Tag Archives: Sunday Salon

Sunday Salon: Once Upon a Time VII

Once Upon a Time VIII think this might be the first time I participate in the Once Upon a Time challenge hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Strange how I have been a participant in Readers Imbibing Peril for a few times now, but never this spring event, even though the theme seems to suit me much better than the more grim autumn event:

Thursday, March 21st begins the seventh annual Once Upon a Time Challenge. This is a reading and viewing event that encompasses four broad categories: Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy and Mythology, including the seemingly countless sub-genres and blending of genres that fall within this spectrum. The challenge continues through Friday, June 21st and allows for very minor (1 book only) participation as well as more immersion depending on your reading/viewing whims.

Once Upon a Time: The Journey

I am planning to read more than one book (which is the only requirement for this level of participation). Actually, I think I might aim for five books, which is the requirement for the Quest The First level, but being the shallow creature that I am, I have opted to participate in The Journey anyway. Not only because I feel it is the safer option since my life has been pretty busy and chaotic lately, but also because I love the title, particularly in combination with the image of the banner (so pretty!).

I have a semi-large pool of books to choose from, including:

  • Weight by Jeanette Winterson (Canongate Myth Series)
  • Girl Meets Boy by Ali Smith ((Canongate Myth Series)
  • Dream Angus by Alexander McCall Smith (Canongate Myth Series)
  • Something by Eva Ibbotson
  • Something by Diana Wynne Jones
  • The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (I know, it is a spring challenge, but the current weather seems fitting enough)
  • Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan
  • Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth
  • Sorcery & Cecilia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer
  • Deerskin by Robin McKinley
  • Son of Shadows by Juliet Marillier
  • The Folk Keeper by Franny Billingsley

Remember when I started participating in Fairy Tale Fridays last year (which seems to have been a dead meme, even when I began sadly), and asked you all for recommendations? Well, I will be looking at those too, as well as the library. More are always welcome! Also, do any of you have comic/graphic novel suggestions (aside from Fables)? Oh, and I could definitely do with suggested Mythology or Folklore reads!

Once Upon a Time Short Stories

I have been thinking whether or not I should do this, but the thing is, I have a couple of Fairy Tale collections on my shelves, and I think an approach where I read the books in chunks would work rather well. I have been thinking of doing so under the Fairy Tale Friday title, but this actually seems to work better and might give me a change to engage with others (which I sadly haven’t had time for much lately).

High up on my list are (they look so pretty):

  • Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales
  • Grimm Tales by Philip Pullman

Do these count as short stories? I’m suddenly a little unsure if they would.

Once Upon a Time Quest on Screen

Moreover, I’d like to participate by watching some movies and/or TV shows. There are quite a few fairytale based movies coming out (Hansel & Gretel, Oz, etc), I have a BBC DVD of modern adaptations of Shakespeare which I think might fit(?), I may persuade myself to watch Once Upon a Time season (but for some reason I am not terribly excited about it), and there’s always some Disney to rewatch (I know, probably considered sacrilege by some). I’m definitely open to suggestions for these! Also, I’m not sure if I am any good at writing about movies/TV shows critically (Amy is so much better at it than I am), but I might try (or simply give you a quick overview so as not to bore those who prefer hearing about books).

Are you planning to participate in Once Upon a Time VII? Are you as excited as I am? Making just as many (in my case unrealistic) plans?

Sunday Salon: Sunday Reading (& a short War and Peace update)

Happy Sunday! What are your plans for today? I think I am going to have a small read-a-thon for myself, where I cuddle up on the couch for a few hours catching up with all the reading I feel I missed out on this past week.

Sunday reading

High up on my list is finally making a start with War and Peace by Tolstoy. My copy of the book finally came in the post last week. I settled on the Pevear & Volokhonsky  translation, right before I saw this post about why Violet prefers the Rosemary Edmunds translation of Anna Karenina. Although I do not have any complaints about the translation thus far (she says, 10 pages in), posts like this always make me doubt if I chose correctly). Perhaps I’ll be able to reread the book in a different translation, one day. That would be interesting to do anyway.

Have any of those participating started War and Peace yet? Amy and I have two more things we’d like to remark on. First, we looked at the schedule after receiving a question from Tolstoy is my Cat, and we decided it might be better to change it slightly and read Book 1, part III for March, and Book 2 part I & II for April. However, feel free to read along as you see fit. Also, we’d love for you to post updates about your reading progress whenever you feel like it. Amy and I will probably do a short check in each month (probably towards the end of the month) and we’d love for you to discuss your reading there, but feel free to leave us your links so we can hop over and discuss over at your blog as well!

If I happen to get along with War & Peace today (or if not), I also have Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson, and the second half of The House of Mirth lined up to read. It’s cold outside. I have plenty of tea and a blanket inside. This promises to be a wonderful lazy Sunday.

Sunday Salon: On Authors, Series, and New Releases

On 27 September, a little over a week ago, The Casual Vacancy was released. The first novel by J.K. Rowling set outside the Harry Potter Universe. The book had been announced for months. Its cover, in itself, set people talking [I am one of those who does not like it much]. There was a build-up, and excitement, and everything that was to be expected of the author of possibly the biggest series in the world releasing a new book into the world. The puzzling thing is that this Harry Potter fangirl wasn’t all that excited.

It is not so much the setting, the story in itself, the sex or the strong language that made me feel mostly apathetic about this release. It wasn’t even the endless stream of “this is not Harry Potter” warnings and interviews and reviews popping up everywhere (although I do admit that after reading that for the third time, I sort of got the message). I like the idea that Rowling is exploring new waters. I like the idea that she’s writing again and willing to show it to the world despite the fact that she’s probably made enough money to never write again. So really.. Why did I care so little for The Casual Vacancy’s release? Why was I more apathetic than exited (which I feel I should have been)? Well, there’s the rub: I don’t really know.

This is what I have been pondering about the past 10 days. I’m not sure I have any answers, but I did come up with a possible suggestion as to the why – which only left me feeling more puzzled in the end.

Because here’s the thing: Perhaps my apathy really is a case of The Casual Vacancy not being a Harry Potter book. Now, you might think that that is no surprise in itself, but I’m pretty sure it’s not what you think I mean when I tell you that. You see, it’s not that I wanted her to write another Harry Potter book. I think the series is pretty perfect as it is. I’d be okay with there never being another Harry Potter book released, even though the idea that this series is over fills me with nostalgia. It’s the fact that Harry Potter is not equated with J.K. Rowling in my mind.

It was only on the book’s release date that I somehow came to the realisation that the quality of the Harry Potter series is really the quality of J.K. Rowling as a writer. Somehow, in my mind they always were somewhat separated. To the point where I might think to myself that Harry Potter means so much to me, its universe, its story, its characters, I love them all. But, somehow, that never made me think of Rowling as a favourite author, or an author whose writing I really enjoy for the writing in itself. This does not mean I do not appreciate her as a person, as much as the next one I like her interviews and I had tears in my eyes when she appeared at the premiere of the last Harry Potter movie.. It’s just that somehow I’ve never equated my love of Harry Potter with J.K. Rowling’s qualities as a writer. Undeservedly, I now realise. But it’s true nonetheless.

The Casual Vacancy - JK RowlingIn a way this is a compliment, I think: it means the world of Harry Potter feels so real to me that I believe in it as a separate entity from the author. To some extent, I feel the same about Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking Trilogy, with the difference that I’ve already read a book by him set in a separate universe which means I’m better at acknowledging his quality as an author as opposed to a single series. In a similar vein, it means The Casual Vacancy will be Rowling’s chance to convince me that she is a favourite author of mine, instead of the creator of a universe I love. That in itself is quite exciting, isn’t it? Perhaps this post will convince me to feel a little more anticipation for the book that’s currently lying on my desk in a reminder that it’s there, ready to be read. (Because yes, for all my apathy, I did pre-order it at the last minute).

I’m left to wonder if I’m alone in this. If when you say you have a favourite series, book, or author, the book(s) or the author takes priority? And if the books are more likely to take priority in case of a series, especially with authors who’ve written only one series to date? I somehow feel it was easier for me to decide Margo Lanagan was a favourite author based on the one book, Tender Morsels, I had read by her, than it is to acknowledge Rowling as a favourite despite my growing up with Harry Potter as one of my favourites stories ever, so much so that I felt justified in exclaiming on twitter that Harry Potter was my teenage life. Perhaps this is because a stand-alone book ultimately makes you accept in advance that it will be the beginning and end of the created setting, whereas that’s different with a series? Which leads to the question if this changes once an author has released more?  I don’t know, I’m just playing around with ideas here. In a way, series or books perhaps do not make a difference. Perhaps it’s really the idea of knowing an author can create separate worthwhile universes?

I really hope any of this makes sense.

Sunday Salon: “Preaching” and Practising Diversity in Reading

This week, I participated in a discussion over at Jillian’s blog, A Room of Ones Own, on the Western Canon. Now, the more I consider this topic, the more the canon becomes flawed. The dominant discourse of what is worthy of recognition as a classic and the privileged white male selection mechanism is a well-known argument, but reading through the comments it became a lot more visible how this line of thinking still influences much of how we view “quality” and “literature” unconsciously. The more I think about it, the more I want to reject the canon and establish counter-readings of literature that “could just as well have been canon”. Except that to do so I think the word canon is insufficient anyway. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I enjoy reading “classics”, I like looking through lists such as the 1001 books you must read before you die list, but browsing them it is hard to ignore what has been so consciously omitted. Why so little women? Why so little literature outside of Northern America and Europe? Why so much general fiction? Why so little fantasy? These are questions that need to be asked, I think. It is important to be aware of them.

However, after reading about the topic on Jillian’s blog, while posting comments and etcetera, I started to contemplate if I practise what I preach. And I came to some startling (or not so startling) conclusions.

Overall, I read, and write about, more books written by women than by men. It is not so much a conscious decision (on some level it is, but that would be a whole different post), but I do consciously not care to make the numbers more equal. Why? Because there is an overload of male authors being reviewed over female authors, so I think I could justify writing more about women (not that I think my small blog has any effect, it’s just that, as I said before, I want to be conscious about what I’m doing).

There’s one exception though. And that is Dutch Lit Month. If there was one chunk of reading that skewed the male-female ratio more towards equal it was my dedicated month of reading Dutch literature last year. I reviewed a grand total of two Dutch women authors. Two! One of which was a DNF. This, of course, needs to change. So I have been looking into some details, trying to find a way to make my reading more equal this year. To this purpose, I took out this book from the library:

Women's Writing from the Low Countries 1880-2010, edited by Jacqueline Bel and Thomas Vaessens // Amsterdam/Manchester University Press, 2010

It contains small informative summaries of the lives and works of numerous Dutch women authors. Disappointingly, there is no list of translated works included, even if the book itself is written in English. And here the other problem I have in trying to write about more Dutch women authors comes into play: the issue of translation. Let me illustrate that.

This is a row of twenty books my parents received as a present when they subscribed to a national newspaper recently. They are a specially issued series of “the best Dutch debut novels”:

75% of the novels pictured above are written by men. Only five out of 20 were written by women. Only two of those have been translated to English (most of them were translated to German).

So here’s the thing: How do I keep the number of Dutch female authors reviewed during Dutch Lit Month equal to the number of men, without reviewing books of which I can only hope that they will one day be translated to English? I’m not saying I’m not going to try, I’m browsing the library and books at the family like crazy, and I’m sure I’ll figure something out this year. But in the long run, there’s the fact that if I want to continue Dutch Lit Month with a focus on books that are available to English readers, how do I keep from a skewed gender balance?

Apart from a gender imbalance in books read and written about for Dutch Lit Month, there is also the factor of ethnicity, race, country in my general reading.. My focus is heavily on European and North American lit. I sometimes read a few books from Australia, Africa, Asia (never yet from South America, I think?), but it simply is not enough. And here, I cannot blame translations or availability so much. I can only blame myself. For not taking a more conscious effort to remedy this. To be lazy enough to read books I bought, and get books from the library, that are so undeniably “Western” in their focus and authorship. So, I think I see a project coming on, or something, anything, to do better on this score. And to turn awareness into actually doing something about it in my personal reading. Knowing myself, I will find this incredibly difficult. I already feel myself thinking in terms of problems and what I have to “deny” myself in reading plans, instead of in terms of opportunities.

I am not sure if I will be able to change this overnight. I am pretty sure I cannot. But the least I can do is write it down, and acknowledge it publicly to myself, right? In the hope that I will make more of an effort. In the hope that some of you might help make me accountable to myself.

Sunday Salon: Reading Journal

I really enjoy bloggers who write as if they are keeping a reading journal. The ones that do not just post reviews once they have finished a book, but also talk about starting a particular book, or how they are getting on with the author halfway through. I am not saying I do not enjoy other type of blogs, because I do, and I envy a whole lot of them for their quality and style. It’s just that lately I have been fascinated with the type of writing that goes into posts of the “reading journal” variety. I have been thinking if I could incorporate some elements of it in my own blog. I think I try to do so with my Thursday Tea posts, but I’d like to feel comfortable with just writing down thoughts on books I’m in the middle of, what kind of reading mood I am in, what I think I might pick up in the upcoming days.. I have a feeling I may not be very good at those type of posts (though I sure am good at rambling, but it is not really the same, is it?), but I love the sneak peek into people’s reading lives that those posts enable. Another thing I’d like to add to my list of things I want to be comfortable doing on my blog. I swear, one of these days I will rewrite my about page in a decent manner.*

Alejandra Karageorgiu, source: Alexandra's Pinterest

This past week I struggled a little with reading while finishing up my Phd proposal. I found it hard to concentrate on any of the books I loved reading a few days before that: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, I Capture the Castle.. Instead, I picked up Divergent by Veronica Roth, which was just the kind of book I needed. This weekend, things having calmed down again a little, I also finished I Capture the Castle, which will be added to my list of favourites. Now, I am in the middle of The Third Miss Symons and I started reading Goddess Interrupted as a netgalley review copy, but I can’t muster much excitement about the book at the moment.

I am starting to think that this year, up to now, has been about discovering how much I enjoy dystopian Young Adult novels and catching up on well-loved novels that I have missed out on all these years. Overall, the reading these past two months has been really good. I have read many books that I know will end up as favourites of the year. Actually, I have already begun to worry a little how on earth I am supposed to write a “top 10 reads of 2012” post at the end of the year.

Having graduated, my reading pace has picked up. I am now at 25 books read in 2012. I know that the amount of books read a month will probably dwindle again sometime, but I do enjoy the feeling of reading so much.

What is not working particularly well is the Bottom of the TBR pile Challenge I undertook with Amy and Amanda. I have only finished 2 of the books on that list so far. My list contains books I bought pre-2008. I try to pick up books from that list, but I can’t say that I am overly excited about many of them at the moment.

Next year, I won’t be able to compile a list for books bought pre-2009 because I deleted all the books in my Library Thing account and have started cataloguing anew. My catalogue was a mess and I hadn’t updated it properly for over a year. Now, I am going through my shelves. I am currently about 1/3rd through and I am shocked by the amount of TBR books on my shelves. As you can see, I now have 276 books listed, of which 176 are unread. *hides* I do try to read from my shelves, and I haven’t bought a single book this year (if you do not count the four books my boyfriend bought me as a gift), and yet the TBR pile does not seem to shrink. Perhaps it is because in between I am reading a lot on my ereader, which involves free classics and netgalley books, both of which I do not count as TBR pile books. I love my ereader for reading in bed during my sleepless nights. With my small nightlight attached to the reader, I don’t wake up B. and I don’t have to lie awake worrying.

What I do enjoy about re-cataloguing my books on Library Thing is finding out about all the amazing titles I own. It is weird how often we forget about all the books we own and instead compile lists of books we’d like to own. I think I will stick with this no-book-buying thing a while longer (not that I have a choice, since I don’t have the money). Perhaps, by the end of the year, I will have made a smallish dent. I have to admit that I do dream of all the books I’d still love to own. Perhaps a monthly wish list post is in order? But I’d like to do one featuring not just new releases, but also books that have been on my wish list for forever. I have been toying with the idea of a “long-term wish list” feature for ages, but I admit, I kind of hate the name.

* Terri of Tip of the Iceberg coincidentally posted about the same topic this Sunday, visit her blog and see what she has to say.