The last one (which will be the 22nd novel), Lucky Jim, is leering at me from my desk to the left. The jacket cover is of a young couple sitting in bed, clothed, looking a bit drunk, or amorous, or both. I guess I’ll find out if I have the energy to crack it before bed, and I am sure it will be better than the best prescription sleep aid out there. . .not because I’ll find it boring, but simply because my brain is mush in terms of literature right now. Earlier this afternoon I had to kick off a class discussion about something in a book called “Maxwell’s Demon” and what it meant (I said doomsday machine, perpetual motion, God-particle generator, and that seemed to work) but honestly I rambled, and stuttered and for some reason told everybody I was Catholic. (Oh the things that come out of my mouth!)
The good news is I love reading. By the same token, as a transfer student who came here with 90 units, I am on the speed version of college. . .I have to take 30 units in residence, 24 of which must be upper division English (my major), and what I was missing amounted to a stack of literature classes I had neglected to take when I was at SDSU. So here I am, reading away.
One of my professors proclaimed at the beginning of the semester: “This class moves FAST. Any of you who are taking more than two literature classes. . .ARE YOU CRAZY?!!” Call me crazy, but I had no choice!
Not only were most of the books I read contemporary, meaning written after the industrial revolution took place, but they almost all dealt with existential themes, wartime, and communication breaking down between human beings. You get the sense that people are very, very, deeply troubled. Let me just run through some of it off the top of my head: A genetically engineered slave race receives shock therapy as toddlers to keep them illiterate, a woman eats a whole bar of Philadelphia Cream Cheese because she thinks it’s a candy bar, German and Allied soldiers have a truce on Christmas in the no-man’s land, after which they begin shooting each other again, a woman’s hair is fried off in a premeditated hair salon incident involving a permanent wave, rampant gambling occurs, prostitution is par-for-the-course, thug attacks on impoverished immigrants are frequent, rampant domestic abuse is occurring, a kitten suffocates in an abandoned refrigerator, people are put into internment camps, marriages fall apart, copious amounts of alcohol are drunk, cholera lays people out, children fall off barges or are abandoned by the side of the road, a man believes Anne Frank has survived the holocaust, and a lunatic dances nude in front of a plaster sculpture featuring only the head of a man being tortured. You can’t make this stuff up! Or. . .wait, you can. At least someone can. Amazing writers can, and they can make it make sense, too. More sense than real life, at least. Just watch the daily news.
That’s why I’m an English major. I like to read about the human condition, and although some of these narratives aren’t for the faint-of-heart, it’s not all doom and gloom. In my Asian American lit class, not only was I able to improve my essay writing technique, but I learned a lot about the diverse cultures who enrich our country, bringing with them traditions from the far east, and having to work hard and suffer a lot to be able to succeed here against all odds. My grandparents came here from two places, Ireland and Puerto Rico, and this class really helped me understand other immigrant stories I was less familiar with than my own family history. I highly recommend this class because we live in a huge, diverse state, and the more cultures you can learn about, the better off you will be out in the workplace. Plus it satisfies the Sac State writing intensive requirement and the race and ethnicity requirement in a one-two punch!
Oh yeah, I read some poems too. Sylvia Plath. . .yeeesh. Nuff said. If you thought you were edgy. . .think again. Here’s a little teaser from “Daddy”:
Every woman adores a Fascist
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.
Charmed? It’s like punk-rock before punk rock was a twinkle in Henry Rollins’s eye! Another reason I love reading fiction is because I believe literature informs music and vice-versa. One of my favorite musicians is Nick Cave, who sings this song on the album Dig! Lazarus, Dig! called “We Call Upon The Author.” Listen to it if you get the chance. . .it pretty much sums up how I feel sometimes about amazing novels which I love reading but for the life of me can’t make sense of. I mull them over and turn them over in my head for weeks afterward and that inspires me. It inspires me to question what is real, what is important in my own life, and to ponder what I can throw out with yesterdays trash too. Life is short. This semester was even shorter. I still can’t believe I read over 20 novels, but I’m glad I did!
If you’re curious about my reading list, I took English 180M, 140K, and 150F this semester. All great classes!
Tune in to my show, The Healthy Hornet, every Wednesday at 10AM, for some music and holistic health tips. Just go to TuneIn.com, search KSSU, and hit play! I’ll play some Nick Cave, too!