30 April 2013

Cloud Atlas

Summary from Goodreads:
A postmodern visionary who is also a master of styles and genres, David Mitchell combines flat-out adventures, a Nabokovian love of puzzles, a keen eye for character, and a taste for mind-bending philosophical and scientific speculation in the tradition of Umberto Eco and Philip K. Dick. The result is brilliantly original fiction that reveals how disparate people connect, how their fates intertwine, and how their souls drift across time like clouds across the sky.

I hadn't read the book before I went to see the movie with Jessica (ran out of time), so I started back in November and finished during the Readathon.

Yes, I'm occasionally an overachiever.

In short, Cloud Atlas is a mind-blowing book. I love the nest-box structure of the narrative and it was really interesting to see what endings and details were changed from the book to the movie adaptation.  I had a little trouble with Zachry's section and had to start reading it aloud to get the hang of the dialect.

Absolutely worth reading.  Loved it.

Lord of Wicked Intentions (The Lost Lords of Pembrook #3)

Summary from Goodreads:

Three young heirs, imprisoned by an unscrupulous uncle, escaped—to the sea, to the streets, to faraway battle—awaiting the day when they would return to reclaim their birthright...

Lord Rafe Easton may be of noble blood, but survival taught him to rely only on himself and to love no one. Yet when he sets his eyes on Miss Evelyn Chambers, and earl's illegitimate daughter, he is determined to have her, if only as his mistress.

After her father's death, Evelyn Chambers never imagined she would be sold to the highest bidder, yet circumstances give her little choice except to accept the lord's indecent proposal. Rafe is wealthy, as well as ruthless. Yet his coldness belies deep passion and deeper secrets. If she must be his, Evelyn intends to lay bare everything the Lord of Pembrook is hiding. But dark discoveries threaten to destroy them both until unexpected love guides the last lost lord home.

Having read the first two Lost Lords of Pembrook novels and the novella - and noting the extreme similarities in plot regarding broken engagements – I was a bit worried about the final book in the trilogy. Because I really couldn’t see Rafe – gambling hell owner, tough-guy, and very, very wounded soul – in the same situations his brothers were in. Worried in vain, I did, because Heath really pulled out the stops for Lord of Wicked Intentions.

Miss Evelyn Chambers has been sheltered all her life. Though she knows that she is illegitimate her titled father raised her in his house and she happily kept him company at home. On his death, however, her half-brother – now the Earl of Wortham, who hates her and is in debt up to his eyeballs – decides to rid himself of her by selling her to one of his lowlife friends. Lord Rafe Easton is invited to the viewing because he holds Wortham’s gambling debts. He intends only to observe, not bid, since the purpose of the meeting is for Wortham to prove he can scrape together the ready. As Evelyn greets all the guests (aka lascivious pieces of filth, my words, not Heath’s) Rafe is taken with how soft and sweet she is. When it becomes obvious that Wortham would let all those men violate his sister, Rafe simply says that he will take Evelyn. He’s not going to pay for her, he’ll just take her and let her brother continue to breathe air. Unfortunately, Evelyn is under the impression that the gathering is so that she might find a husband. When Wortham drops her off at Rafe’s house with nothing but the clothes on her back she is confused. When Rafe explains what she’s meant to do, she bolts and runs all the way back to her brother’s house in the rain. The house is barred to her, the servants won’t let her in, her brother won’t see her. Rafe is forced to break one of his cardinal rules – never allow someone to touch you – by carrying her home. Rafe and Eve come to a detente of sorts – Eve agrees to stay, be his mistress, and Rafe promises she will want for nothing. Just as Rafe systematically breaks down Eve’s naivete, Eve starts to break through Rafe’s solid wall of disdain. She brings touch back into Rafe’s life, body and soul, and underneath she finds the frightened ten-year-old who never understood why he was left behind and can’t bring himself to trust and forgive.

Of Heath’s three Lost Lords, Rafe is the one with the largest internal scars and the longest road back to forgiveness. Lord of Wicked Intentions brings the Lost Lords trilogy to a strong conclusion. Through Rafe Heath brings the horrors of the Dickensian workhouse to life and created a character too terrified to show care or love about anything for fear it might be used against him. From a twenty-first century perspective Evelyn is a bit much at first, so naive that she doesn’t even conceive of the reason why she’s been deposited on Rafe’s doorstep like an unwanted parcel, but she does make sense in the Victorian period. She very quickly develops a backbone – I actually like her slightly more than Mary, the heroine of the first book in the series.

29 April 2013

Dancing with Mr. Darcy (mini-review)

Dancing With Mr. Darcy contains the best entries from the Jane Austen Short Story competition as judged and edited by novelist Sarah Waters.  The entries had to take inspiration from Austen herself, her work, or from Chawton House where she lived out her later life and wrote many of her most famous works.

On the whole, the collection is a nice, fun read.  Some stories are more serious ("The School Trip"), some are more lighthearted ("The Jane Austen Hen Weekend"), and some borrow from a more contemporary author, too ("The Delaford Ladies' Detective Agency" and "One Character in Search of Her Love Story Role").

The winning story, "Jane Austen Over the Styx", put Jane Austen on trial after her death in a prosecution lead by the odious Mrs. Norris (over the objections of Lady Catherine de Bourgh).  Her less-well-like female characters felt slighted, you see, and a rather interesting punishment is meted out.

Although I didn't like all the stories as much as I had the ones in Jane Austen Made Me Do It this was a nice book to finish up during the Readathon.

28 April 2013

Dewey's #readathon: Wrap up!

What a fun readathon!  I hosted my first mini-challenge (congrats Michelle from A World of My Own!) and it was such a blast.  I have commenting for days now, ya'll, since I have yet to make it through all the entries.

I finished five books and read more of a sixth:

Books finished:
Dancing With Mr. Darcy (178 pages)
Ten White Geese (202 pages)
The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (423 pages)
Cloud Atlas (415 pages)
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (236 pages)

Partially read:
The Use and Abuse of Literature (62 pages)

Total pages read: 1516


So I'm going to make like Chaucer and go pass out.

Beauty and the Blacksmith (Spindle Cove #3.5)

Summary from Goodreads:

At last, Diana gets a romance of her own! But with the last man anyone in Spindle Cove expects...

Beautiful and elegant, Miss Diana Highwood is destined to marry a wealthy, well-placed nobleman. At least, that's what her mother has loudly declared to everyone in Spindle Cove.

But Diana's not excited by dukes and lords. The only man who makes her heart pound is the village blacksmith, Aaron Dawes. By birth and fortune, they couldn't be more wrong for each other...but during stolen, steamy moments in his forge, his strong hands feel so right.

Is their love forged strong enough to last, or are they just playing with fire?

Diana is the reason the Highwood ladies came to Spindle Cove in the first place: to cure her asthma so she can return to London and snare a suitably rich, titled husband. Since they've been there, though, blue-stocking Minerva has snared repentant rake/rich viscount Colin Sandhurst (see the hilarious and hot second Spindle Cove novel, A Week to be Wicked) and Diana has fallen hopelessly in love/lust with the Spindle Cove blacksmith. If Mrs. Highwood knew that was the reason Diana was always having things mended at the forge - so she can ogle Aaron's sweaty muscles - she just might expire. Aaron Dawes has dating issues. Having grown up in Spindle Cove with two sisters and all their friends, fixing all their broken items, well, he sees the available women of his class as sisters, too. Not very conducive to finding a future wife. Diana, though, is clean and fresh and beautiful...and a lady. Ladies do not marry blacksmiths. Ever. Ever, ever, ever. Until one day, Aaron takes a chance and calls Diana on her frequent visits to the forge. Pushing Diana just that little bit cracks open her resolve - she has always been the golden child, doing what her mother wants, but this time she's going to do what she wants.

Beauty and the Blacksmith is a lovely, sweet, fan-yo'self novella timed just right to tide eager Spindle Cove readers over until the publication of Any Duchess Will Do at the end of May. I had always wondered who Diana might get for her hero because she seemed to like Spindle Cove a great deal and her mother's plans not quite so much. And Aaron, like Corporal Thorne, is a bit of fresh air - not a nobleman, not a rake, just a good guy trying to get by in the world so you can't help but be in his corner from page one. The romance moves very quickly in this novella but Dare didn't skimp on the signature Spindle Cove humor. Diana's run-in with the eel was hilarious and the whole Mr. Evermoore running gag helped sew up the plot perfectly.

27 April 2013

Dewey's #readathon Hour 2 mini-challenge winner!

According to Ye Olde Random Number Generator (www.random.org), the winner of The Deception of the Emerald Ring in audio is....

Comment #32, Michelle from A World of My Own!

Stop by her blog to see her book spine poem.  Congrats Michelle - email me your snail mail address (my email is in the Welcome message to the left)!

Many thanks to everyone who entered - it's going to take me forever to go through and read everyone's poems.  I'm looking forward to it!

(My poor blog stats are going crazy today, haha)

Dewey's #readathon Hour 5 mini-challenge entry: Self-Portrait

Andi and Heather are hosting the Hour 5 mini-challenge at The Estella Society: Self-portraits.

I was trying to take a "nice" picture with the Dante-kitteh but at the last second he decided to give me kisses instead.  What a goob.

Dewey's #readathon Hour 2 Mini-Challenge: Book Spine Poetry!

Welcome to the second hour of Dewey's Readathon!  I am your mini-challenge host for this hour and we are doing poetry!

April is National Poetry Month so I've been doing (almost) daily poetry features.  What's better than reading poetry?  Making book-spine poetry, of course!

Your challenge is thus:
  • Using the titles on book spines, make a short poem at least three "books" long/tall. 
  • Don't worry about form or meter or anything like that.  Just have fun!  And don't over-think it - I did the one pictured above in about ten minutes.
  • Take a picture of your book spine poem, post it on your blog/Twitter/Tumblr/Instagram/etc., then paste the permalink to that post in the comments to this post.
  • You have about six hours.  At the beginning of Hour 8 I will use Ye Olde Random Number Generator to pick a random book-spine poem entry.
  • The winner gets: Lauren Willig's The Deception of the Emerald Ring on audio read by Kate Reading!
  • I'm willing to ship the prize anywhere in the world so get cracking!

Dewey's #readathon Spring 2013: Starting line!

Whoop, whoop!  Dewey's readathon is up and running again!  Bright and shiny early at 7am CDT (my time).  At least, that's when I have this post set to go up because I am famous for being a Saturday morning bed slug.  I'll probably crawl out of bed long enough to start the coffee, snag a book of some sort, and crawl back into bed.

I have my snacks/meals all ready to go (last time I had to start the morning with a trip to the store due to poor planning): dried strawberries, carrots and peanut butter, monster trail mix (yum yum!), lobster cheese balls (they looked really good in the case at Target), yogurt, and lasagna I made (or, I unfroze and cooked) yesterday.  And coffee, several bags of coffee to keep the pot going.  And tea, for when I wuss out at 3am and need some sleep.

I have my reading spots all ready to go: cozy bed, downstairs couch, downstairs recliner (likely not, the cats have sort of made it theirs), and the upstairs couch and chair with ottoman.  And my blanket and comfy pillows.

I have my book stack all ready to go:

Yes, I know that is a very tall stack of books.  There is no way on Earth I can read all those.  But some of them are half-finished and some are short story/essay collections just to shake things up.  I made a conscious decision to not read DRCs/galleys that I received for review (to clarify, I got the ARC of The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom as part of a bloggiesta prize pack so it doesn't count).  And that is my nook on top of the stack; Eleanor and Park, American Gods, and Where'd You Go, Bernadette live on it.
Check back in at the beginning of Hour 2 - I'm hosting the mini-challenge!
Viva la readathon!

26 April 2013

April is NPM: Dante Alighieri

I admit I have a bit of a soft spot for Dante Alighieri.  Anyone who gets exiled for political reasons then writes a very, very long poem where all his least favorite people receive imaginative punishments in Hell gets a thumbs up in my book.  Dante also wrote in Italian, rather than Latin, and so The Divine Comedy became the preeminent work of Italian literature.

The punishments of Hell (Inferno) are many and diverse.  One of the more illustrative is the punishment of simonaics, those who sold Church offices - they are buried upside down with their feet set alight.  In another Circle, the suicides are sympathetically represented as a weeping wood.

I have decided to post my favorite canto, the fifth from Inferno, here in both Italian and English.  I love the rhythm of the original terza rima when read in Italian.  The fifth canto concerns the second circle of Hell wherein the lascivious are confined.  The condemned souls are buffeted about by a wind to represent their inability to control their lusts.  At the end of the canto, Dante speaks with Francesca di Rimini and her lover/brother-in-law Paolo Malatesta who committed adultery together after reading about Lancelot and Guinevere and were subsequently killed by her husband.

(In a little pingback, John Keats wrote the sonnet "On a Dream" that imagines part of this scene from the point-of-view of Paolo.)

Canto V

Così discesi del cerchio primaio
giù nel secondo, che men loco cinghia
e tanto più dolor, che punge a guaio.Stavvi Minòs orribilmente, e ringhia:
essamina le colpe ne l’intrata;
giudica e manda secondo ch’avvinghia.Dico che quando l’anima mal nata
li vien dinanzi, tutta si confessa;
e quel conoscitor de le peccatavede qual loco d’inferno è da essa;10
cignesi con la coda tante volte
quantunque gradi vuol che giù sia messa.Sempre dinanzi a lui ne stanno molte:
vanno a vicenda ciascuna al giudizio,
dicono e odono e poi son giù volte.«O tu che vieni al doloroso ospizio»,
disse Minòs a me quando mi vide,
lasciando l’atto di cotanto offizio,«guarda com’ entri e di cui tu ti fide;
non t’inganni l’ampiezza de l’intrare!».20
E ’l duca mio a lui: «Perché pur gride?Non impedir lo suo fatale andare:
vuolsi così colà dove si puote
ciò che si vuole, e più non dimandare».Or incomincian le dolenti note
a farmisi sentire; or son venuto
là dove molto pianto mi percuote.Io venni in loco d’ogne luce muto,
che mugghia come fa mar per tempesta,
se da contrari venti è combattuto.30La bufera infernal, che mai non resta,
mena li spirti con la sua rapina;
voltando e percotendo li molesta.Quando giungon davanti a la ruina,
quivi le strida, il compianto, il lamento;
bestemmian quivi la virtù divina.Intesi ch’a così fatto tormento
enno dannati i peccator carnali,
che la ragion sommettono al talento.E come li stornei ne portan l’ali40
nel freddo tempo, a schiera larga e piena,
così quel fiato li spiriti malidi qua, di là, di giù, di sù li mena;
nulla speranza li conforta mai,
non che di posa, ma di minor pena.E come i gru van cantando lor lai,
faccendo in aere di sé lunga riga,
così vid’ io venir, traendo guai,ombre portate da la detta briga;
per ch’i’ dissi: «Maestro, chi son quelle50
genti che l’aura nera sì gastiga?».«La prima di color di cui novelle
tu vuo’ saper», mi disse quelli allotta,
«fu imperadrice di molte favelle.A vizio di lussuria fu sì rotta,
che libito fé licito in sua legge,
per tòrre il biasmo in che era condotta.Ell’ è Semiramìs, di cui si legge
che succedette a Nino e fu sua sposa:
tenne la terra che ’l Soldan corregge.60L’altra è colei che s’ancise amorosa,
e ruppe fede al cener di Sicheo;
poi è Cleopatràs lussurïosa.Elena vedi, per cui tanto reo
tempo si volse, e vedi ’l grande Achille,
che con amore al fine combatteo.Vedi Parìs, Tristano»; e più di mille
ombre mostrommi e nominommi a dito,
ch’amor di nostra vita dipartille.Poscia ch’io ebbi ’l mio dottore udito70
nomar le donne antiche e ’ cavalieri,
pietà mi giunse, e fui quasi smarrito.I’ cominciai: «Poeta, volontieri
parlerei a quei due che ’nsieme vanno,
e paion sì al vento esser leggeri».Ed elli a me: «Vedrai quando saranno
più presso a noi; e tu allor li priega
per quello amor che i mena, ed ei verranno».Sì tosto come il vento a noi li piega,
mossi la voce: «O anime affannate,80
venite a noi parlar, s’altri nol niega!».Quali colombe dal disio chiamate
con l’ali alzate e ferme al dolce nido
vegnon per l’aere, dal voler portate;cotali uscir de la schiera ov’ è Dido,
a noi venendo per l’aere maligno,
sì forte fu l’affettüoso grido.«O animal grazïoso e benigno
che visitando vai per l’aere perso
noi che tignemmo il mondo di sanguigno,90se fosse amico il re de l’universo,
noi pregheremmo lui de la tua pace,
poi c’hai pietà del nostro mal perverso.Di quel che udire e che parlar vi piace,
noi udiremo e parleremo a voi,
mentre che ’l vento, come fa, ci tace.Siede la terra dove nata fui
su la marina dove ’l Po discende
per aver pace co’ seguaci sui.Amor, ch’al cor gentil ratto s’apprende,100
prese costui de la bella persona
che mi fu tolta; e ’l modo ancor m’offende.Amor, ch’a nullo amato amar perdona,
mi prese del costui piacer sì forte,
che, come vedi, ancor non m’abbandona.Amor condusse noi ad una morte.
Caina attende chi a vita ci spense».
Queste parole da lor ci fuor porte.Quand’ io intesi quell’ anime offense,
china’ il viso, e tanto il tenni basso,110
fin che ’l poeta mi disse: «Che pense?».Quando rispuosi, cominciai: «Oh lasso,
quanti dolci pensier, quanto disio
menò costoro al doloroso passo!».Poi mi rivolsi a loro e parla’ io,
e cominciai: «Francesca, i tuoi martìri
a lagrimar mi fanno tristo e pio.Ma dimmi: al tempo d’i dolci sospiri,
a che e come concedette amore
che conosceste i dubbiosi disiri?».120E quella a me: «Nessun maggior dolore
che ricordarsi del tempo felice
ne la miseria; e ciò sa ’l tuo dottore.Ma s’a conoscer la prima radice
del nostro amor tu hai cotanto affetto,
dirò come colui che piange e dice.Noi leggiavamo un giorno per diletto
di Lancialotto come amor lo strinse;
soli eravamo e sanza alcun sospetto.Per più fïate li occhi ci sospinse130
quella lettura, e scolorocci il viso;
ma solo un punto fu quel che ci vinse.Quando leggemmo il disïato riso
esser basciato da cotanto amante,
questi, che mai da me non fia diviso,la bocca mi basciò tutto tremante.
Galeotto fu ’l libro e chi lo scrisse:
quel giorno più non vi leggemmo avante».Mentre che l’uno spirto questo disse,
l’altro piangëa; sì che di pietade140
io venni men così com’ io morisse.
E caddi come corpo morto cade.
Thus I descended out of the first circle
Down to the second, that less space begirds,
And so much greater dole, that goads to wailing.There standeth Minos horribly, and snarls;
Examines the transgressions at the entrance;
Judges, and sends according as he girds him.I say, that when the spirit evil-born
Cometh before him, wholly it confesses;
And this discriminator of transgressionsSeeth what place in Hell is meet for it;10
Girds himself with his tail as many times
As grades he wishes it should be thrust down.Always before him many of them stand;
They go by turns each one unto the judgment;
They speak, and hear, and then are downward hurled."O thou, that to this dolorous hostelry
Comest," said Minos to me, when he saw me,
Leaving the practice of so great an office,"Look how thou enterest, and in whom thou trustest;
Let not the portal's amplitude deceive thee."20
And unto him my Guide: "Why criest thou too?Do not impede his journey fate-ordained;
It is so willed there where is power to do
That which is willed; and ask no further question."And now begin the dolesome notes to grow
Audible unto me; now am I come
There where much lamentation strikes upon me.I came into a place mute of all light,
Which bellows as the sea does in a tempest,
If by opposing winds 't is combated.30The infernal hurricane that never rests
Hurtles the spirits onward in its rapine;
Whirling them round, and smiting, it molests them.When they arrive before the precipice,
There are the shrieks, the plaints, and the laments,
There they blaspheme the puissance divine.I understood that unto such a torment
The carnal malefactors were condemned,
Who reason subjugate to appetite.And as the wings of starlings bear them on40
In the cold season in large band and full,
So doth that blast the spirits maledict;It hither, thither, downward, upward, drives them;
No hope doth comfort them for evermore,
Not of repose, but even of lesser pain.And as the cranes go chanting forth their lays,
Making in air a long line of themselves,
So saw I coming, uttering lamentations,Shadows borne onward by the aforesaid stress.
Whereupon said I: "Master, who are those50
People, whom the black air so castigates?""The first of those, of whom intelligence
Thou fain wouldst have," then said he unto me,
"The empress was of many languages.To sensual vices she was so abandoned,
That lustful she made licit in her law,
To remove the blame to which she had been led.She is Semiramis, of whom we read
That she succeeded Ninus, and was his spouse;
She held the land which now the Sultan rules.60The next is she who killed herself for love,
And broke faith with the ashes of Sichaeus;
Then Cleopatra the voluptuous."Helen I saw, for whom so many ruthless
Seasons revolved; and saw the great Achilles,
Who at the last hour combated with Love.Paris I saw, Tristan; and more than a thousand
Shades did he name and point out with his finger,
Whom Love had separated from our life.After that I had listened to my Teacher,70
Naming the dames of eld and cavaliers,
Pity prevailed, and I was nigh bewildered.And I began: "O Poet, willingly
Speak would I to those two, who go together,
And seem upon the wind to be so light."And, he to me: "Thou'lt mark, when they shall be
Nearer to us; and then do thou implore them
By love which leadeth them, and they will come."Soon as the wind in our direction sways them,
My voice uplift I: "O ye weary souls!80
Come speak to us, if no one interdicts it."As turtle-doves, called onward by desire,
With open and steady wings to the sweet nest
Fly through the air by their volition borne,So came they from the band where Dido is,
Approaching us athwart the air malign,
So strong was the affectionate appeal."O living creature gracious and benignant,
Who visiting goest through the purple air
Us, who have stained the world incarnadine,90If were the King of the Universe our friend,
We would pray unto him to give thee peace,
Since thou hast pity on our woe perverse.Of what it pleases thee to hear and speak,
That will we hear, and we will speak to you,
While silent is the wind, as it is now.Sitteth the city, wherein I was born,
Upon the sea-shore where the Po descends
To rest in peace with all his retinue.Love, that on gentle heart doth swiftly seize,100
Seized this man for the person beautiful
That was ta'en from me, and still the mode offends me.Love, that exempts no one beloved from loving,
Seized me with pleasure of this man so strongly,
That, as thou seest, it doth not yet desert me;Love has conducted us unto one death;
Caina waiteth him who quenched our life!"
These words were borne along from them to us.As soon as I had heard those souls tormented,
I bowed my face, and so long held it down110
Until the Poet said to me: "What thinkest?"When I made answer, I began: "Alas!
How many pleasant thoughts, how much desire,
Conducted these unto the dolorous pass!"Then unto them I turned me, and I spake,
And I began: "Thine agonies, Francesca,
Sad and compassionate to weeping make me.But tell me, at the time of those sweet sighs,
By what and in what manner Love conceded,
That you should know your dubious desires?"120And she to me: "There is no greater sorrow
Than to be mindful of the happy time
In misery, and that thy Teacher knows.But, if to recognise the earliest root
Of love in us thou hast so great desire,
I will do even as he who weeps and speaks.One day we reading were for our delight
Of Launcelot, how Love did him enthral.
Alone we were and without any fear.Full many a time our eyes together drew130
That reading, and drove the colour from our faces;
But one point only was it that o'ercame us.When as we read of the much-longed-for smile
Being by such a noble lover kissed,
This one, who ne'er from me shall be divided,Kissed me upon the mouth all palpitating.
Galeotto was the book and he who wrote it.
That day no farther did we read therein."And all the while one spirit uttered this,
The other one did weep so, that, for pity,140
I swooned away as if I had been dying,And fell, even as a dead body falls.

24 April 2013

More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops

Summary from Goodreads:
Customer (holding up a book): What’s this? The Secret Garden? Well, it’s not so secret now, is it, since they bloody well wrote a book about it!

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops was a Sunday Times bestseller, and could be found displayed on bookshop counters up and down the country. The response to the book from booksellers all over the world has been one of heartfelt agreement: it would appear that customers are saying bizarre things all over the place - from asking for books with photographs of Jesus in them, to hunting for the best horse owner’s manual that has a detailed chapter on unicorns.

Customer: I had such a crush on Captain Hook when I was younger. Do you think this means I have unresolved issues?

More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops has yet more tales from the antiquarian bookshop where Jen Campbell works, and includes a selection of ‘Weird Things...’ sent in from other booksellers across the world. The book is illustrated by the BAFTA winning Brothers McLeod.

Another book of funny/creepy/how-do-these-people-even-survive-in-real-life book-related anecdotes collected by Jen. Some come from her shop, some from other shops/libraries, and a few even came from incidents during her signings.  This book needs no explanation.  Just more goodness that wasn't included in the first volume.

Self-aggrandizing full-disclosure: The anecdote I submitted is on page 94.  Heehee.

Here are a few more I recently collected at work:

Customer (woman in her mid-20s): I just read all the 50 Shades books and I need something else to read.
Me (gestures to ENTIRE TABLE of books with similar plots): Well, these are all similar in type.
Customer: Oh, but not the sex. There was too much sex. I really liked the suspense. Do you have a suspense section?
(I think she and I have very, very different ideas about what "suspense" is)

Customer: I need to return this Bible and buy a different one.
Me: Ok, which translation do you need? (the Bible she is returning is KJV)
Customer: Translation?
Me: Yes, there are different translations - King James, New Living, New International, New Revised Standard, The Message, and so on.
Customer: Well, I just want plain old English.
(So I rounded up a few NIV and NRSV versions).
Customer: Ok, I'll take this one. It's organized by the books of the Bible.
(So was the one she returned - I have no idea what she meant)

Dear FTC: The author sent me a complimentary copy.  It came by Royal Mail!

April is NPM: Chaucer

English poet Geoffrey Chaucer modeled his long poem on an Italian prose work, The Decameron.  In Chaucer's version, the motely crew is on pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral.  Unfortunately, posterity hasn't preserved the entire work so it is grouped in ten fragments.  I've chosen to post the beginning of the General Prologue although my favorite tale is told by the Wife of Bath.

Now, reading in Middle English isn't all that hard - just read it aloud to get the hang of it then consult a footnote or two for those words you're not sure of.

Here bygynneth the Book of the Tales of Caunterbury

       Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
5Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
10That slepen al the nyght with open eye-
(So priketh hem Nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
15And specially from every shires ende
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke
That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seeke.
       Bifil that in that seson, on a day,
20In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay
Redy to wenden on my pilgrymage
To Caunterbury with ful devout corage,
At nyght was come into that hostelrye
Wel nyne and twenty in a compaignye
25Of sondry folk, by aventure yfalle
In felaweshipe, and pilgrimes were they alle,
That toward Caunterbury wolden ryde.
The chambres and the stables weren wyde,
And wel we weren esed atte beste;
30And shortly, whan the sonne was to reste,
So hadde I spoken with hem everichon
That I was of hir felaweshipe anon,
And made forward erly for to ryse
To take our wey, ther as I yow devyse.

(ok, fine, have mercy - check out the Librarius site to see a side-by-side translation and listen to audio tracks)

23 April 2013

April is NPM: William Shakespeare

April 23 is generally regarded as the date of Shakespeare's death.  So today's poet is, of course, the Bard of Stratford-on-Avon.

Because Shakespeare = poetry.  Because he wrote in an era when many people were illiterate every thing he wrote was meant to be spoken aloud, not read.  That's how I was able to get into Shakespeare.  I watched films, saw the plays performed onstage (in Shakespeare's day one "heard" a play, not "saw" one), and then started reading.  The first play I read and heard?  Henry V (the Branagh version).  I loved all of it, from the first Chorus to the last.  I was about twelve and I asked for a complete Shakespeare for Christmas.

So here is a sonnet, Sonnet 116.  It's one of my favorites.  Read it aloud, shout it, sing it. Enjoy it.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
      If this be error and upon me proved,
     I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

20 April 2013

April is NPM: How to be Horton

This is how you dress up as Horton from Horton Hears a Who for Dr Seuss Day at work.

Step 1: Make a pattern.  Cut two ears from gray felt.

Step 2:  Use the pattern to cut out batting then trim to make the inserts smaller than the felt.

Step 3:  Set up the sewing machine.

Step 4:  Straight-stitch approximately 1/4 inch from the edge of the felt with the batting sandwiched between (but don't stitch across the channels you made for the headband).

Step 5: Show one of the cats the partially finished ears.  He is unimpressed because you won't let him eat thread.

Step 6: Trim any excess batting then zig-zag stitch around the edges of the ears (again, not stitching across the headband channels).

Step 7: Cut apart a stretchy Goody sports headband, thread through the channels in the ears, and re-sew the ends of the headband together.

Step 8:  Try and get one of the cats to model the ears.  It doesn't work so well.

Step 9:  Take a picture of yourself at work.  With luck, one customer will get right off the bat you are Horton.  The others will stare at you then ask if you're a moose.

18 April 2013

April is NPM: Rumi

Jalaluddin Rumi is another Persian poet, but from the early 13th century.  He was born on the eastern edge of the Persian empire but settled in Turkey when his family fled the Mongol invasion.  He followed his father's path and became a scholar and mystic.  Rumi wrote about divine love and the soul in many of his poems.

This poem comes from Ladinsky and Barton's work on The Purity of Desire.


Things are such, that someone lifting a cup,
or watching the rain, petting a dog,

or singing, just singing - could be doing as
much for this universe as anyone.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)

Summary from Goodreads:
When Jenny Lawson was little, all she ever wanted was to fit in. That dream was cut short by her fantastically unbalanced father and a morbidly eccentric childhood. It did, however, open up an opportunity for Lawson to find the humor in the strange shame-spiral that is her life, and we are all the better for it.

In the irreverent "Let's Pretend This Never Happened," Lawson's long-suffering husband and sweet daughter help her uncover the surprising discovery that the most terribly human moments--the ones we want to pretend never happened--are the very same moments that make us the people we are today. For every intellectual misfit who thought they were the only ones to think the things that Lawson dares to say out loud, this is a poignant and hysterical look at the dark, disturbing, yet wonderful moments of our lives.

This is snort-to-yourself-on-the-bus funny. Especially the chapter of stories from when she worked in HR.  I've become a loyal blog reader/twitter followers of Jenny's since reading this and it's completely worth it.

Also, weird taxidermy.  That is all.

17 April 2013

April is NPM: Beowulf

Beowulf is the ultimate hero of Old English literature.  Big, strong, of heroic bloodline, and un-conflicted.  Although I can't read Old English, I can muddle along as someone reads it.  This University of Virginia site has a lot of short recordings of the poem as it is read in Old English (I love the end of line 11).

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!

(So.  The Spear-Danes in days gone by
And the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness.
We have heard of those princes’ heroic campaigns.
There was Shield Sheafson, scourge of many tribes,
A wrecker of mead-benches, rampaging among foes.
This terror of the hall-troops had come far.
A foundling to start with, he would flourish later on
As his powers waxed and his worth was proved.
In the end each clan on the outlying coasts
Beyond the whale-road had to yield to him             
And begin to pay tribute.  That was one good king.)

16 April 2013

For Boston

I had another poet lined up for today but after yesterday's horrific pictures at the Boston Marathon I decided to circle back to Christina Rossetti.  "Remember" is a bittersweet little poem, posted here for those who lost their lives Monday.

Remember me when I am gone away,
         Gone far away into the silent land;
         When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
         You tell me of our future that you plann'd:
         Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
         And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
         For if the darkness and corruption leave
         A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
         Than that you should remember and be sad.

14 April 2013

April is NPM: Sappho

Sappho was a Greek poet born on the island of Lesbos.  Very little is known about her and much of her poetry was lost to time.  Although Lesbos has now lent its name as the root of the word "lesbian", it is likely that Sappho had much the same relationship to women as Socrates did to his students.

I've chosen "Hymn to Aphrodite" for poetry month.  This is a Victorian translation - to contrast read Elizabeth Vandiver's translation made in the 1980s.

Hymn to Aphrodite

THRONED in splendor, immortal Aphrodite!
Child of Zeus, Enchantress, I implore thee
Slay me not in this distress and anguish,
Lady of beauty.
Hither come as once before thou camest,
When from afar thou heard'st my voice lamenting,
Heard'st and camest, leaving thy glorious father's Palace golden,
Yoking thy chariot. Fair the doves that bore thee;
Swift to the darksome earth their course directing,
Waving their thick wings from the highest heaven
Down through the ether.
Quickly they came. Then thou, O blessed goddess,
All in smiling wreathed thy face immortal,
Bade me tell thee the cause of all my suffering,
Why now I called thee;
What for my maddened heart I most was longing.
"Whom," thou criest, "dost wish that sweet Persuasion
Now win over and lead to thy love, my Sappho?
Who is it wrongs thee?
"For, though now he flies, he soon shall follow,
Soon shall be giving gifts who now rejects them.
Even though now he love not, soon shall he love thee
Even though thou wouldst not."
Come then now, dear goddess, and release me
From my anguish. All my heart's desiring
Grant thou now. Now too again as aforetime,
Be thou my ally.   

12 April 2013

April is NPM: Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges was an Argentinian writer, librarian, lecturer, translator, and all-around cool dude who wrote some killer short stories - my favorite is "The Library of Babel" but "The Aleph" runs a close second - essays, and poems.  Borges derived much of his amazing imagery from his imagination - he had begun to lose his sight in his thirties and was likely totally blind by fifty.

Borges's Sonnets have all sorts of subjects, including Saxon poetry (he lectured on Anglo-Saxon poetry).  I am rather partial to "To a Saxon Poet" (the English translation follows the original Spanish).

A Un Poeta Sajón

La nieve de Nortumbria ha conocido
y ha olvidado la huella de tus pasos
y son innumerables los ocasos
que entre nosotros, gris hermano, han sido.

Lento en la lenta sombra labrarías
metáforas de espadas en los mares
y del horror que mora en los pinares
y de la soledad que traen los días.

¿Dónde buscar tus rasgos y tu nombre?
Esas son cosas que el antiguo olvido
guarda. Nunca sabré cómo habrás sido
cuando sobre la tierra fuiste un hombre.
Seguiste los caminos del destierro;
ahora sólo eres tu cantar de hierro.

(The snowscape of Northumbria has known
And forgotten the footprints left by you.
Innumerable are the days the sun
Has set, gray brother, in between us two.

Slow in slow shadow you would work your lines
Out into metaphors of swords at sea
And of the dread that dwelt among the pines
And of the lonely thing that time could be.

Where shall I seek your features and your name?
Such things as these antique oblivion can
Never divulge. I'll never know what came
Of you when you on earth were yet a man.
You walked the ways of exile. You were strong;
Now you are nothing but your iron song. )

10 April 2013

What Matters in Jane Austen? Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved

Summary from Goodreads:
Which important Austen characters never speak? Is there any sex in Austen? What do the characters call one another, and why? What are the right and wrong ways to propose marriage? In What Matters in Jane Austen?, John Mullan shows that we can best appreciate Austen's brilliance by looking at the intriguing quirks and intricacies of her fiction. Asking and answering some very specific questions about what goes on in her novels, he reveals the inner workings of their greatness.

In twenty short chapters, each of which explores a question prompted by Austens novels, Mullan illuminates the themes that matter most in her beloved fiction. Readers will discover when Austen's characters had their meals and what shops they went to; how vicars got good livings; and how wealth was inherited. What Matters in Jane Austen? illuminates the rituals and conventions of her fictional world in order to reveal her technical virtuosity and daring as a novelist. It uses telling passages from Austen's letters and details from her own life to explain episodes in her novels: readers will find out, for example, what novels she read, how much money she had to live on, and what she saw at the theater.

Written with flair and based on a lifetime's study, What Matters in Jane Austen? will allow readers to appreciate Jane Austen's work in greater depth than ever before.

With the 100th birthday of Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and that of her later works coming in rapid succession, there's been an uptick in the publication of Austen biographies and literature studies.  What Matters in Jane Austen? is a bit different.  It's a cross between a cultural history and a mini-course on Austen's writing.  John Mullan uses questions like "Who dies in Austen?", "Which characters don't speak?", and so on to comment on customs in Austen's day and pull out themes across Austen's books. A relatively quick read for a lit crit book but a really good introduction to Austen studies.

Dear FTC: I purchased this book.  Because, duh, Jane Austen.

09 April 2013

April is NPM: Hafiz

I've been reading Daniel Ladinsky's A Year With Hafiz.  Hafiz was a Persian poet who lived in 14th century Shiraz.  The short poems collected by Ladinsky are occasionally sweet, contemplative, or prescriptive.  I particularly liked the pithiness of today's poem:


I hope you have come to your senses
and stopped believing everything you

Lord of Temptation (The Lost Lords of Pembrook #2)

Summary from Goodreads:

Three young heirs, imprisoned by an unscrupulous uncle, escaped—to the sea, to the streets, to faraway battle—awaiting the day when they would return to reclaim their birthright.

Once upon a time, he was Lord Tristan Easton—now he is Crimson Jack, a notorious privateer beholden to none, whose only mistress is the sea. But all that will change when exquisite Lady Anne Hayworth hires his protection on a trip into danger and seduction. . .

Desperation brought Anne to the bronzed, blue-eyed buccaneer. But after the Captain demands a kiss as his payment, desire will keep her at his side. She has never known temptation like this—but to protect her heart, she knows she must leave him behind. Yet Tristan cannot easily forget the beauty—and when they meet again in a London ballroom, he vows he won't lose her a second time, as fiery passion reignited takes them into uncharted waters that could lead the second lost lord home. . .

Tristan, being the younger twin to the newly restored Duke of Pembrook, isn't quite at home in London. He's more comfortable at sea.

Lady Anne, mourning a fiancee lost in the Crimea and about to be married to the deceased fiancee's elder brother, hires Tristan to take her to the Crimea to finish loose ends.

This set-up is interesting but where the book doesn't work is that it is far too similar in plot to the first book in the series, She Tempts the Duke.  Heroine is engaged, hero doesn't feel at home in London, heroine keeps progressing toward the altar with the wrong man, etc etc etc.  A well-done ending, though.

07 April 2013

April is NPM: Christina Rossetti

Like Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti is one of my favorite poets.  She had some interaction with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood through her brothers and she was even engaged to a member for some time.  However, she was devoutly Anglican and broke the engagement when her fiancée converted to Catholicism (she also later refused an engagement on the grounds the man wasn't a Christian).  Although much of her poetry is religious or devotional in nature, she also wrote on the frustration and renunciation of love.  She also wrote children's songs and what is most-likely her most famous work, Goblin Market (I wrote a term paper comparing the imagery in Goblin Market to opiate addiction).

But for today, I'm going to focus on promises.  When reading "Promises like Piecrust" the nature of the promises can slant from romantic to platonic.  But at heart, make me no promises because they will eventually crumble like pie-crust.

Promise me no promises,
So will I not promise you;
Keep we both our liberties,
Never false and never true:
Let us hold the die uncast,
Free to come as free to go;
For I cannot know your past,
And of mine what can you know?
You, so warm, may once have been
Warmer towards another one;
I, so cold, may once have seen
Sunlight, once have felt the sun:
Who shall show us if it was
Thus indeed in time of old?
Fades the image from the glass
And the fortune is not told.
If you promised, you might grieve
For lost liberty again;
If I promised, I believe
I should fret to break the chain:
Let us be the friends we were,
Nothing more but nothing less;
Many thrive on frugal fare
Who would perish of excess.
For added fun, look up the song "Promises like Piecrust" sung by Carla Bruni (yes, that Carla Bruni) on her album No Promises

05 April 2013

The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After

Summary from Goodreads:

For the first time in print, New York Times bestselling author Julia Quinn presents a collection of "second epilogues" to her Bridgerton series, previously published as e-originals, plus a new bonus Bridgerton novella: "Violet in Bloom," a short story in which we finally meet Edmund Bridgerton.

For fans of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series there were always a few unanswered questions at the end of her books. Nothing major, but little questions about details like old letters, side characters’ romances, and missing jewelry. So JQ wrote a series of “Second Epilogues” for each book and posted them to her website. Now they are all collected in one place with a bonus story for Violet, the Bridgerton matriarch and the ultimate Regency ton mama.

The epilogues are laid out in series order so you can jump right to your favorite or start at the beginning. I started at the beginning because this is one of the few series I have read, in order, from book one to book eight, and it was fun moving through each of the siblings again. JQ varied her subject and style to fit each couple (one epilogue even switches point-of-view) which makes this a collection of delightful short stories, not just epilogues. Simon and Daphne tie up an old loose end just as they make way for a new beginning. Be prepared to laugh as Anthony and Kate square off in a Pall Mall grudge match (because the only thing better than winning is making your siblings lose – and stealing the Mallet of Death, of course). Sophie finds Posy a Happily Ever After of her own. Penelope comes clean to Eloise who, in turn, becomes an observer in step-daughter Amanda’s story. Francesca and Michael make peace with the inevitable but are blessed with a miracle. Although it’s been years since Hyacinth and Gareth decoded his grandmother’s dictionary, and still haven’t found the diamonds, Hyacinth is still going through all the bathrooms in the house…just in case. Pull out the Kleenex for Gregory and Lucy then keep it out (Keep. It. Out.) to read “Violet in Bloom” which may be JQ’s loveliest story yet.

The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After is a perfect book to read in April – everything is shiny, new, and green (or getting that way) and the days are just warm enough to curl up under a tree with a good book and while away the afternoon (I’m in Iowa, so this may be relative depending on location). I am glad I held off reading the extra epilogues until JQ had them all finished and in one volume because I think the reading experience was a little better than just reading them piecemeal. They aren’t long enough to qualify as novellas so putting them in a short story collection was an excellent idea. And including Violet’s beautiful and heart-breaking story was just icing on the cake.

April is NPM: John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester

I was introduced to the infamous Earl of Rochester in a class on Restoration literature.  He is the ultimate excessive nobleman in a court known for excess.  He was a close confidante of Charles II (when Wilmot hadn't got himself banished from court for offending the King) and was the pattern-card for rakes in plays for the next century (cf. The Man of Mode): raunchy, naughty, and uncontrollable.  He wrote some poems about performance anxiety ("The Imperfect Enjoyment"), masturbation ("Song to Cloris"), King Charles II, and so on.

For maximum impact, read "A Ramble in St. James's Park" then go listen to Johnny Depp recite the opening lines in the movie The Libertine. Once you get past the weirdness of John Malkovich as King Charles II The Libertine is an excellent recreation of the dregs of Restoration London.  (Before you get to the actual poem, I'm just going to warn you that John Wilmot did like his profanity - at the time of Rochester's writing, St. James's Park was the place to go if you planned an outing of a more, salacious nature.)

A Ramble in St. James's Park

Much wine had passed, with grave discourse
Of who fucks who, and who does worse
(Such as you usually do hear
From those that diet at the Bear),
When I, who still take care to see
Drunkenness relieved by lechery,
Weent out into St. James's Park
To cool my head and fire my heart.
But though St. James has th' honor on 't,
'Tis consecrate to prick and cunt.
There, by a most incestuous birth,
Strange woods spring from the teeming earth;
For they relate how heretofore,
When ancient Pict behan to whore,
Deluded of his assignation
(Jilting, it seems, was then in fashion),
Poor pensive lover, in this place
Would frig upon his mother's face;
Whence rows of mandrakes tall did rise
Whose lewd tops fucked the very skies.

There's a full 166 lines in this poem and Rochester pushes all the buttons.

04 April 2013

The Naughty Bits: The Steamiest and Most Scandalous Sex Scenes from the World's Great Books

Summary from Goodreads:
The literary education you've always lusted for.

Fresh from the virtual pages of Nerve.com comes this collection of "naughty bits," an irreverent look into the steamy, scandalous side of literature past and present. With bite-sized salacious excerpts from the classics -- new and old -- each with a fresh, insightful introduction, The Naughty Bits presents the world's great books as you never thought you'd see them.

Jack Murnighan is really good at creating lists of books to read.  And very good at making these books sound fun.  He came up on my radar with the publication of Beowlf on the Beach and I recently obtained a copy of The Naughty Bits so I could put together another "beach reading" endcap with a different flavor than the list called for in the master list for the store.

The Naughty Bits is a collection of Nerve columns and very much an overview of what Murnighan considers the "sexiest" scene from books ranging from Dante and the Old Testament to Kenzaburo Oe and Toni Morrison.  As we all know, not all of us find the exact same things "sexy" so there were a few selections where I just didn't get it but.  I really enjoyed the range and breadth of pieces Murnighan covered. I found a lot of books to add to the TBR (how did I never know about Julio Cortazar's Hopscotch before now?). The best parts of all these "bits" are his introductory commentaries. Great fun to read.  I didn't like some of the language "modernizations" though, but that's just me.

Rumor has it that there's a second collection of columns titled Classic Nasty - unfortunately no longer available new so I'll have to check a few used outlets.

April is NPM: Walt Whitman

The poet I find most rewarding to read is Walt Whitman.  Such imagery and beauty in his words.  Even "O Captain! My Captain!" is lovely to read even though it got a bit overdone between Dead Poets Society and having been set to music and sung by nearly every male choir while I was in high school.

But the poem I chose is the opening of Song of Myself which begs to be read aloud, slam poetry style.
And what I assume you shall assume;
For every atom belonging to me, as good belongs to you.

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

Houses and rooms are full of perfumes—the shelves are crowded with perfumes;
I breathe the fragrance myself, and know it and like it;
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.

The atmosphere is not a perfume—it has no taste of the distillation—it is odorless;
It is for my mouth forever—I am in love with it;
I will go to the bank by the wood, and become undisguised and naked;
I am mad for it to be in contact with me.

03 April 2013

April is NPM: Emily Dickinson

If I ever got a literary tattoo (which is a pretty slim chance because I'm a big baby about needles), it would be taken from a poem from Emily Dickinson.

This poem, to be precise:

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.

This is the poem that I repeated to myself while waiting for my mom to wake up from surgery, while waiting to see if the treatment would work. It's the only poem that I can recite more or less by heart.  And the Belle of Amherst is right - hope never asks anything of you but it sure takes a beating.

02 April 2013

April is NPM: John Keats

Keats is an all-time favorite poet (one of my "Overdue Reads" books is The Complete Poems and Selected Letters of John Keats).  There are so many poems I could choose - "La Belle Dame Sans Merci", "Ode to a Nightingale", "Hyperion", "To Autumn" - but I picked the one that breaks my heart every time I read it.

"Bright Star" is Fanny Brawne, the young woman who loved Keats, and who loved her back, yet they could never be together because of Keats's terminal case of tuberculosis.  How many poems would Keats have written, children he may have passed his gift to, had he not died in Rome at the age of twenty-five?  "Bright Star" was written some time in 1819-1820 and the final revisions done on his way to Rome, never to see Fanny again.

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art--
   Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
   Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
   Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
   Of snow upon the mountains and the moors--
No--yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
   Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
   Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
   And so live ever--or else swoon to death.       

01 April 2013

April is National Poetry Month! First up, Lewis Carroll

I love April - it's National Poetry Month!  I try to read more poetry this month - it's a type of literature that's harder for me to read (I can't read quickly due to the form) but I love the rhyming and rhythm.  Which is why I tend to gravitate toward older poems with set forms.

I've always wanted to do a set of April posts about poems but never got around to it.  This year, though, I am on top of it!

Since April 1st is also April Fools' Day, I decided to start the month off with Lewis Carroll.  With nonsense words and silly rhymes Lewis is always good for a laugh.  "The Hunting of the Snark" isn't as widely read as, say, Alice in Wonderland, but it rolls along delightfully.  Here's the opening of the poem, the "Fit the First" (and those Jasper Fforde fans will recognize the Bellman as, well, the Bellman).

Fit the First

            The Landing
"Just the place for a Snark!" the Bellman cried,
   As he landed his crew with care;
Supporting each man on the top of the tide
   By a finger entwined in his hair.
"Just the place for a Snark! I have said it twice:
   That alone should encourage the crew.
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
   What I tell you three times is true."

The crew was complete: it included a Boots—
   A maker of Bonnets and Hoods—
A Barrister, brought to arrange their disputes—
   And a Broker, to value their goods.

A Billiard-marker, whose skill was immense,
   Might perhaps have won more than his share—
But a Banker, engaged at enormous expense,
   Had the whole of their cash in his care.

There was also a Beaver, that paced on the deck,
   Or would sit making lace in the bow:
And had often (the Bellman said) saved them from wreck,
   Though none of the sailors knew how.

There was one who was famed for the number of things
   He forgot when he entered the ship:
His umbrella, his watch, all his jewels and rings,
   And the clothes he had bought for the trip.

He had forty-two boxes, all carefully packed,
   With his name painted clearly on each:
But, since he omitted to mention the fact,
   They were all left behind on the beach.

The loss of his clothes hardly mattered, because
   He had seven coats on when he came,
With three pair of boots—but the worst of it was,
   He had wholly forgotten his name.

He would answer to "Hi!" or to any loud cry,
   Such as "Fry me!" or "Fritter my wig!"
To "What-you-may-call-um!" or "What-was-his-name!"
   But especially "Thing-um-a-jig!"

While, for those who preferred a more forcible word,
   He had different names from these:
His intimate friends called him "Candle-ends,"
   And his enemies "Toasted-cheese."

"His form is ungainly—his intellect small—"
   (So the Bellman would often remark)
"But his courage is perfect! And that, after all,
   Is the thing that one needs with a Snark."

He would joke with hænas, returning their stare
   With an impudent wag of the head:
And he once went a walk, paw-in-paw, with a bear,
   "Just to keep up its spirits," he said.

He came as a Baker: but owned, when too late—
   And it drove the poor Bellman half-mad—
He could only bake Bride-cake—for which, I may state,
   No materials were to be had.

The last of the crew needs especial remark,
   Though he looked an incredible dunce:
He had just one idea—but, that one being "Snark,"
   The good Bellman engaged him at once.

He came as a Butcher: but gravely declared,
   When the ship had been sailing a week,
He could only kill Beavers. The Bellman looked scared,
   And was almost too frightened to speak:

But at length he explained, in a tremulous tone,
   There was only one Beaver on board;
And that was a tame one he had of his own,
   Whose death would be deeply deplored.

The Beaver, who happened to hear the remark,
   Protested, with tears in its eyes,
That not even the rapture of hunting the Snark
   Could atone for that dismal surprise!

It strongly advised that the Butcher should be
   Conveyed in a separate ship:
But the Bellman declared that would never agree
   With the plans he had made for the trip: