How Short Could a Short Story Be if a Story Could Be Short?

Last week, I debated whether Twitter could be literature. I didn’t end up with a clear answer, essentially concluding that the difference between words and literature is only based on the subjectivity that is intention and interpretation. In other words, if the author meant it to be literature, it is, and if the reader understands it as literature, it is.

This, of course, is not very helpful. Perhaps that discussion can be continued and furthered, then, by looking at an accepted shorter form of literature — the short story.

Neil GaimanI’m finishing up the illustrious Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warning right now, a collection of “short fictions and disturbances.” I’ve loved Neil Gaiman’s novels for a long time; American Gods and Good Omens (written with Terry Pratchett) are two of my favorite books. Yet despite my enjoyment of Gaiman’s novels, I have always been more fascinated with his short fiction. As he puts it, they are often “disturbances,” seemingly small pieces of a puzzling whole that is always just out of my grasp.

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A Sorority Novel and Binary Female Characters

While I’ve been savoring the “Short Fictions and Disturbances” in Neil Gaiman’s new Trigger Warning, I also flew through another book this weekend. Dirty Rush was a quick and absurd read about a girl’s crazy experience rushing a sorority. Normally, this is not my kind of book at all, but it was recommended to me for its hilarity and entertainment, so I gave it a try.

Yeah, the cover is ridiculous; I know. As a disclaimer, I am actually part of a sorority myself, but it’s at Hopkins, a school of intelligent overachievers, so my experience with a sorority has been that of a very tame social club, essentially. Compared to my college experience, this book seemed crazier than insane.

Yet as much as I found myself disgusted with the girls’ antics, as I continued to read, I also realized how judgmental I was being. It reminded me of an article I read called “The Girl Myth in YA Fiction (And Beyond),” which I highly recommend you read here. It had always bothered me that even the worst of male characters, if they were charming, could be loved for their complexity (the bad boys definitely have a fan base) while female characters who are imperfect are more often summed up as unlikeable or not relatable.  Continue reading

Haruki Murakami and the Idea of “Light Reading”

This past week, I wrote an article for The News-Letter about Haruki Murakami’s book Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. I wrote the article intending it as a simple “Lit Bit” book review with a simple opening and closing introducing it as a book I chose to read over the summer that opened my thoughts.

By jgoge [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

After I finished my hurried writing, however, my mind was stuck on the idea of what summer reading was supposed to be. In my article, I had taken for granted the idea that beach reading should be “light.” It shouldn’t be difficult, and we should be able to finish it quickly. But why should more challenging reading not be enjoyable? I was reminded of John Green saying that he didn’t understand why we were willing to spend endless hours trying to complete a single level of Angry Birds but refused to voluntarily pick up a long book. He makes a good point.

And then, of course, my mind, in its endless love for allusions, flashed to Hermione crashing an enormous tome down on a library table in front of the boys, saying, “I checked this out weeks ago for a bit of light reading…”

http://bffsinparis.blogspot.com/2013/09/scene-from-hp-1-light-reading-and.htmlI find myself agreeing with her death glare. Why should something easy and less interesting or applicable to my life be better? If I am happily simmering on the sand on the breaks between wonderfully exhausting myself in the ocean, why wouldn’t I also want the same for my mind? I started to wonder if it wasn’t better to exercise my mind with something rewarding and delighting, something like Murakami.

I’ve attached the article both as a recommendation to read Murakami and as a demonstration of the point of embarkment of this new train of thought. What do you read during the summer?

Over the summer I do a lot of reading. I’m not bogged down with readings for class, and becoming absorbed in a novel on the beach gives me a sense of satisfaction and calm that I rarely get during the semester. This past summer I read one of Haruki Murakami’s books, having heard his name quite often but not knowing anything about him. I’ll spare you the hyperbole, but I was shocked.

Murakami is a Japanese writer who began publishing in 1979 and still publishes works today. His books have become bestsellers and award-winners in more countries than just his own. While his novels are originally written in Japanese, they resonate with a broader audience since Murakami was raised with a lot of Western influences on his life, especially in terms of the literature he read.

Murakami’s books have been classified as surrealist, science fiction, magical realism and more. This genre confusion certainly applies to Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, which I read. The book is actually so confusing and crazy that giving a summary seems impossible, but I will try to sketch the basic ideas. Read More

Virginia Woolf and “Feminist” as an Insult

I’m currently taking a course titled “Virginia Woolf and Bloomsbury” at Hopkins because, believe it or not, I had never read anything by Woolf before. I avoided being assigned A Room of One’s Own in high school English, ironically due to taking honors and AP English, and I had never taken the initiative to read her work on my own.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? @ the Booth Theatre on Broadway

Now that I am finally reading the works of Woolf and her friends and family, I am simultaneously amazed by her writing itself, her insights into people, her self-education, her privilege, and the degree to which her works are autobiographical. Beyond reflecting her own life and experiences, they address the issues she was concerned with as a human and as an English woman to an astonishingly thoughtful degree.

The other day in class we were discussing The Wise Virgins, a book written by Virginia’s husband, Leonard, shortly after their marriage. Leonard’s work was even more autobiographical than that of Virginia; everyone he was close to was offended, and, coincidentally or not, Virginia suffered her worst mental breakdown (and the only one that included anger, rather than just depression) right afterwards. Talk about a rough start to a marriage… Continue reading

Book Mondays

Mondays will be for my favorite part of the progress of human history: books. I might write book reviews, recommend books, talk about what I’d like to read, or do anything else I want related to literature because, honestly, books are about the reader.

One of the most interesting recent debates about books and writing is the issue of originality and plagiarism associated with reblogging and fanfiction.I’m excluding for now the elephant in the room: print versus electronic reading. While obviously complete and utter originality is impossible in literature, social media and the recent phenomena related to fan cultures have raised a lot of questions about what does or does not constitute plagiarism. Even Fifty Shades of Grey was originally fanfiction based on Twilight.

I combined my view on this debate with a review of a book I recently read and loved, Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, for The Lit Bit column of The Johns Hopkins News-Letter.

Rainbow Rowell's fantastic novel

Rainbow Rowell’s fantastic novel

I’m interested to hear your opinion!

Tumblr is a community comprised of bloggers who, in addition to posting original content, spend most of their time “reblogging” the content of others. Even most of the content sources are not entirely original; bloggers create sets of GIFs of their favorite shows or write fanfiction about their favorite characters.

Tumblr has faced some disapproval due to these copyright violations. However, most bloggers I have seen discussing this issue claim no right to the characters or content. They simply want to contribute their talents to the community of fans.

As the first book in Tumblr’s official book club, Rainbow Rowell’s brilliantly written novel Fangirl incorporates this emerging issue of content originality into the story of a geeky writer’s first year at college.

Cath is a huge fan of the fictional Simon Snow series (an ode to Harry Potter). Amidst difficult family issues such as a missing mother, a mentally-ill father and a college-crazy twin, the painfully introverted Cath retreats into writing Simon Snow fanfiction to escape reality (and human interactions in general).

I’m not going to completely spoil the story for those of you who will, I hope, read it, but there are two situations this novel sets out that I want to bring up. They made me question the hours I have spent “tumbling.” So, spoilers ahead! Continue reading…