Adventures in Reading


Fiction: Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray, 1847-8 (Pt. 1)

“We are Turks with the affections of our women; and have made them subscribe to our doctrine too. We let their bodies go abroad liberally enough, with smiles and ringlets and pink bonnets to disguise them instead of veils and yakmaks. But their souls must be seen by only one man, and they obey not unwillingly, and consent to remain at home as our slaves—ministering to us and doing drudgery for us.”

The other evening I was in the mood to just read a big, thick book – seriously, these were the only qualities I was looking for. I scanned over Anna Karenina and An American Tragedy, and finally tucked away on the bottom of my shelf I found a dusty copy of William Makepeace Thackeray’s serial tale Vanity Fair. I purchased the book at least a year ago and have given no thought to reading it until now.

Vanity Fair (“A Novel Without a Hero,” but instead two heroines) is primarily the story of Rebecca Sharp and Amelia Sedley and their adventures and relations from finishing school through marriage through the Battle of Waterloo, etc. Thackeray has a robust cast of characters that he parades through Vanity Fair with delightful and witty insights and descriptions. The book is satiric, the book is critical, and (best of all) the book is enjoyable.

I was somewhat surprised by how readable the book is; I often find myself needing time to acclimate myself to period writing styles (such as Laurence Sterne or Jane Austen), but not with Vanity Fair. From chapter to chapter, Thackeray moves between different characters

Conclusion: Keeper.



¡Pillaging Blogrolls!
November 22, 2008, 2:42 pm
Filed under: thoughtful | Tags: , , , , ,

necromancyOnce again I wish to expand the territory of my Google Reader and this time as a result of the Terror of Lake Effect Snow (Duh duh duh!). For those of you missing out on the wonders of the Great Lakes, yearly we are inundated with great swathes of blustery snow and the never ceasing Lake Effect Warnings. I turned to the blog of my fellow Ohioan Necromancy Never Pays to discover a wealth of new links.

Tortoise Lessons

tortoise

Novel Readings

novel-readings

Maud Newton

maud

Guys Lit Wire

guys

Box of Books

box

Bookmark My Heart

bookmark



More on reviewing the unfinished
November 20, 2008, 11:42 am
Filed under: thoughtful | Tags: , , , , , ,

Yesterday I posted an inquiry into people’s opinions on posting reviews, or thoughtful commentary, on why they didn’t finish reading a book. But I thought, “Why not do utilize that dandy poll feature WordPress offers?” And here it is in all of its glory:



Reviewing the unfinished
November 19, 2008, 11:35 am
Filed under: thoughtful | Tags: , , , ,

For those of you who don’t have secret crushes on film critic Roger Ebert or who don’t want to adopt him, you may be out of the loop on some recent occurences known as Minutegate. In short, Ebert wrote and published a review on the film Tru Loved; a film he notes within the review that he didn’t finish:

Full disclosure. I lifted the words “San Francisco to conservative suburbia with her lesbian mothers” straight from the plot summary on IMDb.com, because I stopped watching the movie at the 00:08.05 point. IMDb is also where I found out about Bruce Vilanch’s dual role. I never did see the lesbian mothers or my friend Bruce. For “Tru Loved,” the handwriting was on the wall. The returns were in. The case was closed. You know I’m right. Or tell me I’m wrong.

Q. How can you give a one-star rating to a movie you didn’t sit through?

A. The rating only applies to the first eight minutes. After that, you’re on your own.

This got me thinking about my own little world of reviews and the times I’ve commented on books I simply couldn’t finish: Branchwater, The Turtle Moves!, I Am A Cat, Snow Falling on Cedars, The Forgery of Venus, and The Witches of Eastwick to name a few. Reasons to not finish a book range from reader’s block to a book just being sucky (in my opinion). But how do people feel about this? Thumbs up or thumbs down on explaining why you couldn’t make your way to the last page of a book?



Fiction: Arsenic Soup for Lovers by Georgia Z. Post, 2008

Georgia Z. Post’s short story collection Arsenic Soup For Lovers is a self-published collection from iUniverse. It’s a thin book at only 62 pages with 25 stories. With a bit of an Elizabeth Berg feel to them, the rather bare bone stories look at affairs, marriage, and middle age.

These stories are Reader’s Digest-esque and rely on “zinger” endings. I grinned a couple times but overall the collection is very formulaic. Some of the ideas are interesting, but the collection would have greatly benefited from some further workshopping.

I think I’ve learned my lesson to stay away (far away) from iUniverse.

Conclusion: Tossed.

(Available at Bookmooch.)

Other opinions: BookZombie, The Things We Read, and Diary of an Eccentric,



Books I’ve Read
November 17, 2008, 4:32 pm
Filed under: maintenance | Tags: , , , , ,

Something I’ve always meant to do but never got around to doing has been sorting my reviews and making an easy to read list of them. I’ve had different ideas floating about my head including sorting them chronologically according to publication, sorting them by genre, but I’ve finally come to terms to sorting them in the usual fashion: books I’ve commented on sorted by author. (Still a work in progress!)



Fiction: The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett, 1986

“The sun rose slowly, as if it wasn’t sure it was worth all the effort.”

Terry Pratchett’s The Light Fantastic continues from the cliffhanging finish of The Colour of Magic. Our heroes, the wizard Rincewind and the tourist Twoflower, begin the story dangling off the edge of the world; thanks to one of the eight great spells (left behind by the creator) lodged in Rincewind’s head, the two travelers find themselves on a haphazard journey to save the Discworld.

The Light Fantastic is a great and early example of Pratchett’s literal engagement with the Discworld; for example, Great A’Tuin the world turtle acts like a regular, old turtle. Thus the strength of the main plot doesn’t have to rely on too far fetched ideas, something that seems to crop up particularly in fantasy, but rather depends on a turtle doing turtle-like things. This early book in the series does have a couple of developmental issues ranging from scene switches to some thematic humor issues, but these don’t take away from the story.

A lot of the fun in rereading The Light Fantastic is in discovering the loose assortment of foreshadowing. Pratchett seems to reference at least three future books. If not the best of the Discworld series, The Light Fantastic is a satisfying read with the usual Pratchet philosophical wanderings.

Conclusion: Keeper.