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Good morning, universe

...and how are you today? I think I'm getting a stinker of a cold, and that's very annoying because yesterday I was full of energy. I'll sound like I'm smoking 50 a day for the rest of the week. Last time I was like that someone said it sounded sexy. Well, maybe, if your first sexual frisson was listening to Frank Butcher explain away his dodgy deals on EastEnders.

From the BBC, the missing piece of information we have all craved: a mathematical formula for when the beer goggles kick in, based on factors such as "luminance of person of interest".

I've had a bit of a media week this week.
Films seen: 2 -- Pan's Labyrinth, Notes on a Scandal

Books read: 3 4 -- The Night Watch by Sarah Waters (just glorious), A Gathering Light by Catherine Donnelly, Temeraire (which I am the last person to read and which I adored) ETA: and I just finished Holes. Started it at 12.20, finished at 2.45. I have my book mojo back.

Percentage of these which were excellent: 100

I was going to write about them, and indeed I started a review of one but it was just so very boring. I was left gobsmacked by my own tedium. So if you want to know anything about the films or books just ask and I will try not to bore you into catatonia in the comments.

Oh wait, I remembered what pissed me off about A Gathering Light. Bloomsbury has just released 21 of its most influential and/or popular books in handsome new editions, with smart covers and introductions and reading notes for our book club-going brethren, and I bought a stack because they were on sale for two for a fiver at Waterstone's in Piccadilly, which is a total no-brainer. Two books for a fiver, I mean *come on*. This is how we know God loves us and wants us to be happy.

So I pick up A Gathering Light, with an introduction by Jeanette Winterson, and start reading and the stupid tosser proceeds not to talk about the book and why she likes it, but to give away the entire plot in two pages

So that's it. I am never buying one of Jeanette Winterson's books ever again, no matter how beautifully she writes. Being profoundly annoying on The Late Review or in The Sunday Times is one thing, because I can switch off or turn the page and be done with it, but an author *giving away the plot* in the intro to a book she supposedly admires is just oafishness and stupidity and a slapping offence and generally not cricket. Silly cow. With Le Creuset knobs on.

Pretty soon I am going to start talking about house renovation because the bank is going to give me the money. Rather than bore everyone into submission I thought I'd chuck it behind a filter (when I remember to do so) Feel free to opt out.

Poll #922508 Renovation

You want in on the filter?


Poll #922509 what should I read next?

The choices are

The book after Temeraire (but this means I will have to leave the house and go to a proper bookshop to buy it; I can't just bugger off to Stratford as usual. They don't do dragons in Stratford.)
The Little Friend, Donna Tartt (thank you again, Bloomsbury)
The start of The Night Watch again, just so I can coo over how clever Sarah Waters is
The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenthingie
Kingdom of Shadows, Alan Furst
Vernon God Little, DBC Pierre
Home Extensions, Paul Hymers (which I should read but can't. Be. Arsed.)
The book I got for a quid which is all about the historical effects of El Nino
Something else, which I shall specify at some point
Ticky (please explain also how this is possible)

I have book tokens. Hear me roar.


( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 7th, 2007 03:21 pm (UTC)
Yay money for renovation!

>The Night Watch by Sarah Waters (just glorious)<

I'd like to hear more about this one.
Feb. 7th, 2007 08:59 pm (UTC)
It's the story of four characters from 1941 and the first waves of the Blitz, through to 1944, when the V2 rockets were falling, to drab, rationed post-war London.

The chief conceit of this book is that it is told in reverse chronological order, starting with the older, more beaten-down versions of the characters and moving backwards. I don't mean that in a Martin Amis "Time's Arrow" sort of way; instead there are three distinct sections in each time period.

The four characters are Kay, a mannish lesbian who is heartbroken and adrift in post-war London, having experienced the joy of being accepted and happy as a volunteer ambulance driver during the war; Helen, who lives with Julia, an author, but whose relationship is collapsing under the strain of her jealousy; Duncan, who is working in a dead-end job and whose past contains a crime so terrible that his father can hardly bear to hold up his head in society any longer; and his sister, Viv, who works with Helen and is carrying out a desultory affair with her married lover.

In each book the story moves back one iteration, and you get to find out the connections between the characters, which are not necessarily what you imagine. For instance, there's a link between Kay and Viv, unbeknownst to Helen, and between Kay and Duncan, though they don't speak. Small objects which seem to have a strange significance to their owners in the first part of the book turn into plot points in the second. It's fiction as archaeology, brushing away the accretion of experience and disappointment to reveal who these people were during the most intense period of their lives.

The first book can be a little frustrating because of this but it's worth it. There's a reveal at the end of book II that just thumps you in the stomach because you know how much it means to the people concerned and how terrible the betrayal is.

Book III is about beginnings and is much shorter than the other two but reveals the final part of the mystery: what Duncan did that was so awful.

Waters is brilliant in her evocation of the small accommodations, cruelties and kindnesses of wartime Britain and the tedious minutiae of getting by when everything is in short supply. But in the end I read this for the pleasure of the imperfect, interesting characters and the sheer joy of watching all the odd silences and strange remarks of the first book lock together into a compelling whole by the end of the third.
(no subject) - minnow1212 - Feb. 9th, 2007 03:41 am (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 7th, 2007 03:33 pm (UTC)
I would be interested in what you thought of "Pan's Labyrinth." And YES! to the house renovation filter so that I could listen in and pine in jealousy as I myself am too ill-sorted and lazy to do anything about the sorry state of my place.
Feb. 7th, 2007 09:08 pm (UTC)
I went back and read your review last night. I think the film may be the best thing I've seen this Oscar year and I have seen a whole heap of great films this year.

I adored Pan's Labyrinth. I loved it more than was sensible. I am going to go see it again because now I know when to hide my eyes at the unbearable parts. Mark Kermode referred to it as the Citizen Kane of fantasy filmmaking and while I wouldn't go that far, I was overwhelmed by its grace and beauty and terror. I loved the way the key to the whole film was in that first shot of Ofelia on the ground. I loved the creatures, which felt real rather than CGI. I loved that what defeated the captain in the end was his inability to believe that he could be outwitted by a woman. I loved the faun, who was just the right mix of entrancing and scary. The end of it just about killed me.

I thought the performances were superb, from Ofelia to Mercedes to the captain, who was the incarnation of the kind of man who thinks he is a cold and sober, judging, punishing patriarch when in fact he is a misogynistic sadist who takes out his flashes of temper on anything that gets in his way. There was that one shot of the tortured maquis, just before the doctor [spoiler] that will haunt me for years.

So yes. Loved it, but boy, talk about fuel for nightmares.
Feb. 7th, 2007 03:36 pm (UTC)
Book to read:

"Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog" by John Grogan
Feb. 7th, 2007 09:14 pm (UTC)
Thanks. That one rings a bell but I am not sure I have ever seen it.
(no subject) - ropo - Feb. 7th, 2007 10:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 7th, 2007 03:56 pm (UTC)
I cannot resist a ticky!

But I think you should read The Little Friend by Donna Tartt, because while I didn't love it, I still thought it was a good read, and Donna Tartt is always interesting.

Or you could read England's Mistress: The Infamous Life of Emma Hamilton by Kate Williams, which I just read and loved and found fascinating (especially the concept of huge celebrities in the early 1800s), but then, I like biographies and they're not for everybody.

Or you could read Forever in Pants: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares, which I loved, because the characters are real and not always lovable or good and yet... they love each other and know how to be real friends and they figure out what is important in growing up and life and friends. But then you'd have to read the first three books, if you haven't already and this is not a chore because they are all good, but you may not love teen books like I do. Also, perhaps "pants" would be problematic, in translation. :-D
Feb. 7th, 2007 09:17 pm (UTC)
I understand the lure of the ticky. But yes, Donna Tartt is always interesting. Thanks for the Emma Hamilton rec. I think that book will go well with Temeraire and I'll have to keep an eye out for it.

As for the Pants books, I've never seen them here but that doesn't mean that they're not. I shall try the first one and see how it goes. I think I am fluent in pants but who knows what translation problems there may be ;)
Feb. 7th, 2007 04:17 pm (UTC)
Talk about the Catherine Donnelly because it's the only one I haven't heard of. :)
Feb. 7th, 2007 09:29 pm (UTC)
Well, when I check the book she's actually called Jennifer Donnelly, which may account for you not having heard of it.

A Gathering Light is a YA novel which won the 2003 Carnegie Medal and is about Mattie, who loves books and words but is trapped looking after her widowed father and brothers and sisters in turn of the century north-eastern New York state. The second part of the book is about the case of a young woman who drowns in the lake and what happens to her letters. The two stories intertwine more and more closely as the book goes on.

Fear of doing a Winterson makes me stop here, but I will say that I loved the detail of it, and the descriptions of the hard life of the farmers. There were one or two things that didn't quite work and the ending felt a little bit rushed, but overall I really liked it.
Feb. 7th, 2007 04:27 pm (UTC)
I think you should read something silly and fun, like Holes (which I also enjoyed). As soon as you thin of some suitable titles, come tell me so I can read them too.

Feb. 7th, 2007 10:27 pm (UTC)
I see your game... *g*

Have you ever read The Wrong Boy by Willy Russell? It helps to love it if you had a teenage adoration of The Smiths but you can think Morrissey is a dolt and still enjoy it a whole lot.
(no subject) - veejane - Feb. 7th, 2007 11:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 7th, 2007 04:34 pm (UTC)
Going into the home renovations, I'd really recommend The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard. It's a philosophical exploration of Topophila, the love of home, and explains a lot about how we find the sense of home and place.

Sure, it's chewy as all getout, but it's also beautifully written.

The Non-Fiction Reader

Feb. 7th, 2007 10:03 pm (UTC)
::narrows eyes:: does this have stuff like ... theory in it?

Hmmmm. I could do to love my home a little bit more. I always wanted a home I loved whereas at the moment it's just a money-sucking pit where I dump my junk.
(no subject) - loosehorses - Feb. 7th, 2007 11:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 7th, 2007 04:42 pm (UTC)
I am a fan of both home renovation and nonfiction, and my poll answers reflect that. *g*
Feb. 7th, 2007 10:04 pm (UTC)
::nods:: I understand. I like non-fiction too but I am on such a fiction kick that I am afraid to break it.
Feb. 7th, 2007 05:06 pm (UTC)
I would like to hear more about what you liked about Temeraire. Because I don't think of you as reflexively fannish (not anymore, anyway), and it'd be interesting to get a different take on it.

I really do need to track down the Sarah Waters, except I fear it's only available in hardcover here.

Oh! I think you should read Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven and tell me what you think about it.

Re: homeownership. The gardeners came yesterday (will be back today) and OMG my yard looks so much better!!! The hedge is cleared up and they yanked the dead bushes (and a few of the live ones, oh well) and pruned the hell out of everything, and it looks like a thousand times better, which is good because it cost me $1200 to get it all done. Worth every penny.
Feb. 7th, 2007 10:25 pm (UTC)
Well, without fandom I would never have bought Temeraire. I feel like a rarity on my friends list, the person who loved books but was never really into fantasy; I was lucky not to be shunned for never having read Lord of the Rings *g* Somehow I managed to get through childhood and adolescence without being obsessed by books about ponies or vampires or dragonriders and I think it made me a bit of a snob about fantasy. I didn't read enough of the good stuff, spending my time on mysteries instead.

So I suppose I bought it really because SEP and you and a whole bunch of other people were all so joyful about it. When you start reading there's this whole pleasure of discovering what a brilliant idea it was, how rightly it worked in the time period. Seriously, has anyone got halfway through that book and not thought how much better Sharpe or similar would have been with dragons in it? And I love Sharpe.

I wouldn't say the plot was the world's strongest but it doesn't matter because this book feels as if it's all about slowly discovering the world of dragons and aviators and how that subtly changes the politics, economics and social standings of Regency Britain. It helps to have such an engaging lead pairing, since Laurence is fundamentally decent and full of humour and Temeraire is delightful. The secret world of the aviators was a joy to learn about, particularly the female riders.

I was more ambivalent about the traitor plot, though it taught us some valuable lessons about the way dragon bonding works. I felt as though the character was introduced late and was a bit sketchy and then was disposed of swiftly. Somehow I wanted a bit more chewy stuff there (this is why I am not a literary critic; I use phrases such as "chewy stuff")

Since the dragons are so clearly intelligent -- and because of the presence of Wilberforce in the time period and the fact that the Chinese do not use their dragons in the same way as the Europeans -- I wonder if later in the series there will be some exploration of this and of the possibility of emancipation.

Whatever comes next, I am intrigued and delighted by the premise and its execution so far. And there is not enough squee in the world for the thought that Peter Jackson might turn it into a film.

Feb. 7th, 2007 06:17 pm (UTC)
Ticky (please explain also how this is possible)

Because with Ticky, all things are possible.

Take Care
Feb. 7th, 2007 10:06 pm (UTC)
I wish I could get a T-shirt made of that, if only to see who else it made sense to, aside from LJ people. *g*
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 7th, 2007 10:08 pm (UTC)
Holes is glorious. It's all built on coincidence but the coincidences are so marvellous and strange that it becomes part of the book. Anyway, I like being taken on meanderings in the company of a shaggy dog.

The Time Traveller's Wife is in the prime "guilt" position on my shelves, where it cries "You've not read me yet, you lazy git."
:: points up :: - comice - Feb. 8th, 2007 01:58 am (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 7th, 2007 07:20 pm (UTC)
I have looked at your poll results, and it boils down to this: EVERYONE wants to hear about your house because OMG how funny you're going to be while telling us about it; and everyone wants to hear what you've read and what you think about what you've read. You are universally loved. Just accept it and write more in your LJ, okay? Every day would be good for us. Thanks.
Feb. 7th, 2007 10:09 pm (UTC)
I am pink in a most unbecoming way. Thank you. Hope you're feeling better. Denying yourself the comfort of starch and carbs is no good when you're sick.
(no subject) - infinitemonkeys - Feb. 7th, 2007 10:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ropo - Feb. 7th, 2007 10:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 8th, 2007 01:17 am (UTC)
I really liked The Time Traveller's Wife, but then I think I just bought it and read it. I hate it when they sit there on the shelves, oppressing you.
Feb. 12th, 2007 03:30 am (UTC)
Pls keep me on the renovation filter, as the hubby is very handy and probably would have a cheap and easy solution to many of your possible woes.

I'm currently reading Pride and Prejudice for the umpteenth time. Somehow I get Keira Knightley and Colin Firth all messed up in my head with Eric Stoltz in his "Laurie from 'Little Women'" incarnation as well. It's quite entertaining when I forget to be annoyed.
( 32 comments — Leave a comment )

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