Friday, September 2, 2016

Book Review: Symptoms of Being Human

Symptoms of Being Human
Title: Symptoms of Being Human
Author: Jeff Garvin
Publication Date: February 2, 2015
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: Realistic fiction
Pages: 352
Age Rating: Readers over 13
My Opinion: 8/10

Hi, Readers!

       After finishing my summer job, I have had a couple of weeks at home to relax before heading back to school.  Ever since I've gotten home, I've been a reading machine!  I've read more pleasure books in these past two weeks than I did the entire school year.  One novel that I found particularly intriguing was Symptoms of Being Human, by Jeff Garvin.  It focuses on a subject that I was entirely unaware and uneducated about - being gender fluid.

       Having a congressman for a father does not make life easy for Riley, and switching to a new school allows for a fresh start with new classmates.  Although it takes a few days, Riley finds a couple of quirky friends that are accepting and welcoming.  However, other classmates - football players and their girlfriends - act particularly menacing towards Riley.  Why is this?  They attempt to determine Riley's gender in a negative manner.  When Riley's therapist suggests starting an anonymous blog to share thoughts and feelings, Riley decides to give it a try and finds it extremely helpful.  However, Riley's true identity gets out and animosity begins to spread.  Riley has to decide whether to become brave enough to take a stand for gender fluidity or to sink back into the shadows.

       Wow, I have to say, writing that novel summary was much harder than most.  This is because I attempted to write the entire thing without using gender pronouns referring to Riley, as Garvin does throughout the entirety of the novel.  It is much harder than it looks, and my summary seems to dramatically overuse Riley's name in place of any pronouns.  Somehow, Garvin manages to write all 352 pages without saying she/he as pertaining to Riley's gender, and the result is phenominal.  At times, I found myself wondering if Riley was truly a boy or a girl.  But then I discovered that was the point of the novel.  It doesn't matter what gender Riley was born as because that is not what Riley identifies with.

Whatever., by S.J. Goslee
       I certainly learned a lot about the topic of gender fluidity.  I was vastly uninformed, and I feel that Garvin handled the heavy concept of gender identity with respect and awareness.  I also recently finished reading the novel, Whatever., by S.J. Goslee, which is about a teen named Mike who discovers he is gay.  Although the novels are uncomparable as pertaining to characters and writing styles (and no offense to Goslee - your novel was hilarious), I can honestly say that I think Garvin was more respectful than Goslee in his approach of the subject.  By taking care to write an accurate, and more importantly, serious, plot line, Garvin spreads information about gender fluidity.

       Frankly speaking, I'm glad I decided to pick Symptoms of Being Human off the shelf of new novels at the public library.  It wasn't one of the typical comedic or fantasy novels that I typically gravitate towards, and I knew that solely based on reading the inside cover.  I wasn't sure how I would feel about the gender identity discussions, and I didn't feel in my comfort zone , but I learned a lot and my eyes were opened.  I'm glad I gave it a shot, and I recommend you do the same.

Happy reading, and best of luck to everyone in the new school year!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Book Review: Populazzi

Title: Populazzi
Author: Elise Allen
Publication Date: August 1, 2011
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Genre: Realistic fiction
Pages: 400
Age Rating: Readers over 13
My Opinion: 6/10

Hi, Readers!

       Wow, I can't believe how fast summer has gone by.  I just realized how long it has been since my last post!  Guess I've been pretty busy.  In a week or so, I will be packing up to return to school for my sophomore year of college.  With it will come new opportunities and adventures, but I will always treasure the memories I've made this summer.  Having such a crazy summer definitely took a toll on my daily reading.  However, I've had a couple of weeks of relaxation in which I've read a few novels, one of which being Populazzi, by Elise Allen.  Although the novel lacks substance and is extremely cliche, it was an entertaining read that managed to captivate my interest.
High school popularity chart
High school popularity
as described by Pintrest

       When Cara switches high schools for the start of her junior year, her childhood friend Claudia comes up with a social experiment of sorts to help Cara move up the popularity ladder at her new school.  Cara starts off on the bottom rung, meeting a lovable theater geek named Asher.  However, Claudia encourages her to continue working her way up to become the Supreme Populazzi - the most popular girl in school.  Cara's mother and step-dad encourage her to focus on her college interview for Northwestern, but instead, Cara continues to form new relationships and delves deeper into the foundation of high school cliques as she becomes wrapped up in her social life.  Will she be able to balance her new image with who she truly is, or will she crack under the pressure?

       Populazzi has got to be one of the most cliche high school popularity novels I have ever read.  And I'm not saying that's a bad thing!  It was a pretty basic plot line - the new girl willing to do anything to become popular.  The characters weren't even that likable, aside from the heartthrob, Archer.  For some reason, though, the mindlessness of the novel and the mob mentality made me want to keep reading.  I knew exactly what would happen, and I liked it.  Populazzi is what I would call a "safe" read.  You know exactly what you're getting - the fantasized high school experience with mean girls, bullies, jocks, and theater geeks - with no surprises, and that was perfectly fine with me.

       Many characters were extremely stereotypical.  From Archer, the theater geek, to Nate, the stoner, to Claudia, the clingy best friend, each character portrayed a different high school stereotype.  Again, absolutely no surprises.  I don't think anyone would be surprised to hear that Cara became wrapped up in search of popularity and ditched her old friends.  It was nice - almost relaxing - to know exactly who each character was.

       Of course, the novel culminated with a school dance.  I don't know how many different ways I can possibly phrase the same thought - CLICHE.  But I still kept reading!  I was entertained!  The silly, simpleminded and self-centered high school drama made me thankful to be in college, but also made me laugh.  Therefore, I can't give Populazzi a high rating and I will not recommend the novel, but it was funny and endearing, and I thoroughly enjoyed it as a summer pleasure read.  What have you been reading this summer?  Feel free to leave a comment below - I love hearing from readers!

Happy reading!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Book Review: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Fear and Loathing
Title: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Author: Hunter S. Thompson
Publication Date: 1971 (1998 edition)
Publisher: Vintage Books
Genre: Realistic fiction
Pages: 204
Age Rating: Readers over 15
My Opinion: 9/10

Hi, Readers!

       I feel like I'm starting to hit my post-modern stride.  Although Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is never a book I would choose to read on my own, I thouroughly enjoyed reading it.  Hunter S. Thompson did an excellent job mixing his background in journalism with his interest in writing a novel.  It was one of the most eye opening (and utterly hilarious) books that I have ever read, but not in the way that you'd expect.  

Duke and Dr. Gonezo from the movie version
       Duke, a journalist, is sent to Las Vegas to report upon the Mint 400 motorcycle race, and he brings along his attorney, Dr. Gonezo.  However, their journey ends up being the opposite of a business trip.  They fill a convertible with a plethora of powerful drugs, alcohol, and even a handgun, and set off for the city that never sleeps.  After spending days exploring Circus-Circus, seriously abusing narcotics, and causing trouble, Dr. Gonezo sends Duke a note inviting him to report on a drug convention held for police officers around the country.  Thompson's sense of irony is astounding; he sends two of the biggest drug users into an anti-drug convention filled with cops.  Run-ins with police, poor decision making, and a lack of sleep lead to Duke's imminent insanity as he seeks his own unique version of the American Dream in Las Vegas.

       For some strange reason, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was not available in my college bookstore, so I had to order it on Amazon.  I had it shipped to my house, and my mom gave it to me after one of my basketball games.  When she handed me the novel, she gave me a weird look.  "I read the back of the cover... you know this book is all about drugs, right?" she asked me.  I laughed, and replied, "That's American Fiction from 1950 to Present for you."  All joking aside, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is extremely drug-addled.  It is actually somewhat based on Hunter S. Thompson's own life, as well, so his many descriptions of various narcotics of different strengths seem to be extremely accurate.  Sometimes, I was actually overwhelmed by the terminology used.  Although I was definitely in shock about Duke's constant state of being high, it was definitely a perspective that I have never read about before, and it was quite a unique character viewpoint.  Las Vegas is the perfect setting, as well, because all of the flash and dazzle is amplified by being mentally and/or physically incapacitated.

Las Vegas       Maybe it's Thompson's drug-addled characters, or maybe it's just the ludicracy of the plot line, but Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is absolutely hilarious!  One of my favorite scenes in the novel is when Duke and Dr. Gonezo go to a taco stand.  Thompson spends three entire pages discussing the different types of tacos that they are debating on ordering.  Basically the whole time I was reading, I was like... "What the heck?"  To be completely honest, sometimes reading a novel as ridiculous as this can be a great escape from the dreary reality of rainy days filled with tedious college busywork.  

       I would definitely recommend Thompson's novel to my college-aged friends.  However, super conservative readers will NOT find it to be entertaining, quality literature.  The main characters are actually on drugs for the entirety of the narrative.  Don't say I didn't warn you in advance.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Book Review: Play It As It Lays

Play It As It Lays
Title: Play It As It Lays
Author: Joan Didion
Publication Date: 1970 (2005 edition)
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Genre: Realistic fiction
Pages: 213
Age Rating: Readers over 14
My Opinion: 8/10

Hi, Readers!

       I have finally reached a breakthrough - I'm finally starting to understand post-modernism!  Woohoo!  Joan Didion does an excellent job representing the difficult power dynamics of Hollywood for both males and females in the 1970's in Play It As It Lays.  It's not a novel that I would typically enjoy, but Didion's powerful yet concise writing drew me in and held my attention.

Hollywood       Maria (pronounced Mariah by my professor, but I'm doubtful) is a washed up Hollywood actress struggling to come to terms with her separation from her husband, Carter, the absence of her institutionalized child, Kate, and her various affairs with different men.  When Carter forces her to get an abortion, she spirals into depression and is only able to talk to her friend BZ, a movie producer.  She goes through the motions of life while watching those around her.  Maria's observations give her a number of insight to life as she knows it, and she questions what her purpose is and how to continue on with life.

       As you can most likely tell based on that short summary, Play It As It Lays deals with a variety of very diverse issues - abortion, monogamy and affairs, depression, the Hollywood system of patriarchy, sexual orientation, and identity.  These issues can be quite overwhelming at first because Didion throws readers right into the plot with hardly any character introduction.  We are forced to learn more about the characters and their histories as the novel progresses, making Didion's character development extremely interesting to read about.  One of my favorite characters is BZ because his identity slowly becomes revealed piece by piece over time.

Author Joan Didion
       One of the most interesting characteristics of Didion's writing in Play It As It Lays is the length of the novel's chapters.  The longest chapter cannot be more than five pages in length, and some chapters are as short as a few sentences.  Each chapter seems to be a different moment in Maria's life.  At first, they seem unrelated, but as the story develops, the chapters become more and more intertwined.  By the end, it reads as a practically coherent novel and many truths become evident.

       I personally found Didion's discussion of life in Hollywood during the 1970's to be fascinating.  Although her characters are not particularly likeable, they are very complex and well-developed.  I would recommend Play It As It Lays if you are looking for a fairly comprehensible post-modernism novel.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Book Review: Why Are We in Vietnam?

Why Are We in Vietnam?
Title: Why Are We in Vietnam?
Author: Norman Mailer
Publication Date: 1967 (2000 edition)
Publisher: Picador
Genre: Realistic fiction
Pages: 215
Age Rating: Readers over 14
My Opinion: 6/10

Hi, Readers!

       Don't be fooled by the title of Norman Mailer's novel, Why Are We in Vietnam? - its setting is not the dangerous, war-torn jungles of Vietnam.  Instead, he explains his own version of the Vietnam War by creating an elaborate metaphor about a hunting trip in the Alaskan wilderness focusing on a corporate executive and his son.  Mailer's stream-of-consciousness writing is unique, but in my opinion, Why Are We in Vietnam? lacks excitement and was not able to hold my interest.

       Why Are We in Vietnam is narrated by D.J., a wealthy, white teenager from Texas who is contemplating the idea of identity.  D.J. disjointedly tells the story of a hunting trip that he went on with his father, his best friend, and some of his father's employees.  His father, Rusty, is on a mission to shoot a grizzly bear.  A power dynamic comes into play when one of his employees, MA ("medium asshole") Pete, takes down a grizzly before he does.  At that point, Rusty and D.J. head off on their own in search of a hunt, and their father-son relationship is called into question.  Afterwards, D.J. and his friend attempt a "purification ceremony" in which they delve into the wilderness without weapons or supplies.  Mailer uses the backdrop of Alaska to focus on complex character dynamics that metaphorically mirror that of soldiers in the Vietnam War.

A quote from the author, Norman Mailer
       D.J. tells his narrative using a fluid timeline, and almost every chapter has a brief (and utterly perplexing) introduction, called an "Intro Beep".  These Intro Beeps serve to set the scene for what is to come, but they do so in underhanded ways and seem to have nothing to do with the story due to D.J.'s stream-of-consciousness discussions.  Although the timeline of the storytelling is difficult to follow at points, Mailer does an excellent job including D.J.'s discourse about identity.  Throughout the novel, Mailer forces readers to question reality by randomly throwing in that D.J. could be a white teen from Texas or that he could be a famous black disc jockey from Harlem.  It is pretty clear that D.J.'s true identity is that of the white teen, but the novel still calls into question what is actually true and what is fictitious.

       The aspect of Mailer's writing that receives the most criticism is his inclusion of obscenities.  Please be forewarned if you decide to read Why Are We in Vietnam? - almost every single page has swear words casually thrown into sentences. There are probably more bad words in this book than in all of the novels I've read... combined.  I personally find it interesting how Mailer is mimicking the rough dialogue of soldiers in the Vietnam War, and much of the language adds a comical air to a somewhat heavy subject, but it can be a bit of a shock to see so many vulgar words.

      Why Are We in Vietnam definitely grew on me as I kept reading it.  In the beginning, I thought that I would dislike it just as much as I have disliked the previous post-modernism novels that I had to read for American Fiction from 1950 to Present.  Luckily, it transitioned from having confusing narration to becoming more clear by the end.  I wouldn't personally recommend the novel, but I do think it has its merits and is a strong piece of literature.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Book Review: The Crying of Lot 49

The Crying of Lot 49Title: The Crying of Lot 49
Author: Thomas Pynchon
Publication Date: 1966 (2006 edition)
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 183
Age Rating: Readers over 14
My Opinion: 3/10

Hi, Readers!

       Phew, I never realized how exhausting post-modernist novels could be.  Reading these novels for American Fiction from 1950 to Present requires my full attention - skipping over a single line of text can leave me feeling confused for chapters on end.  This sense of confusion hit me like a truck as soon as I dived into The Crying of Lot 49, by Thomas Pynchon.

The 'Trystero' sign that Oedipa discovers
       The Crying of Lot 49 is one of the most incomprehensible novels that I have ever reviewed.  I don't even know where to start, so I guess I'll just start from the beginning.  Oedipa Maas, a housewife living in California, had a previous romantic relationship with a billionaire property owner, Pierce Inverarity.  One evening, she discovers that he has passed away and left her as the executor of his will.  Naturally, Oedipa has absolutely no clue where to start in executing a will, so she meets with a lawyer, Metzger.  The two end up having a whirlwind affair, and Oedipa becomes involved in a conspiracy of sorts involving 'Trystero' and hidden signs around the city of San Narciso.  

       In case you haven't noticed, I rated Pynchon's novel as a three out of ten.  Let me make one thing clear - The Crying of Lot 49 definitely does reach a particular audience (although I'm not quite sure who that may be) and it is certainly renowned in the minds of some readers.  However, maybe I just don't understand what Pynchon is trying to get at with his choppy and unnecessary storytelling, but his writing style does not appeal to me whatsoever.  He includes ten pages worth of description on a movie that Oedipa and Metzger watch, and he also describes in full detail a gruesome play that Oedipa attends, the two of which were absolute wastes of time.  Considering that the novel isn't very long to begin with, I can't help but wonder why Pynchon wasted precious space including these irrelevant stories when he could have been developing his characters or expanding upon his brief discussion of gender roles and identity in society.  Plus, he never truly develops the plot of the novel - if there even is a plot to begin with - and the conclusion leaves readers hanging with no explanation.

Thomas Pynchon
Author Thomas Pynchon
       Pynchon's only saving grace is his use of humor.  Although I am still totally unaware about what the point of the novel is, I tried to read it with an open mind and it made me laugh constantly.  One of the funniest moments of the novel is when Oedipa accidentally breaks a can of hairspray in her hotel bathroom and it ricochets around for minutes, all while Oedipa is covered in layers of clothing from playing a stripping game with Metzger.  Ludicracy such as this is practically considered normal day-to-day life in The Crying of Lot 49.  

       As I briefly mentioned before, I do believe, deep down, that there is some sort of audience for The Crying of Lot 49, but that audience definitely does not encompass young adult fiction readers such as myself.  I would not have the heart to recommend this novel to anybody for the fear that they would end up just as disoriented as I did... or even worse, that they manage to uncover a deeper understanding that I totally missed.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Book Review: No-No Boy

No-No Boy
Title: No-No Boy
Author: John Okada
Publication Date: 1957 (2014 edition)
Publisher: University of Washington Press
Genre: Realistic fiction (now considered historical)
Pages: 232
Age Rating: Readers over 12
My Opinion: 8/10

Hi, Readers!

       I am pleased to announce, with a sigh of relief, that No-No Boy, by John Okada, is a much simpler novel to understand than the last novel I read for American Fiction from 1950 to Present, The Subterraneans.  Thank goodness!  It also has a much more intriguing plot line and more reachable characters.  The strongest aspect of No-No Boy, however, has to be its focus on minority groups that are not usually discussed in literature.  Although it was written in its time as realistic fiction, it can now be considered historical and it opened my eyes to a twentieth century issue that I was entirely unaware of.

The rights of Japanese Americans
were called into question
       During the Second World War, thousands of Japanese Americans were forced into internment camps in the midwest due to their ethnicity.  While in these camps, they were forced to answer a questionnaire determining their loyalty to the United States, in which two questions asked if they pledged allegiance to the US (thus denouncing Japan) and if they were willing to serve in the American military.  Men who answered "no" to both questions were immediately labeled "No-No Boys" and were either deported or sent to prison.  Okada's novel focuses on Ichiro Yamada, a No-No Boy who is released after two years in jail, and his attempt to reintegrate himself into society.  When Ichiro reunites with his family and friends, he realizes that he is no longer considered a respected member of the country that he grew up in.  He faces a long journey of self-discovery filled with doubts and trials, and Okada questions the character of America as a whole in the powerful novel.

       As my professor described to us in class, No-No Boy is, in reality, a novel about a minority group inside of another minority group.  No-No Boys were the minority of Japanese Americans, and Japanese people were a minority in America.  Interestingly, the Japanese American community rejected Okada's novel when it first came out, most likely because of its honest depiction of the hardships the group endured and the reality of the treatment of No-No Boys.  To be completely honest, I had never even heard of No-No Boys before reading the novel, which is why I found it so enlightening.  It discusses touchy subjects in American history that few novels even have the guts to address.

flag       One downside of No-No Boy is the portrayal of many unlikeable characters.  For starters, although Ichiro has been through a lot over the past couple of years of his life, he is not a particularly 'likeable' character.  He complains often, resorts to drinking away his feelings, and is rude to his family and friends.  I may seem harsh, but I'm not going to cut Ichiro any slack because his friend Kenji goes through events just as tortuous as his own and manages to retain a positive outlook on life.  Next, Ichiro's mother is indubitably portrayed as a villain throughout the novel, and she is one of the meanest characters I have ever come across.  Her selfish disillusionment hurts everybody around her and causes her to self destruct as she refuses to believe that Japan lost the war.  No-No Boy is portraying an extreme minority audience, and I cannot speak for anyone except for myself, but it's practically impossible for me to relate to what the characters are going through.

       I certainly cannot call into question the power of Okada's novel.  It does an excellent job addressing the social and racial issue of the No-No Boys of World War II, and it opened my eyes to a completely unique lifestyle.  However, I wasn't the biggest fan of the characters in the novel, which turned me off at points.  I would recommend No-No Boy to lovers of historical fiction, but it is not a light-hearted novel for casual readers.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Book Review: The Subterraneans

The SubterraneansTitle: The Subterraneans
Author: Jack Kerouac
Publication Date: 1958 (1994 edition)
Publisher: Grove Weidenfeld
Genre: Realistic fiction
Pages: 111
Age Rating: Readers over 16
My Opinion: 6/10

Hi, Readers!

       What better way to start off the semester of American Fiction from 1950 to Present than by reading one of the most confusing books known to mankind?  Jack Kerouac's The Subterraneans is the most disjointed and seemingly illiterate novel that I've ever read.  That being said, Kerouac's writing style is so original that his strange assertions and interesting language are simultaneously captivating and repulsing.  To be completely honest, I am still debating whether or not I actually enjoyed reading The Subterraneans, but it was definitely... unique.

       The Subterraneans are a group of about twenty young adults living in San Francisco in the early 1950's, and they embody the "hipster" identity.  From drugs to drinking to contemplating life, the Subterraneans aspire to be junkies and to do practically nothing with their lives.  Strangely enough, Leo Percepied wants to be just like the Subterraneans, even though he is about ten years older than all of them and doesn't fit in at all.  His Hawaiian shirt  and "crudely, malely sexual" (Kerouac) personality are in stark contrast to the berets and haughty language of the Subterraneans, yet he manages to worm his way in.  Leo is immediately taken by Mardou, an African American and Native American woman who is viewed as one of the most desirable of the group.  Mardou eventually accepts Leo's advances, and the rest of the novel tells the intricate story of their delicate relationship and their involvement with the rest of the Subterraneans.

An alternate cover depicting
Leo and Mardou
       You're probably thinking, based on my short summary above, that The Subterraneans doesn't seem too complex.  Well, let me put it this way: you're wrong.  The writing style of The Subterraneans is one of the reasons that it is widely acclaimed, but it also forces readers to dig their way through sentences that are as long as paragraphs and large sections of text that don't follow any basic gramatical rules (the horror!).  In class, my professor later explained to us that Kerouac did not revise the novel.  At all.  Zilch.  Zero.  The Subterraneans is a first draft that contains Kerouac's most private thoughts, some of which probably should not be shared with the public.  He tends to interrupt his own writing and does not follow a logical time sequence, making it difficult to follow even the simplest of anecdotes. However, one thing is for sure - Kerouac's stream-of-thought style writing is honest, raw, and uncut.

       The Subterraneans was written in 1953 and published in 1958, basically right at the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement.  Therefore, Kerouac, as a white male, was not the only one of the time demonstrating racism.  However, this does not serve as an excuse - as my professor aptly stated, Kerouac really should have edited his writing.  Some of the statements that he makes about Mardou based on her skin color are absolutely ridiculous.  For instance, he thinks that her body is somehow different than that of a white woman, and he also blindly stereotypes the story of her past, especially relating to the history of her Native American father.  Kerouac's unfiltered writing style is part of what makes The Subterraneans such an interesting piece of writing, but it also leads to many uncomfortable statements and racist assertions.

Jack Kerouac
Jack Kerouac
       Lastly, Kerouac managed to offend quite a few people with his lack of revisions, namely because he based his characters off people he knew in real life.  Leo is loosely based on himself, and the novel is actually only "semi-fictional" because Kerouac based it off one of his own romances.  This only adds to my agreement that Kerouac should have revised his writing before publication, but his characters certainly have depth.

       All in all, it's tough to get a good grasp on Kerouac's writing.  I know that what I read was, in a way, brilliant and ingenious, but I was also left feeling dazed and confused.  Kerouac is an amazing writer, but I think some of his ideas went over my head.  I can't say I would recommend reading The Subterraneans for pleasure - it takes way too much concentration to make it through the novella.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

American Fiction from 1950 to Present

Hi, Readers!

post modernism       After taking a brief hiatus from the world of blogging, I am now back and better than ever!  I never believed people when they said they were too busy to read, but now that I'm in college, I've experienced the terror of complete time management for the first time.  From classes to homework to basketball to extracurriculars, I barely have time to catch my breath.  As of 2016, (Happy belated New Year!) I am trying very hard to break the habit of monotonously binge-watching Netflix before bed and picking up a book instead - new year, new me.

       This semester, I have the pleasure of taking three literature courses at Tufts University - Environmental Justice and World Literature, Latin American Literature, and American Fiction from 1950 to Present.  Shoutout to all you English majors out there, because there sure is a lot of reading for homework.  As syllabus week is coming to a close, I just recently went to the bookstore to purchase all of my required textbooks.  I couldn't believe my eyes as I examined my American Fiction syllabus, for which I had to purchase fourteen books!  When I brought all of the novels to the register, the cashier took one look at the stack and said, "Wow, that's a lot of books there.  You must be smart."  In my head I thought to myself, Or maybe I'm just really dumb for taking such a difficult class.  Only time will tell.

       According to my professor, the novels that we will be reading over the next five months span from the most well-known post-modern literature to some extremely obscure pieces.  I, for one, have not heard of a single one of the titles.  Guess that shows how much I know about American Literature 1950 to Present.  However, I'm excited to learn about post-modernism and explore the work of some diverse authors.

       As I read my way through the American Fiction from 1950 to Present syllabus, I will be reviewing each book here on Book Savvy.  We read each novel in about a week and discuss it over the span of two or three classes, and I will then share my concluding thoughts here on my blog afterward.  Hopefully some of them will be worth recommending to you, but I will also be sure to give you a heads-up on which books are snooze fests.

Here is a list of the books I will be reading:

  1. The Subterraneans, by Jack Kerouac
  2. No-No Boy, by John Okada
  3. The Crying of Lot 49, by Thomas Pynchon
  4. Why Are We In Vietnam?, by Norman Mailer
  5. Play It As It Lays, by Joan Didion
  6. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, by Hunter S. Thompson (not pictured)
  7. The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath
  8. Corregidora, by Gayl Jones
  9. Flight to Canada, by Ishmael Reed
  10. Speedboat, by Renata Adler
  11. The Shawl, by Cynthia Ozick
  12. Less Than Zero, by Brett Easton Ellis
  13. Girl With Curious Hair, by David Foster Wallace
  14. Consider the Lobster, by David Foster Wallace
First up... Kerouac!
To be completely honest, I am pretty intimidated looking at this list of novels.  It totals up to 3,030 pages of reading to be discussed in a mere 25 classes (yes, I did the math myself).  For comparison, not including the introductory first class, we will be discussing over 126 pages of literature in depth each class.  Plus, my class is practically all seniors who clearly know much more about post-modern literature than I do.  Boy, do I have my work cut out for me.

Well, wish me luck as I attend my second class on The Subterraneans tomorrow morning.  I can't wait to share my thoughts on the novel with you in my next post!

Happy reading!