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So another quickie review of a fun, scary read. Half-Minute Horrors does exactly what you might think; it pulls together over seventy stories aimed at giving youngsters a good fright through a mixture of prose, poetry and pictures and is really very enjoyable.
The selling point for me was the range of authors included – really well-known names from Neil Gaiman to Joyce Carol Oates (two of my absolute favourites as regular visitors to this blog will know) via Gregory Maguire, Margaret Atwood and Holly Black.
You could choose to read one of these a day if you are a person with discipline and iron self-control. I of course approached this the way I eat chocolates – only meant to have one or two (honest) but before I noticed half of them were gone.
Either way this is cool and creepy and a good introduction to scary stuff.
So how do you review an Edward Gorey book?
The Iron Tonic doesn’t have a plot as such. It has twenty-eight lines of poetry. But of course the thing about Gorey is the artwork; the illustrations are wonderful, bizarre, Gothic and worth paying attention to. And the subtitle probably tells you all you need to know: a winter afternoon in Lonely Valley.
And I for one agree that the careful stroller should beware of objects falling from the air….
So I’ve now seen the one before the one before the last ever David Tennant episode.
And lo, it was remarkable, and worth waiting for.
As I try, and fail, to explain here.
So it’s all gone a bit quiet once again chez Bride; lots happening at work which means I am either travelling to or from the office heavily laden and having to stand so not able to read comfortably (and glaring at people who insist on bringing cycles onto peak time trains when cycles aren’t supposed to be allowed) or I’m working at home where I haven’t yet found out the best way to build proper reading time into my routine.
This means I haven’t:
- arranged to go and see 2012 which was one of my must-see movies of this year; however, it’s only just come out so plenty of time to enjoy what is likely to be total and utter but nonetheless essential nonsense
- finished my first read for the Women Unbound challenge, which is about the six wives and various other female relatives of Henry VIII and is really fascinating, but requires proper concentration
- started to read anything else, even though I was determined to find a graphic novel or something that would be a bit of light relief
- been able as yet to find a suitable date for Silvery Dude and I to see New Moon, despite thinking I had a cunning plan…
- persuaded my friend-who-hasn’t-yet-got-an-alias-for-the-purpose-of-being-referred-t0-in-this-blog to actually come up with something I can use here to annoy him
I have, however:
- become very, very excited about the new Doctor Who story that will be on TV tomorrow night, and which is actually partly responsible for me missing 2012 (I like to go to the movies on a Sunday afternoon); I just didn’t think my delicate constitution could cope with the end of the world, David Tennant and the next episode of Fringe on the same day, so something had to give
- become slightly obsessed with the video for the new Lady GaGa single which is awesome in its weirdness (as analysed by Jezebel), probably not to everyone’s taste and may not be best viewed when at work…..
- started to pull together my application for a promotion opportunity, a stressful thing in and of itself and possibly wholly responsible for my inability to actually achieve anything else of note
But I’m sure it will all come together this week and at the very least I will actually manage to finish reading something…..
So this was my first proper exposure to Nick Hornby; of course I know who he is, I have High Fidelity on DVD (saw a bit of it when channel surfing and thought it looked good enough to buy but I haven’t yet watched it), I know about his Arsenal thing, I know the titles of most of his novels and so on.
But The Complete Polysyllabic Spree is the first of his books that I have ever read; I’m not even sure when I got it (must be recorded in a post on here somewhere) but I know why I bought it, and that’s because it’s a book about books and reading, and I can’t resist anything like that.
And of course when I started reading this Mr Hornby started popping up all over the place, because he is the screenwriter for the acclaimed (and hopefully to be seen by me at some point) film An Education, so I found myself watching him being interviewed by Jonathan Ross on the BBC; don’t you find it often happens that as soon as something comes to your attention in your reading you start seeing references to it all over the place?
I always find it difficult to review books like this because it really comes down to whether you like the writer’s voice or not and I found that I did. Setting aside his inability to get very far with the Iain M Banks novel he started (I have to understand that not everyone gets sci-fi, but it’s really difficult to make allowances sometimes), I enjoyed the columns and I clicked with his sense of humour.
I’ve added some titles to my wishlist, and actually succumbed and bought a couple of recommendations when on my way to meet my friend-who-hasn’t-yet-got-an-alias-for-the-purpose-of-being-referred-t0-in-this-blog on Thursday afternoon and thought I was going to be early so hit Waterstones, and we know how that normally ends. Please don’t tell the Book God, I’m supposed to be under a book-buying embargo on the run up to Christmas…..
Anyway, how can you possibly dislike someone who can point out that “there comes a point in life, it seems to me, where you have to decide whether you are a Person of Letters or merely someone who loves books, and I’m beginning to see that the book lovers have more fun.”
Will almost certainly be getting more Hornby – once I’m allowed to that is….
So after yesterday’s post it seems a bit surprising to be writing about another challenge, but this one looks too good to resist. Women Unbound runs from 1 November 2009 until 30 November 2010 and involves reading both fiction and non-fiction from the field of women’s studies.
I’m aiming for Bluestocking (at least five books including at least two non-fiction) but hoping to hit Suffragette (at least eight books including at least three non-fiction) and I’m almost certainly going to be reading only non-fiction, partly because I don’t read enough of it anyway, but mostly because I’m not sure what actually constitutes a feminist novel.
My proposed booklist is (in no particular order):
- Death and the Maidens: Fanny Wollstonecraft and the Shelley Circle by Janet Todd
- The Secret Life of Aphra Benn by Janet Todd
- A Literature of Their Own:British Women Novelists from Bronte to Lessing by Elaine Showalter
- Singled Out: How two Million Women Survived without Men After the First World War by Virginia Nicholson
- Bess of Hardwicke: First Lady of Chatsworth by Mary S Lovell
- Rosa Luxemburg: Ideas in Action by Paul Frohlich
- Catherine de Medici by Leonie Frieda
- Divorced, Beheaded, Survived: Feminist Reinterpretation of the Wives of Henry VIII by Karen Lindsey
- Elizabeth & Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens by Jane Dunn
- Mary of Guise in Scotland 1548-1560: A Political Study by Pamela E Ritchie
- Diana, Princess of Wales: How Sexual Politics Shook the Monarchy by Beatrix Campbell
- The Bugatti Queen by Miranda Seymour
- Vera Brittain: A Life by Paul Berry and Mark Bostridge
- Christina, Queen of Sweden: The Restless Life of a European Eccentric by Veronica Buckley
So there we have it. Not surprisingly from me, lots of sixteenth century related biographies buried in there, bit of literary stuff as well, tiny wee bit of politics, in fact a pretty reasonable spread which even I with my poor record should be able to get through in a year. Not holding my breath though.
And there is a start-up meme:
1. What does feminism mean to you? Does it have to do with the work sphere? The social sphere? How you dress? How you act? Crumbs, where to start? Well, I was born at the beginning of 1962 so by the time I was a teenager there had been huge changes in the expectations I (and my parents) had for my future compared to what my mother (who was born in 1941) could expect. I think feminism has to relate to all of the above and totally and utterly revolves around choice. There are no right answers for women (as there aren’t for men, to be fair). You have to do what’s best for you and your own personal situation, and should be allowed to do so without criticism. If only.
2. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not? I definitely do consider myself a feminist and have done so for over thirty years (and lord just typing that makes me feel pretty ancient). I blame Virginia Woolf and A Room of One’s Own which I read just after I started university at the end of the 1970s. But it’s important to me that being a feminist doesn’t mean you can’t do the fashion thing ( as one look at my shoe and handbag collection will testify) and a sense of humour is an absolute necessity.
3. What do you consider the biggest obstacle women face in the world today? Has that obstacle changed over time, or does it basically remain the same? I think this very much depends on what part of the world you are living in. In my bit of western Europe it’s about choice and things like body image and the expectations we put on young women in particular as a society. Elsewhere it’s the fundamentals of access to the democratic process, access to education; really basic stuff which some of us take for granted.
So yet another failed challenge; it’s been a bad year for reading to order (if I can call it that, possibly being a little bit harsh) and I am choosing to blame it all on pressure of work though poor reading planning on my part is almost certainly just as culpable.
Anyhow, in my original post here I identified eight possibles of which I planned to read four; I actually made it to three:
- the reporter investigating a serial killer in her home town one
- the small boy trapped in train tunnel being entertained by Gothic stories one
- the freaked me out Swedish zombie one
Close, but no cigar.
Oh well, there is always next year….
Otherwise known as the it-really-freaked-me-out Swedish zombie one.
So Handling the Undead is the second book by John Ajvide Lindqvist, who wrote Let the Right One In which was one of my favourite reads of last year and spawned one of the best films of 2009 (thoughts on the book are here, and the film over here).
We are in Stockholm; the whole of the population seems to be sharing in one giant communal headache as it what feels like a thunderstorm is approaching, and no electrical appliances can be turned off, so this is a group of people under some stress. And then suddenly it stops. And roughly at the same time the dead come back to life; well not all of the dead, only those who have passed away during the previous two months.
We follow what happens over several days through a small group of characters: David, a stand-up comic whose wife is killed in a car accident just before the zombie stuff starts, and is among the first to come back; Magnus, a reporter whose young grandson died in an accident several weeks before; and Elvy, recently widowed, and her grand-daughter Flora, who both have a paranormal gift and can tell what others are feeling. Not giving too much away here as these characters and their respective situations are all introduced in the first few pages and give the emotional heart to the book.
Now I will put my cards on the table here and say that I have always had a problem with the concept of zombies in that they totally terrify me. I don’t think I have ever been able to sit through a whole zombie movie. I can happily read/watch anything about vampires, werewolves and other supernatural beasties, but zombies definitely give me pause. And I think it’s because it could happen; not the living coming back to life as such, but large groups of people becoming violent through some kind of virus or something sounds all too plausible to me and I’d rather not think about it, thank you very much.
And certainly the beginning of the book played into all of that, being pretty gruesome and not a little frightening, and it’s probably my own fault that I got so freaked as I started reading the book in bed, a stupid thing to do giving everything I said above and perhaps I deserved what I got (but thankfully no nightmares).
But then it turns into something quite different. What do the reliving actually want? How would you react if someone close to you came back but weren’t quite right? How does a modern, liberal, enlightened western European nation actually handle a situation (the answer being not terribly well and far too slowly)? And how do people of faith deal with what could be a harbinger of the end times? Oh, and can love survive?
Sounds like heavy stuff but this manages to deal with all of these issues in a thoughtful way, and this is where the range of characters actually helps move things along as they all look at the situation from a slightly different perspective. And I was so keen to find out how this would all end that I finished the book in bed in the small hours of the morning, despite my previous misgivings. It is quite gory in places but not gratuitously so.
Highly recommended. And my third read for the RIP Challenge. And I may just have to look at this zombie thing in a whole new light …