Books Read :: February-April 2016

I made the mistake this semester of taking three classes and auditing one. Even though I didn't have to do the coursework for the one I audited, just the reading/participation, it was still too much. I didn't have time to do things that I normally like to do, that are important to me--let alone things that I do generally because I do them. Such as.... writing about the books I read.

HERE are all the books I read from February-April during this semester, excluding re-reads, with brief snippets of thoughts after them...

Caligula by Albert Camus
The Visit by Friedrich D├╝rrenmatt
For my drama class, we read these two plays the same week. I preferred the D├╝rrenmatt because the characters were more interesting to me, particularly Claire, the cruel/eccentric/wealthy woman who returns to her hometown for revenge. Caligula was interesting to me in terms of it as an existential retelling of an old story, but the characters blended more easily.

Snow White by Donald Barthelme
This wasn't my favorite novel we read in my Pop Culture & American Fiction class, but I enjoyed it as an example of sort of "high postmodernism" if nothing else. Plus, figuring out who was who and why in terms of it as a retelling of the classic fairy tale was fun--not to mention that questionnaire.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Reading Toni Morrison is one of those joys that also wrenches the heart--her books aren't just sad, they're honest in ways that most books are not honest. They're important. They're extremely worth reading and extremely well written and reading her both makes me want to read more of her but also want to just... change things about the American past that are impossible to change, make the world a better place today.

The Dwarves, The Lover, and The Collection by Harold Pinter
We read all three of these over a couple of weeks, and Pinter is so distinctly Pinter. I liked The Dwarves the least--I felt the most lost in it. The other two overlapped subject-matter wise as well as stylistically, but I could follow along with them better. I would really like to see a Pinter play staged and done well.

Lear by Edward Bond
I read King Lear so long ago that I couldn't appreciate this as a retelling, but I enjoyed it, for sure, for what it was. I especially liked the sinisterness of his daughters and the circles that it drew. It's upsetting that things never change--that power begets power--and the way that this play showcases this--cruelly, absurdly-- makes me want to see it staged.

The Poetics of New American Poetry, an anthology edited by Donald Allen
I read all of this for my poetics class, which at the time felt insane--that I could read an entire book thick and heavy with this sort of philosophical writing--but I'm glad for it now.

Mumbo Jumbo by Ishmael Reed
I went into this book thinking that it was going to annoy me because it was so post-modern and I didn't feel like I had time for it because see above crazy semester, but I wound up really enjoying it, despite its sarcasm. I felt the message could still be something you felt, even though he infused his narrative with irony.

Don Juan, or the Love of Geometry by Max Frisch
Another "retelling"--drama loves a good retelling! And one I'm so so glad that our professor went out of her way to get us copies of, since it's hard to get ahold of. Very humorous but also more than just funny for a play. I'd love to see this staged, but I'm also interested in it as is. I would recommend this play to read or to watch.

Mourning Becomes Electra by Eugene O'Neill
This play, despite its length, was somehow forgettable for me. I couldn't remember, when I was thinking about it, which one it was, and then when I looked it up, I mistook it for another play and had to read the description again. It was very American, and I did like it while I was reading it--another one that sort of went in circles in a way. But somehow forgettable. Perhaps staged, it's more memorable?

A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen
I liked this one, but it is definitely dated. I think looking at it in terms of its historical value is important, and I think it's an extremely well-written/conceived piece of drama.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
I really loved this book and remember feeling like I wished I had had more time to read it when I was reading it for class. I didn't finish it before the day it was due, but then I still went back and finished it, despite having other readings I needed to get done. I keep recommending it to people. I'd like to go back through it more slowly some day if possible. It's very long, which is really my only critique of it. It felt like it could have been shorter, yet I at the same time I didn't want it to end, the world it built was crafted so well--and it was this world, a past version of this world, in so many ways.

The Future of Environmental Criticism by Lawrence Buell
This book opened my eyes to the world of ecocriticism and may be something foundational for the focus of my studies as I move forward in my PhD program. I did not always agree with what Buell was saying/the way he was presenting things, but it definitely feels like something I will come back to.


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