Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

This adventure story, first published in 1873, failed to win my attention and as a result Around the World in Eighty Days is the second Jules Verne book I have abandoned this year. 

The premise of the story is this: Philleas Fogg a rich and reclusive Englishman, makes a bet with his companions at the Reform Club that he can circumnavigate the world in 80 days. In fact, he bets his entire fortune that he can do it. So, he sets off with his french valet Passepartout to win the bet. Hot on their trail is a police officer by the name of Fix, who believes that Fogg has committed a bank robbery only days before. He follows them around the world, waiting for the perfect opportunity to arrest Fogg.

Sounds like it has the makings of a potentially great story. Instead what follows is a series of one off adventures in the various countries that they find themselves. After awhile, this just became too tedious to keep reading. Disaster after disaster which they miraculously manage to extricate themselves from before wandering into the next disaster.

My previous experience with Verne has been with his works of science fiction, some of which I have enjoyed and others that I haven't.

This adventure story just didn't have the tension or the excitement that it needed to keep me interested and so sadly I abandoned it at some point past half way.

1 / 8

I know that there are movie versions of this book that I haven't seen. Has anyone read the book or watched a movie? What did you think?

Must all literary writing be difficult?

This weeks Literary Blog Hop question is a more thought provoking one than I initially thought.

Must all literary writing be difficult? Can you think of examples of literary writing that was not difficult?

I have really been struggling to write my reply to this question because I think the answer rests a lot on what you consider literary fiction to be. This is difficult because everyone will have a different idea of what literary fiction is.

I think literary fiction has a much greater focus on the characters themselves. There is plot of course, but the plot revolves more around the characters development, morals, values, dilemma's and other such personal, social and cultural issues. I would also suggest that literary fiction has a more artistic quality than genre fiction.

To me, this means that any genre of book could also be literary fiction. You could have a literary piece of crime fiction or science fiction for example.

But where does that leave us on the question of whether all literary writing must be difficult?

At first blush, I thought that there was an easy answer to this question: No, all literary writing doesn't have to be difficult, nor is all literary writing actually difficult.

On second thoughts, I think that we maybe need to break this up a little bit more.

Firstly, I want to think about the prose in a work of literary fiction.

I have said that I think that literary fiction has a more artistic quality than genre fiction but this doesn't necessarily mean it's more difficult to read.

Some literary fiction uses prose that it is definitely difficult to read; it uses long convoluted sentences and you are really required to put in a lot of work to follow the story and the journey of the characters because of it. Examples of this for me would be books such as Lost Paradise by Cees Nooteboom, The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie or Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. These are the types of books where the complexity of the language creates a barrier between the reader and the story.

On the other hand, there are works of literary fiction that use quite simple prose to tell their stories. Examples that come to mind are The Book Thief by Markus Zusak or Lovesong by Alex Miller. I would suggest that the prose in these books, which in my view would be considered works of literary fiction, is no more difficult than many other works of literature that are not considered literary.

Having said all of that (and I know I am repeating what Lucia said in her answer), what is difficult writing will vary from person to person. Everyone has different taste, experience and education. What I find difficult/easy to read, others may feel differently about.

So does the prose in literary fiction mean that it is more difficult to read? Sometimes.

Secondly, I want to think about the contents or nature of a book of literary fiction.

I would argue that the nature of a work of literary fiction does mean that it is likely to be a more challenging or difficult to read. This is because it isn't a case of just watching a character follow a course of actions throughout the plot. Instead the plot of the book is more internal, more focussed around the character and their development. This means that often the reader is required to read between the lines, to go deeper into the characters to really understand their inner motivations and their actions.

This means that the reader has to engage more with the story; that to really get everything you can from the book, you have to put a lot of yourself into the book itself.

In that sense, I think that literary fiction will always be more difficult or challenging than other types of fiction.

What do you think? Must all literary fiction be difficult?

I am joining the masses at the RIP VI Challenge

If everyone jumped off the Harbour Bridge, would you do it too?

That's advice parents often give their children in the hopes that their kids will realise that whatever it is they want to do isn't necessarily the best idea.

Well, I am ignoring that advice. Everyone else seems to be signing up for this challenge lately, so I am joining the bandwagon (and I haven't participated in a challenge for at least 1 year!).

It's the RIP Challenge, hosted at Stainless Steal Droppings.

"The purpose of the R.I.P. Challenge is to enjoy books that could be classified as: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Dark Fantasy, Gothic, Horror, Supernatural." The books are read between 1 September 2011 and 31 October 2011 and there are many different levels you can participate in.

Given its a month long, I am going to aim for "Peril the First", that is, read 4 books that fall into the above categories over the four week period.

I am sure I can do it and I am very much looking forward to it. Now I am going to have to comb my bookshelves for appropriate books to read!

His Dark Material Trilogy by Philip Pullman

The His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman is a YA fastasy series about a young girl and boy's journey to save the human race. Although it's marketed to a YA audience, the themes of the books are so adult that I can't help but wonder if they were better marketed for adults.

The series comprises of three books:
  1. The Northern Lights (published as The Golden Compass in America – I wonder why it was thought that American's couldn't cope with The Northern Lights?),
  2. The Subtle Knife, and
  3. The Amber Spyglass.
I have to admit that although I really enjoyed The Northern Lights (couldn't put it down in fact), the other books progressively lost my attention. Maybe it's because I read them all in a row, which I sometimes find isn't a sensible idea with series. Maybe it's because the religious themes were a little bit too much for my tastes. It could even be because I haven't read (and nor do I intend to) Milton's Lost Paradise, upon which The His Dark Materials trilogy is based. Most likely, it’s a combination of all of these things.

The plots of each of the books are far too complex for to summarise effectively for you here.
I will say though, that I can't understand why I haven't heard about any particular controversy caused by these books?

The ideas of God and religion that Pullman displays in His Dark Materials Trilogy are really quite subversive.

The books are very critical of organised religion and how the word of man, in the name of God, is used to rule man with an iron fist.

Perhaps even more controversially, the purpose behind most of the characters actions in these books is to destroy God and rid human kind of his rule. There is in fact an ultimate battle to destroy God's regent and God himself – both of which are portrayed as evil dictators, bringing misery to the people through oppression and tyranny and then tormenting them for eternity after death in the bowels of the earth.

Although I can’t say I enjoyed the entire series, I certainly admire Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy for the interesting philosophical and theological ideas, the fabulous fantasy elements and the unique characters (Ruta Skadi being my favourite) contained therein.

Northern Lights

6 / 8
Really enjoyable and well written. I would recommend it

The Subtle Knife

5.5 / 8
It needs to be read to follow on from the Northern Lights, but it doesn't contain the same level of excitment.

The Amber Spyglass

5 / 8
It has to be read to finish off the series, but although there were some interesting ideas, I felt as though the books were dragging by this point.

It's Monday! What are you reading?

It's Monday! What are you reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

This is the first time I have participated in It's Monday for a very long time, but I think it will do me good to recap what I have been reading lately and have a look around at what other people are up to. I haven't heard of a case of curiousity killing the cat yet, so I am going to be curious!

Currently Reading

Nemesis by Isaac Asimov

Asimov is one of my more recent discoveries and at the moment I can't get enough of him. By education he was a biochemist, and he is also spkoen of as one of the most prolific writers of all times. His works of fiction come under the banner of hard science fiction, that is, science fiction that is based on real scientific theory or detail.

Nemesis is set in the 23rd century. Man has had to populate the solar system because of overcrowding on Earth, but it is soon discovered that the Earth itself is under threat from the impending approach of the previously unidentified star, Nemesis. The race is on the invent some method of travel that would allow the human race to move out of the solar system in order to save themselves. In the meantime, out on a planet circling the dangerous Nemesis, is a young girl who may hold the key to saving the planet.

Despite its sometimes long and repetive conversations, I am loving this book and absolutely can't put it down. If you are feeling brave and are looking for something a little different, give it a try. If it sounds a bit too much, you could try Asimov's Space Ranger, another great (but much shorter) science fiction novel.

Last Read

The Secret Graden by Frances Hodgson Burnet

I read this as a child and absolutely loved it. Fortunately, I loved it again as an adult It is one of the sweetest stories I have ever read and would recommend it to everyone.

Up Next

Only the universe knows

A changing blogging community and some self evaluation

Signficant Elements

Lately I have been pondering this blogging thing.

I started Page Turners in June 2009 with a simple desire to review every book that I read. That's all. Nothing noble. Nothing particularly intellectual either. I just wanted to be reminded of times back in high school when a book became so much more special and enjoyable because of the deeper understanding I gained of it through study.

Once I started, I then discovered the wonderful world of book blogging. I truly felt as though I was part of a community that valued the same things that I did, and valued my participation in it, just as I valued everyone else's contribution to the community. I explored the community by surfing the blogosphere, joining memes, starting a few memes of my own and slowly getting to know more and more people. I was familiar with a lot of people's blogs and a lot of people were familiar with mine.

That sense of community still exists out there and I am very grateful for it.

All the same, I can't help but notice the changes that have occurred over the last couple of years. Lately, people seem to have an increasingly directed approach to their blogging. People now seem to blog about particular genres or for a particular audience. There are classics blogs, YA blogs, crime blogs. These more targeted blogs have always existed, but 2 years ago there just didn't seem to be the same quantity that there is now.

Don't get me wrong – I think that this is a great thing. If I am looking for a good crime book to read, I can have a look at my favourite crime blog. If I am looking for a good science fiction book to read, I can have a look at my favourite science fiction blog.

In the face of this change, I have begun to consider more critically my own blogging experience.

Lately I have noticed things like my reviews are only getting 2 – 6 comments instead of 12 – 15 or sometimes more. My followers have remained steadily at around 264 for the last few months instead of growing gradually as they did in the past. I am not discovering many new blogs and there seems to be a decreasing amount of posts in my blogger dashboard Reading List.

These things aren't necessarily bad things except that I can't help but wonder how they reflect my participation in the book blogging community and what I want from that participation. 
Alexander Technique
My reading has no direction; unless reading what I am in the mood for can be considered a direction. My blogging equally has no particularly direction or target audience. I can't help but wonder much this is a factor in the stagnant followers or my decreasing volume of comments. The sense of community I once felt is slowly slipping away and I feel as though my inability to change in the face of a changing blogging community is to blame.

I admire blogs with direction and a purpose, who write for a target audience and build up a large community around their blog. I equally admire readers who are reading with a goal or focus and not just whatever comes to hand.

I no longer want my blogging just to be a record of what I have read. I want it to be something more than that. I want something more from my reading as well. I just can't identify what that something 'more' is.

A good starting place might be to get back into some solid memes and find some fabulous new and refreshing blogs to follow in the hopes that it will inspire my own development.

From there who knows? I am a directionless blogger and reader looking for some direction in a changing online community. This is where my journey has lead me and who knows where I will end up.