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Showing posts from 2019

Autumn Plans

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It feels as if my reading has been slipping by the wayside, but that's not really been the case.  Most of the books I've read this summer just haven't blown me away, so it's been a bit of a disappointment.

Reading status update on a few of the better ones:
Tesla biography - I do like this book, a beautiful balance of academic and popular science.  It's very Educational, so it's taking me a while to get through it.20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - Reading this for the 3rd or 4th time.  It is my favorite thing to read when I really want an escape.  Nostromo - Still chugging along, now in part 2.  New characters, new goings on.  I'm surprised actually at there being new characters; not sure where Conrad is taking it.Moby-Dick - Still participating in the read-along, but very much behind schedule.Brave New World - Started strong, then realized I needed a break from dystopian.  Will continue shortly.Psalms - Finished them!  Now re-reading Proverbs. There's been…

Nostromo: The Silver of the Mine

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As with Lord Jim, I feel compelled to write something about Nostromo at about the 1/3 mark.  Conrad very handily divided the novel into three sections: The Silver of the Mine, The Isabels, and The Lighthouse.  I must get my (spoiler-free) thoughts down on the first part before continuing, otherwise I'm bound to forget them.

This "must" is, in part, due to the rambling style of the book.  I can't remember the last time I read a narrative that was so clear in its purpose yet so murky in its direction.  This first part is all about world-building and character painting, but Conrad doesn't go about it in a conventional, orderly fashion.  In one moment you are in the past, in another you're in the present - in one paragraph, you're standing next to one character, then in the next, you're following another.  Back and forth, all over the place!  I had to check where I was a few times.

It's jumbled, but truly immersive.  I feel I have a deep understandin…

Mid-Century Dystopia, Part 2: Nineteen Eighty-Four

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Nineteen Eight-Four marks the third famous classic to disappoint me in recent years.  Along with The Odyssey and The Divine Comedy, it would have been left unfinished early on, except for its mammoth legacy and the feeling that I ought to read it.  It's possible I lack the maturity or life experience to appreciate these books - I leave that open as an explanation.  But for the time being, I'll express my unpopular opinion, which isn't without basis.  (For my personal dystopian literature criteria, see part 1.)

England, Except Not England Winston Smith, our very Britishly named protagonist, resides in England of the 1980s.  Now called "Airstrip One," England is a mere drop in the empire that is Oceania, and its once-vivid culture has likewise been largely eaten up by the propaganda of the ruling one-party state.  All citizens are expected to revere Big Brother, the vague yet menacing figurehead of the Party, and in so doing are closely monitored by their colleague…

Mid-Century Dystopia, Part 1: Pan's Labyrinth

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There was no intention on my part to read two dystopian novels at the same time.  I was already in motion to read 1984 - an embarrassingly long-overdue attempt - when I heard a novelization of Pan's Labyrinth was to be released in July.  I got in the library line quickly (these things go like hot cakes), and soon, with del Toro/Funke's fantasy horror in one hand and Orwell's bleak dystopia in the other, made the abrupt leap from "light summer fluff" to "not-sure-if-I'll-sleep-tonight bedtime stories."

So... What Were You Thinking!?1984 requires little introduction.  In Western culture, at least, terms such as Big Brother and doublethink flavor our vocabulary as glib reminders that a British author back in 1948 foretold the existence of increasingly powerful, monolithic, and tech-savvy governments.  We see signs of it everywhere today, from more innocuous instruments such as traffic cameras to the disturbing birth of China's Social Credit System…

It's So Classic - A Tag!

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Excited to be tagged by Hamlette from The Edge of the Precipice!  This tag is all about classics and originally from a blog called Rebellious Writing.

It's So Classic Tag

Rules:

1. Link your post to Rebellious Writing (www.rebelliouswriting.com)
2. Answer the questions
3. Tag at least 5 bloggers.

1. What is one classic that hasn’t been made into a movie yet, but really needs to?
This was a recent Top Ten Tuesday...I stand by all my answers but will add one more:  Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev.  I rated this book very highly and feel it would appeal to anyone who enjoys costumes dramas, while offering a new perspective.  (We need more Russian literature adaptations in general.  Just sayin'!)

2. What draws you to classics?
It is hard to put a scientific answer to this, because I got into classics at a young age and they became a core part of my life.  If anything, I love them most of all for sentimental reasons.  Apart from that, it's the depth of the writing, the complexi…

Top Ten Character Friends

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August is RACING by.  (I guess I say that every month.)  I've finished a couple of books over the weekend, but I don't know when I'll get to writing proper reviews.  Till then, here's a quick post for Top Ten Tuesday!

Characters I'd like to be best friends with, classics and otherwise:
Much from BBC's Robin Hood.  This guy gets a lot of flak from the other members of Robin's gang (and Robin himself), but it's not fair... he does pretty much all the cooking and worrying for everyone.  If we're friends, I'll help with the cooking (even though I don't like it) and back him up when they start picking on him.  Being my friend, he will be loyal to a fault, but also give me constructive criticism when I need it.
Miss Marple.  Poor Miss Marple... I just want to protect her from all the creepers and psychos she encounters (not that I am capable, heh).  She really needs a friend. Lucian Gregory from The Man Who Was Thursday.  Ok, maybe not friends, mo…

Reading Everything in August

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No, that is not the title of a challenge...but it may as well be.  I'm up to my ears in books and it's wonderful.


I spent most of my July weekends working on a large volunteer project for a non-profit.  It was a beneficial experience, but more of a commitment than I realized.  Now that that's pretty much wrapped up, I can turn back to books.

Here's a quick list of what I'll be reading this month, at different levels of undivided attention and in no particular order:
1984 - George OrwellTwenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea - Jules VerneMaster and Commander - Patrick O'Brian Drawn from Memory - Ernest Shepard (illustrator of the original Winnie the Pooh)Psalms (almost finished)Tesla biography (yes, still)Smart People Should Build Things and The War on Normal People - Andrew Yang Nostromo - Joseph ConradMoby-Dick - Herman MelvilleOther??  There's sure to be more. I probably mentioned before how many, many times I struggled to start Nostromo and stick with it. …

Vertigo and How to Steal a Million - Two short reviews (spoiler-free)

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Recently I saw these two classic films for the first time: Vertigo (1958) and How to Steal a Million (1966).  On the surface, they have really nothing in common, so I thought it would be a fun challenge to compare and contrast them.

Vertigo
Vertigo is an Alfred Hitchcock film, considered by many reviewers to be his masterpiece.  James Stewart plays a retired detective, Scottie Ferguson, who is commissioned by his friend to follow said friend's wife Madeleine (Kim Novak) around San Francisco, to determine if she's become possessed with the spirit of her great-grandmother.  Matters become weirder when Scottie finds himself falling head over heels for the chilling but attractive Madeleine, who also seems to have a thing for him.  Scottie, unfortunately, suffers from vertigo and a fear of heights, which threaten to jeopardize his task and Madeleine's life.

Let me just say I have mixed feelings about Hitchcock films.  This is how I'd rank the ones I've seen so far (best …

The Professor - Charlotte Bronte's First Novel

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First novels can be hit-and-miss, even those of "great authors."  Nathaniel Hawthorne was so ashamed of Fanshawe he wanted all copies burnt.  Jane Austen's Love and Friendship, written in her teens, did not (unsurprisingly) carry the depth and drama of her later, famous novels.  Doyle's first Sherlock Holmes novel, A Study in Scarlet, is arguably one of the weaker of the four.  While some talented authors debut a masterpiece, it's as equally likely that their first book is not their best. All of this goes to show that 1) no one is born a great novelist, and 2) it is worthwhile to keep trying, even if your first writing is highly flawed.

The Professor was Charlotte Bronte's first novel but not published until after her death.  It has a very similar plot to Villette (1853), and it's best read as a first draft of that superior novel.  Unfortunately, this is still insufficient for enjoying the book, because it's just not a great story.  It took me several…

July Miscellany - Books + Life

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It seems the theme of my life in 2019 is "life gets tougher, books get better."  Well, some books anyway.  I have to say, I haven't been reading as much as I would like, but in spite of that, am pretty pleased overall with the books I have read so far.

I've also highly enjoyed reading other's blogs this year and found many new ones to follow.  I've been thinking about doing a post series sharing links to blogs I follow, if that would interest anyone (?).

Ok, let's talk about some books.

Another one bites the dust... Here's one of those "not so great" reads of the year.  I had every intention of posting a review on The Scapegoat, by Daphne du Maurier.  But after reaching a glorious 44%, I came to a screeching stop.  The plodding repetition of the plot was one thing... the narrator's nauseating "aha!" moment was the cherry on top.  I thought I'd take one for the team, finish the book, and present you with a scathing review, b…

The Last Tycoon ... Questioning Why I Read Fitzgerald

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Fitzgerald is one of those authors who provokes in me a love/loathe reaction.  There was something unforgettable and moving in The Great Gatsby and This Side of Paradise; the surreal, Wuthering-Heights level of drama and the tragic stories lingered in my mind a long time afterward.  Tender is the Night haunted me in a different way: an instant trainwreck with little rhyme or reason, it left me so disgusted I had to quit reading early on.  So when I saw the library had just added The Last Tycoon to their ebook collection...and it was available, and it was under 200 pages...I invariably got pulled into checking it out and reading it over the 4th of July.

There aren't many authors I would recommend reading solely for their writing style, but I think every aspiring American writer should read something by Fitzgerald, even if it's just a chapter.  There's something distinctly American about his style.  It's a strange, signature combination - breathless, matter-of-fact, poe…

Top Ten Books of My Childhood

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Ok... what follows is rather an eclectic list, and many of them are not classics!  But I so enjoyed reading some of you guys' lists for this week's Top Ten Tuesday topic, it made me reflect on the books I read long ago and which influenced my childhood.

1. The Children's Book of Virtues
An interesting collection of fairy tales and poems, some well known ("St George and the Dragon") and others more obscure. To this day, I can still hear my dad's voice reading some of these stories.  I'm also pretty sure I'd start bawling if I re-read "Why Frog and Snake Never Play Together."

2. Dragons, Ogres, and Wicked Witches
I really hesitate to put this one on the list, because these European fairy tales were pretty heavy reading and perhaps not very good for small kids.  (I'm not quite sure how we acquired the book...Costco?  Either way, my mom later got rid of it.)  I've always had an inordinate fascination with fantasy monsters, sea monsters, …

The Four Loves - Weeks 3 & 4

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Well, I missed last week, so once again playing catch up with the readalong.  :)  Here are the last two parts - and thanks again to Cleo for hosting this!
Week 3: Friendship In this chapter, Lewis talks about what he considers to be the "least natural" of the loves: Friendship.  It is less "organic" than the other loves, because, unlike Affection which nurtures or Eros which propagates, Friendship is, in a sense, superfluous in that it is not necessary to our survival. In fact, it can be viewed with distrust by authorities or groups of humans, because it means at least two people have withdrawn from the group and are connected by something which distinguishes them from the rest.

This was the most interesting chapter of the book.  I don't have a wide circle of friends, but I appreciate each one I have (online and offline), and I think Lewis pinpoints why it is so hard to find good friends.  The problem frequently lies with us.  So often we are looking for someo…

The Four Loves - Weeks 1 & 2

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Cleo has been hosting a read-along of The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis, and happily I've been keeping up with it well, in spite of some reader's block.  These are the parts I've read so far:
Week 1: "Introduction" and "Likings and Loves for the Sub-Human"Week 2: "Affection" First off, this book is not quite what I was expecting, and I say that not as a criticism but as an observation.  Lewis's style is a little rambling, in some places like a sermon that switches from topic to topic fluidly but lacks the structure you'd expect from a book with such a structural title.  He focuses on certain aspects of each topic, rather than giving a detailed overview of the whole.  For example, my biggest takeaway from "Likings and Loves..." was his view on healthy vs. unhealthy patriotism; in "Affection," it was more on "what to avoid" rather than "what to do."  It doesn't make the book any less readable, but …

Battling Reader's Block

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Hope everyone is doing well this fine June... It feels like the month is FLYING by.  Tomorrow is going to be about 90 degrees where I live, so I'd say summer is here.


Since I finished 12 Rules for Life, I've been having pretty bad reader's block.  You wouldn't necessarily be able to tell... Current status seems productive:
Still slowly plugging away at the Tesla biography (it's interesting but very brainy)On track for Cleo's read-along of The Four Loves (Lewis), though I failed to post for part 1 (will roll it up into the next part)Also reading Master and Commander (O'Brian) and The Scapegoat (du Maurier), both of which are pretty good books so far I think recent "real-life" stress has zapped my attention span.  I hate it when that happens.

There are certain types of books that can get me out of that.  I will probably keep sampling books till I find one.  Till then, it might be kinda quiet around here...

The Time Machine: Then and Now

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It's been about fifteen years since I first read The Time Machine.  It was so unlike anything I'd read before.  Afterwards, I even wrote my own time-travelling story, which was more like fan-fiction than anything else.

I don't often reread books, but as I build my H. G. Wells collection, I figured I'd reread each book and see how it held up over time.  (No pun intended!)  The Time Machine was the first book by Wells I'd read and seemed like a natural starting point.

The story begins in Victorian England.  A group of friends - a doctor, a journalist, a psychologist, and others - gather at the Time Traveller's house for their customary meal and conversation.  The Time Traveller at this stage has just created a model of his machine which he says he can build at full-scale and use to travel through time.  The demonstration leaves his guests skeptical, but not long after that, the Time Traveller shows up to one of his own dinners, bedraggled and telling a wild stor…