Sunday, January 26, 2003

I started out to write down a list of my favorite books, after coming across an old one this afternoon, and I found it to be much less eclectic than I had expected. As you can see, it's mostly literature, but as I scanned our bookshelves, the ones I found myself compelled to add were the ones that, in the words of A Common Reader, are simply
Thumping Good Reads

Lark Rise to Candleford, Flora Thompson
The Mozart Season, Virginia Euwer Wolff
Pensees, Blaise Pascal
Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
Emma, Jane Austen
The Deed of Paksenarrion, Elizabeth Moon
Confessions, St. Augustine
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
The Aeneid, Virgil
A Good Man Is Hard To Find, Flannery O’Connor
The Little Bookroom, Eleanor Farjeon
Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary, Pamela Dean
Keep A Quiet Heart, Elisabeth Elliot
The Brothers of Gwynedd Quartet, Edith Pargeter
The Little Country, Charles de Lint
A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf
The Day I Became An Autodidact, Kendall Hailey
Emily of New Moon, L.M. Montgomery
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
A String in the Harp, Nancy Bond
Far From the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
The Hawk and the Dove, Penelope Wilcock
Agnes Grey, Anne Bronte
His Dark Materials trilogy, Philip Pullman
The Blue Sword, Robin McKinley
Incident At Hawk’s Hill, Allan W. Eckert
My Side of the Mountain, Jean Craighead George
The Cornish Trilogy, Robertson Davies
The Annotated Alice, Lewis Carroll & Martin Gardner
Hideous Kinky, Esther Freud
Many Waters, Madeleine L’Engle
Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
Notes From A Small Island, Bill Bryson
A Gathering of Days, Joan W. Blos
Walden, Henry David Thoreau
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
The Borrowers series, Mary Norton
The Hound and the Falcon, Judith Tarr
Divine Secrets of the Ya?Ya Sisterhood, Rebecca Wells
The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
The Thinking Reed, Rebecca West
The Little House on the Prairie series, Laura Ingalls Wilder
Ballet Shoes, Noel Streatfeild
One Morning in Maine, Robert McCloskey
The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis
Drawn From New England, Bethany Tudor
Hamlet, William Shakespeare
Miss Rumphius, Barbara Cooney
The Heaven Tree Trilogy, Edith Pargeter
The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky
Possession, A.S. Byatt
The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
Watership Down, Richard Adams
The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
Picnic, Lightning, Billy Collins
Swann’s Way, Marcel Proust
Enchanted April, Elizabeth Von Arnim
Phedre, Jean Racine

Monday, January 20, 2003

Last night I finished reading The Little Girls. Bas Bleu says that the author, Elizabeth Bowen, is "on every famous literary person's list of favorite authors", so I'm hoping that I just read the book she wished she'd never written. She seems to have a fascination with commas, and, in particular, their use combined with the peculiarities of British slang, so that I found myself reading conversations over and over again in an attempt to decipher what the characters were saying (or not saying) to each other. 'You were unfair, rather, a bit, to me, don't you think, Dicey?' gives an idea of my struggles. I will admit that it is difficult to write dialogue that sounds genuine, but reading literal quotes in a newspaper article makes it clear that dialogue can be either realistic or readable. I have read my own words as transcribed by a journalist, and recoiled in horror at the blithering idiot there implied. Ms Bowen's inability to write dialogue aside, her character development is nearly non-existent, which is unfortunate because the direction of the novel depends on the ways in which the characters have changed (or not changed) over the course of time. I actually found the storyline interesting (three little girls become friends during the summer that they are 11 years old, and bury a treasure which for various unexplained reasons they decide to dig up 50 years later), but I was dismayed to find that Ms Bowen's fancy lay elsewhere. While I wanted to know what treasures were buried, and the meaning of certain little secrets and odd half-confessions that kept appearing, she was more interested in abstract communication, and ended up saying very little indeed. The book was arranged in three (or four?) parts, with the second part as a flashback to the long-ago summer, and it perhaps says something about my reading habits that I was much more intrigued by the lives and actions of the little girls (simpler and more direct than those of grown-ups, and therefore more exciting to read about) than the wandering interactions of the adults they became. This is the sort of book that starts to make me lost my faith in novels. I recently re-read The Borrowers series, which are just as capable of presenting a moral or commenting on life as a more "advanced" novel, but do so in a compelling way without the annoyances of vague philosophy. This is not to say that I am unable to enjoy the complexities of delving into the development and interactions of characters, but I don't appreciate being left in the dark as to what is happening to them tangibly at the same time; such a device is merely frustrating. I haven't given up on Elizabeth Bowen entirely, and I will read the book recommended by Bas Bleu in their latest catalog (The Heat of the Day), but so far I am keeping her well away from my list of favorite authors (to be posted at a later time!).
Link basbleu this is a test.
Hello and welcome to my new blog. I intend to tell whoever is interested (or bored) all about what I'm reading at the moment, and probably what I think about some other stuff too.