Sunday, September 22, 2013

Libnrary Cats, Downton Abbey Season 4, The Paris Wife and Dream When You're Feeling Blue

 Shelf Awareness, as always is on top of popular literary culture, and I was thrilled to read and watch these clips last week, of Downton Abbey season 4, which we have to wait until January 2014 to see, unfortunately.

You'll have to wait until January to see the fourth season of Downton
on PBS, but in anticipation of its U.K. premiere on ITV September 22,
RadioTimes featured a helpful guest list guide to "the new faces
arriving in Downton when it returns." Among them is author and
Bloomsbury icon Virginia Woolf, played by Christina Carty. "No doubt an
inspiration for Downton's new budding journalist Edith, our bet would be
that the middle Crawley sister finds herself rubbing shoulders with the
famous writer at a fancy soiree in London,"  

A new clip from Downton Abbey Season 4
been released. noted that the "new season starts six months
on from the death of Downton heir Matthew Crawley. An important focus of
the new season... will be how Matthew's widow, Lady Mary Crawley, deals
with his passing and her future."

I have always loved cats, and though I'm allergic to them, I still long to be able to pet kitties and feel them purr, which is such a soothing sound. Herein are library cats from Russia and the US who take good care of their bibliophiles and make certain, of course, to rout any mice who might chew on valuable books!

Kuzya, an official assistant librarian
at the Novorossiysk Library in Russia, is a cat who also knows that "bow
ties are cool," Buzzfeed reported. "The story goes that Kuzya wandered
up to the library one day and decided it was a nice place to live. But
there are restrictions about keeping animals in libraries--no matter how
stylishly you dress them--so the staff had to petition for Kuzya to get
a 'cat passport,' which is, hilariously, a real thing. Kuzya, not
content at being just a normal pet cat, was recently upgraded to the
title of 'assistant librarian.' "

Cats Who Live at the Library
Noting that "a library can operate without a cat, but a library with a
cat is special,"
Mental Floss featured a selection of feline bibliophiles and explained
that library cats "draw new patrons to the library, they make people
smile, calm the staff, and they keep mice away. Some also work to
promote literacy, library use, and pet adoption."

Though I love most of the adaptations done of Dicken's works, I was less than excited about the casting of Helena Bonham Carter, thin and boyish looking as she is, as Mrs Havisham. And she's also been cast as Elizabeth Taylor in a new TV movie, I believe. Carter is small and thin, with no curves to speak of, while Liz Taylor was known for her voluptous bust and hips, and she was, in fact, always concerned about being fat, because she loved to eat. I have no idea how Carter is going to pull off looking gorgeous, like Taylor, with her trademark sapphire eyes, when Carter isn't even attractive for the most part. But that's Hollywood for you, always casting the people who have the most pull, instead of the right person to play the part.
A new trailer has been released for the latest adaptation of Charles
Dickens's Great Expectations
directed by Mike Newell and starring Jeremy Irvine (War Horse) as Pip,
Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham, Ralph Fiennes as Magwitch and
Holliday Grainger as Estella, reported. The cast also
includes Robbie Coltrane, Jason Flemyng and Sally Hawkins. The film gets
a New York and Los Angeles release November 8.

We are reading "The Paris Wife" by Paula McClain for my Tuesday night book group. Though I am not a fan of Ernest Hemingway,  (I always found his writing too brutish and crude to be good...with the exception of "Hills Like White Elephants" and one of the Nick Addams stories) I was curious to know how he treated his first wife, Hadley, who was supposedly the love of his life.
McClain's prose is fairly clean and proper, with a nice river-swift plot that propels the story on with a somewhat reckless pace. Still, this is the kind of book with no real extraneous parts, so you can read it in a day or even an afternoon. The lush settings, Paris in the 20s, Madrid Spain, Germany and Chicago all fascinate with their casts of characters who came into Papa Hem's orbit, including F Scott Fitzgerald and his wild and crazy wife Zelda, Gertrude Stein, Sherwood Anderson and Ezra Pound. Though the book is a fictional take on how Hadley viewed her life with Hemingway, all of the facts of the tale, and the settings, are historical fact, which lends a richness and authenticity to the tale.
Unfortunately, Hemingway seemed just as much of an asshat in this book as he was in A Moveable Feast, and his ridiculous jealousy and poor treatment of nearly everyone he meets only makes him seem like a pretentious jerk whose struggles with writing were more about his own alcoholism and immaturity than anything else, including his hatred of his family. Then, when his wife has a baby, he seems to lose interest in her and has an affair with Pauline, a mutual friend of theirs, practically in front of Hadley. After reading all the nauseating cutesy nicknames that they gave to one another, and hearing how Pauline gave both of them nicknames and somehow expected Hadley to be fine with sharing Heminway, I nearly threw the book across the room. Hadley seems too passive and weak for most of the book, only finally drawing the line at the end. She divorces the sleazy Hem and marries a nice guy whom she lives with until her death, whereas Hemingway made his way through 2 more women after Hadley, having numerous affairs until he shot and killed himself years later. Because this book only cemented my dislike of Hemingway and his work, I'd give it a C+, with the caveat that if you're a fan of his work, you'll probably love this book.
Dream When You're Feeling Blue by Elizabeth Berg is the 6th book of hers I've read, and when I send it to my mother in Arizona, it will be her 10th Berg novel. This particular novel is about three sisters (and their 3 brothers) growing up during WW2 in a big Irish Catholic family in Chicago. As with all of Berg's novels, her characters are so well drawn they seem to breathe off the page. Her prose is tidy and her plots dance along with a grace only found in accomplished authors.
But while I understand that girls, boys and young men and women at the time were very naive and innocent, some of the sister's conversations just make them seem stupid, almost simpletons. I find protagonists who are too simple, especially female protagonists who only worry about clothes and shoes and makeup, and don't want to work for the war effort because they're ruining their nails to be too ridiculous to live, even in a fictional world. Other than that, the book is an enjoyable, engrossing read in which you get an up-close and personal idea of what life was life with rationing and war bonds and soldiers being killed and putting their loved ones into a tailspin.It is a credit to Berg that you can see, hear, smell and taste everything, with her rich descriptions and old-world Irish family dynamics. I'd give this book a B, and recommend it to those who are fascinated by what was going on on the "home front" during the second world war.

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