Unauthorized version of me

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Durham, United Kingdom
An avid bibliophile who all too often uses the words of others in place of the incredible difficulty of creating new ones that will not carry half the depth. Putting to use my degree in 'yeah, but what are you going to do with that?' with a minor in 'it cost how much!'

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Where Robin Hood Has Coffee

Durham to Exeter is almost a complete spanning of the country. I would drive farther and faster in the US, but I never saw anywhere near as much.

This is exactly what it says on the bottle, the coffee shop at the edge of Sherwood forest. The cynical part of me expected it to be a Starbucks, but in reality it is an adorable family place with a three layer chocolate fudge gateau as thick and rich as I imagine Sherwood forest was when Robin Hood was head chef.


Wednesday, 13 October 2010

A sign for more than just brocken Toasters

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Yes, we all have issues -mine currently seems to be not wanting to write about books but rather about odd things I find around town, for example-and we are often even very aware of at least some of our own foibles. Some of these we want to change, some we don't. But honestly, as much as we might think it, and as useful as it would probably be, no one would ever humble themselves as much as this brave little toaster 'I'm yours if you want to try and fix me'.

Stage door to the Globe

There is the front door for patrons, a side door for the Very Important, who can't be seen with Hoi Poili, but the door from which I wish to enter The New Globe Theatre is tucked unceremoniously in the back, right next to the sign that says I shouldn't be taking this picture. This is the stage door, best for storming out of as a ingenue, sneaking into as a chorus member to snag the over emotional ingenue's part, and smoke breaks for people who will never admit to smoking on their CV's.
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Last day of work

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As of now I am offically a Stay at Home Mom. Which means a)I will have more time to read b)I will have more time to write about what I am reading and c) I will have a wonderful, but tempremental toddler holding on to me for dear life while I do the first two. Should be fun.

Children and books

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Rose dreamed she was a Lily,
Lily dreamed she was a Rose.
Robin dreamed he was a sparrow,
What Owl dreamed, no one knows
But they all woke up together
As happy as can be.
Each said, you're lovely neighbor
But I'm happy being me.

It might be a little blurry, but this is Bookworms shirt from when she was much smaller. It is now pinned up to her notice board. I want to keep it in her room while she grows. It's not a book, but a perfect example of what books can and should do.
I'm sure every child has been told about the wonderful transportive power of books, bringing us to new places and giving us new experiences, if only in thought, so that we can relate better to others. That is a wonder all it's own, but stopping there falls short of a complete explanation. A book should also transport us back home again with a new love of home or a desire to change it. Books are not merely escapism. They are reality changers.

It also reminds me of this song.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The Gates By John Connolly

There are precious few children's books that involve M theory. That is, the Steven Hawkins loved idea that there are multiple universes (shortened into multi-verse, and not to be confused with the odd, amusing and sometimes musical Buffy-verse). Hawkins has recently used this theory to conclude that there is not God, Connolly uses it with the assumption that there is or at least that there is a Great Malevolence, high demon and ruler of the Underworld, which in my book amounts to about the same thing.

While all of that is fun, it is very far off the sidelines of the book, but is an interesting thought to add to your reading enjoyment. In essence The Gates is an adventure story about a boy, and his dog, and his friends, and mostly about how no one believes you until it's too late. Also, for good measure a healthy dose of coming to terms with divorce and what to do when your a not-so-really-bad demon that just doesn't fit in. So it's a hodgepodge, but a very enjoyable one.

Connolly is particularly good with asides. The book comes alive in his little explanatory moments to the reader such as:
  • Whenever someone uses the word 'glitch', which means a fault of some kind in the system, you should immediately be suspicious, because it means they don't know what it is. A technician who uses the word 'glitch' is like a doctor who tells you you're suffering from a 'thingy', except the doctor won't tell you to go home and try turning yourself on and off again.

Which shows how much fun can be had in footnotes, and also that I might be going to the wrong type of doctor.

Some of Connolly's books verge too close to the macabre for older children or night reading at all (I'm looking at you Nocturnes) but The Gates is a perfect older child book because it doesn't condescend to them; includes some really good tidbits of science, history and art, just enough to peak an interest if it's there; and most importantly is a great read. Perfect for the precocious preteen we all know and want to shut up for a minute or two. It might be best to carry this book with you on journeys for just such a reason. But it's also great fun for the adults, who like me, don't always want the tomes but have a strong desire to stay away from anything that ends up on a best seller list in Borders.

But, as Reading Rainbow has taught us: You don't have to take my word for it. 

Friday, 6 August 2010

no books; one Starkey trick

I am reading, I'm loving the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series, and I re-read The Giver, and The Once and Future King, Ruskins lectures on Geology to a girls school and all sort of other things. I have even had my Mac fixed so there is not excuse, but I don't want to write about them.

I am sad. Sad would seep through the words and contaminate my beautiful books. It would sit there and sulk until I opened the book up again, months or years later and the sad would burst out full strength and push its way back. And I would be sad again. We can't have that.

Instead I will play Jacks like I was taught but only when the Baby is asleep (she is too small for jacks and I'm not about to share yet anyway) and I will make lists of things, things that make me happy, simple thing, free things, and I will push my heart up again through pure strength of will. And then I will write about books again.

The first on all my lists is Sunshine and warmth. Today, if the very fickle English sun favours me, I will walk in the sun, maybe I will take my computer and if the Baby behaves I will sit with a coffee in the sun and make a longer list. Then again a list with one is still very nice.

Friday, 2 April 2010

The Scapegoat-Daphne du Maurier

Over the past years I’ve been reading Daphne du Maurier’s fiction when I have a break in other novels. I started with Rebecca after seeing it performed in the Lake District over my anniversary. I loved the small slip of a girl who play the new Mrs. De Winter, she almost appeared to fade into the background half the time, which is pretty amazing for an actress to do as they normally want as much of the spotlight as they can steal. She was small and weak and trusting, but most of all she was in love, and you could see it.
Reading Rebecca is much the same, you fall in love with the main character and all of her insecurities. Not only is she not the title character of her own book, she’s not even given her own name. Even Mrs. De Winter is a convenience because she still thinks of the sector of a first wife as Mrs. De Winter. Hitchcock did an absolutely amazing adaptation for the screen of Rebecca that stays very faithful to the book and of course, keeps all the beautiful tension. There are so many similarities with Jane Eyre and Rebecca that one really hesitates to call it an original plot. More a modern look at the mind of a girl who knows she isn’t attractive being loved by someone above her.
Daphne-such a beautiful name, I want to call her that- a collection of short stories, published as ‘Not After Midnight’ or ‘Don’t look Now’ The title story is good in the same vaguely creepy way that Rebecca is, but the jewel of the collection, in my opinion is ‘The Way of the Cross’ which, while not a thriller like the others, is so very honest is the depiction of widely divergent characters that you feel sympathy for all and none of them at the same time.
There are several other De Maurier books, my Cousin Rachel, The Birds, and Jamaica Inn being the most famous because they were made into films.
The book of hers that I just finished is not one of the most popular, but I actually couldn’t tell you why. The Scapegoat isn’t really a thriller, although it had the distinct possibility of being one. Rather it is a telling of two men who look the same switching places, although one not very willingly. Our main Character, perhaps the title character, John is a British professor of French history on holiday who is hoodwinked into taking the place of a man he met only hours before on but happens to look exactly like, M Comte de Gue...and there’s the rouse. It’s not great, but it gets us to where we want. John is now a stranger looking in on a life that isn’t his own but without the formality of being thought a stranger.
The people he meets are divided into two sections, well drawn sad depictions of a rotting aristocracy; refined morphine addicts, insetuios family members, the over religious and one sweet, but very spoiled little girl. These are undoubtedly the people the count was trying to get away from when he thought of changing places. Of course there is a second set of characters that John, not being born and raised to overlook that of the over idealized French peasants drawn only the way a very rich girl can. They are noble, and thoughtful , respectful and of course wise an d respectful. This isn’t to say there aren’t peasants like this, but I do always find in shocking in a book where ALL the presents are drawn that way. There are people John falls in love with that his double hated, or more to the point was just tired of.
Rebecca is to the scapegoat as the blush of youth is to middle age. And if you liked one you are sure to love the other.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Means of Escape by Penelope Fitzgerald

When a book is given to me with such a title, at such a perfect time I hunker right down that very moment to read it. Not only do I believe books are the perfect escape, but escape, and more precisely a means to it is exactly what I have needed.
This is not an instruction manual, neither is it an adventure tale, but a set of often tragically hollow and compelling stories that leave one more alone and more content than any I have read in a long time. I do not think that any of the stories give the escape the characters want, and many end up giving more to think about the readers situation and how they are settled more than anything. Have you stagnated? Are you possessed of an exploring heart but meagre pockets, or debilitating fear? It may not be time for change, but perhaps it is always time to know where you sit in your own life.

We have the titular story set in 19 century Australia. It could so easily have been a preachers cautionary tale about the wiles of men, instead the preachers daughter originally taken up with an escaped convict, is the one left in her own lonely place we instead of with her, he takes up with am ex-convict spinster woman they employ to do the washing. The lesson- if there is one- is not ‘don’t be caught in the clutches of evil men’ but rather, ‘even a scorned woman has her charms and can be notably superior to a virtuous maiden in some respects’ or at least ‘in the words of Sondheim ‘if you know what you want, then you go and you find it and you get it’.
We also have a painter who wants to capture truth, but has problems both with his subject and his teacher; a child who can’t decide between his possessions, his curiosity and getting money from either; a man who comes for dinner in the middle of a woman’s labour and is unhappy to note that she won’t be cooking; and a man who has lived his live for a company who then lays him off. No one quite fits everyone is incomplete and many of the stories end mid sentence if not mid-breath.

I left my little retreat thinking: If someone looked through a window into my life, would it be one of these stories where the sidelines character steals the show from the main focus? Yes, we are all protagonists, but who drives you plot forward?

Friday, 19 March 2010

Life gets in the way

A little poem about dreams and a little addition, not disimilar from the Passionate Shepared to his Love and the Nymph's Reply. Call and response:

HAD I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams


Hearts were given, exchanged for dreams,
Exposed before my trembling feet
Not to move, lest disturb my loves dreams.
I would fear less the heaven’s blue cloth,
Embroidered dense with unearthly light,
For what he has placed remains a cloth
More costly than the midwinter’s light.

-Ummm, Not Yeats?

I love the phyicalness given to the dreams. Tangible and unchanging. It is an intensly beautiful vision.

I'm not to reading full books right now, but I have a collection of Short stories to post.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

From the brain Archives: on Movies

I was thinking today about what movies I like (it's an offshoot of some hoomework I've been making myself do) My first thought (and that was what I was going for) was Breakfast at Tiffany's and My Fair Lady. Looking at them I realized... I like Audrey Hepburn...with thre biographies and sevral other things related to her, this is not a revalation.

So oviously I had to look a little deeper. Neither main character really has a love intrest, or refuses the ones that come (I always skip the end of Tiffany's, I think it's tacked on and the book ends so much better, with her remaining a mystery). Holly is a woman transformed, from a plain and very common girl into something of an icon for the age. Pure lessons and education transform her (btw it's also the theme in Sabrina and Funny face, Audrey really plays the hidden beauty well).

Neither woman is a woman in need of romance (money, education and maybe a good therapist, yes, but clearly not a lover. I expected something diffrent, I must admit. As much as I love playing the damsel in distress, love being pursued and caught, and really have wrapped my life around the affections of men, I would have expected my escapes (what else is hours of watching the same movie if not escape) to reflect that, but instead I get women who, while they have a man, or men in thier lives are able to do so because they are able to stand on thier own, and be friendly with them.

This isn't to say that I don't love Sleeping Beauty, and every Meg Ryan movie out there where the end is love, forget about all other obsticales, together is all we want, or need. It's sweet, and I do want a fairy tale ending, and I do think that womens greatest gift to this world is beauty (and the love of it, that men will never understand) and that women understand relationship better than any man ever could, but they also understand duty and love that isn't romantic. Anna in Roman Holiday doesn't go with the man she wants because there is something higher than her fleeting relationship, sure she's in love, but she is also Love and Beauty for an entire country she had her 'moment in the woods' and returns a woman, complete in herself, knowing that she is worthy of love (maybe it's that she never questioned it...how wonderful would that be?) but that her life will not end without it.

How did the girl who cheerily sang 'I'll know' and 'Happy to keep his dinner warm' start to love characters who only have relationships at a distance?

So what are your favorite movies?