Book Review – If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino

if on a winter's night a traveler

If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino is not just one novel, but several. Told in the second-person, the frame narrative tells the story of an unnamed Reader who buys a new book, If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino, only to find that there was a binding issue printing the book and after the first 32 pages the same chapter is repeated throughout, leaving him unable to continue reading after a moment of suspense in the story. Trying to find a complete version of this initial novel he is mistakenly given a completely different novel by another author, which he resigns to read anyway. This too stops short at a moment of suspense, leading him further down a madcap pursuit of novels that he simply wants to finish reading.Read More »

Book Review – House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

House of Leaves

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski is a bit of a tough novel to define. It is a labyrinthine book riddled with footnotes that weave throughout the text, multiple unreliable narrators, and frequently disorienting formatting. I’ve heard it labeled a horror novel before, which in a way it is—it does deal with the perversion of physical laws and a terrifying journey into an oppressive, unknowable void. It is also a scholarly text, breaking down an examining a documentary film. It is also a man documenting his personal descent into lust, alienation, and obsession. It is also a collection of letters sent from a mother to her son. It is not technically all these things at once.Read More »

Book Review – My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

MyYearOfRestAndRelaxation

Our narrator should be happy, shouldn’t she? She’s young, thin, pretty, a recent Columbia graduate, works an easy job at a hip art gallery, lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan paid for, like the rest of her needs, by her inheritance. But there is a dark and vacuous hole in her heart, and it isn’t just the loss of her parents, or the way her Wall Street boyfriend treats her, or her sadomasochistic relationship with her best friend, Reva. It’s the year 2000 in a city aglitter with wealth and possibility; what could be so terribly wrong?

My Year of Rest and Relaxation (2018) is the latest novel by Ottessa Moshfegh. The story follows an unnamed narrator who is fed up with her life such as it is. Both her parents are dead, her recurring ex-boyfriend is a high-class dirtbag, and her only consistent relationship with her friend Reva is toxic. Life offers nothing of meaning or value to her. Everything is a superficial façade. In attempt to remedy her existential dilemma, with the help of a terrible psychiatrist, the narrator embarks upon a journey self-renewal. She begins taking a myriad of sleep aids and medication to keep herself sedated in her apartment as often as possible for an entire year, believing that by the end of this time she will emerge restored in mind and spirit.Read More »

Book Review – The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

CatcherInTheRyeCover

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger is a 1951 novel about a young man named Holden Caulfield who has flunked out of his private school. It starts in the days before Christmas break, after which he will not be returning to the school. Instead of waiting out the remainder of his days there, he leaves without telling anyone, heading into New York City, where his family lives, and spending a few days there unattended.Read More »

My Reading Journey & Old Stories

It was about five years ago when I really dove head first into becoming a reader. I was just embarking upon studies in English at university and the world of fiction, novels, and storytelling was opening up to me. Before then the amount I read of anything was actually rather limited.

I read the Harry Potter series as they came out, up until Order of the Phoenix. The release of Half-Blood Prince marked a distinct transition in my reading patterns. While many of my friends eagerly picked up their copies, I found myself disinterested, instead picking up a copy of The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. This led to me going through a brief fascination with Wells, compelling me to read The Invisible Man and The Time Machine as well. I got a copy of The Island of Dr. Moreau, but for some reason did not end up reading it.

As I’ve said, it was still a number of years before I really delved into becoming a reader of various works, but I felt this little instance was an interesting one to share because it was the first time I expanded my horizons when it came to reading.

When I finally did open up to reading across the spectrum of literature it was like opening a flood gate. Not only did an influx of novels find their way into my possession because of the extensive syllabi of my courses, but I began to seek out and buy massive amounts of books on my own, purely for the pleasure of it. I became a collector, slowly building my own library until I had stacks of books and nowhere to put them. Many of these books I’m happy to say I have since read, but many more have been sitting in stacks on my shelf for years waiting for me to crack open their pages.

Even now, as I write this, I can simply look up and count six books before me that I haven’t started reading: Sarah Court, Lullaby, The Penguin Book of Norse Myths, The Princess Bride, The Divine Comedy, and Paradise Lost. Among these are some I intend to get through this year, and some that I may not start for years to come.

This impulse to collect books became such a problem that a couple years ago I imposed a rule upon myself that — with a few exceptions of course — I would only buy the next book in a series if I had read the previous one. Along with this, I force myself to resist buying a new book unless I intend to read it soon after buying it.

Needless to say, I’ve got enough books to keep me consistently reading for a long time. It has actually become a great personal undertaking to get through them all. I make lists of what I want to get through each year, as well as keep a log of what I have actually finished.

While books are the primary culprit, my collection of content extends well beyond books to include comic books, movies, and video games. I have access to more of each than anybody reasonably should, to the point where it sometimes seems insane to buy anything new.

During 2014, however, a dear friend of mine managed to inadvertently change my perspective. As I observed her revel in her love of specific series through fandoms, recounting times she’d re-read an entire series of books, or simply re-watched favourites for the joy of it, I realized that this was something I had not been doing. For all of the stories I’d fallen in love with over the years I’d never revisited them or taken the time to go through them once more and rediscover why I loved them so much. I’d been so caught up in going through all the new content I have that I have neglected what I already love.

I am reminded of one of my favourite quotes from A Storm of Swords: “Old stories are like old friends. You have to visit them from time to time.” I took this to heart recently and I have visited some old friends: I’ve watched Sin City once again, played through an entire file of Ocarina of Time, and just finished reading all eleven volumes of The Sandman comic book series by Neil Gaiman. All of the above turned out to be more comforting and fulfilling than I could have imagined, each offering something new that I hadn’t experience with them before.

My reading journey is far from complete, and I have a lot of new ground to cover before I am done, but sometimes it really is important to just stop and retread some old ground, visit some old friends, and remind yourself why you’re making the journey in the first place.

All About Stories

Quite simply, this blog is going to be a place where I will write.

What I write about will vary depending on what has captured my interest. In my academic life I spent a lot of time reading literature, but my focus will extend beyond that. I am absolutely in love with almost all storytelling mediums. To list them more specifically: literature, comic books, films, animation, live action TV, and video games. I try to absorb as much content across all these mediums as I possibly can.

I consider myself quite open-minded, so there are few genres I will outright dismiss instead of giving a chance. Two genres I am particularly fond of, however, are fantasy and science fiction. Although I have much love for more realistic, dramatic stories, it is the extraordinary elements of these genres that particularly captivate me. Perhaps not surprisingly, I have a considerable love for mythology as well. Although at the moment this is limited to classical mythology (Ancient Greece) I intend to expand my knowledge as much as possible to learn more about the world’s different mythologies.

The reason for the broad spectrum of mediums I want to cover is that I have a deep reverence for stories, and I try to enjoy them in all the forms they inhabit. Though I have never truly been a spiritual man, having grown up in an environment where religious practice was absent, I firmly believe in the power of story. All of us believe in a myth of origin, for example, and use this as a means to help understand who we are by using this origin as a foundation. This could be Creation in the Bible, Evolution from the scientific perspective, or anywhere else on the vast spectrum of belief.

Challenge a person’s myth of origin and it is likely to be met with negativity. You may be thinking to yourself, for instance, that your belief is not “just a story.” This is a line of thinking that fails to appreciate the power of story. A story can make you happy, excited, or even miserable over something that never happened. Stories can make you fall in love with or hate someone who has never existed. People fight, die, and/or kill each other over stories every day. People seek each other out, become connected, and/or fall in love because of stories. To paraphrase Thomas King, stories are powerful and flexible, like water. Sometimes the same story can be used to help or it can be used to hurt.

We are affected by stories each day of our lives, even when we don’t realize it, because they are not simply the explicit constructs that populate our books, televisions, and theatres. Stories are the truths and lies we tell to ourselves and others. To perceive, even in some small way, is to tell a story.

Be kind; I am a scholar, but not a philosopher. I hope the above has provided an interesting glimpse into how I perceive the world and the stories around us, and did not come across as rambling. With this blog I hope to analyze, criticize, and review works from different storytelling mediums as I consider and/or experience them. This could be anything from merely sharing my feelings about a work, providing deeper criticism, or digging deep and analyzing its subtext and sharing anything meaningful I might find there.

I also intend to post some of my own creative writing, though this will be less frequent. I idolize writers like Neil Gaiman —I would love nothing more than to experience success across numerous mediums such as he has — but for the most part I envision my creative work will consist of short stories for the time being.

I look forward to embarking further upon this writing odyssey of mine. We must all start somewhere, and it is time I stopped merely absorbing content and began creating some of my own. Come along and muse with me, and let’s see what we can learn.