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Showing posts from April, 2009

Quizzes are fun, Book quizzes are funner

So many people have been doing this, it looks fun. I'll join in, too.

1) What author do you own the most books by? Either Henry James or Virginia Woolf. Or maybe Jan Karon – all those dear Mitford books (guilty pleasure).

2) What book do you own the most copies of? I’m sure it would be Harry Potter books in various incarnations: American editions, British editions, books on cassette. Or Room of One's Own. I think I have three copies.

3) What fictional character are you secretly in love with? Laurie from Little Women. I can’t believe he married Amy.

4) What books have you read the most times in your life? The Chronicles of Narnia.

5) What was your favorite book when you were ten? I loved Beauty by Robin McKinley so much I typed half of it out on the computer and printed it so that I wouldn’t have to continue to go back to the library to rent it out over and over again. Then I realized it was probably illegal and hid it in my cupboard.

6) What is the worst book you’ve read this past …

Watching the English

I am an Anglophile – there’s no use hiding it (if it has ever been hidden). I guiltily watch Midsomer Murders on my weekends, I celebrate the Man-Booker prize winners, I love mushy peas and eating pies. I love books on England, on British history, on the royal family, on the British collective conscious: Paul Theroux, Jan Morris, Bill Bryson, etc.

I am aware that this is completely lame, because there’s nothing worse than someone who loves a concept unconditionally. It’s like loving a movie star who will never know you existed, but worse. American (and I sound American) Anglophiles are a dime a dozen. I’m sure the British are heartily sick of them: gushing about Jane Austen, thinking dreamily about Prince William, reminiscing about the Lake District and that little jaunt to Bath. Guilty. And the worst part is, I have no chance of ever looking cool around a British person. I lose it – my cool – and grovel, fawn, smile knowingly.

Part of this I blame on my upbringing in a once British…

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2009 Goes To...

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout! I voted for her in my heart, and for Joseph O'Neill too. Poor, poor Netherland.

Observations at a Library Book Sale

Yesterday, the Seattle Public Library held their biannual Library Book Sale at Magnuson Park. This time, my coworker Jessica and I were veterans, having attended last fall. I had wavered about attending, because really, do I need more books? But it only happens twice a year, and it seemed like a fun thing to do and it’s supporting the local library, so we made our preparations.

Having learned last year that competitive book sale shopping is extremely difficult to do once one’s bladder is about to burst, I made sure to go to the bathroom three times. I left my coat at home and tried to wear light weight clothing, I wore running shoes, I did stretches and clipped my fingernails (safety first). Jessica and I were ready earlier than last year, hopped into the car with our bags and eagerly discussed strategies on attacking the room and whether there would be many people lining up before the doors opened, or we would be one of the few groups of lucky anticipators.

We were wrong. The line …

At last

Chomping on the Bit

Maybe it's in poor taste, but I just need to rub my fingers together a little and cackle. It's been 42 days since Ash Wednesday, since I decided to give up buying books for Lent. Several years ago, I read that Lauren Winner gave up reading books for Lent and I thought that might be a severe enough discipline for me to undertake. Then I imagined how wretchedly I would behave, how my mind and eyes would atrophy, how all my worst habits would appear, how my community would suffer. Also, how I would be a terrible bookseller.

So, I gave up buying books. Perhaps it doesn't seem like a big deal. But listen, I have an addiction. I buy at the very least two books a week, and have since I moved to Seattle last June. On those days I go to Goodwill, many many more. Buying books has always been a rush, an ecstatic burst of energy and enjoyment: bright eyes, sporadic conversation, constant touching the book covers, smelling the pages. There are worse things to be addicted to, and I find…

Have you ever thought of the night?

Djuna Barnes’ pivotal work, Nightwood, has drawn attention not only because of its literary importance in the Gay & Lesbian canon, but also because of the (rare) introduction by T.S. Eliot. After reading it, I see that Eliot was right when he wrote it was “so good a novel that only sensibilities trained on poetry can wholly appreciate it,” especially those trained the sort of modernist Waste-Landish poetry that Eliot wrote (which I am not). I would have to apply textual analysis before it could be unpacked into a fluid read for me.

The book has been called carnivalesque, Baroque, and Elizabethan, all words I wish I had been the first to attach to the work, because they are so fitting. The prose is highly ornamented, soundly structured like little golden bricks, made up of monologues and maxims (“Death is intimacy walking backward”), encoded along Joycean lines but without Joyce’s lyrical intensity.

The novel’s setting is chiefly in Europe of the 1920s, in the salons, caf├ęs, and …

As Big as the Bible

It took me forever to read this.

This exhaustive biography is more than just a biography; it is a life study which makes commentary on the art of biography. A fortunate subject for Lee, Virginia Woolf was a prolific self-chronicler and had very definite conceptions of biography, had engaged the idea of biography within her novels (Orlando) and had refused and accepted to write biographies (her father, Roger Fry respectively).

Virginia Woolf is not strictly chronological but moves in circles towards her end in 1941, dealing with dates and years by concepts – parents, childhood, wars. The reader is left with a thorough picture of Virginia Woolf’s world – not just her interior world: her acquaintances, her reading habits, the social and familial circles that she definitively inhabited, the social inheritance of her parents Leslie and Julia Stephens, her siblings and step-siblings, her attraction to women and the lives of those women, and finally her lifelong dependable, saving marriage …