Mel’s Meme: The Bookshelf Overfloweth

I am very late.

I know.

I am sorry. I have no excuse, other than simply being an all-round despicable being.

So, after a quick perusal of my bookshelves – and deciding that owning three copies of each Austen novel doesn’t count – I must admit that the author by whom I own the most books is none other than Terry Pratchett.

This is partly because Pratchett has written so many books. I love Austen, but the entire sum of her work amounts to a very small finite number. Had she written 80 books, I would have them all and happily allow her to dominate my bookshelves.

Pratchett, on the other hand, can easily overrun a bookshelf. I did discuss this plenitude in last year’s meme, as my “Favorite Series“.

Pratchett is a skilled wordsmith; his work abounds delicious puns, linguistic oddities, and fun sounds.

Pratchett does not underestimate the intelligence of his reader; he plays with the genres and tropes, and bends, twists, and finds loop holes the laws of the worlds that we know, from physics to conventions.

Pratchett is a creative genius; the plots and narrative structures that spew forth from his strange mind are amazing.

I enjoy Pratchett. He amuses me. I adore his quirky characters.

And occasionally I enjoy the heart of his books. Going Postal? All about the virtue of hope! Thud!? An interesting dialogue on the personal responsibility of civic leaders.

But there are some issues with Pratchett. (The Other Egotists covered them pretty well here.) He tends towards preachy. With a decidedly, annoyingly liberal bent. Thud! also has strong overtones of “Lectures on Racism”.

Some people object to the extension of word to include spoof of basketball and rock music, rather than staying within the world of fantasy and fairy tales. But frankly, I find the willingness to include all aspects of the world charming,and Pratchett handles his subject with a light, humorous, and punny touch. And as much fun as the fantasy genre is, there is more to world than that.

And the way that Pratchett borders on Mennippean Satire thrills me to the very cockles of my cynical old heart.

Book Meme: Mel’s Day Seventeen

Book Meme Challenge:

Favorite Quote From Favorite Book

No! I refuse! This is a silly challenge; different occasions require different thoughts! So on what basis can I choose a ‘favorite’?

If I wanted to garner praise I would stick solely to the Bible, (the Greatest work of Literature,) but the truth is that there are many books – and quotes – that have formed my understanding of life, love, myself, and God. I will not choose between them. I rebel against the Meme!

Also, again with trying to spoil the surprise of my all-time favorite book! Do you really want me to give it away just yet? (Not that it will be much of a surprise . . .)

Therefore, this going to be a list of quotes that I love, from literature that I love. They are favorites either because they inspire me towards God, or help me through circumstances, or help me to make decisions, or are just beautiful, or make me think, or make me laugh.

You may draw your own conclusions about them without my commentary.

“I have come to set the world on fire, and how I wish it were already ablaze.” ~ Luke 12:49

“If you were who you are meant to be, you would set the world on fire.” ~ The Letters of St. Catherine of Siena

“By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” Proverbs 24:3-4

“I am glad to recognize that when we love God our heart expands, and we can give incomparably more tender love to those who are dear to us than when our love is selfish and barren… Love is fed by and develops from sacrifice. The more we deprive ourselves of natural satisfaction, the stronger and the more disinterested our love becomes.” ~ Therese Martin, The Story of  Soul

“But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.” ~ George Eliot, Middlemarch

“Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian. And as I close this chaotic volume I open again the strange small book from which all Christianity came; and I am again haunted by a kind of confirmation. The tremendous figure which fills the Gospels towers in this respect, as in every other, above all the thinkers who ever thought themselves tall. His pathos was natural, almost casual. The Stoics, ancient and modern, were proud of concealing their tears. He never concealed His tears; He showed them plainly on His open face at any daily sight, such as the far sight of His native city. Yet He concealed something. Solemn supermen and imperial diplomatists are proud of restraining their anger. He never restrained His anger. He flung furniture down the front steps of the Temple, and asked men how they expected to escape the damnation of Hell. Yet He restrained something. I say it with reverence; there was in that shattering personality a thread that must be called shyness. There was something that He hid from all men when He went up a mountain to pray. There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation. There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth.” ~ G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

“Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.” ~ Pope Paul VI

“The poet only desires exaltation and expansion, a world to stretch himself in. The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.” ~ G.K.Chesterton, Orthodoxy

“For, don’t you mark? we’re made so that we love
First when we see them painted, things we have passed
Perhaps a hundred times nor cared to see;
And so they are better, painted—better to us,
Which is the same thing. Art was given for that;
God uses us to help each other so,
Lending our minds out.” ~ Robert Browning, “Fra Lippo Lippi”

“It is requisite for the relaxation of the mind that we make use, from time to time, of playful deeds and jokes” and “Drink to the point of hilarity.” ~ Thomas of Aquino

“He sought her ever, wandering far
Where leaves of years were thickly strewn,
By light of moon and ray of star
In frosty heavens shivering.
Her mantle glinted in the moon,
As on a hill-top high and far
She danced, and at her feet was strewn
A mist of silver quivering.” ~ Tolkien, The Lay of Beren and Luthien

Individuals aren’t naturally paid-up members of the human race, except biologically. They need to be bounced around by the Brownian motion of society, which is a mechanism by which human beings constantly remind one another that they are . . . well . . . human beings.” ~ Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms

“No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be a heroine.” ~ Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

“What are men to rocks and mountains?” ~ Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice

“Revolutions always come around again. That’s why they’re called revolutions.” ~ Terry Pratchett, Night Watch

Book Meme: Mel’s Day Four

Book Meme Challenge:

Favorite Book from Your Favorite Series

Having narrowed down my choices to one series does make the choice a bit easier. Honestly. And it helps that I already know which Discworld book I would take to a desert island. In fact, this book might make my top five list of books to take to that lonely island.

From all the Discworld books there are many humorous gems and snarky treasures. But without a doubt my favorite is . . .

Going Postal

I have owned this book for maybe two years, and it is about time to get a new copy; mine is ragged, falling apart, and needing to be retired!

Firmly entrenched in the Discworld city of Ankh-Morpork, there is a clever and world-weary con man named Moist Von Lipwig, whose artistic skills are seconded only to his ability to read and work people. Unfortunately, these traits do not get him far with the local Tyrant PatricianVetinari. His long and successful run on the shady side of the law cut short, Moist is stripped of his nom-de-plumes, (could “Moist” be anything other than his real name?) and put charge of reforming the government post office.

The job comes with an official hat.

Of course, the task at hand is more difficult than it sounds. The mail ceased being delivered years before, and now the office is shell of its former glory and simply overflowing with old, undelivered letters.

And because this is Discworld, where words=knowlegde=power=matter=mass, this pile-up of letters is sure to cause some kind of havoc.

Add the fierce competition of the Clacks, (who currently have the monopoly on communication,) the complications of working with Golems, (and the fiery, chain-smoking, weirdly attractive Chairwoman of the Golem Trust, Adora Belle Dearheart,) the machine of Bloody Stupid Johnson, (who forced the mathematical “pi” to equal 3 exactly,) the intricacies of the accrued Postmaster Lore and Ritual, and it is suddenly obvious that only a brilliant trickster can pull off this job.

Our Hero has the trick of a lifetime before him: convincing an entire city to trust the post again, outwitting the humongous and possibly evil Clacks company, cleverly reorganizing and reinventing the mail system, and – perhaps most difficult for him – becoming an upstanding member of the community. He remains a charming, manipulative, adventurous and witty man through out, but he does come to appreciate the value of living hopefully. Especially when he really has no other choice.

Every page is smart, every action moves quickly and for the overall purpose of the plot, and every character is given the chance to develop and make choices. In addition to having one of the most vivid, roguish, and charismatic protagonists in all Discworld, this book is incredibly well crafted from the plot to each sentence. If you are a neophyte to the world of Pratchett lore, this is one of the better books with which to start.

There is also a movie made from this book, which actually quite good. It is different from the book, but not so much that it needs to be kept in a separate mind-pocket. (Like the Prince Caspian movie, for instance.) Going Postal The Movie is well acted, charmingly directed, beautifully photographed, and neatly scripted. It also manages to retain the whimsical and witty air inherent to all Pratchett tales, which is quite a feat when moving between the mediums of written word and film. I recommend both the book and movie quite heartily.

Book Meme: Mel’s Day Three

 Book Meme Challenge:

Your Favorite Series

This one was difficult. Not necessarily because I have read many series, but because I could not decide between the only two series that came to mind. Both are charming, refreshing, funny, and smart. And oh, soooo different.

For a while I was leaning towards the Chronicles of Prydain, Lloyd Alexander’s Welsh-myth-inspired adventure tales. These are the books that I recommended to friends who could not stomach the length and verbosity of Tolkien. In fact, I think I used to refer to them as “Lord of the Rings for Dummies”. But in the end, I had to play the “which series would you bring to a desert island” game, and came to the conclusion Prydain would not give me enough witty word play, expanding and mature world views, or a large enough collection of books. (Is it sad that part of my criteria is how many book there are in the series? Five is just too few!)

So here I present you with the best, the most fascinating, the most delightful series of books in the entire world:

The Discworld Series

By Terry Pratchett

These are only a part of my personal collection of Discworld, which are only a part of the series as a whole.

Life without Discworld would be a sad and morose existence. I would not know the joy of a world balanced on the backs of four elephants standing on a giant turtle floating around the universe. My reading skills would still disclude reading foot notes. I would not understand how currency works. My heart would not know the marvel of kingliness that is Carrot. I would not count Sergeant Angua as one of my girl friends.

Over 20 years ago Terry Pratchett first created a strange and (literally) magical new world, replete with diverse characters, reasonable new laws of physics, (based on the “thaumos,” magical particles,) and amazing situations, juxtapositions, races, and adventures. Now there are over forty Discworld books. This world is peopled with so many characters that it is amazing  how distinct and memorable each one is. Even if the role is usually only a part of the scenery – like the street vendor Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler – and has little influence over actual plot, each persona presented is witty and sharp.

The style and approach is very British, in the Monty Python type way, so it can be a tad difficult to grasp the dry, casual, ironic humor. But once you do, these books are worth every moment!

The language is brilliant, filled with smart-alecky puns and deliberate subversions of popular, cultural, or academic tropes. My favorite pun: “she was more highly bred than a hill-top bakery”. And Pratchett’s use of foot-notes make me actually want to read them! For instance, at one point he casually mentions “L-space” that is found in libraries, and then proceeds to explain in the foot note;

“Even big collections of ordinary books distort space and time, as can readily be proved by anyone who has been around a really old-fashioned second-hand bookshop, one of those that has more staircases than storeys and those rows of shelves that end in little doors that are surely too small for a full sized human to enter.

The relevant equation is Knowledge = Power = Energy = Matter = Mass; a good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read. Mass distorts space into polyfractal L-space, in which Everywhere is also Everywhere Else.

All libraries are connected in L-space by the bookwormholes created by the strong space-time distortions found in any large collection of books. Only a very few librarians learn the secret, and there are inflexible rules about making use of the fact – because it amounts to time travel.

The three rules of the Librarians of Time and Space are: (1) Silence; (2) Books must be returned no later than the last date shown, and (3) the nature of causality must not be interfered with.”

And suddenly life makes absolutely perfect sense! I now know why I am constantly getting lost in libraries, no matter how small they are. The world according to the rules of philosophic essence rather than pure science.

I love it!

The books deal with a wide range of people and subjects, and rarely miss a chance to mock and provoke thought about cultural phenomena: Hollywood, (Moving Pictures,) Fairy Tales, (Witches Abroad, Lords and Ladies,) racial prejudices, (Thud!,) vampires, (Carpe Jugulum,) education, (Unseen Academicals,) war, (Jingo, Men at Arms,) popular music, (Soul Music,) journalism, (The Truth,) economy, (Making Money, which is also the only explanation of currency and economy that ever made sense to me,) and many many others.  All cleverly explored and exposed, for good and bad, and each book goes beyond its set up to offer some practical wisdom on the nature of men. Also the nature of dwarves, trolls, wizards, Wee Small Free Men, talking dogs, werewolves, “organized” crime, vampires, witches, and Death.

The cast of citizens of Discworld is numerous and delightful, from the tyrant of Ankh-Morpork, to country Witches who prefer common sense to magic,  from clever con-man Moist Von Lipwig, to Death’s granddaughter Susan. Not to mention the entire police force of Ankh-Morpork, who are funky and spunky and odd and crazy beyond words. And Angua, who was first hired under the new metropolitan attempt at Equal Opportunity Employment because she is a w  . . . . . well, you should go read the books.

On Posturing

I know not who I am.

At least, I don’t think I know.

This was born in on me in by conflation of several things in the last few days. First, my friend posted a note about her own self-perceptions. And then I had a long discussion with my mom about Art and Romance and finding one’s purpose. And then I watched “Lady in the Water.”

That last one hit me the gut with several calmly spoken lines like “This is the moral of the bedtime story: no one is ever told who they are in a story.”

And it struck me that I still prefer to think of myself as an awkward teenager. Or sometimes even a five-year old. These tend to be safer images, surrounded by carefree sunshine or simply an ability to rely on those around me.

But in reality, I am a graduate student living on my own. I am learning how to be a real adult.

But I am not sure what that entails.

I like to be free to spend my time however I like. I love going to classes. I enjoy dipping my fries in my milkshake. I know how to change the oil in my car, even if I do not like to do it myself.

Does say anything about who I am? I would like to think so.

One of the current fads of psychology that really bothers me is the tendency to separate a person from their affects; saying, “what you did was bad, but that doesn’t make you a bad person.” While giving hope and ‘good’ self-vision is nice, it dilutes the fact that what you do is an expression of who you are.

You can tell a lot about a person by how they appear: if she is clean, friendly, organized, etc. At the very least, you can tell how the person wants to appear. And the same goes for actions.

I know that my room mate very much likes to have a spik-n-span house because she cleans in depth every other day.

(I only clean when things look dirty.)

I know that my brother has self control because he saves  his Easter candy and doesn’t finish it until sometime around July.

(My Easter candy is gone in a week.)

The “outer me” is still a part of the “real me,” not matter how hard I try to separate the two. I am formed by what I pretend to be, just as I am by the society around me.

As Terry Pratchett says in Men At Arms, “Individuals aren’t naturally paid-up members of the human race, except biologically. They need to be bounced around by the Brownian motion of society, which is a mechanism by which human beings constantly remind one another that they are . . . well . . . human beings.”

Are we also formed a bit by our names? Have you ever noticed that people with the same name tend to share certain characteristics? For instance, Bens are rather different and quirky in some fashion. Emilys have generally sweet but firm dispositions, and are usually rather popular. And Kates are very different from Katies.

So what does your name say about you?

Most of my siblings have cool name-meanings, like “Beautiful,” “Full of Grace,” “Bold Protector,” “Elf Army”.

My name? It means “Harvester”.

Whether it is coincidence or fate, this does seem to describe me. I prefer the reaping to than the sowing, (I have difficulty in starting things but usually finish well,) I bask in Autumn colors and scents, and I am usually on hand to be the final step in a friend’s conversion, recovery, or victory.

Or maybe it is just my imagination.

But my point was: If I pretend that I am a mature and reasonable adult, sooner or later it will come true. Posturing might be pretending, but it will have an effect on me. if I pay all my bills, take the initiative in starting friendships, act with grace and confidence, and take each moment as it comes, that will eventually show me who I am.