Saturday 31 May 2008

Heather's meme, Indiana debate...

I have been suffering from asthma most of this week, due to a cold my son and I shared last week, so I'm not writing much tonight, just pointing out some fun things I've found on line. I promise to return tomorrow, when hopefully not going to work will leave me with more energy. Breathing is good!

Heather at Errant Dreams has a great book meme. 1.who is your all-time favourite author? 2.Who was your favourite author, and why? Do you still consider him or her among your favourites? 3.Who's the most recent addition to your favourite authors, and why? 4.If someone asked you who were your favourite authors right now, which authors would pop out of your mouth first? Are there any you'd add on further reflection? I will do it myself tomorrow, but it's really late tonight, and I thought I'd give the link to any of you Gentle Readers looking for a fun book meme to do. Please let me - and Heather! - know if you do it, I'd be really interested in your answers! And I will do it tomorrow......and Nymeth has done a wonderful response, worth checking out to see what she says about Neil Gaiman. I love how she phrases why she loves his writing.
Over at Carl's blog, there is a raging debate going on in the comments on the new Indiana Jones movie. I wrote about it in my last blog, and left a comment on Carl's post as well. I am in the minority in that i liked it. I went in expecting a movie with fun and adventure, and that's what I got. The problem with 'franchise' movies, is the longer between movies, the greater our expectations, I think. Anyway, many are disappointed, and there are some very, very good points raised on Carl's post and comments, so if you're up for a debate, go check it out.
And, I have a very big thank you to go to Carl, and Kim at Bold.Blue.Adventure, because the books I won last month in their contests arrived this week! House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende is now sitting on my 1% challenge pile, and Horns and Beams looks fun - a children's fairy tale book by a Mississippi author, along with the postcard, tiny cat card, and delightful button. I will read Horns and Beams this summer - I have two challenges to finish in June, first! and let you all know how I like it. In the meantime, thank you very much, Carl and Kim. I am thrilled to have won something, and as we all know, books in the mail! I love opening parcels with books in them! thank you! and to all you out there who think you can't win, I'm living proof you can, since I have won in contests exactly the same amount (twice) over the course of my life, as I just won now, so you can too!!
I am going to go think of my favourite authors now, and see if I can come up with a stunning answer like Nymeth did!! Happy reading, everyone!

Monday 26 May 2008

Fairy Tale and Movie week, and one superhero confession

Last week turned out to be delightful in terms of what I was reading, and the movies I ended up seeing. For someone who doesn't get out a lot now - having kids under the age of 5 = minimal social life, when there aren't many babysitters around!! So, this past weekend ended up being a real treat for me.

Fairy Tale 1:
I read Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber. Wow. This is an adult fairy tale book. By this I mean Carter writes in a language with symbols that are appropriate for older teens and adults. She has taken fairy tales we love, and rewritten them from a darker, almost gothic perspective. Most of the stories are about the moments before a marriage, and after, when the girl changes into a woman. That twilight time between childhood and adulthood, when blood has first begun to flow, and the girl is making her way into the world for the first time. Has she been taught well? These are about her awakening to life and love: From The Bloody Chamber (Bluebeard): I lay in bed alone. And I longed for him. And he disgusted me.
Were there jewels enough in all his safes to recompense me for this predicament?

From The Courtship of Mr Lyon (Beauty and the Beast): He forced himself to master his shyness, which was that of a wild creature, and so she contrived to master her own - to such effect that soon she was chattering away to him as if she had known him all her life.

and from The Company of Wolves (Little Red Riding Hood): Ten wolves, twenty wolves - so many wolves she could not count them, howling in concert as if demented or deranged. Their eyes reflected the light from the kitchen and shone like a hundred candles.
It is very cold, poor things, she said; no wonder they howl so.
She closed the window on the wolves' threnody and took off her scarlet shawl, the colour of poppies, the colour of sacrifices, the colour of her menses, and, since her fear did her no good, she ceased to be afraid.

Most of the stories are familiar to anyone who has ever read fairy tales as a child: Bluebeard, Little Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast, Puss-in-Boots. I have to confess that I loved most of all, The Company of Wolves. It was better than I hoped for, since I love the movie that is based on Carter's short story, also called The Company of Wolves. It satisfies why Red Riding Hood could survive. Because, there are many different tellings of Little Red Riding Hood, in which the grandmother sometimes lives, they both live, they both die, Riding Hood is saved by her father, by a is as if this story is primordial, and we have to try to find the ending and shape that best suits our own natures, over time and culture. Angela Carter celebrated the beast within - not the monster that was bluebeard, who is a corruption of sexuality, power and hunger, but the natural beast of the world that is within us as well as without. These are powerful stories, powerful retellings that are adult fairy tales not just because of the sex, but because of the theme of transformation. I think this book - these retellings by Carter - is close to the original spirit of the fairy tales, dark and breathtakingly beautiful and fragile. Which transformation is. There is even a vampire (or two) in this collection. I love this line, which reminded me so much of Anne Rice's Vampire series: "This being, rooted in change and time,is about to collide with the timeless Gothic eternity of the vampires, for whom all is as it has always been and will be." The Gothic eternity of the vampires; how did Angela Carter know, since this book came out in 1979, before the vampire (and goths) were part of any scene? Somehow, she did.

Highly recommended. One I will come back to again and again.

Fairy Tale 2:
Then, we rented Sleeping Beauty, which we finally found at the video store yesterday. So my daughter and I watched Sleeping Beauty together. She was a bit afraid of the dragon, until she realized Prince Philip would know how to kill him. Now, I didn't tell her this, but I was disappointed the three fairies helped Philip so much. It felt like all he had to do was wave the sword, and they did everything else for him, including casting the spell that takes the sword directly to the dragon's weak spot! So I felt cheated...I wanted to see Philip have to think and reason and find out how to kill the dragon, which is the whole point of facing the beast yourself. So, I was once again reminded of Disney and why I dislike it in the end. I do admit i love the colours of Sleeping Beauty, and I love the struggle between the good and bad magic, and I thought the best characters were the good witches and Malificent, who is magnificent as the Evil Queen! (Holly-Anne hated her hat, by the way, which is way to symbolic of the devil for my tastes. Stupid Disney) I think my daughter likes the animal movies better (Lion King, etc), but at least we finally got to see it.

Movie 1:
Then, Indiana Jones and the kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I won't give any plot points away!'s worth going to see. one day I will discuss this movie more when I think everyone has seen it, for now I am going to say - hurray, I saw the movie while it was new in the theatres!!! and my husband and I had a date! My eldest son Duncan, 19, babysat for us as a birthday present to us. A lovely gift, and one most welcome since my husband loves Indiana Jones very much. Very enjoyable movie, breathtaking and alot of fun, like the Indiana Jones we all know and love. Oh, and my love also bought me the Indiana Jones DVD movie collection for my birthday.....which I burst out laughing to, since I said it was a gift he wanted more, had wanted for ages in fact, and I was going to get it for him for Father's Day!!! I told him I had been Simpsoned (after the Simpsons, the tv show),and when he looked at me puzzled, I said, because you bought me a gift that was for you! Thankfully he got the humour, and to make up for it went out and ordered something from Dr Who for me, because I'd been looking for the soundtrack for a long time. The Dr Who theme song is one of my all-time favourite pieces of music and I often joke I want it played at my funeral. I think we will laugh about this for a long time to come!!

Movie 2:
Cloverfield - my eldest son, Duncan, age 19 going on 30, was after me to see this movie all last summer. I hated Blair Witch Project, and then I heard there were spider-like things in Cloverfield, so I said no. Well, we were looking for something to watch together and when I discovered that he still hadn't seen it, I gave in. The things we do for our children! Lo, to my amazement, I really enjoyed it. Much, much more than I thought I would. I disagreed with some of what the characters did, but this just lets me imagine how I would write the story, so for starting stories in your head - what if's - this is good for that alone. Very few gory scenes - no slashing/knifing/endless killing sprees! No saw! No mindless serial killer and stupid characters! It was a good film. So, I had to apologize to my son and tell him I owe him one now.

Superhero Confession:
Now, if I can convince my eldest that I NEED to see the new Batman movie when it opens (and I do!!!)...maybe he will babysit again (or come with me to the movie.) Not sure if my husband wants to see this one, he's an Indiana Jones fan. I can hardly wait, I am a Batman chick, and adore the 1990's animated cartoons that were so dark and funny (but no one will watch them with me! *boo hoo*!) And it's not the dark suit, guys! It's the tortured soul of Batman I like! His dark past and what he has done with it....and I like bats. I held one - a live one, I know, stupid, they do carry rabies, but it was a warm night in February and somehow this tiny bat flew into me, and it was windy and snowing, so I carried it as far as my corner from downtown Sparks St, when it suddenly flew away. I was going to call the wild bird center here in Ottawa to give it shelter for the winter, so I was a little sad when it flew off. Oh, I loved looking into its dear little face, and seeing its leathery wings and little mouse-like body! Yes, I am counting down to Batman and the Joker and that lovely gothic city and all that dark, witty dialogue......

Sunday 25 May 2008

Book Awards Reading Challenge II

Yes, you are seeing correctly. I am joining another Reading challenge! I think I like this one because it's from a wide selection of award winners. I thought the list of awards I could choose from (that I love reading naturally) looked really fun: The Agatha, The Edgar, World Fantasy, Nebula, Gold Dagger - yes, mystery or fantasy awards! I can do that! they are there, as well as the Dublin, Giller (our own Canadian Book Award), the Governor General (another Canadian Award), The Arthur C. Clarke, The Carnegie, the Newbery, on and on the list goes. Something for everyone, I think. 3M at 1MoreChapter is hosting this challenge. Here is the link to the challenge

Here are the rules:
10 months. 10 award winners.

1. Read 10 award winners from August 1, 2008 through June 1, 2009.

2. You must have at least FIVE different awards in your ten titles.

3. Overlaps with other challenges are permitted.

4. You don't have to post your choices right away, and your list can change at any time.

5. 'Award winners' is loosely defined; make the challenge fit your needs, keeping in mind Rule #2.

And gee, I have already named the 5 awards that most interest me! I have to admit, I have no idea what books I am going to select just yet. Oooh, I see the Bram Stoker Award too.... I am going to leave my list empty for now, and add to it as I find them. I just saw this challenge and knew it was another one I could have fun doing. A lot of fun.

Duncan Lawrie Dagger (formerly the CWA Gold Dagger Award, mystery)
1. The Broken Shore - Peter Temple
Duncan Lawrie International Dagger (best mystery translated into English)
2. Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand - Fred Vargas (2007 winner) - DONE
3. Beowulf - Seamus Heaney - Whitbread Award winner 1999
4. Briar Rose - Jane Yolen - Mythopoeic Award - DONE
5. Possession - A.S. Byatt - Booker Prize
6. Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie (Booker Prize)
7. DONE - Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell - Susannna Clarke (World Fantasy Award)-
8. DONE - Tamsin - Peter S. Beagle (Mythopoeic Award)
9. Birthday Letters - Ted Hughes (Whitbread Award Winner 1998)
10. Alive Together - Lisel Mueller (winner, 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry)

I will let you know, Gentle Reader, when I choose my books, or I'll list them on my sidebar. Thanks, 3M, for hosting this one!!!

********ALTERNATES***********************ADDED FEB 11 2009.
1.DONE - Doomsday Book - Connie Willis (Nebula Award, 1992)
2. DONE - The Grey King - Susan Cooper (Newbery Medal Winner, 1976)
3. DONE - Watchmen - Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (Hugo Award for "Other Form", 1988)
4. DONE - Case Histories - Kate Atkinson (Prix Westminster, 2004)
5. DONE - The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss ( Quill Award, 2007)

Tuesday 20 May 2008

Happy birthday to me

So, you asked for book pictures. I have a confession to make. I went on a book-buying spree two weeks ago when I was sick. I went to one of the better used bookstores in Ottawa, The Book Bazaar. And I had a very large budget, for the first time in my life. I wanted to know what it was like to spend a fairly large amount of money on books, something I've always dreamed of. Then, there was the book exchange last weekend, where I found more than a few books to bring home. And finally, my birthday today. Back in early May I had a post for the new books I bought when Toby got his new job (we all got some books that day), that I couldn't decide would be for my birthday - they all ended up being saved for today! (I didn't add the photo here as it is on the earlier post.) So, as well as those books you already knew about, the following are the books that have arrived in our house this month. All in all, I think I have about an entire bookshelf of new-to-me books to read! I believe I qualify for Book Addict now.....Here they are:

1) Book Bazaar #1 pile (from bottom up):
The Tarot - Brian Innes
Larousse Encyclopedia of Astrology
The House of Dr Dee - Peter Ackroyd (1% challenge)
The Woman in Black - Susan Hill
Alive Together - Lisel Mueller (fairy-tale poetry)
Letters From Maine - May Sarton (poetry)
The Gift - Lewis Hyde
The Famished Road - Ben Okri (1% challenge)
The Sea, The Sea - Iris Murdoch (1% challenge)
Don't Look Back - Karin Fossum
The Kingless Land - Ed Greenwood
Fire Logic - Laurie J. Marks'
Wolf Moon - Charles de Lint
Tales of HOrror and the Supernatural, vol 2 - Arthur Machen
Memory and Dream - Charles de Lint

2) Book Bazaar #2 pile
Odd Thomas - Dean Koontz
The Sword of Maiden's Tears - Rosemary Edgehill
Red Moon and Black Mountain - Joy Chant
Ill Wind - Rachel Caine
The Unicorn Creed - Elizabeth Scarborough
Song of Sorcery - Elizabeth Scarborough
On Stranger Tides - Tim Powers
Summer King, Winter Fool - Lisa Goldstein
Black Oak, Winter Knight - Charles Grant
The Last Unicorn - Peter S. Beagle
The Folk of the Air - Peter S. Beagle
The Red Magician - Lisa Goldstein
Cat's Eye - Margaret Atwood

3) Odds and Ends picked up over the last month (mostly second-hand stores)
The Raven Ring - Patricia C. Wrede
Oxford Proof - Veronica Stallwood
A Poultice for a Healer - Caroline Roe
The Summer Tree - Guy Gavriel Kay
So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish - Douglas Adams
The Goose Girl - Shannon Hale
Sister Light, Sister Dark - Jane Yolen
The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield
Fool Moon (#2 Harry Dresden series) - Jim Butcher
The Trouble with Magic - Madeline Alt
The Optimist's Daughter - Eudora Welty
Mrs Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing - May Sarton (novel)
Mistletoe Man - Susan Wittig Albert
Skin Tight - Carl Hiassen
Kindergarten - P.S Rushforth *** I have been looking for this one for years!!
Possession - A.S. Byatt (1% challenge)

4) Book exchange at my friend's fundraiser:
Sharkwater - Rob Stewart
Random Passage - Bernice Morgan (2nd Canadian Book Challenge this July)
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister - Gregory Maguire
Tainted Blood - Arnaldur Indridason
On Beauty - Zadie Smith (1% challenge)
A Breach of Promise (Anne Perry)
Cold is the Grave - Peter Robinson
Dragonflight - Anne McCaffrey

The last two pictures are of one of my birthday presents, that is already a prize possession. DA is Connie Willis' newest science fiction book. It is published by Subterranean Press, whom Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings mentioned in one of his posts mentioned during his recent Book Week ; DA is published by Subterranean. What I didn't know was, the copy I was ordering through my favourite independent bookstore, Collected Works, was going to be in hardcover. And when I opened up the book, imagine my delight - awe - the magical moment when I realized I was holding a signed copy by the author! A limited edition! I'm still kind of in awe - not that it is signed, but that it is signed and a limited edition! By one of my favourite authors! So this is one of the best presents of this birthday today. The others I will mention tomorrow, but for now I have to go get some beauty sleep, so I hope you enjoyed looking at all my treasures. I have felt slightly guilty at buying so many at once - mostly because to be able to buy books in anything more than 2 at a time, is a luxury still, even though we can afford it, I try to be reasonable. For once, I threw caution to the winds this month, and you know what? I was so happy coming out of Book Bazaar with my load of books! Many are ones I've read but lost over the years so I am replacing, and some are ones I've been looking for a long time. It's a once in a year kind of shopping trip, I think, and it was sooo fun!!

The very best thing about my birthday? My daughter told everyone at her daycare and class it was my birthday, and made her daycare teacher make a card, so Holly-Anne could write her name on the inside and give it to me! That, and the DA book, of course!!

Monday 19 May 2008

Weekly Geeks #4

So, here we are, week 4. Dewey's plan for this week: This week’s theme: Choose a political or social issue that matters to you. Find several books addressing that issue; they don’t have to books you’ve read, just books you might like to read. Using images (of the book covers or whatever you feel illustrates your topic) present these books in your blog.

I've given this alot of thought, and I've decided I don't want to get on my many bandwagons. I have a lot of opinions, some of which I have aired here over the past months; the main thing is, I join what I believe in. I was a member of Greenpeace for years, I was an anti-nuclear war activist, I joined the Western Wilderness Committee (protecting the virgin rain forests of BC), World Wild Life, I've marched on Parliament Hill in support of Aboriginal rights, I've practiced recycling, reducing and reusing since before it was cool, and I try to eat foods grown in my area when possible. You get the idea, I try to do what I believe in. All this to say, I discovered that I don't own many books about nuclear war, the environment, etc, partly because of my many moves, partly because I didn't buy many so much as act. So I thought about Dewey's proposition for this week, and I realized I didn't want to try to convince anyone of why I believe what I do. I think Dewey wants us to show what we care about through books. So, I've decided to present four books I own, that are about different things that I care about. Two of which I've read cover to cover, one I've dipped into, and one I have to still read:

1. The Whale Watcher's Handbook - Erich Hoyt. (sorry, there is no picture on Amazon or on Library Thing!)
2. The World's Whales - The Complete Illustrated Guide - Stanley Minasian, Kenneth Balcomb III, Larry Foster

The first two books are from my early twenties. That is when I was joining Greenpeace because of the whales. I have always loved whales, and when I lived on our sailboat in the mid-1970's, my sister and I were privileged to have a gray whale slide by our boat while in California. We arrived there in the middle of Whale week, where they had films, and library displays, and boat rides (which we didn't go on!). This was my introduction to whales, and I was 13 years old. We never saw another one on the boat. We did however almost constantly have porpoises and dolphins swimming with our boat, especially when we were sailing, and one of my first poems I ever wrote was about the dolphins! When I discovered that dolphins were being killed by the tuna fishnets, I didn't eat tuna for many, many years, and even now, I struggle to eat it. I know they have dolphin-friendly nets, but I know other sealife get caught, and I despair over the right thing to do. Uh-oh, sorry, I did not want this to get depressing!
Anyway, the first book is about whale-watching - where to go, in the world, although I bought it because it was marketed for Canada. Then, in 1984, whale watching wasn't the enormous business it is now. This book provides coastal beaches and lookouts, tours back then, illustrations and photos. I'm sure this book has been updated by now, but since I don't live by the ocean I won't update it yet!

Oh- and you know what? The whales come when they want to. I say this because one day in early spring, while I lived out west in Nanaimo BC - 1984-1985, my then boyfriend and I went for a drive to the west side of Vancouver Island, to Tofino. While at the beach, a whale jumped out of the water!! A gray whale, beginning its migration south, had stopped in the bay. The beach was deserted, and my boyfriend missed it, but I watched that whale jump and it was beautiful.
The second book was a gift for my 21st birthday from my mother, who thought I should have a special book to celebrate. This is my ultimate resource book, one I have turned to many times for the pictures, for descriptions and habits.

I have owned other books on whales, but when I was paring down in 2000 in preparation for moving to England, I found I couldn't part with these two.

3.The Simple Living Guide - Janet Luhrs
This is billed as 'A Sourcebook for Less Stressful, More Joyful Living'. It came out in 1997. I got this from a friend who was part of the living more simpling movement (before it caught on). When I want to de-stress, or look at simpler ways to celebrate things - or to reassure myself that I am not crazy because I don't need to change my wardrobe every season! and buy the newest tvs and dvd players etc just because they are new - this is the book I turn to. It is relaxing to read, and comforting. We can live with less, but we don't have to do without. We just have to learn to invest better in quality that will last. For instance, for those of us who are parents, this book talks about the decision to enroll our children in lessons for everything vs free time. Well, in case you haven't guessed, my eldest got enrolled in swimming lessons, and joined scouts, and that was it. The rest of the time was for him to play with his friends, do homework, and our time. My youngest children are being raised the same way; I believe in free unstructured time, because I think play is so important in growing up. I don't want my kids to feel more stressed than they need to. That will come soon enough, as they grow older. This book is filled with ways to celebrate holidays, work, money, time, families, all from the perspective of living more simply so we have time to do what we enjoy. One of my favourite books to ground myself in.

4. Faster - James Gleick. I haven't read this book yet. It's on my TBR pile. It is about the acceleration of modern day life, our obsession with speed and making things go faster - and yes, I am someone who pushes that elevator door when it doesn't close fast enough!! I think this is a character flaw, though! I will always find them slow......Again, it looks fascinating. This is what Publisher's Weekly on Amazon had to say: 'From Publishers Weekly
Technological advances in time measurement and time-saving devices have been fueled by the ever-quickening pace of our lives. Or is it the other way around? Gleick, twice nominated for the National Book Award (for Chaos: Making a New Science and Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman), offers a refreshingly contrarian view of the notion of time management and of the instantaneity ("instant coffee, instant intimacy, instant replay, and instant gratification") of everyday life. Many of us exhibit what doctors and sociologists call "hurry sickness" - arriving, for example, at an airport gate at the last possible minute - an obsession ironically matched by endless waits on expressways and runways. "Gridlocked and Tarmacked are metonyms of our era," writes Gleick, " be stuck in place, our fastest engines idling all around us, as time passes and blood pressures rise." This paradox, and the "simultaneous fragmentation and overloading of human attention" that results, he contends, can be traced to a wide variety of everyday conveniences: microwaves and automatic dishwashers, express mail, beeper medicine, television remote control, even speed-dialing telephones ("Investing a half-hour in learning to program them is like advancing a hundred dollars to buy a year's supply of light bulbs at a penny discount"). Funny and irreverent, Gleick pinpoints the dilemma underlying many of today's technological improvements: that time-saving now comes more from "the tautening net of efficiency" than from raw speed, meaning that any snag in the system - whether a disabled airliner or one or two drivers unaccountably hitting the brake - can spread delay and confusion throughout the network. Paradoxically, too, the increasing pace and efficiency of our lives leads not to leisure and relaxation but to increased boredom: "a backwash within another mental state, the one called mania." This is a book to be studied... slowly.

Doesn't that sound interesting?

Anyway, thanks to Dewey, because I've revisited two of my favourite books on whales doing this and relived some happy memories :-)

By the way, one book that I do recommend (that I don't currently own) is Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, the classic book in environmentalism that started the general realization that what we put into the environment affects everything. This is the book that was a revelation for me, because I didn't really know about DDT and Agent Orange; the effects these have had on the natural world and for Agent Orange, still being felt in the military here in Canada, were astounding. I am still surprised when I meet people who don't understand that if we spray crops, where does the spray end up? In our food, and so eventually, in us. Same with mercury, and so many other toxins in our environment. Bug sprays around the house - poison to everything, not just ants and flies. I still live by this philosophy. I've never read this book all the way through, but I think it's time I got myself a copy again. I'd like to see how far we've come, and look to see how far we still have to go. Oops, there I go again. And I think, as the aboriginal people say, we are responsible for how we leave the earth to our children. What we do affects our children to the 7th generation from now. Anyway, I wanted to show what I care about, not preach, so I'll just go out and put my natural fertilizer around my rose and marigolds around the garden to stop the slugs......

Tomorrow is my birthday, so I am going to stop and - can't smell the roses, too early in the year - talk a long walk among the green trees and see what birds have arrived now that spring has finally arrived. Happy reading, everyone! Tomorrow I get to open all those lovely books I've bought for my husband and children to give me, too!!!

Sunday 18 May 2008

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

It has been many years since I last read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I picked it for the Banned Books Challenge so I could re-read it again. I am so glad I did. In a mere 179 pages - mere considering the enormous tomes that come out now in trilogies and 7 book series - Ray Bradbury reminded me of what science fiction is at its heart. We look into the future, and we are shown a possibility, a world that could be.

Fahrenheit 451 looks into a future for our world, and shows us a terrible world that is even more creepy because we are on our way to becoming that world. If we burn one book, if we allow the freedom to ban books, to ban thinking and remembering, which is what books are, then what is the result? Fahrenheit 451 shows us that result. This book is a chilling look at a future that we are on our way to having, and that is the worst thing about it. How can we not have learned anything in the last 60 years since this book was first published? How did Bradbury imagine we would have reality tv, barely-there earphones that keep us plugged in to our own music, or the radio, so all the time we are surrounded by sound? And, of course, the book banning. Whereas I can't figure out why Inkheart would be banned, I know why this book would be considered, which is ironic.

So what is there in Fahrenheit 451 to be afraid of? On top of everything listed above, there is the sound of the 'war' in the background of this novel. Periodically the news will mention briefly that another war has been launched, and every night or morning, it's a daily thing - Guy Montag (the hero) and the rest of the city shudders under the sound of the jets flying over head. Or they would shudder, if they weren't numbed by tv and the audio shells. It's always in the background, and no countries are named, and it's over by nightfall. It's so constant that no one talks about it, no one wonders. And I began to think of our own current day, with our current war-that-is-not-war in Iraq. Unlike the US, we have never declared war openly on Iraq. We simply went to war to fight the insurgents, one day. There was never any debate in our House of Commons, and we are over there not under the arm of the UN, nor really as colleagues of the US, even though we are supporting the US war on terrorism. It is very strange, and I can't quite figure out how we are supposed to know we have won when 'the enemy' is not something you can crush - we all know that idealogy can't be wiped out even if you destroy its army. And Fahrenheit 451 is about the numbness that people in general feel when they stop thinking, when they accept what they are told without question. Have you noticed how the news about the war in Iraq is changing? Here in Canada, we no longer here about the bombing errors, we only hear about the occasional 'successful' raid, and about every casualty our army suffers. We don't have to put up with George Bush's rhetoric, thank heavens, because he is terrifying and has made this war numbing to hear about. For the rest of us back here it is numbing, not for the men and women of so many countries (some under the UN banner) who are out there in Iraq, fighting, and in Afghanistan (where we are based), 'restoring peace' I think is what we are officially doing. For them, the war is real. And for their sakes as well as ours, we owe it to remember, and to recognize that our governments don't want us thinking very hard about this war. Fahrenheit 451 is about that numbing, so that no one knows and no one questions anything anymore. And while I hear promises that one day we will all be out of Iraq, I don't hear any active discussion, debate, no active dissent any more. No one seems to have an opinion, or if they do, it is quickly hushed up. And that is the future that Bradbury envisioned, the numbing of the freedom to think, which becomes the numbing of the ability to act. So this book is as relevant as it was when it was first published 60 years ago.

Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which books begin to burn. Guy Montag is the hero, the fireman who wears 451 on his hat, signifying he is a fireman who sets books and houses on fire. Among the many horrors of this book is the fact history is being rewritten - according to the fireman's rule book, Benjamin Franklin in 1790 was the first fireman! To burn 'English-influenced books in the colonies'. Books can rewrite history, and the winners write that history. So they can't be all true. So what is so frightening about them? If one book can say one thing,and another the opposite? If history is rewritten, so what came before is changed again? Why is this important? It's because books carry the history of what people did before.
Or, as Granger, one of the characters we meet near the end of the book says:
" But even when we had the books on hand, a long time ago, we didn't use what we got out of them. We went right on insulting the dead. We went right on spitting in the graves of all the poor ones who died before us. We're going to meet a lot of lonely people in the next week and the next month and the next year. And when they ask us what we're doing, you can say, We're remembering. That's where we'll win out in the long run. And someday we'll remember so much that we'll build the biggest goddamn steamshovel in history and dig the biggest grave of all time and shove war in and cover it up."

In case you think this book is dark and terrifying - which it is, in places - there is also love and hope and friends. Guy discovers he is not alone, in hiding books, in questioning what they are living, their life. He can't remember simple things like where he met his wife Mildred. It is a terrifying world where no one connects except those who ask questions, but then they become dangerous because they don't accept the status quo. Where teenagers race to see who survives the night, because they don't care, and everyone accepts this fact. Where Mildred his wife tries to kill herself, and then is given a memory-wipe pill after she is saved, so the next day she has no idea what her husband is talking about. That underlying despair that everyone tries to cover up with noise. One of the most memorable characters is Clarisse McClellan, who he meets at the beginning of the novel. She is a teenager, and acts as his muse:
"I sometimes think drivers don't know what grass is, or flowers, because they never see them slowly," she said. "If you showed a driver a green blur, Oh yes! he'd say, that's grass! A pink blur? That's a rose garden. White blurs are houses. Brown blurs are cows. My uncle drove slowly on the highway once. He drove forty miles an hour and they jailed him for two days. Isn't that funny, and sad, too?"
"You think too many things," said Montag, uneasily.
"I rarely watch the 'parlor walls' or go to races or Fun Parks. So I've lots of time for crazy thoughts, I guess. Have you seen the two hundred-foot-long billboards in the country beyond town? Did you know once that billboards were only twenty feet long? But cars started rushing by so quickly they had to stretch the advertising out so it would last."
"I didn't know that!" Montag laughed abruptly.
"Bet I know something else you don't. There's dew on the grass in the morning."

He lives in a world in which television has become interactive walls in your house, where you can have three - ultimately 4 - walls in the 'tv parlor' which are set with your name, so when the announcer of the game shows or tv reality shows announce your name - because you've paid for the subscription price, of course - you feel like part of the 'family'. Where you wear audio SeaShells every other moment, or, when on public transit, ads are blasted at you. Mildred wants the 4th wall so she can lose herself entirely in the tv family. Of course, Montag has realized that the tv isn't real, and the family isn't real. But his wife doesn't want to see it. So when Clarisse starts talking to him, all the simmering unconscious questions he has suddenly surface.

Fahrenheit 451 is about one man's awakening, and how he escapes. It is chilling, yes, especially the ending - and I don't want to give it away, so I can't say more, but it is so amazing and powerful it is breathtaking, it is stunning, and also full of hope. Most of all, against all the horrors of a world gone mad with numbness, Bradbury shows the way out: Pay attention. Ask why. Read. Remember. If the book begins with acts of destruction, it ends with what we should be doing:
"Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there. It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away."

This is a powerful novel. I hope you get to read it one day, Gentle Reader, if you have not read it yet. This is one of those necessary books to read, I think.

Other people's posts - and please, if you have reviewed this or any book I have posted about, send me your link and I will add it (thanks!):
Chris at Book-A-Rama
Joanna (Lost in A Good Story)
Teddy (So Many Books)

Monday 12 May 2008

Weekly Geeks #3 and Emily of New Moon

Dewey has put as this week's challenge, that we write about our fond memories of our childhood books. I will do a longer post about my favourites while growing up, but for today, I thought I'd combine a post about one of my favourite books as a child with a review of it for the Canadian Book Challenge.
Emily of New Moon is by Lucy Maud Montgomery, one of the most famous Canadian authors we have ever produced. The Emily books consist of three books: Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs, and Emily's Quest. They cover her ages from 10 to around 18 (I think. I don't have a copy of Emily's Quest on hand to check. But she is able to support herself at the end of the books!) While Emily Starr and LM Montgomery's more famous character Anne Shirley of Green Gables share flights of fancy, strong characterization, and wonderful settings, where they differ is that Emily knows from almost the beginning that she is going to be a writer. I loved Anne, but just as much I loved Emily Starr and her books. Emily was the first character I met, as a child, who knew they were going to be a writer when they grew up. Harriet the Spy was a spy (even though she wrote), and everyone else I read were either going to be nurses or teachers. Emily had to write, and part of the delight of her books is seeing her developing writing skill - we get to read her childish poetry, her first letters to her dead father, her growing sense of how to use words to capture the magic of the landscape around her.

As always, the book is set in PEI, but nearer the water - Blair Water is the nearest village, and New Moon is the name of the family farm that Emily comes to live at, after her parents die. She lives with her middle-aged single aunts, Elizabeth and Laura, and Cousin Jimmy (who is really her uncle), who had an accident as a child and is considered 'simple' as a result. Emily of New Moon is about Emily and her relatives getting to know one another, much as Anne and Marilla and Matthew in Anne of Green Gables spend the first book getting to know each other as well. At the end of Emily of New Moon, like Anne of GG, Emily knows she is going to stay - she and Aunt Elizabeth have reached a kind of understanding of each other, and recognize the importance of the other in their lives. Again, much like Anne and Marilla. But there the similarity really ends. While both are series of children, Anne is in love with the world around her, and the books are about her adventures as she grows up. Emily is focused on writing early, and so what we see is PEI through the eyes of writer. This means Emily wonders from an early age about why people are the way they are, and she has an eye for seeing the truth of people that comes out delightfully in her descriptions that she either thinks to herself, or writes. There is the requisite best friend - in this book, Ilse is the neglected one and nearly as magnetic in personality as Emily, unlike the slightly wimpy and so sweet Diana of Green Gables, and early on the boys show a definite liking for Emily. She is magnetic, and affects everyone around her, and they react to her just as strongly. This is a fascinating study of people, and I never tire of Montgomery's amazing ability to capture a person with just a few words. In this book also, Emily and her friends are going to be someone when they grow up - Emily a writer, Teddy a painter, Ilse a speaker, and Perry the premier of the province. It is fun to see these dynamic characters become friends, and how they relate to one another as they grow up.

Emily is a character who her father says 'loves deeply' and feels things passionately, which gives the novel its momentum and makes the book almost unputdownable. In fact, I know have to go and buy the next two in the series so I can finish it soon! Emily has a temper also, and this lands her in trouble. The difference is that Anne tries to be good, whereas Emily tries to be right. Daily life is described in detail on the New Moon farm. One interesting thing I discovered, was that my reading earlier this year of The Settler's Handbook by Catherine Parr Traill, gave me the knowledge to see New Moon clearly for the first time - Aunt Elizabeth is old-fashioned, so as Jimmy says when they arrive, the farm is farmed '50 years back', which sets it around 1850-1860. There was the dairy room, where the milk was skimmed and cream lifted, there was the larder, the cook room set away from the main kitchen. It was fascinating to read about the ice house, and to be able to understand that Montgomery was writing about a real farm, as it was in Canada at that time period. And, I imagined the scene Emily describes, as something I would have found at my own great-great-grandparents farm in southern Ontario!

This book is sweet and funny, and terribly moving. I don't know what it is about L.M. Montgomery's writing, but she can make me cry and laugh in almost the same moment. Imagine my horror when last week, reading Emily of New Moon on the bus, I found myself crying as her father dies!!! And I was very glad that I read the last part of the book at home, in which Emily nearly dies and solves a long-standing mystery in an uncanny way of her own. I wept and wondered that I, 44 years old, could cry over a children's book that I know almost by heart! But that is the beauty and wonder of Lucy Maud Montgomery's writing, for me.

If you haven't read about Emily of New Moon yet, then I highly recommend this book. I love it as much now as I did as a child. And yes, I'm still trying to be a writer! So in its quiet way, this book is encouragement for anyone who has a dream.

Sunday 11 May 2008

wrap-up Weekly Geeks #2 did I find this week? It was fun to link your posts of books I'd read to my posts, and do the same at your blogs,so that anyone can go between blogs to read about the book - kind of like a third-party listening in on a book club!! I found two new book blogs this way! And caught up with what other people had to say about books I'd read, so while it took a little bit of time, it fulfilled exactly what I hoped it to do. I am going to keep this up. Thank you, Dewey (and Darla)!! Please, Gentle Readers, keep sending me your links to books we have both read, and I will do the same for you.

Saturday 10 May 2008

quick update

I've been busy reading and buying books the past few days. I have a book exchange to go to this afternoon, a fund raiser for a dear friend with Crohn's. It's been a busy week with toilets finally installed (YAAAY! 2 working toilets, and low-flush, they're amazing and quiet!!!), Toby starting his new job, and me home with anemia (a life-long problem I've had). So I've had time to read, but not energy for much else. I will return after with pictures of book bought (book porn alert!!! hee), read-books updates, and an update of Weekly Geeks 2 (how I found it). Stay tuned!

Wednesday 7 May 2008

The 1%Challenge, or How to Become Well-Read

Yes, I'm joining another one! This is thanks to 3M over at 1 More Chapter, who has decided that she would like to read more on the '1001 books to read before you die' list that came out last year. Now, while many of the books are from the 20th century, and certainly I am not interested in alot that came out in the last 10 years, I do want to read many from early 20th century back into the 19th century, a time I prefer to read in. I am happy to say I have read 7.79% already! That's 78 books on the list! I'm not totally illiterate....thank you, university courses and English degree!! But I could do with reading more, as ever looking for ways to read more classics and read more of the authors I did enjoy or have heard about. Other than Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, who I read every couple of years anyway. There are so many books that I haven't read yet, that I have always meant to read - War and Peace, I'm looking at you!! Ulysses, why can't I find you anywhere???

Here are 3M's rules (I've given you the link, above):
The goal of this challenge is to read 10 books in 10 months from the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list. For you non-math people, 10 out of 1001 is approximately 1%, hence the title. The challenge will run from May 1, 2008 through February 28, 2009.

You may change your list at any time and cross-posting to other challenges is permitted. The only requirement is that your ten book choices must be on the ‘1001 List‘. Another helpful tool is an Excel spreadsheet by Arukiyoma that is found here.

And, the Arukiyoma link is a fantastic spreadsheet that is easily downloaded (if I can do it, anyone can!) to keep track of what you've read, and have yet to read. It even calculates it all for you!

So, all you have to do is choose 10 books from the Well-Read list....and then you can go to any dinner party, and when someone asks you, "and what have you read lately?" or "and what do you read?" you can say, "Well, I read War and Peace recently - or Everything is Illuminated, or Cryptonomicon!" (look, it's on my list already to read this year!!!) or any number of books you've been meaning to read that fall into the supposedly-literature don't have to agree with the '1001 books to read before you die' list, and certainly I don't intend to read all of them, I disagree with the list - so many authors are left off, or books by authors that aren't considered must read - No Ursula K. LeGuin, but Douglas Adams is, for the Dirk Gently series, no less! Not Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which I would have picked for the list. No Dune. This list, I've seen written somewhere, is supposed to be a list about the books that developed the novel. That is why so many favourites are missing. I still disagree with it, and consider that if I read The History of the Kelly Gang instead of Oscar and Lucinda (both by Peter Carey), I will still be well-read AND have read the book I wanted to!!! Besides, Kelly Gang won the Booker prize, which is a list I am going to complete (one day). Many of the books on the Man Booker Prize list are on this list. So, it's an easy way to read books that are considered important in the history of the novel. So, see if there are 10 books you've been meaning to read, and come join the fun. Let 3M know, and come join the well-read party :-) Also, lest you think this list is really pretentious, The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Gone With the Wind and I, Robot, and The Story of O are also on this list!!!! And Kurt Vonnegut....Interview with a Vampire...even The Shining, which I am very very happy to see, as I think Stephen King should be on this list, and this is one my favourite horror novels of all time.

Here is my list of books I am going to read:
1.Middlemarch - George Eliot (also on my 888 classics and chunky challenge list, yaay!) - DONE
2. Cat's Eye - Margaret Atwood
3. The Once and Future King - T.H. White (see, not a pretentious list at all!!)
4. Cryptonomicon - Neal Stephenson (chunkster, was on From the Stacks....)
5. Cat's Cradle or Slaughterhouse Five- Kurt Vonnegut (depending on which I can find)
6. The Sea, The Sea - Iris Murdoch
7. Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie (already on my Man Booker Prize challenge)
8. The House of the Spirits - Isabelle Allende (thank you Kim at Bold.Blue.Adventure!! I won this in her BAFAB giveaway....) -DONE June 2008
9. White Teeth - Zadie Smith (888 challenge)
10. The House of Doctor Dee - Peter Ackroyd (sounds really good and scary, could read with RIP 3......)
11. Underworld - Don DeLillo
12. All Soul's Day - Cees Nooteboom

my spares, alternate choices (some of the above are hard to get or out of print now)
13.The Afternoon of a Writer - Peter Handke (I never heard of this book or writer! Must have this!)
14. The Black Dahlia - James Ellroy
15 Possession - A.S. Byatt
16. The Secret History - Donna tartt
17. Legend - David Gemmell
18. Ulysses - James Joyce (still looking for a copy.... already on the Birthday and TBR challenge)
19. Labyrinths - Jorge Luis Borges (mentioned in A History of Reading (my previous post), now I want to read it!)
20. If On a Winter's Night A Traveler - Italo Calvino (thank you Eva!)

Yikes, I have enough for two challenges!!! There is so much to read! I want to read everything! Well, not everything, but apparently more than 100 books on the 1001 books to read before I die!!!! I had to leave some titles off...Of course, next to reading these books, and making these lists, is going shopping for the books!!

Tuesday 6 May 2008

A History of Reading

Why do we read? This question went around in a meme not too long ago, and I didn't answer it then, because I didn't get around to it. I liked one answer (and I'm sorry, I can't remember who wrote it), when she said she read like she breathed. There was no reason why, or there are so many reasons why, there is simply, and wholly, reading because there are books. I read because I can, because I am fortuante enough to have an education that enables me to, and because, like the unknown blog writer said, I read like I breathe. A History of Reading is about this feeling we who read books all share - we read because we can, because books are there, because it gives us knowledge and a way to see the world through other experiences, because - I think - we each essentially experience the world only through our own eyes and experiences. Books are a way to bridge that gap.

A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel covers why we read, the - a - history of reading, from the development of writing on stone tablets in Sumaria, straight up to the computer. He doesn't mention 'kindle' because this book was written in 1998, and kindle is a 21st century invention. If he ever revises A History, I'm certain kindle will have a section! I've wanted to read this book for 10 years, since it first was published. It was a bestseller when it was first published, and we sold so many at the bookstore I then worked at, Books Canada (now sadly closed), that we couldn't keep it in stock. I now know why. This book is necessary for book readers like water is for breathing. It traces the history and development of books and people's attitudes to books from the very origins of Sumerian writing on clay tablets, to current thoughts by Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolfe, Kafka, Carolyn Heilbrun. This books covers everything to do with books, from Socrates, Plato, to the Bible, to the Japanese pillow book and Chinese literature, Nigerian reading aids, scrolls, vellum, and then paper. There is a chapter on reading glasses - only 7% of the population needs glasses, but this rises to 24% for people who read books!! No wonder the image of books readers as wearing glasses came about! But, this is not a dry, dreary text of facts. Manguel writes in a fluid manner, beginning each chapter at the beginning of whichever subject he is covering, and then moving through time, always ending in the present. Some chapter headings are: Learning to Read, The Shape of the Book, Private Reading, Metaphors of Reading, The Symbolic Reader, Stealing Books, Forbidden Reading, The Book Fool. It is about the joy of reading, the power conferred by being able to make sense of letters on the page, about the wisdom contained in those words, and how it affects us the readers, and thus the world. When you see someone reading a book you have read, what is your first impulse? Here is Manguel's: "Sitting across from me in the subway in Toronto, a woman is reading the Penguin edition of Borges's Labyrinths. I want to call out to her, to wave a hand and signal that I too am of that faith. She, whose face I have forgotten, whose clothes I barely noticed, young or old I can't say, is closer to me, by the mere act of holding that particular book in her hands, than many others I see daily." How many times have you seen someone reading a book, a stranger, and longed to go talk to them about it? I know I have, many times, and have to practically restrain myself if they happen to be reading a book I love. That sense of kinship is what A History of Reading is all about. This is a book about the love of books.

However, Manguel says this is not the definitive history of reading. This is his version, one version, a history as he has discovered it. There is room for other histories, other versions, and indeed this is part of the pleasure of this book - he layers textures of meanings, building a picture of a reader, who not only reads the book in his or her hand, but all the books that went before, all the way to the first time mankind discovered that by marking a clay tablet, they could make someone else who was not there, understand what they meant on the page. Every chapter builds on this idea, and all his arguments complete this fascinating idea. I have really enjoyed reading about and thinking about Manguel's book ideas and presentation of book history. We have books now because of what Plato argued about them, what Socrates thought, because of the Christian Church, because of Moslems, because of the monks endlessy transcribing for centuries, because women's literature has always been specifically about romance. Whether developed in Japan or in France or England and centuries apart, women's knowledge of the world has been for the most part limited to romance, relationships, the home- by men the world over, but that is another argument for another time! What interests me are the women who did learn to read anyway - Julian of Norwich, Saint Theresa - women became mystics because that was the only other area left open for them to explore, constrained as they were by politics. The human spirit wants expressing, and words are one powerful way of expression. Women the world over wanted to read, wrote their own books - this is how pillow books in 16th century Japan developed - because they weren't allowed to read any others. That desire to write, and the desire to read what has been written - that is what this book is about. The Negros in the American South were banned from reading, from even learning how to spell, because books led to thinking, and thinking led to freedom, in the white slavers minds. Still, many risked their lives to learn, and teach others secretly. A History of Reading is about this passion that made people risk their lives the world over, time and time again, to learn how to read, so they could write and reach out to others, what Manguel calls 'the shadowy others' that is the reader, vague until the book is picked up and read. You are that reader, I am that reader. 100 years from now, our great-grandchildren will be that reader. To have our voices heard is a powerful motivator. To not be silenced. That is why lives have been risked, and always will be, for the sake of reading and writing.

How have humans written? How was it received? What does the reader do by reading it? We 'devour books, eat them ravenously, are nourished by them, feast our mind' on them. We try to make the book ours. What is important is what comes out of this, Manguel writes: "However readers make a book theirs, the end is that book and reader become one. The world that is a book is devoured by a reader who is a letter in the world's text; thus a circular metaphor is created for the endlessness of reading. We are what we read. The process by which the circle is completed is not, {Walt} Whitman argued, merely an intellectual one; we read intellectually, on a superficial level, grasping certain meanings and conscious of certain facts, but at the same time, invisibly, unconsciously, text and reader become intertwined, creating new levels of meaning, so that every time we cause the text to yield something by ingesting it, simultaneously something else is born beneath it that we haven't yet grasped. That is why - as Whitman believed, rewriting and re-editing his poems over and over - no reading can ever be definitive." (p 173) So, this book is not definitive either - I have my own ideas about reading and books that have been altered by reading this book, and that every other reader of it has done too. That, I think, is part of the allure and fascination of books, and sometimes we find we can't go back to the same book we read once along ago. Because we have changed, so our reading of the book has changed, because the book changed already. Like the never-ending circle, the snake Orobouros that devours the world, we write the books we need to read, and by reading them, we change the books again. It also raises a very interesting idea, that I know I have hinted at in my blog, without knowing it was what I was saying, until I read it in this book:
"We never return to the same book or even to the same page, because in the varying light we change and the book changes, and our memories grow bright and dim and bright again, and we never know exactly what it is we learn and forget, and what it is we remember. What is certain is that the act of reading, which rescues so many voices from the past, preserves them sometimes well into the future, where we may be able to make use of them in brave and unexpected ways." (p 64)

I like that idea, that we use the knowledge we find in books. I think we do. Even if the most a book can do is get us to think, to recognize the power of our own ideas and that our actions matter, that is the most important fact about them, and why they have been censored and banned from almost the very first tablet. In books where the writer writes the truth, touches on it - and this is just as easily in a book of fiction as well as non-fiction - the book can bring a light of awareness to the reader, so they are changed by reading it. That hunger to know, to be made aware - even if it is of fairies and beauty, or as quiet as love, or as thundering as human rights - I think mankind wants to know the truth of this world we find ourselves in. Books - and A History of Reading explores - how we have grown in our ability to share ideas, thoughts, feelings, history, experience, with each other through the medium of the word. We discern the writer's ideas through what we bring to the reading. This is what he means by we change and how we read changes, so going back is never the same. We change, and can change the world, because of what we read. By the way, I am not going to discuss the next line of thought - the conclusion to where I'd normally be heading, banning books, because I am saving that post for when I finish my Banned Book challenge reading in June. However, do go see my next post on Fahrenheit 451, because I can't write a review of that book without talking about banning, and I'm all 'fired' up - Pun intented!!!- after reading this powerful science fiction novel. The power of books, indeed.

I recommend A History of Reading - which mentions Fahrenheit 451, by the way! - so highly. It really is worth reading, just so we can say, this is how books, which I love so much, developed. This is how we thought about them this long ago, and why, and who was allowed to read, and who is allowed to read now. So that, when you next pick up your paperback you are reading, part of you will remember that it developed in its final cheap shape in 1935 when Allan Lane brought out the first Penguin books because he wanted "a line of cheap but good-sized pocket books....They would publish a series of brightly-coloured paperback reprints of the best authors. They would not merely appeal to the common reader; they would tempt everyone who could read, highbrows and lowbrows alike." I like this quote because he got the idea while looking for something to read at the train station after spending a weekend at Agatha Christie's, and he was able to use one of her books - The Mysterious Affair at Styles - among the first 10 published on July 30, 1935, for 6 pence a book. A History of Reading covers many topics about reading, of which I've given you only a sampling, because it is literary feast of authors, from the beginning of time to current day. It's like going on a picnic and discovering a banquet of writers and ideas and words all on books, my passion. It is wonderful discovering (as indeed these blogs do now) that there have always existed people for whom books were their life-long passion. We owe alot -everything - to the printers, scribes, bookbinders, publishers, and further back poets and orators, who kept writing down their words and transcribing them for others to read. Where they went, I can follow. And across the lonely centuries, I can hear the thoughts, the whispers of another, and know that my soul was not the only one enchanted by the stars, or dying for love, or championing the poor. If we read to find ourselves, as indeed many have thought, then we read to find out everything about ourselves, the glorious as well as the dark, and books hold all this, each and every book in existence today. That is the power of the book.

Why do we keep books? Why do we go back to them if we change, and our reading of them changes? What is our enduring fascination with them? I think it's because we think we can still find something in them. And, as I discussed in an earlier meme, we see our history, our lives, our book-reading lives, before us, through the books on our shelves. Manguel writes of much the same thing in his chapter called "Book Stealing": I am once again about to move house......As I build pile after pile of familiar volumes I wonder, as I have wondered every other time, why I keep so many books that I know I will not read again. I tell myself that, every time I get rid of a book, I find a few days later that this is precisely the book I'm looking for. I tell myself there are no books (or very, very few) in which I have found nothing at all to interest me. I tell myself that I brought them into my house for a reason in the first place, and that this reason may hold good again in the future......I enjoy the sight of my crowded bookshelves, full of more or less familiar names. I delight in knowing that I'm surrounded by a sort of inventory of my life, with intimations of my future......I could, if I had to, abandon all these books of mine and begin again, somewhere else; I have done so, several times, out of necessity. But then I also have to acknowledge a grave, irreparable loss. I know that something dies when I give up my books, and that my memory keeps going back to them with mournful nostalgia." (p238.) I have to admit that i have used every one of these excuses myself!! And that mournful nostalgia is what prompted me to write that post about books I've loved and lost. And I do really think that looking at our bookshelves, we get a sense of who we are, who we were, who we want to be. The loneliest house, the emptiest house, the house where I always thought I would end up without much to say, is the house without books.

I have bookmarked this book again, and I know I will return to it again. It is written in an engaging, open, friendly style, like a long discussion of books at a dinner table. Wouldn't you like to sit at that table? Hmmm, now I'm desiging a room for writers and publishers and readers in my mind!, a huge room where anything can be read and discussed. That is what a book is, for me. A History of Reading has brought together a wide range of writers and readers - because one can't exist without the other, a point Manguel makes over and over again in the book! - over the centuries, a digestible feast of book history that makes me want to run out and look at old books in second-book stores just to see what the oldest book they have is, and buy it and treasure it just for what it represents: two hundred years ago this book was made, and has been kept alive through readers, up until now, when I hold this book in my hand. I may not agree with what the author says, but at least I can argue with him, and thus his ideas are brought forward again for the future. Or hers...that is the wonder of books, for me. Time exists, but becomes timeless because of books. Or, if not timeless, is made less far away, less impenetrable.

Although this is a long review, I want to end with a quote from A History of Reading, because I think it encapsulates it all:
' "I have sometimes dreamt" {Virginia Woolf} wrote, "that when the Day of Judgement dawns and the great conquerors and lawyers and statesmen come to receive their rewards - their crowns, their laurels, their names carved indelibly upon imperishable marble - the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say, not without a certain envy when He sees us coming with our books under our arms, 'Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them. They have loved reading.' " (p 312)

Saturday 3 May 2008

Weekly Geeks

By now, you know me. Joiner of fun things. Unable to resist a challenge. Well, I have resisted a few! I haven't joined every challenge out there!! Dewey at The Hidden Side of a Leaf, has had a great idea: Weekly Geeks, an idea that will bring the blogging community closer together, I think. And fun! I missed the last week's challenge, which was to name unknown or little known book bloggers you had just discovered, either on your own, through comments or from other blogging sites. Well, if this isn't a clever way to meet some new bloggers and join them in our community! So many new bloggers are shy, and it takes a good 3-4 months sometimes to start get regular visitors. So, even though I am late, here is my list:
1. Vickie at Vixen's Daily Reads she is in Denver, and reads very cool and fun books!
2. Bride of the Book God Very cool blog title! And she has great book reviews and reads widely, so there is something for everyone.....I just discovered that she had a post about my horror meme!!! Well, I'm delighted and blushing....thank you!

Now, onto this week's Weekly Geek challenge, *(note: ADDED later- this is from Dewey's post today, I lifted her instructions for anyone who hasn't joined or seen this week's Weekly Geek challenge yet. Please let her know you've joined!!): The theme for Week 2 is something I borrowed (yes, she said it was ok!) from Darla at Books and Other Thoughts. She says in her sidebar that if she reviews a book that you’ve reviewed, you can email her and she’ll link to it in her review. I love this idea for three reasons.

1. As a blog reader, I like that I can have my review linked in someone else’s blog.

2. As a blog reader, I like that if I’m interested in a book Darla writes about, there will be other reviews linked at the bottom of the page, so I can get other viewpoints. You can see how this works here.

3. As a blog writer, when I review a book, I often remember that I read someone else’s review at some point, but whose? And when? With Darla’s method, people tell her about their reviews, and she can see what they had to say about a book that is still fresh in her mind.

So here’s your challenge! If you’re willing, adopt Darla’s policy in your own blog. I realize this is a big commitment, so think it over first, but I think it can be really community-building.

1. Write a blog post as soon as possible telling your readers that you’re adopting Darla’s policy. Darla has people email her, but you could use a Mr Linky or you could just ask people to leave their links in your comments. But however you collect links, I would advise that you then put their review links into the actual blog post. This makes them easier for readers to find, and it’s a more “official” link for your blogging pals, who are taking their time to go find their relevant reviews for you. You may want to just say you’ll post review links from now on, or you may want to let your readers send links for any reviews you’ve ever written, or you may want to set a time limit, like reviews from the past month. If you let readers give you unlimited links, this may be time consuming at first, but after a while, you’ll just get a couple in for every new review you post.

2. As much as you can with the time available to you during the week, visit other Weekly Geeks who are adopting Darla’s policy and see if you have any reviews of books they’ve reviewed.

3. Later in the week (by Thursday is easiest for me, but by Friday is also ok) write about your experience this week: did people take you up on your offer, did you find reviews you could give to other bloggers, did you enjoy the experience, do you think you want to keep this policy, etc.

I know it sounds a bit complicated, but it means that when someone is interested enough to leave their blog link post to their review of a book you've just reviewed, you add their link to your original post. It means checking back to our posts, which we all do anyway! I think this is a great idea. And it does NOT mean we have to do a search on our favourite book blogs, it just means that when someone has given us the link, we add it. So, now....I see Charlotte left me a link, and a few others over the past several's adding to our blogs another layer, I think, so we can go find other reviews of the same book more easily. As Dewey said in her post.

I'm in!.

updates and shout outs

I am so excited for Carl who got a wonderful shout out at Endicott Studios on their April 29 entry.....'My hat is off to the Stainless Steel Droppings blog, which just keeps getting better and better." Wow. Posted by Terri Windling herself. Congratulations, Carl, and well-deserved. He has had an amazing book week, and incredible posts, and is generally as enthusiastic and encouraging towards and about reading and books as you could ever hope to meet. He does so much to let the rest of us find the incredible fantasy art being done, as well hosting the Once Upon a Time and RIP challenges.

Also, in Ian Rankin's Exit Music (to be reviewed shortly), Ottawa was mentioned! Yes, my home city, was in an Ian Rankin novel! One of my favourite mystery writers! It has to do with a Russian poet, so my guess is we got a mention because we have an amazing Writer's Festival held here yearly now, and Mr Rankin came in 2004. I was supposed to go hear him read, with a friend, but she backed out, and as I was very very pregnant at the time, I didn't want to go out at night by myself, so I ended up missing him. To which I really regret, and vow next time he comes, I will be there! I did get to hear Kathy Reichs read from one of her mysteries the previous year, which was very enjoyable. So, Ottawa makes it on the literary map....

Finally, two updates: the new toilets have arrived. They are parked in each bathroom. We are now trying to book a plumber. One would think this would be easier, but it's not,and it's turning into an epic journey. One I would rather not experience! Next week sometime, maybe, they will actually be installed and working.....
And at work, we had our special team-meeting yesterday morning. We all have to work a 9-5 shift for three weeks during the summer. This is the shift I normally work, but can't because of Toby's new job. While everyone was very polite in the meeting, they were rather stunned. Everyone else works 7-3 or 7:30-3:30, so this is a radical change, and previously we could work the hours we wanted. However, we are Operations (code for providing a service to the public) so we have to have staff on during normal work hours. Anyway, two of them did complain, the third who wants to be supervisor next didn't say anything but has avoided me ever since, and the last one made a comment about making sure work (meaning my work, since the work I do has the information needed for the weekends) "should be done as much as possible before 3 pm", to which I'm still furious and am glad he is trying for a job in another department. Just another day at the office!!! But, I will say, my boss and assistant manager went out of their way to point out any new staff have to work the later hours too, that this is required by the department now (ie the directors have said so). They have done their best to accommodate me, and I can't ask for any more. Now I have to hope the buses co-operate and I get to both daycares in time each night!!! The Nanny Diaries didn't cover this aspect of child-rearing, then again, I don't have a nanny!

Happy reading! Hope you have a good book for the weekend! I can pick up The Hero with a Thousand Faces again because it's May - the Non-Fiction Five challenge starts now! - and I'm almost half-way through A History of Reading, and catching up on the stories I haven't read yet in Fragile Things. It's the weekend!

Friday 2 May 2008

342,745 Ways to Herd Cats, OR tl;dr1 Challenge

Here it is! And, I just had to join.....that title - herding one cat is hard enough. 342,00 of them??? Is she making a comment that us readers are kind of like cats?? Hmmm, she might be right....and so says my kitty, who is meowing because it's after midnight and I'm still up.

Renay at bottle-of-shine is hosting this challenge. The rules are simple:

I just like the phrase herding cats. How to play:

1. Make a list of ten books you love. That's the only qualification; you had to love (or at least like it) the books on the list. Ten books, a list full of ♥

2. Share the list by posting it on your blog and then letting me have the link!
(*note, go to her blog to get more details here about giving her the link)

3. Browse the lists created by our other members, collected here: reading lists! There will also be a master list of books available when people actually makes their lists. *STARES AT KJ* :D

4. Read at least three books recommended by others between May 1st - November 30th, 20082. Of course, more is fine! Encouraged, even!

5. Write reviews of the books you read! As long as folks are reading from our collection of lists, I'll continue collecting those reviews in our account, until the very last second of November 30th. Three is just the minimum, in order not to scare off people who shall remain nameless that might be a member of 745,936,623 reading challenges. >.>

6. Share the links to your reviews for the challenge by using one of the steps listed in #2. All reviews will be collected in the reviews (link will exist soon) tag, and all participants will be listed in (who would've guessed), the participants tag.

So, my books. These are books that I have given copies of to other people, because I loved them so much. If you were here, I'd give you these to read, Gentle Reader!!

1. Black and Blue - Ian Rankin (John Rebus mystery)
2. Bellwether - Connie Willis
3. In the Garden of Iden - Kage Baker ( first book in The Company series - sf)
4. Year of Wonders - Geraldine Brooks
5. Eyre Affair - Jasper Fforde (first book in the Thursday Next series - fantasy)
6. Writing Down the Bones - Natalie Goldberg
7. Summon the Keeper - Tanya Huff (first book in The Keeper's Chronicles - fantasy)
8. Forty Words for Sorrow - Giles Blunt (first in John Cardinal mysteries)
9. Mallory's Oracle - Carol O'Connell (Kathy Mallory mysteries)
10. Stalker - Liza Cody (Anna Lee mystery)

I could have added so many more books! But these are ones that I keep with me, no matter what, ones I remember and that live on within me, images and characters that have become part of my book-reading life, that I carry in my soul. I hope you find them as wondrous and funny and enchanting as I do. Or, in the case of the mysteries, deep and dark and exploring the shape of people's souls, showing the light so the dark doesn't take over. And excellent series characters, too. I'd love to meet Anna Lee! and Thursday Next! Not so sure about Kathy Mallory, though, she's scary as well as fascinating.

I haven't picked my 3 books from other people's lists yet, that is one of my things to do this weekend. I'll post them when I have them chosen. There are so many good books on other people's lists! How can I choose only 3? See, this is an easy challenge to join!!! Thanks, Renay, for hosting this one!

Thursday 1 May 2008

April Reads

Now that I have finally read enough books to start keep track of how I am doing with all my challenges, I thought I would give my totals:

April books read: 5
Year to date: 18
Not too shabby (for me anyway), but not where I was hoping to be....I'm averaging close to 5 books a month, but if I am going to complete all my challenges, I am going to have to ask the Creator for more hours in the day!!! (anyone else with me on wanting more hours to read?? Are we sure they won't pay us to read???)

Ok, here goes:
Once Upon A Time 2: 1/7
Orbis Terrarum: 2/9
Back to History Challenge: 2/12
Banned Book Challenge: 2/5
888 Challenge: 18/64
1st in a series: 2/17 (I had problems whittling this list down!! It's supposed to be 12!!)...2/12
Canadian Book Challenge: 6/13
Shakespeare Challenge: 0/3
Mythopoeic Award Challenge: 2/7
Short Story Reading Challenge: 1/8
TBR Challenge: 3/12
Birthday Challenge: 3/12 (can't find Ulysses!)
Man Booker Prize: 1/6

So, not too bad. Not as bad as it could have been, but not where I would like to be, especially with the 888 and Canadian Book Challenge. I have 3 challenges coming up to finish by the end of June: Canadian Book Challenge, Out of Time 2, and Banned Books, so I will be concentrating on those books.

I am really enjoying the challenges. I picked,as this was my first time doing these, books I was planning to read or really wanted to read this year. So I am getting through major piles of TBR books that lay on my shelves for some time now. This is a great feeling - I am reading books I've bought! Not that i didn't before, but I love to pick up books that are interesting, and then get caught up in reading fantasy and mystery, and forget everything else. So these challenges are a way to see if I can get myself to read more variety, and so far, it is working. So I am delighted. And, as some of you have seen in earlier posts, I have been buying books quietly so that my Inner Bookworm doesn't panic at all the books being read, and is soothed by the growing piles of NEW books to read, in next year's challenges. I've decided that I am challenge-addicted, and I love it!!! Next up, Canadian Book Challenge 2 (John has already said he will being doing it again, so get your Canadian books ready for July 1! And this time I won't be joining 3 months late!!), RIP (#3? I think; -horror and ghost stories for autumn!!! I'm already getting a pile ready for this one), and.....

There is one more challenge I am going to join, see next post (so I can link to it when I need to) really is irresistible, and so easy. So, this is to my sister who hasn't joined any yet - come on! I want to see you on this one! I'll even read one of your books on your list!!

And, if you check my sidebar, I've added the logo for the new Canadian Book Challenge. John has just posted it on his blog. It's under today's date. Come on, and enjoy our literature! There's some Margaret Atwood poems I want to read, more Charles de Lint, Guy Gavriel Kay, LR Wright, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Tanya Huff, plus new authors Joan Clark, Karen Irving.....we are not just Margaret Atwood and Mordecai Richler!!

I may not get to 100 books this year, but I am giving it a good try! And finding great books on the way.

Happy May 1st, everyone!