E.M Forster’s Maurice ⎟ sex, love, and philosophy

PODCAST REVEAL ⎟ E.M Forster’s Maurice

 

Dear Reader,

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The podcast is finally here! Click below to hear about E.M Forster’s Maurice and about sex, love, and philosophy! I mean! Rock and Roll! iTunes link to come soon.

 

 

<<Download this episode here>>

 

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Heaps and heaps of love,

WordPlay Xx

When You’re Reading EVERYTHING

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Dear Reader,

Sometimes curiosity strikes, and it strikes hard. You know how in a film, a bell will toll in an eerie way, indicating that something dramatic is about to happen. Basically, that is how I feel at the moment, but with a lot less eer, ear? eerie? Good grief!

I am currently working on the first episode of my podcast, and I have been meaning for it to go up sooner than later, but I have been waiting on some sources to arrive via the post, and I also wanted to make sure I really got into all the sources I could before I put the first one out into the world. I know that I am putting a lot of effort into this first go, and I am so happy to be “creating”. That feels good. It does leave me slightly apprehensive about what future podcasts will look like. The book I am working on is not that long, and I’ve really spent a lot of time on it. I want these podcasts to be monthly, but I need to evaluate how much work needs to go into each one. I’ve re-read the book, gone over and over passages, read secondary sources, read primary sources—honestly, I don’t mind that it has taken me the time it has taken me, simply for the reason that I needed to read those sources ANYWAY. There is a point in your life where you just need to sit down and read the hard stuff. And I firmly believe that you should spend time on those things. You don’t have to rush that. You want to linger in it—go right ahead. I feel like maybe in the future if I’m teaching a class or someone is on a deadline with me, they might reference this blog post and say, well you said it was okay. Uhh, alright, but at least make sure you’re really getting to know the material. That is one of my biggest loves–I love when one is given the opportunity to really get acquainted with history, theory, methodologies, philosophy, critiques, criticisms, ideas, art, tragedy: DO THOSE THINGS.

So, in the last little while, I’ve read and re-read some Foucault texts, I’m re-reading/reading the whole book for the first time Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy, and I’ve read Plato’s Symposium. I also read this little legal book I bought in England–back in the days when I wanted to study law–about the legal case(s) of Oscar Wilde [I mean, really, past-self, you bought the book about the literary guy you love, and you thought you were going to do law…rightttttt!] So, lots of pride there for me. Remember to be proud of the effort you put into reading. That’s amazing stuff! Feel really good about cracking those spines–both the books and yours as you remember that your back bone does not like to be discombobulated into that contortionist pose in which you must read.

I wanted to touch in because I know I have been absent for a while. I’ve been harnessing that instinct to hop on here and share all of the excitement I have for what I am reading and putting it into my podcast. I’ve got tons of notebooks and papers scattered around my room, and it will soon be funnelled into aural communication.

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Another thing on my mind is the fact that I really need to organize some of the books next to my desk. It would be helpful if I could just live in this idealized space that grew as I acquired books, but marshmallow-world is not yet a reality. So, until then, I’m going to have to spend time organizing. But, I mean, that is also a rather soothing task.

Also, I want to add, you should read books that make you happy. I know that sometimes we try to force ourselves into loving things that aren’t necessarily right for us at the time. So, if you’re not feeling something, just put it down and respect that feeling. You can come back to it, or not. I think we put a lot of pressure onto ourselves about needing to read certain books because it is what other people are reading. I think we should always challenge ourselves in our reading careers, but I also think we need to remember to enjoy what we read. I’ve wanted to read The Idiot for a while now, but, at the same time, I also did not feel like reading that kind of book. And, there will be a time, maybe in November, when it’s frigid AF outside, and I pick up the book and I think: why did I wait so long? But that is the paradox of reading, we can get so much pleasure from one book that, at another time, might have been a massive headache or thorn in our eye. So, respect how you feel when you read. Don’t be afraid to put the book down: unless it’s an assigned reading and your grade depends on it–then, my airy-fairy, free-will advice sort of goes to pot, you can call me kettle.

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So, I’ve got to go make Nietzsche peachy, create some queer book words, and share my voice. Women are doing it! We really are (women is not an exclusive identity, that is, you do you!).  Be free, my pretties! (How on earth did I just go to giving off wicked witch vibes? YOLO! Just don’t splash me with water!)

 

Heaps and heaps of love,

Word Play, Xx

Great Expectations⎟ When Books Gobble You Up

Dearest Reader,

Do you remember when I was reading Great Expectations, and I even did a lot of legwork to do research via methodologies and theory? Well, a strange thing happened; I read Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South. I then got a massive book hangover. Yes, I know that the book is intensely flawed. It is full of white feminism, and that is super problematic. But, boy, oh boy, is it such a good love story. She also does an extremely good job at representing 19th-C strikes, and the need for employers to listen to their workers as they communicate their needs. I even purchased the audiobook because I know that I am going to want that shiz in my life pretty much always. Cue Snape references, now. After this dramatic and rather romantic literary interlude, I got sucked into E.M Forster’s Maurice (that’s Morris not More-eece, for the non-Brits out there). Dear lord, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Well, as you can imagine, I got sucked into a whirlwind of really good reading material. It totally detracted from my Great Expectations of producing multiple podcasts for you guys. Sometimes, books just manage our lives more than we’ll ever know. Please read these books and get sucked away with me.

This means that I am rather unsure if I should try to write a Dickensian podcast when I am no longer in the mood for it. My somewhat odd mood is due to the fact that I am now reading George Gissing’s The Odd Women. It feels like the type of book that every feminist should read, except that they should not. I am almost halfway through the text, and I find it dreadful. The writing is not awful, but it is too close to the daily lives that women lead. It isn’t telling me anything new. At the time, it was super revolutionary because Gissing’s female characters were espousing a marriageless life in favour of a working life.  The book is also super classist. Only a particular type of woman could have this life. Some women, according to some of the characters, are just to weak-willed to marry. Or, the poor women, they were too unintelligible and unrefined to be ‘saved’. Ugh, how patronizing. Additionally, women of colour do not feature at all. I suppose I wanted to read this book and hear myself go ‘YES!’ that is exactly how I feel about this and this. Rather, I find that I am forcing myself to read through it. I’m almost tempted to ‘did not finish’ (DNF) this book. It isn’t exactly the book I want to open my podcast. If I am not enjoying it, then how will a listener?

In all likelihood, I will finish it–haha! But, I do not think I am going to make notes whilst reading. I’m just going to read in the moment. Maybe, I might begin with Maurice. It made me love EM Forster so much. I have not been the biggest fan of A Room with a View. It felt a little hollow for me, but I am also struck by the thought that I may want to revisit A Room in the future to have my mind changed. That is one of my favourite things about reading; you don’t have to like a book the first time you read it. You can leave it there, or, on some future date, you can pick the book up and give the relationship another chance. And, in this case, you won’t feel like your ex is still as annoying as ever.

Books I’ve Been Reading: 

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I’ll leave it there, dear Reader. Keep very well!

 

Heaps of Love,
WordPlay Xx

Can You Analyze Something to Death?⎟ Critical Analysis

Dear Reader,

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how a reader and viewer engages with different media. I remember when I was in secondary school (grade 9-12), one would hear the chant, ‘But why do I have to analyze the book? It ruins it for me?’ And that mantra still holds true for a lot of people. I think that means you were taught wrong. I had some pretty crap teachers, but I was really lucky to have a mom and neighbour that taught me the importance of books, reading, and forming opinions. In addition to that, I had amazing post-secondary professors that opened a whole new world of reading.

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For a long time, it was hard for me to read fiction alongside academic sources. Both parts of my brain couldn’t function at once. I like to call that period of time a-bridged. It was hard to do both because I was learning different types of reading. I had to build a bridge between reading fiction and reading critical theory. It was when I learnt that I liked reading in silence at a desk. That may sound incredibly dull, but libraries were the spaces I occupied when I escaped into fictional narratives or discursive accounts of post-revolutionary France. When one is studying, libraries can seem to be this really daunting space. But, I love them. I love carrying all 20 kg of my books to the library, opening all my stationary, placing pens and pencils in a line, taking out my notes, and, depending on the library’s rules, sipping on hot coffee or tepid water. I live for that feeling. I love that I know how the library system worked: HQ for political books relating to women and women in India, NA for art history, B for British History, D-> more history. It is such a good feeling. One of my favourite things is to spend time with a book. I will, on occasion, type notes, but I much prefer to hand write them.

When you read in a library, you fidget and fight the table in front of you and escape into the author’s words. That’s when I started reading fiction in the library. When I was young, I wrote in books. But when I got older, the marginalia became a rite of passion and passage throughout the book. I buy used books (I cannot afford new ones), so I can write in them. It does make my reading time longer than if I skipped it, or perhaps that’s untrue. Indeed, when I write marginalia, I am able to ruminate on a thought or connection and let it go to focus on the next thing.

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Medieval Marginalia

So, today, I was watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). I remember being obsessed with the film. I would quote it, laugh at its oddities, and revel in its colour scheme. I was a kid. I enjoyed it the way children are meant to enjoy things, without reserve. I flicked to the station that the film was on, so I could have noise as I fed my dog. I started to eat my own breakfast, and I was once again enraptured by the film. There were so many new things that I hadn’t understood when I saw it. It was like I was watching it for the first time, again. Isn’t that the feeling we’re always trying to recapture?

How had I previously not noticed that using one Oompa Loompa to represent an entire Indigenous culture fits neatly into dominant ideas about indigenous peoples and cultures–that others are all the same but different? How had I not noticed the magic of Wonka’s world? It is magic. I love the magic. How had I not noticed that Wonka’s chewing gum is made to seem as though it is made of real food: the chewing gum isn’t artificial flavours that we know–it is told to us that they are real. That is something we can never know.

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via tumblr (please expect a future post about cannibalism in this film)

And so, as I found things both mystifyingly awesome and stupefyingly problematic, I realized that being given the tools to analyze things or question how characters are portrayed, based on race and gender, is not tiring or exhausting. It opens a whole new world and aspect of the story that you’re being told. We should not resist questioning the text, music, or film because we don’t want to kill the thing we love. We should go into these things expecting to be challenged and to challenge. We should teach our children to be filled with curiosity so that the norm is always challenged. Instead, we are taught that stasis is satisfying, desirable, and worth doing anything for. That makes us rigid, and, quite sadly, too exhausted to learn empathy and critical thinking.

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As a final note, I’d like to add that you should never be made to feel stupid because you do not have the same education as someone else. Education should not be used to oppress others. If someone purposefully derides you, they are doing it wrong. I have known many people in my life that have had little formal education because it was unavailable to them; they are extremely intelligent and intuitive. These, mostly, women have been the fertile earth that nurtured me. And that is my point, we should teach our children to be filled with curiosity so that they nurture one another. It is important to teach ourselves that we can enjoy things as we think critically about them.

So, to answer my title question: No, you cannot analyze a thing to death, but you can analyze it to life.

 

Heaps of love,

WordPlay Xx

Updates

Serial Posts: I am working my way through Great Expectations to write some posts, and I’m really torn about how to approach it. I am thinking that I am going to have some posts about character development and the gendering of characters, and that I will have a podcast episode about the book as detective fiction.

Misha: I’m sorry I haven’t posted much, recently. It has been quite busy. The warmer weather is a lot of stress on Misha. So, the last little while has been a lot of me ensuring she’s cool and running to her when she’s struggling. Thank you for your patience.

 

Great Expectations ⎟ Pip’s ‘sympathetic’ narration

 

great expectations Pip's 'sympathetic' narrations

Dear Reader,

I have read the first two months worth of Great Expectations [on page 132/457]. I have begun reading the third month’s releases, and I have to say, Dickens is really great at the cliff-hanger. I intended to do reviews based on each section, but I now consider it might be a bit dull to just garble plot at you. I want to do some character sketches on Miss Havisham and Mrs Joe Gargery; I want to pick out the ways women, femininity, and the disavowal of woman-ness (ooooo, such a loaded invented term) is treated by Dickens and our narrator, Pip. I know that I am going to want to include Estella and Biddy, too, so I thought that I would finish my re-read before I endeavoured that task.

I’ve read to the part where Mrs Joe has been attacked by Orlick? Did he? Didn’t he? Orlick enrages me because he is that person that reverses Mrs Joe’s nature so she becomes this ideal Victorian woman in the domestic sphere, who causes no strife. Except, now she is unable to tend to the house. I suppose the point is, throughout the beginning of the novel, that Mrs Joe does very little. But that is how Pip represents Mrs Joe to us, and we have to consider Pip’s narrative unreliable. I mean, food just appears in front of Pip at Christmas without much thought given to how much work Mrs Joe put into making the meal. We are given other clues to draw the conclusion of Pip’s unreliability; when he is asked to re-tell his experiences to adults, he does not give truthful accounts that coincide to what we’ve previously been told. Consider, for example, when he describes his visit to Miss Havisham’s to Mrs Joe and Mr Pumblechook very differently than what he describes to us. Later, he confesses to Joe that he made up what actually happened. Throughout these early sections, Pip is often afraid to confess to the truth or tell Joe things because he is afraid he will not be believed because of his past indiscretions.  We should keep this in mind.

That Pip confesses his lies to the adults to us works to convince the reader that we are getting the honest narration from Pip. We sympathise, or empathise depending on how well the effect works, with being young and being misunderstood or the anxiety of having to relay our experiences when in the past we’ve not been entirely honest or truthful. Thus, when Pip describes Miss Havisham, thus far, we really only get his account. Mr Pumblechook, when he offers Pip to Miss Havisham, says he has not met her. He cannot give an account of her personal character other than what he has learnt through others, including what Pip will tell him. Joe, who does meet Miss H, does not even respond to her. He does not give an account of her to collude with Pip’s description of her in a decayed wedding dress with spiders emerging from the black hole that is her wedding cake (obviously Joe did not witness this peculiarity, but the point still stands). We take Pip’s word that Miss H is what she is.

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The narration functions such that we are meant to identify with Pip. And, I think that the reason many people dislike Pip is because, perhaps, they do not identify with him–so they find him unreliable, annoying, prone to terrible choices, and a bit whiney. So, I thought my earlier reluctance to re-read Great Expectations was me just being fickle to this Dickensian experience, but I think it has to do more with the ways my skills of empathy have shifted; I remove myself from Pip and his actions, rather than trying to identify with him. Of course, there are things I do identify with, and that’s what makes Dickens so clever–it’s hard to untangle the web. So, perhaps, those readers who find the book dull or difficult to read are just not convinced by Pip and the story he is telling.

Thus, an ongoing thread of discussion that I will maintain throughout this series on Great Expectations is Pip’s narration. Pip does share politely embarrassing accounts of his youth. The story with the convict will become a formative part of the plot and Pip’s (false-)actualization of being a gentleman, but he does share his role in aiding said convict to escape. He thieves from his brother-in-law, Joe, and takes the Christmas pork pie, and gives it to the escaped man. These are fairly damning acts. But they are also the acts of a child, who is alone, afraid, and who has no person(s) but us to confide (as an adult). That is something we need to remember, Pip, as a child, would not have had the language to articulate how and what he feels the way he is able to describe as an educated adult, reflecting. Joe, thus, becomes a foil to Pip’s self-expression. And we should take note of the way that Joe narrates his past (as told to us by Pip) and how Pip expresses his own sense of growing up, coming of age, and years of formulation.

If we need a clear sense of Pip’s inability to express himself, when he is young, we need to look no further than his shyness around Miss Havisham and Estella. The older Pip clads his narrative by explaining that he was gaining a consciousness of his lowly class, but younger Pip is quiet, shy, and rather upset. When he is left alone after this first encounter, he cries. He cannot verbally express his emotions, so we are told that he was overwrought. Tears are important here, too, to contrast Estella’s learned hardness, crafted and fuelled by Miss H, with Pip’s emotional display that enhances his softness and vulnerability. Pip defends his display of emotions in the description of his next visit, when he encounters the young boy who encourages him to fight him. Pip easily wins the fight against this physically soft young man. Thus, we get the older Pip forming his younger self as wronged by a particular kind of femininity that is wrong but more masculine than the supposedly genteel, young man, who performs a false masculinity and cannot defend himself against Pip. Even in this encounter, Pip cannot communicate to the other boy what he feels. He simply does what he is told to do. It is the elder Pip who constructs and contrasts the characteristics of other persons to inform us how we should read and relate to him and his story.

Alright, reader, I had better get back to reading more about Pip. Let me know what you’re reading and what you think about it in the comments. 

Heaps of love,

wordplay xx

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Great Expectations ⎟ Materiality of the Book & Serialization

great expectations - materiality of the book &amp; serialization

I called this project Serial because of the serialization of Dickens’s novels. Serialization is really fascinating; I would describe it as being akin to the scheduled release of television shows. In fact, that is *definitely* the origin of the filmic medium. And, that, to me, is absolutely hilarious—can we all share a group chuckle? I don’t know why I find it so peculiar; we often use analogy to describe things that are historical or out of our current experience, but I just love the idea that the serialization of novels/fictions is how we consume cinematic/filmic media instalments of television shows. I imagine that DVD collections, Netflix, and other streaming services that offer all of the episodes would be akin to the publication of the whole book. Would I carry around a boxed-set of DVDs? Maybe. Like, if it was Harry Potter or The West Wing or Poirot, mais oui, but of course!

Great Expectations was published in 35 parts from 1 December 1860 to 3 August 1861 in All the Year Round, a magazine of which Dickens owned the majority holdings. It was also published in the U.S by Harper’s Weekly.

  1. December 1860 had 5 parts released, consisting of chapters 1-8.
  2. January 1861 had 4 parts released, consisting of chapters 9-15.
  3. February had 3 parts released, consisting of chapters 16-21.
  4.  March had 5 parts released, consisting of chapters 22-29.
  5. April had 4 parts released, consisting of chapters 30-37.
  6. May had 4 parts released, consisting of chapters 38-42.
  7. June had 5 parts released, consisting of chapters 43-52.
  8. July had 4 parts released, consisting of chapters 53-57.
  9. August had 1 part released, consisting of chapters 58-59.

Rather than follow each part’s release date, which would leave me with 35 posts on Great Expectations, [Bah, said Scrooge, Humbug///]. I will go by the monthly releases, which should give me about 8-9 plot-driven discussions, with space to add a few more posts or not, to talk about things that I feel I’ve over-looked or about which I’ve changed my mind.

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First serial of Great Expectations. Courtesy of: George C. Gordon Library.

Let’s consider how the release of the parts of the novel in serial form make the work more digestible and approachable for a reader. According to Robert Patten in Charles Dickens and His Publishers, about 100,000 copies of All the Year Round sold each week. The portability of the magazine meant that it could be shared, meaning that, although 100,000 copies sold each week, the readership was much higher. Dickens’s stories were read aloud in groups, shared, and, I like to imagine, pilfered by unsuspecting readers in coffee shops, the most dubious of public spheres. That is a lot of readers, particularly in an age (in Britain) where literacy was inconsistent. 

I think that most of the reason readers don’t pick up Dickens’s works is because of how large they are. But imagine, not watching Orange is the New Black because there are TOO MANY episodes, without SENSE, am I right? The hand-held, portability of the magazine serialization made Dickens’s words travel, across space, classes, and nations. I love to imagine the sheer volume of Dickens’s words travelling across London as rail travel made living out of the city viable and desirable, John Wemmick, a character in this very story, for example. Work on the Tube, as it is known now, began in 1860, as the Metropolitan Railway, from Paddington toe Farringdon Street. That is something we should also remember when reading Dickens. Just as we are attached to new and developing technology, advances are also to be noted and found in Dickens’s works. We might not notice them because they have existed for us for all time, but railways and travel by rail was a huge topic of debate. Let’s not forget that the railway in Tolstoy stood for the dangers of modernity, the artifice of women (such as in Anna Karenina). 

So we’ve noted that Dickens’s words were portable. The heavy tomes that we now, lovingly, lug around in handbags or saddlebags, whichever your fancy, were not the same that its original readers experiences. Indeed, collated publications of Dickens’s novels usually occurred within the year of its last serial publication. So, they did exist in his time. Today, I sometimes think that the books we read in public also dictate to other people information that we may or may not want to share about ourselves. Like the clothes we wear and the airs we adopt, the public face of reading also indicates things about us to other people. I’m not sure I have any conclusions to draw about this at this time, but it’s something to consider about the books we read, where we read them, and their visibility.

Let’s also take a moment to think about the illustrations of Dickens’s novels. My edition does not have any illustrations, which is such a loss. It doesn’t make the book more adult when you remove the illustrations!!!! I love that Dickens’s stories had accompanying illustrations. I think that the visual world offered by these illustrations gives so much more to the text. It opens a space for more information and different interpretations of the texts. It also provides information that less literate or less-well-read readers can use to piece together information. Since, my edition doesn’t have illustrations, I am going to have to align them when I’m reading. From a cursory examination of the original publications, the illustrations were a later addition. So, I forgive Barnes and Noble their lack of illustrations–not. Ahah! The original illustrations were completed by Frank Stone in 1862; he completed eight for the Library Edition. Later illustrators include F.A Fraser, John Mclennan, Sol Eytinge Jr., and Henry Mathew Brock. 

The serialization of the novel also permits the author to employ cliffhangers and other plot techniques to keep the reader hooked. This might make the work seem to be fighting for your attention, or to have artificial highs and lows, but it also means that the author has to work hard to keep the story gripping and engaging because, if nineteenth-century readers are anything like me, I always forget to tune in next week to find out what happens. Luckily, I have the internet to sort that out. But, I also think that as the member of a very small family (there is only 4 of us AT ALL), with friends strewn across the world, I have an experience that means I hear about a lot less things on a daily basis, compared to when I was in high school or at uni. 

I love the disparity between our experience with Dickens as somewhat unapproachable and out of touch–his books are big AF and his language is complex and full of allusions and his experiences and those of his contemporaries. I am sure that many allusions flew over people’s heads, as they do mine, but that’s part of reading and all creative media. I mean, when I was about 12 and I tried to read Little Dorrit I had no idea what the heck a Marseilles was, turns out it’s a place–HAHA. But because I didn’t know it, it made me want to know it. So, I lived life, and when I learnt that Marseilles was a place, I got it more. And, later, as I learnt history and ideas of nationality and character, I got that the story started outside England in a very meaningful way–but we’ll get to Little Dorrit a little later. Spoiler: IT IS MY FAVOURITE DICKENS *jumps up an down like an over-excited toddler*

Heaps of love,

wordplay xx

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Misha Update ⎟ Escape from mount doom

Dear Reader,

I thought I would keep you updated about Misha. She has an ulcer on her eye, likely, from puncturing it. She has cataracts, so her vision isn’t quite top gear, and it is likely she bopped her eye on a bush or something. Before Thursday, her eye was red, occasionally, but I always did a salt wash and put soothing eye-drops in. Unfortunately, she must have rubbed her eye into the carpet and opened the wound. So, for two days she had her tail down. It was so depressing to see her so upset. I mean, she ALWAYS has her tail up. Even when she’s pissed off you didn’t share your food with her. She always wags that tail.

Her tail is back up, and wagging. That is such a relief. She has been under constant watch. She gets (new) anti-bacterial eye drops every 2 hours with some freeze-dried strawberries for a treat. I think she puts up with the drops because she loves those strawberries so much. Her eye is looking a lot better than before. She is still squinting a bit, particularly when she is tired. It will take some time for it to heal fully, and I’ve been on constant watch to make sure she doesn’t rub her eye. Believe me, this clever pooh-maker has tried to fool me. I didn’t trust her on her own, and I don’t like to put the cone on her because I want her to be encouraged to drink (because of her heart issues). So, I brought her in the bathroom with me, and she started to cry. I let her out once, and she face planted the carpet to rub her eye. I grabbed her, brought her back in and made her wait. I’m washing my hands and she starts crying again. I let her out, and she immediately face plants. So I had to pick her up, and Misha became the new paper towel advert. Need to dry your hands? Spilled some milk? Here is the super-absorbent Misha-nator.

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I know that some people are really skeptical about dogs and pets, but they are just so unequivocally lovely. They make your heart feel so whole, and your heart breaks when you think of them in any sort of pain or discomfort. I don’t know, they make life have meaning because they’re existence is so dear and precious.

🦁🦁🦁

Other updates:

I’ve decided to re-read Great Expectations because I’m a little forlorn over the fact that I don’t know how I am going to fund my PhD. I’ve been accepted on a course, but as an international student, I don’t know if I can afford it. The programme is so specific to what I want to study, and it breaks my heart to think I might not be able. I don’t know. I decided to read some Dickens because, honestly, he gets the reality of not having money. It’s rather a chronic problem for a lot of people lately, and it has driven a lot of people to be mean and cruel to one another. To divide one another based on race and class and accuse each other of terrible things. Isn’t that what the proverb says, divide and conquer? It seems to be working.

I’m not giving up. No. Every fibre of my being wants to study. And, this book is so good. It can’t be right that such goodness exists in a world without hope. There are other beautiful goods, too. I guess that what books are. They remind of us goodness. They remind us of hope and dreams. Sometimes, they shock us with their reality and their honesty and their blunt vitriol. Yet, words give us the vehicle of mobility–that is priceless.

I’m going to add this book to my Serial project. And, I think this is one of those books that wakes you up. Mostly, because I read it before, and re-reading it reminds me of the comfort of words…and how we can go back to books and change our minds about them. We can go back to books more or less wiser and see and read things we didn’t before. We can share our thoughts, still miss things, and ten years later, re-read the book and say, ‘I see this, now’.

great expectations- read with me

Read with me 🙂 I’ll be tweeting <<here>> and blogging about the book at this site. As you can see I’m about 1/5 of the way through the book. Let me know what you think of the book or Dickens, generally.

Heaps of love,
wordplay xx

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Reader’s Regret ⎜On Reading When It’s Right For You

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I’ve been thinking a lot about when we read books. It has been said that we come to the books we read when we need them most. I’ve been going through my shelves lately, and I kept thinking, I bought this when I was a teenager, why didn’t I read this then? Why didn’t I read this then? How would my life be different? What complex emotions would I have derived from this experience at that time?

Reader’s regret?

I have to stop myself from giving into that feeling, except as a motivator to keep reading as voraciously as possible. Or, as much as I can. My eyes hate day-reading, so I end up staying up really late to read. It makes no sense; but I think years of libraries have, in fact, ruined daytime for me. So I will use this feeling to spur on better reading habits, but I won’t let it define me or make me feel bad for *past me* not knowing or empathizing or understanding those emotions and feelings the author presents or limits.

I remind myself that those books are still open to me, and, in fact, because I understand language and its nuance more than I did before, those words will take me to places into which I had, previously, been unable to tap. Booktubers often do a year-end wrap-up video about ‘Books that Made Me’. It applies to my reader’s regret. All of the books that I have read, thus far, inform how and what I read in the future. I may pick up a book that I bought when I was a teen, probably a little inappropriately (some of the books I bought were quite mature), and read and enjoy.

For example, I can’t quite remember how old I was, but Costo sold some of Ophah’s Bookclub Books. My mom bought me A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez. I have only read one of the three, so far, and I only read A Tree in 2013. I do plan on reading the other two, but not just yet. East of Eden seems like a summer novel—and Canadian summers can get sultry—so maybe this summer. Additionally, I think my reading was informed more by Canada’s links to the UK and slight idolatry of UK literature over American literature, so that also informed my reluctance to tackle American lit. (Sorry guys…but I’ll get there). The reason I haven’t picked up Solitude, is mostly that other people have said a lot of “it was a long book”…so peer-pressure!!

A Bit of Fry and Laurie / tumblr

***

Back on point, I was an avid reader as a child, so I read other books instead of these. I think they were also a little too mature for my preteen or early-teen self. I think the language and nuance would have been a little lost compared to my reading them now. I read Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men when I was in my early teens, and I did love it a lot. But, I had many other book to read and re-read. When I was younger, I definitely had an immortality complex when it came to books. I had/have all the time in the world to read. So, I read what I wanted and what I chose. I re-read books many time. I have re-read The Hobbit more times than I can count. Indeed, I read it so many times when I was so young, that it is a “gospel truth” to me. I don’t doubt the existence of hobbits. You all need to stop being such noisy walkers!!

Indeed, I read other books. I didn’t read some of the ones I was bought or took out from the library. I snuck books that belonged to my mom or sister. The books that I read then, have read since, and am reading inform what and how I read. I read Betty Smith’s book in the spring of 2013. I read it, and I saw myself so firmly in the character of Francie. Our childhoods were quite a bit different because I belonged to the sort of middling classes of a privileged country. Yet, I learned and could empathize and connect with the main character because of our mutual love of books and language, our desire to learn in spite of the expense of school, and our desire to share language with others. When I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, I fell in love. I recommended it to everyone. I underlined passages and shared them on twitter. I would send photos via text of underlined pages. Pages upon pages, I underlined with love. Margins scribbled in a book that was warped from the final pressure my hands, heart, mind, and eyes exerted upon the covers and spine of this precious book. I loved it so much then and there and now, that I don’t regret that I didn’t read it when I was younger because I wanted to tell the world how much I read or how sophisticated my tastes were. I regret not reading it when I was younger because it was such a pleasure and I wish I had always known that feeling.

But, I remind myself, you did and do. I remind myself of reading The Hobbit and Harry Potter and picture books with my mum. I remind myself of dragging Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland around with me everywhere and not reading it. Sometimes we read books and sometimes we don’t, but books are our most exciting and powerful resources. Wielding a book means power. If you are reading right it is not a tyrannical power, but a power to engage and develop empathy. It gives us the power to engage with the creativity or frustration of the author.

IT Crowd / tumblr

I read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale the summer before I turned 14. I may not have really understood the stake of Atwood’s story: feminism, patriarchal structures of oppression, &c., but reading it exposed me to that language. I was exposed in a way that I had not been before. I may not have understood feminism from one book, but I was being equipped with the language to be able to understand. I read Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai in school, whilst gay marriage and homosexuality were being discussed distantly in the news or by our elders, this book provided a moment to engage personally and critically (literary not judgementally) with, for me and my peers, a new language: sexuality.

On a brief side note, this is why the internet is so important. It makes these types of knowledges so accessible. I read about these ideas through literature and later through various philosophers etc., but the internet allows young people to engage in discussions of feminism and LGBTQ+. Of course, there will always be trolls and havoc-causers, but I do think the internet has opened a space where language can instantaneously permeate through otherwise impervious spaces. The language of acceptance becomes normalized. But keep reading, young ones, it’s the stuff of life.

So, friends, I wish that I had always been capable of reading the way I do now. I wish that, at the age of fifteen, I could have picked up a book and seen through ideology. I saw the things I saw, even if I was still learning. I’ve read and listened; I’ve worked hard to read the way I do. It was never a chore, except sometimes. I wish I could see the nuance I do now. But, “we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” I hope that I am able to look back, in ten- or twenty-years time, and say, I wish I understood these (new) things back then, too.

The Great Gatsby / giphy

Heaps of Love,
Word Play Xx

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Don’t be chai; I love you a latte.

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Chai latte. Absolute yums.

Dear Lovelies,

I have had the busiest week, but it feels like I haven’t done much. Sort of an unsatisfying feeling. I have been reading a lot, but really no fiction. I’ve been reading about debt in nineteenth-century England. Let’s just say, I am obsessed with Margot Finn. She is an incredible historian, and I absolutely love reading her works. This is why my progress, a pilgrim’s progress (haha, obscure inside joke with Charles Dickens), has been rather slower than anticipated. I’ve just been drinking up her work and playing soft with all of my timelines.  In fictional news, I just started Elizabeth Gaskell’s Ruth. I don’t even know how I stumbled upon this, but Gaskell consulted Dickens when she was writing this book. I haven’t gotten too far in the text, but so far it has mentioned The Pilgrims Progress and it directly deals with similar social mores also found in Dickens’s texts, such as Oliver Twist and Little Dorrit. Gaskell’s text, however, is not at all Romantic in the ways that Dickens is. This is all preliminary observations. More will follow!

Folio Society Editions

In other news, IT IS SPRING TIME. I mean, I’ve been going on about the weather for a while. But there are finally buds on trees, plants are greening, grass is glowing (and growing). The only distressing part about the warming weather is that my dog struggles a lot more in the heat. Last night, she did quite a long walk, but she was so over-heated by the time we were done. She also gets into these moods, and I think anyone with a dog will recognise it. She just runs, and growls, and hops, and pounces, and *chase me*. It’s super adorable because it’s this inexplicable burst of energy, but she also has a heart problem. She seems to forget her age and insists upon energy explosions.

I hope I’m like that when I’m her age, respectively….just want to share my love and energy with everyone. That’s the great things about dogs and children; they just run and play. It’s sad that adults don’t do that. Why do we stop playing when we hit mild-adulthood (teens). I think we tell people they need to act their age not their shoe size. *no you dinnnn’t*

I hope to start filming and uploading content both here and for YouTube this week. The only issue is that everyone’s days off always interfere with my schedules. Boop de poops. Anticipation is great! Just keep swimming, my loves.

Heaps and heaps of love,
Word Play Xx

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Alice, you’re doing it wrong!–

The Red Queen

In Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, Alice is always told that her ways are incorrect. She is doing something wrong. She tries to reason through what she is, authoritatively, being told; and sometimes she comes to her own conclusions and other times she is lost. I presume, that is how we make our way through life. We are told what is right or wrong, and we hold that information up to what we have learned or what we feel we know. Sometimes, our convictions are so strong that we refuse to hear any other truth–like the Red Queen, who wants everyone’s head off. Like the White Queen, who believes that the Mad Hatter should be locked up for what crimes he might commit; this, she claims, will teach him not to do the thing he might have done. Alice tests her own logic, but she, ultimately, gives into the bent the rules of un-reality.

Alice regards it as nonsense to lock the Hatter away for a crime he has not committed; ethnically it is not right. In the eyes of the law, one is innocent until proven guilty. Thus, one may not be locked away before a crime or evidence of the crime has been, undeniably, proven. [In an ideal world, but, I will briefly say, human error &c.,] Our society is based upon civil liberties (as much of a pipe dream that it is). But if more circumstances are added that show the person, who is locked away, is very likely to commit a crime, are we right in locking them away?  It is not lawfully right to lock someone up for something they might do. We believe that people have free will, and can chose to make the *right* choice. At least, we hope that they will. It seems unsatisfactory when there are lives at stake, or when our personal safety is in jeopardy. It is an ethical question over which the law and lawmakers will always puzzle. The simple answer is no, but, in life, there are no simple answers–are there? To lock someone away for something they might do is akin to dictatorship. Perhaps, Lewis Carroll offers us a bleak interpretation of monarchy and absolute rule of the monarch (and, by extension, in our own times, dictatorial rule). Although Alice opines that it is wrong, she does not alter the rule of authority in the stories. In fact, in order to regain her own autonomy–for she has little to none in Wonderland–she must wake up. She describes her experiences in Wonderland like a dreamworld, where we all have experienced the submission to plot and action. (I exclude lucid dreams).

disney // tumblr

Alice’s lack of autonomy raises yet another implication to the reader–are we submissive to our dreams and/or our superiors (in class/caste)? or, do we have autonomy in a dream state and/or towards our superiors? Is it possible to reclaim authority by waking, and then telling our story as we remember it? Changing events? Writing out history? In Derrida’s Archive Fever, he says memory always forgets–this is why we have archives. But the very archives themselves point out the fallibility of memory.  “Consequence: right on that which permits and conditions archivization,” he says “we will never find anything other than that which exposes to destruction, and in truth menaces with destruction, introducing, a priori, forgetfulness and the achiviolothic into the heart of the monument…The archive always works, and a priori, against itself.” (12) Derrida is explaining to his audience that the urge to record, to inscribe, to mark out a story or truth of our past always points to the destruction of that past. We record, because we forget. Indeed, Derrida cleverly plays with the classical notion of knowledge as being a priori, or that what comes before; the claim that we know by innate knowledge and not learned experience. In Plato’s Dialogues, he records the lessons of Socrates; in particular, the lesson of a priori knowledge of the soul. Socrates claims that knowledge is not something that one apprehends mortally but something that one remembers from a past life of the immortal soul. In the example of Meno’s slave, where Socrates nudges the slave to recollect past knowledge, or a priori, knowledge is something to remember. Derrida turns this on its head; the archive always seeks to destroy a priori knowledge. Derrida explains, the archive or information resource highlights to our forgetfulness, our need to collect to recollect. Our monuments, historical and cultural, inscribe historical events upon our landscape, lest we forget.

channel 4 // tumblr

Derrida explains, the archive or information resource highlights our forgetfulness, our need to collect to recollect.

Let us now return to the question of authority and story-telling. Derrida links the archive to psychoanalysis and Freud, largely, because his lecture was given at the Freud museum in London, which had been in a political battle with the Freud Museum in Vienna over which museum is the authoritative Freud resource. And, most importantly. WHO HAD FREUD’S CHAIR? It was like the Where’s Wally of Freud’s toosh. Where did that bum rest itself?

All silliness aside, this is a very real question. Who gets to claim to be the authoritative resource for a subject matter? In the dreamworld of Wonderland, where is the seat of authority? In understanding dreams, Freud would claim that our dreams reveal our desires and repressions, long hidden from our conscious minds. In this way, our waking mind seeks to control our desires, which manifest when we sleep or through slips in daily life. (This, of course, would be a suitable analogy for the idea of Victorians as repressed. Of course, there were repressions–Queen V was scandalized by her sons and their sexual liaisons. But this was also the age where serious studies into sex and sexual behaviour were beginning. As I mentioned in my Introductory post on Oliver Twist, historical periods are wrought with contrariety. It is our job, as readers, to make sure we don’t lean too far either way in our hermeneutics.) Indeed, Alice becomes a Queen in Looking-Glass, but her authority is always undermined, the reality of Wonderland changes itself so that Alice is always listening to characters who authoritatively inscribe their realness or legitimacy. The characters she meets are real and have their own rules and laws to which they ascribe. What makes these characters unbelievablly credible is their commitment to reason against our logic. The White Queen, when she offers Alice employment, says she will have jam every other day. Alice may have jam yesterday and tomorrow, but she cannot have jam today, never today but every other day. There is a strange logic in the nonsensical. To indulge in Wonderland, we willfully abandon the logic we have learned for the illogic we experience.

Alright, so we’ve reached the point in our discussion that leaves us alone with our existential crises. I think this is what is so brilliant about Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland. Adulthood is fraught with ethics, laws, and coded behaviour. Wonderland represents this foggy space where Alice can ask big questions and be confronted by them, too. She rarely has the answer, and I think, if we were able to remember our childhood, a lot of the time, we did not have adult answers when we first encountered new ideas. (This is where and when shame tends to work its darkness.) We learnt coded behaviours from our own encounters with figures of authority. Indeed, Alice and Wonderland seems to be a successful archive of the befuddled state of childhood and childishness. Is Wonderland, then, an archive of childhood that is premised on the idea that we will, largely, forget what it is to be a child?

Perhaps, the reluctance to enter Wonderland carefree, by the older reader, is the reluctance to admit the fallibility of memory. Children enter, laughing at the play. Adults enter trying to solve the puzzle. One should enter Wonderland without the drive to untangle all of its riddles and puzzles and accept play as our motive—for do we really need to know why a raven is like a writing desk? But, you’ll say, Alice offers us so much to think about! We must not deny ourselves this. Of course not, I’ll respond, because the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe——for, if anything. Carroll teaches us how to revisit childhood, at any age.

***

I am going to be reading G.K Chesterton’s The Napoleon of Notting Hill now. I’ll continue working on my Oliver serialization. It is my aim to have a new Oliver post up every Friday. This week, it might be a bit late because of my dog. She had quite a rough night, Sunday night, and Monday was a bit draining (for me). Tuesday, she will be groomed, for her hair is becoming a tad long.

Here is an excerpt from The Napoleon of Notting Hill. It seems like an absolute treasure; with the slight (& unfortunate) casual gender essentialism, as you do. I hope you’ll join me! What are you reading?! Let me know in the comments.


Heaps of love,
Word Play Xx

Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever, A Freudian Impression, trans., Eric Prenowitz (London: University of Chicago Press, 1996).

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