Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Politics, Halloween and a couple of bookish links

I've been so distracted by the approaching presidential election that I have been neglecting my blog. That may be because the only reading I'm doing is on the political blogs. Late at night. Like a junkie. I'm not a math person, but I can rattle off polling numbers like an old pro...I can't wait for next Tuesday so I can resume some semblance of a normal life!

The other distraction from blogging at this time of year is Halloween. I happen to live in a neighborhood that pulls trick-or-treaters from all over, so Halloween around here is absolutely insane. No joke, I have to buy at least 1000 pieces of candy. And I don't go for the cheapo stuff, I like to give out what I like to eat--chocolate! So I spend the greater part of the week before Halloween at the discount store, picking up just one more bag of Halloween candy or decoration for the house, or last-minute flourish for the kids' costumes.

If you're an Obama supporter wanting to get into the Halloween spirit, there's a great website you need to check out: Yes We Carve. It has stencils! If you are a McCain supporter, not sure where you can go for Halloween inspiration...

As far as bookish links, here are a couple from boingboing provided by my friend Julie:

"How to make a purse out of a stack of old books."

"Tales of cranky booksellers."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Coupling

Two from Austen:

Monica suggested this one:

Got this idea from Literary Feline during her recent contest:

“Name a favorite literary couple and tell me why they are a favorite. If you cannot choose just one, that is okay too. Name as many as you like–sometimes narrowing down a list can be extremely difficult and painful. Or maybe that’s just me.”

I love a good literary couple. Literary relationships are almost always so much neater than real life relationships. Or if they're messy, it's in a good, literary way.

My answers are fairly obvious and upon reading other BTT answers, I find they are completely unoriginal, but here they are:

Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy
Anne Elliott and Captain Wentworth

From the Anne of Green Gables books by L.M. Montgomery:
Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe

From The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Miland Kundera:
Tereza and Tomas

From Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing:
Beatrice and Benedick

From Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier:
Ada and Inman

Do you have a favorite literary couple?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Grammar-related laughs

I'm currently reading Lynne Truss's book Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation a little bit at a time, trying to savor the essays and remember their lessons.

While I am not an official member of the grammar police, I do notice grammatically offensive signs all around town.

I came across a blog that makes fun of all those signs, and that really made me laugh, so I thought I'd share it with you. Here's the link: The "Blog" of Unnecessary "Quotation" Marks.



Friday, October 17, 2008

I won, I won, I won!

I really fell out of the blogging groove last week, partly because it was a really busy week for the kids, and partly because I was too busy obsessing over the upcoming election, and glued to the political blogs I've become addicted to. I'm not going to get (very) political here, but let's say I'm hoping this election brings big changes.

I was very happy to open the mail yesterday, because with it came a copy of UK poet Roger McGough's The Way Things Are that I WON in a giveaway at The Octogon. Leah also sent me a lovely magnetic calendar which I will put on my fridge come 2009. Thanks so much, Leah! I never win anything, so this really made my week!

As many of you already know, Dewey is hosting the semi-annual 24 Hour Read-a-thon again this weekend. I have always wanted to participate in this event, and I've never been able to, as my youngest is too young to foist on anyone for that long, and I'm chauffeuring my middle one and eldest to football games, swim meets, bar and bat mitzvah celebrations, etc. on the weekends. But I'm looking forward to the day I can read for 24 hours, as you might imagine. So I'll be sending my best wishes to all the readers who participate--go, team, go!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Review: When the White House Was Ours, by Porter Shreve

The year is 1976, and as the U.S. celebrates its bicentennial, Daniel Truitt moves from the midwest to Washington, D.C., center of the excitement about the celebration, and about the upcoming election.  Daniel's father Pete, a teacher, has been fired from yet another job, and he's got a crazy idea to start an alternative school. Pete's mother Valerie is not so keen on the idea, but she agrees to give it a try. So Pete calls in a favor from an old friend, who rents them a ramshackle mansion in an iffy D.C. neighborhood. Daniel's hippie uncle, his wife, and her lover come to live with them and serve as teachers, and "Our House", a school where the learning is student-directed, is born. Daniel's parents struggle to attract students to the school, but they end up with a ragtag group of kids who don't fit in anywhere else, and the experiment gets under way. But almost as soon as it has begun, outside forces work against the school, and even Daniel's family is in danger of falling apart.

When the White House Was Ours is loosely based on the author's own life, and it definitely feels that way. There's an appealing authenticity to the book, which you feel when reading about the atmospheric setting, and about the complicated family relationships depicted in the story. I could relate to the time period when the novel was set, as I was eleven years old in 1976, when the country was in the clutches of bicentennial fever. I could also relate to the tensions that main character Daniel felt between the conservative elements in society, represented by his father's Republican old friend who rents them their school house, and the more liberal elements of society, represented not only by Jimmy Carter, but also by Daniel's free-thinking parents and his uncle with his hippie friends.

The author definitely brought me back in time to 1976 and my old corduroys and culottes!  His descriptions of things I remember often made me smile.  I also enjoyed the characters very much.  I thought the writer handled Daniel's coming-of-age deftly.  He did a good job portraying the difficulties young people have when they realize the adults around them are just as confused and imperfect as they are.  There were a few missteps, as when Daniel doesn't go to his parents with some information that will definitely make a difference in their lives--it's not necessarily not believable that Daniel keeps the information to himself, as it's clear that Daniel's trust with his father has been broken, but it was still a little frustrating for me. But overall, the author writes convincingly about a boy's coming of age in a confusing time and coming to terms with an unconventional family.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Reading Howard's End

Quotes From Howards End, by E.M. Forster:

"Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die."

"I am sure that if the mothers of various nations could meet, there would be no more wars."

"Death destroys a man: the idea of Death saves him."

I remember reading A Passage to India in high school, and finding it transformative. Now I'm reading Howard's End, and loving every page.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Best--Booking Through Thursday

Here's today's Booking Through Thursday question:

What, in your opinion, is the best book that you haven’t liked? Mind you, I don’t mean your most-hated book–oh, no. I mean the most accomplished, skilled, well-written, impressive book that you just simply didn’t like.

Like, for movies–I can acknowledge that Citizen Kane is a tour de force and is all sorts of wonderful, cinematically speaking, but . . . I just don’t like it. I find it impressive and quite an accomplishment, but it’s not my cup of tea.

So . . . what book (or books) is your Citizen Kane?

Oooh, interesting question. And my answer is...

Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte. Or as my husband calls it, Wooooothering Heights. I'm a big fan of Emily Bronte's poetry, and I love the other Bronte sisters' novels. I know Wuthering Heights is supposed to be romantic and gothic, but I just found the writing overblown, the characters unbelievable, and the whole thing depressing overall. I like Charlotte's and Anne's more down-to-earth writing better.

What's your least favorite "good" book?