Tag: Books

Liberal. Education

“A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.”
– George Santayana

We here at Small Dog Syndrome got some fun  emails from a previous post (the post about things one’s kids ought to know.  Not the post about beating one’s kids.  Very different).  And so, because it’s summer and I need something to do on my lunch breaks and weekends, I think I’ll start up a bit of a series on the subject (again, about what’s one’s children out to be exposed to, not domestic violence.  Just so we’re clear).  Nothing formal, and certainly not organized; that’s just not the way we do things around here.  Let’s think of it as an ongoing project that will intermittently interject into our regularly scheduled reading.

Do you have something to share with the class?

I’m opening this up for discussion as well, be free with your comments, accolades, scathing rebukes towards my taste, etc.  And by all means, add your own suggestions!  I’m looking for books, movies, TV shows, vacation spots, and the like, all I ask is that you keep it culturally-minded.  Meaning while Spongebob Squarepants may have been your favorite drivel growing up, I’m looking for the quality things that you’d truly want your future spawn to know of.  More importantly, why.

The Fighting Quail

“Remember, kids, the Quail Call is not a toy!”
– Quailman (Doug)

Once upon a time, Margot began working in the university library in the Children/Young Adult  Literature section.  I take some credit for helping her get this job as one of the questions they asked her was, “What books are you currently reading?”  She responded with a book I’d lent her, entitled “I, Lucifer” (click for Amazon link).  Which, as you may have guessed, is not a children’s book, but absolutely fantastic.  But apparently she was the only person who didn’t say something like, “The Berenstain Bears,” “The Magic Schoolbus,” or “The Three Little Kittens,” and she got the job because of individuality (not to mention brilliance.  She’s annoying like that).

And I’m so glad she did because that meant she could share this gem (which pops up on library computers when an error occurs) with us!

See? Doesn't this make you happy?

I personally think we should set this up on all campus servers (particularly the parking system and its annoying offspring computer problems).  Wouldn’t seeing this make your technical issue so much less aggravating?  I think all universities should offer some sort of equivalent, though some mascots should not be used (such, as Pinto pointed out, a duck).

Also, the Fail Quail unintentionally reminds me of my youth:

Quail Man

The Merry Month of May (or, Geeks Unite!)

“Any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still know where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.”
– Douglas Adams,
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

This is clearly the month for geeks, nerds, Avatards, etc.  Earlier in the month we were able to enjoy Star Wars Day, otherwise known as “May the Fourth, be with you.”  Now personally I’m a fan of the first three episodes (by which I mean IV-VI) and not so much the second trilogy (by which I mean I-III).

And this mind-warping chronology brings me nicely to today, which is Towel Day, in honor of Douglas Adams’ trilogy-in-five-volumes – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

This is a fan-holiday I can get behind, owning, as I do, the entire “trilogy” as well as (my preferred) Dirk Gently books, and The Salmon of Doubt, a collection of Adams’ speeches, essays, quips, and short stories.  Apart from a wonderful absurdist, he was a fantastically intelligent and clever man who despite his love for technology, was not limited to science fiction.  My personal favorite is the story of Genghis Khan who storms into Europe “so fast he almost forgot to burn down Asia before he left.”  Oh!  And God’s final message to his creation: “We apologize for the inconvenience.”

My parents are also fans.  They own the original radio series on cassette tape (which I may or may not have purloined when I went to university – sorry Mum and Dad!) which I listened to from a young age.  I’ve got them on MP3 now and they still make me laugh.

So yes, I know where my towel is.  Which reminds me.  J. and I need to do laundry rather badly.  So long and thanks for all the fish!

“O, that I had but followed the arts!”

“Thereby hangs a tale.”
– William Shakespeare

Long ago, when J. was still a bachelor (side note, we’ve been officially together for two years now…weird) he lived with Scotticus, Cakes, Bear, Jaime, and Jazz.  They’re still very much around in our lives.  I affectionately refer to them as the Other Women when J. goes off to play basketball, get hamburgers, and generally boy about. 

One of my favorite memories of Jazz was one day hanging out at their flat.  I had glanced around and discovered that they had made a home entertainment system supported almost entirely by books.  I was remarking on a tome of Shakespeare upholding a television speaker when Jazz explained the reasoning.
“Girls will come over, see all these thick books everywhere, and think we’re all really intellectual.”
“Not if you’re using them as furniture, dear,” I replied laughingly.

To be a paper weight, or not be a paper weight, that is the question.

However, while making a V-day present craft for Marie (sidenote the second: Marie, beloved, would you send me a picture so I can brag shamelessly about it?) I noticed that the canvas had bowed annoyingly in the middle.  And the only thing I could think of that would be heavy enough to fix it, were Shakespeare and a dictionary.

Apologies, Jazz.  I now suspect you of secret genius.

Creative. Writing (Pt. II)

“All writers are copycats, unless they’re bad writers.  Then they’re plagiarists.”
– My writing professor
 A sample of my writing classes offerings from last night. 
You called?

1) The Unintended Romance:  one person turned in a piece that had a paragraph including the words “the sun delicately kissing her skin,” “white teeth flashed in his olive-skinned face,” and “thick muscles and strong torso flexed as he picked her up.” 

The teacher asked us all to review it and determine what was wrong with the paragraph.  Some people said that some alliteration threw them off, other said it was an imagery technique.  I said it sounded more like ripped-bodices-and-heaving-bosoms writing than what she was going for (a murder mystery).  It’s good she and I get along because half of the class gasped/blushed and murmured things like, “Oh dear!” while she burst out laughing.

This seems...oddly familiar...?

2)  Teen Angst:  Another girl (a rather rude one who has to have the last word in every group review we do, and likes to toss her editing experience in people’s teeth) turned in a piece that took place in a high school science class between a completely uninteresting girl and a boy acting strangely and awkwardly, seeming tormented by a secret pain.  My pal (the bodice ripper) piped up immediately and said one word: Twilight?”

The whole room dissolved into hysterics and debate.  Some people tittered quietly to themselves while one or two started roaring about how amazing the Twilight series was and everyone else wouldn’t know great literature if it smacked them in the face!  Others countered that it was adolescent fiction and no more, while some snapped that young adult writers have produced some first-rate literature, though not Twilight they hurried to say.  The writer was mortified, while our teacher seemed secretly delighted.

After. Math.

“The Christmas season has come to mean the period that the public plays Santa Claus to the merchants.”
– John Andrew Holmes

Black Friday is not really something I participate in, I’ll occasionally venture out (closer to noon than midnight) but it’s no different for me than any other weekend shopping except the people are ruder and all have a look of unmasked panic flitting across their faces. 

But.  This year J. and I were tipped off early to Amazon.com’s sales.  BIG mistake!

I can quit any time I want!

– Five DVDs
-Eight books
– 80% of my inbox is shipping emails from Amazon
– Two packages received already
– One sore clicker finger
– Fourteen other books “Saved To Buy Later”
– Six squeals of excitement while clicking through site
– Nine heart-rending decision about what to buy and not buy
– Four times I’ve checked my shipping status since breakfast

I Could Never Be a Librarian…

“I cannot live without books.”
-Thomas Jefferson

We bought (another) bookshelf some time ago but just got it secured to a wall in our office a couple nights ago.  It was nine thirty in the evening and we were both exhausted, but I pulled almost all our books out to reorganize them to use all that glorious additional space we’d acquired.  Not as easy as you might think.

Should I sort alphabetically?  If so, by title or author?  What about by color of book cover?  Size?  Hardback vs. Paperback?  Topic?  Gah!  What was a bibliophile to do?

toomanybooksI eventually decided on chronology, starting with Homer, Virgil, and Beowulf (remember how I majored in European Studies with an emphasis on literary history?…) working my way through Geoffrey of Monmouth, Dante, and Petrarch, and got on rather well until I butted into the sixteenth century.  I stared down at my copy of The Other Boleyn Girl and then frowned at the space it should go for a while before setting it down in a new pile.  I could not, in good conscious, wedge it between Sir Thomas More and John Donne.  I didn’t even get a full century ahead of that before I ground to a halt again.  Rousseau, Voltaire, Manon Lescaut, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, and…The Scarlet Pimpernel?  Hm, a better fit than the Boleyn Girl, but still didn’t seem quite right. 
“Are these supposed to go in order of subject matter or when they were written?” I demanded of J. as he obligingly carted books around the flat for me. 
“I have no idea what you’re doing,” he returned, disappearing into the office with my anthologies, essays, and critical works.
“Me neither!”

The same problem with C. S. Lewis, as well as the fact that I have works from him that fall both in fantasy and theology, neither genre had previously featured.  I tucked The Chronicles of Narnia with my science fiction, Lois McMaster Bujold and Douglas Adams…and then realized I had no idea where any of them should go chronologically!  “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” didn’t necessarily come after post-modernism in my mind.  And what about all my academic books, J.’s philosphy and textbooks? 

I finally got it all sorted, but with an additional bookshelf not all of the available space is used.  Which means of course a run to the campus bookstore (hurrah for employee discounts!) and Barnes and Noble is in order!

Addict Takes Another Hit

“What did you find?”
-Aims and C.

In addition to other things, it’s also Graduation Week here on campus.  Having done the cap and gown thing last August, you’d think this wouldn’t mean much for me.  Au contraire.  It also means that the university bookstore is having a sale and that it’s payday tomorrow.  A rather lethal combination!  I spent my entire lunch break wandering around the store looking for deals and even managed to show remarkable restraint.  My arms were full of nearly a dozen books at one point that I was covetously hording but I managed to get a grip and narrow it down to a very sensible three.  The Histories by Herodotus, because even though I worship at the shrine of the Father of History, I’ve been content to read this gem in my mother’s classical library on visits home.  No more!  In the same vein I got a copy (finally) of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.  The last one I don’t like to admit but I will, Little Women.  It was my go-to-feel-good-book when I was younger so I grabbed it for old times sake (and it was less expensive than either the Writings of John Donne or the T.S. Elliot anthology I wanted).  All for under $20!

I’m honestly trying really hard to read more modern literature and expand my interests, but I keep going back to older classics.  I think I just have to accept my status as a book nerd.

Book Mavens

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel must be intolerably stupid.”
-Jane Austen

books1I got this questionnaire from Peregrine and since I recently I had to go through all my books before commissioning J. to move several boxes of them into our new place, I figured I was in a good position to talk about them.  My Someday House has a huge library with full shelves around three walls, a fireplace, and the world’s most comfortable couch and chaise for lounging with a cup of tea.  As the years go by and I keep buying more books, my imaginary walls keep expanding and the books have gone from cheap paperback to more impressive and beautiful editions, but the look of my fantasy library remains the same. 

1) What author do you own the most books by?
Probably Lois McMaster Bjuold, followed by Jane Austen, Tolkien, and Marian Keyes.  An odd mix: scifi, classic British Lit, fantasy 9the good kind, not the weird kind) and contemporary Irish

2) What book do you own the most copies of?
I have two copies of Candide.

3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?
Nope.  Modern English and its callous disregard for proper form is the only reason most English speakers can understand one another.  

4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
Good gosh, what a question!  Ultimately probably Miles Vorkosigan, although I admit to crushes on Faramir from the Lord of the Rings and a dark sort of bad-boy-craving for the Vicomte de Valmont from Les Liasons Dangereuse.

5) What book have you read the most times in your life (excluding picture books read to children; i.e., Goodnight Moon does not count)?
I can’t keep track!

6) What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis

7) What is the worst book you’ve read in the past year?
The Diplomat’s Wife by Pam Jenoff.  I only read it to kill time, but it was an absolutely atrocious book.

8. What is the best book you’ve read in the past year?
The Lucifer Effect, by Phillip Zimbardo

9) If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, the funniest book I have ever read in my life and a work of genius!

10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for Literature?
Ditto to Peregrine, no idea why one person gets it and another doesn’t. 

11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie?
I Lucifer, by Glen Duncan…and I just found out a while back that they are!!  With Daniel Craig in the title role (double delicious).  I worry about them getting the metaphysical aspects and scope to translate well onto the screen, but if they can pull it off it will be amazing. 

12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie?
I have no idea, so many of my books are historical classics that have managed to make the transition in various levels of completion.  Then again enough have been butchered…I’ll say Atlas Shrugged, because the interpretation might actually convince me to hate it.   

13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
Never had one.

14) What is the most lowbrow book you’ve read as an adult?
Watermelon, by Marian Keyes, which is surprising given my enthusiasm for some of her other novels

15) What is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?
Probably The Scarlet Letter the first time I had to read it.  I tried it again a couple of years ago and it went down much easier.

16) What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you’ve seen?
The Merry Wives of Windsor, which no one ever reads but everyone should because it’s a riot!  Saw it at a Shakespeare festival in the States and at the Globe in London.

17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
French, but I’ll admit to not really ever giving the Russians a chance.   

18) Roth or Updike?
Neither, my tastes don’t run that modern.  I’ll amend shortly, I promise/

19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?

20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?
Chaucer for fun, Shakespeare for a good read, Milton when I’m feeling philosophical or intellectual.

21) Austen or Eliot?
Austen, but not obsessively. 

22) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
Anything after 1850, probably.  And American, I don’t read too much of that…I need to expand my repertoire.

23) What is your favorite novel?
That’s like asking me to pick a favorite pair of shoes!  Or a favorite kind of chocolate desert!

24) Play?
Broadway: The Scarlet Pimpernel for fun, Into the Woods for thought.  Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing.  Also in my top five, Congreve’s Way of the World.

25) Poem?
Song of the Wandering Aengus

26) Essay?
Another gap in my reading! 

27) Short Story?
I don’t remember the title, but it was in an anthology of Indian (the subcontinent) American women.

28) Work of nonfiction?
The Story of Britain, by Roy Strong.  Got me through my entire major.

29) Who is your favorite writer?
See #23

30) Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
Stephanie Meyer, ephemeral as her books will undoubtedly be in the grand scheme of things her current popularity offends me.

31) What is your desert island book?
Probably an Encyclopedia Britannica, because I’m assuming I’ll be on that island for a while. 

32) And… what are you reading right now?
How to Hug a Porcupine, by John Lund.