Tag Archives Reading

Loner: A Novel

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I finished reading a novel! Although I started the year on quite a reading high, that quickly slumped into the usual “chuck it on the Maybe/DNF pile”. Lately, I’ve been a bit busy with all my course reading, which includes a fair amount of philosophy – Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Wollstonecraft, Kant, Bentham and Marx – and the theories of Freire, Boal and hooks. I’m really tired of all the gendered language and the patriarchal bullshit, that’s for sure, and I really don’t like the word pedagogy, which I have to use rather a lot these days. *sigh*

Anyway, I read Loner: A Novel by Teddy Wayne, in two sittings. This is most unusual for me these days, but there was something about the book that I liked a lot. It’s a campus novel (I do like campus novels!), but it has an interesting twist or two. I thought it was just very well done, with accurate sociological and psychological renderings of the characters. It’s not often that I actually like contemporary fiction, so I was surprised that I enjoyed Loner so much, but then I am probably always going to like reading about misfits, because I see myself reflected in their social awkwardness and distance from other people.

I didn’t set out to read Loner. I was at the library collecting a couple of inter-library loans I requested months ago, and I saw Wayne’s book on display. The title attracted me (of course!) and I picked it up and had a flick through the pages. The writing seemed good, and I had a couple of chuckles at a few of the send-up passages, so I decided to borrow it. Instead of wading through some more Bentham, I started to read Loner for a few minutes, and an hour later I looked up again.

I haven’t fallen like that into a book for such a long time. I went to bed early and stayed awake reading and reading until I’d finished it, and I’m still thinking about what I read. I wish I could find another book that would have the same effect, or that I could read that way all the time. I used to read with my full attention, but then I started to have difficulties with concentration, and generally failing to connect with fiction. I do wish the dreadful ennui I feel when reading most novels would go away.

Anyway, now I’m reading Marx, and thinking about the Theatre of the Oppressed, and planning three essays at once. I’m supposed to contribute at least twice a week to the discussion boards for each unit I’m taking, and that’s proving really difficult. I don’t like this collegiate collaboration style of course delivery, which they call dialogic learning. I think it just makes it easier for the academics to find time to do all their required paperwork, while the students “teach” each other. I don’t like the way that some students can just coast along on the thoughts and ideas of others, and not have to think for themselves. I don’t want to feed them my thoughts and ideas; I guess I just don’t want to share my stuff. *sigh* We’ve got a group project thing starting next week, but I haven’t found anyone I want to work with. There are only three of us signed up for this one particular topic, so I guess we’ll have to do it together. I might have to try to channel Mr V and be the “grey person”, the invisible one who hovers in the background and does what is necessary, but doesn’t reveal themself** or get involved any more than is absolutely necessary.

I guess I had better get on with some more reading. I hope things are going well with everyone. Do check out Loner if you like a well-written campus novel. 🙂

** I have to get used to using gender neutral language. In my class, there was a whole thing during the first seminar where people announced “their pronouns”. *sigh* I’ve started using they and theirs instead of he/she and his/hers just to be on the safe side. It’s so grammatically borked, but that’s the way of the world these days. I’m a bit sick of all this identity politics stuff, to be honest, and the last person who referred to me as being “cis” got an earful about how hypocritical it is that while they expect me to respect their gender identity, they think it’s ok to make assumptions about mine. Oh, yes. I’m feeling a big F*** Off factor about some things these days.

Excellent Reads:

Meghan Murphy on the need for feminism to get get radical again.

Becca Reilly-Cooper on the word TERF .

Nothing Special

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Oh dear. That didn’t go so well, did it? As ever, I had great enthusiasm for my (ahem!) TBR Reading Project, but once I got the site sorted out I grew bored with the whole thing and lost interest. Story. Of. My. Life.

I seem to be cursed with a low boredom threshold. I just have an incurable case of existential ennui, I guess. *sigh*

The upside of being bored easily is that I tend to start lots of projects and get interested in new things and ideas for a short while, so my experience of life isn’t just “more of the same”. That’s probably a good thing.

Anyhow. I’ve been reading a bit lately, mostly philosophy, and I’m about to embark on a re-read of Camus’ main works. I thought I might post some reading notes here, or whatever. I don’t want to doom the thing by making it a big deal, but I’m a bit excited to be reading Camus again. There was a time when I was totally in love with his mind.

In recent weeks, I’ve been re-reading Sartre. I’m attracted to existentialism, for obvious reasons, but Camus’ absurdism really hits the spot for me. However, with regard to philosophy in general, the God-bothering aspects tend to bore me to tears. I quite like reading the Ancients and from Schopenhauer onwards (he does look rather grim and scary in his portraits!), but all that stuff about God in the middle? Pass. It seems totally obvious to me that God is a cultural construct, a myth along the lines of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, designed to keep people scared and obedient to the church, with threats of hell and promises of heaven. I have a vague memory from when I was about six. My father was burying a pet lamb that had died and I asked him what happened to people when they died, and he said that we either get put in a hole in the ground and rot, or are burnt and turned into ash, and that was that. People were no different to animals and when we die that’s the end of us. In retrospect, I think he was probably a bit harsh and didn’t try to spare my feelings, but he never did lie to me about anything – not about Santa or the Tooth Fairy, or that I was special in any way.

Here’s a wiki list of atheist philosophers. Note the absence of women. This absence is the reason I ditched studying philosophy at university. It bothered me SO MUCH that as far as the academy was concerned, “philosophy = the pontification of white (mostly dead) Western men”. Even the lecturers and tutors were all men, as were most of the students. And such a conceited lot they were, as well: “I’m SO clever because I’m doing PHILOSOPHY”, and, “Listen to me regurgitate someone else’s thoughts.” Pft! My experience of doing history hasn’t proved to be much better. Because I got advanced standing, the units I wanted to do, on the Cold War, 1960s London, and the Russian Revolution, were not available to me due to bad timing, and I had to do things I wasn’t interested in, such as Australian colonial history, AGAIN. Yeah well, essays written, exams done, but I didn’t like it and I don’t want to spend another year doing more (to me) boring stuff, so I’m thinking about ditching university yet again.* I mean, how many RWNJ-inspired books can one person read on Australian history and not have her eyeballs fall right out of her head due to boredom? I wonder if it’s just me, or has the university experience really changed so VERY much? The lack of academic rigour, the quality of the courses, the spoon-feeding of students, the “group projects” thing, where some students do all the work and others do none, but everyone still manages to pass? Don’t even get me started on plagiarism, and the quality of the essays that students submit? There’s just so much waffle and woolly thinking and laziness. *very sad face*

Anyway, because I don’t like what others want to “teach” me about philosophy, I’m making up my own piecemeal philosophy reading programme. I’m picking out the parts that appeal to me and glancing over the rest. I studied Descartes and Kant as an undergraduate, and I’ve “done” some of those who crossed over into literary studies, such as Kristeva, Baudrillard, Foucault, and Derrida. I “tried” to read Lacan, but he is so, so difficult, however, I intend having another crack at him. I want to find out about the women philosophers who were written out of history and am waiting for a book on the subject to be delivered so I can peruse the bibliography for some further reading ideas.

But, I don’t want to turn this into a “PROJECT”. I want to just sit over here in the corner and talk very quietly to myself and not alert the Boredom Gods who will surely hurl a few bolts of ennui at me if they discover what I’m up to.

So, that’s the state of play at the moment. I’m reading and thinking, and bumbling along. I’m completely full of disquiet about ALL the things going on in my country, to do with RWNJ politics (the nationalism, racism, sexism, and general idiocy), and I’m looking askance at the USA’s presidential election, and the Brexit ugliness, and war and terrorism and famine and the general ghastliness of so many members of the human race.

Here’s a little prayer I repeat to myself. I choose to think these thoughts, rather than be overcome with despair.

mettaprayer

*Edited to add that I got over my hissy fit and don’t plan on bailing out just yet.