Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I completed Carl's RIP II Challenge last week and I'm already strategizing as to what I'll read during Challenge the Third next fall. . . maybe then I'll finally finish The Italian, one I started last fall but abandoned when I realized I wouldn't have time to complete it by the deadline and somehow managed to never get around to picking it up at all this fall, and I could read. . .

But what did I actually manage to read for the challenge this year?

First I read Stephenie Meyer's Twilight, a totally absorbing young adult vampire novel that everyone else has already read, so I'll just say this: if I could have put my hands on a library copy of the sequel immediately after finishing this one, I would have. But since one wasn't available, I did some thinking about how I expected the series to end. And what I concluded was that Meyer hadn't presented any real reason why Bella ought not become a vampire--obviously Edward and his family could help her control her urges to kill humans, she could be with Edward forever, her parents would just have to deal with having a vampire for a daughter--and I knew I wouldn't be happy with a lot of angst that merely put off such an ending. But if Bella were to grow up and to realize why becoming a vampire wasn't such a spiffy thing to do, despite her love for Edward, then it would be worth it to continue with the series, especially since there were going to be werewolves involved. So when the third book in the series showed up on the new book cart I skimmed the ending. Rest assured that young adults and true romantics will be happy with how things turn out for Bella and Edward, but Bella is no Buffy and Meyer is no Joss Whedon and, as my husband keeps reminding me, I don't like vampires anyway.

My second read for the challenge was a Joseph Conrad novella, The Shadow-Line, which I became interested in reading after enjoying Lord Jim back in the summer. This one wasn't near as good as Lord Jim (or Heart of Darkness), and I still don't understand how a third mate who impulsively resigned from his post on a ship to give up the sailing life forever could find himself made captain of a another ship just a few short days later. It's an initiation story gone horribly awry, with supernatural elements stemming from the fever dreams of the chief mate, who believes the evil former captain is haunting the ship.

I loved Henry James's The Turn of the Screw. While I know many (most?) read it as a ghost story, in my mind it's totally a psychological tale of a young governess who descends into psychosis. And I enjoyed Diane Setterfield's very bookish The Thirteenth Tale, taking issue only with the modern portion of the tale: I can't imagine why Margaret's mother wasn't in therapy and on antidepressants. (I love the line from James Hynes's The Lecturer's Tale: As a paper topic over the weekend, he asked all three classes to consider whether literature could be cured by antidepressants.) Some aspects of gothic lit just won't work in the modern; I really appreciated when the doctor prescribed a different genre of literature to the ailing Margaret.

5 comments:

danielle said...

Well, I didn't finish my one novel that I set out to read--The Mysteries of Udolpho, I am making steady progress. It's just that it's so long. I did manage to read lots of short stories, which I find I actually enjoy immensely considering how much I balked at the idea of reading them before. Silly me. I'd like to reread Turn of the Screw, and I think I might just flip to the ending on the third book when I finally get it...I'm like #40 in line. The first was really good, the second book was okay, but I'm just not as exicted for the last book. Congrats on getting all your books read! Someday I might actually finish a challenge too, but don't put too much money on it...

jenclair said...

When I read The Turn of the Screw in high school, it was a ghost story. In college it was a psychological tale. Each time I've read it since, it has had a slightly different effect.

This challenge probably has a higher success rate for most participants. There is such harmony between the season and spooky, eerie, gothic stories.

Jill said...

But would I be correct that you like Conrad's work overall?

Ann Darnton said...

I have a copy of 'Twilight' on order from the library and am really looking forward to it, but like you I haven't been able to locate a copy of the second one to go on to. I have a friend who won't start series until they're complete because she can't stand the suspense of waiting for the forthcoming episodes. As a strategy I'm not convinced but it isn't ever going to be an issue for me; if I like an author I have to have the book just as soon as I can get hold of a copy.

SFP said...

Not starting a series until it's complete seems very unfair to the writer--what if the publishers decide there isn't enough interest in a particular series and drop the writer's contract or the writer spins into the depths of despair because no one's ignoring what she's already accomplished?

Jill, I do like Conrad and would recommend him. There are supposed to be at least another couple of stories out there with Marlowe as a narrator and I'd like to read them (Marlowe is not the narrator in The Shadow-Line).

Carl comes up with the *best* challenges. And one of these years I'm going to finish The Italian!