Posts Tagged ‘fail’

26th February
2011
written by Steph

The first (and last?) books of 2011

If you’ll recall, I vowed at the start of the year that I was going to refrain from purchasing books and would instead focus on reading books I already own. Obviously, this little pile here is proof that I was unable to keep from bringing new books into our home. I really tried to refrain, but McKay’s did me in once more. In my defense, I will say that I went and traded in some books that I had culled from our shelves and did not leave with more books than I dropped off AND we only had to pay about $2 after getting our trade-in voucher.

So here’s what I wound up with:

  • The Harmony Silk Factory by Tash Aw – One thing that’s been harder for me in terms of sticking to my own books is that I have way more US & and UK authors than I do international authors, so I have felt I’ve been quite limited in my reading scope so far this year. When I read about Tash Aw over at Chasing Bawa recently, I flagged him as an author that I needed to read. I’ve never read a Malaysian author before and think his first novel will be a great introduction.
  • Kiss Kiss/Switch Bitch/My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl – I like that Dahl’s short stories and writing for adults is quite dark and twisted. This seemed like a good investment as it compiles some of his best non-PG work in one handy volume.
  • The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh – Ghosh is another author I’ve been wanting to read and while there were a few of his books at McKay’s I decided to try this one because it spans Burma, India, and Malay, which are all places I’m interested in. I’d like to read more (South East) Asian writers in particular when it comes to reading internationally, so I’m happy to add this to my collection.
  • The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin – We all know that An Object of Beauty made me a big fan of Martin’s fiction writing, so while I’d already snagged a cheap copy of Shopgirl on a past visit to McKay’s it seemed only right that I should also rescue his second novel from the bargain section as well. I’m intrigued by this one because while I’ve heard less about it, some people argue that it’s better than Shopgirl
  • Memento Mori by Muriel Spark – I am on a wicked Muriel Spark kick at the moment. I read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie right before I started blogging back in 2008 and didn’t think much of it. But for whatever reason, I felt compelled to pick it up again and just recently finished a vastly superior re-read of it and now I feel like I must own and read everything Spark has ever written. Was very excited to find this one at McKay’s as many feel this is even better than Jean Brodie.
  • Mantissa and The Collector by John Fowles – I am also obsessed with the idea of John Fowles of late. I haven’t read anything by him, but I feel like I’ve been wanting to challenge myself of late and think his writing may fit the bill. I will probably tackle The French Lieutenant’s Woman again before I try either of these, but I am sure I’ll be happy to have them.

So there you have the proof of my lack of will and resolve. Rather than lashing myself for my bad behavior, I think I shall just look on the bright side about accruing these new lovelies and will satisfy myself with the knowledge that this splurge could have been so much worse. Compared to past expeditions this is a positively restrained and meager haul, wouldn’t you say?

23rd June
2010
written by Steph

This past weekend, Teresa over at Shelf Love posted a brilliant write-up on the difficulties of breaking up with books. There are some people who happily fling books away if they’re not clicking, but some of us are stubborn and faithful, and once we say we’re going to read a book, you practically have to pry it out of our cold, dead hands to get us to stop reading it. Even if we’re not enjoying it one jot.

There are plenty of reasons why one might be reluctant to give up on a book. Maybe you’ve read plenty of great reviews about it, and so you’re convinced it has to get better. Or perhaps you have a guilt complex (and come on, I’m a grad student, so I absolutely do) and you feel like it’s a book you should like or should be able to say you’ve read so pride keeps you going. I fully admit that not all books are easy-going, and sometimes you have to work for your rewards. Some books you struggle and grapple with, only to emerge triumphant and enlightened at the end… while others make you regret the hours you invested. And then there are of course those books that no matter how hard you try, they just fail to have that za za zu (as my friends Trisha & Abby – and also Carrie Bradshaw – would say) and you seem destined to always part with the story unfinished.

Inspired by Sonya Chung’s lists over at The Millions, I thought I’d bogart her idea (and headings) and humbly present my list of triumphs and successes when it comes to the ones that got away, and the ones I should have cut loose. Please share your own successes (and failures!) in the comments! (more…)

21st January
2010
written by Steph

For the past week or so, I’ve been dipping in and out of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (I feel the need to clarify, as if some of you are thinking I would be reading some other Great Expectations by some other author…).  In that time, I’ve made it through about 100 pages, so, not really great progress on my part.  I admit, my life has been busy and I have perhaps not been making reading a priority, but I’m sure that I’ve been letting my reading slide because I haven’t been having fun with this book and don’t particularly look forward to reading it.

Just so we're clear, I'm not supposed to be rooting for Magwitch, right?

Just so we're clear, I'm not supposed to be rooting for Magwitch, right?

I have perhaps not outlined my tortuous past with this book, and that is likely because my past is not all that tortuous with it.  Just that I’ve tried to read the damn thing at least three or four times and I find myself incapable of doing so.  I don’t know why I thought this time would be different, but I was confident I would make it through this time so I could finally say, “Ha, Charles Dickens!  This time I have defeated you!” and then I could FINALLY move on with my life.  But no, once again, Dickens has beat me down.  I knew it was over when I could not longer bring myself to pick up the book, so little did I care about our fair and gentle narrator, Pip Pirrip. Actually, it was worse than that because it was more than simply being complacent or apathetic – no I was beginning to actually hate the book, and was actually preferring lying on the bed staring at the ceiling to reading.  Clearly this situation was not ideal.

So I’m abandoning ship, giving up the ghost, and letting Pip live his maudlin, tragic life in the pages of fiction, all without me present. I feebly dream that some day I may pick this book up and everything will click and I will suddenly get caught up in this epic bildungsroman.  But then, maybe I won’t, and I think I have to make my peace with that.  Because for now, Dickens and I just can’t dance together. It’s hard to pinpoint precisely, I suppose, why one book captures us and another one doesn’t, but here are two reasons why I don’t much care for Great Expectations:

(more…)

7th December
2009
written by Steph

Last Friday I took the afternoon off from work, as Tony and I had a friend coming over on Saturday night and I had big plans.  I was making boeuf bourguignon, you see… And I realize that it’s not in good practice to test out new recipes on guests, but despite being quite labor intensive, I had all the confidence in the world I could pull the dish off.  Now, because BB takes so long to cook (the prep is really pretty easy, but the thing needs to be in the oven for a few hours), I decided I would make it on Friday night and then simply reheat on Saturday evening (as there were no guarantees we would be around for several hours Sat afternoon to start the cooking), and voila: effortless and delicious dinner the evening of!  However, Tony told me he was probably going to have to work late on Friday night, and if that meant him not getting home until 7, well, I didn’t want to have to wait until then to run out and gather the groceries and then start cooking, so we met up for lunch (always fun), and then I drove him back to work and then kept the car to do my errands.

And so began my afternoon as a make-believe housewife.  I have to say that shopping in the middle of the day during the week is actually DELIGHTFUL.  I got a prime spot in the parking lot and the store was far less congested.  Pretty much it was just me, a few elderly people, and lots of housewives.  I was able to zip through the aisles with speed and ease, and all was going smoothly… until I approached the checkout.  Seeing as it was the middle of the day, there were only two cashiers open, and I had to choose between standing behind an older bachelor or an old lady.  I opted for the old lady, because I figured she was probably more well-versed with efficient supermarket checkout.  This was a HUGE MISTAKE.

While it didn’t look like she had a ton of items, her final bill wound up being $118… and this was after she had spent about 2 – 3 minutes scrounging about in her change purse in order to find her coupons (many of them for a measly 25¢…) that saved her a grand total of $3.50.  SERIOUSLY.  I am all for bargain shopping (Tony was greatly amused the first time we went to the grocery store and I would swap out products for those just a few cents cheaper…), but I do that when there isn’t a huge line of people behind me!  Plus, it’s not like she didn’t have plenty of time to have these coupons in hand before her final bill came up!  She certainly had enough time to have an awkward conversation (loudly, natch) on her cellphone while her items were being rung up.

And then, the icing on the cake of rage: SHE PAID WITH A CHECK.  People, I cannot tell you how enraged I get when people pay for things at the grocery store with a check.  Why do this? Clearly you have a debit card, and if for some reason you don’t have the funds in your account at that exact moment in time, you can still choose the credit option!  Seriously, WTF?!?  If you use a check, it takes aaaaages, because you have to fill the whole thing out, and then they have to see your i.d. (despite carrying a purse, hers was stowed away in her fanny pack), and what should have been a 30-second process has now taken 5 minutes.  Haaaaaaaate.

Just in case I wasn’t clear enough, I will repeat myself for clarity’s sake: When grocery shopping, DO NOT USE A CHECK TO PAY FOR YOUR PURCHASES.  It is unforgivably horrible of you, and all the joking and bashful smiles at the snaking line of people behind you doesn’t make it better.  In fact, it makes it worse because all that time you spend “gee whizzing” over how expensive groceries are today and simpering about how you’re sorry for holding up the line just means you are wasting more of my time.  Here’s an idea: rather than feeling bad about holding up the line, how about you just don’t do it?  Gah!

Needless to say, after that experience, my trip to the nearby wine store was a necessity… and I don’t regret walking out with three bottles when I only needed one!

And because I know you were all wondering, yes, the boeuf bourguignon was a success, which did much to soothe my fiery rage (but clearly not enough that I felt the check/coupon incident was no longer a bloggable offense!).