Sunday, April 22, 2012

Explanation, Procrastination... Potato, Potahto

Currently Reading: The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

Before I actually get into discussing a specific book, I thought I should give a little more explanation about the direction and motivation for this blog. Rest assured, I do have more of a plan to this than just reading anything and then rambling about it (however, I reserve the right to change my mind about that and do not in any way promise it won’t occasionally happen… I tend to ramble). Also, I’m a little nervous about trying to analyze a book in an interesting way so I might be procrastinating just a little bit… not that I do that normally or anything *shifty eyes*...

To address the motivation part of this explanation, I had a few reasons for starting a blog besides a masochistic desire to essentially make myself do the work of an English class without any of the typical rewards, like a grade. Chief among those reasons is the desire – no, the need for more intellectual stimulation in my life because, frankly, I don’t get a lot of it from day to day. I have incredibly interesting and brilliant friends so when I have the opportunity to engage in conversations with them beyond life updates, it’s enough to sustain me for a period of time. However, in general, my life does not offer much to rouse my brain from its semi-comatose state. In fact, when I find myself going from staring at a computer at work for eight hours to staring at a TV or computer at home for another four hours before crashing, I can almost literally hear my brain cells screaming out in agony as they wither away and evaporate like the melting Wicked Witch of the West. Although, their cry is a little different…

“We’re staaarrrrvvviiinnggg!” POOF!

Because unlike the Wicked Witch, my brain cells are not melting, they’re dying. Dying of starvation. They need more nourishment and I have been a less than stellar provider, mostly leaving them pretty malnourished with Grey’s Anatomy and Friends episodes I’ve seen six zillion times already. Don’t get me wrong! My mind has enjoyed the diet of mental sweets and junk food, but I’m aware that it can’t be a long term habit without some side effects I don’t want.

One such side effect is intense laziness. Lethargy is oddly a very exhausting existence (Ugh. I guess I have to shower and feed myself. Oh god! Why is the bathroom two yards away?!! Ugh! Why is life so hard?!?). So you tend to give way to Newton’s first law of motion, which is basically an object at rest will remain at rest unless acted upon by another force, and believe me! My mind has been firmly at rest basically since graduation. I’m not sure which force was the one that had enough velocity behind it to get my mind – and my butt – in motion again, but I’m certainly grateful for it!

I do know that one of those forces was the idea that has propelled me towards creating a blog. It is the personal project I've decided to take on that will provide my brain with the sustenance it needs and my blog with more focused subject matter.

Welcome to… “Operation Become Less of An English Major Fail!”

Ok. Not the catchiest title, but it’s accurate.

Because something that has been bothering me for a couple years now are the major gaps in my English education.

Before I explain further, let me just say that I in no way blame this on any of the English teachers or professors I’ve had over the years. Looking back, I really can’t think of any English teachers I didn’t like and I can think of more than a handful that I would say I loved and that helped shape my life, corny and cliché as that may sound. Plus, the continuation of the gaps in college was mostly my fault given that I was in control of the courses I took and, therefore, of which books I read.

That being said, it truly stuns me sometimes to think about all of the classic and famous novels I haven’t read! Especially the ones that are typical reading for secondary school. I mean, really? I haven’t read 1984? I’ve never cracked the cover of The Grapes of Wrath? It took me until the summer after college to finally read Catch 22?  

And you call yourself an English major? My inner critic scoffs.

I’m not sure who thought it was more important for me to read any of the rather obscure books I did than it was for me to read Brave New World or Wuthering Heights, but I’d have to disagree with their choices.

So I’m taking matters into my own hands. I have no definitive list of these “classics” to work off of at the moment, but I’m trying to find one from a reputable source and work my way through it (P.S. I’d really appreciate if anyone had any suggestions!). However, I don’t just want to read these novels the way I would mindlessly read a book at the beach. It feels like I would be missing out on half the experience of reading them if I didn’t take the time to analyze them the way I would have if they had actually been assigned reading.

Lucky – or completely unlucky – for you, for an unlimited time only, there’s a space on this journey for everyone!

Before you decide that this idea makes reading my blog sound as painful as having a cavity filled while the dentist simultaneously breaks your nose, I’d like to point out that the beauty of a blog is that this does not have to be written in a formal or academic way at all. I’m excited at the prospect of writing about what I'm reading without needing to filter what I say to make it appropriate to hand in for a grade. If a character is acting like an ass, I don’t have to find the polite way of saying, “He’s acting like an ass." I can just say it.

With a fire suddenly and inexplicably set under my butt to finally get started, I’m armed with a purpose and a plan and beginning this blog. Provided I can actually stop procrastinating on doing the hard part...

Monday, April 16, 2012


Currently Reading: The Sirens of Titan  by Kurt Vonnegut

Greetings blogosphere! Welcome to Novel Ideas, a nerdy English major’s catharsis in which she can discuss, critique, mock, rant about, gush over, and just generally talk about books.

When I graduated from The College of William & Mary about a year ago, I promptly threw a congratulatory celebration for myself about never having to write an academic paper or analyze a book ever again! I patted myself on the back and, honestly, had a beer or two for surviving the Paper Regime, an era of oppression that included the year of six English courses and the infamous (among my friends and family) “Duck Paper,” a 22-paged paper all about ducks. Yeah. Ducks. I’m a fountain of somewhat useless duck facts now. The latter was the last college paper I ever had to write and I rejoiced! Finally! It was all over! Never again would I have to wrack my brain for an original and genius paper topic! Never again would I have to stress about the perfect thesis wording! Never again would my poor books be overwhelmed with post-it notes marking the perfect supporting quotes! Never again would a paper force me to pull an all-nighter – a practice I had become as accustomed to as someone who regularly travels between the United States and China! Freedom felt good.

I further praised myself for outwitting many of my paper-oppressed peers. Unlike those poor souls, I had made the brilliant and practical decision to enter the (slightly more) lucrative, paper-free “real world” after college instead of grad school. Much like Peter Pan, I was smug over “the cleverness of me.” You think you’re so smart going to grad school? I thought, Then how come I’m staying up until 4 AM because I’m having fun at a bar and you’re up until 4 AM writing a paper? MWAHAHAHAHA! Take THAT future Masters and Doctors!

But then a strange thing began happening… 

I initially enjoyed the first months of paper freedom, during which the most writing I did was on gchat or Facebook, with a few cover letters (the bane of my existence) thrown in there. Then, I started feeling the itch to read again, a normal enough feeling for me. So I thought I could get a quick fix with reading a book for pleasure. Only, oddly, I couldn’t just enjoy a book anymore. Instead, I found myself unconsciously analyzing what I was reading… and then craving to discuss it! I missed the more challenging novels in my English classes. I missed the discussions with my English classmates. I missed questioning aspects of a novel and then proposing possible answers. 

Slowly, the horrifying truth became so clear I couldn’t ignore it:

I missed writing academic papers.

Oh cruel irony.

The first step is admitting I have a problem. Hello, my name is Meredith and I’m an eternal English nerd. The second step? Getting a blog of course!

So here I am. Ready to dive back into books and into book analysis and discussion!

Admittedly, I’m pretty new to the world of blogging. I’ve only had one narcissistic (and thankfully brief) encounter with a Livejournal when I was fifteen and from that time – and the unfortunate time of Xanga – I have associated blogging with whiny, spiteful teenagers who don’t understand that their problems are not actually that interesting, unique or problematic. Or with people who have found far too specific a niche like reviewing the different types of Doritos. Can you say, “I have too much time on my hands”? However, after seeing some beautifully done blogs (including my friend Miriam’s – whose life is FAR more interesting than mine will ever be), I’m taking the plunge! 

Hopefully I’ll have something novel to say :)