Category Archives: Conversations

Thoughts on Reading Lit and Writing: A (Long) Conversation with Mr. A

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A really long post lies ahead… you’ve been warned, unsuspecting visitor! When I began this book blog, my boyfriend (henceforth to be referred to as Mr. A) asked me something along the lines of “Can I be in it?” to which I answered affirmatively. We’ve bonded over stories of different kinds over the months and years. I certainly don’t regret it but I’ve always wondered how different my life would’ve been if I’d studied English in college instead of History. Mr. A had some enlightening things to say about life during and beyond his English Major years:

  • You read a lot as a kid. Which books did you remember reading multiple times and loving?

I remember reading a lot of Fantasy novels. The series I probably re read the most was Harry Potter. I was in the first grade when my parents bought me a copy of The Sorcerer’s Stone and I probably read that book hundreds of times. After the Fellowship of the Rings came out in theatres I grew enamored with the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Calvin and Hobbes is a series that I’ll never get tired of either. It’s so relatable and humorous no matter how old I get. My dad always used to take me to Barnes and Noble. After I did my homework I’d be allowed to read for a few hours. He’d always make me read classic novels before I read anything I wanted though. Dracula, Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Invisible Man, War of the Worlds, Gulliver’s Travels, he made me read all of these before I was even 12. I’d always complain when he first picked out the books, but I simply couldn’t put any of them down.

  • When you were choosing your major, did you have other subjects in mind or was english your one and only preference? Why?

When I was first picking out my major it was a toss up between English literature and History. This changed pretty quickly after I took my first American Literature and History course during my first semester of college. I was bored out of my mind and spent most of the classes playing vs matches of Pokemon on my laptop. I still got a B+ in that class, but it was clear to me I did not want to be a History major.  I also considered Psychology as my major with English as my minor. Learning more about how people thought and acted fascinated me. Then I took some classes and realized that there was a lot more statistics and pedal pressing rats than I cared for. So ultimately, I decided to be an English major with a Psychology minor.

  • I love reading your stories and poems. Besides prompts, what inspires you to write (and when)? Can you share a little poem?

Thanks gorgeous, glad to know you like my writing so much. Different things inspire me to write. Sometimes I use my writing to  express how I’m feeling when I feel like I don’t have any other outlet. Occasionally I’ll think of a line or two and I’ll extrapolate that into a full poem. Other times a character or plot will wander along and I’ll write a little bit of their story. It’s very random and spontaneous, but I really ought to take more time and just write even if I’m not feeling inspired. Also, sharing my writing is a tad embarrassing but I will for you.

Somedays I just want to

Sleep for ten thousand years

Under a blanket of starlight

Dreaming into the future

A vast expanse

Unknowable

Uncountable

To be gone and forgotten

And wake up where no one

Knows me. After the end

In the stark silence

(Side note: Let it be known that, depressing and heady as this poem is, Mr. A’s  romantic poems & stories are absolutely enchanting and scintillating) 

  • You really enjoyed teaching at one point of time but later became disillusioned with it. Now you’re working in sales. How do you feel about that transition?

I find sales and teaching to be very similar in certain regards. Both jobs depend a lot on being able to understand what someone wants and needs. Being a teacher is very rigid in certain ways. You are the authority in the classroom and you need to own that position. Students acknowledge your authority and most will usually do as you say. Sales is different in that you do not start off in a position of authority. You have to persuade the customer to your way of thinking by leading the conversation and controlling the flow. I’m a somewhat introverted person by nature and sales doesn’t really come naturally to me. But I do like how I have to maintain a positive and outgoing attitude to be successful at my job. I feel that I’m slowly improving my skills and that I’m getting out of my shell bit by bit.

  • When you were studying english, what were your favourite or most memorable classes/modules?

While I was studying English, my favorite course I took was the 400 Level Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. Seminar. My Professor was the world’s foremost expert on Oliver Wendell Holmes and we spent the entire semester reading through The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table. Although it’s a slim book, the story is filled with an absurd amount of references to all manner of subjects including history, science, mathematics, philosophy, and literature. It’s a difficult book to get through because several of the allusions are quite obscure. My professor himself reflected the novel. He was unyielding, intelligent, and extremely well cultured. He never failed to call us out on our wrong answers, but if he praised you it was genuine and well earned. I learned something new and interesting in every one of his classes. The book was not annotated at the time I took the class so every homework assignment required a good amount of research. For our final project we were each given 20 pages to annotate. It’s the most amount of work I’ve ever done for any class and I spent a good 40+ hours on my portion of the project. In the end it was completely worthwhile and rewarding, our class had done something that had never been done before. The annotations are actually the first result on Google for “The Annotated Autocrat.” 

  • Do you think that critically analysing and deconstructing a text takes away some of the enjoyment from the story?

Yes and no. I think that the first impression you get from a story is very important. In some ways it’s fun to shut off your brain and consume a piece of media. You take in the story and let it pull you along its trajectory. Not knowing the plot ahead of time can allow you to enjoy the twists and experience the development at a natural pace. You can enjoy the flash and pizazz of the surface appeal. On the other hand, critically analyzing and deconstructing a piece of work lets you enjoy the deeper workings of the story. It allows for multiple readings and interpretations, almost like getting a different story each time. You develop an eye for technique and skill. You begin to look at how the story was put together piece by piece. By taking in a story without thinking about it you’re allowing yourself to feel as the author intended. By analyzing the story, you begin to look at how the author makes you feel what you do.

  • What are you favourite genres and themes in novels and why?

I’m a big fan of Fantasy and Sci-Fi. I like stories that explore the impossible and the improbable, that stimulate your imagination and takes you to wonderful places that could only exist in your imagination. I also enjoy stories that are heavily character driven, that really delve into a person’s motivations and desires. I always want to know why someone acts the way that they do, and media is a great way to explore that.

  • Final question – Can you address your beef with Charles Dickens? 😛

Haha. I don’t really despise Dickens as much as I say in our personal conversations. I just don’t enjoy reading most of his work. His novels are often great character studies and wonderful snapshots of the time he lived in. They can also be very dry and a slog to get through. My big issue is that there’s a lot of filler that could be cut out to make for tighter stories. The man was literally paid by the word so he had incentive to milk out stories for all they were worth. I don’t like padding for the sake of padding. Not going to lie, I do like A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist. Who doesn’t?

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