Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Little Bit Stressed-Out and Weird

I have had a pounding migraine for the past two days straight, which has severely impacted my abilities to remove the source of the eternal damned headache: all of the stress-inducing activities which are currently leaving me with no desire to face tomorrow.

And what is tomorrow? An event for which I am NOT a planner, but a liaison, which leaves me in the unfortunate position of having to field all sorts of ridiculous demands, unabashed begging and pleading, and downright antipathy and potential sabotage, from both sides of the process.

Over the course of planning this event, various other roadblocks have also sprung up in my path, most notably, schoolwork (a constant source of unnecessary stress), my College Fashion articles (ALSO due tomorrow), and day-to-day trivialities, such as sleep and eating (which I am beginning to realize are less and less vital). In the process, I have neglected some things, like going to the gym, and completely failed at others, such as keeping this blog alive (sorry). As a result - I have already mentioned the tugging at my skull, from the less contented parts of my brain, resulting in a fresh hell of lying in bed for four hours extra every morning - I have had the weirdest dreams lately, and frequently find myself misunderstanding information.

At a stressful, insane period like this one, the only thing to do, would be to read a strange and confusing book, right? Hence, Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair.

The smart story, post-modern in the way that Dodos are scientifically replicable in 1985, follows the beleaguered LiteraTec agent (tasked with protecting the integrity of the world's classics) Thursday Next, as she does battle with the incredibly dastardly villian, Acheron Hades, while fielding the unwanted policing by the all-controlling Goliath Corporation. England is a police state, while Wales is a carefully guarded socialist country, the United States is still referred to only as "the colonies" and the Crimean War has been fought with Russia for over a hundred years. Shakespeare is considered a basic language, and the idea of any of the country's great works being tarnished is one of absolute national importance; hence, the job of LiteraTec agent. The only thing that can make it more wacky? Fictional characters are able to start jumping in and out of books, leading to great confusion as some are found missing, and others even turn up dead.

Who WOULDN'T love this book?

I read it for the first time in middle school, and - at the time -rejoiced in my half-way obliviousness, thinking myself terribly clever as I read about Jane Eyre and Richard III. It is only now, years later, that I recognized the sounds of missed jokes and literary references whistling away way above my eighth-grade head. However, what is essentially a high-concept book, is enjoyable to both those who have mastered the majority of BritLit, as those who barely understand Middle English. It is truly funny, as well as intelligent.

And the perfect thing is, it completely mirrors my zany mind processing right now. Someone send me an Austen when I've regained my sanity.

[Also, my next College Fashion article goes up this Wednesday, about Jane Eyre. So be on the lookout!]

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Bad Attitude

I've never really been one for negativity, barring that one 3-day goth-punk misadventure that occurred in the fifth grade (don't worry, I'm okay now).

Remembering to look on the brighter side is as familiar a concept to me as looking both ways before crossing the street, and when I do reach the other side of the road, I can be assured that my neighbor's lawn is no greener than mine. I always make sure to put on a smile, at the same time I'm putting on my shoes, because I know I wouldn't be fully dressed without either of them. And if anyone tries to rain on my parade, I simply wipe the fog off my rose-colored glasses, keep an eye out for the 9th cloud, and look for the silver lining in the forecast, because I know that, regardless of the weather, the sun will come out tomorrow.

And if all of those terrible cliches can't convince you of my optimism, then here's the proof: I've made it through J.D.Salinger's the Catcher in the Rye for the second time through, and have yet to get a tattoo, a new Tumblr account (in fact, I actually deleted mine!), or a sweet black electric guitar for my all new indie-grunge one-woman-show. Nor have I heard strange voices or attempted any homicides, but those are a little less likely reactions to the apathetic - as well as oftentimes straight-up pathetic - whining present in the novel.

The Catcher in the Rye is told from the viewpoint of 16-year-old East Coast flunkie Holden Caulfield, as he wanders around NYC for three days, to avoid having to tell his parents that he has been kicked out of yet another prestigious prep school. Over the course of the novel, he hires a prostitute - just so he can find someone to talk to - hits on a couple of middle-aged women in a nightclub, ostracizes himself from past friends, and basically takes part in drunken, dissolute behavior over the course of 277 pages.

Did I mention the book was published in 1951?

If I sound condemnatory, I don't mean to. It's easy to criticize this book; in fact, people have been doing it ever since the book was published over 60 years ago. Simultaneously the most-banned and most-read book in high schools across America, Catcher has always had the shadow of offended school boards and all-too-chaste parents hanging over it. People blame it for the suicide of Kurt Cobain, as well as for the homicide (actually, is it more appropriate to say assassination?) of John Lennon. It's really, really easy for people not to like this book, even by looking at the structure of the novel itself: there basically is none. No great lesson-learned at the end, he doesn't die or anything. Nothing happens. And the narration style is considered to be less-than-ideal as well. It sounds simply like you're having a conversation with a teenage boy in a retro time loop.

The thing is, that is my favorite thing about the novel. The fact that, even though the book was written in 1951, even though Holden's nightclubs involved trumpets, jitterbugging, and famous piano players, even though his world involves so much of what is antiquated and obsolete to us, you can still look at Holden, and see a teenage boy. While his surroundings may have changed drastically, he, himself is a universal: who hasn't felt like the world he was living in is superficial and shallow, like he is alone and under-appreciated, like his glory has yet to come? Readers may choose to condemn his frequent expletive-laced language and juvenile tone, but it just makes Holden that much more relatable and recognizable as a kid.

Furthermore, while nothing really happens over the course of the novel, maybe its enduring popularity and praise owes a little to those same feelings that he exhibited with such reality: it's enough just to be with someone who understands you, to be a little less lonely, for a little while. Angst-filled teenage readers have found a friend in Holden for this long, not because he undergoes this magical attitude-transformation, where he finds out he's a wizard and saves the princess from the tower and solves the whodunit mystery while nabbing the dastardly trainrobbers, but because he was someone, who thought like them, and sometimes, it's just nice to be with someone who understands. Like Holden.

So, while I don't feel the need to stage some kind of a demonstration in Red Square or set fire to anything anytime soon, I can't really say I got out of The Catcher in the Rye unchanged. It gives me a new appreciation for those other people crossing the street, those whose sun isn't as determined to shine as mine is. Those people who are just looking for other people like them, like I am.

(to check out my College Fashion post inspired by The Catcher in the Rye style, go here: )

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Dead Tired

Only a few days back to school, and I already feel like spending most of the day in bed.

It's not the classes, those are amazing. They're all in a row, straight off, starting at 9:30 am, and ending shortly after lunch, so I don't have any giant gaping holes in my schedule like I did last quarter, and besides, check out what classes I'm taking: Water and Society, English 297 AND 301 (pre-reqs for the major!), and Dinosaurs. Yeah, that's right, Dinosaurs. Nothing, in terms of schoolwork, is getting me down, as the readings are fabulous, the topics are engaging, and I have friends - or am already making friends - in all of my classes. There's no problem with school itself.

I think it's partially to do with the fact that I really wore myself out over break. Not everyone considers tackling an almost 1,000 page Russian drama for Christmas, and it was a real journey, not only to read the whole novel, but also adapt it for College Fashion (for my first-ever post, no less), as well as review it for this blog. While I did find it all a very rewarding experience, I don't think I'll be attempting that kind of a marathon again any time soon.

Instead, I chose to retreat to the comfort zone, and bury myself in my favorite genre - also rife with those 6 ft. under - with a good cup of tea. Several good cups of tea later, I retreated from the novel mentally replenished, and ready to get back to work.

The novel was this: Why Didn't They Ask Evans?, one of the best - in my opinion - of Agatha Christie's canon, and one not starring either of her most famous mystery-solvers, Poirot or Marple, either. Instead, the novel focuses on young Bobby Jones, the son of a vicar, and his childhood friend, Lady Frances Derwent, and their attempts to expose a devious drug ring and unmask a murderer by following the trail of corpses left behind, all without becoming corpses themselves.

In many ways, it was simply a typical, yet no less thrilling, Agatha Christie mystery, involving many familiar thematic elements of the mystery genre at that time period, including shadowy figures, sinister doctors, eerie mist, daring escapes, close shots, and the femme fatale. However, as this was one of Christie's first mysteries published after her second marriage, this time to archaeologist Max Mallowan, the witty banter and jokes prevalent throughout the book also bespeak a certain  lightheartedness perhaps not present in her later books. And say whatever you want about the caliber and quality of the series novel, the mystery genre, or this masterful combination of the two, but I believe that this is one of the most fun Agatha Christie's career.

Anyways, a nice, quick read, leaving me feeling refreshed and ready, to face the onslaught of reading coming at me from two different English classes. :) I'm so excited!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Inc-read-ably Sorry

Dear Readers,

I'm terribly, terribly sorry for having neglected you for so long. I know I've already made these kinds of apologies before, but I'm hoping that the positively terrible pun in the title of this blog post will make you more receptive to my pleas for forgiveness.

The reason behind my absence is simple: I was kidnapped by the prolific 18th century Russian author, Leo Tolstoy. I unsuspectingly flipped open the cover of a paperback copy of Anna Karenina, and all of a sudden, I was carried off by his words, and held hostage until I reached the very last chapter. Through Dead Week, Finals, and even the holidays, I was held captive by the captivating prose, kept company only by the doomed socialite and her peers, and finally escaped from the prison on the third of this new year.

However, along the way, I'm afraid I developed a little bit of Stockholm Syndrome, because I loved every second of my confinement.

While the book was incredibly long, and a little slow in some parts, the plot was engaging and enthralling. The descriptions were beautiful, and entirely different from what I'm used to in British Literature: instead of focusing simply on forming a complete image of a setting or a character, Tolstoy spoke of movement and action, choosing to describe a dog in pursuit on a hunt, or the hushed whispering in a society ballroom. The characters were realistic and relatable, which only added to the inner turmoil when the rigidity of Russian society refused to bend for a woman in love.

I've never had to deal with a book that is purely translation before, and I must say, that made it a little more difficult to reach the end, because I am not sure if my edition was exactly the most descriptive or explanatory in its efforts to transcribe a great Russian drama into simple English. However, on the whole, emotional turbulence on this kind of a scale is relatively easy to translate, and the most important aspects of the novel came through with incredible clarity The sound of a gun misfired, a horse falling, and, most importantly, a heart breaking, need no translation.

But I'm afraid I'm about to break your hearts, again, my dear readers. Anna Karenina is a novel about the adulterous affair between the titular character, and the debonair military man, Count Vronsky, and in reading it, I soon found myself involved with another, as well. I've been cheating on you, with another blog, and I haven't a single regret for any of it.

It started out on November 14th, when, on the day before the final deadline, I submitted my application for a contributing editor position, for the nationally-written and recognized lifestyle website, College Fashion. It had been a dream of mine, for quite some time, to merge my mutual passions of fashion and reading, and in applying for this position, I submitted the idea of a column demonstrating a fashionable literacy, detailing the confluence of the two areas of my expertise: fashion inspired by literature.

Shortly thereafter, I heard back from the Editor-in-Chief, Zephyr Basine, that I had been accepted into the position. She wanted me to start elaborating on this concept immediately, and before I knew it, on January 2nd, my first post went up. Instead of revolving around character depictions and relatively easy reads, such as past "Looks From Books" posts have done, I delved deeper into the novel, choosing to interpret thematic elements within the writing instead, and centering the article around the very novel displayed at the top of this post.

Out of over 300 highly-qualified applicants, I was one of about sixteen college women selected to write for College Fashion for the next six months. I had been overjoyed simply at the idea of being handed such an honor, but after the introduction of my first post, I soon found myself flattered beyond compare. To date, my article has been "Liked" on Facebook more than 113 times, has been "Retweeted" 40 times - once, by Focus Films (they who made the 2012 Anna Karenina movie) themselves - and garnered "Comments Section" praise, like this:
"I gotta say, not only am I in love with a lot of these outfits, but I am SO freaking impressed with this. It’s not just straight inspiration from illustrations, the movie, and the like- it’s outfits based off of overreaching themes?! Seriously, this is incredible, moving, and what true fashion should be about."
 Color me bashful. But not bashful enough not to brag when I'm proud of something. Check the article out in its entirety right here:

At any rate, though it may result in a little less attention to the needs of THIS blog, my job at College Fashion is just as much of an effort for the love of literature as my posts on here are, and I am incredibly honored and blessed to be writing for them. I can only hope that you might all be happy for me, and, hey, we  can still be friends. I'll continue to update this blog as much as possible, and link to College Fashion whenever a new post goes up, but it may just take a little more time than that to which you may have become accustomed.

Sincerely, with much love and excitement,