I admit, it’s the beginning of the semester and I’m ready to get back to work and “hit the books” as they say (but I won’t actually be hitting any books, that’s like aggravated assault or something and I don’t think the books would like that). Anyway, getting back into the swing of the school year is a welcome change from the very different (but no less fun) kind of busy that I was over the summer. I’ve moved into my apartment, my books are cataloged alphabetically, my cacti are still alive (I think), and I’m set to tackle sophomore year. These are the confessions of a sophomore English and History major:
Yeah, you read that right, English is moving over to make room for History this year, and, well, the foreseeable future. To assuage any concerns you may have about this time share situation I promise to still love English just as much as I did before History came but now I’m going to love both of them the same amount so tantrums from English about how much love it’s getting will not be tolerated. (Well, that’s the plan anyway. History is still very much on the chopping block for the next month or two until I suss out my trajectory for the rest of my college career. It may not work with History out and that’s not History’s fault. It’s mine. But, I’m sure History will still eat a gallon of ice cream and watch sad movies if we part ways.) Long-winded relationship metaphors aside, I’m really looking forward to this semester. (If you want to know how literally insane I am when I say that, I encourage you to check out this post about my schedule) It promises to be challenging and interesting, two words I often cringe at when used together but appreciate all the same.
Keeping in mind that I’ll be crazy busy this semester, I ask for your patience with weekly posts and book reviews. The posts may not be weekly and the reviews may only be few and far between. I’ll try not to make that the case, but I can’t control the evil whims of my professors (they aren’t actually evil, they’re all pretty nice, but they assign homework and anyone who does that is evil in my book – says the girl thinking about becoming a teacher).
Speaking of books (at least that’s what I’m supposed to be doing), I’m super excited to report that this semester, although it’s more History than English, will include some awesome reads and even a chance to combine my love of both History and English. My honors history course will be drawing on some of my favorite novels as primary sources for the Great Wars Era so I’ll get a chance to look at them from a historical perspective rather than a literary perspective. This kind of synthesis of History and English is what I love most so I suspect you’ll be seeing some of that interest bleed into my posts in the future. In addition, I’ll also be taking another look at modern poetry and tackling (finally) the massive task of reading and interpreting Ulysses by Joyce. (I’m also going to get to know the geology of the national parks thanks to a bikeshorts-clad hippie but that’s not exactly the highlight of my semester.)
On an even more disjointed organizational note, I have some things to mention from my amazing trek to Boston a few weeks ago. Like all my past voyages north, Boston means book stores, book stores and, get this, more book stores! This year I had the opportunity to check out two new stores, one in New Haven, Connecticut, the other in Westerly, Rhode Island. Atticus and Savoy, respectively, are both very neat independent stores nestled into small intellectual towns. Although, I didn’t get much time in either, both are worth another stop down the road. Boston, on the other hand, yielded no new faces in terms of books stores, but it was a much needed return to old favorites. Brattle, Newbury and Harvard all made the cut for this year’s excursion and each of them are just as amazing as I remember (to remember with me check out this post). On top of my yearly pilgrimage to the great northern book stores, I also stopped at the Intrepid Museum in New York to experience Starfleet. I will spare you the geeky details. Suffice it to say I behaved as a five year old does when she is told she is to be spending five hours in a room full of fluffy baby animals. Just replace the five year old with an adult and the fluffy baby animals with a recreation of the Enterprise bridge and you’ve got the idea.
The highlight of my Boston excursion wasn’t so much the book stores or even Star Trek, (although, I will never complain about visiting book stores or Star Trek) rather the wonderful conversations I had with my uncle about Russian literature. Some brief background on my uncle will reveal that he spent some years working in Russia as part of his job in D.C. and in that time he acquired an expansive and fascinating view of Russian literature from the Russian perspective (oddly enough, the Russians don’t really like Nabokov, but they love Bulgakov). Over the course of the week we discussed mainly one novel; The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov (others were mentioned but this one was the focus). The premise of the novel (and I have been assured that this is spoiler-free) revolves around a down-on-his-luck author and his unique encounter with the devil in a comedic retelling of the story of Jesus- in Russia (also there’s a cat, so that’s a plus).
Aside from the interesting premise and promise of humor, the cultural and societal context of the novel is rather interesting as it addresses the government censorship rife within Russian academia and society at the time. As I have not finished the book yet, I’ll leave the rest of my notes on the subject for later.
On a minor house-keeping note, I’ll be really busy with class assigned reading. As per my own decision I won’t be reviewing any class reads here. In an effort to keep my academic opinions separate from my personal reading opinions I feel the distinction is necessary. That said, some of my class reads will probably appear in later entries in some capacity or another. Regardless of my work load, I still hope to follow some semblance of a reading schedule so I’ll give you all the rough outline (that is very much subject to change):
- The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
- The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Shoot me, this has been on my list for like half a year now and I’m 76 pages in but I never have the time to pick it up and finish it and I’M GOING TO because I really like it and to hell with being busy I want to read this book!)
- The Secret History by Donna Tartt
- The Idiot by Fyodor Dosyoevsky
- The Fencing Master by Arturo Perez-Reverte (Again, shoot me, this is basically the same problem. I love this book but haven’t found the time to devote to it.)
I fully expect this list to change over the next several months, but I feel that having it written down makes me a bit more accountable.
If you’re interested, my class reading list for this month is as follows:
- The Poems of W.B. Yeats (for English 451)
- War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells (for History 120H)
- Assorted other Modern poets (for English 451)
There’s plenty more that I’ll be reading over the course of the semester: Mrs. Dalloway, As I Lay Dying, Ulysses, Equus, and The Hound of the Baskervilles; excerpts from Night, The Storm of Steel, Survival in Auschwitz, Beyond Good and Evil, Journey in the Whirlwind and All Quiet on the Western Front; “Shooting An Elephant”, “The White Man’s Burden”, “The April Theses” and “The Sinews of Peace”; and tons of Modernist poems.
It seems I have quite a bit to get started on, in the mean time I wish all of you starting school again a wonderful school year and semester and for those of you who are not, I wish you a fantastic fall season. Until next week, happy reading!