deliriumcrow: (Jane Austen)
29-- Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell -- Susannah Clarke
Still loved it by the end, though it finished leavign me wanting more. Like, you know, a more final resolution. This does, however, leave room for more books, which isn't a bad thing at all.

30-- Cheap Amusements
Academic book on the leisure time of working women in Victorian Manhattan. Very well researched and written, and brought up all sorts of interesting questions on how working amusements have shaped and are still influencing modern culture.

31-- Wives and Daughters -- Elizabeth Gaskell
Mrs Gaskell being not especially political. Sort of like a more socially conscious Jane Austen, with more psychological introspection. Loved it, and need more of her books. Four in the house is insufficient.

32-- Secret Country
Apparently part of a series, the rest of which I do not have. This makes me sad. Children have a make-believe country, which they think is make-believe until they accidentally stumble upon it.

33-- Wooden Sword --lynne Abbey?
Should have either been longer or had a sequel. I rather liked it, and its darkness, but there was, again, it ended rather uneasilly and without any indication of how things would turn out. Things could have improved, or could have gotten worse. Which, I suppose, is a little of a Lady and the Tiger ending ... As an effect, though, it works a little better on a short story where you have less invested in the characters than on a full novel. I mean really, nothing got resolved.

34-- Kushiel's Justice -- Jacqueline Carey
I'm not sure how well I like this book in relation to the rest of the series -- it's good, mind, but not quite at the same level as the rest. It definitely had the feel of being a build-up to the next book. Which is not to say it's bad, or that it could not stand on its own, because I'm thinking it probably could (without any frame of reference by which to judge, having read all the previous books) just that it's not as good as the rest. But even still, that's not saying much. Because yes, it is still gorgeously written and I do love it.

35-- I know for certain I've forgotten something ... I just can't for the life of me remember what it was. I hate that.

Books I am currently reading:
The Golden Bough (hate it, it makes me twitch)
Song of Roland (I keep forgetting about it)
A book on the Victorian underworld, whose name I cannot recall. (quite good, though not wholly certain about its academic value)
The Interpretation of Fairy Tales (have been meaning to read it for a while)
deliriumcrow: (Default)
This is gorgeous. It's not so much a game as interactive graffiti/photography, sort of creepy sometimes, sometimes just incredibly beautiful.

There are five more books to go into the list for the year.
There's the last of the Dark Materials Trilogy, the Amber Spyglass. It went by *very* quickly, and was pretty much exactly what I had expected of the ending, given its inspirations. No more can be said on that, as it's still part of a series, and thus, well, if you want to read it, I don't really want to give things away.

Next is Hardcore Zen, by Brad Warner. He's a punk who lives in Japan and makes monster movies and Ultraman, and is a Zen priest. Needless to say, it's full of funny, anarchy, and meditation, which aren't quite as far removed from each other as one might expect. It's also very down to earth, insightful, and easy to read.

Bleak House by Charles Dickens was a hell of a lot funnier than I had ever expected of Dickens, especially with a title like that. It's richly sarcastic, and presents an excellent satire on -- well, pretty much everyone in every level of English society. Except the main character, who actually got to be rather annoying on occasion. I realise this is because I don't live in the sort of society that appreciates a proper middle class Victorian female, but the depth of her self effacement was infuriating at times. I know there's supposed to be modesty, but she took it to extremes. I know I'm too spirited to live like that, but really, there's practically no one who lives like she does, and those that do are some of the most singularly annoying people in existence, when you actually talk to them. THey're all well and good on paper -- provided they stay firmly there. Going back to Jane Austen for a bit, Esther and Fanny (Mansfield Park) are for too similar for my liking either of them -- I much prefer a female like Lizzie Bennet, who is still modest and middle class, but has some fire to her. Much better role model there.

Oh Harry Potter, how I am addicted to you. Yes, I read the seventh book. Yes, I loved it, and yes I cried, and that's all you'll get from me. Even at this point, I'm sure some people have not read it. There are those who say that it isn't all that great, but you know, it got people reading. Maybe not all people, and maybe those seven books are the only things some of those people will read. But it also encouraged more YA fantasy, and caused re-prints of older stuff, like the Young Wizard series. And some of the people who were reading HP will be going on to those as well, which means even more of them. Heh, this is good for me. For that matter, some of the YA fantasy seems to be written on a higher reading level than some of the adult stuff, and has far more interesting variations on plot. There's really only so much sword and sorcery you can read.

Err, I seem to have wandered. Point is, I can find no fault with books that make large segments of the population pick up books. And lead them to more books, and more, and yes, I do happen to think literacy is a good thing, thanks.

I'm missing a book here. Wonder which it was?

Currently almost done with Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. It's brilliant.
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The Subtle Knife, Phillip Pullman

Second in teh His Dark Materials trilogy.

Now really. Milton for kids? That's really what this boils down to, and I find it disturbingly lovely. Says the girl who read Poe from the second grade.

IT's not the standard "Good vs Evil" book, in that neither good not evil is all that appealing, though at least evil might be a little more honest about it. The first book worked a little better as a standalone, in ym opinion, as the second was a little more obviously a setup for the third book, which I now absolutely MUST GET. It's slower than the first, un that it took me thre days to read it rather than one, but all the same, it was intense. I expect the third book will be full of all the terrible urgency the first one had.

Yes, it talks about religion. And science, and the intersection of the two, whic isn't so much an intersection here (at least in some worlds) as a co-mingling. And, well, the church is pretty much evil, as evil as the evil side of the war. Not that wither side sees itself as evil. Both think, of course, that they are right, which is why they fight in the first place. I suppose it would be more accurate to say that it's ignorance for the common people (theoretically good) vs education and exploration (or knowledge and power) for the common people (theoretically evil).

I honestly am surprised that people would write things like this for children, more so than before. I'd been under the impression that teaching things like religious criticism was frowned on for anyone under the age of 25 or so, but this ... it's pretty well subversive. And I'm not really sure that even a child would be able to miss that, and I'm now wondering if the censors ever noticed that.

Ok, so to be more clear, I'm not actually sure that the argumetn is against religion itself, or against specifically the way it's handled by mortal authorities. And I have no real problem with that (or with anything else really, I'm a grown up and am more than capable of making my own decisions regarding my beliefs) as I honestly *do* think that mortal authorities have a bad habit of fucking shit up. Like, oh, the Crusades and the Inquisition. Those be the Really Big Examples. There are lesser ones, various formes of religious abuse that I've seen from the Priesthood on down to children fighting in the school yard. Yes, it does happen, and in my own school when I was a child. Yes, it's silly. But when they grow up and continue doign it, it's no longer silly, it's actually dangerous -- it just shows that there's a disturbing trend of religious intollerance being taught -- again, mortal authirity going wrong. And really, that's a big part of why I left the church. So far, no one has really said anything against God in the book. BEcause, well, he's pretty much just there, He doesn't intervene, and doesn't much seem to care. It's very Deist in that respect, actually, unless he's somehow influencing probabbility and chance and messengers? I don't know and probably won't until the third book, which will hopefully make everything clear.

Though the Lyra in the first few chapters was much more annoying and much less capable than the Lyra in the first book. She seemed much, much younger, and much more silly, and in truth I didn't much like her at first. Which was odd, given the last book.
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The Well of Lost Plots, Jasper Fforde

Third of the Thirsday Next books, and much like the others, it's full of literary silly, and in jokes, and trouble. The mispeling vyrus results in things that look like Varizo's posts, for anyone familiar with those in a.g. and other such use-netty places. It also makes the inner lives of books that much more ... strange. Mis Havisham's fate was truly unfair, though.

It kept the pace nice and fast, which, when dealing with brain candy, is probably a good thing, though it did make it rather hard to put it down and go back to work after a nice break from reality.
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Lost in a Good Book, Jasper Fforde.

Similar to the last entry. Read it. There's more trouble going on, and the end of the world, and evil corporations, and bizarre govenrment stuff, and the Global Standard Deity (how's that for religion?) and travel and time travel and books and literary jokes.

But there is nothing. NOTHING. to rival the image of Miss Havisham -- yes, *that* Miss Havisham -- driving a Porsche like a maniac.

Nothing at all.
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When we were at Convergence we went to Powell's Book Store. I got lost and could not find the entrance. Seriously. It's that big. I went with [livejournal.com profile] blackavar, who, on leaving, handed me a rather large pile of books. I said I'd send them back, but he insisted that he already had the lot of them, so ... public thanking is in order. :) One was a Kipling that I shall get to in due time (I've read bits of it, but nowhere even close to all) and the rest were a series by Jasper Fforde. The two F's are intentional.

The first in the series is called the Eyre Affair. This was suggested mainly, I think, due to the fact that I snatched up a copy of Wide Sargasso Sea *very* quickly on the way to the coffee. Which was how we ended up there in the first place, but I digress. I read it, and it was every bit as fabulous as he claimed. It's sort of hard to explain fully without giving away very large parts of the plot, but ....

There's a woman called Thursday Next, and she works in the literary branch of the English Special Ops. There are several other Very Odd Branches, and some of those are explained. it becomes possible to go into books, and to take out characters, which causes many interesting problems, murders, explosions, and assorted fun things, as well as dealing with the People's Republic of Wales. It also explains rather nicely exactly who wrote Shakespeare's plays. Oh, and there's a love story, and I swear there's a sideways reference to the Charge of the Light Brigade.

Obviously, this is not in our world. It's a clever paralell of 1985, written by a lit geek for lit geeks, and I'm quite certain I didn't catch half the references it gave. It is, however, very, very funny. And, coming down from Sargasso, it was a pleasant diversion from the depression that book leaves. And there are punctuation jokes.

In short, read it. It's quick, and you won't regret it. So far, the second in the series is proving to be much the same, and I've already been laughing far too loudly. At a goth joke in the first chapter. Heart the books.
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Very glancing commentary. Nothing deep or all that interesting here, just proving I read *something* in all this time.

I have the feeling there's a book missing here, but damned if I can remember what it is. I know I re-read Snow Crash and Diamond Age, but I think there's still another ... The Stephenson books aren't being reviewed as I have read them before, and thus they aren't being counted. Hmm. Maybe it was one of the fantasy series books I try to avoid? I know I borrowed Wizard's First Rule, well before Convergence, which I generally liked. As it was midding a cover, I don't know the author. As it was a long time ago, I don't remember much of it, aside from the fact that the author dealt surprisingly well on the balance of good and evil, ever popular in fantasy literature. As in, there are sometimes things in a person's past that will inspire great works of badness, and madness, and they don't generally see themselves as *bad* so much as *wronged*. It was, at any rate, an interesting perspective.

Mary Barton, by Elizabeth Gaskell.
Mid-19th century English social commentary. The heroine was a litle bit typical, which I suppose should not have been a surprise, and the whole tone was a little bit preachy. Sometimes *very* preachy and moralising. And yet, I still liked it. Dealt with the lives of Manchester weavers during the 1840s, strikes, starvation, gender differences, age and ageing, cultural mores, courting, death, childbirth, blindness, scholarship in the lower classes ... generally had a little bit of everything, which is not really all that surprising. How can you get even closde to a reasonable portrayal of daily life without touching everything that might have affected a life then?

North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell.
Not a reference to the War Between the States/War of Northern Agression/American Civil War/Whatever other name you care to give it. Refers to the cultural differences found between the North and South of England in the mid-19th century. It sort of reads like a cross between Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, with Margaret being the somewhat bitchier version of Lizzie Bennet. Or, at least, if not bitchy then at least far prouder. I actually rather liked her in spite of all her occastional Victorian weakness, though by and large she was a surprisingly stong character for a Victorian novel. I believe this was also later in Gaskell's career, and shows a far more developed sense of character. It does, however, still preach. Incessantly.

Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys.
Profoundly depressing. It somehow made the generally dishonourable Rochester sympathetic, and Bertha quite understandable. Or Antoinette, as she was origianlly called. It's quite short, but powerful, and painful. Mind you, the cahracters need to be shaken until their teeth rattle, and told to shit up and listen to rach other, and trust just a little bit. And maybe stop being so damned stiff upper lip. But then, on at least Antoinette's part, her silence is understandable, in a clear, half-mad sort of way. The madness is understandable, though. It isn't so much a rip-off of Bronte's work as a complete novel oc its own, though there is a great deal more depth at the end if you have actually read Jane Eyre. Though, by the very end, ROchester's thoughts really just make him that much more of a bastard in relation to Jane Eyre. All in all, quite as good as I'd expected it to be.
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Who Murdered Chaucer? Terry Jones.

Obviously, I had to read this. I mean really, with a degree in Mediaeval Studies, and lots of literature in that, it just had to be done. Especially seeing as it was written in part by one of the Pythons. And there's something to be said for a reasonably scholarly work that mentions The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy in the introduction (and no, I have not read the Guide, though I've seen the BBC production and the recent film). Anyway, the late 14h century has always been one of my favourite periods in English history, and I have always thought the Richards (all three of them) came off as almost exactly opposite of how they ought to have been portrayed.

It was not at all a silly book, despite the main author. It was written without the standard dryness that one expects of a history book, full of clever turns of phrase and many illustrations (in colour even! inserted into the text, so there's no flipping back and forth!) but in spite of the occasional giggling, it is decededly *not* silly. It's mroe like a lecture by a particularly amusing professor. It begins, reasonably enough, by dispelling the idea that Chaucer was not a political figure, both by marriage and by profession, aside from and including the poetry. And the idea that he would not have known the Richard II. His wife, Phillipa, was John of Gaunt's sister -- making him by marriage the king's ... err ... Great Uncle, I think? His son was also the second cousin once removed of Henry IV, so I'm not sure what that makes Gorffrey there. Anyway, he was related by marriage to the rightful king and the usurper.

The authors (there were actually about six of them) went to great pains to restore the image of Richard's reign, from the commonly held perception of a terrible king who was removed with popular support, to that of a rather enlightened and learned king, well loved by his country (at least once he was ruling for himself, after reaching his majority), trying to live up to the continental ideals of kingship, supporting arts and peace. Generally a good enough set of goals for a world leader. The claim here is that after Henry stole the throne and murdered the rightful king, then there was a massive smear campaign on Richard's reign; all sorts of propaganda that have been handed down as truth, because there are no real records to the contrary. When only a small percentage of the population can read and write, these things are much easier to control.

This actually seems to be the main point of the book, rather than actually trying to figure out whether Chaucer was "disappeared", though there's a decent amount of that going on as well. The bulk of it (and it's very bulky, and rather inconvenient on a bus) is a careful consideration of the politics and religious happenings of the times, how they related to each other, and to literature. How reading between lines cna change possible interpretations, and how Chaucer's Canterbury Tales become incredibly political, and potentially deadly, in respect to teh cahnging politics and religious politics. Lollards vs the Church Commercial, heretics, burnings, beheadings, it's rather gory, actually. And there's a painting from a manuscript of a hanging, drawing, and quartering. Everyone looks so peaceful, while being mutilated in those images ... kind of disturbing, actually.

There seem to be quite a reasonable number of end notes, if you're into that sort of thing (I am, recently) and more importantly, quite a bit to think about. It does make a good case for politically convenient disposal, though.
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Sex Wars, Marge Piercy.

This book dealt with one of the women in Seductress, but in a much fuller and richer sort of way. Well, among other things, anyway. It's told from several perspectives, all on various sides of the post-Civil War/late 19th century gender wars -- sufferage, divorce and custody reform, wages, weomen's sexuality (that they have it at all), shame, obcenity, politics ... adn yet for all of the stories, for all the ways various classes and powers intermingle here, it remains well balanced between them and leaves no ends untied. The characters made you care about them (well, aside from Comstock, but even he had a certain air of humanity about him in spite of himself, even if I did really just want to beat him to death with a book full of Scary Naked People), and their stories were more or less believable, which is too often not the case when most of your cahracters are, in fact, Real Dead People. I think there was only one person (of the various protagonists) who was entirely fictitious? It was amazingly well researched, especially for a novel. It also made me horribly homesick, especially the section that took place in Saratoga.

The only complaint I had was that in many sections the sentences were jarringly short. It's an odd complaint, but it adversely affected the flow of some of the conversations.




Also, fewer cigarettes mean more books/yarn/fabric/whatever. And ultimately, more books is more important to me. So.
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Mirror, Mirror, Gregory Maguire

So I finally fot around to reading this, after having it on my shelf for ... oh, untold years. I bought it when I aws still in New York.

It was absorbing, and rahter surprising, ans a perfect mix of teh old story of Anow White and Renaissance Italy. Lucrezia Borgia was almost sympathetic, or maybe I just wanted her to be, as I had always thought that it was primarily a smear campaign against her. The swarves appear a few times as invisible watchers before they enter the story, which adds a strange depth to them, as they describe the state before Bianca, before being defined. And then there's the Apple -- not just any old thing from any old tree, no this was the First Apple, from Eden. more interesting layers to the story, relating also to the story of the dwarves. Definitino, self-definition, the limitations and expanded potentials afforded by both. It leads rather wall, actually, into the book I"m currently reading. (Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, about which I will not be posting, as I have already read it. Seeing as I already have 11 books by 1 April, this does not really seem to be a problem.)
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The Good Fairies of New York, Martin Millar

I actually read this at the same time as Seductress, and enjoyed it significantly more. It is, as the title states, about fairies, who happen to be in New york City, causing trouble. Some of them are suppsoed to be there, some are not, and just happen to be there by accident, after a rather drunken night in Ireland. There is an industrial revolution complete with enclosure acts driving farmers into cities to find work in factories, and an oppressive fairiy king who wants to make all of England and Scotland look like this (and presumably ireland next), and rebles who go into human libraries to find ways of combating this -- which amounts to reading the works of chairman Mao. And then there are humans, including a lovely hippy with Crohn's Disease and a colostomy bag, and the world's worst fiddler. Ever. And the ghost of a dead rockstar, and ... it's very silly. A great deal happens in the first couple chapters, and then the rest of the bookd consists of trying to fix the problems, which sometimes results in worse. Like, of course, a battle. A few of them.

It's very British, and very funny, and is the sort of thing that most of my friends would probably like a good deal.
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Seductress: Women who Ravished the World and their Lost Art of Love, Elizabeth Prioleau

As a history book, this looked interesting, especially as I seem tobe getting drawn more into women's history lately. So I read it. Though parts of it were, in fact, quite interesting, as were several of the people she had listed as seductresses, for the most part it left me rather unimpressed. Her attempts to relate things to prihistorical goddess worship I found unconvincing at best, as of all the footnotes, those claims had almost no entries. It's *pre* history for a reason.

Additionally, I don't really think that encouraging women to embrace the stereotypically male prerpgative of sluttery is necessarily a good thing. There was no real sense of love or respect from most of these women, and for all that they got laid plenty, and probably did in truth love at least some of their men (like Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley) this was barely affressed as any even vaguely relevant part of the story. She stated over and over that she wanted women in a position of superiority in love, with male slaves fawning over them, and that anything less than that is subscribing to the dogmas of patriarchy. Frankly, I don't buy it. From a purely biological standpoint, it's foolish. Men are simply less necessary to the continuation of the species, as (sex for pleasure is here strictly being ignored) men are capable of inpregnating as many women as they like in a very short time, whereas women are capable of bearing the child of one man at a time in a very, very time and resource consuming process. a woman's role in this would then be to pick from the masses the best father for her child. Serial monogamy, or possibly the set-up found in crow (and other avian) societies -- they pair for life to maintian the resource pooling required for the chicks, but the fathers are nto always the same if momma finds a better father -- would seem to be the rational result of this -- not one woman hoarding all the men in the room, taking them from other women who are, presumably trying to do the same. The end result here, it seems, would be femal in-fighting worse than we have already. And never, ever, any love or respect, and certainly nothing like equality.

A good deal of the advice she gives isn't really even useful, as in teh chapter on intellectual women. She says that men are not intimidated by intelligent women, but you know, in my experience that's not really true, because in general the average *people* are intimidated by intellectuals regardless of gender. And, as the vast majority of people are somewhere around the average, then, well, if you have the barins enough to impress an einstien, you will most likely be shunned by the rest of society for being too smart. No one likes to be made to feel lesser, so if you run about spouting interesting theories, you'll probably alienate all but the top portion of men. But then, that's probably not a gad thing, after all. (I have actually been known to do things like that as a sort of sifting measure -- but I never did claim that it was either a perfect plan, or that it would attract anyman I wanted, as she does.)

I think my biggest problme with this book was that it was written more or less like a self-help book (I hate those things) with acafemic leanings, and in so doing managed to fail at both. As a self-help book it was too academic, and as an academoc text it was too sensational, too short, and too lacking in suffucient detail for me to make my own interpretations of the woemn and situations in question.
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I read faster than I remember to write reviews, apparently. Heh.

Better Off, Eric Bindle.

Sarah and Dennis, this made me think of you. And you should read it if you've not yet.

A student at MIT gets fed up with how technology rules our lives, and does his masters' thesis on how well we can or cannot live without it. He lives for a yeah and a half on a farm in a not-really-Amish village, and comes to the conclusion that life is, in fact, far better when you don't let every gadget into your house, don't allow them to make demands of you for more fuel and electricity, adn that there is actually far *less* work than people do on most regular jobs in the rest of the world. So much so that in one chapter they were more or less making busy-work for themselves.

He does come back to the rest of the world eventually, but with much less tech following him. And he addresses how one of us might accomplish similar things in our own lives, which was truly fascinating.

I don't think I'd go *quite* as far as he did, as I do love my music players and computers, especially as my friends and family are so far away. But certainly there is room for simplification, and I'd rather like to try the sort of sommunity he talks about, in a more urban setting. The sort where rooved can be cultivated into gardens, where there are community gardens and farmers' markets, where the countryside is rather close by, prefferably with sheep. Of course, living in the country would also be rather nifty.

I suppose that's to say that it's a bit inspiring.
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Mark Srorr vs the Supernatural, Mark Storr.

Right, so there's an English sceptic, and he reads about an American Eccentric, who cals himself a demonologist. So he jots off to America to do a story about him, expecting to see all sorts of shammery or at least superstition. At any rate, something to laugh at. And then Really Weird Things start happening.

Through the rest of the book (that's the introduction there, just made very, very short and not hald as interesting) Mr Storr investigates all manner of Things Ghostly and Unexplained, and reaches various conclusions about various people, living and dead. He also ponders a great deal about the afterlife, and the meaning of life, and if there *is* a meaning, or if we're actually just zombies, wandering about for no bloody reason. He also contemplates the fact that scepticism is, in fact, a belief, making its claim to be all about beliving nothing a great paradox.

The odd behaviour of quantum particles under observation is also addressed, to interesting effect.

To give away the ending (it's not a surprise, really) he does not re-find his lost Catholicism (probably needs to sweep out under his bed a bit better...) but does develop a belief in ghosts, under pressure of what he considers overwhelming evidence. And it's about 300 pages of evidence, both damning and confirming. Some of the people he ran into ... well, they're sort of nutty. Some of them, not so much.

And it left in the British spellings and punctuation. :)
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House of Leaves, Mark Danielewski.

Umm ... I'm not sure what to say, but there's more going on than is immediately apparent. I'll have to read it again, just to see what I missed (I *know* I missed things, with as many times as I stopped and started that thing). Knowing what the ending is, I can't help but think that there were things in the beginning that are somehow much more pertinent now. One friend has the theory that it's abotu growing up with parents who are insane, but I dont' think that quite covers everything in there. I can see it as a possible interpretation, and there are certainly elements of that in there, but there are so many different layers to the thing, just as far as story lines are concerned. And yes, one of them does have to do with the child of a crazy woman. But I really do need to read it again to get more of the picture, I think. It's the sort of book that has clues everywhere, I'm thinking ...

Also, do not read it on a creepy night in a dark house alone. Trust me on this. Or, well, if that's your thing it might be a lot of fun.

Next up: Will Storr vs the Supernatural.
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Right, so now that I'm almost finished with the next book, let's post about the last one, shall we? **Sigh** I'm so not good with this keeping up with posts thing ...

So yes. Pamela. Samuel Richardson wrote it, and he should not have done. Please bear in mind here that I actually *like* old literature, otherwise I would not have minored in litereature and filled my major with so much *really* old literature.

Ok, so I guess for the most part I like old literature that lacks morals. Rochester, Cleland, Chaucer, Milton when he's just talking about Satan ... umm, I'm sure it says nothing good that the first of those is almost pornography, and the second one blatantly is. Chaucer is barely batter sometimes, and Boccacio ... never mind Ovid ... Point is, I like old books, but apparently only the dirty ones. Pamela is not.

It is, however, overwrought and full of moralising, and I spent every day that I forced myself through the pages wondering why, why, WHY I hated myself that badly. So did Kat, who never finished it. Granted I look at this from the persective of a gorl who is good rather than that of a good girl, and that might skew my perceptions a bit, but it read like a very poorly written harlequin novel, rape scene and all. It seemed like titilation packaged in defense of norals, which stank of hypocracy, and I awnted to drown the girl myself.

I did, however, mark every page where she mentioned her clothes. Blasted costumer in me would not shut up about that ...

By the last hundred pages, I actually found myself looking forward to reading, not due to any shift in writing abilities on Mr Richatdson's part, but because he'd *finally* reached his bloody point, adn spent god knows how long going over them. And over them. And OVER THEM AGAIN. The point, however, sems to have been a description of how oen is suppsoed to behave in society based on degree of station, roles between men and women, roles within families, how a wealthy wife aught treat her servants and how approach the issue of household funds including alms to the poor and sick teneants, gifts to servants and for what ocasions, appropriate dress in public, and other such useful information for 18th century living.

I then read the 50 page Shamela (Fielding), which barely qualifies as its own book and so is listed here. Shamela was the reason I had to read Pamela, because I wanted to see the spoof, and had to read the original in order to understand it.

I had expected to like it, especially as I was not wholly convinced of the purity of Pamela's character. Well, not until the cery end, anyway. In the last hundred pages I actually liked her, and this sort of coloured my interpretation of Fielding's work. The introfuction didn't much help. He seems not much to like women, particularly not those of lower classes (monetary in this case, not my ususal inherent human qualities definition), who could obviously have nothing in mind aside from gain and greed. Oh yes, and whoring, can't forget that. I had expected Shamela to be a little more of an accurate portrayal if such a thing can exist in literature (particulrly satire), but in truth I just felt like I was reading Jovinian vs Jerome again. Which is also a deeply inaccurate way to learn the feelings of people at the time, because Jerome wasn't even writing things he believed, and possinly neither was Fielding, and I haven't time enough to figure out which it us just now. Also, all my arguments have fallen apart in the face of two cats not quite fitting into my lap.

Next up -- Hosue of Leaves. It's creepy, so far. Yes, I'm finally more than 20 pages in, and I've had a rather hard time putting it down. Somewhere around page 350 I think?
deliriumcrow: (Tanky)
Right, so, when you read book simultaneously, sometimes you finish then almost so. These were actually abotu a day apart, and I finished the second of them last night. No, I don't post on time. This happens.

Book 3.
Jennifer Government, Max Berry.
I'm not sure, still, how i feel about this. I had to read it after playing Nationstates for so long, and found it in the house, so there you go. It wasn't a bad book and I didn't hate it, but it wasn't especially good, either. It was just sort of there. I found the concept rather interesting (corporations are pretty much in charge of everything, and the US owns everyone) but I thought it was a) in too close of a future and b) the pacing was *way* off. It moved too slowly at the beginning, and the end was too rushed. And maybe it's just me, but he could have gone farther with the idea. The personal angle on the hunt for the main villain actually rather detracted from the story for me, which is unusual. I guess it's just the mark of not having pulled everything in properly, and not having developed the people enough. It also might have helped if the whole thing hadn't just been dumped in the last 20 pages so that it felt like an afterthought. Or like the book should ahve been another hundred pages or so.

Book 4.
Monkey: Journey to the West, retold by DAvid Kheridan
This isn't going to fit properly into a short review, so I don't think I"ll really bother with the full version. In the preliminary notes on it that I posed a while back, I think I said something about wanting to kill Monkey myself. I have revised my opinion of him. I do still see the trickster elements in him, but a much more interesting character as the book goes on. More balance. It's the first thing I've read dealing solely with Monkey, and I'm not really familiar with Chinese myth, literature, or, well, many things. So, of course, my understanding of it will be rather skewed at best. I was reading Trickster Makes This World last year (apparently that was the year for afademic texts. Not sure what this year will bring.) and read a very little about him, mainly dealing with the story of the Peaches of Immortality, and the trickster's relation to appetite. So, having a boundless love for all things relating to myth and legend, tricksters particularly, I was overjoyed to find this on the shelf of a used book store in Albany. There are now several bits of marginalia in it, none of which bear goign into here, as ponderation like that would get rather ling and frankly I dount anyone wants to read them. At any rate ... plenty to thing about, both in terms of allefgory of a person's develppment over a lifetime, learning wisdom, and at the same time, there's the monk Tripitaka, who is, I'm guessing, an example of what one should aspire to be. At the same time, he's rather naive when dealing with the world outside his temple, and probably would not have survived the pilgrimage without Monkey's tricks and willimgness to commit acts of violence for a good cause. It's nice not to have to, but this is the sort of world where, in order to pursue a greater good sometimes ... wow, that's starting to sound Machiavellian and that's not what I'd intended. And I don't think that's what tehy were going for either. Moral ambiguities, maybe?

And it's starting to get into that really long winded part now. I'll stop now.

And now, Pamela. I'm on somewhere around page 30 and already want the bloody Cliffnotes. I'm skipping almost entire paragraphs. Moralising? yup, more moralising, skip that too. bloody hell. I think this might be worse than Pilgrim's Progress. I hated that with an unholy and burning passion. Yes, yes, I know, cultural icon and all that, but you know what? Fuck it. If I want religions allegory I'll just read Milton. At least he didn't annoy me. (For that matter, Spenser can suck a fat hairy one too.) (Yes, takign out all my irritation on all moral literature tonight. At least, all the stuff I've been forced to read, anyway. Seriously, give me Bocaccio and Ovid any day.)
deliriumcrow: (Default)
The People's Republic of Desire -- Annie Wang
This is, in theory, anyway, a novel. It doesn't really read like one though, as there is no really specific plot to follow. It actually reads like a collection of short articles for, say, a magazine, that focus on the life of a small set of main characters and their lives in China, and the plot, as such, is simply daily life. This, actually, is not a complaint, as it makes it quite easy to read, and also easy to put sown if you must, say, cook dinner, work, or do whatever it is that people generally do in a day. It was, however, a little jarring that she kept on re-introducing the characters. Granted, I read it rather quickly (less than a week, I think) but every few chapters the main character would tell you yet again who the other women are about whom she's writing. It's ok for incidental people that appear only once in a while, scattered through the book, but for the regular cast, it gets a little old.

Anyway. as to the point of the book, as stated it's pretty much the daily lives of four women in Beijing. Two are retournees (one from The US, the other from the UK) and the other two, if I recall correctly, didn't leave China. And really, it's not so much about these lives as about what they show about life in Beijing today, the repercussions of going back after spending years abroad, how the culture has changed so quickly in the last ten years, and why. The overarching themes were dating and sexuality (including what sorts of men are good to date and what clearly aren't, how to use them, how not to be used, how to use one man to find a better one and why this is a Bad Idea and why we laugh at girls who do this, a new permissiveness in urban society that allows people to talk about sex openly, and what this can lead to -- freedom after that many generations of socially enforced silence is ... interesting.), jobs (age, gender, payment, capitalism in a communist country, international relations ...), and class (the differences between measuring wealth and status in the West and in the East, urban vs. rural, classicism and discrimination which becomes more interesting when you add gender as well, annoying traits of people who want to prove they are upper class, nouveuax riches vs. old money/nobility). (and I abuse parentheses badly, and I'm not sorry at all.) It was the observations she made about life there that were most interesting, more so than the characters themselves, who seemed not so much people as stereotypes or representatives of a certain type of woman. It didn't really matter, though, as I was warned not to treat it like a regular work of fiction so much as a (probably loosely) fictionalised collection of short essays about the author's own experiences.

Next up -- either Monkey or Jennifer Government. Depends on which gets done first. So far I'm thinking Monkey deserves to be locked up in that mountain, as he's a little prat. Which is to be expected of trickster figures, but really, I'd have tried to kill him too, and I *like* tricksters. Coyote at least had a better sense of humour, and at least a loose grasp of social niceties. Which I guess is the point, breaking down conventions so they don't get too stale ... but it sill begs the question of how one breaks the rules pointedly if one does not know the rules in the first place? Or maybe he does, as he did study.

Jennifer Government seems interesting in premise so far, though it's having great difficulty in holding my attention. The reading level seems a little low, or I'm looking for more of a challenge these days.
deliriumcrow: (half-lost)
Right, so, it's a new year, and I didn't find out about this challenge until pretty well then end of last year by which time I could not remember what all I had read already. So this year ... it's not quite going to be a *50* book thing, so much as "just how much *can* I read in a year?" So. I have not yet decided if my rules will be as strict as my friend's, who will only count valid literature and books that are somehow important. Probably not. I like the fact that some of the people on alt.gothic (where I first heard of this insanity) were counting graphic novels, as, well, I like those. I don't see them as not-literature if they're done well, any more than I would consider a book in a traditional binding and format necessarily worth reading. I've read some shit books and some gorgeous graphics.

On that note:
Book one.
Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman.
Yes, I know, I've had this book around for how long and never *quite* got around to reading it? Partly it's because it was in the office, and if you ever saw that you'd understand. It's a bookful place.

Anyway, a short review. It was, as I had expected, a Good and Proper Trickster Story, and being overly fond of Tricksters, this was a Very Good Thing. Lots of trickery and tomfoolery and generally getting into trouble, and lots of doing the wrong thing for reasons that may or nay not be right. I was, quite literally, laughing out loud several times. Which is a good thing, in a book. Especially one about Anansi and his sons. Err. I suppose I should porbably warn you that I knew how it would end from pretty much the very beginningest of beginnings. That's not to say it's a bad thing, seeing as it was pretty much fore-ordained entirely by the stories it was taken from. It's not like folklore is all that difficult to sort out, and it's not really *supposed* to be surprising, aside from maybe in the details. There are rules this kind of story has to follow, and this one does. Not just in what happens (updated, of course, and with planes and bosses and fedoras) but in the issues it addresses underlying the story. It's just longer. Which is to say, if you're looking for a book that will really make you wonder and be surprised at the ending, this will disapopint you terribly. I think my favourite thing was that it included several original Anansi stories, told alongside the main storyline.



Current reading list, which may or may not end up being finished:
Siddhartha, Herman Hesse (almost done, and it sort of goes in last year's pile as well)
Moonwise (someday I'll actually read the whole thing, and not forget I'm reading it after a chapter or so.)
Monkey -- A Journey to the West
People's Republic of Desire (on Kat's reccomendation, and I'm about ten pages in, and quite drawn in so far.)
Middlemarch (still)

I don't think that the Scarlet Pimpernel counts, seeing as I've read it twice before. I also don't think that my costume histories and technical manuals are going to count, no matter how many of them I manage to get into my head.

Upcoming:
Jonathan Norrell and Mr Strange
From Ritual to Romance -- Jessie Weston
When God is a Customer
Felix Holt, the Radical (because I never finished it in class. Bad Kit.)
Brothers Karamazov (yes, I actually *like* Russian lit)
Mary Barton (skipped over in the same class as Felix Holt, becauase the syllabus changed and we ran out of time)
Pamela -- Richardson
Song of Roland
More Chaucer (must keep up Middle English comprehension)
Harry Potter in French (it doesn't really count, but it is work)

This seems to be a year in which I intend to make myself more literate. Hopefully, it works.

November 2014

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