

To get more specific: I'm looking at three plays (A Midsummer Night's Dream, Titus Andronicus and Romeo and Juliet) and then cartoons that relate to them (Titus Andronicus has the LEAST cartoons about it, BUT the South Park episode I want to talk about is basically Titus so that clearly has to be one of the plays I talk about!) and then kind of discussing the aspects of the plays that the cartoons bring out that may not be readily apparent just on a simple reading of the plays. I think. Kind of. Because, and I think most of you probably know this because we seem to be a very educated bunch, when you start writing such a giant piece of work, things are subject to change and you can be taken in different directions than initially anticipated. But, I'm pretty excited about my research so far (such as it is) and I'm really excited to read more comics. 
So. This is kind of what I'm going to be up to from now until 7th September! I'm writing this not only as procrastination but because I remembered the other day that I'd written a 26 before 27 list, on which I said I was going to blog twice a week aaaand that hasn't happened. But I want it to! And it's fully achievable! So this is happening and GOD will I need a break from all the cartooning. Mwahahaha I still feel like I'm getting away with something here... 

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Grandad

The day I wrote my last post was the day my Grandad died. The two and a half weeks since then have been pretty hard, but, as I am wont to do, I have been getting through things with varying degrees of success (read: I can get through work fine, but my dissertation may as well not even exist). In one sense, I haven't even let it hit me yet, because Sundays were always Grandad days, but I have been busy the last couple of Sundays (and will be for the next one) so it's like nothing has changed yet even though everything has.

I know everyone thinks their Grandad was the best Grandad, but mine actually was. My dad's dad died when I was 8, and even though I loved him (he was really funny and lovely) the relationship you can have with someone when you're 8 is not the relationship you can have with someone when you're 26, and so my mum's dad has been most of my Grandad experience. And he was not only the best Grandad, but literally one of the best people ever. All the sympathy cards my mum and auntie have gotten have described him as lovely, and gentle, and never having a bad word to say about anyone, and it's all so true. Until we lost him, I never really thought about why I loved him, but all of those are excellent reasons. He was the kindest, the loveliest, the bestest. And I really really miss him.

After my nan died at the end of 2013, I didn't know how we were going to make it through, but one thing that helped was going to see my Grandad with my mum and hearing all of his stories, helping him get to bed, just appreciating his being there and being alive. When my other nan died at the start of this year, I didn't know how we were going to make it through, but again, having my Grandad there to love and cherish and be excellent really helped. This time, (and, after having lost all three remaining grandparents in 17 months, I really need to talk to whoever is in charge because this shit is clearly unfair) I don't really know how I'm going to make it through, just that I will because I have before and because, well. I have all of them with me and god, I couldn't have asked for better people to have provided a foundation for my personality. My dad wasn't wrong when he said the other week that I couldn't have found better grandparents, and even though that makes it a thousand times harder to lose them, it makes me a thousand times luckier to have had them in the first place.

There are some things I can't even think about right now (my Grandad's house is going to have to be sold and with it my entire childhood, really) and there are some things I don't even want to do (I'm going to view his body later today, and the funeral is tomorrow) but, as always, I am turning to things that are most likely to comfort me. I comfort read Attachments the other week, I'm watching a ton of TV (I've been watching Game of Thrones for about two weeks and I'm already on season 3! It's not very comforting but it sure as hell is distracting) and, as always, I've turned to Harry Potter for some real comfort. Because, you know, this:
" 'You think the dead we have loved ever truly leave us? You think that we don't recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble?' "
Of course we do. I am about 80% the product of my grandparents, and about 5000% of me is filled with love for them right now. I will never be anyone's granddaughter again, but really, I always will be. I freaking love and miss those guys so much, and, at the moment, my Grandad most of all.

Oh, Grandad. I love ya, I miss ya, and please mind how you go.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Saturday Sundries: Just... Nope

I have really good reasons for not being here for the last two weeks, except actually they're really bad reasons, and I figure that, while I actually have a few minutes of breathing space (thank god for weekends. Except actually it's Saturday at the moment and I'm working for part of tomorrow [or today... writing things in advance is confusing- actually fuck it, I'm just making this Saturday Sundries] so... Not really a weekend at all) I'll give you all the life update I know you're desperate to have.*

So anyway. Last Wednesday (which also happened to be my Dad's birthday, happy birthday dad!) my grandad had a pretty major stroke, and since then my life has become an endless cycle of worry and hospital visits and stress and badness. We don't know if he's going to make it, but it's not looking good, and basically it takes up about 125% of my brain space, at all times. I can do everything I have to do (work, a little bit of dissertation work that I had to do) but anything beyond that is kind of beyond me at the moment. Blogging, OBViously, isn't my main priority, which is fine, but I still wanted to check in and kind of announce why I haven't been here, and also what'll be happening if I am not here again (crying, mainly, I think).

ALSO, quite shamelessly, I want your money. I'm doing the Race for Life next weekend, which is some truly appalling timing, but that's how life is. I'm raising money for cancer research (cause that's what the Race for Life is for...), which, as you probably know if you've been here for any prolonged period of time, is a cause that is pretty close to my heart because cancer! Why you keep attacking my family, huh? Anyway, no pressure, but my sponsorship page is here if you've got a couple of quid (or, indeed, dollars!) going spare and want to f cancer in the a, if you will.**

So that is what's going on at the moment. It's pretty grim, but it is life. This entire post has kind of depressed me, so now I'm going for some cheering gifs regarding penises. THIS IS HAPPENING
Kristen Wiig being a penis is one of my favourite parts of Bridesmaids, but it is horribly under-giffed!
And, not about penises, but still always welcome:
Oh Zapp. You're the best.


*loljk I know my life is probably not crazy interesting to you? And yet, I'm writing this so siddown and shuddup.

**Just as an aside, if someone could remind me that I have to run it next week that would be great, because I literally keep forgetting... It's not the best. 

Saturday, 16 May 2015

MINITHON: At Which I Have Kind Of Already Failed

Hello! Hello! Wonderful ladies and... ok, let's face it, we have no gentlemen. But lookit- is everyone ready to READ?! I am not. I suck, I am terrible, I never have plans AND YET on the days of minithons, many things always seem to come up. Today it is my very heavily pregnant friend's birthday, and so my presence is required at a BBQ where, if anyone makes any comments about the vegetarian at the BBQ, I am LEAVING haughtily and coming home to read (nice plan, huh?)

Anyway! So yes, that is where I shall be for the next few hours. However! Small children will be at this event, and my belief is that small children go to bed early, and ALSO I have washing out on the line that really needs to be brought in before dark. Ipso facto (is that even a thing? Am I even using it right?) there will be a bit of reading when I get home, although its sobriety is questionable (there will be wine. Even though my friend is all pregnant. I'm a pretty terrible human.)

THINGS I SHALL BE READING IF I EVER GET THE CHANCE TO READ: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, cause I finally stopped waiting for my paper copy to come back to me and just bought the kindle version already (mini because: children's book!) and if I get bored of/finish that (both of which are unlikely) I have Song of Susannah which is a Dark Tower book (mini because: it's the second smallest book in that series of giant books. And it still has over 200 pages. Mannnn.)

I have no mini-snacks because I am the worst, but I am mini-participating which I think is fully in the spirit of the event. If I get the chance I will tweet some words at you guys, but if not, have fun reading, I'll be back somewhere towards the late-middle/early-end.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Walt Whitman's Disturbing Sex Poetry

When I was writing the essays that would never just be DONE already last week, I spent a lot of time Facebook messaging my lovely friend Christine from my course, sharing woes and Harry Potterness and all that good stuff (seriously, she's like meeting a person from the internet in real life, THAT'S HOW GOOD). One of our many discussions started with my complete fatigue with Sylvia Plath (I can't talk anymore about how you shouldn't use biography as a method of criticism in poetry, you guys, I just CAN'T) and how I kind of hate poetry, but then I remembered I liked much of the sexy poetry in this Book Riot post.

And then Christine told me that Walt Whitman wrote sexy (the various meanings of which we will discuss in a minute...) and I was super interested because I read some Whitman as an undergrad (19th Century American Lit ftw) and if I'm going to say I like a poet, he's probably up there, and also because this:
I can't.
So, I dug out my old copy of Leaves of Grass and read some Whitman sex poetry, and Oh. My. God. You guys. It's so incredibly unsexy that I could hardly bear to read it, but I also couldn't look away from it. It was like an incredibly unerotic car crash that was trying to be erotic and I don't really know where I'm going with this sentence.

But anyway. Please observe:

I am stern, acrid, large, undissuadable, but I love you,
I do not hurt any more than is necessary for you,
I pour the stuff to start sons and daughters fit for these states, I press with slow rude muscle
I brace myself effectually, I listen to no entreaties,
I dare not withdraw till I deposit what has so long accumulated within me

I DARE NOT WITHDRAW TILL I DEPOSIT WHAT HAS SO LONG ACCUMULATED WITHIN ME?! That sentence has to be among the top 10 sentences that you don't want to hear anyone say, ever. Probably the number one response to that would be 'actually, you're withdrawing RIGHT NOW, you freak' because, ew. 

It got better though. This is an entire poem about hymens.

O Hymen! O hymenee! Why do you tantalise me thus?
O why sting me for a swift moment only? 
Why can you not continue? O why do you now cease?
Is it because if you continued beyond the swift moment you would soon certainly kill me?
I texted Frances throughout this entire revelatory episode (because, obviously), and her only response to this poem was 'WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?' I mean, answers in the comments, obviously you guys, but seriously... Has anyone ever been killed by a hymen? Is there something they're not telling us about their murderousness. And sure, I know, it's a metaphor. But WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

And that's not all. In my important Whitman investigations (I read his disgusting sex poems so you don't have to!), I encountered the following words, phrases and lines that made me shudder:

"phallic thumb of love"

"the full-grown lady-flower"

"love-flesh tremulous aching" (love-flesh may be the worst thing I've ever read)

"Limitless limpid jets of love hot and enormous, quivering jelly of love, white-blow and delicious juice" (NO)

"This poem, drooping shy and unseen that I always carry, that all men carry." (A MILLION TRILLION NOES)

There is a point to this, apart from sharing with you some truly horrifying lines of poetry (I think basically the section 'Children of Adam' in Leaves of Grass is all the sex stuff, if you want to cringe some more) and that point is this. There's a difference between sexy, and just sex. Whitman's poems are about sex, but that doesn't make them... Pleasing in any way. It's similar to the difference between watching actual hardcore porn (sex) and having sex generously implied but not necessarily seen (sexy). Now, far be it from me to tell you what you find sexy, and if you find that porn and these poems (God help you) really ring your bell, so to speak, then you go with that and godspeed. But, I think I need a little more sexy implications, and a little less 'quivering jelly of love' and 'love flesh' from my poetry, and I don't think that's a bad thing.

Now, 
Shakespeare? He can write some good sexy poetry. The sonnets aren't really amazing for it, but there's this bit in Romeo and Juliet where Juliet is waiting for night so Romeo can come and bone her, and just...

Come, gentle night, come, loving black-browed night.
Give me my Romeo, and when I shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night.

I mean, right? I'm not alone in this, right? Shakespeare is totally hot, let's just deal with that fact together. And then, also, this:
 Unspeakably. Amazingly. Erotic.