Monday, June 29, 2015

L&L: A Room with a View by E.M. Forster,

After how much I was surprised to like A Passage to India by Forster, I was bummed to find A Room with a View rather dull.

-None of the characters were particularly likable.

-Other than challenging some social norms, was anything happening in the book?

-Why were George and Lucy questioning Charlotte's intentions at the end of the book? Could the end at all justify the means? How are we, the reader, supposed to take that in terms of our evaluation of Charlotte, but also George and Lucy?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

So it goes. I should have kept a tally the number of times I read that line. Because  I'm curious, not because I think it's a brilliant idea, or because I think someone hasn't done it before. I simply think it would make me think more about about the times Vonnegut chose to use the phrase. Consider what he was saying it about. Because it he could have written it more, so why did he write it in those places?

I read Slaughterhouse-Five when Out of Print was having a bookclub. Or was it because it was Banned Books Week? Or both? I don't know. Either way it was like two years ago, and it was the first Vonnegut I'd read since high school (the epic short story "Harrison Bergeron"). From what I remember, I liked the book, although at times I struggled with following the narrator and the story line. Much like Fitzgerald (and even Fleming at times) I was drawn to Vonnegut's way with words. The way he described things was vivid and real without being mundane or extravagant. Here are some of the passages that particularly

The elevator door on the first floor was ornamental iron lace. Iron ivy snaked in and out of the holes. There was iron twig with two iron lovebirds perched upon it. 11

I have this disease late at night sometimes, involving alcohol and the telephone. 5

We went to New York World's Fair, saw what the past had been like, according to the Ford Motor Car Company and Walt Disney, saw what the future would be like, according to General Motors. And I asked myself about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep.  23

 Everything is supposed to be very quiet after a massacre, and it always is, except for the birds. And what do the birds say? All there is to say about a massacre, things like "Poo-tee-weet?" 24

This was a fairly pretty girl, except that she had legs like an Edwardian grand piano. 37

The queer earth was a mosaic of sleepers who nestled like spoons. 90

He ate a pear. It was a hard one. It fought back against his grinding teeth. It snapped in juicy protest. 126
He had a tremendous wang, incidentally. You never know who'll get one. 169.

The heartburn brought tears to his eyes, so that his image of Campbell was distorted by jiggling lenses of salt water. 207

She was a dull person, but a sensational invitation to make babies. Men looked at her and wanted to fill her up with babies right away. 218
I also tried to keep track of the books mentioned in the novel. I got quite a few, although I don't claim it to be exhaustive. The books, and when they are mentioned, would have made an interesting study.I also noted a few areas where Vonnegut talked about writing. A trafficker in climaxes? God that's good stuff.

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay
Dresden, History, Stage, and Gallery by Mary Endell
Celine and His Vision by Erika Ostrovsky
Words for the Wind by Theodore Roethke 
The Giddeon Bible
Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
The Brothers Karamazov
by Feodor Dostoevsky
Maniacs in the Fourth Dimension
and other novels by Vonnegut's fictional author, Kilgore Trout
As a trafficker in climaxes and thrills and characterization and wonderful dialogue and suspense and confrontations... 6

I taught creative writing in the famous Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa for a couple of years after that. I got into some perfectly beautiful trouble, got out of it again. 23
Those beloved, frumpish books gave off a smell that permeated the ward--like flannel pajamas that hadn't been changed for month, or like Irish stew. 128

That was I. That was me. That was the author of this book. 160
Finally, it's worth noting where we learn about 'So it goes.'
When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in bad conidition in that particular moment, but that the same person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Now, when I myself hear that somebody is dead, I simply shrug and say what the Tralfamadorians say about dead people, which is 'So it goes.' 34

Monday, June 8, 2015

Longbourn by Jo Baker

I'd long known about Longbourn, and I'm glad it finally became available on audiobook from my library. After my disappointment with Death Comes to Pemberley, it was time for a good Pride & Prejudice experience. Also,  I was concurrently reading Darcy's Story which is a somewhat enjoyable but much less novel in approach.

No surprise, the "downstairs" aspect of Longbourn appealed to me, partially because of my infatuation with Downton Abbey. I actually found the beginning of the book made me cringe because of all the talking about the tiredness and hard work, scrubbing, soaking, bleaching, cleaning... I felt tired and sore and my hands felt dry just hearing about it.

Some of my partiality for the book also comes from the fact that it's a great alternative way to encounter P&P without the same story being the focus. If you already love and know the characters of P&P, then it's just icing on the cake to encounter them in another story.

I do wonder what it's like to read the book without knowing what's happening with the Bennet family. Do they matter at all to you, or do you wish those pesky side characters would stop slowing down Sarah's story? Is it confusing? Is Lizzie as important as Jane? I'd imagine that you think much better of Mrs. Bennet than Mr. Bennet in this story. I find that drastically different than P&P, where you like Mr. B so much more than Mrs.B (on face value, at least). It was actually hard to read the bad sides of him.
My biggest frustration of the book is a spoiler, so click the jump to read on.