Reading Challenges

Stately and Plump: Happy Bloomsday!

Some fun links for Bloomsday:

Slán agus beannacht leat! [slawn ogg-us ban-ocked lyat, “Goodbye and blessings with you” in Connacht Irish]

Snell On Your Cell

As usual, Snell is keeping up with the times and mobile technology is an area we wouldn’t want to miss out on. So don’t be surprised if you start seeing some of these little numbers popping up around Snell or elsewhere on campus. If you have a barcode scanner on your smartphone, try this QR code out and let us know what you think! (Of course, you can also access our mobile website at this address:

Tristram Shandy

I finished Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, another one of my TBR 2008 Challenge books.  This is often hailed as the first post-modern text, and a few years ago, I saw a film adaptation A Cock and Bull Story, which I found to be a lot of fun.  So I was quite looking forward to this.  It’s a (very) rambling story where the narrator recounts his birth-paying particular attention to circumstances surrounding his conception, his father, and his uncle Toby.  Sterne has no compunction about breaking off a chapter, just as it’s about to reach a resolution.  It’s a narrative of interruptions, and so it requires a good deal of focus to follow the novel’s train(s) of thought.  Have any of you read it? What did you think? 


SaturdayContinuing my TBR 2008 Challenge, I read Saturday by Ian McEwan.  I loved McEwan’s Atonement, but was less crazy about McEwan’s Amsterdam and put down The Cement Garden after only a few pages.  My admittedly limited exposure to McEwan’s early works suggest that he takes a pretty dark view of human relations (and I think this shifts with Atonement, and Saturday, which follows it).  While I didn’t love Saturday with the same fervor as Atonement, I did find it interesting and well-written, and I’d recommend it to most readers. Saturday is the story of one London neurosurgeon’s Saturday-from his pre-dawn awakening, through his squash game, visiting his senile mother, his son’s jazz concert, to an evening family reunion, to a midnight surgery, to sleep.  In addition to this journey through one man’s life, the novel also looks at larger social issues.  Terrorism forms the backbone of the story, at both a macro and a micro level.  Henry Perowne is awakened by what he thinks is a plane crash caused by terrorists, and protestors against the Iraq War have gathered in the streets and parks of London on this February Saturday.  These protestors disrupt his day in multiple ways-forcing him to take alternate driving routes (and causing an accident with serious repercussions) and compeling him to grapple with his own thoughts and opinions on the British (and American) invasion.  Saturday also deals with other types of terrorism-the fear and raw tensions of city life-beatings and muggings, home invasion-dormant threats that are ever-present, and part of Henry’s bargain to live in the city.  The novel maintains a pretty constant state of high anxiety and it has what I would consider to be a nail-biting climax.  (I read it on the T and could feel my adrenaline surge).  I also think that it’s a fair and thoughtful novel, and it makes good use of Matthew Arnold’s ‘Dover Beach.’ Have any of you read Saturday?  What did you think?  And what do you think of Ian McEwan?

The Dower House

Book Jacket of Dower House I finished reading The Dower House by Annabel Davis-Goff, part of my TBR 2008 challenge.  Even though I’ve enjoyed all the books I’ve read as part of it, I’m starting to get a little irked by it-it feels a bit like I’ve turned reading into a to-do list.  (I’ve finished several more of the books, and I still need to review them). The Dower House is a beautifully descriptive book that focuses on Molly Hassard’s coming of age in the unique, privileged and fading world of the Anglo-Irish.  (In terms of this book, these are Protestant gentry of English heritage, but they live in Ireland, not Northern Ireland.)  It’s primarily set in the 1950’s and it’s Molly’s elegy for an unsustainable lifestyle.  It’s a world she loves, and is willing to devote her life to, even as it crumbles.  The Dower House is also a love story, and a record of eccentric, aristocratic family life, like the Mitfords. I actually found a good number of parallels between The Dower House and Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love.  Molly is a sympathetic protagonist, and that kept me interested in this novel.  Davis-Goff is also a talented descriptive writer who creates a lush and glamorous setting.  It’s not a very long novel, and I’d recommend picking it up over summer vacation.