Status Report: Books Read (So Far) 2018

By now it should be clear how much self loves constructing lists. And book lists best of all.

Self set herself a goodreads Reading Challenge of 32 books, which is pretty ambitious considering last year she didn’t make her challenge goal of 26 books.

Nevertheless.

Books Read This Year (in the order of their Goodreads Average Rating)

  1. The Odyssey (the translation by Emily Wilson)
  2. La Belle Sauvage, by Philip Pullman
  3. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
  4. The Subtle Knife, by Philip Pullman
  5. The Summer Book, by Tove Jansson
  6. The Amber Spyglass, by Philip Pullman
  7. Travels with Charley: In Search of America, by John Steinbeck
  8. The Romanovs: 1613 – 1918, by Hugh Sebag-Montefiore
  9. Conclave, by Robert Harris
  10. Hillbilly Elegy, A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
  11. The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman
  12. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson
  13. Empress of the East: How a European Slave Girl Became Queen of the Ottoman Empire, by Leslie Peirce
  14. In the Lake of the Woods, by Tim O’Brien
  15. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
  16. Mikhail and Margarita, by Julie Lekstrom Himes
  17. The Mandibles, A Family: 2029 – 2047, by Lionel Shriver
  18. Moshi Moshi, by Banana Yoshimoto
  19. Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys
  20. As Lie Is to Grin, by Simeon Marsalis

Today, self went poring over her recommended reading list and discarded a list called “Recommended Summer Reading” (downloaded from a literary website). Summer is practically half over and by the time she gets to the books on that list, it will be winter.

On her To-Read list 2018 are a biography of Daphne du Maurier and three du Maurier novels. She hopes she can get to them soon. She wishes Steinbeck weren’t so engaging because he is really slowing down her reading rate. Before she began Travels with Charley she read an average of a book a week.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.

Work-in-Progress: “Losing a Body” (Genre: Fantasy)

Self has been working on flash. This story’s been growing by accretion, to four pages now:

There had been moments of deep humiliation, as well as moments of anger and sadness. He realized that most of these had something to do with a physical shortcoming.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Mother of All Lists (May 2018)

  • Best book self has read so far this year: The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman, Book 2 of His Dark Materials
  • The book it has taken self the longest to read so far this year: Banana Yoshimoto’s Moshi Moshi (33 days)
  • The longest story self has written so far: Alex (27 pages)
  • The number of literary contests self has joined so far this year: 7
  • The fastest rejection self has received so far this year: Rhino (8 days)
  • Number of pieces self has placed so far this year: 1
  • Number of novels self has read so far this year, including the one she is currently reading (Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea): 10
  • Most Fabulous Food Discovery of the Year: Hot Buttered Popcorn, Stanford Theatre, downtown Palo Alto, CA

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Work-in-Progress: The Rorqual

Word Count: 6,313

The day he noticed the first strange animals, Pitt had been missing over a week. Joshua was looking down at a bird. He couldn’t be sure what kind of bird it was, it had an odd wing structure.

He felt a premonition, a twinge. He got those, sometimes, every year or so. It was always a signal of some change, not always bad.

Spooky: The Amber Spyglass, p. 264

Steeling herself to just get it over with, she knows the ending already, wherefore all these wimpy hesitations?

So, the Land of the Dead or the Not-Quite-Dead.

Since reading that section, self keeps looking over her shoulder, like maybe she’ll catch a glimpse of a shadow (What good would that do, self? Honestly)

Lyra and Will enter a creepy house, where an old woman lies on a mattress, and a hand comes creeping out behind her, and that is the woman’s “death.”

Aaargh!!@@##

Lyra and Will have to catch a ferry to the Land of the Really Dead. But in order to do so, they have to meet their own individual deaths (!!!!)

Philip Pullman is such a wizard with the personifications!

  • “You must call up your own deaths. I have heard of people like you, who keep their deaths at bay. You don’t like them, our of courtesy they stay out of sight. But they’re not far off. Whenever your turn is ahead, your deaths dodge behind you. Whenever you look, they hide. They can hide in a teacup. Or a dewdrop. Or in a breath of wind.”

One thing about this section, Will Parry almost completely disappears from the narrative (except for Lyra being super-aware that he is listening intently to her tale-spinning). Shouldn’t sensible Will be saying, “No, Lyra, it’s too big a risk — ”

Since she’s heard that Vol. 2 of The Book of Dust is Lyra at 20, and Will Parry apparently (sorry for onomatopeia, whatever) is not IN IT, does that mean some harm has befallen him?

Next chapter begins with Mary Malone, and let me tell you, dear blog readers, that of all the sections of The Amber Spyglass, the ones with Mary are the least interesting, at least they are in self’s humble opinion. She reads them simply because she’s read on Twitter that Mary becomes the instigator of Lyra’s temptation. Maybe, though, these Mary scenes are responsible for the fact that yesterday, self hied herself off to the San Francisco Zoo, and looked at every animal under the sun (except, come to think of it, elephants).

She saw prairie dogs and cassowarys, giraffes and lions, black bears and grizzly bears, lemurs and rhino, hippopotamus (underwater) and parrots, owls and penguins, flamingos and red frogs, cockroaches and spiders (including tarantula), but NO ELEPHANTS or PINE MARTENS.

As she wandered from area to area, she kept thinking: Could this animal be my daemon? Am I a black-necked swan or a peacock? A parrot or an anteater? A gorilla or a python?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

The Odyssey, Book 24: Like Bats

Then Hermes called the spirits of the suitors
out of the house. He held the golden wand
with which he casts a spell to close men’s eyes
or open those of sleepers when he wants.
He led the spirits and they followed, squeaking
like bats in secret crannies of a cave,
who cling together, and when one becomes
detached and falls down from the rock, the rest
flutter and squeak — just so the spirits squeaked,
and hurried after Hermes, lord of healing.

DSCN0266

Agamemnon’s spirit meets the spirits of the suitors in Hades and cries out in astonishment:

What happened to you all?
Why have you all come down here to the land
of darkness? You are all so young and strong;
you must have been the best boys in your town.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

We Meet Scylla: The Odyssey, Book 12

The Odyssey is the greatest adventure story ever told.

No other book she reads this year will come close.

Now to Scylla:

She has twelve dangling legs and six long necks
with a gruesome head on each, and in each face
three rows of crowded teeth, pregnant with death.
Her belly slumps inside the hollow cave;
she keeps her heads above the yawning chasm
and scopes around the rock, and hunts for fish.
She catches dolphins, seals, and sometimes even
enormous whales . . .

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

The Odyssey: Book 10, The Winds and the Witch

One of the smallest stories follows. After the horror of the Cyclops and the magic spells of Circe, this counts as a very wee segue (but, by a strange coincidence, she’s at the point in The Amber Spyglass when Lyra and Will head for the Land of the Dead):

The youngest one — Elpenor was his name —
not very brave in war, not very smart,
was lying high up in the home of Circe,
apart from his companions, seeking coolness
since he was drunk. He heard the noise and bustle,
the movements of his friends, and jumped up quickly,
forgetting to climb down the lofty ladder.
He fell down crashing headlong from the roof,
and broke his neck, right at the spine. His spirit
went down to Hades.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Lyra Silvertongue: The Amber Spyglass, p. 262

Lyra tells how Will Parry had

DSCN0228

His Dark Materials, vol. 3: The Amber Spyglass, p. 261

fallen overboard as a baby from the side of his father’s ship and been washed up on a desolate shore, where a female wolf had suckled him and kept him alive.

The people ate up this nonsense with placid credulity and even the deaths crowded close to listen, perching on the bench or lying on the floor close by, gazing at her with their mild and courteous faces as she spun out the tale of her life with Will in the forest.

Sly Lyra knew Will was listening with rapt attention and it only spurred her on to greater heights of invention. Because this was the best part of her. And she was offering it to her truest companion and best friend.

Please please please please let there be a Will Parry in The Book of Dust trilogy. Just one teensy mention.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Also Still Reading: The Amber Spyglass, By Inches

pp. 263 – 264:

“I’ll tell you all about it,” said Lyra.

As she said that, as she took charge, part of her felt a little stream of pleasure rising upward in her breast like the bubbles in champagne.

Dying.

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