Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence

Book #58: Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence, by Doris Pilkington

Another book crossed off the reading list this weekend! Making progress sure does feel good.

Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence was a book I stumbled upon in a quest to find a book dealing with colonial issues in Australia for my postcolonial literature class. I was vaguely familiar with the story because I saw the film adaptation when it came out more than a decade ago, but I was interested to delve into the story with a fresh perspective.

Though this book tells an incredible story, the writing leaves something to be desired. Pilkington tells the story of her mother and two aunts who, as the half-caste daughters of Aboriginal mothers and white fathers, were taken away from their homes to a native settlement where they could be educated under a Western (and white) system. Molly, Gracie, and Daisy were ages 14, 11, and 8 when they were taken from their homes, but after spending a few days at the settlement, decided to escape and walk back to their home across Australia.

Needless to say, the book casts light on some pretty disturbing facts of colonial Australia, but my biggest issue was that I didn’t think the writing matched up to the gravity of the story itself. Pilkington takes a storytelling approach to this true tale, so it reads more like a narrative than a true story. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, but I felt like it demeaned a bit of the importance of this journey. Pilkington tries to cram Australia’s colonial history into the book before she begins her family’s story, and it all feels a bit rushed and superficial.

After reading the book, though, I would be interested to watched the film again for comparison. While I’m not in love with the book, I was thankful for the perspective on a section of colonial history I know very little about.

Diary of a Teenage Girl

Book #57: The Diary of a Teenage Girl, by Phoebe Gloeckner

Hello, long lost blog world! It’s been too long.

This may be self explanatory, but school has kept me so insanely busy that there hasn’t been much time for writing blog updates. Every weekend I think about how I’d like to write something and then it just doesn’t happen. In this final push at the tail end of the semester, though, I’m going to do my best to keep up.

Last night I finished The Diary of a Teenage Girl, a book I’ve been enjoying for a while as my recreational reading project. I really enjoyed the film adaptation when I saw it in August, so after (finally) getting my first paycheck at the end of September, I treated myself to the book on which the film was based.

I think the most endearing aspect of the novel (which is also part memoir, but Gloeckner asks us to read this book as fiction) is heroine Minnie Goetze’s voice; she’s charming and funny and insecure and vulnerable–much like all of us at the age of fifteen. Parts of the story are disturbing, but I’d definitely recommend this work.

Now that one of my five current reading projects is crossed off the list, my next goal if the weekend is to finish Doris Pilkington’s Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence for a presentation next week. Stay tuned for more posts soon!

After the Fall

Book #54: After the Fall, by Arthur Miller

You may have noticed that I’ve skipped a few of my reading projects in recent posts, but that’s mostly been because I’ve been reading school stuff that I don’t really know what to do with. What could I really say about Dante’s Inferno that you haven’t heard? Probably nothing too exciting.

Anyway, this third semester of my master’s program is kind of kicking my butt. I’ve pretty much known from the get go that this would be my hardest semester; I’m a full-time student, taking lit classes that are out of my comfort zone, drafting as much of the content of my MA thesis project as possible, and prepping my own syllabus so I can teach two sections of Intro to College Writing next semester. So yeah, it’s a lot.

Because of this, I’ve accepted that I won’t be able to do much recreational reading this semester, but there are a few moments here and there when it seems like I might be able to squeeze something in. That’s how I ended up reading Arthur Miller’s hugely autobiographical play, After the Fall. 

After the Fall isn’t what you’d call “light reading”; the play jumps from scene to scene because it takes place in the memory of the main character, Quentin. But if you know anything about Miller’s personal life, you’ll soon start to figure out who these characters really represent. Each of Miller’s three wives (ignoring the woman he was with at the very end of his life) is present, but most time is dedicated to Miller’s second wife, Marilyn Monroe.

Things look pretty bleak when we get into the truly dysfunctional marriage between Quentin and Maggie (AKA Miller and Monroe). We see Maggie becoming jealous and obsessive, turning to pills and alcohol to numb her pain. I know the play has been criticized for portraying Monroe is this light, but I’m not sure how (in)accurate it really is. To me, the real emotional impact of this play comes from knowing the reality of Monroe’s tragic life. Monroe was a woman who needed far more help than she ever received.

Miller dedicates After the Fall to this third wife, photographer Ingeborg Morath, who is thinly veiled as Holga in the play. Holga is the ray of hope at the play’s conclusion, but by that point, I was far more concerned for Maggie’s bleak future than Quentin getting his happy ending.

1989 Nashville hopes and wildest dreams (ah, ah)

My dearest taylorswift,

I’ve never missed one of your tours. I’ve screamed and cried and danced through 9 of your shows since 2009, when I attended the Fearless tour in Louisville with my mom and high school history teacher. What a journey it’s been.

I came to love you first because I loved the Jonas Brothers (so glad you’re all friends again, by the way). Suddenly there was this ethereal blonde girl who sang country songs that somehow resonated with my life. I saw you as someone who could perfectly express all these feelings I’d had or somehow knew even if I’d never been in your situations. Your songs made my normal, small town life feel bigger somehow.

Fearless was the album of the end of high school for me. Love Story was riding to an away football game on one of the first chilly September days. Fifteen was (and still is) the song that brought tears to my eyes when I thought about how tragic and beautiful adolescence can be. Change was the song that made me want to spin around and jump and feel ready to take on the world. The Best Day was the song I sang in front of 300 of my peers at a summer camp when I really missed my mom.

Speak Now was my freshman year of college. Sparks Fly was dancing around my dorm room with my best friend who was just as excited and freaked out by college as me. Dear John was the song I blasted and belted along to on long car rides. Never Grow Up was like the hug I needed when I felt homesick.

Red was all the stress and craziness of the end of college. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together was the song I danced to through the aisles of the bookstore where I worked before going back to school. 22 was (obviously) the anthem of my 22nd birthday. All Too Well was the song that gave me chills the first time I listened to the album. It’s still my favorite you’ve ever written.

1989 is the album of the beginning of my adult life. It’s getting me through grad school and applying to PhD programs. It’s the only CD that’s been in my car since October 2014. Welcome to New York was the sparkly song that accompanied my roommate and me on a visit to New York last December. Blank Space and Bad Blood are the songs I’ll probably still be dancing to by the time album six rolls out. Shake It Off gets me through the days when I think school might kill me. You Are In Love is everything I hope to have in a relationship.

Your songs have made me me. Your music has been the soundtrack of my life for six years. When I’m feeling especially overwhelmed or sad or tired or lonely, you’re always the person I can turn to for comfort, a crazy dance party, or anything in between.

This weekend will be a weird one for me. It’s the first time you’ll be in town and I don’t have tickets. My status as a lowly grad student means I haven’t gotten a paycheck for five months (which is just the worst, right?) and my budget hasn’t exactly been big enough for concert tickets. One of my best friends and I have been desperately trying to figure out how to get ourselves into one of the Nashville shows just to be part of the audience. Any chance you could help us out?



Dragonfly in Amber

Book #49: Dragonfly in Amber, by Diana Gabaldon

If you’ve followed my blog at all, you’ll know I fell in love with the Starz series Outlander about this time last year. I started watching it after reading good reviews and was instantly hooked by the characters, drama, romance, and beautiful setting of the show.

Though I knew the series was based on Diana Gabaldon’s book series, I didn’t really pursue reading the books until this past spring when the first season of Outlander returned for the second half of its premiere season. I soon became too anxious to find out what would happen next, so I decided the only way to find out was to get to reading.

Since season two of Outlander (sadly) won’t premiere until the spring of 2016, I haven’t tried to rush through Dragonfly in Amber, the second installment in the book series. My copy of the book rounds out at just under 1,000 pages, so it doesn’t exactly make for quick reading. But after starting the book at the very end of June, I’m happy to say I finished it on this crisp fall afternoon.

Though the majority of the action in Dragonfly in Amber takes place in the 1740s like Outlander, the opening and conclusion of the novel are set in 1968, with Claire as a mother revisiting Scotland for the first time, hoping to share her story with her daughter, Brianna. This frame narrative was quite surprising for me, but worked in a way I really enjoyed; it kept things in perspective about the future for Claire, but didn’t skip over any of the story that I was so intrigued by in the previous novel.

In the most general sense, this novel sees Claire and Jamie doing what they can to keep the war between the Scottish highlanders and the English at bay, since Claire knows the Scots fight a losing battle. The story takes them on a journey to France where we meet several new characters. By the novel’s end, we’ve also seen the deaths of several familiar characters, all of which were surprising to me. It’s important to note that Gabaldon is the type of writer who isn’t afraid to kill off major characters.

There were times in the novel when I felt like the pace dragged a bit, but I love that it ended with some very tender moments between Claire and Jamie and a pretty fantastic cliffhanger (though I must say it was less surprising for me since I know a bit about where the series is headed). I’m especially interested to see how Gabaldon plays with the time changes throughout the rest of the series, and I’m curious to see if the TV adaptation follows this same structure.

At this moment, I’d love to dive into Voyager, book three of the series, but I know that my seriously heavy semester of coursework won’t allow it. Thankfully I haven’t bought the book so I won’t be too tempted to abandon my required reading just yet. For now, I’ll keep myself busy, but I’m hoping to journey back to the Outlander world sometime this winter. Here’s hoping!

Things Fall Apart

Book #48: Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe

Three weeks into the semester and things are up and running. I’m at a point where I’m reading at least one book a week, trudging my way through The Divine Comedy, and filling all the other time with “scholarly” reading and drafting new sections of my thesis.

Suffice it to say that I have no shortage of assignments to occupy my time.

This weekend’s reading was Chinua Achebe’s classic, Things Fall Apart. I first read this novel as a high school sophomore seven years ago (yeesh!) in an AP World History class, so I was glad to have the chance to reread it from a literary perspective. I remember feeling like Things Fall Apart was one of the first pieces of “real literature” I’d ever read because it exposed me to the type of tragic ending that’s exemplary of so many classic literary works.

This time around I was less enthusiastic about the book. Achebe’s writing is perhaps deceptively easy to understand, but I felt bored by the narrative structure. There’s hardly any style to his writing, so it feels like someone sharing a fairly straightforward account of some stuff that happened in a tribe in Niger around the turn of the 20th century. The novel is also incredibly sexist and I don’t (yet) know enough about Achebe to know if that’s reflective of his personal opinions, but it made it difficult for me to have much sympathy for Okonkwo as a protagonist.

To me, the strongest part of the novel is Part III, when white colonists begin to invade the lives of the indigenous peoples and attempt to spread Christianity. What begins as a respectable cause turns quickly as both sides become violent. This section feels like the only time we see actions of major consequence, and I wish it encompassed a larger part of the book’s action.

So, though I have mixed feelings about this novel, I don’t have to spend much more time thinking about it. Now I’m on to the next one.

Heart of Darkness

Book #47: Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad

Thank God for long weekends!

I’m now two weeks into semester three of grad school, and this semester is clearly prepping to kick my butt. I’m doing the best I can to stay ahead in my classes, but I imagine that will be a bit more difficult than usual this time around.

Here’s where the benefit of an extra long weekend comes in. I’m already fortunate enough to have Fridays off, so I made sure to get started on my homework bright and early yesterday morning. Like all casual days of reading, I dove straight into Joseph Conrad’s classic novel Heart of Darkness. I first read it over five years ago during my final year of high school and remembered Heart of Darkness as one of the hardest reading projects I’d ever undertaken. Needless to say, I felt it necessary to give myself enough time to digest it all before we discuss it in my class Wednesday night.

Unexpectedly, I ended up reading the whole book over the course of the day. Heart of Darkness is a deceptively short novel; it’s under 100 pages, but each sentence is packed with so much weight that it’s kind of impossible to read quickly. I started with a brand new copy of the book that’s now marked up on every page to reflect the density of the novel.

I don’t imagine that there’s anything new I can say about Heart of Darkness that the rest of the world hasn’t already said, except to say that it was just as haunting this time around as the first.

Now that this assignment is crossed off my list, I’m just moving along to the next thing. All I can say now is how happy I am to have some extra free time this weekend to get myself all geared up for another busy week.