Suggested Places in Oxford for His Dark Materials fans (Courtesy of Twittagazze)

All locations in Oxford (or adjoining):

His Dark Materials locations:

  • Exeter College (Jordan College in the books)
  • The Bodleian Library
  • Oxford Botanical Garden (Lyra and Will’s Bench is here)
  • The Pitt-Rivers Museum
  • The Covered Market
  • Christ Church
  • Story Museum (to see Philip Pullman’s head-of-chapter drawings from His Dark Materials)

The Book of Dust locations:

  • Walk Paths Along the Isis
  • Port Meadow
  • Wolvercote (a 1-hour walk from Port Meadow): The Trout and the nearby priory
  • Jericho area: Juxon Street and The Butterfly Tattoo
  • The Ashmolean
  • The White Horse Pub next to Blackwell’s

It was a spectacularly beautiful day. Self started out from Oxford City Centre and made it all the way to the Oxford Botanic Garden:

DSCN0047DSCN0048

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Favorites So Far, September 2018

  • Moshi Moshi, by Banana Yoshimoto (novel)
  • La Belle Sauvage, vol. One of The Book of Dust, by Philip Pullman, and His Dark Materials, the entire trilogy: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass (novels)
  • Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson (novel)
  • The Summer Book, by Tove Jansson (novel)
  • In the Lake of the Woods, by Tim O’Brien (novel)
  • Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout (novel in stories)
  • Manderley Forever, by Tatiana de Rosnay (novelized biography)
  • Jamaica Inn, by Daphne du Maurier (novel)

This was a great reading year for NOVELS. Which means self has come full circle in her reading life. Until this year, her favorite books were histories and nonfiction.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

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.

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.

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 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.

Hermes: The Odyssey, Book 5

Self is so glad she read The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 and The Book of Dust, vol. 1 and His Dark Materials before reading The Odyssey. Her reading journey thus far in 2018 feels like the longest stretch of excellent fantasy she’s read in a loooong time (and she’s now at the very root, so it feels as if she’s been moving backwards through literary history. After this, she tackles Thomas More’s Utopia, which is also fantasy. Well, fantasy and philosophy).

Shape-shifting moments thus far: In one scene, Athena turns into an ossifrage right before the disbelieving eyes of Menelaus, and in another she sends a phantom in the shape of a woman to enter the house of Odysseus and comfort Penelope while she sleeps.

Book Five is probably going to be important. She loves the title: From the Goddess to the Storm.

Finally, we meet Hermes, the messenger-god:

He touched Pieria, then from the sky
he plunged into the sea and swooped between
the waves, just like a seagull catching fish,
wetting its whirring wings in tireless brine.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Katy Waldman’s Review of THE BOOK OF DUST, VOL. 1 Is Everything

This:

Post-flood, La Belle Sauvage becomes an intoxicating and dreamy thing, a mixture of The Odyssey, the Bible, The Red Book, and The Faerie Queene, with its eldritch encounters and wild Englishness. Tender feelings start to unfurl between Malcolm and Alice, who is more complex and gentle than she appears. Meanwhile, the children are pursued by one of the most appallingly hypnotic villains I’ve ever encountered in literature, a handsome madman with a three-legged hyena daemon. — Katy Waldman in The Slate Book Review, 18 Oct. 2017

It’s like Waldman plumbed self’s brain, because the above captures exactly what self was thinking, and why she just had to tear through His Dark Materials — which up until this year, she had absolutely no interest in reading (and for that you can blame the movie)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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