This Week, I Read… (2017 #42)

152 - Jane Eyre

#152 – Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë

Reading classics, for me, is so hit or miss about whether or not I’ll like them. But I have Ruined, a Regency-era retelling of JE on my Beat the Backlist challenge, because its author is a Tumblr buddy of mine.

So if I’m going to read the retelling, I should read the original first, right? And I did.

I didn’t expect to love it. But I did.

Jane is such a compelling narrator that I can easily forgive the long passages of description that, in other novels, would feel like artificial bloat.

And while I was already aware of the mid-story twist, Rochester’s mad wife in the attic, I didn’t know how the story would end, so for the second half I was racing through to see what circumstances might bring Jane back to Rochester, if any. I honestly didn’t know what was going to happen, and that’s pretty refreshing for me.

Beyond that, I’m not even sure I can describe why I loved this book so much. But I do.

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NaNoWriMo ’17: Progress Report, Week 2

The week’s word counts:

  • Day 8: 1,150
  • Day 9: 2,002
  • Day 10: 1,459
  • Day 11: 2,053
  • Day 12: 4,011
  • Day 13: 1,471
  • Day 14: 2,516

The benefit of being far ahead in the first week is that when real life interferes during the second week, I have a savings account of words I can still dip into.

The total word count at the end of two weeks is 35,590, which is almost 8K ahead of my higher-than-average goal of 2K/day, which is 28K at this point.

If I can keep this pace up, I’ll break my record for wordiest NaNo novel, from 2015!

Vocabulary from Books, #3: The Jane Eyre Edition

janeeyre

I finished reading Jane Eyre over the weekend, despite all my NaNo writing time and despite it being 700 pages long.

It tied Paula for the most vocabulary words looked up (17 each) so I figured it merited a post of its own, as well.

Many are archaic and have fallen sharply out of use in the last century, but as I’m hoping to start ticking some more classics off my list (more on that later) they’re still good to know.

What a miserable little poltroon had fear, engendered of unjust punishment, made of me in those days!

poltroon: an utter coward

Bessie, having pressed me in vain to take a few spoonfuls of the boiled milk and bread she had prepared for me, wrapped up some biscuits in a paper and put them into my bag; then she helped me on with my pelisse and bonnet, and wrapping herself in a shawl, she and I left the nursery.

pelisse: a long cloak or coat made of fur or lined or trimmed with fur; a woman’s loose lightweight cloak with a wide collar and fur trimming

I was now nearly sick from inanition, having taken so little the day before.

inanition: exhaustion caused by lack of nourishment

At that hour most of the others were sewing likewise; but one class still stood round Miss Scatcherd’s chair reading, and as all was quiet, the subject of their lessons could be heard, together with the manner in which each girl acquitted herself, and the animadversions or commendations of Miss Scatcherd on the performance.

animadversion: criticism or censure; a critical comment or remark

Miss Temple is full of goodness: it pains her to be severe to any one, even the worst in the school: she sees my errors, and tell me of them gently; and if I do anything worthy of praise, she gives me my meed liberally.

meed: a deserved share or reward

A little solace came at tea-time, in the shape of a double ration of bread–a whole, instead of a half, slice–with the delicious addition of a thin scrape of butter: it was the hebdomadal treat to which we all looked forward from Sabbath to Sabbath.

hebdomadal: weekly

I discovered, too, that a great pleasure, an enjoyment which the horizon only bounded, lay all outside the high and spike-guarded walls of our garden: this pleasure consisted in prospect of noble summits girdling a great hill-hollow, rich in verdure and shadow: in a bright beck, full of dark stones and sparkling eddies.

beck: (British) a mountain stream

Tonight I hailed the first deep notes with satisfaction; I was debarrassed of interruption; my half-effaced thought instantly revived.

debarrass: to take (from a person) something that causes shame or embarrassment

Leah, make a little hot negus and cut a sandwich or two: here are the keys of the store room.

negus: a hot drink made from port, lemon, sugar, and spices

She hastened to ring the bell; and, when the tray came, she proceeded to arrange the cups, spoons, etc., with assiduous celerity.

celerity: swiftness of movement

The human and fallible should not arrogate a power with which the divine and perfect alone can be safely entrusted.

arrogate: take or claim (something) without justification

Next morning I had the pleasure of encountering him; left a bullet in one of his poor, etiolated arms, feeble as the wind of a chicken in a pip, and then thought I had done with the whole crew.

etiolated: having lost vigor or substance; feeble

If she objects, tell her it is my particular wish; and if she resists, say I shall come and fetch her in case of contumacy.

contumacy: stubborn refusal to obey or comply with authority, especially a court order or summons

It was not, however, so saturnine a pride: she laughed continually; her laugh was satirical, and so was the habitual expression of her arched and haughty lip.

saturnine: 1. (of a person or their manner) slow and gloomy; 2. (of a person or their features) dark in coloring and moody or mysterious; 3. (of a place or setting) gloomy

As if loveliness where not the special prerogative of woman–her legitimate appanage and heritage!

appanage: a gift of land, an official position, or money given to the younger children of kings and princes to provide for their maintenance

I have seen in his face a far different expression from that which hardness it now while she is so vivaciously accosting him; but then it came of itself: it was not elicited by meretricious arts and calculated manoeuvres; and one had but to accept it–to answer what he asked without pretension, to address him when needful without grimace–and it increased and grew kinder and more genial, and warmed one like a fostering sunbeam.

meretricious: apparently attractive but in reality having no value or integrity

I thought of Eliza and Georgiana: I beheld one the cynosure of a ballroom, the other in the inmate of a convent cell; and I dwelt on and analysed their separate peculiarities of character.

cynosure: a person or thing that is the center of attention or admiration


I’ll be posting my review of Jane Eyre on Friday!

This Week, I Read… (2017 #42)

151 - 1984

#151 – 1984, by George Orwell

I read this first back in high school, not for class–I should’ve been so lucky–but because I was interested in trying out more “classics,” which varied wildly from this and Brave New World to Gone with the Wind and A Tale of Two Cities (which I hated, apparently I don’t care for Dickens.)

What makes a book classic is, of course, debatable, but 1984 earns its spot for me by presenting a hypothetical future (at the time) that was both terrifying and absolutely possible.

When I was rereading now, as an adult, what I kept thinking of was North Korea. So much of what I read about propaganda in this sounded just like what we know of how North Korea operates, albeit with a real dictator and not a mustachioed figurehead who doesn’t truly exist.

Where this fails for me, though, I’m better able to articulate now than when I was a teenager. Exposition dumps, the bane of much early sci-fi. I began to lose interest (again) near the end, where the story should have been escalating to some final confrontation or climax, we the reader are instead treated to a truly lengthy excerpt from a fictional book written by what turns out to be a fictional resistance movement. While I admire the twist, it’s a long slog to Winston’s capture, and then its followed by acres more of expository dialogue and the decidedly defeatist ending.

I don’t object to the lack of a happy conclusion–Winston is not a hero who overthrows the government, and it was clear from the beginning he never would be. But this novel is much more about ideas, about politics and its inherent discourse, than it is about characters and plot. It’s valuable for what it is, but it’s never going to be something I admire or imitate stylistically.

NaNoWriMo ’17: Progress Report, Week 1

The week’s word counts:

  • Day 1: 2,334
  • Day 2: 2,140
  • Day 3: 2,375
  • Day 4: 2,243
  • Day 5: 7,820*
  • Day 6: 2,010
  • Day 7: 2,006

*I combined two big challenges from the Word Wars, Prompts and Sprints board on the official NaNo forums: The Xtreme Five Hour Word Marathon, and The Princess Bride Crawl. I set a timer for five hours and committed myself to working on the novel the whole time (with only short breaks for stretching, bathroom, snacks, etc.); and to keep myself excited, I tried a word crawl based on a favorite movie, which incorporated word sprints, mini-challenges, word-count goals, and so on. I like checklists, so going from one task to the next was a great motivator. I may very well do another five-hour marathon this weekend!

This Week, I Read… (2017 #41)

149 - The Last Light of the Sun

#149 – The Last Light of the Sun, by Guy Gavriel Kay

This story suffered from a lack of focus. The blurb tells us Bern, son of an exiled Viking father, is the protagonist, but he probably gets less page time than King Aeldred or Prince Alun. There are too many characters to track easily (in general) and there are certainly too many potential protagonists.

I was never sure where it was going, either, and not in a good or suspenseful way. It wandered into tangential, side-character stories to make an occasional point, something I’ve seen often enough in Kay’s other works. But there was one side-POV scene late in the book that seemed, to me, completely unrelated to anything, let alone (what I guess is) the central theme of the complicated relationships between sons and fathers.

Some of the action was well written, but overall I felt the style was weak. Ellipses in odd places, both in dialogue and narration. Lots of overloaded subjects– “X does Y, goes to Z, falls of his horse, eats a sandwich.” That’s four clauses attached to a single subject without any conjunctions. I’m not saying I never do that–I do–but here, it’s practically the rule.

I did feel strongly for some of the characters–the better-developed ones, at least–and I liked the setting well enough, that mix of blood-and-mud reality with a touch of spooky-ethereal Faerie. But I’m definitely more likely to reread Tigana for the dozenth time or try an unread Kay work before I’d ever read this again.

150 - Many Waters

#150 – Many Waters, by Madeleine L’Engle

Last week, I complained that nothing happened in the previous book in the series, A Swiftly Tilting Planet.

EVEN LESS HAPPENS IN THIS BOOK.

The Murry twins Sandy and Dennys accidentally travel back in time, landing smack in the middle of the story of Noah and the Ark. It’s not clear to them immediately that that’s what happened, because they’re too busy being blithe idiots about how to live in the desert and getting themselves sunburned to the point of heatstroke.

Then they spend the next few months recovering with some kind people who take them in and just happen to be two different branches of Noah’s family tree. Seriously, it’s 150 pages after the unexplained time travel that they’re finally healed enough to do much of anything.

Then it’s another 100 pages of incredibly murky, poorly-defined intrigue on the part of the nephilim (bad Angels) who, for some reason, want to get their hands on the twins. The seraphim (good Angels) sort of protect them, and sort of not. It’s not all that clear what the seraphim’s goals are, either.

Oh, yeah, and both twins are falling in love with the same girl.

In fact, for a middle grade novel, there was an awful lot of allusions/innuendo about sex. No explicit scenes, obviously, but a big deal is made (too often) about how the twins are both still virgins, so they can touch the unicorns (OH MY GOD I FORGOT TO MENTION THE QUANTUM PHYSICS UNICORNS), and also their pseudo-love-interest, Yalith, who is repeatedly harassed and outright propositioned by one of the nephilim. “I’ll teach you all about how to find pleasure as a woman,” and all that. Gross.

I’m not particularly a prude about sex, but that strikes me as inappropriate for the target age group of this novel.

And after all that, in the last thirty pages, Noah finally builds the ark, and Sandy and Dennys (somehow) manage to leave just as the rains of the Flood start. And when they get home, months have passed (I don’t think they give an exact number, but if I’ve got the timeline straight in my head it’s at least eight or nine, since a woman announces her pregnancy early in the book and has the baby most of the way through, then other stuff happens)–AND THE SERAPHIM CHANGE THEM BACK TO EXACTLY HOW THEY LOOKED WHEN THEY DISAPPEARED SO NO ONE IN THEIR FAMILY KNOWS THEY WERE EVEN GONE.

Talk about a no-consequence ending.