Thursday, 4 August 2011

Progress report

I’ve made a start on the reading list for my MA, having had a massive cull to make space for the 80+ books I’ve ordered. I’m a very slow reader (because I like to linger over words – no, I’m really a bit thick and I have to read slowly to make sure I’ve grasped the gist of things). Also, I’ve had to shelve any delusions about writing novel number two this holiday because of the frightening volume of reading I need to do.

It is my own fault – I got side tracked by Mr. Wroe’s Virgins and Angela Carter’s Bloody Chamber and I’m looking longingly at Neil Gaiman’s oeuvres that I would rather be reading.

I have read three and a half books so far. I enjoyed James Kelman’s gritty Scottish Selected Stories, and Helen Simpson’s Hey Yeah Right Get a Life. I struggled with Jim Crace’s Quarantine – it was well written, but I found it unsettling because its content thwarted my assumptions and was unpleasant in parts – I won’t spoil the ending in case anyone plans to read it.

The best one so far is Tim Winton’s The Turning – it is excellent. His writing is superb, precise and concise, his characters are compelling and the setting (Perth, Australia) is wonderful.

I’m impressed with the reading list so far.


Blossom said...

Hi Sue. I read a Jim Crace book, 'Being Dead', years ago which was about a late middle-aged couple who are murdered on some sand dunes. Their only daughter has to deal with the aftermath. It was a strange story, in that the murder was really played down, and the daughter's lack of closeness to her parents before they died was really highlighted. Instead of a tragedy in the usual sense, the tragedy became just how mundanely this girl's oarents' deaths, murders even, were treated. There was a real emptiness about it but, I suspect, it was probably more true to life than most stories written on a similar subject.

I wouldn't mind reading the Tim Winton book. Perth is one of my favourite places so (very shallow of me) it would be lovely to read a story with that city as the backdrop, irrespective of the storyline.

Sue's Blog said...

Hi Blossom,
Tim Winton was born in Perth and the setting in The Turning is not the city but a coastal town he calls Angelus – so sorry if I’ve mislead you as it is not really about the city.
Jim Crace’s Being Dead sounds as jolly as Quarantine. I normally like to read frivolous chick-lit, so this MA is really challenging because it is forcing me to read serious, grown-up stuff. It will be interesting to see if my style of writing (frivolous rubbish) changes as a result of this MA.

Blossom said...

I know what you mean about the serious stuff. Since starting my degree, I've had to read a lot of books that I would not have done so, otherwise. Although I've enjoyed some, and can appreciate how well written they are, they more often than not do not float my boat. After Robinson Crusoe I was ready to flush my head down the toilet!

I've bought a load of books for next year but, apart from White Hotel which was just amazing and I loved it, I'm struggling to be motivated to read many of the others. In fact I'm struggling to read any novels, full stop, but it is difficult when the boys are around.

I know I've talked about it on my blog, but have you read Eat, Pray, Love? It's a bit chick lit and you might like it. I also loved The Secret Life of Bees which was on the Women's Writing module- such a lovely book.; though it's not good of me to be trying to distract you further from the serious stuff!

Sue's Blog said...

Robinson Crusoe had exactly the same effect on our class too.
The White Hotel was brilliant, but I hated William Burroughs Naked Lunch – I felt like I was having a psychotic breakdown trying to read it.
Thanks for the book recommendations – I hope to read them in the future. I have a massive pile of books I want to read but have had to postpone that until I’ve stopped being a student. I think we all hope to do lots of reading in the holidays, but life gets in the way.
It is important for you to have a rest before the third year – it goes in a flash and is very hectic. Try to pace yourself during the third year - I ended up having only two days to do an essay on Modernisms (a module I adored) because I ran out of time plus I was also trying to cope with a poorly dog who was nearing the end of his life. The stress of it all caused me to burst into tears in front of one of our lovely lecturers because I was so ashamed at handing in a piece of nonsense that did not do justice to his excellent teaching.

Blossom said...

I've been warned about Naked Lunch's likelihood of addling my brain. I'm in a bit of a quandary whether to do to the Unpopular Texts module or Frank's Pirates. I was going to do them both but then I saw the books on the Victorian Writings module and now really want to do that one as well. I'm not great at making choices at the best of times!

I want to do Modernisms in Sem 2, too, partly for the subject matter and partly because, as you've pointed out, the talented lecturer who teaches it. I'm sure he was fully sympathetic of your situation, but it must have been very difficult for you to study and cope with what was happening with your dog at the same time. I found the second year a shock, compared to the first - the increased workload really threw me, so I feel a certain trepidation for the final year; but I still don't want it to end!

Sue's Blog said...

The third year was very enjoyable despite being hectic. I can thoroughly recommend Modernisms despite the cock-up with the final essay which was my own fault. Unpopular Texts was very entertaining and an eye-opener regarding things that go on in the world. I did not do the other two modules you mentioned because I did Creative Writing and not straight English – but I’m sure they would be good too. What are you doing for your dissertation? I did Shakespeare with Frank as my supervisor.

Blossom said...

I'm doing mixed race literature with Gerry. I was originally thinking of the Harlem Renaissance but Gerry thought there may not have been enough for a project, so mixed race it became. I'm mainly looking at books regarding 'passng' and also the problems of mixed race people not really feeling a belonging in either of their cultures that they have originated from. I've done a bit of reading for it, but it all feels rather overwhelming at the moment.

Re Unpopular Texts - I was originally tempted to do it because of what you stated in your last comment, that it would be an eye opener of the world around us. I also think it's good to read things occasionally that are discomfiting and challenging because I think we, as readers, can't help but react to them on an emotional level and then that tells us something about ourselves. I'm probably expecting an awful lot from the module!

Sue's Blog said...

The dissertation sounds interesting. Have you read Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys?

Regarding which modules to choose for next year you might need to balance entertainment and shock value (my life hasn’t been the same since watching Threads and I refused to go to the lecture on cannibalism) - against things that may help your future career plans.
We had no choice in our modules last year – so that made life simple (although a lot of people were hacked off about it because they did not want to do Unpopular Texts for various reasons).

Blossom said...

After reading your comment on Threads, I looked it up on Wiki. It looks like it would be extremely heavy going to watch. I didn't know cannibalism was on the module, blimey!

I can understand why some of your fellow students were hacked off about the module being compulsory. A module containing such potentially offensive material should be optional, however well it is taught. I think it's optional for joint honours students in September so maybe complaints from students have been taken on board.

I'm still not sure what I want to do, post degree, which is a huge worry for me, but Unpopular Texts was being weighed up against Frank's module purely because I enjoy Frank's lectures and seminars; plus his choice of modules are good solid ones to take within an English degree. Goodness knows what I'm going to do about Sem 2 - I've already bought the books for three of its modules and have no idea which one of those I'll drop, either.