Friday Favorites 6

This town:

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There is a town in Maryland named Chevy Chase.

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Not after this man, although that’s what I thought at first.

This Chevy Chase’s real name is Cornelius.  According to Wikipedia (only the most reliable sources for you, dear reader),

“Chase was named for his adoptive grandfather Cornelius, while the nickname Chevy was bestowed by his grandmother, derived from the medieval English The Ballad of Chevy Chase. As a descendant of the Scottish Clan Douglas, the name “Chevy” seemed appropriate to her.”

And according to the town of Chevy Chase’s website,

“The name … can be traced to the larger tract of land called “Cheivy Chace” that was patented to Colonel Joseph Belt from Lord Baltimore on July 10, 1725. It has historic associations to a 1388 battle between Lord Percy of England and Earl Douglas of Scotland. At issue in this “chevauchee” (a Scottish word describing a border raid) were hunting grounds or a “chace” in the Cheviot Hills of Northumberland and Otterburn.”

Further research into The Ballad of Chevy Chase reveals that actually, it refers to the same battle (mentioned in the previous passage) between Lord Percy and Earl Douglas, a “chevauchee.”

So, both comedian and small Maryland town are named after the same 1388 border dispute in the Cheviot Hills of Scotland.

This is why I love history.

This TV ad:

Now, I’m not saying that I don’t think it’s a good idea to create a flu vaccine that can be sprayed instead of injected.  I’m just saying that I first saw this commercial while SNL was on, and until the very end, I was convinced that it was a skit.  I thought, something this odd can’t possibly be a real flu vaccine commercial.

Boy, was I wrong.  It’s real.

Second 22-25 is my favorite part, but the scene in which the whole family struts down the street wearing those nose superhero masks is pretty great as well.

These memes:

I’ve been a meme fiend this week.  I literally spent a good amount of time googling “Henry VII memes,” “Mad Men memes,” and “Teddy Roosevelt memes.”  Pathetic?  Yes.  Fruitful? Yes.

Here are some of the best I dug up:

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And now, a series entitled “Mean Mad Men:” Scenes from Mad Men captioned with Mean Girls quotes.  I can’t believe it, either.

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I should mention that I am currently working on a full post about Mad Men.  Because if any show deserves a full post (well, aside from Dawson’s Creek), it’s Mad Men.

This angry celebrity:

Given, he’s not very specific about the contents of his “revolution.”  But Russell Brand has some interesting things to say.  And he’s more eloquent than you might think.

This book:

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After a summer-long hiatus following my Honors Capstone Project, I am once again reading Virginia Woolf.  This is my first time through The Years, and I have to say, it’s strange to read Woolf knowing I won’t be back in Woolf Lit on Monday to discuss the latest.  I’ve been doing all right muddling through on my own, although I worry that I’m missing some richness that could only be uncovered in an academic setting. Reading with a pen helps.  Here are some of the beauties I’ve underlined so far:

“Is this death? Delia asked herself.  For a moment there seemed to be something there.  A wall of water seemed to gape apart; the two walls held themselves apart” (44, Harcourt edition pictured above).

“One after another the bells of Oxford began pushing their slow chimes through the air.  They tolled ponderously, unequally, as if they had to roll the air out of their way and the air was heavy” (47).

“Well, since it was impossible to read and impossible to sleep, she would let herself be thought.  It was easier to act things out than to think them … She stretched herself out.  Where did thought begin” (125)?

“For it was October, the birth of the year” (86).

Happy weekend, friends.

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English Majors Unite

I finished The White Forest tonight, tried simultaneously to go slowly and savor the words and to speed through to the ending.  And then I sat for a few minutes and missed the concept of English classes.  Of walking daily into an hour and twenty minutes of literary discussion.  I want a professor to deliver some compact lecture on the Victorian obsession with the occult.  I want to “throw some themes on the board,” as we used to say.  There was a love triangle in novel, there was a question of humanness, of otherness.  There was sisterhood and the familiar notion of a terrible, beautiful female goddess. (here we’ll veer into feminist topics, boldly and on purpose)  There was nature, pristine and set in deliberate contrast to industrial London.

I would like to sit in a circle with some bona fide English majors and pare this novel into delicate shreds until we’re all laughing and no longer know when we crossed the wavering line that is over-analyzing.

I suppose what it means to graduate is not that you’ve learned all you’ll need to succeed in the world, but that you’ve learned how to learn on your own.

But honestly, where’s the fun in that?

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Top Ten Favorite Pieces of Contemporary Literature (Part 1)

I was too late applying for a job today.  The posting was still on the company’s website, but the deadline at the bottom was August 12th.  I sent an email anyway, asking if the position had already been filled.  And if not, if I could send my application and begin dedicating various lucky charms toward the cause.  Sarah, who responded to my email, said in the friendliest way that the position had been filled, but that I should check back later.

I will certainly do so.

But what made me want the position badly enough to send that email in the first place was that applicants were asked to include–along with cover letter, resume, writing sample (the usual)–a list of their ten favorite pieces of contemporary literature.

Let me tell you.  I’ve applied for many a publishing job.  At larger and more prominent publishing houses.  But not one has asked me for such a list.

This is strange, because it seems to me that for one to work in publishing, one must be first and foremost a reader.  A crazed, midnight oil burning, Half Price Books residing, I can’t sleep until I know this character will be all right reader.  Able to recite the red wheelbarrow poem on demand.  Able to explain the origins of Samuel Clemens’ pseudonym without pause.  Unable to use the term “Harry Potter English Major,” because, Good Lord, all readers are wonderful and miraculous and welcome.  And we all have guilty secrets.

The entire Twilight Saga is on my bookshelf right now.  In hardback.  I am not ashamed.

But mostly, readers delight in such lists.  That’s why, if I might be so brash, I’d like to make my list now.  And to make it even thought August 12th is long past.

Don’t think of this as my desperate plea for that job that got away.  Think of it as the kind of opportunity I wait all year for.

Holly’s Ten Favorite Pieces of Contemporary Literature (in no particular order, because I couldn’t possibly):

1. Into the Wild.  This book served as my introduction to creative nonfiction.  It showed me that true stories could be told in literary prose.  Jon Krakauer told us about Chris McCandless without presuming to know him.  And more importantly, without presuming to criticize him.  I like an author humble enough to give you the facts, set the scene, and then back off.

2. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.  Tell me how overdone Hamlet plots are and I’ll smirk and hand you this book.  I haven’t yet been able to describe the plot without making it sound silly (it’s not) and as if it’s for young people (it’s not).  The prose in Edgar Sawtelle is breathtaking.  The story is set in the Chequamegon National Forest in Northern Wisconsin (my childhood stomping grounds).  And I’ve never wanted to bring a character to life more than I’ve wanted Almondine to be real.  Almondine is a Sawtelle dog.  You’ll know what I mean when you read the book.

3. Never Let Me Go.  I am not a professional reviewer.  My adjective pool is somewhat shallow.  The word flawless comes to mind, however.  Heartbreaking.  Eerie.  Masterfully layered.  I read this book when I need a lesson on how to reveal a world slowly, subtly.

Expect the next three on my list in the next post.  You didn’t think I wouldn’t prolong this delight, did you?  Whew double negative.  I’ll just leave that there.

Wild Horses, Wild Horses, Wild Horses

I’m working on an elaborate review of a play I recently saw, and a saga concerning a certain celebrity I may or may not have seen.  In the meantime, I thought I’d post a poem I first read during my sophomore year of college.  My professor for American Literature from the 19th Century Forward (actual course title) is of American Indian heritage, and so she introduced us to several American Indian authors. I remembered Sherman Alexie, whose young adult novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian I had read and loved in high school.  Also, randomly, because my buddy Brandon came through for me, I have Sherman Alexie’s autograph–scribbled on a blank piece of notebook paper–tucked away somewhere.  Anyway, here’s my favorite Alexie poem, mostly because of those last two lines.

At Navajo Monument Valley Tribal School

By Sherman Alexie

the football field rises
to meet the mesa. Indian boys
gallop across the grass, against

the beginnings of their body.
On those Saturday afternoons,
unbroken horses gather to watch

their sons growing larger
in the small parts of the world.
Everyone is the quarterback.

There is no thin man in a big hat
writing down all the names
in two columns: winners and losers.

This is the eternal football game,
Indians versus Indians. All the Skins
in the wooden bleachers fancydancing,

stomping red dust straight down
into nothing. Before the game is over,
the eighth-grade girls’ track team

comes running, circling the field,
their thin and brown legs echoing
wild horses, wild horses, wild horses.

My Favorite Shakespeare Play

The very first play we read in my Shakespeare class was Romeo and Juliet.  I was disgusted to see it listed on the syllabus, and huffed about the assignment with others in the class.

“But we read it in high school!” We exclaimed in mock-polite whispers,  “We discussed every scene at length, we watched the old version of the movie and then the Leo version.  We giggled when our teacher ran up to the monitor to cover up Juliet’s naked chest in the old version (although my high school teacher forgot, and couldn’t fast forward in time.  Poor Mrs. Stark.  She fueled many a cafeteria discussion that day).  We read scenes aloud, and acted them out in groups of three.  What else can we say about it?  It’s terribly romantic, and terribly tragic, but we have absolutely nothing more to say.”

But then I finally settled down on my bed, heavy Riverside Shakespeare in my lap.  And I began to read.

And, as you’ve probably suspected from the beginning of this post, I found a few things I hadn’t noticed as a sixteen-year-old.  I found that Juliet is far more aggressive than Romeo in hashing out the details of their union.  She utterly dominates the balcony scene; she is far from swooning against the rail.

I found that we might think of Verona as a sick city.  It’s not just the quarreling, it’s not just this certain couple and these certain families; the entire city is in a state of ruin.  There is plague, there is lack of faith, there is a gloominess that seeps up from the streets.

I found that I was disgusted by the adults in the play.  These poor kids are all of thirteen and sixteen, wading through strife and first love and big decisions, and they have no one to turn to.  Even Friar Lawrence, who is their supposed ally, cannot do more than give them a secret marriage and drug Juliet into a coma.  Furthermore, when he finally decides to get his act together and venture out of his cell, he is too late.  Romeo has slain himself, and Juliet has just awaken, understandably aghast.  And what does dear Fr. Lawrence do?  He runs!  He hears the guards coming, and he runs, advising Juliet to flee too as an afterthought.  Of course Juliet doesn’t, and therein we find our tragedy.

I found, finally, and perhaps most importantly, how very beautiful of a play it is.  Half of the romantic language we spout on Valentine’s Day is from Romeo and Juliet.  It is the first and last word on the subject of love.  Everyone knows it, and everyone wishes, in some small part of themselves, that their lives could be as struck with passion.

“It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden;/Too like the lightning, which doth cease to be/Ere one can say ‘It lightens.'”

“O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!/It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night/Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear”

“What, drawn, and talk of peace!/I hate the word as I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee”

English majors are fond of asking one another what their favorite Shakespeare plays are.  You get an approving nod if you say Hamlet or Macbeth, a fond grin if you say A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and a round of impressed applause if you say one of the histories.  No one ever dares to say Romeo and Juliet.  For, as I’ve said, that’s a high school play.  I myself have been saying Hamlet for four comfortable years now.  But perhaps, having rediscovered the tragic lovers; having written a long, rambling blog post; having sworn that the world simply cannot do without; I will finally get up my gall and be truthful:

My favorite Shakespeare play is Romeo and Juliet.  And I am not ashamed.

Weekend Plans

Folks, there’s a lot to look forward to this weekend.

1. The Vikings/Packers game tomorrow evening.  I will certainly be supporting the Vikes, although I’m worried; when the Vikings go to Lambeau, things tend to go awry.

2. Season three of Downton Abbey premieres on Sunday.  How I love my period dramas.

3. A reunion with my middle school English teacher and with one of my best middle school buddies.

4. General merriment.  It’s my last weekend at home, and I’ll certainly enjoy sleep and family to the fullest.  A few games of broomball and Mexican train will likely ensue.

 

What Went Down

I want to talk to you about Wednesday and Thursday, as I’ve been building up those two days since the dawn of time (or since last week, at least).

Wednesday was my senior seminar presentation.  Basically, having cut down my twelve page research paper about fortune’s role in Pandosto down to eight pages, I proceeded to read those eight pages to an audience of professors, classmates, friends, and (bless them) my parents.  It sounds boring, doesn’t it, to read an eight page literary analysis to a crowd of people (many of whom were not, nor had any desire to be, English majors)?  Well, it sort of was, but I tried to use everything that I learned in high school speech.  I stood up straight, I used my clearest, loudest voice, and I tried to put feeling into my words.  I care a great deal about my topic, and I viewed my presentation as a chance to make the audience care as well, at least a little bit.

My legs were shaking for the first few pages, but then I began to enjoy myself (as I always do), and when I would look up from the page, I would see my advisor listening carefully in the back, or my friend Ben grinning, or my Dad enduring nobly.  It felt a great deal like my birthday party in that I felt supported and celebrated and (I’ll admit only to you) a tad teary.  Then there was applause, and it was over.

A few days later, I got an email from my professor containing my presentation rubric: I got a 99%.  The 1% deduction, she explained, was because I had pronounced a word wrong.  I’m not overly upset about that one, however, as it was spelled strangely in the citation I read it from, and thus I didn’t recognize it to be the word it actually was, and thus pronounced it the way I saw it, and not the way I knew the word it actually was should be pronounced (whew).

Thursday was my Teach for America final interview.  I’m not going to go into detail about this one, as we’re under an oath of confidentiality, but I think I can tell you that I rocked it.  That sounds arrogant.  I know it does.  But honestly, there’s no other way to describe how well I feel I did.  Despite having gotten five hours of sleep both Tuesday night and Wednesday night, and despite having had to navigate to/through Minneapolis at the crack of dawn, I was at the absolute top of my game.  I was confident and energetic in every step of the interview, and am now even more convinced that Teach for America is what I want to be doing a year from now.  I won’t find out until early January if I got into the corps.  If I got in, further, the same email will also tell me which region I’ll be teaching in, and which grade/subject I’ll be teaching.

It’s a long wait, but I’m not anxious about the results.  I’ve done my best, and have sought to represent myself accurately and positively throughout the admissions process.  It’s nice to know that if I don’t make the cut, then there must be a qualification or trait that I don’t possess.  It won’t be because I didn’t perform as well as I could have.

Those were the “biggies,” if you will.  I still have one five-page and one ten-page paper to write, my senior seminar paper to turn in (after some fairly minor editing), and two final exams to take.

I also want to mention that I’ve noticed more and more people have been following my blog lately.  Thank you!  I get excited with every single new follow I see, and I encourage you to comment on a post if you have a question/opinion or want to say hi.