And When I Think, I Fall Asleep

November 25, 2014 at 4:37 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

one-hundred-years-of-solitudeTitle: One Hundred Years of Solitude

Author: Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Genre: Fiction/ Literature

Length: 458 pages

When I was a kid I had a poster of a chimpanzee on my wall.  Underneath in a font that was surely intended to motivate a young mind it said: “When I Work, I Work Hard. When I Play, I Play Hard.  But When I Think, I Fall Asleep.”  The monkey had his chin resting in his human-like hand, eyes drooped down.

Although I’ve read more books that my norm this year, I’ve just *mostly* finished my 93rd title, it’s been a lot of fluff.  It’s been a lot of things that digest easily and go down like lemonade on a hot summer day, or cooled hot cocoa in winter.  The heavier stuff that I tend to enjoy has bored me.  I’m too tired for all this thinking.  My energies are spent writing.  I want to just download books into my head, Matrix style, when I sit down to read.

One Hundred Years of Solitude has been sitting on my shelf radiating all this promise for years.  I’ve put it off because it was going to blow my mind.  It was going to be too wonderful for words.  Then, when the words came, it was supposed to be the most intelligent thing that had ever come from my mouth – or been typed by my fingers.  Because it’s Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  Because Garcia is wonderful.  Because this is his magnum opus.

I was bored.

There’s a lot to take in.  There’s a lot to quote.  I could never write anything so wonderful in all my life.

But around page 300 out of the 458 pages, I caught myself skimming.  The drama was annoying me.  The people were unfriendly.  I couldn’t relate to anyone, nor did I want to.  This probably says more about my mood than anything else, but I started flicking through the pages speed reading to a level that even I know I’m not really reading anymore.

“Not finishing a book that doesn’t move you is a sign of reading maturity,” I just told a co-worker at the bookstore tonight.  “It’s knowing that there are so many wonderful things out there that you shouldn’t waste your time with things that aren’t wonderful.”  I waste my time with things that aren’t wonderful all the time.  Even more so, I waste my time with things that are wonderful even if I’m not feeling wonder at them at all, I’m just reading it because I’m supposed to feel awed.

Around page 370 or so, I took a deep breath, skipped to the last chapter and read it.  Yes, I skipped pages.  Lots of them.  And just read the end.  I still started nodding off.  I’m not even that tired (ok, I am that tired, but good books are supposed to keep you awake!), just that unmoved by this family and their crap.  Sadly, I didn’t feel like I missed anything at all.  I was just relieved that it was over, that I was going to mark this one off my list.  Then, I felt the annoyance of the knowledge that I was not going to write my one solid literary essay of the year, at least not on this book.  (Once a year or so, I write an essay.  A proper one, as though I’m still in school.  It’s lame.  And nerdy.  But I feel like I have to do this to stay in practice.  You know, in case I ever go back.  They get worse every year.  I’ve stopped sharing them.  Now, it looks like I’ve even stopped writing them.)

I’m further annoyed that this is a favorite book of my best friend.  I hate that I can’t share that with her.

Maybe I’ll read those pages I skipped one day.  Maybe.  For now, I’ll admit defeat and enjoy my sleep.

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My Classical Re-Education Part 2

February 14, 2013 at 5:56 am (Education) (, , , , , , , , )

Kiddo and I started the year reading The Confessions over breakfast… we got caught up in The Magic Tree House Adventures and that got put on the back burner, but I intend on putting a good dent in this list this year, so we need to get back on it. Feel free to join me.

well

The Story of Me: Autobiography and Memoir

PART TWO of The Well-Educated Mind

Augustine – The Confessions
Margery Kempe – The Book of Margery Kempe
Michael de Montaigne – Essays
Teresa of Avila – The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila by Herself
Rene Descartes – Meditations
John Bunyan – Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners
Mary Rowlandson – The Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration
Jean-Jacques Rousseau – Confessions
Benjamin Franklin – The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Henry David Thoreau – Walden
Harriet Jacobs – Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself
Frederick Douglas – Life and Times of Frederick Douglas
Booker T. Washington – Up from Slavery
Friederick Nietzche – Ecce Homo
Adolf Hitler – Mein Kampf
Mohandas Gandhi – An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth
Gertrude Stein – The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
Thomas Merton – The Seven Storey Mountain
C.S. Lewis – Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life
Malcolm X – The Autobiography of Malcolm X
May Sarton – Journal of a Solitude
Aleksandr I. Solzhenistyn – The Gulag Archipelago
Richard Rodriguez – Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez
Jill Ker Conway – The Road from Coorain
Elie Wiesel – All Rivers Run to the Sea: Memoirs

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Blasted Book Bouncing

September 3, 2012 at 3:42 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I have a tendency to bounce from book to book.  I read a little bit of this and a little bit of that.  Many times I sit and read one book in one sitting, but all the books that don’t get read with such vigor are subject to months on end of a chapter here and a chapter there.

Today, I polished off Cassandra Clare’s City of Lost Souls, and while the kiddo napped sat down with a pile of my ‘bouncing’ books.  I started by picking up Susan Wise Bauer’s The History of the Ancient World.  I read a few chapters of this throughout the week, and plan to have it completed by the end of the year so that I can spend 2013 reading the sequel The History of the Medieval World.  Bauer provides excellent histories, educational guides, and other lovely lists, and at any given time there is something written by her sitting on my coffee table with a bookmark or post it note precariously shoved in its pages.

After 30 minutes or so with Bauer, I meandered over to my lit crit shelf and plucked up a copy of The Bookaholics’ Guide to Book Blogs.  As I am a book blogger, you can only guess why this one moved me at the bookstore.  Today of all days, I chose to read it because the bookmark for The History of the Ancient World was in fact the Half Price Books receipt that I received upon its purchase.  My slightly unfocused brain had begun to peruse the receipt when I decided I was done with history for the day and spotted a ‘Bookaholics’ Guide to Book’ item for which I paid 80 cents.  Of course, this piqued my interest and was the initial cause for drifting over to the lit crit shelf.

The Bookaholics’ Guide is lovely and when I am finished reading it, I shall post a full review worthy of a book dedicated to praising book reviewers.  But for now, though entirely riveted and already 50 pages in – I am also distracted.  Why? Because while reading about all these wonderful blogs and their dedication to their reading and writing and reviewing, there is a portion entirely devoted to the discussion of how tragedies always seem to win over comedies.  That got my brain thinking back to the lovely Susan Wise Bauer and the list of novels she provides in The Well-Educated Mind, of which I am approximately six novels away from completing – Finally!

So of course, in my blasted book bouncing fashion, I pick up the book I am currently reading on the list: Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.  I read Chapter One the other day and immediately texted my kindergarten best friend who was an African-American Studies major during her undergrad years, that so far I loved it.  (Because unfortunately, I hated reading Native Son by Richard Wright, despite the great skill involved in his story telling, and have been feeling incredibly guilty about it.)  Of course, in the midst of being made painfully aware of the sad fact that as a human race we are enraptured by tragedies, I became engrossed in Chapter Two of Invisible Man and nearly died of the overwhelming coincidence.

*SPOILERS*

If you have not read Invisible Man, I suggest you read no further.  Unless, you are of the variety of readers who don’t care about spoilers, and then I may cheerfully say, read on.

Chapter Two includes the lengthy tale of Jim Trueblood, a man who has fathered a child with his wife as well as his own grandchild with his daughter in roughly the same time period.  I have not yet read beyond Chapter Two, therefore cannot share with you the relevance to the Invisible Man’s story, or the book as a whole, but I can say that I felt ill after reading it.

Poor, oh poor Jim Trueblood (I say with intense sarcasm), who rolled over on his daughter while sleeping and having an odd dream, inserting his penis into her and *accidentally* fathered her child – to everyone’s horror.

Really?! Really!?

Of course, I must read on to discover the significance of it all.  But I really don’t want to.

1. If your daughter is that old, she should not be sleeping between her two parents.  I don’t care how poor you are.  Put the child on the other side of the mother.  That’s just common sense.  What teenaged daughter wants to sleep between her two parents anyway?

2. I don’t know if I’m supposed to believe Jim Trueblood at this point or not, but I’m with the protagonist on this one – why the hell did Jim Trueblood get a hundred-dollar bill for knocking up his own daughter!? Its absurd.  I have a hard time believing that people behave(d) this way.

3. I have a hard time buying this story in the light of the symbolism it supposedly represents: http://students.cis.uab.edu/archived/dlam/Jim%20Trueblood.html, but I look forward to seeing if the rest of the novel makes these proposals more clear.  I’ve a huge soft spot for The Great Gatsby and The Natural, so you can imagine how much I adore symbolism.

4. So far, the only African-American/ Black (depending on your version of what is politically correct) fiction that I have ever truly appreciated in my entire life has been the young adult Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry series by Mildred D. Taylor and ZZ Packer’s Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, which also manages to be my all-time favorite collection of short stories ever.  (I am always on the look out for something spectacular, though, so please, leave suggestions in the comment area!)

You see, the thing is, I hate reading a book and feeling like the sole purpose is to make me pity the protagonist.  Mostly, because I think pity is the ultimate form of disrespect.  Why would I want to read a character that I have no respect for?  No matter how under the dog, one should not pity the protagonist nor hate them.  One shouldn’t see them as less than themselves.  I want to read about a fight for equality with some umph.  I want to see them prevail over adversity, not wallow in their plight.  The things I disliked about Native Son are the same things I disliked about Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, drastically different books that don’t belong anywhere near each other in a bookstore, but they managed to give me the same level of frustration.  One wallows in the errors of his situation and falls deeper and deeper into despair and ignorance, while the other wallows in the errors her life choices and falls deeper and deeper into entitlement.  Both seem to ask me to feel sorry for their nature.

These are the views the politically correct call me racist over, but I assure you that I have great respect for people of every color, culture, generation, and walk of life.  Sometimes, I wish they had a little more respect for themselves.  Just remember, never fight the good fight with a plea for pity – its a huge turn off.

Granted, I have only just finished Chapter Two… there is yet more to the story to discover.  I hope it lives up to its classic reputation.  I don’t want my distaste for unrelated titles to taint my views as I read this work.

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My Classical Re-Education

May 15, 2012 at 6:21 pm (Education) (, , , , , , )

As some of you may know, I am a sucker for the classics.  I’m also a sucker for lists.  In addition to that, I plan to homeschool my daughter.  What better books for me then are those of Susan Wise Bauer?

“Using the techniques and systems of classical education, this new guide will give you greater pleasure in what you read, and greater understanding of it.” – from Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well-Educated Mind

I am a college graduate who has had the pleasure of working for a bookstore for some years now and doesn’t want my “education” to end with a Bachelor’s degree in Business.  I want to go through Bauer’s list while I pay off my student loans before going back to school. Bauers covers five genres worth of lists of books that people need to read to be fully and classically educated.  Many of these a lot of us have already read, and many of these we’ve always heard referenced and talked about reading but have never actually done it.

Lately, in the blog world, I’ve been coming across a Classics Challenge, and was reminded of the fact that there may be others out there who would like access to this list and discussions where other people are reading these books.

For the last few years I have been leisurely strolling through her list provided in The Well Educated Mind: The Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had. Because I’ve been reading through it in order at a snail’s pace, I’m still in the first list of books – novels.  (The other lists are included in the Shelfari group: http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions.)

I am also the admin of a Shelfari Discussion Group called Classical Re-Education and I post reviews and commentary on my reading in that group, links for each book discussion are provided.  Of course, I also share my reviews here on my blog.

Cervantes – Don Quixote

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/89445/Don-Quixote—Cervantes

Bunyan – Pilgrim’s Progress

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/90600/Pilgrim-s-Progress—Bunyan

Swift – Gulliver’s Travels

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/91884/Gulliver-s-Travels—Swift

Austen – Pride and Prejudice

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/96506/Pride-Prejudice—Jane-Austen

Dickens – Oliver Twist

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/98621/Oliver-Twist—Charles-Dickens

Bronte – Jane Eyre

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/102210/Jane-Eyre—Charlotte-Bronte

Hawthorne – The Scarlet Letter

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/104538/The-Scarlet-Letter—Nathaniel-Hawthorne

Melville – Moby Dick

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/105905/Moby-Dick—Melville

Stowe – Uncle Tom’s Cabin

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/121736/Uncle-Tom-s-Cabin—Stowe

Flaubert – Madame Bovary

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/148024/Madame-Bovary—Flaubert

Dostoyevsky – Crime and Punishment

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/165633/Crime-and-Punishment—Dostoyevsky

Tolstoy – Anna Karenina

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/212374/Anna-Karenina—Tolstoy

Hardy – The Return of the Native

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/233628/The-Return-of-the-Native—Thomas-Hardy

James – The Portrait of a Lady

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/239963/Portrait-of-a-Lady—James

Twain – Huckleberry Finn

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/319203/Huckleberry-Finn—Mark-Twain

Crane – Red Badge of Courage

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/319206/Red-Badge-of-Courage—Crane

Conrad – Heart of Darkness

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/324295/Heart-of-Darkness—Conrad

Wharton – House of Mirth

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/324297/House-of-Mirth—Wharton

Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/324292/The-Great-Gatsby—Fitzgerald

Woolf – Mrs. Dalloway

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/420041/Mrs-Dalloway—Virginia-Woolf

Kafka – The Trial

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/435148/The-Trial—Kafka

Wright – Native Son

http://www.shelfari.com/groups/32384/discussions/443717/Native-Son—Wright

Camus – The Stranger

Orwell – 1984

Ellison – Invisible Man

https://anakalianwhims.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/blasted-book-bouncing/

Bellow – Sieze the Day

Garcia Marquez – One Hundred Years of Solitude

Calvino – If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler

Morrison – Song of Solomon

Delillo – White Noise

Byatt – Possession

https://anakalianwhims.wordpress.com/2012/11/04/the-ultimate-possession-a-book-by-byatt/

As you can see, I just recently finished Kafka’s The Trial and will soon be starting The Native Son.  I’d love for others to join me.

Have you read any of these lately?  Which were your favorites? What would you add to the list if your goal was to walk people through the History of the Novel, as Bauer’s has done?

P.S. Susan Wise Bauer will be lecturing at the  Texas Home School Coalition Southwest Convention The Woodlands, Texas, Thursday-Saturday August 2-4.

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