Say it with words: Adopt a book this Valentine’s Day!

I love this idea. The British Library are offering this unique opportunity to adopt a rare edition book.  What a special and unique gift that would make.  The money goes towards conservation so you will be helping to preserve our valuable literary heritage.

Here is a little snippet from the website:

Adopt a Book for Valentine’s Day and choose from our specially selected titles, and we will post you an exclusive limited edition certificate to give to your loved one. Alternatively, choose from one of our classic titles which comes with a book-jacket gift card.

– See more at The British Library


Do you have any books in this library?

Working in a library sometimes has its advantages.

For instance, yesterday I spotted an interesting looking book on the shelves.  It wasn’t the type of book I would think to look for.  Nor was it the type of book I would stumble upon accidentally if I was browsing the shelves for something to read – after all  what would I be doing in the comparative psychology section? (not being a student or graduate of psychology, I mean).  Working in the library means that I do have to go to the comparative psychology section from time to time (Dewey Decimal number 156 if you were wondering!) and also the public administration section (351.1), the Celtic languages section (491.6), the geology of Great Britain section (554.1) and the history of Belarus section (947.8).  What this means is that I continuously stumble upon fascinating books I would not otherwise be anywhere near.

Going back to the book I found yesterday – I flicked through the pages, became intrigued so I issued it out to myself.  I took it home and began to read.

Today I rushed out of the house for work forgetting to take this book with me (I usually read a book during my breaks).   Here is the second reason working in the library is great: WE HAVE MORE COPIES!  Being an academic library for a university, we have multiple copies of any title on reading lists, or titles that are recommended for students in general (such as Writing your Dissertation: How to Plan, Prepare and Present Successful Work – 808.066).  So come break time I simply wandered up to the comparative psychology section and continued to read. Marvelous!

(We couldn’t have done it without the use of mechanical reproduction  – so thank you modernity!)

Not the actual book title!! No, this is not part of the library stock 😉

Little Red Riding Hood – The wolf and the leer

English: An illustration from Tales of Mother ...
English: An illustration from Tales of Mother Goose by Charles Perrault; translated and edited by Charles Welsh The caption was “”She met with Gaffer Wolf””, it presumably illustrates the tale “Little Red Riding-Hood” and is found as the frontispiece (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Double Review: Little Red Riding Hood by Charles Perrault and Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf  by Roald Dahl

The story of Little Red Riding Hood is essentially a story about an attack on a little girl and her grandmother.  It includes violence, death and sexual connotations (and we read this to kids!).  The vague time and location of ‘Once upon a time…’ signifies to the child that this is a world of fantasy. This means that the child is aware that it is just a story.

Fairy tales began as folk tales for adults but have been used to entertain children since the eighteenth century.  They have been retold and altered according to social and cultural contexts.  In the original folk tale the little girl (unnamed)  is asked by the wolf if she is taking the path of pins or needles – pins representing the temporary binding of a young girl’s garments, and needles representing coming into adulthood, where needles are a permanent bind.  This was originally a tale of initiation as she chose the path of needles.  She later encounters the wolf dressed as her grandmother and gets into bed with him.

In Perrault’s version (1697) the girl who is now nicknamed Little Red Riding Hood, is “the prettiest that had ever been seen”.  Her attractiveness is important because, as is seen later, the story is a warning to women against talking to the wrong kind of men.  She does not escape but instead serves as an example of girls who are spoilt and naive.  She wears red, the colour of passion, which was introduced by Perrault, as a symbol of her ‘sinful’ nature.  She “met old neighbour wolf, who had a great desire to eat her.”  This is the first clue that the wolf is actually a sexual predator.  Perrault turned the wolf into a stand –in for male seducers who lure young women into their beds.

What makes Perrault’s version so great?

– Although this version was not originally intended for children, the repetition the ‘all the better to…’ sequence is a formula that is liked by children.  This has been repeated in every retelling of the story apart from removing some lines such as “the better to hug you with…” for their promiscuity.

– In terms of social anthropology, this is a wonderful example of a 17th century text.  The earliest oral versions of the story include bodily functions “oh, but I’ve also got to make cacka, grandma” and cannibalism “Slut! To eat the flesh… of your grandmother” and also sexual innuendo “undress yourself… come lie down beside me…” which were all removed when Perrault wrote it down.  He altered the story to one that would be suitable for the society he wrote for.

– Let’s face it,  the moral is still relevant: “Children…  should never talk to strangers, for if they should do so, they may well provide dinner for a wolf.  I say “wolf,” but there are various kinds of wolves. There are also those who are charming, quiet, polite, unassuming, complacent, and sweet, who pursue young women at home and in the streets. And unfortunately, it is these gentle wolves who are the most dangerous ones of all.”

Roald Dahl’s version  (1982) begins with the wolf.  Little Red Riding Hood comes into it later when wolf decides that eating Grandma was not enough.  He makes the decision to wait for her with a “leer” which is the first sign of the wolf’s ‘sleaziness’.   This version is clearly aimed at children; the simple rhyming scheme and the humour make it appealing to children. Yet it is still laced with hidden assumptions about Little Red Riding Hood.  She is described in line 27 as the “little girl in red”.  But later, she is referred to as “Miss Riding Hood” with “no silly hood upon her head”.  In France, to have ‘seen the wolf’ was a euphemism for a girl losing her virginity.  Dahl’s Little Red Riding Hood has matured since having ‘seen the wolf’.  She also smiles and takes a gun from her underwear before shooting the wolf dead.  Children only see the humour in this but to an adult she acts quite flirty, and promiscuous.   Dahl has returned the idea of her being a desirable object for the wolf, which is often removed in recent versions. “Compared with her old Grandmamma/ She’s going to taste like caviar.” Her youth makes her more appealing, but it also questions her physical appearance.  Grandma was “small and tough” but by favourably comparing Little Red Riding Hood, one assumes that she would be in comparison, curvy and voluptuous.

What makes Roald Dahl’s version so great?

It is hilarious: “He ran around the kitchen yelping/’I’ve got to have a second helping'”

It is postmodern: “‘That’s wrong!’ cried wolf ‘Have you forgot/to tell me what BIG TEETH I’ve got?'”

She is kick-ass: “The girl smiles. One eyelid flickers/She whips a pistol from her knickers.”

It is illustrated by Quentin Blake

Finding Time to Read – Part Two

A while a go I wrote a post about reading too many books at the same time.   This read-one-book-at-a-time project was to finish the books sooner, as well as allowing myself to become fully engrossed in one book.  It seems to make more sense but it’s not working for me.

Today I bought a new book for the kindle and even though I was already reading one I couldn’t not start my new one.  I’m also reading one physical book in bed and a different one for downstairs – the very thing I didn’t want to do.  Working in a library doesn’t help because I’ll see something interesting on the shelves, and that will be my lunchtime reading instead of the book I brought in to read.  Thank goodness I’m on annual leave right now or I’d also be reading the Patrick Ness book I recently purchased for the Junior Fiction collection!

Project result: Epic failure.

I think these are so cute. These books were important to the lady who received these cupcakes.  I love how books can shape a persons life, and I love how varied these books are. I would keep these forever!

If you were presented cupcakes adorned with books that shaped your life, what books would they be?

Library Shenanigans

Victoria’s Kitchen, a London bakery, made these bookish treats for a customer’s 60th birthday. Each of the books shaped her life in some way. Thanks, Juliet Cook, Kathleen Kirk, and Hooked on Books!

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Confused reviews

Promotional photo of Boris Karloff from The Br...

Okay I’ll admit it.  I haven’t been sticking to the read-one-book-at-a-time plan.

It can get confusing when you have several books on the go, but I think I’ve managed to keep each story separate from the others. Like this one:

Hamlet had a ponderous dream where he saw the grotesque ghost of Frankenstein’s monster.  The monster demanded that he take his revenge on the nasty Heathcliff, who was married to flirtatious Juliet but in love with sweet Tess of the d’Urbevilles.  Hamlet then received an important letter from jolly Postman Pat, informing him that he had received a sum of money.  Hamlet believed the money had come from the obsessed old Miss Havisham, but when he falls asleep at the ancient altar of Stonehenge waiting for his arrest, he realizes his benefactor is Heathcliff’s evil brother, Claudius – the man he is supposed to kill…


Henry VIII and his books

Henry VIII at Warwick castle. Photo (c) Hannah Meiklejohn 2011

While some people believe that to mark a book with ink, or to crease a corner of a page, break a spine or any other casual treatment is like book – cruelty; others see nothing wrong with making notes, underlining or marking passages.

Henry VIII was one of these people.  The British Library holds a collection of books which had belonged to the King, famous for having six wives, and creating the Anglican protestant church in England.  The books have his notes and markings all over them, showing us his thoughts about certain topics.   Whenever he came across something he thought was important or noteworthy, he drew little hands alongside the text.  As well as marking lines he thought were interesting, he also wrote love notes in the margin of a prayer-book.

Treating a book this way is not acceptable to everyone.  But what would come of these books if Henry VIII hadn’t scrawled over them?  The British Library would not have this fascinating, and a part of our understanding of his character would be lost.

The commentary of The British Library:
The King has annotated the right-hand page in two places.

‘O Lord, save the king: and hear us in the day that we shall call upon thee’ as ‘an appropriate prayer for kings’ (pro rege oratio).

With his pencil annotation ‘concerning kings’ (nota de regibus), Henry draws attention to Psalm 20: which instructs him that, as king, he is called to ‘rejoice in the Lord’s strength and delight in His salvation.

A page of Marulić's Evangelistarium annotated ...
A page of Marulić’s Evangelistarium annotated personnaly by the English King Henry VIII, kept in the British Library (843 K 13) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)