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Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

2 books read // eat a book
Subject:Sophie's World
Posted by:littlekasino.
Time:12:24 am.
Mood: creative.
Book Title:
Sophie's World

Book Author:
Jostein Gaarder

Book Information:
Dolphin paperback reissued 2003
ISBN 978 1 85881 530 5
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Who are you?
The question that haunted you throughout your years of high school, lingered during your twenties, lurked behind your subconscious during your thirties and settled within denial later on. Because eventually you reach that age where you think it's not suitable to still be wondering who you are.

«Who are you?
She had no idea. She was Sophie Amundsen, of course, but who was that? She had not really figured that out - yet.
What if she had been given a different name? Anne Knutsen for instance. Would she then have been someone else?
She suddenly remembered that Dad had originally wanted her to be called Lillemor. Sophie tried to imagine herself shaking hands and introducing herself as Lillemor Amundsen, but it seemed all wrong. It was someone else who kept introducing herself.»
Sophie's World is a philosophical book about philosophy. Not only it's simple and direct in its trip through the history of philosophy. making clear examples and fascinating comparisons to our world today, turning itself into at once the best textbook on philosophy and one of the most fascinating novels ever written. It also raises all those questions you used to ask when you were a child and everything was new, and slowly stopped wondering about once life and age made you jaded. What is the fabric of reality? And how important is the certainty of what is real and what isn't? Why are we the way we are and do we do the things we do? Raise your hand if you have never asked yourself any of these questions, not because you were right, but for Jostein Gaarder to grab that hand and pull it up and out of your built up certainties
«So now you must chose, Sophie. Are you a child who has not yet become world-weary? Or are you a philosopher who will vow never to become so?
If you just shake your head, not recognizing yourself as either a child of a philosopher, then you have got so used to the world that it no longer astonishes you. Watch out! You are on thin ice. And this is why you are receiving this course in philosophy, just in case. I will not allow you, of all people, to join the ranks of the apathetic and the indifferent. I want you to have an inquiring mind.»
I want you to have an inquiring mind. That was it, that's what made me decide this book was more precious than the fancy pink cover and the classification as a children's book would give it credit for. To have an inquiring mind. I have been noticing, and not at all alone, the apathy and inertia that's been expanding through out the young ones. Songs going "I believe the children are our future" sound terribly wrong and outdated when you see children trying to emulate our way of walking talking and wearing trashy clothes and killing their potentiality for great imagination watching reality shows and reading E!Weekly. I have a 12 year old niece who miraculously managed to remain childish. Her brain works at the speed of sound, she's so smart and so imaginative! And I dread the idea that tomorrow she might want to wake up and only care about what her butt looks like in expensive GAP jeans and what the cutie from X-factor is doing now. She's the Sophie that we just can't allow to join the ranks of apathetic and indifferent people. We all are. Jostein Gaarder rang the bell and we all need to wake up and listen. As most philosophers, he might not be able to provide us with answers that satisfy us, but he will remind us of what the questions are.
«The most subversive people are those who ask questions. Giving answers is not nearly as threatening. Any one question can be more explosive than a thousand answers.»

Sophie's World, since 1991 in bookstores near you at £6.99!

Wednesday, April 19th, 2006

1 book read // eat a book
Subject:Post here if you wish to join the community
Posted by:littlekasino.
Time:11:19 am.
Mood: awake.

because I've had a hard time managing applications to this community through comments on my personal journal, from now on this entry will be where all joining requests must be directed.

Please when possible include how you came to know of this community and your motivations for joining.

Also be patient if you had already applied, for i've been going through a complicated period of my life and quite lost track of whatever was happening on livejournal.

Thanks to all,
your friendly neighborhood moderator

Monday, July 18th, 2005

4 books read // eat a book
Posted by:_eliza_b.
Time:9:39 pm.
Book Title:
Adam Bede

Book Author:
George Eliot

Book Information:
Signet Classics edition
Paperback Edition (1961)

ISBN 0 451 52527 2

As F.R. Leavis writes in the introduction to this edition, in Adam Bede readers get a glimpse of George Eliot learning how to write a compelling novel. Therefore this book is significant from the viewpoint of Eliot’s development as an author; and more importantly, this book has some interesting elements of its own. The love triangle between Adam, Hetty, and Arthur is intriguing enough to keep one reading; and the way this situation forces the characters to overcome their flaws and to grow as individuals is well done. Nevertheless, on its own Adam Bede is often too slowly paced, and often broken up by the author’s trivial commentary, so that is not a totally satisfactory book.

At the opening of the story we meet the title character, who is a thoroughly decent guy: hardworking, dependable, wise, and universally admired. He has the poor judgment to fall for Hetty Sorrel, however. Hetty is nice enough, if rather empty-headed and careless, but what strikes Adam is her beauty. Hetty has the even poorer judgment to fall for Arthur Donnithorne, the grandson of and heir to the local squire. Arthur, too, is attracted to Hetty; and characteristically enough, sees no harm in flirting with her and leading her on. If Adam’s biggest fault is to overlook the weaknesses of his loved ones, then Arthur’s is to figure that any harm he inflicts on others can be readily fixed.
Now, for those of us who live in the real world, it is obvious that country gentlemen do not up and marry farmer’s daughters, however lovely. But Hetty is more familiar with La-La-Land than with reality, for she honestly believes that Arthur will marry her and make her a lady. It is clear that Arthur has feelings for Hetty, but he recognizes that they can have no future together. Even so, he continues to encourage Hetty – you can guess where this is going. When Adam discovers them together, the remainder of the novel deals with the three of them trying to come to terms with what cannot be undone (this is vague, I know, but I’m trying not to spoil the story). Adam must acknowledge that Hetty is not the woman he thought she was; Arthur has to learn that good intentions cannot erase his past recklessness; and Hetty, in her immaturity, is driven to an act of desperation.
Other major characters include Seth, Adam’s brother, who is also a genuinely good man, but usually in his brother’s shadow. Seth is in love with Dinah Morris, a young and saintly Methodist preacher. Seth only seems to be useful as a foil to his brother, and Dinah can be every bit as irksome as she sounds, but she figures largely in the lives of both Adam and Hetty later in the story.
Unfortunately, this moderately exciting storyline is hindered by a sluggish pace and irrelevant tangents made by the narrator. While it is necessary, of course, to set the scene and give us an understanding of Adam’s world, the three principle figures discussed above do not start to interact until we are ninety pages into the story. We are given instead the occasional description of a person who will figure later in the plot (as with Dinah), or are given scenes that illustrate Adam’s or Hetty’s home life, for example. More often, readers are faced with numerous descriptions of characters who are not in the least important (do we really need to hear about the neighborhood shoemaker?), or worse, tangents where Eliot decides to pause the action of the story and warn us not to judge a character too harshly – or worse still, she will abandon the narrative altogether and start talking about the good old days. Such tangents get in the way of the main story and, to be honest, are not all that fascinating. And Adam Bede does not really pick up until halfway through, when Adam finds Arthur and Hetty together, and the development of these individuals is set in motion. This might be too harsh – we have less patience these days to sit through long novels with lots of digressions – but even so, other books written roughly around the same time as this one are not nearly so tiring in this way. The story’s conclusion is agreeable in that the really deserving characters find happiness and the less deserving atone for their mistakes, and better yet, each of them has grown at least a bit wiser in this experience. On their own, Adam, Hetty, Arthur, Dinah, and Seth would be fairly boring, but together they manage to carry this story.
Overall, I would recommend this book – it’s a classic for a reason. But more importantly, the various relationships and the emotional progress of these figures makes Adam Bede worthwhile.

Tuesday, August 31st, 2004

eat a book
Subject:The Lymond Chronicles
Posted by:_eliza_b.
Time:10:51 pm.
This isn't strictly a book review - it's the essay I submitted to Powells.com for a contest. But I'll post it here anyway. Excuse the excessive flowery-ness.

Book Title:
The Lymond Chronicles (Game of Kings is the first)

Book Author:
Dorothy Dunnett

Book Information:
Vintage Books edition
Paperback Edition (1997)

ISBN 0 679 77743 1

My first encounter with this underead series was when a friend stealthily passed it over to me during French class, to read an especially amusing passage.

“Hey, Liz.”
“Read this section.”
“No wonder you flunk all your French tests…”
“Just read; you’ll love it.”

In this particular scene, an incongruous Spanish gentleman is applying to an English lord to help him capture a band of outlaws who have attacked his party; in the process, he manages to make a fool of himself and Lord Grey, and to put everyone thoroughly out of sorts. As it turns out, the “Spanish gentleman” is Francis Crawford of Lymond, who was posing as such to allow his men time to free a prisoner and to get away. The book was The Game of Kings, the brilliant first installment in Dorothy Dunnett’s historical fiction series.

Even without knowing the novel’s background or greater story, this passage captivated me enough to get me started on The Game of Kings. I cheerfully bought the book and opened it at the beginning, only to be left utterly lost as to what was going on. Lymond had returned to his native Scotland as a renegade, that much I understood; but as a reader I was immediately thrown into the lives of shady minor characters, intricate intrigues and obscure quotations that somehow related to the plot. Even as I continued reading, the situation did not clear up – on the contrary, Lymond became more of an enigma, as did his conversation, which consisted mostly of little known quotations, and were sometimes not even in English. Obviously, Dunnett expects a lot of her readers, not the least of which is possessing knowledge of French, Spanish, Latin, or whatever dead language she chooses to throw at the reader. After trying to get through the convoluted first chapters for a few weeks, I decided that I was not up to the challenge and put the novel down.

This did not last long, however. I was reassured by those who had read the series that, however maddening the Chronicles seemed, it was assuredly worth it. Once again, I picked up the first book and went through the introductory chapters painstakingly, struggling to figure out the plot maneuverings, the undercurrents in the scenes and the aims of the characters, and suddenly, I was hooked. My absurd degree of confusion changed into an absurd degree of enthusiasm. Yes, The Game of Kings may have immersed me without warning into the foreign world of the 16th century, but the world created is so seamless and vivid and perfect that I did not regret my newfound addiction. I fervently followed Lymond through his adventures in Scotland, then decadent France in Queen’s Play, and onto Malta and Tripoli, the Ottoman Empire and Russia, then back home throughout the series. Perusing these books was exasperating, maybe, but I would never call it a chore, because of the spell it casts while plunging me into its own heady universe. The neurotic, conniving, yet strangely charming Lymond saves it from being overwhelming, as do the countless other extraordinary characters (fictional and historic), and the magnificent tapestry of the European Renaissance. I only wondered why I had never heard of such a radiant piece of literature before. By this point, I had a tough time putting down the Chronicles during French class, too.

Just as fascinating as reading the Lymond Chronicles is discussing it later with other readers; in fact, it is an essential part of the series. There is so much going on between the members of the cast, so much that is implied but not stated, and so many mysteries left for the reader, that one could spend a lifetime perusing and re-perusing the Chronicles and still not have the whole completely mastered. That is why fans of the series so ardently find each other and passionately thrash out the machinations of the novels, whether through informal meetings or conventions or online forums. That is why devouring the Lymond Chronicles is my most memorable reading experience of the last decade: because reading about the spectacular goings-on of the Renaissance, and reading about Lymond’s troubled yet alluring existence, is complementary to conversing about them with bibliophiles who share your fixation. That is why it is such an extraordinary set of novels: because each time you open them anew, there is yet another verdant vista waiting to be explored.

Wednesday, July 14th, 2004

15 books read // eat a book
Posted by:_eliza_b.
Time:1:56 am.
Book Title:
Mansfield Park

Book Author:
Jane Austen

Book Information:
Bantam Classic edition
Hardback Edition (1983)

ISBN 0 553 21121 8

“Where an opinion is general, it is usually correct,” avows the indelible Mary Crawford towards the beginning of Mansfield Park. In this case, my dear Miss Crawford, I must disagree with you, for it is the general opinion that Mansfield is dull and disappointing and that Fanny Price (the novel’s heroine) is insipid and uncompelling. Well, MP is not a thriller, but Austen would not be Austen as we know her if it was. And perhaps Fanny is not a courageous Becky Sharp or even a steadfast Elinor Dashwood, but considering her upbringing and what I believe Austen was trying to do with her, this makes sense. Mansfield Park has its moments, between its irony and its dynamic characters, its plot twists and its Regency-style charm. And I, for one, like Fanny’s quiet, timid nature, especially since it complements her intelligence and constancy. She is neither boring nor a pushover.

This novel opens when Fanny is ten. She is the daughter of a poor lieutenant and an overwhelmed mother, who have eight other children to care for. More important by far in the story are her wealthy aunt and uncle, Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, who agree to adopt and care for Fanny to lessen the burden on the Price clan. Her other aunt, Mrs. Norris, concocted this plan without actually paying for anything, and proceeds to belittle Fanny as soon as she arrives while congratulating herself on her benevolence. The Bertram’s offspring are little better: the eldest, Tom, ignores her, while the daughters, Maria and Julia, take her for granted or make fun of her ignorance. Only sixteen-year-old Edmund befriends her, and they become fast friends. Seven years later, Fanny is a genteel young lady, but she is still the gawky girl and dependent cousin to the Bertram family.

All of this changes when Henry and Mary Crawford move to Northampton to stay with their half-sister Mrs. Grant, and her husband the village parson. The Bertrams and the Crawfords become intimate friends, and love affairs spring up like daisies between Maria and Henry, Julia and Henry, and eventually Fanny and Henry (the cad). Inevitably, Mary Crawford and Edmund also grow closer, to Fanny’s deep dismay. This is all aided by the fact that Sir Thomas is away on business, and cannot keep his children under his strict scrutiny. Relating anymore would spoil the plot, but believe me when I say that flirtations and seductions and marriages and elopements and indiscretions and plot twists abound. Fun, fun, fun ‘til Sir Thomas takes their freedom away.

Having said that, MP has its faults. Being a Fanny-fan (ha), I really dislike that Edmund is attracted to Mary Crawford for a large portion of the novel, especially since Mary has the exasperating habit of saying imprudent or downright cruel things (she disparages Edmund’s chosen profession even after she knows what it is, she hints that it would be advantageous for Edmund if his older brother dies, and she tends to support Henry at all costs, even in the face of reason). Of course, this is not a fault, just something that I find annoying. Otherwise, the characters can be somewhat one-sided, or have a trait take over their part (Mrs. Norris’s absurdity, Fanny’s constancy, Maria’s lack thereof, Edmund’s sobriety, Henry’s frivolity, Lady Bertram’s blandness, and so on). Or, if a character does display some variance, it does not make much sense, such as Henry’s sudden and genuine caring for Fanny, or Sir Thomas’ capricious fondness of his niece (he ignores her before his trip, makes a pet out of her after it, and then is gruff with her when they have a difference of opinion. Which, by the way, shows that Fanny does have something akin to a backbone).

Nevertheless, MP’s strengths outweigh its weaknesses. As I said before, a common criticism of Fanny is that she is dull and a softy. I admit that, even more so than Anne Eliot in Persuasion, Fanny is at best a pawn and at worst an irritation to her relatives; and their perpetual mistreatment of Fanny, and her patiently taking it, can get frustrating. However, considering her position in the household, as a lowly dependent cousin who is treated accordingly, it is little wonder that Fanny grows up the way that she does. What Austen was trying to show was, firstly, how people bestow questionable favors, and them congratulate themselves on their kindness while treating the recipient of the favor as beneath them. Secondly, how much lack of wealth can affect an individual – after all, it places the Price family in a completely different circle from that of the Bertram’s and the Norris’s, even though Mrs. Price, Lady Bertram, and Mrs. Norris are sisters; and even as a long-term member of the Mansfield household, Fanny is passed over in favor of her cousins. In delineating all of this, Austen criticizes society both for its false benevolence and its placing such importance on rank and riches. While conveying all of this, Fanny’s timidity also inspires sympathy and liking for her as a character, and provides insight that remains relevant today.

Furthermore, the very fact that Edmund is not attracted to Fanny, and that Fanny is pursued by someone infinitely inferior to him, only makes the reader more frantic to find out if she ends up married to him. As always, Austen lays on the irony thick, so that some scenes come out as poignant as well as ironical: Henry’s addressing the bewildered Fanny after toying with her cousins; or the heroine being so happy to visit her parents only to realize that she no longer has a home there; or when Mary enthusiastically talks to Fanny about her liking for Edmund, unintentionally shoving her success into the face of another who admires Edmund. Oh, angst, angst.

This review/essay has dragged on long enough, and I’m sleepy, so I will just sum it up by recommending this book as one of Jane Austen’s more serious, but highly worthwhile, novels, whatever you may have heard.

Post Script - Is it just me, or is this passage from Mansfield subtly suggestive?
"The trees, though not fully clothed, were in that delightful state, when further beauty is known to be at hand, and when, while much is actually given to the sight, more yet remains for the imagination."

Wednesday, July 7th, 2004

2 books read // eat a book
Posted by:_eliza_b.
Time:4:03 pm.
Book Title:
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Book Author:
Anne Bronte

Book Information:
Penguin Classics
Paperback Edition (1979)
Introduction by Winifred Gerin

ISBN 0 14 043137 3

This is the first Bronte book I have read in a long time, and it is probably the first time I have read one and been mature enough to understand it. I tried Jane Eyre when I was eleven or so, and somehow got through it, but much of it was beyond me. Now, I hope, I am better able to look at their books from historical and literary perspectives, as well as in light of the life experiences of the Bronte sisters.

Agnes Grey related Anne Bronte’s experience as a governess, but I believe Tenant goes farther in also describing the maliciousness behind supposedly respectable families, the tragic dependence of nineteenth-century women on men, the fatal danger of shielding girls from the world’s evils and allowing boys to face them unprepared, and the harrowing results. These are just a few of the myriad subjects juggled in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

This novel tells the story of Helen and her disastrous marriage with the iniquitous Arthur Huntingdon. It also tells of Gilbert Markham, who falls in love with the still-married Helen. As with Wuthering Heights, Tenant is told partly through a letter written to a friend by Gilbert, and partly through Helen’s diary. This allows the reader to become drawn into the story, by ploughing through 150 pages of Gilbert’s encountering the enigmatic Mrs. Graham (Helen) and trying to piece together her background. Despite the neighbor’s gossiping and Helen’s stubborn reserve, she grows closer to Gilbert, and hands over her diary to explain her catastrophic past and her uncertain, unglorious present. She believes that it will only drive him away; instead, it makes him more attached to her than ever.

Her diary reveals what Gilbert never expected: Mrs. Graham, the supposed widow recently moved into the abandoned Wildfell Hall, is actually Mrs. Huntingdon, whose husband is still alive. Seven years before, Helen had married the dashing Mr. Huntingdon, to the dismay of her guardians. She was very young, in her late teens, and in comparison to the middle-aged, moralizing men she had encountered previously, Mr. Huntingdon seemed to be perfect. It is only after her wedding that she becomes acquainted with her husband’s wild side: his immoderate drinking, his lack of piety, his outrageous selfishness, and so on. To a modern reader, or anyone less naïve than Helen, it is clear that Huntingdon is not so worthy, for he is reckless, occasionally cruel to Helen, and there are hints that he has depleted his fortune and estate. As the years pass and her marriage progresses, his sins only grow greater: he spends months away from her in London, (presumably participating in violent orgies), he brings other irresponsible gentlemen home and embarrasses Helen in front of them, he disregards all of her gentle advice and resents her firmer censures. She patiently endures all of this, until her husband begins corrupting their young son; only then does she realize that Huntingdon will never change, and that she must escape. There is much more to the tale than this, and it continues on afterwards, but I will not spoil it for you.

To twenty-first century readers, Mr. Huntingdon is inexcusable and shocking for his harsh treatment of his wife. From the beginning of their union, he tries to win all of her attention, scolds her for reading or painting while he wants amusement, argues with her that her duty to her him precedes her duty to God or to their son. He is clearly trying to manipulate her so that she is completely dependent on him for happiness and security, even more so than any nineteenth-century woman was dependent on her husband. Later, he verbally abuses her in front of his outrageously drunk friends, complaining that she never gives him a moment’s peace, won’t let him enjoy life, etc. There are points where he leans in and curses at her, where it is said that his words were not fit for the reader to hear. All of this is appalling to face, and it is tempting to say that she could just have left him sooner and saved herself a lot of misery. However, at that point in history married women were entirely under the control of their spouses – he controlled her fortune, any money she made, and any property she possessed. She could not leave without her husband’s consent, and she could not even deny him the right to her bed. The very act of shutting the door in Arthur’s face was staggering for the time.* Perhaps worst of all, the husband had control over the children, so that they could be used as pawns in their marriage. All of this Helen must take into account before running away to hide in the backwaters of England, and yet she does leave, as a contemporary woman would.

For readers of 1848, when the book was published, the novel was scandalous for its straightforward candor with such subjects. When one thinks of the novels of just thirty years before, and the utter lack of such topics as marital abuse in them, it is easy to imagine how audacious such novels must have seemed. Even Anne’s sister Charlotte did not approve of Tenant, and this from the woman who created the, uh, dysfunctional relationship between Mr. Rochester and his wife. However, scholars speculate that Arthur Huntingdon was an outrageous caricature of Branwell Bronte, Anne and Charlotte’s ne’er-do-well brother. To read such a frank account of his behavior must have been painful and mortifying. In any case, Anne faced that pain and completed Tenant as, we learn in the introduction, to save other inexperienced youths from ruining their lives through drink or wild companions or unworthy spouses or whatever.

* ‘The slamming of Helen’s bedroom door against her husband reverberated throughout Victorian England.’
- May Sinclair, 1913

Obviously, I enjoyed this book, for all of my indignation at Helen’s treatment and the status of women of two centuries ago. It draws you in to Gilbert’s obsession with Helen,
Arthur’s downward spiral of sin, and Helen’s mounting desperation throughout the story.
Despite its length, it goes by fairly quickly, hurrying the reader through the long,
excruciating years of the character’s suffering and to a surprising ending, considering the book’s steady tone of misery. One problem is, as I said, its format of going between a letter and a diary, going back and forth from a man’s perspective to a woman’s, and so on (which must have confused the critics who were trying to figure out whether Acton Bell was a lady or a gentleman). While you do not want to put the book down, it does make for some choppiness and poor transitioning in the tale. Also, occasionally the story is paused to explain the outcome of a minor character or characters, which is all very well, but what you really want is for Helen and Gilbert and Arthur to come to some sort of resolution, together or apart.

In any case, Tenant of Wildfell Hall is an important if obscure part of the Bronte’s work, as well as an eye-opening description of love, marriage, and debauchery in the late Regency period. What more can one ask for?

P.S. - I apologize for the lack of organization is this review/essay.

P.P.S. - It would be really great if someone else would post in bookcruncher. Thanks.

Sunday, June 20th, 2004

12 books read // eat a book
Posted by:_eliza_b.
Time:9:30 pm.
Book Title:
Sense and Sensibility

Book Author:
Jane Austen

Book Information:
Random House, Inc, Modern Library
Hardback Edition (1995)

ISBN 0 679 60195 3

I don't have the energy to do a full-length review, so this lousy excuse for one will have to do.

Being an Austen novel, Sense and Sensibility is, of course, more sophisticated and better than the average book. However, as Austen goes, her other works are more entertaining, at least in that she grows as a writer and becomes more convincing. This was, after all, her first full-length book, and it shows.

Sense and Sensibility is closer to Love and Friendship and her other early works than masterpieces like Pride and Prejudice. For instance, the caricatures are outrageous charicatures rather than finely-drawn portraits, and the satire in the book is closer to the surface. This is highly amusing, obviously - here are just a few of the great lines in the story.

"I confess," replied Elinor, "that while I am at Barton Park, I never think of tame and quiet children with any abhorrence." (The heroine, on the Middleton's brats)

"Perhaps, Miss Marianne," cried Lucy, eager to take some revenge on her, 'you think young men never stand upon engagements, if they have no mind to keep them, little as well as great.'" (Lucy taunting Marianne about Willoughby betraying her)

Elinor agreed to it all, for she did not think he deserved the compliment of rational optimism.

They had in fact nothing to wish for, but ... rather better pasturage for their cows.

As you probably know, S and S follows Elinor, the common-sense and straightforward sister, and Marianne, the dreamy and passionate sister. As much as you come to appreciate Elinor's degree of down-to-earthiness and sympathize with Marianne's ill-fated love affair, it gets annoying after a while. Elinor is so rigidly sensible at times (and I mean that in the modern sense of the word), you wonder how she will ever get married, much less gain friends. Marianne, on the other hand, is so head-over-heels whimsical and flighty and spontaneous, but she does pay dearly for it. Then there's this whole subplot with Colonel Brandon's ruined ward and her ruined mother, with the cad Willoughby thrown in for good measure. And besides Willoughby, who is wickedly funny with the fatal flaw of being the antichrist on some levels, the other male protagonists are pretty dull. Really, there is little to recommend Colonel Brandon or Edward Ferrars.

I'm probably being too harsh in this, because this novel is truly amusing, and a good delineation of society and marriage of the era. Keep in mind that this was the first in a series of brilliant and highly ironic novels, so the authoress' skill improves as she goes along. I would appreciate comments from others who have read this book.

Sunday, May 23rd, 2004

3 books read // eat a book
Posted by:_eliza_b.
Time:10:16 am.
Book Title:

Book Author:
Jane Austen

Book Information:
Oxford University Press
Hardback Edition (1975)
Introductions by James Edward Austen-Leigh (Austen's nephew)
ISBN 0 19 254705 4

Being a product of the early 19th-century, as well as a work of Jane Austen, Persuasion is, of course, highly enjoyable. It was written in 1816 and published posthumously in 1818; and apparently was not fully complete or polished when its author died. Indeed, in this particular edition, there are two alternative chapters at the end that vary slightly from the ones that were officially published. Even so, one would never guess that Austen was not satisfied with Persuasion, because it is just as delightful and poignant as her other books, while including such subjects as growing older and failed love-affairs, life in the navy, and whether it is better to be steadfast or to be persuadable.

The novel's heroine is Anne Elliot, who is all of twenty-seven and (gasp!) unmarried. The reader comes to understand that she once had a potential suitor, Captain Frederick Wentworth, but because they had to part Anne lost her loveliness and happiness. This was eight years before, and yet time has done little to change Anne's feelings. Much of the book concerns Anne and Captain Wentworth being accidentally thrown together and gradually getting reacquainted, which is wonderfully angsty; but then, I always was a sucker for long, painful, and drawn-out love affairs. One really starts to care for these characters, despite Anne's supposed lack of charm and youth, and despite Wentworth's coolness and distance. The fact that Wentworth is being pursued by the young and high-spirited Musgrove sisters (of whom one is bright enough to give herself a concussion) does not help matters. Anyway, over the course of the story, other characters begin to realize what any reader can see from the beginning: that Anne's self-possession, clear head, and sense more than make up for her moderate "bloom" and age.

The navy is another prominent feature in Persuasion. Since the reader comes into contact with numerous vacationing captains, the book must be set after the close of the Napoleonic Wars; but even so, the patterns of naval life figure large in the story. On a side note, this aspect of the novel is much more enjoyable if one is used to naval fiction; the Master and Commander series is outstanding, especially since it is set in the same time period. As I was saying, the demands of the navy are important to the plot; Captain Wentworth had to leave Anne after her refusal because of duty, and Admiral Croft is on leave and so lets Kellynch, the Elliot estate. Even more significant is the debate between Captain Harville and Anne about whether men or women love more deeply, in which nautical analogies play a part ("I am in very good anchorage here...", etc); Captain Wentworth is nearby and overhears this conversation. You can imagine the rest. An amusing, if less considerable, factor of the story is the opinions laypeople have of the navy - Sir William, for one, grumbles about how the navy might allow those of inferior birth to rise higher in status than those of noble backgrounds; he also complains about how gruesome some captains are, what with scars and various body parts blown off. An interesting comment, considering that the navy effectively saved England from invasion.

Of course, as the title suggests, this novel deals with a central question: whether it is better to be steadfast and not open to the wishes of others, or persuadable and capable of listening to reason. Anne, in her past relationship with Captain Wentworth, was convinced by her mentor, Lady Russell, that such a match was beneath her, or at least uncertain in its success. In this case, Wentworth ends up wealthy from war prizes and powerful in his status, but of course, not all men in his profession are so lucky. More minor characters who are incapable of being persuaded, such as Mary, Anne's hypochondriac of a sister, are usually unhappy and fretful; and as Anne comes to realize, listening to the wishes (if not wisdom) of one's elders is probably for the best. Again, the heroine's common sense and willingness to be reasoned with saves her, at least in that it makes her more attractive than the silly and flighty girls in their teens.

It is mere guessing to say so, but some speculate that the story of Anne and her captain is similar to Austen's relationship with a man; and as the last of her books at the close of her life, Austen may well have been reflecting upon her own relationships. In any case, Persuasion is a great read, for everyone from fans of Austen to those of Forester, and everything in between.

Sunday, May 2nd, 2004

2 books read // eat a book
Posted by:_eliza_b.
Time:12:42 am.
Book Title:
Northanger Abbey

Book Author:
Jane Austen

Book Information:
Oxford University Press
Hardback Edition (1975)
Introductions by her nephew (couldn't find his name)
ISBN 0 19 254705 4

As a Jane Austen fan, I am ashamed to say that I had not read this before; and now that I have, I wish I had read it sooner. Northanger Abbey follows the escapades of Catherine Morland through Bath, Northanger Abbey, and back home in Fullerton (no, I hadn't heard of it either). Of course, romance and society is involved, but there are some qualities that make Northanger unique, that are not present so much in Austen's other novels. However, this book contains the authoress' characteristic wit, social commentary through her outrageous individuals, and a wealth of delectable quotes.
Although it might not be her most famous, Northanger is nonetheless wickedly witty and inventive. Such dowds and idiots as Mrs. Allen appear, who might be well-intentioned but also keep assuming, hour after hour, that someone will eventually join them at a party. Isabella Thorpe, Catherine's older and rather flighty friend, would be the irritating, ditzy, and promiscuous girl in high school, if she was around today. John Thorpe, Catherine's dense suitor, sweetly and stubbornly pursues her with a determination that almost drives one to madness. These are complimented by other, equally entertaining characters, all of whom are so exquisitely flawed and such perfect characticures that one must wonder whether they are drawn from people Austen knew. I, for one, always envisioned her sitting in a parlor and smirking to herself while scratching away, but that is mere conjecture, and besides the point.
These other individuals would make this story worthwhile, but that is not even mentioning Henry Tilney or Catherine herself. Mr. Tilney, Catherine's love interest, is one of Austen's heros that the reader actually gets to know, unlike the distant Darcy. As the book continues, one even comes to like him, to appreciate his droll humor and gentle teasing. I was desparate for Catherine to end up with this guy. As for Catherine, one gets the impression that unlike the clever, sophisticated heroines that usually grace Austen's books,she is less mature and grown-up than Elenor or Elizabeth. Indeed, she is only seventeen, and she posseses all the naivete of that age. Her overactive imagination (she imagines she is being stalked at Northanger) and her booklust (she and Isabella spend hours talking about Gothic literature)are endearing and charming and outright fun. I'm not going to spoil the plot for you, so I will just leave it at saying that these characters would make the book brilliant even if it had nothing else going for it - and it does.
To quote (or at least paraphrase) Henry Tilney, "Anyone, be it gentleman or lady, who has not enjoyed a good book must be intolerably stupid." Well said - so run out and read Northanger Abbey so that you won't be one of them.

Wednesday, March 24th, 2004

2 books read // eat a book
Subject:Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There
Posted by:littlekasino.
Time:6:38 pm.
Book Title:
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There

Book Author:
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll

Book Information:
Paperback edition (2003)
Introductions by Will Self and Zadie Smith
ISBN 0 7475 6496 5

Picture yourself when you were truly innocent and your thoughts had the colours of the rainbow.
When a box was empty only 'cause you were looking in it, but who could tell what was inside once it was closed? A fairy, a michrotroll, or perhaps a little alien from a distant planet (anything distant is small enough to fit in a box).
Do you like yourself back then? Most of us do. That's why we like reading about Alice and her fantastic adventures.

How many times do you feel sad when you finish a book? You grow affectionate to its characters, and can't help missing them once the story has ended. And you know that even if you read it all over again, it will never be the same. You'll still like the book, but a voice at the back of your head will keep reminding you what's gonna happen next.

The beauty of Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There is that they can shut up that voice. There is nothing ordinary or predictable with the Wonderland folks, and nothing ever goes the way you expect them to go in the world behind the Looking Glass. At some point you certainly wonder: who's being a joke to who? OK, Alice makes fun of the Queen of Heart and all of her court, the flowers make fun of Alice and any other human-shaped creature, and the Cheshire Cat, with its big, everlasting grin, well, doesn't it seem to be making fun of you? Because it doesn't matter how experienced or smartass you are, nothing you ever learned can prepare you to the endless possibilities of a nonsensical world.
Which is simply great.

As people grow older they forget what it is like when you don't know what "behind the corner" is and why it is. Grown-ups learn by heart one or two reassuring rules according to which everything will happen in a certain way. An adult, responsible, logical mind is a straight line, perhaps an arrow, and it shuts itself against the whats and whys that aren't included in the adult, responsible, logical world.

But when you're a child nothing is necessarily straight, or necessarily left, or necessarily one way. A child's line of thought will form wriggles and curves, and be magical, and surprising, and free.

Lewis Carroll's writing is powerful enough to remind its reader of how fun wriggles are and why nobody should ever stop making them.

Saturday, October 30th, 2004

eat a book
Subject:Upcoming reviews
Posted by:littlekasino.
Time:9:40 pm.
Mood: busy.
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