Review of The Road

By Robert Drinkwater

Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is a bleak post-apocalyptic novel about a father and his son traversing through the world that has ended. It’s unclear of how exactly it ended, but the world they live in is dangerous and the surviving people are all struggling to survive. This duo struggle issues such as finding food, shelter, and dealing with “bad guys” as the kid calls them. In this book, many people have lost their humanity and have resorted to stealing and cannibalism to survive.

The true heart of this novel is the bond between the father and his son. The father will do anything to protect his son. His son, who seems to have lived in this apocalyptic world most of his life seems to have a good understanding of what is going on. He knows that the world is unsafe and that there are terrible people out there that he calls “The bad guys”. He also keeps asking his father if they’re going to due, to which his father usually responds honestly, saying “maybe”. He does show a lot of naivete as he is still young and doesn’t understand certain things. He wants to help everyone they meet along the way, but his father is hesitant because he worries for their safety.

This book has a unique writing style. It is not split up into chapters, instead it’s just paragraphs. No character in this novel has a name, instead the two main characters are just called “The Man” and “The Boy”. I found that to be strange at first, but I got used to it after awhile.One thing that did throw me off what the dialogue. There were no quotation marks and it didn’t let us know who said what. It got confusing at times because I was trying to follow which character was saying what.

This is a relatively short read, only about 280 pages. At times I found it to be too bleak and at other times a little bit boring. We don’t really know that much about these two characters, just that they’re trying to survive. I also wanted to know more about how the world ended up like that. A lot of those details were vague. I knew very little of The Man’s life before the apocalypse. He mentions having a wife, and there are a few flashbacks, but those were concise and they didn’t give away that much detail on either of those characters. I’m assuming that she died because she wasn’t around with the boy and his father.

I think that this novel does a good job at portraying the love these characters have for one another. The father will do anything for his son. I could really sense the heartbreak and desperation that was going on throughout this book. These characters also seemed drained. They have been living in this post-apocalyptic world for a long time and I could tell, as they both were used to the starvation and the dire state of the world where the only thing that mattered was survival.

Overall, I felt like this was a event novel. It was heart wrenching and poignant. The Covid-19 Pandemic may have you inn a mood to read some post apocalyptic novels. If that is the case then this book is for you. It might make you grateful that things are not as bad as they are in the world we live in when reading this book.

You can but The Road by Cormac McCarthy on Amazon for $10.50 .

UMF English Student’s Plans for after The Pandemic

By Robert Drinkwater

College seniors plans for the future have been altered by a great deal due to COVID-19. Classes are now online and for many seniors, their futures are uncertain. I had the pleasure of talking to a few English majors who are graduating this semester. Jacob Pilgrim, Andrea Swiedom and Vanessa Brown discussed their thoughts on the English degree as well as their plans for the future through email and Zoom.

Jake

  1. What are your thoughts on your degree?

I like the English degree a lot. Looking back, I also really enjoyed going through the process of getting it. I think that the English degree can be super versatile in its application after graduation. I think having a degree in English also gives you a very versatile skill set. It has taught me how to read more critically and think more abstractly. This degree has its hand in many other areas, too. Literature, philosophy, art, music, etc. To me, these areas all seem super applicable to each other and I think this degree has only pulled me deeper into these things.

2. What are your plans for after you graduate?

My plan right now is to keep working in construction for about a year or so. After that, I will have hopefully found a job that brings me into a field where I can put my degree to use. Maybe I’ll try to get my master’s degree in the future. I guess whatever I end up doing, I just want to keep writing. 

3. How has the pandemic affected your plans for your future?

It has made every plan a little more uncertain, that’s for sure. I am lucky that I am able to work for a good company, where we will be able to work safely despite the virus. I think the pandemic affected the end of my school year more than my life after graduation. I was excited for Symposium and a May term course that I was lucky to be a part of. So, it was disappointing that these things were shut down. I think we are all disappointed that school ended so abruptly. But, I’m just trying to take it one day at a time and find the positive in the situation, whatever that may be.

Andrea

  1. For me, pursuing a B.A. in Creative Writing and English was simply a way of doing what I love for the past three years, reading and writing.  Practically speaking, I am hoping the degree will make me a more marketable candidate for jobs.  But as of now, my degree is a whirlwind of memories, growing pains and perspective shifts.  

2. The short answer is, I don’t know.  If there is not another viral outbreak in the Fall, I would like to move out of Maine and look for work in Santa Fe, New Mexico working in some type of creative capacity that incorporates writing.  I want to take some time off from school, delve deeper into some of my personal writing projects and figure out what I want to pursue next.

3. In many ways, this pandemic has made “planning” feel utterly impossible.  For the past year, my goal has been to leave Maine the second I was done with school.  Now, I am considering staying here another year until we have a vaccine or medication to counter COVID-19.  Of all the places to be stuck in quarantine, Maine has been pretty sweet.  I can still walk in the woods everyday without passing a single person.  I don’t want to make any eager moves and be stuck in a major city or a place where I have no friend/family network and face another round of quarantine.  Right now, I am trying to adapt my mentality to this new reality and look for opportunities locally that will pay and continue to stretch me as a writer.  

Vanessa

  1. I love my degree, and I think that a lot of it comes from my concentration in my degree. Even though this last semester has moved online, I’m still working on things that I’m interested in in English. More specifically, I’m a TA for the Hip Hop class, so I’m working on a paper that tailors to my interests of contemporary art and music. I’m staying positive through all of this madness, even with all of this uncertainty, I’m certain the fact that I know what I’m interested in. I know what I want to continue to learn and educate myself about within this degree.

2. I plan on moving back home and taking a gap year before I decide on graduate school. A lot of my decision came from the fact that I didn’t want to jump into a program that I didn’t feel comfortable about or that I couldn’t incorporate what I wanted to do in it. So, I wanted to take time in a gap year to really explore my options to find the best fit for me and to expand more on things that I’m interested in.

3. I think that the biggest thing for me has really been financial trouble. It was difficult figuring out what to do job wise, and I was worried about how my grad school application would be affected. It’s affected me more now because I’ve been so stressed about everything. I think that once I’ve graduated I’ll be more at ease. It’s affected me emotionally, but mentally I still have the mindset of if I can do the things that I need to do the things that I’m passionate about and hold on through it, then I can still make it to the finish line and I’m still going to be able to do the things I have to do. I have to keep the mindset of it’s not the end of the world and I have to do what I have to do in order to make sure that not only myself, but the other people in my graduating class all succeed in time.

As of right now, Commencement for the UMF class of 2020 will be held on August 22.

Review of The Shakespeare Requirement

By Robert Drinkwater

Julie Schumacher’s The Shakespeare Requirement is a satirical novel that centers around Jason “Jay” Fitger the newly appointed head of the English department at Payne University. Jay faces several obstacles throughout this novel as he deals with colleagues that show disdain towards him, his ex-wife, whom he may still have feelings for that may or may not be in a relationship with the dean, a freshmen student whom he is the adviser to, and to top it all off the English department is sharing the building with the Economics department who is slowly pushing the English department out of the building.

I enjoyed the humor that was in this novel as Jay deals with a slew of issues that come with being the head of the English department. One of the main conflicts he faces arises when he tries to get one of the oldest English professors and school Shakespearean, Dennis Cassovan to retire which backfires as students think that he is being forced out. This results in a movement among the campus in showing support for Cassovan with pins that say “SOS” short for “Save Our Shakespeare”. Jay also has to take several initiatives that require the approval of the other faculty members in the department causing him to have to do several favors for them such as taking care of another professor in his home after he goes through surgery, taking care of a rescue dog, and removing a masturbating student from another faculty member’s class.

This novel was full of hilarious moments and intertwining plot lines. There were several point of view characters besides Jay. I particularly enjoyed the parts with Angela, the freshmen student. She had an interesting story with her having difficulty adjusting to the college life and becoming acquainted with her adviser Jay. I wish that she had more of a story. I felt like hers was rather short and ended abruptly, but then again Jay Fitger is the main character of this novel.

I also enjoyed the relationship dynamics in this novel. It was entertaining to see Jay have to jump through so many hoops in order to gain the approval of his fellow faculty members. I also liked the interactions between him and his ex-wife Janet. It was clear that they both still had feelings for one another and their conversations were full of witty and hilarious cynicism.

The main antagonist of this novel was the chair of the economics department, Roland Gladwell who whose main motivation seems to be to push the English department out of the building to make more room for Econ. I would have liked to see more of the story take place from his point of view because there were only a few pages of getting his perspective. I feel like his character would have been more fleshed out that way. His disdain for Jay and the English department was obvious, but I found him to be a bland antagonist otherwise.

The other members of the English faculty were interesting and they all provided a good amount of humor and wit. I enjoyed the parts where Jay had interactions with them, all of which had their own quirky attributes, such as Fran, the faculty member who wanted to help out every rescue animal she could and made Jay look after that dog. There was also Helena Stang, another professor who provided hilarious commentary on a wedding that she attends later on in the novel.

Overall, this book was full of humor and wit. Even though it seems like the main demographic is college professors, I still enjoyed the drama that unfolded with the faculty in this novel. I think that it is something that both college students and professors would enjoy if they want something lighthearted and fun to read.

You can buy The Shakespeare Requirement on Amazon for 17.21.

English Majors Coping with Social Distancing

By Robert Drinkwater

With college campuses closed across the country due to Covid-19, students now have to do online classes via zoom from home. This is a time of adjusting to our schedules that have been drastically changed. As students, we now have to take classes at home and adjust to online classes and social distancing. Everyone has been coping with this differently through all of this change. English majors Henry Wanat, Katie Shupp, and Ali Hooper have shared their thoughts on dealing with this.

Henry

  1. How are you coping with social distancing?

While I am an introvert, I crave daily human interaction. In order to cope with social distancing, I have been becoming increasingly active on the streaming platform Twitch.tv as well as playing games online with my friends over Discord. It has been helpful to have regular classes over Zoom.

2. How are your online classes going?

My online classes are going pretty well, considering. Sometimes it is awkward since I do not have access to a webcam, but my professors have been taking the transition in stride.

3. How has this change in academics affected you overall?

This has dramatically affected my academics, because I do not have that personal interaction with my professors that I came to UMF for. Now that I am at home, it has been a struggle to stay motivated and to find an adequate place to study in an otherwise busy household.

Katie

  1. I’m coping okay. I think that it’s for the best. As much as I want to be with my friends and on campus, I think it’s definitely going to be better and safer for everybody. Personally, I feel better surrounded by people, so being around my family is a little bit tough, but it’s definitely better for everybody around the world and it’ll be okay.

2. They’re going pretty okay. English, I feel like is easier to do online than other classes, mostly because the ones I’ve been in at least have all been discussion based than essay, lecture, or lab stuff, so I think it’s easier for us because we could easily zoom or have text conversations on what we’re doing in class. It’s been pretty okay. I’m happy with what I’ve been doing.

3. It’s making me more aware with how much time I’m spending. Before, I was spending more time with everything all together at one time and now I’m splitting it up into hour increments where I’m doing one thing at one time. I feel like I’ve been noticing I need to spend more time on each class than I have been so I’m thinking more study time. I think that goes hand in hand with making schedules. I’m hoping that everything’s going to stay the same and not gonna change and go negative. I feel like everything’s going to go up from here, so I’m staying positive.

Ali

  1. Social distancing has been really hard. I’m a social person and I miss bumping into past classmates and professors around campus. Luckily, I’m fortunate enough to live with my good friends, and I speak to my family often so I don’t feel lonely, but I miss physically being in a community.

2. Internet aside, I think my classes are just starting to make sense again. After the initial scramble to figure everything out, I really wasn’t sure I was going to be able to finish the semester. I’m glad I stuck with it because it’s really starting to come together and make sense again, but it’s taken a while.

3. I’m finding that who I am as a student has changed a lot since transitioning online. I’ve always put school first and been very organized and focused, but with recent events I’m finding my focus has shifted. Getting organized has been a fruitless battle, deadlines in my classes are still shifting, assignments are being added and dropped, and writing daily to-do lists is only adding to my stress not helping it. I’ve had to adopt a go with the flow attitude and learn to just take each day as it comes. My motivations, energy and environment have changed, along with the expectations I held myself too. I’m not longer aiming for A’s, just aiming to get though this semester with my sanity in tack.