Friday, September 11, 2015

The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate

The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate (Calpurnia Tate, #2)The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars. I liked this even better than Calpurnia Tate #1, which is rare for me with a series. It is funny and poignant and full of real life. A wonderful book for children and adults.

"I dreamed of following in Granddaddy's footsteps and becoming a Scientist. Mother, however, had other plans for me; namely, learning the domestic arts and coming out as a debutante at age eighteen, when it was hoped I'd be presentable enough to snag the eye of a prosperous young man of good family. (This was dubious for many reasons, including the fact that I loathed cooking and sewing, and could not exactly be described as the eye-snagging type.)"
"I thought of the Phoenicians and Egyptians and Vikings, brave men who had steered their ships by the very same star. It was if their hands and hearts and voices reached across the centuries to a girl in Fentress, Texas, who had never seen the sea and probably never would. I felt a part of history and also, truth to tell, a bit sad."

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Friday, September 4, 2015

There Always Are

I was hitting the "Next Blog" link, innocently killing some time this evening, when I happened upon a third grade teacher's blog with daily assignments and summaries of student progress. In the recap of the Language Arts work for the day, I ran across this:

In English today we continued to work on the subject of a sentence. There were lots of mistakes on yesterday's assignment, but there always is.

She may need a refresher course on verb agreement.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Fan Phenomena: Jane Austen

Fan Phenomena: Jane AustenFan Phenomena: Jane Austen by Gabrielle Malcolm
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Head over to Austenprose to read my review of Fan Phenomena: Jane Austen.

"The fans love the way the clever material appeals to their wit and emotions; they enjoy the engagement with the text and the repetition of that via different means and form. It is the intelligence of Austen’s writing that makes this repeated enjoyment possible. One of the best representations of the fan culture is the sense of society and community that has developed and directly echoes some of the depictions of society in the novels, with the social gatherings, correspondence and knowing-wit within select groups. Fans enjoy the collective engagement and the sharing of the joy and the joke." p. 8 (emphasis mine)

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Spectator No. 573 (Wednesday, 28 July 1714)

"The Truth of the Story is, my new Husband gave me Reason to repent I had not staid for him [Mr. Waitfort]; he had married me for my Money, and I soon found he loved Money to Distraction; there was nothing he would not do to get it, nothing he would not suffer to preserve it; the smallest Expence keep him awake whole Nights, and when he paid a Bill, 'twas with as many Sighs, and after as many Delays, as a Man that endures the Loss of a Limb."

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu writing anonymously as Mrs. President of the Club of Widows. The full text is available at Project Gutenberg. She is writing in response to Joseph Addison's earlier article lampooning a fictional Club of Widows who drive men into early graves by exhausting them, both financially and sexually. Her rebuttal is satire with plenty of laughs as well as real teeth.

Thanks to a free online course Literature of the English Country House presented by the University of Sheffield on FutureLearn, I'm discovering a treasure chest of future reads.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Ross Poldark

Ross Poldark (Poldark, #1)Ross Poldark by Winston Graham
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Head over to Austenprose for my review of Ross Poldark. My review is part of the Ross Poldark Blog Tour. Leave a comment at Austenprose for a chance to win a Poldark-themed prize package!

A few of my favorite quotes:

He felt he would like one more look at the sea, which even now was licking at the rocks behind the house. He had no sentimental notions about the sea; he had no regard for its dangers or its beauties; to him it was a close acquaintance whose every virtue and failing, every smile and tantrum he had come to understand. (p. 10)

It was the mine around which the varying fortunes of the main Poldark family centered. On its vagaries depended not merely the prosperity of Charles Poldark and his family but the subsistence level of some three hundred miners and their families scattered in huts and cottages about the parish. To them the mine was a benevolent Moloch to whom they fed their children at an early age and from whom they took their daily bread. (p. 32)

Instead this room which had seen her grow to maturity would see her dry up and fade. The gilt mirror in the corner would bear its dispassionate testimony (p. 165)

In two years Ross had seen little of his own family and class. What he had overheard in the library on the day of Geoffrey Charles’ christening had filled him with contempt for them… He was not as concerned as they about the return of Maria Fitzherbert from the Continent or the scandal of the queen of France’s necklace. There were families in the district without enough bread and potatoes to keep them alive, and he wanted the families to be given gifts in kind, so that the epidemics of December and January should not have such easy prey. (p. 221)

Yes, it was a "beautiful" sermon, tugging the emotions and conjuring up pictures of greatness and peace. But were they talking about the decent peppery ordinary old man he knew, or had the subject strayed to the story of some saint of the past? Or were there perhaps two men being buried under the same name? (p. 277)

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Friday, July 3, 2015

The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century

The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st CenturyThe Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book provides reference material as well as conceptual information about writing and word usage. The author's message to purists is "Language is always changing, get used to it." Language has been going to hell for a very long time: “According to the English scholar Richard Lloyd-Jones, some of the clay tablets deciphered from ancient Sumerian include complaints about the deteriorating writing skills of the young.”

Pinker provides plenty of details about the nuts and bolts of sentence structure and larger "arcs of coherence" that help readers decode the meaning an author intends.

My favorite concept from this book is the "zombie noun" a nickname coined by Helen Sword for an unnecessary nominalization that hides the agent of action. "The proliferation of nominalizations in a discursive formation may be an indication of a tendency toward pomposity and abstraction." That translates in plain English to "Writers who overload their sentences with nouns derived from verbs and adjectives tend to sound pompous and abstract."

Since he is exposed to a great deal of academic writing, he explores how knowing a great deal about a subject can make an author the worst possible person to write about it. “The better you know something, the less you remember about how hard it was to learn. The curse of knowledge is the single best explanation I know of why good people write bad prose.”

I also enjoyed his ironic sense of humor. “Unfortunately for cosmic justice, many gifted writers are scoundrels, and many inept ones are the salt of the earth.”

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Nature Journal

The hardest part is diving into that pristine white page. Phew! That's over. And even if my day lilies resemble a Star Trek tribble more than a botanical specimen, I enjoyed myself!