Tuesday, August 05, 2008

On reading. Sort of.

So is it cheating that I just read the synopses for ALL the Twilight books on Wikipedia? There's been so much hype about the fourth book coming out, but I have no real desire to actually read the books - I heard them described as "sensuous vampire" books, and that, uh, didn't really, como se dise?, strike my fancy. And now I know how it all ends, so you won't change my mind. :P

But it does make me think about reading in general. (And yes, I'm a little embarrassed that it's the Twilight books that finally prompted me to write all this out.) Unless it's 1am and it's a book that I haven't read before and I'm halfway through and just want to find out how it ends, dang it!, I typically don't read books just to know the ending. I have a cousin who reads the ending FIRST - that way she knows if it'll be worth it to read the book. I've never really understood that, and I don't even agree that you could tell if it would be worth it to read the book just by reading the ending. You would be totally missing the significance of the events! Ok, sure, there have been times during movies when I've been nervous or scared and if I'm with someone who's seen it before I'll say, "just tell me - does so-and-so die??" And sometimes they tell me and sometimes they don't, but typically I want to see the story develop. (P.S. And I'm reading a book about D-Day right now, and yeah, I know how it ends. But don't get me going about the movie Titanic - everyone knew how that was going to end, too, but TOTALLY different league here, people - this D-Day book is LITERATURE.) Books that I read again and again, and there is a list, are typically books that are satisfying because of the development of the characters - the realizations the characters come to - typically the recognition of their own worth / talents / heritage. I like books in which a character realizes that, even without any major personality changes, s/he can do stuff. You know, like beat the bad guys, or solve the mystery, or whatever.

One time for Enrichment meeting a few years ago we each were supposed to bring something that symbolized "us" - who we were. I grabbed "The Blue Sword," by Robin McKinley. It's at the top of the list of books that I reread frequently, and there was a summer, a few years before this incident, during which I read it about twice every three weeks. Really. I would finish it, and then a few days later pick it up and start again. Apparently there wasn't much else going on in my life that summer. :) So I grabbed it, kind of just on my way out the door to Enrichment, thinking that if I had to I'd say something about how I love reading, blah blah blah.

But then I got to Enrichment and started thinking about it, and not being one who can let the chance the deliver a good line pass me by, I decided to say a little more about why I like this particular book, and thus I put into words for the first time what has since become my philosophy on life (or not, but I still really like this summary of the book and of every teenage girl's psyche) (ok, fine, and my psyche, too):
Who wouldn't want to find out that, not only do they really not belong in the world in which they feel like they don't belong, but there is a world in which they do belong, and not only do they belong there, but they get to get into really good shape, be a hero, have magical powers, and marry the king?!
Sounds pretty good to me.

(And I just right now added that bit about getting into really good shape. Huh. It is true to the book. Huh.)

I really do love it, though, when a character realizes that they already have what it takes to accomplish the whatever-it-is that they need to accomplish. I feel really strongly about the idea that the goodness and power and strength we need are already in us. And part of the strength is in recognizing our own strength.

And yes, I do think some of these thoughts are at the front of my mind right now because I am grappling with the idea that I, silly normal me, am starting a !!!PhD program!!! in a few weeks and have also just decided that I'm going to get !!!my own apartment!!! in my new town instead of signing on with roommates. These are both big steps for me, and it's a little disconcerting to be making them both, and both at the same time. So here's hoping that I find the magic sword and use its power for my good and discover that I really truly do have in me what it takes to make this a success.


Allison said...

I'll never completely forgive Barnes & Noble for giving away the ending of War and Peace on the back of the book. I mean, come on, it's a 1,100-page book! I've considered writing to the publisher about this.

Margaret, I am totally with you on the power of reading to create our reality and the beauty of watching the story unfold. I like to re-read books. The first time through, there's the excitement and suspense of what will happen next and how it develops and fits together. In subsequent readings I find more depth and meaning (not that I don't on the first time through, and not all books are worth reading more than once!).

As for the Twilight series ... totally not cheating to read the synopses! As you know, I read the first one just to see what all the fuss was about. It was compelling, but not, in my opinion, rich enough to merit all the attention it's getting. You might like this post on the series -- I found it thought-provoking.

Allison said...

Hey! My link didn't come through. Here's the post I was talking about:


Matthew & Janina said...

i really loved this post :) i think i'm going to email it to my sister, is that alright?

and you can do it, don't worry :)

love you!

Matthew & Janina said...

oh, by the way, i completely agree with allison on the twilight series. you're TOTALLY fine reading the synopses. and i also don't know why it has created such a hype, either...

Danielle said...

I love this post - THANK YOU!

First, I share your sentiments about the Twilight series - and about reading in general. There's something deeply fulfilling, perhaps even spiritually enlightening about reading a great piece of literature. Whether it's funny, historical, romantic - good literature captures the spectrum of human emotions and the human experience and helps us to know we're not alone - and, yes, we have what it takes to overcome and achieve.

Yesterday, I had the rug pulled from underneath me (again)... just when I thought my job was secure, I learned it wasn't/isn't. So, as I was walking the five miles back home from Ballet, I kept thinking about choices, options, where I fit in, goals, etc...

To make a long story short, I think you're one brave and SMART lady! Not only can you take these two very new, exciting (and scary) steps, but you can do it - WELL! I don't ever worry about you, because I know that you can do ANYTHING.

Love ya girly! :)

Jeremy said...

Uh, I completely disagree with you... at least with the parts of the post I skimmed, since I didn't really understand the hype behind your blog, so I skipped most of it... :)

Seriously, didn't you and Brooke get all prissy with me when I read the ending of the last HP book online before the hit the bookstores? How is this really much different?

Also, the whole "empowerment fantasy" is why Ender's Game, HP, Star Wars, etc. appeal to the socially-less-accepted. If I ever wrote a book, it would completely NOT be about some ordinary/outcast person who discovers one day to be the only person destined to overcome some force of all evil.

Margaret said...

Jeremy, I'm skipping most of your comment, and will just reply to the part I disagree with. :P

Yes, Brooke and I did get all bugged when you read the end of HP. But, may I remind you, you read an ILLEGAL PIRATED copy BEFORE it came out!! And I was actually thinking about that incident yesterday, and wondering how the Twi-hard fans, as they call themselves, would feel about me just reading the plot summaries online, and I decided that I didn't care. :) So that's my compassionate response.

And I didn't spoil the ending for anyone else, which I know you didn't either, even tho you threatened to.

I'll save my response to your disagreement to the actual CONTENT of my post for another post. Maybe.

Jeremy said...

I did *try* to give away the ending, but you didn't believe me when I told you Hedwig died. The part where Ron went gay must have been edited out of the final print version. His marriage to Hermoine was just a ploy to cover Harry's polygamous relationship.

"There had been so much hype about the seventh book coming out, but I had no real desire to actually read the books - I heard them described as "kid-friendly sorcery" books, and that, uh, didn't really, como se dise?, strike my fancy. And now I know how it all ends, so you won't change my mind. :P"

:P :P :P

Brittney said...

Hey! I really like "The Blue Sword," but I couldn't have ever described why as well as you just did. =) Congrats on buying your own place and starting a PhD program! You rock!

NoSurfGirl said...

LOL. I only read twilight because I am a severe book addict and I can't be left out of any craze. Especially a mormon-induced craze.

They are bascially (cough, ducking, covering) Mormon soft porn. Meaning, good Mormon girls can read it and not get in trouble at all, but it's really all about admiring Edward's chiseled abs and stony lips and wishing you were tossed over his arm and whisked away like Bella. Basically, a hyped up harelquin romance... though I will admit that the vampire aspect of the story is really intriguing and cool. I wish there were more of that.

I really enjoy them for that reason. With the other stuff, I try and chuckle it away and joke with Skywalker about it and half-teasingly remonstrate my little sisters about it...

but really it sort of bothers me.

KATE said...

There is no question, of course you can do all those things! Also, you're already a huge success Marg, and you're going on to do even more! You're amazing! I know it must be scary and nerve racking and all, but you are going to do GREAT!!
I love the post & I totally get wrapped up in characters and their progression, and their background. I love how you tied it in, I think if you were a book you would already see that you're past the chapter that shows how great and capable you are!!
Sorry, I know I'm biased, but I love you Cous! Love ~ Kati

merrilykaroly said...

thank you for not giving away the ending to the Twilight series as I haven't read the last one yet. I know it's not the highest quality literature but I started reading them and couldn't stop. I hope we can still be friends.

Kari said...

YES! It is totally cheating! Are you serious? I am trying to keep up with my young women and i am dying to read the fourth book! You are such a stud! I amazed at all of the things you accomplish (except the whole synopsis thing)

Elle Charlie said...

I always want to know the ending - I've gotten so sensitive that I can't even watch a movie if I know someone important to the movie's plot is going to die (ie, The Bucket List).

I bet you'll love living on your own in your new apartment!!! Especially with all the stresses of a PhD prog - you'll need the solitude.