It’s been a while… It’s been a long while. Clearly I have let the original illiterate literati project go… And that’s ok! I am still going to read all the books on the original reading list but I found that I made the project too structured. It became stressful and not fun. I began to dread my reading projects and started looking for escape from them… Which totally defeated the point.
So… Here I am… Again! I am refreshed. I am energized and I am looking forward to having fun with the project again. So here is the deal…
I am no longer sticking solely to the original book list. I will take suggestions from readers as well as explore other classics I have always wanted to read. I am not giving myself any sort of time line/ deadline. I work nearly 50 hours per week, I have a husband and 3 active dogs that range in age from 15 weeks to 3 years. I have a BUSY life. This blog and the illiterate literati project are important to me but the only way to keep it going is to keep it fun.
So… With that said. Please, look forward to more posts and reviews from me in the near future. I know it’s been a while but I am glad to be back.
For those of you interested in reading along, I am currently reading American Gods by the one and only Neil Gaiman.
Love to you all!!! I’ll see you soon!
Ok, so I’ve gotten off track. I got bored with Edith Hamilton… maybe that wasn’t the best choice for my 2nd book into this project. I got distracted by some other stuff and picked up Born to Run by Chrisopher McDougall instead of finishing Mythology…
Don’t look at me like that! I will finish it… eventually…
The thing about Mythology is that it shouldn’t really be read all at once in one big chunk. It’s not a continuous story. It’s bits and pieces kind of like a volume of fairy tales or folk lore. It’s best to read it in small doses.
If you are looking for a fun, plot driven continuous story about gods and heroes, pick up the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. I have read THEM ALL and they are fantastic. Although the Percy Jackson series takes extreme liberties with the myths, it does a stellar job of sparking a reader’s interest in learning more about them. Also, Rick Riordan is a Texas author… so I’m kind of biased
In other news, I have decided to change up the project a little bit. Instead of sticking just to the summer reading list I’m drawing from, I am also going to incorporate other books that I have always wanted to read. This way I don’t become bored or overwhelmed by the original structure of the project.
I am currently reading The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros which is a tiny little book but beautifully, almost lyrically written. It is also on my summer reading list ;P
I am going to begin Wicked this week since I have gotten into musicals again recently and I found a copy of the novel at the used books store a few weeks ago
Read along with both of these books. I’ll have more on them soon.
…No, I am still not finished with Mythology by Edith Hamilton…. I am only about half way through….
I swear to you, I have been reading every day…but it’s like I have to read a little and stop for a while…otherwise all of the stories and characters and gods and monsters start to blur together…
I will finish this weekend. I promise
By quick update, I mean super quick update. I’m not even typing this out on a proper computer, but on my “blueberry” as my mother calls it, instead…
Mythology isn’t too bad once you get past the introduction…and the first couple of chapters after the introduction…and most of it is pretty dry and she tends to ramble on about dead classical poets, most of whom I have never heard…(of?)…
But the stories are pretty fun. And it’s always good to brush up on your knowledge of the gods… Otherwise who would you blame for all of your woes?
I will finish Mythology this weekend…but it is becoming painfully clear that my labor day goal is pretty unrealistic. There are A LOT of books on this list. Even if I take out all of the books I have already read, I would be cutting my labor day dead line pretty close…and cutting corners is not the point of this project. Cutting corners is how I got here in the first place…
So, anywhoozle, I’m going to keep shooting for labor day, BUT I’m not going to cry over it if I don’t quite finish by then.
Ok… Back to Ms. Hamilton and her heroes and gods…
Ok… so I am a little behind schedule but it’s not the end of the world! Oh wait…
ba dum ching….
Ooo, ok, that was bad…. moving on…
I want to start out by saying that I’m really not into post apocalyptic stories. The idea of getting vaporized in a massive solar flare or battling the bastard mutants born of radiation and genocide terrifies me. I mean literally, terrifies me. I get panic attacks just thinking about it. The whole “it could happen” thing (no matter how remote the actual possibility may be) gets my crazy hyperactive imagination going so fast I can’t think straight. I start planning my survival and writing shopping lists and wondering if the land lord would let me dig a fall out shelter in the back yard. How might one store a thousand 2.5 gallon jugs of bottled water, anyway? I could definitely live off of kipper snacks and mini raviolis for a while. But what do I do about toilet paper? Wait, where was I going with this?
Right, so, I’m not really into post apocalyptic stories, but I have to say, I LOVE THIS BOOK!!! It’s a brilliant testament of the human spirit. It beautifully captures the astonishing power the human will has to not only survive, but to thrive and restore. Alas, Babylon is a flawlessly choreographed dance between tragedy and humor. I often found myself so lost within it’s pages that I had a hard time coming out of the story. I would go on walks with my dogs, see a stray cat and think, “Is it friendly? Can we eat it?”. Ok, maybe I’m being a little hyperbolic, but, seriously, a very very good story.
For those of you who did not do the assignment (you know who you are), Alas, Babylon takes place at the height of the Cold War in a small Florida town called Fort Repose. Our main guy (or “protagonist” if you will) is Randolph Rowzee Bragg. He is a 30 year old bachelor, failed small time politician and living off of old family money that has long since run out. His brother, Mark, is a big wig in some super secret Air Force something or other and has crazy security clearance. He sends an emergency telegram to Randy telling him to meet him at a nearby air base right away. Basically, what Mark tells Randy is this. The world as we know it is going to end. And it is going to end very soon. He gives Randy a large sum of money for supplies and tells him that he is sending his wife and 2 children to Fort Repose later that night. Randy spends the next few hours running around town, Chicken Little style, warning everyone that matters to him that the sky is falling. The next morning, the first bombs hit, all major world cities are wiped out, and chaos ensues. The rest of the novel follows Randy and his community over the course of the next year as they learn to adapt to life in a broken world.
The story itself, is nothing too special. Maybe it was in 1959 when it was first published, but I grew up in a world of sci fi, Star Trek, and sadly, Armageddon. What really makes this book so wonderful is not the plot, but the characters. Pat Frank created some really loveable characters which we get to know by Frank’s fluid shifts in perspective. The whole colony on River Road feels like people you know in your own life. By the end of the book, you really feel like you are part of the family. I hold a particular fondness for the children in the story, Ben Franklin and Peyton Bragg (aged 13 and 11 respectively). My parents would have been around the same ages as the children when the book was written. It really puts things into perspective when I think of those kids as being my parents’ contemporaries.
Something else I found surprising considering when this book was published are the women in the story. Every single female character from little Peyton to Randy’s promiscuous ex-girlfriend, Rita Hernandez, is intelligent, independent and level headed. The colony on River Road would have fallen apart in days had it not been for the resourceful Helen Bragg. Had it not been for Rita Hernandez’s ability to capitalize on every situation, Fort Repose would have been over run by murderous highway men. These resilient, amazing women really make the story for me. It would have been very easy for Frank to take these women to hysterical heights of super co-dependency in a disastrous situation. Instead, he created dignified, strong women who were vital to the survival and well being of the community of Fort Repose.
I could go on in an in depth analysis about how brave Pat Frank was in exploring how, in a mushroom cloud haze, all men (and women) are created equal, rendering segregation not only pointless but down right counter productive… but I won’t. Not today. I would have liked Pat Frank to be a little bit bolder when writing about the Henry’s and gone into more detail about who they were, but he didn’t. He was taking a huge risk writing about them the way he did. Had he gone too deep into the issue of civil rights he may have lost his major audience when the book hit the shelves. He tried to subtly make a point with out pissing off too many white American readers in the late 1950s. He did ok, but that is my only major criticism. Not too shabby for Mr. Frank.
All in all, this is an incredibly well written book that I would have never read had I not decided to do this project. I highly recommend it to anyone who needs a jump start. This book, despite its painfully bleak premise, is very uplifting at times, especially toward the end. Though it doesn’t have a happy ending exactly, it leaves the reader filled with a sense hope and promise. The world is broken, but the human spirit is not. We will survive. We will rebuild. We will over come. This is especially on my mind as we draw closer to the 10th anniversary of 9-11. Although, 9-11 may not have had as wide an impact on the world as “The Day”, it is a terrifying reminder that fiction and fact are close bedfellows and that maybe we should learn all we can from bed time stories. Sometimes there really are monsters hiding under the bed.
Aaaaaand speaking of monsters… I will begin work on the dreaded Mythology by Edith Hamilton next. I am going to give myself through next weekend (June 18th & 19th) to finish this one. As some of you know, I have taken great pains to avoid reading this book for almost as long as I can remember (yes, my parents tried to get me to read it almost as soon as I could recite the alphabet). It’s long, it’s dry, it has small type. I will need a little time to wade through it all. But!! I will post little mini blog updates in the mean time.
I have never read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn…
I’ll give you a minute to process that.
I repeat, I have never read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn…
Ok… it’s out. I said it out loud (sort of). I’m putting it out into the world. I own it. I’m not proud of it, but it is a fact.
Please understand the gravity of this statement.
I have never read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Huck Finn was first published in the United States in 1885 and is considered to be one of the greatest American novels ever written in the whole history of EVER. It is on every required reading list of every High School I have ever heard of! Ok, I’m sure there are some high schools that don’t require it… and I know there are still some people trying to get this book banned from their libraries… but let’s put this into perspective, people! I went to public high school… I even went to college. I even went as far as graduating from college (with a totally useless degree btw- but that is a whole other story) but I have somehow managed to NEVER READ THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN!
This is embarrassing. To further my own embarrassment, I am also an aspiring writer. I am an aspiring writer who has never read one of the most important books ever written by one of the most important American authors to have ever lived. This is also not the only important book I have never read…
I won’t go into too much detail here. It’s not too hard to figure out how this came to pass. I can waste my breath and blame it on the failures of public education in Texas (and, sure, some of the blame can surely rest on the shoulders of some less than apathetic teachers I had as a child)… but the simple truth is, it was my own fault. I took short cuts. I read Cliff’s Notes and Spark Notes and watched A LOT of movies. I procrastinated on reading assignments and opted out of extra credit. I got the gist of the story, but the truth is, I chose not to read some of the best work ever written. And now, I regret it.
The lack of weaponry in my literary arsenal leaves me, as a writer, feeling impotent. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read books. I’m an avid reader. I’ve even read some important books. My two favorites are Jane Eyre and Love in the Time of Cholera. But reading a handful of important work in between pulp fiction and the latest installment of Harry Potter does not a member of the literati make. I am, for lack of a better word, illiterate. I have let this go on far too long…
Here is my resolution. I have begun a little reading project of my own and have chosen to share it with you. I don’t know how long it will take, a year, maybe 2… maybe 10. I am going to read all of the books and poems and short stories that I should have read in high school and college. I am going to think about them and form opinions and ideas about them and I will share them with you. I am going to talk about literature in all of the ways I always wanted to talk about literature without anyone telling me how I am supposed to think about literature. Sound like a plan? Sure! Why not?
But, where to begin?
Well… seeing as how this is Memorial Day and school is just getting out for summer, why not begin with the area high school summer reading lists?! This is the one I am using:
My goal is to read every book on this list (with one exception, but more on that later) by Labor Day. For every book, I will write a blog or two about my thoughts on the work. And, yes, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is on this list. I encourage you to stick around and maybe read along. It would be great to get a dialogue going about each book so please feel free to comment and link me to your friends.
For those of you who are totally on board and want to read along, I am starting with Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank. I am about half way through and will be posting about it this week.
Get comfy, guys! It’s story time!