Please don’t forget to hop on over to my new blog project, my adventures through classic novels over at Prescription: Reading! Can’t wait to see you there, and happy reading!
01 Mar 2012 Leave a comment
It’s hard to believe, because it’s been one of those things that’s always been less consistent than I wanted it to, but I’ve been blogging for almost five years, come this June. My first ever blog post (made by a high school me who didn’t even know there was a whole world of book bloggers out there, but knew that one of her greatest high school rivals had a book blog and by George! if she could do it then so could I!) was published on my Blogger-hosted blog on June 7th, 2007. Needless to say, for any of you who happen to go back and actually read your old blog posts, reading some of those early entries is an enlightening, awkward, and immature experience. It was the first time that I was putting my ideas about books down in writing an a way that no one was going to grade, and no one was requiring me to do. It was freeing at the time, as it still is today, and it’s nice to have a record of those books I read in late high school all the way through my first year of college. At the time, by blog by-line was
In which a poor college girl fantasizes about nothing but an endless library, a cup of coffee, and a Mr. Darcy to cuddle with.
And while I certainly think that part of that girl is still blogging for those reasons, I’ve come a long way in realizing why it really is that I blog, and what blogging means for me as a reader, a writer, a reviewer and a critical thinker.
Book Maven’s Blog found a new home here at WordPress on December 28th, 2008, and it’s here I’ve been ever since. This blog has seen practically all of my college career, a trip to the Arizona desert, my run-in with facial paralysis a la Bell’s Palsy, my graduation, my engagement, the growth of my niece, and of course all the books that have been with me along the way. It’s been a great, if not always frequent, experience and one that I wouldn’t trade in for the world. This world of book blogging has also brought me in touch with a lot of amazing people, with voices and opinions and tastes that I admire, usually with a sense of humor to boot. I can’t help but give yet another shout-out to Eva, Ana, Danielle, Kit, Amanda, Ash, and most recently Allie, for always providing great recommendations, thoughtful discussions, and just being good blogging role-models! I’m a lurker on quite a few of those sites, and many of them may not have even realized I was there, but they’ve always been there for me just the same.
Wow. Reading back on those first 500 words and you’d think I was dying or some such dramatic nonsense. I didn’t mean for this to sound so much like some kind of blogging goodbye! I’m not leaving blogging, but as I said in my last post, the time has come in my life for me to re-direct and refocus exactly what it is I’m doing with my blog, as well as what it is I want out of my blogging and reading in the near future. After doing such, and taking in to account some recent personal setbacks, I’m proud to present to you, as of tomorrow, my brand new blog baby:
which will be online as of March 1st, 2012! I’ve decided that it’s about time I gave myself over to reading those books that I probably should have already read, seeing as how I’m an English major; those books that I feel as though I need to read, for me; those books that other readers, writers, and educators have returned to over and over again. I’m going to push myself to read through a list of 150 classic novels in the year-and-a-half left before I graduate my master’s program. I know that seems like a lot, and I’m not positive that’s even a goal that can actually be accomplished (I mean, come on, have you SEEN the size of some of those classic novels?!), but it’s a goal I think is important enough to try for! So that’s the purpose of this post: to say TTFN (‘ta-ta for now’, for those of you who’s text lingo is a little rusty) to Book Maven’s Blog, and hello to Prescription: Reading, my new blogging home for the next few years!
I can’t say now whether or not I’ll be back to this blog throughout my time over at Prescription. I’m hoping I’ll be able to fit in some books that aren’t on my classics list as well, and never fear: if I do, I’ll be back over here in a New York minute to let you all know what they are! But, more than anything, I’m really hoping you’ll hop over to the new blog and start joining me on that adventure. It’s one I’m nervous, excited, and looking forward to starting, and I hope to see you there! Either way: happy reading!
26 Feb 2012 2 Comments
Things have been rather quiet here at le maison de BookMaven, and there are a number of very good reasons for that, most of which I’m sure you can only imagine. Since the last time I was here, I’ve manged to excel at my master’s program (and I’m loving every single minute of it!), knock out the first two-and-a-half books of the Song of Ice and Fire trilogy, set the guest list for the wedding (mostly-kind-of-for-now-at-least), and go from working full time to being unceremoniously unemployed. That’s right – that ‘bomb-diggity’ job in the insurance office I had turned out to be more bomb than diggity, and after less than three months (and after a couple of broken guarantees) I’m back to being without work. Luckily, I’m one of those folks who can count on help, both from my family and from my future in-laws, so it’s not as though my fiance and I are worried about being out on the streets because of this, but it’s still brought around no short supply of stress in to our already semi-stressful life. However, to keep an eye on the silver lining, this job loss has allowed the fiance and I to make plans to return to our hometown in May, soon after he graduates, which is something we’ve talked about doing for quite some time – in fact, it was the fact that I had this job that was keeping us where we are to begin with. So I’m excited, along with nervous and just a little terrified, to face that new experience and the beauty of being back home again.
The purpose of this post is not to just chew the fat, however (regardless of how graphic and disgusting that phrase really is), but rather to say that, along with all of these other upheavals, there have been quite a few blogging ideas running through my mind of late and I think I’ve finally gotten settled on a new project, a new blog coming up very, very soon. I’ll have the full details for you tomorrow, but for now I just wanted to say: never fear! You haven’t lost me permanently or forever, and in fact, I’ll be back with more tomorrow! Until then, happy reading!
20 Nov 2011 3 Comments
Today has already proved to be quite the dreary, cold, blustery day, and to be honest I can’t think of an environment more friendly to a day of solid reading! I’m so woefully far behind on my Goodread’s classics bookclub’s reading of Swann’s Way by Proust that I think I’m just going to have to throw in the towel on this go-round and add it to the list of classics I’m planning on reading in 2012. The book is beautiful and sweeping, but my interest and attention span just don’t seem to be on board with reading it right now.
While I’m not exactly succeeding with Swann’s Way, I’m actually cruising along at a rather surprising pace through Ken Follet’s The Pillars of the Earth. The sprawling story is, as might be expected, rather operatic and soap opera-esque but for some reason it’s working for me at the moment. I don’t necessarily understand much of the cathedral construction terminology, but the opportunity to get lost in the sprawling kingdoms and political intrigue of the Middle Ages has been a rather wonderful distraction from the mundane task of mass job-applying that’s been on my plate lately. I’ve still got about 400 pages to go (it IS a 1000 page book, after all) but I’m hoping/excited to finish before I leave Wednesday for T-Givings. I’ll have a much more in-depth review later, but for now let me say that I adore Philip and Aliena and can’t stand the rapist William Hamleigh.
As much as I’m loving Pillars of the Earth, I’m feeling like I need that extra little confidence boost of actually finishing a book, and as I’ve delayed my reading of Little Women until after the new year, I’ve decided to satisfy my classics craving with Bronte’s Jane Eyre (and a HUGE cup of coffee with caramel macchiato creamer, as you can see in the picture above). This is a re-read of one of my favorites, one I haven’t visited for the two years or so since my British literature survey course, and I’d almost forgotten how much I love dear Jane. I’m barely started – I just got to the part where John pulls Jane from behind the curtain in the study, and Jane is unfairly sent to the red room – and already I’m remembering my dire urge to punch Jane’s pseudo-siblings in the face! They’re such miserable little brats, and it just makes it that much easier to sympathize with Jane.
All in all, I’d have to call this one of the best reading Sundays I’ve had in quite some time, and I hope that whatever yours is stacking up just as well. Happy reading!
15 Nov 2011 2 Comments
Yep. That’s right. The Back to the Classics Challenge 2012, hosted by Sarah of Sarah Reads Too Much, has been blowing up a number of blogs that I follow
religiously regularly, and I’m super stoked to be taking advantage of such a great opportunity to read some classics that have been on that illusive ‘books I’ve been wanted (and secretly feeling like I should) to read’. I’ve lined up a couple of different options for every category, and even those are entirely up to my whims and subject to what’s available at my local library! Without further ado, my list so far:
- Any 19th Century Classic: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
- Any 20th Century Classic: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
- Reread a classic of your choice: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
- A Classic Play: The Crucible by Arthur Miller, Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
- Classic Mystery/Horror/Crime Fiction: Dracula by Bram Stoker, The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
- Classic Romance: Tristan and Isolde, Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence, Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
- Read a Classic that has been translated from its original language to your language: Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
- Classic Award Winner: American Pastoral by Philip Roth (Pulitzer), The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty (Pulitzer), Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (Booker)
- Read a Classic set in a Country that you (realistically speaking) will not visit during your lifetime: Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein (Middle Earth), Out of Africa by Isak Dinesan (Kenya), Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally (Germany/Poland)
I can’t wait for 2012 to roll around so I can get started! (And for those of you curious, yes I have decided to delay my reading of Little Woman and have plans to read it VERY shortly after the new year!) I’d love for you to participate in the challenge this year, too, or to at least let me know if there is some vital classic I simply must give my attention to this coming up year. Happy reading!
13 Nov 2011 Leave a comment
I should probably start this whole Armchair MA series with a huge disclaimer: I’M THROWING OUT MY ENTIRE ANALYTICAL FRAMEWORK. By which I mean that I’m no longer going to use How to Read Literature like a Professor by Thomas Foster or Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose. Not because they aren’t great books with great ideas about how to analyze literature, but because I was trying to fit my ideas in to their boxes and it just wasn’t working! So now, I bring you my own attempt at unguided and wholly independent analysis: lets hope that English degree wasn’t totally useless! hehe 🙂 Anyway, on to the first installment EVER of the Armchair MA, talking about *drum roll*….. Beowulf!
Beowulf is considered to be the first great heroic poem, written sometime between the first half of the 8th century and the first half of the 11th century – oh, the joys of trying to time-frame ancient texts! It’s also assumed to be written by one or a very few number of Christian authors, assumed to be such because of the many frequent allusions to Christ and Christian expectations, despite the fact that the poem is set in the Pagan days of the ancient Danes. So what’s this poem epically about? The Geat hero Beowulf, who shows up in the Danish kingdom of king Hrothgar (yep. Hrothgar. If I didn’t want him to hate me forever, I would name my first child Hrothgar. Then his name would be Hrothgar Outlaw, and that’s just not a name you f*ck with). Anyway, Hrothgar is up to his very tall armpits in monster’s, and as Beowulf is the greatest hero anywhere around, he shows up to help. And Beowulf is seriously badass. He’s described as swimming to the bottom of the ocean and back in order to fight monsters. He’s also known to be a great leader (referred to as a “ring-king”, a kenning* for a king who is generous when dividing the spoils of war) and is very respected. So he shows up, the Danes party, and then the first monster shows up: Grendel. And Beowulf, as expected, kicks some major ass. He kills Grendel and the war party celebrates again, getting piss drunk and hanging the monster’s arm from the front of the lodge. But this is a bad idea, as Grendel has a mother, and now this mother is pissed. REAL pissed. So, she shows up and kills a whole bunch of passed out Danes (they were super drunk, remember?) before scampering back to her cave beneath a lake. But Hrothgar and Beowulf just can’t have this, so they chase her down. Beowulf makes his way to her lair and there, where he finds a sword that once belonged to the giants. Which, of course, because he’s Beowulf, he uses to slay Grendel’s mother. He then makes his way back to land, where he is celebrated and sent home, having rid Hrothgar’s kingdom of it’s monsters – the Danes and the Geats forever friends. FAST FORWARD FIFTY YEARS. Beowulf is back in Geatland, and a dragon is pissed. A slave stole a cup from the dragon’s treasure, and when the dragon finds out, he leaves his cave and starts burning everything in sight. Beowulf and the Geats can’t have that, so he takes his men with him to do battle. But, Beowulf will always be Beowulf and he tells his men to wait while he goes to fight the dragon alone in his cave. However, Beowulf isn’t a spring chicken anymore, and finds himself outmatched. Seeing their leader failing, Beowulf’s men desert him (dicks!) save one, Wiglaf (THESE POOR PEOPLE WITH THESE NAMES!!), who stays and see Beowulf defeat the dragon, although he is dealt a fatal blow in the process. Beowulf dies and is buried in Geatland.
GAH! Talk about your epic poem! However, summarizing and analyzing aren’t the same thing, so hold on to your hats while I try some REAL analyzing here:
Beowulf and Hrothgar: Hrothgar’s people find their lives revolving around their meadhall. It’s the only building we ever see while we’re with the Danes. This could be for any number of reasons, but my guess is that it has a lot to do with sustenance and the giving of gifts or the dividing of spoils – two things that would happen primarily in the mead hall. That’s why, when Grendel attacks the meadhall, it’s seen as an even greater affront to Hrothgar and his people. Speaking of Hrothgar, it would seem that he and Beowulf exemplify what it means to be a good king, and this primarily revolves around their willingness and fairness with the giving of gifts, which was a sign of devotion and meant to promote reciprocity between a lord and his lieges. It also indicates that both the Danes and the Geats were operating within a gift economy, where the gifts received are directly proportional to good done. Both men also participate in what (I gather to be) the proper amount of ‘flyting’, or formal, ritualized boasting that usually focuses on moral impropriety or weakness, which is then dis-proved by the other members of the boasting party (I hope that makes sense! It does in my head, I swear, so please let me know in the comments if I just totally lost you!)
Grendel (and his mom): Grendel is actually my favorite character in Beowulf. He’s described as being a monster descended from Cain (HELLO, CHRISTIANITY), who attacks Hrothgar’s kingdom for singing about Christianity, something he can never be a part of because he’s marked as the monster he is. He is truly an outcast, especially in this culture – this is a culture of tribes, and an importance was placed on having a lord to be loyal to, and without that, Grendel truly has no place he can belong. I feel there is a certain amount of pity in that, although I can’t say I ‘approve’ of his taking out this loneliness on the people of Hrothgar’s court. I also think that the fight with Grendel’s mother allows us to see a weaker side of Beowulf, as he gives a LARGE majority of lines to his fight with Grendel in comparison to the fight with Grendel’s mother, which I believe is because Grendel’s mother posed more of a challenge to Beowulf’s skill, thus challenging his masculinity and asserting a kind of powerful, albeit monsterly, female figure.
The Dragon: To wrap up this analysis, I want to give brief discussion to Beowulf’s fight with the dragon. This is for two reasons. One: the fight with the dragon, as Beowulf and his men march to face the beast, is when we’re given the history of the Geats, a history which deepens our understanding of Beowulf – they’re a people under a constant threat of war and fear of invasion. This helps us to understand not only why Beowulf has felt it necessary to be the hero he has been, but also why his soon-to-be-had demise is hinted at being so devastating. So, after the rest of Beowulf’s men flee, Wiglaf is the only one who remains. This is not only an indicator of his own nobility and a small spark of hope for the future of the Geats (Beowulf basically places this mantle of hope on the young soldier before he dies); this scene also indicates the darker side, however, as the fact that all of Beowulf’s supposedly great men fled, indicating a kind of loss of honor and bravery amongst men, which could be disastrous for a country described as the one above.
Well, folks, there you have it! My first ever go at the Armchair MA! And now I need your feedback, lovely readers! Was it too much summary versus too little analysis? This is something I really want to work on keeping in balance, as summarizing is so much easier than analysis! What about the analysis – I know I probably could have gone deeper, but was there something you felt was TRULY, like DANGEROUSLY lacking? I’m also thinking about adding a section for ‘discussion questions’ (like a real college class!) but I’m not sure how well this would go over, considering I’m not sure how many people would have read whatever given work…So yeah! Obviously, any help or comments or input would be much appreciated! Happy reading!
*kenning = poetic speaking in circular, used in place of metaphor or simile