Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A Dog's Life

Here's another book I recommend every chance I get: The 101 Dalmatians. I didn't read it as a kid. I didn't realize until sometime in the '90s that it even existed. I was watching the Disney movie with my kids for the 25th time, scouring the credits for familiar names, and I saw the sentence: "Based on the novel by Dodie Smith." Who knew it hadn't sprung full-blown from the Disney machine?

Written in 1956, it is, of course, better than any of the movie versions. The dogs are smarter and have more personality, and Cruella deVil has a husband and a cat and a house. And Mr. Dearly ("Roger" in the movie) wasn't a songwriter, but an accountant, which is much more sensible.

It is a novel for children, but I've enjoyed it every time I've read it. It's one of those books that I wish would go on forever.

I looked for other books by Dodie Smith, and all I was able to come up with was I Capture the Castle, which I promptly bought and then couldn't finish. They made a movie of it recently, which wasn't much better...

Now, looking for a picture to go with this post, I've found other books by her, so I guess I'll have to try them, including a sequel to Dalmatians called The Starlight Barking.

P.S. We've broken 40 visits to the blog! And we have our first comment, on the Madame Bovary post!

Monday, February 26, 2007

My Man Godfrey

What I'm reading now I didn't get from the Bakerville Library, but if anyone wants to borrow it, just e-mail me (the link is over in the column on the right). I was browsing, a west-coast bookstore that has become an alternative to Amazon, and I noticed a service that they offer--type in the book (new or used) that you're looking for, and they'll notify you when it becomes available. I had been looking, off and on for a couple of years, for a copy of My Man Godfrey, by Eric Hatch (who used to live in Litchfield), which is what the old Carole Lombard/William Powell movie was based on.* It has been out of print for a while, and I had given up hoping to find it, so I just signed up for the Powells service and forgot all about it.

Obviously one thing led to another, and last week this used copy (for $3 plus shipping) arrived in the mail. I'm quite enjoying it. The basic plot is pretty similar to the movie's. The Carole Lombard character is much less elegant, and funnier, and I like Hatch's prose. I haven't finished it yet, so I don't know whether the book is any deeper than the movie (which is not); I'll let you know.

*Actually it was based on Eric Hatch's novel 1101 Park Avenue, so maybe this version of the book was released with this title after the movie came out? Here's a decent synopsis of the movie.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Open Thread

So what have you been reading? Have you liked it? I'm thinking this could be an online equivalent of running into your friends at the library. I sure would like to hear from you, even if you comment anonymously.

Click COMMENTS just below this post.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Next Book Club Meeting

We'll meet on Friday, March 30th, and discuss A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George.

And Now, For Something Completely Different

I recommend this book every chance I get: Copies in Seconds, by David Owen. It's about Chester Carlson, who was instrumental in inventing the Xerox copier.

At a glance, not my typical kind of book. I got it for my father, who eats nonfiction for breakfast. But he talked about it so much that I had to read it.

David Owen does a masterful job of weaving Chester Carlson's life story with history's attempts to make copies of documents, and with the technical details of the process that led up to the first Xerox copier. And as I read it all, I felt as if I understood it. I couldn't possibly explain any of it now, but while I was reading, I wasn't lost in jargon, and the author didn't presume any technical knowledge on the part of the reader.

This book is available at the library now.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Wacko Women in 19th Century Literature

When I learned that book club was discussing Madame Bovary this time, my heart sank. I had already read it--when? high school? college? back when dinosaurs roamed the earth?--and who needed to revisit that old chestnut?

But then two things happened. I picked up the book from the library and discovered that I remembered absolutely nothing from the first chapter. It was all news to me. Then the CD version became available, the one with my all-time favorite narrator, Davina Porter, and I just soaked up the story whenever I got in the car.

I still think Emma Bovary was a twit (which was the only thing I remembered from the first time I read it), but this time everything else hit me--all the different pressures on her, the subtlety with which Flaubert painted her personality and her struggles, and the entertaining cast of supporting characters.

By the end, I was horrified at the devastation that her misdeeds had wrought (though not without help from some other players in the cast), and kept having to remind myself that it was only a book, and that I didn't have to be depressed about the desperation of her life.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Horror Story;
or, They Sucked the Life Out of This One

The book on CD that I mentioned in the first post was Bram Stoker's Dracula, narrated by Alexander Spencer and Susan Adams. I was looking forward to it, since I'd never read it before.

Alexander Spencer's narration starts out all right--a little affected, but listenable. But by the middle of the second CD, when protagonist Jonathan Harker fully realizes his danger, Spencer gets hysterical and unbelievable.

Then, toward the end of the second CD, the narration switches to Harker's fiancee back in London, played by Susan Adams, who, as I mentioned below, has a high-pitched, breathy voice with a suspect British accent.

I will obviously have to read this in hard copy. The writing is great--it just can't stand up against the voices.


I thought this was worth a try.

Probably just like you, I read a lot, and listen to many books on tape and CD. And I really hate wasting time (unless I choose to). Just today I got through the second CD of an audiobook, and I realized that I was not going to be able to stand that narrator. (More on that in a separate post.)

Luckily, the lovely staff at the Bakerville Library keeps a steady stream of material flowing just for us, and I'll stop by and try something else instead.

But what if someone had warned me? What if someone had nudged me and said, "Psst. If you don't like high-voiced, breathy female narrators, or maniacally emotional narrators of either gender, you might want to stay away from that recording of Dracula." I could have tried something else instead (and in fact I did have an alternative in my hand, before I made my decision), and possibly not wasted my time.

When I have time, I'll post reviews of what I've been reading and let you know what I think of the book or the audio. You can leave comments.

If you'd like to post a review of your book exploits (and I'd love it if you would), please e-mail me (jauclair AT with your review, and I'll put it into a post. Please explain exactly why you liked or didn't like the book, so that other people can get the most out of your review. That way I'll know that you happen to like high-voiced, breathy female narrators with fake British accents, and I'll know whether I'm going to like that tape as much as you did.

Or--here's an idea! You can use this space to ask for recommendations for books and audiobooks to take on vacation.

I'm very interested to hear what everyone thinks!

P.S. As with all blogs, comments are subject to my approval. I will go ahead and delete any that are offensive in any way.