Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Shelf: A Progress Report

Remember The Shelf? And how I said I was going to read 36 books in 2012?

Let's revisit that.

First, let me say that shortly after making that goal, I discovered Downton Abbey. As we all know, one episode of Downton Abbey is the equivalent of reading a book. So when we do that math, I'd venture so far as to say I've surpassed my goal, number-wise.

But as far as the list itself goes, I'm ashamed to say that thus far, I've only finished two books. Two. In four months. It's pitiful. Probably my worst track record ever.

But hey, those two books were pretty darn good.

The first was Jane Austen's Persuasion. Anne Elliot is the main lady, and, as is common for Austen's novels, Anne is surrounded by bumbling, selfish, embarrassing, entertaining family members. Seven years previous to the action of the novel, Anne falls in love with the dashing Frederick Wentworth, a navy officer below her social status. He proposes, but Anne's mentor persuades her to turn him down. In the action, the two cross paths again while Anne visits her sister, and it seems he is intent to marry another. Meanwhile, the rightful heir to the Elliot fortune pops up and starts to woo Anne. Unlike Austen's other novels, I wasn't sure how this one was going to turn out. Persuasion, Austen's final work, has a bit more serious tone to it. Anne's disappointment is heavy on the heart of the reader, and while she isn't fiery like Elizabeth or straight-forward as Elinor, I found myself rooting for her more than other Austenian protagonists. Her gentle confidence evokes empathy and self-identification, and thus quietly wins over the reader as well as one of the male characters.

Last week, I finished Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga. While I'd hastily studied the SparkNotes in preparation for Oxbridge comps, I had never gotten past the first chapter of the actual book. Not because it's not engaging, but probably because something else came up. Like my degree. Nervous Conditions a post-colonial bildungsroman. Tambu, a young girl growing up in rural Zimbabwe in the '70s, gets the opportunity to attend school after her older brother dies. Torn between her cultural traditions and the promise of advancing her situation through education, Tambu keenly and fairly observes the women and men around her as they also try to establish a homogenous identity amidst a schizophrenic society. It's a haunting examination of patriarchy and colonialism, and the complicated outcomes they render.

Currently reading: Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Unfinished books I need to go back to: Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh; In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson.

1 comment:

  1. I like the update!! You still have lots more of 2012, so the others will get read. Also, you have been busy with a traveling and your new internship! I am a complete failure when it comes to reading anything that isn't Communication or Gender theory these days. Judith Butler - check. Hunger Games - 0. This is something I will work on (after my comprehensive exams). Also, I loved the photos in the last post! Beautiful!