So, the posting challenge that has been going around has finally inspired me to make a post with fannish contents. This makes me very proud (I'm easily pleased).

Over a month ago, I finally read JK Rowling's The Casual Vacancy. (I actually wanted to make a post about it straightaway, but... yeah.)

How had nobody pointed out to me how good it is? I loved it, deeply and passionately. It is precisely my kind of book. Despite my love for the Discworld novels and Harry Potter, I have never considered myself a fan of the fantasy genre. I like novels in which nothing of any earth-shattering relevance happens, that dissect the lives of ordinary people, provide a social commentary of close-knit (and narrow-minded) communities, where everybody is self-righteous and prejudiced and in some way or another a horrible human being. I started reading The Casual Vacancy with no expectations whatsoever, tore through it in the space of three days, and then listened to the audiobook that for some miraculous reason is available on YouTube. It's probably my favourite of all the books that I've read this year (50+). (The runner-up would be World War Z, which is the exact opposite, genre-wise.) I am very much looking forward to the BBC adaptation, because if done right, it has the potential to be absolutely fabulous.

The month of August has so far been dedicated to reading Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey novels. I've never read them before and thought it's about time to rectify this.

How has there been no adaptation lately? They adapt just about anything, and surely, Lord Peter Wimsey has all the necessary ingredients to appeal to today's audiences: a mind-blowingly attractive* detective who is also an aristocrat, an athlete and a scholar, has an angsty past and a vaguely homoerotic relationship with his gentleman's gentleman. The Lord Peter/Bunter hurt/comfort scenes alone would bring fandom to its knees.

Plus, they could cast David Tennant, if he can do the posh accent.

*Dorothy Sayers goes out of her way to point out that he had "no pretentions to good looks", but we know how well that works out, don't we, Professor Snape?
Has anyone ever read Jules Verne? When I was about 10 years old, I discovered In Search of the Castaways and The Mysterious Island, and they became two of the most beloved re-reads of my childhood. Oh, the adventures I had!

Now, more than 20 years later, I am refreshing my acquaintance with the Castaways. And lo and behold! I'm still crushing on Major McNabbs like crazy.

When I started the re-read, I vaguely remembered that he used to be my favourite character, but I didn't remember why. And then the character is introduced:

To complete the roll of passengers, we must name Major McNabbs. The Major was about fifty years of age, with a calm face and regular features - a man who did whatever he was told, of an excellent, indeed, a perfect temper; modest, silent, peaceable, and amiable, agreeing with everybody on every subject, never discussing, never disputing, never getting angry.
He wouldn't move a step quicker, or slower, whether he walked upstairs to bed or mounted a breach. Nothing could excite him, nothing could disturb him, not even a cannon ball, and no doubt he will die without ever having known even a passing feeling of irritation.

This man was endowed in an eminent degree, not only with ordinary animal courage, that physical bravery of the battle-field, which is solely due to muscular energy, but he had what is far nobler - moral courage, firmness of soul. If he had any fault it was his being so intensely Scotch from top to toe, a Caledonian of the Caledonians, an obstinate stickler for all the ancient customs of his country. This was the reason he would never serve in England, and he gained his rank of Major in the 42nd regiment, the Highland Black Watch, composed entirely of Scotch noblemen.

Really? I thought. A man who agrees with everybody, never disputing? I used to like that? I must have been very young.

And then the story unfolds, and the Major is fabulous. He's got a sense of humour! He's snarky! He's perfectly in control - of himself and of the situation! He is teh smart! <3

There's something quite Remus-y about him, actually; he's non-confrontational - never argues etc. - and yet he springs into action, level-headedly and efficiently, whenever necessary.

Plus, he's Scottish. And, as I have recently realised, I like Scots

And OMG, he should totally be played by Peter Capaldi!
Oh, look! I've managed to stick to my plan for two days!

Jud Süss by Lion Feuchtwanger

An amazing book (or even AMAAAAAZING BOOOOK). An all-time favourite of mine, which I have read several times, despite the fact that it's a 1,000-page long motherfucker of a novel. You might have heard of the Nazi propaganda film of the same name, but it's not quite the same story.

Written in the 1920s and set in the 18th century, during the age of Enlightenment, Jud Süss tells the story of the Jewish financier Joseph Süss Oppenheimer who was the leading banker and financial manager ("Finanzrat") to the Duke Alexander of Württemberg. Joseph Süss Oppenheimer is an actual historical person, and Lion Feuchtwanger used the story of his life to illustrate the rise to dizzying heights of success and the subsequent fall that might have occurred in the life of every Jewish entrepreneur who was more or less at the mercy of his sovereign. In the novel, Joseph Süss is a very worldly man, who enthusiastically takes part in the intrigues and the excesses of the ducal court, but he is naturally always regarded as "the Jew".

There is a nice, poignant passage right at the beginning of the book where Josef Süss and the Jew Landauer, a clerk at the ducal court, regard each other critically; Josef Süss is annoyed that Landauer cultivates the stereotypically Jewish look, which, in his opinion, is unnecessary and only serves to irritate the Christians he works with; Landauer thinks that Josef Süss is naive and rather stupid, thinking that the Christians will ever accept him as their equal. He prefers to gain influence and power while parading his Jewish-ness around provocatively.

Spanning several decades, the book is filled with intrigues, plot twists, historical facts, religious conflicts (Duke Alexander of Württemberg is a Catholic who becomes duke of a Protestant land, which naturally leads to a lot of tension), and a most fantastic cast of characters. None of them is actually likeable (Josef Süss is an unscrupulous, opportunistic and generally unpleasant man), but that's the beauty of the novel. You find yourself rooting for Josef Süss when he sets off to wreak revenge against the Duke (because of a SPOILER which I won't disclose). But on the other hand, Josef Süss had done something despicable, and so he had brought the misfortune upon himself.

Without giving away too much: the book features one of the most chilling rape scenes I've read, which, however, is neither explicit nor graphic. It all happens in the room next door, and we witness the scene from the point of view of a man who loves the woman in question, but is unable to do anything due to diplomatic and political reasons.

On the meta level, the book illustrates the philosophical question of whether it is preferable to lead a life of passive contemplation or a life of active occupation. While Josef Süss stands exemplary for the first life philosophy, his uncle, the cabbalist Rabbi Gabriel, leads a life of solitude, having renounced the world entirely.

Feuchtwanger's use of language is fantastic. He has developed a unique style for this novel, using archaic words and expressions that help build and enrich the Jud Süss universe. The style is expressive and rich in images, which I personally love. (Apparently, it's been subject to a lot of criticism.)

Jud Süss happens to push many of my buttons: it's a proper, long novel I can sink my teeth in, it's got unpleasant, amoral, memorable characters, it's got a realistic depiction of human vices and weaknesses, it discusses questions of religion and philosophy without preaching or moralising, and it's got a beautiful, beautiful language, with proper-length sentences and subordinate clauses (sadly not a matter of course in contemporary novels!). I think it's time for a re-read.

Stay tuned for Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man by Thomas Mann - another book with proper-length sentences and subordinate clauses. (Unless I can think of some Polish book to review first.)
I made a resolution.

I talk about books fairly often - not surprisingly, seeing as this is a fannish journal dedicated orignally to Harry Potter - but I tend to always say the same things about the same few books (Harry Potter, the Austen novels, the Lucy Maud Mongtgomery novels, the Discworld novels). I mentioned Tom Sawyer in yesterday's post, and [ profile] sistermagpie said that she doesn't hear about him regularly, and that made me think: None of you probaly know that Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are two of my favourite books ever, frequently re-read and recommended widely to RL friends, because I never mention them here. And so I decided to talk about some of my favourite books and write up some reviews which might help some of you discover a new book you'll love. Let's see how well I'll stick to this plan.

I am a great re-reader. I re-read the books I love fairly regularly, which naturally diminishes the amount of new books I read, but I think that's okay. After all, I always discover something in new on every read. I read fluently in English, German and Polish, and I have been increasingly focusing on books written in one of these languages, because I don't trust translations all that much. (However, my favourite books include The Foucault Pendulum (Italian), Nana (French) and A Heart so White (Spanish), which I did not read in the original.) So, I'll try to introduce some of my favourite German and Polish books to you, because they are sadly underrepresented on this English-language journal that targets an English-speaking audience.

And here we come across the first difficulty: After all the heated discussions of Twilight and its heroine, and whether or not Bella is a good example for young girls to follow, I was planning to review one of my favourite YA series for girls, namely the Jezycjada series by Malgorzata Musierowicz, to add the Eastern perspective to the coming-of-age trope.

Sadly, I don't think it's easily available in any language other than Polish. I know that the books have been translated "into several languages, including Japanese", but I have just tried to google them, and it doesn't look good for English. But you never know. Some of you might come across an old copy somewhere (I know the first two books in the series have been translated into Swedish, though they're out of print now), and it would be a shame to pass it by.

Have an excerpt:

Ida of September )

This is an excerpt of the fourth book of the series (I don't have the first three here), all of which play in the city of Poznan, in a district called "Jezyce". The first book was written in the mid-70s, the last one to date was released in 2007. The stories are rather simple: they centre around a young girl and a period of pivotal changes in her life. Mostly, there's also a love story, but the romance is never the one and only plot point. As you can see from the excerpt above, it's about the girl and the problems she's got with herself, her coming to terms with what and who she is and her family. The romance - if there is one - fits in seamlessly into the story and drives it forward.

Family always plays a crucial role. My quibble with the books is actually that they paint family life rather too sweetish for my taste. The books are set in Poland, which means that everyone, of course, is Catholic and believes in family values. However, this is never presented in an obnoxious way. It's just who these people are, and you don't get the feeling that the author tries to preach and evangelise.

Apart from that, the depiction of family life strikes very true - they have rows and they make up, there are misunderstandings and there are family meals where everyone talks at once and no-one listens to the others, because this is what families do.

The girl who is in the centre of the given story has a true and vibrant personality. So far, the author has published 17 books, and each of the girls (plus the supporting cast) is a real person, who has dreams and insecurities and hopes and aspirations, who's really good at something - which she usually discovers in the course of the book dedicated to her - but who also has plenty of weaknesses, and when she cries, her eyes are puffy and swollen and her nose is full of snot.

Despite being contemporary, the books have a rather quaint, old-fashioned charm to them. The girl usually comes from a family of academics/intellectuals, where everyone is well-read and able to quote classical literature. But even though this is hardly terribly realistic, it works perfectly well within the context of the universe the author has created. The protagonist and her family (and friends) seem like a bastion of good sense, intellect and values within the madness of the modern world. Which, by the way, is also very realistically illustrated. The author has the ability to sketch a picture of contemporary Poland, its social and political situation, within a few words. So if you don't know anything about Poland, these books give a good overview of the country's recent history.

The Jezycjada series can most likely be compared with Anne of Green Gables, in that there isn't much darkness going on in the books themselves. There is plenty of tragedy hinted at and going on behind the scenes, but the books are kept pretty clean. And speaking of clean: There isn't any sexual contents at all. The love stories are sweet and romantic, there are a few kisses, but nothing graphic, and especially in the early novels, the girl ends up marrying the boy she fell in love with at the age of 15. But as I said, the romantic aspect, though an important part of the books, is not what makes the books what they are.

Often, the individual book is an homage to a piece of classical literature, which serves as meta commentary and as a red thread that drives the plot. The excerpt above comes from a book which uses Jane Eyre to characterise the protagonist, but it comes with a twist.

The protagonist, Ida, reads and cries over Jane Eyre. When she takes up a summer job, she is confronted with the Mystery of a Locked Room, in which a boy her age has locked himself up and is unwilling to come out. Her imagination naturally runs wild, and she suspects a deep and romatic secret behind all this. And then she meets the boy:

An extraordinarily handsome boy who looked just like Mr Rochester.
Just like Mr Rochester, he had dark, burning eyes.
And he even had a lean, swarthy face.
And a square jaw.
And chiselled lips and an aristocratic nose.
And above his eyebrows, a mop of short dark hair.
Ida's head spun with delight and embarrassment.

But of course, life being more prosaic than a classical romance novel, the boy turns out not to be Mr Rochester. Ida gets her happy ending, though, and now, thirty years later, she is a delightful, self-assured woman with a career and a family she loves, and it really feels like the reader has witnessed her coming-of-age and coming-to-terms and growing up, which is probably the greatest thing about this series. Which, I hope, is available somewhere in some languages other than Polish *keeps fingers crossed*
From [ profile] florahart:

* Comment on this post.
* I will give you a letter.
* Think of 5 fictional characters and post their names and your comments on these characters in your LJ.

Flora gave me T and it took me long enough to come up with five characters. Here they go:

1. Tigger from A.A. Milne's "House on Pooh Corner". Winnie the Pooh was probably my first fandom. I made my parents read the books to me over and over again, and I knew them by heart by the time I was, oh, four years old. I also replayed vital scenes with my little plastic animal toys, such as the adventure where Tigger and Piglet get stuck in a tree and have to jump down. I spent hours pushing little plastic!Tigger from the back of an armchair onto a handkerchief. Also, I totally imitated Tigger's roar ("Uorauorauora"), which is the thing Pooh hears when Tigger makes his first appearance showing up on Pooh's doorstep at night. However, being too young to be able to produce an "r" sound, the roar came out as "Uoiauoiauoia" instead. It's still being quoted at me as part of our family's conversation canon.

2. Tom Sawyer. A fanboy if ever there was one. I'm pretty sure I used to play "Tom Sawyer" with my friends as a child, and so there was me roleplaying Tom who was roleplaying a pirate or an Injun. There's a meta commentary in there somewhere.

3. Teddy Kent from Lucy Maud Montgomery's "Emily" series. I am not a great fan of Teddy's, but he is a good example to illustrate why I'm not too keen on LMM's romances. I think that her novels could do without squeezing in the soulmate-ish, meant-to-be true love and work perfectly well as young girls' coming-of-age stories. ("Jane of Lantern Hill" does exactly that.) I think that her friendships between girls ring very true and are very touching, but the romances with the boys feel a bit tacked on. The only instance where I got the love vibe between Emily and Teddy was where he rescued her from Mad Mr. Morrison, but apart from that there isn't all that much real interaction between them. Emily speaks of Teddy as of one of her closest friend, but we don't see them being close friends together. We see Emily and Ilse being close.

Teddy and his mother, on the other hand - now there's a story to sink your teeth in.

4. Tiffany Aching. The only female character with a "T" I could think of!

I am as yet undecided on Tiffany. On the one hand, Pratchett writes female characters that I like (he makes them attractive, no-nonsense and independent), on the other hand, Tiffany is not self-absorbed enough for my taste. She's level-headed, rational and sensible - all qualities that I like and admire in real people, but I prefer my fictional characters to be more... I don't know... convinced that theirs is the only right way of acting and thinking? Possessed by the hiver, Tiffany was an interesting character, because she was ruled by her deepest and darkest desires. Non-possessed Tiffany is a bit bland. Also, I didn't particularly like "Wintersmith" and that has probably tainted my view on Tiffany. Let's see how she fares in future books.

5. Tom Lefroy. Strictly speaking, he's not a fictional character, but the Tom Lefroy from "Becoming Jane" very much is. I was surprised and delighted to see that the love interest in the Jane Austen "biopic" didn't resemble the conventional Jane Austen hero, but the Jane Austen anti-hero. The Tom Lefroy in the film is charming, elegant, playful, witty, superficial and a great coxcomb - everything that her anti-heroes are and her heroes are not. I like him a lot. I like the scheming seducer in the Jane Austen novels. And as much as I love BBC's "Pride and Prejudice", I wish they had made Wickham a deeply charming bastard you can't help but love, instead of a slightly creepy lech.
There's been some discussions on Enid Blyton on my flist lately, and then [ profile] shocolate linked to this article, on which I wanted to comment, but then the comment kinda expanded...

So, I'm bringing you a post instead. Here are some titbits which you Blyton readers from English-speaking countries may not be aware of:

The St Clare's series is wildly popular in Germany. In fact, it has been almost entirely germanised, with the twins being renamed "Hanni" and "Nanni" (I've no idea which one's supposed to be Pat and which Isabel) and going to a school named "Lindenhof". The other characters' names have been changed, too. There's a Heidi, if I'm not mistaken, and Alison's been turned into "Ellie".

Also, I've only just learned that the St Clare's series originally included only six books. The German series has, like, two hundred, most of which were written in the 1970s/1980s by German authors employed by the publishing house. Seriously, there seems to be an endless supply of "Hanni und Nanni" books, with all sorts of adventures in a castle haunted by ghosts (IIRC), a stay in a school hostel in the country, Pat (or Isabel) being kidnapped in a Philippine princess's stead, and many more. St Clare's fanfiction, if you will - albeit very, very gen. I supposed none of the ghostwriters dared tread the femmeslash path. At least one of the books has horses.

At their midnight parties they have cake, sausages and lemonade; I understand that the food selection is much more multi-varied and out-there in the original?

Instead lacrosse, they play handball. And even though it's never explicitly stated, I think the new books are contemporary - i.e. set in the 1970s/80s. It's definitely heavily implied in the illustrations: I re-read one of the books only last week, and it's got very 70s illustrations, including a poster of a long-haired, bearded rock singer on the common room wall.

There's a film being currently made: Hanni & Nanni, scheduled for release in 2009. And did you know there's a Japanese series?

Just a thought, but: if the German publisher actually employed people to continue writing books for a popular British boarding school series - why not do the same with Harry Potter? Maybe I should put the idea forward and see what they think.

ETA: Um, is the embedding working? I can see the embedded video in the preview and on my LJ, but it doesn't show up in my f-list view.

ETA 2: Nevermind, it does now.

ETA 3: From the Wikipedia entry on Malory Towers:

"The German translation of the series adds twelve books occurring after the sixth, with Darrell (in the German version: Dolly Rieder) returning to a college associated with Malory Towers ("Burg Möwenfels"), the "Möwennest" (Malory Nest). As the story develops she returns to Malory Towers, first as educator, then she becomes matron of the famous 'North Tower' where she resided as a child. She marries her former "Möwennest" teacher in German and Literature, has a baby girl (Katharina) and finally becomes headmistress of Malory Towers, after Miss Grayling (Frau Greiling) had been seriously injured in a traffic accident, and is unable to work any longer." (emphasis mine)

Reads somewhat like a Harry/Snape fanfic, doesn't it?

Teh Sparkly

Aug. 6th, 2008 01:28 pm
Everything I know about Twilight I have learned from my flist, and I know that I will never, ever read the books. I never intended to waste any words on them, either, but I would like some confirmation that what I've now read is true:

Bella gives birth to Edmund's Sparkly!Vampire!Magical!WerewolfSoulmate!Baby and the following things happen in the process:

a) she pukes blood
b) the Sparkly!Vampire!Magical!WerewolfSoulmate!Baby breaks her pelvis and her spine
c) Edmund uses his awesome sparkly marble teeth to bite the Sparkly!Vampire!Magical!WerewolfSoulmate!Baby free from the womb

Really? I mean, seriously? Because if so, then this is the most beautiful cracky squick ever, and I am seriously impressed with SMeyer. I would have never dared to put anything like that into a novel I intend to be published and read by children.

Then again, I am not a romantic :-(
... was also the Very Best Thing About The Order of the Phoenix (The Movie).

I am insanely in love with the
So I'm only at Chapter 5, and already I had my first moment of major squee.

I'm not reading my f-list until after I finished the book (which will be late tonight, I suppose). I have stayed away from any HP contents for the last three weeks or so and I'm entirely unspoiled, even for the most minor of things, and I plan to remain so. So, see you on the other side, then.
You know, before OotP and HBP respectively, I was totally sure (and very freaked out) that Remus would die. Now, that DH is approaching fast, I no longer am. I wonder why. It's either a) a false sense of security or b) I assume that now, with the Tonks plotline, JKR has something else for him in store than dying or c) I stopped caring about Remus. Hm. (Well, I'm certainly no longer madly in love with him like I used to. Now, it's more the comfortable "Oh-we've-been-married-forever-and-of-course-we-love-each-other-we'll-spend-the-rest-of-our-lives-together" feeling rather than burning hot passion, which is a bit sad, but not unusual.)

It is a bit sad, though, that I seem to use LJ only to talk about my crushes on fictional men. And that there are so many of them. What am I, twelve?

Anyway. If Remus isn't dying - who is? And why? (Apart from Snape, because - duh!)
I'm currently re-reading HBP and a question has begun to form that has been nagging on the back of my mind for ages. In very simple words that question is: What does magic really mean for witches and wizards? How integral a part of their selves is it?

Basically, witches and wizards define themselves over magic. Magic is part of what they are. It's not just an extra skill but rather an inherent power that, carefully cultivated and honed, results in extra skills that are used to faciliate many aspects of life. Right? Magical powers are a bit like intelligence: a gift of nature based on which extra skills can be acquired. This would make witches and wizards the prodigies of the human species, and the way many witches and wizards talk about Muggles, it is apparent that this is what they consider themselves when compared to Muggles.

So what do magical powers and the loss thereof mean for a witch's or wizard's sense of self? )
... or: Is Donna a miserable old crank?

A friend of mine has written a novel and asked me to proof-read it. One of my major quibbles has been the way she handles the romances. For my taste, her romances rely far too much on "love at first sight" and the difficulties are caused by "external obstacles" as opposed to, y'know, your basic doubts and troubles and trust issues and general disfunctionality. But it's difficult to bring that across. If I say: "But these characters don't really know each other! Surely, the authorial voice should acknowledge that?", the author answers: "Oh, but they do! They used to play together as children, and when they met again, many years later, they fell in love instantly." Which I just don't buy.

Generelly speaking, I only buy romance in fiction when it's among equals who have a general idea of what they are doing. It's a very pragmatic approach, but there you go. And the aspect of "equality" is highly important for me.

Take Jane Austen's novels, for example, which I like a lot. Her romances often do not convince me.

"Sense and Sensibility": Col. Brandon falling in love at the age of 36 with a 16-year-old girl, because she reminds him of an old lover? Totally creepy.
"Emma": Mr Knightley falling in love at the age of 28 with a 13-year-old girl and spending the following 10 years forming and shaping her into what he wants his perfect woman to be? Creepy.
"Persuasion": Even though it's my favourite Austen novel, I think that spending eight years pining over someone you knew only for a couple of months in your late teens/early twenties is a bit pathetic.
So, I read the books because I like Austen's charaters and her wit and her criticism on society, but I couldn't care less about whether the girl gets her man or not in the end. I'd be perfectly happy if her heroines remained single.

And there's also the general disfunctionality, which makes me doubt the lasting success of a relationship.

A perfect example for that is the romance between Natalie Holden and Peter Carlisle in Blackpool - even though I do love the show to pieces for many reasons (David Tennant's fabulous wrist-on-headboard action being only one of them). "The love of my life" after only one date? Please. And even if I did believe in love at first sight etc., I still don't believe that Natalie and Peter will be happy together. Peter is not that different from Ripley. He is charming and tender to Natalie, sure, but I am convinced that Ripley was the same when he first fell in love with her. (We get glimpses of tender and gentle Ripley every now and then.) And both men rely far too much on Natalie's following them like a good little girl. Peter freaks out when she dares refuse going away with him and immediately starts abusing her in the worst possible manner. (And I don't care that he loved her and that he was hurt. Saying "I only slept with you to get to your son and Ripley" is just. Not. On.) Natalie herself realises that Peter's "got an eye for weakness". - And he has. And so, even though they are in love, I think that this will work only as long as Natalie doesn't stand up for herself. Just the same as it was with Ripley.

Moreover, I like romance only when it is rooted in a realistic setting, not an idealised one. Take that kiss in "Torchwood", for example:
Captain Jack is dancing with Captain Jack, in the 1940s, in front of a bunch of soldiers, and as sweet the kiss in itself might be, it just doesn't do anything for me. It's so obviously artificial, so created (as opposed to naturally evolved) that I can't identify with the characters' longing and desires.

The same scene works for me perfectly in "Queer as Folk, UK", where Stuart and Vince are dancing together at the wedding. Because there, it is realistic. The authorial voice acknowledges the difficulties, the reactions of the people around them, and I think it's sweet and lovely and very, very sexy. Even though they don't kiss.

In a nutshell: I'm fine with romances as long as they are not idealised. No "love conquers all", no "love at first sight" no "it's us against the rest of the world". Just give them some real difficulties and struggles.

Oh, and: It's not that life has made me callous and sucked any romantic feeling out of me. I've always been like that. I was ten when I read Walter Scott's "Ivanhoe" for the first time, and I commented on Ivanhoe's and Rowena's marriage with: "And after they had been married a while, Rowena would nag at him to empty the rubbish bin, and Ivanhoe didn't, and they had many rows and split up in the end." I wrote this down in my copy of the book, in pencil, and it still makes me laugh.
HBP is one week away, and I realised something: I am not worried about anything that might happen in the book. (I have quite reconciled with the idea of Remus' death.) But what makes me uneasy is the anticipation of the reactions in fandom. There will be hissy fits, there will be character bashing, and there will be outcries of "OMG! JKR is, like, so stupid! She has no idea what makes her characters work, and she dares [dislike Snape/Draco/Voldemort] [like Sirius/Harry/Dumbledore]!!" So, hm, in order to remind myself that there are people who actually like the books and don't mind that it is Rowling who continues writing them, I've got a question: What did you liked about OotP? If anything? Because, personally, I quite liked it. I realise that there are plot holes in Rowling's writing and that Sirius should not have died and that Harry is angry and irrational. But, on the whole, I like the book better than I liked GoF.

- I like angry!Harry. I've always found him too bland in earlier books and never cared much about him, despite his being the hero. His reactions are now appropriate to all the shit life puts him through

- I like that Remus didn't die

- I like Snape's smooth put-down of Umbridge when she demands more Veritaserum

- I like that there isn't so much Quidditch

- I like that Ron is made prefect and not Harry and that Harry is now shut out from a part of Ron and Hermione's life

- I like the glimpse we get of Petunia and Dudley at the beginning (and I like that it is only a glimpse, without any explanation)

- I absolutely adore that Rowling acknowledges that people don't start trusting/liking each other just because they happen to have a goal in common. In fact, this is what I like most about OotP. Most fics written post GoF and dealing with the war had the good guys stand united and fight the evil together (whether or not successfully is immaterial). Snape would train Harry, who would submit to it like a reasonable kid; Snape would forget his own grudge against MWPP and acknowledge Lupin and Black's competence; Dumbledore would be the leader and the Ministry would submit to his leadership... etc. OotP does not offer any of those satisfactory solutions. The good guys keep disliking and distrusting each other, and Harry, despite his hero status, is treated like the brat that he is. OotP is also the book of stagnation: nothing much happens, apart from waiting for Voldemort to act. This drives the characters mad, and their irritation translates to the reader. I don't know whether Rowling did that on purpose, but whatever her intention might have been: she managed to make the readers feel as twitchy and frustrated as the characters. OotP would not work as a stand-alone novel, but as part of a series, it does.

So, I am curious: is there anything you liked about OotP? Or is the hatred of the book universal?
Finished reading "Going Postal" today.

Am now ridiculously in love with Havelock Vetinari.

But where was Wuffles?
I'm reading Lucy Maud Montgomery's "Emily's Quest":

Ilse stumbled on the happy idea of pick-out your favourite star.

"Mine is Sirius. Lorne?"

"Antares of the Scorpion--the red star of the south," said Halsey.

"Bellatrix of Orion," said Emily quickly.

Some of you might have already known about it for a long time, but I discovered it only very recently: An Internet platform, where you can find well-loved, yet long-lost books you've read (or been read to) as a child. The Advanced Book Exchange provides an excellent service on its BookSleuth forum, where users can post more or less vague descriptions of the books they're after. The descriptions sometimes include only a picture that stuck to mind, or one single scene, or the name of the character's favourite pet, and, incredibly, there are people who are able to recognise the book described and supply the title. I am delighted. (Especially since I have indeed been looking for a favourite childhood book for ages.)

I found this website after reading an article about it some weeks ago, and said article triggered something in me. The author elaborates how children perceive books as very physical objects, and years later, all that one remembers is a certain picture, the texture and colour of the cover, or maybe a certain location which is mentioned in the book and which the child is familiar with in real life. Memories of the books are strongly connected to certain feelings (I remember the feeling of vague horror connected to one of the stories in the book I'm looking for, though I don't remember any details of the story) or situations.

So, because I'm curious: is there anybody out there who remebers only odd details of a book they used to love as a child? The scent of the book, or a single occasion when it was read, or some pictures that has haunted their dreams for years?

Look behind the cut if you want to read about my very physical memory of Sinbad )



September 2014



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