Posts tagged "Books"

When you can hear what a writer is trying to do, it’s like watching a dancer and seeing him counting his steps.

Thanks, Jay-Z (from his introduction to Rolling Stone's “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” issue). I've been fumbling for this simple analogy for a while, because I wanted to apply it to Nabakov.

See, I’ve never read Lolita (or any other Nabakov) because I’m 26 and I’ve only been alive so long and I’ve read some things and not read others. But the bits of it I have read are written with such an easy, studied grace that its author makes the rest of us English speakers seem leaden and clumsy by comparison. In the opening paragraph of Lolita, the dancer doesn’t hide that he’s counting steps; he makes you forget that his dance has steps at all. 

Incidentally, Jay-Z’s first appearance in the Top 500 list is on “Crazy in Love” at about no. 113 and the highest placing one of his own songs achieves is something like no. 188, ”99 Problems.” There are a million reasons this is foolish, but Rolling Stone's contention that Cee-lo's bougie piece of shit “Crazy” (no. 100) is better than Hov's entire career is one of them, and the fact that “99 Problems” doesn't even belong in a list of Top 10 Jay-Z songs is another.

But Rolling Stone is clearly just a front organization for a political magazine anyway; does anyone really care about the Lady GaGa story promoted on the cover of the Stanley McChrystal issue? Clearly, this whole “music mag” thing is just a way to get the subjects of its news stories to drop their guard when reporters are around.


Ramona finished scrubbing the front of her sweater with the dish towel. “Well—” she said, thinking. “You know that big bridge across the Columbia River?”

“Yes. The Interstate Bridge. The one we cross when we drive to Vancouver.”

“I’ve always wanted to stop on that bridge and get out of the car and stand with one foot in Oregon and one foot in Washington.”

Beverly Cleary, Ramona and Her Father (1977)

Cityporn.


“What shall we draw?” she asked.

“How about the state of Oregon?” he suggested. “That’s big enough.”

Ramona’s imagination was excited. “I’ll begin with the Interstate Bridge,” she said.

“And I’ll tackle Mount Hood,” said her father.

Together they went to work, Ramona on the end of the shelf paper and her father halfway across the kitchen. With crayons Ramona drew a long black bridge with a girl standing astride a line in the center. She drew blue water under the bridge, even though the Columbia River always looked gray. She added gray clouds, gray dots for raindrops, and all the while she was drawing she was trying to find courage to tell her father something.

Ramona glanced at her father’s picture, and sure enough he had drawn Mount Hood peaked with a hump on the south side exactly the way it looked in real life on the days when the clouds lifted.

Beverly Cleary, Ramona and Her Father (1977)

Percy’s been acting very oddly this summer," said George, frowning. "And he has been sending a lot of letters and spending a load of time shut up in his room… I mean there’s only so many times you can polish a prefect badge.

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998)

"Polishing the prefect badge" should be in common use as a euphemism.


omgharrypotter:

Even the Dark Lord is a Gleek..

Applause.

omgharrypotter:

Even the Dark Lord is a Gleek..

Applause.


Destiny is a name often given in retrospect to choices that had dramatic consequences.

J.K. Rowling

And yet Rowling is a religious person…


J.K Rowling, The Chamber of Secrets (1998):

"Nice loud howl, Harry — exactly — and then, if you’ll believe it, I pounced — like this — slammed him to the floor — thus with one hand, I managed to hold him down — with my other, I put my wand to his throat — I then screwed up my remaining strength and performed the immensely complex Homorphus Charm — he let out a piteous moan — go on, Harry — higher than that — good — the fur vanished — the fangs shrank — and he turned back into a man. Simple, yet effective — and another village will remember me forever as the hero who delivered them from the monthly terror of werewolf attacks."
The bell rang and Lockhart got to his feet.
"Homework — compose a poem about my defeat of the Wagga Wagga Werewolf! Signed copies of Magical Me to the author of the best one!"

I know Gilderoy Lockhart is a fraud, and his narrative has nothing in common with what what we know of werewolves from Fenrir Greyback and Remus Lupin, but his fabrications were based on fact, and I have such a hard time picturing a werewolf in the midsize New South Wales town of Wagga Wagga. Maybe this picture offers a slightly more plausible context, but even so, wouldn’t a were-dingo or something make more sense?
Also, Lockhart? Wagga’s no city, but at about 45 000 people it’s hardly a village. Bloody Englishmen.
(I’m re-reading Harry Potter in preparation for movie seven, but I’ll try not to bug you guys with too many excerpts.)

J.K Rowling, The Chamber of Secrets (1998):

"Nice loud howl, Harry — exactly — and then, if you’ll believe it, I pounced — like this — slammed him to the floor — thus with one hand, I managed to hold him down — with my other, I put my wand to his throat — I then screwed up my remaining strength and performed the immensely complex Homorphus Charm — he let out a piteous moan — go on, Harry — higher than that — good — the fur vanished — the fangs shrank — and he turned back into a man. Simple, yet effective — and another village will remember me forever as the hero who delivered them from the monthly terror of werewolf attacks."

The bell rang and Lockhart got to his feet.

"Homework — compose a poem about my defeat of the Wagga Wagga Werewolf! Signed copies of Magical Me to the author of the best one!"

I know Gilderoy Lockhart is a fraud, and his narrative has nothing in common with what what we know of werewolves from Fenrir Greyback and Remus Lupin, but his fabrications were based on fact, and I have such a hard time picturing a werewolf in the midsize New South Wales town of Wagga Wagga. Maybe this picture offers a slightly more plausible context, but even so, wouldn’t a were-dingo or something make more sense?

Also, Lockhart? Wagga’s no city, but at about 45 000 people it’s hardly a village. Bloody Englishmen.

(I’m re-reading Harry Potter in preparation for movie seven, but I’ll try not to bug you guys with too many excerpts.)


Hermione did everything perfectly until she reached the trunk with the boggart in it.

After about a minute inside it, she burst out again, screaming.

"Hermione!" said Lupin, startled. "What’s the matter?"

"P — P — Professor McGonagall!" Hermione gasped, pointing into the trunk. "Sh — she said I’d failed everything!"

J.K. Rowling, The Prisoner of Azkaban (1999)

PoA is my favorite HP book, an opinion I share with countless others. Erin thinks it’s good because it’s the only one in which Voldemort doesn’t feature, an observation by which I’ve been too interested to question why it might really matter. But re-reading PoA I notice that it’s a really interesting Hermione book, and, as I’ve already told you, Hermione is my favorite character.

The dramatic focus of the book is that Harry’s apparently threatened by the convicted murderer Sirius Black, and that this puts him in grave danger. But quite apart from this melodrama, we see the separate awfulness of Hermione’s school year. Hers is a year that revolves around the comparatively trivial problems of an excessively ambitious fourteen year old girl, and they’re intriguing because they are comparatively trivial.

Hermione is stupidly studious and so she takes on academically as much as she possibly can, and because she’s a smart girl, she’s allowed to do so. But throughout the entire book we are painted a picture of Hermione overwhelmed by her frantic consumption of knowledge. Even after she throws a tantrum in Divination class and quits, she remains irritable and anxious about the work she has taken upon herself to do.

Further, she is keeping the — SPOILER — time-travelling means she is able to continue her excessive courseload secret from her best friends, and much of the time, she is even on the outs among these guys: Ron is furious at her because he believes she is unconcerned about her cat’s attacks on his rat. (And it seems clear that part of the problem here is her own stubborn refusal to empathize with Ron’s feelings.) We hear too, from Hagrid, of Hermione’s isolated, contained misery:

She’s in a righ’ state, that’s what. She’s bin comin’ down ter visit me a lot since Chris’mas. Bin feelin’ lonely. Firs’ yeh weren’ talking to her because o’ the Firebolt, now yer not talkin’ to her because her cat —”

This is an awful picture of what we already know to be a pretty nerdy fourteen year old girl! It’s safe to say that the obnoxious and bossy Hermione has few friends outside of Ron and Harry, and then we hear from an actual adult that she’s been spending her time holed up in his cabin to escape the hostile school environment? Not to mention that she continues to try to do right by her friends, by making sure that Harry’s mysteriously gifted broom isn’t cursed, and receives only hostility in response? This is a fucked-up year for Hermione!

I think, also, that I love that the book combines two of my favorite plotlines from ongoing fictional series. I love stories featuring firm friends fighting (no idea why, perhaps because it explores the limits and strengths of loyalty, something I value immensely?) — the best other example of this is the part of “Gilmore Girls” in which Lorelai and Rory are feuding — and because it features a realistically angsty teenager angsting (and so, Hermione’s angst predates Harry’s in the Order of the Phoenix by two school years — girls).

Just as important to a good friends-feuding plotline is the making-up, and Prisoner of Azkaban's is wonderful:

"Yeah, it will," said Ron fiercely. "You won’t have to do all the work alone this time, Hermione. I’ll help."

"Oh, Ron!"

Hermione flung her arms around Ron’s neck and broke down completely. Ron, looking quite terrified, patted her very awkwardly on the top of the head. Finally, Hermione drew away.

"Ron, I’m really, really sorry about Scabbers…" she sobbed.

"Oh — well — he was old," said Ron, looking thoroughly relieved that she had let go of him.

The emotion of this excerpt, by the way, makes no sense unless you’ve been reading the book, and you know how thoroughly exiled Hermione has been from the triumvirate. 

Anyway, Hermione’s exam scene (as quoted above) is great because it features Hermione terrified by a corporeal metaphor for failure; one that is clearly a facsimile, and yet, she is cowed completely by it. I adore her.


Also.

There a strong parallel between Harry urging himself to kill Sirius Black and Draco urging himself to kill Dumbledore.


Occasionally, I’ll get the rare message in my ask box from a young dude who wants me to teach him how to get girls.

SHIT, I DON’T KNOW! If I knew how to get girls, I’d have them!

Martin Douglas

I think you need to find out what they like, and then you build a trap with that inside of it. For e.g.

Pooh’s first idea was that they should dig a Very Deep Pit, and then the Girl would come along and fall into the Pit, and —

"Why?" said Piglet.

"Why what? said Pooh.

"Why would she fall in?"

Pooh rubbed his nose with his paw and said that the Girl might be walking along, humming a little song, and looking up at the sky, wondering if it would rain, and so she wouldn’t see the Very Deep Pit until she was half-way down, when it would be too late.

Piglet said that this was a very good Trap, but supposing it were raining already?

Pooh rubbed his nose again, and said that he hadn’t thought of that. And then he brightened up, and said that, if it were raining already, the Girl would be looking at the sky wondering if it would clear up, and so she wouldn’t see the Very Deep Pit until she was half-way down… When it would be too late.

Piglet said that, now that this point had been explained, he thought it was a Cunning Trap.

Pooh was very proud when he heard this, and he felt that the Girl was as good as caught already, but there was just one other thing which had to be thought about, and it was this. Where should they dig the Very Deep Pit?

Piglet said that the best place would be somewhere where a Girl was, just before she fell into it, only about a foot farther on.

"But then she would see us digging it," said Pooh.

"Not if she was looking at the sky."

"She would Suspect," said Pooh, "if she happened to look down." He thought for a long time and then added sadly, "It isn’t as easy as I thought. I suppose that’s why Girls hardly ever get caught."

  -A.A. Milne, “In Which Piglet Meets a Girl” in Winnie-the-Pooh (1926)



2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11