I had the notion of doing something with Reading Corner, because this section is the equivalent of the quiet area of the old local library that nobody ever goes into, and that's my favorite sort of place.
I thought, in the spirit of Briar's CYS story book club, it would be fun to read an actual book together--whoever wants to--and we could discuss it. The only rules I would suggest are a) No pressure to read (I spend my work days cajoling people to read things, and nobody needs that in their fun time), b) Let's stretch ourselves and try things outside genres we might usually read, c) Let's take turns picking books, trying to vary genres as much as possible--novels, books of short stories, graphic novels, plays, books of poetry.
Let's goddamn learn something. If you would like to read this month, post here or just read anyway and surprise everyone.
For the first--let's say month?--I suggest "I Capture the Castle" by Dodie Smith. It is comic, tragic, romantic, and genre-busting. This is a shortish novel (written by the woman who write 101 Dalmatians, weirdly enough) which has a great narrator writing about her poor family who live in a crumbling castle. Let's read this in September and discuss starting October 1. It is fine offer impressions as you read before then, but keep it spoiler free. Here are the first paragraphs to see if this is your cup of tea:
"I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining board, which I have padded with our dog's blanket and the tea cosy. I can't say that I am really comfortable, and there is a depressing smell of carbolic soap, but this is the only part of the kitchen where there is any daylight left. And I have found that sitting in a place where you have never sat before can be inspiring I wrote my very best poem while sitting on the hen house. Though even that isn't a very good poem. I have decided my poetry is so bad that I mustn't write any more of it.
Drips from the roof are plopping into the water butt by the back door. The view through the windows above the sink is excessively drear. Beyond the dank garden in the courtyard are the ruined walls on the edge of the moat. Beyond the moat, the boggy ploughed fields stretch to the leaden sky. I tell myself that all the rain we have had lately is good for nature, and that at any moment spring will surge on us. I try to see leaves on the trees and the courtyard filled with sunlight. Unfortunately, the more my mind's eye sees green and gold, the more drained of all colour does the twilight seem.
It is comforting to look away from the windows and towards the kitchen fire, near which my sister Rose is ironing though she obviously can't see properly, and it will be a pity if she scorches her only nightgown. (I have two, but one is minus its behind.) Rose looks particularly fetching by firelight because she is a pinkish person; her skin has a pink glow and her hair is pinkish gold, very light and feathery. Although I am rather used to her I know she is a beauty. She is nearly twenty one and very bitter with life. I am seventeen, look younger, feel older. I am no beauty but have a neatish face.
I have just remarked to Rose that our situation is really rather romantic two girls in this strange and lonely house. She replied that she saw nothing romantic about being shut up in a crumbling ruin surrounded by a sea of mud. I must admit that our home is an unreasonable place to live in. Yet I love it."
I really, really didn't like The Idiot. I don't think much of Dostoyevski's novels in general. The Brothers K had its moments, but on the whole, I found them unrewarding slogs.
For me, Tolstoy is about a billion times better. Anna Karenina is in my top ten list--and Gogol's Dead Souls is right up there too. I love Russian liteature, but I will rarely pass up an opportunity to denigrate Dostoyevsky.
I could never get in to Crime and Punishment... But I think that's probably because I was listening to the audiobook and the guy reading it had the most painfully boring voice I've ever heard. I should really try actually reading it sometime. :p
Definitely noping this one, I'm afraid. Looks like a really awesome book... But if I start reading a new book every month, I'll never get any writing done. :(
We'll miss you, Avery, and by the way, put me on your book club list. I'm going to participate next time if I can.
I'm down Gower, might as well participate a little more if I'm going to be floating around. Just ordered myself a prime patient zero copy of it from Amazon. Maybe someone wiped their ass with it, maybe not.
Cool! This is shaping up nicely.
I find the narrative voice completely compelling. She is so observant, and so attuned to colors and small details. I can't stop rereading particular sentences where she describes the room, and lets us know tidbits about what's unusual about the family. I'm glad you're enjoying it.
Ah, a real book club? My dreams have come true! I haven't read as much since I got outta high school, but I used to blow through a book every few days. I would love to join. It seems really charming.
Spoilers for first 100 pages:
I've read this book before, fairly recently (like last year); it immediately went right to my top 20 books list. I wanted to read it again for this book club, not only to share it, but also because I wanted to see if it would be as good the second time, or even better, when I could focus on the amazing writing rather than plot.
Not that there's that much plot in the first 100 pages, as you may have noticed. So much of the fun of this book is Cassandra's idiosyncratic, casual-but-clearly-well-read style. The conceit that she's writing this in her notebook, and that, in a way, she is trying to figure out how one becomes an author--I find that incredibly charming, and her turns of phrase are both witty and ever-so-slightly teetering on the border between young adult and adult. Grabbing two examples that I underlined: "Topaz was wonderfully patient -- but I sometimes wonder if it is not only patience, but also a faint resemblance to cows"; and, a big lunch: "We had roast chicken (wing portion, two shillings), double portions of bread sauce (each), two vegetables, treacle pudding and wonderful milky coffee. We were gloriously bloat." So even if there were no plot whatsoever, I could read Cassandra's prose all day.
Her light touch and witty writing, though, is in the context of the most miserable living conditions. And Cassandra describes this in great detail--their hunger, their lack of furnishings, the crumbled home, the depression of their father, the hopelessness of getting money, the humiliation of it all. But, and I think this is the key, she does it without much brooding or dwelling. Her touch is light, and she always has a sense of herself as an artist experiencing this, or maybe a book character. She's an outsider, an observer, a writer. She's here to "capture the castle"--to suck out every drop of description and personality from the situation. Gaiman says to people who are suffering: "Make good art." This is Cassandra's solution.
So, plot. The plot hinges on exactly two things: one, we need money; two, Rose seems sellable in marriage, in a Jane Austen sense. Rose and Cassandra (and Topaz, to a different degree) understand the situation as one that comes up *all the time* in Austen and Bronte. What do poor women do? They marry. And so, Rose, realizing what sort of character she is, and in what sort of book, realizing that she needs to suck it up and trudge down the altar, tries to play the part. Neither Simon (too beardy) nor Neil (younger son, and possibly a bit snippy) seem the ideal man for the part, but that's all right. And so these first 100 pages almost become a parody of these classic woman-authored novels, these satires on how you get a man, and what women need to do for financial security (and Rose is willing to jump on the grenade not only for herself, but her whole family.)
What I love about these first 100 pages is that the novel refuses to go the obvious route--Topaz is not at all a wicked stepmother, but one of the "girls" as Cassandra often refers to her and Rose collectively. Topaz is quite loving and kind. And Stephen just does not seem to spark anything in Cassandra romantically, even though you'd think someone as sensitive and poetic as Cassandra would lean that way. Nope. He inspires pity instead. Instead of seeing comfort in religion, this family, the Mortmains (the Dead Hands, a term suggesting oppression), seems downright pagan. Cassandra refers obliquely to this several times, and Topaz seems to have a pretty casual relationship with nudity outside and in her work.
The bear-fur episode--okay, I could do without that. That was a little silly. That the one bit I didn't enjoy rereading.
In short, I find Cassandra's language totally amusing. She's doing it: castle captured.
Sorry, I think this is a text or a joke to new members. Because PROBABLY THE dullest BORING FIRST CHAPTER I HAVE READ IN ENGLISH.
A stupid teen British girl with grandeur deliriums describing a ruin even duller than herself . With a life, boring and repetitive in a grey place in a ruin
As she only cries about once a year I really ought to have gone over and comforted her, but I wanted to set it all down here. I begin to see that writers are liable to become callous.
It turns the whitewashed walls rosy; even the dark beams in the roof are a dusky gold. The highest beam is over thirty feet from the ground.
Rose and Topaz are two tiny figures in a great glowing cave.
You got that from, "Definitely noping out of this one"? :p
I really should do. It definitely looks like the kind of book I'd enjoy. ^_^
It’s very gripping in the sense that anything can happen at any time. Meaning, Cassandra will stop, start, or continue the page from an entirely different place and time. Kind of keeps you on your toes as a reader.
Alright, I feel as if I am going against the grain, so I will attempt to properly explain why I could only get through about a quarter of this book.
I Capture the Castle is a lovely book, but it doesn't meet my standards for engaging storytelling, simply because I don't find the idea of a character written to be charismatic through their style of writing and observations to be compelling by itself. Definitely not compelling enough to get me to read through a hundred pages to push the plot forward. The quaint way in which Cassandra describes her surroundings, including her sister, stepmother, and others is likable, but it goes on for far too long in my opinion. I was waiting for some sort of hook, a bit of dynamic writing to contrast the manner in which she'd begun her story, but it never came.
Instead I was forcing myself to read, and by that time, any sort of progression in the plot would have met unsympathetic eyes. For that reason, I ceased reading. It's just not quite my style, but I can completely understand why someone else would enjoy it.
Of course, I own a nifty paperback version of the book now, and chances are I'll probably get around to finishing the entire thing. Chances are also good that upon completion I'll have a different opinion of the book, but for now this stands.
Yo, I'm the Chef. I like to write gruesome, gory, gnarly stuff.
Lol. Alright, you make a fair point. I may have to wait until the 2025 film release of "I Capture the Castle" directed by Michael Bay to get the most out of Topaz's... character.
And hey, to be fair, the whole point of this little shindig was to learn something new. I have learned that my attention span is a bit longer than Mara's, whose span is comparable to the circumference of about three raisins. My own, of course, is equivalent to about *glances at desk* a can of Blue Diamond "salt n vinegar" almonds.
Oddly enough I don't think the ol flop n' chop is going to help with that.
You read far more than myself and I am happy not have bought the book I have an online version from an Indian library.
Is the book well written? Yes, it is. The first four pages, and the description of the ruins; the world are externally well written, and at the same time making credible that is a diary from a teen that dreams emulate the glory days of his father.
So structure, flow and style I can't talk badly about them. Even if I find the first ten pages really slow down.
.So why do I stopped at 50 pages.? Because I don't really care about any of the characters and their lives don't provoke any sympathy for they pleas. It is like a passionless relate to how a young lady wants to sell herself to save a family that doesn't deserve it as they are all a bunch of lazy pretenders.
I don't care if she married or what will happen to all characters. Nothing in the book make me feel anything for them and the book doesn't have any plot device except telling the life of a bunch of mediocre people I give a fuck about.
So is literally a well-done piece of art but has the enjoyment of seen paint dry.
And like the enjoyment is a big part of why I read I prefer re-reading Oliver Twist to read more of this
Thoughts about Pages 100-200 (To chapter 12)
Cassandra looks at things, and most interestingly, she observes herself observing. And the level of attention she pays to things that most people would just skim over is *itself* interesting, so we spend a lot of time in this book watching Cassandra watching people. I know that for some people that would be deadly dull, but the magic of this book is that it isn't.
"...if you watch people eating and talking -- really watch them -- it is a very peculiar sight: hands so busy, forks going up and down, swallowings, words coming out between mouthfuls, jaws working like mad."
She's like an alien anthropologist. So, I guess, a writer, or an artist. But the book is full of people like this, who watch and find beauty in things, like when she and Simon listen, just listen to the sounds as they walk, and Cassandra writes what they notice almost as a poem ("Somebody hammering / A hen announcing an egg, / A cottage wireless saying it was the British Broadcasting Corporation...")
This is the point where people are going to throw the book across the room (or whatever the equivalent of that is if you read on a tablet) and say there's no plot in this book. Which is not at all true, but I could forgive someone who felt that way between pages 100-200, say.
Because some of that looking and noticing and watching people watching you is very strategic and desperate and sad. I think my favorite moment (and it's horrible in its simplicity) is when Rose orders the creme de menthe even though she loathes it because the green looked beautiful against her hair, and she was thinking of herself as something being looked at aesthetically by the men.
What's fascinating to me in these hundred pages is how Cassandra has the same thoughts as the reader might--that, well, here we are at the end of the book (as far as she knows). Problems have been solved, the money issue appears taken care of, and romantic issues are resolved. And yet she feels a way. She doesn't know what the way is, either. ("Flat? Depressed? Empty? If so, why, pray?") Something is wrong. This doesn't feel right for the end of a book, and suddenly all the things that are not wrapped up threaten to burst the book.
What is wrong with Mortmain, and why has he been so completely let off the hook for supporting his family? Is this is leading to a love story between Neil and Cassandra? Stephen and Cassandra? Stephen and Mrs. Fox-Cotton? (ugh, for some reason). The wish upon the devil, and the vaguely pagan feeling surrounding these ruins and their Midsummer rites keep coming back to haunt this place.
Finally, I just want to note that the moment where Rose talks about the shaving feels, at least to me, so unromantic I want to avert my eyes.
Non-spoiler stuff - sort of stuff to think about
Here's some thoughts I had that might be interesting to ponder as you read and catch up.