Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tall Tales: Re-Reading is a Waste of Time

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The biggest debate among bibliophiles, second of course to movie adaptations of their favorite novel, is that of re-reading books. "I don't need to read it again; I've read it already" "But when you read it several times then you get the author's full meaning. "Why read it again when you already know it? There's too little time to read anyway, you shouldn't waste it with multiple readings of the same thing" "But these characters are like friends; if I never read it again it's like they've died."

Tell me you haven't heard one of these before. ;) Non-readers stand back and snicker as we debate over this important topic. What's the big deal? Read, re-read, so what? After all, there are multiple ways to do things.  True...but that would just be a little too easy, and it sounds dangerously like "Truth is truth to you". We must never ever say that a subject is individually determined unless we have properly hammered it out and find that the Bible sanctions relevance on it. Therefore, friends and fellow bibliophiles, today I thought it would be fun to discuss this fun debate from both angles.

Though let it be known from the beginning that I'm a staunch advocate of re-reading. If you were to look at my shelves, you would find a good many tattered, spineless old friends with pages ripped from wear and dog-eared corners. But I'll be fair, indeed I will.

Case #1 One and Done
I know several who do not re-read their favorite books. These friends are very conscious that their life is short, and they have limited time. They want to use it in the best possible way to advance the Kingdom of God. In other words, they don't want to account for a single wasted second. This is a laudable desire, and very important for every Christian to have. I wish that I had more of this mindset. These are the people you find who do not like to re-read. Re-reading wastes those precious seconds.

Another type of person you'll find who doesn't re-read is the person blessed with a phenomenal memory. For these people, re-reading a book equates to putting them on the electric chair for an hour or three. It's tormenting, and they raise a strong protest whenever they are called upon to do it. "Vain repetition" is a phrase you'll often hear from them.

Case #2 Again and Again
These people are probably where you'll draw your writers from. Not in every case, but most writers go over their work again and again and again. And a lot of times that strength comes from their former love of reading again and again and again. We love re-living the details: sometimes we read over one sentence that delights us a good 50 times, and then go around repeating it to ourselves all day. If I've ever received an email from you, I've probably done that at one point. And I do it all the time with books. These are the people who love their favorite stories and characters so much that they sit at the dinner table, and  three-quarters of the conversation is quotes. Applicable of course, to the subject at hand, but nonetheless borrowed from their favorite literature. These folks know enough from re-reading to write books worth of trivia and commentaries on behind-the-scenes facts.

And why? Because when we love something, we want to know it inside out as deeply as we can.

The Difference
There is a difference between the two, one which does not prove either method better than the other, but which is interesting to observe. A person aligning with Case #1 wants to read for specific knowledge. Once they've learned it, they're ready to move on. Why continue? A person in case #2 is not in it for merely the knowledge, but also for the experience along the way.  If they are both Christians, it can be described this way: one focuses solely on the goal; the other focuses on the journey along the way.

So which is better?

Case #1 Solution

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. --Ephesians 5:15

Those who do not re-read books often have a wise reason: to make the best use of their time. Time is not ours, but the Lord's, and it is running out. And in many cases they don't re-read because they are worried about wasting their time with earthly things.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. --Colossians 3:1-4

And that is a very good thing indeed.

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Case #2 Solution

But those who choose to re-read often do so for a double purpose: to remember, and deepen their knowledge. Jude 1:5 says "Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it..." God sent his prophets to remind his people of things they had forgotten. The idea of reminding was repeating information that these people already knew, so that they would not forget. We are a forgetful people, and we are told numerous times in Scripture to repeat, to remember, and to pass on what we remember to the next generation. Without exception, whether we like repetition or not.

And then there's the second reason: to know deeper. Sometimes this is for a more serious reason, or sometimes not. For instance, our goal in repeating a reading of a theology book may be to get a better grasp of Scripture, while our repetition of a certain story is simply to repeat the joy we gleaned from our first perusal of it. We see this idea of repetition in Scripture: the account of Jesus' death and many of his parables were repeated four times, and sometimes more. Genealogies are often included in at least two locations. We are certainly called to read Scripture over and over at the very least. And I would argue that if a book truly grows us in the knowledge of Christ, then it doesn't hurt to repeat that book either, for it reminds us of the personal applications to theological principles.

The Verdict
Very simply, there is none. We have only one indication that re-reading isn't good, and that's if the book itself isn't worth it. Whether from poor writing, or poor subject matter, or violation of biblical principles, those are of course reasons to discard a book. But I would tend to argue that if a book's not worth re-reading, then it's not worth reading in the first place.  And every excellent piece of art (speaking in book form) and every good truth, is worth reading and returning to again and again. Because if it is truly good, then the magic will never fade.

People on both sides of the debate have good reasons, and very legitimate ones. But neither should feel guilty for their position, and both should try to empathize with the other if they can. There is no biblical direction on re-reading, or not re-reading. Both sides must use their time wisely. Both must take time to remember and remind. After that, the rest is up to the individual.

Just one more point. There is nothing wrong with re-reading for the sake of spending time with old friends. Bibliophiles find friends in many different places, and sometimes the paper ones are almost as close as the real ones. Besides: our Lord does not forbid us for doing something simply for the joy of it. There are times when the delight of  reviving a old-time favorite is water to the soul, and taking time to refresh our spirits in Christ makes us better workers for the Kingdom than refusing rest for fear of wasting time.

Are you a one and done, or an over and over? And which reasons would you give to defend your viewpoint?

Lady Bibliophile

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

In Which My Lady Bibliophile Returns

Greetings, friends and fellow bibliophiles! Thank-you so much for your indulgence as I took a week off to rest and reset a little. The time was glorious, I do assure you. I made valiant inroads on The Silmarillion, though I did not finish it as I hoped to. Not even close. There's too much in that book to read it quickly. And amidst the delight of revisiting 221b Baker Street, to cap it off, I read a story I simply did not remember. Most of these, even though it's been years since I read them, I knew inside-out;. but The Stock-Broker's Clerk took me by surprise.

The delights of an old favorite still pulling out something new.

Well, though I didn't finish Sil or The Complete Sherlock Holmes, I did manage to pull out one book which I am simply delighted to share with you: the Lamplighter book A Lost Pearle proved to be a quick and delightful read, with plenty of suspense, and one that all lovers of classic literature will enjoy.

Let us commence.

The Plot

Enraptured guests fill the pews, waiting for the bridal party of the dazzling Margaret Radcliffe. This is surely the culmination of a match made in Heaven, and everybody who is anybody sighs with ecstasy at the thought that they are among the privileged to witness it.

Suddenly, the rapture changes to horror.

Margaret Radcliffe walks down the aisle, despair stamped on her face...with a different groom.

And she marries him.

When I walked by that thick grey and gold book at our homeschool convention, I remembered searching for it in the library system, and paused to take a look. Who wouldn't? Not only are Lamplighter stories beautifully packaged, they're full of good fun and lots of drama, most times from a solid Christian perspective. But there's always the question: can they deliver the goods again? After all, The Hidden Hand promised to be the best Lamplighter book ever, and I wasn't about to let it be easily supplanted.

But a book that thick, and that pretty, and that exciting in it's description--it had to be worth a try.

(All right. I know. That last sentence goes against everything I taught in my session. Please forgive me.)

When Margaret (Pearle) is blackmailed into marrying Adison Cheetham to save her fiance's reputation, she bravely switches grooms at the last moment and binds herself to a villain in the eyes of God and man. After the ceremony her distraught lover, Captain Byrnholm, and dismayed  brother, the Earl of Radcliffe, take her to task and she finds that Cheetham's invincible proofs were all cleverly spun lies, meant to trick her into life-long misery. Byrnholm and Radcliffe plead for divorce. Pearle stands firm and refuses to undo her mistake. Until Adison Cheetham is dead, she is bound to him irrevocably.

And of course we hope he dies from remorse very quickly. Ahem.

But though Pearle refuses to take the easy way out of her predicament, she also refuses to act as the wife of a man whose almighty calumny forced her into her position. Under pretense of changing out of her wedding dress, she uses the time until she is missed to slip as far away as she can. Changing her name, she takes a position in London as a governess and hopes to make her life useful, even though it cannot be happy.

Adison Cheetham follows her in a towering rage, determined to find her and claim her as his own. But Pearle's countless admirers, a dead woman on a railway track, an orphan French child, and a mad young woman all combine in valiant efforts to rob him of his wicked desire.

As to whether this Lost Pearle is ever found, and by whom--well, I leave you to discover.

My Thoughts
When you approach this book, it has to be in a slightly different spirit from a real mystery. Full of coincidence, italics, and lots of adjectives, it's one of those sumptuously emotional tales that spells everything out for you. Don't worry; the villain carries a placard that says "I am a villain", just so you don't miss who he is.

Just kidding, of course.

A Lost Pearle, is not a tale that draws the reader in. It's a spectator book; one that you follow along eagerly to see how the author pulls it out. Sheldon won't leave you guessing; her only fault perhaps is that she reveals her mysteries a little too soon. But after reading a chapter or two I decided to let go and enter into a book that would really give me a chance to relax. It was wild fun. Adison Cheetham is a villain that will make you shudder with repulsion, and Captain Byrnholm is a hero made of the stuff of stars.
Surprisingly, Sheldon's only subtlety proved to be the Christian theme itself. Neither Pearle Radcliffe nor Richard Byrnholm are Christians when the story commences, and though both of them are drawn closer to Christ through their struggles, we do not see that journey. We are merely told of it after it occurs. But in spite of its subtlety, the Christian message is nonetheless clear, as it should be. I tend to be a little skeptical of books that shove the alter call down the reader's throat as an obligatory thing. I shouldn't be, I know. But a book that winsomely and genuinely gives the clear message of Christ's love and salvation is a book to be treasured and valued and passed on. This is one of those books, and I am glad to have read it on my break. I highly recommend it to a lovers of Lamplighter, classic fiction, and period drama.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mark Hamby, president of Lamplighter, and having him sign The Hidden Hand. It was an honor and he's a very enjoyable speaker. He had to catch a plane before we purchased A Lost Pearle, but someday I hope to meet him again.

This post is dedicated with many thanks to my father for buying this for me, and sponsoring so many of my books. Without him--his delight to bless his children's pursuits and his encouragement of purity and apologetics in each of our lives--My Lady Bibliophile would not be here today. :)

You can purchase A Lost Pearle here.

Lady Bibliophile

Friday, May 17, 2013

When Bibliophiles Play (Part Three)

Welcome back, friends and fellow bibliophiles, to our final part in the series on "When Bibliophiles Play"! This has been great fun to write up, and I hope for you to read as well. Today in lieu of a written post we have a video blog, as Junior Bibliophile persuaded me to film an interview that she compiled for me. I have inserted it below for your viewing pleasure. :)

But before you go watch it, I must let you know something.

Next week, I am taking a blogging hiatus to give myself some time of rest and refreshment. I'm not very good at taking breaks, and if I allow myself to keep one of my regular duties I generally end up keeping all of them: which reads, no break. But for the last couple of weeks I've been looking at my schedule and trying to fit in some time to refuel, and therefore I've decided not to post on Tuesday (21st) or Friday (24th). Rest assured, I shall return on Tuesday the 28th, Lord willing.

It's hard to tell you this, because I dearly love blogging. I'll still be available in the comment section and by email, so if you would like to get in touch with me you can that way. :)  In the meantime, I'll be reading vintage novels like there is no tomorrow, and possibly getting out my harp, which has been sadly neglected this long while.

It shall be great fun.

And now, I present to you a very special video which Junior B. and I are excited to share! Please enjoy, and let us know if you'd like to see more. :)

Lady Bibliophile
P.S. A little extra challenge for those of you who think you know me well, and would like to give it a try. :) Take the 10 question quiz here.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

When Bibliophiles Play (Part Two)

Welcome back, friends and fellow bibliophiles, to part two in our series on "When Bibliophiles Play"--a closer look at what I'm doing when I'm not reading. :) It was fun to chat with you all in the comments last time, and I had a great time meeting up with some of you at the INCH convention. I think we had a ground-breaking session on "Bibliophiles to the Glory of God"--I've never seen that done before, and I hope it sets a trend! We definitely need more teaching on this subject. My only problem was that I had to cut down my talk to 55 minutes. :) That's a tough one for a book lover, and I would have loved to go into more detail. But it was good practice to give a basic overview, and I enjoyed sharing it with those of you who were able to be there.

Today I wanted to give you a little peek into what I do on a daily/weekly/yearly basis. Being a somewhat systematic person I have various things I do every day, and I much prefer to get one task completely out of the way before moving on to the next one, rather than doing little bits of each task every day. When I work on something all at once, I'm able to put the concentrated effort into it that I need. So each day of the week I focus on something specific.

Every Day:
My clock goes off at 6:45, and I never trust myself to hit the snooze button. I 've never tried the walk across the room system; I just get up and get going. After starting with prayer, I read my Bible within about 15 minutes of getting up. It's the most important way to start my day, and though I slip up a few times, I generally don't turn on my computer or check email until those two things are done. I've never done prayer journals or writing down verses that impact me, though I like the idea. I merely read. Though I do have a prayer system: I use the ACTS acronym that Joel Beeke mentioned once, as it's very helpful to keep me focused. ACTS stands for Adoration (praising God for who He is) Confession, Thanksgiving (thanking God for what he has done) and Supplication. I read about 4 to 5 chapters in the Bible every morning, as I read through the Bible once every year, and I'm about half-way through my 12th year of doing that. I used to read a little in different books, but my organization streak won out, and now I'm reading Genesis to Revelation. This chart is a great one, and I highly recommend it.
Then I get to see what's in my Gmail box, check social networking, and shape up what needs to be done for the day. By 8:00 I'm ready for the day, and have generally started a blog post, making yogurt, or responding to emails, as well as making breakfast for whoever happens to be up.
Morning is either studying time or general household work. From 8:45 to about 11:00 I do a huge number of things that vary from day to day, whether it be catching up on correspondence, making cookies, cleaning the house, or preparing for Junior B.'s geography, as well as studying for the things that I have coming up. Also working on my GNOWFGLINS ecourse, which I am eagerly anticipating getting back to after a concentrated time getting ready for our homeschool convention. I have a morning playlist on Spotify that I use to get me started when I happen to be working on the computer.
After lunch we always have a literary half-hour, where we take turns picking books to read aloud. Then I work from 2:00-4:00 on editing my novel-in-progress and doing research. That generally sees me with about 20 tabs open on Internet Explorer (the bane of my existence, but Firefox isn't much better.) I have a sort of afternoon playlist, I suppose, though not a formal one. After supper I'm generally either attending a Bible Study or studying again (with my Celtic playlist! That's always the evening one.)

And after I turn the light out to go to sleep, I always grope around for the pen and notebook to write down the inspiration that just has to come at 11:00 at night.

Every Week

Every Monday I exercise, edit about 2,000 words, and respond to any blog comments that I wasn't able to get in before Sunday. Mondays are also my days to study for Bright Lights right now, which generally takes me about 2-3 hours to get the lesson ready, and then I pick songs and organize the activity as well.
Tuesdays are blog post day! Right after breakfast I work on that until I hit the Publish button. ;) Which sometimes means writing a straightforward book review, and sometimes means researching an article. This is also another heavy editing day, when I try to reach another 2,000 words. 2,000 words means all that and the research necessary to reach that goal, so sometimes it's fast and sometimes it's slow, depending on what I need to look up. I tell you, writing is all about the loopholes to make the plot credible.
Wednesday is another exercise day, and my third and final editing day of the week, where I pull out another 2,000 words and the accompanying research. Then I send of the chapter to my first round of beta readers and print it out for Junior B. I also make supper every Wednesday, and either attend ICBF (which alternates Wednesdays and Thursdays) or another Bible study. In the summertime I generally make time to weed the garden on Mondays or Wednesdays.
On the weeks when I don't have Bright Lights I attend ICBF in the evenings and spend the day getting ready for Friday's blog post, so I'll have a free morning on Friday. On the days when I do have Bright Lights, I spend the day getting ready the various things for that: we have tea in real teacups, thanks to a collection one of my aunts provided me with, and I also get the house ready, which keeps us accountable in keeping everything tidy. :)
On Fridays I post and/or write the blog post, and have great fun discussing it with all of you. :) I also exercise on the bike and resistance bands, and Junior B. and I do geography together. Which may include going into fits of laughter over our propensity to sing Scottish songs when we're studying Europe. And often includes planning meals with dishes like Rumbledethump and trying to shock our family members with the odd names. Every Friday I make supper as well, and sometimes try to get a little editing done in the evening if I am able. And every other Friday I have a long phone chat with long-distance friends.
Saturday is another day of work, depending on what I have left-over from the week. This is also the day where I help my family with our little entrepreneurial adventure, which I'll be announcing soon here on the blog. :) We're pretty excited about it, and we hope you will be to!
Sunday is strictly a day of rest and worship. I take off blogging and most social networking, though I do some blog hopping and attend to personal correspondence in the afternoons and evenings. I also gobble down as many pages as I possibly can in the books I'm reading, as this is pretty much the only time I read at this stage of my life, unless I have tasks finished early before I go to bed, or we're travelling somewhere. (As I have the talent of being able to read in the car.)

Not included in this list are personal and ministry correspondence, and all those little and big projects which come up on a weekly basis--which go through so fast that sometimes I can't remember what they are.  :)

This Year
One of my big projects involved speaking at the MI homeschool convention, which just happened. Coming up I'm planning an evening tea to celebrate my Bright Lights group's one year anniversary of meeting, and that should be great fun. In August I'll be helping out with the Bright Lights conferences coming to Michigan, which, if you live in Michigan, I highly recommend attending if at all possible. :) And in the fall, I'm contemplating trying out a webinar class in literature and reading discernment, which I will dedicate a whole post to when I have further plans cemented. Also, my goal is to finish two passes through my novel this year, which is ambitious but do-able I think.

So there you have it! That's a little and abbreviated peek into what I do in a weekly basis, and here for your viewing pleasure are pictures of my writing nook, manuscript, and a portion of my book collection:

My current reading stack. The Silmarillion, which I got at a book sale last summer; A Lost Pearle, which my father treated me to at the INCH convention. (!) and The Complete Sherlock Holmes, which is 1,200 pages long.
My favorite shelf of books. And my only full shelf of books. :) The rest are scattered hither and yon; there is a system of sorts, though I would be the only one who can find anything.
This is my precious manuscript. I wrote all 475 pages by hand, as I didn't have a computer available at the time. And oh, my, is this a treasured stack of paper.
Inside this little notebook are all the plans, plots, and climaxes for my manuscript. Needless to say, no one has ever read it.
And Junior B. would dearly love to peek behind these pages, as the fate of her favorite character appears in my plans for the sequel to the above manuscript.
This is Homeschool Diaries, written by an angel and somehow left in my notebook. ;) You'd be most surprised what guardian angels like to remember about their earthly charges. A satire in the works. (And don't try to save the picture to read the page. Ahem.)

This is where the Great American Novel and most of my blog posts are written. Who'd a thunk? My best office, and under the bed storage makes great desk drawers.
Thanks for stopping by, and if you have anything you'd like to see in our last series on "When Bibliophiles Play", now is the time to submit them in the comments. :) Junior Bibliophile is absolutely determined to take a video of me, which, if she can persuade me, will appear in the 3rd installment.

Lady Bibliophile

Friday, May 10, 2013

When Bibliophiles Play (Part One)

You all are such nice readers to vote for this topic. :) Do you know, I haven't played in a very long time. For scraps of time here and there, whenever I can get them, but not since that long glorious week at the cottage in September have I abandoned all my duties and read and slept and relaxed with abandon. Sundays are strictly a day of rest, with a little correspondence thrown in for good measure,  but a real set-apart rest for a lengthy block of time is like a distant memory and a long-cherished dream for the future. I'm going to take that rest in another week or so, but until then we'll be posting this series on "When Bibliophiles Play", with all the little bits of trivia and behind-the-scenes things that some of you love to know about online personalities. 

I had to laugh. Because I almost didn't put this one on the list. At the last minute I decided to, but I thought "This will be embarrassing. It probably won't get any votes." You certainly pulled a surprise on me.

And please do mention in the comments what you would especially enjoy hearing. :) This will be a three part series, and I expect to have lots of fun with it. Today's will be general in nature and subject, but I expect to get more specific in next week's post.

So, when I'm not reading I generally:

1. Listen to Music
When I'm not reading, I listen to music. Wherever I go, whatever I write, I generally have music playing the background preferably music with vocals and not too dreamy in nature. Occasionally I'll listen to a dreamy song when I need to set a certain mood, but I'm generally always running deadlines, and peppy music helps. I use YouTube most often, and over time I've created 12 playlists which I rotate according to mood and needs. Everything from Celtic to Writing Playlist, to Hobbit 1 and Hobbit 2. :) I also have a CCM Playlist, with the pitiful and forlorn pickings of CCM songs I actually like, and a certain love playlist that sets me in the mood for writing about one of my literary characters and his lady-friend. Well, it will when I actually get to writing about them. It doesn't actually have any love songs on it: it has Christmas songs. Weird. I'm probably one of the only people on the planet who still listens to Christmas music in May, to inspire romance. I also listen to music clips that throws me into fits of laughter just because of the way the performer does it, which isn't nice at all, at all.

Trust me, you wouldn't want me to leave the headphones out. The playlists repeat again and again and again and again--so many times that you'd be screaming and plugging your ears if you heard them. I've done that all my life, actually--whatever I took a fancy to liking something, I took a fancy in very great quantities; from authors to music artists to crafts.

You might find me on YouTube, if you were to recognize my picture next to my profile. But I have one peculiarity which I haven't mentioned thus far. I locked all my playlists except for one. You see, there are certain precious things that are not always for everyone to see, and the majority of my music is one of those things. I've wept and laughed and fumed and written and re-written to them, and all those memories are tucked away. Plus I tend to be over-cautious on what I recommend. So over-cautions that I sometimes use Latin usernames to hide. Yeah, that's bad I know...

But my public list is a playlist of the Piano Guys, which you can find here. And just for fun--and just for you--I've created a public list with ten songs that I rotate through pretty often so you can get a little taste of what I use in lieu of coffee. Barring the Celtic playlist, which is actually what I listen to most often. :)

Now, when I'm not working on the computer I like a different kind of music entirely. Quiet music is on the queue then, with Jane Austen soundtracks, orchestra pieces, and classical of all kind. When I'm getting dinner ready (and happen to want music to accompany me) I would much prefer Joshua Bell or Samuel Sims as companions.

Favorite Artists:
Jane Austen movie soundtracks, Deborah Brinson, Enya, Howard Shore, Joshua Bell, Charlie Zahm, Jackie Evancho, the Wissmann family, Beethoven, Peter Hollins (selective) Lindsay Stirling (selective), Vivaldi.

And this isn't music, I know, but I love Focus on the Family Radio Theatre. Not Adventures In Odyssey. Things like Amazing Grace and Father Gilbert and The Luke Reports.

Favorite Song:
Probably Nella Fantasia.The others come and go, but Nella Fantasia remains as one of the most relaxing and dreamy pieces I love to listen to. Paul Byrom, the Irish tenor, has the best rendition of it. (I don't recommend all his other pieces, though.)

Also Vivaldi's Four Seasons and Beethoven's 9th Symphony. I had the pleasure of hearing Beethoven's 9th in live concert once, and I sat in frozen rapture during the entire thing. (Which Junior B. found incomprehensible.)

Actually, I don't listen to a lot of classical on CD. That's another one of my peculiarities. I much prefer it in live concert to listening through the headphones.

2. Organizing
When the books are all on the shelf, I also organize. I consider this a pleasurable thing, and if I had an obsessive compulsive disorder, this would probably be it. Even when I'm not organizing, or not able to organize a particular area, I sit and put it to rights in my mind. "If in doubt, throw it away" is my motto, but I'm not reckless about it when I'm sorting through other people's things.

For instance, my beloved ASUS computer has everything in a folder. Everything. Only I am able to navigate the labyrinthine tunnels of folders and sub-folders that I've tucked all my files away in. Woe to the document I can't find a place for: it's either put into an isolation folder or speedily gotten rid of. I go through my corner of the bedroom once every other week and put everything back in its place. And the lovely storage under my bed is divided into three rows of boxes and items, arranged according to how often I use them.

The only place that I'm not organized in is my purse. That's a cavernous mess of papers and flash-drives and lip gloss and business cards. Also old coupons. And more papers. I didn't shop for my own purse until I was seventeen years old, and grumbled that I might as well buy a carry-on suitcase and be done with it.

But aside from that I'm an obsessive-compulsive organizer. If we lived together and you happened to be a packrat, we would both have to exercise some Love and Grace.

3. Collecting
Some collect stamps, some collect pink china pigs (according to the books I've read), some collect shoes. I collect computer wallpapers. Little Dorrit, LOTR, Jane Austen, North and South and The Hobbit primarily, though I pick up anything period drama-ish that strikes my fancy. If you would like to avoid all the yucky FanPop advertisements and get them straight from my email, I would love to send them to you. :) Address is on the sidebar, and I have them all packaged up to go from any of the above categories.
I also collect bookmarks. Every symphony ticket or little bit of decorated pasteboard that I like and take a fancy to, I keep in my pencil case along with my writing materials. Not only do I collect them, I also match them to the book I'm reading, according to the theme of the book and the bookmark. Coordination is the joy of my existence wherever I am able. But I forget: this is supposed to be a break from reading. :)

4. Watch Tennis

I dislike all sports except men's tennis. I may not get to see tennis matches very often, but when I see one on I always drop my book and watch in rapt attention. There is something about tennis which provides both drama and pizazz to the concept of competition, which I find most enjoyable. In this instance I depart from my Scottish roots. Roger Federer is the one and only person I cheer for. And when I watch him, I cheer with gusto. There is nothing so disappointing as seeing Andy Murray beat him out. ;)

5. Domestic Arts
Like all girls, I enjoy crafting. And cooking. And baking. Though I 've never gotten the hang of scrap booking, and don't have quite the like of paper crafts that I used to, I enjoy crocheting, and once upon a time cranked out the knitted socks with gusto. You name the Klutz book, I've probably done it. Recently I've turned to making jewelry, and during my early teens I had quite the affinity for miniature designing, including wiring my entire dollhouse with electricity and knitting sweaters and baby booties in scale on 000 knitting needles. In the past I've also sewn Colonial costumes in company with my mom, and a good many of my own clothes.
Also, I'm the resident sourdough cook and yogurt maker. Sourdough breads, rolls, cookies etc, from the GNOWFGLINS e-course. The fruits of those labors produce results like this:

Come over, and I'll make you a piece. ;) I haven't tackled yeast bread by hand yet; my first attempt ended up about 3 inches high, and I've never done it since. But someday...

Right now my sister and I are cooking our way through the continents, two meals per continent. We've made Indian and Mediterranean. (Mediterranean happens to be my favorite cuisine. I could eat carrots for breakfast as long as I had hummus to go with them.) And we just finished a Scottish meal. Junior B. wants do to Norwegian to celebrate Mikkel's homeland, but we're trying to escape the fish. Which...doesn't leave us much.

6. Exercise
Every Monday Wednesday and Friday I do the elliptical bike and resistance bands to keep fit. Gauged by sweat. If I'm not soaked I turn up the tension until it's good enough, which means I really can't listen to anything soft and quiet while I'm pedaling. I have about ten tracks with enough rhythm while I exercise, so needless to say I've memorized those quite well.

7. Speaking and Ministry
Every other week we hold a Bright Lights meeting in our home, which I lead. I also attend my brother's Bible studies every week, which you can check out here. Today I'm speaking at the INCH convention in MI, and I would love to meet you there. :)

So these are a few of the things I do when I'm not reading. On Tuesday I want to do "A Day in the Life" and post some pictures of my writing nook...and my manuscript in progress... and more...

But I would love to post what you want to hear as well. :) Have a splendid weekend!

Lady Bibliophile

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Study in Scarlet

SHERLOCK HOLMES— his limits.  
1. Knowledge of Literature.— Nil.  
2.                           Philosophy.— Nil.  
3.                           Astronomy.— Nil.  
4.                           Politics.— Feeble.  
5.                           Botany.— Variable.   Well up in belladonna
                                                opium and poisons generally.
                                                knows nothing of practical gardening.
6.                           Geology.— Practical, but limited.                                                            
                                                  Tells at a glance different soils
                                                  from each other.  After walks has
                                                  shown me splashes upon his trousers,
                                                  and told me by their colour and
                                                  consistence in what part of London
                                                  he has received them.
7.                           Chemistry.— Profound.  
8.                           Anatomy.— Accurate, but unsystematic.  
9.                           Sensational Literature.— Immense. He appears
                                                                       to know every detail of every horror
                                                                       perpetrated in the century.
10. Plays the violin well.  
11. Is an expert singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman.  
12. Has a good practical knowledge of British law.

~A Study in Scarlet, Chapter 2

The greatest detective in the history of British law never bothered himself with the fact that the earth revolved around the sun. In fact, until Watson enlightened him he was ignorant of the entire existence of the Solar System. This original and (in spite of his queer lack of fundamental knowledge) brilliant man proved a strange puzzle to his flat mate until Watson discovered that Sherlock Holmes practiced crime consultation--the only private consulting detective in the world. Often drawing on his own blood for chemical experiments, and partaking of a  seven percent solution when his mind stagnated without occupation, Sherlock Holmes provided his fellow lodger and Afghan veteran with all the literary material required for a life and then some. We still don't know the story of the giant rat of Sumatra, nor the man with the aluminum crutch, however much they tantalize us. Alas, we never shall.

But in spite of our lack of these mysteries, we have plenty of others. I took great pleasure this Sunday afternoon in beginning The Complete Sherlock Holmes for the first time in many years, and re-visiting A Study in Scarlet brought back many fond memories--the Persian slipper with the tobacco in it--the correspondence pinned to the mantle with a jack-knife--and all the trivia in which Sherlock Holmes fans unite.

I was twelve when I read A Study in Scarlet for the first time. It's hard to fathom, but there may perhaps be some bibliophiles who have not enjoyed these mysteries, and so I present A Study in Scarlet to encourage you to begin your acquaintance. Or perhaps for some of you, to rediscover it.

The Story

Dr. John Watson returns from the wars in Afghanistan with a  pension after a Jezail bullet in the leg and a long bout with fever. (Or is the bullet in the arm? Or perhaps both? It's a migrating bullet throughout all the stories.) Army pension isn't enough to live on without a companion to supplement it, and as his new acquaintance Sherlock Holmes is of a similar mind, they agree to take a flat at the famous 221 B Baker Street apartments, run by the remarkable and long-suffering Mrs. Hudson.
It wasn't polite then to ask what a man did for a living unless it was offered; as Holmes didn't offer it, Watson was left to discover it for himself. An old Jew, a rich young woman, and bull-dog faced police inspector present themselves at Holmes door the following week, during which times he requested the sitting-room for his own private use. Finally Watson can bear it no longer, and he comes out with the questions that Holmes has been waiting for: "How do you earn your living?"

"Well, I have a trade of my own. I suppose I am the only one in the world. I'm a consulting detective, if you can understand what that is. Here in London we have lots of Government detectives and lots of private ones. When these fellows are at fault they come to me, and I manage to put them on the right scent. They lay all the evidence before me, and I am generally able, by the help of my knowledge of the history of crime, to set them straight. There is a strong family resemblance about misdeeds, and if you have all the details of a thousand at your finger ends, it is odd if you can't unravel the thousand and first." ~ A Study in Scarlet, Chapter 2
 Holmes invites Watson to observe him at work in his next mystery, which happens to be a request from Inspector Gregson and Inspector Lestrade, two rivals from Scotland Yard who can make neither heads nor tails of the latest murder. The body is that of a man in his mid-forties, found in an abandoned house with blood all around it, but no wound on the figure itself. Their only clues are a woman's gold wedding ring and the word "Rache" scrawled with blood on the wall.

The game is afoot.

My Thoughts
Mild language, though not nearly as much as BBC puts in the radio dramas written by Bert Coules.
This mystery, since it involves the Mormons, is not politically correct and many scholars cough out their apologies for it like they do for Jules Verne's works. Altogether the plot is tightly written and fairly clean, exploring the ideas of justice and vengeance in an interesting and plausible manner. Doyle doesn't evaluate the character's ideas for you; indeed, he rarely ever does in Sherlock Holmes, so you have to determine whether they were right or wrong aside from the book. I thought his conclusion was a good one, though not perfect.
I will add that the seven percent solution doesn't really have any bearing on this mystery. Holmes did use cocaine for a time, but under Watson's good influence the habit dwindled away to nothing.
It was good to revisit these two fellows, and I greatly look forward to reading more. For the mystery lover and the connoisseur of British fiction, this is a must-read.

Thanks for casting your votes on the poll! The ayes have it for "When Bibliophiles Play", which is an excellent topic. The first post in this series will be posted in Friday.

And if any of my readers are at the MI home school convention this weekend, I would love to meet you there. :)

Lady Bibliophile

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Art of Annotation

In the last year and a half, I've certainly critiqued a lot of books here on My Lady Bibliophile. 75 books, to be exact. Some of the stories and biographies were good, and some of them not--some were hard to tell between the two.

Certainly there's an art to critiquing a book, one that I'm learning for myself and watching others do as well. In my first blog post I described critiquing a book as 'a sort of mental annotation', and in many senses it is. An annotation is simply the act of writing notes in the margins, whether it be an explanation of a particular passage, or pointing out a mistake, or interesting tidbits of trivia that enhance the text.

Perhaps the mark of a truly good book is when an author has tons of notes they would love to put in the margins. The more ability to write notes, the more thought goes into a story or teaching. It shows that an author has lived and breathed their subject for weeks and months, and they have something worthwhile to say on the subject.

But, while some annotations are fun, some are more than irritating. Snarky criticisms and endless nitpicking do nothing to enhance the story, and should be avoided it at all possible.

The Good
The house was asleep. The clock shone out at past midnight. After a fruitless chasing of sleep, I had just finished Norman Lindsay's The Magic Pudding, and right underneath it lay The Hobbit--that mysterious gate to the world of Middle Earth, which I had heard was so enchanting and soul-sweepingly profound.

Why not?

In this instance, it was not merely The Hobbit that I was balancing under my covers, in valiant attempts to turn the huge pages noiselessly. It was The Hobbit annotated by Douglas A. Anderson, one of the anniversary editions, I believe. In the midst of this strange, and--yes, I'll admit it--rather childlike tale, according to my impression at the time, I fell in love with behind-the-scenes notes for the very first time. Before this, I would dutifully shudder through introductions when absolutely necessary. But now, as I read about thirteen dwarfs having a dinner party, I found myself enchanted with copious notes of what Tolkien thought of different cover illustrations, and how he chose to pluralize the word "elf". Also, this edition included scenes that were later cut out of the revised Hobbit, which alas, do not appear in the edition I own currently. There were no snarky comments, no far-fetched critiques and explanations of Tolkien's plot; simply an attempt to enhance the reader's enjoyment of the story, mistakes and all.  And I think this makes a good point--a story is meant to be entered into. It is not a specimen pinned to a cork board that requires scientific classification.

Evaluation? Certainly. But not nit-picking. More on that in a moment.

The Not-So-Good
Then there's the other kind of evaluation--the kind that leaves you with a headache, and takes all the magic out of your favorite characters. Take Leslie S. Klinger's massive annotations of Sherlock Holmes, presented to the public on the occasion of his 150th birthday.

Most girls pin the medal of Best Hero on Sir Percy Blakeney, but I chose entirely different heroes during that 12-14 stage of hero-worship. After Alan Breck and Davie, I lived and breathed 221b Baker Street, and the Sherlock Holmes/Watson duo.  You name the mystery, I could tell you exactly what it was about. I can still quote the scenes in which the hapless Watson suffers through an awful breakfast due to Holmes' interest in the final installment of a magazine romance. I even listened through all the cheesy old radio shows with the hair tonic commercials, because I enjoyed Holmes so much. (Even though Watson was the best by far of the two.)

I was quite excited to read Klinger's notes, and expected to get a wealth of informative information. No doubt I shall when I have the strength to try again. But for his birthday present, Leslie Klinger, among historical notes and various interesting tidbits, spends a great deal of time pointing out the inaccuracies, typos, scholarly criticisms and points where the plotting could have been improved. What purpose does it serve to try to make post-Reichenbach Holmes out as a fraud in the footnotes? And why must we pick apart the weak points of all of his deductions?

Just for the record, I would like to state that Watson did not have seven wives.

The purpose of an annotation (which is sometimes in the condensed form of a book review) is to build up the story and support the author, not to tear it to shreds.

The Point of It All

Needless to say, annotations aren't of earth-shattering importance. Some of them are good, some aren't, and if you don't like one then it's fairly easy to set the book aside and find a better edition. But as I thought over these experiences, I found a deeper moral in the tale. Namely, I need to be very careful how I criticize a book. It's more than an abstract specimen or solution; it's a window to the soul not only of the author, but of the readers love it. We must be very careful when we choose to make fun of literature or pull it all to pieces. A good joke isn't a problem, even in some cases at the book's expense. That's like laughing when movie continuity gets messed up. (Yes, The Two Towers had its amusing spots on that score.) But when gentle teasing turns into a cynical and obsessive enjoyment of pointing out everything wrong, then we may a problem that goes deeper than surface level evaluation.

Proverbs 16:21 says "The wise in heart are called discerning, and gracious words promote instruction." When it is our duty to point out something wrong in a book--whether it be a moral judgement or poor literary quality, then it behooves us to be gracious in our speech, speaking the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15) When we do not, our readers won't learn from us. They'll be hurt and defensive.

We must not take excessive delight in pointing out error. It is our duty, assuredly, in such cases where it violates Christ, or when we need to call readers to a higher standard of excellence. But we should take delight, wherever we are able, in praising as much good as we can find in the books we read.

That must be why Doug Anderson's worked, and why Leslie Klinger's didn't. Because the former, while not disguising the fallibilities, did not allow them to detract from the story itself. And the latter took a fiendish delight in proving the "greatest consulting detective" wrong on every point possible.

The art of annotation: perhaps there's more to it than I thought.

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. ~Colossians 4:6

Lady Bibliophile

P.S. The poll is up 'til Tuesday--so until then you can cast your vote for the next article series on My Lady Bibliophile! :)
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