Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Spot of Bother

My most recent read was A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon. I was able to get it as an advanced paperback from QPB. I started it last Thursday evening, was eager for more on Friday, but had to restrain myself as we had guests for dinner and it wasn’t very socially appropriate for me to ditch them in favor of a book. I finished the entire thing in one sitting on Saturday. With my husband away for the day, that left me and our cat to indulge in some much-needed R&R. In my opinion, there are few things better than snuggling up on the couch with my cat, a cup of tea and a good book.

Mark Haddon’s quirky, flawed characters (they remind me of those in Nick Hornby’s novels) have a way of grasping and holding my attention. I can’t wait to find out what problems will happen next and how they will react and respond. A Spot of Bother is about family, relationships and communication, or rather the lack thereof.

Everyone should be able to identify with at least one of the characters and if not, you are way too perfect, which I find highly suspicious. These characters are all so human, imperfect and funny without even meaning to be. They have misconceptions of one another, things are left unsaid or unnoticed and arguments happen as a result of this. The family patriarch, George, prides himself on ignoring unpleasantness:

Talking was, in George’s opinion, overrated. You could not turn the television on these days without seeing someone discussing their adoption or explaining why they had stabbed their husband. Not that he was averse to talking. Talking was one of life’s pleasures. […] But it did not change anything.
The secret of contentment, George felt, lay in ignoring many things completely. How anyone could work in the same office for ten years on or bring up children without putting certain thoughts permanently to the back of their mind was beyond him. (4)

George’s problems begin once he retires and realizes that this may not be the ideal way of living life. But he’s not the only one in the family with issues; his entire family is struggling to find happiness. His son, Jamie, is in a similar situation:

Jamie could see now, with absolute clarity, what he’d done.
He’d bided his time. He’d got away. He’d built a little world in which he felt safe. And it was orbiting far out, unconnected to anyone. It was cold and it was dark and he had no idea how to make it swing back toward the sun. (230)

This may not sound too uplifting, but Mark Haddon makes family dysfunction fun and mental breakdown both poignant and comical. I highly recommend! Mark Haddon’s first novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is equally enjoyable and original.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Thoughts on blogging

So, I have now been blogging for two days. I am enjoying working on it, but it is turning out so far to be an ideal procrastination tool. However, I justify this time spent by my firm belief (as of right now, at least) that this creative outlet will only help me to be more productive in my dissertation research and writing. I’m trying to finish that daunting project up this summer (let’s call it what it is: drudgery!) before teaching begins again and “free” time disappears forever. The thought process of writing & conceiving anything at all and then typing & expressing those thoughts is half the battle, isn’t it? Who knows, blogging may be the key to overcoming my writer’s block! This cartoon pretty much sums up the recent progress:
People who know about these things such as Robert Boice (Professors as Writers) and Peter Elbow (Writing without Teachers; Writing with Power) suggest daily free-writing in order to keep oneself actively writing.

There also is this book:

Another plus of blogging: writing is a very solitary activity, so blogging could be a great way for me to connect with other people. Without even getting up from my desk in my study. I can envision my husband shaking his head now. You see, the thesis has been looming over us for a while and has become a giant roadblock to the fun things in life—moving/building a house, traveling, etc.
Note to my hubby: Don’t be too hard on me! Everyone needs a little diversion. I will finish it. C’est promis!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Welcome; Southern Reading Challenge

Welcome to my blog! Not too long ago I discovered the world of blogs and began to realize that there are other people like me out there: people who read! Rather than lurking around and silently enjoying your bookish discussions, I figured it’s time for me to partake in the blogosphere and see if I can (at least occasionally) contribute something enjoyable and worthwhile.

I love words. I love language. I love books. That’s probably why I ended up studying and now, teaching French literature—I get to play around with all of these things that I love. As a result of my years of studying French, however, I have neglected my own cultural roots of south Georgia (though everyone from there emphatically calls it Middle Georgia—it is above the “gnat line,” after all). Since my knowledge of southern literature is nearly nonexistent, I’m joining the Southern Reading Challenge this summer. For the challenge, I must read (and hopefully, enjoy) three books by southern writers. I chose the following for rather personal reasons:

1. A Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery O’Connor. This Savannah-born writer spent the majority of her life in my hometown of Milledgeville, GA. She is the small town’s claim to fame and they don’t let you forget that! It’s high time I read her.
2. The Heart of a Woman, Maya Angelou. I recently heard Maya Angelou speak and found it incredibly moving. Her voice is so compelling that she could read a grocery list and I would be on the edge of my seat. I hope to find some inspiration here as she reflects on her writing in this book.
3. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain. My mother is a huge Mark Twain fan (to the point of repeatedly watching her dvd of Hal Holbrooke’s one-man show). Since I was determined to choose my books for myself when I was younger, I tended to ignore my mother’s suggestions. It is downright disgraceful that my knowledge of Twain is limited to the brief excerpts we read in high school.

Think I’ll go out tonight and buy one of these three!