Tag: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Distracted by Other Books

Posted July 4, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

My Thoughts and Reading in June 2018

Being able to reflect on my reading month is one of the reasons I do these wrap ups. It is surprising how much my perception on my month is different to the reality. Like last month, I thought I had a slow reading month, but completing eight books is amazing. I have been trying to slow down my reading to focus on the reading I am doing and I am sure I am doing just that. However, the fact that I finished so many books makes me thing otherwise. We have been housesitting for the past few months and this affected my reading drastically but in reality, not so much.

I started of this month with August by Romina Paula. I originally wanted to read this book because I have been into Argentinian literature at the moment but since it was also translated by Jennifer Croft, it had to be read. As you know, Jennifer Croft translated Flights from the Polish which went on to win the Man Booker International Prize. August was a vastly different novel and while I enjoyed it, it was not the experience I expected. This combination of grief and nostalgia made for an interesting narrative. One I hope to explore in a review soon. Longlisted for the BTBA award, I was interested in trying something from this prize that is a relatively new discovery for me. Also, there is something about all the books being published by Feminist Press the appeal to me. It seems to be a lot of women writing dark and gritty literature that deal with femininity and the treatment of women in their own countries.

I seem to be dedicating some time to crime novels lately, this month it included In the Darkness by Karin Fossum and The Gunman by Jean-Patrick Manchette. I found In the Darkness pretty generic and I am still struggling to find some Scandinavian crime that I enjoy. I love noir style novels so I thought Nordic noir would be the perfect choice. I am very particular about crime novels and turns out that Jean-Patrick Manchette fits my taste perfectly. While The Gunman was not amazing, I was able to test out his writing style and discovered it was a perfect fit for me. I read The Gunman because it was the only Manchette in my library, now I plan to pick up some of his better known novels. The Gunman has been adapted into a movie starring Sean Penn, but I do not think I will watch it, it feels very B-grade.

I also managed to do some re-reading this month. Picking up both The Possessed by Elif Batuman and The Shadow of the Wind. I was not a fan of The Possessed originally but I could not remember why. It seemed like a book that would suit me perfectly, as it is a book about Russian literature. While I did enjoy it a little more the second time around, it turns out that I felt this way because I never really understood her literary criticism and she never took any time to explain it. For example, I do not know how Batuman connected Anna Karenina to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, it feels like a stretch because it never was explained. I had the opposite reaction to The Shadow of the Wind where I loved it the first time but not so much this re-read. I have grown so much as a reader and have found what I love and hate in literature, so re-reading this novel, I discovered it lacked the depth that I crave. I will re-read the other books in the series and eventually finish off the series but I am in no rush.

I do not want to talk too much about Soviet Milk because I still feel like I am piecing together my thoughts. It was a great read, but work was so busy at the time, I found myself lacking focus. I could only read a few pages at a time before I needed to put it down. I want to re-read the novel because I think there is so much to gain from this book, so maybe I will just reserve my judgement until I have read it again. Also, I am unsure how I feel about The Order of Time, it think a lot of the science was well over my head. Carlo Rovelli has given me a lot to think about and he has challenged the how I think about time, so maybe the book has had its intended effect.

June was the month of first for me, my first time reading Manchette, but also my first time reading the great authors Juan Gabriel Vásquez and Mario Vargas Llosa. The Sound of Things Falling was a great novel and I loved Vásquez’s writing style. This is the type of novels I love to read and it reminded me a little of the style of Bolano. While Llosa had a great writing style with his novel The Neighborhood, I felt conflicted about my feelings. So much so, that I have not been able to finish the book yet. Firstly, the sex scenes in this book are so cringe worthy I struggled to get through them, but also his treatment of LGBTQIA characters felt creepy. The lesbian relationship was such an interesting part of the plot, but it often felt more like the author fantasising about them having sex rather than focusing on the relationship. There is so much political intrigue going on in the background, it was a shame that all this was ruined when it came to the sex, which unfortunately was a huge part of the plot and therefore happening all the time.

I am very pleased with the way this month turned out, as stated in last month months wrap-up, I was housesitting which meant I was not distracted by other books. I only had access to the books I had with me. I will be finishing up The Neighborhood this month as well as Purge by Sofi Oksanen. I have no idea what I will be reading next, probably La Bastarda by Trifonia Melibea Obono, They Know Not What They Do by Jussi Valtonen and The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson but you never know, I could be distracted by the other books on my shelves. Also, I plan in participating in Spanish and Portuguese Literature Month this month and then Women in Translation month in August. I hope this will motivate me to blog more. I have so many books I want to review, and I want to get back into a habit of writing more frequently. So, fingers crossed that July is the month that gets me writing again.

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Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift

Posted November 18, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic / 0 Comments

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan SwiftTitle: Gulliver's Travels (Goodreads)
Author: Jonathan Swift
Published: Oxford World's Classics, 1726
Pages: 362
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Jonathan Swift’s classic satire novel Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships was released in 1726 but in 1735 the title was amended simply to Gulliver’s Travels. The novel was popular not only because it was a parody on the popular “travellers’ tales” genre but as a satire on human nature. It later gained increase popularity in its abridged form as a classic in children’s literature.

It seems a little odd to me that many people have experienced Gulliver’s Travels as a children’s book. Comparing what I know from the abridged children’s book to the version I just read, it feels like a completely different book. The abridged version I believe only focuses on books 1 and 2 and all satire, allegory or symbolism has been stripped from it, which means the bulk of makes Jonathan Swift a great writer has been completely removed and only the fantastical elements remain. Other classics received a similar treatment to turn into a kids book including, Robinson Crusoe, The Thousand and One Nights (known as The Arabian Nights) and to a less extent Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Peter Pan.

When reading a book like Gulliver’s Travels it is important to remember that Jonathan Swift deals heavily in irony. Take for example his essay ‘A Modest Proposal’ in which he suggests a solution to the population issue in Ireland. He suggested that we need to “regard people as commodities” and went on to say that “A young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout.” This straight-faced proposal is a form of Juvenalian satire where Swift mocks the heartless attitudes the government has towards the poor, as well as Irish policy in general.

Gulliver’s Travels’ satirical themes are very subtle but are typically directed towards moral, political, social and religious ideals. The main satirical themes I found within the novel focused on war, corruption in the laws and politics and the ignorance or arrogance of doctors. There is a lot of irony within the book, for example the term medical malpractice refers to ordinary medical practices and horrific carnage is meant to be extremely fun.

This is a book that comes with more layers than an onion; we could look at the travel novel as a genre, colonialism, and even the changes in Gulliver’s opinions and language over the course of the book. You could even read this as a rebuttal to Defoe’s optimistic account of human capability in Robinson Crusoe which was published seven years earlier. On the surface, you can look at Gulliver’s Travels as four different short stories but if you decide to explore it deeper you are heading down a rabbit hole you may never escape.

I have to admit I didn’t spend as much time as I should have and explored some of the ideas within this classic a little deeper. I was very aware that if I dug deeper I would be stuck reading this book for the rest of the year, maybe the next. I am fascinated by this book, I would love to dig deeper in the future but with the aid of a study guide or something similar. I will be reading this book again and I would like to encourage others to pick it up if they haven’t done it in the past. Swift really has a decent grasp on satire; so much so that we have the term Swiftian to refer to his satirical tone and pessimistic outlook in literature.


ArmchairBEA 2014: Topic of Choice & Middle Grade/Young Adult

Posted May 30, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in ArmchairBEA / 35 Comments

abea

 Armchair BEA is starting to come to an end; it has been a fun experience and I hope you enjoyed visiting all the blogs. Today’s topic is Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction, plus a free choice. I’m not actually sure what to say about Young Adult fiction, it seems like a popular choice and I think the book blogging community have a strong handle on this genre. I’m old and cranky, so I would say there are too many blogs about young adult fiction. However Middle Grade literature doesn’t seem to get the same amount of attention. I am trying to read more children’s classics, I think my blog only has Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and now The Secret Garden on it. I know it is a genre I should put a little more focus on, so I’m hoping people will leave me recommendations in the comments below.

For the free topic, I had to think about what to talk about, the concept of ‘honest’ reviews. As a book blogger we are often sent books in exchange for an honest review but I very rarely see negative reviews. As book bloggers, are we giving honest reviews if we only share the books we like? I know we tend to abandon books that were not working but do we talk about these books on our blogs as well? I’m not accusing people of anything here; I just want the book blogging community to think about the topic. I enjoy negative reviews, I think they are fun to read and write but I still think we need to be constructive and non-aggressive about them.

If there is nothing else, consider this; your book blog is a reflection of your taste in books. How can people truly understand what your tastes are really like if they don’t know why a book doesn’t work for you. I’m hoping to get plenty of response from people telling me they do write negative reviews. I hope we all do, we can’t love every book and we sometimes need to discuss why we don’t like a book. If you don’t write negative reviews, try it, it can be fun. If you still don’t like to write them, let me know why.

ArmchairBEA is a virtual convention for book blogger who can’t attend Book Expo America and the Book Blogger Convention. Button by Sarah of Puss Reboots


The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Posted May 30, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Childrens, Classic / 10 Comments

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson BurnettTitle: The Secret Garden (Goodreads)
Author: Frances Hodgson Burnett
Published: Oxford World's Classics, 1911
Pages: 210
Genres: Childrens, Classic
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

“Mistress Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And marigolds all in a row.”

I admit that when it comes to children’s literature, I’ve been a little slack. So much for the literary explorer, this blog only has two books review that would fit the genre. One being the wonderful Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland which I read a long time ago and absolutely loved, the second was The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists by Gideon Defoe. I’ve only read two children’s books for this blog. I was happy to see that the Literary Exploration Book Club on Goodreads (it’s a great group, join it if you want to try different genres) decided that it was about time we did a children’s book. There were some great nominations for this poll, including Charlotte’s Web, Pinocchio, Wonder but it all came down to a battle between The Wind in the Willows and The Secret Garden. I have very vague memories of The Secret Garden; I know it had adventure, a secret garden and it was centred on a young girl.

What I got when I started reading this novel was something truly amazing. It has a nice blend of the Gothic and Romantic ideology and, you know me, that is the type of novel that I crave. The story follows a young girl who is sent to live with her mysterious uncle when her parents died from cholera. It was established from the very first line that “everybody said she was the most disagreeable-looking child ever seen”. We get a sense from that line that no one likes her and add the fact that she grow up in India with servants we know she was an over privileged brat of a child. This is all from the first chapter, so I knew from the start that I was reading a children’s novel that was going to be very different to the ones of its time. The whole idea of the Victorian girl, the girl that is always well behaved and helpful in the kitchen and is spending her time getting educated and prepared for marriage was not going to play any part in The Secret Garden, in fact it was more likely to be similar to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island in the sense that we have a child out for adventure.

Now, I’ve stated that there are elements of the Gothic and the Romantic in this novel so let me just expand on that real briefly. Mary was a sickly child when she came to Misselthwaite manor; in fact she was described in the first paragraph to have “a little thin face and a little thin body, thin light hair and a sour expression. Her hair was yellow, and her face was yellow because she had been born in India and had always been ill in one way or another.” Then when you get to chapter 11 you hear her say “’I’m growing fatter,’ said Mary, ‘and I’m growing stronger. I used always to be tired. When I dig I’m not tired at all. I like to smell the earth when it’s turned up.’” All this has been a result of communing with nature, the very essence of the Romantic Movement.

Now when it comes to the Gothic you obviously have the big manor on the moors with all the secrets housed within it. You can see the typical gothic tropes through out The Secret Garden, Mary often hearing mysterious cries in the house and has been told it is just the wind. The whole house and even the garden has secrets and it is this that makes up the architecture for the gothic within this novel. However you can take it one step further, I viewed Misselthwaite manor as a symbol of Mary’s psyche. All those locked rooms hiding the secrets are representative of the psychological damage Mary has been through and slowly has to deal with.

There are so many little elements you can study within this novel. I kept looking at the similarities between characters and tried to understand what would Frances Hodgson Burnett wanted to say. Look at the similarities between Mary and the robin; both orphans, both find refuge in the secret gardens and seeking friendship. Then you can compare the similarities between Mary and Colin; both ten years old, sickly, neglected and over privileged, spoiled little children. I spent a lot of time wondering the importance behind the parallel lives but in the end have just decided that Burnett did this to emphasise the themes throughout this classic children’s novel.

The major theme that I believe comes through The Secret Garden is the importance between friendship and companionship (with Mary and Colin or even the robin). The Christian Scientist idea of disease not being a product of the body but of negative thinking seems to come to mind when I think about this theme. Frances Hodgson Burnett had a keen interest in the Christian Science movement (as well as Spiritualism and Theosophy in general) which developed before she began writing The Secret Garden.

You also have the theme that suggests an importance of being outdoors; the notion of getting out of the house and exercising being healthy for young children runs throughout the novel. This could also been accredited to a Christian Scientist ideology or more a product from the changing times where fresh air and exercise for children have been promoted. There is the Romantic Movement that suggests the importance of communing with nature, which was a backlash against an emphasis on the enlightenment and scientific. The movement wanted to highlight the glory, beauty and power of the natural world. Both Christian Scientists and The Romantics believe the natural world to be a source of healthy thinking, emotions and ideas.

In the end, this book is great and a joy to read, I was wondering how so many people enjoyed the book when I feel like too many people get put off by unlikeable characters. Both Mary and Colin where the most disagreeable children (not entirely true but close) and I’m perplexed, I feel like people only hate a book with unlikeable characters when it suits them and looking for an excuse. Anyway I’m not going to go into that. Analysing The Secret Garden closely, I did wonder if this novel came off too preachy but I enjoyed it none the less. It has inspired me to read some more children’s classics but I’m not sure which one I’ll read next.


First Steps: Banned Books

Posted September 26, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in First Steps / 0 Comments

literary stepsFirst Steps is a new segment that was inspired by the Literary Exploration Reading Challenge. Each week or two, we look at books from different themes, genres or maybe authors and suggest some that are worth trying. Not necessarily all easy to read books but the ones that are worth the time and effort. My goal is to have First Steps guide you to some great books in places you don’t normally venture to.

To celebrate banned book week and because I’ve been asked for some suggestions on what to read, I thought I would share a couple of books that you should check out. I’m not going to focus on high literature or the controversial books but rather some great reads in a few different genres and styles.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis is the autobiography of Satrapi, growing up within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution. She balances the plot between her private and public life, in a country plagued by political upheaval. I can’t recommend this graphic novel enough, if you have never tried a comic then try this one.

 

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

The ultimate book about the problems with banning books and ironically it managed to get banned. Guy Montag is a fireman, his job is to burn books; the source of all discord and unhappiness. Guy is unhappy with his life and there is discord in his marriage. A terrifyingly prophetic novel of a post-literate future.

 
 

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Yes, this book was banned; a classic children’s novel that is probably the best example of the literary nonsense genre. This book plays with logic and narrative structure making this book popular among adults as well as children. I love this book and it is full of witty and amusing puns.

 
 

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess 

One of my favourite dystopian novels out there, A Clockwork Orange is just weird and a real khorosho (horrorshow). A Clockwork Orange tells the story of Alex, your humble narrator; a disturbing 15 year old anti-hero, until the government tried some experimental behaviour-modification treatment on him.

 
 

Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley

My all-time favourite, a book I read again and again. There are so many different themes you can pull out of this novel and it infuses elements from the Romantic Movement, gothic, horror and science fiction. Everyone has an idea of what this book is about but just how different is it to its pop culture references.

 
 

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

I can’t recommend banned books without Lolita getting a look in. The highly controversial novel of Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged literature professor and his obsession with twelve year-old Dolores Haze. You may not enjoy reading this book but you might enjoy having read it.

Feel free to suggest some more banned books and even recommend some to me that I should check out. I have plans to read Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (a recent addition to the banned books list) this week but I can’t seem to get a copy, so I might be late with my banned book reading.


ArmchairBEA 2013: Keeping it Real & Children’s/Young Adult Literature

Posted June 1, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in ArmchairBEA / 13 Comments

armchairBEAWhat do you mean by “keeping it real”? Does this come back to ethics or are we talking about relating to our audience? Like I said when I ranted a little about authors and ethics, I try to be transparent and talk about what works for me and what doesn’t. I want people to read my blog and get my honest opinion. Sure, I get ARCs and sometimes it feels like the publisher stops sending me books because of a bad review but I think that is just my imagination. The publicists I’ve talked to that work in the book industry have told me that they don’t have a problem with bad reviews, it is about getting exposure to the book and they know that some people won’t like it but at least the book is getting talked about. Now if you are talking about writing material that will keep readers coming back for more then I’m probably not the right person to ask. I like to review all my books and write bookish posts on topics I’ve been thinking about, I love comments but I’m not too worried if I don’t get any. I’ve said this before, this is just a way for me to express my passion for books and if I get readers, that is just a bonus.

So now let’s move on to Children’s/Young Adult Literature; genres that I often struggle with. First of all, children’s books like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Little Prince are wonderful philosophical novels but I don’t know how to write a decent review for them. Then you get great picture books like I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen which I love and want on my bookshelf but when it comes to the book blogging world, I don’t know how to approach them in a blog. I have a love/hate relationship with Young Adult books, I want to enjoy them and for some I have but I really want more from most of them. I’m really getting sick of all the dystopian and paranormal YA novels but people love them and good for them, I’m just personally over them. I know erotica is the new big thing but I think YA (and maybe even NA) will remain big sellers in the book world.

ArmchairBEA is a virtual convention for book blogger who can’t attend Book Expo America and the Book Blogger Convention. Banner by Nina of Nina Reads and button by Sarah of Puss Reboots


What Would You Read in an Introduction to Fiction Course?

Posted February 1, 2011 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Education, Literature / 16 Comments

Currently on the curriculum for the Ohio State University course, An Introduction to Fiction is Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. I’ve also heard of some other high schools and universities using it as an introduction to fiction or gothic fiction courses. At first I felt sorry for all the future English majors who will have to read this book. But I thought, instead of bad mouthing the book (which is so easy to do), I would take some time and think about what I would want to see in an introductory course of fiction.

I started by compiling a list of topics I would want to cover if I ever did a course about fiction. I narrowed it down to ten key topics when looking at fiction;

  1. Plot
  2. Characterisation
  3. Dialogue
  4. Point of view
  5. Setting
  6. Style
  7. Narrative
  8. Themes
  9. Genres
  10. Concepts/Issues

 

It was the last point that stood out to me more than any of the other topics. When looking at good fiction, I would want to look at the issues that drive the discussions about these books. With this I picked out five books that would explore moral, social, philosophical or intellectual issues. When picking the books, I also tried to pick different genres and writing styles that make for a great read.

 

So if I was to create an introduction to Fiction course, my reading list would include;

I would love to know what you would pick for a reading list if you were to lead a similar course.


Please Ban My Book, I Want it to Become Popular (Banned Book Week)

Posted October 2, 2010 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Listology / 0 Comments

This week is Banned Book Week, where we celebrate our freedom to read whatever we want. Though books still get banned and censored by the government, I think now is the time to look at some of the best and worst books that have been banned or censored.

  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was banned in the province of Hunan, China, beginning in 1931 for its portrayal of anthropomorphized animals acting on the same level of complexity as human beings
  • American Psycho has a sale and purchase restriction in the Australian State of Queensland. Sale is restricted to persons 18 years old or older in the other Australian states
  • Animal Farm banned in the former USSR and the author’s preface suppressed in nearly all of its editions during 1940 – 45
  • Brave New World was banned in Ireland in 1932 due to alleged references of sexual promiscuity
  • The Da Vinci Code was banned in Lebanon after Catholic leaders deemed it offensive to Christianity
  • The Diary of a Young Girl was also banned in Lebanon for “portraying Jews, Israel or Zionism favourably”
  • The Grapes of Wrath temporarily banned in many places in the US because it made the residents of this region look bad.
  • Lady Chatterley’s Lover banned in the United States and the United Kingdom for violation of obscenity laws
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four was banned by the Soviet Union in 1950, as Stalin understood that it was a satire based on his leadership, and it was nearly banned by U.S.A and U.K in the early 1960s during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
  • Ulysses was banned in U.K during the 1930s and in Australia during the 1930s to the 1940s and challenged and temporarily banned in the U.S.A for its sexual content
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin was banned in the Southern United States during the Civil War due to its anti-slavery content.

Nowadays books are still getting challenged and banned. One book that is currently under fire is Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak which tells the story of a teenage girl who deals with depression after become a victim of rape. The author has said the following about censorship;

But censoring books that deal with difficult, adolescent issues does not protect anybody. Quite the opposite. It leaves kids in the darkness and makes them vulnerable. Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance. Our children cannot afford to have the truth of the world withheld from them.

Censorship and book banning seems to fling books into popularity more than some books deserve. For example Lady Chatterley’s Lover; if this book was never banned it would of just faded away into oblivion. Also there are many great books that have come under fire that really are spectacular books.

Also check out IO9’s 10 great science fiction novels that have been banned.


Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Posted June 27, 2010 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Childrens, Classic / 0 Comments

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis CarrollTitle: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Goodreads)
Author: Lewis Carroll
Published: Penguin, 1889
Pages: 239
Genres: Childrens, Classic
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: Amazon (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

One thing I think Lewis Carroll did right in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was the way he wrote a book suitable for kids and still enjoyable for adults. The characters in the book are so amazing that you can’t help but fall in love with them. Stand out characters for me included the philosophical Cheshire Cat and the melancholy Mock Turtle. The whole story was witty and full of amusing puns and is considered one of the best examples of literary nonsense. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland overall is an enjoyable, well written and constructed tale and a surprisingly enjoyable book to read. I could possibly go on about the philosophy, the homages, or even the reflects to English society in the 19th century; but I will leave all that for the comments below. Read the book, enjoy the book and discuses the book. I really think this is one of those brilliant books that has so many elements worth discussing.