Wednesday, September 20, 2006

This is my last post here at Liquid Thoughts. I started blogging because I thought it would be a fun way to connect with like minded people, or even better, connect with a diverse group of bloggers and readers. However, it's becoming a chore to blog and I'm going to go back to my journaling ways and leave the blogworld.

I'll still be reading blogs and hope you all continue to publish such great essays.



Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I just found this site at LitKicks. It would be cooler if the shirts didn't have the names on them, but I may have to get a couple.
In college, we knew all the cliques. Cliques seem to be stereotypes that transcend time and location. In Donna Tartt's The Secret History, a group of gifted and privileged students studying Greek and the classics commit murder. The novel challenges the reader to watch these students, Henry, Francis, Richard, Bunny, Camilla and Charles deal with the emotional turmoil that comes with covering up a murder. It never goes smoothly, does it? The students think they're smarter than everybody else, tricking cops, the FBI, classmates, parents, teachers and the Vermont community. Unfortunately, Tartt actually does make them smarter than everybody and that is one of the downsides of the novel because Spoiler Alert they get away with, not one, but two murders. I don't know what Tartt's trying to say with this. Later in the book, we learn that a few of the kids crack and never really get their lives in order, but I wanted more trouble for the murderers. I wanted them to pay for their crimes, not just emotionally. I'm a square through and through, but I understand that life is not always black or white. I watch film noir and read Raymond Chandler. I know that people do some awful things because they feel there's no alternative. But Tartt doesn't want us to sympathize with these characters. And that's good because I didn't want to. These were cold blooded killers that were supposedly above reproach. The protagonist/narrator Richard, actually ends up going for his Ph.D in literature and is the least scarred of all the killers. I like shady protagonists...people on the skirts of society, living in the shadows of right and wrong. Richard isn't that guy. He's more of guiltless Ripley-esque character, without Ripley's charm.

It may not seem it, but I enjoyed the novel. It was an easy and entertaining read. I just never got what Tartt was trying to say, if anything. I didn't underline or mark any passages (and that's sad,) I simply read it and was done with it. I think Tartt's friend and former classmate, Brett Easton Ellis can still claim to rule the world of collegiate narcissism and moral corruption.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I enjoyed The Secret History and hopefully I'll post about it today or tonight. Eventhough it was about 650 pages, I read it in about four days. Now I'm breezing through Paul Auster's The Brooklyn Follies. I started it last night, but I should finish it during lunch today. It's great!

And maybe I'll get up here this fall and walk in Edna St. Vincent Millay's footsteps.

Now reading:
Paul Auster The Brooklyn Follies

Up next:
Marcel Proust Sodom and Gomorrah

Just finished:
Donna Tartt The Secret History

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Enough! So long Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. We hardly knew ye. Three hundred pages and another wasted lunch hour were about all I could take of Jonathan Strange.

I never got into Harry Potter and I can't deal with the adult version either. I enjoy a magic show, but I appreciate it for what it is. Magic, illusion, slight of hand, mind games. In Jonathan Strange, the people believe in magic for real and want to use it for practical purposes...war! I couldn't grasp it. I've already given it to a co-worker and have decided to read Donna Tart's The Secret History. A friend has recommended it and let me borrow it and so...I begin.
125 pages Monday. 110 page Tuesday. And it's 8:17 a.m. and I've already read another 20 pages of Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. In most cases, reading this many pages so quickly would be a good sign. It would seem to mean that I was enjoying the book and that I was nearing some sort of end. However, it's neither. The book is such an easy read, that you just sort of flow along, not really becoming entranced by the magic, magicians or anything much for that matter. I've been reading it with a certain nonchalance that I'm not accustomed to. But it's the book that demands this. How else are we to make it through 1,006 pages? This book is a behemoth. I'm 255 pages in and I'm not even out of the first section. The second main character, Jonathan Strange, has just been introduced into the fold.

This book has received nothing but rave reviews, winning countless book of the year awards. Now, I really don't care about awards or reviews for that matter, but I do pay attention to them. Hopefully, I'll be able to make my own judgment. I'm not saying Clarke's book is bad or poorly written. I was just hoping to be sucked into the world of mystery and magic, with mist and eerie British settings, conducive to prolonged periods of reading as rain falls, quieting the world around me. Instead, I've been lulled into a world of practical magic, where Mr. Norrell wants to use his powers to aid in the war against Napoleon and the French. I don't want people being turned into pumpkins, but magicians fighting wars? I get it. I take it as a modern version of Merlin. Or something like that.

Maybe the next 250 pages will be the catalyst to invigorate me, to invigorate the book. I would think that after 500 pages a book would speak to me. May Jonathan Strange whisper for me to put him down? We shall see...

p.s. I am not reading this book as part of Carl V.'s Readers Imbibing Peril (R.I.P.)Autumn Challenge, but I may take up this challenge if I can get through Jonathan Strange.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I admit that I had never heard of Rebecca West until sfp at Pages Turned wrote about her. What many already know is that West was a brilliant writer. I quickly realized this after reading only a few pages of her books. Then I read that she had an affair with H.G. Wells at the age of 19 and they had a son together. However, Wells was still married. His wife reportedly knew of the affair, but chose to ignore it. At this time, I was reading Wells's The Island of Dr. Moreau and by coincidence, A.S. Byatt's Possession. The turning point came when I began to see similarities between Byatt's Victorian romance and the real life Wells-West relationship.

In Possession, Randolph Henry Ash, a famous poet and writer in Victorian England begins a secret affair with Cristobel LaMotte, also a gifted writer, but supposed lesbian. At the time, Ash and LaMotte were writing epic poems and stories based on old British and Breton myths. It was a world of fantasy, shadows and metaphors, similar to modern science fiction that Wells was writing of. Now, I have no idea if any of this makes sense, but I enjoy finding these little nuances in novels and trying to discover if they have any relation to anything real.

Ash and LaMotte have this affair which produces a child, just as Wells's and West's did. Though LaMotte has the child in secret and gives it up for her sister to raise, there was a child. Also, LaMotte's lover Blanche tells Ash's wife that Cristobel and her husband are having an affair. Ash's wife chooses to ignore this news and continues to live her life with Ash as if nothing happened. This was similar to Wells's wife's knowledge of his fairly public affair with West and her choosing to remain with him.

And the last thing that struck me as interesting is that though West was well known and respected in her time, Wells is certainly the more famous writer of the duo. West is still read and studied, but nowhere near on par with Wells. In Possession, it is Ash that retains the fame and notoriety, while LaMotte becomes a subject for select scholars. Byatt may have simply been following the all too familiar path of women writers through history...neglect.

These are possibly only mere fancies I've created. Mere coincidences, not probabilities. But Byatt is a scholar of the Victorian and she would certainly have known about Wells and West, as many already do. Wouldn't it then be possible that she had this love affair in the back of her mind as she began writing Possession? I don't know and it probably doesn't matter in the end, but it added layers to the novel that I would have glanced over, were it not for the real life similarities.

Friday, September 01, 2006

I just finished A.S. Byatt's Possession and I'm going to write about it. But, I want to do a little research and find out more about the relationship between H.G. Wells and Rebecca West. The Victorian love story between Randolph Henry Ash and Cristobel LaMotte, in Possession seems to have far too many similarities to the Wells - West relationship than simple coincidence. I'm not taking notes or anything, just reading more about it all. It's actually more interesting than the novel itself.