Top 3 Favorite Short Stories

Hey y’all, I’m back! I’ve been incredibly busy recently with summer classes, and as of today finished my last summer class before the fall (and my wisdom teeth and ankle surgery *insert whining emoji*). But YAAAY!

I took a really cool class, though, called The Short Story. Can you tell I’m an English major? Anyway, it was very interesting, we covered a lot of different mediums, including radio dramas, “story songs” (aka….songs), and even a comic book. It was really cool to see the different ways in which a short story can be portrayed. However, obviously the main objective was text.

So I thought, hey! I haven’t really been reading for myself in my spare time, but I have been reading a LOT! So I figured, what the heck! Lemme give you guys my top three favorite short stories that we covered in my class (keep in mind, we read a hell of lot more than three, so this was a tough list to narrow down – honorable mentions will be at the bottom)!

So, without further ado:

“Maggie: A Girl of the Streets” – Stephen Crane

I’m sure some of you might have read this story – really a novella – before in high school. But I dropped out of my public high school for a period of time, and when I went back to a different school we certainly did not cover short stories, mostly just Shakespeare (yaaaassss! <3). But let me tell you: this story is GOLD.

To give you a little background, “Maggie” is set in the poor tenements of New York City at the turn of the century, and centers around a girl, Maggie (duh), and her brother Jimmie. The two grow up in an abusive family with two alcoholic parents. The story progresses from their time as children to their lives as adults, where Jimmie is basically the King of the Streets, and Maggie grew to be a really beautiful woman (Crane describes this as “blossom[ing] in a mud puddle”). The story takes an ugly turn, and I won’t tell you any more than that, for fear of ruining it for you. But oh my God, please go read it.

From the book I was reading, Barbara Solomon’s The Haves and the Have-Nots, it was about 65 pages long – so longer than your average short story, but certainly not longer than a book or even really a modern novella (although it is considered a novella).

I HIGHLY recommend this story. Keep in mind, it is set in the tenement districts of NYC – so a very poor, very depressed time period, with alcoholism and all kinds of other not pleasant things. So if you’re not in the mood for something dark, don’t read it just yet. However, I think it was fantastic, and something that everyone should read. If not for the sake of the interesting plot, at least for the historical significance and imagery.

“The Musgrave Ritual” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

It wouldn’t have felt right not to include at least one Sherlock Holmes story. We read practically half of  The Sherlock Holmes Mysteries and it was fantastic!

“The Musgrave Ritual” is honestly the epitome of Sherlock Holmes, in my opinion. While the story is told, as always, through Watson’s perspective, this story is actually set many years prior when Holmes was first starting as an independent detective. Holmes helps an old school acquaintance. His Butler, and the butler’s scorned lover, have disappeared. In order to solve the mystery, Holmes must first solve his friend’s old family “ritual” or riddle:

“Whose was it? His who is gone. Who shall have it? He who will come. Where was the sun? Over the oak. Where was the shadow? Under the elm. How was it stepped? North by ten and by ten, east by five and by five, south by two and by two, west by one and by one, and so under. What shall we give for it? All that is ours. Why should we give it? For the sake of the trust.”

Like WTF??  If you want to know the answer, you’ll have to read the story…. Muah hahaha!

“To Build a Fire” by Jack London

I’m sure many of you have read The Call of the Wild, but for those who have not read any of his short stories – please do! “To Build a Fire,” like most Jack London stories, are very man vs nature. It centers around an older, but physically fit, man in the Alaskan wilderness. Rather than going the easy way to the campsite, he and his dog go through the rough snow storm the long way.

True to Jack London form, he gives glimpses of what the dog is feeling or experiencing through a lens, and makes for a really wonderful read. While certainly not as depressing as “Maggie” it does have parts where you’re going to be yelling at the book and saying “you’re such an idiot,” “how could you?” and “daaaamn!” But it is well worth it!

If you’re interested at all in what it’s like in the harsh Alaskan wilderness in the late 19th century, this story is definitely for you. But I find that it’s just an overall wonderful story, that I think everyone needs to read.

So that’s all, folks! Those are the three most impactful, and exciting stories that I read during my six week session. I hope you guys read them because I really enjoyed them, and think you will too. Hopefully, now that I have two weeks on my own, I’ll be able to finally read some books for my own entertainment and not for a good GPA, but I’ll keep you guys posted!

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below or e-mail me with the address below! Hope to hear from you soon!

By the way, honorable mention goes to:

  • “A Pair of Silk Stockings” – Kate Chopin (The Haves and Have-Nots)
  • “The Five Orange Pips” and “The Adventure of the Dancing Men” – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (The Sherlock Holmes Mysteries)
  • Because it’s a classic: “The Gift of the Magi” – O. Henry (23 Great Stories)

Until next time!

Rachel

e-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com

Works Cited

Crane, Stephen. “Maggie: A Girl of the Streets.” The Haves and Have-Nots, edited by Barbara Solomon, New American Library, a division of Penguin Group, 1999, pp. 219 – 284.

Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan. “The Musgrave Ritual.” The Sherlock Holmes Mysteries, Signet Classics, 2014, pp.  421 – 439.

 

London, Jack. “To Build a Fire.” 23 Great Stories, by David Leavitt and Aaron Their, The Penguin Group, 2013.

River of Teeth – Sarah Gailey Review

Hey guys! I’m so proud of myself – I’ve managed to read two books since June. I know, it doesn’t seem like much, but trust me: it’s been hard to find time. That being said, I’m going to talk about one of them: River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey.

Now, before I go into the book I think it’s only fair I tell you a little bit about the historical background of this novella:

In 1910, a man by the name of Robert Broussard, et. al.  proposed an idea to the U.S. government – an idea so preposterous it just might work. Or so he thought.

Broussard proposed the “American Hippo Bill.” What is the “American Hippo Bill,” you ask? Well, you see, in the Louisiana swamplands an invasive plant called the Water Hyacinth was running rampant, destroying animal habitats, “choking” the rivers, and making it near impossible to ship anything from the waters. The government tried everything: including an attempt to pour oil over it to kill the plant.

I mean, why they thought just dumping sludgy oil over a water plant was a good idea, I have no idea. But I guess at least they’re nothing if not consistent because their next plan was even more ridiculous. Broussard proposed that in order to get rid of the Water Hyacinth they could bring African Hippopotamus’ into Louisiana waters and kill the plant.

Now that’s pretty crazy right? Well I’m not done.

Not only did they want to bring the Hippos all the way from their natural habitat to kill this plant, they also wanted to ranch them! Their idea was simple: we’ll bring the hippos in, we’ll put them on a ranch, or a farm, and raise them like you would a cow or chickens – let them eat the water hyacinth, and then when the hippos are ready, we kill them and use them as a source for meat. At the time there was a meat shortage, so why not add hippo into their diets!

Needless to say, despite Theodore Roosevelt being 100% on board with this plan (Because he’s TR, and a true badass), there were no hippo ranches to be made in Louisiana.

So what does this have to do with the book? Well, Gailey – who is on a whole other level of creative that I could never reach, decided to write this novel as if the “American Hippo Bill” had passed!!

I was just scrolling through Amazon books and one of the “also recommended” books was this. I saw the cover and immediately knew I had to at least give it a shot. Well, this book was well worth it.

Gailey took some liberties and made this book set in the 1800’s, and I have to say that was a great idea. She takes her own liberties when it comes to time periods, technology used, and the like, but overall her use of those liberties made for a really fun read.33099585

I’m not going to say that this is the next Great American Novel, but it sure was entertaining and honestly worth another read from me.

The story follows a character named Winslow Houndstooth who manages to get a group of “mercenary hippo wranglers” together to complete a year-long job. What they don’t know is that Houndstooth isn’t just doing a job (although he is doing the job) he’s also looking for revenge!

I thought this book was really fun, light, and an easy read. All of the characters are SO different, they all have a purpose, and they all bring something fun, or different to the table. I didn’t know what to expect from this book, and even while reading it I couldn’t tell what was going to happen next. It was just one big rollercoaster.

If you love historical fiction, adventure, heist, and animal books – this is for you. It appealed to my want for something based on fact, something almost swash-buckling, and it still had animals!  The only thing I will say is this: if you don’t like gore, don’t read it. It’s not overly gory, and honestly Gailey does a very tasteful job with that, but there is death in the book and the scenes tend to take a very different turn from what you’d expect. So just keep that in mind if you wanted to read it. It also does have sex in it. They don’t talk about genitals or anything, but there is kissing, and not-at-all-subtle sleepovers.

So again, buyer beware.

Otherwise, I thought it was excellent! It was fun, it was interesting, it was cool that it’s based off of real life, and I really enjoyed it! Good news too: she’s making a sequel! Comes out in September!!

Also, I just looked it up and it looks like Edward Norton and RatPac Entertainment are creating a movie on the topic! I assume the movie is about the true story of trying to get the bill passed and such, but how cool would it be if it were a killer hippo story??

Anyway, if you like these kinds of books, and like history, and a really short read (160-something pages) READ THISSSSS!!!! It’s summer – buy this book and bring it to the beach! It’s worth it!

As always, if you have any comments or questions feel free to leave them here or contact me at rachel@booksandcleverness.com!

Until next time!

Rachel

E-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com

Book vs TV Series: The Handmaid’s Tale

Hey guys! As usual, I’m sorry it’s been for-fucking-ever since I posted last, but I think I have a pretty valid excuse: we bought a townhouse! So I’ve been really busy, I’m trying to get acclimated, and get my doggy acclimated (harder than it sounds), and I just started school again. So, that being said, with all the craziness going on, I’ve managed to read a book!

Now I’m sure you’ve gathered this from the title, but I read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I have to be honest, I’ve heard of this book before, and have seen it in passing and book stores my whole life and never had a desire to read it until I saw a trailer for Hulu’s new original series of the same name. I was listening to Britney Spears radio Pandora (like there’s any other station, amirite?) and a REALLY short commercial came on, because I’m not paying for that “no ads” shit, that basically said something like, ‘My name is Offred. But I had another name, once, in my other life – but I was asleep then. Now I’m awake.’ or something like that and I was like SAY WHAAAAAAAAT?? So naturally I bought it immediately.

And I’m really glad I did. This book has it all. It’s interesting and intriguing from the first page to the last (particularly the last), but it doesn’t go overboard. What I mean by that is that a lot of books, especially books set in dystopian societies, tend to want to cram too much information in there. It’s like the author needs to give an explanation for why certain things happen a certain way, and while I fully agree that authors should give you information, I don’t always believe they should give you all of the information.

There are some books, like The Martian, where more information is needed because most of the readers aren’t fluid in botany, engineering, or frickin’ space travel, But some books, like Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA by Tony Mendez (the real-life guy that Ben Affleck played in Argo) that overloads you with information. I really, genuinely, honestly, do not give a fuck about all of these acronyms – I understand that a lot of government branches have long names and they require acronyms, but do you really need to bring up like twenty different branches throughout the first fifty pages and then NEVER bring up what the acronyms stand for again? I mean seriously, I was flipping through the book like four times a night trying to figure out what the hell branch of government he was talking about at any given time. I respect you, Mendez, you done good in Iran, but chill the fuck out with the acronyms.

Anyway, Atwood does a fantastic job of giving you enough information so that you know it’s sinister, or enough information to know what’s going on or what could happen, without blatantly expressing such. The novel is expertly written, it ebbs and flows back and forth between past and present, and captures the horror, complacency, terror, and understanding that come with being a Handmaid, and a person, in this society.

While I definitely could have used another 40 pages or so of information, she does offer an “Historical Notes” chapter at the very end that I found interesting, and definitely food for thought.

I will say this: if you don’t like kinda gross, but not gory details, don’t read this book. But if you love women fighting back, if you love the power and strength that women can conjure even in the hardest, darkest, and most oppressive of times, you will love this book.

I’m actually mad at myself that I never picked it up sooner, because to me it’s fantastically empowering. Nolite te bastardes carborundorum!

Now, as for the TV show…. it’s aight. *shrug emoji*

Before I continue: I’m only three episodes in, so this review may be inaccurate after I watch a few more episodes, but so far I find this show fun, entertaining, but only somewhat accurate to the book, with a few small issues hidden in there too.

Look, I’m never one of those people that thinks it needs to be exact to the book. The only time I get upset is when a movie (or in this case a TV show) changes the facts of the story. For example, I was upset when the Burrow burned down in HP and The Half-Blood Prince. I completely understood that it was for action in an otherwise non-action-y time in the movie, but the Burrow didn’t burn down in the book! The biggest problem I had with that was just the complete lack of accuracy. They could’ve just had a fight at the Burrow – that would have made sense – but to burn down the house meant that in the following movie the Burrow needed to look different than it had the previous five movies, which completely threw me off as an audience member. Now obviously that’s a small example, but honestly those are the kinds of inaccuracies that bug me in this show.

They’ve changed little facts. Like in the book we don’t know what happened to Luke, but Offred mentions he’s dead in the first or second episode (not a spoiler at all, though, guys – it happens like 30 seconds into the show). We never know Offred’s real name because her name is supposed to be a treasure and secret that’s just for her, but in the show we know it’s Jen. In the show Serena Joy is not only seemingly much younger, but also does not have the slight handicap she has in the book, and doesn’t even seem very resentful, and actually seems somewhat pleasant most of the time. The Commander as well has dark black hair in the show, but they make it a point to say that he has grey hair in the novel.

Now, okay, am I being nit-picky? Yes. But isn’t that what I’m here for?  I mean, if the question is: Is this a good, entertaining, interesting show? Then the answer is undoubtedly yes. Yes yes yes. But if the question is: Is the show basically the book but in show format? Then no. They’ve added things in, like Ofglen’s story, and they’ve taken things out, like Serena Joy’s background. Also, is it just me or do the characters seem a little disconnected from one another.

Like Nick and Offred obviously have some kind of tension between them, but Nick isn’t as flirty or sarcastic, or even as douchey in my opinion, and Offred isn’t as snarky back to him. In fact I’ve barely seen any of that and that was some of my favorite stuff from the book.

But I’ll be lenient here. I understand that they’re not making a movie, they’re creating a series and that needs to span at least twelve episodes, and from what I’ve heard they’ve been renewed for a second season. So I guess you can’t really take a 300 page book and turn it into 24 hours. Also, I will admit that I’m still early in the game: from my experience, shows start to pick up around the three episode mark, and I’m about five minutes into episode four, so maybe I just need to give it more time.

So, my final thoughts? Read the book. It’s absolutely incredible. The writing is phenomenal, the imagery is spectacular, and it’s just truly extraordinary, ESPECIALLY in today’s society, with all the crap that’s going on, and this patriarchal thought process that says women are just toys to be played with, have no say over their own bodies, and anything that goes wrong in their lives is directly caused by them and not any extenuating circumstances (*cough cough* sexual assault).

As for the show, it’s a very interesting, fun show to watch. It’s not fun in the traditional light-hearted sense, but it’s an entertaining show that keeps my interest. Have I watched better shows? Yes. Am I hesitant to watch more because they’re 57 minutes long? Yes. But if you have the time, and you like extra drama, then this is perfect for you.

But I still highly highly highly recommend the novel. I think it’s something any feminist (and don’t start on me with the feminist term, I understand people misuse it, abuse it, and use feminism as a crutch. But I’m just a traditional feminist who just genuinely wants women, and people in general, to be equal and treated equally, with the right to do whatever they please with their own body – no shaming involved! That, to me, is exactly what feminism represents, and I will use the term as such) needs to have on their bookshelf. If for no other reason than to empower yourself when you read it.

And for any man interested in this novel – good on you! I’m 100% sure that you’ll enjoy this novel, and if you don’t let me know and I would love to hear why. I think this is a great book for men to read, again, if for no other reason than you can get into the mindset of a woman who has no control over her situation and body. I’m also of the belief that the more you’re enthusiastic to learn about new topics, or topics that may not directly affect you, the more prepared and better off you’ll be for life in general. Education is a wonderful thing!

Okay! That said, I will try to continue watching the show and if I change my mind on any of my opinions stated before I just might write an edited review, so if you’re interesting in keeping a look out for that post or any other articles I write in the future, follow me! You can add your e-mail address to the box on the top right, and you’ll get a notification every time I post on here!

In the meantime, if you have any opinions, comments, or questions, please feel free to comment below or to e-mail me at rachel@booksandcleverness.com

Until next time,

Rachel

E-mail: rachel@booksandcleverness.com

The Problem With the Media

Hiya!

I’m gonna be honest… I wrote a really long (like REALLY long) article about sexual assault (I know that this is a place for books, but I feel like this is my corner and I can do what I want with it).

So, I had written this huge article, basically essay, about sexual assault and the media and the government and how it’s being shrugged off as something not important, and women are being told they’re “sluts,” “deserved it,” ‘are lying,” or “asked for it.” I found multiple examples of this, and was prepared to post it tonight. But today I read something in the news, which was upsetting in itself, but then I kept reading about it, and realized that people weren’t upset over what I was upset over and that was a huge problem.

Here’s the deal: I’m going to say what’s been on my mind, because I think that it’s an important topic. But if we’re gonna do this, I want everyone to be on the same page: I want you to know that I will never tell you that your opinion is wrong. I will never tell you that if you disagree with what I’m saying that you are incorrect, or are a bad person, or that we can’t be friends. Because I truly believe that we’re all intelligent people capable of having an intelligent conversation about the topic at hand. If you disagree with me, tell me! I’d love to hear your opinions and what you think of the subject. But there will be no fights, no name-calling, and no one telling anyone that their opinion is false. Agreed?

Let’s get started. I saw in the news, from multiple sources (but I’ll only use three), that at a high school in Maryland – approximately twenty miles from the White House itself – a fourteen year old girl was raped by two boys in a secluded boys bathroom.* Of the two boys accused, one is an undocumented immigrant. Now I’m upset because a young girl was raped. But that’s not really what everyone else is upset about – and that’s disturbing.

From what I’ve seen the reason that this case is getting media attention – unlike the other more than 300,000 cases per year – is because one of those kids was here illegally. Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary has stated,

“I think part of the reason the president has made illegal immigration and crackdown such a big deal is because of tragedies like this,” he said. “Immigration pays its toll on our people if it’s done — if it’s not done legally. And this is another example, and it’s why the president is so passionate about this.”*

I disagree. I think that the reason the president is so passionate about this is because it feeds into his idea that immigrants are bad and need to be removed. It feeds in to what he was saying about all Mexicans being rapists, and his followers eat it up. They love it.

They also love when people point the blame elsewhere – especially towards former president Barack Obama. According to Fox News reporter Doug McKelway,

“Local County and city officials denied that they are an informal sanctuary city [a city that knowingly houses and helps undocumented immigrants], saying that whenever an illegal alien is arrested in Montgomery County, and in prison, after the imprisoned time, ICE is notified or they are handed over to ICE.  But they know that that occurs only after a crime occurs. They say it was federal immigration officials under the Obama administration who dropped the ball here.”*

What Mr. McKelway is saying is that ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is only notified of an undocumented immigrant after that person has committed a crime, and that it was under Obama that this policy had failed to capture a future criminal. According to Fox, the immigrant in question was stopped and released in Texas (though they don’t say when this happened) and because “the Obama administration” let him go, this tragedy happened.

Unfortunately for the people who would like to blame Obama, ICE was formed in 2003 and retains the same policies that it began with… Fourteen years ago! If I’m not correct, wasn’t that when President George W. Bush was in office? How exactly could the Obama administration be to blame for the policies that were formed under Bush’s administration?

Moving on.

Now I’m not going to sit here and tell you that illegal immigration is good. I’m also not going to sit here and tell you that illegal immigration is bad. I think there are good parts and bad parts to both.

But if you really want to understand why illegal immigration is happening as much as it is right now then you need to look at the loss of family farms in South America, you need to look at agribusiness, you need to look at the way we’re treating the land, and the people we’re utilizing to produce the things we want in our abundant societies. If we were to pay people a living wage, I can assure you that those people would rather stay in their own countries, on their own land, with their own families. People don’t just want to come to America “cuz ‘Murica!” they come to America because of lack of opportunity, jobs, and security.

What I WILL tell you is this: immigration is not the big picture in this case. The big picture is simply the fact that these two boys brutally raped a fourteen year old girl and no one seems to care about her at all.

Let me just say this: Sexual assault gets almost no coverage in the media, and it’s no surprise why. It’s because when it does, the response is overwhelmingly negative. The consensus is usually that the girl or woman should stay silent and/or is making it up, was asking for what happened to her, or just straight out deserved it, and more often than not there are death threats or threats of physical harm to the person or the person’s family for speaking out. I can understand why someone would be hesitant to speak to the media, or even flat-out refuse to speak to the media about such a case, can’t you?

Also is it really so surprising that two kids would think that sexual assault is an okay thing to do in this day and age? I mean, I went to every assembly in school when I was growing up, but I had one assembly on sexual assault and it was OPTIONAL. And you know what? I was the only one in my grade to go to it. One optional assembly in high school with only a handful of people attending.

So what does that tell me? Well it says a few things:

  1. Schools are spending more money on seminars about the dangers of gambling (yes I had a seminar about the dangers of gambling) than they are about the far more dangerous issue of sexual assault and domestic violence.
  2. People don’t want to speak about it because it seems like too difficult of a subject.
  3. Young boys in particular are not being taught by other men that sexual assault is NOT okay (and you’ll hear me say this again, but sexual assault IS NOT OKAY).

What I see when I read the articles is that two boys, just a short drive away from President Trump, both agreed that an acceptable thing to do was to rape a young woman. Now what I said there is important, so I hope you didn’t miss it: they both agreed that it was acceptable to rape. Why is their agreeance important? Because it shows that two different people, of two different backgrounds, were taught and consistently shown that a woman’s life is less important than theirs, and that this kind of horrendous cruelty is something that they can get away with.

We live in an age where our current president has not only been accused of rape and sexual assault by women around the country, but also domestic abuse towards his ex-wife as well as publicly making degrading comments and displays towards his current wife, First Lady Melania, and his own daughter, Ivanka. Now I know that a lot of people are outraged by this, I can’t say that no one is trying to make this knowledge known because it’s very widely known.

But what I can say is this: It’s widely known!!!! If two high school boys are watching this President thinking he’s the epitome of success and power and what a “man” should be, then of course they’re going to think it’s okay to do.

It’s important for us to stop this. It’s important to talk with the people you know, ESPECIALLY the young people, to tell them that this behavior is deplorable and unacceptable. This is the epitome of cowardice, not power.

I’ll give you a little glimpse into my own life, just for a second: I’m a sexual assault survivor. Had I had even one MANDATORY sexual assault prevention assembly, perhaps I wouldn’t be. Had fathers told their sons that rape and sexual assault is NOT OKAY maybe I wouldn’t be. Had there been a positive role model for young boys who could sit down with them and teach them what is right and what is wrong, maybe I wouldn’t be.

I have an overwhelming sense of heartbreak for all the young girls and women out there who have to go through things like this. But I’m particularly sad for this girl whose entire case is becoming a media frenzy about immigration instead of about getting justice.

Also, real quick: only one of the boys was illegal. I’ll repeat: there were two boys accused, one of them is an undocumented immigrant and one of them is an American citizen. So how exactly can you sit there and tell me that if there were stricter practices in keeping immigrants out that this would not have happened? There’d still be another rapist at large! You can’t tell me that this would not have happened, because the other boy still would have been uneducated about sexual assault enough, and would have had enough exposure to the media that he would still view sexual assault as not a big deal.

I guess all I’m trying to say is this: this young girl’s tragic case should have been about getting justice. Not about immigration. And if we want to stop kids from raping and sexual assaulting and harassing people then we first need to take a step back, look at the big picture, and realize that it’s all about communication. If you have kids, or nephews, or cousins, or grandkids, or family friends… PLEASE just talk to them.

Try to listen to what they’ve been hearing in the media, and then politely correct them when they’ve been misinformed. Talk to them about sexual assault and explain to them that it’s never okay to do – IT’S NEVER OKAY TO DO. Teach them right and wrong, and teach them to treat all people with respect and patience. It’s up to us to teach now, we’re grown – we can make our own decisions, by the time we’re adults we’ve already learned our version of right and wrong. But kids can be molded – even if they’re 17 years old, they can be taught. And it’s important to teach them.

That’s all on this topic. Just treat people well, and teach them right and wrong. And always take a look at the bigger picture.

If you want to have a discussion, you can leave me a comment. If you enjoyed this post or agreed with what I’m saying, you can like the post and click the “follow” button!

I’ll be back to regular programming as soon as possible (although let me tell you, I don’t know if I can finish Heartless. It’s been a real struggle – I truly hate the protagonist. I’m having a real Hector and the Search for Happiness flashback over here).

Until next time,

Rachel

*Sources:

  1. Evan Simko-Bednarski and Lauren Del Valle. Student in Maryland Rape Case Undocumented. CNN
  2. Online VideoRep. Jim Jordan: The health bill does not unite Republicans; Mother of student at Rockville HS speaks out over rape case. Fox News.
  3. Liam Stack. Spicer Says Maryland Rape Case Shows Need for Illegal Immigration Crackdown. The New York Times.

Nonfiction or Fiction?

Hi y’all! I can’t believe I haven’t posted anything in almost four weeks. Fortunately, I’m going to cut right to the chase. I’m in a nonfiction mood and I’m starting to wonder what is better: nonfiction or fiction. Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true. I’ve just been starting to wonder when nonfiction or fiction begins to be too much.

For example, for a long time I really only read memoirs. I loved them, I loved being able to transport myself into someone else’s life for a short while. But for whatever reason I stopped reading them. I decided that fiction caught my eye more and that I could transport myself into not just someone else’s life but an entirely different universe and that was extremely appealing to me.

…Until recently. Recently I’ve been on a Netflix binge of crime documentaries. And I’m not talking about watching Law & Order type stuff. I’m talking watching shows about serial killers, about man hunts, about treatment in prisons and prisoners stories – even about the Drugs War inside prisons. I’ve been going ALL OUT to the point where I decided it would be a great idea to start reading nonfiction books again. But fear not, I decided to stick to the scary theme of murderers and bought The Strange Case of Dr. H.H. Holmes.

H.H. Holmes was America’s “first” serial killer. After murdering dozens of people during the Chicago World’s Fair in the late 1880s and continuing his murder spree by using his home (dubbed “The Castle”) as a glorified torture chamber, H.H. Holmes became an infamous name in history. Quite the uplifting story! This nearly 500 page book was extremely graphic and extremely strange to read because a part of me wanted to believe it wasn’t true, even though it 100% was. Also it was partially written by H.H. Holmes himself as his written confession of a lot of murders.

To give myself a change of pace after reading it, I decided to buy a book called Deep Down Dark by Héctor Tobar. This book is about the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped 2,000 feet below ground for over 60 days. Again, so uplifting. I’m almost done with this book, and to be honest it’s absolutely incredible. I think it’s even being turned into a movie, which would be really cool. But it’s nonetheless a very depressing story. As nice it is, and as great as it is that they were found and rescued, it’s still about 33 men living in their own filth in pitch black eating a spoon full of canned tuna a day and drinking dirty oil filled water that the men bathed in. So, yeah, not very happy.

But to top it all off (and to bring into light my predicament) I started thinking of books I should read next. And rather than read the many books I’ve already bought, or even to read the Star Wars prequel book that my boyfriend surprised me with, I’ve started thinking I should re-read The Diary of Anne Frank AND Night by Elie Wiesel. Because apparently serial killers, dying miners and crime documentaries weren’t enough, I had to decide to not only read, but RE-read two of the most depressing books of all time.

Now here’s where the predicament lies: I don’t think it’s at all bad to be reading these things! There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to learn more about things that school doesn’t go over. I’ve never been in a classroom that was like, “Hey kids! Lets talk about Jeffrey Dahmer!” It’s just not going to happen. Sometimes you need to use your own curiosity to learn things that aren’t publicized too much. Knowledge is power.

But when is it enough? When do you tell yourself, “you know what, I know it’s really interesting, but maybe limit yourself to one depressing book every now and then.” or “instead of watching The Killer Speaks, let’s watch Bob’s Burgers for a while”?

The hard thing is: I have no idea. For years and years I only read fiction. To give you a time frame, the last two memoirs that I read were the hilarious Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? in 2012 . and then The Devil at My Heels in early to mid 2014. That’s THREE years ago and more than a year ago! So am I going to be stuck on this autobiographical kick for the next three years, or at the very least a year? That seems like a really long time. But in comparison, I’ve been reading fiction books for that amount of time and haven’t felt like that was too much. It seems normal, it seems like what a regular reader does.

Which makes me wonder: which is better? What captures the attention more? What makes nonfiction seem somewhat scary in comparison to a fiction book? Fiction can be just as depressing (see my Letter to John Green. God damnit The Fault in Our Stars) but I guess it’s that disconnect: when you’re reading fiction you know that at the end of the book, it’s over. It’s done. But with a true story it hits you in the empathy gut really hard for a long time. It’s something that won’t leave you.

So I guess what I’m saying is, what’s better? Reading something completely depressing and horrible but knowing that it’s just fiction, or reading something that is true and horrible, but will ultimately give you more insight into the real world?

Comment below or send me an e-mail at rachel@booksandcleverness.com so I can hear your opinions. I always love your opinions!

Until next time (and hopefully it won’t be four weeks from now!)

Rachel