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Friday, June 26, 2009

witless with wanting

Ah, romance!

Despite my inclination for murder mysteries, I am basically a hopeless romantic. But I have never been very fond of romance novels. I haven't read very many and liked very few.

My favourite has to be something I read back in university, a paperback that one of my friends in the English Society found one day and brought back to the society room for us all to enjoy. I think it was called The Heart of the Flame or perhaps it was The Flame of the Heart? Whatever it was, it was flaming crap.

It was so bad it was good. We scoured it for particularly hilarious turns of phrase, ignoring the sex scenes (were there any?) and underlining all the purple prose.

The best line is seared into my brain, a description of the heroine which summed up the whole enterprise: "Cat was witless with wanting."

We thought that a much more appropriate title, so we relabelled the cover of the book with the words Witless with Wanting and left it in the society's bookcase in the hopes that our successors would enjoy it as much as we did. I like to think it's still there waiting to be discovered by a new generation of English nerds.

As I mentioned before I recently read a romance novel called Hero Worship which was recommended in the comments of a blog I had read. It was about a woman who falls in love with a character in a book and wishes herself into the book. I read it to the end but it didn't have even the satisfaction of a smattering of smut to make up for it's failure to perform.

Then my friend who didn't know.... loaned me a copy of a book she had read whose story sounded intriguing. It was called Fantasy Lover and it was about a man trapped in a book called forth to be the summoner's love slave. Apparently I have a thing for romance with fictional characters.

It started out well and then made up for the previous book's disappointments by jumping straight into the sex by chapter 4.

At that point the plot seemed to call for abstinence until the climax, so to speak, but even though the lovers were supposed to refrain from intercourse for a month, they constantly ignored this fact, maintaining a Clintonesque denial of what actually constitutes sex. With little attempt at foreplay or sexual tension, the sex just kept coming and coming and coming.

I got bored.

Near the end, the heroine, in the throes of yet another passion (now with Actual Thrusting!), declares she had never felt like this before. Except that she had felt exactly like that and made the same comment 20 pages before and 20 pages before that and 20 pages before that.

I finished the book but only by thinking of England.

So it seems that my lust for romance could not be satiated by either of these books. With or without sex.

Neither of them took the time to create a character worth falling in love with, or had the patience to let me get to know them before insisting that I should care about what happens to them or climb into bed with them. (Although I'll always have fond memories of chapter 4)

For now I guess I shall have to return to Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre for some real romance.

Those other books just left me witless with wanting.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

father knows best

Eight years ago yesterday, She Who Does Not Obey came into this world, refusing to use the usual exit I might add. She was a breech baby and, having determined early on which way was up, wasn't about to change her position on the matter.

I was three weeks from my due date and when my doctor heard the result of my latest ultrasound, she sent me off to hospital to spend my last few weeks within arms reach of medical attention in case She Who Does Not Obey decided to send an exploratory limb out into the world first.

Her Father decided this would be a perfect opportunity for him to kick into action and make the final preparations for SWDNO's arrival. He went home that first night full of plans and schemes.

About 3:30 that morning, I called him up and told him he was out of time. That bit of gas that woke me in the middle of the night turned out to be minor contractions and the doctor was recommending a C-section.

Her Father was dismayed and complained of losing his three weeks, but She Who Does Not Obey is also She Who Will Not Be Denied and just over two hours later - 5:46 a.m. on a Midsummer's Eve - I saw her for the first time in Her Father's arms.

I was still splayed out on the operating table, shivering and puking from the spinal and generally feeling miserable, so she was briefly placed on my chest and then given to Her Father. He got to hold her first while I admired her from afar.

He also hogged her for ages afterwards while I tried to get warm again under the heated blankets. Anaethesia turns me into a popsicle.

It wasn't the first time I had seen him hold a child of ours. Just over a year before, I had seen him hold our son. Our stillborn son. Our son who never had a chance to find out what an incredible father he had.

I can't tell you what it meant to him to be holding our precious daughter after losing our son, but I can tell you how amazing it was to see the two of them together and hear her grunting away in his arms.*

Eight years later, it is still amazing to watch him with her, watch him make her laugh, watch them butt heads, watch her snuggle in to him on a Saturday morning while she watches cartoons and he tries to snooze just a little bit longer.

He packs her school lunch bag every day, he makes her favourite food even when he doesn't particularly feel like it. They carve Halloween pumpkins together and bake muffins and the odd birthday cake. He buys her yet more Webkinz against his better judgment.

He gives her his time, which is the most precious thing anyone can give.

SWDNO's birthday has a way of shagging up Father's Day celebrations and he is not fond of the sloppy sentiment of a Hallmark card, so each year I find myself wondering how I can make this day special for him.

I know I couldn't have gotten this far without him.

I hope this will show him how much I appreciate that he is Her Father.

She is a very lucky girl.

*C-section babies often have fluid in their lungs which is normally ejected during the normal birth process. The fluid causes them to grunt. The cure is pissing them off enough to have a good bawl.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

found a list

So my friend who didn't know what a meme was... reminded me that I had started a library list on Facebook. Now I actually know the last 22 books I read.

But you don't really want to know all those titles, so I've picked out the last five:

  • I mostly struggled through Neil Gaiman's Smoke and Mirrors. Maybe I'm just not meant to read short stories? There was a really cool detective story at the end though set in Heaven (The Heaven) before the fall. An angel falls to his death and another angel has to solve the mystery of what happened. Lucifer is one of the suspects.

  • I really liked the Hamish Macbeth tv series, but not so much Death of a Maid by M.C. Beaton. It's a later book in the series, so maybe it's suffering from series fatigue?

  • On the other hand, Favorite Father Brown Stories by G.K. Chesterton reminded me what I really love about mystery stories. Father Brown is a wonderful character and his mysteries are puzzlers. Why read rewarmed series when you can read Father Brown?

  • Life of Pi was last summer's vacation read. It made me rethink assumptions I had made about animals, animals in zoos, and what it means to believe in God. I thought it was going to be yet another book that gained everyone's praise but my own. So many of the literary stars du jour have left me cold. I thought it might be too artsy fartsy to be fun, but it turned out to be a delightful read. Funny, suspenseful, sad, and thoughtful.

  • Before that, I read Gallow's Thief by Bernard Cornwell. Yet another detective story, this time about a gentleman/soldier who finds himself out of work with no means of support. He takes on the task of proving that a man convicted of murder is really guilty so he can be duly hanged. It turns out there are a lot more likely suspects, of course. Another fun read with period detail from the age of Austen.

More thrilling tales in the reading life of no plot to follow at a later date.

Monday, June 8, 2009

15, er, 5 books i read last

Many people (or perhaps it's just one, I forget) felt a bit intimidated by my 15 books.

Actually it kind of scared me too.

A lot of the books are from my university days and since I did an MA in English, they are not surprisingly Classics with a capital Cluh. But I was forced to read those really, so it hardly does me that much credit.

Before I hit university, I led a sad and wasted youth, reading mystery novels and well, mystery novels. When I suddenly had to read Literature which required me to have a background in Classics written in dead languages or English old enough to be on life support, I was at a loss.

But even with my limited pre-education, I was able to appreciate the books on my list because they were the fun ones. The ones that did not require quite so much erudition, but simply required a sense of humour and a delight in finding that humour in a surprising turn of phrase or a ridiculous character described with masterstrokes.*

After university, you will be relieved to hear that I returned to a life of dissipation, only occasionally raising myself from my indolence to read another classic for the cheap thrills of impressing/depressing my friends.

I herewith give you the last, um, however many books I have read (that I can remember):

1. Becoming Jane Austen by Jon Spence
(ok, this is scholarly, but really an easy read and it inspired me to actually start my blog already - also interesting tidbits about who inspired Elizabeth Bennett and who was actually like Mr. Darcy, etc.)

2. Hero Worship by Dawn Calvert
(this is a trashy romance I bought sight unseen because the plot reminded me of the miniseries Lost in Austen, until I actually read it - it's not horrible, but it annoyed me after awhile and THERE WAS NO SEX)**

3. Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips
(funny and trashy although a little hard to warm up to at first)

4. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
(obligatory classic which took me ages to read, although there are some hilarious characters - I actually took this to Cuba as a Beach Read because I am a bit tetched)

5. The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale
(this is a true crime book set in the 1860s about a gifted detective who inspired a lot of writers, including Dickens, to create detectives based on him - inspiring me to read Bleak House for an example)

6. ????? Lord, do you know how long it takes me to read a whole book what with She Who Does Not Obey and my pesky job and my husband who thinks I should turn off the light already and my inability to stay awake for 10 minutes all together? Plus TV isn't going to watch itself after all. Number 6 was last year sometime and my brain seems to have misplaced the cell with that information.

Stupid brain.

*Please note CLARISSA IS NOT ONE OF THE FUN ONES!!!!!! However, if you've never tried Tom Jones, it really is funny and very accessible. That may have been compared to the incomprehensible ones I was trying to plow through in my postmodern course, however. If you like Tom Jones, you should also like The Sotweed Factor which is a postmodern novel in a similar style and also hilarious.
**find some way to watch Lost in Austin instead of reading this book.

Friday, June 5, 2009

15 books

My friend who didn't know what a meme is but who always taunts me with her superior knowledge of all things interwebby and computery sent me a meme without knowing it was a meme.

(I think I shall have to come up with a better pseudonym for her or I shall grow fatigued typing all that out again)

List 15 books you've read that will always stick with you -- list the first 15 you can recall in 15 minutes. Don't take too long to think about it.

Here is my list:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Diary of Anne Frank
Ulysses by James Joyce
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
(but then you knew that if you read my quote thingy above)
Clarissa by Samuel Richardson
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming
(or perhaps the whole Bond ouevre)
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
(close seconds The Chrysalids by Wyndham and Alas Babylon by Pat Frank)
The Sotweed Factor by John Barth
Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

I would note that The Day of the Triffids is probably my favourite what if the world ended and there weren't so many annoying people about book. I replaced my original choice of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke with Triffids because it seemed to me that my teenaged obsession with apocalyptic fiction outranked my delight in reading entertaining footnotes.

Live and Let Die was the first book I read with Sex in it. Even though I was still in the 6th grade and unclear about what 007 did with the girls once he got them into bed. I read it hidden inside another book so my mother wouldn't know I was reading a book with Sex in it. The whole series was an epiphany for me, aside from the Sex bits, clueing me in that the world was a little more dark and complicated than my previous reading had led me to believe.

I came up with The Lord of the Rings last and while that technically means I have 17 books on my list, my friend who didn't know what a meme is but... (see above) allowed it under the a-trilogy-counts-as-one-when-you-remember-it right-at-the-end exception to the rule.

I am also tempted to add To Kill a Mockingbird because I love it so.

So what's on your list?

Monday, June 1, 2009

another fine moment in parenting

The other morning I was skirmishing in (and uncharacteristically winning) yet another battle in the War to End All Wars, aka getting a 2nd-grader-to-school-on-time.

She Who Does Not Obey had completed all of her morning tasks with hardly a lash applied, when suddenly she noticed a Great Horror - a dastardly mosquito had bitten her on the eyelid!

Neither of us had noticed it up to this point thanks to my clever use of parental neglect to keep her bangs long and her eyes out of sight and out of mind.

But the cursed bangs had chosen this moment to part slightly and reveal this horrible blight upon humanity. There was no way she could go to school like that.

As she lay on the bed prostrate with grief, I watched my precious victory slipping from my grasp. In desperation, I played the only card I could think of.

I told her that her complaint was not legally defensible and that if I should allow her to stay home for that reason, the police would have to come and arrest me.

"Well," she said calmly, "I'll still have Daddy."

My daughter, the philosopher.