B*tches in Bookshops and 'On the Road' Trailer

B*tches in Bookshops. YES. So funny. Love that people make these things.

via Literary Musings, The Huffington Post and about a thousand others...
(here's the transcript)

And really excited about this - the trailer for Kerouac's insane masterpiece, On the Road. Kirsten Stewart looks really intriguing as Mary-Lou, although Garrett Hedlund isn't much like how I imagined Dean. Might re-read it before it comes out...


Friday Miscellany

So, I've read/found some cool stuff lately, so I thought I'd share:

Firstly, I've joined  The Classics Club! Follow that hyperlink, or click the above tab, to see my carefully crafted list of 83 (!) classic books that I aim to read in the next 4 years, so by March 2016. The idea of it, cleverly crafted by Jillian at A Room of One's Own, is that you choose 50+ classics that you always meant to/fancied reading, and then set your own time limit for reading them, as long as its within the next 5 years. I'm really excited about this, and am looking forward to getting started.

This is a really interesting article from The Millions, about finding inspiration in writing class:
I LOVE the idea of the 'skinny skeleton' and the tiny boxes of ideas.

Also, I'd like to draw your attention to all the exciting new people on my blogroll, which I gave a little make-over/face-lift last week. Hopefully you know some, don't know others, and enjoy exploring these funny, quirky, clever blogs as much I did. It never ceases to amaze me how many great book bloggers out there I just haven't found yet.

And one last thing - I managed to get tickets to see Regina Spektor at the Royal Albert Hall in July, so I've been dancing now for roughly two days :D


Review: 'Molotov's Magic Lantern' by Rachel Polonsky

So, I thought I'd do another video review; this time for 'Molotov's Magic Lantern: A Journey in Russian History' by Rachel Polonsky.

What I basically said was:


'Girl Reading' by Katie Ward

'So Maria must go to the library. She balances on the step, stretches to her full height to reach the shelves, turns books over, sorts them into piles and replaces them. New books and old books, books she has never seen before. Flicks and fans through pages. What would Angelica want to hear? What is Maria prepared to read?'

'Girl Reading' by Katie Ward is another book from the pile very kindly sent to me by the More4 TV Book Club, but isn't one that requires a video review (for my attempt at that see here).

The basic structure of this story is that it is not one story at all, but rather 7 short stories, linked by the common theme of featuring a girl reading. The quote above is from the third story, 'Angelica Kauffman, 'Portrait of a Lady, 1775'; the other six feature a hospital orphan in 1333 Siena, a servant girl in the house of a 17th century Dutch painter, a spiritualist and her twin in Victorian London, a female academic, her sister and the man who comes between them in 1916 Arnault, an MP's researcher in 2008 Shoreditch and, finally, a virtual lady programme in 2060. The books are obvious in some, less obvious in others.


Dickens from the Start, No. 4 - Oliver Twist, or a Railway across China

So, I read Dickens's evergreen childhood-of-crime classic, 'Oliver Twist'. back before Christmas as part of my Dickens from the Start series, and after doing so, realised an eternal truth of reviewing books that everyone knows: I have nothing to say about it. 

How do you review a book like 'Oliver Twist'? Everyone knows the story, everyone has seen the films, if not the book, and the characters are an integral part of the mental landscape of crime and childhood for a large proportion of the literate, English-speaking world. You all know Sikes and Fagin, so there's nothing I need to tell you about them. The Artful Dodger is an old childhood friend of yours, so no need to introduce him either. You're going to have to forgive me, but I'm gonna to tell you a story instead.


A Year in Japan: Kate T. Williamson

This might be a bit more niche than the books I usually review, but I've been dipping in and out of Kate T. Williamson's illustrated travelogue 'A Year in Japan', and I love it.

Kate T. Williamson is an American writer and illustrator who went off to Kyoto for a year to work as a sock designer (!), which is especially awesome because she did it at around the same time as me; who knows, we may have met at some point. She wrote 'A Year in Japan' about the little, idiosyncratic memories that make up your impression of a place, which is wonderful because whilst everyone knows about the cherry blossom and the kimonos, the things I really remember, as she does, are random things like the 'safe fruit' in completely OTT packaging that cost an extortionate amount (there was always a box fresh melon in my local supermarket for
¥10,000 (about £50) that I never saw anyone buy), and the delicate gloves and fresh flowers of the taxi drivers, who drove spotless cars with automated voices and automatically opening doors. It hasn't got the best reviews on Amazon (I added a nice one to even things out) because I'm not sure its description there makes it clear that this is a book of nostalgia, rather than information, which is why I particularly enjoy it, but also why someone who knows nothing about Japan may not.


Emotional Reactions in Reviews

My Friend Amy wrote a great piece the other day about the validity of emotional reactions to art, and the appropriateness of including this in reviews, which perhaps should be based on more objective factors, such as the quality of the writing and the originality of the piece. Here's an short excerpt to give you an idea, but click through for the whole piece:

'A couple of weeks ago, one of the TV journalists I follow on Twitter mentioned how they find it strange that people equate their emotional reaction to a film with the film's objective quality. I wish I had screen capped the tweet as I cannot remember who said it, but it forced me to start thinking about how we determine the worth of art.

I would say the reason we have professional critics is so that we have people who are supposed to evaluate a film, book, TV show, album, etc. based on what are considered to be the more objective qualities of a piece of work, to evaluate if they accomplish what they set forth to do, and if they take new risks. To do this, though, a professional critic must deny their emotional reaction to a piece of work and I wonder if that's entirely possible. The way we take in and perceive art will always be colored by our own understandings and limitations so while I do think professional critics strive to do this in a way the casual consumer of art does not, it is still just that...very limited.'

This got me thinking about the way I include my own emotional reactions in reviews, and whether this is the right thing to be doing in order to give the book or film a fair deal. Like anyone else, I have things I know are derivative nonsense that move me (some silly, weepy films  immediately spring to mind) and things that I know are 'great' or 'ground-breaking' but leave me entirely cold. When speaking about them on this platform, because I've always thought people want to hear what I think, I will gush about the ones that move me, and I will be cool about the ones that leave me cool, whilst adding caveats for objective factors like quality of writing and originality etc.

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