Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Story Hour

When I was a little girl our local library had its budget cut one summer and had to do away with story hour. Some ingenious librarian came up with the idea of setting up an audio book on the telephone. It really was better than going to the library, because as much as I loved the library I often didn't like the other children who went to story hour. I think their parents just dropped them off for free babysitting and they didn't really care if they heard a story or not. The new system allowed me to call the number (which my mom had posted near the phone) time and time again. Each week a new story would come out and all three of us would race to the phone. It was nice sitting on the cool linoleum in the darkness of the dining room, phone to my ear, pulling at the strings of my cut-off shorts, listening to the likes of Thom Thumb and Thumbilina stories.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Great Detective

I greatly enjoy The Great Detective with all of his ponderings and musings and pulling answers out of thin air. Most of all I love the Hound of the Baskervilles, not only is it completely creepy, but it shows this great friendship between Watson and Holmes. Apparently, Umberto loves it too. Brother William is William of Baskerville and the first 20 or so pages I had to keep checking the cover: Nope, it's NOT Doyle, it's Eco. So it really is shaping up to be a good book, now if I can only find a few days to read it.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Quick Break From Eco

Here's a little cartoon that makes me snicker every time I look at it. It reminds me so much of Wordsworth, who I like to read from time to time but sometimes is just too pastoral for me.

I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a croud,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

See what I mean by a bit pastoral?

What I'm going to buy this week.

Last year I saw in a magazine these great shelves, alas they were not for sale, just part of the backdrop. I then lost the magazine and couldn’t find the shelves anywhere. I searched around a bit then lost interest in the search. Well I found them at Borders of all places, for the very reasonable price of $10 each! Well I’m very excited to put them up in the guest room.

"May the Lord grant me the grace to be the transparent witness of the happenings that took place in the abbey whose name it is only right and pious now to omit..."

I like the premise of an author finding a lost manuscript. I’ve always found those sort of books interesting. Eco does a good job at pulling his reader in, giving plausible explanations of what happened to the manuscript: a break with his “beloved,” who took off with it in her haste to get away from him. It is here in this explanatory portion that the “pseudo” author writes this fabulous, sure to be quoted for ages gem: “there are magic moments, involving great physical fatigue and intense motor excitement that produce visions of people known in the past. As I have learned later from the delightful little book of Abbe` de Bocquoy, there are also visions of books as yet unwritten.” Beautiful, it’s enough to make every author, and hopeful author sigh and nod their collective heads in agreement.

The text of the manuscript is written by Adso of Melk (Christian Slater’s character) (named after the Benedictine abbey Stift Melk). He is old and now wishes to write the story down. As a young boy he enters the brotherhood and becomes a novice to William of Baskerville (a reference to Holmes in case you didn’t know). William has been sent to investigate a murder at an abbey. Here is a great description of William through the eyes of Adso,

“Brother William’s physical appearance was at that time such as to attract the attention of the most inattentive observer. His height surpassed that of a normal man and he was so thin that he seemed still taller. His eyes were sharp and penetrating; his thin and slightly beaky nose gave his countenance the expression of a man on the lookout, save in certain moments of sluggishness of which I shall speak. His chin also denoted a firm will, though the long face covered in freckles-could occasionally express hesitation and puzzlement.”

No wonder they choose Sean to play him. I’m not really much further in the book. It’s on loan so I’d better get cracking on it. I might take Sunday and read a bit.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

Recently, I've been doing some reasearch for a long awaited trip to Italy with my husband. Early on I came to the conclusion that we can't afford it, the airfare wouldn't be a problem but the hotels are a fortune. Then I stumbled across a snippet online about staying in convents. After a LOT of digging I found a few books that show you where to stay and what to expect. When the Catholic church started having fewer and fewer nuns and monks their abbeys were rather empty. I suspect their coffers were too. So many have converted the old, unused cells into cheap accomadations for visitors. Since I've delved into my book that describes all of the monastaries and convents I've been bombarded with things of a monastic nature. Just a few examples: while at Borders I had a man ask me if I had read The Cloister Walk, and then a few days later I passed by The Name of the Rose and came to a screeching halt in my tracks. I have never read this book. I am however, well aware of the story. See, when I was little my parents would send us off to bed and watch movies that were not child appropriate, (even if they were fine for us to watch I suspect they wanted some time alone). Our house had been added onto years before we moved into it. As a result, the livingroom and the hallway to the bedrooms had three small stairs connecting them. Now, you could creep out of bed and provided your little brother didn't give you away, watch whatever the parents were watching and they would never see you as their backs were turned just right. WARNING: SPOILER It was in this manner: in the dark hallway of my childhood, that I first came to see sixteen year old Christain Slater have sex with a half-feral girl (I was then so horrified by the amount of dirt on her that it must have blocked out the shock of people having sex).
To my seven year old self sex was just yet another vague and weird thing that adults did. My other strong memory was of an old man screaming to Sean Connery that laughing made people look like monkeys and then tipping a candle over and burning down a bunch of books. Oh man, I went straight to bed. I wasn't going to watch some lunitic treat books in that way. I had nightmares for days afterwards of people burning books. END SPOILER

Seeing the literary hand of Fate deal me that, I snatched it right up and took it home with me. The following is an excerpt of the book from the author’s notes:

“On August 16, 1968, I was handed a book by a certain Abbe´ Vallet. De Manuscrit de Dom Adson de Melk, traduit en francais d`apre´s l`e´´´de Dom J. Mabillion. Supplemented by historical information that was actually quite scant, the book claimed to reproduce faithfully a fourteenth-century manuscript, that in its turn, had been found in the monastery of Melk, by the great eighteenth-century man of learning to whom we owe so much information about the Benedictine order. The scholarly discovery, (I mean mine), entertained me while I was in Prague, waiting for a dear friend. Six days later Soviet troops invaded that unhappy city. I managed, not without adventure to reach the Austrian border at Linz, and from there I journeyed to Vienna, where I met my beloved, and together we sailed up the Danube.
In a state of intellectual excitement, I read with fascination the terrible story of Adso of Melk and I allowed myself to be so absorbed by it in almost a single burst of energy, I completed a translation, using some of those large notebooks from the Papererie Joseph Gilbert in which it is so pleasant to write if you use a felt-tip pen. And as I was writing, I reached the vicinity of Melk, where, perched over a bend in the river, the handsome Stift stands to this day, after several restorations, during the course of the centuries.”

See, now I’m hooked. History, mystery and a man’s love of how a certain kind of paper feels under a certain kind of pen. Now I HAVE to read it.