Monday, June 30, 2008

In Conclusion

I finally let myself finish reading Ex Libris while I was in Colorado. I talked to Lisa about this on Friday, but I had an interesting experience with this book.

I find that when I'm truly enjoying a book I have one of two reactions. One, as with books like Ender's Game, consists of me racing through without stopping because I can't seem to make myself stop. This used to happen frequently...pretty much whenever I got sucked in to a book. In the recent past, however, I have come to experience the second reaction which is what happened with Ex Libris. I'd get going and suddenly have a realization of how fast the pages were going by and how few remained, and I'd stop. I'd sit quietly for a few minutes or even just seconds and then begin reading again. I'd also consciously slow down as I was reading so that I could enjoy it longer. By the end I actually avoided reading at times because I knew I only had a couple essays left. Because it was a book about books, I was especially aware of what I was doing. It was fascinating.

Now that I've finished, I'm sad it's over, but I'm excited that I have made it back to the world of reading for fun (it's been way too long).


On a tangentially related note, I have one last quote from the book to discuss:

"...I realized that books get their value from the way they coexist with the other books a person owns, and that when they lose that context, they lose their meaning" (Fadiman).

This part from the final essay really resonated with me. I feel exactly the same way about my book collection, and I have never been able to adequately put it to words. I have always loved my books as a collection--how they relate to each other or not, how they look next to each other, how the entire collection is somehow different with the addition of a single new book. When I've tried to explain this to people in the past I've come across as materialistic and vaguely obsessed. ;) (Don't you wish you had Fadiman's way with words?)

I really like the idea that a person's books and how they "coexist" have a very individual meaning. No two people have the exact same collection of books. I also like the way my collection represents me. From the cheesy teen lit to the overwhelming presence of Orson Scott Card. From the books that were obviously assigned by teachers to the many that have been recommended to me by Lisa ;). Some books have changed my outlook on life and others I haven't even read yet.


Anyway, I very much enjoyed our first selection for our little book club. Peter- Lisa and I decided that you should pick our next book. We have to rotate who picks so that Lisa can read books she hasn't read before. We discussed the possibility of reading books none of us have read before. The worry is that we'll get stuck reading an awful book...but we can always ditch it if we all agree. I need more time to find a book for us (Lisa has been my go-to for recommendations for quite some time now), so yeah, your turn! :)

Also, are we adding anyone to our club? It's fun as just three of us, but it would also be fun to have more contributors, n'est-ce pas?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Injured Dwarf Man

Ok - I realize I have never played Hack n' Slash, so it's pretty normal that I don't quite get it, but who is the dwarf man? Is he injured or is that someone else' s blood? Why aren't there any pretty princesses in pink in this game? I feel that most of these things fail at reality based on the fact that it's impossible for a character to seduce the third brother in line to the throne, marry him, get pregnant, have a boy, and then arrange for a fall off a horse for brother #1 and an unfortunate run-in with some poisoned wine for brother # 2. C'mon now. Killing all the people in your way directly is so blase. Just backstab your way to the throne!

Let's all take a moment to be grateful I wasn't born a royal without a conscience.

The goal of this game is to chop people to bits, isn't it? I can see that. Cathartic.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Love vs. Just Plain Destructive

I'm farther along, and I'll comment on these essays in a bit, but I reread Jennie's post about being a courtly lover - which I most definitely am - and while I wish that maybe I put notes or thoughts in books, i have to balance that with my love of a nice edition which reverences, to me, the great content. Really, if a work is a masterpiece, who am I to be throwing my lame-sauce thoughts in there? The author certainly didn't need me when he/she wrote the work.

On the other hand, I see the value in noting what that work has come to mean to me personally, as an experience.

But! The point here is that Ms. Fadiman clearly thinks carnal lovers are better than the crazily compulsive and disturbed courtly lovers she knows. But the last few lines of the essay bothered me quite a bit, in which George jotted some notes down on the flyleaf and ripped it out and gave it to her.

There's a difference between loving a book, wearing it hard/writing on it/enjoying it to pieces, and using it as a notepad for things you need to hand off to your wife. Ripping pages out in such a manner hardly shows adoration for the work; quite the contrary, to me it seems an utter disregard for the content (even if it is just a flyleaf), since you value it so little as to be using it for a post-it note. Anyway, that's all I'm saying.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Insert a Caret

I think this article from Stuff White People Like dovetails nicely with the book.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"Sir, you must never do that to a book."

Yep, me again. I went back to reading after my last post, and I thought it was hilarious when I got to this essay! Apparently I am part "courtly lover". Ha ha!

It's actually pretty fascinating to me. I've come to the conclusion that I am part courtly lover and part carnal. I definitely love keeping my books beautiful and undamaged. My Harry Potter books collection is a thing of beauty, and I've already told Paul our children will not put their hands on it (they're restricted to the paperbacks). But it seems that the courtly lover in me only applies to certain books. I already mentioned my copy of Ender's Game, and scanning through my bookshelves, many of the books that I have enjoyed most (and read multiple times) are quite ravaged. Crime and Punishment has millions of post-it tabs sticking out the top. Le Petit Prince has a bent cover and numerous dogeared pages. And I totally agree with Fadiman regarding cookbooks. You should see the Snickerdoodles page of my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook--it will never be the same after the day I made four double batches in record time to give to my Provo High students as a goodbye present.

And yes, as I'm writing this post, my copy of Ex Libris is sitting next to me open and face down on the couch.

Marginalia and Big Brain Academy

Do you write in the margins of your books?
"We kept my Middlemarch, read at eighteen, in which were registered my nascent attempts at literary criticism (page 37: 'Grrr'; page 261: 'Bullshit'; page 294: 'Yccch')" (Fadiman, 8-9).
(Coincidentally, and of no particular importance, I'm actually reading Middlemarch right now. Small world.)

Aside from making me chuckle, this little passage got me thinking about my own journeys through literature.

I think I took my mom's directive, "Don't write on the books!" too much to heart. I never even thought to write down the things I thought of while I was reading. On the contrary, I treat my books with an almost reverence. I take pride in their beauty. I'm not sure I have a single book in my meager library with writing in the margins with the exception of those I was assigned to read for classes in high school and college. When I was reading about Fadiman and her library, I was sad that I couldn't look back at my childhood discoveries and attempts at scholarly critique. I'm sure it would have been quite comical at the very least. :)

It's important to note, well-loved and oft-read books have their own beauty. Take my copy of Ender's Game (my favorite to date) for example. It's a mass market paperback copy covered in Contac Paper by my mom years ago. The Contac Paper is all bubbled and flawed, the binding is bent, and the pages are worn. The part of me who loves beautiful, clean, new books thinks I should buy a new copy. The current one is dwarfed by the gorgeous, hardback Harry Potters and, well, pretty much every other book on my shelves! But then again, the part of me that read Ender's Game back in the Seventh grade loves the history behind it and finds it irreplaceable. How could I ever buy a new copy?

As far as the Sesquipedalians Quiz goes, as I expected, I didn't know a single one. (Though admittedly I knew the general subject of ithyphallic. *blush* And, I also happen to vividly remember the individual who introduced me to the definition of the word phallic (if you guessed Brandon Burton, you are correct!). ) However, this selection particularly resonated with me, albeit at a much less intellectual level:
"...I was about to subject my friends to the killer quiz when my editor, who had no desire to become a victim himself, said gently, 'Hold your horses, Anne. Not everyone loves tests as much as you do.'

He had a point. When I was growing up, not only did my family walk around spouting sesquipedalians, but we viewed all forms of intellectual competition as a sacrament" (Fadiman, 14).
Now, I don't claim to have spouted sesquipedalians as a child, but I do think that my mom raised us to enjoy intellectual stimulation more than your typical person. We were raised on brain stimulating memory games, reading, math worksheets, memorization activities, and the like, and we thought of them as entertainment.

Paul and I are nerds, as you both know, so when we got our Wii as a graduation present this year, what's the first game we went out and bought? Oh yes, Big Brain Academy. It's a game full of IQ Test type activities! You can see the size of your brain! You can race each other to see whose brain is bigger! We think it is the epitome of fun. But, as Anne Fadiman had to be reminded by her editor, not everyone loves tests. We've introduced it to several friends, and most often the reaction ranges from apathetic to negative. I guess we can't all be nerds!

(As you can see, my book came a day earlier than I expected! Hooray!)

On Marrying Libraries

I love love this bit:

"A particularly bad moment occurred when he was in the process of transferring my Shakespeare collection from one bookcase to another and I called out, 'Be sure to keep the plays in chronological order!'
'You mean we're going to be chronological within each author?' he gasped. 'But no one even knows for sure when Shakespeare wrote his plays!'
'Well,' I blustered, 'we know he wrote Romeo and Juliet before The Tempest. I'd like to see that reflected on our shelves."
George says this is one of the few times he has seriously contemplated divorce" (Fadiman, 6).

I would totally pull a stunt like this. It's going to take a special man . . .

My odd shelf - I think I don't have a large enough collection of any particular odd books to have an odd shelf. Mine would be a hodgepodge of things you wouldn't expect to find in my library. I have the Elfquest graphic novels, that's pretty random. And I love etiquette books. Exactly where should you seat the pope and the US president and the French ambassador for dinner? And I have a sprinkling of books about managining finances, like Making the Most of Your Money and Smart Women Finish Rich. Those aren't really working out so far, though.

I also knew grimoire. And despite having read this book several times, I can never remember the rest.

Jennie, do you still want nonfiction suggestions? I just found that text.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Coffee and Bats

After doing some deep soul searching, I suspect I collect more than just a singular odd shelf - my books tend to be, like my music, erratic and spontaneous explosions of subjects that I've become interested in or whimsically looked into. I have an affinity for coffee table books in particular, with their glorious pictures and enormous sizes. They don't sit on a shelf well because they are meant to spread out and take up space, sprawling and beautiful just because they can. Coffee table books are the Beverly Hills of books. I see them as gifts from the absentee host, to his neighbors and friends as they sit in his living room waiting his return; the savior of awkward conversations or parties turned terribly dull. I don't know why I love them, but I do.

Despite that, I haven't a living room, nor a coffee table. They sit in the closet, on their own tall odd shelf, waiting for me to acquire the space to show them off as they deserve.

In truth though, the strangest collection of books I have, perhaps a little more closely tied to some of Anne Fadiman's examples, are my Batman books. Maybe its not that odd if you know me (and the two of you do; one has even been to a couple Batman murder mysteries written by the one and only). Okay, I'll admit it, I have a love affair with Batman. He's the a fascinating hero who has culminated thousands of pages and adventures since his birth. His dual nature is an intriguing character study - the philanthropic playboy vs. the tragedy-stricken man fighting for moral high ground in a dark, savage and criminal way. There is passion and the complex roguery; like the dichotomy between his arch-nemesis, the Joker, in their eternal struggle of between chaos and the Batman's quest for order in a dark and violent world. He is the acting agent in the face of helplessness, yet not exactly a soldier of light. Frankly, he represents a whole lotta grays in a world that wishes it were black and white, but doesn't have the luxury. And consequently, I've collected several limited and key-to-the-mythos graphic novel editions, novel adaptations (oft-times horrible), art books dedicated to the Dark Knight, and even guides to the animated series, and the comic world. Could be I want to be Batman. Could be. But regardless, he's taken up a good chunk of shelf space in my collection.

Yeah, I'm gonna go ahead and say that's probably my odd shelf.

How about yours?

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader
"My Odd Shelf"

Concerning the Sesquipedalian Quiz...

Right. So my score: 1 of 22.

The only word I knew was Grimoire, the meeting of which I cannot describe in great detail, but am fairly certain came about while reading Wishsong of Shannara before I realized what shameless and poorly conceived counterfeit Tolkien Terry Brooks was dolling out. Anyway, hooray for my young love of fantasy novels. They led me to know at least one linguistic oddity.

I will say that of the list, I found "retromingent" most interesting. I mean, urinating backwards has my mind picturing all sorts of bizarre things.

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader,
"The Joy of Sesquipedalians"

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Labels and Comment Notification

Okay, one more administrative post from me for today.

I figured using labels would be a good way to bunch together all the posts for each book. That way we can always access them quickly in the future if needed. So yeah, when you post something about blog logistics, set up, or whatever, just label it 'admin'. And when you post something about a book, label it with the title of that book.

Also, if you want to receive email notifications of comments, it's not a default. All you have to do is go under settings and then comments and add your email at the bottom of the page where it says something about receiving notifications of comments. I like to receive the notifications simply because otherwise I'm afraid I might miss a comment to an older post. I always look for comments to the newest entry, but not older ones. Anyway, whatever you guys prefer.

-The Secretary: Keeping Things Organized since 1983

Book 1: Ex Libris

Alright - our first book is Anne Fadiman's Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader. It's a collection of essays she wrote for the Library of Congress and falls into the category of Books about Books. I think it's a good jumping off point.

I also find it hilarious. But that may be because I'm a huge dork. It's a little book, so we may get through it fast. Deadline is July 17th or whenever we're all done!

Too Dark?

Post your layout thoughts here.

(Sorry I messed up your red title, Peter. You can change it back. It defaulted when I changed to the black template.)

Feel Free to Mess Around

Would you believe was taken? I don't know...did you take it, Peter? ;)

Once you all have admin status, you can mess around with the layout as you wish.