Archive for July, 2007
The man who introduced me to book arts disdains miniature books, and I have to admit that they can be painfully precious, but sometimes they can be pretty neat – and the workmanship required to create them is astounding. Here’s a few little books I found on Etsy, one of my favorite browsing sites.
Book of Questions by NinaJudinBooks: 3.3cm x 42cm ($125)
Chocolate Button Book by RedOtter: 3″ x 3″ ($7.50)
Decorated Notebook by purplemagpie: 7.5cm x 11.5cm ($7)
Enthusiasm Booklace by JOYouz: 1.125″ x 1.5″, 0.25″ thick ($20)
Handbound Leather 1/12 Scale Book by teresasart: 1″ x 0.875″ ($30)
Itty Bitty Blank Book by erinzam: 3.5cm x 1.5cm x 17.8cm ($10)
Leather Handbound Book Keychain by ArtisanGraham: 2.5″ x 2.5″, 0.75″ thick ($10)
Mentos Sours by yatsu: 8cm x 6cm ($5)
Miniature Book Charm by dingo: 17mm x 12mm, 5mm thick ($4)
Mini Book of Haiku by greenchairpress: 1.5″ x 1.5″ ($10)
Tiffany Cassette Tape Blank Book by erinzam: 4″ x 2.5″ x 1.5″ ($18)
A Week in my Garden by runmoremiles: 2″ x 2″ ($4)
One of these days I’ll post something non-HP related, I swear. Today, maybe!
Brotherhood 2.0 is a video-blog by two brothers who are doing an experiment – no talking to one another for a solid year in any form other than 4-minute daily videos. It’s gained a huge following. One of the brothers does a weekly song; he’s no great vocal talent, but his songs are brilliant and funny. Song-making brother is a well-read environmentalist blogger, and the other brother is a published YA author.
Anyway, this video, from July 18, is the #! favorited YouTube video right now. Big coup for their website. And the song is great – his “uh oh” predictions are pretty on (so yeah, spoiler alert, despite the video title), and he’s totally saying exactly what I was thinking!
This one may have spoilers. I’m going to try to hide them, but it may not work. Read with caution.
The problem with reading HP7 quickly in the wee hours of the morning and then immediately blogging about it with a pulsing headache is that it is so easy to miss what should have been blindingly clear. Settling down for a much-needed lunch hour nap, it came to me like the voice of a smug lit professor who can’t believe he has to spell this out to sophomores. I’ve been discussing (elsewhere) the epilogue, and whether it was extraneous, too tidy, satisfying. I realize now that the romantic angle is incidental. The epilogue is ESSENTIAL, because it sets the stage for _____’s closing conversation with _____ about the Hogwarts Houses.
Harry Potter 7 is the lynchpin in a brilliant, ingeniously-crafted, long-resonating message about choice.
This isn’t a fantasy series. Its not even a kids book, in the common sense of the phrase. This is a non-author’s daring stand against a bleakening future, against apathy and selfishness. And it’s BEAUTIFUL. Millions of children will internalize the Harry Potter myth, will latch onto one character or another as a small part of their psyche, and by that will come to unconsciously understand that we have CHOICES.
We have the choice to be good or evil, to do harm or good, to be brave or craven. More importantly, we can choose to CHANGE. We can choose to turn the darkness in ourselves into light.
We’re all human. We are all of us going to hurt one another, cheat, fail, turn tail and run, betray, wound, disappoint, misplace (dis)trust, fall from grace. But we can choose to get back on the broom, return to our friends, beg forgiveness, devote our lives to rebalancing the equation.
I am thinking, and I can’t come up with a SINGLE CHARACTER of any note in the HP saga who isn’t given at least one moment of choice, an opportunity to turn around. Not all of them make worthy choices, not all of them make unpredictable ones. But every single one of them chooses: whom to love, to trust, to join, to leave. They change the road they are on. ___ returns to the front lines and rejoins his estranged friends. _____, against all odds, turns his back on his livelihood and joins his family for the final battle. _____ chooses his child over one last adventure. The students of Hogwarts choose to take a stand rather than give in to enormous power and pressure. It’s every single character. It’s the entire story.
And even when a choice doesn’t turn out the way we hope, we’re told in the epilogue, it is still within our power to take THAT and make it work for good.
The Sorting Hat represents destiny, and seems an inevitable thing – but it listened to an eleven-year-old boy who preferred Gryffindor over Slytherin. It bowed to free will.
Harry Potter is a seven-volume saga about “Invictus.”
Brilliant. I was appreciative before, but now I’d really like to shake Rowling’s hand. What a masterpiece. I know there are lots of you out there who are kind of indifferent about the books… but you might give them a shot. There’s something more to these books than the hype and the movies and the merchandising. These books just might accomplish something.
Update: If you liked this review, consider clicking here and giving it a “thumb’s up” by clicking on the little symbol in the lower lefthand corner. I submitted it for the LibraryThing Harry Potter 7 review contest, even though I don’t strictly think it’s a true review – it’s more formal than most on there, though, so why not?
Four and a half hours.
It wasn’t as bad as I’d thought. Wasn’t as good as some people would want me to believe, either. Best book ever? Please. Best of the seven? Up for debate; it certainly wasn’t my favorite, but it was very good. Formulaic in bits, predictable, derivitatve in bits, too – but hey, seriously. An amazing story, very well-written, very much worth the headache brewing behind my eyes because I stayed up too late. And yes, I’d say that even if no one else in the world had ever heard of Harry.
Who dies? Hell, this is Hamlet on broomsticks. Everyone dies. Except the rutabaga.
Oh come on. Did you really think that I, grateful depender-upon-those who don’t spoil, would spill the plotbeans? Even on four hours of sleep?
Don’t get me wrong. I want to talk about it. But online – at least on the public side, this soon – is not the place.
Maybe I’ll do a… yes. If you have finished reading the book, and want to, leave me a note and I’ll add you to my protected list. It’ll be a brand-new shiny protected list just for this. The downside is that it is limited to ten people, since I let my Premium expire, so if you volunteer to be one of the ten you’d better promise to bring good discussion! 🙂 Oops. This is why I shouldn’t copy/paste from Xanga this early in the morning. Sorry about that.
Speaking of discussion: I was thinking about characters on the way to work this morning, and about how the minor characters have all become pretty fleshed-out and realistic over the course of the last seven books, and how I can see people I know in the people in HP. This led me to this question, that I hope all you HP readers will answer:
Think seriously about it, and be honest. Which supporting character (not Harry, Ron, or Hermione) is most like you? Not the you that you would like to be, but who you really are. Don’t consider magical ability in your consideration, just personality, actions, etc.. Base your response on what you know of that character given how far you’ve gotten in the HP books – no answer will be mocked. 🙂
I’ll post my answer in the comments.
What can be said without spoiling anything:
- I now totally understand why my sister threw the book in chapter four. I don’t know how far she is (she bought the book right before boarding a plane to Orlando for a convention, and probably doesn’t have much time to read) but she’s going to get another chance to hone her book-chucking skills here before the end of the book. Poor git.
- The prediction I posted online, some time ago, was proved partially correct. My long-standing theory of – well, my long-standing theory was proved 100% correct. R’s and my revised prediction, which was never put into print, was proved rather spectacularly correct – not 100%, but startlingly so. Well done, R!
- I think the American version was too hastily edited for British vernacular. Most of the books use the occasional British slang word to add a sense of setting, but the inconsistency of vernacular usage in book 7 did not have the air of deliberateness. I’m all for the word “snog,” and I grew up on Brit lit so my comprehension is pretty high, but some of the phrases in this book stopped me cold and made me wish I had a dictionary.
- Not enough Hogwarts. And I miss the Quidditch matches. Truth be told, I loved the first four books, and ever since then it’s been a slow downhill slide into dark fantasy land for me. I like the sense of wonder and exploration as the children discover the school and the wizarding world much better than all this war and emotional disturbance and betrayal. I guess that’s the 7-year-old daisy-chain-making fairy-tale-reading idealist in me, but I can’t help it. (How I ever made it as an English major, I’ll never know.)
- I am a sucker for heroicism. Is that actually a word? It sounds good in my mind…
- Love the character development that wipes out some of the black-and-white nature of some of these major characters. Thanks for de-cartooning things, J.K.!
- My head hurts.
We are driving down a fairly ugly stretch of eastern Washington highway, and I am grateful that my dog is standing on the middle console between my husband and I, because maybe that means he won’t notice that I am surreptitiously bawling my eyes out. I’ve reached the end of The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger, and although I knew what was coming, I am shocked and sick with grief.
Books don’t ordinarily get to me like this one has. In fact, the only other time I can remember out-and-out crying over a book was my first time through Where the Red Fern Grows, and at the time I was convinced I’d caught a virus, because come ON, I just didn’t cry over books like that. I’m not a crier, period. But those stupid heroic coonhounds got to me, and so have Henry and Clare.
Time Traveler is the story about Henry, a “chronologically impaired” librarian who spontaneously and unwillingly time travels. [Ed. note: You could probably come up with a really hilarious webcomic or story based on that sentence.] If you’ve read Job: A Comedy of Justice (a great favorite of mine) you’ve been exposed to this phenomenon before, although with slightly different quirks. In Heinlein’s novel, the time traveler can take with him anything he is clutching. In Niffenegger’s, only Henry himself time travels. Anything around him – people, clothing, even things as firmly attached as dental fillings – is left behind. Another difference is that Heinlein’s time travelers proceed from place to place, not returning to the place they were before; Henry yo-yo’s back to the “present” at the end of every trip. His unique circumstances allow him to visit with past and future selves; he is also able to meet with his wife, Clare, as a young girl.
It’s not a science fiction story; I’m not sure what it is that it is. It’s patently a love story, and what makes it such a good love story is that it’s not rose-tinted. Henry and Clare have a completely realistic series of average-couple problems, aggravated by the special complications of Henry’s condition. Theirs is a believable courtship and marriage, which is probably why it rings so close and true to my heart. When something bad happens in a romance novel, it doesn’t resonate, because that’s not a real relationship in the first place. When something bad happens in a book like this, it feels like it could have been happening to you.
(My husband points out that he could tell things were going badly in the book because I kept turning to him and repeating, “I’m glad you’re not a time traveler.”)
So yes: a love story. But also a science, or perhaps a chrono-philosophy, story. Time Traveler touches on the nature of time, about morality and situational ethics, about cause-and-effect, and about responsibility of knowledge. It is also arguably a book about theology and spirituality, although the characters are not at all religious. The issue of predestination is a major player in this novel. It’s a story about survival, and the way people react to differences and unfamiliarity. It is a story about running. And by the end of the story, Alfred Lord Tennyson is whispering ’tis better to have loved and lost… in your ear, and if you are like me at that moment, you’ll want to slug him in the mouth and tell him how wrong he was.
This isn’t a particularly challenging book, and it is so engaging and well-written that it will seamlessly suck you into its reality and keep you motivated to read it in a single sitting. (You may, if you share my geeky inclinations, be tempted to pause from time to time to map out the chronological loops. I wouldn’t recommend trying; you’ll give yourself a headache.) If I haven’t already made it abundantly clear, though, it packs a helluva wallop. This isn’t the book to read on the subway on the way to a job interview or a date. It probably isn’t the book to read while your significant other is on a business trip, either. Ideally, you’re going to want a warm blanket, a pint of ice cream, a box of kleenex, and your loved one’s knee within ready reach for this sucker.
Thinking about The Time Traveler’s Wife has led me to two questions.
Why is this a book club book? I’ve definitely read books that begged discussion. A popular example is the Harry Potter series; it’s great fun to sit around with other fans and discuss the hidden messages, philosophies, motivations, possibilities. But there are other books that don’t need dissecting, that in fact suffer by it. Some books are intellectual exercises, and other books are emotional experiences. The Time Traveler’s Wife should be, in my opinion, felt rather than analysed. It washed over and into me. I turned past the end-of-book acknowledgments and found myself reading several pages of inane book club questions, pushing the reader to probe the characters and their relationship. I was – well, I was offended. It felt like standing at someone’s deathbed, moments after the fact, and cross-examining the deceased’s loved ones on minutia of the life spent. Try as I might, I cannot imagine sitting around discussing this book. Sitting in a room together clutching hot cups of tea pretending not to be crying again, damnit while desperately searching for topics of conversation that will get this book off my mind – I can imagine doing that. But not dissecting it. Not analysing it. That’s saying something for me; I analyse everything.
Which brings me to… what defines a “good” book? In one sense, I’m entirely ready to bestow that label here. I was glued to Time Traveler’s Wife for the length of time it took me to read it, and two days later it’s still haunting me. It was beautifully written, impeccably crafted. It’s definitely a “top shelf” book. And yet – I hate it. I hate what it has done to me. I felt physically ill after I finished it, and finally started reading another book to get the first out of my head. If I stop reading something else, though, this story slips right back into my brain and kicks me in the gut. Can a book be GOOD if it makes you feel heartsick for days? Or is it good by definition if it can have that kind of impact? Is there a distinction – or should there be – between a well-written book and a good book?
Don’t get me wrong. This is a new favorite – and, incidentally, one of my forgotten/unread books I challenged myself to read, so it’s a doubly good choice.
I interrupt your regular daily programming for the following announcement: I’ve been nominated as a Rockin’ Girl Blogger! This is the second surprise in the past 48 hours to really unexpectedly brighten my day, and I can’t thank Erin of Paperback Stash enough for this very nice honor. She wrote:
I don’t think [Book Dragon]’s been nominated, at least not where I can
find by searching. She’s extremely enthusiastic with her blog and it’s a great
one! A variety of book lover posts and so friendly and helpful with me when I
started the Paperback Stash.
I hadn’t been nominated, and I’m just as pleased as punch.
So, I’m giving not-very-serious thought to not even reading Deathly Hallows. First, it was the hysteria. Hype has always turned me off, and hysteria has always made me want to run the other way. I’m a HP devotee, don’t get me wrong, but I just can’t stand all the insanity that surrounded the days leading up to the release. I’m not the sort of person who likes to do what everyone else is doing, y’know?
Then it came out. Everyone on teh intrawebz is very nice and has avoided spoiling it for those of us slower to receive our copies, but there’s still buzz, and you can tell a lot from buzz. Aggravated by all the hysteria, I did something I rarely, rarely do: I read the table of contents, and then I glanced at the last page of the book. Not long enough to read anything – I just wanted to see if “scar” really was the last word. (It isn’t.)
The problem is, I’m a superhumanly fast reader, and I have a bit of a photgraphic memory. So I closed the book after reading the last word (which is, incidentally, “rutabaga”), and immediately afterwards a near-complete image of the page floated into my inner eye. From that after-image, I ascertained at least two characters were off the chopping block, and I got a time frame (apparently, I’ve learned, this was the epilogue), and I half-confirmed one long-lasting theory of mine. This unexpected knowledge didn’t, and doesn’t, bother me.
What bothers me is that my sister got to Chapter 4, threw down the book, and announced that she hated the book and hated J.K. Rowling. What bothers me is my husband (who stayed up until 5 AM last night finishing it) telling me “it gets worse.” What bothers me is Jamie talking about screaming at the book for hours.
I just had my heart broken by a book two days ago. I’m not sure I’m ready for this kind of trauma. Maybe I don’t need to read HP7. My favorite character in the saga is, as I’ve said before, Hogwarts; if Harry et. al. leave Hogwarts, that’s like a death in and of itself. If I don’t read it, I can finish it the way I want to. (I’ve said this all before, I think, although my prediction for the outcome has changed significantly since then.) And if I don’t read it, then the story never really has to end….
It’s sitting under my desk. I’ve read the first paragraph and the last word. Maybe (and I know this isn’t true) that’s enough.
This is why I sometimes hate series.