You can’t just put -tober at the end of everything during October, they said.
It’s the end of October, it’s too late to make another -tober a thing, they said.
There’s already too darn many -tobers, it’ll just be lame, they said.
But who cares what people say.
If you’re reading this, odds are you’re interested in getting and/or staying woke. And it’s a good bet you also like to read. So, dear reader, let me welcome you to… Stay-Woketober!
In honor of Stay-Woketober, the spookiest of -tobers and one I’m aware is not an original creation, I’ve compiled a list of books (and one podcast) that may get you a bit more woke—and they’ll be a nice, well-deserved break from midterms, too.
by Shailja Patel
Shailja Patel is a an internationally acclaimed performance artist and poet, and Migritude is her writing debut: a hybrid of historical narrative, intimate monologue, and powerful poetry, Migritude tells of Patel’s struggle as an Kenyan immigrant living in England who’s trying to connect to her roots while also developing her own identity. It’s a mind-bending read that breaks genres and interweaves stories about British colonialism, silk saris, and Patel’s childhood into a seamless, gorgeous narrative that offers a whole new perspective on culture and immigration.
2. A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini
Set in Afghanistan during the Taliban regime, Hosseini’s books focus on the strict gender roles and religious struggles of Afghans growing up in the war-torn streets of Kabul. The Kite Runner deals with masculinity and morality, while A Thousand Splendid Suns focuses on female empowerment and liberation in the midst of oppression. Both novels are powerfully written against the broader background of Afghan culture and history, and touch upon issues that remain relevant even today.
3. Conversations with People who Hate Me
A nonfiction podcast by Welcome to Night Vale’s queer activist and journalist extraordinaire, Dylan Marron, this show follows Marron as he contacts people who’ve posted hatefully about him online to try and get them to answer a simple question—why? From homophobes to racists, Marron takes you on his journeys to find the humans on the other side of the screen. With an equal focus on social justice and explaining the phenomenon of hate-speech, this podcast is a must-hear.
4. The Handmaid’s Tale
by Margaret Atwood
Brought back into the spotlight by the brilliant Hulu miniseries (and the election of a certain president), Atwood’s classic dystopian novel shows what happens when religious fervor, declining birth rates, and a now terrifyingly realistic authoritarian regime combine. Atwood’s sharp prose and captivating world-building keep you on the edge of your seat as you join Offred in the nightmare of having no civil, political, nor reproductive rights just for being a woman, and the silent acts of rebellion that ensue. Sound familiar?
That’s all for today, folks. Hope you enjoy, and if you do, pass it on. You never know who’s eyes you might end up opening. Happy Stay-Woketober! Read on, stay woke, and beware Gilead.
Written by Mariana N.
In high school, I stumbled across a blog article called “Slow Practice for String Players.” In it, Hilary Hahn, an American violinist who performs around the world, explains not only that slow practice is important, but also what slow practice actually means.
While stringed instruments and pen/paper/keyboard are physically quite different from each other, I’ve been thinking about how slow practice might apply to writing—especially in midterm season. First, Hahn advises starting from the beginning: “play everything in slow motion.” Slow motion is what writing a first draft feels like to me. However, unlike Hahn, I don’t choose to write it that way.
The next step is to play the notes slowly, but include shifts, note changes, and string crossings at normal speed. She calls this the ability to play slowly but “move between” at tempo. It seems like checking the gears and making sure they function. Or moving with the flow of ideas, to make sure they’re communicated clearly (or hopefully clearly enough).
She adds that body position cannot be overlooked. Posture isn’t only for dancers or finishing school pupils. I can’t help but think of this literally, but I also feel that this aspect of slow string practice can be translated in writing as balance, perspective, knowing when to go for run around the outer loop before coming back for a second foray into tangled sentences.
Her last tip, which she calls “icing on the cake” is paying attention to phrasing and musicality. She writes, “My teachers taught me that technical prowess and musicality are inextricably connected.” One of my professors recently said to honor your own fascination as a writer. In slow practice for writers, I see these two ideas as intertwined. Just as I love to play music musically, I love to write what I love to read. This might be the icing on the cake, but we all know a cake wouldn’t be much of a cake without its icing (at least for a cupcake).
Although the analogy between slow practice for writers and string players isn’t perfect, thinking about sentences and paragraphs like notes and phrases reminds me that, in many ways, academic writing is art. Maybe it’s a good thing that writing first drafts come slowly. Maybe revision, like practice, can be creative in itself.
Here’s Hilary Hahn’s original article: http://hilaryhahn.com/2004/01/slow-practice-for-string-players/
Her other articles under “favorites” also include “How to Pass Time Alone in a Hotel Room,” “Things to Watch in an Orchestra Concert,” and how to make a costume for your instrument when you’re bored.
Written by Sarah W.
It’s fall! At least according to the calendar. But since your midterm recess just ended and you have to the stifling humidity and heat of Houston, here are some literary quotes about autumn to hopefully get you in that fall spirit. Even if it is still 90 degrees outside.
“November — with uncanny witchery in its changed trees. With murky red sunsets flaming in smoky crimson behind the westering hills. With dear days when the austere woods were beautiful and gracious in a dignified serenity of folded hands and closed eyes — days full of a fine, pale sunshine that sifted through the late, leafless gold of the juniper-trees and glimmered among the grey beeches, lighting up evergreen banks of moss and washing the colonnades of the pines.”
-L.M Montgomery, The Blue Castle
"Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall."
-F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower."
“There is something incredibly nostalgic and significant about the annual cascade of autumn leaves.”
-Joe L. Wheeler
“Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.”
-Lauren DeStefano, Wither
“I was drinking in the surroundings: air so crisp you could snap it with your fingers and greens in every lush shade imaginable offset by autumnal flashes of red and yellow.”
-Wendy Delsol, Stork
“It looked like the world was covered in a cobbler crust of brown sugar and cinnamon.”
-Sarah Addison Allen, First Frost
“Autumn...the year's last, loveliest smile."
-John Howard Bryant, Indian Summer
Hopefully these quotes have put you into an autumnal bliss. Just make sure you don’t walk outside.
Quotes amassed from Bustle.com, The Odyssey Online, Goodreads.com, and my brain.
Written by Joshua A.
All photos from The Station Museum of Contemporary Art website. Torture by Andres Serrano is on display through October 8th. Admission is free.
From the outside, the Station doesn’t call to you, it doesn’t welcome you—it stands there and it waits.
And when it’s done waiting, inside it’s almost just like any other gallery; light, polished wood and white walls, bouncing spotlights and the echoes of words spoken inside off of each other. But these walls move, because this space is about the art, first and foremost, and so with every new exhibit they are torn down and rebuilt to accommodate the incoming work. And so, it is also different from any gallery you’ve ever seen.
1502, on the Corner of Alabama and La Branch. This is the Station Museum of Contemporary Art.
It stands as a small warehouse in Houston’s Third Ward, where the roads are at least three different colors of repaved asphalt, and the number of wires crossing from post to post above them feels a little claustrophobic. It’s the kind of place where it feels like the sky should always be gray, because anything else just wouldn’t make sense. Just like the wire metal mosque and worn out billboard in front of it don’t really make sense, at first. But it is all there—inside and outside its walls—for a reason, and every piece of art has something to say.
Currently these walls hold Torture, a controversial photography exhibit by Andres Serrano, in which a combination of staged photographs, portraits, and still life shots displayed in massive prints reveal to us a dark and convoluted narrative of torture in the modern world. It is, by no accident, a political, active, and incendiary work.
As told in the exhibit’s introductory literature, Torture was born in the walls of The Foundry, an obscure experimental space in a commune of southwest France. To produce his staged images, Serrano hired models who allowed him to submit them to shackling, humiliation, and “degrading positions” with the help of military personnel, thus blurring the line between staging and reality, asking How much is too much?
And there is a whole other level of contextualization to this narrative—a powerful statement in the inclusion of images of real torture survivors, historical torture sites, and portraits of political figures with links to torture controversies. Indeed, like Serrano himself, the Station Museum is no stranger to controversy. It is not their goal to seek it out, but they will not run anywhere but towards their pursuit of creative and expressive freedom. Their mission is indicative of this, undoubtedly proud:
“The Station Museum upholds the rights of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. The museum is an activist institution supporting civil society issues as well as artists who engage in social, political, aesthetic, economic, and/or spiritual content and expressions.”
Serrano’s Torture arguably occupies all of these adjectives. To see his work is to feel and to think somewhere dark—to find discomfort in something beautiful, so that we walk through it and around it, and most importantly, so that we cannot ignore it.
Wandering through the exhibit on a class field trip a few weeks ago, I felt the overwhelming presence of a narrative that needed to be told, and was able to do exactly that inside of those frames and on those walls. My body and the bodies of these photographs shared the same space, and, maybe only by some long stretch of my imagination, I felt that my body and the bodies of the individual people suspended in those photographs shared the same space.We shared stories without words, and they told me something I didn’t know before.
And so I think there is something to be said for space, for how Torture’s current residence in The Station Museum is a marriage of art and place united towards a common goal. Just as much as the space means nothing without the art, the art is arguably nothing without its walls. Whether it is in this place or another a thousand miles away, the art does not, in the end, exist to its full extent without this physicality. Without a place to hold the viewer, there cannot be a viewer, and without them, does anyone ever hear what the artist is saying?
I can’t help but think back to our own art community at Rice, and about how our lack of student art spaces is nothing short of an insult. It is another voice, an administrative one that says, Your art will not exist because we do not want to hear it. But we, the students, do. And we will. Just like at the Station Museum, there are places—places hidden from view, that need us to find them—where the walls are shifting and ready to be filled. These conversations are just beginning.
For now, I find comfort in this: there are places out there that don’t sell themselves to us, but that does not mean we cannot find them. Spaces where narratives are unfolding at a million miles per hour—where art is coming into contact with the world outside, kicking and screaming. Where it comes into contact with you, to kick and scream at you until you hear what it has to say. Where art and artist and viewer share a space and say We want to feel, and talk, and think about this, whatever this is. Where we are not passive.
These spaces are close to you. Find them. Make them.
Written by Ana Paula P.
On April 4th, 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Although he was only thirty-nine years old when he was murdered, King had already completely changed the course of the Civil Rights Movement and re-defined the American conscience. Yet, he paid the heaviest cost for his dedication and passion in bringing about change. Many Americans had been hopeful that through progressive legislation and policies, hate had largely begun to be rooted out in the United States; that after years of oppression and discrimination, a sort of national healing process had begun. But King’s assassination, and events during the spring and summer of 1968, would show just how divided and enraged a large part of the American public was. From riots in Detroit to the anti-war protests in Chicago, turmoil was apparently erupting in every corner of the country. Bigotry, too, was undefeated. Although segregation had been legally ended, many Southerners still violently opposed integration and African-Americans were incredibly limited in their employment, living, and educational opportunities across the country. Even though the laws had been changed, the system itself was still rigged.
The same night of Martin Luther King’s death, Robert Kennedy (who was in the middle of a long, bitter presidential primary campaign) climbed onto the back of a battered pick-up truck in downtown Indianapolis and addressed a huge crowd of anxious supporters. Most of them had no idea of what happened in Memphis just a few hours before. Although Kennedy had planned on delivering his usual stump speech, he realized that the gravity of the situation called for something more meaningful, so he decided to speak off-the-cuff. As the midwestern sky darkened and the crowd hushed, an obviously distraught Kennedy slowly announced that “Martin Luther King [had been] shot and killed”. The crowd’s reaction was immediate and intense; initial gasps of disbelief turned to pained cries of panic and frustration. But, Kennedy continued. The words that he spoke had a profound effect on his audience, and 50 years later, continue to have a profound effect on me. Kennedy mostly spoke of the need for compassion and understanding in the face of bigotry; for the need to bridge our differences and unite ourselves against the expressions of hate and violence that appear so frequently in our society. Whenever tragedy strikes, I find myself going back to these ideas, and I almost always end up re-reading this speech. I guess it serves as a reminder that decency exists everywhere, and that despite what we may see on TV or in the newspapers, most people really do want to understand and accept those who might be different than them.
I really can’t do his actual words justice, though, so I thought I should include at least the last half of the speech for you to read. So, here it is:
“My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He wrote: "In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."
What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black.
So I shall ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, that's true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love--a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.
We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times; we've had difficult times in the past; we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; it is not the end of disorder.
But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings who abide in our land.
Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.
Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people.”
When tragedy strikes, like it did so horribly yesterday, it’s necessary to remind ourselves of the importance of dedicating our lives to the “love and wisdom and compassion” that Kennedy spoke of. It might seem cheesy or idealistic, but I think that tolerance and understanding is the only real option we have.
Written by Matthew A.
Some Lyrics from A Band Named Pinegrove that You Might be Feeling Right Now
(especially if you’re experiencing that mid-semester romantic slump):
“I feel like I could forget about it
I feel like I could mellow out
I don't feel undone in a big way
There's nothing really bad to be upset about.”
“We're good at things and so are a lot of our friends
We should forget these setbacks and get back moving again.”
-Size of the Moon
“How come every outcome's such a comedown?”
“I had my mind on her on my own
But when I looked back up
Everybody else was gone.”
“More every year
I shine light on edges I tried to unfeel
We both gotta do better than that
Some sorting out
I'll be sitting on the outskirts if you wanna talk about it
Things in there are getting so loud.”
“One day I won’t need your love
One day I won't define myself by the one I’m thinking of
And if one day I don't need it
One day you won't need it.”
Written by Kristen H.
Hey you. Yes, you. Person reading this blog post. You like reading-- you’re on a literary blog after all, so I think this is a fair assumption. So here is my question: when is the last time that you read a book that you chose to read? When was the last time you read because you enjoy reading, and not because you were assigned to read something for class?
I used to spend the majority of my free time reading. Even in high school, I was often found with my nose in a book. I’d read in between classes, before I went to bed, and sometimes (sorry Mom) at dinner. Reading was my primary hobby.
And then, as I’m sure many of you can relate to, I came to college and my course load increased exponentially. It’s the most grating irony of pursuing an English major: you chose the major because you enjoy reading, but then you have to do so much reading for class that you don’t enjoy reading anymore.
You always think that you’ll find time, right? You think that one weekend, maybe, you won’t have a paper deadline or a midterm to study for, and then, maybe, you’ll fall back into reading. You’ll pick up one of the novels you packed to bring to school that’s been gathering dust on your desk and you’ll read the whole thing through right then and there. But that magical weekend never comes and you’re left disappointed.
This summer I started carrying a novel in my backpack again. I set a challenge for myself, to start, just for a week: any time I wanted to reach for my phone to waste time, I’d reach for the book instead. Suddenly, I realized there were tons of moments in my day that I could read a page or two. I could squeeze a chapter in if I was 10 minutes early for work. I would read on the train on my way home. I looked forward to reading, and suddenly my “To Read” pile was shrinking in a way it hadn’t for years.
That’s not to say there isn’t good fiction to be found online-- there absolutely is! But I found that when I opened my phone, that wasn’t often where my fingers were taking me. I’d wind up mindlessly reading whatever articles happened to be on my Facebook feed and (for the most part) being sorely disappointed with their contents. I guess that’s what happens when you let an algorithm make your reading list. Choosing what I was going to read, getting to select the things that I enjoyed, that was the real difference for me. Reading stopped being work and started being an escape again.
So, if you miss reading, this is the advice I would give to you: read in the moments between. Carry a book around or bookmark your favorite poetry site. You may not have an hour to read, but you do have a minute.
Written by Megan G.
One of the things that elicits shock from people is when I inform them of my antipathy towards Ernest Hemingway. Okay. Look. I get that Hemingway is one of the kings of the literary world. That's all well and good. He’s just not my guy. I don’t like the way that Hemingway condenses. I don't like the way his writing feels or speaks at me. I respect his craft - every word is there as a direct line between the reader and the events of the text. It's a very effective strategy. Still, golly gee, do I feel like his work talks past me, or maybe so directly to me it unnerves me. One of the two - either way, he's not my cup of tea. I prefer coffee.
That being said, in two different conversations this past weekend, I've had to explain some very good writing advice that Hemingway once gave. Though it grates on my nerves when people tell me to write like Hemingway would, I do hold one piece of his advice among my little box of writing tips. It's about motivation.
While you can read the full quote (and some more good ones) from this article, the best part boils down to this:
“The main thing is to know when to stop. Don’t wait till you’ve written yourself out. When you’re still going good and you come to an interesting place and you know what’s going to happen next, that’s the time to stop.”
In other words, never finish a day of writing at the end of one section and leave your future self to deal with a blank page or chapter title. Instead, either stop writing a few paragraphs from the end, or start the next section. That way, the next day, you can come back and jump into it right where you left off. You'll be excited to write down the words that have been sitting in your head for a while, and then it'll be easy to keep going. This strategy is helpful for any type of writing. I usually use it for my longer-form fiction, but it can be true for personal essays, short stories, or even academic essays.
Other writers and writer-supporters have given great advice as to how to battle with writer’s block (see the tasteful images linked below). It's all pretty good advice. You're bound to find something in there that works for you. But I think this Hemingway axiom actually points to a longer-term solution instead of just a motivational pep talk or coping strategy. Typical Hemingway, getting the job done in fewer words, right? Nip writer’s block in the bud by giving tomorrow’s you a point to jump into. Instead of looking for ways to break down the wall that writer’s block represents, don’t let the wall grow at all.
Written by Erika S.
Ekphrastic poetry has come to be defined as poems written about works of art; however, in ancient Greece, the term ekphrasis was applied to the skill of describing a thing with vivid detail. One of the earliest examples of ekphrasis can be found in Homer’s epic poem The Iliad, in which the speaker elaborately describes the shield of Achilles in nearly 150 poetic lines:
And first Hephaestus makes a great and massive shield,
blazoning well-wrought emblems all across its surface,
And he forged on the shield two noble cities filled
with mortal men. With weddings and wedding feasts in one
And he forged the Ocean River’s mighty power girdling
round the outmost rim of the welded indestructible shield.
(The Iliad, Book 18, lines 558–707)
In addition to the descriptions of a work of art, an ekphrastic poem usually includes an exploration of how the speaker is impacted by his or her experience with the work. This week, I encourage you to test out this fun poetry form!
To get you started, here’s some of my favorite paintings I studied in my Art History class this semester.
Written by Ellie M.
This will be the last R2 blog post of the spring semester, as classes are now over for the 2016-2017 school year. We'll have more blog posts after the summer. Thank you for reading! We've loved sharing our thoughts with you.
Yesterday before the rains came, my friend studied first the darkening sky, then me.
“If we time it right, we can walk to Skyspace and get caught in the rain.”
“Let me get my shoes,” I said.
We walked, got poured on, sat in Skyspace for a while, talking about the way the water ran off the roof and about the respect we have for people who not only know what they like but also do it; we talked about why introspection does not inherently indicate a humanities major and why sometimes “low-class” art is the stuff that sticks with you; we talked about going home and not going home and birds.
It got me thinking about how fast-paced my life has become - every conversation serves a purpose, now, where I'm either searching for information or trying to make someone laugh, but there's that lovely forgotten in-between space where rainy days and late-night chats reside, driven not out of a need to vent but a mess of ideas and words that have stuck themselves in your head and need to come out.
There is an art to these conversations, much like there is an art to storytelling. Words become images. Thoughts form of their own accord, just like stories take on lives of their own. These conversations are hard to put down. They're self-propelling and wandering, both passionate and impassioning. The good ones leave you thinking long, long after the words have been said.
Communication in college trenches tends so frequently to be a one-sided affair. Here is what I think. This is why I'm right. But there is so much beauty in discovering what collaboration can produce, in equalizing the listening and the responding.
Conversations are a lot like stories. If you let them happen to you and ascribe value to them the way we carry a story's moral or quotable moments with us, you'll recognize the narrative, the catharsis, the conscious escape that we find in books. It's all there in the everyday, in the sparkling opportunities we have to make the mundane something extraordinary, something unusual, something important. This is important. Listen, but only until you must speak.
And now, you must speak.
Written by Kristen H.
R2: The Rice Review
Rice University's undergraduate literary magazine. Here you can find event updates, monthly writing contest winners, and opinions by the R2 staff on what's new, interesting, or subject to discussion in the literary and arts world.