Posts Tagged ‘meta reading’

20th June
2011
written by Steph

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need a break from “serious” fiction. Literary, prize-winning fiction (or at least books that aspire to that level) tends to make up the bulk of my reading diet, and while I wouldn’t have it any other way, there are times when I really just need to read something fun and frivolous and give my brain a break. Normally in such times, I turn to mysteries or something funny, so what could be better than a funny mystery? Would the melding of the two make for something larger than life (and supremely awesome) or would the two beloved factors wind up at war with one another and produce something lesser than the some of its individual parts? (more…)
8th December
2010
written by Steph

Why oh why don’t more people read Kate Atkinson? That is what I found myself wondering as I put down my most recent Atkinson novel, Emotionally Weird, a novel I can really only describe as a triumph of literary imagination. I know that some people get all in a tizzy over Atkinson’s detective fiction starring Jackson Brodie, but I admit that this always makes me grumpy, mostly because I think Atkinson’s non-mystery fiction is so superior. And I’m not just trampling on her whodunnits for the sake of being crabby; I legitimately think Atkinson writes whip-smart novels that make me giddy and make me marvel but I think she does her best work when she’s writing whatever this kind of novel is and not when she’s writing about smoking guns and missing persons and whathaveyou. She’s one of those authors who uses her books to truly create something that’s just slightly larger than life, which means her writing is always a real treat to escape into. (more…)
21st September
2010
written by Steph

Scarlett Thomas is an author who has intrigued me for a while. I’ve heard good things about her last novel, The End of Mr. Y, and my friend Trisha really enjoys her writing, so when I saw that NetGalley had copies of her newest novel, Our Tragic Universe up for review, I hastily requested a copy. I didn’t really know what to expect, but suspected I’d be in for a relatively cerebral but quirky read. I was right. Our Tragic Universe is a novel that’s incredibly difficult to summarize, because it is largely a novel that is filled with ideas, and one that frequently verges into metafictional territory. Loosely speaking, the novel centers around struggling writer, Meg Carpenter. After experiencing some nominal literary success during her early 20s, Meg has since been wrestling with writing a proper, serious novel. Unfortunately, Meg has been much more productive writing pulp fiction, formulaic novels under the name of Zeb Ross, a job that does little to address her creative ambitions but manages to pay the bills. Meg’s boyfriend has no income of his own (volunteering on heritage restoration sites), so in a bid to make ends meet, Meg also writes the occasional book review for newspapers. To this end, Meg picks up a copy of a self-help book called The Science of Living Forever, which claims we are all immortal and that the universe is just a creation meant to allow us to live every possible permutation of the hero’s journey before we finally ascend to a higher plane. Initially Meg dismisses the book as nonsense, but when she begins investigating other self-help books for a larger editorial piece, she finds some unexpected answers to questions she didn’t even realize she had… (more…)
30th August
2010
written by Steph

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace is one of those books that I guess you could say is on my bucket list; last year when the Infinite Summer readalong was taking place, I was sorely tempted to give it a try, but I know that massively long doorstop books are just not my style. And yes, I was woefully intimidated. While I wanted to read Wallace, I wondered if Infinite Jest was really the best place for me to start... I decided it wasn’t and instead decided I’d try Wallace’s first, and much shorter, novel, The Broom of the System, on for size and see how it fit. Rather than cannonballing (or bellyflopping, let’s be honest) into the deep end, I figured I’d spend some time wading about in the paddling pool instead. If Infinite Jest is a full marathon, I’d say Broom is a half-marathon. It may look considerably slimmer than its successor, but you’d be foolish to consider this a trifling 5K. It starts off simply enough, with a fun chapter involving college party shenanigans, and while the novel certainly has a healthy dose of the absurd coursing through it, this is not a light or flippant novel. (more…)
22nd April
2010
written by Steph

Elizabeth Costello is a strange novel.  In fact, some might argue that it is not really a novel at all; there were certainly times when I thought so.  It is probably as far from a conventional narrative as one can get, taking the form instead of a series of essays, linked in many ways only by the recurring eponymous Elizabeth Costello figure.  Through Elizabeth, Coetzee is able to examine various different philosophical quandaries, such as animal rights, consciousness, goal of literature, censorship, culture as a formative factor in identity, and sexuality, just to name a few. Needless to say, it’s an ambitious work, one that requires an inordinately skilled author in order to carry it off successfully. (more…)
22nd May
2009
written by Steph
Quick question for all my fellow readers out there (while I go about finishing up some reading so I can post some new content): what do you do when you're reading along happily and you're thrown for a lexical loop?  By which I mean, you come across a word that you don't know!  Horror of horrors, I know!  Do you: a) try to divine on your own what the word means? b) pause to look the word up right away? c) jot it down on a pad for later investigation, so as to leave the flow of your reading more or less uninterrupted? or d)  just barrel on through the confusion and continue with your reading, never to think on the word again...? I'm curious, because lately I've been reading things where I've been encountering unfamiliar words. I've used all of the tactics above, but none of them are all that satisfying for me.  I feel like it's a great opportunity for me to learn a new word, but more often than not, I look the word up right away, only to later forget what the word was and also what it meant.  I suppose this strategy is fine in terms of making sure I fully understand the slippery sentence I've just read, and it's not all that obtrusive (given online dictionaries, weird words can be looked up in seconds), but I feel like I'm missing out on the chance to expand my vocabulary AND it doesn't circumvent the need to look the word up again should I re-encounter it in the future.  If I jot the word down for later exploration, I'm stuck with not necessarily knowing the word in the context of what I've read (and my memory isn't so good that upon later looking the word up, I'll flash back to how it was used in the book, suddenly suffusing me with insight).  What's a girl to do? Tell me your tips and tricks for dealing with weird words and how you make them stick!