Sunday, June 28, 2009

Summer reading

Summer has begun in earnest, and while there are many things I dislike about summer, I do like having the time to read and sew, and update this blog.

And I have been using my time, even! I made myself a pair of shorts, navy blue with red apple-shaped buttons, which are pleasingly picturesque. I'm plotting all sorts of other sewing projects, like a lemon-print cotton dress, and various skirts and shirts and whatnot. I have also been reading, and catching up on everyone else's book blogs, which I am sadly behind on (I have 30 or 40 entries to read for at least four different blogs). Reading all these bookish thoughts are making me contemplate doing JulNoWriMo again, which I hadn't planned on (last year I started it half way through the month and still managed to finish in time--there are a couple of blog entries in which I mention it).

I finished reading The Hero and the Crown, yesterday, by Robin McKinley. It's a bit of a classic, I guess. It certainly has numerous elements of classic fantasy, though it's so good these don't really bother at all. I loved the style of the writing, although the style sort of changes part way through, and then changes slightly again. The middle section moved the slowest, and then toward the end it picked up and I fairly raced through.

It's the story of Aerin, daughter of the king by his second wife, who was never very well-accepted, and whose daughter is now a bit of a stranger in her own home. Of course, Aerin is not entirely who she thinks she is.

The book was often rather surprising. It doesn't follow quite the expected pattern, but I think this is a side effect of the way the style changes. In the beginning I expected it to be a conventional fantasy and follow conventional fantasy plotlines, what with dragons and swords and princesses, but then it changed and fell more into the pattern of authors such as Patricia McKillip or John Dickinson, a silvery, dreamlike sort of writing and action. And then it changed again and became sort of a cross between the two. It is a very satisfying book in that it wraps things up very nicely for Aerin, though it's almost too nicely, but there's enough that goes wrong along the way that this ending isn't really a problem.

It was given to me as the favourite book of the giver, so I'm glad I enjoyed it.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

It's an apt title even if I don't quite remember what the title came from...

Some time last week I finished reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery, which I got for my birthday in May. It's translated from French, and now I've read it in English I kind of want to read the French.

There is a certain quality particular to a lot of French literature, which I once failed utterly at explaining, but which I really enjoy. It's a clarity, an ability to be profound without being frilly and using too many words or too obscure words. I wonder if it's got to do with French having much less vocabulary than English, so there's no need to use excessive quantities of synonyms. Anyway, this quality works especially well for this book, which talks a lot about Japanese culture and art and whatnot, and there's a certain similarity between simplicity in Japanese art and this slightly indefinable quality of French writing.

The book is about people who hide what they are--Renee, a concierge in a posh apartment building who is really very intellectual but puts on a front of being a typical dull concierge, and an inhabitant of the apartment building, Paloma, an extremely intelligent twelve-year-old who pretends to be merely average, and who is so fed up with what she sees as the meaninglessness of life that she's decided to kill herself on her thirteenth birthday. The book is told by these two characters, alternating between Renee's chapters, and Paloma's Profound Thoughts and Journals of the Movement of the World. Eventually, someone new moves into the building...

This is a terribly well put together book. Some books I like because they are sort of dumbly satisfying, with happy endings and whatnot, but this I like because it is very true, and it doesn't all go the way you want it to but that's what life is like. All together, I liked it a great deal.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Dropping by for a chat...

I'm still here, really! Just incredibly busy. Tech rehearsal for my play and my graduation are both on Thursday, and then the play is going on all weekend. We're doing The Real Inspector Hound by Tom Stoppard. If by some chance you're in Seattle, come see it at West Seattle High School (not actually my school), 3000 California Ave SW, Friday at 7:30, and Saturday at 2:00 and 7:30.

I'm not even here just to advertise! After ages and ages and various interludes of reading other things, I've finally finished Wuthering Heights. I've been reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery, but I needed a lightweight book to bring with me at the last minute as I was heading out the door so I grabbed Wuthering Heights, and then I got back into it and finished it all in one go this morning. I guess I just needed a break from it.

I'm not sure how I feel about it. It's far too dreary to become a favourite; my favourite books are exclusively happy, or at least hopeful. Of the three Bronte's I've read, this is certainly my least favourite, but it's also the only unhappy one. It's very compelling, anyway, and everyone in it has such a forceful personality. It's also nearly impossible to understand most of the characters, they're all so exaggeratedly passionate. But not, I think, unrealistically so. It's an interesting combination. I sort of wonder if the environment of the Heights and the moors surrounding is what promotes such extremes of feeling.

Anyway, I'm glad to have read Wuthering Heights, though I don't think I'll read it again. I'll be back soon to talk about The Elegance of the Hedgehog, I've almost finished that.


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