Archive for September, 2012
Having just finished The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of the Baskervilles was a pretty fun and easy read for me. All of what I said about that book holds true for this one, except for the fact that this book is one long narrative and the other was a collection of shorter ones.
I found myself really enjoying the fact that The Hound of the Baskervilles was longer. Maybe I’m just a novel kind of girl, but I felt that it really gave the characters room to stretch. It also gave the plot time to develop slowly. Speaking of the plot, I liked that there was an ongoing danger in this one, rather than investigation after the fact of the crime, as many of the stories in Adventures were. Because of these two things, I found myself really caring about what happened to Sir Henry, not just because he was an innocent character, but because I’d gotten to know him a little.
I do wish that instead of having the customary wrap up where Holmes explains all the loose ends, just this once Arthur Conan Doyle could have found a way to reveal what was important during the course of the action and leave all the rest. I did want to know more about the criminal’s motive, but I didn’t really need to know some of the other things.
So the conclusion could have been a little better, but I enjoyed the rest of it even more than Adventures, so I give it
Also, credit for the above picture goes once again to my awesome sister.
SPOILER ALERT! The page in the link below contains spoilers for The Scarlet Letter and will probably not make sense to you unless you’re familiar with the book and the character of Arthur Dimmesdale.
But if you have read The Scarlet Letter, I’d love for you to read it and share your opinion!
Alright, I confess. I did just what I said I didn’t want to do. I started reading yet another book. I know, I know, I said that I hate juggling four books at once. I blame it on my computer. If it hadn’t frozen for such a long period I never would have found myself wanting to read something while I waited. I also blame the university library for not having a paper copy of Olaudah Equiano’s book or of volume nine of Clarissa, thus forcing me to read e-book copies on my laptop, which rendered them unavailable when said laptop was frozen.
Really, I should just blame myself because it was my decision to buy The Hound of the Baskervilles and bring it to college with me. Well, what’s done is done. At least it’s short.
In case you’ve been following this blog and are saying, “Hey! I thought you just finished your Sherlock Holmes collection!”, you would be correct. However, The Hound of the Baskervilles is not part of the original collection, probably because it was published later, and the 1001 list puts them as two separate books.
The 1001 list is sometimes kind of weird like that. For example, the Lord of the Rings series, consisting of three books, is listed as one. On the other hand, a few Edgar Allen Poe stories are listed as full “books”. You win some, you lose some, I suppose.
So I’m quickly nearing the end with three chapters left to go, and then I’ll be back to three books. My Kindle app says that I’m 50% through volume 9 of Clarissa, and I can see that we’re definitely dealing with falling action. Olaudah’s at 23%. As for The Scarlet Letter, I’m carefully reading to the point that my Lit teacher assigns for each class period, so I can tell you with certainty that I will be finished by Tuesday. You can expect two reviews very soon. You can also expect me to begin to breathe a little easier.
I realize that I haven’t posted very much about The Scarlet Letter yet. Part of that was because I was reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Another part of it is because I’ve already read and studied the book once in AP English my senior year of high school. So it’s far from being new to me, and I find my opinions on it to be the same. Still, none of you lovely blog readers have heard what I have to say about it yet, so I plan to begin very soon.
First, though, I think that I should write a bit about my history with the book so that you can understand some references that I plan to make and know a bit about the background upon which I’ll build. This is also in the interest of keeping some of my future posts a bit shorter than they otherwise would have been.
The first time I read The Scarlet Letter was in AP English 3, which I took my senior year of high school. This was an optional extra quarter after the regular AP English in the beginning of the year. Because of this, we only had about 7 or 8 students, if my memory serves me correctly, and those of us who were in the class were all on very good terms with each other because we had already gotten to know one another and were taking the class because of a common interest in it. So we all had a lot of fun.
We also had no scruples about loudly expressing our opinions about a book, author, or a character, particularly when that book, author, or character was annoying or easily open to ridicule or otherwise contentious. During the first quarter, we picked on Codi from Animal Dreams almost mercilessly so that it became a kind of running joke. Later, we mocked Pride and Prejudice‘s Mr. Collins. When we found out that The Things They Carried was not in fact a series of true stories and that none of the characters were real, there was a general uproar for days: “But the dedication was made out to them!” “How could he lie to us like that?”
The Scarlet Letter was no different. We commandeered an entire whiteboard in the classroom to draw a picture of the little Puritan establishment in mulit-colored markers and refused to let the teacher erase it for weeks. I wish I had a photo of it to post on this blog. We had everything from the scaffold to the woods where the “Black Man”* wandered to the distant ocean where ships could be seen bringing more Puritans to the righteous new land. We drew Pearl with little butterfly wings under the caption “I’m the faerie child!” My favorite part was where we labeled one of the forest trees as the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and drew in a Puritan man wielding an ax: “I shall chop down yonder tree, methinks!”
We also took some cues from our teacher, who had taught the book many times before. Because of her, we all got into the habit of calling Roger Chillingworth and Arthur Dimmesdale “Chilly” and “Dimmy”.
To Tie This Back to My Blog
These experiences have affected the way I view all the books we read in that class, including The Scarlet Letter. They have also given me a foundation of ideas about characters, symbolism, themes, and more because we studied and discussed these books in detail. Combine that with the fact that I’m studying The Scarlet Letter again for my American Lit class, and you may be in for posts referencing discussions and general opinions drawn from two classes’ worth of experience. That ought to make things interesting.
* Although this may sound a bit racist, it really isn’t. The “Black Man” is what the Puritans called the devil. I assume they used the word “black” to reference darkness or evil.
I spent a lovely afternoon daydreaming about my characters today. Daydreaming really is the most accurate word for it. I didn’t consciously set out to brainstorm or plan the next bit I have to write or do any work on my novel at all, in fact. I was trying to take a nap, in fact, soaking up the warmth of the sunshine streaming through my window and letting off all the stress of the week.
So when my thoughts turned to my novel, all I had to do was provide a gentle push. Just like that, I was coming up with great material. I often wandered off track or dreamed up a situation that got thrown in the mental trash bin once it had run its course, but that didn’t matter because there was no pressure.
I do think there’s something to the idea that a writer should set a schedule and force themselves to work on their current project at those predetermined times. In fact, I’ve been trying something like that for a few weeks now, and I’ve gotten quite a bit done. However, I also think there’s something important about letting the ideas come to you sometimes.
I spent almost an hour during my scheduled time on Tuesday trying to get a hold on characters that I hadn’t properly fleshed out, and by the end I’d only written a few words. The next day was a bit better for that work, but I still only achieved a few paragraphs. Today, just because I was feeling good I came up with the material I’d been trying to force out of myself and more to spare. You can’t rush yourself as a writer.
So yesterday I finally finished reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and I wrote my review. But I never got a chance to incorporate these other neat quotes that I had found myself needing to write down as I read. So I thought, why not have a special post just for them?
Here’s the first, which explains in part why Holmes prefers the city to the country:
“He loved to lie in the very centre of five millions of people, with his filaments stretching out and running through them, responsive to every little rumour or suspicion of unsolved crime.”
The second comes as Holmes is recovering from an illness:
“His iron constitution… had broken down under the strain of an investigation which had extended over two months, during which period he had never worked less than fifteen hours a day, and had more than once, as he assured me, kept to his task for five days at a stretch.”
If I understand that correctly, he sometimes worked five days in a row without any sleep! And as he’s recovering from that strain under doctor’s orders to rest, he STILL has the energy to solve a case. That’s either absolutely amazing or incredibly insane. Probably both. (nodding my head) Yes. Both.