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August 31, 2010

Winner... and Winter's Bone

It's been fun reading all the comments today from fans and non-fans of Jane Austen. Hopefully we can all say we know ourselves better after having given P&P a try. --Anna

I could not agree more. Thanks to everyone who commented yesterday, I think our little book club was a success! I sat down last night with a glass of merlot the size of my head and re-read all the comments, it was like listening in on the best conversation at the party. What struck me most was how careful everyone was to say their opinion but not be a jerk (there was no, "You're wrong and stupid! This book is a masterpiece/suckfest!") In this age of sex tapes and "Sorry, officer, that's not my cocaine, I was holding it for a friend..." I think our book club was a rarity and a gem. Jane would be proud.

The comments helped me see the book in new ways (more on that in a bit) and I wish you could all come to my house and chat about books every weekend. It would keep me reading more and we could drink while gabbing.

The randomly chosen winner of book-club-comment-day is Linda who commented:

However, rereading Pride and Prejudice in the new annotated edition was really a revelation to me. Taking time to read the annotations forced me to slow down and really look at the world Austen was describing--and it was almost like visiting another universe. Previously, I had glossed over all of the humor, especially with Mr. Collins, and was clueless about the implications of one's choice of carriage.

She will be receiving an equally random assortment of goodies from my unemployed stash, including some 100% pure Norwegian wool in a golden orange hue, a few skeins of my favorite wool Noro, a few knitting books, some knitting markers and a mixed CD I made myself. I am also including a copy of a book I bought just for this winner:

Winter's Bone, by Daniel Woodrell.

I thought we could all read it in September for another book club chitchat. It's a fast read, you'll zip through it in a day or two, and it's a contemporary novel. It was recently made into an amazing indie film which I hope gets nominated for an Oscar this year. I've already read it, which is why I'm recommending it. I am selfish, you see, I want to re-read this book and talk to people about it. And I want to share it with everyone. Are you in?

So, make a date. Winter's Bone Book Chat on Monday, September 27th!!!

And I still want to re-read Gatsby. Any takers on that one? Can we fit it in September, too, or should we wait until October?

- - -

The comments yesterday had my brain bubbling, so I wanted to jot down a few things:

1) It's Colin Firth, yo

Thank you so much to everyone who subtly pointed out the difference between enjoying the BBC mini-series version of Pride and Prejudice versus enjoying the book itself. I feel the same way about the movie Emma! I love the film but can't get past twenty pages in the book.

I have never seen the Colin Firth mini-series or any of the P&P movies but it's now in my Netflix queue. After I finished the book on Sunday I tried watching the one version of Pride and Prejudice offered streaming on Netflix and I couldn't get through it. That 1980s Mr. Darcy was too creepy for me, he looked like he'd just escaped from a mental institution and would at any moment break into song OR murder Elizabeth OR become a gay porn star. Weird.

My favorite comment about the movie/book gap was from reader Donna:

I didn't mind watching the movies while knitting as I am assuming the producers are displaying the correct period housing, clothing etc....but reading her book, Jane does not get into any detail of her environment, just the gossip! It would of been nice to hear about the decor of the rooms, the gardens, the food, what they were doing to keep themselves busy (beside gossiping).

There were several points in the book where I wanted someone to describe the food or the wallpaper or even the weather. Please, Lord, send us a stormy day and deliver us from the drawing room, amen. But after reading the comments I can see where the lack of in-depth description is almost part of the draw for some readers. If you love the conversation and observation, you want more. If you're able to sink into the conversation, then descriptive leaps into dinner or weather might be a distraction. Inneresting!

2) Happily Ever After

The discussions I thought were most intriguing in the comments were all about the ideas of marriage and the "happy ending" to the story. Is being married a happy ending? I certainly grew up thinking that it was, a notion which probably added to My Bigass Mental Breakdown of 2005.

Some comments pointed out that there are women in 2010 still quite focused on getting a husband and marrying well just like Jane Austen's characters. There was a time in my life when all I wanted was to get married. I was so sure that marriage would open the door to happiness. (There was also a time when I really wanted an Epilady. Times change.)

I thought reader Jennifer said it best:

I think the happy ending part is not that they get married, but that they both cause each other to change in ways that make them better people (and bonus that those people they change into are so well suited to one another).

I wonder if I would have had a completely different feeling for this book had I read it when I was 19, instead of now at 39? I know the way I feel about marriage has completely changed in the past few years. There was a point while reading P&P when I realized my feelings about marriage probably colored how I related to the book.

The author's life, on the other hand, is better than the best page-turner on the shelves. I read something online about her sister and other siblings burning all (or most) of Jane's letters after her death. I loved that they had such a fierce protection for her privacy even after she was gone. Fascinating stuff, no?

3) Happily Ever After addendum
For those of you who do like happy endings but also like a little thievery and piracy and some good old fashioned revenge fantasies, read or re-read The Count of Monte Cristo. I picked it up several months ago when my job was taking a Sylvia Plath-like turn for the worst and it got me through several weeks in the cubicle farm. I LOVE the Count. For one thing, it is not the depressing downer most folks think -- the ending is so happy that people are literally sailing off into a sunset. And even though it was also written in the 1800s, the writing is fairly accessible and the plot just grabs you. It has some overly complicated scheming toward the end but it's a great story. I think someone should do a movie re-make with a modern update setting it in the present. Javier Bardem as Dantes... what do you think? Green light all the way?

4) Cracked me right up

You know, I'd take a long day in a drawing room over the courtship rituals of Jersey Shore any day.-- RB

- - -

Reading is a uniquely personal experience. I love sinking into a book, getting lost in it, I don't care if it's smutty V.C. Andrews or highbrow Henry James, if you get sucked into a book it's a decadent, pleasurable thing. I feel obligated to read classic lit because it's the foundation for all reading and writing (and reading and writing are my two favorite things to do in life!) Pride and Prejudice reminded me that it's OK not to like a book, even a beloved classic. Not everything will speak to every person. But it's good to try it out to see if it will fit. Every palate is different.

Don't forget! Monday, September 27, 2010--
Winter's Bone, by Daniel Woodrell. I cannot wait to hear your take on this book. Oh, and if you saw the movie I want to hear your review of that, too.

Posted by laurie at 2:04 PM

August 30, 2010

Nerdy Monday: Book chat!

August got away from me, so I passed the weekend reading Pride And Prejudice, it felt like I was cramming for finals again. I will admit that I spent the first 85 pages or so bemoaning all you Jane Austen fans who voted so vociferously for this book over The Great Gatsby. Then I spent the next 100 pages or so remembering why I had never read a full Jane Austen book cover to cover until now. When forced to pick from a list of female writers from the 19th century, I always reached for Kate Chopin, Mary Shelley, Emily Dickinson. But when I had a choice in school I always sided with the men in this era-- Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, Henry James, Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson.

I took a break midway through reading P&P and did a little research online about Jane Austen's life (hey, it's been a while since I was in school and I'm not one of those people who goes around pretending to know everything, nothing irritates me more than pedantic pedantics, I fully admit I have to wikipedia shit all day long) and once I brushed up on my Austen facts I was much more interested in finishing the book. She died when she was so young, just a few years older than I am now. And I kept thinking how she never got to see what an impact her books had on the world ... here we are almost 200 years after the book was first published we're still talking about it!

I'm not a book critic, I can only say if a book spoke to me or not. I'm also deeply aware of the hate mail and criticism which would happen if open season were declared on me for not loving your favorite book. So I will not say I hated it. I didn't hate it at all, actually. While it was not a lifetime favorite for me, I'm certainly glad I read it. My main irritation was that the characters don't do anything except sit in drawing rooms and talk -- perhaps I would have enjoyed the Zombies version better -- maybe you'll assume I'm not subtle and literary enough to get the social commentary. I do see it, I mean that's all the book is, social observation, but I guess my appetite for marriage chitchat isn't 400 pages long.

I have to say, this book did make me feel grateful I didn't grow up in turn-of-the-century England. I can't imagine spending your childhood waiting to be married and then spending your adult life waiting to marry off your kids while gossiping about marriage all day long. (During one long scene where everyone sits around in the drawing room, I wrote in my diary, "These are people who could have seriously benefited from a TV.") In the end, though, it was pleasing to close the book and feel a sense of accomplishment. I'm glad we all read this book because now I can say I've read it and cross that off my list.

What did you think? I'm especially interested in folks who also read this book for the first time like un-subtle, un-literary me. Did you like the characters? Did you like the style of writing? The tone? The setting? The ending? Did you wish for zombies, too?

Posted by laurie at 9:06 AM

August 27, 2010

Weekend plans: Read Pride & Prejudice

Don't forget, on Monday we'll be chitchatting about Pride And Prejudice, and to make it fun everyone who comments on the book will be entered into a random drawing for a random gift. I've been remiss in my reading so I need to get on the ball ... guess I will be spending Friday night with Jane Austen. I'd prefer an evening with George Clooney but they weren't selling him at the local bookstore. Ah well.

Frankie is still mad we didn't decide to read Cat's Cradle.


Have a great weekend! See you Monday!

Posted by laurie at 11:44 AM

August 25, 2010

Hot fur in the city

Nothing to talk about but the weather.

It is 107 degrees outside. I wish I were exaggerating but I'm not. It is mid-afternoon and 107 degrees here in the San Fernando Valley. Summer in the city! Everyone drives worse than usual when it's this hot. I went out early this morning for some groceries and I saw three accidents on Ventura Boulevard in a 2-mile radius. There was much honking and berating across the land.

The weather has been mild until just recently and then overnight the city turned into an oven. Dapper Dallas Raines says we'll have chilly fall-like temperatures in the 70s by Monday but right now all is sweaty and lethargic at Chez Furball...




Posted by laurie at 2:16 PM

August 24, 2010

Crimes Against Yarn



The dire anguish of encountering the badly knotted Noro.

Posted by laurie at 12:47 PM

August 9, 2010

Laundry Day




Posted by laurie at 9:15 AM

August 5, 2010

Livin' in a world of "get a life!" ...Everyone seems so uptight. Nothing's wrong and nothing's right...

That title is from one of my favorite songs by En Vogue-- Giving Him Something He Can Feel. You go online for the lyrics and it says "...livin' in a world of ghetto life..." but in the first liner notes on the first tape I got it said, "livin' in a world of 'get a life'" ...and that made sense to me so you know that is how I sing it loud and proud in my Jeep.

Everyone says "Get a life, man!" and what does that mean anyway?

What is a life? Get a life! I think what people mean when they say it to you is, "Be more like me!" "Get a life I approve of!" "Be less freaky to me, because anything different makes me question myself and I don't do that navel-gazing bullshit!"

Whatever, it's a song.

So the very first piece of existential philosophy I ever applied to real life came from the movie Top Gun. Tom Cruise, Val Kilmer at the hotness, and personally my favorite ever Meg Ryan role. I was twelve.

See, in the movie Jester gives Maverick flight-school hell for flying below the hard deck. No one goes below the hard deck! You get penalized for flying below the hard deck like that crazy Maverick! And I realized in my family -- and at school, to a lesser degree, and in all relationships -- it seemed there was an invisible emotional hard deck inside all social groups and we are not allowed to go beneath it. We all join in on an implicit agreement never to go below the hard deck in polite conversation.

Before you get the idea I was special and gifted at age twelve please recall I spent an hour every morning applying so much blue eyeshadow I could have passed for Papa Smurf.

But it was an apt philosophy. Families and relationships and even whole companies develop an emotional hard deck which no one is permitted to fly below. People have personal hard decks, I have mine. Above the hard deck I'll share and give, below is a different story. You start making low-flying recon missions below my hard deck and I shut it down faster than a block party in a swine flu epidemic.

If I ever had the desire to return to college I could freak out the professors with my life lessons and social anthropological mores learned from 1980s films. This is just the tip of the crazyberg.

Do you have an emotional hard deck? Does your family have one? Have you ever dared venture below it, dared to fly low and dangerous?

And what do you think, are we livin' in a world of ghetto life get a life where everyone seems so uptight?

- - -

Edited to add in what surely must be irony considering the last sentence, above, that yes thank you to commenter who pointed out I must have been older than 12 if the movie came out in 1986. I looked online to be super accurate because all that matters clearly is the exact age I was when I saw Top Gun and I was 14. Also, Meg Ryan is in the movie and she plays Goose's wife. It's a small part that I personally liked.

Now I am closing comments and taking a nice long break. Goodbye!

Posted by laurie at 7:31 PM

August 4, 2010

Pride and Prejudice it is, then

So let's meet back here on Monday August 30th to chat about the book. You can order it online (here's The Annotated Pride and Prejudice) or of course at your local library or mug a high school student for their copy. You can also get it free on the kindle, cool, no? (Here's that link: Pride and Prejudice Kindle Edition).

Edited to add: There are apparently a number of ways to get this book free, thanks to all the folks who commented to let us know. I bought the version in Target that looks all Twilight-ish, well, I just thought it was hilarious that it says "Bella's favorite book!" or something right on the cover. But here are other options:


Free from Project Gutenberg

Free Audio Book from LibriVox

And on August 30th, everyone who comments in our little virtual bookclub will be entered to win a drawing for some goofy prize. Being on the thrifty side of finances these days, it will likely be an odd assortment of yarn and books from my stash and who knows what else. Can't send Bob after all, besides my missing him terribly he would break the bank in shipping weight charges...

Get reading!

Posted by laurie at 11:22 AM

August 2, 2010

Summer reading

Last night I stayed up way too late with my nose stuck in a book, I'm reading The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir. It's not a biography, it's a novel but the author is fairly close to facts in her timeline and it's a good read. I love anything about Queen Elizabeth -- one of my favorite movies of all time is Elizabeth with Cate Blanchett. It's a little loose with the facts but it's a great movie. I think part of my fascination with her is that I can't imagine what it must have been like to live in the 1500s and (seemingly deliberately) choose to not marry. Let's be honest, I live in the year 2010 and some people still think it's weird and wrong that I didn't remarry. Imagine living in the 1500s and being single! And Queen at that. Fascinating.

I bought two other books recently as well -- Pride And Prejudice and The Great Gatsby. I've read Gatsby several times but the last time I read it was probably over a decade ago (maybe two?). But I have never read a single Jane Austen book. Can you believe that? Can you believe I am admitting that?

So what do you think about us having a goofyass virtual bookclub this month and you all pick the book you want to read most -- pick one, Gatsby or Pride and Prejudice, post today in the comments and majority rules -- and we'll meet back here maybe on Monday, August 30th (so you have that weekend to cram, hah) and we can chat about the book? And everyone who decides to participate in that chitchat in the comments will be entered to win some fun gift, like some yarn and maybe a signed copy of the Drunk book (I still have copies of that but am out of the new one, go figure) and who knows what else I may throw in. You may get a cat if Blob doesn't stop eating my size 8 circulars.

You in? You have to cast your vote today for which book, though. If ya'll think this is a stupid idea just let me know and we'll pretend I was stoned on paint fumes or something. Happy Monday!

Posted by laurie at 9:03 AM