Thursday, September 30, 2010

Breakfast at Tiffany's - The Book and the Film

My book club's next assignment is Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote. The movie version with Audrey Hepburn is one of my favorite films. Its a movie I own in its dvd version and one I watch once every two years or so. It's the film I'll choose when I'm ill with the flu and I just want to curl up on the sofa during the daytime with a beautiful movie. I love it. I love Audrey and George Peppard and the whole atmosphere of the film. New York in the 1960s, the parties, Tiffany's and the crazy neighbours and suitors. Oh and the's a poignant moment when Audrey sings Moon River with her guitar. I was curious how this novella would compare to the film.

I was surprised that Capote's version is different. It's not a love story and you learn that practically in the first page where the unnamed narrator (George Peppard's character) is remembering his old neighbour Holly Golightly. From the first few sentences, I already knew the book would have a different ending from the film. The narrator is a friend who was never in love with Holly. It's been hinted in reviews that he might even be gay if Capote was basing the character on himself. Certainly, there's no romantic love for Holly; fascination and friendship - yes, but that's it and it's perfectly ok. I loved the novella on it's own just as much as the film. Capote's writing is pitch perfect with not a word wasted. It flows wonderfully and it's so easy to just read this 111 page novella in one sitting. The dialogue is charming and witty and the atmosphere that was played out in the film is all there: the parties, the crazy neighbours and the suitors. The only difference is that it's New York in the 1940s. Oh and the Cat! One musn't forget the Cat who's quite an integral part of this whole book. In the end, the Cat finds a home to belong to and it's assumed that somewhere, somehow, Holly does too.

Holly is delightful but sometimes also sad. In fact, because I've read the book, I appreciate Audrey's excellent and very nuanced acting even more. She really did a fantastic job and is completely the Holly Golightly that Capote created. And though Hollywood changed the ending and made it partly a romantic movie, I think it's perfectly ok too. Both are beautiful works of art.

"What I've found does the most good is just to get into a taxi and go to Tiffany's. It calms me down right away, the quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there, not with those kind men in their nice suits, and that lovely smell of silver and alligator wallets. If I could find a real-life place that made me feel like Tiffany's, then I'd buy some furniture and give the cat a name. " (page 40)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Jamie Does...

Nine years ago when I was newly married and keen to impress the hubby in the kitchen, I purchased Jamie Oliver's first book The Naked Chef. Before Jamie, there were only a few dishes in my repertoire. I could probably cook two types of pasta dishes (carbonara and bolognese), boil rice, grill a steak or pieces of chicken just with garlic, salt and pepper and of course fry an egg, scrambled or sunny-side up.That was probably the extent of my kitchen knowledge and to be honest none of them were great. Jamie made me venture out of my comfort zone. Through him, I made my first risotto, my first curry dish, my first soup, my first fish dish,....the list is endless. Jamie also taught me about the wide world of herbs. Before him, I probably couldn't tell the difference between majoram, thyme, dill or sage. But Jamie uses them quite generously in most of his recipes and I love the way he says to grab a handful of herbs. I like that...a handful, does add an element of fun to whipping up the dishes rather than having to measure a teaspoon of this or that herb. I later added two more books by Jamie to my collection but then I moved on to more complicated cookbooks and baking books (Jamie isn't the best when it comes to desserts). But somehow I never forget that Jamie was the one who sparked my interest in food and the kitchen.

A few months ago, I pulled out some of my old Jamie Oliver books from my kitchen shelf and tried new dishes and made old favourites. Jamie's Botham burger for example, is the absolute best. I've made it countless times and being pregnant I've been craving it almost every week. So when I saw Jamie's new book at the bookshop, Jamie Does....Spain, Italy, Sweden, Morocco, Greece and France, how could I resist? I love the cuisines of these countries and if Jamie's making his own twists on their dishes, then you can bet that he's going to make it very accessible. Jamie Does... is Jamie's own personal celebration of amazing food from six fabulous countries. Each chapter is dedicated to one country. Jamie says: 'The food I’ve embraced on each trip is a mixture of what you could call the clich├ęd star dishes - the many tagines of Morocco, the flamboyant paellas of Spain, the comforting risottos from Italy and the zingy fresh flavours of a classic Greek salad - and the recipes that I’ve been inspired to make after walking through the markets and soaking up the vibes of each place. What you'll find in this book is fun, optimistic, escapist food you can actually cook and enjoy in your own home.'

I've been browsing and reading this book now for two days and the pictures of food are mouth-watering. There's also fantastic reportage photographs of Jamie's adventures in each country. What I especially appreciate is that many of these complicated dishes now look completely doable. I've now filled my book with post-it notes. There's so many recipes to try here and I just can't wait. Today I made a killer Greek salad. I love Greek salads and I've tried several recipes and I have to say this is the best! Maybe it's the addition of dill that does the trick because all the other recipes I've come across don't  have it. So just so you can try it too, here's the link to the recipe:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Which Books Made You Cry?

Oh dear, I'm having another book slump. After finishing the terrific One Day by David Nicholls, I've picked up several books which I abandoned after just a few pages or chapters. Nothing can satisfy me right now. I want a book that moves me, a book that makes me cry,  a book that gets me emotionally involved with the characters like One Day did. Oh where, oh where, can I find another book like that? Dear readers, help me please. I trust your recommendations so tell me which books moved you to tears? Which ones got you so emotionally attached to the characters that you just didn't want it to end?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

One Day

I've been reading reviews for One Day by David Nicholls for months and I've passed by the book several times in bookstores. The premise intrigued me but I've read the unimpressive Starter for Ten by the same author and I thought this would be another disappointing read. How wrong I was! After reading more rave reviews, I decided to finally purchase the book.

Dex and Em. Em and Dex. They meet on the night of their college graduation in 1988. They're made for each other but they don't know it yet. Life calls them to different places and different things. But their obvious connection to one another stays and for the next twenty years we get a snapshot of their lives on the same day every year, July 15th.

Once in a while a book comes along that makes me cry. I can probably count on one hand how many books have had this effect on me and right now I can only recall one, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.  Curiously enough, The Kite Runner didn't even have a sad ending, it was actually happy and promising.  I never expected to have this reaction with One Day but I just bawled when I reached the last page and the page after the acknowledgements where Nicholls quoted a line from the book. This is a beautiful novel and I'm absolutely sure it will make my top ten of the year.

It's hard to believe a writer can pull off this kind of structure but Nicholls managed it and he did it just perfectly. Although we only see a day in a year of Dexter and Emma's lives, we get a good picture of what they've been up to since the last time we saw them. We get emotionally involved with them and learn to love them, imperfections and all. This is the kind of book where you think you know how it will all end but you don't care. It's the journey that matters. How will it reach that ending? In spite of what you expect, Nicholls does manage to throw in some surprises here and there. This is a wonderful, engaging and ultimately very moving novel. Please read it and when you've finished it, pass it on to a friend. It's that kind of book.

"Live each day as if it's our last', that was the conventional advice, but really who had the energy for that? What if it rained or you felt a bit glandy? It just wasn't practical. Better by far to simply try and be good and courageous and bold and to make a difference. Not change the world exactly, but the bit around you. Go out there with your passion and your electric typewriter and work hard at...something. Change lives through art maybe. Cherish your friends, stay true to your principles, live passionately and fully and well. Experience new things. Love and be loved, if you ever get the chance."

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dorothy Whipple Does It Again

I just realized that about a year ago I blogged about how Dorothy Whipple cured my book slump (you can find my post on that here). How funny that she should come to my rescue again this year and with the same book, The Closed Door and Other Stories. Last year, I only had to read one story from that collection to get back my reading groove. This year I read a few more from this book. Whipple is always such a warm and cozy writer. Her books are the kind you just want to curl up with on a rainy day. It's been wonderful to delve back into her again. I've read most of her novels so all I have left is this short story collection. I didn't read all the stories because who knows when I'll have the book slumps again? I better save some of these wonders.

Actually, I'm not a fan of short stories in general and that's because I love a meaty story where I get to know the characters and I can be transported to another place. Short stories always leave me hanging. I always wish they were longer. Somehow Whipple manages these little gems quite brilliantly that I'm left satisfied. Though some of them are very short they're still perfectly crafted. It's also interesting how Whipple has led me to read other short stories by other writers. I'm now appreciating this genre so much more than I did before.

The Closed Door is the longest story in the book at 75 pages. It's about a daughter who lives with her stifling and controlling parents and feels powerless to break free and live her own life. The Handbag is about a woman who discovers through a handbag that her husband is having an affair. In Family Crisis, it takes a crisis for a father to finally appreciate his wife and daughter. In The Rose, a wife suddenly notices her husband leaving home with a rose from their garden tucked under his hat. Where is he going? These are just four of the stories in this collection but their little plots give you an idea of what Dorothy Whipple is like if you aren't familiar with her. I still have six more stories left to read so this book now has a permanent place on my bedside table.

I'm so glad I'm spreading these stories out because it's been so nice experiencing them this way. I highly recommend this book even if you haven't read Whipple or even if you're not a fan of short stories. This one will change your mind about the genre. If you're thinking of giving a Persephone book as a present for a friend or a relative, then I think this particular Persephone would be perfect.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Instead of a Book Review...

I've never done a meme like this but I loved reading Thomas at My Porch and  Mad Bibliophile's answers so I thought I'd give this a go. Plus, I'm still going through writer's block so no new reviews from me for now.

1. Favorite childhood book?
The Nancy Drew Mysteries, The Adventures of Tintin

2. What are you reading right now?
The Closed Door and Other Stories by Dorothy Whipple

3. What books do you have on request at the library?

4. Bad book habit?
Never leaving a bookstore without a book

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?

6. Do you have an e-reader?
No, but I confess I'm thinking of purchasing one. I'll always love the smell of and feel of actual books but an e-reader will help me get the books I want that aren't available in the Philippines.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
One book at a time

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
Yes, my To Be Read pile is just growing as I read more and more reviews for books I want to read.

9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)
Little Bee or The Other Hand by Chris Cleaves

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
Hard to answer but it's probably The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster and Brooklyn by Colm Toibin. Coincidentally they both have the word Brooklyn in their titles.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
Very often.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
Victorian England or England and Paris in the 1920s

13. Can you read on the bus?
No, never. It would make me sick. As a child, I got sick in the car while reading a Tintin book. Never again after that.

14. Favorite place to read?
At night in bed

15. What is your policy on book lending?
I'm always happy to lend books to friends and even more happy when they tell me they enjoyed it.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
I'm ashamed to say it but yes, I dog-ear my books. I always lose my bookmarks.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?

18. Not even with text books?
It's ok to write in textbooks

19. What is your favorite language to read in?

20. What makes you love a book?
want a book to be well-written. I think that's number one. It could have a riveting plot but if the prose is just not up to par then I can't, can't read it. I love a book that evokes a distinct atmosphere and it takes a great writer to manage that. Of course, it must also have an engaging story.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
Many, many things. Although I always take into consideration the person I'm recommending to and their own personal tastes.

22. Favorite genre?
Literature and classics

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)

24. Favorite biography?
The Wild Swans by Jung Chang. Brilliant!

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
Yes, though I don't remember which ones.

26. Favorite cookbook?
I love cookbooks and I have many favourites. I love the Barefoot Contessa books, Bill Granger's books and Chocolate and Zucchini.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster

28. Favorite reading snack?
Nothing. I read just before I sleep.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
Little Bee or The Other Hand by Chris Cleaves

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
Sometimes I agree and sometimes I don't. But it's always interesting to read critics' reviews.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
I don't like giving negative reviews but sometimes it can't be helped. I only accept review copies of books I'm sure I'll enjoy.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
I can't think of any particular book right now, maybe because I haven't tackled the ones I thought are intimidating such as Joyce.

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
I'd love to read Bleak House one day but I'm too nervous to begin because of its sheer size.

35. Favorite Poet?
Shakespeare, Elizabeth Barrett Browning

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?

37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?
Oh, many, many times. Probably 40% of the time.

38. Favorite fictional character?
Jane Eyre

39. Favorite fictional villain?
Tom Ripley from Patricia Highsmith's Ripley novels and Count Fosco from The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
Books that I don't mind leaving behind to free up my suitcase space.

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
24 hours

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Couldn't finish and didn't want to finish it. Life's too short for Ayn Rand plus there are too many wonderful books around.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
Any sort of noise

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?  
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. Though I haven't read the book, I can't believe it can be more wonderful than the film.

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
The Harry Potter movies. It's much more fun to read the books!

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
Hmm, maybe a 100$

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
Never. I don't even want to read the blurb.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
I have the 50 page rule. If a book fails to captivate me at that point, I have no qualms to put it aside.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
I should but I don't though I do catalog my books on Library Thing.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
I only keep books I loved or I enjoyed. The rest are given away or donated to a library.

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
Other than Atlas Shrugged which was for a book club, I usually only read books I want to read.

52. Name a book that made you angry.
Atlas Shrugged

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did? 
The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz  

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
Tintin and Persephones
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