The date on this post will probably say November 18, but that will be a lie as far as the day Doris Lessing died, which is actually today, the 17th, here in America. I want to point this out first because Doris Lessing is among the greatest writers I’ve ever read, and I want to do her justice by getting the date right; and I also think it’s appropriate to start out a blog post about her by pointing out the arbitrary nature of language and its inherent inability to achieve its own ideal of absolute, clear, effective communication exactly because the whole thing is made up and only exists because we all pretend it does.. If you didn’t know, Lessing was a postmodern novelist. More
November 18, 2013
November 13, 2013
For a while now, For Whom the Bell Tolls has been my main war novel. I read it when I was sixteen, and it was the first story to expose to me the deluded simplification of war and violence that most people grow up learning–at least, it was the first one that I listened to and understood. I’ve tried rereading it a couple times, but I’m only ever able to get through the first quarter of the book, up until Pilar tells Jordan the story of how the Spanish republican rebels captured her home town and executed the local fascist party members. It was a brutal and emotionally draining message about how ideology becomes just an abstract concept for an individual caught in a war, and how all a person can really do is try to survive and keep on being a human, but ideology can even take their humanity from them. Every time I finish that part, the force of the truth of warfare is just too heavy. I need to take a break, and I never get back to it.
Now I’ve just finished reading Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, and I feel like it deserves to be my new go-to war novel, except that I’m not sure if it’s fair to compare the two. It might not exactly be fair to compare The Things They Carried to any other war novel I can think of. It’s just as concerned with the truth of warfare as any book brave enough to take on something like that, but it’s the only one that grapples with the challenge itself: how to tell that kind of truth at all. More
September 25, 2013
I first got myself a Facebook account in 2008 only because my friend was hugely crushing on a girl he was super excited to tell me all about and have me meet, and I guess the way to do this in the 21st century is through social media. But by then Facebook had far exceeded the threshold of usership past which everyone would switch to and stick with it just because all their friends were using it, so I stuck around, and a couple of my friends there managed to accidentally expose me to the Vlogbrothers through their constant fangirl wall posts.
So I got to know John and Hank Green, two brothers in their late 20s at the time, as they did a collaborative Youtube vlog in which each would record himself talking to the other for four minutes about whatever he had on his mind. More
Schindler’s List, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and “saying about”/”saying with.” Also Spielberg and Kubrick
September 22, 2013
Illinois Wesleyan is pretty big on theater, and I ended up seeing a few plays for English classes. I can’t remember at all what the last one I saw was called, but I can vividly remember what it was about. A Jewish family from Poland is separated before the second war when the father moves to America with the younger of the two daughters. Their plan was to wait for him to make enough money to bring over the mother and other sister and her husband, but the war breaks out before that can happen. The play is set after the war, when the older sister is found alive and comes to America to live with her sister in the city.
Some of my friends loved it to death, while a few others agreed with me that there seemed to be something not quite right about it. I think most of my problems came from acting and directing decisions, but I didn’t know how to articulate it at the time, so when my friend asked me how it didn’t tear my heart open, I said something stupid like “There’s been tons of things about the Holocaust. What is there left to say about it?” My friend immediately said “everything.” More
September 14, 2013
I’m back in Illinois with a couple of jobs now, but, in the interim of moving back home from Washington and figuring out what to do with myself, I had enough free time to seriously get into doing something like reading a 1300 page book. About a year ago, I picked up what was supposed to be a really excellent translation of Hugo’s Les Miserables after another wave of English major guilt made me feel like I needed to read it someday, so, I figured that this was the time. I got a little bit of somewhere in this book with the first week of reading, before I got a job and stuff, but there’s no way I’ll have this done before I stop caring about keeping this blog up. So, Les Mis Part One: the 200 or so pages I’ve read so far and what I think I’ve learned from it about books and things. More
Review of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope, by Ian Doescher, and my first chance to talk about Shakespeare
August 16, 2013
This is the kind of thing for which I’ve been waiting a long time but just never realized the fact until I saw it on a bookstore shelf about a week ago.
See, I used to be a drastically different person back in high school. As a little kid, I was painfully shy, and I had about two friends at any given time. Around middle school, I came out of my shell a little too much and actually got myself involved with lots of acting sorts of things. I was never very good at it, but it was what my friends were doing, and I have to admit it was pretty fun. It was especially fun when I got my first big break playing Oberon in our production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream my sophomore year–a production commonly considered among the best if not the best show my high school ever put on. I didn’t know much about Shakespeare before then, but this left a good taste in my mouth and an appetite for a lot more. More
August 10, 2013
One of the first movie reviews I ever wrote for The Argus was of District 9, which was probably a pretty nice one to get started on. It was a well-made and thoughtful movie with a unique story behind its creation giving me tons of material with which to fill a 500-word space, including an attention-grabbing warning that it was probably the most brutally violent movie I’d ever seen. Now director and screenwriter Niell Blomkamp has a second thoughtful and intense sci-fi action movie for me to review, Elysium. And, again, I had no problem thinking of lots of things to say even as the movie was making me cringe with disgust or freeze with tension. More