Saturday, February 28, 2009

Quote from Washington Irving

I’ve been overwhelmed with a lot of things lately. Work has been crazy and keeps me in the office till late most weekdays working on last minute proposals and request. Weekends are the same; if I'm not at the office then I’m running around like a headless chicken, catching up on household chores, catching up with family members and running around doing everything except giving myself me time.

I was feeling sorry for myself for the late hours in the office and started picking on small things. I allowed the small things to get to me and started barking at almost everyone and everything. Its no excuse and I’m not proud of it but I thought it was quite apt that I stumbled on this quote while I was researching on Washington Irving:

‘Great minds have purposes; little minds have wishes. Little minds are subdued with misfortune; great minds rise above them’

So here’s to not sweating the small stuff and hoping that with a little bit of focus and purpose, I’ll rise above the challenge.

Northanger Abbey

Catherine Morland is the protagonist of this novel who is intelligent but unfortunately inexperience with the ways of the world. At 17 years of age, she has never left the comforts of home until invited by Mr & Mrs Allen who requested for her company to Bath. It’s during this trip that Catherine’s innocence become obvious.

Catherine’s obsession in reading Gothic novels also gives her an overactive imagination. Her visit to Northanger Abbey seemed like an adventure which turns badly when she suspects her host, General Tilney of murdering his wife.
I can understand why Northanger Abbey is an all time favourite romance novel. It has innocence, it has romance (in this case with Henry Tilney), it has drama that separates the two love birds, followed by the hero going after the heroine and it ends with a wedding. A happy ever after type of romance that is sure to get the attention of female readers.
As much as Northanger Abbey was an interesting read, it felt as though I was reading a teenage romance novel. Of course, this could be because Northanger Abbey is thought to be one of Austen’s first novels written in her early twenties. It was an easy read and I did enjoy Catherine’s active imagination at work which is reflective of her youth. I also have to mention that I found Thorpe’s character annoying...
I like Headline Review’s version of Northanger Abbey as it includes background on the book, a reading guide as well as history on Austen herself. One of the information included in the book which I thought was interesting is that some publishers placed Northanger Abbey under the Gothic genre.
In fact, I managed to find the cover from the 1960’s that pitched the book as a Gothic novel. With some research I also discovered that the quote on the back cover was amplified to fit the genre:
Actual quote:
‘The wind roared down the chimney, the rain beat in torrents against the windows, and everything seemed to speak the awfulness of her situation’

The ‘improved’ quote:
‘The storm still raged, and various were the noises, more terrific even than the wind, which struck at intervals on her startled ear. The very curtains of her bed seemed at one moment in motion, and at another the lock of her door was agitated, as if by the attempt of somebody to enter. Hollow murmurs seemed to creep along the gallery, and more than once her blood was chilled by the sound of distant moans.’

Ha ha... a bit over the top don’t you think? Personally, I think Northanger Abbey is still a romance novel that has some gothic elements to it but it definitely is not a Gothic genre.
If you’ve read Northanger Abbey, my question is do you think Northanger Abbey can be considered under the Gothic genre? Do you prefer the 1960’s version? Why?

E-Book: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

This classic short story is about a legend in a small community called Sleepy Hollow. The narrator of the book begins with an explanation on how he stumbled upon the town whilst hunting and describes it as a peaceful place and stated ‘If ever I should wish for a retreat wither I might steal from the world and its distractions, and dream quietly away the remnant of a troubled life, I know of none more promising than this little valley’. Despite its beauty, the narrator continues to describe that the ‘peculiar character of its inhabitant’ seem to be influenced by superstition and legends. One such story that the inhabitants truly believe in is that of the Headless Horsemen:
‘The dominant spirit, however, that haunts this enchanted region, and seems to be commander-in-chief of all the powers of the air, is the apparition of a figure on a horseback, without a head.’

The book then introduces through the narrator the tale of a local school teacher called Ichabod‘...tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet that might have served for shovels, and his whole frame loosely hung together. His head was small, and flat at top, with huge ears, large green glassy eyes, and a long snipe nose...’ 

After reading this, I thought that Disney’s version of Ichabod Crane fits Washington Irving’s description of the character the best.
As the story goes, the simple school teacher is also fearful of the local terror tales. However, according to the narrator, none of the terror tales put together can cause more bewilderment than that of a woman, specifically Katrina Van Tassel who is the daughter of a wealthy farmer. I love this quote from the book and thought it was funny. I’m guessing that Ichabod would have appreciated the book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus if he had an opportunity to read it:

‘All these, however, were mere terrors of the night, phantoms of the mind that walk in darkness; and though he had seen many spectres in his time, and been more than once beset by Satan in divers shapes, in his lonely perambulations, yet daylight put an end to all these evils; and he would have passed a pleasant life of it, in spite of the Devil and all his works, if his path had not been crossed by a being that causes more perplexity to the mortal man than ghost, goblins, and the whole race of witches put together, and that was—a woman.’
Also vying for Katrina’s attention is Ichabod’s rival Brom Bones, who is the complete opposite of Ichabod Crane. Brom Bones was described as ‘...the hero of the country round, which rang with his feats of strengths and hardihood. He was broad-shouldered and double-jointed, with short curly black hair, and a bluff but not unpleasant countenance, having a mingled air of fun and arrogance.’

One night after a party held by the Van Tassels, Ichobod Crane met the Headless Horsemen, went missing and was never found. It was concluded by the locals that Ichabod was ‘carried off by the Galloping Hessian’. What really happened to Ichabod no one ever knew, although the narrator shared towards the end of the book:

‘Brom Bones, too, who, shortly after his rival’s disappearance conducted the blooming Katrina in triumph to the altar, was observed to look exceedingly knowing whenever the story of Ichabod was related, and always burst into a hearty laugh at the mention of the pumpkin; which led some to suspect that he knew more about the matter than he chose to tell’.
I strongly suspect that Brom Bones had something to do with Ichabod disappearance. Poor Ichabod, I really liked his character.

Washington Irving’s book had a detailed narrative of the location and the events that transpired which made reading The Legend of Sleepy Hollow exciting. It had a mix of humour and horror, although I'm quite certain anyone reading the book at this day and age will not be frightened easily by the ghostly details of Ichabod’s encounter with the Galloping Hessian.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. If you’d also like to read the short story and share your thoughts on the book, please click here.

Friday, February 27, 2009

What's on Your Nightstand- February

What’s on Your Nightstand is a monthly event hosted by 5 Minutes for Books.

I’ve been so busy at work and planning for the wedding this past weeks that I’ve been struggling to catch up with my reading. Anyway, I intend to catch up on my TBR pile and this is what’s on my nightstand this month:
The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas
I intend to pick up The End of Mr Y, which I bought on impulse about a month back. I found a review from Bookslut’s blog which I thought was pretty helpful and honest.
This was also a book which I picked up on impulse about maybe a year ago... Yes, you read it right, it’s been sitting pretty on my bookshelf for almost a year now. Anyway, hopefully it won’t sit idly on the bookshelf for long.

Friday Finds, 27 February 2009

This week’s finds:
  1. The 39 Steps, John Buchan
  2. The Secret Scripture, Sebastian Barry
  3. The Help, Kathryn Stockett

Friday Finds is hosted by Should Be Reading.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Finds, 20 February 2009

This week's finds:
  1. Cafe on the Nile, Bartle Bull
  2. Princess, Jean Sasson

Friday Finds is hosted by Should Be Reading.

Ps- have been burning the midnight oil in the office for the past few weeks, so please excuse my absence. Hope to update my reviews and catch up with all of your blogs soonest. :P

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday Finds, 13 February

Friday Finds is hosted by Should Be Reading.
This weeks' finds...
  1. History Without the Boring Bits, Ian Crofton
  2. The Women, TC Boyle
  3. A Short History of Tractors in the Ukrainian, Marina Lewynka

Happy Valentine's Day y'all...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Weekly Geeks 2009- 05

This week’s Weekly Geeks is all about judging a book by their cover. Pick a book – any book, really—and search out multiple book cover images for that book. They could span a decade or two (or more) ... Or they can span several countries. Which cover is your favourite? Which one is your least favourite? Which one ‘captures’ what the book is about?
My selection is John Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’, which happens to be one of my personal favourites. My old copy of the book has been missing for the longest time and I’ve been looking for an edition with a great cover that I could purchase for my own collection. Anyway, this week's Weekly Geeks gave me a good excuse to start doing some research on the variety of editions available, here's what I found:
~~~1937~~~~~1965~~~~~~ 1975~~

~~1986 ~~~~ 1993~~~~~1994~~

~~~1994~~~~~2000~~~~ 2000~~

~~2001~~~~ 2002~~~~~ 2003~~~~ 2006~~

Apparently, the 1937 edition is selling at Christie’s for about $230. The 1937, 2001 and 2006 edition is my favourite book cover design. I didn’t really like the 1986 version because the colour and picture just didn’t stand out.

Going through the various cover designs, I’m more likely to purchase the 2002 version which comes in a set of 6 other books by Steinbeck. It’s a box set that includes The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden, The Pearl, Cannery Row, Travels with Charley and In Search of America.

Love Letters of Great Men

I’ve been absolutely busy the past few weeks and have not been able to read much. Anyway, about two weeks back I found a book which the bookstores were promoting for the up-coming Valentine’s celebration titled Love Letters of Great Men.

The front cover of the book states that the book was inspired by the movie Sex and the City, that was an easy bait cause I was hooked and bought it immediately. I love anything related to the movie. Who can forget those famous words Mr Big quoted from Beethoven: “...Ever thine, Ever mine, Ever Ours...”

Well, enough about the movie already...In all honesty I didn’t really enjoy reading this book entirely probably because most of the letters featured are written to the writer’s respective mistresses who seem to be short flings rather than soul mates. However, there are a few letters that I quite enjoyed reading.
I personally liked Mozart’s letters to his wife; John Keat’s letter to his fiancĂ©e Fanny Brawne and Robert Browning’s letter to Elizabeth Barret who eventually became his wife. My absolute favourite is Mark Twain’s letter to his wife on her 30th birthday and the collection of letters of those fighting during the Great War to their loved ones. These were really romantic and some of the letters from the Great War were truly touching. Worthy read for the month of love...
Happy Valentine's Day you all. xox

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