I promise it’s not over.

Hello my sweet chinchillas!

You may have noticed that I haven’t updated recently. I’ve been having Internet connection problems, but have also been mega busy in the lead-up to holidays. I know, I know – lame excuses. But they are unlikely to change in the coming weeks.

So until then, The Friande is going to have to go on hiatus. Actually, all my blogging activity – including regularly reading some of the awesome blogs out there (you know who you are) – will be on a break.

It’s ok though: it’s just a break, it’s not like the relationship is over.

Hope Santa brings you all something awesome this year!

– The Friande

PS How awesome is the new Harry Potter movie?!

95. The taste and decency of A Confederacy of Dunces

A Confederacy of Dunces is set in the early ‘60s of New Orleans, written by John Kennedy Toole in 1969, but not published until 1980 through the perseverance of his mother (read: the stalking of an influential professor until the man succumbed and read the carbon manuscript) after Toole’s suicide.

The first thing you should know about the novel is that its title was derived from a Jonathan Swift quote:

“When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.”

I guess the next thing is to meet Ignatius J. Reilly: protagonist of A Confederacy of Dunces, and a self-styled genius. Forced by his mother to get a job (his first), he drags his 30 year old, university educated obese ass to gain employment as a filing clerk and, later, as a hot dog vendor. This doesn’t stop him from waging a one-man war against modernity, vices, and pretty much anything going against his principles of “taste and decency” and “proper theology and geometry”.

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The, incredibly literate and rather fabulous, Picture of Dorian Gray

Literary Blog Hop

Q. Please highlight one of your favorite books and why you would consider it “literary.”

A. The Picture of Dorian Gray. Because it’s quite awesome.

 

Ok, not exactly an ‘A’ worthy answer. Let’s get into details.

I started this blog a few months ago to get through the 100 Books You Must Read Before You Die list, which was (surprise, surprise!) comprised mostly of literature. Motivation? People kept telling me I wasn’t allowed to judge books that I hadn’t read. Pfft.

In any case, this blog follows my spectacular(?) reading journey, so I figured The Blue Bookcase’s Literary Book Hop was the perfect chance to share one of my favourite books with you.

I am talking about, of course, Oscar Wilde’s fabulous The Picture of Dorian Gray (published in 1890).

Long-time readers (and I adore you all!) are probably unsurprised at this not-so-startling revelation; I have exhibited a certain penchant for hedonistic characters before.

The plot recounts the life of Dorian Gray (duh), a man obsessed with youth and beauty. By an undefined twist of fate, his “soul” is transferred to a magnificent portrait of himself. Gray is blessed with good looks and youth forever, whereas his effigy bears the signs of his evil deeds and aging body.

If you’re confused, it pays to know that Victorians believed in physical appearance as a representation of the sort of person you are – they used to make moulds of criminals’ faces after their death so that scientists could figure out commonalities, and, therefore, apprehend future wrongdoers.

Anyway.

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68. Bridget Jones’s… no! The Friande’s Diary

Dear diary,

Another fabulous day in the sun, finishing up Bridget Jones’s Diary, and getting my tan ready for summer. Unfortunately, the sun seemed intent on moving from one side of the sky to another, so now half my body is tanner than the rest. Meaning that, despite my detest for tan lines, there is a (note: singular) bikini line next to my left collarbone.

Gah.

On to less pressing matters: like pretty much everyone I know, I’d watched the movie version of Bridget Jones’s Diary before reading Helen Fielding’s book. Luckily, this was ages ago, so I wasn’t stuck second-guessing the plot every five seconds (which, by the way, occured whilst reading His Dark Materials).

Have a bullet point list of Thoughts on the book:  Continue reading

The Turn of the Screw, and faux-scary Halloween decorations.

I live in Australia; hence the British spelling, frequent bouts of spell-check rage at WordPress, and, according to an American friend, a distinct lack of sugary breakfast options. Even worse, we don’t celebrate Halloween.

I know, right?!

Apparently, a bunch of old people like whining about cultural imperialism and the Australian identity, but hello? Why wouldn’t you want to import a holiday with candies and costumes and faux-scary decorations?

(The one and only time I went trick-or-treating in my neighbourhood, I got a long lecture about how how we should be proud of our national history, yada yada, and was rewarded for my attention by a grudgingly presented muesli bar).

Then again, Australians barely celebrate Christmas as it is, or at least in comparison to our European counterparts, so anything extra is probably too hard to scrounge up.

Why would a 130 page book need to be abridged anyway??

So my version of celebrating Halloween Down Under is reading Henry JamesThe Turn of the Screw, first published in 1898.

A governess is hired for two orphans adopted by a rich guy who, incidentally, dislikes children (he and I have that in common). She then starts seeing ghosts that are supposedly trying to entice the kids away from their nice, safe existence? Or trying to make the kids commit some sin? Or existing only in her head all along?

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In which I get busy…

Some of you may have seen that I recently did a guest post at The Blue Bookcase for Anne of Green Gables. Apparently, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, because I have somehow found myself agreeing to be a regular contributor at Aidy’s Poetry.

My latest post over there is an interview with self-published author John Mellor, but I’ve also uploaded that blurb rant of mine to the Opinion section. I figured the latter was as good was as any to introduce myself…

Keep your eyes peeled, folks.

64. The bare bones of The Lovely Bones?

First of all – what a bizarre title! Yes, it comes from a quote in the book, but I still have no clue what bones are lovely, and why, exactly, bones are lovely in the first place.

Secondly, my best friend lent this book to me, saying that I was going to detest it. She certainly had a point – any weepy, and/or ‘meaningful’ plots lose my interest in 0.5 seconds flat, including, but not limited to, novels’ whose blurbs that contain the words “… a touching story”. Erm, no thanks. I’d much rather read a story where ‘action’ isn’t a synonym for an emotional breakthrough.

Having said all that – and you know what I’m going write next, don’t you? – it wasn’t all bad. In fact the only bad parts were a) the ending, because those paragraphs read like an inspirational fridge magnet; and b) the weird part where a character possessed someone’s body to get laid.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

It’s the late 70’s in Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, and Susie Salmon was brutally raped and murdered at fourteen. She spends the rest of her non-life alternating between chilling in heaven and watching her family, friends, and even her killer, continue their lives on Earth. Slightly voyeuristic, eh?

Alice Sebold

The Lovely Bones is a pretty light read. I’m not saying it’s fluffy or anything (aside from the aforementioned fridge magnet), but the author doesn’t feel the need to whack her readers over the head with how much of a traumatic experience the protagonist went though. Nor do we have to endure long descriptions about all the grief Susie’s family members are grieving about.  Sebold seems quite content to let her readers grasp characters’ feelings quite intuitively, which goes a long way towards stopping The Lovely Bones from degenerating into a giant chick flick moment.

The author also injects a touch of sinister atmosphere every now and then, reminding us, ‘hello, ghostly dead girl narrating the story here.’ Sure, there’s all the noise about whether or not Susie’s killer – her next door neighbour – will be discovered, but what I particularly liked was Ruth’s visions of dead women. Ruth, a girl who barely spoke to Susie when she was alive, became obsessed, and, indeed, in love with Susie after her death. Ruth’s fixation triggered her (latent?) psychic abilities, adding the perfect amount of intrigue to the novel’s ambience.

Saoirse Ronan as Susie Salmon in The Lovely Bones movie

I did my typical nosing around after finishing The Lovely Bones, and learnt that Sebold was sexually assaulted walking home one night from university. Which was a little awkward to discover. I honestly couldn’t have picked it; The Lovely Bones has none of that harrowing experience vibe going for it. Hopefully, Sebold was able to get some closure from her writing.

On the flip side, The Lovely Bones is so focused on women, that it excludes the opposite gender. Apparently women are the only ones vulnerable to rape and murder.

Which leads on to what I found so interesting about the novel – inasmuch as a book is able to embody a gender, not to be confused with a genre, The Lovely Bones is intensely female. I already mentioned how readers are expected to grasp the novel intuitively; aside from Susie’s killer, every male character is loving, sensitive, forgiving, perceptive and, excluding their ‘male’ (it was the 70’s) occupations, inhabit stereotypical female attributes. It’s like Sebold created this familiar and comforting world just for one gender.

Here, then, is how I would describe the novel: a graceful and, well, lovely book, that doesn’t shy away from, nor ever display ostentatiously, its grisly bare bones.