my little book soapbox

Just a few book related things I want to get off my chest...

I'm a little disappointed in all the comments I've seen on various blogs and comments heard in person about skipping parts of books. What's the point in reading a book if you're going to skip over a section because it might be boring? Most recently I've seen lots of comments about skipping the 'Waterloo' chapters in Hugo's Les Misérables. Now I'll admit it was a tad bit boring, but that's part of the challenge of reading a book right? I mean if the reader is only interested in reading about Jean Valjean and Cosette then read the abridged version because I'm sure most of the 'boring' sections have been left out. Hugo included them in his novel because he felt they were important to the story, they give the reader the background of what's happening in France at that time. I mean I didn't know much about Waterloo other then there was a battle there involving Napoleon and Wellington. After making my way through Hugo's portrayal I felt like I understood more about the fighting styles of the French and English and how that particular battle effected the local population. Hugo casts a gritty veil over the battle instead of glorifying it. His descriptions place the reader there on the field amongst the killings and then later amongst the looters who picked over the corpses. And sure only the very last little bit makes any sort of link to the actual plot but Hugo felt it was important and therefore I feel it's important to read.

Of course I realize everyone is allowed to read in whatever way they see fit. I'm just saying I don't understand it nor do I agree with selective reading when it comes to novels.

Gender bias seems to be a theme in a number of books I've been reading recently. The First Century After Beatrice (reviewed here) embraced the argument of gender bias and looked at what might happen if female births became rare or altogether impossible. I just finished Snow Flower and the Secret Fan which also includes quite a few passages about the importance of male births:
Sons are the foundation of a woman's self. They give woman her identity, as well as dignity, protection, and economic value. They create the link between her husband and his ancestors. This is the one accomplishment a man cannot achieve without the aid of his wife. Only she can guarantee the perpetuation of the family line, which, in turn, is the ultimate duty of every son. This is the supreme way he completes his filial duty, while sons are a woman's crowning glory.
Female births are shunned in this tale of early 1800s China. Sons were not only important to continue the family line but they guaranteed security in the home for the women who gave birth to them. While the birth of a daughter was looked down upon, a daughter was useless and worth less than a dog. I've never been able to understand this viewpoint in any society because surely it is obvious that women are necessary to give birth to these desired sons. Didn't they ever stop to think that if every woman got her wish for the birth of a son (and this isn't just a wish for one son, it is a wish that every pregnancy will bring a son) the bloodline would die out? The same sacred blood that runs in a son also runs in a daughter and when she marries out she carries that bloodline and joins it to another. Same with the son he's married to a woman of a different bloodline and the family's bloodlines are mixed.

My dad is the last male in his family and since he only had 2 daughters does this mean that the family dies? No, I have his blood, my sister has his blood and if and when we ever have children they will carry the family blood. And let's not forget that my dad's 3 sisters also carry the same blood as do their children. As for the last name, I've decided to keep mine no matter what, because it's a good one and I like it and because I don't want it to disappear with my dad, not to mention the fact that it will look great after the prefix Dr.

I'm currently reading Haggard's She and finally these characters have seen the light:
'Does the lady go with us, my father?' I asked of Billali, as he stood superintending things generally.

He shrugged his shoulders as he answered -

'If she wills. In this country the women do what they please. We worship them, and give them their way, because without them the world could not go on; they are the source of life.'

'Ah,' I said, the matter never having struck me quite in that light before.
Anyway sorry just a few bookish irks that I needed to share. Have you read anything recently that confuses you or makes you a bit angry?

. listening . consequence . incubus . make yourself .


posted by Ashleigh @ 15:41,


At 18 April 2008 at 19:54, Blogger Danielle said...

I've never been one to skim or skip parts of books. I'm too afraid of missing something good. I don't feel like I can say I've read something unless I've read every last word. I just finished the Waterloo section. I read a novel by Georgette Heyer last year that was about Waterloo and she went into great and explicit detail about the battle. I thought it was pretty interesting actually. So the Hugo section was a bit of a refresher and I recalled names of the places and people, which is rare when I read anything about war or battles. And I was glad to see a link there to the story....As for irritations, I found lots of attitudes towards women during WWI very annoying when I read Singled Out (a nonfiction book). It was an excellent book, but single women have gotten short shrift too often and I'm glad attitudes finally have changed.

At 22 April 2008 at 01:04, Blogger C. B. James said...

While a disagree with you about skipping parts of a book, I thank you for an interesting post and an interesting blog.

I'm going to check out First Century After Beatrice. Sound intrigueing.

Once you finish with She you may want to check out Charlotte Gilman Perkins response to it called Herland. It's about a feminist utopia, made up of only women, hidden in a jungle setting. It is a serious book with much to say about society but it's also fun.

At 23 April 2008 at 15:43, Blogger Ashleigh said...

I've heard of Herland but I didn't realize it was a Gilman novel, I just read The Yellow Wallpaper. I'll definitely have to check it out! And thanks for letting me have my opinion! :)

I do skip parts of nonfiction books if I'm only interested in a certain chapter. And I can see skipping parts in novels if I've already read them but I'm all about getting the full effect the first time through. Cheers! :)


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    ashleigh (ash'lė) n.
    1: egyptologist; currently living in the uk attempting to obtain a phd in egyptology, hoping in the end there will be a job.
    2: literary; reading to escape reality, to improve conversation, for inspiration.
    3: crafter; crocheting and needlework, creating heirlooms, keeping the world warm.
    4: dreamer; head in the clouds, full of fantasies, wishing to be someone else, somewhere else.
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