Tuesday, May 31, 2016

May update—the Plath part

I finished The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath. And it took for-fucking-EVER. On GoodReads I had a starting date of January 26th. I hope that marks the day I brought the book home and maybe read the back cover or some such, because four months? For one book? Really? Even if it's 720 pages long, that is a long-ass time to spend reading a single book.

I'd be ashamed, except that the book has very small print. And is non-fiction. And has lots of end notes. And is studded with appendices and I swear, I was dutifully reading my way through all of them ... until I got to Sylvia's working notes about St. Teresa of Avila. I decided that I'm not a Plath scholar and don't need to read every. single. word. I read The Bell Jar and her (then) two published collections of poetry in the 1970s, when I was a young woman with literary aspirations, because that's what you did. But I haven't read them since, because books about mental illness and confessional poetry are not really my thing.

I also finished Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath, by Anne Stevenson, which I picked up in April in a used book store in Washington, D.C. I needed some secondary source material to fill in the gaps in the journals, because the gaps are sizable. What Sylvia included: minute descriptions of why a boy she's dating is suitable or not suitable for a husband; self-castigation about procrastinating; discussions of writer's block. What she left out: her breakdown, suicide attempt, marriage to Ted Hughes, and Ted Hughes' affair. 

Unfortunately, Bitter Fame is a not-uncontroversial biography that apparently pissed off Plath's fans big time. This is actually OK with me. I'm not Team Sylvia, so I didn't mind that Sylvia came across as kind of difficult because I have been given to understand that that's one of the hallmarks of being mentally ill, which—newsflash—she was. However, in addition to being the opposite of a hagiography, I found the writing pretty ham-handed, and the discussions of Plath's writing were cursory at best.

I'm not Team Ted, though. No, not at all. In fact, I saw this poem when I did an image search for Sylvia Plath that cracked me up:

So hey—I finally finished one of the Big Leftover Rory books from 2015! Also a biography that I can count towards my Read Harder Challenge. Hooray!

In other news, I also read Little Dorrit, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Angela's Ashes, Let the Dead Lie, and The Winthrop Woman, for a total of seven books this month.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

In case you haven't noticed, I'm a nerd

And sometimes I strap on my pocket protector and do things thoroughly.

So about this Rory Gilmore book challenge. When you go over and over something and keep seeing errors, they start to bug you. And there are some dumb errors in the Rory Gilmore list that have gotten on my last nerve. In the list as I found it, Bambi is listed as Walt Disney's Bambi and appears in the W part of the list. Way to alphabetize, dimwits.

And then there are situations where a short story is mentioned. Is it OK to read just "The Lottery," or do I need to read the entire collection of Shirley Jackson's short stories? And what if a book is mentioned because Rory's mocking it? As I've said, I'm a nerd who does things thoroughly, so I'd still read the book in question. But it would be nice to know that Rory Gilmore hated The Da Vinci Code, so I wouldn't feel pressured to like it. I don't want to waste time searching for literary qualities that don't exist. (I hated The Da Vinci Code. I expect you've already figured that out.)

Anyway, I decided to do a Gilmore Girls rewatch, noting what books were mentioned. Because it struck me that perhaps whoever put together the list needed an editor.

It turns out that while many authors are alluded to, and many works of literature are mentioned, but Rory does not spend seven seasons sitting around reading. In fact, I was wondering how she got the reputation for being such a bookworm.

Well, here I am at Season 1, Episode 9, "Rory's Dance," and I'm finally seeing Rory read. First, The Group, while Tristan is annoying her.

And then The Portable Dorothy Parker, which she carries in her evening bag the night of the school dance.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

May Day, May Day

It's time for my May update! Yay! Only six books this month. Boo.

Titles from the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge list

R is for Ricochet, Sue Grafton
S is for Silence, Sue Grafton
The Code of the Woosters, P. G. Wodehouse

Thank God Rory occasionally reads something a little frivolous and doesn't only read Russian novels, gender studies classics, and memoirs by Civil War generals.

Also reads

Mycroft Holmes, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, reviewd here
She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders, Jennifer Finney Boylan (Read Harder Challenge, Task 12) reviewed here
Bad Country, C. B. McKenzie

Also reading

I'm about to finish Angela's Ashes, which I'm enjoying much more than I thought I would. I think I read an excerpt of it somewhere, and that, combined with the cover art, made me think the book was going to be depressing AF. But it's not.

I'm still working on The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath (Rory) and even bought Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath because sometimes a solid secondary source fills in background information and adds a note of rationality and objectivity to the adolescent self-center.

I guess I could use that Sylvia Plath biography for my Read Harder Challenge "Read a Biography" task. Although I was planning to read a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt or Colette. But whatEVER, Sylvia, sheesh.

I'm also reading Ironweed (Rory) as well as rereading The Winthrop Woman because I've been asked to facilitate a book club meeting about it. (I suggested the book to the bookclub based on its having been the hot sexy book when I was in seventh grade. Since that was over 40 years ago, can I count this towards my 2016 titles? Does it count as reading when I'm rereading? I honestly remember very little about it. Except for the hot sexy bits, of course.)