January was for a bit of fluff, and A LOT of Poe and Shakespeare. I’m on track with my goal to finish the complete works of both (well, complete aside from Poe’s unfinished second novel) by the end of March.
Here are the books I read in January:
Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously (2009) by Julie Powell
Julie and Julia is a memoir with a simple premise: a woman decides to cook her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year. She documents her journey through a blog and the challenge ends up taking over her life.
From the feedback I got on social media while reading this book, it’s a you-love-it-or-you-hate-it sort of read. I fall mostly into the latter camp, though the book does have some redeeming qualities. The premise is fun, I enjoyed reading about a blogger (obviously), and I really do love the way Powell describes the food (though the sex-food comparisons get tired). It made me want to give a few fancy recipes a spin, and it taught me a few tricks. I admire her tenacity. All of which leads me to the belief that I would have enjoyed the book throughly Powell it stuck to the project.
But she didn’t. Which was unfortunate, because Powell is thoroughly unlikeable outside of her kitchen. I’m sure that this is just a bitterness developed from years of a life that feels meaningless, but the way she described her friends totally turned me off. I got the feeling that she didn’t like or care about any of them. She put her husband in the background. He’s pretty much only there to do the dishes and include an “is-marriage-for-me?” conflict. (And she worries at some point about emasculating him. I’ll be honest, any woman starts worrying about emasculation and I start loosing respect for her. But that’s another post.) Also, she gave her brother the pseudonym Heathcliff, which was completely distracting. She also spends a lot of time demonizing Republicans. If you’ve been reading for a long time, you know that I’m a liberal, but I also think that stereotyping and boxing up the other side makes compromise and understanding pretty much impossible.
All of this stuff is petty, I know, but in combination these things made it really hard for me to connect and enjoy the book. I actually got mad at her several times, which I’m pretty sure was not the emotional catharsis Powell was going for. It’s also not what I was looking for in my much needed fluff.
And if you’ve seen the movie, which I think is mostly adorable, let it be known that the best parts of the movie (i.e. the Julia parts) are not in the book.
Plays from The Complete Works of William Shakespeare by William Shakespeare
I’m still working my way through the complete works of Shakespeare! I’m happy to announce that I’m on par.
Here are the plays I read in January:
Coriolanus (1608) Rome and England, guys, they’re never quiet. There’s always a riot, rebellion, or coup going down. This one is all politics, banishment, and revenge.
Julius Caesar (1599) I don’t think I’ve read this since the eighth grade. I forgot that Caesar is only in a bit of it. I thought that the whole, “Et tu, Brute?” part was the end, but it’s really only the beginning.
Cymbeline (1610-1611) Firstly, the name Imogen rocks. This play is mostly a romance. It’s a bit predictable (slipping in a prophecy will do that), boarders on silly sometimes (hello deus ex machina), but I still liked it.
Titus Andronicus (1594) I fell in love with this one at age 12 or so, mostly because it’s so messed up. This play is seriously disturbing. *Shudder*
Pericles, Prince of Tyre (1607) Shakespeare only wrote part of this one, and that shows. Though I can’t say it lacks action. Incest, riddles, exile, a shipwreck, family separation, reunion, revenge. Good stuff.
Stories from Edgar Allan Poe: Selected Works, Deluxe Edition by Edgar Allan Poe
Here are the stories I read from Poe in January:
The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar (1845)
The System of Dr. Tarr and Prof. Fether (1845)
The Sphinx (1846)
The Cask of Amontillado (1846)
The Domain of Arnheim (1847)
Mellonta Tauta (1849)
X-ing a Paragrab (1849)
Von Kempeleen and His Discovery (1849)
Landor’s Cottage (1849)
That’s too many to list short descriptions of / reactions to, but I liked them overall. I’ve come to the conclusion that Poe is dreadfully dull (though impressive) when his goal is to be realistic / hoaxy, and very interesting when he’s being romantic and spooky. And, hey, that wraps up the Poe short stories! Wahoo!
*Side note, reading Poe is more rewarding now thanks to the Following.
I forgot to include it in the photo, but I also finished reading, for about the millionth time, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I’m in the middle of reading Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix to Eliza, so I’m stopping my HP reading marathon here.
I also read some of, but did not finish, these books this month: Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, Fundamentals of Photography: The Essential Handbook for Both Digital and Film Cameras, and Literary Criticism: An Introduction to Theory and Practice.
You can see all of my other reads posts here.
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Have you read any of these? What did you think? What are you reading lately?