wuthering heights read-along: weeks 1 and 2

Posted by on Sep 20, 2012 in read-alongs | 1 comment

You guys. I’ve been so worried! When I started rereading Wuthering Heights as part of this read-along, I had the hardest time making myself read. I’ve just been in a general reading slump ever since that stupid, stupid, stupid bar exam ruined my summer and apparently also my brain. But you’ll recall that I haven’t read WH in a long time, though I’ve continued to assert that it is my favorite book of all time. So I’d pick it up and read, like, maybe 3 pages, and then I’d be like oh let’s see what’s happening on Twitter. And then I’d check Instagram, and then maybe Facebook, and by then it’d be time to check Twitter again, and then oops time for bed. But this is supposed to be my favorite book! Why in the world can I not make myself read it?

So I was really worried that maybe Wuthering Heights just sucks and I’d been remembering some idealized version of it or something, and then at the end of this whole read-along I’d have to do a mea culpa post in which I admit that I’ve spent the last twenty years claiming a sucky book as my favorite of all time.

Well, friends, FEAR NOT. I’m happy to report that Wuthering Heights most definitely does NOT suck, and any difficulties I had continue to have with wrestling my brain into reading mode are solely the result of the stupid, stupid, stupid bar exam that ruined my summer and apparently also my brain.

***Stop reading here if you don’t want to read spoilers or if you’re just tired of reading this post because it’s way long***

To summarize what we’ve read so far, Catherine and Hindley Earnshaw are brother and sister. Their father goes on a trip and comes home with a random little boy whom he adopts and names Heathcliff. Hindley, the eldest, hates Heathcliff because his father favors him, but Heathcliff and Cathy become very close. Hindley goes away to college, the father dies, and Hindley comes back with his new wife, Frances, forcing Heathcliff to become a servant.

One day, Heathcliff and Catherine go down to Thrushcross Grange, a nearby estate, to look in the windows and spy on the Linton family. They get caught, and the Lintons’ bulldog bites Catherine’s ankle, so the Lintons invite her in to have a look at her injury. They don’t let Heathcliff in, though, so he goes back to Wuthering Heights to wait for Cathy’s return.

Which doesn’t happen for FIVE WEEKS WTF CATHY THOSE ARE NOT YOUR PEOPLE HURRY UP AND LEAVE.

So she comes back, finally, and la tee dah she’s a lady! No more running around the moors with Heathcliff. Heathcliff is dirty and grungy, and Cathy is clean and shiny. Heathcliff is pissed. He’s fallen in love with Catherine over the years, which, as one of the fellow read-along-ers pointed out, is maybe a little weirdly incestuous since they were practically raised as brother and sister, but LALALALALA we’re going to pretend that part isn’t true and just bask in the glory of the Love That Is Meant To Be But Can Never Actually Be.

Oh, also, Frances died shortly after giving birth to Hindley’s son, Hareton, and Hindley has gone off the deep end and is drunk all the time. I guess I should also say that this whole story is being told by Nelly Dean to Mr. Lockwood, some thirty years later, because Lockwood rented Thrushcross Grange from Heathcliff and asked Nelly to tell him the whole story of Wuthering Heights after a super weird night spent there as an uninvited guest. And Nelly raised Hareton after his mother died. Okay. So.

A couple of years go by, and things between Heathcliff and Cathy are strained. She likes hanging out with the Lintons, and especially Edgar–they have money, and sophistication, and manners, and apparently they take baths (unlike Heathcliff), and they treat her like a princess. Heathcliff just becomes more and more bitter, and Cathy becomes more and more bratty, until one day Catherine is expecting Edgar but Heathcliff wants to spend the day with her and she doesn’t know what to do, so out of frustration she picks a fight with Nelly for brushing her hair too much (which, I mean, is totally justified—it’s so hard to find good help). Then Edgar arrives and Heathcliff asks her to send him away so she can spend the day with him, but she doesn’t, because she’s SUPER DUMB, and then Edgar tries to get Cathy to ease up on Nelly but instead she slaps him across the face/punches him (not sure which, but whatever).  Then Edgar tries to leave but Cathy stops him and they don’t exactly have make-up sex but they do decide they’re in love.

Or, rather, Edgar is in love with Cathy. Cathy is not in love with Edgar, no matter how much she wants to be, no matter how much she claims she is. She’s in love with Heathcliff. After everyone has left, Cathy confides in Nelly that Edgar has asked her to marry him; she’s given him an answer, but she wants to know what Nelly’s advice is anyway. Cathy tries to explain to Nelly why she loves Edgar, and she says it’s because he’s handsome and pleasant, and young and cheerful, and rich, and because he loves her. Nelly scoffs at these reasons but says that if Cathy is only concerned with the present, then yes she should marry Edgar Linton. Cathy balks and Nelly asks what the major diffugulty is.

‘Here! and here!’ replied Catherine, striking one hand on her forehead, and the other on her breast: ‘in whichever place the soul lives. In my soul and in my heart, I’m convinced I’m wrong!’

So that should be a red flag, no? Maybe try listening to either or both of those, hon. Then she makes this kind of random proclamation:

‘If I were in heaven, Nelly, I should be extremely miserable.’

A fellow read-along-er posited that “heaven” to Catherine might be Thrushcross Grange, and I really really like this idea. Cathy goes on to say that heaven did not seem to be her home. WELL DUH CATHY I TOLD YOU THOSE ARE NOT YOUR PEOPLE. Then she has a moment of clarity:

I’ve no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in heaven . . . It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him: and that, not because he’s handsome, Nelly, but because he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same; and Linton’s is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.

AAAAACK. Yep, this is exactly why I fell in love with this book lo those twenty years ago. Thank goodness I’m vindicated.

But OMG! Heathcliff heard part of this, but only up to the point where she said it would degrade her to marry him. He didn’t hear the rest! TRAGIC, I say. But Cathy wants to marry Edgar partially because she can use Edgar’s money and power to protect Heathcliff from Hindley, which, you know, is as good a reason to marry Edgar Linton as any. She thinks Edgar will tolerate Heathcliff once Cathy tells him how she feels about him, and she’ sure that she and Heathcliff won’t be separated even after she marries Edgar.

Every Linton on the face of the earth might melt into nothing before I could consent to forsake Heathcliff.

Nelly thinks this is the dumbest reason to get married EVAR, but Catherine is convinced she’s fulfilling some sort of greater purpose by doing so.

‘I cannot express it; but surely you and everybody have a notion that there is or should be an existence of yours beyond you. What were the use of my creation, if I were entirely contained here? My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliff’s miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning: my great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger. I should not seem a part of it. My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my  mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being.’

Guys. GUYS. You guys. Is there any more beautiful expression than this? No. There is not. Do not even try to argue with me because you will lose. This is the most beautiful book in all the world. I will update you again next week. And you will like it.

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never settle

Posted by on Sep 14, 2012 in marginalia | 10 comments

Lengthy quote from Gone Girl, but oh so amazing.

I have many friends who are married–not many who are happily married, but many married friends. The few happy ones are like my parents: They’re baffled by my singleness.

. . .

The ones who are not soul-mated–the ones who have settled–are even more dismissive of my singleness: It’s not that hard to find someone to marry, they say. No relationship is perfect, they say–they, who make do with dutiful sex and gassy bedtime rituals, who settle for TV as conversation, who believe that husbandly capitulation–yes, honey, okay, honey–is the same as concord. He’s doing what you tell him to do because he doesn’t care enough to argue, I think. Your petty demands simply make him feel superior, or resentful, and someday he will fuck his pretty, young coworker who asks nothing of him, and you will actually be shocked. Give me a man with a little fight in him, a man who calls me on my bullshit. (But who also kind of likes my bullshit.)

No settling, ladies. NONE. Be strong.

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life in purgatory

Posted by on Sep 5, 2012 in purgatory | 2 comments

No, you dopes. I’m not dead and waiting for eternal salvation. I don’t even believe in that. What I am is a waiter-on-bar-results. Which, frankly, feels more like hell than purgatory, but whatever. Work with me.

Texas is one of the last (if not THE last–I could look it up but I don’t wanna) states to report bar exam results. Of course. The bar exam was July 24-26 and results come out November 2, officially, but actually they’re published on the magical interwebz on November 1, or at least that’s what’s expected. It magically coincides with the end of automatic deferment periods on student loans. Neat.

If you’re already a lawyer or law student or you know one well, you already know this. But for the benefit of people who don’t know, here’s what this means: August, September, and October are purgatory months. You have a degree, you know some stuff about lawyering (but not nearly enough–more on that another day), but you’re not one yet. You can’t pretend to be one. You can’t even really get ready to be one by setting up your bank account, etc. You are in a holding pattern.

Some firms will hire you contingent upon your passing the bar, and during the purgatory months you will do the same types of things that clerks do. But then, if you pass the bar exam, they hire you as an associate and then you do lawyerly things.

I thought I would be spending my purgatory months in my pajamas, but thankfully I’ve had a couple of things kinda fall into my lap. The week before the bar exam, I got an email from one of the assistant deans at the law school asking if I had any interest in temping in the dean’s office while her usual assistant was out on maternity leave. I accepted, of course, and I started when we got back from The Most Fabulous Vacation of all Time in early August.

I have enjoyed the heck out of this job, and I’m a little bit surprised by that. For one thing, it’s not really at all related to the law apart from the fact that the office is inside the law school. I’ve been mostly helping the people in external relations, so it’s been a lot of event planning, label making, envelope stuffing, and publication editing. My melted brain has really appreciated the sortof mentally nontaxing nature of this, and I haven’t been bored for more than a few minutes on a couple of slow days. Plus I’ve gotten to meet a lot of new people and I’ve gotten a behind-the-scenes look at how a law school runs. Hint: it’s super complicated.

And can I just say how weird it is to be on a first-name basis with professors? It’s super weird. Like, at first I couldn’t even bring myself to do it. Now, though? We’re all BFFs.

Anyway, so that got me to thinking: would I want a job like an assistant dean of something or the other? Not that one was offered and not that I’m qualified, but if I were, would I take it? I mean, I have to admit, it would be tempting. The money is decent and the stress level seems lower than that of a practicing lawyer. The benefits are fantastic. And I think it’d be pretty fun, actually.

But the truth is that I went to law school because, well, I want to be a lawyer. I pretty much always have. (Shut up. I know everybody says that and I don’t care.) And my heart is in criminal defense, although I never ever would have predicted that before my 2L year. I always thought I’d be a prosecutor, but like so many things I used to believe before law school, that seems as contrary to my nature as kicking puppies.

So, dear minions, the answer is no. Despite the attractiveness of the ivory tower, I’m afraid I must turn down any offer (of which I have had exactly zero) of employment that doesn’t involve me with clients who need legal help and my helping them. Which sounds so scary. EEP.

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wuthering heights: read-along

Posted by on Sep 2, 2012 in read-alongs | 0 comments

OMG y’all. So when I was a senior in high school, back in 1934, I took an AP Brit Lit class that remains my favorite class of all time, from the most amazing teacher of all time. At the end of it, we had to write a paper based on some book from a list he provided, and for whatever reason I chose Wuthering Heights. I wrote a paper, and I have no idea what it was about, but Wuthering Heights got into my blood and I’ve listed it as my favorite book ever since high school. Which, again, is a long time ago.


future Ninjy

So you can imagine how excited I was (really, you can if you just try) to learn that Wallace at Unputdownables is hosting a read-along of Wuthering Heights for September and October. Am I participating? You bet your sweet bippy.

I’ve signed up, and you should too.

READING SCHEDULE:

Week #/ Where to Stop (For example, in week one STOP and place your bookmark at Chapter V.)

Week One/ Chapter V
Week Two/ Chapter X
Week Three/ Chapter XII
Week Four/ Chapter XVI
Week Five/ Chapter XX
Week Six/ Chapter XXIV
Week Seven/ Chapter XXX
Week Eight/ The End

POSTING SCHEDULE:

Post #/ date post should be up on blog:

Start up Post/ Today!
Week One/ September 7th
Week Two/ September 14th
Week Three/ September 21st
Week Four/ September 28th
Week Five/ October 5th
Week Six/ October 12th
Week Seven/ October 19th
Week Eight/ October 26th (Final Review)

I’m reading this edition, FYI. It’s annotated. I love me some annotations.

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burned out on stars, no love for hearts

Posted by on Aug 29, 2012 in hodgepodge | 1 comment

If you read my previous book blog, Undercover Reader, you know that I used a ten-heart rating system for book reviews. (PS you can read all my old reviews under “Read All the Books” and then “Old Reviews” above. You know you want to.) I set it up that way because I always felt unsatisfied and sortof inaccurate using the five-star system that Goodreads employs. I felt like I was giving out a ton of four-star ratings for books and there is a big difference in my mind between three stars and four, and between four stars and five. So, figuring that doubling the amount of stars would be the same as if Goodreads had half-stars, I set up a ten-heart rating system on my blog.

Well.

I think I used maybe five or six of the available ten hearts for book rating that whole time. And guess which rating I handed out the most? Yep. Eight hearts. Which is exactly the same as four stars. Which is SO DUMB.

What does it meeeeeeeaaaan?

Nothing, really. I mean, a ten-heart rating has meaning. So does a nine, I think. But eight? seven? Meh. Just a great but not a WHOA TIGER  great book, but then not bad enough to really pinpoint the problems with the book. In other words, meh. Just like the four stars.

So then I had a Twitter conversation with Jenn at The Picky Girl a while back, and she informed me that she had abandoned the rating system altogether for pretty much the same reasons. Then my feelings were validated! I love it when that happens.

What I’m trying to say is that I will no longer be rating books here as far as a numerical rating. I will still blog about books and give my opinions about them, but screw this assigning-numbers business. It’s too easy to fall into a rut, and frankly it doesn’t mean anything to anyone except me (and even that is questionable).

PS did you guys know the double rainbow guy used to do cage fights? WHOA, right? I don’t know if he still does them, but here’s one for ya. It’s unintentionally hilarious. Enjoy.

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back in business

Posted by on Aug 27, 2012 in being ninjy | 5 comments

WHOA. Look! A new blog!

Okay so let me do some splaining. Before I started law school three years ago, I started a blog called Law School Ninja. I blogged there off and on (more off than on, really) throughout most of law school. Then, somewhere in the middle of my spring 2L semester, I decided that I wanted to start a book blog because I wanted to write more about what I was reading; it was called Undercover Reader. Then I took down Law School Ninja with the intent of starting a new blog after I graduated and while I was studying for the bar exam, mainly because at that point it would be dumb to continue to call myself LAW SCHOOL Ninja. Get it? Then I started studying for the bar exam and it turns out that takes up a lot of time, so I never did anything else until now.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been setting up this new blog. You like? I’m pretty proud of the header. I imported all the old posts from Law School Ninja and Undercover Reader, and I went through each one and recategorized the ones I wanted to keep and deleted the ones I didn’t want to keep. I had to ditch a lot of photos that didn’t import automatically because I was too lazy to track them down and re-upload them.

So anyway, now I just want to have the one blog where I talk about all the things. I don’t have enough material in my head (shut up) to support two separate blogs, so everything will be here from now on, forever and ever amen. If you were a reader of either of my former blogs, you know I’m not an everyday blogger, and I’m not about to become one. If I don’t have anything to say, I’m not going to just write a bunch of words that nobody cares about. But I do hope that the overhaul will motivate me to blog more frequently and about more topics.

For now, though, I have a ton of stuff I want to tell you guys about in future posts. It feels good to be blogging again!

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don’t look for alaska in tennessee

Posted by on May 9, 2012 in hodgepodge | 0 comments

One of the books I’ve read recently but not reviewed is John Green’s Looking for Alaska. I follow the author on Twitter (@realjohngreen) and yesterday he tweeted this link to a news story about a school district in Tennessee that banned his book. So now I’m forced to turn my erstwhile review of Looking for Alaska into a ranty rant about book banning, but that’s okay because rants are good for the soul.

But first, let me tell you about this book, because I loved it. It’s about this kid, Miles, AKA Pudge, who collects people’s last words and is basically bored with his life, so he decides to go to the same boarding school where his father went long ago. His roommate is nicknamed The Colonel, and the other two main people in this group of friends are Takumi and Alaska. Alaska is the only girl in the group, and she’s feisty, damaged, a little bitter, mischievous, and sexy as all get-out, at least to Miles. The group is constantly breaking the rules, doing things they’re not supposed to do, generally causing varying degrees of trouble, until finally one of them makes one bad decision too many and they all have to suffer the consequences.

It’s not like the plot is that surprising, but I don’t want to spoil it here. The book is organized around this one catastrophic event, and the first part of the book is a countdown to the days leading up to it, while the latter part of the book is the story of what happened in the days following. There’s enough foreshadowing that you can pretty much tell something big is going to happen.

So if you don’t want to know any more about what happens in the book, you should stop reading now, because I’m about to get my rant on.

The objectionable part of Looking for Alaska really boils down to two pages of a horribly awkward, bumbling, mostly disastrous oral sex scene. See, Miles has the biggest crush in the world on Alaska, but Alaska has a boyfriend, Jake, who’s older and doesn’t go to their school. Miles settles for Lara, a fellow student, as his love interest. I mean, I say he settles for her, which is true at first, but I do think he ends up kindof actually liking her a lot. Just not as much as he likes Alaska. Anyway, Lara wants to prove up her girl powers and so offers to give Miles a blow job, which he happily accepts, except that Lara really doesn’t know what she’s doing at all, and the whole thing is just pretty hilarious when you think about it. Unless you live in Sumner County, Tennessee, in which case it’s THE DEVIL’S WORK AND MUST BE BANNED WE MUST PROTECT THE CHILDREN OMG.

But, as is wont to happen, in its rush to protect the children from reading anything about oral sex ever (which will obviously keep them from ever learning about it from any source ever, duh), the school district in Sumner County ignores multiple larger, positive takeaways from Looking for Alaska. I believe we call this throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Let me tell you what all was in the bathwater.

First, can we just talk for a second about the big tragedy around which the entire structure of the book is based? So the kids drink regularly, some more than others, and one night they play a game of Truth or Dare and get pretty drunk. Alaska and Miles finally kiss, and then she falls asleep but is woken up later by the phone. Suddenly she is distraught and convinces Miles and The Colonel to distract the school’s Dean long enough that she can leave campus, and she winds up dying in a car accident. Miles and The Colonel spend the rest of the book trying to figure out (1) why she felt the need to leave campus so suddenly, (2) whether her death was accidental or a suicide, and (3) how to best memorialize Alaska at the end of the school year.

The takeaway here, of course, is an anti-drunk-driving message. I feel like that’s a message we can all get behind, right? But that’s completely overshadowed by this oral sex scene that takes up two pages of a pretty fantastic book. I mean, nobody really wants to think about their kid reading crap about blow jobs. I don’t. Gross. But honestly, raise your hand if you actually think your teenager has NO CLUE that blow jobs are even a thing.

*crickets*

That’s what I thought. Of course they already know about them. If they don’t, it’s because you’ve had them in a bubble for twelve years. Shame on you. Bubble life is unrealistic and you’re not doing your kids any favors by keeping them in there. They’ll never grow up to be functioning, contributing members of society if you never let them out. How will they ever learn to make good choices if you make all their choices for them?

A second overarching message in Looking for Alaska is this idea that sometimes you take risks and you get away with them, and sometimes you don’t. And sometimes those risky behaviors lead to disaster. You, dear teenagers, are not bulletproof, no matter how unconquerable you feel. I remember what it’s like to be a teenager. The concept of mortality is the farthest thing from your mind. I think it’s worthwhile sometimes for kids to be reminded, for example, that you may drink and drive successfully eleventy billion times, but on the eleventy-billionth-and-first time you (and/or someone else) might end up dead. That’s why you shouldn’t do it. Plus, it’s illegal. And by the way? Odds are that you won’t end up dead from oral sex.

To me, showing kids that actions sometimes have bad consequences is a good thing. To me, what’s damaging is a story line that has kids making bad choices or taking risks and never really having any negative fall-out from it. The Twilight books are a perfect example. Girls reading those books are basically told that (1) it’s normal to fall head-over-heels in love with a guy who’s completely unavailable and also inherently dangerous, (2) when he behaves in the creepiest of ways it’s not because he’s a stalker but because he loves you so much he wants to drink your blood, (3) when he breaks up with you and leaves you alone in a forest, the appropriate reaction is to mope and isolate yourself from all of society for months on end, and (4) eventually, if you mope long enough and engage in enough risky behavior, he’ll come back to you and stop being a fucking weirdo sparkly stalker. See? All’s well that ends well. Life is a bowl of cherries. Happily ever after. La la la la.

The third big theme of Looking for Alaska revolves around a search for meaning. Miles collects famous last words, and among his favorites are the dying words of Francois Rabelais: “I go to seek a Great Perhaps.” Alaska repeatedly refers to the “labyrinth of life” that she’s trying to find a way out of. Alaska is plagued by the circumstances of her mother’s death and struggles with the (misplaced) guilt she feels because she didn’t/couldn’t save her mother’s life. After her death, Miles and The Colonel then look for the meaning of Alaska’s death, seeking to understand both the source of her despair and the intent, if any, behind her death.

I mean, there’s a reason that “teen angst” is a common cliché. It’s because we’ve all felt it. Being a teenager is hard enough even when you have a mostly perfect life. When your life is fucked up in some way, it just makes it worse. The idea in Looking for Alaska is that even if you think your life is fucked up beyond repair, even if you have no idea why you’re here or what your purpose is, your life has worth. And sometimes we can find meaning in the darkest of places.

OKIE DOKIE. I think I’ve ranted myself out now. Do I think this is an appropriate book for the K-6 age group? Nope. I sure don’t. Do I think it’s appropriate for all kids even above that age? Nope. But do I think school districts are missing the big picture by banning a book based on two pages of novice oral sex? Absolutely.

I gave Looking for Alaska five stars on Goodreads and it gets nine hearts here.

 

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