“Questus Libris” by Anna Southwell

Here is an inserted pdf and link to my word art in the shape of a TV (because of the various technological mediums we have been using) :


It is color-coded by each assignment we have had:

Red = Pierre

Green = The Night Circus

Blue = The OA

Yellow = Life is Strange

Orange = Russian Doll

Pink = S. Town

Each color includes how I accessed the assignment, and main themes from each.

“Stranger Than Fiction” Review — Anna Southwell


Karen Eiffel types a sentence into her typewriter.

Harold Crick does that action, under the power of her authorship and living his simple life of mundane routine. He brushes his teeth with an exact number of strokes, and counts his exact number of steps. He lives by the ticking of his watch.

At first, Harold Crick seems to be a robotic representation and shell of a human. Or is he a real person?

This screenplay and film, “Stranger Than Fiction,” impressed me with the way it presented this enigma of a character as static and flat, living a life of repetition and dull routine, but gradually uncovered the multi-faceted and complex layers of him. Harold Crick seems boring and simple at first, but he is revealed to be a very dynamic character with emotions and a vibrant personality as he falls in love with Ana and wishes to live a normal life and escape the fate of Karen Eiffel’s plot of her book.

And played by Will Ferrell, usually in very different and entirely comedic roles? Loved it! I was struck by how much I enjoyed him playing this type of character, and his character development was very realistic yet creative — he is a real person yet a book character at the same time, and this comes across successfully in both the film and screenplay.

As Harold Crick transitioned from a life of dull repetition to a complex life of human emotions, relationships, and goals, the story beautifully portrayed his transformation from a book character into a human as Karen Eiffel gets closer and closer to writing out his death.

After his near-death encounter as Eiffel gives him mercy when she realized that someone’s life was more important than a plot-line, he has a piece of a watch stuck in his wrist from getting hit by a car. This symbolism was clever and meaningful because it represented the change in his character as a whole. I interpreted the piece of watch stuck in his wrist as a remainder of his “character” form in the book, but he has become a regular human being. The watch no longer consumes him, but it is still a part of him. I thought this was an interesting detail in the film and screenplay. As we discussed in class, I did think the medical explanation of the danger of the watch piece in his wrist didn’t make sense to me either and it came across to me as an error as well — the medical explanation that taking it out of his wrist was too dangerous wouldn’t make sense in the real medical world. But other than that, I thought it was a great detail to the conclusion of the story.

However, especially in terms of the film, I wanted to see more of the aftermath of Karen Eiffel after she decided to rewrite the ending to allow Harold to live — I wanted to see more of how she ended up, if she was happier and less depressed, if she managed to turn her life around. I would have appreciated that closure to her character and an end on a more positive note.

But all in all, I very much enjoyed the story of “Stranger Than Fiction,” both the screenplay and the movie. Although there were some minor disparities between the two forms, I thought the film producers did a great job of translating the story to cinema.

It was funny, charming, light-hearted, but also meaningful, symbolic, and literary in its details and layers, and I especially enjoyed the quirky and unexpected relationship between Ana and Harold. It seems that Ana grew to like Harold more as he acted more and more “human” and less like a repetitive, robotic character that only cared about his job at the IRS. The more he showed emotions and his personality, the more she appreciated him, which was very realistic — it wasn’t “instant-love” which I appreciated. Although Ana came across as much more “normal” in the film and less political with a “punk-rock” personality as she was in the screenplay, which was slightly disappointing, I still very much enjoyed her character and the amusing dynamic between her and Harold in the film.

This is one of my favorite assignments of the semester so far!

Overall rating for both the screenplay and film: 9/10.

The Night Circus Review by Anna Southwell


“How can I excel at a game when you refuse to tell me the rules?” — Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is built on an intriguing magical world that is wrapped around a set of imaginative rules of how ‘the game’, so to speak, is played, written in a imaginative, whimsical way while also portrayed in a serious manner based on dark and sinister themes. Morgenstern grabbed my attention as soon as I began listening to the story with the manner of her introduction of world-building and how the main characters were pulled in — two young children are bound into this fantasy world based on competition and magical intrigue without complete understanding of “the rules of the game.” Celia and Marco, at first only still in grade school, are pushed to fight against each other in an environment of intense competition in which they much magically outperform each other with increasingly powerful and complex displays of magic until the other fails… or dies. However, neither of them know the boundaries with which they can perform or even what declares one of them as the winner. This is because they are unknowingly just pawns, forced into the competition by each of their magical instructors, Mr. A.H. and Hector Bowen. Similar to Harry Potter or The Hunger Games, this set structure of rules and competition that is also ambiguous and incomplete leaves room for suspenseful mystery and allows the reader to be curious about the gaps of knowledge in the storyline — this was the fuel for my interest in the story and character development.

Further interesting me in terms of character development was the unexpected and sudden romance between Celia and Marco. Amidst the intense competition forced by Mr. A.H. and Bowen, they develop an intense fascination and romantic interest in each other. I didn’t very much enjoy the fact that the romance bloomed so quickly, because especially in this environment, I would have appreciated this character development more if the romance had gradually developed over time as the competition went on, which would have come across as more realistic and genuine, rather than the sudden obsessive manner of their relationship. Even though their interest in each other grew into love as they matured into adults and as the competition progressed and they got to know each other, the interest in each other still seemed very sudden, such as the “instant love at first sight” feeling I got from listening to their early moments together. For example,  when Marco first meets Celia at the auditions for the Chandresh’s Night Circus: “Marco watches her approach, confused at first but then the confusion is replaced with something else entirely” (Morgenstern 92) — the interest developed out of the blue, and in my opinion, it would have been much more effective if Morgenstern had developed their romance gradually, in an evolution from hatred and competition to interest to acceptance and then to romance.

My next point could likely be entirely because I was listening to the audiobook, but I often found the jumps in time from chapter to chapter hazy and confusing. For example, the chapters would jump in time from the early 1890’s, to 1895, to 1893, then back in time again — listening to the story made it all the more difficult to keep up with a story that I imagine would also be confusing to read as well. It was if the reader was expected to remember everything from the previous chapter, but most of the time the next chapter would be from the perspective of someone new, such as jumping between Marco, Celia, Tara, Poppet, and many others. It would get jumbled in my mind, such as the transitions from explaining the circus, including the lengthy description of each individual tent of the circus and the “black and white” characteristics (which I thought was a bit too long), to then continuing forward with the plot. There were several points where I had to rewind the audio recording so that I could grasp where in the story I was. This could be merely just because I am very much a visual learner and I remember details better when I read words on a page, but the confusing nature of the jumps in time and the hazy details of characters in my mind  definitely hindered my enjoyment of the story. It also made the story seemed much more slow-paced and it therefore made me less attentive and captivated as a reader. And by the time the story reached the end, shocking events unfolded — Marco and Celia sacrificed themselves together in the fire because they realized there was no end to their competition, but rather than dying, they were magically transported and ended up deep inside the circus indefinitely, not technically dead or alive and therefore, the competition was declared a stalemate. But the haziness of the audiobook made much of the built up suspense and shocking events seem very out of the blue and strange, and the loose strings didn’t seem to connect in my mind like Morgenstern intended them to. On one hand, the haziness of the audiobook listening made it more suspenseful for me because I had less of a clear understanding and therefore had less of a clear prediction of the end, but on the other hand, all of the loose strings still hindered my ability to fully piece together the plot development and it made the end seem too sudden for my liking.

Perhaps if I had physically read the book, the storyline would have been more clearly laid out to me and I would have enjoyed the story much more.

Overall rating: 7/10

My take on Melville’s Pierre: dense, difficult, but interestingly constructed (by A. S.)

Pierre, or the Ambiguities, comes across to me as a showcase of the creative and expressive inner-workings of Melville’s mind, but it took me a while into the book to realize that. While beginning to read it, I was struck by how dense and heavy the style of writing was, and I found it often difficult to follow and focus on because of the overly detailed, rambling quality of the writing — at first, I wasn’t appreciative of it at all. And to be quite honest, I could hardly get through it without taking several breaks throughout my reading sessions. But after discussing the concepts of Pierre in class and continuing to read it, I began to realize that the rambling quality of the writing is an art form in a sense.

When the idea in class was brought up to me that the stylistic choice was possibly a purposeful decision to convey the idea of a “stream of consciousness”, or to help characterize the insanity of Pierre as a person, or even not on purpose, and could portray the unusual mechanisms of the literary mind of Melville, I realized that it was a fascinating literary choice. It began to interest me that the fact that the writing style comes across as insane and nonsensical reflects the character of Pierre in the sense that he and his ideals truly do not fit in with the world he is in. Overall, I would not go as far as to say that the writing style of Pierre, or the Ambiguities, was enjoyable or engaging to read at all, but I will say that it had more depth and creativity than what my first impression of it was, in an artistic and interesting manner. And I do understand why some would describe the language as elegant, sprawling, and beautiful sentences strung together which creates a never-ending, yet reflective and symbolic, psychological stream of consciousness.

Furthermore, the idea of time and how it is represented and spread out over the course of the story was also fascinating to me, and interestingly constructed by Melville. This slow-moving and drawn out organization of time reminded me of when I was a child, when a single day would feel much longer than a day in my life would be today, as a young adult. Something about childhood and growing up makes time run differently, and this book reflected that youthful “coming-of-age” characteristic. Even though this organization of time did make it much more difficult to read and follow the direction of the plot, it was still a unique facet of the story which I grew to appreciate. I feel that way about the book as a whole — even though it isn’t easy to read, and not always understandable or necessarily “enjoyable” in the typical sense, it was abstract, unique, interesting, and brilliantly constructed to reflect the symbols of abnormality throughout the story, such as Pierre’s familial and romantic relationships (which don’t seem to differ much to Pierre), his personality, his decisions, and his overly-romantic and strange outlook on life compared to the societal standards of the time as his life unravels as the book goes on.

Would I recommend this to a friend for an enjoyable read? No.

But would I recommend this to a fellow student to experience an interesting way of thinking, like a scholarly puzzle in a literary form? Perhaps.

Overall Rate: 3 stars / 5 stars