Guess who's coming to dinner? Three literary guests

Here's an oft repeated question, but one that never gets easier to answer: If you could invite any three literary figures from different eras to a Sunday Dinner who would they be? Magic takes care of the language issues

Tricky..... very tricky. I want my three authors to really get on with each other so that we can have a good night, but at the same time I am guilty of being the kind of person who doesn't know much about authors outside of their actual books. This means it's hard to judge who might make a good combination for a fun dinner party.

So, I'll just stick with people I would like to meet.

Jane Austen: no doubt most people will say Jane Austen, but that doesn't mean I don't feel the same. I just want to know what she was really and what she really though. Was she hilarious or was she shy? Was she sarcastic? Was she gregarious or unfailingly polite? So many things I could find out.

Agatha Christie: I bet she got sick of questions like this, but I just want to know how she came up with it all - how did she think of the ideas of then structure the murders and their solutions? Did it take a long time or did it come naturally?

Margaret Atwood: I don't know, she just seems like a really interesting lady who would have really interesting things to say about everything!

Those were the first three that came to mind, and I have to admit that I am proud of myself that they are all women.

If I could add a fourth, mine would be JRR Tolkien and maybe Arthur Conan Doyle too, that would be nice. It would be great to have PD James, together with Agatha Christie and Peter Temple. That's a dinner party I want to go to, maybe Raymond Chandler could come too.

Oh no! Someone stop me!

If you want to answer this yourself and share it with others, then go to Literary Book Blogger Hop at The Blue Bookcase.

What makes you leave a comment?

Image from birindersignh.blogspot.com
I have what should be a fairly easy question to answer for you all today, but one that I have been contemplating seriously over the last week or so.

What makes you leave a comment on someone else's blog?

I first started pondering this question when I noticed that a couple of my reviews had gone up and although they had attracted many viewers, not a single person had left a comment.

I had a look through some of my statistics and noticed that this is actually a bit of a trend. Take for example, my 'Most Popular Posts'widget in the sidebar. I have this set to display the top 5 most viewed posts in the last week. At the moment, one of the 5 posts is a  very old post from last year. Even though it has attracted the most views this week, none of those people have actually left a comment on the posts. Then another of the top 5 posts is a more recent one, but again no one has left a comment on despite the large number of visitors.

So what is it that makes us leave a comment?

I actually find it harder than I expected to identify the reason I leave a comment on some posts and not others. Most of the time, I leave a comment on reviews of books I have read before and can therefore contribute something from my own experience of it, or else I leave a comment on reviews of books that I want to read at some time in the near future.

A lot of the time, it depends on what I feel like I contribute with my comment. I am guilty to leaving those comments that say something along the lines of: "I would really love to read this because of all of the good reviews about, thanks for reminding me to give it a go". Although these comments are well meant, I do sometimes worry that they aren't very useful - they don't contribute anything to the discussion or review of the books that's for sure.

Image from The Reputation Manager
Most of the time, when I do leave a comment I want to contribute the discussion about the book. I want to comment on something the reviewer has said about the book - something that shows I have read the review and given some thought to what I have said.

I think this means that I probably comment more on reviews of books that I have read, rather than those books that I haven't. But this is very limiting. On some occasions, where someone has read a stunning review of a book that I have read, but the review is so thoroughly insightful, I don't leave a comment because I feel like I would only sound dimwitted in comparison with the reviewer.

These are some of the factors that influence how I comment on other people's blogs, but I wonder what it is that influences other people. No doubt these factors, plus many others infuence our decision. For example, things such as the length of the review, the quality of the review, the genre of the book, the content of the review, the images (or lack thereof) in the review, the length of the paragraphs and many many others.

I also wonder if there is something more to it. Something related to our modern day use of social media, which is let's face it, what blogging is a form of. Why we use social media to interact with people and how we use to interact are no doubt big influences on how we use blogs and therefore how and why we leave comments on other people's blogs. At the moment, I don't feel qualified enough to espouse an opinion on how our use of social media in general might effect these types of decisions - but I would love to hear other people's opinions on this issue.

I don't have the answer to this question, but I would very much be interested in what other people think. It is the sort of question that could answer many other questions. How do you attract follower/readers? How do you build an online community? How do you make your reviews interesting and appealing to others to read? How can you use social media to share your interests with others?

So what do you think? What is it about a review that makes you leave a comment and more broadly, why do you think people in general might comment on other blogs?

Review: The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle (the original dinosaur book)

Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World has inspired some great movies and further works of fiction, and for my part I understand the effect it has had.

Most people know Arthur Conan Doyle more famously from his Sherlock Holmes novels. The Lost World was actually written in 1912, after Conan Doyle had killed his character and before he was pressured into resurrecting him. It appealed to me not just because I love the Sherlock Holmes story, but because I still harbour a lingering fascination from childhood about all things dinosaur related.

The writing in The Lost World is far more formal than it is in any of the Sherlock Holmes novels. It is very Victorian one might say. It has a very dry and scientific tone and moves along rather slowly.

The plot itself though is definitely more than dry. Each for their own reason, four explorers set off, with "native half-breeds" and "blacks" in tow (yes, it's a tad racist!), to an unknown plateau in South America where they believe they will find prehistoric life. Find prehistoric life they do. They also find themselves in a horrifying predicament when they are isolated on the plateau with seemingly no means of escape. On the plateau they find dinosaur life in abundance. Strangely enough, they also find both ape-like and homo-sapien-like men who are coexisting with the dinosaurs.

The writing and the characters are not what is enjoyable about this book. As said, the writing was dry and uninspiring and the characters were too two dimensional to be interesting.

It is the depiction of prehistoric life that is fascinating and brings the book to like. We now know that Conan Doyle's depiction of prehistoric life in The Lost World does not all reflect the reality of what it must have been life, but it does depict the beliefs that were held at the turn on the twentieth century. This knowledge does not at all detract from the story. From the beginning, the reader is forced to use their own imagination to picture what the creatures and landscape looked like.

Our imaginations are so activated that there isn't space to remember that what we are imagining in our minds is unlikely to be close to what we know the world back then would really have been like.

What we are reminded of though, is that in the past men like these really did set off on great expeditions and really did make significant scientific discoveries. Without real men like these fictional ones, we wouldn't have been able to develop the knowledge that mankind currently has. It is perhaps this theme of the persistent search for knowledge that has meant that Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World has proved to be so inspiring.



5.5 / 8
Good and worth reading if you have the opportunity.

Do you think the appeal of a book like this lies in its depiction of the lengths that man will go for knowledge, or more simply in the excitement of getting a glimpse of dinosaurs and other prehistoric life?