November in Review

Academics
By now I got all my written exams and paper from last semester back. My GPA in the main subjects (civil, criminal and public law) is a solid 8, which is like a D if you had an ABCDEF system with F being failure. A D as an average sounds bad beyond any reasonable doubt but German grading system in Law being what it is, D is totally acceptable (it actually means that your academic performance is satisfactory.*). About half of the grades fall into E or F. Only 20% or so get C or better. Only around 0.7% has an A as their GPA, I daresay. Still, I want to work my up to a C.
But more important than getting a better grade, so I feel, is to grasp the basic logic behind the legal system and to critically think about the legal regulations and what consequences they can have. Granted, law students in every country have so much to learn and a lot to memorize. Many of the students seem to become a reciting robot – reciting case, regulations, scholarly disputes (what we call “Meinungsstreit” in German legal system, although most of them are not of purely academic nature). They study to obtain good grades and once they got them, they don’t care about the contents anymore, especially when it comes to mandatory side-subjects (such as Legal History, Legal Philosophy, Legal Methods, Legal Sociology, etc.).
Ironically enough, I learned how to tackle a legal system and its backgrounds by taking those side-subjects and taking intro-classes to other legal systems such as Jewish one or English one. We were/are encouraged to discuss and dissect in those Jewish Law and English Law classes, which makes a livelier and more interesting class.

I am coping better with the stress than in the first semester but I have so much work to do that I feel positively daunted just thinking about it. My schedule is not yet murderous but pretty tiring (32h/week). Mostly it’s interesting, though, and I have the feeling that my brain is adapting a little bit to the huge daily intake of information.

Oh, about my social life in university: I have taken on an hour-a-week shift at the faculty café and I have met and had talks with some new people since then. Most of them are in their first year and either nervous or exasperated or both. It reminds me of myself a year ago although I have to admit I was even less composed than this year’s fresh crops.
I’ve also met friendly people in my English law class although we don’t interact much outside of the class. And I’ve met new people from 2nd year, as well. I also semi-regularly talk with my acquaintances from my 1st year ’cause after one year of battlefield, there is some sort of camaraderie between the students.

*key for German grading system in Law:
A (16 – 18): Excellent (beyond expectation)
B (13 – 15): Good (well above the average)
C (10 – 12): Very Satisfactory (above the average)
D (7 – 9): Satisfactory (average in every way aka contains basics of expected essentials)
E (4 – 6): Sufficient (has faults but just enough to meet the average expectation)
F (1 – 3): Failure
Then there is the 0 (Zero), which means: Totally Useless Performance

AIESEC
As if I didn’t have enough to do. I joined AIESEC in the beginning of the month and so far it has been pretty neat. The people are all very very friendly and there is this instant acceptance just because you belong to the same NGO. My Vice President is great and my team members (I’m in iGIP) are awesome as well. I think we will make a good team.

Reading
See also my wrap-up of November Reading Theme. In addition I read The Murder at the Vicarage (so cozy & fun!) and And Then There Were None (psychological thriller-ish; I appreciate it but it’s not right up my alley) by Agatha Christie. But the most important book that I read this month is Harry’s Last Stand by Harry Leslie Smith. His partly (?) autobiographical book has taken me back to the 30s, 40s and 50s in Europe and has let me see the world from another perspective, which I appreciate so very very much. My idea of socialism and social equality has gained some substance thanks to this book. It has become more than a vague ideal. And after reflecting on the book for a few days after finishing it, I understand why Claire said that the book gave her hope.

Watching
So thankful that I didn’t insist on not watching the Cranford adaptation. It used to irritate me that BBC has put different Gaskell stories together to create the 2007 adaptation. But oh, it was done so skillfully! The seamless overlap of Cranford, Mr. Harrison’s Confessions and My Lady Ludlow! (Although I have not read the last one yet.) Amazing cast and setting! Even though Captain Brown got a whole lotta bigger role than he does in Cranford, and some characters were left out, and some relationships were fused, it makes one amazing story about small-town solidarity, adapting to change, friendship between women, young love, death, silliness and the deadly power of rumor and reputation in a small town.
I watched both Cranford and The Return to Cranford in less than a week even though I had a full plate of university! In The Return to Cranford, a new storyline (mainly taken from The Moorland Cottage) makes appearance while Mr. Harrison’s Confessions fade into background (in fact, the newlyweds are never seen again).
Because there are so many characters with a sub-plot for each, I can well imagine that it might be confusing for people who have read none of the stories the adaptation is based on. But for those of you who are willing to take the chance, I encourage you to do so!

Personal
Mostly I’m trying to balance all of the aspects of my life. Lately I feel like I’ve been neglecting my academic life, which is not acceptable! The housework is manageable, mostly because I spend more than half of the day outside and from the other half, at least six are spent in bed. I have to get back to my off-line life now.

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November Reading Theme – Closing

My reading theme in November 2014 was about Victorian England – and I chose three books to read for the duration of the month: The Traitor in the Tunnel by Y. S. Lee, about secret (fictional) female detective Agency with a level-headed half-Chinese, half-Irish heroine who struggles to come to terms with her self-identity that seems to contain opposing qualities; Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger, which chronicles Sophronia’s further adventures away from her spy-training finishing school, with Steampunk and supernatural elements thrown in (best enjoyed if you have already read Parasol Protectorate series, but not a strict requirement); The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, a collection of serials about the “Pickwickians” Mr. Pickwick, Mr. Snodgrass, Mr. Tupman, Mr. Winkle and their friends. Also his first book to be published.

I was full of anticipation for November to start – I was sure it would be a blast, especially because I’d enjoyed the prequels to both The Traitor in the Tunnel and Waistcoats & Weaponry A LOT. So I was fairly confident that two out of three at least I would love. I’d picked The Pickwick Papers mainly to motivate myself towards The Classics Club Challenge and because most of the reviews I’d read said that it was really fun.

Before I say anything about the books themselves, let me make myself clear that I am really, really glad that I tried out the monthly reading theme. It pushed me past my usual reading habits (easy, short books because university works claim most of my brain’s capacity) and out of my reading comfort zone. Well, I’m sure I would have read  W & W anyway no matter what, but who knows for how many more months Traitor would have sat on my shelf if I had not ordered myself to pick up the book? I’d read its prequel, The Body at the Tower, 11 months ago. Especially reading The Pickwick Papers was difficult, mainly because I was trying to read a 700+ page classic in one month.
Let’s break it down now.
The Traitor in the Tunnel by Y. S. Lee – Out of the three books that are published so far (the fourth and final one comes out next year), Mary Quinn undergoes most tumulus emotional journey in this book. We have already seen her struggle with her mixed heritage (it was not a good time to be a foreigner in mid-19th century England), her past and her feelings for a certain gentleman. In this book, the stakes are higher than ever, and her rational, cool-headed side is at war with another side that is emotional and yearns for something that is deeper than reason or passion. Mary’s personal developments were realistically and heart-wrenchingly portrayed. The romantic subplot takes rather a back-seat in Traitor, but I didn’t mind that as much. What I did mind was the end – regarding the future of the Agency. It made me angry and sad that something that represents the struggle against gender inequality (in a subtle, inside-out way) is to be quarreled over like two kids over a toy. It saddens me to see these two amazing women fail to compromise and build a stronger front by uniting. This, coupled with the rather boring plot regarding the Buckingham Palace, dampened my enthusiasm for the book. All in all I gave The Traitor in the Tunnel 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.
Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger – I liked having Sophronia behaving like a normal person for a change. I love her intelligencer side, I really do, but seeing her undecided on romantic fronts and being confused by physical and emotional attraction was pretty cool to watch as well. Dimity is as loyal as ever and it’s so easy to love her. Agatha has a rather small role in Waistcoats, and Sidheag is worried about the uprising and its outcome in the werewolf world. Pillover has some hilarious moments, Soap is thinking of his future, Felix is… Felix.
That being said, the story itself was pretty much a long, long journey. Not much school stuff except for the beginning chapters (a heads-up: A year has passed since the events of Courtsies & Conspiracies.). People who have read the Parasol Protectorate books know about the Kingair uprising already, and I think the author spent just the right amount of attention on it – not too much, lest it be a recap, and not too little, lest it confuse the new readers. (I’m still wondering how Sidheag couldn’t have recognized Vieve in Changeless?! Or at least the name Lefoux??!) But as a whole I feel like the book could have accomplished more than tying up Sidheag’s future and giving us hints about Sophronia’s. But maybe this is a prelude of sorts to Manners & Mutiny, like laying down groundwork for a big whoa! Nonetheless, Waistcoats was a huge let-down and part of it is because I had such high hopes. I gave the book 2 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.
The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens – I did not finish this book. I suppose I will finish it someday, but that day wasn’t in November 2014. However, I did manage to read 40% of the book, so I will talk about those 40%. In the beginning of the month I found my self-imposed challenge reasonable and engaging. My plan was to read two chapters every day, which is manageable. Then I was away on a weekend and had to catch up four or six chapters. I never did catch up and around 4th week of the month, I gave up trying. Instead, I read other books that I was itching to.
I don’t know what it is about Dickens, but I find his books rather boring in the middle part. Maybe it’s because it was written as a serial and Dickens had to worry only about the next chapter instead of the big picture. I also find his characters unbearably dull. For Pickwick, good humor saves everything. Snodgrass is a bit mysterious yet, but Winkle and Tupman will do anything Mr. Pickwick suggests. These four gentlemen do have good intentions even if they never reflect on their privileged position as both gentry and male. This is what makes them boring for me, I suppose. A study of villain character, while never preferable in real life because it does not need any more malevolence, would have offered more perspectives and interesting pages than these four fat gentlemen traipsing around the country. That being said, I must say that I do really appreciate those short “sketches”, or manuscripts, as they are called in the book. In them, Dickens explores his sensationalist side of story-telling. Most of them are rather fantastic, but they deal with the “uglier” human qualities – hatred, envy, madness. I especially enjoyed the madman’s tale. I could feel its manic energy across the page, time and world.
Another complaint against Dickens are his female characters – so insipid, so flat, so boring! They are even less dynamic than the male characters. All of them are either flutter-y and blush-y or cheating and manipulative. Ugh. I will definitely have to try out other Victorian male writers to see whether the problem was universal or only Dickens’.

It’s called longing

An indescribable ache in the chest catches me by surprise, because I haven’t considered the effects my two-and-a-half days of weekend would have on me. The people, their readiness to accept and belong, the atmosphere and our living conditions all led us to develop something solid and warm between us. Now that I am back in my own apartment, back to the solitude I used to crave on regular basis, I suddenly feel so utterly alone. It feels as if the something between me and them has been ripped off and has left a gash through which a sense of loneliness oozes out. I’d rather have companionship than privacy. It’s a revelation, all right. Just like that I found myself whining to people because I wanted desperately to cling to them and the warmth people are so reluctant to offer. I found myself wanting to possess more than give comfort and love, to wring out and claim other people’s affection rather than giving them my love unconditionally. The wish to be loved and accepted at face value left a pounding ache in my temple and heart. Because I wanted to harbor all the feelings I was receiving, I did not create as many as I could and should have – for while it may feel good to receive love, it feels tons better when you have given love as well. So, peeps, love y’all <3

The Classics Club Questionaire

*Mentally rolls shoulders* All right, let’s go!
(Original questions here.)

  1. Share a link to your club list.
    This one’s easy:
    https://sweetsummersong.wordpress.com/the-classics-club/
  2. When did you join The Classics Club? How many titles have you read for the club?
    I joined 13 months and 2 days ago, so on October 7th 2013. And I’ve read four books for the challenge, so far. Neat, huh?
  3. What are you currently reading?
    The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens.
  4. What did you just finish reading and what did you think of it?
    Vision in White by Nora Roberts, and it made me feel just a little weepy. I love that book (the whole series, for that matter) and it was time for my annual re-reading of the Bride Quartet. It  encourages me to keep trying to make sense of the chaos that is my life, and to never settle for anyone less than someone who makes me feel, question my thoughts, and laugh – and vice versa.
  5. What are you reading next? Why?
    Well, I’ll be at The Pickwick Papers for weeks to come, but in between I’ll squeeze in either Waistcoats & Weaponry (because November is my month of Victorian theme) or Bed of Roses (sequel to Vision in White) or both. It’s highly probable I’ll read BoR first because W&W has yet to arrive.
  6. Best book you’ve read so far with the club, and why?
    Hmm. It’s a toss-up between Emma and Mr. Harrison’s Confessions. The latter because it was so much fun, and the former because it took me back to my analysis-loving English class from my high school days.
  7. Book you most anticipate (or, anticipated) on your club list?
    The Collected Poems of W. B. Yates, because I am expecting it to be wonderful, just like everyone says.
  8. Book on your club list you’ve been avoiding, if any? Why?
    Shirley and David Copperfield, because I’ve started them but just can’t bring myself to finish – yet.
  9. First classic you ever read?
    My memories blur. I think it was Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett or Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. Possibly even Necklace by Guy de Maupassant. Or Little Women by Louisa May Alcott?? It’s been too long. I do know that I’ve read all of them in Korean translations when I was around second or third grade.
  10. Toughest classic you ever read?
    I was inclined to say Wuthering Heights because it was quite confusing in the beginning, but once I got into it, it was a smooth read. So I’ll go with Der Sandmann by E. T. A. Hoffmann because of its narrative – it was erratic and unreliable and plain weird.
  11. Classic that inspired you? or scared you? made you cry? made you angry?
    Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women books have always been a source of inspiration for me, maybe because I automatically think of my childhood and my present whenever the books pop into my head. Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye frustrated me to no end thanks to his phoniness. I guess that was sort of the point, but the more I analyzed his character, the more stupid he appeared to be, which my self-righteous 17-year-old self decidedly condemned. Oddly enough, now I am able to understand that Holden was scared shitless with his life and world in general – even though I am supposed to have left my teenage-angst-phase behind.
  12. Longest classic you’ve read? Longest classic left on your club list?
    Mansfield Park for the first question. Les Misérables for the second.
  13. Oldest classic you’ve read? Oldest classic left on your club list?
    A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And another one of the Shakespeare plays.
  14. Favorite biography about a classic author you’ve read — or, the biography on a classic author you most want to read, if any?
    I am in the middle of two biographies, actually – one about Jane Austen and another about Louisa May Alcott. I wasn’t terribly interested in biographies before, but now I am kind of fascinated by them. I have this really huge tome on the Brontë siblings, and I want to read one about Charles Dickens, Mary Wollstonecraft and Tolstoy.
  15. Which classic do you think EVERYONE should read? Why?
    I’m really uncomfortable with dictating anyone anything, so my non-answer is: whatever they want to read, because then it stays with you.
  16. Favorite edition of a classic you own, if any?
    I don’t have anything fancy or anything (or rather: anything fancy that grabs my fancy) but I do favor the Wordsworth Classics editions.
  17. Favorite movie adaptation of a classic?
    Oh la, this one’s easy: Pride and Prejudice (1995), adapted by Andrew Davies, because it’s nearly word-to-speech and because it shows beautiful English landscapes! Plus it’s a very long adaptation. A close second – of a very different nature but adapted by the same Andrew Davies – is Sense and Sensibility (2008). I like Elinor’s portrayal (rational but not robotic) and Marianne’s sweeping passionate nature. Also, gorgeous backdrop.
  18. Classic which hasn’t been adapted yet (that you know of) which you very much wish would be adapted to film.
    Mmm nothing comes to mind yet.
  19. Least favorite classic? Why?
    Andorra by Max Frisch because it portrays heart-breakingly narrow way of thinking (which was the point). And Der Sandmann because it’s scary.
  20. Name five authors you haven’t read yet whom you cannot wait to read.
    I assume you mean classic authors. Stephen Crane, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Victor Hugo, Mary Shelley.
  21. Which title by one of the five you’ve listed above most excites you and why?
    Anything by Stephen Crane, really, because I’ve recently read some examples of his writing and was swept away by its simple, quiet yet deadly character.
  22. Have you read a classic you disliked on first read that you tried again and respected, appreciated, or even ended up loving? (This could be with the club or before it.)
    I am hoping that will be the case with James Joyce’s Dubliners when I re-read it next month.
  23. Which classic character can’t you get out of your head?
    Elinor Dashwood. And for some reason, Beth March.
  24. Which classic character most reminds you of yourself?
    A mixture of Elinor and Marianne, actually. And a little bit of Jane Eyre.
  25. Which classic character do you most wish you could be like?
    Agnes Grey from (you guessed it) Agnes Grey. She quietly bears what life has dealt her, she’s compassionate and she loves her family. She’s content with what she has and finds happiness in small things. I wish I could do that more.
  26. Which classic character do you wish were your best friend? (*modified question)
    Oh, Lizzy Bennet, to be sure. My days would never be boring!
  27. If a sudden announcement was made that 500 more pages had been discovered after the original “THE END” on a classic title you read and loved, which title would you most want to keep reading?
    I’ll go with Pride and Prejudice for this one, mainly because I’m insanely curious about Lizzy how and Darcy’s life together would look like. But 500 pages more would probably be a bit boring.
  28. Favorite children’s classic?
    Secret Garden.
  29. Who recommended your first classic?
    My parents, in their own way. They never said I should read this or read that, they just bought new books for me and put them on my bookshelf. Whenever I got bored with all the books I’d already read, I would pull out new ones.
  30. Whose advice do you always take when it comes to literature. (Recommends the right editions, suggests great titles, etc.)
    Well, Barry Pierce gives solid recommendations, I almost always listen to him.
  31. Favorite memory with a classic?
    Me in my childhood bedroom in Korea, reading this awesome translation of Little Women over and over in all seasons.
  32. Classic author you’ve read the most works by?
    Jane Austen
  33. Classic author who has the most works on your club list?
    William Shakespeare
  34. Classic author you own the most books by?
    Jane Austen
  35. Classic title(s) that didn’t make it to your club list that you wish you’d included? (Or, since many people edit their lists as they go, which titles have you added since initially posting your club list?)
    Oh la, I’ll try my best to remember: The Castle of Otranto – Horace Walpole, Vathek – William Beckford, Nightmare Abbey – Thomas Love Peacock, The Best Short Stories – Guy de Maupassant, The Black Riders and Other Lines – Stephen Crane, The Warden – Anthony Trollope, The Old Curiosity Shop – Charles Dickens, Fathers and Sons – Ivan Turgenev, Howards’ End – E. M. Forster
  36. If you could explore one author’s literary career from first publication to last — meaning you have never read this author and want to explore him or her by reading what s/he wrote in order of publication — who would you explore? Obviously this should be an author you haven’t yet read, since you can’t do this experiment on an author you’re already familiar with. :) Or, which author’s work you are familiar with might it have been fun to approach this way?
    I am actually doing this with Charles Dickens, reading The Pickwick Papers, following Barry’s (s.o.) habit. I also plan on doing the same with Thomas Hardy, starting with his Desperate Remedies.
  37. How many rereads are on your club list? If none, why? If some, which are you most looking forward to, or did you most enjoy?
    I have five re-reads listed, and I’m most looking forward to Dubliners because my recollection of it is so hazy, it will be like reading for the first time!
  38. Has there been a classic title you simply could not finish?
    Mmm… not yet…?
  39. Has there been a classic title you expected to dislike and ended up loving?
    Actually, yes. Wuthering Heights because everyone said it was complicated/weird/crazy. And The Adventures of Tom Sawyer because I didn’t expect it to be so fun!
  40. Five things you’re looking forward to next year in classic literature?
    Keeping up with my monthly reading themes, reading titles like North and South, Wives and Daughters, Persuasion and Middlemarch so I can watch their respective adaptations, re-reading Sense and Sensibility now that I have watched its BBC adaptation (2008) twice, buying more classics and stroking their covers, reading a Russian classic to find out whether they really drink their tea with jam.
  41. Classic you are DEFINITELY GOING TO MAKE HAPPEN next year?
    North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, I swear!
  42. Classic you are NOT GOING TO MAKE HAPPEN next year?
    Probably Brothers Karamazov, among loads of other titles.
  43. Favorite thing about being a member of the Classics Club?
    Being exposed to the small nudges and foods for thought brought by the brilliant TCC admins!
  44. List five fellow clubbers whose blogs you frequent. What makes you love their blogs?
    Oh, dear. Are you going to be mad when I say I check some new blogs out every now and then but don’t really follow any of them?
  45. Favorite post you’ve read by a fellow clubber?
    These posts about Paradise Lost because they have made the book more relatable and not just scary landmark to be crossed off the list.
  46. If you’ve ever participated in a readalong on a classic, …
    I haven’t. I’m usually too disorganized to join.
  47. If you could appeal for a readalong with others for any classic title, which title would you name? Why?
    Probably one of Shakespeare’s plays like As You Like It or Twelfth Night because plays are harder to understand than novels, and I’d welcome all the new perspectives and information that comes along with readalong.
  48. How long have you been reading classic literature?
    If you count children’s classics as well, since I was eight or nine. If you only count “adult” classics, since 2009. But it’s been (and still is, to be honest) only a side genre to explore, never a main one.
  49. Share up to five posts you’ve written that tell a bit about your reading story. Reviews, journal entries, posts on novels you loved or didn’t love, lists, etc.
    A Little Chronology about the classics I’m reading for this challenge; Why I Think It’s Important (For Me) to Start Reviewing Regularly; Looking Back; Reading: A Solitary Activity Again
  50. Which country’s classics have you read most? Which other countries would you like to read more of? (personal question)
    I have mostly read British classics and a handful of German ones but I would like to read Russian literature and also Asian classics.

The Classics Club Challenge (6)

I haven’t posted an update for several months because there was nothing to update on. In September, though, I made a come-back in reading classics! So here’s what’s happening now…

News #1: I’ve finished Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott – it was about time!

News #2: I’m currently reading The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens. I am determined to finish this by the end of November, so my plan is to read two chapters every day. I’m behind on today’s assignment – Chapter 11 and 12 – but it’s actually quite jolly. Tupman’s a melodramatic, Snodgrass has an artistic air, Winkle’s a dear and Pickwick’s sometimes so serious that I can’t make fun of him! Now I can see why Meg chose to be P and Jo the S. I’m still quite puzzled about Beth’s choice (T) and Amy’s (W). I suppose I haven’t found out more about Winkle yet to form more than a vague opinion of him.

News #3: It’s been more than a year since I joined TCC Challenge! The anniversary was supposed to take place in early October – the 7th, to be exact – but I was neck-deep in my paper-writing so that went right out the window. Now yesterday was the 13-months-anniversary, which makes today 13-months-and-a-day anniversary, I suppose. So! By now I should have read at least 10 classics to be on “schedule”. Well, I’ve read four. I’m not really worried or anxious or stressed or anything because when I entered the challenge I wanted to give myself an incentive for reading more classics, not an ulcer.

Now let’s carry on with our delightful readings that may enrich our minds and souls!

November Reading Theme

What-ho, people! Since The Classics Club is hosting a Victorian Literature Month and coupled with The Pickwick Papers read-along over at An Armchair By The Sea, I suddenly had an idea how to shape my reading in November.

The read-along starts mid-November but since I will try to finish the book by the end of this month, I’ll have to start reading The Pickwick Papers earlier. It’s a huge book, so that will have to be the only classic for the month. Going along with the Victorian theme, however, I will (obviously) reading Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger as well as The Traitor in the Tunnel by Y. S. Lee. So I’ve got three books to look forward to that are all set in Victorian England – one classic, one steampunk, one historical fiction!

Who needs the present anyway? Right?

The Pickwick Papers (Wordsworth Editions, black)Waistcoats & WeaponryThe Traitor in the Tunnel