So the folks who run Book Riot, a bookish news and commentary site for which I am a weekly contributor, are doing the first Riot Read (which is a combination lazyily-scheduled readalong and book club), and they've selected The Great Gatsby as the first book and my heart SINGS and DANCES because this is my favorite.
Here's the reading schedule (starts today)
June 26 – July 2: Chapters 1 & 2
July 2 – July 9: Chapters 3 & 4
July 9 – July 16: Chapters 5 & 6
July 16 – July 23: Chapter 7
July 23 – July 31: Chapters 8 & 9
AND here is an excellent post from Jeff on close-reading the first sentence of the book, and hereis a collection of notable quotes about the book. ALSO they're giving away a Gatsby tote from Out Of Print Tees (whose Moby Dick t-shirt I am wearing AS WE SORT OF SPEAK/ENGAGE IN A WRITER-READER INTERACTION VIA THE INTERWEB).
So. Details about the giveaway of aforementioned tote and about the whole shebang in general are here.
We already know this since I said it in my last post, but it bears repeating: I FINISHED THE ODYSSEY, I FINISHED I FINISHED I FINISHED!
I wanted to have it done before I started Ulysses, and I have to say- I think having read the Homer is frackin' ESSENTIAL to having any clue about what Joyce is trying to do in Ulysses. So, people who are all "you don't have to read the Odyssey to understand Ulysses" are about as wrong as people who are all "Ulysses was written for the masses!" Which is to say, the wrongest that could possibly be wrong. MOVING ON.
Odyssey picks up several years (don't remember how many exactly, sue me, but I think it's about ten) after the end of Iliad. So, Troy she has a-fallen (see horse: wooden) and the triumphant Greeks are scattered about the various and sundry Greek areas trying to get home, succeeding at getting home, getting murdered while arriving at home, and having adventures along the way. The main person we're following is Odysseus, who is full of bad-assitude and cunning. And also lies. It's a nice mix.
Anywoot, Odysseus is trying to get home to his wife Penelope and now-full-grown son who have been patiently waiting for twenty years (I'm sorry what?). During that time, a bunch of guys who want to marry Penelope eat all her stuff and refuse to leave and generally act like douche frat guys. Odysseus' journey home involves mucho meddling from the gods, a lot of death, mystical creatures extraordinaire, and the Sirens (my favorite).
The Sirens from O Brother, Where Art Thou. I love them. I want them on keychains. I SEEN EM FIRST.
THOUGHTS, ETC (Spoilers).
I for shizzle enjoyed this reading experience more than the Iliad. Where the Iliad is all WAR and OLD TESTAMENT LISTING OF THINGS and MEN BEING MANLY and NO LADIES (mostly), Odyssey is more WOMEN DOING THINGS THAT MOVE THE PLOT LOTS OF TIMES and NIFTY ADVENTURES and IN DEPTH CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT and MONSTERS AND MAYHEM. (This is not to say that the poetry in the Iliad isn't beautiful and that there aren't heart breaking moments because it is and there are, so don't hurt me.)
Odyssey is a foundational piece of literature, and for good reason (that's right, boys, no need to change hundreds of years of literary theory- I am in agreement with you). It considers all the things: fate, free will, family, love (of various types), war, loss, revenge, redemption, religion, gender, justice. And also wine and oil. It also has an unreliable narrator of sorts- Odysseus is the hero, but he's also full of patoohey in ways that you can't always pinpoint. His story changes, he makes up things, he's an awful leader (or is he?), he's a victim, he's the mover of all the events. The development of his character is really sophisticated, which, snobby modern me, I wasn't really expecting that (especially since I didn't find Achilles all that well-rounded. He's mostly ME KILL THINGS. ME LIKE MY FRIEND. ME CRY, GET DRUNK, MORE KILL THINGS).
I was most fascinated by the end, when Odysseus finally returns home and then takes what feels like several hundred pages to finally reveal himself. Once he does, he goes on a murderous rampage, killing all the suitors in the house AND hanging all the female servants who slept with them (it's never specified if those situations were consensual, either). The wholesale, indiscriminate slaughter reminded me of stories from the Old Testament where God commanded the Israelites to destroy entire races of people without excepting a single person. Did ancient cultures all have this viciously black and white view of justice?
The poetry is also beautiful, though I get the feeling that I read a somewhat simplified translation (I was reading the Allen Mandelbaum). If I read it again, I'll go for something a bit more flowery. I'm thinking it was a sort of Message Bible, and if I do round two, I'll want the KJV. Pickin' up what I'm puttin' down?
Here's my favorite bit (and something that I think sums up the whole poem quite nicely):
I have defeated The Odyessey just in time for Bloomsday (review of the Homer to come)! PREPARE FOR DEFEAT, JAMES JOYCE!
Oh, Niles. Never change. Well, you can't change, since the show is over.
For those of you out there who are all WTHHC (what the holy house cat, obvs) is she talking about, I SHALL HOLD FORTH:
James Joyce's Epic Work That Is Actually A Bit Decipherable (GO SIT IN A CORNER, Finnegan's Wake, WE'RE NOT TALKING ABOUT YOU) is Ulysses, a modernist retelling of The Odyssey. Ulysses all takes place in one day, June 16th, 1904. It's a sort of stream-of-consciousness...odyssey...of the main character Leopold Bloom through Dublin. Ergo, nerds the world over have knighted June 16th of each year as Bloomsday.
What happens on Bloomsday, you might ask? Drinking! AndalsoreadingofUlyssesbutIsuspectitsmostly drinking! For serious, some people read the whole book today. Those people are the Platonic ideal of readerly gusto. I am a lazy person who has to work today. With those powers combined, I will celebrate by gathering resources and maybe reading the first chapter. For those who want to do a serious readalong today, check out these goings on from o at delaisse.
WHAT RESOURCES, you ask? Or maybe you don't ask. Whatever. Fine.
The New Bloomsday Book: A Guide Through Ulysses by Harry Blamires. This is a chapter-by chapter breakdown of the book, with a little bit of literary criticism thrown in. It's mostly a line-by-line summary and commentary. This is what I'll turn to if I don't know what the eff is going on.
Ulysses: Annotated by Don Gifford and Robert J. Seidman. This is essentially a word-by-word annotation/close reading of the book. This is what I'll use when I can't remember what effing Homeric reference is being used, or what language he's speaking (IS THAT LATIN ON THE FIRST PAGE ZOMYLORD).
So yeah. I am PREPARED. I don't usually PREPARE this much, but I also don't usually read 700+ page modernist epics. So. I'm sure this one will take me awhile (apparently this is the Year Of Reading Books That Take Forever Because They Require The Brain Piece), so I'll be giving periodic updates.
Anyone else reading along with o, or doing your own Joycean thing today (drinking/reading/readingwhiledrinking)?
E-readers! They're a thing! A thing that people use instead of buying books! REAL BOOKS!
Except, ok, I do get it. I have an e-reader (Nook Tablet, if you're curious, which I greatly enjoy). I've only actually used it to read e-galleys for the store, but that experience has been fine. All in all, I prefer holding a physical book and flipping through the pages and having them around the house.
BUT MY CHILDREN. I have two 15 month old babies, and despite my best efforts, they constantly get into my bookshelves and EAT THE BOOKS. EAT THEM. This is unacceptable. So I'm considering downloading the books I own that are in the public domain (i.e., free) onto my Nook and getting rid of the physical copies (or at least boxing them up for now, until the babies don't EAT ZE PAGES). That would greatly reduce the amount of books on the shelves, and therefore the amount of policing I have to do of those shelves ALL THE LIVELONG DAY.
I can't decide to do this or not. I need you to tell me what you think. Here are Points For Consideration:
1. I like having an actual library. I think I'm more likely to re-read a book if it's in my face, and I like the way my house feels with physical books everywhere.
2. I think it's important for kids to grow up around books. But I can always bring the books back out once the boys are more...English speaking?
3. If I box up my classics, all that will be on the shelves are modern books. This is weird for me. This is not representative of my tastes.
4. WHAT IF I LOSE MY NOOK?
5. WHAT IF I DROP MY NOOK IN A PUDDLE OF ACID?
6. WHAT IF THE NOOK IS STOLEN IN THE NIGHT BY A RABID RACCOON?
It's really points 4-6 that concern me most. I'm trying not to fetishize books made of trees, but they're just what I prefer right now. Maybe if I go more digital I'll get used to it? What if I don't get used to it and start reading less?
ALTERNATIVE SOLUTION: Take all the bookshelves upstairs into the office and make it into an actual library. But that involves a lot of heavy lifting, and besides I HAVE THIS BLOODY NOOK I SHOULD USE IT. Right? RIGHT?
I have just returned from New York (or, as I like to call it, The Place Where Everything Smells Vaguely of Pee and Everyone Wants Your Dollars) for Book Expo America (more on that in a later post) and Book Blogger UNCON. For those who are unaware, there was an official BEA Blogger Conference happening at the same time, but I decided on attending the UNCON for various and sundry reasons already discussed here.
So. The UNCON KICKED MAJOR TUCKUS.
Dust your shoulders off, UNCON. Dust your shoulders off.
It was held at the Center For Fiction, which was pretty and had shelves of very fancy books and big leather chairs and busts of Important People and was generally where I would like to live. There were about 25 people (ish? I'm bad at counting things that aren't money), most of whom I was meeting for the first time.
We started off in the Area With Many Books, where we gathered for the planning session. Jeff from The Reading Ape sort of lead things, splitting the day into four session slots. Each session slot could house three panels/discussions/whatever we wanted, each of which happened in a different room. Participants then picked which thing they wanted to attend in each session slot. The topics were proposed by the participants, and ranged from social media to handling negative reviews to "drama" to the future of blogging to close reading.
The first session I attended was close reading, led by Jeff (who is a professor, dontchaknow). Close reading involves being super-analytical of sentences or passages of a work- something I find really helpful when reading Ye Olde Books. Also helpful- if close reading of a work doesn't reveal anything new about it, it's probably not that great (in my opinion [which is correct]). We close-read some Emily Dickinson, Shakespeare, famous first lines of novels, and movie tag lines (including Clueless, Aliens, Fight Club).
The next session I went to was on social media, which was sort-of led by Rebecca from The Book Lady's Blog, but was mostly led by everyone. We talked about Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, social media etiquette, dealing with authors on social media, whether or not Klout is bullshit, and a bunch of other stuff I can't remember because I was mostly like PEOPLE STOP TALKING ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE EATING FOR LUNCH ON THE TWITTERZ and then I got hungry for actual lunch. So we had lunch.
NEXT was a session on commenting. I was REALLY interested in this one because I've been considering turning off anonymous commenting on this blog (the only jerks I ever get are anonymous) and I wanted to talk to other people about it. We also talked about comment moderation, responding to comments/encouraging comments, dealing with trolls, and captcha. People don't like captcha. Down with captcha.
The last session was a big combined thingy where everyone got together to talk about reviewing and the future of book blogging. We covered negative reviews, DNF-ing and if you should review books you DNF, dealing with author responses to your reviews, if "professional blogger" is really a thing when you're not getting paid, and dealing with publishers. It was AWESOME.
SO. There were other sessions that I didn't attend and I don't remember what they were because I wasn't in them (sorry?). I was afraid that the UNCON would be a bit of an echo chamber because the sort of people who go to something like that might all have the same opinions but LO I was THE WRONGEST and I was very happy to be wrong. There were literary fiction bloggers, other bloggers of classics, romance bloggers, indie pub bloggers, and a bunch more- every opinion and way of doing things was represented. I had a lot of fun, it gave me BIG MUCHO TONS to think about, and I had burritos for lunch. All in all, a good time. Everyone should go next year.