I know it's been a long time since I posted anything here, but over the last few days I've tried to get my rear back into gear in terms of this blog. I've got a new book to read and a new video (still in the editing suite - it'll be with you soon) and plenty more exciting little tidbits, including a new design and new name coming your way in the coming weeks. Things are getting exciting! They're moving along! I'm getting somewhere!
And then this arrives in my inbox as part of the regular Bookworld mail out in the lead up to ANZAC Day:
The correct response is either "Hooray!" or "Oh crap." I haven't decided yet.
I'm really not sure how to feel about this.
On one hand, having a few more titles to add to my challenge is kind of nice. It's an opportunity to expand my reading in terms of war stories, which have never really fallen into my area of interest. (Except Nancy Wake. That lady kicked arse.) And look at that price! That's almost two dollars off the recommended retail price! I could definitely jump on that train!
On the other hand, this means I have four (maybe more) books to add to my list of Popular Penguins. With over 200 orange titles, a bunch of green crime titles, the pink McGrath Foundation titles and these new khaki war titles, I'm never going to get through them all at this rate!
Oh well. Better just pick up the pace and get on with it.
Despite being only one hundred and forty (or so) pages long, it took me a very long time to come to terms with The Great Gatsby. Declared by many to be “The Great American Novel”, and a stalwart of most English teachers’ libraries, it felt like there was far too much critical weight for me to grapple with. It was no surprise that I had dreaded reading it for so long, and perhaps that is why it took me so long not only to get through it, but also to appreciate it fully.
I can’t tell you how long it took me to read it initially; because it feels so long ago that I actually can’t remember. I think it took about a fortnight, broken up into intermittent chunks. In my first reading, I tried to keep up with the story, hurrying my way through it in anticipation of seeing Baz Luhrmann’s recent adaptation before it left the cinemas. I managed to finish it in time, but I ended up feeling less than positive about the book.
Upon finishing it, I felt like I had just endured a return to high school English class: the themes that I had been told about all the way through the book seemed heavy-handed, with no nuance or interpretation; I hated most of the characters, save Gatsby (because he still seemed nice, and I was certain he had been hard done by from the events of the book), but I had a special disdain for Nick Carroway, who I felt had washed his hands of his own implication in the narrative, choosing instead to declare himself better than those he had freely chosen to associate with, and whose questionable actions he had not protested during the time they were happening. To me, Carroway was a coward, and a self-aggrandising one at that. He aggravated me immensely, and made reading the book more than a little grating. I thought the story was good, but I simply didn’t connect with any of the characters in a way that would give the book the life so many had insisted it had. It felt like, well, a bit of wank.
So yes, it’s easy to say that my first impressions of the book weren’t great. But they certainly weren’t mature either - I had judged it with about as much open-mindedness as a grumpy teenager.
Oh god, I totally made that pun, didn't I? Sorry about that.
Look, here's a video full of jump cuts and lots of unnecessary piss-poor special effects to make up for it!
And in case you missed it, here's the trailer for the latest film incarnation of The Great Gatsby.
It's bigger because it's way better than the video I made.
Please tell me things about The Great Gatsby that I should be aware of, but remember that people who engage in the act of spilling spoilers will be hung from the ceiling by their fingernails. (Yes, I will be watching the Crash Course videos on the subject. Don't rush me, okay?!)
So here we are: all read, for the third time. It's been quite the journey getting to this point (I lost the book twice, and had to re-purchase it on the second occasion), and I can't help but feel like there is only one way to sum up my experience of reading this book.
Puns, snark and Greenpeace,
From Homer to Hemingway.
In short: just perfect.
There will be a new video soon. I promise. I have a lot riding on how quickly I read the next book, hence I am anxious to get stuck in, so for once my word on this subject is totally solid.
Yes, it's been a long time. Yes, I end up saying that too much. Yes, I should have edited this instead of just posting the raw footage. Yes, there is way too much cleavage. Yes, the video was a week and a half old before I posted it. Yes, my teeth are awful.
None of that matters, okay? I have put up a video and there is a new book and the review is already written and ready to go so STOP JUDGING ME, OKAY?
"Jupiter and Antiope", a painting featured on many editions of Perfume.
I have been putting off writing this review for a couple of weeks now, so it's probably time I got my shit together and wrote something because I need to read a new book, dammit. The problem I have with this wrap up is that Perfume: The Story of a Murderer left me with so many conflicting and convoluted responses that I didn't really have an angle to use when the time came to write about it. In an attempt to resolve that problem, I have broken this review up into a number of pieces so that it's not just a massive mess of noise. (Hopefully.)
Be warned: this is a long post, and contains some spoilers.
Just a brief update to let you know that not only am I halfway through my current book, but I have also just activated my brand spanking new Goodreads account! I'll be using to track my Penguin Doll readings, but also using it to keep track of non-Penguins that I'm keen to read.
If you take a look at my read books, you'll probably notice that there are a lot of children's titles in there. I guess the reason so many are in there is because reading has been a part of my life for such a long time, and as a result, I have a remarkable number of vivid memories about my favourite childhood tales.
Either way, I hope you'll befriend me there, and I'm sure I'll have a review of Perfume up for you really soon!
I would make a terrible anti-peer pressure motivational speaker, because I am living proof that it works.
Have you read Perfume? Are my apprehensions unfounded? Is it about time I forked out and got a decent video editing program and camera bundle? (I think we all know there is only one correct answer to that, and it is not 'No, it's fine!')
Above: a representation of the giant hug I want to give this book.
Wow. I knew this was a short read, but what a whirlwind Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol has been.
From the first page, I was swept up with pure love for Dickens, his writing and his tale. Almost straight away, he was treating me to simile-based giggles and fantastically witty, delightfully familiar lines. I was instantly hooked, devouring the whole thing in a little over three hours (with tea breaks, naturally).
It was like meeting a person you have heard about your whole life, and discovering that they are just as wonderful as everybody had told you they were. It was full of quotes that I already knew by heart, thanks to countless viewings of The Muppets Christmas Carol, and from reading picture book adaptations at the local library. It was a story I had loved, but until I immersed myself in the words of its true author, I had only been experiencing half of its magnificence.
The words floated around me like a delicate perfume, the style full of cheer and cheek. I was surprised by how remarkably chatty Dickens was in his narration, leaving me feeling like I was part of an enthralled audience at one of the live readings he became famous for in his later years. There were a few brilliant zingers ("There's more gravy than a grave about you!") and a few occasions where Ol' Charlie had a go at cracking on to some of his female characters (which was a little bit creepy, but I still chuckled).
While A Christmas Carol is mostly jolly in its tone, it also has its more sinister moments, a number of which don't quite make it into more modern adaptations. "Yeah, the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come is pretty scary, " I can hear you say, at which point I'll just laugh in your face and show you the scene with Ignorance and Want at the end of the Ghost of Christmas Present's haunting, followed by the bit where the ghost of Jacob Marley pulls off his freaking jaw. This ain't no Christmas Eve bedtime story for the kiddies, that's for sure. That said, despite the demonic children of Man and jaw-less spooks, the balance of light and dark is just right for this kind of redemption story.
Having finally taken on the challenge of reading the original tale, it's easy to see why A Christmas Carol has become such a staple of the Western Christmas experience. It is warm-hearted, cheeky, witty and a little bit scary, written by a man who knew exactly how to get mixture of emotions just right. It was everything I expected, and more.
There are a few more titles by Charles Dickens on my Penguins list, and now that I have consumed one, I can't wait to get stuck into whichever one comes next.