Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Notes on Dracula

It is a bit of a quandary to be reading two novels simultaneously... and poor East of Eden is getting the shaft, as I am a bit antsy to finish reading Dracula on the Kindle so that I can pass on the device to a co-worker to test. I'm not sure exactly how long Dracula is, but the Kindle tells me that I have read 17% of it.

I am enjoying the writing and the perspective of the protagonist via his journal. I have to admit, it really is a bit scary! The night before last I was relieved to get a late night phone call from a friend after I had finished reading before going to bed, thus distancing my mind from the story before falling asleep. Last night, however, I dreamt that two of my brothers were vampires, and I had to kill them. I am usually not affected by things--particularly books--like this, and I am not a person who dreams often. I am beginning to think I should avoid reading Dracula directly before going to sleep...

This afternoon I was discussing the book with a co-worker (who has not read it) and we were pondering where Stoker was from, and if the novel had been translated into English from another language. Bram Stoker. Seems like an Eastern European name, right? And of course, it all takes place in Transylvania. Imagine our surprise when we looked it up online and found that Bram Stoker is from Ireland, and his real name is Abraham. Perhaps this is common knowledge to others, but it was news to me.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

word of the day [a day late] :: verdure


1. greenness, esp. of fresh, flourishing vegetation.
2. green vegetation, esp. grass or herbage.
3. freshness in general; flourishing condition; vigor.

1250-1300; ME < MF, equiv. to verd green (see VERT) + -ure

"'Society is like a lawn where every roughness is smoothed, every bramble eradicated, and where the eye is delighted by the smiling verdure of a velvet surface." (Washington Irving)

* Definition from

Friday, December 25, 2009

from Louisa

"...and then the rooms were very still while the pages were softly turned, and the winter sunshine crept in to touch the bright heads and serious faces with a Christmas greeting."
~Louisa May Alcott~
(Little Women)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

the kindle

My publishing company is the proud (AKA: skeptical) owner of an Amazon Kindle. We are taking turns in the office handling the Kindle, reading books, downloading books, and studying layout formats as we prepare for our first forage into the realm of e-publishing.

It is my turn with the Kindle. I downloaded (for free) Dracula by Bram Stoker. Dracula is the novel that truly introduced the vampire to the literary world. While not the first novel to to showcase a vampire, it is inarguably the most readily identified classic in the vampire "genre." I wonder if Bram Stoker had any idea how hot this topic would be over a hundred years later.

Thoughts on the Kindle so far:

-Many classic novels are free to download.
-When the Kindle is turned off, the screen displays an image (a different one each time), so it looks kind of like a book.                             
-The Kindle remembers where you left off in a book and goes straight to that page when you turn it back on.

-It feels awkward to hold--not like a book at all--but this may be something that just takes some getting used to.
-The "pages" are small, so you need to move to the next page frequently.
-It is NOT a book!

I have no problem with the influx of e-readers becoming available, especially if it means more people are reading more books, because they find this format and process convenient and enjoyable. I, for one, will always love my real books. I like to see them on my bookshelf. I like to hold them and smell them and throw them in my oversize purse when I'm heading out the door. So long as e-publishing and e-readers and e-books do not obliterate regular books, bring on the technology.

Monday, December 21, 2009

word of the day :: soliloquy


–noun, plural -quies
1. an utterance or discourse by a person who is talking to himself or herself or is disregardful or oblivious to any hearers present.
2. the act of talking while or as if alone.

1595–1605; < LL sōliloquium a talking to oneself, soliloquy, equiv. to sōli + loqu(ī) to speak + ium -IUM.

"'Religion is the everlasting dialogue between humanity and God. Art is its soliloquy." (Franz Werfel)
* Definition from

Friday, December 18, 2009

from Arnold

"Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them."
~Arnold Lobel~

Thursday, December 17, 2009

review :: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

J. K. Rowling

Most impressive is how Rowling managed to weave together everything from the previous six books (six years, in Harry's life) for a seamless conclusion. Every question you ever had during the series is answered in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

I don't want to give the story away to anyone who may not have read it, so I will spare details. I had my own suspicions about how I thought certain things would turn out, but Rowling's masterful storytelling kept me second-guessing myself. I found I was right about certain aspects of some things, but there were many surprises, along the way.

The end of the story is quite profound--theologically and morally. In my review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince I mentioned that I thought it was the most grown-up of the series to that point, and this seventh book is on par with that maturity, with an almost spiritual motif.

It is the classic tale of good versus evil, of sacrifice and redemption--a story that never grows old no matter how many times it is told.

I did not expect to be so impressed with the Harry Potter series, but I see why it is so wildly popular, and congratulate J. K. Rowling on her vision for an extraordinary story, and the creativity with which to erect it. She truly earned the right to become a bestselling author. I would, and will, read this series again. And probably again after that. And again after that.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I'm done!

Last night I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows! I probably stayed up too late, but the last few chapters simply must be read in immediate succession. You can't stop in the middle of the conclusion of a seven book series to go to sleep!

I will post my review later...for now, I just wanted to announce that I have finished.

By the by, the whole time I was reading this book, I was intrigued by the word "hallows." What truly is a hallow? All I could think of was, "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name..."

I know it's not Monday (which is when I post the Word of the Day), but here's what I've found, courtesy of Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary:

Pronunciation: ˈha-(ˌ)lō 
Function: transitive verb
Etymology: Middle English halowen, from Old English hālgian, from hālig holy

1: to make holy, or set apart for holy use
2: to respect greatly: VENERATE

Function: noun
obsolete: a saint, a shrine, or a relic

Interestingly enough, M-W notes in this entry that the use of hallow as a noun has been rare over the past several hundred years and is considered obsolete (other than in words like Halloween and Allhallows), and does not appear in most dictionaries anymore. M-W's Online Dictionary only added it to their database because of the "renewed interest" kindled by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

I give three silent cheers to J. K. Rowling for resurrecting a nearly extinct word. The title makes perfect sense now if you have read the story and know what the deathly hallows are.

Monday, December 14, 2009

word of the day :: lacuna


–noun, plural -nae [-nee]
1. a gap or missing part, as in a manuscript, series, or logical argument; hiatus.
2. Anatomy. one of the numerous minute cavities in the substance of bone, supposed to contain nucleate cells.
3. Botany. an air of space in the cellular tissue of plants.

1655–65; < L lacūna ditch, pit, hole, gap, deficiency; akin to lacus vat, LAKE. Cf. LAGOON.

"'Our young friend makes up for many obvious mental lacunae by some measure of primitive common sense,' remarked Challenger." (Professor Challenger in The Lost World, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)
* Definition from

Friday, December 11, 2009

from André

"Art begins with resistance -- at the point where resistance is overcome. No human masterpiece has ever been created without great labor."
~ André Gide~

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Currently reading...

J. K. Rowling

Summary: Lord Voldemort is preparing for battle and so must Harry. With Ron and Hermione at his side, he's trying to hunt down Voldemort's Horcuxes, escape danger at every turn, and find a way to defeat evil once and for all. How does it all end?
(Summary from www.

I don't know! But I am anxious to find out!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

review :: Mansfield Park

Jane Austen

I must admit, this is not my favorite novel of Austen's. It was difficult for me to feel any attachment to the characters, because I found them all--each in their own unique way--rather annoying. Even Fanny Price, the protagonist, was vexing. She was too much of a push-over, too yielding, too timid. Granted, she did stand firm in her decision to turn down a marriage proposal to a man whose morals she found to be wanting. But I found myself more exasperated with her than empathizing with her.

In the last chapter of the book, Austen switches the point of view from omniscient narrator to intrusive author. This chapter summarizes what happens to each character following the circumstances in which they have found themselves. We never read the story of Edmund realizing he could actually love Fanny. We do not hear or see him declare his feelings or request her hand. Austen simply tells us that it has happened. I was a bit put out about this. I wanted to see Edmund and Fanny come together, not hear about it.

I feel terrible to admit it, but I think I liked the movie better.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


This is one of the best similes I've ever read:

Today I pass the time reading
a favorite haiku,
saying the words over and over.

It feels like eating 
the same small, perfect grape
again and again.

I walk through the house reciting it
and leave its letters falling
through the air of every room.

These are the first three stanzas of Billy Collins' poem, "Japan." I read this poem for the first time in college, and still remember that wonderful phrase and how perfect it is. "Japan" is a great poem. You can read the rest of it in Picnic, Lightning or Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems.

I'm not a big poetry reader myself, but Billy Collins is definitely worth reading.

Monday, December 7, 2009

word of the day :: sartorial

[sahr-tawr-ee-uh l, -tohr-]

1. of or pertaining to tailors or their trade: sartorial workmanship.
2. of or pertaining to clothing or style or manner of dress: sartorial splendor.
3. Anatomy. Pertaining to the sartorius.

1815–25; < LL sartor tailor + IAL

"I'm a lot more sartorial than thespian. They come to see me and go out humming the costumes." (Constance Bennett, American actress)
* Definition from

Friday, December 4, 2009

from Rainer

"This before all: ask yourself in the quietest hour of your night: must I write? Dig down into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be in the affirmative, if you may meet this solemn question with a strong and simple, I must, then build your life according to this necessity."
~ Rainer Maria Rilke~

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Still reading...

Mansfield Park!

In my defense...this is Austen's second-longest novel. (Emma is the longest.) And I was out of town for a week in November on a business trip, during which the only time I had free to read was on the plane.

Happily, I can report that I am over halfway through, and I only have 122 pages left to read. I am quite anxious to finish for two reasons: (1) I can't wait for the part where Edmund and Fanny finally realize they are simply perfect for each other. (2) The last installment of the Harry Potter series has been sitting by my desk for weeks now, and I refuse to open it until I have read the last word of Mansfield Park.

Monday, November 30, 2009

word of the day :: coxcomb


1. a conceited, foolish dandy; pretentious fop.
2. Archaic. head; pate
3. Obsolete. COCKSCOMB.

1565–75; sp. variation of cockscomb

"Twice two makes four seems to me simply a piece of insolence. Twice two makes four is a pert coxcomb who stands with arms akimbo barring your path and spitting. I admit that twice two makes four is an excellent thing, but if we are to give everything its due, twice two makes five is sometimes a very charming thing too." (Fyodor Dostoevsky)
* Definition from

Thursday, November 26, 2009

books I'm thankful I read this year

1) The Harry Potter series (J. K. Rowling)

2) A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)

3) The Boleyn Inheritance (Phillipa Gregory)

4) The House on Mango Street (Sandra Cisneros)

Happy Thanksgiving all! And happy reading--hope you all find some time between the turkey and the football to squeeze in a book!

Monday, November 23, 2009

word of the day :: pagoda


1. (in India, Burma, China, etc.) a temple or sacred building, usually a pyramidlike tower and typically having upward-curving roofs over the individual stories.
2. any of several former gold or silver coins of southern India, usually bearing a figure of such a temple, first issued in the late 16th century and later also by British, French, and Dutch traders.

1625–35; < Pg pagode temple ≪ Pers butkada (but idol + kada temple, dwelling)

"Whenever we encounter the Infinite in man, however imperfectly understood, we treat it with respect. Whether in the synagogue, the mosque, the pagoda, or the wigwam, there is a hideous aspect which we execrate and a sublime aspect which we venerate. So great a subject for spiritual contemplation, such measureless dreaming--the echo of God on the human wall!" (Victor Hugo)
* Definition from

Friday, November 20, 2009

from Will

"When words are scarce they are seldom spent in vain."
~William Shakespeare~
(King Richard II)

Monday, November 16, 2009

word of the day :: hullabaloo


–noun, plural -loos.
a clamorous noise or disturbance; uproar.

1750–60; appar. var. of haloobaloo, rhyming compound based on Scots baloo lullaby

"In this world without quiet corners, there can be no easy escapes from from history, from hullabaloo, from terrible, unquiet fuss." (Salman Rushdie)
* Definition from

Friday, November 13, 2009

from Ralph

"In art the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can inspire."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson~

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Currently reading...

Jane Austen

Summary: At the novel's center is Fanny Price, the classic "poor cousin," brought as a child to Mansfield Park by the rich Sir Thomas Bertram and his wife as an act of charity. Over time, Fanny comes to demonstrate forcibly those virtues Austen most admired: modesty, firm principles, and a loving heart. As Fanny watches her cousins Maria and Julia cast aside their scruples in dangerous flirtations (and worse), and as she herself resolutely resists the advantages of marriage to the fascinating but morally unsteady Henry Crawford, her seeming austerity grows in appeal and makes clear to us why she was Austen's own favorite among her heroines.
(Summary from the book jacket)

I love Jane Austen's wit and clever satire of her own time. This is my first time reading Mansfield Park, and I've been wanting to read it ever since I watched the BBC movie last year when they were doing a Jane Austen special.

Monday, November 9, 2009

word of the day :: asinine


1. foolish, unintelligent, or silly; stupid: It is surprising that supposedly intelligent people can make such asinine statements.
2. of or like an ass: asinine obstinacy; asinine features. 

1600–10; < L asinīnus, equiv. to asin(us)

"Trying to be fascinating is an asinine position to be in" (Katherine Hepburn)
* Definition from

Friday, November 6, 2009

from Jane

"Silly things do cease to be silly if they are done by sensible people in an impudent way."
~Jane Austen~

Thursday, November 5, 2009

review :: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

J. K. Rowling

This sixth installment in the Harry Potter series is the most "grown-up" of the books so far. Perhaps it is because Harry Potter himself and his comrades are coming of age--growing up, dating, trying to make decisions about their futures, and coming to grips with the reality of a dangerous world gone wrong. I think there may be more to it than just that though. Rowling's writing steadily adapts to her older audience throughout the novels, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a great illustration of that.

The story was both engaging and somehow tragic. Darker than its predecessors, the novel shows more of the precarious balance between good and evil, right and wrong.

I am left in anticipation of reading the next book in the series, and alternately saddened that I've almost reached the end.

Monday, November 2, 2009

word of the day :: scallywag

a scamp; rascal

1850–55, Americanism; orig. uncert.

" For my part," said Armitage, " I call him a scallywag."
" What's a scallywag ?" Nea Blair asked, looking up at him from her seat with inquiring wonder.
Armitage paused a moment, and perused his boots. It's so hard on a fellow to be pounced upon like that for a definition offhand. " Well, a scallywag," he answered, leaning his back for moral support against the big eucalyptus tree beside which he stood, " a scallywag, I should say, well— well, is—why, he's the sort of man, you know, you wouldn't like to be seen walking down Piccadilly with."
" Oh, I see," Nea exclaimed, with a bright little laugh. " You mean, if you were walking down Piccadilly, yourself, in a frock coat and shiny tall hat, with an orchid from Bull's stuck in your buttonhole ! Then I think, Mr. Armitage, I rather like scallywags."
 (Grant Allen, The Scallywag)
* Definition from

Friday, October 30, 2009

from Stephen

"Books are a uniquely portable magic."

~Stephen King~

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Currently reading...

J. K. Rowling

Summary: Harry struggles to uncover the identity of the Half-Blood Prince, the past owner of a potions textbook he now possesses that is filled with ingenious, potentially deadly, spells. But Harry's life is suddenly changed forever when someone close to him is heinously murdered right before his eyes.
(Summary from

I began reading the Harry Potter series a couple of months ago at the request of a friend. It had simply never been a priority of mine to read the series, when there were so many other books on my "To Read" list. While I knew the books would be fun and easy reads, I must admit I have been surprised at how much I have really enjoyed them, and seeing the transformation Rowling has made throughout from a "youth" genre to a more adult literary genre.

Thank you to my brother, Eric, for lending me his pretty, hardcover Harry Potter books so I do not have to buy them.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

review :: People of the Book

Geraldine Brooks

What I enjoy most about this book is the journey the reader takes, following the story of the Sarajevo Haggadah backwards, centuries in time, to its strange origin.

Throughout the novel, we see the haggadah come to life through the eyes of Hanna (the present-day protagonist). However, the reader is privy to its birth and development--steps of history on which Hanna can only speculate and guess.

By the end of the novel, only the reader knows the true and full story of the Sarajevo Haggadah. I found myself wanting to tell Hanna. I wished that I could step into the pages of the book and say, "I know what happened! Let me fill you in." Brooks created a character that I cared about and felt connected to.

I give this book four stars. The writing style was not necessarily my favorite, but the story and characters were brilliant. This is a novel I would recommend, especially to anyone who enjoys history.

Monday, October 19, 2009

word of the day :: quandary

[kwon-duh-ree, -dree]
-noun, plural -ries
a state of perplexity or uncertainty, esp. as to what to do; dilemma.

1570–80; perh. fancifully < L quand(ō) when + -āre inf. suffix

"Suffering succotash...I'm in a quandary." (Bill Cowher)
* Definition taken from 

Sunday, October 18, 2009

new (used) books

Today I purchased all of these books for $11.50 at a used bookstore that, unfortunately, will be closing its doors at the end of the month. What a deal!

From top to bottom:
The Poorhouse Fair, John Updike
False Dawn, Edith Wharton
Light in August, William Faulkner
The Alhambra (illustrated), Washington Irving
Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor, R. D. Blackmore
Treasures of Spanish Art (Spanish Pavillion, Seville World's Fair, 1992)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Currently reading...

People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks

Summary: An intricate, ambitious novel that traces the journey of a rare illuminated Hebrew manuscript from convivencia Spain to the ruins of Sarajevo, from the Silver Age of Venice to the sunburned rock faces of northern Australia.

Inspired by the true story of a mysterious codex known as the Sarajevo Haggadah, People of the Book is a sweeping adventure through five centuries of history. From its creation in Muslim-ruled, medieval Spain, the illuminated manuscript makes a series of perilous journeys: through Inquisition-era Venice, fin-de-siecle Vienna, and the Nazi sacking of Sarajevo.
(Summary from

I heard Geraldine speak at Warwick's a couple of months ago, and have been wanting to read People of the Book ever since. Geraldine's quiet passion for this story was quite alluring. And it's a book...about a book!

Monday, October 5, 2009

word of the day :: capricious

[kuh-prish-uhs, -pree-shuhs]
subject to, led by, or indicative of caprice or whim; erratic: He's such a capricious boss I never know how he'll react.
Obsolete. fanciful or witty.
1585–95; < It capriccioso capriccioso

"A love without esteem is capricious and volatile; esteem without love is languid and cold." (Jonathan Swift)
* Definition from

Friday, October 2, 2009

from Flannery

"The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location."

Flannery O'Connor

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Banned Books Week

September 26 through October 3 is Banned Books Week--a celebration of freedom to read. Hurray! The American Library Association has more information on this yearly occurrence. And the Banned Books Week website ( has a really interesting interactive map showing what books were challenged and where between 2007 and 2009.

Most banned books are banned from schools due to controversial content.

To censor, or not to censor?

That is the question.

all things words

Welcome to RAW--a place for all things words.