Back in college I was a comparative literature major, journalism minor. I loved them both for different reasons, but literature was kind of a cop out, if I’m being honest. I got to read, and talk about what I read, and listen and share what I got from what I read. And I got (yes, got) to write papers about what I read, and I got to get creative about comparisons. It was all great until my last full semester.
See, I waited to take both my required classes until spring of my last year. The necessary senior thesis class (I can’t remember the name, but basically advanced critical thinking about literature) was only offered in the spring, and you had to be a senior, so that made sense. But the other, a class on a ‘major author,’ you could take at anytime once you’ve reached that upper class level. And I waited until the last moment, hoping against hope that I could luck into Jane Austen.
And guess what? My senior year, it was offered that spring! Jane Austen, YIPPEE!!! This major author was going to be cake! I remember that exaltation when I looked at the catalog. And then I looked further, and realized that my senior thesis class was at the same time.
I went to the English department and bugged all the professors. The one teaching the Austen class was the one professor I didn’t really like (which is saying a lot–I LOVED all my professors and the way they expanded my thinking about authors and literature), and she wasn’t going to let me do independent learning or anything at all similar. Nothing was going to make the Austen class happen.
I was going to have to take the other major author offered. James Joyce. And I knew very little about Joyce.
The literature gods were messing with me. In a good way, I know now, but at the time all I could think was that my favorite author was RIGHT there (actually, the Austen class was right next to the senior thesis class) and I wasn’t going to be able to take that class. I would have ACED it, too.
Guess what? It was the best class I took. James Joyce was hard reading. I knew that going in. But that class was the best fit (which the lit gods knew, of course). It was tough, but interesting, mind expanding, engrossing, aggravating, and more beneficial than Austen could have ever been (I still love Austen: I mean, how could I not?!).
Joyce was the smartest author of his time. He wrote in the time of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Tolkien, Duncan, and T.S. Elliot–without really being a part of their Lost Generation (he was older, but he did hang out with them at times). He was avante garde and way ahead of his time, creating words and languages. His books were considered dangerous, especially in America. Reading him for a semester was the best thing I could have ever done as an undergrad.
And yet I have waited to return to him. Now is the time, I guess.
My goal this year is to re-read some classics and to read some I’ve never read. And the re-read starts with James Joyce.First, The Dubliners. Then onto A Portrait of The Artist as A Young Man, After that, before I tackle Ulysses, I’m going to re-read The Odyssey. Then Ulysses.
We’ll see where I am after that.
And now my review of a modern gothic, The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian.
Bohjalian’s gothic story reminded me of such great creepers as Rosemary’s Baby and Rebecca. Classicly spooky, without all the blood and gore. I went through stages with this book, unsure of whether I liked it or not. But, once I was finished, I can say it has stuck with me.
Chip and Emily Linton have moved to an old Victorian in a quaint Northern New Hampshire town with their twin 10 year-old daughters in order to get their lives back in order. See, Chip is (was?) a pilot, and he attempted a water landing ala Sully Sullenberger, only his landing didn’t go so well. Twenty-nine people died, and he can’t seem to shake his depression.
So, off to New Hampshire they go, where they are greeted in the small town with open arms. EVERYone that is anyone wants to get to know the Lintons, and especially their twin daughters. And everyone that is anyone in town is an ‘herbalist,’ with large greenhouses and a penchant for growing the rare.
This book was very creepy, and spooky, and eerie. Perfect for Halloween time (which was when I read it). It seemed, though, that the spookiness of the house and the weirdness that was happening to them was suddenly abandoned for the ‘herbalists.’ I wish it would have tied together a bit better.
I give this one 3.5 stars. It was good, and perfect when you’re in the mood for some spookiness. And it’s creepiness stuck with me.