Sunday, December 28, 2008

Wuthering Heights from an author's perspective

Wuthering Heights was the first book I read after I wrote my novel in November for NaNoWriMo. As I finished the story, I found myself thinking of the book through the eyes of someone who has written a story from beginning to end.

The biggest question I had was: Did Ms. Bronte begin the story already knowing the ending? I know there are many different styles for writing books, and some authors sit down to begin a story already knowing the different twists and turns it would take. I wonder if Ms. Bronte was one of those authors. Did Heathcliff and Cathy's obsessive and destructive love ALWAYS end up with Hareton and Catherine finding each other? Was that the entire purpose of it?

When I first began my book, all I had was a picture in my head of a scene at the end of the story. I didn't know how my main character got there, but slowly bits and pieces of ideas came into my head and I wrote the notes down as they came to mind. However, as I was writing, the story found its own path. I found myself becoming more of a storyTELLER in that I saw what was happening in the story (in my mind) and I just wrote down what I saw. There were a couple of twists and turns that I hadn't planned when I sat down to write my story. It was an incredibly interesting experience for me, as I tend to be a person who likes things to happen according to plan!

I wonder if Ms. Bronte had that experience as well. Did she set out to write a more traditional love story, and did Heathcliff and Cathy just take over? Was Ms. Bronte disturbed at the way they were destroying the lives of the people around them, and destroying each other, but she had to tell the story that they were giving her? If so, was she as relieved as I was at the end of the story when Catherine finally started letting Hareton in to her heart?

I think it would be hard for me to write a story knowing it was going to be so full of pain and hurt. But perhaps that is exactly what makes some stories appealing? Maybe I'll have to give it a try one day...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Twilight and Wuthering Heights

As I mentioned previously, I only wanted to read Wuthering Heights because it is mentioned in the 3rd book in the Twilight Saga, Eclipse. It's been several months now since I've read Eclipse, so this post will be mostly my reactions to Wuthering Heights from the perspective of a Twilight fan. I will post again later this month when I've re-read the Twilight Saga and Eclipse is fresh in my mind!

First of all, I can see strong parallels between Wuthering Heights and Eclipse. We have a love triangle - Cathy, Heathcliff, and Edgar in WH/Bella, Edward, Jacob in E. Here is where it gets a bit trickier for me. Of course, Cathy and Isabella parallel each other, being the female leads. However, the men are a little more complicated. Heathcliff is wilder, more dangerous, free spirit - like Jacob. But Bella refers to Edward as her soul, her life, that she cannot live without him - which is a Heathcliff thing for Cathy. Edgar is more refined, and gives in to Cathy's whims - and that's what Edward does. Cathy does admit to loving Edgar, but she describes that love as being changing and like the trees in the changing seasons - very similar to how Bella describes the love she feels for Jacob. Her love for Heathcliff is perfmanent and fixed. She says she IS Heathcliff. He is to her, and this is another of my favorite lines, necessary. This is how Bella describes Edward.

Another parallel between the two books came to me while I was watching the movie version last night with my book club. Heathcliff leaves, just like Edward does in New Moon. In WH, Heathcliff leaves for selfish reasons. He has heard part of a conversation between Cathy and Nelly where Cathy says she is marrying Edgar, and it would degrade her to marry Heathcliff. He leaves before he can hear what she has to say next - that she IS Heathcliff, he is necessary, her love for him is fixed and permanent. His pride takes him away. Edward, by contrast, leaves out of fear. He thinks he is bad for Bella, and that his presence in her life puts her in danger. The result is the same for both women - they are pushed into relationship with the other man. Cathy marries Edgar, and Bella becomes involved with Jacob. When Heathcliff and Edward return, their ladies are thrilled to see them, their new men are LESS than pleased, and neither woman is able to make a clean break. For Bella, and in my opinion as I realize there are Team Jacob folks out there, she needed to break with Jacob and be with Edward. For Cathy, she needed to break with Heathcliff as she was married to Edgar. Both women wanted to have it both ways - and that doesn't work. In the Twilight Saga, though, Bella was eventually able to break from Jacob, while in WH, Cathy dies (as do Heathcliff and Edgar finally).

As I was reading WH, I found myself aggravated with Cathy in the same way I was aggravated with Bella in Eclipse. Edward was back, and Jacob was acting the fool (like Heathcliff when he insisted he was going to kiss her again - though I can't remember if that line was only in the movie, or if it was in the book, too). She should have put a stop to it, and ended the relationship with Jacob once she realized he wasn't willing to accept her feelings for Edward. Cathy should not have made herself available to Heathcliff once she realized he did not respect her marriage to Edgar. I felt it was selfish of Bella and Cathy to put both men (Edward and Edgar) through this. And I was upset with Heathcliff and Jacob for making it harder on Cathy and Bella than it needed to be. They were both too selfish and prideful to think of what was best for the women they supposedly loved. I don't believe Jacob had the ulterior motives of ruining everyone's lives, like Heathcliff did, but he certainly treated it like a "game" when he was dealing with the happiness and stability of the woman he professed to love.

I'm glad I read Wuthering Heights, both as a Twilight fan and as a reader interested in classic literature. I didn't necessarily enjoy the story, but I found it to be a compelling story nonetheless. And I can now understand why Edward is shocked that Bella keeps wanting to re-read it, and why he calls it a "hate story" instead of a "love story". I am very anxious to re-read Eclipse now that I have read this book! I'll be sure to post my thoughts after I have done so.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My thoughts on Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights was a book that I was most anxious to read, and I won't hide the reason - I wanted to read it because of Eclipse, the third book in the Twilight Saga. Bella and Edward discuss Wuthering Heights a number of times, and even quote directly from the book. I felt like I was missing out on a huge piece of the story!

But this post won't be about Twilight and Wuthering Heights. I'm going to save that for another post. This post is going to be my thoughts on the book and my experience in reading it.

As with Pride and Prejudice, I found this book quite difficult when I began it. The hardest part for me was in understanding who was narrating the book, and trying to keep all the character's names straight! I found out, too late, that my book contains a family tree in the beginning. That would have been most helpful, though it would have given away the plot, so I'm not sure it would have been good to look at that first. Maybe I should have written my own family tree as I was reading? Then once I figured out who was narrating --- Ms. Bronte decides to shift and have someone else narrate!! Classic literature keeps you on your toes.

My second difficulty came with one of the character's dialect. Ms. Bronte wrote the dialogue for Joseph, the caretaker/preacher at Wuthering Heights, in such a dialect that I never could make heads or tails of it. I hope he didn't say anything incredibly important to the story. I could make out through the course of the story that he pretty much didn't like anybody, and he thought they were all going to H***.

I will admit to not liking the story one bit as I was reading through it. In fact, it wasn't until almost the end that I even began to enjoy it. Looking for quotes from Eclipse kept me going, as well as a deep desire to know the story for the sake of understanding Bella and Edward better. I did accomplish that, and I will get into the details in my next post. Suffice it to say that Catherine Earnshaw aggravated me in much the same way that Isabella Swan did!

Initially, the only character that I thought positively about was Nelly (Ellen), who served as narrator for the majority of the book. But then, the story is coming from her perspective, so she would naturally present herself in a good light. Also, her inability to stand firm in her beliefs, and her desire to make her young charges happy ended up contributing to the strife and discord in both families.

The ending was my absolute favorite. And if you haven't finished reading Wuthering Heights, you should stop reading here! I don't know if it was the characters themselves and their qualities which endeared me to them, or rather that it was the first bit of happiness that I came across in the entire book! And since I absolutely NEED a "Happily Ever After", I latched on to the two characters who seemed like they have a chance for it!

Here is one of my favorite parts, narrated by Mr. Lockwood:

"Con-trary!" said a voice as sweet as a silver bell - "That for the third time, you dunce! I'm not going to tell you again. Recollect, or I'll pull your hair!"
"Contrary, then," answered another, in deep but softened tones. "And now, kiss me for minding so well."
"No; read it over first correctly, without a single mistake."
The male speaker began to read: he was a young man respectably dressed and seated at a table, having a book before him. His handsome features glowed with pleasure, and his eyes kept impatiently wandering from the page to a small white hand over his shoulder, which recalled him by a smart slap on the cheek, whenever its owner detected such signs of inattention. Its owner stood behind; her light, shining ringlets blending, at intervals, with his brown locks, as she bent to superintend his studies; and her face - it was lucky he could not see her face, or he would never have been so steady. I could; and I bit my lip in spite, at having thrown away the chance I might have had of doing something besides staring at its smiting beauty.

OK, I should note here that I totally missed this reference to Mr. Lockwood having regretted missing an opportunity for love with Cathy!! I guess when I first read it, I was just so happy that SOMEONE was happy, I skimmed right over poor Mr. Lockwood's laments. But back to my favorite part:

The task was done, not free from further blunders; but the pupil claimed a reward, and received at least five kisses: which, however, he generously returned.

As a reader, my heart rejoiced to see some love and happiness amidst all the pain and suffering and anger and heartbreak seemed to envelope both of these families. I would like to think that they live Happily Ever After and break the cycle of hurt they grew up around. That they will have babies one day and those children will grow up around the Heights and frolick in the trees and the other places that Cathy loves so well to visit.

As a new writer, this book provoked many questions for me, which I will cover in another post as well.

Overall, I have to say that I really enjoyed reading Wuthering Heights! I think it will be easier to re-read it another time because I know that there is happiness to be found at the end of the story. It was hard to read through the constant pain and anger, not knowing if this is all that this book has to offer.

And I'm very much looking forward to re-reading Eclipse at the end of the month, with this new perspective of having read Wuthering Heights and knowing all of the references Bella and Edward make about it!

I'd love to read your comments about this book! Please don't hesitate to leave a comment to my blog... I have them set to require approval, but I'm checking 2-3 times a day for replies!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Wuthering Heights - A Summary

The discussion of Wuthering Heights begins! I'll start as I did last time, with my summary of the book in a few sentences.

Wuthering Heights
by Emily Bronte
first published 1847

The Linton Family and the Earnshaw family are changed forever when Mr. Linton brings home a young orphan named Heathcliff. Heathcliff and Mr. Linton's daughter, Catherine, grow up together and develop an obsessive relationship. The choices and actions of both Catherine and Heathcliff dramatically affect both families.

Ok, that was a bit easier this time, to make a summary. I've had experience now doing the one for Pride and Prejudice, as well as the one for the novel I wrote. It gets easier with practice!

Please share your own summary of Wuthering Heights in the comments!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

An author

November has come to an end, and I am now an author! I completed my goal of writing a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. It was SO much fun! I'm already looking forward to next year!

I wrote a romance book that I titled "Cook's Treasure". The title was the hardest part of all!! Here is a brief synopsis:

Reagan Sinclair is visiting the Gulf Coast of Florida for a relaxing two week vacation. While out for a walk late one night she stumbles upon three men diving in the shallow waters off shore- and overhears the word "treasure". Can she figure out what's going on without endangering her own life? And how is the handsome but mysterious charter boat captain, John Corrigan, involved?

I'll be writing the first post about Wuthering Heights tomorrow! :)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Wuthering Heights in December

Due to my taking on the project of writing a 50,000 word novel in the month of November, the discussion for Wuthering Heights will have to come in December instead!

I have made it through Chapter 11 so far, and it's a very different read from Pride & Prejudice! It took me a chapter or two to figure out who was narrating. I was expecting it to be a young woman! :) That will teach me not to make assumptions. I am finding that I'm understanding it earlier than I did P&P, with the exception of one character who is written in a dialect and I cannot make heads or tails of what he is saying!

So please check back in December... I'm also going to be re-reading Eclipse in December, which is the book in the Twilight Saga where Bella is reading Wuthering Heights over and over again! So I'll finally be able to understand what Bella and Edward are talking about in their references to Cathy and Heathcliff! ;)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Colin as Mr. Darcy?

I've heard from a number of people that Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy would take my breath away. I'm not a huge Colin Firth fan, so I found that pretty hard to believe.

And then, I watched it. Yes, the 6 hour long BBC version on 2 DVDs.

My thoughts?

Well, first... allow me to catch my breath! ;) You see, I just finished watching a few minutes ago. They were right. LISA, you were right!!! I absolutely loved watching Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy! (I loved the actress who played Elizabeth as well) He had this "look", especially in the parlor when she was playing the piano and singing --- oh my GOODNESS! To be looked at like THAT by a man??? WOW! I think I would be faint! ;)

I highly encourage you to rent or borrow this version of the Pride and Prejudice to watch when your reading is complete...or even if you don't finish!! This movie would make you want to dive back into the book and see what you missed! I got my copy from my local Blockbuster.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Elizabeth, and her sisters

As is typical for me when I'm reading any literature with a female role, I kept inserting myself into the story! And even though the star of the show in Pride and Prejudice, I kept finding myself wanting so much to be Jane!

Jane is kind, loving, calm, and sweet-tempered. I can't say that those last two ever have been used to describe me! LOL (I'm much more short-tempered and prone to holding a grudge like Elizabeth.) Jane is one of those people whom you want to be around and be like. I can think of a couple of "Janes" in my life off the top of my head, and they are such wonderful people! However, Jane's personality and temperament did nearly lose her Mr. Bingley! She was TOO reserved and didn't want to let on to him her true feelings! Yikes!

The next sister, is it Mary?? I can't remember her name. I think she is older than Lydia and the youngest, but now I am having a hard time keeping them straight and I don't want to get my notes! There was not much that I could tell of her from the story.

Lydia.... oh Lydia! I could probably devote an entire post to her recklessness and selfishness. But I shant! ;) Suffice it to say that, while I don't identify with her, my behavior as a young woman was much more likely to resemble hers than I would like to remember. It's funny how you don't seem to realize (or care) how others perceive you when you are young. And especially in that time, it could ruin a family. If it hadn't been for Mr. Darcy's provision and kindness, Elizabeth and Jane may not have had their happy ending, due to Lydia's indescretion.

The youngest sister.... can't remember her name. Shucks. Wild under the influence of her sister. :(

OK, now to Elizabeth! She seemed to me to be a modern woman for her times. She did not hold her tongue, especially around men. I'm thinking of Mr. Collins especially... sometimes men just do NOT get the hint, do they? Anyway, Elizabeth has real spunk and I admire that! I love how she just walked right over to take care of Jane when she was sick and stuck at the Bingley's place! She arrived sweaty and muddy, but she was determined to do what she needed to do! And her fierce devotion to her older sister was endearing!

One of the things I loved the most about Elizabeth was her ability and willingness to change her opinions and perceptions when presented with new information! That is something with which I struggle, and it is no easy task! It takes humility and sensitivity to be able to assimilate new information about a situation and re-evaluate it and realize you were mistaken. And then it takes an even greater measure of humility to own up to the fact that you made a mistake! I was incredibly proud of Elizabeth at that point, and decided that maybe it wasn't altogether bad if I indentified with her more than I did with Jane! :)

So which female character did you identify with, and why? Or if you don't get 'into' books in that way, I'd love to know your impressions of the ladies! :)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Mr. Darcy

Ok, so I'm not going to do the "beginning, middle, end" summary right now. Man I feel like I'm back in school and I'm skipping out mentally on all the discussion and work of reading challenging stuff! LOL I'll get back to it, this weekend!

But first I'd like to focus on Mr. Darcy for this post!

I spent the first half of the book thinking to myself, "This is the guy that gets compared to Edward? The guy who people make Flair about? Really?!?!" I knew that, at some pointt, he had to come around to where Elizabeth (and myself LOL) like him! And, of course, that does happen, and it seemed to me to be a pretty dramatic change. In fact, I wrote this in my notes for Volume 3, Chapter 2 (or Chapter 44 overall, depending on how your book is set up:

"What is the reason for the drastic change in Darcy? Is it because he is at home and comfortable? Is it merely Elizabeth's perception folowing the revelation in his letter?"

I'll go first, and I'd love to know what your answers are!

I think it's both, really. I think Elizabeth was so blinded by her perception of Mr. Darcy - aided by the lies of Wickham, Darcy's interference in Jane's relationship, and this standard of social behavior that Darcy seems not to be able to live up to - that she cannot stop for a moment to interpret his actions as anything else. For Darcy's part, I think writing the letter was the absolute best option! It gave Elizabeth time to ponder each section, after she had settled down from constantly jumping to conclusions and being offended! And he was able to express himself in a way that is more comfortable to him, a medium in which he feels competent!

For me, my opinion of Darcy was changed by reading the letter as well, and finding out everything that he did for Elizabeth's sister (and her family). And the fact that he did NOT want it to become general knowledge when he had to have known the profound impact it would have on Elizabeth's feelings for him! He is an honorable man who cares deeply for other people. Also, that he realized he was wrong about Jane's feelings for Bingley, and set out to correct his error touched my heart. So often people find out they have made a mistake, but do not follow through in correcting said mistake!

So, all in all, I'm enamoured of Mr. Darcy now, like every other woman who has read P&P! (If you have, and you don't think Mr. Darcy hung the moon, please comment and let me know!) And he does remind me of Edward, but not in the same way. Edward is very comfortable in social graces, so they don't have that same dramatic flaw. Edward DOES have a flaw, I'm sorry to say --- the boy OVER-REACTS when it comes to Bella! :) Like Darcy, when Edward realizes that he has made mistakes, he sets out to correct them (by facilitating the visits to LaPush with Jacob after trying to forbid Bella from doing so).

I've got some thoughts to share about Elizabeth, too, but that will have to be another post! Mr. Darcy deserves his own! ;)

Monday, October 13, 2008

My apologies

I am sorry for the lack of posting. My son's medical issues are still not resolved, and it has kept me busy! I intend to write more tomorrow on Pride and Prejudice!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My summary

OK, here is my first step now that I've finished the book. I am to summarize the book in a couple of sentences.

Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
first published 1813

Elizabeth Bennett meets Mr. Fitwilliam Darcy and instantly takes a disliking to him, based solely upon her expectations and interpretations of his behavior. Through a series of family crises, she learns that she judged him wholly incorrectly, and she and Mr. Darcy find their way through their own prejudices into a loving relationship.

Wow, that was NOT as easy as I expected it to be. I can talk at length about the story, but to narrow it down into a few sentences is quite a challenge.

Tomorrow I will give my brief outlining of the beginning, middle, and end. Then I will get into my more personal thoughts! :)

I would love for anyone who might be reading to share your own short summary!

Monday, September 29, 2008

I finished!!

I just finished the book! I am so proud of myself for doing it! I got to a certain point and just couldn't bear to put it down!

I'll start my discussions on Wednesday! :)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Almost Done!

I finished Volume 2 of Pride and Prejudice last night! I am surprised at how much I am enjoying this story! It doesn't have the obsessive hold on me that the Twilight Saga had, but I think that's because I have to work much harder to understand the language in Pride and Prejudice than I do with Twilight.

I have to admit that it's completely annoying me to stop and write a 2-3 sentence narration at the end of each chapter. I wonder if I feel that way because these chapters are so short, so the flow gets interrupted more frequently than it would in another book? I just want to read! I do know that writing the narrations has helped to cement the story in my brain, and to make sure that I'm at least understanding the basic storyline.

I am also finding that I'm able to read more quickly the further along I get in the story! I am definitely getting used to the language, and even though I don't understand every single word, I am getting the gist of the story. That is SO exciting for me!

I am planning to finish the rest of the book by Tuesday night. I would like to post my beginning thoughts on the book by next weekend, and I hope to get some discussion going at that time!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Wow, I'm actually understanding it!

This afternoon I finished Volume 1 of Pride and Prejudice!!

I am not sure every edition divides the book into volumes, so I am referring specifically to Chapters 1-23. I gave a friend of mine some of the details as I understand them, and she said that I'm pretty much on Target. (I do need to own up to the fact that I have watched Bride and Prejudice, which is a Bollywood musical version of the story.)

But I think I'm actually getting the hang of the language! The first 15 chapters or so required my intense concentration, but now I'm finding I'm able to stop for a moment to answer a child's question or comment, and come back to my spot and not be disoriented!

For my journaling, I have been writing a short summary at the end of each chapter. I am doing my very best to keep it to 2-3 sentences, which is a challenge because I like to write and include details. I know that must come as a shock, especially if you've read my homeschooling blog! ;) But I'm keeping to the purpose of helping my brain to process what I have read, and in the case of the complex language Austen uses, taking the story and putting it into my own words helps me to make sure that I really know what is going on.

There are a number of words and concepts that I'm not familiar with, but I am underlining and turning down corners to come back to those later!

How is your reading coming along? Please don't feel you have to keep up with my pace! I feel that I need to have at least the first reading done by the end of the month, so I can write about the book in greater detail! But don't feel pressured to do the same! This is supposed to be fun!

Monday, September 15, 2008

The last of the preparations are complete!

Today I finished reading Chapters 14-15 of How to Read a Book. I skipped forward to these 2 chapters, because they deal specifically with how to read imaginative literature.

The "rules" for reading imaginative literature, and specifically stories, are different from reading an expository work. Mr. Adler does not seem to enumerate these "rules" as specifically as he does for expository work, but he does give a great foundation. I did not find lists of questions to answer, as there are in The Well-Educated Mind, but there is a good deal of the same advice. First and foremost, Mr. Adler encourages readers not to try to "resist the effect that a work of imaginative literature has on you." I was thrilled with that line, and I highlighted it in pink! LOL He encourages readers to read through a story as quickly and intensely as possible. Do not be anxious if you do not remember each character or each event as it is happening. As you read along, important characters will reveal themselves and important incidents will be recollected and connected to one another. Allow yourself to step into the world the author has created, and become a participant in the happenings! This advice sounds right up my alley!

Mr. Adler goes on to say when you have read a story analytically, you will be able to tell what happened in the story in a sentence or two. (I keep thinking of the flair on facebook that says, "It's this story about a girl and she falls in love with a vampire... no really, it's better than it sounds!"). You should also be able to order the parts of the story according to their relation to time (beginning, middle, end). Then you will not only be able to judge the book based upon whether you like it or don't like it, but also be able to tell if it's "good" or "bad" and why you feel that way. This analytical reading should enhance the enjoyment of a story!

Having read the pertinent sections of both Mr. Adler's book and Mrs. Bauer's book, I think the approach I will take with Bella's Bookshelf will be somewhere in the middle. I think I will need to start more with the questions that Mrs. Bauer offers in her book for a starting point, but I won't obsess over answering each one. And I won't let it interfere with the enjoyment of the story. Both authors recommend getting through the story in its entirety first and foremost, so I will do that, taking notes and underlining and turning down the corners on confusing parts in a brief manner. Then I will go back through and work to answer the questions. I will share each of these stages on this blog, and I hope you will share your experiences as well!

I'm going to begin working on Pride and Prejudice this evening! And I'm VERY excited!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Musings on How to Read a Book, Chapters 1-5

I've finished reading the first 5 chapters of How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler. As he encourages active readers to make a book their own by writing in it, he would be pleased to know that I'm doing exactly that in his book! It still feels very un-natural to me though!

I have been very encouraged by what I've read of this book so far. It has a different feel to it than The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer. It is sort of hard to explain in just a few words, but I guess it feels more like a story than the "how to" book its name would imply.

For example, Mr. Adler speaks about how learning to be an analytical reader is a difficult task, but one that is well-worth the effort. In Chapter 5,
he compares it to learning to ski, or some equally complex task. At first you have to concentrate on each of the different 'rules', and it's all so difficult and hard and frustrating. But as you get each step to become habit and natural, you can begin to move from just trying to stay up, into feeling the flow of the hill and the rush of the air.

This is especially meaningful to me. I know how I get when things are difficult and 0verwhelming --- I want to give up! I'm lazy intellectually because I was never challenged intellectually. School was always very easy for me, so when faced with a mental challenge (or any other kind of challenge), I gave up. It's one of the reasons I don't like to read difficult books. It's hard. My brain doesn't take as naturally to words as it does to numbers. Now I see there might be reason that I gave up: nobody ever taught me the 'rules' of how to be an analytical reader. But it's never too late to learn!

Mr. Adler agrees with a point that Mrs. Bauer made in her book: When you are reading a difficult book, it's OK for the first reading to be a ' just get through it' sort of thing. Mr. Adler calls this an "inspectional reading", which sounds much more official than "just get through it". That idea never occurred to me before! I can't tell you how many times I would start books and give up because they were hard for me. I couldn't understand everything that was going on! The notion of keeping on going because it might all fall into place later, or the fact that you get more from half-understanding a hard book than from completely grasping an easy book, never crossed my mind.

So I learned some important things from these first 5 chapters:
  • These first efforts are going to be hard, and messy
  • It's not going to be pretty at the start, and I'm going to make mistakes
  • The more I do this, the easier it will get
  • The results will be worth it!
I find myself getting more and more excited and anxious about this adventure in becoming a great reader! It is helpful for me to know that I don't have to be perfect from the very beginning. This reading and discussing Pride and Prejudice might be the hardest thing I've done in a very long time. It's going to be new and scary, and probably a big mess. But it's also exciting to think that one day I might find myself going back to Pride & Prejudice, and it will be easier! Maybe I'll even make new connections and pull new meanings out of the book at that time because I won't be focused so much on just getting through it!

Friday, September 5, 2008

And the first book will be...

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen!

I chose this book because Stephenie loosely based Twilight on Pride & Prejudice. You can watch the interview where she discusses this here.

Also, I chose Pride & Prejudice because Bella mentions it as one of her favorite books in Twilight on page 148 (hardcover). She had taken her volume of the works of Jane Austen out into the yard with her, and she was trying to decide which book to read:

"My favorites were Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. I'd read the first most recently..."

Which makes me wonder: Does Bella write in HER books? If I ever meet Stephenie Meyer, I'm going to ask her!!

Discussion will begin in October! I'll nail down a specific date in a week or so.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

One step closer!

I have finished the necessary chapters of Well-Educated Mind. It took me a little longer than I had planned because my 12 year old son had a medical emergency that has required my time and mental energy. I read the first 5 chapters, which include the introduction and preparation work, plus the detailed chapter on reading novels. The remaining chapters give details in reading the other genres, so I am going to skip those for now.

I will begin by admitting to being very overwhelmed when I began to see what this reading program was going to require from me. I have never been confident about reading and analyzing literature! To find out that I have to do 3 levels of reading in just one book nearly set me off my project. But I was patient, and continued to get deeper into the details. I soon saw that it wasn't as complicated as I had envisioned, though it will require some brain work on my part! But that's sort of the whole point! ;)

Now, let me stop right here and explain the one area that gives me the most pause: Susan Wise Bauer wants me to WRITE in my books!! She wants me to underline things, turn down corners (GASP!), and generally mark up my books?! She might as well tell me I should name my next child Renesmee!! (I'm just kidding... those of you who know me IRL know that I actually think that name is quite charming!) But I'm going to try give it a shot (the writing in books part, not the baby name part - I'm not quite that obsessed). I had already purchased paperback copies of Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights when a friend of mine gave me beautiful hardback copies that look like they are 100 years old even though they probably aren't! So, I can mark up my boring old paperbacks and still have the beautiful hardbacks that are intact!

There are too many details in the reading plan in Well-Educated Mind to get into now, but here is the general process:
  1. The first level involves just getting through the book. Make notes of the parts that are difficult, interesting, or important (by turning down corners, using a sticky note). Write a brief summary at the end of each chapter, this is not the time for details. Jot down questions, reflections, connections in your journal in a different ink color. When you are finished with the book, make an informal outline from your summaries, then give the book your own title and subtitle that tells what the book does. (This last part really intimidates me)
  2. In lieu of reading the entire book a 2nd time, just go back to those difficult sections and see if they make sense now that you've finished the story. Mrs. Bauer lists questions to consider for each genre, and when you answer each question you need include a quote from the book to make sure you're staying focused on the book.
  3. The third stage requires the use of a partner who will be reading with you. There is another set of questions for each genre, and those are the basis of your discussions (in person or via email). The idea is not to get the 'right' answers, but to THINK about what you have read.
It sounds really overwhelming doesn't it? It did to me! But then I realized something. I've been DOING this already. I've been DOING it this very month --- with Breaking Dawn!!! Granted, it's not Pride and Prejudice or something as equally complicated, but it's still the same process! So I CAN do it! And you can, too! We'll do it together!

My next step will be to read How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler. Mrs. Bauer quoted this book a number of times in the Well-Educated Mind, plus I had already bought it for the children to study during their high school years. I am very curious about how Mr. Adler's recommendations compare to Mrs. Bauer's! Surely he wouldn't want me to WRITE in a book, would he? LOL

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Getting Ready!

I have decided to prepare myself for this adventure in literature by reading The Well-Educated Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer. I am hoping this book will serve as a guide for me as I am attempting to read this new level of challenging literature.

I remember being very frustrated in school when I was asked to infer things from reading or talk about symbolism or other fancy terms that I didn't really grasp. As I've been contemplating the reading that I'm about to tackle, I was afraid that I would end up feeling that same frustration as before. I have How to Read a Book, and I do intend to read that book as well during this process. However, I thought that the Well-Educated Mind might be a better starting point. Here is a description of The Well-Educated Mind from the publisher's website:

The Well-Educated Mind

Using the techniques and systems of classical education, this new guide will give you greater pleasure in what you read, and greater understanding of it. With her thought-provoking questions on each genre and her extremely useful annotated lists of what to read and how to begin on each of the genres covered, Susan Wise Bauer offers us the tools to reclaim our love of reading and to further our own education in meaningful ways.

It appears that there is also a website to accompany the book! I'll be checking that out in the days to come!

I am close to deciding on the first book I'm going to read. Right now, it's between Pride & Prejudice and Wuthering Heights!!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Coming Soon!

Welcome to Bella's Bookshelf! Let me introduce myself: I am Niffercoo, a homeschooling mom in my mid 30s who is a huge fan of the Twilight series of books by Stephenie Meyer! One of the things I love best about this series is that Bella, the female lead, is such an avid reader of the classics***. I was and still am an avid reader, but when I was school I chose to read Sweet Valley High, V.C. Andrews, and Danielle Steele. Fun books, to be sure... but nothing to stretch the mind.

Bella has inspired me to tackle these classics that I missed! I want to know who this Mr. Darcy is! I want to know what Bella and Edward are talking about when they reference Wuthering Heights! I even want to know about Paris falling in Romeo and Juliet!

So I invite you to read along and discuss with me as I tackle these classics for the first time! Our homeschool year resumes in early August, and that will keep me busy getting back into a groove. I plan to start posting and discussing sometime in October! I hope you'll join me!

***OK, it could also have something to do with a certain vampire, but this isn't a fangirl blog after all! :)