Monday, April 28, 2014

"He's here! The Phantom of the Opera!"

The Phantom of the Opera. Oh boy, where do I start?
The first I heard of it (that I remember) was with my first voice teacher. She had me singing Think of Me and, at some point, Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again, I believe...
Then I found a video of Sarah Brightman and Antonio Banderas (who knew he could sing?) singing The Phantom of the Opera (dun dun dun dun dun dunnn...) and fell in love with the song. (Plus, I like Sarah Brightman's music in general.)
Then my friend Highlight saw the musical and sent me a video of Masquerade, which I thought was rather wonderful.
Then my piano teacher had me playing All I Ask of You.
And my other friend had a book about the history of the musical. And a book of music from the musical and she came over and I played some of it in the organ we have in our garage.
And then I was at the thrift store and saw the book by Gaston Leroux and bought it for $2.50.
This all happened over a period of probably four years. 
I knew by the time I found the book that I would fall in love with the musical whenever I watched it.
Another year or so passed.
I found out my youth leader owned a copy of the movie and I borrowed it, intending to watch it... and never did. We had it for probably 6 months before I finally gave it back. Haha. Whoops.
Fast forward a few more months. The date, sometime in February, 2014. I found the Phantom of the Opera 25th anniversary at Royal Albert Hall (2011) on youtube and watched half that night, and the rest on the next night.
I've seen it three or four more times since then, and have read the book. And re-watched the Phantom of the Opera/Music of the Night, Final Lair, Notes, and Masquerade scenes too many times to count.

Ramin Karimloo plays the Phantom and Sierra Boggess plays Christine.

Raoul is played by Hadley Fraser, who is also in a Doctor Who episode! 


There are a whole bunch of other characters too... such as the theater owners, Andre and Firmin.

In the musical - and in the book too, I suppose - Andre and Firmin are the comic relief. The guys who play them in the 25th anniversary are absolutely wonderful. 

There's also Carlotta and Piangi, the opera's main singers (though they hardly play a part in the book - especially Piangi, who isn't in the book at all, I believe). 

They are also comic relief. 

Lastly, there's Madame Giry and her daughter Meg.

In the musical, Madame Giry is the dance instructor-person, while in the book, she's simply Meg's mother, who keeps the Phantom's box. (What's up with her weird headband of hair thing? It's very distracting.)

So what's The Phantom of the Opera about?
It's your basic love triangle, with some different twists... The book and musical vary, but the bones of the plot are the same.
Christine, who works in the opera, starts taking voice lessons from the mysterious "Angel of Music," whom she thinks her dead father has sent to her. 
The Angel of Music turns out to be a deformed man (in the novel, named "Erik") living underneath the Paris Opera House. He "haunts" the opera and everyone knows him as "The Phantom of the Opera" or "the Opera Ghost." He falls in love with Christine and wants to force her to marry him and live with him forever.
But then Raoul, a childhood friend of Christine, a vicomte, shows up, and they fall in love and become engaged.
Of course, the Phantom isn't too pleased about this and he kidnaps Christine. When Raoul tries to rescue his fiance, the Phantom at first traps him, but in the end, has pity on the couple, and lets them go off together to get married. "Share with me... one love... one lifetime..."
In the musical, the Phantom mysteriously disappears underneath his cloak. In the book, he ends up dying "of love."

The book is a Gothic novel, and is, therefore, dark in atmosphere and mysterious. Also, really none of the characters have redeeming qualities.
Andre and Firmin are selfish and greedy... so are Carlotta and Piangi, and Madame Giry. 
Christine is just kind of there. She doesn't do much, except be the object of the Phantom and Raoul's love.
Raoul is a lovesick puppy whose all-consuming thoughts are about Christine.
The Phantom kills people to get what he wants and, on top of that, is kind of a creepy stalker person. (He has a secret passageway behind Christine's mirror.)
Out of all the characters, I think that the Phantom is one of my favorites. I like him better than Raoul. For mainly two reasons.
1. I pity him. Because of his deformities, he wasn't loved as a child. Out of that grew his murderous ways.
2. His compassion. I read this one blog post where the person was saying that they disliked Phantom, and were glad that Christine went away with Raoul, because Phantom was a murderer and there's no excuse for the things he did. While I agree with that, I think there's something that blogger was forgetting. At the end, he shows compassion to Raoul and to Christine. He was going to kill Raoul, and force Christine to marry himself, but then he decided to let both of them go - to be happy. He put someone else above himself for once, and I think that counts for something.
My favorite character is sadly not in the musical. He is only known as "The Persian" in the book. He knew Erik before Erik became "The Phantom of the Opera." He knew Erik when Erik worked for a princess of a far-off land. Erik, a master contractor and builder, designed a torture chamber for the princess' amusement, but, because he was too smart, she was going to have him put to death. The Persian, a policeman, rescued Erik, and then followed him to England. 
I think the Persian represents the audience reading the book. He's horrified at what Erik has done, but he still feels drawn to him for some reason. He helps Raoul to find Christine - like any person would do - even though he could be seen as the Phantom's one "friend" ("Friends? I don't have friends!") - because he knew it was right.

Changing gears completely, let's talk about the music from the musical!
The musical is by Andrew Lloyd Webber. He originally put it on Broadway in the 1980's, I believe. He wrote the music for Christine especially for his then-wife Sarah Brightman.


The music is wonderful. It's on the darker, sappier, get-stuck-in-your-head-for-weeks-on-end side... but I really don't mind it. (Well... to a certain point.)
Actually, a lot of the music is rather similar. For the life of me I can't keep Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again, All I Ask of You, and Think of Me straight. They're so similar. 
What really impresses me is the range of the music. You have to have a fantastic vocal range to sing the music in Phantom. Take the above song ("The Phantom of the Opera") for example. Christine starts on the G below middle C. The highest note at the very end is two E's above middle C!

That probably doesn't mean much to non-musical people... But that's an incredible range. My range right now is about an F below middle C to high C (I believe that's high C... two above middle C... Not sure though).

Slowly but surely, I'm making my way up to that high E. I can make it on good days, if I'm very relaxed. Thank goodness there are no words up there! Just "ahhh!"
Anyway... enough about ranges. My point is that almost every single song in the entire musical has a range that big! Isn't that crazy? You pretty much have to be a well-trained vocalist to be in this musical, unless you're naturally a coloratura soprano (aka, a really light, high, trilly soprano. Usually operatic. Even then, unless you want to hurt your voice by singing up there, you're gonna want training).

A lot of the songs in Phantom of the Opera are reprised throughout, with different lyrics, or sung by someone else, or in different context.
Here are some of my favorite musical numbers:

The Phantom of the Opera/Music of the Night. This is near the beginning of the musical, when the Phantom first takes Christine down to his lair. The Phantom of the Opera song is one that nearly everyone knows, and I've loved it for a good long while. Music of the Night just seems to fit with it, and is very pretty. Though, I admit, I probably wouldn't go searching specifically for Music of the Night to listen to everyday, unless it had The Phantom of the Opera attached to it.

Probably my favorite song in the entire musical is "Notes" (it's one of my favorite parts in the book too). Everyone keeps getting notes from the mysterious O.G. ("Who is he? *light bulb* Opera Ghost!"). It's a pretty funny song, acted wonderfully in the 25th. 

Another of my favorite songs is I Remember. It's not so much of a song as a melody that weaves throughout the whole musical. It's really mystical and just pretty. 

And finally, Masquerade. This is the first scene that I ever saw from The Phantom of the Opera. It's really wonderful. Not only is the music great, the costumes are AMAZING. So many! Plus, it's a masquerade, and who can resist those? I love how the music starts out sort of comical and soft and then BAM! everyone starts singing and dancing.


Why do I love the Phantom of the Opera so much? I couldn't even tell you. It's probably the same reason I loved Wuthering Heights. But I just can't put my finger on it.
Would I recommend it? I don't know that either. Haha. It's a great musical, but it does have some stuff in it that I wouldn't show to kids.The first half is really wonderful, but the second half gets quite a bit darker and serious. There's one song that should definitely be skipped. I tend to just skip over most of the second half, except for the Final Lair part, which is the end. And Masquerade, which is at the beginning of the second half. Why is it that musicals have to get so much darker after intermission? The same things happens in West Side Story. The first part is wonderful, and the second part is just... eh. With one or two good songs/scenes.
I don't think I could ever call The Phantom of the Opera my favorite musical or book... It's more of a guilty pleasure watch/read. Like a chick-flick, only darker and sadder.
And there you have it!

"It's over now... the music of the night!"

Friday, April 25, 2014

Book Tower Challenge

Here's the list of things to find if you want to do the challenge too!

1. The first book in a series.
2. The second book in a different series.
3. A book with blue on the cover.
4. A book title that is 7 letters long.
5. A book you've never read.
6. A book with sky on it.
7. An author with the same first letter of their first name as you (example... Abbey=Agatha Christie).
8. A classic.
9. A nonfiction book.
10. A book with 4 or more colors on the spine.
11. A book with a New York Bestseller sticker/award/thing on the front.
12. The smallest book in size (height and width, not just page numbers).
13. The last book you bought.
14. A book with a face on the cover.
15. A spin-off book.
16. A book published over 10 years ago.
17. A book with a sequel coming out next year.
18. An author with an alliterative name (like Rick Riodan).
19. A book with an epilogue.
20. A title with a made up word in it (like Roverandom by J.R.R. Tolkien).

Live long and prosper!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Mr. Darcy

Since I did a review (of sorts) way back when I read Pride and Prejudice for the first time, I decided not to do a second review now for my read of the book for literature class.
Instead, I'm going to talk about Mr. Darcy!

When I first watched Pride and Prejudice, and later read the book, I did not like Mr. Darcy. When my mom and I watched the 6-hour version over and over again and when I re-read the book, I did not like Mr. Darcy. I thought he was so mean to Lizzie, unfeeling towards her sister, and unbelievably rude.
But when I re-read this book for literature at the beginning of the year, I read it specifically noting Mr. Darcy, his characteristics, and everything about him.
After doing that I just had one question: Where in the universe did I get the idea that Darcy was a mean and rude person?! Where did that come from? I found that Mr. Darcy is the total opposite of my prejudices.
Which actually gives me an idea of where my ideas came from... Lizzie Bennet. The book is, after all, from her point of view, and though it is implied (especially later and, of course, in the title) that she is prejudiced... well, as a reader, aren't you supposed to see that and take your own point of view of things? I obviously didn't.
Anyway, looking at mostly Darcy as I read through the book, I found my point of view in regards to Darcy and Lizzie reversed. Mr. Darcy is a total gentleman throughout the book, acting just as someone in his position would be expected to, in my opinion. And Lizzie... well, she is very prejudiced, and rude too.

We first meet Mr. Darcy in chapter 3, at the ball. At first, the gentleman pronounce him "a fine figure of a man" and the women think him "much handsomer than Bingley." By the end of the night, however, they have "discovered [him] to be proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased... [with a] ...forbidding, disagreeable countenance, and being unworthy compared to his friend."
Mr. Darcy, of course, goes on to say that he deserts dancing, unless particularly acquainted with his partner, and that Elizabeth is "tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me." He then says, "I am in no humor at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men."
Why is he out of humor? Fast forward a couple months and Lizzie gets his letter, telling all about Mr. Wickham's detestable dealings with his family. All the stuff with Georgiana had probably happened within the last few months from the time of the first ball. Could Mr. Darcy be out of humor because he's worried about his sister and thinking of her?
"Darcy was clever, haughty, reserved, fastidious, well-bred, but not inviting." At the Meryton ball he sees a "collection of people in whom there was little beauty and no fashion."
I think this is a reasonable remark for someone in Mr. Darcy's shoes, who grew up surrounded by wealth and beauty. That's all he's used to. When thrown into a situation that we're not familiar with, don't we all tend to be critical? Especially if we're out of humor at the time.
"Occupied in observing Mr. Bingley's attentions to her sister, Elizabeth was far from suspecting that she herself was becoming an object of some interest in the eyes of his friend." When first observing Lizzie, Darcy scarcely allowed her to be pretty. On a second observance, however, he realizes (to his mortification) that she is pretty, easy-going, and playful.
Isn't that how it is with all of us? Upon a second viewing of the "unfamiliar" or "disagreeable" circumstance, we tend to slowly admit that there are some good things. This, of course, is hard, and sometimes mortifying. No one likes to admit to being wrong. ("Don't be hasty [in forming opinions]... bararoom.")
Elizabeth, meanwhile, has written Darcy off as a disagreeable snob.
When attending a party at Lucas Lodge, Darcy determines to find out more about Lizzie. As a step towards talking with her himself, he spies on her conversations, and Lizzie calls him out on it, before going to the piano to sing with Charlotte. This is the first time Darcy hears her musicality.
After that, the dancing starts up and Sir William Lucas tries to get Darcy and Lizzie to dance with each other. Darcy is "not unwilling to receive her hand" but Lizzie pulls away and refuses. He then tells Caroline Bingley about Lizzie's "fine eyes."

Something I totally missed the first two times I read the book - at that is left out of the movie adaptions I've seen - is that Darcy loves books. We learn that Darcy's library at Pemberley has been the work of many generations. He is "always buying books" because he "cannot comprehend the neglect of a family library in such days as these." When they're talking about what an accomplished woman should look like, Mr. Darcy adds "well-read" to the list.

Miss Bingley teases Darcy about Lizzie's fine eyes, but he cannot join in on her censure. Also, when Mrs. Bennet, along with Kitty and Lydia, come to see Jane at Netherfield, thought they are quite rude to Darcy, he is not rude back.

Chapters 10 and 11 are two of my favorites... Darcy is writing one of his "generally long" letters slowly and Caroline says that anyone who writes long letters must write well. They begin discussing indirect boasts and Darcy comments:
"The power of doing anything with quickness is always much prized by the possessor, and often without any attention to the imperfection of the performance."
Later in the evening, after Bingley dissuades Darcy and Lizzie from a debate, Darcy asks the women to play. Caroline rushes forward, but Darcy politely informs her that he would like to hear Elizabeth first. His eyes are often on her throughout the evening, and Lizzie can't comprehend why - she thinks she is an object of censure. Darcy even asks her dance! when the Bingley sisters start to play lively music, but Elizabeth, of course, refuses, though she wonders at his gallantry.
He thinks her bewitching, but thinks himself in no danger because of her low connections.
That's something everyone has felt before - trying to talk one's self out of something. "It's okay if I stay for desert, even though I'm on a diet. The diet will keep me from eating the triple fudge chocolate cake!"
The next day, Caroline and Darcy are walking in the shrubbery ("Ni! Ni!") and Caroline teases Darcy and tries to get him to say bad things about Lizzie. Whoops! They are quickly joined by Mrs. Hurst and Lizzie herself! I hope she didn't hear... Anyway, Caroline takes one of Darcy's arms and Mrs. Hurst the other - they see that there is only room for three on the pathway. "Mr. Darcy felt their rudeness and immediately said - 'This walk is not wide enough for our party. We had better go into the avenue.'" Lizzie refuses with a laugh, and runs off.

After this, she and Jane are able to go back home again, and Lizzie doesn't see Darcy again until, I believe, they are both at Rosings Park. Mr. Darcy makes his odious marriage proposal, which is quite rude. If he had proposed any other way, however, I don't think it would have made logical sense.
At the time, he was still getting over his pride (by the way, there's an interesting article out there somewhere about how the Bennets are actual gentry, while Darcy just has a lot of money and no title - or something like that. They're really on the same level of society as each other ["He is a gentleman, and I am a gentleman's daughter"], only Darcy has got lots of money, and the Bennet's don't). It was logical in his brain to say how disadvantageous the match was for him. He thought, because he was so rich, Lizzie would accept him on that. She, of course, had all sorts of prejudices towards him, and wouldn't accept a thing he said. She tells him how rude he sounds ("If you had behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner") and he goes off to rethink some things.
Of course, he gives her the letter explaining about Wickham, among other things... and then they drift apart again, until a few months later, when Lizzie visits Pemberley.

At Pemberley, she sees Mr. Darcy transformed. He has, no doubt, thought a lot about what she said to him. He's realized some of his faults, and he's working to correct them. Like I said earlier, this is not an easy thing to do! We all wish we were perfect, and try to put on the front of being perfect. When people admonish us, it hurts, we lash back. But a strong person will learn from the comments of others and become a better person because of it. Pride and Prejudice is an excellent literary example of this. That's why I love it - and all of Jane Austen - so much: THE CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT! OH, the character development is brilliant.
Thinking about the things Lizzie has said to him isn't the only factor changing Darcy's attitude. He's also in his own environment. He's at home, where's he comfortable. He was raised here, he knows every nook and cranny ("What's a cranny? Are my nooks dirtier than my crannies?"). Plus he's got his sister around, and his best friend. Of course he's going to be more relaxed. I'm more relaxed when I'm in a familiar place, with familiar people.

Then the drama with Lydia comes out... Elizabeth reveals all and is sure that when Darcy leaves her, it will be the last time they ever see each other. All hope for herself and for Jane and Bingley has left Lizzie and she goes home, distraught.
But Mr. Darcy doesn't leave in disgust. He's genuinely concerned for Elizabeth. And when he hears the particulars of Lydia's case, his mind whirs into motion. You can almost see the gears working. And then he's up and away and, as we learn later, to London, to seek out the escapees. He pays off Wickham and makes him marry Lydia.

And finally - finally! - after his aunt's disagreeable visit to the Bennet homestead, Elizabeth gives him reason to hope as he's never hoped before... And he comes, and it's awkward, and he leaves. And then he comes again and Lizzie is made to walk out with him. Kitty comes along but it soon deposited at the Lucas' to call on Maria. Lizzie and Darcy are alone together and he makes his second proposal. She accepts! Huzzah!
The next day, to give Jane and Bingley some time alone, Lizzie and Darcy are made to walk out again (Mrs. Bennet is very apologetic to Lizzie, but says that she entertained him so well the day before...) which suits them just fine. They talk about lots of things and when they come back for dinner, Mr. Darcy asks Mr. Bennet for Lizzie's hand in marriage.
Mr. Bennet makes sure that's what Lizzie really wants, and they are married!

So there you have it. As you can see, my original misconceptions about Darcy were totally wrong. He behaves like a gentleman throughout the entire book - and when he's not acting gentlemanly (ahem, a certain proposal and some comments towards a certain someone at the beginning of the book) he's certainly acting very human, and we shouldn't judge him for that. We all say things we don't mean, or that are taken out of context, and we all need to let go of our pride and our prejudices sometimes in order to judge things for what they really are.

For a book primarily about romance, there are a lot of deeper things going on once you get passed the surface. Not only thing to think about and apply to one's own life, but also things to apply to one's writing life. Looking at just Mr. Darcy's character gave me so much more insight into him, and the book! I think that could be a valuable tool for writers rewriting books. Reading through a rough draft focusing on only one character - writing down opinions, skills, inflection in the voice, and traits and characteristics both physical and personality-wise, could be so much more influential than writing down those things at the beginning of the book and trying desperately to stay within those perimeters (we all know how well that works). Instead of strictly staying with who you want the character to be, you can find out who the character really is.

There is my long post on Mr. Darcy! Maybe next I should re-read Sense and Sensibility, focusing only on Edward Ferris. I've never understood him or liked him much. Maybe a character study would help with that!

Live long and prosper.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!

Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ta ta for now

For undisclosed reasons, I am going to be taking a bit of a blogging break over the next few weeks. I have a few posts scheduled so things don't get too boring around here... but I will most likely not be reading blogs, commenting on blogs, or answering comments here.

In other news, I re-uploaded all the pictures from our trip to the East Coast in 2012!! A few months ago, I clicked something, and it deleted all the pictures off of my blog. I've slowly been adding them back on... I think I'm as far back as the beginning of 2013, but I really wanted to get our East Coast trip back up, so I did that the other day. Hurrah!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Why Only One Shoe? A Short Story by Abbey

"What's wrong, Mom?" teenager Terren Gray asked. "Is the traffic stressing you out? Relax, we don't have to be there for 20 minutes. We could switch places; I could drive for awhile, if you like."
Toddler Toni sang snatches of song from the backseat.
"No, it's not the traffic," Mrs. Gray replied through clenched teeth. "It's that shoe on the side of the road. Why is there always only ONE shoe on the sides of freeways? It is something that has bothered me since childhood! Oh, it frustrates me!"
"Don't look at it Mom. Don't let it stress you. You know what the doctor said about stress. Oh, look! We're moving again!"
Mrs. Gray hit the gas pedal, took a few calming breaths, and felt better. But the question still lingered:
Why only one shoe?
There was a knock at the door. The shadowy figures, seated around a table, in a darkened room, exchanged glances with one another. One shadow rose and slid over to the door.
"Identify yourself," he said gruffly.
"It's Patrice, you oaf!" replied the voice form behind the door. "Let me in!"
The shadow allowed entrance, and enter Patrice did, soaking wet.
"Let's have some light, then!" she said. "Why's it so dark in here? And turn the fireplace on! I'm freezing!"
"No," said the gruff voice.
"Lewis!" snapped Patrice. "We may be meeting at your house, but we don't have to succumb to your blackout conditions!"
"That's what I said," muttered someone at the table.
"But we're a secret society," grumbled Lewis. "Secret societies on television always meet in darkness."
"Never mind the television, Lewis," said a new voice. "I, Dahlia Peters, as leader of this so-called 'secret society,' decree a compromise. A fire for Patrice, so she doesn't catch a cold, and so the rest of us can see-"
"That's not a compromise, Dahlia! I don't get anything out of it!" Lewis complained.
"I was just getting to your part," Dahlia replied. "We will have a fire, but we won't turn any lights on to please you. Satisfied?"
"I suppose," Lewis acquiesced. He turned on his gas fireplace.
"We've wasted enough time," said Dahlia, "let's get this meeting started."
Six people gathered around the fire and Dahlia pulled out a sheet of paper.
"Thomas," she said, "you take E street tonight. We haven't been there in awhile. Take a brown loafer. Lewis, you go to the main freeway and drop off a Sketcher's tennis shoe. Sorry Jayne, looks like you get Interstate 10 again. The good news is that you get to take one of those light-up kid's shoes."
"That's alright. Interstate 10 ain't that bad," Jayne, a small woman, said in a small voice.
Dahlia nodded. "Jacqueline, you go down Mainstreet and place a black flat in the gutter in front of the bank. And finally, Patrice, you go to 43rd Street with a pair of running shoes and hang them from a phone wire."
"Great!" Patrice exclaimed. "I love pairs! Especially when I get to hang them from telephone wires! People always wonder the most at those. 'How did they get up there? Why would someone do that?' Haha, they'll never guess!"
"Yes, yes, Patrice," Dahlia said, "I know pairs are your special skill. That's why you got this job. I'm going to Highway 12 with a red high heel.  Let's go! These shoes won't get placed by themselves! Good luck."


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Detective work

Today on the way home from getting our hair cut, my mom and I stopped at an estate sale. Estate sales are interesting. Much more interesting than regular garage sales. With estate sales, nearly everything in the house is for sale, because someone has died or moved into a retirement home (usually). You can find some reeeeaaally interesting stuff there... At one estate sale we went to, the whole front room was covered in creepy dolls. One that we looked at online had TONS of old Star Wars memorabilia.
My mom goes for the fabric. I go for the books. Once I found the Complete Works of Shakespeare for $1!!
The sale today had lots of old games (from the 30's or 40's, it looked like), teddy bears, and books.Wow, I have never seen so many old books that well preserved in one place before! Well, at least, all together in a place where you could pick them up and scrutinize them. Where they weren't behind lock and key to keep grubby little fingers off of them.
Anyway, this person was obviously a Sherlock Holmes fan, and a fan of classics, for he/she had an old Complete Sherlock Holmes book from the '60's, along with two or three of the novels in hardback. There were also collections of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville.
I came away with three books and honestly I can't believe I'm making this post so composed because these three books are SO. EXCITING!

All three are over a hundred years old! And in excellent shape. And I got all three for $5! A steal!
On the top is Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens. It didn't have a date in the front of it, but I looked up the publishing house and it was only active from 1897-1906, so I'm supposing that this book was printed then.
On the bottom is The Prince and Pauper by Mark Twain. The date in the front of the book is from 1909. It's in such good condition, though, that it might be from a later date. I'm not sure. This one, unfortunately, has pen scribbles all over the front cover.
Both of these books were formed library books (hence the scribbles and the big black "discarded" in the front cover). Old books from libraries are really wonderful. Old books are wonderful. They were made so differently years and years ago.
I was telling my mom that I felt so good so buy these, because it's like preserving a piece of history. So many people have switched over to eReaders, and so many people just don't read at all. Or if they do, they only read the books that are popular right now (like Twilight or The Hunger Games or Divergent or any other YA book). I don't believe one can truly be a well-balanced bookworm if one does not read books from a variety of different times, in a variety of genres, on a variety of subjects. Or maybe one can be a bookworm, but not a well-read bookworm.
Anyway, the middle book is the most exciting one! It's The Valley of Fear, the final Sherlock Holmes novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The Valley of Fear was originally published serial style in a newspaper (probably The Strand, but I've forgotten) from 1914-1915. The first book copy came out in 1914 from the George H. Doran Company. (It was an American publishing company who published many British books during World War One to help out with the War effort. This explains why The Valley of Fear was published in America, rather than in Britain. They also published P.G. Wodehouse's books!)
Now here's the exciting part... my copy is also from 1914! Though the publisher is different.

Because this copy is "in agreement with George H. Doran Company" I'm supposing it to be a 2nd or 3rd printing. Or maybe A.L. Burt Company had a deal with Doyle too.

This is why I love shopping second hand for books. You never know what you're going to find! I think it adds to the joy of loving "classics" or "old books" as well. Someone who exclusively reads modern day fiction will never experience the same thrill of holding a book with so much history within it's very fibers. Where has this Valley of Fear been before? Whom was it's original owner? I continue to flip through these books just now, I notice in the cover of Prince and the Pauper an imprint which says "Wilton Manor Public Library." So I look it up - it's a library in Florida! Strange, because in the front cover of Valley of Fear, there is one of those address-sticker-things, and the address there is from Florida too (though Wilton Manor and St. Petersburg, the address in the Valley of Fear are about 4 hours driving distance from each other).
Did this "Walter Wende" on the sticker in Valley of Fear live in Florida and then move to the Pacific Northwest and take his books with him? Or did the previous owner of these books buy them from a "Walter Wende" in Florida once upon a time?
...I just did a Google search of "Walter Wende" and found a list of death records. Two Walter Wende's from Florida... One I can rule out because his name is Walter R Wende, and my Walter is Walter A. Wende. 
Walter no-middle-initial Wende was born in 1890 and died in 1974. He was from St. Petersburg, Florida. The Walter Wende on my sticker was from St. Petersburg, Florida. Could it be the same man?

I looked up the address in the book cover and this is what Google Maps came up with (I apologize to whoever is now living here. lol)

Perhaps as a young man of 24, Walter bought the new Sherlock Holmes mystery when it came out. Perhaps later in life, he went off and served in either or both of the World Wars. Or perhaps he bought The Valley of Fear from someone else who bought it when it first came out.
Since Walter Wende died 40 years ago, he obviously did not live in the house we went to today. So who bought the book from Wende? Did it pass down to a family member after he died? Or was it carted off to a thrift store where someone else picked it up? How did it get all the way across the country? And were Little Dorrit, The Prince and the Pauper, and the other old books at the estate sale from Mr. Wende's collection as well? Is this Walter Wende even my Walter Wende?
This is where the people in those history programs would say "Well, we've run up against a wall. I guess some questions will never be answered. Thank you for joining us in this journey. We hope you join us next week when we try and discover..."

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Nightstand Books: The First

Nightstand Books is exactly what it sounds like: a post of what books are on your nightstand! This fun, new linkup is hosted by the fabulous Jenelle Leanne Schmidt and DJ Edwardson.
The first Wednesday of every month, you simply take a picture of the books that are currently on your nightstand, and write a post about them! (and link up with the others doing it)
You know me, I love talking about the books I'm reading... and this is the perfect opportunity to!
Without further ado... my nightstand:

Starting at the top, we have Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I'm reading this for literature class and really enjoying it so far! Technically we're still on Wuthering Heights (which I also enjoyed... review coming in the nearish future) but I really wanted to get Great Expectations finished before the middle of this month, for secretive reasons I shan't disclose at the present. (Mwahahaha.)
From what I heard about Dickens, I had great expectations for Great Expectations (see what I did there?). Alright, maybe not great expectations, per se... But from what I had gleaned from other readers, Dickens is really super tough to read and get through. That had me apprehensive, but I was happy to find that he's not so difficult to understand after all! His writing style is similar to Jane Austen's in that it's old fashioned, but not indiscernible.

Next there is Thank You, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse. I discovered the world of Wodehouse in February and have fast fallen for his brilliant writing style and characters. His Jeeves books are definitely not to be taken too seriously and they make excellent brain candy reading. Thank You, Jeeves is the first Jeeves and Wooster novel (before it come several short story collections) and I'm enjoying it tremendously! My favorite episode of the TV series is based off of this story.

Third down is Jane Austen's Letters which is exactly like it sounds: a collection of Jane Austen's letters. Most of them are to her sister Cassandra and are, altogether, very interesting! I love reading people's letters or autobiographies, especially if the people lived in a historical time period. Textbooks and Wikipedia pages can only tell you so much about that time... but reading the everyday occurrences of someone who actually lived at the time can be so enlightening! It's like a peek into a different world.

Which brings me to... Agatha Christie's Autobiography. Everything I said about the above also applies to this book. Wow, what an interesting person Agatha Christie is! I recently finished a book of her letters to her mother when she traveled around the world with her husband in the 1920's (it was so so so good) and figured I'd just move right along into her autobiography. I haven't gotten too far into her life yet. She's only just entered the teen years. Did you know she never really wrote much as a child? She loved to read, and she had many make believe worlds and friends (including several imaginary train tracks in her backyard), but she never wrote. Instead she played piano, acted, danced, swan, and learned French. She wasn't an outstanding child - actually, she was rather normal. Her childhood games reminds me of my own.

Underneath those four books are three or four notebooks, several pieces of paper, and a folder or two. All are filled with stories or story ideas. Aaaand up in the left hand corner, you can see Dori photobombing. I decided to have his make a cameo appearance instead of the other half of my nightstand, which is the top of my dresser. It's rather messy, filled with bits of paper and bookmarks. I didn't think you'd be interested in that.

So what are YOU reading?

Live long and prosper!

Some people

I've been thinking about this post since last night and I just have to write it, even at the unreasonable hour of 11:42.

Watching interviews with lovely British people has brought considerable joy into my heart in the past.

They are amazing actors.

Wonderful people in general.

Amazingly smart and dashing.

Hilarious and extremely interesting in real life.

Scrolling through quotes from interviews of the above is nearly as good as watching the interviews themselves (and takes up considerably more time, especially if said pictures are found on Pinterest. No, I don't have an account. Yes, I still spend too many hours on it.)
But after watching interviews for an hour (time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin'... into the future...) or scrolling through Pinterest for two, I always leave feeling empty and a little dumber. (And then I feel remorse at wasting my time and give up interviews and Pinterest and fling myself into the waiting arms of some Literature book and thusly, feel smart again.)
Only the other day did I realize what the emptiness was. Let me describe said emptiness first.
I felt like I should love Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston as much as the other girls. I felt like I should "fangirl" over them too. After all, they are pretty much the epitome of the Perfect Male on earth, right?

I mean, aren't they just the most adorable things in the entire universe?!? (Notice my satirical sarcasm here. I'm turning into Mr. Bennet. In 50 years you'll find me penniless, holed up in my library, laughing at the world's follies.)
Anyway, back to the point...

Stephen Fry. He plays Jeeves. He also plays the Master of Laketown. He is also the narrator for the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie. He has wonderful facial expressions.

And he's in extremely interesting person. He has all sorts of witticisms, and advice on how to live in a not so great world. People love him. Like I said, I find him very interesting, but I just can't love him.

Hugh Laurie. He's Stephen Fry's best friend. They went to university together, along with Emma Thompson. All three were a part of the same comedy group at uni that Monty Python came out of. He played Bertie Wooster. He played Mr. Palmer. He also makes hilarious facial expressions.

He plays BLUES. He's amazing pianist, singer, and songwriter. But I just can't love him.

Shall I go on? One more.

Tom Hiddleston. Loki, the most beloved villain, from the Avengers franchise. In real life, Tom Hiddleston holds a degree in literature. He is very very very well-versed in Shakespeare and other classic literature. This gives him a high ranking in my sight. He is also a great actor, very handsome, and has an adorable laugh (which would be perfect for one Sir Percy Blakeney).

But I just can't love him the way other fangirls do. (Not that I'm a fangirl. I'm not and never wish to be.)

Why, why can't I be so dippy for these British men? Why do I fill with increasing indifference and even - dare I say? - dislike when I watch more and more interviews conducted with them?
The answer his me square in the face the other night.
It's because they are missing something.
An important something that stops me from lavishing unequivocal praises on them. Something that stops me from setting them up as a role model. Something that stops me from saying "I want my future husband to be polite to me like Tom Hiddleston would!"
It's Jesus.
These men are missing God in their lives.
They are successful, loved everywhere they go. They claim to be happy and peaceful. But I don't believe real, true peace (peace that transcends understanding - Philippians 4) can be had without God. I don't believe you can experience full happiness and fulfillment without God. Even successful people feel it. There was a football player who said something along the lines of, "I have a lot of money which could buy me anything, but I still feel empty."
Celebrities, regardless of whether or not they are British, just don't appeal to me. They could be the politest, smartest, and bestest, but they just don't fit the bill. I don't love them. I don't envy them. I think that to love them, and to continue to excessively watch interviews and scroll through their pictures would be idolatry. My example is Jesus Christ. Everyone else pales in comparison to him. My other examples are godly men. My dad, my pastor, others in my church. I'd much rather spend a day when them than with Tom Hiddleston or Ramin Karimloo (to be fair, he's not British. He's an Iranian Canadian. Which rhymes. Wait for it...)

The most I can say for these people is that I "greatly admire and esteem them." Most girls out there are probably thinking "Use those words again and I shall leave the room!" I shall leave saying:
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
1 John 2: 15-17