Reading Time ｡◕‿◕｡
This is awesome!!
I would find it so adorable and annoying if my cat passed out on one of the random books laying around my room.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: The new acquisitions! I went to a couple of used bookstores the past two weeks and went a little crazy. Slowly but suely, i’m hunting down all of the books on my my grad school reading list >:) Muahahahaha~~
Now, those of you paying attention at home may be thinking, “Hey, you’re fucking up, man — ‘Germinal’ by Emile Zola wasn’t on the list. You’re a cheat! J’accuse!” Yes, yes, i’m well aware that one wasn’t on my original list. However, after doing some resesrch on Zola’s written work, and seeing the unbeatable price on a Penguin Classic Edition of the novel ($5 - Thanks, Caliban’s!) I decided to switch it up. I just couldn’t resist a story about the plight and eventual revolution of some French proletariats :P
So hopefully I can really start making progress on these. As far as my list goes, I’m going to get the short ones (Huck Finn, Pamela, Heart of Darkness, etc) out of the way first, and save the meaty stuff like Don Quixote and Moby Dick for last. The work goes on!
So I decided since I’m taking a year off until applying to grad school, I might as well do something constructive towards an MFA besides coming up with short story ideas randomly at work. So I took the initiative and looked up a suggested reading guide for one of the schools that I was interested in. My goal is to read the allotted literature in time for the admission deadlines for the next school year. The number of books that are suggested a hopeful applicant to have read is a little staggering — 30 books total, from multiple genres and, thusly, of vastly different styles. The ones I picked from the list are:
- Moll Flanders — Daniel Defoe
- Emma — Jane Austen
- Great Expectations — Charles Dickens
- Pamela — Samuel Richardson
- Heart of Darkness — Joseph Conrad
- Sons and Lovers — D. H. Lawrence
- Moby Dick — Herman Melville
- Huckleberry Finn — Mark Twain
- The Great Gatsby — F. Scott Fitzgerald
- As I Lay Dying — WIlliam Faulkner
- Invisible Man — Ralph Ellison
- Their Eyes Were Watching God — Zora N. Hurston
- The Grapes of Wrath — John Steinbeck
- Naked Lunch — William Burroughs
- Catch 22 — Joseph Heller
- The Complete Short Novels of Anton Chekhov
- The Metamorphosis — Franz Kafka
- The Stranger — Albert Camus
- Pere Goriot — Honore Balzac
- Don Quixote — Cervantes
- Crime and Punishment — Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- Madame Bovary — Gustave Flaubert
- The Necklace and Other Tales — Guy de Maupassant
- The Red and the Black — Stendhal
- Anna Karenina — Leo Tolstoy
- Fathers and Sons — Ivan Turgenev
- Candide — Voltaire
- Nana — Emile Zola
- A Hundred Years of Solitude — Gabriel Garcia Marquez
- Nausea — Jean-Paul Sartre
The titles in bold are the novels that I already own — for the rest, I’m trying to decide if I would rather buy them for cheap at my local bookstore or just rent them out at my library. A few things to note so that the Writers of Tumblr don’t unleash their wrath:
- Most of the ones at the beginning of the list, I started a while ago (most likely in college, for some lit class) and I just never finished. That’s why I own them
- OF COURSE I’VE READ THE GREAT GATSBY. But it was like in middle school, so I bought again to reread it.
- I started Anna Karenina about two months ago — getting towards the end of it right now, actually (LOVE IT, by the way). It’s actually what inspired me to make this reading goal in the first place!
Anyways, in addition to adding these titles to my Goodreads account, I decided another way to keep track of my progress and actually make sure that I understand what I’m reading, I’ll post something about the book i recently finished and share my thoughts with the Interwebs! Stay posted for book reviews, debates, and a ton of more book porn — it’s about to get literary up in this bitch.
Issue No. 84
The narrator of Jason Porter’s “We Were Down” has a groundbreaking theory: everyone (including you) is depressed. And he doesn’t mean that we’re depressed in a benign, smile-and-carry-on kind of way. He believes he has discovered a secret. Like aliens passing for humans in They Live, morbidly depressed people are roaming the earth, disguising themselves as emotionally healthy. The narrator’s convictions take the form of a sadness survey, and with questions like, Why are you so sad?, it’s no surprise the survey gets him fired when he distributes it at work.
To wonder why, and how, humanity is ailing is not an investigation unique to this story’s narrator. It is, perhaps, the prevailing question of the novel. “What’s ailing us humans?” is a popular thing to ask because it can be answered a million different ways, many of them correct and none of them comprehensive. (Now is a good time to mention that “We Were Down” is excerpted from the novel Why Are You So Sad?, out in January.)
Jason, as a writer, is emotive and diligent, with descriptions that are as satisfying as plunking a coin in a slot. The narrator’s wife, in response to learning of his ideas: “She kissed me on the forehead like she was putting a stamp on a letter”; an image on a pamphlet for phone-in mental health services: “Her red mouth is so close to the phone is looks like she is going to smudge the receiver with lipstick.” And, when the narrator finally answers his own survey, it is a devastating description of a life that “fades or crumbles into broken parts that I can never reassemble.”
Recommended Reading readers have their own opportunity to take the survey here. The author of the best answers (as determined by Jason Porter) will win a free phone session with a certified life coach, a bottle of gin from the NY Distilling Company, and a signed copy of Why Are You So Sad?.
If there were a survey contest in “We Were Down,” the winner would be Ms. Fellowes-Albrecht, a wealthy performance artist who wants the narrator for a happening. At a dive bar the two become mutual recruits, he with his survey and she with her performance. They face off like counter-rampant creatures, each making the other more alive. Which is what Jason Porter does for us, challenging, prodding his reader to a happier, more awake state.
Co-Editor, Electric Literature
Support Recommended Reading
By Jason Porter
Recommended by Electric Literature
Schlitzy’s Haus is not big on lighting. The food comes smothered in shadows. The walls are covered in shingles and the shingles are covered in dirt. I stop in on my drive home because I don’t want to see Brenda yet. I’m not even going to call her. It is Wednesday. She’ll be watching her hospital program on the television. That is my justification. She doesn’t need me when she is with the doctors. She eats food out of cartons close to the screen and gives the medical staff advice on their relationships. They listen to her in ways that I can’t.
Unlike my wife, I am at the far end of a long beerhall table, sitting with a frosted mug and a stack of surveys from my place of work; covert questionnaires I distributed to my colleagues without any permission from my superiors. It is an extremely important project that has nothing to do with my job as an illustrator of furniture assembly manuals. As it turns out, using company stationary and forging other authenticating details in order to extract personal information from coworkers is frowned upon. But I still think it was worth it. What I was after was a scientific method to confirm a grave suspicion that has been haunting me. What is my suspicion? There is no pretty way to put this: We are all very sick. And I don’t mean sick like the man leaning over there against the video poker machine who looks like he had too many shots of Jaegermeister, except that I also mean that man. He no doubt drank himself to ruin because of the dreadful weight of the disease that is inside all of us.
Let me explain. The truth of it came to me a few nights ago, as I struggled to fall asleep, and my consciousness lingered in a halfway house of anxiety that bridges my waking and sleeping worlds. I was on my back, in bed, controlling my breathing, looking up above me. The ceiling fan was spinning. I was trying to empty my mind, trying not to think about taxes, and hair loss, and the peeling paint on the exterior of our house, trying to slip away into a restful nothingness. It was there in the less explored regions of my mind that I found something. I found the dinosaurs. This is what they told me: It started like this for us too. We were down. Nobody noticed because it was gradual. It snuck in like fog. We were moody and sluggish and complacent and we were too busy eating things to take notice.
I rolled over to get my wife’s opinion on the matter. I said, “Brenda, is it me or is every single person we know depressed?” She let out a dramatic sigh and very slowly closed the gigantic children’s novel she had been reading. She kissed me on the forehead like she was putting a stamp on a letter, and said, “You are,” and then as she turned off her light, and shifted onto her side, facing away from me, she said, “I’m not.”
This is some seriously based literature. I hung on every word. If you read to the end, you will not be disappointed.
Spent a little bit of my Christmas moolah to pick up these classics! Black Boy is an autobiographical account of the author’s childhood in 1900s Deep South. I really like stories like this; I think it’s important for Black Americans to read at a few narratives like this from this time period.
Catch-22 has been on my list for a really long time. My friends tell me it’s really entertaining, that it doesn’t feel as long as it is.
Wanna hear something embarrassing? I actually have no idea what a Catch-22 is. No, I never Googled it. No, I never asked anybody. Why, yes, I am pretty lazy.