Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

This one surprised me. I hadn't meant to read it in two days, particularly since one of those days was a day off when Things Needed to Get Done. But the chapters of The Big Sleep are so short, and things keep happening, and I need to keep reading, and then suddenly two hours have gone by and the book is done.

If there's anyone here who knows as little about this story as I did when I started reading it, a brief summary: Philip Marlowe, private detective in Los Angeles, is hired to get to the bottom of a blackmailing situation for the very wealthy General Sternwood. What starts out looking like a fairly straightforward case ends up quickly becoming muddied with sex, drugs, gambling, and murder. By the end of this surprisingly short novel, there are bodies everywhere and not a clean resolution to be seen.

First, let me warn anyone interested in reading this book that it is a product of its time. I was a little surprised at how blatant the homophobia and violence against women was, but I probably shouldn't have been. And it left a sour taste in my mouth because I can't ignore that sort of thing even when I know its historical place. The homophobia in particular is pretty toxic at points. I've done a little reading since finishing The Big Sleep, and I'm aware now that I'm not the only one who's noticed; apparently this is a bit of a theme in Marlowe's behaviour and attitudes.

Which is a shame, because otherwise this novel is a great ride. It's wonderfully melodramatic, and rife with description that is almost purple prose but not quite. Take this description of a greenhouse:

The plants filled the space, a forest of them, with nasty meaty leaves and stalks like the newly washed fingers of dead men.

The story is told in the first person, from Marlowe's point of view. And he's got a powerfully strong, distinctive voice. When I caught myself thinking something was cliche and overdone, I had to remind myself that it was Chandler who came first, and I suspect (though I haven't read a lot of noir-style mysteries) best. Characters get described in terse sentences like this:

He sounded like a man who had slept well and didn't owe too much money.

And there is always something that responds to those little descriptions in the mind. It all comes together in a particularly vivid, messy image of place and people. Of everything I liked about this book - its highly tangled plot, its distinctive voice - it was the rich sense of place that emanated from the pages that I liked best. Chandler takes his time with description. He doesn't leave anything out, and while in some cases I find description tiresome, this book in particular is as much about place as it is about plot and would have been much poorer without it. The place reflects the mood of the novel and its protagonist, and is almost an indifferent but vital character on its own. In the same way that Sherlock Holmes couldn't be anywhere but London, Philip Marlowe is a product of, and belongs in, Los Angeles.

Overall, I'm glad I read this book and I can see why it's a classic. I don't see myself jumping up and rushing to read more Chandler, largely because it's not my favourite genre and even more because of the issues I mentioned above, but I wouldn't argue if it came my way either.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fall Vacation Book Stack 2009

I am officially on holiday, and since one of the conditions of my holiday is limited internet time, I'm going to try to schedule a review to come up later in the week and see if it works. I've heard Blogger can be a little temperamental that way.

In lieu of Teaser Tuesday today, I'm posting a list of the books I'm planning to read. We're not going to be on vacation for a full week, so there are significantly more books than the one/day limit I should by rights set myself -- especially since some of them are likely too long to finish in a day -- but I need variety, you know? So. Without further ado:

  1. The Curse of the Tahiera by Wendy Gillissen (I'm cheating - I'm actually almost done this one already)
  2. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (funny how this one jumped to the head of the queue)
  3. Libyrinth by Pearl North
  4. First Comes Marriage by Mary Balogh
  5. Ranma 1/2 (Volumes 16 and 17) by Rumiko Takahashi
  6. The Singing by Alison Croggon
  7. A Drowned Maiden's Hair by Laura Amy Schlitz
  8. A 21st Century Courtesan by Eden Bradley
  9. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  10. Riddle-Master by Patricia A. McKillip
  11. Sunshine by Robin McKinley

That might be it but I'm not making any promises. Sometimes there are things like used book stores that have a way of sneaking up on you. Have a great week, everyone!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Color of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa

I'm not quite sure why it took me so long to read this. I don't mean so long to pick it up, because that wasn't it -- I picked it up, read a bit, put it down, picked it up again, read more, read a couple of novels in between, read more... it just seemed to be a long process, which is unusual for me. It wasn't that I didn't like this book, because I really did. In fact, it keeps growing on me even after I've finished. Images are stuck in my head, and keep popping up at different times, and have been doing that since I started reading it. I think in some ways, I found this book a bit like a hot bath -- very pleasureable, as long as I eased myself into it.

This lovely graphic novel tells the story of Ehwa, a Korean girl growing up in a small village with her widowed mother. It explores love, sexuality, and gender relations and roles, all in a beautifully poetic way. There are some very funny moments, and some very tender moments, and some almost painful moments. There are parts of it that cut a little close to home, which I think was part of my strange reluctance to read it sometimes. Some experiences in growing up are universal, no matter where or when you grew up. That wondering if you're the only one in the world as weird as you are, for example; that feeling of alienation even from those you consider your friends. And that first confusing feeling of love, and then feeling even more confused when you realize there's more than one desireable person out there. I felt very close to Ehwa at many points throughout.

On the whole, I think I enjoyed Ehwa's relationship with her mother the most. This is wonderfully rendered, with Ehwa often seeing more than her mother realizes, and her mother guiding and advising Ehwa honestly and gracefully. I love how supportive they are of each other, and how strong Ehwa's mother is. It's a nice change from a lot of stories I read, where parents are either entirely absent or emotionally absent, or dysfunctional and villainous.

As I said, I'm still turning this one over in my head. It's a story that requires some contemplation and quiet enjoyment. This is a different kind of graphic novel than I'm used to, and I'm very grateful to Mandy, who sent this book my way when I won a giveaway on the Words Worth Books blog. I don't think I would have picked it up otherwise, but I'm very glad I had the opportunity to read it. It reads and proceeds like poetry -- slowly and to be savoured. I'm looking forward to the next two, The Color of Water and The Color of Heaven.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Teaser Tuesday: The Big Sleep

Happy Tuesday! I actually almost forgot it was Teaser Tuesday today, and thus am posting relatively late for my usual schedule. Today's book is a classic, The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. I must confess, I know next to nothing about Chandler, other than that he's a big name in the foundations of the mystery genre and that his famous character is one Philip Marlowe. But the little bit of The Big Sleep I've read so far is very entertaining, and the quality of writing is great. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of it. I have here an omnibus edition, because my library doesn't have a copy of The Big Sleep as a standalone. I'm actually finding this to be a significant problem with our classics - or the classics I want to read, anyway. Austen omnibuses, Shakespearean omnibuses, Theodore Sturgeon omnibuses, but few standalone novels.

From Four Complete Philip Marlowe Novels by Raymond Chandler, p51:

It was a good guess, but I wasn't going to let him know it. I lit a cigarette and blew the match out and flicked it at the glass eye of the totem pole.

Teaser Tuesdays are hosted by Should Be Reading. It works as follows:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share two teaser sentences from somewhere on that page.
  • Be careful not to include spoilers!
  • Include the title and author.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Crow by Alison Croggon

If I had to describe this book in one word, it would probably be unrelenting. From start to finish, it doesn't let up and I feel flat and empty now that I'm done. In the previous books in the series, more typical hero's quest plotlines, there are a few (well-set-up) "miracles" for Maerad, the main character. In The Crow, there are no miracles for the main character, Hem. Things go badly. And then they get worse. Then I wrote in my journal that I couldn't imagine how things could possibly get worse, but then they did, to the point where I occassionally had to put the book down and take breathers. The little points of light throughout the story, when something better shines through, are so brief -- but they seem all the more bright for that. Throughout, the reader just aches for Hem because we are right there with him and his moments of light are ours, too. I haven't had such an immersive reading experience for a long time.

I'm not going to summarize this book, in the interests of not spoiling either of the first two for anyone who hasn't read them. I'm hoping that if I haven't convinced you yet, this review will, as general as it has to be.

I said this on Twitter, and I'll say it again here: from now on, anyone who calls fantasy "escapist" will get a good kick in the shins. I have solid boots. Here's why:

The main reason this book is so powerful is that it brings war home in a way that not very many books do. There's a lot of war in fantasy books, and it's usually done well enough; we know that war is awful, we know that people die often in terrible ways, we know that it's a terrible, terrifying, desolate waste. We know it, but The Crow makes us feel it. It reaches right down your throat and tears your heart out, feeling the pain and suffering and monotony and complete stupid waste of war. Then it will stomp on your heart a bit and leave it alone in a dark locked room, because Croggon proceeds to throw the mind-numbing horror of child soldiers into stark relief.

I think this is why fantasy can be so powerful. We all know that child soldiers exist, and here, in Canada, we're politely disgusted and saddened by it, but it's way too far away for us to really understand. But I brought it home to my livingroom in the form of a fantasy novel, and because this is such a good book I couldn't look away. Yes, the child soldiers in The Crow are spell-controlled to an extent, which isn't something that happens in the real world, but frankly, that only makes it worse. The children in The Crow are controlled by spells. The children in wars happening in the world today are controlled by fear, brutality, hatred, forced on them by adults and by each other. By juxtaposing these two worlds, Croggon makes our world stand out in sharp, and devestating, contrast. We don't need nameless evil to do this to children -- we just need ordinary, garden-variety, human evil. It makes me feel physically ill to think of it, and those of us who live in sheltered, safe places need that brought home to us.

As if that wasn't enough, Croggon spikes things with a little bit of ambiguity; is it all right for a child like Hem to fight on the side of good, or does it make the adults around him every bit as wrong as those who are controlling the children fighting on the side of evil? Does the fact that Hem chooses to fight, rather than being coerced, make it okay for the adults around him to offer him the choice, to train him for it, to give him the tools that could cause him to see things, hear things, do things that no child should ever have to do? This question remains unanswered, by the way, and I'm still not sure how I feel about it.

Now, most of you who have read here for a while know that I'm not particularly fond of books that put me through the wringer. I don't like pain, I don't like tragedy in my books. But I loved this book and I am so, so glad I read it, and so glad that I didn't really have any idea what was coming otherwise I might have been afraid to pick it up. As it was, I may have had an inkling, because this book did sit in the basket for a long time before I did screw up my courage. I was right to be a bit afraid. I'm particularly glad, then, that Croggon is a masterful writer because I couldn't have not picked up this book, needing to know as I did what happened. I'm glad I read it. You should, too.

Again, much warm thanks to Darla for bringing this series to my attention.

I'm petrified to start reading The Singing.

As a side note, please consider clicking through the above logo to head to War Child Canada's website and having a look around. They're an important group of dedicated people doing extremely compassionate and difficult work, and I wouldn't normally do this, but it seemed like an appropriate place to highlight this organization.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

shameless blog adoration: things mean a lot

A lot of people know about Nymeth's blog already. She's a fixture in the blogging circles I lurk in, anyways. But because this week is Book Blogger Appreciation Week, I thought it would be a very appropriate week to highlight things mean a lot, because it was the blog that got me started. This is actually a harder post to write than it should be, because I hold Nymeth in such esteem and I want to keep my head on straight -- no feckless fangirl gushing. Trying to keep the squeeing to a minimum.

Let's go back to the beginning. things mean a lot was the first book blog I ever read. I wasn't aware that there was such a thing (or that there were so many!) and I can't for the life of me remember how I stumbled upon this blog in the winter of 2007. I was just learning about RSS feeds, I remember, and it's possible that the things mean a lot feed popped up as something recommended for me in my reader, or that I followed a random link somewhere -- I have no idea. But from the moment I started reading Nymeth's reviews, I was hooked. And then I started following her lists of links to other reviews on other blogs, and lo and behold, an entire new world opened up to me: the book blogosphere, where people love books and love to write about them and share them with the world.

I was floored. And really, really excited.

Fastforward to the end of 2008. I'm done school, just started a new job, and I'm desperate to start reading books for myself again. The number of book bloggers I follow has grown from that single wonderful blog to many wonderful blogs. And I get an idea: hey, I can do this too. I can read stuff and write reviews of it, and it will be a way to keep track of what I'm reading, and keep me reading. So here we are, creeping towards fall in 2009, and I am very pleased with how this experiment has worked for me so far. And it's all because of Nymeth, who planted that seed.

things mean a lot still holds a special place in my book blogosphere pantheon, and for far more than sentimental reasons. Nymeth is, I think, a stellar example to follow; she upholds an incredibly high standard for book blogger conduct. She is always fair and positive in her reviews, even when she doesn't particularly enjoy a book. I really, really like that.

She also always has something intelligent to say. Her posts are thoughtful and thought-provoking in a way I only wish to be. Whether posting a review or about anything else, she clearly thinks very carefully about what she wants to say, structures things to support her point, and then lays it out in accessible language. It may help that I agree with her on many points, but I always want to cheer when she writes something I've always thought -- when she puts it in print, it seems so perfect.

Her blog is beautifully organized, things are easy to find -- if I want to look back and see what Nymeth thought of a book, it's easy to do so. And then I can find everything else she's read by that author, and see what she thought of that, too. Or I can click on the links she adds to the ends of her reviews, to see what other bloggers have thought of the books she's reviewed.

Her organization is important because Nymeth is prolific. She reads so much. And then she reviews it. And then she takes the time to respond -- individually -- to all the comments she gets, dozens of them per post. And then she travels around the book blogosphere, offering comments and encouragement and enthusiasm and support for us newbies, and does things like volunteer her time to help out with BBAW, and more. I don't know how she does it without constant burnout, but it's obvious that she loves it -- she loves reading, she loves sharing books with the world, she loves thinking and writing about books, and she loves to hear what people have to say. It's a joy to read her thoughts, and in these ways, she embodies everything I aspire to as a book blogger. So please keep up the awesome, amazing work Nymeth! It's tremendously inspiring. Happy BBAW!

Please check out the BBAW site! There are lots of wonderful things going on. I'm not formally participating this year (this post is the closest I'm getting) but there's still time if you want to participate in the events and giveaways, of which there are many many. I think it's a wonderful idea and props to Amy and all who have helped her to put it together this year.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

Normally I write a review with the book I am reviewing right beside me, in case there is something I want to double-check, or quote. Today I am without book. Flying blind, as it were. The reason is this: I was faced with an opportunity to hook a child on Skulduggery Pleasant and I jumped at it. Much to the detriment of my review.

See, this girl came up to the library desk a couple days ago saying, "I need you to help me find another series to read."

"Sure!" I said. "What are some of the books you've read that you liked before?"

"Oh, Harry Potter, and the Sisters Grimm, and Lemony Snicket, and detective stuff and fantasy..."

"Ah," I said, resisting a very unlibrarianlike and possibly terrifying display of glee. "I have just the book for you. Have you ever heard of a detective by the name of Skulduggery Pleasant?"

"Um, no," she said, looking both wary and hopeful at the same time.

"He's a skeleton. He solves mysteries and saves the world, with his sidekick whose name is Stephanie, and she's awesome. It's in my bag -- I'm just finished it. It's very funny. Would you like to try it?"

Her eyes lit up at the mention of solving mysteries and saving the world, so she didn't even have to say yes and I was handing my book over. I took out the bookmark, which was almost at the end, and she was concerned that I hadn't finished it. I had, but I had read it so fast I wanted to re-read it. But I told her I was done. I wasn't about to let my sloppy reading habits prevent her from getting her hands on the book right away.

Because really, the more people who read this book, the happier I will be. It's a riot. As I explained to my young convert, Skulduggery Pleasant is a skeleton -- who walks, talks, solves mysteries, casts spells, and generally raises Cain for the other magical and magic-making denizens of modern-day Haggard, Ireland. He was a good friend of Stephanie's uncle Gordon, and Stephanie meets Skulduggery at Gordon's funeral. Several somewhat astonishing events later, Skulduggery and Stephanie team up to save the world from Skulduggery's ancient nemesis, Nefarian Serpine.

Okay. First of all, let me get my little nitpicks out of the way. And these are very small, and matters of personal taste. The names? Beyond the pale. There are reasons for this, internal to the world of the book, but I was unconvinced. Kids will likely not have much of a problem with this, but I've read too many fantasy books to find names like "China Sorrows" anything but silly. This may be the point, on reflection.

Also, I found that the mystery aspect of this novel was seriously lacking. We always knew whodunnit, and while I certainly didn't figure out all the little details, I didn't read this as a mystery. I mean, it was a mystery in the way that Harry Potter was a mystery. There were things that were unanswered questions, but it wasn't about the questions. It was about saving the world.

And finally, both good and bad was the dialogue. Good, because it was outrageous and funny and very, very clever. And bad because it was just too good sometimes. Both Skulduggery and Stephanie are super-fast wits, razor-sharp, sarcastic and generally hilarious verbal sparring partners. Which leads me to the major problem (which, for the record, I recognized immediately and chose to ignore): Stephanie is not any 12-year-old I know. She's not even any 14-year-old I know. She might be 15 and that's pushing it.

Let us recognize, however, that I am pointing out unrealistically clever dialogue and levels of maturity in a book that features a very fashionable skeleton as one of its protagonists. So... yeah, willing to ignore.

Some things I liked about Skulduggery Pleasant? As mentioned, the dialogue is snappy and super-charming. And Skulduggery himself is a really excellent character, truly good and yet unpredictable, charming and debonair and with a diamond-hard will. He's the sort I'd want on my side -- and not just because he would be hell to face as an enemy. Yet he's not invulnerable. He is arrogant, and full of anger, and impulsive; and despite the fact that he does his best to protect Stephanie he also occasionally puts her in extremely dangerous situations without providing her with the skills she needs to get out of them. And he puts himself in stupidly dangerous situations, too, which costs him.

Luckily, Stephanie is also an awesome character. Skulduggery doesn't do all the saving -- she saves him too, multiple times, which I am always happy to see in this sort of book. She's smart and though she's impulsive, she also learns very quickly from mistakes. There's one point in the book where she has a bit of an epiphany, recognizing that though she could blame others for the situation she's in, ultimately it was her choices that got her and others into serious trouble. So yes. A very mature 12-year-old. But she has to be, given that she's tossed into situations far beyond her experience or abilities, and expected to hold up her own end.

This book is jam-packed. There's really not much breathing space. There are small lulls in the action, but these are few and far between, and rarely the relaxing moment one might wish for Stephanie, Skulduggery and their allies. There are some moments that would probably be quite frightening to someone unfamiliar with the darker moments of Harry Potter, for example; there is torture and death and darkness, betrayal and complexities in even the most simplistic-seeming characters. So while this book is a fun romp, it's also got enough depth that it will appeal to adults as well as kids.

I'll stop going on about this one. Let me just point out, as a last ditch effort to get you to pick up this book, that Skulduggery won his current skull in a poker game. And if I haven't convinced you, please check out Darla's review -- she was the one who convinced me. I'm putting Skulduggery Pleasant: Playing With Fire on hold right now. And the third book is just out in hardcover! Hooray!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Teaser Tuesday: The Crow

Against my better judgement, I started The Crow by Alison Croggon yesterday. I knew I was going to get wrapped up in it, and today is a full day so I am going to have to put it down. So far, I'm enjoying it even more than I thought I would. There's something really addicting about Croggon's writing and characters. It's one of those books in a series that moves away from the main character (Maerad) and the main action to focus on a second character (Hem) who is integral to the full story, and I often find that really annoying. But I really like Hem and his mentor Saliman, and I love the setting, and I'm very much looking forward to spending this book with them and finding out the role that Hem plays in the greater picture.

From The Crow by Alison Croggon, p31:

Like everyone else in the School, he had heard the news, which had arrived by bird courier that morning and spread through Turbansk like wildfire. The students had been whispering about it in the corridors, shocked and subdued, and a girl whose family came from Baladh had started crying in one of the classes and had been taken away by Urbika.

Teaser Tuesdays are hosted by Should Be Reading. It works as follows:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share two teaser sentences from somewhere on that page.
  • Be careful not to include spoilers!
  • Include the title and author.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Ranma 1/2 Volumes 14 and 15 by Rumiko Takahashi

It's funny; I'd lost track of which Ranma 1/2 volumes I'd read, and so was commenting throughout my journal on volumes 13 and 14... by which I meant 14 and 15. I read 13 quite a while ago. Going back to read that entry, it turns out I'd thought it was mostly forgettable... and it seems I was right.

These next two volumes contain a couple of really excellent stories. There's one big ensemble story -- it involves Shampoo, Ryoga, Ukyo and Mousse, and I still really enjoyed it. There are crocodiles. And cold-water geysers. And nefarious mayors. And pork buns with swords. Volume 14's second story, the big ensemble piece which involves a three-legged obstacle race where the prize might be Ranma or it might be a trip to Jusenkyo (depends on who's racing), is really really funny and madcap.

Volume 15 contains a Nabiki-heavy story, which I think I would have liked better if Ranma and Akane weren't so darn stupid and determined to communicate poorly with each other. Like, so obstinate it came off as contrived. There were points in that story where my eyebrows were perpetually up, and the resolution provided me with my first throw-the-book-against-the-wall moment in Ranma 1/2, in that a) it didn't make any sense and b) the sense I was able to make of it was just. not. on. It was a moment in which Ranma stepped so far out of character my brain refused to accept it. To be fair, I'm now 15 volumes in to this series, so an out-of-character moment might have been inevitable at some point; lots of authors do much worse than that. But this was just ridiculous. I am hoping it's not a sign of things to come. Because if I have to start hating Ranma that's going to make the next 20 volumes awkward.

Not to say that there was nothing to love about Volume 15 aside from the Nabiki moments, which are always lovable for her sheer greed: think Soun Tendo (Akane's father) in a French maid costume. And Ranma in an iron corset. Yes? Yes.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Three Singles to Adventure by Gerald Durrell

Three Singles to Adventure is the second in my somewhat daunting attempt to read all of Gerald Durrell's autobiographical books. I've read this one before, but it was years and years ago, and it wasn't until I was most of the way through that I remembered at all. There were a couple of stories that tweaked my memory; but otherwise it was like a fresh read for me.

This book starts out promisingly, with four men in a bar in Georgetown (in what was then British Guiana, and is now simply Guyana):

"Well sir," he began, in his incredibly cultured voice, "I think you'd do well if you went to Adventure."

"Where?" asked Bob and I in unison.

"Adventure, sir," he stabbed at the map, "it's a small village just here, near the mouth of the Essequibo."

I looked at Smith.

"We're going to Adventure," I said firmly. "I must go to a place with a name like that."

Which would totally be my reaction, too. Thus begins a book that sometimes felt like it was so close to home I could have written it. Sometimes. Overall this book is just as entertaining and enlightening as The Overloaded Ark. I'm not going to go into my discussion of the discomfort-inducing colonialism that I did in my review of that book, but suffice to say that it was certainly present here too at times.

It also contains hints of the same enthusiastic description of place that I loved in The Overloaded Ark, although one does get the feeling that the jungles of Guiana weren't as eye-opening or as beloved as their African counterpart -- that, or Durrell had a stiffer word count, and I can't quite decide which. Three Singles to Adventure just didn't seem as richly descriptive as I had hoped, although what it lacks in description of place it makes up for in natural history tidbits. In particular, Durrell goes into a detailed (and humourously scathing) repudiation of the "common knowledge" about sloths, mentioning offhand how he's nearly sliced from ankle to hip by the two-toed variety somewhere inbetween discussing their virtues. Or take this passage, about the noble capybara, the largest rodent in the world:

This enormous rodent is a fat, elongated beast clad in harsh, shaggy fur of a brindled brown colour. Since its front legs are longer than its back ones, the capybara always looks as though it is on the point of sitting down. It has large feet, with broad, webbed toes, and on the front ones the nailsare short and blunt, looking curiously like miniature hooves. Its face is very aristocratic: a broad, flat head and the blunt, almost square, muzzle giving it a benign and superior expression like a meditative lion. On land the capybara moves with a peculiar shuffling gait or a ponderous, rolling gallop; but once in the water it swims and dives with astonishing ease and skill. A slow, amiable vegetarian, it lacks the personality displayed by some of its relatives but makes up for it by a placid and friendly disposition.

Can't you just picture it? Durrell introduced me (in this book, I think) to the capybara when I was a kid, and for a long time they held an almost mythic status in my mind. I couldn't quite believe there was something quite like a real capybara in the world, and for years I wasn't sure whether they were real, or if they were, whether they still existed in the wild. I know now that they do, in numbers no less, but I'm still inordinately fond of them, thanks largely to Gerald Durrell. If I ever see one in the wild, the squeeing will be heard in Antarctica.

The story that reminded me that I'd read this book before, though, was the story of the pipa toads and their "birth" in a kerosene tin halfway across the Atlantic Ocean, and the five fascinated sailors who preside, along with Durrell, over the event. I can't reproduce it here (it's a chapter long) but it encapsulates everything I love about nature, human nature, and nature interpretation -- I related so closely to it and recognized that I got into outdoor education largely because of the type of wonder and connection Durrell describes in this chapter. He captures it perfectly. And it made me a little sad that I never did have the chance to meet him, or even write to him. He was the sort of person I would really have enjoyed, even if I was too tongue-tied to speak when he was in the room. (Yes, I would have been. I don't react well to Authors; they make me nervous because I am in awe.)

The next book in the timeline is The Bafut Beagles which I know for sure I have never read. I would remember a title like that.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Teaser Tuesday: The Wise Heart, again

I've had a little trouble today deciding what to pick my teaser from. I am currently between books, having finished a Gerald Durrell the day before yesterday and two Ranma 1/2 volumes last night (it's terribly hard to tease from manga, anyway). I have The Crow by Alison Croggon downstairs, but I'm hesitant to pick it up today because I suspect I will need a day or two so I can read it all at once, and I'm working this evening and all day tomorrow. Can I say, though, that I like having to plan the reading of a book around the fact that I know I won't want to put it down once I start?

I've got a couple of things on the way from the library, too, hopefully to arrive today before I'm at work this evening.

But, since I am still reading it (slowly, slowly -- I'm going to have to get my own copy, I can't just keep renewing the library's, and I do like this book a lot) I thought I'd post a teaser from The Wise Heart again.

From The Wise Heart by Jack Kornfield, p72:

Now we have to wrestle with one of the deepest and most demanding aspects of Buddhist psychology, the experience of non-self. Ajahn Chah said, "You have conconsider and contemplate this slowly; you can't just think about this or your head will explode."

Well said, Ajahn Chah. Well said.

Teaser Tuesdays are hosted by Should Be Reading. It works as follows:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Open to a random page.
  • Share two teaser sentences from somewhere on that page.
  • Be careful not to include spoilers!
  • Include the title and author.