List Challenge: The Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge

I was a die-hard Gilmore Girls fan back when it was on TV. I’ve rewatched the series several times and am excitedly awaiting the release of the the new episodes on Netflix.

There were many reasons I liked Gilmore Girls, and one of those reasons was that Rory loved to read. She would throw out literary references faster than I could catch them. I never kept track of the references, but thankfully, someone else did.

I present to you: The Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge! (Also, see below for this embedded list.)

According to the list challenge, throughout the entire seven seasons,”Rory Gilmore was seen reading 339 books on screen.” Some of the comments on the list challenge beg to differ. Some commenters mentioned that some books were only mentioned, not read. Others mentioned that only other characters read the books mentioned and not Rory. Another commenter disagreed with The Divine Comedy  and Dante’s Inferno  being listed separately because one is a part of the other [I happen to agree!]

I delved a little further and found Buzzfeed wrote a list as well, titled, “All 339 Books Referenced in ‘Gilmore Girls'”. There are also a number of lists on GoodReads as well with different book totals. One cited 355, while others separate the books out by season. There is even a Richard Gilmore book list.

I found another post that lists 338 book references. This blog post even references a  Wiki article that lists all references in each episode and a link to the Rory Gilmore Book Club on GoodReads.

So many books, not enough time! Speaking of time, it’s time to get reading.

Oh, in case you were wondering, I’ve only read 40 of the 339 books. How many have you read?

National Banned Books Week

September 30-October 6 is National Banned Books Week.  And although it may seem like a ruse by English teachers to force students into reading “old” or “classic” books that appear to have surpassed their societal relevance, it most definitely is more than that.  This week is about celebrating the freedom to read and drawing attention to the problem of censorship.

Banned (or challenged) books are books that have come under controversy for their content.  Someone somewhere did not approve of the story line, the symbolism, or the underlying message written on the pages.  That person found some friends that agreed with them and essentially, made a stink about it.  People have complained to the media, to online forums, to school boards, and curriculum directors that not only should this book not be taught in school, but it should be eliminated from existence.

Any district can remove a book from their curriculum, however, only the official complaints to the American Library Association or articles from newspapers determine if a book should be put on the “banned book” list.  Books are only put on the list after they’ve received so many complaints (more info on how the list is tabulated).  But its listing doesn’t make the book, reading book, possession of the book, or the teaching of the book illegal.  The banned book list is artificial.  It doesn’t mean much.  In fact, there isn’t even one list.

The American Library Association has several types of lists available depending on years, race of the author, book title, and more.  One list is a PDF of Books Banned or Challenged in 2010-2011 that includes such books as The Hunger Games, Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank), and The Koran with explanations of who challenged them and for what reason.  I wasn’t surprised by some of the classics, but definitely by The Hunger Games.  Another one of their lists, the Banned and Challenged Classics has many books that most people know to be as the banned book list.

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) has a PDF list on their website entitled Challenged Books from 2004-2011.  It seems they’ve listed nearly every books that has some literary content and worthy of study in an English class.  Books such as Lord of the Flies, Of Mice and Men, and Hamlet(yes, Shakespeare!) are listed amongst Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, The Lovely Bones, and A Christmas Carol.

People will continue to object to books as long as authors continually exercise their right to free speech and freedom of the press.  Books that make readers think, reflect, and change their mind on how they view the world will always have to fight against those who want to control the message. How influential are they?  The Library of Congress has assembled a list of Banned Books That Shaped America (published on www.bannedbooksweek.org).

Students are always asking, “why do I have to learn this?” or “why do I need to read this?”  Sometimes, the questions need to be, “why can’t I read this?” or “how will I change by reading this?”.  I’m all for trash novels that keep people reading or motivating them to walk into a bookstore (or whatever method of obtaining books they prefer), but there are books people need to read because that author had something to say.  And 50, 100, 400 years later, that message still is important.

So this week, go read some Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Kurt Vonnegut, or Mark Twain.  You could also read The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger), 1984 (George Orwell), Catch-22 (Joseph Heller), The Jungle (Upton Sinclair), A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess), Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury), To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee), or even The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien).

And if you really like one, there is a website, OutofPrintClothing.com where you can buy shirts inspired by classic book covers.

Lastly, dare others to read banned books with website badges and Facebook cover art.

But don’t let me tell you what to read or not to read, go find out what these rebels with a cause wrote about.  I triple-dog dare you.

 

 

“This is Your Brain on Shakespeare”

Although I enjoy Shakespeare, I often find myself frustrated by his diction.  The plot sounds quite interesting, but when I try to read the text, I feel like chucking the book across the room in utter frustration at the guy.  Can’t he just say what he means to say without flowery language?  The answer is simple – he could have, but he was a poet. And poets love their alliterations, similes, and metaphors.

Shakespeare had a large vocabulary, but it still wasn’t enough to express his thoughts.  In his article “This is Your Brain on Shakespeare“, Daniel Honan writes,

“In all of his plays, sonnets and narrative poems, Shakespeare used 17,677 words. Of these, he invented approximately 1,700, or nearly 10 percent. Shakespeare did this by changing the part of speech of words, adding prefixes and suffixes, connecting words together, borrowing from a foreign language, or by simply inventing them.”

It’s no wonder that students reading Shakespeare can be frustrated – the guy invented words arbitrarily to suit his needs.  Shakespeare wasn’t crazy – no in fact he was actually a genius for inventing words.  The time it takes for the brain to invent the language and for readers to logically figure out meaning leads to a more intelligent brain, according Honan and Davis.

Honan’s article explores scientifically the effect creative language (like Shakespeare’s invented language) has on the brain.  He taps into the research of Philip Davis from the University of Liverpool’s School of English to illustrate the connection between creative language and the brain.

Honan writes:

For Davis, we need creative language “to keep the brain alive.” He points out that so much of our language today, written in bullet points or simple sentences, fall into predictability. “You can often tell what someone is going to say before they finish their sentence” he says. “This represents a gradual deadening of the brain.”

So your high school English teacher was right – learning Shakespeare will be applicable to your future.  The more Shakespeare you know, the strong your brain will be.  And a strong brain leads to more knowledge retention and perhaps, as Davis hopes, to help reduce memory loss in those with dementia.

The Tempest

Prospero was the Duke of Milian…until he spent too much time focusing on learning magic and sorcery.  This gave his brother a window of opportunity to come in to Milian and essentially steal it from him.  Antonio (his brother) was not such a nice guy, he put Prospero and his brother’s daughter in an old wine cask (cut in half) and set them out to sea.  Present day: Miranda and Prospero have been marooned on this island for fifteen some years.  Prospero used magic to enslave the only resident of the island, Caliban (the island previously belonged to his mother who died – but she was a witch-hag and Caliban was not quite human).

As luck would have it, his sworn enemy, the King of Naples (who consorted with his brother to steal Milan from him), will be sailing near the island on their way back from the King marrying his daughter off to the king of Tunis.  Using his magic, Prospero and his enslaved spirit, Ariel, create a tempest (aka a nasty storm) that rocks the boat around.  Some mariners jump off, others prepare for death.  But Ariel and Prospero hide the people not necessary for his little game all around the island with an enchanting spell to make them sleep.  He brings the king’s son, Ferdinand to see Miranda because his plotted to get his dukedom back by having his daughter marry Alonso’s son.

Some power struggles happen – assassinations planned but foiled, Cailban whined over the island being rightfully his, Alonso cried because he misses his son and believes him dead, and some more filler conversations that elaborate on the plot but really aren’t key to the plot.  I’ll skip over those – if you are dying to know, just comment on the post and I’ll explain.

When Ferdinand see’s Miranda (and vice versa) for the first time they instantly fall in love.  She even proposes marriage and he accepts before they tell each other their names (I think she proposed after about 5 minutes, maybe 10 after seeing him).  But I don’t blame the gal – she’s only known her father and Caliban the half-witch-half-human combo.  She’s nearing 16 and well…we can infer from there (but it’s not mentioned in the play (it’s my commentary)).

Happy he has his his daughter engaged he now reveal to everyone that it he’s alive and well.  And oh by the way he still wants his dukedom back.  He promises to give up the magic.  He releases everyone from his enslavement and they all sail away back to Rome.

 

 

 

 

Finished Shakespeare’s The Tempest

Working in double time, downing some Diet Pepsi, RedBull, and more Diet Pepsi, I got through reading Shakespeare’s The Tempest about an hour ago.  I felt like a narcoleptic constantly falling asleep!  It was rather boring, lots of dialogue to explain a rather uninteresting plot that is out of chronological order. After finishing it, I thought “who cares”?

I don’t really care about the story of a guy who’s brother ousted him as Duke of Milan because the guy was too busy reading about magic and neglecting his duties.  He deserved it.  But the guy boo-hoos and and raises his daughter on an island where the only human she’s known is her dad – yet she speaks amazingly well (okay, okay, I have to allow some disbelief in his plays, but that just bothered me).  And lo and behold, some fifteen years later the guy has the chance to exact revenge.  But its rather haphazardly done, and all due to magic and his slaved nymphs or something.  Of course the second the daughter meets the son of the King of Napes, she falls in love with him.  How does she even know love?  How can she decide he’s the man she wants to be with forever when she’s literally only had one other human in her life?

I think my issue with The Tempest was the suspension of belief was too great – I just couldn’t engage in the story or believe it enough to care.

Sleeping, preparing meals/eating, showering, breaks, family obligations, doctor appointments, errands, and other Things Involved in Daily Life NOT INCLUDED.  Caffeine sold separately.  Upgrade of adding more hours to the day – not available/not compatible.  Eligible when time travel is invented and is reliable.

 

Continue crash sequence….

The Winter’s Tale

What is there to say about Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale?  Not much actually.  It’s a revenge plot that just fizzles at the end.  Shakespeare pretty much stole plot points from several of his other plays to create this one.  I found the characters to be flat, contradicting, and well…stupid.

Leontes, a king, flies into a jealous rage (plot point straight from Othello) when he is unable to convince his friend to visit/stay longer, but his very pregnant wife is able to convince him to stay.  Coincidentally, Polinxes has been visiting for 9 months and well…Hermione just happens to be 9 months pregnant, therefore Polinxes must be the father and not him (sounds like a overly dramatic soap opera to me).  That night Hermione gives birth to a girl.

The sharp tongued Paulina tries to make Leontes see his daughter.  He says no, kill it.  Paulina doesn’t have the heart to, so she tells Leontes his wife died in childbirth and oh by the way, your son died of heartache upon hearing of her death.  Paulina sends her husband to take the girl to Bohemia.  He puts her down in a meadow and then leaves to go back to his boat…only he gets mauled by a bear and dies.  So much for karma.  Or perhaps that is karma punishing the husband for Leontes choice.

Then, Father Time has an interlude where he says some stuff about time passing which is Shakespeare’s version of overlay text on the screen that says “Sixteen Years Later”.

The daughter’s name is Perdita (how original, Shakespeare, use the Spanish word for lost, and an endearing “ita” on it and call her little lost one) has grown up under the loving care of a shepherd.  She frolicks around during the “sheep-shearing” festival and meets a guy, who just happens to be a prince in disguise (a little Measure for Measure?).  They instantly fall in love, but Florizel’s father has a problem with his son marrying a shepherdess.  Oh and guess who is father is?  None other than Polinxes (and no, Perdita is not his daughter so it’s not any crazy half-sibling thing going on).  They run away to elope secretly (Romeo & Juliet, anyone?) and this vagabond guy who just ripped everyone off at the festival then decides to help them, because he picked up some courtier’s clothes and felt noble.  And somehow they get to Sicilia, where poof! Perdita is restored to being a princess.

Paulina then decides she’ll make a “statue” of the queen.  Leontes sees it, thinks its so life-like, almost convinces himself he sees it move and breath.  With the magic words, poof! the statue comes alive.  Hermione had been alive the past 16 years, kept secluded by Paulina, waiting for Leontes to repent and the oracle fulfilled that Leontes has an heir (because the son truly did die – but its okay, no one really cared about him anyway).  And then the story ends.

The plot is rather simple, slow moving, and uninteresting.  Paulina’s sharp tongue can be entertaining at times, but most of the dialogue is superfluous and fluffy.

I wouldn’t give this play higher than a C.  It has all the right elements, but it just…has no oomph.  It’s not unique, special, entertaining, or quotable.  It just exists as one of Shakespeare’s more average works.  It’s alright Shakespeare, not every play can be a bestseller.  Perhaps you were trying a new direction, were feeling sick, or distracted when you wrote it.  Because I can’t even fathom that after some of your best plays you’d write something so…average…and think highly of it.  It was one of your last two plays you wrote yourself.  But we’ll never know.  Oh and PS: you’re epitaph is awesome . Modern Spelling courtesy of Wikipedia.

“Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear,
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he who moves my bones.”

The next, and final Shakespeare play for this course is The Tempest, the last play Shakespeare wrote by himself.  Hopefully it’ll have a bit more oomph.  I’d like to think Shakespeare went out with a bang/fanfare.

Macbeth

Macbeth is one of the most common plays taught in high school.  Unfortunately, my teacher chose a different curriculum than the rest of the 12th grade class and I did not read Shakespeare that year.  But thankfully, another opportunity came my way.

So in case you aren’t too familiar with the play (I’m hoping you at least recognize the name!) it is about a guy named Macbeth who hears a prophecy from three witches that proclaims him Thane of Cawdor and then, “King, hearafter.”  Macbeth is a greedy guy (and so is his wife) so he attempts to hurry things along by having his wife kill the current king and his heir.  The sons escape, but the King dies – proclaiming Macbeth as King.  Then the greedy Macbeth becomes paranoid that the witches’ prophecy to his friend, Banquo – that his descendents will be King – will come true.  So he orders the death of Banquo and his son.  Banquo dies, son fleas.  But lo and behold, Macbeth has a conscience and feels guilty he had his friend killed.  So he calls the witches to give him some reassurance.  They give it to Macbeth by telling him to be ware of Macduff.  Until this point Macbeth had no problems with the guy, but suddenly, a greedy, paranoid King decides to kill Macduff before he kills Macbeth.  The witches give him another prophecy – he will not die by someone born of a woman.  Poor Macbeth, he thinks this means he’s invincible.  Macduff was apparently “ripped from his mother’s womb” too early and thus, not born of a woman.  And so Macbeth dies by Macduff’s sword.

The play, was fairly easy to read and rather enjoyable.  I enjoyed the comedy surrounding the absurd behavior of Lady Macbeth and Macbeth.  I can see why it is taught often in high schools, it has a fairly simple plot and is not hard to read.  Of course, there are the lessons about greed, jealousy, selfishness, desire of something that is not yours, etc, but it still is rather simple.  Most people already know these lessons by the time they read it.  There isn’t something new to explore in the text.  I’d like to each some of his other less-known plays to give people the chance to really read and understand Shakespeare.  Of course this doesn’t mean ignore the overly taught ones, but just try to change it up some more.

Othello

The tragedy of Othello by William Shakespeare tells the story of a good man who is deceived by his close friend and, subsequently, kills his honest wife.

Othello is a Moor who has just married a beautiful, white Desdemona.  Still in their honeymoon stupor, the authorities in Venice send him to Cyprus to fortify the colony from an invasion from the Turks.  Desdemona wishes to go with him, and he accepts her request.  Jealousy enables Iago to plant doubt of Desdemona’s fidelity in Othello’s mind.  At first the newlywed couple behave as equals, but soon Othello’s chauvinistic, stubborn side comes to light.  Othello soon believes “honest” Iago over his own wife.  Othello’s temper overpowers him and in a fit, he suffocates Desdemona.  After her death the truth is revealed and a shamed Othello takes his own life.

It was difficult at first to be interested in the story.  But soon I found myself reading page after page, quite interested in the story.  There are so many layers, motifs, and ideas presented that I thoroughly enjoyed reading the play.  It is not one of my favorites, but Shakespeare wrote of racism, jealousy, power, loyalty, domestic abuse, honesty, and more – all of which are topics that are currently being explored and expanded 400-some years later.

I watched an excellent film adaption of the play from the BBC series of Shakespeare’s Tragedies.  It stars Anthony Hopkins (heavily tanned) as Othello.  As you probably can guess, he can play angry very well.  Here’s a link to the IMDB page: Othello (1981).

My essay for the play focused on Desdemona’s strength in adversity.  She died honest – she did not lie in an attempt to save her life when Othello confronted her.  She took charge of her own life, thoughts, and beliefs which is contradictory to the role and position of women at the time.  Desdemona was not a trophy wife, a play thing, or a mere sexual object, she was a confident, well-articulated, passionate woman who refused to take no or admit falsehoods.  I’d like to be friends with someone like her.  Someone who knows when to stand up for an injustice and most importantly, knows when to back down.  She did not deserve to die, however, her murderer gave himself quite, equal justice with his own life.  Of course, Emilia, Othello, and Desdemona all end up dead at the end and that serves no one, but I felt all murders were avenged with poetic justice.

Measure for Measure Essay

“Give me your hand and say you will be mine,” proposes the Duke to Isabella (5.1.564).  As a director in a production of Measure for Measure, it would be my duty to assess the dialogue of the Duke and Isabella to choose the best facial expressions and body language for my actors in order to give the audience a feeling of satisfaction at the end of the play.  Without a written response from Isabella, it would be up to me, the director, to use unspoken communication to answer the Duke’s proposal.  The audience has formed a bond with these characters throughout their plight and Isabella’s response needs to feel plausible.  In my direction of the play, I would not have Isabella eagerly accept the Duke’s hand in marriage because it is not plausible for her to vehemently abhor sexual intercourse then quickly turn around and readily accept a man’s hand in marriage.

Isabella is vehement in her opposition to sex.  When Lucio arrives to tell Isabella of her brother’s arrest, she is asking Francisca if there were any more restrictions as a nun, “I speak not of desiring more / But rather wishing more restraint / Upon the sisterhood, the votarists of Saint Clare,” (1.4.3-5).  She further solidifies her abhorrence for sex when she first meets Angelo to plead for her brother’s life.  “There is a vice that most I do abhor / And most desire should meet the blow of justice,” (2.2.42-43).  Whether she speaks of fornication or sex in general, when coupled with the fact she wishes stricter restrictions for herself, it must be concluded that Isabella is opposed to sexual intercourse for herself.

Isabella refuses to exchange her virginity for her brother’s life.  “Then I shall pose you quickly / Which had you rather, that the most just law / Now took your brother’s life, or, to redeem him, / Give up your body to such sweet uncleanliness / As she that he hath stained?” (2.4.53-57). She tells Angelo that by giving up her body, her soul will be forever shamed.  And so she answers him, “Better it were that a brother die at once / Than that a sister, by redeeming him / Should die forever,” (2.4.114-116).  A rather painful choice for a person about to take her vow as a nun – either yield her virginity or her brother’s life.  She soon tells Claudio her choice, “That I shall do what I abhor to name / Or else thou diest tomorrow…Be ready, Claudio, for your death tomorrow,” (3.1.114-115, 121).  She further reinforces her decision when she tells Friar Lodowick (the Duke), “I had rather my brother die by the law than my son should be unlawfully born,” (3.1.212-214).

There is no indication in the play’s dialogue of Isabella’s romantic interest in Friar Lodowick, who, unbeknownst to her is the Duke.  With her mind focused on her attempt to pardon her brother, she has no time to flirt with any man, especially someone who appears to be a friar.  As she previously stated her wish of become a nun with stricter restrictions upon herself and her detest of sex, it would not be plausible for her to think romantically of Friar Lodowick.  As a director, I would contemplate the emotions Isabella would feel after realizing that the friar she confided in was not a friar at all, but rather the Duke.  Would her appreciation of him saving Claudio from execution and protecting her virginity be enough to reject the votarists of Saint Clare, marry the Duke, and yield her virginity to him?  Her vehemence was rather strong and she repeatedly chose her virginity over her brother’s life.  As a director, I am not entire convinced the Duke’s actions are enough to overturn her convictions.

In my production of the play, I would not have Isabella passionately accept or refuse the Duke’s proposal.  Although not prepared to accept his hand at the end of the play, Isabella has softened in her convictions through the actions of the Duke.  This leaves a potential for marriage at a later point, thus I would have the Duke and Isabella not embrace at the play’s end, but have the Duke and Isabella smile at each other as the Duke prepares to leave.  With this conclusion decided, I am able to decide on their facial expressions and body language for the rest of the play.  The Duke falls in love with Isabella so he would smile more often than she as well as have a longing in his eye anytime they part.  Isabella is unaware of any potential romance so she would not have any facial expressions or body language to suggest anything to the contrary.

Throughout the entire play, Isabella was vehemently against sex, which is required to consummate a marriage.  As a director, given the strength of Isabella’s determination to save herself from yielding her virginity, and her quick response to Angelo’s proposition of her virginity or her brother’s life, the actions of Friar Lodowick/the Duke, are not enough for Isabella to enthusiastically accept the Duke’s hand in marriage at the end of the play.

Measure for Measure

The Duke of Vienna announces he must travel to Poland and leaves all executive and judiciary power to his second in command: Angelo.  Modestly, Angelo declines, the Duke tells him again that all life and death matters will be his concern until the Duke’s return.  Angelo accepts.  Unbeknown to everyone except a Friar, the Duke has not left Vienna, but is rather in disguise as Friar Lodowick.  Claudio has been sentenced to death by Angelo for fornication (sleeping with Juliet who is nearly 9 months pregnant now).  Instead of the typical forced marriage, Angelo is using Claudio as an example of his stricter enforcement of laws.  Claudio pleads to Lucio to fetch his sister who is about to take her vow to be a nun to plead with Angelo for his life.  Isabella goes to Angelo and pleads for her brother’s life.  Infatuated with her, he gives her a proposition – yield her virginity to him or her brother dies.  She refuses to sleep with him and thus she has condemned her brother to die the next morning via the chopping block.

The Duke, as Friar Lodowick, has overheard this dilemma and attempts to persuade the Provost to help him save Claudio’s life.  Friar Lodowick and Isabella trick Angelo to sleep with Mariana, whom Angelo was previously engaged to but broke off the engagement when her brother and dowry drowned at sea.  More trickery and disguising occurs to keep Angelo and another prisoner, Barnadine, alive.

In the last act, Friar Lodowick reveals himself to be the Duke, to the astonishment of everyone.  His subjects spoke frankly with him about their opinions of the Duke and of their past.  The Duke pardons some transgressions and forces Lucio to marry the prostitute he begot with child.  Confronted with the trickery, Angelo is forced to marry Mariana who still pined for Angelo.  Lastly, the Duke proposes to Isabella and though there is no scripted answer, it is implied by most theatre companies that she shakes her head yes.

I struggled though the first read of the play, which is not surprising as Shakespeare’s language is difficult to read, despite knowing its in iambic pentameter.  As I did with Twelfth Night, I watched the BBC production of the play while following along with the book.  The book and BBC version were 98% identical which was helpful to see facial expressions and body language as well as hear the spoken lines.  With the movie and book together I understood the play much more and rather enjoyed it.  It is typically classified as a “dark comedy” as it still falls in line with comedy expectations, but the audience begins to see a bit of tragedy that occurres in his later works begin to take root.

I would recommend Measure for Measure to read as well as the BBC production.  I still feel as though I am watching a play, as the background and props are simple and typical for stage plays, but have the benefit of a complete background that does not need my imagination to fill it in.  I can concentrate significantly more on the dialogue.  The BBC production of nearly every Shakespeare play was done in the late seventies and throughout the eighties, which actually adds to the charm and feeling of seeing a stage play.