Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Books I Read in 2013

  • **  = I would hand this book to you
  • *   = I would not tell you to put this book down if you picked it up
  •     = Don't bother

  •  **1984, by George Orwell
  •  **American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
  •   *Anatomy of a Boyfriend
  •  **Anatomy of a Single Girl, by Daria Snadowsky
  •   *Anthropology (NF)
  •  **Bossypants (Narrative NF), by Tina Fey
  •     Caesar's Women
  •    *Canterbury Tales, The
  •   **Clash of Kings, A, by George R. R. Martin
  • ***columbinus, by Stephen Karam and PJ Paparelli
  •     Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister
  •     Craft of Research, The (NF)
  •     Creation-Evolution Debate, The (NF)
  •     Crime and Punishment
  •     Dance of Shadows
  •   **Diary of Anne Frank, The (Narrative NF), by Anne Frank
  •    *Faiths of the Founding Fathers (NF)
  •  **Game of Thrones, A, by George R. R. Martin
  •  **Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, The, by Catherynne M. Valente
  •  **Hamlet, by William Shakespeare
  •   *Heart of Darkness
  •  **Hedda Gabler, by Henrik Ibsen
  •   *Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The (Narrative NF)
  •  **King Lear, by William Shakespeare
  •  **Macbeth, by William Shakespeare
  • ***No Exit, by Jean Paul Sartre
  • ***Noonday Demon, The (NF), by Andrew Solomon
  •   *Paradise Lost
  •  **Red Seas Under Red Skies, by Scott Lynch
  •   *Religious History of America, The (NF)
  • ***Republic of Thieves, The, by Scott Lynch
  •    Revel
  •  **Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, by Tom Stoppard
  •   *Russian Fairytales
  •   *Russian Folk Belief (NF)
  •   *Seven Theories of Religion (NF)
  •  **Starstruck, by Rachel Shukert
  •  **Storm of Swords, A, by George R. R. Martin
  •  **Waiting For Godot, by Samuel Beckett
  •    Who Done It?


From Wilkipedia:
columbinus includes excerpts from discussions with parents, survivors and community leaders in Littleton as well as diaries and home video footage to reveal what it refers to as "the dark recesses of American adolescence".
The first act of the play is set in a stereotypical, fictional American high school and follows the lives and struggles of eight teenage archetypes. These characters are not given names but labels, and the two outcast friends designated in the script as "Freak" and "Loner" are slowly driven to crime and madness by the bullying from their classmates. In act two, these boys become Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, in scenes taken from their videos and personal journals, illustrating the days approaching and including the shootings and the suspects' suicides. The newly added act three has the other cast members become survivors and townspeople who reflect on the events, including the cover up of information surrounding the suspects. The play briefly touches on modern shootings such as the incidents at Aurora or Newtown.
 This play will mess you up. This play will have you sympathizing and empathizing with two mass murderers. This way will leave you in a fog for a long time afterward. This is a play you will want to read all at once. This play is incredibly weird, painfully real, and immensely powerful. I started sobbing in the final scene for no clear reason at all and couldn't stop. It's poignant and brilliant and important and all of you should read it right now.


From WIkipedia:
The play is a depiction of the afterlife in which three deceased characters are punished by being locked into a room together for eternity. It is the source of Sartre's especially famous and often misinterpreted quotation "L'enfer, c'est les autres" or "Hell is other people", a reference to Sartre's ideas about the Look and the perpetual ontological struggle of being caused to see oneself as an object in the world of another consciousness.
I actually read this back in the spring all in one afternoon, so I don't remember it very well, but like columbinus, it's a very good play that messed with my head and made me think about a lot of things, that while clearly the details of specific scenes/etc. haven't stuck with me for the most part, still very much qualifies for "READ THIS RIGHT NOW." It's on my list of things to read again, because I feel like I missed a lot of things and will get different stuff out of it at different points in my life, and I highly recommend it to everyone.


From Amazon:
The Noonday Demon examines depression in personal, cultural, and scientific terms. Drawing on his own struggles with the illness and interviews with fellow sufferers, doctors and scientists, policy makers and politicians, drug designers and philosophers, Andrew Solomon reveals the subtle complexities and sheer agony of the disease. He confronts the challenge of defining the illness and describes the vast range of available medications, the efficacy of alternative treatments, and the impact the malady has on various demographic populations -- around the world and throughout history. He also explores the thorny patch of moral and ethical questions posed by emerging biological explanations for mental illness. With uncommon humanity, candor, wit, and erudition, award-winning author Solomon takes readers on a journey of incom-parable range and resonance into the most pervasive of family secrets. His contribution to our understanding not only of mental illness but also of the human condition is truly stunning.
If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, read this book. If you or someone you know is not suffering from depression, read this book. I didn't actually finish it because my library fines started mounting, and it isn't a particularly...fun read, but it's really comprehensive, really informative, really well-written, and really important. I am deeply glad to have read the parts that I did, and some of the people I know who are/have been depressed highly recommend it as well.


I'm not going to post a synopsis here, because it contains spoilers for the first two books, but this is the third book in the same series as The Lies of Locke Lamora, which was on my "GO READ THIS RIGHT NOW" list from last year. While I loved book 2 (Red Seas Under Red Skies), it didn't quite make the cut, but this one was amazing.

It's not a heartwrenching social commentary. It's not an existential exploration of Hell. It's not an atlas to a debilitating mental illness. This book is just a really goddamn fun fantasy novel.

It contains literally everything I love most in a fantasy novel--a well-developed world I can immerse myself in, characters I'm invested in, charming, clever, hilariously snarky, and really sexy thief lords that remind me strongly of my boyfriend, complex yet believable schemes, sex, magic, badass women...you get the idea.

I tell you to go read this right now not because I think you ought to read it, but because I really, really loved it. It's one of those books you miss for a couple days after you finish because you enjoyed it so much.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Two Books, Not Alike In Dignity

I know I've basically abandoned this blog for more than a year now, and I don't know if anyone uses Blogspot anymore, but I wanted to write something that matches up more closely with what I've been doing here than on Tumblr.

Spring of 2012, I compiled the Cary High Speech and Debate Handbook, which was essentially 120 pages of inside jokes with some debate jargon and pictures thrown in. I enjoyed doing it, and the majority of the team bought copies, using them as our own special yearbooks. It was silly. It was fun. I'm glad to have done it.

Spring of 2013, having left the debate world for rock4ever95's theatre company (oh dear god is it weird to use that handle after all this time--remember when we waged bitter blog-war against each other about John Green? Yeah, we're in love and kicking ass in the local theatre community now, just to catch up all of the mothballs still hanging around this place), I'm now working on a vaguely similar project detailing the history of said company.

Similar in that it's a book about a group of friends who have been collaborating on something for a long time, but totally, totally different in contents. While God knows we have our share of inside jokes too, Left Field Theatre is bigger than a school club. It means something. Sure, debate can bring kids out of their shells, make them some friends, and win them some trophies, and those things are all good, but I've watched Left Field Theatre transform people--and have been transformed by it myself--in a way debate never did or could.

Sure, I gained some things from doing debate. I learned a few philosophical principles, gained the courage to talk in front of a judge and someone just waiting to tear apart my every word, and found some people to laugh with--and yes, won some trophies too.

But contrast a room with an opponent and a judge with a church filled with dozens of people. Contrast reading off a carefully planned argument before refuting any rebuttals with becoming a completely different person for three hours. Contrast small weekly meetings and one full-team practice the night before tournament with months of rehearsals leading up to a single weekend. Contrast standing behind a podium in a suit with doing a strip tease in a leather trench coat with every eye in the building fixed on you.

I've watched people fall, and I've watched people rise. I've done some rising and falling myself. I've watched people go from immature, joking drug users to production staff members. I've watched people open up--not just verbally, but emotionally. I've learned about people and life--not just how to twist a statistic to fit my purposes and bullshit persuasive responses to questions. It's been beautiful. It's been hellishly painful.

I won't pretend everything has been perfect and that theatre is the magical cure-all and Great Unifying Force of all people. There have been drop-outs. There have been falling-outs. But for the people it has touched--the boy who realized he didn't need twelve layers of irony to truly connect with people, the self-harming girl who found a reason to get out of bed in the morning, the boy cast out of his school theatre department who finally found a place to be accepted, and all of this while working together to create a work of art-- nothing could ever replace it.

This book tells a story. And while right now I don't feel like my writing has done that story justice, that story is about more than just some fun times in high school.

This is the story of three teenagers, only one of whom had any theatre experience worth mentioning, putting on a show with just $40 to rival those of the independent and town-sponsored groups in our area. This is the story of some artists who did something new. This is the story of a group of people reaching out and supporting one another through both the awful and the amazing--as we like to say in our vocal warm-ups, "Whether the weather is cold, or whether the weather is hot, we'll be together whatever the weather, whether we like it nor not."

I loved my time with the debate team. Truly, I did. But this has been something else--something so much more and better. And this book, and the experience of writing this book, which of course is what triggered this post tonight, reflects that.

I'll post a link to the PDF once I'm finished.