Friday, December 23, 2005

Merry Christmas! After a tedious drive through Portland this afternoon we rescued two sisters from the airport, and tomorrow will head up to my mother's house for a long weekend of feasting and fun. I can't wait. This week has been tough, for various reasons, and I really need the distraction of, well, Christmas. There are only two things that keep this weekend from promising perfection--one is that we are missing a sister, who has stubbornly decided to see what a holiday without her family is like. The other thing is a little silly, but I never like to leave my kitties at any time, and even though I know they have no idea it's Christmas, it feels sort of treacherous to leave them behind while we go have fun. What I'd really like is for everyone I love to be altogether in the same place, with nobody missing anything or anyone. But I guess that's for a life after this imperfect one.

Anyway, be well, be safe, and be happy. Share the love of Christ and rejoice in His birth!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

It's official: my husband and I are library junkies. Since we moved to this apartment in July, we've gotten into the habit of walking up to the library about three times a week, which feels slightly excessive. Sometimes I even check out books I know I won't ever read! Anyway, as a special treat for our anniversary today, we decided to drive over to a bigger library branch (don't worry, we're also going out for a nice dinner in about an hour), where we spent well over an hour wandering the stacks, every now and then meeting up to check out each other's treasures. We were worse than kids in a candy store; we were addicts. I found myself snatching books off the shelves as if it had been months since I'd visited a library (instead of last Saturday--yes, three days ago) and as if I'd never be in one again. And yes, we have been to this branch numerous times, but somehow today it was like a whole new world.

So this is what I found:

The Haunted Hotel, Wilkie Collins
"In the year 1860, the reputation of Doctor Wybrow as a London physician reached its highest point."

Making Your Small Farm Possible, Ron Macher
"When you are disking a field to plant corn, the sun is shining, and the earth smells fresh, you are probably not thinking about whether that process will make you money."

Onions in the Stew, Betty MacDonald
"For twelve years, we MacDonalds have been living on an island in Puget Sound."

The Gypsy, Steven Brust and Megan Lindholm
"There is something about the sound of the tambourine."

How To Start A Home-Based Craft Business, Kenn Oberrecht
"Among the many businesses that can be operated from a home, craft businesses are particularly suitable."

Blackbird House, Alice Hoffman
"It was said that boys should go on their first sea voyage at the age of ten, but surely this notion was never put forth by anyone's mother."

The Tooth Fairy, Graham Joyce
"Clive was on the far side of the green pond, torturing a king-crested newt."

Fitcher's Brides, Gregory Frost
"Crack! goes the whip. She flinches at the sound."

Child of a Rainless Year, Jane Lindskold
"Color is the great magic."

Isabel's Daughter, Judith Ryan Hendricks
"Once in history class I made a time line."

Launching Your Home-Based Business, David H. Bangs, Jr
"Do you dream of throwing in the corporate towel and having only yourself to answer to?"

The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Third Annual Collection
"The day that Donna and Piggy and Russ went to see the Edge of the World was a hot one." (Michael Swanwick, 'The Edge of the World')

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Reader beware: I've had coffee this morning. Odious and I do not drink coffee often, for the good reason that it makes both of us astonishingly unproductive. We spent over an hour at the dining table talking about our house plans; all well and good, but nothing actually got done. And since we have Christmas packages to box up and mail, gingerbread men to be frosted, and 7-layer bars to bake, coffee was perhaps a bad idea. On the other hand, I'm in a much better mood than I was upon waking.

Unrelated things that popped into my head as the coffee hit my bloodstream... I know most of you already read Odious and Peculiar, but for those of you who don't I must recommend this post. It tickled me exceedingly. The game was fun, too, though it took a little practice to give useful answers to the questions.

And (I told you this would be unrelated), with sufficent support, Diane Duane wants to write a third feline wizard book. If only I had $20 to pledge toward it at this point! Maybe in a few months... I've previously recommended the first of these books, The Book of Night with Moon, but it's certainly worth mentioning again. Most books with animal protagonists I find annoying; Watership Down and The Wind in the Willows are hard acts to follow. Diane Duane, however, makes feline wizards not only believable but probable; her writing has made me view our cats in a very different light. She has the ability (which I and most other people do not) of writing about animals as people without anthropomorphizing; that is to say, her feline wizards are cats, not humans in cat form. It's quite a remarkable talent.

Finally (these really should be separate posts, but I'm feeling lazy), I had a chance to play I'm Neek last night. I was in bed reading Nine Horses, as a pleasant compromise before I can get hold of Billy Collins' latest collection, The Trouble With Poetry, and one of the poems inspired me to get up and find my copy of Coventry Patmore's poetry. While I was up I grabbed the other book I was reading, and as I re-entered the room I realized that I was the only person in the world to be holding both Coventry Patmore and Wilkie Collins' No Name at the same time. Neek indeed.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

So Semicolon wants to know more about my list of novels that don't make you want to kill yourself. Always happy to oblige! Of the five she mentioned, I've previously reviewed Bread Alone, The Deed of Paksenarrion, and Tam Lin. The review of Bread Alone includes a decent synopsis, but the other two are not so clear. Both are fantasy novels, I'll say right off, since I know there are those who don't enjoy the genre. The Deed of Paksenarrion, by Elizabeth Moon, is a "sword and sorcery" fantasy, about a young girl who runs away from her father's sheep farm to join the army. Paks is one of my favorite characters ever, because she is really and truly good without thinking about it; she knows what is right and she follows it unerringly. After such a description one would expect her to be boring, but in fact she is one of the most interesting and multidimensional characters in the fantasy genre, and her story unusual and thrilling. This book also deals with religion better than any other fantasy book I've read; it is an integral part of the world, and, despite being polytheistic, is realistic and believable. I should mention that it's quite long, being actually a trilogy (Sheepfarmer's Daughter, Divided Allegiance, and Oath of Gold), and has two companion novels (Surrender None and Liar's Oath); this is not a problem for me, being a speed-reader, but be forewarned that these are the sort of books that keep you glued to the page.

Tam Lin has a similar quality, though it also benefits from careful perusal and multiple readings. Pamela Dean's writing is deceptively clear and simple, yet numerous tricks and treasures lie below the surface, as well as more quotes than anyone could possibly identify (even the author, though the attempt has been made). I'm not sure why I chose this one for the list rather than her most recent, Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary; perhaps because Tam Lin is slightly more accessible for those new to Pamela Dean. It falls into the category of contemporary or urban fantasy, also known as mythic fiction, set in the modern world yet always on the edge of Faerie. When Janet Carter matriculates at Blackstock College, the world of Faerie is far from her mind; and indeed throughout most of the book there is little to cause her (or the reader) to suspect how close to it she is. The group of odd young men with whom she and her roommates become friends (and further) are only a little odder than any students at a liberal arts school, although the head of the Classics department is decidedly out of the ordinary. Still, it is only small things (the ghost of a female suicide, strange Halloween parties and costumes, the young men's names) that are clearly not part of a normal college experience, until the spectacular denouement in which the ballad of Tam Lin becomes a reality.

I suppose Possession could be called a fantasy, since (to my mother's and my great annoyance) the Victorian poets whose lives it follows are NOT REAL. This is to keep you from searching everywhere for their works. Ahem. Anyway, other than that it's straight literature, even with A.S. Byatt's particular style and lyrical prose. I will warn you that this is a long book as well, only because it's easy to get bogged down among the Victorian poetry and minutiae of the story; once you get to the end, however, you will understand why I've included it in my list. It has indeed been made into a movie, with only moderate success--there's simply too much to be translated to the screen. An unlikely pair of scholars, one interested in the fairly popular poet William Ash, the other in the barely known Christabel LaMotte, find their research paths crossing as they read letters, journals, and stories of the two Victorians, until more than one surprising secret comes to light.

I'm not quite sure how to approach a description of In Pursuit of Love. Putting it on a list of novels may be somewhat misleading, since it is the highly autobiographical account of the Mitford family, a crazy group of utterly dissimilar characters. The book is quite amusing to read, but living in the family sounds like hell, with the inept parents (the shouting father who hunted his children when foxes were scarce and the loving but inattentive mother) and seven wild children, who all grew up so different as to make one question their relation to each other. It's generally to be found in one volume with its sequel, Love in a Cold Climate.

Bread Alone I've already summarized pretty well, in the link above, so I'll just add here that I recently reread it and can hardly think of anything better to recommend for a light entertaining read. The descriptions of the bakery are particularly delightful to me, but the whole story is sweet and enjoyable and certainly does not make you want to kill yourself.

Friday, December 09, 2005

It took me a while to finish Their Eyes Were Watching God. This was partly because the book was so unlike what I'd expected; the back cover blurb implied that while the main character had to survive two difficult marriages, the love she finally found was true and meaningful. Boy, if I ever meet a man like Tea Cake, I'll run in the opposite direction. Janie had only known him for a little while before he stole her money and sneaked off to gamble it, and that was only the beginning. Granted, she went with him because she wanted to, and enjoyed the life they lived, but from a practical point of view, he took her from relative prosperity and made her work alongside him in the fields. He beat her up at least, once, too, and she didn't seem to mind! And if they had meaningful conversations, it was all in dialect, which grows tiresome to read. I suppose all in all it was a "classic of black literature" (talk about damning with faint praise), but it was so different from my expectation that I found it slow going. Ah well.

Other than that, I've been gobbling up mysteries and crime novels--grey weather puts me in the mood for books that grab me and don't let go. And now that I'm among the unemployed, all I want to do is read... Oh yes, I too have been laid off by the oh-so-charming family-owned restaurant. While it may very well be for the best, it's still irksome. Fortunately I'm still giddy with freedom and don't much mind yet!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Semicolon listed the Christmas songs she doesn't like, after reading which Odious gave an excellent demonstration of what he does to people who sing "Jingle Bell Rock". Sometimes he overreacts to things.

I have to say, I really can't think of any Christmas songs I hate. After a while I do get tired of them, but probably the only ones that make me roll my eyes at the opening bars are "Jingle Bells" and "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town". Mostly I just love Christmas. I love shopping for gifts for the people I love, putting up decorations (my Christmas lights are currently shedding a cozy glow from our balconies), baking goodies, attending Advent church services, planning gifts for those in need or choosing a charity, making my own gifts, writing Christmas cards, reading all the delightful Christmas stories and watching our long list of movies... it's a good time of year.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Because everybody else is doing it...

Since the Times put out its list of 100 best novels, it seems to be quite the thing to make one's own list. Of course, I did it a long time ago, before it was cool, but since I love lists I thought I might as well try another one. But then I got bogged down in trying to figure out what books should be on a list of best novels; it could, of course, mean one's favorites, but could also be best-known novels, or classic novels, or books with superior style/plot/characters. So I decided to go back to my recent idea and create a list of novels that don't make you want to kill yourself. Happy reading!

?Watership Down, Richard Adams
An Old Fashioned Girl, Louisa May Alcott
Pride and Prejudice and Emma, Jane Austen
The Search for Delicious, Natalie Babbitt
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Incredible Journey, Sheila Burnford
Possession, A.S. Byatt
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins
Tam Lin, Pamela Dean
A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
Incident At Hawks Hill, Allan W. Eckert
Middlemarch, George Eliot
The Reivers, William Faulkner
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Café, Fannie Flagg
A Room With A View, E.M. Forster
Cranford, Elizabeth Gaskell
Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
Herland, Charlotte Perkins Gilman
The Little White Horse, Elizabeth Goudge
The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
Bread Alone, Judith Ryan Hendricks
The Country of the Pointed Firs, Sarah Orne Jewett
A Ring of Endless Light, Madeleine L’Engle
The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis
Betsy-Tacy, Maud Hart Lovelace
Christy, Catherine Marshall
Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne
In Pursuit of Love, Nancy Mitford
Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery
The Deed of Paksenarrion, Elizabeth Moon
Master and Commander, Patrick O’Brian
The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Orczy
The Heaven Tree Trilogy, Edith Pargeter
Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott
The Good Master, Kate Seredy
Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith
Kidnapped, Robert Louis Stevenson
Ballet Shoes, Noel Streatfeild
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R Tolkien
Carry On, Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse
The Loved One, Evelyn Waugh
Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Kate Douglas Wiggin
The Hawk and the Dove, Penelope Wilcock
These Happy Golden Years, Laura Ingalls Wilder

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

As a child I read a great deal of Madeleine L'Engle's books, but for some reason the Murry quartet were the only ones that stayed with me. I know I read some of the Austin books, but as our library didn't have them all, my comprehension was spotty; therefore it's been truly delightful to revisit them recently. The one I just read was quite possibly my favorite L'Engle so far (besides Many Waters, of course)--A Ring of Endless Light. Besides being a sucker for dolphin stories, I loved the pure clarity of this book, and the ability Vicky discovers in herself. What a fantastic gift!

Even the little love tangles in this one are interesting, though frankly I wouldn't mind seeing Zachary fall into a hole. I like Vicky's reactions to the three different boys, and how she becomes more herself through her budding relationships with them. I like the way she writes poetry and reads to her grandfather, how she cooks dinner and comforts her little brother. I like the simplicity and the familiar complexity of their family life. I like this book, a lot.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Odious is in the middle of his self-named NaNoReMo, chronicled on his own blog. However, despite his devouring of novels in a day, I've found it fairly easy to keep ahead in lazy leaps. Unfortunately he still has a lot of the good stuff before him, while I'm down to the books I didn't read because I didn't want to.

I decided to give Hemingway another chance, and managed a slog through A Farewell to Arms without too much pain. I just can't stand his style! I'm sure it's effective, ground-breaking, etc, but it makes me want to shake him. It's difficult to get any feel for his characters without more detail and description, and I end up not caring about them at all. The end of the novel is probably supposed to be sad, but to me it was inevitable, predictable, and not tremendously interesting. Also, his idea of a love scene is really appalling.

Before this I read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, which kept me hooked with a morbid fascination and sick desire for more dreadful revelations. It's like nothing I've ever read before, and while I'm glad I read it, at the same time I wish I didn't have that information in my head. I started it at work one day when I was covering someone else's hosting shift, and realized after an hour or so that it was not the best place for such a book. I found myself falling into despair, looking around and thinking, "Life is still like this! We all hang on to dead-end, worthless, insecure jobs that grind us down into poverty, and there's no escape! AAAAAAAAHHHHHH!" At that point I put the book away.

Now I'm reading Invisible Man. It's kind of boring so far. I wish that, like Odious, I still had Howards End and Mrs. Dalloway to read. Like most great novels, those certainly have their depressing elements (I wonder why that is? I should start a new list--100 Novels That Don't Make You Want To Kill Yourself), but they're so much pleasanter...

Monday, October 24, 2005

Visiting a bookstore when one has no money is a very bad idea, especially when the display of new hardbacks holds such temptations...

Making It Up, Penelope Lively
Wild Ducks Flying Backward: The Short Writings of Tom Robbins
Shaman's Crossing, Robin Hobb
13 Steps Down, Ruth Rendell
The Trouble With Poetry, Billy Collins
Rereadings: Seventeen Authors Revisit Books They Love, Anne Fadiman, ed.
Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman
Sleep, Pale Sister, Joanne Harris

Strangely, making a list of them helped ease the temptation, and we left after several hours having only spent $5 on chai lattes. Yay virtue!

Speaking of lists, Odious and I discovered the other day that I am better-read than he, which horrified him and left me feeling pleasantly smug. At the library we found lists of 100 Top Novels, 100 Best Classics, etc, and went through them checking off the ones we'd each read. Even though I'd suspected that in this particular genre I'd read more, we were both surprised to find out the significant gap by which I left him in the dust. Of course, it helps that I've read nearly everything by Dickens, Hardy, and Forster! He is now determined to catch up, but since it inspired me to read several of the books I've been meaning to, we'll see how the competition goes...

Friday, October 21, 2005

I recently made a deal with a friend that I would read Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles if she would read the Lord of the Rings (since we had respectively managed to miss these fine books in our childhoods). I think she got the better end of the deal.

I liked the Prydain books, really. But they reminded me too much of a video game (Odious says I may be somewhat biased in my view of video games because of the ones he plays--yes, yes, it's true, he plays video games A LOT) in the linear quality of the quests and the lack of causality in the world itself. Prydain is too small a world for me to be really interested in it, though I suspect as a child this would not have bothered me so much. Also, the coming-of-age ploy is a touchy one--if you don't get it quite right it really doesn't work at all. I couldn't stand Taran--he was just a paper doll. There wasn't anything real about him, and his speech was so different from anyone else's that the dialogues were hard to follow. I did enjoy Princess Eilonwy to a certain extent, though if she were a real person I'd throw things at her. Gwydion was a paper doll too, so really I have to say the best character was Gurgi, with Fflewddur Fflam a close second. It's unfortunate that so often the main character has to be the least interesting (this is particularly true, I think, in TV shows) and the sidekicks are the ones everybody likes. Odious and I talked about this once, but I can't remember what our conclusion was.

That said, they're good books. I should have read them as a child (the reason for missing them is unclear, since our public library owned them--I think I was under the impression that my mother didn't approve of them), but they were still enjoyable in this first meeting. And the Welsh mythology is, of course, great fun.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

I didn't intend to read all of Michael Cunningham's new book all in one go, but with one cat curled up next to me and the other on my stomach, I wasn't going anywhere. Specimen Days was interesting, and I enjoyed it, but I'm not totally sure what it was about. Walt Whitman's poetry was a major theme, but I just don't really know what happened; it didn't click for me immediately the way The Hours did. The set-up of the book is similar, with three loosely connected novellas, but none of the characters really captured me or evoked a sense of understanding. I've only dipped into his other two books and have little interest in them, and I'm really hoping that The Hours doesn't turn out to be his one big hit. It's so frustrating when that happens with authors--Tracy Chevalier is the same way. Oh well, I might reread Specimen Days more carefully and see if I can get more out of it.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

I just remembered that we copied a bunch of CDs onto the computer a while back, and there are quite a few I haven't yet burned or even really listened to; so the past couple days I've been treating myself to some new music--Cowboy Junkies, Gillian Welch, and Over the Rhine. While listening to OTR's album "Films For Radio", I discovered that one of the songs on it was written by Dido--what a great combo! It's a neat song, too--click here and scroll down one song to read the lyrics. Music really fascinates me, as well as the ability of musicians to express themselves so perfectly. Though I'm by no means a superior writer, I get prose--I know more or less how it works, and how to produce it. But poetry and music are whole other worlds! I love the little vignettes of life that can be displayed in a good poem or song and illustrated even further by the one who reads or sings, speaking to one's soul so much more poignantly than prose.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

It's not often that I see movies that either I really like or that I have anything to say about, but we've been on a lucky streak lately. For anybody interested in good films now that the days are growing shorter and evenings are better for snuggling on the couch than going for a good walk, try these...

*The penguin movie, a.k.a. "March of the Penguins"--the National Geographic film in theatres now is the most romantic movie I've ever seen. In my opinion it's not really a kid's movie, but we enjoyed it immensely and were astounded both by the cinematography and the single-mindedness of these strange animals.

*"Uncovered", starring Kate Beckinsale--I'd seen this a while back and been interested in it, but it wasn't till a second perusal of the synopsis on the box that I realized it was a dramatization of Arturo Perez-Reverte's excellent novel The Flanders Panel. Let me tell you, the book is a WHOLE lot better, mainly because it actually sustains suspense, whereas the movie seriously lacks subtlety. That said, if you haven't read the book (and you should--it's fantastic), the movie might amuse you with its dramatic story of mystery in the art world.

*"Mean Girls", starring Lindsay Lohan--I wanted to see this in great part because the main character is homeschooled, but my sister had also recommended it. I was pleasantly surprised to find it clever and highly amusing; Odious kept coming into the room to find out what I was laughing so much about. Lindsay Lohan is an excellent comic actress, and does a great job in this snarky film. I also liked that while homeschooling was somewhat ridiculed, the point was clearly made that high school is a terrible, terrible place that can suck in and corrupt even the best of teens.

*"Ponette"--this movie made me cry, and that's a pretty unusual occurrence. It's a French film about a little girl whose mother dies, and her attempts to understand and deal with the tragedy; the four-year-old actress is AMAZING. I'd been wanting to watch it for a while, and when I finally turned it on I intended to go to bed after an hour or so and finish it the following evening. It was soon clear that I was staying up late. What an incredible film--highest recommendations.

*"Funny Face", starring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire--without the singing and dancing this movie would have been about 20 minutes long. I know most musicals are like that, but this one seemed particularly dull and poorly-acted--maybe it's best to experience them first as a child. Still, Audrey Hepburn is always good, and it was fun to hear the origin of songs like "Funny Face" and "S'marvelous".

Friday, September 16, 2005

The best thing about Kara Dalkey's Blood of the Goddess trilogy was that it (by a very random thought train) inspired me to start a new story that is going quite well. Actually I did enjoy the trilogy, although nothing much had really taken place by the time it was over. It starts out with a young apothecary's apprentice, Thomas Chinnery, en route to China to seek out new herbs and treatments for his master. A surprise battle at sea results in Thomas's capture, after he has met several strange people and resurrected a dead man with the use of a mysterious powder. An attempt at escape lands him in the Santa Casa, in the heart of the Spanish Inquisition, and his only way out is to lead a mission to discover the origin of that same powder. The characters are an interesting mix of English, Spanish, Arab, Hindu, and immortal, and the story kept me interested, although, as I say, to little end.

I've always liked Kara Dalkey, in part because she used to live in Lake City, CO, quite close to where I grew up, and one of her books (Crystal Sage) takes place in a very familiar setting. However, she does have trouble with endings. It's too bad, because she's a good writer, but I think it may be why Odious doesn't care for her books.

Suddenly I realize I have many things I want to share here... where to start? A few days ago I received a book in the mail from Mother Earth News; I'd been looking forward to its arrival, since I ordered it upon reading its review in the magazine, and had been greatly intrigued by the few pictures in the article. It's called Home Work, by Lloyd Kahn, and it surpassed my expectations like few other books have.

In preparation for building our house next summer, we've been reading a number of excellent books on the subject, but this one is by far the most inspiring. It's a collection of photos and notes about alternative-style houses around the world, and I'd be willing to move into almost any one of them. (Maybe not the driftwood shack.) Numerous ideas have been running through my head since finishing the book, and new possibilities have opened up, not to mention the welcome reaffirmation of certain plans. If you're at all interested in solar-powered homes, straw bale, log cabins, treehouses, yurts, or architecture in general, you'll love this book.

Another interesting read on the same topic was Richard Manning's A Good House. He's a reporter who decided to build a house after purchasing land in Montana, and made a little extra money off it by keeping a journal of the process. Though his pessimism and simple sentences (journalistic writing!) got a little wearing, as well as the lengthy description of the deed and mortgage problems, much of what he wrote was useful and interesting. I particularly liked his thoughts on passive solar and composting toilets (two features we also intend to implement), and the impact a house has on its environment.

This post is long enough, and I have other things to do, but next time I'll talk about the great movies I've been watching, and maybe post some cute kitty pictures now that I've figured out how to make that work.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Odious says I am not pastoral enough.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

It's come to me in a dream--the seventh book in the series will be Harry Potter and the Chef's Knife, detailing the adventures of Ron and Harry as they discover the secrets of Saint Theresa of Avila, who ate nothing but mayonnaise. Yes, I really did dream that, and would probably prefer to read such an absurdity than whatever J.K. Rowling comes up with next. After the Half-Blood Prince, I have no reason to read any further. All interest in the characters has been lost for me--I'm still extremely upset. I read the sixth book the day after it came out, and am just now getting around to posting about it, yet still I feel betrayed and apathetic at the same time. This may be a spoiler; I'm sorry.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Our new apartment boasts a rectangular nicho in each bedroom, a feature we like but have been unable to properly utilize, as they seem to call for large urns or unusual flower arrangements. But finally the cats have discovered their true use--the perfect spot for hauissh. As I could not possibly explain this very odd game, I will direct you to Diane Duane's most excellent Book of Night With Moon, and, perhaps, post some pictures at a later date. Meanwhile, you can just imagine how cute they are.
I've just spent an embarrassingly long time laughing over the archives on Waiter Rant--no matter where you go, restaurants are all the same. It's pretty amazing to work in a place where you can see both the best and worst of people, though (sadly) usually the latter. I've realized that there are inumerable ways for people to display their ignorance and cluelessness--the stories are endless. I had a customer yesterday--or perhaps it was the day before(this whole summer has blended into one long yesterday for me)--who asked what kind of ice cream we have. Without showing my weariness too much, I recited, "Vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, and chocolate chip."

He looked confused. "So--the vanilla, strawberry, chocolate--is that all one?"

Ummm... if I'd meant Neopolitan, I would've said Neopolitan...

The really appalling thing was when I related the incident to another server, who said he'd had the same experience! How are people so incredibly dumb?

But the real hilarity yesterday came when the owner's son (who we think was deprived of oxygen at birth) strolled into the bar around 9. The restaurant was catering a wedding offsite last night, and someone had called him to pick up some more alcohol. Of course, he'd decided he didn't have to remember whether it was vodka or gin because that same person was also supposed to call the restaurant with the order. Fortunately the bartender was prepared, and handed over four bottles of Chopin vodka with alacrity. Oxygen-deprived Son stared down at them for a minute, then looked up at us and said, "Do you think I have time for a drink?"

Chronologically he is a grown man, as well as being the owner's son, and we mere minions can hardly tell him what to do. But I think our expressions made the general opinion fairly clear as we looked at him, looked at each other, and shrugged helplessly. The bartender murmured diplomatically, "Well, they probably need it as soon as possible."

"Oh, well, I'll just have a Dirty Goose--that'll be quick," said Son, sitting down.

More shared looks, more shrugs, and the bartender slid a glass down the bar to him. He took a sip, then said, "Anyway, if they'd wanted it quick, they wouldn't've asked me."

Funny because it's true...

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The first time I tried to read How To Read A Book, I threw it across the room. In my defense, I was only sixteen, and Mortimer Adler can be that way sometimes. I am less sensitive to his pomposity now, and have decided that How To Read A Book should be a summer reading requirement for all tutors and students at St. John's. This is a particularly strong desire since we attended an alumni seminar in Seattle this weekend. It was led by Eva Brann, on Dostoevsky's short story "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man"--so far, so good. Those two elements were quite enjoyable. However, I was baffled by the attitudes of the other attendees. Being an alumni seminar, everyone there was 1), no longer attending SJC; 2), at the seminar voluntarily; and 3), unacquainted with anyone else (for the most part). These factors would cause me to assume that the discussion would be lively but mellow, with a united desire to understand the reading better and enjoy the insightful comments of our scholarly leader. How wrong I can be sometimes.

Actually, it was much like normal seminars at SJC, which made me realize that I DO NOT miss school. All the stereotypes were there, including the sunshine hippie who was disturbed by the negative connotations of the word "preacher", and the really-amazing-insight guy who was determined to convince us that the whole story was actually an allegory for the writing process. To be fair, there were several people who had quite intelligent things to say; however, I am already acquainted with most of them. (And for those of you who are wondering, no, I did not contribute to the conversation. I actually didn't plan to go at all, so was somewhat unprepared, but mostly I felt the way I did at SJC--I really didn't care what anyone else thought and had no desire to reveal my stunning insights to them. Or, in my sister-in-law's words, I didn't want to share with them, and didn't want them to share with me.)

St. John's is great in theory. And I really feel that Mortimer Adler could assist with the practice. One of the reasons I liked the book this time around was because I realized I do actually read the way he says one ought to (at least to some extent), and this is a rather unusual quality. Even at SJC people read to some purpose other than understanding, as if they want to "win" at seminar. We read the great books in order to understand ourselves better and, indeed, to seek the truth. Too many students (and tutors) allow themselves to be bound by fears and opinions and are unable to see truth in things they don't like. I take as example the Dostoevsky story. Ms. Brann several times brought up the question of religion, yet no one would consider the possibility of a true conversion experience, as if even thinking such a thing would somehow sully their liberal minds (though fortunately our dear Erin reminded everyone that this was, after all, 19th century Orthodox Russia). Now, there are plenty of books that expound ideas contradictory to my beliefs, yet I can still recognize some elements of truth in them. Also, I can accept an author's foundation in order to read his work, even if I don't agree with it in general. This doesn't seem difficult, but is apparently why Adler had to write his book.

Enough of annoying Johnnies. How To Read A Book is a book to which anyone interested in self-education should pay close attention. Even if you don't take the time to read it, consider these 4 questions the next time you read something of merit:
1. What is the book about as a whole?
2. What is the author saying in detail, and how?
3. Is it true?
4. What of it? (I.e., what do I make of it, and should I care?)

As well as being inspired to read better (and better books), I've decided to keep 4 kinds of books going at the same time, in order to keep my brain working and happy. Thus I am currently reading the following.
A work of poetry: Geography III, Elizabeth Bishop
A work of non-fiction: Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn, Penny Simkin
A work of literature: Sons and Lovers, D.H. Lawrence
A potato-chip book: Heir of Sea and Fire, Patricia McKillip

I'd like to break the non-fiction category in two or three, to delineate works of philosophy and religion, but that may be too adventurous at this point. For now, we'll see how the plan works.

Friday, August 12, 2005

25 reasons to homeschool. Not an exhaustive list by any means, but an amusing one!

Reading... in between work and company (after this summer I don't feel so lonely anymore!), which doesn't leave much time for blogging or anything else, really. I've been buying books and checking out enormous stacks from the library as if my life depended on it, and then realizing I just want to bury myself in fun fantasy and kid's lit--as usual. Mortimer Adler has been inspiring me, however, and I hope soon to get some better habits going.

Our new apartment is cozier and cooler, which is a blessing in this surprisingly hot Oregon summer, but since nothing on this earth can be perfect, we are surrounded by neighbors who smoke. YUCK! That stale scent wafting into my bedroom at night is nearly as disruptive as a boisterous party, but, unfortunately, much harder to complain about. I'm considering developing a severe allergy...

A quick recommendation for readers of all ages:

Butter on Both Sides and The Tie That Binds, by Lucille Watkins Ellison. Cherished favorites from my childhood, recently acquired from Amazon--sweet stories of life on a farm and old-fashioned family activities.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Elizabeth Hand's latest novel, Mortal Love, is probably the only book I've ever read where I had no idea what was going on until the last chapter. And even then it wasn't so clear. But it was fascinating enough that I persevered, and am still thinking about it several days later. It's about the Pre-Raphaelites, and the muse that gave them a glimpse into another world. Hand's style has not, unfortunately, improved with experience, and I got frustrated with being introduced to a new character and time period in every chapter, but the conclusion is lovely. I'd certainly recommend it, with the warning that all of her books are extremely weird; if you're interested in the Pre-Raphaelites you'll find it particularly interesting.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

According to my sister, I am among the 7% of women not suffering from an eating disorder. Of course, as Odious pointed out, one can hardly call it a disorder at that percentage; rather, it's simply female behavior (I wonder if it's a recent development?). Anyway, I can honestly say that I am not obsessed with my weight, eating habits, or physical image. I'm interested in nutrition (Superfoods!), and like to be healthy, but I absolutely REFUSE to count Weight Watcher points or learn how many calories in an olive. There are much more interesting things to do in life.

For instance--reading! I just finished Ursula K. LeGuin's A Wizard of Earthsea, which I'd read a long time ago and been bored by, and this time around I liked it quite a bit more. It made me realize that I probably should revisit some books I read in high school; since my reading horizons have expanded, I'd probably appreciate things I didn't then. Actually, I'm surprised I didn't care for LeGuin, since her style reminds me a bit of Tolkien with its sort of legendary omniscience. Maybe it was the lack of action that bored me--this first one at least is less a story than a character development, so I'm interested to read the next two, or three, or four, or however many it ended up being after it wasn't a trilogy.

I also just read Madeleine L'Engle's An Acceptable Time, another one I'm sure I read as a teenager (some of it is vaguely familiar). The problem I've always had with her books is keeping the chronology and relationships straight; they're so interconnected that it's difficult to read any out of sequence. I can't figure out if the Murrys and Austins know each other or not, which makes things even more confusing. Anyway, this one is about Polly, who is Calvin and Meg's daughter, visiting her grandparents, who are among my favorite characters ever (I love that they cook over a Bunsen burner!) even though I rarely understand what they're talking about. What I find interesting but somewhat frustrating about L'Engle's books is that they always seem to be building up to some future climax--there are always great portents, and each book concerns a small but vital occurence. Maybe that's her philosophy--that everything that happens is for a reason, and even if you don't understand it, good must triumph so that the world can continue. Hmm. Anyway...

Friday, June 24, 2005

I drank too much alcohol last night, got too little sleep, drank too much coffee at work, am working a double today, and haven't eaten anything since breakfast. What better conditions under which to post? Anyway, I've been catching up on blogs, and for the first time in a while felt like writing something here.

I'd been wanting to read Wives and Daughters for a while, since I like Elizabeth Gaskell despite North and South, but after a friend told me that the BBC adaptation was the cult movie at her school (preferred over "Pride and Prejudice"!), I knew I had to read the book (as well as see the film, if I can find it). I was surprised at how long it took me to get into the novel; for at least the first ten chapters I had to convince myself to keep going in hopes of it getting better. Fortunately it did, and I was fascinated to observe an incredible writing skill unfold before me. Many books include characters that at first seem pleasant and then turn nasty, but my opinions of nearly all the characters in this book changed over the course of reading it. One in particular I found effective because of her resemblance to someone of my acquaintance--she was at first presented as a sweet, kind, gentle governess, whose position in life caused her to be much pitied and sympathized with; clearly, a character that the reader is intended to like. As the novel progressed and her situation began to change, she was slowly revealed to be shockingly self-centered and manipulative--and it came convincingly out of her previous behavior. The heroine went through an opposite transformation, from a rather dull and mealy-mouthed child to a woman who knew herself and stood up for her beliefs despite being constantly beleaguered by those around her.

The plot of this novel was fairly simple and predictable, but that's not why one reads Mrs Gaskell. (If you want plot twists, read Minette Walters!) Like all her novels, this one can be summarized as the development of a girl into a woman, and a look at quiet village life. Molly Gibson is not a great heroine, but she is an interesting one, and the way she deals with the difficult people in her life is admirable.

Friday, June 17, 2005

I apologize to anyone who's been checking my blog lately. I have had barely enough time to check my email, and am not feeling at all inspired to write. I'll post again later on, but for the moment I'm going to withdraw from the blogosphere. TTFN!

Monday, May 16, 2005

See also where it began and other takes on the meme.
I found this meme at Semicolon, and had to spend some time thinking about it before attempting my own. It came out rather suddenly this morning after my shower, and though there's much more I could have said, this is what fell onto the page. Tomorrow I might write a different one.

Where I Am From...

I am from bright hard winter mornings, sun glittering off the snow, thermometer stuck at fifteen below; bundled in snowpants and boots to feed the horse snorting in great white billows, and the poultry eager for fresh hot water to bathe their chilly toes.

I am from wood floors, wood stoves, and red geraniums on sunny afternoons.

I am from homemade bread, handsewn jumpers, and a house open to all.

I am from music, everywhere, several kinds at once: piano, violin, recorder, Bach upstairs and Amy Grant downstairs.

I am from skiing and softball and the patientest teacher; I am from tea parties, doll houses, mud pies, and a long, long childhood.

I am from potlucks and Bible verses and families; I am from drama so deep it consumes.

I am from stacks of library books, and reading till senseless.

I am from Aristotle, Jane Austen, Kierkegaard, and C.S. Lewis; I am from thinking and talking and laughing myself silly.

I am from wonder and worth and warmth; I am from abundance.

Friday, April 29, 2005

My life of leisure is over, thank heaven. I've acquired a second job as a server at the Sweet Oregon Grill, where I hope to work as much as possible and make vats of money. This is unlikely, but we can still hope.

I recently read both Delia Sherman's novels, which I have mixed feelings about. The Porcelain Dove was, I think, the better book, but didn't hold my interest as well and collapsed a bit at the end. As for the other--though I knew Sherman and Ellen Kushner were an item, I didn't realize until I started reading Through a Brazen Mirror that it was considered "queer fiction" (how irritated I am to lose that most excellent word!). Hrmph. My main comment is that if you can't even make homosexuality normal in a fantasy setting (it's YOUR OWN WORLD--you can do whatever you want with it!), I'm not going to be very convinced that it's normal in the real world.

I had other things to talk about, but my brain is too scattered. So I leave you with this highly unsatisfactory post.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

I'll have to remember this. It reminds me a lot of the descriptions of birth in Spiritual Midwifery, though without the psychedelic grooviness.

My mind is a whirlpool of thoughts today, brought on a number of things. Every time I visit my mother's new house, I want to stay there out in the country, away from the craziness of this life. And things are really crazy right now, with finances, plans for the future, a new job, etc... But I'm also continuing to chew over the ideas in Beyond the Shadowlands--what a great book. I'll have to jot down the dialogue going through my head as I read, and if it's sharable I'll post it. My brain is getting some much-needed exercise, plus I'm inspired to re-read all of C.S. Lewis' books. Hard to ask for much more from a book!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

A few lines from Wendell Berry:

I go among trees and sit still.
All my stirring becomes quiet
around me like circles on water.
My tasks lie in their places
where I left them, asleep like cattle.

from A Timbered Choir
I've given up on Seeds of Deception. I was going to be diligent and at least skim through the rest of the book, but I just couldn't. Rob Waller, Mind and Media's Reviewer of the Week, was kinder than I was, but still said about the same things. It's just not very good! However, I've started on my next book, and it is excellent. Of course, it's hard not to be excellent when you're talking about C.S. Lewis, but I'm sure there are those who could manage it.

Wayne Martindale is a scholar who's spent years studying and teaching on Lewis, and has written a lucid, intelligent book called Beyond the Shadowlands, about Lewis's views of heaven and hell. This is something not talked about much, since no one can claim to have true knowledge of the subject, but as I read this book I'm realizing how important it is for Christians to know. There are so many people who have no concept of heaven and hell, picturing the former as eternity spent sitting on clouds and strumming harps, and the latter a fiery pit with pitch-forked demons. Frankly, neither image is particularly appealling or particularly distressing. We need to look forward to heaven with yearning and cringe from the thought of hell, and we need to be able to inform non-Christians about these things as well. Lewis had amazing insights about the after-life, often using mythology to illustrate his point, and Martindale does an excellent job of gathering the information into one place and elucidating on it. I know I need to hurry up and finish it so I can get on to the next book, but I want to savor every word and give myself time to think about the ideas. There've been precious few books on my nightstand lately that have given me food for thought, and this is a welcome change. Highly recommended.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

After talking with Jack about midwife and doula training, I decided to go to the library and pick up a couple of books on the subject. Bad idea. As if the biological clock weren't ALREADY in overdrive! Last week I read Catherine Taylor's Giving Birth, and while the first part made me mad, I loved the second part and have been freaking Odious out by occasionally sighing about how much I want a baby. Taylor is a journalist who decided to research natural childbirth after becoming pregnant with her second child, and shadowed a number of different midwives in order to write a book to inform women of their options. Having been born at home myself, I've always had a definite opinion on the subject, and am tremendously grateful to my mother for making my first experience in the world a wonderful one, and for creating an immediate strong bond between us. I think it's one of the reasons that my family is so intimate! It's unfortunate that most women don't know how safe natural home birth is, and how much more pleasant and fulfilling than a drugged, induced hospital birth. I got very angry reading the first part of this book, as she describes her experience with nurse-midwives and the birthing center in a hospital--I suppose it's better than most hospital births, but for women expecting traditional midwife care it would be greatly disappointing. In the second part, however, she trains to be a doula, attends several home births, and finally decides to give birth at home herself. It's wonderful and inspiring and I can't wait.

Friday, April 08, 2005

In honor of National Poetry Month, a few lines from one of my favorite poets:

Myself unholy, from myself unholy
To the sweet living of my friends I look--
Eye-greeting doves bright-counter to the rook,
Fresh brooks to salt sand-teasing waters shoaly:--
And they are purer, but alas! not solely
The unquestion'd readings of a blotless book.
And so my trust confused, struck, and shook
Yields to the sultry siege of melancholy.
He has a sin of mine, he its near brother,
Knowing them well I can but see the fall.
This fault in one I found, that in another:
And so, though each have one while I have all,
better serves me now save best; no other,
Save Christ; to Christ I look, on Christ I call.

--Gerard Manley Hopkins

His rhythm is beautiful--perfect for reading aloud. I've loved his work ever since sitting in on a senior oral exam at St. John's and being amazed that a whole 25-page essay could be written on one poem.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Catching up on blogs after only a weekend away is quite a task! I guess I'm not quite so dedicated a blogger as some... But I had a lovely weekend, marred only by Odious's absence--thanks to a scheduling snafu at work, he was unable to join me and our friends in Seattle on a delightful trip to Victoria. I'd decided when we moved here that I was not about to waste my proximity to another country again--it's most appalling, I think, that despite being hours away from Mexico for 7 years, I never took the time to visit that country. So, now I can add Canada to my short list, and will certainly return at the soonest opportunity.

Despite two of our party possessing passports still under our maiden names (one of which--not mine--was also 4 years expired!), we crossed the border with no problems and caught the ferry from Tsawwassen in good time. I may, at some point, post photos, but they are not developed as yet. The trip through the islands was calm and beautiful, and views of the rugged remote forests and mossy coasts put me immediately in mind of Charles de Lint--he describes just this sort of country in Memory and Dream and The Wild Wood . Once in Victoria, we eventually found our hostel on the Esquimalt peninsula, and knew ourselves blessed. It's an old house on the water, and could easily have been an expensive B&B with its lovely grounds and charming private rooms, but fortunately for us, the owner (who also works as a clown along with her companion Spike the Wonder Dog) has kept it shockingly inexpensive and inviting to the impecunious. Some of those latter seem to have made the place their semi-permanent home, which only adds to its charm--we chatted with three men, and others appeared out of the woodwork during our stay. One of my favorite things was the trampoline in the backyard, but the treehouse, canoes and kayaks, three dogs, two cats, chickens, rabbits, and guinea pigs were awesome too. And, after a good night's sleep, we investigated the mysterous "office" and found it to be a cosy little kitchen with a dining table set for breakfast. While chatting with the owner about her upcoming gigs, we feasted on cereal, toast, yoghurt, a delectable fruit salad, oj, coffee, and tea, all off beautiful china on a real tablecloth. Yes, this was a hostel--a far cry from the barracks of London and Paris!

Though I could have easily spent the entire weekend at the hostel, we had a wonderful time poking about Victoria, dining at both the city's vegan restaurants (the joys of Orthodox Lent!), which were actually quite good; enjoying live music (Peter, Paul, and Mary with a Celtic flair) in a pub; buying goodies from Roger's Chocolates; and wandering along the waterfront. We also spent a long time in the Maritime Museum, which turned out to be much more fascinating than I might have expected. The best part was the first section, which covered local history and the history of shipping in Canada--amazingly interesting, with lots of placards that were well-written and full of history. Since I hadn't had much time to read, I found myself devouring the words of the said placards--maybe why I enjoyed it so much... But it made me realize that not only do I know nothing about Canada (other than the two facts unknown to my companions, viz., that the country has a prime minister rather than a president, and that it is part of the British Commonwealth), but I know so little of world history! There's so much to know, and after reading How the Irish Saved Civilization, I'm realizing how everything is connected, and one small action may have huge consequences over the course of time. So now I'm inspired to read history and get myself eddicated. I think I'll start with that Stephen Ambrose book about Lewis and Clark, which I've been meaning to read since we moved here.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

I'm mad at Eleanor Cameron. I was really enjoying The Court of the Stone Children until I decided to look up the French artist Jean Louis Baptiste Chrysostome who features greatly in the novel. After twenty minutes on the Internet, I was forced to admit that he does not exist--she made him up! It makes me so mad because I loved the descriptions of his paintings and really wanted to see them to help me appreciate the story. It's just like A.S. Byatt's trick in Possession. Well, it was a good book anyway--a story of a little girl who wants to be "something in a museum" (a curator), and whose love of things from the past helps her to solve a two hundred-year-old mystery.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Personality Disorder Test Results
Paranoid || 10%
Schizoid |||||||||||||||| 66%
Schizotypal |||||||||||||| 58%
Antisocial |||||||||||| 50%
Borderline |||||| 22%
Histrionic |||||| 30%
Narcissistic |||||||||||| 46%
Avoidant |||||| 26%
Dependent |||||||||| 34%
Obsessive-Compulsive |||||||||||||||| 66%
Take Free Personality Disorder Test
personality tests by

Huh. This actually seems pretty accurate, after reading the descriptions of the disorders, although I definitely don't think I'm schizotypal. Schizoid and OCD, though...

Via Badaunt

UPDATE: Odious also took this test, but decided not to post his results as they were... um... rather more extreme than mine. Oh, the shock.
After watching the new Bollywood film "Bride and Prejudice" (an excellent movie), I was inspired to check out from the library the work of two Indian authors, Jhumpa Lahiri and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Though the former has apparently won some award or other, I found her short story collection, Interpreter of Maladies, greatly inferior to all the books I've read by the latter. Divakaruni possesses the knack of creating rich stories and sympathetic characters while evoking culture and heritage and country in her style. Of the two books I just read, Sister of My Heart and its sequel The Vine of Desire, I liked the first one best even though it was clearly intended to have a sequel. The story follows the relationship between Anju and Sudha, girl cousins raised in the same house and so close they are more like twins in their intuition and intimacy. As they grow older the bond between them necessarily changes with experiences, but love, tragedy, secrets, husbands, pregnancy, and a move to America cannot keep them apart. I loved Sudha and the core of strength she possessed that kept her from compromising herself when she saw how harmful it could be, and I wished Anju had learned from her instead of retreating into victim-mode. Together the two books provided an interesting portrait of people who allow things in life to change them and people who change themselves.

Friday, March 25, 2005

I like Mother Earth News a lot. It's practical, useful, and inspiring, and it encourages individuals to change the world by starting in their own homes. Hence I'm disturbed when an article seems to contradict the purpose of the magazine with a statement like this:
...the environment has lost some of its sizzle as an electoral issue. The biggest issues in the last election appear to have been terrorism, the Iraq war, abortion, affordable health care and gay marriage. Although anyone looking back on this election 100 years form now will see climate disruption as vastly more important than any of these issues, few people voted in 2004 on the basis of climate policies or any other environmental issues. April/May 2005
Besides being impossible to prove, it's unrealistic--let's fix the whole world first, then worry about the problems right here at home, in our hearts and our families. I'm quick to agree that our planet is in trouble (though perhaps not as dire as one might be led to think), but so is our society, and claiming that one issue is greater than the other could be catastrophic. What's the use of saving the earth if we neglect the children of God? Do we really care more about the baby whales than the baby humans?

Environmentalism is important--the slaughter of innocents should no more occur in the wild than it should in abortion clinics--and at this point we probably do need loud-mouthed leaders for the cause, but they shouldn't try to emphasize one issue by scoffing at the others. What Mother Earth News tries to do is tremendously effective when it works, and that is to teach people to live their individual lives as if they were as important as the entire world. God requires us to be good stewards of every aspect of our lives--we can't neglect one thing in favor of another.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Once again I learn that not everyone can be a writer--or a good writer, at least--no matter how interesting the story to be told. I picked up On the Wing hopeful of a captivating narrative about falcons, but sadly Alan Tennant doesn't possess the knack for such an endeavor. His story is an unusual one, and I enjoyed reading about his travels, but he made the mistake of keeping too close to the actual experiences. There was no plot, no over-arcing connection to bind the adventures together. My editing fingers always start to itch when I read something like this that could have been so much better!

Yet I wouldn't discourage anyone from reading the book. Alan Tennant is a falcon research who spent several months following the migratory route of falcons from Texas to Alaska, and then back down to South America. It's a fascinating adventure as he and his pilot rattle across the country in a plane rather like the Millenium Falcon--they cross borders semi-legally, make emergency landings in the jungle, fly through a raptor "freeway", and are ecstatic every moment that the radio transmitter beeps and keeps them on the trail of the falcons. I couldn't bring myself to care much about his on-again off-again relationship with his long-suffering girlfriend, and the book ends on a note more bitter than sweet, but it was certainly worth reading--as is most anything about falcons.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Lars Walker says what I've been thinking about literature, and tried to express in my post on Virginia Woolf.
I found this meme at The Library of Babel, who in turn found it at The Little Professor. Which authors have you read ten or more books by?

L.M. Montgomery (she's the winning author on our bookshelves for number of books we own by one person--it's something like 25)
Charles de Lint (he's in 2nd or 3rd, vying with James Branch Cabell)
Louisa May Alcott
C.S. Lewis
Agatha Christie
Ellis Peters/Edith Pargeter
Charles Dickens
Jane Austen (if you count absolutely everything she wrote, including juvenilia and letters, I think that's somewhere around ten)
Ruth Rendell
Tamora Pierce
Robin Hobb/Megan Lindholm
Maud Hart Lovelace
Beverly Cleary
Patricia Wrede
Elizabeth Peters
Patricia McKillip
Roald Dahl
E. Nesbit
Laura Ingalls Wilder
William Shakespeare
Madeleine L'Engle
Gladys Taber
A.S. Byatt
Robin McKinley
Elizabeth George
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Marguerite Henry
Walter Farley
Connie Willis
P.G. Wodehouse

That's all I can come up with for now, though I'm not including the various authors of Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, etc. It's not as long a list as I would've expected, but of course, there are the authors who I would read ten books by if they'd written that many (yeah, Brontes, I'm talkin' to you).

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

You may have noticed the Mind and Media logo on my sidebar, just below the links--yes, I am an EXCLUSIVE REVIEWER. That's right. Ahem. Anyway, Mind and Media is a new business intended to help promote Christian authors via the blogging world, as well as being, in my understanding, a bit of an experiment to show how much of an impact blogs can have on advertising. I came across it either on Brandywine Books or a subsequent link, and thought it sounded like fun--get free books, talk about them on the blog, and, of course, become an EXCLUSIVE REVIEWER.

So I got my first book the other day. I'm supposed to post a logo of it, but can't figure out the HTML yet--maybe later. It's called Seeds of Destruction: Planting Destruction of America's Children, written and self-published by Georgiana Preskar and available from Amazon. First of all, the subtitle has got to go. It doesn't make much sense, and sounds as the author's goal is to destroy America's children, when in fact she's crying out against that destruction by society. Secondly, I'm beginning to realize that it simply isn't true that anyone can be a writer. Setting aside the issue of simple sentences and poor punctuation, there are people who just don't know how to tell a story. Ms. Preskar begins the book with an introduction that seems to lay a good foundation with the information that her town was just another quiet town until one man made national news by trying to get rid of "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. Great, thought I, so she's going to start here and show how our society is corrupted by these small actions. Then the first couple of chapters describe her and her husband's desperate grief when their son leaves for college. Besides being thrown off course, I found it disturbing that her son living 20 minutes away dragged her into such devastation and aimlessness. Maybe I'll understand when I'm a parent...

So far I've skimmed through nine chapters of the book. While I do agree with her general view that society is corrupting children, she needs at the very least a good editor (the book was edited by her family), or ideally a ghost writer. She doesn't know how to focus or create an argument, so each chapter leads to a new tangent and fresh rant on Nazis, homosexuality, TV violence--it's too much. I'm disappointed, because it sounded like an interesting book, but we'll see if things improve as I continue to read.

I should also mention that Mind and Media would like to have as many bloggers involved as possible, so visit the website if you're interested in receiving free books!

Friday, March 18, 2005

Sherry of Semicolon has asked if Virginia Woolf is indeed a militant feminist and hence to be avoided, or if she should take her daughter's advice and read her books. Now, in my somewhat vague mind militant feminism has something to do with bra-burning, so I'm not quite sure how to answer the question... I always take a book with me to work, since there is usually some down time where I haven't anything else to do. The servers, if they're not too busy either, will often come up and ask what I'm reading, and one guy in particular is always very interested. After a phase in which I'd brought in Elizabeth Gaskell, Virginia Woolf, and various other women authors, he asked if I ever read anything written by a man or if I was a feminist. Well, of course I read things written by men, but I didn't really know how to answer him either, partly because I find such labels limiting. Hence my highly articulate response: "Uh...I don't know." Another server standing nearby asked, "Well, do you shave your legs?" "Heavens, no!" said I promptly. She turned to the first server. "She's a feminist." This is the long way of saying I don't really know what a feminist is. I believe in the equality of human rights for everyone--men, women, children--and I think all three have been subjected to injustice over the course of history. If I'd lived--I was going to say during the time of suffrage, but really any time before now, I would certainly have joined in the women's rights movement, and I'm glad to live in a time when I can vote and get a job and support myself if necessary. On the other hand, I don't really want a career or success--just a family and quiet home life. But I think that's the goal of feminism, to give women that choice.

Virginia Woolf was concerned about the role of women in society. She gives examples of the common view of the time throughout all her novels, but I think most shockingly in The Voyage Out. I'd have to speak up too if I heard a real person say what Mr Dalloway does, in reference to suffragists picketing Parliament: "Nobody can condemn the utter folly and futility of such behaviour more than I do; and as for the whole agitation, well! may I be in my grave before a woman has the right to vote in England!" To make it worse, his wife agrees with him. Woolf found it imperative to reveal this idea of women as inferior, and call, in her own way, for equality. She does not claim that men and women are the same, but that they deserve equal basic human rights and acknowledgement.

That said, there's much more to her books than the subject of women's rights, just as there's much more to Dickens than the issue of poverty. I think all authors have some sort of social commentary woven into their writing--it's part of literature and part of life. We can learn so much from fiction that is more difficult to learn from philosophy and theology texts; after all, Jesus knew what he was doing when he told parables. But Virginia Woolf also has much to say, as I mentioned in my previous post, on the progression of life and thought within a seeking mind. Her writing makes me feel more myself than most other books, and more aware of my thought process, growth, and femininity; furthermore, like Jane Austen, I feel her effect on my own writing style. For these things I value her, as well as for her sparkling prose and rich characters.

I just discovered Vita Sackville-West, who is similar to Virginia Woolf (they were friends) in her writing and subject matter. Rebecca West and Willa Cather are also excellent authors of the period.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

I was feeling a little hungry for food writing the other day, so I picked up one of my favorites--M.F.K. Fisher's The Art of Eating. It's an omnibus of five of her books, some of which are amusingly revised. I like them all, but I think my particular favorite is The Gastronomical Me, mainly because it gives her personal history with food. It gets a little odd at the end, with vague mentions of her various partners in later life, but I always like reading about people's childhoods, especially the unusual ones.

How To Cook A Wolf was a welcome read as I'm trying to feed us economically--she describes how to cook cheaply yet still eat well. Of course, there's also the recipe for "Sludge", a dish for one's most impecunious times that I hope never to try. But it's good to be reminded that an excellent meal can be made of, for instance, eggs and a few vegetables--omelette, frittata, souffle, etc. Though I wouldn't call my cooking gourmet, I tend to think of beans and rice as my only options for inexpensive rations.

Serve It Forth is fun--a look at food throughout the ages, with much time spent on the oddities of medieval courts. It's interesting to realize how ideas about food have changed over the years. Even some of the things Fisher mentions as a normal part of her diet fifty years ago seem a bit unsavory to me, though not nearly as bad as the popular medieval seasoning of the liquid from fermented fish guts. Yum!

I read Consider the Oyster trying to think of the main ingredient as something other than the slippery, rubbery, briny, sandy object I gamely swallowed a couple of years ago after Odious and Peculiar had assured me of their merits. I want props for that willingness to try it, since afterwards I heartily agreed with Jack's description of the taste as like "licking the ocean floor". Anyway, I'm sorry I can't enjoy them with the same ecstasy that others, especially Fisher, seem to, but I must say they really are among the most disgusting things I've ever had in my mouth.

Not much to say about An Alphabet for Gourmets--sort of a smorgasbord of commentary, with various recipes. Fun, but not her best. Still, the entire collection is worth reading, and necessary for anyone serious about food.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

After making an attempt to read Kate Dicamillo's The Tale of Despereaux and finding it unpleasantly self-aware and poorly-written (maybe I should've read the whole thing, but I really don't know how it got a Newbery Award!), I was hesitant about Because of Winn-Dixie. Oddly enough it was the review of the recently released movie that inspired me to try the book, and I am so glad I did. I read it straight through when I was sick the other day, and it brightened my morning tremendously--I even laughed out loud several times, which rarely happens. Everything about the story was so sweet and genuine--a perfect children's book and an excellent one for adults to pick up now and then. I think one of the things I like about juvenile fiction is that it reminds me how the world can be viewed innocently and optimistically, and how rewarding simple things can be. If only we could keep that childlike ability to approach everyone in the same way, without the judgmental and critical qualities that grow with age.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Well, I thought I was done blogging for the day, but then I went surfing and found some memes to try and stuff to link to... so enjoy, you get extra for once.

Quite a few folks have done the meme about the first five movie quotes to pop into your head, so I won't try to attribute it to anyone. Here are mine--and this was hard (but fun), I'm not good at these things:

1. "'I know I'm different, but from now on I'm gonna try to be the same.' 'Same as what?' 'Same as people who aren't different.'" --What's Up, Doc?
2. "I'm so degradatated!" --Little Women
3. "That'll put marzipan in your pie plate, Bingo!" --Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 6
4. "I'll always remember what she wrote in the card--'Jesus loves winners.'" --Drop Dead Gorgeous
5. "She can have them--yes! I'll take them to her!" --The Two Towers

There are a couple other things I want to post, but I'm expecting a call about a job sometime this afternoon and don't want to stay online too long. So I'll save the rest for later, and end with this link to Semicolon's list of 100 things to do when you're bored.
Well, looks like once again my mother's gotten me hooked on something. She's been staying with us for the past month while she works on renovating the farmhouse she just bought, and as a treat after the long days of labor she's reading "potato chip" books--mysteries and thrillers of various ilk. I'm not sure what made her pick up Minette Walters, but as soon as she finishes one she has to stop at Barnes & Noble for the next. Anyway, she seemed so involved that I had to try one for myself, and of course burned through it in a night. More of a crime novel than a mystery, The Ice House is much darker and more twisted than any book I've read previously, yet I found myself addicted! I may not make them a steady diet, but I've already
picked up The Dark Room and will probably have to go through the rest that my mother's bought.

What I particularly liked about The Ice House was how much information was simply assumed by the detectives, the supporting characters, and, naturally, the reader. The main characters made it all too easy for generalizations to be made about them, which I found an interesting psychological trick. Also, while I love Inspector Wexford, Adam Dalgliesh, Benson and Stabler, etc, it was nice to see some detecting perhaps closer to reality. The officials on the case were far from sympathetic or objective, and often almost vindictive, while the other characters showed continued depth throughout the novel as well.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

I've been thinking about titles. It's always been difficult for me to come up with meaningful titles for my own stories--it's definitely an art, and one that I think few people possess. Certainly many writers have needed great help from their editors in choosing appropriate ones (which of the following screams classic to you--The Great Gatsby or Petruchio in West Egg?). One of the things I don't like about fantasy and mystery novels is that the titles often have so little to do with the story that I can't remember, after reading them, what they're about! Then, of course, there are the exceptions where the title is a succinct summary of the plot and adds little meaning or insight.

I began thinking about this as I was pondering a post on Virginia Woolf's The Voyage Out. Someone had asked me what the book was about, and I realized that in many ways it is indeed a voyage out. It's exactly the right way to describe the book, which is the story of a young girl "coming of age", if you will, beginning as a literal voyage on her father's ship with family friends who help draw her out of her innocent childhood into some understanding of life. Though the first of Woolf's novels, it has the same dexterity as later ones in illustrating the growth and progression of human life and thought. She tends to write about people who choose to progress, and are surrounded by many who have stunted themselves in a variety of ways; in this novel, the heroine Rachel seeks to know life and become someone, while her supposedly liberal and open-minded friend Helen is caught in her own web of superiority and cleverness.

Though I've never disliked any of Virginia Woolf's books (except perhaps The Waves, which, while again possessing an excellent and self-descriptive title, was rather too abstract for my pedestrian tastes), I particularly enjoyed this one and will be glad to peruse it again. I was surprised to find that Clarissa Dalloway was one of the secondary characters--and I didn't care for her at all! I assume it was the same woman as in the later novel, and perhaps Woolf decided to plumb her depths and discover what lay beneath the proper, party-giving, social veneer. Most illuminating. There's another interesting title--there's not much to the novel besides Mrs Dalloway, and it is at once who she is and who she is trying to escape. Neat. Then there's A Room of One's Own, although maybe that's cheating since it's not a novel, but it is the central idea of the book. I can't say much about To The Lighthouse, since it's been too long since last I read it, but again I think it's literal as well as symbolic.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Since the kind nod from Brandywine Books, I've had a flattering number of hits that have shamed me into posting. I've spent the past week reading about three books a day (it was kind of a bad week), yet I haven't much to say about any of them--mostly fantasy and juvenile fiction. Not that those aren't worth reviewing, but when I read that many at a time they all sort of blend together. A few of note:

Jenna Starborn, by Sharon Shinn. Oddly enough, an SF retelling of Jane Eyre. One of those things that either really works or really doesn't, and somehow in this case it worked. While the author stayed fairly close to the story, simply updating the time period, she cleverly changed a few things that made it her own yet kept the same feeling and atmosphere of the original. I really liked this, and will certainly try Sharon Shinn again.

Cart and Cwidder and Drowned Ammet, by Diana Wynne Jones. These are the first two books of the Dalemark Quartet, and I'm not quite sure how they're going to tie together, other than the common thread of rebellion and revolution. However, both were excellent stories on their own, which I always appreciate in a series, and Jones has a great style. (Also she grew up in Thaxted, a lovely little village in England that I was privileged enough to visit a few years ago.)

The Worldwide Dessert Contest, by Dan Elish. A very old favorite from my childhood--a funny, lighthearted story of a man who keeps coming in last in the dessert contest because at the last minute his desserts always turn into other things like trampolines, knee pads, super glue... Enter the rhyming Captain B. Rollie Ragoon and his roller-skating apple pies! Lots of fun.

The Winter Oak, by James A. Hetley. The sequel to The Summer Country, which I liked a great deal. Both are just the kind of fantasy I enjoy--urban, or mythic, as it's called. If only the characters weren't always abuse victims... Ah well. The scientist witch/cyber pagan in these books makes up for that.

Treve, by Albert Payson Terhune. I picked this up at a used bookstore in Portland for 35 cents! His Lad of Sunnybank books were among my favorites as a child, and this is one I read as well but didn't remember. A sentimental, manipulative, and perfectly wonderful story about, of course, a collie, and two men who own a sheep ranch.

A Stir of Bones, by Nina Kiriki Hoffman. This is a prequel to a couple of her other books, which I won't name because her titles are much less memorable than the books themselves and I can never keep them straight. Anyway, it's about 4 children who discover a haunted house, and is a good backstory though somewhat thin on its own.

There are a few other books I want to post about at greater length, but as they are somewhat more edifying literature I think I will save them for another time.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Turns out Hugh Laurie is nearly as funny as P.G. Wodehouse! Makes me want to see the episodes again as well as reread the books, but since we just went to the library and I again ended up with a huge stack, perhaps they'll wait for another day.

Via Brandywine Books.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Well, I'm heartened to discover via my sitemeter that there are quite a few people out there reading Anne Bronte. Unfortunately it's clearly for a class, since they seem to be too lazy even to go to a store and buy the cliffnotes ("summery [sic] of anne bronte agnes grey", etc). No summaries OR summeries here, suckers! I must confess sometimes I am tempted to, as Odious once did with the word "ninja" to affect the old banner ads on Blogger, put up a post of the names of bestselling authors, interspersed with "review", "summary", and "synopsis". But I refrain.

I'm trying to prepare our cats for this afternoon's arrival of my mother and her two dogs and two cats. I don't think they quite understand, although Finn clearly senses something is going to happen, as he's been extremely affectionate all day. Lizzy just yowls, but that's hardly out of the ordinary. She's been particularly annoying lately ever since they destroyed one of their old favorite toys and consequently created a new superfavorite toy. A friend of ours bought them a toy called the bird last summer, and it is really an excellent gadget--a bunch of feathers tied to a string tied to a long flexible rod. When swung through the air it makes a soft swooshing sound that they find most tantalizing, and will leap magnificently to catch and disembowel it. Well, as with all pet toys, it finally met its end when the string broke and they carried off the remains to a unknown hiding place. Now, however, they find the remaining string tied to the rod an even better toy than any we've conceived of yet. Lizzy spends about half the day (and night!) lying on top of it yowling piteously at everyone who comes near. It's pathetic, but mostly really, really annoying.

I did start this post with the intention of writing something about books--not much, but something. Oh yes, since someone found the blog with a search for Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South, I thought I'd mention that it's not nearly as good as others of hers that I've read. The heroine was much too wimpy, for all that Mrs. Gaskell tried to describe her as strong and righteous, and I was so disappointed that she ended up marrying who she did. From the moment he was introduced it was clear they'd end up together, and yet I kept hoping... He was kind of a jerk. Anyway, Cranford and Mary Barton are much better, so I'll just write this off as the one she wished she hadn't written.

Also, I've now read The Sound and the Fury. I can cross it off my list. At some point I may possibly read another Faulkner novel, since I did like The Reivers, and found Go Down, Moses fascinating, but on the other hand I may stick to books with apostrophes.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Internet is a scary thing. Some days I get on to check my email, look at friends' blogs, and then I'm done simply because I can't think of anything else to do. Then there are days when I understand how Odious can spend hours on end surfing the web. After clicking on a "next blog" button this evening and discovering, for once, a well-written and interesting site called The Anchored Nomad, I found myself swept away in a wonderfully interesting tide of literary blogs and sites. One leads to another, which leads to four others... Everyone's making note of Arthur Miller's death, which I must say excites little emotion in me, but I did learn that Pride and Prejudice has been named the most romantic novel of all time. I couldn't agree more; however, I was rather perturbed to find that Rebecca ranked #4 in the poll. Maybe all the people who voted are also the strange people who adore Laurence Olivier, but I'm having a hard time imagining a less romantic novel! Both the book and the movie give me shivers, and the characters are both impossible to relate to and hopelessly unsuited for each other. Ah well. My take on books is often quite different from the general one.

Other excellent finds: Brandywine Books and The Discerning Reader.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The only thing I don't like about reading a really good, captivating book (a Thumping Good Read, as dubbed by The Common Reader) is the feeling of loss once it's finished. No other book can fill the void, and I flit from tome to tome in the vain hopes of finding something to sweep me utterly away again. And then, very occasionally, I'm lucky enough to light upon an unexpected book that does just that.

Though I've read Elizabeth Moon's The Deed of Paksenarrion several times, in my opinion it ranks among the best fantasy--even the best fiction--ever written, and each reading only makes me lov eit more. Moon's prose is simple yet captivating, and the story a riveting one, with a nearly perfect heroine. With every reading my admiration of Paks grows--she possesses the quality of doing and saying, always, what she believes to be right, without being influenced by anyone else. Reading of her steady, quiet, honest journey from sheepfarmer's daughter to paladin chokes me up, and the many trials that she endures only serve to make her stronger. She is not particularly intelligent or good or brave in herself, but her strength of will and faith are astounding.

This may, in some poor fashion, serve to illustrate my condition after reading the last page of this trilogy a week or so ago. I cast about for something, anything, to content me again, and happened to alight upon a recently acquired novel by Arturo Perez-Reverte. I'd read his The Club Dumas on Odious' recommendation, and enjoyed it greatly until the unfortunately disappointing ending (he built it up way too much, and there was no way it could ever conclude satisfactorily). When I saw The Flanders Panel in a used bookstore, I was willing to give him another chance, and am quite glad I did.

The heroine is a young art restorer named Julia, who has been given a little-known yet valuable Flemish painting to restore its original condition so that it can be sold. During the process, however, she uncovers (literally!) an intriguing secret that purports to solve an ancient mystery. But it soon becomes clear that danger lurks in the present as well as in the past, when an old lover of Julia's is found dead. With the help of a taciturn chessmaster and an art dealer, Julia solves each puzzle as it is presented until mysteries both historical and contemporary are concluded. This book is satisfactory, and beyond doubt a TGR.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

E.M. Forster's books always surprise me. One is so easily lulled by his gentle prose, by the eccentric characters going about their odd but pleasant lives, and then suddenly things happen with an abruptness that makes one realize just how shocking they are. Howards End is no exception--I was going to give an example, but don't want to spoil it for anyone. To be circumspect, great milestones of life suddenly surge up in a brief sentence that might almost be missed by the reader, just as those involved in such a situation might almost go on without noticing, then be brought back stunned by what has happened. Forster writes these things just as they might occur, blending into the rest of life until the shock hits after the fact.

I like this way of writing, that acknowledges how little there actually is to say about a sudden death, or a kiss, or the discovery of a hidden pregnancy--far more details are to be found in a conversation between friends, or a stroll down London streets, or the covert glances among family members concealing a secret. Life is lived in these small moments, not in the great occurences, and what we do in crises is merely a reaction based on the character built during the details and mundanity of every day.
I picked up The Good Earth because it was being read by a book group I wanted to attend--an hour later I found myself 2/3 of the way through and somewhat breathless. I can't quite say it swept me off my feet, as it's too unassuming for that; but the smooth steady prose is rather like drifting for miles down a gentle river without realizing just how far you've gone. Chinese history is not a subject that's ever appealed greatly to me, and I certainly wouldn't have wanted to live in China at that time (or, really, at all), but as an acquaintance of mine said about the movie "Hotel Rwanda", 'It makes you realize that most people just want to live well and love their families and be left alone.' Wang Lung's love of the land and simple desire to prosper and provide for his family particularly resonate for me right now as I yearn to be away from this life-in-limbo, to be steward of my own good earth.

The book group discussion turned out to be excellent, surprising me pleasantly. After St. John's, I'm used to sitting through "discussions" that turn into lectures or Q&A, but the leader of this group came as close to a tutor as I've found outside of school. We had quite a lively conversation, and everyone was interested to hear from me that Pearl S. Buck actually wrote a trilogy. A friend gave me a copy years ago, and once I'd read the first one I couldn't stop--I had to find out what happened. Sons was not as good, but I quite enjoyed A House Divided, as Wang Lung's grandson returns to a love of the earth.

Monday, January 17, 2005

?Odious thinks I should post something about the Brontes; he’s been reading Villette, which sparked a long conversation since he finds it very odd. He was commenting on the vague illnesses caused by, apparently, depression, and I told him that he has to remember what the time period was like (I said, in fact, “You know, you’ve read Freud”, but then realized that of course he hasn’t!). Life was difficult for everyone in the 19th century, but especially, I think, for poor gentlewomen. Women of the working class could at least work, as servants or in shops, while well-to-do women were taken care of by their families should they be unfortunate enough not to marry; but women like those in Charlotte and Anne Bronte’s novels were, like the Brontes themselves, doomed to wretched cold lives as seamstresses or teachers. Odious was appalled to hear me say that Agnes Grey has an even more depressing life than Lucy Snowe or Jane Eyre, but I think it’s true, and it may also be why Anne Bronte is less popular than her sisters. Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights are archetypal classic novels–their characters cry out to be recognized and remembered, and thus are more readily accessible to the reading public. They really are great books and are rightfully hailed as such, but Anne’s novels strike a different chord. She was more obviously a feminist of her time than her sisters; as it says on the back of my copy of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, “the slamming of that bedroom door reverberated throughout the literary world!” While I love Jane Eyre with all my heart, and appreciate the wild beauty of Emily’s prose, Anne’s characters are deeper and richer, and her writing paints, I think, a more accurate picture of life. There are no great heroes or heroines, or tremendous loves and battles of will, but only the quieter, harder, everyday struggles that are perhaps less exciting to read about but at the same time more resonant.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Days go by; life is...well...continuing; I escape by reading. I made the mistake last week of picking up Assassin’s Apprentice, the first book in Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy, and was from that point doomed to do nothing but sit glued to a chair until I’d finished both that trilogy and the following one, the Tawny Man. I know I’ve posted about these books before, but whatever I said bears repeating–her writing is truly astounding, and her characters all the more endearing because they are real in their flaws and mistakes and occasional blindness. I realized during this reading that I can’t agree with her philosophy because I don’t believe in the division of body and soul (that is, that a body can exist in this world without a soul, for any amount of time, or vice versa, or that bodies are somehow interchangeable), and yet the bonds this allows her to create are beyond philosophy. I think it’s like the flying and other impossibilities in kung-fu movies–Odious says those are metaphors for things that can’t be shown or even really explained, just as the Skill and the Wit stand in for bonds too amazing for us to fully understand.

I was looking through my reading notebook last night, where I’ve written down things I want to read, as well as cut-out blurbs from catalogues, and to my surprise I found one for Assassin’s Apprentice. After putting it in there I must have completely forgotten about it, since I remember picking up the first two books of the series at a library book sale, rather at random. It’s always odd to read someone’s summary of a book you’ve loved deeply, and see both their interpretation and attempt to encompass the whole of something in just a few words. That’s partly why I don’t give book reports here–you can go to Amazon for that–but rather my own thoughts about the book in hopes of inspiring others to share what I’ve enjoyed so much.