Sunday, November 21, 2010

a place to write

I am a lucky girl. For my birthday, my flatmates gave me a beautiful multi-coloured hammock. I'm afraid that, for the moment, it has superseded my armchair.

I lay in it this afternoon, writing in my notebook a review for Halfway Down the Stairs of Isaac Marion's new/upcoming novel, Warm Bodies. Already I can sense that in my hammock there is a good vibe for review-writing.

In it, I hang suspended slightly over the garden, swaying gently in the breeze. I feel isolated, private, but at the same time people walk past the fence immediately beside me and I listen to their voices, thrilled that they don't know I'm there. It's a slight contradiction.

Above me, I see leaves, with sunlight glinting through. In front of me, roses and the deck and my sandaled feet and my rainbow hammock. A butterfly darting about. Cobwebs that were invisible before. I raise my pen and write. The ideas come quickly and freely.

I am going to have to exercise great self-control when it comes to this hammock. I feel that perhaps there should be a fairy tale about a hammock that bewitches those who lie within it, because that is the effect it is having on me.

At least, I suppose, I can read and write in it, with old-fashioned pen and paper. If I read more books because I become addicted to my hammock, is that a bad thing?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

surprise and Audrey Niffenegger

I have to give Audrey Niffenegger credit - she's pretty prolific at producing ... prose. (I am an alliterative machine.) The Time Traveler's Wife, Her Fearful Symmetry, The Three Incestuous Sisters, and now, The Night Bookmobile.

I hated The Time Traveler's Wife, finding it manipulative in its efforts to make the reader bawl - they worked on me but I did not enjoy the migraine that followed! I had high hopes for Her Fearful Symmetry but ended disappointed with it and angry at its characters.

And so I did not expect much from her new graphic novel, The Night Bookmobile. It had the advantage, of course, of being short. Other than that, I did not anticipate enjoying it.

Except that, somehow, I did!

The Night Bookmobile is about a woman who comes across a mobile library as she wanders the streets of her town in the small hours. She enters at the invitation of the librarian, and discovers all the books of her life - everything she has ever read. It is a safe place for her, a place for rediscovery, and she leaves wishing she could stay forever on the night bookmobile. This leads her to make some drastic decisions which I can say no more about for fear of spoiling this whimsical little story.

So yes - I loved it. The artwork is alluring, the story restrained, minimalist, and the words well-chosen and simple. They bring out the pathos of the story much more eloquently than words like "pathos" and "eloquently" might.

I loved the twists and turns of the story. Niffenegger does do twists well, a hallmark of the novels I hated, but perhaps being forced to expend less words on the twists suits her better. It's bittersweet and I'm not quite sure how to feel at the end, but I like feeling this!

Niffenegger's graphics are deceptively simple. I love the way each page is composed. I love the way the light shines off the bald head of the librarian, and the way the lines of the bookshelves swallow you up. I like the way the story is not illustrated obviously, but with little hints at what is happening.

I hereby grant The Night Bookmobile three stars. As many as three because I really did enjoy it. As little as three because part of my pleasure in it was the surprise. I do recommend this book, however, and I expect that I will pick it up fairly often again and enjoy a peaceful fifteen-minute read.

Thanks to Random House New Zealand for the review copy.

the armchair

Welcome to my armchair. My virtual armchair, you could say.

This is my real armchair:

It is not beautiful except in my own eyes. But from its Allie-shaped confines, I plan to read read read. Who knows? I may even write from it.

I hope you will enjoy this, my blog, in which I will be plotting my course through the books of the world and their bookology. I coined the term myself, only to find later that others were before me. Well, I say, let's pretend they weren't. For now, bookology is exactly what I discover it to be.

I don't intend this to be a very tightly-conceived blog. It will be full of reviews, reviews of a motley crew of authors, basically whatever I can get my hands on for free or for very little. So if I review the next Tolstoy one week, don't be surprised if the very next week I am reading Ann M. Martin's latest addition to the Babysitters Club. (I am extremely unlikely to be reviewing anything Ann M. Martin has written, although her books dominated a few years of my childhood. But I don't want to rule anything out.) Expect the unexpected.