Monday, 31 May 2010

Book #8: Great Expectations

Now, there's a book. It took a long, long, long time to read. But it was worth it. Everyone of the four hundred and sixty odd pages contained fantastic descriptions of its people and places. You believed in the homely forge, the misty marshes, the decrepit Satis House and the dismal London. Pip, the main character, was earnest but flawed; Miss Havisham was awful and pitiful, and the change in Wemmick from when at work to when at home was always convincing.

However, somewhat troubling was the treatment of women in the novel. There is an array of women that are ghastly, abusive or just annoying. You have the cruel Miss Havisham; the sociopath, Estella; the abusive Mrs Joe Gargery; the annoying Mrs Pocket; the murderous Molly; and the various cousins of Miss Havisham who are only after her wealth. The only positive female characters are Biddy and Clara. Biddy is perhaps a little too good, and Clara only appears a few times in the book. Even the convicts are treated with a bit more respect.

Despite this, it is still a fantastic read. It sweeps through lots of themes (identity, love, revenge,
crime, money, class, etc.), but does so in a way that is never trite or hackneyed.

Favourite character: Mmm, either Miss Havisham as an enduring literary construction or Joe.
Most memberable moment: Miss Havisham's end
Best line: 'My sister, Mrs Joe, with black hair and eyes, had such a prevailing redness of skin that I sometimes used to wonder whether it was possible she washed herself with a nutmeg-grater instead of soap.'

Saturday, 29 May 2010


There is one international institution that unites people across the globe like no other. No, not the UN, or NATO, or even the BBC. It is, of course, the Eurovision Song Contest. But you guessed that from the post's title and the big picture, didn't you? You dirty cheats.

One of the main influences of the contest this year seemed to be Lady Gaga. There were echoes of her tunes in a lot of songs, most notably the Romanian one. Do you notice how I can just quote one example to validate my sweeping comments? I'll just brush over that.

There was a strong sense of nationalism in and around the Balkan Peninsula. Serbia claims that Belgrade is synonymous with being the Balkans and Armenia-well Armenia. Anyone who sings about apricot stones deserves my vote. Just because they deserve it doesn't mean they're going to get it. Ukraine (and to an extent, Israel) went for a politicised song, challenging us to change our ways. That won't work. You have to sing about fairy tales and people being in love. It's the only way.

The word of the year seemed to be 'star'. As a logophile, I thought I'd drop that in there.

But the main lesson to be learnt is that only French people can get away with singing in English. Especially Germans. A German should never, ever, try and do a Cockney accent, no matter how much they love Lily Allen. Gov'nor.

Who was your favourite? Your least favourite? Any other comments?

Friday, 28 May 2010

Factual Friday

I've got 23 minutes in which to complete this Factual Friday. This is made more difficult by the fact that I have hurt my wrist (I suspect a fracture but my self-diagnoses are not always accurate).

And what to write about. Well, I was just watching Friday Night with Jonathan Ross and one of the guest stars was Jeff Goldblum. And, it has to be said, he inspired me. Yes, he is an inspiration of mine. So what shall I write about? Geeks? Dinosaurs? Fictional Detectives? No. Premature Obituries.

On 25th July, 2009 (the same day Michael Jackson did actually die), a rumour started that Goldblum had fallen off a cliff in New Zealand and found his untimely end. Well, seeing as 10 months later I was watching a recent interview of him with Mr Ross I can guess it was not true.

Lots of people have been the victim of premature obituries. In fact, Wikipedia has a whole article about them. The victims include George W. Bush, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Miley Cyrus, Ernest Hemmingway, as well as many, many others.

One of the most interesting, which Wikipedia dubs the Incident, is where draft obitaries came to light on the news channel's website. It was noticed on 16 April 2003 that tributes for the likes of Fidel Castro, Dick Cheney, Nelson Mandela, Bob Hope, Gerald Ford, Pope John Paul II and Ronald Regan (four of which have subsequently died) could be read on the development area of the website. Many of them had been based on the Queen Mother's obituary, which accounts for Dick Cheney being the UK's favourite grandmother and the Pope's love of horse racing.

So, in the world of media: be careful; or you'll be dead before you know it.

Thursday, 27 May 2010


This is getting dicey. Like really scary. My 26 books in a year seems to be running out of steam. I'm on my 8/9th book (I'm half-way through both Velvet Elvis and Great Expectations), when according to a quick Excel sheet I've just knocked up I should be on my 11th. My 11th.

Okay, perhaps I shouldn't panic too much. First, I read more books in the holiday than in term-time and it's nearly a holiday, so I should be okay. If I manage to finish both books this holiday and start another I'll only be two behind. Then there's the summer holidays, when I will obviously read hundreds of books. The stack of books in the picture below: that's nothing, squat, zilch compared to the amount I'm going to read.

I'm possibly going to drop into Oxfam books this afternoon and pick out a light book to read. It's not cheating, but seriously guys, I need a contrast from Great Expectations.

I've not been that good at my factual Friday. But no-one has been pestering me, so you only have yourself to blame.

On Tuesday it was Geek Pride Day. Unfortunately, I learnt this too late so I didn't celebrate it appropriately. You wait until next year, you just wait.

Friday, 21 May 2010

501 Must-Read Books

In a bizarre transaction of gifts and money I ended up in the possession of '501 Must-Read Books'. As usual with any of these lists, it's going to have some controversy. Here are my issues of contention:
  1. To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf. What? To the Lighthouse is barely penetrable, it is verbose and unrefined. Mrs Dalloway would be a far better example of Woolf's skill for narrative.
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. It doesn't even get a mention. I think that this is ridiculous. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone gets in (albeit in the children's stories section), and this one doesn't.
  3. Aphra Behn. I'm surprised that one of the first female professional authors, playwrights and poet is not mentioned in this list. Although I've not read Oroonoko, it probably deserves to be in there somewhere. Mind you, I might save that verdict until I've actually read it.
Okay, so that is my rant over.

If you're interested to see which books feature in the list visit here. Here is how I scored.
  1. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnet
  2. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
  3. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
  4. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon
  6. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
  7. Winnie-the-Pooh, A.A. Milne
  8. The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Beatrix Potter
  9. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
  10. Northern Lights, Philip Pullman
  11. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K. Rowling
  12. The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien
  13. Charlotte's Webb, E.B. White
  14. The Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan
  15. The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer (not all of it)
  16. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
  17. Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe
  18. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  19. Frankenstein, Mary Shlley
  20. Dracula, Bram Stoker
  21. The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank
  22. The Book of Margery Kempe, Margery Kempe
  23. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
  24. Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
  25. The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Noel Adams
  26. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood
  27. The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham
27. Not bad. I'd just like to say that often I have read other books by the authors featured in the list (e.g. Dickens, Austen, Lessing, Christie)

Currently Reading: Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens
Page: 173 of 493
Bookmark: Bus ticket from January