Wednesday, 31 December 2008

The Reading Lamp: that there's devil music

My mamma always tole me that heavy metal music were the work of Saytan hisself. This is proved to be true by the red, devlish eyes of the misguided young laydee reading Slash's book. Lor' save her fragile soul. Books ain't so good either - they puts ideas into people's heads, dange'rous ideas.

Your name:
Erin Ball

What are you reading now? Slash by Slash.

Where are you reading it? Mostly in bed and on the bus.

How did you discover this book? Oddly enough, I found it in Shopper's Drug Mart. I rarely go in there but I went in with a friend one evening.

I saw the book, realized I had nothing to read for the bus ride home, and with a bit of coaxing from my friend, bought it. I didn't even know that Slash had written a book.

What do you think of it so far? It's a pretty great "junk food" book. There are tons of hilarious and crazy stories and I'm learning a lot of awesome useless facts about G n' R [That's the band Guns N' Roses for all you people born either before 1950 or after 1990 -Ed.]. I heart Slash (especially now that I've read the book).

What's your favourite either unknown or underappreciated book? The most recent favourite would have to be Girl Bomb by Janice Erlbaum. Great story about her wild youth.

Favourite childhood book? The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.

Friday, 26 December 2008


You didn't think I was going to finish this one, did you? Well, I can't blame you - it HAS been sitting in the "What Colleen is reading now" section for what may seem like forever to you.

I, however, have been enjoying the prolonged and laid back relationship I've had with Late Medieval English Lyrics and Carols, 1400-1530 and so "forever" doesn't hold for me any negative connotations.

I started reading this collection several months ago in anticipation of finishing my PhD; specifically, I wanted to brush up on my middle English reading skills with the goal in mind of reading some medieval romances when I was free and clear.

Of course, I'm too tired right now to read much but kiddy lit, so I'm not sure when that might happen. But this collection has helped me keep my brain working in that direction because while I can read middle English, I wouldn't say I do so anymore without some difficulty - I'm way out of practice and so there's usually at least one word per poem that I don't know (thank goodness for the editor and his handy marginal notes).

You may think that middle English poetry is as boring as this post is turning out to be. No sir. I knew you'd think that and so here's a naughty poem for you:

There was a ladie leaned her backe to a wall;
He tokke uppe petticote, smocke and all;
He laid her legges uppon his knee;
It was as white as white might bee;
He took a thing that stiffe did stand,
And hunched her and punched her and made great game.
'O Godes bodie,' says she, 'fie, for shame!'
Yet he would not leave her so
But he did ease her and please her befor he would goo. (p. 147)

There are two things about this poem that blow my mind a little: 1) This is apparently a riddle, the answer to which is "A shoe"; 2) Who wrote, transcribed, and then preserved this poem so well that it ended up in a 20th-century anthology?

Thomas Duncan, the editor, doesn't answer these questions for me (likely because he can't) and so I can only assume that some pervy nobleman thought it would be a lark to keep a nice copy of this riddle. Also, I clearly don't know enough about cobbling (even though I apparently had an ancestor in Holland who was a cobbler circa 1400) to know how precisely this is about shoes and not, you know...swiving.

Speaking of swiving, I took an undergraduate honours seminar in Middle English Literature and one of the minor assignments was to consult the Middle English Dictionary and inform the class about the meaning of some word assigned by the prof. I was assigned "swive" which means either to screw or to fuck!! I was worried. I read that MED entry about a hundred times, assuming I was COMPLETELY misunderstanding and about to make ass of myself in class.

But I couldn't understand it any other way and so I went to class and I said "This word means 'to fuck'". My fellow students gasped, were shocked, thought I was crazy but the prof, who looks about as stern and conservative as you can imagine, said "Yes, that's correct. So, in 'The Miller's Tale'..." HA. But still, I count that as one of the most STRESSFUL school experiences of my life.

You may still be skeptical about my reading medieval poetry for fun. Don't be. I got hooked on the stuff in that same undergraduate class, and I can pinpoint my addiction to a particular reading moment. The first part of the course was super difficult because I was basically teaching myself this earlier version of modern English that sometimes seemed entirely unrelated to the English I spoke.

I was slogging through Sir Gawain and the Green Knight when I did a double take. My mental conversation went something like this: "Wait, what? Did I just...? Did he just...? Did the Green Knight's head just roll into Guinevere's feet? Did the Green Knight's body just go and pick up the head and did the head start talking? Oh my god, yes. THAT'S WHAT JUST HAPPENED. This is the best thing I've ever read!!!"

It was magical: not only was I breaking through comprehension-wise but I was also realizing that this was truly kick-ass early fantasy literature. That particular poem is much more than fantasy but the talking head was all that was required for me to become a middle English lit devotee - and soon I will have the energy to read more of it!

In the meantime, I think there's either some more kiddy lit or some 17th-century Chinese porn for me to read.

In anticipation of the coming new year, I will give you one more sampler from Duncan's kick-ass anthology:

Now ys comen a messyngere
Of yore Lorde, Ser Nu Yere,
Byddes us all be mery here
And make as mery as we way.
Hay, ay, hay, ay,
Make we mery as we may. (p. 154)

I'll see you in 2009 if not before! (I may manage to sneak in one last post.)

Thursday, 25 December 2008

I was later found in a ditch by some stray cows

My easy reading project continues and I would say it's been a success so far. I'm loving the return to mostly kids' books and want to thank my good friend Yuri for so strenuously recommending that I check out Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth.

Juster's book is a sometimes heavy-handed fictional ass-kicking for all those kids out there who think everything's boring and go around moping all the time. It was, however, also hilarious and Juster's endlessly energetic word play was delightful; indeed, I wouldn't be surprised to discover that this book helped to inspire that PBS TV gem WordGirl. In fact, I would say that as much as I like WordGirl, it's kind of the homeless man's version of this book, the latter of which presented about 20 big and awesome words on every single page (WordGirl just does one massive new word per episode).

If I had sprogs, I would get them reading The Phantom Tollbooth for besides being fun as hell, it also provides great overviews in basic linguistic theory, math, the butterfly effect, and peacenikishness. A perfect storm of early learning I'd say.

Having finished The Phantom Tollbooth this morning, I dove right into and finished another book I've had on the go for awhile, Richard Lederer's Anguished English: An Anthology of Accidental Assaults Upon Our Language. Rohan from Novel Readings suggested this one to me after I blogged about Herrings Go About the Sea in Shawls and so I was really looking forward to more hysterical giggling.

I definitely got a good dose of the hysterical giggles from Lederer's compilation, although not nearly as many as I was expecting. For me, a misplaced modifier isn't in itself enough; the resulting sense has to be truly absurd for me to be amused.

But there were gems in this one such as the following, which I transcribe for your Festivus reading pleasure. (The entire accident reports section had me curled up in a ball on the streetcar trying to stifle my hysterical laughter.)

About Socrates:

"After his death, his career suffered a dramatic decline."

From an actual courtroom:
"Q. When he went, had you gone and had she, if she wanted to and were able, for the time being excluding all the restraints on her not to go also, would he have brought you, meaning you and she, with him to the station.

A. Objection. That question should be taken out and shot."

From actual car accident reports:
"Coming home, I drove into the wrong house and collided with a tree I didn't have."

"I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law, and headed over the embankment."

"I saw a slow-moving, sad faced old gentleman, as he bounced off the hood of my car."

"I was thrown from my car as it left the road. I was later found in a ditch by some stray cows."

"One wheel went into the ditch. My foot jumped from brake to accelerator, leaped across the road to the other side, and jumped into the trunk of a tree."

"A cow wandered into my car. I was later informed that the unfortunate cow was half-witted."

Courtesy of Sam Goldwyn:

"Anybody who goes to a psychiatrist ought to have his head examined."

Besides too many examples of misplaced modifiers and nonsensical things that just weren't ridiculous enough to be funny, I was a little put off by how many of Lederer's examples I'd already chuckled over while reading Herrings Go About the Sea in Shawls.

My irritation wasn't that I thought Lederer was stealing shit but that probably the funniest ones, which both books share, were actually made up by somebody smart and funny, and have since become the stuff of student blooper urban legend (i.e., "Homer was not written by Homer but by another man of the same name" or "Gorgons have snakes for hair and are like women but only more horrible.") For me, half the fun was in believing students really wrote such things and when that belief is cast into doubt, well...

Well, it might be time to get back to the fiction is all. Happy Saturnalia everyone!

Sunday, 21 December 2008

The word of the day is "vulpine"

Vulpine (adj.): of or resembling a fox; cunning or crafty. Stephen King must like this word a lot for he uses it noticeably often in his short story collection Night Shift.

This is my second time reading Night Shift, the first being approximately 21 years ago when I was given to staying up all night reading shit that scared me. What really scares me now is that I can talk about books I read 20 years ago without referring to The Berenstein Bears or Hop on Pop or I Wish That I Had Duck Feet.

Getting back to this classic King collection has been part of my post-thesis easy reading project, although I began it on the train to Kingston for the event in question. I had to skip the first story, "Jerusalem's Lot", though, because it was epistolary, and that's the last thing I was up for as I hurtled towards what I imagined would be my final destruction.

I read the epistolary tale last and I enjoyed it perhaps best of all, which surprised me, because I don't really remember reading it before. I thought, when I decided to read this book, that revisiting the stories I remembered best would be the most pleasurable (in a hair-raising way). I recall finding finding "Children of the Corn", "The Mangler", "The Boogeyman", and "I Am the Doorway" to be great examples of horror fiction.

Re-reading them, however, hasn't been the scary thrill ride I'd been hoping for. "The Mangler", "I Am the Doorway", and even "The Boogeyman", the latter of which has caused a friend of mine to have a night light in her bedroom for the past 20 years, completely failed to affect me in any way.

"The Children of the Corn" still freaked me out a bit, but it was the stories that I barely remember reading that got me this time, at least a little. "Gray Matter" and "One for the Road" were pretty freaky, as was "Jerusalem's Lot". But I think they wouldn't freak me out were I to read them again. I'm thinking Stephen King may be a one night stand kind of read, not a permanent relationship kind of read.

Not that I didn't read his massive novel It twice when I was 12, of course. But that may have had more to do with the 12 year old characters' crazy sexual tension with each other than the fear and alienation associated with scary clowns and giant spider-ish things.

Another thing: Stephen King is very 70s. The casually racist and sexist comments he just throws out there I don't think would fly now. E.g., referring to one of the undead villains in "Sometimes They Come Back", he described his "negroid lips" specifically as a sign of said villain's obvious...villainy. It was awkward.

But I'm done with Stephen King for this decade, I suspect. We took over our bookstore on Friday and as I've been re-organizing the shelves, I've been accumulating a stack of books that absolutely must be read. Said stack is so awesome that it would have to kick any Stephen King book that tried to join it right in the face.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

What I've missed out on

It hurts me more than a little to think of all the amazing kiddie lit books that I didn't read when I was a kiddie. It's not that I don't enjoy the kiddie lit now, because I really really do.

But I want to experience all kiddie lit books now the way I experienced Bambi then - full of the greatest anxiety and heartbreak and deep loneliness imaginable - and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - full of desperate hope and hunger and being able to taste that one chocolate bar Charlie got every year; I can still taste that chocolate bar as I imagined it when I was 6 and dammit, no chocolate in the world could taste as good I dreamed Charlie's once-a-year bar did.

For this intensity of emotional and physical experience, I wish I'd read Philippa Pearce's Tom's Midnight Garden when I was little. I still feel all weepy and nostalgic for it but if I'd read it when I was a wee sprog, I think it might have changed me forever the way those books mentioned above did. Tom's forays into the wrinkles of time were as compelling to me now as re-reading L'Engle's A Swiftly Tilting Planet as an adult was, but without the discomfort of noticing the author's racial and religious weirdnesses.

Pearce just knew how to write a good magical yarn for kids - and for me, as I recover from PhDing and as I delve into the extremely tiring life of owning a bookstore, this is perfect. Because book-selling could kill a girl's love of reading if she weren't careful, and that just wouldn't do at all.

Friday, 12 December 2008

The spy who shagged me AND wrote cool books

In case you're wondering, my thesis defense went well and I'm free and clear. I did let out one incredibly loud "WOOOHOOO!" on the day, but mostly I've just been feeling really laid back and free of a burden that's been weighing on me a long time. It's nice!

But on to more important things: books. I brought 3 books with me to Kingston but I finished one on the train (Skellig) and am almost halfway through another (Stephen King's Night Shift) which is not the scary thrill-ride I was hoping for.

The third book was an Ellis Peters whodunnit which I haven't read because after devouring Skellig, I really wanted more kiddie lit. I ended up going to Novel Idea, Kingston's only independent book-seller of new books and spent money I don't have on a new book I should have instead borrowed from the library.

I ended up picking up Marcus Sedgwick's Blood Red, Snow White purely on the basis of its title, which reminded me of a fairy tale I recall fondly from my childhood called "Snow White and Rose Red". It involved a prince disguised as a bear who's set free by the hot sisters' kindness.

The book wasn't obviously related to that particular fairy tale, but it was about Arthur Ransome who was a real author famous for his books Old Peter's Russian Tales and Swallows and Amazons. Ransome was also a reporter, a spy for the British, perhaps a spy for the Bolsheviks, and in love with a Russian woman who happened to have been Trotsky's secretary during the Russian Revolution. His life was complicated, and the book reflected his combined tastes for fairy stories, espionage, and foreign women by being itself a fairy tale, a spy thriller, and a love story all at once.

I thought Blood Red, Snow White worked best when it was addressing the political and historical issues through fairy tales. It was just a really good read then, and I thought perhaps an excellent way to get teens (the intended audience for this book, I presume) interested in history. When Sedgwick started emphasizing the spy/love stuff more I found it less compelling but who knows what the kidz would think.

What I do know for sure is that Sedgwick's book really made me want to read Old Peter's Russian Tales, which has been sitting around our house for the past 10 years feeling unloved and under-appreciated. Soon, my poor abandoned book, soon.

I realize my writing isn't very lively tonight. The fact is that while I'm very happy and relaxed right now, I'm also very tired. I promise to write positively sparkling, crackling, ass-kicking, jubilant, etc reviews soon. But now it's time for a 10-hour nap.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Panic mode, activated

Oy. My defense is tomorrow. At 10 in the morning. I should be weeping or something now shouldn't I? For once, my desperation is quiet and I would like to celebrate that quietness with a short blog post. The last pre-defense blog post I will ever write!

So, I've got two books to very briefly review here. The first is Barb and J.C. Hendee's vampire extravaganza Dhampir. A dhampir is, according to Balkan legend, the offspring of a vampiric dad and a human (and I would assume doomed) mom. They're also known to sometimes hunt their full vampire cousins.

It may be best for everyone if you don't ask why I already had Dhampir in my possession, well before Darren instructed me to read fluff in preparation for this week's ordeal. But already have it I did and it wins the award for fluffiest book in my collection (soon to be in my bookstore's collection).

I have to say, this was exactly the right book to be reading in the lead-up to tomorrow's festivities. It was light, it was action-packed, and it was all story and luckily, the writing was no impediment. The writing was just fine, which was more than I was expecting. And because fantasy writers just can't stop, there are at least three more books in the Noble Dead Saga for me to soothe my weary brain with in the future.

The second book to discuss, which I read in its entirety during my train ride to Kingston this afternoon, was David Almond's Skellig (which, yes, I read entirely on David Maybury's recommendation).

Fellow babies, that's a good book. If you have kids, get yer butt to the bookstore and buy it for them for Festivus. If this book had existed when I was a sprog it might have been my favourite book of all time. Poor Bambi might have been the runner-up.

As an adult, it made me feel just a little bit emotionally manipulated but I didn't care because it was so good. If you like children's lit, just trust me and go get it for yourself!

I heart books.

Tomorrow morning I have to talk about the worst never-to-be-published book ever written: my thesis. I've been given some great advice on how to handle tough questions and these are my three favourites, in no particular order:

1) Respond with a Cape Breton sucker punch.
2) Allow the evil leprechaun who tells me to burn things to field those questions.
3) Present obvious as though gift of Magi.

Any other suggestions are welcome.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

The Wodehouse cure

It won't be long now until the final day of reckoning on my thesis. My friend Darren who long ago defended his has instructed me to read fluff for the next little while and because he's a Doctor (of Philosophy, but no matter - he can still prescribe good times!), I'm doing as instructed.

The first stop in what I'm hoping to make into a series of mindless fluff reads was P.G. Wodehouse's Uncle Fred in the Springtime. I have to say, there's only one other Wodehouse novel I've enjoyed this much and it was the first: Leave it to Psmith.

With Wodehouse, it's all about the characters, and Uncle Fred is as charming, scheming, benevolent, and hilarious as Psmith. Indeed, if these characters were going to fight for the title of The Most Superior Ultimate Super-Wodehousian Character of all time, I honestly don't know who would win. I'm going to have to do more research, clearly, into each of their various other exploits and, of course, to see if there are any other contenders.

Spoiler Alert
I think I've mentioned before that the pleasure in reading Wodehouse comes not from plot (because they're all pretty much the same, with a few alterations in each story) but in the characters. Uncle Fred in the Springtime generally followed the usual pattern but the conclusion turned out somewhat differently than usual.

Normally, when the Efficient Baxter shows up, one can count on him becoming the sort of fall guy whose gulling and humiliation become central to the other characters' desires working out. Uber-secretary Baxter has, in my experience, tended to function as a sort of Malvolio character, receiving all the abuse and etc. before being run out of town like any good scapegoat should.

This time, however, his fate was left curiously unresolved; indeed, this time, the focus of the denouement was entirely on Uncle Fred's grand success rather than on Baxter's comeuppance. This definitely makes for a more pleasant read. With both Shakespeare and Wodehouse, I've always been made a little uncomfortable by their Comic resolutions needing to hinge on someone's downfall, even the downfall of characters as irksome as Malvolio and Baxter.

Squeamishness aside, it's nice to see that Wodehouse was capable of sometimes departing, even in a minor way, from his very successful template.

Now, the Doctor has ordered drivel as my current reading material so there are two things to note: 1) I'm not even going to consider trying Pilgermann again until this is all over; 2) I think it may be time for a vampire novel. I take the Doctor's orders very seriously indeed.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Curious/Creepy: 50% more creepiness at no extra cost!

Oy, lots of book-spying today on the TTC so this installment of C/C could be a long one. I'll try to keep it light and fluffy but I've got the stamina to go the distance if necessary - I'm eating the world's best white bean hummus with rice crackers so I could do this alllll day.

1) A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah. This and the following four books were spotted by yours truly (henceforth to be referred to as Y.T. in homage to Snow Crash) on the westbound subway line today.

The reader of this newly paperbacked tome was a youngish woman with black hair and black fingernails. That's all I can tell you about her because in this case, which is not normally the case, I was literally looking over her shoulder. Normally, I sort of walk by readers while making surreptitious glances into their books. I don't know which method is closer to the full-creepy line. That's a philosophical debate for another day!

Not a happy book A Long Way Gone, telling as it does just how spectacularly shiteous it is to be a child soldier in Sierra Leone. My husband's read this book and says it's just as hard on the head and heart as anything on this topic should be.

But as I recall, there's been some controversy surrounding Beah's claims about how long he was a soldier and some apparently key aspects of the historical record that he gets wrong. I haven't heard news since of Beah being deemed the child soldier's James Frey, however, so I'm going to assume/guess/hope that it's blown over and he's got his credibility firmly in his pocket.

2) Blood Bank by Tanya Huff. The reader of this classic example of Can Lit was sitting almost back to back with the reader of Beah. I'm going to guess that in spite of the cover's promise of a lurid combination of sex and violence, this novel isn't as gripping as Huff's lesser-known but Giller-prize winning prequel, The Lucid Wing of a Lost Bird Singing My Heart Song - she read approximately 3 pages and then curled up against the window for a nice nap.

According to Amazon, Huff is from Nova Scotia but has lived in Ontario since she was 3; nonetheless, she considers herself a Maritimer. Does she now? Gettin' a bit above herself in't she? Wonder when she'll be moving back home then, where she belangs? Does she still say "caaaar" properly, or like one of them Upper Canadians, with only one "a"?

Question: as part of the NS diaspora, I understand that there aren't many jobs down east - but does writing shitty romance/detective novels really require moving away? Maybe her fambly just didn't understand her art.

3) And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. No, I know I'm not a very nice person. If I were, probably no one would read my blog. Do you know anyone who's so nice that they don't have one drop of mean in them? I do - THEY'RE BORING - so a pox on your moral condemnations.

The young lady in possession of this Christie book was reading it out loud to herself, very slowly. You're assuming that I'm going to mock. Wrong. Wrong. I may mock people's choice of books, but I NEVER mock people who are working at reading when it doesn't come easily to them. So, to you, young "it doesn't come easily to me" reader - keep going! Soon, you'll be setting your library card on fire! Go, go, go!!

I haven't read any Agatha Christie books. Shocking, I know. I will likely remedy this gaping hole in my reading history one of these days but right now, I'm taking The Wodehouse Cure, thank you very much.

4) Phantom by Terry Goodkind. It is my personal opinion that there are too many mass markety writers names Terry. What really is the difference between Terries Goodkind and Brooks? If I hadn't read any Pratchett, I'd have to include him in that rhetorical question too.

This Terry, like the other 2, writes fantasy and so not surprisingly, Phantom appears to be part of some kind of series. If series were banned, I think all the fantasy writers in the world would disappear in a blinding flash of light and the Jedis among us would have to sit down because they'd felt a large disturbance in the Force, as though millions of people had cried out at once and then were suddenly silenced.

What I love about this sighting is how the book didn't obviously fit the reader. In my C/C adventures I've seen almost no book/reader combinations that surprised me but this one did: the woman reading this tome (in hardcover no less!) was a late-40s office workery-looking mom type who very closely resembled any random member of an Oprah's book club audience. But she wasn't reading an Oprah book! She was reading fantasy, which I will assume was her symbolic kick in the face to Oprah's book club books - ROCK ON!!!

5) Dynamics of Faith by Paul Tillich. I, of course, wanted to make fun of this book because I assumed it was some New Age bunk, but it turns out that Tillich, who died in 1965, was a widely respected Theologian.

Because I will not be making fun of the book, I am going to chide the reader of the book (a young women in her early 20s) for making it too obvious that she was being forced to study this volume for a course.

Girl, it's just low class to be snarking (in this case silently, but no less expressively) about the rigours of attending university when so many people don't get the chance to go. I pronounce a plague on your house, thou thing, thou bull's pizzle!

6) American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. This book was being read by a teen of dubious intelligence on the east-bound train that brought me home to write this wordy C/C post. (Sorry! As a result of grad school, I'm no longer capable of even writing my name in 10 pages, so this had no chance of being short. Sorry for the false promises above!)

The reader was in the 16-18 years old range and had on a winter coat but no socks with her cute little flats. (No, she wasn't a sad case, her clothes were pricey, her hair a well-dyed red, and her skin healthy.) This girl appeared to be convinced that socks are the anti-Christ, for she wasn't wearing any even though it's -10C out.

I thought about saying something but didn't. As an old lady in my 30s, wearing sensible shoes and a parka that looks like a 1980s sleeping bag with a hood sewn onto it, it seemed unlikely that she would appreciate my fashion advice, even though I would have prefaced it by saying "When I was your age, I also had fewer brain cells than years on this planet and likewise wouldn't wear socks no matter the weather. Now let me tell you about the consequences, to come in 10 years or so, of your foolishness..."

No, I remained silent and scornful. You see, I'm shaping up to be one of those curmudgeons who just mutters quietly about those damned kids instead of shaking my fist at them and heaping verbal abuse upon them.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Warning: Dickens' books make me extremely emotional and completely inarticulate

Oh man, I'm one weepy mess right now, having just finished reading Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. Dickens has thus far consistently overwhelmed and devastated me (when he isn't being hilarious) but this was an even more intense reading experience with him than usual. This is an amazing, brilliant, incomparable book; but I'm very tired now.

Set during the years leading up to and during the French Revolution and its most horrific period known as the Terror, A Tale of Two Cities allows to flourish what for me sets Dickens apart in a narrative sense from any other writer, save perhaps Dostoevsky: a profound sympathy for and faith in the good that humans are capable of, even in the most unthinkable circumstances. With Dostoevsky, this sympathy sometimes reads as somewhat more intellectual than emotional; with Dickens, it's all heart and that is why I find him, and especially this book, so crushing.

I am fully aware that I am not doing this book justice. I appreciate Dickens' narrator's transcendence of cold intellectualism, but I don't have the vocabulary to discuss it without sounding both maudlin and two-dimensionally sentimental. I expect mockery from certain quarters in response to this post. Since I can't do this novel justice I will only say: read this book now, if you haven't already. (And let me be a lesson to you: Don't let your grade 12 English teacher's fumbling of Great Expectations turn you off Dickens until you're an old lady! I beg of you, for your own good!!)

Potential Spoiler Alert
I will go sniffle and remain red about the nose and eyes for a little longer (or maybe a lot longer - if you've read the book, you'll know why I keep thinking "Oh Sydney, Sydney!!" right now), while I try to recover from the reading of this book enough to make some dinner.

I have to say, whatever book I read next is probably going to suffer for coming after Dickens. I think Russell Hoban is going to end up on my dead pile soon. Just the thought of going back to Pilgermann after reading A Tale of Two Cities makes me feel kind of cruelly amused and a little sick at the same time.