IN THE LAKE OF THE WOODS by Tim O’Brien | Reflection

In my Postmodern American Fiction class this past semester, we were assigned to write a page reflection each week on the book that we read. I actually really enjoyed writing these reflections because they were a chance to choose a specific aspect of the book and discuss it in depth without needed to come to any precise conclusions or arguments. In fact, I liked it so much that I’ve decided to continue on the process this summer! Along with reviews I’ll be sharing these reflections, brief discussions on novels that I’ve read without any value judgment or rating on my part. Let me know what you think! 

Footnotes are an integral component to this novel, one that has many different functions throughout the book. The most obvious function is to inform the reader of who and what O’Brien is quoting. These footnotes also serve as a bridge to who we assume to be the narrator, a way for him to voice his own opinions and views on the content he is sharing. While these functions are interesting in and of themselves, I would like to focus on three footnotes in particular: the ones on page 299 in my book, or the bottom of the first page of Chapter 31.

Footnote 1 refers the reader back to footnote 6 on page 194, specifically to “Crossan.” Yet when I looked back on page 94, I was confused to find that there was no footnote 6, only 10 or 11. Neither is there a mention of Crossan. In other words, this reference leads to nowhere. At first I thought it was a default in my edition–perhaps the editor got it wrong and the page number was a little bit off? However, upon further searching I realized that no footnote 6 in that part of the novel references Crossan. What is the significance of a footnote that leads to nothing, of a broken reference? Is it meant to send us on a wild goose chase, searching for something that we will never find? Are we meant to question ourselves or the accuracy of the novel? Is it reality that is deemed no longer credible, or the narrator interpretation of it? These questions of uncertainty imbue the novel with a very quantum feel, one that breeds mistrust in the novel and in the reader herself.

Footnote 2 comes after the words “in love” and directs the reader to “see Chapter 10.” One may expect a chapter titled “The Nature of Love” to be about John’s love for Kathy–and in part, it is, albeit the kind of obsessive love that manifests itself in spying and stalking–but this chapter is actually more about John’s desire to be loved by everyone he can possibly be loved by, especially his father.

It was in the nature of love that John Wade went to the war. Not to hurt or be hurt, not to be a good citizen or a hero or a moral man. Only for love. Only to be loved. He imagined his father, who was dead, saying to him, ‘Well, you did it, you hung in there, and I’m so proud, just so incredibly proud’ (O’Brien 59).

Once again, O’Brien plays with our expectations, twisting what we first think about when we imagine two adults in love. Here we see that love can have more than one definition at a time–more than two or three, even. Our desire to be loved and how we show our love for others can be two very, very disparate experiences, as evident by John’s spying tendencies.

Footnote 3 directs the reader to footnote 1 on page 94, which should say “It has been said that a miracle is the result of causes with which we are unacquainted” (O’Brien 299). And indeed it does; however, because of the inaccuracy of the first footnote we are immediately cautious when flipping back to this page. This mistrust in the novel that we experience causes us to doubt its inner workings and the very function of footnotes and text at their most basic level. Such uncertainty strikes me as quite a quantum sensation, causing us to simultaneously want to keep read and to put the book down in frustration.

Thoughts on In the Lake of the WoodsHave you ever read uses footnotes in this way? Let me know in the comments section below!



Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Summer TBR Update

Top Ten Tuesday (7).pngHappy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) asks us to share the books we hope to read this summer. I already shared a bit of my summer TBR in an earlier post, so today I’m going to update it with what I’ve read thus far and what I’m looking to read over the next few weeks.

eau de parfum (1)

Here are the books I’ve already checked off of my initial summer TBR list:

38746485-2Becoming by Michelle Obama

I listened to the audiobook version narrated by Michelle Obama and LOVED it. It’s the most empowering, striking, well written memoir I’ve read in a while. Review will be posted soon, but for now I’ll just say that I would absolutely recommend this book no matter your political beliefs!

402013Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

I read this book at a time when I needed a little cheering up and it 100 percent did the job! Angus is hilarious, ridiculous, dramatic, and even a little addicting–I didn’t want to put it down! Stay tuned for a review.

15749186-2To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

I also listened to the audiobook version of this and really enjoyed it. I have fond memories of watching the movie adaptation with friends, which made this even more fun to read. It was really interesting to see differences and similarities between the two forms of this story. Looking forward to reading the rest of the series! eau de parfum (2)

7332-21. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien

As I’ve said many times at this point, I’ve been meaning to read this book FOR AGES. And I’m finally doing it!! I’m currently about half way through, so I’m feeling confident that I can read the rest soon and finally check this one off my list.

136429292. My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor

I started reading and listening to an audiobook version of this memoir towards the end of last semester, but then things got chaotic and crazy with finals and graduation so I never ended up finishing it. I would love to read this inspiring memoir before starting law school!

11753763. This Common Secret by Susan Wicklund

I borrowed this book from a friend at the end of last semester and still haven’t read it… definitely have to get around to finishing it soon! It sounds like such a powerful, relevant, important read (although a bit of a heavy subject, so we’ll see how my emotions fare!).

2144384. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

I’ve been meaning to read this book for so many summers now that it seems as though I’ve checked it out of the library a million times. Looking forward to finally getting around to it! (And then finally watching the movie adaptation!)

14541165. The Stand by Stephen King

My friend and I recently decided to read this together this summer and I’m so excited! My mom is a huge Stephen King fan and this is one of her favorites. Will probably take quite a bit of time though… my copy is over 1,000 pages long!!

16101126-26. The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

My friends and I have an inside joke in which we were all assigned Sarah Dessen books, and this one is mine. I was gifted a copy at the end of the semester and I’m really looking forward to rereading it after so long. Seems like a perfect summer book to read on the beach!

411100507. Sweet Dreams by Nadette Rae Rodgers

I’ve been meaning to read this book for SO LONG and I’m finally going to do it! This is the third installment in Nadette Rae Rodgers’ Illusion Trilogy and I’m really excited to see how this series ends. She’s also a great blogger, so go check out her blog here! 

120678. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

The hype about this book and the recently released TV series is WILD. I’m about half way through the audiobook at the moment and really loving this charming, witty, bizarre, hilarious story. This book is also my first foray into Terry Pratchett and I already can’t wait to read more of his work!

183002709. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

It’s been a while since I read an old classic, and I’ve been missing them dearly. This one has been on my list for a while, especially after having seen the movie adaptation a few years ago. I finally managed to check this novel out of the library, which is a step in the right direction!

29409747-210. The Lifted Veil by George Eliot

I bought this little novella while I was in Oxford recently (more on that trip to come!) because I’ve been missing the Victorian horror that I read during my tutorials there. I’ve only ever read Middlemarch by George Eliot, so I’m excited to see how she treats the horror genre.

So far I’ve read 3 of the 7 books I initially put on my TBR list–not bad for a month into my summer break, I’d say! What books are you hoping to read this summer? What do you think of the ones on my list? Let me know in the comments section below!




Is it possible to read TOO MUCH into a book? | Discussion

We’ve all been there: sitting through a high school English class as the teacher goes on about the symbolism of the yellow car and Doctor T. J. Eckleburg’s ever-watching eyes in The Great Gatsby, wondering whether or not F. Scott Fitzgerald really intended for us to dissect every move of his pen. Is it possible to read too much into a text? It feels as though this question has plagued readers, English majors, and literary scholars alike for ages without ever having come to an agreed upon conclusion. Up until recently, I was mostly of the opinion that it was not possible to read too much into a text. I thought that since books are largely for the readers, it was up to us to take away what we could and wanted to from a text. However, I began to second guess this perspective when I started reading Watership Down by Richard Adams and came across this statement in the author’s introduction:

“I wanted to emphasize that Watership Down was never intended to be some sort of allegory or parable. It is simply the story about rabbits made up and told in the car.” 

Richard Adams

What was I to do with this? Somehow it felt strange to look for allegories, symbolism, and allusions in a text after reading that the author didn’t intend for any of that to exist in the story. If the author didn’t want it to be there, then surely that meant that it wasn’t there at all? Yet wasn’t that the whole point of reading? To look for deeper meaning? Isn’t that why I loved it so much?

Stumped, I nevertheless continued on into the story of Watership Down, captivated by these rabbits with their lingo and customs and the intricacies of their warrens. I tried viewing the story just as a story, Adams’ earlier statement lingering in the back of my mind. Yet doing so filled me with a strange sense of missing something. Surely there was more to it? Surely there could be more to it? Surely Richard Adams hadn’t written a 474 page novel about rabbits just for the heck of it?

The more I read, the more this idea bothered me. And the more it bothered me, the more I asked myself why it bothered me. By the time I had finished the novel, I had the closest thing to a conclusion that I could muster.

I think stories are inherently purposeful.

Now, I don’t just mean a purpose to entertain, which is what Richard Adams seems to be suggesting here; rather, I think that stories are inherently built on archetypes, allegories, parables, and symbolism because we as humans are metaphorical beings. We like comparing things, referencing other things, and basing new things on old things. It’s how we make sense of the world, how we categorize things around us. We are always communicating something, even if we don’t intend to. And here is where I would like to point something out about Adams’ statement

Just because the author didn’t intend for meaning to be there doesn’t mean that you can’t find it. 

Don’t get me wrong: there’s a huge difference between twisting an author’s words to make them say something they didn’t mean and finding meaning for yourself in their work. But I can’t see the harm in finding lessons of loyalty, trust, and bravery in Watership Down, regardless of whether or not the author intended any lessons to be taught. Can you read too much into a book? Maybe. Yet part of me also thinks that we could do a little more reading into books sometimes, too.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you think you can read too much into a book? Let me know in the comments section below!




Why I Love the Libby App for Audiobooks

Up until a few years ago, I had never really been a fan of audiobooks. My local public library had these little devices that solely played audiobooks, which I would check out from time to time if my family was going on a longer road trip or vacation and I knew I would have time to listen to it. Their speed (or lack thereof) frustrated me because I knew that my reading speed was faster with a physical book, and speeding up the narration on the device made me feel like I was listening to a hyped up robot. I listened to audiobooks when I had  to—when I was riding in the backseat of my parents’ car and would get carsick from reading a physical book—but other than that I steered clear of them.

That is, until I discovered the Libby app (what used to be called Overdrive a few years ago, but it works basically the same way) while I was studying abroad at Oxford. I lived about a twenty minute walk from college, and between that daily commute and other little errands I had to regularly run, I had a lot of listening time on my hands. At first I just listened to music, and when I tired of that I switched over to podcasts. But then I had an idea: what if I listened to audiobooks? Think of all the reading I could get done! While not sacrificing doing anything else at the same time! And thus, I downloaded the Libby app onto my phone.

Libby was such a game changer. I listened to so many books I’d been meaning to read for years, like the entirety of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket and Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. I slowly crawled through tomes like Les Miserables by Victor Hugo and Grant by Ron Chernow, renewal after renewal after renewal. I listened to them while walking to college and through parks, while cooking and cleaning, while getting ready in the morning and while winding down before bed at night. It was a way for me to stay in touch with what I loved—reading for fun—while also juggling all of my assigned reading for tutorials. Listening to audiobooks also provided a sense of comfort when it hit me that I was thousands of miles away from home. I could slip into my cozy bed and listen to someone read me a story, and everything would seem a bit less overwhelming.

Since then, I’ve recommended Libby to oodles of people. Listening to audiobooks makes my one hour commutes to work during the summers go by so much faster and getting ready in the morning a lot more enjoyable. I don’t have to fiddle with discs in my car CD player or remember to put batteries in a device from a library; instead, it’s all on my phone, downloaded and ready to be played whenever and wherever.

Of course, everything has its drawbacks. Because mine is connected to the New Hampshire state consortium of library books, the selection to choose from isn’t the best. Sometimes it can take a while (several weeks) for a book on hold to make its way around to you, and when it does you only have a week or so to cram it all in before it goes to another person. Yet whenever I’m frustrated by these little wrinkles in the app, I remind myself that it’s all free. And that’s another reason why I love this app so much: I don’t have to pay for any of these audiobooks!

All in all, I would highly recommend Libby to anyone and everyone, no matter if you’re already an audiobook lover or if you’re just thinking about maybe trying them out. Libby is easy and free to use with a library card, and it’s allowed me to read so many books that I otherwise wouldn’t have read. Definitely an app that routinely survives the “What can I delete for more storage?” debate on my phone!

Have you ever used the Libby app? Are there other audiobook apps or services that you would recommend? Are you a fan of audiobooks? Let me know in the comments section below!




THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING by Joan Didion | Reflection

In my Postmodern American Fiction class this past semester, we were assigned to write a page reflection each week on the book that we read. I actually really enjoyed writing these reflections because they were a chance to choose a specific aspect of the book and discuss it in depth without needed to come to any precise conclusions or arguments. In fact, I liked it so much that I’ve decided to continue on the process this summer! Along with reviews I’ll be sharing these reflections, brief discussions on novels that I’ve read without any value judgment or rating on my part. Let me know what you think! 

I cried two times while reading The Year of Magical Thinking: first at the point when Joan Didion says “I needed to be alone so that he could come back. This was the beginning of my year of magical thinking” and then at the very end of the novel when she says “You had to feel the swell change. You had to go with the change. He told me that. No eye is on the sparrow but he did tell me that” (Didion 33; 227). As someone who has never actually cried while reading a book before, the fact that I was suddenly crying actual tears while sitting a table in Emerson with my friends worriedly asking me what was wrong was quite a surprise. Why did this book have such an intense effect on me? An obvious answer would be the terribly sad subject matter; however, I have read plenty of sad books before without a similar result. What was it about this sad book in particular made that made it hit me so hard?

The difference here seems to be the way the memoir is structured, particularly how the narration expands and contracts like an accordion. She describes this expansive nature of her own thinking as the “vortex,” a sort of spiral she plummets down whenever something triggers a memory from the past. A clear example of how this vortex works is when her thinking about one of the books she had written sparks a spiral about her daughter, Quintana:

I had been writing that book when Quintana was three.

When Quintana was three.

There it was, the vortex.

Quintana at three. The night she had put a seed pod from the garden up her nose and I had driven her to Children’s Hospital. The pediatrician who specialized in seed pods had arrived in his dinner jeacket. The next night she had put another seed pod up her nose, wanting to the repeat the interesting adventure (Didion 110).

Here we see how one small detail triggers a connection with a memory, resulting in an opening up of the narrative to include this digressive departure from the main story she was telling. Yet at the same time, these memories also make up the main story. Through these winding paths of memory, Didion asserts the inevitable importance of the past and the seeming impossibility of entirely escaping or avoiding the mind’s reliance on the past in the midst of grief.

Perhaps the reason this memoir made me cry is not solely the narrative structure itself, but the way the narrative structure so closely reflects Didion’s thought processes and the inner workings of her mind in the midst of her grief. While reading those last few lines of the book and the last repeated words (“he did tell me that”) I could just feel the desperation, the yearning for a resolution or an answer that she could not find even in the process of writing this book. I have been fortunate enough to never have experienced such a loss or intense grief thus far in my life, but Didion’s writing made me fear that feeling immensely. Through this memoir’s accordion-like structure, Didion was able to convey as close to the feeling of grief as possible, considering the limitations of language that prevent it from ever being exactly expressed with absolute accuracy.

Thoughts on The Year of Magical ThinkingHave you ever read a memoir that has resonated deeply with you this way? Let me know in the comments section below!



Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Anticipated 2019 Releases

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) asks us to share our top ten most anticipated releases for the second half of 2019. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I am pretty awful at staying in touch with the world of new book releases. I always hear about new series and books coming out long after they have been announced, even when it’s an author that I really like. Because of this lack of awareness of new releases, I knew that making a list of ten of them this week would be really difficult (and would require a lot of research). Instead, I’m going to talk about just one new release that I almost thought was too good to be true when I first heard about it: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, to be released September 10, 2019. 

42973319And so I step up, into the darkness within; or else the light.

When the van door slammed on Offred’s future at the end of The Handmaid’s Tale, readers had no way of telling what lay ahead.

With The Testamentsthe wait is over.

Margaret Atwood’s sequel picks up the story 15 years after Offred stepped into the unknown, with the explosive testaments of three female narrators from Gilead.

‘Dear Readers: Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.’


A SEQUEL TO THE HANDMAID’S TALE IS FINALLY COMING OUT. I CAN’T BELIEVE IT. This completely makes sense given the popularity of the TV series and the rise in popularity of The Handmaid’s Tale novel itself, but I had my doubts as to whether or not Margaret Atwood would actually want to open that can of worms again. But it also makes sense that she would want to dive back into this world and fill in some blanks: Gilead reflects a reality that we never want to reach, yet in some ways it seems as though that is the road we’re going down. This story is so relevant and important, and I honestly think it should be taught in high schools as required reading. There are so many lessons to be learned from it!

You can bet that I’ll absolutely be counting down to September 10th! What anticipated 2019 release are you most looking forward to? Are you good at staying up with new releases? If so, please share the secrets of the trade with me in the comments section below!!




Say hello to my typewriter!

Ever since I was younger I wanted a typewriter. For some reason I have a thing for machines that produce direct, tangible results. If you know my in person, then you’re probably well aware of my love of polaroids–my infatuation with typewriters falls along those same lines. I adore the idea of creating something beautiful–a classically elegant typed document–as you write it. As the daughter of a woman with a passion for all things old and antique, I also grew up with an appreciation for aged objects instilled in me. It is with this eagerness and hopefulness that I searched high and low for my golden opportunity in each and every antique store my mother and I visited over the years, but to no avail. Most typewriters I came across didn’t work, and the ones that actually did function usually cost a pretty penny. Alas! I seemed destined to never type upon a typewriter of my very own.

That is, until a few years ago when I finally found exactly what I had been searching for all that time: a functioning, affordable typewriter. A new Savers had opened up a few towns over from where I lived, and my mom and I went one day just to see the sorts of things they had in stock. As we meandered to the back of the store, my mom pointed out this beauty to me on a shelf in the corner. It wasn’t the most cool-looking antique typewriter, and we would have to buy ink for it online, but the tag said it worked so I took a gamble and purchased it.

What a good decision that was! The typewriter works seamlessly, and the ink is pretty easy to get online. It even has a nifty spell check feature, giving a little beep! whenever you spell a word wrong. The only downside to this typewriter is that it’s fairly large, so I can’t bring it with me when I move out each semester. As a result, I haven’t used it nearly as much as I would like.

However, I’ve been determined to change that streak this summer. Some of you may know that I regularly keep a journal, a sort of blend between traditional pen on paper writing and scrapbooking. This summer I’ve decided to write the majority of my journal entries using my typewriter. Not only is this fun (I love the loud clack clack clack it makes whenever I press on the keys) but it’s also a great way to get a lot of use out of it before I move out for law school in August and have to leave my beloved typewriter behind in my bedroom at home. Plus, I think it adds a really lovely touch to my journal pages!

Do you have a typewriter? Have you ever used one? Do you have a gadget like this that you’ve adored for ages? Let me know in the comments section below!




Versatile Blogger Award {Oxford themed!] | 5

Look familiar? I’m back with another Versatile Blogger Award! Thanks so much to Dani for nominating me! Last time I gave this award a summer theme, but this time the theme is extra special: Oxford! As you read this, I will be flying across the pond to Oxford, England to visit some friends at Mansfield College, where I spent my junior year studying abroad. I’m beyond excited to go over again and see so many familiar people and places—and I’m excited to share my adventures when I get back! But for now, here are seven Oxford themed fun facts about me.

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.
  2. Leave a link to their blog.
  3. Tell us 7 things about yourself.
  4. Nominate 15 bloggers/bloggers you’ve discovered recently or follow regularly.

1. In a shocking un-Holly-like move that bewildered all of my friends and family back home, I was the goalkeeper for the Mansfield-Merton football team. I wasn’t very good and really was only able to play because they desperately needed a body in goal, but I still played. I loved the feeling of being on a team—and the lemonade we shared after games! I’ll always be grateful that I randomly decided to go to a football taster session with my friend one afternoon early on in the first term.

2. Although I love so many cafes in Oxford, the one that really stole my heart was George Street Social. (Which I wrote about in a post here.) Not only is it a lovely place to read and write during the day, but it also doubles as a fun pub-like setting in the evenings. One of my friends and I went there a few times to have a drink and play one of the old board games they had piled on a shelf upstairs. There’s this one table on your right when you first walk in that was my absolute favorite—the chairs were comfortable and it was next to a wide window with a perfect view of the bustling street. Would definitely recommend stopping by if you’re ever in the area!

3. Almost every day my friends and I would take a 3pm essay break and walk through Uni Parks to a little farm with the most beautiful group of horses. It was definitely someone’s field—their house was right beside it—but if they ever had any qualms about a bunch of American girls standing by their fence gazing out at their horses, they never said anything. We named the horses based on their colorings and even got to pet them a few times. It was such a serene scene, one that I looked forward to every afternoon. Even though Oxford is a city (albeit a small one), I was delighted to discover that there were still plenty of green spots to be enjoyed.

4. As a Visiting Student, I wasn’t required to attend any lectures or other meetings apart from my weekly tutorials; however, I found myself attending a handful of them each week anyways, at least throughout the first two terms. I initially started going to them because I genuinely enjoy listening to lectures—ones about literature, at least. Yet I kept going to them for very different reasons: I quickly realized that they were a great way to gain a bit of context about what I was reading and writing about this week without having to do all the research on my own. Lectures provided me with a great starting point from which I then branched off into what I was specifically interested in. Academics aside, lectures also provided me a way to interact with English lit students from different colleges. Often I would end up sitting next to the same person a few lectures in a row, and eventually we would strike up a conversation. I even met some other American Visiting Students that way, which made me feel more at home.

5. It seemed as though everyone at Oxford was obsessed with ABBA—specifically the songs from Mamma Mia.Now, don’t get me wrong, I love me some ABBA. But this seemed like a deeply entrenched knowledge of ABBA. At every Mansfield bop there would be a half hour DJ set of solely ABBA, and no matter what direction you looked everyone was singing. And I mean everyone—even that guy on the men’s football team that I never pictured singing anything was belting out the lyrics and dancing like his life depended on it. While I fully supported everyone’s obsession with ABBA, it did initially take me by surprise.

6. I was the Visiting Student Representative in the Mansfield JCR during my year at Oxford, which was as fascinating as it was fun. Having spent two years as a Class Senator in student government at Wheaton, I was really interested to see what student government at Oxford would be like. The answer: much, much more supportive and engaged (at least at Mansfield) and much, much more efficient than at Wheaton. It was such a breath of fresh air to see agenda items actually being ticked off and funding be allocated to things that the student body was actually passionate about.

7. Oxford taught me how to balance work and play. Although my experience was obviously different from a matriculated Oxford student, I nevertheless found myself simultaneously working harder and having more fun than ever before. Part of this is due to the nature of the tutorial system that Oxford uses—since I had to write about 1.5 essays a week for three terms, I could budget my time so that I only had to work from about 9am to 5pm every day and the rest of the time I was free to explore the city and spend time with friends. It’s more difficult for me to strike that balance here, but even so I felt like I did a much better job after Oxford than before.

YOU! Because I just did this award last week as well, I’m not going to go through and nominate anyone specifically. But if you had a hankering to share seven fun facts about yourself, please do!

My year at Oxford shaped me in so many ways, some of which I’ve only realized after being back for months. Do you have a place that’s shaped you in a similarly profound way? What do you think of my fun Oxford facts? Let me know in the comments section below!




BLEEDING EDGE by Thomas Pynchon | Reflection

In my Postmodern American Fiction class this past semester, we were assigned to write a page reflection each week on the book that we read. I actually really enjoyed writing these reflections because they were a chance to choose a specific aspect of the book and discuss it in depth without needed to come to any precise conclusions or arguments. In fact, I liked it so much that I’ve decided to continue on the process this summer! Along with reviews I’ll be sharing these reflections, brief discussions on novels that I’ve read without any value judgment or rating on my part. Let me know what you think! 

Often when talking about quantum theory in the context of literature we take note of language or structure that feels granular or quantized. Resembling the feel of particles, these quantized aspects of literature feel isolated from the rest of its context; however, the reader is still aware that these tiny elements are nevertheless part of the larger whole. I struggle to find a better way to articulate the experience of reading Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge. Each interaction between characters felt weighed down in detail: Pynchon would set up the scene with specific descriptions of venues, clothing, personalities, and atmospheres before launching into pages of sharp, fast-moving dialogue. Because the cast of characters in this novel is so large I often found myself confused, forgetting who exactly was married to who or who worked for which boss. This sense of constantly being one step behind also contributed to the quantized nature of the novel as the reader tries to determine how all of these seemingly independent scenes connect.

One example of a passage that feels particularly quantized is when Maxine is at a party and remembers partying when she was a teenager:

Not everybody benefits from a misspent youth. Teen contemporaries of Maxine’s got lost in the club toilets of the eighties, went in, never came out, some with luck grew too hip or not hip enough to appreciate the scene at all, others, like Maxine, went on only ot flash back to it now and then, epileptigogic lighting, Quaaludes for sale on the floor, outerborough hair statements… the Aqua Net fogs! The girl-hours lost sitting in front of mirrors! The strange disconnects between dance music and lyrics, “Copacabana,” “What a Fool Believes,” heartbreaking stories, even tragic, set to these strangely bouncy tunes… (Pynchon 308).

Not only does this passage show the density of the novel in terms of details, but it also reflects the specificity and obscurity of those details. The use of references that many readers may not understand creates a certain distance between the reader and the novel, since such a reader will not be able to fully understand the perspective of or point that a character is trying to make. This disconnect between reader and text reflects the levels of reality that the characters experience with their journeying through the Deep Web. I felt like I could never really go below the surface of this novel because there were so many details to wade through first. However, I would venture to say that this sense of layering was Pynchon’s goal in structuring the novel this way. From learning the inner workings of the Deep Web to grappling with life in New York City after 9/11, there are numerous instances of reality and illusion being blurred, many of which have to do with different levels of understanding one’s surroundings. By including a plethora of obscure references and creating a sense of disconnected quantization in the novel, Pynchon forces the reader to confront the feeling of not fully understanding reality–in this case, reality as we understand it in Maxine’s world.

Thoughts on Bleeding EdgeHave you ever read a book that feels granular or “quantized” in this way? Let me know in the comments section below!



Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books I’ve (Shamelessly & Proudly) Written In

Happy Tuesday! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) asks us to share our unpopular bookish opinions. However, I thought I would hone in on one unpopular bookish opinion and share ten examples of it instead. Perhaps one of my most controversial book habits is that I often annotate and highlight my books. *Gasp!* I know this is an atrocious act to some bookworms, but I view it as the actual purpose of books. To me, books are meant to be experienced, meaning that they are not meant for just sitting prettily on a shelf (with the exception of some expensive editions). I want to get the most out of a book as I possibly can, and if that means underlining or highlighting quotes that resonate with me or writing little notes in the margins, then that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Plus, I think it’s fun to reread a book that I’ve annotated and see what I was thinking about the last time I read it. For me, it’s a way by which I think more deeply about what I’m reading. I don’t do it all the time, but when I do I really enjoy the process.

Now that I’ve explained a bit about this unpopular bookish opinion of mine, here are ten examples of books from my shelves that I’ve annotated or highlighted:


What are your thoughts on highlighting or writing in books? What’s your most controversial bookish habit or opinion? Let me know in the comments section below!