Doctor Who

TARDISAt the beginning of the year I read this post about the joys of introducing the younger generation to the wonders of Doctor Who.  At the time I wasn’t so keen on sharing the programme as it is quite scary in many parts, but we eventually did so at the insistence of small children.

However it really seems to have taken off lately, just in time for Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary special.

In fact, Master Oh Waily has really got in to the swing of it and has started playing at ‘Doctor Who’ with random toys.  But the best bit, after a close encounter with the Daleks, is his interpretation of the dreaded EXTERMINATE, EXTERMINATE!

Master Oh Dalek goes….



Four Letter Words

There are very few verbal tics that annoy me.  Usually.
But recently in the Oh Waily household there has been an exponential increase in the use of one particular four letter word, and I am not impressed.

Somehow this interloper has managed to sneak in and infiltrate everyday conversation.  It appears with monotonous regularity, most shockingly, in Miss Oh Waily’s conversational repertoire.

And like all self-respecting four letter words, it does not come alone.  It brings friends.  The sort of friends that you want to politely shut the door on.  It turns out that like the unwanted, influential ratbags friends your teenage children bring home to play with, you have no real control over these verbal equivalents either.

I am coming to my wits end.  How do you rid your home of unwanted words?  Especially those nasty little four letter ones that seem to mock your every effort to expunge them.  What will it take to have a reasonable, responsible and respectful conversation around this house?

Censorship is required to protect my sanity.  I can’t stand to hear that word, and its cohorts any more.  Should I use duct tape?  No, that would involve the authorities and lengthy explanations to the social workers.  Should I make a loud bleeping noise whenever the offending word is uttered?  No, that would involve the authorities and a white huggy jacket for me.

Oh, help me please…

What am I to do in response to this onslaught of such language?

Me:  Can you please put your shoes away?
Miss OWW:  I’m just… [insert excuse reason]
Me:    That’s fine, but you still need to put your shoes away first.
Miss OWW:  But, I’ll just finish… [insert excuse reason]
Me:   I understand that you want to [insert excuse reason], but you need to do this before you start something new.
Miss OWW:  Yes, I know that.  But I’m only just doing…

I hate it, that horrible four letter word: just, just, just, just, just
and it’s tag-along mates: but, but, but, but, but and only, only, only.
And the little throw-away phrase said with such condescension that you just want to slap the words right out of the dictionary along with the inflection, intonation and all other -ations relating to it’s use:  Yes, I know.

What is considerably worse, and oh so horrific, is that no less than five sneaky, hidden “justs” had to be edited out of the draft version of this post.
I am the perpetrator who let this word into our midst.  I am the bad influence.
I have been hoist with my own petard.  Oh waily, waily…

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Well, congratulate me then – I’ve made it through another BBC Top 200 Read and yet another book set in war time.  Captain Corelli and his mandolin are duly consigned to the return to the library pile.

As you may have noticed, I have already made comment regarding one thing that annoyed me about this book, and that was the feeling that the author had fallen into the Oxford Not-So-Concise Dictionary printing press.  This annoying feature lasted roughly for the first third to half of the book.  After that point Mr de Bernières seems to have calmed down somewhat.

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not that I don’t like to have my vocabulary stretched – I do.  It’s just a case of feeling that it was written in a manner that almost suggested the literary equivalent of name-dropping.  You know the sort of thing – “See who I know and just how smart I am?”  When in fact a more judicious use of unusual words would have indeed suggested the author was very smart, but not attempting to rub our noses in his erudite language skills.  Okay, that’s my first gripe over with.

The basic storyline follows Carlo Guercio, Antonio Corelli, Doctor Iannis and his daughter, Pelagia.  There is also a wonderful set of supporting characters to back up and give the texture to the story.  The setting is predominantly Greece, but moves through the war in Albania briefly before settling back into Cephallonia .  The majority of the book is devoted to the complicated relationship that builds between Pelagia and Corelli whilst the Italians occupy Greece during the war.

The novel moves from cynical to dark to gory to funny to heartwarming to horror to disbelieve very easily.  You are not always sure what the next chapter will be bringing.  The tone and language also changes throughout.  Some chapters are crammed full of a variety of uncommon words, while others are full of easy, smoothly readable descriptions of places, people  and their personalities.   There is no shortage of commentary on the nature of man during wars, and the infliction of pain on soldiers and civilians alike.  There is also a good dose of some absolutely hilarious, acid and brutal political commentary.  To illustrate this, I have taken two extracts from near the end of the book. The first extract is in the context of Greek liberation from the German occupation, only to be overrun by the communist andartes.

In all this there was both an irony and a tragedy.  The irony was that if the Communists had continued their wartime policy of doing absolutely nothing, they would undoubtedly have become the first freely elected Communist government in the world.  Whereas in France the Communists had earned themselves a rightful and respected place in political life, the Greek Communists made themselves permanently unelectable because even Communists could not bring themselves to vote for them.  The tragedy was that this was yet another step along the fated path by which Communism was growing into the Greatest and Most Humane Ideology Never to Have Been Implemented Even When it Was in Power, or perhaps The Most Noble Cause Ever to Attract the Highest Proportion of Hooligans and Opportunists.

The second extract is a commentary on Britain and it’s position in the world.

In those days Great Britain was less wealthy than it is now, but it was also less complacent, and considerably less useless.  It had a sense of humanitarian responsibility and a myth of its own importance that was quixotically true and universally accepted merely because it believed in it, and said so in a voice loud enough for foreigners to understand.  It had not yet acquired the schoolboy habit of waiting for months for permission from Washington before it clambered out of its post-imperial bed, put on its boots, made a sugary cup of tea, and ventured through the door.

There are more moments like this.  If you particularly would like to poke fun at Mussolini, then you will love reading the chapters entitled The Duce and A Pamphlet Distributed on the Island, Entitled with the Fascist Slogan ‘Believe, Fight and Obey’.

My only other major complaint, without giving the ending away, is that there is a pitifully weak break in the story with regards to how the author arranges the main characters’ lives after the war is over.  The reason given for the actions of at least one character is nothing short of improbable and impossible, in the circumstances.  For me the ending itself  isn’t unsatisfactory, but I can see for others it would be.  And I would completely agree with anyone who finds the manner in which it is arrived at as implausible and irritating.

Saying all that, though, I can still happily recommend the book.  Just keep a dictionary beside you for the first little while.  🙂
I would give it a rating of 3 out of 5.

Now I am done with war stories for a little while.  I am done with despair and gruesome details and black deeds for now.
Jeeves and Wooster are calling me in a loud voice to join them, which I am more than happy to do.

– – –

On a slightly related note:

Has anyone seen the movie?  Is it any good?
Personally I can’t abide Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz doesn’t rate as “must see”, so I have some serious doubts about it.  Would be interested to know other’s opinions though.

Christmas Reading

Our public libraries have a “Take Five” competition running at the moment.  The aim of which is to encourage people to broaden their reading.   So today while returning Miss O’s library books I picked up a bundle for my Christmas reading.  The fact that I may win a hamper of books is an added incentive, of course.

In addition to those already waiting in my reading queue, I have added the following goodies:

  1. The Liar – Stephen Fry
  2. Four Stories – Alan Bennett
  3. Sellevision – Augusten Burroughs
  4. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Diaz
  5. Lake Wobegon Summer 1956 – Garrison Keillor

Fortunately for me I noticed both Stephen Fry and Junot Diaz – the first author I just adore, the second is on my hit-list as the 2008 Pulitzer winner.  So I shall be kept busy over the next month – must find the suntan lotion, hat and sunglasses, it’s going to be a lazy few hours in the sun.

– – –

Also, while on the subject of reading and books.  I am just over 100 pages in to Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.   Why didn’t one of you warn me that Louis de Bernieres had swallowed a dictionary !?!  I am most agrieved that I was not prepared for the onslaught of large and (unless I’m living under a rock) obscure words.

I jest not, I have roughly twenty words noted down for further investigation, and could have taken more if I had been bothered to note the various Italian and Greek words that are unfamiliar to this monolingual reader.  And to be frank, I think he takes the need to be fancy just a little too far on occasion, evidence the following partial quote:

…two bottles per diem.

What was wrong with saying two bottle per day???  It’s not like he was describing anything other than the local priest trying to work out how long it would take him to work his way through the gifts of penance should he drink either two, three or four bottles of wine each day!!

But, the dictionary swallowing fiasco aside, I am beginning to enjoy the book.  The early chapter entitled “The Duce” is absolutely classic.  I haven’t laughed and been horrified in equal measure for a long time.  I feel that the remainder of the book may mirror this – black humour mixed with unpleasant realities.