Wednesday, September 30, 2009
I think I was a little too young to read it--I remember not quite understanding the metaphor of the title until it was explained to me--but I wasn't too young to enjoy the book and appreciate its merits. It was also one of the first classics I read. Maybe some day I'll reread it.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
The His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman, is one of those things I reread periodically, just because it's so wonderful and so full of things to find on rereadings. As you may recall it was on my essential books list to bring to college. According to the Banned Books Week website, it was one of the 10 most challenged books in 2008. It was banned for its political and religious viewpoints and for violence. I love this book because it creates such a real, vivid, almost tactile world(s), because even the invented parts are believable and complete, because it questions institutions, and because all the characters are so very wonderful. Just, all of it. It's one of those books that makes me sort of squirm with joy.
Does anyone else feel kind of gleefully revolutionary when reading oft-banned books?
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Saturday, September 26, 2009
When I was in fourth or fifth grade, all the school kids in the Seattle schools read Holes, by Louis Sachar. This didn't really function as a common book at the time, since in fourth grade you don't know that many people your age other than the kids in the same fourth grade class, but now I can talk to all of my friends who went through Seattle schools, and we all know the story of Holes.
Have you ever read a book in common with thousands of other people who you might not otherwise have something in common with? Or would you like to? I'm also rather curious if there are other programs not affiliated with schools where everybody reads a common book.
And pretty soon, I'll be back to talk about the book itself, which I started a couple of days ago and am finding rather interesting.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice
Schott's Original Miscellany by Ben Schott
The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce
The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
These are the books I am taking to college. They are the books I consider indispensable, whether because I am likely to have a sudden urge to read them or because it simply feels wrong to be without them. Bear in mind that this stack would be a lot taller if I were going farther away from home. Also consider that all of Jane Austen would be on there if I had not decided not to bring anything I know I can find online. The Complete Works of Shakespeare might actually get added to this pile, I haven't decided yet. Schott's Original Miscellany isn't really indispensable, I suppose, but it's the sort of random useful little thing that I think it might be nice to have. The Amber Spyglass would be in this pile also, except that I can't find it, I only have a hardcover (which I was trying to avoid bringing), and if I actually read the first two that'll give me time to find the third one.
The Clouds of Witness and Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. Sayers
Ha'penny by Jo Walton
Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama
The Cinnamon Peeler by Michael Ondaatje
These are my selections off my to-read pile that I think I might actually have a chance of getting around to. The Dorothy Sayers because they're short reads and will be a nice change from all the books I'll be reading for classes, Ha'penny because I'm in the middle of it, the Obama book because it's the university common book and I haven't read it yet (but I think it might be my next house book), and The Cinnamon Peeler because I might feel the need for some poetry.
I find it interesting to have it put to the test which books I think I can't live without. There is, for example, pretty much zero chance of my reading Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit. Tolkien's an old love for me, a little faded and diverged more into reading his letters and essays. But despite the fact that the books are just going to sit in by tiny dorm room taking up space, I can't live without them. The others are all comfort books, which given a college reading load is likely to be the only thing I get around to reading (though we'll hold out hope for the unread pile).
Those photos, by the way, were taken in my back yard, and look how sunny it is. Oh, Seattle, rain in August and 85 degrees on the autumn equinox.
Next you hear from me, I'll be typing from my dorm room!
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
I'm so glad I read this without knowing the story, having never seen the movie. It's a book I've been hearing about in a vague sort of way for a long time, and I think the ideas I had long ago of what it was about bear little resemblance to its actual plot. Through the entire book, up to the very end, the last few pages, I didn't know how it was going to turn out. I don't mean that there was anything particularly suspenseful about it, just that there were so many ways it could have gone, so many threads it could have followed. There is absolutely nothing formulaic about this book. I didn't always know who it was about or whether it would continue to be about that person, and somehow I didn't even have any expectations.
It's rare to find a book that is every moment new and unexpected, and somehow reading a book like this brings you closer to its creation. It brings you closer to the author and the choices he makes about where the book is going to go, because you just don't know and there are so many possibilities and he gets to choose. I can't quite explain that.
"'The doctors in Rome gave him less than a year. There is someone coming from London, I think, tomorrow, who will tell us more.'I don't know why I love that line so much, just, it encapsulates the enormous weariness of slow death so very perfectly. I had to put a post-it by it, so I would remember.
'What is it?'
'His heart; some long word at the heart. He is dying of a long word.'"
The book doesn't come round in a circle, quite. It does in a way, with the Prologue and Epilogue, but if I had been writing it I would have somehow brought it back around to the beginning of the real story, I would have made it circular and tied it down that way, which I think is possibly a sign that I'm not really a very original writer. And I don't think I understood why Brideshead the place gets the title until the very last page.
I can't say anything to the Catholicism in the book. I'm not Christian, have set foot in a church a grand total of once and it was for a book signing. I haven't got the habits of any religion, am if anything pagan but I don't have the focus drilled into me to keep up any particular religious practices, though sometimes I wish I did. All I can say for religion in Brideshead Revisited is that it is fascinating and believable in a human and instinctive kind of way, even for me. I don't know if it would be for an atheist.
You may, by the way, have noticed that I've used five different covers of the book in the course of my talking about it. I went through all the covers I could find pictures of and chose the ones I thought caught the mood best. And actually the mood changes so much that not all of the ones I've chosen work completely, but they're certainly better than some I've seen. Incidentally, none of these are my cover, which also works. It's a green cloth hardcover with a rather impressive building printed in gold on the front, and the title in gold up the spine, published by Little, Brown, and Company. It was a suitably grand edition to read the book in, with nice thick paper, which perhaps added to the experience.
You can see what I mean about my incoherency. All I have are impressions and and disconnected thoughts. Some of my favourite books I love for very analyzeable reasons, but Brideshead Revisited isn't like that, and it is also not a fond love (this will never be a comfort book though I would like to reread it some day), which is rather in line with the loves in this book. So there you have it.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
It was a quick read, it took me about a day and a half. It is, pure and simple, chick lit. Becky Bloomwood's your narrator, a financial journalist who's way in debt and has a serious addiction to shopping. This is a pretty satisfying book, I mean not filling, it's satisfying in the way eating angel food cake is satisfying, not in a meat and potatoes kind of way.
There were some notable deviations in the transition from book to movie. For one thing, they picked up the whole mess and moved it from London to New York. While I imagine this was done because it was an American-made film, actually I think it also had the added benefit of removing the Bridget Jones comparisons. It's not really that like Bridget Jones, but Becky definitely has that affliction of spinning ridiculous stories in an attempt to get out of things that seems to be common to chick lit heroines everywhere and especially Bridget.
And while this is overall an extremely fluffy book, it's got a rather serious, almost, I don't know, sinister (is there a milder word for that? it's not quite what I mean) slant, in Becky's addiction to shopping. It really is an addiction, and addictions are always a bit scary.
Anyway, this was a fun, easy read, and I'll probably be thinking wistfully of it once I'm deep into the quarter and reading Ovid.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Thursday I'm moving out of the house into my dorm, and from then on no doubt things will be extremely hectic and busy, but for the moment all is calm. It's sunny, and NPR is on in the kitchen, my eternal background noise, and maybe later I'll go outside, or wander off to Nova and hang about. Despite all the things I'm worried about and bothered about, right in this moment I'm simply very calm.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
"It was a small tortoise with Julia's initials set in diamonds in the living shell, and this slightly obscene object, now slipping impotently on the polished boards, now striding across the card-table, now lumbering over a rug, now withdrawn at a touch, now stretching its neck and swaying its withered, antediluvian head, became a memorable part of the evening, one of those needle-hooks of experience which catch the attention when larger matters are at stake, and remain in the mind when they are forgotten, so that years later it is a bit of gilding, or a certain smell, or the tone of a clock's striking which recalls one to a tragedy."Disregarding the fact that this entire paragraph, from chapter six of Brideshead Revisited, is one sentence, it was this paragraph that caught in my mind and pulled out a certain thread of recognition. Something about the tone, the mixture of memory and poetry, reminds me forcibly of History Boys. History Boys in many ways talks about and skirts around memory and experience; there are layers of time, and you are always conscious that what is happening to the characters in the moment is something they will look back on later. Often you get the feeling that they will remember it in the way this paragraph describes, as something sensual and perhaps without the factual, seemingly important parts. Irwin, the character who most appears in two different times, sometimes remembers things from the earlier time in which most of the play takes place, and Hector in that time remembers a vague past. Posner and Dakin, students of Irwin and Hector in this time, are the ones most potently, because of their age, creating the experiences that you can tell will later be remembered in things like this, the turtle, the gilding, the clock's strike.
I mentioned before the memory and nostalgia I feel running all the way through Brideshead Revisited. The paragraph above is what I feel is a perfect example of this thread at its best. I hadn't quite realized that this is part of what I love about History Boys, and suddenly recognizing the feeling in Brideshead Revisited brought it all to the front and made me realize it. I think it was on this paragraph that the book clicked into place for me. I had to stop immediately and tell you so.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
The only one of the plays I'm familiar with is The Skin of Our Teeth, by Thornton Wilder, which I saw a friend's school do once. I've heard of nearly all the other playwrights. And now I also know what the first book I'll have to have read is, so if the bookstore gets it in soon maybe I'll be able to read that ahead of time. I'm officially very excited for all my classes, and for all the reading I'll be doing.
Friday, September 18, 2009
Thursday, September 17, 2009
The story basically begins when Lauria Gilmore, a middle-aged, well-respected actress, is blown up by a bomb in her own house. Inspector Carmichael and Seargent Royston of Scotland Yard are called in to investigate, and once again the two worlds of the alternating chapters are very related but have yet to quite meet.
This book adds another layer of my interests, with Viola Larkin being a member of an aristocratic family who has estranged herself from her parents in order to go on the stage. I've yet to reach anything much about the theatre in the book, but it begins with Viola agreeing to play Hamlet. And you know how I feel about Hamlet. So the discussions of how the play would work with Hamlet as a woman are very interesting.
I'll say more about the book when I've finished it, but it's definitely begun well what with getting me back to reading and in the course of that even to picking up Brideshead Revisited again.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
It's a tiny little place, pleasant and calm with music playing in the background. The shelves are hung from the ceiling on wires, just an odd little detail that added to the charm. There's not a lot of stock, shelves for fiction, nonfiction, essays, poetry, and graphic novels, but absolutely all of it looks fascinating and I would have bought all kinds of things were I not a penniless college student. Lots of the books have little cards in them that say something about what makes the book interesting, such as "local author," "haha," "GLBTQ," or "hot damn," (the last of which I can only assume just means it's a very impressive book), which is a nice touch.
I love that there are bookshops like this opening even in unfortunate financial times, standing up for the little guys in publishing and selling all the quirky, "unsellable" books. I know most people who pass by this blog probably don't live in Seattle and won't have the chance to visit this shop, but I thought I'd mention it all the same and get it out into the world a little more. Next time I have some money I don't feel guilty spending unnecessarily, I'll definitely be stopping by Pilot Books.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
I rather seem to have come at this from the opposite end. I read Vile Bodies last year though I seem not to have said much about it, and now reading Brideshead Revisited I have trouble taking this one entirely seriously. It certainly has many moments of fanciful, wistful, slightly purple prose, which could be a mockery but I think, perhaps, aren't. According to Wikipedia it was written in the six months following a parachute accident in 1944, and as such the author's circumstances are rather similar to his narrator's--enough so that I suspect Charles Ryder's wistfulness for old times contains a lot of Waugh's wistfulness for the times he used to satirize. Certainly his later dislike of the book would be in line with this idea, the instinctive pushing away from a work containing the kind of nostalgia he would usually not indulge in.
I'm about a third of the way through the book, and have yet to be entirely certain what it's about. Not that it lacks focus in any way, but I couldn't tell you what its main point is yet, which I think says something for how little it follows a formula. Brideshead Revisited can certainly be called a classic, but it is one that is so without having a universally known plot, as many classics do. In some ways classics like this are the ideal book--with all the good writing but retaining the element of surprise. I'm looking forward to that surprise, as I get further into the book.
Monday, September 14, 2009
It's bad timing in more ways than one--I start college in a week and a half! I only realized how soon it is a couple days ago, and was completely shocked. Somehow I thought I had at least two or three weeks left.
I still haven't been reading much. I spent most of yesterday making quantities of earrings, which I may at some point post photos of as I'm rather proud of them. Last night I did happen to read a New Yorker article about Edith Wharton, mostly concerned with her childhood and young adulthood and the German governess she had. It was an interesting article. I read The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence one after the other four years ago. They're both very good, though I greatly preferred The Age of Innocence. I wouldn't mind reading it again; it has some vastly lovely passages, those descriptions of an emotion that ought to be vague and nebulous and indescribable, but which Edith Wharton has miraculously managed to capture and evoke. I found The House of Mirth far less memorable, so it's funny that I read that one first and still went on to read the other. I've never read any of her other works, though I seem to have wound up reading rather a lot about her life, without quite meaning to. Some day I should sit down with a proper biography.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
It's interesting to me that I don't react to this by burying myself in books. I just haven't quite been able to get up the energy, and the ease to distraction ratio of watching episode after episode of The West Wing apparently wins out over reading. By contrast, all of last month when I definitely had things I was worrying about, I read like crazy. I'm wondering if this sort of goes in cycles. If you're extremely happy in every way, likely enough you don't read a whole lot. If you're generally cheerful but have one or two things nudging at the back of your mind, you do read a lot. If the one or two things at the back of your mind become three or four things thwacking you over the head, you stop reading entirely. Is there a further unhappy layer, I wonder, where you start reading again? I suppose I'd like not to find out.
It's generally acknowledged that most people read for a view of another life, to escape for a while from their own. Which books do this best for you? Which books aren't read for this purpose at all? I wonder whether I would have read this week if I had been in the middle of more absorbing books, but there's certainly a point where your problems are too pressing to allow you to concentrate on a book. Do you reread books that make you happy or that you associate with a better time, or do you find something new and fascinating and just dive into it?
Friday, September 11, 2009
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
I've still got that huge pile of books to read, and it's gotten even bigger with more books I keep remembering I've been meaning to read, like The Forsyte Saga and That Hideous Strength, so far that I had to turn it into two piles. I am slowly but steadily working at The Worm Ouroboros and Brideshead Revisited, so keep a lookout for posts on those.
I haven't bought any books lately, having been of an odd mood that talks me out of buying anything. Funnily enough books are the one thing this mood least applies to, despite being of the least immediate use. My text file of books I want to find has gotten considerably longer lately, though, what with finally catching up on all the book blogs I read, so there are some things I'm definitely on the lookout for used copies of. And Connie Willis is starting to look appealing again, after To Say Nothing of the Dog and The Doomsday Book last year.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Regardless of this musing, I really don't believe that paper is going to die out completely. Humans are too tactile to rely solely on pixels.
Monday, September 7, 2009
This is a pendant that's going to be attached to a chain, but I haven't got any chains that will work so I might venture out and find one today. Don't bet on that, though. I'm rather pleased with it. I was going for a sort of mishmash cobbled together look of different elements, and I'm not sure that's what I got but I like it anyway. The picture in the frame says "victoria," I cut it out of National Geographic. I made a couple of earrings, too (not matching ones), but I couldn't get my camera to take a good photo of them (the camera is definitely on its way out).
I always make jewellery just because I want new jewellery and don't think it's worth buying it, but there is definitely a certain pleasure in creating something. Sewing is about beginning from scratch, something flat that can then be given shape and some element of personality. Jewellery is more to do with taking different pieces that already have personality on their own, and seeing how they fit together. Two very different kinds of creation, but they both satisfy the need to make things.
I may not have done any sewing, but I did read! I'm very much starting to get into Brideshead Revisited, and you'll no doubt hear about it very soon.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
There's something inexpressibly pleasant about a rainy day spent indoors sewing, and maybe I'll get some reading done too, while I'm at it. It wouldn't be bad weather for Brideshead Revisited either, which I've started over and have some musings about already.
Look out for photos of the finished skirt at some point, but I make no promises as to the timeliness of this.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
I missed this year's festival, of course, but admission is free with an entry ($10 otherwise), so maybe I'll come up with something for next year.
You can view a bunch of photos of Seattle's edible books from past years here.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
I have plenty to read at home, of course, and it's removing the temptation of the library, but I have to confess to a certain panic at the idea of being completely unable to use my library. That's never happened to me before. The library is a very solid, ever-present thing that's been a crucial part of my life since before I can remember, and for this week it effectively does not exist. I must admit to feeling a little cast adrift.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
The Mother Tongue is hilarious; it's subtitle rather says it all: "English and how it got that way," the story of the English language, its history, its place in the world. It's a funny story to begin with, but Bill Bryson makes it funnier because you know he's always amused. The book outlines the development of language in general and the history of English in particular, including its vocabulary, pronunciation, and spelling, has chapters on dialects, proper English usage, dictionaries, American vs. British English, swearing, word games, and the future of the language. The funniest chapters, which were what really got me through to the end and which I couldn't help but read aloud (my mother finally told me to stop so I had to just stop reading), were those on English's effect on other languages and English names. Some of the funniest examples of English words being borrowed into other languages are things like Japanese for a suit, being "sebiro," which comes from "Savile Row," and then of course the French, when they want to get a bit tan, go to the beach for "le bronzing" and a German book that doesn't quite make the best-seller lists is "ein steadyseller." The chapter on names is fascinating; it goes through the odd tendency of British place and family names to be pronounced nothing like they're spelled (and, if there are two places with the same name, for these to be pronounced differently in each place and neither like it's spelled), hilarious place names in general, unusual British pub names, surnames. The British place names, of course, are mostly hilarious just because they sound funny, but imagine living in Fertile, Minnesota; Humptulips, Washington; or Maggie's Nipples, Wyoming.
In short, The Mother Tongue is a very well-written (one always hopes so in a book on language), informative, and concise book, which you can't possibly read without bursting to tell someone some of the things you've learned.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
I thieved this little meme from A Work in Progress, since it looked like fun. Stuck in a Book and Cornflower also did it, so you might like to venture over and read their answers since they're all pretty interesting.
Using only books you have read this year (2009), answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title. It's a lot harder than you think!
Describe yourself: Lost in a Good Book (Jasper Fforde)
How do you feel: Nameless (Sam Starbuck)
Describe where you currently live: This Side of Paradise (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
If you could go anywhere, where would you go: Mansfield Park (Jane Austen)
Your favorite form of transportation: On Borrowed Wings (Chandra Prasad)
Your best friend is: Jane Austen (Claire Tomalin)
You and your friends are: The Mitford Girls (Mary S. Lovell)
What's the weather like: Melting Stones (Tamora Pierce)
You fear: Bloodhound (Tamora Pierce)
What is the best advice you have to give: The Awakening (Kate Chopin)
Thought for the day: The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets (Eva Rice)
How I would like to die: Reading the OED (Ammon Shea)
My soul's present condition: The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Muriel Barbery)