April is National Poetry Month, and poetry always makes me think of Sylvia Plath. Even though the only work I’ve ever read by her is The Bell Jar, I have long wanted to explore her poetry. Maybe this is the perfect time to do so. Thoughtfully added to my To Be Read list this month is Plath’s The Colossus.
While debating literature’s greatest heroines with her best friend, thirtysomething playwright Samantha Ellis has a revelation—her whole life, she’s been trying to be Cathy Earnshaw of Wuthering Heights when she should have been trying to be Jane Eyre.
With this discovery, she embarks on a retrospective look at the literary ladies—the characters and the writers—whom she has loved since childhood. From early obsessions with the March sisters to her later idolization of Sylvia Plath, Ellis evaluates how her heroines stack up today. And, just as she excavates the stories of her favorite characters, Ellis also shares a frank, often humorous account of her own life growing up in a tight-knit Iraqi Jewish community in London. Here a life-long reader explores how heroines shape all our lives.
Did you watch “Stranger Things” on Netflix? Did you tear through it? Were you left wanting more? Then check out one of these books, sure to leave you riveted. Filled with the supernatural and extraterrestrial, normal people in bizarre circumstances, and a tinge of nostalgia, these books are must reads for anyone looking for stranger things…
I answered yes to all three of The Reading Room‘s questions above, but I’ve only heard of two of these titles–the King novel The Tommyknockers, for one–but I had no idea that John Dies at the End was a book. Whether it started that way or this is a novelization of the film matters not; it looks like I need to be making a trip to the library!
Have you guys seen Stranger Thingsyet? Did you like it? Do you think this Reading Room list does your feels from the series justice?
I am so excited to have The X Files back in active rotation. Just caught up with the first episode, “My Struggle,” and found it close to form. It generated a lot of new questions, barely answered any old questions, and gave us a whole new revised version of the old conspiracy to theorize about. All I know is I am locked in for the next episode, because I have just got to see how this mini-arc ends.
It was lovely to see Scully and Mulder “back together” and in the most awkward of consequences. They were more often trading barbs than kisses, which I’m okay with either way, but they did a fine job of simply making it feel awkward to watch them together. Again, not a bad thing, they are actors, after all, and it would be awkward to be called by a former boss to find a former lover, who is also a former co-worker, wouldn’t it? And, then, after more than a decade, hang out like it’s old times? Yep, definitely awkward.
We also get to see Skinner and the Cigarette-Smoking Man. Sans awkwardness, but with heated exchanges and statements of the obvious, respectively. And then there’s Joel McHale, playing buddy believer with Mulder, as a conservative TV host, who the New York Timesfelt was miscast here. But I thought he brought just enough energy, zeal, and overt seriousness (I mean, sometimes it felt like he was just trying too hard there.) to bring that character to life. It just reminds me that I need to start watching Community.
Overall, I was pleased, and I’m looking forward to where this little reboot takes us.
Oh, Alan Rickman, not you, too. So sad to see another favorite leave this world a little darker due to cancer. Master Rickman was 69 and will be greatly missed. Like Master Bowie, it has been a delight to share this time on Earth with you. Read the lovely Guardian article here.
Congratulations to Quentin Tarantino!! I have been a big fan of his movies since Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction. I love how he tells a story, the actors he works with, and his dialogue is always intelligent and engaging. I haven’t seen a Tarantino film that I didn’t like. Pure entertainment, and well earned! Congrats to the folks who joined him in the “Class of 2016”. Click the image to see the entire USA Today article.
Love his quote:
“That’s really cool, I must have become a big shot,” he joked during his speech. “This is a real, real groovy day.”
Simon & Schuster just sent along some information on Stephen King‘s newest short story collection. Here’s what they had to say about it. Certainly can’t wait to dig my claws into it!
A master storyteller at his best—the O. Henry Prize winner Stephen King delivers a generous collection of stories, several of them brand-new, featuring revelatory autobiographical comments on when, why, and how he came to write (or rewrite) each story.
Since his first collection, Nightshift, published thirty-five years ago, Stephen King has dazzled readers with his genius as a writer of short fiction. In this new collection he assembles, for the first time, recent stories that have never been published in a book. He introduces each with a passage about its origins or his motivations for writing it.
There are thrilling connections between stories; themes of morality, the afterlife, guilt, what we would do differently if we could see into the future or correct the mistakes of the past. “Afterlife” is about a man who died of colon cancer and keeps reliving the same life, repeating his mistakes over and over again. Several stories feature characters at the end of life, revisiting their crimes and misdemeanors. Other stories address what happens when someone discovers that he has supernatural powers—the columnist who kills people by writing their obituaries in “Obits;” the old judge in “The Dune” who, as a boy, canoed to a deserted island and saw names written in the sand, the names of people who then died in freak accidents. In “Morality,” King looks at how a marriage and two lives fall apart after the wife and husband enter into what seems, at first, a devil’s pact they can win.
Magnificent, eerie, utterly compelling, these stories comprise one of King’s finest gifts to his constant reader—“I made them especially for you,” says King. “Feel free to examine them, but please be careful. The best of them have teeth.”
President Obama almost looked happy to be delivering this message, almost. He made history last night releasing the text of his upcoming speech not just to the media, but to the public. Talking heads on one of the news stations admitted it’s how they all sound so educated and informed about it–because they see the text of the speech before the Pres even steps up to the podium. Seems like it was the most accessible State of the Union in the history of the address.
It sounded like Mr. President’s catchphrase last night was “Because it’s the right thing to do.” And, I especially loved the sentiment, “You think it’s easy raising a family on full-time income that’s less than $15,000 a year? Try it.” It sounded, for a moment, like maybe President Obama had a beer with John Fugelsang before he gave the address. That would be a cool conversation to see; hell, to sit in on!
How did you feel about the State of the Union? Did President Obama stand up to expectations or crumble beneath them?
In the decades following his death, the singer—who would have turned 80 on January 8—has been elevated to levels bordering on the religious: the sites he visited turned into pilgrimage destinations, the items he touched transformed into pop culture relics.
Graceland, his Memphis home, averages 600,000 visitors a year and has spawned duplicates both miniature and life-size. But beyond the neon lights and shag carpets, in places like Connecticut and Arkansas, live people who believe deeply in the importance of preserving the history—and legacy—of Elvis Presley in unexpected ways.
You can see their first cover post-attacks here. There was an NBC Nightly Newsstory that I caught last night about Charlie Hebdo that prompted this blog.
In one week, I’ve seen various responses to this attack. The only thing I can think to say is that Freedom of Expression isn’t something to take lightly, but it’s a two-way street. Even the language we see as “offensive” is protected, and that is because language is used to transfer thought to speech. Yes, America is a land of censorship and Puritanical morals, but we revere freedom of speech above nearly all things. We know how important it is to have a sense of humor about things like radical political leaders and horrific political attacks. It’s an added dose of perspective that we cherish, that we require in order to get some reality, some understanding out of the tragedy that can occur when people lack a sense of humor or an ability to laugh at themselves.
No, I’ve never read Charlie Hebdo, not once. I don’t even know what the political cartoon from 2005 looked like. I just know that it caused an uproar, for the folks who don’t know how to look at things outside of their own connection to them. How to take a figure of great religious import and realize that he may not be that important to other people–but that doesn’t inherently negate the importance he has to you. That also doesn’t mean you need to kill those people. Negating the different doesn’t stop people from being different; in fact, I would say it calls them to it. Murdering someone for having a sense of humor about something you don’t find funny is pointless and only makes people want to distance themselves from you.
Unless they already feel laughed at, mocked, or put down for being different.
It’s easy to say lighten up and have a laugh, but when you’ve been the butt of jokes your entire life you start to think of laughter as a weapon. It can hurt; it can isolate; it can alienate. Laughter itself and the things that incite it can be hurtful to people on the receiving end of it. Especially when the jokes come at the expense of individuality, self-esteem, and unique expression.
This isn’t about censorship–can’t stand the shit. This is about having a little understanding for the other side of the fence. This just keeps proving how important and powerful words actually are, and how dangerous they can be when the people receiving the message have a different worldview from those delivering it.
Being able to speak your mind, even if it’s aimed at someone of great political or religious import, is a beautiful thing. And I would hate to see that get stunted, limited, or stopped entirely because people can’t take a step back and consider what the agenda is behind a message, because people don’t know how to carry around an ounce of perspective for someone else’s point of view. Am I going to be incensed or angered at a narrow-minded perspective? Of course, but I would never rob a person of having that narrow-minded perspective. (Un)fortunately, they are entitled to it. All I can do is try to understand why it’s so narrow and offer to broaden it.
That’s all anyone can do. And, in that light, I have to say, “I am Charlie.” Because I revere freedom of expression over the freedom to defend that which is religiously important to you because that will always be at odds with someone else–and it is that inherent diversity that makes us a richer people. We need this diversity to prevent becoming an autocratic, oppressed race of automatons who don’t care, don’t have passion, and can’t fight for anything.
Should you stand up for what you believe in? Unabashedly yes, but that doesn’t mean you have to fight every single battle to the death. Killing people in retaliation to media they created is an act that can never be erased and will never be stood for by the good people defending and promoting the freedom of expression.
What novels scored big with readers this year? Truth is, that’s a tough question to answer, as we all seem to be looking for something a little different. However, we can definitely let you in on the books that really won us over. The following are the 10 best novels released in 2014, as voted on by myself and a number of our contributors!
10 Sergey Kuznetsov – Butterfly Skin
Verdict: Butterfly Skin reads, at times, like a vintage giallo picture… mixed with a little Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest. It’s wonderfully written and about as addictive as I imagine crack being. A stunning story that delivers tons of chills, the novel is about as disturbing as they come. Reviews of the novel seem to be a bit mixed, but lovers of the extreme are going to dig this one quite a bit.