30 September 2009

Penguin Classics: On a Date

Penguin Classics has a cute mini-movie about a date who gets an education in the 10 Essential Penguin Classics.

[Sorry - was trying to embed the video but it just wouldn't work. You'll need to visit the Penguin site to see it.]

It's a bit cloying and I'm pretty sure my date with this guy wouldn't have lasted long....I've read all ten of the classics listed. Jane Eyre and Pride & Prejudice are favorites of mine.

29 September 2009

Teaser Tuesday: The Satanic Verses

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:

- Grab your current read
- Open to a random page
- Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
- BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
- Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Chamcha's room struck the sleepless intruder as contrived, and therefore sad: the caricature of an actor's room full of signed photographs of colleagues, handbills, framed programmes, production stills, citations, awards, volumes of movie-star memoirs, a room bought off the peg, by the yard, an imitation of life, a mask's mask.
~ p 180, The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie

Bookspotting: September 29, 2009

Spotted on the morning bus:

Two copies of The Lost Symbol (possibly three, but no dustjacket on that one and spine printing looked about right)
Library copy of Lorraine Bracco's On the Couch
Terry Pratchett's Reaper Man
A book about making baby food, but I didn't catch the title
Several note packs for "Foundations of Clinical Practice I"
Some loudmouth complaining about his greedy "baby-mama" to what sounded like his momma (seriously, shut up because no one wants to know you're a lazy deadbeat dad)

And what was I reading? The Satanic Verses

28 September 2009

If you ban it, they will come

It's Banned Books Week again in the USA starting September 26 and ending October 3 (I'm a little late on my opening post, sorry). I'm not going to discuss the semantics of the word "banned" and whether or not we actually "ban" books or "challenge" books...it's the spirit of the thing. Some of my favorite books are ones frequently challenged in schools and libraries. I was allowed to read very liberally as a child; my parents always knew what I was reading, occasionally directing me toward or away from a book as they saw fit, and encouraged me to ask questions if I didn't understand something I read.

And you know what? I'm not a crazy ax-murderer, I don't worship the devil, and I'm not an unwed teenage crack-addict mom. I read a lot of books with extreme themes and I'm still well-adjusted. On the other hand, I did know kids with parents who tightly controlled their reading and, while those kids turned out OK, too, you could tell that sometimes they wanted to join in on the class discussion of Brave New World rather than read yet another Shakespeare play to pass British Lit. To my knowledge, we never had successful challenges to books in my school district but I will say that the administrators and teachers were also very willing to work with parents if there were curriculum concerns (maybe everyone in my district is special, who knows).

The ALA has posted the 100 most frequently challenged books from 1990-1999 and I thought it would be interesting to see how many of these titles I read; a number of YA titles were published after I finished high school and since I read above my reading level, particularly after middle school, I probably haven't read as many recent YA novels on this list (books I've read are in bold).

1.Scary Stories (Series), by Alvin Schwartz
2.Daddy’s Roommate, by Michael Willhoite
3.I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
4.The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
5.The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
6.Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
7.Forever, by Judy Blume
8.Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
9.Heather Has Two Mommies, by Leslea Newman
10.The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
11.The Giver, by Lois Lowry
12.My Brother Sam is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

13.It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
14.Alice (Series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
15.Goosebumps (Series), by R.L. Stine
16.A Day No Pigs Would Die, by Robert Newton Peck
17.The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
18.Sex, by Madonna
19.Earth’s Children (Series), by Jean M. Auel
20.The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson

21.In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
22.The Witches, by Roald Dahl
23.A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
24.The New Joy of Gay Sex, by Charles Silverstein
25.Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
26.The Goats, by Brock Cole
27.The Stupids (Series), by Harry Allard
28.Anastasia Krupnik (Series), by Lois Lowry
29.Final Exit, by Derek Humphry
30.Blubber, by Judy Blume
31.Halloween ABC, by Eve Merriam
32.Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George
33.Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane
34.The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
35.What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters, by Lynda Madaras
36.Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
37.The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
38.The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton
39.The Pigman, by Paul Zindel
40.To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
41.We All Fall Down, by Robert Cormier
42.Deenie, by Judy Blume
43.Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes
44.Annie on my Mind, by Nancy Garden
45.Beloved, by Toni Morrison
46.The Boy Who Lost His Face, by Louis Sachar
47.Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat, by Alvin Schwartz
48.Harry Potter (Series), by J.K. Rowling
49.Cujo, by Stephen King
50.James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl
51.A Light in the Attic, by Shel Silverstein

52.Ordinary People, by Judith Guest
53.American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis
54.Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
55.Sleeping Beauty Trilogy, by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
56.Bumps in the Night, by Harry Allard
57.Asking About Sex and Growing Up, by Joanna Cole
58.What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons, by Lynda Madaras
59.The Anarchist Cookbook, by William Powell
60.Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
61.Boys and Sex, by Wardell Pomeroy
62.Crazy Lady, by Jane Conly
63.Athletic Shorts, by Chris Crutcher
64.Killing Mr. Griffin, by Lois Duncan
65.Fade, by Robert Cormier
66.Guess What?, by Mem Fox
67.Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
68.Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
69.Native Son by Richard Wright

70.Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies, by Nancy Friday
71.Curses, Hexes and Spells, by Daniel Cohen
72.On My Honor, by Marion Dane Bauer
73.The House of Spirits, by Isabel Allende
74.Jack, by A.M. Homes
75.Arizona Kid, by Ron Koertge
76.Family Secrets, by Norma Klein
77.Mommy Laid An Egg, by Babette Cole
78.Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo A. Anaya
79.Where Did I Come From?, by Peter Mayle
80.The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline Cooney
81.Carrie, by Stephen King
82.The Dead Zone, by Stephen King
83.The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
84.Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
85.Always Running, by Luis Rodriguez
86.Private Parts, by Howard Stern
87.Where’s Waldo?, by Martin Hanford
88.Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Greene
89.Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume
90.Little Black Sambo, by Helen Bannerman
91.Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett
92.Running Loose, by Chris Crutcher
93.Sex Education, by Jenny Davis
94.Jumper, by Steven Gould
95.Christine, by Stephen King
96.The Drowning of Stephen Jones, by Bette Greene
97.That Was Then, This is Now, by S.E. Hinton
98.Girls and Sex, by Wardell Pomeroy
99.The Wish Giver, by Bill Brittain
100.Jump Ship to Freedom, by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

I've read about half of those. Not bad. I need to figure out why A Light in the Attic is on the challenge list - that one really strikes me as odd.

Banned Books Challenge Day 28/American Psycho

I've not done so well on this challenge the major problem being I was out of town for most of two weekends (which is usually when I get most of my weekly reading done) and I was knitting a cardigan (stay tuned for a knitting post). So I haven't read nearly as much for this challenge as I should have. I know that I do have two days left in the challenge....but my books are pretty thick and I have to work. Boo. So I have only hours left to read nearly 700 pages (The Satanic Verses and The Naked and the Dead) by the end of September. Oy.

Day 28: I'm having a little trouble with The Naked and the Dead for some reason; it's not holding my interest which is surprising to me because it feels a little like Catch-22 (a book I love) but in a journalistic style. Maybe it's the ironic voice that I miss. In any case, I'll probably work on The Satanic Verses the rest of the month; although the writing is not nearly as linear I love Rushdie's prose and imagery.

From this point in my post, I will be reviewing American Psycho and I will have to drop some spoilers in order to adequately process my thoughts about this book. Also, I'm probably going to swear more than normal. If you really plan to read this novel at a later date and are spoiler-sensitive I'd suggest not reading the rest of this post; to review this in a one-liner, Ellis's book has really messed up subject manner but an interesting style and probably shouldn't be read by the faint-hearted.

I finished American Psycho yesterday.

Patrick Bateman is one sick fuck and that's an understatement. I knew that before starting the novel and it still gave me pause. The level of violence and objectification perpetrated on women in general over the course of the novel is nauseating (Bateman does nasty things to a few men, too, but the overwhelming majority of victims are women). Leading up to the first major sex/rape/murder scene, Ellis drops only a few hints as to his main character's extra-curricular activities. A mention of an axe or mabye a bloody coat or a random line about someone's head in a freezer. It's enough to let the reader know something is very wrong with Bateman but really doesn't prepare one for the level of brutality of the scene...hmmm...brutality isn't quite the right word, neither is psychotic...it's really a sadistic savagery. That sounds like a bad line from a pulp novel. Take the Marquis du Sade and ratchet it up about a 1000 times, throw in a lot of drugs, and add some cannibalism. Then that's about right for that first scene. Hannibal Lecter was a gourmand but Bateman is like a coked-up hyena.

After about three seriously fucked up scenes Ellis eases up on the specific description of the murders. After that Bateman will refer to a girl's hands, or brain, or whatever-body-part he's got decorating his apartment - the reader is no longer really party to the act itself (which is fine because I'd more or less started skimming the graphic scenes). The change in description got me to thinking, because I watch a lot of Criminal Minds, about why Ellis had a main character who was not just killing but torturing and eating his victims as opposed to the violence itself (over kill). Patrick Bateman has a lot of rage (again, understatement) which is directed for the most part at women (but only some women because some of his close female acquaintences remain unscathed) and at non-white/non-yuppie members of society but I think that Bateman also victimizes those who objectify him.

This is not a completely thought-out theory. I feel that the emphasis on things - labels, styles, colors, fashion houses, brands, gyms, etc. - creates a shell around Bateman. He's bat-shit psychotic on the inside but on the outside he's Richie Rich. People seem to want to be his friend/want him for his name, money, family, where he went to college but in reality none of them can remember who the hell he is. The bums and ethnic-minority business owners only want his money because he's another rich guy. He's frequently called by someone else's name and this point was driven home near the end of the novel (major SPOILER approaching). After a police chase (because Bateman really lost it and shot a bum while a squad car was passing) Bateman makes a phone call to a friend (lawyer?) and confesses everything to the man's voicemail....but nothing happens, no one comes to arrest Bateman; when Bateman later mentions the lengthy voicemail to the recipient the man believes Bateman was someone else, accusing Bateman of all those murders as some sort of joke. So Ellis demonstrates that Bateman isn't real, he's not authentic, no one is authentic because all the depraved acts committed by Bateman really don't matter and no one really seems to care. At all. Bateman's anger at being marginalized within his own tribe finds an outlet in extreme violence but even a confession fails to make those around him see him and so the cycle continues. I think seeing Bateman as himself is what saves Bateman's secretary, Jean, from becoming one of his victims when she shows that she thinks there's a real person inside Bateman - one who is considerate of others and kind, even though the readers know otherwise in the extreme - and never mistakes him for another cookie-cutter yuppie in a designer wool suit; she gives him some sort of identity.

This is a pretty rambling analysis/review (sorry) of a book that uses a lot of elements to tell a single story. The fastidious descriptions of what each character is wearing at each point in the novel, down to the dollar amount or the meals eaten and paid for or the obsession with stuff in general probably says more about what was going on in the book but I'm having trouble shaking the violence out of my head (which was probably the point of all the violence, but still). I did like the novel but Ellis made my hair stand on end and freaked me out to the point that I had to read about Harold Bloom's Falstaff/Hamlet obsession in order to go to sleep. American Psycho was made into a movie and as sick as this sounds I really want to see what the filmmakers did; this book done straight is easily an NC-17-level film so I want to see how it was adapted.

The Good Thief

I started eyeballing Hannah Tinti's debut novel, The Good Thief, when it released last year but I had so much to read at the time I had to pass it up. Happily, it just released in paperback. It also happens to be the staff recommended title at my store....so it looked like a good time to read about Ren and his thieving ways.*

Ren owes a great deal to his Dickensian predecessor, Oliver Twist. Both boys are orphaned as infants, both are initiated into a circle of thieves, and both are reunited with a natural family member by a seemingly miraculous twist of fate. Tinti's novel seems gloomy, set on the cold New England coast, and opens on St. Anthony's Orphanage. The monks of St. Anthony's attempt to care for the foundlings left with them until either adopted or the age of 14 when the young men are conscripted into the army. Ren's chances of adoption are slim because he is missing his left hand, the arm ending in a mass of scar tissue; the source of this injury, and that of Ren's parentage, is completely unknown but a mysterious stranger, Benjamin Nab, comes to claim Ren and so begins Ren's adventure.

Ren is innately talented as a thief but also attempts to retain a sense of right and wrong as he enters into the world of the con artists and swindlers. The story unfolds through Ren's perspective and because Tinti makes him a child who is still young enough to dream, but old enough to be realistic about his world, Ren is a welcome departure from the angelic Oliver. The cast of characters in Tinti's novel would do Dickens proud - Tom the ex-schoolteacher, Brom and Ichy the orphaned twins, the gentle giant Dolly - and they lend a lot of color to the simple tale of an orphan in search of a family. I enjoyed how Tinti played with the Dickensian motifs but gave the story a realistic edge. There is a lot of humor in this novel as well, a little slapstick, too, so this was a fun book to read.

*Since I finished the novel September 24, I noticed that I used it for two Teaser Tuesday posts and somehow managed to pick two passages only a few pages apart. Haha.

24 September 2009

D-i-e-t is such a downer

I need to put my bookshelves on a diet (Swapna's challenge should help with that). I should also avoid accumulating more books. Easier said than done.

I've done pretty good with book-buying avoidance so far this month. Instead of the normal number of "many, many books purchased" I've only bought four so far and received another two in the mail. I'd say that's pretty good for book-aholic old me.

Books bought:
The Annotated Wizard of Oz (Centennial Edition)
The Short Novels of John Steinbeck
Say You're One of Them*
Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall

Books acquired in other ways:
The Postmistress (for B&N First Look Book Club)
The Lacuna

Not bad, huh? However, I will have to buy another book this month....I found a new reading guide to Proust and finishing Swann's Way is definitely on the list for the next year/this year/anytime I can finish it in my lifetime.

Current books-in-progress: The Naked and the Dead, The Satanic Verses, and American Psycho (I'm a little behind on my first challenge)
Current knitted item: Cardie is completely knitted, must visit fabric store on Saturday to buy 16 buttons, what to knit on now...I do have another sweater pattern/yarn for pattern in the drawer....
Current movie obsession: Sleuth and I'd really like to see the original Fame again before the re-make comes out (ps, have you seen the tie-in product for the re-make?? It looks like some sanitized, High-School-Musical, Noxzema-commerical crap and I really hope it keeps at least some of the grittiness from the original)
Current iTunes loop: Reading playlist

*Did not buy this because of Oprah, just FYI

22 September 2009

Teaser Tuesday: The Good Thief

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!
Just do the following:
- Grab your current read
- Open to a random page
- Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
- BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
- Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
There were three sets of gates - entry to the yard, entry to the inner yard, and entry to the hospital itself. The boy was not sure where to begin.
~ Hannah Tinti, The Good Thief, p 128

21 September 2009

Clear Off Your Shelves: Challenge #2

This is a reading challenge I need. Desperately.

Swapna at S. Krishna's Books is hosting the "Clear Off Your Shelves" Challenge from October 1 - November 20, 2009.


Rules are that a percentage of books read during the challenge time-frame must be either non-review books or review copies moldering on the shelf for more than six months (non-review books have no time limit) - Swapna's challenge post explains this in much greater detail. The minimum percentage for this challenge is 20% (different from other challenges in that no pre-challenge list-making is involved).

I don't have a backlog of review copies (not quite into the solicitation game, yet) but I do have books I won from publishers so I will count those as "review" copies since I do feel I owe the publisher a review for sending me the book. Sooo....since I read mostly my own books I will set my challenge percentage at (get this) fifty percent.

Crazy, huh? I do like to be ambitious and I have a boatload of books that need to get themselves read. If you'd like to participate and clear off your shelves, too, make sure you go to Swapna's sign-up page and use the Mr. Linky!

Dewey's 24-hour-Readathon is October 24, too, so I think I'll participate and clear some books (may have to stay off the Internet that day since it's become the major time-suck of late....says the doofus updating her blog).

18 September 2009

BBAW: In Short

What do I love best about my blog...in only fifty words??

My blog is exactly like my house, full of books and DVDs and yarn and kitties, plus whatever random thoughts that happen to float into my head. My house is much messier, though, and my laundry is never put away.

And then, where would I like my blog to be by next BBAW...also in fifty words??

I only recently started actually reviewing books so I'd like to amp that up and maybe get involved in a few more challenges. Sooo.....more books, more DVDs, more yarn, and more kitties (I hope everyone likes cute kitty pictures).

I gotta crow!

Because my sweater fits! Or it will when I have it all seamed up and the buttons sewn on. It's my first "real" adult sweater and I made it for myself. It's sooo pretty!

Sorry for the ugly "look I'm wearing it" shot. It's what happens when you're the only one in your house who can use a camera.

Or isn't bored witless. This whole knitting thing is not conducive to getting attention if you're a cat. Now that my sweater is almost finished perhaps I can spend more time reading because then I can pet the kitties at the same time. [ha]

17 September 2009

BBAW: Books I found via other bookaholics

Er, book bloggers. Bloggers, not addicts. [ha]

My first selection is Shelf Discovery and sadly enough I have no idea which book blogger gets the credit for it; all I remember is that I saw it, thought immediately "I must have that!", was disappointed I had to wait 6 weeks for it to actually be printed, and then couldn't remember what lovely person informally pointed me to it in the first place. I loved this book, if you couldn't tell by my review, so whomever you are....THANK YOU!! Otherwise, I'll just cheat and say I saw it on Lizzie's blog [larfs].

Most of my blogger discoveries have gone into the TBR pile/stack/bin/wishlist because I'm so backed up on reading right now I haven't gotten to any *sob*.

Rebecca has raved about The Help very often and it's on the list of things-I-must-read. I've seen many great reviews but Rebecca is the one who actually told me I must read it. I promise I will remember it's a recc from Rebecca when I finally get to it.

The last one is a tangential book-I-got-off-another-blogger. I had already purchased The Naked and the Dead in a book buying binge but hadn't decided when I should read it. Enter JC (aka bibliobrat) and her Banned Books Challenge. Which also pushed The Satanic Verses: A Novel and American Psycho to the forefront, too. I'm liking all three. Hooray books.

Save Philly's Libraries!!

Just a short post -

The city of Philadelphia might lose all their libraries - all 54 of them - if a 1% sales tax isn't passed by the state senate.

Oh. My. God. A city with no libraries and, as Blogging Censorship notes, most Philadelphia public schools don't have libraries so students would be completely without library access. And many disadvantaged Philadelphia residents would lose out, too.

Please re-blog, re-tweet, re-Facebook, re-whatever this story wherever you are. If you live in Pennsylvania or Philly, unlike me, please contact your state senators (contact info and sample letters at The Free Philadelphia Library) and tell them to save the libraries from Philly Mayor Michael Nutter's budget (is his last name really "nutter"?)

16 September 2009

BBAW: I do not have a TBR "pile"

Instead, I have a TBR bin. It lives next to my bed and is primary TBR location Numero Uno (I also have a TBR staging area on the desk, sorry no picture).

But, since I'm overwhelmed by all my books, many of my TBRs go on the shelf like at the library. One day I'd love to have floor-to-ceiling built-in shelves for all my books but my "office" is currently the guest bedroom (the stuffed-animal-covered futon to the right makes it a guest room and the huge corner desk to the left makes it an office).

So my books are guarded by the 100 Acre Woods gang.

(yes, Skippyjohn helps guard the books, too)

PS: Chaucer would like to add that his Mommy's TBR bin makes a very excellent kitty bed...

...and just big enough for one kitty (poor Dante).

BBAW: Show me the IREX

I love being a first adopter but never have the scratch to do so. I would totally have an eReader device to supplement my current book hoard but....

So show me the IREX.

I love my ink-paper-and-glue books. I can't get enough of them, how they smell, how they feel. But they are kind of heavy. And I'm looking to head back to grad school for literature and you what that means....back strain due to heavy load of books plus laptop in my backpack (plus the knitting bag, because I can't leave that at home). Having an IREX would help alleviate my back strain because I could download soooo many books and articles needed for scholarly reading/writing/thinking. This way I could scribble in, dog-ear, and post-it my books at home and then drag only the IREX to school for classroom discussion. Awesome.

And I wouldn't have to leave my knitting bag at home. There's usually a book or two in there as well so I would have more room for larger projects and yarn in my knitting bag if I had an IREX.

Oh, and I already have the eReader for B&N on my Blackberry. I like it alot....but I would love a larger screen. IREX has an open DRM platform so I could shuttle my book back and forth from the BB to an IREX eReader.

Why am I rabbiting on and on about IREX? Because you can win a free IREX eReader via BBAW (yay!). Kevin Hamilton chats up his company's product here.

BBAW: My Favorite Blogs

The time-line for my week is completely messed up due to being out-of-town so my BBAW Monday post about favorite blogs not making the shortlists will be Wednesday instead.

Rebecca @ The Book Lady's Blog --> One of my favorite blogs not only because Rebecca and I have overlapping taste but we both work as booksellers (she gets to plan events, too, of which I'm just a tad jealous) so her Adventures in Bookselling posts make me wonder if she actually works in my store some days.

Rebecca @ Lost in Books --> She's got great features like Take-me-Away Saturday and 20 Questions which are great to read. Rebecca also isn't afraid to jump right in with a plain-speaking post and get to the heart of a controversial thought.

J.C. @ The Biblio Blogazine --> Host of the Banned Books Challenge (woot). I like the domain name.

Jen @ Devourer of Books --> She writes very accessible book reviews, is funny, and has a cute baby so you can coo over Baby Daniel while adding to your TBR.

Ryan @ Wordsmithonia --> Ryan is a fellow BNBC-er and a pretty funny guy. He's got a feature - Favorite Fictional Characters - and this week features my favorite sad, grey donkey.

15 September 2009

Teaser Tuesday: The Naked and the Dead

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

- Grab your current read
- Open to a random page
- Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
- BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
- Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
In the grove while they were cutting stretcher poles, Roth found a bird. It was a tiny thing, smaller than a sparrow, with soft dun-colored feathers and a crippled wing, and it hopped about slowly, chirping piteously, as if very tired.
p 528, The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer

BBAW: Fabulous Reading Meme!

This is the reading meme for BBAW (which is going on right now), fun, fun, fun!

~ Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack?
Tea and toast.

~ Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of
writing in books horrify you?

I love to scribble in my books. Highlighter, pen...it's all good but colored pens are the most fun.

~ How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears?
Dog-ear (but bookmark if not my book).

~ Laying the book flat open?
Only if it's old and well-worn; I hate to break spines.

~ Fiction, Non-fiction, or both?
Both, but never mind the bread, please.

~ Hard copy or audiobooks?
Hard copy, audiobooks are for driving only.

~Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you
able to put a book down at any point?

I can usually stop anytime/where.

~ If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?
Nope. That's where scribbling comes in.

~ What are you currently reading?
The Good Thief
The Moonflower Vine
The Naked and the Dead
Foucault's Pendulum (and that's only the tip of the iceberg)

~ What is the last book you bought?
The annotated anniversary edition of The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.

~ Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can
you read more than one at a time?

Methinks I already answered this one, haha.

~ Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read?

Anytime, anywhere, anyhow.

~ Do you prefer series books or stand alone books?
Doesn't matter but I don't specifically look for series to read.

~ Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?
OMG, Jasper Fforde - so much so that the poor man is now referred to as "Melissa's Internet Boyfriend" (sorry, Jasper).

~ How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)
Roughly by genre, then imprint/collection (i.e. B&N Classics, Penguin Deluxe, Norton, etc), and by author within that imprint; otherwise it's kind of by size/how they look together on the shelf.

A quick tic about "Old English"

I was gone much of the weekend to visit the Harry Potter Experience at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago (and the museum, too, because it has some cool stuff) and didn't take the laptop with me. When I was home, I was either working or watching the Iowa Hawkeyes wipe the field with the ISU Cyclones (woot, go Hawks!). So, yeah, not much blog updating and that's kind of a problem with BBAW this week. However, I do have to throw up a quick post about "Old English" and a rant I went on while driving to Chicago.

I brought along Portable Professor's Of Sorcerer's and Men: Tolkien and the Roots of Modern Fantasy Literature to listen to in the car. media_zombie has the first two discs stuck in her car's CD player, so I thought she'd like it and we've both read a good deal of Tolkien so we had a bit of commentary to add to Professor Drout's. At one point in the lectures Drout begins reading Beowulf not in translation but in Old English - it's fantastic to hear but reminded me that not once but twice that weekend I'd heard modern English from a pre-20th century source referred to as "Old English."

Which pretty much makes me flip my shit and proceeded to do so while driving (in a slightly understated way because media_zombie tends to share my opinion on the subject). The first instance had someone linking to a "modern" version of Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner because the original was in "old English" (published in 1798). The second instance was some teenager asking for the Cliff's Notes to Jane Eyre because it was in "old English" and hard to understand. Can I flip my shit now? THIS is Old English:

HWÆT, WE GAR-DEna in geardagum,
þeodcyninga þrym gefrunon,
hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon!
oft Scyld Scefing sceaþena þreatum,
monegum mægþum meodosetla ofteah,
egsode eorlas, syððanærest wearð
feasceaft funden; he þæs frofre gebad,
weox under wolcnum weorðmyndum þah,
oð þæt him æghwylc ymbsittendra
ofer hronrade hyran scolde,
gomban gyldan; þæt wæs god cyning!
(first 11 lines of Beowulf, courtesy of Fordham University)

This is Middle English, spoken from about 1066 to around 1450:

Whan that Aueryłł wt his shoures soote,
The droghte of Marcħ, hath perced to the roote;
And bathed euery veyne in swich lycour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan zephirus eek wt his sweete breeth,
Inspired hath in euery holt and heeth;
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne,
Hath in the Ram, his half cours yronne;
And smale foweles, maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open iye;
So priketh hem nature, in hir corages,
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrymages;
And Palmeres for to seeken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kouthe in sondry londes;
And specially, from euery shyres ende,
Of Engelond to Caunterbury they wende;
The holy blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen whan þt they weere seeke.
(opening of The Prologue from The Canterbury Tales)

Chancery Standard became the dominant language around 1450 to 1650 and is what is known as Early Modern English; this is why Shakespeare writes in modern English and doesn't need "modern translations," just a dictionary from time to time. For people used to writing that breaks grammar conventions (and, I suppose, those addicted to text spelling) I'm sure properly written English looks a bit odd but that's what makes your brain grow. Deal and quit trying to tell me Jane Austen writes "old English."

11 September 2009

Book Dominoes

A friend sent me this YouTube link - HarperCollins Children's made the world's longest book domino rally with children's books. Don't believe me? Just watch....

I needed a bit of cheering up!

Time Paradox

It seems like yesterday and at the same time light-years ago that I stood motionless next to a child's hospital bed on what had seemed like an ordinary Tuesday morning - freshly drawn tubes of blood in one hand, ID labels in the other, and a very upset child behind me - staring at CNN video of the World Trade Center Towers as the first tower fell. The nurse next to me started sobbing. I did, too. Even thinking about that moment brings a lump to my throat and I have to work hard to swallow it down.

Later that week on Friday the noon whistle blew at the University of Iowa power plant. Basil Thompson asked our accompanist to cease playing and my character dancing class joined the entire University in marking a minute of silence for all those who lost their lives the Tuesday previous. Basil is gone now, too, from a heart attack suffered while giving a ballet class in 2005 and his memory also seems like yesterday, but also so many ages ago.

After 9/11 I turned to the poetry of Emily Dickinson, an odd choice I know but she has a little poem about hope:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Always remember.

10 September 2009

2009 Man Booker Shortlist

I commented earlier on the 2009 Man Booker longlist, in particular my drooling irritation that most titles were unavailable in the United States.

The shortlist was announced September 8 and, to fuel even more drooling irritation, there are two with no current US publisher information (still):
A S Byatt The Children's Book (Random House, Chatto and Windus)
J M Coetzee Summertime (Random House, Harvill Secker)
Adam Foulds The Quickening Maze (Random House, Jonathan Cape) - no US date
Hilary Mantel Wolf Hall (HarperCollins, Fourth Estate)
Simon Mawer The Glass Room (Little, Brown) - no US date
Sarah Waters The Little Stranger (Little, Brown, Virago) - out since April 2009

States-side we also have to wait for the publication of The Children's Book (October 6, 2009, conveniently enough the day the Man Booker is announced), Summertime (December 24, 2009), and Wolf Hall (October 13, 2009). So...I can read one out of six...*le sigh*

I know these aren't "our" authors in the US but it's kind of silly that something considered worth reading in a language I already speak isn't available until after the announcement of the award winner. At least I could get The White Tiger (2008) and The Gathering (2007) right away if I so wished; what's up with this year?

I could keep whining ad nauseum but I'll spare everyone and shut-up now.

BTT: Recently Informative

What’s the most informative book you’ve read recently?

Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

The most informative book I read recently was The Little SAS Book (4th edition). No joke. It saved my butt at work. For fun, the most recent book I read in an informative subject was The Six Wives of Henry VIII and I'm currently working on The Link.

BBAW: The Polls are open

Unfortunately for me, I wasn't shortlisted in either of the two categories for which I was nominated (Most Eclectic Taste and Best Name), boo-hoo.

Fortunately for a whole lot of other bloggers they did make the cut and there are many, many categories that need your votes.

So mosey on over to the BBAW Voting Booth post and git a-voting (I'm about half-way done with categories that have nominees I read frequently; there are TONS of book blogs that I haven't read before so I need a bit more research before doing any voting in those categories).

Teaser Tuesday: The Good Thief

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
- Grab your current read
- Open to a random page
- Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
- BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
- Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
He realized then that Mrs. Sands already knew about the dwarf in the chimney. She had put out the meal for him.
~p. 124, The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti
(this is the current hand-sell at my bookstore - it's really good!)

03 September 2009

BTT: Bigger!

What’s the biggest book you’ve read recently? (Feel free to think “big” as size, or as popularity, or in any other way you care to interpret.)

Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

Well....I have a tendency to read books with lots of pages so yay for big books. The largest book I recently read would either be Henry VIII: The King and His Court or The Wars of the Roses by Alison Weir, followed by Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters (the page numbers between these three are really close if you change the font size and the paper quality). I'm currently working through Christina Rossetti's Complete Poems, which weighs in at about 1400 pages, but that's something you just don't sit down and read cover to cover.

The single largest book I own is 30,000 Years of Art : The Story of Human Creativity Across Time and Space; it probably weighs as much as the coffee table it rests on (has awesome pictures, too).

(The "I like big books" button comes from the FB application Pieces of Flair)

02 September 2009

Bookspotting: September 2, 2009

  • Library binding edition of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (on the Aunt Marge chapter; how do I know this? because I had to stand over that poor person for 15 minutes and I hope she didn't mind my reading over her shoulder while I tried to avoid hitting her in the head with my backpack)
  • Alex Haley's Roots
  • new E.L. Doctorow - Homer and Langley
  • one Don Quixote in Spanish (we're in the second week of classes)
  • two medical students reading anatomy notes

And what was I reading? Nothing, I was trying not to fall over when the crazy bus driver stopped short every time.

Ophelia Joined the Group Maidens Who Don't Float

Ophelia Joined the Group Maidens Who Don't Float: Classic Lit Signs on to Facebook I don't usually pull the cover picture through onto my blog (I'm one of those "click through if you're interested" people) but in this case the cover is partially responsible for my purchase of the book. I developed a case of the chuckles when I saw the cover illustration.

The main reason for my interest in OJTGMWDF is due to McSweeney's Internet Tendency and a little piece by Sarah Schmelling titled "Hamlet (Facebook News Feed Edition)" that made me laugh. Schmelling converted Shakespeare's tragedy into a Facebook feed (the old-school version) which conveyed the entire story in only a few pithy status updates and pages and set off a number of imitators who probably felt gypped because Schmelling thought of the idea first. She's now built on her idea and has produced a whole book of Facebook feeds, profiles, and groups for the wacky characters of classic literature with "Hamlet (Facebook News Feed Edition)" leading the pack.

I am a Facebook addict, a little less so these days due to the loss of the old-school Facebook feed and its replacement by something less fun (in my opinion), as well as a classic literature freak (oh, you didn't know that? ha!) so when I heard that Schmelling's book was due out last week I was 90% positive I would buy it. The cover pushed it to 100% and so I spent the latter half of last week chuckling over Jane Austen's profile, the virtual-gifting from Goneril and Regan to King Lear, and watching Hemingway get trounced playing Scrabulific with Faulkner and Joyce. Poor Dracula can't quite get the hang of his Vampire application and you had better keep your password hidden from Puck. So it goes (yep, Slaughterhouse-Five gets in on the action).

I had a good laugh. Off to go throw a sheep at Mr. Darcy.

Bookspotting: September 1, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife
Mother Jones (pretty sure that was the title, but I can't get a search to pop up the correct book for me, black dust jacket with title in red lettering)
The South Beach Diet
A hard cover library book that looked suspiciously like An Irish Country Doctor, but I couldn't see the title to be sure
A rather dog-eared looking Bible (I've never seen this passenger read anything else, not even a newspaper)
The Daily Iowan and The Press-Citizen (local newspapers, one collegiate, the other town)
The Teddy Kennedy issue of Time

And what was I reading? I was knitting on my cardie, all the better to spy on people.

01 September 2009

Teaser Tuesday: The Moonflower Vine

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

- Grab your current read
- Open to a random page
- Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
- BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
- Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
He was right. Aaron couldn't spell - much more than his own name. But he had a natural way with a pen, and the letters came out round and flowing. It was as easy for him as spilling ink.
~ p 139, The Moonflower Vine, Jetta Carleton

Zombie Chickens

Many thanks to Ryan at Wordsmithonia for gifting me with an award about undead, rotting barnyard fowl....larfs, kidding...basically it means Ryan thinks I'm awesome (strut).

To quote from Ryan's blog:
The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken - excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all.

Well.....I really don't want to be chased by crazy zombie chickens so I better get a-choosing:
Jackie at Alright, so...
Michelle at The True Book Addict
Amy at My Friend Amy (because she is rocking it with this BBAW craziness)
Media_Zombie at The Media Morgue (appropriate, eh?)
Susan at Well-Mannered Frivolity

Banned Books Challenge: It begins..

September 1, 2009 has arrived and my first blogging challenge, hosted by Bibliobrat, starts today. The Banned Books Challenge (as previously stated) is pretty simple: read at least one banned/challenged book during the month of September. Banned Books Week officially occurs September 26 - October 3 this year so I would like to have my challenge books read by then.

I am officially reading The Satanic Verses and The Naked and the Dead (since I already own those) and I'm going to try and finish American Psycho by the end of the month as well.

Day 1: Will start The Naked and the Dead when I get home; due to two-hours' worth of panicking over recalled library book that I needed to return or incur UI Library wrath/recall fine of $4/day after 9/8 I forgot to put the Mailer in my bag this morning; the cats hid the library book under the desk (I found it - the fur babies really do love me...I think)

Current books-in-progress: Frankenstein, Foucault's Pendulum, The Moonflower Vine, and Hush, Hush (plus the aforementioned challenge titles)

Current knitted item: 16-button cardie - almost ready to bind off for fronts/backs and start the sleeves
Current movie obsession: Videodrome (Banned Books Week might put me in the mood for an odd movie or two)
Current iTunes loop: Wait, wait...don't tell me!