29.1.07

Notable Quotes

A librarian. Yes, I know, much of what you need is available online and your staff Googles with the best of them. Still, corporate librarians operate with a level of nuance and finesse that technology can't match. They can uncover sources so obscure as to be practically nonexistent. And they know what's what--they not only tell people what is known but also warn them what isn't. Something about Linus' warm blanket from the comic strip Peanuts comes to mind!

22.1.07

Notable Quotes

(Colleague, as I was towing books down the hall: "If you need a handcart to carry your books, you're probably buying too many books." One can never have too many books! Never! [I'll grant that you might have too many books if the house collapses; otherwise, no.])

Miriam Burstein, The Little Professor

21.1.07

The Christo Curtain of Death

Seriously.

Last night I had the wonderful experience of going to the Seattle Opera, thanks to one of my cousins (ok, for Thing Two's happiness, this is not exactly my cousin, he's my first cousin once removed - in other words, he's my mother's cousin. happy now?). We went for Thai food and then to the opera, which was a nice way to not be a librarian for a few hours.

The opera house has been renovated within the past few years and is modern, but not aggressively so. Since it shares space with Pacific Northwest Ballet, there are accommodations for that dual-purpose that you don't see, for example, at the Met. One of the nicer things was that the audience actually dressed for the opera. I'm often torn by this: do you want to appear elitist and insist on "Dressing Up" or do you want to appeal to a broader audience... or should people realize that going out is something of an occasion and dress accordingly? I come down on the side of it's an occasion, so my "usual" just won't do. The audience was also mixed in terms of age - another good thing.

This was Don Giovanni, Mozart's take on Don Juan. This production has gotten good reviews, and I have to admit, I was stunned by the singing. Giovanni was sung by Mariusz Kwiecien, and I'll bet we'll be hearing a lot more from him. The others weren't bad, either. The set was a moderny slab, with various pieces that opened and shut to emulate doors and so forth. Sometimes you'd see a balcony, sometimes an elevator... you get the gist. One thing that directors like to do is update an opera's setting. I couldn't possibly tell you what era this was in: there was a couple straight out of Happy Days' 50s, another in Edwardian clothing, and the servants all seemed to be in powdered wigs. The dance/party scene included jitterbugging and disco - all set to Mozart's music. A bit too mish-mash, if you ask me.

So, the plot. The synopsis of Act II, Scene 5 reads:
Don Giovanni is interrupted at supper by Donna Elvira, who wants him to change his ways. He laughs at her and she leaves, but runs back screaming. Investigating, Leporello returns in terror: the statue has come. The Commendatore enters and, refusing to touch earthly food, invites Don Giovanni to dine with him. Don Giovanni accepts and is engulfed by the flames of hell, steadfastly refusing to repent.
The entrance of the Commendatore's statue is very effective, filled with smoke and ominous portend. The fall of Don Giovanni into hell is equally effective.... until the fall of the Christo Curtain of Death.

The designer, for reasons known best only to him, heralds The Fall with flashing lights and red colors (all understandable) and this huge curtain that comes crashing down from the flies, obscuring the main slab set. The lighting on the curtain was - I kid you not - the same orange as The Gates. Same fabric, too.

Since this is just before the very end of the opera, perhaps the set designer was saying "it's a wrap".

Just not quite right...

As I've been picking up ARCs at the conference, I've been mentally sorting them into "for me" and "for work". Because we have a Book Fair in April, the "for work" books are the ones that are going to get immediate attention, right? So what better thing to do than start a book here?

I chose Polly, by Amy Bryant as the First Read. The back looked interesting - a girl's coming of age, as shaped by eight relationships. Didn't read much closer than that, else I would have noticed the "punked-out 1980s suburban romance" line. First of all, the 1980s are not far enough away to qualify as historical fiction. Second, I just don't think my students are going to buy realistic fiction that doesn't include the things that they are familiar with: running home to wait for a phone call? where's the cell? roller skating???? getting high on acid? flipping an LP? Nope - they're not going to relate to this character, no matter how interesting the story. They'll get hung up on the stuff that's "just not quite right" rather than the overall message.

As a school librarian, I'm also not sure I want the constant swearing. It's not that I'm a prude, it's more that I know my population - the parents will be concerned because even though this is about a high school student, it'll be read by middle schoolers and they are still in that "semi-protected" state.

When I went to get the link, I realized that this is an "old" book, one that was released in 2005 or 2006. So... what does it tell you when the publisher brings stacks to a conference that predominantly has unread, not-yet-published books? If the pile was recalls, or unsolds, that's not a great message. Not to mention the fact that someone didn't edit properly: it's AXL Rose, not AXEL Rose...

8.1.07

Notable Quotes

The world is split into two kinds of people, those who would go out for a drink with John Lennon, and those who'd choose Paul McCartney ... After the Beatles came back from India, Lennon wrote 'Happiness Is a Warm Gun' and McCartney wrote 'Ob-La-Di'. End of argument.
Paul Bettany
(þ: Thing One)

7.1.07

Books to film

I saw Children of Men last night and really enjoyed it. I'd wanted to see it not just because of Clive Owen (which is, of course, an enjoyable extra), but because I'd read the book and think of it as part of an English proximate-future dystopian trilogy. Doesn't everyone?

Anyway, after the film, Thing Two asked me about the adaptation. To be honest, I'd read the book when it first came out (1994) and while it's stuck with me, the intricate details have not. So I can't opine about the conflation of characters and skewing of events: it all seemed to be there. He then asked "what makes a good adaptation?" Like, are the Harry Potter ones good because they're so faithful to the book? What about Lord of the Rings (should it have been adapted at all)?

My response to him was a vague, porn-like "I know a good one when I see it" but there's more, really. I think good adaptations fall into two categories: those that bring the book to life (not necessarily word-for-word, action-for-action) and those that bring the spirit of the book to life (like Wizard of Oz). In other words, an adaptation can be very faithful, but there's something missing... or it can go off on a tangent and really do something fun that's true to the book. There are even cases when the film was better than the book (some people would say that about Jaws). Unfortunately, you have to read/watch to know...

5.1.07

Book Threads

I've been thinking about this for a while: what books are linked in your mind? I don't mean obvious ones, like sequels or Peter Pan/Cap't. Hook, but less obvious ones. Here are a couple of threads:
  • Children of Men, P.D. James; England, England, Julian Barnes; Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro.
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, Mark Haddon; The Speed of Dark, Elizabeth Moon

2.1.07

Notable Quotes

People disappear when they die. Their voice, their laughter, the warmth of their breath. Their flesh. Eventually their bones. All living memory of them ceases. This is both dreadful and natural. Yet for some there is an exception to this annihilation. For in the books they write they continue to exist. We can rediscover them. Their humor, their tone of voice, their moods. Through the written word they can anger you or make you happy. They can comfort you. They can perplex you. They can alter you. All this, even though they are dead. Like flies in amber, like corpses frozen in ice, that which according to the laws of nature should pass away is, by the miracle of ink on paper, preserved. It is a kind of magic.
Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale

1.1.07

Year End Update

I've only got 4072 more books to read in this lifetime (if we accept that I started 2006 with 4204 left) . So, what did I do with the books I've read this past year? Well, first, for lists, go here, here, here and here.

Second, here's the analysis (2005 numbers in parens):

number of books read in 2006: 132 (196)
best month: August/26 books
worst month: January/none
average read per month: 11 (16.3)
adult fiction as percentage of total: 19 (14)
children's/YA fiction as percentage of total: 33 (40)
mystery as percentage of total: 25 (12)
books read that were published in 2006: 75

I've already started the First Book of 2007: Old Saxon Blood (Leonard Tourney)

Notes from Mt. Bookpile

36 books... not too shabby (not as good as last quarter's 55, though)

Children's/Young Adult
  • The Beatrice Letters Lemony Snicket Interesting addition to the "Series", but only for completists
  • Bread and Roses, Too Katherine Paterson Nice historical fiction (the Lawrence MA mill strikes) and one of our Newbury hopefuls
  • The End Lemony Snicket Am I the only one that got tired of this series?
  • Goy Crazy Melissa Schorr Cute and I'm sure the target group will like it as much as You are SO Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah
  • I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You Ally Carter If you liked Buffy/Alias...
  • The Last Dragon Silvana De Mari Not in the Eragon mold - which is a good thing - but more about overcoming fear and helping others to make the world better (which sounds way soppier than the book is)
  • Leonardo's Shadow Christopher Grey One of two I read about The Last Supper, only this one worked for me; good historical fiction
  • The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus L.Frank Baum From the creator of Oz
  • The Lost Colony Eoin Colfer Artemis... Holly... what more do I need to say?
  • Sky Island L.Frank Baum If you need to know more about Button Bright, Trot and Cap'n Bill
  • The Taker Julia Steele Love, intrigue and the SATs. The perfect YA story!

Fantasy
  • Fragile Things Neil Gaiman A collection of short stories. Some seemed to stop just as they were getting going, but other than that I liked it.
  • The Looking Glass Wars Frank Beddor An alternate to Alice, and not a bad twist on the story
  • Second Wave Anne Mccaffrey and Elizabeth A. Scarborough Cluttered, incoherent: couldn't even get past page 50!

Fiction/Literature
  • Gilead Marilynne Robinson Two of my favorite readers didn't like it (I suspect it was the overt faith that shone through that they didn't feel comfortable with) but I did.
  • Intuition Allegra Goodman Who doesn't like a nice story of academic research gone bad?
  • The Meaning of Night Michael Cox Much better historical fiction than the hype would lead one to believe; ignore the "Dickensian" and enjoy!
  • Mislaid Magic Joyce Windsor A period piece (inter-war Britian) that has a certain charm but isn't for everyone
  • The Secret Supper Javier Sierra Oh god. Enough with Leonardo, enough with conspiracies... please!
  • The Yacoubian Building Alaa Al-Aswany One of those multi-stranded, many charactered books, set in modern-day Cairo. Well worth the read.

Mystery
  • A Cold Day in Paradise Steve Hamilton A new (to me) author, a bit dark, but a definite "read more of".
  • Bartholomew Fair Murders Leonard D. Tourney Set in Elizabethan England, and I'm not sure how I feel about the series... yet.
  • Blind Side, Latter End and Outrageous Fortune Patricia Wentworth I wouldn't say no to reading another, but I'm not going out of my way to find them
  • The Minotaur, Barbara Vine Enough said.
  • Morning after Death Nicholas Blake A bit heavily worded in spots, but otherwise fun.
  • One Good Turn Kate Atkinson Another in the Jackson Brodie series... and, again, I figured out the twist before it came. Still, well-written and fun.
  • One Last Breath Stephen Booth If you don't like dark, you won't like the Fry/Cooper series but if you do and you haven't discovered them yet - go for it!
  • The Thirteenth Tale Diane Setterfield. Even though this is mildly derivative, I liked it enough to recommend to others.
  • What Came Before He Shot Her Elizabeth George. Almost a non-mystery (if you read With No One as Witness) but it might save the Lynley/Havers series; I know I want to see what happens next

Misc

My life in 2006

This Is My Life, Rated
Life:
4.8
Mind:
4.3
Body:
5
Spirit:
5
Friends/Family:
3.1
Love:
6.9
Finance:
4.7
Take the Rate My Life Quiz