After the Fall

Books I Read in 2015

I’ve been a bit all over the place with my reading the last two years. In 2013, I set a goal of reading 40 books and beat it, and in 2014, I seriously surpassed my goal of reading 52 books by reading 91 (my numbers have been greatly bolstered by reading plays, in case you were wondering).

Since I’m in an English Literature graduate program, I obviously do plenty of reading, but I think I went back to my goal of 50 books in 2015. Though this number might be a bit low based on 2014’s results, I stay plenty busy with my school reading and don’t always have lots of time for recreational reading. I ended up exceeding that goal by reading 69 books in 2015, an achievement I’m pretty proud of. Here’s my full list of reading from 2015–for reference, the titles listed in bold are those I particularly enjoyed.

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  2. Live From New York, James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales
  3. Will Grayson, Will Grayson, John Green and David Levithan
  4. Looking for Alaska, John Green
  5. Sanctuary, William Faulkner
  6. It’s Only A Play, Terrence McNally
  7. Brother to Dragons, Robert Penn Warren
  8. On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan
  9. Paddle Your Own Canoe, Nick Offerman
  10. The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, William Inge
  11. Come Back, Little Sheba, William Inge
  12. Bus Stop, William Inge
  13. The Basic Eight, Daniel Handler
  14. Tobacco Road, Erskine Caldwell
  15. My Ideal Bookshelf, Jane Mount and Thessaly la Force
  16. Fallen Too Far, Abbi Glines
  17. Wait for You, J. Lynn
  18. The Hound of the Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle
  19. Dead as a Doornail, Charlaine Harris
  20. In Our Time, Ernest Hemingway
  21. Child of God, Cormac McCarthy
  22. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion
  23. Love, Rosie, Cecelia Ahern
  24. Airships, Barry Hannah
  25. Crimes of the Heart, Beth Henley
  26. The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston
  27. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
  28. Joe, Larry Brown
  29. Wolf Whistle, Lewis Nordan
  30. Outlander, Diana Gabaldon
  31. Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie
  32. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Jesse Andrews
  33. In the Unlikely Event, Judy Blume
  34. Angels in America Part One: Millennium ApproachesTony Kushner
  35. Angels in America Part Two: Perestroika, Tony Kushner
  36. The Complete Stories, Flannery O’Connor
  37. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, J.K. Rowling
  38. Quidditch Through the Ages, J.K. Rowling
  39. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
  40. Paper Towns, John Green
  41. White Teeth, Zadie Smith
  42. Shame, Salman Rushdie
  43. Disgrace, J.M. Coetzee
  44. The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien
  45. The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides
  46. Vita Nuova, Dante Alighieri
  47. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
  48. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
  49. Dragonfly in AmberDiana Gabaldon
  50. We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  51. Season of Migration to the North, Tayeb Salih
  52. Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, Aimé Césaire
  53. Divine Comedy Vol. I: Inferno, Dante Alighieri
  54. After the Fall, Arthur Miller
  55. Murder in Retrospect, Agatha Christie
  56. Divine Comedy Vol. II: Purgatorio, Dante Alighieri
  57. The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Phoebe Gloeckner
  58. Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence, Doris Pilkington
  59. Divine Comedy Vol. III: Paradiso, Dante Alighieri
  60. The Grownup, Gillian Flynn
  61. Me Before You, Jojo Moyes
  62. The Book of Mormon, Trey Parker and Matt Stone
  63. Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh
  64. Dracula, Bram Stoker
  65. Doctor Sleep, Stephen King
  66. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, John Boyne
  67. This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  68. The Cripple of Inishmaan, Martin McDonagh

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.