Monthly Archives: October 2012

Books in October ’12

This month saw the end of the Victorian madness – well, more or less. I managed to include a couple of books just for my own pleasure, but it was quickly back to school again. I’ve just realised that this is how it will probably be until summer, as I’ve managed to choose a lot of courses with several books to read. And on top of that all the background reading for the final paper. Oh well. There’s always retirement for reading what you wish…

William Makepeace Thackeray: Vanity Fair

Two young women, Becky Sharp and Amelia Sedley, leave Miss Pinkerton’s Academy together. They are friends, yet the witty and flirtatious Becky looks set to outdo the passive, sweet-natured Amelia with her ruthless determination to grab what she can in life. And so all kinds of battles and fortunes are won and lost against a backdrop of the Napoleonic wars.

Thackeray’s satire on corruption at every level of English society is rightly subtitled ‘a novel without a hero’, since none of its characters have improved themselves by the end. However, it was a success from its first appearance in 1847 and remains one of the greatest comic novels.

(back cover of Arcturus 2010 edition)

At first, it wasn’t at all what I’d expected, although very amusing and rather engaging. Then, around halfway, I was so stressed and tired it was a pain to read. The brutal schedule did very little for this book – but oh gods, when I got to the end, I was completely in love. It’s funny, and insightful, and full of wonderful characters, although all of them have their flaws. It’s Regency. There’s the war. There’s the society. There’s life.

Writing coherently about this book is a little hard, as I’m so enamoured. I hope a reread will sort my head further and get my out of the general feeling of awesome and into the reasons why it is so great.

I’m seriously looking forward to working more with this book. Just… gaah. I want to watch all the adaptations and just get immersed into it.

You can also read about me drooling over the 2004 film adaptation here.

First published: 1847-1848

Pages: 719 (Arcturus 2010 edition)

Orhan Pamuk: The White Castle

From a Turkish writer who has been compared with Borges, Nabokov, and DeLillo comes a dazzling novel that is at once a captivating work of historical fiction and a sinuous treatise on the enigma of identity and the relations between East and West.
In the 17th century, a young Italian scholar sailing from Venice to Naples is taken prisoner and delivered to Constantinople. There he falls into the custody of a scholar known as Hoja–“master”–a man who is his exact double. In the years that follow, the slave instructs his master in Western science and technology, from medicine to pyrotechnics. But Hoja wants to know more: why he and his captive are the persons they are and whether, given knowledge of each other’s most intimate secrets, they could actually exchange identities.
Set in a world of magnificent scholarship and terrifying savagery, The White Castle is a colorful and intricately patterned triumph of the imagination.

(Goodreads)

Another required read for text analysis. Another read-it-quick-as-you-can novel.

I didn’t really care for this one. I’m really bad with modern and post-modern literature. It’s not all bad, of course not, I’ve read good ones, but it seems to me like everything that becomes popular in literary fiction feels somehow… pretentious.

It’s probably just me though. I like straightforward stories, not clever angles from which to look at life.

But I digress. The White Castle addresses identity – always an interesting topic – and doppelgangers. For the most part I couldn’t really identify with the characters, but later on I sort of recognised myself in Hoca (if you’ve read it, let me assure you, I’m not as crazy but understand where the crazy comes from) and from then on found more interest in reading. The end plays with you, and you get to play detective for a couple of pages, but unfortunately the very ending somewhat disappointed me.

Published: 1985 (original title Beyaz Kale)

Translation: Kalevi Nyytäjä (from the English translation by Victoria Holbrook 1990)

Pages: 216 (Loisto 2006 paperback)

Anthony Trollope: Barchester Towers

This 1857 sequel to The Warden wryly chronicles the struggle for control of the English diocese of Barchester. The evangelical but not particularly competent new bishop is Dr. Proudie, who with his awful wife and oily curate, Slope, maneuver for power. The Warden and Barchester Towers are part of Trollope’s Barsetshire series, in which some of the same characters recur.

(Goodreads)

Well written and amusing in its sarcasm, but really, the interior design of a house or who gets to be dean are not subjects I thrill in. The prose is, however, very neat and pleasant to read, and by no means very heavy. There is a romance plot as well as the drama of the religious circles of Barchester, and they blend very nicely together. Second in the series of books situated in the town of Barchester, it suffers very little from the reader not being acquainted with the first part, The Warden. I haven’t read it, and probably won’t, but sort of enjoyed Barchester Towers nonetheless.

First published: 1857

Pages: 586 (Penguin English Library 2012 edition)

Herta Müller: The Passport

The Passport is a beautiful, haunting novel whose subject is a German village in Romania caught between the stifling hopelessness of Ceausescu’s dictatorship and the glittering temptations of the West. Stories from the past are woven together with the problems Windisch, the village miller, faces after he applies for permission to migrate to West Germany. Herta Müller (Herta Mueller) describes with poetic attention the dreams and superstitions, conflicts and oppression of a forgotten region, the Banat, in the Danube Plain. In sparse, poetic language, Muller captures the forlorn plight of a trapped people.

(Goodreads)

Consisting of titled fragments, this work of Müller’s was a positive experience, once I realised it takes place in Romania, rather than Germany. Made more sense after that. It’s got lots of rather nice images and interesting metaphors, and most people in class said they needed or wanted to take time reading it, to better concentrate on the images. Some even considered it a hard read. Now, I may be just stupid or something, but I didn’t think it was all that hard. It took me a couple of hours to get through the about 100 pages, and I believe I got it. (But then again, I believe most of the participants in the class major in Comparative Literature and thus perhaps have a more analytical approach to reading than I do. Who knows.)

It’s very interesting, and I do recommend it. My second favourite of the six I’ve read for this course. (First being Time’s Arrow.) I find the English title rather unfortunate though – the Finnish translation used the original, and while the English one draws attention to the object of desire of the people in the book, the original is more attractive. Without any real knowledge on German, I believe it translates roughly to, “Man is a big pheasant on earth.”

Published: 1986 (originally Mensch ist ein grosser Fasan auf der Welt)

Translation: Raija Jänicke 1990

Pages: 110 (Tammi 1990 edition)

Hannu Rajaniemi: The Fractal Prince

‘On the day the Hunter comes for me, I am killing ghost cats from the Schrödinger Box.’

On the edges of physical space a thief, helped by a sardonic ship, is trying to break into a Schrödinger box.

He is doing the job for his patron, and owner of the ship, Mieli. In the box is his freedom. Or not.

The box is protected by codes that twist logic and sanity. And the ship is under attack.

The thief is nearly dead, the ship is being eaten alive.

Jean de Flambeur is running out of time. All of him.

And on earth, two sisters in a city of fast ones, shadow players and jinni contemplate a revolution.

There are many more stories than can be told even in a thousand nights and one night, but these two stories will twist, and combine. And reality will spiral.

In Hannu Rajaniemi’s sparkling follow-up to the critically acclaimed, international sensation THE QUANTUM THIEF, he returns to his awe-inspiring vision of the universe and we find out what the future held for earth.

(Back cover of the Gollancz trade paperback)

Okay. If you haven’t read The Quantum Thief, the first part in the trilogy, go do that now. Then you can get to The Fractal Prince. And I promise you they are both beautiful.

I didn’t have time to reread Quantum Thief, but I think this second book starts from about where the first one ended. Fractal Prince then turns out to be even more confusing than Quantum Thief, but, I think, the prose is more beautiful. I can’t really grasp a clear plot, a clear goal for the characters, but that doesn’t really matter. Jean, Mieli, and the new character Tawaddud are all interesting, as well as the spidership Perhonen. There’s several timelines that get confused, identities that you can’t be sure of, and some political intrigue which I liked immensely. There’s also more Finnishness in this book than the previous one, or perhaps I was just more attuned to it.

Sometimes I didn’t even understand a sentence, but loved it to bits. That, I think, tells a lot. Amazing prose. So engaging and magical. You don’t need to be a physics whiz to enjoy it. I hated maths, chemistry and physics in high school and do not read much science fiction, but this series has my heart.

Non-Finns who have read Rajaniemi – how do the names and words especially Mieli uses look to you? Mieli, Sydän, Perhonen, Kuutar, Ilmatar, koto, väki… I can’t really get enough distance to the words to not see what they mean and would love to hear what they sound like.

Published: Gollancz 2012

Pages: 300

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Hobbit

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
Written for J.R.R. Tolkien’s own children, The Hobbit met with instant critical acclaim when it was first published in 1937. Now recognized as a timeless classic, this introduction to the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, the wizard Gandalf, Gollum, and the spectacular world of Middle-earth recounts of the adventures of a reluctant hero, a powerful and dangerous ring, and the cruel dragon Smaug the Magnificent.

(Goodreads)

It was nine years ago when I last read this book. I was thirteen. This was probably the first book ever that I like a lot but haven’t read every year, so the difference between my opinion then and opinion now was actually interesting to compare. It was also my first time reading it in English, so another first! Yay! This reread, by the way, was obviously because of the upcoming movie, which I can’t wait for…

It was more or less as I remember it. Bilbo is a darling, Gandalf is somewhat annoying, the dwarfs are fun. What felt really different though was the pacing. I had real trouble getting through the Battle of Five Armies before, and now I marvelled at how compactly the whole battle was described. I was so looking forward to it, and then it was only a few pages long. Slight disappointment there. In general the book felt much shorter.

What I really admire is Tolkien’s way of writing for children. It’s only very slightly less complicated than the way he writes for “adults”, but The Hobbit is also very obviously a story intended for children. But Tolkien is not patronising or condescending, and that is a true talent.

Published: George Allen & Unwin 1937

Pages: 276 (Harper Collins 75th anniversary edition)

Nick Foulkes: Dancing Into Battle – A Social History of the Battle of Waterloo

The summer of 1815 saw the final and desperate efforts of the European powers to usurp Napoleon’s reign over France.

The pivotal moment was unfolding in an age where war was a social occasion; the military urgency was matched only by the soldiers’ and their wives’ frantic efforts to keep apace of the lavish balls which were being thrown. The intention to deny war with frivolity persevered until 15 June, when the tension broke, and troops exchanged dance partners for weapons and prepared for battle.

Nick Foulkes captures the sense of what it was like to be at the very hub of events when the fate of Europe seemed to hang in the balance.

(Back cover of the Phoenix 2006 paperback)

I really enjoyed this book. It might be the fact that I’m getting really excited about my final paper topic, but it might also be the fact that the Battle of Waterloo and the days leading up to it were very confusing and interesting. The Britons in Brussels didn’t really grasp what was going on, did they?

Foulkes has drawn on a multitude of sources. The most interesting of those are diaries and letters, of such personages as Fanny Burney, Harry Smith, Thomas Picton, Thomas Creevey and Rees Howell Gronow. The book builds the picture of what went on during the Hundred Days that started when Napoleon escaped from Elba and guides the reader through the move of the British upper classes to Brussels and from thence to the battlefield. The Duke of Wellington is, naturally, a very prominent character in the book, but also the families of Capel and Richmond are much represented.

At first it may take a while to grasp the names and social positions of the people through whose reminiscences the world of society and war is shown, but towards the end this gets easier. I could recommend keeping a list, though, and I fully intend to do so on the second reading.

This is a very informative book, and perfectly suited for those who find plain war description heavy reading. The women of the time are amply represented, which is very delightful – my own favourite being Brigade-Major Harry Smith’s spirited Spanish wife, Juana, whose description of the panic on the road from Brussels to Antwerp is lively and a pleasurable read.

Published: Phoenix 2006

Pages: 230 (plus notes, bibliography, acknowledgements, and index)

Lewis Carroll: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Conceived by a shy British don on a golden afternoon to entertain ten-year-old Alice Liddell and her sisters, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass have delighted generations of readers in more than eighty languages. “The clue to the enduring fascination and greatness of the Alice books,” writes A. S. Byatt in her Introduction, “lies in language. . . . It is play, and word-play, and its endless intriguing puzzles continue to reveal themselves long after we have ceased to be children.”

(Goodreads)

First book to be read for the course titled “Classics of Fantasy Literature” (although I’m very tempted to call it “Classics of Children’s Literature”), Alice is something I’ve never gotten around to reading before. And I found it delightful. Carroll’s prose is flowing and pleasant to read, and doesn’t patronise. It’s absurd, but at the same time full of meaning and things you never thought of. I only wish I had been read this as a child! I also enjoyed how seamlessly the events of the book flow into one another, and you suddenly find yourself quite somewhere else than you were a couple of sentences ago.

It’s also a very quick read, which at this point in time is a definite plus in my books!

I hope I have time to read Through the Looking-Glass as well before I return this book to its rightful owner. I have a feeling I’ll enjoy that one even more.

First published: 1865

Pages: 115 (Wordsworth Classics 2001 edition: this edition actually has both of the Alice stories, as well as a 30-page introduction – I only read Wonderland)

So there you go again. You’ve already seen the books I bought this month, as they are all in the Edinburgh post. That leaves me one more thing to add to this post before leaving to Night Visions festival to see a werewolf movie!

Currently reading:

  • William Makepeace Thackeray: Vanity Fair (yup, rereading it already. Hunting down anything to do with the army.)
  • Anne Rice: The Wolf Gift (enjoying it so much!)

Happy Halloween, people!

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Movie Review: The Duchess

I was supposed to go and see The Duchess when it came out in 2008, but I never did. It was either because no-one wanted to go see it with me, or because I heard it wasn’t good – can’t remember which, but I think it was a reason along those lines. So now I just suddenly decided to get it from the library, park onto my bed, and finally watch it. “For the dresses,” I told myself.

The fact is, marriage in the 18th century is an interesting business. Men want heirs, women stability and security in life. The time period the movie is located in (Georgiana Spencer married Duke of Devonshire in 1774) is not as familiar to me as the Regency period, but the facts of family life were much the same way forty years later. It was also refreshing not to have to get myself upset over small details.

So in this film the young, newly wed Duchess of Devonshire (Keira Knightly) discovers her marriage isn’t quite what she expected it to be. Her husband the Duke (Ralph Fiennes) sleeps with pretty much whomever he wants, and the wife is merely the means of begetting an heir. Their marriage goes all the more down hill when it looks like Georgiana can’t produce a male child. There are some rather shocking twists, if you tend to slip into the time period like I do, but I’m not going to reveal them here – they won’t be as shocking if you know of them beforehand.

While watching I kept thinking of why people have said the movie isn’t good, and found that it’s actually rather plain to see. It’s silly, if you know anything about history. It’s sort of patronising. It’s too modern, somehow. I don’t doubt that Georgiana really had some rather modern thoughts on gender equality and the status of women in the society, as that kind of people tend to be remembered. However, the way her attitudes and opinions are brought to the screen is childish. She’s gobsmacked when she sees a naked maid run from her husband’s bedchamber; she gasps in disbelief when she finds out her friend’s husband beats her. Granted, she is seventeen, and to do the filmmakers credit she really grows up towards the end, but mostly seems to act like a child.

Although I found the curious marriage and the character of Georgiana to be the most interesting part, I suppose I cannot write about this movie without pointing out that there is a loved one in her life besides her children. The man who has the Duchess’s heart is member of the Whig party and, later in his life, Prime Minister Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper). Their affair is built from the very beginning and carries on through the movie. It seems very cliché and lukewarm to me, although Grey does make a wonderful plea towards the end of the movie, for which I applaud the screenwriter, the director and Cooper.

As I said, for those who like history, this movie might look very naïve. But, if you can look past the annoying gasps and incredulity at the facts of 18th century life, it is watchable and, to some degree, even enjoyable. And hey, it includes scenes where Ralph Fiennes is awkward! That, I thought, was quite something worth seeing.

And the costumes are beautiful. The film won the Academy Award for both costume design and art direction, so it’s at least visually very nice.

I’m eager to read a biography of the Duchess of Devonshire now, if only to find out whether she was really as coddled as a teenager as the film lets the viewer believe.

The Duchess (2008)

Director: Saul Dibb

Starring: Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes, Dominic Cooper, Hayley Atwell, Charlotte Rampling

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Events: Helsinki Book Fair 2012

Let me warn you. There will be some light fangirling in this post.

And as usual – if any of the people in the pictures want me to take them down, just drop me a line and I will!

This weekend was the time for the annual Helsinki Book Fair. The event is a four-day one, but Kay and I only explored on Friday. The Helsinki Exhibition and Convention Centre in Pasila was full of books, authors and all sorts of societies – and previous experience suggested it’d take time to get through all the second-hand book stalls. It did.

Second-hand book heaven.

We also sat down for a couple of panels. The first one was all about newbie Finnish SFF writers, and we heard all sorts of interesting things about Emmi Itäranta’s Teemestarin kirja and Jenny Kangasvuo’s Sudenveri. (Teemestarin kirja is a dystopia, where clean water has become an expensive commodity. The title approximately translates to “Tea Master’s Book”. Sudenveri is about werewolves, power, and, I gather, family. Approximate title translation would be “Wolf’s Blood”.) I have read neither of the books, but I’ve been eyeing particularly Sudenveri, and listening to the author got me even more interested.

Jenny Kangasvuo, Johanna Sinisalo and Emmi Itäranta.

After some extensive browsing and me bouncing with impatience it was time for the science fiction panel! The first half hour was spent with SF veteran Vesa Sisättö and – here starts the fangirling – Hannu Rajaniemi, the author of The Quantum Thief and now The Fractal Prince. The stage was designed and manned by the students of a local art high school, and after the gents had spoken their bit about the planet Mars and stories located there, the girls asked some questions about the SF fandom and being an SF author. I was vastly entertained!

Vesa Sisättö and Hannu Rajaniemi.

After Sisättö and Rajaniemi the stage was taken by author Saara Henriksson and the translator of Sergei Lukyanenko’s Night Watch books, Arto Konttinen. There was unfortunately very little about translating and more about the book and the fantasy genre in general, but Konttinen was such a fun guy I enjoyed the conversation immensely.

Saara Henriksson and Arto Konttinen.

From the SF panel we sauntered to a publisher stand, where Rajaniemi was once again interviewed. There was interesting information about quantum space that I didn’t really understand, and gentleman thieves and space. After the interview we formed a surprisingly short line and – squee! – got books signed! I’m very awkward with people I don’t know, but managed to squeak out some enthusing without seeming completely rabid and got my Fractal Prince signed.

“To Veera with thanks.” SQUEE!

It remains a mystery as to why I seemed to be the only one with A) the book in English and B) the new book.

My little fangirl heart was bursting with joy for the rest of the day. If you haven’t read The Quantum Thief, you should. If you’ve read that but not yet gotten to The Fractal Prince, wait no longer, because it’s even better than the first one!

This be the end of fangirling. And this post. More about Rajaniemi’s latest in the end of month post!

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Adventures: The Edinburgh Experience and Haul

Lawnmarket, Edinburgh

So. I spent a few days in Edinburgh, from Friday to Wednesday. I staid with a friend who’s there on exchange, and we had such a good time! She showed me around town, introduced me to some of her friends, and advised me on getting around whenever she couldn’t be there to show me by the hand. Thank you, dearie!

This post will cover a couple of things that are of interest to me, and maybe even to my readers. At least I hope so! And let me apologise in advance for photodumping this post.

The first thing I think when I know I’m going to the UK is, “Books!” Living in Finland, you get a decent amount of books in English (at least compared to a lot of other European countries), but let’s face it, having a bookstore that is filled entirely with books in English is an Anglophile’s heaven. The first whole day I spent in Edi therefore included finding the main bookstores. Later in the week, while walking towards Arthur’s Seat (which we didn’t climb) we discovered a very nice second hand bookstore. There are lots of them in Edinburgh, actually, but this one was very neat and approachable. Absolutely loved it.

The books bought – top one was for my brother

Second thing I think when preparing for UK is HMV. This time I didn’t find most of the series I wanted – but guess what! The LotR trilogy special extended edition DVD box set was half price! I’ve been hunting for it, and there it sat, bless the little thing, like it was just waiting for me! (Also hauled both seasons of Downton Abbey and two first seasons of Hustle. Should have gotten the third one, too, I think…)

The box set took a lot of room in my bag…

To all who watch QI and know the people who frequent it – we saw David Mitchell at Blackwell’s. Yes. He has recently written a book, called Back Story – A Memoir and was signing there. I don’t do hardbacks, and it was expensive, so I didn’t buy the book and get it signed and talk to him, but we saw him. And that makes me insanely happy.

The Castle on a clear day from Princes St

Third thing I enjoyed a whole lot was Edinburgh Castle. It was a very foggy day, and so the view was virtually non-existent, but there was so much to see that I pretty much forgot to worry about panorama views. The National War Museum was so great I spent about an hour there – we’ll just call it research for the final paper, right? I took notes on all the Waterloo stuff! There was also the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Regimental Museum, as well as the Royal Scots Regimental Museum, although I didn’t enjoy them as thoroughly. They’re worth a look though, if you’re into this sort of thing!

The Castle on a not so clear day from the Castle Esplanade.

Other interesting spots, particularly for the bookworms, are the Writers’ Museum and the Elephant House. Writers’ Museum was disappointingly small, although the building was charming.

I almost didn’t find the museum, it was so small.

The Elephant House, for those who don’t know it, is “the birthplace of Harry Potter”, which for a Potterhead like me was an absolute must.

Tea and shortcake at the Elephant House.

The bathrooms of the Elephant House are covered with quotes and thanks to J.K. Rowling.

Holyrood Palace is also worth visiting. Beautiful views from the garden!

I really recommend Edinburgh. It’s charming, easy to move around (everything is within walking distance) and very interesting.

 

Tomorrow, I’m going to the Book Fair! A day of browsing, listening to panels and making an idiot out of myself trying to talk to authors! It’s going to be fun! More about it on Saturday – unless after party goes absolutely crazy.

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Announcement: October’s Favourite Post

So here’s the thing – school has been hectic, and so I haven’t had time to reread the October Favourite, which is Toby Barlow’s Sharp Teeth. It’s been a while since I’ve read it, and refreshing my memory is pretty much necessary before I introduce it.

Not to mention that I need to finish The Fractal Prince before the Book Fair.

And then there’s the fact that I’ll be leaving for Scotland the coming weekend. This means that I won’t have the time to read the book or write the introduction by Sunday. So here’s what will happen:

I’m going to move this fave post to November, hoping it’ll be way less busy. It’ll be up on the second to last Sunday as usual, just wrong month. (This won’t affect the last favourite, which will be up on schedule.)

Just realised I’ll need to figure out something regular to post next year. Any suggestions? Favourite classics? Movies? Characters? Authors? Covers? Adaptations?

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Liebster’d!

Oh gods. Lynn has nominated me for the Liebster Award. Thank you, Lynn! Perfect timing too, since I just finished reading my last books for both pro-sem and text analysis and thus have reserved the afternoon for things fun.

I don’t actually know much about the Liebster Award, only that you award it to one or more up and coming blogs with less than 200 followers and that you enjoy reading.

It would appear the decent thing is to tell five facts about yourself, answer five questions, and then come up with five new questions, to be answered by the blogger(s) to whom the award is then given. I’ve been told to feel free about bending the rules, so I’m going to do so by refusing to come up with questions of my own. (My questions tend to be rather lame.)

So on to business! Here be five facts about me:

1)   I tend to get obsessed. When I like something, I really, really like it. These spells can be really short and fade when I’ve sort of exhausted the whole business by finding out everything there is to know about the thing, but they can also be very long, as with Harry Potter. I don’t really feel comfortable if I have nothing to enthuse over. Some of the obsessions are recurring, surfacing when there is something new or any stimuli, like with Lord of the Rings. Current obsessions would be Vanity Fair and the Regency period and BBC’s Sherlock (I really need to blog about it one of these days) and particularly the character Sebastian Moran.

2)   There’s been very little time to watch TV lately, and people are usually disappointed when talking TV with me, because I don’t really follow series like CSI, True Blood, X-Files… Anything like that. Then again, I’m also always disappointed, because no one else seems to watch all the British detective stuff. I’m absolutely hooked on Lewis, New Tricks, Midsomer Murders, all the Agatha Christie adaptations, Sherlock Holmes, and the like. Saturday evening is the best TV time, as they run the Brits here then. (Don’t watch Scott & Bailey though, even though it has Rupert Graves. It’s too concentrated on the private lives of the characters. I want the crime.)

3)   I like weird languages. I don’t know many, but I would love to. I speak only two languages fluently – English and Finnish – and can sort of cope in one – Swedish – but other than that I don’t really speak anything. I studied Latin for several years, so understand it so some extent, and am now on a course for Old Welsh, which is absolutely fantastic. I’ve also tried to study Old English on my own, but with very little success. I wanted to start Hungarian this year, but unfortunately the course clashed tragically with television studies…

4)   Never had pets. Would love to have a dog. I did horseback riding for a few years and loved it. Was a dog sitter for about a year and a half. I did these workweek things in 8th and 9th grade at a cowshed, and fell in love with goats. My step mom used to have two dogs, and my stepsister currently has two. I love them to bits. One day, I’ll have one. An Icelandic sheep dog or a Belgian shepherd.

5)   I develop fictional character crushes probably faster than I actually read. Well, not really crushes, but I always need to pick a favourite person. It’s hard for me to be interested in a story if I don’t care for at least one character. There are some serious crushes though: Remus Lupin since I was maybe thirteen, Éomer from about the same time, and Jean Tannen for a couple of years now. There are a couple of them on my pending list, as they are fairly new to me and have yet to face the test of time: Sandor “The Hound” Clegane, and William Dobson from Vanity Fair.

Then the questions Lynn wanted answers for:

1)   Who would you want to have dinner with most in the world?

This is tough one. Do dead people count? If so, it would have to be one of the wits I love so much, Oscar Wilde or Jane Austen. Or William Thackeray. They would all think me dull company and talk me into a corner in a matter of seconds, but boy, would it be worth it!

If dead people don’t count, then… Humm. Well. I wouldn’t say no to Ewan McGregor or Karl Urban. Or Benedict Cumberbatch. Or J.K. Rowling. Or Scott Lynch. Or Patrick Rothfuss. Or… Oh let’s face it, the list is neverending.

But I think my answer would be Quentin Tarantino. It would be absolutely fabulous to have dinner with him, and discuss films. He seems to have seen pretty much every movie ever, and gets so passionate about what he does it’s unbelievable. And it would be a perfect opportunity to suggest a possible movie for him to make…

2)   What is your favourite word?

I like all words that sound like the thing they’ve been assigned to. And of course words for things I like best. (‘Literature’ of the book related. Such a nice word!) Often it’s the connotations that make the word so appealing. (‘Officer’. Ahem.)

This is so tough. I can’t remember any of the words I usually find the best.

3)   If you could choose 5 songs that would be the songs to the soundtrack of your life, what would they be?

1 – This Is It by Goodnight Nurse. One of my favourite bands. This also reminds me a great deal of the awesome trip to New Zealand.

2 – One Short Day from the musical Wicked. I’ve dubbed it my London song.

3 – Survive by Rise Against. The band has slowly crept its way to being my favourite, and so it would be impossible not to have something of theirs on the list. This one works every time.

4 – Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Seriously, how is that not relevant to my life? B&B is my favourite Disney movie, I read…

5- Here I Am from the movie Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. It’s a happy life, all in all.

(Bonus song: Nervous Breakdown, Rise Against’s cover. Theme song of the last six weeks, definitely!)

I was afraid this’d turn into a favourite songs top five list, but it didn’t!

4)   What is the word you hate the most?

Same problem as in number two. Can’t remember which ones I don’t like. I know there are words I loathe, but they refuse to surface now.

Instead, take a look at this Monty Python sketch. Liking and disliking words brought this to mind. I think it’s one of their best!

5)   If you could choose your own name, what would it be?

I’m operating with several languages with this question, but still can’t say for sure. I can remember a couple of names I would have loved to be called by when I was younger – Camilla, for example, or Valeria, which happens to be my second name. However, I’ve at the moment I prefer simple names, Jane, Emma, Isabella, Linda…

If I had to choose, I think I’d just drop one letter from my own name, turning Veera into Vera and so making it just a little more international.

Or I could just be Wil. That’d work, too.

I notice I’ve been wordy again. Oh well…

Because my tech skills are limited, I can’t figure out how to check which of the blogs I follow have a following of fewer than 200. So here goes just one nomination, because I think she really should answer the same questions as Lynn and I did! 😛

Central Neural Pathway – have fun with questions two and four, Kay!

Thanks again, Lynn! ❤

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Movie Review: Vanity Fair

Okay, so I finished Thackeray’s Vanity Fair today. It was delicious, although, even more so than with Middlemarch, having to read it so quickly wasn’t exactly a good thing. But I’m already looking eagerly towards the probably-happening-very-soon reread!

Now, I wasn’t going to watch the movie until I’d written my paper (i.e. sometime in April), but after reading the book I came to the conclusion that there’s just so much into it that the movie has to be vastly different.

Actually, it wasn’t. I found it surprisingly faithful to the book, though naturally it takes some liberties with characterisation and offers interpretations of things Thackeray only alludes to. My main qualm was that they were trying to make Becky (Reese Witherspoon) look nice personality-wise, and frankly, I don’t think she’s that at all. Other characters I liked – amazing Romola Garai as Amelia, Geraldine McEwan as Lady Southdown, Barbara Leigh-Hunt as Lady Bareacres… Just splendid. And Douglas Hodge was absolutely spot on as Mr Pitt Crawley! He had me in stitches, he did!

You will notice that list didn’t include any of the leading men in the movie. Well. That’s because one of the things that make this movie so attractive to me is the gods-damned uniforms. Uniforms everywhere! And the three leading men – Jonathan Rhys Meyers as George Osborne, Rhys Ifans as William Dobbin, and James Purefoy as Rawdon Crawley – know how to carry them. But they do more than look nice. Rhys Meyers does haughty like I’ve seen no one else do it. Ifans is so in love it broke my poor heart on several occasions. And Purefoy managed to make Rawdon so well rounded that I even began to like the character. Only thing I wish is that someone would teach Mr Purefoy to ride, as his skills in the noble sport made him look embarrassing rather than dashing.

There are some little details that bugged me. Some costumes didn’t exactly look Regency. A general off-ness in some scenes. But most of all, Lady Richmond’s ball. The movie places it on June 17th 1815. However, said ball was held on June 15th, just on the brink of Waterloo. (You can find this famous ball on Wikipedia, if you want to read contemporary descriptions or glance at the guest list.)

I can only recommend the movie. It’s slightly on the long side with 139 minutes, but it’s captivating and very pleasing to the eye. Hard to say how it works without having read the book, but I’d say it’s not hard to follow.

Although I do warmly recommend the book as well.

Vanity Fair (2004)

Director: Mira Nair

Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Romola Garai, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Rhys Ifans, James Purefoy, Gabriel Byrne

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