Tuesday, August 05, 2008
You may recognize the book "The Behaviour of Moths" by Poppy Adams. I met her at a book talk given by Wenlock Books. She was very interesting and personable. I'm about half way through now....and it is great. I've chosen it for our family book group and one of my sisters sped through it and loved it. I'll have to write a review soon.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Gaskell is one of those people I’ve wanted to read, but had been put off because I’ve been told her work can be very difficult to get through. Most of her books are about the hardness of life in the 1800’s and can be quite dense reading. However, when the BBC made this into a TV drama I thought I would give it a try. I didn’t get a chance to watch the programs, but I feel that I would have missed out a lot of I hadn’t read this book. It is FANTASTIC.....how can it not be when it starts out:
In the first place, Cranford is in possession of the Amazons; all the holders of houses, above a certain rent, are women. If a married couple come to settle in the town, somehow the gentleman disappears; he is either fairly frightened to death by being the only man in the Cranford evening parties, or he is accounted for by being with his regiment, his ship, or closely engaged in business all the week in the great neighbouring commercial town of Drumble, distant only twenty miles on a railroad. In short, whatever does become of the gentlemen, they are not at Cranford. (1)
Now, as a woman, how can you not find that intriguing! Especially when you have been told how little control women had back in that time? It is written from the standpoint of a young lady who visits. I think this was an interesting thing to do, get bored...go stay with someone for a few months. Back when you couldn’t easily go visit for a day, this seems to be the way to do things. She stays with several ladies during the time frame of the book and shows us life in several different living conditions. I enjoyed it, and would suggest it to anyone needing a light and enjoyable read.
I have to admit I enjoyed the book also because it was one of those tiny editions that you could easily see a young lady of the time period putting in her receptacle to pull out and read as she walked in the garden. It is about 3” by 4”, with tiny writing. I love these editions especially that have a large margin at the bottom. I can see someone even more reading these as they walked or sat in a garden, with plenty of room of their fingers to hold the pages open. So as you can see...I am a bibliophile of the extreme. Given an opportunity to read a book in a newer edition or an old one...I always choose the old. I think that it adds to the feel of the time period of the book.
Gaskell, Elizabeth. Cranford. London: Oxford University Press, 1965.
This book was much easier to read then Let Me Alone. The Kavan character isn’t central to the plot. Instead the plot revolves around the Lewison family. Cedric Lewison owns a department store chain, and has done very well for himself. Kavan, the author, I feel likes to show rot in families. Cedric doesn’t realize that he can’t control his partners anymore then he can control his family. Slowly things begin to change and go further out of his reach. His older son isn’t has business savy as he is and can’t take care of the business when Cedric becomes ill. His other son Martin, isn’t interested in the family business and has married a woman that has brings shame on the family. The daughter falls in love with the man that helps to topple Cedric’s empire. His partners take over the bulk of the shares and he is not longer in control of his business.
The Kavan character is involved only in a small way. We see her has she has left her husband and has moved back to England. She has opened a shop with a school friend, though this isn’t working out very well. Kavan just isn’t interested enough. When she decides to leave she feels that she has had an epiphany:
It was as if on this night of her twenty-fifth birthday someone had suddenly called her to account for herself. The sense of unreality had left her, she felt clear-headed as never before. She stood there in absolute honesty, looking into herself. She was suddenly, objectively, aware of the girl Anna Kavan, an individual human being, alive in the world, alone, without support, without obligations, capable of intelligent thought and responsible for her own destiny. For twenty-five years she had existed fortuitously. Her life had unrolled itself haphazard, without definite aim, direction or method. From laziness, from good nature, from thoughtlessness, from indifference, she had drifted into one meaningless situation after another. She had allowed chance external circumstances to control her life. She had relied vaguely for support on something indefinable and non-existent, on something outside herself. There were, she knew, elaborate systems of thought, philosophies and religions, specially designed to provide external support. But as far as she was concerned she knew they were useless, void. She was completely reliant upon herself, completely independent. She shuddered as she realised her utter freedom and the responsibility it implied. With perfect clearness she saw the futility of her past life; saw that it must be changed. She must change everything. Now, at once she must assume control of her existence. (55-56)
This all sounds great, but she finds that it isn’t that easy. For a woman of that age, she can’t just make her own decisions because she has no financial freedom. Even though she was in business with her friend, she was relying on her friend to make the money and her part had been finance by her Aunt. She was a good saleswoman, but her heart had to be in it, and it often wasn’t. She just wasn’t interested enough. She needed to find something that she could do herself, but that was impossible because she had not been taught skills. She ends up back under her Aunts financial control for awhile until she meets Martin Lewison, Cedric’s son. This is where the two stories collide. Anna and Martin fall madly in love with each other. Finally, you hope that Anna will find happiness. But of course, it isn’t to be. Martin can’t deal with the idea of having someone else relying on him. Germaine was ok as a wife, because she didn’t need him for anything. They got on with their own lives, and only because Cedric insisted did they divorce. But Martin finds it difficult to think that he is responsible for anyone.
There is so much more there, but I don’t want to chat on too long. The book is well worth a read and has themes that Kavan uses in most of her writings. I tried to read Goose Cross, her next book, but found it difficult going. I couldn’t take it home for one thing, because we had to Interlibrary Loan it from a library that made it reference only. I got about half way through so got the flavour of it. I can understand why it didn’t do as well as A Stranger Still, though the themes of not being in charge of your own existence are there.
Kavan, Anna. A Stranger Still. London: Peter Owen, 1995.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
I process the orders for the library I work for, and one of the tutors has ordered a few of Kavan's later works and the new biography "A Stranger on Earth" by Jeremy Reed. I've been reading this biography along with the books, to get an insight from someone. There isn't a whole lot of scholarly work out there about Kavan, that I've found yet. I'm going to keep looking though. I just think it is interesting that someone that I've discovered for myself is now going to be taught in a literature course.
I told you having the computer in bed would make it easier for me to write! I wonder how many writers actually write in bed???
So what does all this have to do with each other? You find out that each character is living out their own fantasy, but they soon end up all tangled up with the others. It is so much fun to be taken for the ride and to see what piece is going to fit in where.
This is Spark’s first book, and she bit off a bit more then she could handle….I thought with all the different plot lines…. but she handles it really well. At the end you feel that you’ve had a fun ride and all of the questions have been answered for you. Along with the fact, you get a lot of insight into each character.
I’ve found recently reading the writers of this era; they are really good at describing people and giving you a good explanation of the motives of the characters, without using psycho-babble. For instance Laurence’s Dad finally makes an appearance at the end of the book. He was either on one retreat or another.
…he had been given cause to wonder if he did not make his retreats too frequently. Amazing things occurred at home; extraordinary events which he never heard of till later.
‘Why didn’t you inform me at the time,
‘You were in retreat, Edwin.’
He had misgivings then, about his retreats. He told his spiritual director, ‘I might have done better to spend the time at home. My family have had to cope with difficulties…my son…my brother…my mother-in-law…one of our old servants…I might have done better had I not made so many retreats.’
‘You might have done worse,’ said the shrewd old priest, and sounded as if he meant it. It was a humiliating thought, which in turn was good for the soul.
‘They managed admirably without me,’ Edwin Manders admitted.
Edwin has qualms about being out of things at home, but in the end knows that he can’t really handle it. So he is better off in a retreat hiding from the world. I thought
(Spark, Muriel. The Comforters.
Friday, April 11, 2008
In fact I’ve been reading a lot. I just haven’t felt like sitting in front of the computer at home. I have to do so much of it at work. I’m going to try and use my laptop a bit more, so that I can type in bed where I usually do my reading. I’ll see if that encourages me. Only problem is, I keep hitting the wrong buttons....ugh!!! This keyboard is so different.
So what have I been reading.....I've been trying to get back into some of my mysteries, as well as keep up with my "header" reading. I've also been reading a very good book about depression "Just Shoot the Damn Dog" by Sally Brampton. If you have suffered from depression, or know someone going through it...it is a great book. Makes you know that even though you aren't "sane" you aren't "different" then any other depressive! (Though I have to admit I hate the title.....being a dog lover!)
I've waded through Helen Ferguson/Anna Kavan's "Let Me Alone". I was just working on the review for that, but not sure if I can manage it. It is a bit difficult. There are so many different parts to it. It is autobiographical, the main characters name Anna Kavan, was taken on years later by Ferguson. It describes much of what Ferguson's life must have been like, so you don't really know where fiction and non-fiction meet. There really isn't a plot, you are just going through birth to the early 20's of the main character. Unexplainable things happen to her by other people. For example, her Dad stands her against the barn and shoots her outline with a gun. She doesn't flinch or scream, and you don't really get a sense of why other then he wanted her to be strong, or to hate him. I can't decide. Happiness seems to always be enjoyed for short spurts before people around her effect her life in a negative way. I think in the end of the book, she is finally able to choose how she wants her life to be. Well, I'll find out. I'll be reading the sequel "A Stranger Still" next.I've also read the charming "Tales of Hill Top Farm" by Susan Wittig Albert. My mom had been bugging me for ages to read any of this series. I have to say I loved it. It helps that I love Beatrix Potter, who is the main character, and love the area the book is set in. I've been fortunate to have vacationed for a week in the Lake District and went to Hill Top Farm. My husband and I bought ourselves a large rustic wood carving of Squirrel Nutkin. The characters are interesting and like Rita Mae Brown's Sneaky Pie books, they talk...but only to each other, not to the humans.
I could go on, but I want to work on a real review....so Happy reading!
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
I was so very, very lucky to be able to get this book. I had to Interlibrary Loan it from
I was really interested to see what Kavan, since that is the name she changed to later I’ll use it here, wrote next after reading The Charmed Circle. Wow is it good. Again we are dealing with family, two sisters, who are inexplicably tied to each other. I just finished Night and Day by Virgina Woolf and I’m finding these books and the last book I reviewed very similar. The books are about what happens when you don’t actually tell people what you are thinking!
Emerald and Karen live in an apartment together. Emerald supports Karen by modelling. This is an excellent description of Karen:
“Karen could be trusted never to do anything efficiently. She had a genius for incompetence that maddened her sister. At times it really drove her almost to madness. But in spite of her resentment and perpetual sense of grievance that it aroused in her she could not resist. Emerald’s soul rebelled always with bitterness against the helplessness in Karen that forced her into every leading role, saddling her for ever with the entire responsibility of their joint lives. The responsibility was nauseous to her and yet unspeakably dear; a sweet torture. She could never forgive Karen for inflicting it. She was passionately devoted to her sister.” (10)
Karen always lives in a dream world, rarely worrying about how she is fed or what will happen from day to day. Instead she is thinking about pixies in the woods and her embroidery.
The relationship between
looked down at the hand lying on his own. In the pinkish glow of lamplight, it was wonderfully white and frail, as if refined away, with the blue veins showing their faint tracery. He frowned in bewilderment. He really did not understand his friend; and because he didn’t understand, he must always be on the defensive, a trifle suspicious of him.” (136) Edmond
The writing is well done,
“There was a certain kindliness about him that was rather touching. He seemed to watch her with an almost fatherly solicitude. It was difficult to withstand his gentle kindliness. Her heart warmed towards him. But then, all at once, she shuddered as though he had thrown a shadow upon her. Again she saw him as a heavy, indifferent man who encroached upon her with his imperceptiveness, inaccessibility, out of her secret world; to force her into contact with him. And this she could not tolerate. There could be no contact between them.” (99)
What changed her feelings towards him? Nothing that actually happens, her thoughts just flow from thinking about his kindness to his indifference.
When considering these reactions to relationship, it seems to me like they are just trying to keep people at arms length. Emerald and Karen neither want to really give in to anyone. So once they start liking someone, or see someone responding to them…they cut them off. They even do it to each other. Because of the way they act, others around them act defensively and have the same thought patterns. If the characters actually told each other about their feelings then she would have to make a definitely decision. Once someone actually tells Emerald that he loves her, she automatically runs. She can’t handle the truth any more then she can handle not knowing.
To let you know a bit more about the plot, the sisters go to
While this is going on, Emerald goes back to her life and finds it very difficult not to have Karen around. She finds her life shabby and boring compared to her selective memory of what life was like in the country. Her friend Carew takes her out and ends up confessing his love. She runs saying scathing things to him because she doesn’t know how to deal with true feelings. Morgan comes to her rescue and they make a trip to
Emerald of course is very bitter…as she was to begin with…with having to take care of Karen. She thought she could go back to the old life, but seeing what life could have been like makes it even harder for her. She finds out that Karen hasn’t been as true to her sister as Emerald has, well Emerald never explained her promise to Karen…so how was Karen to know she was causing so much grief? Karen and Morgan have started to see each other when Emerald has been out. They have found that they are very suited to each other. They are both a bit other worldly and Morgan appreciates her dreaminess and doesn’t see it as a slight to his ego. At the very end, Carew comes back to see Emerald. The book ends with him coming to visit and her unexpectedly and she excepts him into her apartment.
The book ends different then
Over all a great read, and if you can get your hands on a copy…even though I’ve given away the plot etc…you might find it interesting.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
I know people think he was selfish and put his parents through a lot of pain (and others who he met.) The thing is....his parents were selfish. Why should he have acted any different, what kind of role models were they? They didn't agree with how he wanted to live his life, and he didn't like the way they lived theirs. They didn't seem the kind of parents that would just accept what he wanted to do. Sometimes parents have to let their children make their own mistakes. The best thing a parent can do is tell them that they will support them not matter what. I'm not sure if he felt that they were......anyway...enough about that.
Another Anna Kavan book next week...
Saturday, January 05, 2008
Recently I was watching the Culture Show, that sounds pretentious but isn’t really. I like it because it covers everything from movies to the theatre, indie music to classical, and today’s art to the classics.
Anyway, they had Sean Penn on talking about his new movie based on this book. I was really intrigued. Penn had spent a lot of time trying to get this movie off of the ground and you could tell that it meant so much to him. The strength of his feeling really compelled me. I have a tendency not to be able to watch movies that have this much feeling…so I thought I would pick up the book and see what I thought.
The author Jon Krakauer is most famous for writing “Into Thin Air”, an account of a 1996 expedition to the summit of Everest, where 8 people died. I remember when this book came out and at the time, couldn’t bring myself to read it. (Another one of those…book is too popular…I’m not going to read it… things I do….which are sometime stupid….but hey! I have my ways!). But the fact that he wrote this book made it more interesting to me. I assumed that it was probably well written, and it was. I decided that if he was so interested in this kid that he wrote a book about him, I would like to know why.
So what made Penn and Krakauer interested in a kid that goes off into the woods of
This is one of the mysteries, why did he burn the money? You find out in the book that his last two years of education had been paid for by a friend of the family. The rest of the money he took and donated it to OXFAM. The money he burned amounted to a pitiful sum, just enough for him to live on for a week if he was careful…but he burns it. Of course he then needs money so he ends up hitchhiking and working as he goes. Did he feel that last bit of money he had wasn’t earned?
Part of me understands that he wanted to live an uncluttered life. He wanted to rely only on himself. He didn’t want to live for money. He wanted to live like the characters in his favourite books by Thoreau and Tolstoy. I don’t think he wanted others to rely on him. But why?
Many people Krakauer talked to thought Chris was one more fool that thought that he was indestructible and had the hubris to think he could survive on his own strength and intellect. I don’t think that Chris felt that way at all. In one of his last letters he said:
This is the last you shall hear from me Wayne. Arrived here 2 days ago. It was very difficult to catch rides in the
Please return all mail I receive to the sender. It might be a very long time before I return South.
If this adventure proves fatal and you don’t ever hear from me again, I want you to know you’re a great man. I know walk into the wild.
He knew that there was a good chance that he wasn’t going to make it, and yet he went.
I find myself wanting to tell you too much about the story. Krakauer writes so well that, if you are interested read the book. Krakauer goes back and forth and tells you the story in a really interesting way, quoting letters and using interviews that he did with people that were touched by Chris’s life. He also gives other examples of men that go off and try to make it living in the wild, even giving examples of his own feelings that run along this same vein. So why do they do it? I’m not sure I still understand. Maybe it is a gender thing, I can respect him for what he did….but as a woman I know that I need others. I know that I don’t want to do everything myself without some help and I like to help others. But maybe it isn’t, maybe it was because of the dirty little secret he found out about his father……that is another mystery…..
I’m not giving anything away when I say that Chris dies in the end alone in a bus abandoned in
I decided to check and see if the movie was showing in our area. It just so happens, that it is here for three days, today…tomorrow…and Monday. So I’ve booked tickets for Monday evening. I’m a bit apprehensive….but the actors are people that I like and I really want to see what Penn does with the story. It doesn't hurt that the soundtrack was written by Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. I’ll have to make another post to let you know what I think after seeing it.Krakauer, Jon. Into the Wild. Pan Books, 1996.