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Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Spirit Gate

Elliott, Kate. Spirit Gate: Book One of Crossroads. Love it! I can't wait for the next one. One of those books that when you put it down for a moment (and a moment is about all you can stand to put it down), you wonder how the author could create such intricate settings, plots, characters, history and keep track of it all. The best fantasy saga I've read in years, full of high adventure and characters who keep developing.

Part Three introduces my favorite characters, but when Joss from Part One appears and the stories mesh, it gets even better.

I didn't want it to end, but of course, I couldn't slow myself down. The good part is that there will be more; the bad part is that I will have to wait for them.

My favorite fiction so far this year.

Fiction. Fantasy. 2006. 445 pages.

poetically speaking

Danielle is about to read a poetry anthology of Galway Kinnell's. This is one of his most delightful poems from that anthology:

After Making Love We Hear Footsteps

For I can snore like a bullhorn
or play loud music
or sit up talking with any reasonably sober Irishman
and Fergus will only sink deeper
into his dreamless sleep, which goes by all in one flash,
but let there be that heavy breathing
or a stifled come-cry anywhere in the house
and he will wrench himself awake
and make for it on the run - as now, we lie together,
after making love, quiet, touching along the length of our bodies, familiar touch of the long-married,
and he appears - in his baseball pajamas, it happens,
the neck opening so small
he has to screw them on, which one day may make him wonder
about the mental capacity of baseball players -
and flops down between us and hugs us and snuggles himself to sleep,
his face gleaming with satisfaction at being this very child.

In the half darkness we look at each other
and smile
and touch arms across his little, startling muscled body -
this one whom habit of memory propels to the ground of his making, sleeper only the mortal sounds can sing awake,
this blessing love gives again into our arms.

Galway Kinnell

This poem moved into my "pantheon of poems and poets" the first time I read it~

Friday, March 30, 2007

This incredible brush...

I actually posted this one on my other blog a year or so ago, but just found it again, and it is such fun.

The Spirit Gate is excellent. I don't want it to end, but I'm sure getting close; read until about midnight last night and had 3 hours of enforced waiting today. Can't tell you how glad I was I took my book!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Knit the Classics and Paper Dolls

Melanie at tea reads has another blog, Knit the Classics, that makes me wish I could do more than just "knit, purl" in a straight line. They knit something that represents each novel they are reading, and my favorite is Count Fosco's Mouse.

This site is so much fun--a gallery of paper dolls! Here is Mr. Darcy (run the cursor over him and his clothes change) and Mr. Knightley and The Scarlet Pimpernel and Jane Eyre and Emily Dickinson.

A Little ...

More Flannery:

on religion: "The only force I believe in is prayer, and it is a force I apply with more doggedness than attention."

on Freud: "As to Sigmund, I am against him tooth and toenail but I am crafty: never deny, seldom confirm, always distinguish. Within his limitations I am ready to admit certain uses for him."

on reading her work aloud: "I do it whenever I go to Nashville or anytime anybody asks me, which is not often. Usually it works very well; however, the funnier the story, the straighter the face it should be read with and I am the kind who laughs heartily at my own jokes. This weekend I read the first story in the book and disgraced myself in this fashion."

Excerpts from The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor.

Your turn, Susan!

My disappointment in Avi's book may be related to the book that was, I think, a turning point in my reading career - The Secret Garden, which I read at about nine or ten, either the summer before or after the fourth grade. I was an avid reader early, but TSG whetted my appetite for more involved stories. From then on, I was not a hungry reader, but a voracious one. While not all books will capture our imaginations, it is important to have a book like TSG to turn young readers into lifetime readers.

The Book without Words

Avi. The Book without Words: A Medieval Fable. Even if I were ten, I don't believe this book would hold my attention for long. Which is a shame, because it has a lovely cover. :)

The book opens in 1046 in a small town in northern England. Thorston is an old man who has been practicing alchemy, but the false gold he creates is for purposes other than mere wealth. This is a story of greed, the greed for the "gold" and Thorston's greed for eternal life. His servant girl Sybil is thirteen and necessary to his plan. In a little twist on the mythic Sybil, this poor orphan yearns desperately to live, not just to exist in her hand-to-mouth situation.

Other characters include Odo, the talking raven; the monk Wilfred; Bashcroft, the local reeve; Alfric and Damian, two young boys. All of the characters seemed quite flat to me, and the story seemed to plod along. Despite so many elements that could have been charming, it was-- for me-- an empty experience that seemed too pedantic.

Fiction. Fable/fantasy. 2005. 200 pages.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the Cirque de Soleil performance of Delirium. I posted about it here on my other blog with some links. Delightful, fantastic experience!

Started Avi's The Book with No Words: A Fable of Medieval Magic, but wasn't able to get much read. The book is for very young readers, and after the first page which I adored, slowed down a little. The names appear to have some mythological importance - Thorson, Odo (a talking raven), Sybil. I'll refrain from talking too much about it as I've not read enough.

I'm enjoying visiting other blogs taking part in Carl's Once Upon a Time Challenge; hoping to have more time to check on them in the days to come.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Philip Pullman and Neil Gaiman

Since the Once Upon a Time challenge is now in play, some of you may be interested in this interview with Philip Pulman, or this (conversation between Pullman and and his former teacher), or this. As usual, following one link over at Endicott Redux is impossible...

Today, Midori Snyder at Endicott Redux has links to Neil Gaiman's trailer for Stardust if you haven't been following Neil Gaiman's blog. I watched it again...just wonderful. (Claire Danes, Robert de Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer)

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Rossetti Letter

Phillips, Christi. The Rossetti Letter. Claire Donovan has the opportunity to attend a conference in Venice that will enable her to complete her Ph.D. dissertation on the Spanish Conspiracy. In order to afford the trip she must agree to chaperone a teenager. As you can imagine, this involves its own set of problems. Then at the first seminar, Andrew Kent, a well-known Cambridge historian announces his forthcoming book debunking the Spanish Conspiracy theory. Claire's approach has been based on a letter written by a famous courtesan of the time, and she must now find proof from primary sources or abandon her dissertation, losing all of the time and effort that she's put into it. Unfortunately, some of the information she needs is reserved for Kent's own research.

The chapters alternate between Claire's 21st century problems and the life of the early 17th century courtesan, Allesandra Rossetti. The reader follows both stories as Claire looks for evidence and Allesandra becomes entangled with the both Spanish and Venetian conspirators.

A light read, but some interesting historical information about life and politics in the Venice. of 1618. There was no Rossetti letter, but the Spanish Conspiracy was an actual event and several of the characters were real people caught up in the affair.

Fiction. Mystery. 2007. 383 pages.

Once Upon a Time...

Carl has posted his Challenge! I'm not sure which Quest (or Quests) I will pursue. The books I have in preparation are listed here, and I can't wait to dive in! Have one book to finish before starting (The Rossetti Letter) and will continue with Flannery O'Connor's The Habit of Being.

I'm combining the Once Upon a Time Challenge with Callapidder's
Spring Reading Thing.

How about a book truck?

I would love to see this truck rollin' down the highway. Of course, I'd be trying to read the titles, the post-it note, and the bulletin board!

In progress - The Rossetti Letter by Christi Phillips. Claire is working on her dissertation on the Spanish Conspiracy and manages to attend a conference in Venice where she can to research using primary sources. The first catch: She must act as chaperone to a fourteen-year-old girl. The second catch: A well-known historian, author, and Cambridge professor is also working on an aspect of the Spanish Conspiracy. O.K. so far. Alternating chapters move from Claire's difficulties in the present to Allesandra Rossetti in 1618.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

O'Connor's Influences

I was going to use O'Connor's reading influences in tomorrow's post. However, Susan beat me to it, so go right here, right now and read which authors Flannery O'Connor read. (I still can't believe I almost included it in this evening's post and then found the exact section at Susan's --great minds?)

Very tired as...

I have spent nearly 12 hours today in the yard: weeding, trimming, cleaning up, planting a few marigolds for their lively color. Kept books outside for reading during my breaks, which became more and more frequent as my neck began bothering me. Nevertheless, I've accomplished a great deal and have two wheelbarrows full of junk for the trash people tomorrow. Old plastic pots, old stakes, tree trimmings, weeds. Lots and lots of weeds.

Turned again to The Habit of Being and during my breaks indulged in more letters. O'Connor received many "fan" letters:

to a man who had not read her stories: "[he] doesn't really see how I can say a good man is hard to find. he is an industrial engineer, likes to play bridge, is the active type, 31 years old, single etc. etc. I wrote Mr. Semple that I didn't think I'd like him a bit but he would be crazy about me as I had seven gold teeth and weighed 250 pounds." ("A Good Man Is Hard to Find" is one of her short stories)

on religion:
"I believe that there are many rough beasts slouching toward Bethelem to be born and that I have reported the progress of a few of them, and when I see these stories described as horror stories I am always amused because the reviewer always has hold of the wrong horror."


"Dogma can in no way limit a limitless God.....For me a dogma is only a gateway to contemplation and is an intrument of freedom and not of restriction."

Her religion and the Catholic Church were paramount to O'Connor so reading some of her thoughts in the form of nonfiction is revealing.

Blind Submission

Ginsberg, Debra. Blind Submission. A mystery set in the publishing industry. I haven't seen The Devil Wears Prada, but there might be a similarity of characters from what I've heard. Angel Robinson is hired as an assistant to the head of the Luciana Fiamma Literary Agency. She is immediately caught up in the excitement (ignoring as best she can the ill treatment) and begins reading and recommending manuscripts. Angel is not only clever at recognizing a good manuscript, but she is also able capable of making suggestions for improvement. Then a partial manuscript arrives by an anonymous author; the setting of the narrative is a literary agency. As portions of the manuscript arrive (each new segment improved by Angel's judicious comments), the characters' resemblance to individuals at the Luciamma Fiamma office become more obvious. Lots of twists and turns; lots of tension. A fast read.

Neither bad, nor great, but very tense as the anonymous author knows more than anyone should about Angel and the agency.

Fiction. Mystery. Or chick lit? 2006. 328 pages.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

New Books

Went to the library yesterday and picked up several mysteries, most of which are related to books or manuscripts. Started Blind Submission last night, and it is speeding along. When I stop and rest (yard work), I pick the book up and give it 10 more minutes, and since I read over half of it last night, should finish it tonight. Not great, but very tense, especially as I approach the conclusion.

Fee and I had a good discussion about Nelle Harper Lee and Flannery O'Connor last night, and he is itching to read a little O'Connor (I always recommend Good Country People) and the letters as well. He may simply want me to quit reading aloud to him. Who knows?

My neck hurts from planting and weeding. Have not done anything strenuous, but something about the way I hold my head always gives me problems in the spring.

Received an ARC from Harcourt's Children's Books Division yesterday (Thanks, Anna); perfect timing as it should fit into the fantasy challenge. Evil Genius (has not been released, but review is on by Catherine Jinks is a nearly 500 page YA novel and looks quite interesting. Jinks has won the Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award 3 times.

Flannery O'Connor...

was 23 in 1948 when she wrote the first letters in this book, and already in the process of writing Wise Blood. She won the Rhinehart-Iowa Fiction Award for a first novel, with the incomplete manuscript and was recommended for a place at Yaddo, where she worked for a few months with the likes of Robert Lowell. Pretty heady company!

The $750 prize from Rhinehart gave them the option to Wise Blood, but they weren't really pleased with it and suggested that O'Connor revise the parts of the novel that she felt were the strongest. She refused. That must have taken courage, don't you think? At 22-23 years old to stand up to a publishing company with that kind of confidence in her own work? She told John Selby that she would "listen to Rinehart criticism but that if it didn't suit me, I would disregard it."

In a letter to Paul Engle: "Selby and I came to the conclusion that I was 'prematurely arrogant.' I supplied the phrase."

That absolutely delighted me when I read it, and I highlighted and flagged it immediately because this book isn't going anywhere. This is one that will stay on the shelves all highlighted, flagged, and annotated. For me. (I know many of you don't mark your books, but I have a number of nonfiction books that I've marginalia'd to death.)

In 1951, she was reading "Dr. Johnson's Life of Dryden. Dryden 'embraced Popery' but Dr. Johnson is very lenient with him about it and says the measure of his sincerity was, he taught it (Popery) to his children..." That quote is to show Dorothy how well-rounded Miss Flannery was because I'm enjoying D.'s updates on Dr. Johnson.

When Wise Blood was published in 1952, O'Connor wrote Robert Giroux asking for extra copies (that she could get for 40% off) to be sent to several people because "My nine copies have to go to a set of relatives who are waiting anxiously to condemn the book until they get a free copy."

She tells Sally Fitzgerald that her mother is "composing you a fruitcake."

and "My mamma & I are on the way to the polls to cancel out each other's vote."

To Ben Griffith: " Merrill, Lynch, Pierce, Fenner, and Bean [ducks] are slated for the deep freeze in August but Clair Booth Loose Goose is going to live a natural life until she dies a natural death."

OK, OK...enough already! This is like having someone read the newspaper to you.

I know there is a copy of Wise Blood (or maybe of Three) boxed up in the garage somewhere, but it might be easier to buy another copy--

O'Connor was strongly influenced by Faulkner (no surprise there), and Bookfoolery and Babble
has several posts and pictures of Off-Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi and here.

Friday, March 23, 2007

A Scathing Review (or two)!

John Scalzi ran a Scathing Review contest on his blog...with some very clever results. John Scalzi is on my list of TBR (Thanks, Carl), but these reviews of his nonexistent book make me more curious than ever. You have to admit that inviting scathing reviews (even if there is no actual book) would be good aversion therapy.

O'Connor continues to charm in her letters. They are revealing a personality I wouldn't have expected from her work and from her illness-- cheerful, wry, whimsical!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Flannery O'Connor's Letters

Yesterday, I had to go over Laddie's and wait for the locksmith to arrive, wait for him to re-key all of the locks, and pay him. He was a nice, shy, and efficient young man. During my enforced wait, I need something to read, so I grabbed Letters of Flannery O'Connor: The Habit of Being. I've hesitated to begin this because there are so many books in the various stacks, and this one is over 500 pages, but for some reason, I grabbed that particular book before starting out.

I've fallen in love with Flannery O'Connor! Will have to reread her works with a fresh, new outlook when I've finished. Sometimes I read the introductions before reading a work, sometimes, after. Usually, I glance at the first two paragraphs and make a decision, and this introduction seemed necessary as a review of O'Connor's life before getting into the letters themselves. Fitzgerald's introduction is a pleasure; a useful and necessary preface to the letters.

And the letters! Oh, I have so many little portions marked funny, so dry, so Southern! O'Connor has absolutely charmed me with her wit, her view of life, and her relationship with her mother.

This will be my April biography, as I plan to enjoy this a little at a time and will not likely finish it this month. It is the perfect thing to read as counterpoint to all of the fantasy that I'll soon be delving into. Like short stories and essays, you can read a little, put it down and come back later without losing a narrative thread.


Shields, Charles J. Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee. As I mentioned earlier, I liked the introduction very much and the first chapter not at all. The second chapter improved my attitude, and eventually I settled in and became quite absorbed. Nelle Harper Lee was a private person, who after 1964 avoided interviews, making this biography quite difficult--especially as she also had requested that close friends and family members not grant interviews. Although there was no direct contact with Lee, Shields' research appears to have gathered almost anything that was ever printed about her.

What Shields has accumulated does present a more unified version of Lee than can be found elsewhere; his attitude is respectful and his interest genuine...even if he adds nothing much new to the story Nelle Harper Lee.

I enjoyed the sketchy information on her childhood and friendship with Truman Capote. Her attitudes about writing and her efforts in taking the short stories she wrote and forcing them to coalesce into a novel with a central theme are very interesting, as are her friendships with the Browns and with Maurice Craine and his wife, who provided both emotional support and the opportunity for periods of uninterrupted writing. Without the support of these friends, To Kill a Mockingbird might never have existed.

The sections dealing with the research for In Cold Blood, and Lee's ability to get people to open up and talk show were particularly interesting to me. I read In Cold Blood when it was first published, and still have some vivid memories all these years later. It was Nelle's personality that won people over, and enabled Capote to develop friendships with people like Al Dewey and his wife. To Kill A Mockingbird won the Pulitzer before In Cold Blood was completed, andCapote was, not surprisingly, intensely jealous. In many ways, Capote's own success led to his downfall through drugs and alcohol, while Nelle's success led to a decline in their friendship because of Capote's jealousy.

Shields also had some interesting information on the making of the movie version of the book. Lee was not initially in favor of Gregory Peck in the role of Atticus; she not only came around, but was convinced that Peck "was" Atticus. The friendship between Nelle and Gregory Peck continued long after the film; he asked her to join him as a member of The National Council of the Arts where she spoke seldom, but what little she said gained the respect and attention of the other members.

There are no huge revelations in the book, no startling revelation about why the second novel never materialized, but it was an interesting and enjoyable read about the author of one of my favorite books and one of my favorite films. While there was nothing earthshaking, the gradual accumulation of details kept me interested.

Nonfiction. Biography. 2006. 285 pages + extensive bibliographic Notes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

New Challenge (links added)

Spring Reading List:

Summers at Castle Auburn - Sharon Shinn
The Silent Tower - Barbara hambly
The Amulet of Samarkand - Book One of The Bartimaeus Trilogy - by Jonathan Stroud
Godmother Night - Rachel Pollack
Coraline - Neil Gaiman
The Book Without Words - Avi
Spirit Gate - Kate Elliot

I'm combining this Challenge by Callapidder Days
with Carl's Challenge (will link when he posts the final info).

A New Stack

Here are my books for the upcoming Fantasy Challenge. Carl is going to post details this week, I think.

Some are young adult novels. All should of these should be fairly quick to read. One other one that I have is Inkheart, but it didn't make it onto the stack. A total of 8 possibilities!

Does anyone else know what they are reading?

I'm almost through with Mockingbird, and I'm relieved to say that after the first chapter, things get more interesting. After the 2nd chapter, I found myself on better terms with the work.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Fairy Tales and Folklore

The Spring Equinox is a time for celebrating new life. The earth has warmed and is in a dizzying array of green and bloom. In Jakob Grimm's Deutsche Mythologie, he asserts that Ostara "is the old high German name for the Easter festival." Think of the fertility symbols associated with Spring and Easter: rabbits, eggs, baby chicks...

And in the spirit of of the Vernal Equinox and Jakob Grimm, please visit this terrific link to National Geographic's From Folklore to Forever and the brothers Grimm, where they would like to tell you "12 unvarnished tales, based on a 1914 translation."

Tell me a story about...and then you have choices. A wicked stepmother who has.... Then more choices, each leading to a specific story from Grimm's Fairy Tales.

The Goose Girl, an annotated version, can be found here on the SurLaLune Fairy Tale Pages.

This video from Duirwaigh (pronounced doorway) is a lovely use of the illustrations by various artists on the topic of imagination. A beautiful site with original art and prints for sale, Duirwaigh Gallery is a pleasure to browse. My favorites include Larry MacDougal's Pumpkin Dealer and Terry Windling's work. I recently bought some of her prints, two of which will go to "our Mila" for her 4th birthday. Grandchildren can be a wonderful way to get back in touch with fairy tales.

Gerda and the Reindeer
illustration by Edmund Dulac
Fairy Tale and Golden Age Illustrators

And a blog I check daily is The Endicott Studio for Mythic Arts.
Here you can find illustrators and essays and much, much more.

Monday, March 19, 2007


Clinch, Jon. Finn. I don't think I was far off in the comments I made after reading only about 20 pages: "Clinch's writing is almost like reading a nightmare, beautiful and frightening. A study in wickedness. Evil under a microscope. Whitewashing. On page 11, Clinch introduces a morbid echo of the whitewashed fence in Tom Sawyer. The "whited sepulchre" -- a new approach to The Heart of Darkness."

Now that I've finished: Is this a novel about racism or about a psychopath? Both ideas are prominent. Huck's pap was a wicked fellow, and Clinch elaborates on the wickedness with great detail.

There are certainly hints about Finn's childhood, his cold parents whose cruelty followed different routes of emotional abuse. Finn's brother Will is also damaged, but relatively normal, yet Clinch doesn't adequately explain why Will manages to become a functioning human being, and Finn does not. Hints are provided, but not clearly delineated. Despite Clinch's eventual efforts to gain sympathy for Finn, his attempts to do so seem disjointed and don't appear to have his full attention.

The dialogue often repeats phrases that become echos or mantras. They are, perhaps, to illustrate the way uneducated and/or illiterate people are limited in their expressions of thought. It makes me wonder how it limits the thought itself, and not simply the expression.

The whitewashed room from the first few pages of the novel took on importance for me as I mentioned earlier. The covering up of corruption, physically and emotionally, is interesting. So, too, is the obsessive compulsion Finn has in marking over the newly cleaned space with new evidence of his crimes. The corruption seeps through the cover up, on the walls and in Finn's mind.

Apples appear in at least three scenes, almost like little vignettes, but the symbolism seem a bit more complicated. Did Clinch want them to be symbolic? Each episode seemed to stand out immediately and the repeated use of "apple" rather than another fruit would seem to indicate that Clinch used the apples deliberately, but that may not be the case. At any rate, apples have several symbolic meanings: temptation, health, harvest, fruitfulness, seduction, sexuality. Whatever their purpose, if Clinch intended one, the mixed message implied by the apples made me wonder about their purpose. The mixed symbolic message suits the novel.

Finn dominates. Huck, Mary, and the Widow Douglas are merely appendages to Finn's story, not even Mary seems to exist in her own right. The Judge, Finn's mother, and Will are also subjugated to Finn in the narrative, but influential in his thinking and behavior.

As repulsive as Finn is, both physically and spiritually, he seems to have a strange attraction for people. I had some difficulty believing this, but over and over-- in contrast to the fear he evoked-- he also evoked sympathy or pity from some of the least likely people.

Finn is doomed, but not even Twain would have imagined the sins that Clinch devises for Finn. In Huckleberry Finn, Huck rebels and escapes his father. Finn rebels, but never escapes.

After all of these wandering comments, what did I think of the book? I did not enjoy it. I will not soon forget it. The graphic images will remain with me, as will a kind of pondering similar to the worrying of a loose tooth. I've not covered half of the things that occurred to me as I read...

Fiction. 2007. 283 pages.

Busy Weekend

It has been a busy weekend. Lots of company, good food, and no let up of talk. The grandchildren are always a delight and keep every moment filled with activity.

I'm off to another appt. for Laddie this morning, but hope to catch up on emails and comments this afternoon. I also want to review Finn.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

catching up

Things have been very hectic around here lately. Spent Thursday seeking medical attention for my father at Quick Care (ha! quick?) for a stomach virus. Then Friday, spent the entire day over there. I'd hoped to have those two days for house cleaning as my daughter and her family came in last night, but hey, things don't always work out the way you plan and there are worse things than a dirty house.

Thursday, as we waited at Quick Care, I finished Finn. Hours of awaiting are only hours of reading, right? I'm not sure when I'll have a chance to review it because Thursday and Friday were spent over at Laddie's, then frantically cleaning house. Our Mila is watching Barny right now, so I've got a few minutes to catch up email and comments.

Finn is going to require a little more thought than some books. It is one that will, like it or not, remain with me for a long time, and I just don't have time now to review it.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Break No Bones

Reichs, Kathy. Break No Bones. Another Temperance Brennan mystery. One thing I enjoy about Reichs' novels is that she takes events from the news and crafts a forensic mystery around them. In Cross Bones , which I discussed here, Reichs mentions the discovery of bones in a tomb in Jerusalem which might contain members of Jesus and the unexplained bones found on Masada during a dig in the 60's. In the last couple of weeks, the story about a similar tomb had made the news (recent news article about the tomb--you've probably read or heard of this --and to the Discovery Channel special) .

I can't really say much about what Dr. Brennan discovers in this latest mystery without giving spoilers. Not that you don't have a clue fairly early on...

I wrote this review the other day, but was interrupted and didn't realize I never published it.

Another note: Hate the lurid cover on this one. Some books attract or repel readers by the cover alone. I read this one because of the author, but the cover would not have attracted me at all.

Fiction. Forensic mystery. 2006. 337 pages.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Oh, you know, I've said it all before, but I'm fond of mysteries, maps, and lost manuscripts. I enjoy maps in fiction and fact, and those with literary roots like this one of Dickens' London. I like being able to click on something and see the associated information. (Not that I can necessarily follow a map--a friend of mine and I got off at the wrong underground station and walked for miles looking for the Doughty Street house/museum. By the time we got there, our main concern was how we were going to find a pub where we could recover our equilibrium and discuss Dickens with a half pint.) Sam at Book Chase has an interest in Dickens. :) Just look at those shelves!

Iliana posted about maps and mysteries today and then I happened on the Dickens' London map via Mindtracks.

Have you ever wondered about why some books stay with you and others don't? Sometimes I will remember great detail from a mediocre novel and almost nothing about a book that received great reviews and that I enjoyed. It is always curious about what manages to find a little niche in your brain, settle in, and make itself at home...and what drifts through without ever gaining a foot hold.

What trivia remains scattered in our brains while important facts fail to emerge when needed? There are certain things that, no matter how hard I try to remember, make no impression on me, and other information so esoteric that no one cares -- that makes it way to the forefront of the grey matter. It is as if certain synapses are gathered in isolation, the information may be there, but is irretrievable. My mapping skills are lacking here, too.

In my mind, I have (speaking of trivial information from a lifetime ago) a picture, from either Jo's Boys or Little Men, of the mind as a kind of huge post office filing system with thousands of little pigeon holes containing information.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Just Finished, Just Started

I've finished Break No Bones by Kathy Reichs and will review it later.

Right now, two books are in process, but I'm not sure if Charles J. Shields' Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee is going to make the cut. The introduction is terrific, but the first chapter gives me pause. This is an unauthorized biography, and Harper Lee refused to communicate with Shields. While I found the intro extremely promising, the first chapter is setting my teeth on edge, counteracting those positive feelings. Well, I've not really given it a chance, and will set it aside for a while to see if my attitude changes. This was going to be my monthly biography, but we shall see.

I've also begun Finn by Jon Clinch, a novel about Huck Finn's Pap. Whoa! Clinch's writing is almost like reading a nightmare, beautiful and frightening. A study in wickedness. Evil under a microscope. Whitewashing. On page 11, Clinch introduces a morbid echo of the whitewashed fence in Tom Sawyer. The "whited sepulchre" -- a new approach to The Heart of Darkness. This novel is going to be intense and will probably require many short sessions with lots of time to think in between. Lisa at Bluestalking Reader reviewed the novel with great enthusiasm a while back, and when I saw it on the New Book Shelf at the library, I whipped into my book bag without a second thought. Having read fewer than 20 pages, second and third thoughts (and more) are already whirling in a maelstrom.

My thanks to Sam at Book Chase for listing me in The Thinking Blogger Award meme. I particularly appreciate Sam's nomination as I enjoy his blog. As for participating (the rules are listed in the above link) and nominating 5 more blogs, well, check the side bar. Many of these blogs have already been nominated. I just can't choose. :) I've always had difficulty naming 5 or 10 (or whatever) of my favorite books, movies, etc. I'm too wish-washy! The internal debate goes on and on and my frustration with my inability to make up mind, to leave one out, to prioritize-- just grows and grows. I try to link any blog that has grabbed my attention, entertained me, intrigued me, made me curious, but I don't always remember to do so. I will try to be more conscientious about showing appreciation for blog posts in the future, but there are so many entertaining and informative blogs and blog posts...

Monday, March 12, 2007

one thing leads to another

On Friday, I mentioned that I'd found Amanda Craig's site in an odd way. O.K. -- here is the attempt to explain how I started out by searching for information about The Surrendered Wife (!?)...

My daughter was asked to take part in a book club discussion that was going to be filmed for a documentary. The book was The Surrendered Wife by Laura Doyle. (Have you heard of it? I had not, but after my conversation with Amelia, I immediately began Googling.)

Dear Daughter read the book and approached the meeting ready for a lively discussion, and please believe me, Dear Daughter is NOT a surrendered wife. Evidently, she first tried to be pleasant, but... she can get out of hand. When it became evident that even her friends who had laughed at the book, changed their tunes in front of the camera, Amelia became... well, more aggressive. At one point, they stopped the cameras, sat down beside her and asked her if she understood what the documentary was about. Obviously, she did not.

"You mean I'm not supposed to give my opinion?"

"Certainly, you can give your opinion, but do you understand what this is about?"

By the time the cameras were ready to roll again, Amelia was fuming. (Did I mention that she is NOT a surrendered wife.) She went from commenting that some of the book is common sense to a remark about Stepford Wives. At one point, she said, "Well, I would like to know who was 'servicing' Doyle's husband while she was on book tour." Uh oh. Maybe "servicing" is not the word she used. But you get the idea.

She suspects that they will either edit her out completely or even worse, edit her comments (while she was still trying to be tactful) to make her sound like a surrendered wife.

So...that's the background. I got online and began hunting for information about the book. Mind you, I'm a bit embarrassed that I'd never even heard of a book that made The New York Time's Best Seller list.

And I came across Amanda Craig's article in The Sunday Times (Sept. 2004). Craig's attempts to become "surrendered" confused her husband, then shocked him:

“Oh God,” he says. “You’re pregnant again, aren’t you? You’ve done a Cherie Blair.”

At this point, I confess all. The relief on his face makes him suddenly look ten years younger. He roars with laughter and says, “But I married you for being exactly who you are. I don’t want some stupid woman who agrees with me all the time. I’ll tell you what, though: you can be a surrendered wife today, but only if I can be a surrendered husband tomorrow.”

(had to Google Cherie Blair - who among other things became pregnant again at 45)

From that point, I began reading her other articles and found that I enjoyed them very much. She can criticize without appearing bitter or aggressive. Her book reviews are informative. Her articles interest me on a variety of levels.

There you go. One thing leads to another. From laughing 'til I cried listening to Amelia's version of the "book club" (by the way, this was arranged strictly for the "documentary"), to checking out the the book itself, to the intelligent, intriguing articles of Amanda Craig. I love this kind of journey!

The "documentary" is supposed to air on the BBC in May. Most likely without Amelia.

Oh, and one more thing, if you are interested in the book and can't read, audio programs and seminars are available.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Silent in the Grave

Raybourn, Deanna. Silent in the Grave. Raybourn's first novel is a success in my book. I mentioned a few days ago that I was enjoying it--and so I did, right to the end. A fast-paced Victorian mystery with some interesting twists and turns. There are some flaws, some characters who could have used a bit more fleshing out and whose backstories appear interesting but too brief, but the novel is a wonderful bit of fun.

Always fond of the historical mystery, I enjoyed the details associated with Victorian mourning and other social conventions Raybourn, an English and history major, includes. While Lady Julia Grey is not the typical Victorian lady-- she repeatedly asserts that she wants to be conventional. It amusing to see the contrast between what Julia says and what Julia does.

The novel opens with the line: "To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband's dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor." And we're off!

When Nicholas Brisbane first suggests that her husband was murdered, Lady Julia shrugs off the idea -- her husband had always suffered from a weak heart, the family physician accepted the heart disease as cause of death. A year later, Julia discovers a clue that sends her back to Brisbane . Determined to discover her husband's murderer, she decides to participate in the investigation.

Silent in the Grave is difficult to put down and a pleasure to pick up. To make things even better, Raybourne is working on her next novel, and I couldn't be more eager to find out what Julia, her eccentric family, her servants and friends (love Fleur) will get up to next.

Fiction. Mystery. 509 pages. 2007

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Uses of Enchantment

Amanda Craig (novelist, journalist, blogger) has a site (which I found in the oddest of ways, but that is worthy of a post in itself) where she has posts of her lectures, articles written for various publications, book reviews, and more. I loved her reviews of Beyond Black and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and was comforted that by abandoning these two celebrated works I didn't show a complete and total lack of taste.

Craig's lecture/post about The Uses of Enchantment is fascinating. "If you understand that Jane Eyre is a conscious variation on the fairy-tale of Bluebeard, Mansfield Park a version of Cinderella, and Pride & Prejudice a reworking of Beauty & the Beast, your understanding and appreciation of their author’s genius is deepened, not lessened." Novelists such as Margaret Atwood, Angela Carter, Helen Fielding, A. S. Byatt, Joan Aiken and others use "archetypes and structures of the fairy-tale to address not only our deepest fears and desires, but also to explore the act of story-telling itself."

"Fairy-tales don’t pretend to describe the world as it is. What they do is to free the dreaming part of your mind that helps you to find your own solution," says Craig. There is so much to think about in this post that I can't begin to cover it well, but take a few minutes and check it out.


Have you seen the video that Susan at Pages Turned has posted? Oh, don't miss it!

Has a novel been written about the Shadow Wolves yet? Found this article (via Rebecca's Pocket) about Native American trackers in pursuit of smugglers in the Arizona Desert. Founded in 1972, the Shadow Wolves, "a federal law enforcement unit of Indian officers that has operated since the early 1970s on this vast Indian nation straddling the Mexican border," have seized "30,000 pounds of illegal drugs since October."

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Shape-Changer's Wife

Shinn, Sharon. The Shape-Changer's Wife. Originally, I wanted to save this for the Fairy Tale/Fantasy Challenge, but I couldn't wait. Discovering a new author to love is always a joy, and Shinn has me hooked.

Aubrey is a young, good-natured magician who wants to learn more than his mentor Cyril is willing to teach him. Reluctant to teach Aubrey about shape-changing, Cyril finally decides to send him to apprentice to another magician, Glyrenden. Cyril warns Aubrey that he is always to be on his guard with Glyrenden: "Learn everything he teaches you so well you can cast his own spells back at him," the old wizard warns. Aubrey smiles and asks, "Why do you send me to him, if he is so menacing?" To which Cyril replies, "It would not do you much harm to face a challenge at this point in your career."

And so Aubrey sets off to his apprenticeship, neither discounting Cyril's warning, nor taking it too seriously. What he finds at Glyrenden's is a very strange household--a most unusual wife and most unusual servants.

This is one of those books that gets better and better as you read; Shinn has created a fresh and delightful fantasy that contains magic and more. I was delighted with the book and can see why it was selected by Locus as Best First Fantasy Novel of the Year in 1995.

While the book is quite short, it is rich and dense. The novel begins simply and rather lightly, but on arriving in Glyrenden's village, both the novel and Aubrey's character begin a transformation worthy of a shape-shifter.

Fiction. Fantasy. 1995. 215 pages.

Booking Through Thursday

Booking Through Thursday
    1. Do you lend your books to other people? If so, any restrictions?

    I do lend books and often do not want them back. If I lend a book that I do want returned, I'm very careful to lend it only to someone I trust to return it.

    2. Do you borrow books from other people? (Friends or family--I'm not talking about the public library)

    Yes, but rarely. If a friend offers a book, I'll gratefully accept, but I do not ask. Except from my daughters...

    3. And, most importantly--do the books you lend/borrow get returned to their rightful owners?

    Yes. Although often my friends operate as I do and say, "Keep it or pass it along."

Here is a great quote on borrowing:

Never lend books - nobody ever returns them; the only books I have in my library are those which people have lent me. ANON

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Crones don't whine

No, I don't have enough on my plate. Obviously not, as my reach is exceeding my grasp; so here is a list of other books I really need:

Bolen, Jean Shinoda (2003) Crones Don't Whine: Concentrated Wisdom for Juicy Women. York Beach, Maine: Red Wheel/Weiser

Bolen, Jean Shinoda (1998) Close to the Bone. New York: Scribner

Bolen, Jean Shinoda (1995) Crossing to Avalon: A Woman's Midlife Pilgrimage. New York: Harper San Francisco

Brewi, Janice and Brennan, Anne (1988) Mid-Life Spirituality and Jungian Archetypes. York Beach, Maine: Nicolas-Hays

Chinen, Allan B. (1989) Once upon a Midlife: Classic Stories and Mythic Tales to Illuminate the Middle Years. Wilmette, IL: Chiron

Chinen, Allan B. (1989) In the Ever After: Fairy Tales and the Second Half of Life. Wilmette, IL: Chiron

Corlett, Eleanor Nancy B. Millner (1993) Navigating Midlife: Using Typology As a Guide. . Palo Alto, CA: Davies-Black Publishing

Dass, Ram (2000) Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing, and Dying. New York:Riverhead

DeSalvo, Louise (1999) Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives. New York: Harper San Francisco

Hillman, James (1999) The Force of Character: And the Lasting Life. New York: Random House

Hillman, James (1979) Puer Papers Putnam, CT: Spring Publications

Hollis, James (2000) Creating a Life: Finding Your Individual Path . Toronto: Inner City Books

Hollis, James (1993) The Middle Passage: From Misery to Meaning in Midlife. Toronto: Inner City Books

Hollis, James (1996) Swamplands of the Soul: New Life in Dismal Places. Toronto: Inner City Books

Luke, Helen M. (1987) Old Age: Journey Into Simplicity. New York: Parabola

Millner, Nancy Bost (1998) Creative Aging: Discovering the Unexpected Joys of Later Life Through Personality Type. Palo Alto, California: Davies-Black

Metzger, Deena (1992) Writing for Your Life: A Guide and Companion to the Inner Worlds. New York: Harper San Francisco

Moore, Thomas (2004) Dark Nights of the Soul: A Guide to Finding Your Way Through Life's Ordeals. New York: Harper Collins

Pretat, Jane R. (1994) Coming To Age: The Croning Years and Late-Life Transformation. Toronto: Inner City Books

Stein, Murray (1983) In Midlife: A Jungian Perspective, Putnam, CT: Spring Publications

Woodman, Marion (2002) The Crown of Age: The Rewards of Conscious Aging. (audio cassette). Louisville, CO: Sounds True

Woodman, Marion (2001) Bone. New York: Penguin Books

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

This Stack and Library video

This is the stack I was working on in February. I've finished Candide; Break, Blow, Burn; The Physics of the Buffyverse; Weight; and Palace Walk. Didn't get them all read in February (they moved into March), but it is a substantial improvement.

Now, I only have 3 left in this stack to get through. The two by Sharon Shinn were both supposed to be for Carl's Fairy Tale/Fantasy Challenge, but I've already started The Shape-Shifter's Wife (really good, so far), and it is short, so I'll have it finished today or tomorrow.

In the meantime, I couldn't resist starting a Victorian mystery by Deanna Raybourn as soon as I finished Palace Walk. More on that later.

Of course, there is another huge stack that has moved into "current project" status, but I will post on that later as well.

Found this video over at The Laughing Librarian.

And if you need more titles to choose from, the Shortlist for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize has been announced.

Palace Walk

Mahfouz, Naguib. Palace Walk. Translated by William Maynard Hutchins and Olive E. Kenny. Mahfouz, who won the Nobel Prize for literature with this novel, examines the daily lives of the members of a Cairo family with great and sympathetic detail. The time period, between 1917 and 1919 includes the end of WWI and the Egyptian revolution, but these events are remarkably removed from the family until the very end of the novel. Even then, when the demonstrations against the British become violent and touch the family personally, there remains a strange removal from anything that happens outside of the immediate family members. The novel is a sort of psychological examination of a patriarchal Egyptian family, and Mahfouz reveals the lives of each individual, recreating the thoughts and behaviors of each, and examining the interaction of the family members.

The ability to get into each mind - mother, father, siblings - is a remarkable feat. By taking part in the daily lives of this family, the reader is exposed to a larger explanation of a culture. My question is whether or not Mahfouz approves of the culture. In spite of the patriarch Abd al-Jawad's hypocritical, egotistical and tyrannical behavior (fully related by the author), Mahfouz appears to admire the man. He sympathizes with Amina, usually referred to as "the mother," but doesn't appear to find her treatment entirely reprehensible. The objectification of women as sexual objects or breeders pervades the novel. Adultery and worse are accepted without much fuss.

The father leaves every evening (every evening!), returning in the early hours of the morning after drinking, carousing, spending time with friends and lovers. He sees no serious conflict with his behavior and his religion. The most important thing to the father is his image; everything is subjugated to view of himself he wants presented to the world. He also has two sides that never meet: the witty, amusing, helpful friend who laughs and enjoys life and the stern disciplinarian at home who never smiles, knit picks constantly, and indulges in tantrums. The ultimate control-freak, he can brook no independent thought or desires on the part of his wife or children.

Mother and daughters rarely leave the house. Their confinement is much greater than the wives and daughters of friends; in a society that closely guards women, these women are even more isolated and subservient. Amina is allowed to visit her mother a few times a year, but only in a carriage and chaperoned by her husband. Heaven forbid that anyone glimpse his wife. Although Amina does make one foray out into the world to visit a mosque, the results are disastrous, and al-Jawad tells her to leave his house. He does not divorce her (as he did his first wife who had a more independent mind and resents his confinement and beatings enough to leave him and return to her parents) and eventually allows her to return, but the calculated cruelty of the punishment is accepted by all concerned. Sadly, in order for this treatment of women to work, it has to be supported by the women. Tradition assures the women's complicit support by their own subservient, obedient behavior.

Yasmin, the son by a previous marriage, is a libertine like his father, but is a much more companionable character. When the extent of his failure at self-control becomes evident (will not reveal this spoiler), the reader is disappointed that the one character who had a fun-loving approach is so seedy. Not that the family holds this against him for long... I'm not sure which behavior offends me more, Yasmin's or the family's much greater concern for how it will appear to others, how it will reflect on them.

Fahmy, the middle son, is eighteen when the novel opens and in love with a neighbor, but his request to his father to arrange the marriage is denied. He is a gentle and thoughtful young man, an idealist, and he eventually becomes wrapped up in the nationalist fervor.

Kamal, the youngest son, is not yet crushed entirely by his father and is pampered by the older siblings. He has a certain charm and openness that hardly seems possible in the otherwise oppressive atmosphere.

Now, after all of the above rambling, I have to say that the style of the writing (or the translation) does not make any of this seem overbearing or oppressive to the degree it sounds. How to explain the contradiction? We are totally immersed in the society, the culture, the minds of the participants. The author does not give opinions except through the words, thoughts, and behavior of the characters.

The novel is very slow and quite long. We move through the days and experiences of the characters at a languid pace. There are abrupt endings to several events. We might be expecting more about some of them (the marriages of Aisha and Khadija, the father's affair with a neighbor, the birth of Aisha's child, etc.), but the next chapter often begins days or months later with no further reference.

This review may sound critical, and yet, I thought it was an excellent novel, an eye-opening look at the smallest details of family life in a patriarchal culture. I needed occasional breaks from it, it was quite long and my tolerance for the father reached its limits, but the novel is rich, complex, and informative.

Fiction. Family drama/ foreign culture. 1956. 498 pages.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Break, Blow, Burn

Paglia, Camille. Break, Blow, Burn: Camille Paglia Reads Forty-three of the World's Best Poems. The introduction alone is worthy of publication. Paglia briefly touches on various critical approaches to poetry and notes that "Poststructuralism and crusading identity politics led to the gradual sinking in reputation of the premiere literature departments" across the country and, without apology, states that she finds "too much work by the most acclaimed poets labored, affected, and verbose, intended not to communicate with the general audience but to impress their fellow poets."

(I find the above statements a bit ironic, as Paglia herself has been an "identity politics" crusader with femininist criticism. My own preference is an amalgamation of most of the critical approaches, using whatever is appropriate. I like Jungian criticism mixed with traditional/biographical criticism, with a dash of whatever aids in appreciation of the work. I do agree with her statement, I just find the irony amusing.)

Paglia goes on to lament that she "was shocked at how weak individual poems have become over the past forty years." I agree with her that many contemporary poets have been guilty of "elevating process over form" and "treating their poems like meandering diary entries [crafted] for effect in live readings rather on the page."

The discussion of how Palgia decided on the 43 poems she includes is interesting and revealing. In the end, her selection of poems includes Shakespeare and the song lyrics of Joni Mitchell, and she discusses them line by line, in context, emphasizing the importance of word choice and the way in which the form of the poem contributes to its meaning.

Some choice phrases from the introduction:

"A good poem is iridescent and incandescent..."
"Reading a poem requires alert receptivity, perceptual openess, and intuition."
"Poems give birth to other poems.'
"Humanists must set an example: all literary criticism should be accessible to the general reader. Criticism at its bes it re-creative, not spirit-killing."

As Paglia proceeds from Shakespeare's Sonnet 73 ("That time of year thou mayst in me behold...") through her 43 poetic selections, she reveals each poem's iridescence and incandescence to the reader and makes each one accessible. This may sound easy, but if you've ever read poststructualist criticism, you know that making a poem accessible is quite a feat.

One reason I enjoyed this book so much is that she chose so many poems that I love. Another reason I enjoyed this book is because she introduced me to some new works--and helped me appreciate them.

Paglia includes a section of Biographical Notes on each poet because she believes that the text should not be "orphaned." A point with which I strongly agree; a poem is part and parcel of its creator and the times and situations in which it was conceived and crafted.

Nonfiction. Poetry/Criticism. 242 pages. 2005.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Sunny Sunday

I've finished Break, Blow, Burn and will review it soon.

Almost finished with Palace Walk, and might be able to read the last 60 or so pages today. I'm taking it with me in a few minutes when I go over to Laddie's and will be reading it while he reads the paper.

Here is a good link on Naguib Mahfouz.

Friday, March 02, 2007

"What Have You Read" Meme

I'm not sure where I first saw this meme; it has been floating around for a while. I copied it into a draft and then let it sit for a week or so. Yesterday on Bookish Kitty, I was reminded of it again and decided to add the additional element of highlighting books with which I was not familiar. She gave links to Book Fool and Belladoza. By following the links back, one might determine exactly where the meme originated.

* Bold the ones you’ve read
* Italicize the ones you want to read
* Leave blank the ones that you aren’t interested in
* Highlight those you haven't heard of

1. The DaVinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)

9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. The Bible
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According to Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte's Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

Thursday, March 01, 2007

"Thinking About..." and "Booking Through Thursday"

I'm about half way through Palace Walk. The writing is beautiful, flowing; as a reader, I am swept along with the characters in their ordinary, day to day lives. There are moments of humor and wonderful characterization and detail, but there is also a great deal of stress for a modern, Western woman reading about not only a patriarchal culture, but one in which women can remain secluded their entire lives, a culture that allows the man all the power and decisions, and in which most females are subservient and obedient. Mahfouz pulls you into the lives of this family in Cairo, explaining the thinking of each one, seemingly objectively. Raised in an entirely different culture, I find the concept of considering women as objects and creatures with less "than half a mind" frightening. And yet, because Mahfouz handles everything so adroitly, I'm entirely intriqued by this family.

I'm almost finished with Paglia's Break, Blow, Burn -- it so easy to read one or two poems and Paglia's comments and put it down again, but I am enjoying Paglia's explication/analysis of each one.

When the tension in Palace Walk begins to feel stressful , I retreat to something else... Paglia's poetry analysis or The Shape-Changer's Wife, letting the tension release.

Booking Through Thursday

1. How many books would you say you read in an average month?

Last year, I read an average of about 12 books a month. So far this year, I've read more nonfiction and the average is about 9 per month.

2. In a year?

Last year 146. Normally, around 120+.

3. Over the last five years?

Using an average of 120, it would be around 600. I'm not going back through my old journals to count them.

4. The last 10?

Using the same average...about 1200.