Welcome to Scarlet Thread Sunday, the day I share a thread of something I’ve learned in the labyrinth of life. Although today it’s more like the labyrinth of a library.
During the first round of A Round of Words in 80 Days, I read Lolita by Nabakov. This novel is often listed among the best ever written, and I agree that it was well-crafted and intriguing. But it was also incredibly disturbing, as it tells the story of a pedophile who pursues a relationship with a twelve-year-old girl. And it is told from his point of view. *shudder*
I got to thinking of books that stayed with me, crawled up my skin, lodged in my brain.
Dracula by Bram Stoker. I picked up the classic vampire novel my sophomore year in college. I remember it well because I was reading on a Saturday night while my roommate was out. (Yeah, yeah, I was a boring reading geek. Anyway…) My roommate unexpectedly came home early, and I nearly jumped to the ceiling.
I had been mesmerized by the eerie quality of this vampire who was nothing like the caricatures I had seen up to that point. Whenever people think they know who Dracula is, I ask whether they’ve read the book. The tale is sufficiently creepy, and hey, this is the one that started it all; without Dracula, there would be no Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo. This novel was recommended to me by a pacifist friend in college, but I didn’t pick it up until years later. Trumbo tells the story of a soldier horribly maimed in World War I. He cannot move, cannot speak, but his mind is completely intact.
The deep pain of his new existence is poured out onto the pages with gripping narrative. I’m among those believe that some wars are necessary, but it is chilling to know that the worst victims may not be the ones dead on the battlefield.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Sylvia Plath wrote this semi-autobiographical novel about a young woman who is slowly but surely losing her mind. She writes poignantly about the slow descent into mental instability. If you ever wanted to know what it’s like for those plagued with mental illness, this is an excellent read.
I just wish that Plath had overcome her own battle with depression. Instead, she committed suicide at the much-too-young age of 30.
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. Room 101. Just those words now send a chill up my spine. If you’ve read the novel, you know what I mean.
Published in 1949, George Orwell imagined a 1984 dystopian society in which Big Brother watches its citizens and assures compliance with the party line. The imaginary world Orwell constructs seems far-fetched, unless you’ve read any history of Stalin’s Russia or Mao’s China. Even today in the United States, we worry about what technology allows others to know about us. And this is the book that got us thinking about the spies in our midst.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov. How did Nabakov so ably get into the head of a pedophile? Protagonist Humbert Humbert pines for a 12-year-old girl, and the novel tells of his desire, his pursuit, his success, and his demise. Having studied the psychology, I know that there are categories of pedophilia, and Nabakov seems to have achieved accuracy in his telling of an older man longing for a prepubescent girl. It’s sick honestly.
Typically, I want a main character that I can relate to and/or root for. Humbert was neither, but Nabakov kept me engaged because I was rooting–for the young girl and for Humbert to be stopped.
Just writing about these five books has my skin shivering a bit, but I would recommend all of them. They’re not vacation reads by any means, but they are well-written studies of personality and behavior.
- Edit/rewrite SHARING HUNTER, a YA contemporary novel. Rewrote one chapter, then had to put this on hold to get ready for church camp (for which I write curriculum).
- Edit two short stories–one needs a final polish, the other a full edit. Not yet.
- Read 10 fiction books: White Cat and Red Glove last week and Black Heart this week–all by Holly Black (Young Adult, Curse Workers series); now reading Firelands by Piper Bayard.
- Finish craft book: Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies by Deborah Halverson. (I read the first half last round.) Not yet. I actually went back and scread Wired for Story by Lisa Cron–one of my favorite writing craft books.
- Visit and comment on five ROW80 blog posts per week. Done.
- Attend at least one RWA meeting. Printed out the national RWA membership application and have three chapters meetings on my calendar for August:West Houston RWA, Northwest Houston RWA, and Houston Bay Area RWA.
What books have you read that disturbed you? Do you recommend them anyway? And how was last week for you?