Tuesday, 31 May 2011

It's just too ha-a-aaaard!

What's the point in ever reading anything else?  I'll never be 'well-read' because all I want to read for the rest of my life is Harry Potter!  Ugh-huh-huh-huuuuuuh (that's me sobbing)!  There's nothing left for me now, if I can't read Harry, I can't go on.


Well, actually I can.  It's a never-ending-story, and I will read it again in a few months.  But I have to exert a supreme effort to not run to the bookcase and pull out Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.  It's sitting there, calling to me, and begging me to read it again, even though I only finished its sibling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, this morning.  I'm always like this when I've finished these books, sitting about the house, moping, gazing longingly at my beautiful, black covered, hard-backed set of precious gems.  If my house was on fire and I had time to nip back in and save a couple of things - after removing my children from the building, of course - I would grab my MacBook and my boxed set of Harry Potters.

So, I've put a plan into action, to prevent me from picking up that book that's taunting me with its beauty and magic: I've written a list of ten books, that the boys chose for me, and I've stuck it to my bookcase, and the boys have witnessed it, and I have to tick off the books as I read them.  Then, and only then, can I be treated to Harry Potter again.

The books are these:

  • Soul Music, by Terry Pratchett (which I was very pleased that Thomas chose, because something light and comical that I can get through in a few evenings will cheer me up after my loss (of Harry))
  • Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke (which I have been meaning to read for quite some time, and has been on my list for ages)
  • Red Gloves, by Beth Vaughan (which I know nothing about, but which was recommended by one of my favourite authors, Kristin Cashore (who wrote Graceling and Fire), so I expect it to be good - at least, I think she recommended it, I could be having a memory spasm there)
  • Skull and Bones, by John Drake (which has not been on the list for long, but will be a joy to read, I know (see my hub on its prequel: John Drake, Flint and Silver))
  • Faerie Tale, by Raymond E Feist (a book that I found on a website when I did a quick search for fiction with the word 'faerie' in the title - no expectations from this book, we'll see what it's like)
  • The Gormenghast Trilogy, by Mervyn Peake (which I bought several years ago, because it looked pretty: the person on the till who sold it to me looked sideways at me when I slammed it thunderously onto the counter (single volume), and she knew that I was oblivious to its contents; I have since heard that The Gormenghast Trilogy is a bit hard going, but that's fine because I will feel as though I've really earned my treat of HP)
  • Catch 22, by Joseph Heller (which I bought several years ago, but forgot to read (it happens a lot); Sebastian Faulks recommended this book in a programme he did a couple of months ago, and this caused me to remember that I had a copy: as to whether I'll enjoy it, I don't know, I expect it to be beyond my meagre intelligence, because I don't think it's got any mythical beasties in it)
  • In The Lion's Court, (a history book) by Derek Wilson (which I bought several years ago; it's been a long time since I read a history book, and I've been missing them, because I love to read about our kings and queens of centuries past: this one is about Henry VIII's court, and what it was like to be an important personage within it, chronicling the lives of six unfortunate Thomases)
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson (which I thought I'd better read, because it's supposed to be excellent, and it might contain some very useful lessons that I need to learn about how to play your cards close to your chest, and to drip feed information to your reader)
  • The Magician's Guild, by Trudi Canavan (which, incidentally, I have two copies of, if anyone wants one; picked it because it looked good)
So there you have it.  Read along with me, if you would like to.  Maybe a little too much fantasy, and no Dickens at all (I know I said I was diving into The Pickwick Papers, but I changed my mind).

I would like to write a review of Harry Potter, but I don't know if I can say anything that hasn't already been said.  I don't know if I can say what I want to say about my favourite books without it being mushy, and without causing myself embarrassment on the off-chance that JK Rowling should read it, and that I should meet her when I'm famous myself.  I will begin a review, but I will not promise to publish it.  I wrote one for Narnia, but CS Lewis is dead, so there was no chance of me embarrassing myself infront of him.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Ah, this sounds about right to me.

When I said that I wanted to become well-read, I think I missed something out of my explanation.  It was something that I hadn't really consciously thought of, but when I read this article below I realised that I should have thought of mentioning it.  And what it is, is that I'm not going to go through someone else's list of 'books to read before you die' and stick rigidly to it just for the look of thing.  I'm not becoming well-read just to impress other people - I'm doing it because I want to, for me, because there are so many wonderful worlds that I want to explore that I have not been setting aside the time for.  I want to become well-read so that my writing will improve, because my imagination will be exercised and stretched.

The Sad Beautiful Fact that We're All Going to Miss Almost Everything

The gist of this article is that we need to acknowledge and understand that we cannot possibly read everything that has ever been written; we cannot even get anywhere close to reading everything.  We can only read a fraction of the whole* of the literature that has ever been produced.  But what are we going to do about that?  Are we going to waste precious time reading books that we think we should read, or are we going to read books that will make us happy and will help us to learn something that is valuable to us?  Should we cut out whole swathes of books, by saying that we'll not bother with a particular genre?  Should we stick to one genre?  Should we be snobs and only allow ourselves to read that which is perceived as worthwhile by prize givers?  Well, I already know what I'm going to do, and it's what I already do - I go to my bookcase, have a browse, and decide what I feel like reading at that moment.  I never put books in a pile and force myself to work my way through it in the order that I've stacked it.  I have to read whatever looks appealing at the time - this way of choosing my next book has never failed me, and I've only put a book back on the shelf unread once in the last few years.  I seem to be quite good at choosing books that are excellent - I don't suppose that's so difficult though: there are a lot of excellent writers out there.

But it's the classics I'm going to be looking at for a while - just as soon as I've finished Potter; almost there now, just getting to the end of Book 5.  I'm going to get stuck right into the Pickwick Papers next.

I suppose I could talk about HP here.  But is there really any point?  I think probably not.  Everyone already knows what they think of it, there are several camps: those who love the books, but hate the films; those who love the books and love the films (that's me); those who can't see what all of the fuss and 'hype' is about; those who think that the films are nice, not fantastic, and wouldn't bother reading the books; those who have no televisions, computers or book shops and are oblivious; those who think that the books are badly written.  Harry Potter has been around for long enough now that we've all chosen our camp, and there are few who would decamp and change their allegiance totally (my brother did - he vowed never to watch the films, but did so this year, and enjoyed them very much).  Personally, the books are one of my very precious treasures, and I love them very, very dearly - almost as much as I love my children.  I will probably read them once of year, or once every two years.  They're a very special treat that I allow myself when I've done some other, more difficult reading.  I do not think that they are badly written at all, I think they are beautifully written.  But since I've been thinking about proofreading (my course material has just arrived, and I should really be reading it right now), this time around I have noticed a few errors, or a few repeated words that stand out, or a few words that just do not seem to convey what I think JK Rowling was trying to say (though how should I know - I guess she knows what she was trying to say better than I do!)  I don't know what that says about me - perhaps that I am starting to look for mistakes where there are none?  I would have thought that Rowling's pubishers use excellent proofreaders.  Well.  Whatever.

Look at that - I said that I probably shouldn't bother talking about HP, and I did anyway.  Idiot.  Anyway, you might not think that HP should be included in a blog about becoming well-read, but I do.  These books make me happy, and I think, I'm not entirely sure because I'm not an expert, but I do think that books are allowed to be enjoyed just because they make us happy.

Some pictures of the covers that I have.  Isn't that annoying that two of them have come out in different sizes?  It would have been much prettier if they'd all been the same size.  Maybe I will try to fix that later.

*A Fraction of the Whole is a superb book, which I just happened to pick up whilst browsing in Waterstones.  I read it with no expectations, but could not put it down.  I might have to read it again and review it for you.  Steve Toltz is the author.  Excellent.  I will look foward to reading more of his work, when he produces some.  Some people didn't like this book at all - but I guess they're well more cleverer than wot I am, so they know best!  Sometimes though, I think people do too much thinking about books - and perhaps, like those of us who are chilled and able to just relax and enjoy a film with all of its flaws, the same should be done with a book.  Books are written by human beings, and are written to entertain and to provoke thought sometimes.  I probably would not be a very good book reviewer because I like to focus too much on the positives; I can acknowledge that there are negatives, but they rarely spoil a book for me.  I can often read a scathing review of a book that I enjoyed, and be left reeling a little by the vitriol that a weaker chapter might have inspired by a particularly angry critic.  I might have noticed the weaker chapter myself, but I don't see why it has to spoil the whole book - nothing is perfect, usually.