Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

I grew up hearing about the famous Slaughterhouse-five and when I finally read it I must say I was disappointed by all the hype. I started reading the novel thinking it was a science-fiction novel and while I still agree it is one must not read it as if it is SciFi. The reason for this is I was expecting something like off the SciFi channel and what I really got was a bitter old man who had a dry and dark sense of humor. It didn’t make me enjoy the story less but trying to read it as a science fiction novel was disappointing. Reading it as someone who was trying to recall the most traumatic¬†event of his life and put it into words, helped a lot more than looking for killing aliens.

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I didn’t know quite what to make of Slaughterhouse-five but somewhere in chapter seven Vonnegut explains that it was easier talking about what happened to him in Dresden if he wrote it as a science fiction story than trying to remember what actually happened. Most of the time when we read a war story we want the blood, gore and violence because usually brave acts come with these but in reality they were just children trying to survive while being constantly shot at. The book is more aptly named The Children’s Crusade because it isn’t a glamorous war story because war isn’t glamorous. Thanks to Hollywood children grow up believing war is glorious and something everyone should want to do. That’s not true and above all that is what Vonnegut was trying to say in his novel.

It’s actually a pretty quick read and everything stated in the book is pretty straight-forward. I wouldn’t necessarily say it is the best read aloud in a high school classroom nor necessarily a book to study in the classroom but I wouldn’t hesitate recommending it to students and discussing it with. It takes a different perspective on war and one that I think all people should know.

-A

King Henry VIII and the Tempest: Shakespeare’s Romances/Histories

After reading King Henry VIII and the Tempest I can understand where people would think they are romances but personally I think they should be considered History plays instead of romances albeit The Tempest has more characteristics of a romance then King Henry VIII does.

 

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King Henry VIII is the history surrounding his famous divorce from Catherine of Aragon and his marriage to Anne Boleyn. It also covers the other trials of various “traitors” and even Cardinal Wolsey. Honestly it has been a while since I read it but from what stood out to me the most about this play was the portrayal of Catherine and Anne. Catherine was seen as very sympathetic and Anne was simply in the background as far as the plot line goes. She only has lines in one act of the play and the scene she is, is her coronation and then she disappears from the play. Scholars say that has something to do with Queen Elizabeth being on the throne or King James but honestly I think it was nice seeing Catherine as sympathetic because too often the focus is on Anne Boleyn and her beheading. Countless books and movies have been dedicated to poor Anne Boleyn but what of King Henry’s wife Catherine of thirty plus years? I would much prefer to watch or read a story about her and the divorce trial because there was more to it than King Henry’s wandering eye. Shakespeare’s play did a very good job of exploring that different side of history.

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I didn’t enjoy the Tempest very much nor did I enjoy the movie version by Julie Taymor. It wasn’t exciting enough for me and the overall depiction of the native Caliban just reminded me of early colonization and my overall hatred of people who categorize people as “other” based on something about their appearance, personality, religion, etc. I couldn’t sympathize with Prospero or Miranda, even though I think she is a very much overlooked character. Miranda was an extremely strong female and she had Ferdinand wrapped around her little finger. I didn’t believe very strongly in their love story either because the whole play occurred in the period of three hours and even most disney princesses take longer than three hours to fall in love. I liked the character of Ariel and in the time period I would understand why this story would appeal to Elizabethans, the new world and all, but to someone in the twenty-first century whose idea of exploring new lands is Mars, it is just not exciting.

-A

The girl who was a Ravenclaw

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I wanted to start of this blog post with a inspirational or favorite quote from Harry Potter but I couldn’t think of one without looking it up on the internet or choosing a rather inappropriate one involving Mrs. Weasley and Bellatrix. Honestly I’m not even a potterhead or someone that could tell you obscure facts about the wizarding world. I don’t follow J.K. Rowling on Twitter (or maybe I do), and I most definitely did not read The Cursed Child. It took until Deathly Hallows part two to motivate me to watch all the movies. I scroll past articles about Harry Potter like the plague and I don’t engage in Harry Potter related conversations. My cousin is just now getting into Harry Potter and she talks about it a lot and while I want to join in I just don’t. Why is that?

There is an answer in my head and I have tried to explain it in the past but have never been able to put down into words what the Harry Potter series did to me. It isn’t something bad before you start forming ideas in your head but it is something extremely difficult to describe. I was obsessed with HP. It wasn’t just that I read the books in under two months, it was that every waking moment of the summer before seventh grade was spent thinking about Harry Potter and to this day I cannot think about HP without getting some weird feeling of nostalgia. I have never felt this way about a fantasy world before or even a book. HP became my world, my thoughts and it literally consumed me. Looking back I don’t consider this a bad thing because that summer was rough and HP was like coming home but I never wanted to become so obsessed again that I forget it isn’t real. HP helped me through a rough spot, and the books are amazing and everything everyone says they are, but for me it was like I stepped through a portal in HP’s world and when the books ended I stepped back through to reality. That transition was rough and because of that I promised myself I would never obsess over a book or series ever again. I locked HP away inside of me because it was so special and magical. I never wanted to open that world again because it brought up that painful transition that Harry, Ron and Hermoine weren’t real and they weren’t my friends and that it was all a fantasy. It just sucked. When the last movie came out I was able to move on and explore other worlds and yet still look back on the books with fond memories. Their hold on me was over.

Fast forward to 2016 when J.K. Rowling decides there will be an eighth book and actually it will be a play, and she won’t actually have written it. I was angry. HP was very dear to me and after having locked it away for so long I was angry it was being reopened and the magic was being stolen. The magic was stolen because every book has this magical thing called the ending. When the book is over the reader is left to decide the lives of the characters and when after almost a decade later you decide that you will finish the story, you literally crush all those magical moments readers created. Fanfic is my favorite thing because it allows the reader to integrate themselves into the world and to allow them some of the magic. When things become cannon however, those Fanfics are thrown out because while at one time they may have been seen as potential cannon, we know they are no longer possible and it ruins the magic of the imagination and the possibility. I wanted to be left in the dark about Harry’s children and how they turned out because it left some of the magic alive. I was able to imagine how they turned out and my cousin was able to imagine how they turned out. I grew up with Harry and just like his future I want my future left wide open for me to imagine all sorts of possibilities. I don’t want my life set in stone and that’s what happened when J.K. Rowling kept releasing information about HP. She was taking away the magic from the imagination and setting Harry Potter’s future in stone instead of letting her readers decide how they wanted it to end. Harry’s whole life had been written down for us, now it was our chance to decide how the story should end and that is what I think is most magical about stories, their endings because the rest is left up to the reader no matter how the story ends.

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This simple picture sums up exactly how I feel because J.K. Rowling was no longer screwing with the unforeseen future, she was revealing the past. Harry’s future was left uncertain because as readers we wanted to imagine what happened but the past was in the past. There is no way to screw with back story because technically it already happened. I loved this movie and every time I talk about it I gush like a fan girl (because I am one) but more importantly because it was so good. It brought me back to that summer and instead of reopening Harry Potter, it just reopened the wizarding world. New characters, new places. The wizarding world is larger than we think and J.K. Rowling just gave us another piece of it but in such a way I didn’t feel like she was stealing, she was giving us something. She was revealing the past, bringing us back to the wizarding world but she wasn’t trying to continue the story. Instead she created another story within the same world we love and that is why everyone should see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them because it’s like going home and finding a new adventure every time.