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December 13, 2015 · 5:56 pm

An Experiment in Criticism by C.S. Lewis

AnExperimentInCriticismAn Experiment in Criticism, 1961

My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through those of others. Reality, even seen through the eyes of many, is not enough. I will see what others have invented. Even the eyes of all humanity are not enough….But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, but is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do. ~C.S. Lewis  (140-141)

In this work of literary criticism, C.S. Lewis wants to achieve the thought experiment–what if, instead of judging books to be good or bad, we judged the reading of a book to be good or bad? What happens when the paradigm in literary criticism is flipped and instead of looking at the value of the content (literature, music, or art), we looked at the value of how it is perceived, how it is enjoyed. I particularly enjoyed this thought experiment and how Lewis describes a good reader as one who “receives” the literature, rather than “uses” it. I enjoyed his description of the different types of “castle-building” by readers of fiction or fantasy. I won’t lie that most of his literary references (aside from Jane Austen, Dickens, Arnold, Aristotle, Morris, and some of the Greek/Roman mythology and tragedies) I hadn’t read. But as this is really a work examining how to examine works of literature (instead of actually examining specific works), it didn’t stop me from appreciating this book. I checked this out from the library, but I think I really need to have a copy of my own. There are definitely passages that I would like to return to. I had a very difficult time finding just one quote I wanted to share in this post–I had three or four in mind. I also really appreciated Lewis’s views on Children’s literature and Science Fiction: two traditionally marginalized categories of literature.

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June 26, 2014 · 9:47 pm

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

This is the sequel to the amazing Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I realize that it has taken me awhile to get to reading the sequel, especially since I enjoyed the first book so much. I read the first book in the series for a class I took in Spring 2013, a class where I was encouraged to seek out many new books and not read sequels. That is part of the reason why I waited. The other reason was reading A Song of Ice and Fire and also The Demon King series this summer. What can I say? I love me some fantastical worlds.

In any case, I wish I had been able to pick up sequel closer to when I read the first book, because I was simply enthralled, once again, by the world of angels and chimaera that Laini Taylor has created. I love that she has chosen such interesting places to ground the reader in our world, first Prague and now Morocco, to then transport us to the world of Eretz. I really like that none of Karou’s choices are simple, her path is not straightforward, and she is faced with the immense and lonely task of growing up and taking her mentor’s place amongst her people–her people who killed her in a past life. For Karou, the guilt and the loneliness is all-consuming. Taylor once again balances the strangeness of the fantasy world she has created with the fierce inner struggles of her characters. I especially enjoyed when Karou’s friends, against all odds, find and invade her world and refuse to leave her alone. I will be looking forward to the final chapter of this riveting series!

Peace out,

The Book Hunter

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May 9, 2014 · 8:14 pm

Divergent + Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Beatrice Prior lives in a futuristic, post-war world of factions. Factions are groups of like-minded people that take care of different functions within their community. Amity are farmers, the artists, the peacemakers. Dauntless are the faction of the brave—those who are the police, the warriors, the guardians. Erudite create new technologies and medicines: they are scientists, teachers, and doctors. There is also Candor: faction of the unflinchingly honest, the lawyers and policy-makers. That leaves Abnegation, the faction Beatrice was raised in. They are the selfless, those who run the government and make sure that even the factionless are taken care of. Beatrice longs to escape her parents’ world of gray and selfless caregiving. She longs to be free, but there’s just one hitch in the plan—her abnormal aptitude test results. In Beatrice’s world, she has the choice to pick any of the factions she wants, but will her choice bring her the freedom that she longs for?

I found Divergent, the first book in the series, to be fast-paced and action-packed, much like its accompanying movie. It was a fun read that kept me on the edge of my seat, wanting more. I liked Tris and Four. They were the most well developed characters. Some of the humor in the writing falls kind of flat, but overall I still found Tris and her Dauntless crew to be enjoyable. The world of the faction system became much more fascinating to me once I found out that Veronica Roth originally intended this world to be a Utopia, rather than a dystopian world. I have to agree with her, no human being can really imagine the perfect world. What is paradise for one person is absolute hell for another. I also appreciated Tris’s constant inner struggle with leaving behind Abnegation. This struggle is known to those of us who have grown up and grown just a bit farther away from the teachings and philosophies and ideas we were taught in the environment we grew up in. However, I also like that Tris continues to remember her Abnegation beliefs about the world and fits them into her new way of life.

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I did not enjoy Insurgent as much as I did the first book in the series. It doesn’t really pick up until about halfway through the book. Tris’s struggle with her loss was very well drawn, but as it usually goes in a dystopian novel—there was a bit too much fighting and sometimes not enough explanation or description. The writing also didn’t feel as tight. However, there were a few really great scenes (the scene between Tobias and Marcus in the Candor cafeteria was very…interesting) and, of course, a cliffhanger ending that makes me itch to read the third (though it will be awhile before I do).

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve written a post, but that is because I have been busy finishing up my Master’s degree! I can’t wait to graduate not this weekend, but the next. I will be sporting my Information Science lemon and burnt orange regalia. Hook ‘Em!

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May 6, 2014 · 1:52 pm

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Let me start by saying that I have very strong feelings about this novel and its title. When I was in high school (and even in college, and even a little bit now) I considered myself a fangirl. I read fanfiction and even wrote a little (just a little –it weirded me out to work with characters that weren’t my own). I made web graphics and banners for my Livejournal. I was devoted to relationships between characters in novels that weren’t canon. In many ways I felt much the way that Cath does–I loved living in the world of fantasy and was loathe to participate in real world events. I loved this book. I loved that college (and an amazing guy) force Cath out of her comfort zone. I love Rainbow Rowell’s writing, So laugh-out-loud funny one moment and tears-forming-behing-my-eyes real the next. And don’t even get me started on the imperfect but loveable characters and the interludes of Simon Snow chapters and chapters of Cath’s fanfic for Simon Snow. The fake “encyclowikia” entry for the Simon Snow series just set the perfect stage for this novel. This made me miss every single Creative Writing workshop I took in college. It even made me a bit nostalgic for my fangirl days. In other words: this novel is so much fun and has so much to say about the nature of fandom and relationships. You’ll be caught up in Cath and Levi’s world and not want to leave. (By the way, I have a new fictional boyfriend–and it’s Levi. I would date a fantasy-loving Nebraska ranch boy any day of the week.)

In honor of my fangirl days, I’m posting below a favorite song of mine about ships (not the mode of oceanic transportation) from Not Literally. Enjoy!

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February 26, 2014 · 12:02 am

Two Epic Heroines and the Ethics of Care

The Hunger Games trilogy is a fantastic ride, filled with
heartfelt emotion and heart-pumping excitement, but it’s also
a journey of moral development. Along with Katniss, we grow
into a deeper understanding of the complexity of morality and
moral reasoning. Experiencing Katniss’s trials, we come to
recognize that sometimes the answers to ethical questions are
more complicated than the one-size-fits-all answers offered by
the impartial morality of the justice perspective. Above all, we
must follow Katniss’s example of cherishing our memories of
natural caring and letting them instill in us the ideal of ethical
caring. In that way, we prepare ourselves to answer the cry of
a world that’s hungry for people who care.

Averill, Lindsey Issow.“Sometimes the World Is Hungry for People Who Care: Katniss and the Feminist Care Ethic.” The Hunger Games and Philosophy. Ed. Dunn, George A. and Nicolas Michaud. 175-6.
Hunger Games Philosophy
In addition to having read this chapter in The Hunger Games and Philosophy, which discusses Katniss and the ethics of care, I also recently applied the ethics of care to Daenerys Targaryen of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. Because both series are wonderful, and Katniss and Daenerys are some of my favorite fictional heroines, I thought I would take some time to discuss my thoughts on them here–in relation to the ethics of care.
What is it about Katniss and Dany that make them both such marvelous heroines? My theory is that one of the reasons why readers find these ladies irresistible not to root for, is because they are deeply caring, humanistic characters who adhere to the ethics of care.
 
katniss
Yes, Katniss may be a bit rough around the edges and have a difficult time expressing her emotions and understanding her own feelings. Yes, Daenerys might occasionally breathe fire. But at their core, they truly care about the people that inhabit their world, most especially the people they consider their family. Averill argues that Katniss moves from the act of natural caring (caring for our family and people who are very close to us) to ethical caring, which is applying that natural care to people who are perhaps tangential in our lives, people on the periphery, or people who are suffering that we have never met before. It is very obvious that Dany makes this sort of progress as well. She begins not just to care for her family (her dragons and her khalasar), but also for the Unsullied soldiers who follow her, and ultimately for the masses of slaves that she frees.
dany
Katniss and Dany are both protectors–both mothers, in their own way. Katniss continually grows to extend her care to all the people of Panem–even people of the Capitol (once considered wasteful, frivolous, and overly privelaged) as Dany extends her care to all slaves (even though a slave women was the original cause of losing her husband and unborn child). Both Katniss and Dany are fierce in their caring–and we love them all the more for being so. There is a lot more the ethics of care that I’m not covering here.
For more reading on the ethics of care, see the very helpful article below:

Held, V. (2008). Gender identity and the ethics of care in globalized society. In R. Whisnant & P. DesAutels (Eds.), Global Feminist Ethics (pp. 43-57). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Also see my thoughts on Daenerys’ care ethics and the privacy of minors (for my Information Ethics course last semester):

Daenerys and the Ethics of Care

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January 28, 2014 · 10:31 pm

Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Yesterday I only meant to read a chapter or two of Ocean at the End of the Lane….and ended up being swallowed whole by this marvelous novel and reading it in one night. To steal from Stephen Chbosky, I felt infinite while reading this novel. The writing is lovely, light, and at the same time so deep, it pulled me into its depth. Ocean is a novel about an incident in a seven-year-old-boy’s life, but it is also about so much more: the nature of childhood and adulthood, the nature of friendship, of belonging and not belonging in this world. I wanted to find a quote from the book to put here, to illustrate the marvelous writing. But truly, this book is a work of art. I couldn’t choose a single quote. There are too many beautiful, haunting moments. I have been taking a break from reading fiction for a bit, but I’m glad I came back to it. Ocean was the perfect book to remind me why I love reading fantasy, and fiction in general, and how wonderful and thrilling it can be to escape to a different world for just a short while. This book is really something special–I realize that most of my reviews are positive, but I hope I’ve conveyed in this short review the sense of wonder I felt while reading this novel. It reminded me of what it feels like to be a child, and reminded me that while many years have past–a part of me really is still just a seven year old, slightly scared of the dark.

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January 27, 2014 · 4:51 pm