cease and desist

I reckon most people who read novels, watch films, or watch television shows will eventually come to a moment in a novel/film/show, in which a character is doing something that is, to us, very obviously wrong and might ruin their life. At these moments there is a strong impulse to yell “NO!!” at the character, even though it will do nothing to stop or deter them from their course of action.

The easiest example (and maybe the simplest) is when Wile E. Coyote sets a trap for Road Runner, and when it fails, he investigates the trap in the least safe way possible, and invariably ends up the victim of his own contraptions.

Anyway, despite watching cartoons like this a lot when I was a kid (or maybe because of it?) I’ve never really experienced this extremely strong feeling of wanting to stop a character from doing something. I mean, I’ll probably watch things that other people react to, and think “oh, they probably should not do that”, but it’s generally nothing to get worked up about.

Probably a better explanation is that I tend to read or watch things without thinking too far ahead. I’m not someone who tries to calculate what the ending will be as I read/watch the story unfold. I think it’s better to stay in the moment, and experience the full force of emotions as they happen — be it joy, despair, fear or relief.

However, reading War and Peace last week, I found myself screaming “NO” at one of the characters (not out loud, of course — just in my head), and also getting rather worked up about what was happening. At this point, I must include a warning that there will be spoilers, so please do not read on if you don’t want to know what happens.

Also, I haven’t read much further on after this part, so if something happens that reverses what I just read, please do not tell me.

Continue reading

W&P progress report

I’ve been reading War and Peace for about two months now, so I thought it would be a good time to do a progress post.

About a month ago, I estimated how long it would take me to finish reading this epic tome, and based on my previous reading rate, it was somewhere close to two years. I’ve never taken more than a year to finish reading a book, let alone two years, so the prospect was quite terrifying to me. As such, I made an effort to read more, and have trimmed back the timeline to less than one and a half years. I’m hoping with all the public holidays coming up, I might get a bit of a boost to my reading, and cut this back further.

I’m currently somewhere in the middle of Part Two, which is all about military stuff — something about the campaign against Napoleon. However, knowing nothing about Napoleon (except that he is a significant historical figure, who was allegedly quite short), I’m not sure I’m following everything that’s happening. I kind of feel like I need a quick history lesson before I proceed, but, the weather being humid and lethargy-inducing, I don’t really feel like learning.

Hopefully the weather will mellow out soon, and I’ll consider it. Until then, I will just half-guess based on the notes at the back of the book. 

For some reason I expected this to be similar to Anna Karenina in the sense that I didn’t need to know historical facts to really grasp what’s going on. I suppose I really should have known better based on the title and the blurb.

I’m still enjoying it, though. Tolstoy’s writing is as excellent as I remember (although I do think Anna Karenina was much easier to read, but that’s probably because the concepts themselves were easier to understand than in War and Peace).

I think I’m also finally getting a grasp of who’s who, which is no easy task considering how many characters there are, multiplied by all the different names with which each character is referred to. It probably helps that I’m reading more than I was before. I suppose it’s all about keeping it in working memory (and keeping my memory working).

Well, on that note, I think I’ll go laze around somewhere cool, and do some more reading!

Nickleby

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

sleep study

I was originally planning to do monthly recaps on the progress of my never-ending quest to fix my sleep, but I’ve come across an interesting revelation in the first couple of weeks, which I thought was worth noting here.

Previously, I had mentioned that I was going to try to do some reading and some Farsi (Persian) study every day, and that this goal is likely to hinder my goal of sleeping earlier. Maybe it’s still early days and too soon to make any conclusive judgement about this, but I’m finding that it actually tends to have the opposite effect. Continue reading

measure and manage

Ahh, here we are again, at the tail end of another year.

As tempting as it is to look ahead, keep going, and ignore everything that’s happened these last twelve months, there’s a voice in my head that’s piped up with “Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it”, so I guess we’ll look back before we turn and keep going.

Of course, I do this constantly anyway. “Ruminate” is probably in my top 100 favourite words. (That’s just a rough estimate because I don’t think it would make the cut for top 10, and even top 50 could be a bit tricky to figure out. Besides, there are a lot of words out there, and a lot that I like.)

Another wise saying that I’ve been mulling over recently is the one that goes something along the lines of “stupidity is trying to achieve a different result by repeating the same process” (I know that’s very much paraphrased and reworded, but I can’t be bothered looking up the original. Well, ok, I will, but only so that I can credit the original genius who came up with it…) Continue reading

The Handmaid’s Tale

My book club’s November book is The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Despite being what I would consider “average length” for a novel, it took me less than two weeks to read, which says something of how easy it was to read, and how much of a page-turner it was (and also how much time I purposely dedicated to reading it because I was afraid I wasn’t going to finish it before the book club meeting…)

I’d seen ads for the TV series before — ages ago — and I’d heard of the book, so I must have had some basic idea of what it was about, but, realistically, I went into it not knowing much more than whatever brief description was given in the blurb. For anyone likewise unfamiliar with the story, it’s basically a dystopian sci-fi novel in which certain women are chosen as “handmaids” for rich, high-status couples. The whole purpose of these handmaids is to produce offspring for the couple they have been assigned to. Continue reading