Israel, Fantasy, Billy Budd, and Native Americans in NC

My total “goal points” still only equal 2 considering that instead of eating healthy food last night, I came to Raleigh to see my bestest friends and drank a shit ton of beer (the added point is for not watching any TV yesterday). Also ate something that was basically “bread with sauce” and can be considered the greatest invention in history. And, no, I will not retroactively add points for things I did last week (although I seriously considered it); I will be good, and honest, and um…I dunno…just not a shithead. Continue reading for more literary thoughts below: 

On a more productive note, I am spending my day reading, mostly because I don’t have a car now that someone has taken it to work…. and because I don’t have any money to go anywhere, anyway. My research at the Office of State Archaeology got pushed forward until tomorrow, so there’s no work for me to do today except read. 

I’ve been trying to brush up on my history of Israel before I visit the country, so the first priority is this:

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Which I have to admit is really wonderful book. It is easy to read, and starts at the beginning of the Zionist movement, meaning it encompasses almost all of Israel’s tumultuous history. My favorite part (of course) is that the book mentions key archaeological sites, and how they relate to the political climate of Israel through the centuries. I am still in the beginning stages of Palestine’s growth, but am steadily moving through the 1920s.

The second book I am reading is about the occupation of Native Americans in North Carolina. It is a famous book in my field of Southeastern Archaeology; mostly because it encompasses a long temporal range and, yet still is able to make the movement of people through North Carolina fascinating and easy to understand. This book is particularly for my thesis, but if anyone is native to North Carolina, it is a great way to start learning about its prehistory, and the archaeology associated with the state.

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So now for the fun stuff. I think I might have mentioned that as an undergraduate, I majored in English before I majored in Anthropology. I always wanted to be a creative writer (don’t judge me on these blogs- these are casual, assholes). I still creatively write, but if I am being honest with myself, what I really do is just…read.

As most English majors know, being snobby about literature is required as part of the curriculum. They beat it into you that only the studied, recognized authors are the ones that matter, and even as a halfway-independently-thinking adult, it is still hard to break the pattern of only reading classics. To be fair, I have always just enjoyed the classics more. Even as a kid, I read classics before the popular stuff. There are a couple of reasons for this. As a kid (and today), I am a morose. I am cynical. The depressing plots are the most interesting, and, dishearteningly, the most philosophically relatable. For example, I am now reading some of Herman Melville’s short stories, the most notable of which is Billy Budd.

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When Herman Melville wrote Billy Budd, he wasn’t just writing about the sailors on the ocean to stick with a theme. He was really writing about isolation, about being misunderstood and misconstrued and, eventually, forgotten. Melville had a good reason to be writing about this stuff, guys. I mean, he was basically booed from the stage for everything he wrote. Yes, even Moby Dick, that wonderful whale tale. He was constantly being criticized for his writing, and I think some of his friends were even getting sick of his brooding, sullen characters.

Who can’t relate to being poor Melville? Haven’t your friends cut you off for being brooding, sullen, and mad about your greatness going unrecognized? Okay, well maybe yours haven’t, but that’s just because you haven’t hit your mid-twenties yet. Don’t worry, it will come.

So, the last book I’m reading is kind of by accident. My friend lives in a house with roommates, and they have kindly furnished his room for him. In this room lives a tiny little bookshelf full of obscure science fiction and fantasy. I have recently been caught up in the genre entitled “Obscure Science Fiction and Fantasy” and was immediately excited about this find.

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Apparently, they have the whole series just sitting there, waiting for me to read it. Which I am certainly doing. The writing is phenomenal. And I don’t mean in a genre-y sort of way. This guy can write. His descriptions are rich and interesting, and I find myself finishing chapters without even thinking once about the time. Science fiction/fantasy is one of those genres that gets a lot of flack from the surrounding literary community, and as I grow older, I am constantly wondering why. Once I finish this series (which I think is like eleven books), I will definitely give a more in-depth review.

If anyone has any books they want to recommend, and I mean ANY! I am always up for something new. Feel free to post any in the comments.

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