Sunday, December 23, 2007

Are ye bettin' men?

The waters of Beepy's Lagoon have been a little rough lately and, sadly, the last big wave washed away my crate of books. Luckily, I had The Duke's Children tucked in a little waterproof flap under my flipper and am, therefore, not left totally bereft of books. As I imagined reading and rereading the same book for the rest of my sorry-sea existence (as wonderful as Trollope might be), a tiny ship dropped anchor and a strange little man emerged. He explained that he was in charge of the vessel and asked if he could be of assistance. It turns out that the ship was "Cap'n Ahab's BookMOBYle" and for the price of a kelp meal for her crew, I could have two books delivered to my favorite rock each week. I readily agreed.

That's 2 books a week, 8 books a month, 24 books a season, 104 books a year. Not much to some maybe but am I, bleary eyed, sleep obsessed, lazy manatee that I am, up to it? Place your bets now folks. Winners will receive a free meal of their choice come January 1, 2009.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Before I get a late night drunken phone call from a rather "puckish" character and end up with shattered eardrums and plunging self esteem, let me explain what I meant by not adoring The Duke's Children.

First of all, this book is, I believe, the fifth in a series. I've not read those that came before. Although that is not necessary to understand the action in this story, there is a lot of background in the characters' lives that I don't know. The editors have done their best to fill in the missing information with textual notes, but that's not enough for me. I'm curious, I guess. For example, I'm told that the Duke had his doubts about Mrs. Finn's motives in befriending his wife, but by the time this story starts he is over them. However there is still an underlying discomfort and I just don't understand it; it all took place in a previous novel. A minor problem, sure, most readers probably wouldn't even care, but I do. I want no secrets from my big, fat, Victorian novels.

Over that (almost), I read on and encounter more rocky ground. Like most manatees, I can't tell a Whig from a Tory and there's a lot of political babble in this novel. Lord Silverbridge, naughty son number one, is running for Parliament and his father does not approve of his political views. I am so lost that the surrounding waters could be the Gobi desert. I know it's a fault in my reading abilities, but when Trollope starts talking politics, I start thinking about whether the devil really does wear Prada.

Ditto, Major Tiptoe and horse racing.

However, when Trollope starts talking about the relationships between father and offspring, offspring and romantic partners, romantic partners and their rivals, my interest perks right back up. Silverbridge, with his father's blessing, sort of proposes Marriage (yes, I meant the capital "M") to Mabel Grex, a poor but well bred young woman. Mabel Grex is sort of in love with Frank Tregear. Frank Tregear used to love Mabel Grex (but they are both poor so tough luck to them) but now is engaged to Mary Palliser. Mary Palliser is the sister of Lord Silverbridge. Her father does not approve at all of her engagement. Oh yeah, it's the girly stuff that gets to me. All I need is an illicit affair or an out-of-wedlock pregnancy and I'll be over the moon.

That is all I have for today. But tell me what you're reading. I really want to know!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Missing Picture

When bad things happen to good Dukes

The Duke has three very naughty children. The eldest son, Lord Silverbridge, is the naughtiest. In fact, he's a bit like the George W. Bush of Trollope's time. Backed by a wealthy, politically savvy family, he finds himself elected but would rather just spend time at his club, eating fancy food and smoking fine cigars. He'd really like to know what is being debated on the floor but it's just too hard to follow along. Perhaps someone can explain it to him later.

In addition, his naughtiness extends to his friends. Under the influence of Major Tifto (hereby referred to as Major Tiptoe because it amuses me) he bets on horses and loses a great deal of money. Oh, and he owns the horses he bets on (does that make it better or worse - I can't decide.) He asks one woman to marry him because he feels he ought to and then falls in love with another.

Oh, he is a bad seed.

The younger son, Gerald, is well on his way to naughtiness as well. He has been thrown out of University (following in the footsteps of Lord S.) because he was attending a forbidden horse race and got caught. (Maybe he's George W. I can't decide.) Neither he nor his brother are too upset by this and indeed celebrate with salmon and kidneys after a long night of drinking.

A bad seed as well.

You'd think with these two as brothers, Lady Mary would have a free ride with dear old dad. But Mary is also very, very naughty. She has given her heart (but only her heart) to a penniless Joe. This Daddy Duke can not forgive. He can't think where he has gone wrong with her. Has he not impressed upon the girl that money is everything when it comes to marriage? But she insists on being true to her love and in classic Victorian style is sent off to quietly desiccate in the home of some elderly friend or relative (in this case Lady "Catnip" or Cantrip as Trollope insists on calling her.) Having been so pawned off myself when I fell for Steve back in 187-, I have the most sympathy for her. Still, a very bad seed, I think.

I am also being very naughty. Steve would have me love this book, but I am falling short of his desires.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Age of Innocence and me

Whenever the subject of Newland Archer comes up, all 17 of my brothers simultaneously look down, shake their heads and mutter "poor bastard." That pretty much sums things up. Newland Archer is a poor bastard. He is, as many of you are, torn between his affections for two different women. To complicate matters the two women are cousins, members of a very well to do and influential New York family. May Welland is a young, respectable (i.e. a virgin), beautiful girl. Her every move reeks of compassion and innocence and it is only as the novel progresses that we begin to see how cold and calculating she is and lose all sense of pity for her. Her rival is the Countess Olenska, less young, less fresh (i.e. a strumpet), less beautiful woman. She is ruled by her passions and her independence and steadily gains our respect as the novel progresses. Unfortunately, Newland Archer is a tool and chooses May.

The novel opens at the opera, where Newland gets his first glance (since childhood) of Ellen Olenska. She has returned from Europe in disgrace. A failed marriage, a possible - no, probable - affair with the man who helped her escape her unhappy condition. She has lost much of her money, she lives in an unfashionable section of the city and she - gasp - is dressed inappropriately for the occasion. Later, she is held in contempt for visiting social climbers and other disgraced people, because she enjoys their society. Her family initially rallies around her but soon deserts her because she can not follow the rules of proper society. And, darn her, she just will NOT return to her husband so that they can forget about her.

Soon after this moment, Newland announces his engagement to May so that the Countess may have the support and protection of the Archers as well as May's family. He is continually thrown against the Countess and soon he begins to like it. She is everything that May, apparently, is not. She has traveled, is well read, and has had thoughts and feelings of her very own. While May strikes Archer as a blank page that he will get to fill in, the Countess is an equal and therefore interesting. When sparks start to warm his desire, he marries May. Poor bastard.

I don't want to spoil the plot for anyone who hasn't read it. Let's just say that May isn't the innocent flower that she appears. Oh, yeah, she's a virgin but she's no pushover. She has a steel core and will tolerate no one messing with her perfect world, including her about-to-stray husband and her hussy cousin. May needs a good spanking but no one's man enough to hold her down. Especially her husband.

One of my favorite images from the book is captured on this edition's cover. (This is not the edition I read though. Mine had a crappy movie cover that completely missed the point of everything) May Archer, nee Welland, is frequently compared to the goddess Diana - virginal, athletic, with classic beauty and aloofness. You will remember that Diana was the archer in mythology, goddess of the hunt. A perpetual virgin, Diana killed any man who attempted to sully her in any way. She showed no mercy and no heart. This is also a perfect description of young May Archer and is underlined by her triumph at an archery contest which occurs half way through the novel. Diana is also, for some reason that I don't understand, the goddess of childbirth and this also reflects in May's character.

After reading The Age of Innocence, I want to know more about Edith Wharton's life. I'm intrigued by the fact that she also had an unhappy marriage and ended up leaving her husband. But, alas, this is all I know. Perhaps Steve or Sam could bring another layer of understanding of the book for me. Especially since my reading will definately include more of Edith Wharton's books. Soon, I hope.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Final loop-the-loop and I stagger off

Phew... I finished the book today and I'm exhausted! The end of the book did not let up, not for one second. It was wonderfully satisfying and satisfyingly wonderful. (Sorry, the book I read before this was Lady Chatterley's Lover and Lawrence does this a lot, switching two words, adverb to adjective. It drove me nuts but now I keep doing it.) I've got to go rest now.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Buckle Up!

Wow, this book is a ride. A very disturbing ride. Not that I'm stepping off when it slows down. Not that it slows down much. Anyway...
As I mentioned in the last post, 42 students start off on a "field trip." Soon we, the reader, have an uncomfortable feeling. There are mentions of secret government going ons and a description of a wrestling game which ends with only one soldier standing. Soon our hapless students are gassed and find themselves smack in the middle of a hideous game. Each child is given a weapon and told they must kill each other until only one remains. Weapons are random and seem to range from something as lame as a fork to the king of weapons, a machine gun. Each child wears an electronic collar so that the government can monitor their whereabouts and they are told that the collar will explode if a) they try to remove it b) they try to escape c) 24 hours passes with no death or d) they enter a forbidden zone. More and more forbidden zones are announced during the games to keep the players from hiding out throughout the entire game. Then they are released one by one into the "game" to hide or fight as they see fit. It's all very scary.
As you might imagine, the violence starts almost immediately. Chapters alternate between our hero, Shuya Nanahara, trying to help his friends or find a way out and brutal, inventive slayings. I don't know what kind of sick mind came up with this story and plotted out the deaths, but I hope I never meet him. Especially at night. Especially alone. I wish that I could think of a good one to share with you but you really have to witness it for yourself. We're down to about 17 kids now and I don't think that the author has even reached his peak yet.
Now the book isn't pure poetry or anything. There are lots of clunky sentences (it's hard to tell though whether that's the fault of the author or translator). But I rate it well worth reading just for the fun of it. There are two reasons for the fun. One is just the imagination behind the violence. Once, in high school, I wrote a short story about the brutal death of all 9 players on the field during a baseball game. The first few deaths were a piece of cake, (bat hitting head, outfielder hitting wall, etc) but then where do you go? Yeah, the last few players became much harder to kill off. I'm guessing it was the same for our author, but he is proving his mettle by making me flinch again and again. There is also the psychological aspect of it. What would you do in similar circumstances? Would you trust your colleagues? Who would be the first to turn on you? Who would you gladly go after? Is there a way to outwit the game? It's very creepy and should have been part of my October Halloween reading.
I hear that it's also a movie. I'd recommend reading the book though. Better to savor the mayhem when it's laid out in black and white.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Voting Results

After alerting the people on Steve's blog and giving out my address to about 550 people I know, I'm proud to announce the results.

The votes tabulate:

Battle Royale - 3 (one being a verbal vote from Mama Chan)

Age of Innocence - 2

The Duke's Children - 1

The World Is Flat - 1

And two write in votes: Cages and War and Peace

Thank you to all who voted. Please feel free to vote for the next book I'll read. So far Age of Innocence is in the lead. But all that could change with YOUR vote.

So I will be reading Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. The title refers to a type of wrestling match, which the beginning chapter explains, is when 20 or so wrestlers all enter the ring at once and have a free for all. They may fight one on one or gang up on the same person. As a wrestler is pinned, they must leave the ring. Finally, only one wrestler remains and wins it all.

The second chapter is a secret government document. It is not clear what they are talking about but there is obviously evil afoot. The government appears to be a totalitarian type government whose concern for its people is nil.

The third chapter introduces a bunch of junior high school children, 42 in all. They are on a bus going on some sort of field trip. Could they be the participants in our Battle Royale? We learn about a young man, Shuya Nanhara (Male Student No.15). Yes, male student no. 15. How ominous is that? Each student introduces is given a number. We discover who is the school jock (Male Student No. 3), the protagonist's love interest (Female Student No. 15), the school bully (Male Student No. 10), the school patsy (Male Student No.1). It's very freaky. The chapter ends wiht the words "42 students remaining."

Yeah, this one has my interest.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Survivor: Beepy's Bookshelf

Sometimes, as I sun myself on my favorite rock, the ocean delivers up a little surprise. Most of the time it's just medical waste, but occasionally it will be something that somebody did not mean to lose. Yesterday was one such day. A crate washed up next to me and after eating all the seaweed caught among its slats, I decided to open it. Oh, sure, I was hoping for more food or perhaps some fine wine, but was overjoyed to find that it contained books.

So now I turn to you, Steve's friends and my few acquaintances, to tell me which one I should read. You may base your vote on having actually read the book, or you may be completely arbitrary and play eeny meeny miny moe with the choices. You may choose the book based on the cover being your favorite color or once having been friends with someone who shares the same first name as the author. I don't care. Just tell me which I should read and give me a brief reason why.

These are the books which washed up:

1. The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers

2. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

3. The Duke's Children by Anthony Trollope

4. The Blood Doctor by Barbara Vine

5. The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman

6. Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

7. The Diviners by Margaret Lawrence

8. The Geographer's Library by Jon Fasman

9. The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist

10. Operation Shylock by Phillip Roth

11. Lord Byron's Doctor by Paul West

12. The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon

Monday, September 10, 2007

Arrivals and Departures

Well, it's been a busy couple of weeks at Chez Beepy. As almost all of you are aware, I adore my 47 dogs, but what only a few of you know that I also love guinea pigs. They are sweet, charming, cuddly, funny little creatures and they make me immensely happy -- until they pass away. Last week my little Alice passed away at the age of six years. She and her twin sister, Fanny, came to me as young adults, after having been found in a dumpster by a friend of a friend of mine. She was a dear little thing and I'll miss her.

Although my plan was to hold off before bringing another animal into my life, fate wasn't listening to my plans. On a trip to see my mom, I stopped at a Petco for supplies and came out with an adorable little guinea pig, which I named Fender. He was free. According to the manager he had been for sale, but had grown up before being sold. Now no one wanted him. (Apparently many customers are turned off by white animals with pink eyes. Whatever!) He is incredibly friendly and has already wiggled his way right into my heart.

Anyway, between mourning, celebrating and visiting my mom, I haven't had a chance to post. If anyone at all has been here looking for a new post, I apologize. I have, however, been reading (aloud to the dogs and the piggies no less) and have finally finished "Master and Commander." Let me repeat that - I have finally finished "Master and Commander." Finally. I finally finished it. Yes, finally.

I'm not sure what to say about it because my reading experience was so bumpy. I found the language created a barrier which kept me out of the story. With too many naval terms paralyzing me, I'd often fall asleep right in the middle of an "action" scene. I never got exited during the battle scenes; my heart never skipped a beat nor beat faster. Sometimes reading it was as much work as walking through waist deep jello. As a result, not once did I imagine myself as part of the story (it's hard to imagine being under the bosun when you're not sure what a bosun is), which I almost always do with a good book.

On the other hand, I really enjoyed the parts that were about the men themselves. I appreciated the historical details that were not naval. Oh how I perked up and paid attention when a young sailor fell overboard and was saved from drowning by being hung upside down and having cigar smoke blown into his lungs. Oh how I cheered (and gagged) when Maturin picked up a knife used for cutting up corpses, wiped it off and used it to cut his meat. Oh how I wished the book had contained more of these touches.

So where does that leave me? As much as I hate to say it, I have to rate this first of Steve's recommendations a failure. I see that it would be a wonderful choice for someone else but not for me.

Up next: "Love Among the Butterflies" (finally)

Friday, August 31, 2007

More alike than not

It has been pointed out to me that my blog is just like Steve's blog. Okay, that is true but my defense is that Steve and I are so very similiar in life as well. Let's take a look at the evidence.

1. Steve and I have both worked in more bookstores than most of our colleagues have read books.

2. We both have one too many dogs.

3. We are both Paris catwalk hot.

4. We both like to spend long hours in the tub (I prefer Sandelwood bubblebath; Steve, Sweet Jasmine - in case anyone is thinking ahead to Christmas)

5. Neither of us smokes.

6. We each have a tattoo which we keep covered and deny when questioned.

7. Neither of us has ever pleased a woman in bed.

8. We are each living in a century that doesn't understand us.

9. We have both fought the law and the law won.

10. We both love the Tudors (although Steve also "loved" the Tudors, if you know what I'm saying.)

If you can think of any other similiarities between me and the great Steve, please comment.

comment anyway...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The New Me

So this is where I am...

In the past few months, I haven't been reading. Let me rephrase that. I haven't been reading successfully. Oh, I've sat with books, I've turned pages, I've comprehended the text, but I haven't been Reading. I haven't been loving it. I haven't been hurrying through my day just to get to the few moments of peace and joy that a book may bring. I've been sampling, reading a chapter here, a chapter there and moving on to the next thing to catch my eye. I've been using books the way Brittany Spears has been using men. It's not me and I don't like it.

In desperation, I've turned to Steve (of and for help. I can hear the wail rising up "Good Lord! She must be desperate!" but calm yourselves. Steve has very rarely done me wrong when it comes to books. Yes, yes there was the time that he swore I would enjoy "Hannibal" by Thomas Harris but I'm almost over that so you should be too. Even a man blessed with all the things that Steve is blessed with can be wrong once and awhile.

In any case, I've given over my future reading to Steve's command. I read by his will, if you'd prefer. I've promised to read what he suggests and only what he suggests from start to finish with no wandering nor whining. The first book on his list is "Master and Commander" by Patrick O'Brian. From what I can gather, being two or three chapters into it, it is about some men on a boat. I'll keep you all informed if I suss out anything more.

Seriously, it seems like it might be highly enjoyable if only I can get past the "sailorese". I've yet to learn what a "bosun" might be, even after O'Brian has used the word 50 times to describe the action. And don't get me going on the various masts and sails. I feel like I'm reading letters coming out of some government office with paragraphs of information blacked out for security reasons. It's all very confusing and O'Brian offers little help.

As I said, I've only begun to read and I AM in for the long haul, so I'll keep you posted. Surely Steve knows what he's doing... doesn't he?


Welcome to Beepy's blog. This is my first experience with blogging and also with writing for the general public, so please be kind. (that means you as well, Steve)

The idea that I have in my head is to create an area where we can talk about what we are reading. That's what I love - finding out what others are reading, what they think of it and what they'd recommend to their friends. In other words I'm more interested in you than in yammering on myself.

And so we begin...