Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Penguin English Library Project


After administering a final exam on Monday, my spring semester is nearly over -- there's just some marking to do! Since I won't be teaching over the summer, I decided it would be worthwhile to take on a new reading project. Also, I desperately need to catch up on the bookish goals that were pushed to the backburner while school's been in session. When I saw O post this list of classics from The Penguin English Library, I instantly knew I wanted to make a project of it.

Like Emma Woodhouse, I make a good list but often have trouble following through. However, this list mirrors my general reading tastes while pushing me in some new directions. I think it will urge me to open some titles that I might otherwise neglect but are nevertheless pertinent to my research interests. I'll be working on this alongside my Classics Club project.

Without further ado, here it is...

1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
3. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
4. Persuasion by Jane Austen
5. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
6. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
7. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
8. Emma by Jane Austen
9. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
10. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
11. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
12. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
13. Dracula by Bram Stoker
14. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
15. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
16. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
17. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
18. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
19. Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster
20. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
21. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
22. Middlemarch by George Eliot
23. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
24. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
25. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
26. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
27. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
28. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
29. The Murders in the Rue Morgue and Other Tales by Edgar Allan Poe
30. Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens
31. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
32. Silas Marner by George Eliot
33. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
34. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
35. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
36. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
37. The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
38. Howard's End by E.M. Forster
39. Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
40. The Five Orange Pips and Other Cases by Arthur Conan Doyle
41. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
42. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
43. Hard Times by Charles Dickens
44. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
45. Villette by Charlotte Bronte
46. New Grub Street by George Gissing
47. A Room With a View by E.M. Forster
48. The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells
49. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
50. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
51. Evelina by Frances Burney
52. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
53. Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
54. Shirley by Charlotte Bronte
55. Dubliners by James Joyce
56. The Monk by Matthew Lewis
57. The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
58. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne
59. Kim by Rudyard Kipling
60. Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
61. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
62. Ivanhoe by Walter Scott
63. Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope
64. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
65. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
66. Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens
67. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
68. Wives and Daughters Elizabeth Gaskell
69. Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding
70. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg
71. Daisy Miller and The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
72. The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens
73. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
74. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
75. The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton
76. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
77. Pamela by Samuel Richardson
78. The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
79. The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
80. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
81. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
82. The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler
83. Barnaby Brudge by Charles Dickens
84. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
85. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
86. The Warden by Anthony Trollope
87. The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens
88. Washington Square by Henry James
89. The Confidence-Man and Billy Budd, Sailor by Herman Melville
90. Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy
91. Nostromo by Joseph Conrad
92. The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope
93. Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
94. The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad
95. Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope
96. The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope
97. Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope
98. Two on a Tower by Thomas Hardy
99. Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Maturin
100. Humphry Clinker by Tobias Smollett

The titles I've already read are presented in bold. With 33 completed I've made a respectable start but have quite a few new titles to dig into as well. Are any favourites of yours on this list?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Mr Selfridge


Since the tragic decline of Downton Abbey (oh, what a waste!), there's hasn't been much in the way of period drama to attract my attention. Recent adaptations of Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End and Emile Zola's The Ladies' Paradise still haven't made their way to my side of the pond, nor has the second series of the poignant Call the Midwife. I've been feeling the lack of new material keenly.

Fortunately, the compelling Mr. Selfridge recently began broadcasting to American audiences. I've only watched the first four hours (all that's currently available), but thus far it's quite engaging and provides a sorely needed dose of period drama. Recounting the rise of Harry Gordon Selfridge's London department store and how it transformed the shopping experience, the series follows the socialiite world into which Mr. Selfridge attempts to ingratiate himself and the lower-middle-class workers under his employ.

Jeremy Piven does a wonderful job portraying the nuances of a man who is both charismatic and deeply flawed, but already I'm deeply invested in the narrative arcs of many female characters. Agnes Towler (Aisling Loftus), an accessories assistant who attempts to rise above the difficulties presented by a troubled family life, is an especial favourite. So is Lady Mae (Katherine Kelly), a former actress who now oversees London society with her masterful powers of manipulation. Ultimately, I'm most intrigued by the series' respresentation of women who negotiate (subtly or forcefully) for empowerment in a world that couldn't offer evolved gender roles quickly enough.

The discussion of clothing, accessories and design are also a real treat to a viewer who craves immersion in Edwardian England. These little details alone make the show worth watching!

 Selfridge's, Oxford Street, on its opening day in 1909

Have you seen Mr. Selfridge? If so, what did/do you think? (No spoilers, please! I'd like to be surprised. :))

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer

It's not you, it's me.

This trite phrase has become the ultimate dating cliche, but it effectively summarizes my experience reading The Grand Sophy. Georgette Heyer's knack for comedy and memorable characterization makes her novels the ultimate escapism for Regency nuts like me, and I've sung her praises since I randomly picked up Arabella a few years ago. This time, unfortunately, she just didn't delight me the way she usually does.

But! 

It's not her fault, it's mine. Really it is. Having heard The Grand Sophy touted as an absolute favourite among Heyer fans, I sought solace in its pages when going through an especially difficult few weeks. If anybody could lift my spirits, I thought, it would be Georgette Heyer.

And she did...a bit. The heroine's tenacity and special knack for rearranging others' affairs to her own satisfaction certainly amused me. Particularly humorous passages had me laughing out loud. Still, my Depths of Despair spirit (a la Anne Shirley) undoubtedly clouded the entire reading experience, making me relatively blind to Sophy's titular grandeur. I simply wasn't in the right emotional state to properly enjoy the many literary fruits Heyer has to offer. 

Please forgive me, Georgette! It's not you, it's me!

Nevertheless, I want to share a bit of the novel that did get through to me. Mr. Fawnhope, a prospective poet so preoccupied with his supposed genius he is utterly oblivious to the world around him, cheered me up whenever he appeared on the page. In the following quote, his sorta-kinda betrothed Cecilia finds herself tiring of Mr. Fawnhope's unflagging narcissism:

Mr. Fawnhope's conversation [was], at present, almost wholly confined to the scope and nature of his great tragedy. To listen to a poet arguing with himself -- for [Cecilia] could scarcely have been said to have borne any part in the discussion -- on the merits of blank verse as a dramatic medium was naturally a privilege of which any young lady must be proud, but there could be no denying that to talk for half an hour to a man who listened with interest to anything she said was, if not precisely a relief, certainly a welcome variation in her life. 

Moments like these made the reading unequivocally worthwhile, but I look forward to revisitng The Grand Sophy at a time when I'm more receptive to its charms.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Simple Pleasures: Old Movies

Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan in

I don't know what it is about old movies, but I'm crazy about them. They evoke happy childhood memories of family togetherness and make me feel nostalgic for the seeming simplicity of former times. Still, it's difficult to articulate what it is about the films themselves I love so dearly, but I turn one on whenever I crave warmth and cosiness. Somehow they make me feel all the comforts of home before the opening credits conclude.

Recently some new (or old) gems have been discovered. I saw The Shop Around the Corner (the film on which You've Got Mail was based) for the first time and found it to be a delight. My brother emphatically declared, 'This movie is feel-good awesome!' At my friend's insistence we watched The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer which also enchanted me. I heartily recommend both.

I do, however, feel that I need to delve into the wonderful world of classic film more thoroughly. Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart have always been firm favourites in our house, but upon reflection I see I've watched little besides iconic, popular classics. Which old movies do you love most? Please pass on your recommendations. I see an Old Movie Marathon in my near future!

Monday, April 08, 2013

Essays of Elia: My 'New' Antiquarian Treasure


Since reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I've been dying to get my hands on this collection of essays by Charles Lamb. This text sets the novel in motion and forges bonds between the characters. 

I fell in love with this nineteenth-century edition as soon as I laid eyes on it at a charming antique shop in Park City. Sadly I was jobless (ahem, broke) at the time, so fortune compelled me to leave it on the shelves. When I spotted it again during the Sundance Film Festival, I snatched it right up! When I saw that the book had waited for me to return, I sentimentally concluded we were literary soul mates. 

I haven't had time to read it yet, but I believe Charles Lamb would be perfect on a leisurely, sunshiny sort of day. As an animal studies fanatic, I'm especially anticipating the infamous 'A Dissertation Upon Roast Pig,' and I'm sure Lamb's other literary gems will also delight me. 

Behold! My new baby!


Floral cover


The book features no discernible year of publication, 
but the inscription dates from 1897:
Presented to Mattie Read by the Twenty-First Ward
Primary Association as a Token of Thanks, Appreciation and a
Memento of Feb. 18 and 19, 1897


Title page


'Mankind...for the first seventy thousand ages ate their meat raw,
clawing or biting it from the living animal, just as they do in Abyssinia to this day.'

Monday, April 01, 2013

I Have Been...

Poppy Field Near Vetheuil (1879) by Claude Monet

{Reading}
Finished The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer yesterday.
Just ordered Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat.
Bibliotherapy continues. :)

{Writing}
Academic work on Elizabeth Gaskell
and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. 
(Three cheers for all the great Elizabeths!)

{Looking}
 At flowers, buds and plants.
Currently obsessed by all flora and fauna.

{Listening}
Regina Spektor's Samson. So haunting!
 Bach's various string compositions. So invigorating!

{Watching}
Emma. This adaptation is sunshine for my soul:

 
{Feeling}
 Discouraged by my recent past yet hopeful for my future.
Also, hungry. Time for a snack.

{Anticipating}
 The imminent blooming of our tulips.
A forthcoming holiday in June.

{Loving}
Percy. Poor thing hurt his paw today, 
but he's revelled in the extra attention. 
Dogs are the best.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Bibliotherapy

My haul

I've been feeling rather rotten lately and -- what's worse! -- feeling sorry for myself because I feel rotten. Lots of feelings, few of them benign. At times like these I do what any self-respecting bibliophile does: I buy books! I don't need them. I won't even read them immediately. But damnit, I need some bibliotherapy*!! 

I took myself to my local Barnes and Noble on Saturday, accompanied by a short list of books from my wish list. None of them were in stock. Not one! With my brother by my side, I lamented about the many woes of being a reader whose tastes are far superior to the general reading public while I marched towards the magazines to pick up the latest issue of Marie Claire. [Editor's note: Snob? Hypocrite? Probably both.]

Luckily I found a lovely anthology of P.G. Wodehouse fiction just before closing time. While I've been enamored with the Blandings stories for several years now (I pay homage to him here), I still haven't read any Jeeves. Luckily for me, this charming edition contains two Jeeves novels and one collection of short stories: Joy in the Morning; Very Good, Jeeves!; and Right Ho, Jeeves. According to the blurb on the back, 'P.G. Wodehouse is the gold standard of English wit.' I agree! Looking forward to digging into this one, and the cover is so cute...  



I also stumbled upon a bargain priced edition of The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester. This non-fiction text focuses on James Murray, head of the 1887 committee formed to compile the OED, who is surprised to learn that one of the chief contributors to the project is an imprisoned murderer. Gripping material, indeed.


Needless to say, I left the store (haul in one hand, frappuccino in the other) a happy camper. What is it about buying books that boosts one's serotonin levels? Normally I frown upon retail addictions, but how can one argue against a propensity to buying what will actually provide a valuable experience and, ideally anyway, an increase in knowledge (as opposed to the new top that will be out of style in six months)? I mean, really.

Jane Austen also gave me a large dose of medicinal wit. Ah, Jane! I can always count on you. One cable channel thoughtfully broadcast the BBC Pride and Prejudice all weekend long. Consequently, I spent most of it in bed indulging in the following: overdosing on Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, overdosing on Daniel Vincent Gordh as Darcy in the latest episode of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (which I've watched more times than I care to admit), or reading Georgette Heyer's The Grand Sophy which features a Darcyesque hero. And you know, between my new haul and the inundation of all things Darcy, I feel infinitely better today than I did on Friday.
 
Bibliotherapy to the rescue! :)

Have you read anything from my haul? Do you have books or adaptations you turn to when feeling down in the dumps? If so, please pass on your recommendations.

*I have shamefully stolen this quaint term from Rachel of BookSnob and Old Fashioned Girls.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Spring Reading Update

Tuscan Spring 2011

Praise to the gods who urged man, with all his faults, to instate the practice of spring break! I am halfway through my own now, and I'm revelling in the glorious relaxation and enjoyment of spring it has allowed. Hallelujah!

With an entire week at my disposal I've been luxuriating in balmy spring weather during meandering walks with the dogs, sleeping in every morning, visiting with friends, watching old classics (think Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant)...and reading! So far this year I've had little time to read for pleasure, and I've felt the absence keenly. Only now have I had the chance to sit and enjoy a book, and it. is. heaven.

The only literary dilemma I've faced this week is the overwhelming confusion about what book to pick up. So many books are calling to me, and narrowing it down to one at a time has been the most arduous task. Though I'm reading at an idle pace to suit my relaxed disposition, I'm making more progress on my reading goals than I have all year.

I finished Caitlin Moran's How to Be a Woman the other day and thoroughly enjoyed it. Rave reviews from Simon and Claire urged me to pick her up, and I'm pleased I followed their advice. While I certainly didn't agree with all of Moran's views, I more often found myself nodding while reading with a 'Just So!' sort of spirit. In any case, her snarky delivery makes reading a treat, and I'm sorely tempted to pick up Moranthology (apparently a collection of her journalistic pieces) immediately. However, I'm not sure yet another book on my tbr pile is what I need at the moment, so it'll have to wait. More thoughts on this one later.

I deliberated long and hard before selecting Moran's successor. Should I go with a classic? Something that related to my research in order to kill two birds with one stone? In the end, I chose the text that I thought would make me happiest right now: The Grand Sophy. A good Georgette Heyer novel never fails to perk me up, and she matches the spring liveliness I'm experiencing at the moment. Nearly a third of the way through it, I find myself experiencing the little pleasures of Regency London life along with the characters. I'm riding spirited bays through Hyde Park in the afternoon and dressing in that new gown before attending an assembly at Almack's in the evening. It's just the sort of escape I need at the moment.

I'm not sure what's up next on the reading agenda, but I hope to get going with my Classics Spin! selection before the week is out: Maria Edgeworth's Patronage. Regency novels seem to be the order of the day, but I'd also like to read a text that truly reflects the season, like The Secret Garden or The Wind in the Willows. (Both are languishing on the shelves.) Ah, decisions!

What are you reading right now? Anything you'd recommend?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Resolute (2013 Edition)

Percy is clearly apprehensive about the New Year
...or the fact that I'm smothering him. Hard to say.

Yes, I am aware that we are now racing through March and spring is well on its way, but nevertheless I wanted to write down my New Year's resolutions. I mentally formed these a while ago, around New Year's, in fact! (Fancy that.) Last year I found it infinitely helpful to refer back to my resolutions post as a means of checking progress and motivating myself to continue toward set goals when I felt in a rut, and I'm keen to continue that in 2013.

In true nerd fashion, I adore making goals, any excuse to write up a list, etc. That extends to New Year's resolutions. I liked what Claire from The Captive Reader had to say about this increasingly controversial practice, that she saw no need to form resolutions since she's already perfectly happy. And to some extent, I agree. I am happy! Still, I am an individual excited and motivated by the idea of improvement, especially self-improvement. Setting out to make changes for the better thrills me to no end. 

Really, I truly believe they can be great for the majority of us. They gear us up for new experiences at a time when most of us are feeling like we could use a boost. (For the record, I blame holiday treat overload for this effect.) Provided an individual steers clear of resolutions one loathes yet feels inexplicably compelled to make -- this is when many a gym membership is compulsively purchased then just as swiftly forgotten -- I wholly endorse the practice. Hurrah for resolutions! 

First up are my reading resolutions...

Read 45 texts. Last year I fell just short of my goal to read 40 texts, so I'm being slightly optimistic here. I'm perfectly aware I might not achieve this at all. And that's okay. Having my goal in mind last year often served as a gentle reminder to put down the remote control and pick up a book. It spurred me on or kept me going when suffering through a reading drought or in the middle of a dud. I'm setting this resolution with the view that it will provide much needed encouragement whether I meet the ultimate goal or not.

Get back to the classics! Last year I wanted to spread my wings by veering into twentieth-century and contemporary literature, experience the literary world outside my little box. I did, and it was great!

Come December though, I wanted to go back to my roots. I missed my crazy Victorians! (They still accounted for nearly 25% of my 2012 reading, so the fact that I felt their absence says something quite worrying about my psyche, I think.) The eighteenth-century was virtually abandoned, and I want to incorporate those writers back into my reading habits as well. It was great moving away from my comfort zone, but this year I'd like to refocus on my chief interests -- and make some major progress on my Classics Club list while I'm at it. 

Poetry and drama. In 2012 I pinpointed several new genres I wanted to explore and had great success in some of these, especially nonfiction. While I did read some poetry and drama, these formats weren't delved into with the depth I would have liked, so I'm reiterating this goal for 2013. After receiving some gift cards for my October birthday, I picked up some new titles under these categories: The School for Scandal and the major works of John Keats among them. I have no excuse to neglect poetry and drama this year.

Children's classics. When I worked at a bookstore I took advantage of the employee discount by accumulating as many items as my meagre paycheck would allow, and I collected some great children's classics during this time. 

I haven't read any of them. 

It's time to stop making excuses and finally finish The Secret Garden despite any distractions. Time to open The Jungle Book. Treasure Island. Peter Pan. Multiple novels by Jules Verne. Simply typing out these titles whets my literary appetite. Why haven't I done this before?

Literary nonfiction. While I made great headway in this genre last year, there's still room for improvement. I have multiple author biographies sitting forlornly on my shelves, accounts of my beloved eras or their monarchs, etc. that call for my attention. I'm especially looking forward to Claire Tomalin's recent biography on Charles Dickens, another recent addition to my library.

And now for my general resolutions...

Take a photography class. I've gleefully been snap happy lately, and I'd like to learn how to use the fabulous camera I received for Christmas. I mean, I kinda, sorta know how to use it...but not really.

Get published. I set this goal last year and failed, but I'll keep plugging away at it. To be fair, I have spoken at three conferences in the past four months and was accepted to present at another this summer. Progress, slow but steady progress. 

Fill up my personal journal. Blogging is a fantastic way to document life and its experiences, but I still need to make time to express those private thoughts and feelings.

Make time for cultural activities that make me happy. I simply adore museums, theatre, and traveling. The stimulation they provide adds significantly to my happiness. Basically, if I'm mentally bored, I'm miserable. Yet I often make excuses about why I can never make time for these things: I'm too busy with work, I don't have the money right now, there's nothing good around at the moment, etc., etc., etc. 

Enough with the excuses! I need to make it a priority. Progress has already been made in this arena, particularly with my recent visits to the ballet. I'm looking forward to more of these experiences throughout the year. 

Organization/Stress Management. Guys, I'm posting my New Year's resolutions in mid-March which speaks volumes. Organization seems to be my Achilles' Heel. Despite my best efforts, I always seem to be frazzled, stressed, feeling like I'm eight tasks behind. If I can conjure up an organizational system that works for me and focus on remaining calm when under pressure, I'll be more at ease in every aspect of my life.

Be Kinder. This is a lifelong goal. While I consider myself to be a fairly nice person as it is, I think it's useful to always be mindful of how I treat others and aim to speak and act with kindness to everybody, especially those I love.

I'm sure you're all much more organized than I am and posted resolutions in January. How are they going so far?

Friday, March 08, 2013

Simple Pleasures: Funky Tights


Spring weather is on its way to my area, but it's taking its sweet time making a full entrance. Tights are still a necessity for my skinny little chicken legs, but basic black bores me if I overuse it. Though I don't consider myself to be a fashionista by any stretch of the imagination, I maintain patterned and colorful tights spruce up an otherwise ordinary outfit. They help me feel a bit cool (or as cool as a tried-and-true geek like me can get!) when I need a confidence boost. The tights pictured above have been a staple since the New Year, and I recently bought this hot pink/heart patterned variety for a dash of color. They remind me of something the Queen of Hearts might wear...if she were into pink instead of red.

Don't you love how I connect even the most unrelated topics back to literature? ;)

I hope you have a happy weekend!

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Happy Birthday Elizabeth Barrett Browning!


I'm a few hours late to the game on this, since Elizabeth Barret Browning's birthday occurred yesterday. Yet after a reminder from Oxford World's Classics, I would feel quite remiss not giving her a little shout out:

Happy 207th Birthday, Elizabeth!

The Birthplace: Coxhoe Hall, Durham

One of my dissertation chapters focused on EBB, as I fondly refer to her in my notes. In studying the relationship with her spaniel, Flush, I felt I got to know her a little bit as well -- particularly through the perusal of her letters. Her passion and zeal immiediately won me over. Reading details about her secret courtship with Robert Browning and their plans to run away together felt both like reading a sensational novel and like I was intruding upon the privacy of a lovely couple (and actually, I suppose I was).

With spring break happily dawning before my eyes, I'm hoping to read her long poem Aurora Leigh. Though with my holiday reading list growing like a proverbial weed, I must concede this ambition may never materialize. In the meantime, I shall leave you with one of her poems about Flush, one that's not as widely read. A wonderful canine companion, he comforted her, just as her words provide solace and inspiration to readers two centuries later.

Flush or Faunus

YOU see this dog. It was but yesterday
I mused, forgetful of his presence here, 
Till thoughts on thoughts drew downward tear on tear;
When from the pillow, where wet-cheeked I lay,
A head, as hairy as Faunus, thrust his way
Right sudden against my face; two golden-clear
Large eyes astonished mine; a drooping ear
Did flap me on either cheek, to dry the spray!
I started first, as some Arcadian,
Amazed by goatly god in twilight grove.
But as my bearded vision closelier ran
My tears off, I knew Flush, and rose above
Surprise and sadness; thanking the true Pan,
Who, by low creatures, leads to heights of love.

The last line is my favourite! I'm tempted to make some saccharine analogies about how we are all low creatures and love and art lift us to the great heights Barrett Browning describes...but I'll spare you. Have a happy Thursday!

P.S. This intriguing article discusses the various words attributed to EBB in the OED, abandonment and goatly among them. I guess only a few of them stuck? :)

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Cinderella: An Evening at the Ballet

Ballet West First Soloist Haley Henderson Smith
as Cinderella's Fairy Godmother

Something you may not know about me: I'm a bunhead at heart. I adore the romance and spectable of the ballet. The grace of the dancers, the glamour of the costumes, the emotion in the music: each aspect of it enchants me.

Several months ago I realized that despite this ardour, I hadn't attended a ballet in...well, more years than I'd care to admit! With resolve to make cultural activities a bigger priority and a generous birthday present from my family, I've reacquainted myself with this charming art form. Utah has a wonderful ballet company: Ballet West, subject of the recent reality show Breaking Pointe. It would be a downright shame to not take advantage of it when it's in such close proximity.

Recently Ballet West put on a lovely production of Cinderella, and I revelled in every moment of it. Hilarious and grotesque, the evil stepsisters (traditionally played by men) provided a wealth of comedic moments. An aloof Wellington and surprisingly flexible Napoleon made memorable appearances as potential suitors. The lifts in the pas de deux stunned me, and the beauty of this moment overwhelmed me so much I found myself fighting back tears. It was all utterly magical! (As any production of Cinderella worth its salt should be!)

Next up for Ballet West is George Balanchine's Jewels, an event I eagerly anticipate. I recommend going if you're in the area. In the meantime, here are a few photos from the evening...

Excellent advice!
Sometimes I enjoy the theatre itself as much as the production
Someday I will watch the show from box seats
Intermission
Reluctantly leaving the theatre

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Simple Pleasures: Here Comes the Bride


This week's simple pleasure isn't about those quiet everyday moments that often go unobserved. Instead, this joy comes from the kind of momentous family occasion that only presents itself occasionally.

This Saturday, a mere two days from now, my sister is getting married! She's the first in our family to tie the knot, and coming together to celebrate the love she and her fiance have for one another has brought us infinitely closer.

While planning a wedding is a huge life event for the couple and their loved ones, I've tried to soak in the loveliness of simple details from every fleeting moment of the process. Being involved has been an enormous honour, every step of the way: picking out the dress, sampling cake flavours, assisting at the photography session, planning a bachelorette party. I will forever cherish each of these precious moments.

Life is beautiful!

I am (clearly) not their photographer, but I couldn't resist taking a few photos of my own while acting as the bride's assistant at a pre-wedding photo shoot. Here a few favourites:

 Isn't she a beautiful bride?
 Such apparent happiness in this shot -- I love it

I hope your weekend is as happy as I know mine will be!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

  Venetian Sunset

Dylan Thomas's poem 'Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night' stays with its reader. At the moment, it refuses to leave my mind (maybe because I recently shared it with my students). The poem concerns the author's experience watching the decline of his father's life. Dylan Thomas urges him to cling to life and its remaining experiences with every effort. 

Thankfully, I'm not in a similar position with any of my loved ones. Nevertheless, this poem resonates with me on a personal level. I think of times when I've abandoned goals and worthwhile experiences because I've doubted myself or didn't credit my own abilities. I gave up.

I find the eloquence with which Thomas urges his father to not give up the fight inspiring, whatever one's particular life challenges may present. Don't relent! Don't give in to setbacks or fatigue! Continue our efforts! Fight for what we love with every breath we're given! This is what I take away from the poem. But, of course, Dylan Thomas phrases it far more vividly and beautifully than I ever could....

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


The video above features Dylan Thomas reciting this masterful poem (a villanelle to be precise). I love hearing poets share their own work. Their delivery adds a new dimension of meaning to the printed words. :)

Is any poetry inspiring you right now? If so, please share!

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Classics Spin!

Fallen Asleep While Reading (1872)
William Powell Frith

Though I'm currently inundated with a variety of projects, both professional and personal, I'm longing for an entire week of nothing but leisure reading. Hopefully, my March schedule will ease up (keep your fingers crossed for me!) so I can indulge in some good -- nay, fantastic -- books. Ah, what luxury.

Even if it's a bit late, I've decided to join The Classics Spin! The concept is to select twenty unread titles from your Classics Club list: five titles one is dreading, five highly anticipated titles, five titles to which one is different, and five wild card titles (a category of one's own choosing). I'm not particularly dreading any titles on my list, but I'm most intimidated by chunksters right now as I worry that my easily distracted brain will abandon them after a few brief chapters. Time to face my fears. I also mentally chastise myself for not reading the wealth of children's classics sitting on my shelves, so that genre will be represented in my wild card selections.

The Classics Club randomly selected #14 as the title for participants to read, but I'm stealing a page from Cassandra's book by having a random generator decide which title I read so I can still experience the luck of the draw. The goal is to read the text in its entirety before April 1st.

Behold, my chosen titles...

Five Chunksters:

1. The Brontes by Juliet Barker
2. No Name by Wilkie Collins
3. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
4. Cecilia by Fanny Burney
5. Patronage by Maria Edgeworth

Five Titles I Can't Wait to Read:

6. The Warden by Anthony Trollope (barely made a dent in this in January!)
7. Adam Bede by George Eliot
8. The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
9. The History of Pompey the Little by Francis Coventry
10. A Sentimental Journey by Laurence Sterne

Five Titles About Which I Am Currently Indifferent:

11. The Coming Race by Edward Bulwer-Lytton
12. The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
13. Diary of a Nobody by George Grossmith
14. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
15. East Lynne by Ellen Wood

Wild Card -- Five Children's Classics:

16. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
17. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
18. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
19. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
20. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

And now my randomly generated number: 5

I will be reading Patronage by Maria Edgeworth in March. I swear I didn't cheat! I was sort of hoping I'd 'get stuck' with a chunkster, as I need a gentle push to get going with these. I usually end up loving chunksters, so a little nudge is appreciated. I'm quite happy with this result. :)

If you're also participating in the spin, I'd love to hear what you'll be reading and your feelings about it. Are you apprehensive? Excited?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Simple Pleasures: Literary Jewelry


Brains are the only things worth having in this world, no matter whether one is a crow or a man.  -- L. Frank Baum

Receiving an unexpected package in the mail is one of life's best surprises. So I was thrilled to discover my dear friend had sent me a little something from across the pond. Finding this necklace with a quote from The Wizard of Oz only increased my elation; it was the icing on the cake so to speak. The enclosed note informed me it's meant to function as an anti-idiot charm, and I must say I feel a certain sense of protection when I wear it! Now I'm convinced I should begin collecting literary themed jewelry. Is there a better kind?

I hope your weekend includes some pleasant surprises. :)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mirabeau's The Lifted Curtain

Comte de Mirabeau -- sexy man!

Wow, I'm busy! With a flu worse than anything I've experienced in years, teaching, marking, researching and preparing for my little sister's upcoming wedding, recreational reading finds itself at the bottom of my to-do list. Still, I have been doing some reading, and I wanted to share some thoughts....

As I briefly mentioned in a previous post, my recent research focuses on two areas: representations of animals and transgressive sexualities. Currently I'm trying to find a way to effectively combine them, and it's proving to be an enjoyable challenge. The Lifted Curtain by Honore Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau decidedly falls into the latter category. While he's not known to many, Mirabeau is an eighteenth-century French revolutionary, politician...and writer of erotica. 

If his Wikipedia biography can be trusted (doubtful, but let's run with it!), Mirabeau led a colorful life. Disfigurement as the result of smallpox contracted at the age of three only served to earn his father's disdain. He engaged in a plethora of scandalous affairs, was condemned to death and imprisoned, etc., etc. Really, it reads like a novel. Funnily enough he and the Marquis de Sade were acquainted with one another but, despite their similarities, firmly disliked one another. This snippet concerning how he came to be married especially fascinated me:

After several months of failed attempts at being introduced to the heiress, Mirabeau bribed one of the young lady's maids to let him into her residence, where he pretended to have had a sexual encounter with Emilie. To avoid losing face, her father saw that they got married just a couple of days afterwards. 

I think I can safely assume that, even back then, this is not the how-we-met story about which a young girl dreamed.

With these biographical tidbits in mind, much of The Lifted Curtain doesn't surprise me: thin on plot, heavy on sexcapades in which rules and inhibitions merit no consideration. I won't delve into details in case any shy readers stumble upon this, but suffice it to say this novella seemingly promotes a libertinism in which anything goes in the bedroom...or out of it for that matter.

Yet in The Lifted Curtain and other similar texts I've noticed a worrying trend. While this novella smugly claims to promote sexual freedom in a repressive society, sexually liberated women undoubtedly threaten Mirabeau and his contemporaries. At the very least, a palpable air of discomfort permeates the genre. A stock figure emerges time and again: the woman who is too unrestrained, enjoys sex too much and inevitably comes to a bad end.

The character of Rose serves as a manifestation of archetype. Well, she's not a character, as I'm not sure Mirabeau explores any fictional personage with enough depth to warrant the term; so there's not much to say about her. What happens to her intrigues me. Shortly after her introduction in the narrative, the protagonist's father figure divulges the following:

Rose will be the victim of her own passion and fiery temperament. There is no holding her back. Already she is abandoning herself to pleasure with a fury that I have never before seen in a woman. You can bet your last franc that she will pay a heavy penalty for her excesses. 

Strong words. Interestingly enough, the father figure in question exhibits the most taboo behaviour in the narrative. By far. Nevertheless, his actions are unreservedly excused while the author condemns the woman. Sure enough, she soon meets the afore-mentioned inevitable bad end:

Unable to stop herself in her mad drive for pleasure. Rose finally succumbed to it. When she stopped menstruating, she had an abortion, which took a terrible toll on her. She suffered from agonizing fits of dizziness and her sight began to fail. She more resembled a walking wraith than a human being. The cheerful spirited young woman had vanished. Finally, the lingering illness brought her to the grave. 

Bleak indeed.

What's curious to me as a reader is this: we so often write off, no pun inteded, authors like Dickens for his blatant sexism. (And rightfully so! Much as I love him, misogyny was his flaw.) Yet Mirabeau, the Marquis de Sade and others often get a free pass because they're hiding behind this mask of sexual freedom. What they really mean is sexual freedom for men, or sexual liberation for women as it serves men's purposes. In my mind, this doesn't qualify as liberation at all. They are, as the film incarnation of Bridget Jones would say, 'just as bad as the rest of them.' Many have labelled this genre as progressive, but I just don't see it. While Mirabeau cries for revolution and liberty, his gender politics remain archaic.

Have you noticed any similar dichotomies between what authors claim to promote and what their writing actually suggests? I feel like this happens more frequently than we readers notice or acknowledge. But now that it's on my mind I'm trying to think of further instances. Can you offer any examples?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!


Happy Valentine's Day! I know many object to the commercializaton of February 14th (and I agree the cliches can easily induce nausea), but I maintain it's nice to have a holiday dedicated to love. Because love, actually, is all around. ;)

Last year on February 14th I wrote about the importance of expressing that love to all the important people in our lives. While I've attempted to abide by that philosophy this year, I've also decided to be my own Valentine today! Oscar Wilde, after all, did tell us that 'to love one's self is the beginning of a lifelong romance.' And I must say, I've rather enjoyed the romantic gestures from myself. I unashamedly bought myself flowers, indulged in luxurious naps, and I'll be whipping up a batch of chocolate cupcakes with pink buttercream frosting later.


I hope whatever you do today, you spend it surrounded by the ones you love!

P.S. Last year I also wrote a Valentine-themed post recounting my favourite literary couples. I enjoyed it so much, I have another one in the pipeline this year. Thoughts about what I've learned about love and relationships from the incomparable Jane Austen have invaded my brain, so expect a post sharing those details in the near future.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Simple Pleasures: Baby Hands With Baby Books


There's nothing cuter than chubby baby hands digging into a baby book. While watching my friend's children recently, I couldn't resist snapping a few photos of her sweet baby boy engrossed in a book. Isn't it wonderful to see little ones enjoying books, knowing that the interest will (with any luck) develop into a lifelong journey with literature as the years progress? This is where the love affair starts!





Monday, February 04, 2013

New Feature: Simple Pleasures


Sometimes art truly changes us, to the fibers of our being as the saying goes. Watching Amelie was undoubtedly one of those experiences for me. I remember being awed with the way she viewed the world, her capacity for imagination, her ability to appreciate the little pleasures each day affords as seen in the following clip:


(Author's Note: if you haven't seen Amelie, I suggest you do so immediately. I hate to hype up media, but this remains one of my favourite all-time films. It's poignant, life affirming and beautiful in every way.)

Since then, I've tried to incorporate her philosophy into my life. And oh, my! What a difference it makes. I've learned that this simple practice makes ordinary days meaningful. Taking notice of the smallest things (the aroma of spices stewing in the kitchen, listening to the rain fall while enveloped in the warmth of a blanket, sharing a joke with a friend): these seemingly insignificant details shape the rapid passing of time into a memorable and happy life.

So, I've decided to begin a new feature on this blog and share the simple pleasures that brighten my days...in the hope that doing so will brighten yours as well.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Celebrating 200 Years of Pride and Prejudice


With a flu virus so miserable I haven't even been able to indulge in some escapist reading in bed, this week past week has been a doozy. And while this is a few days late, I would be very remiss if I didn't give a little shout out to one of my most treasured books:

Happy 200th Birthday Pride and Prejudice! Here's to 200 more!

As I've said on this blog before, this novel marked my first experience reading a classic. It was my literary gateway drug. Therefore, I feel like I owe Jane Austen a debt for introducing me to the fabulous world of literature.

Speaking of Jane, I always wonder what she would think of all the Pride and Prejudice madness that endures (and only seems to increase!) so many years later, from Colin Firth in a Wet Shirt to Elizabeth Bennet as a zombie killer. She was so humorous and good natured, I have sneaking suspicion she's find it all rather amusing. Even after 200 years, we certainly haven't become bored with this story.

Somehow, I doubt we ever will.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Where I Want to Be, Via Bill Bryson


With so many work projects occupying my time, I haven't been able to indulge in pleasure reading as much as I would wish. Luckily, Bill Bryson has proved to be the perfect read for one who doesn't have, say, an entire afternoon to devote to the perusal of a book. Notes from a Small Island features little vignettes of the author's experiences in Britain, and I still feel like I'm able to fully grasp the essence of the text even if I only read a few pages while eating lunch or a short chapter before turning out the lights for bed.

{Tangential aside: has anybody noticed how difficult this is to achieve with a long novel? For me at least, it's impossible to truly immerse myself in a book like David Copperfield if I can only read small bits here and there. Detailed narratives demand a reader's attention, and if that's not something I'm able to give, I'm doomed to failure -- by which I mean, I set the book aside until a time with fewer distractions presents itself. Thoughts?}

Anyway, Bill Bryson immediately charmed with his description of first arriving in England. He fully captured the excitement, the air of possiblity permeating the atmosphere of one who finally sets foot on a long-desired travel destination. I found myself nodding in agreement as he shares his experience on pg. 15:

Everything that lay before me was new and mysterious and exciting in a way you can't imagine. England was full of words I'd never heard before -- streaky bacon, short back and sides, Belisha beacon, serviettes, high tea, ice cream cornet. I didn't know how to pronounce scone or pasty or Towcester or Slough, I had never heard of Tesco's, Perthshire or Denbighshire, council houses, Morecambe and Wise, railway cuttings, Christmas crackers, bank holidays, seaside rock, milk floats, trunk calls, Scotch eggs, Morris Minors, or Poppy Day. For all I knew, when a car had an L-plate on the back of it, it indicated that it was being driven by a leper. I was positively radiant with ignorance. The simplest transactions were a mystery to me. I saw a man in a newsagent's ask for "twenty Number Six" and receive cigarettes, and presumed for a long time afterward that everything was ordered by number in a newsagent's, like in a Chinese takeaway. I sat for half an hour in a pub before I realized that you had to fetch your own order, then tried the same thing in a tearoom and was told to sit down. 

The tearoom lady called me love. All the shop ladies called me love and most of the men called me mate. I hadn't been here twelve hours and already they loved me. And everyone ate the way I did. This was truly exciting. For years I'd been the despair of my mother because as a left-hander I politely but resolutely declined to eat the American way -- grasping the fork in your left hand to steady the food while cutting, then transferring it to your right hand to lift the food to your mouth. It seemed ridiculously cumbersome, and here suddenly was a whole country that ate the way I did. And people drove on the left! This was paradise. Before the day was half over, I knew that this was where I wanted to be.

Isn't that lovely? It perfectly encapsulates the appeal of the novel and that simultaneous warm feeling of familiarity when you find that, though you've come from far away and know so little, you've found something of yourself as well.

I remember flying into Heathrow all by myself, a scary venture as it was the first time I had traveled anywhere alone. I apprehensively collected my luggage, bought my first Tube ticket and boarded the train. To an American who had never traveled outside the country before, I'm not sure anything was more perplexing than hearing a voice inform me, 'This train is for Cockfosters.'

What the hell was a Cockfoster?! And why was the Underground catering to their transportation needs?

Despite the confused nature of my thoughts, I walked from the Tube station to my new flat utterly content. Everything was new, and yet I felt perfectly at home, like I was coming back to a place I had always known but somehow forgotten. 

Have any of your travels have produced similar sentiments? Have any of you read Bill Bryson's travel memoirs? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Overwhelmed


To say that I am currently feeling overwhelmed is an understatement. Professionally speaking, I have quite a bit on my plate at the moment: conferences to apply for, conferences papers that have been accepted need to be revised, student essays must be marked, funding applications filled out, proposals finetuned.

Unforunately, all these tasks seem to be engendering perncious thoughts of self-doubt that attack at the most inopportune times: am I any good at teaching? isn't this conference abstract pure rubbish? who will ever fund this drivel of words masquerading as a proposal? am I doomed to fail at everything in life?!

Oh, the melodrama!

At times like these, I always feel a strong desire to run away, to distance myself from the unpleasantness of a difficult situation. Right now I want to be on the moors, channeling Emily, Charlotte and Anne; especially Emily, who often escaped there herself. Provided a magical internal heater would protect me from all the wuthering, I'd love to sprawl out as the squishiness of the botanical life beneath provides comfortable cushioning, watch the clouds pass overhead and forget these nagging worries. Just simply be.

Then I remember it wasn't too long ago that I didn't have the luxury of stressing myself out about lesson plans or conference presentations. I didn't get to teach and I didn't get to share research with an academic community. While I definitely need to prioritize and work on stress management, isn't it wonderful that I have pursuits in my life that I care about so passionately? Not everybody has that. Many don't have the luxury of working at a job they love or, in this troubled economy, a job at all.(I was in that boat not too long ago!)

So over the next few weeks as I wrestle with managing multiple projects and the consequent anxieties, I'll do my best to remind myself that I'm pretty damn lucky to get to worry about such trivialities.

If all else fails, running away to the moors can always be my Plan B.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Sundance Here I Come!


I'm wild with excitement! The Sundance Film Festival begins today, and we have tickets!

Despite having lived in Utah for the majority of my life, I was always under the mistaken impression that one had to be somebody special to get tickets to one of world's most famous film festivals. Luckily for us, some tickets are reserved for locals, we signed up early, and my family and I will be attending four screenings over the next two weeks.

Today we'll be seeing Austenland (pictured above), an adaptation of Shannon Hale's novel concerning Austenitis at its most extreme. I can't wait to get up to Park City, see the movie, and just enjoy the overall atmosphere.

I'll definitely be providing updates about the festival, whether I spot any noteworthy celebs (generally, by my definition, those who have starred in beloved period pieces), and providing a few pictures. In the meantime, I wish you a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Poetry: The Food of Love or Faux Pas?


'I wonder who first discovered the efficacy of poetry in driving away love!'

'I have been used to consider poetry as the food of love,' said Darcy.

'Of a fine, stout, healthy love it may. Everything nourishes what is strong already. But if it be only a slight, thin sort of inclination, I am convinced that one good sonnet will starve it entirely away.'

-- Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice

Lately I've been wondering about the role poetry plays in dating, my thoughts on which begin with a little story.

Picture this:

A friend of mine recently went on a date which seemed to be going well: the conversation flowed, there was that spark of attraction which painful encounters lack. An invitation back to the date's Brooklyn apartment presented itself, and my friend accepted. 

Things were going very well!

Until suddenly the date in question, without encouragement of any kind, pulled out poetry that had been published in a small magazine and proceeded to read it aloud. 

My friend politely listened, silently wondering when she could make her escape without breaching the laws of etiquette or wounding tender feelings, when the date decided it was time to abandon poetry and play the guitar.

It was the final nail in the coffin. As far as I know, there has been no successive date. (Shocker!)

Sadly my friend is not alone in this predicament, for a similar occurrence happened to me. Perfectly normal conversations have been soiled by my unwelcome, and uninvited, subjection to poems about death. Because nothing says romance like melancholy writings on mortality? There I was, uncomfortably twiddling my thumbs while speculating how to respond without indicating that I wanted to hear more. I just wanted to get away; far, far away!

All this leads me to wonder if this sort of event transpires with frequency. In the intellectual/reader/writer/student dating pool, do overeager individuals often torment potential partners with similarly awkward encounters? 

I consider this to be a big no-no when it comes to dating (and social interactions in general for that matter). Perhaps it's motivated by a desire to bare one's soul to an object of attraction, but it comes off as vain and conceited. And if the poetry in question is bad, it comes off as groundlessly narcissistic in the grand tradition of Don Quixote.

Here's the dilemma: how does one appropriately respond to the song that sounds like nails on a chalkboard or the short story featuring the grammatical competency of a twelve-year-old? Do you proffer slight compliments? Offer an honest critique? Or do you simply say, 'Well, this has been fun, but I really must get home to shampoo my hair'?

No, no, just no. Particularly in the early stages of a relationship, I feel it's only considerate to wait for an invitation to share one's art. 

Elizabeth's right. There's no surer way to kill 'a slight, thin sort of inclination' than to read one's poetry uninvited. It only takes one sonnet. If you save that sonnet for when your significant other is already hopelessly in love, surely the rose-colored glasses will lead them to assure you of its brilliance...even if it's rubbish. 

Thoughts? Has this happened to anybody else out there? Are Elizabeth and I in the right, or do you agree with Darcy?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

End of Year Book Survey 2012

As mentioned in my Classics Club Readathon post, I picked up Anthony Trollope. I didn't get far before having to set it aside for work. Currently I'm investigating nineteenth-century sexuality in literature, so I've been reading some...colorful (for lack of a better word) texts as a result. 

Full confession: I'm starting to feel like a pervert!

Yes, it's all in the name of the research, but reading about a man who essentially sexually abuses the girl he's raised as a daughter yet has no qualms about it (as I've been doing this weekend) does tend to leave a bitter taste in one's mouth. 

And don't even get me started on the looks of inquisitive surprise the librarians give me as they hand over these 'colorful' inter-library loans. Time to cleanse my literary palate.

I thought now would be a good time to reminisce about the wonderful literature I read in 2012. While it's a bit woefully late, here are my responses to the questions posed by Jamie for her annual end of year survey.

Best book you read in 2012?

I Capture the Castle! As soon as I read Dodie Smith's memorable opening line, 'I write this sitting in the kitchen sink,' I was hooked. After devouring it in a matter of hours on New Year's Eve 2011, I wondered how any book could top it. Though I experienced some fantastic new stories throughout the year, no book ever did. Top it, that is. The delightfully quirky characters, the prose that creeps under skin, the charm of the castle in ruins: everything about this book enchanted me. This is an instant favourite I look forward to reading again and again...and again

More after the jump...