Friday, December 16, 2011

Light at the End of the Tunnel

My last post was published right around the time that I started focusing on my graduate school applications. It has been a long, long, long process, and not a very positive one. But it's very nearly out of my hands, and I'm pretty damn excited. I mail all of my documents tomorrow and will also submit my final online applications. Then all there is to do is wait.

I wrote a lot this past semester. A lot. I also read a lot, almost all for school. I have never been more stressed in my life, but I think that it was worth it. I'm proud of the work I did, and I'm looking forward to my work next semester, particularly an independent study that I'm doing on the Female Gothic genre. That being said, I'm really excited to be at home for break and have some time to relax. I've been home since Tuesday, and I've read two books already, just for fun, which has been really nice.

My dad surprised me earlier in the semester by having the new Stephen King book, 11/22/63, sent to me at my apartment without me knowing. My dad and I definitely bond over Stephen King books. Pet Sematary was the first book that my dad read on his own for fun. I didn't have time to read the new book until now because I was busy with school work and it's, well, huge, as most Stephen King novels are these days. Quick plot rundown: an English teacher from Maine is shown a portal to the past (1958 to be exact) and is convinced to go back and stop the Kennedy assassination. The book is about his attempt and his consequences.

As I pointed out before, the book is long, and while I enjoyed it, it was the first Stephen King novel I've read in a while that I felt went on for too many pages. Most of the book is devoted to Jake Epping's four-ish years in the past as he waits for the fateful date to arrive. I was personally much more interested in Epping's personal relationships with characters from his "past life" than his surveillance of Lee Harvey Oswald and his associates. I think that has to do with my opinion that Stephen King is at his best when he is exploring everyday human relationships-- even if they're twisted a bit by the supernatural. His deviation into the world of alternate histories and conspiracy theories (or lack thereof) gave the novel a good timeline and element of suspense, but the sections were on the whole less interesting for me. I also feel like the story got a little stunted by King's obvious glee at getting to delve into late 1950's-early 60's society. I totally understand that impulse, but it was pretty transparent and took me out of the story somewhat. His prose, always simple and not really the point of reading a King story, was a little less on point in this book than in other recent efforts like Duma Key, which benefited from its strange and haunting setting. Overall, I liked it, and despite any small criticisms, I enjoyed getting the view into the past as much as King seemed to.

I found Room by Emma Donoghue at the library and figured that I should probably read it already. It was a very quick read, and I'm not sure how I feel about it. It was affecting, that's for sure, and I was very invested in the safety of Jack and his mother. I also think it's an accomplishment on the author's part that she stayed in such a difficult voice for the entire novel without it becoming stilted or annoying. That being said, I'm not sure that I understand all of the accolades and attention the book got. It gripped me pretty hard when I read it, but I have to say that I think it was more the content than the writing, and of course anything that sensational will do so. I was also possibly so invested because of my knowledge of recent events that bear similarities to the narrative (Donoghue has been quoted as using the Fritzl case as partial inspiration for the story). Also, the book has not stuck with me much since I put it down. I have to say, though, that while I was reading it, I didn't want to put it down, and that's definitely a credit to Donoghue.

I checked out a few other books from the library that I want to tackle in the next couple of days. I've started Little Black Book of Stories by A.S. Byatt. I also got The Love of a Good Woman by Alice Munro, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, which I started this semester but didn't get to finish, and a Victoria Holt novel because I have to get ready for tons of Gothic intrigue next semester.

I'm hoping that now that my applications are over, I can blog regularly again, both about what I'm reading and what I'm writing.

-Taylor

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