Posts Tagged ‘thesis’

Send me back to Kindergarten.  I totally failed Sharing.

So on March 2 The Lorax joined the Dr. Seuss Book Turned Full-Length Movie Club.  Word on the street is that it’s doing pretty well in the box office and is actually getting some positive reviews.  (If you’re detecting a note of surprise, it’s because I am.  After the disasters that were The Cat in the Hat and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, I fully expect all full-length movies based on Seuss books to fail epically.)  In spite of these fairly positive reviews, I haven’t seen the movie yet.  In fact, I’m still pretending it doesn’t exist.

Up until about two minutes ago, I chalked this behavior up to worry – worry that the movie would let me down.  I’m so tired of picture books being turned into movies.  They disappoint me almost every single time.  And I so don’t want to be disappointed in The Lorax because, well, it’s The Lorax.  It’s one of the best Seuss books out there.  Plus once books get turned into movies then people usually think of the movie instead of the book, and if the movie is terrible then that means people are equating a horrible movie with a great book and that just irritates and saddens me.

So as I said, up until about two minutes ago (okay, yes, it’s been more than two minutes by now, but just work with me, okay?) I thought this was the reason for my Lorax movie avoidance.  And it is, to a degree.

But then I had an epiphany.  The real reason I’m pretending the movie Lorax doesn’t exist?


See, I wrote my Master’s thesis on the Lorax (the character from the book! not the movie!).  I poured my heart and soul into that thesis.  I agonized, I worried, I stressed, I cried, I paced, I wrote and rewrote over and over and over.  I carried the weight of that thesis around for two years.  When I finally finished it a year ago I knew it wasn’t perfect, I knew it wasn’t a masterpiece, but it was still the greatest accomplishment of my academic career and I was so thrilled I thought I was going to pop with joy.  I floated on air for weeks.

And now they’ve taken The Lorax, the book I carried around in my head for two years, and turned it into a cheesy animated film and I wish it didn’t exist because I don’t want to share it.  And I know I sound like a toddler, I know I’m being silly, but dammit, that’s my baby.  They stole my baby.

Eventually, I will get over this.  I’ll stop whining, I’ll let it go, I’ll even go watch the movie.  But I’m throwing a temper tantrum first.

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I have been MIA forthe last month, but my self-imposed exile is finally over.  I FINISHED MY THESIS! 
I can’t believeit.  This thesis has been hanging over myhead for two years (two years!), but now it’s no longer permeating every cornerof my life.  I feel so unburdened andgiddy I hardly know what to do with myself. I can read!  I can go on walks!  I can road trip!  I can talk on the phone for hours!  I can bake! I can waste time on the Internet! I can be lazy!  I can blog! And I can finally do all this and more guilt- and burden-free, and itfeels glorious.   
I did manage tosqueeze in some reading last month in spite of the looming thesis deadline(mainly by reading at work; please don’t tell on me).  I read my first two Philippa Gregory books, The White Queen and The Red Queen,and let me tell you, folks, I am hooked. I’m thrilled there’s such a long backlist waiting for me.  What should I read next?  TheOther Boleyn Girl? 
Even though I havehundreds of books on my TBR the only other book I read in January was are-read: Portrait inSepia by Isabel Allende.  Looking back on that readingdecision, I realize I must have done it for comfort’s sake.  Reading Allende as I faced the end of thethesis road was like having an old friend nearby, there for me when I needed totake a breather. 
I just turned in mythesis on Monday, but already I am devouring books like crazy, (because Ican!), plotting future reads and reviews. Expect regular posts soon!
In the meantime, tellme what I’ve missed!  What are the bestbooks you’ve read so far this year?  Thebest reviews you’ve read and written? Any intriguing book news?
Oh, it feels so goodto be back.

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When I sat down a few days ago to catch up on my favorite book blogs I realized how much I miss this book blogging world.  I miss reading reviews, chatting with fellow book lovers, and planning and writing my own reviews and bookish thoughts.  I miss having a tiny corner of my life separate from work and school.  At first I was a little caught-off guard by this feeling, and then I felt a little sad, because unfortunately this is just the beginning. 

Sigh.  Drat being a responsible adult.

I want to apologize for my absence here, my delayed (or completely lack of) comments on your blogs, and all current and future whining about the intrusion of my thesis and work on my book blogging life.  I’m a little bundle of stress these days, but I’m trying really hard not to inflict that on anyone.  (I think I would be a little more successful at that if I moved to Antarctica.  But I hear it’s kinda cold there.)

Even though work, school and being sick (yes, I’ve been sick, too, which is just not fair, if you ask me) have kept me from blogging, I’ve managed to squeeze in quite a bit of “fun” reading.  (Mostly because I read while at work, but don’t tell on me!)  I don’t really have a review in me right now, so here’s a brief recap of some recent reads:

I did read one more Isabel Allende book last month – Daughter of Fortune.  Most of the novel takes place in California during the Gold Rush, and it was interesting to read an Allende novel about a time and place I’m familiar with.  She is such a vivid writer, though, that even if I wasn’t a native Californian I would still have felt like I was there.  I’ve never been to Chile, and yet after reading House of the Spirits I feel like I have.

Hmmm, what else . . . I finished up the Stieg Larsson Millennium series a few weeks ago.  Not the all-time greatest books I’ve ever read, but still very good.  A coworker loaned me Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen last week, and I feel a little ho-hum about it.  I’ve definitely read better memoirs (A Girl Named Zippy comes to mind; wow, do I love that book!). 

I’ve had a good reading streak since then: I finished Bad Mother by Ayelet Waldman last night and lovedlovedloved it.  When I have available time and brain space I’m definitely going to review it here.  (In the meantime, check out Jenny’s review.  Wonderful.)  I’m on a mini Diana Wynne Jones kick, too.  I read Charmed Life the other day (good times, big fun) and am in the middle of Dogsbody, which is just fantastic.  I’m also in the middle of Among the Shadows by L. M. Montgomery, (recommended by Chandra), because frankly I could not resist reading a collection of spooky stories written by the author of Anne of Green Gables.

And on a totally unrelated note, autumn is finally getting rolling here, which just thrills me to pieces.  The leaves are blowing everywhere, there’s a chill in the air . . . I would be totally okay with it staying like this until spring 🙂

What are you up to?  Any great reads?  How’s autumn treating you?

P.S. In more unrelated news, I just discovered that Gail Carriger (author of Soulless, which I reviewed back in July) quoted my review on her blog!  A real, live author quoted me!  Wow.  I’m getting all giddy and starry-eyed over here.

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A few months ago, in a burst of optimism and productivity, I decided that I would finish all my critical reading for my thesis by the end of March.  (Clearly I made this decision without first calculating just how many unread pages awaited me.)  While all of this reading is, (for me, at least; not sure how the general public would feel about it), fascinating, it is rather dense (and occasionally slightly depressing), and therefore it is highly likely that by March 31 my brain will explode.

In a effort to prevent this explosion the only other reading I will be doing this month will be “just for fun” reads (much like The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and Troll’s Eye View were last month).  This will probably involve lots of children’s lit, but I may throw an adult book in there once in a while.  I finally got my copy of A Reliable Wife from the library, so after I finish The Green Man : Tales from the Mythic Forest I may dive right into that.  (A Reliable Wife came highly recommended by the Literate Housewife; I’m looking forward to finally reading it.)

On an unrelated note, I’ve been trying to acquaint myself with the other book blogs out there.  In the process I’ve noticed that most book bloggers include a summary of the book they’re reviewing.  Which I don’t really do.  (I didn’t even notice myself not doing it until I started reading more blogs.)  I’m blaming this on eons of writing critical papers in which plot summaries are only permitted when very brief and absolutely necessary.  Old habits die hard, and that’s one habit I really don’t think I should break anyway.  I’ll include a brief synopsis if an explanation is needed, but that’s about it.  The way I see it, there are a billion reviews out there that do include summaries; the internet doesn’t really need yet another one from me!

Here’s hoping for an explosion-free month . . .

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by Judith & Neil Morgan 
Random House, 1995
Source: Hollins University library

Well, I got my wish — another snowbound weekend!  I honestly didn’t think this would happen again this winter, much less so soon after the last storm.  Since the snow started early Friday morning I actually got a three-day weekend out of the deal, which means I had absolutely no reason not to finish Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel.  I am relieved to say that I did.

Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel offers a detailed account of the life of Ted Geisel, the infamous children’s author/illustrator Dr. Seuss.  Overall, it was an interesting read.  Geisel’s personality is exactly what I would have expected from the author of The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham: rowdy, playful, mischievous, subversive. 

Frequently, however, the book was bogged down by pages of aimless anecdotes and name-dropping, and so by the time I was about halfway through the book I was ready to be done with it.  Don’t get me wrong — most of the anecdotes were amusing and illuminated Geisel’s personality perfectly while simultaneously moving the biography along.  Sometimes these anecdotes read more like lists than stories, though, and didn’t seem to serve any purpose to the book as a whole.  The constant string of names wore me out, too.  By about two-thirds of the way through the book I stopped trying to keep track of people, since most of the time the person mentioned never showed up again.  I decided that the Morgans were just trying to pay tribute to the people who were important in Geisel’s life, and tried not to let it bother me too much.

While I think the book could have been streamlined a bit, I do recommend it for anyone interested in reading about Dr. Seuss.  He was quite an entertaining man 🙂

Did I miss your review?  Let me know and I’ll make a list!

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by Ruth K. MacDonald
Twayne Publishers, 1988
Source: Hollins University library

Published in 1988, Dr. Seuss by Ruth K. MacDonald was the first full-length study of Dr. Seuss and his work. At the time of its publication, Seuss had published fifty-six books, won three Caldecott Honors, won a Pulitzer Prize, received numerous honorary degrees, (beginning with an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Dartmouth College in 1956), and was serving as president of the Beginner Books division of Random House (established after the publication of The Cat in the Hat). In spite of all this, until MacDonald’s book Seuss’ work had received very little attention from literary scholars. I wish I could say this fact surprised me. The truth of the matter is that children’s literature is frequently dismissed from the Canon of Literature and therefore does not receive the scholarly attention that it is due. But that’s a rant for another day.

As a first work on Seuss, MacDonald’s book is impressive. In just 170 pages she not only provides a relatively detailed biographical sketch of Seuss, (which, I imagine, must have been difficult to write given that he was a fairly private man), but also critically examines each of his books, spending between one and nine pages discussing their characters, illustrations, text and themes, and their place within Seuss’ life and other works. She steps even further back and analyzes his work in the context of children’s literature overall. Ultimately, MacDonald concludes that Seuss “gave a new dignity and interest to the field of children’s literature”:

By bringing interesting reading materials to children, Seuss gave a new dignity and interest to the field of children’s literature. Simply because his books are not high li terature, and appear deceptively simple in both language and illustration, does not mean that there is no literary or artistic value to them or that they are effortless productions dashed off in a weekend. By putting such effort into his books, Seuss dignifies child readers and reading, giving them extraordinary efforts and excellent products. His massive popularity does not imply a crass diminution of his art. Being popular does not mean being second-rate. (169-170)

One little piece of information jumped out at me as I read. Since my thesis is on The Lorax anything that is in any way related to that book and Seuss’ view of the environment is of particular interest to me. While I knew that he drew political cartoons before he wrote and illustrated children’s books, I was startled to learn that from 1928 to 1941 he worked as an advertising cartoonist for Standard Oil. During his tenure at Standard Oil he designed the promotional campaign for Flit, an insecticide.

Initially, I could not wrap my head around this. Promoting the use of an insecticide seemed completely at odds with the message of The Lorax; how could the same man be behind both campaigns? I reminded myself that The Lorax was written 43 years after Seuss began working at Standard Oil, and that a lot can happen in 43 years. I doubt I will be the same person at 67 that I was at 24. I can’t reasonably expect another person to stay exactly the same, either.

Then it hit me: Flit the Insecticide and The Lorax are not at odds at all. The Lorax is a story about the heedless destruction of a flawless world. It is a story about unchecked greed and senseless consumerism. Above all, it is a story that longs for the return of a pristine world, a world where Bar-ba-loots play in the shade of Truffula Trees, where Humming-Fish hum and Swomee-Swans sing, where Truffulas grow tall and proud against a bright, clear sky. It is a world completely devoid of anything that might mar its perfection. Flit would be a welcome addition to this world, this Eden, for creepy-crawlies have no place here.

It seems surprising, then, that the figure of the Lorax is still the poster child for the environmental movement. Yes, he speaks for the trees. But what about everyone else?

Did I miss your review?  Let me know and I’ll make a list!

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