Saturday, November 29, 2014

Book Covers Tell Stories

My friend from graduate school, Justin, sent me this link: Jane Austen, Reinvented.

I love it! I am appalled at some of the covers, but what a topic: the stories covers tell. The materials and the visuals on the cover often reflect the time period the book was published. The visuals also--and this is the part I like best--can tell a totally different side of the story than you anticipate. For example, the cover of Lydia flirting? Scandalous and not at all a part of the story you even closely witness. And the cover with the outrageous blurb "Mom's fishing for husbands--but the girl's are hunting for love..." Yeah, that's true, but not what the angle I would take.

The books I have are far less interesting and don't give me much to consider on the cover. I'll have to keep my eye out for cheap paperback versions with retro graphics, preferably ones that tell a different story than his pride and her prejudice.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I made a point to read The Book Thief before the movie hit the big screen. That was quite a while ago. Then I never saw the movie, but I never blogged about the book, either, so I suppose it's all fair.

Right away the colors stand out, so it's no surprise that I focused on marking passages with expected colors like brown and red and unexpected colors like skeleton. I think it would enhance any arguments to pay special attention to connotations, settings, frequency, human ages and sexes when dissecting the colors and trying to assign meanings. I doubt this is exhaustive of all the colors mentioned in the novel--I would highly suggest a second reading after the first--but here's a color log. Page numbers coordinate with the hardcover edition pictured here.

First the colours. Then the humans. (3)
The question is, what colour will everything be at that moment when I come for you? What will the sky be saying? Personally, I like a chocolate-coloured sky. Dark, chocolate. People say it suits me. (4)
First up is something white. Of the blinding kind. Some of you are most likely thinking that white is not really a colour and all of that tired sort of nonsense. Well I’m here to tell you that it is. White is without question a colour, and personally, I don’t think you want to argue. (7)
Next is a signature black, to show the poles of my versatility, if you like. (10)
The man, in comparison, was the colour of bone. Skeleton-coloured skin. (11)
The last time I saw her was red. The sky was like soup, boiling and stirring… There were black crumbs, and pepper, streaked amongst the redness. (13)
When I recollect her, I see a long list of colours, but it’s the three in which I saw her in the flesh that resonate the most. Sometimes, I manage to float far above those three moments. I hang suspended, until a septic truth bleeds toward clarity. That’s when I see them formulate:
RED: {rectangle}
WHITE: {circle}
BLACK: {swastika} (15)
That last time. The red sky… (19)
A suddenness found its way onto his lips then, which were a corroded brown colour, and peeling, like old paint. (20)
In the dream, she was attending a rally at which he spoke, looking at the skull-coloured part in his hair and the perfect square of his moustache. (20)
The day was grey, the colour of Europe. (27)
All up, she owned fourteen books, but she saw her story as being made up predominantly of ten of them. Of those ten, six were stolen, one showed up at the kitchen table, two were made for her by a hidden Jew, and one was delivered by a soft, yellow-dressed afternoon. (30)
In mid-February, when she turned ten, Liesel was given a used doll that had a missing leg and yellow hair. (41)
A portrait of Pfiffikus: He was a delicate frame. He was white hair. He was a black raincoat, brown pants, decomposing shoes, and a mouth—and what a mouth it was. (54)
He smeared the charcoal on, nuce and thick, till he was covered in black. Even his hair received a once-over. (58)
Black Magic (61)
I know, son—but you’ve got beautiful blond hair and big, safe blue eyes. (63)
The yellow light was alive with dust. (67)
Liesel, half-wrapped in a blanket, studied the black book in her hand, and its silver lettering. (94)
… they were able to see the pink bars of light on the snowy banks of Himmel Street’s rooftops. (94)
“Look at the colours,” Papa said. It’s hard on not to like a man who not only notices the colours, but speaks them. (94)
She gripped it tighter as the snow turned orange. (94)
There is a small collection of other passages I flagged, including texts (writing and reading) and expertly descriptive writing. A couple from above are repeated here, due to their dual nature.

Please be calm despite that previous threat. I am all bluster—I am not violent. I am not malicious. I am a result. (7)
“The Gravedigger’s Handbook: A twelve-step guide to gravedigging success, Published by Bayern Cemetery and Association. (29)
All up, she owned fourteen books, but she saw her story as being made up predominantly of ten of them. Of those ten, six were stolen, one showed up at the kitchen table, two were made for her by a hidden Jew, and one was delivered by a soft, yellow-dressed afternoon. (30)
When she came to write her story, she would wonder exactly when the books and the words started not just to mean something, but everything. (30)
A definition not found in the dictionary. Not-leaving: An act of trust and love, often deciphered by children. (38)
The Star of David was painted on their doors. Those houses were almost like lepers. At the very lease they were infected sores on the injured German terrain. (53)
After a month, the wall was recoated. A fresh cement page. (76)
Like most misery, it started with apparent happiness. (91)
Liesel, half-wrapped in a blanket, studied the black book in her hand, and its silver lettering. (94)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Live And Let Die (James Bond #2) by Ian Fleming

The second installment in the James Bond series takes 007 to the United States and Caribbean. For film buffs, the book noticeably misses the New Orleans underground vibe but still maintains the larger-than-life characters, superstition, and the voodoo underground. I really enjoyed the book and the development of Bond and his friendship with Felix Leiter. Race and nationality—particularly stereotypes—play a big role in the characterization of both good guys and bad guys, where almost none but the British escape unscathed. I was particularly fond of noticing elements of this novel that are portrayed in Bond movies of other namesakes. 
So, not to kick off with spoilers, but let’s start with looking at some of my favorite passages about the plot.

L&L: Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

I just have to note that this is one of my favorite audiobooks. It is plot motivated and the characters are grand, and those elements together make it easy listening.

- I selfishly loved all the action in Nebraska because I've spent a lot of time on the Platte River. I was enchanted by the travel in India as well (I will be traveling there soon), because I was mentally comparing Verne's India with Wilkie Collins' India in The Moonstone. Both are strongly colonial and judgmental.

-The portrayals of America were entertaining. Justice of the peace? Hah!

- My biggest frustration with the book was Aouda. The woman who is given no agency, frequently no words, and a fierce Stockholm syndrome that becomes legitimate once Mr. Fogg decides to love her.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

L&L: Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk

Here we go! It's a quick look at the satirical novel Survivor. I like it a lot more than I anticipated.

- I liked the way it played with a lot of social commentary at once--the televangelism, the celebrity status, the cult obsession, sex shaming, noeveau riche, etc.

- Fertility Hollis. What a gal. Did she set this all up to get back at Tender? She and The Caseworker were not great portrayals of women, but I think I would rank Fertility over the Caseworker.

- Narrative style and structure were a big plus for this story.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

L&L: The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs

- I don't like that this became a cancer story. Knowing that it's a series book, I wish things could have ended without all the cancer. I thought getting all the damned people together was good enough.

- James and Georgia are too cheesy, which is totally subjective and I realize there is some charm to Georgia's ignorance of James' intentions. But only some.

- This particular audiobook was kind of distracting because of the narrator's attempts at different voices for the characters, particularly the questionable Scottish.