Bookish, College

Books I Wished I Had Been Assigned to Read as an English Major

In less than a week I graduate with a bachelor’s degree in English, and it’s a very bittersweet moment for me. Although I am very excited to move onto another chapter of my life, I’m also sad to leave my amazing friends and the lovely Wheaton community behind. However, the end of undergrad also marks the end of studying English for me, which is bittersweet in itself. Today I’m going to share some of the books I wish I had been assigned to read as an English major. Imagine the class discussions we could have had! Imagine how much better I would have understood these books! Maybe someday…

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Have I already read Moby Dick? Yes. However, I read it on a family road trip a few summers back and remember skimming through most of it. Let me tell you, it’s a good thing I was in a car for hours with nothing else to do because otherwise I probably would have stopped reading altogether. Yet I’ve never been able to shake this feeling that I’ve missed something fundamentally fascinating about this novel, like I just haven’t been able to crack its code. Something tells me that I would have appreciated this novel much more if I had read it in a classroom setting and really dove into some of its nuances and complexities. But alas! it remains a dull, dragging enigma.

Ulysses by James Joyce

Do I just want someone to explain big books to me? Maybe. While studying abroad at Oxford I actually attended nearly an entire James Joyce lecture series in which I learned all about A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Ulysses, neither of which I have read. But I was so fascinated by the charts and webs the professor drew regarding all the mythological allusions in these texts, especially in Ulysses, that I couldn’t help but return to that lecture hall week after week to listen to someone talk about novels that I had never read. I know that some colleges offer classes solely on Ulysses, and I think it would have been fascinating to take one of these at some point in my college career.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

This is another novel that I read a few summers ago but wish I had gotten the opportunity to read it alongside a class. Brave New World is often lumped together with unsettling novels like 1984 by George Orwell. While Huxley’s novel is certainly unsettling at times, I was pleasantly surprised by its humor and wit. There’s a lighter tone here, a parodying of sorts perhaps, that makes me want to know more about what exactly this book is trying to say. Does the novel take itself seriously? Are we meant to take the novel seriously? These are the kinds of questions I would have loved to explore in a classroom setting.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

I read this novel this past summer thinking that it might be helpful for writing my honors thesis. While I didn’t end up using it in my thesis, I’m still glad I read it because it offers a fascinating perspective that challenges one of my favorite novels, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Many of the parallels and oppositions are fairly easy and quick to spot, but I would have loved to learn more about the historical context in which this novel is set in order to better understand the significance of many of power dynamics, hierarchies, and systems that it draws on. Perhaps this would also make me think a bit more critically about Jane Eyre, despite my love for it.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

Continuing on with this Brontë theme, I wish I had been assigned this seldom discussed novel. Anne is the only Brontë sister I have never read anything by, as I feel is the case for most people who dabble in Victorian literature. It would have been interesting to read this novel alongside other people who are also missing a text by this third sister. If her writing is anything like that of Emily or Charlotte, it would also be helpful to have some guidance through its density of details and language.

Have you read any of these books or been assigned to read them for a class? What are your thoughts on them? Do you think reading them with a class made a difference? What are some books you wish you had been assigned to read? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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Bookish

5 Books that Influenced Me as a College Senior

Seeing as I graduate from undergrad a week from tomorrow (eek!) I thought I would share 5 books that influenced me as a college senior. These are books that I’ve read throughout this academic year–assigned or otherwise–that have made me think about myself and world a bit differently. In no particular order:

Without a Name by Yvonne Vera

Yvonne Vera is one of two Zimbabwean women novelists I wrote about in my honors thesis. Going into this honors thesis I was not prepared for how intense, unsettling, and moving Vera’s novels would be. I remember reading the pivotal moment in Without a Name when the full force of the act of violence is revealed: I was sitting in South Station in Boston waiting for the last train of the night after attending a comedy show. (Yes, a rather odd setting to be reading this in!) I audibly gasped and then had to explain to my friends the shocking scene I had just taken in. Physically reacting to a novel like that and feeling the need to immediately talk to someone about it reminded me of the sheer power of literature and the significant influence they can have on whatever you’re going through at the time.

The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House by Audre Lorde

This brief essay collection was a gift from a friend that I finally got around to reading this past winter break. I remember reading it in a parking lot while waiting to go into an appointment and actually tearing up a bit. These essays are powerfully striking, so much so that I can see myself going back to them in the future for encouragement, motivation, and inspiration. Even the simplest statements–such as “there are no new pains”–are striking in their trueness, in the way they deeply resonate with the reader. I’m so grateful that my friend gifted me this book!

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

My friends and I decided to reread this old favorite of ours this past winter break. I hadn’t read it since I was fourteen or fifteen years old, so my memory of it was pretty foggy: I vaguely remembered a catering company and a car breaking down and a mom that was a real estate agent (aren’t they all?), but other than that I was basically going in as a clean slate. Reading this book after seven or eight years made me simultaneously realized how much has changed and how much has stayed the same in my reading tastes. Although I’m now more removed from the age of this book’s protagonist, I nevertheless found myself relating to her dilemmas, albeit in a different way from when I related to them years ago. Now I saw them from a nostalgic perspective, of looking back on that time in my life when I didn’t know what graduating high school or being 20 years old would look like. All in all, rereading The Truth About Forever was a lovely trip down memory lane.

The Latino Threat by Leo R. Chavez

I was assigned to read this book for my Latinos in the U.S. history class early on this semester, and it really changed the way I look at representations of Latinos in the media, on the big screen, and in what I read. The Latino Threat Narrative (the discriminatory idea that Latinos are dangerous, lazy, criminal, and are only in the US to “take advantage” of the system) is shockingly pervasive in our society today, and it seems almost impossible to not run into it in some capacity on a daily basis. Reading this book was also a fantastic way to start this class, as it really summed up a lot of the points that my professor wanted to make throughout the semester. I wish this book–or at least this concept–was mandatory material for high school students. I think having a specific name for this phenomenon really helps you pinpoint it, therefore allowing you to better challenge it in the world around you. Chavez also really forces you to think about how the Latino Threat Narrative plays into where our country is headed in the near future.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

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The Year of Magical Thinking is by far my favorite book that I’ve read this semester. I had never read anything by Joan Didion before, but I will absolutely be turning to more of her witty, honest words in the future. I’ve been fortunate enough to never have experienced such intense loss before, but this book made me feel the closest I have ever felt to experiencing it. I rarely cry while reading, yet this text was bookended by my tears. The last line left me gutted, wanting to reach out and embrace Didion as I sat in bed mulling over her experiences, conflicting emotions, and narration. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone. • • • • • • #books #book #bookish #booklover #bibliophile #reading #amreading #reader #read #bookstagram #bookblogger #bookblog #blogger #blog #nutfreenerd #bookpics #instabooks #college #englishmajor #literature

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I was assigned to read this book for my Postmodern American Fiction class about a month ago and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. This memoir recounts the year after the death of writer John Gregory Dunne, Didion’s beloved husband. We see her grapple with loss, identity, and the strong pull of the “vortex” of memories as she writes this narrative. Although I often cry while watching movies, it’s actually rare that I cry while reading books; however, I cried twice while reading this book, both times in front of other people. (If that’s not a testament to how stirring this book is, than I don’t know what is…) What strikes me the most about this book is how there is no resolution at the end–grief is not a linear process recovered from after a single year, which The Year of Magical Thinking really reflects.

Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts on them? What’s a book that greatly influenced you recently? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Life

Catching up…

Why hello there!

Characteristically of a college senior, I was sucked into the depths of Work, Work, and Work during senior spring and had zero time to blog. But now I am on the other side! Free! I feel like Dobby with a sock! It’s wild!

Yesterday I passed my honors thesis defense, which means I’m now done with work (until law school starts in the fall, at least…). This means I now have more time to blog again! I have missed this blog dearly in the five months we’ve been parted, and I’m excited to finally get back into it. I have a lot of ideas for what I’d like to do with this blog that I’ve had on the back burner for a while–but there’s no better time to start like the present!

For now, I’d like two things from all of you:

  • What would you be interesting in learning more about on this blog? From graduating college as an English major and studying abroad in Oxford, England to writing an honors thesis and preparing to enter law school, there are many topics that I’d love to talk about. Which ones would interest you the most?
  • What sorts of books do you read? This question is more to satisfy my personal curiosity than anything else–I’ve always wondered what sorts of books the people who read this blog mostly enjoy. Favorite genres? Favorite authors? Favorite time periods? The more bookish info the merrier!

Thanks to those of you who have stuck around through this five month break! Hope you’re all doing well ❤

Yours,

HOLLY

Books

Thoughts on a Semester of Reading Roth

Everyone at my college is required to take a senior seminar in their major in order to graduate, and mine happened to be a class solely dedicated to reading the texts of Philip Roth. My professor decided to focus on Roth in light of the author unfortunately passing away in May of 2018. We were uniquely positioned, my professor impressed upon us, with the opportunity to look at the whole of an author’s bibliography before the publication of a definitive biography on Roth’s entire life. This sort of limbo period of waiting would allow us to come to our own conclusions about Roth’s bibliography before many critics of other writers did. Of course, there was no way we could possibly get around to reading and discussing all of Roth’s texts in a single semester; rather, my professor selected about a dozen for us to focus on.

It became clear from the very first class that our professor was incredibly enthusiastic and excited about the prospect of such a seminar. The rest of us, however, were not entirely convinced. We were supposed to spend an entire semester reading Roth’s thoughts on Jewish American identity in the latter half of the twentieth century, adultery, breasts, and penises?! (if you’ve read his infamous novel Portnoy’s Complaint, then you surely know what I mean by those last two points.) My classmates and I made a not-so-silent conclusion all on our own: we were going to wholeheartedly dislike this senior seminar.

Our hypothesis seemed to hold strong for a solid few weeks. We criticized how the few women characters were portrayed as mere one-dimensional lovers or mothers in Goodbye Columbus (1959), denounced his blatant, outrageous sexism in Portnoy’s Complaint (1969), and balked at his near sexual fantasy about a fictionalized version of Anne Frank in The Ghost Writer (1979). For a second I thought about simply not finishing The Counterlife (1986) because it saddened me to read about so much flagrant adultery with absolutely no regard for how it impacted wives or families–until we were introduced to the character of Maria. Maria is a wife and mother who chooses to have an affair with the narrator of The Counterlife, a woman who is unexpectedly portrayed as intelligent, independent, and capable of railing against an uneven power dynamic in their affair. She is calm, composed, and the complete opposite of Portnoy’s “Monkey.”

My fellow classmates and I didn’t know what to do with this sudden, uncharacteristically non-sexist portrayal of women from Roth. Was it intentional, a sign of Roth’s own personal growth and maturity? Or was it an outlier, one that we would never see again as we continued on our Rothian journey? Perplexed, we felt ourselves shift gears a bit as we read more and more of Roth’s work.

To my great astonishment, I found that I actually enjoyed myself. While the women characters in Roth’s novels were not always justly portrayed–and we were sure to bring these instances up at every open opportunity–he also wrote several women who we couldn’t help but applaud. There was Drenka in Sabbath’s Theater (1995), Faunia in The Human Stain (2000), Philip’s mother in The Plot Against America (2004)… it was almost as though Roth had just come to the realization that women characters could be written about with just as much complexity and depth as men. Although I would never go so far as to laud Roth for his impeccable portrayal of fictional women. I did become much more willing to engage in dialogue about these characters that did not solely involve my classmates and I frustratedly ranting about how it’s all just breasts and penises in Roth’s eyes.

Roth’s sexist struggles aside, I also found myself enjoying his work from the perspective of narrative structure. Reading so many Roth novels in chronological order helped me see the remarkable strides he made in terms of experimenting with how stories can be told. The conflicting, layered levels of The Counterlife and the alternative version of history depicted in The Plot Against America are far, far departures from the straightforward monologue that is Portnoy’s Complaint. I couldn’t help but admire his impressive attention to detail. One of my classmates researched the specific stamps mentioned in The Plot Against America and lo and behold, Roth’s descriptions perfectly align with the images found. There’s something to be said for a writer that pours this much thought, energy, time, research, and attention into his work, and I was captivated by Roth’s seemingly never-ending ability to do just that.

So where does this leave Roth and I? I must admit that I stand corrected, at least to an extent: I handed in my final senior seminar paper with a greater appreciation for Roth’s works than I ever thought possible months ago. Does he have significant faults as a writer? Absolutely. Yet when read chronologically, one can see that he tried to remedy these flaws over time. And isn’t that the most any of us can ask?

What are your thoughts on Philip Roth and his writing? Have you ever read an author’s works chronologically? Has a class ever changed your perception of a writer? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Rambles

Looking Back at 2018

Every year for the past few years (2015, 2016, 2017) I’ve made one of these posts, and each year I’m even more surprised by how much can be packed into just twelve months.

2018 was a whirlwind year. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that the first half of it was spent in magical Oxford, England, traveling and studying and making memories that I will always, always fondly look back on with immense gratitude. While the transition back home was far from easy–I missed everyone and everything from my time at Oxford so dearly–it was made a thousand times better thanks to endless support from friends and family. Senior year at Wheaton has turned out to be more exciting, eye-opening, and formative than I ever expected. I found a true sense of belonging in 2018, something I feel as though I had been lacking for a long time.

2018 was also a year of countless firsts. I traveled to so many new places for the first time, from Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Berlin, Vienna, and Mondsee abroad to new mountains and cities back home in the States. I began traveling by myself more for the first time here, more comfortable with venturing off on my own. I had my first (and thankfully only) abroad allergic reaction and my first allergic reaction to occur at Wheaton, but survived them both and bounced back with the help and kind words of those around me. I finished my first semester as a college senior and have begun to confront the terrifying, exciting fact that this is it. I took the LSAT, applied to law schools, and got accepted to law schools for the first time. Never before have I felt so validated academically, like all of my hard work over the years has finally, finally paid off. It’s an amazing, incredible feeling.

2018 taught me many things, but above all I learned balance. I feel as though I’ve finally found a sort of equilibrium between friends, family, work, school, looking towards the future, reflecting on the past, and finding time to do the things that make me happy. It’s not a perfect balance, but something tells me that’s not truly possible to achieve. For now, I’m content with the balance I’ve struck.

2018 was far from flawless; there were many rough patches and turbulent waters, but somehow it all skyrocketed to an amazing end of the year. I know 2019 will be a year of huge transition for me–graduating college, entering law school, figuring out what my path forward looks like–but I’m happy knowing that 2018 set me up as best it could with unforgettable memories, challenging new experiences, and a better support network of friends and family than I could have ever asked for.

Thanks to everyone who made 2018 so wonderful; I hope I can return the favor in 2019. Happy New Year!!

How was your 2018? Highlights? Things you overcame? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Bookish, Discussion

Avoiding Book Burnout as an English Major

Recently someone asked me in a comment how I avoid burning out as an English major–in other words, how do I keep from getting sick of reading? It might sound implausible that a bookworm could get tired of reading, but it definitely happens. When the line between work and play is blurred, it can suddenly feel like what was once a hobby is now homework–because it is. 

For each term at Oxford I had to read about sixteen novels, plus secondary reading during term itself. For my senior seminar at Wheaton right now I have to read about a dozen novels by Philip Roth–and that’s in addition to all the reading for my other English class, history class, and Honors Thesis. Needless to say, studying English literature involves a lot of reading. When you consider the sheer amount of pages being turned, it’s easy to imagine how someone could want to do something else in their sparse free time besides open even more books. 

So how do I avoid burning out? Here’s my advice:

Switch things up.

One of the problems I’ve encountered studying English literature is that the genre I would usually read for fun (classics) is precisely when I have to read for class. Instead, I try reading different genres, particularly children’s or young adult books. Because they’re different enough from what I read for class, my mind isn’t so quick to associate it with doing work.

Listen to audio books.

Listening to audio books is my favorite way to get extra reading in during the semester without feeling like I’m doing more work. I love not having to feel like I’m spending even more time with my eyes glued to a page, as well as the fact that I can get other things done (like laundry, cleaning, etc.) at the same time).

Make it social.

Join a book club. Read the same book as a friend. Be more active in the book blogging community. Sometimes adding a more social aspect to reading helps it feel less like homework and more like something you’re doing in your precious free time.

Take a break.

Sometimes you just have to accept the fact that bookish burnout is unavoidable without taking a bit of a break from reading for fun. Whenever I feel this tiredness coming on, I usually switch to listening to podcasts, knitting, or some other activity instead. Taking a break from reading doesn’t make you a “bad” bookworm in any way–partially because such a category doesn’t exist. There’s no denying that the reading you do for class is still reading, even if it’s not what you would choose to read on your own.

I hope these quick pieces of advice are helpful! Studying English literature can be surprisingly tricky for self-proclaimed bookworms, and it’s nice to know that it’s not just you falling out of love with reading–sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. 

How do you avoid burning out as an English major or college student in general? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Books, Feminist Fridays

Feminist Fridays: Masturbation Madness?

As I mentioned in my review of Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus collection, I’m currently taking senior seminar that solely focuses on Philip Roth. A few weeks ago I was assigned to read his 1969 novel Portnoy’s Complaint, and I have some thoughts. 

Portnoy’s Complaint is essentially one man’s long tirade about sex to his therapist. He starts by recounting his early years of experimenting with different ways of masturbating, from his sister’s bras to the liver that his family then ate for dinner. Throughout the novel we learn all about the women he’s hooked up with over the years, from prostitutes to random women he meets in his travels. Everything is described in graphic, explicit detail, including both the physical events as well as Alex’s (the narrator) thoughts about his many sexual experiences.

I don’t have a problem reading explicitly sexual books in class. What I have a problem is the blatant sexism in Roth’s novels and how it is often brushed off as being a mere “product of the time period.” Nope. Not an excuse. Just because something was written in a specific time and place does not mean it get’s a free pass to be read without any sort of discussion about its problematic elements. 

It also doesn’t help that the only women represented in Portnoy’s Complaint are those objectified for their bodies and who are thought of strictly in sexual terms. Even Alex’s mother is portrayed in this way, as shown when he implies that he wants to have sex with her (this novel is the definition of Freudian). And don’t get me started about Roth’s portrayal of menstruation: not only does he compare menstrual blood to that of meat, but he also claims that it was “better she should have bled herself out on the bathroom floor, better that, than to have sent an eleven-year-old boy in hot pursuit of sanitary napkins” (Roth 44). Why is this okay? And why don’t we talk about how it’s not okay?

Upon leaving my senior seminar on the day we discussed Portnoy’s Complaint, I couldn’t help feeling disappointed by all the things we hadn’t talked about. What about the way Alex calls one of the women he hooks up with “The Monkey”? What about how he only values women for their bodies, and once they start to talk about committed relationships or (gasp!) marriage, he calls them crazy and leaves them? Or what about the scene toward the end of the novel where he nearly rapes a woman? In what setting is it okay for these things to be brushed off in order to talk about Roth’s portrayal of Jewish identity for the millionth time this semester instead? 

Reading so much about masturbation from a man’s point of view also made me ask another important question: Why aren’t we reading about this from a woman’s point of view? Is there even an equivalent of this book written by a woman? If so, why isn’t it being talked about? If not, why hasn’t it been written? In a class dedicated to talking about the experiences of a man, I would hope for a bit more discussion about those of women. Considering recent events (particularly those in the United States), I feel as though Roth’s voice may not be the one that most desperately needs to be heard right now.

I understand the literary significance of Portnoy’s Complaint: it was revolutionary for its time, exploring topics of sex and masculinity in ways that hadn’t been done in such an explicit, graphic nature before. With that being said, there is absolutely no reason why we can’t discuss its enduring literary merit while also criticizing its problematic, sexist aspects. To do otherwise is to imply that what I feel as a woman reading this text doesn’t matter, that I should be able to turn off those emotions simply because it’s a “product of its time.” I’m sorry–I guess I’m just a product of my time, too.

Click here to check out other Feminist Friday posts!

What are your thoughts on Portnoy’s Complaint or about reading problematic/sexist texts in class? Have any feminist texts you would recommend? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Monthly Wrap-Up

SEPTEMBER 2018 | Wrap-Up

September has come and gone faster than I thought possible, especially considering how much has happened in the past month. It’s hard to believe that we’re already five weeks into the semester! Here’s what I’ve been up to:

In September I read a total of 8 books:

  1. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
  2. Butterfly Burning by Yvonne Vera
  3. Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
  4. Without a Name by Yvonne Vera
  5. Under the Tongue by Yvonne Vera
  6. The Stone Virgins by Yvonne Vera
  7. Narrative Form by Suzanne Keen
  8. The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth

As you can tell, I’ve read a lot of Yvonne Vera’s writing in the past month. I’m currently in the process of researching for my honors thesis, which involves reading a majority of what Vera has written and learning more about Zimbabwean literary traditions and narrative form. (Let me know if this is something you would be interested hearing more about!)

It’s difficult to choose a favorite book this month because I genuinely loved everything I read by Vera, although much of it was painfully sad and unsettling. However, I’m going to have to go with Butterfly Burning as my favorite book of September. Not only is it the first book by Vera that I ever read (making this a reread for me), but it is also provides one of the most striking, moving, thought-provoking reading experiences. Would absolutely recommend!

+ MOVIE: Moving back to Wheaton means hopping aboard the Film Club train again! One of my best friends is the president of our Film Club this year, which makes attending meetings even more fun. A few weeks ago we watched Loving Vincent (2017), the first fully painted feature film ever created. This film is breathtaking. The painting technique is absolutely incredible and the story is heart-wrenching. If you ever get the opportunity to see this film, please do. 

+ MUSIC: Dodie recently released a new song called “Human” from her upcoming album and it is so lovely. The music video literally made my jaw drop–it makes you think about the song in an entirely different way!

+ FOOD: Chex mix has been sustaining me these past few weeks–always a go-to snack!

+ PLACE: I fell in love with my suite this month. I absolutely love living with three of my closest friends and I can’t imagine spending senior year any other way.

September was a month of many transitory ups and downs. Adjusting back to Wheaton has been difficult after a year away, both in terms of academics and missing Oxford dearly. Fortunately, I have a group of amazing friends and people who are always willing to listen and help when I need some cheering up. It also helps that senior year is filled with plenty of exciting events (amidst the mountains of work, of course). I’m grateful that I’ve found time to make fun, hilarious memories in between classes, working on my honors thesis, and apply to law schools.

Wheaton’s nondenominational chapel, home to a cappella performances and drag shows.

 

Earlier this month I was lucky enough to see Chris Fleming perform life at the Wilbur Theatre in Boston, which was amazing. I’ve been a fan of his Gayle videos for years, so seeing him in person was surreal. If you’ve never seen his comedy before, then you should definitely check it out!

 Here are some notable posts from my blog this past month:

How was your month of September? What was the best book you read? Did you do anything really fun or exciting? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Books

GOODBYE, COLUMBUS AND FIVE SHORT STORIES by Philip Roth | Review

I’m currently in the middle of senior seminar all about Philip Roth. That’s right: I’ll be reading a dozen books by Philip Roth over the course of the next semester. In an effort to gather my thoughts on these similar yet disparate texts, I’ll be reviewing them throughout the upcoming months. How far will I be able to get without turning into Philip Roth himself? Only time will tell!

Published in 1959, Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories is exactly what the title promises: a collection including Philip Roth’s first novella Goodbye, Columbus as well as five short stories. Although quite different from one another, these stories are tied together through the common threads of Jewish American identity, class, growing up, memory, tradition, and community. These themes prevent the collection from feeling disconnected or disjointed, making for a seamless reading experience in which the texts build on one another. Rather than continue to talk about this collection generally, I’ve decided to discuss each story more specifically in an attempt to do them justice.

Goodbye, Columbus

This novella is the first and longest part of the collection. Here Roth tells the story of Neil and Brenda, a college-age couple from different socioeconomic backgrounds in New Jersey during the 1950s. I was particularly interested in the way relationship dynamics are described, from conversations about family and the future to birth control. How things have changed since then!

“The Conversion of the Jews”

Focusing on a thirteen-year-old boy, this story questions religious authority and forces the reader to wonder why we insist on upholding the traditions that we do. While a bit bizarre (a common theme with Roth), the ending of this story made it all worth it.

“The Defender of the Faith”

This is my favorite story out of the collection, perhaps in part because it was the most controversial of the bunch when it was first published. Roth has been accused of being anti-semitic by negatively portraying Jewish soldiers as manipulative, selfish, and conniving; however, one could argue (as I do) that Roth is simply writing about flawed characters that happen to be Jewish rather than trying to make a statement about Judaism.

“Epstein”

This story made me genuinely angry due to the overt sexism of the protagonist. At one point he describes the sagging, aged body of his wife and ultimately has an affair with the women who lives across the street, completely ignorant of the fact that his own aging body likely looks equally unpleasant, if not worse. While I understand the literary function of this sexism (Roth later exposes Epstein, forcing him to realize his own bodily flaws), it still is jarring and unsettling to read.

“You Can’t Tell A Man By the Song He Sings”

I always forget about this story because it seems like an outlier in this collection. Nevertheless, the high school setting and convict characters are clever, hilarious, and make for a surprising and thought-provoking conclusion.

“Eli, the Fanatic”

Arguably the strangest story in the collection, Roth somehow makes its bizarre elements combine into one cohesive narrative. While I was left with the most questions after reading this story, they were questions that I didn’t mind asking myself. “Eli, the Fanatic” forces you to consider human difference, community, law, and tradition from new perspectives, providing this collection with the ideal conclusion.

Overall, my first foray into Roth’s writing entertained, captivated, and frustrated me all at the same time. I’m looking forward to seeing how these short stories compare to the novels we will be reading as this Philip Roth seminar progresses.

What are your thoughts on Goodbye, Columbus and Five Other Stories? Do you have a favorite novel by Philip Roth? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Monthly Wrap-Up

AUGUST 2018 | Wrap-Up

What a month August was! I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like August is a month of transition. Perhaps this feeling has been instilled in me from decades of back-to-school prep, but it nevertheless rings true every year. Here’s what I’ve been up to this past month:

In August I read a total of 3 books:

  1. Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  2. Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions by Valeria Luiselli
  3. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions definitely wins the Favorite Book of the Month award from me in August. This text is incredibly empowering and thought-provoking and I would highly recommend it!

I wasn’t able to read much this month, but I’m still happy with what I did manage to read considering all that I was busy with otherwise. Hopefully I can squeak in some extra reading besides what’s required of me during this semester.

+ MOVIE: I actually didn’t watch any movies in the month of August. *gasp!* I was so busy trying to wrap everything up at home before moving back to campus for the start of the semester that my movie list went unwatched. However, I did listen to several great podcasts, including one of my new favorites: S-Town. Would highly recommend!

+ MUSIC: Lately I’ve been listening to Brockhampton, which has been an interesting time. The playlist I listened to on my commute during my last week of summer was a mix of rap and Disney songs, which pretty much sums up what a transition point in the year I’m in.

+ FOOD: Definitely burritos from the local place near my home in New Hampshire. I always make sure to go there a few times each summer before I have to leave for school.

+ PLACE: Ah, isn’t this the ultimate question this month? Moving back to Wheaton after an entire year away has been a strange and lovely experience, and I’m happy to say that the suite I now share with my friends has quickly become a favorite place this month.

What a month! August encompassed the last couple weeks of my summer as well as my move back to Wheaton after an entire year of being away. It’s been strange and overwhelming to be back in such a familiar place where I don’t know most of the students anymore, since most of the people I was close to outside of my class year have graduated. So many aspects of Wheaton are the same, yet many are so different that it makes me feel like a freshman again in some instances. At first I was taken aback, but fortunately I adjusted fairly quickly with the help of friends. The mountains of work have already begun to pile up, so there hasn’t been much time to wallow.

Mary Lyon Hall at Wheaton College, MA.

Also, can we just take a second to talk about how I’m a senior. I still can’t believe that this is my last year at Wheaton. Where has the time gone? It feels even shorter since I studied abroad, as though there should somehow be an extra year to make up for the one I didn’t experience here. However, part of me does feel ready to complete this year and take on a new path. I have a feeling that this year will be filled with the unexpected!

 Here are some notable posts from my blog this past month:

Here are some posts that I loved reading this month:

How was your month of August? What was the best book you read? Did you do anything really fun or exciting? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY