Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - The Wrap Up

Okay, so I was right. It really was too soon for me to be reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes again.

As I mentioned in the video, the last time I read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's collection of stories about the world's most famous detective was less than six months ago. I had a funny feeling that reading it again so soon would result in a significant loss of mystery from the tales, with my previous knowledge being fresh enough that I could second guess the answers sooner than I otherwise might have. In the case of almost every story, I had the answer almost as readily as Holmes himself, and I must confess, that killed the enjoyment for me a little bit. So much of the joy is in trying (and inevitably failing) to match wits with the Brain from 221B Baker Street.

Don't get me wrong - I still love Doyle's flair for the written word, with description that makes Victorian London both entrancingly beautiful and incredibly sinister all at once. I picked up clues I had missed on my first reading. Overall, it was not a bad reading experience.

But the loss of the mystery, the decline in the thrill of the chase, really impacted on my feelings about the book this time around. Rather than rollicking along with my own theories, hoping I was right, being intensely puzzled by the way Holmes was drawing his conclusions, I was feeling cocky, recalling the basic gist of each case's resolution, even if my memory hadn't stored all the finer details. It became frustrating, leaving me wishing I was already onto the next story, in the hope that it might be one I didn't remember. It really was all too fresh.

And that's really what I've taken away from this reading - Sherlock Holmes IS brilliant, but he's that much more brilliant after an particularly extended break.

After all, being around somebody that amazingly brainy all the time is horribly tiring.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Third is the Word!

Well, hello again! Good to see you! Are you ready for a new video? This one features my good friend, Lauren, who does not have Twitter, or Facebook or any other significant internet presence save THIS VIDEO.

So I guess it's kind of an exclusive! Awesome!

Have you read this one before? Have you seen the new BBC series, Sherlock? What are some of your favourite Sherlock Holmes adaptations? (I *love* Sherlock, and also the one with Richard Roxburgh as Holmes from a few years back. I think it was The Hound In The Baskervilles... Marvellous stuff!)

Also, I noticed that over the Easter/ANZAC Day break, The Penguin Doll cracked 500 hits! OH MY GOD. THANK YOU.

Sure, to some folks, these numbers might be small fry, but I am so grateful for everyone of those 533 clicks. It really makes me feel like this is all worthwhile.

Thanks for sharing the journey so far. I hope you'll continue to join me for the remaining 172 left on the list!

All my ever-loving gratitude, and best wishes,

Noni Doll x

Saturday, April 23, 2011

In Cold Blood - The Wrap Up


There. Now that's out of the way, we can get into the real stuff.


Wow. Just, wow.

I have just finished reading 'In Cold Blood', and boy, what a read.

I started it 8 days ago, on a train trip from Dubbo to Sydney. It was just what I needed - a good solid read, that should keep me going for a while, and one that was COMPLETELY different to what I'd just read.

I must admit, I wasn't sure what to expect from Capote's non-fiction novel when I started it. I think I expected it to be quite clinical, but I found it read as well as any Sherlock Holmes tale, and even better than Agatha Christie's novels.

But did I love it? Well, yes, but kind of reluctantly. It was certainly moving and beautifully written. The descriptive style was incredibly magnificent, setting up the scene beautifully. The problem I had with it was that it tied me to the Clutter family's characters so tightly, that knowing that they were all going to die was absolute agony. It felt horrid enjoying such a powerful true story.

I got upset, angry, but what Capote did that really surprised me was the level of empathy he built up between the reader and the killers. Okay, Dick was true to his name, but almost everybody involved in the story seemed to feel something for Perry. The guy had a pretty horrible life, but what he did was even worse. I couldn't help wanting to take him aside and ask, "Why? What could I have done to help you? What could anyone have done? Why didn't you ask for help when it could have been offered?"

'In Cold Blood' tells a story of pain and evil and anguish, but it is all so remarkably human. Capote seems to be trying to get the point across that any of these people could easily be replaced with any of us. Victim, killer, witness, investigator: any one of them could have been you or me, or someone just like us.

This book will easily be one of the books that stays with me for a long time, not only because it challenges the way the reader thinks about all the characters, but because it raises a lot of questions about the inevitable final chapter of the book - capital punishment. I have always been 100% opposed to the concept, but what do you do with those that have committed such heinous crimes? I like to think that enforced solitary confinement for the rest of one's natural life is the best option, but even that has huge ethical issues attached. So what do we do with them?

That's a question I don't think either I or Capote have an answer to.


Did you read along with me, or have you read the book before? What were your thoughts? I'd love to hear them. Leave them in the comments.

And as for the next book, I haven't decided yet. The Easter weekend means that I probably won't get a new one until Monday, so it may be a re-reader. Although I'd really like a new one. Hmm... We'll see.

Catch you soon,

x Noni Doll

That's two down... 172 to go!

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Chilly Read...

So, did you guess what book is next on my list? Well, here's a video rundown!

Have you read this one? What did you think? Is it a good indicator of what one can expect from Capote's writings? And should I watch Philip Seymour Hoffman in the film Capote as an extra bit of text? Leave a comment and let me know! (If you can keep spoilers to a level of NONE, that would be awesome!)

If you're reading along with me, you'll have to be pretty quick - I'm up to the last chapter already! (Which isn't that surprising, given I recorded this exactly a week ago... Sorry about the delay!)

Can't wait to hear from you, fellow readers!

- Noni Doll

Best. Wedding. Invite. EVER.

The glories of the internet...

This one was linked to me by the AMAZING Bridget Case. That link is for her Twitter. Trust me, following her will be the best thing you do all day.*

If I ever get married (highly unlikely), I think this may be pitched as a potential part of proceedings.**

Have you seen any magnificent Popular Penguin related items lately? Let me know! I'd love to add them to the blog. (With full credit to your good self for finding it, of course!)

I really love that this simple design has become such an icon that people are keen to appropriate it in such inventive ways! Love, love, love it.

There is a 'In Cold Blood' video uploading as we speak. I recorded it a week ago, but have only just got around to getting it online. Stupid crappy connection and questionable software (ahem*iMovie*ahem) has made this far more difficult that it needed to be.

Until the next post (give me an hour or two, okay?): stay sharp, stay safe, stay human!

All my lovin',

Noni Doll

*Unless you're a brain surgeon who saved somebody's life. Even I will admit that's pretty hard to top.

**Due to my work in radio, and the hatred of the 'p' sound in said industry due to its high potential for popping, I don't get to use 'p' alliteration very often. That appears to be reflecting in the amount of time I spend accidentally using it on this blog. Oops.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Jane Eyre - The Wrap Up

If you haven't read 'Jane Eyre', stop reading this NOW. There are so many spoilers in this, it WILL make your eyes bleed.

Also, this is not scholarly commentary. It's just some random, written down feelings about the book. It's not a review, it's a summary of whether or not I liked it, and what bits impacted on me. Basically, please don't come into this blog expecting any more than a casual response from a book lover!


To paraphrase Amanda Palmer:

"Oh. My. God. FINISHED!"

I knew when I started this book, it would be a long slog. Five hundred plus pages of literary joy isn't exactly a task one can knock over in an afternoon!

As I went, I did take some notes, but not many! I figured it would just take away from the enjoyment of the novel. That said, there were definite themes that certainly made an impact on me throughout the reading process, a few of which were quite poignant to my current place in time and space.

The first thing, and the most interesting for me personally, was the relationship between Jane & Rochester. I guess I find it kind of odd, the way they interact. It's not exactly stereotypical romantic fare, but they get on with each other through friendly jibing is repeated through literature: Beatrice & Benedict are the pair that immediately springs to mind. They understand each others flaws and embrace them.

But that's nothing new. I see that in my parents every day. (They've been married 23 years, and in a world where divorce occurs about as often as finding the one you'll grow old with, I'm immensely proud of them for that fact.)

What really makes me curious was the way each of them was so taken with the other's mystery. All the way through the book, Bronte takes great pains in describing Rochester as dark and brooding, and giving the impression that even after Jane has been married to him for ten years, she still doesn't know everything about him, nor does she want to. Rochester, from the first time they meet, refers to Jane as a member of the fae. I get the sense that had they been more open with each other from the outset, they'd have tired of each other, and perhaps never have fallen into their relationship.

But the stark contrast we see is in St John Rivers, who I must admit, annoyed the bejeebus out of me the first time I read Jane Eyre, and has not become any less irritating with the passage of time. He's calculating, cold and exact in his meticulous planning. You can work out the kind of person he is from the first time you meet him. The only time he feels vaguely interesting is when he softens enough to confess his feelings for Miss Rosamond Oliver, although even that is followed by an almost immediate rejection of such sentiments. I think it would be this exact moment, where St John's only personal mystery is solved, that he loses all affection from me, and he was at the same time struck from the list of potential matches for Jane. She now knows almost all there is to know about him. Where's the fun in that?

Rochester's air of mystery is not his only charm, however. His unkempt manner and and physical appearance allows Jane to lose any feeling of obligation to be 'ladylike'. He is comfortable in his own lack of social graces, so she feels permitted to be more relaxed in her own actions and words. He is a riddle, a challenge, and it is in that way that I can see why Jane is so attracted to him. I am also quite uncomfortable around those to whom the act of giving compliments comes easily. Rochester is obviously not one of those people. He is anything but eager to please, with the stark contrast resulting in his kindnesses becoming so much more sincere and powerful.

And how could we forget Jane's phenomenal level of awesome! From the Red Room to her departure from Moor House to return to Rochester, she knows that when something is not going her way, chances are there is something she can do about it to make it better. Over the last few months, that has been such an important notion for me, even if my health has made that harder to achieve than I'd like. I can happily report, however, that I'm now broadening my skills at work (adding 'web content development' to my tasks), and as I write this, I am on a long train trip to Sydney to attend an AFTRS course in Announcing & Presenting. I'm making moves in the right directions, it's just up to the fates to see how they turn out.

Reading Jane Eyre again for this blog has been hard, lovely, timely and an absolute pleasure. If I end up enjoying all the books on my list this much, I'll be a very happy lass.

But while this chapter of the blog has come to a close (save the few more French translations I've got to add to the last entry) a new one is beginning. As soon as I finish writing this, I commence reading Truman Capote's In Cold Blood.

Ready. Set. Go.

x ND