Saturday 25 October 2014

(Accidentally) Saturday Sundries

HI! I'm not even going to explain where I've been cause I think we all know this already. I'm not even going to give you a lowdown of my week, because mostly I've been crippled with tiredness and a cold on top (I'm basically fine now. Because it's Saturday and OH WEEKENDS THANK YOU GOD) INSTEAD of that junk, I'm giving you a bookish survey that everyone did ten thousand years ago and that I've only just seen because I've been reading blogs this evening instead of Shakespeare. OH WELL. Anyway, here's that thing:

1. Favourite Childhood Book?
I want to say something really smart here, but realistically, it was The Babysitters Club books. I freaking loved those guys, and, FUN FACT the very first book blogs I came across were Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High ones. Gateway drugs in both cases, I guess.

2. What Are You Reading Right Now?
Well... Henry IV Part Two (so weird), Americanah which I GENUINELY read some of this morning, and Kindred which was my bag book but I had to take it out because my bag got too heavy... So I'm kind of not so much reading that right now.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
Don't be silly! I can't go to the library any more! (Except at uni and that doesn't counnt. But I have no books on request there either)

4. Bad book habit:
Not... Reading them? I guess watching tv instead of reading at the moment, but... Momma's brain needs a rest.

5. What do you currently have checked out at from the library?
Do you really want to know? Ok, King Lear: Contemporary Critical Essays, Plays Five by Howard Barker, and Shakespearean Negotiations. It is literally like a thrill a minute.

6. Do you have an e-reader?
I do! I have a Kindle Paperwhite and an iPad mini, and I really only use the iPad... Hey, does anyone want to buy a Kindle off me?

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time or several at once?
I can't remember the last time I was reading one book and that's it... I like to have at least a fiction, a non-fiction, a Stephen King and a kindle book on the go. Which is a LOT, I realise!

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
They've definitely changed since starting a Masters... But yeah, no, they definitely did- I read a lot more widely now, and that reading a lot of books at once is probably a blog thing too.

9. Least Favourite book you've read this year?
Ummmm... Probably either The Keep by Jennifer Egan or We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson- but even they weren't that bad, really.

10. Favourite book you've read this year?
Oh right, saw that coming. Annnnnd I can't do it. But I really loved Landline by Rainbow Rowell, obviously. But also, Running Like A Girl. And alllll the Japanese stuff I read this summer. So, yeah.

11. How often do you read outside your comfort zone?
Is Shakespeare a comfort zone?

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
Is Shakespeare a comfort zone?

13. Can you read on the bus?
I can! I don't always because I'm usually really tired if I'm on a bus (or, you know, doing anything) but I can do it without trouble.

14. Favourite Place to read:
Outside. Or in bed. Either is fab.

15. What is your policy on book lending?
I am my friend Becci's personal library. I am always enthusiastically lending my housemate books that he takes but possibly has no intention to read. I am still waiting for someone I don't see anymore to give Metamaus back to me. I have no policy.

16. Do you dog ear your books?
So much. Soon much.

17. Do you write notes on the margins of your books?
Nooooooo! Although I have just started to on the plays just because it's quicker than writing out whole quotes and then commenting on them. But I still don't liiiike it!

18. Do you break/crack the spines?
I usually buy used books, so the spines are broken for me. But with my own, I try not to... Usually unsuccessfully, but I'm not precious about it.

19. What is your favourite language to read?
Ummmm... Swedi- no, it's English. English is the answer to this one.

20. What makes you love a book?
Oh my God, I don't know! Just that special something of awesomeness that makes me want to be doing nothing but reading that book for all eternity.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
Me loving it? It being Ready Player One is a big one... Thinking that the person I'm recommending it to will actually like it.

22. Favourite genre:
Is Shakespeare a genre? (LOLJK it's definitely not that) I don't know, is literary fiction the answer of a douchebag? (yes)

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did)?
Graphic novels (love but hardly ever read), Classics (love but so loong and harrrrd [that's what she said]), Non-fiction just generally.

24. Favourite biography?
Biography or AUTO-biography? I don't know, I like memoirs more than formal biography things, and Lena Dunham's book of essays is the most recent one I've read so let's say that. OH WAIT and Murakami's running memoir was awesome.

25. Have you read a self-help book (and was it helpful)?
I don't... think so. Unless you count Running Like A Girl (you shouldn't), which was super helpful.

26. Favourite Cookbook?
Allllll the Hummingbird Bakery books, and Joy the Baker's first book (I want her newest one so badly, but NO LAURA. Christmas.) and Isa Does it, which is vegan cooking and it's awesome and the book in itself is just fab too.

27. The most inspirational book you've read this year?
Holy shit, I'm not going to have to do the end of year book survey this year, am I? I'm going to have to say Running Like A Girl again, I'm sorry.

28. Favourite Reading Snack?
I don't really eat and read, but I'm not anti a nice hot chocolate and a book at this time of year.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience:
I think I'm really lucky in that the books that have a lot of hype that I ALSO get excited about (JK Rowling and... Probably some other stuff) usually turn out to be excellent. However, Gone Girl was sort of ruined for me by knowing too much about it, I guess.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
I dunno... I basically only read the book reviews in Bust, and that's just so I can add loooooads of books to my wishlist every couple of months. Which is obviously what I need.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
They're literally my favourite reviews to write, but I usually don't read books that piss me off to the end, I just give up on them these days. But I love a good rant.

32. If you could read in a foreign language which would it be?
Either Russian (original Anna Karenina OMG) or Japanese (original Murakami *salivates*) Yeah, probably Japanese, actually...

33. Most intimidating book I've ever read:
Ok, so... Les Miserables. Crime and Punishment. And I was super intimidated by Richard II as my first proper History play. All were pretty great (as long as you skip parts of Les Miserables. Like, lots of parts.)

34. Most intimidating book I'm too nervous to begin:
Infinite Jest. War and Peace. And I own Ulysses for some ungodly reason.

35. Favourite Poet:
Emily Dickinson. Walt Whitman. That one Bukowski poem I really like. And I guess Shakespeare's ok.

36. How many books do you generally have checked out of the library at any given time?
Really not that many. Like, probably a maximum of about 5?

37. How often do you return books to the library unread?
Um, of those five, I'd probably read about 1. I'm terrible for it.

38. Favourite Fictional Character?
Your mum. I mean... I don't know, Atticus Finch is obviously amazing, Melly from Gone With The Wind is like a goddess, you know the people I like.

39. Favourite Fictional Villian?
Your... Ok, no. I don't know, I'm getting really tired now.

40. Books I'm most likely to take on vacation holiday:
So, I don't go on beach holidays basically ever, so I don't ever really read on holiday. However, I obviously still take books with me, and they are usually fiction-y and not too heavy. Says the girl who took Atonement to Berlin with her and cried over it for a while one evening... Fun!

41. The longest I've gone without reading?
I think I've probably gone some fairly long periods without reading an actual book, but life is reading, right? Probably no longer than a month, on the book side of things.

42. What distracts you easily when you're reading?
Being at my train stop. Having the TV RIGHT THERE. Life.

43. Name a book you could not finish:
The Finkler Question. Cloud Atlas. All Jeanette Winterson books I've read that aren't memoirs (OOH! Her autobiography/ies are good!)

44. Favourite film adaptation of a novel?
Ok, so Matilda is pretty great and A Little Princess? Also, Les Miserables. OBVIOUSLY.

45. The most disappointing film adaptation?
Harry Potter. In a general way. The films have their moments, but... No.

46. Most money I've ever spent in a bookstore at one time?
I literally don't really shop in proper bookshops that often! But I think I spent about £40 in Waterstones in Leeds, so let's say that.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
Basically never. I don't even like reading the blurb, really!

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book halfway through it?
Unrelenting shittiness?

49. Do you like to keep your books organised?
I want to organise them by colour but really they're just in locations based on whether I've read them already or not. Only Stephen King is organised. That wasn't really an answer, was it?

50. Do you prefer to keep your books when you're done, or give them away?
Depends entirely on the book. I definitely keep more than I should/will ever re-read, but... I like them! What if I NEED that book one day and I don't have it?! Exactly.

51. Are there any books you've been avoiding?
(Oh, we're still going? We didn't stop at 50? Ok then..)
Not really. Only now that there are books that I HAVE to read, of course I don't want to. I have total brain issues.

52. Name a book that made you angry:
Um. I got pretty angry at King Lear because I was extremely extremely tired when I finished reading it. But we've made up now.

53. A book I didn't expect to like but I did
I don't know. It's late. I can't even remember any book titles. OH WAIT- yes, Bleak House. It was the balls.

54. A book I expected to like but didn't.
Ummm... All Jennifer Egan books that aren't Goon Squad. Definitely. Still got my fingers crossed for Look At Me.

55. Favourite guilt-free guilty pleasure reading:
Fuck you and your guilty pleasures. My pleasures are just.. Pleasurable.


Thursday 16 October 2014

Shakespeare: Three Comedies

Oh heyyyy, remember when I started this whole Masters thing and said I'd write some stuff about Shakespeare and then promptly didn't do that (or much of anything else on here, really)? Well... Here is some of that stuff.

Basically my course is in two parts- one unit (or, my Wednesdays) looks at two plays (King Lear this semester, and The Tempest the next) in depth, encompassing the critical debate about them (academic essays! Yay! *SARCASM FONT*) and looking at creative responses to them- for instance, for King Lear we're reading two other plays inspired by it, a novel based in the American midwest with its framework, and four movie adaptations of it. In a lot of ways, this is the course I prefer, because who DOESN'T want to look that in-depth into King Lear and The Tempest? No one, that's who.

The other unit though, which is still awesome (aka my Thursdays) simply looks at The Works, taking one play a week (except for December, where we have two weeks of The Sonnets, or pleasekillmenowthanks) looking at that as in depth as you can in a two hour seminar (plus independent study, of course) and reading some academic essays (again, YAY) about those too. This means that, yeah, I have to read one Shakespeare play a week, and yeah, I bloody love it.

However, all this reading along with working three days a week doesn't leave a lot of time for things like fun reading (although I did just finish Lena Dunham's book and LOVE IT), or watching tv without falling asleep, or writing about things on the internet, or anything that doesn't involve Shakespeare and work. Which, at least for now, I'm finding ok, because Shakespeare is kind of fun to me I KNOW WHAT A NERD.

Anyway. As of right now, I've read three plays for The Works unit (I'm already so deeply into King Lear that I might not be able to write anything about it ever that isn't a spewing of big stupid words and stuff. But I'm also not done with it yet, so maybe I'll write about it in December. We'll see.), so let's talk about those right now. I'm not going to be annoying and scholarly because, let's face it, I'm going to have to do that for real soon enough, this is really just for fun AND for the purposes of recording all the things I read here. Please don't take my irreverence for anything less than love because, come on. Shakespeare's like, totally hot. And some other stuff too.

The Comedy of Errors
The Comedy of Errors is, I believe, one of Shakespeare's less performed, and less read plays. There are good reasons for this: it kind of sucks. I want to say that it kind of sucks in a Shakespeare-y way, so you still learn some valuable life lessons and come out of it enriched but not in love (or some shit like that) but actually... It just kind of sucks. 

Let's talk about it. The deal with The Comedy of Errors is that there are these twins and they were separated when very young because of a shipwreck (this happens more in Shakespeare than it's ever happened in life, I think) except I'm lying because each of the twins ALSO has a slave and their slaves are twins too. I mean, what are the odds?! The twins eventually end up in the same place (of course) everyone is mistaking everyone for everyone else (of course) and insanity ensues. It's all very very silly, and a lot of the comedy is, I think, supposed to rely on the masters beating their slaves, which... is not so cool.

I shan't tell you the end just in case you want to read it (WHY?) but if you'll consider that the tragedies end in death and the comedies end in marriage (or, just generally, happiness) then you've pretty much got it. I don't really have much to say about it, other than, thank god it's short, and, you know, they can't all be winners. To be fair, it's probably one of the easier plays I've read to date, so it also has that going for it. Unfortunately, the lack of difficulty kind of translates to the story too, and... Meh. Meh is what I'm going to conclude with.

A Midsummer Night's Dream
And from 'meh' to ZOMG AMAZING, we have A Midsummer Night's Dream. I heart A Midsummer Night's Dream, and until I re-read it again this time round, I kind of just assumed that I loved it because I was in a school production of it when I was about 9 and therefore it was 'my' play. (I was Hermia. I wanted to be Helena. Don't talk to me about it. [HELENA IS FUNNIER]). It totally is my play, but I actually love it, as it turns out, for some fairly solid scholarly reasons, and also reasons that are all about its awesomeness.

A Midsummer Night's Dream, for the uninitiated, intertwines three stories that all meet in an enchanted forest on a midsummer night (duh. Except not really duh because it's also May, and it's also sort of four nights, and also there might be a giant moon, or there might be no moon. It's pretty complex when you get into it, so I advise not doing that)- one involves a complicated love square, one involves a group of tradesmen who are trying, with mixed success, to be actors, and one involves fairies and mischief and shit. All of these intermingle and cause all kinds of mayhem that is, of course, all sorted out by the end so everyone can be happily married and laugh at the players who are making sex jokes because this is Shakespeare.

Of the three stories, my favourite involves the love square, but that might still be a hangover from being involved in exactly that storyline when I was 9- EXCEPT it isn't because I have big ideas about it that might just become my essay for this term SO THERE. Everything I've read about MND, though, seems to focus on class issues and marriage issues of other characters, with nary a mention of those guys, so this is probably an unpopular obsession, but I just want Helena and Hermia to get their men and be happy and probably have a lesbian affair on the side, ok? Actually, that's a thing about Shakespeare that no one really talks about- he actually has female friendships and sometimes they're more convincing than the romantic relationships. Does he pass the Bechdel Test? Usually, yeah. 

Anyway, A Midsummer Night's Dream is amazing, and if you haven't read it yet then I just don't know what you're doing with your lives. Get on that.

The Merchant of Venice
The Merchant of Venice comes under the category of comedy, but it's not so funny if you're Shylock, Jewish, or have a soul. I have issues with The Merchant of Venice and its depiction of Jews in a similar way that I LOATHE The Taming of the Shrew for its rampant misogyny EXCEPT I can't tell if there really is a smidgeon of sympathy from Shakespeare in some of Shylock's speeches, I just know that there isn't any in the way he ends up. (We all know about the pound of flesh thing, right? Cool).

However, I don't hate The Merchant of Venice. I haven't seminared on it yet, so don't hold me to THAT feeling, but there was a lot in it that wasn't flagrant anti-semitism, and that's the stuff I'm holding onto so I don't have to hate Shakespeare. The story is basically that there's this Merchant (amazing, right) Antonio, who's sad for no reason, but still he wants to help his buddy Bassanio marry this rich woman because he's broke but wants to live in the style of a rich dude. Why does Antonio want to help him so AND willingly agrees to give a pound of his flesh in exchange for a loan from Shylock?

He's totally gay for Bassanio. He is. This isn't just me finding gay dudes everywhere, it's a pretty well established thing. I swear.

So there's this whole forbidden love element, there's Shylock's daughter who wants to marry a Christian and I'm not entirely sure if it's because she loves him or because she wants to escape the persecution that she faces as a Jew every day (heartbreaking!) or because she wants to escape her controlling dad. The main thought I have about The Merchant of Venice though: No one is very nice. Antonio has abused Shylock for years, Shylock wants to CUT THE FLESH OFF A LIVING HUMAN, Bassanio wants to marry a rich woman he barely knows, Portia (said rich woman) lies a LOT and is kind of racist... There aren't a lot of good people here, and maybe that is the point. It's not anti-semitism, guys! It's just misandry!

Mind you, Wikipedia (the academic's friend) tells me that the Nazis broadcast a radio play of The Merchant of Venice just after Kristallnacht, and the idea of Shakespeare being used in that way makes me want to throw up, but the fact that it's kind of apt to be used in that way is not cool either. PROBLEMS, guys.

And that's pretty much where I'm up to in Shakespeare right now. Coming soon: Some histories! I'm not at all excited to read them.  

Tuesday 14 October 2014

RIP IX BOOK 3: Laura by Vera Caspary

"I decided that it was lucky that most of my cases had not involved women. Their logic confused me."

One day, for no particular reason, my dad bought me a book. He claims now that he bought it because 'he knew it was good', but I think we all know that he basically looked at the name and thought it would be a cool thing to get me. AND HE WAS RIGHT. 

So, and please bear with me because I finished this abouuuut a month ago AND I haven't written a review in about ten million weeks, this book is about Laura. Surprise, right? To be more specific, it's about Laura, murder victim and formerly an advertising extraordinaire, woman of independent means and kinnnd of badassery. She's not your average murder victim, OR your average 1940s woman and that's really just the start of what makes Laura (the book) so damn good.

There's a limit to what I can say here without giving away so so much information about the murder, and, more importantly, the murderer, so this is going to be fairly brief. It's brevity, however, shouldn't be used as an indicator of how much I liked the book, because I liked it so much I could probably write whole essays on it. The fact that I'm going to HAVE to do that, along with the fact that I really want you guys to read this book without knowing what's going to happen, prevents me from it, but rest assured- it's awesome.

Laura is a noir novel, but it's also a noir novel that's kind of feminist. This isn't to say that the detective is a woman (although that would have been awesome) because actually he's a handsome police officer, but the novel is very clearly focused on Laura and the excellent person she was. The men are all obsessed by her, and not just in a 'oh my gosh she was so beautiful and I loved her so' kind of way (although that does happen) but also in an admiring, impressed-with-her-success kind of way. Laura is outlived, for instance, by a sponging fiancĂ©, and how often do the genders work that way round? Not that often, I'd say.

The perspective in Laura isn't just that of the detective, but that of other people who knew and loved her. The novel opens with the narrative of an older, fatter writer who was in love with Laura but also generally considered her on-his-level, and he annoyed the shit out of me. I actually thought I wasn't going to get on with the book because of this, but then the narration shifted and I realised that, actually, I wasn't supposed to like him, and all was well again. Seriously, it's a really good book, guys.

Laura is basically a really really good noir novel, just in itself, and it has the added benefit of being written by a woman so its focal female point is realistic and interesting and sometimes seems more whole than the characters who are alive. I was excited by its noirness, because it's a genre I'm so interested in yet never seem to read, but I was, of course, even more excited by its feministness. So much excitement that I'm just making up words now, apparently. But you guys will forgive me, I'm sure. Just, freaking read this book already!

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Wednesday, Wednesday

Oh you gorgeous people.
I have about 20 minutes before I have to leave the house and go and talk about King Lear (glory, glory) so what better way to use the time than to update you all on my exceedingly busy, yet weirdly uninteresting to others, life.

Here's how it goes: Work, read, sleep, work, read, sleep, read, uni, sleep, read, uni, sleep, work, read, sleep. Weekends, I die, or, rather, I read some more and try to be at least vaguely sociable? Or something. This last weekend was actually really excellent- it had been my first week as a postgrad, so I was obviously KNACKERED but also stressed (new things aren't good for my sense of well-being! They're just not. No matter how much I love them eventually, everything that's new is a little bit of a struggle for me) and on Saturday morning I just wanted to sleep all day.

Instead, though, I did yoga, I read about half of A Midsummer Night's Dream (it is A Midsummer Night's Dream week. I am happy. Except about the 1935 film version I watched last night, which was so incredibly awful) I went to the library, and then had my friend Justine over for talking and eating and drinking and movies and it was so nice and I was like 'oh yeah! Relaxing! I remember now' and it's not like doing that left me with tons of work to do and now I'm panicking because that's really not the case.

Sunday though- after walking Justine to the station and making my way to my Grandad's house, I got the awesome surprise of my dad being there- he's not home from hospital for good, but he was out on day release, which was just excellent in itself and made me really happy, but was also excellent because it meant I didn't have to sit in a hospital all afternoon and got home at a way more reasonable time than 8pm (which is late for a school night, alright?) I think basically what I have to report is, last week was a little bit rough (which is exactly what I was expecting) but things are already looking up, and I feel like I'm getting into the swing of things- at least I do this week!

Obviously, blogwise, things are slightly less organised and in the swing of things, but I think about you all often, and have some reviews in draft form that may get written at some point, or may get forgotten because, you know, life. I am trying to keep up with all of your writings, but I am usually too tired, or too reading-it-on-my-phone to comment, but rest assured that I am totally still keeping up with your lives/reading/whatever, and if you have any commenting system other than Bloggers', I'm probably still trying to comment, too. Because of my complete devotion to you all (and how easy it is to read blogs when I'm really tired...)
Now, tell me all about your lives and leave nothing out. I'm waiting...