Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green

When I was in middle school, I loved all of  the Lurlene McDaniels books. You’d think reading about teenagers battling cancer would be depressing but somehow she managed to make her stories about love and life. I mention this because John Green’s book is nothing like Lurlene’s, and thus is overwhelmingly depressing. Cancer becomes as much of a character as Hazel and Augustus as you get an intimate glimpse at the life of teenage patients. 

Hazel and Augustus meet at a cancer support group. They fall in love while Hazel undergoes treatment. Their whole relationship revolves around their illness, but somehow that’s okay too. Green’s story is so realistic you almost forget that he’s writing a YA novel, which is kind of the point. He doesn’t minimize the teens’ emotions, nor does he make them into an overblown soap opera. He just lets them be.

Just like Hazel and Augustus would want. 

 

Book Review: Sybil Exposed

Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case by Debbie Nathan

Sybil Exposed by Debbie Nathan

It’s no secret that I love psychology — pop or otherwise. After Professor Levine‘s abnormal psychology class I began to thing more critically about the books I had once love (Girl, Interrupted, Prozac Nation). Chief among the offenders was Sybil. A classic story of Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) it sparked a craze that led the American Psychological Association to add the diagnosis to the DSM.

In Sybil Exposed Debbie Nathan looks into the science behind the book and makes some shocking discoveries. The real story of abuse may be more violent and underhanded than the story presented in Sybil. Dr. Wilbur injected Shirley (the real name of Sybil) with “truth serum” many times a week. The substance is shown to cause hallucinations, nausea, excessive sleep and is only recommended for a maximum of three doses. This drug in combination with the others Dr. Wilbur prescribed for Shirley kept her from pursuing any life independent from therapy.

Nathan presents the story from three different perspectives: Shirley, Dr. Wilbur and Flora Rheta Schreiber. By doing so she is able to create a story that parallels the fragmentation of Sybil’s creation.

Rating: 4/5

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Just a little Kenyon love

My idyllic little college got a lot of love from a pretty famous alum a few days ago and I thought I’d share it with you. John Green is the latest in a long line of creative Kenyon folks: Robert Lowell, Laura Hillenbrand, James Wright, Caleb Carr, E. L. Doctorow, Alison Janney, Paul Newman, Josh Radnor, Rutherford B. Hayes, Jim Borgman, and Bill Watterson, to name a few. Though the list itself is awe-inspiring, it’s even more shocking once you realize that Kenyon graduates a mere 450 students every spring.

Green says it best: “In short I know that nostalgia is in the business of twisting memories into lies and that there are lots of great colleges and universities but let’s face it: Kenyon is the best one.”

Week in Review: What I Read

Full of excitement, this week has seen the gradual wind-down of senior year begin. I’m running ragged trying to get transcripts sent, Academic Infractions Board Cases heard, and grad classes registered–but I love it!  Here’s what I read this week in between errands

  1. What Books Did People Read On the Titanic? (Bookriot): Saying I’m obsessed with the Titanic is a slight understatement. My roommate and I had the conversation that everyone has “their” tragedy and the sinking of the Titanic is definitely mine. For me it signifies the real end to everything I love about the Victorian era: new technology, W.T. Stead, billionaires, and dreams. Given all of this it’s no surprise that I jumped with joy at all of the press coverage for the centennial. This article was of utmost interest, because c’mon: books + Titanic = love.
  2. Is a Credit Union Your Savior From Student Loan Debt? (Forbes): Another timely article as I just had my loan exit interview here at Kenyon. With student debt rising there’s been an increased interest in how to keep the “next generation” from stumbling to financial ruin. This article is a new take on an old problem.
  3. Podcasts by Oxford University English Faculty (via Blackwell’s Bookshop): Okay, so this one isn’t strictly an article, but it’s a great listen all the same! One of my favorite things about being an English major is that I get to listen to great minds talk about great literature and now I can take it with me! (Bonus: these professors have British accents.)
  4. Tutoring Surges with Fight for Middle School Spots (NYT): Though I read this in the print edition–Kenyon graciously holds subscriptions to the NYT that are delivered to the dining hall Monday through Friday–it’s available online. It boggles my mind that competition is so tough just for middle school tests — I didn’t take a prep course for the SAT! The article reminds me a lot of the documentary Nursery University (check it out if you haven’t already).

An Explanation of Comps

I’ve realized that I continually mention “comps” in my blog posts without giving any explanation! I attend Kenyon College and here all seniors are required to complete a senior comprehensive project in order to receive their degree. The project is different for each major, for example drama majors perform/direct a play and take an exam while biology majors write a research paper and take an exam. For English majors like me “comps” has two parts: the paper and the exam.

The paper is a project of our own devising. It can be on any area of literature that we have taken classes in and can use any novel, whether we’ve read it for a class or not. The idea is to show the English department that we’ve learned something during our four years here. Absurdly short at nine to twelve pages, the challenge of the paper is writing all of the pertinent information concisely! For most of us this is the shortest paper we’ve written for an English class since freshman year, so it’s definitely a struggle. This part of comps was due just after winter break, at the end of January.

The examination is far more structured. We are given a reading list of several novels, plays and poets and are expected to know the works thoroughly. The works come from the three divisions within the English department: pre-1700s, 1700-1900, post-1900. For my year we have to read the following:

  • Pre-1700: The Tempest (William Shakespeare), Doctor Faustus (Christopher Marlowe), All for Love (John Dryden), The Canterbury Tales: Middle English Version (Geoffrey Chaucer)
  • 1700-1900: Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte), The Playboy of the Western World (J.M. Synge), The Interesting Narrative Life of Olaudah Equiano
  • Post-1900: Wide Sargasso Sea (Jean Rhys), Absalom, Absalom! (William Faulkner)

The poets are also chosen to spread through the time periods, though thankfully there are fewer of them. We have to read: Eavan Boland (post-1900), Emily Dickenson (1700-1900), Michael Harper (post-1900) and George Herbert (pre-1700).

The list seems daunting at best. Finding time to read all of the works is enough trouble but to read them in the detail they deserve, and that is expected, is more than a little challenging. Anything about the plot or author can be asked on the exam. We have to identify passages from the books and know what scene it is taken from and who is speaking. We have to analyze a poem in detail, for three hours. Stress about the exam doesn’t even begin to cover it!

Luckily I have a wonderful study group that has been meeting since August to go over the books. We’ve accomplished a great deal more than other English majors in our situation have at this point in the game. I keep telling myself that there are those who read the whole list over spring break and come back to campus to pass the exam, surely that means I can do it too.

My flashcards are (mostly) made. I’ve read everything (except one) book. I have three weeks to study and then I will be done with my English major!

An Irish Spring Break

An Irish Spring Break

After leaving for Ireland bright and early one Saturday morning, there was no stopping! Arriving in the early afternoon, I had just enough time to grab a quick bite before I rushed off to a group tour. Unfortunately since we were so rushed lunch consisted of a few bites of whatever Starbucks had. What started out as a “walking tour” of the city quickly devolved into a history lecture since our tour guide was a wannabe professor. We learned a lot about the political tensions that built Dublin but not a whole lot about the landscape we were walking through.

After the tour, I went back to the four courts hostel for a two hour nap before dinner–traveling is so exhausting! Dinner was lovely, if American in flavor, we found an Eddie Rocket’s. Eddie Rocket’s is a little bit like Johnny Rocket’s in the States, complete with burgers, onion rings and milkshakes. After a long day of walking in the rain a little greasy comfort food was exactly what the doctor ordered. Elizabeth, Rebecca and I quickly realized that we’re not very adventuresome when it comes to food—the week after Ireland we got McDonalds in Spain! (more on that to come)

On Sunday I went to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College. I’m a complete book nerd so I was right at home looking at the manuscript exhibit for about an hour. Toward the end of the tour, you go through the Old Library where books with beautiful bindings fill the walls from floor to ceiling. My friends made fun of me for inhaling the scent of the place! I was in library heaven. Unfortunately, we eventually had to come out of that place and make our way back to the hostel to change for the class dinner and pub-crawl.

The dinner was lovely and we all ate far more than we should’ve—what? It was on Kenyon’s dime! The musical pub crawl was less than stellar so we skipped out as soon as our professor went home to bed. In our defense, we did go on our own musical exploration of Dublin. The pub we ended up in had great music and a wonderful atmosphere.

Monday afternoon I took the train from Dublin to Galway. Galway is a beautiful little town and the B&B we stayed at was precious! Each morning we were there, breakfast was amazing! The first day I had a traditional Irish breakfast, the second porridge with raisins, the third potato waffles and the last day a combination of all three! There wasn’t much to do on the first night there since it was raining, but I quickly settled into the very comfortable beds and tried to rest up for Tuesday.

The next morning the bus left at 9am for hiking on the Burren. Though it was raining all the way up, the hike was still gorgeous. I’ve never been much of an outdoor-loving girl, but this year has converted me to a definite hike fanatic. There was no rest for the weary as we went straight from the Burren to the Cliffs of Moher. Another beautiful natural site and another climb. Logan and I were a little too damp, cold and sniffly to climb all the way to the top in the rain so we opted for a little retail therapy in the museum’s gift shop.

Wednesday would’ve been a day to rest, but one of the girls on the program found great horseback riding nearby. We all piled into the bus at 9:15 for a second long day of the great outdoors. The horses weren’t used to new riders and a few of us in the group got a bit scared, myself included, but it was our first sunny day in Ireland so we tried to make the most of the great weather.

That night, I went out to the Spanish Arch Hotel for a little traditional Irish music. The band, Alale, was absolutely amazing! I’ve never seen anything like it. Check them out at my YouTube video:

The next day we went on a trip to the Aran Islands and for the first time on the Ireland trip, it was sunny! . Most of the group took bike rides around the island but we decided to explore on foot instead. The coastline was beautiful and I had a lovely time wandering out to the seal beach with some friends and then lunching along the seaside


(We bought matching Aran Island sweaters)

After the jam packed weekend, I took the bus back to Dublin for a little R&R. Our last night in Dublin, Rebecca, Elizabeth and I decided to treat ourselves to a nice dinner out. We’d been so frugal the whole time in Ireland that we had  a lot of our food stipend left-over for the meal. Walking around the city, dining in style, eating cupcakes and watching silly Irish television was a great end to my Ireland adventure.

My new business: P.S. Don’t Stress

P. S. Dont Stress — Gift Baskets for stressed students.

 

P.S. Don't Stress Logo

 

Over the past year, my roommate and I have been developing a business concept and putting our plan into motion. We plan to sell gift baskets to Kenyon College students and their parents, and deliver them on campus.

Last year we won the Business Concepts Competition and the grant that went with it, but this year we are entering our business plan into a competition for the Burton D. Morgan Entrepreneurship grant.

In preparation for this we have put up our website. If you have a few moments look at the link above and shoot me an email (psdontstress@gmail.com) with any suggestions that you may have. We’re a new business so we welcome
any constructive feedback!