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...with deepest apologies to Shirley Foster and Judy Simons, whose book What Katy Read is (hopefully) on its way to me now. Isn't synchronicity wonderful (even if every spell-checker I've ever used insists it's a misspelling)? As I mentioned a few entries ago, Liz mentioned on A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy that there'd been a call for guest bloggers to contribute reviews of classics of children's lit on the very impressive AmoxCalli blog. (I'm going to be doing Alcott's An Old-Fashioned Girl as soon as I finish my reread - umpteenth, but for study purpose, which is different and fascinating! Might also do Cynthia Harnett's wonderful The Wool-Pack and Geoffrey Trease's Cue for Treason, if nobody beats me to them.)

Then I got thinking about doing a list from reading about the same time (in the MA course materials) that Charlotte Yonge's The Heir of Redclyffe 'is probably alluded to more often in other fiction for girls than any other (Jo is seen reading it in Little Women)'. And around then I noticed in Seven Little Australians the allusion to poor Meg's reading before her fast friend Aldith gets to her: 'Charlotte Yonge, Louisa Alcott and Miss Wetherall had hitherto formed her simple and wholesome fare'. (Makes them sound very roughage-ish, doesn't it?) And - completely out of the blue, Younger Daughter asked what the book was that Betsy had read so many times and then got a bad mark for her report on it, and we remembered it was Ivanhoe (full ref below). So, I got thinking of other examples I could remember - sometimes with a bit of digging, but sometimes without. A few books are so full of allusions to other novels that it's impossible to do more than a mention of the odd highlight, while a lot have more of the character's own writing or story-telling than specific mention of what she reads. I'm not going as near the present day with my classics as Fire and Hemlock, (though it is of course one of my top top books), but I'd love it if anyone would like to contribute books-within-books from the older classics.

The list so far... )
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Not an R&B band, though it might sound like one... Sketchy thought jotting-down - mostly because I want to keep track of very early thoughts for possible end-of-module essay use. (Probably too superficial to be of interest for the academics and too academic to be of interest to the non... )

I finished The Exiles in Love today, finally having managed to wrest it from OD's possession. It's not my favourite of the Exiles books, as the ending is a bit too pat, I think, but it did fit in fascinatingly with the first block we're studying, which is mostly to do with reader response theory. I found the extracts from Iser, about how the reader has to fill in 'structured blanks', 'gaps' and 'indeterminacies' in the text 'on terms set by the text', the least interesting, until my lunchtime reading. It hit me then that McKay leaves an extraordinary number of gaps in all her books (or almost all - I'd have to have a look over them), especially as children's books generally go. Some of these are the kind of mini-mysteries 'solved' by the end of the book (what/who are Saffy's angel/father, for example, or the identity of the 'ghost' in the orchard in EiL) which may or may not be figured out ahead of time by the reader. Some are left for us to intuit and may have a brief sentence lightly touching on the matter - possibly a book or two later. I'm thinking especially about Eve and how she feels about Bill at the moment. But some things are just left extremely elliptical - and I was very much struck by Big Grandma's part in Exiles in Love in this regard. There simply is no real explanation of what had been going on, even at the end, when many misunderstandings are cleared up. We're just left with Phoebe, observing (as always) and thinking about 'the family failing' - (falling hopelessly in love):

Only Phoebe, lingering after the others had gone, saw that Big Grandma did not go
to sleep. She stayed wide awake, staring back and back at the line of blue cloud
where France had been.

They think they've been cured, Phoebe thought, looking down at her sisters as they
made their way across the lower deck and she remembered [name cut to prevent
spoiling] kissing Big Grandma goodbye. -- kissed her hard. Four times,
twice on each cheek. They sounded like smacks.

'There is no cure,' thought Phoebe.

********** Because indenting in Xjournal doesn't work ***********

I'd be very interested to see if there are more gaps left around the doings of adults - always treated as part of the children's stories in both series - than those of the children. Or if I'm just remembering them more. Some of the fun of reading, of course, is figuring out things left to be figured out, before they're actually explained (the framing narrative of dialogue between Ruth and Naomi in TEiL, for example). But it's quite a sophisticated reading job, I'd imagine, and I'd love to hear about how younger children cope with it. And - well, I can't help but think about the way several of us who'd read Permanent Rose and DWJ's Guardian review of it felt as if she'd been talking about quite another book - and now rephrasing it to her filling in those gaps and blanks but not doing so on 'terms set by the text', but rather on her own terms.

Interesting comparison between McKay - for children's books - and Jaclyn Moriarty - same thing in YA - for some time or other.
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The first module course pack from Roehampton, that is. Of course, I promptly went into a tailspin because the cover letter said we should receive a module course-material folder and a module excerpts folder. A little asterisk beside the latter helpfully informed us that there are references to excerpts 'at the back of your folder' in the course material, but these are now located in the separate excerpts folder, as their supplier stopped making folders large enough to hold everything. So, guess how many folders I had? Yup. Just the one. With about half of the pages bound in the (broken) binder and the rest just tucked inside.

Poor Charlie got the full blast of my hyperventilating (no, that wasn't all the tail end of the hurricane!) and worrying about how I'd even know if I had everything and how I'd just emailed yesterday to find out where the stuff was and I couldn't get into the student services on the website and ... general hair-pulling. But an hour or so of reading through each section in turn, making a list of what was required for each, and checking whether all the extracts were actually there (in the back of the folder) calmed me down even more.

I've no wish to become an OU bore, but will say - hopefully no more than once a semester - that the OU was really wonderful at all the institutional-level organisation that makes students' lives (especially distance learning ones) so much easier. And that included things like a username and password as soon as we registered, so we could use their extensive online stuff. And being automatically given a password to use the online library facilities. And I also have to say that I haven't seen such sloppy photocopying since my original undergraduate days, when I was doing it - some pages complete with unreadable top or bottom lines, filled in for us. And the reference scrinched in teeny tiny writing near the top on some.

But. The material looks very interesting, and not at all impossible with which to cope! (Well, of course that copability factor may depend to a degree on feedback from the first 'formative assignment'. There will doubtless be moaning.) And I'm sure some of the worryingly vague directions about those assignments will be made clear later on. And I've already been stationery shopping, and got 2 notebooks and a small binder and two dinky little highlighters - very fun. What more could one want from the student life?*

* Some brain might be good - originally wrote that there was an asterix by the folder and that I'd been stationary shopping...


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