Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays -- Runaway Horses

Teaser Tuesday time again, hosted by MizB. How it works is you grab the book you're reading, open to a page, and pick a juicy two-sentence teaser. No spoilers, obviously.

I'm in the midst of reading Yukio Mishima's Sea of Fertility tetrology. This is from the second book, Runaway Horses, which I just started. I haven't gotten to the page I just opened to, but I believe this scene depicts a kendo match.

The Lieutenant's eyes glared fiercely. Isao's stave came whistling down, aimed directly at the top of the Lieutenant's close-cropped head. At the same moment, their eyes met, and Isao sensed a communication pass between them too swift for any words.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Female Quixote

The Female Quixote

The Female Quixote / Charlotte Lennox
London : Penguin Books, 2006
Originally published: 1752
liii, 465 p.

Beautiful and independent, Arabella has been brought up in rural seclusion by her widowed father. Devoted to reading French romances, the sheltered young woman imagines all sorts of misadventures that can befall a heroine such as herself. As she makes forays into fashionable society in Bath and London, many scrapes and mortifications ensue -- all men seem like predators wishing to ravish her, she mistakes a cross-dressing prostitute for a distressed gentlewoman, and she risks her life by throwing herself into the Thames to avoid a potential seducer. Can Arabella be cured of her romantic delusions An immediate success when it first appeared in 1752, The Female Quixote is a wonderfully high-spirited parody in the style of Cervantes, and a telling and comic depiction of eighteenth-century English society.

Wow, I read this approximately infinity days ago and totally forgot to say anything about it, which is surprising because it took me over a month to finish because it gets a bit long and slightly repetitive. The plot is outlined above, and it progresses exactly how you'd expect an 18th-century romance about a girl like this would progress.

As I say, it's long and predictable. But honestly, it's excusable because a) there are parts that are genuinely funny, and b) the protagonist Arabella is just so darn likeable! Especially if you've read any French romances or even something like the Heptameron, you can understand how she can take the outdated women's mindset so seriously, and I found myself sympathizing with her despite her tiresome repetition of her strange sensibilities.

The book has problems, though. If you don't know the vast body of literature from which Arabella samples, you may find yourself skimming entire sections of synopsis. It's not so bad, though. Also, the ending feels very rushed. She has one conversation with one new character and VOILA LA SALADE, she is cured of her ridiculousness. They say it's because Lennox had enough material for X number of volumes, but not enough to have X+1 volumes, so she wrapped things up quickly. It's easy to overlook, though. Since the plot itself is so implausible, the ending, in my opinion, doesn't need to be too complex. The ending isn't the point of a book like this anyway, it's more to showcase silly situations that comment on the society at the time.

All in all: cute, but I'd suggest not making it your first foray into the world of 18th-century literature.

Gossip Girl

Gossip Girl

Gossip Girl / Cecily von Ziegesar
New York : Poppy, 2002
Gossip Girl series, bk. 1
199 p.

Enter the scandalous world of Gossip Girl -- a world inhabited by the city's most fabulous crowd; a world of jealousy, betrayal, and naughty pictures on the sides of buses.

Dudes, I read this book and I don't even know why. Wait yes, I know exactly why. What I don't know is why I read it through to the end.

Take Gossip Girl, the TV show. Remove all the characters' personality traits until they are down to one each. Make them somehow shallower. Remove all actual knowledge of fashion and culture and just namedrop major names. Stir, shake, give Jenny Humphrey a huge rack, and you get this book.

An inspiration for the show in name and setting only, these are really not worth bothering with as an adult fan.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wondrous Word Wednesday: I Am So Tired Right Now Edition

Hosted by Bermuda Onion, the point of this meme is to share all the new words you came across this week. Yay!


Ok I haven't slept in two nights so let's get this over with. I read two or three books in a row that provided no words whatsoever, so I was glad to start a book today that gave me three in the first 30 pages.

These are from Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima.

cenotaph -- a tomb or a monument erected in honor of a person or group of persons whose remains are elsewhere

It had been composed with an artist's eye for structure: it really made it seem as if the thousands of soldiers who were present were arranged deliberately, like figures in a painting, to focus the entire attention of the viewer on the tall cenotaph of unpainted wood in their midst.

pellucid -- two definitions here: reflecting light evenly from all surfaces ; easy to understand

And the drop of ink spread, dull and gray, clouding everything in his heart that had been pellucid only a moment ago.

I think both definitions apply, but one is more metaphor pellucidness.

tonsure -- the practice of some religious sects of cutting the hair from the scalp of clerics, devotees, or holy people as a symbol of their renunciation of worldly fashion

After her ritual tonsuring, she declined to accept one of the benefices reserved for imperial princesses, deciding instead to found a new temple, one whose nuns would devote themselves to study of the scriptures.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays -- Scorch Atlas

Teaser Tuesday time again, hosted by MizB. How it works is you grab the book you're reading, open to a page, and pick a juicy two-sentence teaser. No spoilers, obviously.

Recently I started a book I picked up randomly because it was pretty, and it turned out to be (so far) an impressive work by a talented new author. The book is grotesque and disturbing. It's called Scorch Atlas by Blake Butler.

I'd put a finger to my forehead and say, MOMMY, and my child, taller than me, went: PAWOOO PAWEEEE!
Stubborn, like his father, with the straight white teeth to match.
The things I knew he'd never be.
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