Back-to-School Essentials, Part 1

Hello, fellow bookworms and friends!  Okay, I’ve got to be honest with you — I’ve been having a hard time coming up with post ideas since my Summer Reading Challenge ended.

But since this blog is about literature and life, I figured it was time for a lifestyle post.

So, since the back to school season is upon us, I’ve decided to make a list of all the things I carry with me during the school year.  These are the things I actually use throughout the school year, and next time, I’ll have a Fall Reading Bucket List for Back-to-School Part 2.

Without further ado, here is my Ultimate Back-to-School Essentials for Teenage Girls:
School Supplies:
· 3-Ring Binders; Assorted Sizes and Colors
o I typically use one binder per “core” subject, and each one is color-coded to match and notebook.
o For classes that I anticipate fewer papers [Latin 3, for instance], I’ll purchase a 1-inch binder, but for AP Lang, I’ll use valuable backpack space with a 2-inch.
· 3 Spiral-Bound Notebooks
o Truthfully, only one or two classes really require their own notebooks.
o Spiral-Bound beats Composition any day [seriously, only get a Comp book if it’s required, they’re a pain].
· Laptop
o I know, I know.  But seriously, almost every school assignment I get nowadays relies on the internet/computer access.  And I’m not telling you to go out and buy a MacBook Pro – the Dell that I rent from my school for 75$ works just as well.
· Pens
o Make sure that you have black and red.  You don’t need blue pens, but black are pretty essential for formal writing assignments, and teachers like you to have red pens for editing assignments.
o Although you don’t need blue pens, I’ve heard that writing in blue ink supposedly helps with remembering information.
o I love gel pens.  It’s a passion.  They might be the sole reason I always copy my assignments down instead of the majority of “I’ll remember it” students.
· Pencils
o Get more than you will ever need.  Seriously.
o I don’t care if you like mechanical pencils.  At least get back-up lead, and always have a basic, No. 2, Ticonderoga Pencil on hand.  Always.
o Also, have a pack of colored pencils on hand.  They will come in handy more than you think.
o A pencil case.  Preferably a big one.
· Calculator
o Even if you use the calculator on your phone, I’ve never met a teacher who allows “gadgets” out during class.  The TI-84 is kind of the universal remote of the calculator world, but eventually, would will need to invest in a graphing calculator.
· A Giant Backpack
o Sure, now that all your binders are empty, they might fit inside your cute little backpack, but in the middle of February when you have endless loads of crap in your binders that your teachers won’t let you get rid of, you’ll suddenly be glad that you don’t have to carry half your stuff in your arms.
· blog globe
o You’re going to get a lot of homework.  You’re going to remember it all.  We’re not talking a dream diary complete with five pages of mood stickers and a rainbow gel pen, here; just something basic so you get all your assignments in on time.

Personal Care:
· Hair Care
o A brush or comb will make you look and feel put-together, and all of your friends will be asking to borrow one.
o Hair ties and bobby pins, for lab days and gym class if nothing else.
· Toiletries
o Deodorant or perfume, because gym class and puberty do not mix well.
o Lotion, for dry skin.  Hand sanitizer, if you want, even though you’ll probably end up with a two month-long cold anyway.
o Pads and tampons.  Both.  You really shouldn’t wear a pad without a tampon lest it start leaking, and not all your female friends use tampons, either.
o Ibuprofen, it’s a god-send.
· Makeup
o Powder, if you use makeup in the first place, is good to touch up, especially when all your facial oils decide to sit on top of your make up and turn your face into the Vegas Strip.  You could also get those oil-blotting sheets, but toilet paper works just as well.
o Lip balm, but Vaseline works even better, especially for chapped winter lips.

Random:
· Water.  Always have water on hand.  We all know the benefits of drinking a lot of water, and having it easily accessible will make you more prone to becoming a water-addict if you aren’t one already.

· A snack — whether your stomach is serenading you between classes or you’re staying late after school, food is usually a good idea.

· Five dollars.  Just in case.

· A book, because not every teacher allows you to go on your phone after tests, and in case you’re ever just sitting kind of awkwardly with nothing to do.

· A sweatshirt.  In case all of your classrooms have a different temperature, or if Aunty Flow comes

 

The Old Curiosity Shop

“”Let us be beggars’, said the child passing an arm round his neck, ‘I have no fear but we shall have enough, I am sure we shall.  Let us walk through country places, and sleep in fields and under trees, and never think of money again, or anything that can make you sad, but rest at nights, and have the sun and wind upon our faces, and thank God together.  Let us never set foot in dark rooms or melancholy houses anymore, but wander up and down wherever we like to go, and when you are tired, you shall stop to rest in the pleasantest place that we can find, and I will go and beg for both.'”

Hello, fellow bookworms and friends!
Okay, I’m going to be honest with you guys – I still haven’t finished The Old Curiosity Shop.
Please believe me, the book is very interesting and well-written, and since it’s my first Dickens, I now know that I’ll be reading more of his work in the future.
The only reason I haven’t finished it yet is because between a very intense SAT prep course, band camp, AP Lang summer work, and memorizing both flute and piano music at night, I have gotten totally behind on my blog.
Please do not let this reflect badly on The Old Curiosity Shop. It really is interesting – I’ve spent every spare moment I’ve had reading it, but that time simply hasn’t been enough.
However, I can tell you that it’s basically about a tired old man and his granddaughter, Nell. She is basically his only reason to live, because she’s kind of an amazing granddaughter, and he is trying to build an inheritance for her through his curiosity shop and nighttime gambling (when the book begins, he has had a bad losing streak).
The old man’s grandson, Nell’s older brother, has a poor relationship with the grandfather, but he is jealous that she will be receiving in inheritance and he won’t, so he convinces his friend, Richard Swiveller, to court her and take her inheritance.
Meanwhile, this creepy guy, Quilp, has been lending the grandfather money for gambling, and due to the losing streak, hasn’t gotten any returns.
When the grandfather takes ill, Quilp seizes the opportunity to try and take over their house (the grandfather and Nell’s house), but the grandfather miraculously recovers. However, knowing that he will still die before Quilp, and that Quilp will try to court Nell after his death, the grandfather and Nell take off.
The rest of the book (so far) is their adventure away from home. There’s also this adorable little guy named Kit who is low-key in love with Nell, but he’s not important to the plot so far.
I would recommend this book for anyone who loves classics. Dickens’s style, to me, is the best of the classic, in a way that’s funny, light, and absolutely beautiful.
So, fellow bookworms and friends, I suppose this concludes my Summer Reading Challenge. From now on, I plan to post on Sundays. I was considering book quotes for a while, but that may change.
Maybe a twist on book quotes? Like, maybe I could find a quote that aligns with different horoscopes, or something like that…
Anyway, thank you so much for joining me on this reading expedition! I can’t wait to see what’s next!

 

Stephen King: On Writing

“You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair — the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart.  You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names.  You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world.  Come to it any way but lightly.  Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.”

Damn.  If there is one man on this planet who truly despises adverbs, it is Stephen King.

Stephen King’s On Writing has been recommended to me by several teachers, and I have finally picked it up.  Now I can see why they implored me to read it.

On Writing is a mash-up between personal memoir and writing advice, divided into four sections: C.V. (although King’s is more backstory than resume), Toolbox, On Writing, and On Living.

You see, King doesn’t offer a bulleted list of clear rules for writing.  Instead, he teaches lessons through his own entertaining experiences, which causes the book to fly by like any good novel should.

Some of the basics, though?  Eliminate adverbs and passive voice at all costs, write with a specific person (your “Ideal Reader”) in mind, eliminate useless words, etc.  These are rules that most of us have heard before, but they’re important just the same.

The more interesting parts, though, are King’s personal opinions.  For instance, King is of the belief that the best writers are usually born that way.  Sure, one can, with great determination, turn from competent writer to good writer, but one cannot turn from good writer to great writer, or from bad writer to competent writer.  In other words, even though one can improve his skills, the best writers have a natural gift that cannot be mimicked.

This is one stance that I disagree with.  Personally, I believe that bad writers can become competent writers if they simply adhere to general writing rules, and that the simplest way to improve is through nonfiction.  While nonfiction is certainly an art, it doesn’t quite require the same stylistic details as fiction does.  After all, the majority of nonfiction is fairly straightforward, so “flair” should be kept to a minimum, anyway.  Meanwhile, in fiction, everything is made up, so the writer better be damn good at making stories up.

The bottom line, though, is that everyone has a right to their own opinion, and even though he is providing a guide to writing, he also expresses his opinions, which makes this read so interesting.

Would I recommend it?  Probably to a fellow student, or someone who gets tired of the typical writing rulebooks (that said, King reveres The Elements of Style throughout).  Obviously, a nonfiction writing memoir can only interest so many readers, but the thing about On Writing is that it has such a large audience despite being a memoir.

See you next week, Fellow Bookworms!

P.S. I’m sorry — I know I said that I’d review Dickens this week, but I’ve decided to save it for next week as my final Summer Book Challenge.

 

“Oh…you want to be a novelist.”

“And by the way, everything is writable about if you only have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise.  The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” — Sylvia Plath

Hello, fellow bookworms!  This Wednesday, we’re shakin’ things up a little (but don’t worry, I’ll be back with a Dickens review next week).  Today, I’m going to share the reason that I’ve decided to make a fool of myself and pursue a career in writing.

As you know, there are multitudes of failed novelists roaming the streets.  You know the type — the smokers, the drinkers, the damned thinkers (in full disclosure, I’ve actually never met one myself, but supposedly they’re all over New York).  They are the ones who always had something to say, but they never quite made it.

And then there are the millennials/young people.  I fit into the younger end of this category — the ones who have a voice, a certain originality, the “I’m going to be the one to do it” crowd.  We all think we’re special, of course, because in our own heads, we have access to our deepest, most intellectual thoughts that we don’t share with anyone, but we know we’re all so deep and original.

When we share our goals to become novelists or poets or scriptwriters, our friends and family laugh at us and tell us to go into sales.  Or worse yet, they give us this look of true pity and a fake smile, and maybe say, “Good for you.”  They are under the impression that by giving us an Arnold Palmer smile-smirk and talking to us like babies, they are being decent human beings, when really they have no faith in our abilities whatsoever and are just waiting for us to fail, hoping for it, even.

We all know these people.  Most of them end up being right, because unfortunately, most of us won’t make it as writers.  Whether “making it” in the writing world means being published, appearing in Barnes and Noble, becoming a New York Times Bestseller, winning the Pulitzer Prize, or just finishing a short story, every writer has his or her own definition.

But we can’t listen to the pessimists if we want to make it, even if our chances are slim-to-none.  Because, guess what?  The people who tell you not to go for it are the people who never did.  They are the people who were too afraid to fail, so they didn’t follow their dreams, and they are bitter enough to want to see you fail, too.  Please, prove them wrong.  Wipe that goddamn smirk off their faces.  But don’t do it by lipping off, no matter how well-formulated your comeback is.  Prove them wrong by actually hunkering down and writing, and editing, and finding a publisher, and doing whatever else you need to do.  Work your ass off.  Just please, do it.  The look on their faces will be worth it alone.

So why do I ignore these nincompoops every time they ask me what I want to do, and tell them, very tentatively, that I want to become a novelist?  Well, actually, I tell them that I want to be a legal writer, which is true.  My plan is to dual-major in English and Law/Political Science in college so that I can become a legal writer and actually pay off my loans out of college, while working on my creative writing career.  But I leave out the creative writing part because I am really, truly tired of people asking me what I want to do, then telling me that I can’t do it.  I’m sure all you young writers out there experience the exact same thing on the daily.  It’s really annoying, isn’t it?

To be perfectly honest, though, I might not be able to ignore these people if not for one person.  I’m not going to identify my Gifted teacher, but he knows who he is.  He is, after all, the one single person who has told me that I can make it as a novelist.  Now let me be clear — this teacher is no idealist.  He doesn’t beat around the bush, and he will immediately tell his students if he sees them fucking up.  But he has read my current novella, and he truly seems to think I have something.  And he truly seems to believe that, with enough hard work, I have a chance.

Now, does he tell the same thing to all his students aspiring to be writers?  Probably.  But he is making a genuine effort to help me become a novelist.  I’ve gotten book and writing school recommendations from him, and even though our Gifted program is basically ending this year, he will be helping me to edit my book next year and “get it out there”, whether that means self-publishing or story contests.  Once again, that is this man’s job.  But he has never let me believe, not even for a second, that I could not become a novelist.

I believe that if we have one person, just one person, who believes in us, then we have a much greater shot of making it than those who do not.  Find that person.  Find that mentor who will support you and be totally honest with your fuckups.  This might not sound like credible advice from someone who hasn’t “made it” either yet, but trust me, please.

Before I finish, I’d like to share with you one of the lessons my teacher has shared with me.  As a dual English-Philosophy major, he was likely to end up back home himself, but he actually landed a teaching position at his alma mater.  The most important thing that one can do to land an unlikely career, he explained to me, is to have a plan.  A real, solid plan.  This is probably the most boring advice I could give, but when you think about it, he must be right.  What separates the dreamers from the doers?  What separates the people who give up at the first trial from those who keep persisting?  A plan.

Dreams are great, they are the foundations of our goals, but a house needs more than a foundation.  I’m not trying to John Green it up with the metaphors, but you know what I mean.  What is your plan to make money after college and pay off your debts?  Personal creative writing is not going to pay off your student debt, unless you publish a best-seller right out of college.  That is not to say you shouldn’t go for it, but when you add the slightest hint of logic, you need another job.  That is not to say that the job can’t be in writing, either.  How are you going to fund yourself as a creative writer without a job, though?  Maybe one day, you won’t need a day job.nov

Lolita

“We had been everywhere.  We had seen nothing.  And I catch myself thinking that today our long journey had only defiled with a sinuous trail of slime the lovely, trustful, dreamy, enormous country that by then, in retrospect, was no more to us than a collection of dog-eared maps, ruined tour books, old tires, and her sobs in the night — every night, every night — the moment I feigned sleep.”

Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita is beautifully written.  And incredibly boring.

I’m not a harsh reviewer, especially for classics.  In fact, I’m especially anxious to give a classic such as Lolita a harsh review because of the very fact that it is a classic.  But I have to be honest with you guys — I think that it’s overrated.

This book is perhaps a disappointment to me because I have been told time and again that it is a story of true passion and intrigue.   I also pride myself on being able to enjoy classic literature despite the complicated language.  After all, there definitely is a stereotype that the classics are more description than actual plot.  Yet to me, it seems that Lolita has hardly any plot at all.

The novel beings with some flashbacks from the author Humbert Humbert’s childhood.  He describes some of his first sexual encounters growing up in Europe, as well as his first marriage, which ends when H. H. finds out that his wife (Valeria) is in love with another man.  While in Europe, we learn that our main character is a pedophile, obsessed with a certain type of pre-pubescent girls whom he describes as “nymphets.”  After spending time in various mental institutions and finalizing his divorce, H. H. decides to move to the United States.  He ends up in New England and boards from a woman named Charlotte Haze, and quickly becomes infatuated with her twelve-year-old daughter, Dolores “Lolita” Haze.  Charlotte and Lolita constantly fight, and while H. H. detests the former, he falls head-over-heels for Lolita, who develops a crush on him as well.  He divulges his feelings to a secret journal and constantly finds himself craving Lolita.

While Lolita is away at summer camp, Charlotte confesses her love for H. H. in a letter, and issues him an ultimatum: should he continue to board from Charlotte, he must marry her, or else leave immediately.  H. H. does marry her, but only so that he can stay near Lolita, and quickly finds himself wanting to kill Charlotte.  When Charlotte discovers H. H.’s journal and true feelings, she decides to leave him, and leaves the house immediately.  However, as she does, she dies in a car wreck, and H. H. decides to leave and pick Lolita up from summer camp, simply telling her that Charlotte is sick in the hospital.  The two of them then depart on a road trip together, when H. H. confesses to Lolita that her mother has died.  They then travel the country together for an entire year, with weird sexual encounters, and eventually end up back in New England, where Lolita is enrolled at the Beardsley School.

(Enter an eternity of beautiful, but pointless, description)

After she has been at Beardsley for a while, H. H. suspects Lolita has been cheating on him, so they go on a second road trip (this is about the point in the plot where I had to use every ounce of strength I had to continue).  Then, Lolita becomes sick and goes to the hospital, and when H. H. goes to pick her up, she is vanished.  H. H. searches for Lolita for years, and when he eventually finds her, he kills the man who took her from the hospital, and he is arrested, after which Lolita dies in childbirth (no — it isn’t H. H.’s).

Listen, like I said before, the writing is fantastic.  But eventually, it seems like Nabokov is just repeating the same words over and over again.  I actually feel that the most plot in this novel is in the beginning flashbacks, and I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the intention.

Have to read this for school?  Do it.  But I would not recommend Lolita for interest, or even as a thinking book.  For about the first sixty pages, I was enthralled in Nabokov’s writing, and shortly after became so bored that just looking at the book made me tired.

Of course, you should take my words with a pinch of salt, since I just had my wisdom teeth removed and my head has been a little foggy for the past few days with five different prescriptions.  But even without the narcotics, I still think I would have been pretty bored with this read.

 

Then We Came to the End

“He wore a goatee and was built like a bulldog, stocky, with fore-shortened limbs and a rippling succession of necks.  He didn’t belong where we were.  That’s not condescension so much as an attempt at a charitable truth.  He would have been happier elsewhere — felling trees in a forest, or throwing nets for an Alaskan fishery.  Instead, he was dressed in khakis, drinking a latte on a sectional sofa, discussing the best way to make our diaper client’s brand synonymous with ‘more absorbent.'”

Joshua Ferris’s Then We Came to the End presents something like the book version of The Office, only much more cynical and somewhat less comedic.  Then We Came to the End sheds light on the mundane aspects of everyday work life at a Chicago advertising company, for better or for worse.

As soon as the novel begins, the reader has a desperate desire to cradle a half-empty mug of coffee and make polite conversation with a colleague.  Although this idea might seem boring, Ferris’s incredibly relatable story line actually draws the reader in.  Even a shut-in could relate each character to one in his real life.  With these techniques, Then We Came to the End should fade like background noise, indistinguishable from the everyday, and yet it still sticks out.

I can’t provide much of a summary, simply because the formatting of this novel is so atypical, but I can follow the lives of some of our everyday characters.  As the plot continues, we learn more and more about each character’s life outside of work, and in turn realize how complex each actually is.  While Lynn Mason refuses to allow breast cancer to interfere with work, Karen Woo maintains her flair for the dramatic.  Janine Gorjanc is suffering from the after effects of her child’s murder as Amber Ludwig contemplates abortion after impregnation by a married coworker.  And these are just the women.

Ferris’s honesty, however, shows through just as much in the little things.  He acknowledges that, though Janine Gorjanc has suffered a severe loss, she has also developed a more sluggish appearance and a certain odor.  These are the honest details that most novels gloss over or otherwise romanticize, while Ferris realistically highlights their importance to the workers.  Details like these, in my opinion, set Then We Came to the End apart.

That said, I wouldn’t call this book an All-Time Favorite.  If I were to make one complaint about this read, it would be that the plot dragged on longer than necessary.  Of course, that is how most of us feel about work, so maybe the drag actually contributes to the novel as a whole.  Either way, I eventually became restless and had to step away for a few days.  What rescued the book for me was Ferris’s combination dry-and-compelling writing style, the perspective that actually interests the reader in a down-sizing ad company in the first place.

Damn.  I’d really like to find a novel I absolutely hate and write an incredibly fiery review on it.  Still hasn’t happened yet.

 

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

“It was definitely out of character for him and it was sort of distracting me.  It was like when a dog makes a human-style face at you and you’re temporarily thrown off guard by it.  You’re like, ‘ Whoa, this dog is feeling a mixture of nostalgic melancholy and proprietary warmth.  I was not aware that a dog was capable of an emotion of that complexity.'”

Jesse Andrews’s Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is not going to f*** you up.  You will not find yourself rolling around in a puddle of tears with a box of frozen Thin Mints (not for reasons related to the book, anyway).  You probably won’t even miss the girl who dies.

In case you couldn’t tell, this is not your average cancer book.

Our main character, Greg Gaines, puts an incredible amount of effort into being average.  In order to maneuver his way through high school, he has created a background-profile for himself, one that will allow him to fit in with every clique, but belong to none.  By his senior year, his technique is perfect…that is, until his sort-of-kind-of-not-really-former-girlfriend from Hebrew school, Rachel, is diagnosed with cancer.  Greg is surprised, but frankly, not shaken up.  This does not prevent his mom from interfering and forcing Greg to reconnect with Rachel, which could potentially ruin his perfect balance of social ambiguity.  When he does visit Rachel, their interactions are awkward at best, and Greg is constantly nervous to be seen with her and Upper-Middle Class Jewish Senior Girl Sub-Clique 2A.

There is one exception to Greg’s refusal to associate with anyone — his “associate”, Earl.  They’ve been watching and reproducing obscure films together for years by the time Rachel becomes sick.  Eventually, Rachel begins to view them on her own, and enjoys them so much that someone suggests that they make Rachel her very own film.  This turns out to be a disaster, as Greg and Earl cannot come up with an appropriate video for their dying semi-friend.  Matters become even worse when the film somehow ends up in the hands of the principal, and the entire school watches Greg and Earl’s video in an assembly.  They are humiliated, and Greg has completely abandoned his hopes of social ambiguity.

If this were a normal cancer book, Greg would have, at the very least, learned some deep and powerful message for his experiences with a dying friend.  But this is not a normal YA novel — Rachel gives up her will to live and Greg feels he has learned nothing.  There is nothing ideal at play, but instead a combination self-deprecating and selfish protagonist and his nervous and sarcastic persona.  Yet that is what makes Me and Earl and the Dying Girl so refreshingly honest.  Nothing is perfect, not even death.  Not everyone has something incredibly important to say.  Not every dying girl is armed with beautiful one-liners or oh-so-expressive eyes.  And, spoiler alert, Greg still has a crush on the girl with big boobs at the end.

That’s real life.  It’s actually pretty funny.

Dead Souls

“In short, everything was as beautiful as neither Nature alone nor art alone can conceive, but only when they come together, when over the labor of man, often heaped up without any sense, Nature will run her conclusive burin, will lighten the heavy masses, will do away with the coarsely palpable regularity and the beggar’s rents, through which the unconcealed, naked plan peers through, and bestow a wondrous warmth to everything that had been created amid the frigidity of a measure purity and tidiness.”  Yes, that was one sentence.

The reason I like classics so much is that you have to work to really understand what the author is saying; and sometimes, you just don’t, which is where Shmoop comes in.  But unlike young adult novels, where you pretty much understand what the author is talking about most of the time, classic novels give you a great feeling of satisfaction when you finish them.  The author doesn’t just hand you the message – you really have to work for it.

Dead Souls is one of those books that, even if you don’t have to read it for school, it’s just a good book to say that you’ve read, because it is a classic novel and very well-respected.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I heard the name “Dead Souls”, I thought, “This is going to be deep and depressing.”  And I suppose it is, in its own way.  But it’s actually a pretty funny book, and not a tragic one by any means.

Our main character is Pavel Ianovich Chichikov.  The story takes place in nineteenth century Russia, and Chichikov travels to and stays in this town so that he can visit landowners and purchase their “Dead Souls”.  What are Dead Souls?  Well, the term “Souls” refers to the serfs that the landowners own, and, like the average human being, these serfs eventually die.  Now, the problem for the landowners is that the government only issues a census every ten years, so even though the serfs die, they still have to pay taxes on them until the next census.  Of course, the landowners don’t want to do this, but they can’t really do anything about it.

This is where Chichikov comes in.  He essentially visits different landowners and says, “Hey, I am fully aware that these serfs are dead, but I am willing to ‘buy them’ from you [which I won’t get in trouble for because, according to the government, they’re still alive], so that you don’t have to pay taxes on them anymore.”  Of course, we can see where this would be a good deal for the landowners, but why is Chichikov offering to buy the serfs?  What does he get out of it?  Chichikov makes up different answers to the landowners, claiming that he needs to acquire a large enough estate to get married, reasons like that, but the real reason isn’t revealed until late in the novel.  Pavel Ianovich Chichikov is, as you may have predicted, a scammer.  Once Chichikov acquires enough Dead Souls, he can take out a loan on them and keep the money for himself.

So Dead Souls is really a satire.  If you read closely, it’s pretty funny, but it deals with themes of corruption in Russia and the government.  It’s also interesting to note how the different landowners feel about selling the souls, and there is one landowner who really strikes me in this case, and his name is Sobakevich.  At this point, Chichikov has visited other landowners, and has basically tricked them into giving him the deeds to the Souls for little or no price.  But Sobakevich is not that easy.  It isn’t necessarily that he knows Chichikov is up to no good, but rather he asks for a high price for the Dead Souls because he values them.  This pisses Chichikov off, and they get into an argument, and Chichikov basically says Why do you care, why do value these serfs, they’re dead and useless to you, and you’re just paying taxes on them, and you should be grateful for the fact that I am willing to take them from you at all, let alone buy them.  To which Sobakevich replies These were great people.  Even though they’re dead, they were honest and hardworking, and very valuable.  And this argument raises the question, which most of us would probably not even consider, do the dead have value?  Eventually, Chichikov wears down Sobakevich and they agree on a price, but the question still lingers.

One last thing that helps with classic novels, something that I absolutely hate to do, is to read the introduction.  Pretty much whenever you pick up a copy of a classic novel, there is going to be a twenty-long page introduction by some other person besides the actual author.  I usually don’t have the patience to read them, and I used to feel like it was the introducing writer trying to get his/her name out there and associated with a book without really doing anything, but seriously, read the damn introduction.  It will give you some insight before you read the actual novel so that you have some idea of what the heck the author is talking about.  Because, let’s be real guys, classic novels are great, but reading and understanding text from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is really difficult.

Dead Souls

 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Hello, everyone — happy Summer!  As promised I have my review of my Favorite Book of All Time, Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  I plan to read a new book every week this summer and post my reviews on Wednesdays, but this week, I broke down with one that I’ve already read.  If you’ve seen the movie but haven’t read the book, please know that the latter is a much more meaningful experience.  Maybe that’s a cliché, but it really is true!

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is narrated by Charlie, a misfit high school freshmen who is learning to cope with the death of his best friend, Michael, and his troubled Aunt Helen.  Since Michael’s suicide the previous year, Charlie has lost all of his friends, and is now navigating his brutally-honest high school experience alone.  That is, until he meets senior step-siblings Sam and Patrick, who introduce him to their own friend group.

The friends quickly deem Charlie a “wallflower”, explaining that he holds back in social situations, but understands what is going on around him.  Charlie quickly falls in love with Sam, who is in a relationship with someone else, but still has a soft spot for Charlie, and maintains a close friendship with him.  With his new friend group, Charlie experiments with drugs, smoking, parties, and dating, and discovers his sexuality for the first time.  He also cultivates a love of reading and music, and shares his passions with his new friends and English teacher.

WARNING:  Spoilers Ahead!

Of course, nothing is perfect.  His family relationships strain, especially with his sister, who has an abusive boyfriend, reflective of several other women in the novel.  Only after she has an abortion does his sister regain control of her own life, often urging Charlie not to tell anyone of her troubles.  The usual escape from his family life is with his friends, but Charlie finds himself in a relationship with Sam’s friend, Mary Elizabeth, even though he does not have feelings for her and would rather be with Sam.  When the truth is revealed, they both refuse to speak to him, and Patrick advises Charlie to stay away.  In their time apart, Charlie falls into a depression, and is fearful of where it might lead him.  Fortunately, Charlie reunites with them, but their time left together is limited.  When they eventually depart for college, Charlie suffers a breakdown, and comes to realize that his Aunt Helen actually did some horrible things.  After being hospitalized for the summer to cope with his mental instability, Charlie finally comes to terms with his present state and reunites with his friends, finally accepting where he is in life.

Why I love it:  The Perks of Being a Wallflower provides not only the most brutally honest depiction of high school life that I’ve ever read, but it’s also insightful as hell!  It seamlessly features a plethora of social issues without being snobbish or self-serving.  However, the most captivating part is the emotion and innocence with which Chbosky writes, and every word has a purpose in emulating this.  I will warn you, though, this novel is not one for sensitive readers — it has been featured on a number of banned book lists — because its content is unfiltered.  Frankly, The Perks of Being a Wallflower will break you; it will also put the pieces back together, but it a new way.

perks seat

 

My Summer Reading Challenge

Hey, guys!  For my first reading post ever, I’ve decided to challenge myself to read at least one book a week this summer vacation and post a summary/review about it!  I’ll probably be sticking to classic novels for the most part, but the general guideline is novels that make me think.  I’ve just read the Perks of Being a Wallflower (again), and even though it isn’t classic literature, it definitely is my favorite novel of all time.  I hope to make it my first review — maybe it might bring me a little good luck!