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Assuming a sentence rises into the air with the initial capital letter and lands with a soft-ish bump at the full stop, the humble comma can keep the sentence aloft all right, like this, UP, for hours if necessary, UP, like this, UP, sort-of bouncing, and then falling down, and then UP it goes again, assuming you have enough additional things to say, although in the end you may run out of ideas and then you have to roll along the ground with no commas at all until some sort of surface resistance takes over and you run out of steam anyway and then eventually with the help of three dots … you stop.

-Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves, 2003

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She stood for a long time looking at the verses in which Emily Dickinson had chronicled her heartbreak. Loneliness had taught Harriet that there was always *someone* who understood — it was just that so very often they were dead, and in a book.

A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson, 1985

From the Archive: ‘Something New’ by P.G. Wodehouse

Sidenote:  This review doesn’t actually review the book at all.  I didn’t mention a single thing about the plot or the characters.  Instead, it’s really just an excuse to talk about how amazing Wodehouse is, and to quote (at length) from the foreword of this tale!

Originally posted on tumblr February 7, 2012.

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AKA: Something Fresh

Published 1915

I love P.G. Wodehouse.  A British friend of Dad’s introduced us to Wodehouse several years ago, and I have been incredibly grateful ever since.  I have no idea how my life was complete before the advent of Wodehouse into it.

He is brilliantly funny, managing to contrive plots that seem plausible and yet ridiculous at the same time.  Everyone marries the right people at the end and, somehow, all of the ludicrous plot ends manage to come together perfectly.

While Wodehouse is most famous for his creation of the perfect duo, Bertie and Jeeves, my personal favorite gang is found at Blandings Castle.  Something New, which was Wodehouse’s first full-length novel, and he claims, in the foreword he wrote some fifty-odd years later, that it was accepted by Saturday Evening Postfor serial publication based solely on the fact that Wodehouse sent it with all three of his names written out: Pelham Grenville Wodehouse:

A writer in America at that time who went about without three names was practically going around naked.  Those were the days of Richard Harding Davis, of James Warner Bellah, of Margaret Culkin Banning, of Earl Derr Biggers, of CHarles Francis Coe, Norman Reilly Raine, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Clarence Budington Kelland and Orison Swett–yes, really, I’m not kidding–Marden.  Naturally, a level-headed editor like Lorimer was not going to let a Pelham Grenville Wodhouse get away from him.

If you ask me to tell you frankly if I like the names Pelham Grenville, I must confess that I do not.  I have my dark moods when they seem to me about as low as you can get.  At the font, I remember protesting vigorously when the clergyman uttered them, but he stuck to his point. ‘Be that as it may,’ he said firmly, having waited for a lull, ‘I name thee Pelham Grenville.’

Apparently, I was called that after a godfather, and not a thing to show for it except a small silver mug which I lost in 1897.  I little knew how the frightful label was going to pay off thirty-four years later.  (One could do a bit of moralizing about that if one wanted to, but better not for the moment.  Some other time, perhaps.)

I have perhaps over-quoted  him (especially from a foreword!) but I cannot get over and subdue my enthusiasm for Wodehouse.  If you have never read one of his books, grab the closet you can find, whether it be a tale of Psmith (the “p” is silent), Bertie and Jeeves, the Blandings Castle crew, or one of his many random tales of adventure.  Wodehouse weaves a world of Britain that does not really exist, a sort of made-up time combining the best of several decades into the world that we all wished not only existed in the past, but was still thriving today.

Wodehouse is nearly always a 5, if only  because he makes me laugh out loud when I am reading in public places.

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[excerpt from letter]: “If you won’t agree [to our marriage], I think I’ll break all the windows in the house and drown myself in a bucket.”

“He wants to marry Bramble!”

The King smiled. “Just so.”

“He’s around the twist,” said Azalea. “Breaking all the windows? He’s mad!”

“Ah, no,” said the King. “It’s only madness if you actually do it. If you *want* to break all the windows in the house and drown yourself in a bucket but don’t actually do it, well, that’s love.”

Entwined by Heather Dixon, 2011

How NOT to Spend Your Senior Year by Cameron Dokey

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//published 2004//

Sometimes you read a book and it’s obvious, from the outset, that the author expects you to realize that this book is pure, frothy fun.  Suspend belief, jump on for the ride, and don’t think about it too much. How NOT to Spend Your Senior Year is definitely one of those books, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable read, with no illusions of being a deep, thought-provoking YA story – an easy 4/5.

Our narrator is high school senior Jo-Jo, who assures us, on page one, that the story she is about to tell is 100% true.  By page two, I was already engaged with Jo-Jo as a story teller:

Where does my 100-percent-true story truly start?

I suppose you could say the whole thing started the day I was born.  I’m thinking that’s a bit extreme, though.  As an alternative, I’m going to go with the third grade, which I think makes me about eight years old.  I’m choosing this because that’s the year my mom died, and my dad and I moved for the very first time.

Just how often did we move?  Let me put it this way:  To the best of my knowledge, I am the only person in the entire United States to have attended fourteen different elementary schools between the third and sixth grades.

The real story starts on the first day of Jo-Jo’s attendance at her second high school of her senior year, when, instead of quietly blending into the background as she always has, she finds herself falling head-over-heels in love –

His name was Alex Crawford.

Actually, it still is.  Nothing terrible happens to him during the course of my story, although it is both fair and accurate to say he does experience some surprises.  A thing which makes two of us, now that I think about it.

From there, the story gets absolutely unbelievable, but delightfully so.  The pacing is excellent, Jo-Jo is completely likable, and there really isn’t a mean, terrible character out of the whole story, which was a fabulous change of pace from most YA.  I absolutely loved the fact that Dokey created Alex has someone who was a “big man on campus” but was still super, super nice.

Like I said, there definitely some rather pronounced plot holes, like why Jo-Jo would just switch schools instead of actually leaving Seattle, but on the whole, the story was too much fun to get too picky.  If you’re looking for a lighthearted and whimsical tale, and some angst-free YA, I highly recommend How NOT to Spend Your Senior Year.

A Noble Radiance by Donna Leon

#7 Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery

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         //published 1998//

So, as I mentioned, I was a bit disappointed with the fifth and sixth installments of this series.  However, I really enjoyed the first four books, and even though I found the stories/mysteries of #5 and #6 to be weak, I decided to give A Noble Radiance a go.  I figured that if she had three lemons in a row, then I would be justified in not completing the series (I hate not finishing series).  Thankfully, this book seemed to be back up to par with the first few books, so I will be continuing to travel with Guido, at least for a while longer…

This story starts with the discovery of a body, which is eventually determined to be that of the adult son of a rich, aristocratic family who was kidnapped and held for ransom two years earlier.  Now that it is a case of murder, Guido begins his own investigation.

In this book, all the things that I enjoy about the series – Guido himself, his wonderful family/interactions with them, the delightfully amoral Signorina Elettra, able to find any and all information Guido needs by the means of her amazing “modem,” Guido’s snarky right-hand man Vianello, and, of course, Guido’s deep, passionate love for Venice – were in play, and this time, they actually were woven together into a cohesive story centered around a decent mystery.  While Leon’s scorn for the government, organized religion, and capitalism were all evident, they were not the foundation of the tale.  I don’t mind personal views when they are used as leaven – it’s when they become the entire dough that they are wearing.

The one recurring character, who is purposely written to gain the reader’s dislike, is Guido’s supervisor, Vice-Questore Patta, who is inconsistent, vain, obsessed with power, a complete brown-noser, and just annoying overall.  Sometimes he’s a bit over the top for me – more of a puppet character whom Leon uses to emphasize the fact that people who are in charge of things like law enforcement are not interested in justice.  Patta is a roadblock whom Guido must maneuver around during every story, and that sometimes gets old for me because it just feels like Patta has the same lines in every book.

But still, on the whole, I enjoyed A Noble Radiance, and am planning to continue with the series for now.