Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Phi Beta Kappa STILL hasn't called me...

I have just four more weeks, and just two more novels, before my final for the class I’m taking right now (The Novel in America Since 1914). I’ve written two papers that have not yet been graded so I’m working in a vacuum, and I'm afraid that my instructor has gotten so far behind that he’ll be forced to give our remaining assignments the most cursory evaluation, and everyone will pass with a B. Why is that a problem? Because, as always, I have worked myself into a ridiculous state of anxiety trying to do everything PERFECTLY, and to KEEP MY 4.0 at ALL COSTS. (well, at almost any cost. You know what I mean). I have a draft written for the paper that’s due shortly, and I expect to start my final paper this week. But it would be nice to have a grade, so I have some idea of how this instructor regards my work, if I’m on the right track, etc. So all of this is to say that I’m right now just sitting around waiting (and hey, Microsoft Word? I KNOW that’s a fragment, and I will NOT consider revising it. Thank you). Following this post, in which I commented on the first three novels, I’ll update you on the most recent three

The Unvanquished (William Faulkner). Loved it, love Faulkner, love his Nobel acceptance speech, which you can read here.

Jonah’s Gourd Vine (Zora Neale Hurston). Loved it. The dialogue was a little overwhelming in the first few pages, but once you’re involved in the story, the dialogue seems very natural and easy to read.

A Death in the Family (James Agee). Alfred Kazin called this the “most deeply worked out expression of human feeling” that he’d ever read. Intellectually, I can see that it’s rightly considered a great book, and Kazin was right about the insight into human character and emotion. That said, I hated every minute I spent reading this book. One never knows, does one, because having read and loved Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, I naturally expected to love anything else written by Agee. Much of my antipathy stems from the editorial decision (made after Agee’s death) to italicize very long reflective passages, to distinguish them from the narrative of the story. I hate reading italic type for more than a sentence or two, so thirty pages at a time was a trial of my limited patience. And the rest of it is just far too “deeply worked out”; I wanted too often to scream “enough!” It’s never a good sign when you check, and often, how many pages remain, and I did that at least every 15 pages.

Six down, two to go:

House Made of Dawn (N. Scott Momaday). I’d never even HEARD of this until I got the syllabus for the class, so I have absolutely no idea what I’ll think of it. (update since I started writing this post; I’m about 20 pages in and I like it very much)

The Bluest Eye (Toni Morrison). I like Toni Morrison just fine, so I’m looking forward to reading this. Of course, I was also looking forward to reading A Death in the Family so who knows.

On August 9, I plan to read whatever I want, without taking notes, or citing page numbers, or considering paper topics. Suggestions will be appreciated (RCubed, I had a gift card and used it to buy Three Cups of Tea, which is in the trunk of my car so I won’t be tempted to start reading it until I’m finished this class…so it’s first on my list.)

18 comments:

enc said...

Wow, the instructor hasn't given you any input? That is a colossal vacuum. I hope you get something soon. It's difficult to work that way. I hope you preserve your excellent grade-point average!

I've read Hurston, but that's it on the list.

I'm looking for a new novel to read, care to recommend something?

Sauntering Soul said...

Someday in this century I'm going to actually mail you the book you won in the contest on my blog. I promise.

CDP said...

enc--I know, so I have no idea how I'm doing, or if the paper I have drafted is what he wants or not.

If you're looking for a classic, I would recommend either Death Comes for the Archbishop or The Sun Also Rises. If you want something less well-known, I REALLY recommend anything by Muriel Spark (especially Memento Mori or A Far Cry From Kensington, or Loitering with Intent). Anything by Penelope Fitzgerald is also great.

SS--OK! Wait til the end of this month, so I won't get it til August, OK? Seriously, I don't need temptation sitting around the house.

DCup said...

I love a woman who finds temptation from books. And who thanks Word after nicely berating it.

I've been reading nonfiction and I think it's time for a little story telling fiction. I've got to pull away from the angry, liberal recitation of what's wrong with this country for a bit (it's not that I disagree with it, I'm just worn out by it).

I might look for some of these books you're reading in the library. But no Faulkner. I had to read him twenty years ago and I've not read him since. Too much spitting.

Oh, and I know you're going to keep the 4.0.

CDP said...

dcup--I so know what you mean about nonfiction. Unless it's distant history or biography, I'm not interested right now. And if I don't keep the 4.0, I'll have something to bline about (that's a word I just made up...bline: To whine on one's blog)

Suze's Sass said...

Since I haven't finished a book in weeks, I'll refrain from suggesting one.

pistols at dawn said...

I never made it to Agee, but I feel the same way about italicized passages (and also, the same way about settings - it's not 1600 anymore, people can travel there now, get to the sex scenes).

Michaéle said...

Oooooh, one of my fav topics...

I love Jen Lancaster...she allows me to channel my inner bee-otch. "Bitter is the New Black" or "Bright Lights, Big Ass," in that order, fit the bill nicely.

I just finished reading something fascinating that has actually made me want to do some additional research..."Mary...Mrs. A. Lincoln" by Janis Cooke Newman. Was Mary Todd Lincoln REALLY in an insane asylum 10 years after President Lincoln's assasination? THIS is what I need to know after reading this. It's fascinating to read how she is in the ward with all the women with eating disorders and how they didn't know what they were....they were just insane women who refused food and ran up and down the stairwells all day.

Oh, and HIGH FIVE for being in school. I could not do it again and really admire people who do.

BeckEye said...

I've not read any of these books. Thanks for reminding me of how much I suck.

susan said...

I'd have to recommend Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds if you need something truly magical. Here's a sample:
"Lotus Cloud hops out of bed and plunges her head into a pail of cold water, bellows 'Aaarrrggghhh! runs a comb through her hair, and looks around to see if there's anyone handy who feels like making love. If such is the case, she hops back into bed. If not, she jumps into whatever clothes are lying around and leaps out the door - or window, it doesn't matter - to see what wonders the new day will bring, and since shes views the world with the delighted eyes of a child, the day is bound to be marvelous."

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Faulkner rocks.

CDP said...

Suze--OK, suggest a magazine for me.

Pistols--Scroll down from your comment, it seems that Susan has found the book for you!

Michaele--Jen Lancaster's new book is the one I won on Sauntering Soul's contest! That's why I told her to wait to send it to me, I know that I'll be tempted to read it before I finish House Made of Dawn or The Bluest Eye (not to mention the damn papers I have to write)

BeckEye--Well, not only has the Phi Beta Kappa Society failed to call me, but so has the Huffington Post, Ms. Big Time, so now look who sucks...

Susan--It's amazing how many books and authors I've never heard of, despite the fact that I read all the time.

Dr. Monkey--yes, he does, doesn't he?

jolie said...

margaret atwood's alias grace is a terrific historical who-dun-it that takes place in mid-1800s "upper canada," now mostly ontario.

and there's the lovely and evocative memoirs of a geisha by (that guy!) arthur golden, whose granddaddy was arthur sulzberger or someone fancy with NYTimes.

CDP said...

Jolie--good suggestion on the Atwood! I also read Memoirs of a Geisha a few years ago, and I liked it a lot.

dguzman said...

Your instructor definitely needs to get off his/her ass and hand back your other papers. That's ridiculous.

As for these titles--I'm glad I'm not in your class. They all sound miserable except for the Faulkner and the Morrison. You'll like The Bluest Eye--it's tough and gritty and hard to deal with, but it's awesome. It's Morrison's first, and it was a clear sign that she was something special. (Can you tell I did my master's thesis on Morrison's novels?)

FranIAm said...

I am looking forward to your 4.0 and you getting to read 3 Cups of Tea.

WendyB said...

I never read the Hurston book...I'll have to check it out.

CDP said...

dguzman--I thought I remembered that you were a Morrison aficionada, and now I know why!

Fran--Thank you. I won't count my chickens on the 4.0, but I can't wait to read 3 Cups of Tea

WendyB--it's definitely worth reading. I think "Their Eyes Were Watching God" is supposed to be her defining work, but I really liked JGV.

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