Sunday, February 21, 2010

School Book: Chatterton

This is the first book all week that I've actually enjoyed. Peter Ackroyd's Chatterton is not something that I would normally decide to read on my own. But after both By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept and Mrs. Dalloway, I was just really happy that it actually had a plot.
Chatterton is an odd tale. It starts off when Charles Wychwood finds an old painting of a middle aged man whose face looks familiar. Charles and his friend Philip recognize the face as Thomas Chatterton, but much older than he should have been. Suddenly, Charles finds himself confronted with the intriguing possibility: what if Chatterton didn't die when he was supposed to, at age 17, but faked his death and kept forging the work of other famous people?
I really liked the many interesting and unique characters, from Charles, the poet who knows he is good but hasn't been discovered yet, to Harriet Scrope, the eccentric author who is failing to write her memoirs. All of them helped to make Chatterton a relatively quick, enjoyable read.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

School Book: Mrs. Dalloway

Before I begin, I just want to say that this is not a picture of me, or one that I took. It was the only picture I could find with the cover of the book I read.

Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway is the last book I have to read for the class I TA before the first set of marking. And unfortunately, I really did not enjoy it. Mrs Dalloway kind of reminded me of Elizabeth Smart's By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. But where Smart's book was all about the narrator's emotions, Woolf's book was all about the character's streams of consciousness. The book would follow what one character was thinking, then latch onto another one for awhile. And it seemed to ramble on; there would be elaborate descriptions which I could not connect to characters or whomever they were referring to.

The basic "plot" of the book is that Mrs. Dalloway is having a party at the end of the day. So most of the book follows people who are around her. Most of the characters that you meet do go to her party, but there are a few who do not. As the book progresses, you learn a lot about everyone, but I guess mostly Mrs. Dalloway and those who are closest to her.

I found Mrs Dalloway to be very boring. I had a hard time following anything because there wasn't really much of a story. Now, as you may know, I like a good story, so I was not at all happy reading this book. Now that it's over, I'm going to read something good.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

School Book: By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept

I had to read Elizabeth Smart's By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept for the class I TA for this term. I knew before I started it that it wouldn't be my kind of book, and I was right. If anything, it reminded me of Shelia Watson's The Double Hook; like it, this book really wasn't about the story. But unlike Watson's book, By Grand Central Station used quotation marks.
By Grand Central Station is about the author's love affair with a man. Unfortunately, that man is married. And the book does not tell the story so much as chronicle the author's emotions throughout the love affair. It was really tough to figure out just what exactly was going on as the book progressed. And me being me, I like a good story; that this lacked a real story meant that I really didn't enjoy reading it. Luckily, like The Double Hook, By Grand Central Station was also really short, so I was able to finish it quickly. I'll be able to move onto better, story-focussed things tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

School Book: The White Hotel

A friend of mine assured me that D. M. Thomas' The White Hotel was a good read. So after my struggle with The Golden Notebook last week, I was looking forward to something better. Unfortunately, I wasn't really impressed with The White Hotel. It was short, which was a major plus. But it definitely wasn't my kind of book.
The White Hotel is the story about an extremely strange dream that one of Freud's patients has. The book starts out with the lyric form in which the dream was originally written (after a few letters from and to Freud). Then it gives a more elaborate narrative account of the dream. The third part is from Freud's perspective, in which he psychoanalyzes the dream and cures the patient's hysteria. Then the final parts of the book deal with her life after being cured by Freud.
Unfortunately, I found the book to be rather dull for the most part. There were a few pages when the dream turned wacky which were interesting. And the end definitely got my sympathy. But overall I did not enjoy reading this. I'm not going to lie though, I wasn't looking forward to it when I realized it dealt with psychoanalysis. While it was interesting in novel form, I am not a fan of Freud and his theories, which may have given me a biased outlook right from the beginning.
I did, however, like it more than The Golden Notebook; the plots and characters weren't nearly as confusing in The White Hotel!