A Confederacy of Dunces

Book #27: A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole

Dear spring semester, could you please just hurry up and end?

I only feel this way sometimes. Or maybe about half the time. After this week, I have 2 more weeks of class and then finals, and I’ve started to reach my capacity on being able to care about school work. The chance to freely watch TV and movies and read books of my choosing is so tempting that I’m struggling to ignore them. My will power is at an all-time low, and I need to do something about it.

On the upside, I’ve had some good assigned reading to keep me somewhat focused. I just finished John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces, a truly strange book that I had to read for Southern lit. It’s a satirical novel, one that focuses on the polarizing Ignatius J. Reilly and a cast of loosely connected characters.

This book is full of laugh-out-loud moments. As repulsive as Ignatius is, he’s pretty funny, especially in his complete disregard of social etiquette. The book runs a bit longer than I found necessary, but this really just contributes to its overall absurdity. If you’re a fan of comedy, you’re bound to be a fan of this book.

Now, among the many papers I must write, I’m down to my final two reading assignments for the semester: Larry Brown’s Joe and Lewis Nordan’s Wolf Whistle. Here’s to ending on a strong note.

Thoughts and Things

It’s officially that time of the semester when things get crazy. That reality might be especially true for grad students: in the coming weeks, I’ve got 5 books to read, 3 major papers to write, and final exams to take. Somehow, though, I’m feeling pretty good about it all (believe it or not, writing this post isn’t just a way to postpone my homework).

In fact, things have been exceptionally good lately. Sure, sometimes I wish I didn’t have to go to work or school, but I’m feeling fulfilled and challenged in all kinds of wonderful ways.

Here are some things that are bringing me joy these days. No surprise, but many of these things are pop culture-related.

  • Watching “Empire” has been a joy. My roommate and I still have 4 episodes left, but we’re obsessed. Who wouldn’t love Cookie Lyon?
  • As of Saturday, “Outlander” is back in my life and I am so very happy about it. It’s safe to say that the books will find their way onto my summer reading list.
  • I’ve got a great thesis advisor and a project I’m really excited and passionate about. I’ve barely started the work, but I’m feeling ready and motivated toward progress.
  • I got to watch Dreamgirls today and it was pretty invigorating.
  • My assigned school reading has provided me with a wonderfully diverse group of books I may have never approached on my own. I sped my way through Beth Henley’s Crimes of the Heart for the second time over the weekend, and I’m now close to completing Maxine Hong Kingston’s harrowing The Woman Warrior. Up next: John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces and Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine. 
  • I get to write research papers on topics I care about and feel confident I can talk about for 20 pages. This is kind of lame, but it’s a relief.
  • Rewatching “Lost” has been a little treasure in my life. Why is this show so much smarter than me?
  • I’m joining my dad and stepmom in New York next month! Hopefully I’ll also get a chance to visit a few friends during my visit.
  • I’m in a writing workshop course that’s challenged me to write personal pieces, something I haven’t really done since high school (apart from keeping this blog, of course). It’s been a bit scary, but I think I might actually make a habit of it.
  • In June, my mom and I will be traveling to Austin, TX to attend the ATX TV Festival! I bought our tickets when the “Gilmore Girls” reunion panel was announced last fall, but as they continue to make announcements of the programming, I get more and more excited for the adventure.
  • I’m almost halfway done with grad school! What is happening?!
  • I spent a lovely, relaxing, spiritually-fulfilling Easter weekend at home with family and friends. I’m so thankful for my fourth anniversary as a Catholic, and attending Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday was the perfect source of inspiration for the coming weeks.

And now, for my biggest news. Last year about this time, I was finishing my undergraduate days and preparing to start grad school, hoping for an assistantship with the English program in which I am enrolled.Things didn’t work out as planned, but I ended up with another assistantship that’s been a gratifying experience.

Things are still improving. I’ve been offered an assistantship in the English department, which will not only provide better funding toward my education, but also give me the chance to teach two introductory English courses next spring! Getting to start my dream job a little early is both exciting and terrifying.

And now for the icing on the cake. As you probably know, I attended the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, an experience that has absolutely affected my life (in the most positive way). I’ve planned on returning to Sundance in 2016, particularly because it directly relates to my master’s thesis topic, and after I didn’t receive a fellowship that would provide partial funding for the excursion, I’ve been thinking about how I’ll budget to pay for the trip.

Now comes the good news: to make a long story short, I’ve been asked to serve as a teaching assistant for the 2016 Sundance course, so I’ll serve in a somewhat advisory capacity for the students attending. In exchange, all my expenses will be covered. I repeat: I am going to Sundance FOR FREE. I expect this is an opportunity that will never arise again, but it’s one that’s made me wake up with a smile on my face every day.

So if you’ve read this or if you’ve been in my life recently, I just want to say thanks. I feel incredibly blessed and grateful for this life. If you’re feeling sad or stressed or bummed out, please let me know what I can do to return the favor. I’m in an especially “spread the love” kind of mood and the moment, and I want everyone in my life to feel as content as I do at this moment.

XOXO,

Gossip Girl

Airships

Book #24: Airships, by Barry Hannah

My blog updates have been fairly nonexistent recently because school is controlling my life. (For reference, though, I am maintaining my viewing habits; I finished season 3 of “Lost” earlier today, I’m working my way through “Empire,” and my movie count for the year is up to 40).

Reading wise, I don’t think I’ll have any time for recreational books until school winds down for the semester, but I’ve still got plenty of assigned texts to keep me busy. I just finished reading Barry Hannah’s wacky short story collection Airships, a text we were assigned to read almost in its entirety for class, so I went ahead and finished it.

A lot of Hannah’s writing is tricky and difficult to understand, but it’s also entertaining and hilarious at times. I’m particularly fond of the very short story “Coming Close to Donna” if you’re looking for a recommendation.

This weekend I’ll be jumping ahead to my next school readings: Beth Henley’s Crimes of the Heart and Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior. In my very sparse free moments, I’m also slowly working my way through Flannery O’Connor’s complete short stories, of which I had to read seven for class last week. That’s a project I don’t expect to finish for some time, but she’s too good to put down.

Spring Break

Don’t get too excited — this isn’t going to be a post chronicling all the exciting adventures I’ve had in my days off. Actually, my spring break has primarily been spent sitting on my bed with either a screen or book in front of my face. This, of course, is my little version of paradise.

My spring break was made a little sweeter since we got an extra two days off because Kentucky has been a haven for major snow fall in recent weeks. Two weeks ago, we had a week off school for about a foot-and-a-half of snow and ice. Last Wednesday and Thursday, we received another 21-23″ that closed the university two days early for spring break. Now it’s 60 degrees. Things have been a bit odd in the weather department, to say the least.

Since it’s been a few weeks since my last post of this sort, I thought I’d take a few minutes to do another update. Here’s what I’ve been watching and reading lately.

Books — I haven’t accomplished as much reading over break as I’d hoped, but I’ll try to remedy that in my last days off. Earlier this week I finished Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, a book I’d read partially several years ago, but came back to after borrowing it from my roommate. Didion’s nonfiction is relatable and comforting, especially if you’ve recently lost a loved one.

Last night, I finished Cecelia Ahern’s Love, Rosie, previously published as Where Rainbows End. I got it as a cheap Kindle download from Amazon, and knowing it was from the same author as P.S. I Love You (which I haven’t read), I hoped it’d be a decent book. I found the writing incredibly weak and the overall story rather boring and frustrating, so that was a pretty giant waste of time, unfortunately.

Now I’m turning back to my assigned school reading. My plan is to begin reading John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces today. The book isn’t due for a few weeks, but since it’s long and, I’m assuming, fairly dense, I want to have ample time to finish it. I’ve also got some Flannery O’Connor short stories to read for classes next week, so I’ll try to get a head start on those. O’Connor is always a pleasure, so that’s something I’m excited about.

Movies — I haven’t watched much recently that’s very noteworthy, but I’m at least happy to be making progress on my intended watch list for the year. I rented two Redbox movies this week, Chasing Hearts and Men, Women & Children. The first was really lame; because Jamie Dornan is the film’s star, the distributors apparently tried to milk his Fifty Shades success, but the movie was mostly boring.

I rented Men, Women & Children because I really like Jason Reitman, but his movies have been rather off lately, especially since this was the first film he directed following the ridiculous Labor Day. The movie’s cast is good, but the story is rather melodramatic and depressing; it presents the dark side of a society controlled by technology. I was interested enough in the story to keep watching, but it’s not a film I’d watch a second time.

I also watched the film adaptation of Love, Rosie, which is thankfully far better than the book. The film’s writer and director took lots of liberties with the book’s story, and ended up producing something much more entertaining. It’s a pretty formulaic romantic comedy, but those can be fun, so I’d recommend it if you looking for something of that type.

TV — I think most of my viewing time this break has been spent on TV-bingeing. I started watching Teen Wolf on a whim just over two weeks ago, and I’m currently watching the final episode so I’ll be caught up when season five begins this summer. It isn’t a great show by any means, but it’s fun and entertaining, and I’m glad to have something to watch during the dry months of summer TV.

My mom and I also started watching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix. We got through the first five episodes in one sitting, but haven’t returned to it yet because our timing hasn’t really worked out, but I think I’ll plan to finish it now that I’m done with Teen Wolf. Once that’s done, I’ll return to Lost, since I paused in the break between seasons two and three.

As for on-air TV, I’m SO excited that Bates Motel returned this week. It looks like things have officially gotten inappropriate this season, so that should be loads of fun. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Broad City, and Girls will all be reaching season’s end in the next week or so, so that should lighten my TV-watching load a bit (though I’m sad to see them all go). Otherwise, I’m still keeping up with Jane the Virgin, Reign, and Scandal, and I believe I’ll wait until the summer to binge on the current season of Broadchurch with my mom, so that will slowly begin building up on our DVR.

Now back to real life. Here’s to soaking up my last moments of no obligations before school and all those pesky deadlines and assignments return.

download

Book #22: The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion

Happy spring break, world! (Or not, since I’m one of the lucky few experiencing a week off right now). I just realized that I forgot to post about finishing this book a few days ago, so better late than never, I guess.

I remember reading some of The Year of Magical Thinking in high school after my mom read it, but I never finished the book. In my writing workshop class we’ve discussed Didion a bit, so I borrowed this book from my roommate so I could remind myself of Didion’s memoir.

This book is perfect for anyone coping with the loss of a loved one. Didion’s husband died of a heart attack in 2003, and at the same time, her only daughter was hospitalized in critical condition after a severe bout of the flu.

Didion writes about the first year of life after her husband’s death, which unfortunately saw many more complications with her daughter’s health. Her writing is honest and sometimes fragmented, much like the thoughts of those coping with death.

I think The Year of Magical Thinking is a must-read for anyone dealing with a recent loss. I think I had a bit of difficulty in relating to some of the book because (thankfully) I haven’t dealt with death in a long time in my direct family, but I imagine this is a book that readers could revisit many times through life when loss is a bit more raw.

Now I’m ready to turn back to my required school reading. My plan is to jump ahead a bit to start reading John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces, required for my Southern Lit class, in the hopes that I can continue to stay ahead on the seven novels I still have left to read for the semester.

Child of God

Book #21: Child of God, by Cormac McCarthy

Let’s just say that my most recent reading ventures was… an experience. I’ve never read any Cormac McCarthy before, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect except maybe something fairly grim. I was basically right, but Child of God also has its fair share of humor, though it’s a very dark brand of comedy.

Essentially, Child of God is about Lester Ballard, a man in East Tennessee who lives off the land as an outsider; he’s falsely accused of rape early in the book and spends most of his time on the outskirts of society just trying to survive. Things start to get pretty weird, though, when Lester finds a young couple dead in the backseat of a car in a compromising position. Lester is lonely and takes the female for a “companion”… I assume you can connect the dots.

Now that I’ve finished the book, I’m anxious to watch James Franco’s 2012 film adaptation of the novel, a new addition to Netflix. I love James Franco and we have very similar literary tastes, so I have high hopes for the movie.

In Our Time

Book #20: In Our Time, by Ernest Hemingway

I’d say reading 20 books before the end of February is a pretty solid start to my reading list in 2015. I just finished Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time, a collection of short stories I have to present on in my American Short Stories class later this semester. If you know much about my literary tastes, you probably know that I have a major soft spot for Hemingway, so I’ve been especially studious in getting my reading done for this several weeks in advance.

I’ve also read several of these stories before, in my Hemingway and Faulkner class a few years ago. Most of the stories in In Our Time are Nick Adams stories, which chronicle Adams’s life from childhood to his return from World War I.

Generally, these stories deal with the savagery of war, particularly in an internal, personal sense. Hemingway also presents several scenarios of masculinity and femininity that are characteristic of his writing. As Hemingway’s second publication, In Our Time is a perfect example of his earliest works that helped establish his deceptively simple writing style. Hemingway fans, put this one on your to do list.