We’re coming up on finals season now and with all those essays and problem sets, it can be hard to gather up the energy to read something for fun. But if you’re still hankering for something literary, worry not: Netflix has been outdoing itself with a steady stream of high-quality book adaptations that are sure to take your mind off GenChem, senior design, or Orgo. Want all A’s? Look no further, because I’m sure one of these is sure to fit the bill.
1. A Series of Unfortunate Events
If these strangely pessimistic, uniquely verbose, darkly comical books weren’t a part of your childhood, you’re still in good time to become a fan of Lemony Snicket and the Baudelaire children with the brilliant Netflix adaptation that is now in its second season. Originally thirteen books, each one is split into two hour-long episodes that perfectly capture Snicket’s sharp wit and cynicism as they narrate the tragic story of precocious orphans Violet, Klaus, and Sunny. This adaptation includes details of the intricate plot that previous adaptation have glossed over and perfectly captures the steampunk gloom of the original books. Featuring a star-studded cast with big names such as Neil Patrick Harris as antagonist Count Olaf and Patrick Warburton as Lemony Snicket, this show is sure to ruin your day in the best way.
Based on the strange science fiction novel by Jeff VanderMeer, this movie starring Natalie Portman is a slow-budding, aesthetically beautiful work that leaves you strangely satisfied, even if it does raise more questions than answers. Centred around an all-female group of scientists that ventures into a The Shimmer, a wildland from where no previous research time has returned, Annihilation is filled with shifting landscapes, vivid colors, and strange creatures. Although the film deviates quite significantly from the novel, its great cast, soothing soundtrack, and amazing visuals make it a more than worthwhile watch.
3. Alias Grace
This Canadian-American adaptation of the Margaret Atwood novel of the same name is, in my humble opinion, the only one of these three titles that by far surpasses the original literary version. Centered around accused murderess Grace Marks, the Netflix miniseries organizes the confused and rather underdeveloped narrative from the novel into a coherent, riveting narrative that leaves you on the edge of your seat. Combined with a stellar cast and well-executed plot twists, this is a nice and easily bingeable series perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale, period dramas, or psychological murder mysteries.
That’s all for now, folks. Happy finals!
Written by Mariana N.
As Owl Days approaches us in the last two weeks of classes, I’m looking forward to speaking to prospective students and parents about why they should choose Rice. I like talking to prospies because they make me feel like an expert on Rice, even though I still need to use Google Maps to find my way from the stadium to the north colleges. Talking to prospies also allows me to reflect on the person I’ve become since coming to Rice, how I’ve grown and developed, what new opportunities I’ve had, et cetera. For example, this is the person I was when I visited for Owl Days:
“I’m at Rice. My host has a freaking rooftop suite with a view of downtown, like, come on! I wish I just went to this school. All these events are tons of fun, but it’s such a chore to have to text my host every time I want to get in and out of a room. I wish I just went here already and was just like a regular student. Like, let’s do it, you know, let’s get this thing going.”
And this is the person that I’ve grown to become in two semesters here:
No, but really. I’m so grateful for all of the opportunities I’ve had here that I don’t think I could have had anywhere else. I have met so many wonderful people over the course of nine months that I can’t imagine my life without, I’ve taken so many cool classes and had a ton of exciting experiences, I’ve learned so many lessons about independence and self-reliance, and I’ve come away from this year knowing that other people have read my writing on the R2 blog, which has been a dream and goal of mine probably since I was in elementary school. (Well, I didn’t know about the R2 blog when I was in elementary school, but you know what I mean.) My only regrets are that, like I said a year ago, I couldn’t choose Rice earlier, and that I took 24 credit hours in high school that will never transfer.
Written by Rynd M.
Spring. It’s a time of newness, and a time of change. The world comes out of its grey depressing shell and explodes into a web of color, life, and pollen. Birds sing, flowers bloom, and thousands of beetles walk across Rice sidewalks. The Earth is not the only thing changing during this special time. Our lives at Rice change as well. Clubs elect new leadership, a new guard of student government takes over, seniors prepare to leave the Rice bubble, and newly accepted freshman prepare for the adventure that lies within it. Though a beautiful time, it can be a tumultuous one, with the stress of impending change compounding the general stress of life.
So, in an effort to remind you about the magic of spring, here are a few quotes about this special season.
"Spring is nature's way of saying let's party." -- Robin Williams
"Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush."
-- Doug Larson
“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke
“Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world.”
― Victor Kraft
“The world is exploding in emerald, sage, and lusty chartreuse - neon green with so much yellow in it. It is an explosive green that, if one could watch it moment by moment throughout the day, would grow in every dimension.”
― Amy Seidl, Early Spring: An Ecologist and Her Children Wake to a Warming World
“In springtime, love is carried on the breeze. Watch out for flying passion or kisses whizzing by your head.” -Emma Racine deFleur
Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night. -Rainer Maria Rilke
If these hastily assembled quotes failed to brighten your day, then maybe the thought that summer is only a few months away can put a smile on your face!
Written by Joshua A.
Quotes Aggregated From:
We all know the story – there are a LOT of things we always say we would like to do, but we never get around to doing it during the school year. Well, Spring Break is next week, and it’s an incredibly valuable time to reset for the remainder of the spring semester. In my experience, resetting can best be accomplished by finding one of those things that were “too difficult” to fit into the hectic semester and do them now.
So, looking over our staff’s recommendations from this semester, here are 4 challenges for Spring Break to help you reset and check off your 2018 literary awareness list:
1. See an art exhibit
If you’re a Rice student hanging out in Houston over the week, you’re going to want to get off-campus and out into a new part of town. Rice is right next to a number of great art exhibits and permanent collections of art, music, and literature. Check out, for instance, our recent review of the Station Museum of Contemporary Art. If you haven’t been to the Menil, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the other staples of the museum district, why not check them out now? Or head to more specialized museums like the Contemporary Arts Museum, the Art Car Museum, or the Printing Museum.
2. Find a new form of expression
This sounds vague, but there are a lot of cross-medium artists and writers out there, and what better time than Spring Break to open up a new genre of information and expression? Some of our recommendations in the past have included social media poets (https://www.r2ricereview.com/blog/social-media-poets), or other formal styles of poetry (like Haikus and Villanelles). Lastly, if you’re not a podcast type of person, this is a great time to try to see if you could be a podcast type of person (see recommendations here: https://www.r2ricereview.com/blog/category/podcasts).
3. Just crack open a new book
We’ve reviewed books a lot on this blog, ask you might expect. While it can sometimes be possible to find the time to read lighter, breezy books, Spring Break might be your opportunity to get through one of the books that demands a lot of your emotional energy. Check out some more meaningful books here: or challenge yourself to a longer book, like Infinite Jest (which, by the way, is how I spent Spring Break 2017, and 10/10 recommend).
4. Visit new libraries and independent bookstores!
There are great independent bookstores all over the world, no matter where your travels take you. The same goes for libraries, which can be unique and really great places to just spend a morning or afternoon. If you’re staying in Houston and haven’t already, this is a great time to take a look at Brazos Bookstore, Murder by the Book, and bookstores that we haven’t even had the chance to cover.
These are just some suggestions and recommendations to get your ideas going. If none of these stand out to you, check out our other reviews of literature, film, art, and culture in general by clicking around the Recommendations tag of our blog, or come up with your own! Happy reset week!
Written by Erika S.
Hey you. Yes, you. Have you ever read a book, be it for a Lit/English class or for your own enjoyment, and been left feeling like what on earth was that? What does that EVEN MEAN?
Well, I certainly have. As a self-proclaimed lover of post-modern and post-post-modern fiction, more often than not, things tend to get a little bit weird. Usually, they get very weird. I am not ashamed of sometimes having had to resort to SparkNotes or Shmoop in order to understand some of the rougher, more challenging chapters from some of my favorite books. But no more! I’m here to share what has become both my literary guilty pleasure and a very helpful addition to my life: podcasts. about. books.
David Foster Wallace, Thomas Pynchon, Philip K. Dick, H.P. Lovecraft: these authors may seem to have very little in common, but something they do share is that they are all the subjects of highly specialized podcasts. These shows are run by amazing literature nerds who are dedicated to creating episode after episode chock full of biographical information, book summaries, and literary analysis in order to share the life and times of some of their favorite authors with other bookworms like you and me.
Think about it like having nerdy comedians give fun, yet accurate, summaries of your favorite books, on demand. That’s essentially what a literature podcast is.
You don’t have to be a fan of obscure po-mo to enjoy the literature podcasts I’ll talk about in a sec, though A lot of literature podcasts focus on YA novels, modern thrillers, and fan favorites like Harry Potter or A Song of Ice and Fire, while others concentrate on tried-and-true classics from authors like Edgar Allan Poe, Alexandre Dumas, and Emily Dickinson. The truth is that, if you’re interested in something nowadays, no matter how obscure or strange or unusual it may seem, odds are there’s an entire podcast (or at least an episode or two) out there dedicated to it. That’s the wonderful thing about podcasts: more and more people are starting conversations about the things they love, regardless of how niche the subject matter may seem, because they know there’s someone out there who feels the same passion for it that they do.
Here’s my top three literature podcasts, in no particular order:
1. Oh No! Lit Class
Join English postgrads Megan and RJ as they cover a different literary classic each week, giving accurate, if unconventional, summaries of novels, plays, and poetry, as well as interesting takes on the authors’ biographies. If it was required reading for your high school, odds are they’ve covered it (or will cover it) in a way you would never have imaged in your 10th grade English class.
2. Pynchon in Public
Do you like Thomas Pynchon but don’t know quite what to make of The Crying of Lot 49, let alone Gravity’s Rainbow? Fear not, this show’s crew has got you covered. PIP focuses on anything and everything Pynchon, offering detailed chapter summaries and analyses with a healthy dose of very useful historical context, as well as the odd episode focused on the strange and mysterious life of Thomas Pynchon himself.
3. We Love Dick
Contrary to the X-rated content that may appear if you google this title without adding “podcast” at the end, this podcast features a lovable cast determined to read, summarize, and review every single work of fiction written by Philip K. Dick. Large doses of banter, unrelated tangential conversation, and a lot of sci-fi weirdness is guaranteed, but the show never loses sight of its goal: to bring more and better Dick to the people.
If none of these sound particularly eye-catching, go take a look at the iTunes section for Literature Podcasts: you’ll see what I mean when I say there’s an amazing amount of variety. Whether you want a precise and concise summary of that book you’re chugging through for English class, or just want to hear people talk about your favorite writers, odds are there is indeed a podcast out there just right for you. It’s all a matter of finding it.
Written by Mariana N.
Art that helps me see and address my shortcomings:
Fear of Failure/Self-Doubt → Confidence
These are a few of the mediums that have influenced how I think about failure. My attitude of persistence and tenacity has been defined in part due to the below books, poetry, and music. My optimistic and cheerful mien can also be attributed to the art I am exposed to.
Good Enough by Paula Yoo (book)
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (book)
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (book)
"What Kind of Asian Are You?” by Alex Dang (poetry)
“Packing for the Future” By Lorna Crozier (poetry)
“Best Day of My Life” by American Authors (music)
Spotlight: Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters by Lesley M. M. Blume (book)
This is a book I read in the 3rd grade, from which I learned to embrace what makes me different. The main character in this book, Cornelia, is the lonely child of two musicians, who find solace in words. Cornelia’s aptitude for language sets her apart from her peers, but finds herself a friend in a new neighbor, an elderly woman who regales Cornelia with tales from her youth. I wouldn’t define myself as shy, but similar to Cornelia, I find it difficult to connect with others easily. This book taught me to put myself in difficult, uncomfortable situations, and gave me the confidence to be more outgoing.
Procrastination → Smart Work
I am and always have been a hard worker. However, a lesson I still struggle to learn is how to work smart, not hard. Smart work, entailing time management and organization, is the key to success in not only school, but also everything else I am involved in, from playing tennis to playing my clarinet. Below are a few mediums that have taught me to redefine what I view as work and understand the implications of procrastination. While I still struggle daily to practice the concept of delayed gratification, these have inspired me and have given me the tools to change my habits.
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell (book)
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart (book)
“Inside the mind of a master procrastinator” by Tim Urban (TED Talk)
Gifted Hands by Ben Carson (book)
The Thinker by Auguste Rodin (sculpture)
Spotlight: “Postcard” by Frank Ticheli (music)
This uniquely challenging piece was one I played with my band in 10th grade. Up to date, it is the hardest piece of music I have successfully performed, and it represents months of practice and dedication. This piece represents the difficulties and joys of the learning process; to learn a skill or concept, we must always start with the basics, no exceptions, and once learned, the skill/concept must be practiced until flawless.
Stubbornness and Hubris → Selflessness and Empathy
Pride and a single-minded focus are not necessarily bad, if one also practices the complementary traits of selflessness and empathy. My difficulty is finding the balance. To what extent should I remain uncompromising and driven by self-interest, and to what extent must I sacrifice what I want to what is right? These mediums, especially The Mahabharata, help me understand not only the facets of my personality, but also my role in society.
East of Eden by John Steinbeck (book)
“Stories of Akbar and Birbal” (animated cartoons)
The Onion (website)
Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare (play)
Heidi by Johanna Spyri (book)
Bhagavad Gita (ancient epic/book)
Spotlight: The Mahabharata (ancient epic/book)
I consider myself to be religious person, and one reason for this is that I believe that religion provides us with a moral compass and general guidelines on how to live. Having been raised with the stories of Lord Rama, Krishna, and the Pandavas, I feel that it is only natural that I take these stories to heart and allow them to shape my view of myself and the world. Reading the Mahabharata, an ancient epic that describes a war between the families (the Kauravas and the Pandavas) of two brothers, I was taught the dangers of arrogance, jealousy, and lack of discipline. I was also taught that what is right for me may not be right for someone else- the concepts of right and wrong are not as easily defined as I naïvely believed them to be.
Written by Sree Y.
Like...regular books? Like in a bookstore?
I mean, yeah, like regular books.
I don’t know, I think there’s two reasons that people write. Either that they love it, and they like telling stories, or they’re passionate about something and they want to get it on paper, or they’re just passionate about something. Like people wonder why I write for the newspaper and do opinions and stuff since I don’t talk a lot.
You do opinions?
I’m more surprised that you have time to write for the newspaper.
It’s like extra homework.
Okay, let me ask you another question. Your favorite book is Anna Karenina.
Why do you like it?
I mean, honestly...because I just got so sick of reading in high school because you’re forced to read so many books you don’t like that I just stopped reading completely, until I chose that class...it was just so different. The style of writing. Every small thing had some bigger thing about it, and every time I read it again I notice something new.
What did you learn?
What did I learn?
This is important. I have to finish my blog post.
Don’t cheat on your significant other...I’d say that’s probably the strongest message. Or like...stay away from men named
Men named what? Bromsky?
Like V as in Volcano. Vronsky.
I don’t know, it seems like something that would be more modern, because you have a love triangle, and a secret forbidden romance, but I really liked the writing style. Like the plot seems modern but the writing style is so different. It’s like a puzzle.
Do you think books should have a lesson? Or, like, do you think when someone writes a book--okay, the way I’m asking this is like, really bias-ing, but I don’t know how else to ask it. Like do you think you can learn something from a book that the author didn’t like--you know, or is it just like--you know. Okay, that’s my question.
I don’t think every book has an explicit lesson in it. I feel like people that write books probably have some reason that they’re writing it, but I don’t think that necessarily comes out in the writing. At least for me, more often than not I will learn some lesson from a book, but I don’t think it’s the same for everyone. I think the way you interpret a book is different based on how you think.
Written by Rynd M.
Thoughts on the Cultural and Personal Value of ‘In(di)visible’ at The Station Museum of Contemporary Art
The Station Museum of Contemporary Art, as I wrote the first time I wrote for this blog, is the kind of space that contextualizes art in order to inspire deep cultural and ideological impact. With their new show, In(di)visible, The Station has once again pulled together an art exhibition that does just that and more.
I think about it even now, weeks after I attended the opening with a couple of friends. I remember that on the ride home from the museum that night, the three of us sat in complete silence, each of us drawn into ourselves like springs retracting after being stretched too far. Looking for some kind of reconciliation with our feelings through an understanding we were not very likely to find. That sense of pulling, at least for me, began the moment we walked through those gallery doors. It was the effect of being drawn into and through an exhibition operating on a multitude of artistic, emotional, and intellectual levels. It was the kind of show that forces you to think, to feel, and then to repeatedly challenge those thoughts and feelings.
It would be worthless to try to describe the exhibition itself, for at the core of its ability to so deeply impact the viewer is the way in which each piece so intimately conveys its own narrative as a part of the larger story, through the physical space and in conversation with the viewer. It is a story that needs to be told personally, the kind that gains meaning only by virtue of its being told and retold, given a space in which to exist. This is how it creates change on an individual level, in hope for change on a higher, cultural level. It gives voices to those previously silenced and challenges the unilateral narrative that is Western history. It is the tales of the old and the young, first and second generation immigrants from China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and more, told from a variety of perspectives and conveying a multitude of ideologies. These are the stories of the subaltern set center stage. In action, this exhibition is the very embodiment of its name—the act of unifying ‘invisible’ people and giving them absolute autonomy in the telling and creating of their past, present, and future.
To walk through this exhibition, then, is to engage the entirety of your humanity with the humanity of their experiences. To feel time and space collapse somehow when history is terrifyingly similar to the present. Although not Asian, as an immigrant myself I found that this exhibition forced me to look into a part of that experience I had been reluctant to challenge before. And thus, with my head against the car window on that exceptionally foggy night, riding down dimly lit streets that all looked almost the same, I found that the ambiguity of space right then was ironic. I couldn’t help but think, over and over, about why it hurts us so much. Why, when space changes, and cultures converge, we are so afraid. Why we are forced to choose between cultures, between nations, between mother lands and mother tongues and places and languages that are new to us.
I cannot say that I have any answers, although I feel at least closer to at least understanding where these challenges come from and why they matter. And so I would say that, regardless of your thoughts or knowledge on immigration, Asian American culture and history, and even art, these are questions worth asking, and this exhibition is one worth seeing.
Written by Ana Paula P.
I first considered the art of doodling in a creative writing class last semester.
Doodling as a story follows the basic structure of doodling as a drawing. You start where you need and stop at the end of a sentence or two. Just a margin, not a masterpiece. Reposition. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat as many times as it takes for you to detach yourself from the linear pursuit of a single story. Repeat until you’ve got a few diverse ideas that are exciting. Follow them a little bit more. Chuck the ones you don’t want. Doodle again. Toss some more. I think the best thing about doodling is the constant intake and outake. Nothing is concrete. You’re just exploring. And exploring can be one of those things - those hopeful things - that takes you out of your head and feels a little like a face mask, but, you know. Spiritual, or something.
Doodling brought me back to my middle school days of sketching dragons in the margins of lined notebook paper, repetitive patterns and extremely detailed irises. It always seemed like my best drawings were composed with a stubby pencil and not enough space to fit the whole picture between bullet points and paper limits. As soon as I’d gain enough artistic confidence to try starting on a clean, unmarked piece of white paper, a sense of pressure would descend upon me. How had I understood proportions so well just a minute before? Too much space, too many options. I inevitably ruined the “good” version by overthinking and perfectionism. It was in those marginal doodles, then, that I found the most peace. Things haven’t changed.
Doodling can be applied to everything, really. The absence of expectations opens you up to some marvelous opportunities. Friendships, relationships, new hobbies, old hobbies. Letting things happen as they may without trying to force them into a little preconceived box is immensely freeing.
Try it! Start with six sentences and see where they take you. It might be somewhere really cool. It might also be straight to the recycling bin. No worries either way. There are always more words and there will always be room for more doodles.
Written by Kristen H.
This December, the personal goal I set for myself was to read through books that fell into the weird, not-really-a-genre-genre of magical realism. A quick Google search of “Best Magical Realism Books” pulls up results that pull books from and about authors and cultures all over the globe. Some repeat-offenders on these lists include One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, various works by Toni Morrison and Haruki Murakami, and Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. These are all excellent authors and books, and all of them made my short reading list. As well, starting to recognize some of these big names drew me to my favorite book of at least the last six months, Salman Rushdie’s newest novel, The Golden House.
The Golden House follows a young film-maker, who introduces himself to the reader as simply René, living in a wealthy and insular community in New York. René finds himself drawn into the folds of the mysterious Golden family: the criminal-seeming Nero Golden, his new wife Vasilisa, and Nero’s three sons, Petya, Apu, and D. Fascinated by the people he has encountered, René tells their story both in context with himself and as part of the “mockumentary” he has planned around them. As such, the book is a mixture of the family’s events, René’s depictions of events he does not see (done in screenplay format!) and accounts of him working on the screenplay with other characters. The pieces come together in a fascinating sort of meta-commentary on the art of storytelling in three different layers: René hears stories told orally from the Goldens, which he recounts as bits of film, which are told to the reader by venue of the novel. So, that’s number one: if you’re interested in film, or how film and prose work together, this novel spends a lot of time investigating that relationship.
Number two is the characters themselves. The book sets up equally provocative relationships between René and each of the five members of the family; he is almost like a sixth family member, who has secret ties to each one. He gets to safeguard their fears, desires, and frustrations, sometimes even the feelings they have towards one another. And each one of the five family members is a hot mess. The Golden House is able to explore a huge number of topics and human questions from these characters psychologies. I was shocked and excited by how quickly the book could transition the reader from protests against Wall Street to discussions about gender identity, from the criminal underworld to the top of the iPhone app best sellers list.
Which brings me to reason number three why this book was so engaging: it is, as snooty as the phrase may be, a zeitgeist novel. (For those of you who don’t know the word, as I didn’t for like 20 years of my life, zeitgeist is from the German Zeit (time) + Geist (ghost/spirit), so it literally breaks down into “the spirit of the times.”) Its events span from Barack Obama’s election in 2008 to Donald Trump’s election in 2016. It is therefore completely full-to-bursting with statements and impressions about the time we are currently living in. It comments on political issues without allowing them to take over the entire book. (My personal favorite part is that it only refers to Trump as “The Joker” the entire time.) But it also looks at what New York, especially affluent and artistic New York, has become over the past decade. A warning, though: the book is also a screenshot of a affluent New York artist, so the texture of events can occasionally be drowned out in pages of allusion to antiquity or the classics of film and literature. Just as much as New York bleeds out of the pages, the consciousness of a highbrow narrator bleeds across them. René and the characters he meets often converse and think about things in terms of other things. References are everywhere; but you don’t need to understand them really. They’re merely part of the aesthetic texture of the book, which is rich with wisdom but also with the psyche of a very particular swath of recent human activity.
So, to recap, why I liked this book so much:
Oh, also, it’s just, like, good at being a book. Its story has a kind of epic grandeur to it. The book is long, but worth it. When I reached the end, I was impressed with the sort of antique poetic flourish that the whole book was. I hope you consider spending some time with this lovely book soon, and if you do, come talk to me about it!
Written by Erika S.