Thursday, October 18, 2012

on helplessness.

i just don't know what to say to or how to help many of my students this week.  they are dealing with a very difficult situation the best way they can, and i, the person who is supposed to be their leader, have no words to guide them.

perhaps a bit of explanation is helpful.

i teach at a school that has a large number of dual credit students--high school juniors and seniors who are taking college level courses.  the high school that nearly all of my students this semester come from has experienced the death of two students in three days.

those of you in the dfw area have probably seen/heard the news.  sunday afternoon, a seventeen year old student was cliff-diving at a local lake with some friends--out celebrating the week's victories and generally being young.  he jumped into the 70' deep water and didn't surface.  search teams are still trying to locate his body. 

this kid was a football and academic star at his high school and a dual credit student in one of my colleague's classes.

while i didn't know this young man personally, i do have many of his very good friends, fellow football players, and classmates in my own classes.  including his best friend since kindergarten.

this kid's best friend, my student, was there when he dove off the cliff.  he made the 911 call.  he faced what no eighteen year old should have to: the death of his best friend.

i simply cannot imagine what he must have felt.  i don't know how i would be able to process the situation and move on.  the fact that he was in my classroom powering through a midterm today speaks volumes about the content of his character and strength.

my student is one of those big, goofy guys with a great nature and the ability to laugh at everything.  he's silly, and everyone seems to like him.  i sincerely hope that this event doesn't change him--that his nature stays intact.  i hope that he is getting the help he needs to get through this--whatever that looks like.

on tuesday, another of their classmates died, this one from suicide.  nothing much has been reported on it, but my students--just beginning to catch their breaths--were left empty once again. 

now there are two empty chairs in their classrooms.  two lockers that will have to be cleaned out by parents.  two open seats in the lunchroom.

it's been a sad week on campus.  everywhere you look there are red-rimmed eyes, tissues, solemn faces, and willing counselors.  the "traditional" college students have no idea what's going on; they look around at the sadness and seem a bit lost.

we have been encouraged by the administration to be "lenient" and "compassionate," and that obviously makes sense, but what i'm struggling with is the balance.  how can i serve both masters?  how can i, someone dealing with her own grief, ask these poor kids to buck up and continue working on some seemingly meaningless research paper?  how can i ignore the bigger knowledge that this week will not define their lives--that they are still very much alive--and allow them to slack off?  i want to take it easy on them, but i still have to teach them.

but teach them what, exactly?  english/composition/rhetoric/research strategies is the easy answer.  but i feel like i should be giving them more--especially now.  they don't know i'm grieving, too, for someone else entirely.  they don't know that they aren't alone in this gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, life-altering time. 

basically, i feel helpless.

nothing i say or do is going to help them through their pain--their grief.  i know this, because nothing that has been said to me has helped me in any real way.  grief is an individual process; everyone has to find his own path.

but i do want them to know i'm here.  i'm thinking about them and what they are going through.  my heart is breaking for them.

but i don't know how to say it or even if i should.  so i remain silent, unsure, restless, and sad.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

on history and violence.

so it's that day again.

we all sit on pins and needles, a little nervous, in the words of seamus heaney "a little emptier, a little spent."

i've written about september 11th before back in 2009, when i was still relatively new to teaching, and last year, on the tenth anniversary.  i've said just about all i have to say.

in some ways, this day seems ordinary.

but, as i sit in my dim office about to go home, i have realized that it hasn't been an ordinary day after all.

i haven't been myself today.  i've not joked around or spoken to many people when i didn't absolutely have to.

i've been in a mood today--not wanting to deal with the trivial problems of my students.  my very young students who were six years old when the twin towers fell and who, for the mere reason of their age, have no real recollection of just how big a deal today is.

i resent them for their innocence.  for their carefree-ness today.

i hope they enjoy their freedom and that they never have to divide their lives into two categories--pre- and post-.

that's all i have to say.

Monday, September 3, 2012

on tears.

geez, guys.  i've turned into quite a sap.

i've never been like this before--mushy and weepy and breaking down at every little trivial emotional moment.

for the longest time, my best friend and i have joked that i'm dead inside--unable to form an emotion when dealing with art--film, tv, books, etc--or people who i don't really have a deep connection with.

i was like "oh, he broke up with you?  that sucks."  not all "ohmygodwhatonearthwillyoudowithouthim...i'm so sad, let's eat cookie dough and brush each others' hair."

hell, i'd only ever cried at three movies in my entire life--life is beautiful (but, curiously, only in italian--the english dubbed version just doesn't do it), up (bite me, pixar) and steel magnolias.

don't get me wrong, i could cry.  but only when it was entirely necessary.  especially when i was feeling super-stressed or worried.  i'd save it all up, have one good breakdown, then buck up and carry on.

then my dad died. 

and i cried. (duh).  a lot.

and ever since then, it's like i'm no longer dead inside.  emotion pours from me my eyes all the time.  i'm no longer in control.  i'm like a freaking girl.

i hear a sad song, i cry.

i see a lost dog on the side of the road, i cry.

i watch a sad commercial, i cry.

this may come as a revelation (especially given the content of this blog as of late), but i hate crying in front of people and will mask it just about any way i can.  out of sheer willpower i will force the tears away just to avoid anyone seeing.

this has been harder lately.

i went to see that stupid freaking pixar movie, brave, with a dear friend a while back.  even though rationally i knew that the mom wasn't going to die and that everything would work out in the end, i couldn't help but tear up.  (stupid pixar and their stupid forced emotional manipulation.  fuck you, pixar.)

while making dinner for my best friend a few weeks ago, i thought he was upset with me and i cried.  like a baby.

while sitting in my office at work the other day i heard a song on my ipod that reminded me of fishing.  which reminded me of my dad.  and i cried.

tonight, while reading a blog about how someone celebrated their parents' 60th anniversary, i cried.  my eyes are still wet while i type this.

so, what's the point?

i don't know that there is one.

i don't like this, that's for sure. 

i'm not the girliest girl you'll ever meet, so this crying at the drop of a hat thing is kind of pissing me off. 

but i can't help but think that it's a natural part of this disaster that's become my life of late.  i hope that this, like so many other things, weakens and fades away.

and that one day i'm dead inside again.  only then can i really feel like me.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

on extreme violence.

as part of my new job as a full-time professor, i have been required to attend a spattering of meetings and seminars this week.  this has led to a lot of boredom but also a fair amount of excitement--excitement that was entirely unexpected.

it all began with boa constrictors and miniature horses.  did you know that the US government has redefined what a disability is and what constitutes a service animal?  yeah, me neither.  anyway, apparently people can have miniature horses as service animals and just about anything--snakes included--as therapy animals. 

just try to imagine this is you will.  you are sitting in a classroom, taking notes, trying to concentrate, but the horse standing next to you keeps whinnying(sp?) in your ear.  or the girl in the corner keeps stroking the snake she carries in her bag.  weird.  just plain weird.

after the tons of excitement that was the ADA meeting came my favorite experience on a college campus thus far:  crisis management.

with the rash of random mass shootings lately, the state of texas has revamped its active shooter protocol and we, the educators of the state, have to relearn everything as well.  it basically went like this:

police officer:  you know how before you were just kind of supposed to lock the door, turn out the lights, hunker down and pray?

us:  yeah.

officer:  yeah, change of plans.  you'll still want to lock the door, turn out the lights and pray, but the hunkering down, not so much.  instead, you need to fight. if a shooter comes into your classroom, use extreme violence to take him down.

that's right, folks.  we get to beat the shit out of someone with anything we can find to prevent them from killing people.  we were also informed that if someone happened to accidentally, oh i don't know, maim or kill the shooter in the process, that no one would really care.

chairs, backpacks, desks, computer monitors, tv cabinets, you name it--they are all weapons.  we also learned how to appropriately hit and kick people to inflict the most damage once they are on the ground.  don't screw with me, peeps.  just saying.

after this very informative meeting, we were placed in a simulation to try out our new combat skills.

it went a little something like this:

officer:  i'm going to need a volunteer to act as our pack leader.  remember, this is a fight for your lives!

my good friend and colleague:
  i volunteer as tribute!

(laughter erupts, fifteen minutes go by, we manage to subdue our giggles and get our heads back in the game)

officer:  okay folks, you'll notice there are rolls of toilet paper on your desks that have been labeled with a variety of items you might find in a classroom.  let's have a real quick safety briefing here.  the toilet paper is standing in for the actual object.  if the roll says "chair," pretend it's a chair.  it's not a command telling you to throw an actual chair.

us:  wait...what happened during yesterday's session?  did someone actually throw a chair?!

officer:  i can neither confirm nor deny that.  are y'all ready?  GO!

gun shots are heard and we rush into action, having armed ourselves with our toilet paper weapons.  the room we were in didn't have locking doors, so we turned out the lights and split up, half of us on one side, half on the other, waiting for the attacker to enter.

gun shots rang out (like a bell); yelling and screaming ensued.  we waited, crouched like lions waiting for a nice, juicy gazelle.

finally the attacker came in.  we pounced into action, bombarding him (another police officer in an extremely padded suit) with our toilet paper weapons.  someone grabbed his leg, knocking him off balance, and another person grabbed his arm.  he released the gun and we kicked it away, maintaining a hold on him.

i guess feeling that the situation wasn't quite under control, someone then proceeded to pick up the room's trash can and repeatedly bash the attacker over the head with it.  she hit him at least ten times.  it. was. awesome.

finally someone called out OK!  THAT's GOOD!  and we all stopped attacking, laughter replacing violence. 

the chief of police walked up to the poor "attacker" and asked if he was ok.  it took him a second, but he finally got to his feet, smiled, waved, and left, complaining of dizziness.

we milled around a few more minutes, laughing, smiling, trying to slow down our furiously beating hearts.  eventually we looked to our police officer instructor.

officer:  wow you guys.  i should have stopped that three minutes earlier, but i was having too much fun watching. 

with that he released us, and we left, filled with adrenaline and just a bit in shock.

i learned about miniature horses, snakes and participated in a small-scale version of the hunger games by helping beat the crap out a police officer; what did you do at work yesterday?

Monday, August 20, 2012

on narwhals.

okay, let me begin by stating that i am a fairly intelligent person.

i went to a good high school.  i took honors classes and made excellent grades.

i went to college.  i went to graduate school.

i have spent 19 years of my life in school.  i have been a student of life for much longer than that.

so, perhaps you guys can forgive me for this one little thing i seem to have overlooked for my entire life:  NARWHALS ARE REAL ANIMALS! 

like real-real.  like swimming around in the sea as i type this, eating shrimp apparently and rubbing their horns on each other.  freaky.

i have spent my entire life thinking of narwhals as some mythical, magical creature—like unicorns, fairies, centaurs, and dryer sock goblins, if you will.

then, earlier today, when reading one of my new favorite blogs, brittany herself, i had my mind figuratively blown.

i mean, how many of you guys knew that these things were real?!  and why didn’t you tell me?

i think my lack of knowledge here is pretty understandable when i’m bombarded with pop culture and internet trash like this:

but seriously—how did i not know this?!  how did i make it through 19 years of school without ever stumbling upon this little factoid?  i took biology.  i studied evolution.  you would think that an actual mammal with a wicked freaking horn would be discussed in one of those subjects.  but apparently not.

i LOVE aquariums.  i visit them rather frequently.  i have never seen a narwhal.

none of the zoos i’ve visited have had them, either.

that seems to be a serious oversight.  if you want people to know that narwhals actually do, you know, exist, you need to let the people see them.

or maybe that’s the thing.  knowing about the existence of narwhals is a club.  and the first rule of the narwhal club is that you don’t talk about narwhals.  or their actual existence.

well, i’m onto you narwhal club members!  your secret is out, and i’m going to tell everyone i know, and they’re going to join your secret little club, too!

so, of course this discovery set me off on a google firestorm. and Oh.My.God. what i found will amaze you (and possibly horrify you if you ever plan on swimming around in the arctic ocean [which may or may not be why i’ve never seen a living narwhal in a texas zoo, just spinning my wheels here folks]):
  • they are real!
  • they only have two teeth; for males, one tooth grows through the narwhal's upper lip into a swordlike, spiral tusk up to 8.8 feet long! some of them have two.
  • some female narwhals grow these teeth-tusks, too, but theirs aren’t nearly as long or impressive.
  • they are mammals—related to dolphins and orcas.  technically speaking, they’re porpoises
  • they usually swim in groups of 15 to 20, but sometimes are spotted in groups of hundreds—or even several thousand—YIKES!
  • they communicate with clicks and whistles
  • they eat shrimp
  • they can swim really, really deep—like 4500 feet deep without breaking a sweat (or whatever the equivalent water-mammal bodily secretion would be)

now, expand your knowledge and check out this wicked video of narwhals:

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

on damages.

it's funny the way our minds work.

you live through something major, and for the immediate future after said survival you panic that it will happen again.  or at least i do.

my pup is sick.  he has a corneal abrasion/ulcer that popped up sunday night.  he didn't do anything in particular to cause it and the vet said it's a pretty common occurrence with his breed, so she wasn't too shocked to see it. 

he had to have his eye dilated (like a human--i know, it's weird to me, too), a funky light shined in it to see what was going on, and is on an aggressive treatment of dilation drops, antibiotic drops, and pain meds for the foreseeable future.

he's been so utterly listless the past couple days.  he eats, drinks, and does his business, but otherwise he just sleeps--which is very peculiar for this particular little hellcat.

i'm filled with panic.

this has become the norm for me, unfortunately.

my mom gets the sniffles--i panic.

my best fried sneezes--i panic.

one of the dogs has the slightest ailment--i panic.

ever since my daddy passed i have lived in a fairly predictable state of panic.  i've come to expect it, but it is certainly not welcome or healthy.

it's as if i'm just waiting to relive the events hell of the last seven months all over again, with a different cast of characters.

as if i'm eternally waiting for the other shoe to drop. for someone else to leave.  for grief to take me under one more time, never to surface again.

but i take the fact that i recognize this panic as nonsensical as a good sign.  at least i realize i'm being ridiculous even if i can't ebb the flow of panic welling within.

my little buddy's eye is all messed up right now.  but he's okay.  the vet thinks he will recover completely. 

i am going to keep telling my panic-filled psyche that over and over again in the next few days, hoping that eventually it will stick.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

on masks.


that’s the sensation that’s most apt.

every day i feel as though the world is spinning out of control and that i must cling tightly to the earth just to stay on. 

everything important is beyond my control and i have answers for nothing.  it seems i have lost my voice—unable to adequately discuss or describe anything at all, regardless of how banal.

at least that’s how this deep well of grief feels.

some days are better than others.

some days i wake up and feel okay.  i almost forget how tremendously sad i am.  i get out of bed; i get through my day; i may even laugh a few times.  some days i get to be the closest version of myself i can be.

most days, though, i wear a mask.  this mask tells the world that i am fine.  i am strong, capable, and able to handle anything the world throws my way.  that i am happy.  that i am so glad to be where i am, doing what i’m doing.

this mask is just that—a fa├žade to make the rest of the world comfortable, so no one has to know how truly down i am.  so no one feels obligated to treat me delicately or ask how i am when they don’t really want to hear the answer.  so no one can get in, get attached, and then break my heart when they leave me, too.

while i know that nothing will ever stop the pain, i do hope that it will diminish a bit with time—dulling to a level i can bear without having to mask myself each day.

i’ve been very quiet since my daddy’s death and have intentionally avoided writing about it here because i don’t want the people who are closest to me to know what a mess i am and to worry.  sometimes i think i’m too good at masking myself and they might assume that everything is okay.  but that’s not the truth:  i am a disaster right now.

i’m trying every day to stay positive and look for the good in life, but some days it’s very, very hard.
i’ve been lucky in my life to never have lost anyone who was very close to me.  that, it seems, is a mixed blessing.  yes, i’ve never had to grieve, but i also never learned to grieve, so i’m left to figure it out on my own.

many people would probably tell me to talk to someone.  those people mean well but obviously don’t know me at all.  i don’t talk—especially not about mushy-gushy emotiony stuff.  that’s not me, and i can’t see how it could do anything but make me more uncomfortable. 

i’m aware that talking it out helps a lot of people and that sharing a common experience can be affirming, but i’m not a joiner and have never wanted to share.  i especially don’t want to share now—when i’m raw and hurting and vulnerable.

so i read.  and i listen.  and i watch. 

and i find solace in the characters i encounter who have shared common experiences but who cannot talk directly to me, engaging me in conversations i don’t want to have.

instead, they communicate with my soul, telling me that it will all be better someday.  that everyone goes through this and i just have to bide my time and be patient.

patience has never been a virtue i possess, so that last bit is especially challenging.

but i will get through this.

i will miss my daddy fiercely.

i will love him always.

i will continue to remember.

but i must not dwell.

and i must begin leaving my mask behind.

Friday, July 27, 2012

dear universe,

will i ever feel up to writing again?

when will i stop filling up pages then throwing them in the trash--not because they're awful, but because i don't care?


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

on mr. bradbury's passing.

few writers have truly inspired me--taken hold of my mind, my imagination, made me pick up my pen and write, not because i had to, but because i wanted to.

ray bradbury was one of these few.

anyone who is close to me knows how much i treasure mr. bradbury and the worlds of books he brought to life.

today he is lost.

when i read fahrenheit 451 for the first time in 8th grade, i thought it was terrifying and very, very cool. when i reread it in 12th grade for fun, my perspective changed just the slightest bit.  each reread since has brought me new insights, new perspectives, and new feelings.  so few books can do this; so few can bend with the times and remain infinitely flexible and relevant.  bradbury's books can.

when i began working with bibliographical/textual studies in graduate school, mr. bradbury was there to offer me a challenge--a challenge that lasted five years, provided me opportunity to correspond with a legend, and only just ended a few short months ago.

his words have always been with me since that first read, and oftentimes i find myself with a phrase or two of his stuck in my head, circling around the rafters trying to forge some ethereal connection.

while i know that his words have not left us, i am immensely sad that he has.

it is with terrible sadness and many tears that i say goodbye to this dear friend.  he took me on an adventure the likes of which i haven't seen again.  he taught me so much about myself, my profession, my world.  he will never be forgotten.

goodbye, mr. bradbury.  and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

on reading adventures

“what book will you buy first?” was the question i was asked most during my last week of the book-buying-ban.

i had no answer for this question. 

you see, over the last six months, my views on books have changed.  yes, i still love to own them—especially poetry—but the owning them isn’t as important as reading/experiencing them.

when i set out on this challenge, i gave the following reasons for wanting to do it.  so now that it’s done, i want to take a few moments to address these reasons and what i came to discover in the process.

reason 1:  space
i don’t have any more room for books.  i’m out of space.  books are becoming furniture already, so i need to curb their takeover for just a little bit so i can sort through what i have and am willing to sell off.  i don’t like shedding books, so it takes me time to embrace the decision.  this challenge is a way to postpone the inevitable and give myself time to make smart decisions about the purge.

this is still true.  but i’ve embraced the fact that i will always be short on room.  books are my life—they are my career, my hobby, and, to a very real extent, a part of my identity.  i will always make room for them, even when there seems to be none.

as far as the purge, i have mostly taken care of business.  i shed a few books that were “crap reads,” i.e. read for fun and pure entertainment rather than study.

i have decided that moving forward, all “crap reads” will now exist on my nook—cluttering up my virtual bookshelf rather than the physical.  this will leave me room to grow my collection of worthwhile and collectable texts.

reason 2:  practice what you preach
i fuss at my students all the time for not using the amazing resources they have available to them.  i’m guilty of this crime, too.  i have so many literary outlets, and, sadly, most of them go unused because it is so blasted easy to tap “buy” on my nook or “check out” on amazon.  rather than taking the three extra steps to use a free resource, i buy books.  so part of this challenge is to force me to start using these resources, thereby allowing me to practice what i preach.

i practiced.  a lot.  i am now free to preach as much as i would like. 

and, by the way, i was right.  there is a world of resources out there—you just have to be willing to take a few extra steps.

reason 3: playing with form
since i got my nook, on top of e-book purchases i’ve bought more books—actual paper and glue books.  i’m probably atoning for buying an e-reader, but it is what it is.  i love that we have so many different forms of books available to us, so i want to make better use of all the forms.  currently, i’m really enjoying audiobooks (partly because i have a long commute, and partly because they allow me to multi-task—you mean i can drive and “read” at the same time?!).  this challenge will allow me to continue to play with different forms.

forcing myself to use library resources allowed me to expand my book horizons to include technologies that i’ve always overlooked.  i came to love the audiobook—especially when “reading” fiction.

i’ve never been a huge fan of novels—mainly because i spent so much time in school studying poetry and plays that are typically short and quick to get through; the longer novel always bored me--my ridiculously ADD mind losing focus and wanting to move on to another story.  audiobooks allowed me a way to get into novels without the inevitable boredom setting in.  through the audio experience, i found many wonderful works of fiction and have now begun actually reading more of it in print.

reason 4: lack of inspiration
i have been utterly devoid of inspiration lately.  i have no creative drive whatsoever.  i'm hoping that, by forcing myself to find ways to get the books i'm after, i can overcome this immense creative block.

in the time spent in this challenge, i have finished a paper i’ve literally been puzzling over for five years and have developed ideas for a few new ones. 

i’d say inspiration has come—and i hope it stays, because “sexual negotiations: wooing in the times of john donne and marvin gaye” is an essay that i MUST write.

reason 5: the social experiment factor
underlying all my english and literature nerdiness is an epic love of culture and social sciences. 

this challenge is allowing me to see what it would be like to not have the ability to purchase books—what some might consider to be a luxury or frivolous purchase.  books are such an integral part of who i am, that i’m interested to see what happens when i remove my ability to buy them from the equation (will i stop reading due to the hassle?  will i mourn for amazon and barnes and noble? will i count down the days until i can buy books again?  will i be perfectly fine?).

another part of the experiment side of things deals with knowledge and intellectual property.  do i have to own a book to know it?  do i need to physically hold a book in my hands and have it on my bookshelf to have rights to the knowledge or story it has provided me?  can the two—book and knowledge—exist separately or must they coexist?

now the trickiest bit—the social experiment side of things. 

not being able to purchase books was hard.  that should come as no surprise.  it led to some problems, which in turn led to creative solutions.  while, at the end, i was perfectly fine having to rely on free resources, i definitely did long for the bookstore—virtual, yes, but especially brick and mortar.  i missed the scent of old books--dusty on store shelves, and the polite banter of book store employees.

my suspicion over intellectual property and ownership has been confirmed—knowledge is knowledge rather you get it for free or pay $9.95 for it.  i now know far more than i ever did before about german u-boats, the human optical system, and HeLa cells.  this knowledge is my own—no one can take it away from me, even though i don’t own the books.

i’m not going to say it was fun, but it was enlightening.  and, while i’m not apt to do it again for a while, i have, overall, enjoyed the challenge/experience.

and, for the record, my first book purchases were:
  1. the swerve: how the world became modern by stephen greenblatt
  2. abraham lincoln: vampire hunter by seth grahame-smith

Thursday, May 3, 2012


the sixth month of my challenge has come and gone.  it was a short, fast month filled with a thousand mundanities that kept me from reading as much as i would have liked.

here's the list:

title: crashing through: a story of risk, adventure, and the man who dared to see - robert kurson

medium: audio from library

thoughts: while not nearly as interesting as his other book, shadow divers, this is a good read.   i learned a lot about how people see, so that's something.

title: deja dead - kathy reichs

medium: audio from library

thoughts: this is book number two in a very long series.  it's fluff, but it's enjoyable.  

title: catching fire - suzanne collins

medium: ebook; already owned

thoughts:  i figured since i reread hunger games last month before seeing the film, i'd go ahead and continue rereading the series.

title: mockingjay - suzanne collins

medium: ebook; already owned

thoughts:  see catching fire above.

title: the prince - niccolo machiavelli

medium: print; already owned

thoughts:  i consider this foundational literature.  so much of western lit from the renaissance to today is influenced by this text, so i make my students read it.

title: don quixote de la mancha - miguel de cervantes

medium: print; already owned

thoughts:  i've only read bits and pieces of this text before this semester.  i enjoyed it very much this time around.

title: amoretti - sir edmund spenser

medium: print; already owned

thoughts:'s spenser.  he's badass.  don't believe me, look him up!

title: titus andronicus - william shakespeare

medium: print; already owned

thoughts:  i love this bit of bad shakespeare so very much!  plus, it's so brutal that it makes my students squirm, which is always fun.

title: areopagitica - john milton

medium: print; already owned

thoughts:  i don't particularly care for much of milton's canon, but this one i love.  it's all about the context here.  and his immense appreciation for books--whatever they happen to be about.

so there you have it: month six.

i'll be posting thoughts on the whole experience soon (once i've had time to collect them).

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

i'm a survivor.

i have done it and relief has set in.

i survived.

i am now free to buy books.

unfortunately, the end of my book-buying-ban has coincided with pre-finals week at school, so i have no time to recap the experience, let alone really think about it.

i'll save that for next week.

until then, i've already made my first book purchase:  the swerve: how the world became modern by stephen greenblatt.  i can't wait until i have time to read it!

Monday, April 23, 2012

here, have a book!

it's WORLD BOOK NIGHT, and i'm a giver!

don't know what that means?  CHECK IT OUT!

Monday, April 2, 2012

month the fifth.

it's been five months.  five freaking months since i bought a book.  i only have 29 days until the ban is lifted.

my best bud asked me if i think, once the ban is over, i will continue not to buy books because of the guilt/shame i will inevitably feel for breaking a six-month-long streak.  i had to think about this.  on the one hand, yes, i will definitely feel guilty when i make that first book purchase.  but i did what i set out to do--i followed the rules and didn't slip.  so, maybe i can keep the self-shame down enough to buy books again.

it's been a very busy month full of taking care of family, grading, and gardening, so my reading list is light, but here's what i've been up to:

Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Lost Mysteries of World Way II --Robert Kurson

Format: Audio

Obtained: Library

Thoughts:  Awesome!  Thanks, Amanda J., for the recommendation.  This is probably one of the best narrative non-fiction books I've ever read.  It is thoroughly interesting all the way through as Kurson takes great care to fully develop not just the story of the submarine but also of the men involved in the discovery.  I highly recommend this one 

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins

Format: eBook

Obtained: Already owned

Thoughts:  I read this series about a year ago and loved it then.  Since the movie was coming out this month, I decided to reread the first of the trilogy to refresh my memory.  Again, I enjoyed it.

Feed - M.T. Anderson

Format: Audio

Obtained: Library

Thoughts:  Everything about this book sounds like I'd like it.  I didn't.  It felt too forced to me--to busy.  I stopped midway through with no intention of picking it back up.


A World I Never Made - James LePore

Format: eBook

Obtained: Barnes & Nobel Free Book Fridays

Thoughts:  Eh.  This was fine.  Sure, it has a little suspense and a bit of mystery.  It's not nearly as good as Chandler or Hammett.  I would read them instead.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot

Format: Audio

Obtained: Library

Thoughts:  This book had been on my TBR list for a long time, so I finally broke down and checked it out.  It was good--a really interesting look not just at the science behind HELA cells but the family that provided them. Skloot does a good job weaving the stories together.

Devil Bones - Kathy Reichs

Format: Print

Obtained: Already owned

Thoughts:  I love the TV series Bones, so I thought I would take a look at the book series that started it all.  I'm just beginning this one, but so far it's engaging and interesting.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight - The Pearl Poet

Format: Print

Obtained: Already owned

Thoughts:  Gawain is one of those texts that I look back on fondly, thinking I love it so much.  It's good.  It's not my favorite.

Friday, March 2, 2012

so close...

well, it's officially been four months since i've purchased a book.  with the help of some dear friends and family, i got over the slump that was february.  i'm now more than half way through the project and feel like the next two months should be a piece of cake...hopefully.

anywho, here's what i've been up to:

leaves of grass - walt whitman
medium: print
obtained through: the generosity of loved ones
impression: i've been a fan of whitman's for a long time and have long considered him to be the first american poet.  turns out i was right.  he's amazing, and his verse has helped me get through this extraordinarily difficult month.

world war z - max brooks
obtained through: library
impression: eh.  it was fine.  nothing special, nothing i'll read again or recommend.

black wave - john and jean silverwood
obtained through: library
impression: interesting.  a family's account of the shipwreck that ended their two year sail around the world.  this book really provides a detailed experience of the wreck and demonstrates that everybody--every family--goes through ups and downs.

packing for mars - mary roach
obtained through: library
impression:  fun and interesting, but at times a bit repetitive.  i now can confidently say i know more about space, the shuttle program, and what happens to human beings in space than i did before "reading" it.

room - emma donoghue
obtained through: library
impression:  i really wanted to like this book.  i actually think that if i'd read it in print rather than listening to it that i might have enjoyed it more.  the narrator, in this case an adult with a terribly childish sounding voice attempting to sound like a five year old, really got on my nerves and detracted a great deal from the book.  the story was interesting and left you wanting more, and i'm certain that if it had been told in a different narratorial style that would have been lost.

the monster of florence - douglas preston

obtained through: library
impression:  thoroughly interesting.  this is the tale not only of florence's only serial killer, but also of the journalists who attempted to solve the crime alongside the police.  i can't say anything else---you'll just have to read it to find out more.

zombies don't cry - rusty fischer
obtained through:barnes and noble free book fridays
impression:  ehh..i'm in the middle of this right now.  it's fine--mildly entertaining and an easy, mind-numbing read.  the perfect thing to read when i need a break from school stuff...

metamorphsis - ovid
medium: print
obtained through: already owned it
impression: i love it, always have, and always will.

beowulf - unknown
medium: print
obtained through:already owned it
impression: oh beowulf, how i both love and hate you.  i had a totally new reading experience this time around, though.  took lots of notes and recorded some ideas for a paper.

laies - marie de france
medium: print
obtained through:already owned it
impression: see "ovid" above


inferno - dante
medium: print
obtained through:already owned it
impression: i haven't read dante in a few years, so i'm enjoying the read.  plus, now i have a ton more background info on the political history of florence due to reading the monster of florence that's adding extra dimension.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

no one expects the spanish inquisition!

dear mystery blog-reader,

i appreciate the whitman gift more than you could ever know.  i would love to thank you properly.  please identify yourself.



Tuesday, January 31, 2012

month the third.

i'm three months in.  this sucks, but i'm surviving.

while i suffer in agonizing silence (and occasional written word), here’s what i’ve been reading (and listening) to in the past month:

the zombie survival guide - max brooks

medium: print
obtained through: library
impression: eh.  it was fine.  not nearly as funny as i thought it might be.

divergent - veronica roth

medium: audio
obtained through: library
impression: not as dystopian enough for me, but an interesting premise.  it was entertaining, for the most part, until it turned in to a mushy love story.  and civil war.  this book could not decide what it wanted to be.

official book club selection - kathy griffin

medium: audio
obtained through: library
impression: hysterical.  dry.  great.  it was also nice to get to know more about her life without the constant snark--a sort of window into the real person.

life as we knew it - susan beth pfeffer

medium: e-book
obtained through: library
impression: the only thing more annoying than the mother in this book is the protagonist.  seriously--i don't think i've read a more unlikeable character.  skip this one.

panic in level 4 - richard preston

medium: audio
obtained through: library
impression: i tried to read preston's bestseller the hot zone but started having ebola-monkey fueled nightmares and quickly put it down.  this is the answer to that problem--small doses of intense and scary situations that end just as you think you can't take anymore.  most of the stories were less than extraordinary, but a few were awesome!

the devil and sherlock holmes - david grann

medium: print
obtained through: already owned it
impression: i pretty much hated grann's magnum opus--the lost city of z--but think this book is much better.  each tale is well researched, crafted, and told, and, better still, just when you're growing bored, the story changes.

unwind - neal shusterman

medium: audio
obtained through: library
impression: eh.  this book started out quite promisingly, albeit the politics in it are a bit heavy-handed.  i've grown bored in the middle, though, and have stopped caring about the characters.  still haven't finished this one.

don't know much about mythology - kenneth c. davis

medium: e-book
obtained through: barnes and noble free book fridays
impression: the intro is quite long-winded and seems self-important, but davis has a lot to say about mythos and makes some great points.  i'm interested to get into the "meat" of the book.

the odyssey - homer

medium: print
obtained through: already owned it
impression: i'm back to teaching world lit 1, which means reading the classics again.  while i've read all the stuff below before, i'm still counting it.  

what can i say about the odyssey?!  it's awesome, and polyphemus is a sissy.

oedipus the king - sophocles

medium: print
obtained through: already owned it
impression: ummm...attempted infanticide, patricide, and sleeping with mom.  how much more awesome (and disgustingly sad) can one play get?

medea - euripides

medium: print
obtained through: already owned it
impression: this is probably my favorite play out of ancient greece.  all of the characters are so easy to loathe, yet they all make rational arguments to support their craziness.

poetics - aristotle

medium: print
obtained through: already owned it
impression: that's right, i make my students read poetics.  yes, yes, i'm cruel.  i happen to love this slice of nonfiction from so long ago.