Month: March 2008

Busy Bee that I am, I have not been able to devote time to reading or any of my hobbies. I obviously miss it, though I managed to read Blankets by Craig Thompson this week, and I continue to read Count of Monte Cristo in email. I actually read the emails every day now as opposed to forgetting about it and catching up later. There is quite a bit of political history in the book, and it’s just not that exciting as compared to the plight of Edmond who has not graced in the emails for over a week. I have not read Othello since last week. I always find that Shakespeare is fun but requires ample literary concentration. I will be back to reading form in, oh, 1.5 weeks.

Only one literary link this week, and it’s an interesting one indeed. The New York Times has an article called It’s Not You, It’s Your Books, an essay about love and literary taste. Just a few days ago, my close friend S and I were discussing this exact topic. I am quite resigned to the fact that I will probably not find a mate who reads or appreciates books and literature the way I do. Even at present, I can count the number of friends I have that engage in an active reading life on my hand. Finding friends who read is hard enough, I’m not going to raise a high bar for a partner who likes to read classics or–gasp–poetry like I do. So the idea of dumping someone for their literary taste is beyond silly to me because books and reading habits are not the be all and end all of people. They are not deal breakers. Though I can see it being apart of the deal breaker of incompatibility.

This is shallow though:

James Collins, whose new novel, “Beginner’s Greek,” is about a man who falls for a woman he sees reading “The Magic Mountain” on a plane, recalled that after college, he was “infatuated” with a woman who had a copy of “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” on her bedside table. “I basically knew nothing about Kundera, but I remember thinking, ‘Uh-oh; trendy, bogus metaphysics, sex involving a bowler hat,’ and I never did think about the person the same way (and nothing ever happened),”

Firstly, I really do like The Unbearable Lightness of Being so there may be bias in this, but I can understand making a judgment on someone based on books you’ve both read, but on the basis of a book you haven’t even read? So I presume is what Mr Collins means when he said he knew nothing about Kundera. Any way, I would like a partner who reads quite a bit, but I agree with Ms Levy in the article when she says it’s a bit of a “luxury” to have a partner who meets your reading habits. Though I am amused that there is a dating site for fans of Ayn Rand. For the record, I don’t post my reading preferences on Facebook profile. While I frequent the site to keep in contact with friends, my profile page is sparse keeping with my private nature. I also do not like answering questions about favourite books and authors. Too many to name!

Thoughts on this article? Have you known others to break up based on books? Have you? Does your partner read as much or read at all?

Been awhile since I updated the challenges list. There are too many and I just joined another one! In any case, I anticipate I’ll be reading more avidly again in two weeks. In other news, I updated WordPress to version 2.5; it usually takes me months until after a release to upgrade. For further procrastination and fun, I changed the layout

Current Challenges

  • Book Awards (9 of 12) – A couple of the books I’ve read since the last update were not on my original list but are award winners. I still intend to finish my original list before July 1 and come out with more than a dozen books read.
  • William Shakespeare (1 of 4) – Currently reading Othello, finished a Shakespeare bio.
  • Graphic Novels (6 of 6) – Will continue reading graphic novels.
  • Decades 08 (3 of 8 ) – Still want to do 16 decades.
  • In their shoes (2 of ?) – I picked roughly 6-7 bios/memoirs to be read in the calendar year.
  • Russian Reading (2 of 4) – Four Russian related books in one year.
  • What’s in a Name? (1 of 6) – I cross posted one of the other books into this even if wasn’t in the original list.
  • TBR 2008 (1 of 12) – So slow going. Must pick up speed.
  • Man Booker Challenge (1 of 6) – Six Booker prize winners in one year. Also slow going.
  • Chunky Challenge (o of 4) – Books of more than 450pages. I am reading one of these now!
  • Reading the Nobels – I’ve read 2 so far, and there’s a challenge to read 5 this year.
  • Notable Books – Read 1.
  • Pulitzer Project – None.
  • Booker Project – Read 1.

Anticipating Challenges

Personal Challenges

  • 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die – One of the ultimate challenges; no intention of finishing it but do want to read many of the books. I’ll write in updates how many of the books I’ve read. I’ve read a couple since the beginning of the year. I’m at the miniscule 82 right now.
  • TBR Pile – Books that I own and have not read. None in awhile.

Completed Challenges

Blankets is a graphic novel of first love, growing up, faith and the loss of it. It is nearly 600 pages of black and white graphic storytelling. The style is fairly realistic and very wonderfully drawn at times. Craig Thompson is definitely creative and a talented artist. Something about the simplicity of the drawings were evocative. The graphic novel medium is very well suited to autobiographies and memoirs such as this. It is especially apt when telling of experiences of childhood and other first or crucial memories since they are usually are so vivid and intense. Another example of where childhood inspired stories go well is American Born Chinese.

In an interview, Thompson on the success of the graphic novel: “Probably the things that I was reacting against in the comics medium. I was reacting against all of the over-the-top, explosive action genre: ”I guess alternative comics have been doing that, for a while. But I also didn’t want to do anything cynical and nihilistic, which is the standard for a lot of alternative comics.” I am going to agree about the cynicism that is found in alternative comics. I think it is also the post modernism and existentialism that runs through a lot of art in general these days. Blankets has a bit of that, but I would say it is less nihilistic than David Boring. The ending is open ended and pensive due to its biographical nature, but an excellent graphic novel overall.

While acknowledging that we can’t judge books by their covers, how much does the design of a book affect your reading enjoyment? Hardcover vs. softcover? Trade paperback vs. mass market paperback? Font? Illustrations? Etc.? – BTT

I generally prefer hardcovers over softcovers. Having said that, they are heavy to carry around, and in the few times of the year when I buy books, I prefer trade paperbacks. I like their smooth covers, the better than mass market paper, their durability, and their pricing. They usually have better cover design than their mass market counterparts too. I also really love library editions or the hard binding that the libraries put on some paperbacks. As for font and illustrations, these things do not matter as much, but a nice cover is a nice cover.

Project 10/365 - Red Gretel Beret

The ever popular Gretel. I actually made a regular version of this in February with the Tubular cast on and this same yarn. I wasn’t paying attention and it resulted a lot of errors. It also looked a bit odd on my big head even if it did cover my years. I frogged the hat and my Koolhaas too (since that was too big and hopefully I have enough yarn to make another regular one of those) to make a slouchy version. This time, I used the German Twisted cast on instead of the Tubular cast on because I was lazy and it works just as well.

Pop goes the cables

When you’re knitting this pattern, it does seem awfully big on the needles, but it wasn’t as slouchy as it looked on some others because my head is rather large. If I had aran weight, I’d have made the regular. I spray blocked the beret with water mixed with Eucalan. I’ve never owned a beret (I gave away the first one made), and this is a big one. I’m going to have get use to it and incorporate it to my style somehow. The yarn is very yummy though.

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Red me one more time.

Gretel, started March 16th 2008, finished March 22nd 2008 Ravelry Project Page
Pattern: Gretel by Ysolda Teague Ravelry Pattern Page
Size: Slouchy.
Yarn: Cascade 220 Wool (100g/ 100% Highland Peruvian Wool) in Cranberry – 1 skein
Needles: #7/4.5mm 100cm circs and #4/3.5mm 80cm circs Magic Looping
Modifications: One needle size down for the band and I took out one decrease row.
Tools/Notions: I cabled without a cable needle during the 4 st cables, but I used one for the 3 st twist cables because they messed me up the first time I was doing them. It still went along fairly quickly.
Lessons Learned: Tubular cast on.
Cost of Project: $8.
Would I knit it again? Yes, but the band gets loose fairly quickly so I would go down to 3.25mm next time. I want to make the regular again and the fitted style too.

This week, I continued to read Count of Monte Cristo in DailyLit email installments. I have reached Dantes being jailed. I really like the novel so far. I think I will like it more than The Three Musketeers, and Edmond will probably surpass them as my favourite Dumas character as well.
I started reading Othello this week as I said would, and I read a couple of scenes of Act I today.  This is my first Shakespeare play since high school. I actually miss being taught Shakespeare. It doesn’t feel quite the same reading to myself and analysing the play. I just realized that CoMC and Othello are quite similar. I’ve been attracting some less than happy books of late.

A little meme that’s been going around TSS members.

1) What books do you like to bring on airplanes?

Any books really. Nothing too specific. I don’t have the chance to fly often. I did not read the last couple of times I flew in 2006. I finished The Three Musketeers on a cross Pacific flight in 2004.  On cross atlantic flights, I like to sleep rather so I can ease the jetlag. I would also like to buy magazines next time because I hardly ever normally.

2) Do you have any experiences with public reading?

I read mostly at home. I also don’t care for reading on public transport. Since I use the bus, I pensively look out the window and daydream. I do tend to carry a light book with me just in case I find myself in need of some leisure reading. I always regret not having one when such circumstances arise. For example, I toted Othello this week and will continue. Sometimes, I will read in class during breaks.  In the summer, I will on occasion read outside in a park.

It’s already mid afternoon, and I have not done any work on the honours essay. So I’m off. Happy Easter Sunday!

Literary Links:

Read the Words – Copy and paste words you’d like to be read and make your own audiobook on the go.

Brian Dettmer’s Book Autopsies

Silver Italian Charms

We tell stories – Digital fiction from Penguin inspired by classics.

Even though I told myself I would not join another shorter than six months book challenge, and yet here I am! The Non-Fiction Five Challenge runs from May to September 2008. It’s five books, and at least one of them should be a different genre of non fiction (memoir, history, etc). Am I going to complete this? Who knows. Here is my tenative list which is subject to change at any time of course. I have no intention of reading all of these books, but they are just a few books that I have been inclined to. 

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson
Aristocrats: Caroline, Emily, Louisa, and Sarah Lennox, 1740-1832 by Stella Tillyard
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
How to read a book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles van Doren
Hungry Planet: What the World Eats by Faith D’Alusio
Happier by Tal Ben Shahara
Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
Watching the English by Kate Fox
The Ingenuity Gap by Thomas Homer Dixon
The Upside of Down by Thomas Homer Dixon
The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle
Survival of the Sickest: A Medical Maverick Discovers Why We Need Disease by Sharon Moalem
The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring by Richard Preston
…and probably a few other books.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s short novel of a day in a Stalinist camp is a story of human dignity, survival and faith. The Stalinist prisons were not for criminals, and they attempted to break the wills of those in the camps. Ivan, or Shukhov as he is referred mostly in novel, is essentially a dignified and proud character. The characterization is subtle. He is from a peasant background and not particularly intellectual, religious, or rebellious, but there is a quiet dignity and pride about him. He is simple, and very much the beautiful every man: 

And although he had strictly forbidden his wife to send anything even at Easter, and never went to look at the list on the post–except for some rich workmate–he sometimes found himself expecting somebody to come running and say: ‘Why don’t you go and get it, Shukhov? There’s a parcel for you.’ Nobody came running. As time went by, he had less and less to remind him of the village of Temgenyovo and his cottage home. Life in the camp kept him on the go from getting-up time to lights out. No time for brooding in the past.    

I liked this novel. I think it’s hard to pinpoint what’s particularly unique or special, but it is a straightforward and well told story. There seems to be such wonderful simplicity in the prose that gets across the character and the experience of camp life so well:

Shukhov’s idea of a happy evening was when they got back to the hut and didn’t find the mattresses turned upside down after a daytime search.

The book ends with a discussion of faith, religion and spirituality which is part of the survival of the camp. In his own way, Shukhov is spiritual in his actions and the way he carries himself. He has hope after all:

For a little while Shukhov forgot all his grievances, forgot that his sentence was long, that the day was long, that once again there would be no Sunday. For the moment he had only one thought: We shall survive. We shall survive it all. God willing, we’ll see the end of it.

You’ve just reached the end of a book . . . what do you do now? Savor and muse over the book? Dive right into the next one? Go take the dog for a walk, the kids to the park, before even thinking about the next book you’re going to read? What? (Obviously, there can be more than one answer, here–a book with a cliff-hanger is going to engender different reactions than a serene, stand-alone, but you get the idea!) – BTT

 Most often, I’ll start up a review for it either by writing most of it or jotting notes of what I will right. Sometimes I will dive into another book because I have time or in the rare case the book is part of a series and I have the followup, I will start that. I usually take a bit of time between books. Not a lot because I’ll choose my next book fairly quickly, often right after I finish the last one (oh big TBR piles). I just won’t start reading it for a day or two though. Since I read a lot of books (when I have time) in long sessions, I usually like a little break to do my other hobbies and duties: knitting, blogging, chores, etc.

Project 2/365: Sweep

Another week, mostly the same things. I’m up to chapter 7 of The Count of Monte Cristo and still lots of characters introduced. I finally finished reading One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, and as I predicted, I got into it at the end. Mostly the writing and the character came into such focus towards the end. The review will be up sometime this week, and I want time to read some critical analysis and review with quotes from the book.

I’m quite sad about my stress and my sever lack of time to do anything but stress and work. I miss reading more books on Sunday. I read seven books last month, and it is already half way through March, and I have only finished one book.
I have more than three dozen books borrowed from the library and other sources; this does not include all the books that I own and have not read. I should probably weed books, but I don’t really want to nor do I have time to reflect on what to return or delay reading in the near future.

Though now that I’m finished Ivan Denisovich, I can pick up another small book for my go to read. I’ve decided on Othello by William Shakespeare. Since it is a play, I can finish it relatively quickly, but it is Shakespeare so I will definitely read some critical analysis because it’s fun. One of the things I miss about English or Literature classes is analyzing Shakespeare.

Have a good week everyone.

Dewey‘s negativity meme:

1. When you dislike a book, do you say so in your blog? Why or why not?

In most cases yes because I do want to post often and sometimes due to reading challenges, I am required to make up some reviews. I rather be just a bit honest about the books I read.

2. Do you temper your feelings about books you didn’t like, so as not to completely slam them? Why or why not?

Yes, especially if the book is popular and/or a classic. All things have some positive in them so I try to look for it and consider why I wouldn’t like it but know potentially others could.
3. What do you think is the best way to respond when you see a negative review about a book you enjoyed?

Usually, I ignore it. Some for when people don’t seem to like authors that I like; I just move on. If it’s another blogger who I’ve known for awhile, I’ll express to them while I liked the book. Not often though.

4. What is your own most common reaction when you see a negative review of a book you loved or a positive review of a book you hated?

Once again, I just ignore it. Everyone is free to have their opinion on books, and for the most part, my comments wouldn’t really change their minds on how they felt about the books.5. What is your own most common reaction when you get a comment that disagrees with your opinion of a book?

Usually, I leave it. I can agree or disagree. Many comments can be thought provoking. Though sometimes the comment can be trollish and I’ll just delete it.

6. What if you don’t like a book that was a free review copy? What then?

If I were to review books that I received for free, I would be more likely to be positive about it. I usually try to weigh the positives and negatives evenly in those cases.
7. What do you do if you don’t finish a book? Do you review it or not? If you review it, do you mention that you didn’t finish it?

I don’t think it’s fair to review books I haven’t finished. It hasn’t been truly read if I haven’t gotten through the beginning to the end (however rushed or laborious it was). If the book was truly hard to read it, I say so in my review when I finish it.

Literary Links:

100 Best Last Lines from Novels (PDF)

Did they have fanfiction in the Middle Ages?

Project 1/365: Birthday Brownie

In December 2006, I started participating in 365 Days, a self-portrait a day for a year. I had just bought my first digital camera after years of coveting and a flickr account to boot. I only managed to do 129 days of photos; it become too difficult to do after awhile and I became lazy in the summer. The photos that came out it or the creative process that forced me to take so many self-portraits resulted in some of my best photos. It was a large exercise in creativity.

A month go, I decided to take up Project 365 which is just a photo a day for a year. Aside from taking photos of my knitting, I was not picking up the camera as much as I had previously or wanted to. The project will allow me flexibility in photography because part of the difficulty of 365 Days was the self-portraiture. Though, I will take a lot of self-portraits I think because I sort of got use to being my own model and experimenting with versions of myself. If anything, I need to document my aging process since I dislike it when others photograph me. The reason I wanted to start this on my birthday was symbolic and would mark the beginning of an interesting twelve months. There may be some drastic changes in the next year, and if not, there will be some travelling.

The project will hopefully allow me to blog more photos here on the blog because for the longest time, I wanted to make a photolog. Wordless Wednesday will resume, and I’ll post more photos for the sake of posting photos.

About this photo: Sadly, I did not bake these brownies. They were a gift from a friend. It just goes to show you how easy I am to please. Some good comfort food and appreciative effort and care from loved ones is all one asks for. I am curious about what kind of birthday I’ll be having in one year.

Enjoy the ride 365 ride with me.