British literature

2017 Reading List #2: Lady Windermere’s Fan, by Oscar Wilde

The best thing about attending/working at a university where winter break is 5-6 weeks long is how much reading can get done in that time frame.

I’m doing my best to get off to a good start in 2017, and so far, I feel good about my progress.

I’m currently juggling three reading projects at once—sometimes I don’t know how to stop—but I try to balance various genres and goals when reading multiple things at once.

My mom and I are reading the illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets together (which is how we first read them when I was much younger), and after finishing Swing Time yesterday, I started on another book that’s helping to cross off one of my 2017 goals: A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf (I’ve never read her before, so I decided it was time to start).

But, since A Room of One’s Own can be complex and less readable that a typical novel, I decided to throw a play into the mix, which is how Lady Windermere’s Fan happened late last night.Reading two plays by Oscar Wilde is also a goal in 2017, and I’ll soon be able to cross that one off.

Lady Windermere’s Fan shows off Wilde’s characteristic witticism and is entirely enjoyable. Like many of Wilde’s plays, this one has it’s fair share of farcical elements, but it’s also a bit sweeter and sadder than something like The Importance of Being Earnest. The play takes place over 24 hours in the life of Lady Windermere, a young woman led to believe that her husband is having an affair with the new harlot in town. In truth, the relationship between her husband and the woman is more complicated, and all kinds of fun ensues during the play’s progress.

I sped through this play much quicker than I’d expected, so I’m planning to continue my Wilde reading alongside Woolf. I’ve got a collection of Wilde’s plays with three more to read, so I think I may just power through the entire thing before setting it aside.

Look for more reflection on my various reading projects in the coming days.

Happy reading!

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2017 Reading List #1: Swing Time, by Zadie Smith

Happy New Year! Though we’re already 2 days into 2017, I’m still enjoying my free time of winter break and using it to soak up as much reading/viewing as possible (while balancing my time productively in preparation for a new semester, of course).

My first completed reading project is one I’d been itching to start since receiving it for my birthday—Zadie Smith’s latest novel, Swing Time. I quickly fell in love with Smith’s writing when I read White Teeth in 2015 and have been slowly accumulating her other works. Swing Time, though, is the only other novel I’ve read by her, having also read The Book of Other People, a short story collection she edited in 2016.

Though Swing Time is a hefty novel that rounds out at 453 pages, it’s quick-moving and easy to read. The story follows an unnamed narrator through her youth, growing up biracial in North London, to her young adulthood as an assistant to an international pop star. Because the story is written by Smith, it’s riddled with complex issues like friendship, identity, feminism, family, and cultural appropriation. Smith’s characteristic ability to address these topics in a true-to-life way is what makes her writing so compelling.

Though I wasn’t quite as charmed by Swing Time as I was by White Teeth—though in fairness the scope of White Teeth is much broader and more complicated—Smith undeniably deserved her place on so many of the “best of” fiction lists at the end of 2016.

Since one of my reading goals in 2017 is to read two novels by Smith, I’ll definitely read On Beauty before the year ends, and I having a feeling The Autograph Man might find its way onto my reading list too.

2016 Reading List

 

Below is my complete reading list for 2016. Titles in bold are those I particularly enjoyed.

  1. 01/03: Brooklyn, Colm Toíbín
  2. 01/05: The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare
  3. 01/06: Attachments, Rainbow Rowell
  4. 01/10: Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare
  5. 01/11: The Man Who Had All the Luck, Arthur Miller
  6. 01/12: All My Sons, Arthur Miller
  7. 01/13: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
  8. 01/13: Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller
  9. 01/17: The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
  10. 01/31: The Castle of Otranto, Horace Walpole
  11. 02/09: Career of Evil, Robert Galbraith
  12. 02/16: After You, Jojo Moyes
  13. 02/17: The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde
  14. 02/18: Collected Sonnets of Edna St. Vincent Millay
  15. 02/20: Much Ado About Nothing, William Shakespeare
  16. 02/24: The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams
  17. 02/27: A Wild Patience Has Taken Me This Far, Adrienne Rich
  18. 03/02: Biloxi Blues, Neil Simon
  19. 03/08: ‘Night, Mother, Marsha Norman
  20. 03/09: The Lonesome West, Martin McDonagh
  21. 03/11: Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
  22. 04/10: Cannery Row, John Steinbeck
  23. 05/01: Hamilton: The Revolution, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter
  24. 05/22: Voyager, Diana Gabaldon
  25. 05/24: Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
  26. 05/27: Finding Fraser, KC Dyer
  27. 06/01: The Cherry Orchard, Anton Chekhov
  28. 06/07: The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
  29. 06/13: Definitely Dead, Charlaine Harris
  30. 06/15: An Enemy of the People, Arthur Miller
  31. 06/17: The Crucible, Arthur Miller
  32. 06/18: A View From the Bridge, Arthur Miller
  33. 06/24: Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, James Runcie
  34. 06/26: Luckiest Girl Alive, Jessica Knoll
  35. 07/03: Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
  36. 07/03: In the Heights, Lin-Manuel Miranda
  37. 07/04: The Seagull, Anton Chekhov
  38. 07/06: Tiny Beautiful Things, Cheryl Strayed
  39. 07/12: The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, Ayana Mathis
  40. 07/12: The Elephant Man, Bernard Pomerance
  41. 07/24: Light in August, William Faulkner
  42. 07/28: After the Fall, Arthur Miller
  43. 07/30: Incident at Vichy, Arthur Miller
  44. 07/31: The Price, Arthur Miller
  45. 08/01: The Creation of the World and Other Business, Arthur Miller
  46. 08/01: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne
  47. 08/04: Green Hills of Africa, Ernest Hemingway
  48. 08/07: At Fault, Kate Chopin
  49. 08/22: The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, Amy Schumer
  50. 08/23: Sidney Chambers and the Perils of Night, James Runcie
  51. 08/28: Bayou Folk, Kate Chopin
  52. 08/31: Collected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay
  53. 09/03: You’ll Grow Out of It, Jessi Klein
  54. 09/04: The Archbishop’s Ceiling, Arthur Miller
  55. 09/06: The American Clock, Arthur Miller
  56. 09/14: Bel Canto, Ann Patchett
  57. 10/03: Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen
  58. 10/03: Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide, J.K. Rowling
  59. 10/05: Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship, and Dangerous Hobbies, J.K. Rowling
  60. 10/06: Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics, and Pesky Poltergeists, J.K. Rowling
  61. 10/21: The Girls, Emma Cline
  62. 10/22: The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros
  63. 10/22: The Book of Other People, edited by Zadie Smith
  64. 10/25: The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, Issa Rae
  65. 10/27: A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness
  66. 10/30: The Widow, Fiona Barton
  67. 10/31: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson
  68. 11/05: Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty
  69. 11/06: Playing for Time, Arthur Miller
  70. 11/09: The World’s Wife, Carol Ann Duffy
  71. 11/19: Dark Sparkler, Amber Tamblyn
  72. 11/23: State of Wonder, Ann Patchett
  73. 11/25: The Ride Down Mt. Morgan, Arthur Miller
  74. 11/26: A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
  75. 11/26: The Last Yankee, Arthur Miller
  76. 11/27: Broken Glass, Arthur Miller
  77. 11/28: Carry This Book, Abbi Jacobson
  78. 11/29: Mr Peters’ Connections, Arthur Miller
  79. 11/30: Resurrection Blues, Arthur Miller
  80. 12/03: Sweetbitter, Stephanie Danler
  81. 12/06: Paris for One and Other Stories, Jojo Moyes
  82. 12/09: Why Not Me?, Mindy Kaling
  83. 12/12: The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
  84. 12/14: Three Tall Women, Edward Albee
  85. 12/15: Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, August Wilson
  86. 12/18: Hedda Gabler, Henrik Ibsen
  87. 12/21: Camino Real, Tennessee Williams
  88. 12/26: The Autumn Garden, Lillian Hellman
  89. 12/27: Winesburg, Ohio, Sherwood Anderson
  90. 12/27: A Hatful of Rain, Michael Gazzo
  91. 12/28: Talking as Fast as I Can, Lauren Graham
  92. 12/29: Cravings, Chrissy Teigen

Managing entertainment with a full-time job

Hello, long lost blogging world. Apologies for my absence (not that I assume anyone noticed).

Life has been odd lately, mostly because I’m a person who goes to work every day and teaches people and isn’t a student anymore. These are new things and they’re nice things, but they’re also still a little strange.

One thing that definitely hasn’t changed in my life, though, is my constant pursuit to watch and read as much as I possibly can in a day. So, to catch you up on my latest reading and viewing ventures, here’s a quick recap of my life lately.

Books — A few weeks ago, I reached my 2016 goal of reading 52 books, so now, I’m free to enjoy my reading just a bit more. I still have three other reading goals to accomplish: read Arthur Miller’s collected plays, read something by Jane Austen, and read something by Charles Dickens. Thankfully, I’m 5 plays away (out of 18) from checking Miller off the list, and I’m about 1/3 of the way through Sense and Sensibility. Progress! Otherwise, my roommate and I have been enjoying more read-aloud projects (we’ve done a 700+ page collection of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poetry and Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto so far), and I’ve read both Amy Schumer’s and Jessi Klein’s comedy memoirs in recent weeks.

Movies — I’ve been in a bit of a movie slump lately, mostly because my attentions have been taken up by watching all kinds of TV. Recent viewing experiences have included The Light Between Oceans and Fruitvale Station, both of which were tear-inducing in very different ways. I’m also planning to watch Straight Outta Compton today. Otherwise, I’m doing my best to keep up with all the film festival coverage and anxiously awaiting the release of La La Land and Manchester by the Sea.

TV — This is the area where I’ve been shining my brightest lately. After finishing Felicity a week or two ago, I’ve wandered through lots of viewing. I finally finished rewatching Game of Thrones, including the most recent season, I rewatched most of Rome with my mom, I sped through Netflix’s The Get Down and Amazon’s One Mississippi, and my roommate and I have just started Stranger Things. My current solo TV project is Sex and the City, which I’m slightly embarrassed to say I started watching last Tuesday, and I’m already halfway through season 4. Turns out not having homework means I have a slight struggle making myself turn the TV off.

And in exciting TV news, the Emmy awards are tonight! Here’s hoping for lots of Game of Thrones victories and unexpected wins.

What are you watching and reading these days? I’m always open to suggestions. 🙂

2016 Reading Lis #46: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Perhaps the quickest version of this post is to say that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child left me feeling… conflicted.

But I can’t really just leave it there.

In anticipation of Cursed Child, my feelings waffled between trying to limit my expectations and really, really wanting to like it. And I did like it. But I didn’t love it. At all.

Here’s my biggest problem: in the scope of all things Harry Potter, nothing can match the magic of the original series. Though I preordered my copy of the play months ago from Amazon, I paid a visit to the local Barnes & Noble midnight release party because I so enjoyed them years ago. None of this experience could be the same. The anticipation I felt was more anxiety than excitement this time around. I didn’t want to read something that would mess with a perfect series.

And Cursed Child doesn’t really mess with the original series, at least in my opinion. Because I see the original seven books as sacred, I refuse to allow something new (that wasn’t even really written by J.K. Rowling) to affect that world. Cursed Child is fine—likable, funny, sweet, somber—but it’s a mere shadow of the original works.

There are many reasons for this, I think, apart from Rowling’s limited input. First, jumping from a set of long and detailed novels to a two-part play is a big leap. The play is comprised of lots and lots of minuscule scenes, and by the end it felt like a Shondaland TV show to me—every scene break had a dramatic cliffhanger that kept the pace moving ever-forward. There’s no time to live in the show’s moments, especially when the expanse of the play crosses decades of time.

Though I might feel different seeing the stage production rather than just reading it, I also felt like the magic was heavy-handed. I’m curious to know how so many of these effects are done (the play contains Polyjuicing, dementors, Time Turning, underwater stunts, Transfiguration, etc.), but it reads like someone trying to cram in as many oohs-and-ahhs as possible before the curtain falls. At its core, Cursed Child is meant to be about the difficulties Harry faces with his son, so I’d have preferred a much simpler play to tell an intimate story.

In fact, the way this difficult relationship is pushed forward is through an odd and complicated overarching plot that I found really unnecessary. For one, when we came to know Voldemort as a villain over the course of seven novels, trying to introduce and conquer a new villain in one play seems doomed to fail. And without giving anything away, I personally predicted the villain and their connection to the characters from early on. The “big reveal” isn’t exactly on par with, say, the revelations of “The Prince’s Tale.”

And speaking of the Half-Blood Prince… I may have been most disappointed by the Snape and Dumbledore cameos (done in alternate reality and via portrait, so no one is resurrected or something equally strange). Though these are two characters I love dearly, they both had beautiful final scenes in the original series, and neither of them felt at all authentic to me in the play. Their individual dialogue was clearly an imitation of the real thing, and I wish they’d remained in the past where their stories belong.

Finally, on that same note, it’s very touchy to revisit such beloved characters and try to make them what readers know them to be already. Harry felt most true in the first scenes of the play, which are just lifted from the Deathly Hallows epilogue, but otherwise, he’s a big drag and kind of bad father. Ron is a caricature of himself—sure, Ron’s always been the most light-hearted of the trio, but he’s also got substance—and Hermione is a leader without having the characteristic bossiness that makes her so endearing.

Okay, I want to stop complaining to talk a bit about the good. The Albus/Scorpius dynamic is very sweet, and I’m glad no one tried to turn it into a second-generation version of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. I was very happy to see several young people—people who would’ve been too young to be original Harry Potter readers—quickly walking to the shelves when I went to a bookstore yesterday. I’m glad to know a young generation might be getting excited about the theatre and seeing that very real magic happening live.

In the end, though, I’m much more excited about the prospect of the Fantastic Beasts film adaptations for two reasons. First, J.K. Rowling really wrote the screenplay and I’d trust her with anything, and second, though we’re staying in the Wizarding World, we’ll be meeting an entirely new crop of characters and can’t be disappointed by recreations of people we already know and love.

In 2011, when the final film in the series was released, J.K. Rowling said Hogwarts will always be there to welcome us home. She’s right. But for now, I think I’ll stick to those perfect books she gave us nearly a decade ago.

2016 Reading List #33: Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, by James Runcie

Last week I spent some Amazon and Barnes and Noble gift cards I’d been holding on to for a while, and I’d say my reading habit has been happily indulged because of it.

Though I’m still working through Thomas Hardy’s classic Tess of the D’Urbervilles, I’m not rushing through it, and having a handful of new reading project arrive on the doorstep was too exciting a prospect to wait for.

Of these new treasures, I started with (and unintentionally sped through) Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, the first book in the Grantchester mysteries series upon which the television series is based. My mom and I recently watched and loved the first two seasons of the TV adaptation, so I thought I’d give the books a try as well.

Luckily, the book series packs the same enjoyable punch as the TV series. This novel explores six different (but interwoven) mysteries through the eyes of Canon Sidney Chambers, an Anglican priest with a knack for crime-solving. Generally, the TV adaptation follows the book accurately, though some of the mysteries are reimagined and the supporting characters are made more dynamic on screen.

The Shadow of Death offers everything you can hope for from a British crime novel: jealousy, intrigue, a love triangle, jazz clubs, and a sweet puppy named Dickens. It was an incredibly quick read, and one that left me excited to continue through the series.

If you’re interested, give the TV series a try! It’s available on Amazon Prime (and James Norton is sure to keep your interest) and the perfect solution to a rainy summer day.

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…