Monday, December 31, 2007

I feel so guilty

I feel so guilty. There aren't even any words to describe how guilty I feel. Just, oh my God, monumentally horrifically guilty. I'm the meanest person in the whole world. I'm so, so, so mean. I'm mean, mean, mean, and I deserve all the unpleasant karma that's coming my way. I'm going to be one of those tragic bookstore people that are so tragic I can't stand to look at them.

This is true. Actually can't stand to look at them. I can hardly bear to write about them, that's how much they distress me. Whenever I go into a bookstore and see those people sitting at book tables looking sad and hopeful, tremendous waves of dismay wash over me and little embarrassment insects go crawling up my spine, and even though I want to go talk to them and make their lives more bearable, I just can't because it's too awful – either that's my future, or else it's not which means I will never write a book at all. Let alone get to the tragic book-signing phase.

(Seriously, writing that, I am getting creepy-crawly feelings.)

Anyway, I started another blog just for myself, to write what I think about books, so that I won't forget later in life, and so that I can always have a list online of books I want to read, in case I am ever anywhere else where my Big Book List isn't. Very easy access. And yay. And that's all I was thinking. So when I was reviewing things I was just being silly and cranky, because my personal book reviewing blog could not possibly be important enough for anyone to ever find, and I said a lot of mean things about Melusine (which, I'm sorry, I didn't like at all, even though I swear to God I wanted to), and oh God, the author has a blog, and she linked to me. And said, Jenny didn't like Melusine.

Which I didn't.

But I didn't mean to make her feel bad.

Saturday, December 29, 2007


What did I tell you? Did I tell you that BBC Radio 4 plays are the best thing in the world? Did I not say that? Well, guess what the present Classic Serial is?

I will let you guess.

If you guessed The Witches you were quite right. I love The Witches. I love it. I love, love, love, love it. And now I am listening to it in radio play form. Wow.

I actually feel really content. I am nice and cool in my own pleasant flat, I am listening to The Witches in radio play form (ruh-roh, his parents are about to perish - there they went), and as soon as I post this I shall catch up on my book reviewing activities.

In case you were wondering

whether the thumpy people in the flat above me have gone home for Christmas, the answer is NO. NO, they have NOT. They are up there thumping even as I type this (on my computer, now restored to me, hurrah!). Thump, thump, thump. Creak, creak, creak. Thump. Thump. I want to go up there and be all LOOK BITCHES. I have had a VERY LONG WEEK and you MUST STOP THUMPING.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Kayla that I work with and her genius plan

Since school got out there have been many merry hijinks on my part -- my lovely friends are lovely, you know, and none of us have schoolwork to do for a change, and then I keep starting reading books and wanting to know how they end, and then also dear little Kate (Kate!) came back from her university in the North where people tell her (and this is absolutely not an indictment of the North, which of course I love although I really feel that the (fairly common) Northern sense of superiority over the South regarding racial matters is not altogether justified) that they are not ignorant about race relations just because they have never met a black person, and then of course my computer is in the shop being diagnosed so I have to use my electronic typewriter, and it's very convenient when you have an electronic typewriter to write stories while watching films that you have seen several times, so I stayed up late watching X-Men, and that was only after we had all watched Hairspray...

Sidebar: So before last night it had been a while since I watched X-Men, but damn, how sexy is Hugh Jackman when he's all elegantly broody and cantankerous? Like when he comes round the corner, and with the claws, and he's all, if you want to shoot me SHOOT ME....? My younger sister and I both have identical reactions to this particular moment (it has been the subject of some discussion between us), and we do entertain some concerns that it is indicative of our deep-seated desire (endemic, I have been given to understand, to high-spirited women) to be mastered and thrown around by our hair by cranky menfolk. But that is neither here nor there.

Neither is this, my sidebar number two: James Marsden's face makes me laugh. I really regret that James Marsden has spent so much of his time in parts where he plays the nice guy who is so fundamentally lacking in sex appeal that he is constantly getting dumped and cheated on, and he is forever being really noble and unhappy and jaw-clenchy about it. I'm running a tally in my head, and I have thought of one, two, three, FOUR movies in which James Marsden plays Discard Guy. And, seriously, the guy has not been in all that many movies. So every time I see James Marsden in a part where he's cheerful, it completely slays me. We watched Hairspray last night, and I'm not kidding, every time James Marsden came on the screen I immediately fell apart laughing. He wasn't even doing anything! He was just grinning and dancing! Dancing and grinning, grinning and dancing and that's all he was doing! And I was laughing so hard I was crying, just because his FACE is SO FUNNY.

My main point, actually, is really nothing to do with my lovely friends, or X-Men, or my typewriter (a pale substitute (though helpful) for my true love, my dear portable blue Smith-Corona that used to live in someone's office until I saw it and asked for it, heart in mouth, and the people whose office it was went all around asking other office people if I could have that typewriter with the broken carrier case, and everyone we asked was all, That? She wants that? I say let her have it, get it out of our hair, which I fear did terrible things to my poor Smith-Corona's self-esteem and may be the reason that it sometimes inserts spaces where I have asked for none), or Hugh Jackman and my possible sexual dysfunction, or James Marsden and his hilarious face, the very idea of which is cracking me up as I type (no, really. There are tears of laughter in my eyes right now). My main point here is that I am really, really tired. I have not gone to bed before midnight any night since school got out, and I get up every day quite early in order to get to work by seven-thirty. And that's all very well for those insane people who function on three hours of sleep a night, but I myself require at least eight and probably nine or else I will feel really sleepy and run up a tremendous sleep debt.

And so at work today my eyelids kept falling shut. Like to the point where I had to pry them open with pliers and pin them to my eyebrows, due to all this tiredness that was going on. Even though I did things to make my day interesting like I sang little songs inside my head and I played my little game where everything in the world except our building gets destroyed and I am in charge of handling things to help repopulate the planet,* even though I did these things, I say, I was still completely impossibly exhausted.

Luckily, Kayla who I work with is a genius, and yesterday or the day before she came into our office to do her genius thing, which was to swipe some of the Christmas gift chocolate that has been lying around the office and put it in her coffee to melt, and then drink the coffee.

Okay, just think about that. Chocolate. Melting. In coffee. That is TOTAL GENIUS.

(I realize this is not a wholly original idea, as there are chocolate coffee drinks out there in the world, but you have to go and find them and pay for them, whereas Kayla's Brilliant Method is free.)

Today I refined this genius plan a tiny bit in order to make it suit my own needs; instead of using milk chocolate as she did, I used dark chocolate in my coffee and then drank the coffee. Now this is clever for several reasons. In the first place, dark chocolate lowers your blood pressure and prevents cancer, so it is always good to consume it. In the second place, dark chocolate is bitter but delicious, whereas coffee (which has more caffeine than dark chocolate and is consequently more effective at waking you up) is bitter and not very delicious; so the delicious bitterness of dark chocolate COMPLETELY MASKS the non-delicious bitterness of the coffee flavor.

That means that I can improve my health AND wake myself up AND give joy to my tastebuds ALL AT THE SAME TIME. Because of clever Kayla and her genius plan (but a little bit because of my native resourcefulness and adaptability).

I will say briefly, before letting you carry on to the footnote, that this has been one of the most parenthetical blog posts I have ever written. And that is saying a lot because me, I am a huge, huge, HUGE fan (you may have noticed) of parenthetical asides. I blame it all on tim and Steve, both parenthesis addicts who encouraged and enabled me (especially tim), and if either one of them ever tries to contest this, I have emails to prove it.

*I like playing this game inside my head when I am doing things that don't require my full attention, and I have felt really validated about it ever since I read that issue of The Sandman where a guy has more or less the same game (though his version is a hair less controlling - oh dear, I fear this says something quite, quite dreadful about me). Neil Gaiman validates me so much. Like when Fat Charlie sings at work without noticing because he forgets not to (incidentally, there have been three (3) other validations of my singing out loud without noticing, for a total of four (4) validations, a number that points to a fairly broad phenomenon rather than an isolated neurosis on my part: The Charioteer (hurrah!), Die for Love (also hurrah!), and About a Boy (hurrah again but not as much and no exclamation point)).

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Forever Amber, that timeless classic of literature

Apparently this book got edited down to one-fifth of its original length, for which I can only say praise God (though it must be thrilling for Forever Amber scholars to get their hands on the original manuscript, if it still exists). I cannot imagine how she could have gotten four times that much again into the silly book. Amber gets married FOUR TIMES over the course of the book and has lots of silly affairs and moans a lot about how her true love Bruce Carlton thinks she's too trashy for him which is a bit rich I think considering that he's sleeping around as much as she is and repeatedly shows himself incapable of resisting her trashy charms. However, I would not marry her either because a) I would not want to catch a nasty disease; and b) she is damn annoying and although he keeps assuring her he will never, never, never marry her, she still keeps bursting into tears and smacking him in the face every time the subject comes up.

In case this all sounds like I didn't enjoy Forever Amber, let me just assure you, that is completely not the case. I read it on Saturday from start to finish, with a short break in between to read Purple Hibiscus (better quality novel but sad) and frequent pauses to update my family on Amber's latest doings, and it was most absorbing. My family members kept asking me what she was up to if I didn't let them know with a promptness, and towards the end my sister Bonnie and I were sitting on one of the couches reading the last few pages over each other's shoulders (starting with the naked dress, the details of which I was not explaining to Bonnie with adequate eloquence, and going on until she sails off at the end).

Just to give you an idea of how this book goes, I was explaining to my cousin and my mother how Amber had run away from her tedious rural life with her true love Bruce Carlton and how she had gotten pregnant and married (not to her true love) and dumped in the debtor's prison and placed under the protection of Black Jack the Highwayman who made her help with his heists and was never very much use at paying off her debts, and my cousin said, "That can't all have happened! You're not even a quarter of the way through the book!"

I was, but it did.

Apparently this was written by an American (or Canadian?) lady during World War II, and apparently it got banned in several states and the Catholic Church had some severe things to say about it; and because it is an old and classic and genre-creating historical romance, and because actually it is not badly written (the descriptions of Amber's clothes are yummy), I feel justified in assuring myself that I am not in fact a trashy-romance-novel-reader, but an Ardent Lover of the Classics.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


I guess movie musicals are back. Officially. Moulin Rouge opened a whole can of worms and Chicago clinched it. Don't mind my mixed metaphors.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

So you might have thought that the link I posted a while ago, to Anansi Boys on BBC4, was some particular and specific one-time event that I knew about due to my deep and abiding love for Neil Gaiman. That I knew it was there because I love Neil Gaiman and I keep track of his doings. Actually not the case. Actually I was totally surprised to find it there.

I am addicted - like, seriously, you have no idea how addicted - to BBC4 radio plays. If I could inject them into my veins I would do it, that is how much I need my BBC4 radio plays fix. Every day I go to the BBC4 radio plays page and I scope out the plays that have been going on. In my Anansi Boys post, I was acting all blasé about it like, Oh, hey, this Anansi Boys adaptation has just reminded me about a largely forgotten-by-me medium, which has a sort of old-fashioned charm that I don't really think about much on a day-to-day basis.

Such a lie. I need my BBC4 radio plays. I've been lying to everyone and I've been lying to myself, assuring myself that it's all part of my useful project to become good at placing British accents*, and I just can't keep it inside anymore. The first step is admitting your addiction**, so here I go.

The truth is that BBC4 radio plays are not part of my project to become good at placing British accents, although they are helpful in that regard, when I can discover where the actors are from which isn't always. The truth is that I am addicted to BBC4 radio plays.

I will give you an example, since I'm guessing you didn't listen to Anansi Boys although you should have because Neil Gaiman is a genius and I believe I recall him saying that radio plays are his preferred medium and Anansi Boys is done most gorgeously by Lenny Henry reading Fat Charlie and Spider. For the past six weeks (I just found out because, fool! fool! fool!, I never checked the "Classic Serial" section which yes, I hate myself for), they have been serializing a radio play of Dr. Zhivago and I have been missing out on it, damn it. With Ian McDarmid. (Emperor Palpatine.) See, if I had been a vigilant radio play junkie, this serious crisis could have been averted. Meanwhile they have been doing a serial radio play of Dr. Zhivago. Serially. On the radio. And we all could have been listening to it. I only know about it at all because the Saturday play this past week, Beast at Bay, was all about Boris Pasternak and the publication of Dr. Zhivago, and the announcer guy was all, To go along with our Classic Serial of Dr Zhivago, and I was really sad about it. Although Beast at Bay, it was le awesome.

As I recall this all started when Laura (happy belated birthday, Laura!) was complaining about some people near us who were going on and on about English accents in a really annoying way, and she said, "Oh my GOD. Listen to the BBC and GET OVER IT." And I was like, Yes! You're a genius! The BBC! Which is how I got put on to this radio play business that now controls my life.

BBC Radio 4 - Radio Plays

Yeah. Go on. Try it. First one's free.

*I have a project underway that will help me become good at placing British accents. Every time I see a British actor on TV or in films I promptly look them up to discover where they are from (or where they were raised). I am already not terrible at it - obviously I was in England for a year, so I can more or less place accents to north, east, and midlands, with a reasonable degree of success. Bonnie says this can never work because people do fake accents sometimes for movies and also because a lot of people ditch their home accents and become properly well-spoken and posh when they go to swanky schools. But I am not stupid, and obviously if I hear someone with a posh accent and look them up and discover they are from Liverpool or someplace, then I will be well aware that they are just speaking Standard The Queen's English and not English with a Liverpool overlay.
**I mean, of course, the first step to getting everyone else addicted.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

No, actually procrastinating is helpful

Helpful. And now I have proof. Procrastination has saved me from complete absurdity.

Today I was supposed to be writing my paper on The Charioteer, which since you inquire is into its sixth page now and if I could just convince myself that writing it quickly would be better, just like pulling off a Band-Aid really fast is better, then it would be done probably in as short a time as it will take to write this blog post. Anyway, I was avoiding reading that, and to cheer myself up (from the dreadful depression attendant upon writing a paper that you know is easy to write but just can't get motivated to do) I decided to read my blog post about riding a camel. Because that was so much fun. Riding the camel. I am filled with total glee each time I recall it.

Anyway, towards the end of that post, I mentioned that I had bought a present for my sister Bonnie at the RenFest, which I totally did not remember doing. I sat there staring at it for like ten minutes trying to remember what I could possibly have bought Bonnie at the RenFest. I remembered Anna's gift for Grace, and I remembered Anna's brand new beautiful cudgel, but I could not shake the feeling that I had left the RenFest without buying one single thing. Luckily Anna remembered...

So right! I already had a present for Bonnie! I don't know why I was so dead set on the idea that I had to get a Christmas present for Bonnie when I already have one! Actually now I have three, because I bought one extra thing (as I had always intended), and I suppose what happened was that I forgot about the RenFest present and only remembered I wanted to get a couple of things for Bonnie, so I got still another thing! Like a big dummy! And if I hadn't reread my blog post, then I would not have remembered Bonnie's first present, and probably I would have completely forgotten about it until Christmas was over and college was over and I was cleaning out my dorm room and I found it hidden way in the back of somewhere and was like, Well shit. I forgot about this.

In other news, I enjoy buying people books for Christmas because then they can't not read them without hurting my feelings. It's very easy to tell people, You really must read this book, but unless you give it to them properly, as a gift, they might very easily forget to read the book you've told them to read. When all along you know they would love it! Yay for Christmas!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Something for me to remember

Much as I may like some book, it is never a good idea for me to write a paper about it. It is much, much harder to writer papers about things I adore than things I don't care much about. This is because if it's something I love, I want to Do Justice to it, you know, explore the speculative themes (what was I on about?) to their fullest extent and convey briefly not only my fondness for it but also its extreme and perfect brilliance. However, under time constraints and in stressful circumstances as now, it is exceedingly difficult to do this. Which basically means I end up procrastinating for a really long time trying to think of what I can say that will be sufficiently brilliant for the book about which I am writing.

Bad idea. Very bad idea. Must stick to things that aren't very good but aren't loathsome, like Member of the Wedding and Oscar Wilde's sonnets. Then when I pull the entire thing out of my ass and leave out bits that don't support my thesis (oh my God, I could never ever be an academic), I won't feel guilty.

In other news, I am writing a paper on The Charioteer. Pooh.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

My views on the Prince Caspian movie

So okay. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was sort of a letdown in some ways to me. Mr. Tumnus was cute, because James McAvoy is always cute. (P.S. How crushed was I when they got back to Narnia in Prince Caspian and no more Mr. Tumnus? Stupid C.S. Lewis. Stupid hundreds of years.) But by and large I was sort of sad about that movie because it added weird stuff for no reason like that bizarre subplot with Susan being a boring tedious bore. Why? Why? Why does everyone have to hate on Susan? So she wears stockings and lipstick later! Big damn deal! Sheesh.

Anyway, another thing that annoyed me was how a bunch of Christians were all, Look how well this movie did! Garnered so much money! And yet no Oscar nominations! Hollywood hates Christians! Q.E.D.!

That is ridiculous, and I will explain why. The movie didn't get any Oscar nods because it was not that good, and although this rule does not always hold true, sometimes when movies aren't that good, the Academy does not nominate them for awards. Titanic being a notable and horrific exception, and I hope that the Academy wakes up at night and is like, OMG WHAT DID WE DO?

Also, while I'm sure that the movie did well partly because of the Christian themes, another biggish factor in its success was that everyone and their mother has read those (very excellent) books and wanted to see the films. Big-budget fantasy action films made of beloved children's books tend to do well. As a trend. Not necessarily indicative of the Triumph of Christianity in America. I feel.

Now that that's out of my system, I'm getting a little excited about the Prince Caspian movie (trailer here), not least because damn, Prince Caspian is kiiiinda sexy. Which I already knew because he was in Stardust, but still, nice to see him out and about Narnia doing his princey thing, having a weird accent that makes sense I guess but still weirds me out.

In addition, I love that they got Liam Neeson to be the voice of Aslan. I am all about that. Basically they're saying that Liam Neeson is God. You know, he just is God, is what they're saying. And that's fine, I'm completely fine with that. I love Liam Neeson, though in a strictly platonic sense unlike some people who have been known to refer to him as a hunka hunka burning love, and I would vote for him to be the voice of God if I were in charge of the voting. And Wikipedia says that he played Jesus once, and also he's Irish-Catholic and raising his kids Catholic. So yay for him.

On an unrelated note, although I can see where they might be loath to make The Magician's Nephew because it's not incredibly action-packed, I really hope they do make it, because I would be all about seeing on film that scene where Jadis goes all nuts on the streets of Edwardian London. That was too awesome and besides, it got the cabby to Narnia, and the cabby and his wife were called Frank and Helen, which were my grandparents' names, so basically my grandparents were the first king and queen of Narnia. I'm just saying.

Oh my God! Epiphany! Bill Nighy! Bill Nighy is Uncle Andrew! Oh, casting people, listen to me for once in your lives and cast Bill Nighy! For Uncle Andrew! Oh he would be so perfect! Bill Nighy was born to play the part of Uncle Andrew!

Okay, I'm just too brilliant. I have to end this post and contemplate my genius for a while.

Monday, December 3, 2007


The Chosen, The Chosen! Oh, the lovely lovely Chosen!

Basically I've been out hunting for new books for a while, and it turns out that with Christmas drawing nearer (we decorated our tree!) and exams stressing me out, all I yearn for is familiarity, so I went home and cleared out my bookshelves and brought back a whole bunch of familiar friendly books which divide cleanly into really good books and nostalgia:


Among Friends
Lost Boys
Thursday's Child

Good things:

An Old-Fashioned Girl (this one's borderline; I guess they don't divide all that cleanly)
The Moonstone (ditto)
all of the Harriet Vane & Peter Wimsey books except Busman's Honeymoon which I don't like
The Juniper Game
(this book didn't receive nearly enough attention, and it was excellent)
I Capture the Castle
Miss Happiness and Miss Flower
and Little Plum
Jack and Jill
The Color Purple

The Chosen

Anyway, by random accident I grabbed The Chosen when I went to brush my teeth last night, and I was brushing my teeth and doing my contact lenses and reading it, all this being preparatory to the shower-taking and the hair-washing (which has to happen without any books, sadly), and I think I would have been okay if I had read it more slowly, but I didn't, and I got to the bit where Danny shows up in the hospital, and then I was like, Oh, hey, I'll just keep reading until Reuven quits being a jerk to him, and then Danny was just so interesting that I couldn't stop. And I couldn't take a shower. I couldn't bring myself to get in the bookless shower. I just sat on the floor next to the tub in my pajamas and read and read and read The Chosen.

It is just that good. In fact, one of my friends who loves to read has not read The Chosen (she just told me), and I am just about as jealous as I would be if I knew someone who loved to read and had not read To Kill a Mockingbird and thus had the experience of reading it for the first time in the future, rather than the past.

If you have not read The Chosen, read The Chosen. It is as close to perfect as a book can be. It's elegant. Which isn't a compliment I throw around casually.

P.S. I went back and looked at emails I wrote to tim when we were fourteen and reading it for the first time, and apparently I was of the opinion, and God knows I quote, that the speculative themes of the novel were far too - oh, what is the word? - well, too subtle for most people of our age and they should hold off doing The Chosen until junior year.

What an appalling adolescent I was. Thank God all intellectual snobbery is behind me now.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Script of the past few evenings, as the clock ticks closer to final exams and paper deadlines


JENNY: So, ya know, if you want to come over and watch The Office later, that's fine. Just whenever.

ROBYN: Oh sure! When's good for you?

JENNY: Whenever!

(Studied pause.)

ROBYN: Are you busy right now?

JENNY: Nope! Come over!

Five minutes later, in Jenny's bedroom.

JENNY and ROBYN watch an episode of The Office. Then another. Then another. Around 9:30, when JENNY for one would normally be thinking about washing her hair and brushing her teeth in order to begin the whole night-time process, the third or fourth consecutive episode comes to a close.

(Pause. ROBYN knits. JENNY doodles on the paper she has set on her lap in order to help her pretend she is working on a paper while watching The Office.)

ROBYN: I should probably get back.


(Pause. JENNY and ROBYN turn their heads to look at each other. They cannot restrain their GIGGLING.)

JENNY: Maybe one more.

ROBYN: That way we can end on an even number.

JENNY: Nobody wants to end on an odd-numbered episode. Bad luck.

ROBYN: What can we do? Our hands are tied!

(JENNY puts on another episode. They watch it. It ends. Repeat ritual of head-turning and giggling.)

ROBYN: We could just watch one more.

JENNY: Because Jim and Pam weren't happy. At the end of the this one. On account of him saying that mean thing to her.

ROBYN: Aw, come on! He's sad!

JENNY: No, no, I LOVE Jim. I was just saying.

ROBYN: His heart is broken!

JENNY: No, I love him! I do! It was only a little mean.

ROBYN: He has a funny face.

JENNY: We'll just watch one more. Then we'll go to bed. Just so Jim and Pam won't be in a fight. We actually have to. Our hands are tied.

ROBYN: Yeah. Just one more.

(Ten hours later, ROBYN goes home and JENNY and ROBYN go to sleep.)


Yummy heart-shaped chocolate. Also: "It all started in the Holy Land about 2000 years ago."

Tipped off by tingling fingers

So just now I washed my hands with facial cleanser and I didn't notice while I was in the bathroom at all, and I only noticed ever because I got back to my desk and found my fingers tingling like anything. Tingle, tingle, tingle. Heeheeehee. Actually I think that would feel rather unpleasant on your face, like that time that Anna and Robyn were playing a makeup game and they covered Robyn's face in toothpaste and she discovered shortly that it was really really really unpleasant to have toothpaste all over your face.

(That was last week.)

(Just kidding.)