In Which I Gain A Spine…Then Rant About It Being Broken

Note: While I could provide pictures, I’m not going to, because my object is not to shame anyone: this is an ongoing problem I have with buying used books online.

Dear Bookseller,

I just received my package from you, and I must admit I’m very concerned for your welfare. This book’s condition was listed as “Very Good.” There may even have been some talk about “minor edge wear.” These words, combined with the condition of the book on its arrival, suggest several possibilities:

  1. You have recently been through some sort of apocalypse which affects your judgement of such things—maybe the condition of this book, as opposed to the garden ruined by that rain of toads, is indeed “Very Good.”
  2. The fancy super-sealed packaging emitted fumes, causing you to hallucinate that this was not, in fact, a creased and spine-cracked travesty of a paperback.
  3. You are totally, totally evil.

I’m not averse to a little work on these things, really: I know I’m demanding. My paperbacks are going to be clear-Contact-papered, after all, and sometimes buying a used book means that I take a Sharpie or some paint and touch up little spots here and there before I preserve it.

I preserve it because, in my cockeyed optimism, I assume it will be good.

You sent me this copy of this novel because you, in your cockeyed optimism, assumed that I was either apathetic, mentally blunted, or visually impaired. I’m no more whipping out a Sharpie for this than I am performing CPR on the mummy of Ramses II, and for exactly the same reason.

…I didn’t punt it off my balcony in a rage, either, though, so there is that.

Am I going to mention some of this in my review? Let’s just say the chances are “Very Good.”


Ooh, A Book Meme!

Via the excellent Whiskers, a book meme from The Big Read. The idea is:

Bold the names of books you’ve read;
Italicize the ones you want to read;
Underline the ones you liked, and strike through the ones you didn’t;

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11. Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare (I’ve read about 10 plays, unless you count all 7 times I was assigned Hamlet)
15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch – George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh .
27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34. Emma – Jane Austen .
35. Persuasion – Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41. Animal Farm – George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50. Atonement – Ian McEwan .
51. Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52. Dune – Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov Nabokov
63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road – Jack Kerouac .
67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’ Diary – Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72. Dracula – Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses – James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal – Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession – AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry .
87. Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94. Watership Down – Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

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Fly On The Wall

I just saw this story about the Catholic Church’s Roman diocese refusing to let Angels & Demons film in two of its churches, And while I am no fan of censorship, I can’t help but wonder how that meeting went.

In my head, I know no one said “Come on, your Excellencies! All we want to do is film a few little scenes with hideously tortured clergy as pawns of a plot to undermine the very underpinnings of your faith! What could go wrong?” But my heart wants to believe! (Then again, my heart also wants to believe the manuscript for the novel was somehow turned into a book in a freak accident, because clearly when a middle-aged teacher walks into your office with a novel about a middle-aged teacher who saves the world and ends up with the hot babe physicist/yogini, enthusiastic publication is not the correct response.)

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L’Engle Fans, Take Note!

The combination of mitochondrial malfunction, heart trouble (however you want to interpret that) and a doctor who is only just not named Charles Wallace. Just…wow.

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So far I’d been loving the Sherlock Holmes box set I got for Christmas (now with more power to recognize guest stars– Robert Addie from Robin of Sherwood among them!).  I also appreciated the attempt, at least, to stick to the stories as God and Conan Doyle intended them; I love Basil Rathbone to death, but Holmes has no business fighting Nazis.

It was with great annoyance, then, that I discovered the show’s Powers That Be had conflated two tales late in the series’s run and joined “The Mazarin Stone” and “The Adventure of the Three Garridebs” in unholy matrimony.  And in doing so, removed one of my favorite Holmes moments ever from the latter story: Watson is wounded by a villain with a revolver.

…my friend’s wiry arms were around me and he was leading me to a chair.
“You’re not hurt, Watson? For God’s sake, say that you are not hurt!”
It was worth a wound–it was worth many wounds–to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask.  The clear, hard eyes were dimmed for a moment, and the firm lips were shaking.  For the one and only time I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as a great brain.  All my years of humble but single-minded service culminated in that moment of revelation. (“The Adventure of the Three Garridebs,” Arthur Conan Doyle)

Even with little romance (your fanfic mileage may vary), it’s one of the best love scenes I’ve ever read. Jeremy Brett could have acted the living hell out of that, too.

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“Spooky Book” Is Right.

I may have mentioned that my religious-leaning relatives gave me a horror novel for Christmas. And the aforementioned spook story (the Pocket Books edition of J.G. Passarella’s Wither) may well be the worst-proofread book I’ve ever seen that didn’t have Andrew Greeley’s name on it somewhere.

I am on page 27. So far:

  1. “Freshman” has been used as a plural.
  2. The outside of a car has been referred to as a “chassy.”
  3. “PhD,” no periods, in two places, which made me glad the character who was trying to get one didn’t make it.  Also, anybody know of any non-fictional tiny colleges with a nice doctoral program?
  4. “DefCon One” has been used as the mild end of the scale.  I am a (sort of) mild-mannered English major and even I know that’s wrong.

Also, there’s supposed to be something going on with nightmares and witches returning from the dead.  Could it be my relatives gave me this not for any ideological reason, or lack thereof, but for practice?

Update 12/31: And now, on page 117, “staff infection.”  I’m going to go whimper now.

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Tube Boob

I spotted an article on Pandagon this morning that reviewed yet another book about how TV is causing the downfall of American childhood/culture/whatever through those pesky commercials, among other things, and was stunned by the number of commenters who were wholesale anti-TV, and who, moreover, had the strange idea that TV and books cannot coexist.

This is really, really stupid.

To say that I’m a compulsive reader is slightly misleading; it implies someone who has more money or time than I have to go out and acquire new books. I am a compulsive rereader, though. By which I mean, if I’m home, I’m either reading on the computer or I have a book in my hand. Long bath? Book in my hand. Going to sleep? Book in my hand. And not once in my many years of life has this impeded my ability to watch vast amounts of TV.

See, my mother is a crime show buff. When I was three, I could have told you what a cockatoo was because of Freddy on Baretta. Later on, I had a special dispensation to stay up late and watch Remington Steele (and still remember my disappointment when Murphy left after the first season, because I was into blonds when I was 7, but that is another story).

And then we got cable.  All four (at the time) movie channels plus Disney when it was premium, before original content beyond the occasional HBO movie, when all they had was the same movies everyone else had.  I have seen The Secret of NIMH over 50 times (read the book, hated the book–Justin gets exterminated) and an obscure Disney movie like Child of Glass well over ten times (read the book by Richard Peck, hated it, even though it was the prequel to one of my favorites at the time).

See what I’m doing there?  I’m reading books because I’ve been watching tons of TV.

All this is not in aid of making sure this blog consists entirely of posts in which I trace the state of something through my whole life (thank heavens).  It’s in aid of suggesting that people, when they look at TV and kids, are not always looking at the right problems.  What seems to be missing from discussions of whether this or that phenomenon is brainwashing The Children is any sense at all that cultural input should be regarded as interconnected.  That if a movie is based on a book, the book might be worth checking out.  That if you like mob movies, it might be worth reading Donnie Brasco to see what the Mafia was really like.  That if you spot a reference to a song or a movie in a book you like, you should give it a try.

I have no idea whether kids today regard TV as an influence unconnected to anything but buying more toys, but critics of the medium certainly do.  Maybe the kids are not the problem here…

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