Monday, February 27, 2017

If Anyone Says "Derrida" One More Time...

It's not that Jacques Derrida isn't a brilliant man. I think he was too brilliant for his own good. After an entire page of "Structure, Sign, and Play..." I was about ready to drill a figurative hole in my head. I do, however, find the idea of deconstruction fascinating. I knew there was a reason I didn't like Gatsby! That guy's a fraud.

AKA: the critical theorist with the good hair.
On the subject of the deconstruction, I do believe there is truth in the fact that literature contradicts itself, and that the "center is not the center" (Derrida, 1). Take Gatsby for example. He's supposed to be the hero, and the book touts him as the hero, but he made his living bootlegging and scamming people. This does sound like another favorite hero of ours, though...
Captain Jack Sparrow
The world loves conflict. We love complicated characters like Jack Sparrow, who, aside from being a conniving and plundering pirate, is a "good man." He's complicated, and he likes to complicate things. All for the Black Pearl. A boat. And here's where it gets tricky. What is the boat, really? He says it..."freedom." Probably more than that too, but I'm not going to deconstruct pirates. That would get so annoying. 

Instead, I will share some of my favorite complex characters in a list. Because I like lists. 

1. Jean Valjean.

At the beginning of Les Miserables, you don't think much of him. Especially when the priest is so nice to him and he ends up steeling from him. The reaction from the priest is admirable, and thank heavens for it. Then you can't help liking Jean Valjean.

2. Zuko. 

One of my favorite characters ever! He is almost ready to help the Avatar, and then BAM! Turns on his own uncle and betrays everybody. After that he realizes he's not happy. He ultimately confronts his own father and leaves to help train Aang as a firebender.

3. Max.

Max, the star of Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, is a great example of one of the most basic complex characters we love. As children we can recognize the struggle within, the frustrations he deals with. Our only hope is that, like Max, we have a hot bowl of soup to come home to because despite our faults, our mothers (or another person we need) still love us.

4. Jesse Stone
Bleeding Cool

I don't know how a person can't like this guy. Fired for being drunk on the job, the police officer takes a position as chief in a tiny town called Paradise. He still drinks (he has a limit for the amount he can drink in a day), can't get over his ex-wife (still calls her quite frequently), and blatantly disregards rules he doesn't like. But he catches the bad guys, get the girls, and makes friends. Fear of intimacy? Yep. But he's a good guy.

5. Macbeth

Macbeth is driven to a state of insanity by three witches who prophecy his fate. In the beginning, his life seems fine. His wife trusts and loves him, he has a kingdom, etc. But when he learns of a man who is going to kill him, he falls apart at the seems. It's not that we all love Macbeth, but you have to pity him. If it weren't for the prophecy, he might have spared his own life.

Stepping aside from Derrida for a moment, what about Freud? A little (or a lot) of psychoanalysis would peel the layers away from these characters. Jesse Stone deals with a fear of intimacy, Zuko has family issues and a form of an Oedipus complex, and Jean Valjean is dealing with repression and regression so deep that he projects his fear onto the one man that makes sense; Javert.

Arguably, it is not analysis itself that makes a piece of literature (or a movie) good. But the best artistic pieces are riddled with complexities that are not just superficial. Good writing goes deep; the heart of the work is the center (and also not the center, according to Derrida), and all characters, settings, plots and subplots, and actions stem from it.

Oh yes. Books and movies are forever ruined for me. But in a good way.

Friday, February 3, 2017


Yes, it's true. I am reinvented. Sort of. It's not like I switched religions or anything. But after a recent discussion with my husband (you will also hear me refer to him as my boyfriend, Mr. Hottie, etc.), and a slew of events that were minimally life-changing, I am redefining my blog. I can't do YA anymore. Scratch that. I can do some of it, just not all of it. Because as the wise Dr. W once said, "Wasn't Narnia a whole different experience when you read it as an adult?"

(As Aslan roars in my face)

The answer is, "Of course it was." What I'm looking for is good literature. Good reads. Like the website. I'm kind of tired of over-the-top extremely handsome guys and out-of-this-world sparkling beautiful gals. I want substance. Besides sex, I mean. I don't need that from a book.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized I don't have that many years left. Even if I live to be 100, I will never get to read all I want to, nor will I get to experience everything I want to. I need to choose things that will benefit me somehow, not just give me instant and fleeting pleasure. It's not that I'm going to feel guilty about all the YA I have read. Nor about the time I've spent following boards on pinterest of things I'm never going to do. But now it's time to stop. To turn a new leaf.
This isn't going to be a book review blog alone, but will now include intellectual thoughts. I will try to maintain a theme, especially year-by-year, but I'm not promising I will be that organized. I do promise I won't post any cookie recipes. Or tell you about my awesome parenting skills (puh-lease). I might post a favorite piece of literature from the Gutenberg project. Or a favorite painting. You get the idea. And yes, I will still read. Because...guilty pleasure alert...I just got a digital copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Overdrive. Squeee!

Oh yeah, this is good stuff. Because we do need an escape. But Harry Potter can be deep, too. I think that's why I liked the series so much. All that "love" goo. Serious stuff. But also really fun. Don't mock me. I loved it a long time ago.

The two books whose covers are pictured above are books that I read for my Lit class. While I never would have picked these books up without a class assignment (or at least a strong recommendation from a friend), I am so glad I've read them. The first, The Inconvenient Indian, is a brief history of the Native Americans from the time of Colonialism down and is written from a Native perspective. Thomas King has a colorful, honest, and sardonic way of telling these stories without boring us with a textbook version. American Indian Stories is a collection of essays and stories by Zitkala-Sa, AKA Gertrude Bonnin, who has written down these things in beautiful language and includes the story of her childhood. Yes, both of these are politically driven, but they're also interesting and well-written.

Well, there it is. Reinvented. What do you think?