Wednesday, May 30, 2012

One of those days

I really still can't believe that she is gone. We miss you, Elizabeth!

Note: Shortly after deciding to post this picture, I found out that Elizabeth's son, Christian, is missing. Please keep him and the family in your prayers.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Blogs I Read that Are Not About Books

Another great prompt brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish!

Top ten blogs I read that are NOT about Books!

1. A Veggie VentureI really like this vegetarian recipe blog. I am not a vegetarian, but I do like veggies! So, this is a blog for new recipe ideas.

2. Gail Carriger's "Hail the Victorious Parasol": I love Carriger's light steampunk paranormal novels (they are hilariously funny!), and her blog is the same way. She has great steampunk visuals and fun tidbits about the Victorians on this site. It isn't like her website, which is totally geared towards the books. This blog is more about steampunk and Victorians.

3. The Burtons: Because I love Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. This is a Tumblr site, so there isn't much reading to be done. Still, I love it!

4. The Victorianist: Because, well, you know.... Again, not about books. More about Victorian culture/events.

5. Under the Sign of Sylvia: I don't always agree with her, but her posts are always fascinating. She is a literary scholar, so books do come up sometimes (but mostly on her other blog). This blog is more about her daily life at home and in academia.

6. Esther Xie: I really don't know how I discovered this one, but I find a glimpse into this world to be fascinating. She frustrates me so much because she constantly berates herself for her appearance and promotes western looks. Anyway, it is not something I read all of the time, but I do go there to see what she is up to sometimes.

7. The Chronicle of Higher Education blog site: I read this one quite a bit.

8. Suri's Burn Book: This blog is so funny! It is narrated through the voice of Suri Cruise (a fake, of course). is a guilty pleasure.

9. What Kate Wore: Another guilty pleasure that I am horrified to admit to looking at regularly! This is a blog about Prince William's wife, Kate. It shows the clothing she wears to events...and sometimes I get to see Prince Harry...and that always rocks my world.

10. The Pioneer Woman: I love everything about this site...mainly because she is lucky enough to live the life that I wish that I had. :)  There are blog aspects to the site, so I am including it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thursday has no theme:

I don't have a special Thursday "themed" blog post, but I thought that I would quickly post the covers of three books I recently purchased. PS: I can't believe that I bought hardback, but I have been waiting for these...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Writers that Led to Me Being Obsessed with Them

Today's "Top Ten Tuesday" is a freebie topic (at least it is if you didn't want to do the reality show one...and I don't watch a lot of I was lost!). In other words, we get to chose our own, or we can use the one supplied. At first, I hadn't planned on doing this week's prompt, but after dinner I came up with one: Ten Writers that Led to Obsession...or, at least, me being obsessed with them! The thing is that when I come across a writer I really love--one whose compilation of words makes me long to know that person inside and out--well, I become obsessed. I have to read all of their books/poems/essays and any biographies I can get my hands on. So, here we go...

For other Top Ten Lists, go visit the blog that started it all: The Broke and the Bookish!


1. Truman Capote: 

Simply because he is foremost on my mind right now! I became interested in him after going to the Alabama Writers Symposium in Monroeville. When I came home, I immediately went out and bought his first book, Other Voices, Other Rooms. Oh. My. Gosh. Wow. He is AMAZING. Since then, I have watched Capote and bought In Cold Blood. AMAZING. I haven't started In Cold Blood yet, but I have to read the book that basically killed him. The movie was so agonizing to watch that I carried the emotional weight around with me for days. I'll keep you posted.

2. Thomas Hardy:

I have written about my love of Jude the Obscure before on this blog. Seriously. I read this book in ONE sitting--which, if any of you have read Jude the Obscure, you know that that can seriously mess with your head. So dark and tragic. But I loved it...and I became obsessed with Thomas Hardy's novels. I have read several, and I have never been disappointed.

3. J. K. Rowling:

Oh, wow. I LOVE the Harry Potter series. Rowling's novels inspired me so much that I actually submitted a conference paper to an academic HP conference in England at Oxford University...and flew my little Alabama self over there to present it. I still think that it is one of the highlights of my life. The presentation also led to a publication--my first academic publication--so...SCORE. I can't speak highly enough of this series. It is so important and touches on so many aspects of history, culture, mythology, literature, religion, human relationships...the list goes on and on. If you have never read them, do yourself a favor and jump in! PLUS: J. K. Rowling is one of the most amazing people to listen to in an interview. She is only topped by...

4. Anne Rice:

Oh, wow. This woman is AMAZING. I was never one for the core Lestat books--at least, not at first! But I read Servant of the Bones and Violin...and fell in love with Anne Rice's works. Then, I read Pandora...and WOW. I love her work, and she is the most fascinating person to listen to in an interview. She knows a little bit about everything and has a curiosity that is unquenchable. I could listen to her for hours. Again, if you haven't read her stuff, do yourself a favor and read, read, read. Or, download/buy the interview. PHENOMENAL. Also, if you don't like the paranormal stuff, read Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. I LOVED that book, and I usually don't take to religious fiction at all. Her interpretation of Jesus as a child is stunning. I loved everything about it, and it was another book that stayed with me for a very long time. I haven't read the second book (The Road to Cana), but I will get to it one day.

5. Augusta Webster:

I was introduced to Augusta Webster in my Victorian Women's Poetry class, and I immediately fell in love with her dramatic poems ("Medea in Athens," in particular). I am stunned each time I read something by her--even if I have read it several times before! I feel connected to her work in a way that is inexplicable, and I constantly find myself obsessed with her work for days at a time.

6. Scarlett Thomas:

I read The End of Mr. Y long after I originally bought it in Oxford (yes, during the Harry Potter trip). This book captured my imagination, and I love it when I find a book that makes me force myself to read only one page a day when I know that I am coming to the end! I have read other books by Scarlett Thomas since the original obsession struck, but I still love The End of Mr. Y the best.

7. Charles Dickens:

(Source: Library of Congress)

I won't go into this one. If you read my blog regularly enough, you kind of know about our love/hate relationship. Still, ours is one of obsession. There are times when I eat, sleep, and breathe Dickens.

8. Frances Hodgson Burnett:

(Source: Library of Congress)

 Over the years, I have reread many books...but none as many times as I have reread The Secret Garden. I have such a deep love for that book that I have given it as gifts and written about it until I am blue in the face. I find comfort in it, and I have become a fan of Burnett's other books as a result (thank you, sweet Jane, for sending me A Little Princess!). I love the fact that her books are public domain, I can download them all for free! So, I am not obsessed with Burnett herself, but I am obsessed with her books. She will always have a place on my shelf, along with the first copy I ever owned of The Secret Garden (thanks to my Aunt Sharon).

9. Shakespeare:

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

I can't imagine a world without the Bard. I have read Antony and Cleopatra so many times that all of my copies need to be replaced (yes: plural). I think, however, it is crucial to have the right teacher introduce you to Shakespeare. My first experiences were not always positive, but I fell in love (finally) when I went to school at USF. Shakespeare: you rock. I am so obsessed with Antony and Cleopatra alone that I read as many articles and watch as many productions of it as I can...and I am a Victorianist! Actually, however, it makes sense...because A&C saw a huge comeback during the nineteenth century. Cheers!

10. Oscar Wilde:

(Source: Library of Congress)

Ah, Oscar. How I love your work!!! I find you fascinating, too, but your work is what makes me obsessed with you over and over again. I cry each time I read a certain section of The Picture of Dorian Gray, and your fairy tales are some of the most beautiful in the world.

Yes, I have lapsed into a love letter, but I really do adore Wilde. I find him as fascinating as his work, and I never get tired of reading about him.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Book Quotes

Thanks to The Broke and the Bookish for giving us a great prompt this week!

My "Top Ten" for quotes are...

1. From Charles Dickens's Bleak House:
"The light is come upon the dark benighted way. Dead! Dead, your Majesty. Dead, my lords and gentlemen. Dead, Right Reverends and Wrong Reverends of every order. Dead, men and women, born with Heavenly compassion in your hearts. And dying thus around us, every day."

2. From J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows:

3. From Donna Tartt's The Secret History:
"Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it. And what could be more terrifying and beautiful, to souls like the Greeks or our own, than to lose control completely? To throw off the chains of being for an instant, to shatter the accident of our mortal selves? ...If we are strong enough in our souls we can rip away the veil and look that naked, terrible beauty right in the face; let God consume us, devour us, unstring our bones. Then spit us out reborn." 

4. From Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist:
"So, I love you because the entire universe conspired to help me find you."

5.From Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights:
"Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living. You said I killed you--haunt me then. The murdered do haunt their murderers. I believe--I know that ghosts have wandered the earth. Be with me always--take any form--drive me mad. Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!"

6. From J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix:
"We've all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That's who we really are."

7. From Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South:
"I take it that 'gentleman' is a term that only describes a person in his relation to others; but when we speak of him as 'a man', we consider him not merely with regard to his fellow men, but in relation to himself, - to life – to time – to eternity. A cast-away lonely as Robinson Crusoe- a prisoner immured in a dungeon for life – nay, even a saint in Patmos, has his endurance, his strength, his faith, best described by being spoken of as 'a man'. I am rather weary of this word 'gentlemanly' which seems to me to be often inappropriately used, and often too with such exaggerated distortion of meaning, while the full simplicity of the noun 'man', and the adjective 'manly' are unacknowledged." 

8. From Anne Rice's Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt:
“I wasn't sent here to find angels! I wasn't sent here to dream of them. I wasn't sent here to hear them sing! I was sent here to be alive. To breathe and sweat and thirst and sometimes cry.” 

9. From Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland:
“Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle.”

10. From Gail Carriger's Soulless:
“The voice was low and tinged with a hint of Scotland. It would have caused Alexia to shiver and think primal monkey thoughts about moons and running far and fast, if she'd had a soul. Instead it caused her to sigh in exasperation and sit up.” 

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Inspired Reading

The theme of the Alabama Writers Symposium was the sense of place. All of the presentations really made me think about Alabama and southern literature in a whole new way; and as a result, I decided that I would make an effort to familiarize myself with more Alabama and southern authors. I've read To  Kill a Mockingbird, of course, but I have never read anything by Truman Capote (though I've seen Breakfast at Tiffany's several times). On Sunday, I went to the bookstore and bought Capote's Other Voices, Other Rooms.

I chose this novel because it is one of his earliest and because it is part of the Southern Gothic tradition. Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Published when Truman Capote was only twenty-three years old, Other Voices, Other Rooms is a literary touchstone of the mid-twentieth century. In this semiautobiographical coming-of-age novel, thirteen-year-old Joel Knox, after losing his mother, is sent from New Orleans to live with the father who abandoned him at birth. But when Joel arrives at Skully’s Landing, the decaying mansion in rural Alabama, his father is nowhere to be found. Instead, Joel meets his morose stepmother, Amy, eccentric cousin Randolph, and a defiant little girl named Idabel, who soon offers Joel the love and approval he seeks.

I loved the cover, too. The photo is of a young Capote, and he looks so very haunted. Idabel, the young tomboy in the novel, is based on Harper Lee. I thought so as I began to read about her, but I confirmed it with some research yesterday. The story is strange, sad, and wonderful. Though Capote let jealousy ruin his relationship with Harper Lee, he shouldn't have because his writing is amazing. (PS: To those who still believe the myth that Capote wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, you are really fooling yourself. His writing style and Lee's are totally different...and, yes, we do have other writing by Lee for comparison. I had never met someone who believed Capote wrote Lee's novel until the other day, and I was shocked that anyone would buy into that idea. Ugh.)

Anyway, as time goes by, I will post thoughts and reviews of these books on my book blog, The Friendly Reader. I am really looking forward to venturing into southern literature. I never did before because I felt strange about it. The thing is that, when you live something, it almost feels too close to touch. But the symposium gave me a different outlook on my own outlooks about my state, my inherited culture and past, and everything else. So, here is to a new doorway.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

What a weekend!

I'm sorry that I have been neglecting the blog lately, but I have been extremely busy with work. We are so far behind schedule at the moment (for various reasons beyond our control), and I have had out-of-town business trips. 

My most recent trip was to the Alabama Writers Symposium. It is held in Monroeville, Alabama, each year, and at each conference the board gives out two awards--one of which is the Harper Lee Award. As you may know, Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, rarely makes public appearances and has not given an interview in over 45 years. Well, imagine my surprise when I actually saw her this weekend! She attended the awards luncheon and was present to watch Fannie Flagg receive the Harper Lee Award! Very exciting! 

This is actually the second time I have seen Ms. Lee. A few years ago, I was in the Gorgas Library coffee shop and saw one of my former professors having coffee with her. No one bothered her for a couple of reasons: 1) it just isn't done; 2) I don't think many people recognized her. Anyway, I didn't say anything to her then, other than, "Hello." I simply sat down at the table next to her, where I had already set up for office hours, and drank my coffee. I tried my best to look calm and controlled, but inside I was screaming, "HARPER LEE IS SITTING RIGHT NEXT TO ME!!!"

(Taken from the balcony of the old Monroeville courthouse. If you remember the movie To Kill a Mockingbird, there is a scene where Scout is sitting on the floor of the balcony. Harper Lee used to sit up there and watch her father in court. Photo is mine.)

Anyway, she unexpected showed up at the awards luncheon in Monroeville last weekend, like I said. Again, I didn't speak to her or take pictures, because she hates that kind of thing. Though she is in a wheelchair now, her mind is as sharp as ever. My friends Bob and Allen, who were with me in Oxford a few years ago, know her well. They were at the symposium, too, and actually went to visit Ms. Lee at her home that morning. She is just amazing. 

Anyway, back to the weekend. 

WOW. Such a great experience. If you live in Alabama or if your state hosts something like the Alabama Writers Symposium, I would definitely recommend that you go! It is such a great event for writers and readers, alike. I felt so inspired each day. Also, for the first time, I appreciated literature written by authors from my home state. It really is amazing. We forget the talent around us until we see it face to face. I got to hear amazing authors read from and discuss their works. My favorites, other than Fannie Flagg, of course, were Allen Tullos, Trudier Harris, Kerry Madden,  and Jeanie Thompson. Dr. Harris teaches in the UA English department, and though I have never met her, I loved her presentation. I also loved meeting the YA authors, especially Kerry Madden. And Jeanie Thompson delivered some amazing poetry written from an imagined adult Helen Keller's point of view. Fascinating. 

 (Fannie Flagg signing books after the awards lunch. My friends Allen and Bob are standing there, too. Photo is mine.)

Fannie Flagg was so gracious and inspiring to listen to, as well. She met Harper Lee years ago in New York, right at a time when Flagg had almost decided to give up writing. Lee inspired her to go on...and thank goodness, too, because I don't know what I would do without the novel Fried Green Tomatoes

I also got to see Dr. Ulmer, a professor in our English department, receive an award. It is well deserved, for he is an amazing professor!

But more than anything else, I enjoyed the unexpected pleasure of being reunited with my friends Bob and Allen. We have not seen much of each other since our trip to England in 2009 (posts begin here), and this was the perfect time to get back together! Literature always comes alive around the two of them, and I have had my most amazing experiences with them. Bob taught me Shakespeare years ago, and Allen teaches Latin and for the honors program here at the university. I just love them, and I can't imagine a more perfect weekend!

 (The famous tree from To Kill a Mockingbird. The old courthouse is now a museum and a great place to visit. Photo is mine.)

Of course, the symposium offers more than just authors talking about their books. There is a production of To Kill a Mockingbird (usually put on in the historic Monroeville courthouse, which served as a model for its exact replica in the movie). The hosts of the symposium also have a fish fry on the courthouse lawn, and the lunches are wonderful.

Anyway, it was a great experience and I had a wonderful time!