Archive for October, 2008

Pairs of Books

Friday, 24 October 2008

The month of Jewish festivals is ending, and I’m back at work on Monday, so my flatmate and I are going away for the weekend. Unfortunately I still haven’t found the cable to recharge my camera battery, so unless it turns up while I’m packing there won’t be any pictures, even ones for me (rather than the world), unfortunately.

Guliver Beal is going to move on today, as well. He’s been a great guest, and I’m looking forward to the next teddies when they come my way.

I’ve finally done some more crocheting, although it was a trim I did for a friend‘s knitted garment, so not mine to show you. I hope she likes what I’ve done!

So, for the books. There are five there, because I haven’t yet finished the pair for one of them, but the comparisons can be made already, I think. Hm, what does it say that that’s the pair of physical books, rather than the other four Librivox audiobooks?

271. The Tale of Grandfather Mole by Arthur Scott Bailey
A children’s garden tale, where Grandfather Mole interacts in his iconoclastic way with the other wildlife. I particularly like the way the animals behave as animals – rather than as miniature humans – although they do talk to each other. The reader is Australian (I’m pretty sure), and the author American, although the animals are basically those traditionally found in British literary gardens.

272. The Biography of a Grizzly by Ernest Thompson Seton
This one is more specifically the potentially real tale of a bear’s life. This bear doesn’t speak as a human, although he has a name and some basic emotions. It sounds well researched.

273. Graustark by George Barr McCutcheon
This one came up as a newly completed work on Librivox, and referencedĀ The Prisoner of Zenda as a more famous example of the genre, so I listened to that next, and have now downloaded the sequel. Hopefully the Graustark sequels will come up eventually too. Anyway, they aren’t as similar as I thought they might be, and I greatly enjoyed both.

I didn’t find it that hard to guess many of the upcoming plot points, but it’s hard to know is that partly because the genre has become so classic these days. There are some stereotypes that are not so acceptable these days (particularly the harping on the difficulties of the Princess being both ruler and girl – rarely woman) but that is to be expected over a century later. I just wish I saw less of it in modern novels…

274. And Rachel Was His Wife by Anonymous (ed. Marsi Tabak)
This is a modern classic among Jewish novels, and I’m pairing it with a real classic, that I’ll probably finish this weekend, Akiva by Meir/Marcus Lehmann, since they tell the same tale, of the Talmudic Rabbi Akiva and his wife Rachel, who inspired him to learn and become the great scholar, teacher and leader. Both are working from the somewhat scanty historical record. The Gemara does not set out to tell these people’s life stories; it gives over their teachings, and uses anecdotes from their lives to show specific points. Perhaps because of this, while both books show mostly the same events, Rabbi Lehmann makes his couple about a decade younger when each historical event happens than they are in this book.

This book is written as the occasional journal of a fictional friend of Rachel’s, who changes and grows over the years, and tells the dramatic communal as well as personal events of these important decades. Highly recommended.

275. The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope

This one is another reflective first person account, that shows the emotional impact of the (rather fantastic) events. It deserves to be the classic it is.

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Booking Time

Friday, 17 October 2008

I don’t feel like I’m getting much actually done that I’m aiming for these days. I’m pottering along, doing bits and pieces, but nothing seems to get to measurable levels. Perhaps I’m being affected with the malaise I’ve been trying to help others through, of barely meeting already extended assignment due dates. I haven’t done so much for them, and now I’m waiting in fear for my own, rather than ensuring I won’t be late.

So perhaps it will help to remind myself that I have actually read some good books (even if they aren’t the ones my course requires!) from cover to cover. (We’ll forget that I’m two or three weeks behind my aim of one per day this year.)

The first three are all audiobooks (from Librivox) that I listened to while preparing for the Yomim Tovim, while the second three are Jewish books I read during those festivals.

265. High Adventure: A Narrative of Air Fighting in France by James Norman Hall

I would say this book lives up to the enthusiasm expressed by its Librivox reader. Hall was an American volunteer airman in the French forces in World War 1 (he went before the USA became involved) and is a most interesting raconteur of his experiences, from arriving in France without knowing any of the language, to his dodgem style pilot training, to the fears and exhilarations of flying and fighting. I was a little disturbed in the first chapter or two at the reader’s inaccurate pronunciations of the French words and place names that constantly crop up, but quickly realised that this is probably reasonably accurate to how the author would have pronounced them, as he never seems to have become fluent in French, even after a few years in the country. Knitters and crafters who make items for soldiers might like to listen to the first few minutes of chapter 12…

266. Stickeen by John Muir

This is quite a short tale (only three chapters) of the adventures of a dog (Stickeen) and a group of men exploring the far North, one of whom (the narrator) decides to go for a solitary walk on the glaciers one stormy day (no, he doesn’t give a good reason for doing so). Stickeen accompanies him, and they spend a frightening day bonding while leaping cracks in the glacier, trying to get back to the camp they shouldn’t have left! While I don’t think much of the sense of the narrator, he does tell an exciting tale well.

267. An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott

I read this for the first time as an adult, unlike Little Women and its sequels, or Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom. While in some ways it is slightly more formulaic than either of those – the visiting Old-Fashioned Girl (Polly) makes a modern leaning family too interested in fashion and making money reassess and appreciate each other in the first half – in many ways she becomes more modern than they in the second half, with her interest in women’s rights and insistence on financial independence.

From all of these books I feel like Alcott’s ideal woman and girl synthesises the traditional feminine and home-building skills of cooking, crafting and caring with a strong mind and the full use of all of her individual talents both for her own expression and to support herself independently should she so desire and require.

268. Educating Our Daughters, Why? by B. C. Glaberson

The short introduction to this series of interviews with women educating girls in Yiddish in Israel states:

You may not agree with everything they say. In fact, you may disagree strongly with some of their opinions.

While I don’t disagree with their right to educate their daughters in this way (and it’s not Alcott’s way, as above, although it shares that synthesis of practical and academic), and share some of the values (I don’t speak Yiddish, for one) it’s not entirely the system I would be involved in. Definitely thought-provoking, well argued and well written, it does present a spectrum of opinion, showing one of the things I most appreciate in the Jewish education I have seen, that there isn’t just one way that will suit everyone, and that each child should be educated in the way that suits her or him.

269. A Touch of Warmth by Rabbi Yechiel Spero

Rabbi Spero is an inspiring raconteur, who can bring out a moral without drowning you in it.

270. The Winds of Change by Lena Spitzer

East End London of the 1930s, as at any other time, was a place of flux. It’s always been an area for immigrants, and in the 30s a great many of them were Jews escaping the poverty and persecution that was ever increasing in mainland Europe. In coming to a new country, often with nothing except the clothes on their backs, they had to meet the challenges of a new country and a changing world that included fascism not only in power in Germany and elsewhere, but in vocal minority in England, notably Oswald Mosley and his Blackshirts. It’s an involving, well-written and researched book, and I heartily recommend it.

A teddy’s Sukkos

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Since Guliver Beal arrived, we’ve had Yom Kippur and the first days of Sukkos, and mostly Guliver Beal and the hug have been watching us, and enjoying the meals we’ve had at home. Lily is less worried about everyone else’s state of clothing since I improvised a nice silky boa for her, which she considers very stylish indeed.
Lily in silky boa

Today is the first day of Chol Hamoed, however, so we went out into London. We didn’t take any photos on the tube, but we got one on the bus.
DSCF0543
Guliver made lots of friends out and about today, from a dragon:
Guliver with a London dragon.
to the cashier in Accessorise when I bought a couple of shawl pins
Shawl pin on Seraphina's shawl. He also expressed great interest in the Kindertransport memorial.
Kindertransport memorial at Liverpool Street Station

It was such a lovely day that we came home to let Guliver sit in my little sukka:
Guliver in the sukkaclose-up of Guliver in the sukka

Now that Guliver’s fame has been justly acknowledged, nay encouraged, it’s time for my own: I’ve somehow been mentioned twice in three weeks on Getting Loopy, so obviously you should all go listen! Actually, if you’re a crocheter it’s a great listen, with nothing to do with me. It’s actually an online radio show (A warning: this link automatically starts playing the show out loud.), but I get the podcast, seeing as it’s on Monday evenings at a time that’s the middle of the night for me. I heartily recommend entering the contests (really a draw) in each episode – I’ve just won my second prize, and will be showing it off once it arrives!

Hmmmm… No, just join the hundreds (thousands?) of listeners, and leave the prizes for the roughly thirty of us who enter every week! šŸ˜‰

Need to think things through

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

It’s Yom Kippur tonight, and I don’t feel like I’ve prepared myself for it very well. It will come anyhow, and I must just do my best.

[Complete non-sequiter follows.]

Oh, and as well as making the new pad yesterday, I’ve also re-covered an old one.
cloth pad, re-covered

Guliver Beal comes to town

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Guliver Beal and the Hug

Guliver Beal is our second Travelling Teddy visitor. He came very well dressed in his green jacket, and so Lily, who likes her hug to be well dressed, thinks Zippy needs something. (I don’t think I actually introduced Yudel, Zippy and Lily (left to right) when Bruno was here, did I?)

Anyway, the new friends relaxed on the sofa this evening while I (sat on the floor and) avoided studying – I had done some earlier! – by making myself a new cloth pad. It’s rather cobbled together from bits of old clothing from my rag drawer, and while it’s more interesting colours than the ones I have made before (they were made from grey and pale blue t-shirts) it is not shaped well at all. My sewing skills are getting worse…
top side of open padunderside of open padfolded pad

RH books

Thursday, 2 October 2008

I didn’t read as much over Rosh Hashana as I thought I might, but I did the other things I expected to: praying (and hearing the shofar) at the synagogue, enjoying sociable and very tasty meals, and a bit of self-reflection; so that’s okay.

262. Blue Star over Red Square by Carmela Raiz

I think I’d heard of Refuseniks when I was younger, but the whole era of the USSR ended when I was hardly even a teenager, so I appreciated getting a better insight into the phenomenon in general (of Soviet Jews applying for and being repeatedly refused permission to emigrate, especially to Israel, and also being harassed as traitorous for their wish both to leave and to live Jewishly in the meantime) and into one family who went through it in particular. Raiz published this book in 1994 (the Russian language edition came out in 1992), very shortly after the family’s eventual aliya in 1990, which took place almost two decades after Raiz and her husband had first applied. It’s an informative and inspiring book, which seems to be out of print but available second hand.

263. The Jewish Kingdom of Kuzar by Rabbi Zelig Shachnowitz

This is an even older tale, but it’s a new translation, so should be available new for awhile. Rabbi Shachnowitz wrote for Jewish youngsters in Germany, with this book being first published in the 1920s. It is a retelling of what facts are/were known about the Jewish history of Kuzar, and fairly gripping as a novel. Well worth reading.

264. The Jacobite Wars: Scotland and the Military Campaigns of 1715-1745 by John L. Roberts

I’d read enough novels on the topic of the ’45 to want a more specifically historical overview, and this book well fulfilled the purpose. The context of the ’15 (which I hadn’t read so much about previously) was useful, although it takes up far less than half of the book. Interestingly, Roberts never seems to say that things had to go one way or the other. He points out where (with hindsight, of course) certain campaigns and battles could have gone differently for both sides (as so often in such things, more unity and less bickering and taking of offence by generals, officers and princes would have helped!) and gives sometimes day by day recountings of who did what, and knew what, when and where. My main difficulty with the book was sometimes remembering which side a particular name was on, as they might have been introduced chapters before. A couple of charts of the main players on both sides would have been good to refer back to, as would a few maps, although I actually missed those less.