Top Ten Tuesday: Literary Rebels

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new

December 11: Freebie (Make up your own topic, or use a previous TTT topic you might have missed.)

This week I decided to go with an old topic. These are some of my favorite rebellious characters in books.

1. Randal Patrick McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey– I’ve actually started to feel differently about McMurphy in recent years. When I first read this book, I was in high school and my sympathies were 100% with McMurphy as he tried to upset the routine in a  mental hospital, rallying the patients to demand better treatment. But since I started teaching, I saw how important routine is when managing large groups- especially groups of people who are vulnerable to upset and need consistency to feel safe. I started to see Nurse Rached’s reasons for wanting to run her ward the way she does, and McMurphy’s tricks (running a card game, sneaking in prostitutes) seemed like less an admirable attempt to think outside the box and more of a dangerous upset to a vulnerable population. 

2. Offred in The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood– It’s ironic that Offred’s rebellion against role that she’s been forced into as a woman, initially involves reading fashion magazines and sneaking cosmetics. Usually we see those things as part of the role into which out society pushes women. But when the basics of bodily autonomy are denied, when one’s clothing is no longer one’s choice and reading is forbidden, then secretly indulging in these ways of claiming your own identity are acts of rebellion. From these initial rebellions, Offered goes further, embarking on affair with a mean who also longs to escape Gilead. In doing so, Offred asserts her right to make choices about what she does with her mind and her body.  

3. Matilda Wormwood in Matilda by Roald Dahl– I love that this rebel us a five year old girl, who stands up to the adults who don’t live up to their responsibility to protect and care for her. In doing so she also “frees” her teacher, an adult who has been cowed by cruelty. Matilda is someone who has been told she’s powerless by everyone in her life, but flat out refuses to accept that. As a kid, I was very jealous of her ability to take power into her own hands!

4. Jane Eyre in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte– Jane is a rebel early on, with her Aunt Reed and at Lowood. But it’s really at Thornfield that she refuses to violate her principles, even when a part of her wants to. She’s given the opportunity to spend her life with the man she loves. He’s a rich man and she’ll live a life of luxury. Yes he’s secretly already married to a crazy lady, but no one has to know that. But Jane knows, and she knows that in trying to marry her anyway, without telling her, he tried to make her into something she’s not. So she leaves, even though it breaks her heart to do so. Rebelling against your own desires is one of the hardest things to do. 

5. Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell– Scarlett initially seems like a perfect southern belle. And she is, until she doesn’t get what she wants! When she’s widowed a sixteen year old Scarlett refuses to live the quiet, dignified life that society dictates for her. Instead she goes dancing. And stops wearing black. And gets remarried. Her rebellions continue as she insists on living on her own terms in spite of a world that tries to dictate the terms. But she discovers that pursuing what she thinks she wants, may cost her what she truly does want. Actually I see Melanie Wilkes as a rebel too. When society turns its back on Scarlett and condemns her, Melanie remains a steadfast friend. 

41ocx2m77yl-_ac_us218_6. Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyoevsky– Sometimes rebelling against the status quo doesn’t lead characters to do “the right thing.” In this case, Raskolnikov  rebels against conventional morality by murdering a woman whom he believes the world would be better without. Regardless of his victim’s moral character, this act of rebellion has ripples that Raskolnikov never could have predicted, and he learns that sometimes when society says something (like murder) is wrong, we should just listen!

517zcqxmvll-_ac_us218_7. Valancy Stirling in The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery– Valancy isn’t a rebel initially. She’s a 29 year old spinster who lives under the thumb of her domineering family. But when a devastating medical diagnosis gives her an expiration date that’s a lot sooner than she’d like, Valancy gets the courage to rebel, to live the way that she wants to, with the person she wants to. She’s definitely not what we tend to think of when we think of rebels. But she defies her surroundings and her inhibitions to live the life that she wants. IMO that makes her a rebel. 

31mezqr7t8l-_ac_us218_8. Pamela O’Flaherty in Exit Unicorns by Cindy Brandner– Again this is a seemingly odd choice in a book that’s essentially about rebels. Other characters are more overt about leading political rebellion. But for other characters, that rebellion is something that they were born into. For Pamela isn’t not. Pamela is an Irish American. She grew up far away from any conflicts between British and Irish, Protestant and Catholic. Her rebellion started in her very choice to leave behind that distance and throw herself headfirst into the conflict. 

51zdmvpgfgl-_ac_us218_Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery– A lot of critics see Becky Sharp as the inspiration for Scarlett O’Hara. Whether or not that’s true, only Margaret Mitchell can say, but Becky is a character who doesn’t have many advantages in terms of the world she was born into. She makes a place for herself in it by seeing the flaws in people- the way they see the world and the way that they see themselves- and exploiting those flaws. Vanity Fair is subtitled A Novel Without A Hero, and while that’s perhaps true, it does have a compelling, rebellious protagonist. 

519rvznz89l-_ac_us218_10. Satan in Paradise Lost by John Milton– When he announces “Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heaven” Milton’s Satan tells us that he’s a rebel who won’t be beholden to anyone. He’s literally happy to be in the worst place imaginable, as long as he gets to do what he wants. According the William Blake, Milton (whether or not it was intentional), glamorized Satan making him an epic, almost heroic figure. “‘The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels and God, and at liberty when of Devils and Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devil’s party without knowing it.” So if you believe that, Milton was a bit of a rebel too. 

 

 

A to Z Reading Survey

I found this on Gin & Lemonade‘s blog and thought it looked like fun:

Author you’ve read the most books from:

It’s hard to say. Some are more prolific than others so I’ve read more from them even if they’re not my “favorite” authors. According to Goodreads I’ve read 19 books by LM Montgomery, 18 by Juliet Marillier, 17 by Lisa Gardener, 15 by Mercedes Lackey, 15 by Marian Keyes, 15 by Phillippa Gregory

But I wouldn’t say that they’re my favorite authors. Just that they’ve written more than a lot of other authors that I read.

Best Sequel Ever:

Hmmm… This one is hard! I’m thinking of book two in my favorite series… Often the second books aren’t my favorites! My initial instinct is to say Anne of Avonlea but I don’t want to be too predictable, so I’ll say Emily Climbs. It’s the sequel to Emily of New Moon and it’s by the same author.

Currently Reading:

Just started Marlena by Julie Buntin. So far it’s good but I’ve only read the first few chapters so far.

Drink of Choice While Reading:

Tea. Iced in warm weather, hot in the cold.

E-reader or Physical Book?

I’ll read an ebook on occasion but I far prefer physical books. If I read something as an ebook I feel less like I’ve read it. Does that make sense? Probably not!

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School:

51kc21bqngl-_ac_us218_Hmm… This is surprisingly tough because most of the guys in YA aren’t guys I’d want to date, and most of the guys in adult fiction are too old for high school me to date (have I been giving this too much thought?) Maybe Gilbert Blythe when he was high school age. He was always a sweetie!

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance:

Hmm… I remember when I read Crime and Punishment my senior year of high school. I didn’t think I’d hate it but given previous experiences with Russian literature I didn’t think I’d end up liking it. But I did. I don’t know if it qualifies as me “giving it a chance” since I had to read it for school. But we ended up talking about it in class at the same time that I was reading Donna Tartt’s The Secret History at home. Since Tartt’s novel alludes to Crime and Punishment quite a bit, the class discussions ended up enriching both books for me.

Hidden Gem Book:

Time and Chance by Alan Brennert- I actually just remembered the title and author of this one after only remembering the plot for a long time!

Important Moment in your Reading Life:

Probably the first time I fell in love with a book. The “problem” is that I’ve fallen in love with a lot of books from an early age.

Just Finished:

Touch by Courtney Maum

Kinds of Books You Won’t Read:

Non-fiction about topics that hold no interest for me.

Erotica

Graphic/gory horror

Longest Book You’ve Read:

According to Goodreads, it’s Clarissa by Samuel Richardson at 1,534 pages. I read it in college. Though I read a different edition from the one on there. I think my edition was probably a few hundred pages less. Mostly likely due to bonus material like introductions, footnotes etc.

Major book hangover because of:

517p1odjdbl-_ac_us218_51vp6vchi4l-_ac_us218_I suppose it depends on what we mean by “book hangover”. If we mean a book that stayed with me emotionally for a long time after I read it, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barberry and A Little Life by Hana Yanagihara, are probably the most recent ones. I’ve read other great books since then but these lingered under my skin in some way.

Number of Bookcases You Own:

2. But my books are not limited to bookcases.

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times:

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I think in college I was sort of obsessed with it. I did my senior project on it and discuss it a bit in this post.

Preferred Place To Read:

My bed. I can also go for a hot bathtub. I want to get a really comfy oversized chair just for reading.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read:

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be 51tz5m0vibl-_ac_us218_intolerably stupid.” Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey (because sometimes a quote just a true thought perfectly into words)

“If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you.” – A.A. Milne, Winnie The Pooh (just simple and lovely)

“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables (something I try to remember!)

Reading Regret:

You mean like a book I’ve never finished? Or one I wish I hadn’t read? I don’t understand…

Series You Started And Need To Finish(all books are out in series):

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher- I don’t actually know if it’s complete but I’ve only read the first 6 and I think there are like 15 in all.

Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

Tarien Soul by CL Wilson

The Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear- Again, I don’t know if it’s complete but I’ve only read the first 3 and there are many more out there.

The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett

Three of your All-Time Favorite Books:

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

It is insanely hard for me to limit this to just three books!!!

Unapologetic Fangirl For:

Outlander. I started reading the books over a decade ago. When the TV series started I revisited them and got hooked all over again.

Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others:

At the moment I’m looking forward to Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley

Worst Bookish Habit

Planning to read more than I can get to.

Dog-earring pages.

X Marks The Spot: Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book:

Well, it doesn’t say which bookshelf, but I picked one at random. The 27th book is The Collector by John Fowles

Your latest book purchase:

I bought these at a used bookshop at the same time:

Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear

Dust and Shadow by Lyndsay Faye

The Night Watch by Sara Waters

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

61xeuwoxcl-_ac_us218_ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late):

Probably Night Film by Marisha Pessl. I think that’s the last time I remember thinking “I should go to sleep. But I need to know what happens next!”

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books I Struggled to Get Into But Ended Up Being Worth the Effort

For The Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday:

September 5Ten Books I Struggled to Get Into But Ended Up Being Worth the Effort

These are all books that I considered putting down at one point (though in several chases they were assigned for school, but if they hadn’t been I may have considered it!) but I ended up being glad that I didn’t.

41cqtfv5hpl-_ac_us218_1. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky- This was a book that I read with my AP Lit class in high school. I read it again in a 19th Century Novel class in college. It’s not easy going because a lot of what occurs takes place in the mind of Raskolnikov, the main character. Raskolnikov is an impoverished ex student living in St. Petersberg. He believes that there are some people who are a drain on society, who take advantage of the little guys, and who the world is ultimately better without. Surely we’d all be better off if these people would be put to death…. After a lot of deliberation, he kills Alyona Ivanovna, a greedy pawnbroker. In the process he also ends up killing her sister, Lizaveta, who happened to witness the crime. Once he makes his escape, Raskolnikov can’t get a moment’s peace. He worries obsessively over the details of the murder. Raskolnikov isn’t what you’d call psychologically sound. So spending a lot of time in his head can get confusing, and occasionally frustrating. But it’s worth it overall, to watch this feverish, tortured man, do the inexcusable, while truly believing it to be the best thing for society overall. It’s interesting to see him begin to realize the horror of what he’s done and wonder if redemption is possible.

418rxncl2rl-_ac_us218_2. The House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski– At first it feels like there’s too much happening here. We begin with the story of Johnny Truant, a tattoo artist who confesses to being “an unreliable narrator”. He’s looking for an apartment and his friend tells him about the apartment of Zampano, a recently deceased old man. In Zampano’s apartment, Truant finds a manuscript called “The Navidson Record” which is an academic study of a documentary film, which may or may not actually exist. So we have Zampano’s study of the film, Truant’s autobiographical asides, a transcript of part of the film, interviews with people involved in “The Navidson Record” and masses of footnotes. We also get some narration from Truant’s mother through a self contained set of letters. It gets overwhelming! But as we read, we discover that there are small cues to keep the narratives straight, and that eventually they all come together to create a whole.

61eiooixctl-_ac_us218_3. Middlemarch by George Eliot– I read this for a college class and initially it seemed like a huge chore. We had what seemed to be endless descriptions of this town. The subtitle of the book is “A Study of Provincial Life” and for the first few chapters it seemed more like an academic study than a novel. Fortunately, as time went on, we become more involved in the lives of the town people. To a large extent, the focus is on the life of Dorothea Brooks, and the career of Tertius Lydgate and how the two intersect. But significant attention is also given to the courtship of two townspeople, and one man’s disgrace. I was surprised to go from dreading reading about dry facts, to slowly becoming involved in the lives of these characters.

61hyvemt7ol-_ac_us218_4. Possession by AS Byatt– Byatt says that she wrote it in response to author John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman:

Fowles has said that the nineteenth-century narrator was assuming the omniscience of a god. I think rather the opposite is the case—this kind of fictive narrator can creep closer to the feelings and inner life of characters—as well as providing a Greek chorus—than any first-person mimicry. In ‘Possession’ I used this kind of narrator deliberately three times in the historical narrative—always to tell what the historians and biographers of my fiction never discovered, always to heighten the reader’s imaginative entry into the world of the text

The novel portrays two present day academics, Roland Mitchell and Maud Bailey, who investigate the life and relationship of two Victorian poets, Randolph Henry Ash (based on Robert Browning and Alfred, Lord Tennyson) and Christabelle LaMotte (based on Christina Rosetti). They follow a trail of clues hidden in letters and journals,  to find out about the true nature of the Ash-LaMotte relationship, before rival colleagues do. The extensive diaries, poetry, and letters of the main characters are presented in the book as is the fictional poetry of Ash and LaMotte. All of this, and the academic way that Roland and Maud think, can initially make this feel dense and inapproachable. It takes some patience and getting used to.

51vp6vchi4l-_ac_us218_5. A  Little Life by Hana Yanagihara– This isn’t a book that hard to read because anything about the text itself is difficult. Rather it’s hard because it’s is so sad, and deals with so many difficult and taboo subjects. Four friends graduate an elite college and begin their lives in NYC. Willem is a kind hearted aspiring actor. JB is a painter of Hatian descent.  Malcom is an architect from a biracial family, who still lives at home. Jude is a lawyer of unknown ethnicity. Though the narration is omniscient and we meet all the characters, the bulk of the focus falls on Jude. We’re first told of an “accident” when he was a child that wasn’t really an accident, but left him permanently disabled and in a lot of pain. Then we learn that the orphaned Jude has a tendency to cut himself. We also learn that he hates sex, and that he doesn’t believe that he deserves any of the devoted friends and family that he has. It’s some time before we learn the truth of Jude’s life before he met his friends at college. When we do learn about it, it’s more horrific than anything we imagined. Some reviewers called the book “melodrama” or even “torture porn”. But it doesn’t embrace the elements to shock the reader, but rather to access an emotional truth. When Jude finally tells a loved one the truth, this person tells him that it wasn’t his fault. He was a child. He was the victim of people who preyed on his innocence and desperation, and that none of what he experienced has made him unworthy of love. Jude struggles to believe that, and to live a good life- one that he has earned through his own hard work. He loves other people and he tries to let them love him in return. For most of us these things aren’t a struggle at all. But for Jude they are a constant battle. But there’s tremendous beauty in that effort.

51zpob-ijil-_ac_us218_6. Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett- Frances Crawford of Lymond is a Scottish nobleman accused of deceit, treachery, treason, rape, and murder. He’s only guilty of a few of those things. He returns to Scotland in 1547 after several years in exile for reasons that won’t be revealed for some time. His own brother has vowed to kill him. But for rather complicated reasons, Lymond, accused of treason, may be the only person who can save his country from an English invasion.  I think the series is definitely worth reading (based on the first two books) but they’re not easy reads. We don’t really get inside the character’s thoughts much, so it’s often a while before we understand what’s going on and why.  The main character is a brilliantly educated polygot who often makes references that I don’t get right away. So it takes some effort to get into. Another author would have told us early on what’s happening, what Lymond is accused of and what accusations were false, where he’s been for the past few years and why he’d return to Scotland. In that case, the action of the book, would be front and center. The fact that Dunnett leaves the character’s motives so unknown makes this an interesting, sometimes confusing take on the historical fiction genre.

 

51j8xsssd0l-_ac_us218_7. The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber -In 1870’s London, Sugar is a prostitute in a brothel. Like many in her profession, she longs for a better life. William Rackham is a well-to-do businessman takes Sugar on as a mistress, and she’s draws herself into his life; his mentally fragile wife, Agnes; their deceitful housekeeper Clara, their mysterious daughter Sophie…. The characters aren’t easy to classify. Is Sugar a bad woman scheming to manipulate a wealthy man and get his money? Or is she a woman who was dealt a bad had, doing what she can to make her way in a world that’s not very kind?  At times the author suggests the answer to this question, but never outright answers it. But it’s not an easy read. At 922 pages it’s a long haul and we really see the ugly side of Victorian London, in a way that Dickens spared us.

51yxivihhl-_ac_us218_8. The Magus by John Fowles– Nicholas is an Oxford grad who takes a job as a teacher at a school on a remote Greek island. Over the summer, he becomes bored, depressed and lonely. Then he meets Maurice Conchis, a wealthy recluse who lives on the island.  Nicholas is gradually drawn into Conchis’ psychological games. At first he sees these games as a sort of a joke. But as they grow more elaborate and intense, Nicholas reaches a point where he isn’t able to tell what’s real and what isn’t. The reader can’t tell either and it gets kind of trippy. Several portions of the book have a “what the heck was that?” quality to them. But that ambiguity is also what makes it interesting.

51656aeukhl-_ac_us218_9. East Lynne by Mrs. Henry Wood– Lady Isabel Carlyle leaves her husband an babies to elope with Frances Levison. She bears Levison’s illegitmate child before she realizes that he has no intention of marrying her. He deserts Isabel, who is then disfigured in a train accident, and her child is killed (because apparently bad things really do happen in threes!) Lady Isabel gets a job as a governess in the household of her former husband and his new wife. This allows her to be close to the children she abandoned. But the pressure of keeping up the facade becomes too much for her. I read this because I was interested in Victorian “sensation” novels. I enjoyed it, in spite of, and at times because of, its rather implausible plot. But it’s also tough going at times because of the various shifting and double identities.

414n0roja3l-_ac_us218_10. Arcadia by Tom Stoppard– This play shifts between modern day Sidley Park and the same locations in the early 19th century. In the past, Thomasina, the daughter of the house, and Septimus Hodge, her tutor. The present day story concerns Hannah and Bernard, two academic researchers investigating a scandal caused by Lord Byron when he stayed at Sidley Park. The two story lines interweave math, physics, literature, philosophy,  architecture, and philosophy. I was assigned to read this in the summer before I started college before my freshman seminar. It made me very nervous about not being smart enough for college, because I felt like a lot of it went right over my head! But when we started to go through it in class and analyze it, I realized how clever, funny, and enjoyable this really was.