I have utterly failed in my attempts to keep up with this blog so far this year. Sadly, even this post is not going to rectify that quite yet. The amount of work I have for my graduate program is prohibitive in regards to blogging. For now, I simply want to share what I’ve been reading recently, and a sentence or two about my impressions.
A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
A compelling glimpse into life in India under British colonial rule. Well-written, and deeply emotional, the main conflict centers on the trial of an Indian man falsely accused of rape by a British woman. Recommended, but with the caveat that you be ready for 300+ pages of racial tension and anger.
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
This novel follows multiple characters over the course of one day in post-WWI London. Woolf deftly deals with a range of topics from shell shock and suicide, to marriage, parties, and family, to faith and possible repressed homosexuality. Brilliantly written, though some readers might need to adjust to the stream-of-consciousness writing that jumps from viewpoint to viewpoint, often without warning. A must-read, in my opinion.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
This is a novel most people have heard of due to the fact that it was banned for quite some time due to its sexual nature. Lady Chatterley is the wife of a paralyzed war veteran who feels disconnected from life, until she begins an affair with the gamekeeper for the estate. While the sexuality is certainly prevalent, this novel is just as much about industrialization and the human condition post-war as it is about the need for true emotional connections with others.
A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
This novel is wonderful, in a darkly satirical way. Waugh, through the story of the family of Tony and Brenda Last, depicts the crumbling of the British aristocracy in the early 20th century. While there are certainly comic moments in this novel, it’s extremely black. The novel is focused on the increasing devaluation of human life, as dinner parties and affairs take precedence over family (even one’s own children) and pick away at traditional values. Worth reading, but took quite a toll emotionally.
Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder by Lawrence Weschler
A fascinating little book that defies categorization. Weschler seems to be telling the story of the curious Museum of Jurassic Technology and exploring the history and role of museums in general, but throws a wrench into the seemingly academic purpose with his tongue-in-cheek attitude and wry asides.
The Order of Things by Michel Foucault
A book of structuralist and organizational theory. Deals with notions of knowing, understanding, learning, and education, especially in regards to natural history. Lots of discussion of taxonomies and epistemology. Not to be approached lightly.
Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression by Jacques Derrida
Focuses on theories of the archive and how those theories intersect with theories of psychology and our need as humans to document and organize things into archives. One of the more interesting points explores the reality that archives are not about the past, but rather a outgrowth in our belief in a future that will want or need these things we file away. Certainly an interesting read, but very tough going.
A Sense of Things by Bill Brown
Thing Theory. Brown wrings readers’ minds with questions of what makes a thing a thing, and how “thingness” can be bestowed upon ideas and other non-tangible entities. Thought-provoking, but abstract to the point that it hurts sometimes.
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (in progress)
I’m in the midst of Moby-Dick, and I will say this: the novel has gotten an unfairly bad rap. Yes, it’s ponderous and occasionally abstruse, but it’s fun and self-aware too. It’s getting darker — Ahab is going mad — but I’m still on board.
I hope that this compilation of literary quick hits will do something toward redeeming my lack of posts over the past couple of months. My apologies, and I hope to do better in the coming months.