Monday, September 25, 2017

Puzzled . . . and Undecided. .

This was a re-read -- I first read it in 2011 and even blogged positively, if briefly, about it. But this time around, I found myself not so sure of how I felt.

The first part -- all about Brakebills, a school for magicians -- was enjoyable and compelling -- a grown up Harry Potter with a fair amount of teenage angst.

But the trip to Fillory  -- a very Narnia-like place -- bothered me. Grossman is a fan of C.S. Lewis's Narnia and, like Lewis,  is challenging the notion of fantasy as pure escape.  Indeed, in both Narnia and Fillory the protagonists learn that no matter where you go, you take yourself and all your baggage with you. If you're not happy in this world, there's no guarantee that another world will be better.

I agree with the premise . . . and if I hadn't grown up absorbed in Narnia and loving every minute I spent there, perhaps I could enjoy Grossman's novel more. But, for me, Fillory seemed like an obscene caricature or, at best, a heavy-handed spoof of Narnia, turning the sylphs and fauns, the talking animals and walking trees into silly, cynical things. 

Despite that reservation, I found myself engrossed in the characters and (since I didn't remember how things turned out) eager to keep reading. 

The NYT review HERE is pretty much spot on, in my opinion.

Now I have to decide if I want to keep going with the trilogy. I think I'll check my library -- I'm pretty sure I won't buy the next two for my Kindle.

What's strange is the difference in my reaction now and six years ago.  A good reminder to always give a book another chance because my attitudes may have changed.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Friday, September 22, 2017

Turning to Autumn

Though yesterday felt not at all autumnal, I honored today's equinox by banishing the summer blue and white décor in favor of fall colors.

Away with the summer tchotchkes -- the shells and the blue and white porcelain! Bring out the gourds and skulls and fossils and pictures of winter squash.

Switch the paintings of white lilies for something more fall-like.

And enjoy the open windows and mild air while we may!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Return to Middlemarch

 I've finished it and am glad I read it.  I admit to skimming over some especially lengthy bits of narrative but I was captured by the evolving stories of three more or less star-crossed couples and delighted by Eliot's sly depiction of various characters.

For example, two ladies talking of a third whose husband has been discovered to have some disgraceful secrets in his past:

"...Do you think any hint has reached her?"

"I should hardly think so," said Mrs. Tom Toller. "We hear that he is ill and has never stirred out of the house since the meeting on Thursday; but she was with her girls at church yesterday, and they had new Tuscan bonnets. Her own had a feather in it. I have never seen that her religion made any difference in her dress."

There are any number of little gems in the dialogue that I loved -- but I doubt that George Eliot, were she looking for publication today, would have an easy time of it. Tastes change and nowadays lengthy moralizing is generally frowned on.

And Dorothea's desire to subjugate herself to her elderly husband by becoming his amanuensis is fairly incomprehensible. (Now had there been chains, whips, and leather -- that might sell.)   

It seems to me that the reading public's attention span is growing ever shorter. (I'm generalizing -- I know some still love lengthy tomes.) Is it the influence of texting and tweeting and social media of all sorts?

I know I find myself writing shorter paragraphs -- or rather, writing as I always have and then going back and seeing if that paragraph might read easier if it were broken in two.

Still, I'm going to continue to challenge myself by giving Mill of the Floss a whirl. Not immediately though. I need to reread Lev Grossman's The Magicians first. And I see that John has just downloaded Lee Child's Gone Tomorrow. It's been a while since I read a Reacher story. That will make an interesting change.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Go Play Outside

The balmy weather and golden afternoons we're having just now have put me in mind of childhood days-- when my friends and I would play outside till it was too dark to see.

I count myself lucky to have grown up in the late Forties and the Fifties -- before there were so many electronic distractions and -- at least till 1953 when my grandparents bought a television so we could watch The Coronation -- no TV.  

What's more, I lived in a suburban neighborhood where we knew pretty much every family on the block and there were lots of kids to play with -- Marcella, just across the street, Louise next door, Nancy in the house behind ours. and farther down the street were Carla and Lee and DeHart, to name only a few. 

(DeHart's mother was famous for calling him in stages. "Dee! Time to come home." And when he didn't, she upped the urgency. "DeHart!" Soon followed by "DeHart Ayala! Come home NOW!" But still he would linger, waiting for the inevitable, "WILLIAM DEHART AYALA!" that signified imminent peril and the dire necessity of scuttling home at once.)

Simple games like Mother, May I? or Red Light, Green Light or Swing the Statue kept us entertained for hours.  And there was lots of pretending -- cowboys with cap guns and Indians and horses were favorites. (We had punk trees in the back yard with several low, almost horizontal branches that made good horses.) I don't recall any princesses.

The breezeway between our house and carport had a concrete floor, perfect for hopscotch or jacks. Eventually a sidewalk was added to our block and I was given a pair of skates -- those clamp-on metal ones -- but I was pretty hopeless at skating. Bikes, though, that was another matter. Oh, the joy of heading off, sometimes with a sandwich packed, to ride around the neighborhood and dine al fresco in a certain huge Banyan tree!


As I grew older, some of the best games were not on my block but in the neighborhood around my grandparents' house. Kick the Can at the Hall's (they had a large yard and lots of handy bushes for hiding and sneaking) and Capture the Flag at Jeep Connor's where a side yard divided by a line of trees and shrubs was the perfect setting for a game usually played in the twilight time between supper and black dark.

It was an idyllic childhood, in many ways -- there were still vacant lots to play in and still a feeling of safety. Parents could allow their children to roam, to climb trees, to be gone for hours.

All that changed eventually. Not twenty years later I was on a visit home -- a grown and married woman -- when I told my mother I was going to walk over to my grandparents' house -- a matter of maybe a quarter of a mile.

"Oh, no!" I was told. I must take the car. Someone had been mugged in his driveway nearby. The neighborhood wasn't safe anymore.