The OED defines a microhistory as a ”[h]istorical study which addresses a specific or localized subject; a historical account of this nature, a case study. Also, a short account, a ‘potted’ history.”
Assuming we make it through the audition process, I’m going to be part of a group presenting non-fiction titles at MLA this year; I’m going to be doing microhistories. I need to narrow my list down from 25 to ten titles, but seeing as how I started out with about 80 titles, this should perfectly be doable.
Here are the 25 titles I am considering:
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I’m going to do it. I’m going to read War and Peace this year. All of it, all 1224 pages.
Wish me luck!
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- Nightingale Wood by Stella Gibbons. I like Cold Comfort Farm better, mostly because I don’t really like the so-called hero of this story. He’s a jerk, and therefore the main romance just didn’t work for me. All of the side stories, however, were delightful, and they made it worth the read.
- Black Dog written and illustrated by Levi Pinfold. I liked the illustrations better than the story itself, they were vaguely reminiscent of Gris Grimly, although more in spirit than in actual imagery. Still, a fun story for children who are prone to exaggerate.
- Squids Will Be Squids: Fresh Morals, Beastly Fables written by John Scieszka and illustrated by Lane Smith. Very funny nouveaux fables with sometimes questionable morals, but I would expect no less from Scieszka and Smith. Poor Elephant, he just never learns.
- “Curse of the Golden Flower” Well it was very pretty, but rather confusing, and there wasn’t enough fighting choreography. And everyone died, usually quite messily. But the costumes and sets were lovely.
- “Wing Chun” This was a lot better! There was a good amount of fight choreography, Michelle Yeoh is awesome, and the story was funny. I enjoyed it.
- “Brave” I am sorry I did not see this is a theater, it was very really fun. Yes, there are some things I had issues with, but given the average movie aimed at little girls, this was a welcome breath of fresh air. And it had Scottish wolfhounds it in, so that was a nice bonus.
- “The Artist” I also finally got around to seeing this, which I enjoyed immensely. The use of old and current film techniques was clever, and it was a nice homage to silent films. The casting was great, and the story was compelling. Another one I wish I had seen in the theater.
- “The Boure Legacy” This wasn’t necessarily a bad movie, but it was nowhere near as good as the other Bourne films. I’m not entirely sure why the franchise was in need of a reboot, but oh well.
- “Barfi!” I was charmed by this, as was almost everyone else who saw it. I was also thrilled that it wasn’t trite and generally treated its characters with great respect and dignity, which is not always the case in films about people with disabilities, be they made in Hollywood or Bollywood. I will buy this for sure.
- (Technically my 50th movie was “The Hobbit,” but I’m not going to count that one.)
- Books: 50/50
- Movies: 50/50
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- Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead. I enjoyed this book, but I didn’t think it was as well executed as When You Reach Me–the mystery was less mysterious, and the solution was less clever. I did like Safer and Candy, and I really liked Georges, but the story didn’t quite come together for me.
- Madeleine L’Engel’s A Wrinkle in Time adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson. This I loved. The graphic adaptation was well executed, and while the characters weren’t as I imagined them, I had no problems with how they were depicted, Obviously the story had to be condensed for this, but it really made me want to reread the original. I don’t know if there are plans for Hope Larson to adapt any more of the Time Quartet novels, but if she does, I will happily read them.
- The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves by Siri Hustvedt. I’m not entirely sure what I was hoping this book would be, but I was disappointed in it nonetheless. For such a short book the author was able to wander from her theoretical topic much more than was necessary or interesting, and at time it felt like a giant exercise in writerly showing off. I might pursue some of the titles she mentioned, however.
- “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” Since I had read the book recently, I thought it would be a good idea to see the movie. I absolutely loved it. It tells the same story as the book, but in a different way–which is very appropriate, given the subject matter. Worth every second.
- “The Mummy” This was more or less what I was expecting, but I was really taken aback by some of the details: quite a lot of the ancient Egyptian stuff used was extremely accurate, but every now and again there were howlingly bad mistakes. But since this was made near the height of Egypt-mania, that is not surprising. An interesting story, but I do wish the film had been longer and developed some of the characters more.
- Books: 47/50
- Movies: 44/50
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- Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach. I read this because it had been recommended to me, and it looked interesting. It wasn’t a bad story, although parts of it were rather unbelievable, but for a book about painting, I was often frustrated with the descriptions. Nowhere near as good as Perfume or The Bells, both of which had magnificent descriptions.
- Monster Mash illustrated by David Catrow. The best part was seeing the Cinderella Skeleton’s cameo. Otherwise I just ended up with the chunk of the song I knew playing in an endless loop in my head.
- Boot & Shoe written and illustrated by Marla Frazee. I liked the idea of this much better than the execution–some of the illustrations were humorous, but the story overall was a little forced.
- This is Not My Hat written and illustrated by Jon Klassen. Hilarious and sly! Very much a companion in spirit to I Want My Hat Back, even though it’s in no way a sequel. I will need to acquire the two Hats for my personal library.
- Lester’s Dreadful Sweaters written and illustrated by K. G. Campbell. The sweaters are truly dreadful, and the text is clearly written for adults to enjoy as much as for children. The illustrations come down *just* on the not-creepy side of the line, but there is a certain whiff of macabre in the atmosphere.
- Marrying Up: A Right Royal Romantic Comedy by Wendy Holden. A very fluffy and predictable story, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I don’t think I’m going to immediately rush out and read Holden’s backlist, but I’ll certainly keep her in mind for when I need an undemanding yet satisfying read.
- The Elephant’s Friend and Other Tales from Ancient India written and illustrated by Marcia Williams. The retellings often felt quite truncated, usually because it seemed that the author was trying to make them all be a similar length. Not a bad introduction to Indian folk tales, but there are better collections out there.
- Small and Tall Tales of Extinct Animals written and illustrated by Helene Rajcak and Damien Laverdunt. I would be interested to read the original French version of this book, as the English translations sometimes seemed rather odd. But it was an interesting survey of extinct animals, with both the familiar and the exotic represented. The most depressing part were the recent entries to the list.
- Olivia and the Fairy Princess written and illustrated by Ian Falconer. I love Olivia! She’s up to her usual sassy antics in this decidedly un-pink edition of her adventures. And she raises a very good point: little girls have been brainwashed into thinking that being a princess is the best, when there are clearly so many other options worth exploring.
- Giants Beware! written by Jorge Aguirre and illustrated by Rafel Rosado. Claudette, Marie, and Gaston set off to slay a baby-eating giant and in the process learn valuable lessons about friendship. But their adventure is so much better than any bland summary can possibly convey. This was a treat to read, and the illustrations were excellent. I like Claudette’s fire, Marie’s cleverness, and Gaston’s unrelenting positivity. Very much a favorite.
- “Quantum of Solace” I did not like this Bond movie as much. It was actually kind of boring. I did want to see the production of the opera that was going on in the background though.
- “The Bride of Frankenstein” Not what I was expecting. I assumed there would be more Bride and less Talking Monster. Nowhere near as good as “Frankenstein,” but probably better than a lot of the other classic movie monster sequels.
- “Enchanted” Adorable! I loved it. Cute story, good songs, and my gosh Amy Adams does a good job of being a real live Disney princess! And clearly no one had any fun at all making this movie, oh no.
- “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” I saw a preview for this and thought that it would either be very funny or absolutely terrible–it looked to be one of those odd British films that doesn’t lend itself to previews. It was hilarious! I did not realize it was based on the Pirates! books, but I have now read the first of that series; I’ll get to the rest eventually.
- “Cold Comfort Farm” I loved this too–so very funny, and yet so very clear what it was making fun of. The casting was marvelous, and it was clearly another project that no one involved with had any fun at all. Although they may have seen something nasty in the woodshed…
- “A Knight’s Tale” This was ridiculous. It was actually pretty dire, but since it made absolutely no pretense of taking itself at all seriously, it ended up being quite fun. And just in case things were going too well accuracy-wise, Jocelyn would show up in a completely outrageous ensemble from outer space. Good lord.
- Books: 44/50
- Movies: 42/50
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- Winter Rose by Patricia McKillip. I liked it, but with all Patricia McKillip books, I wish she’d occasionally be less dreamy and etherial and pick up the pace. A serviceable Tam Lin retelling, but not my favorite. I will read the sequel at some point.
- The Sweetest Spell by Suzanne Selfors. I really enjoyed this. A sweet original fairytale about history and outcasts and chocolate and magic and love. Very nice to see a disabled heroine who accepted her disability as part of who she was, and who wasn’t magically cured at the end. Her true love loved her, curled foot and all. I’ll probably buy it when it’s out in paperback.
- Bon Appétit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child written and illustrated by Jessie Hartland. I enjoyed this too, but it was rather busy for a picture book. But I did learn a lot about Julia Child’s life, and although I knew it had been a monumental task to get Mastering the Art of French Cooking published, I had not realized quite how monumental and time consuming it was.
- Vampirina Ballerina written by Anne Marie Pace and illustrated by LeUyen Pham. Adorable! I want to be a vampire ballerina when I grow up. I really like how supportive her family is, and how each of them helps in their own way. A lovely book for wanna-be ballerinas.
- Goldilocks and Just One Bear written and illustrated by Leigh Hodgkinson. I spent a lot of time thinking about how much this book visually resembled Lauren Child, and it turns out that Leigh Hodgkinson is an illustrator for “Charlie and Lola” so that’s ok. I enjoyed the continuation and reorientation of the Goldilocks story.
- “Sherlock Holmes” So silly. I adored it.
- “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” I adored it so much that I immediately watched the sequel! Everyone clearly had such a good time making these films.
- “The Prestige” Very tricksy. I had figured out one of the GIANT SPOILERS, but not the other. I’m interested to go back and see how OTHER GIANT SPOILER was done, because while Christopher Nolan might not give you all the details you need upfront, he never cheats and withholds important information–if you pay attention, it’s all there. I’m going to read the book too, because I’m sure there are more twists and turns that got left out of the movie.
- “The Adventures of Tintin” Loved it! Can’t wait for the sequel. It hit all the right Tintin notes, and had lots of allusions to other adventures, and I’m so annoyed with myself for not having seen it in the theater.
- “In Bruges” Loved this too! Very funny and very violent. I’m sorry I was such a sulky teenager and refused to ever go to Bruges with my family when we were in Belgium. F*king Bruges.
- “Casino Royale” I suppose this is the best James Bond film I’ve seen, but I wouldn’t go crazy and consider myself a fan. It was an interesting plot, and I liked that it was an origin story, but I feel no need to go back and submerge myself in the canon.
- Books: 34/50
- Movies: 36/50
ETA: 10/08/12 fixed spelling error
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August was a terrible month for me, as my terrible stats attest. Hopefully I can regain ground in September!
- Kosher Chinese: Living, Teaching, and Eating with China’s Other Billion by Michael Levy. I enjoyed this memoir. I wish I had volunteered for the Peace Corps after college; at the time I thought I had other plans, but they fell through. I guess I’ll have to save being a PCV for my midlife crisis. I know there are “better” Peace Corps memoirs out there, but this one seems true to the experience, rather than a pean to the ideal.
- Enchanted by Alethea Kontis. I loved this book! It is essentially a fairytale that combined all the other fairytales into a fresh new fairytale. Everyone lives happily ever after, except for the villains, but they have to earn their happy ending. It was funny and smart and charming, and I’ll be buying my own copy.
- “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” (I actually watched this is July, but forgot to include it in the stats. Oops.) This had the potential–and the cast–to be good, but was terrible. I don’t know if it was due to a new director, or simply fatigue on the parts of the actors, but it was disappointing. I am no longer annoyed that Mr Lush saw this in the theater without me.
- “Blazing Saddles” I’ve seen many Mel Brooks movies, but hadn’t gotten around to this one yet. I liked it, and I’m glad I saw it, but it’s not my favorite. I had seen almost all of the classic moments already, so that made the film less interesting.
- “Superman Returns” Like all Superman movies I got bored in the middle. It wasn’t BAD, but I can see why it flopped–it would have been better to do a reboot rather than trying to tie it in to the previous Superman movies.
- Books: 29/50
- Movies: 30/50
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