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The Tatty Cover

The love of learning, the sequestered nooks, and all the sweet serenity of books. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Loving The Luminaries

luminaries

I just began Eleanor Catton’s “The Luminaries,” winner of the 2013 Man Booker prize, and am loving it.  I received it as a Christmas gift and can’t believe its taken me this long to settle into it. Has anyone else read it?

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Meeting on the Roof of the World

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“Our business was to fight the mountain, not to worship it.”

It’s no secret I’m a huge George Mallory fan. And its through reading about him that I’ve come to have a great appreciation for all of the early British explorers, including John Baptist Lucius Noel. A mountaineer, photographer and filmmaker, Noel in 1922 and 1924 captured Everest in photographs and motion picture at heights thought impossible. For the 1924 expedition, he bought all photographic rights from the Everest Committee at a staggering £8,000, helping to fund the trip.

The British Film Institute last year restored and re-released Noel’s incredible 1924 documentary, ‘The Epic of Everest.’ Filmed in the coldest, highest and harshest of circumstances (-30 degrees at 23,000 feet), the documentary chronicles the fateful exploration where Mallory and Sandy Irvine lost their lives. It’s an up-close look at the conditions on Everest and one of the first looks on film at Tibet. Seeing the dramatic Everest footage is amazing. Seeing Mallory in motion picture is, well,…swoon…

In anticipation of the movie’s arrival, I read Noel’s book, ‘Through Tibet to Everest,’ written shortly after the 1924 expedition.  Noel first traveled to Tibet in 1913 and was able to get as close as 40 miles near Everest before being forced at gunpoint to leave–a feat in that day since it was not legal for foreigners to travel within the country. Tibetans lived their lives according  to horoscopes, superstitions, demons and gods. They shunned outsiders, technology and progress (an earlier explorer who trailed a telegraph line behind him told the locals it was string for him to find his way home, so they would not destroy it). They worshiped Everest as the Mother Goddess of the World. In Noel’s book, he talks about the merging of the Tibetans and British explorers with the 1924 expedition: “This was the country and these the people among it whom we wished to penetrate with a scientific expedition,” said Noel. “The inert East and the inquisitive impertinent West were there to meet on the roof of the world.”

Noel’s is a fascinating read and incredible documentary. I highly recommend both.

Classic Club Spin–David Copperfield it is

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So, 20 is the magic number, which  means ‘David Copperfield’ is my Classic Club Spin book to read by April 2 (see how it works below). The Classic Club decided on this lucky number today. I’m actually excited about this. I’ve picked it up before, and actually got about 100 pages into it, but had to leave it for something else that was pressing at the time.

Original post below:

I am participating in the Classic Club Spin #5 throughout Feb. & March. The goal is to read a classic that’s been on your to-do list for a while. Simply, you numerically list 20 books and come Feb. 10, CC will throw out a number. That’s the book you read! More detailed rules are below.

And my 20 are:

1.      Oliver Twist

2.      Howard’s End

3.      Watership Down

4.      Rabbit, Run

5.      The Scarlet Letter

6.      The Hound of the Baskervilles

7.      Shakespeare’s Sonnets

8.      Picture of Dorian Gray

9.      Jude the Obscure

10.  Villette

11.  Mayor of Casterbridge

12.  Age of Innocence

13.  The Bride of Lammermoore

14.  Saturday Night & Sunday Morning

15.  Mrs. Dalloway

16.  The Bell Jar

17.  Little Women

18.  Of Mice and Men

19.  For Whom the Bell Tolls

20.  David Copperfield

CC Rules:

It’s easy. At your blog, by next Monday, Feb 10, list your choice of any classic 20 books.

This is your Spin List. You have to read one of these 20 books in February & March. (Details follow.) So, try to challenge yourself. For example, you could list five Classics Club books you are dreading/hesitant to read, five you can’t WAIT to read, five you are neutral about, and five free choice (favorite author, rereads, ancients — whatever you choose.)

Next Monday, we’ll post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List, by April 2. We’ll have a check in here in April, to see who made it the whole way and finished the spin book.

Twitter hashtag: #ccspin

Classic Club Spin–What Will You Read?

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I am participating in the Classic Club Spin #5 throughout Feb. & March. The goal is to read a classic that’s been on your to-do list for a while. Simply, you numerically list 20 books and come Feb. 10, CC will throw out a number. That’s the book you read! More detailed rules are below.

And my 20 are:

1.      Oliver Twist

2.      Howard’s End

3.      Watership Down

4.      Rabbit, Run

5.      The Scarlet Letter

6.      The Hound of the Baskervilles

7.      Shakespeare’s Sonnets

8.      Picture of Dorian Gray

9.      Jude the Obscure

10.  Villette

11.  Mayor of Casterbridge

12.  Age of Innocence

13.  The Bride of Lammermoore

14.  Saturday Night & Sunday Morning

15.  Mrs. Dalloway

16.  The Bell Jar

17.  Little Women

18.  Of Mice and Men

19.  For Whom the Bell Tolls

20.  David Copperfield

CC Rules:

It’s easy. At your blog, by next Monday, Feb 10, list your choice of any classic 20 books.

This is your Spin List. You have to read one of these 20 books in February & March. (Details follow.) So, try to challenge yourself. For example, you could list five Classics Club books you are dreading/hesitant to read, five you can’t WAIT to read, five you are neutral about, and five free choice (favorite author, rereads, ancients — whatever you choose.)

Next Monday, we’ll post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List, by April 2. We’ll have a check in here in April, to see who made it the whole way and finished the spin book.

Twitter hashtag: #ccspin

Richard III at the Folger

RichardIII

Is it sacrilege to go to the theater on Superbowl Sunday? I was home in time for the commercials. 🙂 Nonetheless, it was well worth seeing Richard III at the Folger Theater today. All of the actors put on a brilliant show (especially Drew Cortese in the lead, Naomi Jacobson as Margaret, and who couldn’t love the two princes played by Holden and Remy Brettell?) and the theater-in-the-round, which the director had built specifically for this play (see video below), was super intimate.  Now, awaiting Beckham’s Superbowl ad, which will be the icing on the cake of a great day.

January Shakespeare Wrap-Up

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“Now is the winter of our discontent…”

So ends the first month of my 2014 challenge: The Year of the Bard. And discontent I am not. Following are the plays I read and my impressions:

Measure for Measure–  Considered a comedy, Measure was anything but amusing to me.  In short, trying to reign in a city that has gone awry, a deputy temporarily in charge while the Duke is away jails a young man for bedding out of wedlock. The man’s sister, a nun, tries to save him from execution and ends up getting propositioned by the deputy:  her chastity for her brother’s life.

In the end, the Duke returns and claims the importance of ‘measure for measure.’ But in my mind, he doesn’t live up to it. He pardons the deputy of all his offenses and instead executes a local ‘man about town’ whose only offense was talking smack about the duke.  This play was just ok for me. I didn’t really care for any of the  characters nor the  ending, which was very unfulfilling.

The Tempest– Thought to be  the Bard’s last play. I didn’t like it so much when I read it before, but ended up really enjoying it this time. I easily hammered it out during a four hour flight delay (it’s one of his shorter plays).  The play is replete with retribution, romance and jest.  A Shipwreck, a sorcerer, spirits and a mystical, remote island setting all make it a fun read.

Richard III– Is Richard III the evilest character Shakespeare wrote? I’d hate to see his match if not.  Every time I thought he  couldn’t possibly do more evil,  the next several lines proved me wrong. Considered the play that “made” Shakespeare, Richard III very well could have been Shakespeare’s breakthrough. And I can see why. It has clever dialogue, more murders than I can count, battle scenes, ghosts, smart women and silly, power-hungry men.

What stood out to me was how throughout most of the play, the female characters were often isolated into their own scenes.  It was the men who were always making mischief, and the women who paid for the greed and power grabs with the lives of their children, husbands and themselves.

I chose to read this play during the latter part of January to coincide with the Folger Theater’s performance of Richard III, which I will be attending in a few days.

Longbourn, but Definitely not Pride & Prejudice

longbourn

“There was so much to be thankful for: there was pleasure in her work, in the rituals and routines of service, the care and conservation of beautiful things, the baking of good bread and the turning of rough, raw foods into savoury and sustaining meals…And yet, and yet, the feeling still could not be quelled…Would she, at some time, have the chance to care for her own things, her own comforts, her own needs, and not just for other people’s? Could she one day have what she wanted, rather than rely on the glow of other people’s happiness to keep her warm?”

And so is the premise of Jo Baker’s ‘Longbourn.’

Baker’s book invites readers into the underbelly workings of the famed Bennet home, Longbourn, and into the daily lives of the servants who kept it running. This is what Jane Austen could not set to paper in ‘Pride and Prejudice’: war, slavery, brutality, homosexuality and illicit affairs between masters and servants. In her book, Baker gives names and lives to the unnamed servants in P&P: Mr. and Mrs. Hill, Sarah, James, Polly and Ptolemy.

It is Downton Abbey meets Pride and Prejudice, and Downton Abbey comes out winning. Not only do readers sympathize with the servants– their longings, frustrations, fears and unrequited loves–but with Mr. Collins and even Mrs. Bennet. On the other hand, the Bennet girls (yes, even Elizabeth) come out looking like the privileged, social brats they likely would have been if the story were real.

Of course there is a love story. And while it doesn’t work out as nicely as the Darcy’s and Bingley’s did (tied up perfectly with ribbon and shoe roses), I wish Baker would have taken a different turn to maintain the grittiness and reality of the book.

I haven’t quite yet made up my mind if Baker’s book takes the magic out of P&P; but for certain, I will never read Austen’s classic again without thinking of the servants in Longbourn.

Fortune’s Rocks, well Rocks

Fortunes

I recently downloaded Anita Shreve’s ‘Fortune’s Rocks’ on my Kindle as part of a daily deal.  I’d never before heard of the book, which was published in 1999. This was no surprise since the only other book by Shreve I had previously read was ‘The Pilot’s Wife,’ which I didn’t especially care for. But, this book was different.

Set at the turn of the twentieth century, the story follows a prominent Boston family and the ramifications of their 15 year old daughter’s affair with an older, married man. The story begs to answer: should love be denied that takes place outside the marriage? Should there be guilt about that love (not for the people hurt by it, but for the love itself)?

What I liked about the book (aside from the affair’s dramatic consequences that continued to unfold) was reading about the divisiveness taking place at the time between the Franco-American culture and the “yankees” in mill towns along the New Hampshire coast, where much of the story takes place. I also like Shreve’s succinct writing style. Her sentences are short, crisp and to the point.

I read the majority of the book on a flight home from Texas and couldn’t wait to pick it up the next morning to finish it. Days later, and I can’t stop thinking about the characters. This book definitely has me wanting to check out more of Shreve’s work (hoping that Pilots Wife was the anomaly and not the other way around).

Thomas Hardy, You Never Disappoint

woodland

I love Thomas Hardy. There, I’ve said it. I’ve hinted at it quite a few times on this blog, but thought I should just get it out in the open. I finally read ‘The Woodlanders’ and am happy to say he didn’t let me down. As part of his Wessex novels, Woodlanders looks at rural life in southwest England during the later 1800s. Readers are taken on a literary journey through social classes, laborer hardships and unrequited love.

I’ve read that toward the end of his life, Hardy said it was his favorite novel of all those he’d written. While it’s not my favorite of his books  (it can’t compete with Tess, Madding Crowd or Greenwood Tree), I wasn’t as unsatisfied with the ending as others.  In fact, I kinda liked it.

Having visited Hardy’s home and “Wessex” several years ago, I especially now love reading his work, imagining where each scene takes place and getting a better appreciation for that part of the country and its people. If you ever get the chance, go. It, like Hardy, won’t disappoint.

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