Voyager

2016 Reading List #24:Voyager, by Diana Gabaldon

As of this evening, I’ve had a Master’s degree for two weeks now. Life has been weird (look for a follow-up post soon about other things that are happening in my life). The best of the upsides of this freedom? The time I can spend reading without any feelings of guilt. Ahhhh.

First on my reading to do list was finishing Voyager, the third installment in the Outlander series, after starting it in late March. Diana Gabaldon knows how to write a lengthy book, so though I had been making steady progress, I still had more than 300 pages to go when I took this on my quick jaunt to Orlando after graduation.

Thankfully, lengthy time spent on airplanes and in airports provides the perfect opportunity for some reading catch up, and I was happy to make a significant dent in my reading during my travels. That dent was big enough that I really couldn’t put the book down after I returned home.

Voyager covers lots of time and space in the Outlander world–we begin in 1968 where Dragonfly in Amber begins and ends, but eventually travel back through time to Scotland, followed by a journey to the West Indies, and ending in America. We’re also introduced to several new characters and revisit some surprising and familiar faces.

Though the beginning of the novel feels a million miles away since I started 2 months ago, one of my favorite aspects of Voyager was the development of Brianna, Claire and Jamie’s daughter. I was very thrown by the 20 year time jump in Dragonfly in Amber, but the more time I spent reading Voyager, the more satisfied I became with Gabaldon’s decision to mix up her narrative.

Finishing Voyager definitely left me itching to continue with the series, but I’m putting myself on hold so I can make more progress with other things I’ve been neglecting. Thankfully, the TV adaptation is only halfway through a great second season, so my Scottish-loving heart is still satiated.

Hamilton

2016 Reading List #23: Hamilton: The Revolution, by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

I feel slightly ashamed that it’s the first of May and I’ve only completed 23 books this year. I guess I should preface that by saying I’m a fairly accomplished reader, but the need to teach freshman English and finish my MA thesis and take an oral exam kind of got in the way of my normal reading time. My lack of literature classes is also a player in this–no required reading means fewer books read, but freer time to spend.

Since finishing my thesis defense about 5 weeks ago, I’ve been working my way though Voyager, the third book in the Outlander series. I’ve hit the 500 page mark, but since the book caps out at 870, I’ve still got plenty to read. And since this is such a long book, I think it fair to supplement my reading with other things, which is why this post is even happening.

Since I’ve been listening to the Hamilton soundtrack repeatedly for months now, I figured preordering Hamilton: The Revolution was a smart idea. The book contains the show’s libretto accompanied by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s annotations and supplementary interviews and text detailing the preproduction process and insight into the show and the people who’ve made it happen.

I made an odd decision (not sure if I’d call it a mistake, but I was annoyed with myself) to send the book to my home address, where I wouldn’t be going for nearly 2 weeks, so the poor book lay untouched. Once I got home to it, though, we instantly bonded, and I set aside all other reading projects in favor of this one.

The book delivers everything you could ask for in terms of the behind-the-scenes knowledge of the show (it could only be more perfect if it was accompanied by a DVD of the full Broadway production). For whatever reason, I cried like every five minutes of reading. There are certain times when such a reaction is expected (like from the middle of Act Two to the curtain call), but I was oddly emotional for the whole experience.

And experience really is the right word for what this book offers. We don’t all have the luck (or money) to attend the hottest-ticketed show on Broadway, but offers like this one give a glimpse into the world of Hamilton. Now that I’ve finished reading it, I’ll resume my enjoyment of the soundtrack, and continue to hope I’ll win the lottery and afford great seats to this show.

My life lately

It feels like years since I’ve updated, but part of that comes from the timing of the semester. Three weeks ago today, I defended my master’s thesis project (and passed!), though it somehow feels like that was really decades ago. Apart from some final copy editing, my thesis is DONE! I’m both thrilled and a little sad to say goodbye to this project. I have a strong sense I’ll return to it in the future (dare I say dissertation?), but I’m quite content to both physically and metaphorically put it on the shelf for now.

Since preparing for my defense and rigorously studying for my oral exam are no longer activities that occupy my days and nights, my time has felt suspiciously free. As a present to myself for my defense, I ordered Voyager, the third book in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander book series, which was really the perfect treat to come home to. Reading for fun without feeling any guilt is one of the most wonderful feelings.

I’m also entering the final weeks of my first semester of teaching, though that seems ridiculous. Somehow I feel like the semester has just started, when in fact we’re three weeks from its conclusion. I will certainly be sad to see my first crop of students go (though I can’t say every moment of teaching and prepping are all that joyous).

So, to atone for being M.I.A. for a month, here’s my update of the pop culture I’m consuming these days. No one ever said being a teacher meant you couldn’t still enjoy copious amounts of television (and I think I’ve proven that).

Books — As mentioned above, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying Voyager–though, at 870 pages, it isn’t what you’d call a quick read. I’m only now closing in on the halfway point in the book, but knowing that there are still several other books in the series to dive into means I’m hungry to keep going.

Before starting Voyager, I’d been reading John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, though starting a new book meant I sort of abandoned this one until finishing it last weekend. This was the third Steinbeck I’ve read (after Of Mice and Men in 2014 and The Grapes of Wrath in 2015) and very tonally different from the others–Cannery Row is a very place-oriented, descriptive novel, not a plotty one. It wasn’t my favorite, but it’s a book I see myself returning to later in life.

I’ve generally felt like I’ve been slacking on my 2016 reading list, though I’ve still read 22 books thus far this year. Depending on my pace with Voyager, I may work through another Arthur Miller play or something of that sort to speed up a bit and feel like I’m making better progress. I’ve also got Hamilton: The Revolution (also known as the Hamiltome) waiting on me at home. Though I’m regretting the decision to have it shipped there since I won’t see it until next weekend, the distance means I’m not diving straight into another book, so that’s probably a good thing.

Movies — My movie-watching pace has also slowed considerably (though I’ve currently seen 41 new-to-me movies this year, so I really shouldn’t be complaining). I’ve not seen anything very noteworthy either, though I did watch The Danish Girl last weekend. I liked it, but it makes sense to me that it wasn’t nominated for Best Picture. I’ll likely be spending a quiet weekend in, so this might be a good time to knock a few things off my Netflix and Amazon viewing lists.

Television — It would be fair to say that my movie-watching has been hindered by my TV-watching, because I’ve been doing more than my fair share. As far as current programming goes, I’ve been keeping up with Bob’s Burgers, The Last Man on Earth, Call the Midwife, Girls, Jane the Virgin, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Bates Motel, The People vs. O.J. Simpson, Broad City, and Outlander (and, because I’m kind of an old woman, even Dancing with the Stars and Survivor). Since Girls, Broad City, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend all come to an end this week, my schedule will be a bit freer (though they’ll be replaced next week by Game of Thrones and Veep, so I guess things aren’t changing that much).

As for all these shows… I think The People vs. O.J. Simpson was a really terrific season of TV all around. I smell a well-deserved Emmy in Sarah Paulson’s future (though my ideal situation would feature a tie between Paulson and Kirsten Dunst) and hopefully the same treatment for the stellar Sterling K. Brown. I think Bates Motel is the best it’s been since season 1, and I kind of love the romance between Norma and Alex. I don’t think this is Broad City‘s best season, but there have been a couple standout episodes, including last week’s wonderful Mrs. Doubtfire homage. And OUTLANDER! There’s only been one episode so far in season 2, but I’m enthralled. I’ve rewatched bits of season 1 and can’t seem to get enough of this show lately, so I’m quite happy for its return.

Apart from what’s currently airing, I’ve also done a significant amount of side watching, including lots of Game of Thrones prep. This week I watched the Starz ballet miniseries Flesh and Bone, which was only okay. Lots of pretty dancing, melodramatic storylines, and mediocre acting. And just today (because I’m kind of terrible) I watched all of season 2 of Amazon’s Catastrophe, which I find very charming. Having met these characters last summer in a quick-moving first season, I was glad to see that season 2 developed them further into funny and likeable people (not to say they weren’t that way already). I’ve also watched the pilot episode of the new Starz series The Girlfriend Experience, which I think I’ll stick to since it’s getting good reviews. I didn’t have any particularly strong reactions to the pilot, but I’ll stick it out. And tomorrow’s release of season 2 of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix means my weekend will be just a little brighter (in a fairly literal way, considering Kimmy’s costuming).

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In summary, I’ve been watching a lot of TV–though I swear I do other things too. What things are you reading and watching? I’m always up for additions to my ever-growing lists!:)

 

Never Let Me Go

2016 Reading List #21: Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro

Though I definitely should’ve been spending my time more productively, I spent most of today reading the final half of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. If you can’t allow a little literary indulgence on spring break, when can you?

This book has been of interest to me for a long time, but I’ve never been able to find my own copy at a used bookstore, which is my primary resource for book-buying. My roommate brought me his copy after winter break, so I finally decided to let myself enjoy some recreational reading after feeling too committed to my thesis project to dive in earlier in the semester.

Thankfully, it was worth the wait. I saw the 2010 film adaptation and so I knew the general premise of the novel before beginning: in a reimagined late-twentieth century Britain, Kathy tells the story of her growing up with friends Ruth and Tommy. This isn’t any normal coming-of-age story, though; Kathy and her friends are clones, produced to fulfill their lives as organ donors for British citizens so terminal illness is no longer a death sentence.

Despite the sci-fi nature of a clone story, this is a very human narrative full of endearing characters. I was misty-eyed more than once throughout my reading experience, and it’s obvious why this has been such a lauded book.

This was my first time reading Ishiguro, but I’ll happily return to him soon, especially since I already have a copy of his Man Booker Prize-winning novel, The Remains of the Day. For now, I’ll probably start another reading project, though my impending thesis defense will likely slow my reading progress. A future in which I will no longer have to write research papers is sounding sweeter and sweeter…

When the only things in life that matter are Hamilton and Manic Pixie Dream Girls

Hello, world.

It’s March. What? I haven’t written anything very substantial here since my Sundance reflection, but I can’t believe more than a month has gone by since then. Apparently teaching and writing a thesis require more of my attention than blogging.

Speaking of those things… yes, my life these days is about scrambling through the last bits of writing on my thesis (defense is March 24 and I’m currently sitting on 101 pages, no biggie) and teaching English to two classes of college freshmen. Both are at times infuriating and exhilarating. I’m incredibly thankful for a semester that allows me two things to focus on that inspire me, but boy, do I yearn for a day to just watch TV without feeling guilty.

Thankfully, I’m enjoying a bit more free time this week with spring break. Since I pride myself on my reading and watching skills, here’s a quick update on the things I’ve been enjoying lately.

Books–Because I’ve been preparing for my oral exam that comes with defending my thesis, lots of my reading this year has just been rereading. I’ve also done a pretty significant number of plays lately. I love reading plays anyway, but I think this choice is more representative of my short attention span as I start to worry about the other things I should be doing rather than recreational reading.

As for things I’ve really liked, I completely loved reading the Collected Sonnets of Edna St. Vincent Millay for my oral exam. I’ve never been a poetry reader, so the fact that I enjoyed this so much feels like real character development. I also really loved reading Marsha Norman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play ‘Night, Mother and definitely bawled my way through the final 10 pages when I finished it yesterday morning. I have plans to read Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go now, which I’ve already started, but I’m having a hard time concentrating with the other things floating in my head. Hopefully I’ll make more progress soon. As of today, I’m 20 books into 2016, so I think I’m doing okay regardless.

TV–Since finishing Pushing Daisies and season two of Transparent in February, I haven’t started a new streaming show (again, too many other things to be concerned with). I’m also in a happy place with the TV that’s currently airing–I’m keeping up with Bob’s Burgers, Girls, Last Man on Earth, Jane the Virgin, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Broad City, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson. The upcoming returns of Outlander, Veep, and Game of Thrones also have me ridiculously excited, so I’m hoping time moves a little quicker in April.

Movies–Starting the year at Sundance certainly helped my film-watching this year; I’ve already seen 36 new (to me) films so far. Nothing recently has been too exceptional except for The Witch, which is just so fun and weird you can’t help but enjoy it. I also rewatched Room last week after first seeing it in January and enjoyed it even more the second time. I’ve been thinking about it often since, and I think that says a lot about its quality.

Now that I’ve written this, I’m realizing that life has been pretty quiet for me lately–except when I’m blaring the Hamilton soundtrack in my car, which is often. If all goes well, I’ll be writing again in a few weeks, having finished my thesis (!!!) and enjoying the downward slope toward graduation.

See you soon!

Biloxi Blues

2016 Reading List #18: Biloxi Blues, by Neil Simon

My 2016 reading list is off to a nice start! Once again, my readings have been greatly bolstered by reading plays, but I’m just as interested in expanding my theatrical knowledge as any other genre, so I do what I can.

After reading Brighton Beach Memoirs two years ago for a class, I was happy to find a copy of Biloxi Blues at a discount bookstore to continue reading Neil Simon’s trilogy. Biloxi Blues is mostly light and funny, though there are some real moments of seriousness as the play revolves around a group of training soldiers in the midst of World War II.

Since finishing After You, I’ve tried to keep my recreational reading to a minimum–that oral exam I have in three weeks (!) requires some serious studying, so I can’t let myself wander too far into fun reading territory. Plays and poetry (which I’ve never considered leisurely reading until recently) have helped me stay sane and entertained while not being too distracting from exam prep.

However, since it’s spring break, I’m letting myself have a little freedom and plan to read Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go this week. I saw the movie when it came out in 2010 and really liked it, so I have high hopes for the book. Stay tuned for an update soon!

Much Ado About Nothing

2016 Reading List #15: Much Ado About Nothing, by William Shakespeare

Only one reread left in my oral exam preparation! We’re only four weeks into the semester but it’s flying by. I’ve got a month and three days (!) until my thesis defense/oral exam and I’m teaching 3 days a week, which didn’t seem like very much on my plate, but that was wrong.

I’m surviving, but oh goodness, will I be happy when this whole deal is over. As I have to have a play by Shakespeare on my reading list, I chose the one I saw performed at the Globe Theatre: Much Ado About Nothing, which is my favorite of the Shakespearean comedies I’ve read.

As I tend to say when writing my book reviews of Shakespeare, I don’t know that I can add anything original about a text this old. It’s funny and ridiculous and totally enjoyable, so go read/watch it!

My last bits of oral exam prep should conclude this week before I’m just in full-on study mode: rereading The Glass Menagerie and familiarizing myself with the works of John Donne and Anne Bradstreet. My brain is not entirely pleased.