Posts Tagged ‘reading’

Academic Writing Put to the Sword

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…the sword of Damocles? No. The sword of Helen.  No – not that Helen. The Sword of Helen: Helen Sword. You ‘member! ‘Member?

I’ve come to realize that whether I like a book or not often depends on timing.  Is my book du jour a good fit for my current state of mind or not?  If it is, I may be more open to its positive qualities.  If it’s alien to my mood o’the day, it’s probably going to be extra critical and snarky.

Stylish Academic Writing is the perfect book for me to be reading right now.  I’m working on my graduate thesis and I need affirmation that I’m doing it right.  This book gives me just the affirmation that I need.  In addition to being a style guide, it’s also a book about research. 

I know:  zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

But the thing is, Sword takes her own advice – writing clearly about complex things, and she managed to make her research sound interesting – to a person who is currently doing a lot of research.  I wonder how much I would have enjoyed reading Ch. 2 if I had just finished one of my umpteen papers that I’ve worked on these last two years.  Or if I didn’t have to do any at all!  Would I have shkipped it or admired the detail and moved on?

THIS BOOK IS WONDERFUL! GET IT! YOU CAN WRITE BETTER ACADEMIC PAPERS.

I’ll tell you this for free – romance novels where the couples are always at odds?  Tiresome and tedious.  But if you are going through the same thing?  You are SO buying it.  Buying into the catharsis of it all.  Maybe that’s why I’m enjoying Sword’s book so much.  She did way more research than I have, but I really feel the drudgery of  it — both hers and mine.  Catharsis makes the difference. 

A book doesn’t have to be a work of fiction for catharsis to be possible.  There’s a little discovery I’ve made for myself.  So timing seems to affect the quality of catharsis when you read something.  If you’re lucky enough to read something that meshes with your mindset perfectly, that’s beautiful!  If you read something that is so alien to your mindset, it might be worth considering reading it some other time.

Another example:  the novel Freedom and Death by Nikos Kazantzakiswas recommended to me by someone whom I thought was a kindred spirit, but who was really a vain, pretentious asshole.  So I was in a humbuggy mood when I read it.  Right off the bat – fault-finding.  Clumsy translation, dead-end scenes, trite male/female dynamics, etc.  Well, now it’s been a few years.  The asshole is history.  In light of what’s been going on in Egypt, I’m curious to give the novel another shot.  I think I may be able to find something in common with an ex-soldier whose life is an ill-fit and subsequently finds himself at odds with his environment.

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2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 8,000 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

AIM FOR THE CHOPPING BLOCK

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Today, on the first day of the “winter” break, there’s much to be done.  Christmas cards. Dry cleaners.  Post office.  Groceries.  Arsenal vs. Man City rerun.  But the impulse to write hit me and all else fell away.  My body seems to know when it’s time to hit the keyboard.  Or mini-me (my mini-lappie) or even a notepad.  My body told me what to do today.  Specifically, it let me know that it was time to write about this book:The Writing Life

Some books are like jewels, like my “portable feasts” books.  This book is a perfect, sweet opal, full of charming vignettes.  But it’s so much more than charm.  It’s opalescent quality comes from these heartfelt, LIVED moments in real time.  Discoveries were made, analogies were generated, faith was lost, faith was restored.  Through it all, Dillard’s humor winks at us in daring and in cheekiness.  “Aim for the chopping block”, she writes.  The physical act is not the objective.  Write towards the vision. 

 

Once, in order to finish a book I was writing and yet not live in the same room with it, I begged a cabin to use as a study.  I finished the book there, wrote some other things, and learned to split wood.

Simple conversation, on the surface, but rub it a bit and wisdom shines through. 

(1) Living with writing: it’s a bit like having a child in the house – or a tenant.  Sooner, rather than later, they will need your undivided attention, no matter what else of import may be occurring.  You are the only one who can deliver that attention.  You can’t hand it off to a nanny or a text message.

(2)  Writing that occurs while you’re writing something else.  The entire time I was working on my last post, I was thinking about this one.  It’s awkward and annoying, but typical for me.  One idea begets another.  It’s actually one of the easier things to handle when writing for a specific objective.

(3)  “Learned to split wood”.  Mental links to physical.  Mental activity tied to physical activity.  That’s why writing and typing are so satisfying.  I’m thinking and generating and rehearsing and arguing.  In my head.  My body is washing dishes, ironing, grading papers, talking with someone.  Not always, mind you.  Sometimes I just plain close my eyes and rehearse something in my head, or play with shapes. 

The current’s got me.  Feels like I’m about in the middle of the channel now.  I just keep at it.  I just keep hoping the tide will turn and bring me in.

God, when I was writing my research paper on “The Dream of Gerontius” by Newman, this is what it felt like.  My vision had no shape, no objective other than to cram in other people’s thoughts and either agree or disagree. It was hard!  I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it.  But I just kept re-reading the poem – the sections where Gerontius or his soul were speaking.  Making comments about what certain lines sounded like, what they reminded me of.  I researched the Latin bits (the only part I truly enjoyed).  So my first, second, and third drafts sounded more like marginalia than erudite scholasticism.  But after about five pages of observations, translations, and kvetches, I had enough wood to grow a stump.  I saw a couple of different patterns I could exploit.  I started to chop some wood, aiming for the stump.  I managed a decent paper.  I tried to do right by the research process.  My insights were scholarly, if not very far-reaching. I was happy with the end product.  I had chopped enough wood.  But I never enjoyed it.  What I did enjoy were the small moments – a turn of phrase, the seamless fabric of quotes and original wording, shaping the vision, working with Latin.  Lots of swimming and a lucky tide.

The written word is weak.  Many people prefer life to it.  Life gets your blood going, and it smells good.  Writing is mere writing, literature is mere.

This is why people don’t like writing – because you can only be admired for it in hindsight.  Never while it’s happening.  While it’s happening, you are judged harshly for not doing something “active” and “useful”.  When it’s all done, though, the tune changes.  It’s a thing created.  After it’s done, it looks like it was work.  When you were working on it, you just looked lazy.  This is the exception to the rule that you can see more clearly from a distance.  Writing doesn’t look like much when it’s happening.  But if you could see inside the brain, you’d see  the synapses firing like crazy and blood flowing through the creative, then the analytical parts of the brain; one then the other then both.  In teaching, this is why non-English people have trouble taking writing seriously. 

You don’t realize how much work it is until you have to do it yourself.  Then you realize you can’t do it well; it’s not as easy as it looks, an denigrate it even more.  _____________________________________________________________

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Back to Nature–Books Whirlybinge

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My last post was in September.  I had just started graduate school, and since then, it’s been a “mad coupla months”!  Reading and writing for every book, for quizzes and tests. Abstracts, research papers, annotations. I love it!  Writing for school is kinda chill.  It satisfies a hunger that can’t be fed by anything material.  All the reading and writing works like Slick50 in my brain.  New words and ideas are firing sparks, making new connections – synapses snapping all day long in a jazzy funk rhythm that knows no time and no boundaries.  My mind is so active and firing on all pistons…

But it’s Christmas holidays now – what some people call “winter” break.  Qoi?  Brutha, pleez!  Down in South Texas, the kindest thing I can say is that it’s NOT 100 degrees F. 

So what’s my point? Where, even?  Well, I was writing an informal essay for every novel, interpreting Middle English, analyzing, synthesizing, assessing – the whole Bloom’s.  Writing for the blog seemed redundant.  Also, I wondered whether writing about the same book here and for class might create a conflict.  I knew in my heart, there would be a significant slip differential between how the work was represented for academic purposes and how I felt about it personally.  Case in point: PATTERN RECOGNITION by William Gibson.  The protagonist Cayce is ridiculously hip and cool in her anti-logo fetish, but the novel itself is well-boring. Snail’s pace. Grim, gray other-world that’s a cross between Graham Greene and Ray Bradbury, except not interesting.  But through academic eyes, it’s a disturbingly visionary story.  Cayce talks about people she doesn’t ever see, chats online with people she never sees but once or twice. Her life has almost nothing to do with human interaction and a lot to do with cyber-communication.  Are we headed there or are we already there?  Geddit?

So I let the blog go for the time-being.  But now that it’s the hols, let the variety begin!

BOOKS BOUGHT

Saturnalia, Volume I: Books 1-2 (Loeb Classical Library)[1] Lucian, Vol. 7: Dialogues of the Dead / Dialogues of the Sea-Gods / Dialogues of the Gods / Dialogues of the Courtesans (Loeb Classical Library, No. 4[2] Genealogy of the Pagan Gods, Volume 1: Books I-V (I Tatti Renaissance Library)[3]
Juvenal and Persius (Loeb Classical Library)[4] Boccaccio, Beauvau and Chaucer: Troilus and Criseyde : Four Perspectives on Influence[5] Days of Reading (Penguin Great Ideas)[6]
One Continuous Mistake : Four Noble Truths for Writers[7] How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students[8] The Consolation of Philosophy (Norton Critical Editions)[9]

 

[1]  I really enjoyed Somnium Scipionis which led me to pick up this SATURNALIA of Macrobius.   LINK to good online overview of this work.  I also have this Loeb by Cicero – De Officiis (Walter Miller, trans.).  LINK to online overview.

[2]  Effing Cool, Irresistible titles!

Product Details[3]  Again – Effing Cool Title. It’s early days but it’s sounding like a crosMs between Bullfinch’sMythology and Ovid’s Metamorpheses.  Loving it! (LINK to online version)  (Who the hell needs Effing SparkNotes for Bullfinch’s Mythology???)

 

[4]  My Medieval Lit prof talked about these satires and I had a Pavlovian reaction to the word “satire”.  That being, ears perk up, blood flows a little faster, I start thinking of clever wordplay, double-entendres, taking the piss, etc.  I shan’t rule out a touch of salivating. (UofMichigan Collection)  I finished reading the six Juvenal satires and, while there was a strong odor of whingeing, the translation was accomplished with a good ear for standup comedy.  Very Lewis Black in nature.

image[5]  4 Perspectives on Troilus and Criseyde.  Pure intellectual spelunking. Highbrow fun.  It reads like the author’s doctoral dissertation, though. What a wonderful advantage to be able to do research in more than one language.  For all that English is wonderfully comprehensive, I now feel incomplete that I can’t read German or Italian well enough (yet) to do more thorough research in Medieval literature. (LINK to online version) My favorite version of T&C is George Phillip Krapp’s rendition in verse.  It’s out of print, but I managed to find a copy through www.ebay.com

[6]   Ahhh, Proust. You most nerdy of nerds. Is there a French word for “nerd”?  Do the French even need one?  You might think not, but then again, Franck Ribery.  C’est une tare’.  Une grosse dinde. 

Product Details[7]  I actually ordered this book in 2009 on the recommendation of my student teacher that semester.  I lent it to a friend because I started reading the other book that ordered with it.  Haven’t seen it since but it’s cool.  That’s a good sign, I think. Beautiful cover design. Very easy to read. It’s kind of like A Writing Life by Annie Dillard.  It just has that kind of “become one with the pencil” kind of vibe.  It’s actually a great apologia for writing, as is Dillard’s book.

[8]  Not here yet

[9] Not here yet.

BOOKS READ

A Writing Life (Annie Dillard)

One Continuous Mistake

Satires of Juvenal and Persius

Navarro’s Promise  (Lora Leigh)

Geneology of The Pagan Gods

Pattern Recognition (William Gibson)

“Simulacra and Simulations” by Jean Baudrillard (Chapter 7 of Baudrillard’s Selected Writings, Mark Poster, ed.)

Roundup 11: Wondering Whether to Continue

I’m wondering whether to continue with this blog.  After the first couple of years, I started slowing down because of life things.  I still enjoy it when I do it, but the posts are getting farther and farther apart.  The only time I post often is during the summer.  And the blog has never really taken off.  I don’t spend much time shopping it around.  There are days, though, when it gets triple the amount of hits, but that is still under a hundred.  Imagine – less than a hundred hits a day every day.  Sometimes less than fifty.  Again – people tend to find it by accident instead of design.  I don’t know. 

It’s possible that one of the reasons there’s hardly any comments is because one must have an account with WordPress.  That’s not fair.  Most people don’t and should not be obligated to.  So that just kills the comments perk.

Perhaps I shall continue as I have done these last two years – just write when the energy’s right.  Time will tell.

 

Romance Reading Timeline Part 1 – Harlequin and Hysterical Historicals

Romance Reading Timeline Part 2 – Barbara Cartland

Be An ID10T – Learn by Not Reading

MATRIX OF DESTINY:

#1 Knight of A Trillion Stars

#3 Mine to Take

A post by my mum: How to Mark A Book

Reading READICIDE/ Living Readicide

Soccer and Books = Bliss

No snap, crackle or pop in this Rice

Follow-up to a wish list I posted in 2008.

Fun with tongues

Creepy search terms lead to this post

My Book House – fast becoming one of TFB’s most popular posts.  (#5)

Bettelheim the Buzzkiller of Fairy Tales

My Book House 4 – Some of the more familiar fairy tales and wardrobe fantasy

Lyrics to The Music of The Spheres – it’s a concept. There’s not really any lyrics.

Thinking out loud on adolescent whingers, Proust, lack of literary foundations, and mammoth Norton anthologies

Everybody should own a couple of joke books!

Burn Notice – the novel!

Romance Reading Timeline 1970s Pt. 2

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<1970s Pt. 1

Small-Scale Historicals

Ian McCorquodale and Barbara Cartland

Barbara Cartland Bantam Books series

This series came after the Pyramid series below.  They are a scaled-down version of the more dramatic Pyramid books.  Cartland was still holding strong for the first twenty or so, but then she started relying heavily, then exclusively on stock characters (the Mr. Rochester-style hero), and phrases (the stuttering ingenue).  Then she switched to Camden publishers, and at that point, she was too tedious to bother with anymore.  She even had an extra series where she …well, I don’t know what she did, but she basically re-packaged romances written by other people, Elinor Glyn, for example.  Still not sure what that was about.  

I love the covers on these. They begged to be collected, what with the numbers and the artwork.  I think the same guy posed for most of these covers. A tall, black-haired, hawk-faced man.  Who is this guy???  He’s awesome!  And he always looked brooding.  The heroine always looked like she just discovered there’s no bathroom and she’s been holding it in for hours.

I read all of these and about a dozen more besides.  It seems like more than that because I read them more than once.

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My 1st B. Cartland. I still have it!  Magical! Still take this out to read sometimes.
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I still take this one out sometimes, too. A feel-good book.
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Great story and educational, too.  I think.
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Awful! Hokey logic. I think it contained some local pidgin.
The Little Adventure (The Bantam Barbara Cartland Library #3)
This was #3 of the series and BC was at her peak, I believe.
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Different!  The first romance I ever read that was from the man’s point of view.
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Not bad.   I remember liking it. I remember thinking that I didn’t know farmers in France also wore wooden shoes.
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Did not read it, but it was an awful tv movie with Linda Purl.

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Dull yet enjoyable. Formula writing with lots of stock phrases.

Passions in the Sand (Barbara Cartland #41)

This one was kind of hot. Shocking!

Love in the Dark

She started out as Rubenesque, but then slimmed down by the time he got his sight back.

Man and Maid (Library of Love, Bk 10)

BC did not write this but she re-packaged it.

 

Barbara Cartland Pyramid Books Series

Several of these were in my mom’s closet.  After I read DESIRE OF THE HEART, I went through that closet obsessively and found a handful more.  They kept me busy for many a weekend for a couple of years – because I read them over and over and over.  I was coming into my hormones at the time. LOL Princess

These came before the Bantam series.  They are more fully developed as novels. Cartland was in her prime with this series.  There was some repetition, but she used several time frames in this series, ranging from Elizabethan to the 1930s.  If you can get hold of these, they are very good!  You can even pick up a bit of French in many of them.

Desire of the Heart

The 2nd BC I read after THE CRUEL COUNT. I was well and truly hooked! This is one of the best of this line.

Love in Hiding

The Wings of Love (Pyramid #25)

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The Coin of Love

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This one was made into a tv movie with Hugh Grant, Emma Samms and Lysette Anthony.
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  • The covers that are flush left will take you to Paperbackswap.  The covers that are centered will link you to www.amazon.com, but you can also find some at www.ebay.com. Also be careful because several of these are listed as lots (a group of books) and the cover may not be representative of what you’re actually buying. 
  • Other books that were made into movies were
    • Duel of Hearts
    • A Ghost in Monte Carlo
    • A Hazard of Hearts
    • The Secret Heart (Cupid Rides Pillion) (The Lady and The Highwayman)

    A Hazard of Hearts

    Original edition

    A Ghost In Monte Carlo

    Original edition

    Product DetailsOriginal edition
     
    DVD with Helena Bonham-Carter and Marcus Gilbert

    Item image

    Video availability on eBay

    Product DetailsThe Lady & the Highwaymanvideo availability

    A Hazard of Hearts

    paperback tie-in

    A Ghost in Monte Carlo

    paperback tie-in

    Could not find a book tie-in.

    A Duel of Hearts

    Original edition

    Product Details
    Only American video available
    Could not find a book tie-in.

Reading these was like eating potato chips.  I could read 3 in a weekend. 4 if I stayed up late enough.  You have to understand: there were only four channels on tv. ABC, CBS, NBC, KLRN. Maybe one or two Mexican channels. And if you were lucky, HBO.  Weekends were cartoons, American Bandstand, then sports until prime time.  So not a whole lot going on during the day.  Hence reading.  In a chaotic, crowded house, reading meant peace.  Reading meant solitude.  Reading and being in the bathroom were the only two ways to be left alone.

The Pyramid series were broad-spectrum adventures without being vulgar.  That’s probably why some of those were developed into movies.  Only one Bantam book was made into a movie and it sucked.  Plus, I loved reading about “somewhere else”.  Castles, mountains, oceans, Monsieur Worth!  The clothes!!!  It wasn’t a Cartland romance without a visit to the most famous dressmaker to the ton, Monsieur Worth! That’s where she would get super descriptive and it was all like a dream!  Seamstresses fluttering about you like butterflies while Worth himself directed your transformation.  I WANT THAT!  LOL! Flirt female 

The Bantam series were sweet and intimate.  There was a lot of conversation in them. Real conversations.  In one of my favorites, THE LITTLE ADVENTURE, the heroine shocks the hero by her knowledge of philosophers and how much she’s read. They actually discuss it. Wow!  Also, the bad guys were never super bad.  They were just sexist assholes.  That’s another thing – Cartland often wrote heroines as seekers of independence – daring, stubborn; remarkably clever and well-read.  Well done Dame Barbara!  Unfortunately, it was always seen as unusual and even anarchic. 

In both series, you could pick up some of the European languages that Cartland peppered her prose with.  Growing up in a bilingual household, I picked up words like monsieur, signore, vicomte, signorina, ton, demimonde, demimondaine, citron presse, cher amie, mademoiselle…well, you get the idea. Princess  I loved all that! (If my spelling is off, please forgive.)  How hilarious is that!  I didn’t know French, per se, but I knew, like, five words for “whore” in two languages!  LOL!  It made for weird conversations at school when I tried to use them, though.  My friends were not reading these books, so I sounded kind of weird compared to the typical pimply patois of adolescence.

Cartland was nothing if not consistent in her character development.  The blueprint for girls was skinny, pale, huge eyes, birdlike physique. And skinny. Real skinny. And really BIG eyes.  Just look at the covers, especially the Bantam series.  The men: tall, broad, dark hair, dark skin (hardly any fair-haired men or ginger), hawk nose or straight Roman nose.  Hawt!!  Sorry…  She’s an innocent, ignorant virgin; he’s a bastard who frequents brothels.  She softens him up, but he doesn’t show it in front of her until one of them is near death.  We’re talking about a couple hundred books made with this erector set.  Don’t be impressed by her Guinness Book of World Records record (top-selling author in 1983 according to Wikipedia).  Most of the books were half-ass regurgitations of stock gimmicks.

When I was 13, I took them WAY too seriously! LOL. Now, I read them as sweet antique pieces of a world of manners we’ll never see ever again.


This video from Little Britain has Matt Lucas as a Barbara Cartland-type author – Dame Sally Markham.

Click for Little Britain online. But it has not been kept up very well. You’re better off going to BBC Comedy.

 


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How to Mark A Book by Mortimer Adler (1940)

The article “How to Mark A Book”,  written by Mortimer Adler, appeared in Saturday Review in 1940.  This post is by my first guest reviewer — my mom!  This is a draft.

Not to engage in the pursuit of ideas is to live like ants instead of like men.
Mortimer Adler

Hi, Blanca,

I sort of went through the paper you gave me on “How to Mark A Book.”

The author, as I see it, would like for every reader to ingest the written word of a book.  Of course, that applies to any book worth reading.  So who decidees?  Current book reviews, hurried scanning through the book, or take it personally that if you are a true lover of books, you have to stop reading and mark up the book with your notes or, as he says, write your notes on pieces of paper and attach them to the front or back of the book.  I don’t think this will relate to the particular written words referenced inthe note unless you go further and write in the page and line numbers.

As for ingesting the written words, like bathing in print, I do not think it applies in a general sense because nowadays there is so much smut and pornography, cuss words and violence written about it, besides in the movies ,that the younger generation is liable to confuse or assimilate this type of written work as gospel and reere the author of such writings, not just books, but movies, plays, skits — you name it.

On the other hand, it appears to be so self-serving, to suggest or indicate that he, the reader, can critique the authro’s writing and write notes with hiw own beliefs.  If he feels he is so qualified, why not write your own story and me, you, o ranybody else critique his writings, such as I am doing here as to Mr. Adler’s beliefs.

Enough.  I think Mr. Adler is largely self-serving in painting a picture of a true book owner/reader.  I love books.  I love to read them for the pleasure of the story and once read I can put it out of my mind.  True, I don’t read WAR AND PEACE or epics to show how much I love books, but I treasure the written words that make me feel joy and happy to be able to read a book at my age of eighty.

All in all, as a lover of books, I would never write on or turn the corner of a page or mark on a page of a book to show that I understood what the author was talking about or as a mode of criticism of the author’s writing, ideas, or thoughts.  If I had to write notes of my conclusions drawn from the author’s writings and mark them in the book itself, I would certainly inflate my ego thinking I so loved the book that I would mar the contents and spoil the author’s intentions.

Those are my feelings.  Love you.  Mom Anna.

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