Monday, January 22, 2018

Busy (personal)

  Ever since I started my new job last September I have been cramming like crazy, familiarizing my self with my new library, trying to find out what I can bring to this new relationship, and what I can do to make it grow ( is a relationship, and hopefully, a long-lasting one).  I have always thought that libraries are all about accessibility and it has been a driving force for me to make the library where I used to work a safe, comfortable place where you can indulge in books, learn how to use them, and be confident where you go that a library is a good place to be, and somewhere you want to go. 

Same with my new library.  So far my projects have been familiarising myself with our collection, and with the students (which has been a really challenging thing to do as the format is completely different in a high school library than in a primary school where I saw all the kids every week.  At my new place, it's a trickle of students in comparison).

It was overwhelming to say the least, and everything felt so strange.  There's no way to candy coat it, but I had to leave my old job because for the past five years or so I have been working under a very horrible supervisor, and I felt that it would be unbearable to work another year under her dictatorship.  So on top of the newness of a my current library, I was overwhelmed in another way... I wasn't used to living without this constant oppression, so in consequence I was floating instead.  I had to learn how to float!  It took a while to learn how because I was crushed for so long.  After four months at my new job... I'm still floating!
So this is a roundabout way of saying that I have been very busy, so busy that I have not been able to write about what I have been reading, but I hope to change that this calendar year, because I have a plan and a couple of goals to reach and it would be very exciting to share my experiences as well as my new focus, young adult books,  with everyone.  

More on this very soon!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Out of Wonder

I LOVE this book!  Picked up from my local library this week, it caught my eye because it is a Kwame Alexander book, plus the cover is so colourful and inviting.  The art is done by Ekua Holmes (who has become an person of interest). 
Not only is the art colourful, it has texture (I found myself running my hands across the pages expecting to feel something different, lumps and bumps and fabric, tissue paper, moss), the different applications throughout the book complementing each poem and poet featured.  I have always loved an artist that applies different mediums to achieve that rich look that is fascinating to look at and fun to figure out how it was done. 
The poems themselves (homages to different poets) were like love notes to them, honoring their styles and showing a respect and admiration of each poet's work.  At the back of the book is a short biography of each poet featured.   I feel really lucky to have been able to read this wonderful book.     

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Scottish Play?

Not really!  Nope, not at all (well, okay... there was this one guy who had a very short part...)
In my new job working in a secondary school library, I now have access to a variety of plays by Shakespeare (some that I have not seen yet), so I chose a version of Macbeth featuring Ian McKellen and Judi Dench.  Why?  I like to study something thoroughly and I have been studying Macbeth all year (trying to pace myself between viewings and essays about the play).  There are only a few movies left to see and I have been surprised by a bonus showing of the play on CBC from the Stratford Festival, Ontario (which to my mind is the best one I have seen yet... Macbeth and his lady had serious chemistry, and the witches gave me  the shivers!).  But I'm digressing here...

This play, whilst performed by excellent actors, was not Scottish.  As a matter of fact their perfect, well-spoken British accents just threw me off completely and it was only when Judi Dench entered the scene that things began to come together into something that interested me.  Judi Dench was perfect... despite the accent, I could look past that into her performance which was chilling to the bone and nothing I have ever seen her do before.  When she lost her mind it was disturbingly convincing... she is a master of her craft.

 I love Ian McKellen, but I don't feel that Macbeth was his best role.

Despite this, it is a good story, and at the end of every play I have ever seen attributed to William Shakespeare I have been entertained, even if I did't like the format very much.

The form of this play was very simple; a room with lighting and a few props to indicate different scenes, it was very effective in presenting this version of the play as a psychological thriller, making it suspenseful, honing it's focus to the language of the play and it's participants.  With that purpose in mind, of making this something to mess with the mind  some things became truly worse, like the drooling and frothing at the mouth of the prophetic witch and the gore that was on Mabeth's hands (it's not a play to watch while snacking!).
It's not my favourite version, but just watching Judi Dench's Lady Macbeth is worth putting up with the rest.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Reading Macondo

It was with great pleasure that I studied five of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's works last summer.  Reading his books for pleasure was one thing, analyzing them was another.  Interpreting what the author meant was profoundly illuminating and deeply satisfying, it has changed the way that I read now, especially Garcia Marquez's works.
 Doing some research of the the periods indicated helped to develop a better understanding of what was meant (or at least what I think he meant) by the author.  The course Reading Macondo, hosted by Universidad de los Andes in Bogota, Columbia provided lots of information, videos, and a timeline of Garcia Marquez's life.  This information was extremely useful in being able to understand the author's references. The books studied were as follows:
 Leaf Storm (where the term means more than just leaves blowing in the wind!

 No One Writes to the Colonel (where a fighting cock is significantly important but in more ways than one)

 Big Mama's Funeral, a collection of short stories that pack a powerful wallop (this is where Garcia Marquez reminds me strongly of Ray Bradbury).

You can only see the Spanish title above, but an English copy of the collection can be found in this book Collected Stories where you can find four collections of his works.

 In Evil Hour was another story told in the same town as the one that No One Writes to the Colonel is based, and is what I think to be a way for the author to express his feelings about The Violence (a dark time in Colombian history).

 and last but not least, One Hundred Years of Solitude 

Since listening to the book last year, I have read this two and a half times, making copious notes and finding things that were missed my first time through (which is in a way why I think I would like to listen to stories after I have read the book, or in some cases like  Ulysses and Gravity's Rainbow do it simultaneously).  I really enjoyed the experience, laughed a great deal, and had a wonderful time finding connections to his previous works.  These references are scattered throughout (also one or two I have found from books that weren't in the Reading Macondo course which were stories he thought of after publishing this one).
All of these books were worth a second (or third) look.  Garcia Marquez really was a genius.
I had meant to continue on with another course directly after, also on Garcia Marquez, but after such an intensive study of the Macondo books I felt I needed a break.  Also, I have made some changes in my professional life... I have moved from an elementary school library to a high school library!  It means whole new genres I haven't given much attention to and a whole new realm of literary possibilities.  It's very exciting!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Lolita Revisited (spoilers)

Whilst reading the first portion of this book, I felt that it was important (because it was important to the author) to read Lolita again.  If any of you have read my initial response to this book  there is no doubt what my initial feelings where.  But after reading Nafisi's thoughts on the book, and also learning about unreliable narratives from my course How To Read A Novel, I saw that maybe my initial response was biased by my own personal experiences and feelings and that maybe I had missed something.  So I did it... again.
This time, to make it easier, I decided to listen to the audio book narrated by Jeremy Irons (who was also Humbert Humbert in the movie) and he was a perfect choice (for the narration...I'll never see the movie so I can't say how he was in that).  

It was just as disagreeable for me to listen to as to read, maybe more so because having the story read to you by someone you can picture in your mind, and someone who can act who adds emotion, depth and dimension to the role making the novel almost graphic.  Despite all that I tried to listen to it objectively, I wanted to try and see what Nafisi saw, and perhaps something more.   

So what I am going to do now is something I usually avoid... I am going to get into specific details, dig a little deeper than before to see beyond my original perceptions of this book.  
I have to admit, I didn't see too far beyond what I already saw the first time, but before I talk about that I want to say that this time around I was more aware of Humbert Humbert and his perfect understanding of how much of a monster he really was.     
In a nutshell Lolita is about desire, the unhealthy desire if an older man for a tween aged girl, and the lengths he went to, to get this girl.  He moved into her house as a border, married her mother so that he could stay there (and gain access to his Lolita).  The mother discovers, his predilection, but dies before she can do anything about it, so now Lolita is Humbert's for his own pleasure.

Here are some specifics.  I stated in my first blog that I thought that all of these characters (husband, mother and daughter) were awful, selfish and spiteful and I still believe that.  If the mother had not felt threatened by her own daughter's growing sexuality, if she hadn't tried to get rid of her so she could enjoy Humbert for herself, if she hadn't been so selfish, if she had thought more about her daughter's welfare rather than her own needs, things would have been very different.    
 Lolita was a very spiteful and selfish young girl and I still believe that to be the case especially after she initiated sex with her step-father.
While I do agree with Nafisi that Humbert raped her, and continued to use her for his own selfish needs, there was something very wrong with Lolita as well.  She seduced her mother's new husband!  How did she think life would be like after that?  Did she think she could go home from camp and play Happy Family with Mom and her new Daddy-O?  It's pretty clear in the book, she didn't know her mother was dead when she had sex with Humbert, so what was she thinking?  Obviously (hopefully), she wasn't, and Humbert, as the predator he is, just couldn't resist his obsession.
Sadly, for Lolita, it was what I would call some very severe consequences for that particular action and she paid for it for the next two years of her life (basically being kept as Humbert's little sex slave), though I think she remained complicit because of his manipulations and her own fears of having no where to go.  

So I have concluded, after doing this re-read, that my own personal perception of this novel hasn't changed a jot, but I do have a deeper understanding of the characters involved.  I think that when I also re-read the section in the book Reading Lolita in Tehran concerning Lolita, I will have a better understanding of Nafisi as well.  One last thought... this book was written from Humbert's honest, twisted, manipulative, and highly nauseating point of view, could you imagine what it would have been like from Lolitas?

Friday, August 4, 2017

Leaf Storm

I have this past week begun an online course called Reading Macondo.  Since I listened to One Hundred Years of Solitude last year I have been meaning to read the book (I went out the very week I finished the audio book and found myself a lovely used copy).  I have been hoarding it since then as I often do with literary treats.  The time has come to indulge and this course that I am taking (hosted by the Universidad de los Andes in Bogota, Columbia), is so much more than I could have expected.
There are five stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez that we are studying starting with  Leaf Storm.  

I have pre-read all of the stories listed for the course (except for One Hundred Years of Solitude  which it has been suggested to read alongside the study of the other books), so I have a brief familiarity with the course material.  I did as suggested first time around and read for pleasure rather than study.  Pausing as I have this past week to analyse Leaf Storm has been an incredible pleasure for me as I have delved into the story in more depth.

As I am also half way through my other course How To Read a Novel, I have more tools at my disposal for the study of this first novella of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, as we have covered plot and character so far, which has already been very useful to me.  Reading the stories casually I could sense the ability of the author, and be affected by the way he wove words to describe his universe.  Studying in depth just proved that he was a genius, the way he played with words to create a mood which even an interpretation into English didn't dilute.

...and just think!  There are five more weeks to go of this amazing course.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Broken Earth Trilogy

Okay...I caved.  I decided that I could read the second book in this trilogy this month and then read the third next month ( I thought that it would be a good idea to pace it out...) but it wasn't a good idea!  I want to read the next book NOW (imagine a grown woman throwing a major wobbly fit because she can't gratify her need to know immediately).
As I mentioned in my other post about N. K. Jemisin, I had read (listened to) The Fifth Season and then promptly bought the rest of her work.
This book is just amazing, different, engrossing.  There's that hint of a bygone terrestrial era (and I have always loved a book about an Earth that is no longer recognizable).  Though it is much more than that.  I really want to know how this world evolved to be what it is now and that is what holds my fascination (and always has!).  Added to that a strong female protagonist (who is a survivor), and a hard, painful backstory and you have The Fifth Season.   It gets exciting at the end however and then we get to The Obelisk Gate:
I loved this book!  It really is epic fantasy (and nominated for both The Nebula and Hugo Awards).  Sometimes the middling book of a trilogy is just filler, but not this one.  It's action packed from start to finish, keeping the story going along at a fast clip with some more backstory thrown in.  I hate to give spoilers, so I can't really say more about this book, except that I wish N.K. Jemisin good luck with the Hugos.  Now, to calculate how soon I can get the next book!