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Tag Archives: classics

or, less high-falutingly, the aaaaw factor.
Isn’t this the cutest thing you’ve ever seen? Definitely cuter than Jeremy Northam, smarter than Orlando Bloom, more adept at drilling its way into hazelnuts than Sean Bean and the rest… Muscardinus avenallarius aka the dormouse, aka the hazel dormouse, dory mouse, sleeping mouse, sleeper, seven sleeper, or chestle crumb. Shown at left in one of its typical pursuits, the dormouse spends about three quarters of its time asleep, including a hefty hibernation from fall to spring.

The dormouse is native to Europe and in England lives mainly in wooded areas and coppices in the south. Because of changing agricultural practices and the destruction of ancient hedgerows, the dormouse is now a protected species.

Lewis Carroll immortalized the dormouse in Alice in Wonderland at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, where the dormouse is subjected to various indignities (to keep it awake and either encourage or prevent it from speaking), including being stuffed into the teapot.

Byron (yes, this is the Regency tie-in) made this comment on life:
When one subtracts from life infancy (which is vegetation), sleep, eating and willing, buttoning and unbuttoning–how much remains of downright existence? The summer of a dormouse.

Inviting your favorite rodent stories and reminiscences, or comments on Shakespeare, St. George and dragons since I’ve just noticed the date and realized any of those would have been a more appropriate post!

winner of first annual BWAHA award, Series Historical for Dedication

Yesterday I read a movie blog entry by Jim Emerson (which can be found on Roger Ebert’s review site) called “101 Movies You Must See Before You Die.” Emerson says they are not necessarily the “best” movies, or even his favorites, but “the movies you just kind of figure everybody ought to have seen in order to have any sort of informed discussion about movies.”

It was a very interesting (and very debatable!) list. I think I’ve seen less than half of them. Some of them are favorites of mine (Bringing Up Baby, The Seven Samurai, Wizard of Oz), some I haven’t seen at all but always kinda mean to (The 400 Blows–which sounds oddly like something from Ellora’s Cave–as well as Aguirre The Wrath of God, Battleship Potemkin, Nosferatu, etc), and some are pretty obvious (Godfather I and II, Persona, Rebel Without a Cause). Now, I enjoy movies very much, but since I haven’t seen so many of these does this mean I should never attempt to discuss them? Does it mean I’m less “worthy” as a movie-goer than someone whose favorite movie is, say Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (as it was with an ex-boyfriend of mine)? And what does it say about me that I am a sucker for these “countdown” lists???

Megan’s post about To Kill a Mockingbird also reminded me of all this. One of my favorite books is War and Peace. For one thing, I’m a sucker for long, sad, navel-gazing Russian novels (I definitely DON’T want to know what that says about me!!!). For another, it shows “our” period from a different viewpoint and culture, which I love. But do I think this is a must-read for everyone, and anyone who hasn’t read it is an incomplete person who should never discuss literature? Well–no. Otherwise, the fact that I have never been able to read Moby-Dick would disqualify me.

All this rambling is just meant to ask–what are your personal “must-see” movies, “must-read” books? How did they affect you, or change your life? I think I need to add to my “must-see before I die” list. 🙂

Last week, I attended the New England Chapter of the Romance Writers of America Conference.

But this post is not about what I learned about craft, Regency undergarments, writing sex scenes, themes and images, and what it sounds like when a room full of women hears there’s chocolate about to be served.

This is about not reading. During one of the workshops, the presenter mentioned Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird and said everyone should have read it, and if you hadn’t, shame on you.

I’ve never read it. How could this have happened? I’m totally embarrassed. I don’t know exactly how I missed it; I was an English major in college, before that took a lot of high school English classes, both my parents were avid readers. And somehow, I missed it.

It’s not like I haven’t read a lot of classics; besides the ubiquitous Jane, I’ve read all of Dickens, Fitzgerald, Wharton, and various books by Nabokov, Faulkner, Steinbeck, Woolf and Hammett (for fun, check out the top 100 list, but don’t get in a tizz about the inclusions and ommissions; it’s not worth it). I’ve read indiscrimately, but have never opened Ms. Lee’s classic, and only, work.

So–have you read TKAM? Do you agree it is a classic? What classics have you missed out on? Do you plan to read them in the future? What makes a classic, anyway? And do you think I should feel as ashamed as I do?



Posted in Reading | Tagged , | 18 Replies

When my daughters were young, I read to them all the time. This summer, I had the joy of doing it again.

We’ve always had a rule of reading the book before watching the movie. I wanted us all to be able to watch THE LORD OF THE RINGS together, so I was urging my younger daughter to start reading THE HOBBIT. Although an avid reader, she resisted, saying she didn’t like reading books with long paragraphs. And so I decided to read THE HOBBIT aloud to her, and discovered that she was right. Tolkien did tend to use longer paragraphs than is common in more recent fiction and it can look a bit daunting on the page.

The previous summer, I read PRIDE AND PREJUDICE to my older daughter, again in preparation for watching the films. Much as I love Jane Austen, I know her style is difficult for young teens, with sentences that can run paragraphs long and paragraphs that can take over a whole page. And confusing period details. (“No, undressed ball does not mean they go naked.”) So when I suggested she try NORTHANGER ABBEY this summer, she still wanted me to read along with her. How could I refuse?

The whole reading-together project was a huge success. My younger daughter is now reading THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING on her own, and the older one is moving on to EMMA. So I’ve got them firmly hooked on some classics! I feel vindicated as a mother.

As an author, though, I’m aware that modern readers can have difficulty with older styles of writing. I would never write a sentence as long as this one:

Mrs Morland was a very good woman, and wished to see her children everything they ought to be; but her time was so much occupied in lying-in and teaching the little ones, that her elder daughters were inevitably left to shift for themselves; and it was not very wonderful that Catherine, who had by nature nothing heroic about her, should prefer cricket, baseball, riding on horseback, and running about the country at the age of fourteen, to books—or at least books of information—for provided that nothing like useful knowledge could be gained from them, provided they were all story and no reflection, she had never any objection to books at all.

There are also some grammatical constructions that trip up the reader, such as “Are not you wild to know?” Did your mind automatically change it to “Are you not wild to know?” That’s what happened to me as I was reading aloud, and it made me stumble.

I want to have a period feel to my books, but I do avoid anything like that that could trip up a reader. I also tend to use pretty short paragraphs, because I think having some white space is easier on the eyes.

But what a shame it would be if no one bothered to get past some of the challenges in the classics, if the stories lived on only in their films (fantastic as many of them are).

What do you think?

But before we chat, here are the winners of this week’s drawing for the Kindle edition of LADY EM’S INDISCRETION.

Cathy P

Congratulations! Please send your email and the email of a friend who you think might enjoy the Kindle ebook to elena @ elenagreene dot com.


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