Veronique Darwin

Posts Tagged ‘Reading List’

Badly Written Book Reviews

In Book Club, Literature, My Writing on July 28, 2012 at 4:22 pm

I have a Moleskine book journal in which I write terribly-written book reviews.

(By the way, on the cover of this journal is a confusing set of titles (look closer), some of which I know are books, some of which I think, okay, this must be a book, but it’s written in Chinese characters, thanks. I’ve tried to find a forum where someone has asked what this list is all about and someone else answered it but of course I’m not going to start a forum discussion about this (I will instead write a blog post with this as my hidden intention). I think I want to know really badly because I secretly want Moleskine to dictate my reading curriculum. I miss English class!)

Parentheses aside, I keep a book journal mainly because Moleskine made this available for me. Also because it helps me to recall what I thought of books and it feels good to flip through and be proud of how many books I’ve read. What makes me less proud is the level of my book reviews.

Here are some of these convoluted reviews. If you would like my opinion on a book, you can post a comment, and if I’ve read it I will give you something similar to what you find below. If I haven’t read it yet, maybe I will read it now! Thanks for your interest.

(Disclaimer: I got this book journal for Christmas 2010 so this is sadly not me writing as a child.)

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery:

“So wonderful … This book and its movie (of which I’ve only seen bits) breathe romance. The book, and Anne herself, are a dream, but touch my emotions like they must be real.”

Bossypants by Tina Fey:

“This book is inspirational, and so exciting. I loved the description of her father, and of her job at the YMCA.”

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville:

“I love the form of the book, and how the book always comments on the form of the book, which is: how can I best tell you about the whalebut the person telling it is very, very tangential.”

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy:

“I like Cormac McCarthy’s writing and though I don’t feel like I relate to it, I’d read more, at least to feel like I do for a moment.”

An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin:

“I loved this book for its use of language, its ability to take me in and display to me with everything it has another world I knew nothing about: art possession in New York City.”

On the Road by Jack Kerouac:

On the Road runs along like I’m dreaming, but then I reread a sentence and realize that no, someone else wrote this down. Someone wrote, “and don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear?” on the last page of his novel.”

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce:

“I am happy I have read this book, but I’m not sure I was happy all the while that I was reading this book … I wish I could be more thorough when reading, but alas, I’m not always or ever that way.”

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Pulitzer Challenge

In Book Club on July 10, 2012 at 6:38 pm

No, I’m not trying to win the Pulitzer (in Fiction) but I am going to do a self-prompted challenge in homage to the fact that the Pulitzer did not award a Fiction prize for 2012. I’m not going to try and say I care a lot about the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, because I wasn’t really bothered by it one way or the other until now. Now people are irate and I am going to do a challenge.

(I don’t know if people are irate. One of the three jury members who had to read 300 books is a little irate, but also sort of apologetic about the whole thing.)

The Pulitzer Prize gold medal award 한국어: 퓰리처상 ...

The Pulitzer Prize gold medal award (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The details of the situation aren’t all revealed, but it seems that the panel who picks the winning books was not impressed enough by the three books presented as a shortlist to pick one as their Pulitzer winner.

I just think this is so sad. Never mind not being one of the 300 books of 2012 presented to the jury, imagine being one of the three best books of the year and then making a panel of people decide for the first time in history that your three books suck so much they’re actually going to protest and not give an award.

I don’t know that this is how it went, but this how I would feel, as an author of one of those books. Maybe for a few minutes, then I’d be like, remember when I was just writing blog posts?

I feel that I haven’t given the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction enough attention until now. Congratulations, Pulitzer, if that’s why you were pulling this move. You did it.

So I am going to read one Pulitzer Prize winning book from each decade. Then I am going to read the three books that made it onto the shortlist this year. I will choose my own book from each decade unless you feel so inclined to comment below and reccomend for me a title. I’m just going to skip the 1910’s because if I didn’t I would never even start this challenge. I will post regular updates that are like, I hate the 30s!

Anyone want to join me?

1910s

1920s

1930s

1940s

1950s

1960s

1970s

1980s

Entries from this point on include the finalists listed after the winner for each year.

1990s

2000s

2010s

(list taken from Wikipedia)

 

read this read this read this!

In Literature on June 2, 2012 at 5:17 pm

Jennifer Egan’s short story in The New Yorker, Black Box.” Do you ever get so excited you rip pages out of magazines? And a link to the Twitter feed on which it was serialized (though I do recommend not reading it upside down).

(photo credit “Black Box” in The New Yorker)

I once stole a New Yorker from the gym because of Jack Handey’s “Ideas for Paintings

I read this poem by Etheridge Knight out of an SAT Literature Subject Test:

And I and your eyes
Draw round about a ring of gold
And sing their circle of sparks
And I and your eyes
Hold untold tales and conspire
With moon and sun to shake my soul.
And I and your eyes
If I could hold your hillside smile
Your seashore laughter your lips

Then I
Could stand alone the pain
Of flesh alone the time and space
And steel alone but I am shaken
It has taken your eyes
To move this stone.

Lauren Elkin is writing this: “a book about women and cities called Flâneuse, which challenges the widely-held idea that the flâneuse has never existed because women have not had the same access to the city as men. Part critical meander, part memoir, Flâneuse charts a path through literature and art revealing women’s sometimes liberating, sometimes fraught relationship to the metropolis.” -laurenelkin.com

These pictures:

(photo credit adsoftheworld)

3 Things I am Reading

In Book Club, Literature on May 15, 2012 at 11:38 pm

The Cellist of Sarajevo, by Steven Galloway

“He used to take his wife and son to Vraca for picnics in the summer. From there you could see most of the city, a fact that had taken on a whole new significance in recent months.”

I saw Steven Galloway speak at an SFU World Literature event a couple years ago and was struck by how funny he is. This book, despite its title and cover page, isnot funny. I just read through a joke and even that wasn’t funny ha-ha:

“A woman has a friend come to visit … The friend comes in, and the woman asks if she would like a coffee. ‘No,’ the friend says, ‘thanks, I’m fine.’ The woman says ‘Great, now I can take a shower.’ “

The joke (if you didn’t get it) is about the lack of water during the siege of Sarajevo. The book provides an intense immersion into the streets of the city during the war, but doesn’t provide much of the context surrounding it. I like when novels stay novels: I’m reading this to learn about what characters might do in this type of situation. I’m not reading to learn about this type of situation.

I have so far been exposed to four characters’ points of view. No one is happy. Some are dealing better than others, but all are dealing so well. This is another thing novels can do: use stronger than life characters. There is a cellist who brings his cello out into the street, where he will most likely get killed by a sniper, in order to play the same adaggio every day. There’s a reason we root for the musicians in Titanic: beauty in the depths of horror is almost more beautiful than beauty alone.

On Writing, by Stephen King

“My mother said it was good enough to be a book. Nothing anyone has said to me since has made me feel any happier.”

Having never read a Stephen King novel, I asked myself, what does he have to tell me about writing? He claims in his three forewords that he doesn’t want to tell me anything about writing but instead about himself, and how he came to writing. Good, because I don’t know anything about Stephen King.

King is a household name in my mind’s household because I see a new book of his on the shelves every month. I couldn’t possibly read Stephen King as fast as he writes Stephen King, so I haven’t started. I imagined King to be a mix of Goosebumps* and John Grisham, though I’m not sure why.

I can tell you Stephen King is chatty. He is a wonderful storyteller. I am reading through his childhood anecdotes eagerly waiting for the punchline, the climax, knowing I am in the hands of someone who has done this before.

My favourite part of the book so far is the page before the title page. It is an excerpt of a story written by King as a child. It was printed on a typewriter so there are letters missing every once in a while. The prodigious parts that stick out to me are the way King is able to break paragraphs at the right spot, and make short, perfect sentences like “Robert Steppes was a compulsive jumper.” Perhaps this says something about my current insecurities, that I feel I don’t break paragraphs up as well as King did in primary school.

La Petite Fille de Monsieur Linh, by Philippe Claudel

“‘Tao-lai,’ dit Monsieur Linh, selon la formule de politesse qu’on utilise dans la langue du pays natal pour dire bonjour à quelqu’un. ‘Eh bien, bonjour Monsieur Tao-lai,’ dit l’homme en lui souriant.”

I think it’s embarrassing that I often can’t follow stories in French, for I should be (and am) able to speak and read French fluently. It’s something about the story shape that gets lost to me when reading words that aren’t English. I understand most words, and most sentences, and most pages, but the story itself feels like parts have been taken out, like characters have merged. Maybe I fall asleep when I’m reading in French.

Philippe Claudel does a fine job of telling a story – this confusion is my fault entirely. The book reads like a parable, like an everyman story, perhaps because of its size, or  because of the distance between the reader and Monsieur Linh. We know who he is and what he’s doing and why he’s doing it, but he feels a bit like a foreigner in the book, just like he is in the new country to which he is emigrating: he doesn’t communicate with the reader directly; we don’t know his first name.

Sometimes short books seem bigger than themselves, whereas big books bring in so much that they can’t help but be confined to their size. I love little stories, because I can read them so quickly and I can also read them so slowly. As you can see by my frequency of “3 Things I am Reading” posts, I only read them quickly!

Again, I will read the first book someone suggests for me in the Comments section below, and will write about it soon in a “3 Things I am Reading.”

*Don’t click on the Goosebumps link: it’s terrifying!

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