What’s in a Name? Challenge #5: Wrap-Up/ Challenge #6 Sign-Up

Ah, it’s time for my post-prandial wrap-up in the What’s in a Name? Challenge! So far, I’ve read for five out of the six categories; but by December 31, I expect to have completed the entirety of the challenge. This past year, the six categories were:

  • A book with something you’d find in your pocket/purse/backpack in the title: 
The Scarlet Letter (by Nathaniel Hawthorne)

I read like a mad woman over the first week-end of 2012 and posted my review on January 3 and; unbelievably, there were others who beat me not only in posting to this category; but in completing the challenge! It was a great reminder that this is not a competition! There are no prizes other than the reward of reading! So yes, I still won! 😀

Anyway, right after reading The Scarlet Letter, I promptly set to re-reading The Handmaid’s Tale (by Margaret Atwood) and Nini Holmqvist’s The Unit, and then onward to listening to When She Woke (by Hillary Jordan; narrated by Heather Corrigan.) I also went on to read more of Margaret Atwood’s works (Alias Grace and The Blind Assassin) and later in the year, The Wordy Shipmates (by Sarah Vowell.) It should also be noted that I drafted several long essays about society and morality and women and stuff and, on this Thanksgiving week-end, trust me, you should be glad that I didn’t bore you to tears by actually publishing any of it 🙂

  • A book with something you’d find on a calendar in the title:
(by Margaret Atwood; narrated by Bernadette Dunne, Katie McNichol and Mark Bramhall; featuring music and lyrics by Margaret Atwood and performed by Orville Stoeber)

More Margaret Atwood! I’m not sure, but I’m pretty sure I could have done most of this challenge just using Margaret Atwood titles (Snake PoemsThe PenelopiadMorning in the Burned House) except that I didn’t think of it until now. Also, I can’t seem to think of an Atwood title with a topographical feature in the title, so it would have blown the idea up anyway :-/

After reading Oryx and Crake, I was actually pretty mad at Margaret Atwood. In the Handmaid’s Tale, I thought the epilogue was a few too sentences too many; but with O&A, not nearly enough sentences were written. I mean, really, would it have killed her to write one more sentence at the end to give us a sense of, well, an ending? Well, she did write a sentence more. Actually she wrote The Year of the Flood and it answers all of the questions raised in O&A for which I was grateful. Maddaddam, the third novel in the series is slated to be published in 2013, and while I’m looking forward to it as an expansion of the world that Atwood created, I don’t need to read it to get a sense of closure.

  • A book with something you’d see in the sky in the title:

This review for this novella was the last review I wrote on this blog. It’s not very good; but it’s short. I point this out in the context of the next next two books for which I wrote no reviews:

  • A book with a topographical feature in the title:
Tortilla Flat
(by John Steinbeck)

I wanted to love this novella. I really did. Having been to Monterrey, CA, I loved the idea of having an actual place to connect with the setting of the book. And really, come on! John Steinbeck! Who hasn’t been moved by The Grapes of Wrath, The Red Pony and/or Of Mice and Men? Also, the jacket blurb offered something along the lines of an Arthurian tale: “Like the Knights of the Round Table, the dreamers who gather at Danny’s house share joy and fellowship, triumphs and sorrows.” Alas, the freeloaders, drunks and cheats who populate these pages have more in common with the crew hanging out at 7-11 with nothing to do than with the Romantic figures of Camelot. Seventeen chapters over two-hundred pages of post-war (WWI) vets who never quite get it together.

  • A book with something creepy/crawly in the title:
The Reptile Room
(A Series of Unfortunate Events #2, by Lemony Snicket)

The Reptile Room continues the story of the three Baudelaire orphans who wind up in the custody of Uncle Monty, a respected herpetologist. Lemony Snicket always forewarns readers that these tales do not end HEA, and yet I find myself once again surprised that this is in fact true! I think hope endures on my part because I know that these are children’s stories ergo they can’t possibly be this “angsty!” Regardless, the stories are clever and and certainly had me wondering what was going to happen next! 

So what’s up with that? Why didn’t I post the reviews for the last two books I read? And seriously, the review for From the Land of the Moon was pretty half-assed at that. Actually, if you’ve been following my blog for the past six months, you’ll notice that not much has been going on at all….

It’s time. It’s time to own up that I just don’t have it in me anymore as a blogger. Since July, a lot of things have been going on in my life, a lot of things have changed and blogging isn’t working out for me anymore. So as the crude but apt saying goes, “It’s time to shi!t or get off the pot.” On 12/01/2012, I’ll be closing the blog to comments. I’ll still be on twitter (@dogearedcopy) talking about books that I’m reading and, I’ll still be around to support other bloggers’ features as best I can. I just won’t be posting here so much if at all. It’s a sad but ultimately correct decision that I’ve taken way too long to arrive at; but now that I’ve said it, it’s terribly freeing 🙂

I love you all,
Stay Cool and Keep the Faith,

P.S. – What about the sixth book, “A book with a type of house or domicile in the title”? I have a copy of The Kitchen House (by Kathleen Grissom) sitting here and I fully expect to have read it by the end of the calendar year and declare #wain5 completed. If you’re interested in what I think about it, follow me on twitter… 🙂

P.P.S – Why, yes! Ys, I am participating in What’s in a Name? Challenge #6! “What?!” you say, “I thought you just said no more blogging!” Yes, it’s true. I’m going to be participating as a non-blogger by posting comments at http://www.bethfishreads.com/ What’s in a Name? Challenge #6 🙂

I’ve actually spent the past couple of days pulling down the stacks and sorting out books, finding the ones that would qualify for next years challenge:

  1. A book with up or down (or equivalent) in the title: Deep down True, The Girl Below, The Diva Digs up the Dirt
  2. A book with something you’d find in your kitchen in the title: Loose Lips Sink Ships, The Knife of Never Letting Go, Breadcrumbs
  3. A book with a party or celebration in the title: A Feast for Crows, A Wedding in Haiti, Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness
  4. A book with fire (or equivalent) in the title: Burning for Revenge, Fireworks over Toccoa, Catching Fire
  5. A book with an emotion in the title: Baltimore Blues, Say You’re Sorry, Dreams of Joy
  6. A book with lost or found (or equivalent) in the title: The Book of Lost Fragrances, The World We Found, A Discovery of Witches

(Text captured from www.bethfishreads.com/ What’s in a Name? Challenge #6)

I’ve a couple books lined up for each category; but let’s see what 2013 actually puts in my path 🙂

From the Land of the Moon

by Milena Agus; translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein
Europa Editions, January 2011

From the Land of the Moon is a novella about a Sardinian woman searching for love in the post-war years amongst the metaphorical and literal ruins of her life. The woman recognizes that her nature is perhaps flawed as true love seems to remain elusive. Her quest assumes at times, sad, pitiable, desperate and creative forms that echo the pathos of Anna Karenina and Madam Bovary. The woman moves about the Italian landscapes of Cagliari and Milan as the country rebuilds from the effects of Allied Bombing and Nazi retreat. The settings of the story provide the physical architecture of the woman’s efforts and parallels can be drawn between the reconstruction and her state of mind. The story is told from the point of view of the woman’s granddaughter after the woman, referred to as Grandmother, has passed away, providing a doubly unreliable narrative: The woman herself may have been insane and her story suffers from being two generations away from being immediately verified. From the Land of the Moon is poignant without being maudlin and, the letter which serves as the final chapter is a powerful denouement.


From the Land of the Moon qualifies for the What’s in a Name? Challenge #5 hosted by @BethFishReads at http://www.BethFishReads. The title, From the Land of the Moon contains a word that is “something you’d see in the sky“: “Moon”

I borrowed a copy of From the Land of the Moon (by Milena Agus; translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein) form the Jackson County Library System in Southern Oregon. I receive no monies, goods and/or service in exchange for reviewing this product and/or mentioning any of the persons that are or may be implied in this post.

“If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with” — Stephen Stills

The Year of the Flood

The Year of the Flood
By Margaret Atwood
Narrated by Bernadette Dunne, Katie McNichol and Mark Bramhall;
Featuring music and lyrics by Margaret Atwood and performed by Orville Stoeber
Ⓟ 2009, Random House Audio
14.00 hours

The Year of the Flood is the second title in the MaddAddam Trilogy and a companion piece to Oryx and Crake. The story take place in the year 2050 in which the waterless flood, a viral pandemic, depopulates most of the earth. Toby, an older woman who had, years earlier, been rescued by the Gardeners – a granola-crunchy survivalists group, finds herself holed up in an organic spa when the human apocalypse hits; Ren, a young woman and erstwhile Gardener who came from one of the Helthwyzer compounds – a community fully dependent on science and technology, is quarantined in a room in a strip club and; Adam One, the leader of The Gardeners, finds himself expelled from his Eden – ironically the fringe lifestyle of his cult. Margaret Atwater creates characters with a past and a present in an uncertain future.

The characters’ lives are intertwined with each other and with characters from Oryx and Crake, though the treatment of the three major protagonists in The Year of the Flood are unequal. The lives of Toby and Ren are portrayed as dynamic as each of them attempts to move forwards and/or onwards in the aftermath of the human apocalypse and their pasts; but the life of Adam One is portrayed statically: his struggles are mainly philosophical as he tries to marry his suspect theology with reality. There are hints in his sermons as to what is going on in his life; but he is not grounded in the reality of the present the way the other characters are. His past is limited to the arc of the novel. The question becomes, do each or any of them have what it takes to move beyond the immediacy of the present and into the future? Toby is older, wiser and more experienced than Ren; but she is too old to procreate. Ren is young, fertile optimistic; but soft and still egocentric enough to place her feelings before pragmatic considerations. Adam One is strong in his convictions; but ultimately at what cost? What if being bigger, faster, stronger and smarter aren’t co-equal in the equation for survival? Which variable(s) will save you over the others? And what if it’s a faulty equation to begin with?

The Year of the Flood
expands the world that was introduced in Oryx and Crake and there are crossovers that tie up some loose ends from the first book in the MaddAddam trilogy (Yes! We do discover what The Snowman did at the end of O&C!) There is a satisfying sense of closure at the end of TYOTF; though the novel as a whole didn’t “pop” the way Oryx and Crake did. Perhaps it is because the novelty of the world that Margret Atwood first introduced, one of color and exotic forms wore off, only to be replaced my images of squalor. Or maybe it was the narration.
Bernadette Dunne, Katie McNicol and Mark Bramhall narrate from the point-of-perspectives of Toby, Ren and Adam One respectively. Bernadette Dunne gives a solid performance, though one wonders if a couple of the characters wouldn’t have benefited from some ethnic flavor. Katie McNicols shines as a young woman undaunted, though unprepared for the future ahead; but her voicing of other characters seems underdeveloped (e.g. her voice for Zeb seemed at odds with the physical descriptions of him – a bear-like Russian. He came across as sounding not like a bear-like Russian at all.) Mark Bramhall took all his textual cues, performing the role of Adam One with decreasing optimism and certainty; but often sounded more like a charlatan than a charismatic guru. There is performed music after the Adam One sermons, performed by Orville Stoeber. The voices of Mark Bramhall and Orville Stoeber are a close match so there is a sense of continuity; but the music overall is of a 1970’s Church folk style, which if you’re not keen on it, can be irritating. The casting was well-conceived; but somehow each of the narrators fell a little short of completely inhabiting their respective characters. The result is that the listener is reminded that they are listening to a narrative, not experiencing the story.
Not withstanding the narration and the sense that one could stop with the MaddAddam books now, it should be interesting to see where Margaret Atwood takes us in the final installment.

Other Stuff:
The Year of the Flood (by Margaret Atwood; narrated by Bernadette Dunne, Katie McNichol and Mark Bramhall; featuring music and lyrics written by Margaret Atwood and performed by Orville Stoeber) qualifies for:
I borrowed a library CD edition of The Year of the Flood (by Margaret Atwood; narrated by Bernadette Dunne, Katie McNichol and Mark Bramhall; featuring music and lyrics written by Margaret Atwood and performed by Orville Stoeber) from The Ashland Library (Jackson County Library System in Southern Oregon.) I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons, companies or organizations that are or may be implied in this post.

The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter
by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Introduction and Notes by Nancy Stade
General Consulting Editor, George Stade
The Scarlet Letter was first published in 1850.
This trade paperback edition was published in 2005.
Why should we read the Classics? One reason is for the history not only of the time and place; but for the ideas that have found expression through the writer. Roughly 4500 years ago, some scribe marked up The Epic of Gilgamesh into clay tablets. We have an intriguing glimpse into the time and place and some action points to string a story together; but we don’t have a sense of what the characters were really thinking or what sensibility guided their thought processes. What was it like to live in a world where you perceived time as circular and cyclical, not linearly? How did the concepts of civilization, a major shift from the nomadic and animistic lifestyle change their worldview? How did the oral tradition and sense of history transmute their own sense of culture? Unfortunately, it is unlikely that we will ever know because the story contains no explanation. It is no more than a historic artifact celebrated for being the oldest written story. The Classics, however, tell us more. The Classics provide a sense of “interior history,” ideas that had currency when they were written and still inform our culture today.
But why should you read The Scarlet Letter? The events that make up the main body of the work were not contemporary to the writer so how could he posit a credible story that reflects a mindset of a society that he could not have possibly have experienced? But the thing is, he did. No, Hawthorne did not live in the 17th century; but he did live in a small town with a strong cultural legacy to that time and; family ties bound him to the history of which he wrote. He was living with the effects a Puritanical society that embedded itself into the political consciousness of his day and, actually still lives with us even now (Don’t fool yourself that because we don’t put people in stocks or force them to wear a scarlet “A” upon their breasts, that we don’t excoriate adulterers, especially if they happen to be public figures.) Hawthorne builds the first bridge between the events of 1650 and 1850 by creating prologue in which he discovers the documents that purportedly contain the events of the main body of the story. The second bridge is the one created by the reader’s connection to the text. The second bridge is a meta-literary experience that elevates the text from being an artifact to being historically relevant, something from which, like all history, we can extricate meaning to our current lives.
The Scarlet Letter is an exposition of how religious and political thought cohered to create an inheritance of our American culture: a paradox of sex and sexuality, religious freedom that incarcerates and the punishment that frees. Hester Prynne falls in love with a man and gets pregnant by him; but does not enjoy the benefits of marriage which apparently include not being shoved into a jail cell, being publicly called out for her sin, reminding everyone else of her indiscretion by wearing a red “A” upon her chest and, being pretty much excluded from town life. Had she been married to the man, this would not have happened. So, falling in love and having sex with the man is a sin when the sanctity of marriage is not conferred by the town-church; but falling in love and having sex with a man becomes the consecration of life affirming values when you add in the public endorsement of marriage. It’s a fine line between hypocrisy and relative morality. Hester Prynne is punished for her transgression; but her moment in the the town square (wherein she is brought out before all the townspeople) is meant to be an occasion for her not only to renounce her sin; but to give up the name of her lover as well so that he too may be free of guilt. Only through renunciation can the opportunity exist for forgiveness. There is an celebratory atmosphere to the denunciation of Hester Prynne. A zealful, but compassionless event in which Hester Prynne’s pride is sacrificed to the self-righteous crowd. Except that Hester doesn’t renounce her sin, give up her lover’s name and, the public does not forgive or even really seem inclined to do so (after all the punishment begins before the possibility of her renouncement.) Ironically, Hester Prynne’s punishment actually does free her: Her isolation forms her into a woman of independent thought, devoid of the hobbling dictates of the Puritan community.
The Scarlet Letter offers a lot in terms of ideas as to who we were, who we are and through the second bridge, who we can be.
Other Stuff: The Scarlet Letter (by Nathaniel Hawthorne) qualifies for
  • The What’s in a Name? Challenge #5 hosted by @BethFishReads as a “book with something you’d carry in your pocket, purse, or backpack in the title [e.g.] Sarah’s Key, The Scarlet Letter, Devlin Diary”

I purchased The Scarlet Letter (by Nathaniel Hawthorne) from the Barnes & Noble store in Medford, OR. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
— John 8: 32

What’s in a Name? Challenge #4/What’s in a Name? Challenge #5

I’ve been shuffling and sorting through my stacks, seeing what books that I already own that also might qualify for the challenge. The good news is that I
Yay! @BethFishReads has announced the categories for the What’s in a Name? Challenge #5! I’ve spent some time sorting through my stacks, determining what books would work for the various qualifiers and, I’m pleased that I have something from my TBR stacks that will work for every category! This is good news because I would love to make a dent in my hoardings 🙂
Without further ado, this is my tentative list for the challenge:

  • [Topographical Feature]: Treasure Island (by Robert Louis Stevenson);
  • [Something You See in the Sky]: A Thousand Splendid Suns (by Khaled Housseni)
  • [Creepy Crawly]: The Reptile Room (by Lemony Snicket)
  • [Type of House]: Cleaning Nabokov’s House (by Leslie Daniels)
  • [Something You Carry in Your Purse, Pocket or Backpack]: The Scarlet Letter (by Nathanial Hawthorne)
  • [Something You’d Find on a Calender]: Year of Wonders (by Geraldine Brooks)

Of course, my selections may change. One thing I learned from this past year’s challenge was that I should be flexible and; NOT drink while blogging. I had this idea last year that I was going to be über-creative and do cross media entries (e.g. a book and it’s sequel in audiobook.) It didn’t quite work out that way and many of the titles I had set aside for the challenge went unread while other titles I tackled qualified quite nicely. That is not saying I won’t get creative; only that I shouldn’t strait-jacket myself into a reading list or marry a concept, thus make reading a chore! I think this year I might use the books to create a theme for the month in which I’m reading it. It’s just an idea I’m considering right now and we’ll see how it plays out. The most important thing is that this should be fun 🙂

For the curious, this is what I read for the What’s in a Name? Challenge #4:

Thanks to @BethFishReads for hosting

Other Stuff: I receive no goods or services in exchange for mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post (including but not limited to publishers, vendors, authors, narrators, the host of the challenge and/or the challenge itself.)