The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath by H.P. Lovecraft

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Rating: 3/5

The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath is a novella of about 40,000 words written by Lovecraft in 1927. It’s one of his later stories, and it incorporates a lot of the monsters he created in earlier works. Even though it has the usual Lovecraftian horror suspects like Nyarlathotep, the night-gaunts, and the gibbering Outer Gods, Dream-Quest is more of an adventure story than a horror story. Most of the book is Randolf Carter (the protagonist from “The Statement of Randolf Carter”) travelling across the dreamlands and talking with its various peoples and species.

It’s interesting to see how the Lovecraftian monsters go about their normal lives and see where they fit into the mythos, but this novella is almost boring enough to make you want to beat your head against the wall. There are two battles/skirmishes, and Carter gets kidnapped twice and almost dies once, but there’s not a lot of real tension because the characters aren’t fleshed out enough to get invested in. The bulk of the book is descriptions of places and races, but there’s not a whole lot going on, so it can get very boring. For someone who’s familiar with Lovecraft, though, you get a little bit of excitement from recognizing characters or creatures from other stories. Continue reading

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

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Rating: 4/5

I tried to read The Bell Jar in high school, but didn’t get very far. I had just finished reading (and loved) Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen, and so I thought I would like The Bell Jar, but I couldn’t get into it. I couldn’t understand what made a person like Esther Greenwood tick. She kept doing things that to high school me seemed like really obvious bad ideas, like accept an invitation to drink with a crowd of really sketchy-looking guys or eat seafood that’s been sitting under hot lights for a couple of hours. Adult me knows that these kinds of decisions are part peer pressure, part curiosity, and part nihilism. I also just didn’t understand what Plath was trying to do by showing the less glamorous side of being a young adult, but now I kind of get it. I think this is a book that’s specifically about young adult angst, so high school kids might find it hard to relate.

Unlike Girl, Interrupted, The Bell Jar isn’t just a book about depression, it’s also about making important adult decisions about sex and careers. Esther Greenwood’s depression stems from her weighing her life options and being unable to decide because to choose any one option, she’d have to give something else up. She could pursue a family, but she’d have to give up exciting affairs. She could pursue exciting affairs, but she’d have to give up a sense of home and continuing emotional support. She could try for a professional career in her field, but she’s worried she’s not talented or motivated enough to succeed. She could go for an easy 9-to-5 job with little responsibility, but it’s so boring she can’t focus. Esther is caught in the middle: she’s not tough enough to claw her way to the top of the field she loves, but she’s too much in love with literature to throw her pride away and take a secure boring job. Besides, everything takes some kind of effort, and Esther’s lazy af.

Well, that might not be fair to say… what looks like laziness is actually a combination of two things: passion for literature (the other side of the coin being apathy towards anything that’s not literature), and crushing depression. Continue reading

March Writing Fail

So… writing in March didn’t exactly go as planned. I kinda got busy and completely forgot about it. I did do some other writing for ExploreLivermore and I managed to finish my So Rich, So Poor review, but fiction writing kinda didn’t happen. Happy distractions abounded, from Daniel’s birthday, my mom coming to visit, and we moved our new cat into my room (bad idea as far as productivity was concerned – hard to write when you’re being headbutted, kneaded, and having your keyboard walked on).

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“Why isn’t she petting me???”

Besides the external reasons, there were internal ones as well. For the last three months, I was setting a daily wordcount goal and more-or-less hitting it, but the lack of direction and goals was demotivating and trying to come up with new ideas every time I sat down to write became exhausting. Continue reading

So Rich, So Poor by Peter Edelman

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Rating: 4

So Rich, So Poor encapsulates in 162 pages the forces that keep people in poverty in America. It’s written by Peter Edelman, a lawyer and former policy advisor to Robert F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton. He draws on fifty years of experience in government to give a perspective on poverty in its historical, political, and sociological dimensions.

The book is structured like a research paper with the facts and reasoning of his arguments bookended by an introduction and conclusion (“tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em, tell ‘em, tell ‘em what you told ‘em”). This makes it a little bit repetitive, especially about three-quarters in, but it’s set up so that the casual reader can get the general idea by reading only the introduction or conclusion.

Honestly, I still don’t have a great grip on how poverty or welfare really works after reading this book, so this “review” will mostly be notes and highlights, but hopefully it’ll still be informative and thought-provoking. Continue reading