Today I finished reading Nicholas Nickleby, which I started reading so long ago that I don’t remember exactly when I started it, but just have a vague notion that it was around the middle of the year last year, and so I must have been reading this epic tome for about eight months, give or take a few weeks.

To be fair, it was certainly not the only book I was reading in that time – there were several Book Club books scattered throughout, and attempts to re-read The Hobbit as well as re-read Sabriel (both of which are favourites from my adolescence) – not to mention interception of my time by other pursuits, most notably Farsi and piano.

But Nicholas Nickleby is finished now – all 777 pages of it – and, because it is as masterfully written as any Charles Dickens classic, I thoroughly enjoyed it (despite what the 8-month reading of it would suggest).

[If you choose to read on, be warned there are some very minor spoilers.] Continue reading

writing by hand

I learnt to touch-type sometime around Grade five. The vast majority of my writing is on the computer, but I still like handwriting things sometimes. In fact, there are times when I actually crave it, and I feel a need to pick up a pen and just write something.

Kids these days, I believe, are probably learning to type at a younger age. It is essential, surely (maybe not at that age, but in their lives it will be an essential skill) but so is good handwriting. I’ll not be the first to lament the declining value placed on handwriting – I’m sure I’ve read and heard plenty of people reflect on this subject before – so, instead, let’s celebrate what handwriting there is to celebrate.

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interesting character names

Working in a pharmacy, I come across a lot of different patients. Sometimes, these patients have interesting names, and if you can dissociate them from the actual person – or, better yet, if you’ve never seen the person before – then it can be kind of fun to imagine what they’d be like as a person.

For example, a colleague of mine pointed out that one of our regular patients has a name that sounds like it could be a celebrity name, or it sounds like she could have been a celebrity (back in the day) and is now comfortably retired. Being the book-lover that I am, I tend to point out the ones that sound like fictional characters. I’ve never come across a patient with the same full name as a character that I know, but now and then I’ll find a name that reminds me of a character or novel, or that sounds like it could be written into a story.

Clearly, I can’t disclose any actual names due to patient confidentiality laws, but hopefully you sort of get the idea of it.

There is one patient whose name reminds me of Violet Baudelaire from “A Series of Unfortunate Events”, even though her name does not include “Violet” or “Baudelaire”, and nor does either her first or last name start with “V” or “B”. But there’s just something about the character of her name that makes me think of Violet Baudelaire. There’s another patient name that reminds me of Philip Pirrip (AKA Pip) from “Great Expectations”.

Thinking about this, one tangent after another, I started thinking about memorable character names, particularly of characters in novels. They don’t have to be names of the hero or protagonist of the story, or even the name of the villain; sometimes side characters have memorable names too.

I reckon Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire have memorable names. Well, they must be if I still remember them so many years after I finished reading the series. There’s something kind of grand or noble about their names. Alternatively, they might just be memorable because the series has thirteen books, so I read their names over and over for thirteen books… Going back to “Great Expectations”, I like the name Philip Pirrip because it sounds kind of dignified and comical at the same time. And it just has a nice ring to it.

Pondering about awesome character names, it didn’t take long for my mind to get to “100 Years of Solitude” – that book was just full of cool names. 100YOS even redeemed the name Ursula (I’m sorry to anyone called Ursula who’s reading this, but “The Little Mermaid” did kind of ruin that name for me). Practically every character in 100YOS had a cool name, but I particularly liked “Colonel Aureliano Buendia” and “Pietro Crespi”. Even “Santa Sofia de la Piedad” is a name I won’t be forgetting in a hurry, even though I did complain about the seemingly excessive length of it.

And, of course, I can’t go past Atticus Finch from “To Kill a Mockingbird”. What an absolutely awesome name! Anyone who has read the book certainly would never forget his name.

The “Lord of the Rings” trilogy is also a good source of memorable character names, such as Aragorn and Gandalf (in my opinion anyway). But I kind of wonder if I would still like these names if I didn’t know the actual characters – I mean, surely the personality of the character, and the things that they did in the story influenced my perceptions of their names (?) But then I think of how some letters of the alphabet seem to be either more masculine or feminine, so I suppose it’s just as valid for a name to convey strength, wisdom or cunning without needing context and background…