Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Character Names {For Plants}

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) is supposed to be Best Character Names; however, as per usual I’ve decided to put my own spin on it. A few years ago I made a Top Ten Tuesday list of Characters I’d Name My Plants After, which was a blast. Today I’d like to do a similar list along those lines, so I’ll be sharing ten character names for plants. {Shout out to my plants back at home in the States– hope you’re still alive on my window sill!}

What are some of your favorite character names (for plants or otherwise)? What do you think of the ones I’ve mentioned? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Could Reread Forever

Happy Tuesday!! I am so excited about this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic because it features one of my absolute favorite parts about being a bookworm: rereading. I adore rereading my favorite books over and over and over again for countless reasons: the comforting familiarity, the brilliant writing, the characters that feel like old friends you haven’t spoken to in a while… the list goes on and on! It is my pleasure to share with you this list of ten books that I could reread forever. 

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

I know I mention this book all the time but that is certainly not going to stop me from highlighting it here! I’ve read this novel more times than I can count and each time I do I become invested in Taylor and Jonah’s story all over again. It contains everything I love: characters with depth, a boarding school setting, stories within stories, literary references, beautiful writing, and a plot twist at the end that I never saw coming.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

I first read The Hobbit when I was in fifth grade and then continued on with the trilogy before the following summer was out. I love these books to pieces and they’ve played such an important role in shaping me into the avid reader that I am today. (Favorite of the bunch? Definitely Two Towers. For some reason I’ve always had a dear attachment to it!)

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

What would a list of rereads be without mentioning good old Harry Potter? I’m sure I’m not the only one who has featured this in their list this week. I’ve read many of the books a handful of times, although I can’t remember ever rereading Goblet of Fire now that I think about it…. (that’s my least favorite of the seven). I could definitely reread these books (and rewatch the movies) forever!

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

I reread this book for the first time last summer and was taken aback by how many new things I noticed. I’m now a firm believer that Faulkner is meant to be read more than once and I’m already looking forward to reading this brilliant, fascinating, bewildering novel again and again in the future. (The same goes for basically all of Faulkner’s works for me!)

The BFG by Roald Dahl

I was first read this adorable book by my fourth grade teacher in elementary school– and then again in fifth grade by the same teacher. Since then I’ve reread it once or twice and have loved it even more each time. Road Dahl is the master at creating timeless stories that captivate readers of all ages. There’s nothing like going back to this old favorite!

The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by E.L. Konigsburg

I purchased my first and only copy of this book at a Scholastic book fair (I miss those so much!) when I was in third grade and I have read it nearly every summer since then. Not only is this simply an entertaining, clever summer camp story, but it’s also a novel about growing up and realizing that even adults don’t really know what they’re doing (what’s more liberating than that?!).

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is definitely one of those classics that never get old. There are countless fascinating ways to read and interpret this novel, from focusing on colors and other motifs to thinking about location, the American Dream, the role of women, prohibition, narrative voice– the list goes on and on! I’ve studied this in two different classes over the years and I honestly hope I get to study it again before undergrad is over.

Looking for Alaska by John Green

This may be John Green’s debut novel, but it remains my absolute favorite out of all the ones he has written. I love how the story seems so simple yet involves all of the complex and confusing emotions we each experience at one point or another. Besides, this novel has some of my favorite quotes in it!

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

It’s generally rare for me to want to reread mystery novels once I know how they end; however, this book has always been the exception to that rule. This murder mystery is so cleverly executed that I never tire of tiptoeing around its twists and turns over and over again. (If anyone has seen the BBC mini series, I’d be really interested to hear what you think of it because I have yet to watch it!)

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

I. Love. This. Text. I’ve written numerous papers about it for various classes over the years and Douglass’ story never ceases to amaze, inspire, and intrigue me. Douglass’ life story is as captivating as his writing is eloquent, making Narrative a text that I’ll undoubtedly return to again and again in the future.

What books could you endlessly reread? What do you think of the books on my list? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Discussion

Why I Love Character Maps | Discussion

Today I’m here to discuss one of my recent favorite things: character maps. I discovered the greatness of character maps while trudging through all of my required reading for my year at Oxford this past summer. Although there may be many differences between Victorian literature and the works of William Faulkner, there is one important feature that they have in common: SO. MANY. CHARACTERS. Fortunately, character maps are incredibly helpful in these bookish situations. Here’s why:

They help you keep everything straight while you read.

Map for THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner

If I know or even suspect that a novel will be confusing due to the sheer number of characters or complicated relationships between them, then I always look up a character map before diving into the actual book. Chances are that for most well-known classics there are character maps already available online, which is where I usually find mine. It’s so helpful being able to quickly refer back to the map whenever you’re unsure about who is related to who or where their marital status stands.

They give you valuable context before you start reading the novel.

WUTHERING HEIGHTS by Emily Bronte

Context is always key before starting a new text, especially if it’s something you’re reading for a course. Not only is context important for better understanding the novel itself, but it also helps get you in the right mindset to read the book. This latter aspect is also a valuable effect of writing down a character map before opening the first page.

They keep you accountable for actually understanding what is going on.

Map for AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner

Usually I write down character maps before I start reading a novel, but it can also be useful to create them as you read. Although you won’t be able to use it as a reference point in the beginning, creating a character map as you go along is a great way to make sure you’re following what’s happening in the story. You can always look up an actual map later on to ensure that you’re on the right track.

Do you ever create or use character maps? Am I the only one who always struggles to keep all of the characters straight in Wuthering Heights?  Do you have any helpful tips and tricks that you use while reading challenging books? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Books

ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner | Review

William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! is genuinely one of the most challenging books I have ever read. My character map quickly became my best friend as I struggled to piece together what happens to the Sutpen family over several decades of scandal, marriage, and death. This book has been on my TBR list for years, though I’ve always been intimidated by how difficult everyone says it is to understand. Fortunately, its presence on my Oxford reading list finally pushed me to set aside my concerns and dive right in!

For me, the most challenging aspect of this novel was deciphering exactly what happened in the Sutpen family. Who married who? Who killed who? Who had children and who didn’t? Who is still alive? In what order did this all take place? These questions and many others remained at the forefront of my mind the entire time I was reading. There are so many characters, voices, and events– not to mention the fact that it’s not told in chronological order. It was fascinating and exciting to constantly learn new information; however, it also makes it much more confusing to read. I think this is a novel that would absolutely benefit from being reread in the future now that I have the basic plot in my mind.

I was thrilled when I realized this novel focuses mainly on Quentin and Shreve. Reading The Sound and the Fury only a few weeks before tackling this bookish obstacle gave me a greater appreciation for Quentin given his unpleasant family situation. The inclusion of these two characters also demonstrates one of my favorite things about Faulkner’s works: the countless connections that link them all together. I felt as though Quentin could have been fleshed out more as a character in The Sound and the Fury, so I was glad to hear more from him in Absalom, Absalom!.

Shreve often tells the story back to Quentin even though he clearly already knows it, which I think is an interesting narrative choice on Faulkner’s part. Shreve sort of takes on the position of the reader as he attempts to understand and wrap his head around what happened. His interpretation of past events is much more emotional than Quentin’s; for instance, he consistently refers to Thomas Sutpen as the “demon.” As readers we are able to have this guttural reaction to the Sutpen saga, but Quentin seems more reserved because it is his own family.

“Quentin did not answer, staring at the window; then he could not tell if it was the actual window or the window’s pale rectangle upon his eyelids, though after a moment it began to emerge. It began to take shape in its same curious, light, gravity-defying attitude–the once-folded sheet out of the wistaria Mississippi summer, the cigar smell, the random blowing of the fireflies. “The South,” Shreve said. “The South. Jesus. No wonder you folks all outlive yourselves by years and years and years.” It was becoming quite distinct. He would be able to decipher the words soon, in a moment; even almost now, now, now.

“I am older at twenty than a lot of people who have died,” Quentin said.”

There’s a point in the narrative when Quentin and Shreve seem to become the past, as though the present is nothing more than a blurry continuation of those convoluted events. Retelling the past from different perspectives is a common theme in Faulkner’s texts, which may explain his frequent use of multiple narrators in a single work. It brings up a lot of interesting questions pertaining to how we think about and interpret the past. Whose account of it is the most accurate: Rosa’s, Quentin’s, or Shreve’s? How do you judge the accuracy of someone talking about the past, especially when they haven’t lived through it? So many unanswered questions!

There is so much more I could say about Absalom, Absalom! but I’ll stop for now lest this review become a novel in itself. Overall, I was fascinated and captivated by this novel even though it was difficult to wade through. I wouldn’t recommend this as the first Faulkner text someone should read, but it’s certainly on the list!

What are your thoughts on Absalom, Absalom! ? What’s your favorite Faulkner novel? Have any recommendations? How do you deal with challenging narratives? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Books

7 Reasons to Read THE SOUND AND THE FURY

William Faulkner’s classic novel The Sound and the Fury holds a special place in my heart as the first book I was ever assigned to read in college. Needless to say, we were all quite confused in my Introduction to Literature class. Why was Benjy also named Maury? Who were all of these different narrators? What happened to Quentin? And why were there suddenly two people named Quentin? We were fortunate enough to have a patient professor who answered these and countless other questions that we hurled at him. Gradually I came to realize and appreciate the brilliance of the novel and I promised myself that I would pick it up again someday.

Little did I know that day would come two years later as I was preparing for my Oxford tutorials.  Rereading The Sound and the Fury magnified my appreciation of it tenfold. Now that I understood the basic plot, I could focus more on the characters, language, and structure of the novel. This experience encapsulates why I love to reread books, especially ones as complex and intense as those that Faulkner writes.

In an attempt to spread my love for this novel, here are seven reasons why you should read The Sound and the Fury:

1 || Yoknapatawpha County. This novel is a great introduction to Yoknapatawpha County, the fictional county in Jefferson, Mississippi in which many of Faulkner’s novels and short stories take place.

2 || Narrative structure. With multiple narrators, narration styles, and dates, this story is bound to make your head spin at times (which might sound awful, but it’s actually really thought-provoking and fascinating and fun).

3 || It’s like a jigsaw puzzle. Reading this novel is like putting together an enormous jigsaw puzzle without knowing what the final product is supposed to look like. Faulkner drops bits and pieces of information throughout the story, leaving the reader to make sense of the details. It feels amazing when you finally feel like you understand another aspect of the story!

4 || Names. One of the things that fascinates me about The Sound and the Fury (and Faulkner’s texts in general) is the immense power and importance of names. An obvious example is Maury, who is renamed Benjamin (shortened to Benjy) because his mother feels as though it is a better Christian name.

5 || Faulkner’s writing. It’s difficult to explain the beauty and brilliance of Faulkner’s writing—it’s much better to actually read it for yourself. (Trust me, it’s worth it.)

6 || Memorable characters. From independent Caddy and patient Dilsey to sorrowful Quentin and fiery Quentin, Faulkner’s characters are not easily forgotten. There are so many characters in this novel, yet they all have such interesting pasts and multifaceted personalities.

7 || It’ll make you think. The Sound and the Fury is a book that I could read over and over again and still walk away with something new to chew on until the next time I read it. Gender, race, class, growing up, time, truth, family, identity—you name it and Faulkner has discussed it!

Have I convinced you yet? What are your thoughts on The Sound and the Fury? What’s your favorite novel by Faulkner? Have any recommendations? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Books, Read for English Class

THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner“Clocks slay time… time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.”

Confused? If not, there’s about a 99 percent chance that you will be upon cracking open the spine of William Faulkner’s classic novel The Sound and the Fury. I read this with my Introduction to Literature class last semester and I have to admit that had I been reading this entirely on my own, without the guidance of my professor and insights from classmates, I would have been completely lost.

I’ve been putting off writing this review because I’ve struggled with how to approach discussing this book. My attitude towards this novel varied so much while I was reading it that it’s taken me quite some time to simply gather my thoughts and come up with a coherent opinion. Even now, months after having flipped the final page, writing about it is still difficult. There’s so much to say, that I could honestly write posts and posts about it (and maybe I will…). For now, however, I’ve decided to structure this review similarly to how  the novel itself is structured: with four parts.

Part 1: Benjy’s Narration

The first section is narrated through the mind of Benjy, a thirty-three year old man with a mental disability. His narration is incredibly jarring, confusing, and frustrating, mostly due to its lack of apparent logic and organization. I had no idea who the characters were, how they were all related to each other, or even if we were seeing Benjy’s present or past. But I’m going to tell you a not-so-secret secret: there is an order to all of Benjy’s rambling. (Hint hint: it has something to do with his sister.) Once you realize this (or, as with my experience, your English professor helps you realize this after you’ve already read the section) Benjy’s stream of consciousness narrative style begins to make a bit more sense. Still, while reading this section I was not a happy camper, and had Faulkner been sitting across the room I would have been sending frosty glares his way.

Part 2: Quentin’s Narration

First of all, you have no idea how relieved I was when I realized that the entire book was not narrated by Benjy. I just couldn’t take his rambling any longer! Quentin’s narration still isn’t very conventional or simple, but it is easier to understand than the first section. Secondly, you also have no idea how long it took me to realize that there are actually two Quentins in this story– one is female, the other is male.

It was during this second section that I became more interested in this story, primarily because of the interesting themes and questions that Quentin’s existential crisis allows us to explore. He’s clearly depressed, but the reasons behind his depression make for some fascinating discussions. Not only does it raise questions about family dynamics and sexuality, but it also relates to the state of the South (of the United States) when this story takes place. The South was experiencing a shift in its values, and Quentin struggles to accept this change. Through Quentin’s eyes I became more invested in this story, just in time to realize how his section would ultimately end. As Kurt Vonnegut would say, so it goes.

Part 3: Jason’s Narration

Oh, Jason. How I dislike you. Despite its clearer writing and more organized, logical order, this section was somehow even more frustrating to read than Benjy’s. At least with Benjy I felt sympathy and compassion– with Jason, I only felt a sense of revulsion. Jason treats everyone with cruelty, and it seems as though not a speck of warmth burns in his heart. Still, my interest in the story continued to grow as I understood more and more about the characters and what they were actually dealing with. I just couldn’t get over how horrible Jason was.

Part 4: The Omniscient Narration

This section is the only section with an omniscient narrator (otherwise known as a third-person perspective). It is not entirely without focus, though, due to the fact that it concentrates on Dilsey, the Compson family’s servant. This is by far my favorite section of the novel, mostly because a) I think Dilsey is the sanest of all the characters and b) it is the easiest to understand. In my edition this section is followed by an appendix which offers even more information and clarifies a lot of questions that I had about what actually happened to the characters. Without these two parts of the novel, I would undoubtedly still feel incredibly lost.

So, what message should be taken away from this rambling review? Ultimately, I believe that you’ll only get as much out of The Sound and the Fury as you choose to put into it. If you simply skim or quickly read the novel without doing any additional research or stopping to more closely analyze the text, then you’re bound to walk away from it being just as confused as you were on the very first page. However, if you actually spend time with this novel and make an effort to understand what it has to say, I think you’ll be pleased with the reward.

Overall, I’ve come to appreciate The Sound and the Fury much more since I’ve finished it than I ever did while actually reading it. I admire its cleverness, its intricacy, its impossible yet strangely logical disorder. I will most definitely be revisiting it in the future– whether he likes it or not, Faulkner has not seen the last of me.

My Rating: :0) :0) :0) 3 out of 5 smileys.

Would I recommend it to a friend?: Yes, with a fair warning regarding its knack for being incredibly confusing and frustrating.

What do you think of this novel? What other works by William Faulkner would you recommend? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY