Oscar Wilde

June is Pride Month, and so to celebrate, I added some specific books to my TBR. The Empty Family had several gay narrators. I’m listening to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe on audiobook on my walks, so I’ll review that one when I am finished. And Under the Lights was a bit of a surprise that I’m not revealing, but that one turned out perfect for the theme too!

I wish there were more books out there with LGBT characters, and my library has been posting a lot of recommendations, many of which I have added to my TBR. If you have some good ones, shoot them my way!

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The book I was most excited to read for Pride was about one of my favorite authors, Oscar Wilde. Written as part of a series called Lives of Notable Gay Men and Lesbians, Jeff Nunokawa gives us a short but informative piece on Wilde’s struggle to be a prominent gentleman in 19th century England, while living his life the way he needed to.

I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed. Obviously, you can’t fit that much life into 100 pages. The information was there, it just wasn’t that grandeur you expect when reading about Oscar Wilde. It was very “This happened on this date.”

And ok, I can live with that. What really got to me though was that here we have a book about a gay man in the 19th century, at the height of Victorian censorship. His very name stood for persecution.

And then in the book written ABOUT this man…this happens:

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Now, I am sure it was a publishing error, but still. There was about 10 pages missing, randomly in the middle of the book. And in a 100 page book, that’s a lot of information.

Just kind of makes you wonder, huh? It IS a library copy.

Anyway. It left a bad taste in my mouth. I skipped to the end, past the snow white pages, and read about the trial and sad end to this brilliant man’s career.

Time to read something a little less sad.

What are you reading for Pride? I hope all my LGBT friends are having a fantastic month!

 

North and South

I recently read a Tumblr thread about how important it was to understand the historical context of the books we read. It was a debate over whether we should take Lord of the Flies at face value and ONLY read it in the context it was written in (which I didn’t really understand), or use that historical context to interpret it in our own time period and cultural situation now–which is what teachers and students and readers have been doing in every single class since the book was published.

My opinion is that historical context is extremely important. A book is going to make so much more sense if you know a little bit about the period and culture that you are reading in (hence my frustration with early French lit…we’ve discussed this…I’m working on it). Even fantasy books like Game of Thrones just blow up when you understand that it was based on the War of the Roses, and the Dothraki are essentially Mongolians.

However, every single person who reads a book is never going to read THE SAME book. Because none of us is the same person. We all interpret things differently based on our life experiences, and that effects our reading. So do the current events happening around us. So yeah, historical context is extremely important, but hardly ever can we take fiction at face value. There’s way too much to be learned and gained from it.

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The reason all this comes to mind is when I started North and South at the end of this week, Twitter was blowing up with the news of Rachel Dolezal–a woman who pretended to be black and became the President of the Spokane NAACP. So as I’m reading a book on Industrialism in England and unions and strikes and two classes ripping each other apart…I’m watching the social media sphere do the same thing, over race.

This quote, in particular, stuck out at me:

“I don’t know–I suppose because, on the very face of it, I see two classes dependent on each other in every possible way, yet each evidently regarding the interests of the other as opposed to their own; I never lived in a place before where there were two sets of people always running each other down.”

 

I am not writing this to make any commentary on Friday’s situation. For me, I very much want to see there be a resolution to all this strife that is going on, I just don’t know how or what or when. That isn’t my purpose here, though.

 

Sometimes, I read a book, at the exact right time. When I started North and South, I was completely underwhelmed. It was very slow to get started, and I really didn’t understand what was going on. Then, I got to Margaret’s very impassioned speech, which includes the quote above, and it all just clicked. I even went back and reread some of it because once I got it…I got it. And putting a book written in a different time, with a different historical context (industrial unions vs rich factory owners), in a current setting (the very real racial tensions that have been escalating), made it so much more clear.

This is a very strong book. There is a bit of a romance element, but it is literally the last important thing. I’m not going to say I enjoyed it, but I definitely learned from it. And sometimes, that’s the goal.

(Oh, and Mr. Bell? I’m not the only person who thinks he’s gay, right? He almost seemed more a character from Oscar Wilde.)

 

Fulfills Boxall #87

Favorite Author

What is my favorite author?

Is that a trick question?

I don’t have one.

Yes, I’m serious.

Source:  The Relentless Reader

I don’t have one. I have several. Austen, Hemingway, Wolfe. Michael Cunningham. Regina McBride. Ann Patchett. Wilde has now been added to the list. Countless authors who I’ve only read one of their books but I loved with a passion, and they are on my Goodreads list to read more and I just haven’t gotten back to them yet. John Green up there is probably on that list too now.

Why can’t I narrow it down to just one? Geez. They all have different qualities that I love. Every book is different and each means something to me at a different point in my life. And every time I reread them, I love them in different ways.

It would be like picking a favorite topping on my pizza, or a favorite beer.

And yes, I know some people like ONLY pepperoni, and ONLY Bud Lite. That is so totally not my style. Sometimes I want mushrooms and a Belgian. And sometimes I want hot peppers and a red ale. Or maybe a porter, or a triple or….dammit now I want a beer.

It’s almost the long weekend folks!

 

Favorite Antagonist

This topic has been staring at me from my yellow legal pad list all week. FAVORITE ANTAGONIST. UGH. I’ve probably gone through 20 different characters trying to figure out who to write about. Not even kidding.

You see, I am a villain sympathizer. I always have been. Maybe it’s the black sheep in me, but growing up, the villain songs were always my favorite in every Disney movie. I mean, come on. They are the most interesting people. You’ve got Ursula, Maleficent (I can’t WAIT for that movie, btw), Gaston, Governor Ratcliffe (weirdly, a personal favorite of mine, not sure why I love his fat ass so much), and, of course, the most villainous of all villains–SCAR.

They all just seem so broken and misunderstood. And I know people hate that. There are huge discussions on Tumblr from the Villain Haters of why we shouldn’t make up backstories for villains and make them loveable. But, for those who are equally broken and scarred, or the outcasts, or just the shy and misunderstood, we relate to those villains. They are–in their plotting and planning–strong where we can’t be. They are going to stand over the blonde and beautiful and be the king of everything. And then, when their plans don’t happen exactly how they expected…we understand that too.

So when it came time to pick a favorite antagonist…I couldn’t. I went through so many people and I just couldn’t make them bad enough. Snape…no…he’s good in the end, right? Draco…ugh…he’s not good enough to be called a villain, just a whiny little bitch (here comes the Slytherin hate). I even had this really deep monologue with myself about Dorian’s picture soul…but no, that’s just way too complicated and reaching.

I thought about Joffery. God do I hate Joffery. But I don’t think he really halts a pure mission. Which is the good and bad thing about Game of ThronesIt is so far from normal story archetypes. Oh George RR Martin…you are a cruel and marvelous master.

No no no, this is just not working. I could not find anyone who truly fit the profile of Antagonist. Surely I’m missing someone here. Someone who fully opposes the hero, and is a true obstacle to the end goal of the story.

And then it hit me. There is only one person who I know to be hated more than Joffery in recent literature. Only one person more cruel, creepier, and chill inducing.

Madam Undersecretary Profressor Dolores Jane Umbridge.

*Shudder* God that woman terrified me. She seemed to be everywhere at once, and blocked every mission Harry and his friends attempted. And the pink. And the CATS. I can’t even write about her without shivering.

JK Rowling used Umbridge as a vehicle to deliver a sociopath into Hogwarts. With a eerie smile planted on her pink facade, she sucked the life out of the school, while bringing on harsher and harsher punishments. And then, to make everything worse, she rose to power in the Ministry of Magic, doing the same thing there…on adults.

Even I, a diehard villain sympathizer, could never love Umbridge. Good lord, this woman terrifies the hell out of me. I may have nightmares tonight just from thinking about her so much today.

What villain truly scares you?

 

 

Treesofreverie’s April Read-A-Thon: Reading Challenges

The other thing that the end of April means is that it is the end of the readathon for Treesofreverie! I think I did quite well. Here are the books I read:

Wuthering Heights

A Wrinkle in Time

The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Scorch Trials

Selected Poems of Langston Hughes

In addition to the books we were reading, there were challenges we were given to complete. Here are the ones I finished.

This is the official list of challenges for anyone who is looking to push themselves during the April Read-A-Thon:

  • Finish an entire book in ONE day
  • Read a book by an author you haven’t read before
  • Read a book about books
  • Read outside
  • Read out loud
  • Finish a book in a series you’ve not yet completed
  • Read a graphic novel or manga
  • Read a book with an LGBTQ+ character
  • Read a Classic
  • Read a book in the Fantasy genre
  • Read a book in the Contemporary genre
  • Read a book from a genre you don’t usually read
  • Read a poetry book
  • Read a collection of short stories
  • Read a book by an indie or self published author
  • Recommend a book to a friend or a fellow book blogger based on what they’re currently reading
  • Share some of your favourite quotes from the books you read during the Read-A-Thon
  • Write a book review for one of the books you read during the Read-A-Thon
  • Take pictures of your reading progress
  • Show off your books by taking more pictures
  • Start a TBR Jar
  • Start a reading journal
  • Organise a book swap with friends

This was a great readathon project! And, what’s really great is I just found out about a new challenge being held in May by Tee the Quoter. This is not a readathon, but a Favorites challenge. Every day I’ll be posting a favorite “thing” about what I’m reading. Here’s the list!

Now, some of these might just be pictures and will be posted to my Instagram and Tumblr accounts, so make sure you’re following those. Some may be reviews that I post here. Either way, I’m excited to have some prompts for different books to write about!

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Ever have the feeling that you have read a book before, when you know with absolute certainty you have not?

 

That is what I experienced when I started reading Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. I knew every bit of this story. Yet I KNOW that I have not read it before now, nor have I seen the movie. Somewhere, sometime, in my 27 years, someone has told me the fable of the beautiful young man whose soul was painted onto a canvas and hidden away in a dark room.

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This work is brilliantly written–in fact, I copied the entire Preface into my journal before I even really started reading, as it is full of proverbs about art and knowledge. I also loved the way the dialogues were built. You could feel every breath that the speaker took, every moment he was moved or taken aback. Any awkward pause was purposeful, not because the writer did not how to make a transition. Sometimes dialogue can be clunky or choppy, not so here. The dialogue is often done in long monologues, but I like it that way, it is necessary here.

I will say that while this story is filled with “beauty” and “love,” this is not a happy story. Go forth with caution. This is definitely a fable with a heavy moral. See if you can find it at the end. Aesop could have done no better.