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Reading Life: 6th July 2015

A photograph of flowers

When I spoke of my reading slump last Wednesday, what I really meant was a reading block. I had no desire to read – I just wanted to play music. It was weird; it wasn’t that I didn’t want to read, it was that I just couldn’t. I couldn’t focus and there was little point. Strangely I got through The Tiger’s Wife during a harder part of that time and made it; I’m not really sure what happened. Now the desire is coming back and I’m glad.

I’ve read few epistolary novels; in fact I can only remember two, Jane Austen’s Lady Susan and a phone conversation novella from my teenage years. Something told me I didn’t enjoy them much but as you know, I loved The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society. Whether it’s a feature of novels told in letters or just part and parcel of Shaffer’s work I don’t know, but the personality, the sheer vitality, in it is something else. I’m inclined to seek out others – do you have any recommendations?

Anna Karenina is on a sort of hold. I paused whilst reading the Obreht – I’m not sure I’d have finished it already if I hadn’t. (I do see why Obreht won the Orange Prize but so far prefer the Henderson.) I’m not going to repeat history now I’ve found the Tolstoy translation that works for me. Yes Levin bores me, but Anna is just so alluring. The way Tolstoy writes Anna… he almost compels you to fall in love with her too; it’s like he’s pushing you to be in awe of her.

To my reviews I’ve added the era (decade) of each book as a genre tag, in hopes it’ll remind me to read more older books. If it also helps others identify books then that’s a bonus, but I must admit selfishness this time. Adding Suite Française under 2000s was difficult and difficult, too, was the confirmation that I have indeed read many more books from this current decade than any other. My second avid reader ‘stage’ may have begun in 2009, but I really need to read more classics.

I’ve started The Late Monsieur Gallet and at the moment my views are mixed. I’m loving the simplicity of the text but feel it’s lacking. The seemingly irrelevant detailing was expected (older work, written in a time when people had longer attention spans) but it’s difficult to get through. I expect part of the issue is the translator and, whilst understandable given how many of them there are, the numerous translators employed to work on the series may take some getting used to. I do like that Simenon throws you straight into the case and doesn’t beat around the bush.

Have I noted I’ve Among Others on my list? I’m looking forward to it.

Which decade have you read the most books from? Have you ever found the need to seek a different translation?

First Half Of 2015 Film Round-Up

It’s an interesting thing, I’ll watch many films early in the year – January, February – and then, ironically later, think I’ve lots of time to go. Of course in reality I do, but part of the point of these round ups is to get me watching more films and that’s not happening so much when I constantly think I’ve lots of time. For the most part I have enjoyed what I’ve seen. I’ve noted some Bollywood films from 2013 I want to watch (the year I stopped actively following the industry) and plan to get to more classics. I have never seen When Harry Met Sally, for example, which, from what I can ascertain, is quite strange.

Here are the films I have watched so far this year for which it was my first time watching them.

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Becoming Jane (UK, 2007) – About Jane Austen’s early years. Takes some liberties to tell a film-worthy tale, but overall good.

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Bee Movie (USA, 2007) – Excellent. Timely, relevant, very funny. The creators were quite obviously focused on adult enjoyment.

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Bright Days Ahead (Les Beaux Jours) (France, 2013) – I’d wanted to see this at the cinema so was happy to find it on BBC Four. Not as good as I’d expected, but a fair film nonetheless.

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Catching Fire (USA, 2013) – Best book; best film. The new cast members fit wonderfully.

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The Fault In Our Stars (USA, 2014) – There are differences to the book, obviously, but this is a solid effort and a good adaptation overall. It translates differently due to viewpoint, loses a bit of humour, but the emotion is there.

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Guardians Of The Galaxy (USA, 2014) – I can see it being a hit for big Marvel fans, but I prefer the ‘regular’ Marvel movies.

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The History Boys (UK, 2006) – I practically jumped in delight when I saw this on iplayer; I’d wanted to see it for a while after watching the French scene on Live at the National Theatre. The history and literature were of course right up my alley but I think what I loved most about this film was the way they didn’t just not try to hide the fact it was a play, they created a good balance between film and theatre. The acting was mostly theatrical and the ending perfectly staged.

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I Capture The Castle (UK, 2003) – Not as fun as the book, but not bad.

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If I Stay (USA, 2014) – Sickly sweet at times, though as it nears the end it is exceptional and the emotion works well. I noticed, as others have, that the direction could have been better – people swerve to avoid Mia which of course they shouldn’t be doing and are obviously doing so that they don’t hit the actress. Maybe it’s the musician in me, that I ‘get’ it, but I found it emotional, even though I knew the story.

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Krrish 3 (India, 2014) – Bollywood does Marvel. This isn’t a bad film but it could have done with a better director and not so much lifting from other films because albeit that Rakesh Roshan is good for the story it sometimes feel as though he’s too in awe of his son. I got the feeling they really wanted Shah Rukh Khan instead of Vivek Oberoi as Vivek plays his role as SRK would, and there is a bit too much violence, angst, and even for a Bollywood it goes on too long. I did love Kangna Ranaut, however. It’s the first film I’ve seen her in and I definitely want to see more.

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My Fake Fiancé (USA, 2010) – Fun, light escapism.

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Renoir (France, 2012) – It’s all right, but it’s just not very interesting. A biography would be better. I also felt that, although they obviously wanted to cover the meeting between the couple and combine it with the artist’s work, the film years would’ve been a better choice.

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The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (UK, 2015) – Not as good as the first, partly because the first wrapped up so completely, but still fun and worth seeing. Use of Bollywood songs much appreciated.

So a basic plan in mind, classics, famous films I’ve missed, but otherwise I’m going to go with the flow.

What’s the best film you’ve seen recently?

June 2015 Reading Round-Up

I’ve not had the mind or time to read as much; a mini reading slump and some major musical inspiration took care of that (I’m writing songs again). Still, I liked what I read, loved in some cases, and have A Brief History Of Time on the go, which is proving to be both fascinating and a good memory jogger. As for the news I had to tell you: I have been invited to be a panellist at a literary conference. After picking myself up from the floor, I accepted, and am looking forward to it. More details in due course.

All books are works of fiction.

The Books

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Mary Ann Shaffers and Annie Barrows: The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society – A writer searching for inspiration finds it in the content of letters she is sent by a man who buys an old book of hers from a second-hand shop. Excellent.

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Raymond Jean: Reader For Hire – A woman places an advert, seeking to become a reader for those who would like to be read to, and finds herself with a lot more power than she would ever have expected. There’s a fair amount to this; I’m still processing it.

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Téa Obreht: The Tiger’s Wife – A doctor recounts stories her grandfather told her. Would’ve been better without the doctor, if it had been told by the grandfather.

My favourite was The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society. (As much as I loved it, I’m happy to mention it only rarely given the length of the title.) I found the Obreht to be a slog.

Quotation Report

None this time.

Whilst we may have passed 21st and that’s always a bit sad for me, I’m kind of glad to move to July this year.

What was your favourite read this month?

Latest Acquisitions (May – June 2015)

Several today; I’m not sure where I’ll find the time, but it’ll happen.

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Amita Trasi: The Color Of Our Sky – I admit this was a bit of an impulse decision; nice cover, Indian setting, front page of NetGalley. I’ve started it and it’s okay but there’s a fair amount of effort being expended to remind you that it’s set in India.

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Angela Thirkell: The Brandons – I’ve read about this series, it sounds good, and I want to read more fiction from this period. I’m aware this is halfway through the series but from what I can ascertain, this shouldn’t matter. (Please correct me if that’s wrong!)

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F Scott Fitzgerald: Tender Is The Night – It’s been too long since I read The Great Gatsby and watching Midnight In Paris recently I felt I had to read it soon.

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Georges Simenon: The Late Monsieur GalletThis one’s rather obvious. Looking forward to it.

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Julia Stoneham: Evie – One of those random choices. I’ve since found out it’s the last book in a series…

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Julie Kagawa: TalonThe Iron Fey may have its issues but I find Kagawa’s style easy to read and compelling.

What have you acquired/bought/borrowed recently?

On Impact And Remembrance

A photograph of books that have impacted me for various reasons: John Green's The Fault In Our Stars; F Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby; Irène Némirovsky's Suite Française; Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca; Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child; Susan Cain's Quiet

If I don’t remember a book’s impact on me any more, surely it didn’t deserve the (high) rating I gave it. I’m paraphrasing a comment Alice made here a while back – the sentiment has stayed with me. I like the thought and think it worthy of some consideration. It makes me wonder: does a book have to have a lasting impact? What about the various ‘sorts’ of impacts?

I’m of the opinion that it depends on the type of book, the point of the book. Chick-lit, for example, is often about the here and now, your enjoyment of the book as you read it. It’s predictable; that’s okay. It may not have a lasting impact so to speak; that’s okay. However enjoyment itself can be a lasting impact – it can make us want to read more by the author and to read more in the same genre; and even if we weren’t reading for studious purposes we may find something we want to research.

And the point of some books can be the ride, the fun of it. It’s that that we take away from some books, our recommendation. I’ve Taylor Stevens’ The Doll in mind. There are social issues in it but it’s the pacing you take away with you, the ride, the adrenaline. It’s rather like a thriller film.

This is the crunch of it – yes, I can remember a fair amount about Stevens’ novel but then I read it only last year. I expect it won’t be as clear in the future. What will remain will be the experience and that’ll be strong enough for me to carry on saying it’s a 5-star read.

Ambiguous endings – that is, endings that are ambiguous for good reason – almost always have a lasting impact; you mull over the contents trying to work them out. One could speculate some are created for that very purpose. You’re going to remember that ending, the sentiment. It’ll likely outlive your memory of the rest of the book. I’d say some ambiguous endings, particularly those that don’t work or make ‘writing sense’, have been written to provoke a better reaction and impact than the book may otherwise have had.

It may be more the feeling or the lesson that you remember and again, that could be the point. Having recently finished The Awakening I can say I’m likely to remember the point more than the specifics of the story. I remember the thoughts of The Secrets Of The Jin-Shei – pressure, a society where the women are the leaders – but other than a couple of scenes I don’t remember the written content. Northern Lights: the sentiment, and the way Pullman includes souls – and I’ve read it twice. On Gold Mountain: the feeling of a good book, an interesting family.

I think it does come down to impact, the type of impact. Stating that there can be various types and that some are more important or more crucial than others is, I think, key.

What do you think?


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