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.

The Hound of the Baskervilles

Book #18: The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Arthur Conan Doyle

Since I’m on snow day #4 of a full week off school during our snowpocalypse, so I’ve had more than enough time to binge on reading, TV, and books. So much for my academic productivity.

My latest reading venture was one I’ve looked forward to for a long time: Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles. Considering I’ve written two lengthy research papers on Sherlock Holmes, it seemed time that I actually read one of his books. The story is fun and light, and since I adore BBC’s Sherlock, I truly enjoyed imagining Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as the famous detective duo.

If you’re spending some time inside on these cold, cold days, spend some time with my favorite detective.

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Snow Days

I couldn’t be happier to be writing this from the comfort of my bed, snuggled under a pile of blankets with snow falling outside my window. My semester got off to a busy start, so I thought I’d take this moment of reprieve to write a quick update of my pop culture life these days.

Books – School reading obviously takes precedent over any leisurely reading, but I’m still free enough that I’m able to maintain something for myself. After forging my way through a book of William Inge plays, I took a sharp turn to reading Daniel Handler’s The Basic Eight, a fun teen novel about murder (I guess it doesn’t sound that funny, but it really is). My latest Southern lit reading assignment was Erskine Caldwell’s Tobacco Road, a super strange and darkly comic book chronicling the strange lives of a group in Depression-era rural Georgia. It’s a truly entertaining read. This past weekend I finished My Ideal Bookshelf, a collection of lists made by various celebrities of the handful of book they’d put on their “ideal” bookshelves. It was especially fun to read the lists of celebrities I like (like James Franco), and the book provided me with several books I’ve added to my own reading list.

Currently, I’m in the middle of reading Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles and I’m enjoying the experience tremendously. I’ve also started Ernest Hemingway’s short story collection In Our Time, a book I’m required to present about in one of my classes next month. This snow day (which just might turn into two snow days) is giving me the perfect opportunity to stay in and read guilt-free.

Movies – I’m well on my way with my 100 movie goal for 2015, having watched 23 new movies this year. Some recent favorites include the classic Pulp Fictionwhich I hadn’t seen until recently, and Still Alice, the movie for which Julianne Moore is likely to win an Oscar. Admittedly, I also got really into this Lifetime movie called Restless Virgins that I watched on Netflix, so I guess that should make the list as well. Sometimes you need something mindless to watch, I guess.

TV – I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so busy with TV-watching as I do now. I’m making pretty good progress on my rewatch of Lost (I’m currently watching episode 2×15), but I’m also kept very occupied by all the normal TV shows I watch that are airing. This list includes: Downton Abbey, Girls, Bob’s Burgers, Jane the Virgin, Parks and Recreation, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Broad City, Scandal, Reign, and How to Get Away with Murder. It’s both sad and a little stress-relieving that Parks and Rec and How to Get Away with Murder will be ending in the coming weeks so my watch list can be pared down a bit. However, Bates Motel, Game of Thrones, and Veep will all be returning soon, so the madness continues, I suppose. For now, though, I’m content to stay in my bed and enjoy my cozy day inside.

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Book #14: Tobacco Road, by Erskine Caldwell

My most recent reading venture for my Southern lit class was an especially memorable one: Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell is the kind of book filled with so much ridiculousness you won’t be able to stop reading. The theme of our class reading list is Southern Gothic and the Grotesque, so this isn’t exactly a book for everyone, but it’s one I found highly entertaining.

It tells the story mostly of the Lester family, dirt poor in Depression era rural Georgia. Jeeter, the family patriarch, has no way to make a living, but he believes God will eventually provide for him. His stubborn faith that something good must come eventually drives the cyclical plot, and spoiler alert: Jeeter never gets the miracle he hopes for.

The enjoyable thing about this book is just how darkly comic and insane it is. These people are hardly more civilized than animals, and the strange circumstances in which they find themselves are nothing short of dark comedy’s paradise. Tobacco Road may be a quick read, but it’s sure to leave you thinking long after the last page is turned.

The Basic Eight

Book #13: The Basic Eight, by Daniel Handler

When I went to New York in December, my friend and traveling companion Ryan was reading The Basic Eight, and since he laugh aloud many time while reading, I became interested in reading the book for myself.

The Basic Eight is a novel by Daniel Handler, perhaps more famous for his pseudonym, Lemony Snicket, under which he wrote A Series of Unfortunate Events. This novel is more grown up that his series, but it still holds Handler’s characteristic dark comedy that makes his works so fun to read.

A glimpse at the plot: the book presents the diary of Flannery Culp, a young woman telling the story of her senior year of high school in San Francisco in an attempt to prove her innocence in the murder she’s been accused of. Though this might not exactly sound like a book of hilarity, Handler presents readers with entertaining characters and situations that make them forget the dark nature of the story (much like the general story of A Series of Unfortunate Events).

I was a bit slow in my reading, but I’m not two weeks into my semester and the work picked up quickly. Now I turn back to school reading, and I doubt I’ll have too much time to read anything on my own time, but I’ll do my best.

Come Back, Little Sheba

Book #11: Come Back, Little Sheba, by William Inge

My William Inge reading streak continues with Come Back, Little Sheba. I’m reading one last play by Inge before moving on to anything else, so stay tuned.

I was less interested in this play that Inge’s others that I’ve read, but I didn’t dislike it. It’s a shorter play, and I just generally felt like it didn’t have a strong of an impact on me.

The play centers on the lives of Lola and her husband, Doc, and a college-aged woman who rents a room from them, named Marie. Lola is lonely and desires a more exciting life, though she isn’t quite sure how to get it.

Lots of the play’s conflict hinges on the lack of communication between Lola and Doc, who married young because she was pregnant (only to lose the baby). The play presents challenges in marriage, but I didn’t feel like it said as much as I’d hoped.

Now on to the last Inge play in my collection: Bus Stop. I hope I enjoy this one a bit more.