I gave up reading fantasy novels at least 15 years ago. They got me through adolescence but then they just all seemed a bit well, adolescent... The one exception to this whose work I still try and keep up with is Charles De Lint who I still love. (Technically he's urban fantasy but close enough) I've been feeling quite discombobulated lately and decided it'd be nice if I could find a new book by him! I looked on Amazon, and even ignoring the teen fic he's been writing lately came up with about 6 or 7 books to add to my wish list! Apparently there's been a lot of re-issues of older out of print stuff but it made me happy. Despite having read over 30 books so far this year I've not made a dent really in my "to read" shelves. I'm not sure how this keeps happening. I've bought less than 10 books this year!

In other news I found a lovely Victorian "steam punk" book today at work.
The social, political, and commercial advantages of direct steam communication and rapid postal intercourse between Europe and America, via Galway, Ireland by someone with the unlikely name of Pliny Miles
http://library.kcl.ac.uk/F/?func=full-set-set&set_number=005098&set_entry=000001&format=999
Our exhibtion on early settlement in Australia and New Zealand is now available on our web page.

http://www.kcl.ac.uk/iss/library/spec/exhib/southern/

It includes a really cute picture of a wombat!



(image copyright King's College, London)
The open video project. Nasa videos and lots of great 50s "educational" films... Currently downloading 50s propaganda on "why study science" "A is for atom" and "red chinese".

http://www.open-video.org/index.php
This book is a series of literary criticism essays about some of the writing of the women beats. Unfortunately, I found it to be a bit too critical of the men in the movement who it blamed for not giving enough support for the women writers. (When surely the lack of recognition comes from the "literary critics, be they academics or commercial and not the men themselves). There seemed to be a bit of confusion over the cross-over between beat subculture and the beat literary movement. Women who weren't considered great writers were thought to have been excluded, but were they excluded from the movement? Did you have to be published to be a beat? Surely Neal Cassady is the best example that being a published writer is not a prerequisite for being accepted into the culture.

The biggest problem of this type of criticism was that it was all literary without looking at the social history side of things. People were trying to understand the movement purely through the writing, and a few comments, not all the works, of the leading male figures of the movement. And as such the fact that the majority of the male figures, (2 out of the top 3) were homosexual was ignored. Surely this would affect the dynamics of their relationships and it wasn't simply the fact that they had the misogynistic views of men in the 50s and 60s.

The essays themselves focused on a few poems in most cases, or lines from a few poems. Something as someone who doesn't have a literary criticism background to be rather odd. I did learn quite a bit about the different writers, particularly about Di Parma's anti-birth control and abortion stance, which I found rather horrendous. All told though it didn't make me want to read anything by the women. I'm not sure if this was a failing of the book or just my lack of appreciation for the styles and types of writing.

When I first started reading Kerouac I was really wanting to learn more about the women who were living that lifestyle, the non-conformist rebels of the 40s and 50s. But I wanted a social history not a literary criticism and I've not seemed to be able to find that book yet. I don't even know if it's been written. This was definitely not it.
I found Kerouac's style in this book to be truly phenomenal. It was some of the most beautiful writing of his. What made it an odd contrast was how it portrayed the life of a high school jock, a little shy and inexperienced, compared to the poor alcoholic of later books.

The subject matter was an honest look at the frustration of high school relationships. I felt sorry for Maggie, stuck in what appeared to be a fairly small town, trying to decide at 17 if she should get married or not, more out of boredom more than anything else.

The book was an odd contrast between idolisation and disappointment. Nobody seemed to know what they really wanted. It did a good job of capturing the frustration of youth. While I prefer Kerouac going on a bender with because his cat died, or failing at relationships because of his alcoholism, it was a sweet touching story and really really well written. Probably the 2nd best of the Dulouz stories I read. (The first being Visions of Gerard).
robot_mel: (Chinese)
( Apr. 6th, 2009 06:19 pm)
I found this website a couple days ago, it has quite a few fun conversations for practicing mandarin. (With characters, pinyin, tones and sound files) Though some of the speech sounds like they're just playing the sound files associated with each character rather than having someone read the whole thing.
http://www.nciku.com/conversation/

Two examples I liked,
买了书
Lucy: 请问你们这儿有哈里波特的最新一部小说吗?
Clerk: 您是说《哈里波特与死圣》吗?
Lucy: 是的。
Clerk: 我帮您查一下,稍等。
Lucy: 我跑了好几家书店,都卖完了。你们家要是也没有的话……
Clerk: 查到了。我们这儿还有几本。
Lucy: 太好了。我要一本。能帮我包起来吗?我想送人。
Clerk: 好的,没问题。

清明节
Wang Fang: 那些人怎么都哭了?
Liu Li: 他们准是刚扫墓回来。
Wang Fang: 哦,对,今天是清明节,怀念亲人的日子。
Liu Li: 这让我想起了杜牧的那首诗《清明》。
Wang Fang: 我知道你说的是哪首,是“清明时节雨纷纷,路上行人欲断魂”。

I should try and visit them every day!
It was interesting to note that Straton thought the imbalance of power in Edwardian relationships seemed to come from a disparity in age. Older men who adored young women who had no ideas or opinions of their own, who were still living at home and had little education. They weren't given the opportunity to develop any either as as soon as they were married off they became embroiled in the house and babies. (As did Straton's conventional wife). This got me thinking a lot about the difference in relationships nowadays which seems to be that the men make so much more money than their partners, and as our society measures success by wealth this creates another imbalance.

But in addition to the love story, it's dissatisfactory end leads Straton to start questioning all his assumptions about society and the world, from thinking that Imperialism is a good thing, to wanting to see society progress beyond nationalism to a world citizenship, bypassing all conformity and the ruins of civilisations past. It's a very Wellsian idea, and one of the nice things about this book is the non-conventional woman's critique of it later.

This is a very touching story of doomed love. But also the story of how women are doomed and failed by the society of the time. I'm not sure things have gotten that much better since Wells' time and as such found it a fascinating and insightful book.
An interesting collection that contains brief biographies of the women in the Beat scene and either writing about them, or samples of their own work. There are a lot of women covered here and the definition of "beat" seems to extend to anyone on the fringe of the San Fransisco poetry scene of the 50s and 60s.

I suppose Beat has as many different meanings as Goth. I wasn't much interested in the movement for a long time as I pictured people in turtle necks and berets reciting poetry over bongos. Then I read Kerouac's novels and was blown away by the intensity, the non-conformist lives, the poverty and the tragedy and how very much it sounded like now. I think the problem with this book is the thing I love most about the Beats is the novels, I'm afraid I'm not very good at poetry appreciation, and so I didn't connect with this book as I would have liked. Still the stories of the women were amazing. I wish the writing had included more fiction and less memoirs and poetry. Perhaps the reason that the women are less famous is that they didn't write novels, and poets are never as famous as novelists. Still there were a few writers that made me want to read more by them.

I wish someone could do an oral history of the Beat women, or just the beats. I fear not enough has survived and too many are dead to make this possible but I think that oral history would be such a good scheme for examining the scene. (And would make such an interesting comparison to Legs McNeil's Please Kill Me).

The male beats have come under criticism for being misogynistic, which personally I don't see. I think the quote that stood out the most for me from this book was that there were plenty of women writers in the scene. But that unlike the men, they weren't published, rather they were sent to mental institutions or committed suicide, or both as in the case of Elsie Cowen, because women just weren't allowed to non-conform like men. As Corso said,
There were women, they were here, I knew them, their families put them in institutions, they were given elcectric shock. In the 50s if you were male you could be a rebel, but if you were female your families locked you up. There were cases, I knew them, some day somebody will write about them
.

The book is definitely a collection of literature and lives. This is both its strength and weakness. While it makes a good reference to find out whose who, and for samples of lots of different works, sometimes it just seems a bit too disjointed and disconnected. Still it was a fascinating read and one I will hold onto.
This book is one of the best I've read in ages. While many many books have been written about Pu Songling in Chinese this is the first dedicated to his strange tales in English, (though many articles about his treatment of ghosts and fox spirits have been written). Zeitlin does a truly excellent job, first of outlining the history of strange tales, then placing this book in that context, tracing its development and then focusing on three specific aspects of the tales. The three aspects she focuses on are obsession, gender transformation and dreams. Areas not often discussed in relation to these stories. As such she offers and interesting and fresh insight into the work and I learnt an awful lot. I took so many notes, on almost every page there was an interesting fact or quote or insight.

One of the themes that gets repeated throughout the book is the straddling of fiction non-fiction that is present within the book. Pu Songling combines historical people and events with fantastic occurrences so the line between where the fiction starts is blurred. This theme is taken up later in the book when it discusses how characters who originated in fiction become "real" in the minds of their readers, so much so that they are able to interact with them in dreams and the characters prove their existence. The blurring of fiction and reality was a common theme in Ming and Qing times.

In the introduction Zeitlan starts out with a very good definition of the Chinese terms 异 yi (Different) 怪 guai (anomalous) 奇 qi (marvelous) and talks about how they are used to describe the fiction, and why she settles on the translation of strange (5).

The first chapter traces the history of the book and Pu Songling. Zeitlin states how the standard edition is Zhang Youhe's annotated version which includes "prefaces, colophons, dedicatory verses, interlinear glosses, and interpretive commentaries and crowned with a new foreword and appendix" (15). This comes from the traditional Chinese literary criticism that was interactive as well as interpretative with people having discussions on the pages of the manuscript, "readers recorded their reactions all over the pages even between the lines" (15) and these commentaries were preserved. "The text became an ongoing dialogue not only between the author and his readers but also between generations of readers" (15). In many cases the commentary on a book is much longer than the original text. In the first chapter Zeitin traces the original commentaries and sees how they develop, by scholars who knew Pu Songling and were trying to promote his work, to those who were trying to promote a moral message within the work and justify it as literature to the third wave of interpretation. She compares the commentaries and introductions with other similar works produced at the time and themes within Ming and Qing literature and culture. As such it includes many titles and descriptions of other collections of strange tales.
Zeitin then examines Pu Songling's own introduction to the collection in which he makes reference to the fact that the only ones who will truly understand his words will come after his death (51).

Chapter two deals with obsession and is fascinating. It looks at the way collecting became an obsession and how it was praised and criticised. There is a great criticism of obsession by the woman writer Su Shi (68) saying there is no difference between obsession with objects and obsession with money. It is interesting that she was writing after the fall of the Song which saw the death of her husband and the destruction of their book collection. Clearly at such times things become less important. It is not surprising then that during the end of the Ming after a long period of stability there is an increase in obsession, one Zeitin describes as "the Late Ming Craze for Obsession (69). As Zhang Dai (1599-1684) stated "One cannot befriend a man without obsessions for he lacks deep emotion" (69).

The specific story discussed in this chapter was about a man obsessed with a rock, a beautiful rock that was magical. The man gave up years of his life in order to keep the rock and it was still stolen repeatedly from him. In the end it was only when the rock was smashed (having destroyed itself) that it was buried with him and stayed with him. Here the rock was seen as rewarding the mans love and returning it. (Rather odd but it worked).

The next story discussed is in the chapter Dislocations on gender. Zeitin says this story is not included in many modern versions because of it's subject matter. In this story a rather wanton husband and wife live next door to an old woman who has a young maid come and live with her. The maid is supposed to be good at giving women massages to relieve women problems, but insists the husband be not home. The husband lusts after the maid and has his wife arrange for him to get the maid into bed. The wife does this and the husband gets the maid into bed only to discover that she is in fact a man whose been ravishing women having learnt the art of dressing as a woman from (an actual real life) gangster. The man castrates the maid/boy and she lives the rest of her life as his concubine and serves his wife. As such he manages to avoid the beheading that the rest of the gang receives.

There are so many interesting discussions on gender and gender transgressions in this chapter. Zeitin points out that here there is able to be a "happy ending" as by castrating the man his life is saved, and he is no longer a threat to the traditional gender roles, or to women's chastity. She discusses in great detail the different stories of men dressing as women and women dressing as men (As well as each transforming into the other gender). What is interesting is that women transforming into men is seen as something which is virtuous and done out of respect, filial piety and is largely praised. While the reverse is not true. One thing I thought was missing from this chapter was a discussion of the Buddhist versions of this, where gender is seen as an illusion and it is perfectly acceptable for men to change into women (see Guan Yin). But still this was a small oversight in a most excellent chapter. I marked down many many references within this part as it was simply fantastic.

The next section looked at dreams. Here the difference between dreams and reality was explored. There was a very touching story about a man who fell in love with one of the fox spirits in the collection, whose obsession led a fox spirit to give him her daughter a lover, who in turn was immortalized in another of Pu Songling's tales. The difference between reality and dreams was blurred.

In this chapter there was also a great discussion on the difference between fiction and reality and how they interacted. An example was given of an official who mocked villagers for having an alter to Sun Wukong (the monkey from Journey to the West) as he was fictional, but then Monkey appeared to him and proved himself and the official became a true believer. Zeitin had a great quote about how it wasn't the origin of a deity that mattered but their "ling" or spiritual efficacy. This agrees completely with other arguments I've read on the nature of folk religion.

It was a fascinating book. I'm very glad I have a copy for reference. Both books I've read by Zeitlin have been fantastic and I hope she writes more soon. In the meantime I shall have to search out some articles.

p. 40-41 fictionalising histories and two-tired meanings are introduced
p. 46-47 Pu Songling's introduction and how he is obsessed with the strange
P. 65 history of obsession- tang written records
P. 90 "those who are foolish in their love of books are sure to excel in composition" - Pu Songling.
P. 91 - a man's homosexual obsession with a young boy who is converted to heterosexuality in his next incarnation as a reward for his devotion
(many many more)
Absolutely gorgeous photography. This is such a beautiful region. It looks like Chinese landscape paintings but is actual photographs. Each one is so atmospheric you can spend ages imagining the immortals living there. A lot of the places had names from Journey to the West, and there was even a lovely picture of a monkey sitting next to a flower.

The book seemed to be trying to encourage tourism there and I was convinced. It looks like an unbelievably gorgeous place to visit. I would love to make it there someday.
Thought people might be interested in seeing this.

Looks like there's only one week before it becomes descision time on the future of Senate House library.

http://www.facebook.com/inbox/readmessage.php?t=1057335105903#/group.php?gid=17693195046

Read Les Crang's blog here: http://savesenatehouse.blogspot.com/


So in one week the decision will (really this time!), be made on SHL's future. The collective ownership solution we argued for was basically ruled out last time round. There is now a real threat that if college heads don't agree on a UCL bid, all of SHL's books will be sold off.

We, therefore, have made a new petition for the college heads, PLEASE SIGN IT: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/uclsavesenatehouse/.

Also, however, we believe that UCL could take on extra commitments, and must be legally obligated to respect very demanding conditions for ownership. We have also, therefore (after taking advice on the best thing to do), drafted a letter for Michael Worton at UCL on the group page. PLEASE leave your name, college, and status/ graduating year on the group wall if you would like to sign.

WE HAVE ONE WEEK TO ACT

This forced change of plan has been dissapointing for us, and may be dissapointing for you, but unfortunately - it sees to us - there is no other way.

Even if you disagree with this, then, thankyou, in every case, for everything you have done so far!
FINALLY got essay marks back for term 1! 74!!!! Horray! Better than all but one of my essays on my previous MA. This puts the average for term 1 back in the Distinction category! Hell Yeah!

Off to go celebrate with dinner with [livejournal.com profile] gylfinir [livejournal.com profile] madda_gaska and of course [livejournal.com profile] beluosus
I re-read this book again because it's this month's Bibliogoth book. I enjoyed it just as much the 2nd time around. This book does such a good job of analysing humanity and current world problems. Brooks uses the zombies as a tool for examining how humanity copes with wide spread crisis. Individual stories are very touching and it all comes across as very realistic, despite the fact that the main premise is there is a zombie plague! The social commentary touches on everything from the Israeli-Palestine conflict, Apartheid, Communism, Pakistan-India etc. I found his depiction of modern China to be interesting and well researched. And then there are the very personal individual stories of the survivors, military and civilian, tales of cannibalism, bravery and much much horror. While some parts are stronger than others, overall it is an excellent look at the nature of humanity.

The other reason I really like this book is that it is an Excellent example of what oral history should be. Best example of Oral history since Legs McNeil's Please Kill Me. It's not "journalistic" and comes across as well researched and well paced.

I never thought a book about zombies would be so insightful, but then I suppose the whole genre of zombie films was created to be social commentary and this really fits in with that.
robot_mel: (Chinese)
( Mar. 15th, 2009 10:37 am)
昨天下午我和[livejournal.com profile] beluosus到咖啡馆去看见我的朋友。我们一边喝咖啡一边聊天儿。我们聊天儿聊了三个小时。后来我们都到地铁去Charring Cross路因为我们要买的书。我和[livejournal.com profile] sahra_patroness 买了两本书,我的老公买了一本书。我们非常高兴因为我们最喜欢喝咖啡也买书!
A wonderful children's story. I wish I'd read this when I was younger and had watched some of the bbc adaptation (which scared me a lot) but in a way I'm glad I waited as the BBC also released a very shortened version at the time of the series and it would have been sad to have missed out on anything.

It was a very fantastic tale set in modern day (1930s) England. With an evil clergy gang, and pirates and magic, time travel and immortality. It was the closest thing to Michael Ende that I've found in English children's fiction. I would also not be at all surprised to find that Neil Gaiman had read it at an early age and it had a big influence on him as it reminded me a lot of his work.

It had some fantastic lines, like when the newspaper described the gang kidnapping all the clergy as the "red hot atheists" which I thought would make a terrific band name. Or when Kay wished he knew what cooking human flesh smelt like. And there was Herne and fairies and everything!

A very enjoyable story, I was loaned a nice old copy from a friend at library school and will definitely have to get my own.
This book is probably of not much interest to people who aren't me with a dedicated interest in Chinese history and library studies but of course I really enjoyed this book. It was a comprehensive look at the current state of libraries in China, as well as a good historical overview of libraries in the imperial period. Written by a Chinese and a Canadian librarian it gives a good cross-cultural impression of Chinese libraries, and how they compare with libraries in the English speaking world. I only wished it had looked into more depths at the Chinese Library Classification scheme and Chinese Thesaurus, and had been written a little later so it could have talked more about current digitisation projects. However, the discussion about the use of characters in computing, databases and information retrieval was very interesting. One I'd recommend, I made pages and pages of notes for my essay, but only if the your interested in the area.
I have quite mixed feelings about this book. I did enjoy reading it and will likely read more Russians but found it a bit odd and inconsistent to say the least. It struck me as strange that it was such a long book divided up into such short chapters. I found this to be quite jumpy in places and interrupted the flow of reading, it made it much harder to get engrossed in places where the point of view kept changing so quickly. I however, did really enjoy the characterisation and the ability to see into the character's mind and motivation. I found this to be much more personal and insightful than English literature from this period (later coming in Wells and Hardy). To me this was definitely a book about characters, and what they did. I think when they were doing interesting things I enjoyed the book, but when they were being a bit dull (for instance farming or hunting) it just felt like it was dragging and I found myself skimming until the scene changed. It was definitely a book where not much happened. I think I could have done with a little bit more of a plot, or some driving force beyond simply Anna's adultery and Levin's search for a wife/happiness. Which while I love such things in Kerouac here they just all seemed to go on a bit too long. I feel parts were definitely stronger than others, perhaps it was a victim of the years of revision that Tolstoy put it through.

I found the end to be most disappointing, Anna's madness felt a little forced. I would have liked to have seen more of a gradual fall into madness, but I suppose at the time, an adulterous woman having given up her son was all that needed to be said to explain her doom and total unhappiness. After that I wanted more of a reaction to her fate, but everyone seemed to carry on as normal. Levin's sudden religious conversion also felt odd and forced. Though I did really enjoy the parts at the end on the train. Actually I quite liked all the parts on the train, in particular Anna's meeting of Vronsky on the platform was totally surreal and dreamlike and lovely.

As I said a mixed reaction, parts I really liked, parts I didn't. I think I shall definitely have to read some more Russians though. I did like all the political discussions. It was interesting to see how easy and natural communism seemed. I liked the casual discussion on the rights of women, and their education. But could have done without the long discourses on farming!
My boss said that she read this book years ago as part of her course on rare books at UCL. While it was quite old she thought it still had good things to say about preservation and storage so we added it to the reference books in our reading room and I thought I'd read it. I have to say that even rarebook librarianship has changed quite dramatically in the past 25 years. There was a great deal of this book that was simply not how things are done, from talking about buying books, to the way books are catalogued, postal enquires, typewriters in the reading room, microfiche and of course no mention of online catalogues or digitised resources! He also under emphasised the importance of subject cataloguing as part of the importance of rare book librarianship, though he thought that this might be changing.

However, there were still several areas that seemed to hold true. I think the chapters on exhibitions were the most relevant still. I found that a lot of the practices that we do at King's were outlined in this chapter, not just exhibitions, but also lectures and exhibition catalogues and events to raise publicity for the collections. This was by far the most interesting part, while the chapters on conservation and preservation were also relevant they didn't have much new information. The chapter on training of rare books librarians was also quite interesting, Cave thought they should be trained seperately to normal librarians and given different areas of study and would benefit from working in the rare books trade. (Though this was largely due to the large interaction with the rare books trade that he saw taking up much of the rare books librarian's time.)

The writing style was quite vicious in places. He wasn't afraid of scorning what he considered to be "amaturish" booksellers who he saw as merely being a nuscience, rather than providing for a specalist market. It was an odd little book, it was very good in places, but also totally irrelevant in others. Still probably a good one to have read for future career aspirations.
It is funny how a book about "the future" of classification can become out of date in less than ten years. While not everything in here was out of date and it did contain a lot of VERY useful information there were some rather amusing bits. To me it was odd to see librarians thinking that they could use Dewey or Library of Congress to classify the web. (And to see that even in 2000 they still thought this was a viable option). The idea that the web was versatile, and that the nature of hypertext meant that things didn't need to be classified in only one place but could have multiple areas just hadn't occurred to them. There seemed to be very little awareness of any of the tools for organising and indexing webpages. There was a brief mention on page 61 of the use of Dublin core, but before the days of XML, no one was quite able to see how this could be utilised in indexing and classifying. (Which was rather surprising).

But despite this flaw this was an excellent book, on a wide variety of topics. I originally checked it out to read specifically about faceted classification and the UDC, but ended up reading all the essays. It contained a good overview of classification's aims and history. There were essays on why Dewey, Library of Congress and UDC were still relevant. (The main reason being that no one wants to have to reorganize and relabel all their books!) And there was development of the idea that classification began as a way to physically organise books into groups of similar topics, to using classification to aid in information retrieval.

P. 50 has great quotes about challenging the traditional schemes of classification because of their linear approach. And talks about the physical location aspects of classification.

There was also a very interesting article on faceted classification which shows that it is a highly successful scheme for classification within a single complex topic (69-70). It also mentioned that notation should show a preferred order and in general was very helpful for me in my assignment to create my own classification scheme.

All told a very interesting book, written in an engaging style that got across many interesting ideas and got me thinking about many different aspects of classification.
This book is the textbook for my information retrieval digital libraries class this quarter. And boy does it read like a textbook! It is dry and dull, but it is also an excellent source of information and current debates/ideas about what information retrieval is and how you should evaluate it. It has great references for further exploring each areas and makes for a valuable reference book. (Though being me I did read it cover to cover). I felt parts definitely went into more detail on the technical side than was necessary. Still useful information to have.

In addition to the information retrieval side of things it also goes into quite a bit of depth about information organisation within libraries, and cataloguing and classification. I would almost say it does this better than Chowdury's other book, "Form the shelf to the web" which was the required reading for my cataloguing and classification class.
.