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Lobby 2. Welcome The Reading Room Reading Challenges, 2010 topic #6
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Mesg #6 "Alissa's 2010 Book List"
Author alissaameth     Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
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Date Wed Dec-16-09 05:20 PM
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Sat Jan-01-11 09:04 PMby alissaameth

Aiming for 25 50 75!

The dates in parentheses indicate when I finished each book. Books with an asterisk beside them are re-reads.

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO (25) - Reached 3/31.
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO (50) - Reached 7/20.
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO (75)


#.TitleAuthorYearDate
1.Tortilla FlatJohn Steinbeck1935(1/3)
2.King LearWilliam Shakespeare1603-06(1/11) *
3.Mr Midshipman EasyCaptain Frederick Marryat1836(1/18)
4.The Taming of the ShrewWilliam Shakespeare1590-94(1/20) *
5.Households and HolinessCarol Meyers2005(1/24)
6.Awakening Genius in the ClassroomThomas Armstrong1998(1/28)
7.Titus AndronicusWilliam Shakespeare1592-94(1/30) *
8.With Christ in the School of PrayerAndrew Murray1828-1917(1/31)
9.Gulliver's TravelsJonathan Swift1726(2/5)
10.Music as a Way of KnowingNick Page1996(2/8)
11.Confessions of a ThugCaptain Meadows Taylor1839(2/8)
12.The Merchant of VeniceWilliam Shakespeare1596-98(2/9) *
13.And Sarah LaughedJohn H. Otwell1977?(2/11)
14.The Interesting NarrativeOlaudah Equiano1789(2/12)
15.The Merry Wives of WindsorWilliam Shakespeare1602(2/18)
16.Drama as a Way of KnowingPaul G. Heller1996(2/21)
17.SheH. Rider Haggard1887(2/22)
18.Measure for MeasureWilliam Shakespeare1603-04(3/1)
19.Dance as a Way of KnowingJennifer Donohue Zakkai1997(3/10)
20.The Story of an African FarmOlive Schreiner1883(3/16)
21.All's Well that Ends WellWilliam Shakespeare1601-08(3/17)
22.Guanya PauJoseph J. Walters1891(3/18)
23.Releasing the ImaginationMaxine Greene1995(3/18)
24.Heart of DarknessJoseph Conrad1902(3/30)
25.Hard TimesCharles Dickens1853(3/31) *
26.Translation of the Letters of a Hindoo RajahElizabeth Hamilton1796(4/7)
27.Between the ActsVirginia Woolf1941(4/10)
28.PericlesWilliam Shakespeare1608-09(4/12)
29.Visual Arts as a Way of KnowingKarolynne Gee2000(4/18)
30.The Missionary: An Indian TaleLady Morgan1811(4/20)
31.The Book of LeviticusGordon J. Wenham1979(4/21)
32.CymbelineWilliam Shakespeare1609-10(4/22)
33.Walk Leviticus!Jeffrey Enoch Feinberg, Ph.D.2001(4/23)
34.Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop CafeFannie Flagg1987(4/27)
35.The Real Me: Being the Girl God SeesNatalie Grant2005(5/13)
36.The Winter of Our DiscontentJohn Steinbeck1961(5/18)
37.Arrow Book of PoetryAnn McGovern1965(5/21)
38.JoshuaJoseph F. Girzone1983(5/21)
39.How to Search the ScripturesDr. Fuchsia Pickett1999(5/26)
40.Paths of GloryHumphrey Cobb1935(5/28)
41.SkateMichael Harmon2006(6/5)
42.The Grapes of WrathJohn Steinbeck1939(6/10) *
43.Let Me Out! I'm a Prisoner in a Stained-Glass JailWally Armbruster1985(6/14)
44.Under PressureFrank Herbert1956(6/17)
45.The Lonely NowNicky Cruz1971(6/23)
46.A Child is BornLennart Nilsson1977(7/1)
47.Fallen AngelsWalter Dean Myers1988(7/2)
48.The Harvest GypsiesJohn Steinbeck1936(7/2)
49.A Hilltop in TuscanyStephanie Grace Whitson2006(7/10)
50.Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of WrathJohn Steinbeck1989(7/20)
51.The Screwtape LettersC.S. Lewis1961(7/20) *
XX.3 Charlie Brown comicsCharles M. Schulz1957-60(7/21)
XX.The Authoritative Calvin and HobbesBill Watterson1990(7/31)
52.No Plot? No Problem!Chris Baty2004(8/11)
53.Scottish Highlanders in Colonial GeorgiaAnthony W. Parker1997(8/30)
54.Death in VeniceThomas Mann1912(8/30)
55.The White PlagueFrank Herbert1982(9/5)
56.The Oresteia of AeschylusRobert Lowell1978(9/13)
57.To Teach: The Journey, in ComicsAyers & Alexander-Tanner2010(11/19)
58.The RainmakerJohn Grisham1995(12/9)
59.The Saga of the Seven Suns: Hidden Empire (Book 1)Kevin J. Anderson2007(12/19)
60.For Whom the Bell TollsErnest Hemingway1940(12/27)


Well, I made it to 60 books this year! I'm pleased with that.

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Mesg #35 "1. Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck"
Author alissaameth     Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
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Date Sun Jan-03-10 06:46 AM
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Sun Jan-03-10 07:32 AMby alissaameth

Fiction, 154 pages.

This is the fifth Steinbeck book I have read during the Christmas break, in my new found enthusiasm to read everything he wrote. The Grapes of Wrath is my favorite novel (I have read it three or four times and want to re-read it soon), and almost everything else I have read by Steinbeck crowds up to the top of my "Favorite Books" list, too.

The first sentences of the novel are: "This is the story of Danny and of Danny's friends and of Danny's house. It is a story of how these three became one thing..." The paragraph goes on to compare the house to the Round Table and Danny's friends to its knights. Once these friends are introduced to the reader, the humor in this becomes clear. (Their behavior would not generally be considered knightly!) Danny and his friends are paisanos who live in Tortilla Flat--a place near Monterey, in California. (My geographic knowledge of California comes entirely from Steinbeck's books, so I am not 100% where places are in relation to each other.) There is mild swearing and vague allusions to sex.

Each chapter of the narrative describes an adventure of theirs. Most of these episodes center around obtaining wine, love or money (usually for buying wine). The blurb on the back of the book claims that it is Steinbeck's funniest, but I would disagree and say that Sweet Thursday is even funnier. However, Tortilla Flat is still hilarious! The humor is a little coarse sometimes, but not offensive (to me).

I think the strength of this novel is its "voices," if that makes any sense. Not only are Danny's friends strong characters with funny and clever lines, but the omniscient narrator is very distinct while at the same time matching the tone of the characters perfectly. I think Steinbeck was particularly good at this. I also think he had "a way with words" that makes me stop and think about the smallest things in his writing. (The first example that comes to mind is the description: "dusty dew drops." Who would've thought to describe water as dusty? But it gives an extra flavor that works.)

I would say its weakness (in my opinion) would be the plot, honestly. Not because there is anything wrong with it, but because I wasn't particularly engaged by what the characters did. The parts I enjoyed most were their conversations with each other in between things, and Steinbeck's descriptions.

It is not one of my favorite Steinbeck novels, but--as a rabid Steinbeck fan--I still really enjoyed reading it just because it showed me another style of his writing (which is more varied than I previously realized). It's witty, short and full of character.

(My favorite character is Jesus Maria, who is often described as a humanist. "Together with his capacity for doing good, Jesus Maria had a gift for coming in contact with situations where good wanted doing." - Chapter 10. His kindness is often pretty funny, too!)

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Mesg #133 "2. King Lear by William Shakespeare"
Author alissaameth     Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
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Date Tue Jan-12-10 04:37 PM
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Play - Tragedy, 145 pages.
Re-read.

The first time I read this play (maybe four years ago), I hated it because I thought it was boring, difficult to understand and... I don't know--long-winded, maybe. (It was the first time I didn't love something by Shakespeare, so a dislike of the style wasn't the problem.) I read it in a high school class and just didn't enjoy it. This second reading was much more enjoyable! I was pleasantly surprised, and now I'm not sure why I didn't like it before. I expect that it has something to do with my own growth as a reader, since the text obviously hasn't changed. There are still tricky passages that are harder for me to understand, but it didn't stop my enjoyment of or involvement with the story. In fact, I expect to read it again.

Just as I did four years ago, I still think King Lear is an annoying and deranged character. I am not sympathetic for him at all. Fortunately, despite the fact that he's the title character, the play is more about the people around him.

The play begins with King Lear's intention--having grown old and weary--to divide his kingdom among his three daughters according to their eloquence in professing their love for him. The first two daughters please him with their words, but the third disappoints him when she "...cannot heave/{Her} heart into {her} mouth" (I.i.93-94). The angry king banishes her and divides the kingdom among the older two sisters and their husbands. As it turns out--according to actions and not words--it is the third daughter who loves him the best.

The sub-plot: One of the king's earls has two sons: one legitimate and one bastard. The illegitimate one conspires against his brother and father in order to reach a status of power and recognition that the circumstance of his conception denies him. He involves himself in the political and military going-ons of the rest of the cast and (seems to) be successful in shutting his brother out. The sub-plot starts off seeming entirely separate from the main plot, but the two become more and more intertwined until a final show-down in which all the plot threads are tied off together. Very satisfying!

I love Shakespeare's use of language and how he manages to tap into emotions. I could hear the characters expressing themselves--generally in such strong terms that I could almost feel them shaking. For instance, even though the illegitimate son is a villain, I couldn't help but root for him because I felt that his passion should count for something even if his deeds were wrong. He might actually be my favorite character.

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Mesg #162 "3. Mr Midshipman Easy by Captain Frederick Marryat"
Author alissaameth     Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
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Date Mon Jan-18-10 02:04 PM
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Fiction - Nautical, 344 pages.

First published in 1836, this novel is set in the same time as the Napoleonic Wars and focuses on the adventures of "our hero," Jack Easy. The story begins like this: "CHAPTER I - Which the reader will find very easy to read." I burst out laughing when I read this, and can say that I was similarly amused by the whole novel. It is written in a whimsical style that includes references to the reader (e.g. "the reader will remember that..."), humorous understatements/overstatements, ridiculous circumstances and a large quantity of not-so-subtle but very amusing puns. For instance, after the hero has literally fallen into a well: "...all's well that ends well; but how the devil am I to get out of the well?" (Chapter 6). I suspect that this is a brand of humor that many people would find stupid, but I still giggled and chuckled a lot.

The basic essence of the story is that Easy gets into a ton of scrapes, gets out of them and has a bunch of arguments about morals with almost everyone he meets. "We shall argue the point" must be the phrase that he repeats most often. I found this repetition funny, rather than tiresome! In short, Easy can out-wit most anyone he meets and is loved by everyone who he hasn't chosen to humiliate. He's a sort of rascal that can get away with anything because he commands peoples' favor, including his commanding officers who tolerate more bad behavior than they should.

Humorous entertainment is the novel's strong point. The weakest point was plot, I would say. As I mentioned before, the plot consists of one adventure after the next, with a little breathing room in between. The novel is set during the Napoleonic Wars, but I couldn't tell. (Granted, I know next to nothing about the history of this period.) It seemed to me that all of Jack's adventures were isolated events because I never got an understanding of the context. This didn't bother me very much, though.

There is a heavy-handed theme of "equality" throughout the entire novel--and I say heavy-handed meaning that the author is very obvious about it. In Chapter XXI, Marryat breaks the narrative to say: "And now we must be serious. We do not write these novels merely to amuse,--we have always had it in our view to instruct, and it must not be supposed that we have no other end in view than to make the reader laugh." He describes novel-writing "...as a channel through which we may convey wholesome advice in a palatable shape." (I find authorial asides like this very interesting in the context of fictional literature, and will be writing a paper about this soon.) The problem is, I am not sure what Marryat intended to teach with this. The literary criticism I've read on this so far (not much) holds that Marryat is promoting imperialism by arguing against equality and human rights. However, because the whole story is so farcical, I have a hard time taking it at face value.

"Equality Jack's" father taught him all he could about equality and the rights of man. In the beginning, Jack spends his time asserting his rights by stealing and trespassing, and arguing the point with anyone who would confront him. He goes into the service teaching people around him about equality, but he comes out of the service almost four years later arguing the opposite side. He returns home briefly: only long enough to declare his father insane, take over the estate through power of attorney and then leave after his father's accidental death. The purpose of this brief episode seems to be the final show-down with his father, in which Jack wins the argument by pointing out how the father's ideas of equality have led to waste and squander because none of his tenants pay their rent, none of his servants are obedient, etc. However, I can't help but feel that Jack's argument undermines itself in some spots, especially since he only wins because his father is portrayed as feeble and unwilling to argue against his son.

So, Jack seems to be converted from one who believes in equality to one who believes that each man is awarded his share according to his own abilities (citing the story of the ten talents in the Bible). The question is, is the reader supposed to agree with him at the beginning or the end? I have to think about it more, but I might argue that the novel portrays a reality of inequality and injustice that doesn't necessarily rule out human rights as the ideal standard.

As you can tell, I find this novel very thought-provoking even though I spent most of the time laughing mindlessly while reading it. I only wish that the theme wasn't so heavy-handed--that is the part that grew a little tiring after Jack's seventeenth (I didn't really count) confrontation about equality. The ending in particular was unsatisfactory in terms of the theme, but still entertaining.

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Mesg #175 "4. The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare"
Author alissaameth     Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
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Date Wed Jan-20-10 05:14 PM
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Play - Comedy, 148 pages.
Re-read.

I don't feel like I have much to say about this play. I first read this at about the same time I first read King Lear--about four years ago. I didn't like it. After reading it a second time, I understand it much better and appreciate much more of the humor, but I still don't really like. I don't dislike it, either. It really is funny, but... I don't know. Maybe it's the theme of taming one's wife that bothers me.

There are two sisters: the youngest is portrayed as an angelic woman, while the oldest is a hot-tempered shrew. The youngest has many suitors, but the father has decided that no one may marry the youngest daughter until the oldest has been married off. The suitors despair, because they don't think that any man would ever want to marry the shrew. When Petruchio comes into town and hears of this situation, he takes it upon himself to marry the shrew (and tame her).

I think I feel somewhat indifferently about this play because I can't sympathize with either of the main characters. I don't understand why Katherine is so mean-tempered, and I don't understand why Petruchio wants to marry/tame her. The witty jokes, the disguises that various characters take and the verbal jousting are all funny and entertaining, but in the end I don't identify with or even care about any of the characters.

(Now, in terms of literary analysis, I like this play because there is a lot to discuss--in particular, gender roles. This is why I'm a literature major: I don't have to like it to enjoy analyzing it!)

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Mesg #179 "RE: 2. King Lear by William Shakespeare"
Author RavenCorbie     Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list Click to send message via AOL IM
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Date Thu Jan-21-10 10:27 AM
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In response to Reply # 2

I didn't like it myself when I first read it, and, for me, it was how depressing it was. Yes, it's a tragedy, and tragedies aren't supposed to be happy, but it was just a downer (emotionally) all the way through--rather than a book with a more positive feel during the beginning that culminates in tragedy. It was just too bleak to me. And I liked Edmund and didn't want him to be evil.

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Mesg #180 "RE: 4. The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare"
Author blzrgurl71     Click to send email to this author Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
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Date Thu Jan-21-10 05:21 PM
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This is actually one of my favorite plays by shakespeare. Kate is a very angry girl because her family doesn't appreciate her. Her sister Bianca is her father's favorite and everyone knows it. Bianca is believed to be a sweet-tempered girl but Kate knows better. She knows that Bianca just plays sweet to get everyone's admiration. As we see at the very end Bianca is quite ill-tempered and bad-mannered, she has just hidden it until she could "catch" her man. Kate knows this and it makes her cranky, also she feels like her family should love her for who she is. In the end we see that Kate is really just looking for someone to love her best, no matter how cranky she is, and when someone does love her best... she rewards him with docility and loyalty. The only real gifts she can give him.

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Mesg #197 "RE: 4. The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare"
Author alissaameth     Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
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Date Sat Jan-23-10 10:52 PM
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I think that's one way of looking at the play, but I think it can be interpreted in other ways, too. (That's part of what I do like about it.) For instance, if Kate was just looking for someone to love her, why did Petruchio need/decide to starve her? Personally, I kept changing my mind about the play's message about Kate & Petruchio's relationship, as I read each new detail.

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Mesg #198 "RE: 2. King Lear by William Shakespeare"
Author alissaameth     Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
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Date Sat Jan-23-10 11:08 PM
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I'm trying to think back if I thought it was depressing the first time, too, but I can't remember. I didn't think that this second time reading it, at all. (I tend to like the tragedies more than the comedies, although I enjoy both.) I can see your point about there not being much positive about it. Cordelia's good nature is positive, but it seems like nothing comes of it (she's banished and then, when Lear realizes that she loved him, it's too late).

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Mesg #206 "5. Households and Holiness by Carol Meyers"
Author alissaameth     Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
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Date Sun Jan-24-10 10:14 PM
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Paper - Religion, 105 pages.

The full title is "Households and Holiness: The Religious Culture of Israelite Women." It was originally a paper written for and delivered at the XVII Congress of the International Organization for the Study of the Old Testament, and was subsequently published by Fortress Press for a wider audience.

It was an interesting read, but I didn't find the argument to be completely convincing. (However, that may be because I haven't read any of the literature she cites in support of her argument, so I really can't say.) The study is based on archaeological evidence, ethnographic data and both biblical and non-biblical texts. The main thrust of the paper is that women's religious practices centered on fertility (conception, pregnancy, nursing, etc.) and that their household practices (and thus the women themselves) were more important in ancient Israel than scholars believe. She emphasizes the importance of studying not only beliefs, but every-day practices. She also discusses Israelite women's use of magic--protective amulets, clay figurines, saying spells and the like. This is the part that I didn't really know what to make of. I'd have to look into the research she cites to see where she's coming from.

Her conclusions were that: 1) There existed "...a substantial body of knowledge" that made women professionals--such as midwives, necromancers, sorcerers and diviners. 2) Many rituals were performed by "...groups of female kin and neighbors," which led to a strengthened social network for women. 3) These practices should not be viewed as marginal, but empowering. 4) This women's culture, just as male religious culture, had its own hierarchies within it. "The gendered spheres of Israelite society, as grounded in household life, are thus best considered complementary rather than hierarchical." She uses the term "heterarchy."

I was expecting to read at least something about how women practiced the religion of the Old Testament (i.e. the Torah/Pentateuch), but there wasn't a word about it.

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Mesg #217 "RE: 3. Mr Midshipman Easy by Captain Frederick Marryat"
Author Stavechurch     Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
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Date Tue Jan-26-10 06:43 PM
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What a fascinating and strange book!

Is it possible that Marryat is making his aside about edutainment to legitimise the fact that his book is primarily amusing and perhaps deliberately ambiguous? Is he parodying other works which profess that goal? Or do you think he is deadly serious but just so far removed from our viewpoint that he is hard to fathom? As a medievalist, I have studied some texts which make legitimising statements which are in fact quite the opposite of true; for example, saying their story comes from 'olde bookes' and is not just made up, usually in sections which do appear to have been made up! It's too many years since I studied them to be more precise off the top of my head, but it did make me wonder. Authorial asides can be very interesting, I'm sure you'll find it a fun paper to write! (as far as writing papers is fun, with all the nitpicky exactness required in referencing...)

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Mesg #255 "6. Awakening Genius in the Classroom by Thomas Armstron..."
Author alissaameth     Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
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Date Fri Jan-29-10 09:11 PM
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Education, 70 pages.

This short book operates on the premise that "every student is a genius" and that educators need to encourage genius both in their students and in themselves. Armstrong defines "genius" as "giving birth to one's joy." He lists 12 qualities of genius (without claiming that it is an exhaustive or definitive list): curiosity, playfulness, imagination, creativity, wonder, wisdom, inventiveness, vitality, sensitivity, flexibility, humor and joy. The first part discusses the nature of genius and these qualities. The second part outlines how genius is stamped out by homes, schools and media; and the third part calls for teachers to make their classrooms genial, to re-awaken the genius that everyone has.

I agree with pretty much everything Armstrong says, but I found the book neither practical nor inspirational. Some of my teaching textbooks are extremely helpful when it comes to details and concrete examples; some of them do not pay attention to details but are inspiring in that they make me want to become the best teacher I can be. This book doesn't fit into either category, for me. I don't think it was a complete waste of time, though. It served its purpose in making me think more about classroom environments and the kinds of work that goes on in classrooms. I may refer back to the "12 qualities of genius" in the future.

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Mesg #261 "7. Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare"
Author alissaameth     Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
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Date Sat Jan-30-10 09:28 PM
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Play - Tragedy, 106 pages.
Re-read.

This is probably the 4th or 5th time I've read this play, which is the most I've re-read any of Shakespeare's writing. I know that critics/scholars generally consider Titus Andronicus to be Shakespeare's worst play, but I really like it. I read criticism that said the mismatch between the play's brutality and the characters' poetic verbosity creates a distance between the reader and the play. (The main scene that illustrates this is when one character finds a woman who has had her tongue cut out and hands chopped off. He goes into a long speech bemoaning her ravished state, while she's presumably bleeding to death in front of him.) While I agree that the characters' actions don't always seem logical or realistic (and therefore I feel that the characters are rather flat), this doesn't make me hate it.

The story is about... families, revenge and general evil-doing, perhaps. The play begins when Titus Andronicus and his sons return from fighting the Goths with prisoners of war (Tamora and her three sons, plus Tamora's lover). The Andronicus family sacrifices one of Tamora's sons to the memory of their fallen brothers on the battlefield, which makes the prisoners even more bitter towards their captives. Upon their return to Rome, the people want to make Titus their new emperor, but he persuades the people to choose Saturninus, the late emperor's oldest son. Tamora ends up marrying him and becoming the Empress of Rome. From this point on, Tamora's family and the Andronicus family trade acts of revenge. These include exile, rape, mutilation, murder and cannibalism. Yes, the action is pretty brutal... so I don't know how I would feel about the play if I actually saw a staging of it.

My interpretation of the play is that it is essentially about families and familial obligation--which might be an unfortunate way of looking at it, since almost everyone in both families ends up dead by the end. There are more themes at play, though, and I started thinking about them more during this re-read. The play is full of classical references (e.g. to Ovid and Horace), which I hadn't paid much attention to before. Today I read an article arguing that the play is about the degeneration of Rome: the fact that the people are educated (by the classics) but that they learn evil from them (repeating and "improving upon" past crimes) instead of the morals of the stories (e.g. don't rape because you won't get away with it). I thought that was an interesting take on it.

My favorite episode of the story is when Aaron, Tamora's lover, defends his baby from being killed. (He is a Moor--so when the Empress delivers a dark-skinned baby, she knows she's in trouble because people will know that the Emperor isn't the father. Therefore, she wants the babe to be killed before it's discovered, and replaced with a white baby.) Aaron refuses to allow this to happen--and his fierceness in protecting the child is, for me, one of the most touching parts of the play. This makes me feel conflicted about Aaron--because otherwise, he's the most despicable character in the play.

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Mesg #262 "RE: 3. Mr Midshipman Easy by Captain Frederick Marryat"
Author alissaameth     Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
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Date Sat Jan-30-10 10:35 PM
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In response to Reply # 10

>What a fascinating and strange book!

I agree!


>Is it possible that Marryat is making his
>aside about edutainment to legitimise the
>fact that his book is primarily amusing
>and perhaps deliberately ambiguous? Is he
>parodying other works which profess that
>goal? Or do you think he is deadly serious
>but just so far removed from our viewpoint
>that he is hard to fathom?

You know, I think it's hard to tell. However, I do get the sense that he's pretty serious. He goes into a case (that I assume is fact and not fiction, but I could be wrong) about how a scene in a novel improved the military. (The specific example is that a novelist once wrote about an admiral who wouldn't punish anyone before 24 hours had passed, to make sure his punishment wasn't too severe because of emotion. Apparently someone read this, thought it was a good idea and then made it a rule.) However, since he seems so serious about it, I would expect him to be less ambiguous! (For instance, the main character commits mutiny but is never punished and what he does is never seen as wrong, no matter how mischievous he is.)


>As a
>medievalist, I have studied some texts
>which make legitimising statements which
>are in fact quite the opposite of true;
>for example, saying their story comes from
>'olde bookes' and is not just made up,
>usually in sections which do appear to
>have been made up!

That's neat! That reminds me of authors writing "biographies" of their main characters, as if they were real people and the authors literal biographers. Although I figure almost all characterizations are meant to give the impression of real people, I think this is an interesting technique.


>Authorial asides can be very
>interesting, I'm sure you'll find it a fun
>paper to write! (as far as writing papers
>is fun, with all the nitpicky exactness
>required in referencing...)

I agree! I mostly do enjoy writing lit papers, but it's less fun when I don't give myself enough time. Last year I wrote a paper about the authorial asides in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. That one is peculiar, compared to her other novels!

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Mesg #265 "8. With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray"
Author alissaameth     Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
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1631 posts
Date Sun Jan-31-10 07:56 PM
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Religion, 249 pages.

This book has made a big impact in my life during the past month. It's divided into thirty-one "lessons" that each take a statement that Jesus made about prayer and meditate on putting those words into practice in one's own prayer life. Each lesson is about 6-8 pages long, with a short prayer at the end. While each lesson is bite-sized (I read one each morning), they are dense. And I don't mean dense as in, "I'm lost in a dense jungle," but as: "Wow, I need to stop and think about that sentence some more." It's definitely thought-provoking, and required me to slow down to take it all in. I'm sure there's more for me to take in, though, so I'm putting this on my list of books to re-read. The writing style is very... formal and almost academic. Here is the first paragraph of the first lesson:

The disciples had been with Christ, and seen Him pray. They had learnt to understand something of the connection between His wondrous life in public, and His secret life in prayer. They had learnt to believe in Him as a Master in the art of prayer--none could pray like Him. And so they came to Him with the request, 'Lord, teach us to pray.' And in after years they would have told us that there were few things more wonderful or blessed that He taught them than His lessons on prayer.

Throughout the book, Murray focuses on three principle ideas: 1) that Jesus Christ is the best teacher of prayer, 2) that abiding in Him--and Murray goes into detail about what that means--gives us power in prayer and 3) that prayer should be powerful in Christians' lives and that Christians should believe the promise of receiving what they pray for. (Murray dwells on the fact that this doesn't mean God is like a vending machine!)

The most encouraging part of the book, for me: "He that waits to pray, or loses heart in prayer, because he does not yet feel the faith needed to get the answer, will never learn to believe. He who begins to pray and ask will find the Spirit of faith is given nowhere so surely as at the foot of the Throne" (page 82). I found that encouraging, because I've often felt like I "lost heart" in prayer and just quit. I think the most important lesson I took away from this book at this stage in my life is that prayer strengthens faith, which then strengthens prayer, which then strengthens faith.

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Mesg #293 "9. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift"
Author alissaameth     Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
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Date Fri Feb-05-10 10:55 PM
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Fiction, 310 pages.

I think this might be one of the strangest books I've ever read. I'd always heard of Gulliver's Travels, but I never really knew what kind of a novel it was. I knew that it was about a traveler who discovered new places and new creatures, but I didn't realize that it has such a... such an opinionated view, or agenda. That's it! I didn't realize that it was a story written with an agenda that had a lot to do with Swift's personal views and England at the time. I don't know all that much about the time period (it was published in 1726), but the notes in the back of my edition helped me out.

I didn't really enjoy reading this, and I'm trying to figure out why. I enjoy all the creative descriptions and events that Swift comes up with that I never would've thought of. I also enjoyed reading the many conversations about topics such as proper education, the usefulness (or uselessness) of science, government, the law and war in society. I was interested in trying to tease out what statements Swift was trying to make. I was not interested in Gulliver himself--but I don't think the point of the novel is to make the reader like him, it's to make the reader think about the things he says and the things he learns from his experiences and encounters.

Have you ever felt like a book was good but you just weren't in the mood for it? I think that's why I didn't enjoy reading this much. It is just so bizarre, and I don't think I was in the mood for that. For instance, the long passages where Gulliver explains to us how he manages his bodily functions when he's away from toilets (well, not toilets, but whatever the civilized English people used in that time). Or the passages where he describes being put on a giant woman's nipple. These are just not pictures I feel like getting in my head from my reading, right now. Still, on the whole, I think it is a good book--especially if you're reading to analyze an argument.

The book is divided into four parts, with each part detailing a voyage that takes him to a strange, new place. (He doesn't spend much time at home!) Invariably, something happens to his ship and he ends up alone in a new land, where he's discovered by the natives. He spends a lot of time learning about the natives' society and telling them about his own. When the time comes for him to leave and go back home, he lives for a while as if he were one of the creatures he just met. (E.g. after he comes home from visiting the little people, he keeps looking down as if the people around him are tiny. When he comes home from the horse-like people, he only talks to horses.)

The book is very satirical, although some parts seem sincere. (Sometimes I can't tell which is which.) My favorite parts were the conversations between Gulliver and the rulers he met. Typically, he would tell them about England in all it's glory (being very ironic--i.e. describing how wonderful soldiers are for being willing to kill those who haven't wronged them personally), and they would point out all its flaws, from their points of view. I like the back-and-forth of ideas.

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Mesg #295 "RE: 9. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift"
Author RavenCorbie     Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list Click to send message via AOL IM
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Date Sat Feb-06-10 01:10 AM
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In response to Reply # 15

Yeah, I know what you mean. I feel a lot the same way about Gulliver's Travels. I really like a lot of his argument, but there are times that I just don't enjoy myself as much as I think I do, if that makes any sense.

If you read some of his poems (The Lady's Dressing Room and Description of a City Shower, for example), it's clear he has a bit of a fixation on excrement and the ugliness of women, as you can also see in Gulliver.

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Mesg #303 "RE: 9. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift"
Author alissaameth     Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
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Date Sat Feb-06-10 11:14 PM
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Those... aren't great fascinations, in my opinion! I didn't know he wrote poetry.

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Mesg #308 "RE: 9. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift"
Author RavenCorbie     Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list Click to send message via AOL IM
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Date Sun Feb-07-10 02:41 PM
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I agree -- it kind of put me off Swift, but I read the poetry before I read Gulliver's Travels, sort of. I read Gulliver's Travels when I was in Russia and had no other English books, which is when I had the "why am I not enjoying myself more?" feeling. That was back in 1999.

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Mesg #318 "10. Music as a Way of Knowing by Nick Page"
Author alissaameth     Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
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Date Mon Feb-08-10 09:23 PM
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Education, 76 pages.

This book is part of a series published by Stenhouse. I'm almost done reading "Visual Arts as a Way of Knowing," and will soon be reading one about Dance and one about Drama. The focus of this series is how regular classroom teachers can incorporate the arts into their classroom. Each book in the series is written by a different author. (The book about Visual Arts is written very well--I'll be reviewing that one later.)

This author, Nick Page, seems to be very inspired about his teaching of music, but I feel that most of this short book is fluff. (I was disappointed by this. I'm a musician, so I was hoping for a better treatment of one of my favorite subjects.) The fluff is the repetition about how good music is for your brain. He does offer some very good concrete tips and examples, so I'm not completely dissing it. I guess it just left me wanting more on the subject: both breadth and depth. (Especially after reading the Visual Arts one, which made me want to draw! And I don't even like drawing much.)

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Mesg #326 "11. Confessions of a Thug by Captain Meadows Taylor"
Author alissaameth     Click to send private message to this author Click to view this author's profile Click to add this author to your buddy list
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Date Wed Feb-10-10 05:03 PM
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Historical/Crime Fiction, 338 pages.

This turned out to be a fascinating novel, despite being written in a boring and slow manner (in my opinion). I think what might have been my main problem was the plodding pace from one event to the next with little variation of tension or conflict. It seemed like every page was about the same. Because of that, I felt that I had to slog through each chapter even though the material was interesting.

The story is about a man named Ameer Ali, who is based on an Indian man that the author knew. It is the story of Ameer Ali's life as a member of the Thuggee cult in India and it is written as if the author were taking a dictation of the man's oral story. (With rare interjections from the narrator, acting as a biographer.) This is another thing that I feel distances me from the story--it is a story told to someone who is telling the story to me. However, for the most part, the narrator is pretty transparent and we see events through Ameer Ali's memory ("I did this; I did that.").

Thuggee was a cult that worshiped Kali, partly by strangling and then plundering people--mainly travelers. Groups of Thugs would go out together, fall in with a group of travelers (that often agreed to join them, thinking that they would find safety in numbers on the road), travel with them for miles as they got information from them, and then spring on them when the time was right. Kill them all, then divy up the plunder.

As you can guess, Ameer Ali is an anti-hero. That is why I find the novel fascinating. He commits all these terrible murders, yet I felt terrible for him when he lost his wife and daughter, for instance. I felt sympathetic for him when he was put into prison and not fed well. (I didn't think that he deserved to be out of prison, but that he still should've been treated humanely.) Since it's told from his perspective, the reader sees him as he sees himself. Yet I think the reader can pick up on contradictions that Ameer Ali is either blind to or ignores. For instance, it is acceptable to strangle someone when it is part of your plan but it is not honorable to, say, kill someone out of anger because they're in your way. The former is not murder; the latter is.

At the end of the day, I think it's fascinating because it's horrifying and complicated. How could someone do such things? It didn't appear to be difficult for Ameer. Would it be difficult for me?

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