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jillmwo's reading and rambling in 2012

The Green Dragon

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1jillmwo
Jan 2, 2012, 10:11am Top

Over the course of the past few days, my spouse and I have watched a number of Shakespeare-related DVDs. It began with the documentary, Discovering Hamlet, which features Derek Jacobi directing Kenneth Branagh in Hamlet for a live stage performance. What I largely came away with was the idea that directors must have to know the text of a play at such an internal level of absorption. It’s more than simply having read the play; it’s more than simply having played a particular part within that play and thereby having more than a passing familiarity with the lines. They have to have absorbed the text and the subtext, the language of the play as well as any unspoken themes.The director must have thought seriously about the various levels of text and theme. Directors must have considered each character in the play (just in order to cast the players), but also they must also have developed the possibilities in each character. How Ophelia interacts with Hamlet is more than just the scene wherein she tries to ascertain whether the man is mad with love or if its something more. Ophelia may be played as a pure innocent (immediately bruised by cold reality’s harshness), but she may also be played as someone essentially insecure from childhood (torn and uncertain) even before Hamlet’s behavior drives her over the edge. Which (of just those two interpretations) does the director want to see driving the action on-stage? Jacobi has a tremendous difficulty in stepping away from the physical acting on stage while directing; indeed, he says in the beginning that he -- as director -- wants to be considered as a member of the cast. His presence as the director (even if he is not onstage) should be felt by the cast in his direction of their playing as well as being felt by the audience (in terms of his interpretation of the various aspects of Hamlet and how his differs from foregoing interpretations).

The second thing that hit me was the very real difference between reading Shakespeare’s lines (as a reader of poetic form) and that of watching Shakespeare’s play unfolding with some plausibility. Some forms of Shakespeare deliver the performance with minimal set, costumes, etc., but with emphasis on the deliberate delivery of lines that have entered into our conscious use of the language. Other deliveries of Shakespeare want to make the performance so lifelike that phrases of lines may be swallowed up in the moment of emotional delivery. Two very different forms of performance and very different audience experiences. I’ve been reading Hamlet over the past three or four days and I have found that one loses that as a solitary reader, moving slowly, reading all the words in one’s head, playing all the characters, but listening for the sound of the poetry rather than actually playing the part. I have been *reading* the play, but that’s not the same way of experiencing Shakespeare as watching Derek Jacobi, Kenneth Branagh or David Tennant play the title role.

My print edition of Hamlet Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Prince of Denmark has illustrations by John Austen, dating back to 1922. Very reminiscent of Aubrey Beardsley, which is yet another disconnect of sorts. Austen’s interpretation of Hamlet is not at all like the film versions I’ve seen of this play.

I have on The Canterville Ghost (in the background) as I type and this particular film version has Patrick Stewart playing the Ghost, who assumes the role of Hamlet’s father’s ghost for purposes of proving his existence to one of the characters. I didn’t know this when I left it on this channel but it does seem as if everything around me is lending itself to thinking about Hamlet.

2maggie1944
Jan 2, 2012, 10:36am Top

Got you starred, loving your ramblings! carry on...

3sandragon
Jan 2, 2012, 1:38pm Top

My niece and I were discussing Hamlet just last week, Kenneth Branagh's vs David Tennant's vs Mel Gibson's. Your thoughts have made me wonder how Branagh's Hamlet differs between when he was directed by Jacobi and when he directed himself.

I also remember doing Hamlet in school. From seeing the various Hamlet productions since then I get the impression that Hamlet is faking a lot, or all, of his madness whereas in school we took it for granted he was definitely mad. Which makes me wonder as well if his madness is open to interpretation, or did I just miss something in school?

4jillmwo
Edited: Jan 2, 2012, 2:42pm Top

I just found this blog entry dating from early in 2011 that shows some of the illustrations in the version of Hamlet that I'm reading from: http://pennywhistlesandmoonpies.blogspot.com/2011/04/john-austens-hamlet-illustr...

More information about that artist is available at: http://www.bpib.com/illustrat/austen.htm

5Busifer
Jan 2, 2012, 3:10pm Top

Hmn, I think I need dig up some Hamlet. I could recite large parts of it in my late teens but I can't say I ever really understood it.

6GeorgiaDawn
Jan 2, 2012, 4:50pm Top

I think I'll stay away from Hamlet for a while, but I should reread it at some point. It's been years (college) since I read it.

I'll be following your thread.

7jillmwo
Jan 7, 2012, 9:23am Top

Well, a few more days of contemplating Hamlet. Here are some bullet points (as opposed to any well crafted paragraphs).

Bullet From a thematic standpoint, I can make a case for the idea that this is really a play about the consequences of corrupt actions. Corruption of body (mortality or the Ghost of Hamlet's Father), corruption of love (the Ophelia-Gertrude contrast), corruption of power (Claudius' power grab, that of young Fortinbras). Hamlet kills Polonius which is a corruption of his original intent to punish Claudius. Claudius and Gertrude ask Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to spy for them on Hamlet, thereby creating a corruption of the friendship between the young men. This is where Austen's illustrations in my copy of Hamlet make some sense; those seem to make an effort at capturing the grimness as well of the drama in the play.

Bullet I feel as if the action in the first two acts are largely dominated in triads of key characters. In Act 1, Scene 1 you see Horatio, The Ghost, and Marcellus/Bernardo (two soldiers joined at the hip rather than being particular characters). You get the throne room in Scene 2, with the key action surrounding the King, Queen and Hamlet. Subsequently, you get Polonius, Ophelia, and Laertes in Scene 3. In Act 3, when you have everyone manipulating everyone else, it may become more complex.

Bullet There is a question in my mind after sampling a number of different film versions of Hamlet as to when a production is best served by introducing Hamlet's madness. And to what extent is that madness feigned? And is there no such thing as a quiet madness? (The film actors all seem to work themselves into a frenzy of madness.) Shakespeare doesn't really indicate where the line of Hamlet's behavior actually gets drawn between reality and artifice.

Bullet Gertrude would be a more interesting character to play than Ophelia. In the David Tennant version, the actress playing Gertrude takes her from this perfectly manicured and clothed aristocratic woman to a nearly haggard middle-aged woman. I don't think that's the case in the Branagh film when Julie Christie is playing Gertrude; in that instance, Gertrude's hair gets mussed but not more than that

I have also been reading a short book Actors Talk About Shakespeare which has interviews with Kevin Kline, Derek Jacoby, and Kenneth Branagh. The way they speak of preparing for a role in Shakespeare is quite striking. For example, Branagh apparently had it written into his contract before he played Richard III that he got to have a full year in which to prepare the role. They work very hard at mastering both the language of the lines and creating a realistic character that modern mental frameworks can recognize as having some parallel to contemporary life.

8MrsLee
Jan 7, 2012, 1:28pm Top

That book of interviews sounds interesting. Did you watch Mel Gibson's Hamlet? I've seen that one, the one starring Kenneth Branagh and Sir Lawrence Olivier. Sadly, I never finished watching David Tennant's, though I intend to one of these days. I never tire of Hamlet. So many layers and thoughts and interpretations.

9jillmwo
Edited: Jan 8, 2012, 8:41am Top

MrsLee, I didn't like the Tennant the first time through because I thought he had a bit too much of his Dr. Who in the role, but the second time I watched the movie without any distraction and overall it made a much more favorable impression. We've just started the Mel Gibson version which I wanted to see because it is Glenn Close playing Gertrude. The Branagh I actually saw in the theatre when it first opened and I'm afraid I was much more focused on a particularly gratuitous shot of Kenneth Branagh's tush and the background of Blenheim palace (which I had actually visited).

The book of interviews is not particularly well written, but the bits and pieces do give it some interest. I just received in the mail today, a book about the filming of Branagh's version which includes the screenplay and makes an interesting contrast with the 1922.

I just looked at what I've spent in recent weeks on books and DVDs and I must impose an immediate suspension of purchasing for quite the forseeable future.

Updated to Add: Glen Close as Queen Gertrude dominates the Mel Gibson version of Hamlet. Zeffirelli gave her room (both dramatically and photographically) to bring the character forward even though the number of lines granted the role in this version were limited. I liked Zeffirelli's vision of Hamlet (right period, right venue, etc.) but he does cut and rearrange entire soliloquies and scenes to fit his purpose. If he was any kind of a playwright in real life, Will Shakespeare was likely twirling in his grave.

10MrsLee
Jan 8, 2012, 1:59pm Top

"I just looked at what I've spent in recent weeks on books and DVDs"

Silly girl, never look back!

It's been some time, since I've watched the Zeffirelli film. Usually, when I watch various interpretations of the plays, there is something I like in each one.

I also watched several versions of MacBeth and enjoyed the darkness and insanity portrayed differently in each. One of my favorites being the live version watched at a local college which was performed with the audience sitting in the round.

Last year I had a goal of reading all the Shakespeare plays and watching at least two versions of each, but I got distracted by Greeks. I'll pick it up again.

11jillmwo
Edited: Jan 8, 2012, 5:17pm Top

Don't mind me: I'm just testing something out



Well, I'd prefer it if the image were bigger, but okay.

12jillmwo
Edited: Jan 9, 2012, 7:25pm Top

Second test, using Morphy's recommendation



Ah! Much better. Morphy is clearly an information goddess.

13jillmwo
Jan 9, 2012, 7:47pm Top

Since there's a book group meeting next week, I am trying to kick-start my reading of Graceling by Kristin Cashore. Surprisingly engaging for a YA coming-of-age fantasy tale. I didn't expect to like this, but 75 pages in, I've been enjoying it more than I would have thought. The story is of a young girl with unique talents (magically endowed with extraordinary fighting skills) and mismatched eye colors. She is alienated from other more ordinary folk on the basis of both her talent and eyes. The voice and behaviors of the character are entirely credible.

14Morphidae
Jan 10, 2012, 7:29am Top

*preens*

15jillmwo
Jan 13, 2012, 8:32pm Top

<IMG SRC= "http://images.amazon.com/images/P/0547258305.01._SX140_SY225_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg"

This took less time to read than I'd anticipated it might. I was afraid I would be bored if it was too predictable a YA fantasy. As it turned out, I found it an engaging coming of age story for a modern adolescent. The characterization was robust and hence believable although the world in which those characters were living wasn’t as strong as it might have been. The magic that exists in this world is seen in the skills we see in the heroine (Katsa) and hero (Po) have - Graces, particularly heightened capabilities that excel far beyond normal human achievement. Katsa has to learn with the negative aspect of her Grace which lends too much power to those close to her; Po has to learn who can be trusted with his. Once they’ve embarked on their journey together -- a quest to save two of Po’s relatives -- the two mature into greater understanding of their society and their place within that society’s power structure. There is more than a little romance in the novel, but it’s held in check and there are sufficient plot twists to keep the reader’s interest in the fate of Katsa and Po.

It was an award winner, receiving the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature and SFWA’s Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, It also appeared on a number of “Best of” lists, including the 2009 Amelia Bloomer List (Recommended Feminist Literature for Birth through 18).

Certainly I’ll keep this author’s subsequent novels in mind for future reading.

16jillmwo
Edited: Jan 13, 2012, 8:35pm Top

Graceling by Kristin Cashore



This took less time to read than I'd anticipated it might. I was afraid I would be bored if it was too predictable a YA fantasy. As it turned out, I found it an engaging coming of age story for a modern adolescent. The characterization was robust and compelling although the world in which the characters moved wasn’t as strong as it might have been. The magic that exists in this world is seen in the skills we see in the heroine (Katsa) and hero (Po) have - Graces, particularly heightened capabilities that excel far beyond normal human achievement. Katsa has to learn with the negative aspect of her Grace which lends too much power to those close to her; Po has to learn who can be trusted with his. Once they’ve embarked on their journey together -- a quest to save two of Po’s relatives -- the two mature into greater understanding of their society and their place within that society’s power structure. There is more than a little romance in the novel, but it’s held in check and there are sufficient plot twists to keep the reader’s interest in the fate of Katsa and Po.

It was an award winner, receiving the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature and SFWA’s Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, It also appeared on a number of “Best of” lists, including the 2009 Amelia Bloomer List (Recommended Feminist Literature for Birth through 18).

Certainly I’ll keep the author’s subsequent novels in this fantasy world in mind for future reading.

17jillmwo
Jan 16, 2012, 7:48pm Top



I'm reading stories before I go to sleep at night from this anthology of Leigh Brackett's short stories and novellas, published back in the '40's. The woman wrote so cinematically; you can tell when she's using a pan shot vs. a close-up. As I said somewhere else, in the hands of anyone else these would be a bad movie on the SyFy channel. But when she writes them, you simply admire the creativity of her mind and her gift for storytelling.

18Meredy
Jan 17, 2012, 1:06am Top

jillmwo, here's a present for you:



And here it is again with two trailing hard spaces:

•  Bullet point.

Here's the code for that. Replace my question marks with ampersands and it'll work.

?bull;?nbsp;?nbsp;

I love being able to do that!

19jillmwo
Jan 17, 2012, 8:12pm Top

Meredy, I am embarrassed to tell you that I've been using WYSIWYG editors for so long that I have forgotten some of the hard HTML coding that I actually used to know. (This from a woman who remembers the day that the Alta Vista search engine first came online and how thrilling it was!!!!) Thank you for reminding me.

The Green Dragon Pub has many information goddesses wandering in and out.

20majkia
Jan 17, 2012, 9:00pm Top

Ah, yes. Alta Vista.... Of course I've used punch cards...

21maggie1944
Jan 17, 2012, 9:05pm Top

oh, my: punch cards. One of my earliest jobs was doing something with punch cards... back in the 1960s at the University. Long time ago.

22Meredy
Jan 17, 2012, 9:25pm Top

>19 jillmwo:: It doesn't work quite the same on all sites, though. That's the way to do it on LT. I got it right here.

>20 majkia:, 21: When I went to work in high tech in Silicon Valley back in the early '90s, I took an old 80-column IBM card and slid it into a sheet protector with the label: "Do you know what this is?" Even then I was astonished at the number of people who stopped by my cubicle to say "No--what is it?"

I used to pay my phone bill, my electricity bill, and some number of others with a check and a returnable punched card just like that. Where I worked in the early '70s, we were more modern: we used the half-size 96-column cards on the IBM System/3.

23jillmwo
Edited: Jan 22, 2012, 7:33pm Top

Okay folks. The uncomfortable topic of the day is weeding one's collection. (I've been slowly filling boxes to pass on to either our local library or to Goodwill) What criteria do you use in determining whether it is time to pass a book along?

•   Is it whether it's been down from the shelf in a given timeframe? I have books that I know have been sitting on a shelf untouched for a good five years or more.

•   Do you pass on titles that have to do with a topic that once was important and engaging to you if you know that you're unlikely to "go back there"?

•   How many duplicate editions of a work do you keep? (Yes, I now own at least two copies of every single work written by Jane Austen and I have multiple copies of some of them, such as annotated or illustrated editions. The only thing I don't have is the full set in leatherbound...)

•   It's easy to dump non-fiction titles that are superseded. Others are harder to determine. Do you dump works by authors that you suspect are too dense to be read by stress-addled, swiss cheese brains?

And those bullets (assuming I've done it correctly) are thanks to Meredy. If I didn't do it right, it's all me. (Updated to add that the first time, I didn't do it right because I failed to read the instructions properly!! It helps to RTFM, doesn't it?)

24jillmwo
Jan 22, 2012, 3:05pm Top

BTW, Morphy has a good habit of listing her weekly reading, indicating what she's read, what she's stopped reading and what's next on deck.

For the record, I am continuing to read Lorelei of the Red Mist and I have been reading this weekend a more prosaic and real-world anthology, The New York Stories of Edith Wharton. Short fiction is about all I can do at present.

Which didn't stop me from beginning GRRM's Storm of Swords during my commute this last week. It will take me MONTHS to get through it.

Oh, and have you encountered the odd fantasy, Miss Hargreaves? That's also by my bedside.

Also at some point in the next week, I have to really prep my book talk on Christie's Death on the Nile for the local library.

25tardis
Jan 22, 2012, 3:22pm Top

23> This is what I do - not that it is the best thing for everyone, but for consideration only.

• Is it whether it's been down from the shelf in a given timeframe? I have books that I know have been sitting on a shelf untouched for a good five years or more.

No. My main criteria is "will I ever read it again?" Not perfect - I know I am delusional about the number of books I think I will read again.

• Do you pass on titles that have to do with a topic that once was important and engaging to you if you know that you're unlikely to "go back there"?

yes

• How many duplicate editions of a work do you keep? (Yes, I now own at least two copies of every single work written by Jane Austen and I have multiple copies of some of them, such as annotated or illustrated editions. The only thing I don't have is the full set in leatherbound...)

None. The only duplication in my catalogue is if my kids have their own copies of something I own. Oh, and one copy of Pride and Prejudice because my other copy is part of an unwieldy omnibus edition.

• It's easy to dump non-fiction titles that are superseded. Others are harder to determine. Do you dump works by authors that you suspect are too dense to be read by stress-addled, swiss cheese brains?

I acquire very little non-fiction for myself, aside from gardening books, which are a bit of an addiction. I would without hesitation dump anything dense or unreadable unless I was actively using it for a project.

26maggie1944
Jan 22, 2012, 6:00pm Top

I am mid-cull right now. I pick books which are unlikely to be read again, and have some value (unusual, high quality) and take them to the people who actually buy good used books. Then, I pile into a box books I'm unlikely to ever open again, topics which no longer interest me, and they to to another buyer of used books. Occasionally, I throw some books into the recycling bin because I am sure no one will want them.

I keep fiction I've not yet read, classic fiction which I might re-read or consult, cookbooks which are reasonably up-to-date (except my Mom's Fanny Farmer, which I will keep forever), gardening books which are more content than pretty pictures, how to books for crafts and photography (current hobbies) and good reference books.

I have quite a few left which I need to haul to the used book people. I quite enjoy getting a little money for my lovelies.

27Marissa_Doyle
Jan 22, 2012, 6:31pm Top

Miss Hargreaves was disappointing--it sounded like an awesome premise, but the execution didn't work for me. However, YMMV.

28Morphidae
Jan 22, 2012, 7:27pm Top

I keep books that I think I will read again AND I don't think will be available at the library in the future unless it is a sentimental favorite. Also there are certain authors like Spider Robinson that I keep everything. We still have 1,500 or so books but we've cut the number by 1,000 over the last couple of years.

29MrsLee
Jan 23, 2012, 3:42pm Top

I would be careful about dumping books because you are feeling cheese-brained and stress-addled. That is a condition which comes and goes. Books don't go bad on the shelf. :)

I have certain authors whose works I keep all of, whether or not I will get around to reading them again. They make me feel good and I know I can share them and possibly introduce someone to a love of that author as well.

My shelves are loaded at the moment with books I haven't read, and/or may never get around to reading, but their subject interests me, so I keep them in case.

Everyone's situation is different, so the criteria will be different. We all have to muddle through it as best we can. :)

30heathn
Jan 23, 2012, 4:15pm Top

28 - I can't even imagine that many books in a collection. Sounds like dream room.

As for me, I don't see myself gettin rid of any books for a very long time. I am trying to build up my personal library now, in hopes of passing it on one day.

31maggie1944
Jan 23, 2012, 8:44pm Top

Yes, each of us is dealing with unique circumstances. I am 67 and have been collecting books of all sorts for probably 50 years. I am not wealthy, and I do not have a house of unlimited square footage; plus, many, many of these books are non-fiction books which no long are relevant, and are definitely out dated. For example, I stopped drinking alcohol in 1983, and much of my recovery was found in books about alcoholism, and recovery from such, and recovery from the dysfunction that was my family, shot through and through with alcoholism. I think I did my own treatment center in my living room, reading all those books. But I am sure you can see that they no longer are books I would be reading today. And many of them have notes and high lighting. They will do well to be recycled.

I know that is kind of a dramatic example but it does illustrate how some books do well in the recycling bin. Others are books I'm just not using like books on how to write, and usage, and the like. I no longer do writing for a living, and I am not editing anything. No need - resale.

OK. I'm finished. oh, no, I'm not: good fiction usually get given to a friend, or sold to the used book stores. I do not do re-reading at all. Once read. Good enough. Moving along. Now I am finished.

32Morphidae
Jan 24, 2012, 6:47am Top

>30 heathn: Not really. They are all packed in numbered boxes. We simply don't have the room.

33jillmwo
Jan 25, 2012, 7:21pm Top

I think part of what has held me back is that my books mark where I've been over the course of my life. I first read The Wizard of Earthsea as a college sophomore or junior in an region commonly called Southside Virginia. I read An Old-Fashioned Girl when I was 12 and living in California.

I have read bits and pieces of all of Jane Austen's novels at different points in my life -- Emma when I was confined to bed during a pregnancy and Sense and Sensibility when the boys were in elementary school. I read Lady Susan when they had gotten to middle school.

Essentially, *many* of the books I own are landmarks for me and convey something to me about my life's timeline. Honestly, I can't decide if this is pathetic or not, but it is the way I am and explains why sometimes it is just too hard for me to part with a book.

But there's really insufficient room for more books, particularly when I haven't had time to read the ones I own. I think each of you bring some good points to the table about why you hold on to some and not to others.

MrsLee - I've not given away anything really of deep interest to me on the basis of current stress levels, but I do sometimes wonder if I couldn't get through it ten years ago when my brain was better than it is now, when *will* I get through it.

Morphy, I too hold on to something if I suspect the local library is apt to cull it from their collection.

tardis, I appreciate your approach as well. We differ in that I do a fair amount of non-fiction.

Marissa_Doyle, I am not as charmed by Miss Hargreaves as I had hoped I would be, but I haven't given up on it yet.

Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting, folks.

34jillmwo
Edited: Feb 1, 2012, 7:28pm Top

I am two-thirds the way through A Storm of Swords which has been my commuting book. Two-thirds of the way at which point, as my son put it, George R.R. Martin offers up a "WTF moment". I may have to take to drink this evening, because there was the Red Wedding in one chapter (where there is much blood shed without much warning) and then immediately following that chapter, in the very next chapter, he kills off a very important character! (And Martin waits until the very last sentence of that chapter to kill off the character. Great writing, but truly rattled my cage by so doing.)

To say I am verklempt is insufficient. I'm pouring myself a glass of wine and contemplating the evil way of authors.

35majkia
Feb 1, 2012, 8:25pm Top

at that point I was contemplating author murder...

36MrsLee
Feb 1, 2012, 11:24pm Top

"Author murder" I think, could be perfectly justified at times if one could just get the jury to read the books.

37maggie1944
Feb 2, 2012, 8:12am Top

I've read all five books and I am here to say those events were the ones I remember most vividly. Shocking. And in a fundamental way my commitment to the books was altered. I continued, but with some less enthusiasm.

38majkia
Feb 2, 2012, 8:18am Top

I've read all five as well, but with more enthusiasm rather than less. Those events certainly awoke me from my sort-of slumber of thinking I knew where the story was going. At that point I fully recognized that this was a different kind of series and had twists and turns I'd never guess.

39jillmwo
Edited: Feb 3, 2012, 12:33pm Top

This one made me laugh out loud (and while I was at work!)
http://open.salon.com/blog/jlsathre/2012/01/11/25_things_i_learned_from_opening_...
From number 19 on, I might actually have been accused of unlady-like guffawing.

40Marissa_Doyle
Feb 3, 2012, 12:43pm Top

That was definitely guffaw-worthy--especially #21

41jillmwo
Feb 5, 2012, 1:23pm Top

This weekend, I picked up my next book group book (mystery/sf one) and began reading The Mystery of Edwin Drood. In part I'm trying to step away from GRRM and what he does to characters, and the 19th century cathedral town of Cloisterham is conducive to calm.

But, you know, Charles Dickens is not all that good with female characters. In this one, he has twittering, older spinsters and empty-headed young ones.

42MrsLee
Feb 5, 2012, 2:54pm Top

Edwin Drood was not my favorite, and all the fuss over it, I believe, is simply that it wasn't finished. But it was OK to read for the interest factor. I didn't choose to keep it.

43hfglen
Feb 5, 2012, 2:57pm Top

#42 Hear, hear! Factor in that it was a school set work and hence infinitely dissected in my yoot, and you'll see why I avoid Dickens like the plague. (To the point of once refusing a speaking engagement because the innocent society secretary described her town -- Rochester, Kent -- as Dickensian).

44maggie1944
Feb 5, 2012, 5:10pm Top

So, a "Dickensian" town would have lots of beggar children? and dirty, dark streets with air pollution?

45hfglen
Feb 6, 2012, 6:28am Top

That was what I feared, and why I have never been to Rochester. Oh, and that my mother's uncle lived in a dark and gloomy house decorated with dark and gloomy prints illustrating The Works Of Dickens.

46jillmwo
Edited: Feb 15, 2012, 7:38pm Top

One surprising tidbit I learned regarding The Mystery of Edwin Drood was that it was actually based on a crime that took place here in the United States. Apparently Charles Dickens was aware of the American murder and had met both parties at an earlier (and, one assumes, happier) occasion.

See http://john-welford.suite101.com/charles-dickens-drood-and-a-boston-murder-a1774...

I rather enjoyed some of the characters in Drood -- Mr. Grewgious and Reverend Crisparkle. Really, how can you not like Minor Canon Crisparkle?

47jillmwo
Edited: Feb 19, 2012, 11:16am Top

I've been poking around, running searches, and futzing with recommendation systems for work. I thought it might be illuminating to try to see what books might surface as related to Downton Abbey. Everyone seems to love the series and usually such obsessions drive reading into new channels. You could read about the Edwardian Era, the Belle Epoque or the Gilded Age in history. You could look for titles pertaining to World War I. Publishers are pushing the upstairs/downstairs memoirs of those in service. At any rate, for the record, here are some slightly off-beat titles related to Downton Abbey if -- like me -- you are using the series to explore.

A fictional approach to the life of Cora, Countess of Grantham
The Custom of the Country
The Shuttle

Memoirs pertaining to Lady Sybil's nursing experiences
Testament of Youth
The Forbidden Zone

War-Time Experiences
One of Ours
Return of the Soldier

Historical Non-Fiction
Edwardian Life and Leisure
The Proud Tower
The Perfect Summer
The Great Silence
The Beauty and the Sorrow: An Intimate History of the First World War

More to come:

48jillmwo
Edited: Feb 22, 2012, 9:03pm Top

I have been reading just two titles this week - the first being Testament of Youth and the second being The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. No final verdict on either as yet since Testament is a BIG book in excess of 500+ pages whereas Pleasures is much shorter but is in total support of something we all love - reading. How can one give a bad review to or disagree with that view?

49jillmwo
Edited: Mar 26, 2012, 8:25pm Top

Oh, dear, it's been nearly a month since I last posted. And yet, I have been reading.

But let me talk about the two books I finally, finally finished this weekend.



The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West isn't a long read -- only about 70 pages or thereabouts, but on some levels it is a heartbreaking read. Set in one of the Great Houses of England, the story centers around a young soldier who is suffering from an unusual form of combat-induced amnesia. His particular form of PTSD arises from the tensions created in the mind by fighting for survival when there is nothing to persuade one that life is worth fighting for because you've already lost the thing you love the most. The story is told entirely from the point of view of the soldier's family relation, Jenny, who views and understands the stress that has been created. How can one possibly bring about a cure in this instance?

The edition I have is further amplified by other writings from the period. Rebecca West wrote this as her very first novel, framed in her mind in 1915 but not actually written until 1917 or published until 1918. It's heartbreaking in some respects; it is all about the essential thing in one's heart or soul -- the real self -- as opposed to the superficial self which is constantly putting on a good face for the neighbors.

Again, truly heartbreaking.



The second book I finished this weekend was the 575 page tome, Testament of Youth which I had heard of since the 1970's, but which I had never read. The tone of it is a little difficult at time, but primarily because this young woman writes of the First World War as if it had only happened to HER generation and no other generation could possibly understand the devastation. At the same time, as a first person account of what it must have been like for an Edwardian debutante flung into the horrors of front-line nursing at a combat hospital, it's hard to find a better or more eye-opening account. She has four friends with whom she is close as a teen, one is her brother (a musician) and another, her first love (a poet). The other two young men are friends of theirs. At any rate, by the close of the war, they are all dead and it is hard for her to feel the jubilation of the Armistice celebration because she has no one left from her childhood, who knows her at the depth that those four men knew her. Her experience as a combat nurse is not particularly valued by professional nurses when she returns to London; they are disdainful, telling her (quite seriously at one point) to go polish wheelchairs.

At war's end, she goes back to Somerville at Oxford, only to be treated as if she is still a youthful nitwit. It takes ten years for her to come back to a sense of normalcy, nearly having a a nervous breakdown in the interim.

It's a powerful anti-war memoir, not least because of its indictments against bureaucracy and waste in instances where different attitudes might have helped patients and veterans.

I'm glad I read both of these and certainly, they DO tend to suggest that Julian Fellowes' treatment of World War I in Downton Abbey is quite superficial. But I don't think I would have read them, had I not watched Downton with such enjoyment, so won't bash any one for imperfection. But I do think it's time to get away from the past six weeks of history and memoirs. I need to find something else now.

50Marissa_Doyle
Mar 11, 2012, 6:41pm Top

That was a good assessment of Testament of Youth, which I also enjoyed and found very powerful.

51maggie1944
Mar 11, 2012, 8:17pm Top

I am reading Birdsong right now which also treats World War I. As I've not yet finished it, I can't say that I recommend it unreservedly; however, so far it is a very well written and captivating account of the time. Many Library Thing folks have spoken highly of it, also.

This is all just in case you are in the mood for one more.

52Sakerfalcon
Mar 13, 2012, 5:31am Top

I read Return of the soldier last year, and agree with your description of the book as heartbreaking. The understated prose just emphasised the strong emotions for me.

53jillmwo
Mar 19, 2012, 8:08pm Top

Coffee table books are dangerous. I have been dipping off and on into four books I own by Mark Girouard, architectural historian: http://www.librarything.com/catalog/jillmwo&deepsearch=Girouard%2C+Mark

He writes a combination of architectural history and social history -- specializing in 19th century, I think. He focuses on the stately country houses of England, how they developed over hundreds of years. His books are fun if you enjoy the little tidbits of how the Victorian cook had to serve up 19 (nineteen) separate teas every day or like to study floor plans in preparation for that romance novel you've yet to write. His books are loaded with black and white photos and drawings. (Most of them have a few color photos, but these titles are from the past twenty or thirty years when university presses found color to be too expensive.). His prose is not dense or particularly academic so the text does draw you in for a few pages every time you flip through.

What is problematic is that I kept having to go to the Internet to check what these great houses were used for NOW. Most of them are now conference centers or venues for special occasions, rather than being real homes. Sadly practical but hardly the end you'd like to see for buildings with such extraordinary stories associated with them.

54maggie1944
Mar 19, 2012, 8:45pm Top

I would love to flip through those books.

55jillmwo
Edited: Mar 26, 2012, 8:50pm Top



Complete shift in time and place (whiplash, even)! Tonight was my book group at the library and the book was A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn. While it's a mystery -- set in 1952 in South Africa -- it is also a commentary on the social norms and cultures in place at the time of apartheid. The novel had racial conflict as well as sex and violence, so I was somewhat concerned as to the reception by the group to this particular title. It was nominated for a Macavity back in 2010 so I had some grounds for selecting it, but still, it really was a gritty novel. But out of the fifteen women there, ten announced that they would read another by the same author. The pacing was good and the book held their attention. (Speaking personally, I wouldn't read another by this author, but it's not always my taste that matters here.)

Public libraries are under so much pressure, but it warms my heart to see this group come together every month. They take notes, they look things up, they debate one another -- this is what libraries make possible.

*thumbs up*

56maggie1944
Mar 26, 2012, 9:47pm Top

I'll add a *thumbs up* and mention that I am falling in love with the public library, all over again. I like having the time to go, and the toddlers like the toddler friendly computers.

57jillmwo
Edited: Mar 28, 2012, 8:04pm Top



I finished another book this past weekend; A Traveller in Time is a children's book from 1939. I can't recall for sure if I read it as a kid, but reading it as an adult was somewhat nostalgic. It opens in London with Penelope, the youngest child, showing signs of having the second sight. This alarms her mother to some extent and she is shipped off with her brother and sister to the healthier rural environment where a great-aunt and uncle are prepared to foster the group. Moving around the old farmhouse, Penelope encounters a parallel world of Elizabethan ghosts -- Catholics who are eager to protect the tragic (and in this book, the *highly* romanticized) Mary, Queen of Scots. The book has Penelope crossing the centuries at inconvenient times, but the joy of the book is the descriptions that Alison Uttley offers of the rooms in the farmhouse in the age of Elizabeth and in the 1930's. She writes with such love and fondness of the actual location in which she's set the story. (As it turns out this is a manor farm still in existence in Derbyshire and it is close to several of the large estates - Haddon Hall and Chatsworth. It's a b-and-b now as well as a monument to the work and life of Alison Uttley.)

As I read it however, I went and looked up her biography in Wikipedia. As it happens, she was 30 when the British entered World War I but 55 by the time this particular title was published. You can tell in A Traveller in Time that she's writing about the lessons of history, about the country that she loves deeply and the cultural heritage that she wants protected. I thought I was getting away from all the war literature by picking up this book, but clearly Uttley felt the impact of World War I deeply and foresaw to some extent the devastation that another war would wreak upon her daily life. But just as clearly, in writing about the Babington Plot, she was writing about people passionate about a cause. This is a book for older children (8-10 yr olds with a good vocabulary). I think Uttley wanted them to know sometimes you know something painful is about to happen and sometimes the only thing you can do is live through it. No wonder this is considered to be a children's classic.

58maggie1944
Mar 28, 2012, 8:27pm Top

That sounds like a very interesting book. I am surprised I have not heard of it before as it seems just like the kind of books I've loved pretty much my entire life of reading...

onto the wish list it shall go!

59Marissa_Doyle
Mar 28, 2012, 9:05pm Top

This sounds delightful. Adding it to my wish list as well.

60jillmwo
Mar 29, 2012, 6:54pm Top

Any of you remember this fairy tale? "Cat! cat! kill rat; rat won't gnaw rope; rope won't hang butcher; butcher won't kill ox; ox won't drink water; water won't quench fire; fire won't burn stick; stick won't beat dog; dog won't bite pig; pig won't get over the stile; and I shan't get home till midnight."

It is part of a volume of English Fairy Tales that has floated up into my hands.

61Meredy
Mar 30, 2012, 1:24am Top

I do. I can still say it by heart from the beginning, just the way I learned it (a few words differ from your version). It ends very dramatically--what an image of all these things happening at once!

So--the milkmaid milked the cow, and the old woman took it to the cat. And then...
the cat began to kill the rat.
the rat began to gnaw the rope,
the rope began to hang the butcher,
the butcher began to kill the ox,
the ox began to drink the water,
the water began to quench the fire,
the fire began to burn the stick,
the stick began to beat the dog,
the dog began to bite the pig,
and piggy in a fright jumped over the stile,
and the old woman did get home that night.

Tell me: does your book have the story "Hot Cockalorum" in it? That's another cumulative tale, but I can't remember all the particulars, just some of the wonderful epithets as they all fell together at the end: "Master of all Masters, get out of your Barnacle and put on your Squibs and Crackers, for White-Faced Siminy has got a spark of Hot Cockalorum on her tail, and if you don't (something), High Topper Mountain will be all over Hot Cockalorum."

Now, what is the possible use of remembering all that for five or six decades, when I can't even tell you my driver's license number from memory?

62Sakerfalcon
Mar 30, 2012, 5:07am Top

Meredy, your version of the story is very similar to the song "Hav gadya" which is sung at Passover during the Seder. It starts with the line
"An only kid, an only kid, my father bought for two zuzim. Hav gadya, hav gadya", and builds up with lines added that tell the story of the cat, rat, butcher, ox, water, fire, stick and dog. Here's a version I found on the internet which is pretty close to what I remember singing.

An only kid, an only kid that father sold for two zuzim (zuzim are two small coins used to represent the Tablets of the Law): an only kid an only kid
Then came a cat and ate the kid that father sold for two zuzim: an only kid an only kid
Then came a dog and bit the cat that ate the kid that father sold for two zuzim: an only kid
Then came a stick and beat the dog that bit the cat that ate the kid that father sold for two zuzim: an only kid an only kid
Then came a fire and burned the stick that beat the dog that bit the cat that ate the kid that father sold for two zuzim: an only kid an only kid
Then came water and quenched the fire that burned the stick that beat the dog that bit the cat that ate the kid that father sold for two zuzim: an only kid an only kid
Then came an ox and drank the water that quenched the fire that burned the stick that beat the dog that bit the cat that ate the kid that father sold for two zuzim: an only kid an only kid
Then came the slaughterer and slaughtered the ox that drank the water that quenched the fire that burned the stick that beat the dog that bit the cat that ate the kid that father sold for two zuzim: an only kid and only kid
Then came the Angel of Death and slew the slaughterer who slaughtered the ox that drank the water that quenched the fire that burned the sticks that beat the dog that bit the cat that ate the kid that father sold for two zuzim: an only kid an only kid
Then came the Holy One (Blessed be He) and smote the Angel of Death who slew the slaughterer who slaughtered the ox that drank the water that quenched the fire that burned the stick that beat the dog that bit the cat that ate the kid that father sold for two zuzim: an only kid an only kid

I wonder which came first, the English Fairy tale version or the Pesach song?



63jillmwo
Edited: Mar 31, 2012, 12:11pm Top

I wouldn't be surprised if the Pesach song predates the text I have. One almost wonders if that rendition was compiled as a coded version of some part of the traditional narrative used during Pesach during various periods of persecution when one couldn't admit to being Jewish.

As I said, I was reminded of it for the first time in decades because of a book of fairy tales. And Meredy, it does have the story you reference. The tale is called Master of all Masters and it uses the word cockalorum for fire. The master is a peculiar one who wants things called by his name for them rather than by their common names. White faced Simminy is the name of his cat.

The book I've got is a facsimile edition of a 1918 edition of English Fairy Tales by Flora Annie Steel and illustrated by Arthur Rackham. The Old Woman and her Pig and Master of all Masters only have small black and white line drawings to accompany them. Other tales have full color plates.

It's a real mix of both familiar fairy tales (Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk) and less well known ones. I had never read the full tale of St. George and the Dragon before, although this version of the tale can't possibly be historically accurate.It has to have gone through more than one or two sets of hands. In this instance, St. George marries the beauteous Princess Sabia of Egypt and ends up as the Sultan of Persia...

Updated to add: I was surprised this morning to learn that the version given here of the tale of St. George actually dates back to 1596. So the way that Flora Annie Steel told the tale had been around for quite some while.

64jillmwo
Edited: Apr 2, 2012, 9:12am Top

One more note to add regarding this volume of fairy tales. In the story of Tattercoats, there is this passage early on regarding the heroine's grandfather:

He hated her bitterly, because at her birth his favourite daughter died; and when the old nurse brought him the baby he swore that it might live or die as it liked, but he would never look on its face as long as it lived.

So he turned his back, and sat by his window looking out over the sea, and weeping great tears for his lost daughter, till his white hair and beard grew down over his shoulders and twined round his chair and crept into the chinks of the floor, and his tears, dropping on to the window-ledge, wore a channel through the stone, and ran away in a little river to the great sea.


His beard crept into the chinks of the floor and his tears wore a channel into the stone window ledge. That is entirely descriptive of how much time would have passed in that universe. And because he is a horribly uncaring old man, even at the end of the story, his white hair has bound him to the stones, and the river of his tears runs away to the great sea..

I just think it's a heck of an image.

If you're unfamiliar with the tale of Tattercoats, it is a variant of the Cinderella story. However, the person who most aids Tattercoats is a goose herder with a set of pipes. He plays them, Tattercoats dances, and the prince riding by is captivated although we're not sure if it's due to Tattercoats' beauty or if it is the magic that permeates the song played by the goose herder. It's just the old grandfather who is prevented from fully joining in their happiness on the basis of his pride.

65jillmwo
Edited: Apr 2, 2012, 9:13am Top

Today I have pulled something off my TBR shelf that has been sitting there for very nearly two years. I'm about 150-175 pages into The Owl Killers which is remote from World War I and equally distant from Shakespeare. And it doesn't read like the Fairy Tales I've spent the weekend reading.

However, for Morphy's read (here in the pub) of Midsummer Night's Dream, I have 3 film versions as well as the Calla Edition of the play en route. It's one of my husband's favorites so I know he'll watch the movies along with me. (Personally, I'm much more fond of Shakespeare's Tempest, but there are no fairies in Tempest.)

66jillmwo
Edited: Apr 6, 2012, 7:39am Top

During this past week's commuting time, I was reading one of those short digital only publications -- works that are too short to be economically published in print but which work well in a digital mode. The one I read was Life Boat 8 which happens to be about the experiences of one set of survivors of the Titanic. We're within days of the centennial of the event and I think there will be specials run on TV during the next week about it. This might be good for a reader seeking to refresh his or her knowledge about the event. It's published by Byliner.com (http://byliner.com/originals/lifeboat-no-8) at a price of $1.99 and is available for a variety of e-readers.

LifeBoat 8 features a remarkable English Countess who happened to also be a woman of sense and expertise. She kept others calm, helped row the life boat throughout the night, and then once aboard the Carpathia, helped as a certified nurse in caring for the injured and traumatized. She apparently never got over the sense of guilt she carried for not helping to rescue more in the lifeboat.

LifeBoat 8 won't tell you much that is truly *new* about the Titanic's sinking, but it is an enjoyable quick read. Not a major issue, but occasionally annoying were just two aspects of the author's approach. She pretends to an omniscience at times in telling us what various parties were thinking at specific times and she does have a tendency towards a certain sentimentality that is frankly unnecessary in telling the story.

67Morphidae
Apr 7, 2012, 8:09am Top

Which would you say is the best movie version of A Midsummer Night's Dream? I like to watch a movie after I read the book for the visuals.

68jillmwo
Apr 7, 2012, 12:02pm Top

It depends on how you think about the play itself. I like the Kevin Kline/Michelle Pfeiffer version for its lush imagery for both the real world as well as the faery world. It's the affluence of the Edwardian era with the lush romanticized version of Faeryland that was popular then. It's a deft light treatment and you do get the comedy. Still there were one or two elements that I found irritating, such as when they have all four of the human lovers fall into a muddy pool in the forest during the night when Puck has led them all about by the nose. Magically, when they are found in the morning, all that muddy clothing has disappeared and the lovers are found to be lying buck nekkid in the field with red poppies strategically placed. Come to think of it, there's a fair amount of nudity and tasteful sex in this version that you don't see elsewhere.

But then there is the 1968 version with Helen Mirren and Judi Dench done by the Royal Shakespeare Company. I mean, if they can't do a SHAKESPEARE play-- in all caps -- who can? The RSC training means that the cast delivers the lines better than anyone else. But that version oddly places the story in England with Theseus as one of the cavaliers and Hippolyta as a Roundhead. (When I was growing up, there was a period in the '60's and '70's where the fad was to put Shakespeare into any and all possible historical settings. I think the first time I ever saw Shakespeare *done*, was PBS showing As You Like It set in Edwardian times. The theory was that the practice shone new light into facets of the plays and made them more relevant. But MSDN introduced via the Cavaliers and the Roundheads? There's a double-take disconnect for me there.) OTOH, they don't cut the script as dramatically as the Kline version does.

I'm not a big fan of the 1935 version with Jimmy Cagney and Mickey Rooney but my husband thinks that's the best version EVER. He takes his Shakespeare very seriously and he thinks Rooney's performance as Puck is just the best characterization that's been done. I can't get past the fake Golden-Age Hollywood glamour spin of that particular production. Vaseline, meet camera lens. Soft focus, etc.

So, to me, working out which version to watch and which will be most enjoyable is highly dependent upon what aspects of Shakespeare you like best. Delivery of the language and the poetry of the lines? RSC, hands down. Making Shakespeare enjoyable and entertaining for the modern sensibility, go for the Kline version. More of a traditionalist? 1935 black and white.

69Morphidae
Apr 7, 2012, 3:32pm Top

Definitely going for the Kline version for the enjoyment factor.

70jillmwo
Edited: Apr 7, 2012, 4:38pm Top

Morphy: My memory is really crappy these days. The RSC version is in modern dress (modern for 1968, that is). The BBC version of MSND is the one that is in period costumes and I must've conflated the two. I've got the RSC one on right now, and it's got Diana Rigg in a mini-skirt as the love-lorn Helena. (The fairies are nude in this one as well it seems, but honestly I think the Kline version is better in that aspect as well. The sixties' presentation of nudity is too carefully done and is, therefore, quite uncomfortably awkward.)

71jillmwo
Edited: Apr 20, 2012, 1:51pm Top

Horrifying. While I've read Walter Lord's A Night to Remember and while I've seen a variety of movies about the sinking of the Titanic, I don't think any of them conveyed to me, as convincingly as this one book, the horror of the disaster.

I had ordered this book in time for the weekend because my husband and I anticipate a wonderful lecture/film event at our local art museum about the Titanic. But Hugh Brewster in his book, Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage, brilliantly introduces us to the passengers in First Class in such a way that you feel you know them as individual flesh-and-blood human beings rather than as the celebrities they were in their own time. The Titanic's passenger list included not just wealthy people but people who were famous on the basis of their work in politics, theater, fashion and business. Some of them had encountered significant challenges in their lives as they ascended to the status of first-class. I had no idea of who Lady Lucille Duff-Gordon had been *before* she became one of the world's most notable designers of women's fashions. Neither had I much of an idea of what the travelling of that time might entail for Edwardian-era "jet-setters". One passenger came aboard with fourteen (14) steamer trunks, four suitcases and three packing crates as well as a quarter of a million dollars in jewelry. And finally, I'd no idea of the Americans who were aboard that ship, several of whom were from Main Line Philadelphia families. We always assume the wealthy of that time were from New York families or from Washington DC. Yet there was one family returning on the Titanic for the funeral of their college age son who had been killed in a motoring accident. That mother lost her husband and a second son on the night of April 14, 1912. Hugh Brewster managed to bring all of these people to life for me. And before I was done with the book, I had to put it down because I knew their ending and it was too painful to read what was going to happen to people who had been made real to me. Let's be honest; modern life has caused many of us to be made jaded and numb to the worst of historical events. It takes a strong author to revive those sensitivities.

The book is a relatively quick read (just about 300 pages), liberally illustrated with photos of the passengers in happier days. It begins with the boarding of a percentage of the passengers at the Cherbourg Quay on Wednesday afternoon, April 10th and closes with the arrival of the survivors on the Carpathia in New York on Thursday, April 18th. There are some pages given over to the investigations following, but that element is minimized in the greater narrative about the people.

This is popular history, not terribly dense or academic, but an excellent example of the educational value of such non-fiction. There are about 50 pages of supplemental materials as well, including a nice bibliography. If you have an interest in the topic, you should certainly read this book.

72jillmwo
Edited: Apr 23, 2012, 10:17am Top



This is a fun anthology of science fiction short stories by notable authors including Cory Doctorow, Elizabeth Bear and Joe Haldeman. It was published as a single issue of the Technology Review magazine in 2011 and is currently available for the Kindle (and other ereaders) in ebook form.

Cory Doctorow writes about the Internet of Things and it's essentially a humorous tale of what happens when those Things have the right of refusal.

There's a *very* funny short story entitled The Mark Twain Robots which takes apart Asimov's three laws of robotics.

More serious are stories like Indra's Web and Complete Sentence.

Each of these stories deals with consequences of existing (albeit emerging) technologies -- augmented reality, biosensors, etc. -- that have the potential for disruption of human thinking and/or behaviors.

I needed something light to read and many of the stories in this filled that requirement nicely. Great commuting reading!

73jillmwo
Edited: Apr 26, 2012, 7:23pm Top

Another short read -- The Alchemist by Paolo Bacigalupi. I believe the best fantasy makes you catch your breath at some point and hold it - half in pain and half in wonder. I've had that experience when reading Patricia A. McKillip and C.S. Lewis. That was my experience with this book.

The world in which this is set is one where the working of magic wreaks a cost in the physical world by causing the growth of bramble, a form of organic life that is very nearly impervious to destruction. Too much working of magic and bramble springs up to take over the farmland and sometimes even full cities. Of course, everyone wants to work magic, wield power in this world, including our Alchemist. Jeoz is an inventor, a creator of a machine that has the power to control the spread of bramble and restore the balance in his world. But he has grown poor in the process of creating and his family is threatened by hunger and illness. When he brings his invention forward to the notice of the Mayor of Khaim, he believes he is saving his family and his city. But of course, the power of his invention upsets a balance of power.

This was a very vivid kind of fantasy, written in such a way that both Bacigalupi's world and his characters come alive in ways that make me pay attention to every scene and dread the consequences of their actions. The concept of magic was effective which is always difficult in writing fantasy. Bacigalupi's novella is quite enjoyable and I will absolutely make a point of finding other work by this author. He's really quite good.

74AHS-Wolfy
Apr 25, 2012, 7:47pm Top

After reading The Windup Girl, I'll always be on the lookout for more of his work. Glad to see that one didn't let you down.

75Busifer
Apr 26, 2012, 2:28am Top

Same as Wolfy, although I haven't made the step to actually go purchase one of his other books.
I need reduce my TBR first, or so I tell myself ;-)

76Sakerfalcon
Apr 26, 2012, 5:23am Top

>73 jillmwo:: You know there's a companion novel to this, set in the same world, by Tobias Buckell? It's called The executioness. I really want to read both novels, but don't have a kindle and the hard copies are reeeeally expensive to get in the UK :-(

77jillmwo
Edited: Apr 26, 2012, 7:40pm Top

Yes, I finished The Executioness this evening; it didn't strike me in quite the same way as the other did. For one thing, it's much darker in many ways -- sadder and angrier -- and it covers far more of Khaim's map as we see Tana travel along her road. The Alchemist takes place in one city whereas The Executioness covers nearly the entirety of the country created by Buckall and Bacigalupi. It is worth noting that they've left LOTS of room for exploration in this world. At any rate, Tana is seeking revenge, even at the end, and that is rarely a good motive in works of fantasy.

These are thoroughly immersive works of fiction and I hope the authors return to this world but I hope they do in it in novel length works. There's a lot of potential depth to be mined.

Oh, and you're right Sakerfalcon. The books *are* expensive in print for what you're getting. In both, there is accompanying art and that's not present in the electronic Kindle editions.

But still, wow. Those kept my attention.

Busifer and Wolfy, my impression has been that Wind-Up Girl was darker and more science fiction than fantasy fiction. Is that an accurate perception?

78AHS-Wolfy
Apr 27, 2012, 4:10am Top

The Windup Girl certainly falls more towards science fiction than fantasy. I've seen it being tagged as Biopunk (like Cyberpunk but only with ecological issues instead of tech) so that should give you some idea of where it fits.

79Busifer
Apr 29, 2012, 4:12am Top

I definitely think of it as post-apocalyptic science fiction. No magic involved, only technology and people. But very good stuff.

80jillmwo
Apr 29, 2012, 7:39am Top

Okay, I will break down and buy myself a copy of The Windup Girl. Back when Borders was still around, I remember being intrigued and picking it up and the putting it back down. Seems I'll have to pick it back up and cart it off to the cash register. (My local library isn't big on science fiction.)

81jillmwo
Edited: Apr 29, 2012, 9:10pm Top

Just finished one of the grimmer mysteries I've read this year. It's Barbara Nadel's Belshazzar's Daughter which is the first in the Inspector Ikmen series which takes place in Istanbul. It wasn't grim in the sense of the actual gory details of the murder, but in the grim view of life presented. The only loving people in the story are Inspector Ikmen and his wife, Fatma; the saving aspect of the story is the birth of their son at the moment he is pulling the thread that unravels the final resolution. But then there is an epilogue which begins yet again the cycle of grimness. (BTW, did I mention this particular story is grim as modern mysteries go?)

Heck, I read Bury Me Deep last year which involved actual dismemberment and decomposing bodies in locked trunks, and it wasn't this grim.

No wonder I'm looking for light-hearted, steampunk fantasy next. The Grand Ellipse seems promising.

82Sakerfalcon
Apr 30, 2012, 8:25am Top

Oooh, I love Paula Volsky. The grand ellipse was fun, as I recall. I think all her novels are set in the same world, just different parts of it. In the Grand Ellipse we get to see most of it. She hasn't published anything novel-length since then, and I've been trying to find out what she's up to, without success.

83Marissa_Doyle
Apr 30, 2012, 11:10am Top

Oh, that sounds good. And it's available for the Nook...hmmm... *clicks buy it now button*

84jillmwo
Edited: May 2, 2012, 7:23pm Top

Well, so far, I'm enjoying the steampunk romp but I will say that it's reminding me strongly of a 1960s movie called The Great Race starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood. And I have a lingering earworm from the soundtrack of that movie, for no good reason other than that I can remember the last verse (with typical sixties orchestration).

They say if you kiss the right sweetheart
The one you've been waiting for
Great blossoms of white will burst into sight
And your love will be true evermore.


Maybe by posting it here, it will leave my brain and go elsewhere...

85jillmwo
May 2, 2012, 8:13pm Top

We interrupt this discussion of books to share this little story. Walking to my bank today, I noticed that traffic on Walnut Street was all kinds of crazy -- gridlocked, diverted, etc. But I walked on. Another block down, I noticed that there were many, many people on the sidewalks and that the traffic on Walnut in this block was going the wrong way down a one-way street. Still clueless, I walk through a group of pedestrians standing on a sidewalk staring at an SUV that was parked diagonally across Walnut Street (and again going the wrong way on a one way street). SUDDENLY, I notice a young woman talking into her phone like it was a walkie-talkie and agitatedly motioning me to flatten myself against the wall of a store front. Then somewhere I heard the director yell, "ACTION"! and all those pedestrians from the sidewalk went running past me.

I had walked into the middle of a film shoot for Dead Man Down with Colin Farrell.

Philly isn't usually all that exciting.

86MrsLee
May 2, 2012, 8:57pm Top

I'm amazed they let you walk right into it! Awkward, but fun, too. Glad it wasn't something horrible.

87jillmwo
May 5, 2012, 2:34pm Top

Random ramble here: I am trying to decide if I should have coffee or a piece of chocolate. Feeling drowsy and a little dragged out.

88hfglen
May 5, 2012, 3:33pm Top

#87 Why "or"? I'd suggest coffee, then chocolate.

89jillmwo
Edited: May 11, 2012, 8:25am Top

Well, I believe I ended up having both as hglen recommended.

Meanwhile, I have been reading The Grand Ellipse and I'm about halfway through. (It's my commuting read.) It's much better fun than I had been anticipating. Sufficiently unpredictable, even given the love triangle. Just when I think it's going to go in one direction, it shoots off into another. I'd no idea the heroine would be capable of stealing a horse (as just one example of the unpredictability); she'd struck me as being rather more rigid than that. (And the horse stealing scene was actually plausible.) Other things actually I did see coming a mile away. Any steampunk heroine is obligated to meditate on the constraints of corsets and the impact such constraints have on her destiny.

I've gotten to the point where I understand why everyone compares it to Around the World in 80 Days. I do spend time trying to figure out which of Volsky's countries corresponds to specific countries in the world I know.

Light fare, but fun. Besides, I have to alternate it with heavier stuff like The Promise and Peril of Big Data.

90Busifer
May 8, 2012, 5:29am Top

The Promise and Peril of Big Data

Hehe.

Sorry, I'm actually among those who think the subject interesting ;-)

91jillmwo
May 12, 2012, 1:31pm Top

Finally completed the story of The Grand Ellipse by Paula Volsky. Even though ostensibly a tale about a global Great Race, essentially this is a story about learning to see and value the individual with the underlying anti-war message that destructive, mindless conflict is the inevitable result if we do not learn to do so. Volsky’s story is about two individuals coming to the point of mutually recognizing the strengths and vulnerabilities of the other. The Grand Ellipse takes us on a tour of countries that ultimately must be brought into accord with one another in the same way. To her credit, Volsky doesn't hit us over the head with the moral of the story, but ensures that we have a fun adventure running from country to country. I will say that I liked the idea of the Sentient Fire being characterized as something like a wild two-year old child in its conversation. In particular, that fanciful idea worked well to draw one into the larger universe.

92jillmwo
Edited: May 12, 2012, 1:41pm Top

Right behind the above, I ordered from Amazon what I had thought would be a substantive story about the famous excavator of King Tut's Tomb, Howard Carter. In the Valley of the Kings: Howard Carter and the Mystery of King Tutankhamun's Tomb. I was disappointed then when it arrived to discover that this is only about 200 pages in length and doesn't really go into any depth about its subject. What's there is interesting, and the author is certainly enamoured of his subject, but I think I was hoping for more of a detailed account of Carter's excavations and discoveries.

See for example this tantalizing blog entry written by Meyerson about Carter and a particular rumored discovery that he made in Tut's tomb, having to do with the Pharaoh's "underwear". (http://www.wondersandmarvels.com/2009/08/the-pharoahs-underwear.html). I was honestly hoping for a bit more of that type of information; indeed, I thought there would be a more detailed account of that whole story in his book. I was disappointed in that regard, but I will say that the book is interesting and I'm going to re-visit it in a bit.

93jillmwo
Edited: May 15, 2012, 9:00pm Top

Hey, am I the last one to find out that we have the option of creating lists on LT? I LOVE making lists of books. See http://www.librarything.com/lists A little later this evening, I'm going to go play with that.

Updated to add: My title list of stories that reuse and retell myths. Go: http://www.librarything.com/list/337/all/Myth-Reuse-and-Retelling-#

94clamairy
May 14, 2012, 12:25pm Top

#93 - No, I am pretty sure I didn't know that. Or, if I did know it once I completely forgot it. :o/

95jillmwo
May 15, 2012, 9:14pm Top

Apparently lists were introduced as a beta feature in January of this year. So I'm only five months behind on that particular aspect of LT!

I love booklists. (No, you don't understand what I'm saying here, I can turn into quite the nerd when thinking about or creating a thematic book list. My husband of 30 years is still faintly bemused by this particular aspect of my personality. I take it seriously. Developing an annotated bibliography is a seriously creative short-term project for me. Sadly under-rated as a contribution to society.)

96jillmwo
Edited: May 18, 2012, 7:24pm Top

I was introduced to most of what I know of mythology through a book my mother owned when she was in college, specifically Edith Hamilton's Mythology. That largely focused on Greek and Roman myths but it did include some bits of Norse mythology. I also remember a different book from my childhood that included the story of the Death of Baldur. Mostly what I understood from these sources was that the figures of Norse mythology were far more rough and tumble, not gracious and classical like the Olympians.

Reading Ragnarok: The End of the Gods by A.S. Byatt is a robust re-introduction to those tales of Odin and Loki. Here we hear in new vocabulary about Baldur, Yggdrasil and Jormungandr, the Midgard Serpent. In fact, the story of Jormungandr is particularly compelling as the offspring of Loki increases in size from a small snake to a serpent large enough to encircle the world and swallow her own tail.

There is an undercurrent of a story of a thin child (growing up in the midst of the second World War) who encounters this mythology at the same time she is being handed a safe, pablum -style Sunday school version of how to cope through the local vicar. Naturally the stories of war and conflict found in Norse mythology make more sense to this girl whose father is off fighting the Germans. We tend to forget the function of mythology in explaining the world around us; Byatt reminds us that different mythologies emerge to satisfy the different needs of cultures set in different parts of the world. It's not surprising that the myths emerging from the warm Mediterranean countries contrasts so markedly with the myths of the Scandinavian region. It's not surprising that a child in the midst of war might find the harsher reflection of life found in Norse mythology to be far more rational in explaining the world around her.

Some critics have seen Byatt's work as a parable of what will happen to the human race if we do not protect the earth around us. While that may indeed be part of the author's intent, that isn't what *I* took away from her re-telling. For me, where I am now in my life experience, I too find the Norse gods battling monsters to be more in line with the challenges of life that I am encountering. In the wake of the death of Baldur the Beautiful, not all the world will weep. Better to make that clear from the get-go to our young ones than to sugar-coat the reality and fail to pass on how to fight through.

Worthwhile read.

97MrsLee
May 18, 2012, 8:13pm Top

Nice review, jillmwo!

98Marissa_Doyle
May 18, 2012, 8:32pm Top

Very nice review. I think I need to get this one.

99Meredy
May 22, 2012, 2:57am Top

That's a great review. And it makes me want to read the book too.

100clamairy
May 22, 2012, 7:15am Top

Oh, that's written by the author of Possession! (Yet another highly recommended book I own but haven't gotten to.) This looks good too, jillmwo. Well done.

101Sakerfalcon
May 22, 2012, 7:43am Top

Great review of Ragnarok; I was curious about it already and will now have to look out for it at the library.

102jillmwo
May 23, 2012, 7:44pm Top

Well, I ended up ordering a book of Norse tales as a follow-up to Ragnarok;it's an interesting world view.

clamairy It's far shorter than Possession but you do get some of the same lyricism in the writing. I have a real fondness for Possession. I think I've done it with two different book groups at different times.

Sakerfalcon, I had held off for quite a while but found it worthwhile once I plunked down the money and was able to give some time to it. (Don't you find sometimes that you have to start a book in a long reading stretch, but then can keep it going in shorter spurts once you've got hold of the language?)

MrsLee, Meredy, Marissa_Doyle,you are all very kind. It's easy to write well about a book when you found it deeply engaging. It's when I'm lukewarm about a title that I do the very shallow reviews.

I am trying to gauge what I'm in the mood for reading next. Do I want history or steampunk or Anthony Trollope? Or do I want to go way off the trail and sample Fifty Shades of Grey? (Note: That last is more of a joke than anything else. I don't think I can bear to spend my book money on something quite that questionable.)

103Busifer
Edited: May 24, 2012, 1:52am Top

I always think it a bit funny when you US people label it Norse myth - in Sweden we use the label Nordic mythology, as we are several peoples (not all Scandinavian, parts are recognisable in what today is northern Germany /Oden-Odin-Wotan, for example/) who share in on it.
One of the main places of worship is just north of me, in Uppsala - people from the whole region went there to share in on the blood sacrifices (beast and human) made there annually.

104jillmwo
Edited: May 24, 2012, 7:13pm Top

You surprise me, Busifer. I had no real sense that there was a difference in the two adjectives (Norse, Nordic). Since a quick Google query (granted using only English language query terms) was unsatisfactory in getting an answer, what is the real difference between the two? From what your post says, I am guessing that Nordic is all-encompassing of the northern portions of Europe where Norse would apply to a more limited -- region? I am asking quite seriously.

105maggie1944
May 24, 2012, 10:43pm Top

I, too, will be very interested in reading about the distinctions between the two terms.

106Busifer
May 25, 2012, 11:19am Top

Norse is not a term we use at all; it apply to "pre-Christian Scandinavia" but we use the term Nordic mythology, or possibly asatro. Scandinavia is restricted to Sweden, Denmark and Norway.

The Nordics is present-day Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Greenland, and that better reflect the peoples sharing in on the myth.

Norse IS the agreed translation; it's just that I double-take every time I see it. Much like when US people uses the term "liberal". In Sweden it is the label of someone who in the US is called "libertarian".

107jillmwo
May 26, 2012, 9:33am Top

Now that's interesting to learn, Busifer, because I'd had no notion of the specifics. Thanks for responding with something so clear.

108clamairy
May 26, 2012, 9:34am Top

I had no clue, either. I doubt many people not living in that region do.

109Busifer
May 26, 2012, 10:26am Top

I guess only we who live here care much.
We do care, though, to compensate ;-)

110jillmwo
Edited: May 28, 2012, 7:55am Top



The Wild Girls is a short volume of material by Ursula K. LeGuin, some of which has been previously published. It’s the product of PM Press, one of the series entitled Outspoken Authors. The small book (literally one only just over 100 pages) contains the following:

  1. Wild Girls, updated for this volume, is a gender-focused tale of a set of peoples (Crown, Root, Dirt) who occupy a small Island. The Crown set dominates, but there is some intermarriage between the three groups. The tale itself focuses on long-term consequences of actions between unequal populations for which there may be no possible reparation. It’s something of a creepy ghost story, except one might point out, there are no ghosts.
  2. The Conversation of the Modest - This contains a statement re Fanny Price of Mansfield Park that makes more sense to me than the average analysis of that text. (LeGuin actually “gets” Price, whereas most modern readers believe Fanny to be priggish in the extreme.) “That a girl could really, truly, actually be modest - that is, assess her situation realistically, choose the behavior appropriate to it, and stick to it through immensely powerful opposition --to many readers seems so strange, even unnatural that they can only dismiss her as a hypocrite. Fanny’s fault is not falsity, but an undue lack of self-confidence...” (page 81). This has relevance as well to the theme of the novella, Wild Girls.
  3. Staying Awake While We Read. (Originally published in Harper’s Magazine in 2008); If there is an outspoken element of this book that lives up to the name of the publisher’s series, it is this one. LeGuin believes that corporate publishing houses are left to be guardians of literary culture at our peril in that the Big Six are solely driven by money-making considerations rather than reverence for the art and craft of writing.
  4. A few poems (not much there, I’m afraid, except one anti-war poem of 4 lines.)
  5. An interview; which I found less interesting except for this statement with which I most heartily concur. “I think the idea of progress an invidious and generally harmful mistake. I am interested in change, which is an entirely different matter.”


At any rate, thoroughly enjoyed this short read.

(Multiple attempts at edits have not mended whatever issue exists with html display of the cover.)

111jillmwo
May 28, 2012, 7:58am Top

Most exciting --> Just found two books by Ursula K. Leguin on my bookshelves that I have not yet read! Lavinia and The Birthday of the World and Other Stories. So off the TBR pile/shelf and into my personal reading thread.

112Busifer
May 28, 2012, 8:06am Top

Oh, Birthday of the World was a good read!
Lavinia is on my TBR shelf too...

113Sakerfalcon
May 28, 2012, 8:26am Top

>111 jillmwo: & 112: Lavinia is on mine too! I love Le Guin's reading of Fanny Price; that is how I always imagined her, perhaps because I too tend to lack self-confidence so it was an obvious interpretation for me to make. Thank you for sharing it.

114Marissa_Doyle
May 28, 2012, 1:32pm Top

Interesting re Fanny Price...I was in a discussion about her recently and came to the conclusion that she's less a protagonist than she is a macguffin, serving as a catalyst for events in other characters' lives. I'll have to look that Leguin up.

115Meredy
Jun 3, 2012, 5:51pm Top

I read Lavinia last year, with high expectations after so many past wonderful reading experiences thanks to LeGuin. And I did find the book engaging in places, including the foretold romance with Aeneas. I especially liked the parts about the poet's shade inhabiting the sacred grove.

But ultimately it was an unsatisfying read for me. I almost felt as though it were an academic exercise for the author and not one that made much use of her best skills. It was as if she were too tightly circumscribed by the existing history and mythology into which she chose to fit her tale, and she'd have been better off with a more open-ended storyline in which her own imagination was the sole authority.

116Busifer
Jun 4, 2012, 4:49am Top

#115 - That was my fear and that is why it a) took some time for me to get the book and b) why I still haven't read it.
Oh well...

117jillmwo
Jun 4, 2012, 7:29pm Top

Well, I actually have been selectively reading the short stories in Birthday of the World. I will have more to say about this one, but just in the short term, I will leave you with this brief discussion of just one of the pieces included in the collection.

In “Old Music and The Slave Women” we see a 62-year-old diplomat kidnapped and held hostage in the midst of civil unrest. He’s taken to an estate Yaramera where his main contact with the natives is via the house servants/slaves. To me the story was primarily anti-war in the sense of showing the impact of war on the most vulnerable in a society. A diplomat taken away from his fellow countrymen and without any means of communicating with them. An infant has a curable disease but due to class considerations and civil unrest, he never gets the appropriate innoculations and subsequently dies. Even stating it that way and despite the story's title, it wasn’t (to me) primarily about slavery. It can be read that way (in hindsight) but reading it for the first time, it didn’t scream Civil War in the American South to me. (Le Guin indicates in the Foreword that the story was born when she toured a major plantation outside Charleston, SC).

For me, this is one of those interesting examples of the gap that can emerge between author and reader. If I didn't pick up on LeGuin's intent in writing the story, then was the story successful? I was glad I'd read the story before I'd read her comments in the Foreword, but it does make me wonder if our minds actually met in the actual reading experience.

118Busifer
Jun 5, 2012, 3:34am Top

I seem to remember that this particular story connects to Four Ways to Forgiveness, which I hadn't read prior to reading Birthday of the World as it was out of print but I managed to get a copy and read it almost immediately after BotW.

Sometimes, and especially later in life, I think UKL too clever for the stories to carry. All her life her tales have been allegories and it is a difficult style to write in... Still, I enjoyed BotW well enough, just like Changing planes. After that... well. Not so much.

119MrsLee
Jun 6, 2012, 1:22am Top

jillmwo, you ask the most interesting questions. I've had that experience before, taking away something deeper, or at least different than that which the author was thinking of when writing. This is why I don't as a rule read forwards or introductions until I'm finished with the book. I don't know the answer to your question though. To me it seems that although you may not have met with the author, you have met with their muse, something/one which is not always in their control.

120jillmwo
Edited: Jun 6, 2012, 7:38pm Top

Busifer, I thoroughly enjoyed Four Ways to Forgiveness when I read it, and the short story suite there had much the same flavor as the short story I was discussing in #117.

MrsLee, there was certainly some sort of connection with the author, but I can't help but wonder if she would feel comfortable with either her delivery or my reception. It's just one of those disconnections that makes you wonder if you're really as sharp a reader as you think.

Which brings me to something that happened today that is both relevant to LeGuin as well as to the death of Ray Bradbury.

I was in the train station this morning and needed to break a $20 bill before I could go catch a cab. I stepped over to the newsstand to see if there was something I could buy cheaply so that I could get a variety of bills in change to use for the fare. On the magazine rack, I saw an issue of The New Yorker that blared the information that this was their Science Fiction issue. The cover featured the names of Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. LeGuin, China Mieville, and others so I thought I would take that as my purchase. I got the magazine, shoved it in my bag and went off to my day-long conference. (I was monitoring the conference back-chatter using Twitter at times during the day and that's how I learned of Bradbury's death so I was doubly glad that I had this particular issue of the magazine.)

On the way home this evening. I pull the magazine out and discover that the cover blurb is somewhat misleading. The fiction in the issue is *not* science fiction and was not by any leading figure in the genre. Instead the issue featured essays or short articles by the authors I named above that talked about how science fiction had fired their imaginations when they were young and formed them into the creative adults that they had grown to be. All of them mentioned in some form or another how they had ultimately recognized that science fiction was deemed somehow inferior to more literary forms of literature and was something that people are afraid to be seen reading as a result of this elitist attitude.

I couldn't help but find it totally ironic (given Bradbury's death) that this was the same attitude that the New Yorker itself had adopted towards the genre of science fiction. The fiction in the magazine this issue was not science fiction, because after all, the New Yorker doesn't publish any fiction that couldn't be considered literary. But they were totally okay with milking the names of well-known science fiction writers on the cover of this double issue, claim that it was their science fiction issue and then completely avoid publishing science fiction. Yes, Ray Bradbury may have been influenced by hacks like Edgar Rice Burroughs but we don't want *that* kind of fiction actually in the magazine, now do we?

Sheesh! I would hope that someone in that editorial office is feeling somewhat abashed today. Ray Bradbury was only published by the New Yorker twice in his lifetime -- in this issue and I believe in an issue back in 1947. (Both were made available by the New Yorker for free today once they'd heard he'd passed on. (See http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/backissues/2012/06/ray-bradbury-in-the-new...).

121Sakerfalcon
Jun 8, 2012, 5:40am Top

Wow, thank you for that review of the New Yorker special issue. I might have tried to find a copy (not easy here in the UK), but now I know not to bother. I'll go and read some Ursula Le Guin instead!

122KayEluned
Jun 8, 2012, 6:06am Top

'There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.'

R.I.P.

123jillmwo
Edited: Jun 9, 2012, 7:18pm Top

I'm shifting genres for the moment. I'm reading something mild and comforting, The Romance of a Christmas Card by Kate Douglas Wiggin. May qualify as well-written fluff.

Update: This is essentially a novella or perhaps just an extended magazine serial. From the perspective of the story it is quite appropriate to a snowy December but perhaps not to a day in June when it hits 80 degrees. Rooting around for something else now.

124jillmwo
Edited: Jun 16, 2012, 9:45am Top

Someone (and I cannot now find the right thread) had been talking about Cyril Hare's An English Murder recently. Whoever it was had given it a positive review and that prompted me to hunt down a used copy. It was the perfect read for this past week when I wanted to be diverted but not overly challenged.

It's a traditional English country house murder (remote manor, snow storm, Christmas gathering, repulsive relatives) that actually exposes the British social structure's vulnerabilities as time-worn behaviors morph into something disturbingly dysfunctional in the wake of World War II. The nobility is looking more than a little shabby in several points but the up-and-comers haven't quite got to the point of being able to successfully dislodge and replace them. There is a small, foreign doctor (who represents the Outsider and useful Greek Chorus) aiding the professional sleuth. There is a butler, stiff, responsible, and steady as the Rock of Gibralter. (Honestly, he was the one you were rooting for.) There's more than one murder, but not so many that one feels put-off by the fear of a serial killer, and there's one splendid close-call that was a page-turner.

So whoever it was who wrote about this lovely little mystery must come forward *immediately* so that we can give you proper recognition for spotlighting a thumping good read (to quote a British-ism). I needed something reassuring yet bracing to read this week on the train and whoever you were, you provided me with exactly the right thing.

Please come to the podium to receive your award and present your 3-minute acceptance speech!

125jillmwo
Jun 28, 2012, 12:32pm Top

I am on vacation. Just sayin'

126clamairy
Jun 28, 2012, 2:04pm Top

ENJOY!!!

127jillmwo
Edited: Jul 4, 2012, 1:49pm Top

Well, it's possible I'm just a cranky old battleaxe of a human being, but I have been bitterly disappointed in two steam punk novels in recent months, both by George Mann. These were the first novels in a steam punk series featuring two detectives/secret agents. The first one lost me early on (I don't care for the current fashion craze for zombies), but the second one seemed quite promising. It featured a character like this:

Aldous Renwick was one of the most unusual characters that Newbury had the pleasure of calling a friend. He bore all the hallmarks of a caricature. He was rough around the edges: unshaven, with a wiry, bristly chin, a wisp of chaotic white hair, and yellowed fingers from the excessive smoking of cigarettes. He wore his usual old leather smock over a stained white shirt, open at the collar. His left eye had been replaced by a remarkable mechanical device that whirred and clicked disturbingly when he looked around. It was not as elegant as something designed by Dr. Fabian, but then, Renwick was only a civilian and clearly valued function over aesthetics. Newbury had no idea if the false eye was elective or the result of some earlier, undisclosed adventure. Whatever the case, Newbury had long wondered over the sanity of his friend but was still undecided as to whether the man was actually mad, or simply had a degree too much insight into the darker side of the human psyche.

It also features a version of Queen Victoria permanently welded into a wheelchair with oxygen pumped into her lungs. So there is some creative thought at least in character creation.

But sadly, while these are written in a highly visual manner well-suited to a television dramatization, the plots just didn't keep me adequately entertained or intrigued.

For the record, I never did finish The Affinity Bridge, but I did read The Osiris Ritual in full. I just didn't care for either. That said, I may be like a friend of mine who commented that she really *wanted* to like steam punk but that she found that too many instances read like they were the result of lazy research into the Victorian era. Insufficient suspension of disbelief.

It's like this: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2012/06/sci-fi-actors-wearing-steampunk-clothes-designe...
You *really* want to like it, but somehow it just doesn't look like it's going to catch on...

128clamairy
Jul 4, 2012, 6:44pm Top

You still on vacation? :o)

129majkia
Jul 4, 2012, 7:15pm Top

I agree that George Mann's bookss are problematic. He's too deep into the world creating and never really gave his characters any depth. His third book is better, still not great, but better. Not sure what other steampunk you've read but Leviathan and the rest of the series is spectacular and I loved The Peshawar Lancers and of course there's The Golden Compass and the rest of that series. Also The Alchemy of Stone is grown up steampunk.

I also enjoyed Black Lung Captain and Retribution Falls but they're lighter fare.

130MrsLee
Edited: Jul 4, 2012, 11:21pm Top

127 - I really like some of those clothes on some of those actors, but no man I know wears Prada, and they only dress in anything approaching style when there is a wedding they have to be in, so I'm not likely to see much of that here. Around here, people mostly wear Western clothes.

I think William Defoe and the other bearded actor look very fine. One of the young guys is too skinny or something, the other one's OK.

ETA oh, sorry, you were talking about books, but then you linked to pretty men. You should know better. ;)

131KayEluned
Jul 5, 2012, 6:53am Top

127 - I have to say I have come up against the same problem as you and your friend, I really love the idea of steampunk but a LOT of what's out there seems to be pretty dire. I don't know if its just that publishers desperate to cash in on this whilst its trendy are throwing book deals at people who don't deserve them maybe?

Having said that I have read some lovely ones, the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfield, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman of course and both the Mortal Engines series and the Larklight series by Philip Reeve

132clamairy
Edited: Jul 5, 2012, 7:25am Top

#130 - Okay? Garrett Hedlund's just okay? LOL I think he's mighty fine! I agree that Jamie Bell is too skinny, though. (Remember Billy Elliot?)

That's a great spread, Jill. Love seeing Gary Oldman, too. And it's nice to see Willem Dafoe smiling without also looking like he's ready to eat our faces off. (Well, in at least some of those shots.) Oh yeah, and most of the clothes are very cool. Though if I saw someone walking around here dressed like that I'd ask if it was ConnectiCon weekend.

133MrsLee
Jul 5, 2012, 10:54am Top

#132 - I yield to you on that one, clammy, but I didn't know who the three who were not Willem Dafoe were, and so I got confuzzled. Also, around here we would think there was another Civil War re-enactment going on.

134clamairy
Jul 5, 2012, 11:28am Top

Might be time to resurrect the pool boy thread.

135jillmwo
Edited: Jul 5, 2012, 5:57pm Top

*grabbing firm hold of thread steering wheel* I figured that after grousing about the bad books, I should redeem the whining with a link to pictures of well dressed men. I try to think of others (MrsLee, clamairy) and I agree they were rather scrumptious.

For the record, clamairy, I am still on vacation and trying to minimize to some extent the time in front of computer screens. Spouse and I slipped off for a long weekend to a relaxed event in the middle of the state where I saw many friends and came in second in both categories of the event Bake-Off. (There was too much nutmeg in the Ambrosia Salad, but I don't know why the sherry wine cake didn't win. I had allowed it to age for a full week. But I lost out to the fresh peach cobbler and homemade ice cream.)

At any rate, I have been reading while being on vacation. I have almost finished Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady which is really a quite interesting work of social history. I have also begun Foreigner by C.J. Cherryh.

majkia and KayEluned, thanks for the referrals to Scott Westerfield's Leviathan and the stuff by Philip Reeves. I have made a note for the future.

136MrsLee
Jul 5, 2012, 10:45pm Top

Could you pull this thread over to the side of the road long enough to share the recipe for the sherry wine cake? Or maybe in the cooking thread if you prefer? Or is it a dread, dark secret?

137jillmwo
Jul 6, 2012, 8:34am Top

It's not a deep dark secret as versions of this are all over the Internet. It's really just a doctored-up spice cake, but it really is wonderful once it's aged a few days. And as I note below, it's fabulous with a good cup of coffee. But our friend, Rich, brought fresh peach cobbler made from scratch and home-made peach and coconut ice-cream. I wasn't surprised that he won the Bake-Off.

Sherry Wine Cake

Dry Ingredients

1 box spice cake mix
1 box instant vanilla pudding mix
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Wet Ingredients

1/3 cup of water
3/4 cup of extra-light, extra- virgin olive oil
3/4 cup of dry -- not sweet --sherry (the best you can afford)
4 large eggs

mix dry ingredients
mix wet ingredients
combine both in one large mixing bowl and beat thoroughly
pour into pre-greased 10” bundt cake pan
Bake in pre-heated oven (350 degrees) for 45 minutes
Let cool

Serve with either a sprinkling of powdered sugar over the top of the cake or else with a little dollop of whipped cream.

Note that this is best if the cake is allowed to age for a few days before eating. Goes GREAT with hot coffee in the am.

138MrsLee
Jul 6, 2012, 10:44am Top

Thank you!

139jillmwo
Edited: Jul 8, 2012, 6:14pm Top

Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace is about a woman in her fifties who has experienced a lifetime of frustration in two marriages -- the loss of a private income, the dull companionship of a marriage partner not her equal in terms of interest or intelligence, the general isolation of a stay-at-home mother with too little to engage her mind. As a way of occupying her time, as so many women of that period did, Isabella Walker Robinson kept a diary of her daily life -- who she saw, what she did, the weather, etc. As one might expect, she was vulnerable to the attraction of participating in more congenial and sympathetic environments; a young doctor of hydropathy takes her on as a patient in his country establishment, walking with her about the grounds and chatting with her at tea. These interactions are duly noted down in her diary. Something sexual may or may not have happened between these two, qualifying as infidelity ,and Mrs. Robinson’s husband believes (on the basis of what’s been confided to the diary) that he is justified in seeking a divorce and separating Isabella Robinson from both her lover as well as from her children. This was among the first of the divorce cases heard in the reformed British divorce courts and one which occupied the papers of 19th century London for quite some time. Was Mrs. Robinson fantasizing about her relationship with her doctor (creating a fiction in her diary) or were there grounds for Mr. Robinson’s suit?

Kate Summerscale, author of the 2008 bestseller, The Suspicions of Mr. Wicher, documents the life of this woman thoroughly. The book offers a better sense of the stifling constraints of women’s lives in the Victorian era than do most similar works covering this kind of cultural and social history. The story is told primarily through a tight examination of Mrs. Robinson’s life; Mr Robinson’s life is less well covered. Edward Lane (the physician whose reputation is sullied by the divorce suit) is granted more consideration just as he was in the courts and papers.

Very interesting and engaging read. You don’t need to like Isabella; in fact, she’s not a particularly likeable woman in several respects. This story (despite it being 150 years in the past) resonates, although it is hard to say whether this is because of the blatant unfairness of the legal system or the invasion of Isabella’s privacy as her diary is published both in the courtroom.

And neither the covers nor the touchstones are working right at the moment!!! Aarrgh!!!

PS: I'm back from vacation and return to work tomorrow.

140clamairy
Jul 8, 2012, 7:07pm Top

Welcome back! :o) Hope you had a blast.

141KayEluned
Jul 9, 2012, 6:29am Top

139 - I read The Suspicions of Mr Wicher and loved it, I will definately have to give Mrs Robinson's Disgrace a read over the summer. Thanks for the review :)

142maggie1944
Jul 9, 2012, 1:27pm Top

Those both sound fascinating.

143jillmwo
Jul 10, 2012, 6:03am Top

I hate it when I wake up 'way too early. Up at quarter to 5am, and now I'm just grumpy. (Well, okay, I'm grumpy for many reasons, not just because I'm up at an ungodly hour.)

144majkia
Jul 10, 2012, 6:31am Top

I was up at 4:50 mainly because I have two dogs who are frightened of thunderstorms. No hope of sleep when they are running around all terrified. Sigh. And one hunts! You can fire a shotgun beside her and that's okay. But a little thunder and lightning? Fergeddaboutit!

145jillmwo
Edited: Jul 10, 2012, 8:50am Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

146jillmwo
Jul 10, 2012, 8:55pm Top

I just crafted an introduction to Fantasy and Science Fiction list (otherwise known as the titles I would use if I were to teach such a course.) Fairly balanced between male and female, 19th-century and modern, etc. I ordered them particularly so there is a chronological flow of sorts. Because this was for an imaginary semester long course, I did limit it to ten books.

http://www.librarything.com/list/353/all/Introduction-to-Fantasy-and-Science-Fic...

Any thoughts? Any OMG-WHAT-WERE-YOU-THINKING reactions? I already am regretting some omissions -- not because of particular literary quality, but because there were some good examples of what science fiction and fantasy have been in the past or might do more successfully than other genres that I think would be both worthwhile and enjoyable.

I probably need a new hobby, don't I?

147The_Hibernator
Jul 11, 2012, 6:01am Top

I haven't even heard of four of those!

148jillmwo
Jul 11, 2012, 9:16am Top

Well, I'd overlooked it last night when I was crafting my own list, but here is another LT list (based on a 2009 list created by Wired Magazine) that offers ideas for a similar syllabus: http://www.librarything.com/list/330/all/A-Syllabus-and-Book-List-for-Novice-Stu...

The_Hibernator I did pick some relatively obscure pulp stuff primarily because I think it was an important phase of developing science fiction as a genre. Because the pulps weren't considered to be of particular literary value, they get passed over, but both C.L. Moore and Leigh Brackett contributed significantly to the development of space opera while people like John Campbell worked more in the realm of hard science fiction (hence the inclusion of Alfred Bester).

149Busifer
Jul 12, 2012, 2:17pm Top

The two lists are somewhat similar, or is that just my imagination?
I would had included some Arthur C Clarke, and perhaps not the particular choices from Robert Heinlein or CJ Cherryh. But as a whole I have no issues with either list.

150jillmwo
Jul 12, 2012, 9:38pm Top

The whole thing started in a discussion about an open online course about Fantasy and Science Fiction that had the following reading list:
Grimm — Children's and Household Tales
Carroll — Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass
Stoker — Dracula
Shelley — Frankenstein
Hawthorne & Poe — Stories and Poems
Wells — The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Invisible Man, "The Country of the Blind," "The Star"
Burroughs & Gilman — A Princess of Mars & Herland
Bradbury — The Martian Chronicles
LeGuin — The Left Hand of Darkness
Doctorow — Little Brother

My starting point for creating a different reading list was that the above was great with regard to inducing students to read 19th century English literature but didn't really reflect the development of American science fiction. My list was contemplating a different way of approaching the topic by picking up more 20th century American influences and playing up the role of women. (At least that was in my head.)

(Can you tell my spouse has been at rehearsal the past few nights? I'm talking to myself alot.)

151Busifer
Jul 13, 2012, 2:57pm Top

I think your list did a good job of that :)

152jillmwo
Edited: Jul 15, 2012, 7:36am Top

White Sky, Black Ice -- one of the titles discussed at my local library mystery book group:

Nathan Active is a State Trooper in a small backwater town in Alaska. He is actually half white, half Inupiat Indian which means that his heritage spans the gap between the local populations. While suicide isn’t entirely uncommon in the bleak and isolated Alaskan town, two suicides in the Inupiat Eskimo population in the space of a single week is very much out of the ordinary. Active tries to pursue the clues without much encouragement (political considerations and corruption have a presence here) while his mother and another Inupiat woman conspire to get Nathan involved with another young woman “for his own good”. While the mystery isn’t too hard to figure out, the authentic touches about life in a harsh environment, removed from many standard 21st century social and technological comforts, offer interest. Characters are fairly well fleshed out and stick in the reader’s memory. Issues associated with such remote populations (poverty, boredom, alcoholism, domestic abuse,etc.) are treated realistically and not overly simplified. I have another title in this series already waiting on my TBR pile.

Next month, this library group is reading The Sherlockian.

153jillmwo
Edited: Jul 15, 2012, 7:33am Top

Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination is truly a mixed bag. Originally published as a serial in Galaxy Stories over the last 3 months in 1955, it reflects the anxieties and optimisms of that period. (References to World War II, mysterious weapons, radiation, teleportation, telepathy, etc.) The foreword in my copy notes that Bester has written what may be called a pyrotechnic novel. You go from one bang in the plot to another until the reader’s adrenaline levels are ‘way, ‘way up. Characterization is present but doesn’t dominate; plot does. Protagonist Gully Foyle demonstrates the development of mankind’s thinking from sheer will to survive to selfish self-absorption to understanding that others are suffering pitiably in much the same way as he suffers. He may improve over time but he never becomes a hero. He is just a fallible human. You don’t really come to the point of liking Foyle, merely sympathizing with him and the general misery of human existence. Yes, it is on the bleak side.

Bester wrote this to mirror The Count of Monte Cristo and there are points in the story where that is clearly evident. In particular, Foyle’s experience in his 23rd Century prison is not that far removed from Edmund Dantes’ experience in the Chateau d’If. However, The Stars My Destination reminded me far more of Frankenstein than of Dumas’ novel. The theme of revenge and the inability of the monster to learn how to interact socially and humanely with a society that treats him poorly runs throughout.

Worth a read, but be prepared to take into account the differences between 1950’s male sensibilities and the sensibilities of modern women. (There are 3 key female figures in Gully Foyle’s universe; he treats each of them roughly and badly. -- even the one he says he loves. They each inexplicably both hate and adore him. Talk about your underlying male fantasy.)

Note: Alfred Bester wrote this piece of hard science-fiction, which subsequently won the first Hugo Award ever given. He also wrote the oath of the Green Lantern of comic book fame. And J. Michael Straczynski further immortalized him in the noted television sci-fi series, Babylon 5, by naming a key telepath after him. Your trivia for the day.

154Busifer
Jul 15, 2012, 1:32pm Top

...and which actor did the Bester character? ;)

I didn't know that it was first published in Galaxy! It was where I first read The stars my destination, as I found a stack of old Galaxy mag's in a box of SF in the cellar when I was about 14 or so.
By the time I devoured everything SF:ish...

155jillmwo
Edited: Jul 17, 2012, 8:35pm Top

Busifer, Walter Koenig played Bester on Babylon 5 and he was a particularly villainous telepath (Psi Cop).

I went back and checked the introduction in my Gregg Press edition of The Stars, My Destination and according to that piece, the novel was originally published in Oct, Nov, and Dec of 1956 and in Jan of 1957. (Sorry, I can't recall at the moment who wrote the intro there.)

And I'm snickering and snorting my way through Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi. It's very, very funny so I look a little odd in my morning commute as I try to read silently.

Honestly, I'm giving it to spouse and sons for Christmas. They'll get the humor immediately and they will love it.

156clamairy
Jul 17, 2012, 9:42am Top

I too shall be giving copies of Redshirts!!!

157MrsLee
Jul 17, 2012, 12:19pm Top

FINE! I give in. I'm getting Redshirts for the same son I bought Ready Player One for. You have all convinced me, I hope we both like it as much as we did that one. :)

158jillmwo
Jul 17, 2012, 8:42pm Top

I thoroughly enjoyed it, MrsLee. I finished it this evening and will certainly recommend it to friends. For the son who wants to be a screen-writer, I think it will be a favorite. For the son who enjoyed Star Trek growing up and who noticed sometimes the narrative cheats, I think it will be a fun read. And for my spouse who actually was one of the geek fans involved with the original Star Trek conventions back in the dark ages in New York, it will simply cause him to grin fondly.

159clamairy
Jul 17, 2012, 9:21pm Top

Speaking of which, I found my Vulcan ears the other day!

I'll probably be giving copies to two of my brothers. The two that I emailed this to back in the 90s when we all first got online:


160MrsLee
Jul 18, 2012, 1:22am Top

159 - I lost my Vulcan ears. :( Discovered it last Halloween when I tried to be a female Vulcan, but without the ears it's no fun, so was Data instead. Which turned out to be loads of fun.

Sorry for the deviation, jillmwo!

161jillmwo
Jul 18, 2012, 6:59am Top

No apologies needed at all! I'm snickering over my first cup of coffee and, in the midst of a brutal heat wave, that's quite a good thing!!! (I know it's early. I'm having to think too hard about punctuating that sentence.)

162jillmwo
Jul 24, 2012, 9:07pm Top

*small grumbles*

Amazon doesn't have the book I want in a Kindle edition; Google does have the book I want in PDF.

I download the PDF from Google's book site and send it by email to have Amazon convert said PDF. From this, I learn two things: (1) that Google does have some form of DRM on its PDFs that won't allow it to go through Amazon's conversion process easily and (2) that Google PDFs put through an old Kindle DX can only be read SIDEWAYS. All other PDFs (such as law review articles) go through and can be read right side up, but not the one I downloaded from Google.

This means I have to read the PDF on Google's site via either the desktop or the laptop. Can't read it on the iTouch because Google informs me that these scanned pages are best viewed either via the Web or on a tablet. The only tablet I have is the Kindle Fire which again comes from Amazon.

*grumble, grumble, grumble*

(Yes, this probably belongs under the First World Grievance thread...)

163MrsLee
Jul 25, 2012, 12:32am Top

Did you try the Calibre program? I've had a lot of success getting books into a readable form for the Kindle on it, although some come through kind of sketchy.

164majkia
Jul 25, 2012, 7:56am Top

yes, Calibre has some plugins that let you convert for your hardware. It works great for my Sony and for my Nook. Don't have a Kindle myself, but the conversion of kindle format to epub works great.

165jillmwo
Jul 28, 2012, 3:25pm Top

I have Calibre on my computer, but didn't find it terribly intuitive. Still I suppose the intelligent thing to do would indeed be to play with it a bit more until I understand it more.

Meanwhile, I'm reading a book for the library book discussion crowd this weekend: The Sherlockian. Light but fast paced and fun.

Otherwise, I've been reading a serious title on intellectual privacy theory, one with all the umph and pacing of a legal textbook. I have to keep re-reading pages that I've just finished in order to be sure I understand what it was I just finished reading.

166Busifer
Jul 28, 2012, 6:25pm Top

#155 - I counted on you getting that ;-)

167jillmwo
Edited: Jul 30, 2012, 8:56pm Top

Okay, The Sherlockian was pleasant and the library book group gave the 28 year old author full marks for understanding as much as he did about real life and the source of our satisfaction in reading mysteries. They didn't burble excessively, but they did come with things to discuss. (And two of 'em admitted that they had never read ANY Sherlock Holmes stories and I immediately announced we would be reading The Hound of the Baskervilles this fall.)

I actually enjoyed the alternating story lines following Arthur Conan Doyle in the 19th century and Harold and Sarah in the 21st century. The group found neither character overly sympathetic (Doyle was arrogant and Harold was a nerd), but they thought the pacing and the mysteries kept the reader's attention.

All in all, they'd read another by the author (which was when I told them he was currently out in LA writing a screenplay for Leonardo DiCaprio).

168jillmwo
Edited: Aug 7, 2012, 9:33am Top

Oh, so very, very true! Go read this one: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2012/08/writers_and_readers_on_twitter_...

And as long as I'm pushing you out the door to explore, you should definitely go read this one and see if you agree. I'm big on highlighting and note-taking in digital books, but I rarely mark up my physical ones: http://www.teleread.com/ereaders/an-e-reader-annotation-mini-manifesto/

169Marissa_Doyle
Aug 7, 2012, 3:25pm Top

The Sherlockian sounds like it might be worth checking out--an interesting follow-up to Laurie King's books.

170jillmwo
Edited: Aug 9, 2012, 8:59am Top

I thought it was fun, but not more than that, Marissa! In the meantime, I thought I'd document the reading this past week even though I've no time to really write up any serious review.

1. Dracula illustrated by Becky Clooney. I am reading this for one of the Coursera courses I'm taking. The last time I read it was 30 years ago. It is *just* as creepy now as it was then and it gives me the heebie-jeebies (or whatever the 21st century equivalent of those might be.) We've just killed off the first of the sweet young women. As I was typing this, it occurs to me that she had four transfusions of blood to keep her alive. Why then would she be transformed into a vampire by only two bites from the Count? If a vampire stays alive by biting others and sucking their blood as nutrition, what is the difference between that and the actual taking in of blood via transfusion? Why would one method of intake turn you into a vampire and the other merely maintain your grip on human life? (I must think about this. All input from the peanut gallery is welcome.)

2. In an attempt to fend off the general creepiness of the gothic novel this week, I raced through two or three gentle domestic fictions. The first was Penny Plain by O. Douglas. The second was Miss Buncle's Book by D. E. Stevenson. The third was a re-read entitled The Enchanted Barn by Grace Livingston Hill. None of these are lasting works of literature. They are for the most part rather unrealistic in their presentation of love and romance. Stevenson's book is perhaps the most realistic of the three; no one is made breathless with passion or utterly miserable with unrequited love. In fact, the three romances in Miss Buncle's Book are actually quite prosaic. All very soothing to read and reassuring after having dealt with bulbs of fresh garlic rubbbed into the windowsills and hung about the neck.

(Honestly, I'll be glad to get past the 19th century gothic reading selections. Frankenstein follows Dracula on the reading list. I am reading Foreigner as an antidote, just for its rocket ships alone!!! )

171Meredy
Aug 8, 2012, 10:07pm Top

170: Hmm, jillmwo, that's a problem. I'm usually the one who asks those uncompromising logical questions, but when I read Dracula last year I didn't think of that.

So...here are two approaches to it that occur to me.

1. When a poisonous viper bites someone, it is injecting something into the victim rather than taking something out. When a vampire bites a victim, the sucking doesn't take place through the fangs--they just make the holes. It would seem that something enters the victim through the fangs, and that must be what infects them with vampirism.

2. If a vampire can be fended off or defeated by such means as holy water, a crucifix, and a wreath of garlic, it seems that there is something at work other than sheer literal physical contact. So there must be a psychological, metaphorical, or symbolic element to the antidote. In that case there must be the same or an analogous element to the initial contagion. Therefore something was transmitted with the bite, and the transfusions cannot neutralize that poison, even though they furnish lost blood.

Surely some one of the many popular vampire novels must have explained this, but I haven't read them, so these are my best guess.

172jillmwo
Edited: Aug 12, 2012, 4:06pm Top

I haven't had time to fully process the intent of Dracula, but it primarily boils down in a very heavy-handed Victorian way to being a story about Christian redemption. How the heck did that elude me the first time I read this umpty-ump years ago? It's not subtle. In fact the whole book is a meditation on human response to Death.

Mina Harker and Van Helsing are the brains of the outfit with the other four guys being the brawn. I can't think why the mass media traditionally calls Jonathan Harker the hero of this book as it is someone else who dies in saving Mina and Mina is far, far more intelligent and organized than Jonathan. No movie adaptation of Dracula adequately builds on that.

Mina, the Count and Van Helsing essentially form a triangle with the latter two representing ultimate evil and ultimate good and Mina representing the human soul over which those two wrestle.

As to origin, we are given the idea (at least in passing) that the Count is actually a super-intelligent, advanced human (albeit an emotionally immature one) who has somehow engineered this extension to his life span. Van Helsing never calls him a mad scientist, but it is there between the lines.

And don't even get me started on the aspect of Van Helsing being tempted by the three dead wives who belong to Dracula. Talk about your basic symbolic significance.

I am still getting heebie-jeebies from reading this book. It is a creepy, creepy book even with the overblown Victorian spiritual battle.

173Meredy
Aug 12, 2012, 5:01pm Top

Very apt summation, jillmwo. I admire your analysis. I wish I'd had an opportunity for discussion in those terms while the book was still fresh in my mind.

Like you, I found myself wondering how the screen adaptations wound up making what they did of Jonathan Harker. I was also surprised to see that there was no basis in the text for the extremely chilling shipboard scene with Renfield in the classic 1931 version of the film.

174jillmwo
Edited: Sep 25, 2012, 8:16pm Top

I don't think I've seen that version, Meredy. I am most familiar with the Frank Langella version (1979 or 1980?) and the BBC version where Louis Jourdan plays Dracula. (Another version that is surprisingly frightening. Louis Jourdan was a brilliant piece of casting - cold, calculating, and yet horrifyingly seductive.)

What makes the film adaptations so problematic as well is the last few chapters which are told in plain language and with vivid images of good guys vs. bad. Mina gets to carry a revolver to the last battle. There are guns drawn and knives pulled just as the red sun shifts in the sky. It should be a cinematic storyteller's delight. And yet the Langella version was *all* about the sexual tension between Langella and whoever it was who played Mina. The problem with that was that it eliminates any of the heroism by Van Helsing and Jonathan; they just looked petty on screen for wanting to keep the two apart when they are so clearly sexually attracted to one another. And if you don't make Dracula about the immortal soul being at risk of damnation, then you miss the author's point!

The Jourdan version concentrated more on the horror as I recall, but because Jourdan was so much better as an actor than the others, again you weren't really rooting for them to win. (except that Jourdan was really scary...).

Seems to me that casting Dracula would absolutely demand having Dracula and Van Helsing played by equally strong and gifted actors. (I could see casting Ben Kingsley and Patrick Stewart in those roles for example. They'd balance each other out nicely.) But then one has to wonder who could possibly play Mina wthout being eclipsed. If you only cast Mina Harker as some blonde willow, why would two men like Kingsley and Stewart be fighting for her so hard? She'd have to be something like a young Helen Mirren. One wonders if the Royal Shakespeare Company would be willing to do Dracula because it would take them to do it justice on screen.

My other issue is that I suspect that Hollywood would only think of mounting the production in terms of attracting 14 year old boys...Maybe you could only make it work as steampunk!

175Meredy
Aug 12, 2012, 8:39pm Top

The 1931 Bela Lugosi film is really worth seeing. I'd recommend it as a great example of the genre.

And if you've ever watched Sesame Street, there's a bonus for you in recognizing the original of the show's delightful Count von Count.

176jillmwo
Aug 14, 2012, 7:24pm Top

Just one last entry about Dracula! I have been reading from this illustrated edition with artwork by Becky Cloonan.
http://www.librarything.com/work/883/book/88554123 And I truly want to recommend it to others.

I really like the way the artist's contribution added to the reading experience, both in print and in digital. The Kindle edition I read had the illustrations in grey-scale when I was using the eInk screen and they still worked successfully. Alternatively, the print edition had the full four-color illustrations and those too worked well.

We get very little illustration in modern adult novels (which I happen to think is a real shame). So the question becomes, do the rest of you miss books with illustrations? I don't mean non-fiction -- I'm talking particularly about fiction. It's been relegated to children's lit to such an extent and I think it might be a particular value-add if publisher's would start adding it to adult materials. I miss the frontispieces that novels at the turn of the 20th century tended to have. I remember vividly pictures from some of the books I read as a child.

Do you agree? Would you be willing to pay extra for the inclusion?

177maggie1944
Aug 14, 2012, 7:37pm Top

yes, I do miss illustrations; and other pieces of art which often graced the pages of a well made book.

I also love photographs in a book and will buy the real world book as opposed to the e-version if I know there are photographs to be seen, and revisited as I read the book. The photographs in the Lyndon B Johnson bio I'm currently reading are precious. As I lived through those days they are familiar to me, and are a bit like revisiting a whole moment in my life. Photographs are valuable and enjoyable.

178Marissa_Doyle
Aug 14, 2012, 8:37pm Top

That was one of the (many) things I loved about Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell--it had illustrations. :)

And I've very much enjoyed the discussion on Dracula--it's been years since I read it, though I have a neat annotated edition. I think I need to do a reread.

179MrsLee
Aug 14, 2012, 10:54pm Top

I love beautiful illustrations, collecting some of the works of early illustrators in the 1900s. I spent a lot extra to buy some gorgeous volumes of LotR with illustrations by Alan Lee. So, yeah, I have spent money on such books.

I also love books with illustrated end papers and such.

180Meredy
Aug 15, 2012, 1:18am Top

176: yes, I do miss them. I'd almost forgotten how nice it was to have them, but then last year I read a Sir Walter Scott novel in an edition from the 1930's, with the traditional frontispiece tipped in and half a dozen engravings in the text. I really enjoyed seeing them.

I wonder if anyone other than me was always secretly disappointed by N.C. Wyeth's illustrations--not because they weren't beautifully done but because he made it a point of pride to extend the text by illustrating something that wasn't described. He wanted to add something of his own to the narrative. What this meant was that if you were fascinated or excited by the art work (which of course you would see first), you would search in vain to find that exact scene in the story--it wasn't there. I always felt deeply let down when that turned out to be the case.

181clamairy
Aug 15, 2012, 8:06am Top

Might I second the plug for watching the Lugosi Dracula? Parts of it might make you giggle, but it still remains very creepy and effective in places.

182KayEluned
Aug 16, 2012, 4:51am Top

176 - I couldn't agree with you more about illustrated books. This is why I save up my meagre wages to buy Folio Society books, which are always beautifully illustrated :)

183jillmwo
Aug 18, 2012, 9:49am Top

Spousal unit and I watched the 1931 Bela Lugosi Dracula last night. One of the things that really hit me was the lack of a musical score. I can see where, if I'd watched it in a darkened theater, I would have been spooked. No music, spans of time of two or three minutes with total silence in the course of the action. (Honestly, you don't think about silence as a technique for building discomfort in the audience. And yet silence really can work.) I may watch it a second time today with the audio commentary by the film historian.

Over dinner Patrick and I had talked about the changes one has to make in the original text in order to make it work as a movie. Eliminating specific aspects of the primary source material in order to focus attention; conflating characters to minimize confusion; picking out one or two key ways of fending off the vampire. BTW, any ideas as to why they might have substituted wolfsbane in the movie for Stoker's original flowers of garlic?

But one more thing about illustrations in books -- I'm noticing that several gothic works by Stoker, Poe, Shelley (featured in the Coursera reading list) are being illustrated by steampunk artists. Very effectively too! Do you suppose that is what it takes to make books like this palatable to rising generations of readers? Patrick and I were talking about whether it was harder to read Frankenstein or Dracula. In his view, Frankenstein was the more difficult of the two as there isn't much actual dialogue. Lots of monologues and inner soliloquies. Gray pages of unbroken text when reading Frankenstein really can get dull. Not to mention all that Romantic praise of the glories and purity of Nature.

184clamairy
Aug 18, 2012, 10:28am Top

"Do you suppose that is what it takes to make books like this palatable to rising generations of readers?"

I'm not even sure that's enough! :o(

Glad you enjoyed the film, though!

185Sakerfalcon
Aug 20, 2012, 8:24am Top

I agree that Frankenstein is harder to get through than Dracula, for the same reasons that you cite.

WRT the silent movie of Dracula, would it originally have been shown with live music in the theatre, such as a cinema organ being played?

186jillmwo
Edited: Aug 20, 2012, 9:24am Top

The 1931 version of Dracula isn't entirely silent; it is a talkie in the sense of there being spoken dialogue. We hear Bela Lugosi's accent, for example. But there is no musical score in the background which, when the dialogue ceases for a minute or two while the camera focuses on the ghostly "Bloofer" lady walking in the lane, makes the lack of a musical background much more noticeable. I don't believe that there would have been music supplied by the local organ pipes, but I suppose it's possible that there could have been.

187Busifer
Aug 20, 2012, 11:22am Top

I once watched a truly fantastic performance of Dracula were the Lugosi film was show as a backdrop while actors played out the story on stage.
The week after I watched the 1992 version (this was back when...). Very interesting, as I remember it.

188heathn
Aug 24, 2012, 4:35pm Top

I'm really enjoying the Dracula coversation here. I reread it last year for the first time since middle school. Really enjoyed the gothic horror vibe mixed with all the other things mentioned above.

172: That's a really interesting analysis. It seems that most people tend to talk about all the sexuality in the book between Dracula and Mina. I like the Perfect Good vs Perfect Evil with Mina's soul in the middle. Something different to think on.

174: Wasn't the Langella version where the Mina/Lucy roles were reversed from the book? It's been a while since I've seen that one. I've always thought that the Hammer Dracula movies, with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, going against each other were a lot of fun. Also Gary Oldman versus Anthony Hopkins in Coppola's Dracula was a fun time.

(I kind of like Dracula movies. ;)

189jillmwo
Edited: Aug 25, 2012, 8:01pm Top

I'm just posting this completed assignment from my Coursera course to make you aware of a particularly heartbreaking short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Honestly, this one and Dracula have been the two works that have resonated with me most strongly.

But never fear. I have finished two Non-19th-Century titles that I'll be posting about soon -- Foreigner and An Impartial Witness. Both good reads!

***

Nathaniel Hawthorne uses narrative echoes of traditional fairy tales to tell the story of Owen Warland and his delicate mechanism in the story of The Artist of the Beautiful.

Owen's tendency to ignore commercial interests in favor of creating Beauty causes Peter Hovenden to consider him no better than a simpleton. Three times the simpleton sets out to succeed in his task and three times he is distracted by his fellow villagers, resulting in failure. Three times the Work is spoiled – once through a slip of the artist's own hand after being chastised by Peter, his former master, once through a careless touch during Annie's visit to the shop to ask Owen to mend a thimble, and finally as a result of Owen's emotional response to the news of Annie's betrothal to a more ordinary man.

Throughout this process, Owen's model for Beauty -- the butterfly -- acts as a means of reminding the frustrated artist of his goal. Continually drawing him away from other activities, the butterfly becomes Owen's primary model for recreating Nature. The result is that once left to himself, he engineers a “spiritualized mechanism”, one so delicate and so successful that Annie repeatedly asks if the machine is alive.

In this way, the tale becomes a bridge between fairy tales of old and the modern conception of science fiction. While Owen's spirit has “entered” into the mechanism, there is no magic. Hawthorne's clock maker crafts a form of artificial intelligence in that the delicately crafted automaton accurately senses non-recognition of Beauty in those with whom it comes in contact. Owen has succeeded in creating a machine that understands and reacts to its environment. It is this which makes the ending of the tale so heartbreaking. A creator has transcended the ordinary constraints of humanity in bringing something to life only for the reader to be reminded that the true cycle of Life inevitably must end in Death.

You can read Hawthorne's short story online at:
http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/HawArti.html


****

Why is it that our society doesn't value those of its citizens whose key talent is a capacity to appreciate English literature? Why is no one paying me the big bucks to do this kind of thing as a day job?

*end of absurd rant*

I'll behave now.

190MrsLee
Aug 26, 2012, 12:45am Top

I don't know why, jillmwo, I loved your review, wish I could analyze and expose a literary work as well as you do. Mostly all I can do is say either, "I liked it" or "yuck." :) Thank you for sharing. I thought I had read all of Nathaniel Hawthorne, but apparently not.

191maggie1944
Aug 26, 2012, 8:39am Top

I agree with MrsLee. And I feel the same about my own efforts. I don't have great skill at peeling away th virtues or faults of a book, but I do usually know if I like it or not hahahahah

192jillmwo
Aug 27, 2012, 8:57pm Top

This was one for the library mystery group. Bess Crawford is a nurse in France during World War I. (My impression is that she is very similar in background to Vera Brittain of Testament of Youth -- see #49 above.)

Crawford witnesses a woman in tears pleading with a man in uniform just before he boards a train. Shortly thereafter, she sees a newspaper story telling of the murder of that same woman. As it happens, she has been nursing the woman's badly wounded husband who looks eagerly forward to seeing his wife again. He too returns to England but dies soon after, an unexpected death given his injuries. The suspicious circumstances draw Bess Crawford into examining a network of family and social ties that become an increasing tangle.

The group enjoyed this one immensely (which surprised me as I'd thought they'd find the resolution too convoluted.) Indeed they thought this was one of the best mysteries they'd read this year.

193jillmwo
Aug 28, 2012, 8:58pm Top

In reading the Fall of the House of Usher (Poe --> so not one of my favorites) for the Coursera class on fantasy and science fiction, I realized that C.J. Cherryh in Foreigner uses some of the same techniques to set up a sense of Bren's alien isolation and rising feeling of suspense. He gets sent off to a remote old house made of stone (with questionable wiring). He is put in a room with large windows that blow open in the height of storms and which extinguishes the candles. Lightning flashes catch the odd reflection off the glass eyes of animal heads hung about in his room. The atevi are taller than humans so he's already made to feel small by the size of the furniture overall. He can't get information from his computer or send out messages.

Cherryh uses the same elements as Poe to create that sense of unease and being off balance in her amazing alien world. It really hadn't hit me before but it seems she's part of a tradition!

*applause for the artist*

194Sakerfalcon
Aug 29, 2012, 8:08am Top

This is about where I'm up to in Foreigner and you're right, it is very Gothic, especially the frequent thunderstorms and power cuts. Yet it fits perfectly with the world Cherryh has established - genius!

195jillmwo
Edited: Aug 30, 2012, 7:43pm Top

So, I finished Foreigner and went to buy the next one Invader: Foreigner 2 to continue reading the series on my Kindle, only to discover that apparently this publisher (DAW) has made the digital version of the first one available primarily as bait to induce me to buy all the others in the series in print format (the only format in which they are available). This irritates me.

I do not want to buy print versions of this type of reading material. I don't want any more dog eared mass market paperbacks of more than 400+ pages with teeny-tiny print size and miniscule margins. I will pay the mass market price for digital without hesitation because that allows me to circumvent the issue of teeny-tiny print and miniscule margins. I am going to take this situation to my local publishers' listserv and beat me some publishers about the head and shoulders.

Geez, I hate this kind of strategic marketing crap. Digital has hit the trade publishing community and they need to begin coping with it. Intelligently. Rapidly. Immediately.

(Don't mind me; I had a really crappy day today and this is just me venting in a safe space.)

196Marissa_Doyle
Aug 30, 2012, 8:42pm Top

Vent away...but I'm in total agreement.

197Busifer
Aug 31, 2012, 8:25am Top

Very irritating, I agree. The later ones are available in ebook format so I was sure all of them where, in the US at least. It varies depending on region... *sigh*

198jillmwo
Sep 1, 2012, 3:36pm Top

I'm finding it confusing to work out on Amazon, but it appears that it's a situation where #1 is available in Kindle format, but then others in between that one and either #9 or #10 are only available in print. From 9 forward, they are available in Kindle editions. (BTW, thank you Busifer for posting that list of the Foreigner titles to your Word Press!) But I wouldn't swear that I've gotten it all down right.

I am struggling with the next spate of readings for the Coursera coursework. It's a set of material by H.G. Wells and not the positive, optimistic ones. It's The Island of Doctor Moreau and his short story, The Star. Both have sad views of human nature. Wells clearly didn't have much conviction that we'd work through all of the challenges of our animal instincts. As I said to my husband on Friday night at dinner, I really don't think I care for the professor's thinking about or approach towards science fiction as a genre. He's really focused on all the grimness of the literature and the rest of the syllabus doesn't look promising even though it includes Leguin, Bradbury and Doctorow.

Compare that with the attitudes in Cherryh's Foreigner where (human) Bren is making every effort to deal fairly with the alien race, the Atevi, despite the fact that the values of the two societies are so disparate. (For those unfamiliar with this series, the marketing tag line goes something like "The Atevi have 14 words for betrayal but not one word for trust.") He is the alien who is suddenly thrust into a set of circumstances where trust is the one thing he cannot rely upon, because the Atevi do not have that social construct. And yet, at least by the end of the first book, they have reached some level of uneasy acceptance. (I honestly don't think that's a spoiler and if you read the book, you may be able to see why I might think that. Note as well that I went looking immediately for the next in the series. ) The one thing I can't be sure of is my recollection of what we were wrestling with when Cherryh first published this book. The Atevi reminds me very much of Japanese behaviors and I am trying to remember if it was during the early 'nineties that Americans were so sure that the Japanese were about to buy up all our culture, our companies, and our landmarks. The book was published in 1994 so I'm thinking there's a related "real life" context about alien culture.

Anyone remember off hand?

199Busifer
Sep 1, 2012, 4:48pm Top

List? Did I post a list of them? I know I've posted lots of posts about Cherryh's books, Foreigner among them, but... Glad to be of help, anyway ;)

I'm not familiar enough with US politics and economy, and even less so when it concerns the 90's, to be able to help out on 1st instalment contemporary issues :(

200The_Hibernator
Edited: Sep 1, 2012, 5:33pm Top

Which of H.G. Wells' books ARE optimistic? I think War of the Worlds is about the evils of colonization and The Time Machine is about the evils of class structure. I assumed we'd hit a bleak phase in science fiction because we're going in chronological-ish order and there were a lot of anti-hero science fiction works for a couple hundred years in there...

201jillmwo
Sep 1, 2012, 7:30pm Top

Well, I never thought War of the Worlds was so terribly grim. As I wrote on my blog back in the dark ages, I think Wells was writing to make a different point about an immediate issue in his time and culture (ie. integration of Darwinist thought into the popular consciousness). He uses the invasion by more advanced creatures as a trigger device for introducing a new idea to his fellow Victorians and as a philosophical suggestion as to how they might go on once the idea had been fully integrated. Rather than being the apex of God's creation, the invasion by the Martians suggests that man is neither at the top of the biological family nor at the bottom.

His lack of characterization in portraying the curate and the artilleryman is to suggest that the right response is neither to surrender to despair (as the curate does) nor to indulge one's baser instincts (as he suggests when he accuses the artilleryman of gluttony). There is the middle ground found by the narrator in the end of the story which is neither surrender nor a ratlike survival. Instead Wells offers the recognition that we can only progress from where we are as creatures, being aware that there are forces in nature which take over and we must submit to the limits of our own knowledge of those forces and consequent lack of control. He was examining that idea for strength as one might test a bridge to see if it can hold one's weight.

Wells presents an England in chaos due to the arrival of the Martians. But in the chapter, The Man on Putney Hill, he reasserts the place of a human being. Hubris is dangerous as there are those forces in nature that we cannot and may never control, but cowering in fear is equally unacceptable. Humankind should neither be arrogant nor frightened by their place in nature -- just recognize that such is the situation and act accordingly. (My blog entry: http://individualtake.blogspot.com/2006/10/war-of-worlds.html)

Which (to bring the conversation round again) is why Bren Cameron behaves appropriately in Foreigner. He is neither arrogant nor does he cower. He follows his best instinct which gets him in trouble but which also proves to others around him that he is a worthy individual.

202jillmwo
Sep 6, 2012, 7:43pm Top

Have shifted horses mid-stream. I am reading Lud in the Mist for a book group next week. I tried this book at least twice some while back (maybe 20 years ago?) and at the time couldn't get into it. This time, surprisingly, I'm skimming along in it and finding it refreshing.

I'm about a third of the way through the book and the impression of Faery that I have gotten so far is reminiscent of the Faery found in Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. A certain amount of quirky huumor but also a bit dark and wild. Young women burst out of their young ladies' seminary and run wild (there's that word again) through the streets! And, for those of you familiar with the title, you know that the prose is poetic. Imagining an idyllic countryside, Mirrlees gives us a Dorimare not that far removed from Tolkien's Shire.

So far, I'm really enjoying it.

But the next Foreigner book arrived today from Amazon along with a boxed set of Law & Order UK. (I need another three day weekend.)

203Marissa_Doyle
Sep 7, 2012, 9:39am Top

You've intrigued me with Lud in the Mist--I'm going to go check it out.

204Sakerfalcon
Sep 7, 2012, 9:51am Top

Lud in the mist has been on my tbr shelf for several years - time to take it down and read it, I think! I believe that Neil Gaiman cited it as an influence for Stardust.

205reading_fox
Sep 7, 2012, 10:01am Top

If you want to put some effort into it Cherryh has all her old 'thoughts on writing life' on her website. It may well go back to about the time of Foreigner. She doens't usually make direct references to outside events, but there have been exceptions. I know she's commented that the Russalka books were heavily influenced by her life at the time of writing them.

Don't forget there's GD thread on Foreigner, it will be in the reading logs linked from the group page somewhere.

Ebooks - at least you can get some of them. They aren't available in the UK at all! I suspect DAw will get around to releasing the whole series for you - once they've converted the mansuscripts etc. It just depends on how long you can wait....

206Meredy
Sep 7, 2012, 4:49pm Top

I enjoyed Lud-in-the-Mist. As I recall, Neil Gaiman alluded to it within the narrative of one of his stories, in such a way that I wasn't sure if it was real. I looked it up and found that it was. My husband and I read it aloud.

Gaiman also wrote, in his introduction to Smoke and Mirrors, that he had been hoping to do an adaptation of that book for BBC, but the project fell through. So it's plain that he was interested in it. That was a pretty strong recommendation to me.

207jillmwo
Edited: Sep 25, 2012, 7:28pm Top

Just a note to any lurking authors here in the Pub. Please recognize that including the Black Death (bubonic plague) as a key element of your historical novel can be a bit of a downer. Dead bodies, starvation, and similar accompaniments to such a disease aren't really considered to be light entertainment fare...

(Noted after making it half-way through Company of Liars which is an excellent novel, but honestly I keep having to put it down because my brain is going eee-uueeww. I didn't really want to think about THAT aspect of living through the plague.)

208jillmwo
Edited: Sep 25, 2012, 7:33pm Top

Deeply tied into fairy tales, folklore and mythology, Company of Liars is a book set in the time of the Great Plague in England. Nine travelers from the fringes of the society are brought together into a protective band. As the name of the book might suggest, no one in the company is entirely truthful about who or what they are. Society is chaotic, falling apart as the Black Death takes random victims without warning; how can this small group survive? They do by protecting one another from the rampaging Others who have no reason to trust or take in this band of wanderers. But something is chasing the nine companions. Is it the Law? The Church? Is it something darker? Twists abound as do retellings of various folk tales woven into the story. The tale is harsh in many respects, but does examine the forms of hope adopted by human beings in order to get through our lives.

Perhaps one of the strongest elements to this novel is the character development and the insights into human motivation. Maitland retains the reader’s attention because of the interest that these fully fleshed out peddlers, artists, musicians, and con men generate. The journey they follow over some 460 pages is about as rough as one can imagine; the wet and cold weather seeps into the reader’s bones while tales of wolves and swans and runes and magick transform the historical thriller into a meditation on beliefs and coping behavior.

Maitland has several novels out at this point and if this one and another (The Owl Killers) are any indication, she provides the reader with both substantive historical research and substantive themes over which to mull during dark autumn and winter months. If you haven't read any of her work, these two are great to start with.

209Meredy
Sep 25, 2012, 7:31pm Top

208: That sounds like one for me, jillmwo. I'm starting to wonder how I ever picked my reading matter without the benefit of recommendations from LT readers.

210jillmwo
Sep 25, 2012, 7:35pm Top

Meredy, both are worthwhile on the basis of her historical research, but every single woman in the library book group last night finished Company of Liars even when they found it was a slow build. (Some of them prefer fast moving mysteries.) This was long for their taste as well (450+ pages) and they still all finished it and found it worthwhile.

211Meredy
Sep 25, 2012, 7:51pm Top

And I'm happy with books twice that long, if the story and the quality of the writing hold up. I like to live with them for a long time. Your report is most encouraging.

212maggie1944
Sep 25, 2012, 8:15pm Top

Oh, boy, you got me, too. That book is wish listed and I swear my list is beginning to be big enough to eat the City of Chicago.

213Sakerfalcon
Sep 26, 2012, 6:21am Top

I really enjoyed Company of liars when I read it a couple of years ago. The owl killers in on Mount Tbr - must get it nearer the top!

214jillmwo
Edited: Oct 6, 2012, 4:31pm Top

Okay, so I finally finished Invader by C.J. Cherryh. I do understand why this gets less enthusiastic reviews by readers. The main complaint is that Bren spends too much time thinking, shuttling back and forth between sides, and doesn't really DO anything. This is accurate. In Foreigner, we were seeng how Bren comes to immerse himself in the alien culture and there is adventure and risk. In Invader, Cherryh introduces a new community of humans -- those up in space on the ship -- into the highly delicate diplomatic balance on the planet. She's still building into the larger story arc of the fifteen-book series.

I read this while recalling the experiences of a friend who is currently employed in the diplomatic service. What has impressed me about both of these books is the recognition that Cherryh displays about the difficulties of being that single person who is caught between cultural bureaucracies while having little control over either. Cultural concepts don't always translate and if the powers that be aren't truly engaged with the "foreign" culture, they don't grasp that and it causes all kinds of problems. Such misunderstandings are at the base of colonialism.

Bren is a bit of an idiot upon occasion, but he's a very busy, hard-working idiot who has little or no time to deal seriously with his personal life back on Mospheira where the human colony resides -- another issue. At the same time, he keeps reminding himself that the Atevi do not share the cultural values of humans and that, therefore, he must always be careful about not mis-attributing motives to Atevi. Living immersed in the alien culture, this is a real issue and it trips him up frequently. And that doesn't take into account the people in the diplomatic service back home who have their own political agendas and their own reasoning for behavior that trips Bren up in other situations.

I can't say I found Invader to be as compelling a read as Foreigner and having read more than a thousand pages of Cherryh's universe, I am feeling comfortable about putting it aside for a bit before I go on to the third title. I will say that it seems absolutely critical to read this series in order; plunging into Invader without understanding the groundwork laid in Foreigner would confuse the reader unnecessarily.

215jillmwo
Edited: Oct 7, 2012, 9:34am Top

By the way, I think I'm shifting gears to non-fiction next. (I feel like that idiot talking Barbie doll who complained about mathematics - "Science Fiction Is Hard!")

edited to fix punctuation

216Busifer
Oct 7, 2012, 5:08am Top

A) I agree, SF is hard work! (But rewarding, imho)

B) Inheritor is in some regards a change from Invader but the series is quite "talky" - page after page Bren thinking about this or that. Either you like it or not. Kind of ;)

217jillmwo
Oct 7, 2012, 12:00pm Top

Busifer (#216), it's is totally rewarding and not so very common to find works of science fiction that appropriately and successfully leverage the opportunity to examine THIS world through a fictional lens of another. So far, I've found the Foreigner series to be very interesting. I'll be returning to it. The book I'm reading now The Sisters of the Sinai, deals with cultural conflicts using a different mechanism; same thematic thread as in Invader but using history rather than science fiction. (Or is the label, speculative fiction, more appropriate in describing Cherryh's series? Got to think about that...)

218jillmwo
Oct 8, 2012, 12:45pm Top

Let's revisit Poe. Edgar Allan Poe is one of those writers who seriously labored to present uncanny verbal images in his poems and short stories. On the basis of that, he is a favorite of many artists because it's possible to pick up the textual image and render it visually without losing impact. Indeed sometimes, depending upon the artist, the impact may be heightened.

This weekend, my husband and I went to a wonderful exhibit, Picturing Poe, at the Brandywine Museum in Chadds Ford, PA. The gallery wasn't a large one but there were some interesting illustrations of key Poe works including The Gold Bug, The Masque of the Red Death, The Raven and The Man of the Crowd. The artists featured included Barry Moser, Henry Clarke, Arthur Rackham and William Heath Robinson. My husband in particular was taken by Robinson's work. Very romantic stuff, but not overly grim. (Some of the artists in the exhibit were exceedingly grim, nearly giddy in the way they wallowed in Poe's despair and depression. Some of the European stuff was particularly dark.)

At any rate, I wanted to direct your attention to Robinson. A hard copy editions of his 1900 illustrations of Poe's poetry are currently priced at $1100+ in US currency. (Yes, I went to ABEBooks and checked.) But they are truly marvellous pictures (visit: http://www.johncoulthart.com/feuilleton/2010/10/26/illustrating-poe-2-william-he... for examples from this book) or visit the Internet Archive and flip through it there: http://archive.org/details/poemsillustrated00poeerich.)

My main point here was that while we may enjoy the horror and darkness of Poe's short stories during the darkening days of October, we shouldn't ignore the effectiveness of his poetry. The man wrote effective poetry about death and its impact that read very much like fantasy. Ulalume and The City in the Sea are two such examples.

This is why I gripe so over the loss of illustrations in modern publishing. I think Robinson's work combined with the words of Poe are so memorable that you wonder why this particular book EVER went out of print.

At any rate, go read some of Poe's poetry to properly guide you into the spirit of the changing season!

219heathn
Oct 8, 2012, 4:38pm Top

I just finished my readings in Poe over the weekend. I think his poetry captured the atmosphere better than the short stories that I read, and I'm not a huge poetry fan. I loved Annabel Lee and A Dream. Those pictures are fantastic though, and would love to see them beside the poems as I read them.

220Morphidae
Oct 9, 2012, 7:53am Top

The only poem I ever memorized was A Dream within a Dream by Poe.

221jillmwo
Edited: Oct 13, 2012, 2:03pm Top

I'm not sure this critic in The New Yorker read the same version of Wuthering Heights that I read. http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2012/10/review-of-andrea-arnolds-wut...

I can't speak to his criticism of the movie version as I haven't seen that one.

222MrsLee
Oct 13, 2012, 2:26pm Top

221 - I didn't read all of that review, but I don't remember a lot of what she mentions. What I remember is the sheer torture of the reading. After reading what I did of that review, I'm wondering if Wuthering Heights might be a better read if one took something hallucinogenic before one began. ;)

223jillmwo
Oct 14, 2012, 6:47pm Top

This was the bit that got me (and it was in the very first paragraph of the piece)...

People love “Wuthering Heights” not just for its romance but also for its strangeness, its intensity, and its violence. (It begins, more or less, with a middle-aged man slicing open a little girl’s wrist on a broken pane of glass.)

I spent time this weekend trying to find that incident in Wuthering Heights and I would *swear* that no such incident is part of the text. I'm open to being told I'm wrong if someone can refer me to a particular chapter.

Grr-rrr.

224jillmwo
Oct 14, 2012, 6:56pm Top

Slowly working my way through non-fiction. The Sisters of Sinai has been interesting -- full of tales about travel at the close of the 19th century. The other book I'm dipping in and out of is The Mummy's Curse: The true history of a dark fantasy by Roger Luckhurst. It's more interesting, but it's possibly a bit dryer. (And I can't fathom why the touchstone for that second title isn't working.)

225Meredy
Oct 14, 2012, 7:44pm Top

223: I don't recall anything of the sort either. It begins with a traveler struggling through the snow and finding a somewhat creepy welcome at an old house with an eccentric owner. Doesn't it? The traveler hears strange noises at his bedroom window and thinks he hears someone knocking and trying to get in. He goes down to the kitchen and old Ellen, the housekeeper, tells him the tale of the ghost. The whole story then unfolds as her tale, until the end, when the owner--Heathcliff--comes in, hears that the ghost of Cathy has been visiting, and rushes out into the snow calling her name.

Isn't that how it goes? I am remembering this from very many years ago. There is nothing about a girl's wrists being slashed, by herself or anyone else.

226PolymathicMonkey
Oct 15, 2012, 5:15am Top

I haven't read it yet, and since I'm in the middle of other stuff I'm not about to now, but http://www.gutenberg.org/files/768/768-h/768-h.htm reading chapter one there has nothing remotely like that. A man on horse meets his new "exaggeratedly reserved" and "surly" landlord, is left alone in a room with a pack of dogs, attacked by them but w/o harm, and then goes to have some wine with the guy. Goodness knows what that absurd person is on about.

227clamairy
Oct 15, 2012, 7:34am Top

#223 & #225 - In the movie version with Laurence Olivier doesn't someone (the guest?) grab the young ghost's hand through the window during the storm and try to pull her in? Maybe that is what they are talking about, and it's not a scene from the book at all. I haven't seen the movie in decades, but I'm pretty sure it happens that first night.

228Meredy
Oct 15, 2012, 6:28pm Top

Oh, dear, I wonder if I am recalling the opening of the 1939 Olivier movie instead of the book. Both are decades old in my memory. Clamairy, I thought he heard a branch scratching against the window and believed he saw a spectral hand. No grabbing, though, in my recollection. Maybe we should ask Titano.

In any event I would swear on my TBR pile that there is no wrist-slashing anywhere in the book or the movie.

229clamairy
Oct 15, 2012, 7:24pm Top

Maybe it's in a more recent version then. LOL In my memory he grabs her hand and she screams... I just assumed that's where the slicing must have come in. The only one I've ever seen is the Olivier version. (If you don't count the Carol Burnett skit!)

230jillmwo
Edited: Oct 15, 2012, 8:08pm Top

Okay, just so long as I'm not crazy. I honestly question whether the man ever read Emily Bronte.

(Is it okay to order floggings of bad journalists? Or is that now passe? So many things have changed in this past decade that I'm sure I don't know the appropriate protocols for so many of life's events. Weddings, bat mitzvahs, floggings....) Yes, I'm joking.

231jillmwo
Edited: Oct 22, 2012, 12:24pm Top

I am in an autumnal mode. I am wearing sweat pants and a sweatshirt. I will be baking later today in anticipation of son visiting. I am reading dark and depressing literature. I expect to finish the serious history of The Mummy's Curse: The True History of a Dark Fantasy by Lockhurst this weekend and in between I'm reading short stories by Rudyard Kipling. If you have never read The Village that Voted the Earth Was Flat, you have missed a truly funny tale that has echoes in our current environment. Spookier is The Phantom Rickshaw. The collection I'm reading is one with an introduction by Neil Gaiman who admits Kipling had an influence on him.

For that matter, Neil Gaiman wrote a lovely intro to a Poe collection, Selected Poems and Tales and Mark Summers did museum collection quality illos for it.

232jillmwo
Edited: Oct 23, 2012, 8:05pm Top



The Mummy’s Curse: The True Story of a Dark Fantasy
Roger Lockhurst
Oxford University Press, 2012, 328 pages (approx 75 of which are notes, bibliography and index)

Serious history focusing on the attitudinal shift of the British culture during the 19th century with regard to Egypt and the impact that it had on the popular culture of the time. Where originally the English reaction to Egyptian culture had been one of awe and respect in the wake of Napoleon’s conquest in 1798, over the course of the following ninety years, as the British role in the region expanded to encompass occupation in the region by 1882, various tales of lost knowledge and centuries-old curses of malevolence arose in the media. Specifically Lockhurst looks at three artefacts that lent themselves to wild tales of possession and malevolent behaviors:
(a) the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s Tomb (this story of the curse lives on even to today's discussions of Downton Abbey: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2072729/Downton-Abbey-cursed-Dan-St...)
(b) The Unlucky Mummy of the British Museum (#22542); otherwise known as the mummy of Sebek-Sa -- but again still largely known even in the British Museum's catalog as the Unlucky Mummy (see http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/search_the_collection_database/search_obje...)
(c) Coffin of Nesmin -- an artefact owned at various times by 19th century celebrities, including H. Rider Haggard.

The Middle East was largely remote from the daily consciousness of the ordinary British citizen and exposure -- accurate and otherwise -- to ideas and items belonging to such foreign locales was of tremendous interest. Awareness of these foreign environments was fueled through the narratives created by museums and theatrical spectacles, even in the shopping experiences available to the middle class.There was the promise of great knowledge lost to the ages and subsequently restored through discoveries made by great archaeologists such as Howard Carter and William Flinders Petrie. There was however a gap in between the slow excavations by serious researchers and the shallow (frequently embellished) versions offered to English citizens elsewhere. In this space, various spiritualists and occultists succumbed to the imaginative impulse of putting themselves in the places of ancient nobility buried in pyramids, Great and small.

Luckhurst documents some interesting history, but overall, the fascination of a spooky mummy tale doesn’t really make itself felt. There are a couple of points he makes such as the sense of discomfort that we may feel when a human body is displayed as a museum artefact. After all, mummies “are human remains, not inert objects. They are liminal, suspended between stages of existence.” (pg. 144).

I learned about some odd things here and there; I’d no idea of some of H. Rider Haggard’s background or the depth of his knowledge and collecting of Egyptian artefacts. Apparently he and Rudyard Kipling were the best of friends! (more on that aspect later in the week).

233maggie1944
Oct 24, 2012, 7:28am Top

The cover picture did not give me the impression that this is really a quite serious book, looking into some interesting phenomena. Your last paragraph suggests that you enjoyed reading it, but I'm not sure. Did you like it?

234Marissa_Doyle
Oct 24, 2012, 11:01am Top

This sounds very interesting...onto the wishlist it goes!

235jillmwo
Edited: Oct 24, 2012, 7:37pm Top

To answer your question, maggie1944, I did like it, but I don't think it will be to everyone's taste. It was an intriguing period of history viewed through a unique lens. The fact that I kept on reading may be attributed to the author's use of that lens (that of the mummy's curse).

BUT it wasn't a fast read the way some social histories aimed at a popular audience are. Maybe that's the problem. I had thought this was aimed at a popular audience (based on the title) but I got into it and discovered that it wasn't written particularly to appeal to that audience. It was more on the serious "tenure-track" side of history.

Perhaps it was also the structure of the book. It was somewhat chronological in its approach but not consistently. There was a section devoted to the three individuals most associated with the "curse" tales told about each artifact. The artifacts were discussed in the numbered order I gave above so in reverse chronological order. Then the author changed approach and switched to more of a more formal discussion of the rise of British influence and institutions, so we went back further in time and moved forward in a more linear chronology. The pages about the British Museum were particularly interesting as I knew nothing about its beginnings. But then again, the author switched and we were talking about Egyptian Gothic (an concept or label I'd not really encountered before.)

Again, I thought this would be more of a light social history that would extend the idea of the mummy's curse into the modern era. But it really stops before you get to World War II and the modern horror flicks. He does reference Boris Karloff's movie role but primarily to contrast it with the original source material (early Victorian novel that is eluding me now...). I think the Hammer films get a single reference, but no mention in the index.

I'm sorry -- I know this is likely more detail than you needed. The Mummy's Curse: The True History of a Dark Fantasy was an interesting educational read, but not a form of entertainment reading. Not quite a case of "My brain hurts" but one shouldn't call it brain candy either.

It did drive me into the arms of Rudyard Kipling as I mentioned above. It gets points for that. I'm amazed at the stories I'm finding in Rudyard Kipling's Tales of Horror and Fantasy.

Oh and one last thing before I go; The Mummy's Curse did make me wonder if the modern fad for zombies might be a clear indicator of American anxieties. The walking dead -- no emotions because they are in fact dead -- might be our parallel to the British fondness for mummies. (Or vampires because they suck the human being dry...) We may pride ourselves on our ability to adapt to technological change via the literature of steampunk, but the current fascination with the literature of the undead would seem to suggest something else entirely.

236maggie1944
Oct 24, 2012, 8:48pm Top

MrsLee, I agree with your wondering about the zombies and the Americans.

I read a book called Zombie Economics recently and the author did a really good job of painting all the forces which mitigate against people making smart financial decisions into the zombie persona. I loved thinking that putting money away in a saving account was like storing up ammo for the day the zombies attack your front door.

Yes, zombies = anxieties of the modern era

I think you've got something there!

237jillmwo
Oct 25, 2012, 7:36pm Top

Well, enough with the mummies. I dreamed about them last night! Fortunately, I dreamed about the attractive mummy cases and not the brown wrapped mummies themselves. Turquoise and gold makes a design statement that the brain can hold on to apparently!

Switching over entirely to different genre -- Turn of Mind for the book group Monday night -- assuming that Hurricane Sandy doesn't cause it to be cancelled.

238clamairy
Oct 25, 2012, 8:38pm Top

Sandy... :o(
May she pizzle away to a puff and a spritz and be done with!

239maggie1944
Oct 26, 2012, 7:58am Top

She is headed your way, right? Dang! Be safe.

240jillmwo
Edited: Oct 27, 2012, 5:41pm Top

Random ramble here: Groceries done by 8:30 this am; car dealership appointment done by 11:00; Errand to local mall for one last storm emergency item done by 11:30; lasagna in oven by 4:30pm. All very efficient. Now sitting, having first evening "cocktail" and listening to storm-happy, somberly hysterical media predictions of massive apocalypse arriving tomorrow. Spouse working until 8pm this evening, but he will be thrilled to hear he got a call-back for a part in upcoming production of Forbidden Broadway. Of course, the assistant director is doing the call backs on Sunday night just as the storm is arriving...

Oh, and there is a full moon tomorrow night! Do werewolves swim?

However, the most pressing question is whether I should read a mystery or a fantasy to pass the time. Or watch one of the stacks of DVDs around this house?

241maggie1944
Edited: Oct 27, 2012, 6:27pm Top

Much like my day, Jill. Spent a Saturday morning in pouring rain to shop for a new washer dryer for my rental house. Great time: no one else is out and about. Picked up a Starbucks for motivation. Went to grocery store to buy a selection of "expensive" beer/ales for the Birthday Boy at party tonight. Came home, and good news: successfully downloaded the Kindle app onto my MacBook Air. Ran into a snag with registering Amazon but after many attempts and working with two Amazon techies by phone, we succeeded!

Now I can take my latest books with me to Hawaii on the computer and leave the Kindle behind. Less weight!

No storm approaching here, but life is pretty normal, eh?

242jillmwo
Oct 28, 2012, 7:46am Top

Picked up a Starbucks for motivation

We share a common taste, maggie1944! I doubled down on picking up some of the Starbucks Via this trip to the grocery store. (I also have the bottled frapps in the fridge so that I can have coffee no matter WHAT).

243maggie1944
Oct 28, 2012, 10:21am Top

yup. My darling espresso/foaming milk machine did a "nope" this morning, so I slid over to my "backup" system. And made my cuppa. Can not be without.

244jillmwo
Edited: Nov 4, 2012, 11:57am Top

Well, yesterday, as if to simply confirm the ongoing depressing Hamlet-GothicLit-WarCasualties aspect of this year's reading, I went to a performance of Edgar Allan Poe's gloomy poetry and hallucinogenic prose. This is a little theater kind of thing that is done at a winery in Lancaster, Pa. The space is used for the RenFaire during the summer, for a Dickens Christmas at year's end, and etc. throughout the year. The winery is a backdrop for all of it. I think we were out there for about six hours and it was a delightful way to get away from the news, from work, and from all computer screens.

I was relatively restrained in my purchasing of alcoholic beverages but did come home with a T-shirt for the spouse (as a thank-you gift) and a bottle of very good cream sherry for me.

But today's random ramble regarding non-book related events in my life is this: what does one serve sherry in if one hasn't proper sherry glasses? The seldom-if-ever-used sherry glasses given as a wedding gift by an old girlfriend of my spouse, were sent over to a church white elephant some years ago. So now I have no sherry glasses. So now what do I do? I don't have any little juice glasses, and the Powers-High-Atop-Mount-Olympus didn't intend us to drink excellent cream sherry out of red wine glasses purchased from K-mart, did they?

Advice?

245hfglen
Nov 4, 2012, 1:51pm Top

I once went to dinner with an Indian diplomat (long story), who served it in tumblers.

246MrsLee
Nov 4, 2012, 7:08pm Top

Teacups? Espresso cups?

247maggie1944
Nov 4, 2012, 9:10pm Top

I love the image of Sherry in tea cups.

248hfglen
Nov 5, 2012, 11:22am Top

#246 I could handle that. The little Chinese ones without handles.

249Busifer
Nov 5, 2012, 11:24am Top

For some reason I imagine the tea cups more as mugs. And I don't like sherry ;-)

250Meredy
Nov 5, 2012, 3:37pm Top

How about in your best porcelain china cups and saucers?

Jelly glasses?

Or plastic champagne flutes?

I think I'd decide on the basis of whom I'm serving it to and what the occasion is. Some people would understand a silly or faux-elegant solution and some wouldn't. Actually I would be less inclined to entertain those who wouldn't, anyway.

251MrsLee
Nov 5, 2012, 4:35pm Top

I was thinking of the delicate porcelain china cups with saucers. Just like during prohibition. I've been known to have a martini or shot of tequila in them. :) They don't really work for my tea.

252jillmwo
Edited: Nov 6, 2012, 6:28am Top

Actually, you have all reminded me of a set of cut-glass coffee cups that I own that are part of an under-utilized holiday set. They will do nicely. I thank all of you for the inspiration!

Actually, I just got home from the library where we were discussing a particularly well-written book which is difficult to describe without sounding horribly exploitive. The sole narrator has Alzheimer's and is therefore ultimately an unreliable narrator. Alice LaPlante did a splendid job with Turn of Mind in developing a compelling mystery where the central story-telling device is a medical condition that most would find off-putting as incorporated into a novel.

I was prepared for them to tell me that the selection of this particular title was an unhappy one, if not a downright tactless one. I was discussing this with women in their sixties, seventies and eighties. But they were lively and the discussion turned out to be one of the best this year! It wasn't a facilitated discussion; it was a real set of conversations bouncing between personal experience and the fictional rendition of an Alzheimer's victim. (You are in the head of the Alzheimer's patient for the full length of the book, hearing the conversations she has with other people who she may or may not recognize and or trust.) The author's initial point of invention came from her asking the somewhat ironic question of what would it be like to be a detective solving a crime when you couldn't remember the information given through interviews and clues? LaPlante answers that question via a story that is at times funny, sensitive, and sad. Great read!

At any rate, while most of the women in the group said they wouldn't have picked up the book of their own accord, they felt that it was a worthwhile read for them!

253Meredy
Nov 5, 2012, 9:12pm Top

Cut-glass coffee cups! What could be more perfect? Cheers.

254MrsLee
Nov 5, 2012, 9:47pm Top

Turn of Mind sounds fascinating.

255jillmwo
Nov 7, 2012, 7:23pm Top

MrsLee, it was indeed quite fascinating. The pacing moved quickly but, once finished with the initial rush through, the reader comes to the end of the book with a mental reaction of "Wait a minute! What? That's who did it?". At which point, the reader returns back to the beginning to make sure that s/he properly understood what just happened. It was a surprising conclusion, but not an unsupported one.

It's the kind of book that you say to someone, "Don't think about the topic or the narrator; just read it!"

I just finished the first novella in the Wool series by Hugh Howey. Post-apocalyptic fiction that is quite creepy and striking. Trying to determine if I want to go forward to the rest in the series.

256jillmwo
Nov 8, 2012, 7:53pm Top

Stacked on my ottoman:

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman
Holiday Grind by Cleo Coyle
The Calling by Inger Ash Wolfe

These arrived today. So that's another 5" added to the TBR pile. Any advice for whittling it down? Should I be getting up earlier in the morning? (I'm up at 5:45 as it is...)

257The_Hibernator
Nov 8, 2012, 8:01pm Top

That's interesting. I didn't know that Pullman wrote a collection of fairy tales. Are they pretty canonical or are they reinterpreted retellings?

258PolymathicMonkey
Nov 9, 2012, 5:16am Top

>257 by The_Hibernator, Being curious myself, I looked on GR (where there's often tons of reviews). One person said "He doesn’t embellish much, but tries to find the best version of each tale from the many editions the Grimm brothers published. At the end of each story, Pullman gives bibliographical references for similar stories that appear in sources like Mother Goose, Italo Calvino, and the Arabian Nights, among others. When available, Pullman also tells us where the brothers first heard the tale, and from whom." The first sentence made me groan, there's already tons of collections, why one more?? But I'm intrigued by the rest of the information he included. Granted, Wiki and other such sites probably have much of that info as well, but still. I wouldn't mind having the book. :)

259jillmwo
Edited: Nov 10, 2012, 7:29am Top

The sense I have is that Pullman is rewriting the tales in order to restore them to closer versions of the originals without any of the overt sugar or didactic lessons that tend to be added when preparing material for children. He quite rightly feels that such additions are unnecessary. But if you're curious, I can offer an example of how Pullman treats one tale.

The tale of the Mouse, the Bird and the Sausage is fairly straightforward. Where the mouse, bird and sausage had enjoyed a happily organized division of labor in their household, external peer pressure on a single partner causes that partner to lean on the other two to reallocate workload. This ends in the various parties doing tasks for which they are not suited and putting each at risk. Rather than cooking, the sausage is put out to fetch wood which puts him in the way of a dog who seizes and swallows him. (Briefly assuming the role of authority, the dog excuses his behavior by claiming that the sausage is indulging in suspect behavior). The mouse, who assumes the sausage’s role as cook, ends by being cooked (losing skin, hair and life in the pot). The bird sees, as a final result of his dissatisfaction, the loss of his household arrangements and subsequently loses his life by attempting a task beyond his strength.

Pullman's version retains the humorous bit about the dog suggesting that the sausage was carrying forged papers and therefore not deserving of the protection of the law. He also notes with some humor that the Germans have more than 1500 types of sausage, but that this particular sausage was a bratwurst. Apparently bratwurst isn't nearly as funny a word as sausage, so the stories all just refer to a sausage.

More unusually, Pullman admits that there *is* a moral to this story, and that it is intended to be didactic in nature. The lesson is that the three could have lived happily together had the bird's faith in the original household arrangements not been undermined.

I haven't read the other tales contained in the volume as yet, but a fast skimming of the material suggests that Pullman has avoided instilling much of his own agenda/worldview into the stories.

Edited to fix broken/truncated sentence

260PolymathicMonkey
Nov 10, 2012, 4:04am Top

For the record, I've never encountered any actual collection of the old fairy tales that made them all cutesy for kids like Disney does. Only the Disney versions, or individual short children's books that were author interpretations/based-off do that. Collections always have the real stories, dark and/or morbid as they may be.

261The_Hibernator
Edited: Nov 10, 2012, 9:13am Top

I agree...unless the collection is SPECIFICALLY targeted at for little kids (which is pretty obvious when you look at the cover), collections of fairy tales generally have the original morbid themes. The information about different versions and stories that are related is interesting, but like you said in message >258 PolymathicMonkey: that info can be found on the internet. And there are folklore scholars who have made similar collections with such information. I've been electronically eyeballing The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales and The Annotated Brothers Grimm (both edited by Maria Tatar), for instance. Of course, Pullman's secondary information might be a little less Freudian than Tatar's. ;)

I'll watch for any more comments you make on Pullman's collection, Jill.

ETA: I didn't mean this post to be a criticism of Pullman's collection...I just like knowing which editions have new information that I haven't come across yet. Pullman's collection might well. :)

262jillmwo
Nov 10, 2012, 9:43am Top

I'd favor Tatar's work over Pullman's, I think. It's her academic specialty and I find her commentary to be instructive and substantive. As noted above, Pullman's commentary was concerned (somewhat tongue in cheek, I know) with what kind of sausage was featured in the tale...

263PolymathicMonkey
Nov 10, 2012, 10:30am Top

>261 by The_Hibernator, Oh no, not more books to add to my ever-growing wishlist!! *shakes fist* ;)

264jillmwo
Edited: Nov 12, 2012, 8:10pm Top

I have just about finished Hugh Howey's Wool Omnibus which I am finding somewhat depressing -- even taking into account that it is dystopian fiction. Many dead bodies. More than I think are really required, all things considered.

More seriously, I can understand why it's gotten attention. The pacing is good, the idea is sympathetic in an #OccupyWallStreet kind of way. But it's not a reassuring or upbeat read!

Actually, it kind of reminds me of H.G. Wells in one of his more misanthropic moods.

If you are unfamiliar with this title, it's what Ursula K. LeGuin would call a story suite, consisting of several novellas that share a common universe as well as a common theme. In this instance, Howey has imagined a world devastated by some cataclysm where humans live underground in siloes. Each novella focuses on an individual character or two whose story is part of a chain. Taken together, the chain explains the world in which these people live, but you could just as satisfactorily read each story as a stand-alone. Howey is a published author who decided to self-publish using Amazon's kindle digital platform as an experiment. At some point in time, the top slots on Amazon's Kindle best-seller lists were dominated by the different links in the story chain.

But still not a gentle, pleasant read.

265clamairy
Nov 12, 2012, 8:04pm Top

#264 - Hmmm, sounds interesting, but not so appealing right now. I do love dystopian fiction, but not this time of year. Maybe I should put it on my wishlist.

266jillmwo
Nov 12, 2012, 8:11pm Top

The Kindle edition is priced at about $5.00 for the full omnibus, so you could call it a stocking stuffer of sorts...

But no, not a happy holiday read.

267clamairy
Nov 12, 2012, 8:13pm Top

Thanks for the info. I don't have an ereader yet, but I may be asking for one as a giftie.

268maggie1944
Nov 13, 2012, 9:53am Top

Clam, I put a Kindle app on my computer and am very happy with it. You might try it on for size, so to speak, before you get one.

269clamairy
Edited: Nov 13, 2012, 10:00am Top

I can't read books on my PC. I've tried... I think I have that app on my phone, but I haven't activate it.

270MrsLee
Nov 13, 2012, 3:01pm Top

I read my Kindle app on my phone all the time. Great for waiting in the line at the bank or a quick read on my lunch break. I use the one on my netbook as well, it's not quite like reading on the computer because you can adjust the page color, brightness, font size and spacing on the page. Still, with a house full of TBRs, I don't feel inclined much to read my digital stuff. Doesn't stop me buying them, though!

271jillmwo
Edited: Nov 13, 2012, 7:25pm Top

I admit I use mine mostly when I'm commuting or traveling (although due to the economy, there hasn't been much traveling for business in recent months.)

I don't read much on my phone or on my iTouch, but the Kindle apps there I tend to use mostly for look-up purposes.

One additional thing that just occurred to me -- one of my book groups is entirely e-reader oriented so I do tend to read books for that group on the Kindle. That's how I got suckered into readng Wool in the first place! But even for that group, it isn't exclusively ebooks. I read a good amount of Lud-in-the-Mist from the printed version.

272maggie1944
Nov 14, 2012, 1:34am Top

So, I loaded the Kindle app on the MacBook thinking I would read it here in Hawaii, as well as answer emails, read LT threads, post on LT (obviously), etc. I am sitting in bed right now doing that; however, I took it to the beach once and went "oh, no, don't think I'll do this again".... too much sand. Too much breeze lifting and carrying the sand to all sorts of places.... like in my computer? no, no, no! How about in my camera? no, no, no.

So I went to Costco and bought Wild Bill Donovan just so I could have a real life, paperback book to read at the beach; and if I drop it in the ocean I'll only have spent $11.00.

So, I read all types. The ebooks and the Kindle and the Nook and the computer and real hardback books and real paperback books and new books and used books. The only type I've not yet tried is the Print-On-Demand books.

It will all work out, I think.

273jillmwo
Nov 15, 2012, 8:19pm Top

Memo to all from this grumpy, spoiled, American working woman:

My tendency to become snarky while crafting work emails after 8 pm is becoming a problem. It's possible that I could be alienating my social network within the industry.

*sigh* I want the business community to lighten up and focus more on watching The Big Bang Theory or something of that ilk.

And at this point the more mature (?) Jill kicks in (that is, the one that I hear talking in my head) and reminds me that I am extraordinarily lucky to have a job -- even one that requires emails after 8pm.

274Meredy
Nov 15, 2012, 8:37pm Top

273: I used to have a colleague to whom I could turn whenever I needed a niceness check on a message before I sent it. Her instincts for niceness were infallible, whereas in the presence of exasperating absurdities I sometimes let the temptation to turn a double-edged phrase overrule my sense of professional self-preservation.

Usually the fact that I even asked her amounted to an admission that I knew I'd better not send it as is.

Do you have anyone you can call on to activate your better-judgment filter when you think you might be dangerously far into snark mode?

275jillmwo
Edited: Nov 15, 2012, 8:54pm Top

Actually, what I try to do is avoid writing emails after 8pm!. It's my own fault for looking at email at night. I know it is something I tend to resent, even when I recognize the validity of the demand. But I keep making the mistake of looking and then feeling like I should be knocking out a response to the person.

Seriously, this evening was just one where I had gotten a phone call from my boss at 7pm (away on travel so connecting is an issue) and then at 8, was faced with an email from someone who is really helping me out professionally rather than being demanding. But I was out late last night and I am probably more tired than is advisable. Like I said, Meredy, I'm the one who is behaving badly. Not anyone else.

Where are the cute pictures of kittens and puppies on the Internet when you need them? (Of course, in my present mood, I suspect I'd blow a raspberry at the screen.)

At 9pm, I'm going to bed.

276AHS-Wolfy
Nov 15, 2012, 9:38pm Top

Where are the cute pictures of kittens and puppies on the Internet when you need them? (Of course, in my present mood, I suspect I'd blow a raspberry at the screen.)

Sounds like you need to pay a visit to this place.

277MrsLee
Nov 17, 2012, 9:29pm Top

Heh, I have your problem, jillmwo, but it can be any time of day. I have been misunderstood so much in my emails that I read them at least 10 times before I hit send, and if a coworker is handy and it isn't something they should not read, I always have them read it, too. I think I'm being professional (to me, smilies are out of place in a business email), but I guess it comes across otherwise. *sigh*

278jillmwo
Nov 18, 2012, 8:55am Top

smilies are out of place in a business email

Isn't that the truth?!! And yet... *head desk*

279jillmwo
Nov 18, 2012, 9:06am Top

#276 AHS-Wolfy Those were good. They did in fact make me go "Awww". Laughing babies, cats curled up next to one another and puppies in swings!

All the blowing of raspberries did in fact cease.

280jillmwo
Nov 18, 2012, 2:06pm Top

I have put up a batch of gingerbread with my own hands, just like Mrs Shaw in Louisa May Alcott's An Old-Fashioned Girl. That's to show how domestic I am. (I even braved the holiday-maddened mothers grocery-shopping in Acme this afternoon in order to pick up one or two seriously important missing ingredients! My sons may have student loan debt following their education, but they were rewarded with homemade gingerbread when they came home for Thanksgiving.)

Of course, tomorrow, it's back to the ordinary salt mines.

With regard to reading, I just finished re-reading Dorothy L. Sayers Unnatural Death which I hadn't read in *years*. It's the first one with Miss Climpson!

281MrsLee
Nov 18, 2012, 4:03pm Top

I LOVE Miss Climpson!! She truly DELIGHTS me!

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