Wednesday, September 05, 2007


After all the fuss I made about writing in my blog, here I am signed up for two English classes in which I'll be made to write constantly. Kinda funny, that.

My first class - The Novel (and by "novel" the prof really meant "the modern novel") - was last night. Despite my best efforts to be extra-early, I arrived just at 6 pm to an extremely crowded classroom. I ended up sitting next to a guy in the very back of the room in a corner off to one side (if the fire alarm had gone off, I'd have been a dead woman). It was actually a lucky pick - that seat, because as high school teachers and - so it seems - university profs are want to do, we started the class off with one of those annoying "introduce yourself to the person next to you" task. This one wasn't too bad because we got to find out what our classmates' favorite novels were (one of Anactoria's ideal questions). And the guy sitting next to me was - blessedly - intelligent and friendly and nice so it was fun. He also seemed tolerant of the fact that I'd just had 3 cups of coffee and thus was in a rather hyper, over-talkative mood (*sigh*). And he patiently waited while I changed my favorite novel choice multiple times in a 3 minute period - finally settling on A Canticle for Leibowitz and making him write down the title, author and my reason for liking it... only to change my mind at the last second and go with Middlemarch instead. Ha.

It was pretty interesting to hear the favorite novel picks of 37 other students. There was a surprising amount of overlap - Oryx & Crake (Atwood) was mentioned three times, A Complicated Kindness (which we will be reading for this class, gag-me-with-a-spoon) was listed two times, and Stephen King - that literary whiz - three times. The classics were almost completely overlooked - there was one mention of The Great Gatsby but nothing earlier than that. I think two people mentioned Gabriel Garcia Marquez - one named Love in the Time of Cholera and the other One Hundred Years of Solitude. One girl named Interview With the Vampire as her all time favorite. Need I even say "Yuck"? I'm surprised she had the nerve. Another named off the Betty & Veronica comics - what??? And one guy couldn't narrow it down to more than three, including a graphic novel (The Watchmen) - totally understandable, of course.

By next Tuesday I have to have To the Lighthouse (Woolf) read and a one page "reading journal" entry ready to hand in. Its weird, I used to have no problem rattling off comments (a.k.a. b.s.?) but now those reading journal type assignments really get me! I make myself so self-conscious that nothing will come out! Hopefully I'll fare better this year since we have to write twelve of them.

Also, I think my state of mind was best-revealed at the end of the class. One of the assignments is an individual class presentation given once each term on one of the novels we'll be reading. Our prof had forgotten the sign-up sheet at home and so just ended up scribbling off a new one in a hurry and then calling out our names randomly. I was called third - a great pick, right? Right!

We had two options when it came to presenting - we could either present on the novel itself (e.g. the themes of the novel, the setting, etc) or we could present "criticism" of the novel - and I'm still not at all sure what our prof means by criticism. Does he mean we have to look for flaws in the novel or just present some outside material? Regardless the criticism option appealed to me so I knew I wanted to pick that. However, in the mad dash to the sign-up sheet (I was cut by 5 people before I got to it) I was in such a frazzle that I ended up signing up to give criticism on The Remains of the Day!

In hindsight the problem with that only came to me as I lay in my bed last night, about to fall asleep. I loved The Remains of the Day! I don't want to have to criticize it! I thought it was pretty much flawless!

Why oh why didn't I sign up to criticize A Complicated Kindness - I'm still only on page 9 but I already loathe it as much as I did Kerouac!


P.S. I finally responded to the comments made in response to my August 22 post. Sorry it took me so long! Thanks for all of the feedback!


Tap said...

I'm pretty sure it would refer to outside criticism, i.e. what other deep thinkers wrote about the novel. You know, critical essays.

I would think your own criticism would be part of "the novel itself" choice.

But, I'm not your professor, so don't blame me if I'm wrong. :)

Melly said...

personally,i liked a complicated kindness. i think because of her stream of consciousness throughout the whole book. the middle bored me little, it surely could have been 4 chapters shorter. but it was kinda depressing and whimsical at the same time. i'd love to hear what kind of discussions your class has about it when the time comes : )

Anactoria said...

Tap - you're exactly right! I checked with my prof and I'll basically be reading an article (its called "Betwixt and Between: The Liminal Period in Rites of Passage") and analyzing it in light of Remains of the Day and then presenting my thoughts to the class.

Its still harder than you might think though because that Betwixt and Between article is not at all *about* Remains of the Day or about literature or books whatsoever - its basically a psych article. So as I read it I'm really just trying to deduce what my prof got out of it and wants *me* to get out of it. Which is a little bit tricky.

Anactoria said...

Melly - well, I'm only 9 pages in so maybe it gets better. :P

But so far I hate her depressing depiction of rural Manitoban life. I'm so sick of small town life always being described in the same bleak, dreary way. I don't think the fact that an angsty teenage girl is the narrator helps much.

Hopefully it will get better... I'm assuming my prof enjoyed it... Or else he hated it and wants us to be critical of it... But I doubt that because he's already mentioned that Miriam Toews will probably be coming in to speak to the class. Normally it would be neat to have an author come in but...

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