Page 56 Meme

Saturday November 8, 2008 in meme |

From The Pickards.

  1. Grab the nearest* book.
  2. Open the book to page 56.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

*Note: nearest means the one which is closest to you, as opposed to that one on your shelves which is really cool or will make you look clever.

The nearest book to hand is How to Train Your Viking by Cressida Cowell. Page 56 line 5 is this:

What are we going to DO???

To put things squarely into context, this note of panic is raised by a character called Fishlegs to their associate Hiccup. And, worryingly, Hiccup’s reply is this:

There’s nothing we CAN do…


Library Days

Thursday August 21, 2008 in books | meme

From Booking Through Thursday:

What is your earliest memory of a library? Who took you? Do you have you any funny/odd memories of the library?

My mother used to take me to the library. I remember it being a very long walk, across the iron bridges that crossed the railway, down an endless leafy street, through a park and past the milk depot. A really, really long walk for a child but one that planted a desire for books within me (like a thirsty man crawling across a desert towards an oasis, I knew that there was something worthwhile at the end of my trek).

I was always deposited in the children’s library as my mother disappeared into the main section. Left to my own devices, I would usually drift towards the work of Spike Milligan and Dr Seuss. I went for humour in those days and these were my favourites. My mother would, on returning to collect me, urge me to borrow the Just William books that she’s enjoyed in her childhood. I sometimes did, and enjoyed them too. My only other earliest memories are factual books, the inevitable dinosaurs and astronomy. I remember being particularly fond of one giant textbook entitled What Makes it Go.

Taught exemplary library manners, I would present my borrowing selection to the librarian (four at any one time I recall) all neatly opened at the correct page and ready for stamping. Other library etiquette, such as keeping quiet at all times, appears to have come to me instinctively. This seemed to put me in good stead as, ten years or so later, I applied for and was accepted as a Saturday assistant in the same library. I didn’t work in the children’s library, and was instead left to deal with the pensioners and their hardback mysteries, and the Dads of schoolmates who would sometimes recognise me. It was a pretty laid back job, although I always fell down on one thing. People returning their books late were subject to fines but I always felt awkward making them pay. People penalised to savouring their books just a little bit too long? It didn’t seem fair.

These days I’m a slave to Amazon. I visit a library only rarely and I sometimes feel a pang of guilt; I should browse and I should borrow. Although I suspect I would over-borrow, take too long to read and end up being fined. I did introduce my daughter to the library in her early years and admit being put off by the shelves of DVDs that have the habit of enticing children away from books. And because of this we now tend to treat our local Waterstones as library-ish. You can’t borrow, but you sure can spend a long time hiding in a corner and reading.

Comments [7]

Films I Haven't Seen Meme

Friday June 27, 2008 in films | meme

From The Pickards.
Are there any extremely famous, worthy or acclaimed films that you’ve never made the effort to see? I’ve seen all of Hitchcock. I’ve also seen most of Truffaut. But I have a lot of gaps. In the days of video recorders I would tape worthy films, keep them for years and eventually tape over them. I kept The Mission starring Robert De Niro for years and never watched it. Films I have simply never seen and have never had the urge to see include:

  • Anything with Humphrey Bogart in it
  • Anything by Fellini
  • My Left Foot
  • Any of the Star Wars films apart from the first one
  • Lawrence of Arabia
  • Anything with Bette Davis in it apart from the Hammer film where she wears an eyepatch
  • Born on the Fourth of July
  • Any Charlie Chaplin
  • There Will be Blood (has anyone actually seen this?)
  • Anything by Clint Eastwood post Unforgiven
  • Anything by Martin Scorsese post Goodfellas (I threw the DVD of Gangs of New York across the room)
  • Practically everything by Robert Altman
  • The Sound of Music, even though we have it at home on DVD
  • Battleship Potemkin
  • Most of what you might call The Meryl Streep Collection
  • I also have a problem with Al Pacino, although I have endured Scarface
  • Gone With the Wind
  • 95% of Westerns
  • High School Musical
  • Bend it Like Beckham
  • All Steven Soderbergh/George Clooney collaborations

I’d also like the time back I wasted on trying to understand the Bourne films.

Comments [4]

Since I've Been Blogging Meme

Monday April 28, 2008 in meme |

Top twenty favourite books in no particular order. Don’t think about it for too long. Take twenty minutes only to compile your list. Bold the ones you’ve read, or reread, since you’ve started blogging. Include novels, non fiction and plays.

  • David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  • Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • Clarissa by Samuel Richardson
  • Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  • The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
  • Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake
  • Travels with my Aunt by Graham Greene
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  • Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
  • Atonement by Ian McEwan
  • Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M.R. James
  • High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
  • The Caretaker by Harold Pinter
  • The Orton Diaries by Joe Orton
  • Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • Remainder by Tom McCarthy
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker

So make of it what you will, compiled in just under twenty minutes. There are less since I’ve been blogging books that I would have thought, and while The Road and Gormenghast will probably stay on my list for a long time, it will be interesting to see how long Neil Gaiman and Tom McCarthy stick around for. And, not having read Salinger for a long time, it’s only pleasant memories that put him on the list.


Cover Versions

Thursday March 27, 2008 in books | meme

From Booking Through Thursday:

While acknowledging that we can’t judge books by their covers, how much does the design of a book affect your reading enjoyment? Hardcover vs. softcover? Trade paperback vs. mass market paperback? Font? Illustrations? Etc.?

I’m often too swayed by a book design. I’ve bought bad books because they look good, and avoided good books because they look bad. I never read Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh because the cover looked awful. An awful choice in itself, but I couldn’t help it. I’m also tempted – or put off – by too much misleading blurb, which appears to have crept onto the cover of paperbacks in recent years. Even new releases in hardback have blurb these days and sing the praises of an author’s previous work.

So because I am easily tempted by eye-catching design, I like a book cover to catch the essence of a book, without telling me too much about it or misleading me. A good recent example is The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Its cover picturing a row of dying trees told me what to expect and suited the mood of the book perfectly. Both hardback and paperback versions of the book used the same design, so it obviously worked in the eyes of the publisher. Another recent design I found effective was the creepy cover for Darkmans by Nicola Barker, although the subsequent paperback noticeably went for something much lighter. And even though I’d read about the book and wanted to read it I suspect that the paperback would have made my decision harder, presenting me with what looked more comic than sinister.

Bad covers are ones that perplex and only make sense with some knowledge of the book’s content. I’m currently reading Beyond Black by Hilary Mantel. The cover is an illustration of a lady in colourful garb with a vacuum cleaner. This begins to make sense when you discover that the lead character in the novel is a medium. The colourful garb is a reference to tarot cards. The vacuum cleaner is a reference to a passage very early in the novel, which suggests to me that the designer only read a couple of chapters in before sketching out the cover. Am I being hard on the designer?

Probably the best thing about cover design is that it can serve to nicely date a book. Films and tv set in the fifties and sixties ask their props departments to line the bookshelves of their set with the iconic orange covered Penguins of the period. Since book design has become less uniform in later years it’s probably still possible to tell from which decade a book belongs to, whether the cover shows art, typography or actors in ridiculous poses (I’m thinking of mass market horror, romance and detective fiction over the years).

Sometimes though it’s just the quality and packaging of a book that impresses. The hardbacks of Susanna Clarke’s two recent books Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and The Ladies of Grace Adieu, are just beautiful. Quality design, printing and illustration. The writing’s good too. And let’s not forget that this is the most important thing.

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