scribbles tagged ‘read it’

indignation 1832 Sheffield style

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

A 1832 letter to a Royal commission investigating the Church of England’s revenues:


It is a matter of the deepest regret and surprise that no steps are taking by the Dissenters in England, at this critical juncture, to assert their principles and claim their just rights, when it is generally understood that his Majesty’s ministers, or at least the majority of them, will concede nothing to us which they can possibly avoid; and that they intend to bring forward, next session, their plan of church reform, the tendency of which will be decidedly unfavourable to our interests, and will consolidate the political power and influence of one dominant sect.…

If, then, we owed Earl Grey and his colleagues any debt of gratitude, for doing us an act of justice before they took office, in getting the Test Laws repealed, we have now paid it; and it is time to look to our own interests, in which are involved the best interests of the country.

We are required to submit to the domination of a corrupt state church; to be governed by bishops; to see £3,5000,000 at the least (but more likely £5,00,000) annually expended in the maintenance of a clergy, of whom a vast majority do not preach the gospel; to see the cure of souls bought and sold in open market; to have the Universities closed against us, and all the iniquities of those degraded places continued; to be taxed, tithed, and rated to the support of a system which we abjure; to be compelled to submit to objectionable rites and ceremonies at marriage, baptism, and burial; – in one word, to be left out of the social compact, and degraded.…

We have hitherto demanded too little; and, consequently, we have been refused everything worth caring about. The bill for relieving places of worship from the poor rates, which was the fruit of the labours of the last session of Parliament, is no boon to us. It applies to churches in the establishment more than to ourselves, and I doubt much whether it will save the Dissenters £50 a year. I fear we have even misled the Government itself by asking for trifles, when we ought to have been contending for great principles. What signifies a small church-rate, when we should be contending against a corrupt state church? What is the trifling amount of procreates levied upon a very few of our chapels, in comparison of millions of pounds annually expended on a secular and dominant clergy? – and all this is done in a country burdened with a debt which grinds all! The real points at issue between the Government and us are very few, and may soon be stated. They are chiefly as follow, viz: –

1st. A total disconnection between church and state, leaving the details consequent thereupon to be dealt with by Parliament.

2nd.The repeal of the Act of Charles II., which enables bishops to sit in the House of Lords.

3rd. The repeal of all laws, which grant compulsory powers to raise money for the support of any church whatever.

4th. The reformation of the Universities, the repeal of all religious tests, and a grant of equal rights in them.

5th. A reformation of the laws relating to marriage and registration with equal rights in places of public burial.

No Government whatever could long resist any of these just and reasonable requirements, if perseveringly demanded; and it is well known that several members of the present administration would gladly and promptly grant all of them.… Our political power is far more justly estimated by our opponents than by ourselves, and few of the members of Parliament would venture to be indifferent or opposed to our wishes. Lord Durham knows us well, and his advice is particularly applicable to us: ‘The power rests with yourselves, now, to instruct your representatives as to the measures which you, the respectability and intelligence of the country, have set your hearts on, and they will inevitably be carried.’

I am, Sir,
Your very obedient servant,
George Hadfield

indignation 1832 Sheffield style
3 votes rating 4.67

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my fish are dead

Friday, May 10th, 2013 | tags: , , , ,  |

I’ve been never knowingly suffered from depression. I don’t know what it’s like. I’ve listened to people who are probably suffering from depression, taking their calls to helplines.

I’ve listened to their long silences.  There’s something peaceful and reassuring in sharing a long silence over the phone. I’ve heard their curiously monotone voices. I’ve listened to them repeatedly describe their situation as-if they’ve forgotten what they said before their last silence. A brief auditory glimpse into what may be depression.

Scary Duck pointed out this blog post:

Allie’s story captured my attention, held it with wit and comic engaging sketches. It’s helped give me an insight into one way of experiencing depression. I’ll be following Allie’s writing from now on, once I work out how to replace my google reader….

my fish are dead
1 vote rating 4

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The fall. Albert Camus

Sunday, April 28th, 2013 | tags: , , , ,  |

Inspired by “The Outsider” I moved onto another Camus book “The fall” knowing that the band “The fall” were named after this book, but not having read any book reviews.

Recommended for people who like deconstructing writers techniques and thinking and philosophy, whether that’s pub or academic philosophy.

3 smiles:  :)  :)  :)   Ratings explained

Two things kept me gripped through-out the book:

  1. It is written as a series of one-sided conversations, where the reader is the other half of the conversation. Listening to the protagonist, rarely questioned by the protagonist. A simple idea, incredibly difficult to write. I’ve never read a book written using this technique.
  2. What is ‘The fall’? Early on the protagonist talks of his fall from being a prestigious and effective Paris lawyer to hanging around in fog-ridden Amsterdam, drinking with strangers in bars. This tracks the distance fallen, but not the actual fall. The book describes the fall, the ideas and insights bring the protagonist to Amsterdam bars.

I’m planning to read the book again because I suspect that I’ve missed many of the subtleties that it contains.  At the moment, I preferred “The Outsider“. I suspect “The fall” might turn out to be an acquired taste.  I’ll re-read it with the aid of some matured whiskey….

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The outsider. Albert Camus

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

Reading Albert CamusI found Albert Camus’s ‘The outsider” profoundly disturbing. In just under 115 pages it moves the reader from a funeral through a killing to legal conviction and sentencing with straightforward and gripping prose. The protagonist appears to lack pretention. He lives with an uncomplicated world view, within a world that requires he play a role, demostrates conformity to social complexity.

Recommended for people that find human behaviour fascinating at both human and societal levels.

4 smiles:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂  Ratings explained

‘The Outsider’ appears to be one of those books that teenagers are encouraged to study – there are plenty of reviews online. Somehow my teenage self missed this book, making do with  ‘The catcher in the rye’, ‘To kill a mockingbird‘ and slighly later with ‘On the road

Someone's notes in the 2nd hand bookI found the book disturbing because it was so easy to identify with the protagonist, to be him.  To feel his pleasure, pain, passage of time and the way others criticise any lack of socially acceptable expression of  strong emotions.

I picked up my copy from Reading town’s Oxfam, this 2nd hand copy came littered with the study notes of someone who read the book in a radically different way from me. I found the notes almost as disturbing as the book itself. The notes accuse the protagonist of being unemotional, unfeeling. Yet I read him as experiencing a wide range of normal feelings described in short sentences, using very physical descriptions.

The outsider. Albert Camus
2 votes rating 5

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3mph between daydreams

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012 | tags: , , , , ,  |

Stroll route around Aldermaston wharf The Butt Inn Guide book for the strollsWalk 14: The Butt Inn at Aldermaston Wharf

A Sunday morning stroll is a sociable stroll.

A wizard disguised as an elderly gentleman stopped to give me advice on the best position to see the Kingfishers on the river Kennet. Sitting with your hand over your mouth works best.  He also explained that local Geese are the top of the local food chain and they are maliciously breeding and pooping-up the place. Pests and hygiene hazards.

The wizard advocated a ‘bash their eggs in‘ approach to flock-size control. With a little persuasion we managed to compromise on a strategy of collecting then selling the eggs for outstanding breakfast omelettes.

Silver Speedy Ramblers Old man Inbetween stories and advice the wizard would pootle-on ahead at about 6mph. Gradually making up the ground between myself and the other silver-haired speedy ramblers who blazened past while I pondered the emotional commitment of copulating dragonflies.

Sunday morning strolls are full of these speedy silver strollers. I met them coming the other way and was overtaken by at least 7 of them per mile of my walk. They are a healthy, plucky, lot. I prefer them to the dressy ramblers. Silver strollers’ casual outfits look like they are pulled together from stuff anyone might have around their house rather than using a small overdraft in a specialist ‘Outdoors’ store.

Even without go-faster gear they still outpace my meagre 3 mph between daydreams.

As expected, despite valiant efforts, I went off-track

Both off and ontrack revealed all sorts of countryside goings-on, animals galore – Goats, Cattle, Lambs, Alpaca, Chickens, Horses, Kingfishers, Geese etc, meadow flowers, avenues of ancient trees, ponds, rivers, canals, faerie grottos and Indian hide-outs. Who would have guessed that wandering through Berkshire would take me to all these magical places? Can you see the magic?:
Tent  Canal boatsSwings  through the trees

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Stroll from the Horse and Groom around Mortimer (walk 13)

Sunday, June 17th, 2012 | tags: , , , , ,  |

Guide book for strolls A very refreshing saturday stroll around Mortimer tackling gusts of 40 mile an hour winds. Thank goodness for fitted hats!

It seems that a ‘Stroll’ is a walk that doesn’t involve any:Horse and Groom

  1. severe inclines
  2. special equipment other than a stout pair of shoes and a drink and some snacks
  3. unfit people such as myself breaking out in a sweat, huffing and puffing…

By contrast, a ‘Ramble’ requires a bright Goretext jacket, Hiking boots, thick wool socks, a walking pole, gloves and all sorts of fancy accessories.  I know this becuase I turned up at the head of a ramble arranged by the Berkshire ramblers association where a flock of brightly Goretexed people were circling a style at the trail head.

I looked at my lack of Goretex and all terrain hiking boots. This equipment has been hibernating in my cupboard since leaving the mountain ranges of the NW USA.  Temporarily downhearted, I decided to work my way up to releasing my rambling gear with a few less imposing, walks.  The idea of some morning strolls with the help of Nick Channers book of Pub Strolls in Berkshire raised my spirits.

Walk 13: Mortimer from the Horse and GroomWalk 13: Horse and Groom

If the stroller can follow the instructions provided, “Walk 13” is a 3 1/4 mile stoll that starts and ends at the Horse and Groom in Mortimer. It’s a problem solving challenge to follow a map that is not to scale and omits a lot of key landmarks.

Very quickly I discovered that my walk was actually likely to be 6 miles, the extra distance caused by going the wrong way, realising it, and retracing my steps and trying another option. This could me more healthy than I’d anticipates!

I never managed to get to the 3rd marker point, several unmarked junctions near the “N” north sign proved too distracting.

The latter part of my walk turned from problem solving into a creative fiction.

It all ended well, at lunch time in the Horse and Groom. A substantial Victorian pub with a classic 1970’s decor, decent real ales and a rather good chef.

Yummy. I might be back to see if I can find the real route on another day…
Trees on the horizon Trees in the valley Iron style

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Dorothy, not Toto. Parker, not Lady Penelope

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011 | tags: , , ,  |

The Viking Portable Library: Dorothy Parker

Dorothy ParkerThis weekend involved a new haircut, classic 1920’s bob and a lot of serious, if creative, woodstaining. My log store should now last at least a decade before crumbling. Some of the nearby blooms also got their share of preservative, the pathway is developing early signs of Pollockism

As reward for achieving this chore, with aching arms I tackled the internet to dig up a wee treat – Dorothy Parker – her portable library.  This Viking edition is from 1944, the original publication year. Its one of only 3 books in the ‘portable’ series that has been continuously in print, the other two are the Bible and William Shakespeare

The font is charmingly well spoken

The paper smells of ages

Immersed in Ms Parker

A good place

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Read dating people

Saturday, February 19th, 2011 | tags: , , , , , , ,  |

The evening started with a £3 fee, a sticky name-tag, an empty-crib-sheet for notes, two opposing rows of 10 chairs, and a glass of wine. The organiser, Laura, recognised me by my bookMervyn Peake’sLetters from a lost uncle

Soon the evening was buzzing with quick animated talk as we used our 2 minute timed slots to promote our favourite book to each other. 20 people, each with 2 minutes to entice another person to read their favourite book. At the end of the 40 minutes we all voted for the book we liked-best.

A fascinating cross section of books, people and Library staff. All personable, quirky and good natured. And me. Organising this diverse collection of literary enthusiasts is a challenge. The Reading Central library team failed with flare and  improvised with charming grace.

For people that want a novel introduction to a range of books, to meet local people, and have a good swig of wine thrown in, this is an excellent event.

4 smiles: Ratings explained

Read Dating crib sheet

Two minute book promotion techniques varied from reading 4 pages of bulleted notes on a book I’d been given as an 18th birthday present, read, and loved (Lynne’s Gormenghast trilogy) to Marie Claire’s brief, almost self-apologetic, statement ‘Its like a soap opera, its about people‘ (Men from the boys by Tony Parsons).

Adam produced a polished, yet souless, advocation of Wuthering Heights. If I hadn’t already read the book his persepctive ofnHeathcliffe as misunderstood by the general reading public would have put me off reading it. Adam had no sense of tailoring his delivery to the audience, to me. His delivery felt cold, dispassionate.

Arathy bought the book that had changed her life ‘The science of self realisation‘ by his divine grace Srila Prabhupada. Ernestly she showed me chapter headings and managed to talk in a way that I found difficult to follow. I tried asking her questions about how it had changed her life but she didn’t manage to give me an insight into her revelations, her life before and her life after the change. I was pleased for her discovery but not persuaded that this book would engage me.

During a mid-session break I uncovered snippits of these people’s lives, an emigrant from Australia, an unemployed teenager from Henley-on-Thames, and a mother who’s children had recently left home learning German to fill the gap. No-one asked about me. Even in the midst of lively conversations my ability to feel invisible seeps in.

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exam preparation

Thursday, February 10th, 2011 | tags: , ,  |

Information navigation - Sam's organisationwhen I asked Pat if I could photograph the information navigation system Pat was using in preparation for the PRINCE2 practioners open-book exam, Pat blushed and said ‘I can be a bit anal sometimes

Pat’s desk was equally well ordered, there was an elegance and functionality to the layout

I sat between Pat and Sam. After photographing Pat’s book and desk I asked Sam if I could photograph Sam’s book and desk

Information navigation - Pat's organisationSam smiled, giggled a little, and said yes. Sam spent time colour coding the highlighted sections, reading and highlighting, tearing-up post-it notes to strips then placing them on pages as we encountered information. As the course progressed the post-it notes became creased and were moved around, re-ordered. Sam’s desk looked a little hap-hazard to the outsider but in reality there was clear order and functionality to the process being used.

My book? No highlights, no highlighter pen, no post-it notes, page markers or even pencil notes.


My plan was not to spend any time finding stuff in the book during the 2 and a half hour exam, not to create and remember colour-coding systems.  Why not? My goal was to understand the book’s contents to a level that alleviates the need for reference and developing a reference system beyond the existing contents list, index and glossary. Novel approach for this course where the instructors actually told us what to highlight! A risky approach because there is more information in the book than I could learn in the time I’ve been studying. Not marking-up the book was partly a motivation to learn the contents.

To my amazement – I PASSED! without opening the book in an open book exam! Now many people might say that’s just

stubborn and silly?

You know me well!

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On chesil beach

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010 | tags: , , ,  |

Not recommended as an audio book to accompany your commute. I found the soft porn way too distracting to manage listening and driving simultaneously. I found the book persistently, mildly, uncomfortable.

2 smiles: Ratings explained

Ian’s usual high standard writing was evident throughout. Detailed observation of social rules, class, relationships, like a modern Jane Austen. It was a joy to realise what he was doing with his writing and how he was achieving it. The places, settings, emphasised the storyline, the mood. Excellent.  Ian’s topic is also a familiar ground, English social taboos,  in this case knowledge of sex between two young adults in the early 1960’s.

Technical writing skills can take a good story to lift it to an exceptional experience. I found the story failed to intrigue, grip, or really move me to any place other than mild discomfort. I cringed and hoped the story would move somewhere unexpected, or a plausible extreme. I don’t read (listen to) a Novella to experience persistent, mild discomfort, and disappointment. The last pages of the book felt like a disappointment, the writing peaked to soon for my taste.

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BEFORE entering the nurses

Friday, October 15th, 2010 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

roll your right sleeve up!

I was slightly shocked by the services provided by a local General Practice (GP) in Reading town. It reminded me of 1975 when I won a copy of  ‘ It shouldn’t happen to a vet’ in a school competition. I was also a bit shocked to realise that a vet would have to stick thier arm up the backside of a bovine. Vets roll up their sleeves before doing this

BEFORE entering the nurses

BEFORE entering the nurses
1 vote rating 5

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cartoon noir

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010 | tags: , , , ,  |

the girl with the dragon tattoo over 500 pages by Stieg Larsson in his first novel.

A good read for people that enjoy an investigative story with some dramatic twists without details of emotional complexity or strings of fancy adjectives. I finished this with about 6 hours of reading. My interest was held firmly for the first 4/5ths, then I had to work at the last fifth. The last fifth made sense and tied up a lot of ends, but felt a bit too much like being ‘tidy’ in a fairly predictable way.

2 smiles: Ratings explained

Surprisingly, most of the online book reviews that I’ve read (The Guardian, The Times online) seem to focus more on telling the storyline and speculating about the late authors likely influences. They didn’t really give me sense of  the strengths and weaknesses of the book. Unlike Alfred Knopf’s  The New York Observer review. Knopf states the books popularity in Europe then makes an upfront fairly negative evaluative comment for the US audience – ‘The book is terrible, but there’s certainly something to it’.  Knopf uses lovely words like ‘preposterous’ and ‘ridiculous’ to describe the incidents and storyline.  This wasn’t my experience. The book storyline was nothing more preposterous than a combination of Joseph Fritzls story with Nick Leeson bringing down Barings bank with the connection strategy being a journalist.  Believable. But Knopf does have a point. There were times when the storyline or characters shifted from plausible to a comic style, exaggerated characterisation.  Both good and bad guys appeared to have super human abilities. For me this was actually a strength, I was rooting for the heroine to pull fabulous, unexpected, stuff and she did not disappoint. I wanted the bad guy to be a cunning, nasty person with no redeeming features. Stieg delivered.

The book’s Swedish title was ‘Men Who Hate Women’ and book sections start with surprisingly low Swedish statistics that describe violence against women and its impact. At first I wondered why, then I realised that the girl is probably supposed to be some incarnation of a feminist hero. To me, she is clearly a male construction of a feminist heroine. Not an everyday hero. She is a difficult to recognise extreme character. It felt like a shallow deptiction. She reminded me of the well meaning outlaws in US westerns, betrayed by the system they operate outside it. Masculinised roles resorting to violence and activities outside of the law to achieve their own ends. The book had an angle that appeared to celebrate the international crisis of violence against women by making it into the core theme for a piece of entertainment.

Knopf’s assessment of Stieg’s writing style ‘To call the dialogue wooden would be an insult to longbows and violins’ suggests to me that Knopf”s not spent much time in the company of Scandinavians. It doesn’t recognise that there are differences in the way they think, see and value things.  Steig doesn’t provide long adjective strings and rich emotional descriptions. Steig tells you what is happening and lets you bring your interpretation to the framework he supplies. I found Steig’s writing style engaging, though the last part of the plot lost my interest.

I wont be reading the next 2 books in the series, 500 pages of a shallow cartoonish, masculinised heroine for womanhood was enough for me.

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The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance, by Paul Strathern

Monday, September 20th, 2010 | tags: , , ,  |

Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance, by Paul Strathern

Recommended for people who love reading history books or are fascinated by the Medici family.

🙂  one smile. Ratings explained

On the good side the journey through the family’s history we meet Michelangello, Botticeli, Galileo, lots of Popes and all sorts of kings and queens of France and Spain. Murders, double dealing, cunning plans galore. Lots of fascinating goings-on.

My brother started reading this book and gave up one third of the way through. Mumzie read it and loved it. I was determiend to get to the end, hoping it would get a bit more gripping and less like a History course text book.  Though other reviewers cite it’s strength as being the non-academic writting. Academic writing must be deadly tedious. This book was a bit too dry given how fabulous the story actually is. I started reading this 400 page tome in December 2008 and finally finished in August 2010. Way too long.

I have not seen the PBS TV production, I suspect it is probably a much more rewarding experience to watch this series than read the book.

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the scheme for full employment

Friday, January 1st, 2010 | tags: , , , , ,  |

by  Magnus  Mills

Highly recommended for people who  love watching the social dynamics of the British workforce.   This book was  a Birthday pressie!  

4 smiles: Ratings explained

What is the book about?  

A story of gradual social change within a nationalised industry featuring,  tea, cakes, chat, meetings  and canteens.   We watch the gradual decline of a national treasure – the scheme for full employment – through the eyes of an unnamed  employee.   Reminiscent of the decline of the national mining  industry,   national car industry,   and the NHS.  

The reader gradually learns how the scheme works through the daily experiences of  one employees.   We meet his colleagues, supervisers, and learn about what employees should do and what they acutally do.    The manner of storytelling reminded me of Kafka’s ‘The Trial’, as the protagonist appears to accept and observe all that goes on around him.    The short sentences, descriptive focus, economy with works,  make the book  very easy to read.   I wish I could write that beautifully.

Unlike the majority of modern novels this one focuses solely on work contexts.     The action, and sometimes  inaction, all  happens on work time, in work venues.   There is only one female character named and present in this workplace.   The scheme is currently, predominantly,  a boys world of work.

Is the book boring?

Unlike Kafka, the story is full of  situational humour that Mills gradually reveals like clues in a detective novel.   Other reviewers describe the humour as ‘Deadpan humour’.    For me the funniest part is what the scheme for full employment does,   how it delivers value above and beyond full employment.   Many of the reviews I read actually gave this away rather than allowing the reader to discover it within the book.   I am glad that I didn’t read any reviews before reading the book.

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Zen and the art of peer reviewing

Friday, February 13th, 2009 | tags: ,  |

An International Symposium on Peer Reviewing is looking for solutions to the perceived problem that current peer reviewing process is  an inadequate way of assessing research quality.   Conference organisers assert that peer review is statistically proven to be no better than random selection.

How are submissions to the symposium selected?

…by peer review.

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atomic farmgirl: growing up right in the wrong place

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009 | tags: , ,  |

an autobiographical  Novel of Teri Hien’s early life in Eastern Washington State  that I picked up at the Spokane Museum shop on an excellent weekend vacation

Recommended for people that interested in US social and political history from personal, first hand stories.

3 smiles:    Ratings explained

Atomic? The proximity to the Hanford, former nuclear, site that supplied the plutonium for the Manahattan project.   The most radio-active contaminated site in the US.    An American hero of WW2 and the villain.

Right? Stories of the countryside,     pioneer farmers settling and farming the rich lands of Eastern Washington with horses and tractors,   Stories of community and  local Native  Americans.   Funny and poignant

The wrong place? Downwind of Hanford, the downwinders.   The building of the plant, the management of waste and information about that waste, the cancers experienced by family and neighbours,   the deaths.   Sad and disturbing.

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have mercy on us all

Saturday, January 24th, 2009 | tags: , , ,  |

by  Fred Vargas (translated from original French by David Bellos)

Highly recommended for people who like innovative twists on crime thrillers, novels that cunningly intertwine history with fiction, and rich characterizations of people living in another country (Paris, France).

4 smiles: Ratings explained

Times Literary Supplement Ruth Morse summarises the content in a recognisable way when she comments that “Fred Vargas has everything: complex and surprising plots, good pace, various and eccentric characters, a sense of place and history, individualized dialogue, wit and style.”
I cannot comment on how the translation had changed the book from the original. David Bellos worked with the original author on the translation.

Ruth Morse makes a scathing comment on the translation writing that David Bellos had ”simplified, adapted and anglicized throughout, diluting the specificity of Vargas’s well-modulated French. This is not a matter of competence, but of style choices. David Bellos’s translation is so free as to amount to wholesale rewriting, at the expense of the atmosphere. Reading his prose is like watching a hastily dubbed film.” David Bellos  replies to Morse’s criticisms.

I wish I could read the original French version because despite not being particularly interested in murder mysteries I was so gripped that I read this book in one, long, day. A rare un-put-down-able experience for me as a single girl and curmudgeonly reader, intolerant of murder mysteries with plots that are either

  • easily guessable
  • so obtuse its virtually impossible to guess potential plot evolutations

This book managed to effectively walk the line between these two literary traps.

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News: people hate girls

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008 | tags: , , ,  |

Just incase there is any residual doubt amongst my readers that generally women are not considered praiseworthy,  or  enabled to take-on prasieworthy roles beyond  those condoned by patriarchal values,  the BBC reported an analysis that confirms that celebrity females are more likely to be HATED and less likely to be LOVED than celebrity males:

In a nutshell, despite years of equal opportunities, the media – and the people who watch and read – prefer the stay-at-home mother over a woman who lives her life in public, particularly one who is overtly ambitious or successful in making money. There is great satisfaction among many people in seeing them humbled

I do hope no one is terribly suprised or shocked by this result.

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run, run

Saturday, August 9th, 2008 | tags: ,  |

‘run, run, as fast as you can,   you can’t catch me I’m the gingerbread man’  

I have fond memories of this traditional story  (fable?)   at home and primary school.   Recently, I found this little chap in the canteen at work,   a real treat on a hectic day.   He escaped the hungry keyboard,    computer,   and phone but was no match for foxy silver-haired me.

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news: wendy is a fake woman (crash*)

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008 | tags: , , , , , , ,  |

Sunday Times and   online Times article ‘Sex and the Sixities’    by India Knight includes the following rousing calls to womanhood:

the essence of modern womanhood, the one hard-to-define component that makes us all want to cheer the loudest…”   is   “…possibility that we may, at 62, perhaps look like Helen Mirren in a bikini

a 62-year-old woman looking hot, properly hot, not hot for her age or hot as in fanciable, even though you know you shouldn’t is a thing that simply can’t be celebrated enough.”

‘Mirren in her red bikini says more, more succinctly, about what women want and can achieve than any amount of turgid feminist preaching ever could’

Gosh,  I don’t think I know people  who think spending time and skill to dress for the occasion is shallow,   but India thinks  that view might be held by some Times readers  because she considerately quashes it “if you think that’s shallow, I would humbly posit that you understand nothing at all about real women’s hopes and ambitions.”   Trying to following India’s  humble  reasoning,   leads to the suspicion that if I don’t want to look like Helen Mirren in a Bikini then  I may not be  a real woman,   Ooops!   I think I may have fallen over.

Apparently the social construction of ‘woman’ once meant “no longer being a girl, which translated into bad clothes, bad hair, bad make-up and, if you were especially unfortunate, a bad figure.”   and “Worse, having reproduced meant that in the eyes of society you no longer existed as a sexual being“.  It seems that  India believes promoting yourself as a ‘sexual being’  , sexbot, should be an aspirational goal  for real women and it is equated to looking young. If you don’t look sexy you look old.   Whhhooooops!   I definitely fell over this time.

India’s view also implies that, normal,  aspiring real women have no financial or legal obstacles to not looking youthful and sexy because ‘deregulated’‘  ‘minor surgical procedures’  are ‘nothing that is outside most people’ league’ .   It is all part of the groundwork for achieving ‘a triumphant assertion of easy, carefree femininity’.    While fake women should embrace the freedom and “life-changing power of hair dye“.    As a self-identified, terminally-fake, woman I  “might know better if they [I] made an attempt at living in the real world“.   Maybe downtown Reading is actually a figment of my nasty, demented, Ivory-tower, imagination?    Deary me,   I   must get out more and take my zimmer-frame.

If ‘looking good’ is primarily equated to looking youthful and sexy I have no intention of developing an interest.  or skill,  in it.   When  looking good is constructed to promote  wrinkles and twisty silver hairs  ideally with a dash,   or spring, of surrealist creativity,   then I’ll be swinging my funky-stuff with the melting clocks  but not with the  people who aspire to portray themselves as sexbots.

For now,    if I place myself in India’s analytical framework I find that  I am:

  • Preaching (turgid?) feminism.
  • intelligent, a  blue stocking.
  • a frump because  I don’t pride myself in being fashionable.
  • Living in an ivory tower (in Reading).
  • not recognising the equivalence of the value of having a face-lift with the right to paid maternity leave.

At least India has clearly given me the escape route to achieve real-woman status that luckily I can choose not to aspire to,   I must

  • maintain my already abundant confidence.
  • promote my sexual potential.
  • develop and interest in whatever the current fashion defines as looking good.
  • have minor surgical procedures so that I can look good in a bikini.
  • Die my hair.

Unlike Alan’s outstanding advice I wont be aligning the value-set outlined in India’s article.

* the sound of me and my zimmer-frame colliding with the ground when dropping out of our Ivory tower.

news: wendy is a fake woman (crash*)
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Reading Man not quite the stranger

Sunday, June 8th, 2008 | tags: , , ,  |

The Stranger in Reading is a 2005 Two Rivers Press edition of an  original 1810 book.   It contains  7 letters written, supposedly  anonymously, by Reading long-time resident John Man.   The book documents Man writing  as if a stranger in Reading to a friend in London and includes  a modern preface and editorial provided by  Adam Sowan.   Despite painting a not-quite desirable-place-to-live view of Reading Borough two centruies hence, the book  is a thoroughly enjoyable read that has lead to the Wendy House strapline being updated.

The orginal book is prefaced by  Sowans description of John Man and then by light, within-letter,  explanatory annotations.   The main text maintains the original creative punctuation and spelling.    Sowan cites one example sentence as containing:

 three colons, five semi colons and no fewer than thirty-two commas; yet it is surprisingly readable.

A theme throughout the book is the poor state of the contemporary paving,   depite the Reading paving act providing the following penalities:

ten shillings, by every person leaving any carriage in the street,   except whilst loading or unloading;   driving a wheelbarrow on the footways; throwing dust, dirt, or rubbish in the streets.   Five shillings, by all persons neglecting to sweep the foot-paths before their houses every morning (Sundays excepted) before 10 O’clock. pxxx

An enjoyable glimpse into history that has value beyond people who may be interested in Reading’s history alone.   I discovered  how MP’s were renumerated and elected to parliaiment  and how ‘the corporation’ helped run Reading Borough.

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digested reading family friendly

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008 | tags: ,  |

Readers Digest,   asked 1,162 of its readers, who are also parents, and enjoy completing surveys to rate 12 features of a ‘good place to bring up a family’ on a 10 point scale.   It’s not clear how they picked these 12 features.   Average Readers Digest Survey-completing parents ratings were:

 1  Good state schools    8.4
 2  Low crime rate    8.4
 3  Good local hospitals    7.7
 4  Affordable family housing    7.7
 5  High employment    7.2
 6  Low risk of flooding    6.8
 7  Lots of families live there    6.4
 8  Local universities/colleges  6.0
 9  Under an hour to a major city    5.7
 10  Warm, dry weather    5.1
 11  Under an hour to the coast    4.9
 12  Under an hour to a National Park  4.8

It looks like these average ratings were subsequently used by Readers Digest employees as ‘weightings’ for statistics provided by other national sources  (e.g. home office crime figures) to create rankings of 408 UK ‘authorities’ as family-friendly or not.   Reading Borough mysteriously came 408th.  

I still can’t escape from the fact that the people who made the rankings probably both read the Readers digest and complete it’s surveys….    

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A spot of bother

Friday, October 12th, 2007 | tags: , , ,  |

By Mark Haddon.

Highly recommended to anyone who gains pleasure from social  dynamics  or is an  Anglophile.

:-)   :-) :-)

review ratings explained

Lots of positive reviews of the book available  on metacritic.     The Daily Telegraph provides a succinct summary that maps to my experience.

“A spot of bother” is a phrase that I understand as being used to play-down the severity of a problem.   It’s like saying,   “yes there is a nasty problem but really you shouldn’t worry because we’ve got it all under control, lets not pay it any more attention“.    It’s not a phrase or technique for managing conversational distance that I’ve encountered in the US.

The story is of  family dynamics across generations situated around an impending Wedding.   Everyone has  an opinion on whether the wedding should happen and why,   and different ways of expressing their opinions,    or not.     The book touches on themes such as prefering silence to talking,   social intelligence versus academic intelligence and the bounds of realism and paranoia.   Some reviews talk about it as a black comedy or farce.   My impression is that it is something other than either genre,    neither funny nor melancholic despite the topics and events.

Thoroughly enjoyable, I felt right at home.

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novel opening sentences

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007 | tags: , ,  |

The first sentence in a novel.  

An excellent writer alludes to the fundamental themes and tone of the book within a simple and provocative first sentence.      This opener from Ian McEwan’s Black Dogs  captured me:

Ever since I lost mine in a road accident when I was eight,   I have had my eye on other people’s parents.”


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font tastic

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007 | tags: , , ,  |

even the extremely long list of fonts in my Microsoft Office Word 2003 doesn’t include this one on Nicholoson’s corneer shop in Sumner.   Small towns provide exquisite orginality and be-jeaned red car drivers

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Making the cat laugh (1995)

Sunday, May 27th, 2007 | tags: , ,  |

Making the cat laugh.   One woman’s Journal of single life on the margins.   (1995) A book by Lynne Truss,   then chief  TV critic of The Times more recently famous for writing the ambiguously titled “Eats shoots and leaves“.

The book felt like a collection of paragraphs pulled together in no particular order.   Well written,   entertaining and suitably  trivial to qualify purely as light entertainment.   A gift from a friend.   It failed to engross me, enlighten me,  or make me laugh out loud.    Despite the obvious superficial similarities (English girl, single, has cats, her paragraphs like blog posts) I did not find the stories personally relevant.  

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furry friends

Saturday, May 12th, 2007 | tags: , , ,  |

Mr. AFHarrold’s recent book contains hand drawn pictures of animals doing surrupticious animal things  and  real handwriting to explain thier naughty subversiveness in a child-friendly manner.   It’s also quite funny.   AFH has a talent for insight into the secret lives of furrifriends,   rhyming words and prompting a giggle.   But best of all,   for me,  this book sneaked into  my mailbox on a grimm drizzly evening and is making its way to my handbag for those emergency, on the road, poetry moments.

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did you decide to stop reading that book?

Monday, April 23rd, 2007 | tags: , ,  |


Book:   Tis. A Memoir.   Frank McCourt

Franks use of plain language, provides a raw, powerful, funny and poignant walk through the experience of emigrating to America.    It’s an impressive book.      I’ve finally given up trying to read it  half way through.   I’ve no stamina,   I got bored.   The story simply wasn’t gripping enough to make me drool over what might be on the next page.     The rest of this  review is based on  the first  half of the book.  


Ratings explained


In 1949 a nineteen year old boy, the  author,  from Limerick (Ireland) emmigrates to his dream city,  New York.      The book is a sequel to Angela’s  Ashes that easily stands alone.  

“that’s what you’re faced with when you come to America, one decision after another” p54


  • Immigrants: Everyone is American and something else laden with prejudices.   Spicks,   Mickeys, Polacks, Pueto Ricans, Natives, Greeks, Swedes, Chinks.   Rather than an absence of prejudice the book paints  a complex, explicit and diverse prejudices.  
  • Poverty:   America’s not like you expect it to be after watching films,   there is poverty here too.   The book makes explicit comparisions between poverty in Limerick, Ireland, and New York.    
  • Health: nealry every character’s health is vividly  described,  conjunctivitus,  arthritus, blood infections,  alcoholism.   How these conditions effect their ability to  earn money and pay for  health care  et.
  • real Americans:   just like you see  in the movies.   We see these  people from a  distance as they go to church or stay in hotels.   These people go to college,   have blond blue-eyed girlfirends,   are healthy, smell clean have  amazingly white aligned teeth,   always  have food available and warm homes:

“they can afford to smile because they all have teeth so dazzling if they dropped them in the snow they’d be lost forever” p59

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Cosmopolitan. Is not

Friday, December 22nd, 2006 | tags: ,  |

Standing in the check-out queue of the local large food store.   Magazines are placed where we can read their covers while waiting.   How thoughtful to entertain and educate us for free while we wait.  Most  of the magazines convey a very restricted value set.     They appear targetted at some form of femaleness.   I decided to buy the most prominent of the magazines ‘Cosmopolitan’.   The name sounded promising. The strap-lines on the cover distrubed me.   Here’s the cover for your delight with  pinkness filtered out to avoid offending anyone sensitive amongst you.   The message I read on this cover was:

securing and maintianing an active sex-life that satisfies a man is your reason for being.  


How did I find this message?   By subtle re-interpretations of each individual strapline. My re-interpretations are listed below  working from top-left down,   then top right down:  

  1. educate yourself on how to be  an effective sexual partner (object)
  2. predict how and when you can be a sexual partner (object)
  3. make sure your hair tells people you are an effective sexual partner (object)
  4. make sure you do not confuse men when you are trying to be an effective sexual partner (object)
  5. how to look like an effective sexual partner (object) without spending too much money
  6. how to survive your failure as an effective sexual partner (object) for one man so that you can be more effective for the next one.
  7. ensure that you please the man when you are having sex
  8. make sure that your  body is in good enough condition to be an effective sexual partner (object)
  9. make you legs look longer because that will make you more desirable as a sexual partner (object)

Such diverse,  useful life skills.   Well that sorted out my Thursday night’s educational agenda.   I think I’m fixed,   I wonder what the theme of next month’s magazine will be?   😉


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unfinished read #1

Saturday, September 16th, 2006 | tags: , , ,  |

A poetry book, like a dictionary, is a book I never finish reading.   Unlike dictionaries I will voraciously read all the words in a poetry book  cover-to-cover upon first discovering them.   Obviously this is after having removed my stickly little digits from the tea mug.    Both are reference books,   pulled from the shelf again and again.  

The dictionary gets pulled when I’m unsure of a word’s meaning,   range of meanings,   origins,   relationship to other words.    Assured of  discovery, my question promptly answered.  Inevitably a rewarding experience,   how can anyone fail to fall in love with dictionaries?   I’m very loyal to my one paper dictionary, it cannot be replaced.    The  Collin’s Concise (1983) was  a present from an elder brother.   When I look at its faded binding  I see my 21 year old brother standing  at the top of Park Street outside Georges with a white plastic bag in his hand held out towards me saying

you’re leaving home?   You’ll need your own dictionary“.  

A very different experience from pulling one of the several poetry books from the shelf, floor, table, chair, cooker, mantle, washing-machine.    The favoured  books are scattered around the Wendy House where they afford the opportunity of unpremeditated rediscovery in a moment of undirected reading.   Picking up a book,   flicking through the pages to a title that catches some thought  and reading that poem.     One book purchased in a tizzy in 1989 insists on falling open to specific pages,   poems I found powerful in the early 1990s.  I have to fight against its insistence on taking me to specific emotional places.  

Poetry book use  is  not all so sporadic.  There are specific places I’ll go  when I’m happy,   because I’m sad,   or I want to find the words that describe what it is that I’m feeling because I just don’t know.   They are often there,   wrapped in the ambiguities and soothing rythms, but one can never be sure of Dictionary-like success.  

With that thought I’ll return to the vacuuming

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