Monday, March 25, 2013

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

I find it pretty difficult to write very much about books that aren't classics...actually, sometimes I have so little to say that I just forego blogging about them at all. So for once, I'll actually write a short post about a book. You're welcome.

I picked up this book after reading so much about it on other blogs. Since I'm reading The Old Man and the Sea for Modern March and for the Classics Spin (er, yes I'm reading it, I'm not procrastinating it until the very end of March, of course not! ...ahem), I thought this novel about Hemingway's first wife would be appropriate.

I sometimes get bothered in historical fiction by the author trying too hard. They use far too much slang from the time period, or work in descriptions of the clothes to an eye-rolling degree, or they try to include every famous person in the story who might have known the characters. Well, I didn't think this book was that way. McLain held true to the time period but focused on the important elements--Hadley and Ernest and the way they built their marriage and tore it apart.

I would be careful about whom I would recommend this book to, though. There is some vulgarity and a lot about sex (really, this book could not have been written without the sex). But I thought it was tastefully done and it didn't bother me (and I don't read erotica or anything like that). It's a good thing to be aware of, though, if you're really sensitive to that kind of thing.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book and it made me even more interested in learning about Hemingway.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Why I Don't Like Science Fiction and Fantasy

Here at the blog, I'm often pretty critical of sci-fi and fantasy. I tend to look at these genres as the all-time low in fiction--Well, at least it's better than sci-fi or fantasy! That sort of thing. (And YA fantasy really takes a hit.)

A comment from wxroz on this post got me thinking that maybe I need to explain why this is, and maybe even offer up an apology to sci-fi and fantasy readers... (But not YA fantasy readers. That's going too far.)

(Just kidding. If you like YA fantasy, this apology goes for you, too.)

So here's the apology part (which includes some explaining). In general, I don't read sci-fi or fantasy. I only read said genres if they're classics (and sometimes not even then), or if I have to for school (which rarely happens). I have perfectly good reasons for feeling this way (which I'll explain later in this post), but that doesn't mean I expect everyone to feel the same way I do. That doesn't mean people who like sci-fi/fantasy are not welcome on this blog, or that I won't read their blogs, or that I think they're stupid, or anything like that. There are lots of good reasons to like sci-fi and fantasy! They're just not my cup of tea, that's all. So I hope I haven't offended anyone by criticizing science fiction and fantasy, and in the future I'll try not to be as sarcastic about them. (No promises, though.) But I think the genres have a lot of potential and maybe I'm just not reading the right books.

Also, my experience with the genres is somewhat limited. I mean, obviously, once I decided I didn't like sci-fi/fantasy books, I started avoiding them. But I do like a few, don't get me wrong. I just don't seek out your run-of-the-mill fantasy novel.

But in case you're wondering, I will give the reasons I don't like sci-fi or fantasy. But first, a disclaimer: Most of these are just general tendencies I've noticed in the genres; they don't necessarily describe every single sci-fi/fantasy novel. (So please don't comment with, "They're not all like that!" because yes, I'm aware of that, but I'm just not very good at weeding out the ones that are from the ones that aren't, and so I just avoid them all.)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Beating Up Austen...Or Not

Here's the question from The Classics Club for March:

Do you love Jane Austen or want to "dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone?" (Phrase borrowed from Mark Twain).
1. Why? (For either answer)?
2. Favorite and/or least favorite Jane Austen novel?
Well. I do feel that as a classics blogger, Jane Austen tends to follow me around everywhere, and this is just more evidence of that. But I always love to answer the Classics Club questions and I haven't quite addressed this on my blog yet, so I'll answer it.

I've heard numerous complaints about Austen, but the main one I've heard is that her novels are distant, cold, and inaccessible. And I would have to say that I agree with them. But I also really like Jane Austen.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Room With a View by E.M. Forster

To say I enjoyed A Room With a View wouldn't be quite the truth. To say I learned from it wouldn't be quite true, either. A few minutes after reading this book, I'm still muddling through my thoughts about it, trying to figure out what exactly it means to me.

By way of summary, A Room With a View is a novel about upper-middle-class society in Edwardian England (this precise information was stolen from the back cover), following the adventures of Lucy Honeychurch as she travels to Italy, falls in love with the beautiful but oh-so-improper George Emerson, and then travels back to England and gets engaged to someone else.

I went into this book with few expectations. To be honest, I knew absolutely nothing about it, and absolutely nothing about E. M. Forster, other than that he was a Modernist. I guess I was expecting something a little more similar to Mrs. Dalloway, which certainly wasn't what I found. There's no stream-of-consciousness to be had here. To be honest, I'm still a little uncertain what Modernism actually is, which I suppose is what drew me to the Modern March event. I could describe aspects of Modernism; I could answer a question about Modernism on a test (and I have), but seriously, what is it? (Yes, that's a rhetorical question; if you answer it, I'll feel stupid.) I'm not sure that even the Modernists themselves knew.

But anyway, on to the book. Once my expectations had been shattered and I realized that this is not, in fact, an experimental novel, I started to actually have an experience with this book that I might even say I will treasure for the rest of my life.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Who Was Charles Dickens?

Last fall, when I was reading A Christmas Carol for my Brit Lit History class, I read a biography of Dickens (on my own time), discussed his life with my class, and wrote a paper about him and his times. And yet, as I was beginning Great Expectations this month, I kept asking myself, Who was Dickens? 

The answer isn't easy. He was a great writer, obviously. And an avid reader. A stellar performer. A powerful personality. A self-made man. An editor. A dog lover. A world traveler. A family man.

Oh, wait...I mean, a family man who separated from his wife of over twenty years, unfairly accused her of being a bad mother, ran off with an actress young enough to be his daughter, and tried to dictate his children's lives.

The Dickens of the early years seems almost incompatible with the Dickens of later life. Although young Dickens was quirky, he was hardworking, rising to his place in the world with no help from his parents. He seemed to be a loving husband and parent, enjoying the company of his sweet wife and young children. He was a pleasant celebrity who liked his public and wrote for their pleasure. But somewhere along the line, it appears that Dickens was disillusioned with life and everyone around him.

Saturday, March 2, 2013


Well! Welcome, March! Today is a gorgeous day that I believe Dickens describes perfectly:

"It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade." --Great Expectations, LIV

I hope you're all enjoying March so far!
Weekend Quote is hosted by Half-Filled Attic

Friday, March 1, 2013

February Wrap-Up and March Plans

Once upon a time, I thought today was February 29th. Well, folks, apparently I have not gotten used to the Western calendar in all my years of life.

Anyway, this month wrap-up was meant to be published in the month of February...I've decided that since I really like to read other people's monthly wrap-up posts, I thought maybe I would do the same. Nice way to keep on track with reading goals.

Books finished this month:
Great Expectations
Charles Dickens (biography)

Events I participated in:
Celebrating Dickens

Favorite book of the month:
Great Expectations

I just barely finished Great Expectations in the nick of time to review it for Celebrating Dickens. I expected to be able to read more during February, but I made the mistake of getting myself knee-deep in two chunksters (albeit smallish chunksters) at a time. Not so good. After feeling like I had been smack in the middle of both Ivanhoe and GE for weeks and weeks with no end in sight, my motivation started to decline just a next month (it's February 29th, remember? Work with me) I'm taking a break from chunksters! No need to beat myself to death with books; it's about having fun, right?

Right. So this month, as per A Modern March, I'm going to immerse myself in modern literature, allow myself to read some other stuff for my other challenges (and just for fun), and challenge myself to get through as many books as I can!