Saturday, March 6, 2010

Fathers and Sons by Turgenev

Fathers and Sons Fathers and Sons by Ivan Sergeevich Turgenev

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Great Russian novel and an important piece of work. An interesting exploration of nihilism.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Pride and Prejudice

Pride And Prejudice (A Sentimental Comedy In Three Acts) Pride And Prejudice by Jane Austen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Important work in English literature but not my cup of tea.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Road

The Road The Road by Cormac McCarthy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Interesting book about life without hope. Extremely well written and thought provoking.

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Friday, February 12, 2010


NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN by Cormac McCarthy is a fast paced, thoughtful novel. It is a crime thriller but to call it one is an injustice. The novel intertwines the lives of Llewlyn Moss (a man who stumbles upon $2 Million, several kilos of heroin, and bullet ridden bodies), Chigurh (a hit man) and the aging Sheriff. As Moss runs, Chigurh hunts, and Sheriff looks, the reader ponders one question,
"how does a man decide in what order to abandon his life?"

UNCLE VANYA Reflection

UNCLE VANYA by Anton Chekhov is a play that was published in 1899. The theme is preoccupied with ideas of aging and wasted life.

Here are some poignant quotes:
“The old are just the same as the little ones, they like someone to pity them—but nobody pities the old.”

“When people have no real life, they live on their illusions. Anyway, it’s better than nothing.”

“When our time comes w shall die submissively, and over there, beyond the grave we shall say that we’ve suffered, that we’ve wept, that we’ve had a bitter life, and God will take pity on us.”

“The people who come a hundred years or a couple of hundred years after us and despise us for having live in so stupid and tasteless a fashion- perhaps they’ll find a way to be happy…As for us… There’s only one hope for you and me…The hope that when we’re at rest in our graves we may see visions-perhaps even pleasant ones.”

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Favorite Quotes from The Seagull

I've been thinking non-stop about THE SEAGULL since I finished reading it and wanted to post a few of my favorite quotes from the play.

Dorn's views on death:
"The fear of death is an animal fear. You've got to suppress it. It's only religious people who consciously fear death-because they believe in a future life and are afraid they'll be punished for their sins."
Treplyov's views on writing:
"We don't have to depict life as it is, or as it ought to be, but as we see it in our dreams."
"Everyone writes what he wants to and as he is able to."
Dorn's views on writing:
"A work of art must express a clear, definite idea. You must know what you are aiming at when you write, for if you follow the enchanted path of literature without a definite goal in mind, you'll lose your way and your talent will ruin you."
Trigorin's view on writing:
"I'm obsessed day and night by one thought: I must write, I must write, I must write...For some reason, as soon as I've finished one novel, I feel I must start writing another, then another, then another...I write in a rush, without stopping, and can't do anything else."
"Yes, while I'm writing I enjoy it. I enjoy reading proofs, too, soon as the thing comes out in print I can no longer bear it. I immediately see that it's not what I intended, that it's a mistake, that it oughtn't to have been written at all, and I feel angry and depressed...And then the public reads it and says: 'Yes, it's charming, so cleverly done...Charming, but a far cry from Tolstoy.'...Or 'A very fine piece of work, but Turgenev's Fathers and Children is a better book.'And so it will go on till my dying day-everything will be charming and clever-nothing more. And when I die, my friends as they pass by my grave, will say: 'Here lies Trigorin. He was a good writer, but not as good as Turgenev.'"

Memories of My Melancholy Whores

Memories of My Melancholy Whores Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel García Márquez

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a powerful book that explores aging and love. Here are a few quotes from the novel:

"In my ninetieth year, I decided to give myself the gift of a night of love with a young virgin."

"This was something new for me. I was ignorant of the arts of seduction and had always chosen my brides for a night at random, more for their price than their charms, and we had made love without love, half-dressed most of the time and always in the dark, so we could imagine ourselves as better than we were ... That night I discovered the improbable pleasure of contemplating the body of a sleeping woman without the urgencies of desire or the obstacles of modesty."

"It is a triumph of life that old people lose their memories of inessential things."

"We do not waste away with time; time is a tool that carves away our excess, like a chisel chips away marble to reveal a work of art."

"I have never gone to bed with a woman I didn't pay ... by the time I was fifty there were 514 women with whom I had been at least once ... My public life, on the other hand, was lacking in interest: both parents dead, a bachelor without a future, a mediocre journalist ... and a favorite of caricaturists because of my exemplary ugliness."

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Monday, February 1, 2010

Reflection on THE SEAGULL

Anton Chekhov's play THE SEAGULL was first performed in 1896. The play addresses and explores many themes but one that affected me most is Trigorin's view of his writing. B. A. Trigorin is an accomplished writer who speaks of his insecurities to Nina, a naive actress. Trigorin's writing is his obsession and he cannot get away from it because he cannot get away from himself.

"A minor writer, especially, if he hadn't had much luck, sees himself as clumsy, awkward, and unwanted...drawn towards people connected with literature, or art, but then he just wanders among them unrecognized and unnoticed, unable to look them straight and courageously in the eye, like a passionate gambler who hasn't any money."

The gambler metaphor is profound in the way it captures the writer's condition. It also acts as in the introduction to Trigorin's biggest fear which is that

"when I die, my friends as they pass my grave will say: "Here lies Trigorin. He was a good writer, but not as good as Turgenev.""

Writers and artists are all plagued by insecurity. But it is these doubts that allow them to grow and be better at their craft. If there were no fears of failure or of being irrelevant, then there would be no great art. It is a price one must pay.

Nina is an interesting character and one that changes the most throughout the play. At first, she wants to be an actress for fame and fortune but two years later she wants to be an actress for art. She understands Trigorin's insecurities and refers to herself as a seagull.

"I'm a seagull...I think now I know, Kostya, that what matters in our work- whether you act on stage or write stories- what really matters is not fame, or glamour, not the things I used to dream about- but knowing how to endure things. How to bear one's cross and have faith. I have faith now and I'm not suffering quite so much, and when I think about my vocation I'm not afraid of life."

The Road Home Reflection

THE ROAD HOME by Jim Harrison is a beautiful, lyrical novel which explores the lives of five members of the Northridge family. It is written from multiple perspectives as they strive to understand their present and their past. Instead of making sweeping generalizations, I wanted to address a discussion question found in the back.

How is the portrait John Northridge II paints of himself in his "memoir" different from the picture we get through other characters?

The portrait John Northridge II paints is of a solitary, thoughtful man who struggles with being, or rather not being, an artist. His deepest and most profound relationships are with his dogs. This is often true of people who do not live in the sentimental world of the everyman. Animals are easier to love because they do not betray or disappoint. As a result, the relationships that humans form to animals are perfect and wholesome, unlike our relationships with other humans.

People pose difficulties because they have resentments, faults and agendas. No one loves unconditionally and when a person allows themselves to love and be loved by an animal, other human beings stop measuring up. John Northridge exposed these truths about himself in his memoir and allowed us a glimpse of who he is. The members of his family don't see this and view him as disturbed, detached, and unreachable. To them, he is those things without a doubt.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Looking for Anne of Green Gables

Looking for Anne of Green Gables: The Story of L. M. Montgomery and Her Literary Classic Looking for Anne of Green Gables: The Story of L. M. Montgomery and Her Literary Classic by Irene Gammel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a great book for anyone who wants extra insight into the life of L.M. Montgomery and into the character of Anne Shirley. It is a satisfying blend of biography and literary criticism.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Reading Reflection of Chekhov's "Ivanov"

In Act One of IVANOV by Anton Chekhov, Nikolay Alexeyevich Ivanov says

"Well, five years have passed, and she [his wife] still loves me, but I...Here you are, telling me she's soon going to die, and I don't feel any love or pity but just a sort of indifference and lassitude..."
While this language may suggest that Ivanov is melodramatic he is nothing but deeply depressed and disturbed.

To a modern reader, the first two acts and Ivanov's honest declarations may appear false and insincere. But closer and further reading suggests the opposite. Ivanov does not love his sick wife because he does not love anything anymore. In Act Three, he says

"I knew what inspiration was then, I knew charms and poetry of those quiet nights when you sit at your desk working from sunset till dawn, or just sit and muse, and dream."
Even though he's only thirty five, he feels old and the soliloquy suggests a deep depression and a longing for his long lost youth. He struggles with the idea of watching his wife die but cannot bring himself to love or care for her. He feels nothing and it is this nothing that upsets him most. Unlike melodramatics, Ivanov is aware of his true feelings and is not playing them up. He refers to himself as Hamlet in at least three instances throughout the play but it is in Act Four that his words ring the most true.

Suicide is sometimes viewed by people with depression as the only way out of their particular situation. The language at the end of Act Four suggests that Ivanov sees no other alternatives:

"To realize that your life's energy has gone for ever, that you've got rusty and stuck up to your neck in disgusting bog of melancholy...I still have some pride and conscious left."
His suicide in the final line of the play further reiterates the idea that he is not merely pretending to be a victim but, in reality, is one.

**I gave myself a week to read and do the reflection but finished it in two days. With all my other work (novel and PhD), I definitely can't keep this pace up. So the literature assignments will still be due on Tuesdays.

Assignment 2 is due February 2nd, 2010: The Seagull

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Educational Use of the Blog

After another insomnia filled night, I finally came up with a way to update this blog on a more regular basis. I love to read but like many people I often do not read critically. In fact, I have not read critically since I took two literature courses during my freshman year in college. I also feel that, though some might consider me well read, I do not. I have big gaps in my literature education and I am making a resolution to fill them.

I will begin my education with The Russians. My parents got my book of plays by Anton Chekhov for Christmas. There are 6 of them and I will read one per week. I will then write a reflection (500 words) and post it on this blog. The reflection will be an interpretation of the reading based on the guidelines presented by an MIT Open Courseware "Introduction to Fiction" class.

GUIDELINES (courtesy of E. Fox)

Close reading is the analysis of passages from in terms of diction, figurative language (metaphors, similes, names, etc.), tone, characterization, strategies of narration, plot, topics, “place” of the passage in the text as a whole, and theme. Like any kind of analysis, closer reading examines the ways that the parts of a text (in this case, parts of a passage) work separately and together to contribute to the text as a whole. Note that analysis differs from summary in answering the “why?” and “so what?” question, while summary answers questions about “who?” “what?” “when?” and “where?” In examining passages, aim to explain the significance of a passage, not just the meaning. For example, “Bingley says that he did not know that Elizabeth was a ‘studier of character’(38),” remains plot summary: it tells what happened, stating who said what. In contrast,the following sentence and paragraph analyze the statement by explaining its significance in the novel as a whole:

When Bingley calls Elizabeth a “studier of character” (58), he names one of the major activities and concerns in the novel: evaluating people. While the book opens with an evaluation of Mr. Bingley in terms of his marital status, sex, and money, Elizabeth focuses on deeper qualities. When Bingley says that it “must be an amusing study,” his language emphasizes that Elizabeth needs to entertain herself in a small community with somewhat limited diversions. The word, “study,” however, underscores the importance that both Elizabeth and the narrator give to this activity. In fact, the novel’s title includes two character traits that play important roles in the story, so Bingley’s quick response holds much more significance than first appears.

The topic of “intricate characters” provides an opening for not only Bingley and Elizabeth but also Darcy and Mrs. Bennet to reveal more about their characters. . . .

First Assignment is due by the end of next Tuesday (02/02).
Play: Ivanov

I've also been trying to organize a comprehensive Russian literature course for myself, based on other course outlines that I found on the web. Here's a list of books I will study.

Leo Tolstoy: Anna Karenina
Fyodor Dostoevsky: Crime and Punishment
Ivan Turgenev: Fathers and Sons
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita

Friday, January 15, 2010

High minded and low waged

Dad said I would always be "high minded and low waged" from reading too much Ralph Waldo Emerson. Maybe he was right.
- Jim Harrison (The English Major)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"How does a man decide when to abandon his life?" -Cormac McCarthy

This is my second day of classes at Old Dominion University. I just started the PhD program in Education (Instructional Design and Technology). I'm really enjoying it because the classes are interesting but the best part is that they're all online and via video streaming. So I don't have to move to cold Virginia, can stay at home in my pajamas and still have time to write!

I'm enrolled in four classes which is actually one more than the normal course load. I hope to finish in three years, much faster than most. And, of course, one personal goal is to have an agent for my novel before that. We'll see what happens but all I can do is try.

So far so good, now back to Chapter 8.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Images of Inspiration

"Between the wish and the thing the world lies waiting." -Cormac McCarthy (All the Pretty Horses)

"How does the man decide in what order to abandon his life?" -Cormac McCarthy

"I don't know why I started writing. I don't know why anybody does it. Maybe they're bored, or failures at something else." -Cormac McCarthy

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Ghost Hunting in Montana

A few years ago, I bought an interesting book at a flea market. It was written by Barnaby Conrad III and it's called GHOST HUNTING IN MONTANA: A Search for Roots in the Old West.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

"What is life? It is a flash of firefly in the night. It is a breath of buffalo in the winter time. It is as the little shadow that runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset." -Chief Crowfoot, 1900.

"I'll tell you one thing, fishing and beer will cure most ailments."

"We must seize what adventure we can from life, for the rest is of little consequence."

"On a beautiful day in Montana, it was hard to believe God didn't exist in a sky so blue and so vast, where the clouds seemed like perfect countries into themselves. And for a moment, just a moment, I wished the pioneers, the buffalo hunters, and the cattlemen like my ancestors had never dreamed of the West."

"Sitting in the door of my tent with a tin cup full of whiskey and canteen water, I watched a three-quarter moon rise over the Rockies. As moonlight illuminated the river and the trout rose, I breathed the night deeply and felt I had every treasure in the world."

That's how I feel about Montana (and in particular, about Hungry Horse, MT). The picture above is of my family, on a camping trip there 2006. Kevin (my boyfriend of almost 6 years) and Charlie (our dog) are my best friends and soul mates.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Contest Entry

I've never entered a contest before so here goes nothing. Browsing through various twitter lists, I came upon a blog called Socially Acceptable Schizophrenia, written by Kristin Otts.

The winner gets a first chapter critique! I'd love to get feedback from someone other than my family.

Wish me luck!

New Year Resolutions 2010

New Year, New Decade, New Resolutions, New Goals.

I never really make resolutions but being that this is a new blog, let's try something new.

1. Complete (edit and re-edit and re-edit) my first novel (SEVENTH VEIL)
2. Send out queries to agents
3. Make a habit of twittering regularly (at least once per day)
4. Organize a significant blog roll on this very new and very empty blog
5. Write blog entries regularly (at least every other day)

Sunday, January 3, 2010


I finally had a breakthrough with editing today. SEVENTH VEIL is really coming along. Hopefully I will have it all completed by the end of January. I am already finished with the query letter for my top agent choice. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Very happy that the holidays are finally over. I hate celebrations because I'm always left with the feeling that I'm not celebrating enough.

First page teaser of "Seventh Veil"


This is how I’m going to die, Olive thought. She opened her eyes and looked into the roaring crowd. Hundreds of eyes peered back, lusting for her blood.
It was just a week ago that she was an average sixteen year old who spent most of her time shopping at the mall and fighting with her mother. While her own mortality had sometimes crossed her mind, Olive could never have imagined for death to come like this.

In a far away land, convicted of witchcraft, and burned at the stake.

1. Whispering Pines

"Some stories are true that never happened." -Elie Wiesel

Olive knew they were being sent away because of the divorce. After eighteen years of breaking up and making up, her parents were finally making it official. Her father moved to Orlando with his twenty four year old girlfriend and her mother got a face lift and a boob job. The Conrad family was no more and it was time for everyone to move on.

The bus ride from suburban Ft. Lauderdale to rural West Virginia was interminable. Olive stopped counting the hours long ago. She stared blankly out the window, watching the world turn. Orange groves and manicured lawns slowly morphed into rural roads and maple trees. The people changed along with the scenery. It was peculiar to her, how reluctant the northerners were to incorporate vibrant colors into their wardrobes. It was almost June yet many still hid their pasty skin and shapeless bodies under layers of beige and brown.

She remembered that West Virginia didn’t seem so far away when she originally agreed to go. It was no doubt that travelling with her brother Andrew made things more tedious. They were a year apart yet barely cordial. A cold war was declared a few years ago but a diplomatic resolution was still in the works. They spent most of their time ignoring one another and Olive figured that they would never speak again after his graduation. Not unless it was absolutely necessary.

There was still this summer though. Three whole months of only Andrew, Uncle Edmond and… William.

Ah William.

Now there was a complicated history. They first met six years ago, when she was ten and he was twelve. William’s mother married her uncle, Olive’s mother’s brother and they became instant friends. For many years, Aunt Emily and Uncle Edmond felt more like family to her than her own parents. Her favorite Christmases were the ones spent with the Abbotts’ in Connecticut. Away from the fights and awkward silences of her own home.