So what, exactly, is in that name?!

Recently I’ve come across some movies and books, the names of which have left me scratching my head.

Now I don’t know about you but I’m one of those types of readers who, in the course of reading a book, will always think of the title and what made the author choose that title (given of course that it’s not something obvious like the name of the main character). And there are times when I even anticipate the point in the story where the meaning of the title is revealed. I guess I do the same for movies.

Last week I watched a movie called ‘Abduction’. Wasn’t a bad movie but afterwards I was slightly annoyed. Nobody was abducted or kidnapped in this movie. I tried to look for a symbolic meaning in the title. Nope. Nothing there either. I was left with a similar feeling after finishing The Old Curiosity Shop. I kept wondering why it was called that when not even a hundred pages into the book Nell and her grandfather leave the shop and the rest of the story chronicles their journey away from London. Was the great Charles Dickens just being lazy? No. I had just had an epiphany while writing this blogpost. Since The Old Curiosity Shop was initially printed as a serial in a magazine, on starting it, Dickens had to give it a name. And since the first parts were set in the shop he probably thought it was the best name for the story. (This is my theory, I’m trying to give the genius the benefit of the doubt here…) Of course looking forward this title doesn’t make any sense.

Now perhaps the name of a story shouldn’t influence your enjoyment of it but I have to admit that sometimes for me, it does.

A good example is Salinger’s Catcher In The Rye. This title is an intriguing (if not mysterious) one to someone who hasn’t read it. As I progressed through the novella, I anticipated what this title could mean and how it tied in with Holden Caulfield, the main character. When that point in the book came however, I marvelled at the symbolism Salinger employed and despite the melancholy tone of the story, the revelation of the meaning behind the title put a smile on my face. It’s one of the things that I’ll never forget about that book.

I understand that in some cases, coming up with the title for your story can be more time-consuming and brain-racking then writing the story itself. I know this firsthand too. Some will definitely argue that this shouldn’t be the case and that the story is more important, not the title, but I guess I just find it irksome when no intelligent thought is given to names of things or worse, when the title makes no sense.

So does a terrible, silly or ingenious title affect your enjoyment of a book? And what’s the most confusing name of a book or movie you’ve ever come across?

NM 🙂

Literature and food.

At the risk of sounding unlady-like, I will state for the record that I do love my food.

I also like trying out new and unusual dishes (except if it sounds too gross). I will also admit that I am somewhat impressionable when it comes to food, especially if I’m reading about it. What I mean is, if I’m reading a novel and the characters are eating something, I will suddenly have a craving for it or if it’s something strange I will want to try it out.

The constant mention of ‘gruel’ in many old Classics (think: Dickens) has frequently had me cooking up some oats even though it’s never given the most flattering of descriptions.

Now there have been some stranger concoctions that I’ve read and whether these are common where the author is from or whether they are made up, I can’t be certain exactly.

There is one favourite of mine that has raised a few eyebrows.

A few posts back I mentioned Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian. The main character travels with her father through Europe. In one country(I can’t remember which) they purchased freshly baked rolls and stopped for a picnic/lunch were they ate the rolls with pieces of dark chocolate in them.
Chocolate on bread? Might sound weird but it is very tasty, people. The reason for Nutella’s existence- although there is a difference, in terms of taste, between choc spread and actual chocolate pieces. I prefer real chocolate pieces so if I have a slab of dark or milk choccie on hand and if I just bought some fresh white rolls, then you know exactly what I’m having for dinner. 🙂

Apples and cheese? Yeah, why not.

For the more health-conscious amongst us, I did come across a new dishy idea after reading the Hunger Games. In the arena, Katniss makes a meal with goats’ cheese and apple slices in a roll. True to my curiosity I decided to try this combination out.
I didn’t have goats’ cheese and since it’s not very common in the supermarkets in my hometown, I used Camembert instead. It was surprisingly good on wholewheat brown bread. I later read that Feta was very similar to goats’ cheese so I tried that as well. I didn’t like it very much, the apple and Camembert made a far better match so lo and behold! I’ve found a new favourite sandwich filling!
As a gourmand, nothing frustrates me more than completely made-up foods that the author makes sound so mouth-wateringly delicious, yet you will never truly know what it tastes like. One example for me was, the Island Of Purple Fruits by Terry Jones(yes, him of Monty Python fame) which describes the said fruits as being the tastiest thing that the main character had ever eaten. As a kid (and even now) I ached to know what those fruits tasted like that. And the same goes for Rowling’s Butterbeer.

Weird dishes/foods mentioned in works of fiction: have you ever been tempted to try them yourself? If you’re a writer have you ever created unique delicacies in your stories? Or what’s the tastiest-sounding foodstuff you ever read about in a novel? Your thoughts are always welcomed.

NM 🙂

DAY 22 – Book you plan to read next

There are so many books I want to read at the moment but I haven’t a clue where to begin once I finish the ones I’m currently busy with. I compiled a list although I’m not sure which of the following I should read first.

How about this? Take a lookie at the list below and YOU decide which book I should read next, that way you provide the answer for today’s topic. I can read up to three books at a time but unfortunately not eight!
Let me know in the comments below…

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller – I heard this is really funny and set during one of the World Wars.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – watched 2 movie versions (one with Winona Ryder and the other Katharine Hepburn) of this book and absolutely loved the story.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – Look out for my next post.

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell – I seem to be on a Gaskell high at the moment. Having loved North And South and currently reading Cranford, she has definitely won me over. Fellow blogger Louise highly recommends W&D but my local book store doesn’t have it which means I have to order it. Arghh!

Spud – Learning to fly by John van de Ruit – The last in the series. How can I resist this?

Salaambo by Gustave Flaubert – I have no idea what this story is about but apparently it’s set in Carthage-the ancient city I happen to have a certain obsession with. It’s enough to make me want to hunt down this book.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte – I already have this book in my possession. I started reading it a long time ago but then I got bored and threw it aside. Then I found out that there was a ghost or vampire in it and now I’m eager to read it again.

??? by Charles Dickens – I’m in the mood for Dickens again. It’s been a long time since I read anything by him. Except for Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist, Two Cities, Great Expectations and Bleak House, what other book would you recommend?


DAY 17 – Shortest book you ever read

I found this topic to be quite bothersome to be honest. Because I’ve read so many short stories and Victorian novellas in my lifetime, it’s hard for me to distinguish them in terms of length.

Honestly I’m too lazy to search the internet for every book I had in mind just to check if they’re considered a short story or not. It’s all very confusing to me so I’m just going to go out on a limb here and wing it, as they say. If any of the books/stories I mention below are in fact short stories, please forgive me.

Collector's Library books. Penguin Classics and Wordsworth have nothing on these guys!

When thinking about this topic, I found myself pulling out a few Collectors’ Library books I have in my possession. Obviously due to their appearance, the books give the impression of being really short. They are quite small and cute with a very small font compared to ‘normal’ size books like a Wordsworths Classic for example.
So I wondered if it would be accurate of me to compare the number of pages in a Collectors’ Library book as suppose to a Wordsworth or Penguin.
Off course it could all just be an optical illusion and in font size they might be exactly the same (see, told you it was bothersome).

Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray (Wordsworths) has a respectable 256 pages; Hound of the Baskervilles (Collectors) has 200; and Jekyll and Hyde (Collectors) a paltry 96, actually 87 if you leave out all the title pages. Despite its size, the blurb to my copy of Jekyll And Hyde refers to it as a novel. Right….

Thinking back to all the other books I’ve read but don’t own: Le Fanu’s Carmilla, I remember as being quite short but don’t ask me how many pages it is for I read it a long time ago. And should I even consider Dickens’ A Christmas Carol? I always thought it was a short story but coming in at 128 pages (Penguin), that’s way more than Jekyll and Hyde!

Whether Christmas Carol is a shortie or not, it doesn’t matter. The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson is still the shortest by a long shot (ha ha, see what I did there?) and therefore today’s winner.

I suppose you want me to tell you about the book? Truth is, there’s not much to tell. EVERYBODY knows this story even if they didn’t read it.
The term ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ has become synonymous with being two-faced, so while reading the story the suspense and mystery has already been killed due to this piece of general knowledge. I have no doubt that the book’s very first audience were probably thrilled out of their gaiters in finding out who Mr. Hyde really was, and obviously this initial reaction was the precedent that set in motion the success that the book was to have.

I could go into detail of how Stevenson based his story on a real Scottish nobleman named Deacon Brodie who lived in 18th century Edinburgh but do you really want a history lesson on a Friday? No I thought not.

A piece of Classic literature in under 100 pages. Quantity does not always mean quality, Mr. Dickens..

NM 🙂

DAY 16 of 30-day Book Challenge – Longest book you ever read

And this will be the shortest post you’ll ever read. I made a promise a few months ago, never to mention Charles Dickens’ Bleak House again but now its rearing it’s big, massive head once more. Definitely the longest book I’ve ever read.

You wanna read more? Knock yourself out:

Oh Dickens! Bleaky Bleak House and the opportunistic author

A review of Bleak House Part 1

Bleak House – A Review Part 2

Bleak House – A Review Part 2

Okay this is the last time I talk about Bleak House, I promise.
Just a few reflections on some of Dickens’ many liberties permitted to him and only him:
I spoke before about narration in the text. I have no idea what writing courses have to say about this but there must be a rule or something against constant switching from 1st person to third. Not to mention the 3rd person disguising themselves in the 1st (!). Are you confused? Yes, so am I.
You see one of the main figures in Bleak House is Honoria Dedlock, and from the very beginning she is referred to as “My Lady Dedlock.” And who does this possessive adjective belong to exactly? It certainly can’t be Esther’s because hers is a completely different voice altogether.
Speaking of Esther, yes she made quite the gallant heroine of the story but I felt Dickens’ did not highlight her flaws enough. Yes, you heard me correctly. She was just so darn perfect in every way that every other character in the book just could not help loving her. And I too felt the same way in the beginning but her behavior and attitude was so predictable as the story progressed that at one stage she started to annoy me. Even the attitude in which she dealt with the harsh realities and problems that came her way was so noble and perfect that I found myself suffering a mild form of nausea.
Dickens took the principle that the main character should be relatable a bit too seriously, making her too good to be true in the process. In any story or novel, I like the hero/heroine to have a few emotional flaws. Maybe it’s just me. The classical era of Aeneas and Jason, the perfect heroes, still seem to echo through the history of literature. The only difference is that in this case, at least Esther is a woman. Living in a society of accepted gender equality, it’s hardly saying something but in Dickens’ time, it should be considered at least admirable on his part. Charlie off course could get away with things that we mere mortals can only dream of, as is evident. I heave a sigh of envy as I ponder this. *Sigh*

There ends my rant on Bleak House. I’ll get back to my Dan Brown now if you don’t mind…

A review of Bleak House Part 1

Okay I know I sought of promised a book review once I finished Dickens’ mammoth Bleak House but honestly, there’s way too much going on in this book and it is not my intention to bore the hell out of everyone. So for the purpose of what I really want to talk about (which is probably just as boring to many of you folks), I’ll give a summary in 100 words.

God I hate challenges, but here goes:

In the Chancery division of a London High Court a particular lawsuit called Jarndyce and Jarndyce has been plodding along for years. It centers on an unresolved Will, where various potential beneficiaries find themselves emotionally drawn to the mess, thus creating a lot of drama for themselves and everyone around them.
The main character is Esther Summerson; most of the story is told in her voice. There is a plethora of weird characters-some die in the end, some get their hearts broken, one spontaneously combusts (I’m being serious) and the others live happily ever after. Off course no Dickens novel would be complete without a destitute, orphan boy. Oh, and one person gets murdered.
Okay that’s 114 words. Best I could do.

What I realized to my annoyance while reading Bleak House, from a writing perspective was that Dickens got away with too much. Or maybe he didn’t which is probably why this novel is not one of his most recognized.

But two things annoyed me the most:

1. The narration itself: constant switching from 1st person to third, and without prior warning in some instances.
2. Treatment of the main character Esther: I understand that getting the reader to identify with the main character is pivotal to any story but did Dickens really have to overdo it by making her so perfect?

This is enough fodder for another post, so I’ll save it for next time. However I will end this by saying that, as relieved as I was to finish that damn book, I did feel a certain desolation as I neared the last couple of pages. As I said goodbye to Esther, I really did feel sad to see her go, even though I found her quite nauseating towards the end. Is this the inherent genius of Charles Dickens coming through and messing with my brain? Or maybe it’s just the standard component of a love-hate relationship, a relationship that is now bleakly over.


Oh Dickens! Bleaky Bleak House and the opportunistic author

Please note that this is an old post(see date published). If you have come across this page without intending to, kindly click on HOME above. This will redirect you to my homepage and most recent post. I do apologise but I am having some glitches with WordPress and am aware of bloggers clicking on my link and ending up on various older posts on my site. Thanks, NM. 03/01/2012)

Dickens at work. Image taken from

I was being mocked by my boyfriend recently for taking an exceedingly long time to read a novel. Embarrassingly more so, is the fact that this is a Charles Dickens book.
I consider myself a fan of Charlie not only because I loved A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist, but also because I admire him for the person that he was. He stood strongly for what he believed in. Charlie had a lot to say and too many authorities to lambaste in the span of his 58 years. He used his pen (or quill?) to expose the injustices of his time in a sentimental but thought-provoking way.
Usually if I am not enjoying a book, I toss it aside with no guilt whatsoever. I’ve done it many times. I’ve even tossed aside Booker Prize winners. Why waste your time if you are not enjoying it? You could be reading something you do enjoy.
Reading is a subjective pastime. The type of books you read is not, in my opinion, a reflection of how smart, stupid or emotional you are. They are merely reflections of your tastes and preferences. So why am I still holding on to my copy of Bleak House? I feel for some reason to see this one through.
In Dickens’ defense it is a great story. When I first started reading it, I enjoyed getting to know the main character Esther Summerson. But as more and more characters were thrown into the mix, the story became confusing and arduous. On top of that, Dickens has a propensity to over-elaborate and go off on a tangent, the result of which can only be described in two words: word vomit. It is obvious that the man has a lot to say. The novel is 850 pages long(not including the illustrations) but I am pretty sure that as thick and convoluted as the plot is, he could have told this story in 500.
There came a point were I became so confused about certain subplots and the roles of some of the characters that I was forced to resort to the one thing that all internet junkies resort to in a time of need: Google. It was while searching for plot summaries that I came across an interesting piece of information. Bleak House had initially been written as a serial and Dickens was being paid by the word. So that explains the word vomit. I’m not sure how true this information is however as a few bloggers were disputing this but it certainly makes sense.

Coavinses, Harold Skimpole, Richard Carstone and Esther

So it seems little Ol’ Charlie D was not only a social revolutionary but an opportunist as well. That’s just brilliant. So why am I still reading this? Because in all honesty, I really do want to know what happens in the end. The story is filled with melodrama, a bit like a Victorian soap opera. And even though it might seem like there’s way too many things going on, I am told that they all tie together quite nicely in the end. Unfortunately I have another 360 pages to go until I get to the end. It’s like, knowing you’re heading for DisneyWorld but have to take a side road to get there- a long, winding, gravel road filled with murderous hitchhikers, Redcaps and numerous detours. You wonder if the long, arduous journey is worth the destination at the end.
Since I have now dedicated a whole blog post to Bleak House, I guess I have no choice but to finish it now 🙂 I must admit that this has provided me with a little motivation. Maybe in a few weeks I’ll even provide you all with a book review. And what a glorious day that would be!