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Monday, August 23, 2010

Book Meme - Day 16

Day 16 - Favorite poem or collection of poetry

Shakespeare's Sonnet 116 immediately springs to mind:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove.

O no, it is an ever-fixèd mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wand'ring bark,

Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.

Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle's compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.If this be error and upon me proved,I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

But there are lots of others, of course. T.S. Elliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.  

by Rupert Brooke (1887-1915)When the white flame in us is gone,
   And we that lost the world's delight
Stiffen in darkness, left alone
   To crumble in our separate night;

When your swift hair is quiet in death,
   And through the lips corruption thrust
Has stilled the labour of my breath---
   When we are dust, when we are dust!---

Not dead, not undesirous yet,
   Still sentient, still unsatisfied,
We'll ride the air, and shine, and flit,
   Around the places where we died,

And dance as dust before the sun,
   And light of foot, and unconfined,
Hurry from road to road, and run
   About the errands of the wind.

And every mote, on earth or air,
   Will speed and gleam, down later days,
And like a secret pilgrim fare
   By eager and invisible ways,

Nor ever rest, nor ever lie,
   Till, beyond thinking, out of view,
One mote of all the dust that's I
   Shall meet one atom that was you.

Then in some garden hushed from wind,
   Warm in a sunset's afterglow,
The lovers in the flowers will find
   A sweet and strange unquiet grow

Upon the peace; and, past desiring,
   So high a beauty in the air,
And such a light, and such a quiring,
   And such a radiant ecstasy there,

They'll know not if it's fire, or dew,
   Or out of earth, or in the height,
Singing, or flame, or scent, or hue,
   Or two that pass, in light, to light,

Out of the garden, higher, higher. . . .
   But in that instant they shall learn
The shattering ecstasy of our fire,
   And the weak passionless hearts will burn

And faint in that amazing glow,
   Until the darkness close above;
And they will know---poor fools, they'll know!---
   One moment, what it is to love.

And This:

No one so much as you Loves this my clay, Or would lament as you Its dying day.
You know me through and through Though I have not told, And though with what you know You are not bold.
None ever was so fair As I thought you: Not a word can I bear Spoken against you.
All that I ever did For you seemed coarse Compared with what I hid Nor put in force.
Scarce my eyes dare meet you Lest they should prove I but respond to you And do not love.
We look and understand, We cannot speak Except in trifles and Words the most weak.
I at the most accept Your love, regretting That is all: I have kept Only a fretting
That I could not return All that you gave And could not ever burn With the love you have,
Till sometimes it did seem Better it were Never to see you more Than linger here
With only gratitude Instead of love--- A pine in solitude Cradling a dove.

 As far as collections, John Donne.  And I love the poetry of Michael Ondaatje, and Robert Frost, and quite a few other people.


Well, we had our Federal Election.  And what a fizzer that turned out to be.  It could be two weeks before we get a 'proper' result and none of them are likely to be particularly good.  Whoever eventually becomes Prime Minister, they will have to kowtow to a small number of independents holding the balance of power - who are either insanely conservative or not - but I have decided that I am tired of the fate of the nation being held in the hands of a tiny number of people, who have usually got into that position because of extremist views of one sort or another.  I used to vote for the Greens, and still like some of their policies, but I;m not sure that I want every decision in the country to be made by one of them.  Still less do I want ANY decisions being made by people so insular that they left the National Party because it was too left-wing!!!

Otherwise, quite a good weekend.  I took Wombat to Manifest, an anime convention, and he had the time of his life.  I enjoyed bits of it - gawking at the bizarre cosplay costumes, buying myself a pair of Pikachu slippers, and getting us into a Q & A session with LittleKaribo who was extremely funny.  Wombat has now elevated me to the position of Best Mum in the Universe, which I think I deserve!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Book Meme - Day 15

Day 15 - Your "comfort" book

Any Discworld books by Terry Pratchett.  I have read them all (except for the latest one, which is in the pile of books to be read).  Several of them I have read more than once.  Whenever I feel I cannot cope with the world, I tend to pick up one of them.  Pretty much any one of them, 'cos my favorite characters are sprinkled liberally throughout them.  They certainly aren't simple reads, anything but, but playing around in my mind with all the source materials, etc, for everything in them distracts me from other stuff, and they are just so damn amusing and clever!

I also find the following authors good comfort reading - Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and Nevil Shute.  While I wouldn't say they are uncomplicated books, they are comforting murder mysteries or comforting thrillers.  They are books I can carry about in my handbag and pick up and read when I have a few moments alone when I am out somewhere.  


We had a very satisfactory meeting with Wombat's school today.  (We have one every term, with the Special Needs Co-ordinator, his teaching aides and us).  They are so unfailingly helpful and concerned, it is a pleasure to deal with them.  Of course they get impatient and despairing of things sometimes, but then so do we!  Exasperation is a big daily part of dealing with Aspergers Syndrome (from the carers' and teachers' perspectives, and undoubtedly from the Aspie's perspective also).  We are eternally grateful to have found such care and compassion and skill - and all in a state school, a block away from our home!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wordless Wednesday Part 2

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Book Meme - Day 14

Day 14 - Favorite character in a book (of any sex or gender)

How many can I mention?  In no particular order:

Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice
Lucy Pevensey from The Narnia books
Dido Twite from several books by Joan Aiken
Marcus from Rosemary Sutcliffe's Eagle of the Ninth
Tamsyn from The Armourer's House, also by Rosemary Sutcliffe

There are probably many more, but these are all I can think of for the moment.  Funny how only one of the five comes from a grown-up book?  Are the characters in children's books easier to like or dislike, without grey areas?  Was I more susceptible to feeling passionate about characters when I was a child?  (And I first read Pride and Prejudice at around the age of 10 or 12, so in that case, that would still count). 

A further thought - again thanks to Rosemary Sutcliffe - for the past 40 years or so I have been totally obsessed with Sir Thomas Fairfax, who featured in her novels The Rider of the White Horse and Simon, to the extent that when I lived in England in the 1990s I dragged my unfortunate husband around the countryside looking for sites connected to him and the Civil War.

I got a bit obsessed with D'Artagnan from The Three Musketeers for quite a long time too, but I think that was more to do with the Richard Lester films (and the extreme gorgeousness of D'Artagnan!) than anything else.  I have read The Three Musketeers and its sequel and rather loved Dumas for a while but I don't think he really counts.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

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Book Meme - Day 13

Day 13 - Favorite childhood book OR current favorite YA book (or both!)

I've already written a bit about favorite childhood books, and some other YA/children's books that I have read more recently, so I thought I would pick a couple of ones I haven't mentioned before.

The Tomorrow series, by John Marsden.  Baby Bear got me onto this a couple of years ago and I read them pretty much all the way through in one go.   There are seven books in the original series, published between 1993-1999, and then a short series of three more novels published 2003-2006, which finish the story off.  Basically it's about a group of teenagers in a non-specified Australian country town and their attempts to survive after Australia is suddenly invaded by non-specified foreign forces.  It;s exciting, with bangs and things, but what made it really important to me was the wonderfully crafted development of the characters throughout the various troubles they face.  They were all on the edge of adulthood when it happened, and they are all tipped various ways with the stressors that face them.  The final three books, known as The Ellie Chronicles after the main character, deal with their attempts to rebuild their lives after the invasion is defeated.

The first book starts with the kids going camping in a secluded gorge, and being woken at night by fighter planes going overhead, and bombs exploding.  Not long after Baby Bear and I had read this first book, I was out shopping with George and Wombat and fighter planes started going overhead.  Baby Bear was at home on her own.  None of us were aware of any air shows or parades in Melbourne that might have justified this.  It creeped me out a but but I assumed there was a good reason for it, but she phoned me quite upset and was genuinely fearful.  I tried to dismiss it but realised that she actually needed her fears to be taken seriously, so I told her to check out the Internet for news of anything and then, if she really still felt scared, to go and hide under her bed.  I know that wouldn;t have done much actual good in a crisis, but it seemed to help her -  having a task to do, a contingency plan, and the fact that I was taking her fears seriously.  We never did find out why the planes were there, but it was an enduring reminder of how powerful the books were, and how fragile the status quo can be.

I also want to mention The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.  When this first came out I looked at it in a bookshop and wanted to cry, it was so close to home.  After a couple of years I steeled myself to read it, and thought it was excellent.  Anyone who wants to know more about Aspergers Syndrome/High Functioning Autism should read it and learn from it.  (Though apparently in 2009 Haddon declared that it was not specifically about Aspergers, which I think is probably right as the character was mixture of the characteristics of various types of autism). I was delighted that it won the Whitbread Prize in 2003.  Apparently he wrote it for an adult audience but his publishers wanted it marketed to young adults, which is how it was shelved when I bought it, and I know a lot of schools include it in their curriculum.  


Real life - we have all pretty much recovered from our colds, thank goodness.  I hope that last night's garlic and chicken casserole killed off the last of the bugs!  (Chicken, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, and a WHOLE LOT OF GARLIC, like kill off every vampire in teen fiction for the next ten years amounts of garlic).  I am reheating the leftovers with extra chicken stock and pureeing it to make chicken soup for me for lunches for the rest of the week.

Valuing books left to Baby Bear by my father must be started.  A large hiatus occurred with sorting out all the stuff, owing to sicknesses of various sorts.  But now work must recommence.  Might even be fun, sort of!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Book Meme - Day 12

Day 12 - A book or series of books you’ve read more than five times

Hmm... I expect I have read the Narnia books at least five times.

I know I've read Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre at least five times (in the case of P&P, I think it's about 13 times).

I've read Testament of Youth quite a few times, probably at least 5.

I once went through a stage (quite lengthy) of rereading A Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve - that went on for more than 5 years.

And, for frivolity,  Where's My teddy, by Jez Aldborough, was such a huge favorite of my childrens' that I used to be able to recite it.  Likewise with Mr Bear Says A Spoonful for You by Debi Gliori and The Monster Bed by Jeanne Willis.


Real life gets in the way of things!  We spent the weekend with George's mum while the children were at a church camp nearby.  They got muddy and did scary adventure things, we sat around and chatted and enjoyed ourselves.  The weather was perfect, sunny and crisp with very cold nights. On Saturday afternoon George and I wandered around the countryside, meandering to Mirboo North and having a wonderful lunch at the Grand Ridge Brewery.  Apart from the great staff and the wonderful food, the dining room was full of amazing dining tables made from rough hewn slabs of timber that seated lots of people (we were on a more modest table as there was just the two of us) that epitomise what I would love to have as a dining table one day.

Since returning we all have colds.  Today is the first day this week that everyone is at school and work, and although I should be using the quiet time to do something useful I feel too awful to do anything except pootle around on the computer and, later, slump in front of the TV.  At least I have done LOTS of washing recently, at great cost to the electricity bill as it has been wet ever since our return and everything has had to go through the tumble dryer.

There were storms yesterday and last night throughout Victoria.  We escaped with just lots of rain, which is still sorely needed after years of drought.  But other parts of Melbourne and the state have suffered damage and at least one person has died in a car accident directly related to the weather.  We are fortunately located in a sheltered spot and rarely suffer more than the occasional fallen limb from a tree in storms, though we are sensible and secure things, put the glass-topped outside table under shelter, etc, to minimize possible damage.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Book Meme - Day 11

Day 11 - A book that disappointed you

I thought I would have to think really hard about this one.  Then I remembered the one and only time since reaching an approximation of adulthood that I had thrown a book across the room.

That book?  The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution by Shulamith Firestone.  I;ve read lots of feminist books, some of them good, some of them not so good, some downright hard to understand, some that made me cringe, and some that made me cheer.  This one was so awful it made me throw the book across the room.

I can't even remember why I hated it so much.  Oh, maybe it was her incredible dismissiveness of the value of mothering, plus her total lack of logic and her general annoyingness.  That's not a very incisive analysis, I realise that, but I;m not going to find the book to check it out any further.  Actually, I couldn't.  I gave it away to charity as soon as I had thrown it across the room (which was after reading all of it, I wouldn;t be THAT rude about a book unless I had finished it).

Other books that ought to be on this sort of list - Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (What did I expect of Ayn Rand?  Certainly nothing quite as ludicrous as this huge pile of rubbish) and  Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington (which was made into a good film but I am afraid I found to be totally unreadable).

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Book Meme - Day 10

Day 10 - A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving

I've been thinking hard about this for the last couple of hours.

The most recent book to fit this description is, I think, Carpentaria by Alexis Wright.  I need to phrase this carefully to avoid what sounds like prejudice but is, quite honestly, a statement of fact and my own, personal taste.  I have not enjoyed the little I have read of Indigenous Australian writing.  I was rather dubious about this.  But the reviews did sound intriguing, and I had a book voucher from a nice bookshop.  So instead of buying crime or fantasy or craft books, I bought Carpentaria.  It took me another six months to get around to reading it.  I remained dubious for the first few pages.

Then I fell in love.

It is a huge, sprawling novel (literally as well as figuratively) and I loved every word of it.  IT was funny, creepy, tragic, magic, and so damn well written.

I take back everything I ever thought about 'Indigenous Australian writing' and realise, humbly, that it is like any other writing - some of it is not going to be to my taste, but that is no reason to dismiss it like I had done.

One day I will reread it.  (This is the greatest honour I can bestow upon a book).  Not right now, though, because I have so many other things to read and reread.  But I will never dispose of this book.  I love it.

Book Meme - Day 9

Day 09 - Best scene ever

That would change regularly, of course, like all of these answers.

But the one I am going to nominate is the one in Northern Lights, the first book of the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman.  (The book is known in the US as The Golden Compass).  In the alternative universe of these books, people do not have 'souls' but they have 'daemons', which are external, animal-shaped manifestations of 'souls'.  The scene where experiements are being carried out to surgically separate children from their daemons is one of the most powerful and devastating I have ever read.  I cried for an hour after reading that scene.  I felt as though I had had my own heart cut out.

Fantastic trilogy, one of the best fantasy series ever written.  One of the most memorable scenes ever written.

But ask me tomorrow and I might have another answer.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Book Meme - Day 8

Day 08 - A book everyone should read at least once

The instruction book that came with your latest electronic gadget...

A decent plain cookbook (I get annoyed with people who say they can't cook - if you can read, you can cook. If you can't read, I'll help you)...

Grimm's Fairy Tales - to teach you never to rely on anyone except yourself ...

Ancient myths and legends of any or all civilisations, to learn universal themes of existence ...

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Book Meme - Day 7

Day 07 - Least favorite plot device employed by way too many books you actually enjoyed otherwise

Not sure about this one.  Something that immediately springs to mind is how Jodie Picoult always seems to have a list of 'buttons' which must be pressed to evoke specific emotions in the mind of the reader.  I actually enjoy her books; I find her characters engaging and her writing quite fluent, but whenever I read one (and I haven't read all of them by any means) I feel that she has a little list and marking off things that will make me react in certain ways.  Not quite writing by formula, otherwise I wouldn't bother with them, but transparent enough to make me annoyed that I am allowing myself to be maniuplated.

Otherwise - IDENTICAL TWINS.  Please don't use identical twins!  I just watched 'The Prestige', which is taken from a book by an author I quite enjoy, Christopher Priest.   I haven't read the book but I believe the same plot device is used.  It is cheap and cheating.  OF course the point in that story is that it IS cheating and leads to unforeseen consequences, but it still annoyed me.  When I was a child half the children's books seemed to include twins.  Especially the really far-fetched ones where whole families consisted of sets of IDENTICAL TWINS.   

And the murder stories where you can guarantee that if the detective (professional or amateur) fancies someone, that someone is the murderer, or at least is lying so much about something important that it can never be.  By all means have your protagonist occasionally shag a murder suspect, but not so predictably!

Book Meme - Day 6

Day 06 - Favorite book of your favorite series OR your favorite book of all time

AAHH!!! Not an answerable question.  My favorite book of all time changes from day to day, week to week, year to year.

All right, one I do always go back to - The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende.  It blew me away when I first read it, and it still does (I have read it another couple of times, at least).  Unfortunately I have managed to lose my copy and must replace it.  The sheer wonderfulness of the imagination - I suppose it's 'magic realism' - haunted and excited me.  It made me laugh and cry and hug myself and want to write like her.  Complete fail at that last one, incidentally!

Ask me next week and I will have another favorite book.  Oh, in recent years I have been hugely impressed by The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, and for the last twenty years or so, anything by Peter Carey and Angela Carter.  And in the last couple of years, Neverwhere and The Graveyard Book and Mirrormask by Neil Gaiman.