Damn

You’ll be happy to know that my lack of posting for a couple weeks means I have finally finished Gone With the Wind.


And Damn it Scarlett, what a waste of time.

Mitchell could give Tolkien a run for his money in the pointless descriptive prose stakes. So much about what things look like, that have no bearing on the actual plot. These though were easy parts to skim. Didn’t miss out on any important detail. 

But the worst parts were the dialect. It always bugs me when to understand something I have to read it out loud. That’s why I only read Dickens when forced. Unluckily for me Mammy’s parts pretty much explain every critical moment, so skimming had to be done here with caution. I may have missed a few insightful comments but I think I got the gist.

My skimming did almost cost me one pivotal, or at least movie worthy, moment – 

Frankly my dear…

All in all I’m pretty sorry I read it. I suppose it may have been amazing for its time, or perhaps holds interest for people actually into American Civil War history.

Scarlett herself is an engaging character, as is Rhett. But they are both as bad as each other. That is, not very nice and careless about other people. I don’t think I’ve ever met two more self obsessed characters on any text I’ve ever read. 

But frankly, I don’t give a damn.

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Tick Tock, It’s Alternative Universe Time

For the category of A book that has a protagonist who is the opposite gender to you I read the first book in Garth Nix’s Keys to the Kingdom series, Mister Monday.

Mister Monday follows a boy, Arthur on his adventure in an alternate universe. He is suddenly thrust their after being heralded as the heir to The Will and after a deadly plague breaks our in his own reality. Neither of these universes are our own, however, Arthur’s home world is very similar to ours.

It was an interesting read. Interesting in terms of weird and I wasn’t really sure of what was going on.

I really really really wanted to like it.

Garth Nix is one of my favourite authors of all time and I hadn’t read this of his before and there are seven in the series so I was super excited that I may have found my next seven reads. I didn’t. I won’t be reading that others.

I just really didn’t like Arthur, or particularly care about what was going on with him. This book shoves you right in the action and I don’t think I got to know Arthur well enough to begin with in order for me to want to read more about him. I did love Suzy Blue, his girl side kick, but I’m not sure how much she is in the other novels.

What I find funny about fulfilling this category is that despite the fact that I have read over forty books so far this year, only four of them have male protagonists. That is partly due to the fact that I have read a lot of non fiction, though I think it mostly comes down to the fact that I read a lot of realistic YA fiction and these are mostly about girls. I don’t often read books with boys at the forefront because I don’t think like them. I often don’t get them. And even more often, i don’t care about them.

That’s why I love this challenge. It pushes you to read outside what you normally would. And sometimes you find things that you love.

Unfortunately in this case it was more of a case of discovering I came too late to this series and am now too old for it.

It’s not bad, it’s just not for me.

Oh Tara

So I’m super happy that I outdid my February reading goal. Instead of the ten or fifteen I thought I might read, I actually got to nineteen books. Yes, I did read some graphic novels (but you all know my feelings about how they are real books) but I also read a bunch of non fiction too, and the rest of Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy.

With this in mind, that is, the fact that I’m more than a third of the way to my yearly hundred book goal, my March reading challenge to myself is a little different.

Way back in January I started reading Gone With the Wind.

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A film tie-in version that has been languishing on my to be read shelf since before my children were born. Yes, kids plural, that’s how long it has been sitting there. I bought it at Gleebooks in Glebe on a pre-parenthood night out. I was probably eating there prior to heading to a show. Comedy maybe? Or a play? It’s been so long that I can’t actually remember. We did eat Nepalese food though, I think.

Anyway, this is what I must read this month. It started out so well, I was getting into it, reading before bed. And then just the thought of getting through it all overwhelmed me. How was I going to get it done? What about all the other books that were arriving from Book Depository (and the three others on their way)? But no, this month it’s

never go hungry again

or bust.

A Question Not Worth Asking

I’ve decided to go on a bit of a graphic novel binge. And yes, I have been counting them on my 2018 Reading Challenge List, even though they only take less than an hour to read. Of course I have wondered whether I am really allowed to count them, as perhaps they are not proper books, but I decided I was as a I hate book snobs.

I’m sure you’ve met a book snob. They’re the ones who only read ‘real literature’ – prize winners and 19th Century novelists, books for adults. They’re also the ones who think YA is a genre and shun the Dymocks Popular 100 list and wouldn’t be caught dead buying a book in Big W. They’re nothing short of my worst nightmare.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say YA isn’t real writing I could probably have bought every YA book ever written by now. And it’s mad exponentially more annoying by the fact that the people who deride YA sing the praises of picture books and Pixar shorts, as if by adding an image you make it infinitely more high brow. It’s the same. It’s people writing for their audience. Just because I don’t fit the age demographic anymore doesn’t mean I don’t get to read it.

Length and diction should not be the sole criteria by which you judge the sophistication of a text. What about audience? And purpose? And enjoyment level of the reader? Charles Dickens is lauded, but by god reading through his dialect is a slog. The same goes for Shakespeare, a rant I have already had on this blog this year.

I think a question also surrounds the whole audiobook thing. Are they really books? Can you count that you have read them, when in actual fact, someone is reading to you? This is where my own book snobbishness lays. Of course, in the end they should be counted because narrative started in the oral form and who can argue with history?

I guess the question that does need to be asked is – Why does it matter what we read? It’s been edited. The sentences make sense. The punctuation is correct. Who cares if it’s a trashy romance or an oven manual, as long as it’s not some scribble over a snapchat.

Good Enough to Eat

So I think I might be becoming vegetarian.

Or at least a two night a week, maybe lunches too, vegetarian.

I just read the most amazing book.

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And don’t tell me you can’t read a cookbook. You can. Especially this one. Each recipe is introduced by the author, with some helpful do’s and don’ts and some ideas about when to eat it and what to substitute in for ingredients that may not be seasonal. What I love most about these recipes is that they don’t seem to be vegetarian. They just all don’t have meat in them. And they don’t all have a hundred ingredients per recipe, nor do they include weird and rare ingredients that you would have to trek to the Himalayas for. It’s just easy food; easy on the eye, easy on the waist, and easy on the environment (Yes, that is an Oxford comma, I like them).

I’ve only actually made one recipe out of the book so far

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Vegetable filled soda bread. But I’ve made two of them. The first (and smaller piece) is exactly how the book says to do it; spelt flour, carrots, and what not. The second is my Mrs Cropley version because I ran out of carrots and pumpkin seeds. So it’s a carrot, sweet potato and sunflower seed version. Still awesome.

I’m planning of cooking most of next week’s meals out of this thing. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

#readharder

The plan was to read a book every day of January. I didn’t quite get there. Hence why a plan is called a plan. I did end up reading twenty books, which I feel pretty chuffed about.

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These are the books I read for January. I still haven’t put them into the categories for the #readharder challenge I do at work because I just wanted to read for fun. A lot of the time last year I felt I was just reading to tick a box and I kept reading things I didn’t like because they fit in a spot that was hard to fill. It meant I didn’t feel like I was actually reading for me. So I started this year just reading things that I didn’t get to, or things that I bought over the holiday break, or were given to me as Christmas presents. Of course, the list is always in the back of my mind, I just don’t want to be a slave to it.

The problem I have found with this approach, though, is that if a book is not particularly memorable I may forget what it was about and, therefore, which category it might fit into. I think what I will do is categorise at the end of the month. So they will still be somewhere in my brain, but I don’t need to worry as I go.

I’ve already started my reading for February too. As I’ve returned to work I think a book a day, even twenty in the month is going to be a little ambitious, so I’m thinking I’ll set the goal at ten. For February this is still a push, but for the other months it will be quite achievable. Reading this month so far has consisted of:

both finished on the same day, yesterday.

I re-read Frankenstein because I had to. It has it’s own category on the reading challenge, number 50. I think it’s because it’s like 200 years since it was first published or something like that. I didn’t love it the first time I read it (for school) and it certainly hasn’t grown on me in the interim. I used it as my going to bed book because the print is so tiny and the plot just drags on. Put me to sleep every time. I must say the ending of this novel is probably the most anti-climactic I have ever read. I get it’s supposed to be moralistic and all, but

go into the northern Arctic and think about what you’ve done you naughty monster

just doesn’t really cut it.

I also finished Grace Beside Me by Sue McPherson this month too. I wanted to read it because it has been turned into a TV show for the NITV network. It was a different kind of novel. The way it is narrated is odd, but also oddly works. And there is this really good idea in it about “sit a while”. So when you have a problem, go into nature and connect with it and mull over what you need to do. And after you will see what to do and feel better. I love this idea of “sit a while”. I know I get too caught up in the stress and worry of life and to just let it mull and know that everything will be ok is such good advice. The other concept I love out of this book is that described in the title “grace beside me”, and that is the calm you get from connecting with the natural world around you and the peace you feel when you come to terms with your problems. Both are used like mantras in this novel and I am totally going to adopt them as well.

What a piece of work is Shakespeare

So despite only getting a few centuries in to Poisoned Pens, 


I did actually enjoy some of the extracts I read. The pieces about the poor quality of Shakespeare quite resonated with me.

I can’t stand Shakespeare. And while you may not think this an uncommon statement, to hold this view as a teacher of literature is somewhat of a taboo. To utter in any English faculty the words 

Why do we teach Shakespeare

Is something of a heresy.

In Poisoned Pens there are two excellent writers reasons for holding this view. First George Bernard Shaw 

who is as impatient with Shakespeare as I am. And secondly, William Cartwright

 who was moved to write poetry about Shakespeare’s egregious nature.

I just don’t know why we study him. Yes the themes are universal, but then we could study then more easily in texts that don’t use such old language. Yes he invented so many interesting and new words and phrases, but why do we have to battle through a whole text just to get to the good bits? And so many other people were writing well at the same time. And in languages other than English too. Why is Shakespeare the person the western literary world has settled on to adore? 

My feelings of course don’t extend to the performance of his plays. I would take a ticket to see one any time. I just don’t why we insist on making teenagers read them.

Bargain Buy

So I’ve had my first book fail of the year. Though I don’t really think of it as a fail because my mantra is to not finish books you don’t enjoy. The only downside to that is the impact it has on my reading challenge. I hate wasting my limited reading time.

In my book buying spree earlier this month I bought a seven dollar book.

This book.

It had a good premise. Writers writing mean things about other writers. But it is super labourious. Mostly because it starts with ancient authors and works it way to the ‘present day’. And while I consider myself well read, I don’t really care about the beefs in Ancient Greece or the Elizabethan era. Their language is so dense and soporific, I’ve only just made it to the Romantic era and I’ve been reading since the beginning of the month.

The other problem is you only get the nasty bits. Snippets of essays and letters without context. There are a billion footnotes explaining things, but who has time for footnotes? I don’t feel like I am really learning anything and are often more confused than not.

It’s not a bad book for reading before bed though. If I read a novel then I dream the novel and have an unfitful sleep. If I red this it puts me to sleep, and no dreams. That’s a win.

The Art of Adaptation

I finally started watching the TV adaptation of 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. I had been putting it off and off because of all the publicity surrounding its creation and the backlash it faced, mostly from schools, about whether or not such a thing should be turned in ‘light entertainment’, that is, TV. But then I’d run out of things to watch when I finally got the TV to myself and cooking and renovating shows get boring pretty quickly.

I remember reading the book and liking it. I have a feeling I bought it for the library when I was still queen of that domain and so don’t have my own copy to refer back to now and compare. Or perhaps I did read it when it came out in 2007 and have just misplaced my copy in the ensuing ten years. Either way, enough time has sufficiently elapsed for me to be interested and surprised by what they have for the TV.

One thing that really strikes me is the modernisation of the text. As YA of the realistic fiction becomes dated very quickly, the TV show evinces just how digital our world has become since then and, perhaps, how much more quickly things can escalate beyond our control (and this may be where the stamp footing aversion to the show being made in the first place comes from too). I know I’m not that old, but the show makes we want to say:

“back in my day…”

as if I can’t keep up with or understand what it is to be a teenager. It also makes me want to yell at the TV a lot to point out how dumb some of their actions are, because I have hindsight and, as the quote above suggests, am actually no longer a teenager.

I haven’t watched it all yet, though I plan too. And I can’t really remember how it ends, so the tension is really working. Like Clay, I want to watch, but I also don’t want to watch. I need to know what happens, but in a sense we already know because Hannah is dead and nothing can change that.

Oh, it’s not Friday

I only just realised what day it was, and therefore I had already reneged on my pseudo resolution. But that’s ok, because it’s only a day later and not the week it could have been.

So far this month I’ve read five books. I’ve been trying to read one a day, and my goal is to do that all month and therefore read thirty one books before I really get back into real life and work. Technically I’m only on holidays until January 28th, but I figure those first few days of work (and the last few days of January) don’t really count. I’ll just be settling back in and reading on the sly.

To this end, I have bought six new books in the last two days. Eight in the last week, one of which I have read already.

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You see only five here as one book I bought today is a gift for someone else and I don’t want to spoil the surprise.

What I have realised though, is that a book a day may not be that sustainable. So I’ve started two at once. A fiction and a Non Fiction. I can usually manage the two styles simultaneously as long as the Non Fiction isn’t something with a story; not a biography or some such, rather a compendium of facts.

I haven’t even started thinking about the 2018 Reading Challenge (which I will probably write about next). Instead, I’m just reading and listing my titles down and I’ll fit them into the categories later.

What is slowing me down though, is the way I’ve decided to read this year. With a notebook at hand.

 

I’m using post-its to tag blog post ideas, but what I’m writing down are interesting words or other books I need to read that are mentioned in the book I am currently reading. Depending on the book I can be stopping every sentence.

I used to read like this when I was very young. I can remember that Dracula had a lot of new words for me and my list for that particular novel ran over two pages. After I had finished reading I diligently looked them all up in order to figure out what Stoker was really saying. This time round I seem to know a lot of the meanings, I’m just writing them down because they sound nice or are awesome words.