Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Teen Roundtable: The Classics, Gap Books, and the Importance of Reading John Green

It’s time once again for our monthly Teen Roundtable with our Teen SPIES! The topic this month? Classics and gap books (books that everyone else has read, except YOU). And our SPIES (and operatives!) were super excited about the topics…

 Lissa: we get to talk about classics today right!??? *happy dance* 
Alexandra: I majored in English in college! I can't wait to do classics! 
Riv Re: they're fun...until the essays are assigned…and the tests…and homework
Katy U: Uh, I need to read MORE classics!

Some of our favorites…

Laura: Classics? Ones I've read, loved, can actually talk about? The Waves by Virginia Woolf. 
Lynsay: Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Frankenstein, The Sun Also Rises. 
The Disco Samurai (aka MATT): LOVE: Dickens, Melville, Salinger, Faulkner, Steinbeck 
Katy U: I love Steinbeck too! To Kill a Mockingbird is my all-time favorite classic, though. 
The Disco Samurai: Ooh, yes, can you believe Harper Lee stopped after one book!?!? 
Riv Re: Favorite classical author: Poe He's creepy and depressing and terrifying with the weirdest death and he's awesome. I knew half of The Raven at one point 
The Disco Samurai: That's a long, but gorgeous poem 
Alexandra: Poe is fabulous! Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before!!!!! 
Laura: YES! Poe. *sigh* 
Lissa: This is making me want to major in English ten times more, not gonna lie 
Katy U: I like Tell-Tale Heart... It's the best kind of creepy, as is The Pit and the Pendulum... His stuff is so bizarre 
The Disco Samurai: What doesn't Hollywood rip off more Poe stuff? 
Alexandra: Have you guys ever read the story The Lottery by Shirley Jackson? Hands down one of the eeriest short stories I've ever read. 
The Disco Samurai: In HS So chilling, and shocking Probably inspired the reaping in HG 
Riv Re: Ah! Lightbulb, Matt! Genius! 
Ones we’re a little meh about…

The Disco Samurai: Joyce, Hemingway, Bronte etc 
Alexandra: Ew. I would go back in time and kill Hemingway if I could. I'd kill Hitler first, and then I'd kill Hemingway. 
Riv Re: Alexandra, you don't believe in the Evil Baby Orphanage? 
Alexandra: I think Hemingway was a sexist asshole. I can't stand his portrayal of women. I feel like they're cardboard and stupid. And I'm soooo tired of the whine whine whine Hemingway's characters do. 
Lynsay: Well I can't totally disagree with that I guess, but I really liked the whole Lost Generation thing he did. 

And the classics we had mixed opinions on…

Lissa: Has anyone read Catcher in the Rye? 
The Disco Samurai: That's Salinger, and yes I LURVE it. 
Katy U: Not a fan, Lissa. 
Alexandra: I LOVE CATCHER IN THE RYE! 
Lissa: Katy, I've got mixed feelings. It was meh. Holden is way overrated and the language drove me crazy, but for some sick reason, I liked it a bit 
Katy U: Yeah, Holden was a little bitter for my taste.
Alexandra: I think Holden has one of the most consistent first person voices I've ever read. As far as craft goes, it's a brilliant book. 
Lissa: Like, I knew the bitterness was intentional, but it was too much to handle sometimes. But yeah, Alexandra, he was consistent and I was fond of him most of the time 
The Disco Samurai: Many call it the first true YA voice, whatever that means 
Katy U: Definitely a unique voice, one I think people either love or hate 
Lissa: But didn't the constant "old friend" or whatever drive you CRAZY?
Alexandra: Hah kinda yeah. The same way "here's lookin' at you, kid" drove me nutso when I watched Casablanca! 

Melville anyone?
Alexandra: Moby Dick is eeeeevil. Oh my goodness, I know it's supposed to be brilliant, but I was SO BORED. There's an entire chapter on the whale's "whiteness" it's like details details details details blah blah blah blah NOTHING HAPPENS in Moby Dick. 
Riv Re: it's about a whale, Alexandra… a white whale 
The Disco Samurai: Hah! Nothing much happens in so many classics. Or if it does, it takes 1500 pages. Les Mis? 
Riv Re: HUGO is love, also (until the essay is due) 
Lissa: That's true Matt. A lot of them are overrated IMO 

How about those ladies?
Alexandra: This is my decree. So much of what's "classic" is still so male. So time for lady authors. 
The Disco Samurai: Pick one, Alexandra. 
Alexandra: Mary Shelley! 
The Disco Samurai: Hells yes. Frankenstein is the bizness. That meant cool (in the 90s). 
 Lissa: I NEED to read Frankenstein 
Alexandra: My favorite classic by a woman? THE VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN by Mary Wollstonecraft!!!!!! It's an essay, not a story, by Mary Shelley's momma 
Lissa: *cough* Charolette Bronte *cough* Jane Eyre, hands down! I loved the writing style AND the characters. I just loved how deep it actually went psychologically I guess. It was so ahead of its time, in terms of women's rights and feelings, and I think it broached a lot of subjects with maturity and intelligence while still doing so in a gorgeous way - prose wise, and character wise 
Riv Re: HATED Jane Eyre 
Lissa: WHY???? 
Riv Re: The Jane Eyre Rant: I've never been in love, but If You Love Him, Marry Him. Running away confuses everyone (especially me) 
The Disco Samurai: I like Jane Eyre, but I couldn't get into the other Bronte sisters stuff. Maybe cause they made us read it. 
Alexandra: I'm not a fan of the Bronte sisters, but I'd rather talk about Charlotte than Emily. Also, Mr. Rochester is a sexist dickwad. 
Katy U: Ha! Now I want to read it! 
Lissa: NO! I love Rochester. He's a sexist pig but I have a soft spot for him for some reason 
Alexandra: Better Mr. Rochester than Edward Cullen
Lissa: I'm trying to read Wuthering Heights now and am slowwwwwly falling asleep 
Alexandra: Because Wuthering Heights is a soap opera and it's also a frame story within a frame story which is the worst narrative structure idea EVER 
 Lissa: I really don't get the big deal about that one, though her sister (Charlotte) blew me away 
Lynsay: I love the Bronte sisters. How was there so much talent in one family? 
Lissa: I have to agree on that Lynsay. How come they all have writing talent? Though I don't appreciate Emily's as much as Charlotte's, I still have to admit her writing is impressive
The Disco Samurai: Someone needs to remix Jane Eyre. Like those silly ... and Zombies books (I'm kidding) 
Lissa: Has anyone read those Zombie takeoffs? Honestly, I can't imagine people reading them
Alexandra: No. I could never pollute Pride and Prejudice in my mind by reading that zombie takeoff and I love zombies 
Riv Re: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter! I read it before it was cool 
Alexandra: I'm actually kind of excited about the Lincoln movie 
Lissa: There's a book? 
The Disco Samurai: By the same imprint that die PPZ and Sense and Sensibilty ... and Seamonsters. 

Other favorite lady authors? Sylvia Plath, Margaret Atwood, Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, and Harriet Beecher Stowe…

The Disco Samurai: I was going to ask about Uncle Tom's Cabin (UTC).  Harriet Beecher Stowe I read it in HS, and remember being pleasantly surprised it was by a woman. Can't remember why. 
Alison: I remember reading UTC in high school and really liking it 
Lexie B.: Never read Uncle Tom's Cabin, but we learned about it this year in American Studies. Very influential to the abolitionist movement and such. 
Laura: I haven't read UTC but searched for Paper Town's one day and it came up instead. According to Goodreads, John Green wrote it, not Harriet Beecher Stowe. Riveting. 
Lexie B.: Yes, John Green is secretly a vampire who's existed since the 19th century! 
Riv Re: wait. he's too cool to be a vampire! 

And our Gap Books
Alexandra: Actually speaking of John Green, I've never read anything by John Green. Partially because I'm not really a fan of contemporary. Also because I prefer to read books by women. 
Lexie B.: Alexandra, THIS NEEDS TO CHANGE. John Green is FLAWLESS. His books and the man himself. FLAWLESS.
Alexandra: But he's not a girl. 
Riv Re: i have contempt for contemp but he's awesome 
The Disco Samurai: All Greens books are gap books for me I WANT to read them, but haven't 
Alison: OMG, READ JOHN GREEN NOW I've read every one! LOVE LOVE LOVE 
Lexie B.: As have I. His books are the kind of books that change you. 
Laura: Looking for Alaska - HEARTBREAK. 
 Lexie B.: Guys…guys…READ JOHN GREEN'S BOOKS…ALL OF THEM. 
Riv Re: YES Also: watch his videos 
Lexie B.: The vlogbrothers are the best, man. 
Alexandra: Lol, I find watching people talk at the camera on youtube to be REALLY awkward. I seriously cannot do it. 
Alison: NERDFIGHTERS 
The Disco Samurai: I do enjoy the vlogs 
Riv Re: omgosh DFTBA*. John Green is the most amazing man in the world 
Lexie B.: I totally agree, Riv. He's my favorite author, hands down. 
The Disco Samurai: It seems we've unearthed some passion here, Alexandra 
Riv Re: you have to read his books in order 
Lexie B.: Start with LfA (Looking for Alaska) and progress chronologically from there. 
Riv Re: LfA almost had me in tears I never cry at books or movies 
Laura: aaaah! LfA was...woah. 
The Disco Samurai: People tell me to end with TFIOS (The Fault in Our Stars)
Lexie B.: They're right. I wouldn't recommend starting with TFiOS because it's the best. 
Alison: TFIOS makes your stomach hurt from laughing and your heart hurt from crying but SO GOOD 
The Disco Samurai: I love a story that pulls both ways like that Alison. 
Alison: OMG and An Abundance of Katherines (AAoK) is AWESOME (says the math person)
Lexie B.: AAoK is definitely his lightest book, and still completely fantastic. 
Laura: See, I didn't like Paper Towns that much. Thinking I'll like AAoK better. 
Lexie B.: Paper Towns was my second favorite, but I know opinions vastly differ there. 
Alison: I LOVE Paper Towns! 
Laura: Really? What's-her-face annoyed me. See! I can't even remember her name. Wait. Margo. ...Right? 
Lexie B.: Margo Roth Spiegelman. She was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. And that was the whole point. The story was about him taking her off that pedestal he'd placed her upon. She wasn't necessarily supposed to be likable. 
Alexandra: Ew I hate MPDGs 
Lexie B.: Alexandra, the whole theme of Paper Towns was stripping away that mystery and worship and proving that beneath it all, Margo was just a person, as much as anyone else. So it didn't bother me. 
Alexandra: Interesting, Lexie, thanks for telling me that 

*DFTBA = Don't Forget To Be Awesome!
And now that we’re all breaking down Barnes and Nobles doors for some John Green…other gap books?
Lexie B.: Obsidian by Jennifer Armentrout. 
Alexandra: I have so many non-classic gap books. Just name a book and I've probably not read it. 
Riv Re: most importantly: City of Bones 
Alexandra: I HAVE read City of Bones! 
Riv Re: another gap book, this one i want to make sure EVERYONE read, so I can ignore whoever hasn't: Harry [freakin] Potter
The Disco Samurai: If you haven't read HP, I can't relate to you. 
Alexandra: I love HP. I consider HP a classic. JKR is a GODDESS 
Lexie B.: I don't think HP is old enough to be considered a classic, but I think that series should be read by everyone and anyone. 
Riv Re: if it's older than me, it's a classic 
The Disco Samurai: Instant Classic, then. It's done so much for reading, books, writing, publishing. LOTR and HP are the two greatest stories ever told. IMHO 
Katy U: I did finish The Book Thief last night... Does that count as a classic yet? 
Alison: That is one of my gap books! Must fix that! 
Alexandra: Alison, that's one of my gap books too 
Lissa: ahhhhhh Markus Zusak i think it's a modern classic 
The Disco Samurai: I just finished the Book Thief today. My god I cried and cried. 
Lissa: Awh that's so cute!!!!!! And I bawled for a straight hour after The Book Thief 
Riv Re: YES. Markus Zusak has the prettiest writing EVER
The Disco Samurai: It's not a classic so much as an instant classic 
Alexandra: Speaking of the holocaust...a serious gap book I've never read is The Diary of a Young Girl (Anne Frank) 
The Disco Samurai: OMG get on it Alexandra 
Lexie B.: You should definitely read it, Alexandra. It gives you a very important perspective, the perspective of a victim.  But a victim who didn't act like a victim. 
Alexandra: Sometimes I avoid books I know will make me cry. Which is part of the reason I haven't read Anne Frank yet. 
Lexie B.: It might not make you cry, to be honest. Not until the end note that tells you what happened to her after the end of the diary. Because for the diary itself, she was very cheerful and optimistic. Beneath all the terror and horror, she was just a teenage girl. 
Riv Re: the real kicker: when they tried to publish it, it was rejected for sounding fake 
Alexandra: My gap books are mostly contemp. I love fantasy. 
Alison: My gap book (aside from The Book Thief) is Graceling (Don't hate me, Alexandra!) 
Lexie B.: I never read Graceling, either! Forgot that one. I've heard very mixed opinions on Graceling. But I want to try it. 
Riv Re: Graceling=best book EVER
Alexandra: YES RIV! 
Laura: I NEED to read Graceling. 
Alison: Okay, good. PHEW. Don't feel so bad, but it's on the TBR 
Alexandra: Graceling has a couple of characterization flaws that makes it look like Cashore is pushing a feminist agenda, but that's not actually the case imo 
Riv Re: she's not. at all. she just makes a kick-butt character. People think that if someone doesn't get married, she's anti-men.
The Disco Samurai: So other gaps books? Mine are pretty much any YA PNR or YA Contemp Romance I like swords more than kissing. 
Riv Re: swords and kissing! 
Lexie B.: ALSO SPEAKING OF HIGH FANTASY BUT HAS ANYONE READ SHADOW AND BONE BY LEIGH BARDUGO? BECAUSE IT'S SO FREAKING GOOD 
Alexandra: I haven't but I want to! 
Lexie B.: I love it. Love it love it love it. Although, warning, there IS a fair amount of romance. 
The Disco Samurai: I'm down with Romance as a subplot As long as there are swords
Lexie B.: There are not swords, but there are rifles and knives and magic gifts.
The Disco Samurai: Rifles, eh? Fantasy with guns = weird but cool 
Lexie B.: Yes, rifles indeed. Something really cool about S&B is that unlike most high fantasies, which are English-inspired, the world is Russian-inspired. It's really interesting. And magical. And awesome. 
Riv Re: rifles are cool, but I'm still a sword girl You can't have gun fights! It's just "Pow, you're dead" 
Lexie B.: Not when you're fighting vicious winged monsters and people with magic gifts, Riv! 


Laura: Gah! I have tons of gap books. I don’t know how I call myself a reader. Like, I haven’t read any of the classics you guys discussed before! I live under a rock. I grew up with Alyson Noel books. Apparently, I was more interested in reading about PMS than whale harpooning. Tsk, tsk, tsk. Shame on me and my uneducated brain. I suck. *Slaps forehead* 

I think we all felt that way after this roundtable, Laura! But LOTS of awesomely cool recommendations and as always, SO MUCH amazing discussion!
So, what are YOUR favorite classics? Any gap books? And have YOU read John Green?

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