Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way


3 Comments

100 Books by 40: In Retrospect

In August of 2012, I started a journey to write and read more. I committed to read the BBC’s Big Read list and blog my thoughts. I aimed to complete the list prior to my 40th birthday. With my 40th six months away, I met the time limit.

I love reading, but I don’t make time for it. Plus, the unlimited selection of books paralyzes me picking the next read. Finally, I struggle choosing between books that I “should” be reading-anything Jane Austen-vs books that I want to read-Harry Potter Series. The list solved for all of these problems.

Writing, I enjoy the process. I have things to say. I’m not yet sure how interested other people might be in these things. Book reports are the bane of every young student’s existence. I begrudgingly admit that they serve a purpose. My response to a book is guttural, formless emotion. Shepherding those impressions into words challenges me. As a person who struggles to name my feelings, this process has been invaluable.

This meadow has a animal carcass that needs to be addressed. Choose the list wisely. I didn’t. There are very good books in this list. Books seventy-five though one hundred are crap; I am convinced a summer intern came up with them. There are exceptions, On the Road and Ulysses among them. However, considering the sheer amount of time those mediocre to shitty books took up, I would have gladly given that over to more pleasurable reading in retrospect. As an American, this BBC list is very British, and unless you have a thing with Brit Lit the American reader would be better served by this list from Amazon.

This was such a good experience that I am doing it again. I have yet to decide if I will blog about it. I’m sure if I do it will turn up here.

Finished list:
1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen – only 99 cents for Kindle edition
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens – have on Kindle
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy – have on Kindle
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens *I read this when I was too young to appreciate it; I would like to read it again as an adult. I will do so if I have time.
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding *I’ve read this twice. I will read it again if I have time.
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac *I’ve read this twice. I will read it again if I have time. I have the unabriged unedited version and will probably take on that if time allows.
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie

Advertisements


Leave a comment

100 Books by 40 – THE PRINCESS DIARIES and LOVE IN A TIME OF CHOLERA

Book: The Princess Diaries and Love in a Time of Cholera
Authors: Meg Cabot and Gabriel Garcia Marquez
PUblished: 2000 and 1985

Inspiration. I have none for these books. I read them, and I am left with perfect indifference.

The Princess Diaries is inoffensive. The plot lacks creativity. I have read several titles aimed at young adults, and more specifically young women. The books follow a pattern. Girl feels insecure, but has treasured friend. Girl wishes for love. Girl faces an unexpected event; I’m a princess! Girl struggles to be truthful about event which distances her from her true friend. Girl might try and date an obvious loser. Girl wises up, and grows a pair. She comes clean. Everyone is happy, and she realizes perfect boy was there all along.

Love in a Time of Cholera is not unlike the other Gabriel Garcia Marquez book that I read earlier in this book, 100 Years of Solitude. Characters with unrequited or ill-fated love are tossed about by multiple plot twists as quirky side characters provide equally quirky subplots. I have a thing with quirky characters. Obnoxious and interesting separate via a very slight line. These characters tap dance on it with abandon.

And with that I finished the BBC Big Read List. Anticlimactic isn’t it? I will publish my closing thoughts on that list in the next day or two.


Leave a comment

100 Books by 40: KATHERINE

Title: Katherine
Author: Anya Seton
Published: 1954

This is gonna be a short one. Are two of the following things true for you?

  • Are you British?
  • Do you love The Royal Family?
  • Do you overly romanticize the Middle Ages despite the obvious fact that it was mostly likely a disgusting time to live?(Seriously… Bathing optional, lack of waste removal, lack of dental care, rotting corpses due to The Black Plague… I don’t need to elaborate further do I?)

Can you guess how many of those questions I answered yes to? Uh huh, that was five hundred pages of my life right there. And this is one hundred and twenty-six words. Let’s just say, all of that? Too much. Too much to energy to spend on this book.


Leave a comment

100 Books by 40: MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN

Title: Midnight’s Children
Author: Salman Rushdie
Published: 1981

Americans don’t learn about what happens in other countries. This is most likely an exaggeration, but I feel like my teachers covered The Revolutionary War ten times before graduating from high school. It’s probably more reasonable to assume it was covered all three middle school years as well as all four high school years.

The extent of my knowledge of Indian recent history is this. The Brits colonized India as they did much of the world, which explains all the extra vowels in English as written by almost everyone on the planet aside from Americans. And then Gandhi lead peaceful protests and Indian gained independence. And honestly, the only reason I know about Gandhi is due to the popularity of the 1982 Ben Kingsley movie of the same name. (Way to go Hollywood, you didn’t completely shit the bed with that casting as Kingsley is half Indian.)

By the time the movie was broadcast on TV, I might have been eight or nine? I can’t recall. What I do remember was being traumatized by the slaughter of the peacful protesters. I was old enough to process that context, and it drove me to return to the movie as a teenager.

Midnight’s Children is a novel describing the instability that followed India gaining independence from Great Britain. The main character and related characters are fictional, but the political changes and events in the book are real. The prose is lovely. However, having zero knowledge of India’s recent history greatly diminished my enjoyment of this book. Rushdie doesn’t provide enough context around the political events for this woefully ignorant American.

The prose and the narrator’s voice in this book are delightful. It’s play with words, plot, and characters. But the thread that really holds is the historical events, and without knowledge of those bonding with the characters proves difficult.

This American is only vaguely more informed about India’s history. I have, at least, left this experience knowing how little I know about India. I would like to say I will learn more. This book list tho…


2 Comments

100 Books By 40: GORMENGHAST

Book: Gormenghast
Author: Mervyn Peake
Published: 1946-1959

The BBC has done it again. As indicated by the published range as opposed to a single year, this isn’t one book but three. The book that I got from the library is all three books in one. It is one thousand+ pages, and the type is obscenely small. Months of my life was spent with this book.

The book tells the story of a castle, and two generations of noblemen who rule it. At least that’s typically how these sorts of stories are arranged. The noblemen act on their domain. This book inverts that narrative such that the domain, the castle acts on its noblemen.

On the bright side, Mervyn Peake was primarily an illustrator. And his sense of the visual rings true in his writing. The mental imagery that this book evokes is a feast for the imagination. This stands as such a contrast in our CGI-ed existence; actual imagination shimmers from this books pages.

On the not so bright side, the plot of this book moves at a snail’s pace, which goes a long way in explaining why I was reading this for 8 months. The plot will sit idle for chapter after chapter, only to have several major twists happen in a four page chapter. It’s true that much of the preceding chapters are setting up context, but the visual imagery takes up a piece too. I would take issue with this as writing masturbation, but Peake seems to make settings characters that may also act on the plot.

The characters are so quirky. So very, very quirky. And yet when Peake drapes them in his macabre visual world. They seem completely at home, natural even.

Eight months is a long time to commit to anything. A word like entertaining simply doesn’t apply to a book like this. It’s a visual delicacy that’s to be savored, for perhaps eight months.

Picture of Gormenghast all three books in one

Just look at this monster. Granted, this is all three of the books in one. But really, BBC, time to change your best 100 books list to best 112 books.

Probably the right time for another update on where I am in my list.

Reading now:
95. Katherine, Anya Seton
97. Love In The Time Of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
**On The Road, Jack Kerouac (rereading for pleasure)

Finished reading:
1. The Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien
2. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
3. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, JK Rowling
6. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
7. Winnie the Pooh, AA Milne
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
10. Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
11. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
12. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
13. Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks
14. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
15. The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
16. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
17. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
18. Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
19. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernieres
20. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
21. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
22. Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling
23. Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, JK Rowling
24. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, JK Rowling
25. The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien
26. Tess Of The D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
27. Middlemarch, George Eliot
28. A Prayer For Owen Meany, John Irving
29. The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck
30. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
31. The Story Of Tracy Beaker, Jacqueline Wilson
32. One Hundred Years Of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez
33. The Pillars Of The Earth, Ken Follett
34. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
35. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
36. Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
37. A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
38. Persuasion, Jane Austen
39. Dune, Frank Herbert
40. Emma, Jane Austen – only 99 cents for Kindle edition
41. Anne Of Green Gables, LM Montgomery
42. Watership Down, Richard Adams
43. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
44. The Count Of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
45. Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
46. Animal Farm, George Orwell
47. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens – have on Kindle
48. Far From The Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy – have on Kindle
49. Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian
50. The Shell Seekers, Rosamunde Pilcher
51. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
52. Of Mice And Men, John Steinbeck
53. The Stand, Stephen King
54. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
55. A Suitable Boy, Vikram Seth
56. The BFG, Roald Dahl
57. Swallows And Amazons, Arthur Ransome
58. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
59. Artemis Fowl, Eoin Colfer
60. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
61. Noughts And Crosses, Malorie Blackman
62. Memoirs Of A Geisha, Arthur Golden
63. A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens *I read this when I was too young to appreciate it; I would like to read it again as an adult. I will do so if I have time.
64. The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCollough
65. Mort, Terry Pratchett
66. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton
67. The Magus, John Fowles
68. Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
69. Guards! Guards!, Terry Pratchett
70. Lord Of The Flies, William Golding *I’ve read this twice. I will read it again if I have time.
71. Perfume, Patrick Süskind
72. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressell
73. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett
74. Matilda, Roald Dahl
75. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding
76. The Secret History, Donna Tartt
77. The Woman In White, Wilkie Collins
78. Ulysses, James Joyce
79. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
80. Double Act, Jacqueline Wilson
81. The Twits, Roald Dahl
82. I Capture The Castle, Dodie Smith
83. Holes, Louis Sachar
84. Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake
85. The God Of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
86. Vicky Angel, Jacqueline Wilson
87. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
88. Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
89. Magician, Raymond E Feist
90. On The Road, Jack Kerouac *I’ve read this twice. I will read it again if I have time. I have the unabriged unedited version and will probably take on that if time allows.
91. The Godfather, Mario Puzo
92. The Clan Of The Cave Bear, Jean M Auel
93. The Colour Of Magic, Terry Pratchett
94. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
96. Kane And Abel, Jeffrey Archer
98. Girls In Love, Jacqueline Wilson

Pending reading:
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie


Leave a comment

100 Books by 40: ON THE ROAD Scroll Edition

Natalie Merchant is responsible for what I’ve become. Compulsive listening to 10,000 Maniacs caused neurons to fire with recognition at the sight of Jack Kerouac in the book store at the beginning of my last year of high school. The unremarkable walk out of Walden Books in the crisp October afternoon sun in 1993 seemed like any other, just as an inconsistency in metal rails is just as much until a train comes barreling down on them.

While it was never my dream to get married and have children, I also didn’t see any alternatives to that future. There was only one road to the future. Everyone I knew planned to navigate it.

When my friends would enthuse about their future families, a tiny quiver in a dank, seldom-visited corner of my brain would induce sweaty palms and a dry mouth. I had dutifully obtained a high school boyfriend thinking that it would unlock my vision of my future self, mom, wife. I felt sure making all the preordained choices would silence that troubling quiver.

And then this happened:

“… they rushed down the street together digging everything in the early way they had which has later now become so much sadder and perceptive.. but then they danced down the street like dingledodies and I shambled after as usual as I’ve been doing all my life after people that interest me, because the only people that interest me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing.. but burn, burn, burn like roman candles across the night.” Jack Kerouac On the Road (Scroll Edition)

Like a blaring alarm clock that jolts the sleeper upright, waking came to me abrupt and complete. Inhabiting On the Road opened me to the pursuit of truth. The power inherent in chance encounters. The heartbreak and beauty in seeking authenticity in a world saturated with facades and costumes. I saw in On the Road the quiver grow to a rattling. The train jumped the tracks.

The book describes late 1940’s America with love and smoldering intensity. Every crevasse and sewer grate from New York to San Francisco is found with a quiet beauty in its disarray. They roar across the country looking to drink every real experience in every moment stealing real connections from the jaws of 1950’s conformity.

Since I took the other road in 1993 that led me to move away from home and come out, I read On the Road again in the early 2000’s. So, I selected The Original Scroll edition for this reading. This edition was written in 1948, whereas the published version of On the Road was rewritten several times before it finally hit the shelves in 1957. The versions are different in that the punctuation typically used in quotations is eschewed and the names of the characters haven’t been changed. Sal is Jack in The Original Scroll edition. These are the most obvious differences. There are other minor differences that will only be obvious to the most obsessive fan.

My third reading of this finds me at thirty-nine. It finds me coming to the realization that I love experiences over things. It finds me shedding my furniture. It finds me putting down all the things I’ve collected over the years. It finds me single with a string of failed relationships behind me all collateral damage in part due to my incessant searching for more. It finds me throwing clothes, guitars, and cat into my car in three weeks to move across the country. It finds me hungry for authenticity. It finds me going on the road.

I don’t know what Seattle will hold for me. I do know that I need to face this down. I do know that I will make a pilgrimage to this bridge in Big Sur while I am out West. And I know like Jack Kerouac and Ben Gibbard, I will be reminded that it’s about the journey and not the destination. And I know that I couldn’t have better muses to carry me on this journey than Jack and Neil.

“Bixby Canyon Bridge” – Death Cab for Cutie

I descended a dusty gravel ridge
Beneath the Bixby Canyon Bridge
Until I eventually arrived
At the place where your soul had died

Barefoot in the shallow creek
I grabbed some stones from underneath
And waited for you to speak to me

In the silence it became so very clear
That you had long ago disappeared
I cursed myself for being surprised
That this didn’t play like it did in my mind

All the way from San Francisco
As I chased the end of your road
‘Cause I’ve still got miles to go

And I want to know my fate
If I keep up this way

And it’s hard to want to stay awake
When everyone you meet, they all seem to be asleep
And you wonder if you’re missing a dream

You can’t see a dream
You can’t see a dream
You just can’t see a dream

A dream [x12]

And then it started getting dark
I trudged back to where the car was parked
No closer to any kind of truth
As I must assume was the case with you


Leave a comment

100 Books by 40: GIRLS IN LOVE

Book: Girls In Love (Book 1)
Author: Jacqueline Wilson
Published: 1997

I can only feel thankful that I found this book available for download from The Hamilton County Library after striking out at Amazon and living on the hold list for months to borrow the physical book. Had I been left with no choice but to skip this book or put my dollars against having it among the great books in my library, I would have skipped it, leaving my project technically unfinished.

This is the second book from this author in my list. Lackluster is a word that comes to mind. While the focus of the first book is around losing a close friend, it has enough romantic side stories that I left that read with a chapped ass. Based on my previous experience with this author and the the title, I knew the displeasure ahead.

My expectations were validated completely. Spoiler alert: thirteen-year-old girls have dramatic experiments in love while chafing under the totalitarian rule of their unreasonable parents. And shock of all shocks, insecure main character manages to mend her relationship with her parents and achieve the perfect middle school romance. WHY IS THIS IN A BEST 100 BOOKS LIST? BBC! GO HOME! YOU’RE DRUNK!!