Monday, 30 April 2012

A to Z Challenge - Favourite Books - Ze Forumites at Ze Compuserve Zone

Ze Forumites are many!
e Forumites are brilliant!
e prolific and awesome Forumites include - and here I've listed only those authors whom I've actually read; visit the Compuserve Books and Writers Forum to discover all the others:

Zan Marie Steadham - I've got an interview with her coming up on Friday!
Diana Gabaldon (I would never have discovered the Forum if it wasn't fo her!)
(not to forget the serial story over at All The World's Our Page)
Neil Gaiman (yes! he was a Forumite once! wish he'd drop by again sometime...)

Congratulations A-Z bloggers! Thanks to the A-Z team for bringing us together:
Tossing It Out (Arlee Bird)
Amlokiblogs (Damyanti Biswas)
Life is Good (Tina Downey)
Cruising Altitude 2.0 (DL Hammons)
Retro-Zombie (Jeremy Hawkins)
The Warrior Muse (Shannon Lawrence)
The QQQE (Matthew MacNish)
Pearson Report (Jenny Pearson)
No Thoughts 2 Small (Konstanz Silverbow)
Breakthrough Blogs (Stephen Tremp)
Coming Down The Mountain (Karen Jones Gowen)

See you next year!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

A to Z Challenge - Favourite Books - Charles Bukowski

You Get So Alone At Times That It Just Makes Sense by Charles Bukowski.

The first Bukowski I ever read were the short stories in The Most Beautiful Woman In Town ("Six Inches", "Life in a Texas Whorehouse", and more). He used to be (and maybe still is) hard to find in bookstores (though nowadays I suppose you'd just go on Amazon and click on 'add to cart'), even second hand bookstores. I guess he's one of those authors whose books are bought by true fans, who don't turn around and return the copies to the bookstore.

Also, expensive. I was 14 or so when I first read him (based on, get this, the fact that Per Gessle of Roxette read him) and having to shell out over 20$ for each book and spoken word CD was a blow to my limited funds. It was worth it, though. I realised later on (read: as the Internet became more populated) that he's a favourite with those who simply quote his more salacious work. But I don't recall those aspects making much of an impression on me when I was younger. Given my mindset at the time, I felt I understood best his blasé attitudes, his brilliant and deceptively simple way of articulating what really mattered in day to day life. To wit, The Shoelace.

I think I read him at the right time, too, because I was reading all the Dostoyevsky and Hemingway and so on I could get my hands on, so that when Buk referred to them, I knew what he was talking about. Only a few years ago, though, did I finally get around to reading John Fante.

I've tried to find a few poems of his to share with you, but back when I used to type up all my favourite poetry (there was that memorable weekend I typed out all of T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets, before returning the book to the library), I was saving things on floppy disks and hard disks, and laptops don't even have slots for them anymore. Instead, I found this: Part of a book review I did for Pulp, his last book published before his death (I was about 17 or so when I wrote this, a few years after that):
"When Bukowski died over three years ago, at the age of 74, there was a brief mention in the papers, a review of his final novel, Pulp, in the same day's edition, and then no other word ever again. This is a shame, since Bukowski is a very interesting man, and one of the most prolific writers. His writings are generally accounts of his experiences and opinions. This may seem like a boring cliche, only Bukowski's life is anything but. He touches on all levels of society in his writings, and finds something to say about them all. His fiction includes short stories about a man who was shrunk down to six inches by a witch, and an aging Adolf Hitler who replaced his brain with that of the President of the United States in order to take over the world.
One of the more unexpected places where one can find Bukowski's works is in Turkey. Yes, he has been published here - yet he is found more easily in the stalls of street vendors than in the major bookstores. Although the bigger chains do carry him, they do not smile in acknowledgment when you rush to the counter to purchase a copy. Turkish stall vendors, on the other hand, who stand so close to the books that they are eyeing your every glance at every title, will grin as you hover over Bukowski, and look at you warmly as you hold out your cash. The greatest advantage to purchasing a translated Bukowski rather than in his original English, is the price. Compared to the extremely high prices of Chapters bookstore in downtown Montreal, the translated copies on the streets in Turkey are significantly lower. His books may also be purchased over the internet from the States. No matter where one may purchase a Bukowski book, it is definitely worth its price. There are none of his books in the second hand stores in Montreal, which shows that he is definitely a writer worth hanging on to."
"Somebody at one of these places asked me: 'what do you do? How do you write, create?' You don't, I told them. You don't try. That's very important: not to try, either for Cadillacs, creation or immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more. It's like a bug high on the wall. You wait for it to come to you. When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it. Or if you like its looks, you make a pet out of it." -- Bukowski

Friday, 27 April 2012

A to Z Challenge - Favourite Books - Hans Christian Andersen

X is for Hans Christian Andersen's The Tinderbox. And all the other stories, including The Snow Queen. I've posted all of The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf before.

Here's The Fir Tree:

Out in the woods stood such a pretty little fir tree. It grew in a good place, where it had plenty of sun and plenty of fresh air. Around it stood many tall comrades, both fir trees and pines.

The little fir tree was in a headlong hurry to grow up. It didn't care a thing for the warm sunshine, or the fresh air, and it took no interest in the peasant children who ran about chattering when they came to pick strawberries or raspberries. Often when the children had picked their pails full, or had gathered long strings of berries threaded on straws, they would sit down to rest near the little fir. "Oh, isn't it a nice little tree?" they would say. "It's the baby of the woods." The little tree didn't like their remarks at all.

Next year it shot up a long joint of new growth, and the following year another joint, still longer. You can always tell how old a fir tree is by counting the number of joints it has.

"I wish I were a grown-up tree, like my comrades," the little tree sighed. "Then I could stretch out my branches and see from my top what the world is like. The birds would make me their nesting place, and when the wind blew I could bow back and forth with all the great trees."

It took no pleasure in the sunshine, nor in the birds. The glowing clouds, that sailed overhead at sunrise and sunset, meant nothing to it.

In winter, when the snow lay sparkling on the ground, a hare would often come hopping along and jump right over the little tree. Oh, how irritating that was! That happened for two winters, but when the third winter came the tree was so tall that the hare had to turn aside and hop around it.

"Oh, to grow, grow! To get older and taller," the little tree thought. "That is the most wonderful thing in this world."

In the autumn, woodcutters came and cut down a few of the largest trees. This happened every year. The young fir was no longer a baby tree, and it trembled to see how those stately great trees crashed to the ground, how their limbs were lopped off, and how lean they looked as the naked trunks were loaded into carts. It could hardly recognize the trees it had known, when the horses pulled them out of the woods.

Where were they going? What would become of them?

In the springtime, when swallows and storks came back, the tree asked them, "Do you know where the other trees went? Have you met them?"

The swallows knew nothing about it, but the stork looked thoughtful and nodded his head. "Yes, I think I met them," he said. "On my way from Egypt I met many new ships, and some had tall, stately masts. They may well have been the trees you mean, for I remember the smell of fir. They wanted to be remembered to you."

"Oh, I wish I were old enough to travel on the sea. Please tell me what it really is, and how it looks."

"That would take too long to tell," said the stork, and off he strode.

"Rejoice in your youth," said the sunbeams. "Take pride in your growing strength and in the stir of life within you."

And the wind kissed the tree, and the dew wept over it, for the tree was young and without understanding.

When Christmas came near, many young trees were cut down. Some were not even as old or as tall as this fir tree of ours, who was in such a hurry and fret to go traveling. These young trees, which were always the handsomest ones, had their branches left on them when they were loaded on carts and the horses drew them out of the woods.

"Where can they be going?" the fir tree wondered. "They are no taller than I am. One was really much smaller than I am. And why are they allowed to keep all their branches? "Where can they be going?"

"We know! We know!" the sparrows chirped. "We have been to town and peeped in the windows. We know where they are going. The greatest splendor and glory you can imagine awaits them. We've peeped through windows. We've seen them planted right in the middle of a warm room, and decked out with the most splendid things-gold apples, good gingerbread, gay toys, and many hundreds of candles."

"And then?" asked the fir tree, trembling in every twig. "And then? What happens then?"

"We saw nothing more. And never have we seen anything that could match it."

"I wonder if I was created for such a glorious future?" The fir tree rejoiced. "Why, that is better than to cross the sea. I'm tormented with longing. Oh, if Christmas would only come! I'm just as tall and grown-up as the trees they chose last year. How I wish I were already in the cart, on my way to the warm room where there's so much splendor and glory. Then-then something even better, something still more important is bound to happen, or why should they deck me so fine? Yes, there must be something still grander! But what? Oh, how I long: I don't know what's the matter with me."

"Enjoy us while you may," the air and sunlight told him. "Rejoice in the days of your youth, out here in the open."

But the tree did not rejoice at all. It just grew. It grew and was green both winter and summer-dark evergreen. People who passed it said, "There's a beautiful tree!" And when Christmas time came again they cut it down first. The ax struck deep into its marrow. The tree sighed as it fell to the ground. It felt faint with pain. Instead of the happiness it had expected, the tree was sorry to leave the home where it had grown up. It knew that never again would it see its dear old comrades, the little bushes and the flowers about it-and perhaps not even the birds. The departure was anything but pleasant.

The tree did not get over it until all the trees were unloaded in the yard, and it heard a man say, "That's a splendid one. That's the tree for us." Then two servants came in fine livery, and carried the fir tree into a big splendid drawing-room. Portraits were hung all around the walls. On either side of the white porcelain stove stood great Chinese vases, with lions on the lids of them. There were easy chairs, silk-covered sofas and long tables strewn with picture books, and with toys that were worth a mint of money, or so the children said.

The fir tree was planted in a large tub filled with sand, but no one could see that it was a tub, because it was wrapped in a gay green cloth and set on a many-colored carpet. How the tree quivered! What would come next? The servants and even the young ladies helped it on with its fine decorations. From its branches they hung little nets cut out of colored paper, and each net was filled with candies. Gilded apples and walnuts hung in clusters as if they grew there, and a hundred little white, blue, and even red, candles were fastened to its twigs. Among its green branches swayed dolls that it took to be real living people, for the tree had never seen their like before. And up at its very top was set a large gold tinsel star. It was splendid, I tell you, splendid beyond all words!

"Tonight," they all said, "ah, tonight how the tree will shine!"

"Oh," thought the tree, "if tonight would only come! If only the candles were lit! And after that, what happens then? Will the trees come trooping out of the woods to see me? Will the sparrows flock to the windows? Shall I take root here, and stand in fine ornaments all winter and summer long?"

That was how much it knew about it. All its longing had gone to its bark and set it to arching, which is as bad for a tree as a headache is for us.

Now the candles were lighted. What dazzling splendor! What a blaze of light! The tree quivered so in every bough that a candle set one of its twigs ablaze. It hurt terribly.

"Mercy me!" cried every young lady, and the fire was quickly put out. The tree no longer dared rustle a twig-it was awful! Wouldn't it be terrible if it were to drop one of its ornaments? Its own brilliance dazzled it.

Suddenly the folding doors were thrown back, and a whole flock of children burst in as if they would overturn the tree completely. Their elders marched in after them, more sedately. For a moment, but only for a moment, the young ones were stricken speechless. Then they shouted till the rafters rang. They danced about the tree and plucked off one present after another.

"What are they up to?" the tree wondered. "What will happen next?"

As the candles burned down to the bark they were snuffed out, one by one, and then the children had permission to plunder the tree. They went about it in such earnest that the branches crackled and, if the tree had not been tied to the ceiling by the gold star at top, it would have tumbled headlong.

The children danced about with their splendid playthings. No one looked at the tree now, except an old nurse who peered in among the branches, but this was only to make sure that not an apple or fig had been overlooked.

"Tell us a story! Tell us a story!" the children clamored, as they towed a fat little man to the tree. He sat down beneath it and said, "Here we are in the woods, and it will do the tree a lot of good to listen to our story. Mind you, I'll tell only one. Which will you have, the story of Ivedy-Avedy, or the one about Humpty-Dumpty who tumbled downstairs, yet ascended the throne and married the Princess?"

"Ivedy-Avedy," cried some. "Humpty-Dumpty," cried the others. And there was a great hullabaloo. Only the fir tree held its peace, though it thought to itself, "Am I to be left out of this? Isn't there anything I can do?" For all the fun of the evening had centered upon it, and it had played its part well.

The fat little man told them all about Humpty-Dumpty, who tumbled downstairs, yet ascended the throne and married the Princess. And the children clapped and shouted, "Tell us another one! Tell us another one!" For they wanted to hear about Ivedy-Avedy too, but after Humpty-Dumpty the story telling stopped. The fir tree stood very still as it pondered how the birds in the woods had never told it a story to equal this.

"Humpty-Dumpty tumbled downstairs, yet he married the Princess. Imagine! That must be how things happen in the world. You never can tell. Maybe I'll tumble downstairs and marry a princess too," thought the fir tree, who believed every word of the story because such a nice man had told it.

The tree looked forward to the following day, when they would deck it again with fruit and toys, candles and gold. "Tomorrow I shall not quiver," it decided. "I'll enjoy my splendor to the full. Tomorrow I shall hear about Humpty-Dumpty again, and perhaps about Ivedy-Avedy too." All night long the tree stood silent as it dreamed its dreams, and next morning the butler and the maid came in with their dusters.

"Now my splendor will be renewed," the fir tree thought. But they dragged it upstairs to the garret, and there they left it in a dark corner where no daylight ever came. "What's the meaning of this?" the tree wondered. "What am I going to do here? What stories shall I hear?" It leaned against the wall, lost in dreams. It had plenty of time for dreaming, as the days and the nights went by. Nobody came to the garret. And when at last someone did come, it was only to put many big boxes away in the corner. The tree was quite hidden. One might think it had been entirely forgotten.

"It's still winter outside," the tree thought. "The earth is too hard and covered with snow for them to plant me now. I must have been put here for shelter until springtime comes. How thoughtful of them! How good people are! Only, I wish it weren't so dark here, and so very, very lonely. There's not even a little hare. It was so friendly out in the woods when the snow was on the ground and the hare came hopping along. Yes, he was friendly even when he jumped right over me, though I did not think so then. Here it's all so terribly lonely."

"Squeak, squeak!" said a little mouse just then. He crept across the floor, and another one followed him. They sniffed the fir tree, and rustled in and out among its branches.

"It is fearfully cold," one of them said. "Except for that, it would be very nice here, wouldn't it, you old fir tree?"

"I'm not at all old," said the fir tree. "Many trees are much older than I am."

"Where did you come from?" the mice asked him. "And what do you know?" They were most inquisitive creatures.

"Tell us about the most beautiful place in the world. Have you been there? Were you ever in the larder, where there are cheeses on shelves and hams that hang from the rafters? It's the place where you can dance upon tallow candles-where you can dart in thin and squeeze out fat."

"I know nothing of that place," said the tree. "But I know the woods where the sun shines and the little birds sing." Then it told them about its youth. The little mice had never heard the like of it. They listened very intently, and said, "My! How much you have seen! And how happy it must have made you."

"I?" the fir tree thought about it. "Yes, those days were rather amusing." And he went on to tell them about Christmas Eve, when it was decked out with candies and candles.

"Oh," said the little mice, "how lucky you have been, you old fir tree!"

"I am not at all old," it insisted. "I came out of the woods just this winter, and I'm really in the prime of life, though at the moment my growth is suspended."

"How nicely you tell things," said the mice. The next night they came with four other mice to hear what the tree had to say. The more it talked, the more clearly it recalled things, and it thought, "Those were happy times. But they may still come back-they may come back again. Humpty-Dumpty fell downstairs, and yet he married the Princess. Maybe the same thing will happen to me." It thought about a charming little birch tree that grew out in the woods. To the fir tree she was a real and lovely Princess.

"Who is Humpty-Dumpty?" the mice asked it. So the fir tree told them the whole story, for it could remember it word by word. The little mice were ready to jump to the top of the tree for joy. The next night many more mice came to see the fir tree, and on Sunday two rats paid it a call, but they said that the story was not very amusing. This made the little mice to sad that they began to find it not so very interesting either.

"Is that the only story you know?" the rats asked.

"Only that one," the tree answered. "I heard it on the happiest evening of my life, but I did not know then how happy I was."

"It's a very silly story. Don't you know one that tells about bacon and candles? Can't you tell us a good larder story?"

"No," said the tree.

"Then good-by, and we won't be back," the rats said, and went away.

At last the little mice took to staying away too. The tree sighed, "Oh, wasn't it pleasant when those gay little mice sat around and listened to all that I had to say. Now that, too, is past and gone. But I will take good care to enjoy myself, once they let me out of here."

When would that be? Well, it came to pass on a morning when people came up to clean out the garret. The boxes were moved, the tree was pulled out and thrown-thrown hard-on the floor. But a servant dragged it at once to the stairway, where there was daylight again.

"Now my life will start all over," the tree thought. It felt the fresh air and the first sunbeam strike it as if it came out into the courtyard. This all happened so quickly and there was so much going around it, that the tree forgot to give even a glance at itself. The courtyard adjoined a garden, where flowers were blooming. Great masses of fragrant roses hung over the picket fence. The linden trees were in blossom, and between them the swallows skimmed past, calling, "Tilira-lira-lee, my love's come back to me." But it was not the fir tree of whom they spoke.

"Now I shall live again," it rejoiced, and tried to stretch out its branches. Alas, they were withered, and brown, and brittle. It was tossed into a corner, among weeds and nettles. But the gold star that was still tied to its top sparkled bravely in the sunlight.

Several of the merry children, who had danced around the tree and taken such pleasure in it at Christmas, were playing in the courtyard. One of the youngest seized upon it and tore off the tinsel star.

"Look what is still hanging on that ugly old Christmas tree," the child said, and stamped upon the branches until they cracked beneath his shoes.

The tree saw the beautiful flowers blooming freshly in the garden. It saw itself, and wished that they had left it in the darkest corner of the garret. It thought of its own young days in the deep woods, and of the merry Christmas Eve, and of the little mice who had been so pleased when it told them the story of Humpty-Dumpty.

"My days are over and past," said the poor tree. "Why didn't I enjoy them while I could? Now they are gone-all gone."

A servant came and chopped the tree into little pieces. These heaped together quite high. The wood blazed beautifully under the big copper kettle, and the fir tree moaned so deeply that each groan sounded like a muffled shot. That's why the children who were playing near-by ran to make a circle around the flames, staring into the fire and crying, "Pif! Paf!" But as each groans burst from it, the tree thought of a bright summer day in the woods, or a starlit winter night. It thought of Christmas Eve and thought of Humpty-Dumpty, which was the only story it ever heard and knew how to tell. And so the tree was burned completely away.

The children played on in the courtyard. The youngest child wore on his breast the gold star that had topped the tree on its happiest night of all. But that was no more, and the tree was no more, and there's no more to my story. No more, nothing more. All stories come to an end.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

A to Z Challenge - Favourite Books - White Castle, and E. B. White

White Castle, by Orhan Pamuk:

This was the first Pamuk story I read, about a Venetian in the 17th Century, who is captured and taken to Constantinople. I read it in translation and loved the ideas, the words, the exploration of the clash of cultures.

Then I tried to read My Name Is Red in Turkish, and simply couldn't get into it. It sat in my To Read pile for months and months - until last December/January when I fell into it (in translation) and couldn't let go. Among the other narrators in the story, this one, as Paul Auster's Timbuktu (featured on 16 April), features a dog:

"I'm a dog, and because you humans are less rational beasts than I, you're telling yourselves, 'Dogs don't talk.' Nevertheless, you seem to believe a story in which corpses speak and characters use words they couldn't possible know. Dogs do speak, but only to those who know how to listen."

Also, there's this quote about reading: "A letter doesn't communicate by words alone. A letter, just like a book, can be read by smelling it, touching it and fondling it. Thereby, intelligent folk will say, 'Go on then, read what the letter tells you!' whereas the dull-witted will say, 'Go on then, read what he's written!"

I'm looking forward to reading his books about Istanbul.

Meanwhile, where would we writers be without E. B. White? Setting aside The Elements of Style, though, let's look at Charlotte's Web:

Wilbur is pretty terrific, isn't he?

One of my favourite parts has always been Fern's mother's conversation with Dr Dorian about Fern and talking animals and miracles:

"'Do you understand how there could be any writing in a spider's web?'

'Oh, no,' said Dr. Dorian. 'I don't understand it. But for that matter I don't understand how a spider learned to spin a web in the first place. When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle.'

'What's miraculous about a spider's web?' said Mrs. Arable. 'I don't see why you say a web is a miracle - it's just a web.'

'Ever try to spin one?' asked Dr. Dorian.

Mrs. Arable shifted uneasily in her chair. 'No,' she replied. 'But I can crochet a doily and I can knit a sock.'

'Sure,' said the doctor. 'But somebody taught you, didn't they?'

'My mother taught me.'

'Well, who taught a spider? A young spider knows how to spin a web without any instructions from anybody. Don't you regard that as a miracle?'

'I suppose so,' said Mrs. Arable. 'I never looked at it that way before. Still, I don't understand how those words got into the web. I don't understand it, and I don't like what I can't understand.'

'None of us do,' said Dr. Dorian, sighing. 'I'm a doctor. Doctors are supposed to understand everything. But I don't understand everything, and I don't intend to let it worry me.'
Mrs. Arable fidgeted. 'Fern says the animals talk to each other. Dr. Dorian, do you believe animals talk?'

'I never heard one say anything,' he replied. 'But that proves nothing. It is quite possible that an animal has spoken civilly to me and that I didn't catch the remark because I wasn't paying attention. Children pay better attention than grownups. If Fern says that the animals in
Zuckerman's barn talk, I'm quite ready to believe her. Perhaps if people talked less, animals would talk more.'"

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

A to Z Challenge - Favourite Books - Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Voyage of the Dawn Treader, every other book in the Chronicles of Narnia, and all of C.S. Lewis' other work.

The only ones I haven't read yet are Boxen, and his journals from his 20s, All My Life Before Me (I'm halfway through).

I mentioned Pauline Baynes yesterday; here are a few of her Chronicles of Narnia illustrations:

the cover
Eustace as a dragon
the loveliest, cosiest ship ever

And then there's the image that started it all; Baynes' rendition of the image Lewis first saw in his mind, from which all Narnia was derived:

Lucy and Mr Tumnus:

Also, a highly respectable marshwiggle:

No wait, that's a Neil Gaiman.

I meant Puddleglum:

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

A to Z Challenge - Favourite Books - UK Classic Children's Stories, and Me on Nutschell

United Kingdom classic children's stories and authors. There are so many, I don't know where to begin!

E. Nesbit

J. Barrie

A. A. Milne

K. Grahame

A. Lang

W. de la Mare

M. Chute

E. Blyton

J. Nimmo

R. Dahl

L. R. Banks

S. Townsend

G. MacDonald

R. L. Stevenson

Honourable mentions to James Herriott, who writes for all ages, and Margery Sharp, who apparently wrote children's stories as well, but I've only read her Britannia Mews, as well as illustrators Arthur Rackham and Pauline Baynes.

I'm sure I've forgotten some - which authors would you add?

Meanwhile, a while back, I was featured on Nutschell's blog!

Monday, 23 April 2012

A to Z Challenge - Favourite Books - The House of All Sorts by Emily Carr

The House of All Sorts by Emily Carr.

You know what's odd? I can't remember how I discovered the writing of Emily Carr. I must have picked up Klee Wyck at the Ottawa or Montreal gallery, but I wonder what drew me to her - was it the back cover copy? The brief biography on the last page? I wonder, because now I can't remember what it was like not to know her.

I urge you to read her stories - that link to Klee Wyck is to the Australian Gutenberg site, where they have it for free! Meanwhile, here are a few of my favourite paintings:

Shore and Forest, Cordova Bay

Tree in Autumn

War Canoe, Alert Bay

Westcoast Seashore

Saturday, 21 April 2012

A to Z Challenge - Favourite Books - Swiftly Tilting Planet, A by Madeleine l'Engle

Swiftly Tilting Planet, A, and the other three books in the Time Quartet by Madeleine l'Engle: A Wind in the Door, A Wrinkle in Time and Many Waters - as well as An Acceptable Time.

Fewmets. Mitochondria. Just a couple of things I learned about when I first discovered these books. Kything - I wish I could kythe with some people. And even now the thought of Unnaming frightens me.

Which special words have you learned from your favourite books?

By the way, Rach is having an awesome month-long contest for the A-Z!

Friday, 20 April 2012

A to Z Challenge - Favourite Books - Rilla of Ingleside by L. M. Montgomery

Rilla of Ingleside, the last book in L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series.

I love this series since it reveals so much about what life was like in Canada at the turn of the last century, and this book especially, as it's set during World War I. I know it sounds odd whenever I say that, but I really do love reading stories about ordinary people in World War I and World War II.

Would you believe I still haven't visited Prince Edward Island? I have been to Guelph, Ontario, though - the University there has a collection of Montgomery's writing, apparently, which I only just found out about (next time I go to the Fergus Scottish Festival, I'll definitely have to stop by) including her journals - I'd love to read those! - and exciting pages such as this, a handwritten page of Rilla of Ingleside:

Bernice Thurman Hunter, in her Middle Grade series about Booky, featured a scene where Booky meets L. M. Montgomery, based on Hunter's own meeting with Montgomery:

"She received the following advice from Montgomery on July 2, 1937: 'You ask if you are too young to be writing a book with the expectation of publishing. I would say emphatically much too young. I cannot think any girl of fourteen, no matter how earnest and gifted she might be, could possibly write a book which any publisher would accept. But if you mean writing a book for your own pleasure and for training in the art of expression and creation then age has nothing to do with it. It will be good practice for you...

'Do not ever consider your writing more important than your studies. Nobody needs a good education more than a would-be writer ... You have chosen a very interesting but exacting career... if you have talent and perseverence you will succeed in the end." (The L. M. Montgomery Album by Alexandra Heilbron)"

I took this quote from the Anne of Green Gables and L. M. Montgomery Lexicon. A fuller account is available in the book Remembering Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

A to Z Challenge - Favourite Books - Quin, the Mysterious Mr., and Recalling Details of Books

Quin, the Mysterious Mr.

Or anything by Agatha Christie. My grandmother had a lot of her books and I would reread them every summer. Except for, maybe, the culprits in The Hallowe'en Party and And Then There Were None/Ten Little Indians, I always tend to forget who the murderer is.

Is it just me? I can't tell if it's because I read too quickly, or because I don't take notes (I tend to remember things better if I've written them down).

Instead of the culprit, I easily recall the more emotional matters - who was in love with whom, who felt slighted by a former ally.

And, of course, the fun details, like Miss Marple's knitting, and Poirot teasing Captain Hastings.

Which parts of your favourite books do you remember best?

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

A to Z Challenge - Favourite Books - Peter, Lord Views the Body, and Fan Fiction About Real People

Peter, Lord Views the Body, by Dorothy L. Sayers.

I discovered Dorothy Sayers late in life - one of the last Inklings I turned to - but perhaps that was a good thing. Her style isn't as straightforward as, say, that of Agatha Christie (coming up tomorrow!) and I might not have understood half the references in her stories at the age of 13. I still find the crossword in The Fascinating Problem of Uncle Meleager's Will impossibly obscure.

Last year, when I organized a charity book fair at work, I came across a book called Dorothy and Agatha, a murder mystery by Gaylord Larsen featuring both of the authors. I haven't read it yet - the pile is growing large - but I wonder about it from time to time. It seems almost fan-fiction-ish, to write about two real-life authors as though they were characters.

Has anyone ever read a story like that before? Back in high school, I wrote a couple of romances featuring two singers I was certain were hiding their affection for each other. Never mind the fact that each was married to someone else - that's the stuff that conflict is born of, no?

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

A to Z Challenge - Favourite Books - Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. The whole series, in fact.

A friend of mine lent me Outlander at the end of summer 2005. I don't usually read books that others lend me because they're not my type, but this one sounded really promising - World War II era, Scotland, history, how could you go wrong? - yet I nearly stopped reading at the point where Claire Randall mentions how full the shops in Scotland were just a few months after the end of the war. I was worried that the rest of the book might have other such discrepancies. Ha! Never have I been so glad to be so wrong (Diana is a master at historical research and accuracy) and not since The Lord of the Rings have I been so excited to have a book enter my life.

A great book affects you not only at an emotional level - when you can't let go of the characters - or at a mental level - when you learn new words and information at every reread - but at a life level.

It's a stack of dominoes - if I hadn't read Outlander, I wouldn't have joined the (awesome!) Compuserve Books and Writers Community (and its group of wonderful readers and writers!). If I hadn't joined the Forum, I wouldn't have started taking my writing seriously. Imagine, I used to finish a story or novel and just leave it by the wayside. Now I've got two fully edited novels - one out on queries! - and I'm in the process of overhauling a third. If I hadn't started taking my writing seriously, I wouldn't be blogging, and I wouldn't have met all you wonderful people!

Yay for Diana Gabaldon!

And, of course, who can resist Lord John

or Jamie Fraser?

Books I'm Reading and Finished Books

  • The Making of Outlander by Tara Bennett
  • Testament of Experience by Vera Brittain
  • Zoom sur Plainpalais by Corinne Jaquet
  • beta read! (JB)
  • ***Reading At Intervals***
  • Sophie's Choice by William Styron
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw
  • Burning Sky by Lori Benton
  • 12 Anne and Avonlea books by L. M. Montgomery (skimming/reread (this was free on Kindle!))
  • Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford
  • Istanbul Noir (Akashic Books anthology)
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien manuscripts edited by J. D. Rateliff
  • The Jerusalem Bible
  • ***Finished Books***
  • The Children of Men by P. D. James
  • A Daughter's A Daughter by Mary Westmacott (Agatha Christie)
  • A Girl From Yamhill by Beverly Cleary
  • Sunlight by Margaret Rucker (poem; floating in a cocktail glass)
  • Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
  • Preface to The Hobbit, by Christopher Tolkien
  • Ilk Defa... by Beste Barki (essays)
  • Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers (essay)
  • The Moon and I by Betsy Byars
  • The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson
  • Rogue Warrior by Regan Walker
  • Beauty and the Beast by Villeneuve
  • Black (what was this? I don't remember!)
  • Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani
  • Thomas the Tank Engine by Rev. Awry (26 book collection)
  • beta read (Born to Run by RB)
  • The Little Turtle by Vachel Lindsay (poem; reread)
  • The Kraken by Alfred Lord Tennyson (poem)
  • Android's Dream by John Scalzi
  • The Mysterious Tadpole by Stephen Kellogg (reread)
  • Yashim Cooks Istanbul by Jason Goodwin
  • Miniatures by John Scalzi
  • Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
  • Kitty-in-Boots by Beatrix Potter (illustrated by Quentin Blake)
  • All or Nothing by Rose Lerner (short story)
  • Merry Christmas, Emily (board book)
  • Extra Yarn by __ and Jan Klassen
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • The Outlandish Companion II by Diana Gabaldon
  • The Outlandish Companion I, Revised by Diana Gabaldon
  • MacHinery and the Cauliflowers by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • The Dileas by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • The Gold Watch by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • betty, butter, sun by Monica Byrne (short story)
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenplay by J.K. Rowling
  • The Very Cranky Bear (Scholastic)
  • various haiku by R. Wodaski
  • ongoing rereads of most board books listed last year!
  • see the 2016 list and statistics at
  • see the 2015 list and statistics at
  • see the 2014 list and statistics at
  • see the 2013 list and statistics at
  • see the 2012 list and statistics here
  • see the 2011 statistics on
  • see the 2011 list at
  • see the 2010 list at
  • see the 2009 list at
  • also in 2009 at
  • see the 2008 list at
  • also in 2008 at
  • also in 2008 at