What I’m Reading – May 20th, 2016

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Photo on 5-20-16 at 7.19 PM #2

Video blog – What I’m reading Transcript-ish

This week I read:

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Writer’s Notebook II from Tin House

The Distant Marvels by Chantel Acevedo

The Epic of Gilgamesh by Some Old Dead Guy, Translated by John Harris

Medea by Euripides

Hi, my name is Becky Renner. I am a high school creative writing teacher. I just finished the first draft of my novel last month. It’s a YA mystery novel that centers around two teenagers who investigate a 75-year old murder that changed a famous family’s destiny. That novel is called The Illustrious Ashcrofts. I’m planning to submit it to agents in October.

Before then, I’m starting my MFA at Stetson’s MFA of the Americas. I’m pretty excited about that, because we’re going to Mexico! What makes Stetson’s MFA different is that we’re studying literatures and cultures other than our own—and we’re going there to meet contemporary writers! 

If you want more info, you can check out my website, beckyrenner.com (Hey, look! You’re already here! Go you!). You can also follow me on twitter: @bekkia1. I’ll follow you back!

But enough about that. My intention with these vlogs – hopefully this is the first of many – is to get on the interwebs and talk about all the books I’m reading. My goal for this year is to read 115 books! I’m actually not behind, and I don’t know how that’s possible! I’ve been so busy teaching! 

I’m an omnivorous reader, as you’re probably going to see. I like everything from new releases to ancient classics. I eep track of everything on Goodreads, and I’ll leave my link in the description so you can connect with me on that! Bookface!

This week, I read five books! Don’t be impressed yet. Two of them were really short.

The first book I read was The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. It’s funny. This was my favorite book I read this week in a lot of ways, but I actually didn’t have very high expectations going in. Ishiguro’s more famous book, Never Let Me Go, rubbed me the wrong way for some reason. It’s like the story to word ratio was off, as in, I felt like there were a lot of words and very little story behind them. The Remains of the Day was not like that. Here’s the book description from goodreads: In 1956, Stevens, a long-serving butler at Darlington Hall, decides to take a motoring trip through the West Country. The six-day excursion becomes a journey into the past of Stevens and England, a past that takes in fascism, two world wars, and an unrealised love between the butler and his housekeeper. Ishiguro’s dazzling novel is a sad and humorous love story, a meditation on the condition of modern man, and an elegy for England at a time of acute change.

The time period interests me for sure, but it was the narrator who I really fell in love with. His social flubs and misunderstandings had me laughing out loud. What enticed me, too, was the way the story unfolded so subtly, but there was always something to grab my attention. BONUS points: I’m kind of obsessed with Downton Abbey, and this certainly had that flavor. Overall, I really recommend The Remains of the Day.

The second book I read was 

The Writer’s Notebook II: Craft Essays from Tin House. Not much to say about this one. While the Tin House’s first Writer’s notebook was integral to my growth as an undergraduate writer, this one came up short. It may have something to do with my ridiculously high expectations, but -NO MERCY. Okay, it was just so-so.

The third book I read this week was “The Distant Marvels” by Chantel Acevedo. Full disclosure—I’m going to meet Ms. Acevedo this summer in Mexico with my MFA. I’m really excited to meet her. According to goodreads, in The Distant Marvels, the main character Maria Sirena tells stories. She does it for money—she was a favorite in the cigar factory where she worked as a lettora—and for love, spinning gossamer tales out of her own past for the benefit of friends, neighbors, and family. But now, like a modern-day Scheherazade, she will be asked to tell one last story so that eight women can keep both hope and themselves alive. And here’s the review I already posted! Acevedo is a talented storyteller. She expertly weaves the threads of many tales into a singular patchwork. The most Marvel-ous part of the book is the knowledge and texture with which Acevedo paints Cuban history. This reader certainly felt as if she was there, experiencing the heartaches of the narrator firsthand.

AND Now for something completely different! SO I woke up bright and early at 1:00 o’clock this morning. For absolutely no reason, I found going back to sleep to be intolerably depressing. So I stayed up and read…The Epic of Gilgamesh. Because yolo? I’m fairly sure I’ve read it before, but not this translation. I read the prose translation by John Harris. Not only was it understandable. It really lit up my imagination. 

The other thing I read that was less stellar was Euripides’s Medea. I probably rushed through it, but I can’t say that it was my favorite greek tragedy. My husband is leaving me—kill the children! I’ve read several greek tragedies over the years, but upon googling Euripides—I know, I’m such a scholar, I realized that this is the first Euripides play I ever read! Woo? Most of my study of greek plays has been in the works of Aeschylus and Sophocles a la the Orestaeia and the Oedipus Cycle. First time for everything I guess.

NEXT week, I plan on reading a few books. To buck up my Spanish before I go to Mexico, I’m going to read love in the time of cholera in espanol. I’m also finishing The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, which I am loving so far. I seem to be on a Spanish-language kick, so who knows what else I’ll read.

If you got to the end of this, thanks so much for listening! I love talking about books, and I’d love it even more if you’d talk back to me. Click the links below to connect with me on social media. Please comment and tell me what you’re reading!

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