Posts Tagged ‘Craftlit’

Non-fiction variety

Wednesday, 25 May 2011
Original Raidió Teilifís Éireann logo

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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.

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Up to Speed

Monday, 2 May 2011

With this year’s book numbers surpassing last year’s total already, I really should finish discussing the last book on that list.

Cover of "A Connecticut Yankee in King Ar...

Cover via Amazon

67. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain

Not sure when, if ever, I’d have got to reading this myself, but Heather did this as a Craftlit book last year and DH and I both greatly enjoyed it.

I previously mentioned this while listening to it.

Twain is often bitingly cynical in this novel, and his characters aren’t always all that likeable either. Heather’s commentary certainly helped to bring out the themes, however. As someone who’d never read it, but thought she knew the basic premise, the ending was rather a dark shock, and has overshadowed my memories of the earlier humour. Neither Twain nor The Boss (our narrator) pull many punches at all, and we have many an attack on 19th century values, as caricatured in a pretend early medieval England. Our eponymous protagonist is rather an anti-hero in many ways, and likes to make fun of basically everyone with whom he comes into contact, often somewhat cruelly.

It doesn’t sound like I enjoyed the book, does it? I actually did enjoy a lot of it, and certainly felt the rest was worthwhile. The reading was very good, and I’d recommend the Craftlit commentary (as always) too.

Persuaded by a book

Saturday, 28 August 2010

NaBloPoMo August logo26. Persuasion by Jane Austen

So, finally here to discuss Persuasion. I have certainly read the beginning of the book a few times (I had actually just begun to do so again when Heather said she was going to do it next on Craftlit), but I amn’t sure I had previously finished it. Not that it’s a bad book, by any means, but somehow it hasn’t generally grabbed me so much as some of the others. Thankfully, listening along with Craftlit worked out very well. Some of the characters are still annoying (but then, I do get annoyed by characters, as my regular book-post readers will know), and the attitudes are worse, but that is a lot of the point of Jane Austen’s novels: she aims to show up the snobbery and other vices of the class-based society she describes, and to have (eventually, with many many false steps along the way) virtue win out. Usually.

Jane Austen, Watercolour and pencil portrait b...

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Anyway, Heather’s commentary was helpful and fascinating, as always, although we didn’t manage to convert my DH. (He has disliked JA’s writing since school, and isn’t compelled by Austen’s portrayal of the social nuance and patronising behaviour described in her books.) Thankfully he’s enjoying the current Craftlit book (A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court) much more, as he expected to. I’m finding that quite interesting, as I’m not at all familiar with it, which Heather’s obviously expecting everyone to be (it is an American classic, after all). I’d heard of it, of course, but don’t know the story at all, so being told repeatedly that it’s not what we’ll be expecting doesn’t mean very much to me.

Now, as to Persuasion itself; well, as above it’s not my favourite Austen novel. Part of my problem with it is that so much of the story, and especially the character development, happens before the start of the novel. The former wouldn’t bother me half so much as the latter. In short, Anne Elliott many years ago allowed herself to be persuaded not to marry a penniless young naval officer, and has since learned to regret it, particularly now that he’s turned up in her circle again, as a very successful and far-from-penniless (as her family has become, in the meantime) career officer. Of course, having rejected him before she can’t throw herself at him now (pride good and bad showing itself as one of Austen’s recurring themes) and has to watch while younger friends do just that. I suppose what I do like about JA’s work, is that while the ending  generally is happy and predictable, the path to get there really isn’t so much, and that’s what it’s worth reading for.

Not something I’ve done before

Saturday, 27 February 2010

So, thanks to Heather on Craftlit – which has just started Persuasion, one of Jane Austen’s lesser known novels, with one of the five Librivox recordings – I just found out that Librivox is having a fundraiser. They’re trying to raise $20,000 to upgrade their website, hardware, and pay for their hosting costs. As my readers must know, I listen to a whole lot of Librivox content, so I’d like to help them out if I can. Since they haven’t advertised the fundraiser much, I thought some of you might like to know about this too.

Life energy

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

The books I’m finally getting around to discussing today don’t really have anything in common at all (the title’s the smallest stretch I could make for it), so here goes:

2. Essential Energy: Energy from Fossil Fuels by Robert Snedden

This is both informative and readable, as well as well laid out and comprehensive without diverting too far from the stated subject.

3. Amadans by Malachy Doyle

Doyle is an author I’ve heard of, but hadn’t read anything by, so when the title caught my eye in a charity shop I thought it would be worth the read. It’s a rather self-consciously modern fairy story (contact and transfer between the human and amadan worlds is via the internet), and I didn’t find it very subtle, but it’s fun.

4. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

I did listen to this from start to finish via Librivox, but still dithered about counting it yet, as I did so only to listen to it again on Craftlit. Heather has just started the novella over there, and said that for a change she’s going to assume we all know the end as she commentates throughout, so those of us who didn’t should listen now. Which I did, and it’s very interesting, although I didn’t find it quite as convincing or creepy as I had expected to. I’ll have to give you a better review in the spring when she finishes it.

5. My Life on Wheels by Shaindy Perl

I’m going to revert to my overused phrase “thought provoking” for this one. It’s a very open and honest account of living with severely disabling cerebral palsy by a very thoughtful and expressive young woman, as recounted by an experienced biographer. The book is not as upbeat as many of the Jewish ‘medical’ biographies currently out, although Breindy H. is not always negative either. What she is, is clear about the good things and people in her life (and she seems to have a gift for making good friends out of those who make the effort to get past her difficult speech), but also about the many difficulties that continue to face her. I would say this is definitely worth reading for those interested in CP issues, and for adults who want to be inspired, but it might be difficult for some adolescents to see past some of the more dramatic incidents in the book to the valuable lessons it contains.

Unexpected speakers

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Sorry for the delay in this post (and for the shadow on the image — this was the most legible picture), but I wanted to finish the first filet piece of the tablecloth to show you. Appropriate, no? I’m still working on the flower motifs, but those are small and easily transportable, whereas I think I’ll do the flat filet work all in one piece, so I’ll do it at home. That’s what will gain me the size, as well.

I think I’ll do a picture next, as I’d like to separate the different text phrases from each other.

I’m enjoying being away on holiday, even though I’m back in the house I grew up in! My mother and I went to a ‘Day Spa’, on Friday, with a package including massage, manicure, pedicure and facial – the first time I’d done any of those. It was a really fun day (but very expensive) and I shall now have to try finding the time and money to repeat at least part of the experience.

231. The Fantastic Flying Journey by Gerald Durrell

I think I might have got this when I was a little older than the intended readership, but I’ve always enjoyed it anyhow. I think Durrell’s autobiographical accounts of his animal expiditions, as well as his family and friends are hilarious, but this isn’t trying to be funny, specifically (although there some very funny parts) but a gentle adventure story for children, where Emma, Ivan & Conrad’s eccentric Great-Uncle Lancelot turns up at their house one day in his balloon to whisk them away on a rescue mission that involves travelling around the world meeting (and talking to) fantastic animals. The book is wonderfully illustrated by Graham Percy, and well worth getting your hands on.

232. Watership Down by Richard Adams

I had remembered that there were ‘spiritual’ elements to this book, but not how much of a rabbit world is created and explained, nor how graphic some of what happens (or is described) is. This is an epic adventure in the classic style.

233. March by Geraldine Brooks

Reading this now made sense, having just recently completed rereading Little Women (with Craftlit). I still amn’t sure how much the LW connection matters to this story; I think it is a plausible account of what could be the background to Alcott’s characters, and yet I amn’t sure it’s the one I will have in the back of my mind for them.

As for the book’s own merits: I think it’s good, and thought-provoking, and satisfying in many ways, although it left me on edge. I think it might not have left me that way had I not been trying to reconcile it to my sense of LW, of course…

Now I’m considering rereading some other books I have about the American Civil War.

Niccolo Rising chapter 10 includes Tobie and Julius discussing Claes, and I still can’t work out (after how many rereads of the whole series?) where they’re both coming from, how honest they’re being, and how much they believe each other.

Women’s Lives

Sunday, 20 July 2008

I want to pay tribute to a wonderful woman who I hadn’t seen in a couple of years, and who I have just discovered I will not get to meet again, but who will retain a special place in my memory and heart. For privacy I won’t say more than that, but I’ll be thinking of her and the rest of the family.

209. Brain Waves by Shuli Mensh

There are a few parallels with Fortune Seekers, that I read about a month ago, with lawyers to potentially hook up (okay, so that doesn’t happen till the end of either book, but it’s fairly obvious that it will in both cases, so I amn’t giving much away) and memories to make sense of, but they are quite different stories. This one uses the classic scenario of a character losing her memory and having to find herself, with the changes that makes in her, but it has been thought through and researched, and does not deserve the groan that was my first reaction to the event.

210. Emma Brown by Clare Boylan

The first two chapters of this are from an unfinished manuscript by Charlotte Bronte, put aside upon the latter’s marriage, apparently. Boylan has done very well at keeping the same authorial voice going throughout the book, but there is a part of me that thinks Bronte would never have been as explicit over certain issues as Boylan is. On the other hand, Bronte’s original readers might have been better at reading between the lines than most of us are today.

The eponymous heroine of this novel has nearly as many monikers as one of Dorothy Dunnett‘s heroes, but they are generally not of her own choosing, and this story is not quite as complex as one of Dunnett’s sagas, either. Emma Brown is another to have lost her prior memories, leading her on her own quest for identity and home, with an annoying habit of truth-to-her-own-detriment that takes her away from those who wish to help her and into a series of dangerous situations. In the meantime, those who have been trying to help her get in each others’ way. I’m making this sound a farce, and it really isn’t – it’s very well written, and in many ways a satisfying tale – I just amn’t sure Boylan has given herself a plausible task.

Don’t get me wrong; she has written a great book that suits the manuscripts she worked from, but in the notes at the end she explains that it is Bronte’s apparent developing interest in social commentary and the condition of poor young women in London that she is trying to live up to. Perhaps Bronte did want to write a political novel, in what is now the tradition of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Dickens or Anna Sewell, that would draw the attention of those who could bring change, but what is the point in writing such a work now, about a situation that no longer exists?

Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Oliver Twist etc. and Black Beauty are all classics that are most definitely worth reading nowadays, for their literary merit as well as for the opportunity to learn the wrongs of the past to prevent their repitition today, but they were written for their own time, not for now.

But that’s my only real complaint about Emma Brown, and I’d still say it’s a good read.

211. Extreme Motherhood by Jackie Clune

This one could be said to be social commentary, I suppose, but mostly I reread it because the author is a stand-up comedian who can also write funnily. I’ll have to see has she written any books other than this diary of the year from discovering she was expecting triplets to their first word (maybe) as I expect it’d be worth the read.

212. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Alcott definitely did have social commentary and change in her sights when she wrote. Heather on Craftlit is going straight from this into Good Wives as LW part 2, but I always read them as two separate books, along with their sequels Little Men and Jo’s Boys, so that’s how I’ll be listing them. I’ve read them countless times, of course, but it’s always good to get Heather’s commentary, and sometimes I can appreciate that more when I know the context of what is to come later in the story as well. She got podcast listeners to rerecord several of the chapters instead of using them from Librivox, so that’s another reason to go for the Craftlit version.

Subsuming the Centre

Sunday, 16 March 2008

I’m still trying to get my scanner do a camera’s job, and so this picture shows the new stitches around the edge of my game piece well enough, while scrunching the middle rather badly.

As you can see, I haven’t really learnt to do bullion stitches well. I need to practise those to get them even.

72. Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley

Wow. This did not turn out quite as I had come to expect it to, from osmosis of the story through the general culture, or even from the earlier chapters. The Creature is both greyer and more black and white morally than I had anticipated, and while Victor Frankenstein remains emotionally immature he does display slight glimmerings of empathy near the end. Unfortunately far too late, when harsher emotions have taken sway of him, but they are there.

I’ll admit to not anticipating that Mary Wollstonecraft‘s daughter would write all her female protagonists as sacrificial angels, but then she was a very young writer of her time.

I’ve been listening to this on Craftlit for the last few months, and I’m really pleased to have ‘read’ it this way, as I might not have got to it in print for another few years. In fact I’m reasonably likely to so far sooner now than I would have been otherwise. I don’t want to get into the arguments over whether listening to a book is the same as physically reading it. Suffice it to say that I believe this rather depends on the concentration one puts in. It is harder, but quite possible, to read a book without taking it in, just as one can allow an audiobook to just wash over one’s head. In any case, Heather’s commentary and extra information really helps my concentration on the audio files she plays.

If you haven’t come across Craftlit before, I heartily recommend it. Now is a good time to start, as having just finished Frankenstein, she is about to begin Little Women, although the older files are all available, and it is well worth finding the time to go back and listen to Pride and Prejudice, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Turn of the Screw, A Tale of Two Cities, Tristan and Isolde and the various shorter stories and pieces she podcasts between the longer novels. The audio files actually come from Librivox, so you can get them alone directly, but Heather‘s introductions and discussions really help me get more out of the experience (she was obviously a brilliant English Literature teacher), and her craft talk is interesting too. She also rerecords the occasional chapter that got through Librivox’ quality control undeservedly.