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Thursday, August 31, 2006

R.I.P. Challenge

Thanks to Danielle and Ex Libris, I found my way to the R.I.P. challenge sponsored by Carl V....which of course, I can't resist.

Possibilities (garnered from other lists):

Warner, Sylvia Townsend. Lolly Willowes.
Hodgson, William Hope. The House on the Borderland.
Stoker, Bram. The Mystery of the Sea.
La Fanu, J. Sheridan. Wyvern Mystery.
Leroux, Gaston. The Mystery of the Yellow Room.
Webber, Mina. The Reluctant Miss Van Helsing.

Haven't read The Woman in White or The Moonstone in years and do think either one would be a fun re-read. In an earlier post, I said I rarely re-read, but since perusing so many book blogs, favorites from the distant past have been calling to me.
O.K. - Final Answer -
Have ordered:

The Haunted Hotel - Wilkie Collins
The Wyvern Mystery - J. Sheridan Le Fanu
Lolly Willowes: Or the Loving Huntsman -Sylvia Townsend Warner
The House on the Borderland - William Hope Hodgson
Death in the Garden - Elizabeth Ironside

And there are several others that I'm interested in and will look into later.

Hot or Not? No cleavage, but...

Geoffrey, who hath a blog, has requested votes for himself, and even though he was deemed unsuitable for the site, I voted for him anyway. Looks aren't everything, and Chaucer is definitely Hot in my book.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

from dull to fascinating

Much of the first of the Welty biography reads like this:

"She saw a new exhibition of work by her Yaddo pal Karnig Nalbandian, longing to buy some of the beautiful pieces, then dined with him at Nona Balakian's. She spent one weekend with the Russells and another visiting the Robert Penn Warrens and the Cleanth Brooks in New Haven. She attended the opening of Lehman Engel's Mikado and went to a party at his apartment" (221).

Lots of names, no real personalities. Even her letters are accounts of who and what with no real commentary or introspection.

But, finally, an excerpt from one of her lectures shimmers with genuine Welty:

"...that Southerners do write--probably they must write. It is the way they are: born readers and reciters, great document holders, diary keepers, letter exchangers and savers, history tracers--and, outstaying the rest, great talkers. Emphasis in talk is on the narrative form and the verbatim conversation, for which time is needed. Children who grow up listening through rewarding stretches of unhurried time, reading in big lonely rooms, dwelling in the confidence of slow-changing places, are naturally more prone than other children to be entertained from the first by life and to feel free, encouraged, and then in no time compelled to pass their pleasure on. They cannot help being impressed by a world around them where history has happened in the yard or come into the house, where all round the countryside big things happened and monuments stand to the memory of fiery deeds still to be heard from the lips of grandparents, the columns in the field or the familiar cedar avenue leading uphill to nothing, where such-and-such a house once stood. At least one version of an inextinguishable history of everybody and his grandfather is a community possession, not for a moment to be forgotten--just added to, with due care, mostly. The individual is much too cherished as such for his importance ever to grow diminished in a story. The rarity in a man is what is appreciated and encouraged" (240-41).

And " must have something to do with this fury of writing with which the South is charged. If one thing stands out in these writers, all quite different from another, it is that each feels passionately about Place. And not merely in the historical and prideful meaning of the word, but in the sensory meaning, the breathing world of sight and smell and sound, in its earth and water and sky, its time and its seasons" (241).

Isn't that wonderful prose? Engaging, informative, and imaginative. I love it.

Just when I was about to close the book and move on, I find what I was looking for. From here on out, I will skim the itinerary and date book accounts and search for these lovely nuggets. Her letters improve at this point, too, seeming more thoughtful and personal--less saw ___, dined at ___, met with ___.

Ironically, golden boy is less engaging now.

lists--long and longer

My "to be read" list grows at a frightening speed. Here are some of the latest additions:

Some from the Booker Prize long list:

Mark Haddon's new A Spot of Bother: A Novel. Bluestalking Reader's review intensified my interest in this one.

The Secret River by Kate Grenville also piques my interest and Bluestalking's review makes it a must read.

The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud got a great review from dovegreyreader scribbles.

Some of the books on the Booker long list are difficult to get hold of right now, but I'm in no particular hurry. My "tbr" list is long, and I also pull from the shelves at the library while browsing.

On the Cultural Revolution in China (I'm interested in all things Chinoise), I've added these recommendations from booklogged: Red Scarf Girl by Ji-li Jiang and Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang. Both of these look fascinating- thanks, booklogged.

A Work in Progress expressed an interest in reading or re-reading some classics. For some reason when I re-read Cather a few years ago, I didn't enjoy them as much as I did originally. I've re-read Pride and Prejudice, Frankenstein, and Turn of the Screw several times while teaching so they get a pass for awhile. Robinson Crusoe, however, I do want to re-read...I'm not telling how many years ago my last reading was. And Alcott, not just Little Women, but Jo's Boys, and several others have been added to the re-read list.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

about a life...

I'm currently reading Eudora Welty: a Biography by Suzanne Marrs. Welty resisted autobiographical and biographical works for years, but in 1998 gave Marrs permission to write an account of her life. While I find the work interesting in many ways--Welty was not the provincial, staid, sheltered individual she is often thought to have been--somehow the biography still manages to maintain a dry distance around this complicated woman. "Just the facts, ma'm" is the way it reads. Not that the facts aren't interesting, but they don't reverberate, don't resonate the lively way I imagine the woman herself did. I'm only on page 189 and the book is nearly 600 pages, so I'm hoping for more in the pages to come.

Also reading golden boy: Memories of a Hong Kong Childhood by Martin Booth. Here is a link to his obituary in The Guardian. Already enchanted by the Author's Note and few pages I've read so far.

As many of you do, I enjoy biographies and memoirs. Favorites include May Sarton's various journals and Doris Grumbach's Coming into the Endzone. I read these several years ago and was fascinated with the way these women dealt with aging.

Have always loved historical characters and their biographies. The Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser is a favorite.

Which "real" people do you enjoy reading about? What biographies and memoirs call to you?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

August Reading (updated)

Flawless Hand Quilting from Rodale's Quilting Library. I wrote about this and the following book several weeks ago and have kept them both handy ever since. Lots of good tips in this one.

Moran, Freddy, and Gwen Marston. Collaborative Quilting. Wonderful pictures, creative approaches, interesting glimpses into the lives, styles, and techniques of these two creative women. This was a joy, and I'm still going back to it frequently for inspiration and pleasure.

Benoit, Charles. Out of Order. I really thought I'd like this one because the setting is India. The premise was good--theft of a computer program and sabotage--but the result was poor. Characters were not believable, plot unecessarily complicated with ambiguity and less than logical behavior, love interest questionable (falling in love with a pathological liar has drawbacks).

Elkins, Aaron. Unnatural Selection. Gideon Oliver is a forensics professor often called in to study old bones. While attending consortium held on the Isles of Scilly off the coast of Cornwall with his wife, Oliver is asked to examine some bones that had been discovered by a dog digging on a beach. From the few recovered examples, he determines that they were indeed human and that the body had been dismembered.

Piercy, Marge. The Third Child. I love Piercy's poetry, but wasn't impressed by this novel.

Asensi, Matilde. The Last Cato. Don't bother. A really bad example of The DaVinci Code take offs. Really bad example.

Robinson, Peter. Piece of My Heart. Detective Chief Inspector Banks is caught up in the murder of a journalist that leads back to a murder at a rock concert in 1969. I always enjoy Peter Robinson.

Lescroart, John. The Second Chair. Dismas Hardy and Abe Glitsky and their San Francisco associates are involved in two separate murders that merge. When Dismas steps in to second chair Amy Wu as a result of her misguided attempts to keep a murder suspect in juvenile court, Abe is busy with a suspected serial killer who is behaving like an executioner. As always, Lescroart's characters are wonderfully drawn and believable.

James, P.D. The Lighthouse. The Baroness of Holland Park never fails to please. Commander Adam Dalgliesh investigates a suspected murder on the small island of Combe off the Cornish coast. The island confines and isolates the complex characters when a further event isolates them even further. The rather cool relationship of DI Kate Miskin and Sergeant Francis Benton-Smith develops as they are forced to work together.

Fairstein, Linda. Death Dance. Fairstein was the chief prosecutor in the Manhatten district Attorney's Office Sex Crimes Unit for twenty-five years and is now a media consultant for several networks. This is the eighth novel featuring Alexandra Cooper, who is, coincidentally, a prosecutor for the Special Victims Unit. Cooper and her long-time team of Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace investigate the death of a prima ballerina who disappears backstage during a performance at the Met. I like the camaraderie that exists among the trio of Cooper, Wallace, and Chapman and always find her novels interesting.

Eriksson, Kjell. The Princess of Burundi. The novel was named Best Swedish Crime Novel in 2002. The main character Inspector Ann Lindell is on maternity leave from the Uppsala police force when Little John, a family man and tropical fish expert is murdered. Because she has dealt with the murdered man's career criminal brother and because she misses the action of her job, Lindell finds herself drawn into the investigation. Neither particularly good or bad...

Kerley, Jack. A Garden of Vipers. A pair of detectives --Carson Ryder and Harry Nautilus--are caught up in a bizarre case in Mobile, Alabama. Involving a wealthy, influential family (but a result of Faulknerian inbreeding...or something) that has produced superficially handsome if internally twisted scions, Nautilus and Ryder find themselves in danger as they begin putting things together. This is the third novel in this series, and I will be looking for the previous two.

Tuttle, Lisa. The Silver Bough. A modern fantasy relying largely on myth. I knew within a few pages that we were dealing with a Selkie (well, coast of Scotland and all), but interestingly, not even close to the end did the word appear, although everything else was filled in. One thing I did not realize is that the word Avalon means island of apples; nor was I familiar with the mythic Kelpie. Apples play a large part in this novel and the various apple-related myths are woven throughout. A light, fun read with old myths and new takes.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Off to Florida

Amelia is getting married in Key West. :)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Gender differences in book choice and impact on publishing

So many blogs have posted a meme that asks for the title of a book "that has changed your life." Thinking about this topic is too labor intensive for me, and as I read various choices listed, I agree first with one, then another.

Here, however, is an interesting article from the Sydney Morning Herald that asked that very question of men and of women in separate surveys.

The article begins with this statement: "The novel that means most to men is about indifference, alienation and lack of emotional response. The novel that means most to women is about deeply held feelings and a struggle to overcome circumstances and passion."

Hard to disagree with that; at least to me, that seems a logical result. The article gives both lists.

I've read 13 on the men's list and 13 on the women's list (Heart of Darkness and Catch-22 appear on both lists), but don't know that any one of them changed my life. Each had an effect, but they all broadened my experience in a different way.

While the conclusions often seem logical, I nevertheless found them fascinating. For example: "Most of the men cited books they had read as teenagers, and many of them stopped reading fiction while young adults, only returning to it in late middle age." It doesn't surprise me, but I had never really thought about looking at it that way--and that this fact should have a great deal of influence on the book trade.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Julia Cameron and Rainer Maria Rilke???

The Case for Literature is made in this article, What Good Are the Arts.

Letters To A Young Artist by Julia Cameron strikes me as arrogant and facile. I'm about half way through this little book and am not impressed. I read The Artist's Way 4 or 5 years ago and found it interesting, although I didn't do the exercises. This little book (loosely, very loosely based on Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet is aggressive, not contemplative. More than aggressive, it is insulting. Several chapters in (with no previous hint) one discovers that the persona is a crotchety old man, not even Cameron. I've discovered two sentences so far that I like:

"You complain of being blocked, but a block is really just the ego's resistance to working 'badly.'"

"I hope you aren't one of those artists who considers 'craft' a dirty word."

Most of the rest I find slightly offensive or trivial. The criticism of the "young poet's" decor leaves me wondering about Cameron's attitude as well as that of the "old artist" who writes the letters. All that are included are the response to the young poet, so we only see one side of the correspondence.

Just finished Piece of My Heart by Peter Robinson and as usual, I enjoyed the latest adventures of Detective Chief Inspector Banks.

Science, Seance, and Love...

Ghost Hunters’: Seeking Science in Séance by Patricia Cohen is going on my list. I've been interested in this phenomenon that involved believers and non-believers among such interesting characters as Arthur Conan Doyle, Yeats, Houdini, and William James for many years. This New York Times review sounds fascinating.

And instead of Schrodinger's Cat, this time it's Schrodinger's Ball by Richard Eder and also reviewed in The New York Times.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Beowulf adaptations

I found this article about the new run of Beowulf movies at Brandywine Books. One version features Angelina Joli as Grendel's mother. Hmmm.

I love Beowulf not for the story but for the language, for wergild, for the merging of pagan and Christian theology, for the embedded cultural information, for the kennings.

Michael Crichton used much from the Beowulf story in Eaters of the Dead, a very short novel which was the source of the movie The 13th Warrior with Antonio Banderas. Not a huge success, but I, of course, had to see the movie to see how it followed the book and, years earlier, had to read the book to see the connection to the epic poem.

Grendel by John Gardner is also very short, and I loved it! The story told from Grendel's viewpoint is both funny and sad. Using the same style and rhythm as the original, Grendel's version is definitely worth a read even for those who hated Beowulf. Although Gardner used prose, notice the similarity to the original: "Such are the tiresome memories of a shadow-shooter, earth-rim-roamer, walker of the world's weird wall."

I also liked Larry Niven's Legacy of Heorot and see that there is a sequel, Beowulf's Children. Need to re-read the first and look for the second.

There are even Beowulf comic books, operas, and children's books. Here is a link to various re-tellings in several genres.

And this is one I'd really like to read:

Bryher. Beowulf. New York: Pantheon Books Inc., 1956.[Beowulf is a fairly obscure Modernist novel by Bryher, the pen name of Annie Winifred Ellerman (1894-1983). The story is set during the London Blitz of World War II, and the characters are residents of a London neighborhood that is under constant threat of German bombardment; their "mascot" is a plaster bulldog named Beowulf. Symbolically, the neighbors represent the denizens of Heorot, while the German bombers--striking at night with invincible force and wreaking massive destruction--stand for Grendel.]

Saturday, August 12, 2006


Have just finished The Second Chair by John Lescroart, an author I very much enjoy, and will review it later in August Reading.

Currently reading: Into the Mist: When Someone You Love Has Alzheimer's Disease by Deborah Uetz with Dr. Anne Lindsay and Elder Rage-or-Take My Father...Please!: How to Survive Caring For Aging Parents by Jacqueline Marcell. Both have some excellent information and the second is decidedly humorous in a situation that requires you to keep some sense of humor. ."

My antidote is to keep my recently re-acquired Anne books and dose myself with L.M. Montgomery every once in awhile. And, of course, my mysteries and other purely escapist literature.

Friday, August 11, 2006

the ubiquitous book meme

I've seen this meme on several blogs and finally decided to import it and give it a go. How many of you have this on your blogs? I enjoy seeing the differences in what we read.

Look at the list of books below. Highlight in red the ones you’ve read, highlight in green the ones you might read, leave the ones you won’t read in black, italicize the ones on your book shelf, and (place parentheses around the ones you’ve never even heard of.)

The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The Hitchhhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audry Niffenegger
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein
(The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon)
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
1984 by George Orwell
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaba by J.K. Rowling
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut
Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Crytonomicon by Neal Stephenson
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman
Atonement by Ian McEwan
(The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zago)
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Dune by Frank Herbert
The History of Love by Nichole Krauss

I hesitate on the green because I have passed some of them over time and time again. I love Atwood, but have failed for years to read The Handmaid's Tale, maybe because I heard so much about it when it was first published that I didn't feel I needed to actually read it.

Although I do still have a couple of these books on my shelves, I am no longer a book collector and rarely keep fiction even when I buy it. I've given away boxes and boxes and have more boxes in storage. But I so rarely re-read that those in storage should be disposed of as well. I've read 96 books so far this year...I have neither the money nor the room to keep what I won't read again. Now non-fiction does threaten to take over my house, but fiction comes mostly from the library or friends. What would I do without a library?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Lloyd the Llibrary LLama sings the Blogga song.

and another...

Book List, this one is from Australia and posted by Shelley at Reading Matters.

I'm still perusing Collaborative Quilting and loving the free and easy style developed by Gwen Marston and Freddie Moran.

In addition, I have this one that has so much helpful information and has become a wonderful reference book, full of tips and illustrations.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

a tropical heat wave...

I just can't resist this passage about Chaucer's problems with the heat wave:

By night, ich busyede myself with wrytynge of my Tales of Canterburye. And yet methinketh that the somer hete did even then overwhelme my fantasie, for alle of the tales ich enditede dide involve snowe and watir and plesaunte coolinge pass-tymes. In the Knightes Tale, ich wrote that Theseus did constructe a grete swimminge poole in which Arcite and Palamon wolde pleye of marco polo for the winninge of Emilye. The Nonnes Preestes tale was of a penguin ycleped Chanticleer.

He goes on: Alas! Yt semeth that ich muste crosse ovt much of this werke and starte ayein from the beginninge. Yet peraventure ich shal lete stande the Squires tale of Frostie the Snowman and how he was drawen limbe from limbe by Cambyuskan the grete kinge of Tartarye for to be putte in coolinge drinkes, and how aftir, Cambyuskan’s doghter Canacee did fynde the corne-cobbe pipe and button nose and knewe of hir fadires crueltee.