January 29, 2012

Re: The Hunchback

I should really come up with a feature title for these posts, since I may be doing more of them. No literary analysis here as yet - just one (spoiler-free) quote. My favorite of the first 160 pages, regarding the bells of Notre Dame:
"Here, certainly, is an opera worth hearing. Ordinarily, the murmur that escapes from Paris in the daytime is the city talking; in the night, it is the city breathing, but here, it is the city singing. Listen then to this ensemble of the steeples; diffuse over it the murmur of half a million people, the everlasting plaint of the river, the boundless breathings of the wind, the grave and distant quartet of the four forests placed upon the hills in the distance like so many vast organs, immersing in them, as in a demitint, all in the central concert that would otherwise be too raucous or too sharp, and then say whether you know of anything in the world more rich, more joyous, more golden, more dazzling than this tumult of bells and chines, this furnace of music, these ten thousand voices of brass, all singing together in flutes of stone three hundred feet high--than this city which is no longer anything but an orchestra--than this symphony as loud as a tempest." (p. 133)
 This quote takes my breath away. I imagine actually hearing the bells would produce a similar effect.

January 26, 2012


I always believe that I don't have that many internet homes, but when I list them all out my eyes tend to go slightly buggy. My "for-public-consumption" homes include two blogs (this one, as well as one currently in hibernation), one twitter feed (this one), and one pinterest account (this one). That's probably not so many, come to think of it...

While I've engaged in brief flirtations with other services in the past there hasn't been one that's caught my eye...except tumblr. People do things on tumblr. Shiny things. Things that make me think that maybe I should do shiny things on tumblr as well. Except...really, does the world need "just another tumblr blog"? Given that I have enough trouble keeping this one up-to-date and (hopefully) at least a smidge above "watching paint dry" on the boring scale, I probably should not start a tumblr without a clear vision. Which means starting a tumblr is not in my immediate plans.

But still...shiny. So, anyone who has a tumblr, I'm soliciting opinions here. What do you think of yours? The service? What is it good at? Any tips would be appreciated.

January 25, 2012

The Canon: The Phantom Tollbooth

Can you believe that I read this book for the first time last week?

I know, it's incredible. Astonishing, really, that a bookavore so well-read as I could possibly go twenty two years without The Phantom Tollbooth clutched greedily in her paws.

To be honest I was a little concerned when I began this book that it would turn out much like my reading experience of Betsy-Tacy. I read that one for the first time in December, and while I could see my five-year-old self adoring these books, my twenty-two-year-old self merely nodded approvingly in a few places and shrugged at the end.

Luckily The Phantom Tollbooth is a book no word lover could ever shrug at. This is why, though it hasn't been in my life for very long, I feel confident in saying that The Phantom Tollbooth will have a treasured place in my hypothetical child's library. (Of course my child will love words as I do - how could s/he not?)

Frequent readers of this sort of book will not be fooled by the dangers presented in its pages. Of course Milo will rescue the princesses Rhyme and Reason and come out at the other end alive. That good triumphs in the end is not at question. The delight, then, is in the words themselves.

It's clear that Norton Juster is a master at wordplay. The wit! The double meanings! The literalization of the Doldrums, Expectations, Conclusions... There is something witty happening on every page. I loved every second of this book, though if forced to pick and choose I would give Tock first prize, followed closely by Chroma's orchestra.

If you love words and adventures and dogs, I recommend this book to you. It would be an excellent read-aloud pick, but only if you share the illustrations liberally.

January 13, 2012

Reading the Classics

This is not a hugely long analytic post about how to read the classics. This is just to say, I'm reading them. I made a few resolutions for 2012, none of which have anything to do with reading. But the start of a new year is always a good time to reflect on things, even if you don't elevate goals into the elite status of "Resolution," so this year I want to do this, reading-wise: read the classics.

I've been around the classics block. I've certainly read more classic literature than the average American (though less than the average English major, no doubt). I count Les Miserables among one of my all-time favorite books (and I was looking forward to the new movie adaptation...until they cast Taylor Swift...). It's not like my life is completely bereft of the classics...but these days my literary diet consists mostly of young adult.

There's nothing wrong with young adult! I love young adult! I write young adult! But sometimes I want a book guaranteed to push me and make me think. Over the winter holidays I read Emma, and boy did that make my brain hurt in the "I really can't read more than two chapters at a time without feeling my eyes blurring" way. Reading the classics is often difficult, and I like that. I like reading sentences more than once to catch the double- or triple-meaning. I like feeling like I'm soaking in the knowledge of a different era, a different mindset, a different life. I like working for it, is what it comes down to.

So, my goal: to always be reading a classic. Right now I'm mining my own shelves, since I have a number of very nice hardcover editions I haven't even cracked. Having just finished Emma (and I may have to review it here, just to see what you all think of it), I'll be starting The Hunchback of Notre Dame in a few days. I may post thoughts here. Or maybe not. I suppose you'll just have to wait and see.

January 4, 2012

Notes To Myself

To myself (and to you), for 2012 (and beyond), on this blog (and beyond):

Write for yourself, not for an audience. Do not censor yourself in anticipation of future "platform" issues. Swear, if swearing is called for. Be frivolous, if frivolity is invited. Break rules. Write what you want, when you want. Write things worth reading. Write things that make you think. Write things with no simple answers. Talk to people to whom you want to talk. Comment on the blogs that interest you. Talk to everyone...or talk to no one. You owe nothing to anyone except to yourself, as a writer, as a blogger.

Above all things stay true to yourself.