The Biblio Blogazine

Reviews, Opinions, and More
Subscribe

Archive for November, 2008

Sunday Salon: Discovering T.E. Lawrence

November 30, 2008 By: J.C. Montgomery Category: Articles

Why have I never heard of this? And why have I found it now?
These are two questions I asked myself upon discovering, and reading several passages from T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom, an autobiographical account of the time he spent with the Arabs in the desert fighting the Turks. Yes, this is an account of the true “Lawrence of Arabia”.

Well, as true as one would expect of a memoir written after the fact, albeit fairly soon afterwards.

I am entranced with his account and amazed I had never heard of it until now. Thanks to The University of Adelaide Library and Project Gutenberg works like this can be read online or downloaded free.

The catalyst was coming across the movie while channel flipping and I simply had to stop and admire the breathtaking handsomeness of a young Peter O’Toole as well as a delicious looking Omar Sharif.

One particular scene, one that has always stuck in my mind, just happened to be on and I felt compelled to check on its veracity. Of course, it turned out to be true, as Lawrence recounted the event vividly in Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

I think many may guess which one. For me, it is one of the most powerful scenes ever filmed. It was from this that I did some research and learned that same sex rape of prisoners by the Turks was nothing new, not in their culture, nor in history.

If some of you cannot recall, Sherif Ali (Omar Sherif) is waiting outside the barracks where Lawrence (O’Toole) has been taken. He is well aware of what is happening behind closed doors. Throughout this scene, no words are spoken by the main characters, but much is said through the showing of emotion on Sharif’s face as he waits knowing there is nothing he can do. He plays the part so well, you can almost feel the pain of both men: one being beaten and raped, the other agonizing over his inaction.

Later, Lawrence is thrown into the mud, discarded as nothing more than refuse. Sharif races to him, helping him up, and then helping him heal…but he never did. Lawrence lived the remainder of his life acting out the classical symptoms of those who have suffered in such a way.

So how did this lead to my discovery? I wanted to know the truth behind the film. As we all know, movies based on true stories are purely that – “based” – as not much about the movie other than the premise turns out to be true.

This is how I learned about Seven Pillars of Wisdom and decided to take a look for myself about what actually happened.

This is also how I discovered an autobiography that not only holds my attention, but am anxious to read through. It is not a complete autobiography, just a recounting of his time as a British Officer during the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Turks.

Here are a couple of excerpts that drew me in immediately:

The body was too coarse to feel the utmost of our sorrows and of our joys. Therefore, we abandoned it as rubbish: we left it below us to march forward, a breathing simulacrum, on its own unaided level, subject to influences from which in normal times our instincts would have shrunk. The men were young and sturdy; and hot flesh and blood unconsciously claimed a right in them and tormented their bellies with strange longings. Our privations and dangers fanned this virile heat, in a climate as racking as can be conceived. We had no shut places to be alone in, no thick clothes to hide our nature. Man in all things lived candidly with man.

and…

Blood was always on our hands: we were licensed to it. Wounding and killing seemed ephemeral pains, so very brief and sore was life with us. With the sorrow of living so great, the sorrow of punishment had to be pitiless. We lived for the day and died for it. When there was reason and desire to punish we wrote our lesson with gun or whip immediately in the sullen flesh of the sufferer, and the case was beyond appeal. The desert did not afford the refined slow penalties of courts and gaols.

I don’t know about you, but this is pretty powerful stuff .

Also, a little trivia: From my research, the second version of this book (the first was lost) was about 400,000 words which Lawrence reportedly wrote in three months time. For us NaNo people, that equates to over 133,000 a month!

I said in my last post that I wanted to read more. Well, I guess my wish is coming true a lot sooner than I imagined. It also shows me that some things simply cannot be planned. T.E. Lawrence nor anything he has written was ever on my radar. But this opportunity has presented itself for a reason and I am running with it.

My hopes, in sharing this experience with you, is to point out that when it comes to literary things, always have an open mind and a willing attitude as you never know when you might find something wonderful to read as well as learn something new about history and a society of which you were unaware.

Is there such a thing as literary archeology? Because I feel like I have dug around and found a treasure, buried beneath time, waiting for revelation and someone to appreciate it for what it has to offer.

Yeah. I’m weird that way.

Sunday Salon: Best Laid Plans

November 30, 2008 By: J.C. Montgomery Category: Miscellaneous

IMG_0346WP

NaNoWriMo is over. I’m glad I participated, but am also as glad it’s done.

I’m not sure if what I’ve written will ever be published, but I know now what it takes to go through the process of doing something more than short fiction. I have also come to realize that perhaps I will remain a short fiction writer.

Putting myself through this has taught me a fair amount of respect for novel writers. Not that I had none before; it’s just that I have finally walked a 50,000 plus word mile in their shoes and have, I think, a better understanding of the challenges they face. For some perhaps, weaving a riveting work of fiction that entrances and holds a reader’s attention from chapter to chapter comes easily. It is the proofreading, editing, and publishing that are the bane of their existence.

For others like me, translating an idea into something more substantial; turning it into a story with multiple characters, plots and subplots; ensuring there is clarity throughout as well as continuity; doing it all in a way that does not have you looking for the nearest donation bin instead of a favored place on your keeper shelf – well, it’s not so simple.

However, I would not have traded this last month for anything. I know now that I still love writing as much as reading, and that to be a better writer I must read more; much more.

At the beginning of 2008 I had high hopes of reading more than I’ve ever done and even though I failed to come even close to the number I had committed to in my chosen challenges, I still read more than I had in years. In that, I did not fail and I’m happy for it.

Next year I have set more realistic goals, although one aspect remains the same – I do wish to read more next year than this year. I also wish to finish my book and do something with it. But it is being set aside to give my eyes and mind some time to uncross themselves from the stress of getting most of it down on paper (or should I say in yWriter).

Not only do I want fresh eyes for that process, I also wish to have them for all the writers whose books I’ve chosen to read for my next set of challenges.

I sit here facing the fact that a new year is just around the corner and that I want it to be one where I am a better writer and an even better reader.

I stare at my TBR piles and mourn the fact that they’ve only gotten larger instead of the other way around; that many of them are books I thought I would have read by now. However, I will read them: not for my own reasons, but for this one.

I have plans. Yes I do. Best laid ones? Who knows. But I have them, and that is good enough for now.

Review: Irish Girls About Town: An Anthology

November 17, 2008 By: J.C. Montgomery Category: Reviews


Irish Girls About Town (2002)
Anthology of Short Stories, 310 pages
This edition: Simon & Schuster, Inc. for Barnes & Noble (2006)

As with the U.K. and Irish edition, Barnardo’s and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul will benefit from the sale of this edition of Irish Girls About Town.

Another review that has been languishing on my desk since October. Ay yi yi.

No sooner did I recuperate from the Read-A-Thon, than I began preparing, and then became immersed in, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). As a first time participant, I had no idea what I was getting myself into – and yes, that would be par for the course.

I had decided early in the marathon, that short stories were the way to go, and so I read Interpreter of Maladies , this book, and a little bit of The Book of Lost Things.

I flew through this book of 15 stories, all written by Irish women. The theme throughout is that of relationships, ranging from familial to marriage, and even though there is a single theme, there are enough variations of it to make it easy to read and just as easy to enjoy.

My personal favorites were “Soulmates” by Marian Keyes, “The Twenty-Eighth Day” by Catherine Barry, and “Thelma, Louise and the Lurve Gods” by Cathy Kelly. Don’t get me wrong though, there is not a bad story in the bunch, it’s just that I felt compelled to list the ones that stick out in my mind the most.

“Soulmates” is an interesting tale about two ‘perfect’ people fated to meet and be together because they are, yes, soulmates. Everything is just right when it comes to these two: their meeting, their courtship, and subsequent marriage. But when trouble looms on the horizon, their friends harbor a secret hope that all will unravel, and do so badly. I will leave it for you to read the story to find out what happens.

“The Twenty-Eighth Day” is for anyone who has suffered through PMS – and I just don’t mean the woman:

I am being tormented and tortured by some unknown force I cannot touch or feel. It’s like somebody else has taken over my body, mind, and soul. There is a demon spirit inside me, telling me to do inappropriate things, prompting me to say hurtful, offensive words, urging me to be the meanest b—- that ever walked the earth.

“Thelma, Louise and the Lurve Gods” initially appears to be a story about a woman who needs a vacation from her boring life, to experience something more exciting than “not having a Chinese takeaway on Friday nights but…shock, horror…having pizza instead.” No sooner does the vacation begin than a snag threatens to destroy all her hopes. However she eventually learns that the trip she is on is one of self-discovery, for as she notes, “Although my own world had shifted on its axis after the holiday, in the office nothing had changed.” Things around her remained the same, it was she who had changed – who needed to change – so she could see those things, and herself, more clearly.

I am giving this book a 5 star rating as per my system that states a book earns this because I could not put it down. And I couldn’t.

Sunday Salon: Succumbing

November 09, 2008 By: J.C. Montgomery Category: Miscellaneous

TSSbadge2

Oh Okay. If you’re gonna twist my arm.

You didn’t? Well someone did.

Probably that evil twin of mine. She just doesn’t know when to leave well enough alone.

Considering how poorly…uh…alright, alright, how pitifully, I performed in my Challenge reading for 2008, I am taking a different tack for 2009.

I am only going to do 4 (maybe 5) challenges with two of them being perpetual, meaning no deadlines – yippee !!! I also plan on overlapping as much as possible. Why set myself up for failure, which is what I pretty much did last year.

So here is the projected Challenge list…uh…lists for 2009. The actual books I plan on reading will be added to the Challenge Lists tab at the top of this blog within the next couple of days or as I go along as some of these don’t require you to make a list up front.

9 for 2009
This looks like a fun way to get through that TBR stack overflowing on my shelves. The premise is simple. Read 9 books from 9 categories. Any genre, any type (Graphic, Audio, Poetry, etc.) The categories are unique and fun. Click on the above link to see for yourself!

The 999 Challenge
If you are familiar with the 888 challenge, then no explanation is necessary. However, if you haven’t, it is a bit much to explain so I would advise clicking on the link to check it out. Not that it is difficult, other than the amount of books you need to commit to reading. But you do get to choose your own categories and there is an overlap allowance that will help.

The Year of Readers
This is a year-long read-a-thon for charity. I have chosen to read for First Book. First Book is a nonprofit organization that works to give children from low-income families the opportunity to read and own their first new books. They provide an ongoing supply of new books to children participating in community-based mentoring, tutoring, and family literacy programs.

The Notable Book Challenge (perpetual)
You may read as many books as you like. Or a few. But as this is a challenge, the moderator asks that at the beginning of the new year, participants set their goals in terms of which books they would like to read. These goals are not set in stone, so no pressure, no worries. The blog linked above has lists from which to find “notable” books suitable for the challenge.

The Pulitzer Project (perpetual)
This one is simple. Quote, “The goal of the participants of this site is to read all 81 books that have won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. There is no time limit.”

If none of these sound very interesting or if you plan on spending sometime on a deserted island and want to enjoy your time being stranded, check out the A Novel Idea blog where you can find a reading challenge to suit your obsession needs.

Sunday Salon: The Exchange

November 09, 2008 By: J.C. Montgomery Category: Miscellaneous

I wasn’t sure until I read Literary Feline’s Sunday Salon that I was going to post one this week.

It’s been a rough road since the Read-A-Thon. I was completely unprepared for the physical toll it was going to take. I seemed to remember that pulling an all-nighter wasn’t such a big deal. But then that was over twenty years ago and I have learned that the bladder and gray matter are not the only things that diminish when one grows older.

Not that I am saying being in my 40’s sucks. It doesn’t. The benefits to being a woman my age far outweigh the detractions. For now.

However it is sad to realize that the next time I decide to undertake such a venture, I will need to ensure I am in tip top shape, as in a way, I am doing a marathon, and all good milers must be in good physical condition and understand how to pace themselves properly.

It didn’t help that NaNoWriMo came right afterward. This is my first time participating and yet again I find that my tendency to bite off more than I can chew is coming back to smack me hard on the behind.

Don’t get me wrong, both the Read-A-Thon and NaNo are two experiences that I in no way regret doing. I just went into both a little naïve regarding what was expected – and more importantly – what my capabilities are in getting both accomplished.

I did well in the former, and am confident that I will be fine in the latter.

But I digress.

This week Wendy wrote about cleaning out her TBR stacks. Great minds, or at least those that are book lovers, must think alike. After attending a quarterly used book sale put on by our library, I found that I had no more room on the shelf for any of the books I had purchased. No wonder as my family deliberately, and quite vehemently, balks at me buying a larger bookcase. I wonder why?

So, just as Wendy, I went through the stacks deciding which books I honestly (key word here!) believed I was going to read. And as she noted, “It is always a difficult process. How do I know I won’t decide tomorrow that I do want to read a particular book?”

For me? I don’t. That is why it is a very painful process for me to take one off the shelf and place it in the donation bag. (I always give back to the library. They have a wonderful store where I generally get all my books and a majority of the proceeds go back to them. Talk about a win-win situation.)

All in all, I only set aside a little than a dozen books. Which surprisingly enough, is about how many I bought. Hmmm.

Oh well. At least I was able to make room for the newbies without having to whine too loudly about the lack of space because my bookcase is just too small.

Drat!

  •  

    November 2008
    M T W T F S S
    « Oct   Dec »
      1 2
    3 4 5 6 7 8 9
    10 11 12 13 14 15 16
    17 18 19 20 21 22 23
    24 25 26 27 28 29 30
    31  
  • Archives