Posts Tagged ‘The Professor and the Madman’

Busy Day Ahead

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

I woke up early to do one thing, which didn’t work out, so I’m aiming to do this, and not run out of time for it later…

From 2009:
64. The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester

I am pretty sure I heard about this book when it first came out, and was interested, but never got hold of a copy, so when I found it on my DH’s shelves I was quite pleased. There are three main characters: the original Oxford English Dictionary, Professor James Murray, its major editor, and Dr. William Chester Minor, an American Civil War doctor who had come to Europe in the hope that the change of scene would help with his mental illness, but who ended up killing a man and being detained at Broadmoor for over 20 years. As a highly educated man with enough income for a large library and a wish to be useful, he was one of the most prolific contributors of early quotations and usages of words for the massive reading project necessary to the first edition of the OED.

All three are fascinating topics, although the major protagonist is Minor. The book is sympathetic to his plight without excusing his negative actions and their terrible results. It simply allows his positive actions to speak for themselves as well.

Stories overlapping and intertwining

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

I’ve just started reading Trinity: a novel of Ireland by Leon Uris, as I finished The Professor and the Madman this morning, and this was one my DH expressed an interest in my opinion of. I’ve seen novels by Uris before, but not read any of them. At the moment this is sharing the opening set-piece of Dubliners: the wake of an old man, respected in the community (if not by all), as viewed by a young boy connected to his family. I haven’t got far enough in it to say more than that as yet. Already, though, it’s got my DH and I discussing Irish history again, which is never a bad thing.

Still, if I’m to get to even having read a quarter of last year’s total books (320), I do need to get a move on, as I’m at precisely a fifth (64) today. Not that anyone besides me does or should care about that…

37. The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling

I believe I was given one copy of this and offered two or three more. Not sure if this says more about me or the book (I was being offered once read copies, where the purchaser thought it unlikely they’d reread the book). It is perhaps more of a book of children’s fairy tales than might be expected from Hermione’s fascination with it in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but for those who enjoyed the Harry Potter series in its totality it’s certainly worth reading once, and for more than the sake of completeness.

38. Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon

After 2008’s reading of the original American version, this was me going back through the series as I knew it originally. As I pointed out then, they are only fractionally different. I still love the story and the writing in this series, but on this reread I was getting disturbed by the huge amount of violence (sexual and non) within the books, so it may be awhile till I go back to them, presuming I do. I haven’t even got hold of or read An Echo in the Bone (the newest book, which came out this September just gone) because of this.

39. What Diantha Did by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

I listened to this back to back with Mr Hogarth’s Will, as described two days ago, and since they have some overlapping themes I thought I was going to get them thoroughly mixed up, but I think I have them more distinct now than I did at the time!

Unlike Mr Hogarth’s nieces, who are educated to provide for themselves, and then turfed out to do so, Diantha has to do a lot of persuading of her family that she be allowed to try so to do (so far so like Agnes Grey), especially since she has a young man desperate to marry and look after her (so not like any book I’ve come across before the current generation). This is a clever, practical, principled young woman with her own plan of action, to benefit many women young and old, who will not be deterred from her path, especially by those she loves.

40. Posing for Portrait Photography: a head-to-toe guide by Jeff Smith

One of those random books I read for work, but I like to think it has and will help in my snapping, even though it’s decidedly written for those in or going into professional portrait photography. (I did some ‘proper photography’ courses in school, after learning a lot from my father, but these day I use an automatic digital camera mostly to record my crochet here and on Ravelry, and otherwise to snap pics of friends, family, and touristy stuff.)

Oh, and while I’m discussing improving photography skills, I just came across a really interesting photography blog. It is aimed towards proper photography, but those of us trying to get beyond ‘just snaps’ (again) can learn and be inspired too.

Books unfinished

Friday, 30 October 2009

White tapestry crocheted bookmark holder, with a few bookmarks visible at the top.

I have to admit, the number of books I have listed as read, but haven’t yet reviewed here is a bit daunting, so I thought I’d make things a little less so by discussing some of the books I haven’t finished. Hopefully most of them will get added to the list and mentioned again reasonably soon…

This post will mention some crochet, though, since the bookmark holder I made yesterday would seem rather relevant! I’ve been playing around with Tapestry Crochet, with the leftover yarn from the sheep’s head I made for Rosh Hashana, since that is the only set of matching yarns with different colourways I have at the moment. I’ve been using the white as background and the variegated browns for the pattern, which works fine when the actual browns show. The ecru, though, is rather too similar to the white for full impact. The first thing I made so is a present, for someone who does read this blog occasionally, so I won’t show the pictures, but Ravelers can see it here.

What I made yesterday was for my DH, however, and he received it when he arrived home (about five minutes after I finished it), so I can show you that. I used a cross stitch writing tool from Stitchpoint, which I’ve mentioned on this blog before, but shouldn’t have chosen an italic font, since tapestry crochet adds to the slant, meaning that a non-italic font would have looked somewhat italic, and been far more legible. That and the clumps of ecru mean that my DH can’t actually read the text (having it all around the container doesn’t help either, but it was going to be far too tall done sideways), but he appreciates the item and its immediate value to us (he’s a bookworm too), so that’s okay!

I’ve never blocked acrylic (I’ve barely blocked anything), but if anyone has good ideas for how to make it stand straight I’d appreciate hearing them!

And now to the unfinished books (I would say the ones still with bookmarks in them, but I have the habit of leaving bookmarks in after I finish the book, so that would not be the correct category).

Jewishly, I’m reading Praying with Joy by Rabbi Daniel Yaakov Travis, as well as Anshei Hayil: Volume 1 by Rabbi Haim Levy, both of which will hopefully help me improve my tefilla. I’m enjoying both in small sections at a time.

In print non-fiction, I’m reading The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester, which I heard about when it came out, I think, but have never found before. Thankfully my lovely MIL gave it to my DH several years ago, so I get to read it now. It’s about the creating of the OED and two of the major players involved in the project. They were very different Victorian gentlemen, and it’s intriguing and apparently well-researched so far.

My DH and I are both reading a book my father gave him, What Did You Do Today, Professor?, edited by Eoin P. O’Neill, which is a collection of essays by TCD scientists about their research and what led them to this point, often with a particular emphasis on how mathematics is important to all the other sciences. It’s really interesting. I like learning about current research, and while this is written to be accessible to non-specialists, it isn’t dumbed down in the way some popular science is. I have to say I’m finding the Irish/Dublin/TCD references much easier than my DH, of course, but they aren’t stopping him enjoying the book.

The fiction is mostly audio at the moment, but I am occasionally dipping into Harry Potter agus on Órchloch (yes, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, in Irish, by J. K. Rowling, of course) just to see if I can… I amn’t getting through it very fast, but then I think I know the original well enough that it’s not very fun to read slowly.

From Librivox I’m most of the way through Agnes Grey, by Anne Brontë. I haven’t read this before, and am enjoying it. The protagonist seems very self aware, and though some of the other characters are somewhat one-dimensional, most of these are being pointed out as what happens when children are thoroughly spoilt. There are multiple readers, so far all (I think) women I’ve heard on other Librivox recordings, so obviously quality and pronunciations vary, but they’re mostly pretty good, and none had me wanting to turn the thing off.

Unfortunately the same can’t be said of the new recording of Dubliners by James Joyce. Part of the problem is just that I am a Dubliner, so it jars when placenames, intonations and phrasing are completely wrong in a series of short stories so specifically written to show the city and its people. I’ll admit I only listened to the first one-and-a-half stories, each read by a different (American) man, so the later readers might be better, but at the moment I’m severely tempted to just read the whole book myself for Librivox. Not that I could do all the accents for the different groups of Dubliners in the book, but at least I would know what the references were too. Perhaps I could do that in time for 2012, when the book will be out of copyright in the EU… (And no, I wasn’t in the EU when I downloaded or listened to this, and amn’t now. Copyright is important.)

Okay, I admit it, I’m a snob. It doesn’t bother me for very English or American fiction to be read by voices from all over the world, but it does when the voice should be a Dublin one, and isn’t. Still, it does help for any reader to check unfamiliar words for their pronunciation.

So that’s what I’m reading (or amn’t, but chose not to finish).