2018 TBR Pile Challenge

October Checkpoint! #TBR2018RBR

Hello, TBR Pile Challengers!

Here we are, in the middle of October. Suddenly, the days seem to be barreling down on us, with time quickly running out for this little challenge of ours. If you’re like me, you have a lot of reading left to do before the year’s end. Question of the Month: Since this is October, do you have any spooky/scary/creepy books on your TBR Pile Challenge list?

My Progress: 7 of 12 Completed / 5 of 12 Reviewed

I’ve now managed to read 7 of my books and am currently reading number 8. I’ve reviewed 5 so far (just need to get my thoughts down on Pudd’nhead Wilson and Good Without God! Progress from last month, then, isn’t great, but it is still progress!

My completed reads:

How are you doing?

index

Below, you’re going to find the infamous Mr. Linky widget. If you read and review any challenge books this month, please link-up on the widget below. This Mr. Linky will be re-posted every month so that we can compile a large list of all that we’re reading and reviewing together this year. Each review that is linked-up on this widget throughout the year may also earn you entries into future related giveaways, so don’t forget to keep this updated! At the end of the challenge, all entries will go into one big raffle for the $50 book prize!

MINI-CHALLENGE #4 WINNER

Congratulations to Barbara H., who was the randomly selected winner of Mini-Challenge #4! Barbara will receive one book of her choice ($20 USD or less) to be selected from The Book Depository.

LINK UP YOUR REVIEWS

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Sunday Salon

Sunday Salon (1:9)

RBR Sunday Salon

Volume 1, Issue 9

Another happy autumn Sunday to you all! You may have noticed the lack of a Sunday Salon last week, for which I apologize. It was a crazy week and I didn’t get much time to read for pleasure, so I thought it best to hold back for a week rather than share links to things I hadn’t had a chance to peruse myself, yet.

That said, I’m back with a bang this week! There were so many interesting stories in a variety of topic areas this week (or that I discovered this week, anyway.) I hope you’ll enjoy some of the items below. Let me know what you think! And did I miss anything substantial? Leave it in the comments. 🙂

Blog Posts I Loved

  • Hogglestock: Which Class Would You Take? “There is no place more quietly exciting than a campus bookstore in the fall. After I had exhausted all the regular bookstores in Berkeley I found myself in a few that sold course books. I thought fondly of how much I loved going course book shopping when I was in school.”
  • Brevity: Explaining Pain: How I Wrote “A Murder of Crows.” “The story of the murder came from our eldest son who had attended and then worked as a counselor in a local children’s camp. One of his last summers, perhaps even the last, he came home from the first week with a terrible story.”
  • On Bookes: The Penguin Book of the Undead. “The book, as the subtitle promises us, takes us through 1,500 years of the supernatural beginning with an extract from Homer’s Odyssey: Odysseus in the House of Death, the to Pliny the Younger’s musings on the existence of ghosts from his Letters, and finally for that section an extract from Lucan’s Pharsalia.”
  • In Libris Veritas: Graphic Novel Review: Saga Vol. 7. “I have long maintained that Saga’s strength lay in the story of family and what they are willing to do in order to stay together and protect them. In some ways, this is still true, but I find that 7 volumes in that’s not really enough anymore.”

Literary Miscellany

  • The Paris Review: The Silence of Sexual Assault in Literature. “The hashtag #WhyIDidntReport generated thousands of testimonies about the societal forces that push victims into silence in the aftermath of assault. That silence, unheard by anyone else but shatteringly loud inside one’s head, is an open secret in American life. It is also an open secret in American literature.”
  • Book Riot: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Dives Back into Mystery with Mycroft and Sherlock. “You may know Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as a legendary basketball player. What you may not know is that he’s a huge Holmesian (literally and figuratively) and a fantastic writer. Since leaving the game, Abdul-Jabbar has served as a U.S. cultural ambassador and he’s written extensively and widely.”

History & Politics

  • The New Yorker: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Unlikely Path to the Supreme Court. “Unlike candidates for political office, most sitting Justices have preferred to remain, if not anonymous, largely unknown. The position is unelected, the appointment is for life, and the Justices are not supposed to place themselves in the public eye, for fear of making themselves beholden to public opinion: arguably, the less attention to their personal lives the better.”
  • The Nib: Drag Balls of the Civil War. “Queerness has always existed—even on the Civil War battlefield.”

Culture & Society

  • Ones to Watch: From a Young Wolverine to Cultural Pop Icon: The ‘Bloom’ of Troye Sivan. “If I have ever used the term “bop” unironically and unapologetically, it has been when describing Troye Sivan’s music. The 23-year-old triple threat from Johannesburg, South Africa, albeit groomed by Perth, Australia, is more than a glowing pop superstar; he is changing the very fabric of what pop looks like.”
  • JSTOR Daily: From Samhain to Halloween. “Even if our daily lives have little connection to agricultural seasons, we often celebrate Halloween by decorating our homes with gourds and corn. We carve pumpkins into the image of Jack-o’-Lantern, even if we don’t know his story.”

Science, Tech., & Nature

Teaching & Writing

  • The Chronicle: A Letter to Post-Graduate Student Me. “What your professors expect — more than anything — is for you to want to learn because you’re passionate about a topic, not because you’re passionate about doing well.”
  • EdSurge: Can You Teach Good Writing? “McPhee lays out his course in his latest book, Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process, and I was eager to talk to him about his craftsmanship as a teacher. To my surprise, though, he downplayed his impact in the classroom, and even suggested that you can’t really teach the kind of writing that he, in fact, teaches.”

Recent Posts from Roof Beam Reader

  • Nothing new.

Currently Reading

  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • Good Without God by Greg Epstein

Thank you for stopping by and taking part in another SUNDAY SALON. There was much to choose from this week, and I hope I have presented you with a decent selection. I would love to hear your thoughts on any of these or the other things you’ve read this week! (Tell me what I missed!) 


All work found on roofbeamreader.com is copyright of the original author and cannot be borrowed, quoted, or reused in any fashion without the express, written permission of the author.


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Sunday Salon

Sunday Salon (1:8)

RBR Sunday Salon

Volume 1, Issue 8

Happy Sunday, readers! I hope the early autumn season is treating you well, so far, and that you are finding plenty of time for reading and relaxation. As is typical for me, this Sunday leaves me with far too much to do, and far too little time for relaxation; but that’s what being a procrastinator gets you!

Once again, there was a lot in the news this week on a variety of topics, and even more great reading to be found in the literary and blog spheres. I couldn’t possibly share everything I read, liked, or bookmarked, but here are some I wanted to note. I hope you find something interesting in the links below!

Blog Posts I Loved

  • My Untitled Project: Fall. I feel as though all summer I got burnt up, like leaves on a tree, and now I am ready to shed all of these old, dead appendages. I am ready to stand with nothing, to turn inward and hibernate during the cold months, then bloom beautifully in the spring.
  • Note to My White Self: In Support of White History Month. Recently, a woman of color asked me, “What do you know about whiteness?” I stumbled through a response, offering some abstract thoughts about white supremacy and privilege.  She was not impressed.
  • Jess Witkins Happiness Project: What It’s Like to Be a Woman in America. Like so many women right now, this past week has made me feel a full cup’s worth of anxiety and two tablespoons of crushing grief. Then mix that with a blender powered by my rage with the patriarchy, and you have a slight understanding of where I’m at right now.

Literary Miscellany

  • Book Riot: Women, Trauma, and Haunted Houses. But what do women do in the haunted house? How does the haunted house function as the terrain on which women work out their fears and anxieties? In this post, I examine three haunted house books written by women to find out.
  • Lit Hub: 30 of the Worst Couples in Literature. All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, Tolstoy wrote. Same goes for couples. That is, the bad ones may be very bad, but they sure make for some great stories—particularly when everyone involved is fictional, so you can indulge your romantic schadenfreude guilt-free.

History & Politics

  • Politico: Why Jane Fonda Doesn’t Hate Donald Trump. You want to tell people things they don’t know,” Fonda said on the podcast. “Just like what changed and saved my life was being told things I didn’t know by American soldiers. We have to reach out and listen and then respond in a way that’s meaningful.”
  • Lit Hub: William Faulkner was Really Bad at Being a Postman. The inspector goes on to accuse Faulkner of various faults, including failing to deliver letters, mistreating mail of all types, permitting “unauthorized persons” into the office, and writes that he has heard reports of how Faulkner is “indifferent to interest of patrons, unsocial, rarely ever speak[ing] to patrons of the office unless absolutely necessary.

Culture & Society

Science, Tech., & Nature

  • The New York Times: Caffeine May Increase Pain Tolerance. The experiment controlled for sex and race, current tobacco use and alcohol consumption, among other variables that could affect pain sensation. Still, they found that the more caffeine consumed, the greater the tolerance for pain.
  • CNET: Facebook Breach Put Data of 50-Million Users At Risk. Facebook also said later Friday that the breach also affected third-party apps that you have linked to your Facebook account, including Instagram. As a precautionary measure, Facebook logged about 90 million people out of their accounts, the company said.

Teaching & Writing

  • The Chronicle: On Not Reading. The activity of nonreading is something that scholars rarely discuss. When they — or others whose identities are bound up with books — do so, the discussions tend to have a shamefaced quality. Blame “cultural capital” — the sense of superiority associated with laying claim to books that mark one’s high social status.
  • Good News, Bad News. I get so bogged down in the day-to-day that, much of the time, I forget to do what it is I need to do, which is to write. Hearing from publishers who think your work has value and meaning does much to reinvigorate the spirit!

Recent Posts from Roof Beam Reader

Currently Reading

  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Thank you for stopping by and taking part in another SUNDAY SALON. There was much to choose from this week, and I hope I have presented you with a decent selection. I would love to hear your thoughts on any of these or the other things you’ve read this week! (Tell me what I missed!) 


All work found on roofbeamreader.com is copyright of the original author and cannot be borrowed, quoted, or reused in any fashion without the express, written permission of the author.


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Sunday Salon

Sunday Salon (1:7)

RBR Sunday Salon

Volume 1, Issue 7

A fine Sunday to you, dear readers! The autumn season has now officially arrived and we’re sure feeling the cool down here in Las Vegas! By that I mean, we’ve actually had a few consecutive days where temperatures did not reach 100-degrees. Progress! (It’s still in the mid-and upper-90s.) That said, a cool down is a cool down, and it is psychologically even more affecting, I think. With the temperature break, Jesse and I decided to spend the weekend outdoors, most significantly in another hike around Red Rock Canyon. The pictures I’ve included in this week’s Salon are from Saturday’s journey through the canyon. Hope you enjoy!

That said, I still managed to find time throughout the week to do quite a bit of pleasure reading, including the usual topics (science, environment, education, writing, politics, etc.) It was a pretty interesting reading week, in fact, and I hope you’ll find something here that you enjoy. Let me know your thoughts!

Blog Posts I Loved

  • Flying Paperbacks: Tropes That Can Burn Their Tongues on Hot Oatmeal. “As of late, I’ve been reading a lot of tropey books, but that’s not what made me think of this post. And I started thinking: tropes are a thing… am I okay with them? I mean, the answer is no, some tropes irk my soul and I’m going to dish them out.”
  • Beth Fish Reads: Thoughts on 10 Years of Blogging. “The very best part about blogging: I’ve made some amazing friends in the last 10 years, and I’ve been fortunate enough to meet many of them in real life. Some no longer blog, but I still keep up with their lives through mutual friends or social media. I had no idea that the community of book bloggers would be filled with so many wonderful people.
  • Adventures of a Bibliophile: Reading Recommendations-Banned Books (Diverse Books Edition). ” I want to share some of my favorite diverse banned books. There are so many great diverse books out there, and some of my favorites have at one point been banned or challenged (let’s face it, a lot of amazing books have).”

Literary Miscellany

  • Literary Hub: How the Great Lorraine Hansberry tried to Make Sense of it All. “In 34 years, the briefest life of the great Hansberrys, she left a lasting impression. She was an artist and an activist. She was strident and striking, an aesthete, and, as John Oliver Killens called her, ‘a socialist with a black nationalist perspective.'”
  • Vulture: A Premature Attempt at the 21st Century Canon. “You never know exactly what you’ll discover when sending out a survey like this, the results of which owe something to chance and a lot to personal predilections. But given the sheer volume of stuff published each year, it is remarkable that a survey like this would yield any kind of consensus—which this one did.”
  • Cosmopolitan: The 15 YA Books Every Adult Should Read. “Let’s be clear: there is ~no shame~ in loving young adult literature, even if you yourself are, say, an “old” or “regular” adult. In fact, studies show that more than half of YA readers are actually adult-adults, which sort of calls the whole meaning of the phrase into question and makes you wonder if this system of categorizing books by target audience is dumb to begin with.”

History & Politics

Culture & Society

  • CN Traveler: Starbucks Has Officially Landed in Italy. “The 25,000 square-foot Reserve Roastery is being hailed as their “most beautiful store to-date,” according to a press release, with a mosaic floor handcrafted in the Northern Italian Palladiana style and marble countertops sourced from Tuscany (and unlike in most espresso bars, these ones are heated). There’s also a wood-oven bakery dubbed The Princi Bakery, a 22-foot bronze cask roasting coffee beans, an affogato station, and an open-air terrace.”

Science, Tech., & Nature

  • JSTOR Daily: Do Artificial Reefs Work? “In many areas, authorities are disposing of old objects at sea to provide fish habitats. To create an artificial reef (AR), a large structure such as a ship is cleaned of toxic materials and dumped at sea. These can be anything from sculpted balls of cement to old subway cars.”

Teaching & Writing

  • The Chronicle: How Notre Dame Rethought Its Core Curriculum. “This fall Notre Dame introduced the most noteworthy changes to its core curriculum in more than 40 years, following a lengthy review process. Among other changes, the new core will provide a more cohesive and thoughtful introduction to the liberal arts.”
  • The Chronicle: The Insidious Imps of Writing. “Academics must write. Otherwise they don’t pass their grad courses, finish their dissertations, or get jobs, promotions, and raises. But barring us from success are the Imps of Inertia and the Wall of Habitual Self.”

Posts from Roof Beam Reader

Currently Reading

  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • People Kill People by Ellen Hopkins

Thank you for stopping by and taking part in another SUNDAY SALON. There was much to choose from this week, and I hope I have presented you with a decent selection. I would love to hear your thoughts on any of these or the other things you’ve read this week!


All work found on roofbeamreader.com is copyright of the original author and cannot be borrowed, quoted, or reused in any fashion without the express, written permission of the author.


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Blog Post, Personal Essay

Sweet Surprises and Judgmental Me

This is a little story about gratitude and trying to be a better person.

On Thursday night, my spouse and I went out to dinner. I was in the mood for pizza, so we went to a place called BJ’s, which is a kind of mash-up between family style and sports bar.

Being a Thursday night in September, there was a football game on, and I tend to get invested in these things. I was rooting for the Browns to win their first game and we got there in the final quarter. It was a close game. Fortunately, there wasn’t anyone seated too near us, until about 15-minutes later, when a large group came in together and were seated at two tables right behind us.

They weren’t particularly loud or anything, but a few of them kept getting up to go to the bathroom or wherever. I get annoyed by little things, and this was doing it. I also noticed it was the same few members of that group who kept getting up and wandering off. I figured drugs or sex in the bathroom, because I’m a non-judgmental optimist who always thinks the best of people.

Then, just as the game ended, two of the group, a guy and girl, stood up and starting singing Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect.” They actually sounded great, yet my first reaction was, “are you kidding? People are trying to enjoy their own dinners!” As they were near to finishing, a young woman in a red dress got up from her side of the table, carrying some kind of poem in her hand. She knelt in front of another young woman, sitting closer to our table, read the poem, pulled out a ring, and proposed. It was a “yes.”

It was all pre-planned. Their families and friends were there to share in that moment and celebrate it. The tables around our section clapped for them. It was like being in a movie; I’d never seen it happen in person before. And it got me thinking.

When I’m self-involved, I tend to get irritated by things that really are no big deal. But when I’m invited into others’ special moments like that, I feel real gratitude for being part of it. I was thrilled to have been a witness to that loving moment, and especially to see them surrounded by such support and positivity.

I wish we could do more of that for each other, but of course we have to get over ourselves first. I needed the reminder, and I’m thankful for it.

Post-Script: We sent dessert to their tables, which was fun. I’d never done that before either. I hope it added just a tiny bit more joy to their special night. 

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The Folio Society

Folio Friday: Brideshead Revisited

This week, I’m excited to share with you all another new selection from the September catalog of The Folio Society. As many of you know, I’m a devoted fan of The Folio Society editions of classic literature, and the three I received so generously from the publisher have done nothing but encourage my adoration. This week, I want to highlight their new edition for one of my favorite books, BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh.

I’m drawn in by the incredible cover art and the interior illustrations that The Folio Society are known for, and one  thing I truly appreciate about their editions is the thought and design they put into their sturdy slipcovers. This particular design is one of the more stunning from any Folio Society I’ve seen, which is saying something!

I also think it is quite the match for the overall atmosphere of the novel, and it reminds me very much of the endearing Sebastian Flyte, one of my favorite literary characters. I fell in love with him the first time I read BRIDESHEAD, and this design, plus the interior artwork, lives up to the romance and magic of my first impressions.

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

  • Introduced by A. N. Wilson
  • Illustrated by Harry Brockway

Mr Waugh is very definitely an artist, with something like a genius for precision and clarity not surpassed by any novelist writing in English in his time.

Chosen as one of Time magazine’s 100 greatest novels of all time, this is Waugh’s most popular book, combining aching sympathy for the passing of privilege with the best of his razor-sharp wit.

Charles Ryder’s cousin warned him against taking rooms on the ground floor of his Oxford College, so when the young Lord Sebastian Flyte is sick through his window, it seems he should have heeded the advice. However, no one is immune to Sebastian’s inimitable charm and soon a relationship develops that will change Charles’s life forever.

The novel pinpoints a very precise moment in British social history and Waugh perfectly recreates the ambiance of the period; the aristocracy cling to their privilege and Ryder becomes increasingly vocal about his anti-religious sentiment. Despite the distractions of the beautifully crafted prose, the reader remains painfully aware of the imminent war, while Ryder and his contemporaries enjoy the bounties of privilege, blissfully ignorant of impending events.

This new edition from The Folio Society is illustrated with wood-engravings by award-winning artist Harry Brockway. His stylized scenes perfectly evoke Brideshead and its characters’ devil-may-care lives. Brockway also designed the striking binding art – a languid portrait for the front and subtle motifs of swirling cigarette smoke on the back.

In the newly commissioned introduction to this edition, award-winning novelist A. N. Wilson writes of the ache for an aesthetically purer past and how Brideshead represent the idea of a balanced, crafted and ‘above all, enjoyable’ novel.

About the Publisher: For 70 years, The Folio Society has been publishing beautiful illustrated editions of the world’s greatest books. It believes that the literary content of a book should be matched by its physical form. With specially researched images or newly commissioned illustrations, many of its editions are further enhanced with introductions written by leading figures in their fields: novelists, journalists, academics, scientists and artists. Exceptional in content and craftsmanship, and maintaining the very highest standards of fine book production, Folio Society editions last for generations.

Book copy and all images are courtesy of The Folio Society. Feel free to review the September Collection, it is brilliant! In case you missed them, take a look at my Folio Friday features for THE THOMAS HARDY COLLECTION and for Ursula K. Le Guin’s THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS.

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Criticism, Dorian Gray in Theory, Essay, Literary Criticism, Non-Fiction, Oscar Wilde, Theory

Dorian Gray, In Theory (Part 5)

Last month, I introduced a five-part project exploring Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece, The Picture of Dorian Gray, as viewed through various critical lenses. I began in Part 1 with Formalism. This week, I take a very brief look at the novel from a Feminist perspective and conclude with some brief, final thoughts. I have to say, looking back at a favorite novel through a variety of lenses has been a challenging but rewarding task. I actually had quite a lot of fun with it and thought about the novel in new and different ways.

Feminism

A theory which need be applied to The Picture of Dorian Gray, but which seems surprisingly lacking, is the Feminist approach. Perhaps the small amount of feminist criticism written about this novel, or at least the difficulty in finding it, is due to the fact that feminist and queer theories are both relatively “new” schools (in terms of the overall history of theory and criticism), coming about at roughly the same time and, naturally, queer theory took firm hold of Dorian Gray. Be that as it may, it seems to me that much should be said about the lack of female presence in Dorian Gray, and also about the disturbing picture of women presented in the minor character roles which do exist for them.

In her essay, “Chloe Liked Olivia,” Virginia Woolf states that, “all the great women of fiction were . . . not only seen by the other sex, but seen only in relation to the other sex. And how small a part of a woman’s life is that” (Leitch 1024). This is absolutely true for Sybil Vane. Not only is she seen simply and briefly through men’s eyes (Oscar Wilde, as the writer, but also Dorian Gray and Lord Henry, as observers) but she also must play a boy on stage. Further, her importance in the story is only to the extent that she causes Dorian’s first slip into wickedness.

Other female characters in the novel include: Lady Agatha, Mrs. Vane, Lady Victoria Wotten, and Lady Brandon, all of whom only exist within the story to further the male roles. As a feminist, I wonder how Virginia Woolf must have read The Picture of Dorian Gray; I believe it is doing a great disservice to feminist theory to leave such a marker text out of the discussion. Though Queer theorists may have seized Dorian Gray –and for good reason– there is still room for discussion on many points of feminist theory, especially taking into consideration the role that Oscar Wilde’s own wife must have played on the portrayal of Sybil Vane. And, further, what does a gay man, married to a woman, have to offer the feminist community?

Concluding Thoughts

The possibilities for examining a text like The Picture of Dorian Gray are endless, but one must stop somewhere, at least for a little while. Any school of criticism can be applied to such an extraordinary text, and thus bring about new questions and new modes of examination. Placing many theories side-by-side, or interlacing them, perhaps, is an even greater way of coming up with new ideas, noticing nuances that were once overlooked.

The point of this series is to consider a single novel from a variety of critical perspectives, and to explore how one might go about that process. It demonstrates how The Picture of Dorian Gray has “changed” over time (or how reception of it has changed), simply by being read again and again. I hope that, after thinking of how different generations have read this one novel, we might remember to think more broadly, even more exotically, about other texts we read in the future. It is important to keep in mind that, just as two people reading one text at the same time will not walk away with the same feeling, the same understanding of it, so too will different generations, different cultures, different religions, different classes, and different genders have even further interpretations of that text. The experiment, indeed, arose from my own re-readings of a number of books, many of which I responded to quite differently with each new reading.

This series, I hope, is just a beginning, a tip to the iceberg of understanding. I hope, personally, to continue to ask questions about my reading(s), to re-examine old ideas, and to revisit texts from a new perspective; and, by doing these, I hope to encourage my own growth as a reader (and writer).

Please visit early segments for my thoughts on Dorian Gray and Formalism; Dorian Gray and Reader-Response; Dorian Gray and Post-Structuralism; and Dorian Gray and Marxism. If you have any ideas about another novel (or short story) that I should try this kind of experiment on, let me know!

Works Cited and Consulted

  • Leitch, Vincent B ed. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2001.
  • Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
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