Month: September 2016

Celebrating the Freedom to Read

Free Downloads | Banned & Challenged Books:

It’s my favorite time of year! Banned books week! This is one of the most important freedoms that we have and is one that is important to protect and proclaim. The banning of books is banning society’s ability to think, engage, and respond to others. It prevents dialogue, it prevents multiple perspectives, and it prevents growth.

So, in celebration I have decided to pick up and read Catcher in the Rye (because somehow I missed reading that one through all my schooling and outside reading).

And question of the day….

Banned Books Week 2016 Social Media Prompts:

I know this question is difficult, and it’s hard to give just one answer because there are many I would defend. But currently, I’ve been thinking a lot about minority writers and the different challenges they went through and still go through to be published. So I would probably choose The Color Purple by Alice Walker as a singular answer to this question.

What book/s would you defend?


Playlist: Lanark: A Life in Four Books by Alasdair Gray

I know. It’s been forever since I’ve done one of these. That’s on me, but this is one of my favorite books and this playlist has been buzzing around my mind since I read it back in 2015.

Set in the disintegrating cities of Unthank and Glasgow, this modern vision of hell and humanity tells the interwoven stories of two men: Lanark and Duncan Thaw. As the Life in Four Books unfolds, the strange, buried relationship between Lanark and Thaw slowly starts to emerge.

Lanark is a towering work of the imagination and is the culmination of twenty-five years of work by Gray, who also illustrated and designed the novel. On its first publication it was immediately recognised as a major work of literature, and drew comparisons with Dante, Blake, Joyce, Orwell, Kafka, Huxley and Lewis Carroll. Thirty years on, its power, majesty, anger and relevance have only intensified.




Hypnosis Theme (Phonovisions Symphonic Version) – Wax Tailor

State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.) – Jim James

Summa – Arvo Part

Arépo – Hugues Le Bars (I had trouble finding this on youtube)

Love is Blindness – Jack White

Eros by Ludovico Einaudi

Can’t Pretend – Tom Odell

(Also if Lanark was to be a modern dance…it would be “If At All” by Rami Be’er)

Basically for this playlist I included songs that invoked a paralysis of love and an impeding sense of failure. Additionally, I looked for songs that were slightly futuristic that included themes of controlling institutions and technology.

I know this was a rather short explanation, but more than any of the other playlists these songs just seen fit with Lanark in a way that I can’t entirely describe. Perhaps it is because Lanark is such an intense work that is itself hard to describe completely. It creates in the reader a mind simultaneously comfortable and on edge, as if at any moment what they are reading is going to come out and start talking to them.

Anyway, that’s perhaps not entirely understandable…but read the book, then it will be clearer.




Top Ten Tuesday: All Time Favorite Bildungsroman Novels

Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly feature by The Broke and The Bookish. Each week has a new theme and you can participate however often you choose!

Confession: I’m not a huge fan of the Bildungsroman (or for those who aren’t pretentious lit. nerds, coming-of-age novels). It is not that I don’t like books where characters transition from childhood to adulthood, I simply prefer that they be in the context of a wider narrative, rather than the primary focus of the novel.

I find this especially true in modern day coming-of-age novels. I find John Green or Judy Blume-esque cliched and unrelatable in many ways. But that’s a discussion for another time.

Despite my general lack of interest in this genre, there are a number of bildungsromans that I have absolutely loved. The characters are relatable and engaging, the plot unique, and the writing style compelling. Overall, each of these novels stand out not only in their genre, but also as great literary works in their own right.

  1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë – This is a no-brainer. One of the most famous novels in this genre, it is rightly praised. It not only explores Jane’s personal development, but also serves as an early social criticism of class, religion, and sexuality.
  2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – Another female author and another 19th century novel, but it’s a great one. This one stood out to me because it is telling the coming-of-age story of a monster, shunned by his creator. Ultimately, the bildungsroman is about the educational journey and search for self that the individual goes through as s/he grows up. So, what happens when that individual is a monster with no place in society? This is one of the questions that Shelley explores in this great novel.
  3. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – Jumping to the 20th century for a bit now. This novel is fantastic on so many levels, but also for it’s great take on the bildungsroman. Bilbo is thrust into a quest and through his travels grows into the hero that Gandalf saw from the beginning. Though it is a cliche of fantasy now, this is where it began (and let’s be honest, it’s one of the best examples of this trope out there. Tolkien is a masterful story teller).
  4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – The list wouldn’t be complete without this American classic. Required reading in every high school English class, it’s a masterful exploration of what it means to grow up in both a class and race divided society as well as revealing the destruction of innocence in such a world. As much as we learn about Scout growing up, she is primarily outwardly focused, she comes of age by seeing the world around her. (And as much controversy as Go Set A Watchman has received…it tells a similar story – though perhaps with Scout a bit more inwardly focused).
  5. The Prelude by William Wordsworth – If I am completely honest, I have a pretty rocky relationship with this work of epic poetry. It was required reading for my English Romantics class and we had to read the whole thing (which is quite long) very quickly which definitely influenced my appreciation of the work. However, as I worked on my paper on it I found my appreciation and enjoyment of the work growing. It’s a masterful exploration of artistic coming-of-age. (apparently that’s technically called Künstlerroman). And it is one of the few in the genre that I really felt like I connected with what he was writing: “This is my lot; for either still I find / Some imperfection in the chosen theme, / Or see of absolute accomplishment / Much wanting — so much wanting — in myself / That I recoil and droop, and seek repose / in indolence from vain perplexity, / Unprofitably travelling towards the grave, / Like a false steward who hath much received / And renders nothing back .”*
  6. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston – Fascinating book. Well written and demanding. It’s the sort of work that requires a response from the reader, like To Kill a Mockingbird its focus is largely outward, as much a societal critique as a coming-of-age novel.
  7. The Quarry Wood by Nan Shepherd – This one is another more difficult read, but well worth the time. This one, like Hurston’s work, is focused largely on feminist issues and gender roles. Martha wants independence and freedom, but is tied down by a society where she is called to be dependent on a man. It also confronts the problem of educated women who are trapped by expectations of marriage and homemaking.
  8. The House with the Green Shutters by George Douglass Brown – Another one I initially disliked but found that the more I studied it the more I appreciated it. This one is more of an anti-bildungsroman. It shows the failure of its protagonist to become a man.
  9. The Giver by Lois Lowry – This middle grade book really packs a punch. Jonah’s tale shows a boy who comes of age within his society…and then beyond.
  10. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde – What happens when you refuse to grow up? Allow yourself to remain on the cusp of adulthood indefinitely? That’s what Wilde asks in this fascinating exploration into the darker side of youthfulness.

*William Wordsworth, The Prelude 1805 Book I lines 262-269

A Little Autumn Music

The sun is setting earlier with every passing day, the weather is turning cool – even somewhat dreary, and the official first day of Fall is quickly approaching….and yes Starbuck’s has put out it’s Fall menu (but ew…pumpkin spice lattes are gross).

Anyway, all of this has gotten me into the mood of Autumn, while I enjoy the hot and hazy summer days, I love the turn of seasons and look forward to each new turn of weather. So, of course, my first thought is to make a playlist that will invoke the feeling of this beautiful season.

Autumnal Playlist

A Lyke Wake Dirge – Matt Berniger and Andrew Bird

Hit the Road Jack – Peggy Sue

Afraid – The Neighbourhood

You Need – The Bengsons 

Hope – Blue Stone

The Deer’s Cry – Arvo Pärt

God’s Whisper – Raury

Dead Hearts – Stars

Elaina’s Theme – Tom Player

Hard Time – Seinabo Sey

Glare – Sheep, Dog & Wolf

Light – Gavin Greenaway

Abraham’s Daughter – Arcade Fire



A Love Letter to the Novella

Growing up an avid reader it was only natural that my ego would bloat and my smugness grow when I walked around with a 600 page book. There was nothing more satisfying for my middle school self than to show my love of reading by parading around an enormous tome of a book.

That changed with college.

It was in college that I fell in love with the novella.

Perhaps I learned that intelligence and love of reading is not based on the size and length of a book, but on the quality of the book and the integrity of the response it elicited from me.

Freed from the heavy burden of big books (and a big ego to go with it) I was finally able to explore and appreciate the delicate, yet powerful, quality of shorter narratives. I gobbled up short stories with flourish, marveled at the power of the play, and became infatuated with the novella.

For me the novella is the perfect combination of complexity and simplicity; it requires a particular awareness of style and tone and a purposeful sparseness, the kind of barrenness that fills in the gaps.

I was so taken with the novella that I wrote my senior thesis on two brilliant novellas by Willa Cather. O Pioneers! and My Mortal Enemy encompass the extraordinary beauty and barrenness that I had grown to love in the novella. Prose that has tremendous depth, an abundance of symbolic meaning, and a plot carried delicately and forcefully.

While I still love novels that are a normal length and still admire the tremendous genius and effort that it takes to write (and read) extremely long works, I find that the novella forces authors to a level of focused artistic integrity and purpose that is not always found in longer novels.

Plus the novella always felt more like a dance to me, and I do love to dance.

What’s your opinion? Novel or novella? What are some of your favorite novellas?
Image result for quotes willa cather two or three human stories

P.S. If you’re interested Ian McEwen wrote a fantastic post on novella’s for the New Yorker.

Ten Television Intros You Can’t Skip Over

Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly feature by The Broke and The Bookish. Each week has a new theme and you can participate however often you choose! This week’s theme is tv-related, in honor of Fall tv.

Since I had pretty much free reign here, I thought I would do something related to music (of course). Music is pretty important in any television show, the right combination of music and storytelling can create incredible scenes.  I can think of any number of cinematic moments that hinged around an incredible piece of music. Like Death’s entrance in Supernatural or Moriarty’s trial entrance in Sherlock.

So, I was preparing to do a post about my top 10 favorite music moments in television. However, I realized as I was thinking about this that so much of what makes these scenes so powerful is that the event in the scene is long-awaited and/or our connection with the characters. I looked at various similar posts and many had moments from shows I hadn’t watched and while some were engaging I didn’t have the same emotional connection with the moment as I did with shows I had watched and loved. Additionally, even going back and watching a few that had impacted me extremely emotionally when I first watched it  (like the ending of Epitaph One from Dollhouse) but because it was so long ago it no longer held the same power.


Romance and Music

It’s been a while since I’ve posted or even done anything with my blog. That’s my fault, my boyfriend was visiting (he’s living in London now so it’s been long distance for a while) and I was just a bit preoccupied.

So, in the wake of my romantic adventures the past week or so I thought I would do a slight variation on my normal playlist posts. Instead of creating a full playlist for one book, I’m going to pair a few of my favorite romance focused books with a song (be warned, I don’t read/love a lot of pure romances so a lot of these are a bit mixed).

  1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë – Winter Allegro – Vivaldi
  2. My Antonia by Willa Cather – Ye Honest Bridal Couple – Danish String Quartet
  3. The Awakening by Kate Chopin – Opening – Philip Glass, Martin Jacoby
  4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – Escualo – Astor Piazzolla
  5. Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich – The Promise of Living – Aaron Copeland

I tried to stick with a theme of mostly 20th century composers, though I had to include Vivaldi and Danish String Quartet.

Also just realized that 4 out of 5 of the books I used are American 20th century. Oops.

What are some of your favorite romantic books?  (because I clearly need some recommendations)