Nov 3, 2014

Sticking To The Plan - It's Not NaNo

Normally around this time (the month of November) I would either be lamenting not starting a NaNoWriMo novel, not being good at doing NaNoWriMo, or not following through on something I've started (probably earlier in the autumn or possibly over the summer). Oddly, I've not done any of those things so far and that's because lately I finish things I start. 

Now I know what you're thinking, especially if you've known me personally for a number of years: That's not possible, Jennifer. You NEVER finish things you start. You never finished karate lessons, tap lessons, viola lessons, learning Mandarin, learning to code, learning how to edit in Final Cut Pro, cleaning your apartment, cleaning your room, ad infinitum. And you'd be right. Except now, it's NOT TRUE.


Recently I ran in my first 5K, which roughly equals 3.1 miles to you non-running people. That's a lot for someone who's led a predominantly sedentary lifestyle for the past twelve months. I'd been training for that race on and off over the course of four months. That happened just after finishing (that's right, I finished something to start finishing something else) recovering from a surgery. So yes, I finish things I start now.

Of course, this has to extend to books and projects, specifically this November reading/writing project. It's been a trying first three days: from feeling like I had no time (untrue) to feeling not motivated to read (like today when I caught up on forty Vlogbrothers videos in almost one sitting) to reading making me feel sleepy (which was more or less my body compensating for the end of Daylight Savings Time).

Right now, as I'm typing this, reading has gotten progressively difficult because a) both roommates are home watching television and b) this is a one bedroom apartment. If I lived (during the majority of my time) in a city with more accessible late night caf├ęs (or if I had taken the time this afternoon to read instead of sleeping or this evening to watch videos) then perhaps this wouldn't be a problem. But it is.

Also, and this is only because I downloaded a public domain version of the current book I'm reading, the amount of pages I've read is not clearly reflected in my GoodReads progress, which is very frustrating. I want the Internet, you the reader, and my conscience to know: I AM TAKING THIS PROJECT SERIOUSLY. Despite the fact that the universe, my body, every political party in my hometown, and my roommates are conspiring against it. No really: the phone keeps ringing and when you answer it's a recording of Cory Booker or some other politician reminding you why they should get your vote.

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That being said, I want to talk about the first three chapters of The Picture of Dorian Gray, because so far I LOVE IT. No really. I've never truly sat down to read Wilde for pleasure/fun before so this is actually pretty cool. I made some highlights as I've read and some notes and I want to discuss them now that I've got the self-congratulating and self-deprecation out of the way.

First I want to talk about the obvious homoeroticism in a book that came out before it was fashionable or even acceptable. I mean, BRAVE MUCH? Wilde had some serious cojones to write about a man's affection for another man in that day and age. More specifically, I'm referring to this quote, which I'm pretty sure I've heard included in love notes, marriage vows or similar in the past:

"I find him in the curves of certain lines, in the loveliness and subtleties of certain colours."

So pretty. I mean, far be it from me to simplify language so beautiful and poignant but OHEMGEE SO PRETTY AMIRITE? How does one even come up with something like that? It's no wonder Wilde is adored by scholars, theologians and readers alike. He wrote from his heart. It kind of makes you wonder if he had a someone he was thinking of when he wrote this line. Probably.

Moving on, let's discuss our main players so far: Basil, Lord Henry, and Dorian. Dorian is the odd man out at this point; he is younger, a bit less experienced, and a bit more malleable, as evidenced by his reaction to Lord Henry's speeches. I know that's going to change and for the far far worst reasons possible. Lord Henry, however, is already the WORST kind of person. I'm going to compare him to Thomas from Downton Abbey, partly because that's what I pictured and partly because I watched an almost Thomas-lite episode of Downton yesterday (it's one of my five approved programs) and was just thinking "That's him!" a lot of the time. Lord Henry is simply horrible: to his family, his peers, and to Basil who appears to be someone who has stuck by him even when he is being a complete douche-canoodler. I don't know what will happen to Lord Henry but I want it to be something bad. Perhaps he could get viral meningitis (which yes, I just learned about in the aforementioned Vlogbrothers videos).

And then there's Basil. Poor Basil. Though I don't know how his role in this plays out (surprisingly most adaptations of Dorian I've seen in film and TV leave out what happened to the artist), I still know that one of these paintings of Dorian (probably the last one mentioned in these earlier chapters) becomes the painting; the painting of note in the title. I don't see a good outcome for Basil either and that's almost unfair, because he's just a painter. And apparently a darn good 'un. He doesn't deserve whatever is coming for him. But I know his demise is inevitable. Who knows? Maybe Basil will find a cute house boy and they'll move to SF together. That's a thing that could have happened back then, right?

Oh wait, NO. That point brings me back full circle to the wow factor of this book probably broke down some barriers. I'm not even going to go down the research rabbit hole (I'd like to attempt to read before bed) but I can't even imagine how incredible it was for someone... someone like Basil, or Thomas from Downton, or even my best friend Jason... to read this book in 1891 and realize that they are not alone in feeling the feelings that they feel. I can't process that. There weren't books about bisexual Jewish teen girls in the suburbs that I read as a kid so I can't fathom what that must have been like.

Did it probably create more barriers than it seemingly broke down? Maybe. I know Wilde ended up incarcerated for the content of his works and for other reasons. But does that wow me any less? In short, it does not. Because reaching people and helping them realize they aren't alone in their feels? That's pretty much what every author is hoping to do on some or many levels.

More tomorrow; now go read something, Internet.