Friday, 27 April 2012

Eco's Friday

Gain New Blog FollowersToday I decided to use a book by Umberto Eco for Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader, and Friday 56, hosted by Freda's Voice, but not one of his fictional works. 'Confessions of a Young Novelist' is really good so far, although a bit complex here and there. But Eco's writing style is humorous, so next to all the tips I get to laugh once in a while, which I enjoy! So, on to the memes:
Follow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee

Q: Have you had a character that disappointed you? One that you fell in love with and then "broke up" with later on in either the series or a stand-alone book? Tell us about him or her.

Eeeeerm, that's actually a really difficult question. I don't know what to say! I can't remember ever having been really disappointed in a character. Hhmmm. A character that sent me on a rollercoast of emotions was Snape, from Harry Potter. First I thought he was scary, then I started to really appreciate his sarcasm, then I felt sorry for his because James Potter was a pest, then I hated him for killing Dumbledore and then I felt like he was the best ever 
literary hero I had ever read about. So, I wasn't really in love with him, he was my hero. And then my villain, and then my hero again! 


'These lectures are entitles Confessions of a Young Novelist - and one might well askw hy, since I am marching towards my seventy-sevent year. But it so happens that I published my first novel, The Name of the Rose, in 1980, which means I started my career as a novelist a mere twenty-eight years ago. Thus, I consider myself a very young anc certainly promising novelist, who has so far published only five novels and will publish many more in the next fifty years.'

I quite liked the beginning because it was quite funny but also immediately highlighted the difference between Eco and many other authors. He is over seventy and will certainly not live another fifty years, unless he plans on living until his 120th, because he already had a lifetime of working before starting to write. And the knowledge he has gathered from working at the University for so long is what makes his books so interesting!


'But Helena Costiucovich wrote something more to establish the parallels between my book and Henriot's. She said that in Henriot's novel, the coveted manuscript was the original copy of Casanova's memoirs. It so happens that in my novel there is a minor character called Hugh of Newcastle (in the Italian version, Ugo di Novocastro). Costiucovich's conclusion is that "only by passion from one name to another is it possible to conceive of the name of the rose".'

Here we have a prime example of why this book is ever so confusing at times. Eco here talks about how readers and critics sometimes interpret things that he never meant to put in his books, such as Casanova. However, in his explanation, which was too long to copy, he uses terms that can be thoroughly confusing and led me to reread the page a couple of times. But I like a challenging read, so this is actually one of my new favourite books!

So, how about you? And how awesome is that picture of Snape? Don't hesitate to leave a link in the comment, I  love visiting back!!!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Booking Through Thursday:

btt button It is Thursday, which means it is time for BTT, hosted by the blog of the same title. This week has 2 questions that ask the same:

Has a book ever inspired you to change anything in your life, fiction or non-fiction alike?

There have been books I loved, books that I fell in love with, and books that changed my life, and they’re not always the same nor mutually exclusive.

Well, there are so many books that inspire me. One of them is Gustav Schwab's 'Gods and Heroes of Ancient Greece'. I read this book when I was 8 and we trekked through Greece during one hot summer. It is amazing to read about the Greek gods and then look up to see temples and the blue sea. I was completely won over and it started my fascination with reading and is therefore one of the reasons I am currently blogging. Also, because of this book I did Latin and Greek in school, which now helps me in understanding Old English, my new passion. It's just wonderful when everything seems to come together.
The other book that majorly influenced me was 'The Lord of the Rings', although perhaps it wasn't as much reading the book as thinking about it that made the difference. Realizing how much work, knowledge and effort went into writing such a book was new to me. And again, it played perfectly into my interest for Old English and North European mythology.

So, how about you? Leave a link in your comment because I love to visit back!!!!

Monday, 23 April 2012

'A Valediction Forbidding Mourning' by John Donne

The first thing I thought when I saw this poem was: what does 'valediction' mean. Well, I am smarter now. It means a farewell, saying goodbye to something, and is often used as a parting word in letters. That make sit a very fitting title for this poem, which Donne wrote for his wife on their parting. He went travelling and forbade her to mourn him. So, let's get to the analysis. (The entire poem is at the bottom of the post!)

The 'soul' is very important to Donne and every time he talks about his love or lovers in general he mentions it. He was a poet who sometimes (as in this poem) argued for  'Divine' love, a love of the soul instead of the body, and sometimes for Eros, the opposite to the Divine. Whereas Eros is a sexual kind of love, more like lust , the Divine focuses on admiring a woman, instead of desiring her. It got a lot of its features from Platonic love, from which we get our phrase 'platonic relationship', and from courtly love. Courtly love comes from the old romance novels in which a knight would woo a lady and had to overcome obstacles (such as other knights' wooing his lady or tasks by her father). These romances all had a very chaste love that might have seemed passionate but definitely wasn't sexual. (A prime example of a romance like this is the one between Guinevere and Lancelot).

In the second stanza, Donne calls on his wife not to give into 'tear floods' or 'sigh-tempests', because
'Twere profanation of our joys / To tell the laity our love. 
He here presents one of the key elements of courtly love. A love between two people should be kept private and personal. For Guinevere & Lancelot or Tristan & Isolde, the revelation of their love was damaging and Donne doesn't want this to happen to him and his wife. Another interpretation could be that he feels that their only need each other and will always have each other near and that by asking for attention, his wife would imply their bond wasn't enough.

In the next to stanzas, he makes a more universal message about love, distancing himself and talking about 'men' and 'lovers' instead of 'us'. He argues, especially int he fourth stanza, that Eros is an inadequate love. If the lover's love is based on 'sense', than an absence of the others body would mean the love has come to an end, whereas in a Divine love where the souls are joined, the lovers can be as far apart as they want. On a vocabulary note: 'sublunary' means 'under the moon', so basically people on Earth. He highlights the fact that the others are below the moon because in the previous stanza he has compared their love to 'trepidation of the spheres'. Their love is celestial, Divine, and therefore purer and better.

What you should know when analyzing John Donne is that he was a Metaphysical poet. I won't go into that in too much detail because that's a post on its own, but metaphysical poets were concerned with what love truly is. They were all well-educated and wrote their poetry mainly for each other to read and therefore you will often find mentions of geography or science in their poems. An example of this are the famous 'twin compasses' in this poem to which I will come alter.

Donne returns to himself and his wife in the fifth stanza, in which he reaffirms their Divine love. they will not miss 'eyes, lips and hands' because they are 'so much refined' by their love. Again, here is a link to the Metaphysical as he says that even they 'know not what it is' that binds them together so closely. He says that just like gold they can be spread to an 'aery thinness', symbolizing that although there may be distance between them, they will still be together.

And now we come to the 'twin compasses', which have become a famous example for Metaphysical conceits. A conceit is an extended metaphore that metaphysical poets. It is usually between two things that share no likeness whatsoever, but which the poet brings us to concede do share some likeness. A twin compass is a mathematical tool with which you can draw a circle. It has nothing in common with lovers. However, Donne cunningly uses it as an analogy for his relationship. His wife is the 'fix'd foot', which stands in the middle of the circle. She remains fixed, but when he travels she 'leans' after him and they are always connected. Because she is steadfast, he is able to 'roam' but then make his 'circle just' and 'end where I begun'.

As you can see, the entire poem was written by Donne to his wife as an assurance that they will always love each other and that she need not worry when he travels. According to Donne's biographer, he wrote this poem in 1611 when he was about to go on travels in Europe. Below is the entire poem for you.

I hope you found this analysis helpful. I greatly appreciate comments or any additions to my analysis!

Friday, 20 April 2012

Ibsen's Friday

Gain New Blog Followers
It's Friday!!! That means meme time!!! Let's get started...Follow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee and this week's FF question is:
Q: Fight! Fight! If you could have two fictional characters battle it out(preferably from books), who would they be and who do you think would win?

I would just like to build up a fellowship of heroes, because it's more fun to be ina  group. I of course include myself in this fellowship. To travel and fight with these characters seems amazing. I would like to have Aragorn and Boromir from 'The Lord of the Rings' on my team. They are both pretty solid fighters and they both have something to fight for. Being so character-driven, I couldn't just use characters who are only meant to fight and have no other motivation. That's also why I want Eowyn, also 'LOTR' in my fellowship. She is simply an amazing character and she definitely showed she's not afraid of a fight. She beat the Witch King after all.

Next to that, I think I'd be pretty happy with Beowulf! He did after all defeat two monsters and a dragon. And I love Old English, so it would be a disgrace not to include the biggest hero of that time. And then I'd take Don Quixote along, to bring the crazy. His character fascinates me. A knight so obsessed by novels that he is unable to see reality for what it is. Every fellowship needs someone who is slightly cuckoo to keep it interesting. And he would have to bring Sancho Panza of course.Now I have a fellowship of 7, including moi, ready to take on the world.
Although I couldn't really decide on an enemy, I thought it would be  interesting to pitch all of these heroes against Jörmungandr, the Midgard Serpent. It would almost be a Dungeons & Dragons-esque re-enactment of the Ragnarök. I do have to admit I was slightly tempted  to let my heroes take on the Avengers, but they have Thor and I didn't like the idea of having Aragorn and Boromir, whose author was inspired  by Norse mythology, kick his ass.

I am actually so inspired by my crazy assemblage of heroes and their  common goal, I might dedicate myself to some creative writing over  the weekend. If it turns out good, I'll let you know

Book Beginnings is now hosted by Rose City Reader, instead of A Few More Pages, and Friday 56 by Freda's Voice. I chose Ibsen's 'The Lady from the Sea' because the title really intruiged me and I think the two memes above are a great way to get ready for a book (play in this case).

"Bolette: 'Well, Ballested -- can you get it to work?'Ballested: 'Why, certainly, miss. It's nothing, really. If you'll pardon the question -- are you expecting visitors today?'Bolette: 'Yes, we expect Mr. Arnholm here this morning. He arrived in town last night.' "
I realise this is more than just 2 lines, but with a play I think sometimes you need a bit more to truly grasp the beginning. I quite lines. We are immediately introduced to three characters and it is clear that the mysterious Mr. Arnholm will be crucial to the plotline.

"Lyngstrand: (sits for a time in silence, his arms resting ont he table, studying the wat Bolette works). 'It must really be very hard to sew a border like that, Miss Wangel.'Bolette: 'Oh, no, it's not so difficult -- if you keep your counting straight--'Lyngstrand: 'Counting? You mean you're counting as well?'Bolette: 'Yes, the stitches. See here.'Lyngstrand: 'Why, of course! That's amazing! You know, it's almost a kind of art. Can you also sketch?' "
The 56th page was accidentally the beginning of Act 4, the penultimate act. I feel there is some flirtation going on here, quite hilariously, because Lyngstrand makes an accomplishment out of possibly the most boring thing: sewing. But I think that Ibsen did that on purpose, to show how ridiculous not only the wooing process was, but also the focus on useless accomplishments for women. But, I still have no clue who the Lady from the Sea is or why the play is named such. I shall read the play and report back to you on that!

So, how about you? What are your answers? Leave a link in the comments!!!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Who is... Angela Carter

Angela Carter wrote some of the strangest stories I have ever read, but I think she is a fascinating writer and therefore I thought I'd introduce her to you, or bring her  back to mind if you already knew her.

She was an English writer who is famous for her feminist writings that criticize the portrayal of women in Western society. Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork Orange) and Salman Rushdie (Midnight's Children) both expressed their admiration for Carter, yet many critics were dismissive of her works. She added a magic realism to her feminist works that many critics found absurd.

Stories by her that I read are 'A Company of Wolves' (yes, the cult film from the '80s was loosely based on her short story, the key being loosely), 'The Bloody Chamber' and 'The Lady of the House of Love'. All of these are part of the book 'The Bloody Chamber and other stories', which is a compilation of short stories that are all reworkings of fairytales. She rewrote them because she wanted to turn the stereotype of the 'dependent damsel in distress' around.

'A Company of Wolves' is probably my favourite, just because it has such an amazing setting which Carter explores beautifully. Red Riding Hood is just known as the girl and she meets a young handsome man in the forest, with whom she innocently bets he cannot reach her grandmother's house before her. When she gets there has has eaten her grandmother, turned into a wolf and demands his price: a kiss. She willingly undresses and the rest of the story takes its natural course. What she tried to do was show the girl as having an active role in deciding what happens to her and in the end it seems she has tamed the wold. Yet here, I partially agree with the critics because she doesn't seem to offer any other alternative for the girl except having sex. It almost seems as if she reinforces the stereotype that women only have power if they seduce men. However, it is a fascinating story and very entertaining to read. I also enjoyed 'The Bloody Chamber', which is based on the fairytale of Bluebeard and his bride. I particularly liked the beginning, when Bluebeard's bride travels to his castle. What is great about this story is that it hints at the darkness within every human being.

Passion ofNewEvecover.jpgHer strangest book is 'The Passion of New Eve' and so far I have refrained from reading it. Again, Carter tries to challenge the portrayal of women and creates a dystopian world in which a slightly chauvinistic man has to undergo a forced sexchange. If you thought this was strange, I invite you to hop over to Wikipedia or to this blog: Savidge Reads, which has a pretty good review! I think I might like to read it at a certain point, but at this point I am not yet convinced it is actually a good book.

Interested and want to read more? Here are some essays on her that I used in my analysis for my English class!

'Angela Carter’s Short Fiction and the Unwriting of the Psychoanalytic Subject' by Scott Dimovitz

'Angela Carter's Narrative Chiasmus: The infernal desire machines of Doctor Hoffman and The Passion of New Eve' by Scott Dimovitz
'Cartesian Nuts: Rewriting the Platonic Androgyne in Angela Carter’s Japanese Surrealism' by Scott Dimovitz

P.S: If you're a vampire fan, read 'The Lady of the House of Love'.

Booking Through Thursday

btt buttonThis week's BTT (hosted by BTT) question is:
What are your literary “pet peeves”?

One of my pet peeve is definitely when I feel I know what is going to happen and how after reading the description on the back. Why would you make it so obvious? And why would you go for something so stereotypical? I partly blame it on the fact that love-triangles have become so popular that most books focus on it and thereby become predictable. 

 1) Unbelievable characters
But what annoys me the most if a character isn't lifelike or simply plain stupid. I can deal with it in horror movies because those movies thrive on the fact that their heroes and heroines follow irrational thoughts and willingly enter a house that clearly looks possessed and enjoy running away from crazy people so much they sign up for sequels. 

But in books that pretend to be more sophisticated, about true love, people discovering their dark past, I expect something a bit deeper. But no, there are too many books in which women/girls follow a guy blindly, can only think about him fail to make any kind of choice and are whiny and dependent. Perhaps that's why I like reading fantasy, because usually there is some kind of female character that doesn't just want to win over a guy or be admired by others. This might actually be one of the reasons I sort of liked the Hunger Games (I watched the movie, still haven't read the books. Story didn't really convince me that much, srry!). Katniss isn't obsessed with falling in love with either Peeta or Gale. She wants to survive and is willing to do whatever. I respect that. I don't respect Bella (Twilight) who is one fo the blankest and most boring characters I have ever seen on paper. 

2) Endless monologues
Some characters seem to have so many thoughts they need pages to tell them about us, whereas no time passes in the book. They talk and talk and this usually doesn't work because most authors haven't mastered the art of monologue. And if it is a character such as the ones I described above then the monologue means I will start to dislike the character. I don't want to stomp on the feelings of Twilight fans, but Bella has an extensive amount of lines/pages dedicated to her inner thoughts that are never truly new or surprising!  

How about you? What are your pet peeves and how do you feel about characters and monologues? Leave a link in the comments!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

It's weird, but nice

I thought I'd spotlight oneof my own old books, just as a way of forcing myself to properly catalogue it. So, this is the most expensive book I have bought. I got it from Alpeh, my favourite bookstore in the Netherlands. It is a massive introduction to the (this is my own translation of aegyptisch-semitisch-indoeuropaeisches wurzel wörterbuch) Egyptian-semitic-indoeuropean dictionary by Carl Abel. His book was orinigally published in 1884, my copy is from 2 years later. I always get excited when I see that universities have later copies of the book, don't know why.

The story of me and this book is like a tragic lovestory. For 2 years I went to this bookstore and every time I saw the plain green cover. I pulled it out and saw it was €70. The first time I put it back immediately since it's way out of my usualy price range. How much do you usually pay for books? But then, after seeing it there again and again for 2 years and looking in it every single time  I called in my birthday money from my mother and bought it.

Anyways, lets get to the important bit: the book itself. As I said before, it is a dictionary for languages. On the above-right you can see a photo of the Table of Contents. What it shows is the letter in the Latin alphabet, then in the Greek alphabet and then the equivalent in hyroglyphs. Do you think I would have bought a dictionary if it wasn't special? HYROGLYPHS!!

  • One of the words on the picture below is of something that looks like a bow, with a knot and a lin. Next to it are the words 'fascia', meaning a band, or bandage, 'nodi', meaning knots, and 'digitorum', meaning finger or twig. Looking at the hyroglyphs, they sort of resemble what the latin words mean.
  • Three below that, there is something that looks like a duck, three balls and a half circle. Next to it are the words 'rumpere', to break, 'fragmentum', piece, and 'jungere', to join. These words seem to have absolutely nothing to do with the pictures, unless the strange duck means breaking out in laughter.

 So, what has this book thought me? Hyroglyphs don't really make sense. Much like the Chinese alphabet, some signs are for words, others for letters and others for syllables.

Have you ever bought a book you can't read but still like to look at?

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine!

I haven't partivipated in a meme for ages and I found myself missing it, so here I am! There are quite a number of books I'm excited for in the coming months.

In September, 'The Dragondain' will drop, the sequel to the amazing 'The Moon Coin'. I absolutely loved the first one and was so disappointed when I got to the end of it because I wanted to kow what would happen.

And hopefully the second book from the Misfit Heroes series: Wand of the Witch will soon land in my mailbox. 'Eye of the Wizard' was a great book. Here's the summary:

They say an evil witch lives in the forest. They say she turns children into toads and pigs. They say her army of monsters will soon march to war.

Only the bravest, strongest heroes can stop her. Unfortunately... only a few misfits are around.

A couple failed squires. A jinxed wizard. A banished spirit of the forest. A childlike demon and her teddy bear. They are outcasts, failures, oddballs. Can they actually defeat the witch, or will the kingdom fall to her dark magic?
How amazing is that cover? And a book I have wanted to read desperatly just landed in my inbox: Light of Requiem (Song of Dragons, Book 3)., also by Daniel Arenson.  Here's the summary:

War has ravaged the world. Cities lie crumbled. Forests smolder. The crows feast.

In the ruins, Requiem's last dragons lick their wounds and mourn a death among them. But they will not have long to grieve. From the ashes, a new enemy arises, one more horrible than any before.

His soldiers dead, the tyrant Dies Irae collects severed limbs, heads, and torsos. He sews them into rotting, maggoty mimics of life. With dark magic, he animates his creations... and sends them hunting.

The mimics live to kill. They do not sleep. They feel no pain. They never stop hunting. Worst of all, they undo all magic around them. When mimics are near, Requiem's survivors cannot become dragons... and must fight as humans.

Without their greatest gift, how can Requiem's children survive?
So, I am definitly looking forward to these books!!! What books are you looking forward to? Leave a link in the comment and I'll stop by :)

Monday, 16 April 2012

Review: 'The Moon Coin' by Richard Due

The Moon Coin / A Moon Realm Novel 

There is a big difference between stories and tales and I am beyond happy to have found a book that agrees with me.

Uncle Ebb was so good at telling his tales of the Moon Realm that sometimes it sounded like he’d been there himself. 
As children, Lily and Jasper listened raptly to his bedtime tales of a place where nine moons swirled around one another, each inhabited by strange and wondrous beings: magical lunamancers; undersea merfolk; wise birds; winged dragons; and Lily’s favorite, the heroic, leonine Rinn. 
There was only one rule: don’t tell a soul. 
But now, years later, Uncle Ebb is missing. Lily has learned the secret behind the tales, and soon Jasper will too. But there’s one big problem. You see, something terrible has happened in the Moon Realm. . . .  

Most book fans have memories of being read to or hearing someone make up stories. But what would happen if these stories turned out to be real? Lily is faced with this realization when she suddenly finds herself on one of the moons her Uncle told her so much about. Lily is a great protagonist and while reading I realized I liked Lily more and more. In books, female protagonists are often dependent on men and I could never recognize myself in them. But Lily has an adventurous spirit that makes it more feasible she would survive all the different moons she is thrown onto. Because this is Lily's first time in the Moon Realm, we get to experience everything with her and her doubts become the readers. Therefore it will be exciting to see how it works out in the next book when Jasper travels through the Moon Realm. 

As a fantasy novel for junior to young adult readers it shows the full range of what fantasy has to offer. There are dangerous dragons, a huge variety of worlds and amazing characters. And as a novel for a younger audience, it balances perfectly between action and danger and the underlying message. Thankfully, the message isn't too present, allowing the reader to find it out first, before it is said. The idea that it is possible for different kind of people to work together is amazing and Due portrays this beautifully.

I really enjoyed the drawings (hop over for an amazing guest post by Richard Due) in the novel. They are so colourful and vibrant and my favourite is probably the one on the cover. I love the red of the lion and the emotion on Lily's face, so definite kudos to Carolyn Arcabascio.

I give this book....

It is an amazing fantasy book and I  hugely enjoyed it. The different worlds leave so much to the imagination that you can dream on after the book is finished. I definitely cannot wait for the sequel and hope that we will hear more about the destiny of the Moon Realm.