Posts Tagged ‘Forgotten Classics’

Non-fiction variety

Wednesday, 25 May 2011
Original Raidió Teilifís Éireann logo

Image via Wikipedia

I got into podcasts through the literary craft-friendly ones like Craftlit and Forgotten Classics, (both often referred to here) and I now seem to be downloading hours’ worth every day of many different types and topics.(Why no, I can’t really keep up!) It was actually Julie on Forgotten Classics (in the USA, ironically enough) who pointed out that RTE are podcasting their documentary archive, including old and new works. Having grown up in Ireland I appreciate the local references, and sometimes it’s good to be able to discuss programmes with my mother that she’s heard on the radio, but these are so very varied that anyone could find some to interest them.

Water works

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

I haven’t been listening to the current book on Forgotten Classics, but I did enjoy the previous one.

Original cover of The Riddle of the Sands

Original cover of The Riddle of the Sands

41. The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers

I had certainly heard of Childers before Julie read this book, but hadn’t read anything of his; I hadn’t realised he pioneered the spy novel like this. Since I don’t think she’d mentioned it I’d forgotten that he ended up an Irish nationalist, and hadn’t realised until I just read the Wikipedia article linked above just how complicated his allegiences to Britain and Ireland were. I might have to look for a decent biography of the man.

What Julie did explain in some detail was the political relevance and then impact the novel had on British Naval and other military preparations for the (then potential) upcoming conflicts with Germany, which really wasn’t very far away by sea. (RofS was first published in 1903.) While there’s certainly a clear message coming across about the value and importance of covert knowledge of what’s going on in other nations (especially enemies or possible ones) at a time when spying was seen as underhand and not something for gentlemen to take part in, the story is not lacking, and most of the characters come across well.

As someone who’s done a fair bit of sailing (all but one voyage in dinghies, however, although that voyage was aboard the Asgard II, the Irish sail training vessel actually named after Erskine’s own Asgard) I quite enjoyed and appreciated the technical details, although apparently some just saw that as a bit of a necessary evil. I do have to wonder how much of the same geographical and sailing knowledge Childers displays in this book is what he used when gun-running in Asgard

In memory of Asgard II.

It’s late!

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Only 10:45pm, but a few hours since Shabbat went out. We had a nice and very sociable one, so that’s good.

Still, I think I’ll limit myself to the one book to discuss!

57. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

This was Julie’s latest read over at Forgotten Classics (which I’ve mentioned before, always positively, I think). This has rather more potential for controversy than most of hers, but she never shied away from that, and I think she did a good job with it. I’ve read the book before, many years ago, and certainly it was interesting hearing what Americans (from different parts of the US – and not just talking about Julie and her correspondents here) say about the book and the issues it raised. Not that I’ve heard anyone justify slavery or the (other) atrocities perpetuated with it, of course. Still, it’s intriguing to hear the criticisms of the book, whether literary or fact based.

There are definite issues with Stowe’s own expressed opinions (like many of her time she did espouse ideas of racial characteristics, for both bad and good) from a modern perspective. I have been troubled many times in this blog by when to ‘allow for’ the prejudices of past ages, and when to say they are unacceptable now, even for that time, and I probably will be again. (Examples off the top of my head: the Tarzan books, the Fuzzies books just a few days ago.) I suppose with this book I’ll just accept that she was trying to make an important point, but by no stretch of the imagination had perfect opinions, attitudes, or writing styles.

Inspired again

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

So, four more books for you brings the total for the year so far a little closer to respectability. (I am so far resisting checking where I was up to by this time last year.)

6. I, Coriander by Sally Gardner
Coriander lives between a fairy-tale and a world where fairy-tales seem to have been forbidden, and must find her own place, with the inconstant help of often helpless friends, and the threat of power-hungry authority figures. Coriander tells her own story in seven sections, but never seems to have everything explained to her. I enjoyed the book, but some questions never really got resolved, and there were a few cliches along the way.

7. Set Me Free by Estie Florans

And this one was full of cliches, unfortunately. The writing really wasn’t bad, nor was the story, but I can’t see any excuse for its being 684 pages long, especially since an authorised play-script of the book is advertised at the back, so there must be a shorter version. I really don’t want to be completely negative about the book, but this really needs some stuff cut out of it. And I like long books!

8. The Host by Stephenie Meyer

This is a very American post-Apocalypse novel, that addresses many of the same issues as the Twilight series (but better), and owes a lot to the Star Trek episodes about the symbiont species the Trill. Basically, it’s about accepting that one species is not inherently better than another, and one individual has no more right to life than another. It’s also about making difficult compromises when there is no ideal solution to the problems at hand.

What I found interesting is that we have by the end a similar but actually more severe problem that’s obsessed over in Meyer’s other series – ie where one in a couple is immortal and the other isn’t – but it’s ignored here where there’s no solution of making the mortal party immortal. I haven’t heard any suggestion that there will be a sequel to this, and I’ll be quite happy if there isn’t, as it stands alone well. It might even stand up to a reread, but that won’t be yet, as I have other books to catch up on.

9. The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

So, I’m finally catching up with my podcasts, too, and got to the end of Julie’s reading of this Christie classic. I’d actually only ever come across Tommy & Tuppence in cameo roles in a television version of a Poirot story (no idea which one), so it was intriguing to meet them properly. I really should get around to reading more of Christie’s tales at some point, but like I said, there’s a long list to work my way through.

Anyway, as always Julie’s reading is great. As both she and Dr Gemma discussed on their podcasts, she isn’t trying to do the accents, but she gives a great sense of the personality behind each character, which I think is more important. She’s also got the sense of which random English names won’t be pronounced like they’re written, to check them out beforehand. (I actually like how the American character the first time pronounces it “Holey-head”, whereas the British ones always say “Holly-head” – I suppose I’ve been through Holyhead far too many times to even consider it could have been said any other way.)

As for the mystery itself – I really enjoyed it. I guessed who the villain might be reasonably early on, but got distracted away from him a couple of times. (We’re told near the beginning that a man is behind the troubles, so I amn’t giving anything away.) I don’t go for mysteries just because of the genre, but the good ones tend to be fun, even when they’re fantastical.

Reading Update

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Not entirely sure why this has taken me so long, but here we go. It’s been quite awhile since I actually finished some of these (a couple of weeks), so they aren’t all immediate reactions.

253. The Son of Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs

I’ll actually be interested to see what Burroughs does to get himself back to Tarzan and Jane after this installment that largely ignores them, in favour of sending their son to discover the jungle for himself. Just as implausible and stereotyped as the others, although with Meriem we do get a woman who can hunt, fight and live the life these men are constantly pulled back to.

254. The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd

Ted (who has an unspecified syndrome that reads like Aspergers) and his older sister Kat welcome their aunt Gloria and cousin Salim on a flying visit (literally – Gloria and Salim are about to emigrate to New York) by taking them to the tourist sites of London. Due to the queues Salim goes up the London Eye alone while Ted and Kat watch his capsule round to greet him when he gets off. Except he doesn’t…

This book has obvious links to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, but is its own tale, as well as being a well-crafted mystery. In fact, it’s one of the few such where I would actually have liked to see further mysteries for the sleuthing team, but unfortunately Dowd died shortly after this book was written. I’ll have to get hold of some of her prior works.

255. Cite Them Right by Richard Pears and Graham Shields

Yes, it’s a guide to citing and referencing correctly (not how I do it here!) but I actually did read it cover to cover, and it’s far more readable than might have been anticipated.

256. The Garbage King by Elizabeth Laird

This tale of two young Ethiopian boys from Addis Ababa who end up running away from difficult situations after the sickness of their mothers turns their lives upside down is quite fascinating, well written and feels real. Dani is a shy boy from a well off family who does not get on with his self-made father and feels he cannot stay at home when his mother goes to a hospital abroad, while Mamo has to grow up very fast when his mother dies and his older sister cannot afford the rent for the shack they live in. The boys link up, grow and discover themselves, each other, and different ways of life.

257. In Black and White by Dov Haller

I really enjoyed this anthology of several short stories and the title novella. Haller has a grasp of human emotion and how it interacts with our ideals and the way we live our lives.

258. The Wonder Stick by Stanton A. Coblentz

It’s taken since March for this whole book to be read over on Forgotten Classics, (Julie often features other extracts on alternate episodes of the podcast) and at first I wasn’t convinced I liked it much, but it has grown on me a little. It’s not going to be my favourite book ever (I’m far more likely to revisit The Garbage King) but Julie reads well, and makes it worth listening to. Ru is not an especially heroic hero, since he can be vindictive, but then the society of his tribe (this is set in Stone Age pre-history) is not one that shares our morals, nor even those of classic sagas. Ru is clever and inventive, but not at all respected by Grumgra, the Chief, with whom he quickly develops a personal vendetta.

259. Almost A Man by Dr Mary Wood-Allen

I just formatted (in F1) this whole book/long pamphlet over on Distributed Proofreaders and read it as I went, out of a perturbed fascination. (Currently linking to its DP Project Page, but will change that once it’s up on Project Gutenberg.) Anyway, Wood-Allen seems to have made a bit of a name for herself by writing “moral” and “scientific” works for adolescents and their parents about puberty and how teenagers should behave. I wouldn’t say that this book actually tells an adolescent boy anything that’s worth knowing about puberty, because it doesn’t have many facts in it, but then perhaps it was really meant as a way for parents to open up a discussion. It is very clearly pushing a moral point of view, and is open about that.

260. The Girl’s Guide to Being a Boss by Caitlin Friedman & Kimberly Yorio

This is a fun (the cover is Very Pink) but informative little book, that tries to demystify management for those of us who didn’t enter our careers wanting to be managers, but for whom the career path entails a certain amount of it. I amn’t sure how much I’ll really be able to quote it in my management module, but I think it was still worth reading! It is confidence building, which is good.

261. Adventures of a Brownie by Miss Mulock

Another audiobook, from Librivox and this is a sweet and simple series of six adventures of the Brownie and the six children (three girls and three boys) of the household he lives in, during which they veer between the good and bad sides of the Cook, the Gardener, and his wife. It’s short and worth the listen.

Smiling panic

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Mr Frog

The theory is that instead of reading or crocheting (neither of which I’ve done much of this week) I’ve been cleaning and listening to podcasts (the latter has certainly been happening…).

So the second frog is finished, and my room does not feel ready for Bedikas Chametz

102. China Court by Rumer Godden

I did finish listening to China Court on Forgotten Classics, and got quite into it with large chunks together. I do like being (well) read to, and Julie’s selections are always interesting. She is proactive about trying to deal with copyright issues, and actually got permission from Rumer Godden’s estate to podcast this novel, which I hadn’t come across before. I have read and enjoyed several (although nowhere near all) of Godden’s books, and am appreciating the variety of her writing more and more.

This book has the capacity to be very confusing, as it interweaves the stories of several generations of the same family and household, where the house itself is the most important common factor. Julie well picks up Godden’s skillful differentiation of the voices involved, and listening to (or I assume reading) chunks of this together also helps to keep it all together. China Court, while passed down the paternal line through the generations is always shown as the domain of one or more strong women, many of whom come in as wives, so bringing in new family values. In fact the place is shown as far less important to the married daughters than to those who come to it without having been born there.

It looks like the book is out of print, but I’ll keep my eye out for my own copy.

I amn’t sure what Julie is doing as her next book, but I strongly recommend her podcast for the future, as well as going back to the China Court episodes.


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