The House on the Point: A Tribute to Franklin W. Dixon and The Hardy Boys

The House on the Point: A Tribute to Franklin W. Dixon and The Hardy Boys
Benjamin Hoffs (Tao of Pooh, Te of Piglet) rewrites the classic Hardy Boys book “The House on the Cliff” from the ground up — starting with the framework of the original 1927 version of the story and restoring its charm (rewrites to the book in the 1970s updated the settings, while stripping much of the appeal) and filling in those niggling plot holes that one overlooks as a child but which stand out for adults returning to the nostalgic stories of their youth.
Hoff’s version is very much a tribute, not a parody or pastiche, of the enjoyable, escapist novels we adored as kids. And his additions to the novel (especially to make characters more three dimensional, and settings more vibrant) work very well. The effect is quite seamless — without the explanation of what’s new in the appendix one might never suspect that this isn’t the same book we read years ago.

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Interesting Book: “Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping”

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This is a book I’ll be picking up a copy of, eventually: Not Buying It : My Year Without Shopping, by Judith Levine.
Levine takes the plunge and attempts to not purchase anything for a year, documenting her endeavor in the process. I believe she made an exception for food and “necessities” but defining what was a necessary was an interesting process. It appears she reflects on the realities of the project, and struggles with what it means to cut back, which is what I find intriguing; I hope it will be a good read.

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Books to Read Before You Die

The British librarian’s organization — “Museum, Libraries and Archives Council” — has put together a List of Books to Read Before You Die.

I have a pretty good start on the list. Of the ones I haven’t read yet, I have four on my bookshelves at home, so I’ll probably get to them someday.

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  2. The Bible
  3. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien
  4. 1984 by George Orwell
  5. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  6. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  7. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  8. All Quite on the Western Front by E M Remarque
  9. His Dark Materials Trilogy by Phillip Pullman
  10. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
  11. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  12. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  13. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
  14. Tess of the D’urbevilles by Thomas Hardy
  15. Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne
  16. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  17. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham
  18. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  19. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  20. The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  21. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  22. The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
  23. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  24. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  25. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  26. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  27. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  28. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
  29. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  30. A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzenhitsyn
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Quad Cities Censorship

This is an interesting article in the Quad City Times, about a book called “The Misfits” that was banned at the elementary school level in the Quad Cities.

“I knew I had all of those signs of being gay, and I couldn’t make sense of it,” said Howe, who wrote “The Misfits,” a book about four kids and their battle with name-calling. “When I figured out it was actually something that described who I was, I was terrified of being that. It was considered an illness, morally reprehensible.”
“The Misfits” launched a firestorm in the Quad-Cities when the Pleasant Valley School Board decided to restrict its use at the elementary-school level, where teachers are not allowed to read it aloud to students. The book has a gay character, Joe, who is the main character in Howe’s sequel, “Totally Joe.”
“The Misfits” also launched a national initiative called “No Name Calling Week.” The organizers of Howe’s visit are asking area schools to have their own version of No Name Calling Week from Feb. 20-24.

Ironic that they book is about not mistreating people, including gay people, but it’s being censored, although the article does talk about programs at some of the Quad City schools to prevent bullying.
It’s interesting to me because I have a couple relatives who are employed in the school system in the Quad Cities. I wonder what they think.

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Scaling Down

I borrowed the book “Scaling Down” (by Judi Culbertson and Marj Decker) from my girlfriend Stephanie, because we’re both attempting to sort through the things we own and uh, scale down. We’ve got to figure out how we’re going to merge households, and for two people who both own two-story, multi-bedroom homes packed with stuff, that ain’t easy.

We also want to be free from the tyranny of stuff – the constant, time-consuming job of organizing/labeling/using/cleaning/repairing and then recycling/donating/discarding things. All that takes up too much of our time, when we could be doing fun stuff instead, like taking the dog for a walk or going on road trips or reading books, or having you over to our house for tea and board games. You’d like that, wouldn’t you? We would.

Scaling Down” is a fantastic book; I wanted to share it immediately with other people as I was going through it. It addresses the key issues about our relationship with things; namely that we have some emotional relationships with stuff that we have to get past before we can accept that we own the stuff, rather than letting the stuff own us.

The first part of the book covers “the Culprits” — the habits that we form that keep our life in clutter, and the pressures from the society we live in that help keep us disorganized. “The Paper Tiger” is a critical chapter on dealing with paperwork that we have stashed all over the house. What do we need to keep, how do we organize that, and what should we be shredding and disposing of? And the tyranny of collections — yep. That’s a lesson I need to learn, myself. Then they cover clothes. That’s an area I desperately need to master.

The second section of the book is about special situations that crop up in life that stir up the chaos of things in our lives — for example the necessity to separate and dispose of the belongings of a parent that has died, or our situation — merging households.

The third section of the book is all about strategies for taming the beast – how to sort and discard things, where to find homes for your stuff, how to keep from bringing more stuff in. When I lived in a tiny apartment, I used to have a rule that worked well — I couldn’t bring anything into the house unless something of equal size and shape left. That rule fell by the wayside when I bought a house, but I think it’s time to bring it back.

There’s a great deal in the book that is really common sense, but there’s also some great ideas that one wouldn’t immediately think of; like their challenge to not go shopping for a month. That’s an interesting idea that I’d love to try. It would be hard when it came to food, and sometimes personal grooming supplies, but I’ll bet other than that I could do it.

The last section of the book is the dessert — the rewards of living small. All the stuff you can do and enjoy when you no longer have to worry about keeping track of all your crap. So buy this book and read it — when you get to the dessert you’ll be glad you did.

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100 Best First Lines from Novels

According to the American Book Review:
1. Call me Ishmael. —Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)
2. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. —Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)
3. A screaming comes across the sky. —Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow (1973)
4. Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. —Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967; trans. Gregory Rabassa)
5. Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. —Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)

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A Feast for Crows: starting the book

I started reading one of the books I bought with my Barnes and Noble gift cards, A Feast for Crows this week. It’s the fourth book in the fantasy series “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R. R. Martin. I really enjoy this series because it turns many of the tired fantasy cliches upside down, or simply ignores them. There’s very little magic in the series, and what there is is subtle and in the background. There’s no “farmboy with royal lineage who discovers his personal journey to find the throne while battling a wicked magician who lives in far off mountains,” thank god. Wikipedia gives a better explanation than I could:

A Song of Ice and Fire is set in a fictitious world reminiscent of Europe in the Middle Ages, except for the fact that in this world, seasons can last as long as a decade. Driven by members of the Houses, great and small, the plot is recounted from the perspectives of more than ten main characters and takes place on the continents of Westeros and the eastern continent, the former being the locale of fierce power struggles between several aristocratic families after the death of king Robert Baratheon, who by lineage, marriage and personal relationships had united them all.

The model for the series was England’s Wars of the Roses, and the story follows several different richly-drawn characters on different sides of the struggle. The thing I found compelling was that I sympathized with characters on both sides of the war who would have been allies in other circumstances but who found themselves at odds due to family loyalties and conflicting religious beliefs.

A Feast for Crows is starting pretty slowly for me, because it begins by following some minor characters that I can’t quite remember from the previous books. The gap between the publication of the last novel and this one was large; I read A Storm of Swords in 2002 and am struggling to remember where the series left off. I read over Wikipedia’s summaries, though, and was able to get my bearings, so I have an idea of who and where everyone is.

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What I Read in 2005 (51 Titles)

I’m going to change around a bit how I record the books I’ve read. This coming year, I’ll log titles by doing a short blog entry about them, instead of doing a running list as I have in years past. I’m shifting my past lists of books read over into my blog, as well under the category of “Books I’ve Read.”

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