Show Me 5 Saturday is a meme concept by That’s a Novel Idea.  Please head on over to her blog if you’d like to participate!

(Note: While I usually reserve Saturday’s for children’s/YA books, Fool is definitely NOT kid-friendly.)

1 Book you read and/or reviewed this week: Fool, by Christopher Moore

2 Words that describe the book: bawdy, laugh-out-loud-funny

3 Settings where it took place or characters you met:

  • Pocket of Dog Snogging  – The narrator.  Dog Snogging being the name of the abbey where he was brought up.  Pocket is jester in the court of King Lear.. the one man allowed to “speak truth to nobility.”  He takes advantage of that position rather well.
  • Jones –‘Jones,’ said Taster, pointing to my jester’s scepter, Jones, who is, indeed, a smaller version of my own handsome countenance, fixed atop a sturdy handle of polished hickory. Jones speaks for me when even my tongue needs to exceed safe license with knights and nobles, his head pre-piked for the wrath of the dull and humorless. My finest art is oft lost in the eye of the subject.”
  •  Edmond of Gloucester – Illegitimate son of the Earl of Gloucester; Unable to inherit his father’s estate due to his illegitimacy, he will stop at nothing to change his fate.

4 Things you liked and/or disliked about it:

  • I liked to listen to it!  Ryan and I listened to the audio cd in the car together daily, and while it seems like it would be a funny read, it was HILARIOUS to hear.  The reader does a fantastic job with voices, flow, and punctuating the jokes correctly.  I definitely recommend this format.
  • I like that I now know the story of Shakespeare’s King Lear without having to read the real version.  Some of the dialogue is directly takan from Shakespeare’s version.  However, the plot isn’t exactly the same in Fool.  It’s very accurate until the end, at which point it’s very different.  But, I read the King Lear wikipedia page to compare, so I still know the original version now 😉
  • I do think that it was much more funny in the beginning and middle.  Towards the last third of the novel, it got very focused on tying up the plot and well.. the plot is fairly tragic and not that funny.  I still liked it, just not as much as at first.
  • I like that Christopher Moore is still alive, writing, and prolific.  That doesn’t have a lot to do with this particular book, but let me explain.  I read a lot of books by long dead people.  So, when I really like a book by a new author, I try to wait a couple of years before reading another of their works.  I realize they’re obviously not going to be writing any more, and I want to spread the reading out so I won’t run out of stuff to read by them.  Jane Austen, Daphne du Maurier, Thomas Hardy, Virginia Woolf.  But Moore has quite a few books out, and he’s still writing.. so I can obey my instinct to run out and immediately read half of his books!  Hurrah. 🙂

5 stars or less for your rating? A shaky 4.  It was a very solid 4 until the last disc or so when Ryan and I were both just ready for it to hurry up and end.  It wasn’t as funny at that point, and neither of us really get into extremely plot-driven books, which is what it became.  Nonetheless, the first 5 discs were so fabulous and fun that I’ll still call it a 4.  Read it.. no, listen to it!

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I doubt anyone is wondering why I’m quiet, but just in case..

I’m coming up quickly on the end of the spring semester.  I’ve finished my biggest paper, but have oh.. 4-5 more writing assignments due.  Plus finals.  So I’ll be around by the end of next week, methinks. 🙂

Happy reading!

“Quotidian Poem”

by Patricia Fargnoli

 

When I heard the bombing

had begun I drove down

to Keene and bought

a 3x magnifying glass,

a sketch book

and drawing pencils. Then,

I went out behind the apartments

to snap off seed pods, weeds

I could not name

and a couple of brittle leaves.

I saved the afternoon

by studying edges

of petals, seeds,

the marvelous veins

and sketching them.

On the page, I wrote:

unknown weeds 10/7/01, found

in the patch between Applewood

and the Historical Museum;

on the day we began bombing.

Then I made a pot of soup

out of black-eyed peas

and a ham bone

I’d frozen from Easter.

I threw in onions, garlic,

parsley, cumin,

a couple of tomatoes–

whatever made sense.

Enough for an army.

Show Me 5 Saturday is a meme concept by That’s a Novel Idea.  It is now hosted by Jenners at Find Your Next Book Here.

1 Book you read and/or reviewed this week: The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo

2 Words that describe the book: fun, heartwarming

3 Settings where it took place or characters you met:

  • The Dungeon – A maze underneath the castle devoid of light, full of rats.  It is rare that anyone emerges from the dungeon once they enter it.
  • Miggery Sow – A girl named for her father’s favorite pig, and now a pretty-much-orphan.  She longs to be a Princess, but no one ever asks her what she wants.
  • Gregory – The jailor.  He lives in the dungeon, keeping track of the inmates.  Even he doesn’t know all of the windings of the dungeon, and must have a rope tied to his ankle so he doesn’t get lost.  He knows all about the nature of rats.

4 Things you liked and/or disliked about it: 5 Stars or less for your rating?

  • I like that it’s so darn quoteable.  I found myself dog-earing pages with fantastic lines.  “Reader, you must know than an interesting fate (sometimes involving rats, sometimes not) awaits almost everyone, mouse or man, who does not conform.” and “Desperaux marveled at his own bravery.  He admired his own defiance.  And then, reader, he fainted.”
  • I like that the author doesn’t shy away from words children might not know, but encourages her readers to learn them instead.  “At least Lester had the decency to weep at his act of perfidy.  Reader, do you know what ‘perfidy’ means?  I have a feeling you do, based on the little scene that has just unfolded here.  But you should look up the word in your dictionary, just to be sure.”
  • I liked the beginning and middle better than the end.  The ending was rather abrupt and anticlimactic.  But, being a children’s book, there probably wasn’t much else she could do with it.
  • I liked that the author used literary devices, encouraging children to think about the themes of light and dark, the symbolism of the red thread.  She also encouraged readers to celebrate their differences.  Also, she seems to celebrate words, and addresses the reader as ‘reader.’  I wonder if some children, reading this book, are called ‘reader’ for the first time, instilling a sense of bookish identity on them.  I rather like that thought.

5 stars or less for your rating? Three stars.  I didn’t like it as much as the last children’s book I read (of Roald Dahls), but it was a different sort of book and set out to accomplish different sorts of things, which I think it did wonderfully.  I don’t know that the story will stick with me, but I think it is a book that I would really encourage my child to read.

A bit of a cheerier one for Jenners

The Daffodils
by William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling leaves in glee:
A Poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.


For an added laugh, watch this after reading it:

 “As I never saw my father or my mother, and never saw any likeness of either of them (for their days were long before the days of photographs), my first fancies regarding what they were like, were unreasonably derived from their tombstones.  The shape of the letters on my father’s, gave me an odd idea that he was a square, stout, dark man, with curly black hair.  From the character and turn of the inscription, ‘Also Georgiana Wife of the Above,” I drew a childish conclusion that my mother was freckled and sicky.”  – Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, p. 1

My parents divorced when I was young, and I visited my father on alternate weekends.  I slept on the couch at my father’s, and the few possessions I left there were kept in a laundry room cupboard.  He did not have cable television, but he had a VCR and an acre of land with many trees to sit under and read.  Consequently, I watched one movie and read one book over and over.  There were three movies I could watch, but I found The Color Purple boring and Candyman too frightening for repeated viewings.  Consequently, I came to treasure Beauty and the Beast and it remains one of my favorite movies even now.

The book I read again and again was a children’s abridged and illustrated version of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol.  I was rather fond of it as well, but never sought out the unabridged version.

This past Christmas, however, audible offered a free recording of it to members, and I downloaded it without much thought.  It was magnificient.  It was the same story I loved as a child, but all dressed up with added description and a wonderful performance.

So it was with, well.. great expectations that I turned to Great Expectations.  I downloaded an audio version of it, performed by one of my favorite readers: Simon Vance (who I discovered while listening to [marvelous] Frankenstein).

The story: Orphaned Pip, living with his sister and his brother-in-law Joe (who treats him as a treasured friend), seems destined to become a blacksmith.  His childhood is relatively eventful: he meets and assists an escaped convict; he spends time at a rich woman’s house playing with her adopted child (Estella, who he quickly falls in love with).  Then in the years of his apprenticeship, an unknown benefactor offers him wealth, but he must move to London and become an educated gentleman as his part of the bargain.  He sets out to London quickly, makes new friends and explores new opportunities, all while trying to woo Estella and discover the truth behind his newfound wealth.

Sounds promising.  The beginning went swimmingly.  I was fond of Pip, curious about the convict, admired Joe.  But then Pip moves to London, and it all changes.   For about 12 hours of the 16 hour audiobook, Pip is rather unlikeable; Joe and the convict are hardly present.  The only truly likeable character who plays a role in the middle of the book (Mr. Wemmick) only appears, it seems, when needed to swiftly furthur the plot.

You’ve all heard, I’m sure, that Mr. Dickens was paid by the word.  You’ve all heard this used to explain why his books are so mightily long.  Personally, though I believed the first bit, I couldn’t believe that any self-respecting author would purposefully draw out a decent story for more money.  I thought, surely, his books are only so long because he has so much to say.  Or because his stories are so intricate, his characters so elaborate, that this length is required.  Now, though, I’m not so sure.

The beginning masterfully draws the reader in.  The ending leaves the reader with a feeling of justice and satisfaction (when considered separate from the middle).  But in the middle, it all falls apart.  It is no pleasure to read.  It drags the reader through the actions and introspection of an unlikeable, ungrateful brat who recognizes his mistakes as he makes them, makes them anyway, then laments, and repeats.  Dickens can do better.  I’ve seen it.  I’ve seen it in this very book.

I give it 3 of 5 stars.  Good beginning, good ending, good story.  Terribly plodding middle.  I will try another Dickens, but it’ll be awhile.

 

 

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
  •  

    MMy teaser:

    “‘That’s it, Matilda.  Now you know something no one else on this whole island knows.'”

    From Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones.  It was hard to find two lines in the book that were really attention-grabbing.  These are somewhat mediocre, but they’ll do.

    Mrs. DallowayAnother:

    “It was like running one’s face against a granite wall in the darkness.  It was shocking; it was horrible!”

    From Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.  Now that’s better.

     

    To play along with your own teaser, post your link or share you teaser in the comments over at Should Be Reading.  And share your links with me, too.  I’d love to read your teasers!

    What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why
    by Edna St. Vincent Millay

    What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
    I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
    Under my head till morning; but the rain
    Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
    Upon the glass and listen for reply,
    And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
    For unremembered lads that not again
    Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
    Thus in winter stands the lonely tree,
    Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
    Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
    I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
    I only know that summer sang in me
    A little while, that in me sings no more.

    or

    I Saw Neil Gaiman!  Squee!

    Yesterday at 5 PM, I was sitting in a local ice cream shop eating a sundae and checking twitter on my iphone.  I don’t check twitter regularly, and when I do, I only skim.

    A tweet from Neil Gaiman caught my eye.  “In  car.  On way to airport to fly to Chicago to do @CBLDF reading at #c2e2.  Any requests for tonight?” I had no idea what CBLDF or c2e2 is, but I live just over an hour outside the city of Chicago, and very much knew that I would love to see Neil Gaiman.

    I immediately brought up a web browser and did a quick search: “Neil Gaiman Chicago April.”  The first hit was a Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (c2e2) event page titled: An Evening With Neil Gaiman.

    In my excitement, I hardly processed anything the page said, but I got the important stuff.  Neil Gaiman, 7pm, Arie Crown Theater, a few tickets left: $35.

    And we were off.

    Just before we arrived at 6:45 PM, I collected my wits enough to learn that it wasn’t just Gaiman speaking; it was a dramatic reading.  His first for CBLDF in 10 years.  It was part of a comic book convention, but the Gaiman event tickets were available separately.  The proceeds were going not to Gaiman, but to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF).

    I also remembered that, though I’d not had time to prepare, I (thankfully) had a camera and a notebook in the car.  Despite the surreal nature of these proceedings, I even remembered to bring both these things inside.

    And now let me present:  Neil, himself.


    AN EVENING WITH NEIL GAIMAN

    C2E2: Arie Crown Theater, Chicago.  April 17, 2010.

    Neil Gaiman, during Q&A

    “If you don’t have a plan, nothing can go wrong,” Neil Gaiman informed us, just before presenting the plan for the evening.

    First, he would read a few things.  Then, during a 15-20 minute intermission, he would go backstage, go through the huge pile of question cards to decide what to answer during the Q&A. After the intermission, there would be approximately 25 minutes of Q&A followed by a final reading.

    And that’s how it went.  Pretty much.

    Reading the first: “In Relig Oran”

    Neil began by discussing a book of myths and legends of Scotland by Otta F. Swire.  He said that it’s the kind of book someone gives you, and you find yourself (after reading it) searching ebay for more books by the author, and eventually receiving these old, long out-of-print books of stories, “several of which [he] found really strange and rather inspirational.”

    After reading some of these stories, he took his dog for a walk. “Sometimes, when you walk,” he said, “your mind goes into rhythms. […] I found myself walking to along to the beat of the line ‘When St. Columba landed at the island of Iona.'”  And from this, Gaiman crafted a poem: “In Relig Oran.”

    The title of the poem is the name of a graveyard in Scotland.  In Gaelic, “in relig Oran” means “The Grave of Oran.” The poem is unpublished and heretofore not publically read, though exclusive prints of the poem were avaible for purchase at C2E2.  (I got one!)

    The poem tells the story of two saints, St. Columba and St. Oran, who land on the Island of Iona to build a chapel.  Unfortunately, the foundation won’t hold.  It is revealed to St. Columba in a dream that he should bury St. Oran in the foundation, for that will make for a strong chapel.  Columba proceeds to do so, and it works. But St. Oran is resurrected, and returns to tell of the true nature of heaven, of hell, and of God.

    It’s a fantastic piece.  The print is beautiful; it will look lovely on the wall in my study.

    Reading the second: “Chivalry”

    “Chivalry” (available in Smoke and Mirrors and M is for Magic) is the story that Neil used to begin all CBLDF readings with. The premise is simple enough: “Mrs. Whittaker found the holy grail.  It was under a fur coat.”  Her thrift store find, she decides, will look lovely on the mantelpiece.  She proudly explains the history of this relic to her (Jewish) friend “wouldn’t know about such things [*sniff*].” Soon, however, Sir Gallahad shows up at her door.  He is on a quest to find the holy grail.  The story follows Mrs. Whittaker and Sir Gallahad as they haggle and become friends.

    Neil shone during this piece.  He was obviously practiced and comfortable in the reading of it, and the personality he added to the dialogue raised it from a cute, quaint story to a fabulous one.  We (the Mister and I) have listened to his recorded readings before, but, as the Mister said, “I never realized he was a gesturer.”   Or.. one who gestures for effect, apparently.

    Neil does this amazing thing when he has just read something particularly funny.  As he pauses for effect, the brings his head slightly forward, and his chest slightly forward, and his upper body becomes a cute, subtle triangle.  And while it is subtle, it adds a certain something to the experience.  He looks pleased with himself, and the listener can sense that he loves the story just as much as his audience.  He also, occasionally, punctuates lines (funny ones, of a female’s dialogue) by cute little shoulder rocks.  Like he just can’t quite hold the character back.

    At the conclusion of the story, Gaiman smiled.  “That was fun.  Like falling off a bike.. you never forget how.”

    Reading the third: “My Last Landlady”

    This poem, Neil explains, came into existence after an e-mail from a friend.  This friend was editing an anthology of poems that were “spooky, scary, horrific, or unsettling” and set on the sea or seaside.  He wanted to know if Neil had written any “spooky, scary, horrific, or unsettling” poems that were set on the sea or seaside.  Neil hadn’t.  So he did.

    The narrator of the poem is addressing his new landlady and telling the story of his last one.  He had stayed at a seaside bed and breakfast, and his landlady was a bit morbid.  Her mind seemed focused on the less pleasant side of human nature, and so she was forever saying unpleasant things. As more of her nature is revealed, the poem does become distinctly unsettling.

    The reading was, of course, magnificent.

    Reading the fourth: “Being an Experiment Upon Strictly Scientific Lines”

    “Being an Experiment Upon Strictly Scientific Lines” (available in Angels & Visitations) is written, article-style, about the “precise effects alcohol has on a creative writer.”  Does it get his creative juices flowing, or cause him to become “maudlin, aggrressive, [and] rambling?”

    The narrator (Gaiman?) has set himself up with a bottle of booze, many empty glasses, and a typewriter.  He writes about creative writing while keeping track of how many drinks he’s had. During the whole of the evening, Neil had a water bottle on his podium.  For this particular story, it served as a prop.  As Gaiman reached the next drink of the article, he says “Excuse me.”  Then takes a swig, sighs, and says “Drink number 3” (or whatever number he happened to be on.)

    The story itself was funny, but with Gaiman’s performance, it reached hilarity.

    Reading the fifth: “The Day the Saucers Came”

    A poem from Fragile Things, depicting the end of world.  There are aliens; there are zombies; it is Ragnarok.  And there are even more catastrophes on “the day the saucers came.”  Light and funny.  Perfect to read just before a break.

    Q&A

    After a brief break in which we all crowded, mosh-pit style, around two tables to buy exclusive goods, Neil took a few minutes to answer questions.

    The first: What is the best way to get the attention of a publisher?

    Neil Gaiman responded to this one by offering a story about Harlan Ellison.  Ellison was scheduled to introduce Gaiman at an appearance (on a ship), but couldn’t make it to the ship due to traffic.  A shiphand approached Gaiman, asking if Ellison was there.  Gaiman responded negatively, and the shiphand went on to explain that he had wanted to meet Ellison for 28 years.. ever since Ellison got him fired.

    The story continues to reveal an amazing stink-up in the mailroom of Ace Books.  Ellison was arguing with the publisher, and found a.. unique way to get his point across.

    How would you cast the Sandman movie?

    “Very carefully.”

    Have you ever balanced on a curb and pretended you were on a tightrope?

    “Everybody has balanced on a curb and pretended they were on a tightrope… including me.  Most recently, yesterday.  In Indianapolis.”

    When you were 9, like me, did you know you wanted to be a writer?  And what were your favorite books then?

    When he was 9, his favorite book was Stormbringer (or Storm Bringer), I’m not sure which.

    But by the time he was 11, his favorite books were the first two volumes of Lord of the Rings.  “Because that was all they had in the school library, so I read those two” and he figured it ended well (and he had a copy of The Tolkien Reader, in which an essay by Peter S. Beagle informed him that it did.)

    And he did know that he wanted to be a writer.  In fact, he says, “I didn’t just want to be a writer.  I wanted to be the person who had written Lord of the Rings.”  He concocted an elaborate plan to accomplish this.  It involved a parallel universe, deception, and murder.  He threw it out because of that last bit.

    What was it like to work with Terry Pratchett?

    “It was like being a sort of journeyman craftsman working with a master craftsman.”  Pratchett would read his stuff, call him up and say, “‘If you just change these two words, it could be 73% funnier.'” And he was right.

    When will we see another book like Odd and the Frost Giants?

    Apparently, Gaiman has an idea for another book featuring Odd.  The working title: “Odd Goes to Jerusalem.”  I won’t even begin to explain this.

    Will you ever write an episode of Dr. Who?

    He already has.  It was supposed to air towards the end of season 5, but due to budget constraints, it has been pushed back to season 6.  The only information he can give about it is what’s already been said (by the director?): “It will be on television.  It is in color.”

    Do you do a lot of research for your writing projects?

    “Sometimes copious.  Sometimes not copious.  Sometimes just enough to know that I’m faking it for myself.”

    For The Graveyard Book, he read four or five books on burial practices.  Then he visited cemeteries.  Then he started making stuff up.  Because that’s the fun part.

    I named my daughter Coraline in 2007.  Have you heard of other girls being named Coraline?

    He has.  He thinks it’s neat.  “I got to revive a pretty much dead name and one I thought I made up.”

    Reading the sixth: “Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar.”

    A Cthulian short story (available in Smoke and Mirrors).  Also set by the sea. Also unsettling.

    Ben Lassiter is on an uneventful walking tour of England when he comes to the town of Innsmouth.  Inside the pub, he meets two men who get him drunk and tell him about being acolytes of Cthulu.  Then it gets weird.

    Another amazing performance by Gaiman.  It’s curious how one can look at one man performing and see three distinct characters come to life.

    Reading the seventh (and last): “100 Words”

    “100 words to talk of death? / At once too much and not enough.”

    A melancholy little poem, available as a print illustrated by Jim Lee.

    This poem, along with a few words about the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, marked the end of a truly lovely evening with Neil Gaiman.


    Thanks for coming to Chicago, Mr. Gaiman, and for offering your continuing support of CBLDF.

    Show Me 5 Saturday is a meme hosted by That’s a Novel Idea.  You can find Mr. Linky if you’d like to post your own at Find Your Next Book Here. Original hostess is MIA.

    Going Solo by Roald Dahl1 Book you read and/or reviewed this week Going Solo by Roald Dahl 2 Words that describe the book: adventurous, heartbreaking 3 Settings where it took place or characters you met:

    • Africa – The first setting of the book is Africa.  Dahl is working here before/when World War II breaks out.  Dahl captivates the reader with description of the black mamba, giraffes, and all manner of wild things.
    • Mdisho – Roald Dahl’s “boy” when he was working in Africa.  This boy ironed Dahl’s shirts, polished his sword, and basically did whatever Dahl asked.  Dahl taught Mdisho how to read and write.  Mdisho has warrior’s blood running through him, and when he does something that could get him in great trouble, Dahl shows wisdom and compassion.
    • Greece – This is where Dahl spent the majority of his combat time in World War II.  Having been trained as a fighter pilot, he joins his squadron here.  To his dismay, he finds that he is only one of fifteen pilots allotted to protect the whole of Greece against hundreds or thousands of German planes.  His “adventures” here constitute the majority of the book.

    4 Things you liked and/or disliked about it: 5 Stars or less for your rating?

    • I liked the format.  All the chapters were connected and chronological, but they could have almost have been read as stand-alone stories.  There were no cliff-hangers, so I could read a couple of chapters and put the book down without being tempted to peak at the beginning of the next.
    • I liked that it was more adult that Boy which came before it.  It was still in the junior section at the library, but I really feel like the subject matter is for more mature readers, even if the writing style is just as easy to read.  While there was high adventure, there was also war and death and weeks stuck in a hospital bed.
    • I love Dahl’s writing.  His stories, especially these, often make me hold me breath as the action plays out.  While he doesn’t spend a lot of time on wordy descriptions, he gives the correct details to allow you to see the setting.  Reading his work is a wonderful experience.
    • I liked that it was sort-of educations.  I got a little geography lesson, learned some Swahili words, learned a bit about the animals and cultures of the place he traveled.  Fabulous.

    5 stars or less for your rating? 4.  It wasn’t one of the greatest books I’ve ever read, but it was certainly better than mediocre.  It was captivating, fun, heart-wrenching, and just generally Dahl-esque.  I recommend it heartily.