Books, Recountings

i have been reading disturbing things

*** warning: my recountings are of books with quite horrific subject matter. If you have a delicate stomach perhaps don’t read ***

So I’m sure you have many pressing questions for me (WHERE DID YOU GO AGAIN? DID YOU GET BITTEN BY A RADIOACTIVE CATERPILLAR? CAN YOU SPELL YET? WHY DO YOU DISLIKE CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM?) that you probably spending a large portion of your days simply agonizing over.

Also – why on earth did you shill out for a laptop and then … not use it? (Ah, yes. My good life decisions. I make so many of them.)

I’ve been reading, living, and finding out that Mt. Royal isn’t actually where I thought it was. (How can a mole hill mountain move? you ask. I DON’T KNOW EITHER.)

facerobinhood.gif

THE OPIUM WARS:

THE ADDICTION OF ONE EMPIRE AND THE CORRUPTION OF ANOTHER

[aka wut teh british empire was pretty rubbish huh]

Iopiumwars‘m not sure how much I knew about the Opium Wars before I cracked open this book. But what I found here was awful – if I get the details right …

  •  we were buying a heck of a lot of tea from China
  • China weren’t buying a lot of things from us
  • basically, this was kind of uneconomical and so instead of … doing better market research, for instance, we forced them not to ban our opium from India [The ‘Just Say No’ slogan ran more in the ‘Say Yes Right Now’ direction]
  • and destroyed the Summer Palace
  • and the British Drug Lords were horrible
  • Lots and lots of egos on both sides were involved
  • and a horrifying number of people in China were addicted to opium (I believe the book mentions that at one point 90% of the Chinese army were addicted)
  • and lots of time was spent in trying to work out how the British officials could bow to the Chinese high ups without actually bowing to them.
  • and the Emperor only heard what his advisors thought he’d like to hear. Which wasn’t the best thing when trying to run a war. And led to quite a few bad decisions.

It’s fascinating stuff – the book is well researched and contains excerpts from documents on both sides. It’s also rather depressing and made me take sidelong glances at my cup of tea.

Also, depressing subjects seem to be a common theme in my latest factual reads. Yay.

THE GLADIATOR:

THE SECRET HISTORY OF ROME’S WARRIOR SLAVES

[aka … that’s just not right]

thegladiatorI wrote an extensive review after finishing this book [Actually, it was a page BUT THE WRITING WAS SMALL] and then I found out that Dan Carlin of Hardcore History had released a podcast on the same sort of subject ‘Painfotainment’ … which I haven’t listened to fully yet – but my point is (YOU HAVE ONE?) that this book affected me and I didn’t like it and I decided that I was quite right in loathing some of the Roman Emperors. Seriously. They were jerks.

My problem with this book didn’t lie in the actual history it was recounting – history, is after all, history. You can get mad at it and rave at it but you can’t change it. No, my issues lie in one of the chapters – the crowning chapter of the entire book – in which it describes how a slave is raped and then commits suicide to avoid the games. And this is fictional. To use the story medium as an illustration for how life was back then. A sort of ‘How We Lived and How It Stank’.

Cool. But no. When I read history, I want to read history. When I want to read historical fiction, I pick up a book of historical fiction.

History is bad in plenty of places; give me the facts but by golly, don’t wallow in it. I don’t want to read fictional gratuitous violence in my history book.

And, yes, I did get upset about that chapter, and yes, you’d be right in thinking me absolutely off my rocker for picking up this next book – but there is a difference – one was fiction, and this one? This one is horrible, brutal reality.

THE RAPE OF NANKING

by Iris Chang

nanking.jpgIn December 1937, the Japanese army invaded the ancient city of Nanking, systematically raping, torturing, and murdering more than 300,000 Chinese civilians.

This book tells the story from three perspectives: of the Japanese soldiers who performed it, of the Chinese civilians who endured it, and of a group of Europeans and Americans who refused to abandon the city and were able to create a safety zone that saved many.

This was an awful read. I don’t believe in avoiding the worst points of the world’s history; you can’t understand humankind if you glance at their achievements and virtues. Darkness shows how bright the light can be. But at the same time … what horrors people have done and are capable of …

I think it’s when you look at your fellow man and think of them as less – less than human. Less than nothing. When you forget your humanity, or forget theirs, and then well, you can do anything to them, can’t you? Most of us will think nothing of squishing a bug and there’s nothing wrong with stamping on dirt, is there?

It’s hard reading. I had to put the book down for a while, just for a break. But I finished it and I was glad I did.

Ultranationalists denied that the Rape happened, and for a long time, this atrocity against humanity was a mere lukewarm line or two in Japanese history books. But this book puts the truth out there. It’s terrible and it’s horrid and it’s brutal and awful. But it shouldn’t be ignored or forgotten.

As the Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel warned years ago, to forget a holocaust is to kill twice

The more I learn about history, the more I realise that the answer of humanity does not – nay, cannot – lie within ourselves.

Also, my next factual book after I finish The Candy Machine: How Cocaine Took Over The World is going to be about fish.

Just for a break.

Advertisements
Books

there were no dragon illustrations

Glorious news! I can now spell ‘prejudice’ without the help of spell check. It – and this will blow your mind – doesn’t have two d’s.

Mind-Blow-2.gif

ALICE IN WONDERLAND

6799860.jpg

I can’t read Alice In Wonderland right now – the artwork in my library edition is off-putting.

It’s just not pretty and my books must have:

  • epic dragon illustrations
  • pretty illustrations
  • no illustrations

… but I’m going to push through. Probably. Or I’ll put it on my kindle and read it without any drawings whatsoever.

SHADOWSONG

30694168.jpgOnce upon a time, I read Wintersong. The front cover was pretty. The sequel has just landed in my kindle because I rather thought that though I disliked the first quite intensely, it made me think about validation and where we draw it from.

Perhaps this sequel would give me an issue to ponder, was my line of thinking. But then I read the introduction and it had a trigger warning for suicide ideation, and said that this book was the author dealing with her monsters.

It’s not that I have anything against authors fighting their demons through the written word, it’s just that I never think ‘well, gee, let me read about someone fighting their demons in a book duology that I liked just as much as I like liver and onions.’

Loki-Doesnt-Know-If-He-Can-Continue-Dealing-With-Humans-In-Funny-Commercial.gif

LADY JANE GREY: NINE DAY QUEEN OF ENGLAND

388656Fun fact: I once saw the back of the author’s head. (It was, I rush to assure you, attached to the rest of her body.)

Now, I have a reread of My Lady Jane planned for this year, but it is comparatively flippant to the actual reality. (Flippant, but hysterically funny.)

I rather hoped the ending would change, but apparently history is set in stone and you can’t change it.

Lady Jane’s letter to her sister had a quote that quite struck me:

‘Live still to die … and trust not that the tenderness of your age shall lengthen your life; for as soon (if God call) goeth the young as the old: and labour always to learn to die …

She was sixteen years old, and that letter was the last she ever wrote.

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

I’ve never read Pride and Prejudice before. Yes, yes – I’ve watched the movies, the T.V shows … all of that jazz, but I’ve never read the actual book.

But it has now been consumed, and it is with great astonishment that I discovered that it was quite wonderful. Just as good as everyone said it was. I am now eating enormous quantities of humble pie.

giphy-14.gif

Behold, my pride – it has toppled! My years of prejudice have taken a bruising fall! And yes, I shall admit it: Mr. Darcy is very romantic.

(Is it better than Georgette Heyer’s books though? Hmm …)

Recountings

recountings: bachelors anonymous

Look, it wasn’t a Blandings or Jeeves novel and it wasn’t hysterically funny, but it was written by Wodehouse. And a ‘it was alright’ Wodehouse is still wonderfully written with wit and wumour.

ThirdJointBarnswallow-max-1mb

(Sorry. I was trying to keep the ‘w”s going.)

898691

BACHELORS ANONYMOUS

by P. G. Wodehouse

So. There’s this bloke, Ivor Llewellyn. He has a problem. He’s just become a bachelor for the sixth time.

Yes. You’ve read that right – he’s been in the blissful wedded state no less than five times.

The fault lies in his small talk. He’s terrible at it. When out at dinner with a female, he finds himself proposing over coffee:

“Coffee’s the danger spot. There is a pause in the conversation.”

… “It’s put me off coffee for life”

His lawyer, Mr. Trout – a member of Bachelors Anonymous (inspired by Alcoholics Anonymous), belatedly follows Llewellyn to London. Llewellyn who is frantically dodging the clutches of the actress, Vera Dalrymple. Of whom this can be said:

‘Tell me,” she went on, as the door closed behind them, “what do you think of that gifted artiste? Off the record. Just between you and me.”

It was a question which Joe was well prepared to answer. He did so with the minimum of hesitation.

“Let’s say that I think it possible her mother may love her.”

(The way Wodehouse writes … ah! It makes me laugh. You’re reading along nicely and then all of a sudden BOOM! a hilarious turn of phrase and you’re choking with laughter.)

apPXHrU.gif

Joe Pickering, bodyguard-of-Llewellyn’s-bachelor-state, and Sally Finch, heir-to-a-fortune-if-she-doesn’t-smoke, are attempting to fall in love, but are consistently foiled by hijinks; fate attempts to throw them together, Mr. Trout tries to wrench them apart – for Joe’s own good, of course.

“Like so many young men,” said Mr Trout, “you have allowed yourself to be ensnared by a pretty face, never asking yourself if the person you are hoping to marry is capable of making out your income tax return and can be relied on to shovel snow while you are curled up beside the fire with a novel of suspense.”

… is that the criteria for being a good wife nowadays?

Oh.

Oh dear.

I shovelled snow once. But tax returns?

giphy-13.gif

There is a chase scene, done in a Wodehousian fashion …

“Follow that car!”

The driver was a stout man with a walrus moustache, not that that matters, who when given instructions like them to be quite clear, with no margin for error. He said:

“What car?”

… and an astounding change of heart by Mr. Trout, confirmed bachelor of countless years.

Mr Llewellyn was staring dumbly, as Tennyson’s Lady of Shalott might have stared when the mirror cracked from side to side and the curse had come upon her. Indeed, if the Lady of Shalott had entered at this moment, he would have slapped her on the back and told her he knew just how she felt.

In short, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. In the rush of work and life, holidays and visitors from England, it’s been a while since I’ve sat down with an honest to goodness book, and I’d forgotten how much I love reading.

And I do.

I really, really do.

Bertie Wooster

Books

traumatised by books

Words are powerful. Books are powerful. (I would love to say that’s the reason I called my blog ‘of words and books’ but it isn’t; I was just trying to keep my bases covered. I know. Genius.) They can give hope, inspire us, change us, aid us in rising above the ordinary to perform the extraordinary.

They can also install a crippling – crippling! – fear of everyday objects.

THE WITCH

My uncle and aunt’s copy of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a well-worn and battered paperback. I read it, in the quiet, sitting on the attic stairs. A dedicated bookworm, even at a young age.

Was I entranced? Did I fall in love with Narnia and the adventures of the Pevensie siblings? I’m not sure. I grew fascinated with Turkish Delight, I remember that. I still am a little.

delight.gif
i mean, i wouldn’t betray my siblings for it, but still

Usually, I think, after reading about Narnia, you’d want to open every wardrobe door ever. Just in case. Just to see. You’d hold your breath a little and reach in, past the coats … just to make sure. Maybe, just maybe, adventure was waiting for you, just beyond your fingertips.

HatefulEmbarrassedAntarcticfurseal-max-1mb.gif

But me? OH HECK NO.

Coming into the room? The doors are open?! Close them. You know. Just in case.

Open the doors to retrieve clothing? Better make sure those doors are closed.

Going to bed? CLOSE DEM DOORS!

The illustrations … they’ve stuck with me too

I can still almost see what I feared the most – the White Witch, bursting through my white wardrobe doors on a chariot drawn by snarling creatures, arm raised with whip in hand, her expression most terrible.

I thought she was waiting behind the wardrobe. Waiting for me to forget to close the doors. Waiting for that sliver of light to appear. Waiting for me.

So the wardrobe doors were shut, lest worlds seep through and threaten my very existence.

THE CORPSE

One would think that one fear from the literary realm would be enough; one burden to haunt a little girl was sufficient. An active imagination is somewhat of a curse and a blessing … and occasionally a hinderance to visiting the bathroom.

At night, I wasn’t afraid of the toilet, or of the windowsill, or of the mirror from which my dark reflection would glance back. But rather, what might be laid out in the bath, waiting for me, morgue blue, eyes wide, and really quite dead.

9780563529095_Z.jpg
As the audiobook was playing, I’d stare at this cassette cover. Slowly, a fear of the possible contents of a bath sprung forth

Whose Body? is a delightful book – I’ve since reread it. I wasn’t terrified in the least. But to a young girl who listens avidly as an innocent person walks into their bathroom and discovers a A RANDOM CORPSE IN THEIR BATHTUB … well it didn’t take long to connect the dots.

  • My house had a bath
  • My house had a roof
  • Ergo, my house could have a corpse

[LOGIC STRIKES AGAIN!]

It was terrifying. Answering the call of nature at night became a fraught experience. Even when it wasn’t night-time, a suspicious glance at the bath first just had to be given. To make sure, you know.

I knew how it could be done, you see. Someone could – quite legitimately – drag a corpse over the rooftops and dispose of it in our tub: they would, perhaps, start at our next door neighbour’s roof with the body and then jump across to our’s. Then with gymnastics worthy of an Olympian, they’d climb through the narrow slit of the bathroom window with the body and deposit the body in our bath.

And there I would find it.

bathtubforblog.jpg

Gradually I grew up and forgot to be afraid, but I shan’t forget those nighttime trips and those quick, fearing glances at the bathtub, and that moment when you’d hopped into bed, well you’d better get out again – the wardrobe doors were cracked slightly open.

Sticks and stones may break bones, but words will invoke wardrobes and bathtubs and they will always haunt you.

Or at least, they will until childhood slips away little by little.

I think I just rambled, Life

things that i will totally do in 2018

There’s nothing I love more than lists. Lists are amazing. I hardly ever complete them, (TRANSLATION: nope. I never complete them) but we have wistful relationship. Sort of like my relationship with my violin – full of longing and missing talent.

Last year, I didn’t complete a single resolution. Not. One. So I thought, hmm … let me learn from this. Let me try to set achievable things. Let me … WRITE THE LONGEST TO DO LIST YET!!

Ah, yes. I really learn from my mistakes.

*ah-hem*

literature-3060241_1920.jpg

BOOKS I WANT TO READ

  • A Dickens (WHY DO I DO THIS TO MYSELF?!!!!)
  • The Candy Machine: How Cocaine Took Over The World by Tom Feiling
  • Two indie books
  • Mere Christianity by C.S Lewis
  • My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand
  • Nine Day Queen of England by Faith Cook
  • Pride and Prejudice (I’ve tried, but have yet to succeed)
  • Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford
  • A book by P.G Wodehouse (this will be a GREAT hardship)
  • Two books by Georgette Heyer (SUCH HARDSHIP)

giphy-11

BLOG THINGS TO BE DONE

  • Two posts a week (HAHAHAHA)
  • Two Heyer Recountings
  • A Dickens Recounting
  • Two Guest Interviews
  • A few ‘Terrible Movies I’ve Loved’ posts
  • Greater interaction on other blogs

WRITING THINGS I’D LIKE TO ACHIEVE

  • Finish The Elf Stew
  • Edit and republish Our Intrepid Heroine
  • Enter a short story competition
  • Submit an article/short story for publication in a magazine/e-zine (is that what they’re called nowadays?)blur-1869579_1920

OTHER LIFE THINGS

  • Skate the Rideau Canal
  • Arrive back in England in one piece with sanity intact (WHAT SANITY?!)
  • Maintain daily devotions throughout the year
  • Strive to be kinder

I think – in order to encourage myself – I will cross off this list as I go. So be sure to check back. It’s a riveting sport.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t really mind if one thing or everything or nothing gets crossed off my List To End All My Lists – what matters, I think, is put most succinctly in this verse from Micah 6 v 8:

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

(Though, of course, if I don’t manage to read a Dickens, I shall be BITTERLY disappointed.)