Thursday, April 28, 2011

My future husband was becoming to me my whole world

What I'm about to say is going to annoy some people. My intention isn't to provoke a reaction, but rather record my own. I of course welcome comments and love the discussion they drive, but I just want to make it clear I'm not doing this to cause some stir and thus drive up any traffic numbers. This is also going to be all kinds of full of spoilers so you should skip this if you haven't read Jane Eyre. Here goes

I'm suddenly understanding why Meyers kept talking about how awesome Jane Eyre was in the Twilight series, because the current conversations/actions between Jane and Rochester are sounding more and more like the relationship between Bella and Edward. What the hell???

Image Credit
I'm at the point where Rochester has proposed to Jane and they're going to get married in a month. At this part Jane's self-esteem seems so low that she's decided "he must not actually like me all this much, so I'm going to see if I can piss him off to the point where he breaks off this engagement." Obviously this is up for interpretation, but that is how I'm reading this. For example

I assured him I was naturally hard -- very flinty, and that he would often find me so; and that, moreover, I was determined to show him divers rugged points in my character before the ensuing four weeks elapsed: he should know fully what sort of bargain he had made, while there was time to rescind it. (location 5158)
I get the idea behind what Jane's doing. Mrs. Fairfax told her to be wary, so wary she's being. Or she thinks she's being. Because really it's coming off as someone who is just being whiny and "I'm so awful, clearly this isn't real and he's going to regret his decision so I better make him regret it now while he still has time to bail". Jane seemed so much stronger before. I like her trying to show she's an equal by keeping her position as governess and keeping a salary from Rochester and she'll pay for her things with that, but even that comes off as odd. He's going to be her husband and employer? That doesn't make it sound like an equal relationship at all.

And Rochester is pissing me off too. Jane refuses to see Rochester regularly during these 4 weeks and will only see him when he calls for her during this specific time in the evening. During that time she doesn't want to talk to him, cos you certainly can't get to know someone by talking to them, so she comes up with other stuff to distract him with. On night she asks him to sing instead. She tries to play along on the piano but Rochester kicks her off of it cos she sucks so much. Granted, she says this is what she was hoping would happen, but it doesn't say that she was trying to play badly. Instead she was trying to play correctly but she was just so bad (obviously) that he couldn't stand it.
I did try [to play the accompaniment], but was presently swept off the stool and denominated "a little bungler." Being pushed unceremoniously to one side -- which was precisely what I wished -- he usurped my place, and proceeded to accompany himself (location 5126)
Maybe this is all meant to be playful. Maybe I'm reading it the wrong way. But I have to say, I may be wrong but I 'm think reading this the same way Meyers did. The only difference is where I'm going "The hell is going on??" Meyers went "This is the ultimate love story, except it needs sparkles." But here's the passage that made me put the book down and start writing this:
He continued to send for me punctually the moment the clock struck seven; though when I appeared before him now, he had no such honeyed terms as "love" and "darling" on his lips: the best words at my service were "provoking puppet," "malicious elf," "sprite," "changeling," etc. For caresses, too, I now got grimaces; for a pressure of the hand, a pinch on the arm; for a kiss on the cheek, a severe tweak of the ear. It was all right: a present I decidedly preferred these fierce favours to anything more tender. (location 5177)
Someone please tell me I've read this wrong and this isn't the beginning of an abusive relationship. Or maybe Jane's just into S&M? But seriously, I'm getting a little worried about this girl. Especially when she says "my future husband was becoming to me my whole world" (location 5180).

Before these scenes Jane was kind of dull, but not low self-esteem whiny. And after these scenes she seems fine again. So what was going on? I get that it was a different time and maybe I'm reading too much into this but can someone then explain to me what I should get getting out of this?

Title quote from location 5180

Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Kindle edition, 2010. Originally published 1847

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Authors A to Z

I saw this meme over at The Book Stop and I realized I'm never going to come up with 26 favorite authors that each occupy a single space on the alphabet, so I didn't play right away. But I've been thinking about the list and trying to come up with some authors so I figured, what the hell, I'll fill in as much as I can. It's not like I've had any qualms not finishing up a list before. And I did a pretty pathetic job with yesterday's top ten that as long as I come up with at least 5 names for this, I'm doing better.  I'm not even going to pretend these are all favorite authors though and just go for authors I've enjoyed.

A: Jane Austen
B: Bill Bryson
C: Susanna Clark
D: Roald Dahl
E: Eve Ensler
F: Jasper Fforde
G: William Goldman
H: Nick Hornby
I: John Irving
J: Shirley Jackson
K: Stephen King
L: Jhumpa Lahiri
M: Christopher Moore
O: George Orwell
P: Edgar Allen Poe
R: JK Rowling
S: William Shakespeare
T: Alfred, Lord Tennyson
V: Kurt Vonnegut
W: Oscar Wilde
Y: William Butler Yeats
Z: Markus Zusak

Taken down by Q, U, X and...N? I understand Q,U and X but N surprised me. I went through lists and my bookshelves and couldn't come up with any authors I've read and enjoyed to fill any of those slots.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Why I need to learn some German...

Originally I had titled this post "Top 10 Literary Mean Girls" and as soon as I typed that title I got the song "Rich Girl" by Hall and Oats stuck in my head, with "bitch" replacing "rich". Of course I only know the opening lines of that song so super, that's gonna be in there all day. This week's Broke and the Bookish Top Ten Tuesday topic is mean girls in literature, those snotty girls you just want to punch. Unfortunately, I'm having trouble coming up with...well really any characters other than the ones below. I can think of characters I didn't like but they don't quite fit the snotty, nice-to-your face, back handedness this topic really calls for.  I thought I'd expand the meaning to refer to anyone with a backfeifengesicht, which (according to Cracked anyway) is German for "a face badly in need of a fist" and if I could even begin to pronounce that I would use it every day.  Even that hasn't really helped me come up with more characters. So why am I even bothering to post? I really like that word backfeifengesicht and wanted to make sure more people know it.

Here are the only 2 I could honestly come up with that fit either definition. I've hated other characters or thought they were evil villains and whatnot, but they've never elicited the reaction this topic calls for.

Caroline Bingley from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - She is perfect for this list. The little remarks, the backhanded compliments, fawning over Darcy while pretending to care about Jane. As soon as I heard the topic I came up with her instantly and thought the rest of the list would be just as easy. Oh how wrong I was.

Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling - She's really borderline for this list and only because she pretends to be nice at times, with her smiles and those weird kitten decorations and all the pink does she get considered. She makes it because every time she did that little cough I wanted someone, anyone to smack her. Or hand her a cough drop or something.

That is all I've got. I hope you guys were more successful in this list. Now I'm going to go Google a pronunciation guide for backfeifengesicht.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Restlessness was in my nature

I'm finally getting around to reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. You'd think I would have been shamed into reading this one sooner. I've gone on ad naseum about how much I love the Thursday Next series which begins with the book The Eyre Affair. And if you can't figure it out from the name, Jane Eyre plays a pretty large role in the book, with characters from Jane Eyre interacting with Thursday and Thursday actually jumping into Charlotte's masterpiece and becoming part of the story. While I have no doubt I missed many subtle jokes because I wasn't already familiar with the Bronte piece, it never bothered me enough to actually pick up the book. After my success with Pride and Prejudice I figured I could read some of the other literature of roughly that era.* Yet I was still apprehensive. Perhaps it's the social norms of the time, so uptight and prude, that makes me back away slowly. But I gave in and besides, it's a free copy for my Kindle, which certainly makes reading the classics easier.

I haven't finished Jane Eyre yet. Actually, I'm only 36% of the way done (yeah Kindle!) but I wanted to get my initial thoughts out there. Jane's just made it to Thornfield, but I've lost reading steam since she got there. I really liked the early chapters of Jane at Mrs. Reed's and Jane at Lowood. I had assumed I'd get a story of a kid who is good and perfect and obedient and yet is constantly berated and tormented and you feel nothing but pity for her. Thankfully that's not what Bronte provides. Jane is certainly mistreated by Mrs. Reed and her kids but she's not meek and mild, just a character to pity. When Mrs. Reed tells her kids Jane is "not worthy of notice" and that they shouldn't associate with her, Jane yells down "They are not fit to associate with me" (location 431). That's not a meek kid, that's not a kid you just pity. When she finds out she's going to leave Mrs. Reed's and go to Lowood school, Jane lets Mrs. Reed have it
I am not deceitful: if I were, I should say I loved you; but I declare I do not love you: I dislike you worst of anybody in the world except John Reed...I am glad you are no relation of mine: I will never call you aunt again as long as I live. I will never come to see you when I am grown up; and if anyone asks me how I liked you, and how you treated me, I will say the very thought of you makes me sick, and that you treated me with miserable cruelty. (location 604-611)
*A few spoilers below. I already knew most of this before reading and it hasn't ruined the story for me, but if you're worried*
I miss that spark from Jane because so far while at Thornfield it hasn't shown itself. She's been kind and good and not taken advantage of but she's just kind of bland right now. There's a crazy lady, laughing maniacally and setting people on fire, and Jane's just very eh. She's trying to figure out what's going on, but so far she's been so quiet. Plus Rochester is kind of an ass and not in the fun way Darcy was so I don't get why he's supposed to be the great love interest.

I wish there was another Helen Burns, Jane's friend from Lowood, at Thornfield. I couldn't help but think of Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series when I read her character. Something about the daydreaming while being punished for whatever small infraction she had committed and not getting angry at anyone. Knowing death was on her heels made her more forgiving, more relaxed and she dealt with it in a way that was years beyond her age. Perhaps I dislike the chapters after her death because I miss her. I'm holding that against subsequent chapters and should probably just get over it.
*Spoilers contained. You're safe now*

Here's to hoping things pick up in the story. So many people list this among their favorite, desert island reads, so I'm sure there is something of substance and intrigue here to latch on to.

*Wikipedia just told me Austen is part of the Regency era and Bronte isn't but I think of them as one in the same.

Title quote from location 1992

Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Kindle edition, 2010. Originally published 1847

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Birthday Shakespeare!

That is the question
At least it's probably his birthday today. For those uneducated in the minutia of Shakespeare (a.k.a. non-super nerds), the only record is that Shakespeare was baptized on April 26th, 1564. Traditionally a person was baptized 3 days after birth, hence April 23rd for his birthday. Plus he died on April 23rd in 1616 so it makes it easier to remember these dates if they're all the same.

In what is becoming a tradition here on holidays, I figure I'd link to some past posts I've written about Shakespeare. See this way I get something appropriate to the day posted, whether or not I'm reading anything about that topic at the time AND I get to drive traffic to some of my past posts. I suppose I could have worded that to explain what it is you dear readers are getting, but that would feel like a lie. I mean I hope you find some past posts you enjoy. I'm certainly not trying to lead you to crap. And on that positive note, here are those posts!

The Compleat Works of Wllm Shkspr (abridged) by the Reduced Shakespeare Company
I think you showed a lot of heart, a lot of courage, a lot of -- as Shakespeare would say -- "chutzpah"

Othello by William Shakespeare
The Law of Transitives and...Othello?

My Name is Will: A Novel of Sex, Drugs and Shakespeare by Jess Winfield
[Maybe] I'll find the meaning of life in a sonnet

Fool by Christopher Moore
We're all Fate's bastards

A Top Ten Tuesday...on a Wednesday
Favorite Shakespeare Quotes

Soul of the Age: A Biography of the Mind of William Shakespeare by Jonathan Bate
All the world's a stage
A sonnet is a crystallization of the emotion of a moment
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything

Reduced Shakespeare: The Complete Guide for the Attention Impaired (abridged) by Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor
We kick the pedestal out from under Shakespeare and make him accessible once again to the grubby, semiliterate, easily distracted masses

Friday, April 22, 2011

Four Things

I already posted a word cloud today so I may as well keep with the light fare I'm throwing out there rather than anything actually book related. So here's a meme I saw on Literary Musings's blog and hosted by Books and Chocolate. I also just realized Shakespeare's birthday falls on a Saturday and I already had a post written up for it (supernerd) but didn't consult a calendar and had I, I would have posted it today. Whoops. Whatever, this is better for a Friday anyway.

Four jobs I've had in my life
1. Babysitter
2. Fragrance Compounder
3. Office Assistant
4. PR Database Support Consultant

Four books I would read over and over again
1. Lamb by Christopher Moore
2. No Reservations by Anthony Bourdain
3. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
4. Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson

Four places I have lived
1. Randolph, New Jersey
2. Boston, Massachusetts
3. Perugia, Italy
4. Long Island, New York

Four books I would recommend
1. A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore
2. Neither Here Nor There by Bill Bryson
3. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard
4. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Four places I have been
1. Galway, Ireland
2. San Juan, Puerto Rico
3. Toronto, Canada
4. Tenerife, Canary Islands

Four of my favorite foods
1. Cheeseburger
2. Sushi
3. Peanut Butter
4. Rice

Four places I would rather be right now
1. Seattle, Washington
2. NYC
3. Perugia, Italy
4. Brookline, Massachussetts

Four of my favorite drinks
1. Jack & Coke
2. cafe macchiato
3. red wine
4. this St. Germaine martini my friend used to make, but sadly I don't live near his bar anymore

Four things people that are very special in my life
1. Boyfriend
2. My Mom & Dad
3. My little way-smarter-than-me-in-a-science-sort-of-way Brother
4. My globe-trekking friend Michelle (she should be somewhere around Rwanda now)

"Sunday" Word Cloud

Last time I did one of these "Sunday" word clouds it was on a Monday. This time it's a Friday. I am no good to sticking with an idea. Or at least a whole idea. I have the word cloud part down, but that "day" adjective is clearly just decorative.  Sure, I could wait and post this on Sunday, but that's not going to happen for no reason other than I want to post something now but haven't read enough of Jane Eyre to really gather my thoughts yet. I could also quit calling it a "Sunday Word Cloud", but that's not going to happen either. "Word Cloud" alone doesn't have enough pop. I could try out some different adjectives, but something like "interesting" and "informative" are just as much of a lie as "Sunday".

And with that, here's my latest bookish word cloud:
If you'd like to see it bigger, follow this link

Not much to learn from this. I say "book" a lot. On a book blog? You don't say! I'm not putting this up here to learn, I putting this up here because of pretty colors. 

If anyone is interested in making their own, you can do it at Wordle. I like looking at word clouds as much as I like making them.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything

I've finally finished Jonathan Bate's Soul of the Age: A Biography of the Mind of William Shakespeare. I started the book sometime back in March and expected it to take about a week, maybe more. But no, that was not to be. The book is divided into the ages of Jacques' speech from As You Like It and after making it through the intro and the Infant, I was drained. There is so much dry, Elizabethan history to make it through that I needed a break. And so I've been reading an age in this book and then switching to a different book, repeat, repeat until Soul of the Age is done.

Here's the thing; the book isn't bad. I'd like to think if it was just awful I wouldn't have put myself through it. It was dry at points (a lot of points) and it was academic and difficult but not bad. Do I want to go back and do it again? No, but I'm happy I finished it.

At the end of the book Bate says his "aim throughout this book has been to explore Shakespeare's wit in the full sixteenth-century sense of the word" (407) which I suppose he did and although it would take someone smarter than me to realize that from the start. I didn't realize that was the goal or purpose of the book until I made it to page 407 and he told me. Bate provides lots of examples of Shakespeare's contemporaries praising him for his wit above all else and that at that time wit "referred to the mind as the seat of consciousness and thought" (406) so this complement is of the highest esteem. The one thing that I didn't feel like I ever got is a "biography of the mind of William Shakespeare" as promised in the sub-title of the book. The book never really felt like a biography and instead it was like a series of loosely connected essays looking at specific aspects of Shakespeare's plays and how they fit into the historical context of 16th century England.

I'm having trouble thinking of more to say. I think I'm a little burned out from reading this and at this point I've said what I can. I wouldn't recommend this for the casual Shakespeare reader, and the more you already know about Latin, Elizabethan England, Senecan tragedy and the likes the better you'll be. If you're a big Shakespeare nerd as well as an academic nerd and you feel like challenging yourself, go for it. I know this was over my head at many points but I'm still glad I finished it and hopefully I learned something new that will come to me once my head stops spinning.

If you're curious about my other posts about this book, you can find them here:
All the world's a stage
A sonnet is the crystallization of the emotion of a moment

Title quote from page 375, taken from Jacques' speech

Bate, Jonathan. Soul of the Age: A Biography of the Mind of William Shakespeare. Random House, 2009

Monday, April 18, 2011

Saying "rawr" is not a vampyre thing

I spent this weekend visiting my mom, which meant I had lots of train time to catch up on reading. Before I get into a book, I would like to make a request to both the LIRR and NJ Transit to put up a sign or something telling you which direction the train is going to go. I'm always convinced I've picked the right way, until the train starts moving and I'm going backwards. I need to also learn that if I'm positive I'm facing the right direction I need to get up and switch seats, because I'm never right. Anyway, the book.

I just finished Christopher Moore's Bite Me: A Love Story, the third part of his vampire trilogy, consisting of  Bloodsucking Fiends and You Suck. The city of San Francisco is in danger again, this time from a giant vampire cat named Chet that is taking down the homeless and the hookers. We have the same cast of characters from the previous books trying to clean up the mess: Jody and Tommy (lover vampires); Abby Normal, Foo Dog and Jared (Goth high schooler and minion to J&T, her "manga-haired loved monkey" and best friend); the Emperor and his brave men (a golden retriever and Boston terrier); the stoner Animals; and detectives Rivera and Cavuto. We also have a couple new characters: an elderly samurai print-maker, a set of ancient vampires come to clean up the mess Elijah (he who turned Jody and Chet) left; and their Renfield Kona, a white Hawaiian Rastafarian making an appearance after showing up in Moore's Fluke or I Know Why The Winged Whale Sings.

Abby Normal is one of my favorite characters and Moore has her narrate that majority of Bite Me via her blog entries, which she totally has to keep up to date so she doesn't leave her fans (1 subscriber) waiting. I know I couldn't stand being in the same room as her if she were a real person, but as a character she is fantastic. I love reading how she describes a scene, a conversation, anything really. I know I included a few lines from her in my last Moore post, but she deserves another example:
And Flood's like, "You don't have any confrontation issues, do you?" And I'm all, "No, I'm very insecure actually, but I have found that if you roll up screaming like a madwoman, hair on fire, guns blazing, no one is going to mention the zit on your forehead." Which is totally true. (224) 
I think, out of the three books, this is my least favorite. I love the characters and still found this to be a great and hilarious read, but the plot itself felt a bit weak and rushed. There are pretty much the same amount of characters as the previous installments, but since each group seemed to be doing their own thing so there was less time for each plot line. There's so much going on that you kind of get whip-lash following the story around. That said, this book does contain a few of my favorite scenes from the series that are so touching they remind me that Moore's tone doesn't always have to be this absurd, mad-cap humor.

*This part is kind of spoiler-y, so heads up*
Jody was caught at outside at sun-up and unlike Meyer's creations, these vampires fry in sunlight. She was saved by Katusumi Okata, Samurai of Jackson Street, who had previously shown up to save the Emperor and his men from destruction from the demon kitties. He is an elderly artist, a print-maker that has lived in a basement apartment in Chinatown for years, though he never learned English or Cantonese. He pulls Jody into his dark apartment before the sun can reduce her to ash and feeds her his blood to help her heal. In all of the excitement and action that take place on the other pages, these scenes are an island of silence and calm. There's less humor here and more both kindness and sadness as Jody slowly heals and Okata quietly sketches her. Their scenes alone almost make up for some of the weaknesses elsewhere in the book.
*Spoilers contained. You're safe now*

I know I've rambled a bit, but I do have one other thing to mention. I've said on a couple occasions that I hate eye-dialect, which is when an author writes out phonetically how a character sounds. It's usually too difficult to understand so instead of being more fully immersed in the story by now hearing what the character should sound like, I'm completely taken out of the moment trying to figure out what the hell is being said. Moore manages to create a dialect I can understand. It's not nearly as impenetrable as what you can find in Shaw's Pygmalion which is probably why I can read what Kona is saying and understand him, at least as well as the other characters. Here's some of his speech: "Oh, Jah's sweet love sistah, dat smoky biscuit givin' me da rippin' stiffy like dis fellah need to poke squid with that silver sistah on de Roll-Royce, don't you know?" (203).* From this I feel like I have an idea what a white Rastafarian with a bad Hawaiian accent might sound like and thus have a richer understand of the story. Or at least I can laugh at someone actually talking like that, especially when the other characters have such trouble understanding what the hell he's talking about.

I didn't mean to read quite so much Moore at once, but I had to finish the trilogy. I can't say I'm disappointed or upset with this latest book, I just know Moore can do better. But I'd still recommend this one if you've read the rest of the series. It's an entertaining read and contains the absurdities you can come to expect in his writing.

*Context does help so if you're curious what he said, know that one of the vampires was "stretched, naked, her arms wide like Winged Victory" (202).

Title quote from page 221

Moore, Christopher. Bite Me: A Love Story. Harper, 2010.

Friday, April 15, 2011

China Rican book requests

I'd like to walk you through a conversation between Boyfriend and I that took place while we were wandering around NYC this past March.

Boyfriend: What are all these signs for "her-story" for?
Me: It's Women's History month.
Boyfriend: What? It is? Black History month then Women's History month? Everyone gets their own month. Where's my month?
Me: Whiny boy month? Isn't that every month?
Boyfriend: Shut up, we need a China Rican month!
Me: So, is that studying the history of your family? I don't know if you're going to get a huge groundswell of followers for that.
Boyfriend: It's exclusive.

Admittedly he has a bit of a point. I can't say my Chinese history knowledge is super keen and my Puerto Rican history is even worse. I don't plan on picking up any history books to fill in the gaps, at least not at the moment, but I am willing to do something to support his fake history month. Now I don't expect to find any China Rican authors but I figure I'll read books about each half. So now I need to fill my literary deficiency and I'm hoping you guys can help.  Does anyone have any recommendations for books written by Chinese or Puerto Rican authors or else about China or Puerto Rico?

I own The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan.  I realize she's Chinese-American so it only kind of counts but I already have it so I'm going to re-read it for this little mini-challenge. I found a memoir called When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago, which is about her growing up in rural Puerto Rico and then later moving to NYC. So both of the books are split between China/Puerto Rico and the US. At least there's a theme there. And Pete from What You Read recommended Ma Jian's Bejing Coma so that's another for me to be on the lookout for.

So if anyone has any recommendations, please send them my way because I'm really at a loss.  And if anyone would like to join me in this, Boyfriend has declared June as China-Rican month because he likes warms weather. Is there more that usually goes into deciding on a  [blank] history month?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

To the silver screen: is it worth the journey?

Get it? I crack me up
Yesterday the Tuesday Top Ten topic was books we'd like to see made into movies. As I hopped around people's posts I was surprised to see how many people hate to see books up on the screen. I understand sometimes books don't translate well to the screen or that particular adaptation wasn't right. Sometimes the movie is a failure, regardless of if the source material came from a book or not. And of course when you read the book you get to make all of the choices a director is now making, so no movie will be your vision of a book. But personally, that doesn't bother me so much. I know a movie won't be quite what I envision and often I like the book better, but I still love to hear that my favorite books are going to be made into a movie. Maybe I'm just optimistic.

Sure, there have been bad adaptations but to me anyway, some successful movies come to mind: The Lord of the Rings trilogy, High Fidelity, The Silence of the Lambs. Sure things were left out and altered and added. But you know what? That's OK. Sometimes things work in a book that won't work on the screen. Sometimes the pacing that works in a book isn't going to work on film. Plus Hollywood does not seem to have a problem rehashing a story over and over (and over) again so if one adaptation doesn't work, I'm never surprised to hear another one is somewhere on the horizon.

So I just want to ask those that hate film adaptations of books if there's something specific you hate? I'm not knocking your opinion on it. I just want to understand. Are there general aspects of book films you don't like? Were you burned by an awful adaptation? Is all of the fans a book gets only after they've seen the movie? Please let me know! What is it about books on film that really grinds your gears?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Top Books I'd Like to See Made Into Movies

It's Tuesday again so again we have a Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the ladies over a The Broke and the Bookish. This week's question is what are the top 10 books I'd like to see made into movies. 

1. A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore - Chris Columbus, he of movies and not of misguided spice trade navigation, actually owns the movie rights to this so I have a small glimmer of hope that this will get made into a movie. A Beta Male becomes a death (not the Death) and tries to navigate his new condition while raising his daughter and running his second-hand shop which comes complete with characters like Abby Normal.

2. Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde - I don't think my favorite series, Thursday Next, will transfer well from page to screen. There are too many jokes and plot points that require you to be a reader and not a viewer. Shades of Grey however, would be fantastic to see since the whole society is based on the fact that people can only see a single color and other than that everything is just various shades of grey. I'd love to see the world through Eddie Russett's eyes.

3. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card - Another one that's been in the talks to get made into a movie, so another small possibility of actually seeing this on the big screen. I'd love to see how the Battle School is rendered but I still think they need to age Ender and the other kids up or else I'll never be able to take the movie seriously.

4. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clark - Look how much people like British wizards in the Harry Potter world. Now it's historical fiction mixed with fantasy. They would need to cut the story down to get it to fit, or else split it over two movies, but I'd see it. I imagine there would be some beautiful settings.

5. World War Z by Max Brooks - Well look at this, another one that's in the talks to get made into a movie. Now I understand there is a vast difference between rumors of a movie and something actually getting made but I'm getting my hopes up for this one. I'm not exactly sure how they'll weave a narrative out of the collection of "survivors stories" but I'm looking forward to it. Even if it means lot of zombie nightmares.

6. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahme-Smith - Oh hey, more zombies! And it's another one that is supposedly in the talks of being made. There are plenty of versions of P&P but I think the world can accept one where Lizzie and Darcy are both champion zombie killers.

7. Fool by Christopher Moore - I'd love to see this as a movie. King Lear, told from the Fool's point of view, with a typical Moore twist. It's a hilarious, sometimes dark retelling of Shakespeare's play and has the Fool as the driving force behind everything that happens, along with a back-story and name, Pocket, for the courtly jester.

I was really thinking I could make it to 10 this week but alas, it appears not to be. What are some books you hope get make it to the silver screen?

Monday, April 11, 2011

More than 300 million people in the world speak English and the rest, it sometimes seems, try to.

I've already written about two Bryson books on this blog, his domestic history At Home and his European travelogue Neither Here Nor There, and I wasn't originally planning on reading another Bryson so soon. But I was wandering around a lovely independent bookstore and found a copy a The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way on sale for $5. Couldn't pass that up! I've actually read this before but to be honest, I don't remember it. I had bought a copy of this at some point back in college. And also at some point in college I lent the book out to someone and never saw it again. I'm not sure who has it, but I hope they're enjoying.

Bryson's skill is taking a dry topic and making it interesting. How else does a book that goes over phonetic topics such as aphesis, apocope, syncope (which by the way, spell check does not recognize) make for something I want to pick up and pick up multiple times at that? I think there are two things Bryson does that make the everyday exciting: he approaches each topic with enthusiasm and from an amateur's standpoint. It would be easy for a book like this to veer off into the very technical aspects of the history and phonetics of the language and end up requiring the reader to be an expert. You never get the feeling you need to be taking notes, because you're going to be tested when reading Bryson. Even the terminology above is given to sate any curiosity about the technical terms he's describing, but could easily be left out without leading to confusion about the topic at hand. By the way, those terms refer to the dropping of sounds during normal speech, for example looked being phonetically pronounced "lookt", Australia being shortened to "Stralia" and the street in London Marleybone becoming "Mairbun" or even "Mbn". "For the record, when bits are nicked off the front end of words it's called aphesis, when off the back it's called apocope and when it's from the middle it's syncope". (88) For a further (and more amusing) example of this, Bryson uses his humor (the best teacher) to give further example:
"Where the British will say howjado for 'how do you do,' an American will say jeetjet for 'have you taken sustenance recently?' and lesskweet for 'in that case, let us retire to a convivial place for a spot of refreshment.'" (89)
The book discusses the history of English from the time our (very distant) ancestors began making guttural noises, through the Saxon and Roman occupation in England, the dynamic development during Shakespeare's day, the influx of various languages into English during the mass immigration to America in the early 20th century, and through to present day, or at least 1990 when the book was written. "Swearing" might be my favorite chapter, because I have the sense of humor of a 13 year old boy. The first line of the chapter is "Among the Chinese, to be called a turtle is the worst possible taunt," (214). I told Boyfriend he was a turtle, but he just looked at my confused. Apparently he is too far separated from his roots to appreciate such an insult. It is interesting to see what words have always been curses, what words have developed their taboo and which have lost it. Fuck has always been pretty bad, cunt was once "relatively harmless" and used by Chaucer (and spelled queynte and queinte, as well as the typical spelling, which I find fantastic) and in "nineteenth-century England puppy and cad were highly risqué" (217).

If you want to know more about the history, quirks and direction of the English language, you could do a lot worse than this one. It's funny and you don't need a linguistics degree to understand it. I'm pretty sure I've said it before, but I would read a book about paint drying if Bryson wrote it.

Title quote from page 11

Bryson, Bill. The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way. HarperCollins Perennial, 1990.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Book Blogger Directory

Parajunkee Design
Fellow book blogger Bev over at My Reader's Block has a post about a new (to me anyway) Book Blogger directory. The blogs are split out by genre they discuss so it looks like a good place to find some more book bloggers, beyond the typical hops.

If you'd like to add your blog to the list, check out their site Book Blogger Directory! I just added my blog.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Do you review everything you read?

Greg over at The New Dork Review recently asked the question about if it was worthwhile or not to review an obscure book he didn't like which kind of lead to a discussion about if one should review every book they read, regardless of their opinion or how obscure the book may be. In an effort to put in my two cents worth, or like 5 dollars worth since I guess my 2 cents are over in his comments (I don't understand money), I thought I'd continue the conversation here.*

Do you feel obligated to review every book you read? Are there any types of books (crappy, obscure, boring) that you won't review?

Personally, I don't feel any obligation to write about any particular book or in any particular format. I started this blog as a means to get back into writing, since I'd mostly let that skill atrophy since college, and I picked book blogging because that was the topic I was most interested in and I figured I read enough I wouldn't run out of topics. I'm not being paid for any reviews so I certainly don't feel any responsibility to review everything I read. All the books are ones I'm reading for my own enjoyment.

Having said this, I do write about all of the books I read. I'm spending my time to read it so I figure I may as well write something, be it that I like the book, don't like the book or the book makes me think of some more interesting topic. Not having something to say has never stopped me from prattling on before, and I'm not letting it stop me now. But this is a personal choice and I admire the bloggers that are able to resist posting when they have nothing to say, even if that means skipping a review.

Going beyond what you do with your own reviews, what do you like to see from book blogs you follow? Do you want bloggers to review everything? Do you want them to only review the books they liked? Do you want them to avoid reviewing obscure titles?

*This is a nicer way of saying "I'm stealing the topic Greg already wrote about over at his blog, and if you want the original you could just go over there and see what he says."

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

You can never hide as long as there is parsley nearby

In an effort to read a more diverse selection of literature, I've picked up The Farming of Bones by Haitian author Edwidge Danticat . I bought the book for a class sometime back in college, judging by the "used" stickers on it, yet I believe it was one of the books we never got to. I'm glad I did buy this, even if we never got around to it in class, because it's definitely a book I wouldn't have otherwise picked up. Not without some very strong recommendations from trusted sources anyway.

The book deals with the Parsley Massacre, the months leading up to the killings and the years after as the survivors try to come to terms with the grief they've experienced and the people they've lost. The Generallissimo Rafael Trujillo ordered the deaths of some 30,000 Haitians living in the Dominican Republic. In order to determine who was Haitian, Trujillo's soldiers would ask people to pronounce the Spanish word for parsley, perejil, knowing that Haitians "did not trill their r...or pronounce the jota" (304).

The story is narrated by Amabelle, a young Haitian girl who was orphaned when a raging river took her parents. Amabelle was rescued by a wealthy Dominican family and raised with Papi's daughter, eventually becoming a house servant in the Dominican Republic. During the day she is happy with her life, caring for Senora Valencia and hoping to one day marry Sebastian, a fellow Haitian who works on a sugar cane plantation. At night she's haunted by the deaths of her parents as her dreams keep taking her back to the day they died. One day Senora gives birth with Amabelle acting as midwife. As Senora's husband Pico, an officer for Trujillo, rushes home to greet his newborn children, he runs over a Haitian. Anxious to get home to his family, he refuses his father-in-laws pleas to stay and see who was hurt and if there's anything they can do. It turns out the man he hit was Sebastian's friend Joel. Sebastian and Yves were able to jump out of the car's way in time, but Joel wasn't so lucky. Pico mimics the general sentiments of the Dominican population, that a Haitian life isn't worth a second thought. Eventually the El Corte killings reach Amabelle's town and the people must flee if they hope to survive.

I tend to stay away from summaries in my reviews because I'd rather discuss pieces of the book and leave a summary for any of the other million places you can get one. However, I'm having trouble coming up with something to say. This book is certainly not light and I can't put my finger on any particular problem, but I wasn't moved by the story as I thought I would be. I like the characters, I think they're well-rounded and well-described. But I never got a chance to connect with them. Perhaps the problem is the story feels rushed. It's not a long book, only 310 pages, yet it seems to cover so much. Just as I'm getting used to normal life in Alegria, the cuttings start. Various characters say there are rumors of soldiers killing Haitians with machetes but the story never makes it feel like this is a real rumor touching on the characters. I needed to be shown, not told that these rumors were floating around. I never feel the suspicion, the worry that many of the characters say they're experiencing. Likewise, it feels like the journey to Haiti ends so abruptly. The only time I feel like the characters get a chance to tell their story is as the years go by and the survivors deal with their grief.

That said, Danticat has some beautiful prose that almost makes up for the quickness of the story. As a matter of fact, I was so taken by her writing that I didn't really notice how quickly we'd moved on and how much more I wanted to read until the moment had passed. There's a part where Amabelle, during a fever dream, sees her mother
"I was saving my smile for when you needed it," she says, in a cheerful voice I do not remember, for she had always spoken so briefly and so sternly. "I didn't want you to think that love was not scarce because it is, that it flowed freely from everywhere, or that it was something you could expect without price from everyone"..."You were like my shadow. Always fled when I came to you and only followed when I left you alone. You will be well again, ma bell, Amabelle. I know this to be true. And how can you have ever doubted my love? You, my eternity." (208)
I haven't found a new favorite book or a new favorite author, though I'm not opposed to trying out something else Danticat has written, I'm glad to expand my reading circle beyond the sarcastic dark humor that is my usual go-to. And of course reading something out of the white, European-American, male literary canon is nice as well. If only this was written sometime before the 1970s I would have fulfilled all of my goals from my March reading wrap-up. Don't worry, this doesn't mean I think I'm done reading non-white, non-American authors (just as it doesn't mean I'm never going back to those guys), it just means I'm moving in the right direction.

Title quote from page 304

Danticat, Edwidge. The Farming of Bones. Penguin Books, 1998.

Friday, April 1, 2011

March Reading Wrap-Up!

March has ended, and bookishly speaking, this month kind of kicked my ass. Actually, it's not the month's fault, it's Jonathan Bate and his Soul of the Age that I'm still making my way through, thus not making my way through a lot of other books. I will persevere though! Because I am stubborn and I don't want to lose a fight with a book.

I figure in addition to doing my normal monthly wrap-up, I thought I'd see how I'm doing for the quarter, because I work in corporate America so my life is split into quarters like that.

Number of books read (meaning completed this month)
Reduced Shakespeare by the Reduced Shakespeare Company
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
You Suck by Christopher Moore
Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

Total pages read (from the books above)

Percentage of fiction read

Percentage of female authors

Percentage of white authors
100% - lame. This will need rectified

Percentage of authors from the US

Percentage of eBooks

Percentage of re-reads

Books written by decade
1810s - 25%
2000s - 75%

OK, I need to work on non-white authors. Let's see how I'm doing for the quarter

Number of books read

Total number of pages read

Percentage of fiction read

Percentage of female authors

Percentage of white authors

Percentage of authors from the US

Percentage of eBooks

Percentage of re-reads

Books written by decade
1810s - 7%
1970s - 7%
1990s - 14%
2000s - 57%
2010s - 14%

Alright, so from these I'm thinking I need to work on the following:
Read more books by non-white authors
Read more books written before the 1990s
Read more non-US authors

How are your reading stats looking (if you're anal enough to be keeping reading stats that is)? Do you have any reading goals?