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I have been achieving unprecedented positivity and productivity in my RL recently, which has inversely meant very little time online... However, it's Australia Day today, and I thought I'd take a break to update my reading log.

The Harp In The South, Ruth Park
I've been working my way through the Popular Penguins (published here in $10 editions) that I haven't read, and so finally got round to this Australian classic. brief thoughts )

Graceling, Kristin Cashore
My token young adult book of the month. :) actually this was a good one )

Nine Lives, William Dalrymple
Every so often I have a pancheon for travel writing, and when I do, William Dalrymple often delivers. I first read him yeeeeears ago (maybe 'In Xanadu'?). So his latest offering was a bit of a nostalgia trip. not much to say )

The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Muriel Barbery
This is a book-club book of the moment... it pretty much delivered on my expectations, but I had a couple of reactions to it that I hadn't anticipated (spoilery) )
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Hey guys! Welcome to 2010! It's going to ROCK! :D

I'm excited about the year ahead because of my determination to focus on the Things That Really Matter. In '09 I spent a lot of energy getting my freelance career off the ground--now I can focus more on quality of life.

You may see some changes around here on my journal. It's been a while since I felt comfortable in fandom, and part of that is that I've outgrown some old aspects of my online activity.

So... first up, I'm cutting my friendslist. I would like to be able to read and keep up with it without filters or GUILT, so sadly that means substantial cutting. Four years of impulsive friending caught up with me! It doesn't mean I hate you. It doesn't mean I'll never visit your journal. But if we don't interact much, you haven't updated in ages or our interests have completely diverged, then I may have deleted you. Don't worry! You are still welcome here. Most of my posts are and will continue to be public, so you're not missing out.

Also, tip to anyone that actually wants to be mutual friends with me: just talk to me. Comment, email, PM, whatever. I respond well to interaction. *g* But I'm going to have to put myself on a very strict 'no auto-friending' policy for a while because friending waaaay too quickly in the past got me into this unmanageable situation.

Secondly, you may seem some content changes. Since my fandom interests kind of nose-dived in 09 (BSG tanked, TSCC got axed), I'm not sure how much meta there will be. If something sparks my interest, I'll post, but I'm not forcing it. I am, however, going to post about movies and books I'm reading, because that's where my attention is. I haven't used my books filter for eons, but I've decided to just post about books publicly instead--if you're not up for that, scroll past or remove me, it's cool. I just need to be a bit more 'me' on here.

I will also continue to post about vidding and get (roving) vidding chats rolling again from the end of Jan (I hope).

I watched some stuff! Reactions to: Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes, Avatar, Red Cliff, Legend of the Seeker )

and I read stuff: The Disappeared and In the Country of Men )

Now off to Brisbane for a music festival: should be fun!
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Recovering from my cold, I find myself keen to catch up on things I've been meaning to do--I've been poaching fruit, reorganising my music collection, doing mending ... let's hope this productivity lasts!

LJ-wise, my recent acquisition of 75 or so new books (*gloats*) means I'm finally updating my neglected books filter, so apologies in advance to those of you on it--there may be quite a bit of spam on there from me over the weekend--I'll keep the entries cut-tagged so they don't take up too much space on your f'list. ;-)

Meanwhile, I also have new communities to pimp:
- [livejournal.com profile] readingniccolo is my own creation--set up to encourage discussion (and squee!) about Dorothy Dunnett's House of Niccolo series, which I've hooked [livejournal.com profile] c_mantix on. Not much there yet, other than us giggling over ostriches and alum in the first book, Niccolo Rising. However, I can't recommend the series highly enough and anyone interested in joining in is welcome any time. I just ask you to be considerate about spoilers because a) it's me! and b) there are so many plot twists over the eight-book series which first-time readers really don't want to know about in advance.
- [livejournal.com profile] lana_is_ok should be self-explanatory. That's right--there is now a community that is pro-Lana (don't fall off your chairs in shock!). I'm the first to admit that I'm a latecomer to the Lana fanclub, but she's totally charmed me in season 6 and she damn well deserves more respect from the Smallville fandom than she currently gets.

While I'm pimping unpopular communities, ;-), I should mention a community that I believe is under-utilised (which I take full responsibility for as co-maintainer!): [livejournal.com profile] loislane_sv is a community for fans of Smallville's Lois Lane--meta, art, fanfic, news, vids and anything else are welcome.

ETA: Thank you to the kind souls who said lovely things on [livejournal.com profile] stir_of_echoes's fandom love meme.
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Author:Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
Published: 1983
In: Granada

When we were orphans had put me in the mood for reading about culture clashes, and I had a couple of secondhand paperback Ruth Prawer Jhabvala novels on my shelf waiting to be read. RPJ is good fallback reading for me as I find her carefully constructed character novels very comfortable fare--the sort of thing that's good 'downtime' reading between incredibly distinctive or original novels. That sounds bad, but really I'm so glad I discovered her.

As usual, A new dominion is about the clash of East and West in India. In this novel, a Western girl falls under the influence of a lecherous guru, an Indian princess languishes around causing trouble, and an English gay guy (or 'aesthete' as the blurb puts it!) crushes on a hot Indian student who is oblivious to the nature of his desire. A solid premise! I thoroughly enjoyed it--I think it's probably my favourite RPJ so far, though I always say that upon finishing, and then they all blur into one in my memory. I particularly enjoyed Sister Margaret, a nun whose common sense attitude is a great contrast to the emotional social tangles the others get themselves into, and who retains a strong sense of her self. Unlike the other characters, she does not long for some communion with 'otherness'--and since the search for this communion either fails or has devastating results for the other characters, she works as a pleasant alternative within the novel. It's possible to read an 'agenda' in this novel--it's social commentary, and it works. RPJ captures the way that a guru or spiritual leader may capture the attention and imagination of an individual to such an extent that they lose all perspective and endanger themselves. The cynicism was ok for me, though I don't necessarily agree that it's valid in all instances. And RPJ does counterbalance with other narrative threads that suggest greater complexity to the relationship of teacher and disciple. RPJ moves around different characters in third-person limited and conveys the way that each character is acting unconsciously.

Verdict: Predictably, a good read.
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Finally! She may not have won the Booker (*growls*), but Zadie Smith has finally won a major literary prize. Apparently, she was 'stunned' at the announcement that On Beauty had won the Orange Prize, and she was very gracious in her acceptance speech after the event.

The Daily Mail article focuses on Zadie's reaction to the news, while The Times focuses on the panel's dissent.

While I am delighted that's she's getting the accolade she deserves for this brilliant work, there is part of me that is still very irked that it's the Orange Prize, a prize for the best novel in English by a woman author. Zadie beat out some brilliant novelists, including Nicole Krauss, but I'm still waiting for the day when the literary establishment will acknowledge her as not just a great female novelist, but a great novelist full stop. On Beauty is an amazing work--a tour de force of characterisation, an intricately plotted masterpiece with so much to say on issues as diverse as race, sexual politics, aestheticism, academic politics and female identity. Clearly we still *need* the Orange Prize if this work can't win other prizes. Why don't they just formalise the Booker as the 'boys club' prize and be done with it? Why isn't the Orange as prestigious? Argh!

*throws rotten tomatoes at the Booker judging panel*

Well done, Zadie! You are amazingly serene and gracious in a world that doesn't give you the credit you deserve. I hope you enjoy your win.
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Oh, why not! It's booky! *wears her geek glasses*
Read more... )
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Author: Salman Rushdie
Published: 2005
By: Jonathan Cape (Random House)

Another Christmas book, this one destined to remain part of my collection. I have a lovely hardback copy of it. *pets*

Summary: The story is told from four perspectives--a former US ambassador to India, his daughter, her Indian mother and Shalimar the Clown, her mother's husband. It's a circular story in a sense, in that it begins in the 90s, with India (the ambassador's daughter) and then flashes back to explore the events and people that have made her who she is. In typical Rushdie style, everything connects to something else and the flow of cause-and-effect is circuitous, fatalistic and almost mythical in nature. He embues the story with a feeling of destiny, of inescapable fate.

India is the most sympathetic of the characters to me--the most memorable of Rushdie's female characters to date for me. The restless nature that in her mother led to over-indulgence, is present as a strength in India. She's a boxer, an archer, an obsessive control freak and a distant lover, and she is locked in her own world of prophetic or symbolic visions, but she's also grounded in the world of today, the world of Los Angeles, in a believable sense. I enjoyed other aspects of the book and I always enjoy Rushdie's writing, but she's what made it special for me.

Overall, the plot of this book was more intimate than Midnight's Children or The Satanic Verses. It didn't have the connection to greater themes that those two works had, even though I think Rushdie was striving for that. The story is very much framed as being about Kashmir, a region of India where Hindus and Muslims lived in relative harmony until the Indian, Pakistani and US governements and religious fanatics fragment and disrupt the population with devastating consequences. It also explores some post-9/11 anxieties about terrorists and the blurred boundaries between the personal and political. I responded strongly to the personal-political theme and I liked that Rushdie was choosing to explore this. But the other 9/11 links didn't work so well for me. Similarly the inclusion of the Los Angeles race riots was a bit lost on me... but it would be interesting to see what reviewers made of this. (I don't usually read in-depth reviews until I've read the work myself.) For me, this book is a return to form for Rushdie, but it's not his best work. It falls into the 'good solid read' category for me.

Verdict:It will definitely remain part of my collection and I'd be interested in reviews/discussion with anyone else who's read it. (Reminder to self: book club are interested in reading it at some stage.)

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