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I’m sure you also have them: authors adored by everyone whose opinion you respect, that only make you shrug your shoulders. There are five of them in particular I would love to also love.

I’ve decided to give some another try. For others I’m considering accepting that we’re just not meant to be – any opinions and recommendations are most welcome.

Georgette Heyer

In theory, me loving GH should be a given but I’ve read three by her – These Old Shades, The Devil’s Cub and Frederica – and although I think they’re nice, I’m very far from the enthusiasm she usually inspires.

I enjoy her description of clothes, carriages and balls and she’s great with dialogues, but I never seem to connect enough with the heroine. Heyer’s very often hailed for her strong female characters, but they still seem somewhat meek and I’ve often felt their attraction to the hero borders on rape fantasy. In The Devil’s Cub for instance, Vidal is not a very nice person. I like a reformed scoundrel as much as the next girl, but there’s just so much vileness the author should ask us to find attractive in a man.

Another pet peeve I have with GH is the way she defends “blue bloodness”. The babies of a peasant and a Duke are switched at birth, but forget nurture, you can’t escape nature! The adult Duke has rosy cheeks, a soft personality and is attracted to farming, while the peasant girl walks like a princess and talks haughtily.

*sigh*

I want to like GH, but I’m not sure she’s for me. Do you have any recommendations, in particular ones that move a bit away from the plots of the three I’ve read? Should I persevere?

Haruki Murakami

I’ve only read Norwegian Wood, a long time ago, but it left me so indifferent that it put me off Murakami until now. Thinking back, the only thing I remember of the book is a vague image of someone sitting on a roof and thinking deep thoughts.

So many of my friends like him and I’ve read really enthusiastic reviews, so I’m seriously considering giving him another shot. Any favorites? I’m thinking The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle or Kafka on the Shore.

Diana Wynne Jones & C.S. Lewis

I’ve read Howl’s Moving Castle after adoring Miyazaki’s movie and Castle in the Air right after the recent sad news. None had an impact – good or bad. They’re nice fairy tales I probably should have read in my early teens but now can’t really enjoy. But not all is lost, after Nymeth‘s and others raving about it, I’ve added Fire & Hammock to my wishlist. Any others I should try?

The same goes for C. S. Lewis. I’m going through the Chronicles of Narnia, but feel too old to fully appreciate them (although Winnie the Pooh was lots of fun when I read it last year) and find myself resenting the obvious religious references. I’ll finish the series just to be able to join The Conversation, but have little hope for a late-blooming love affair. One of the oldest books in my TBR is his Till We Have Faces which seems to be indefinitely pushed down my priority list.

Kate Atkinson

Poor Kate, I think she was a victim of bad translation, which also threatened my initial relationship with Austen. I’ve read what I now fear was a very bad translation of Behind the Scenes at the Museum and in my mind she’s been “Meh” ever since. It’s only fair I give her a second chance, especially after Steph’s review of Emotionally Weird. What’s your favorite by her?

Do you have any authors you’re indifferent to but feel you should love? How many chances do you give them?

If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul.
Alphonse de Lamartine

We fell in love with the Istanbul from the moment we entered its outskirts on a bus from Bulgaria. The layers of civilizations, the meeting-point of cultures, the insane round-the-clock movement, the salty ayrans, the mystery of the inner rooms of the Topkapi Palace, but most of all, we fell in love with the light. It’s the kind of light I only remember seeing in my Lisbon. Very difficult to describe, but someone told me it has a scientific explanation, something to do with the latitude, longitude and proximity of large bodies of water. On and off we play with the possibility of moving there for a while (unlikely with our jobs), but all the same we’re planning to return in 2011 to explore it further.

From that first visit I started to read fiction set in Istanbul and its previous incarnations as Byzantium and Constantinople, so when Joanna and I decided to create the “One, Two, Theme Challenge” I instantly knew what my top-theme would be.

After some research and going through my TBR I finally decided on a reading list, which turned out to be a liiiitle beyond the needed 6 books. Other books might be added along the way, so please feel free to give me more suggestions, especially on modern history (I know I have a knowledge-gap there) and graphic novels.

(first stab at)
A Reading List for “One, Two, Theme” Challenge
Theme 6: Byzantium/Constantinople/Ottoman Empire/Istanbul

NON-FICTION

  • Sailing from Byzantium: How a Lost Empire Shaped the World by Colin Wells (TBR)
  • Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire by Judith Herrin (TBR)
  • Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire by Jason Goodwin (TBR)
  • Istanbul: Memories and the City by Orhan Pamuk

FICTION

  • The Sultan’s Seal (Kamil Pasha, #1) by Jenny White
  • The Abyssinian Proof (Kamil Pasha, #2) by Jenny White (TBR)
  • Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernières (TBR)
  • My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk (TBR)
  • Baudolino by Umberto Eco (TBR audiobook)
  • The Flea Palace by Elif Şafak
  • Bliss: A Novel by Zülfü Livaneli

Any further suggestions welcome!

I like my songs lyrics, maybe because I don’t read poetry. I usually go out of my way to finding out more about what they mean and what inspired them. Not rarely, they have more or less obscure references to books (thought: maybe I can do something like this for paintings?)

This is a list of my favorite 15 songs about books. Let me know if your favorites are not included, I’d like to make a bookish playlist.

(in no particular order)

Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush

This one comes first because I imagine it’s the first on everyone’s mind. Ghostly just like the book. A classic.

Too long I roam in the night
I’m coming back to his side to put it right
I’m coming home to wuthering, wuthering,
Wuthering Heights

Moon Over Bourbon Street by Sting

When I first drove into New Orleans this song was on my CD player. It was inspired by Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, and some people say it’s the POV of Lestat, others of Louis – do you have any insight? I never read it…

It was many years ago that I became what I am
I was trapped in this life like an innocent lamb
Now I can only show my face at noon
And you’ll only see me walking by the light of the moon

42 by Coldplay

Chris Martin said this song is called 42 because it’s his favorite number. When asked directly if it had anything to do with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy he helpfully answered “It is and it isn’t.” Right.

In the book, 42 is the number from which all meaning (“the meaning of life, the universe, and everything”) could be derived. All the same, it has some literary connection, and that’s good enough to make it to this list. Great album, great song.

Time is so short and I’m sure
There must be something some

 Brandy Alexander by Feist

Another one that’s debatable. Brandy Alexander is a cocktail, but in my humble opinion, this song is about the main character in Chuck Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters. Chuck Palahniuk tops the list of authors I’m surprised I love and Brandy Alexander has to be one of his best characters. She’s a larger-than-life transsexual that takes a former fashion model (now disfigured by a gunshot) under her wing.

He’s my Brandy Alexander
Always gets me into trouble
But that’s another matter
Brandy Alexander

Book Lovers by The Divine Comedy

The perfect bookworm song. Not something I would listen in a loop, but I always have great fun when my shuffle hits it. The whole song is a list of authors’ names with a very short comment (sometimes just a sound) afterwards. I feel like copying the full lyrics, but it’s just to big. See it here.

William Makepeace Thackeray: Call me ‘William Makepeace Thackeray’
Nathaniel Hawthorne: The letter ‘A’
Herman Melville: Ahoy there!
Charles Dickens: London is so beautiful this time of year…
Anthony Trollope: good-good-good-good evening!

 


Romeo And Juliet by Dire Straits

Modern day Romeo and Juliet, or what happens after the happy ending.

A love-struck Romeo sings the streets a serenade
Laying everybody low with a love song that he made.
Finds a streetlight, steps out of the shade
Says something like, “You and me babe, how about it?”

Bonjour from the movie Beauty & the Beast

Confession: I know this song by heart and can sing all the voices. Cheesy I know, but I just love it, the village discussing Belle, how weird she is and how her nose’s always “stuck in a book”. One of these days I have to make a top list of my favorite bookworm heroines. The YouTube  video I linked to is a rhapsody of the song in several languages – hilarious!

[Belle]
G’morning monsieur!

[Baker]
Where you off to?

[Belle]
The book shop…
I just finished the most wonderful story,
About a beanstalk and an ogre and an…

[Baker]
That’s nice. Marie! The baguettes! Hurry up!

Por este rio acima by Fausto

This one is probably completely unknown for those of you who don’t have the honor of being Portuguese 🙂 It’s not a song but a conceptual album based on the memoirs of Fernão Mendes Pinto, a 15th century explorer. Having to run for his life, he hurriedly embarked on a ship to India and on to a 21 years long travel that would take him as far as Japan with multiple adventures and life threatening situations in Arabia, Ethiopia, India, China, Indochina, Malaysia and other Near and Far Eastern places. It’s an album heavily influenced by Portuguese folk songs and uses many of our traditional instruments. One of my favorites of all time.

Resistance by Muse

1984 inspired many bands (Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Radiohead), but I prefer this one by Muse. Andre has tried for ages to make a Muse fan out of me, but so far I only like isolated songs, and this is one of them. Actually the whole album (also called Resistance) is heavily influenced by Orwell’s dystopia. This song in particular is about the relationship between Winston and Julia.

Love is our resistance
They’ll keep us apart and they wont to stop breaking us down
Hold me
our lips must always be sealed

 Sympathy For The Devil by The Rolling Stones

Probably also one of the most famous songs about books. I was hoping to read Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita during the Trans-Sib this summer but it was not to be. The first lines of the song and the book are very similar:

Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
I’ve been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man’s soul and faith

Wrapped Up In Books by Belle & Sebastian

Not directly connected to books apart from the title and the chorus, but I like it. Perfect humming song.

We didn’t get wet, we didn’t dare
Our aspirations are wrapped up in books
Our inclinations are hidden in looks

This Charming Man by The Smiths

I’m a late The Smiths fan, only really discovering them early this year. This song was inspired by the book Loving by Henry Green. In it, one of the characters, the caretaker of a castle accuses his pantry boy of being “Jumped-up” and “Not knowing his proper place.”

Ah! A jumped-up pantry boy
Who never knew his place
He said ‘return the ring’
He knows so much about these things.

Giving Up the Gun by Vampire Weekend

Vocalist Koenig said in a recent interview that he got the idea for this song from “a book my dad gave me called Giving Up The Gun. It’s a history book about the time when Japan expelled all the foreigners from the country, closed off all trade and stopped using guns and reverted back to the sword. It seems unimaginable now that humanity could willingly go back to an older technology. It got me thinking about whether you could give up all the things that you have and go back to a simpler way of life.

Has anyone out there read this book? Sounds interesting.

Your sword’s grown old and rusty, burnt beneath the rising sun
It’s locked up like a trophy, forgetting all the things it’s done
And though it’s been a long time, you’re right back where you started from
I see it in your eyes that now you’re giving up the gun

Charlotte Sometimes by The Cure

Charlotte Sometimes, the children’s novel by Penelope Farmer, was a favorite of Robert Smith’s. It’s about a girl who, during her first day in boarding school, mysteriously travels forty years back in time. It’s on my TBR.

The people seemed so close
playing expressionless games
the people seemed
so close
so many
other names…

Love and Destroy by Franz Ferdinand

Another one based on The Master and Margarita, about the part where Margarita flies over Moscow wreaking revenge on the enemies of her lover, on her way to the ball of the dead.

I’m so free I could lacerate
Rip the robes right off my chest
I fly high above the Muscovite’s sky
I’m going to rip, rip, I’ll never rest
I’m going to meet you at midnight

An Instance of the Fingerpost is taking me ages to finish. After a week I’m barely 1/4 in. I’m seeing my 2010 resolution of reading at least one more book than last year slip away. It’s hard coming back from holidays…

So while stalling, I’m making literary lists, which everyone knows is the best thing after reading and browsing books. Since reading Cranford for the read-long, I’ve been thinking about my favorite  intriguing secondary characters, aka “I wish they got their own storylist. I’ve always loved a good best friend, sidekick and minor cast member and often feel my eyes following them more than the main characters. In no particular order:

Faramir, Steward of Gondor from The Lord of the Rings

“War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend: the city of the Men of Númenor.”

Faramir was the secondary character that made me appreciate secondary characters. He wasn’t planned – according to Tolkien he took a life of his own and became one of his favorite characters. He’s a warrior who favors peace, a scholar who lived and learned with Gandalf himself. He carries a lot of weight on his shoulders, after all, he was the one who stayed behind holding the fort. He loves his country, his family, and to top it, he loves one of the only strong female characters in the series. I’d like a whole series based on his life before and after LOTR.


Higgins
from North & South.

“Nicholas – clean, tidied (if only at the pump-trough), and quiet spoken–was a new creature to her, who had only seen him in the rough independence of his own hearthstone.”

He’s a working class man fighting for what he believes. He has a strict moral code but no problem in admitting when he’s wrong. He has a great relationship with his daughters. He’s ready to raise the kids of a man he didn’t respect because he feels workers should stick together. His good sense is also able to put clueless (and often annoying) Margaret in her place. I’d like to know about his childhood, his marriage, how he managed to raise two girls after his wife died, how he became so interested in socialist ideals. Although only a secondary character, for me he stole the show.


Professor McGonagall
in the Harry Potter series

The firs’-years, Professor McGonagall,’ said Hagrid.
‘Thank-you, Hagrid. I will take them from here.’

And she did. The perfect authority figure and she’s cool to top it. Tell me more! What was she like as a student? Likely she was the Hermione of her time – or even better.

Richard from the Lymond series

“(…) running his home of Midculter, raising his children, sustaining, year after year, the blows which fell without warning, the traps which opened, the doors which shut in his face because of his brother Crawford of Lymond.”

Another with a Faramir-like syndrome (do I see pattern here?). What do you do when you’re the brother of one of the most fascinating, self-obsessed and complex characters in historic fiction (Lymond said of himself: I lack intellectual humility. A good thing to be without.)? You become the family’s rock, you become an expert in putting out fires and counting slowly to 50. Dorothy Dunnett does wonders with the people orbiting around Lymond but Richard is the one I’d invite over for a nice Belgian beer.

 
Mr. Holbrook from Cranford

He’s a fellow book-lover and he’s not afraid to be the eccentric in a village where tradition is law. He goes to Paris when everyone is expecting him to sit quietly waiting for death. Respect! What was he like as a young man? Does he have many regrets? What did he think of Paris? Gaskell should have written his memoires.

 
Mary Bennett from Pride & Prejudice

She may be an obvious choice, but Mary is one of those characters who has a life beyond (and sometimes different from) what the author meant. Behind the holier-than-thou façade, there’s a need to impress that’s moving. She’s stuck between the two wise, pretty ones and the two young, outgoing ones and you get the feeling no one really gives her a chance. Mary deserves her 5 minutes of fame, as a lot of fanfic authors out would agree.  Another character in similar circumstances is Flavia’s sister Dauphne in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.

 

After reading the above I found interesting the similarities among the male characters. I never liked the bad boys and always went for the steady types, so I guess that’s reflected in my literary tastes 🙂

Any interesting secondary characters I forgot? 

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