“Let us read, and let us dance;
these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.”

Thursday, 28 January 2010

BookElf Reads 2009

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Finally found the scrap of paper I wrote all this on at 2 o'clock in the morning on New Years Eve (if that is not tooooo much of an oxymoron).

Not published this year, just read this year, savvy?

Discovery of the Year

John Irving - The Cider House Rules,
A Prayer for Owen Meany
Why did nobody tell me about The Cider House Rules? The book that kept me awake all summer! Good God that man can write...
Could finally empathise with a mate I once went for a curry with who tried a pit of my peshwari naan and then spent the next 20 minutes frantically ringing various relatives to berate them for never introducing him to the delights of desiccated coconut before.

Series of the Year

CJ Sansom- Shardlake
Just read the other blog entry about it because it's easier.

Up All Night Award

On the Other Hand- Chris Cleave
Literary Marmite. I loved it, N hated it. All I know is, I was very tired the next day.
Close contender has to be...

Best Debut

Wetlands- Charlotte Roche
Compared to previous winners (The Secret History by Donna Tartt, The Other Side of You by Maggie O'Farrell-I will have a Maggie O'Farrell rant later because I lurve her to the point of obsession, but if you haven't read The Other Side of You, the I strongly recommend changing this at the earliest opportunity because it is brilliant), this is never going to win prizes for careful structuring or character development, but it is witty, gritty and dirty as a long slow **** (for those readers of a sensitive disposition, I will not fill in the blanks). I loved it. Also great dinner party gift as you get to read out the dirtiest bits whilst well lubricated (as long as your friends are as filthy minded as mine at any rate!) There has been some controversy surrounding this books as to whether it is a feminist opus or no, now I have my own opinion about this, but I will be writing a rant about feminist writing, or writing within feminism, if that makes sense, which I know N will just LOVE ;-) so shall be discussing this then. I am trying to write proper blogs as opposed to rants, but what can I can, I'm a ranting literary/political hydra! (best compliment I have ever been paid). Anyway.

The I-Know-I-Know-It's-Brilliant-But Award

Shadow of the Wind-Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Currently lying by my bed. I will finish this book, because it is good and I am enjoying it, it's just taking me about six months to do so (sorry N, whose copy it is, good job I don't pay fines ain't it!)
What makes this even worse is that in my library, this book is incredibly popular amongst the staff, with people bringing it back raving about how good it is. I am recommending it though so at least somebody is finishing it!

Best Recommended Read

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell- Susanna Clarke
Recommended by a very old friend, this strikes the balance between historical fantasy and fantastical history perfectly, and we can only hope the film version doesn't murder it.

And Finally...

Worst Book of the Year

Beautiful People- Wendy Holden
Simply Devine was brilliant! Funny, sassy, smart and just that little bit too clever to be absolute trash, Hodlen has been on my secret dirty pleasures list for years along with Keyes, Cooper and whoever it was that wrote 'Ralph's Party' (turn to page 252, read the paragraph describing the perfect man, times that by a very hormonal post-just-been-duped-into-believeing-that-he-actually-thought-I-was-worth-more-than-a-you-know-what, divide by drunken pledges of self-worth and saving of self for said description of perfect man and you equal why I am single) But this is just dross! Unfunny, unclever, witless, pointless, senseless dross. And a doorstopper of dross none the less. Complete waste of a two-for-seven-quid supermarket treatread. Disappointed.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night - Dylan Thomas

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Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

 DO NOT go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Friday, 15 January 2010

The Stolen Child - WB Yates

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The Stolen Child

WHERE dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we've hid our faery vats,
Full of berrys
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim gray sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

Away with us he's going,
The solemn-eyed:
He'll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest.
For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than he can understand.


This is my favourite poem...ever. I love Yates anyway, but this poem (and the song linked above that introduced it to me)is so evocative and powerful, that it takes me to a fantastical world, where faeries and elves and strange old magicks still exist.

Based on an Irish myths and legends about the Changelings - these are faeries who kidnap children leaving either faery folk or enchanted objects in their place(for an absolutely fantastic reading experience, try 'The Stolen Child' - inspired by the poem - written by Keith Donohue)- I have always imagined a sort of between world that a child slips into in dreams, where they are offered a choice - to stay or to go away from their families, tempted by magical people.

What I love most about this poem are the flashes of mundanity that are the real world (the kettle on the hob) and the power than these simple items have to compel a person to want to stay in the real world, despite the hardships that we all endure.

A little rant...

I made this: BookElf at 5:32 pm 0 comments Links to this post
The other day, at work, I was approached by a woman who works in the admin bit of my workplace who has a son she gets books out of the library for. Occasionally I recommend a read for him based on what is popular with my students at the time, or what I have enjoyed, I also make recommendations for her all of which she has enjoyed, most noticeably A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hussaini (brilliant book, well crafted, well structured, each character is realised well, all relationships within the text makes sense and you are emotionally involved with the story throughout, if I was at uni still they'd be teaching this to me in Creative Writing).

Tangents! Again! Sorry.

Anyway, her son is 17, same age as a lot of my students. Last week I recommended a Fighting Fantasy book I had previously spent a happy Sunday afternoon tucked up in bed with a cold completing whilst drinking lots of fluids and destroying the rain forest one box of tissues at a time.

If you've never heard of Fighting Fantasy then I suggest you educate yourself as they are great fun. The premise is that you are a hero dropped in this magical unexplained land and given a quest, find the magic talisman, destroy the monster, save the village, whatever. You follow the book and occasionally have to 'fight' a monster. You do this by a series of rolling dice (cleverly printed on the bottom of the pages) and keeping a track of certain 'scores' far too complicated to go into right now, suffice to say the books not only help literacy but also maths! You also have to do the whole 'if you want to go down the tunnel, turn to page 45, to climb the stairs, go to page 56' thing so its basically an action-adventure game in book format. They have been going since the 80s and are incredibly popular with young men in particular, although there educational potential can sometimes not be realised (a very good friend who was until the last few years a reluctant reader cites a teacher making him stop reading one of them in a classes free reading period because they were not 'proper' books as the reason for him not becoming a regular reading until his late twenties- stories like this make me want to find these so called 'teachers' and beat them around the head with a copy of Roger Red Hat). We have about 20 of them on the shelves, and they get used! Not as much as the Beast Quest series by Adam Blade (an utter genius of a writer- Kathryn Flett did a great if slightly patronising column about them in the Observer a few months ago).

So, I had recommend The Talisman of Death (general premise- find talisman- take talisman to hidden swamp fires- use magic collected en-route to destroy talisman- kill shit loads of baddies on the way), thinking jobs a goodun. When she comes in to accuse me of introducing her son to sorcery.

That's right, sorcery.

He is 17. Seventeen!

Now, I am quite a tolerant person, you have to be in FE. I can cope with most things being thrown at me, but this was ridiculous. I did not slip a note with my coven meeting schedule on it into the book, I did not sprinkle the pages with water from a holy well cursed by the anti-pope, I did not send him a voodoo doll or preach a black mass within the library. I merely recommend a highly engaging piece of literature which has proved popular with boys his age several times in the past, which not only encourages literacy but numeracy skills as well as being a damn fun way to pass the time. Of course, I didn't say anything to the woman, that would have been rude as well as offensive, she may have strong religious beliefs I don't know about and her son may share them. But SORCERY! COME ON LOVE! IT'S A BOOK!

This comes under the same thing as the furore over the Harry Potter books turning our children into pagans, which is of course nonsense. People are obviously influenced by what they read, it is part of the creativity of reading (for more on reading as a creative art see the Arts Council's report on The Future of Reading: A Public Value Project prepared by Creative Research). I aim to be a bibliotherapist one day, this relies on people empathising with characters within fiction in order to further understand crisis es in their lives. But it is insulting to children to think they are so easily swayed as to adopt a religious belief as strong as paganism, Wicca, or other Original Faiths purely because of one book. It is not reading Harry Potter, or Twilight, or any of the other Big Names that creates fangirls; it is the relentless marketing and exploitation of the genre by capitalists, using fantasy rhetoric to sell religious devotion of a product to young people. Reading the Historian did not make me want to get out my stake and start vampire hunting, but it did make me want to research the original vampire legend. Reading a fantasy book that requires maths to kill imaginary monsters is not going to make anyone go dragon hunting, and if it does then at least they're getting some fresh air exploring and using their creativity.

What pissed me off the most about this whole thing that she also got out for him a load of Chris Ryan books about War and Death and Killing and Bloodshed. I never ever recommend these books because I don't like them, but people do so fair enough. But how does she has the cheek to say I am turning her son into a sorcerer when she is on the way into making him into oh so much cannon fodder! Quite frankly, I'd rather fight imaginary monsters with dice than kill actual people with guns-even if it is only a book.

Happy Reading!

The Sun Rising by John Donne

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This is my favourite poem. One day, I am going to have this quoted to me one bright morning by a hansome young man who means it. This is the dream of a girl who tidies book shelfs for a living and knows how to make marmalade from scratch, so unlikely to actually happen, but we can dream!

BUSY old fool, unruly Sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains, call on us ?
Must to thy motions lovers' seasons run ?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late school-boys and sour prentices,
Go tell court-huntsmen that the king will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices ;
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

Thy beams so reverend, and strong
Why shouldst thou think ?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long.
If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Look, and to-morrow late tell me,
Whether both th' Indias of spice and mine
Be where thou left'st them, or lie here with me.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw'st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear, "All here in one bed lay."
She's all states, and all princes I ;
Nothing else is ;
Princes do but play us ; compared to this,
All honour's mimic, all wealth alchemy.

Thou, Sun, art half as happy as we,
In that the world's contracted thus ;
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that's done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere ;
This bed thy center is, these walls thy sphere.

* * * * *

Table of Contents - Poetry

Book Club the Third

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Book Club the Third - BOOKN00B - 11-01-2010
Agreed on: I am Cat by Soseki Natsume was not working, and to be discarded
Agreed on: The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak (BookN00b)
- The Daisy Dalyrmple Series by Carola Dunn
- C.J. Sansom series
- The Tain by Ciaron Carson
- The Clan of the Cave Bear and sequels by Jean M. Auel
- Jane Austen - all the classics...and the rest...

Though, actually, as it happens, we none of us had made our way through the book. BOOKN00B found it tough to get into, but enjoyed the cat bits, less so the master bits, BOOKELF found it a long hard slog, and I'm still waiting for my copy from Amazon!

So, we swiftly moved on, and decided to focus instead on mutual reads.

Such as CJ Sansom's Shardlake series - as lent out to us by BOOKELF!


We all three of us enjoyed these immensely, with each of us preferring different books, and characters, so a lively discussion ensued. We agreed that when the fifth in the series is released (later this year), we will happily devote a month to it!
BOOKN00B - 8/10  
BOOKELF - 9/10

We had also read three books from the ever increasing Daisy Dalrymple books, by Carola Dunn, again receommended by BOOKELF.

While we all enjoyed the slow pace, the glimpse into a long past world, and the gentle romance of the books, we also relished the fact that while the mysteries themselves are often predictable, they are none the less satisflying.
BOOKN00B - 8/10
BOOKELF 8.5/10

We also took a quick look Earth's Children Series by Jean M Auel, though it was only a quick one as BOOKN00B and BOOKELF got a bit angry at what the author had done to their beloved series!!!
(Note, BOOKELF refused to rate the last two books - as far as she is concerned, the series ended after the third book!)

                      BOOKELF     AVIDREADER       BOOKN00B
Book 1          9/10                        10/10                 9/10
Book 2          7/10                         6/10                  7/10
Book 3          8/10                         8/10                  8/10
Book 4                                          5/10                  6/10
Book 5                                          4/10                  5/10

Finally, in an attempt to appear cultured, we decided to review a classic, then promptely ruined it by instantly singing out in chorus - Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

We all read it at roughly the same age, two of us with our mothers. We remarked on how our perspectives have changed - and we no longer relate to Lizzy the way we once did, with BOOKELF more strongly identifing with Anne Elliot.

However, this is a book that can be re-read over and over again, in a number of different settings, enjoyable each time. BOOKN00B & BOOKELF agreed that it was one of those books that made a person proud to be English. I, rather wisely I felt, refrained from comment.
The realistic characters, and Colin Firth scene in the now infamous wet white shirt in the BBC adaptation, ensured that this book will live long in each of our hearts.

Original LBC

Meeting 08 - A Chat
Meeting 05 - Firman - Sam Savage

Monday, 4 January 2010

Spontaneous Me - Walt Whitman

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Spontaneous Me

Spontaneous me, Nature,
The loving day, the mounting sun, the friend I am happy with,
The arm of my friend hanging idly over my shoulder,
The hillside whiten'd with blossoms of the mountain ash,
The same late in autumn, the hues of red, yellow, drab, purple, and
light and dark green,
The rich coverlet of the grass, animals and birds, the private
untrimm'd bank, the primitive apples, the pebble-stones,
Beautiful dripping fragments, the negligent list of one after
another as I happen to call them to me or think of them,
The real poems, (what we call poems being merely pictures,)
The poems of the privacy of the night, and of men like me,
This poem drooping shy and unseen that I always carry, and that all
men carry,
(Know once for all, avow'd on purpose, wherever are men like me, are
our lusty lurking masculine poems,)
Love-thoughts, love-juice, love-odor, love-yielding, love-climbers,
and the climbing sap,
Arms and hands of love, lips of love, phallic thumb of love, breasts
of love, bellies press'd and glued together with love,
Earth of chaste love, life that is only life after love,
The body of my love, the body of the woman I love, the body of the
man, the body of the earth,
Soft forenoon airs that blow from the south-west,
The hairy wild-bee that murmurs and hankers up and down, that gripes the
full-grown lady-flower, curves upon her with amorous firm legs, takes
his will of her, and holds himself tremulous and tight till he is
The wet of woods through the early hours,
Two sleepers at night lying close together as they sleep, one with
an arm slanting down across and below the waist of the other,
The smell of apples, aromas from crush'd sage-plant, mint, birch-bark,
The boy's longings, the glow and pressure as he confides to me what
he was dreaming,
The dead leaf whirling its spiral whirl and falling still and
content to the ground,
The no-form'd stings that sights, people, objects, sting me with,
The hubb'd sting of myself, stinging me as much as it ever can any
The sensitive, orbic, underlapp'd brothers, that only privileged
feelers may be intimate where they are,
The curious roamer the hand roaming all over the body, the bashful
withdrawing of flesh where the fingers soothingly pause and
edge themselves,
The limpid liquid within the young man,
The vex'd corrosion so pensive and so painful,
The torment, the irritable tide that will not be at rest,
The like of the same I feel, the like of the same in others,
The young man that flushes and flushes, and the young woman that
flushes and flushes,
The young man that wakes deep at night, the hot hand seeking to
repress what would master him,
The mystic amorous night, the strange half-welcome pangs, visions, sweats,
The pulse pounding through palms and trembling encircling fingers,
the young man all color'd, red, ashamed, angry;
The souse upon me of my lover the sea, as I lie willing and naked,
The merriment of the twin babes that crawl over the grass in the
sun, the mother never turning her vigilant eyes from them,
The walnut-trunk, the walnut-husks, and the ripening or ripen'd
long-round walnuts,
The continence of vegetables, birds, animals,
The consequent meanness of me should I skulk or find myself indecent,
while birds and animals never once skulk or find themselves indecent,
The great chastity of paternity, to match the great chastity of maternity,
The oath of procreation I have sworn, my Adamic and fresh daughters,
The greed that eats me day and night with hungry gnaw, till I saturate
what shall produce boys to fill my place when I am through,
The wholesome relief, repose, content,
And this bunch pluck'd at random from myself,
It has done its work--I toss it carelessly to fall where it may.

Table Of Contents - Poetry

Friday, 1 January 2010

O Captain, my Captain - Walt Whitman

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O Captain, My Captain

O Captain my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up--for you the flag is flung for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribboned wreaths for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck,
You've fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchored safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

Table Of Contents - Poetry

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