The Symbol of the West

This Quote Tuesday I wanted to talk about a symbol that I realized has been cropping up in a lot of the quotes I like recently. The West has long been a symbol for exploration, the unknown, the destination towards which you ride in the setting sun.

Doesn’t get much more Western than this…

I’ve always loved Annie Lennox’s song devoted to Lord of the Rings, “Into the West” (Howard Shore is also a genius). She takes the idea that Tolkien created of races like Elves taking ships to a land of immortality as the age of men gets into full swing in Middle Earth, and she weaves it together with the calming imagery we often associate with the sea and the sunset to create a sense of “home.”

Indeed, if you have read The Silmarillion, the Elves are returning closer to their homeland, the immortal paradise to which they once had access. In Lennox’s song, however, she also elaborates on time; “all will turn / to silver glass” indicates an eventual calming of worldly troubles. The song hints heavily at death as well, however. 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 (], 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…” 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

Miscellaneous Fun with Grammar

To brighten up your morning, here are some of the funniest grammatical jokes I have ever seen. I giggled way too loudly for someone sitting alone in her room.

Also, this is an amazing guide to what to call language phenomena. It will make you feel very clever and give you that wonderful sense of, “Oh! So THAT’S what that’s called!”

This is just a helpful guide to common grammar mistakes to subtly show your grammar-impaired colleagues and friends. While these differences may not be as egregious as the sins I listed in my previous Grammar Thursdays post, and you might not even know them all, it’s really quite helpful.

Happy Thursday!

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…

Quote Tuesdays

I have kept journals of my favorite quotes for years. Some simply appeal to me in terms of the language they use. Others I illustrate to the best of my artistic abilities (capped at high school Art I). Certain quotes inspire me, beautifully putting into words an idea I could not fully form or portraying something from a new angle.

One of my favorite quotes is, in fact, a quote concerning quotes. John Green, bestselling young adult author and Vlogbrother, said, “Maybe our favorite quotations say more about us than about the stories and people we’re quoting.”

John Green video blogging and making the Nerdfighters' sign

John Green video blogging and making the Nerdfighters’ sign

I believe this to be absolutely true. Quotes are necessarily out of context; one chooses a single, small section of words out of a larger work that strikes one as appealing for some reason, whether that is the language, the ideas, or both. Whatever we choose, therefore, points out what we believe and appreciate. Continue reading

Grammar Thursdays

Let me preface everything I say about grammar by briefly explaining that copy editing for my school’s paper, The Johns Hopkins News-Letter, is wonderfully calming and feels very productive. It is often also incredibly frustrating. I continue to be astounded that bright, college-aged writers still don’t know to punctuate inside of quotation marks.

With that disclaimer, here begin my adventures with language and grammar!

Today’s thoughts on grammar are brought to you in the style of one of the first works of literature, The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon. While this Japanese noblewoman kept the book as a diary, she is most famous for her musings in the form of beautiful lists. Continue reading