Still undecided…

February 5, 2009 at 8:55 pm (Reading) (, )

I’ve just finished New Moon, so I think it’s safe to say that I’m going to stick it out and read the whole Twilight series.  One book is curiosity, two is in for the long haul, especially as there’s only two more installments left.  The weird thing is, I don’t like them.  I know that they’re YA, but that’s no excuse for the poor writing quality, obvious plots, and bad dialogue.  In fact, it’s insulting to both teenagers and authors to excuse them that way.  Edward is disgustingly condescending and Bella is just plain stupid.  So, why am I compelled to read the whole series?  I guess, firstly, annoying as they are, they’re easy tube-reading.  Secondly, well, I’m a total Buffy addict – what’s not to love about vampires and a girl in love with one.  Bella Swan is no Buffy Summers, for sure, but the comparison’s there.  Is that enough of an excuse?  Hmm…


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The Passion of New Eve

January 23, 2009 at 8:30 pm (Reading) (, , )

I adore The Magic Toyshop, but, shamefully, I haven’t read much Angela Carter other than that. I decided to rectify that last week with The Passion of New Eve. Hmm. I wish I’d gone for Wise Children instead. Not only does New Eve not make much sense, there’s a woeful lack of characterisation. Also, it’s hard to read on the tube without burning cheeks in case someone is reading over my shoulder.

I hate to say it, but I actually think it was badly written. The issues – gender roles, misogyny, gender identity, society’s-all-gone-to-hell – were right up there to bash you over the head, but the prose was clunky and unconvincing and the narrative went from one outlandish catastrophe to the next without any chance to analyse and understand what was happening. I felt no compassion for Evelyn/Eve, Tristessa, Leilah, or any of the other characters, which I felt really hindered the novel’s message – how can a reader apply a novel’s themes or issues to their own life or understanding of the world if they can’t identify the humanity in the examples that they’re being given to work with?

I do think that Angela Carter has contributed some very important work to modern literature and to feminism, and maybe this novel is integral in a way that I’m not fully appreciating in isolation. I’m definitely going to read Wise Children soon, but I wouldn’t recommend The Passion of New Eve for a casual read.

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January 9, 2009 at 11:10 pm (Reading) (, , , )

For various reasons, but mainly because I’m anal, at the beginning of 2008 I started recording every book that I read in a notebook. My final tally for the year – 60 books. Not bad, but not great. I’m not setting myself a target for 2009, but I reckon that I can manage more than 60. Maybe 75? Anywho, I’ve kicked off to a flying start (got to love a mixed metaphor, baby), with three books in a week. Two of them were decidedly slim volumes, but they were legitimate books, so they count.

* Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi

* The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint Exupery

* Curious Men – Frank Buckland

I’m smugly patting my head and rubbing my stomach on account of my eclectic tastes and the fact that my husband and friend got me such great books for Christmas.

Sitting on the table, ready to have it’s spine cracked tomorrow is Twilight. I wouldn’t say that I’ve cracked, because I’ve never claimed to be actively avoiding the series, but my curiosity was piqued enough to accept the loan from my good friend Genn, so that I can see what all the fuss is about. I’m also a sucker for a feisty girl in love with a vampire.

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Literarily floored

October 29, 2008 at 11:36 am (Doing, Reading)

I went to a poetry reading on the Southbank on Monday night. Man, did I feel out of my depth! I used to be a literary powerhouse, up to my ears in unknown authors, literary theory, discussion groups, and events and loving it, but since I got into publishing, well, I think my brain has turned to mush. Contemporary fiction coloured mush. I want literature back!

So, here’s my plan – stop reading free books from work just because they’re there. Simple, really. I’m also going to join the Poetry Library, which is lovely. I will be literary again by 2009!

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October 25, 2008 at 5:45 pm (Doing, Reading, Writing) (, , )

It’s been too long again – this is why I always gave up on diaries as a kid.  I’d miss writing for so long and then it didn’t feel like a true reflection of my life/thoughts/feelings, so I’d bin it.  Don’t worry, though, lit fans – I’d never give up on you.

I was in Amsterdam this weekend and then enjoyed a few restful (*ahem* lazy) days at home, so I’ve been reading, knitting, internetting, watching bad daytime TV (who are these Gilmore Girls and what the hell is happening on One Tree Hill?), and making lists of Christmas presents.  I went into a toy shop in Amsterdam and bought five presents, none of which were for children…

So, what have I been reading?  I’m still blissfully immersed in Lorrie Moore’s Collected Short Stories – so many stories!  I’m nearly done, though, and I’ve got The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco lined up next.  I’ve been missing my medieval literature lately, so that might soothe me.  Also, the name Umberto reminds me of a Point Horror novel (shush, you!) I read once; the one where the guy is chopping people up and delivering them to his next victims in pot plants.

One week until nanocraziness.  My parents are visiting that weekend, so I’ll get a late start, but I won’t be out of the country like I was for a week last year, so fingers crossed for many words.  I’m lipsty if you want to buddy me.

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To the bitter end – or not

October 9, 2008 at 6:09 pm (Reading)

I’ve been giving up on a lot of books lately.  One hundred pages in, 189 pages in, fifty pages… I give it a commute or two and if I’m not feeling it, it goes back on the shelf.  It’s frustrating and dissatisfying.  So, am I making bad book choices or are my standards too high?  Each of the novels I’ve shelved has sounded amazing from the blurb and I’ve been excited to dive in, but then…  Despite the potential of the last three novels I’ve started to read, the characters don’t engage me, the writing is mundane, and the plot seems stilted.  I think it’s mainly the characters.  I expect a lot from characters; they have to be believable, thorough, intriguing.  They don’t even have to be good or eloquent, as long I believe them.

I think that I might have to lay off the super-new literature for a while and head back to some classics.  At least I’ll know what I’m getting.

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Total relaxation

September 21, 2008 at 12:13 pm (Reading) (, , , , , , , )

I’ve been on holiday in the Cotswolds this week, so I don’t have much to say about writing (it’s hard to write with seven other people in an idyllic log cabin – boo hoo!) or publishing (a whole shiny week off work!) but, of course, I’ve been reading.

I read a collection of Chekov’s short stories, which were all good individually; towards the end of the collection, though, the stories started feeling slightly repetitive, so I think they’re probably best dipped in and out of. I also read Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, which is a novel about the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright and Mamah Cheney, the feminist writer he had an affair with. It was beautifully written, but slightly relentless. It was based on fact, and Horan says that she adhered as closely to her sources as she could, which was really interesting – the ‘women as property’ pointed was hammered home a little too much for my liking. I know, as a twenty-first century woman, I’m incredibly lucky that gender equality has come so far and I do lose patience with the issue fairly quickly; I should have more time for the cause, but I’ve never felt that it’s affected me directly (naive, I know).

On my to-read list this week are Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper and an introduction to philosophy. I’ll let you know how I get on.

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Dum de dum

September 7, 2008 at 11:20 am (Publishing, Reading, Writing) (, , )

I don’t have a whole lot to say on the reading/writing/publishing front at the moment, but I really have to get into the habit of posting more regularly, so here’s this week’s splurgings.

Publishing: I have been ludicrously busy at work.  Ludicrously.  And I know that it’s not going to stop until Christmas.  This makes me feel tired but not defeated.  In more exciting news, I met John le Carre this week.  He’s nice.  He’s friends with Tom Stoppard.

Reading: Well, I tried to read the new John le Carre, but I just couldn’t get into it.  I was reading an early proof, so maybe the finished novel is more compelling; I’ve got too much on my to-read list to give it any time, though.  Instead, I’m reading Kafka on the Shore by Murakami.  It took me a while to decide I liked it, but I do.  I’ve been told that Norwegian Wood is the one that changes everybodies’ lives, so maybe I’ll pick that up next.  Not that I want my life to be particularly changed, but I do need some writing inspiration; which leads me on to…

Writing: Ha.  What is this writing of which you speak?  It’s not going so well.  I’ve got a couple of story ideas, hampered by a complete lack of drive.  I do have some short story collections to read, though, so hopefully they’ll inspire me out of my funk.  I’ve been knitting a lot recently, so maybe I need to dedicate some word time.

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Dover Thrifty

August 30, 2008 at 6:04 pm (Reading) (, )

I got a bit too excited about Dover Thrift Editions this week.  This is one time when my unfortunately light wallet and my book greed nicely coincided.  For under a tenner, I got:

Great Short Stories by American Women – ed. Candace Ward

Five Great Short Stories – Anton Chekov

Electra – Sophocles

Goblin Market and Other Poems – Christina Rossetti

The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories – Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Quite a nice little haul, I think!  Having worked in publishing for a year now, mainly reading new books and manuscripts, I had a hankering for some old school literature.  Going from a Medieval Literature PhD to a commercial publisher was quite a change and I revelled in the newness, but I think that I need to start mixing it up again.  I do find that my reading tastes go in cycles, and that one book makes suggestions for the next – who knows where these will take me?

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Today I am mostly reading…

June 22, 2008 at 7:52 pm (Publishing, Reading) (, , , , )

The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas.  I am very hooked; I’ve read about 200 pages since this morning.  I’m almost happy that I’m currently living five extra tube stops out than usual so that I get more commute-reading time…  I’m definitely enjoying this novel more than Going Out, by the same author, that I read a few years ago.  It seems much more refined, whilst retaining her kookiness.

The book was part of WHS’ offer where you buy a newspaper (The Times) and get the book for £2.99.  I don’t usually buy The Times and I never buy books from WHS (or Waterstones, Borders, supermarkets – love your indie!), but this swayed me and I’m feeling alternately guilty and chuffed.  On one hand, people will buy books – always good.  On the other, it’s the publisher who loses money (whilst gaining sales, chart position, author confidence, profile).  The retailer gets paid lots of money, the author gets their usual royalties (DEFINITELY a good thing), and I guess The Times gets a few more sales, too.  My wallet loves it, of course, but what about indies, who can’t afford to run such an offer?  Oh, it’s intensely pesky!

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