Thursday, December 29, 2011

Literary meme, part the second

Here's the second part of the literary meme. Part the first is here.

12. Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
I can't remember a dream involving any of these things. Isn't that strange? I read so much, and I can definitely be put in A Dark Mood by a book that results in disturbing dreams, but none that I can remember involve the actual writers or characters of a book. 

13. What is the most lowbrow book you’ve read as an adult?
Wow. I just...I don't want to sound snobby, but I can't read truly lowbrow books. I mean that literally. My brain will not keep processing the words. I like genre fiction, but it has to be competently written. Okay, I thought of something! I read the Twilight books. I could tell they weren't well written and I kept on reading through all the cliched gushing about Edward's perfect ice-cold...chest (that did not sound appealing at all to me, by the way). Stephenie Meyer may not be a great writer, but she's a genius as far as I'm concerned. How did she turn off my inner literary snob switch?

14. What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?
Ulysses by James Joyce. I wasn't even forced to read it but I had a summer off before I went to graduate school and so I checked out a book to help explain the zillion allusions and I read it so I could feel like I belonged in grad school. (I am SUCH a nerd). It was hard going, but parts of it were actually pretty great when you understood what Joyce was doing.

15. What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you’ve seen?
I haven't seen any Shakespeare plays I'd consider obscure. Of the ones I've seen, Richard III was the one least performed, I think. Sir Ian McKellan played Richard and he was amazing.

16. Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
The Russians, based on how many books I've read by Russian authors versus French ones. I suppose the Russians fit my naturally gloomy worldview better than the French.

17. Roth or Updike?
I've read more Updike, although neither is my cup of tea, really.

18. David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?
Sedaris. Funnier and more disciplined in his craft.

19. Shakespeare, Milton or Chaucer?
Shakespeare, hands down. Paradise Lost is one of the major texts I can't believe I wasn't forced to read and that I refuse to read on my own (Moby Dick is the other). Hey, I was raised on the King James Version--I don't need to read Milton's version. As for Chaucer--I've never read all of The Canterbury Tales and of course only in translation. I just found out we are going to read part of Canterbury with the seniors after all and I am wondering how to keep them interested in it. Probably by pointing out that the Wife of Bath is bawdy and letting them figure out the risque parts for themselves.

20. Austen or Eliot?

21. What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
See #19 above.

22. What is your favorite novel?
Mad wrote, "It’s really hard to choose just one, don’t you think?" Yes! It really is like being asked to choose a favorite child. I do love Pride and Prejudice. At one time it was tied with The Great Gatsby but I'm worried that teaching Gatsby is making me love it a little less.

23. Play?
Hmmm. I really like The Crucible. Even after teaching it (coming up after the break, too.) "Because it is my NAME!"

24. Poem?
"The Second Coming," by Yeats. It seems like it speaks of our times:
      "The best lack all conviction, while the worst
      Are filled with passionate intensity."
It was published in 1921.

25. Essay?
 Nothing's coming to mind. I could probably list something by C.S. Lewis here and it wouldn't be too far off.

26. Short story?
SOOOOO hard! I'll go with "A Good Man Is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor. It's hard to beat a Flannery O'Connor short story. When I was trying to write fiction, she was my idol.

27. Work of nonfiction?
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.

28. Who is your favorite writer?
Well, let's say Jane Austen. And Flannery O'Connor, although I don't read her very often because she's so fierce.

29. Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
I'm going to agree with Jennifer Weiner and say Jonathan Franzen. I've read several of his books and short stories when I subscribed to The New Yorker (although I haven't read his most recent novel,  Freedom) and I basically thought, "Meh" after each one.

30. What is your desert island book?
I'm going to cheat and assume we can take an author's collected works. It may sound cliched, but I really would take the complete works of Shakespeare. Comedy, tragedy, romance--how many writers can do all of them? Plus I only understand Shakespeare when I'm reading it out loud, and if I were on a deserted island, I'm sure I'd act all the parts out as well, to entertain myself.

31. And…what are you reading right now?
I'm actually between books. I just finished The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, which I didn't love, and I think I'll probably read a book I got from work next (we do a book exchange for Christmas since we are English teachers). It's called Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. I'm ordering a Kindle tomorrow with my Christmas money and can't wait!


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

After-Christmas Thoughts

Today has been a lazy day. As if I haven't been lazy almost every day since the holidays began! I am spending most days in my sweatpants, and dread putting on real pants, as the waistbands insist on reminding me that I've been eating too many goodies.

But never mind--in this week between Christmas and New Year's, anything seems possible in the near future: eating healthier, getting up earlier to exercise, getting the house organized with the piles of new toys...

I often start getting anxious when we are home with--not nothing to do; there is always plenty I could be doing (see list above for ideas) but nothing concrete. Give me an appointment and I'm fine. I know it makes no sense. My therapist used to call it "free-floating anxiety." Meaning, I suppose, that if I am too free to float, I get anxious. So I am alternating being lazy with actual useful tasks like laundry, making a grocery list--short, manageable tasks that don't make me feel overwhelmed.

We drove back yesterday from visiting Justin's family in South Louisiana. It's a 6 1/2 hour drive without stopping much, and the kids were real troupers, even without a portable DVD player (long story--we had to borrow a truck to bring tools). We also learned that our dog, Gidget, gets carsick. Thankfully, she was in her kennel and we could change out the towel in there--and she only threw up once on the way back. If it didn't cost so much to board animals....

I was happier to find out that my idea to listen to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe on audiobook interested Miss Pink more than reading it with me. I don't know if she's ever going to love Narnia as much as I do, but at least she got interested and wants to listen to the next book whenever we have a trip longer than across town. Success!

Speaking of success, the kids were happy with the presents they received. SO glad I am raising kids who seem to be easy to please and thankful. Someone in my Twitter stream linked to a Twitter account called @fart whose owner compiled all the tweets of teenagers who were furious because they didn't get either an iPad, iPhone (or the right color of iPhone, OMG) or a CAR for Christmas. After reading those for a while I didn't want to live on this planet anymore. I also wanted to yell at my kids, "Don't you EVER act like this or I am not responsible for my actions!" Miss P's biggest present was an iPod Shuffle and Mr. Blue got a Lego space station. They also got cool stuff from both grandparents, and a few aunts and uncles, so they are very lucky children. My job is to make sure they understand that none of these things are a given, nor are we entitled to them.

And now I kind of want to remind myself of all of that, since I have a new iPhone and am about to use my Christmas money to buy myself a Kindle, but then I also want flat-heeled brown boots and new jeans and in fact an entire new winter casual wardrobe since I am officially sick of all my clothes....See how hard it is not to get the wants?

My family is safe, warm, healthy, well-fed (REALLY well-fed), and together.I am thankful.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some laundry to fold.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Literature Meme part the first

School's out--it's time for me to blog again! And because I don't yet have the mental energy to write about what's actually going on around here (at the moment my children are wrestling on the living room floor while I do my best to ignore them), I'm going to do this literature meme which I got from Madhousewife. Like her, I bet I will do it in two parts because: see above for lack of mental energy. But I do feel like writing something, so here goes.

1. What author do you own the most books by?
I do not feel like getting up to count, but it's either Alice Munro or C.S. Lewis. Quite different from each other, but I obviously loved both of them enough to buy a lot of their books.

2. What book do you own the most copies of?
Other than the Bible? I don't think I own multiple copies of any book. At one time I had two copies of Mere Christianity (Lewis again). Oh, never mind, I do have two copies of Pride and Prejudice.

3. Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?
Not at all. I think that's a false rule. I love the person who wrote, "That is something up with which I will not put" to show how awkward it is to always avoid ending a sentence with a preposition.

4. What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
Hmmm. Like a lot of women who read, Mr. Darcy comes to mind, although I have to admit that is influenced by Colin Firth's portrayal of him. I had to fan myself quite often when reading Outlander; that Jamie Fraser is something else. But I don't think that was love.

5. What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children, i.e. Goodnight Moon does not count)?
Probably The Great Gatsby, since I'd read it a bunch of times already and I read it six times last year (once with each class of juniors).

6. What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
  The Chronicles of Narnia. Yes, that's a series. No, I can't figure out how to turn italics off for this entry.

7. What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?
Let me check Goodreads. Okay, I'm back. The worst one I finished (and some of the books I didn't finish weren't the worst, I just couldn't get into them at the time) is called The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly. I quoted another reviewer in my review, which I will quote again here (how meta!)

"Stereotypical characters. Predictable, illogical plotlines. Full of cliches." Ugh. I skimmed it to finish but shouldn't have wasted my time--it ended exactly as I was predicting.

8. If you could force everyone to read one book, what would it be?
I think I would force them to REread To Kill a Mockingbird. I think most ninth graders are not thoughtful enough to get more than the most basic message ("Racism is bad!") from that book, and they would get more out of it when they are more mature.

9. Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature?
I don’t know. I don’t pay attention to that stuff.

10. What book would you most like to see made into a movie?
As Mad said, "Most of the books I would like to see made into movies have already been made into movies. Bad ones." I used to want another version of Gatsby and now they're making it (is it done yet?) I desperately wanted the Narnia books to be movies and now they're kind of disappointing. I have a T shirt that says, "Movies: Ruining the book since 1920." Although I am interested to see what they've done with The Hunger Games.

11. What book would you least like to see made into a movie?
I don’t know. Ulysses, I guess. I don't think anyone's likely to try to film that, thank goodness.

More tomorrow!