Saturday, January 28, 2012

Happy New Year at the End of January

Ringing in the New Year with spiffy hats

I hope everybody enjoyed happy holidays and a lovely New Year.  The New Year is a time for reflection and resolutions, and I've made a fair share of my own for the coming months.  The goal with which I'm most concerned is my resolution to read more.  Occasionally I am easily led away from my reading.  I don't always persevere when I have difficulty concentrating on a text, or I let myself become preoccupied with day-to-day tasks.  That needs to stop.

But my resolution is equally concerned with quality as it is with quantity.  In the past my reading choices have been somewhat bipolar: nineteenth-century fiction or young adult novels.  This was particularly the case when I was working retail.  After an exhausting eight-hour shift spent entirely on my feet, I often felt too dead for intelligent thought.  So I turned to brain candy YA series.  While some of what's currently circulating in that genre is contemplative and well-written, after two years of wading through many of YA's 'hot titles' I've determined much of what's published is pure tripe.  Not every novel needs to contain supernatural figures (vampires, werewolves, fallen angels, fairies, leprechauns) and unconvincing pubescent entanglements of the romantic variety (love triangles, love squares, love octagons).  I was joking about the leprechauns and love octagons, but if I ever decide to write a YA novel I've inadvertently stumbled upon a brilliant concept. 

I've finally concluded that even if I'm not in the mood for Dombey and Son, it doesn't mean I need to degrade myself to [insert horrible teen title here].  This is the year of increasing the breadth of reading!  So long, crappy teen fiction littered with grammatical errors and five reiterations of the same word on a single page!  I will still continue to cleave to my beloved Victorian novels, but it's time to spread my wings a little bit.  Below are some of the reading categories with which I'm hoping to become better acquainted:

Non-Fiction: I really struggle to tear myself away from novels, but I'm denying myself so much enjoyable learning as a result.  I'd like to read biographies on favourite authors and dig deeper into British history.  Literary criticism does not count.

Poetry: I was woefully ashamed when I recently scanned my bookshelves and noticed a shocking lack of poetry.  It needs more representatives in my collection.  I'm particularly looking forward to more John Keats.

Drama: Again, too many novels.  I've taken Shakespeare modules more than once in my academic career, but I've never read Marlowe or Jonson *slaps wrist.*

20th Century/Contemporary Fiction: There are plenty of breezy yet intelligent novels I can turn to when Dickens's endless descriptions of the Victorian legal system seem too imposing.  And I'm sure there are plenty of excellent novels penned outside of the long nineteenth century.  There are, aren't there?  Aren't there?!

I've also made a few resolutions that to do not directly affect my TBR list.  They include:

Get Published: 2012 is the year my name will appear in an academic journal!

Get Creative with Cooking: My culinary skills are limited, but I'm determined to stick with my recent conversion to vegetarianism.  Unfortunately, exactly 98% of traditional Utah recipes call for ground beef (which I hated even when I was an omnivore) and/or cream of chicken soup.  Fact.  Therefore, I need to get creative in the kitchen with fun meat-free options.

Visit a Literary Mecca: I've decided life is not worth living if one can't visit author museums.  It's just not.  I even came up with some names of American writers whose domains I would love to roam: Louisa May Alcott, Edith Wharton and Edgar Allan Poe.

Earn Money of Some Sort: Whoa, dream big!

Get in Shape: I know this is the classic resolution with a .001% success rate come February 1, so I'm following the advice of nearly every fitness magazine by setting a realistic, achievable goal: workout more.  Period.  Like, once a month or something.

Those, my friends, are my official New Year's Resolutions.  In writing.  I am happy to report that I have had some success since I set these goals after my horrible rendition of Auld Lang Syne.  Not the getting in shape bit, but I still have until Tuesday to squeeze in my January workout.

Did you set New Year's Resolutions?  Have you kept them so far?  Also, if you're a fan of non-fiction I'd love to hear what some of your favourites are -- I need help in that department!


o said...

I'm really glad you're blogging again, I did miss you! :)

Maggie said...

Hey Miss Diana! I wish you the very best in all of your New Years endeavors. I didn't really make any official resolutions, but I will be giving up TV for Lent this year (completely), which is a pretty big deal. I've got less than a month to finish "Downton Abbey"! ;o)

As for your question about non-fiction selections...I like your idea regarding biographies of authors. I'm planning to start one soon about Henry James and his family. I also find that I really like memoirs. Tops on my list if you haven't yet read them: Jeanette Walls's "The Glass Castle", Ann Patchett's "Truth and Beauty" and the linked autobiography, which I would highly recommend reading AFTER T&B, Lucy Grealy's "Autobiography of a Face", and James McBrides' "The Color of Water".

Although you didn't ask, thought I'd pass along my most favorite vegetarian chili recipe, too: SOOO Good! I substitute several cans of black beans (which I prefer over kidney) for the textured vegetable protein. I admire the vegetarian ideal you're setting forth. I would be eating much more this way if I wasn't at home where my mom does the majority of cooking for a meat-eating father! Alas, I'll get back to intently focusing on my beloved veggies (I LOVE vegetables!) soon.

As I said, best wishes for the resolutions! Have fun with everything!


John McLendon said...

If you've not read The Hunger Games, I'd recommend that. Also, The Marriage Plot by Eugenides is well written, and I think you would enjoy that one of the main protagonists is a Victorianist. I am currently reading The Night Circus, and I am really enjoying it! Just food for thought!

Diana said...

O: I missed you too! I'm looking forward to catching up on your blog (though I did sneak a peek here and there during my cyber break).

Diana said...

Mags: Thank you for the wonderful non-fiction suggestions! I've heard great things about The Glass Castle, but the other titles you mentioned are new to me. There are quite a few authors biographies I'd like to get to at some point during the year. I borrowed Bill Bryson's Shakespeare from a friend; I thought it would be a good way to ease into biographies. I never read much of Juliet Barker's biography on the Brontes (oh, the shame!) and Claire Tomalin just released a Dickens bio. So many books to look forward to!

Also, thanks for the recipe. Is this the same chili we made in Florence? I LOVED that chili.

Diana said...

John: I have read The Hunger Games (almost wrote Hungry Games there, eek!). I think it's a shining example of how great teen fiction can be. Of course, how the market is littered with dystopian HG knock offs (having said that, I recently finished a YA dystopian novel that was pretty good). I've heard The Marriage Plot mentioned on lots of book blogs, but I don't know anything about it. If there's a Victorian I'm on board!

Ashley said...

I love your posts. The end.

P.S. Can you tell my brain is fried? I tried, I really did, to come up with a better comment, but no. Not coming.

John McLendon said...

To be truthful, I found The Hunger Games to be poorly written, but the concept was fascinating, so I ended up finishing the series. I gave book 1: 4 stars on, book 2: 2 stars, and book three: 3 stars. I really recommend The Night Circus; it is absolutely wonderful. It is by Erin Morgenstern. I am a mixed bag on the The Marriage Plot. I recommend checking it out from the local library rather than buying it, as it is in hardback right now, but so is The Night Circus. Not sure what my next book will be. Got any recommendations? I was thinking about finishing either War and Peace by Tolstoy or Huxley's Brave New World. Oh yeah, and join so we can keep track of each other successes in the world of reading!

Diana said...

Ash: in saying you couldn't come up with a good comment you, in fact, came up with a great comment!

P.S. I love you. The End.

Diana said...

John: I actually thought Suzanne Collin's writing was pretty good. It wasn't flashy or particularly artistic, just clean and simple prose that allowed the reader to fully immerse themselves in the story. I really enjoyed the first two installments, but the last volume was a huge disappointment for me. It was one giant, rushed bloodbath.

I'll definitely be looking into The Night Circus. I'm not sure I have any recommendations for you. I recently read I Capture the Castle -- and fell in love! My adoration of it cannot be put into words. But I'm not sure it would be your thing.

P.S. I added you to my Goodreads.

Liz said...

Diana, I have an all time huge crush on the brilliance that is Ben Jonson and my recommendations would be either Volpone or The Alchemist for laugh out loud writing. As my old English teacher said 'there was never a man called Ben who wished he was called Bill' totally underappreciated!

Diana said...

Liz: Thanks for providing me with some Jonson suggestions, as I was unsure which play of his to start with. Glad to hear they're laugh out loud hilarious; I have so much to look forward to!

I do kinda feel sorry of Jonson. He's now so overshadowed by Shakespeare, and Marlowe at least had a tragic and thrilling (to read about anyway) death which everybody mourned. He just couldn't catch a break! ;)

Liz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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