Saturday, December 01, 2007

Reading Log, November 2007

Yes, I do feel so terribly punctual and enterprising, in an On Top of Things kind of way. But never mind.

I listened to more audio books in November than I read in paper-and-ink format, and that, I think, is a thing that has never happened before. But my hands have been busy, my ears have been free, and Librivox is a wonderful thing.

The Getting of Wisdom, by Henry Handel Richardson (audiobook)--A boarding school story, written and set in early 20th-century (colonial) Australia. Some of the story was entertaining, but I never entered much into sympathy with the main character. She was rude and ungrateful to her mother, conniving and scheming at school, made up false stories that could seriously have injured an innocent person, gave way to depression and emotionalism to the detriment of her school work (and there was no excuse for it, for she was intelligent), and finished her career by cheating on her final exam, and getting away with it. I have no idea what the point of this book was supposed to be. I kept waiting for the "wisdom" part to be worked in, but it never was, unless I missed something major. Not recommended, simply because I can't think of any reason anyone would ever want to read this. I haven't read many Australian authors, but I won't hold this book against them as a class.

The Circular Staircase, by Mary Roberts Rinehart (audiobook)--Listening to mysteries on audio is both fun and frustrating. You can't peek ahead at the last page (not that I ever would do that, you know), nor can you read very fast to find out sooner what is going to happen. Unfortunately, the readers for the second half of this book were very difficult to understand. If the story had begun with them, I probably wouldn't have listened, but by the time they came on board, I wanted to find out how it all came out.

My Man Jeeves, by P. G. Wodehouse (audiobook)--I wonder how much Jeeves was paid? Each chapter here was a stand-alone story, and they were all funny in one way or another.

What Katy Did at School by Susan Coolidge (audiobook)--Another school story--better than the last one. Nothing remarkable about it, really, except that you have a lot more respect for the school girl who decides to hang on and live down a false accusation than for one who cheats and makes false accusations, as in the other book. Really, I'm sure the best "school story" about girls is A Little Princess by Frances Hodgeson Burnett, and no matter how cold and formidable other schoolmistresses might be, they aren't Miss Minchen.

Pickwick Papers, by Charles Dickens--I'm trying to keep up at least some of my self-imposed reading goals, and for nearly ten years now, it has been my custom to read one novel by Dickens each year--for many years now, that means one that I have not read before. This was Dickens first published novel, serialized in the newspaper, and it made his reputation. It reminds me of Diary of a Nobody, which I read earlier this year, and it also ties in with Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford, as one of the character in that book abhors Dickens, and another likes him so much that he is run over by a train while absorbed in reading an episode of Pickwick Papers. In the back of my mind, too, is Little Women, which has a chapter devoted to Pickwick, a "society," and the girls took the names of the Pickwick Club members for fun. I have to confess that Pickwick Papers doesn't really seem like a novel to me--more like a comic "soap opera" on paper. There are many episodes, and a certain amount of continuity, but not what I would call plot. I'm not quite half finished, so I need to be diligent if I want to finish by the end of the year.

Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson--This came highly recommended, and I can hardly say enough good things about it. This is one of the best-written books I've read recently. I love the way the story is told, in the form of a long letter/journal written from a very elderly father to his very young son, to be read later, as there are so many things he won't be able to tell his son before he dies. The story runs back and forth between memories of the past, including stories told by father and grandfather (which makes the history reach back to the Civil War!) and current, daily events. I'm not finished, so I'm not sure how the tension will be resolved, or how the book will end, but I am savoring this one--it's likely to be one of my favorites for 2007, and I'll be looking for other books by the same author.

The Magic Feather, by Lori and Bill Granger--This book is subtitled "The Truth about 'Special Education,'' and is the story of one family's horrifying experience with the psychological testers and bureaucratic bullying of both public and private schools. When their 6 year old son was tested, he knew how to read, and they told the testers that. Nevertheless, the results showed that he had an IQ of 47, and was "trainably" mentally handicapped, but not "educable." How ridiculous is that? Their experience took place in the mid 1970's, and the book was published in the mid 1980's, so the statistics in the book are dreadfully out of date, but who can imagine that the situation is any better now than it was then? I'm not finished with this book, either, so that makes three books I need to keep working on.

Skipping Christmas, by John Grisham--A reread, and no apologies. John Grisham tells a good story, and this one is no exception. Luther Krank is every bit as engaging as Ebenezer Scrooge, and this would make a great movie. I think the one already made doesn't count (and I didn't even see the whole thing). If this were done right, it could be a perennial classic similar to 'It's a Wonderful Life.' But you don't have to wait for that. It's a quick read and too fun to miss.

I have this vague idea that there might be something else, but these are the ones I'm sure about!

I decided, since I missed November as a "blog every day" month, I'd try in December. I say "try," because I'm notoriously bad about keeping up here, but I'd like to.

Tonight, my oldest two children, who have been in Spain this week, are coming home! You'd like to hear about that, wouldn't you? So would I--I can't wait to hear all about their trip!


At 9:50 PM , Blogger Anne said...

I loved Gilead, too. I read Housekeeping by the same author but didn't enjoy it nearly as much.

I wish I could listen to audiobooks! But no matter how hard I try, my mind wanders.

At 10:00 AM , Blogger Debra said...

With regard to "The Getting of Wisdom" just to complete your picture of the author did you know that this is purportedly autobiographical and was part of the author's efforts to 'get back at the school' by making unpleasant insinuations. It is sad, but true, that many Australian authors take pride in the number of people and institutions they can trash (speaking as an Australian, I generally avoid them unless I receive a particular recommendation) - the archetype being Patrick White who is powerful, but extremely nasty.


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