Monday, February 22, 2010

words, glorious words

One thing I love, if you haven't noticed, is words! The English language in general (and other languages as well, to a lesser extent) is fascinating. I love to read, and write, and I really like etymology. I am maybe a little bit obsessed.

Anyway, my friend Sam posted up a link to a word-related-site that I absolutely have to share with you: podictionary. It contains word-trivia in written and podcast form. Fabulous.

And through that I found another site: Wordnik. It has words, definitions, etymology, quotes, and graphs showing usage over time. That's pretty cool. The information seems incomplete for a bunch of words, but I really like the idea and the way its executed.

Check it out!

Friday, February 19, 2010

thinking happy thoughts

Sometimes the whole internet, nay the world eve, seems designed to make me annoyed. I don't think I'm the only one who has had days like that, nor is it new, there is a reason I stopped watching/reading the news! Don't know why I started again...

Anyway, this post is not designed to make people angry at the world, this is a post for all things nice and smile-worthy, this is a post... for LINKS!

While I have known of this comic for a while, I just started reading Hark! A Vagrant in a concentrated way and I am enjoying it. Comics! About history! What's not to like?
http://www.harkavagrant.com/index.php She has historical figure heroes, and so do I. My favourite is Alfred the Great. Man, he was great.

I just bought the Florence and the Machine album, 'Lungs', and I am loving it so far! It just won the British Album award at the Brit awards (so much more deserving than Lady Gaga, oh my).
Here's a link to 'Dog Days are Over' on YouTube, one of my favourites on the album. Makes me happy.

And it is a terrible oversight that I have not linked to Spencer's blog, which is now updated Thursdays, because I am loving the poetry and short stories. Here is one to give you a taste:

Rising
By Spencer Harding

I was a monster once;
Awful and magnificent,
sleek, soulless and
cool.
You broke me upon the wheel of your heart,
cracking and straining,
until we fractured together;
I, muted, frail,
human.
You, singing as the wind whistled through your cracks.
For a while we were beautiful;
but then you shattered,
and I, alone, am growing once more,
into my skin;
more awesome, and more terrible
than ever before.

Monday, February 15, 2010

little things

are what it's all about. Like the bus driver I had today who greeted us all as we got on the bus, made the bus laugh with his running commentary and added:
'Next stop the Enmore theatre. I will not be performing there tonight because I will be on this bus'

I kind of love that bus driver, even though what I really wanted was to sit and read my book and ignore the rest of the world.

Like the free copy of last year's Good Food Guide I got with my newspaper.

I should do this every day.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

of wolves and halls, or, how i got my reading mojo back

The last post I wrote about books I was feeling dissatisfied. I kept picking holes in everything, books were annoying me rather than engaging me and even Agatha Christie was not up to par. It was a disgruntling time. Luckily, come Christmas I got a bunch of books to read to hopefully get over it. And get over it I did! The first book I read was 'Wolf Hall' by Hillary Mantel, and that cheered me right up.

I don't know if I've ranted about this before, but I have a slight aversion to historical fiction. It's just that I've read too much bad historical fiction, and although there is some that I like (Phryne Fisher from the '20s, Rosemary Sutcliff's books from all over) there are a few things that just bug me and they happen over and over again:
Anachronistic characters. I know that it might be hard to make sympathetic characters with an unsympathetic worldview, but when you are, say, in a society where women have a lower status than men then you should expect a fair few characters to act/think accordingly.
Anachronistic writing. Throwing in archaic terms out of nowhere makes me grind me teeth, they grate, sound so cutesy, losing power to write sentences... It's hard to describe this, it's just that a book will be written in modern, up-to-date English, and then to make it more 'authentic' they throw in a couple of words (usually 'courses'. For some reason that gets me the most) that seem so out of context I think it undermines the writing. It's like they can't make up their mind quite what style they're using.


Well that was really by way of a long intro to let you know I have some hang-ups, but happily 'Wolf Hall' made me realise I shouldn't be so prejudiced, and just generally blew me away. If the character's were anachronistic, I believed in them anyway, they had the context and character development to back up their views. There may have been a small exception, but I forgave it, mostly because I just LOVED the characters. The main character was Thomas Cromwell, and while I hear he hasn't always been viewed sympathetically I haven't read 'A Man for All Seasons' and I didn't need to be persuaded very hard to like him. Not by any means a perfect hero, but I did enjoy spending a books worth of time with him.

And the writing. Well. It was crisp and clear with small moments of beauty, and I only realised two thirds of the way through the book that it was written in present tense. Usually for me that is a massive drawback, but it didn't get in the way here, and in fact did its job in adding to the immediacy of the book. It's not action packed, but it definitely feels as though you don't know what the future will hold, the shifting politics at court make everyone's position unstable. And while as a reader you know what will happen (this shouldn't really be a spoiler, Henry VIII marries Anne Boleyn, she gives birth to Elizabeth, he beheads her) there's a lot that I for one did not know and the detail and the way she draws relationships really draw you in. It's hard to know where the history ends and the fiction begins (especially if, as for me, all your knowledge of this period comes from year 10 history) but it feels very real, and while there's a lot of politics and history in here, that's what the story's about (politics) and it hums along.

I was interested throughout this story, and it was the characters that kept me interested. I liked spending the time in Cromwell's company, I liked watching everyone interact, watching the royals and nobles manipulate and everyone else work them to their advantage. The story covers a short part of the history I know, which means that it feels like there's a lot of depth. And I kept waiting for things to happen (Henry to marry Anne, Anne to die, etc.) but it happened a lot slower than I had expected. Because a lot more happened between times.

In short, I would highly recommend this, for lovers of history, lovers of historical fiction and generally anyone who likes their fiction well written and their characters believable.