Monday Miscellany: One Barrier Island, Eight Books and Exciting News for Austen Lovers

If  you’re a visitor to my blog, you may have noticed that my postings have been a little, ahem, erratic in the last month or so.  What I have posted has perhaps been more visual and nature oriented than literary or bookish, which isn’t to say that my interests have shifted.  As much as I love my nature viewing and museum visiting (I’ve at least two very nice regional museums to share with you, so watch out!) my life remains centered on books and the printed word, as it has been since I learned to read around the usual age of six or so.  While I’ve been nature viewing, I’ve also been reading as much as ever (perhaps even more so) but — I hide nothing from you, dear reader — Janakay is just a teensy-weensy bit lazy!  And it’s so much easier to read the wonderful books than to organize my thoughts and string them together in coherent sentences!  Although I’m actually on track as far as the reading goes to meet my two challenges (Roofbeam Reader’s TBR, and Books and Chocolate’s Back to the Classics), I’m woefully behind in writing and posting the reviews of all that I’ve read.  Monday is “Miscellany Day,” however, so I’m doing a hodgepodge of related topics; because the relationship is a rather loose one, feel free to skip around!

My first Miscellany is —  Anna Maria, a barrier island off Florida’s Gulf Coast, and its nearby areas (I’m just back from a visit and sorting through photos).

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This certainly isn’t the tourist board’s presentation of Florida, is it?  I love summer visits to the Gulf Coast, partially for the opportunity to see drama such as this.
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A favorite activity for many visitors is simply watching the sunset, which can be truly spectacular.
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These large pink birds are Roseate Spoonbills, which are generally not seen in large numbers. Finding this little flock on an early morning walk at a nearby nature preserve was quite a treat; catching the reflections made the view even better.
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Anna Maria’s Rod & Reel Pier, a community gathering spot.  Do you see the line waiting to get into the yellow building, which is a restaurant?  If you look closely, you can see everyone is facing in the same direction because they’re watching a couple of dolphins hunt fish.  EVERYONE goes to dinner at the Rod & Reel Pier!
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A roosting tree, loaded with White Ibises waking up for the day . . . . .
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In keeping with my interest in food, I couldn’t resist a shot of Minnie’s Beach Cafe!  You’d never guess it was in a small shopping center would you?  Anna Maria frequently throws visitors this kind of curve ball!

While I was visiting Anna Maria, I did lots and lots of reading, which brings me to my second Miscellany:  books that I started, stopped or finished during my time there:

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One of my TBR Challenge books, which I FINALLY finished!  An absolutely stunning read by Esther Freud, a British novelist I like very much.  I honestly can’t understand why it took me EIGHT years to get around to this book.
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One of my Back to Classics selections (category: novel from a place where you’ve lived) and my first novel by Walker Percy. I’m still mulling over my rather complicated reaction . . . .
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A debut novel, sitting on my shelf since 2012.  Can you guess it’s part of my TBR Challenge?  A truly searing tale of a transgressive relationship, not for the faint of heart.
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Harrison’s beautifully written but intensely troubling memoir; a non-fictional treatment of a relationship similar to that depicted in Peile’s novel.
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Although I love science fiction and fantasy novels, I’m not reading many these days.  This tale of operatives Red and Blue, locked in a centuries old struggle through time, is a wild mix of genres rendered in beautifully poetic language.
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One of my TBR challenge books, reprinted in a beautiful new edition as part of the NYRB Classics series.  A blackly funny look at Cassandra’s descent to chaos at her twin sister’s wedding, with some serious thoughts about sibling bonds and “unconventional” life styles (my review will come, eventually!)
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Bánffy’s “They Were Counted” was my “very long classic” Challenge read.  One chapter in and I know I’m in trouble — I need Plan B!  I will not be reading this book in 2019!
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Some times (and a stressful travel day is one) NO ONE but Georgette Heyer will do! This one isn’t my favorite of her regency romances (that honor probably goes to “These Old Shades”) but it’s still wonderful!

And since I’m doing books, make sure your visit to Anna Maria includes a side excursion to nearby St. Petersburg (the drive is lovely) and the wonderful:

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Are you surprised to learn that I’ve added to my TBR pile?

My third and final miscellany: Jane Austen’s Sanditon, the novel left unfinished at her death.  Has anyone read this?  Or, unlike myself, realized the importance in Austen’s fiction of seaside resorts and beach villages?  Today’s Guardian has a wonderful article discussing Austen’s use of seaside resorts — a key scene in Persuasion occurs in Lime Regis; Lydia Bennet elopes from Brighton and Austen herself may have enjoyed a seaside romance.  The article suggests that in Sanditon, Austen may have written the first seaside novel; at any rate, she certainly anticipated “what the seaside has come to represent in later modern fiction,” such as Chopin’s The Awakening, Woolf’s To the Lighthouse or Banville’s The Sea.   

The exciting news?  Sanditon is being adapted for an eight part series on ITV, which will air this autumn! Thoughts anyone, about Anna Maria Island, Sanditon or any of my other reads?

6 thoughts on “Monday Miscellany: One Barrier Island, Eight Books and Exciting News for Austen Lovers

  1. Beautiful photos!

    You’ve read a lot! I’ve not read Sandition. I have a snobbish dread of reading anything unfinished. I love Dickens but am still on the fence about the Mystery of Edwin Drood. Should I be a completist and read it or should I just leave it?

    My reactions to the Moviegoer were also mixed. Or maybe not mixed; I just didn’t like it. I wonder if I would feel differently now with some other more difficult/challenging reads under my belt. I read it at the time because it is supposed to be well written, but I don’t think I “got” the point of it.

    Looking forward to hearing about Cassandra at the Wedding. That one is on my list.

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    1. Ruthiella: so nice of you to drop by! Like you, I tend to avoid unfinished works but I did read Sanditon many years ago, when a “finished” version was published, styled somewhat coyly as “by Jane Austen” and “another Lady” (there have been, I think, a number of these continuations; I believe the one I read was by Marie Dobbs and is considered one of the better ones). I thought it interesting, but not much more; I may re-visit if I ever get around to my “Austen Project” (re-reading the novels in order of publication).
      As for being a completist in general — well, I must admit that I abandon individual books left and right if they’re just not doing it for me; life is short and the world is full of great books I won’t have time to explore, so why waste energy? I might go for a “complete set,” i.e., tackling a book I otherwise wouldn’t, if I really, really liked an author and that particular work was the only one of his/her works I hadn’t read. But Edwin Drood? Honestly, I’d probably leave it, but then Dickens is a tough writer for me (this may be changing; I recently re-read Great Expectations and actually enjoyed it. So different from the agony I experienced on reading it in high school).
      I, too, wasn’t wowed by The Movie Goer, but I suspect some of my reasons are pretty personal. I have a deep seated aversion to upper class Southern mythology and frat boys with cute nicknames; I also had issues with the dated social mores (Binx assumed his secretary is his to date and so on. An interesting idea for a post — how much should we let these things influence our opinions? Huckleberry Finn anyone?) Percy’s style IMO was serviceable but not much more and his whole philosophical angle (to the extent I understood it) a bit pretentious. On a positive note, I did find it extremely funny in spots and thought it quite realistically portrayed a rather narrow segment of New Orleans society. On the whole, however, hard to believe it won the NBA over Joseph Heller, Bernard Malamud or William Maxwell!
      I look forward to comparing our reactions to Cassandra. I enjoyed it much, much more than The Movie Goer, although it wasn’t QUITE what I expected — less funny, blacker in mood, more serious about issues regarding identity, sexual and otherwise. It, too, had some “dated” aspects but I found it far less problematical than Percy’s work.
      Sorry to rattle on but your Comment got me thinking — thanks so much, as it’s getting me in gear for my reviews!

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  2. Wow. Two of my favorite ladies here! The post alone was such an amazing treat, and then I see Ruthiella’s comment.

    First things first. Janakay, I am so inspired by your nature adventures, and looking forward to your museum posts, -no pressure, I do love the virtual tours.

    I am always very intrigued by your reads. The “This is how you lose… sounds very appealing to my newly restablished love for science fiction, specially books that cross different genera.

    Friends, super intrigued by The Movie Goer, a book that has been in my TBR but that I don’t owe yet. Ever since I read the fabulous A Confederacy of Dunces, I have been interested in Percy’s title. You may know Percy postumously published that book. A Confederacy is a right on the nail hilarious portayal of New Orleans. Being in Texas, we have links with Louisiana here in Houston, and the characters rang super real. Actually, two days ago I saw a young guy at the store with his mom, and he was sporting a hat with flaps like Ignatius does at A Confederacy… I should read it and join you in discussing it.

    You ask if we should let our dislikes influence our reading. I say OF COURSE, hahaha. But I know you both understand the value of a book besides your own feelings. However, I need to investigate this one in particular. I don’t know where it truly ranks in influence or value.

    I am in awe of your knowledge of awards or prices… I have read only one book by Malamud, and though sad, it was very impacting. It was a collection of short stories.

    I see Hayer everywhere, but still I have not read her books.

    Add me to the club of those who don’t like unfinished books. I read Wives and Daughters not knowing it was unfinished. Someone added an end which look orthopedic but okay, the book was going there anyway.

    I have not read Sandition or her juvenilia but in lieu of the good news, I will. It’s getting time also for some Austen rereads after my first pass to her 6 major books.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi ladies! Wives and Daughters is another one where I am on the fence. I’ve heard such wonderful things and yet…

    But with Dickens I am really torn because he really is one of my favorite authors. I did not have to read his books in high school, so maybe that helped!

    I think I read somewhere that Percy was instrumental in getting A Confederacy of Dunces published. Unfortunately I hated that book. I did not find it funny at all. Humor is tricky. I have a good friend who found it hilarious. I just found Ignatius annoying.

    Dated content only bothers me when I don’t like the rest of the book I think! I love Agatha Christie but she has plenty of what would now be considered racists, sexist or classist attitudes expressed in her books. I recognize it and move on normally.

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    1. Humor is tricky. I found A Confederacy of Dunces hilarious. The vignettes painted in that book bent me with laughter. Ignatius is also annoying, but his relationship with his mom, his view of life and everything provoke laughter and make me think too.

      Yes, A Confederacy’s author’s mom was convinced that her deceased son had written a worthy to be published book. I don’t know how Percy found it, read it, and pursued publication. The fiction title had a lot of the author’s true life. He suffered mental illnesses. I guess the humor is such that you either connect with it or not.

      I am the same, if I appreciate the book, I am more permissive of the dated content. Sometimes it is those biased attitudes which show me my own or how we have changed for the better.

      I think Wives and Daughters was almost finished yet it wasn’t. I totally get your Dickens dilemma, hahaha.

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  4. This is so funny! We should really do a group chat thing (I probably couldn’t figure out how to do it, being technologically challenged. Even ATTEMPTING a blog was a major accomplishment for me).
    I have very mixed feelings about required reads in high school. On the one hand, it left me with a profound hatred of George Eliot (Silas Marner was agony) and Charles Dickens (I hated every character in Great Expectations except Estella, who was kind of fascinating. I was a warped kid). On the other hand, I read real stuff and it left an impression; I think it laid the ground work for return reads later on. Guess who’s been one of my very favorite classic authors for quite some time? George Eliot; her Middlemarch is one of the temples at which I now worship. One can NEVER re-read it too many times. I’m still working on Dickens; I’d say he isn’t one of my favorites but I really enjoyed Great Expectations this spring (read it in an audited English class). Also, I love Bleak House and was o.k. with Tale of Two Cities, so maybe there’s hope for me yet. Dickens is such an evocative writer but – – I think the melodrama gets in the way for me.
    I haven’t read Confederacy of Dunces, which has been on my “have to get to it” list for years. I will, I will — someday! Many of my friends in the past loved it.
    I eagerly await Sylvia’s take on Percy’s The Movie Goer (not to put too much pressure on her to read it or anything!) as unlike myself she has the philosophical bent and background to pick up on the references (aside from a freshman class an eon or two ago, I’ve had no exposure to philosophical inquiry/writings). Quite honestly, if it’s there (and reviewers say it is) I missed it. The main thing I came away with was the protagonist’s alienation and what we’d now call PTSD. The “personal dislike/dated social content” issue is a bit of a toughie for me; I suspect Ruthiella pretty much sums it up: if you like the book, you move on! I suspect I didn’t like Percy’s novel enough to ignore it. As for the “knowledge” of awards — well, I was doing a little research, attempting to gear myself up for a review, and was curious to see the competition the year Percy won the NBA (that kind of thing can be quite interesting at times). Percy was SO much the flavor of the month, back in the day (I was urged to read him back in the 80s); I suspect (without knowing) he’s largely fallen out of favor these days. The New Yorker recently had a very interesting piece, making the case that the novel remains relevant ( https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/we-still-live-within-the-mediated-alienated-world-of-the-moviegoer )
    And, yes, Sylvia, you really might like This Is How You Lose A Time War. It’s a wild blend, a sci-fi novel told in that oldest of all styles, as an epistolary novel, a love story between two stone-cold female serial killers. Never graphic, very poetic BUT there is lots of violence. Also, I found it one of those books that I couldn’t read to understand every point (how do you leave a message in a lava flow?) but just had to surrender and go with the flow, so to speak. For more info and a better review than I could ever write, check out the recent NPR review, which is how I found it ( https://www.npr.org/2019/07/18/742651647/letters-serve-to-bond-time-traveling-rivals-in-this-is-how-you-lose-the-time-war ).

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