Ah – exam season. A time for frantic freshman to huddle in the Ugli looking wild-eyed and sleep deprived while the impeding doom of back-to-back exams slowly chip away at our sanity. Someone once told me that you remember information better when you give yourself a break at semi-frequent intervals. So would now not be the perfect time to pick up a book that's not a textbook?
Lately I’ve been exploring an author called Nikolai Gogol. For those who are unfamiliar with him, he is a Russian writer, his work unknown to many. While reading a Jhumpa Lahiri novel this summer, I came across his name so many times that it would just have been silly to pass up such an obvious suggestion.
I find that it’s always helpful to pay attention to the authors and books mentioned in other books you’re reading. Authors learn how to write by reading, so the good ones have read a lot, and often reference them in their own works.
So I took Lahiri’s word for it and ordered a collection of his short stories (i.e. The Collected Tales - see below). My favorite so far out of the two I’ve read has been The Terrible Vengeance. Modernist readers beware – this style of writing is very old-fashioned, more in line with folktales than anything else. I mean, the guy died in the 1850's so who can blame him.
If you are interested in magic and fairy tales, this story is right up your alley. My parents have a twelve-volume collection of fairy tales and folktales from around the world that I would devour when I was younger so I’m all about this.
It’s a very dramatic and dark story: A newly married couple, Katerina and Cossack Danilo, encounter a sorcerer at a friend’s wedding, soon after which Katerina starts having strange dreams about the sorcerer wanting to marry her. Danilo is not down with that so drama ensues. It may sound like a bad Disney movie but the writing is beautiful and intricately descriptive. My favorite passage describes the Dnieper river, around which the story is set:
“Blue, deep blue, he goes flowing smoothly through the night as through the day, visible as far off as the human eye can see. Languidly pressing himself closer to the banks from the night’s chill, he sends a silver ripple over his surface, and it flashes like the strip of a Damascus saber: and, deep blue, he sleeps again”(89).
Despite the horrific amount of time I’ve spent at the library these past few days (weeks), I managed to find some time for myself and was shown a new nook. It’s not so much a nook as a tranquil study lounge on the tenth floor of North Quad. It’s on the residential side so entrance requires a bit of stealth, but who hasn’t snuck into a dorm or two in their day? It’s a beautifully lit room, furnished with old-fashioned arm chairs as well as tables for studying. What I liked most about it was the atmosphere – it’s the kind of quiet that makes you want to whisper to whoever you’re with even if nobody else is in the room. And don't let the murky picture fool you - the view is beautiful.
The winning playlist this week was the Django Django station on Pandora, whose exceptionally good looking faces are displayed in the feature image for this article. I became infatuated with their sound at Bonnaroo, and so far they haven’t let me down. The playlist threw in a great group of artists like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Greenskeepers, M83, Noosa, Local Natives, Metronomy, Islands and Franz Ferdinand – half of which are my favorite bands anyway so I was quite pleased.
Stay nerdy, friends