Archive for August, 2007

Things overheard in the classroom….

That could sound dirty if your mind is always in the gutter (like mine).

“So, did you go back to your Schlegel?”

Given that the semester has just started, I think this might have to become a regular feature.* Today’s selection is brought to you by overly pretentious philosophical discussions of literary theory. Who knew that German philosophers’ names could sound so wrong?

*Let me note: I have a love/hate relationship with literary theory. While reading it, I feel like everything else in the world disappears and it completely enraptures me. What I don’t like: when it becomes a tool for what I like to call “intellectual masturbation.” This is just my way of staying sane in the midst of literary discussions that often boil down to nothing more than academic versions of chest-beating.

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Color me red?

So, in honor of the new school year starting (and let’s face it: I’ve been in school for so long that late August/early September is far more suitable a time for my new year to start than Dec. 31/Jan. 1 when I’m guaranteed to be passed out on the sofa by 11 p.m.)….Ahem, digression aside, in honor of the new school year I thought I would change the color of the blog.  We also recently repainted our living room, so I have a thing for changing colors lately (Note: painting is hard work and I conveniently forgot about that.  The result?  I now have aching muscles when I didn’t even think I had muscles).  Besides, I like to think that the red suits me, being the only person with red hair in my immediate family and all.  I did think the blue was nice and mellow…calming (I like to think), so if the red is too rageful, let me know (but in a nice way).

As my writing is apparently being taken over by parenthetical asides, it’s time for me to get back to finding other means of procrastinating reading.  Jürgen Habermas, here I come!

My bookcases

So, Apparent Dip was nice enough to take some pictures of my bookcases and I thought I would share them with the blog world (because who doesn’t love a bookcase or two, or three, or four?). I’ll start with the largest: my fiction. It has grown to rather alarming proportions and it doesn’t show any signs of stopping soon.

fiction.jpg

This bookcase takes up an entire wall (and let me tell you–it was NOT fun to put together. The move we made last year across the country ended up warping one of the sides, and it did not want to cooperate with us). The bottom shelf contains literary theory/criticism, books on books, and essays. The top left cube contains all of my pretty leather-bound editions, followed in the next cube by poetry and anthologies. I ended up arranging alphabetically by author because I got lazy, and just wanted to get rid of the boxes in my living room. Here’s a close-up:

closeup-fiction.jpg

The bottom/middle cube in this close-up shows my Tolstoy. The pretty, rust-colored volumes are in Russian–the rest are translations. In addition to this full-wall bookcase, I have three others, two of which I’ll share. The first is what I’m calling my “general non-fiction” case:

nonfic.jpg

I was amazed at the number of books that I managed to squeeze into this smaller bookcase. All of the shelves are double-stacked. The top four cubes contain general non-fiction. The bottom two cubes on the left house my “Russian studies” and the bottom two cubes on the right are filled with “Jewish studies” books. (The big black binders on top of the bookcase are CDs).

And finally, my biography bookcase. This is the pretty bookcase, as it has four sliding glass doors on it and we didn’t have to spend a cent on it (I love donated bookcases!).

bios.jpg

This one is located in the dining room (my office) and sits next to my rather untidy desk. The top of the bookcase holds up my magazine addiction, and the first shelf contains my shameful collection of library books (which will only expand as the semester begins). The rest are biographies and memoirs arranged alphabetically by subject.

I have a final bookcase (identical to the non-fiction case) that contains all of my “instructional” books. My writing manuals, foreign language grammars, dictionaries, and knitting/weaving books are there. And thus ends the tour of my library!

Russian books update

So after perusing my bookshelves (now that they are all nicely organized–every once in a while I stop and stare at them in happy wonder) I’ve started compiling a list of Russian authors. If you’re interested in checking it out, there’s a link to the page under the header of the blog.

In other Russian author news, James Meek, the author of The People’s Act of Love (2005) has an interesting article about Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel, A Dog’s Heart here (it’s an excerpt of the introduction to the new Penguin edition due out next month–in the UK at least). I loved The Master and Margarita, and I’ve had Bulgakov’s Black Snow and The White Guard on my shelves for a while–perhaps this is a sign that I should read more of his prose. So many books! And why do they all have to make an appearance in my life just as a new semester (and a rather intimidating reading schedule) begins?

EDITED TO ADD: I’ve added some authors to the Russian authors page and while doing so, I discovered the European Classics Series, which contains quite a few Russian works. I recommend checking it out if you are interested in Russian literature (or increasingly obsessed, as I seem to be).

R.I.P. II Challenge

R.I.P. II Challenge

I’ve decided to throw all caution to the wind and join yet another challenge. It’s Carl’s R.I.P II Challenge (Readers Imbibing Peril), running from September 1st to October 31st. I recommend checking it out here, as there are a number of different paths of peril to choose from. Because I’m a bit of a chicken, I’m going with Peril the Fourth:

Peril the Fourth (Otherwise known as Just a Bit of Peril):

Some of you wonderful readers, or would-be readers, may have a tendency to shy away from this genre, thinking it is just not your cup of poisoned tea. However, it wouldn’t be a challenge if I wasn’t challenging you. This peril is for those of you who want to take a chance. Simply choose one book that you feel meets the criteria for Readers Imbibing Peril II and, well, imbibe it!

Just a bit of peril for me, please. I’m trying to be responsible about this. Not only will I be starting a new semester and two other challenges, but I’m notoriously easy to freak out. There are movies that are rated NS for “No Sarah.” There are movie trailers on t.v. that give my overactive imagination nightmares. The very mention of the movie Psycho can interrupt my showering cycle. So, since I’m a fan of personal hygiene and sleeping well, I’ll choose the “little bit o’ peril” option. (As an example, I made the mistake of thinking that watching the adaptation of Henry James’s Turn of the Screw would be a great idea when I was home alone. I mean, it’s Henry James! Ummm, I only made it through the first 20 minutes. It’s a creepy story and even creepier to watch. Lesson learned: I’m a wuss).

That said, I’m going to make a list of possible reads to choose from because I’m also capricious. Besides, if I choose to do more than one book, all the better! (I’ve recently discovered the joy of low expectations. This way, I can’t help but surprise myself). I’m leaving out the books I’ll be reading for class (it feels like cheating), although I might provide a review of those books as well just to get my brain working.

  • The Mysteries of Udolpho ~ Ann Radcliffe
  • Dracula ~ Bram Stoker
  • The Thirteenth Tale ~ Diane Setterfield
  • Edgar Allan Poe ~ various short stories
  • Kept: A Victorian Mystery ~ D.J. Taylor
  • The Turn of the Screw ~ Henry James

For class I’ll be reading Austen’s Northanger Abbey, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone, so those might end up as reviews, although I won’t actually count them as part of the challenge. I’m getting goosebumps already….

Outmoded Authors Challenge

Outmoded Authors Challenge

Because I’m hopelessly optimistic, I decided to take on a second reading challenge for the next six months (the first challenge is the Unread Authors Challenge, see here and here). The Outmoded Authors Challenge, sponsored by Imani, sounded intriguing, and because there are no set number of books/authors to read, it might, just might, be feasible. The “rules” are as follows:

The final list of outmoded authors is completed and we’re ready to go on September 1st 2007. The idea behind this challenge is to give some needed attention to authors who have fallen by the way side. While one may assume that all on the list produced works of the highest quality, a few may turn out to be historical curiosities, and that’s alright too. “Timeless” works aren’t the only ones that can prove to be pleasurable reads. The challenge will last for six months and end on February 28th 2008. During that time you may choose to read however many books by however many authors you like. Membership will be open to all, including those who don’t have a blog, until January 31st 2008.

For more info and a chance to see other participants’ lists, you can go to the blog. I have decided to select authors that I would like to read more of, but I’m not going to select specific works just yet (or ever, I might just read whatever seems appealing at any given moment). Here are the authors I think look particularly intriguing:

  1. Dawn Powell (the Library of America has a two volume set of her novels)
  2. G.K. Chesterton (Father Brown mysteries, The Man Who Was Thursday)
  3. John Galsworthy (The Forsyte Saga–I have long been tempted by this)
  4. W. Somerset Maugham (I have a collection of 5 of his novels, so I’ll start there)
  5. Olivia Manning (my library has both The Balkan Trilogy and The Levant Trilogy so I requested them both)

As a side-note, all of these authors count as unread authors as well for me. I have now requested so many books from the library that I do believe they will have a whole section dedicated just to my reserves!

On another note, I have finally finished organizing my books! All grand plans flew out the window as I encountered the dangerously tottering piles, so I have gone with the well-used fall back of alpha by author. I divided fiction from non-fiction, and then non-fiction was subdivided into the following categories: general, Russian studies, Jewish studies, Lit-Crit/Books-on-books/essays. I’ll post pictures soon (I love looking at other people’s libraries, so I’m making the assumption that other people do as well). Oh, and I’m quite proud because I even left a space for my future copy of the new translation of War and Peace. Here’s to thinking ahead!

language silliness

I saw this at BookeyWookey, and since I love languages, I couldn’t pass this up!

Your Score: Linear B

You scored

You are Linear B. Even those who can follow you think you’re all Greek to them. Which, after all, is true – Linear B being the first known text for written Greek. To most people, you’re incomprehensible. But what do you care? You’re tough, hard, long-enduring and have greater nobility than most. Naturally, you don’t admit to borrowing extensively from your brother Linear A.

Link: The Which Ancient Language Are You Test written by imipak on OkCupid, home of the The Dating Persona Test