Sunday, 29 January 2012

A not-so-happy book for my happy list

ALL OF THE BOOKS I want to read. Ricardo Bougle via A Lovely Being.

I normally grunt and gesticulate with anger when I read yet another article in the paper about the short attention span (among other terrible problems) of Generation Y. As you've might have guessed, it pisses me off.

You should see me talk about books. I can mouth off for hours about the awesomeness of Jenny Crusie, about how genre books are the backbone of literature, the mysterious reason why fairytale retellings always seem to have a secret magic ingredient that makes them great (Daughter of the Forest, Cinder, Entwined, Ember, just to name a few).

Talking or reading fiction books can hold my attention for days at a time.

But when it comes to non-fiction books, it hurts my soul that I can't really deny these scurrilous accusations. I recently started reading The Hare with the Amber Eyes, and I won't hesitate to tell you that it was awesome. Unfortunately, I stopped around a third in, because it had taken me a week to get that far. Seeing as it normally takes me a couple of days to finish a book (HUMBLEBRAG), you know that's a problem.

So when I bash through my mental block about non-fiction and FINISH a non-fiction book, you just know it's going to be added to my happy pile.

Andrew Mueller's I Wouldn't Start From Here is a book I turn to when I want to be entertained. It also makes me want to be a better/funnier person (can I be both, or do I have to decide on one?). This guy has been a roving journalist since the early 90s, and has covered wars from Iraq to Eritrea, and U2 concerts in what seems to be every country of the world.

You see, Mr Mueller hasn't really decided whether he wants to be a music journo or a political hack – and so he does both. The book is sort of a short history of the 21st century so far, and it's not pretty. Mueller doesn't hesitate to make fun of people he thinks are acting like morons (read: everyone), and he will always go for the cheap gag.

He probably has what people would call an Australian sense of humour, which means he's an equal opportunity humorist – he'll even make fun of himself, given half a second.

Written as a sort of loosely connected set of essays, with the overriding theme of everyone is behaving stupidly in the 21st century, the only problem I have with Mueller's book (apart from his musings on girlfriends) is the almost twee links between the chapters. Seriously, read this book and see if you can guess what country/war/dilemma is coming next based on Mueller's links *fun game alert*!

But whatever, every book has problems. What this book doesn't have is 99 of them (see what I did there?). All it does it have is the man-balls to be entertaining, thoughtful, incisive, insightful and bloody funny.

That's why I Wouldn't Start From Here is on my happy list. Although it might be a little bit wrong to have a book about so many horrible things on this list ... a discussion for another time! 

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Boys, every book just needs one ...

scottzzzz via janeaustenslibrary

I'd decided to write a post about my top 10 fictional men. After all, how hard could it be? I sighed over Mr Darcy, I alternated between swooning over Howl (he of the moving castle) and wanting to punch him in the face  it seemed like it was going to be the easier post ever.

Sitting down to write the post, I quickly typed out my first entry.

1. Mr Darcy.

But after I'd written his name, I seemed to hit a wall. And no, it wasn't a wall created by a manly man's chest, but rather some sort of mental block. I couldn't think of any other men! Heck, I couldn't even think of one reason to love Darcy that didn't involve a long essay on how awesome Elizabeth Bennett is.

I even youtubed period drama men to see if I could find any inspiration, but all I did was waste a couple of hours looking at things like this: 

But even sharp-dressed men didn't help me. I did the only thing I could do in this situation  I phoned a friend.

'Jess', I panted somewhat desperately and unattractively into the phone, 'What literary men do I love?'

'Uhhhhhhh. I don't know. Mr Darcy?'

'NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. I need other men! But I can't think of any that I like outside of relationships with other people. In fact, I think I have crushes on literary men because of the way they fit/treat/laugh with literary women!'

Now, Jess is pretty smart. So she said, 'Well, Lauren. Maybe you read books for the awesome girls?'

This had not occurred to me in years. As a wee lass I had preferred to read books about smashing women (smashing being an adjective, not a verb). And apparently, I really haven't moved on from that. But what would Britney say:

Right, forget about that. Let's not listen to Britney.

What would Kate Bush say?

Well, Kate, if it came down to choosing between Heathcliff and no man at all, I choose a nunnery!

Okay, obviously youtube isn't going to help me.

Maybe loving literary men for the way they treat their womenfolk isn't such a bad thing? Hos before bros, and all that? I heart Cricket Bell not just because of his long stems, crazy creative scientific brain and epic sweetness, but because of how much he loves Lola, and respects her, and laughs with her, and encourages her.

And I love Cal from Jenny Crusie's Bet Me 'cause he embraces Min's snark and sass and all-round awesomeness. And I want to hug Christopher from the Moorehawke trilogy because of the way he looks out for Wynter, while knowing that she can damn well take care of herself.

You know what? Loving men for those reasons seem pretty damn legitimate.

Watch this space for a new and REVISED list of my top 10 literary couples. Now that's a list we can all get behind.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Meet cute

Which book to read for my meet cute?
I was on the tram on the way to work on Friday. I had a book in my bag, but I wasn't reading. But as I was staring out of the window, it occurred to me that not reading was a big mistake. Because if I wasn't reading, how could I possibly have my meet cute with the literary boy of my dreams?

The meet cute is that moment in the movies where the heroine reaches for the last donut at the same time the hero does; when the heroine meets a boy at a party and they are basically wearing the same thing; or the heroine is trying on a fabulous new dress, and she loses her friend and so she goes out into the store to find said friend and runs into a cute guy instead, who compliments our heroine on how nice the dress looks and asks if she'd like to wear the dress on a date with him (wow, that sentence really got out of hand.)? THAT's the meet cute.

My meet cute on public transport would go something like this ... I'm clinging to a pole and trying to read at the same time. I'm reading something like a young adult fantasy book, which I know to be awesome, but judgey judgers might get snooty about. The tram jolts I manage to stay standing, but my book falls to the ground. Before I can reach it, the cute boy standing near me reaches down and picks it up. I wait for him to say something snide, but instead he asks me if the book is any good. You see, he's just started reading young adult books and he's HOOKED. That's how my public transport meet cute would go. We'd then go to a cafe and talk books all day.

Of course, that would never happen. For one, we couldn't talk books all day because I'd have to go to work (although an amended meet cute fantasy could see the cute boy starting work in my office). For another, I never make eye contact with strangers on public transport. Talking to strangers, oh the horror! And another. No cute boys ever ride my tram route.

But come work on Monday, I'm going to get my book out on the tram. Just. In. Case.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Being pernickety

I've read too many historical novels set in England.

That, combined with the fact that I'm an editing student, means I'm a pernickety snob when it comes to reading historical novels. I mean, damnit, I just want it to be accurate. And I have been reading Jane Austen novels since I was 8, so you just know I'm going to be stubborn cow about this. But when this, politely called, passion for accuracy, rears its ugly head while I'm reading a steampunk novel, you know it has turned into a problem.

I just finished reading a steampunk/Victorian/fantasy novel called All Men of Genius by Lev AC Rosen, and I pretty much thought it was awesome. The pretty much qualifier comes from the fact that one of the main characters is a Duke (it's based on Twelfth Night, so it's the Duke of Illyria). This Duke is the headmaster of a school for genius scientists.

So far, so good right?

Think again, oh ye optimistic kids. This Duke doesn't seem to own any property except his school, no big country pile, no rolling fields of peasants, no nothing. He's never required at court, he never seems to manage any property, or a position in the House of Lords, or do anything Duke-ish. So I just found it really hard to believe that he is a duke, which is basically the highest position under royalty.

But, this is a steampunk novel. Which means it's a fantasy version of England. Which means that maybe a duke wouldn't need extensive property or any other trappings of dukedom.

Unfortunately, my Jane Austen-trained, Georgette Heyer-educated mind won't accept this (#humblebrag).

That's why I will always add a 'pretty much' before my awesome when I talk about All Men of Genius. 

Please, feel free to judge me. I know I judge myself.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

weekend fun

I saw 'Hugo' yesterday, and while it wasn't as good as the book (serious question: name a movie that is unquestionably better than the book ... *crickets*), it did have this sort of joyful message of doing what you love ... and that old movies were sort of extraordinary, absurdist masterpieces. I knew I loved Turner Classic Movies for a reason! There's this old movie referenced in 'Hugo' where people shoot a rocket into the eye of the Man on the Moon, and it really reminded me of some old-school Savage Garden. You could almost argue that Savage Garden and old movies are classics in their own way? ENOUGH JUSTIFICATION. Just enjoy the 90s goodness.

What Matilda did next

The topic of tattoos came up over brunch with a couple of friends today. We decided that, as even deciding what to get for breakfast can sometimes be a stuggle, working out what to get permanently inked onto ourselves would be a bit of a stretch.

But after much consideration (at least a couple of seconds or so), I decided that if I was going to get a tattoo, I might get a quote from my original literary heroine, Matilda.

If we get into the picky details of it, my parents might contest that Matilda was my original heroine. After all, how could I pick her over my other bosom friend, the trusty Anne of Green Gables, the girl who showed the world that orange hair was made of awesome?

I justify my reasoning by putting it out there that Anne sort of settled. She found her dream man, her house of dreams, and settled down to making babies, and, very rarely, stories.

Whereas Matilda? You just know that this girl kicked ass. She made pencils levitate in kindergarten. I'm pretty sure she continued to rock socks off.

Seeing as we've already established that I'm not decisive (or hipster, let's face facts) enough to get a tattoo, I might as well blog about the inspiration behind my imaginary ink.

What would Matilda do next? 

Maybe ... read, read, read, write, levitate, read, drink tea, visit Miss Honey, read, run her own publishing company, read, play bike polo ... All we can do is try and follow her example.

Reading: Mindy Kaling's 'Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and other concerns)', listening to the radio, drinking English Breakfast (why does English Breakfast not taste anything like an actual English breakfast?).