The Sea

Thoughts   The Sea by John Banville, Vintage Books 2006 (orig 2005), 195 pages, Winner of the Man Booker Prize

I loved this book.

Yet, is it true?   I only gave it 4 stars?!   Yes, I had to discount it one star because I was mad at it that it wouldn’t be finished in the year 2010 and cost me the completion of the What’s In a Name 3 Challenge.    I was mad at it because I had to look up a new-to-me word on every other page.   I dislike the uneasy idea that I lurve books that make me feel stupid and thus smarter because I am thus challenging myself to something ‘deep’ and to look up vocabulary.   SO there.

I was hooked and mesmorized by this book after the first page!   This book told me that I crave prose that is lush and confusing.   That I need to have THOUGHT-y books in my reading appetite;  books that are all in someone’s head, reflecting on life’s crap-filled past futures and present, with many a sentence fragments and/or multiple descriptors and then some.  Oh yea, bring it on.

This little bit is from the very first page, the first two paragraphs:

“The seabirds mewled and swooped, unnerved, it seemed, by the spectacle of that vast bowl of water bulging like a blister, lead-blue and malignantly agleam.  They looked unnaturally white, that day, those birds.  The waves were depositing a fringe of soiled yellow foam along the waterline.  No sail marred the high horizon.  I would not swim, no, not ever again.

Someone has just walked over my grave.”

Even now, knowing now what I didn’t know then, I am still pulled by this imagery.   I see SPOILERS!!   (oops)   FORESHADOWING!     and yet, I am still puzzled.*

What exactly makes this stuff something I like?   Is it really any GOOD?    Sure, are not my own aesthetics and opinions the only ones that matter?   How could I be so entranced by Banville’s Sea and yet, have a serious dislike of Nabokov (Banville reminds me of Nabokov;  or was it just the comparison made by The Sunday Telegraph on the back of the book blurb)?   How come so many others thought this book dull and I found it captivating in its contemplative quietness?

So, if you don’t like books like this, move along.   Go ahead and read all the negative reviews on goodreads.   I laugh HA HA!  at those people that think Mr. Banville is pretentious and show-offy.    Yea, I suppose...   The guy does have an incredible vocabulary – I say he has a right to use it.     [I would really hate to eavesdrop on a conversation between him and Martin Amis.   English?!  on which planet?]

I was sucked into this book and felt it.    The imagery, the soft colors, the muted tones.   The emotions;   young love, first kiss, the questions, the fear and the passion.   Heavy angry grief.

MOTIVATION for READING:   I have mentioned more times than you really care to be reminded of that this was for the What’s in a Name 3 Challenge but that does not explain why THIS book for THAT category (body of water).    I originally wanted to read this book because of Dewey.   And now I’m getting all emotional and sad.   Did Dewey review this?    Maybe; I have lost that link already.    Here’s the chain of events:     Dewey reviewed Christine Falls written by Benjamin Black and offers it to send it to anyone who wants it and I win!   Soon after, we receive the sad news that Dewey is no longer with us.    I will always think of Dewey now, when I think of Banville.   (and books and Weekly Geeks** and the Read-A-Thon and I’ll shut up now) and when I only gave the Black mystery two stars (in a post that included vocabulary!), I committed to reading more by Banville to find out why/how he is so critically acclaimed;  I didn’t want my memories of Dewey tainted by a book I didn’t love.

I committed to reading The Sea in 2009 for the Dewey Challenge.   I failed it that year.   I committed to reading The Sea for 2010 and failed that, too.  (I finished it on January 6th.)    And, it’s OK. I think I needed this book to be more than a book.   It needs to be a memory, a token.***    Something that provokes me.    (I’m all teary right now being sad about Dewey.)

And I’m glad that I have found John Banville a place in my heart as a brilliant-to-me writer.   I’m grateful to the universe for making this a special read for me.   Aw hell, I’m going to re-rate it to 5 stars.   It’s personal.

Where was I?

pg 57  “There was a day when the door did open but it was Rose who came out,and gave me a look that made me lower my eyes and hurry on.  Yes, Rose had the measure of me from the start.  Still has, no doubt.”

HUH?   still has?  WHAT is going on!?

WHAT’s it ABOUT:      It’s about Max, whose wife has died.   To deal with his grief, he goes back to the seaside town he grew up in (or vacationed in? —  I was confused on this point.)    That’s pretty much it.      Mostly recent memories of his wife and her illness, the far past of his being a kid on the beach and the friends he made, his present – having to sort through all these difficult memories…   It’s almost a puzzle.    It definitely jumped around in time, a lot.   Confusingly.   I read the first 15 pages and then started over, I was so lost.    And Max wasn’t really a likable sort, either.

“Life, authentic life, is supposed to be all struggle, unflagging action and affirmation, the will butting its blunt head against the world’s wall, suchlike, but when I look back I see that the greater part of my energies was always given over to the simple search for shelter, for comfort, for, yes, I admit it, for cosiness. This is a surprising, not to say shocking, realisation. Before, I saw myself as something of a buccaneer, facing all-comers with a cutlass in my teeth, but now I am compelled to acknowledge that this was a delusion. To be concealed, protected, guarded, that is all I have ever truly ever wanted, to burrow down into a place of womby warmth and cower there, hidden from the sky’s indifferent gaze and the air’s harsh damagings. That is why the past is just such a retreat for me, I go there eagerly, rubbing my hands and shaking off the cold present and the colder future. And yet, what existence, really, does it have, the past? After all, it is only what the present was, once, the present that is gone, no more than that. And yet.”

Please link over to these EXCELLENT REVIEWS:    Jules – also for the What’s in a Name 3 Challenge (“elegant and poetic style of writing”) ,  Incurable Logophilia (“…a good author to take slowly, and I liked being able to take up with the book a little each day and meander through his careful sentences.”), Matt’s Views at A Guy’s Moleskin Notebook (“…a book of portentous rhetoric, a story of a ravaged self in search of a reason to go on in life cloaked in beautifully and meditatively constructed sentences.”)

The more I reminisce about my reading of this novel, I am conflicted about wanting to read it again or only share with a friend.  Make them read it and then discuss, discuss, discuss.   I want to talk about symbols, foreshadowing, crazy words.   Maybe I should have made this one a book club book.   Aw, they would have hated it…

BE READY for the upcoming post of vocab words…


*  WHOSE grave!??!    I am still not sure about this…
** Sadly, I have not done a Weekly Geek post in months.
*** TOKEN as defined as “a thing serving as a visible or tangible representation of something abstract.” and “done for the sake of appearances or as a symbolic gesture”.


Copyright © 2007-2011. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

What’s in a Name 2011

My choices from the books “currently in house and yet-to-read” are:

  1. A book with a number in the title: Think of a Number by John Verdon
  2. A book with jewelry or a gem in the title: Cat in a Diamond Dazzle by Carole Nelson Douglas
  3. A book with a size in the title: __  (I got nothin’)
  4. A book with travel or movement in the title: Go Ask Alice, Dead Man Walking*, Up in the Air, AA Gill is Away, My Detachment by Tracy Kidder
  5. A book with evil in the title: Bad Girls Don’t Die, Killer Angels**
  6. A book with a life stage in the title:   Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Does my choice for the first category qualify?    Is it OK to have the word NUMBER be the number????   I did have Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith come to mind for that first category but I don’t have it in-house.

I am also not sure if all the titles I listed for category #4 qualify but  I’m leaning towards Dead Man Walking* anyway.  I was surprised how many I could find to offer on that one, though.

And sad that I had no size books.  DARN!  My goodreads tbr has a few SIZE offerings:  The History of Astronomy:  A Very Short Introduction by Michael Hoskin,

OH!   Just remembered that I loaned An Abundance of Katherines by John Green to my neighbor! Excuse to get it back!!!

Thank you Fyrefly for agreeing with me that this will qualify…   I think I’m ready for another JG book.

AND, I really am intimidated by  Midnight’s Children….  I’ve attempted it once.    I could blame the physical paperback I have, tho – VERY TINY PRINT and yellowed.    Perhaps I should get an ebook version.

PLEASE help me choose which book for the EVIL category!     and weigh in on my choice for the number one.  Thanks!

PS I still have two books to read for THIS year!    Where the Red Fern Grows and The Sea…    I think I can do it.

** I’ve been wanting and needing a reason to dive into this Civil War classic.


Copyright © 2010. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

The Samurai’s Garden

Thoughts   The Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama, St. Martin’s Griffin 1994, 211 pages.

FIRST SENTENCE:  “I wanted to find my own way this morning so I persuaded my father to let me travel alone from his apartment in Kobe to my grandfather’s beach house in Tarumi.”

MOTIVATION for READING:   My friend Holly enthusiastically recommended this and since it is set in Japan, I selected it for the Asia component of my Global Reading Challenge.     And since I gave up on my original choice for Place in the What’s in a Name 3 Challenge, I’m substituting this one.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:   A young Chinese man is sent to the family’s vacation home to recuperate from an illness.   It is the eve of World War II;  Japan is invading China, and our protagonist learns about life and relationships from the wise caretaker of the house.

WHAT’s GOOD/NOT so GOOD:    In quiet beautiful prose, we are taken on a slow journey as we learn along with Stephen about family and friendship, goals and dreams, duty and love.   The descriptions are vivid and create a serene sense of place and time amid the tragedies of war, disease and misunderstandings.     Early on, I was struck by a few sentences that explained more than necessary and a few that lacked but this is very minor compared to how lush the writing was most of the time.

FINAL THOUGHTS:    I enjoyed this slowly unfolding novel (when I told myself to not be impatient for something big to happen.)    It’s richness is not in the action but the careful progression of the relationships.    It’s lovely.   I’m quite surprised I didn’t find more reviews — it seems to be on many lists, though.

RATING:   Three slices of pie.

OTHER REVIEWS:  BookGirl’s Nightstand, ???  Anyone else?


No one spoke,
The host, the guest,
The white chrysanthemums.



Copyright © 2010. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

North Dallas Forty

Thoughts   North Dallas Forty by Peter Gent, A Signet Book NEW AMERICAN LIBRARY Times Mirror 1974, 294 pages (given up on page 105.)

I was going to count this book for both the What’s in a Name 3 Challenge* and the Read-the-Book-See-the-Movie Challenge, but I’m throwing it on the DNF** pile.     I have no idea how this paperback came to be in my possession.

This is what the back of the book says:

Eight days in the life of a pro-football player.  Eight days of savagery, pain, drugs, drinking, laughter, raunchy sex, and haunting love between a man and a woman you come to care about deeply.  Eight days that take you into the heart of a man, a team, a sport, a game, and the raw power and violence that is America itself.  The author, Peter Gent, former offensive end for the Dallas Cowboys, has emerged as an astonishing writing talent.

I never read the blurbs when I start a book.    Perhaps I should.    As I typed that quote above, it was the first time I had read it.     And except for the part about caring deeply, it is accurate.   And the laughter;  no chuckles at all from me.   Oh, and I don’t know if I would go so far as to call Gent an astonishing talent.

I made it a third of the way through when I started to wonder if anything was going to happen.   The plot never seemed to take off and suggest it was going anywhere at all.    We just followed poor Phil Elliot around Dallas from his professional football practice sessions to his affair with a woman engaged to one of the owner’s of the team to more parties where he drank a lot and smoked a bunch of pot.  Lots of pain, lots of drugs, not much else.

I must have missed that ‘conflict’;  the one required for a story to be a story so I could care about it getting resolved one way or the other.

I was reading in the best conditions, too – no demands on my time (on vacation), sitting by the pool, enjoying a cool and refreshing beverage.   Then I realized ‘This guy is an asshole.”    I doubt I’ll ever watch the movie.

ONE to NONE slices of pie.   “I didn’t like it.

*  Looking through the books stacked around the house, I have these to offer for a PLACE replacement for the What’s in a Name 3 Challenge:    Daphne DuMaurier’s Jamaica Inn, Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, Cape Cod by William Martin, Hard City by Clark Howard, Laura Moriarty’s The Center of Everything.   But then I realized that the title of the book I’m currently getting into, The Samurai’s Garden, is a PLACE and will slide into the spot beautifully. Up in the Air might work, too.   It’s a place, right?

** DNF = Did Not Finish


Copyright © 2010. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Mini-thoughts   The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, 2010 Bantam Books Trade Paperback Edition (orig copyright 2009), 370 pages.


– William King, The Art of Cookery (1708)

Just so you know, I will not be reviewing this book here.   In this post…   NOT a review.

And, I’m OK with that because I have decided that I am not and do not want to be a book reviewer.     I prefer this blog to be a place where I talk yap about the books I read and —   actually I prefer 1)  you either already know about the book and/or have read it already, too.   OR 2)  you prefer not to know anything whatsoever about it but just want me to tell you YES!  READ THIS!  or NO!  DON’T BOTHER!!

Well, if you checked box #2, I won’t be telling you yes nor will I tell you no.

Cuz it depends.

I read this because it has been well received in book-blogosphere and had a precociously smart and clever girl for protagonist.    [I really read this because it has PIE in the title.]     My friend loaned it to me.      I appreciate the cover; relevant to the story and such a pretty green.

It’s good.   I enjoyed it.   It’s a mystery – crime thriller.    It’s smart*.     Characters are terrific.     I really loved that the author is 70+ years old and this is his first novel.   It won an award for debut mystery books (the Crimewriter’s Association Debut Dagger Award).     That’s just cool.   Congratulations Mr. Bradley!

This satisfies the FOOD category of the What’s in a Name 3 Challenge.

RATING:  Three Pie Slices – of Custard Pie.     if you like coconut:   Amazing Coconut Custard Pie Post

Please, if you want to read other blogger thoughts, click on a few of these links:    Fyrefly’s Books – includes a great paragraph discussing YA merits, Lesley’s Book Nook, Bending Bookshelf, Shelflove, Book-A-Rama, Save Ophelia, Necromancy Never Pays,  and the link to Fyrefly’s Master Search…

*   A BIG Thank you to Wordlily for word definitions – I needed to prep/study….   HERE and HERE.

Honestly, I dislike series books and will not likely read the next one which happens to be out very soon: The Weed That Stings the Hangman’s Bag.  Perhaps I’m not in such a plot-driven mood?   I’m missing Virginia Woolf but don’t have anything in house;  however, I have found solace in the book I just picked up Love Begins in Winter by Simon Van Booy.    It’s quite lovely.


Copyright © 2010. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

The Princess Bride

Thoughts   The Princess Bride by William Goldman, 1990 by Demco Media (first published 1973), 283 pages

MOTIVATION for READING:    I enjoy reading the source material for movies and I have seen this on so many ‘best of’ and favorites lists.    So I bookmooched it – then decided it would be PERFECT for the Royal Title category of the What’s In a Name 3 Challenge.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:     A kid is read this story so you will not only have the adventure of what happens to the Princess who is supposed to wed the evil royal dude but you have the whole “how it came to be that this story is read to the kid” story, too.   It’s cute, well done.    I think the movie has a Grandpa reading the story but the book has much more on the why and how Goldman came to publish this abridged version from the ‘original’ author and how his Dad was the guy who read it to him when he was but a youngster.

WHAT’s GOOD and/or not:    I liked the movie better but I do believe it is because of repetition.   I’ve seen the movie so many times!    I seemed to skip through the adventure parts in the book; though I did enjoy the fun descriptions, the character development and especially, the clever lines of “As you wish”  and “INCONCEIVABLE!”

The movie remains a big favorite and I do want to say that casting was excellent.

But isn’t that the issue with reading the book after seeing the movie?      I imagined Cary Elwes as the Man in Black, and of course the Fezzik in the book sounded and looked like he did in the movie and Mandy Patinkin was SO the Spaniard!    Right?   Am I right?  Tell me if I’m wrong.

Of course, I’m right.

FINAL THOUGHTS:    When it comes to the genre of fantasy fairy tale, I’m wondering if I just don’t have a very good imagination.   I’m reminded of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust – another that I liked the movie much more than the book.      I’m rating this THREE PIE but a very strong THREE PIE – I liked it.     and I liked the movie better.

Oh, and I thought it cool that Goldman wrote Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.   ☺