Saturday, October 22, 2011

the big sleep

I am going to fall far short of reviewing Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep appropriately. I simply can't bring myself to even attempt to describe it in its own terms. It's probably better that I don't try. Here is your review, written by a middle-class New Zealand ex-English literature student who has finished everything Agatha Christie or Ngaio Marsh ever wrote and so needed some new crime fiction addiction - and got something worlds apart from Miss Marple.

I saw the Bogart film a few years ago - liked it but can hardly remember what happened, which was good in terms of reading the novel with an open mind.

As far as the novel goes, I wondered as I started if I would be able to keep going. It's written very simply and in a matter of fact manner which is difficult to get accustomed to:
I went over to the mail slot and picked up six envelopes, two letters and four pieces of advertising matter. I hung my hat on the telephone and sat down.
But then there are all the crazy similes and personification and turns of phrase, the proliferation of guns and gutter-dwellers, the underbelly of society presented on the page, and it gets interesting:
She approached me with enough sex appeal to stampede a businessman's lunch.

The air was thick, wet, steamy and larded with the cloying smell of tropical orchids in bloom. ... They smelled as overpowering as boiling alcohol under a blanket.

The calves were beautiful, the ankles long and slim and with enough melodic line for a tone poem.

She gave me one of those smiles the lips have forgotten before they reach the eyes.

Brody's dark brown stare moved up and down my face. His Colt went on hungering for my vital organs.

... against a scribbled wall a pouch of ringed rubber had fallen and not been disturbed.

"Eddie Mars had Regan bumped off," he said calmly, and leaned back as if he had just been made a vice-president.

The purring voice had an edge, like sand in the bearings.

"You'll tell me, little man. Here, or in the back room where the boys pitch dimes against the wall."
Then there's the private detective/street talk which much of the time was incomprehensible to me but worked all the same:
"Agnes is a nice girl. You can't hold that stuff on her. It's not so easy for a dame to get by these days."
"She's too big for you," I said. "She'll roll on you and smother you."
"That's kind of a dirty crack, brother," he said with something that was near enough to dignity to make me stare at him.
I said: "You're right. I've been meeting the wrong kind of people lately. Let's cut out the gabble and get down to cases. What have you got for the money?"
Did people ever actually talk like this? I almost hope so.

What bugged me about this novel, however, was Chandler's treatment both of homosexuals and women. I'm sure this is not an original complaint to make, because it's so pronounced a quality of this book. It kind of reminded me of Ian Fleming's treatment of women.
You can have a hangover from other things than alcohol. I had one from women. Women made me sick.
Well, excuse me, Mr Chandler, none of the men in your novel are glittering testimonies to mankind either. And don't even get me started on your repulsive characterisation of the homosexual kid.

It doesn't really have a strong plot, either, and was a little confusing to follow. Especially as it's difficult to understand what the heck the characters are talking about.

I can't deny this, though: the book is fun. I'm not sorry to have read it. There was something deliciously sordid about it. It deserves at least three stars.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I've linked to Jen Campbell (otherwise known as aeroplanegirl on twitter) and her blog many times now. Among other things, she brought us the hilarious "Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops" series, which is soon to be published as a book.

Jen has a condition called EEC Syndrome, which causes gradual blindness in those affected by it. You can read about her experience of it here. She is fundraising for research into degenerative eye conditions in a very cool way - writing 100 poems over the course of one weekend in November - and you can sponsor her at this link.

This is a cause that could radically change the lives of many many people, but it's hardly well-known, or sexy, as charitable causes go. Why not support research in a new and interesting way and support Jen's poetry with as small or large a donation as you can muster?

Monday, October 10, 2011


What I learned from authors, part I

I've been thinking about what I've learned from other authors when it comes to lessons for my own writing.

To start off, and inspired by my friend and former flatmate, Jessica, who has written and illustrated her own children's book, I bring you a blog post with some actual quotable quotes about writing, by writers, which have been thought-provoking for me.

A writer is someone on whom nothing is lost. - Henry James
This is one of the few quotes about writing in which I first saw myself. It was an encouraging moment, to realise why I write and to understand that it's not necessarily normal to notice as much as I notice.

Often, I think writing is a sheer paring away of oneself, leaving always something thinner, barer, more meagre. - F. Scott Fitzgerald
Well, I certainly felt this way after my finishing my thesis, although I suspect that I would invest even more of myself in a novel.

Human language is like the cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, when all the time we are longing to move the stars to pity. - Gustave Flaubert
There's something ironic about this quote, in that it's written so beautifully even as it mourns for the absence of a completely satisfying language. I like that. One has to remember that although perfection is so far from one's grasp, it is still possible to write magically.

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. - Red Smith
Reading this was one of the first times I realised that my vision of becoming an author was not a very romantic vision.

I... do not think the worse of him for having a brain so very different from mine. ... And he deserves better treatment than to be obliged to read any more of my works. - Jane Austen
At first when reading this I thought of V. S. Naipaul and his comments about women writers, and I thought about how comparatively gracious Jane Austen was in this sense. Then I also learned an important lesson - not everybody needs to like your writing.

I was working on the proof of one of my poems all morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again. - Oscar Wilde
OK, so I haven't quite got this far yet, but I certainly empathise and can see this in my future!

A man's got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book. - Ernest Hemingway
Verification from one of the "great writers" that the literature that is not usually seen as "high" can be the most difficult to write.

And now for a quote I disagree with:
Writing is a cop-out. An excuse to live perpetually in fantasy land, where you can create, direct, and watch the products of your own head. Very selfish. - Monica Dickens
Now, I don't like this quote so much, because I think that writers are perpetually bound to reality, even the writers that produce fantasy or science fiction or the like. Writing is hard work and then on top of that the "real world" is constantly standing over you, hammering you with its reality cudgel until you bleed, trying to make your writing work.

What have you learned from the advice that other authors have given?

Friday, September 30, 2011

reading paint VIII

some of my favourite works of art with reading in them, which I have not yet shown you

Paul Serusier, 'La Grammaire'

Vittorio Reggianini, 'The poetry reading'

Coles Phillips, 'Woman reading a book'

Attilio Baccani, 'Lady reading a book'

Budapest statue, 'Anonymous'
I took this photo in Budapest in September 2009.

Phil Winsloe, 'Reading in the chapel'

Edward Hopper, 'Compartiment C, Voiture 193'

Sigmund Hampel, title unknown

Francesco Pige, 'The portrait of Penelope Deligiorghis-Drossini'

Edward Cucuel, 'The novel'

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

poetry from a pile of books

This is an idea stolen/borrowed/taken from Jen of This is Not the Six Word Novel. Before that it came from a long list of other people which I won't repeat here but it originated with the writer Tahereh Mafi.

I'm so ridiculously bad at poetry. But this idea was so cool that I ended up doing it anyway. I encourage you to do the same. I'm sure yours will be much better.



OUT OF THE STORM we inhabit










Thursday, September 15, 2011

reading paint VII

when reading is all about the position

Pablo Picasso, 'Reclining woman reading'

Gustave Caillebotte, 'Interior, Woman Reading'

Justin Wiest, unknown title

Balthus, 'The living room'

Oliver Ray, 'Girl Reading'

Ye Liu, 'Banned Book'

Henri Lebasque, 'A Woman Reading'

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 'Woman Reading'

Marie Fox, 'Woman at Beach Reading'

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

jane eyre

I am very excited about the new Jane Eyre movie, which is opening on Thursday here in New Zealand and has already opened elsewhere. She is one of my most-loved heroines and one of my favourite books of ALL TIME. To the extent that one of the questions I consider when thinking about any member of the opposite sex - is he my St. John or my Rochester? (Embarrassing to admit, but you get the idea.)

So, of course, I am haunting the Guardian's books pages. There was this extremely interesting article about 'the rise and rise of Brontëmania', for one thing. It talks about the response of the Victorian public to the novel, about the myths and realities of lives of the Brontë women, and about the mysteries that still surround aspects of the Brontë legacy.

Then there was this opinion piece with a 'Clever' Pun in the title: 'There is no Eyre of feminism about this modern Jane'.

I am unconvinced.

In both cases, however, it's almost as interesting to read the comments as it was to read the articles. One of the fascinating things about the novel Jane Eyre is its capacity to produce completely different interpretations from different people. In some cases, I would argue they've misunderstood what Charlotte Brontë intended; in other cases, I love that instead of sledgehammering us over the head with a moral-of-the-story, Brontë allowed us to make up our own minds, and this breadth of opinion is a marker of that.

Whatever one's opinion, if it's about Jane Eyre it seems to be a strong one. But the novel also instills in so many people a fierce affection for its deserving heroine and flawed yet sympathetic hero. And I was really happy to read one comment on the Guardian opinion piece about feminism and the novel that put my own feelings about Jane Eyre into better words than I ever could have:

Thanks to Guardian reader 'kauri' who hopefully will not mind me reproducing her/his awesome thoughts here! (I say 'awesome' because I agree with them and feel excited by them!)

I have no idea when I will get to see the film, as I am currently disastrously short on cash, but the film will be seen! And it will be reviewed on this blog!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

libraries are expensive EXPANSIVE

I am completely in love with this story.

It is of a mysterious paper/book sculptor who has been leaving beautiful sculptures around literary service providers in Edinburgh, as encouragement and "in support of libraries, books, words, ideas". No one knows who this person is but they are, without a doubt, talented, creative and generous. It's not only a wonderful thought but each item is executed so beautifully.

Some of the sculptures are below:

a 'poetree'

See all the sculptures so far at this link.

Edinburgh's STV reports here.

And The Guardian reports here.

Friday, September 9, 2011

the cat's table

When I first picked up The Cat's Table, my only thoughts were: what a great cover. I didn't know that Michael Ondaatje was eminent or renowned in any way as a writer. It's only as I've come across a few reviews since I started reading it that it's become clear that this is the case.

And I'm glad I didn't know this, as I was able to read the book without expectations of any kind. As it happened, without being told that I should like the book, I was sucked into it from the start. It's odd, because usually I criticise books that don't have a clear, strong plot arc. And the structure of this is certainly not clear, but it is masterful. Moreover, the writing is amazingly precise and unpretentious while it is also compelling, beautiful.

The Cat's Table is the story of a different Michael, an eleven-year-old boy in the 1950s who crosses the oceans between Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka) and London in the Oronsay, to join the mother he has not seen for four or five years. The journey is a mere three weeks - but it is remarkable for the people Michael studies and grows to understand as they sit at what is called 'the Cat's Table', the least important group of diners on board the ship. While Michael is 'bursting around the place like freed mercury' with his friends Ramadhin and Cassius, the journey is having an indelible effect on their lives to come.

I know now that this is Ondaatje's sixth novel. Apparently it is a "notable departure" from his other work. It also has an autobiographical tinge to it - Ondaatje himself took the same journey as a boy - but the writer explains: "Although the novel sometimes uses the colouring and locations of memoir and autobiography, The Cat's Table is fictional - from the captain and the crew and all its passengers on the boat down to the narrator."

I loved the book. It's very readable, very engrossing. The adventures of Michael and his comrades are absorbing and funny and sometimes shocking. I particularly enjoyed Michael's forays into thievery, and the time he and Cassius strap themselves spreadeagled to the ship in order to watch a storm.

This isn't just a list of amusing stories about three disobedient little boys, however. It's written thoughtfully, by an older man looking back and fighting to recover memories and questions from the time. Always, underneath what is going on, is Michael's broken family life, his hidden confusion, and his dislocation from his Eastern home and movement towards the most English city in the world.

The most interesting thing about the book for me was the way it records lessons that the boys learned, subconsciously, about the people that were around them. I loved the introductions to different characters, all of whom were considered with some depth for their most interesting qualities. The intriguing Miss Lasqueti. Mr Hastie, with his tall stories. The beautiful and generous Emily. The deaf girl, Asuntha. Sir Hector de Silva, the millionaire under a curse, travelling to England with a retinue of servants to find a cure for his hydrophobia. Mr Daniels, with his secret collection of plants hidden in the bowels of the ship.

In any case, it seemed to us that nearly all at our table, from the silent tailor, Mr Gunesekera, who owned a shop in Kandy, to the entertaining Mr Mazappa, to Miss Lasqueti, might have an interesting reason for their journey, even if it was unspoken or, so far, undiscovered. In spite of this, our table's status on the Oronsay continued to be minimal, while those at the Captain's Table were constantly toasting one another's significance. That was a small lesson I learned on the journey. What is interesting and important happens mostly in secret, in places where there is no power. Nothing much of lasting value ever happens at the head table, held together by a familiar rhetoric. Those who already have power continue to glide along the familiar rut they have made for themselves.

The novel is just as remarkable for its writing, which brings moments before us like photographs or feelings. It is always possible to see through Michael's eyes, and to understand why a moment is beautiful or interesting to him. It is encouraging to read novels that are simply yet beautifully written, readable, unassuming - that don't try too hard to be clever - and still manage to be breath-taking.

It's four stars from me.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

reading paint VI

men reading

Odilon Redon, 'Alsace, or Monk reading'

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 'Claude Monet Reading'

Peter Samuelson, 'Robin with friend and Trixie, 1952'

Georg Friedrich Kersting, 'Man Reading by Lamplight'

Girolamo Parmigianino, Portrait of a Man with a Book

Francois Vispre, 'Portrait of a Man Reading'

Yi Ming, 'Reading the Book "The Three Kingdoms" at Midnight'

Jan Kupecky, 'Portrait of a Man'

Henri Girault de Nolhac, 'Pierre du Nolhac, conservateur du musée de Versailles'

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

the great gatsby

I am so very overly excited to hear that Baz Lurhmann is filming a new version of The Great Gatsby, due to be released in 2012!

Sometimes I am not excited to hear about interpretations of my favourite novels, especially when they have already been made into a perfectly good movie. In this case, one look at the cast was enough to drive up my expectations.

I loved the earlier film, made in 1974. There were a few things that annoyed me about it. It seemed to move quite slowly and it didn't always capture that sense of dazzling excitement of some chapters of the novel. I'm not sure that Nick Carraway's narration always worked - always the problem with adapting a first-person observer novel. However, there was something about it that clicked. The cast was excellent, for one thing.

So here are the actors - class of 1974 and class of 2012.

Robert Redford, and Leonardo DiCaprio, as Jay Gatsby.
Now that I've heard that Leonardo is Gatsby, I wonder if anyone else could possibly have been cast in that role. He just seems to be the perfect fit. My fingers are firmly crossed that he will bring to the role that handsome pleasantness that Gatsby needs but also the fierce hidden longing. The determined optimism. And that sense of unknowability, if that is a word - the sense that he is slightly too smooth.

Mia Farrow and Carey Mulligan, as Daisy Buchanan.
Mia Farrow was my favourite thing about the older movie. She captured Daisy's charm. She was like champagne, a butterfly, fragile and effervescent. But she also perfectly captured Daisy's famous carelessness. I feel optimistic that Carey Mulligan will also be able to bring her own unique interpretation of Daisy to the role.

Sam Waterston and Tobey Maguire, as Nick Carraway.
Tobey Maguire seems to be another excellent casting - Nick is such an important character, and he seems to have all the necessary requisites. He does well in roles that are slightly idealistic, slightly invisible, upstanding without being moralistic, and very likeable.

Bruce Dern and Joel Edgerton, as Tom Buchanan.
I've never seen Joel Edgerton in a movie, but I feel optimistic just looking at him. I always felt that Bruce Dern's Tom was a little too comical. In the books there is that element in his character, but he also seems slightly more sinister to me. Joel Edgerton will (hopefully) bring an extra edge of arrogance and chauvinism to his portrayal of Tom. (And if you happen to read this, Joel, I don't mean to say that you look particularly chauvinistic and arrogant!!!)

Karen Black and Isla Fisher, as Myrtle Wilson.
I hope that Isla Fisher will do really well as Myrtle Wilson. She has the potential to play characters who are vulgar, slightly unlikeable and comedic very well.

I will be really interested to see how the filmmakers deal with the more minor characters such as George Wilson or Jordan Baker. But so far the casting looks excellent, and the only thing I am sad about is that I will have to wait all the way into next year to see this movie.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


In a mirror image to my last post on Harry Potter, I now bring you my top ten most LOATHED Harry Potter characters. It will not include Lord Voldemort because he is just too obvious - too purely evil.

1. Dolores Umbridge
One of the things I think J. K. Rowling does really well is to show the range of human nastiness. Good and evil are complicated. I will always remember the line from Order of the Phoenix, in reference to this particularly repulsive character - "The world is not made up of good people and Death Eaters, Harry."

2. Fenrir Greyback
This werewolf - so different to Remus Lupin - sends shivers up my spine.

3. Marvolo Gaunt
A hideous character who sums up everything that JKR wants to show us is wrong with the wizarding world.

4. Rita Skeeter
I love it when famous people get their own back on the paparazzi by creating loathsome (while hilarious) characters like this.

5. Marjorie Dursley
HORRID. Deserved to be blown up and float away.

6. Vernon Dursley
Not so high on the list as Marjorie... but a true redneck. I do sometimes end up feeling a little sorry for him.

7. Nagini
Is it okay to loathe creatures?

8. Bellatrix Lestrange
This seems like a bit of a cop-out, but really - she is just so foul. And she killed Sirius. And tortured Neville's parents. Eminently loath-able.

9. Pansy Parkinson
Not sure why I'm picking on her in particular of all the Slytherins but she seemed to be the quintessential bully-type kid, without any of the excuses Malfoy might have to have turned out nasty. And the fact that her name was so saccharine made her seem even worse.

10. Mrs Norris
I can't bring myself to dislike poor old Filch... but his tattle-tale cat is just horrid. On the other hand, she would be in my top ten J. K. Rowling character name choices (and JKR does names very well).

Would you agree with this list? Would you add or remove anyone?

Friday, September 2, 2011

the flower to the painter

September is here, and with it a new edition of Halfway Down the Stairs!

See my Surviving History blog post for all my favourites and recommendations.

My contribution to Halfway Down the Stairs this time was a review of Gary Inbinder's new novel, The Flower to the Painter.

Gary is one of our previous authors. His story 'Her Reflection' was published in 'Time', our June issue of HDtS, and he kindly sent me a copy of his novel to enjoy and review.

It's the story of a young American woman in the late 1870s, who is left destitute in Italy after she is fired by the family which employed her as governess. Armed with nothing but her wits, she agrees to impersonate a man in order to apply for a job as an assistant to another American, an author called Arthur Wolcott.

As a woman, her artistic skills were never allowed to be more than "quite pretty", but when Wolcott discovers her talent, it becomes clear that her skills are much more valuable when she is disguised as a man. Wolcott leads her around Italy, France and England, introducing her to influential artists and wealthy patrons, and for a time it seems like she will become the "next big thing".

You can read my full review here.

I give the book three stars.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Snape? really?

Recently, 13,000 people voted on their favourite Harry Potter characters. The results can be found here, if you're interested. And what do you know? Snape was the Winner.

Now, not that I have anything against Snape, but I just don't see him as that person. After I finally deigned to read the first novel in my last few years of school (2003, 2004), I fell in love with the novels and ABSORBED them into my being. I read them over and over, I researched them, I joined Mugglenet and debated anything about the books on the forums and tried to earn virtual Galleons, I became intensely angry when I heard uninformed anti-Harry-Potter sentiment, I sent J. K. Rowling letters.

And I definitely remember spending entire lunch breaks (and a surprising amount of the next period as well) debating the best characters with my friends Katie and Jenna. Snape just didn't cut it.

Of course, we'd only made it up to book four at this stage. And we were basing our opinions on the books we'd read, not on the treacle tones of Alan Rickman.

I have to admit that I did come across one obsessive Snape fan. This was after I had formed a yahoo group for Christians who love Harry Potter (naturally), and we had one member who furiously insisted that Snape was still a good guy even after he killed Dumbledore. She turned out to be right. But I didn't take her opinion very seriously after she also insisted that Harry and Hermione should have fallen in love, not Ron and Hermione, because this was the 'biblical model'. Er, if you say so.

Anyway. The point is, I think Snape is a good character, and one of the most interesting characters. He's the sort of character you can really get your teeth into in a good debate. In the end, his story is rather irresistible. He also has the fact that he is a not an angsty teenager going for him, especially in books 4 or 5. But he's not really the sort of character one warms to. He's just not "Favourite" material, at least, not number one favourite.

And it's not just that. What are characters like the Dementors doing in the Top 40, for crying out loud? Or Lucius Malfoy? Crabbe and Goyle?! DOLORES UMBRIDGE?!?!

So I am going to fix the Favourite Harry Potter Character List. The Guardian shows the top 40; so will I.

Oh, and hello to all the Snape fans making their way here from sites like this or this. I think perhaps the "sour grapes" might be yours, but, if not, thank you for putting up with my "tantrum" and allowing that sometimes people have different opinions. It has been approximately three months since I last read through the series. And please don't call me "Hon".


If you read what I've written without a pre-determined conclusion in mind, you would notice that I absolutely agree that Snape is an important character, a great character. I just don't want him to be my BFF.

I invite you to leave your comments about MY juvenility, arrogance and/or complete wrongness here, to my face, non-anonymously, as opposed to the completely grown-up and academically-sound method of preaching vitriol to the choir on your forums.

(By the way, however, I am willing to admit that my definition of "favourite" is slightly skewed. For me, it does signify the HP characters for whom I feel an affection. Actually, if I were to make a Top 40 list of All Fictional Characters and choose them based on their well-roundedness or fascination, Snape might just be on it. I just felt like doing it this way, this time, and it's not supposed to be read as a studied insult to Snape. There. I hope my apology is accepted.)

Here are my choices. They are all based on the characters of the books, not the presentations of those characters in the movies.

1. Hermione Granger - because she saves the world through bookishness

2. Luna Lovegood - because she is too delightful for words

3. Harry Potter - a true Gryffindor! I think we all see a little of ourselves in him.

4. Rubeus Hagrid - who couldn't love him?

5. Gilderoy Lockhart - the star of The Chamber of Secrets, which is, in my opinion, the funniest book

6. Minerva McGonagall - I love her. Especially when she marshals an army of desks, or charges off to stop people arresting Hagrid.

7. Augusta Longbottom, Neville's grandmother - so she doesn't get much coverage - but what she gets is enough to place her in the top ten. What a great character. Strong women for the win.

8. Arthur Weasley - for many reasons but this is one of them:
He looked around, saw Harry and jumped.
'Good Lord, is it Harry Potter? Very pleased to meet you, Ron's told us so much about -'
'Your sons flew that car to Harry's house and back last night!' shouted Mrs Weasley. 'What have you got to say about that, eh?'
'Did you really?' said Mr Weasley eagerly. 'Did it go all right? I-I mean,' he faltered, as sparks flew from Mrs Weasley's eyes, 'that-that was very wrong, boys - very wrong indeed...'
'Let's leave them to it,' Ron muttered to Harry, as Mrs Weasley swelled like a bullfrog.
9. Sirius Black - only this low on the list because he annoyed me so much in book five. He is pretty fantastic though.

10. Ron Weasley - who is a good friend but whose insecurities drove me a bit mad

11. Mad-Eye Moody - is it wrong that he makes it this far up the list mostly because of Barty Crouch Jr's interpretation of him?

12. Neville Longbottom - we all love Neville, right?

13. Albus Dumbledore - whimsical, wise, powerful, and compassionate - but also very flawed. I've moved him down the list because I realised that I didn't like a lot of the things we found out about him later, especially that he'd been planning Harry's eventual death from early on. I know it all worked out in the end but this lent a certain chilliness to his kindness.

14. Colin Creevey - a wonderful character. He was the most distressing part of the end of book 7.

15. Lily Potter - somehow she manages to be wonderful from beyond the grave

16. Dobby - I think it's the Harry-Potter-ized Christmas baubles that cemented Dobby's place in my heart

17. Hedwig - a constant companion for Harry

18. Remus Lupin - he would have been higher had he not got so moody later on

19. Fred Weasley - the Weasley twins together are rather wonderful. Especially in their business ventures.

20. George Weasley

21. Molly Weasley - as generous and warm as her name suggests

22. Fleur Delacour - for her unexpected warm-heartedness

23. Peeves - for his finest hour:
Fred looked across the hall at the poltergeist bobbing on his level above the crowd.
'Give her hell from us, Peeves.'
And Peeves, who Harry had never seen take an order from a student before, swept his belled hat from his head and sprang to a salute ...
24. Sybill Trelawney - for whom you can't help feeling a slightly annoyed affection
Professor Trelawney broke into hysterical sobs during Divination and announced to the startled class, and a very disapproving Umbridge, that Harry was not going to suffer an early death after all, but would live to a ripe old age, become Minister for Magic and have twelve children.
25. Mundungus Fletcher - I love him despite his faults. His name helps.

26. Severus Snape - And here he is. A great character.

27. Nearly Headless Nick - Poor old Nick and his desire to join the Hunt. His Deathday Feast is one of my favourite Harry Potter scenes.

28. James Potter - Almost but not quite as charming as his wife

29. Kreacher - Yes, this is strange, but first you feel sorry for him and then he becomes nice - it's a winning combination.

30. Stan Shunpike - I wish Stan hadn't been Imperiused. But he and his pimples have a firm place in my heart regardless.

31. Narcissa Malfoy - Now this is strange. And yet she, like Snape, is a complicated character. Not entirely irredeemable.

32. Horace Slughorn - is hilarious

33. Grawp - his piteous cry for "HAGGER! HAGGER!" left tears in my eyes

34. Dudley Dursley - almost for his name alone

35. Percy Weasley - for the comedy at his expense in the first few books. For his eventual redemption from bureaucracy at the end.

36. Lee Jordan - almost as funny as Fred and George

37. Griselda Marchbanks - for siding with Dumbledore in the Wizengamot

38. Draco Malfoy - I can't really bring myself to feel VERY sorry for Draco... but I feel like he deserves to be in the top 40

39. Dedalus Diggle - for his part in book 1

40. Professor Flitwick - for always being cheerful, and for being able to levitate

Who are your favourites?

Coming up - most loathed Harry Potter characters.

Monday, August 29, 2011

reading paint V

reading outside

Matthieu Wiegman, 'Reading Woman'

Gustave Caillebotte, 'The Orange Trees'

Adelaide Giannini, 'Sul Balcone'

Winslow Homer, 'Sunlight and Shadow'

August Macke, 'Man reading in a park'

Henri Matisse, 'Woman Reading in a Garden'

Peder Kroyer, 'Die Frau des Künstlers im Garten in Skagen'

Claude Monet, 'Camille Reading'

I loved putting this blog post together, because spring is on its way here in Christchurch and I am eagerly looking forward to getting out my hammock and tying it up under the blossom for some quality reading time.