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Friday, April 24, 2009

TBIF: Thank blog it's Friday! This week in memes and books

Musing Monday, hosted at Just One More Page...



Musing Mondays (BIG)Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about 2009 favourites…
Coming towards the end of April, we’re a third of the way through the way through the year. What’s the favourite book you’ve read so far in 2009? What about your least favourite? (question courtesy of MizB)
It's been a decent reading year so far. My pace hasn't been too bad - 13 reviews posted to date, which is doing pretty well by my standards - and none of them have been real clunkers. Almost half of them were rated at least 4 out of 5, so either I've been on a very good run or I need to be a bit more critical...but seriously, I think it's been a good run.
My favorite book so far this year is undoubtedly The Uncommon Reader. I loved this novella, and won't hesitate to say that it will be on my "books of the year" list in December. I'm planning to hold on to my copy, and I don't keep that many books after reading them these days. I think that for the first time in a while, I've found a new addition to my "all-time favorites" list.
My least favorite book was Never Let Me Go - which is by no means a bad book, objectively speaking. It's built around some very provocative ideas, and it's a compelling story. Despite all that, though, I really wasn't able to warm up to it and connect with it as much as I wanted to, which was disappointing.
What books have you particularly loved - or not - so far this year?

Mailbox Monday, hosted at The Printed Page

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Technically, I've got three books that truly qualify as "mailbox" this week. I was recently contacted by British author Rosy Thornton and offered a copy of her most recent novel, Crossed Wires, for review. I took her up on it, and the book arrived from England in record time! I received Sarah's Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay, from Sarah Goldstein at St. Martin's Press; this novel was very popular on the book blogs last year, and it's just come out in paperback. Just under the wire to be mentioned here, I received an ARC of The Last Bridge by Teri Coyne, thanks to LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.

I did bring a couple of other books into the house, though. Still Alice by Lisa Genova has been on my radar for a couple of months, and despite some trepidation about the subject matter, the good word among book bloggers has prompted me to give it a shot. (The plot concerns a woman with early-onset Alzheimer's, like my mother did, and I think that may make reading it a bit of a challenge.) And it's been awhile since I've read anything by Alice Hoffman, but she was one of my favorite authors for a long time, so I thought I'd check out her most recent novel, The Third Angel, just out in paperback. Maybe I'll get the old magic back...


Tuesday Thingers, hosted at Wendi's Book Corner

This week's topic: Helper Badges (started on Library Thing Nov. 22, 2008). You can see your badges by clicking on the tab for your Profile, then scrolling down. The badges will be displayed on the right hand side of the screen just under the RSS Feed options, and they look like this: (this is a bronze helper badge, there are also silver and gold)

If you click on the badges, they will take you to your Helper Badges, which will show you what you have received them for.  The WikiThing link you will go to a wonderful page that explains the possible Helper Badges and how to get them.

Questions: Did you know about Helper Badges? Do you have any badges? If so, what is your highest medal/number? What is your lowest? Do the badges give you any incentive to help add to the areas of LT that they cover (Common Knowledge, Venues, etc)?

My Answer:  Here's my LT profile: http://www.librarything.com/profile/Florinda. Not a Helper Badge to be seen, and I'm sad to say that I don't think that will change any time soon. I'd love to be able to contribute more to LT as both a book database and a community, but I just don't spend much time there other than cataloging and editing my own books, so I'm not really helping out all that much. Maybe one of these days...

Booking Through Thursday: "Symbolic?"

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Question suggested by Barbara H:
My husband is not an avid reader, and he used to get very frustrated in college when teachers would insist discussing symbolism in a literary work when there didn’t seem to him to be any. He felt that writers often just wrote the story for the story’s sake and other people read symbolism into it.

It does seem like modern fiction just “tells the story” without much symbolism. Is symbolism an older literary device, like excessive description, that is not used much any more? Do you think there was as much symbolism as English teachers seemed to think? What are some examples of symbolism from your reading?
Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

To some extent, I think that symbolism is in the eye of the beholder - or the critic, or the English teacher. We all bring our own perspective and experience to what we read, and our interpretation is filtered through them; that filtering may influence us to perceive certain elements in a story as representing other things or ideas. If those perceptions are shared by enough people, they may become formalized as the sort of symbolism that gets discussed in literature classes.

On the other hand, we may be encouraged to identify symbolism in our reading by writers who make a specific choice to use it - here's one writer's perspective. Sometimes we get it, and sometimes we don't.

I think symbolism is still very much used in literature, as are its cousins metaphor and subtext - they all bring additional layers and nuance to story. However, once we're out of a school setting, I'm not sure we notice it much unless it's too obvious to be ignored (which, ideally, it shouldn't be; a skilled writer will employ it with with some subtlety).

Combing through my library listings, I spotted a couple of novels that symbolize use of symbolism for me:
Classic: East of Eden, by John Steinbeck - Biblical references, such as two sets of brothers whose names begin with C and A (Charles and Adam, and Caleb and Aron); the Biblical symbolism in The Grapes of Wrath was discussed in my lit classes, but I think there's even more of it in this novel
Modern: The Post-Birthday World, by Lionel Shriver - Consideration of "the road not taken" in one woman's life takes the form of parallel narratives, and the road she actually did take remains ambiguous

Some genre fiction, particularly fantasy, is practically built on symbolism. (This occurred to me as I scrolled past the His Dark Materials trilogy in my LT catalog.)

What do you think about symbolism - or have you tried not to think about it since your last literature class?


Friday Fill-ins #121
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1. Apparently there's some sort of disturbance in the Force today.

2. I enjoy a cool breeze and some shade on a warm, sunny day.

3. 2009 has raced right by so far.

4. When I ate the last of the Oreos in the package, that was it (so I opened another one!).

5. For too long I've been adding to the TBR stack much faster than I can subtract from it (and I expect to keep doing it, too!)

6. I am not obsessed with getting at least a week's worth of blog posts drafted and scheduled in advance; I am not! (That's a lie. I actually am obsessed with it.)


7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to the end of one crazy week at work, tomorrow my plans include the Festival of Books(!) and Sunday, I want to catch up on some things at home (like family time and reading)!

Tell me about your exciting plans for the weekend!

12 comments:

  1. I definitely agree that symbolism is all in our perspective of the material.

    http://barneysbookblog.blogspot.com/

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  2. I got The Last Bridge from Library Thing too. I can't wait to see what you think of Still Alice.

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  3. Jess - According to what you shared in your BTT response, sometimes the authors themselves don't even see it, which is generating an interesting discussion.

    Kathy (Bermudaonion) - It may be awhile, and I may have to work myself up to read it; I'm thinking it may wait until fall, closer to my participation in the annual Alzheimer's Memory Walk.

    When I added The Last Bridge to my LT catalog last night, I saw you had it too!

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  4. I think you're right about symbolism in genre fiction. I don't pay too close attention to it, but sometimes it's not do subtle.

    This weekend we see celebrating birthdays again. This time my brother and his son. We still need to buy gifts! :)

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  5. Mike - Is there ever a weekend when there someone in your family doesn't have a birthday :-)?

    Sometimes the symbolism in genre fiction is pretty much impossible to miss, isn't it?

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  6. Thank you for this very thorough round-up. I had not heard of LibraryThing but I will have to go and check it out. Perhaps it will help me manage the teerering pile on my nightstand.

    My favorite book this fall was definitely the Monsters of Templeton. I think I've been reading too many memoirs and I'm hungering for some great fiction to lose myself in. I'm writing down some of your recommendations!

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  7. You've been very busy with all of your posts! I'll have to check out more on the badges at LT. I've never checked into those.

    You have great answers in the Friday Fill-ins too. Oreos are the best! My TBR pile is growing very rapidly as well. I don't think I'll ever catch up. Oh well! Have a great weekend!

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  8. Vanessa (ChefDruck) - I LOVE LibraryThing. I've had an account there for well over a year, and it really had helped me manage the invasion of the books :-). If you sign up, please be sure to look me up and add me as a friend!

    Wrighty - I haven't quite shaken my irrarional fear that one day I'll run out of things to read, and so I keep adding to the TBR pile :-).

    I'll look for you on LT.

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  9. I can't wait to read Sarah's Key. My husband bought it for me for Christmas. Happy reading!

    --Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

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  10. :) I like the idea of Helper Badges, but some of them seem really hard to achieve. I need to be careful as I tend to get obsessive about completing things.

    Thanks for stopping by and participating in Thingers last week! I've got the post up for this week. ~ Wendi

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  11. Anna - You'll probably get to that one before I do, but since mine is a review copy, I won't let it wait too long.

    Wendi - I'm trying not to focus on them, or else I'll try too hard; I also have that obsessive streak :-).

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  12. I haven't had the chance to read the Uncommon Reader. Will definitely include that in my reading list. Actually haven't had much time to read anything at all. But I promise one of these days I'll take a day off and just curl up with a nice book and lose myself in the material. :) Thanks for sharing!

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Now it's YOUR turn - speak your piece, please! Or just let me know you were here; I always like that. But you'll have to leave a name - I've disallowed anonymous comments due to some recent spam problems. Thanks!