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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Favorite Books of 2014

The books listed below are the ones that impacted me the most. They are not in any particular order.



Poetry


-The Wild Iris by Louis Gluck – This is a collection of poetry and was the first collection of poetry by Louis Gluck that I read. As the title might suggest, this poetry collection used a lot of flower imagery. Stunning and beautiful. 

-Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton – At this point, I think I’ve read all of Lucille Clifton’s published poems. Her writing style is deceivingly simple: not that many words on the page, but a lot of depth to those words. Through her poems, she explores themes of her black heritage, being a black woman, the inner city, motherhood, among others. My favorite poem by her is “come celebrate with me,” which I’ll leave a link to below. I think that’s a pretty good place to start with her poetry.

-Blue Horses by Mary Oliver – Mary Oliver is my favorite poet. Her poetry features a lot of nature imagery, and it just exudes joy and wisdom. For me, it is very calming and uplifting to read.

Other Poetry books:

-Incarnadine by Mary Szybist
-Metaphysical Dog by Frank Bidart


Novels

-Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes - Hands down my favorite book read in 2014! This story follows a man - Charlie - with a very low IQ who is scouted by scientists to participate in a research project. He, along with the lab rat Algernon, undergo brain surgery, and his IQ increases exponentially, making him become a genius. The novel is cleverly written in diary entries by Charlie, who has to document everything for the scientists. In this way, Keyes allows us to see Charlie's intellectual development - from a man who writes run-sentences laden with spelling mistakes and who is unaware of his co-workers' less-than-innocent teasing to a man who writes beautiful, poetic, and grammatically-correct prose and who understands mockery. In his diary entries, Charlie explores the effect the surgery has had on him and on other people, and how he even comes to be a little arrogant and feel contempt for those with lower IQs. And, as the story has it, how he feels when Algernon starts deteriorating. Poetic and arresting, Charlie's story will make you think about your relationships and how you treat other people. This is a beautiful novel. 

-The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe - I was looking for something weird and philosophical when I picked up this book, and it did not disappoint. A man who collects bugs one day decides he needs to get away. So, he takes a day off from work and goes to the desert to look for rare bugs - what's more relaxing than that? However, his day trip goes awry when night falls and he meets a few villagers, who persuade him to go down the sand cliff and stay the night at a (THE) woman's house. The catch: the villagers will never let him leave. Incredibly claustrophobic, the plot (however bare it may be) takes place within this small village in the dunes - mostly within and around the woman's house. Further adding to the confined atmosphere is the all-permeating and invasive sand, which seeps into and eats away at the houses and sticks to the body like superglue. Destructive and pernicious, the sand poses a dangerous and immediate threat to the villagers, who every night must dig at the side of the sand cliff to deter an avalanche of sand that would drown the village. The main character is tormented, both by his unlawful detainment and by what he considers a meaningless existence; why live only to avoid death? Accordingly, this book follows his plots to escape and often meanders into long, philosophical tangents that are worth considering. A book that will make you think.

-Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka - I read this around the same time as I read The Woman in the Dunes; so, I was still in the weird, philosophical mood. Gregor Samsa, a traveling businessman who is the sole provider for his parents and sister, one day wakes up to find himself turned into a cockroach. I read this as a satire of how sick people are treated. Gregor, the sick person, who, along with his family and co-workers, is slow to accept his state, even trying to make it to work as a giant cockroach! In a saddening but absurdly funny tale, we see how Gregor becomes isolated and dehumanized by his family and himself.


Other novels:
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffery Eugenides


Plays

-King Lear by Shakespeare - An old, foolish man (the titular character) forgets the value of love and relationships and casts out his sincere and loving daughter, Cordelia, leaving his land and power to his selfish and deceitful daughters, Goneril and Regan, who cast him away after they are rewarded for their false speeches. Lear, now left with nothing, descends into madness, eventually becoming  "unaccommodated man" and reuniting with Cordelia. This was a powerful play that made me rethink the value of my relationships and also see death in a different light. As discussed in my Shakespeare class last semester, death can be a means to a fully realized life. I will elaborate more on this in a future post.

-Twelfth Night by Shakespeare - In the holiday world of Illyria, Viola pretends to be a man and chaos from love and mistaken identity ensues. Hilarious and thought-provoking, this play made me consider how a lack of understanding of one's own appetites can be detrimental to one's personal growth. More to come on this as well.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Fresh Start

Hi, I'm Cat! 

I recently decided to start working on this blog again. So, I deleted all previous posts, most of which were music videos and the rest of which were poorly written book reviews. 

Now that I have a blank slate, I'll be posting hopefully more thoughtful and better written book reviews.