I don’t usually hate books. I like most, love some and want to marry a chosen few. But The Fountainhead, oh how I detested that book with every new sentence I read. But I still went through the entire thing because I can’t leave a book (no matter how mind-numbingly aggravating) unfinished. And I was surprised because everyone around me, whose opinions I generally agreed with, seemed to love the book and absolutely idolised Ayn Rand. The friend who lent me The Fountainhead also lent me Atlas Shrugged, a book I just can’t bear to tackle at the moment. Maybe ever. Reading this take-down of my least favourite book was an excessively satisfying experience.

The Red Pen of Doom

THE FOUNTAINHEAD

by Ayn Rand

Howard Roark laughed. (I approve of this. It asks a narrative question – who is this guy, and why did he laugh? – and I like short sentences anyway.)

He stood naked at the edge of a cliff. The lake lay far below him.A frozen explosion of granite burst in flight to the sky over motionless water.(Whoah, whoah, hold up. So far, it was all tight and Hemingway-esque. “The pants fit him. They felt good.” Now you suddenly switch to purple prose, with granite bursting in flight? I didn’t know that granite rocks flew, or exploded when they did decide to take wing. No.)The water seemed immovable, the stone flowing. The stone had the stillness of one brief moment in battle when thrust meets thrust and the currents are held in a pause more dynamic than motion. The stone glowed…

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Rhyme and Reason: January 26, 2013

WE DON’T NEED TO LEAVE YET. DO WE?
or
YES WE DO

One kind of person when catching a train always wants to allow an hour to cover the ten-block trip to the terminus,

And the other kind looks at them as if they were verminous,

And the second kind says that five minutes is plenty and will even leave one minute over for buying the tickets.

And the first kind looks at them as if they had cerebral rickets.

One kind when theater-bound sups lightly at six and hastens off to the play,

And indeed I know one such person who is so such that it frequently arrives in time for the last act of the matinee,

And the other kind sits down at eight to a meal that is positively sumptuous,

Observing cynically that an eight-thirty curtain never rises till eight-forty, an observation which is less cynical than bumptuous.

And what the first kind, sitting uncomfortably in the waiting room while the train is made up in the yards, can never understand,

Is the injustice of the second kind’s reaching their seat just as the train moves out, just as they had planned.

And what the second kind cannot understand as they stumble over the first kind’s feet just as the footlights flash on at last

Is that the first kind doesn’t feel the least bit foolish at having entered the theater before the cast.

Oh, the first kind always wants to start now and the second kind always wants to tarry,

Which wouldn’t make any difference, except that each other is what they always marry.

Ogden Nash, Candy is Dandy, The Best of Ogden Nash

Book Review: Eustacia Goes To The Chalet School by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer

eustaciaEustacia Goes to the Chalet School is the sixth in the series and, fortunately for me, is still set in the Austrian Tyrol. Of the books I own, the Austrian years were my favourite and firmly put Austria on my travel wishlist. Although the later books, with their references to familiar characters, were pretty enjoyable too.

The book follows the travails of 14-year-old Eustacia Benson who, in the very first sentence, is described as “the most arrant little prig that ever existed.” The narrator makes no bones about the fact that the eponymous character is thoroughly unlikable. But deliciously detestable characters are exactly what make books fun. Even the ones who you want to rip out from the pages and smack, they work so well precisely because they push our buttons.

Eustacia didn’t evoke any such violent tendency on my part though. True, she’s selfish and self-righteous, randomly flies into a temper and, horror of horrors, tells tales (utter blasphemy in a school story). However, the way she casually breaks rules and makes enemies with brazen cheek made me laugh at her audacity more than anything else. Eustacia is thoroughly entertaining, she certainly doesn’t deserve the ire the narrator has in store for her. Heck, even Voldemort got off with mass genocide with nary a peep from a neutral narrator.

Through the rest of the book, Eustacia wages a perpetual war against the Chalet School darling Joey Bettany, is wholly ostracised for a fairly minor infraction and has the whole school baying for her blood. At one point, the entire school is asked for suggestions about the best way to tackle the unpleasant girl in a school of fairly well-behaved students. You almost have to feel sorry for the girl.

The book also includes a snowball fight (I only mention it because it had all the strategies of a battle, which I would have loved to be a part of), a feud between two forms, a half-term picnic where they end up getting caught in a snowstorm (of course they do! Nothing’s ever simple in the Chalet School world), pranks, a broken foot, a nearly fatal accident (another staple) and Bernhilda’s wedding, who was one of the original students of the school. An already-married Gisela (the school’s very first Head Girl) chooses to remain at home without explanation which, knowing Brent-Dyer’s ways, made me suspicious of a pregnancy.

The book’s Exciting Happening had Eustacia running away. I almost expected Joey to play heroine again and was thoroughly relieved that she didn’t. Apparently, she nearly died  of pneumonia last term (in a previous book) which was reason enough for Brent-Dyer to lay off the damsel-in-perennial-distress, at least for this story. The book made for a great read, but then again, I’m biased towards the charming series, insanity and all. And the last chapter made me want to yell “I knew it!” in triumph – Gisela went and delivered her baby.

For other Chalet School shenanigans, look here.