So sorry it’s been so long…

Ugh, that thing called “life” happened again and dragged me away from writing things on the Internet. How inconvenient, right?

So it looks like it’s been about 5 months since my last post and I’ve had some thoughts about what I want this blog to BE. I feel like I’m going through this strange inner growth spurt (I’m sure that’s a thing) and certain habits and people just don’t go with this new person that I’m becoming.

And that’s okay.

So in terms of reading and reviewing books… it’s just not going to happen in that structured kind of way that I thought was working for me. Lately I’ve been finding that I’m finishing a lot more books than I’m actually starting.

I even looked at my bookshelves the other night and said to my fiancé, “I’m just so sick of having books. I need to get rid of them.”

He almost fell off the couch and he begged me to let him record me saying that, most likely to use it against me during another moment of weakness in a book shop.

But I think I was serious. I’m afraid this “phase” might be something that sticks.

And again, that’s okay.

I’ve been borrowing heaps of books from my local library and I highly doubt that I will run out of reading material any time soon.

During my hiatus from the blog I’ve also been working on my Goodreads TBR list. I’ve decided to abandon my quest to read the 1000 Books To Read Before You Die and work on my TBR list in a chronological order. I’ve gone back to the first books I put on my Goodreads TBR list waaaayyy back in 2011 and I’m working on reading through what I can borrow from the library (if I don’t own a copy already) and eliminating the books I have no interest in anymore.

This new quest has made me realise that my taste literature has definitely changed over the last 5 years (again, this is okay and only natural of course).

So I’m thinking that I’ll take a different route with this blog and make it more of a relaxed record of what I’ve been reading and scratching off my long arse list.

It will definitely be more aimless than ever.

Heck, I might surprise myself and get rid of the “book” side to this blog completely and just waffle on about random things in my life.

I’m really curious to see how whether other readers out there have these slumps and “inner growth spurts”. Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever gone through a bookshelf cull and eliminated masses from your TBR list. What sparked it and how did you feel afterwards?

 

 

 

Thursday Quotables: The Drunkard

This weekly feature is hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies and is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.

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I’m making my way slowly, but surely, through the “1001 Books To Read Before You Die” list and this is my first foray into Emile Zola’s works. At the moment I’m about half way through The Drunkard, or L’Assommoir (OR The Dram Shop) and I’m really enjoying it.

The quote that I’ve chosen appears about a quarter of the way into the book and one of the main characters has just given birth to a little girl.

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“Let’s see a bit of you, little miss slut”

That’s right, the father calls his newborn child “little miss slut”. France in 1877 must have been a very different time, indeed!

1001 Books: “The Purloined Letter” by Edgar Allan Poe

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Even though I own a copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s collected works, I’ve actually only read maybe a handful of his stories. The most recent one I had read was the very creepy and sadistic “The Cask of Amontillado”. I loved it.

Cracking open my compendium of Poe stories, I was anticipating a gruesome, eerie short story that strung me along right until the end and then gave me a lot to think about for the next few days. Sadly, “The Purloined Letter” wasn’t eerie or gruesome, but it did give me a little bit to think about – but I probably won’t be stewing over these thoughts beyond writing this blog post. (That shows me for having expectations!).

Basically, the short story is about a stolen letter. The police know who the thief is, they just don’t know where he has hidden the letter and apparently it contains super important information, so they need to get it back. Dupin (the protagonist and detective of the story) is aroused from his meditation and pipe smoking to help his brothers in law enforcement out. In true Dupin style, he figures it out and it’s so obvious to him why the police have failed! Huzzah! You have to THINK like the thief and then trick him at his own game. It’s a lesson in walking in someone else’s shoes (or spectacles, in this case) and, you know, applying logic to an investigation.

This is an incredibly short story, I’m sure you won’t miss the time if you read it and absolutely hate it. In saying that, maybe read “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” if you want the creepy, weird shit from Poe that I love and expect every single time I dust off my collected works of Poe!

1001 Books: “The Marriage Plot” by Jeffrey Eugenides

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From Goodreads:

Madeleine Hanna was the dutiful English major who didn’t get the memo. While everyone else in the early 1980s was reading Derrida, she was happily absorbed with Jane Austen and George Eliot: purveyors of the marriage plot that lies at the heart of the greatest English novels. Madeleine was the girl who dressed a little too nicely for the taste of her more bohemian friends, the perfect girlfriend whose college love life, despite her good looks, hadn’t lived up to expectations.
But now, in the spring of her senior year, Madeleine has enrolled in a semiotics course “to see what all the fuss is about,” and, for reasons that have nothing to do with school, life and literature will never be the same. Not after she falls in love with Leonard Morten–charismatic loner, college Darwinist and lost Oregon boy–who is possessed of seemingly inexhaustible energy and introduces her to the ecstasies of immediate experience. And certainly not after Mitchell Grammaticus–devotee of Patti Smith and Thomas Merton–resurfaces in her life, obsessed with the idea that Madeleine is destined to be his mate.

You would be forgiven if you looked at the title and the cover of this book and assumed it was a chick-lit novel. Jeffery Eugenides definitely does not fall into that genre – not at all. His characters are complex and complete – I have no problem conjuring them in my mind – and no two characters are carbon copies of one another. This book follows the lives of three individual university students after their graduation. I, myself, have graduated from university in the last two years (wow, it’s gone by so fast!), so I could really relate to the characters and this really pivotal time in their lives. Oh and not to mention Madeleine’s love of Victorian novels. I do love a good Victorian novel.

This is the second book I’ve read by Eugenides. I read “Middlesex” in April last year and that was also a great novel – I usually recommend it to fans of literary fiction. Even though Eugenides’ books are heavy (psychologically and emotionally, not to mention physically – there are a lot of pages!), they were both real page turners. They were also flawless (well, that’s just my humble opinion).

Both “Middlesex” and “The Marriage Plot” deserve their places on the “1001 Books To Read Before You Die” list. Have you read either of these books? I’m planning on making the trifecta and reading “The Virgin Suicides” soon, which is also on the list.

1001 Books: “Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit” by Jeanette Winterson

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This semi-autobiographical novel had me from the word go. With same sex marriage being a hot topic at the moment (especially in Australia) this novel really brings home the fact that love is love. And unfortunately, people can be extremely shallow, judgemental, hypocritical and downright fearful of what they do not understand.

Jeanette (the protagonist and narrator of the novel) believed that oranges were the only fruit because that’s the only fruit her mother gave her. As Jeanette was exposed to more of the world, was forced to go to school and socialised with people outside of the church, she learnt that there were other fruits she could choose from. There are many things I took away from this book, but one main take away message was the fact that just because you view the world a certain way, that’s not necessarily the way someone else sees it. I can see why this book is on the “1001 Books To Read Before You Die” list.

Being only 224 pages long, it was a quick read but the content was heavy and thought provoking. I would love to know how much of the story was autobiographical.  On one hand, some of the characters and events are so extreme and caricature-like that they made me want to laugh, but then I remembered that aspects of this novel were based on real life and that made me feel absolutely horrified. And I know that this story about not being accepted for who you are because you don’t fit the social and cultural norms is not uncommon.

If you have a heart and a brain, this book is for you.

From Goodreads:

This is the story of Jeanette, adopted and brought up by her mother as one of God’s elect. Zealous and passionate, she seems destined for life as a missionary, but then she falls for one of her converts. At sixteen, Jeanette decides to leave the church, her home and her family, for the young woman she loves. “Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit” is a few days ride into the bizarre outposts of religious excess and human obsession.

Review: “The Yellow Wallpaper” – Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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As I was scrolling through the all-powerful spreadsheet for the “1001 Books To Read Before You Die” list, I decided that I wanted to go for one of the shorter stories. Not just to chalk up more numbers, but to also see what was so great about such a short piece of fiction for it to end up on such a list.

I downloaded this free version and read “The Yellow Wallpaper” on my Kindle on the way to work yesterday morning.

My mind was blown.

It’s such a short story, I would really be doing you a disservice if I were to put a summary here. I cannot recommend this story to you enough. This is a must read.

I will even go to an extraordinary length and say that I have found a new favourite author. This is like the time I first discovered Kate Chopin and “The Story of an Hour” or read Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”. Seriously, sometimes it gives me goose bumps when I think about how many fantastic female writers there have been throughout history. I feel another reading challenge about to rear its head.

“The Yellow Wallpaper” was right up my alley. Considering the time period that this story was first published (1892), it must have challenged a lot of reader’s thoughts – or even provoked them to think about such things for the first time in their lives – on feminism, marriage, and depression; and specifically post-natal depression. It’s not often that I read something and I get the urge to highlight certain quotes, but this 6000 word story had some really great gems and I know that I will come back and re-read this story again and again.

The comments about marriage and this “nervousness” (i.e. depression and anxiety) are spot on and I think these passages still resonate with couples where one partner is going through mental illness and the other just has no clue, but means well.

“I meant to be such a help to John, such a real rest and comfort, and here I am a comparative burden already!

Nobody would believe what an effort it is to do what little I am able, – to dress and entertain, and order things.

It is fortunate Mary is so good with the baby. Such a dear baby!

And yet I CANNOT be with him, it makes me so nervous.”

And this one…

“I cry at nothing, and cry most of the time.

Of course I don’t when John is here, or anybody else, but when I am alone.”

And that damn wallpaper. The descriptions are so evocative, so wonderfully well written and perfect in every way.

“It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough to irritate and provoke study, and when you follow the lame uncertain curve for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide – plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions”

And my absolute favourite, which is meant to be about the horrid wallpaper, but I think is really about her mental illness:

“You think you have mastered it, but just as you get well underway in following, it turns a back-somersault and there you are. It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples upon you. It is like a bad dream.”

I would love to know if you’ve read this story and your thoughts on it!

“1001 Books…” Challenge Update!

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From Goodreads:

The fables of Aesop have become one of the most enduring traditions of European culture, ever since they were first written down nearly two millennia ago. Aesop was reputedly a tongue-tied slave who miraculously received the power of speech; From his legendary storytelling came the collections of prose and verse fables scattered throughout Greek and Roman literature. First published in English by Caxton in 1484, the fables and their morals continue to charm modern readers: Who does not know the story of the tortoise and the hare, or the boy who cried wolf? They are two of the many fables from Aesop, made legendary by time.

We all know the tortoise and the hare – slow and steady wins the race. This was my only prior knowledge of Aesop’s Fables and I think I may have to keep that little story in mind with this challenge I have set myself.

Outside of studying Aesop’s Fables at university (or, you know, embarking on a ridiculous challenge and attempting to read 1001 books from a list), I’m not sure who in their right mind would sit down to read this from cover to cover. I can appreciate that these fables did have their place in the Ancient Greek culture, but as I said before, I don’t think these stories are meant to be digested in one big gulp – and definitely not in solitude. I started to believe that my friends were all animals. If I had been studying Aesop’s Fables or reading this with purpose for perhaps a discussion with literary and history minded folk, I may have had another experience altogether. Still, I’m glad I’ve checked this one off my list nice and early in the challenge.

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From Goodreads:

A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled.

As Aomame’s and Tengo’s narratives converge over the course of this single year, we learn of the profound and tangled connections that bind them ever closer: a beautiful, dyslexic teenage girl with a unique vision; a mysterious religious cult that instigated a shoot-out with the metropolitan police; a reclusive, wealthy dowager who runs a shelter for abused women; a hideously ugly private investigator; a mild-mannered yet ruthlessly efficient bodyguard; and a peculiarly insistent television-fee collector.

A love story, a mystery, a fantasy, a novel of self-discovery, a dystopia to rival George Orwell’s — 1Q84 is Haruki Murakami’s most ambitious undertaking yet: an instant best seller in his native Japan, and a tremendous feat of imagination from one of our most revered contemporary writers.

I feel like this challenge is not boding well for me. I then tried to read Murakami’s 1Q84.

Yes, I tried. I tried so hard, in fact, for about a month (that’s two renewals at the library!). I found the writing beautiful, the characters were interesting and I will be frank, strange. The plot and the strange fantasy side of the story was odd and I really wanted to know where the story was going. I was exactly halfway into the book when something whispered to me “but… what if it doesn’t go anywhere? That’s another month of your life and you have other books to read. Are you even ENJOYING this?” And that’s when reading this book became a chore and it had to go. I usually give up on books a little easier and a lot earlier on, but I tried so hard with this one. It was like a boyfriend that was really good at conversation but not much else, and after a while the conversation kind of sounded the same every night.

I have to admit, it’s been a bumpy start to this challenge, but I am determined to keep going at it!