Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Poetry Spotlight: Edna St. Vincent Millay


In my second year of college I took an Introduction to Poetry class and I fell in love with reading poetry. Before then, poetry was always a little intimidating and a medium that I didn't have much experience with. But after that class, I became addicted to reading poetry, and during the class I actually found myself thinking in and expressing myself in poetry- which I never would have guessed would happen in a million years. So, with this series I'm here to share some of my favorite poems in a way that I'm sure will turn out rambley and unorganized.

READ THE REST OF MY POETRY SPOTLIGHTS HERE

Today I'm here to bring you a long-promised post on one of my favorite poets of all time: Edna St. Vincent Millay. Her and Plath top my list of all-time favorite poets, and they share a lot of qualities, so if you like one, there's a good chance you will like the other. I discovered Millay in my sophomore year of college and have written many papers on her work since. Millay is a sassy and brilliant feminist poet who uses bite and humor in her works. 



Millay was very popular during her lifetime; she was the third woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in literature, (winning in 1923) and was known not only as a poet but as an activist as well.

Millay was born in 1892 and was only nineteen years old when she published one of her most well-known poems, "Renascence." Millay also wrote prose under the name Nancy Boyd, but was most known for her mastery of poetry, including her sonnets. Millay is a super interesting person, and someone I plan to do a lot of reading on in the future, but I'll just cover a few of her highlights here. Millay was openly bisexual. She was married to a man for twenty-six years, but both of them had multiple affairs during the marriage that the other was aware of. Her husband supported her writing career and took on a number of the domestic duties in their life. Millay lived a bohemian life in New York after college until her poem "Renascence" was entered into a contest in which it won fourth place. This caused quite the controversy, as Millay's poem was considered the best by all of the contestants that entered, and the second place winner even offered Millay his prize money. Millay became an activist in WWI and wrote poetry in support of the Allies. She was the second woman to receive the Frost Medal for her contributions to American poetry. She died at the age of fifty-eight as a result of a heart attack. For more about Millay, see the links I have included at the bottom of the post.

A Few of My Favorite Poems
click the poem title to read the poem
This is perhaps my favorite Millay poem, and one that I have written on in school. Millay is unapologetic when it comes to writing about romance and sex, which is very refreshing for a woman of her time. This poem is both witty and sassy and a perfect example of a sonnet. If you have ever attempted to write a sonnet, you know how difficult they are, and Millay does them perfectly, and often turns the love sonnet on its head, as she does with this one. 

This poem is often read in literature classes and captures a bohemian spirit. My outlook on this poem really changed when I heard Millay read it out loud (listen here.) That's when the poem really grew on me and the rhythm was hard to get out of my head. 

This was the first poem of Millay's that I fell in love with. This short poem is so whimsical; I highly recommend you read this one for yourself. 

This is the poem mentioned above that put Millay on the map. This longer poem deals with complicated themes in the same vain as Whitman. The speaker has an enlightened moment and becomes one with everything. 

Her Sonnets 
Millay wrote a number of sonnets, and she is well-known for her mastery of the difficult form. Many of her sonnets are written from the female perspective and disrupt the typical romantic themes of a sonnet. Here are a few to check out: 

Hope you enjoy your exploration of Millay's work as much as I have!
Links for Further Information

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Recently Purchased: Two Classic Mysteries

I went on a long- weekend vacation last weekend to the beach and of course I manged to sniff out a bookstore. This bookstore had a huge bargain section downstairs with tons of U.K. editions, and other editions that are hard to find in the states. I manged to limit myself to two classic mystery novels.

                                 

I haven't read anything by Raymond Chandler yet, but I own the novel (and have seen the movie version) of The Big Sleep. I am confident I will enjoy Chandler's novels as I love the drama of Noir Crime films, so I'm sure I will enjoy the source material. I don't know anything about this one, I just picked it up on a whim, but I can't wait to get into it. 
I have seen the movie version of The Maltese Falcon and loved it of course, so I'm eager to read the novel. Even though I have already seen the ending, presuming that the film ending doesn't differ from the novel, I don't remember a lot of the details, so I still think I will enjoy the book. 

Let me know your thoughts on Crime Noir and classic mysteries! I'd love to hear them. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Recently Read: The Dumb House (Where I try to decide if I liked this book)

Author: John Burnside
Genre: Literary Fiction
Publication Date: 1997
Page Count: 204
Rating: 4/5

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WARNING: This novel is very dark and violent, (though not extremely detailed concerning the violence)
 trigger warning for physical, sexual, and child abuse

In Persian myth, it is said that Akbar the Great once built a palace which he filled with newborn children, attended only by mutes, in order to learn whether language is innate or aquired. As the year passed and the chidren grew into their silent and difficult world, this palace became known as the Gang Mahal, or Dumb House. In his first novel, John Burnside explores the possibilites inherent in a modern-day repetition of Akbar`s investigations. Following the death of his mother, the unnamed narrator creates a twisted varient of the Dumb House, finally using his own chidren as subjects in a bizarre experiment. When the children develop a musical language of their own, however, their gaoler is the one who is excluded, and he extracts an appalling revenge. Goodreads

I had a bit of trouble rating this book, which actually made me thankful for the Goodreads rating system. Without this site to force me to come to more concrete terms with my feelings about this book, I might have just went, "huh, not sure how I feel about that one" and set the book aside. Instead, I continued to think about the novel and whipped out my laptop to start writing my thoughts down.

This book is twisted, uncomfortable, perhaps a bit pretentious, but beautifully written, and captivating. I couldn't put this book down once I picked it up, and although I was appalled by what I was reading, I couldn't stop. I think Burnside was going for a small amount of shock-value with some of the events in the novel, but for some reason, perhaps because of the lyrical writing and interesting ideas the novel wrestles with, it seems more literary than say Palahniuk or Brett Easton Ellis.

Luke is an unstable and unreliable narrator (which admittedly, I tend to enjoy) but he is also violent and disconnected from human emotion. His fascination with language development and the process of scientific experiments pretty much define his character. The female characters in this novel are weak and only valued for their reproductive skills, BUT I was willing to look past that and was pulled into the story. I'm not sure if I should get the credit for that, or Burnside, but there it is.

I can see this novel being extremely polarizing, and I can easily understand how someone could hate it, but somehow, it captured my attention, which made it work for me. The short length and fast pacing with the dark and twisted plot (which starts at the end and the works backward in an almost linear fashion) was enough to keep my full attention for two hundred pages, although, I don't think I would have done many more pages than that.

Burnside wrestles with the humanity of science and if language and communication (and perhaps the soul but that idea was kind of loosely floating around the novel and wasn't as strong as the other ideas) can even be understood or categorized in scientific terms. To me, it seemed like Burnside was raising a question about the humanity of science as a whole, but then again, I could be giving him too much credit. I was thinking and interacting with this novel the whole time I was reading it, and although it is far from perfect, I was so enthralled by it that I had to settle on a positive rating.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this novel if you have read it? Did you have a strong but confusing reaction to it too? Let me know!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

I JUST FINISHED THE ORIGINAL RUN OF THE X-FILES (and now I don't know what to do with my life)

Ahh! I've been watching X-Files since this past winter and I have finally finished all 202 episodes (and one film) in the original nine seasons! The first seven seasons of this show is the best T.V. I have ever seen! I was so consumed by this show and I loved every minute of it. If you haven't watched, please, please do. This post won't contain any spoilers, but it will contain a list of reasons why you should dedicate almost two hundred hours of your life to this show.


1. Scully is my hero.

Scully is the leading lady I have been searching for all of my life. She is tough, smart, dedicated to her job (and good at it), fierce, kind, and loyal. She is a pioneer for both women in science and the FBI, both male dominate fields, and she doesn't take crap from anyone. Her relationship and chemistry with Mulder makes the show, and the two of them have become my favorite T.V. characters ever. I would follow Scully anywhere. Side not: Gillian Anderson ages so beautifully over the nine seasons. 

Despite Scully's strong, leading role, there is no denying the differences in her character and Mulder's because of gender. You see this in the lack of romance or love-life for her character, as opposed to Mulder's flirtations and flings, and it is symbolically represented by her lack of desk and office. 

2. This show is so funny and self-aware.

The satire episodes are some of my favorites. I love that this show totally creeped me out and made me crack up, sometimes all within the same episode! Most of the episodes in my favorite episodes list below are the self-aware, satirical ones! I don't think this show would be as brilliant as it is without these episodes. 
3. Mulder is beautiful. 
Enough said there.

4. The themes reach far beyond government conspiracies. 

I love that this show tackles government conspiracies in a way that only a 90s show can, but it also deals with so much more. I loved that Scully's skepticism with the supernatural was mirrored with her skepticism and acceptance of her religious faith. I loved how the show reversed Mulder and Scully within the roles of believer and skeptic, and Mulder's journey for the truth and what the concept of truth really means. 

A Sampling of my favorite episodes:
Season 1 Episode 1: The Pilot (one of the best episodes of T.V. I have ever watched)
Season 3 Episode 4: Clyde Bruckman 
Season 3 Episode 13: Syzygy (Sure. Fine. Whatever.)
Season 3 Episode 20: Jose Chung From Outer Space
Season 5 Episode 12: Bad Blood
Season 6 Episodes 4 and 5: Dreamland Part 1 and 2
Season 6 Episode 6: How the Ghost Stole Christmas 
Season 6 Episode 15 Arcadia 
Season 7 Episode 13: X-Cops 

I already have a huge craving to rewatch the first seven seasons of this show, and I'm so sad that I have watched them all! I'm cheering myself up by reminding myself I have season X to watch yet, and soon there will also be a season 11. I have lower expectations for the reboot but I still think I will enjoy it. Have you watched the reboot yet? What did you think?

I can officially say this is my all-time favorite T.V. show and I'm so glad I finally made the commitment to watch it. It's so worth the time investment! I will now be forever trying to fill the X-Files sized hole in my T.V. watching soul. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Big Books on My TBR

I have a lot of large books on my TBR. Long books tend to sit on my shelves for a lot longer than short books as I am usually hesitant to pick them up. Being a college student, and now teacher, means I don't have as much free time to read as I would wish for, so when I do get free time, I feel like I should maximize it by reading a lot of short or medium length books rather than a few long books. That's something I'm working on talking myself out of. So, here's a look at what I have waiting for me on my shelves! Let me know what I should read first and your thought mentality surrounding large books. 

I've only read A Monster Calls by Ness, but I really think I would enjoy his works. This one particularly calls to me, and I've owned it for years. I think this one will be easy enough to read because it's YA, but the size always makes me hesitate. I've moved it to front and center on my TBR shelf though so hopefully I pick it up soon. 


This novel has a really engaging premise and I think I would really enjoy losing myself in this story. I just need to talk myself into picking it up and giving myself some time to get into it, as it has a slower start.

I have yet to read any Tart and although I also own The Secret History, the premise of this novel calls to me more. I really want to pick up her novels soon! 

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas 626 pages
All of Maas' novels that I haven't read yet could be on this list, I keep getting more and more behind because her books are so long, and I feel like I need to reread most of the previous novels before starting the next ones because I forgot so much of what happens (Ugh, ugh). I'll get caught up though, probably on this series first, then Throne of Glass.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett 444 pages
I read the first twenty-or-so pages of this one a while ago and really enjoyed them so I know I'll love this novel, I just need to get myself to start it! I haven't seen the movie, so I don't know the story line of this one and need to read it before that changes! 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Recently Read: The Lottery and Other Stories

Author: Shirley Jackson
Genre: Classic/ Short Stories
Page Count: 302
Publication Date: 1949
Rating: 3.5/5

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Shirley Jackson is known for her mastery of unnerving fiction. The Lottery is one of the most often anthologized short stories, and one of the most infamous short stories of the twentieth century. This collection features some of Jackson's most well-known short works of fiction. 

This was my first experience with Jackson. As you have probably picked up on, I have been devouring anything slightly creepy that I can get my hands on, and Shirley Jackson is essential creepy reading. Since reading these stories, I have bought one of her novels, with plans to buy and read them all, and I have become extremely interested in learning more about her works and her life. 

Jackson lived as a typical suburban American women in the early and mid 1900s. She was married to a college professor/literary critic and the caretaker of her four children. Her writings were popular during her lifetime, and in fact, they created quite a stir. The Lottery was first published in The New Yorker in 1948 and caused quite the commotion. Letters of horror and complaint came pouring in as well as mass subscription cancellations. Jackson was very quiet, hardly ever did interviews, and suffered from extreme anxiety and fear in the final years of her life. 

What I loved about these stories were how simple yet unnerving they were. Jackson does not rely on the supernatural to make her reader feel uneasy. All of the stories in this novel take place in the real world, either a big city or the rural country, and involve everyday people, yet something is off. A few of the stories really stuck out to me including, The Daemon Lover, The Renegade, Of Course, and The Lottery. All of the stories in this novel sucked me in and had me on edge, but those stories in particular made me shutter. 

Many critics see Jackson's works as not a reflection of her own paranoia, but as a reflection of the Cold War paranoia and society she was living in, and I have to agree. Jackson's stories reflect the Cold War brilliantly, as in both settings, life continues normally on the surface, but there are small hints that everything isn't quite as stable as it seems. 

I'm really eager to read the rest of Jackson's works and learn more about her as I think she's brilliant. I highly recommend checking her out if you are into creepy reads. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

End of Summer Hopeful TBR

I'm pretty sure I make a post like this every year around the start of August, and I'm also sure that I never read all the books I feature before the end of the summer, but that's alright. Here's some of the books I would love to read before the end of the summer. It looks like I'm feeling creepy reads and historical fiction.





Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Recently Watched: Signs, The Others, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

I've done quite a bit of movie watching lately. I've been wanting to get caught up on some thriller/supernatural movies that I haven't seen and so far, I've been really enjoying it, and of course, I love Jimmy Stewart so I am always up for watching his films.

Signs
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Released 2002
 
Signs is an alien classic, so of course I needed to watch it. I'm not sure if I have mentioned it on here, but aliens are one of my favorite supernatural elements to consume in movies, T.V., or books. I'm working my way through the classics, inspired by my love of The X-Files which I am almost done with and will be talking about soon. This movie was really enjoyable. It was a lot more than I expected it to be. It was the perfect mix of suspense, plot, and theme. I was pleasantly surprised by the strength of the religious themes and the motif of the "sign' through coincidence, symbol, or miracle.

If you are unfamiliar, Mel Gibson plays a pastor who has recently left the church after his wife was killed on a walk when she was hit by a driver who fell asleep at the wheel. He renounces religion and the idea of miracles or meaning in events, when one day he walks outside his house to see a crop circle has been left in his corn field and in other places all over the world.

One thing I love about 90s and 2000s supernatural is the lack of cgi and special effects that were available, because of this, movie makers and writers were forced to use the movie watcher's imagination and expectations to create suspense and "horror" rather than fancy cgi. This movie was funny, suspenseful, and entertaining. I highly recommend it if you have never seen it.

The Others
Directed by Alejandro AmenĂ¡bar
Released 2001
The internet is telling me that this movie may or may not have been inspired by The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, but I have never read it so I'm not sure. I will have to read it to find out. 

I really, really liked this movie. I had no idea what it was about and had no expectations. My mom talked me into watching it on a whim and I'm glad she did. This one is a lot more suspenseful than Signs but still deals with some deeper themes rather than just suspense. I was pleasantly surprised with Nicole Kidman's performance. I don't want to talk too much about plot because it's really best if you don't know anything. 

What made this movie so interesting is the very small cast. There was really only four characters that carried this movie and I thought that was brilliant. I also found the lack of male presence in this movie interesting. Religion also plays an important role in this movie, and it was interesting to watch it so close to Signs and to be able to compare the two. This movie was one of the pioneer twist ending suspense and horror movies, and I think it's a super fun watch. You might be able to catch on to the end, but it doesn't take away from the watching experience if you do. 

I enjoyed this movie the most out of the three featured in this post. This is a movie that I can see myself rewatching even though I already know the ending. If you have any similar recommendations for me, let me know!

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Directed by Frank Capra
Released 1939
 I love Jimmy Stewart and Frank Capra so it's really surprising that this is my first time watching this movie. Stewart plays a young man appointed to the Senate after the sudden death of a senator. He is placed there by someone he trusts, as he is believed to be gullible and a push-over, but of course, Mr. Smith is nothing of the sort. 

Stewart is a great actor, you believe every role he plays, and his voice makes it impossible for you to focus on anyone else while he is talking. I also loved the female lead character in this movie, Miss Saunders, and thought there was a lot being said about women's role in the political sphere for a movie made in 1939 that was not specifically about women's role in the political sphere. 

This is a feel good movie, where one golden-hearted man takes on the corrupt and cold political system in order to make a positive change, but for me, Miss Saunders was the real star of the show. She coaches Mr. Smith through his over 24 hour fillibuster and knows all of the legal loop-holes and protocols. The real message for me here was that Miss Saunders should have been appointed to the U.S. Senate, not Mr. Smith.

Regardless, this movie was charming and feel-good, and an interesting watch in our current political climate. I will say, that the whole time I was watching this movie, I was just itching to put in It's a Wonderful Life as that is arguably one of the best movies ever made, and Stewart's performance here just made me think of George Bailey. If you have never seen a James Stewart movie, you should rectify that ASAP! 
Mr. Smith preparing to filibuster. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Recently Read: The Upside of Unrequited

Author: Becky Albertalli
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Page Count: 336
Publication Date: 2017
Rating: 4/5

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Also by Becky Albertalli:
Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda 



Molly has had twenty-six crushes and zero boyfriends. Her twin sister has no problem talking to crushes and is determined to find Molly a boyfriend. When Molly's sister Cassie falls head-over-heels for a new girl named Mina, Mina's friend Will seems to be the perfect candidate for Molly's first boyfriend, except maybe he isn't, and her nerdy but sweet co-worker Reid is. 

I really loved Simon so of course I was interested in checking out Albertalli's newest release. While I preferred Simon over this one, I still really enjoyed this one. Albertalli's humor is spot on, and she seamlessly incorporates diversity into her works.

I loved the natural diversity in this novel. While most of the characters were diverse, it never felt like any of the characters existed just to be diverse. Molly and Cassie have two moms and were born via invetro; one of their moms is African American; Cassie is gay; Molly is overweight; both are Jewish; and there is a pansexual character. All of these diverse elements are so natural to the story and handled perfectly. I particularly enjoyed the way that Molly's weight was handled as it is a part of who she is, but she never once mentions loosing weight or hating her weight. She is who she is, and she loves who she is. So refreshing! 

I found Molly's narration to be very natural. It really felt like a seventeen year old girl was narrating this story, which is both good and bad. It always takes me a minute to adjust to teenager thinking again when I read a YA book that is authentically teenager-ish, but once I adjusted, I really enjoyed it. Molly is funny and honest, and her views on love and romance are authentic. 

The characters are great. Reid was a sweetheart and a great YA male love interest. He was unique and authentically and apologetically himself. This novel dealt with a lot of themes central to YA, romantic love, sibling relationship, body image, and handling change. 

This is a YA novel that I'm really glad exists. Although it doesn't quite reflect my experience as a teenager, I know it reflects a teenage experience that is not uncommon, but that is not commonly represented in YA fiction. I will be picking up whatever Albertalli comes out with in the future; she has earned a seat on my list of favorite YA contemporary authors. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Weekend Reading Plans

I'm hoping to get a lot of reading done this month before I start my full-time teaching internship at the beginning of September. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed by how much reading I want to do in so little time, but I'm trying to be relaxed about it (easier said than done.) So here's what I will be reading this weekend!

The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

I'm listening to this one on audiobook, as I listened to the first one. These books are great on audio because the narrator pronounces all of the Arabic words so beautifully. These books are a little bit of a guilty pleasure for me. The romance is bit weird, there's a lot of drama, but the writing is so atmospheric and the story is addicting. So far, this one is going great. 

The Dumb House by John Burnside
I'm hoping to start this one this weekend as it quite a short read, and promises to be quite creepy. I've had this on my shelf for a while, and I've heard great things. 

Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen

I'm almost done with this small collection of poems, but it is not a happy read. and sometimes I can only read a poem or two before I have to put it down. I love Owen's poetry and you can read my Poetry Spotlight on him here. 

What are you reading this weekend?