There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
~ Emily Dickinson

Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourses of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness. ~ Helen Keller

Friday, 8 March 2013

February Reading Roundup

(The short and exceedingly belated version.)

Currently Reading: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (reread, of course); Young Romantics: The Tangled Lives of English Poetry's Greatest Generation by Daisy Hay; Mightier than the Sword: Uncle Tom's Cabin and the Battle for America by David S. Reynolds; Imprison Him by Miriam Wood; and peeking into Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith by Kathleen Norris. (No promises to complete all of those!)

On indefinite hiatus: The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory (audiobook)
At first I was fascinated by the protagonist precisely because she is holier-than-thou and rather like Dorothea Brooke. But finally she tried even my patience too much. Besides, I already know the outcome of the story. Right now I'm more tempted by Gregory's next novel about Anne Neville (with all the recent Richard III excitement) or Hilary Mantel's Thomas Cromwell works (because of her fabulous speech on royal bodies that caused a storm among the inane British media).

So, of course I didn't complete nearly as many books as I hoped, but here's the roundup.

Journey out of Darkness by Karen Lemonds
The testimony of a woman whose rebelliousness led her into hard drugs, promiscuity, the occult, and mental illness at a startlingly young age. Very interesting, but interspersed with lengthy sermonizing. She said she had hesitated writing the book, since as a young girl she's read similar testimonies and been attracted to the (seemingly) glamorous and exciting lives depicted. Certainly this can be a problem in testimonies of deliverance from darkness. However, I confess she was too conservative for me, with her conviction that reading novels (even classics) played a part in her degeneration. (This is an ultra-conservative Adventist viewpoint I may post on soon.)

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

This was my reread for the 200th anniversary of its publication. I confess I wondered how much I'd get out of reading it for (probably) the sixth time, but it charmed me as much as ever. It never ceases to remind me that true love is self-examining, self-sacrificing, and self-controlled. On a slightly different note, I've succumbed to watching the Lizzie Bennet Diaries on Youtube. Yes, it requires suspension of disbelief that a sensible young lady would post so much of her life on the internet, but it is a fascinating exploration of ways Austen does (or does not) translate into modern narratives.

Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers
This is the first Sayers mystery to feature Harriet Vane and it (and she) did not disappoint; I finished it (almost) in one day. Besides some intriguing revelations on the tricks of quack spiritualism, this book is special because it portrays a "fallen woman" who has had a lover not as angel, victim, madwoman or seducer, but as an autonomous human being. I can't wait for a free-ish day to devour Have His Carcase, Ms Sayers!

Hamlet by William Shakespeare
I confess I'd read it several years ago, but it wasn't a well-annotated edition and I wasn't as familiar with Elizabethan English, so it didn't stick in my mind that well. My friend Caroline has said Hamlet is one of her literary crushes. Frankly, I'm too like him in character to say the same. How come Shakespeare understands me (everyone) so well? Yes, you're Great, sir.

 Possible/Probable Reads in March:
Death of a Sales Man by Arthur Miller
Forbidden Fruit: Banned, Censored, and Challenged Books from Dante to Harry Potter by Pearce J. Carefoote
Have His Carcase by Dorothy L. Sayers

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