Sunday, September 18, 2011

Subtle Melodrama Goes to Thailand

Whoo!~ This blogger is off to Thailand tomorrow! After several months of lots of hard work, and a success in my MLitt, I am definitely feeling the need to relax.

So, the blog will be empty for a couple of weeks until I come back at the start of October.

More importantly, I have enough luggage space to bring several books. Who said Kindles were necessary for travel?

See you soon!

Bethany x

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

But It's My Favourite!

So World Book Night have a list now of the 100 most popular books, as chosen by their readers.

Of these, I've read 41 but, magically, two of those titles appear twice. Little Women counts as two - because one was written by Louisa May Alcott, and the other by Louisa M. Alcott. See the difference? Must be two different books. Sure.
Then, there are 13 titles that are currently sitting on my TBR list. Great.

What's not so great? Okay, I've never read any Neil Gaiman books. I'll get round to it, but I just haven't. Still, why there are four on this list, I don't know. Twilight is there.

Really, it's quite a stupid list. Whoever WBN's readers are, apparently there are some who take things seriously - Tess of the d'Urbervilles is up there, so that keeps me much happier. But really? Four Neil Gaiman books? Time Traveller's Wife twice? Jodi Picoult...

It's a popularity list, not a best of, which is why I'm going to let it be. But as a popularity contest, it's very interesting. There was the inevitability of being able to guess several of the tittles that would be there - Life of Pi, To Kill a Mockingbird, 1984, Lolita, One Day, Catcher in the Rye, We Need to Talk About Kevin, the usual kids. But, among the wreckage, people still remembered Dorian Gray, Anna Karenina, Frankenstein and The Secret Garden.

I don't like popularity contests much, but you can browse the list here.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

For Review: Pereira Maintains ~ Antonio Tabucchi

Pereira Maintains was, on first glimpse, the kind of book that I wanted to read: a cute foreign book with a bit of mystery. Shallow, maybe - but how else do we judge a book if not by its cover? That's what a blurb is for, so I believe.

Pereira Maintains was published in 1994, but Antonio Tabucchi sets it in 1938 Portugal. Facist movements are on the go in Spain, and Portugal finds itself between politics. Pereira, however, maintains that he's only a journalist and, more to the point, the writer of the culture page for the Lisboa. He has, therefore, absolutely nothing to do with politics, mostly because he's sure he has no need of them. All the same, Pereira becomes roped in with a young man called Rossi who, although initially just a paper contributor, manages to tie the Dr in a world of politics that he doesn't understand. In fact, Pereira usually finds out the latest news from the waiter at his local cafe.

Pereira's culture pages are, he maintains, only culture. He translates the works of nineteenth-century French writers, but finds Rossi's contributions to be completely unpublishable - because they're about politics. What Pereira struggles with is the content of his paper. There's an anxiety about what is publishable and what isn't, about what can and can't be said when there's political unrest.

Ouch, but it's sounding heavy. There's undoubtedly a lot being suggested and debated here, but Tabucchi paints such a delicious picture of Portgual that there's plenty refreshment. The sense of the summer is sweltering, but so enjoyable (but perhaps that's something to do with the contrast to my Scottish 'summer'). It's a pretty place to be. Pereira Maintains is tender too, because it's impossible to have a story about politics and culture without it being fundamentally about the people. The relationships are very individual, unique to Pereira and his own life - far from the cardboard cut-out relationships that are so often found in literature these days.

It's quite a quick read, despite everything that goes on. Not to say that it's heavy going, either. It's condensed, but fluffy, like a good sponge, or an omlette aux fines herbes. There's a touch of the Italo Calvino going on here, and I'm left thinking that I've not had enough Italian writers in my life. Following Tabucchi, I'll need to find something very top notch.

Friday, September 09, 2011

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril

I'm not a genre reader - that is, I don't isolate my reading because it involves romance or crime or even vampires. So long as it's a good read. This time, though, I'm going to throw myself into a genre-related challenge.

The RIP challenge is hosted over at Stainless Steel Droppings. Here's the idea:

Every September 1st through October 31st for the last 5 years I have hosted the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril Challenge, affectionately known as the R.I.P. Challenge. I began this reader event, I blinked, and now I am hosting this for the 6th time. Wow, that is so hard to believe.

The purpose of the R.I.P. Challenge is to enjoy books that could be classified as:
Dark Fantasy.

The emphasis is never on the word challenge, instead it is about coming together as a community and embracing the autumnal mood, whether the weather is cooperative where you live or not.


Oh, autumn is most definitely cooperating as far as Scotland is concerned. So what will I be reading?

1. Little Hands Clapping - Dan Rhodes
2. Pretty Monsters - Kelly Link
3. The Radleys - Matt Haig
4. Damned - Chuck Palahniuk

Opting for the Peril the First option - just four books. Should be good. Oooh - freaky!

Are You Thick As Well As Fat?

Urgh. Illness. It's officially (not really) winter, and I'm still wearing summer shoes. This, and working 50 hour weeks, has contributed to my body going HEY WAIT A MINUTE WHAT THE HECK and the immune system is down and the cold has won. I'm hiding beneath a blanket, wanting to use the day off work to read, but my brain won't let me.

Still, I have time for the Literary Blog Hop Friday question.

Must all literary writing be difficult? Can you think of examples of literary writing that was not difficult?

Eh, no. It's stupid presumptions like this that put people off reading in the first place. Really, this question is negative in even being asked. First off, it's a yes or no answer. Secondly, it's just plain silly. Must anything be difficult to be what it is? Maybe it's because I'm sick, but I'm struggling to see why this is a question.

So no. Unless:

1. You are trying to read Tolstoy at the age of 9 - you most likely will not have the vocabulary or the wordly experience to make anything of it.

2. You are dyslexic. But, for that matter, reading any description of anything might be difficult for you. Some of my best friends are dyslexic - they are certainly not stupid, but by it's very nature, dyslexia makes reading a difficulty.

3. You are completely illiterate. Some people can't read, some people never try and, unfortunately, there are places in the world where people are never given the opportunity to learn to read. I imagine that the word 'literature' doesn't feature in these people's everyday lives.

4. You are so drunk or so stoned that you can't see anything straight. You struggle to see your own feet as it is, forget keeping any words still so that you can read them.

Literature is not, by nature, difficult. It's just well-written. A book can be well-written without being a pain in the backside to read. Let's get rid of these ridiculous 'oooh-er literary' stigmas.

Monday, September 05, 2011

For Review: The Incomplete Tim Key ~ Tim Key

Not everyone likes poetry. I know, right? But apparently, that's true. It's too 'wishywashy', too 'wanky', or other words beginning with W. People think poetry, people think Shakespearean sonnet and rhyming couplets and ridiculous testaments of love. It's not all like that. Now that I've read Tim Key's poetry, I know for most certain that it's not.

Tim Key's poetry is everything that your teachers told you that poetry isn't. In fact, if he submitted it for his standard grade English exams, he'd probably fail. But that's not the point. Key does whatever the heck he wants with words, and that's what makes it poetry. It's quite brilliant.

The Incomplete Tim Key features a selection of poems about things you wouldn't even think about. What goes on inside that guy's brain is beyond me. But I love that - anyone who can bend the general laws of the world and still make sense is fair play. The poems are absurd, nonsensical, hilarious, and sometimes very sweet in a kitsch sort of way. Tim Key is not for the faint of heart, or for those offended by sweary words. It is, however, really really for people who don't do poetry, don't like poetry, don't get poetry, or just dismiss poetry. Give it a shot, and then let tell me that poetry's for losers.*

*You might still be a loser, just in a quirky way - much like Key's poetry.

Ooooh - I have ONE copy of The Incomplete Tim Key to give away! Whoo!
Just leave a comment with your name, email address, and a reason as to why you do or don't like poetry. Winner will be contacted Saturday. Open to UK and Europe lovers only - sorry rest of world!