Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Words and music

1. I finished The Shadow of the Wind. After my initial underwhelmed impression, it got worse. Unnecessarily long and complicated, and with a plot hole I couldn't find an answer to and characters whose motivations weren't believable. The mood was kind of nice to start — a bookish mystery, love of books, that sort of thing — but then it got bogged down with... I'm not sure what. I know lots of people loved this book — I'd really like to know what it is about it that spoke to you.

2. Shadow reminded me of my experience reading Kate Mosse's Labyrinth. Both feel like a promise of something quite interesting, that with a little editing could succeed as young adult novels. Obviously, I don't know what I'm talking about, because by many standards they're both wildly successful. But there's something juvenile about them — and I don't mean that derogatorily — I can't put my finger on it: not the writing style, or the subject matter. Maybe because the lead characters are young? I want to say there's something immature about the treatment of themes and the understanding of people, but there I go being insulting again, and it's not entirely true besides. So what makes a young adult novel a young adult novel (Rachel?)?

3. I'm all caught up and on schedule, finally, with my reading of The Red and the Black. Now if only I could write something about it. Hmm.

4. I've said it before, but I really hate having more than one book on the go at a time. Honestly, I don't know how people do it. It drives me crazy. I think I multitask effectively, but only when I see things getting done; that is, I multitask my tasks, but one at a time; that is, the cost of task-switching at some point interferes with my ability to do the tasks well. Obviously, I don't know what I'm talking about.

5. I'm loving The Art of Murder. Now to find time and space in which to read it uninterruptedly. The mystery aspect of it at this early point is still a mystery to me, but the premise is certainly worth some discussion. (Excerpt.)

6. What's with all the reading challenges? (Boy, do I ever sound like a spoilsport today.) I've come to the realization that they're not for me. I won't say any more on the subject because I'm bound to offend people if I do, and I doubt my reasoning would make any sense.

1. There's something about jazz. Some of it carries me away. For years I've been trying to educate myself on the subject. To that end, the music library needs occasional augmentation. I requested and received for my birthday Art Tatum and Thelonius Monk. I've been in kind of a jazzy mood of late, but, it turns out, not quite that kind of jazzy.

2. Also received, but not requested, was the soundtrack to The Triplets of Belleville (which I've not seen but have forever wanted to), which is a little closer to the kind of jazzy I'm feeling these days. Also, both J-F and Helena seem to like it, and it's magical when just a little music can put a spring in the household's steps.

3. A Philip Glass violin concerto was the soundtrack to La Moustache. The movie and the music haunted me for days. Requested and received, the concerto now haunts me daily. A perfect mood match, and not the least bit jazzy. Hmm.

4. I pulled out an old CD, The Storyteller & the Fisherman, stories by Mohammed M'Rabet, translated and read by Paul Bowles. I couldn't tell you what most of the stories are about; the voices, music and market noises hypnotize me before I can make sense of anything. It reminds me of the hazy dazy trance in which I travelled through Tunisia.

5. I've started listening to Christmas music; that is, I've been hearing it for weeks and ignoring it — this week, I started listening. Mostly I hate it, but it's unavoidable out there in the city, so I've decided it's important to listen to the music I like in the comfort of my own home to make up for all the commercial crap and help spark a little genuine Christmas cheer. I burned a CD of my favourites some years ago, but it's scratched and unplayable, so I've been trying to recreate it, which means a little of the cheer is actually being lost amid the swearing. And even though I've heard it a billion times and bopped around to it, that stupid BandAid song made me tear up this morning. Stupid song, making me cry. What kind of Christmas spirit is that?

6. The building contractor for some reason decided to tackle the "problem" of our condo's courtyard walls (mostly aesthetic, but not entirely) now, this week, in the cold, in the snow, when it's dark at 7 in the morning. Stupid, noisy contractor.

The both together
A new study suggests speakers of different languages perceive rhythm differently; the researchers' work has the potential to uncover a new link between language and music. (Via Collision Detection.)


rachel said...

Well, it's a very blurry line, but I tend to think of the difference as thematic: YA deals with figuring out who you are and where you belong in the world. It (usually) ends with a kind of immature certainty -- you've found the love of your life, or what you want to do, or some kind of "meaning".

Adult lit (strictly IMO, please remember) deals with the disillusionment, consequences, rethinking, destruction, and/or rebirth of that self you thought you had built at the end of adolescence. You may end up finding meaning, but only as the light at the end of a very long tunnel.

For marketing reasons, however, novels tend to be placed in bookstores according to 1) how old the protagonist is, and 2) how "mature" the language, sexuality, etc. is.

Isabella said...

I do think both these books fit your YA definition pretty well — a sort of coming of age, having endured a trial, a rite of passage. And the certainty is immature.

Matthew Tiffany said...

Please, tell more about La Moustache - I read the book and have the film in line to see, and am curious how they stack up, what your reactions were. I found the end (of the novel) a letdown.

As for good soundtracks - I like the Tony Takitani soundtrack - I think I'm the only one, alas.

marydell said...

I have the exact same problem with reading more than one book at a time. One of them always suffers as I gravitate toward the one I like best. Sometimes I go back to one of the other novels, and sometimes I forget about them completely. When other bloggers write about reading several books at a time, it makes my mind spin.

I'm in Chapter 20-something in tRatB and am having trouble gathering thoughts about it. I'm discovering that it's very different from what I remember from college.

Kimberly said...

Triplets of Belleville was one of my favorite films of the past couple of years. Beautiful animation, wonderful soundtrack and weirdly engaging story.

That study on language and rhythm is fascinating! As an undergrad, I studied psychology, focusing on language development and perception. I want to know more.