It’s time I talk about one of my favorite authors, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Most of America knows him because they thought seeing Great Gatsby in theaters would make them seem like they actually knew something, when in reality they probably had no idea what was going on because they didn’t read the book (and it’s a short book, so read it). All the books I have read by F. Scott Fitzgerald have been beyond superb, they are one of the only books I’ve managed to get lost in and want to dissect more. The ones I still have yet to read are The Beautiful and the Damned and The Last Tycoon, but I heard that the latter was unfinished. Fitzgerald’s books are timeless, especially considering the era in which they take place, the roaring 20s. This was a time of changing morals, the feud between modernism and fundamentalism, and just full-on rebellion. Flappers were testing morality and set traditional standards with their loose ways in dress and lifestyle. Men and flappers alike spent their time in speakeasies, drinking prohibited liquor and doing heaven knows what. This is exactly what Fitzgerald writes about, the changing form of society and the people shaping it, as well as the dillusionment of American life. Fitzgerald was part of a group of literary figures at the time called ‘The Lost Generation’, writers who talked about their disenchantment with society and the Jazz Age. He also used personal experiences like his relationship with his wife, Zelda, who can be seen paralleled in Tender is the Night. What I especially love about Fitzgerald is his way of writing. He writes simply, in a complex way. The sentences in general are easy to understand but put into context with the paragraph and then with the book overall, it can be easy to skim over important parts by thinking they are simple. F. Scott Fitzgerald shows the romantic, rebellious, and somewhat regretful side of American society during the roaring 20s. He is hands-down one of my favorite authors and his books are ones that I really cherish and plan to reread again someday.
How do we know what we know about history? Careful accounts and discoveries have made the amount of information we know on our backgrounds larger and more finite. Historical novels, whether fictional or realistic, help us out even more by describing what life was like back then and how people dressed, acted, and behaved. Without them, we would lose the important part of history that makes us human. Historical books (and not just textbooks) teach us things that we actually wouldn’t have learned from reading a textbook. However, this post may be a little biased since my favorite genre of books is historical fiction. Historical novels can be based in fact or fiction. The fact comes from things that actually happened and the fiction is filler that the author thinks will make an entertaining story. Movies can be this way, too; when it is ‘based on a true story’, it is just that, some filler has been added to make the story flow better or look different, but most usually coincide to the actual events that happened. Take Titanic and Gone With the Wind for example: one about a tragic ship accident and the other based during the time of the American Civil War, with Sherman’s March to the sea being mentioned. However, there was most likely no one named Jack Dawson and Rose Dewitt Bukater on the Titanic, and if Scarlett O’Hara was actually real, she is a long-forgotten Southern belle. Whatever the case, historical fiction is exciting to me because I find history itself so interesting. Learning how people lived over one hundred years ago is something I find so fascinating and I totally wish the Doctor and the Tardis were real. So whenever they invent time travel, sign me up. I want to learn about these distant times authors write about and live them.
Recently in AP United States History, we were discussing the era of the 1890s when middle-class reformers called Progressives were trying to change society and make it better for those in need. One of these reforms was the regulation of food, specifically meat. Upton Sinclair, a socialist author of the time, saw firsthand how terrible the conditions were and wanted to do something to change them, so he wrote The Jungle. This novel brought to light the horrors of the meat industry and how unhealthy it was for the workers and the consumers. I’m actually a little leary about reading this book because I have heard it is stomach-churning and vomit-inducing, something we should not be proud of as Americans. During the time before this book was published, the general public had no idea that their meat that they consumed was handled in grotesque, horrifying ways. They were oblivious to the fact that rats occupied the same space as their Sunday dinner. Upton Sinclair brought all this to light after the meat-packers union in Chicago went on strike and his editor said he should write about it. Nobody probably had the notion that this would lead to social and ethical reform. The things he witnessed were appalling and downright disgusting. You can read about some of the conditions of these meat-packing plants here, it’s too gross and time-consuming to type out. Sinclair published his book and the public was outraged; this was the food that they trusted workers with, stuff they were putting into their bodies with the illusion that it was good for them and safe as well. This led to major reform with President Teddy Roosevelt. the trustbusting man who reformed the corporate business world. He passed the Pure Food and Drug Act as well as the Meat Inspection Act that led to inspections of work places and the foundation of the FDA, with laws and regulations on the quality of food. Sinclair’s novel changed the way we eat, resulting in a change in the way we live, literally. Stay tuned for my next post of my review of The Jungle.
We have all been taught to believe since childhood that in 1492, a man got on his boat, traveled across the ocean, and ended up in America. Every year on the second Monday of October, we take time to remember the efforts and discoveries of this man and the fact that we wouldn’t be where we are today if he hadn’t killed all the natives and begun the colonization of the Americas. Oh, you thought that was going to end pleasantly? Columbus is a moron. You can lie to your kids about Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy but do not lead them to believe that a man who went to the Bahamas FIVE TIMES thinking it was India discovered the New World. Last year in AP world history, I was enlightened. I learned all about Columbus’s voyage and the havoc it later caused (for example, we wouldn’t have Jersey Shore or Teen Mom 2 if it weren’t for Columbus). I have a few things I would like to say about Columbus: first off, you can’t “discover” a place when people are already living there. The Taíno Indians living in the Bahamas (not America) welcomed Columbus and his men, the hospitable thing to do when someone visits your home, but Columbus wasn’t really interested in niceties. He was mainly looking for a passage to the Asian trading markets. You see, Columbus thought that the Pacific Ocean was much much smaller than it actually is, and that the distance between Asia and Spain was just a short boat ride away. He completely didn’t take into consideration that TWO WHOLE FREAKING CONTINENTS could be in the way of his riches. However, he wasn’t the only stupid one because the royals of Spain funded his expedition. Anyway, after the natives were so kind and generous, Columbus wanted nothing but their gold. He was ravenous for it. You can learn more about the whole story of Columbus and details about the chaos he caused at http://theoatmeal.com/comics/columbus_day. He ended up causing many deaths from killings and new diseases that the natives had never been susceptible to. Really the only thing we should remember Columbus by is that we now have Haiti and the Dominican Republic, but we also have a whole lot less native Americans then we did in the 15th century. So when you tell your kids about the “discovery” of America, tell them that people were definitely already there and whatever lies schools are feeding to them about Columbus are false. Heck, tell them the pilgrims on the Mayflower found it or make something up. Just don’t tell them about that murdering moron from Spain did that. Oh and by the way, on the next Columbus Day, wish everyone a happy Bartoleme Day.
These days, everyone is focused on the science, medical, and mathematical fields. After the USSR launched Sputnik into space in 1969, the Space Race between us and them was on. NASA was founded and jobs in science and math were highly sought upon, all to produce better and faster technology that would make us unprecedented globally. Nowadays, and even locally in my own school, there are classes specifically for S.T.E.M. jobs, or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. These jobs, for some reason, are highly fought for. A lot of people I know are going to major in different branches of engineering. Rockwell Collins is a local industry where I live and many people need degrees that relate to S.T.E.M. jobs. However, the people racing to become physicists and chemists are trampling the people who want to be writers or historians. I would like to major in history education when I go to college and hopefully end up teaching world history to high schoolers. We need to know our roots before we create new branches. People may ask why we need to care about history or reading, and I honestly can’t answer that. I just care about them because I enjoy them and I want other people to do the same. History is so intriguing to me, you can learn all about the past, a place you can never ever travel to (unless the science people I mentioned above figure out time travel or the Tardis pays a visit). My friends at least understand my love for the past because they bought me an AP world history textbook for my birthday. But some people will never understand. This goes for writers and musicians as well; people who want to publish the next great American novel, or write a hit song that will stay at the top of the charts for weeks are looked down upon, and even scorned by society, especially by those older than us. Maybe it is because of their experience, or maybe it is because they had similar dreams that had to be given up for practicality and security. Schools also discreetly force science and math into curriculums in the hopes that it will spark something in a student who isn’t willing. Personally, I believe by the time you’re in high school or if you know for sure what you want to do, you should be able to plan your coursework accordingly. I always joke that the only math I really want to know is the history of math, not math itself. Basically, governments support and fund science because it is seen as an economic and technological gain to them. History has shown what can happen when governments get too hungry for war and defense. The Cold War is a good example of this. The USA and USSR were the superpowers of the world at the time with the nuclear means to completely obliterate each other. There were many close calls, especially with the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. This is just one event that we can use to tell future generations the consequences of increased technologies used for negative purposes. In conclusion, I believe that more emphasis should be placed on history and especially the arts, like how many times do your parents get excited when a song from the 80s comes on? People remember places, events, leaders. When equations and formulas fail, history makes up for it.
Recently for an AP Lang project (I’m starting to notice that all the reading I’m doing lately is usually because it’s required and that makes me really sad) I went to the library to look for a nonfiction book that I could possibly write an essay on. Being really into history, I saw a book called A Short History of Nearly Everything and I was instantly intrigued. The book is by Bill Bryson and it is literally what the title says it’s about. I could end this blog post here, but it has to be a minimum of three hundred words so I’ll continue. Honestly, I don’t normally just pick up books because they look or sound interesting so that fact that this book somehow did that to me is amazing. I’ve only read the first few chapters but what I have read is really just awesome and I can tell the rest of the book is going to be as well. It begins with the beginning-the creation of the universe and moves on to talk about stars and supernovae and the like. From just skimming through the book, I can see that he talks about humans and historical events. It’s basically like a mini textbook that it written for people to actually absorb and understand, because let’s be honest, who actually understands textbooks completely? I am just all-around excited to read more of this book, and that was definitely nerdy but I think we’ve established that already. Also in AP Lang we are doing the last author study of the year and Bill Bryson was on the list of options but unfortunately I did not get him because the selection for authors could be comparable to the hunger games. I ended up with my second choice, Ta-Nehisi Coates. Have you read anything by either Bill Bryson or Ta-Nehisi Coates? If so, what did you think?
*UPDATE*: Today I asked if I could possibly be switched to Bill Bryson for the author study, and it happened! I might add some Ta-Nehisi Coates to my list and read his works eventually. I’m excited to read Bryson (for a reason). Just kidding, you shouldn’t need a reason to read.
Everybody wonders where they are going to go when they die. Christians believe that if they believe in God they will go to heaven when they die. Buddhists believe in reincarnation, that their soul will continue in another living organism. These concepts of life after death are interesting and can also be controversial. Author Mary Roach turns away from the spiritual aspect of life after death and does in-depth research on the physical in the book Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. In this book, Roach introduces the reader to what happens to their physical bodies after they take their last breaths. Some bodies are naturally donated to the science and medical field so students can learn more about how the human body functions. Others are used for unorthodox purposes, like crash test dummies, or even to prove a point about the crucifixion of Jesus. This book was astoundingly factual with a whole lot of comedic relief from some of the more gory sections of the book. The author used footnotes to enrich what she was talking about and I feel that I learned a lot while reading it. It takes a lot of complex writing to make the reader feel nauseous from gore and laughter at the same time. I’ve never been into morbid and gory books but this one was definitely an exception. In my previous posts I have talked about how I really like historical novels, whether it be fiction or nonfiction. This book also involves the historical side of cadavers and I found that really interesting. Now before you judge me for being interested in dead bodies (I’m Hayley, not Hannibal) read the book. I never thought a book about cadavers would be hilarious but this one proved me wrong. Basically, if you are looking to read an educational but hilarious book about dead people, this would be the one to go with. This book has also been considered kind of controversial because of the lighthearted way Roach talks about the dearly departed. I liked it however because we as a society always make death a serious event, at least in America. In Mexico, they celebrate Día de Los Muertos, where they are happy that the deceased had a good life with great memories. If you have read this book, what do you think about the author’s nonchalant perspective on depicting the dead?