We’re in Miami for break, and on Tuesday I reflected upon my reading material over the past few years we’ve vacationed in Florida. Today I want to talk (write) about what I’ve been reading this trip. I brought five books with me, and bought one here (I love Barnes and Noble — books mixed with coffee has to be one of the best scents in the world).
There’s Brave New World, which I finished reading (for English class) on our first or second day here. I sat reading it by the pool and I was just drunk on the heat of the sun beating down on my face. I was reading about the problems with fake happiness and being contented into obedience with the help of drugs like “soma”, yet the combination of sun and reading a brilliant book made me feel just like I was away on a soma holiday. (Soma’s the fictitious, all-purpose drug in Brave New World.) Some people find BNW thoroughly disturbing and don’t like it at all. While I don’t normally read science fiction, aside from 1984 and such for school, I was completely mesmerized by this book. All the super-disturbing parts were just so fascinating. The really jarring part, was that so much of it bears eerie resemblance to the society in which we actually live. Aside from conditioning, (which, thankfully, our society doesn’t seem to have come close to) I really didn’t find very much of it to be all that far-fetched. On second thought, I think advertisements, and even the toys we give children to play with, come do come close to conditioning. Frankly, I think it’s kind of sad that this book has lost (or is losing) it’s power to shock (at least for me). Aldous Huxley probably intended for his imaginary world to stay that way — imaginary. It was ment to be shockingly far-fetched and crazy. And now? We’re already living in a shockingly brave, new world, and insane conjectures and predictions are becoming everyday life.
On a side note, I really loved all the beautiful Shakespeare references. We just finished reading Hamlet in English class and there are a ton of allusions to it.
“To die, to sleep—
To sleep—perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub!
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come[?]”
That’s one of my favourite quotations from the “to be, or not to be” soliloquy and seeing it alluded to in BNW just made me giddy!
Next I read The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver for my Literature class. Last year my former English teacher suggested that I’d love it and I was about to start reading it when I heard that we’d be learning it in Literature, at which point I decided to wait until this year. I’m really happy I waited, because I enjoyed it a lot more now than I would have a year ago. I finished reading it today and I think I’m still a little too awestruck to share any articulate thoughts on it. I always need some time after reading a powerful book to fully absorb the impact and start thinking full thoughts about it, beyond “wow, that was amazing! How’s the author manage that?” I find that since I’ve started writing and especially since taking Writer’s Craft, I focus so much more on the craftsmanship of a novel. Sometimes even to the point of being distracted from the actual content. I’ll just sit there, dumbstruck, wondering how the author could possibly be so brilliant. How anyone could possible be capable of compiling an entire novel and how that novel can be so perfectly, wonderfully constructed.
I also brought two collections of short stories by Alice Munro. The first one, Runaway, my former English teacher (yes, the one I’ve mentioned a million and a half times) lent me. She handed it to me and pointed out a single story in the collection she wanted me to read. The story, “Tricks”, was absolutely brilliant and I love it so much, especially because it also refers to a couple of Shakespeare’s plays. The crazy thing is, just a few months ago, I think I really would have hated this story, due to its semi-tragic ending. Now the tragic ending is what I find so brilliant. It’s just positively, painfully astounding and profound. I told this teacher how much I love it, but wouldn’t have a few months ago. She told me that she knew, and that it’s because of my Literature class. I told her I give her the credit, more so than that class. She’s happy, because, now I can appreciate a wider range of literature. Personally, I think she and my Lit. teacher broke me a little. You know, stole (i.e. ripped away) some of my innocence and doe-eyed naiveté. And let’s be honest here, I like(d) my innocence and doe-eyed naiveté, I kind of mourn its loss sometimes. Of course, I guess the whole, wide world of literature, that’s now open for my appreciation and pleasure is a bit of a consolation.
Then there’s the other collection by Munro, The Dance of the Happy Shades. I started reading it for a short story analysis assignment in Writers Craft, but we only had to read three stories from it for the sake of the assignment. So now I’m working my way through the rest of the book, although I think that the ones I used for the assignment will prove to be my favourites. We only had to present one of the stories we chose to the class and I picked “An Ounce of Cure”, it’s a really great story and I wish I had picked one that I didn’t think was quite so brilliant. I think I got just a little too excitable and didn’t quite articulate my thoughts as clearly as I might of. I also managed to use the “word” “formulaic-ness”. It’s a good thing I’ve been in this teacher’s class for a while and she already knows that I do in fact have somewhat of a functioning brain in my head.
I also brought a delightful little books of villanelles from Everyman’s Pocket Poets. I got it for my birthday and it’s such a wonderful little book. It also has such a pretty cover, which never hurts. While I was here I bought Sailing Alone Around the Room, a great collection of poetry by Billy Collins.
Whether I’ve made much progress through the latter four books over the course of this trip is another question entirely. I’m here with my siblings and a bunch of cousins and they have been given some of my attention. If I was ever “lonely”, per say, and wanted some company, all I would have to do is sit down somewhere (anywhere) with a book and I’d be joined within ten minutes. And, of course, as much as I like reading, I also happen to love talking, so my various books ended up being closed a lot of the time. I was also expected to attend meals on a regular basis (can you believe such a thing) so that also cut into my reading time.
So, readers, what kind of books do you like to take with you on vacation?