Together in Spirit

An online reading group ('TIS a reading group!) to bring together friends, and friends of friends, who aren't able to be in a conventional reading group due to constraints of time or geography.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Joan Didion it is

I'm very happy to read fiction for a while, and though I've never heard of this one, will be keen to read it when I've finished investigating Russian agriculture (also known as Anna Karenina, though better named Constantine Levin). I'd love to see the film sometime, thanks Helen.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A year of magical thinking

Hi. Delighted that our recent various books have proved so stimulating. I agree that Shakespeare in Love took various liberties with historical figures (Burbage, Webster etc) but had always felt that it nailed the atmosphere and context brilliantly. I think the factors influencing his plays were much as described as themes, but differing in the particular detail. For instance, it's known that Burbage (the great tragedian of the day) worked with Shakespeare at a certain period, and Shakespeare suddenly produced all his major tragedies then.

Since Val suggested a short book and Helen suggested A year of magical thinking, why don't we just read this as soon as it suits each of us? If we're too much of a democracy nothing gets chosen, so let's take that as Helen's suggestion and get on with it. The critics went wild over it, so I'll be glad to investigate it myself. While I am still reading Anna K, I'll be very happy to emerge periodically for a breather from Russian adultery, as Helen puts it. Brilliant phrase.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Joan Didion

I would be happy to read this at some time.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Caravans and other matters

I have managed to grab some quality computer time (husband abroad, both children ill and in bed. Such are the lengths...) and will endeavour to catch up on the last few months of postings.

To return to Two Caravans, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Whilst I agree with most of the criticisms I found it a light but engaging read which tackled some weighty issues in an amusing but not simplistic way (with the exclusion of the chicken factory which I thought was very heavy handed and at times began to read like an animal rights tract). I liked the simple humour and gentle in-jokes which did, on occasion, make me chuckle out loud. It was too long and the section set in the nursing home could have easily been omitted, as it duplicated so much of Tractors. However, I liked the romp through the British countryside and the exploration of the dichotomy of freedom and vulnerability. As I read it on a return train trip to Sheffield I was particularly aware of its sense of place.

I did enjoy the characters. I liked the 'family group' that the strawberry pickers became and was saddened by that not continuing. I particularly enjoyed the character of Marta and the fascinating description of her, and so many other people's, approach to cooking, which is so alien to the way I go about it. I also liked the progression of the relationship between Irina and Andriy and the irony that, although they spoke the same language they had to learn to communicate. However, I did get bored by the literary devices she employed with Dog and Emanuel and thought she could have cut down their repetition. Overall, an enjoyable read and, I thought, better than Tractors.

To other reads...
I'm afraid I too will be skipping AK as I feel that I have read it 'in proxy' as it is one of my husband's favourite books (he has a penchant for Russian novels about adultery). Emily/Val I would be very happy to lend you the ch4 TV adaptation as it was excellent, if you would like to compare it at a later stage. I'm afraid I'll also be skipping any non-fiction at the moment (although the Bryson does sound very interesting) as I do not feel I have the spare grey cells necessary at the moment although am mentally storing away titles for a later time.

I will endeavour to get started on The Tenderness of Wolves and post on that in due course. As another suggestion to throw into the melting pot, I wondered if anyone would be interested in reading Joan Didion's A Year of Magical Thinking? They have just done a stage adaptation of it and I wondered if there was any mileage in a discussion on the adaptation of books for stage as opposed to screen. Just a thought...

Monday, October 06, 2008

Bill Bryson

This was a thoroughly enjoyable book. I found the descriptions of Elizabethan England very visual, as was the vision of the elderly Queen with her bodice undone and her going to bed clutching a knife. Life as the ordinary citizen experienced it was interesting. We frequently learn of the aristocratic and political life of the country from the media and history books.It was good to be reminded that there was so much starvation and the average age of man so low. The facts and figures were many, but at no time did the story become bogged down.

The sheer numbers of people going regularly to the theatre during the day, was astounding. Many of these people must have had little or no education, but seemed able to enjoy the serious plays as well as the comedies. I wonder how many more plays would have been written if the theatres did not have to keep closing due to the plague. I was also surprised at the plagiarism between writers.

Bill Bryson really has a way of writing that keeps the reader interested. He has a fluency and clarity that makes the book a pleasure to read. However, I am looking forward to re-reading it, to remind myself of the many interesting snippets that will soon fade.

Did you see the article on the high rat population at the weekend. Apparently, when the brown rat was introduced into the country in the early 17th century, it displaced the black, plague carrying rat rather like the grey squirrel is displacing the red. I feel rather more friendly towards the brown rat now.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Shakespeare, Condell and Heminges

Typical Bryson – witty, erudite, entertaining and scholarly. I enjoyed it, but felt I was banking heavily on having been to the Globe and having seen Shakespeare in Love – neither of which, it turns out, are necessarily accurate, but both of which gave the story a visual reality. I don’t think I’d realised how little we really know about him. So if Bryson had stuck to biography it'd be rather thin: instead we have an insight into Elizabethan/Jacobean London, and captivating that was (though infortunately I don't think I will ever be able to forget the description of the entertainment supplied by the chimp, horse and dogs). I think this would become a key text at A level and for undergrads, so it’s a pity he didn’t reference it fully – this lack will make it difficult to use academically, which is a shame because his scholarship is brilliant.

But the most stunning thing is the debt we owe Condell and Heminges for gathering together the first folio. Without it, would we think or know any more of Shakespeare now than any other Jacobean playwright, or, put another way, which great (greater?) playwright do we know nothing of, simply because there’s no ‘first folio’?

Incidentally, my spell checker will only accept Shakespeare!

This may be the last you hear of me for a while as I've just started Anna K...

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Next Book

I have finished the Shaksper and will be blogging soon. I have decided to give AK a miss as I'm a little bogged down and can't see my way to enjoy it again just yet. I will be very interested in other's views, however, and a comparison with the TV adaptation, which is freshest in my mind. I should be happy to read Val's choice after two other lengthy books.