Friday, December 19, 2008

7 Quick Takes Friday

Every Friday Jennifer at Conversion Diary has been posting "7 Quick Takes" in which she blogs about about seven topics too slight to support individual posts of their own. Though I seem to have trouble posting even one topic (however slight) per week, I thought I would give "7 Quick Takes" a try. (I'd planned to add to this blog post all week long, but actually it's taken me more than a week to compose it.)

1) You see all kinds of odd things in the library. A couple of days ago, at the end of my shift, I noticed a pair of false teeth on one of the library tables. I can only assume that the old fellow ambling towards the magazines had just slipped his teeth out in order to get more comfortable. He must certainly feel at home in our library.

2)And you hear all kinds of things in the children's section of the library. As I was shelving picture books I overheard two very small children chatting as they played with the toys in the game corner. "That lady is my babysitter," the little girl explained to her companion. "My real mommy is in jail because she does drugs." Okay.

3) Mysteries are a genre in which I am not very well read because I've never been able to fathom the appeal of a story which requires that someone be murdered as a precondition of the action. However, now that I'm shelving at the public library, and a wider variety of books is passing through my hands, I've checked out a couple of them just to try. (I'd like to like them. They usually have such interesting titles.) My most recent attempt was Ash Wednesday by Ralph McInerny, a "Father Dowling Mystery."

I pulled it off the shelf because I'd previously read an article by McInerny, "On Being a Catholic Writer," and I was curious to see how he'd handle Catholicism in one of his own novels. I was further intrigued because, according to the dust jacket, the story involved an ethical question concerning life support and euthanasia.

But I was distinctly underwhelmed. To be honest, I had trouble keeping the characters straight. And Father Dowling was off-screen most of the time, so I really never got a feel for him. But since this novel is one of a series, perhaps it was written for an audience who already knows all of the continuing characters and doesn't require much in the way of characterization. Personally, I felt the book was pretty thin.

4) Actually, I do enjoy some mysteries -- older stuff such as Sherlock Holmes or G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown stories. And I also like Dorothy Sayers' books because they are actual novels which just happen to be mysteries. This past week I've also been enjoying a book of short stories, English Country House Murders edited by Thomas Godfrey. But again, the collection included a lot of older authors such as Wilkie Collins whose Woman in White I devoured a couple of years ago. And I really enjoyed the female protagonist in Baroness Orczy's "The Fordwych Castle Mystery." I'd never been able to get into her The Scarlet Pimpernel, so this delightful short story was a pleasant surprise.

5) I've just read Matilda by Roal Dahl. I'd recently seen the movie which I enjoyed very much. (Naturally -- since the young protagonist is a voracious reader! How often do you see that in a major motion picture?) So I decided to try the book. Ho-hum. The movie was better -- which is not my usual response to a movie vs. book comparison. I had the same reaction to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I much preferred the movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory which was delightfully zany, magical and bizarre. The book seemed flat by comparison.

Perhaps I should try reading The Witches (and watching the movie) to see if the pattern holds.

Why is Dahl so popular?

6) We got a catalog in the mail which had many book-related gift items. One of them was a Christmas tree ornament with the inscription, "She is too fond of books, and it has addled her brain." The quotation was attributed to Louisa May Alcott, but I have my doubts. It doesn't much sound like her. I've read all of Alcott's novels many times* and probably all of her short stories (including obscure ones such as "A Free Bed" which was printed as a chapbook by Friends of the Brigham Young University Library in 1978). But I do not remember this quote at all. Can anyone tell me if it is indeed Alcott, and if so, where it appears? I will admit that I've only read her letters and journals once since I don't own copies. Might it be in there? Or is the company that sells this item just faking everyone out?

*Well, now that I think of it, I've only read Moods once because I don't actually own a copy of it.

7) A rather more charming, book related gift would be either the Bibliovore or Bibliophibian tee shirts. I'd be tempted to buy them were I not so cheap. But library aides aren't allowed to wear tee shirts with pictures, slogans or logos, so I can't even justify their purchase as work related.


Enbrethiliel said...


Mysteries are a genre in which I am not very well read because I've never been able to fathom the appeal of a story which requires that someone be murdered as a precondition of the action.

On the other hand, the young G.K. Chesterton said that if a dead body wasn't uncovered by the end of the first chapter, he knew he wasn't reading something he'd like.

Why is Dahl so popular?

I share your opinion of Dahl. Ever since I learned how angry he was when the movie adaptation of The Witches changed the ending of his book, so that the boy stays a mouse forever, I've felt there was something dark and sinister in even his sunniest stories.

The Bookworm said...

I think you are right about Dahl, though I had never realised it. James and the Giant Peach also works better as a movie. Maybe there is something about his books that require the extra life and colour and warmth.

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

I have never seen the movie version of James and the Giant Peach. I will have to put it in my Netflix queue.

James and the Giant Peach did have a charming sentence in one of its opening paragraphs:

"Then, one day, James's mother and father went to London to do some shopping, and there a terrible thing happened. Both of them suddenly got eaten up (in full daylight, mind you, and on a crowded street) by an enormous angry rhinocerous which had escaped from the London Zoo."

I liked it because it was such an over the top example of the dictum espoused by two of the characters in Beverly Cleary's Mitch and Amy. Two girls are pretending to be pioneers and are verbally setting the scene. One of the first things they do is to figure out some circumstance to get their imaginary parents out of the way because, of course, you can't have a good story until you get rid of the parents.

Kim said...

About the "She is too fond of books..." quote, I agree it's probably not Alcott. I think it's probably from "Northanger Abbey" by Jane Austen, though without getting up to check, I can't be positive. I like your post!

Sarah Reinhard said...

What a delightful quick takes post!

I was especially laughing over #2.

Re: Dahl...hmm. Now I'm going to have to dig in and find out for myself! Thanks for the tips too on the mysteries.

Barb Nicol said...

The Alcott quote is from _Work, A Story of Experience_ chapter 2..

The comic overpowered the tragic, and being a little hysterical with
the sudden alarm, Christie broke into a peal of laughter that sealed
her fate.

"Look at her! look at her!" cried Mrs. Stuart gesticulating on her
perch as if about to fly. "She has been at the wine, or lost her
wits. She must go, Horatio, she must go! I cannot have my nerves
shattered by such dreadful scenes. She is too fond of books, and it
has turned her brain. Hepsey can watch her to-night, and at dawn she
shall leave the house for ever."

"Not till after breakfast, my dear. Let us have that in comfort I
beg, for upon my soul we shall need it," panted Mr. Stuart, sinking
into a chair exhausted with the vigorous measures which had quenched
the conflagration.

/end snip/

What a pleasure you have given me - I do like tracking down quotations on a quiet Friday evening among a few friendly books.

merry christmas
Barb Nicol

Sheralle said...

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Catholic Bibliophagist said...

Barb Nichol,

Thank you, thank you for tracking down that quote! I guess I just didn't recognize it out of context. I've read Work before, but only once. Obviously, it's time to read it again.

Thanks again.

(P.S. I replied to your post last week, but it seems to have disappeared into the ether. Here's hoping this second try is successful.)

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

Thanks, Deborah.

joshua said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.