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Wednesday Read-O-Rama

What I've Finished Reading

The boarders dropped in one after another, interchanging greetings, and the empty jokes that certain classes of Parisians regard as humorous and witty. Dullness is their prevailing ingredient, and the whole point consists in mispronouncing a word or in a gesture. This kind of argot is always changing. The essence of the jest consists in some catchword suggested by a political event, an incident in the police courts, a street song, or a bit of burlesque at some theater -- the joke is forgotten in a month. Anything and everything serves to keep up a game of battledore and shuttlecock with words and ideas. The diorama, a recent invention that carried an optical illusion a step further than panorama, had given rise to a mania among art students for ending every word with rama. The Maison Vauquer had caught the infection from a young artist among the boarders.

"Well, Monsieur Poiret," said the employee from the museum, "how is your healthorama?"

Père Goriot was great, maybe less for its didactic plot than for its details, like the wonderfully observed conversation of the boardinghouse guys - young self-consciously callous would-be professionals batting an endless series of ephemeral pop-culture allusions back and forth. It's weirdly heartening to see this very familiar style of conversation reproduced with great care in a novel set in 1819 and published in 1835.

Balzac is forever throwing down metaphors, then going NO TRUST ME THE METAPHOR TOTALLY WORKS. He explains everything as he goes along so you won't miss any of the important points. And as always, it's fun to see the little fragments of his personality having arguments with each other.

I realized a little while ago that I'd never actually read The Wind in the Willows. I just thought I'd read it because I vaguely remembered having seen a Disney animated short that I didn't like or understand. The joke was on me because The Wind in the Willows turns out to be one of the best things ever written. The Mole gets sick of spring cleaning and ventures aboveground, where he meets a water rat and some other animals, who are a little like animals and a little like fussy and affectionate bachelors and in any case like to go on picnics and wear dressing gowns and look out for each other. For some reason (the title, maybe?) I expected it to be much less fast-paced than it is, but it rattles by at top speed, just one cozy adventure after another: a perfect book or very close to it.

What I'm Reading Now

Hold Me by Courtney Milan, one of wordsofastory's romance recs (for Reading Challenge: Read a book each in 5 genres you don't normally read) is very cute and funny so far. When this book was first described to me, I thought there was a chance of spotting that rarest of all birds, a male romantic lead I might actually find attractive in real life. But it was not to be. Jay na Thalang is a tall, needlessly chiseled judgmental nerd with a hate-on for superficial entertainments and girly-girls. Oh, well! But I already love Maria, the self-taught statistician and apocalypse blogger, and her wonderfully awful friend and ex-roommate Anj (a walking collection of Awful Roommate Stories that somehow coalesces into a funny and likable character) and it looks like we're in for a good Falling In Love With Your Enemy Unawares epistolary plot, so I have no complaints.

The cover illustration includes both main characters with their heads still on, as shown [here.]heads up

Also: Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field by Sir Walter Scott, my first Scott! Back when I was writing Emily of New Moon fanfiction, I stocked up on a ton (possibly a literal ton) of schoolbooks from 1880-1920. This is a 1911 school edition of Marmion with essay questions and a glossary and ads in the back for more school books. It's very tempting to keep all of these around, but I have to let some of them go. Anyway, I'm having a good time reading it out loud in my best Miss Brownell superficial-knack-of-elocution voice. It's all about shining banners and steeds and whatnot.

[Reading Challenges Update]
I've decided to put my name down for this Mount TBR Challenge, because I'm already trying to read more of the books I have sitting around. My challenge level for 2017 is Mount Kilimanjaro: 60 books in one year. That means I will read and give away at least 60 books that I already owned in January 2017 (so books brought home since that time don't count, alas - they will count for next year). I think I can actually make it to 75 (El Toro), but we'll see.

So far, I'm at 7: The Golden Notebook, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, Père Goriot, The Backslider, Murder Up My Sleeve, Living With a Wild God, and The House by the River. The Wind in the Willows was going to be no. 8, but I love it too much so I'm going to keep it until I find a replacement edition that doesn't have Disney cartoons on the front cover.

Ideally I'd like the only books in my collection to be 1) books I love enough to keep, 2) books I am about to read, and 3) reference books that I use. This will probably never happen in practice, but I can get a little closer to the ideal. Part of the trick is that paying sustained attention to the problem makes me feel like I've already half-solved it. Then I feel a sense of accomplishment and reward myself by buying more books.

I think after I've made a little measurable progress there I'll be back to the 99 Novels in earnest.

What I Plan to Read Next

More books from my bookshelves! Next in my TBR pile are "The Cricket on the Hearth" (more school editions!) and I Capture the Castle.


( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 22nd, 2017 08:40 am (UTC)
I Capture the Castle! (Not probably the most intelligent comment, but - I Capture the Castle!)

I like to the idea of reading through the TBR pile, but I dislike the idea of then giving them all away. That is a rather negative assumption about a person's TBR pile. You'd hope at least some of them were the sort of books that you'd want to stick around. So, best of luck, but may a good few of them be ones that you can't bear to part with. (Hopefully including I Capture the Castle.)

I don't know if I've ever read Wind in the Willows or not. I think maybe, when I was younger, and I didn't like it. But given that when I was younger I didn't like things with animals being human in so much, or books without m(any) women, I suspect probably the latter. I'm still less keen on books about animals. Also we had an animated version, but a really good stop-motion one voiced by excellent people. Unfortunately, the weasels were terrifying and I still think of Wind in the Willows as being even scarier than most Beatrix POtters. I'm glad to hear it's good if you're not still terrified of it!
Feb. 22nd, 2017 03:51 pm (UTC)
I made the challenge goal a little smaller than it could be because I expect I'll want to keep some of the books I read. So if I don't keep it, it will count, and if I do, it won't. I like having lots of books, but I'm also excited about maybe having some shelf space in the future.

The Wind in the Willows is not scary and has approx. two women (all the animal characters are male, iirc). There is a jailer's daughter who helps Mr. Toad escape from prison dressed in her aunt's clothes, and there is a washerwoman who spends a very long time talking with Toad before he reveals that he is a toad and she throws him into the river in disgust.

Child me wasn't very keen on animals being human either, which might explain why I never read the book and disliked the cartoon. But I am a little more tolerant as an adult, and this version of it is delightfully absurd. It has its beast fable cake and eats it - it's very attentive to the natural world but also completely unapologetic about putting a lot of moles and rats in waistcoats and giving them front doors and pantries. I like that there's no attempt at an explanation of the relationship between the world of these talking animals and the world of humans, or how Toad, a toad, can buy a motorcar designed by and for humans and drive it all over town, or why you have talking rats who eat roast chicken with mustard but no talking chickens. There's no attempt to make the world of animals a secret - all the humans in the village know Toad Hall, for example, it's a very nice house for a respectable toad family.

Edited at 2017-02-22 04:37 pm (UTC)
Feb. 22nd, 2017 05:35 pm (UTC)
Shelf space is good! I'm just a bit wary of clearing out books because I used to be severe about it and am still trying to replace all the books I lost that way and now can't get hold of anywhere. :-/ But that sounds like a plan!

I do think I have read it, or some/most of it, as I recognise all of that - and, as I said, the scary adapation was actually pretty great and faithful. It's just that I was quite small and the found the weasel models too scary! (David Jason voiced Toad; he was great. Here he is.)
Feb. 22nd, 2017 05:47 pm (UTC)
Awww, Toad! <3 <3 <3 "Rat, please, I'm in the middle of my dying throes!"

Edited at 2017-02-22 05:49 pm (UTC)
Feb. 23rd, 2017 08:54 am (UTC)
Feb. 23rd, 2017 05:11 pm (UTC)
I can tell you that I would NOT have dealt well with that animation style when I was an actual child, but today it's a treat. I've been enjoying the collection of Songs Composed by Toad on Divers Subjects (Principally Toad).
Feb. 22nd, 2017 09:56 am (UTC)
I read Pere Goriot in Year 12 Literature. It was supposed to be basically King Lear. But that was the year I actualły READ King Lear and I enjoyed that more.

I really must find my copy of Wind In The Willows; I have one illustrated by Michael Hague, a wonderful artist of the 1980s - gorgeous!
Feb. 22nd, 2017 04:16 pm (UTC)
You know, I didn't even think of Lear, which was silly of me. Old Goriot really is the self-sacrificing father that Lear thinks he is in a self-pitying mood. He is totally genuine about living only for his children, but what he and his young admirer don't seem to get is how exhausting and demoralizing it is to be anyone's sole source of happiness - or if they do understand it, it's not enough. I wish the cold-hearted Goriot sisters had been a little nicer about it, but I also felt for them.

You must! The Wind in the Willows is one of the few books I've read where I immediately wanted to go out and buy a nice-looking edition.
Feb. 22nd, 2017 03:39 pm (UTC)
I didn't mind 'Wind in the Willows'. I found Toad somewhat irritating though and I guess I was supposed to love his antics?

The romance book cover is a bit dull. Must try harder at being trashier;p

I have a bad habit of rewarding myself for clearing out things by getting new things. Minimalism will never happen to me!
Feb. 22nd, 2017 04:36 pm (UTC)
I don't think I'd do very well with minimalism, to be honest. For one thing, I need to have everything where I can see it or I forget it exists. And I like having lots of books - but I have this idea that it would be nice if I had a dedicated TBR bookshelf with maybe 25-50 books on it at a time, instead of ~600 all over the place.

Oh, Mr. Toad! I do actually love his antics A LOT and laughed like a deranged chicken at his easily wounded BUT HIGHLY RENEWABLE ego, but I'm aware that my tolerance for incorrigible manchildren in fiction is way higher than the bookblogging average.


Anyway, he's going to try to do better at the end! No more impulse-buying human technologies or writing songs about himself and making other people listen to them! Well, maybe he will still write the occasional song about himself, but keep it under wraps.
Feb. 23rd, 2017 03:33 pm (UTC)
600: I can see why you want room:)

I think there is a sequel to 'Wind in the Willows' but it was written by someone else. Will Toad stick to his new leaf?
Feb. 22nd, 2017 06:06 pm (UTC)
I loved Wind in the Willows!!! It was a big fav as a child - Ratty, Mole, Badger and..Mr Toad!! Need to re-read it - and maybe let my eldest have a crack at it...when I've unpacked it, lol!

Feb. 22nd, 2017 09:28 pm (UTC)
I cannot recommend this course of action highly enough. It is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. One of those books that make me wish I believed in an afterlife, so that I could buy the author a drink. <3

Hope you're settling into your new place!
Feb. 23rd, 2017 05:07 am (UTC)
Right?? Or even just talk with him a bit!

We are - tis taking some adjusting, but yeah..we're getting settled rather well - and we are a bit happier here! :D

Feb. 22nd, 2017 09:19 pm (UTC)
I love that Balzac is basically describing Tumblr memes, nearly two centuries before Tumblr existed. Some things are eternal!

I didn't like the Mr. Toad sections of The Wind in the Willows as much, but the bits about the Mole and the Water Rat floating down the river and having picnics and wandering through the forest and having dinner with Badger in his awesome badger den basically describe my ideal life. Or they would if they brought a few more books along, at least.

Also I CAPTURE THE CASTLE, YESSSSSSSSSSS. Uh, trying not to overhype it or anything.
Feb. 22nd, 2017 09:41 pm (UTC)
Yes! Nothing makes me quite so happy as evidence that some celebrated inanity of modern life is actually just a neurological constant. I'm not sure why, exactly.

And I now have two people on my flist who are VERY EXCITED about I Capture the Castle. That probably means I should be excited about I Capture the Castle. I looked inside and the author is the same person who wrote The Hundred and One Dalmatians, which bodes well.

I also had no idea that Toad, the admirable and intelligent Toad, could have as many as two detractors, but as I'm sure you've noticed I can't resist a Stupid Rich Guy (as long as he's fictional; RL SRGs need not apply).
Feb. 22nd, 2017 11:21 pm (UTC)
I think I Capture the Castle is going to hit you in all your Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl feels. And if you have any atmospheric old house feels, it's prob. going to hit you there too.
Feb. 23rd, 2017 09:05 am (UTC)
That probably means I should be excited about I Capture the Castle. I looked inside and the author is the same person who wrote The Hundred and One Dalmatians, which bodes well.

♥ ♥ ♥ (It seems harder than I would have expected to find people who have read The Hundred and One Dalmatians.) And probably you should lower your expectations, because otherwise that only leads to mystified wondering why other people liked it. But it's hard not to be excited when you love it. :-)

(I mean, I read it when I was Cassandra's age, or not much younger, and just adored it unquestioningly, and you can't replicate that when you're older, or not very often at least.)
Feb. 24th, 2017 04:05 am (UTC)
I probably wouldn't have thought of Lear except my teacher mentioned it and I thought, "Oh... yeah. I guess so. Though no Cordelia!"
Mar. 2nd, 2017 02:14 pm (UTC)
My father read The Wind in the Willows for me when I was quite small and my memory of it is that I found it scary and sad. Especially when toad is sent to prison and when his house is invade by weasels(?) But I loved the bit of the litle baby animal who gets lost, but is found protected by Pan, I think it was. Very fussy memries, it seems...
Mar. 5th, 2017 03:43 pm (UTC)
It was Pan, and it was adorable! (and a little weird). Since I only read it this year, I didn't really pick up on much of the scariness and sadness. Toad is in prison, but by adult standards it goes by really quickly, and he gets out with hardly any trouble. The weasels cause some trouble but are easily chased out with a little trickery. But I can definitely see where some things would have been scary and sad.
Mar. 12th, 2017 11:08 am (UTC)
I think I need to re-read it and overcome my childhood! :)
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )


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