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Archive for September, 2012

A Continuing Education Compromise

September 26, 2012 2 comments

When I graduated in May, I assumed I was about to be away from school for at least a year. In fact, I talked about my 1+ year plan extensively with my professors pre-graduation. Most of them supported the idea, telling me a break would be good for me, especially since I was in a major that didn’t need immediate continuation (I wouldn’t lose science knowledge or math skills with time off).

However, about two weeks after graduation, I realized I would miss school and class and learning far too much to just walk away. I started to think about grad school, as many of you know. In fact, I have applied for grad school (just waiting on one transcript and two letters of recommendation…plus the GREs). My thought process behind grad school is not the same thought process I had pre-graduation.

Before I graduated, I thought I would take a year to get the feel of the working world, then plunge myself into school fully once more. Now, I don’t like that idea. I like the idea of class, yes, but I don’t like the idea of school being my life once more. Instead, part-time grad school is more agreeable. However, I really couldn’t wait until spring to learn something new and to be stimulated. Thus, through my local continuing education program through the board of education, I am taking a seven week Russian I course.

It’s great so far (I have only had one class, though). It seems like the continuing education courses tend to be attended by older people, which makes me feel like an odd ball. I convinced my friend to join me though, so we are the only “under 50” members of the class, except for the teacher, who is a younger Russian woman (accent and all)!

I like the class because there is no pressure of a grade (which makes me more comfortable trying to actually pronounce things–an issue in high school). The teacher seemed impressed that I wanted to learn Russian because of my interest in Russian literature. “Have you read The Idiot yet?” she asked me. “No, but I am reading The Brothers Karamazov at the moment. I like Dostoevsky. Did I say that right?” “Dostoevsky, yes, that’s correct.”

For fun, she wrote our names in the Russian alphabet. Since there is no “H” in Russian, and no “Samantha” in Russian, the best she could come up with was “Samanta.” I’m fond of it.

I’m hoping this little education compromise for these seven weeks will blossom into a strong interest in the Russian language. Maybe I will be able to start reading some basic Russian sentences.

Here’s to a stimulated mind!

Again, more to come. I have so much to update after being away from my blog for far too long.

From No Training to Plenty of Training

September 25, 2012 2 comments

I’ve been off my blog for a little bit. As I said in my previous post, it’s been a hectic time with my new job, going on vacation to Maine, getting my graduate application out the door, and preparing myself for my GREs in two months.

Anyway, after leaving my law office job a month ago, I was somewhat worried that I had made a mistake since I was leaving a nice salary for a recent college graduate. Two weeks ago, I started at a much larger company which deals with medical billing. It’s a large building: 200+ people (MUCH larger than the 10 employee place I was before). For my first week at the office, I shadowed people on my specific team (about 10 people itself). Last week, as well as this week, I have been in a training class.

This is CRAZY to me because my law office job (an important job in itself) trained me to do NOTHING. I was not trained. I almost forgot you could be trained by an employer…I mean, even the retail jobs I worked didn’t train train me in much more than taking care of customers and using the register. But now, I am being trained. At points, it has seemed slightly redundant, but I am happy to feel like I am actually learning something. I like knowing that the company actually wants me to understand my job and understand how to do it properly.

So, yes, I know this job isn’t the job I want for the rest of my life. However, it is A job that is actually training me to do something meaningful and which will keep me stable for the time being…especially since I am hoping to be accepted to graduate school for the spring (part-time of course).

I think the co-worker dynamic will be interesting to settle into since the office is so large and I will be working very closely with my team (whereas I didn’t work closely with anyone at the law office). I’m an independent worker. The job I will be doing is mostly independent, but I have to coordinate with my team since we focus on a specific area. It’s interesting enough that I will likely stick around for more than two months.

Here’s to yet another post-grad beginning.

One Beautiful Blogger Award

September 19, 2012 1 comment

I’ve been off for a little while (mostly due to beginning my new job and taking a nice, extended weekend to Maine). As my first attempt to do a little catch up, I wanted to thank Liamodell1 for nominating me for a Beautiful Blogger Award. Although I am not entirely sure what the qualifications for such an award were, I still am thankful to know that Liamodell found my blog to be interesting/beautiful enough to share with his/her followers. I’m going to break the rules of the award a little, though. According to Liamodell’s post, the first rule is to thank the person who nominated you. Check. Second, list seven random things about yourself (which I will do), and third, nominate 15 other bloggers. I will not be formally nominating any bloggers, but I will be listing a couple of blogs I follow and find particularly interesting.

Seven Random Things about Yours Truly, the Blogger of Split Book Binding:

  1. I like dress jackets.
  2. One of the few things that gets me excited enough to squeal: a pile of books.
  3. I am interested in other languages even though I fail horribly when I try to speak them (sorry, French, I butchered you in high school).
  4. Science fiction which could be called social science fiction (sci fi that considers political, social, ect. issues/implications) make me think more than a good literary novel does. Don’t ask me why. However, my Russian novels are finally tickling my brain more than other literature.
  5. I despised reading until I was in fifth grade. Then, I read Hatchet and, not only did I pretend to hate it, but I also hid under the table in class during reading time so my teacher wouldn’t see me absolutely devouring the book.
  6. I also used to hate the outdoors. Well, not so much hate as avoid. Actually, as a child I loved the outdoors, then moved away from it as a teenager. Now, I find myself gravitating to the outdoors more and more. Thanks, Emerson and Thoreau (not really).
  7. As most of my readers know, I miss school, but one subject (outside the obvious: English) that I miss terribly is Latin. I have a nice book of Latin poetry next to my bed that I have been meaning to read, dissect, and translate. Alas, there is only so much time in one day.

Blogs I Keep My Eye On:

  1. Terribly Write: Not only is this blog informative (it helps with grammar and the like), but it is incredibly funny to keep an eye on the Yahoo! headlines that Terribly Write uses as examples daily.
  2. A Year of Reading the World: Although I haven’t been able to keep up on every post, the blog is interesting in that the blogger is reading books from every country. Not only is her mission ambitious, but it is admirable. In fact, I enjoy seeing what kinds of literature she has run across as well as what sorts of connections she finds to the country’s culture.
  3. Frame Tale: One of the very first blogs I began to follow, Frame Tale tickles the literary side of me. It also tickles the learning side of me. I like that Kate discusses issues in writing and reading. Very interesting if you like more complex posts.
  4. Cristian Mihai: I am pretty sure everyone and their mother, aunt, and second cousin follow Cristian Mihai, but if you don’t, I would suggest checking his blog out…especially if you enjoy reading posts about writing and publishing. Well-written and well thought out posts.

I follow plenty of other blogs, but these four pop up in my feed most often and tend to catch my eye every time. Take a look and enjoy. Thank you again to Liamodell1 for nominating me for a Beautiful Blogger Award and I hope no one is too offended that I bent the rules. More to come this week! I have much to say about my new job, more post-graduation ponderings, and a couple book-related musings.

Happy blogging!

The Hunger Games: First Impressions

September 6, 2012 Leave a comment

I finished The Hunger Games. I’m not really sure what I think about it. It isn’t one of the books on my top 5 list, but it wasn’t dreadful. It wasn’t even bad. It was so-so, in my opinion at least. It wasn’t can’t-put-this-down worthy until about 60% through, when I finally caught the fire (a little like Katniss, maybe?) and devoured the rest of the novel. Although, I can’t say I did this because I loved it. I did it because, as someone said in a comment to my preceding post, the book has a good narrative. And, when you have a good narrative, with an interesting character, you can make your readers want to devour the book (don’t worry, I didn’t chew on my Nook).

What did the book have that was good? Like I said, it has a nice narrative and I think Collins did a good job of weaving in past events from Katniss’ life before the Hunger Games into the book without slowing down the action. On that note, Collins also does a good job of characterization. The characters that readers do become acquainted with (mostly Katniss, Peeta, Haymitch) seem at least slightly well-defined, although I can’t say that I know too much about the last two. However, our heroine is very much defined, which really is the most important. The book was also entertaining, which is important considering this was a bestseller.

What did the book not do well? Well, for one, as I’ve mentioned a few times in other posts, the prose is not good, but it’s at the level I would expect a young adult book to be at. And, well, it didn’t make me want to walk away three pages in (thanks, Twilight). Another thing the book didn’t do well, at least in my opinion, was be a dystopian novel. Boo at me if you wish, but the novel wasn’t dark enough, in my opinion, to be ranked along with The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, etc. Here is the issue I had: too many nice things happened to help the character out. When I think of my favorite dystopian tales, like the ones above, the main character isn’t given gifts to help them along. Hell, there isn’t even a slightly positive ending. Granted, The Hunger Games didn’t end with a happy, cheery ending, but it did appear to focus more on the fallout of a relationship (Katniss and Peeta, which is pretty young adult,¬†which makes sense since that’s what it is) than it did on the possible impending doom from the Capitol, if there is any doom at all. Yes, I know that kids killed each other throughout the book….talking about dystopian literature and how this didn’t quite sate my thirst for it could be another post entirely, but I welcome thoughts. It is dystopian…ish. My idea is subjective however, and plenty of people say that this book is part of that genre, so I will stop whining about it.

I’ve read a few things about the second book in the series since I haven’t decided whether I will read it or not yet. It appears it is supposed to be darker than this novel (maybe), so perhaps it will have a stronger dystopic feel. I’m still undecided.

Reading The Hunger Games did allow me to feel at ease about Orwell. The book isn’t Orwellian. Yes, it has Orwellian-like themes (people being controlled, forced, watched, etc), but isn’t Orwellian in that it doesn’t feel like Orwell and it doesn’t feel influenced by him. The prose doesn’t match. The overall dark feel isn’t there as strongly (Katniss at least came out on top. The same can’t be said for Orwell’s characters in most cases).

At the very least, reading the novel has allowed me to get over any odd fear I had of reading a trendy book. I should have known better from my Harry Potter experience (aversion turned into absolute obsession), but now I know that reading a young adult book with not-so-great prose won’t kill me and I am happy to think that I am definitely no book snob.

What to read next, though? The next in The Hunger Games series? A Russian novel? A nice sci fi read? I’m not sure.

P.S. Thanks to all who commented on my last post about book snobs. I have much to chew on.

What Is a Book Snob?

September 5, 2012 10 comments

Taken from BN.com

I mentioned in a recent post that I wanted to read The Hunger Games so that I could defend George Orwell. I’ve heard/read too many things declaring the series to be “Orwellian” and since my final semester at college was spend (mostly) studying Orwell enough to write a Dictionary of Literary Biography style bio on the man, I am interested in what makes the novel and the series so “Orwellian,” if anything.

I also mentioned in the same post that I wondered if I was a book snob by wanting to stay away from The Hunger Games as long as I could. I have tended to dislike book snobs. You know the ones: the ones who insist that the only books worth reading are by “true artists” such as Dickens, Melville, Hawthorne, etc.

Now, I got my degree in English and I don’t see what is great about some of the supposed greats, but I do like classics much more than I once did (hell, I’ve spent the summer reading through some of the great Russian classics). My English degree hasn’t made me like science fiction any less, however, and if anything, it has strengthened my love for it. There are positives to genre fiction, and, contrary to what a good book snob will tell you, they CAN be well written.

I started to think about what being a book snob means and if my aversion to The Hunger Games made me one of them. Then I saw this post on One Little Library linking readers to two articles about what type of readers there are. One specifically caught my eye since it’s been on my mind: The Book Snob. Here is the definition as defined by the article:

The Book Snob. You are hard to impress, Little Miss or Mister. You only read books that are well reviewed by critics that you have determined to be of the highest caliber. You would never stoop to read something on a best-seller list, or something sold in a discount department store, or something NOT GOOD. Paperbacks offend you; you only touch hardcover‚ÄĒpreferably, award-winning in some form or fashion.

Okay, so The Hunger Games is on the best-seller list, but that is not why I don’t want to read it. I’m not in the mood to deal with poorly written prose and I fear it will be as bad as Twilight, which I couldn’t even read past page 3. I told my friend Christy about my worries (she’s an English major and she has more wisdom than me since she’s older, so I go to her when I feel like I’m being too stubborn or rash). She told me: “I think when reading certain materials, the reader’s expectations need to be matched [to the material]. I didn’t go into it [The Hunger Games] expecting amazing writing, so I wasn’t paying attention. I do think that the content gives those of us with a critical mind a lot to chew on.” With that, I realized that it isn’t the prose I want to read the book for anyway. I want to read it to defend Orwell, who did have very nice, neat, concise prose.

I am hard to impress, like a book snob, but I don’t think that makes me a book snob. That doesn’t make anyone a book snob. We should be particular about the literature we read. After all, books are being published much more now that anyone can publish. The market is flooded. If we don’t have standards and don’t make it difficult to impress, then authors who don’t deserve to be best-sellers (just getting books sold because they are cheap) will become more standard than society should want. I don’t read books that are well reviewed (maybe I do, but I don’t even pay attention to reviews because I don’t care. If I am interested in a book, I will look at other readers’ testimonies and I will ask my friends). Lastly, I love paperbacks. I love to read them and give them dog-ears. I don’t have any room for hardcovers and I am far too cheap and poor to afford them anyway.

What is a book snob? Not what I am and not what many people are. I’m ready to read The Hunger Games; I am ready to defend Orwell if there are grounds to defend him on. But, mostly, I am ready for this mini break that I hope the first book will give me. I need a little light reading anyway before I tackle some more Russian literature.

 

Leaving on Good Terms

September 3, 2012 Leave a comment

I wrapped up my first real job on Friday (August 31). Although I wanted out as soon as possible, I tried my best to be as involved as I could with any work they put in front of me, which, oddly enough, seemed like much more than they were giving me before. But, I have no regrets. Sometimes you know when something isn’t for you and it was apparent almost immediately that I wouldn’t be able to keep my sanity working there. However, most important for any recent grad considering leaving a job in this economy is to make sure something else is lined up, so I will start working in a week at another company. This time, I won’t be answering phones and doing receptionist work. Instead, I will be looking at medical bills and figuring out why a client’s insurance won’t pay the bill. It’s not exactly what I want to be doing the rest of my life, but I think it will be more of an opportunity than the law office was. Especially since this job will likely contribute to my professional growth.

I left the law office on the best possible note that I could: with my co-workers wishing me luck and telling me to stay in touch and two lawyers telling me to give them a call if I ever need a reference. Remember how the newer receptionist got the assistant job? Well, she asked to not be the assistant about a week after being given the job. The lawyer who she would have been assisting told me that she’s sorry she didn’t ask me, but the main lawyer told her that I had a lot going on already (if staring at the phone is a lot, I’m afraid to see what a slow time there would be like). However, she was nice enough to say that everything I had done for her was exceptional and she expects me to be able to work my way into something I like. Similar to most of my other co-workers’ reactions, she said, “You are exceptionally smart and talented, so I have no doubt you will be able to do whatever you want.”

At the very least, I am leaving my first real job after a little over nine weeks on a professional, dignified note. I didn’t burn any bridges and I made some good connections. On to the next thing! After all, I have to save up for grad school in the spring. I want to go part-time. The courses are at night, which would allow me to work full-time and commute for a class once a week. It will be difficult, but I have enough in me to be able to do it.

Defending Orwell

September 2, 2012 Leave a comment

For the capstone seminar class my final semester of college, I wrote a biography (in Dictionary of Literary Biography format) about George Orwell. Since then, I keep seeing blogs, articles, etc. exclaiming that The Hunger Games is “Orwellian.” I am inclined to believe this to be an over-reaching over-statement, trying to compare writing that is likely mediocre to writing that is well-done.

You can’t compare a man who influenced the English language to an author who is merely a modern craze. However, I can’t say any of this definitively.

So, I am seriously considering reading the first Hunger Games book to see just what is so “Orwellian” about it, if anything. It actually makes me slightly sick to consider that I will be reading it, which makes me disappointed that I have become one of the book snobs I have always disliked.

Maybe I am a book snob. Maybe finishing a degree in English and breathing Russian literature has made me into some sort of book snob. All the more reason to challenge myself and read The Hunger Games in an attempt to defend Orwell.

Wish me luck. I will write a post about what I think after I get through it. I want (for Orwell’s sake) the critics to be wrong, like they tend to be.