Literary Links; Classics Debate

I’ve been attracting some literary links while surfing lately.

TwitterLit – Updated twice a day on the various Twitter accounts with the first line of books. A very good way to get book recommendations if you’re a Twitter addict as I’ve recently become. Can be also used via email or a RSS reader. – Buy a friend a book for four designated weeks a year, or just give them a book to share the literary karma. It’s like Bookcrossing (which I seemed to have given up on years ago), but more direct.

What is Stephen Harper Reading? – Canadians may only get the humor in this. Yann Martel, author of Life of Pi has decided to send a book to the Prime Ministre a book every two weeks with a letter on the choice. The image of PM Harper reading The Death of Ivan Ilych almost discombobulates me. Image does not process.

Publisher makes lite work of classics – An article from The Times Online about a publisher that is making shortened versions of classics for “convenience”:

Tolstoy, Dickens and Thackeray would not have agreed with the view that 40 per cent of Anna Karenina, David Copperfield and Vanity Fair are mere “padding”, but Orion Books believes that modern readers will welcome the shorter versions.

Padding, right. This is not a new concept, and it could be helpful if you’re doing a book report about a book you don’t want to read. Goodness knows I didn’t enjoy every single moment of Vanity Fair. Though, if you want to know what happens or some literary insight, there’s Cliff Notes, Spark Notes, Wikipedia, and a lot of other choices. Someone in the article is quoted as saying that they hadn’t read Anna Karenina because it is long and finds these light versions “a breath of fresh air”.

I guess this is alright if you just want the plot, but reading has always been more than that for me. Altering or changing the books by 40% is sort of alarming. Sometimes, long books reveal a lot more than “padding”. I also think it’s completely subjective of what should or shouldn’t be taken out from a book based on some unnamed criteria they have. Do I think some of the classic authors padded? By the Dickens, yes. That does not mean it ruins my experience; sometimes there’s a lot of literary brilliance in the padding… if you like that sort of fun wordplay.

The thing is, no one is forcing you to read these classics. If you don’t like DC, AK, VF, or even Jane Eyre (which they are also book dieting), don’t read. Most of my friends are not bibliophiles, and I know lots of people who don’t like classics. Read what you like. Nick Hornby writes in one of his criticisms that we should all just read what we like and shouldn’t be forced or pressured into liking what we read. All because a book is a classic, a Pulitzer prize winner, or on the New York Times Bestseller’s list does not make it good, fun or even worth your time. Life is too short to read to books you don’t like. I just like spending my ethereal existence with long classics.

The Shadow in the North by Philip Pullman

The Shadow in the North My original plan after reading The Ruby in the Smoke was to write a big review of the whole Sally Lockhart quartet because I wrongly assumed the other three books would be as short as that first book. I should have foreseen this as it happened with the His Dark Materials too. Unlike HDM, these books can stand alone, but that doesn’t mean there is not a not a hook to connect these Victorian mystery thrillers. They are definitely page turners, and while I have little experience in adult mysteries or thrillers, I’ve enjoyed the young adult ones I have read. Pullman is not a writer who writes specifically for an age group, and I’ve always been in the belief that adults should read good books no matter the intended age group, just as young adults should read adult books if they are mature enough readers for it. He has admitted on his website that he wrote them with melodramatic undertones, but resolves them in his realistic style and detail (he calls fantasy classified HDM “dark realism”). One of the highlights in this series is the ensemble cast of characters; I thoroughly enjoyed them in the first book and found it almost comforting to see how much has happened since tRiS (six years between the two books). I did not understand how engaging the book was until I found myself shocked at the climax. Well played, Mr Pullman. As much as I want to read the next book, it looks particularly intense that I’m going to hold it off for a nonfiction or two. These books require one or two sittings to finish off before bed.

Heat by Bill Buford

The full title of this book is Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford. Without previous experience in the food business, Buford enters first the food and restaurant business in New York City by working at Mario Batali’s Babbo, and secondly a less capitalist view of food in Italy in the second half as the apprentice butcher. The book is funny, light and interesting. There are a lot of distinct characters in this book. The first half of the book draws similarities to Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain as it shows you the harshness that is the restaurant business. For my love of food, I have never wanted to be a professional chef or cook. My dad is a cook, and it was not a profession he chose for himself at first. He’s been doing it for thirty years, and he is very ready for semi-retirement. Knowing this, I became invested in Buford and felt good when he felt accomplished.

The book takes a different and dare I say, more introspective turn in the second half with the apprenticeship in Italy. Maybe it’s because I love travel books as much as food books or travel in general forces different perspectives for the writer, but there are even more unique characters and stories from Tuscany. The second half reads more like a Bill Bryson travelogue. I did enjoy Buford’s style, and the ending hints at a sequel in France. While Batali and a number of personalities in the book are anti-French, I’m a francophile so I very much excited at the prospect of reading Buford again en France.

Friday’s Feast 144

Appetizer – List 3 emotions you experienced this week.

Futility. Frustration. Fatigue.

Soup – Name a car you’d love to have.

I’m a bad driver, but I do know cars even if I don’t want to own one: a Mini Cooper. I like Citroens too even though they aren’t sold in North America. I actually like the Toyoto Prius as it is a hybrid.

Salad – Describe your typical morning routine.

I’m a pretty simple girl: I get up, get dressed, wash my face, brush my teeth, moisturize, eat brunch/breakfast. Check my email. Yeah, not exactly worlds shattering.

Main Course – Have you ever emailed someone famous?  If so, who, and what did you say to them?  Did they reply?

No, I have not emailed anyone famous. I’m pretty shy about these things, and there are few famous I need to email frankly.

Dessert – Do you listen to podcasts?  If so, which ones?

Yes, I listen to Savage Love, Grammar Girl, Mr Manners, video podcasts during the fashion weeks, Doctor Who Season 3 when they are interesting (pretty rare this season), and when I remember, BBC World News and Radio France Internationale. I use to listen to the Word of the Day, but not so much.

Off to bed now. Hmm, Grey’s Anatomy sucks now. I’ll write my book review after I wake up. Library trip today, and more reading.

Booking Through Thursday – Bookless

It happens even to the best readers from time to time… you close the cover on the book you’re reading and discover, to your horror, that there’s nothing else to read. Either there’s nothing in the house, or nothing you’re in the mood for. Just, nothing that “clicks.” What do you do?? How do you get the reading wheels turning again? – BTT

Well, “there’s nothing in the house” does not apply to me because I always have at least a 20 books from the library that I sometimes never get around to reading and just keep renewing if no one has requested them. I actually weeded a couple library books last week; I’m trying harder. I also tend to have books that I bought and own, but have not read yet. As for the mood thing, I like to think that I keep an assortment of books around me, but if I really have nothing. I fall back on my other hobbies: movies, knitting, and I read fanfiction when the mood strikes. Hee. Usually, I get back to reading fairly quickly because I have such a broad range of interests. I’m usually kept from reading rather than not wanting to read.

Currently, I’m reading Heat by Bill Buford. I’ll probably be done it for today which means book review this weekend. I’ll also be finishing up the Sally Lockhart series in the next week or so. Yay for young adult historical fiction.

Eight Random Things About Me

Chris tagged me for the “8 Random Things About Me” Meme:

1: Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves.
2: People who are tagged, write a blog post about their own 8 random things, and post these rules.
3: At the end of your post you need to tag 8 people and include their names.
4: Don’t forget to leave them a comment and tell them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Here I am…

  1. I have tried playing four musical instruments: piano (3 years), violin (1 year), clarinet (1 year), and the xylophone (a month?). I’m just not artistically proficient. I can’t carry a tune either.
  2. Both my grandmothers are alive, but I’ve only seen them once in the last fifteen years since they live abroad. Both my grandfathers died before I was born so I never met either of them.
  3. I use to do fashion sketches in high school. Just like I use to write poetry, but I haven’t been inspired for either in a long time.
  4. When I was four, I found a coin after wandering away from the daycare room. I walked down eight flights of stairs, passed by the security guard, bought a lollipop from the corner store beside the building, passed the guard again, and went back up to the seventh floor to find my mom.
  5. I’m a lucid dreamer. I am almost always aware when I am dreaming, and I have had full control of my dreams before. It can actually be pretty boring.
  6. I like thunderstorms, rain, and fog.
  7. I’m nearsighted and have an astigmatism.
  8. There is a tarot deck in a drawer of this desk, but I haven’t read for anyone or myself in awhile.

As for tagging… I tag everyone. In all seriousness, I don’t know eight regulars of this blog, and I don’t usually tag people in memes any way. Bit shy of that I guess.

Have a good week, everyone!

Friday’s Feast 143

Appetizer - Tell about a time when you had to be brave.

To not go into too much detail, I’ve had more than one experience wherein friends have been suicidal.

Soup - Which upcoming movie are you excited about seeing?

I’m excited about a lot of movies. I really want to see Spider-Man 3, but I’m broke so not going to the theatres. Also, Pirates 3, Order of the Phoenix, and later this year The Golden Compass. I’m sure there are more, but I can’t name them all at the moment.

Salad - Name an item you try to always have on hand.

Pen and paper. I try to stuff them in all my bags.

Main Course - Imagine the most relaxing room you can think of. Now describe it!

I like studies and home libraries. I like a big beautiful window wherein there’s a view of trees or a garden. There should be comfy chairs, a nice desk. In another way, I also have a thing for very spacious, white and classy bathrooms.  My bathroom now has the best view in the house for some reason.

Dessert - On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being highest), how spiritual or religious are you?

8. I’m not religious, but I was raised for a time to pray so I do that a couple times a year. I’m spiritual, and I try to be aware of myself, the world, and yes, the “universe” too. I would like to think about it more.

Booking Through Thursday – Where Not

Where DON’T you read?

I know a lot of people do this, but I don’t read in bed. I have been known to read up to the point before bed (especially if the book is uber addictive), but not in bed. I don’t think I ever will because bed is for sleep. I don’t read when there is water near by. Only recently have I been finally able to read in cars/buses, but I still don’t make a habit of it.


“Something About Me” Reading Challenge List

Something About Me Reading Challenge involves picking five books that relate or represent yourself. On August 1, you pick other books from the list of other participants and hence, a discussion begins of books chosen. This is my first reading challenge, and I think it’s a pretty interesting one to begin with. I joined the Harry Potter Read Along a few weeks ago too and that starts next month in preparation for HP7.

This is my list for “Something About Me”. This was difficult to say the least. These are books that I’ve read, but I wish I had more choices that were more overt about who I am. I just want to read more after making this list. I also avoided repeats from other participants’ lists.
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Northanger Abbey: book and 2007 ITV adaptation

Northanger Abbey by Jane AustenI’ve had this book for awhile, but I was about averse to starting it thinking it was long. Partly because I read Emma last November, and it took me awhile since it was November and Emma is the longest of the Austen books. My copy of NA just looked long, and it did not take me long to read. I liked it even though Cathy was a bit silly in the middle with her over reactive imagination. She is naive, but not so irritating as other characters named Catherine (hello, Wuthering Heights). Mr Tilney amused me with the teasing. Now, NA is Austen’s satire and mocking of gothic novels which makes the novel a bit meta in the nice way. I don’t think NA is nearly as enjoyable or satisfying as Persuasion or Pride and Prejudice (my favourites), but it’s light, quick, and moved adequately enough.

Northanger Abbey (ITV 2007)This ITV Jane Austen season adaptation is my second from the season. I previously saw Persuasion which I enjoyed for all its cheesy ending. A lot of people find this to have been the best of the three adaptations, and I can see why because it was fun and witty. Andrew Davies adapted it, and he really is one of the best at adapting scripts having done the 1995 P&P, Wives and Daughters (two of my favourite period dramas) and the upcoming Sense and Sensibility. He seems to have a lot of fun with NA because it was very charming with added fantasy scenes. I also thought the casting was good on this; I enjoyed the ITV Persuasion for a similar reason. I really liked JJ Feild as Mr Tilney; he doesn’t look conventionally handsome in pictures, but he lends himself well to the character. I remember watching a young Felicity Jones in The Worst Witch and Weirdsister College. I found her amiable and sweet in this, and both had nice chemistry too. So, I’m two for two now for the JA season. I’ll have to watch Mansfield Park now to see if I like that too, but I haven’t and don’t plan on reading MP for awhile. Though, I’m already predisposed to Billie Piper. I’ll have an excuse to see JJ Feild again in The Ruby in the Smoke (by Philip Pullman), also starring Piper, which I plan to read and watch sometime in the near future.

Clap for Clapotis

Clap for Clapotis Clapotis Closeup
Clapotis, started February 26th, 2007, finished May 4th, 2007
Pattern: Clapotis from Knitty
Yarn: 100% mercerized cotton DK
Needles: #8/5.0 mm straight bamboo
Cost of Project: $10 for the yarn
Pattern Notes and Comments: One of the most well known of online patterns. I’ve wanted to knit this for awhile, and considered a lot about the yarn. The pattern uses a lot of it. I found a discounted cone of DK cotton at my LYS. See pictures below to see how much yarn it used. I didn’t intend to to use cotton for this, but this was a great deal and the yarn was even variegated! For $10, I didn’t think it would be bad. The pattern was easy, and I knit it slowly as I would often only knit when watching The Daily Show and the Colbert Report. My clapotis turned out pretty big of course, and I think it’ll be nice as a shawl for evenings in the summer. Possibly a good heavy autumn scarf. It’s just plain big though so we’ll see how I’ll wear it come fall.
Would I knit it again? Yes, as mundane as it is, it’s a nice pattern. It’s a good to knit when watching TV or a movie. I want to use a wool mix (wool/silk) it for it next time, and if I don’t have #8 circs by then, I’m definitely buying them for this project next time. I love my bamboo needles though.
Next Projects: I need to learn how to knit a pair of socks. A tea cozy for tea drinking in winter, and possibly winter gloves and scarf. Oh yeah, my weird attraction to wrist warmers even though there isn’t much of a climate for them here.
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