Friday, 31 August 2012

Top 5 TV

Haven't you all missed this feature so much? Who forgot that I even did two of them once upon a time? *slowly raises own hand* Actually, I more periodically forget, as in I sometimes get an idea for one, and then can only think of three things and so another month passes without doing one. Why am I even explaining this? Who can say.

Anyway. I do have an idea this time, and it's, ok, you know when you're watching TV and there's nothing really on, and you come across something that you know you shouldn't really be watching because it won't improve your life much and yet you can't quite turn over because, hello compelling TV? That's what these are. I think it goes without saying that basically all of these are in the category of reality TV. So let's think of a title...

Top 5 Shows You Know You Shouldn't Watch, But Can't Quite Turn Off

1. The Hills- I am physically incapable of not watching The Hills if I know it's on, and there's no one there to stop me. It's my dirtiest little secret, because it's so bad, but OMG compelling! And the drama! And the WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?! All you need to know about me and The Hills is that I cried when Lauren showed up at Heidi's wedding, so... Yeah. I have a problem.
Note: This is not applicable to the seasons without Lauren Conrad. Which really really suck.

2. Supersize vs Superskinny- This is a UK TV show where a morbidly obese person and a really underweight person swap diets, and it's actually not too trashy (at least, I don't think so) but it's not the kind of thing that a normal person would need to watch more than once. Since I like food, and have a penchant for documentaries about the morbidly obese (half ton dad, that kind of thing- it keeps me in line, weight wise!) I will literally watch this whenever I know it's on. Which is pretty often.

3. Wife Swap USA- I can take or leave the UK Wife Swap, but I can't get enough of the US version because, well, Americans are much crazier! Also it's more invented drama-y, which may be bad documentary wise but sure is good for entertainment! I could literally watch this all day, and I do believe I watched about 3 in a row once... That was a good day.

4. Hoarders- This one kind of goes without saying, I guess, but once I've started watching Hoarders, I of course can't stop. I guess I'm lucky that I can hardly ever find it on TV, because otherwise I'd just watch it all the time, like I did that time when I found it on the internet. That was an awesome week...

5. LA Ink- I don't think this is that bad either, but once it's on, there's no taking me away from LA Ink. It may have a slightly repetitive format, but tattoos! And Kat Von D! What's not to like?!

There are quite a lot more programmes that I basically can't turn off once they're on (and I have to watch any Back to the Future film any time it's on TV. Because come on, those are the greatest films ever!) but these are probably the worst of them. And Wife Swap is about as baaad as it gets. Now make me feel better: what programmes do you have to watch once they're on? Plastic surgery makeover ones (actually, I love/hate those too)? Soap operas? Tell me, tell me, tell me!

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Devouring Books: Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

Before I even start talking about this book (which it has taken me SO LONG to do, which suggests to me some kind of correlation between LOVING THE CRAP out of a book and being incapable of writing anything coherant about it) can we talk about the similarity between its UK cover and that of How To Be A Woman?
Like... They're both grey and have similar fancy typeface in the titles, and I'm just wondering if the UK publishers went 'Ok, so maybe not that many people might know of this Jenny Lawson, we'd better remind them of how awesome Caitlin is' and whether that was a factor in their decision? I mean, they're both completely awesome, and I have no objections to this, it's just a general wonderment.

Anyway, so that was pointless. Let's talk about Let's Pretend This Never Happened! (And let's pretend that never happened). Except I don't know how to. Because it's a book I was a tiny bit worried about reading, because WHAT IF I DIDN'T FIND IT AS FUNNY AS EVERYONE ELSE?! Would that make me non-funny too? I have to be funny! It's how I understand that people like me! Ahem, so groundless worries, because OMG it's so hilarious. Like, not just a bit hilarious, but kind of just consistently funny throughout- obviously there were bits that I found funnier than others, because, you know, everyone has different funny spots, but even the slightly less funny things for me? Still bloody HILARIOUS.

I feel like a rite of passage thing with this book is the laughing out loud, in public whilst reading it. I honestly didn't think this would happen to me because I am SO not a laugher out loud with books. It's a weird little tic, but I basically just laugh in my brain and that's it, because... I don't really know. BUT I totally laughed out loud with this! Twice! And that's just in public. Because, well, there's this one part where she's having a conversation with a co-worker about the potential of having a giant vagina, and her co-worker is just like 'I can't BELIEVE you're even saying this to me' and I just felt so UNDERSTOOD because I am constantly inappropriate in conversation. It's like a disease. And then ALSO I laughed with the whole laxative episode, because it was just set up SO well, and then ascended to the heights of hilarity. And who doesn't laugh at a good poo story? No one, that's who!

Most of the funnyness comes from Lawson's writing style, which I ADORE. According to Alley, Lawson started her blog to find her writing voice so that she could write this book, and may I just say thank the LORD (I don't know who this Lord is. Whatever.) that she did because it's pretty awesome. It's like... the way I wish I could write and the way I kind of try to (what with the losing the train of thought parentheses and all) but in a completely superior (superior to me, that is. Not in an arrogant way or anything) and amazing way. I just... I loved the writing so much that I didn't even want to stop at any point to write anything down because I just wanted to keep reading it more. Hence, you know, the lack of quotes in this review and all (also because I'm too lazy to go back through it. And if I did I'd probably just start reading it ALL again!)

It seems to me that, in a parallel universe, there could be a parallel Let's Pretend This Never Happened, only its author refused to see the funny side in these consistently ridiculous situations. And that book? Would be terrible. The most heartening thing, the best thing, about this book, is the way Lawson consistently sees the hilarity in all these situations. There are moments that are obviously difficult, sure (and the occasional seriousness that creeps in doesn't hurt the book at all, just makes everything richer, and more life-y) but in the end, having a sense of humour trumps everything, and really is just the way to get through it all. I think that, in general, this is just a good thing for everyone to know- that no matter how tough things get, being able to laugh about it, either at the time, or eventually, is extremely extremely therapeutic. Believe me, I know this.

Didja just see me get all serious?! Ignore that, because this book is the big funny! But also, as well, it has DEPTHS too, and that basically just makes it perfect. It now sits proudly on my shelves, next to How To Be A Woman (they're the same height, as well as looking similar) and I can't see either of them staying on there, and out of my hands, for too long. Seriously, it's brilliant. Go read it.

I have to thank Ellie for sending me this book for RAK, because without her, who knows when I would have read it! Thanks Ellie!

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The Moonstone, Part 4: "I consider you to be a person whose head is full of maggots."

Warning: I haven't warned you of this before, but this time it's really really important because I'm about to reveal the person who stole the moonstone. So if you don't know, RUN AND SAVE YOURSELVES NOW!

Because, of course, OBVIOUSLY it wasn't Ezra Jennings. Who even suspected him? I knew he'd turn out to be a good guy in the end! Ahem. But I'll come back to ALL that later, because of course, OF COURSE it was Godfrey!
I never liked that guy. Although, I did sort of enjoy that it was a crime of opportunity rather than of real maliciousness against his own cousin, and also that he got all smothered for it, because, you know, it's Godfrey. Oh, how Clack must have mourned. My main thought on the whole mess? Don't let the poor relations be trustees to the rich people! How was that ever going to work, especially when said poor people kept a woman in his villa? How?!

Anyway, that was all later. May we please speak about Ezra Jennings, he of the amazing 'I must make my patients drunk and give them opium and stuff' method of being a doctor. Way to go Ezra! Did we all see Wilkie's pains reflected in Ezra's, and Wilkie's massive opium addiction doing the same? Good good. Also, I have to assume that Ezra's piebaldness has some kind of relation to Wilkie's GIANT forehead, because no amount of google searching has meant I can figure out what that is. But let's just pretend it's the same thing, even if it isn't, ok?

Anyway, I was surprised as anyone that Ezra wasn't evil, and apparently Betteredge (who, by the way, was supremely awesome in this last part, I have to say) still believes that he is "Speaking as a man, I consider you to be a person whose head is full of maggots."
GREATEST INSULT EVER! Just, in my opinion. (Note: I just realised this was my title quote. But it bears repeating!) Ok, so the opium thing was clearly a work of genius (although, baad Dr Candy. Sorry, Mr Candy. Personally I blame him for all of this. The whole thing. He was probably just faking a brain disease to get out of taking the blame, is what I think) and I'm SO sad that Ezra died! He was totally my star of this last section, so YAY EZRA (at last!) But bad Godfrey. Bad bad bad.

But hey, at least Rachel and Franklin got it on:
"Sir and madam, look back at the time when you were passionately attached to each other- and you will know what happened, after Ezra Jennings had shut the door of the sitting room, as well as I know it myself."

And if you'll just indulge me for a tiny bit longer, I want to talk about the ending (which, by the way, I nearly missed because I thought Betteredge and Robinson Crusoe deserved to end it, really) which slightly confused me. Because, on the one hand, it was EXACTLY what I wanted to happen (the moonstone being returned to its home and all) but then, also, why exactly did the Indians who brought it back get punished? And if it was, as I believe it was, a caste thing, is that like Wilkie saying that the Indians are stupid for not rewarding good actions and being overly obsessed with caste, which is actually pretty rich coming from a Victorian gentleman? I JUST DON'T KNOW. Help me out, everyone?

And so it endeth! I am sad and yet happy, all at once. Damn Wilkie, you're just the greatest! Good readalong everybody! *claps and imagines everyone else doing the same*. I just don't know what I'm going to do in September, but I know that in October we'll all be reading The Grapes of Wrath along with me? Isn't that right? Get your sad faced gifs ready, I'll be waiting!

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Devouring Films: Dreams of a Life

I was just randomly scrolling through Netflix the other week, trying to find something different to watch, when I came across Dreams of a Life, something which I could vaguely remember reading about, but couldn't quite place. I started watching it anyway, and ended up watching one of the most moving things I've seen in a while.

Dreams of a Life (for those who didn't randomly read something about it, and then more or less straight away forget it, i.e. everyone) is a documentary centred around a case in the UK of 6 years ago, where a woman's (Joyce Carol Vincent) body was found three years after she'd died, with the TV still on, and layers of dust around on everything in her flat. Obviously a terribly terribly devastating story, made even sadder by the fact that no newspapers could find any information about her, and nobody could understand why nobody cared enough about her to not notice that she was missing. It would be really really easy to go the sob story route with this, but that's not what this documentary does.

Instead, it tries to piece together a picture of her life. By talking to old friends, boyfriends, flatmates and so on, the film goes beyond the headlines and tries to bring back a portrait of a person, someone who lived and laughed and ate and sang and generally tried to enjoy her life. This is not to say that the portrait of her is one of an entirely unflawed person- on the contrary, I definitely got the impression that she centred her life around whoever was her boyfriend at the time, and that she was notoriously bad at keeping in touch with people (hence her tragic end) but that only made her more real, and more someone who did have a life, rather than just a horrible death.

Of course, there's a limit to what we can know about Joyce. We can't know how she really felt when she was with the men she was with, we can't know what her final thoughts were of, we can't know why she didn't feel the need to keep in touch with people, and we can't ever really expect to fully understand who she really was. But in a way, this is true of everyone; and in another way it doesn't really matter- just the trying to understand her, and wanting to know more about her life, means that she stops being just a sensationalist story in the newspapers, and starts being real. In watching Dreams of a Life, you always want to know more about Joyce, and just in that it succeeds as a film.

And yes, it's still a horrible story. But at the same time, it's so heartening to know that there were people who loved her, and still care about her, and who would have done anything to help her if they'd known she was in trouble. There's this one ex-boyfriend, Martin, who's still clearly very much in love with her, and his sadness at not being able to have helped her just broke my heart (and also made me cry, a bit)- and I almost want to be angry at both of them, for not having just held onto each other, but it's all too sad to be angry about. Just really, too sad.

You see on the poster, where it says 'Nothing has lingered in my mind like this'? I totally feel that way about this documentary. I very much recommend watching it if you get the chance, and maybe make sure you have some tissues near you as you watch this film give an unknown woman her life back, in a narrative sense at the very least.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Sunday Sundries: I Heart Yorkshire

Yes indeed, Yorkshire was my mystery destination from last week's Sunday Sundries (which you'd know if you followed me on twitter. Hey, why not do that?), specifically Oxenhope, which is basically right next to Haworth which, I'm sure you know, is where the Brontes lived! Clearly my sister knows the things I like, cause she's the awesomest (until we have an argument, that is, and then she won't be. You know, siblings!) But Haworth! It was amazing! And so pretty! And obviously warrants it's own special post about a literary landmark, so I'll save the story until I can be bothered to write that, and leave you for now with the creepiest statue in the world:

That was just the first day, and then on the second day we went to York and it's a pretty nice city, plus it has York Minster and, you probably don't know this about me, but I'm a real sucker for Cathedrals and shit. Not God or any of that, but the buildings themselves? Amazing. So there was that, PLUS this chocolate tour thing because York was the home of Rowntrees (who originally made Kit Kats and Smarties and Fruit Pastilles and all) as well as Terry's (of the chocolate orange) and that was pretty awesome too- I learnt how to taste chocolate properly and everything, so now I consider myself an expert. Oh, and obviously it rained loads too, because I was in Yorkshire for goodness sakes!
Interestingly, York also seems to have been a breeding ground for criminals and apparently a good place for their final burials. Guy Fawkes was born there, and I wouldn't have brought this whole thing up if I hadn't gone on the bus tour of York that basically only gave information like 'This is where Dick Turpin was buried, and this is where he was hanged. Public executions used to take place over there' and so on. I found all of this mightily disturbing, of course, especially after all the lovely chocolate mere minutes before! Bad bus tour.

Then we just had a morning left in Yorkshire, and so we went tramping around the moors which was EXCELLENT and also TIRING (those hills are STEEP!) and so beautiful that I could actually just cry thinking about them now.  Honestly, I can't even overstate how amazing the moors are- it's like every direction you turn, the scenery is even more beautiful. And it's actually really difficult to get a good picture of how lovely it is to be there, because each picture is just one side of your experience, whereas the moors are ALL AROUND. It's amazing. And makes me just want to read all the Brontes books all the time.

And what this all means, now, is that I have to stop making fun of the North, and of Yorkshire, and that's going to be REALLY difficult for me because I've been doing it forever. But NO MORE, I say! Because seriously, I love Yorkshire so much! 

Inevitably, though, we had to come home, and I haven't really done anything since then except mope around because I don't live in an area of stunning natural beauty and because I miss Yorkshire. Which I'm going to have to get over because I definitely can't move there, and definitely not right now, but still... Yorkshire, you have my heart right now. Having said that, I did buy some pretty awesome boots on Friday, and baked muffins on Saturday, so maybe here isn't quite so bad after all. Maybe.

Book-wise, I'm in that awkward place where I'm between books (I've finished The Moonstone and it's BRILL- so excited to discuss it on Wednesday!) and I haven't quiite decided what to read next. Foolishly yesterday I got about 50 pages into Dolores Clairborne, but I got to a good stopping place (it's basically a giant monologue with no chapters, FUCK YOU KING) and so stopped, but when I wanted to read some more I picked up Crime and Punishment instead, so now I'm a chapter into that. And like 3 other books as well. BASICALLY I'm having an attack of ADHD, or, you know, inability to just pick one fucking book. It's like a disease.

That was also my way of telling you that I have no content! None! Apart from a review of Let's Pretend This Never Happened that I haven't written yet, and also one for this documentary that made me cry a bit. But other than that, nothing! This is you chance to tell me that you miss me posting every day... Guys? Guys? Hmmm... I'll remember this...

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Devouring Books: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

"He trembled with the desire to conquer and subdue. It was like the desire for women."

I bought Things Fall Apart a long time ago (this falls into the category of things I say all the time, but hey, at least I'm reading them!) but I distinctly remember that I bought it based purely on the fact that I liked the title. It's to the point and pretty clear, and I just liked it. Which is obviously why I let it languish on my shelves for years and years, and basically didn't consider reading it ever in that time. I'm smart like that.

So, I finally read it thanks to the Back To The Classics Challenge! *Waits for applause, awkwardly moves on when there is none when there is none because the internet doesn't really work that way* And... Well. It didn't exactly set my world on fire, but I did like it. Above all I liked that it was equally fair, or equally unfair to everyone, but I had some issues with not being massively interested in any of the characters or anything that was going on. Allow me to elaborate.

The basic story of Things Fall Apart is that of Okonkwo, a well respected member of an African tribe, who also happens to beat his wives and has an overall lack of respect for women. Like everyone in the book. Including the women. Which doesn't really have that much to do with the plot, so I'll move on from it. FOR A MINUTE. So, things happen, and then Okokwo gets exiled, and then, when he returns things fall apart. Which is really bad, obviously. (This is basically a plot outline for the whole book, which you might consider a spoiler, but I do not because it was all in the blurb on my copy. And it's not really a book that you can spoil like this, in my opinion.)

What I really liked about this book was the way that no one, and no one's way of life was seen as wholly good or wholly bad. Honestly, I was expecting it to be like 'the evil white men came and killed people and forced their views on the rest' (and I wouldn't have been wholly opposed to that view) but it was definitely a lot more balanced than that. Which was good, because I was decidedly uncomfortable about the amount of violence, and the treatment of women in the tribe culture, but I also felt uncomfortable like denouncing it in my brain because it's like being a colonial overlord and forcing my culture on another, you know? But it was ok, because the book was critical of this, so I could be too. There's no idealism about the tribe way of life, and nothing to suggest that it's a perfect culture that is irreplaceable. And nor is the new one.

So all of that was good. Especially not feeling like a colonial overlord, because that is something that I just HATE! But. I feel like this book is basically all symbols and colonialism and tradition vs new ideas, and while it's all very interesting and if I'd read it for some kind of official purpose (you know, school and stuff) I'd have had loads to say about it and been really impressed. And I am still impressed, but also... I'm not at school anymore. And being kept at an arms length from the characters, and having only the bare bones of a plot for the sake of many many symbolic things is not something that necessarily floats my boat in an 'inspiring deep love for a book' kind of way. Impressive? Sure. Love? Not so much.

On the whole, though, I'm definitely glad I read this because, like I say, it's very interesting and symbolic and all, but also I don't feel any great urge to read it again. It is, however, a relatively quick read, and feels quite enriching compared to the amount of effort you have to put into it. So, on a cost-profit analysis (is that even a thing?!) it's definitely worth a read.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The Moonstone Part 3

OH MY GOD, the end of this section!! Rachel SAW Franklin doing it, but he has no memory of it?! I'm thinking secret twins or doppelgangers or intense plastic surgery... You know, all the normal things. And also, I've been doing this a lot, of course:

Just to back up a teeny bit though, I've come to the reluctant conclusion that Rosanna might ACTUALLY be dead, and, well, I'm pretty sad about it, actually. It seems to me that Rosanna is The Moonstone's Anne Catherick (or Anne is The Woman in White's Rosanna... Which was published first again?) in that their deaths came with little fanfare and no one was that bothered about them. Still, Rosanna had Betteredge to cry for her, and Anne had her companion lady, so... There's that at least. But also I CAN'T BELIEVE SHE'S ACTUALLY DEAD! What the hell, Wilkie? I did so love her little unrequited love thing for Franklin though, and also the fact that Penelope was right about this as she has seemed to be about everything. Could PENELOPE be the secret mastermind behind everything? I think yes.

And now to go back even further, how awesome was the rest of Clack's section? Last week, Alice and I decided that Clack kissing Godfrey's hand was her first and only sexual experience, and I think in this part she had her second:
"I have an indistinct remembrance that he was very affectionate. I don't think he put his arm around my waist to support me- but I am not sure. I was quite helpless, and his ways with ladies were very endearing."
I mean, OBViously Clack is desperately in love with him, but did anyone else pick up on the bit where she said that she forgives him and still loves him or whatever it was? Is he dead, or does he have a secret Franklin mask, and so took the moonstone? (I don't really think he took it. BUT I JUST DON'T KNOW!)

I think Clack's fall from grace was perfect though, because as it turns out, telling your patroness that you tried to stress her mother out just before she died? Probably not the best idea. Sad as I am to see her go, she did leave us with some more wonderful wonderful things to remember her by, so we all know that she's very very ill-used and underappreciated. And also a terrible person: "In those words the invitation was given, and the glorious prospect of interference was opened before me."

I don't really have much to say about the lawyer section, other than that I like him because he dislikes Godfrey (and I feel exactly the same way about Mr Murthwaite now) but also, how lowwww is Godfrey?! 'Oh please marry me dear Rachel because I need all your money' but hey, nice work Lady V in making sure no evil man could take all her money. I think that's what happened, right? Oh yeah, and there was also the thing with the Indians, which excites me not all that much because they clearly didn't take it, and clearly still want it, and frankly I think they should have it because it really belongs to them, so... Yeah.

But anyway. What do we think about Franklin?! If he did it then he's clearly hiding it, even from himself, and definitely from the reader. I enjoy the fact that Betteredge got to be a detective again, and frankly, if he's the one to solve the whole thing, I'd be really happy. Is Rachel maybe lying about seeing Franklin because she actually took it? I don't think she is, because all her actions suggest that that's what she really believes. So maybe she was just dreaming? I JUST DON'T KNOW. I'm like this:

And also, I am DYING to find out. I'm so happy that this week's is the last section (except, only one more readalong week, SADFACE) because I need to know or I am going to EXPLODE. Not even an exaggeration.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Sunday Sundries: Surprises and Day Trips

So this week was kind of awesome- I had two day trips, one just to Windsor (I say just cause it's really near me) to hang out with my friend Justine, with whom I found a pub that makes what look like the greatest sandwiches in the world, only we'd already eaten at lunchtime, and so basically it's really important that we go back there. I mean, imperative. So that was awesome, and then I also went to the beach with my friend Becci and her friend Ed and that was also all the greatness, even if it was sort of cold and windy (and then yesterday? Like, 85 degrees Fahrenheit. What the hell?) AND there were gross crabbing incidents, crabbing being intrinsically gross. But still... Much fun was had all round!

So, a good week! Admittedly I did have to go to the hospital on Friday with my mum and wait for TWO HOURS for a ten minute appointment that didn't really tell us anything we didn't know, which did suck a lot, but then I got to hold a baby for a while, so... That sort of evened things out a bit. And maybe most interestingly, or at least relevently to this blog, I GOT RID OF SOME BOOKS! Ok, technically they're still outside my bedroom door cause no one has taken them to a charity shop yet, but I got rid of probably 25 or so books? Which isn't really as many as I should get rid of, but it's a step in the right direction, right? Right. I was pretty proud of myself anyway, and I did that on Monday, so even if the rest of the week had been a write-off, I would have still done that! Except the rest of the week turned out to be awesome, so... Yay all round!

I realise I'm being totally chipper, but don't tell me so and bring me down, man. I like the chipper! And I'm not expecting it to retreat until at least Wednesday, because I'm going away... somewhere from Monday to Wednesday. And I don't know where, so don't even ask me, cause my sister's taking me and it's a big ole secret which is actually more exciting and less annoying than I thought such a thing would be! So... I have no real information about it for you, but it's what I'm going to be doing for the first part of this week so I just thought I'd inform you. It might not even affect posting on here if I can get some posts written today (mutters something about packing and then gives up on computer things) but still... I like to let you know these things.

And I think that's about all I have for you this week, folks! Short-ish and sweet, that's how I like to keep things (err, never. Except when I have to pack and things...) I hope all of your weeks were lovely, and hey, tell me about them in the comments, yeah? 

Friday, 17 August 2012

Devouring Stephen King: Gerald's Game

"Nothing she had ever seen on Firing Line or read in the Reader's Digest had prepared her for what she had just done."

As far as I can remember, Gerald's Game is has the first sole female heroine of any of King's books since Carrie. I mean... OK, maybe Cujo a tiny bit, and Needful Things had a sort of joint man-and-lady hero thing going on, but on the whole, I think this is true. Which is, you know, pleasing to me because, yay ladies- King doesn't exactly forget to include the ladies, but they tend to be wives or mothers, one of which is true of our heroine, but she's also a bit of a change from the norm.

Except where she isn't. Ok, so Jessie is 'Gerald's wife' (and note that even the title is about him, not her) and she finds herself in a slightly sticky (ewww...) situation when Gerald has a heart attack in the middle of some kinky sex that sees her tied to the headboard of their bed in a cabin in the middle of the woods. On a weekday. So the rest of the book just basically happens in Jessie's head, which is interesting because she's ever-so-slightly schizophrenic, and the voices in her head make her face up to one basic thing in her life, the one thing that haunts her and holds her back and all those other bad things.

Sounds intriguing, right? Well, it is and it isn't, in that what 'the event' actually was is a thing that annoys me ever so much about Stephen King whenever he does things like this. Ok, so the deal with Jessie is that when she was 10 she was sexually molested (I hope this isn't a spoiler- I got it really really early on, but then I read A LOT of Virginia Andrews books when I was young, so...). Which in itself is not the issue, because it obviously fits well with the situation she's in (sexual vulnerability and everything) BUT OMG King does this all the time. I mean, not so much with the molestation, but with the 'if a woman has a problem, it has to do with her lady parts' thing and it annoys me ever so much.

Seriously- there's Carrie's powers evolving once she starts her period, Bobbi's crazy periods once she gets near the spaceship in The Tommyknockers, Frannie being all pregnant (and thus useless) in The Stand... The amount of times King has done this is actually quite staggering, and it bugs the crap out of me! Does he do this to his male characters? Do his male characters have issues because of their penises? Nope, they are just people, who get into weird situations with various creatures. But the girls? Their sexuality can lead them out of the sewers, and if weird shit's happening, they're probably menstruating. IT'S SO FRUSTRATING- I just want to shake him and go 'STOP DOING THAT TO THE WOMEN!' 

But. This is a long standing issue I have with him (and, to be fair, I don't massively have a problem with his women characters beyond this- often they're very well fleshed out, and definitely better than a lot of male writers would bother to do, so...) and I feel like it's unfair of me to take it out on this book, which was actually pretty good. It's really suspenseful (will Jessie be able to escape?) and gross (not elaborating on that one, but seriously... Gross) AND just when you think he's given in and gone for the supernatural element, BANG he does a swift u-turn, and bucks his own conventions. Well, one of them, anyway. Because of this, I'd like to conjecture that this would have actually been a Bachman book, if 'Bachman' hadn't been outed, but that's not massively important. UNLESS I'm the first person to have ever said that, and Stephen King would agree with me, and then I win everything. 

I realise that this 'review' is really just a big moan about Stephen King, but rest assured I still love him, I just don't love the reducing females to their female parts thing that he very often does. Gerald's Game is still a good read, and pretty tense and upsetting to boot. I bet you've been reading this and thinking of Misery (the masses: nope, not at all) but it's not anywhere near as good as Misery. But since that was AWESOME, this is still good. Give it a try.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The Moonstone, Part 2: Satan among the Sofa Cushions

Oh, Miss Clack. What a gem (and by gem, I obviously mean twat). I found her so ridiculously hilarious that I laughed so much I gave myself a coughing fit- and a really odd and random coughing fit because I don't even have a cold or anything. By jove, Wilkie, I can't believe you've written a character maybe even funnier than Mr Fairlie (maybe. He was pretty hilarious.) But oh, miss Clack and her tracts... I'm fairly convinced they're what did Lady V in (LADY V! Betteredge must be so so sad...) but I wouldn't have been without them- Satan among the Sofa cushions is my personal favourite, but of course we shouldn't forget about Satan under the Tea Table, or Satan behind the Looking Glass...

ANYWAY, going backwards slightly, can we please talk about the fact that I'm not entirely sure that Rosanna is dead? I mean, she might be, but also there's absolutely no evidence that she actually is, so I'm very very suspicious about that whole thing. Also I'm now suspicious of Ezra Jennings, Dr Candy's assistant:
"His assistant- a certain Mr Ezra Jennings- was at our disposal, to be sure. But nobody knew much about him in our parts. He had been engaged by Mr Candy under rather peculiar circumstances; and, right or wrong, we none of us liked him or trusted him."
You see?! I'm sure he'll never be mentioned again, now, but still, I remain suspicious of him. AND EVERYONE.

And then also still in Betteredge's section, I felt totally vindicated cause in the comments of my post last week we were all having a discussion that Rachel had sold the moonstone so she could fund an abortion of... I'm gonna say Franklin's baby, and while that was not exactly proven to be the case (although it wasn't UNproven, so let's keep that in mind) Cuff did say this:

"Sometimes the money is wanted for purposes which I don't suspect in this case, and which I would shock you by mentioning." 
Which I totally read as funding really really illegal abortions, but which now that I think of it could basically be anything scandalous, like hiring a hitman or something. OMG did Rachel hire a hitman to take out her mum?! (No. In fact, I don't even believe that Rachel has it. No matter what Clack thinks.)

So, Betteredge's section was all fine and good, and ended with a fun little like 'I might not be a reliable narrator, so watch out!' thing, and since the next part was narrated by a woman, I was like 'ooh, maybe she's our Marian!' She is so not our Marian. Not in the slightest, but fortunately she is a lot more hilarious than her, only, you know, unintentionally. Also, she has a total ladyboner for Godfrey:
"It is in the completeness of his daily life that the true Christian appears. This dear man was very complete." Or:

Only, of course, shiiiit, Rachel and Godfrey just GOT ENGAGED FOR NO REASON, and I feel like there could be some bitter, very non-Christian jealousy emanating from Clack for the rest of the time she's with us. Or at least that she'll get even more hilarious, which I can deal with.

Speaking of Rachel, WHAT IS UP WITH HER?! She seems to basically have manic depression, and she was all like 'ooh, Godfrey got tied up, how exciting!' and then when she found out that it was over the moonstone, she was like 'oh the humanity, I must stop all this before anyone else gets hurt!' and I'm just like DUDE, what did you think it was going to be about? The trousers at that weird group Clack and Godfrey both belong to?! OBVIOUSLY HE WAS ALL BLINDFOLDED OVER THAT EXTREMELY PRECIOUS STONE THAT YOU FUCKING LOST! (Too many capitals? Maybe.) I sense her acceptance of his engagement is all about residual guilt over his ordeal. Just saying. NOT that I think she's got the moonstone, and in fact this is about as far as I've gotten trying to figure out what's actually going on:
Cuff thinks Rachel has sold the stone
Clack thinks Rachel has it cause she hates her
Rachel thinks Franklin has it for some reason
and the lawyer (who I think gets his own narrative later which is good cause he seems fun) thinks that Godfrey is most likely to have it.

So basically I have no idea what's going on, but does it really matter when there's CLACK?! I don't even care about the mystery anymore, I just want Clack to keep saying things and being a terrible person, and Christian ('I realised that she hadn't even given me my inheritance', 'I'm only doing this because Franklin Blake is paying me'- naughty materialistic lady!) And also I like not knowing things, because at the end of it all, I want to be like this:
I'm totally using this again. Just to warn you.
Addition: Did anyone else think that the girl who lived in the cottage by the sea was totally in love with Rosanna? Like, she was all 'we were going to go away together and live as sisters' but when they got there they would clearly be doing the lady love? Because... I totally thought that.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Devouring Books: The Invention of Solitude by Paul Auster

"He speaks of himself as another in order to tell the story of himself. He must make himself absent in order to find himself there."

I really love Paul Auster a lot, and I was excited (so excited it took me about a year and a half to get round to it... *sigh*) to read this, an autobiography of sorts. I say 'of sorts', because, of course, this is Paul Auster we're talking about, and when it comes to his style of writing, nothing is simple, and something as straightforward as autobiography becomes... well, a lot more complex than that.

Well, at least part of it is more complex. The first part, Portrait of an Invisible Man, is an attempt to come to terms with the death of his father, or, maybe more accurately, with his father's life- how he never really seemed to be there, and never really opened up to anybody, least of all his son. It's a really sad summation of a life, and it's sad that Auster never really knew his father- that he never opened up enough to catch a glimpse of the soul inside. Tied up with this portrait is a revelation that I shan't tell you about because it's probably the only thing in the book that really has a spoiler attached to it. But let's just say it's a really interesting thing to consider in regard to Auster Senior's psyche, and examining it as such is something which Auster does well.

So that's the first bit. And it's probably the most... Normal of all Auster's work. I don't even know if I mean that as an insult or not- it's an accessible bit of writing, and it's pretty interesting, but I guess it didn't really grab me? In the course of writing this, my research (ahem, Wikipedia) has told me that this was Auster's debut work (I think, apart from poems and translations, although this isn't on Wikipedia so what do I know?) so I guess it makes sense that he started off writing like a normal person and then found his own voice. Which, fortunately, he does in the very next section!

The second part is The Book of Memory, and it's a memoir of some thoughts and experiences and friends that Auster's had, only- and this is the kicker- it's written in the third person. And it's not written in the third person just for the sake of it (well, I like to think not anyway) but so that Auster can somehow step outside of himself to really, really take a look around him, and to consider his life from a different angle. And that angle is weird. Like... SO MUCH is discussed that I can't even list all the references he makes (also cause I can't remember them all) but he talks about Pinnochio and fathers and sons and the nature of memory and writing and truth and is your brain hurting yet, because mine kind of is.

And that's the thing about this second part- it's almost like Auster's overthinking everything SO MUCH that everything could mean everything or nothing. There were points when I was just like 'dude, you think waaaay too much' but I think really that was just me going 'my brain really hurts right now.' And so while the first part wasn't interesting enough to stimulate any brain things, the second part was maybe too interesting, and so it hurt my brain. What I'm thinking is, Auster seems to have found some magical combination of the two that has meant that basically everything else that he's written, I've loved. I liked this, but not as much, but if the process meant that he essentially found his voice (as I've apparently decided that's what it did)? Then I'm good with it.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Sunday Sundries: How Do You Get Rid of Books?!

We'll come to this very very important question later my pretties, but first let me tell you that my week was pretty awesome! I like, did things, and saw people, and left the house every day and it was just good all round. Plus, there were always Olympics to come home to! (I'm seriously going to be so bereft now that they're basically over... I'll have to watch like actual telly!) Oh and also I saw Batman AT LAST and it was pretty freaking amazing. I appreciated that it was a lot more straightforward than The Dark Knight (I genuinely still get confused by parts of that, so that's not good...) and yet still wondrous! But I'll say no more in case you happen to be the one person in the world who hasn't seen it yet.

So, in addition to having a pretty glorious week (did I mention the weather was fab too? The weather was SO fab!) I also got some stuff done for this:
Which were, doing this to my hair (full disclosure: it was like that for about 2 minutes before I discovered it made the front of my hair look weird and took it out, but I still did it and IT COUNTS, especially since my hair is now too short to do anything with) and making these Nutella doughnuts. I know. Nutella doughnuts. I almost want to cry at the thought that anything so beautiful could exist in the world. LOOK HOW DELICIOUS:
I'm pretty proud of myself, and also I was both amazed and impressed at how easy doughnuts are to make! Seriously! (all I would recommend about the recipe I linked to is to only make half, because SO MANY LEFTOVERS. Not that that's really a bad thing, but doughnuts are so not as nice the next day). So I think that technically I have completed the Pin it Do it challenge now (I was aiming to do 2, I think) but I'm gonna keep on going because sense of achievement, YESSSSSS!

Now onto the question of the day/week/MY LIFE. Seriously, how do you get rid of books? I ask this because, this week, I did get rid of say, 20 books, which is good but really not enough. And I say not enough, not because I want to make myself unhappy by ridding myself of books that I might want to read again, but because I can't even get rid of some books that I know I don't want to read again. Like this: A Penguin Classics Edition (you know, the ones with the black spines that are awesome?) of Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding. Or this one: The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh that I had to read for a University module, and was fine but I don't really want to read again. Or even: Bushwhacked- this book that I got a really long time ago that I assume humorously critiques Bush the Second's Presidency, but hey guess what, that was over like 4 years ago!

And I don't know why I can't get rid of them! It's like... I have special specific reasons for wanting to keep each of the books that I know I should probably rid myself of (it's part of a pretty collection, I read it at uni, I haven't read it yet and what if it changes my life?!) and, even now, when I am literally at book saturation point, I still can't get rid of a real number of them so that I can just have room to move around! With the books I've read, I feel like there's a mixture of nostalgia and cataloguing happening- nostalgia in 'oh, I remember reading that, it was nice!' and cataloguing in 'well, I read this book, and this book, and this one' but, then, isn't that what this whole blog is for? I've seen enough Hoarders to know that having special specific reasons for keeping everything is surely not going to lead to anything good, but can I do anything about it? Can I fuck.

So, HELP ME! Do you have any advice on how to get rid of books? Any systems, or words of support? Or do you think that I don't even have a problem, and that hey, there are a lot worse things to hoard than books? Because that's another angle of my thinking, which is fine until there's no space left. And there is no space left. One positive thing is that I dump books really quickly if I'm not enjoying them (see ya never, Tom Sawyer) but even I can't read that fast! And for every book I don't like, there are about 10 that I do. So... 
Skarsgard and I don't know what to do. Help?

Friday, 10 August 2012

Devouring Books: Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

"'Memories warm you up on the inside. But they can also tear you apart.'"

Oh boy. This book. I have no idea what to say about it, so brace yourself, this could be interesting (conversely, it could also be really boring, so... We'll see). Firstly, I have to say that I finally finally get the 'Murakami is intimidating thing' because reading 3 of his other books did not at all prepare me for reading Kafka on the Shore. It's so... out there, and mental, and there's a guy who talks to cats, and ghosts that aren't ghosts so much as memories, and if you ever tried to describe it to someone (like this right here) it sounds like a hot mess, but when you're reading it, everything seems to make sense in the context of the story. Well, sort of. If you're willing to accept that Murakami is insane, which I readily do because I love him so!

I love him, but oh how he frustrates me sometimes! I've been thinking about it (this review has been percolating for about a week) and I've decided that, unlike every other Murakami experience I've had, I wasn't quite fully immersed in the crazy world of Kafka on the Shore. I was close, and for the last 150 or so pages I was completely there, but the thing is... Ok, I'm just going to say it, Murakami seemed completely preoccupied with the main character's cock. And I'm not talking his pet chicken. But seriously, the main character is 15 years old, so knowing about his cock made me feel pretty uncomfortable anyway, but it's just brought up all the time. Forget the ear thing, this was a whole penis thing. And I don't think I'm being prudish here, and to be honest, I don't even really care about the character's age, I just found it jarring to have to roll my eyes every time he brought it up (no pun intended. Maybe.)

So, there was that. And I think that all this means is that I've slightly opened my eyes up to criticisms that other people have of Murakami, and have accepted their validity. While I'm still all for the complete immersion in his writing, and in letting his books wash over you (totally the only way to read him, by the way) in order to embrace the crazy, I think everyone has their breaking point at which this isn't fully possible, and it turns out mine is constant penis descriptions.

BUT. But but but but but, in spite of my reservations, and Kafka on the Shore maybe not quite living up to my past Murakami experiences (which, to be fair, highest expectations ever? Pretty much. Or at least second only to my expectations for The Moonstone...) it's still kind of amazing and absorbing, and I feel like I could read it again and again and still not come anywhere close to understanding anything about what Murakami's trying to say at all, but I'd still thoroughly enjoy myself, you know? I mean, half the book is set in a library, and there's this whole thing about irritating feminism (like, not that all feminism is irritating, but you know how by focusing on one tiny thing, you can kind of miss the whole picture? Feminism like that is kind of bad...) and there's the oddest couple of an old, not really there man, and a young upstart who doesn't really know what he's doing and it's awesome, and I kind of just love it all! Apart from the constant penis references.

Now, I'm going to do something that I haven't really done before because I really want to ask, so if you haven't read the book this is going to be very spoilerish, so skip this paragraph and head to the final one. Go on, do it now... OK, so if you have... You know how there's the place where Kafka goes towards the end, and Miss Saeki's younger self is there and so on, do we think that's kind of a version of the afterlife, and it can be accessed cause the entrance stone was turned, or something else entirely? And also, if it is a version of the afterlife, do we also think that that's where Nakata, and all the children's souls or whatever went, and because of Nakata's abusive upbringing and so on, he just refused to come back? I mean, I realise that it's all pretty vague and it's kind of useless trying to figure out what Murakami is talking about basically ever, but... what did everyone else think about that?

Basically, what can I say? It's a book by Murakami so I of course think that you should read it, even though I spent half of this review moaning about the penis thing. It's an extremely strange book with almost indecipherable symbols, and yet, I can't get enough of these crazy things Murakami does. Apart from this one thing that made me feel actually sick, that I can't really give away because, spoilers! But also, yeah, that I did have enough of. Too much, you might say. But anyway! Kafka on the Shore- it's pretty great, albeit weird. Like all the best people.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The Moonstone, Part One: "I had stood there listening to them, all in a tremble; not knowing whom to suspect or what to think next."

You and me both, Betteredge, you and me both. Seriously, though, how great is this book?! In a typical fashion, I was super-excited about reading it for the entire week (or, probably, for longer than that actually) and then... Forgot to actually read it. So i just finished it this morning, and my thoughts aren't really gathered in any coherent way, so excuse me if I just do the word equivalent of flapping my arms around excitedly.

SO! So many suspicions I have, that even at this early point I think I've accused everyone in the entire book of stealing the moonstone (except Sergeant Cuff, who, by the way is awesome. Seriously awesome) EVEN Betteredge who, you know, says he slept through the whole night, but he would say that, wouldn't he? I mean, obviously Rosanna is waaay more likely to have done it, but that's the entire problem with that theory- like we're going to know about it this early on! And then, obviously, Rachel seems very very veeeery suspicious, but I believe that she smeared the paint, but did so on a... nocturnal journey to one of her cousins (her cousins. Ew.) SO basically I have no idea with that, so let's just leave it alone for now. I say this:
(Seriously, I have so many Skarsgard gifs. So this is clearly going to be enjoyable for everyone!)

OK! So even though I suspect everyone, I also kiiind of love everyone too! Penelope is a ridiculous gossip, Franklin seems to know what he's all about, and the French/German/Italian/English thing? Amazing. Clearly he's also completely dreamy because Rosanna and Rachel both want a piece of that action, even though Betteredge reckon's Godfrey's a better choice (for Rachel anyway). I'm sorry, but Godfrey is dreadfully dreary (possibly unfair to say, since he hasn't really had as much narrative time as Franklin, but still) and, you know, doesn't even have a beard! Does anyone else think that Franklin's beard maaaybe bodes ill for his character though, since beards are usually super untrustworthy, albeit sexy? THIS CONCERNS ME!

Since we are all, obviously, looking for the next Marian, I kind of want to tentatively suggest Rachel, except that she got super moody and door slammy once her precious diamond went missing (toootally suspicious), but then also there's this:
"She was unlike most girls her age, in this- that she had ideas of her own, and was stiff necked enough to set the fashions themselves at defiance, if the fashions didn't suit her views."
You know? So I think we need more Rachel, to figure out if she really is fab, or if, in fact, she sold the diamond to fund a super super illegal abortion of Franklin's baby... (I don't know why this has become a soap all of a sudden, but hey, let's go with it!)

There are clearly so many awesome things I'm forgetting because I didn't leave myself enough time to process things, so I'm going to have to bullet point my way to the end- here goes:

  • "How it was I don't understand, but we always seemed to be getting, with the best of motives, in one another's way. When I wanted to go upstairs, there was my wife coming down; or when my wife wanted to go down, there was I coming up. That is married life, according to my experience of it"- This is what will happen when you use marriage as a money saving venture! And, if all else fails, go and find another woman, and live with her some of the time, right Wilkie..?
  • I did a little cheer at Betteredge's racial tolerance- he's probably more forward thinking than some people who live in England today, so... Way to be awesome, Wilkie "I am generally all for amusement, and the last man in the world to distrust another person because he happens to be a few shades darker than myself."
  • Then there was this, which is basically the truest true thing that's ever been said: "Mr Franklin noticed me, contending with a perturbed stomach or mind- which you please; they mean the same thing." Yes? Yes. YESSSSSSSSSSS!
  • And finally, this is kind of unrelated to the story, but I finally read the little author profile in my edition and nearly laughed myself to DEATH- apparently Wilkie took a lot of opium, and "he began to suffer from paranoia and hallucinations, including the presence of a 'subjective doppelganger' he named Ghost Wilkie"- GUYS! He named his subjective doppelganger! Just like a normal person would do! Ahem... Damn, I love this dude!
So, that's all I have for you! Basically I love everyone, and will do until they prove themselves to be unworthy, or horribly boring. According also to my author profile, Opium plays a prominent part in The Moonstone, so I'm thinking either the police dude is going to use it to figure things out (a la that guy Johnny Depp played in From Hell) OR maybe Rachel has a nasty heroin habit and that's why she had to sell the diamond... These teens and their drugs...

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Top Ten Tuesday

Well, haven't done this in a while... And actually, I've never really done anything that's like 'hey, read these posts of mine because they're awesome!' because, well, shyness and stuff... But anyway, hey, read these posts of mine because they're awesome!

Top Ten Posts That Give The Best Picture of ME!

1. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer- Cause, well, it was sort of a landmark book in my whole not-eating-meat thing, and maybe sort of one of the most actually important books I've ever read in relation to my LIFE. The comments are also pretty worth reading because, hey, everyone has an opinion about eating animals- who knew?!

2. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami- I like this review just because it's such a visceral reaction to a book that I've had, and is probably the way I'd like to write all my reviews, only I don't because going 'omg, it just made me feel SO GOOD!' is not really that helpful to anyone, ever. But still, it only felt right to write about the love rather than offer any kind of critique of this book.

3. An Education by Lynn Barber- Because I like a good rant, and this is the angriest one I can remember. What this says about me? Barber, I can't take any of your bullshit.

4. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson- This post really just says 'I am secretly (hidden even to myself!) a massive science nerd'. Or, quite possibly, just a Bill Bryson nerd, but you know. Whatever.

5. Rant about criticisms of New Girl- Because I put my feminist hat on (let's face it, that's a hat I always wear...) and defended New Girl and its adorableness, against the cries of 'it's not feminist enough!' I also enjoy this post because I prophetically decided that there would be some major criticisms of Girls when it came out, and lo and behold there were! I don't know whether to be impressed or depressed by this...

6. The Astronaut's Wife- The thing this says about me? I will literally watch anything that has Johnny Depp in. It's sick but true. Seriously, don't watch this...

7. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt- Totally a recent review, but I think it's very very indicative of how I feel about really really really great characters in books. A little preview: eeeeeeeeeee!

8. The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare- This one says, I will not put up with sexist bullshit, even if you are William freaking Shakespeare. I'm very happy with that message.

9. Angels in America by Tony Kushner- I don't really know what this says about me, other than DAMN, I really love this play. Like, obsessively. So here, this says 'I am obsessed with Angels in America.'

10. Breaking Bad- And let's just finish off with another obsession... Totally current, and so all encompassing that I had a Breaking Bad dream the other night that was pretty freaky. So there's that.

There are some posts that aren't reviews that I do like and which probably say more about me-the-person, but can I be bothered to look through and find them? No I cannot. I do like this post about why the internet makes me sad (that, apparently, I could be bothered to find) which says a lot about my willingness to bite the hand that feeds... Oh well!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Sunday Sundries

I know I say this all the time, but this time I really mean it- I'm going to try and keep this brief, because Sunday's kind of nearly over here! I realise that I don't have to do a Sunday Sundries post, but a little consistency isn't a bad thing, amiright? I am.

SO! This week was good, kind of middleish in the middle (a cancelled trip to see Batman genuinely made me feel miserable for two days, which is probably not a great indication of my emotional state) but on the whole actually really nice. And the main reason for this, and something I should definitely remember, is because I got out of the house! And did things not in my bedroom! (ooer!) But seriously- I went places and met people and it was all nice and good, and I need to remember that doing such things are nice and good so that I do them more often. Yes. *Nods definitively*

Getting out more also meant experiencing Olympic transport, which was DREADFUL (sample conversation: "Oooh, a field! It's like the opening ceremony!" Yes, OR you're a twat who needs to get out of London more) and then less dreadful but awfully sweaty smelling. So yeah, it's kind of put me off public transport for the next week, and made me grumpy about the Olympics for the combined time of about half an hour- other than that it's been all 'YESSSSS gymnastics!' and 'OMG that body!' and also, the birth of a new crush on this swimming GOD:
So yeah, a good Olympic week, you know? Very very good indeed...

Ahem. So, Olympics+going places=not all that much reading, which is bad because the things I have to read! They are numerous and exciting! (by 'have to' I don't mean that I have to do it, but that I have them! And I want to read them! But I'm failing to make proper time!) I finally, finally found an affordable copy of We Need To Talk About Kevin (i.e. a charity shop copy) on Friday, and I'm dying to read it, and then I need to read my first section of The Moonstone for discussies on Wednesday, but ALSO the wondrous Ellie sent me Let's Pretend This Never Happened (RAK, people, look into it!) and I really really really desperately want to read that! So really I'm in the most wonderful reading position cause I really really want to read all these things, it's just... How to prioritise?! I just don't know!

But, if that's as big as problems get at the moment, then I'm ok with that. 

And now:
Ok, my loved blog this week is totally new and so doesn't really have many posts to its name, BUT I can already tell it's going to be GREAT! You've probably all seen it already, but if not, it's the new Classics Club blog! I know it's going to be good because I love basically all of the moderators' blogs, and also because it seems like a really great way for everyone to interact and see each others posts, and also, a monthly classics meme? Don't mind if I do! Basically I'm really excited about it, and I want everyone else to be too! 

P.S. I forgot to add, clearly the BEST thing that happened to me this week, which was winning an Amazon voucher from Sarah! Apparently I'm super ungrateful to not have mentioned it in the main text, but I am really really grateful and excited about it! Expect a 'this is what I bought with it' post, when I figure out exactly what these things are... 

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Devouring Books: Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare

"Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety; other women cloy
The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry
Where she most satisfies."

I should warn you before I even begin that this review is not at all going to do this play justice. I mean, I don't think I'm really qualified to do Shakespeare justice at all anyway, but this time is even worse because 1) I read this during a readathon which, while fun and everything, doesn't exactly encourage me to deep reading, if you know what I mean, and 2) I had some mostly wrong pre-concieved ideas about what the play was going to be like, and when it wasn't like that I got slightly pissed off and huffy and, dare I say it, even bored? We'll discuss (and by discuss I mean I'll type and you read. You know, if you want.)

So. The preconceptions I had about Antony and Cleopatra were that, it would basically be a tragic, Romeo and Juliet style love story, very dramatic and sexy and, you know, with loads of Antony and Cleopatra together time. And obviously they're the two most important characters, and they are together some of the time, but it felt like their story actually took a back seat to the power struggles between Antony and Caesar (not that Caesar. The other one. A new one) and their battles and skirmishes and whatnot. This isn't exactly a problem (although, as we all know, I don't like things that include war!) and it's not something that really devalues the play at all, it's just that my preconceptions of the thing held me back from fully appreciating what it actually was about. Which is a shame, but it's something that I do a LOT, not just with books but with movies too, so I should probably work on that. I happen to know that, when I read this again, I'll like it and appreciate it much better, but the first time around? It didn't really work for me.

The thing with reading plays is, as good as they are, their intention is always to be performed, and so reading them doesn't really give you a proper or full representation of what they actually are. I actually found that with Antony and Cleopatra, I got really confused about who was on whose side at each point, and when various battles were happening, which I'm sure is something that I wouldn't be able to miss onstage. It doesn't help that I was also reading the battle scenes/bits where Antony was in Rome whilst half of my mind was going 'but when will he go back to Cleopatra?!' and this is why I say I'm sure I'll be able to appreciate it better next time around. But anyway, I found the political side of things confusing, and didn't really know who was friends with whom at any given time, but it's entirely my fault for basically not wanting there to be a political side to things, if you know what I mean.

So, was the relationship between Antony and Cleopatra really all that? Well, it was... Interesting. Actually, I don't mean ...interesting, I just plain mean interesting. I never really got any sense that theirs was a 'can't possibly be without each other' love, since, on the contrary, they spend the majority of the play apart, and much of their relationship seems to be based on sex and desire- Cleopatra is clearly this figure of great desire just, historically, but for it to be so... out there was something I wasn't really expecting! Now, obviously there's nothing wrong with their sexual desire, but the problem is that there doesn't really seem to be anything deeper there, and so when called upon to prove their dedication to each other, they're more into looking out for their own, separate interests, rather than for each other.

See, interesting right?! I guess that, since Cleopatra is the ruler of Egypt, and Antony the joint ruler of the Roman Empire, their top priorities are not each other, but their respective countries/Empires. So, basically, they're grown ups who love each other and sexing each other, but are mature enough to realise that their passions are not necessarily as important as entire countries/empires full of people. It's not so romantic, but it sure is practical, and I think realistic. It's not that they don't love each other enough, it's just that they love their people more. Or something. Until they do love each other, right near the end, and that's all good. And also, Cleopatra is a wicked awesome feminist:
"Charmain: Madam, methinks if you did love him dearly,
                   You do not hold the method to enforce
                   The like from him.
Cleopatra: What should I do that I do not?
Charmain: In each thing give him way: cross him in nothing.
Cleopatra: Thou teachest like a fool, the way to lose him."
Ok, not really a feminist so much as a master manipulator of Antony/men in general, but still! She won't be all subservient so that he can be in charge, and that's just great!

So basically I've just given the Antony and Cleopatra more post time than it gets in the play. But that's ok since I get extremely bored and tired out by battles, even when Shakespeare does them. I suspect those parts are much better/clearer when they're being acted out and you're properly paying attention, but for the casual reader, the thing to really stay for in this is the central relationship which is, I say again, really interesting and intriguing and worth sticking around for.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

The Moonstone: The Preliminary Post

What shall we say, this is like a heat for The Moonstone and then the actual reading is like the finals? Or have I possibly been watching too much of the Olympics (like that's even possible. How do I always forget how much I freaking love the Olympics?!)?

Ermalermadingdong. Anyway. The Moonstone. Obviously I'm intensely excited to read this, because first of all The Woman in White readalong happened and it was GLORIOUS, and then I read Armadale because I'd had it for ages (or two years. Which is relatively not that long) and because I needed more Wilkie, and that was also stellar, even if reading it without everyone was kind of really sad, and also I could really have used four posts to talk about it. But who's going to want that without a readalong? No one, that's who!

So, now we've come to The Moonstone. At last! I feel like there was a point where I was meant to read this at school (or maybe just the play version? I really don't know) and then we never ended up doing it, or I could be thinking of An Inspector Calls which I have also never read, and now they're both mixed up in my brain even though I haven't read either of them. Which is really weird. Actually reading The Moonstone is sure to sort out this little problem though, so... That's good!

*Mandatory research section* So apparently The Moonstone mentions the Siege of Seringapatam (fun fact- I just spelt Siege wrong, but Seringapatam right. Go figure.) on its first page, and indeed Wikipedia tells me that the novel starts with the looting of jewels from said siege- obviously the 1799 one, not the 1792 one *looks accusingly at anyone who thought otherwise*. This said siege? Well, I can't even be bothered to read the entire Wikipedia article about it, but as far as I can tell it was part of some kind of British attack on India in order to keep the Empire in line and whatnot, so it sounds like it kind of SUCKED. And that, if there's a curse on the moonstone like I believe there is (I believe that's the whole point) then, you know, anyone who doesn't think it's well deserved? No, me neither.

SO- excited doesn't even cover it! And I can officially start reading it today! Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!