Matilda

Book #73: Matilda, by Roald Dahl

I’m a life-long lover of children’s literature, so even though I’m in grad school, I think it’s important to take the time to read wonderful kids books. I somehow missed reading Matilda as a kid myself (though I did read lots of Roald Dahl’s other books; The Twits has always been a favorite of mine), so I recently bought both English and French copies of the book at a used book store.

As an adult, Matilda takes basically zero time to read, but it’s a thoroughly fun experience. I also come from the generation that  grew up watching the 1996 film adaptation, so this is a story that’s near and dear to my heart. And considering Dahl first published Matilda in 1988, the story still feels fresh and timeless. This is the kind of story I can’t wait to share with my own family in the future.

Not

Book #72: Not That Kind of Girl, by Lena Dunham

I bought Not That Kind of Girl about a week and a half ago as a reward to myself over fall break. This was the perfect read to distract me from the stresses of grad school; it’s funny, emotional, and filled with just the right amount of awkward that fans of Dunham’s HBO series Girls” have come to expect.

In fact, Dunham’s collection of essays feels very much like jumping into Hannah Horvath’s head, except Dunham herself is probably in a better mental place than her character. Her stories vary from heartfelt to laugh-out-loud funny to cringe-worthy, but I wouldn’t really expect anything else.

Macbeth

Book #71: Macbeth, by William Shakespeare

Macbeth marks the first of the five tragedies and histories I’ll be reading in my Shakespeare class. This was my first encounter with the Scottish play, and I’m very happy to have read it, but I think I need to let my thoughts on it settle a bit before I can make a very formed opinion about the text.

My professor, interested in discussing the visual aspects of Shakespeare’s plays, specifically assigned us a graphic novel version of Macbeth to read. Unfortunately, I lasted about 2 scenes before I gave up on reading it that way. Shakespeare is hard enough to read on his own, but the fact that the graphic novel didn’t identify the speakers by name and didn’t include footnotes meant I had no idea what was going on. If I’d had previous experience reading graphic novels or had read Macbeth before, this may not have been an issue, but I had to resort to getting a normal version of the text before I could make any sense of it.

Another thought: as a Harry Potter expert, I felt like J.K. Rowling really pulled from Macbeth throughout the series. Some of the references are obvious — the fact that there’s a band in Rowling’s series called “The Weird Sisters,” a name also given to the three witches of Macbeth – but I also felt like some of the scenes were just generally similar. One scene in particular featuring the witches reminded me of Voldemort’s “reverse baptism” scene at the end of Goblet of Fire, and Macbeth’s bloodthirsty actions as a result of the witches’ predictions also reminded me of Voldemort. (These are all things that would have been helpful had I read this play a year ago when I was writing my Harry Potter thesis project.)

Anyway, I think it’ll take a few class discussions for me to come to a real understanding of Macbeth. But I think it’s safe to say that you know you’re in good hands when you’re reading Shakespeare.

Moby Dick

Book #69: Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville

Moby-Dick was definitely the heaviest reading project I’ll undertake this semester, and I’m happy to have added it to my ever-growing personal library. Though it wasn’t my favorite American novel, the experience of reading Moby-Dick is certainly worthwhile, as long as you can force yourself through all the cetology.

I don’t think the story needs much explanation: the narrative is told by Ishmael, a man who boards a whaling ship captained by Ahab, a man obsessed with finding and killing Moby-Dick, the white whale that took his leg. The book certainly has its ups and downs in terms of excitement, but the overall story is a memorable and intriguing one. I doubt I ever would have read Moby-Dick if it hadn’t been required of my class, but I’m glad to have experienced it.

Homework and pumpkin candles — I guess that means it’s fall

It’s a bit hard to believe we’re already nearing the end of September. Unfortunately, this time of year is when homework and classes always seem to shift into high gear, a truth that is taking shape in my life these days. In fact, writing this is my reward for power reading through a big chunk of Moby-Dick, half of which I have to have read by tomorrow evening. Let’s just say that there are several more hours of reading ahead of me before that’s crossed off my to do list.

My life generally has been pretty good, as of late; for the most part, I’m staying on top of my homework and work load, and I still have some time to do fun things. The first hints of fall are in the air, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve been burning fall-scented candles all weekend, and I bought my first Reese’s pumpkins on Friday. Tis the season, and all that jazz.

Here’s a quick overview of what I’ve been reading and watching lately. If fall isn’t the best time to cuddle up to watch movies and read, then I don’t know what is (just kidding, I do this all year).

TV – Despite having lots of homework this weekend, I managed to squeeze in some quality TV-aydnwatching time. Friday night, I watched the first season of “A Young Doctor’s Notebook,” a quirky dark comedy starring Daniel Radcliffe and Jon Hamm as the titular Young Doctor (Radcliffe plays the younger version. Hamm the older) in early 20th century Russia. It’s a very strange little show, but highly entertaining, and sometimes sad. The first season is on Netflix for anyone who’s interested, and it only lasts about 80 minutes in total, so give it a watch! I’m waiting to start season 2 until I can watch it with my mom, but I’m excited to see what the new season brings.

Sunny

I’ve also started watching “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” a show that comes highly recommended from several of my friends. As I write, I’m just starting season 2, so I feel like I’m accomplishing a lot (even though I’m really only on the eighth episode). I’m excited to get into season 2 since Danny Devito joins the cast. My goal is to finish season 2 by the end of this week, so I’m hoping I can find some moments of free time to devote to watching TV, rather than reading about whales.

OutlanderLast on my TV radar is “Outlander,” which I’ve been thoroughly enjoying since it premiered last month. The fact that there’s only one episode left before the midseason hiatus begins is very upsetting to me and I don’t want to talk about it. Last night’s episode (“The Wedding”) provided the long anticipated marriage between Claire and Jamie, and let’s just say that I was more than happy with the outcome. In fact, I don’t really see why Claire is still so conflicted over her time travel problem; as far as I’m concerned, the choice between staying with Jamie or trying to get back to Frank is a no brainer (I mean, have you seen Sam Heughan?). I don’t think many people are watching “Outlander,” but I am happy to recommend it to anyone looking for a new TV project. Plus, I like having people to talk about TV with, so join me!

Books – Like I mentioned, I’m spending lots of time reading Moby-Dick these days. I’ve got about 120 pages to make it through before my class tomorrow night, so hopefully I’ll make a big dent in that before the end of the day. The second half of the book (which thankfully is a slightly shorter reading assignment) is due next week, so I’m planning to be a bit better and not procrastinate all my reading to the day or two before the assignment is due.

My next reading assignment for my Shakespeare class is Much Ado About Nothing, which I (unintentionally) started and finished Friday afternoon. I saw the play at the Globe Theatre while visiting London in 2011, which definitely helped me understand the plot of the play. I’ll be watching Joss Whedon’s recent film adaptation of the play in class Tuesday, so I’m excited to see how it differs from the written play.

As long as I can keep afloat this week (amidst reading, a presentation, a conference, and meetings), life should go back to normal for a week or two. In fact, next week is my fall break, a very welcome opportunity to relax for a day or two. The best news is that by the time I’m on fall break, Gone Girl will be in theaters, and that just might be the highlight of the month of October (at least I hope so).

Now, back to work. Enjoy your Sunday, everyone!

Much Ado About Nothing

Book #68: Much Ado About Nothing, by William Shakespeare

I was very excited to see Much Ado About Nothing on my reading list for my Shakespeare class because I had the lovely experience of seeing this play at the Globe Theatre in London in 2011. Having previously seen the play was definitely an advantage while reading it, but I think it would be enjoyable for anyone interested in Shakespeare.

Much Ado About Nothing has the potential to be a bit confusing while reading because a lot of the play’s plot hinges on characters eavesdropping on one another, which can be a bit difficult to recognize while reading. If you can work through this, though, the story is entertaining, funny, and very worthwhile.

We’ll be watching Joss Whedon’s recent film adaptation of the play in class this week, so I hope it’s enjoyable. I have a hard time imagining any version will beat seeing a Shakepearean play in the venue for which it was written, but we’ll see. :)

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym

Book #67: The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, by Edgar Allan Poe

Like I mentioned in my last post, school reading is (unfortunately) taking over my reading time, but in grad school, you can’t expect much else.

My first longer reading project for my Responses to Poe course was The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, a short novel that inspired such works as Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (the next book on my reading list). The book tells the story of a group on a large ship that falls victim to all sorts of problems, including mutiny, cannibalism, a shipwreck, shark attacks, and starvation. The book also has some uncomfortably racist overtones and an odd sense of mysticism, so there’s that.

I can’t say I enjoyed this book very much; in fact, I kind of gave up reading in the last 30 pages or so and just skimmed my way to the end.

On the upside, I also had to read a Poe short story called “Hop-Frog” this week that I really enjoyed. I’d never heard of it before, and the style is different from a normal Poe story, but it’s really fun and bizarre. If you’re looking for a weird way to spend 15 minutes, give “Hop-Frog” a read.

The rest of this week and my weekend will be spent with rather rigorous reading, I’m afraid. I’ve already started Moby-Dick, the next assignment for my Poe class, but my progress needs to increase if I’m going to finish the first 70 chapters by Monday. My next assignment for my Shakespeare class is Much Ado About Nothing, also due next week.

I guess this is grad school.