Closing – Irish Literature

So I decided that I was going to read Joyce’s Dubliners, Edna O’Brien’s The Love Object, and Ethel Rohan’s Out of Dublin in December and January. I was really looking forward to it, too. Truth be told, though, I didn’t feel like reading – at all – in January. I did start reading two short stories each day from The Love Object, but I didn’t finish it. I have read the first 21 stories out of 31, so my review will be about those 21 stories in overview.

There are some constants in Edna O’Brien’s stories, and there are some recurring themes.
Nature – be it a remote village in deep winter or seaside in the middle of a storm or a jarring urban city – sets an underlying tone in every story, it seems. Sometimes it plays a big role, sometimes it is more subtle in its existence. These stories are also about women. In most of the stories they are the protagonists and narrators. We see their hopes and fears and scars, their relationships to men and to other women, their serenity and insanity. The third permanent fixture in every story is the element of love. The love for family, for their village, for life, for traditions, for men, for women, for strangers. The passionate kind, the desperate, the platonic, the nostalgic, the sorrowful, the fanatic, the exhausting, the dying kind. Some stories focus on one of these kinds of love while others show the evolution of feelings.
Edna O’Brien’s stories contain a lot of contrasting between country/city, different aspects of child-parent relationships, religion – some embracing, some running away from, some just as undercurrent – women hurt by men or by the patriarchal world.

Not all of her stories are set in Ireland but there are a few that focus on the Irish – the land, the people and their way of thinking. Some stories are connected, such as Number Ten and Mrs. Reinhardt, and some characters (e.g. Long John from Irish Revel and Tough Men) appear in more than one story. Some stories have a lot of names and in others we never get to know the narrator’s name.

I especially found the stories Irish Revel, A Scandalous Woman, The Rug, Sister Imelda, A Rose in the Heart of New York, The Love Object, Number Ten, Mrs. Reinhardt, What a Sky and Paradise to be touching and heart-breaking. Some women in these stories never realize their potential, or stop to even think about what they want in their lives. Others are bound by religion and tradition in Ireland, while yet others are torn apart by them. Two stories – A Rose in the Heart of New York and What a Sky, deal with the estrangement of a parent and a child, and the difficulty to overcome it. The first story of this collection, Irish Revel, is the most uplifting one (so far) and also the most vivid one – I can almost smell the sharp wintry air of rural Ireland, feel the warmth from the fire in the room and from the alcohol in the drink, and relate to Mary’s confused uncomfortableness.

The Love Object is not a short story collection that contains only a few good stories and a sea of mediocre ones. Its stories are not repetitive or non-discriptive. I truly believe that each story has something to give to you – something to mull over, some feeling, some insight. It is very character-driven but not boring or “slow”. Every story has some closure to it even though it can be a really sad one.

the month of mental strain

Writing – when I am not trying to write something fictional – used to come naturally to me. The first sentences would flow through my head, giving me some strands to work with. I used to feel the need to get those sentences out on a paper or on my laptop. And after I was done, I used to feel this relief, quiet happiness and calm.

In January I did not want to write at all. It was as if the writing part of me – which is the most unknown but in a way the most important part of me – had suddenly died. In hindsight maybe it is more apt to say it went under, that it was slumbering.

December was a month of physical strain for me. I had taken on more workload than I can calmly and skillfully manage, and it was suffocating me. As usual, I’d expected myself a lot more than I can fulfill, so I can later hate myself or something. I was ill for two weeks, and exhaustion was my constant companion. So at the end of December, I requested a leave of absence from my voluntary work, silently cut off one class, and gave myself more breathing room.

Then January came, and at first I slugged through the huge workload – exams coming up in mid-February! -, the stress, the occasional sharp and sudden pangs of longing for my family. I woke up, I ate, I went to classes, I studied, I returned home, I slept. But even that pretense of normalcy stopped about ten days ago.
It started with a migraine – and wow, do I wish I will never have to experience that ever again – and maybe that was a part of me saying that I need to stop a damn second and look around myself. So I stopped. I only went to classes I really have to go to. I stopped the weekly apartment cleaning. I ate what I felt like eating. I watched LOTS of Gilmore Girls because it soothed me, let me forget the reality, and inspired me.
Behind that migraine was not only my stress about the exams or fear of my inadequacy. Nope, there was my toxic relationship to my father, my friend’s toxic relationship to an abuser, and me losing the sight of what I wanted. I felt – feel – lost in the sea of strangers telling me what I should do, of my imaginations of strangers telling me what I should do, of silent expectations, of the naked terror of having to rely on myself, and myself only, to pull through this muddy, sticky, toxic mess. Every breath I took settled on my chest like a lead weighing me down, down, down, pulling me under. Whenever I am feeling like I am under attack, and alarms are flashing, my vulnerability does not allow me to share any of these with anyone. At least until I am ready. That’s why I didn’t write at all in January, I suppose.

When I reach the bottom of all this – mental collapse? – there is always this question, nagging me, making me doubt, creating this huge mess. Is what I am doing right? Is this what I should be doing? There is a problem in this line of thinking, and that’s that I let myself – still! After all the years and exercises of banishment! – think that there is something I should be doing, some sort of unwritten rule of my destiny, a cosmic reckoning, whatever.

The only thing that I know, and this knowledge comes from deep within myself, is that I need to write. Write, write, write. Write something, anything! Write something intelligent, silly, suspenseful, boring, personal, small talk-ish chitchat, diary, report, research paper, whatever. Writing is an integral part of me. I knew it when I decided to become a writer in the fifth grade or so, my English teachers knew it when they encouraged me to write more, my mother knew it in some way when she said, over and over, that my writings had some sort of living essence. Of course, she discouraged me from winning my bread from writing only because that’s what parents usually do. Today I wish that she would trust me more, at least enough to recognize that I know what to do with my gifts. I wish that my family had encouraged me to write more, try out different kinds of writing, that they had accepted writing to be a big part of me. But I do understand that they were all busy with their lives, they wanted me to be “realistic”, they are more terrified of poverty than I am and not just because I am “still young, oh-so-idealistic”. I am plenty afraid of poverty. Just not enough to let it dictate my life. So instead of embracing the core of me, I am keeping this blog (and plenty others that came before this) a semi-secret. (I do not feel the urge to make my blog wildly public to everyone I know but I am not going to lie about its existence or anything.)

I do not have this deep, innate sense of knowing with law. I think, I believe, I would be saying the same thing had I studied English Literature instead of Law. There is some relief and consolation in that. But while I don’t know whether studying law is part of me, I do enjoy it. I don’t enjoy the exams, I’m not a lunatic. But I do enjoy getting to know the systems, the rationales behind them, and how we could make them better. That’s why it would be a pity if I failed the exams three times and got expelled. And my fear of doing exactly that is what drives me bonkers every time before the exams. On the one hand I don’t believe I am going to fail the exams. I mean hey, I know something, so I should be able to get it coherently on paper, right? But once I take a look at the details, this sudden terror grips me and I think Holy shit there is still so MUCH I don’t know, I am totally going to fail!
… I hope my professors take pity on us students.

Oh, and I feel much better now.

I am waiting for the other shoe to drop

You squeeze me and say you missed me.
I smile, a fist loosens as I hear your mood.
Inside I am wondering when that nastiness is going to creep out,
Scalding and scraping me raw – again.

You say you love me, an expectant, grand gesture.
I say yeah, hmmm, I wish I could lie.
Inside I am waiting for you to list all the conditions I have to fulfill –
So that you will love me.

You write it’s okay, that you respect my choice.
Where is the quick frown, the impatience telling me not to be stupid?
Inside I tremble with exhaustion and paralysis –
When are you going to change your mind?

Your gifts pile up, cent for cent,
As my guilt rises up, sloshing around my torso
Inside I am calculating how much I will have to pay later –
To repay my debts, plus interest.

You tell me childhood stories.
Funny how you are never in them.
Inside I know nothing will change; no wait –
It’s getting worse.

I was taught, by you, for every niceness
There is another shoe to drop,
Another foot to kick me, trample me,
Another whip to make me bleed,
Another tear to slide down,
Another wave of inadequacy to drown my worthless self.

I am tired. Exhausted, pissed, finished.
Confused, shaky, anxious.
Can’t breathe. Paralysis. Can’t. Breathe.
Why can’t you just leave me alone, the way you have when I needed you the most?

You spit on my self-worth because you made me.
What else could I wish for but to please you, worship you, service you?
You don’t give a shit. You’re only making yourself believe you do.
If I don’t do what you want, I am worthless, selfish, cruel, a monster, a machine, a loser, failure.
All this because I dare to be a feeling human, a child.

Every time I want to hug you and slap you.
Because after all this time, I am still afraid to hate you.
But I am trying. I am a big shot now, with my own head, heart and soul.
And yet every time you approach me as a friend,
I am waiting for the other shoe to drop
Because it’s never far away.

Reading and blogging in 2015

This is not about my reading & writing resolutions for 2015. For me personally, new year’s resolutions are bullshit. I forget about them a few weeks after making them anyway. I set my goals too high and end up being irked that I didn’t meet them by the end of the year.

I do have plans, though, and I’d like to share them with you.

Reading-wise, I do not have a specific number of books I want to read. As briefly mentioned before, I am going to stop separating my new reads and re-reads – they are to be treated equally. Genre-wise, I’d like to read more non-fiction, especially those with a personal touch such as memoirs or essays, and literary fiction. I can slowly feel my tastes changing, and the fact is that I am leaning away from most of YA fiction and Nora Roberts (although I still have a lot of unread books in those areas, so I am still going to read them as my mood strikes).
I’d like to keep on doing my monthly reading themes because they help me to approach a new terrain with a sense of excitement. I also plan on reading classics for my Classics Club Challenge (by now I’m about 6 or 7 classics behind…), and especially North and South is a must-read because I promised in my Classics Club Questionnaire! I’d also like to read Twelfth Night since I just watched a 1996 adaptation of it and was highly amused, although I do tend to think my life experiences are not yet ripe enough for Shakespeare.
Ever since introducing my filter-system, I rarely buy books I end up regret doing so, so no problems there.

As to blogging, as long as I keep doing it, I am happy. Although I did realize that especially last year, a personal touch was missing. I do write in private on paper almost every day now but publishing them online to the whole wide world feels awkward. And yet there is this desire for me to do it – so I will, every once in a while.

The underlying theme in all aspects of my life, however, is practising self-care. And listening to my gut. I plan to make these my first priority, and in doing so I am trying not to feel guilty or ashamed or selfish about myself.

2014 reading statistics

When I uploaded my reading statistics for 2013 last year, I honestly didn’t think I would be doing the same thing for 2014 a year later. The reason behind that, I suspect, is because I didn’t expect myself to keep blogging. But I did, and now here we are.

In 2014, I read a total of 124 books**, of which:

  • 43 were re-reads*
  • 5 were non-fiction
  • 6 were classics
  • 13 were by new authors
  • 116 were by female authors (2 were jointly written)
  • 8 were ebooks
  • 8 were novellas / short stories / extras
  • 3 were in Korean
  • 17 had (predominantly) male MCs
  • 2 had LGBTQQIA+ main character***
  • 3 had LGBTQQIA+ side characters***
  • 10 had POC main characters (heritage)***
  • 19 were written by non-American authors (nationality)

* This is the last year I will make a distinction between new reads and re-reads.
** Unlike last year, I counted the books in a bind-up edition separately.
*** Wow, my reading really lacked in diversity this year :/

Top 7 of 2014

The Perks of Being a WallflowerFangirlThe Silver Linings PlaybookThe Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round ThingsJewels of the SunTears of the MoonHeart of the Sea

Noteworthy mentions

The Body at the TowerSame DifferenceA Game of ThronesJust ListenExtremely Loud and Incredibly CloseMinimalismHARRYS LAST STAND-B-HB.inddThe Gifts of ImperfectionAristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

 

January
02 A Spy in the House (The Agency #1) by Y. S. Lee (re-read)
03 The Body at the Tower (The Agency #2) by Y. S. Lee
07 The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie
10 Same Difference by Siobhan Vivian (re-read)
12 A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1) by George R. R. Martin
19 Frost Burned (Mercy Thompson #7) by Patricia Briggs
23 Candlelight by Sara C. Roethle
2? The Winning Hand (The MacGregors #8) by Nora Roberts
27 The MacGregor Grooms (The MacGregors #9) by Nora Roberts
29 The Perfect Neighbor (The MacGregors # 10) by Nora Roberts

= 10 books

February
07 Jewels of the Sun (Gallaghers of Ardmore #1) by Nora Roberts (re-read)
08 Tears of the Moon (Gallaghers of Ardmore #2) by Nora Roberts (re-read)
10 Heart of the Sea (Gallaghers of Ardmore #3) by Nora Roberts (re-read)
14 Waking the Witch (Women of the Otherworld #11) by Kelley Armstrong (re-read)
14 Spell Bound (Women of the Otherworld #12) by Kelley Armstrong
14 Thirteen (Women of the Otherworld #13) by Kelley Armstrong
23 Just Listen by Sarah Dessen (re-read)

= 7 books

March
01 The Beautiful and the Damned by Jessica Verday
04 Princess of the Silver Woods (Princess #3) by Jessica Day George
07 Little Men by Louisa May Alcott
09 Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School #1) by Gail Carriger
10 Bright Young Things (Bright Young Things #1) by Anna Godbersen
18 All These Things I’ve Done (Birthright #1) by Gabrielle Zevin
22 Emma by Jane Austen
23 Hidden Riches by Nora Roberts

= 8 books

April
06 The Manual of Aeronautics (Leviathan guide-book) by Scott Westerfeld & Keith Thompson
07 Rapture in Death (In Death #4) by J. D. Robb (re-read)
11 Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
13 Ceremony in Death (In Death #5) by J. D. Robb (re-read)
16 Vengeance in Death (In Death #6) by J. D. Robb (re-read)
24 Fire Study (Study #3) by Maria V. Snyder
24 Power Study (Study #3.5) by Maria V. Snyder
24 Ice Study (Study #3.6) by Maria V. Snyder

= 8 books

May
01 The Playboy Prince (The Royals of Cordina #3) by Nora Roberts
02 Cordina’s Crown Jewel (The Royals of Cordina #4) by Nora Roberts
03 Curtsies & Conspiracies (Finishing School #2) by Gail Carriger
08 Reflections (Davidov #1) by Nora Roberts
08 Dance of Dreams (Davidov #2) by Nora Roberts
10 The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
10 Watch for Me by Moonlight (The Midnight Twins #3) by Jacquelyn Mitchard
13 The Name of the Star (The Shades of London #1) by Maureen Johnson
16 The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick
18 Violet by Design (Violet #2) by Melissa Walker
20 The Named (The Guardians of Time #1) by Marianne Curley (re-read)
21 The Dark (The Guardians of Time #2) by Marianne Curley
22 Mr. Harrison’s Confessions by Elizabeth Gaskell
25 The Key (The Guardians of Time #3) by Marianne Curley
27 The Doom of Griffiths by Elizabeth Gaskell

= 15 books

June
02 Skin Deep (The O’Hurleys #3) by Nora Roberts
03 Without a Trace (The O’Hurleys #4) by Nora Roberts
11 204 Rosewood Lane (Cedar Cove #2) by Debbie Macomber
13 Virgin River (Virgin River #1) by Robyn Carr
14 Bratfest at Tiffany’s (Clique #9) by Lisi Harrison
15 Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1) by Leigh Bardugo
16 Charmed and Dangerous: The Rise of the Pretty Committee (Clique #0.5) by Lisi Harrison (re-read)
18 The Unthinkable by Amanda Ripley
20 Night Shift (Night Tales #1) by Nora Roberts
21 Night Shadow (Night Tales #2) by Nora Roberts
24 Something Borrowed (SoBo #1) by Emily Giffin (re-read)
26 Alicia (Clique Summer Collection #3) by Lisi Harrison
27 Book of Shadows (Sweep #1) by Cate Tiernan (re-read)
29 The Coven (Sweep #2) by Cate Tiernan (re-read)
29 Blood Witch (Sweep #3) by Cate Tiernan (re-read)
30 Dark Magick (Sweep #4) by Cate Tiernan (re-read)

= 16 books

July
01 Awakening (Sweep #5) by Cate Tiernan (re-read)
01 Spellbound (Sweep #6) by Cate Tiernan (re-read)
06 Massie (Clique Summer Collection #1) by Lisi Harrison
06 Claire (Clique Summer Collection #5) by Lisi Harrison
08 Prom & Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg (re-read)
13 Holiday in Death (In Death #7) by J. D. Robb (re-read)
15 Conspiracy in Death (In Death #8) by J. D. Robb (re-read)
18 311 Pelican Court (Cedar Cove #3) by Debbie Macomber
20 Father’s Day by Debbie Macomber
21 The Courtship of Carol Summars by Debbie Macomber
26 River’s End by Nora Roberts
28 Sacred Sins (SS/BV #1) by Nora Roberts
30 Brazen Virtue (SS/BV #2) by Nora Roberts

= 13 books

August
07 프라하의 소녀시대 by 요네하라 마리 (서양식으로는 마리 요네하라)
19 The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot #1) by Agatha Christie
28 사금파리 한 조각, 1권 by Linda Sue Park
29 사금파리 한 조각, 2권 by Linda Sue Park

= 4 books

September
02 Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
06 The Next Always (Inn BoonsBoro #1) by Nora Roberts
08 The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su & Kate Rorick
09 The Curious Case of the Werewolf That Wasn’t, the Mummy That Was, and the Cat in the Jar (Parasol Protectorate #0.5) by Gail Carriger
14 The Last Boyfriend (Inn BoonsBoro #2) by Nora Roberts
14 The Perfect Hope (Inn BoonsBoro #3) by Nora Roberts
15 Duchessina (Young Royals #5) by Carolyn Meyer
17 The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler (re-read)
19 The Murder on the Links (Hercule Poirot #2) by Agatha Christie
21 Lovingly Alice (Alice Prequel #3) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
24 Minimalism: How to Become a Minimalist by Bekka Thomas

= 11 books

October
12 Jo’s Boys (Little Women #3) by Louisa May Alcott
14 The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Hercule Poirot #4) by Agatha Christie
18 Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School #1) by Gail Carriger (re-read)
24 Poirot Investigates (Hercule Poirot #3) by Agatha Christie
26 Mark of the Demon (Kara Gillian #1) by Diana Rowland (re-read)
27 Blood of the Demon (Kara Gillian #2) by Diana Rowland (re-read)
28 Secrets of the Demon (Kara Gillian #3) by Diana Rowland
28 Sins of the Demon (Kara Gillian #4) by Diana Rowland
31 Curtsies & Conspiracies (Finishing School #2) by Gail Carriger (re-read)

= 9 books

November
06 The Traitor in the Tunnel (The Agency #4) by Y. S. Lee
09 Vision in White (Bride Quartet #1) by Nora Roberts (re-read)
12 Bed of Roses (Bride Quartet #2) by Nora Roberts (re-read)
17 Waistcoats & Weaponry (Finishing School #3) by Gail Carriger
17 Savor the Moment (Bride Quartet #3) by Nora Roberts (re-read)
19 Happy Ever After (Bride Quartet #4) by Nora Roberts (re-read)
26 Harry’s Last Stand by Harry Leslie Smith
28 The Murder at the Vicarage (Miss Marple #1) by Agatha Christie
29 And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

= 9 books

December
01 Loyalty in Death (In Death#9) by J. D. Robb (re-read)
03 Witness in Death (In Death#10) by J. D. Robb (re-read)
05 Judgment in Death (In Death #11) by J. D. Robb (re-read)
06 The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1) by Suzanne Collins (re-read)
10 Betrayal in Death (In Death #12) by J. D. Robb (re-read)
14 Same Difference by Siobhan Vivian (re-read)
16 Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan (re-read)
18 The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown
19 The Moving Finger (feat. Miss Marple) by Agatha Christie
25 A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
29 Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
31 Storm Glass (Glass #1) by Maria V. Snyder
31 Sea Glass (Glass #2) by Maria V. Snyder
31 Spy Glass (Glass #3) by Maria V. Snyder

= 14 books