Monday, December 2, 2013

November Reading



Here's what I read in November.

This list is rather shorter than I like my "What I Read This Months" lists to be. I was working on a large paper on William Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! during November, which took way many hours of my reading time. However, the paper is now done and I am glad to say that I understand just what that book was about. Click here for my thoughts on reading Absalom, Absalom! 


1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I read this book on the recommendation of two of my dear students who have read and re-read this novel many times. They are seriously obsessed. I had never heard of it or (I thought) its author, but I am always on the lookout for some good YA, and I gave it a shot.

The Fault in Our Stars really is a beautiful book. It is the story of a romance between two characters--Hazel Grace and Augustus, who navigate their way through the awkwardness of their first real love affair. However, Hazel, Gus, and many of the other characters in the novel are cancer patients, each with his or her own diagnosis for the future. Hazel is a terminal case, who cannot breathe without medical assistance and has no misconceptions about the short amount of time she has remaining. Augustus, or Gus, has a more complicated prognosis, but he has lost half of his leg to osteoacroma.

I liked the way the main characters tried to maintain their wise-cracking sophistication in the face of all that dying and death, but that they ultimately gave into real human emotions. It was a satisfying and convincing portrayal of the way that young people interact with their world, and it was much better than some young adult fiction that gets lots of accolades (I'm thinking specifically of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which got great reviews and was made into a movie despite being utter garbage.) I'm thankful for my students who asked me to read this, and I recommend that you get on the stick, too. They're making a movie out of it, of course, and you'll want to say that you read the book so that you can feel superior to everyone else. .

(Oh. The author, Johh Green, is that annoying guy who does the Mental Floss videos. My problem with him is not merely that he's annoying, but that some of what he says in these videos is often incorrect conventional wisdom. The clip I linked to above is clean, though.)

2. "The Politics of Amnesia" by Terry Eagleton

I read this essay, "The Politics of Amnesia," which is the first chapter of Eagleton's book, After Theory. The essay elucidates Eagleton's problems with the current state of critical theory, and argues that academia has gone off the rails. He attempts to show the hypocrisy and small-mindedness of academics who take advantage of the post-structural climate by obsessing about sex or wallowing in pop-culture, which immediately got my back up because some of my favorite writers either obsess about sex (Philip Roth) or wallow in pop culture (John Updike.)

But I kept reading.

He claims that academia has been made disoreinted by the freedom of post-modernism. He calls out post-colonialism for fetishizing the downtrodden third world nations. He laments that feminism and cultural studies have criminalized maleness and whiteness. And he does all this with an inflammatory writing style that I found appaling, even as I found myself agreeing with a lot of what he said.

I had to read this for my literary criticism class, and I told my professor that I wouldn't have accepted his abuse of rhetorical fallacies, flase dilemmas, hyperboles, tortured metaphors, and hasty generalizations from my ninth graders. Still, Eagleton's argument makes a lot of sense, like that annoying friend of yours who says appaling things that you find yourself repeating. After Theory is now on my to-be-read list.

I would also like to read his book, Why Marx Was Right. Here he is talking about his reason for writing it. I wonder if I can get it at Wal-Mart... (Guess what! You can! Lulz!)






3. The Patient by Agatha Christie

My wife directs the plays at the yeshiva where I teach, and this year she staged a production in of Agatha Christie's The Patient at the girls' school. This play is the entertaining and suspenseful story of a woman who suffered a traumatic injury after falling from the balcony outside her bedroom. Whether she fell or was pushed is the question the detective wants to figure out, and the story unfolds to include an ingenious "apparatus" that might help the comatose patient identify the culprit.  It was a wonderful production, and I'm very proud of my wife and students for making it such a success.


4. "The Death of Enkidu"from The Epic of Gilgamesh

Check out that amazing statue at the top of this blog post. That's Gilgamesh holding a lion, from the 8th century B.C.E. I'd never seen it before tonight, and now I learn that it's on display at the Louvre in Paris. And just think that there's a chance I walked past it without a second thought when I visited the Louvre in 2003, just like I did to the Law Code of Hammurabi, because I didn't even know what the Law Code of Hammurabi was back in 2003. Oh, the price you pay for ignorance.

Anyway, I got engaged to be married two hours after my trip to the Louvre, so I should be content with my lot.

I taught "The Death of Enkidu" to  my world lit clas. I hadn't read it since I was an undergraduate at Rhodes many, many years ago. And now it's behind me. The end.

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