Archive for August, 2012
So now I would like to know what you guys are thinking. What do you like about this blog? What could I do to make it even better?
I’m pretty new to the whole blogging thing, but I hope to get better and better as I go. I’d be happy to try any suggestions you may have, so please leave me some in the comments. Anyone who does gets a virtual high five!
(Or, you know, a fist bump or whatever. Personally I never got the whole “fist bump” thing, but whatever floats your virtual boat!)
Every year when I leave for college, I have to pick out a small selection of books to take with me. At home, I have two sets of bookshelves, but there’s no way I can pack all of those. So I go through and pick the best, the ones I might want to read again soon, the ones I use for reference, and those few that I haven’t had the chance to read yet. This year, I know I made a very good selection because, taken together with my small collection of DVDs, it perfectly fills the available shelf!
That’s twenty books, not including The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, which normally fits right next to The Hound of the Baskervilles (because I use alphabetical order by author to organize, which I think would be obvious, but I’ve heard that other people organize by color or size or whatnot. I also bet some of you out there don’t bother organizing your bookshelves at all!). I haven’t had a lot of time to read the last couple days (Calculus!), but I have gotten a bit farther in Clarissa.
Clarissa: 56% through volume 8 of 9
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: page 243 of 446 (Exactly where I was last time.)
After about five and a half hours of class today, not counting the ten minutes or more between classes where I couldn’t do much except wait for class to start, I declared a day free of homework. Or, a night free of homework because by that time it was past 6:00.
Believe it or not, it was cooler outside than it was in more dorm room. It’s probably an even greater difference now. No air conditioning in the dorms is not fun. Fall can’t come fast enough!
So, anyway, I sat on a rock in the fading sunlight and read “The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb”. I thought it was nice to see Watson’s job as a doctor bringing Sherlock a case. By this time Watson’s married, and I also thought it was nice to see how easily he goes back and forth from his house to Baker Street. It was a simple case, but many of them are, I’ve noticed. Sometimes I could easily guess the mystery, or at least detect important elements that Watson didn’t figure out until later. Other times I’m impressed with Sherlock’s intelligence.
This is the ninth story in the volume, but “A Study in Scarlet” and “The Sign of Four” are also included, and I understand that those are often sold as separate novels.
When I first started following the list, I counted out the books I’d already read from it. Since I’d read a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories that I thought had the same title, I counted it as read. Later, though, checking my book against the list of stories officiall included, I found that there were many I hadn’t read. So I decided that I might as well read the whole thing over again when the time came because I couldn’t remember most of the stories very well anyway.
I remember that the first time I read a Sherlock Holmes Collection, it was while my family was camping. I remember reading a lot of stories all at once the day that we were packing up to leave because I was bored and I couldn’t help with anything. I’m sure that I understand it a lot better now, especially having a greater knowledge of the way things were during the time period in which it was written.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: page 243 out of 446
Clarissa: 46% through volume 8 of 9
So I got all moved in today, and I’m (mostly) unpacked. I’m snacking on that piece of cake up there as I write this. Now that I’m up here, I have access to at least one more book that wasn’t at the public library back home. I might read that one next, or I might read The House of the Seven Gables because I own a copy and I’ve been meaning to read it for a while. Or I might finish The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes because I’ve been reading short stories from it here and there all summer when I was between books. Who can say at this point?
I don’t know how often I’ll be able to post now that I’m back at school. I could be really busy, or I could not be. It all seems to depend on the classes I’m taking semester to semester, so I guess I won’t have any idea until the end of the week at least. I’d rather not post if I have nothing to say, but if you think you’d like to hear about my Calculus problems or the latest C# program I’ve coded instead of hearing about books, feel free to tell me so in the comments.
Clarissa: 45% through volume 8 of 9
A review containing spoilers can be found here.
That’s right, I have finished reading Great Expectations, the very night before I have to leave for college. Hooray!!! (Come on, cheer with me! Or you can imagine a spirited cheer if you’re too embarrassed to be heard cheering out loud for no apparent reason.) If you’ve been following my blog (good for you!), you’ll see that many of the points I’m about to make have been mentioned in my Great Expectations Reflections posts, but I promise this will include new points as well. And it will be better! (Maybe.)
Alright, alright, I’ll stop all the parentheticals and start the review already. Great Expectations was more fun to read than I had originally anticipated. A large part of that was because of the writing. This is one of Dickens’ later books, which I know from reading the inside flap, and I would guess that Dickens’ acquired experience in writing was a great contribution to the style of this book. It was overall very clever, and that cleverness was by turns amusing, beautiful, and incredibly apt.
I first noticed this cleverness in the beginning of the book, where I often found myself laughing out loud. As the plot got underway, this same sort of cleverness worked itself into characters and descriptions and all sorts of other aspects of the story, so that everything seemed exceedingly well-painted and true to life. The beautiful comes in with some of the descriptions, like this one of the Thames River as the characters are rowing through it:
“The night was dark by this time… what light we had, seemed to come more from the river than the sky, as the oars in their dipping struck at a few reflected stars.”
Needless to say, I have great respect for Dickens’ writing abilities.
The plot was slow at times, especially in the middle, but it definitely had its moments. And when it had those moments, they were very exciting. Maybe they were even more so because I got used to the slower parts and was surprised when they abruptly changed. I also noticed, one night when I was looking for a place to stop in order to get some sleep, whenever I got to the end of a chapter or some other suitable place, there was some incident or plot point that made me say “just a little more” again and again. Although this feeling didn’t last throughout the book, it’s something that I love to see whenever I read. I think that most readers love that feeling of not wanting to put the book down and actively search out books like that.
I can not deny that I found myself actively engaged with this book. You know it, too, if you’ve read my rants about Estella or my chastisement of Pip or my musings on Miss Havisham in my reflections posts. I didn’t intend for any of those posts to be as long as they ended up being, I just set out to write a bit about what I was thinking and it all flowed out. I wasn’t always happy with the characters, I didn’t always like them, but I experienced a lot of feelings as I read, and often very strong opinions to go with them. That’s also something to look for in a good book. And if someone ever wants to talk to me about this book, I could quite easily, and probably at great length.
Now, I always reserve a five star rating for those books that I absolutely love. My usual measure for this is whether I find myself wanting to read a book multiple times and enjoying it again each time that I do. That being said, I did really enjoy reading Great Expectations, but I don’t think it quite fits in with my favorite books of all time. It’s nothing against the book itself, as I’ve mentioned before, my ratings are all to do with my personal preferences. So I give it a rating of four stars.
Here’s the link to part three of my reflections as I read Great Expectations. Again, spoilers are present. Proceed at your own risk.
Also today, I began adding ratings to the page of books I’ve read. They’re not quite finished as of yet, but I’ll continue working on them.
Clarissa: 25% through volume 8 of 9
Great Expectations: page 432 of 598
I picked up an extra day at work this week, so I haven’t had as much time for reading or writing, but I thought that since I never wrote a review of Beloved, I should at least talk about it a little and give my rating for it. This won’t be as in depth as my review of The Time Machine because I read it several months ago.
Toni Morrison’s novel is about a former slave who made her way to freedom with her kids, but the reader only knows about this through flashbacks and stories told by the characters because they’ve been living free for years. Except for the woman’s baby, known only as “Beloved” because it is the sole word etched on her tombstone. The baby’s ghost haunts the house where the woman lives with her daughter and her husband’s mother because the woman killed it in a desperate attempt to prevent it from being captured and returned to a life of slavery.
The whole family is cut off from the community because of what the woman did, but they stay in the house because the ghost is there. Until it isn’t. One day a man who was a slave on the same plantation as the woman shows up and appears to chase the ghost away. Then a young girl appears mysteriously on the door step. A girl who insists on being called Beloved…
This is definitely a book that keeps you reading. The characters are realistic, the emotions are raw, and Beloved’s presence alone drives the plot forward in fresh new ways. This is a book about motherhood and family, but it is also very much a book about slavery and deep emotional damage and the way the past can haunt us (literally and figuratively).
The physical scars of slavery are one thing, but the psychological scars are quite another. Before reading this book, I had heard a lot about the concrete, physical horrors of slavery, but this book presents the most horrifying and incredibly believable picture of the psychological horrors that I’ve ever seen, horrors that remain with the characters years and years after they have reached freedom and will probably cause immense pain for the rest of the characters’ lives.
As a child learning about slavery in history class, I liked to hear about the slaves who escaped. The Harriet Tubmans and Fredrick Douglases who went on to do great things with their lives. As a child, you see the escape as the happy ending; once they reached the North all their problems went away and they lived happily ever after. But this book doesn’t just tell that thinking that way is incorrect, it shows you exactly why that’s a load of foolish nonsense in detail so that you’ll never make that mistake again.
At this point, I should mention that I gave the book two and a half stars. Now, as you can see from above, I think that it’s a great book, technically speaking, but, as I say in the About page, I rate books based only on how much I enjoyed reading them.
The problem here is that I’m an extremely sensative person. I’m the kind of person who can’t stand violent movies, has a tendency to wince at slapstick, and blushes when other people do things to embarass themselves. And this is the kind of book that you can so easily lose yourself in that, after reading it for long periods of time, the real world seemed strange and I had to reassure myself that this is reality and slavery no longer exists. So you can imagine what I was feeling as I read this book, especially the most heart-wrenching scenes.
I didn’t enjoy going through that. I felt intense sympathy for fictional characters. I felt guilty for no good reason. I felt depressed because no matter how much I wanted to, there was nothing I could do to better the lives of the characters in the book or the lives of real people in their situation because all the former slaves are dead. I hate that slavery existed and I hate that I can’t do anything to change the fact that it existed.
I might have felt better about this book if I had chosen to read it, knowing fully well what I was getting myself into, but having to read it for class didn’t help at all. I can see how you might argue that reading the book was good for me because it affected me so strongly that it increased my ability to feel compassion and to see the world through different eyes and all of that, but I can’t honestly tell you that I enjoyed reading it. I hope you can understand what my point is here, and please don’t think that I’m advising you not to read this book. If the book sounds appealing to you, I’m sure that you’ll like it very much because it is great and very well written.
And now, on a completely unrelated note…
Current Reading Progress:
Great Expectations– page 317 of 598
Clarissa– 25% through volume 8 of 9