One of the best things about taking English classes is that it’s a good excuse to buy books that you otherwise wouldn’t be buying. I started this blog for an English literature course I took last year, and while since then it’s become much bigger than a simple assignment, commenting on the readings really helped me understand and even write my papers, I figured I’d do the same this year.
So as a sort of preview on the books I will be posting about in the next few months (along with *coughbloodofolympuscoughcough*), I’m posting a list of my reading lists, and my initial thoughts on them.
I’m taking two Literature courses this semester, the first is ENG 224, which is world literature. My professor chose the theme of science-fiction (which is great!) so I have a lot of optimism for these books.
First is Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I read this book in first year, and I absolutely love it. It’s a story of creation and ambition, science and consequence, of agency and fault—and considered the birth of science fiction.
The misconceptions about this story are countless, the most notable of these is that the monster is called “Frankenstein”. Wrong. The scientist is named Victor Frankenstein, and the monster he creates is nameless.
The novel is much more interesting than just whose name is whose, and hopefully someone else out there in the wide expanse of the
Arctic Circle internet is willing to share in the tale.
Next is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip Dick, which by the clever title alone I can tell will be about the humanity of robots. Apparently, it’s the inspiration for the film Blade Runner.
…not that I’ve watched Blade Runner. (I haven’t.)
It’s the first novel in a series, according to goodreads, so i may have a new series to delve into during winter break.
In a post apocalyptic world, shortage of life is filled by man-made robots—birds, dogs, and even humans. Sound premise. I’m excited to read it.
Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson doesn’t sound as sci-fi as the first two titles, but that’s dashed out the window once you find out that the story occurs on the planet of Toussaint. It, refreshingly, stars a young woman by the name of Tan-Tan, who is driven to become the Robber Queen after her father does some spoilerific event that throws her already miserable existence on the planet into utter chaos.
The cover is very eye-catching, and Tan-Tan (who I assume is on the cover) looks like a strong lead. I like sci-fi books where the human race has become the minority, because it kind of puts us in our place.
Also, Toussaint is based on Caribbean culture, which I’m really open to, since you don’t see that much in popular fiction.
Salt Fish Girl is actually by one of the professors at my school, Larissa Lai. She’s not my professor, which would just be a shameless plug, and strange way to promote your book.
The story is based on a female who is immortal, and shape shifts her way through time as the world changes around her. Her story is intertwined with that of Miranda, a girl living in the dystopian, rather near, future of 2044, who has the unfortunate body odour of durian.
This one seems a little more fantasy than science-fiction, so I’d like to see how the science worms it’s way into the story.
Hiromi Goto’s Kappa Child is the story of a Japanese-Canadian family who decides to leave the coast of British Columbia to interior Alberta, in attempt to grow rice in the farmlands there.
I’m a little skeptical about this, since (once again) it seems more fantastical than scientific, especially since a Kappa is from Japanese mythology. As it follows the lives of the four daughters of the rice farmer, I figure it’s more of a family bonding, slice of life with magic thrown in sort of story.
Which, if done well, I will be perfectly happy to read.
The nightmarish cover of Exploits and Opinions of Dr. Faustroll, Pataphysician by Alfred Jarry reminds me a lot of that creature from Pan’s Labyrinth that gave me nightmares for weeks. Great start.
And yet by simply skimming goodreads, it’s apparently a…satirical comedy?
Sounds like Gulliver’s Travels, which I enjoyed, but I’m really not too sure about this one. “Pataphysics”, a quick google search informs me, is the study of what lies beyond metaphysics. Metaphysics, being the study of being, is complicated on its own. Going one step beyond that and sticking it in a Gulliver’s Travels tone sounds mind boggling. I guess we’ll see.
My other literature course is lovingly titled “From the Ridiculous to the Sublime: What was Funny in the Eighteenth Century?” Well, being the era of Austen, Behn, Pope, and Swift, I can take a wild guess. My prof says the purpose of the course is not to define what is funny, but to understand why people thought it was funny.
Our first set of reading is a bunch of puns and witticisms from the 18th century, and while some are entertaining, some don’t make any sense. Admittedly, the play on words they use isn’t unlike what we use today, just with a different kind of slang. And some of it is quite clever. I particularly like this one, it reminds me of Shel Silverstein’s work:
On the Loss of Time.Ticio stands gazing for the clouded sun, To be inform’d how fast his hours shall run, Ah! Foolish Ticio, art thou sound in mind, To lose by seeking, what thou seekest to find?
But on to the books! First off is a play by William Wycherley called The Country Wife, which is about a guy who pretends to be a eunuch, just so he can get into the skirts of all these women. (Though I believe he’s chemically castrated himself, so no babies start popping up…I think. Hard to say so far.)
It’s a typical set up for a comedic play, all the while thinking, “You can’t just read it, you have to see it” and “think about the use of situational irony!” and “Theatricality!”
So I’m not big on reading plays. I love dialogue in novels, but just depending on that to drive a story is like taking out the lights and the zapping and the chaos in Harry Potter’s last stand off with Voldemort and just having them yell funny words to each other. At least, by cutting out all they extra wordage, plays go by quickly.
Next is Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding. Apparently written as an imitation of Don Quixote (which makes me wonder about the next book on this list), the novel recounts the adventures of Joseph Andrews as he goes home with his best friend to meet his lover, Fanny.
I have no idea what to expect of this book, which makes me nervous and excited at the same time. This is a little disconcerting, considering the next book.
The way my prof introduced The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne, he made it sound like Don Quixote. We’re not going to read the whole thing, but I have a feeling this book is going to be this semester’s Paradise Lost.
Seriously, this thing is a monster, divided into who knows how many parts and loaded with m-dashes—so many more m-dashes than what I use.
I heard it’s not an easy read, and I believe it just by sheer size and m-dashes, and I have no clue of what it’s about. Probably comedic slice of life, and I hope it doesn’t drag out too long.
The last book on my list is Jane Austen’s Emma. Which is lucky, since Emma is my favourite Austen story, despite only ever watching adaptations of the story. So you can guess that I’m excited to read this book. (Finally.)
I would have read it years ago, but the hardcover Austen anthology in my house is just way too heavy to take with me. I adore the plot, the characters, the themes and the twists.
And of course there are essays and short stories as well, but I won’t list them because…there’s a lot of them. *Sigh.* I’ll be putting nearly all other books on hold until I’m through with all this. I’ve got some work ahead of me.