Hello, dear Capstoners! Those of you who are taking suffering through Capstone this semester know that we just finished our Literature Reviews this weekend and turned them in today. Those of you who are graduates probably also know this, as you’ve witnessed us complain, whine, and cry through emojis this past week. I have no words for how happy I was to submit that darn paper this morning. And it wasn’t even terribly difficult, just monotonous and time-consuming. That being said, I feel like I learned a crap ton of stuff not only from researching but from writing those summaries, as well. I’m sure that was the whole point.
Now that I have some “free time” (cue sarcasm-drenched laughing), I had a mind to finally post again and share a little bit about what my Capstone is all about. I knew last year that I wanted to work with Jo Ann Beard’s one fiction piece, In Zanesville. I fell in love with her writing after reading The Boys of My Youth for Contemporary Lit for Writers last fall. In Zanesville is about the growing up of a young girl in Zanesville, Ohio in the ‘70s. She’s a self-proclaimed late bloomer and doesn’t do anything without her best friend, Felicia. They call the neighbor boy and hang up when his mother picks up, they secretly adopt some very sickly kittens and then give them away when they can’t take care of them anymore, they go to a fancy cheerleader party when they’re mistaken for someone popular. Their friendship is tested when Felicia gets the attention of a boy and the cheerleaders accept the unnamed narrator, who may share the same name as the author and one of the March sisters from Little Women. The novel is all about growing up and coming of age as a female. It’s about being overlooked but also about the extraordinary in the ordinary. I read it last year for kicks and grins and I still love the voice of the narrator and her dry, sarcastic perspective so much.
I considered a few different books when trying to find something to pair with In Zanesville. I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn this past summer, but it doesn’t fit well with Beard’s novel at all. I also considered a newer novel, the title of which I forget and is completely irrelevant now. Somewhere along the way, I ended up borrowing I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith from my local library. Smith, though a playwright and author of several pieces, is best known for 101 Dalmatians. Her first book, I Capture the Castle, which was written over seven years during a hiatus she and her husband took in America due to WWII, is often overlooked, which is a shame because it’s brilliant. It’s written in diary form—ok, stop. I see you rolling your eyes. It’s not like that. It’s not an outpouring of emotion from the narrator, 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain. It is personal and intimate, but it’s also honest and hilarious. Cassandra, in her effort to improve her writing, takes to documenting her life with her family and their home in a dilapidated castle in the dreary English countryside. She’s a very optimistic narrator, but she often makes fun of her family, their pathetic state of poverty, and even herself. I Capture the Castle is also about growing up, making choices, and experiencing joy, shame, and doubt.
I chose to pair the two books because of their depiction of family, family conflict, and the female bildungsroman. The narrator of In Zanesville experiences tension with her family, and their relationships are strained because of outside stimuli, such as financial issues and alcoholism, and internal stimuli, such as the disrespect they all show each other. Because of the narrator’s father’s alcohol addiction and tendency to disappear, her mother has to take the role as primary parent. Cassandra’s family is a unique unit of people, with her one-time genius father who is suspected of insanity, her artist/model step-mother, Topaz, who likes to stand out in the elements with nothing on but galoshes, her hopeless-romantic of a sister, Rose, and Cassandra herself, who writes her diary in the kitchen sink and struggles to fend off the sweet advances of the hired help, Stephen (who is played by a young Henry Cavill in the movie, by the way. Sweet Jesus, help us all).
I’m excited and anxious and terrified and thrilled to see where my project goes. At least I know I’m working with two pieces that I love.
That’s all I’m going to say for now. I apologize for my writing; I feel like I slipped into academic speech somewhere in there. Where is the off button for that?! NOW IT’S YOUR TURN, CAPSTONERS. Write a post, big or small, about what you’re working on this semester. I know we’ve already heard from everyone in class, but I want to hear from you HERE. My guess is, you might have some stuff to say that you may not want to say in class (or in front of Mother Jones). 😉 Looking forward to it!
P.S.- I just want to say, I love you all and I can *feel* us bonding over this painful experience. We should all go to Cook-Out one night when we’re tired and stressed, and drown our worries in hot, fried food and sugar-coma-inducing milkshakes. I’m praying for you guys!