Tag Archives: blogging

Ffffffffebruary

Winter came early where I live. I marked the descent of this most frigid season to our clime around mid-November last year, and it’s hung around with its usual persistence. The thing is, before Christmas, I don’t mind at all. I expect and might even occasionally delight in snow before Christmas. No, the worst thing about winter is how much of it is left to go after Christmas passes (essentially, all of it).

009The area I live in hasn’t even been hit as hard as other areas, like New York. We’ve had temperatures in the single digits, snow, and wind chills below zero, but it never makes national news. Maybe because I live in the Pacific Northwest, which everyone just expects to have grim, interminable winters.

You try to find ways to make winter bearable. Like telling yourself that these snow-covered trees might be something like what Lucy saw when she emerged from the other side of the wardrobe into Narnia. Or, on a particularly grim-weathered evening, as freezing rain edges into snow, one might imagine oneself inside that Howard Nemerov poem, just watching for the moment when the falling things fly instead of fall.

In post-Christmas winter, it can be hard work to find beautiful, magical things, and most of my coping mechanisms, for better or worse, involve my inserting myself into stories and poems. It’s a reason to read, after all, not that I needed one.

I mostly spent February watching the Olympics (yay Charlie and Meryl!) and cooking. I toyed mercilessly with three different blog posts for you all month long, trying to find fewer, better words. My reading last month was frenetic at best: I tried to read about four different books, but the only one I managed to finish, I essentially hate-read: by which I mean I hated nearly everything about the book but continued to read, bitterly, out of spite and a vague notion that Winter Is For Suffering.

At one point in this book I hated, the “heroine” (it pains me to apply that term to her) burns her winter coat because it got blood on it (don’t ask), but she throws it, whole, onto the fire. WHICH WOULD SMOTHER THE FIRE. BUT IT DOESN’T. LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE IN THIS BOOK OF GIANT GAPS OF PLOT LOGIC, IT MADE NO SENSE. She says she’ll make some excuse and get a new winter coat (implying she has no secondary backup coats), but the very next day she’s pulling on a new one with no explanation of how she got it.

But this raises a question I’ve been struggling with for a while: how do you talk about books you hated? I shy away from being super-negative here on my blog because I don’t want to invite negativity here, but sometimes a book just doesn’t work for me and I’d like to talk about it. If you have any ideas, please share!

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with these links: the stages of winter rage (thank you, NPR!), and 5 Reading Rules for Books Lovers of All Ages, from Reading Rainbow. We can do it, guys. The first day of spring is technically two weeks away, so we’re almost there.

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One Hundred

This is my one-hundredth post.

009It seemed like an occasion to be marked, celebrated with a post more noteworthy than a marginally funny story about a bizarre concert I went to recently or more thanks to all of you who continue to visit in spite of my irregular posting and wildly variable post quality.

I spent a lot of time trawling the internets for ideas for a hundredth post, which of course, obviously, led to much comparing my blog to other people’s blogs and a lot of writerly insecurity and general paralysis that this post had to be better. It’s also dark November, and I’ve been reading Housekeeping again, which, well, it’s not always good for me: it’s so full of loneliness and loss and it’s so, so beautiful. It just sometimes leaves me feeling without, too full of feels to feel. (I think I can safely say that’s a phrase Marilynne Robinson would never dream of writing.)

But if anything productive came out of all that blog comparison, I realized I haven’t given you much grounding information on who I am, and my reading tastes (favorite authors and so on). After all, why should you come to my little book blog at all, if not to find out about books you might be interested in reading yourself, general bookishness, and the occasional somewhat funny story about things that have happened to me? If authenticity is something to strive for, and I believe it is, then maybe now is the time to remedy that.

I tried to do just that with the following, in one hundred words or less, but it’s closer to two hundred (they all seemed necessary):

I love books that make me laugh, books that make me cry, books that keep me up reading in the night, and books that make me think. My ideal dinner party of authors, living or dead, would first of all involve enough of them so that I wouldn’t be expected to contribute heavily to the conversation, and would at least include: Harper Lee, C. S. Lewis, Jane Austen, Barbara Pym, Marilynne Robinson, Lady Mary Stewart, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Shakespeare. In my mind, Harper Lee and Barbara Pym would immediately corner Jane Austen like the fangirls they were; Dorothy L. Sayers, C. S. Lewis, and Marilynne Robinson would enjoy some intellectual conversation about Christianity; and after I’d effusively told Lady Mary Stewart how I’ve read This Rough Magic almost to shreds and can quote from it at length (it’s the one book I own whose broken spine is caused by me), she would find Shakespeare endlessly interesting. As would we all.

I would be happiest floating between their conversations, refilling plates and glasses and basking in the general glow of greatness.

What about you? Who is invited to your ideal dinner party of authors?

A Big Year for Birthdays

It’s a big year for birthdays (birthdays-slash-anniversaries), everyone. This year, my blog turns two (today, in fact — happy birthday, blog!), I will be turning twenty-nine (again), and we mark the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice.

Image via Jane Austen's Regency World

Image via Jane Austen’s Regency World

It will probably come as a surprise to only a few readers that I subscribe to Jane Austen’s Regency World, the official magazine of the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, England. The January/February issue is almost entirely devoted to Pride and Prejudice, and all sorts of other enormously interesting information, including the identity of the person of who won the auction for Jane Austen’s ring, Kelly Clarkson.

I must confess, I was a little surprised that it was Kelly Clarkson and not a mysterious-and-totally-imaginary secret admirer of mine who converses like Henry Tilney, believes that I could be “the Jane Austen of the Pacific Northwest”, and was saving the ring up as a special surprise present for my 30th (ahem, second 29th!) birthday…but I digress. It turns out a replica of that ring is totally the way to go (major hinting going on, for any mysterious secret admirers) because the United Kingdom declared the ring a national treasure, so Kelly Clarkson can never take it out of the UK.

But enough silliness. The main reason I’m writing tonight is regarding an article in this issue of JARW called “Choose Your Darcy”. That’s right. Amy Patterson, the author of the article, with whom I would very much like to take a turn about the room as well as tea, compares all the different actors who’ve played Mr. Darcy on the silver screen, and, most importantly, comes up with the right answer for who did so best.

Her favorite (and mine)? David Rintoul. Mr. Rintoul plays Mr. Darcy in a so-faithful-to-the-book-you-can-practically-read-along version of Pride and Prejudice that first aired in 1979. I realize I will be alienating many of my friends and probably 90 percent of the internet by not choosing Colin Firth, and my sister by not choosing Matthew MacFadyen, but as far as choosing a Mr. Darcy that most faithfully represents the Mr. Darcy of Jane Austen’s book and of my imagination, I too have to go with David Rintoul.

The 1979 version is not pretty. The costumes seemed quite wretched. But what can I say? Give me a version I can almost read along with and I’m happy, even if Elizabeth is really prettier than Jane. Also, it’s only four hours, instead of a whopping six, largely because it doesn’t insert scenes that Austen never wrote of Darcy emerging wet-shirted from the lake in front of Pemberley, and used only one or two scenes of Elizabeth walking to communicate her fondness of that activity.

Matthew MacFadyen’s portrayal (circa 2005) is…darned sexy. The best that one can say of that 2005 version is to remark on Matthew MacFadyen’s sexiness, and the fact that it’s one movie long. A faithful representation of the book, it is not (“My pearl for Sundays?” – heaven, give me strength!). Occasionally my sister and I watch the movie together-in-time, if not location, and madly text each other – because this is arguably the most romantic of the versions…and Matthew MacFadyen…and it can be watched in two hours or less, especially if you fast forward liberally, like we sometimes do.

We weren't quite at the same part of the movie here. Nonetheless, enthusiastic.

We weren’t quite at the same part of the movie here. Nonetheless, enthusiastic.

Cut from the image above was my saying something along the lines of “Dang. Matthew MacFadyen.” We aren’t always totally frivolous, either; here you find us actually discussing the story itself:

In between swoons, we discuss authorial decision making.

In between swoons, we discuss authorial decision making.

I just can’t give “best Darcy” to Colin Firth, because, much as I respect Mr. Firth as an actor and like his looks, he just wasn’t the Darcy of the book; he brought too much of the stock “awkward Englishman” to the role. Ms. Patterson says it best in her article in JARW: “David Rintoul, my Mr Darcy, gets closer than any other to capturing the essence of this wonderful, complicated, shy, angry and passionate hero.”

I’ll step down off my soapbox now. Which actor’s portrayal of Mr. Darcy is your favorite?