Goodreads Summary:“Meet Quentin P., the most believably terrifying sexual psychopath and killer ever brought to life in fiction. The author deftly puts you inside the mind of a serial killer — succeeding not in writing about madness, but in writing with the logic of madness.”
*TW: murder, rape*
Zombie was one of the most intense reading experiences I’ve ever had. There were times when I stopped reading for a moment because of how vile it is inside Quentin’s mind. I found myself retreating into my sweatshirt while reading. I don’t think I’ve ever been so disturbed by a book. This is all to say that Oates did an excellent job getting into the mind of a serial killer. This novel is 181 pages and reads quickly at times, but is super hard to get through at others. I quite honestly don’t know how much more I could have taken. Even when I wasn’t reading it, I found myself thinking about it. Quentin has such a deeply disturbing mind devoid of normal emotion and thought that his perspective is hard to let go of, no matter if I wanted to.
Oates’ writing style for this novel works well, but is not necessarily the easiest to read. Given that it’s written from Quentin’s perspective, this makes sense. His thoughts are disjointed and jumbled, spiraling and jumping around in time. Additionally, Oates uses a lot of short sentences and bad grammar, like run-on sentences and lack of capitalization to give authenticity. It makes his mind seem busy and disorganized. This all adds to the disturbing content by making it clear that Quentin does not think like a normal person. She also uses capitalizations of words to add emphasis. This at times is effective, as it makes him seem angry and stuck in a thought pattern or fixated on something. However, at other times, this technique feels awkward and random. I think another way of emphasizing would have made it easier to read (like bolding words).
Zombie is also interesting read because Quentin (or Q_ P_) speaks in first person, but also speaks about himself in the third person. This helps to show he likely has some disconnect between himself and what he’s doing, even though he is fully aware of the horrendous crimes he is committing. Quentin also only uses some people’s real names, otherwise writing a blank, like he does for himself at times. This is interesting, because it gives only some people importance and erases a part of identity. It gives the impression that Quentin doesn’t care enough about others (or himself) to properly identify them. To him, people are unimportant or for his own use, more science experiments than humans.
Quentin skims over some details, but goes into immense detail about other things, like his room. This speaks to his narcissism and how little he cares for others. Later in the book, this escalates to short but horrible depictions of what he does to his victims.
Oates does a great job building Quentin’s character. The readers are introduced to him for around 30 pages before there’s an alarming (creepy) observation made about someone. This helps a lot, since like I’ve said, this book is intense and being eased into it helps a lot.
The story flows well, up until the very end. I hated the end of this book, because there is no ending. It reads like Oates just forgot to write one. It leaves the story feeling unfinished and like more should happen. I wanted more of a conclusion than I got. I felt like the ending and the book in general was missing something I couldn’t quite pinpoint.
Oates clearly did her research and it shows. (Side note: most of my knowledge about serial killers comes from true crime documentaries and high school health class). Quentin has no real emotions, talks about his failed “zombies” like failed experiments rather than dead people and lacks understanding about how the world works. From what I’ve watched, this seems correct and realistic.
Other than the ending, my only real complaint about Zombie is that Quentin is too similar to Jeffrey Dahmer. Oates is certainly capable of writing unique, interesting characters (I found her from reading “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” in my Literary Studies class, which has many interesting characters). She would certainly have been able to create her own character from scratch. I have no problem with taking aspects of known murderers to create a character, but Quentin is very similar to Dahmer.
*This is where that trigger warning is really going to come into play*
I am first going to take some fault here and say I know a lot about Dahmer, so I may have noticed this more than someone who doesn’t constantly watch true crime documentaries. Dahmer attempted to make some people unable to think for themselves (and therefore be entirely in his control) by drilling into their brains and then injecting either acid or boiling water. He saved body parts from his victims, who were mostly African – American or other people of color. He raped his victims who were often underaged. He was white in his 20’s – 30’s and gay. While there were other aspects of his crimes Oates did not put into Zombie, she used all of the above. If she had kept only the lobotomizing of victims, but changed the rest, I think I would have found this book more original.
I think that this book is super well written and interesting. I would highly recommend it, but warn everyone that it is hard to read.
Summary: “A rich and compelling novel of love, sex, ambition, and intrigue, The Other Boleyn Girl introduces a woman of extraordinary determination and desire who lived at the heart of the most glamorous court in Europe and survived by following her heart.
When Mary Boleyn comes to court as an innocent girl of fourteen, she catches the eye of Henry VIII. Dazzled, Mary falls in love with both her golden prince and her growing role as unofficial queen. However, she soon realizes just how much she is a pawn in her family’s ambitious plots as the king’s interest begins to wane and she is forced to step aside for her best friend and rival: her sister, Anne. Then Mary knows that she must defy her family and her king and take her fate into her own hands.”
On the very first page, Mary watches someone she knows get beheaded, which certainly drew me into the story. I continued to be interested the whole way through the book, which is saying something, since I went into the book knowing what would happen. The perspective also made the story interesting to read. Writing from the viewpoint of a woman, especially someone so often forgotten about made a well known piece of history feel new.
Gregory does a great job of giving readers a feel for what life at court was like without it feeling repetitive. While Mary and Anne Boleyn’s lives were crazy in many ways, life at court could potentially become repetitive to read about. She also did this well in Three Sisters, Three Queens, which I read last spring.
Gregory also clearly shows the complete lack of agency both Mary and Anne had in their lives, particularly when it comes to their relationships with Henry. Mary gets told exactly what to do to charm Henry, down to when she should sleep with him.
Now that I’ve addressed what Gregory did well, I need to discuss the big problem I have with this novel. (Hence the 3.5 stars). Before I say anything, I will acknowledge that this book is from 2001. However, The Other Boleyn Girl is still a popular read for historical fiction about the Tudors, so I think criticizing it is fair.
I found the portrayal of Anne as well as Mary and Anne’s relationship to be sexist. As a character in general, Anne is pretty one-dimensional. Obviously, the novel being from Mary’s perspective, the readers miss Anne’s inner thoughts. Still, Mary was her sister, so it’s safe to assume she would know the real Anne Boleyn better than most. But even with those closest to her, Anne is really mean, heartless and calculated. So basically, the sexist, simplified caricature the public already has of her as a historical figure. This portrayal surprised me somewhat, given that the book was written by a woman known as a feminist and interested in championing the stories of women from history.
Gregory does give Anne a good amount of agency, which I could appreciate, even if mostly involved her being mean to Mary constantly. She is shown to help her family strategize how Mary should keep Henry interested in her. She is really the only woman who talks about wanting autonomy and is shown to be ambitious. But again, she is a w f u l. Having the only woman with ambition being extremely unlikable and then be beheaded seems a bit sexist to me.
An example of other media that gave Anne agency in a much more positive way is The Tudors, a TV series. Anne is shown encouraging Henry to read writings by Martin Luther, giving her a direct and important role in the Reformation. I only include this to show that there are other ways to show Anne’s ambition in a way that shows her intellect, rather than her being manipulative and mean.
Mary and Anne’s relationship and different experiences with Henry and at court also bother me for similar reasons. The focus on Mary and Anne’s rivalry and Anne “stealing” Henry from Mary feels sexist and oversimplified. Sure, they are both shown to be pawns in their family’s plan, but there is also a focus on Mary and Anne fighting over the fact that Henry has been with both of them, during the same time. (This takes place earlier in the story, but still). This somewhat turns a complex game in order to grab power into an oversimplified rivalry between two girls in love with the same man. By focusing on their anger towards each other, Gregory turns Anne into the villain rather than, oh, I don’t know, maybe the guy who cut his wife’s head off??!? (Actually, more than one, but Katherine Howard comes along much later).
Additionally, Mary is shown to be apprehensive and uncomfortable with her role of sleeping with the king at the beginning, and remains the kind, sweet girl throughout the novel. Anne is more comfortable in her role from the get-go, and more matter-of-fact about what she needs to do for her family. This means the plot is essentially one of a sweet girl forced into a bad situation who ends in a happy, loving marriage. But the more ambitious, smart girl gets punished. Of course, Anne would die at the end, but if she was more complex, not just a calculated seductress, this inevitable end would feel less like the classic story of a woman rightfully punished for being intelligent and having ambition.
While I still really enjoyed reading The Other Boleyn Girl, I found the portrayal of Anne to be a big letdown. However, I loved reading from Mary’s perspective and getting into the mindset of what it must have been like to be in her position. I would maybe still recommend this book, because I did really like reading about Mary, but it was also so frustrating to read.
I decided to pick songs that fit lyrically with the novel and then put them in order of what happened. Of course, none of them fit perfectly, except for the song from Six, but I tried. I had a lot of fun making this one 🙂
I hope you all have had a good start to your 2020! I am posting my last My Month in Music for 2019 and maybe ever. I have done this for two years (sort of) and I’m just ready to be done…but I can’t fully decide. So we’ll see…On to the playlist!
As this year is coming to a close, I thought I’d look back on 2019. I did this last year and really enjoyed it, especially because I love reading these posts from other people.
This year, I decided to start this section off with what I listened to most (according to Apple Music). I listened to 575 hours of music, as of December 30th, which is around 23 days straight of listening to music. (Of course that doesn’t count everything, but still). That’s a lot.
I posted my own writing on this blog for the first time. (I hope to do more of this, but it’s really scaryyyy)
I started my English Major Overanalyzes Song Lyrics posts, which I hope to continue soon!
I finished my first year of college and started my second year
I saw Daniel Sloss live at the Cedar Cultural Center!
I made some new friends!
I took my last math class ever!
I took some classes I really loved
I watched: Queer Eye, Versailles, Mindhunter and finished The Tudors which are all great (and verrrrry different)
I saw Six at the Ordway
I hope you all had a great 2019 and good start to 2020! I really like these posts because it’s good to reflect and be proud of all you did in the year, so what are some things you are proud of/were fun in 2019?
This is very likely the worst playlist I have ever made. I might yet again need to re-think the making a playlist thing, because now the songs are so different it just doesn’t work…at all. In previous months, there was so much of one artist it didn’t really work well either. (Maybe I’ll just start putting all the songs on shuffle, since that would be about as good as this playlist is). Anyway…here we go I guess…
Mother – Courtney Love
As Hope and Promise Fade (Live at Queen Elizabeth Theater, Toronto, ON April 20, 2011) – Chris Cornell
I was given Tiny Meat Gang (a.k.a Cody Ko and Noel Miller) tickets for Christmas 🙂 And I’m going with my friend Valerie in March! Can’t wait to see my favorite Mr. Struggles! (Also she is 100% the Noel of this friendship…I think…we’re having trouble deciding).
I also saw Six at the Ordway with my mom over my Thanksgiving break and I absolutely loved it! You should go see it if you can! Here are some pictures of us there 🙂
Thank you for reading this blog post with an absolute shitshow of a playlist ❤
I have always paid close attention to lyrics when listening to music and I have never understood how some people don’t. I don’t need songs to have great lyrics to love them, but the songs I love most usually have good lyrics. It can be hard to force people to really pay attention to lyrics if it’s not generally something they do, so this is me forcing people to really notice how lyrically great these songs are. Me choosing this song first should come to no surprise if you know me. (But not every song I write about will be a Chris Cornell song…or I’ll at least try really hard to not have that happen. No promises).
Song: Misery Chain
Artist: Chris Cornell
Album: Higher Truth (2015) / 12 Years A Slave Soundtrack (2013)
Won’t you take one link, from this misery chain Keep it to remind you, of a long forgotten time or a place So that you recognize its shape, when it’s near Any time or place this misery chain should appear
Take the locks and shackles, and melt all of it down Shine a light upon, every shadow, every acre of ground The hidden corners on in all around Anywhere you feel this misery chain could be found
When we’re gone, and it’s all said and done What will we leave Stories told, will they speak of us when God only knows What those words will be
And if I should fall, from the top of the world To the depths below, so far below where our belief could exist Down further still will be, the one who hides the key And dares to try to put these misery chains on me
When we’re gone, and it’s all said and done What will we leave Stories told, will they speak of us when God only knows What those words will be
Won’t you take one link, from this misery chain? Keep it to remind you, of a long forgotten time or a place So that you recognize it, ’till it’s understood And that every trace of this misery chain is gone for good ‘Til every trace of this misery chain Is gone for good
Why I Love These Lyrics:
I’ll start off by noting that I prefer the version Cornell has on his album, but the version on the soundtrack features Joy Williams. (I like the version that is just more of Chris Cornell…we’re all surprised, I know).
As this was written for the 12 Years a Slave Soundtrack, it’s clear why chains are the metaphor used in the song. Slavery literally and metaphorically chained people in misery, so I think the idea of a “misery chain” is simple, yet powerful. I also think it lends itself well to being able to be broken up, so each person can “take one link.” I always interpreted that as the idea that it is not one person’s job, but all of our jobs. If we all take just one link, just remember something from our history, if we all take some responsibility to recognize oppression, then we can make change. He really stresses this point, because it’s in the chorus, and I think that’s so important. We cannot escape or run away from our history, because then we fail to see versions of it come back around.
The first verse is great too, because it asks people to not be passive. Look for the misery chain, anywhere you think it could be. Don’t just carry around your link, thinking maybe you’ll see another one sometime. A.K.A, actively look for oppression and bring it to the light and destroy it. I think the next part is pretty self – explanatory, but basically, what progress did we make? What will future generations say about us? I think these are valuable questions to be asking ourselves.
The second verse addresses the people who don’t want to break the misery chain, or who don’t want to take a link, because they want to forget about it. It’s the people who don’t see it as a chain, but many separate links that have nothing to do with each other. Cornell seems to be talking about the people or parts of the world that are so hidden that many people don’t even know they exist. But they do, and they want to keep the misery chain and silence people again. Basically, if they helped and took their link from the chain, they could really help end oppression and hate, but they are hateful and want to chain people back up with the misery chain. They want people to be oppressed. So neo – Nazis, the KKK or the Alt – Right.
Cornell certainly did his part to end oppression and ignorance, and I hope we can all find a way to do the same. I know I’ll try my best.
I started a playlist on Spotify of songs with lyrics I really love. I will be adding the songs I write about as well as ones I don’t. It is very short as of right now, but it will get longer as time goes on. You can listen to it here.
Author: M. T. Edvardsson, Translated by Rachel Willson – Broyles
My Rating: ★★★★
Summary (Goodreads): “Eighteen-year-old Stella Sandell stands accused of the brutal murder of a man almost fifteen years her senior. She is an ordinary teenager from an upstanding local family. What reason could she have to know a shady businessman, let alone to kill him?
Stella’s father, a pastor, and mother, a criminal defense attorney, find their moral compasses tested as they defend their daughter, while struggling to understand why she is a suspect. Told in an unusual three-part structure, A Nearly Normal Family asks the questions: How well do you know your own children? How far would you go to protect them?”
This is what I was looking for when I read You Owe Me A Murder! (You can read the review for that here if you want). I was pulled in fast by the scene in the prologue, where Adam is about to testify at Stella’s trial. Though we know nothing about either character yet, it’s an exciting look at what’s to come.
Edvarsson is able to keep that excitement throughout the novel. The reader slowly gets a picture of what their family looks like and what Stella was like when she was younger, through using flashbacks. This builds up the suspense slowly and well. In addition to the use of flashbacks, there were cliffhangers at the end of nearly every chapter, which made it hard to stop reading.
A Nearly Normal Family is also interesting because it’s written in multiple points of view. Readers get to read from the perspectives of the father, mother and Stella. Given that all read very differently, this made for an intriguing way to tell the story. It slowly shows how each person sees themselves, each other and life in general. This adds to the mystery of the novel, because the reader gets pieces to put together. Additionally, it can be hard to tell what really happened and who is telling the truth, which adds to the feeling of uncovering the truth over time.
The characters in general are well -written. All of them are complex and have qualities about them that are unlikable or negative, and other qualities that are positive, making the characters feel like real people. Each character can be unlikable at times, but that is why they feel like real people going through a crazy event.
Overall, I would really recommend this book for a fun, fast thriller novel.
I didn’t really have any other songs I could think of to make another playlist about murder, so I’m going to use the one from my review for You Owe Me A Murder. Sorry!
So this is verrrrrry long. I would have just skipped July and August, but I had a lot of music to share that is different from what I usually post. Some new songs came out, and I listened to more new music than I typically do (let’s see if we can keep that up, but what can I say? I’m a creature of habit). Because of that, I really wanted to share this playlist. Also, I think this is a particularly well put together playlist, so I wanted to share it. I hope you enjoy it! (If you are able to make it all the way through).