Archive for the ‘ Books & Comics ’ Category

Hey, old friend…


Well, it seems I need to blow the dust off the Singing Librarian, doesn’t it?  So very many weeks have passed since my last blog entry, and although much has happened, the world of the wonderful web knows nothing of it.  There are an assortment of reasons for the deathly silence that has hung around this little corner of cyber-space, chief among them my house move.  We didn’t have enough live power sockets to run my PC at first, and then it objected to having been neglected and went on strike.  I got it back from the lovely computer fixing people today, fought the urge to hug and kiss it, and have now got it up and running in my new room which is so very close to the city’s majestic cathedral.

This last weekend was a particularly busy one and should furnish me with sufficient material for at least three blog posts, I should think.  But first I shall return to that ‘To Do List’ which I wrote back in the mists of time.

Answer Reed’s questions.  I did that in the very next post, which allowed me to feel as though the completion of my list was a very real possibility.

Move house.  I did that too,  just over two weeks ago, and it’s wonderful to be here.  OK, so we still lack functioning lights in the kitchen, we have more loose floorboards than you could shake a whole bundle of sticks at, the television aerial cabling hasn’t been done and the hot water likes to take its time in the morning, but it’s wonderful.  It’s our house, big and old with a strange and new bit at the back.  We can see the cathedral from the front windows, and the cat has enjoyed a couple of wonderful adventures exploring the world beneath the floorboards on two different floors.  The four human inhabitants of the building have refrained from physical violence thus far as well (apart from the authorised use of force against stud walls and rubbish plastering jobs), which is encouraging.

Read.  Another mission accomplished.  Wonderful.  Both the accomplishment and the books.  I enjoyed all three of the books mentioned and would commend them to others.  I am now obsessively checking to see when the normal paperbacks of the sequels to The Lies of Locke Lamora and The Night Watch will appear.  I am tempted by the current trade paperback editions, but that would look untidy on my shelves, which just wouldn’t do.  In order of reading, my one sentence reviews.  The Moonstone is a masterpiece of plotting with some very funny characters, even if some of the details of the ending can be seen coming from a very long way off.  The Lies of Locke Lamora does an incredible job of world-building with an intriguing setting, and another exciting plot, though I felt the violence was sometimes more than a tad gratuitous.  The Night Watch is utterly compelling in its reinvention of the supernatural, combining it with elements of the police procedural and espionage thriller.  My most recent read was The Alchemist, which I can sum up in two words: don’t bother.  It is short, though.

Sing.  Ah.  Well.  I did start to learn both ‘King of the World’ and ‘Serenade’ and can do chunks of them sans sheet music, but I haven’t completed the task and I didn’t even start on the other two. 

Relax.  I actually feel very relaxed most of the time these days, actually, which makes a pleasant change.  The Library of Doom tends to rob me of the relaxation, but it soon comes back.  And this without fulfilling my promise to self.  I never did manage a day in the country or by the sea, though I did go on a remarkably pleasant walk around Bishopsbourne in a ludicrously picturesque bit of the county.

So there we go.  The Singing Librarian is alive and capable of stringing sentences together.  He did reasonably well at his summer ‘To Do List’ as well.  Who knows, another blog entry or two may appear by the end of the month as well!

In which we ponder Deathly Hallows, sans spoilers


Last weekend (not the one just gone, but the one before it), my reading of Wilkie Collins’ marvellous novel The Moonstone was interrupted by the 21st day of July, which made it absolutely essential for legions of normally sensible British adults to rush to their nearest bookseller, purchase a children’s book and then not speak to anyone until they’d finished it.  Yes, I am a Harry Potter… reader, and I got through the final volume before the weekend had ended.  After all, the prose isn’t exactly taxing, is it?

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Questions are asked and answered


There is a meme going around, as I’m sure you’ll have noticed, where bloggers interview one another, and end up giving really quite interesting (or in my case, really quite long) answers.  I think the beauty of this meme is in the nature of who is doing the interviewing.  It’s not people that the bloggers know in their day to day life, who would most likely be fishing for particular bits of information that they already know.  It’s also not people completely disconnected from them, who would end up asking entirely generic questions.  These are people who know their interviewees through the blogosphere, a curious form of social interaction which is simultaneously very open and very reserved, as each word can be chosen, pondered and held back.  All of us leave a whole number of gaps in the narrative of our lives as we blog away, and many of the questions and answers I’ve seen have been filling in some of these gaps, which the blog authors may have been entirely unaware of.

So the meme has been floating around, and I’ve seen it whiz through the periphery of  both the comics blogosphere and the theatre blogosphere, and now it has entered the realm of the blogs that I read more regularly.  I finally decided to be brave and ask for some questions following the questions that Aphra posed to Reed.  Reed, or possibly her ever-present Editor, posed five questions, and warned me that they “are all prompted by the fact I am a NOSY woman”.   As a result, this is probably one of my longest posts ever.  If you really don’t want to know about the real Singing Librarian, look away now and come back in a few days when I start wittering about something less personal.

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The Singing Librarian’s ‘To Do List’


My concert season is coming to an end, with one having been cancelled, one already over and two coming up this weekend, leaving only an excursion on 4th August to look forward to.  This means that with no rehearsals, no studying and no Sunday School to prepare for, I have that strange and wonderful thing called time on my hands.  But what am I to do with it?

Answer Reed’s questions.  For the interview meme that all the cool bloggers are taking part in, don’t you know.  I am still pondering a couple of the answers, and will hopefully post them tomorrow.

Move house.  I’ve gone and got myself on the property ladder, only I’ve bought a dental surgery with three friends and we’re in the process of turning it back in to a house.  We have knocked down walls, put in a new bathroom and ordered a new kitchen.  We are now trying to extract a quote from a builder so that we can make sure the place doesn’t fall down and make it possible for all four of us to move in by the beginning of September, at which point I must have left my current abode.  And there’s the small matter of packing everything up and transporting it across town…

Read.  My pile of books to be read is growling angrily from the corner and demands to be reduced.  So reduced it shall be.  First is The Moonstone, my next book group book, which I really ought to have picked up long ago since The Woman in White is one of my favourite novels.  Then the books that people have blogged about which I have subsequently picked up. The Lies of Locke Lamora, courtesy of Helen and The Night Watch, courtesy of Sol.  Then, if I get through those three without getting distracted, the rest of the pile which ranges from Homer to Neil Gaiman, taking in Eco, Irving and sundry others in a bewildering mix of styles and genres. 

Sing.  I am determined to add some new items to the repertoire of songs I can sing.  I may never perform them to anyone, but I’m sure it will be good for me.  So I shall attack Jason Robert Brown’s ‘King of the World’ for power, Sigmund Romberg’s ‘Serenade’ for high notes and romantic loveliness, Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Marry Me a Little’ for drama and Lerner & Loewe’s ‘C’est Moi’ for comedy (if I can pull it off the way I’d like to), which is as about as diverse a range of songs as I can manage.  I expect I’ll lose at least one of the battles and may well drive the neighbours insane, but the fight should be entertaining.

Breathe.  I haven’t got much leave over the summer, but I shall try to spend at least a couple of days out in the countryside or on the sea front, going for a walk and then just sitting.  Well, sitting and reading.  I need to relax, enjoy this wonderful county, take in the air of the sea and the fields and switch off.

I think that should keep me busy.

Random books


I don’t normally do the meme thing, largely because the definition of meme bothers me and partly because I simply can’t be bothered. However, when Reed indulged in a particularly booky meme, I thought I might as well hop on the bandwagon and show the strangeness of what I have and have not read:

Look at the list of books below. Bold the ones you’ve read, italicize the ones you want to read, cross out the ones you won’t touch with a 10 foot pole, put a cross infront of the ones on your book shelf, and asterisk* the ones you’ve never heard of.

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown) [Twice!  Once for myself, and once for book group.  Why did I allow myself to be put through that a second time?]
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. + To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. + The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. + The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. + The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance* (Rohinton Mistry)
11. + Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown) [Yes, sorry, but I haven’t read the other Dan Brown ones]
13. + Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. + Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. + Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban(Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. + The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. + The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. + The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams) [All of it, even the terribly dull ones at the end]
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. + The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook* (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent* (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner* (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. + Bible [Fairly sure I’ve read all of it now]
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens) [Why haven’t I read this yet?]
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. + Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. + Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. + The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage* (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind) [I wouldn’t bother if I were you]
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down (Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer) [During my teenage years of reading anything]
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees* (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce) [I just can’t be bothered]

Make of that what you will.  There are quite shocking gaps in my reading, particularly shocking when you consider that I have an MA in English Literature.  However, I was mostly concerned with eighteenth-century novels, and have read an awful lot of those.  There is, I promise, more on my bookshelves than hobbits and wizards.  It seems I’ll read most things once, really, or twice if I have to for study or book group purposes.  And I’m quite ashamed to see how many I’ve never heard of.  Surely I should have heard of every book ever written?  That’s the attitude that the users of the library tend to have, anyway.

Interestingly, few of my favourites are represented.  How do my readers feel about my personal selection of Tom Jones, The Woman in White, Riddley Walker and Remains of the Day?

A ‘Very Special Issue’ of Robin


TV comedies, particularly American ones, have quite a history of ‘Very Special Episodes’ which tackle a serious theme in a serious manner, often very badly.  The term is usually applied in a mocking fashion, and seems inappropriate to use in conjunction with an episode that actually succeeds at doing more than preach.  Science fiction and fantasy often get away with tackling more of those serious issues than comedy or even ‘straight’ drama can do, as you can wrap things up so much in metaphor, pretending that since people with bumpy foreheads or pointy ears aren’t really human, we can examine their oddly-familiar prejudices and foibles more objectively.

Anyway, the world of comic books is not immune to the ‘Very Special Episode’ phenomenon, though in this case it’s a ‘Very Special Issue’.  AIDS is now a common subject, as are the many and varied forms of prejudice.  Sometimes this works magnificently (there was bucketloads of social commentary in Green Lantern/Green Arrow back in the 1970s, for instance) and sometimes it’s even more stilted and preachy than television manages.  This month sees an example of a very good ‘Very Special Issue’, in the form of Robin Vol. 2 #156

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Adventures in ontology


A number of recent events have come together to force me to write a post on the subject of ontology.  Firstly, there’s the ongoing debate about the classification of the stuff in the solar system, which has been fascinating to observe.  Secondly, there’s the terrifying fact that I’m about to begin my librarianship qualifications, which will immerse me yet deeper in the murky world of cataloguing.  And finally, I came across a link to an article called Ontology is Overrated, which caused my thinking on the subject to step up a gear.

But what is ontology?  Continue reading

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