It Begins Anew!

The Great Reading Competition is set to begin anew! This time it’s running from January 1st to January 1st, meaning there will be no confusion in the notation about when a book was read. Hurrah! This time we’re reading anything that came off of one of Jorge Luis Borges’ lists of must-read books (here’s one list and here’s the other). Dave was trounced and humiliated in the last competition but has vowed revenge! REVENGE!

Posted in The Great Reading Competition on January 1, 2013 – 12:01 am | Comments (0)

Autumn, 2011: Top 2 Top 100 Lists (Final)

Autumn, 2011: Top 2 Top 100 Lists

As the loser of the last pentad, David made a special request: to be able to name the theme of the first podi of Pentad the Second. He decided on books that were included in the Modern Library’s list of the 100 best novels written in the English language in the 20th century, since he has a lot of books on that list he wants to read. Will turned up his nose at this list, however, so Dave agreed to add a second list: The Telegraph’s list of 100 novels that everyone should read. Thus was born the current competition. All books listed on either list are fair game.

So let the competition commence! It shall run from November 1st, 2011 to November 22nd, 2012, and it shall be epic.

Final Scoreboard

The Autumn, 2011 competition has been completed. The final scoreboard is posted below:

# Title/Author Date Read Pages # Title/Author Date Read Pages
1 The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne (Telegraph) 12/19 524 1 Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson (ML) 11/25 153
2 Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (Telegraph) 9/26 851 2 The Code of the Woosters by P. G. Wodehouse (Telegraph) 2/1 222
3 Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (ML) 9/26 569 3 Moby Dick by Herman Melville (Telegraph) 7/11 545
4 The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding (Telegraph) 9/26 968 4 Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre (Telegraph) 8/30 192
5 Parade’s End by Ford Madox Ford (ML) 10/31 906 5 Rabbit, Run by John Updike (Telegraph) 11/8 255
6 6 The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett (ML) 11/22 217
Total: 3,818 Total: 1,584
Average Book Length: 764 Average Book Length: 264

* Note: It was decided mutually that books of non-epic poetry would count for half the number of their total pages, seeing as the text of many poems do not take up even half of a full page.


The winner of the initial leg of the Second Pentad of the Great Reading Competition (Autumn, 2011: Top 2 Top 100 Lists), and the coveted Golden Egret, is: WILL. Congratulations to Will for putting forth the strongest effort this contest has ever seen.

The Golden Egret Award: Autumn, 2011: Will McPherson

Note: Will shattered a whole slew of records this competition. A summary of his accomplishments is given below:

  • One of the lone bright spots in this competition for Dave is that he, yet again, drew First Blood, bringing his all time total to 4.
  • The other bright spot for Dave is that he reclaimed the title of Tome Swallower, by finishing 6 books to Will’s 5.
  • Now onto Will. Will had the highest book length average ever (764 pages per book) and also claimed the Longfellow by reading The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling (968 pages). This proved to be the longest book Will has read (or, at least, successfully completed) for a competition to date.
  • Will equaled his previous high by finishing three books in a month (leaving the finish of all of them to the same day, clever badger he), and also recorded his highest page count in a month (2,388) and a competition (3,818). Both totals are all time bests.
  • Will achieved his greatest margin of victory (2,234), which became the new all time record for margin of victory in a competition, beating Dave’s previous record by almost a thousand pages.
  • Though collectively (on account of Dave’s low page total) they failed to beat the all time best mark for number of pages read in a competition, Will and Dave did set a new record for the highest combined average book length in a competition with an average of 491 pages a book.
  • Dave here wishes to note that Will, who is now out of grad. school, for the first time found himself with more free time than Dave, who was working on several projects.

Thus has Pentad the Second begun. Though Dave was seriously drubbed, he takes solace in the fact that Will failed to give Dave the Joan Collins Special, pale shelter though that may be. He vows to rededicate himself to the task and put up a better showing in the next leg of the Great Reading Competition!

Back to Previous Competitions

Posted in The Great Reading Competition on November 23, 2012 – 12:01 am | Comments (0)

How to Check Out an E-Book

So I looooooove to check out e-books from my library: instant access, it returns itself, and you never get hit with late fees—a trip to the library without leaving the house; what’s not to like? It has come to my attention, however, that many people aren’t using this delightful feature, and I can only assume it’s because they don’t know how (I mean, what other reason could there be?!). Read on and discover how!

1. Get a Library Card

You will need a library card in order to check out online materials from that library. When you get the library card, make sure you have activated it for online usage (most libraries will ask you to create a pin number for online access. For security’s sake, please DO NOT use your ATM or credit card pin!). If you already have a library card, you will just need to make sure that you are ready to use the library’s online services. Many locations require you to ask to have this activated. If you already check your due dates or do online renewals with your card, you should be all set!

2. Find Your Library’s e-Book Catalogue

Most libraries will have a link prominently displayed on their website telling you to “click here for e-book and audiobook access”; some will simply say “click here for OverDrive”; and some have links so well hidden it’s as if they don’t want you to find it at all… If you have one of the latter (I’m looking at you, Pleasanton!) try googling your library name and the word “overdrive”. Sometimes it takes a little digging (the city of Pleasanton, for instance, is part of a collective of independant Northern California libraries who together share an e-book collection at this address. I found it by googling and nosing around a bit). The reason you’re looking for a website with the word “overdrive” is that’s the name of the service that hosts e-catalogues and check-outs for the majority of libraries. Though I understand some have independent systems all of my libraries go through OverDrive, and so that’s what these instructions apply to.

3. Find Books!

Once you have clicked on the link (or hunted down the website) and are on your library’s OverDrive page things become fairly straightforward. You can browse books by category or search for specific topic, authors, or titles. The advanced search feature allows you to narrow your results in a variety of ways including restricting what publishing format you would like your results in.

Each title returned by a search will have lots of information packed into its entry. Author and series (if any) are both links; clicking on them will take you to all titles by that author or in that series. There will be a picture of the cover and synopsis of the book content and clicking on the cover or title will take you to a more specific entry for the book showing you its edition information, publisher, DRM, ISBN and a variety of other details. Also every title will list the “available copies” and “library copies”—that is the number of copies the library has purchased the rights to loan out at the same time, and the number of those copies currently available for you. Also listed will be the different formats the title is available in. There are a variety of formats to be had and OverDrive has a page to help you figure out which formats are compatible with the device you have (it also lists which software/apps you need to download to read certain formats). One thing to note if you are a Kindle or Kindle app user like me: certain books are restricted by the publisher as being available only for Kindle devices via usb, which means you won’t be able to read it on your computer, phone or iPad even if you have the Kindle app. It won’t wirelessly transmit to your Kindle either; you have to manually download it and transfer it via cord to your Kindle (not difficult, just annoying). To make it more obvious these books will have a line in red underneath the Kindle icon on the title listing warning you it’s for “Kindles via usb only”.

4. Check Out

When you find a book you want to check out simply click the “add to cart” button next to the format you want to check out. Books added to your cart during browsing will remain there for 30 min; after that you will have to find them again to check them out. Once you have a few books go to your cart and click “check out”. You will be prompted to enter your library card info and your pin number, select your check out length (remember there are no renewals with e-books!)and click “confirm checkout”. This will bring up a page with the titles you have just checked out, and, depending on the format, selected buttons to download the file or “get for Kindle”. To finish acquiring the book, take the appropriate action, download, and transfer to your device—or if it’s a Kindle book, click “get for Kindle” which will take you to Amazon’s website where you will have to click the “get library book” button on the right hand side of the screen.

5. Enjoy!

After the books are transfered to your device you have a set period to enjoy them before they are returned and unavailable to you. While it can be somewhat disconcerting to have the book return itself before you finish, the upside is that you never get hit with late fees, and Kindle books keep all bookmarks, notes and furthest read page information for when you check it out again (they are also transfered to any copies you might purchase later). If you want to return things early you can return to Amazon’s “manage my Kindle” page or go back to the library’s OverDrive page.

OverDrive lets you rate books, and allows you to sort searches by ratings—a fun exercise at times. Another exciting feature of the OverDrive library is the ability to create a wishlist—handy for books you want to find easily at a later date (especially sequels!). The wishlist is separate from the waitlist. Books on the wishlist are not held for you whereas you will receive an email notifying you that a book is on hold for you when the waitlist gets to your name. A nice note is that, in my experience, the online waitlists tend to move more quickly than physical ones, just because people tend to be faster about returning books when they don’t have to leave the house to do it.

Each library sets the maximum number of books you can have out based on the size of its collection. One of my libraries only allows 3, while the LAPL allows 10 at a time from their much, much larger collection. And yes, I did say “one of my libraries”. I have cards to 4 right now and plan to add more on my next trip out of town. The beauty of e-book checkouts is that physical proximity isn’t necessary, and since most California libraries only require that you be a resident of the state I’ve started collecting library cards and reactivating all my lapsed accounts from my schooldays too.

I’ve always loved libraries and now I love e-books, and surprisingly the two go together like bread and butter. Enjoy!

Posted in Musings on August 14, 2012 – 4:00 am | Comments (0)

The Joy of E-Booking

I hear a lot of people saying all sorts of things about e-books, and often find myself sitting on my hands trying to keep myself from getting embroiled in pointless online bickering with people who are just interested in being loud, not having a discussion. It should be obvious, but, just to be clear, e-books are neither a harbinger of doom nor the savior of humanity: they are just another way to access content. That said, I love this mode of access and have increasingly nasty thoughts regarding airline electronic device restrictions. Now it’s not like I’m burning my books, but let me tell you some of the things I love about e-books…

1. They Let Me Keep All My Books!

Sadly I’ve reached the point where every inch of shelf space in my house is filled with books. I mean every inch. I have books shelved two deep in most places and there are stacks of books underneath my bed and inside some of the cupboards. And all my wallspace is already filled with shelves so there is no room for more shelving space. What this means is if I want a new book I have to give up a book to get it. E-books, however, take up the same amount of space no matter how many you have, so while every new hard copy book costs me a book, every new e-book is a freebee.

2. Easy Access

With the quantity of books I have it can be difficult to find the book I want when I want it (especially since the biggest bookshelf is actually positioned behind one of the couches). Also I read fast, so if I’m lounging in bed overcome by disease or sloth, chances are good I will finish one book and immediately want another (a version of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie starring me would be very repetitive), and definitely not want to crawl out of bed and go find it. Here again an e-reader is priceless. Books are easily pulled up and very quickly loaded and you can be reading your next book with no shelf searching and no time to pause and reflect about how you should be doing some sort of actual work…

3. The Price

Now obviously there’s an initial cost investment for an e-reader since you have to pay for the reader (hint: Christmas is coming!), but after that there are a lot of low cost and free book options. First off pretty much everything in the public domain (like all the classics of literature) is available for free; just look around online. Next Amazon and B&N are pretty much always running promotions on something you’ll like and will have slashed the price down to lower than standard paperback prices. Additionally there are other resources. Many publishers will offer some books for free or very little periodically (like the Baen free library) and now many libraries across the country offer e-book checkouts as well (I will do a separate post with how to check these out for anyone who is interested.). It is true that overall e-book prices are not lower than paperback book prices, but if you are a good shopper there are many, many opportunities for low cost books.

Let me give you an example of the joy of e-booking. Recently I had a flight very, very early in the morning. I got to the airport and started reading my book to stay awake, and quickly realized that I had made a tactical error: I only had a few chapters left in this book and had forgotten to pack more. As soon as I finished the last chapter I pulled out my Kindle. None of the books I had loaded matched my mood so I got on the airport wifi (the Long Beach airport is the best—and part of that is their free wifi!) and browsed through the LA public library e-book collection. I found three books I was in the mood for and had all three loaded by the time I finished eating my croissant. The only sad part of the story comes when the stewardess made us turn off our devices. I still don’t understand why the pilots get to use their iPads and we don’t…

Nothing will ever supplant my love of books—but then again it’s not like my Kindle is trying to do so. Both formats have strengths and weaknesses, but in the end it’s all about the story you read; not the way you read it.

Posted in Musings on August 8, 2012 – 7:00 am | Comments (1)

The Code of the Woosters

P. G. Wodehouse

Cover of The Code of the Woosters

Rank: B+
No. Times Read: 1
Last Read: Winter, 2012

Author Name: P. G. Wodehouse

Review: Ever since Erin and her family introduced me to it, I’ve been a big fan of the BBC miniseries Jeeves and Wooster (which I unfailingly call Wooster and Jeeves). Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie are, separately, brilliant, but together they’re absolute dynamite. Their portrayal of Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves on the small screen is about as spot on as spot on gets, and never will be (nor need be) equalled.

The show, though, is based on characters from a series of books and stories by British humorist P. G. Wodehouse. As I’m such a fan of the show, I figured now was as good a time as any to give Wodehouse himself a try, and my venture was well rewarded.

As I’m so familiar with the miniseries, it was difficult for me to read this book without referencing the series in my mind, and it will also be difficult to review. As a result, this review will likely be difficult to read for those who haven’t seen the series (which is presently streaming on Netflix). In fact, if you’ve gotten this far and haven’t seen the show, you really ought to stop and go give at least the first episode a watch—I promise, you won’t regret it. If you have seen the show, I’ll stop standing on ceremony.

The Code of the Woosters corresponds to the first two episodes of season 2 (or “series 2”, if you happen to find yourſelf being Britiſh). The main plot points are: Aunt Dahlia engaging Bertie to steal a cow creamer from Sir Watkyn Bassett; trouble surrounding the engagements of Gussie Fink-Nottle and Madeline Bassett, and Stephanie Byng and Harold Pinker; Bertie getting into trouble (again) for stealing a constable’s helmet; and Roderick Spode threatening to beat Bertie and others to a jelly. For fans of the show looking for a reason to read the books, you’ll be pleased to know that much of the dialogue in the show is taken directly from the books. The book is a pleasure to read, due in no small part to the fact that it’s told from the point of view of Bertie Wooster (first person). He’s got a particularly fascinating way of expressing himself which Hugh Laurie does a wonderful job of approximating, but in the book you get it at all times. It’s great fun!

Now for a couple things I noticed about the adaptation—a few small but crucial changes that I think are worth noting. Plotwise, I thought the method of extracting the cow creamer was much more clever in the show. In the book, Jeeves and Wooster help Gussie Fink-Nottle escape to London (they lower him out a window by a sheet chain), and in so doing, they give him Bertie Wooster’s suitcase which contains the cow creamer. In the show, Jeeves takes the silver cow creamer and affixes it to the front of their car, making it look rather like a hood ornament. That was ingenious.

Another key difference—and a rather important one, I thought—is how Bertie learns the secret of Eulalie. In the book, as in the show, Bertie tells Jeeves that he will agree to go on a round-the-world boat trip with him if he tells him the secret, but then (and this is the crucial point) Jeeves gives in. That is, Jeeves betrays the oath he swore to the Junior Ganymede Club and reveals a secret from the Club Book. In the show, Bertie makes his offer to Jeeves, and Jeeves is sorely tempted, but refuses to go against his principles. On his way home with Jeeves, though, Bertie happens to drive past a shop window and sees Roderick Spode. The shop is Eulalie Sœurs, and since Bertie has seen Roderick Spode inside the shop selling women’s undergarments, Jeeves simply fills in the gaps. I find this version of events much more satisfying, as Jeeves doesn’t blatantly (or even brazenly, one might say) flout his principles.

The last bit I’d like to note is a general difference between the book and the show. This is my first Wodehouse, so I can’t say if this is true generally, but Jeeves is not so ever-present in the book as he is in the show. Indeed, he drops in here and there, but doesn’t seem to get much more “screen time” than the other major secondary characters in the book (Aunt Dahlia, Watkyn Bassett, Roderick Spode, etc.). I found this rather surprising, as there’s, I’d say, a fairly close 50-50 split in the show. One can easily imagine why the change was made (you wouldn’t consign Stephen Fry to a minor supporting role in a production like this), but I’m rather surprised the change needed to be made. True, one might account for the fact (at least partly) by recalling that the book is told in the first person from Bertie Wooster’s point of view (and as a result, he’s not privy to anything outside his immediate experience), but even so, one gets the sense that Jeeves and Wooster are much closer to friends (or pals) in the show than they are in the book. Socially, I suppose that does make more sense, but all the same, it was slightly disappointing.

If one is going to start reading Wodehouse, I suppose this is as good a place to start as any (even though this isn’t the first story to feature Wooster and Jeeves), provided one has a general knowledge of the characters and the style of comedy. From someone who daily wishes there were more episodes of BBC’s Jeeves and Wooster, though, I can assure you that those who are fans will be delighted by Wodehouse’s prose. His books are definitely worth checking out!

Posted in B+, Reviews on July 23, 2012 – 7:26 pm | Comments (0)
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The Talisman Ring

Georgette Heyer

Cover of The Talisman Ring

Rank: A
No. Times Read: 2
Last Read: Spring, 2012

Author Name: Georgette Heyer

Review: I have just recently finished reading The Talisman Ring for the second time and feel the need to make a few comments. First off let me say this is a fantastically enjoyable book, filled with humor, adventure, and delight; it is certainly one of my top recommendations to try to hook people on Georgette Heyer. Despite this I tend to have trouble getting people enthused and always seem to have to first explain away the fact that this is classified as a romance. That’s right, if you look at my genre tags I have put down both “Romance” and “Historical Fiction”, but if you look at the spine of the book for the genre it says “Romance”, and for that reason I missed out on these wonderful books for years and years. Although several people whose taste in books tends to jive with mine recommended these, I was uninterested in reading “smut dressed up in bad historical costuming”, and so seeing the label on the spine I dismissed them out of hand.

The Talisman Ring, however, is a historically accurate romance set in the Georgian period, meaning that while there is passion and romance, there is no smut, in keeping with the courtship rules of the era. Nor is the “historical costuming” inaccurate as many (or even most) fiction pieces are; Heyer was an exhaustive researcher, to the point that her Napoleonic era novels are so accurate and give such a good view of the life of the period that they have been used as required reading at Oxford University in classes covering the Napoleonic wars. However because the modern Romance genre has become so synonymous with bodice-rippers and Fabio-style covers, there is a certain amount of embarrassment for many in heading into the shelves and pulling out a book so labeled. Let me assure you, however, that any of Heyer’s romances will amply reward you for your bravery amongst the genre shelves with stories of love skillfully interwoven with peril and humor.

One of the things frequently said about Heyer is that she is “The next best thing to reading Austen”. I disagree as this supposes that to like Heyer is to like Austen, and further also suggests an incorrect ranking of the two. Heyer writes historically accurate characters for a modern audience, while Austen ultimately had to please an audience which would have viewed many of Heyer’s characters as hoydens and shrews instead of girls filled with spunk and sass (two of my favorite characteristics in a lady!). One fine example is seen in The Talisman Ring, where our young French heroine decides that she is no longer interested in being betrothed to her forbidding, older, boring cousin and determines to run away in search of adventure. She sets off in the dead of night with no maid and only her band-boxes and a pistol stolen from the bedroom of her dashing cousin, absent from the country having fled a trifling charge of murder. Now this girl is unquestionably silly, but also possesses daring no Austen character would ever demonstrate. Austen heroines are often spirited, perhaps even pert, but never over-bold, never wanton—they never truly cross the line. It’s not a question of historical accuracy (Austen does have female characters who run away, elope, and take lovers), it’s a matter of how they are held up. In an Austen novel these ladies are never the heroine; always the embarrassment.

One need not be an Austen fan to love Heyer, though if you are fond of the comedy of manners and flying dialogue that you see in Austen, I encourage you to look closely at Heyer. The Talisman Ring like many of her works has strong elements of farce and mystery. The action is driven by the desire of the dying family patriarch to safely dispose of his young granddaughter by marrying her to one of her three cousins. One cousin, the heir to the patriarch, is eliminated from the running as he has fled the country after being accused of murder (something our young heroine finds both shocking and fascinating), leaving only two cousins available for matrimony: one who believes his cousin to be innocent and the other who does not. The question of the heir’s innocence comes to be of paramount importance to our young heroine as a rather large inheritance as well as her marital prospects all become entangled with the matter. Add to this midnight chases, freebooters, hidden cellars, bow street runners and a justice of the peace and his not-so-young but still adventure-minded sister, and to top it off, our young heroine’s desire to have adventure and romance even if it should end in tragedy (she is almost sad to have escaped the terror, as it would have made the crowd weep to see her taken to the guillotine dressed all in white, with, perhaps, just a simple ribbon around her throat…).

I laughed out loud in places, giggled quietly in others, and read the book in little more than one sitting. Try this one to start, or some of her other bests: The Grand Sophy, Faro’s Daughter, Frederica, The Convenient Marriage, The Nonesuch, Cotillion, False Colors, Arabella, and well…it’s hard to go wrong with any one of her romances!

Posted in A, Reviews on May 3, 2012 – 4:35 pm | Comments (0)
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I, Claudius

Rank: B+
No. Times Read: 1
Last Read: Winter, 2012

Author Name: Robert Graves

Review: With I, Claudius, modern readers can enjoy a book that resembles classical literature without the tortuous pace of actual classical history. If 300 taught modern kids important events of the Second Persian Invasion of Ancient Greece (as well as what is Sparta), I, Claudius provides an insightful look into the political theater of early Imperial Rome. Sounds interesting, no?

I, Claudius is, simply, a fictional autobiography ostensibly written by the fourth emperor of Rome, though in actuality researched and imagined by English poet/classicist Robert Graves. In the book, Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (“Claudius”) recounts his beginnings as a member of the Julio-Claudian family, perennially the outcast due to his epileptic seizures, stutter, ticks, and other afflictions. Though thought of as an idiot or fool by nearly all members of his family, particularly grandpa Augustus (the benevolent emperor) and grandma Livia (the murderously cunning brains behind the throne), Claudius grows up smart as a whip and pursues the life of a scholar since no one in the family permits him to attain any important political post. However, none of Claudius’s scholarly work, such as his Etruscan histories (fun fact: Claudius is understood to be the last known person able to read Etruscan, which remains unintelligible to historians today), is noticed by anyone, and Claudius is happy to live the life of an unappreciated scholar.

As the so-called idiot of the imperial family, Claudius learns to survive the many purges, murders, and intrigues that inevitably befall nearly every member of his family, all of whom are rivals to one another. Slowly, all the good people around him die out, none by natural causes, and Claudius, who is the paragon of an honest and honorable Roman Republican (at least, according to his own account), experiences life under the benevolent, yet dangerous, rule of grandpa Augustus and his grandma Livia; the paranoid and tyrannical reign of uncle Tiberius; and finally the madness of nephew Caligula. As Claudius bumbles, more or less unscathed, into each new imperial era, the principle villains all grow to understand the depths of Claudius’s simple genius.

Ultimately, after finally being given semi-important positions of power in Caligula’s ludicrous government (including a role as a bouncer at Caligula’s impromptu brothel), and after being subjected to the terrors of an insane autocrat, Claudius is paradoxically appointed emperor upon Caligula’s long-deserved assassination. Despite being a staunch believer in the Republic, Claudius is named emperor by the palace guards. As he is carried away on the shoulders of the palace guards, Claudius ashamedly admits to his excitement at the prospect of having an entire empire read his long-ignored scholarship, which is a strange way to end the story about the crowning of perhaps the most powerful person in the world (second only to the Han Emperor). But actually, given Claudius’s eccentricities and honest character, it’s probably the most appropriate way to end the book. So for now, Claudius meets a happy end as the most unlikely person to become ruler of a nation, like Jimmy Carter 1,936 years later.

Interestingly, Claudius, in his many visits to the libraries of Rome, discusses the importance of accurate historiography with two leading Roman historians. Eschewing the style utilized by Livy, who prefers writing out lengthy but undocumented speeches and dialogue for dramatic effect, Claudius states his idea that histories should be based on primary sources without recourse to made up quotes. Ironically, I, Claudius consists entirely of fabricated dialogue (particularly his discussion at the library), due in no small part to the fact that Claudius’s actual autobiography, which spanned eight volumes, did not survive. But without Graves’s fabrication, which is derived from popular rumor, conjecture, or Graves’s own imagination (e.g. the many assassinations attributed to Livia), there would be no book about Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus even a tenth as engrossing as I, Claudius.

Of course, if you don’t like historical fiction with an emphasis on history, go watch the BBC version of I, Claudius, which starred the great Derek Jacobi stuttering his way across a sound stage. And if you don’t like movies based on a work of historical fiction, the Hunger Games movie is coming out soon, yes indeed it is. Goodbye, world.

Posted in B+, Reviews on February 6, 2012 – 12:33 am | Comments (2)
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Specific Dream Rabbit

From P. G. Wodehouse’s The Code of the Woosters:

Jeeves, you really are a specific dream rabbit!

As spoken by Stiffy. My first thought when reading this was that I’ve never seen “specific” used in a superlative fashion—and I like it. I think we should all start using it. So, the next time your troublesome teen actually takes out the trash when asked, say to him, “You are a specific son!” (Really, though, how could I one be bothered to take out the trash?! I had One has so many other things to do…)

And “dream rabbit” is, of course, my Lakota name, so it doesn’t surprise me a bit to see it in print as a complimentary epithet.

Posted in Musings on January 28, 2012 – 10:43 am | Comments (0)
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Dear John

I just read in the Berkeley English department newsletter that John Bishop, my former professor, retired late last year on account of a stroke, and is still recovering. Professor Bishop was my first English professor (English 45C: a survey of 20th century literature), and introduced me to many authors and books that now number among my favorites—including (but not limited to) Virginia Woolf, Vladimir Nabokov and Jean Toomer’s Cane. He was also the professor that introduced us to Hemingway by passing out a photocopied picture of him as a 6 or 7 year-old dressed in little girls’ clothing (priceless). While I never got to take a Joyce seminar with him (that one filled up fast my senior year [and why wouldn’t it? He did write the book on Finnegans Wake, after all]), I was grateful to be able to at least take an undergraduate survey course from him.

John has plans to do six one hour lectures on Ulysses with Prof. Michael Davis from Le Moyne College some time next year. I wish him the very best, and wish I could be a fly on the wall during those lectures (maybe they’ll be recorded!). I hope this is just a bump in the road, and that he’ll have many healthy and productive years ahead of him.

Posted in Musings on December 21, 2011 – 6:58 pm | Comments (0)

Hot Tub Abyss

On the death of Literature, as we know it: Nude in Your Hot Tub, Facing the Abyss.

Posted in Musings on December 11, 2011 – 7:42 pm | Comments (0)