Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A good book on your shelf is a friend that turns its back on you and remains a friend. -Author Unknown

Wow, I cannot believe that it’s been a month and a half since I last blogged! It’s kind of funny actually; things have been way crazy-busy in my life as of late, yet I’ve actually been finding more time to read (probably because I’m on the subway more often going here-there-and-everywhere).

Let’s see…I’ll begin where we last left off. I finished up Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. I don’t really know what to say about it since I’ve read it before, and Jane Austen is always amazing. I will say that I find a lot of people think that Jane Austen is old-fashioned (the number of people who think this is probably directly proportional to the number of people who think Jane is sheer awesomeness), but I don’t think Jane Austen is old-fashioned; I thinks she’s witty and intelligent, and I find that even though circumstances are different now, her plotlines still hold a strong resonance with the modern situation. I can’t rank Mansfield Park; Pride and Prejudice is my favourite, Emma is my least favourite, and all of Jane’s other writings are tied in the middle.

After Mansfield Park I read The Coffee Trader by David Liss. Liss sort of has his own unique niche-genre; he writes (for the most part) suspenseful historical fiction that revolves around the stock exchange, and commodities trading and speculation. The Coffee Trader is set in 17th-century Amsterdam, and centres on a Jewish immigrant named Miguel Lienzo. Miguel loses all of his money in a sugar scheme gone wrong, and wants to regain his position in the community. Being Jewish, in 17th-century Amsterdam, Miguel is directly under the influence and power of the Ma’amad (the Jewish governing council), and must keep his money-making scheme, and dealings with the Dutch, secret in order to not incur their wrath. Miguel becomes involved in coffee futures (coffee was a little known commodity in Europe during this period), and must lie, plot and connive in order to get what he wants. The whole complex story is way too involved to get into here (plus, I don’t want to give it away since it’s so good), but it’s quite a bit different from anything I’ve read before. The book was a little longer than I thought it needed to be, but I also think that it would have been very confusing and difficult to enjoy if Liss had shortened it and not spent the time plotting out the steps. I really did enjoy it, and look forward to reading his other books (which are on my Christmas list).

After finishing up The Coffee Trader, I felt that I needed some non-fiction so I decided on False Impressions: The Hunt for Big-Time Art Fakes by Thomas Hoving. Hoving is the former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and has some great stories, but dude (and I love him) he’s got a huge ego! His ego however is a major part of the reason that I find him so enjoyable to read. Hoving styles himself a fakebuster, and in this book he recounts how he started in his career, the fakes and con artists that he’s encountered, and how museum politics affect the world of art forgery. I just love Hoving; the fact that he uses words like “chicanery” makes me love him even more! Hoving is definitely not a born writer; he has a tendency to jump around a bit whenever something pops into his head, but all of his stories are so interesting! I also have another book by him, Making the Mummies Dance, that I have to read; it’s sort of a memoir about his time at the Met.

Now onto my traditional Christmas reading! I didn’t read Dickens’ Christmas Books this year, because I just wasn’t in the mood, but I fed my yearning with three others. First off was The Christmas Tree, authored by Julie Salamon and illustrated by Jill Weber. It’s a cute little tale about finding the Christmas tree for Rockefeller Center, and the special relationship that a nun, Sister Anthony, has with her Norway Spruce (which is eventually picked to be the Rockefeller tree). It is a very sentimental story, I really like it, but it doesn’t have a lot of real substance; the pictures are cute though!

No Christmas would be complete without a little Lucy Maud Montgomery! Every year I read Christmas with Anne and other Holiday Stories, which is a collection of Maud’s holiday themed stories and holiday chapters from the Anne books. There are two chapters taken from Anne books (one from Anne of Green Gables and one from Anne of Windy Poplars), the rest of the stories are ones that Maud had published in turn-of-the-century magazines. My favourites are “Aunt Cyrilla’s Christmas Basket” and “The Josephs’ Christmas”. These stories (I know it sounds cheesy) fill me with warmth, and happiness, and just pure bliss! I love Maud, I love Maud!

My last Christmas-themed read for the season was Maeve Binchy’s This Year It Will Be Different and Other Stories. Maeve Binchy is great; I haven’t talked about her books here yet, because she’s only released one book since I started blogging and I haven’t read it yet. I’ve read everything that she’s written, except for Silver Wedding (only because I bought it, but the pages were all screwed up and I haven’t found another copy yet). Maeve Binchy’s stories and books are always about people and situations that could be real, but she writes in such a wry and witty manner that even mundane daily details become amazingly interesting!

I started reading Measuring the World: A Novel by Daniel Kehlmann (translated from the German) and found it intensely boring from the beginning. I tired to get through it, I really did, but just couldn’t. I’ve put it back on the bookshelf for now, and maybe I’ll try it again someday. Maybe it’s better in German.

After that boringness, I decided on Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez; Marquez is never boring! I just finished it yesterday, and it was fabulous. I know that I’m reading him in translation, so I can only imagine how poetic it would be to read him in Spanish; everything he writes is so wretchedly beautiful that I don’t really know what to say. It’s more of a feeling that I get when I read, it’s nearly impossible to put into words, but it’s as if Marquez knows something I don’t or has seen something beyond beauty that I will never see. I loved this book (even more than I loved Love in the Time of Cholera, and that’s saying something!); I know I’ll read it again.

I’ve been shuffling along through Return to Treasure Island and the Search for Captain Kidd by Barry Clifford (with Paul Perry). It’s one of those books that I can only read when a certain mood strikes, so I grab it whenever it does. Clifford is an archaeologist and he’s pretty famous in the marine archaeology community for his devotion to finding shipwrecks. He is best-known for finding the wreck of Black Sam Bellamy’s Whydah (Black Sam was a pirate), and the Whydah is the only shipwreck discovered that has been conclusively identified as a pirate ship. In Return to Treasure Island, Clifford and his team go in search of the burnt and sunk remains of Captain Kidd’s The Adventure Galley. Clifford and his co-writer Perry also give a thorough background history on the islands themselves, how Kidd came to be a pirate, and how his story inspired Stevenson’s Treasure Island. So far, so good.

After I finished Of Love and Other Demons last night, I grabbed Toby Young’s memoir How to Lose Friends and Alienate People off my shelf. I’ve heard some really good things about it and got it used, so I figured I’d give it a shot. He’s hooked me already: he mentioned Evelyn Waugh twice, Woodward and Bernstein, and the Whaleship Essex all within the prologue and first ten pages. So far he’s a man after my own heart, if he wasn’t my Mother’s age…anyways; I think it’s going to be a good one!

Okay, I’m done for now (and out of [metaphorically-speaking] breath). Merry Christmas/Hanukkah/Festivas/whatever-holiday-you-do-or-do-not-want-to-celebrate to everyone!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

There is more pleasure to building castles in the air than on the ground.-Edward Gibbon

Tuesday, on the subway, I finished up Owen Chase’s The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex. It’s an absolutely crazy account, although I guess not that crazy since it did actually happen. Basically, the case of the Essex is the first recorded incident of a whale purposely ramming a whaleship (twice actually). After the second ramming the whaleship foundered, and the crew was left to survive in three whaleboats. Over the course of months spent at sea, the three boats end up separating from each other, rations run out, members of the crew start to die, and the remaining members resort to cannibalism to survive.

Chase’s account is very to the point and factual, without any frills or over embellishing, but that’s part of what makes it so great. Even though the reader knows that it must have been an absolutely harrowing experience, we are spared the crews inner thoughts and spoken words, and thus the work doesn’t begin to take on the veneer of fiction. I believe that it would be very difficult for a reader (at least me anyway) to stay attached to this story if there was too much detail; it would be just too graphic and desperate. However, if you like that sort of thing, there is also Nathanial Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. I’m not sure I can read that one though.

I began reading Mansfield Park by Jane Austen again (third time, I think), but yesterday I was at the thrift store and spotted Sophie Kinsella’s latest Remember Me?. I read the entire thing last night (it’s near 400 pages), and I liked it. Kinsella’s books are great when you just need a breezy, upbeat, good-ending type of read. I’ve read everything by her now, except the stuff she has under another name. I really liked this one because it had a different kind of struggle for the heroine than any of the others. This one is really about being your “authentic self” (as Oprah would say), and what happens when you change who you really are for other people, money, ambition, etc. I liked it, although I would have liked a slightly different ending, but that’s just me. I really needed this type of book right now, it’s been a rough few days since my Grandmother had a heart attack on Tuesday and has been in the hospital since. I hope she’ll be okay.

Now we’re back to Mansfield Park again…again.

Monday, November 3, 2008

How vain it is to sit down to write if you have not stood up to live.-Henry David Thoreau

I finished up reading Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen by P.G. Wodehouse on Saturday. As I said in the previous post, of course I enjoyed it since it’s Jeeves and Wooster. Nothing is better than Jeeves and Wooster when one feels the need for a little mayhem and a good laugh.

After finishing it up, I decided that a trip to the bookstore (or two bookstores as was the case) was what I needed. First, I went to see the man who always sets books aside for me since I haven’t seen him in about a month due to the amount I had been working. He hadn’t found anything new to set aside for me, but I grabbed a couple of Nancy Drew books. The first was #24 The Clue in the Old Album in yellow hardback, with the 2nd cover art, and with 25 chapters instead of 20 (meaning that it’s the unrevised text). The second was #37 The Clue in the Old Stagecoach in yellow with the back cover picture adapted from The Secret of Red Gate Farm. I *heart* Nancy Drew.

After leaving the first bookshop, I went next door (yes, right next door) and got a copy of E.L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which I had been wanting to read. I read it all in about an hour and a half yesterday, curled up in my chair next to the heater, listening to City and Colour’s CD Sometimes on repeat. All in all it was a very pleasant time. I really enjoyed the book, which I hadn’t read as a child, unlike a lot of people I’ve talked to. It’s about a sister and brother who run away from home, hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a week, and try to solve the mystery of whether or not a recently acquired statue was carved by Michelangelo. The premise of running away from home and staying in the Met for a week was what really got me, and made me want to read the book. It’s like a dream for me; kind of like why I went and saw Night at the Museum in the theater – because it’s always been a fancy of mine that museums really do come alive at night. I really enjoyed the book, and sometimes it’s really nice to just pick up a children’s book like that and fall into another time.

Now I’m reading The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex. It’s an account written by Owen Chase, first mate of the Essex, and one of only five men to survive the months spent adrift after the wreck. Basically this is the true story that inspired Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. I’m not very far in yet, but I like that I have read to this point.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The beginning is always today.-Mary Wollstonecraft

I finished reading Lost by Gregory Maguire on Tuesday night, it was pretty good. I was surprised though, because many of the reviews I read said it was better than the previous books, but I actually liked all of them better than this one. I think though that it’s because none of the other books were set in modern times, and because they weren’t it made it much easier to believe the fantastical things that happened. Also, I think I enjoyed the others more because they all had their basis in previous stories, i.e. Wicked and Son of a Witch (and consequently the newest book A Lion Among Men, which I haven’t read yet) have a basis in L. (Lyman, hehehe) Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (and subsequent sequels), Mirror Mirror is a retelling of Snow White, and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is based on Cinderella.

While there are a few references to Scrooge, from Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, being based on a member of the main characters family and a couple of references to Jack the Ripper, this one really isn’t based on any other previous literature. I thought it would be, and so I guess that is the real basis for my disappointment.

I also found that there were a lot of loose ends that weren’t tied up, and the novel ended up seeming untidy in consequence. Maybe that’s why it was called Lost…hmmmm. As always though with Gregory Maguire it was well-written, and considering the fact that it took me less than two days to read, I really have no other faults to nitpick.

I’m currently just finishing up Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen by P.G. Wodehouse, and will be done shortly. Of course I’m enjoying it because it’s Jeeves and Wooster!

On a side note I bought (for $1.00) an uncorrected proof copy of Irene Gammel’s Looking for Anne…now I own three copies…dude, I have a serious problem.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Poetry is what gets lost in translation.-Robert Frost

So since I'm not finished The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egyptians to Quantum Cryptography by Simon Singh, and I'm also currently reading Lost by Gregory Maguire, I thought that today I would mention some of my favourite poets/poems. Here ya go:

Robert Frost: Acquainted with the Night

Lord Alfred Tennyson: Crossing the Bar

Edna St. Vincent Millay: What Lips my Lips have Kissed

Dylan Thomas: In my Craft or Sullen Art

Gregory Orr: Insomnia Song

William Falconer: The Shipwreck

Heinrich Heine: Die Lorelei (The Lorelei, or The Siren)

Omar Khayyam: The Rubaiyat (Edward FitzGerald translations)

Monday, October 20, 2008

When words are scarce they are seldom spent in vain.-William Shakespeare

Okay, so it’s basically been forever since I’ve written, mostly because I have no time now (just got a new job two weeks ago) and because my home computer is broken so I can only write while I’m at work.

Frankly, and this is odd for me, I’m really in no mood to write about the various books I’ve read since I last wrote. I’ve actually read a few, I might not even remember them all, but I’m at least going to give it a shot.

I was just finishing up Looking for Anne: How Lucy Maud Montgomery Dreamed up a Literary Classic by Irene Gammel when I last wrote. I really enjoyed the book, and thought it was fantastic. As I mentioned before, Dr. Gammel writes in a highly accessible way, and even though the book is rather scholarly, it is still thoroughly absorbing and an “easy” (not the right word, but my brain doesn’t want to work that hard) read. I did not agree with all of her observations, and at times found some of them reaching, but overall I thought it was brilliant. You could tell that she had spend a lot of time doing research (10 years I think it was actually), and she found some really interesting things. Actually, one very interesting personal part of this is that before my Mother knew that I had bought the book for myself she had already ordered the American version for me (different dust jacket). It was my birthday a couple of weeks ago, so my Mum sent the copy she ordered off to Dr. Gammel, who signed it and send it back. She also sent me a birthday card, both of these I received last weekend. So now I have two copies of this book – very cool.

I also reread The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. It probably is my favourite book out of all of them. I’ve mentioned it before (wandering the Muskokas with Valancy), and I just love it. It’s considered one of Maud’s “adult novels”, versus the juvenilia title that is usually attached to her writings (totally the wrong tag by the way, I don’t think they’re juvenilia at all). Anyways, it’s the only one of Maud’s novels that is entirely set in Ontario and actually is meant to reference Bala, where Maud spent a family vacation. A great companion book is Lucy Maud Montgomery and Bala: A Love Story of the North Woods, which was written by (KS) acquaintances of mine, Jack and Linda, who own and operate Bala’s Museum. I received Jack and Linda’s book as a gift last year and it is absolutely wonderful. The Blue Castle makes me believe in love, I know it sounds lame, but it’s true and that’s all there is to it.

Then, I believe, I read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I really enjoyed the descriptive nature of Coelho’s writing, and I thought the story was very simple, pure and true, but, even giving all that, I don’t really understand why this book is as big as it is. I’m not knocking Coelho here at all, like I said it was very well-written, but it didn’t really grab me. Although I also didn’t like The Da Vinci Code or The English Patient, so maybe it’s just me, or maybe I’m just a little too cynical (a side of myself I really don’t share with others).

Okay, then I read The Mating Season by P.G. Wodehouse; it’s one of the Jeeves and Wooster books. I love the Jeeves and Wooster books, and although half of the time I don’t understand the mid-century British slang, I find them hilarious and they always make me smile. I didn’t find this one quite as funny as The Inimitable Jeeves, but I still really liked it and have another that I bought left to read, Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen. There are actually tons of Jeeves and Wooster books, but I’ve been finding them hard to find. Wodehouse actually wrote something like 99 books during his career (not all J&W of course).

I just finished The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber, and I really don’t know whether I liked it or not. The story and concept were interesting, but it was just so overdrawn and I hated half of the characters. I think Gruber was trying to write characters that were anti-heroes or the opposite of those normally seen, but he really only succeeded in writing characters that were unbelievable. Or, conversely, he was trying to make it difficult to class people into the “good guy” or “bad guy” categories. However, the story itself was very good and engaging, but the book would definitely have been better if Gruber had fought against the urge to write as if he were getting paid by the word. I know, that was a little mean.

I’m currently reading The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egyptians to Quantum Cryptography by Simon Singh, and it’s really interesting so far. I like cryptography and ciphers and am enjoying learning more history about them. It’s very math-based and I think it’s interesting.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


P.S. Does anyone else think that W.O. Mitchell looks creepily like Einstein? Maybe it's just me.

It only seems as if you're doing something when you worry.-Lucy Maud Montgomery

Okay, I know I haven't posted in a bit, but it's because I'm not done Looking for Anne yet (I'll probably finish tonight however). I've just been so bloody tired that by the time I get home from work I can't concentrate on reading, and all I want to do is stare mindlessly at the television. The book is super-fantastic though, and I'm really enjoying it. Irene Gammel writes in such an accessible way.

I remembered what those other books I bought were, here ya go: Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn by David Spoto, and that other book I was reading, Evening by Susan Minot. I did put Evening aside, and I very much doubt that I'm going to go back to it, it was just horrendous. Today I bought a book for Jen (can't say what it is here, because she might read before I give it to her tonight) and E=MC2: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation by David Bodanis. Oh ya, and on Monday I got the entire Cairo Trilogy (Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, and Sugar Street) by Naguib Mahfouz. I read Midaq Alley last spring and absolutely loved it, so I'm hoping these will be just as good.

So, Jen thought that I should blog about some news I found out this weekend. At first I wasn't sure, because I don't really like to blog about articles, etc. that I have found upsetting. But, since it's about Maud, I figured I might as well. The article was published in the Globe & Mail on Saturday, here's the link: The Heartbreaking Truth About Anne's Creator. Basically, it states that Lucy Maud Montgomery committed suicide and that the family kept it a secret. Apparently there was a suicide note (although this is up for debate now, as I've read what is claimed to be the note and I don't think she's actually writing about killing herself). Dr. Mary Rubio seems to also think it may not be a suicide note, and there is speculation that Maud may have accidentally overdosed.

I was in a state of shock when I read this, and carried around a little pang in my heart all weekend (it's still there actually). Maud's books are, and have been since I first found Anne, my refuge. I wander Green Gables with Anne, New Moon with Emily, Silver Bush with Pat, and the rest of PEI with Jane, Kilmeny, Marigold, and Sara, but most especially, the Muskokas with Valancy. Whenever I need, I have another place to go. I think that is the most upsetting part for me; Maud gave me a refuge, but she didn't have that. She has given me so much, and has had a huge impact on the person I am today, but she lived in darkness for so long.

I am very glad that we live in a society and time where depression and other mental illnesses are more open for discussion (although we still have a ways to go), and I know this is part of the reason why Kate decided to bring the story out. But there's still a part of me (that idealistic part) that would rather not have known. This revelation will never tarnish what I think of Maud and her writings, but it still makes me very sad.

I've, as anyone who follows this blog knows, been re-reading a lot of the books as of late (short stories too, although I really don't mention them here). I usually try to read all the books over again once a year, but this year was a little different. I don't usually talk about myself on this blog, but here goes. I was recently diagnosed with stage 2 cervical dysplasia (it is regressing though, so no fear!), but re-reading Maud's books over the last few months has enabled me to not think about it too much. I know I'm not dying, or anything ridiculous like that, but it is very scary, and having Maud around has let me escape, even if only for a little while. I don't want to bother or scare my friends and family with talking about it constantly, plus I don't really want to talk about it constantly either, but having Maud's books has made it easier.

Okay, enough about me! Happy Punctuation Day everyone!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

It's not me - it's you.-Matt Dunn

I spent most of Sunday reading (and finishing) The Ex-Boyfriend's Handbook by Matt Dunn, it was absolutely hilarious! I randomly came across it at the thrift store last week, and was caught by this line on the back: "You’ve let yourself go,” she says, “so I’m letting you go too.” Bah, friggin hilarious! It's basically about a guy, Edward, who comes home one day to find a note from his girlfriend of 10 years, Jane, saying that she's leaving him and going to Tibet for three months to find herself. Edward decides that he has three months to get in shape to try and win her back when she returns. What ensues is utter hilarity as Edward gets himself a trainer, diets, and tries speed dating, among other things. This novel really just shows the lengths that someone will go to for love. It's very British, and all the good things that some along with that (if you like British humour that is). The writing and style of humour are very akin to the Shopaholic (and other Sophie Kinsella) novels, and was absolutely wonderful as a funny, yet warm, read. The only thing I didn't like were some of the assumptions put on women in the book (women DO NOT just have sex with a guy in hopes that he'll be her boyfriend/marry her...ridiculous!), but for the most part assumptions of that kind were few and far between, so they can be forgiven.

I've had a crazy book-buying couple of weeks, I need to slow down, but I really can't! If I see a book at the store (thrift store/used bookstore, I can't buy every new book I want or I'd never eat) I can't just leave it there if it's a reasonable price. Yesterday, I had the day off for a doctor's appointment, so I went to a used bookstore that I love afterwards. I haven't been in awhile because they're closed on Sundays (the only day off I have in a week). I went in and the proprietor had books set aside for me (he's knows what I'm looking for). I was stunned when he had put aside a copy of Looking for Anne: How Lucy Maud Montgomery Dreamed Up a Literary Classic by Irene Gammel for me. This book only just came out a few months ago, I couldn't believe it was at the used bookstore already. It looks brand-new, like someone got it for a gift and didn't want it, I bought it of course! I also picked up three more blue Nancy Drew's (#2: The Hidden Staircase, #3: The Bungalow Mystery, and #27: The Secret of the Wooden Lady), yay!

I also stopped by the thrift store before my doctor's appointment and got The Famous Five Adventure Collection by Enid Blyton and The Tea House on Mulberry Street by Sharon Owens, I also stopped by today on my lunch break and got Leave it to Psmith by P.G. Wodehouse (and a present for Jen). Last week I bought the Matt Dunn book, About a Boy by Nick Hornby, Saturday by Ian McEwan, Nathaniel's Nutmeg or How One Man's Courage Changed the Course of History by Giles Milton, and one of the Dana Girls Mystery Stories (#2: The Secret at Lone Tree Cottage). I'm almost 100% sure that I actually bought at least one more book last week, but can't remember what it is right now.

Oh gosh, I'm literally going to have to build myself a house out of books if I keep going at this rate. Oooohhh, a house made out of books, what a "novel" idea...bahahahahaha...I know, not funny.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you.-Roger Ebert

Haven't blogged about Amsterdam yet, because frankly I'm a little loathe to do so. It was so bad. I can't even believe that it won the Man Booker Prize (although so did The English Patient and we all know how I felt about that book), I can't even really express it. While I still think that Ian McEwan has a lovely writing style, this book was basically trash; and no, I really don't think my opinion is going to change as I write like it did with On Chesil Beach. The only character who could have been the least bit interesting was already dead when the book opened, and the remaining characters were so shallow and self-absorbed that it's sickening (even now). Yes, having disagreeable characters worked in On Chesil Beach, they made the book what it was and made you want to jump into the book and tell them what's-what, but the characters in Amsterdam were beyond preposterous. I was seriously disappointed when I finished. It was just so empty and pointless, and ultimately kind of dull. While I was like WTF? towards the end, the outcome really wasn't a surprise. I know that McEwan is so much more than this, which is why I'm giving him one last shot. I've heard some really good things about Saturday, which I recently found at the thrift store, and I intend to read it. This is the best of three Mr. McEwan, right now we stand at 1-1, and I hope you don't disappoint.

I started reading Evening by Susan Minot on Sunday (on the subway, of course) after finishing Amsterdam. It was made into a movie not too long ago with some cool people like Meryl Streep, Vanessa Redgrave, etc. I saw a trailer for it and thought that it looked interesting and decided to read the book first. Really, I think I'm going to have to stop reading it. The entire novel is told in stream of consciousness (read: basically no punctuation, except for periods and the occasional comma), and it's driving me insane. It's barely discernible who's saying what since there are no quotation marks, and you really can't tell the difference between actual speech and just thought. I understand that the novel is supposed to be a swamp of memories recalled by Ann, partially hazed by cancer medication, as she lays dying, but it's ridiculous. I don't know if I can do it people.

I need to read a book that doesn't make me want to stop reading.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I'm not afraid of storms, for I'm learning how to sail my ship.-Louisa May Alcott

I meant to blog yesterday, but really wasn't feeling well, so we blog today instead. I finished A Garland for Girls by Louisa May Alcott while on the subway Tuesday night. There's really not much to say about it. It's a collection of sweet, moral-driven stories that are all about charity, faith, and helping others. I love Louisa May Alcott, so they were a nice read; much simpler than Little Women, but very nicely told. My copy is also about a hundred years old, so there were a few nice watercolour illustrations too. Not really much else to say other than that I liked them, and that those who get why they were written will like them too, although most will find them too moralistic and maybe a bit preachy.

Now I'm reading Amsterdam by Ian McEwan. I'm finding it really hard to get into though, and I might have to put it aside in favour of something else. Maybe I'll start reading The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester. I just bought it today, and it seems really good, we'll see.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

One has to have the courage of one's pessimism.-Ian McEwan

I finished On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan on Friday, it was my first McEwan and I'm a little torn. I tried to let it sit with me over the weekend, as I did with The English Patient; on one hand I really liked it, but on the other I didn't find it to be quite as engaging as the reviews said it was. That being said (and it is rather short) I read it in about two days, so there must have been something about it that kept me reading. Maybe I just don't quite "get" McEwan yet as this is my first. I have recently bought Amsterdam and intend to read it, although some of the reviews I've read have been less than favourable.

This novel was incredibly uncomfortable, but in a good way; I think that feeling was what McEwan was trying to convey. McEwan did a great job of using both the male and female perspective by alternately telling the story from both Florence's and Edward's point-of-view, and he was able to portray Florence in a very sympathetic light; which I find is often difficult for male authors writing about women in such an intimate and scary situation (I have to give props to Jeffrey Eugenides here, because he is also fantastic at this).

Both Florence and Edward seem rather cold towards each other, but there are glimpses that they do care for one another, and are rather products of circumstance and their era. Florence was in all probability abused by her father (McEwan never comes out and says it), and Edward's mother was left "brain damaged" after an accident, which I think caused him to have a skewed view of women. Neither character discusses these things with the other, thus demonstrating they're utter lack of communication. This in the end is what tears them apart. Actually it reminded me a lot of Jane Austen, obviously different of course, but as I've said before one of the best things about Jane Austen is that mistakes can be corrected and that one isn't doomed to live by them. Unfortunately, Florence and Edward in On Chesil Beach are plagued by inaction and the things left unsaid; only later in life does Edward come to realize that it was his own inaction that placed him at his final destination, and that maybe things would have been better if he hadn't let his pride strangle his words.

Actually the more I write about this novel, the more I come to realize how brilliant it actually is. While insanely frustrating and awkward throughout, that is its beauty; you want to jump into the book and shake both Florence and Edward violently until they actually say something of consequence to the other. So in actuality, this novel is frustrating, uncomfortable, and awkward, BUT ALSO brilliant, haunting, and heartbreaking. It's really quite tragic.

Alright Mr. McEwan, you win this round.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Hypers! -Nancy Drew

I finished reading Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women who Created Her by Melanie Rehak on Tuesday night, it was excellent! The Nancy Drew books have always been a favourite with me, and when I saw this book at Pandemonium I had to have it. I started reading it right after I finished Pat of Silver Bush, and was instantly hooked. Not only is it highly entertaining and delightful to read, but it's also very informative and scholarly.

Many people don't realize that Carolyn Keene is a pen name for multiple ghost writers, and that the Nancy Drew series was the brainchild of Edward Stratemeyer, founder of the Stratemeyer Syndicate (also responsible for such classics as The Hardy Boys and The Bobbsey Twins). This book covers the two main ghostwriters; Mildred A. Wirt (Benson) and Harriet Stratemeyer Adams. Harriet was Edward's daughter and, along with her sister Edna, took over the Syndicate upon Edward's death in 1930 (unfortunately just prior to the release of the first three Nancy books). Mildred Wirt wrote 23 of the first 30 Nancy Drew books (she also contributed books to a number of the Syndicate's other series', and wrote books under her own name). Harriet wrote 24 of the last 25 books (of the original series) and also revised and rewrote numbers 1-34 for reissue.

This is another point that many people don't know; the original 34 books in the series were 25 chapters (not 20 chapters as they've been known since the 50s/60s, depending on the book). These original books are apparently more fanciful, with Nancy getting into even bigger scrapes, etc. They were also revised to take out racial epithets, and remove any reference to places or time that would date the series. Books 35 to 56 always had 20 chapters. I only own one of these "blue Nancy Drews" (so-called because all of the books published mass-market until 1961 had some variant of blue hardback, this distinguishes them from "yellow spine" which are the ones I grew up with) and it's a first edition "blue tweed" without dust jacket of #29: The Mystery at the Ski Jump. I only recently found it at a thrift shop, I probably wouldn't have bought it before reading Girl Sleuth, because I wouldn't have known it was different from the "yellow spines".

One of the best parts of Girl Sleuth, apart from all the information on Nancy's transformation, is how Rehak manages to weave in information regarding history, feminism, politics, etc. It was all thoroughly engaging. Also, all the information regarding Mildred and Harriet, and their private lives and public struggles (with each other, the media, and publishers) seemed to be well-researched and was just plain enjoyable. Rehak's writing was intelligent, her style was incredibly readable, and she just knows her stuff. This book has caused me to go digging through a couple of thrift shops and used bookstores already for blue Nancy Drews.

I've only got a couple of pages left of On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, it is fantabulous so far, I'll post about it when I'm done.

Friday, August 22, 2008

She reads things like "The History of German Feet".-Jen Selk

Ya, Jen did actually say that about me one time. I haven't ever read anything called The History of German Feet, but I get it. She was making a comment on my geek-dom, and the fact that I really do read some geeky/boring (for other people) stuff sometimes. In honour of this, this blogiddy will concentrate on those things that make Kaye a geek. I'm totally down with it.

Before I begin however, I have finished Pat of Silver Bush, but I'm not going to subject you to more love-bursts about LMM (at least for the time being), except to say that it was as wonderful as I remember and I do still envy Pat just a little bit.

Just a few things that make Kaye a geek/that Kaye loves that make her a geek, etc:

#1: As already referenced I read a lot of pretty geeky stuff; stuff like this:

-The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA by James D. Watson

-The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic by Steven Johnson

-The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt: The Astonishing and Unlikely True Story of One of the Twentieth Century's Greatest Paleontological Discoveries by William Nothdurft

I also consider the level of obsession I have with my favourite authors (LMM anyone?) to be rather geek-worthy. It's verging on fan-girl at times. Besides LMM, this level of obsession includes Jane Austen and Evelyn Waugh. Also, one of my favourite board games is called the Chapters Boardgame. It's basically Trivial Pursuit except that it's all about books. I have never lost, and now no one will play with me. Mean!

#2: I own one of the limited edition (of 20,000) The Greatest American Hero: The Complete Series boxsets. It came with a cape, and yes, I've actually worn it.

#3: I have dressed up as Lara Croft for Halloween. I made the leg-holsters I wore out of black duct tape. I think I make a pretty good Lara Croft, I may be the Huntress this year.

#4: There is something Superman in every room of my apartment, this includes a glass Superman milk bottle in the kitchen, and multiple pairs of Superman pyjamas (there's also Toronto Maple Leafs gear in every room of my apartment, including towels in the bathroom, but that's another story).

#5: I am considering getting either the Superman symbol or the Wonder Woman symbol as my next tattoo.

#6: I have all five of the stamps from the Canadian Superheros Stamp Set framed, sitting on my bookshelf (I framed them myself.)

#7: The first two questions I ask people when I meet them is: Picard or Prof. Xavier? And Gandalf or Magneto?

#8: I'm a little obsessed with ship wrecks. I love the show Sea Hunters, and movies like Titanic, the Poseidon Adventure (also the remake Poseidon is alright), and The Perfect Storm. In the 7th grade I wrote a paper on the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. In my final year of University a big chunk of an art history paper I wrote was devoted to the sinking of the Vrouw Maria. The Vrouw Maria is my favourite shipwreck, and I'm considering getting a tattoo of her from an etching I saw.

#9: I collect Mego trading cards. If you don't know what those are, or even what a Mego is, you have yet to meet my level of geek-dom.

#10: I think The Mac Guy (aka Justin Long), Adam Brody, Paul Rudd, Jason Mraz, and Mark Zuckerberg are some of the hottest geeks in the observable universe.

I think we're going to stop at ten, don't want to give too much away. There are more indicators of my geek-dom, but those will just have to wait for another bat-time (same bat-channel though).

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What world does a dead man belong to?-Charles Dickens

So, I finished The Ghost Map last night, it was (for the most part) pretty freakin' good! I don't really have much to say about it; it was intelligent, well-written, well-researched, and really interesting. I've read a lot of very dry science/medicine books in my day, but Steven Johnson did a very good job of making this book readable by intertwining science, sociology and history with stories of actual people. It flowed a lot like a good detective story, but he still managed to get across pertinent information, I definitely learned a lot. Unfortunately, because I didn't know much about cholera or the infrastructure of 19th century London before starting the book, it's hard for me to really say anything about the facts provided as a whole. It seems well-researched, but I wouldn't really know if Johnson left anything out. Although I'm sure there were more factors that affected both the outbreak and outcome of the epidemic I have a feeling that Johnson did present the most important and engaging points. The story of John Snow's struggle to get his waterborne theory any kind of audience was engaging, and Henry Whitehead's contribution was also given it's dues. I've never learned so much about waterborne disease in my life.

I did not, however, really care for Johnson's epilogue "Broad Street Revisited" (nice play on Brideshead Revisited though). In the epilogue, Johnson goes off on a rant/ramble about the future of urbanization, mega-cities, the Internet, environmental footprints, the bird-flu epidemic, and terrorism (I somehow can't seem to grasp how suitcase bombs and cholera go together, maybe it's just me). I really actually kind of skimmed through the epilogue because it was sort of disjointed and didn't seem fit at all with what had come before. If it wasn't for the epilogue I would have really enjoyed the book all around. It also could have used a few more images: maps, diagrams, etc (especially since it's called The Ghost Map). I give it 3.25 v. cholerae bacteria out of 4.

Now, once again, I'm reading Pat of Silver Bush. Oh ya, that's right, that means more Lucy Maud Montgomery coming at you! I mentioned earlier that I had found a first edition copy of it for $1.00 at BMV while shopping with Jen; it's been sitting on the bookshelf since and it just started calling to me last night after I finished The Ghost Map. We all know I love anything Maud, but Pat has a special place. I think I've always envied Pat more than any other character. Pat has a home that she loves more than most anything else, and a big family; I think she's the only character that's not in someway displaced or missing at least one parent (yes, Jane has both parents, but they're not together, which would have been truly harrowing at that time). She loves everything fiercely, which brings her both a lot of joy and a lot of pain, but the main thing is that she has so much to love (and is loved back). I never really dreamed of being Anne or Emily, but I definitely wanted to be Pat. Actually I don't really think I wanted to be Pat either, I just wanted all the things that Pat had. I'll write a bit more when I'm done.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Great minds have purposes, others have wishes.-Washington Irving

Kevin Sullivan has once again found a new way to make me hate him. You remember my rant a little while ago about Sullivan Entertainment's complete lack of sense when adapting Maud's books? Good. Well it now appears that Mr. Sullivan has decided to release a book-version of the New Beginning film (still no release-date yet, although the book is to be put on sale October 01, which is way too close to my birthday for comfort), written by, yes you guessed it, himself. That man is like bile personified. I have also been able to find a better synopsis of the upcoming film, which makes me very sad. *Spoiler Alert* They do in fact kill off Gilbert, and this synopsis seems to insinuate that Anne's father did not die when she was an infant (although we know from Anne of the Island that he most definitely did). Oh, Mr. Sullivan you are indeed an evil man; like the Grinch, but without any of the good qualities (ya, maybe a little harsh, but that's how I feel). I also found out that Penguin actually COMMISSIONED the Budge Wilson prequel, they have lost most of my respect because of this, baddies!

I was reading a scholarly paper last night (I'm not going to mention any names) about the changes in Maud's writings during and after the Great War (and at the onset of WWII). Ya, that's right, I sit around and read journal articles on Lucy Maud Montgomery. This one made me so mad! I could barely focus on the actual content, because almost every single date for a book's publication was wrong. There was actually multiple times where it was right, and than the next time the book was mentioned it was wrong. And this wasn't an instance where the author was using the date of their own edition, because in the bibliography the author gave the publication dates (wrong for the most part again) and then the date of the edition they were using. Did that just make any sense at all? And by wrong, I mean wildly wrong at times. Rilla of Ingleside was published in 1921, this person had it listed as 1944. Maud was already dead in 1944 (she passed away April 24th 1942), I mean come on! I can almost forgive someone for giving a publication date that is later than the actual publication date, because they might not realize an edition they are referencing is not a first edition. What I cannot forgive however is giving a date that is earlier than the actual date! Oh yes, that happened too in this article. I mean, I know I probably know more about Lucy Maud Montgomery than most people my age (I don't know how old the person was who wrote the article) so I know a lot of this stuff off the top of my head, but seriously, when you're writing an article for a journal, shouldn't you double-check these facts, especially since the publication dates were directly related to the content of the article. They're also super-easy to find. I actually went through my copy of the article and changed all the dates in red ink, because it was bothering me so much. I know, I am lame.

Carrying on... While I was in the shower last night (I do some of my best thinking there) I discovered a new goal (one of many) that I think I've actually been secretly harbouring, at least in part, for awhile now. I want to write something that gets me included as part of the bibliography for the Lucy Maud Montgomery Research Centre! I know, it seems a little crazy and it's definitely not a goal most people have, but it would make me outrageously happy. I think I'm going to start off by writing a paper for the 2010 conference in PEI, the theme is L.M. Montgomery and the Matter of Nature. They probably won't take it since I don't have any other papers published, but I figure I'll give it a shot. In actuality I have had a couple of things published on Maud, but they're of next to no importance, and only a handful of people have ever read them (one of them was my Mother). Hey, at least you can be guaranteed I got my dates right! I'm considering writing on the concept of Nature in The Blue Castle (1926), it is one of the more overlooked (unless you're a scholar from Northern Ontario), but is also one of my favourites. It's actually the only one of Maud's novels that is not set, at least in part, in PEI. It all takes place in the Muskokas.

Jen gave me a gift-card for Chapters-Indigo-giant-conglomeration-eater-of-the independent (I'm allowed to say that; I used to work for them). I really don't have a problem with them at all, except that they changed the names of the Smithbooks stores to Coles (Smithbooks was way better!), and I find Heather to be a tad annoying. I bought The Forger's Spell by Edward Dolnick, and The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt by William Nothdurft. They both look good, I *heart* books.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

This is an occasion for genuinely tiny knickers.-Bridget Jones

I will not be talking about a book today, because I've only just started The Ghost Map, but I came across an article I really enjoyed and decided that I'd like to put in my two cents worth (okay, probably more like half a cent's worth). The article is called In Defense of Chick Flicks, written by Martha Brockenbrough.

I think that so-called "chick flicks" need to be defended (in actuality that shouldn't have to be defended at all), because there is absolutely nothing wrong with them. Brockenbrough goes into more depth than I will, putting a bit more intelligence and feminist-thought into her article than I feel I need to; mostly because she's already done it for me. In general, I find these films to be quite enjoyable. I don't watch them after any specific event, or at any specific time. There are exceptions of course. I'm going to start off by discussing only Jane Austen and Jane Austen-based adaptations (since apparently Jane Austen is considered "chick lit", although I do know one straight man who thinks Pride and Prejudice is a fantastic novel), and then maybe throw a few other favourites in at the end.

I thoroughly enjoy watching the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice while it's raining. I like all of the various versions of this film, since Pride and Prejudice is one of my all-time favourite books, but this version is the only one I own. Frankly, I like to watch this even when it's not raining; it's just one of the best (Matthew Macfadyen is Darcy), there's just no getting away from it. The book itself is a masterpiece (if you don't agree with me, I don't know if we can be friends), I actually need to buy a new copy because I'm pretty sure the next time I read mine, it's going to disintegrate in my hands. While I love the BBC-Colin Firth version, it is rather too long to watch all of the time, but the 2005 version is just about the right length to watch at any time (for obvious reasons: mini-series vs. feature length). There is something about Pride and Prejudice that makes one believe that mistakes aren't always permanent and that a first impression (the novel was actually originally titled First Impressions) can be changed. The 2005 version does a great job of relaying this. Although I'm not a big fan of Kiera Knightley in general, I do like her as Elizabeth, although she's not quite the way I pictured from the book (granted, a mite better than Elizabeth Garvie from the 1980 version, who kind of annoyed me). The movie is also shot beautifully, and was actually Joe Wright's feature length directorial debut.

From Pride and Prejudice we move to another "chick flick"/novel loosely based on it: Bridget Jones's Diary. The novel was written by Helen Fielding, and she co-wrote the screenplay. Although I'm really not a Renee Zellweger fan, I really dislike her most of the time, I don't mind her as Bridget Jones. She is also saved by the fact that she's starring with our Mr. Darcy, Colin Firth, and the ever-enjoyable Hugh Grant (who's movies I have a secret love for), although he does play a cad. This one is entertaining because Bridget is sort of the anti-heroine. There are a ton of movies where the main female character is all dorked-out and then suddenly blossoms into beauty and wins over the "popular" boy (think along the lines of She's All That), but Bridget is who she is; kind of overweight, and not very pretty with terrible fashion sense. She doesn't all of a sudden lose weight and get better clothes, but she does get a better job, toss off the jerk, and go after what she wants. That's why I like it, it's not about transforming into someone different, and it's a great one to watch while eating a pint of ice cream (it's doesn't seem so bad when the character in the movie is doing it too).

I do have to say that I really, really dislike the 1996 Gwyneth Paltrow version of Emma. It's pretty bad. Jeremy Northam = awesome, Gwyneth Paltrow = blech! However, it's super-fantastic-contemporary-teen sibling, 1995's Clueless is pretty close to perfection! While it is considered a teen-flick, it is also still considered a "chick flick", but I actually don't know many guys who don't think it's pretty funny. We all remember when it came out, and how big it was. I remember having pens with the feathers on top, just like Cher. I also believe I may have started wearing knee-socks after that (with my Le Chateau plaid skirt that my uncle bought me). I think Amy Heckerling did a fantastic job at adapting Emma for a contemporary audience, without losing a lot of the soul of the book (although she did say that she was actually unintentionally plagiarizing when she started writing the screenplay, realized it, went back and read the novel again, and then adapted it intentionally). It has a lot of vibrancy, great characters/actors, and the "love stuff" isn't too over-the-top, but rather just right for a teen-style flick that can be enjoyed over and over.

Another one of my favourites would have to be 1995's Ang Lee-directed Sense and Sensibility. This one is great because it combines two of my secret film loves: Jane Austen adaptations (not so secret anymore apparently) and Hugh Grant. Although, I wouldn't have picked Edward, he's a little too reserved for me. I'm more of an Elizabeth than an Elinor anyway. I also love Alan Rickman; although more in a he's-awesome-kinda-way, than in a he's-hot-kinda-way. Also, Hugh Laurie, I mean come on, who doesn't love Hugh Laurie?! Although Emma Thompson is far too old for the part of Elinor, I think she did a fine job, even though I pictured Elinor as slightly more lively while reading the novel. Though Sense and Sensibility is not my favourite of the novels, there is something about this movie that I fell in love with. I could watch it a thousand more times and still feel the same way. Again, I think the magic of Jane Austen is that mistakes can be corrected, one isn't always doomed to live by them, and that love is often unexpected. There isn't anything other than period adaptations of Sense and Sensibility that I can think of, except one Bollywood film.

Patricia Rozema's 1999 adaptation of Mansfield Park is great because the Fanny Price (Frances O'Connor) character isn't half so annoying in the movie as in the book, but there is some stuff added into the movie that I didn't think was necessary. The 1995 version of Persuasion is a huge disappointment, Amanda Root as Anne Elliot drives me insane. I think I've only been able to watch it twice. I really enjoyed the 1986 version of Northanger Abbey, it has just the right amount of spook, satire (Austen wrote this to poke fun at Gothic novels of the day), and schmaltz (good schmaltz, not bad schmaltz). I haven't seen any of the recent adaptations that were airing on PBS, but I plan to.

Now to end, I'm going to list some of my other favourite "chick flicks". Some of the stuff that's included I know how been thoroughly enjoyed by those of the straight male persuasion (i.e. All About Eve and The Devil Wears Prada, just to name a couple), and some were made to be movies for everyone (like Titanic), but have come to be regarded as more "chick flick"-y. In chronological order, they are:

1933, 1949, 1994: Little Women
1939: The Women
1947: The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
50s/60s: Anything with Audrey Hepburn :)
1950: All About Eve
1953: How to Marry a Millionaire
1984: Sixteen Candles
1987: The Princess Bride
1989: Say Anything
1989: When Harry Met Sally
1991: Beauty and the Beast (and yes, I do mean the Disney cartoon)
1997: Titanic
1998: Dangerous Beauty
1998: Ever After
1998: You've Got Mail
1999: An Ideal Husband
1999: Notting Hill
2002: The Hours
2006: The Devil Wears Prada
2006: The Holiday

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Language is the means of getting an idea from my brain into yours without surgery.-Mark Amidon

So I haven’t posted in about a week and a half, but it’s not my fault damn-it! Otay, maybe it is a wee bit. I’ve been working a heck of a lot (this includes full-time during the week and Saturdays) and haven’t been near the internet much. Today we will discuss more Anne-ish-ness and Michael Ondaatje; these two things don’t generally go together, but in my world they do.

Before we get to my thoughts on books, I have to relate something else. Yesterday, Jen and I decided to go for brunch. I met her at her place and she had a present for me: Carry On, Jeeves by P.G Wodehouse (did you know that P.G. stands for Pelham Grenville? I love it!). Jen is awesome, hence I *heart* Jen, and I hope she knows it. After brunch we made our way to BMV and bought more books. Jen came away with quite a haul, as she also bought some CDs. The crowning moment for me was when I found a first edition copy of Maud’s Pat of Silverbush for $1.00, it is missing its dust jacket, but oh well. Also, I am currently reading The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson.

We begin with more Anne; frankly it just can’t be helped. I finished Anne of Windy Poplars last week and just finished Anne’s House of Dreams last night. Again, really all I can say is that I love Maud, and every time I read one of those books over I feel like I’m home. I didn’t have the greatest home-life (I’m not moaning about it though) and, as with most books I read, I threw myself into Maud’s books as a means of escape. Most of the characters have had something bad happen, quite a few of them are orphans (as Maud herself was), and I related to the fact that their lives weren’t all sunshine and lollipops. But the main clincher for me was that they all continued to dream, have goals, build fairytales in the clouds, and that’s what I did too. I have lost some of my idealism (okay, quite a bit of it) as I’ve grown, and I think that is why Anne’s House of Dreams resonated even more with me this time around. This book has more shadows than the previous four Anne books. Everything is forever changed after the events of this novel, but there is still a lightness, almost a rebirth. I won’t give the plot away, that would be too mean, but some points of the plot actually mirror Maud’s life. You can tell by the way she writes that there is something else behind it, other than just creativity; there is a rawness and an anguish that comes out in stilted phrasing, rather than Maud’s usual flowing style. You know she had first hand knowledge of one of life’s greatest sorrows. I’m actually starting to feel a prickling sensation behind my eyes as I write this, as I do every time I think about this book.

Okay, so, The English Patient…I still really don’t know how I feel about this book. I give Michael Ondaatje props for his writing style; it was beautiful. I also respect his research skills when it comes to desert exploration (although some of his other facts are skewed), and he includes a bibliography at the end, which I appreciated. I think that Ondaatje was trying to create a disconnect from the characters, and that the reader was meant to be an outsider viewing the narrative. I just don’t think it was overly successful. While Ondaatje’s descriptive work was well-balanced, I found the general lack of dialogue and fluidity to be overly confusing. At times, I believe, Ondaatje was purposefully trying to confuse the reader, especially with the identity of the English patient himself, because I don’t think his identity is supposed to be overly relevant to the actual plot (think along the lines of a Hitchcock MacGuffin). However, much of the novel ends up coming off as trite and pretentious as a result of Ondaatje’s unwillingness to allow the reader to come into contact with the characters. While I found the duel-storylines to be interesting in general, and actually rather enjoyed much of the desert narrative, I think I would have found the novel more compelling if I didn’t have this nagging feeling that Ondaatje wrote the novel with the idea of sounding brilliant in mind. Now, I know it’s not fair of me to say that that is what he thought while he was writing, but it really does come off that way. I just couldn’t get beyond that feeling, and the pomposity of it all annoyed the hell out of me. I haven’t seen the film version, but I think the novel’s overabundance of description would be better suited to a visual medium, so I am planning on renting it at some point. Plus, Ralph Fiennes is kinda hot, in a creepy kinda way.

Friday, July 25, 2008

As a rule, I am very careful to be shallow and conventional where depth and originality are wasted.- L.M. Montgomery

This is a continuation of yesterday's post (I had to leave work and didn't get to continue). Here I will, once again, spout bursts of senseless love for all things Maud. I've also added some more links on the side, and yes, they are all Maud related. I could go on for days, I swear, this could last forever. (INSERT: I originally intended this to be another Maud love-fest, but it has quickly dissolved into a rant on how much I hate Kevin Sullivan).

I'm reading Anne of Windy Poplars again (I finished The English Patient last night, but I need to let it sit with me awhile before I can say anything). I basically grabbed a random Maud book off the shelf last night because it's what I'm in the mood for, and this is what magically appeared in my hand. Jen hated it, but I can't hate anything Maud, it's impossible. Most people don't realize that Anne of Windy Poplars (Anne of Windy Willows in the UK) was actually published in 1936, 21 years after it's precursor Anne of the Island was published, and 16 years after Rilla of Ingleside was published (Anne of Ingleside wasn't published until 1939 and would be the last of Maud's works). Maud was at a very different point in her life then she had been 20 years earlier. I'm definitely not going to say it's my favourite out of the books, but there is still a magic in it, and I love little Elizabeth. Now that I think about it, I think the copy of Anne of Windy Poplars that I have on me right now is actually a first edition (again, I have multiple copies of this book too). It's just missing it's dust jacket.

I have a serious problem with Kevin Sullivan. He is the president of Sullivan Entertainment. They were the one's that made the 1985 version of Anne of Green Gables, the 1987 Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel, Road to Avonlea, that awful Anne cartoon, the 1990 Jane of Lantern Hill movie (which actually wasn't half-bad, although not overly true to the book), the horrifyingly-bad Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story, and now they're making a new movie: Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning (based on Budge Wilson's book of the same title). He cannot be blamed, however, for the Emily of New Moon TV series (which was okay for about half a season and then collapsed into utter nonsense). I can't even begin to describe how much I loathe that man!

The first two Anne movies weren't bad, obviously he couldn't do everything in the books. I was really excited when I heard about the third Anne movie (it aired in 2000), I found out when it was going to be on, adjusted the bunny-ears on the TV to get good reception (again, we were poor), and cozied-down to watch. I was horrified! I actually cried. Sullivan basically made up his own movie. Other than the fact that Gilbert and Anne get married, nothing else was based on the books. Sullivan sent both Gilbert and Anne to the war, had Anne drinking, flirting with other men, swearing (!), and then in the end they adopt some random war baby. What the hell! I was bawling by the end because I was so upset, I wished I had never watched. I haven't watched it since, I can't.

I can see already that the next movie (supposed to be released this fall) will be even more of an atrocity. I haven't read Budge Wilson's book, and I don't intend to. Nor do I intend, as of this moment, to watch the movie. Basically what's going on is this: Budge Wilson wrote a book that is a prequel to Anne of Green Gables (for a reason that I still haven't been able to figure out), that talks about Anne's life before she moves to Green Gables. I don't understand why this needed to be done, Maud gives us snippets all throughout the books of what Anne's life was like before, and frankly I wouldn't want to watch a movie based on this time because it doesn't seem like it was pleasant. I did watch the trailer for the movie today (without sound because I'm at work). I love Shirley MacLaine, but I don't think she's enough to make me watch the movie. The little girl who is playing Anne (this is going to sound really bad, I know) is too chubby in the face to be Anne (although she is cute!), Anne was all wiry and slightly malnourished. Because I couldn't watch it with sound, it was a little hard to get the gist, but it doesn't look like it even has much to do with the snippets we get from Maud.

It really makes me sad that a publisher even accepted this "prequel" (it's even designated as an "official prequel" which I think is "officially lame"). I feel the same way about the sequel Jane Austen books that have come out. It just seems so wrong, why can't they just leave well-enough alone? Besides, I want a little something left to the imagination, I like to come up with my own outcomes. I like to envision Anne and Gilbert living out the rest of their days in happiness, surrounded by their little grandchildren. By the way (I don't know if this is considered a spoiler or not), as I was going through the website for the new movie, I didn't see any mention of Gilbert at all (or any other children for that matter, other than that war baby). If Kevin Sullivan has killed off Gilbert I am going to be so upset and ridiculously angry, I'll probably cry again. That will definitely get the Anne fans all kinds of angry.

I'm going to stop moaning about this now with these last few words: Kevin Sullivan and Budge Wilson can bite me. I *heart* Maud.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

What is an imagination for if not to enable you to peep at life through other people's eyes? -L.M. Montgomery

I was adding some links over on the side, and realized that most of my favourite websites have to do with Lucy Maud Montgomery. I knows (and yes, the "s" on the end is there on purpose) I am a little LMM obsessed, but it's an entirely different kind of obsession than I have with other authors. I love Charlotte Bronte, I have a girl-crush on Jane Austen, Gregory Maguire makes me smile, and Evelyn Waugh makes my laugh (cynically). But Maud, oh Maud, now SHE has my heart. So this little entry-0-good-times will be all about Maud (right after I mention that I only have about 50 pages left to go of The English Patient, more tomorrow when I'm done).

This year marks 100 years since the publication of Anne of Green Gables, and as such there are tons of celebrations, lectures, and conferences going on. This was the first of Maud's books that I read. When I was about 11, my Grandmother let me go through a box of books she had bought. Inside I found this book, this portal to happiness unknown, I had never heard of it before. I was a little leery at first, because I had never read any books marketed towards my age group (I was reading Jeffrey Archer at 7, oh Mum!), but when I began to read something inside of me clicked and I was hooked forever.

Over the next few years, I gobbled up any of Maud's books that I could get my hands on. We were poor, and buying new books was considered a luxury. I often took them out of the library, or managed to find them at a used bookstore. This is where most of my small allowance went, and I still have those old, beaten-up copies to this day. When I was 15 I got my first "real" job at a bookstore, and with the discount I received, I managed to get all of the novels, the short story collections, and few other Maud-related items (such as The Alpine Path). Now, when I have the money, I'm amassing Maud's journals, biographies,and anything else I can. I've even got a few early editions, such as a first edition of A Tangled Web, a 1917 edition of Anne of Avonlea, and the first American edition of Anne of Ingleside. I have multiple editions of almost every book. I even have my Mum's copy of Pat of Silverbush from the 1960's, which I'm almost 10o% sure she never read, but she kept it for sentimental reasons.

There is something about all of those books that feels like home. Something in the pages that sparks imagination, and hope, and love, and something I can't even describe. A feeling of peace, a feeling that I belong. Maud knew. Maud still knows, and always has the answers.

It was dangerously exciting for me when I found out we were related (albeit distantly) through two lines of my family. It's hurts me when someone criticizes her books (although I know everyone can't feel the way I do), or calls them juvenile. I'm trying to make the-Jen read them all, I gave her a bunch of extra copies I had (sometimes I get a little over-zealous) and bought her a bunch for her birthday. I want to share them with her, to see if she is of "the race who knows Joseph", to see if she understands. I don't think she'll feel just the way I do, but I know she'll get it.

People have asked me who I think I'm most like. I don't think I'm an Anne, definitely not a Sara or a Marigold. I think I'm most like Emily with a dash of Valancy thrown in, spiced up with a bit of Pat and Jane. Maud was an Emily too. It would be too hard to pick a favourite book, impossible actually, but I don't think my favourites are the most common either. I faithfully love The Blue Castle, Kilmeny of the Orchard makes me believe, the Pat books feel homey and comfortable, the Anne books are always there as a beacon, and Emily will always be there as a reflection. They are who I am.

"He stuck his head in on purpose but the rest of him fell in zacksidentally." -Davy, Anne of Avonlea

"Almost all of the evil in the world has it's origins in the fact that some one is afraid of something." -John Foster, The Blue Castle

"I don't crochet, woman! Is one contemptible doily going to blast a man's reputation forever?" -Cyrus Taylor, Anne of Windy Poplars

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mediocrity is a hand-rail.-Charles Louis de Secondat

So, I've taken down the verse that I put up yesterday for reasons I choose not to discuss. I don't think I'm going to post anything like that again. And no, I don't want to talk about it.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it.-Jane Wagner

That's why I choose to ignore it most of the time. Egads!

I finished Anne of the Island again yesterday afternoon, and I have to say I loved it more this time around. Anne and I are closer in age in this one, and like me, at the end she has just graduated from college (university in my case) and is trying to decide what to do with her life. Unfortunately for me I don't see any life-altering situation coming up that is going to force any kind of decision on me (ie. Gilbert almost dying and Anne realizing she loves him). Although I think the other problem is that I don't have any real decisions to make either. I don't have a bunch of job offers to decide between (not even one to just take), no multiple men running around vying for my affections, nothing of the sort. I'm sure I would also complain however if there were too many decisions to make.

Now I've started reading The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. Funnily enough I've owned it for about 7 years, but I've never read it. I figured I'd give it a shot. It's alright so far, and I think I will like it. Again, we'll see.

Okay, so I've decided to bite the bullet. The reason I really haven't done this before is that I've been told in the past that the stuff I write is trite and self indulgent, and those words upset me and I didn't want to hear them. Maybe I've grown a little, or maybe I've just become more steely. This is a little piece of verse I wrote this afternoon; here goes nothing.

EDIT: Writing Gone.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Writing comes more easily if you have something to say.-Sholem Asch

So true Sholem, so true!

Frankly I doubt I have much to say, but felt the need to return since I finished Half Moon yesterday. Ya, it didn't get better. I read the last sentence, and my reaction went a little something like this: "What the hell! Stupid book!" *book mysteriously flies out of my hand and ends up on the other side of the living room*. I think it was the writing itself that I found provocative and thus so compelling (she's not a bad writer). The plot had some good points, but in the end there didn't seem to be any soul to the book. I might have to sell it, because I might get tempted to read it again sometime to see if it gets any better, and I know in this moment of clarity that it won't.

To rid myself of the grimy feeling I have now after that book, I am once again reading Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery. I love everything and anything that Maud has ever written, and everytime I pick up one of those books I feel a little lighter. Her books have undoubtedly shaped the person I am today.

Tonight I will be celebrating the Jen Selk's birthday, woot! Tomorrow there is the possibility of lunch with Evan, and an Argos game with Jon. Sounds like good times to me!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

It's so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.-Rita Rudner

Being fake-engaged is fun, it freaks people out.

Two posts in one day: Oh my!

A synonym is a word you use when you can't spell the other one.-Baltasar Gracian

Here goes: New Blog. There was something about the other which was putting me off from writing, so I've decided to cast off the old and start afresh. I believe I will continue to title each post with a quote, as I find it enjoyable.

First things first, I must wish a happy birthday to one of my bestest friends Jen Selk (we is friends). Jen is a fantastic writer and, even though I never let her read anything I write (intimidating), she is always encouraging. I have a crush on her.

As I sit at work today, I feel like I haven't been doing much. I've been writing a bit, but nothing of much consequence, maybe I'll post some randomness if I can work up the nerve. Mostly I've been trying to ignore the nagging voice in my head that is telling me I should be doing more. More in general that is. More writing, more reading, more trying to find a new job. Basically that irritating twitter is saying "you suck". Not that I feel down or depressed or anything of that nature, it's more that I don't know how to make it shut up and it sounds a lot like my mother (or my grandmother, I can't decide which).

I actually have been reading quite a bit lately (makes above statement about more reading seem re-donk, I know). In the past couple of weeks I've finished The Secret Man by Bob Woodward, and Auberon Waugh's autobiography Will This Do?. Right now I'm reading Half Moon by K.L. Vidal, there's something about it I don't like, but it's also compelling me to finish. I feel like I may get something extraordinary out of it if I can, alas it is also 832 pages long. I'll keep you posted. I have also started a few books, and have put them aside with full intention of returning to them at some future date.

In closing, did you know that there is no recorded synonym for antidisestablishmentarianism? At least not that I can find, and yes, I did spell that "without aid of a machine" as Jen would say.