Friday, October 24, 2008

Too much to do...

I've been sewing madly the last few days, since I have to finish my costume for the costume ball I'm going to tomorrow night, so reading has taken a back seat. It will be very nice to finally not have to worry about the costume, although next week I'll have to start worrying about NaNoWriMo instead.

I've got about 100 pages left to read of The Things They Carried. I'm enjoying it quite a lot, but it hasn't completely captured my attention as it's really a collection of short stories, which I always have trouble concentrating on. I'm also reading Arthur Miller's play, All My Sons, which I don't know how I feel about. (From a theatre perspective, his excess of stage direction bugs me.)

The other day I read the first chapter of the most recent novel by Jose Saramago, Death with Interruptions. I've never read anything by him before, but I really liked that first chapter, and at some point I think I'll read the rest of the book. The premise of the novel is that, as of midnight on the first day of the new year, in a certain unnamed country, death takes a holiday. Suddenly, no one is dying. Of course, people still get ill, so the hospitals begin to fill up, the insurance industry encounters rather a lot of problems, funeral homes are getting no business, what happens to the Church if there's no death--it means there's also no resurrection. It's an interesting idea, and I'm kind of surprised it hasn't already been done to death (pun totally intended). So I'm looking forward to reading more of that.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Praise the wonders of time for non-school books!

So, the other night I found myself in between books, having just finished the last Senior Lit book and not yet acquired the new one. Accordingly, I picked up The Gate of Angels, by Penelope Fitzgerald. And now I've just finished it. It's a very strange little book, and probably the only reason I managed to finish it is that it is so little--only 167 pages. It tells the story of Fred Fairly, who is a Junior Fellow of the smallest college at Cambridge in 1912, St. Angelicus. His college doesn't allow women to set foot on the premises, was founded by a pope who was later removed from his pope-hood (there must be a better way to put that), and has no sort of modern amenities at all and no rooms for the students. He is also not allowed to marry. And then he gets into a crash with a horsecart and a woman on a bicycle, whom he later wakes up to find himself in bed with. And it all goes on from there.

There is nothing the least bit complicated about the plot, though things do not always come in quite the right order. There are a series of rather strange characters, but unusually they are strange in a very normal way--not at all over the top, not even especially vivid, just strange. It's written in an unusual style, though I don't mean the writing, I mean that it doesn't quite flow. It is definitely put together deliberately, but not in the usual method of a novel. It has no concrete beginning, and the end is extremely abrupt, although not without managing to wrap things up well. It is simply a cutout of these characters' lives, just episodes put together, sometimes with no apparent relevance to the plot (assuming there is one).

Anyway, I enjoyed it very much, since it appealed to my love of reading about Oxford and Cambridge and their whole culture. I'd quite like to read more of Penelope Fitzgerald's books.

Next up on the reading list is The Things They Carried by Tim Obrien, and also the Iliad.

Monday, October 13, 2008

October goes on apace

I finished Johnny Got His Gun. I was disappointed in the ending, though I think this was more a disappointment in the way things turn out for Joe than in the way the ending worked for the book. I actually think it worked pretty well for the book--it furthered the sort of life-goes-on, nothing changes, here's one more story mood of the book, and pounded in the anti-war feelings. But it left me wondering what happens next. Does the new day nurse stick around and keep talking to him? Does his life ever get any better? Over all, though, I really liked the book. The style definitely appealed to me, and though it reminds me of Virginia Woolf it's much easier to read. I find reading Virginia Woolf to go really slow, although I do like it a lot.

I got home early today, which was really nice as I managed to finish all my homework by the time I would usually be getting home. I'm finally starting to feel like I have a little bit more time on my hands, which is extremely pleasant. I'm sure I won't feel like this by Friday, but it's nice while it lasts.

Look at that. It's fall.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

My imminent death by textbooks.

I've been so busy lately that it gets to the weekend and I'm too exhausted to stay up late even when I don't have to be up at 7:00, which is very sad because staying holed up in my room with the muted gold lights and the debris of clothes and books and knicknacks, everyone else asleep, is one of my very favourite things. It's so cosy, especially in winter. But finally I've managed to have a weekend in which I don't have to be anywhere, and I didn't get up early this morning, so I can stay up late. It is immeasurably enjoyable.

I have to make a Renaissance costume for a ball in a couple of weeks, so I've spent most of the day sewing, fiddling with patterns, getting frustrated with patterns, and pricking my fingers sewing trim over all the seams. With any luck I'll get that mostly done this week, as it's really just adding to my to-do list, and though I enjoy it I'd love to not worry about it. Fortunately next weekend looks like it's free also, so this should get done then.

I'm looking forward hopefully to December. I'm very sick of having no time, being underslept and overworked, and not reading anything but what I have to read for school. But by December my community college classes will be over, and that will probably free me up greatly. Plus, by December I should be pretty much done with college applications, so while I won't have quit worrying about it at least it won't be on my to-do list. And apart from all that, it's one of my favourite months. It's winter at its best, before it gets grey and soggy and long.

I'm still reading Johnny Got His Gun. It's fascinating how much plot one can get out of a guy who has no limbs and can't see, hear, taste, smell, or speak.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Johnny Got His Gun

I took the SAT Subject Tests this morning in Literature and French, which was interesting. I have to admit I guessed on half the French, as my overall comprehension of French is better than my specifics. The literature was interesting too. It bugged me that they didn't tell you what any of the excerpts were, because they were all really interesting. There was a paragraph about books from 1625 (I think) that was especially interesting, and I could probably find it if I really wanted to but no doubt it will never happened. There were a couple of poems I liked, too.

The book we're now reading for Senior Lit is Johnny Got His Gun, by Dalton Trumbo. It's very interesting, if rather disconcerting, also. It's a World War I novel, written and originally published not long before World War II, and banned for its anti-war sentiments. The style reminds me a lot of Virginia Woolf, and the subject matter reminds me of Mrs. Dalloway (which I still haven't finished). I may read that as a sort of tie in.

I've got a lot of homework at the moment. My only other reading is my US History textbook.


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