Monday, 18 December 2017

Cat Person

Earlier this month a short story went viral. Yes. A short story went viral. I'm not sure that that has happened before. Cat videos certainly have, but Cat Person? Could it be the most talked about short story ever? The Guardian thinks so, although mentions Brokeback Mountain and The Lottery (see my review) as possible exceptions. 

Cat Person was published in The New Yorker and was soon taking the social media world by storm. Why? I'm still not exactly sure, but I thought I should check it out. 

Cat Person tells the story of a meeting between 20 year old uni student Margot and Robert, a somewhat older man who is a customer at the arthouse movie theatre where she works. Margot flirts with him over a box of Red Vines. Except Robert didn't notice that it was flirting, and neither did I to be honest. 
“That’s an . . . unusual choice,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever actually sold a box of Red Vines before.”
That's flirting these days? What follows is a rather improbable attraction between Margot and Robert, although each of them works things for their own advantage at times. Margot forges on with the relationship even though she has reservations. Neither of them is particularly likeable, although we feel more for Margot. 
He was tall, which she liked, and she could see the edge of a tattoo peeking out from beneath the rolled-up sleeve of his shirt. But he was on the heavy side, his beard was a little too long, and his shoulders slumped forward slightly, as though he were protecting something.
I felt author Kristen Roupenian's presence too much, and could feel her manipulating both the situation and my feelings. At one stage Margot realises she may have put herself into physical danger. Margot and Robert "joke" about it. 
“It’s O.K.—you can murder me if you want,” she said, and he laughed and patted her knee.
Really? Would anyone actually say that? Out loud?

I was rather surprised that it became so sexually explicit, but then I haven't really read much fiction in the New Yorker before, I'm not sure what they usually run- I certainly wouldn't have bet it was this. Perhaps this is just short fiction in a post 50 Shades world? And no, I haven't read that either. 

In all, I just didn't really like Cat Person. Yes it has some interesting perspectives on modern relationships I guess, but I just didn't think it was that well written. I felt manipulated throughout, and it all seemed so improbable, even though I'm well aware that the improbable is really the norm. I do see however that when Margot has some misgivings at her situation but then ploughs on ahead with a particular course of action anyway and why many women relate to that. 

Kristen Roupenian is a PhD student at Harvard and has certainly made a splash with her first short story. She apparently has a short story collection in the works, and I imagine that will be published as soon as possible next year to ride the wave of publicity stemming from Cat Person becoming a hashtag.

There's been a lot of talk and controversy about Cat Person. It seems women identify with Margot and her actions, and it has struck a #MeToo chord. It also has people behaving badly, relationship by texting, fat shaming and many other modern concerns.




The Guardian

Vox (which gives some other short story suggestions)
There's even been interest in the Cat Person photo. It's actually a real couple recreating Robert's bad kiss. I wonder what the couple think of that?

Sunday, 17 December 2017

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k

I generally refrain from swearing on the blog in print, but today we're not giving a fuck about that. You'll see why. 

I would never have picked up this book left to my own volition. I had passed it off as a parody of Marie Kondo's megaseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (see my review) without looking at it, and I felt that I didn't really need that in my life. But of course I have read Marie Kondo's book, and have been using some of her method to kick off my own decluttering, which has taken on a life of it's own really.

As part of my decluttering I've been watching quite a few Youtube channels about this (and it's a whole new world out there people). One of the channels that I've been watching is How To Get Your Shit Together, and one of the videos I've watched was her review of this book. I'm not quite sure why I clicked on that video, but I did. And then I saw Laura say, in her lovely Irish accent:
This book, this book, is basically everything I stand for. It is like the missing life manual that everyone should get at birth. 
Very soon after I was watching Sarah Knight's TEDx Talk, and then rather predictably soon after I was buying the book.

I picked it up late one night when I was between books. I'd just finished Moonrise that day (see my review), and had a bit of a book hangover. I thought I'd just read the Introduction. Well that didn't work. I was sucked in from the start.

In 2015 Sarah Knight quit her job in publishing, and she herself Kondo'd her apartment and realised that "life is significantly better when you can see all of your socks". She stopped doing things that annoyed her and developed her two stage Not Sorry Method.
1. Decide what you don't give a fuck about
2. Don't give a fuck about those things. 
Simple? Yes. It actually is, and you probably don't really need a 200 page book to expand on that, and it can get a bit repetitive. But I like Sarah's way with words and so I'm willing to forgive her 40-60 pages. 

Sarah points out that "Most people give away their fucks without much thought. Feelings of guilt, obligation, or anxiety cause them to behave in a manner that, while least objectionable to other people, is often detrimental to their own levels of annoy vs joy."
Mental decluttering is even better than physical decluttering because it doesn't stop at the bounds of a ceiling or wall. 
Giving a fuck about anything uses up our Time, Energy and/or Money, and obviously we all have only so much of those to give, which is where the concept of a Fuck Budget comes in. And I'm totally on board with the concept of a Fuck Budget. In fact I'm old enough that I have already incorporated a Fuck Budget in quite a few aspects of my life without really realising it. 
Instead of feeling guilty, obligated, and anxious, wouldn't you rather feel empowered, benevolent, and carefree?

Sarah provides us with a handy flow chart to help decide whether you should give a fuck about a particular activity or request:

Yes, the path to enlightenment is paved with reclaimed hours, newfound verve, and cold hard cash. 

Sarah Knight has another two books out now- Get Your Sh*t Together, and You Do You. And yes that's another two books slapped on the TBR.

As an aside, I'd never heard the term Irish Goodbye before, but I know exactly what it is. And is it just me or has ghosting sprung up everywhere in the past few days?

Friday, 15 December 2017

Les Misérables A French Language Primer

I'm rather excited about participating in the Les Miserables Chapter-a-Day Readathon next year. So much so that I might have had a little Les Mis splurge recently. The first of these books arrived today.  

I must have been in quite the frenzy because I didn't actually remember ordering this book. It appears I did though. And because I was still 10 books away from my Goodreads goal for the year I read it as soon as it arrived. Which admittedly was not all that hard really as it is a board book aimed at (bilingual) babies. And now I'm a mere 9 books away from my target! With 17 days to go. 

Les Misérables A French Language Primer is not a super condensed version of the story, but a kind of bilingual Les Mis themed first dictionary. It is a BabyLit board book. 

Each double page is a matching, inverted colour spread with a word in English and French and an accompanying short phrase.

Most of the pages are predictable- words that are thematic to the Lis Mis story:  L'Homme, Le Prêtre, La Fille. I was surprised by the inclusion of Le Rat though, and wonder if rats appear much more in the book than I am expecting. I suppose they will feature in the sewers when that part of the story happens. I will certainly be keeping an eye out for them in my reading next year. 

Thursday, 14 December 2017

My Life in Books (2017 Edition)

Picture Source

I don't often do two posts on a day, but I saw this meme at Brona's Books this afternoon and I knew that I had to do this today too. It's a hot day, and I'm hiding out inside under the fan, perfect conditions for meme generation. 

Brona was inspired by Adam at Roof Beam Reader

The rules? Pretty simple: answer the questions with books you read this year!

In high school I was: Scrappy Little Nobody (Anna Kendrick)
People might be surprised (by): Good Me, Bad Me (Ali Land)

I will never beThe Worst Witch (Jill Murphy)

My fantasy job isMy (Part-Time) Paris Life (Lisa Anselmo)

At the end of a long day I needGood Night Stories for Rebel Girls (Elena Favili, Francesca Cavallo)

I hate it when: Five Give Up The Booze (Enid Blyton)

Wish I hadA Paris All Your Own (Eleanor Brown)

My family reunions areThe Case Against Fragrance (Kate Grenville)

At a party you’d find meWasted (Elspeth Muir)

I’ve never been toThe Beach at Night (Elena Ferrante)

A happy day includes
Millions (Frank Cottrell Boyce)

Motto I live byCan't We Talk About Something More 
Pleasant? (Roz Chast)

On my bucket list isA Paris Year (Janice MacLeod)

In my next life, I want to haveNew Life, No Instructions (Gail Caldwell)

Refugee Asylum Seeker Book List

I really enjoyed this list of stories for children about refugees and asylum seekers from Book Trust.

It's the humanitarian issue of our time really and I think deserves it's own list that can continue to be expanded as I've done with Brona's War Book List. I've added a few already, and will add more over time -as I remember them, and new books as they come up. 

A Dangerous Crossing - Jane Mitchell
A Long Walk to Water - Linda Sue Park
Alpha: Abidjan to Gare du Nord - Barroux, Sarah Ardizzone (translator)

A Story Like The Wind - Gill Lewis, Jo Weaver (illustrator)
Azzi in Between - Sarah Garland

Boy Overboard - Morris Gleitzman

Girl Underground - Morris Gleitzman
Give Me Shelter - Tony Bradman (editor)

Home and Away - John Marsden, Matt Ottley (illustrator)
Hope in a Ballet Shoe - Michaela & Elaine De Prince

Illegal - Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin
In The Sea There are Crocodiles - Fabio Geda, Howard Curtis (translator)
Inside Out & Back Again - Thanhha Lai (see my review)
Jackdaw Summer - David Almond

My Name is Not Refugee - Kate Milner
My Two Blankets - Irena Kobald, Freya Blackwood (illustrator) (see my review)

Now is the Time for Running - Michael Williams

Oranges in No Man's Land - Elizabeth Laird

Refuge - Anne Booth, Sam Usher (illustrator)
Refuge - Jackie French
Refugee - Alan Gratz
Refugee Boy - Benjamin Zephaniah
Refugees - David Miller

Shadow - Michael Morpurgo
Soraya The Story Teller - Rosanne Hawke
Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family's Journey - Margaret Ruurs, Nizar Ali Badr (artist)
Suri's Wall - Lucy Estela, Matt Ottley (illustrator) 

The Arrival - Shaun Tan (see my review)
The Bone Sparrow - Zana Fraillon
The Island - Armin Greder
The Journey - Francesca Sanna
The Lines We Cross - Randa Abdel-Fattah
The Little Refugee - Anh Do, Suzanne Do, Bruce Whatley (illustrator) (see my review)
The Milk of Birds - Sylvia Whitman
The Other Side of Truth - Beverley Naidoo

The Red Pencil - Andrea Davis Pinkney
The Silence Seeker - Ben Morley, Carl Pearce (illustrator)
The Silver Sword - Ian Serraillier
The Treasure Box - Margaret Wild, Freya Blackwood (illustrator) (see my review)

Welcome to Nowhere - Elizabeth Laird
When Michael Met Mina - Randa Abdel-Fattah

Ziba Came on a Boat - Liz Lofthouse, Robert Ingpen (illustrator)

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Goodreads 100 Books to Read Before You Die

A fabulous list from the Goodreads folks. I would actually like to read most of these books before I die. There are some serious admissions in my reading. Rather large holes that I will hope to fill some time. 

There's a few exceptions of course. I can't imagine that I'll ever try to read Ulysses in this lifetime. I might give an audio version a go at some stage, as I can listen to things that I'd never be able to read. I'm currently a third of the way through the Moby Dick Big Read which is way further than I thought I would ever manage to do. 

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

1984 - George Orwell

The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger

Animal Farm - George Orwell

Catch- 22 - Joseph Heller

Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

Lord of the Flies - William Golding (see my review)

Little Women - Louisa May Alcott

Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell

Charlotte's Web - E.B. White

The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

Ulysses - James Joyce

100 Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien

Dracula - Bram Stoker

Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien (see my review)

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

On The Road - Jack Kerouac

Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame (see my review)

Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie

Atonement - Ian McEwan

Middlemarch - George Eliot

A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

Anne of Green Gables - L.M. Montgomery

The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett (see my review)

Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

The DaVinci Code - Dan Brown

The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Moby Dick - Herman Melville (currently listening!)

Persuasion - Jane Austen

Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

The Secret History - Donna Tart

Life of Pi - Yann Martel

Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

I'm going to read Les Mis in 2018!

The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffeneger

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl (see my review)

A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving

The Five People You Meet in Heaven - Mitch Albom

Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

The Color Purple - Alice Walker

Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

Emma - Jane Austen

Dune - Frank Herbert

Harry Potter and the Philospher's Stone - J.K. Rowling

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh

Far From the Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding

Watership Down - Richard Adams (see my review)

The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas (see my review)

Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne

Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury

Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks

A Town Like Alice - Nevile Shute

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle

Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens (see my review)

The Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis (2.5/7)

A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

Winnie-the-Pooh - A.A. Milne

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis

His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome (see my review)

A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

The Call of the Wild - Jack London (see my review)

Beloved - Toni Morrison

Slaughterhouse Five - Kurt Vonnegut

A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

Hamlet - William Shakespeare

Bleak House - Charles Dickens

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Mark Haddon

The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

Through the Looking Glass - Lewis Carroll

Inferno - Dante

Notes from a Small Island - Bill Bryson

Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain

The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

Frankenstein - Mary Shelley

I'm rather toying with the notion of this one,
a new annotated version

45/100 (I've included books that I gave a good crack, but may not have finished for whatever reason in pink)

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Les Misérables Read Along 2018

I was so very excited to come across the Les Misérables Chapter-a-Day Read-Along hosted by Nick at OneCatholicLife a few weeks ago

I had found Nick's Nonficiton November post pairing Les Misérables with The Novel of the Century (no prizes for guessing what Santa might bring me for Christmas), and Nick mentioned that he was thinking of hosting a 2018 read along of Les Mis. Cue excitement. 

I was astonished to realise that Les Mis has 365 chapters (this can't be a coincidence), making it absolutely perfect for a chapter a day year long read along- thank goodness 2018 is not a leap year! 

I have come relatively late to the Les Mis party. But I've fallen quite hard since I saw the musical movie version in 2012, which sadly I call the Russell Crow movie version. I saw it two or three times at the cinema. I've since seen the stage show four times in three cities (Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane), including two consecutive nights in Melbourne. I've been to an amazing exhibition also in Melbourne in 2014, Les Misérables From Page to Stage that included Volume 1 of Victor Hugo's manuscript- which had flown to Australia on it's own business class seat. And I've listened to the incredible BBC Radio 4 Radio Play, but thought that would be my lasting taste of the book for quite some time.

It's not that I'm not prepared to read Les Mis, I have a copy of Les Mis in the house. I bought the beautiful cloth bound Penguin edition (the 1976 Denny translation) a few years ago , and figured that I would get to read it when I retire. But A Chapter A Day? Even I can do that. The chapters are often only a few pages long. 

But the big question is will reading it in English be enough for me, or will I be stupid enough to try to read it en français too? I think we all know the answer to that one. I've read the first line online, and that wasn't too horrendous... 

En 1815, M. Charles-François-Bienvenu Myriel était évêque de Digne. C'était un vieillard d'environ soixante-quinze ans; il occupait le siège de Digne depuis 1806.
Surely the next 1200ish pages can't be all that bad? 

Although given I struggle with 21st century French I have no idea how I'd go with 19th century French. Well, actually, I do have some idea of how I'd go with 19th century French, and it isn't pretty. But I'm going to give it a crack. I'll read it in English first and then pair the English and French text. I'll understand some of it, and I'm sure it'll be fascinating, and I'll practice my French and undoubtedly learn some things along the way. And if I progress beyond chapter 1 that'll be fantastic. 


Dreaming of France is a wonderful Monday meme
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog