Monday, August 26, 2013

First Grad School Reading List of Third Semester

Last month I officially began my critical thesis semester. And while all of my reading doesn't relate directly to my topic, the majority of it does. There's also a lot of craft, academic and scientific reading included in this list because I needed information to support the topic of my thesis. So here's the first bibliography for my paper, tentatively titled "Holes in Space."

Jane Eyre: A Counting Primer by Jennifer Adams, illustrated by Alison Oliver: I’ve wanted to look at this series for a while because it sounded like a creative retelling. Also, I’m always interested in books that lead children readers over the gap into adult books, and while it might take about fifteen years to go from this book to the literary classic, it seemed like a fun concept. Unfortunately, this it’s really a “kid” book—it’s more to entertain parents obsessed with gothic literature.

Wuthering Heights: A Weather Primer by Jennifer Adams, illustrated by Alison Oliver: Picked this one up too because it was a fast, easy read and sitting right there. Again, it’s for moms who love the classic and not really for kids.

The 21st Century Screenplay: A Comprehensive Guide to Writing Tomorrow's Films by Linda Aronson: I’ve never read a craft book on film writing before, and it was fascinating in a lot of ways. Aronson kept talking about “truncating” actions for keep the film short, which you don’t have to worry so much about in a novel but I wish more novels would do. She gave a lot of practical advice that was actually very helpful, but I had to wade through a lot of movie examples that weren’t very helpful because I haven’t seen them, and her analysis was often repetitive.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly: I listened to the audio version of this book when it first came out and was incredibly moved by it, but reading it as a writer was a completely different experience. I was surprised to find a lot of writing clichés in it (the MC describing herself while looking in the mirror, a lot of crying scenes, dialogue opening and closing chapters), but I also found myself not minding it so much because it’s a rich novel with an engaging story and fascinating premise. Plus, it fits my thesis so perfectly with the many different ways it approaches nonlinear storytelling that I kept getting excited by passage after passage.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King: This is a great example of in medias res, and Amy uses time clues and builds tension very well, especially outside of the three-act structure. My copy of this book is covered with sticky notes.

A Literary Analysis of Young Adult Novels with Multiple Narrative Perspectives Using a Sociocultural Lens by Melanie Debra Koss: This was a really interesting read—kind of the analytical version of my craft thesis, at least in part. While Koss was dealing mostly with multi-perspective narration rather than nonlinear storytelling, there was a lot of crossover in how modern science affects how we tell stories for young adults.

Stop the Clocks! Time and Narrative in Cinema by Helen Powell: I don’t know why more craft books on time in literature don’t exist, but I’ve found several helpful script-writing craft books. This one was a lot more interesting than I expected. I loved the concept that watching a movie is a form of time travel because you are literally watching history unfold, and that a historical piece is another way to step into the past. It got me thinking about a René Magritte surrealist painting called Time Transfixed I used to stare at for hours when I was a kid (click on the image to see a larger version). It’s amazing how all forms of art create these still-shots of time, and their meaning and perspective changes depending on what audience is receiving it and when and what’s happening in their life and the world to give it meaning. But that’s rather metaphysical for my essay, so I’ll just have to contemplate that for another time.

A Question of Time: The Ultimate Paradox edited by Scientific American: I haven’t read a physics book in years, so the learn curve is a little steeper than I expected. Luckily, this was a collection of articles, so it was fairly digestible. Reading this reaffirmed my original proposition that Einstein’s theory of relativity was really the initiating event in changing the way we look at time, and one of the articles inspired the framework I’m thinking of using for my thesis.

Monsieur Marceau: Actor Without Words by Leda Schubert, illustrated by Gérard Dubois: This is an absolutely beautiful book with spot-on illustrations and text that’s the perfect balance of history and plot. My one gripe is that it switches tense after the first few pages and then again in the middle. The adult me knows that this is a purposeful use of literary present to describe the story Marceau creates on the stage. But the child-reader me finds it an awkward and confusing shift when past tense would have worked just fine. But this was such a fascinating and well-told story that I love it anyway.

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber: I read an ARC of this book a few years ago and loved it, so when my essay topic gave me an excuse to read it again, I was totally game. This is a fantastic example of the effectiveness of in medias res in increasing tension and drawing the reader in to the action without having to slog through the set-up and backstory first. Schreiber picked the perfect spot for his flash-forward and then gives the reader a solid falling action and plenty of breathing room with denouement to leave you completely satisfied.

Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick: The more I think about this book, the more I like it, and a big part of that is because I'm totally impressed it’s intricate yet complex plot. Every word counts in this novel. Seriously, everything at the beginning comes into play in a major way at the end, and I found myself rereading entire chapters to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. Of course the title kind of implies it, but this takes Chekhov’s gun principle to an entirely new level.

The Thousand and One Nights translated by Edward Williams Lanes: I found it interesting to take a fresh look at how nonlinear storytelling was used, but I would also say that it is obviously a very primitive use in it’s simplistic timeline. Although I try to suspend my modern viewpoints and not judge the morality in classic books, the way men justify and excuse the killing of an innocent woman is quite disturbing.

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak: This book means so much to me on so many different levels, so being able to use it in my thesis is an honor. It’s all about putting enough faith in someone that they can be more than they believe they’ll ever amount to, and that is one powerful message. And it’s about having enough faith in yourself to live up to your potential. I love how it uses foreshadowing on such a literal level, and the sparse writing is simply perfect. This is the book I wish I had written.

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