What I’m Reading

Hello there. I’m writing on a crisp bright Tuesday, and it has just turned midday. I had a hospital appointment this morning and treated Drew to a cooked breakfast to say thank you for accompanying me.

It’s nice to get appointments out of the way in the morning, as it gives me plenty of time in the afternoon to study. For those of you unaware, I’m currently studying for my MRes degree in English Literature, and the majority of my degree classification relies on my 30000 word dissertation. I’m particularly interested in the depiction of difference through literature, and as such my wider reading reflects this concept. The books I’m currently reading are a mixture of books used for my dissertation and for pleasure, but admittedly they all have similar themes (mostly because I’m so interested in them!). 

(Ed.) Garland Thomson, Rosemarie (1996)

Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body
New York University Press

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As a collection of essays from various authors, Freakery explores the concept of freakishness through historical, cultural and literary perspectives. As the study of bodily difference is a new and dynamic field, this comprehensive collection of essays provides a brilliant introduction to the concept of the corporeal Other. Though it is useful to have an awareness of the work of Goffman and his theories regarding stigma and bodily difference, Freakery provides a great starting point for those wishing to learn more about the concept of bodily freakishness that continues to be of prevalence within contemporary society.

Nihn, Bao (1993)
The Sorrow of War
Vintage

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Nihn’s Sorrow has been on my ‘To Read’ list for quite some time. During my A-Levels I began to develop an interest in war literature, and Nihn’s novel is – rather sadly – based upon his own experiences of serving in the Vietnam War, where he returned as only one of ten survivors from his battalion. Incredibly moving and oftentimes disturbing, Sorrow has often been likened to All Quiet on the Western Front. I can’t wait to finish this , and I’m sure it’ll be a novel that’ll stay with me for a while after reading.

Wurtzel, Elizabeth (1998)
Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America
Quartet Books

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This was a charity shop find, and to be honest I picked it up on a whim not expecting an awful lot. My undergrad dissertation focused on the relationship between mental illness and the body, and naturally I was drawn to something like this. Prozac Nation is actually a memoir, where Wurtzel discusses her struggles with mental illness as a teenager. Described as ‘Sylvia Plath with the ego of Madonna,’ Wurtzel uses a no holds barred approach to discuss her struggles with mental illness and her progression to improved mental health. A couple of trigger warnings, however: she does discuss self-harm and aspects of her own suicidality, so do be mindful of this if you’re wanting to give it a read. A darkly-comic read that is sure to resonate with many.

I am reading lots of different books at the minute, but thought it might be good to share a select few. Are you into reading? Let me know what you’re loving at the minute.

Have a great Tuesday afternoon whatever you’re up to,
Heather x

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Things I’ve been reading (and loving)

This week marked the final semester of my undergraduate study at university. I find this simultaneously scary and exciting; it provides a glimpse into the real world, yet I still find myself amidst the safe perimeter of university life. Third year thus far has been enjoyable. I’m lucky to have taken some fantastic, thought provoking modules on my English Literature course. A highlight has been Post-9/11 Literatures of the U.S, which has enabled me to study a variety of post-9/11 texts alongside a variety of philosophical and political texts addressing 9/11 and the ‘War on Terror’ that followed. I have particularly enjoyed Don DeLillo’s Falling Man, a novel with an almost circular narrative, which explores the impact of the attacks using a plethora of characters and concepts. The final chapter is particularly hard-hitting, providing what one could mistakenly assume to be an accurate description of the very moment the plane hits the first of the towers to be attacked. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, though perhaps not strictly a post-9/11 novel as it doesn’t address the attacks specifically, imagines and creates a post-apocalyptic American landscape where one assumes human conflict to be the contributing factor. It follows a nameless father and son, journeying down a road amidst the barren and desolate land. Save for a few precious relics of a life they once knew, the country is completely unrecognisable, and thus survival becomes increasingly difficult for the two. The narrative is littered with unimaginable horrors, yet the enduring love between father and son keeps them moving on the road. I was also introduced to  Jean Baudrillard’s  The Spirit of Terrorism, and Slavoj Žižek’s Welcome to the Desert of the Real. Each provided very interesting seminar discussion, and allowed us to analyse the novels on the module with alternative theories. Judith Butler’s Violence, Mourning, Politics further added to this, and much like Baudrillard’s and Žižek’s work, became a highlight of my studies on the module. We were also lucky enough to participate in a skype call with Alissa Torres, author of graphic novel American Widow. American Widow is an autobiographical work, documenting Alissa’s life before and after her husband’s death on 9/11. Intensely moving and in an unusual and interesting format, the book provides an alternative means of documenting the impact of 9/11 itself; something that has perhaps proved challenging to render into words. Below I will provide a list of texts I studied on the module. I recommend each and every one of them. Some address the attacks directly, whilst some provide an alternative critique of the occurence of 9/11 and the events that followed as a consequence.

The Submission, Amy Waldman

http://www.thesubmissionnovel.com/

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/aug/24/the-submission-amy-waldman-review

The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mosin Hamid

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2007/mar/03/featuresreviews.guardianreview20

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2005/jun/04/featuresreviews.guardianreview22

The Road, Cormac McCarthy

http://www.cormacmccarthy.com/works/the-road/

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2006/nov/04/featuresreviews.guardianreview4

American Widow, Alissa Torres, drawn by Sungyoon Choi

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/07/books/review/Taylor-t.html?_r=0

Falling Man, Don DeLillo

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2007/may/26/fiction.dondelillo

The Mutants, Joyce Carol Oates (short story)

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/07/books/07novel.html

The Things they Left Behind, Stephen King (short story)

http://stephenking.com/library/short_story/things_they_left_behind_the.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/23/books/review/Taylor-t.html?pagewanted=all

The Spirit of Terrorism, Jean Baudrillard

http://www.versobooks.com/books/1197-the-spirit-of-terrorism

Welcome to the Desert of the Real, Slavoj Žižek

http://www.versobooks.com/books/1137-welcome-to-the-desert-of-the-real

‘Violence, Mourning, Politics’, Judith Butler

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2004/jun/05/politics

Holy Terror, Terry Eagleton

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2007/dec/16/martinamis

Do share any thoughts you have, it’s really interesting to hear from you. I hope you have a fantastic weekend!

Heather