Sunday, November 27, 2011

58. Gigi by Colette

I love this story.  I love it.  I've read it before but, as you can see, I needed something to get me going again.  It's been a bruiser of a semester, and I barely have time to sit down, much less read.  I almost feared that I'd forgotten how to put my feet up and read for an hour.   But Kelsey, your worries were needless! You can still read something besides school schedules and the film critic in the newspaper.  (Who, incidentally, I honestly believe is the only good writer in the entire paper. Or even the only halfway decent one.  I can't make myself finish most of the other articles.  I'm no shakespeare - but a newspaper person who presumably lives by their pen ought not to have problems with verb tenses.  Come on now.)

CONCLUSION: I will read the rest of my Colette short stories when I have a chance.  I think I like her.  I wish I could've seen Audrey Hepburn play this role. Sigh.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

okay...

Obviously, I can't do a book a day.  At least not during the school term.  But you know what? I'm okay with that now.
For a while the remembrance of this abandoned blog filled me with shame - and, more importantly, the shame crippled me and I didn't even want to write about the books I was reading, because I'd fallen so far behind.  Does that make sense?  Well, whether it does or not, I feel better now that I've given up.
From now on, I'm just going to write about the books I read.  Like every other book blogger on earth.  At least I can be a semi-normal person in this arena of life, right?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

57/365 The Adulterous Woman by Albert Camus

Ditto.  Except I liked this one less than the last one.  And didn't get it completely, as opposed to a faint glimmer of "oh I think I might understand one teensy facet."  I'm not deep enough for these Great Modern European writers.

56/365 The Infant Prodigy by Thomas Mann

I'd like to say I liked this.  But if I claim to like something - and then am forced to acknowledge that I didn't get it at all, I feel like the liking doesn't count.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

55/365 The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie

The best thing about Agatha Christie is that when you become a rabid fan (as I am) and have read every book (as I have) and then you don't read a particular title for a year or so, there is a very good chance that, when you pick this particular title up again, you've forgotten the whole plot.  I almost never forget books, and this happens to me all the time with Agatha Christie.  Usually I remember who gets murdered and who did it and who pairs off and all that - but the stops along the way?  Not a clue.  (Ha ha! Bad joke!)


It happened with this one.  I expected it to be about Bundle, but I think I had it mixed up with The Seven Dials Mystery.  I opened it up and had no idea what was going on.  It was lovely.

I would like to be fascinating like Virginia Revel.  And as that ranks up there on the possibility scale with trading bodies with Keira Knightley, I will also say that I would love to have Bundle's wonderful turn of phrase.  And also a nickname.  Not Bundle - but so many Agatha Christie women have nicknames.  Tuppence, for heaven's sake.  Socks.  Egg.  How do they acquire these?  I have always wanted a nickname, but I think I'm a bit too old to pull a C.S. Lewis and inform my family that they're to call me Jack from now on. A pity.

Anyways, this book is fun. Princes and crown jewels and wonderful one-liners.  I do so love Lord Caterham.  I made my own papa read a bit of Lord Caterham's talking this afternoon, laughing my head off all the while.  My poor dad.  It wasn't even funny out of context.  I just can't help myself sometimes.  I've got the SHARE virus.

CONCLUSION:  Classic Christie.  Gosh, the woman can entertain.  In my book, there really is no better way to spend an afternoon than at a country house party gone murderous.

54/365 The Birthday Ball by Lois Lowry


So.  I've said it before, I will say it again - I will always like The Giver best of her books.  Not really because it scares me or makes me want to take up some sort of activism and save the world, but because I've read it so many darn times that it's become a comfort book.  (Which is sort of strange, now I think about it.  I don't know why I find negative utopias so enjoyable.  Some deep, horrible psychological mess of a reason, no doubt.  Or just regular morbid-ness.)  Even A Summer To Die, which was the first sad book I ever liked and cried in, didn't shake The Giver's spot as number one.

I suppose if, you know, I actually belonged to the target age range I might have enjoyed this one more. But even for an aged spinster it was a pleasant, mindless way to while away the hour after lunch. I enjoyed myself, but I don't think I will ever feel compelled to read it again.  I laughed a few times. The illustrations reminded me somewhat of my beloved Quentin Blake.  It was all very nice.

That being said, I feel like this isn't really Lois Lowry.  Or, at least, that she is capable of way, WAY more.  Yes! I understand that this was meant to be light and occasionally funny and cute!  But anybody can do light and occasionally funny and cute.  Yes! I can understand if Lois Lowry doesn't want to write intense stuff her whole life.  But I also think that there's something to be said for keepin' the quality high and books that are worthy of the writer.

Gee whiz.  It's ridiculous that your humble, spotty, slacker servant is criticizing LOIS LOWRY.  And it's such a high-profile blog, this one! What a way to show her!  Now I might go post a disapproving facebook status!  I'll show her!

But, seriously, I did sort of like the book.  I swear.  I just didn't adore it.  I can see two me's ago liking it.  (When I speak of two me's ago I am being swish and referring to the whole "you get new cells every seven years" thingy.  Which is like that bit in Amelie where the guy reads that there are more connections in his brain than atoms in the universe - I've heard these statements from fairly credible sources, but I still have a hard time believing them.)

CONCLUSION: Pleasant characters who are enthusiastic about learning, proud to be able to read and write, and respectful and kind to one another.  Also, there is a man who makes comments about the magnificence of his own thighs.  Which was entertaining.

53/365 Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McCloskey


I'd honestly forgotten how WONDERFUL this book is.  Ridiculous, right?  How could I forget the PERFECT illustrations and completely charming story?  How could I forget about it's wonderfulness when we saw the public park this very summer? While we ate our sandwiches a group of ducklings swam over to squeak at us.  It was delightful.  These statues:


Were being sat on by small children.  The only thing that wasn't 100 percent perfect - and, in a way, it made it better really - was that the swan boat guy (they pedal them like a bike!) was texting while he was driving around the pond, and he bashed into things.  But, like I said, it almost made it all better.

CONCLUSION:  I will never be an illustrator.  This book makes me too ashamed of my scratchings.

Friday, September 9, 2011

the week in reading

So... not horrible this week.   Not good, but better.  At least I tried.
I'm still yards behind, but whatevs.  I WILL catch up.  50 books is too far in to stop now.

52/365 High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

Okay.  I have no idea where to start. 


Um.  I like this cover?  

(Still trying to find somewhere to start... ga...)

OKAY!  So.  Here we go:

I liked this book.  But I liked it not for the story or the language (especially not the language, if you catch my drift) or anything that I usually like most books for.  I think what I liked it for was its pitiful honesty.  
It's one of those situations where I like something, and I know that it's changed me in a way and so it is to some degree important to me - but I couldn't recommend it to anybody.  I don't mean I couldn't recommend it to a single person on earth; I mean I couldn't recommend it to just anybody.  It's like trying not to lie to my little sister when she asked about State of Fear (which I read, like, once every two weeks when I was 15).  I liked it, and wanted to tell her I liked it - but I knew it wouldn't be right for her.   Sort of a bigger, more difficult version of that because it means more and they swear more.  A lot more. 
But even the swearing!  It isn't One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (which by some miracle I spelled right!) which could not work or be good without the swearing.  But I understand and it's in there and there's no use getting all twisted up about it.  That's the way the people are - and maybe I'm being silly, but there's something to be said for not trying to change things.  I mean, if that's the way they were to Nick Hornby, they wouldn't be real after I censored them, if I tried.  You see what I mean?
(Maybe I don't care enough about swearing in books.  I don't care too much about swearing in movies either.  Swearing is more awkward than violence when you're watching a movie with your mom, but I'd rather have swearing any day.  Violence grosses me out.  Though, weirdly, it mostly doesn't bother me in books.  The only time, ever, that it has was - get this - in one of those Eragon books when the queen girl does that trial of the long knives and slices her arms off.  A whole chapter of spraying blood.  I almost had to sit down.) 

This was one of those books where every other page had something so true that it made my stomach hurt.  There were so many that I can't chose an example.  Gosh, so many.  

Love is such a weird thing.  Even in the supposedly straightforward courtship world (which horrified me into giving panicked squeaks of 'I will never marry! I will never marry!" when I was in high school) where, in the ideal model, everything is parents-sanctioned and safe and squared-away and you spend more time in pre-marital counseling than on dates, there is still the whole falling in love with someone/attraction thing to negotiate.  And then how do you manage the whole "it won't always feel like this, you have to work at it" thing?  How is that not horrible?  My parents do it, but they're better people than I am, and I have no faith in my ability to be mature and wise about that sort of thing.  Heck, I have no idea how some of my friends are getting married.  I mean, the guts they have to have!  I need a much, much stronger personality before I even think of getting married.  

Good title. Clever. 

Completely shallow - I so wish I knew someone who would make me mix tapes.  Not even a boyfriend.  I want to be told what music to listen to.   Once I've listened I will reserve the right to decide whether I like it or not, but I would love to be given some guidance.  I know it's not life or death or really anything even remotely important - but how am I supposed to know that Pink Floyd is not cool and Black Sabbath is?  Is Pink Floyd not as cool, or is that just Nick Hornby?   I haven't even listened to Pink Floyd or Black Sabbath.  Not consciously, at least.  It's like me and Dr. Who right now.  I know I need to pick it up, but I'm too lazy to do the work and figure out how far back I need to start to get all the references and stuff. 

I'm almost done, I swear. 

Top 5 reasons I think this is an Important Book in My Life:

1. It's about love and life and dying and I, along with every other human being, have to deal with that at some point.  I don't mind my dying (in the spiritual sense - I'd still like it not to be horribly painful or pathetic), I know what I should do in a basic sense in life - though I don't do it.  But throw another person, other people in general into the picture and I'm dithery and helpless. 

2. I hate the main character and I am him.  Or, hopefully, was him.  B.C. I was just as self-centered and spent all my time thinking about how unhappy I was.  During the book, I kind of loathed my old self and Rob at the same time for doing it.  It's such a stupid, stupid waste!  I can't believe I wasted so much of my life.

3. I do not want to have Rob's story as my own.  I don't mean I don't want to own a record store or something dumb like that (I would love to own a record store).  But I don't want to always feel inferior.  I'd like to get over being needed.  Inferiority vs humility is a bit of a puzzle to me right now. One of the many, many bits of Mere Christianity that I have yet to understand even at all is where he talks about real humility.  How the heck are you supposed to be able to know you've made the best cathedral on earth and not let it puff you up?  

4. The painful truth bits I talked about earlier.  They shot home like nobody's business.  Like - yes, I'm breaking down and giving an example - where he can't bear to see photos of his young self because he's so disappointed by what he's become.  "... I made wrong decisions at bad times, and I turned you into me."  That's killer.

5. It made me think more about meaning.  Which is good, you know?  

CONCLUSION:  My head's too full.  First imaginary reader to get that quote wins an imaginary prize. And eternal glory.  And I haven't seen the movie, but I can already hear Jack Black in my head.  Casting gods, whoever they were. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

51/365 A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle


Oh my oh me oh dear I do so love Madeleine L'Engle. It almost doesn't matter what the books are about - for me she's always a dead cert, as they say.
This one was sadder than the others, I thought.  Not only because a lot of characters went through a lot of pain, but also because the book's resolution relates more clearly to real life than some of the others in this series or family or whatever you want to call it.  A great deal of it seemed to be about the importance of choices - how a single person's life can change the world.  Which is hopeful and totally depressing at the same time.
Sometimes I wonder if we don't even need evil to destroy the world - carelessness seems to be doing a fine job on its own.  A great many things are all floating around in my head - beer bottles on beaches, politics, unborn babies, how "we are the first culture in danger of amusing ourselves to death" - and it's making me feel muddled.  I always feel a bit weird while I'm reading, and right after I've finished a Madeleine L'Engle, but, without being fanciful, I think I can say that this feeling is a bit different than normal.
Maybe that's what she planned.  You know, to give the reader a "now get up and go make the world better!" sort of feeling.  She did a good job, if that's what she wanted.

This is a teensy bit unrelated (though the connection makes perfect sense in my mind), but this morning I read that 3,000 babies are aborted in the U.S. every day.   I can have compassion, I can listen, but no matter how hard I try I can't understand.

"Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest" 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

50/365 The Whipping boy

Good.  Short.  Cheerful.  Read it over one cup of hot water (I do not like tea or coffee), and enjoyed myself thoroughly.  And it's so nice to read a Newberry where the main plot device is not the mother (or sister or grandmother) dying.

CONCLUSION:  I ought to read all the Newberry winners again.  I am wondering why this "Newberry" is being underlined by spell check, while the one above was not.  Hmmm.

Monday, September 5, 2011

49/365 Her First Ball by Katherine Mansfield

Where's the like button?  Like! Like!

I enjoyed this one immensely.  I might have read more meaning into it than there actually was, but I loved the way she's terrified by what the fat man says, and then forgets and is happy again and it's good and tragic at the same time.  His prophesy is, like, fulfilled right before your eyes.  Am I being fatuous?  Yes.

CONCLUSION:  Will note this lady's name down on the PEOPLE TO READ MORE OF list.

48/365 The Horse Dealer's Daughter by D.H. Lawrence

Okay, I know I've read this one too before. Intro to lit?  Who can remember.
I also know that I don't get this one.  There's some sort of deep meaning I'm missing here too, isn't there? I don't enjoy being this dense.

Overall, I think this story scares me more than anything else.  I don't really like or dislike it - it's just there and I am here and there are no feelings at all.  Slight confusion, maybe - but otherwise nothing.

CONCLUSION:  Erm.  I don't know.  I'm neutral on all fronts here.

Friday, September 2, 2011

47/365 The Colonel's Lady by W. Somerset Maugham

Okay! I really want to read more by this guy! So good!

You meet the characters of this story every day in Agatha Christie.  Which - though I don't approve of them - may be why I felt so in-sync with the story.  It was like putting on a new sweatshirt as opposed to a new suit jacket; they both may fit, but the jacket takes getting used to, while the sweatshirt is easy as pie.  I know these characters, and snap! it's easy to get into the story.

I can't say why I like this sort of story.  A big squashy mix of reasons, I think.  I like the real-life moral puzzle stuff.  I like to see inside people's heads.  I like a clean style.  And a quick pace and lots of plot are always appreciated.  So who knows.

I liked this story very much, felt sorry for both the characters (he because he was a moron, she because, well, obviously...), liked the style, liked it all - but I will never, ever approve of affairs.  Never.  People went on and on about Doctor Zhivago to me, and then I saw a new-ish film of it and didn't even wish I could shed a tear.  I have a lot of very strong opinions about the difference between lust and love, but I'm going to spare you, my imaginary readers, and not air them here.  Heaven knows they've been aired enough elsewhere.

CONCLUSION:  As I said, I am so, so going to read more by this author.  I LOVED this.  These sorts of stories just

P.S.
Just did a spell-check re-read.  Ha!  How vulgar and cheap I am! "A quick pace and lots of plot" indeed.  Gee whiz.

46/365 The Wall by Jean-Paul Sartre


I know I've read this before, but I can't think why or when I would have done so.

I wanted to put off writing about this story, because I feel like, in the right mood, I could get up enough steam to write something really thoughtful and good about it.  Right now I am not in that mood.

I have a difficult time thinking seriously about a story like this because I honestly have no idea how I would behave if I knew I was going before a firing squad in the morning.  I have a feeling that I'm a bit of a physical coward; I'm pretty sure I could never chop one of my own limbs off a la 127 Hours, for instance.  I (obviously) don't know how my body would react to the prospect of death either. For all I know I might pee my pants without knowing it, the way Tom does.  But apart from all the physical stuff, I honestly don't think I'd be too horrifically scared to die.  I don't mind death - but pain, yes.
I suppose the main reason I don't think that dying - apart from pain - scares me is because I think life has meaning; and I don't have to "create" it, or "find my own".   I think it's a sort of black and white thing.  You accept it or not.
I also believe in life after death - and I believed in it in a shadowy way even before I became a Christian.  I remember thinking that there couldn't be any other explanation for the longing I felt for "more time", because you can't have a desire for something that can't be fulfilled.
I really wonder how the other kids my age feel about dying.  I remember talking to a kid in my British Lit class about it, and she said - with really awful feeling in her face and voice - that she was terrified of dying, just terrified.  It still makes something behind my sternum hurt.

So... I don't know what else to say.  I would not want to face death the way the main character did - and I don't mean the prospect of going by firing squad.  Existentialism seems very depressing to me.  I can see how the absurdity in the world leads people to that way of thinking.  But I can't see how the whole world turning existentialist could possibly be good.  I know I don't have the whole picture - the very little I know about existentialism I learned in Intro to Philosophy - but isn't the whole, you have to make up your own meaning for life thing a part of it?  Because that sounds terrible to me.  It's like that line, "living for today" - it sounds nice, but I don't think it could possibly work.  But I'm also coming from a man-is-essentially-bad POV, so "living for today" gives me visions of chaos.

CONCLUSION: Jeez! I finally understand why they have Death and Dying lit classes!

45/365 The Kiss by Anton Chekhov

Now this I can handle.

I really like Chekhov.  Even though my first real exposure to him was a painful college production The Cherry Orchard - and I've hated many a writer for less. (Question: Why have I never seen an even halfway good college play?  They've been universally agonizing.  I just don't understand.)

I like a lot of plot, so I don't understand why I genuinely enjoy his stories and plays.  It might be because the handful of Chekhov I've read felt... relatable, I guess.  The feelings he talks about make sense to me.  And I enjoy the stories enough not to mind when I miss the deep meaning.  Which is always nice.

Anyways, this story was about a guy named Ryabovich, "a short, somewhat stooped officer in spectacles, with whisker's like a lynx's."

For reference:

That is a lynx.  Poor Ryabovich.  Lynxes (which is the most awkward plural I ever saw) are apparently a medium-sized wildcat.  It's also the national animal of Macedonia and you can't hunt them.  The Iberian variety iS going extinct.  I'm wondering if lynxes as a genus or whatever are particularly known for eating or maiming humans in interesting ways, but wikipedia is disappointingly silent on the subject, and I'm too lazy to read about every different type of lynx to really find out.

But! To return from this delightful tangent!

I think the reason I liked this is because if I were a stooped, short, unfortunately whiskered, lonely young Russian who got kissed by mistake (which - surprise! - is what happens in the story) I would feel and behave the same way.   Even though I'm not a whiskered Russian soldier, I (cliche! cliche!) really relate to a lot of his feeeeeelings.  He's awkward, he envies people for the easy way they start mixing and talking with one another, his unattractiveness makes him sad.  He's delighted when he begins to believe that he can marry and have a happy, normal life - he's crushed when his illogical, barely-formed daydreams don't happen.
I love how sharp Chekhov is.  The officers have been asked to tea by a local family, and asked more because the family knows they ought to ask than because they want to.  When they put on a good show to make the evening pleasant, Ryabovich becomes more and more "attracted by this insincere but splendidly disciplined family."  I mean! I just love that sentence. How many people like that have you met?  I've spent hours with that family!
I also love the description of Lieutenant Lobytko - "renowned in the brigade for his peculiar ability to divine the presence of women at a distance".

CONCLUSION: Good, good, good.  It had a kind of bright, bitter taste of truth to me.  And that I like.

44/365 The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad


Yes, I am resorting to short stories to get caught up.  But who cares! I will get back on track this labor day weekend if it kills me!

So.  The Secret Sharer.  Uh.  Well, first off, I've read this before.  And I think it's interesting and well-written and a compelling story and all that, but I can't enjoy it.  Until I am a much smarter person I will never enjoy it, because I know there is a deep meaning that I'm supposed to get.   I know I've been told or have read about this deep meaning, and I remember thinking that it made sense and was great and blah blah, but I just can't remember what the meaning was.  I really am trying, too.  If the writer has some Great and Powerful theme they want to get across to me, it has to be of the giant brick wall right in the way variety, not a tree root in the jungle that I might trip over but probably won't.

CONCLUSION:  It's probably for the best that I went for art instead of English.  I would have really almost enjoyed this if I hadn't known I was missing, like, the whole point.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

42/365 A Graveyard for Lunatics by Ray Bradbury


Ah.  Um.  Well, I just googled this book and learned that it's the second book in a series.  Which makes it make a lot more sense.  I did feel rather that I was missing pieces here and there.
This book took me ages.  But it was well worth it.  Bewildering and sometimes spooky, but good.  I love reading about people who are really good at something - in this case, film editing, writing, and making clay dinosaurs.  I wish I talked the way the characters do.  When I try to do so - or, even worse, when I try to talk like Lord Peter Wimsey - I sound like a supercilious freak.

I want to say more but my eyeballs are falling out.  I just finished a re-do drawing for art class because I decided that the first one didn't turn out.   From now on I think I will try to stick with the first one.

CONCLUSION:  I'm interested in reading the others in the series, so that has to be a good sign.

P.S.  I do not care for that cover.  Just needed to make that clear.

oh dear

I really, really suck.  School and stressful work is my excuse for being the worst 365 project person on earth, but it isn't a very good one.  SQUIRREL NUTKIN TO THE RESUCE, PLEASE!

Monday, August 22, 2011

43/365 Colossians


Again, what can I say?  It was wonderful and convicting and I didn't get it all - but I hope, someday...

I actually listened to Max Mclean reading the book on Bible Gateway, while I finished some drawings for school.  It was great.
  It took me a loooong time to get used to Max Mclean's voice, but now I like him more than any other Bible reader I've come across.  (When I was a snotty 14 year old I used to make snarky comparisons between him and Dory speaking whale in Finding Nemo.)

CONCLUSION: Bible Gateway is an awfully nice, handy thing.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

41/365 The Flying Hockey Stick by Jolly Roger Bradfield.

May I say,

I LOVE JOLLY ROGER BRADFIELD.  My mum loved his books when she was little, and I did too.  Heck, we still love them.  The colors! The stories!  They're wonderful.  This one especially.  What kid has never dreamed of flying?

CONCLUSION:  I need to be brave with color if I become an illustrator.  Books like this are just a feast for the eyes.

Friday, August 19, 2011

40/365 - "American Cities" by Jean-Paul Sartre


I have to admit, I was almost a bit afraid to read from this book.   I wasn't afraid that a few essays would suddenly turn me into a raging existentialist, but I did worry that it would be too hard for me.  I'm part of that annoying cluster of people who hear the word "philosophy" and unconsciously remember bad textbooks we had to trawl through, and therefore refuse to read Plato and Locke because we believe they're going to make our molars fall out from boredom.
So, as I've said, I went in with fear and trembling.  But I chose well (I always think of swallows...) - "American Cities" was a travel essay, and rather a sweet one at that.  Yes, he said some things are ugly and depressing, but I agree so it didn't hurt my feelings.   There were a lot of bits where I went, "Oh yeah", even though it was written in the 40's.  Like when he pointe out that in America we do not have monuments that becomes famous, we have things that become famous because they haven't been knocked down.  He talks a lot about how cities feel almost weightless, and all have a temporary feeling.  I suppose when you come from France - where, from what I understand, a family will own and live in a house for generations - our attitude towards our homes must seem odd.
Even though he doesn't have much praise for the the look of American cities (I don't blame him a bit), good old Sartre says some awfully nice things about the spirits they have.  And, for all the less than complimentary things I think about American cities in general, I agree with him.
And then one finally comes to like their common element, that temporary look.  Our beautiful closed cities, full as eggs, are a bit stifling.  Our slanting, winding streets run head on against walls and houses; once you are inside the city, you can no longer see beyond it.  In America, these long, straight unobstructed streets carry one's glance, like canals, outside the city.  You always see mountains or fields or the sea at the end of them, no matter where you may be. 
Frail and temporary, formless and unfinished, they are haunted by the presence of the immense geographical space surrounding them.  And precisely because their boulevards are highways, they always seem to be stopping places on the roads.  They are not oppressive, they do not close you in; nothing in them is definite, nothing is arrested...
But these slight cities... reveal the other side of the United States: their freedom.  Here everyone is free - not to criticize or to reform their customs - but to flee them, to leave for the desert or another city.  The cities are open, open to the whorls, and to the future.  This is what gives them their adventurous look and, even in their ugliness and disorder, a touching beauty. 
Aw, gee.

CONCLUSION: I will read more Sartre if he's as nice and understandable as all this.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

39/365 The Paper Princess by Elisa Kleven


Gee, I haven't read this in years.  Yes, it is a picture book.  It is also wonderful.  One of the best kids' books I think we've got around the house.  And gorgeous! The illustrations are collage-things, and downright fantastic.


It's a simple kind of story - but not a bit boring.  The princess has to deal with a lot of trauma - separation from her little girl, getting crumpled up, a horrible hairstyle - but she faces it all bravely.  Maybe it's because I'm just in a "chill, man" kind of mood, but it seemed a very peaceful sort of story.
I remember loving - loving - this book when I was little, and I think that's definitely a big point in its favor.  It was, you know, written for kids.  So I guess it's just as well.

CONCLUSION: I'll read it to my kids, if I ever have any.

If I end up as an illustrator (which, what with after getting through today's drawing class without wanting to weep, seems less impossible than usual), I will have to come up with some sort of, "Oh I ALWAYS knew this is what I wanted to do" story to scare the guts out of wishy washy people like me with - and I think I'll use The Paper Princess for my story.  Because - ahem! - when I was five I drew this:

Which, really, isn't so shabby.  I will not use "The Mouse and The Giant" (c. third grade) for my intimidation story.  My friend Bradi and I made it one afternoon, and even through I was the illustrator (we came up with the story and she wrote it - her cursive was better), I unfortunately wrestled away the privilege of writing the title on the cover, and it came out "The Mouse and the Ginte." So... we'll stick with the paper princess.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

38/365 A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

It would be hard to overstate how much I love this man's writing.   To give you and idea of the quantity of love we're talking about here, I suppose saying that this:


Was basically the high point of my life.
He is, without doubt, my favorite non-fiction writer.  He most certainly lives with C.S. Lewis, Agatha Christie, P.G. Wodehouse and Dorothy Sayers in my top people of all time worship list.

He really can make anything interesting.  I have almost zero interest in science, yet I just finished a 400-odd page book about it.  Besides the whole "he can make any sentence into an oh my gosh I'm going to pee my pants it's so funny situation", he throws the shallow reader like me good bones every once in a while, and gives side notes about peoples' private lives and characters.  School books would ever mention that so-and-so did fieldwork naked on hot days, or that even Marie Curie's cookbooks are pulsing with radioactivity and have to be handled with care - yet those are the things that make it fun for a person like me.  Bill Bryson ruins you for textbooks.


Whether or not any of it sticks in my head, I come away from his books feeling more intelligent, which is a rare and extremely pleasing feeling.

On a side note, I have one of these thingys:


And it saved my sanity during the drive my the family made from California to Arkansas.  On the other side, it says, "Written and read by the author."  Which makes me chortle and shake my head.

CONCLUSION: I love Bill Bryson.  But I already knew that.

P.S.  I also think that cover rocks.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

37/365 Just Being Audrey by Margaret Cardillo

Okay!  Ha! I've wanted to gush about this book for a long time, and now I'm finally going to do so! Yes!


I'll just cut to the point here.  THIS BOOK IS PERFECT.  I am a minor Audrey Hepburn nut.  I've read every biography about her in the San Diego County library system.  I've seen all but three of her movies (Monte Carlo Baby - she had, like, a teensy role - Always and Robin and Marion), and I could just scream I admire her so much.  Heck, for a while I had a whole blog devoted to her.
And this book made me shriek when I looked through it for the first time.  I almost danced.  Julia Denos did the illustrations, and every detail is SPOT ON.


The expressions in the lineup above.  As a girl, her dutch haircut and wide smile.  The clothes she wore through the years.  Heck!  Even the sort of bump at the end of her jaw that you could see when she was older!  I mean!? (I wonder if I'm being fanciful about this, but if you watch youtube videos of her en pointe and compare it with the feet in the book, they look identical. Not a lot of arch, if you know what I mean. It seems like almost too much, that.  I have a hard time believing that anyone but a rabid fan like me would give so much attention to the details.  This is why it is a marvelous book.)  She got every detail right.  Famous even makes an appearance.

I'm SO glad I was introduced to Julia Denos through this book - she's super cool.  I want to be like her when I grow up - even if I don't become an illustrator!  And if I do become an illustrator, I hope my studio is half as chic as hers is.  She put pictures of it on her marvelous blog, and it makes me want to weep.  Oh! Sudden fear: over the summer, did my desire for such a gorgeous workspace unconsciously plant the seed that became me declaring myself as an art major?  Heavens.

Also - this is just going to be a Julia Denos worship fest post, isn't it? - she is doing illustrations for the Hilary McKay Casson books!  GAAAA! Which are, like, some of the best books ever, no exceptions!  Hilary McKay is a genius and I will someday read one of her books for this project thingy, and then I will get to do some more squealing.  Yay. I can't even begin to babble about how EXCITED I am over the new packaging Denos is doing.  You should see her "Crime Pays" sketch.  This woman does her details right.  I'm probably just a fanatic about it, but nothing annoyed me more as a kid - what I am I saying? Annoys me more than illustrations that don't match the story.  Rant on the forthcoming.

SO.  Buy this book.  It is beautiful.

CONCLUSION:  I hope I get to be an illustrator.  I know that, if I did, my style would have to be different from Julia Denos' - as much as I love it - because I know I'd always be trying to ape her and failing.  I'll have to do my own thing.  Just like Audrey.

Monday, August 15, 2011

36/365 The Cricket in Times Square


Gee, what a good book.  There were several bits I wanted to quote from - so lovely and wonderful - but I couldn't choose.  So there.

I decided to re-read this one because I honestly couldn't remember much about it.  I'd love to gush, but I'll just say that it's an all-around fantastic book.  Funny and sweet.

This:


was, I think, my favorite picture.

CONCLUSION:  You can keep all your deep, depressing grown-up books.  I love children's lit.  Also, I need to work on drawing animals if I intend to be an illustrator.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

35/365 The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes


"... Maddie sat up in bed and pressed her forehead tight in her hands and really thought.  This was the hardest thinking she had ever done.  After a long, long time she reached an important conclusion.  She was never going to stand by and say nothing again."

For years - years - whenever my Mum would mention this book, I always said, "Aw, that's too sad for me." But today I decided to give it a second chance.  And now I repent.

It is sad.  But it's terribly good.  It's actually about something - and it can be reasonably hoped that young readers will come away better than they were before.

Also, it's pretty.  If I could, I'd get a print of the picture showing all the dresses tacked on the classroom walls.

I've never read much Eleanor Estes because I didn't care for Ginger Pye, but I'm feeling rather more favorably disposed towards her now.

CONCLUSION: My mom is always right.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

34/365 Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

GAAAAAAAAA!

Okay.  Deep breaths.  I'll start at the beginning.  I have to warn you though - spoilers are probably going to ensue.  I can't help it.

I love North and South.  As I believe I've mentioned before, I like it so much that I was almost afraid of reading any of Elizabeth Gaskell's other books and not enjoying them as much.  Silly, but there it is.  Anyways, I started watching the mini-series of Wives and Daughters a few days ago and couldn't stop.  I had to stay up till two to finish it.  I had to know what happened.  And afterwards I decided to read the book, expecting to enjoy it very much indeed.


(I liked the mini-series very much, by the way.  Everybody was well cast.  Rosamund Pike is sort of a genius, I think.  It's weird seeing so many people from the Jane Austen family - all the movies, I mean - all in other movies together.  Also, very weird hearing Mr. Preston speak - I've heard him before in an Agatha Christie radio mystery in which he was the murderer.  It biased me against him from the start.)

I just finished it maybe three minutes ago.  And, up to the last chapter, I did enjoy it very much indeed.  But that LAST CHAPTER!

I'll be honest with you, blog.  I feel cheated when an Agatha Christie novel doesn't have a wedding at the end.  There are some books that I like to have sad endings - but when I go in for cheap entertainment, I am completely shameless in my desire for happy, CLEAR endings.  Sorry to shout at you in all caps, but I did so want a nice little "happy ever after" scene at the end - not stupid Mrs. Gibson!

I wonder what I would have thought of it if I hadn't seen an alternate ending beforehand.  Hm.

Nope, I gave it a moment's thought and I know I would still have been disappointed.  Yes, I like my fun reading cheap.  But after 500 pages!  Just throw me some kind of bone!

I promise, I did like it.  But I have to vent a bit.

Okay, I think Mrs. Gibson is without exception the most horrifying stepmother I've ever read.  She absolutely makes my skin crawl.  At least with the downright wicked stepmothers you can hate them and look forward to the inevitable day when the fairy-tale laws of retribution catch up with them and they are blinded or sent to do laundry for the rest of their lives.  Mrs. Gibson scares me a million times more than any wicked stepmothers - I believe that she could really exist.  She is completely believable.  I mean, you see similar bits of behavior all the time.  I'll hand it to Elizabeth Gaskell, she could write realistic people.  I don't know who I loathe more, Mrs. Gibson or Mary Musgrove.

CONCLUSION:  It was excellent, but I am rather frustrated.  In an hour I'll be fine and probably up for Cranford, but right now I could shriek.  I am doing so in my mind.

TWO DAYS LATER:  Okay, I really did like this book.  I guess it did sort of, like, make an impression on me.  I guess it, like, makes me want to be a more straightforward person.  And have better posture.  So, like, yeah.

Friday, August 12, 2011

33/365 Song of Myself by Walt Whitman


I loafe and invite my soul, 
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.

I know it is just one poem, but I've got this lovely pocket edition.  And it's long, too.

This is one of those poems that makes my stomach hurt at certain parts.  How is it so perfect?  My taste doesn't naturally turn to this sort of poetry, but I do love Walt Whitman.
I don't want to say much about it, because I'll just get silly.   I read on Wikipedia that the first edition was pocket-sized because. "That would tend to induce people to take me along with them and read me in the open air: I am nearly always successful with the reader in the open air." Which sort of cracks me up.  It's Wikipedia, so who knows if it's true, but it makes me very happy about my little pocket edition.
I have Leaves of Grass, but I've yet to read it all.  I tend to buy used books in huge spurts, around twenty at a time, and then it takes me an age to read them all.  I'm still going through the stuff I bought at a closing sale last year - three buying spurts ago.  
Anyways, I love Uncle Walt.  We share a birthday, incidentally.  It makes me very proud, though I can't think of any logical reason why.  


CONCLUSION: Must look in to Leaves of Grass.  Will think about always keeping the little Song of Myself in my purse.  I might have to give it a read while sitting out in our lovely yard one afternoon.  


Have you reckon'd a thousand acres much? have you reckon'd the
earth much?
Have you practis'd so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?

Stop this day and night with me and you shall possess the origin of
all poems,
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun, (there are millions
of suns left,)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look
through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in
books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.

the week in reading: 6-12 August

I suck.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

32/365 Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman


I'll be honest: I went into this book thinking something along the lines of, "this is going to be pretentious and weird and I am not going to like it."  And I'll continue to be honest: I didn't love it.  But I certainly didn't dislike it either.  Reading a book like this to yourself is obviously not going to have the same feel that actually reading it aloud with another person - as it's supposed to be read - would give it.  But even reading it in my head, alone (I felt it necessary to specify that I am alone in my head), I could get a sense of how it would feel when read aloud.  Some of the poems would probably sound very cool.

But even as it was, I liked a lot of this slim paperback.  The "book lice" one in particular.
 
I wonder if I have kids if we will read this.  I hope I raise them reading poetry, so that they would be comfortable enough to try it aloud.  Even though poetry is supposed to be read aloud, it takes guts to actually do so around other people.  You feel you're not doing it right, or messing with the sense.  I tend to go too fast.  I'd like to have some poetry read out to me really well.  I know I'm missing a part of poetry by not reading it aloud to myself, but blah blah.

I have to say, the whole reading together thing in this book is probably trickier than it seems.  I can imagine my family trying and getting tangled up and laughing and having to stop all the time.  It would still be fun - but I don't think that was how it was intended to be performed.

CONCLUSION:  Expected it to be awful and was pleasantly surprised.  Don't know why, though - it did win a Newberry Medal.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

31/365 The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin by Beatrix Potter


Well! I've finally come to the end of the big stack of Beatrix Potter lifesavers from the library.  Now I can't slack off anymore.

I didn't like this story as much as some of her others, but I still liked it a darn lot more than most kids books floating about today.  Her sense of humor!  I'm going to buy these books if I ever have children.  Might make nice gifts as well, if I had children to give gifts to.   I'm sure my sister will get married some day.   I can't wait to buy gifts for them.  Especially loud ones made of revolting plastic. Maw ha ha.  

I've been labeling posts where my reading was, ahem, on the petite side, "Squirrel Nutkin to the rescue" because my dear mum gaily declares that every time she sees me frantically scrabbling for something to read at ten at night.  It's become a joke between us.

Anyways, I really am going to have to get back down to business and read more lengthy books that are, how shall I say it?  More suitable for a person of my age?  Actually intended for adults?  After tomorrow I'll have a good bit of the weekend - assuming nothing terrible happens to me - to get into a routine.  Next week will be insane, but I'm going to really try and get a fat lot of reading done.  I feel better about myself when I do.

CONCLUSION: I really must see that movie about Beatrix Potter, even if it is sad.  I ought to read something more about her too.  And all her little books are free on Project Gutenberg, so I can read them without any danger of late fines.  Even though they're great, it's really galling, paying fines for such diminutive books.  Even if it is only 30 cents.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

30/365 Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl


I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I know I haven't been good and read anything long for an age.  I can't say how distracting it is, living in a nice new house (well, at least new to me) on a lake.  There was nothing to do but read in that depressing apartment.
 I will try to do better.  It's been a long week.

But! All that said, this book is FANTASTIC.  Roald Dahl is so wonderful I want to scream.  The cover reads, "The premier storyteller of our time brings his own brand of wicked humor to six favorite fairy tales." And it's spot on.  Snow White pinching the magic mirror to give to the dwarves (ex-jockeys) and using it to make bets on horse races and become millionaires.  I mean!  Or take the opening of Cinderella, for example:

I guess you think you know this story.
You don't. The real one's much more gory.
The phoney one, the one you know,
Was cooked up years and years ago,
And made to sound all soft and sappy
Just to keep the children happy.

And Goldilocks and the Three Bears:

This famous little wicked tale
Should never have been put on sale.
It is a mystery to me
Why loving parents cannot see
That this is actually a book
About a brazen little crook.

Or the end of Red Riding Hood:

The smart girl smiles. One eyelid flickers.
She whips a pistol from her knickers.
She aims it at the creature's head
and bang bang bang, she shoots him dead.
A few weeks later, in the wood,
I came across Miss Riding Hood.
But what a change! No cloak of red,
No silly hood upon her head.
She said, 'Hello, and do please note
'My lovely furry WOLFSKIN COAT.'

CONCLUSION: Roald Dahl rules the world.  Though, I already knew this.

Monday, August 8, 2011

29/365 Ephesians



I was going to put, "Ephesians, by God" as the title, but somehow it looked a little bit wrong.  Flippant or something.  You know.    

I could say a lot about this one.  I liked it.  But I'm tired.  I guess the world can do without my brilliant prose and witticisms tonight.  I'll leave you with a quote.

This bit makes me sad:
"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love..."  
Because I know I don't do it.

There are lots of bits that make me want to cry I'm so happy and grateful and incredulous, but I really wish I'd remembered all that stuff up there today. 

CONCLUSION:

Only one life, 'twill soon be past,
Only what's done for Christ will last

P.S.  I really like that Bible up there.  It's the first big sort of Bible I've ever owned - the sort where nearly half of each page is taken up with notes.  It's ridiculous, but I never really realized how great having those notes is.  Worth every penny.  

Sunday, August 7, 2011

28/365 North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

Drama! Mist! Look of love! 
So I love this book.
I've read it before, but that first read-through was more like gulping or flying or something, I so wanted to find out what all happened.  I went in this time wanting to read more slowly and thoughtfully, but the third read is going to have to be the charm - I raced through it again. 

I know Gaskell was a victorian lady, and Jane Austen lived rather before that, but I can't help comparing their books.  Dynamic female leads!  I must say, though, that there is rather more action in North and South than, say, in Emma.  In Emma there's a gypsy attack, almost a snow storm and a great deal of angst.  In North and South six people die (one suicide, four illnesses, and a manslaughter), there's a riot in which people are injured, and main characters faint on a regular basis.  It's a veritable bloodbath in comparison.

It's really interesting to me that social historians like her books. I mean, like from a professional standpoint. Who can speak of nebulous social historians' personal reading tastes?  Not I, good sir.  But the social stuff in the story sort of is the tension of the whole thing.   I like that.  I know social tension is, to varying degrees, a deal in every story - but it's a bigger deal in this one.  And I have a vague idea that social stuff was a bigger deal in the Victorian era than it is now.  I mean, like, I think somebody told me it was or something.  Like, yeah.

I actually didn't read this book all the way through - I had bits of it read to me.  Librivox, baby.  There  are some seriously good amateur readers.  And when others were too, ah, awful to listen to, I just read the chapter to myself. And when I did I didn't actually read a paper book.  Project Gutenberg, baby.  Nook, baby.  What a modern girl I am.

I'm contemplating the purchase of an audiobook version read by the FANTASTIC Juliet Stevenson, but I haven't been able to nerve myself up to paying 28 dollars for it.  Juliet Stevenson, incidentally, played Mrs. Elton in the Gwyneth Paltrow Emma.   She and Harriet Walters are, like, two of my favorite British actresses.  I adore them.  I just adore everything tonight.  My sister and I saw Captain America tonight, and it was adorable.  I think I could adore just about anything right now.

Okay, this is so off topic, but Captain America featured Richard Armitage as a tooth-crunching Nazi.  Weird, because coming so fresh from North and South, I couldn't believe he was bad.  I mean, he did a great job, but he was still Mr. Thornton in my head.  Also, glad as I am for him, I am having a hard time picturing him as a dwarf.  I could have seen John Rhys-Davies I could have seen - he's sort of big and jolly and barrel-like.  Richard Armitage seems way too tall.  I just associate him with tallness.  But I'm still glad and think he's going to do a marvelous job.  I also think the guy playing Bilbo is going to be perfect.  Hitchhiker's Guide convinced me - a guy who can say "I need a cup of tea" with that much conviction isn't going to have any problems.

Wow.  Tangents galore tonight.

While we are wandering about, I would like to make it known that, though there are differences, I like the film adaptation of North and South very much.  The differences work.  It's one of the few cases where I enjoy it more because they're different - you get more.

Okay, last tangent:  Don't you think, imaginary reader, that it would be way more fun to be a British actor?  I don't mean because you'd automatically have the option of audiobooks on the side, thanks to your marvelous accent, but because all the British actors have potlucks together in their backyards.  They all know each other.   They have all worked in either a Harry Potter or Jane Austen movie.  Their kids have playdates.  It's like a big happy family.  I know it's true.  There seems to be a pool of actors in England that just do movies together all the time.  A works with B, B works with C, C works with A, and wham-o they're over at each other's houses playing scrabble and watching football.  (And I mean FOOTball.)

CONCLUSION:  I need to go to bed.  And read more Elizabeth Gaskell.  I haven't read of her other stuff because - get this - I'm afraid I won't like it as much as North and South.   I know, right?  Weirdo.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

27/365 The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis


Gee whiz, I love C.S. Lewis.  Poor "Gaius and Titius".  Sort of awful to be remembered that way.

I've read this before - but, as with all C.S. Lewis, it never gets old. Every time I re-read his books something finally, really clicks or some sodden, dusty corner of my brain gets a little flash of light and a burst of pep.  He explains things so well.  Even I can understand most of what he's talking about.  Not all or it, but a good piece.  Which is more than I can say of most books.  I feel the terribleness of my own writing rawther keenly when I come out of his books.  I wish I could have heard it in its original lecture form!

I can't really say much about the content of this book, because I will end up sounding like a complete moron.   It's good.   I like how you see the same subject showing up in his other books.  When you read about an idea in three different books, all presenting it through different styles or metaphors or whatever, it has a way of broadening your understanding of the idea.  At least, it does for me.

CONCLUSION:  I ought to read Miracles and The Problem of Pain and The Pilgrim's Regress.  They're the only Lewis books I haven't read, and it's been stupid of me.

Friday, August 5, 2011

26/365 The Story of Miss Moppet by Beatrix Potter

I was in... Vancouver.

CONCLUSION: I WILL buckle down tomorrow.  I PROMISE. No more Squirrel Nutkin to the rescue.  At least not for a while.


the week in reading: 30 July - 5 August

Well.  Um.  So!  Not the best week yet on record.  But also not the worst.

Beatrix Potter and her lovely five minute picture books came to the rescue, ah, frequently.  I did not feel proud of that.  But at least I'm reading.  And they truly are great.   This upcoming week, I'd like to step it up again.  I have to get back into good habits before school starts. Yipes!

I'm having a hard time getting my reading done because this new house is so distracting.  Well, this new yard actually.  I spend a lot of time swimming.  But I don't feel too guilty because fall will be here all too soon and my legs are shockingly white.  My mother actually laughed the other day when I emerged from the house in my board shorts.  It's weird looking down and realizing that those astonishingly white limbs are actually attached to my body.  I can hardly believe it.

I will try to focus this week.  I'll try to read something good and long and preferably written for grown-ups.  I can feel my books eyeing me reproachfully.


Au revoir, my dear blog.  I'm going to go... uh... swim in the lake now.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

25/365 And the Pursuit of Happiness by Maira Kalman

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I LOVE MAIRA KALMAN.
I love her.  Her pictures make my day better, and make me dress better. She makes me want to get out and do something.  Visit a museum, take lessons, travel, enjoy the neighborhood.  I LOVE her books.  
Her curiosity is... I don't know... delightful!  I think she's so great because she doesn't present herself as some lofty intellectual who is just too well-read and well-educated for you - she writes like a human being.  A smart human being, but still definitely human.  She can still be inspired by things.  Admire people.   She seems humble, I guess.
I hate reading books - popular books of literary criticism in particular - where the author won't come out and tell you that they like something.  I like gushing!  I like hearing that people like the authors I like! Like, a lot!  (Mom, that's why I thought The Magician's Book was so great.  Now you know.)  Blah blah, books about books are supposed to be dry and precise - but literature seems such an imprecise art to me!  I will never agree that this or that novel is the best on earth - never.  Because, at root, the person asserting that Moby Dick is the best ever is still at least a teensy bit biased because they liked it.  Now, if  I said that Moby Dick is the best novel ever you could believe it because I hated Moby Dick.

SO!  I'm sorry I'm so dithery and distracted.  I'm about to go for a swim and I just got home from work and I got a new dress this afternoon (I'm wearing it over my jeans right now) and the Kooks are playing in the background, so focus is a little on the short side this fine day.

CONCLUSION:  I need to check out Spinoza and De Tocqueville.  Spinoza because this is the second book of hers I've read that mentions him, and De Tocqueville because I read about him again today in the intro to The Crucible, and two times is too much of a coincidence.   I LOVE MAIRA I LOVE MAIRA.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

24/365 The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher by Beatrix Potter

Yes, Beatrix Potter comes to the rescue at 10:00 again.  I'm working extra hours and unpacking boxes and, um, swimming in the lake - and this evening we watched Napoleon Dynamite and School of Rock with a girl who's leaving for college next week - so... yeah.  I've got a list of excuses as long as your arm.

I will honestly say that I'm beginning to adore Beatrix Potter.  What a sense of humor!  If I ever have kids, I'm going to buy them these books.  They're delightful.  I particularly enjoyed Sir Isaac Newton's waistcoat.

I would also like to note that I read like ten chapters of the book of Genesis today, and offer the note as proof that I didn't spend the entire day melting my brain.  I feel a tiny bit bad because Many Waters prompted me to do so - ordinarily I spend my time in the New Testament, but hey!  If it gets me reading...

CONCLUSION: Still have to buckle down and get reading more... rigorous material.  Though I am enjoying Beatrix Potter very much.

I'm going to go buy the School of Rock soundtrack now.  My priorities are not exactly in an ideal order, but I'm enjoying myself.  So.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

23/365 Candida by George Bernard Shaw


Okay, I'm getting in the groove again.

I liked this.  He's such a great writer.  So many plays sound ridiculously fake to me.  The lines, I mean. Lots of the ones I read in Intro to Lit just made me wild.  This story was dramatic and everything, but I believed the lines.

I think I got a bit of it too.  Which probably means precisely the opposite, but oh well.

CONCLUSION: I think I would like to read Man and Superman and the other two plays. I like George Bernard Shaw.  If only because I read this on the wall of a book store once:

George Bernard Shaw telegrammed Winston Churchill just prior to the opening of Major Barbara: "Have reserved two tickets for first night. Come and bring a friend if you have one."
Churchill wired back, "Impossible to come to first night. Will come to second night, if you have one."


ON A SIDE NOTE: I got the lovely B&N edition you see above at the much-talked of (at least on here) library sale.


That is where he now lives.  I love my room.  No piled-up books.  No floor stacks.  They all have homes.  I sit on my bed and bask in the glory of it.  

Monday, August 1, 2011

22/365 The Sly Old Cat by Beatrix Potter

Yes, Squirrel Nutkin to the rescue again. Another lovely short Beatrix Potter.  At least I'm trying again.  These days have been exhausting.  I MUST get back on track.  I think I have 3 catch-up books to read.

CONCLUSION: Moving is exhausting.  Must get to bed earlier.  As much as I love these books, I must read something longer than Beatrix Potter this week.

P.S. I got all my books put away.  It looks wonderful.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

21/365 The Tale of Tom Kitten by Beatrix Potter

Gah! Days missed!
I'm giving myself a break though - moving was INSANE.  Great, but chaos.  So.  I'm going to be doing some catch-up reading.  I barely squeezed this one in last night.  I'm hoping that things will mellow somewhat this week.  I want to get back on the project.

The Tale of Tom Kitten was wonderful.

CONCLUSION: I am going to read all of her little books.  Also, I suck.

Friday, July 29, 2011

the week in reading: 23-29

Not, um, the most successful of weeks.  Moving took over my life.  I still haven't quite wrestled control  back yet.  (Becoming homeowners has suddenly plunged us back into the world of yardwork and fence building and repairs. But I'm not complaining too much.  I have my own room.  I can bear with a lot for that.)  Doing better, but I'm still sort of wobbly.  I need a routine, and then everything will get better.

This week, I would like to do my catch-up reading and stay strong.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

20/365 Selected poems of Emily Dickinson

I PROMISE I read.  But we were at a new house with no internet.  So.  Very tired, but happy.

I liked the poems.  Didn't get them all, but I'm over my "Too many freaking dashes!" prejudice.

CONCLUSION:  will read more.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

19/365 Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers - BEWARE: LOTS OF HOT AIR

I re-read this for the zillionth time.  Don't judge me, I had a bruiser of a day.  Sometimes you just need something familiar and comfortable.  I will say in my defense that I began on a selected poems of Emily Dickinson as well, and am going very slowly and carefully. So.

Brace yourself for a lot of jawing.  I do love this book so. 

I read somewhere that it's reckoned the first feminist detective novel.  Well, I don't know anything about feminism, but the ideas in the book seem fairly logical and, well, obvious to me, so I wonder if I'm a feminist myself.  I certainly agree with the idea that men and women are equal - equal, but not the same.  I don't know that that qualifier is in the book, but I believe it.  I suppose that if we got rid of gender and all it's accompanying hormones and what not, then we could take it off.  I feel like I've heard people, or heard of people, getting offended by the whole "equal, but not the same" thing.  Frankly, it would offend me more to be told that we are equal and the same.  I like my differentness. In quite a basic sense, claiming sameness seems like nonsense to me.  But I haven't given it too much thought.  I always tend to say, "well, you can't generalize about anything," and then change the subject.  I don't know enough about it.  Plus, I dislike arguments.  And I've never talked to anybody besides my mum and the wise ladies of my church who could truly make it a discussion and not and argument.  Most guys are too afraid of offending to say what they honestly think. 
And I really do think it's silly to talk about men and women in general terms, particularly regarding vocations - you might obviously meet a man and a woman who are more similar than two women.  Humans are so different. 

I realized this evening that I have rather strong personal feelings about children - and it tends to screw with my judgement.  I know it is not something to be proud of, but I don't really like children. Particularly small children.  Sounds ridiculous, coming from a 21 year old, but I never really have.  However, I firmly believe that, if I ever had my own kids, it would be very different.  I see an odd, fierce part of my character come out when I hear women complaining about their children, how inconvenient they are, and about how much daycare costs.  I know, I am not a mom.  I know, kids can be trying - heck, I know I was trying!  But when I hear that sort of thing, I have to admit that my first thought is, "well why on earth did you have them then?"  I know - I know - that if I once had children, something inside me would snap, and I would want to be with them always.  I don't mean that I'd try to keep them babies forever, or never let them leave the house - at least, I hope I won't.  But I am going to want to be very present in their early lives.  It would kill me not to be.  And this very strong conviction screws with my ability to be impartial.  I will never be able to talk to people about this sort of thing, because my personal feelings make me incapable of understanding opposing viewpoints.  I guess it's good to know that, but it feels rather awful.  I would so like to be detached and logical about everything. 

But all this is just gas.  Blah blah blah. 

This book has become one of the most personally important I've read this year.  Vocation is addressed, and, as you've probably noticed, that's been an issue for me lately.  And all my friends seem to be galloping down the aisle right and left.  I never imagined I'd be thinking about marriage and its implications at quite this early an age.  I know I'm not ready to be married yet.  And not only because I'm not quite settled in who I am, or ready for the responsibility, or even remotely financially solid.  I just think I'm not mature enough.  It's like... moving back home after you're married.  It might be fine for some people, but I know I'd want to be treated differently, but wouldn't behave differently, and then would be upset when my treatment matched my behavior.  Did that make one iota of sense?  I think I would go into a marriage wanting, needing to be treated like an equal - head on, going in like a fighter.  But I think I would actually go in with childish desires.  I'm not talking about "wives submit to your husbands" at all - I mean that I would probably try to replace my mom with my husband - even while I would consciously want nothing of the sort.  There are things I need to grow out of before I could enter into marriage on the footing I'd like.  I want to actually be a helper to my spouse - not a dead weight. (This makes me think of a whole side line about "helping" my spouse, but I really must go to bed, and nobody wants to hear it.  So I won't torture you any further, my dear blog.)

This is, of course, assuming that somebody on this planet would actually want to marry me.  A long shot, I know.  And I don't blame them.  

CONCLUSION:  I don't know what all this had to do with Gaudy Night.   It really is much better than my blabber would make anyone believe.   Makes you just weep to be at Oxford.  Also, it makes me wonder how hard it is to punt.  I would love to go punting, but I'd much rather be punted than punt.  If you can only look either "graceful or ghastly" doing it, I'd rather not take the chance.  Vanity, vanity. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

18/365 A Presumption of Death


Gah! Almost forgot about this project - lucky I happened to read this in the bath this evening.  I have to go to bed, so I'll just say quickly that I will always be a quite absurdly prejudiced against novels finished by other people (Sandtion and the Charles Osbourne Agatha Christies made me howl), and they will never seem the same to me, and I am so hopelessly in love with L.P.W. and Harriet that I will read anything about them.   So, in a modest kind of way, I still enjoyed myself.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

17/365 Gossamer, by Lois Lowry


I wish I could find a better picture of the cover online, because both times I've read this book the cover is what initially attracted me.  It's not, like, my absolute ideal perfect favorite, but it is a pretty great cover.  I think I would change the multi-colored lettering, but I'm not sure to what.  I can imagine reasons why colored lettering might have been used - maybe a pop of color to draw the eye, as it's black and white, or to make it less spooky looking.  Usually when multi-colored letters are done, the yellow looks too pale, but they did a good job with that.  It drives me insane when people do primary colored lettering on things, and the words end up looking like they're missing letters.  Our local children's hospital has a sign that at a glance reads, "We ove ids" on the side of the building.

Okay, I'm done ranting.

Like I said, I've read this book before.  But it was so long ago that I'd honestly forgotten the story.  I don't know if it's just me, or one of the things that comes with old age, but I've forgotten so many stories.  The books I particularly love? No problem.  But I'd read almost all of the Newberry Award winners by the time I was 14, and I can't remember what happens in at least half of them.  Oh well.  I'm always getting to re-read books with first-time enjoyment, so it's not all that bad.

I can vaguely remember liking this book when I read it the first time, and I liked it on this go round as well.  It's sweet and short and airy.   Apparently it's been done as a play somewhere or other, because pics came up on my google search.   Interesting.
I must say, it's been a while since an image of a character on a cover has, like, worked for me.  I saw that kid in my head while I was reading. Whoever thought that up has my approval.  It actually added to my reading experience.

CONCLUSION:  I hope I always have Lois Lowry books about the house. I know I said I didn't remember this story, but many of her other books have left a big stamp on my early reading life.  Like I've said before, I've read The Giver at least 25 times.  A Summer to Die was one of the few books that have, if not actually made me cry, made me want to cry.  You've Got M@il is the sum of all wisdom: "When you read a book as a child it become part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does."  Amen.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

16.2/365 Max Deluxe - Maira Kalman

Among many other things, I bought Max Deluxe (all the three Max books in one volume) at the library book sale, and read it in the car in the afternoon.  Which shows how much I enjoyed it, because reading in the car makes me sick.  I never throw up, but I turn greenish and moan, "ughh, is the air conditioner on?  I need to roll the window down..."

I've been a Maira Kalman fan for a while now, thanks to a chance encounter with The Elements of Style at B&N.  I bought The Principles of Uncertainty a few months ago, and I haven't felt even a tinge of regret - which is what usually happens when I buy books new. (I bought it - also at B&N - during a tornado warning, incidentally.  All the lights went out and the sirens were blaring and we all were herded into the back of the store where, supposedly, it was safer.  People sat underneath the CD racks.   It was hugely entertaining. Frankly, I thought flying CD cases would be much more dangerous than flying paperbacks.  When you look at it from an everything-around-you-is-going-to-be-a-projectile perspective, magazines and romance novels would probably be the safest bet.  Though I would not want to die beneath a pile of romance novels.  I called my mum to tell her what was going on and she said, "Well, at least you'll die surrounded by things you love.")

But! Back to Max!


The books aren't my usual thing, but I liked 'em.  They're worth buying just for the details.  It's the only book I've ever seen where even the publication information was messed with.


And I loved the pictures, which sort of goes without saying. 

The stories are sort of topsy-turvy and are certainly not Dick and Jane-ish, or like, "Bobby went to the grocery store with his Mother."  You know what I mean?  They're just all over the place.  When I read them aloud, I enjoyed them more.  It's sort of duh, Kelsey of me, but while I was reading it I forgot that a major element in a picture book is the way the words actually sound aloud.  Like poetry, you know?  Goodnight Moon is just a regular old book when you read it without at least saying the words in your head.  But aloud it's magical. 


CONCLUSION: I am so glad that I'm planning to become an illustrator if only because I now have a fantastic, unbreakable excuse for buying kid's books.  It's research. Choosing to study illustration was, like, the smartest thing I've ever done.  Oh frabjous day!