Posts Tagged ‘classic’

64. “The Great Gatsby,” F. Scott Fitzgerald

September 25, 2010 Leave a comment

My class read this book in high school. Here’s what I remember: there’s a guy named Gatsby who has a big house and big parties. There’s something about an egg. It’s very dusty and there might be a dog. Someone gets hit by a car. I think she was fat and named Myrtle and maybe someone was having an affair with her.

In retrospect, I might not be as great at absorbing books from context as I thought.

Page count: 180


61. “The History of Sexuality: Volume One,” Michel Foucault

September 21, 2009 Leave a comment

You know what? I am counting this one read even though, technically, I didn’t read all of it. You know why? Because fuck that, fuck Michel Foucault, and fuck you. One hundred and seventy-six pages of incredibly dense, oddly-punctuated, Frankfurt school1-informed shit and then you get to the end and Foucault doesn’t even give you this own theory of sexuality. He gives you an analytic. So that none of the criticism he levied against theory could be directed at him.

And the grand solution to the “imagined” problem of sexuality, the repressive hypothesis that he spends at least half the book documenting?


I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried.

I want to understand. Is “to the left” talking about sex? “Harder?” “I don’t want to dress up like a ballerina?” “Uh cuh stih tahk ahound iss ahll gahg”? Is “yes” talking about sex? “I’m not ready to get pregnant?” “I have a latex allergy?” I get the speaker’s benefit2 thing and I get that talking and theorizing are not doing but are you kidding me with this shit?

My professor seriously asked us if we thought that maybe this book was a joke, which is totally plausible. WHY ARE YOU WASTING MY EDUCATION ON A BOOK THAT MIGHT BE A JOKE? Why was this book so earth-shattering? Because of a version of history that Foucault admits could be termed “careless”? Because he manages to totally disregard intersecting identities? Because of the sort-of-interesting premise, if you are maybe a little high and interested in blowing your mind? Why would you make someone who wants to blow hir mind want to blow out hir brains? Is this real life?

If you will excuse me, I am going to click “publish,” then I am going to throw my computer out the window.

PS: I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts, Googlers of “Michel Foucault” + “History of Sexuality” + summary. I don’t usually make ball gag jokes and yell at my readers here, but I want to die.

Page count: 176
Page total: 24,109
(I’m giving myself partial credit. Not even in my bone-crushing anger would I cheat these numbers.)

1. Do you know about this shit? Apparently some people were sort of just ripping off Marx, spouting his ideas as their own without really doing enough research and taking his hard-won, clearly-stated ideas as their own. Not after the Frankfurt School, which says that you should write things as obtusely as possible so that it is harder for people to 1) understand what you are saying, unless they are smart enough to really, really try and 2) lift your words out of context. Doesn’t Foucault make bucketloads more sense now?
2. The power people derive from talking about something “taboo,” which comes from the apparent breach of/disregard for society’s conventions

34. “The Old Man and the Sea,” Ernest Hemingway

May 19, 2009 1 comment

Well. That about broke my heart. I can’t believe my father recommended this to my (extremely empathetic) younger sister.

Page count: 127
Page total: 16,572

22. “Slaughter-House Five”, Kurt Vonnegut

March 10, 2009 Leave a comment

I really love this book though, as with anything by Kurt Vonnegut, you end up sounding like an idiot when you try to explain to people why you are clutching it to your bosom. “Well, it’s a fictional account of Kurt Vonnegut’s experiences in World War II when he was a prisoner of war. He was in Dresden when it was firebombed and was one of very few people to make it out alive. [They nod empathetically.] So, Vonnegut decides to write about his experiences in the war and focuses on a soldier he knew, Billy Pilgrim, who hascomeunstuckintime and keepsexperiencinglifeeventsoutoforder and forawhilethere,heisanexhibitinanalienzoo. And there is this lovely phrase the Vonnegut uses whenever the talks about someone dying. It’s just ‘so it goes’, because theTramfaldorianscanseeintothefourthdimension and believe that when a person is dead, they are merely in a bad state right then, but are okay in many other moments.”

Oh Vonnegut. You can make a fool out of me any day.

Quotes are on the next page Read more…

21. “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry”, Mildred D. Taylor

March 3, 2009 Leave a comment

I hadn’t read this before and it made my heart hurt. I love that terrible excitement that you get about five pages from the end of a book when you start thinking “there’s no way this is all going to come together!” The end was a bit abrupt, and almost too much like real life, but I really liked this book.

Also: TJ is such a freaking jerk. He reminds me of one of my students. The same Napoleon/rejection/attachment thing.

Page count: 210
Page total: 13,523

Next up: “Harriet the Spy” (ee!), “The History of Sexuality” (ha!), and maybe “Slaughter-House Five”?

19. “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”, L. Frank Baum

February 20, 2009 1 comment

Hey look, I finally did some required reading. It was a good run I had going there.

Anyway, we’re all familiar with the movie and the book is pretty similar in feeling, though the events are different. The illustrations (which are the original ones by W.W. Denslow) freak me out a little. I kept looking for racialized subtext, a la Roald Dahl’s first version of the Oompa Loompas.

Pages: 240
Total: 13,086
Currently reading: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry; Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity; and The Secret Garden

1. “1984”, George Orwell

November 1, 2008 Leave a comment

So, here’s my first new entry, and I’ll count it as my first book since November, even though it was a book I read to teach, rather than just for me. But I figure that I could get a break on it, since I ended up reading it about four times over the past two months.

This is the first book I have ever taught, so I think it has earned a special place in my heart. I picked this book sort of randomly. I knew that we were going to be working on the government, since it is an election year, and when I met with my mentor teacher over the summer, she suggested picking a book that had something to do with government. I am a cynic and easily intimidated, so I panicked and suggested a dystopian novel, though what I had in mind at the time was “Player Piano” by Kurt Vonnegut. I hadn’t realized at that time that that book was about 350 pages long. 1984 clocks in at 299, which isn’t much better, but I felt more okay with asking students to read three hundred pages of the quintessential dystopian novel.

As it ended up, the book came in late, on a week when Jessie was out for surgery. I was a wreck and I had only five weeks to teach it– less, because of Thanksgiving and random days off. My students read the first chapter out of photocopied packets. I need to say again that I was a wreck.

There was something magical about this book for me, though. The students who are least likely to buy what I am selling really seemed to respond to it. R, who can be brilliant when he isn’t standing up in the middle of class to punch another student in the head (true stories. STORIES, plural) told me that the reason that he was doing all of the reading guides I assigned them (and there were a lot) was that 1984 was “actually a good book”. Another student had told me that I lied to her when I said it was a bad book (I said it was good. She said teachers were always wrong and it must be bad). A lot of students really stepped up, had good discussions, made smart connections, and asked interesting, brilliant questions (“Is Big Brother real? Or is he just a figure like Uncle Sam?”). Also, the phrase “lunatic enthusiasm” just feels like a thick velvet blanket. It is delightful. I don’t even usually like velvet.

On my last day of in-class teaching, I was feverishly grading some assignments that I really needed to pass back right after lunch. I was in the middle of R’s paper when suddenly my heart hurt. I looked up at Jessie and said “My heart just grew three sizes”. R, like so many of my students, was using words like doublethink, Newspeak, and thoughtcrime fluently. These were words and ideas that had come to mean something to them. We finished the final chapter out loud in class that day, and many of my students were incensed, as I was, with the ending of the book. They grappled with the last four words– J pointed out that, yeah, that’s how it would have to end, and you see it coming, but you don’t want it to end that way. G and N were really upset that Winston sold out Julia. When I gave the class an assignment to write a final diary entry for Winston explaining what happened five years after he got out of MiniLuv, several students had Winston and Julia get back together. They examined motives, were intuitive and sensitive, showed the affect of the government on its people. They were amazing. One student– we’ll call her Ginny Martinez– had Winston marry a woman called Jenny Rodriguez– she wrote herself into the story!

This book taught me a lot about how to get students involved and what they look for in books.

I want to high five George Orwell.

Page count: 299 Total: 299