Monthly Archives: December 2011

New Year

As the 2012 trickles ever close by the minute in a quite literal sense (I am referring to my case, as many others in different timezones will no doubt already have entered the next new year), I’d like to take this space to wish all a very good new year, especially if the current one has been unsatisfactory.

I mean, it certainly has been eventful: enter rebels, exit Gaddafi; other Arab Spring chaos; Bin Laden’s death; Eurozone crisis; English riots; the death of Steve Jobs; and, of course, the tragic disaster of the Japanese earthquake. I have a feeling that 2012 shall also be exciting, and wish everyone the very best for it.

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Discoveries Through iPad

English: The logo for Apple Computer, now Appl...

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After much swiping, fiddling and general tinkering, I am starting to get to grips with my new iPad. Thus, I am now reading, typing and even listening to words with a certain type of joy. Though the iPad is not half as good as my Kindle for reading alone, as the latter device is lighter, smaller and has, of course, that iconic ink–like screen, there has been a few apps for consuming books which have taken my fancy, namely:
iBooks: the official Apple way to explore literature. Very nice.
Kindle: probably my favourite reading app, purely because I have my entire Amazon e–book library waiting in my archive.
British Library 19th Century Books: a brilliant collection of Victorian literature from the British Library, as mentioned in my “Merry Christmas” post. 100 books for free, and more if you subscribe.
Audible: audiobook merchant flying Amazon’s flag.

Also, for writing:
iWriter: a minimalist platform which lets you type with ease (as I am doing now). A function for italics would be appreciated, but it is a distraction free way of writing.
Pages: Apple’s official offering, which it claims to be the most advanced in the mobile industry. Good for more complex word–processing issues.

And, of course, who could forget the one and only…
WordPress: an app to keep this blog going. Bit primitive, and more features are wanted, but, nonetheless, a fast way to blog.

In short, the iPad’s literary potential, though not its primary function, are well above–average. Some may be faulty, some limited, but all suffice to my meagre needs.

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Animal Farm – George Orwell

English: Picture of George Orwell which appear...

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NOTE: I shall put after each character a quick note stating who they represent as far as its allegory to the Russian Revolution goes.

Orwell may have written his little satirical novella during World War Two, but its allegorical references and innocent significance remain relevant to this day, perhaps especially when you consider the revolutions, uprisings, protests and general unrest which unravelled throughout 2011. For if these rebellions are going to truly succeed, they must not only get rid of the original authority but replace with it a more justifiable counterpart or perhaps something completely different, like, in the case of anarchism, nothing at all.

In short, as I don’t wish to go too far into the plot, it is a story about a farm whose animals, after receiving inspiration from the late Old Major (Marx), decide to revolt against the authority which is the farmer Jones (Tsar Nicholas II). Lead primarily by the pigs and, more specifically, Snowball (Trotsky) and Napoleon (Stalin), it goes on to document (if that is the correct word) the events which follow, mainly concerning the misuse and mutation of the original ideaology set forth at the beginning, and how greed can so easily consume the good intentions of a revolution and lead it to an autocracy perhaps worse than the previous state.

But Orwell does not do this in an ordinary manner. Anyone who has read the book will have noted the very truthful and all-knowing third-person narrator, who seems to have no bias whatsoever, giving it a somewhat fable like feel. Some questioned this, but its importance as a mechanism for the book is invaluable. Unlike a political rant for carefulness during a revolt, this narrator seems much more believable, and, unlike a biased account, you feel like you’re getting the entire story. Indeed, in some aspects it is true that you could walk out of it believing something far from the author’s intentions, such as, for instance, pigs are naturally supeiror to other animals. It gives you no clues as to which side is right or wrong, and in that gives some independence for your interpretation of the novel, even if it need only be to use a bit of common sense. It is this innocence, this belivability, the like of which rarely seen bar in fairy stories (indeed, it was originally called Animal Farm: A Fairy Story), that makes the message of Animal Farm become amplified, and its lasting result resounding throughout one’s mind. All in all, a thoroughly good and, some would say, necessary read.

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Merry Christmas

I’d just like to say Merry Christmas everyone and I hope you get a good, festive variety of books! I suppose I should say that I’m writing this from my brand new iPad while reading a nineteenth century edition of Frankenstein by Mary Shelly on an a British Library app! Now that’s what Christmas is all about…

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BBC Two’s Sherlock Holmes

Chinatown, London. Benedict Cumberbatch during...

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I know it has been ranted, raved and reviewed in its thousands over the last few days, but I just had to take this place to declare my truly giddy anticipation for the 2nd series of BBC Two’s Sherlock Holmes. Benedict Cumberbatch will retake his role as Holmes while Martin Freeman shall trod along a few steps behind. It is bound to be a wonderfully well-crafted piece.

One of the few reasons I am so excited was on the sheer amazingness (Lord, there goes my vocabulary as a red zig-zagged line proclaims my inaccuracy) of the last three part series. Not only was it a good introduction to newbies to Holmes, but also rather enjoyable for Sir Artur Conan Doyle nerds, obsessing over each and every point of deduction. It deconstructed the aspects of the cases intricately, and its modern re-telling was witty and enjoyable (especially the detective’s love of nicotine patches in place of the classic pipe).

And this is not even to mention the cast, in which my respect for the skills is immense. Martin Freeman resumes his role with grace which I have become more than familiar with, and Cumberbatch is second to none as far as the character of Sherlock Holmes is concerned in my view (sorry Robert Downey Jr.), and I am sure they will both, alongside the rest of the actors, actresses and all those working behind the scenes, will continue with another great series from the greatest detective stories of all time. LONG LIVE HOLMES!!!

 

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Kindle Bashing

The Amazon Kindle 2

The dreaded but much appreciated Kindle... Image via Wikipedia

I have been bashing my Kindle bit lately. Not on purpose, of course, but by accident, repeatedly. I’ve dropped it on countless occasions, each time drawing in my breath, silently praying that it will survive and thanking the cover which protects my device in the hope of the Kindle’s survival, and, perhaps more importantly, the continuing of my reading.

The Kindle is not my primary format for reading, but it does play a vital role in my literary cycles. This is mainly due to the vast array of free extracts and, more importantly, classics which I know I can both browse and own without paying so much as a penny. That much is key.

However, the pure, physical and quite possibly tea-stained book still holds place in my heart. After all, I still use a fully functioning library and have a small family collection which I like to dip into, not to mention the insecurity I feel every time I carry my Kindle in my bag (“Is it still in my rucksack? Perhaps I left it back there. I’ll just check my bag for the seventeenth time this hour…”), and the aforementioned tension when I drop it. These problems will, of course, wear away with time, but, having had it for over half a year now, I can only wonder how long that will take.

For, as we should all know, reading and, indeed, any form of recreation should be consumed without responsibilities. You should not be worrying about this or that or what if or maybe… It is, after all, the book that really matters. Until then, I suppose the Kindle will never really take over my reading habits completely, books free or not. But, man, am I glad to use it still.

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Features

As well as my first review, I’ve added a Reading/Read page, Favourite Books, and furthered the About page to have a few links with sections of review and general uncategorised but not necessarily unwanted posts. These may become of use if either this blog or myself live to see the day in which there is a reasonable amount of posts, so I thought I’d be optimistic and get in their early. Enjoy.

UPDATE: Screw the About page bit, as I’ve added a menu to navigate reviews.

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The Interrogative Mood – Padgett Powell

Cover of "The Interrogative Mood: A Novel...

Cover of The Interrogative Mood: A Novel?

Well, here I go: my first book review. Jeepers!

Anyway, a book I have been dipping in and out of, and have been reading in a reasonably chronological order (not as easy as it sounds in this case) is The Interrogative Mood by Padgett Powell. What makes the book special? It is made entirely of questions.

Yep, you read right. Just questions and queries, without a single answer, for a considerable amount of pages. When I originally bought the book, I had no intention of buying it, and had not even heard of its author (who, by the way, wrote Edisto which was nominated for the American Book Award way back in 1984), never mind the work itself. However, it was the iconic front cover design which drew me in, which consisted of a seemingly confused man holding a dauntingly red question mark amidst the white background in which it lies. Curious, I walked over to the place where it stood and picked up a copy. I was instantly hooked.

The mere idea of a novel written with countless questions bewildered me, and, after reading it, you realise the sheer technical ability of the author. The fact is that the concept of this book shouldn’t work, and shouldn’t be published; it’s only Powell’s amazing ingenuity which keeps it going. Indeed, in this case at least, I would be more willing to describe the author as an inventor or, perhaps more fittingly, a wordsmith compared with the terms artist or writer. It is a construction of interconnected questions, which depend on each other to make sense while keeping their random-like feel. Without this sense in the chaos, the book may still be readable, but barely remarkable in its flow, perhaps even the work of a child. Powell, however, retains this.

In fact, he does so in such a way as to explore the depths of modern culture and humanity to a microscopic level, bringing up thoughts and matters which needed such an arousing. I mean, as to take a question from the top of my head, where do you stand in relation to the potato? OK, admittedly that wasn’t the best example of his soul-searching, but instead a showing of his absurd surrealism which is deployed during the work, which are just as important as any of the other questions. Indeed, from the vast plains to the tiniest molecules, Powell leaves nothing untouched, and an interestingly strange section of questions concerned on the matter of what you would say if Jimi Hendrix suddenly offered to play some guitar to you was one of my favourite parts, and the narrator (or should I say questioner?) was a character which you could really connect with thanks to his flaws.

In short, this is a great book. A grand machine of a novel, with great mechanisms and tiny intricacies, it truly shows the work of a technical expert, mastering what seemed to be the impossible by taking the 2nd-person narrative (a rarely used mechanism in itself) to the extreme. I mean, who said inventiveness was gone? Because, whoever did, Padgett Powell just proved them wrong.

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Intro

Alright, this blog, despite some trouble logging in, is up and running now. I think. All should transmit smoothly and connect reasonably quickly. No better time to do an intro then, no?

With perseverance and luck, this should become a site of opinions and review on books and literary things, but don’t expect miracles. Instead, wait for a bunch of irregularly updated nonsense, which is a shame to WordPress, a shame to blogging, even a shame to the almighty, all-accepting internet. It will probably be that bad. You should probably just close the window and run for your life, but that would be silly. I mean, what can a cheapskate blog do, to me? Nothing, right? Right?

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Testing, testing…

I do hope this works. Until I get the hang of this damn old thing, I’m stuck with this pink background. Grrr…

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