Wednesday, February 15, 2012

It's a Readathon...

A Young Girl Reading -- Fragonard (1776)

Cassandra over at Literary Stars is hosting a readathon this coming weekend, taking place on Saturday and Sunday (the 18th and 19th)! She's eager to celebrate her end of term in true literary fashion, and I am eager for any excuse to read for lengthy periods of time. I'm not sure what I'll be digging into just yet (Charles Dickens? Wilkie Collins? Non-fiction?), but I'll be updating this post throughout the event to let everybody know what I'm reading and the progressing I'm making. It probably won't be much -- I generally read at a tortoise's pace -- but I'm looking forward to a literary weekend. If you anticipate having some free time over the coming days, please join in here. Happy Reading!


Readathon status updates appear after the jump...

Saturday 3:50 PM: After much deliberation I decided I'd like to read a variety of material for my first blogging readathon: some poetry, short stories, delve into a novel or two, etc. When I woke up today, I took some of the treats my sister had made and settled in bed with some Sherlock Holmes stories. I've read 'The Five Orange Pips' and 'The Man With the Twisted Lip.' 

The former involves a rather sensationalized account of the Ku Klux Klan in the post-Civil War South. Holmes sees the KKK as a secretive organization that invisibly carries out murders and other crimes. Really? Burning crosses and blatantly torturing African Americans is subtle? 'The Man With the Twisted Lip' has some classic Holmesian disguises going on. Reading these, I strongly feel that I should make more of an effort to acquaint myself with Conan Doyle's short stories (most of the the Sherlock Holmes narratives I've read have been the novels). They're adventurous, amusing and have great pace -- all around enjoyable reads.

A couple of observations: I'm quite used to thinking of this most famous of detectives as virtually infallible. Not so, apparently. 'The Five Orange Pips' commences with Watson informing the reader that he simply doesn't bother to relate the stories of cases that remain unsolved: 'Some, too, have baffled his analytical skill, and would be, as narratives, beginnings without an ending' (p. 217 of the Barnes and Noble edition). Critically, there seems to be much discussion of the role of women in Sherlock tales. Irene Adler infamously outwits him (see 'A Scandal in Bohemia'), but for the most part they seem to be background figures. Then I come across a statement like this: 'I have seen too much not to know that the impression of a woman may be more valuable than the conclusion of an analytical reasoner' (pg. 239). Is Sherlock really as dismissive of women as his narrator would have us believe? Food for thought. Right, back to the reading, but I shall update again soon. In the meantime, I shall leave you with a picture taken at the Sherlock Holmes Museum on (where else?) Baker Street.

'Elementary, dear Watson!'
(Though, of course, Sherlock never utters this iconic phrase in print.)

Sunday 2:03 AM: I've managed to pack in a bit more reading in addition to a lengthy nap and a couple of meals consumed while watching The History Channel.  Sylvia Plath's Ariel is something I've been meaning to get to for ages, so I was happy to bask in the fabulous images created in the author's last collection of poems (my edition follows the manuscript left by Plath at the time of her death). I won't pretend to have understood all of it, but I was moved by its beauty. For instance, I'm quite taken with the third stanza of 'Elm' (p. 27):

Love is a shadow.
How you lie and cry after it
Listen: these are its hooves: it has gone off, like a horse

In addition to the poetry, I've been perusing two Victorian novels. A re-read of Cranford is in order, since I will be hosting a discussion of Elizabeth Gaskell's delightful tale for my book club next week. Its enchantment has only increased with further acquaintance, if that is possible. I'm particularly amused by the ongoing disagreement about reading material between Deborah Jenkyns and Captain Brown. The former prefers the neo-classical style of Dr. Johnson and cannot forgive the latter's enthusiasm for the popular fiction of Charles Dickens:

[Captain Brown] was rather ostentatious in his preference of the writings of Mr. Boz; would walk through the streets so absorbed in them that he all but ran against Miss Jenkyns; and though his apologies were earnest and sincere, and though he did not, in fact, do more than startle her and himself, she owned to me she had rather he had knocked her down, if he had only been reading a higher style of literature.

Speaking of Mr. Boz, delving into Great Expectations was the business of the evening. I disliked it with such vehemence as a young girl, but I am daring to hope that I shall warm to this novel with a second meeting. Miss Havisham is about to enter the narrative; I find her to be an intriguing character, so I'm looking forward to reading more tomorrow. But for now, bed!

Sunday 6:32 PM: After a lovely lie-in this morning I wrote emails (business, not pleasure) before settling into Cranford. I'm nearly finished with my second reading of it. Miss Matty's tenderness breaks my heart, and once again I'm enamoured with Miss Pole's gossipy antics. This book would not be the same without her! The scene in which she attempts to logically explain the methods behind a traveling magician's spectacles is especially hilarious (p. 96):

How he did his tricks I could not imagine, no, not even when Miss Pole pulled out her pieces of paper and began reading aloud -- or at least in a very audible whisper -- the separate "receipts" for the most common of his tricks. If ever I saw a man frown and look enraged, I saw the Grand Turk frown at Miss Pole; but, at she said, what could be expected but unchristian looks from a Mussulman?...Lady Glenmire...was very much struck with the tricks, and would not at all agree with Miss Pole. who declared that anybody could do them with a little practice, and that she would, herself, undertake to do all he did, with two hours given to study the encyclopedia and make her third finger flexible.

As it is now evening I am struck with the terrible quandary. Do I cave in and watch the Christmas Special of Downton Abbey (which I have anticipated for months now), or do I continue with my reading and watch the culmination of the Edwardian soap opera tomorrow? I have a sneaking suspicion that Mary and Matthew's ongoing drama will compel me to take a two-hour break from the readathon. Hmm...

9 comments:

Jillian said...

Enjoy! :) I might have to join this one too...

Diana said...

Jillian: I hope you do join in. I'd love to see your readathon updates!

Michelle said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Cassandra said...

Thank you so much for joining! I hope the readathon will live up to your expectations! :)

Diana said...

Cassandra: It has been! I'm having a marvelous time. :) I hope you're enjoying yourself as well.

Cassandra said...

NOOOOO!!!
There is a Sherlock Holmes museum in London as well?! You're killing me! ;)
I am really stunned, like you I thought that Sherlock solved every case, but obviously that impression only comes from Watson's cheating! My world has just changed I think...

Diana said...

Cassandra: I was quite surprised as well. I lived in a blissful dream where the only people who ever managed to foil the incomparable Holmes were Moriarty and Irene Adler. It was a bit of a shock to learn that there were numerous cases he never solved, though it makes sense that Watson wouldn't turn his pen (so to speak) to these fragmentary tales.

Liz said...

I really enjoyed Ariel as well, have you read The Bell Jar - that is quite interesting but not as beautiful.

Diana said...

Yes, I adore The Bell Jar; it is the text which made me fall in love with Plath in the first place. Its vivid metaphors astound me.