wilkie collins

Top 10 Tuesday: Top Ten Posts I Think Give You The Best Glimpse of ME

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created & hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s Top 10 is all about us, the bloggers. It’s about posts that showcase our true self, posts we would want people to read if they want to get to know us better, posts that we are proud of and posts that are close to our heart.

1. Happy Birthday Agatha Christie!: Agatha Christie is undoubtedly my favourtie mystery writer. Last year I did a post  celebrating her 121st birthday. What would have the world been like if she had never been born? For me, imagining a world without Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Parker Pyne, Mr.  Quin is impossible!

2. For the Love of Short Stories: Short stories are not popular with everyone. I for one love them! For me it takes considerable skill on the part of a writer to convey emotions that require a whole book to play through in just a few short pages. So, I did an entire post in praise of short stories.

3. What’s Your Literary Wall of Shame?: Every reader has books they want to read, books they are ashamed to admit they haven’t read yet. I opened up about my literary wall of shame and strangely had fun doing it!

4. Dickens and Collins: 7th February 2012 was the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens. To mark the occasion I participated in  Charles Dickens Month and made Dickens related posts all month long. My favourite from these posts was a post called Dickens and Collins, contemporaries, friends and two of my favourite Victorian authors.

5. My Welcome Home posts: In these posts I discuss books that I’ve brought home. I’m a cautious book buyer. Most books that I read are borrowed from libraries and other sources. So, any book that makes my home its home is special to me. Among these posts one of my favourites is my Welcome Home post featuring books of September & October 2011. It contained some of my personal thoughts on reading and the idea of ‘fun’. It is a post that is close to my heart.

6. A Bookish Inheritance: The love of books runs in my family but only on one side. I did a post on this called A Bookish Inheritance which remains one of the very few personal posts I did in this blog.

7. London Lavender: I really love it when I don’t expect anything from a book but the book totally surprised me by becoming a favourite. London Lavender was one such a book. I loved reading it and reviewing it!

8. Girl in Hyacinth Blue: I normally don’t read books I don’t know anything about. I’m also not much of a fan of contemporary books. I picked up Girl in Hyacinth Blue rather reluctantly but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise!

9. The School for Scandal and Other Plays: I had never even heard of Sheridan when I chanced upon a collection of his plays and it took me less than an hour into the book to realize that I had found one of my all time favourite playwrights in him.

10. About Me: And of course the About page of my blog. It is not much but it does give everyone a pretty basic idea about me and what this blog is about.

January – Charles Dickens Month: Dickens and Collins

7th February 2012 is the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens. To mark the occasion Amanda at Fig and Thistle is hosting January – Charles Dickens Month. As Charles Dickens is one of my favourite authors, I couldn’t resist plunging into it.

Today’s post is about Dickens and CollinsCharles Dickens and Wilkie Collins, contemporaries, friends and authors whom I enjoy reading.

*These are my personal opinions. No offence is meant to anyone.*

Comparisons between Charles dickens and Wilkie Collins are inevitable. They were contemporaries and very close friends. As a big fan of Victorian Literature, I have read both with deep enthusiasm.

I personally feel that Collins was sometimes less sure about what he wanted to do. For example, in The Moonstone he came across as a bit  preachy. At times his social commentary overburdened his narrative and sometimes the light, entertaining side took over more completely. It’s like a play of shadow and light. On the other hand, when Collins set out to entertain, without trying to provide any social commentary, he was superb! I absolutely adore his The Queen of Hearts!

Dickens seemed much more confident about how he wanted to deal with the issues important to him (child labour, the condition of prisons, the judiciary system etc, etc,) and how and when to entertain.  For example, his Great Expectations, where the sadness of Pip’s situation is enlivened by a few interludes such as the scenes at Mr. Wopsle’s great aunt’s school and Mr. Wemmick’s division of his personal and professional life. But one side never overshadowed the other.

With Dickens the characters are such a big part of the plots that long after the book is over one remembers their personalities. How can I forget Sydney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities or even someone like Mrs Lirriper from Mrs Lirriper’s Lodgings? Some of  Collins’s characters are memorable (Count Fosco from The Woman in White comes to mind) but many seem kind of undermined by the main story. I often forget the names of the male and female lead of  The Moonstone.

For me, Dickens is superior of the two at least in these two aspects.

The Friday 56

The Friday 56 is a bookish meme hosted by Freda’s Voice.

*Grab a book, any book.
*Turn to page 56.
*Find any sentence that grabs you.
*Post it.
*Link up at Freda’s site

Today’s sentence comes from The Queen of Hearts  by Wilkie Collins, one of my favourite reads from last year.

“I could not imagine that the loud sobbing and moaning came from her, and I ran down terrified into the kitchen to ask the servants who was crying so violently in my aunt’s room.”

Booking Through Thursday : Character or Plot?

This week’s Booking Through Thursday asks:

“What’s more important to you? Real, three-dimensional, fleshed-out fascinating characters? Or an amazing, page-turning plot?

(Yes, I know, they are both important. But if you had to pick one as being more important than the other?”

I mostly prefer character-driven stories. If I do not like any of the characters then no matter how engaging the plot is I couldn’t enjoy the book. For example, Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone. It is the proverbial page turner but I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would just because I didn’t like most of the characters.

Very rarely do I find the setting and the plot of the story rise above the book’s mundane characters. Agatha Christie’s play The Mousetrap comes to mind. I found the main protagonists Mollie and Giles Ralston to be annoying. Most of the other characters are bland and wooden or stereotypical. But the story, the setting and the final twist made the play worth a read.

For the Love of Short Stories

Today I want togush’ about an oft neglected genre, Short Stories.

Short stories are my favourites. I think that a writer who can put all the emotions that requires a whole book to play through in just a few pages deserves to be applauded. Only a really good writer is capable of doing that. But in the hands of mediocre writers short stories can become bungled messes that come to an abrupt end without any rhyme or reason.

Most people feel that short stories do not satisfy a reader’s hunger, that it leaves them wanting more. But I feel that little bit of ‘want’ that a short story leaves behind is what makes it so good!

Here are some of my favourites,

Mystery; Inc.

Since mystery is my favourite genre I like reading mystery short stories which in my opinion are the hardest to write. The writer has to be really adept in creating the right amount of  tension. The solutions also have to be good.

Some favourites,

The Adventure of the Speckled Band by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – Chilling atmosphere of fear and distrust. 

The Idol House of Astarte by Agatha Christie – A touch of the supernatural works perfectly well.

Murdering Max by Peter Lovesey – A twisted tale of jealousy and revenge.

The Biter Bit by Wilkie Collins – Not a ‘mystery’ per se but has got to be the one of the funniest detective stories ever.

Things that go bump in the night!

Horror/supernatural is another difficult genre for short stories. Packing just  enough elements to shock the reader, to get that tingle up the reader’s spine in such a short span of time is a difficult task.

Some of my favourites,

Don’t Look Now by Daphne Du Maurier – It’s the unexpected ending that took my breath away.

The Upper Berth and The Screaming Skull by F. Marion Crawford – A little longish but spine-chilling. The latter one is especially scary.

The Dream-Woman by Wilkie Collins – A dream comes true for our hero Isaac Scatchard. Too bad it’s really a nightmare!

Love Hurts

I am not a major fan of romance in general. But I do have one or two favourite short stories where love (and not just ‘romantic’ love) is the central focus. And where the romance itself is the focus almost all of them are about the disillusionment of love.

Favourites,

The Kiss by Anton Chekhov – I love the brutal honesty of the ‘love’ story of an insignificant, unattractive soldier.

The Last Leaf by O’Henry – A non-romantic story but I feel it’s about love.

The Letters by Edith Wharton – Another story about how unrealistic the idea of true love can be.

A Mixed Bag

Finally, there are some gems out there that refuse to fit into any one genre but are great reads nonetheless. The Unicorn in the Garden by James Thurber deserves a special mention. Read the story yourself and figure out what Thurber meant by it.

Some favourites,

A Shocking Accident by Graham Greene – I actually understood how a situation that sounds silly to one may mean life and death to another.

The Revolt of Mother by Mary E. Wilkins – Feminism, nineteenth century rural New England style!

And of course, The Unicorn in the Garden by James Thurber.

It has been fun doing this post! It got me remembering all of the great short stories that I have read.

I would love to hear from any other short story readers out there. Just to know that I am not alone!