Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The "Short Book" Club Update

I'm giving a brief report of the meeting of the "Short Book" Club since one of my commenters asked. Skip to the next post if you don't want to read this.

Sky Burial is a true story, narrated to the Chinese author Xinran, by a Chinese doctor, Wen, who goes to Tibet searching for her husband. He is a doctor who has gone to help in the war between the Chinese and Tibetans. The time period is the late 1950s. She is told he is dead and she lives with a nomadic Tibetan family for 30 years before she finds out how he died and how he had a sky burial. She ultimately returns to China.

Most of us were glad that we had read it, although we found it quite dry. We thought that the author did not give us a feel for either the country itself or the people and we felt little connection to the Chinese doctor or the Tibetan family she lived with.

However, what turned the whole discussion around was the fact that our young book club member, an ESL teacher, had spent 3 months teaching English in a Tibetan refugee camp in the north of India. She described with such eloquence and enthusiasm what she had experienced with these people and how it had such a profound effect on her. We learned so much from her about life in Tibet and the way Buddhism has such deep meaning for Tibetans that we were able to see and feel more of what it would have been like for Wen.

She brought photos and letters from her former students, some of whom still keep in touch with her. So I think we all came away from the discussion with a deeper understanding of the situation portrayed in the book, thanks to her.

She also brought with her another friend of her own age so now we have two young ones to keep the "old ladies" au courant.

The book for the next meeting is another non fiction, The Spiral Staircase, by Karen Armstrong, 306 pages. Karen was a Catholic nun who left her order and went out into the world. She became a writer of books on different religions and is considered an expert on the subject of Islam. Along the way, she had health problems to solve and a spiritual journey to make. The book is highly recommended so we are all looking forward to reading it.


mhr said...

Ah, thank you so much for the update :)
Too bad the chinese book was somewhat disappointing. I have always been fascinated by China.
I remember reading The Good Earth many years ago, and Raise the Red Lantern is one of my all-time favourite films (I watched it it the original chinese version, with French subtitles).
I love it when a blog titillates my memory cells :)

jmb said...

You know if I've read the Good Earth it was many years ago and I don't remember it. How come your English is so incredible, mhr? Did you have an anglophone parent?

Dr Michelle Tempest said...

I too have heard good things about the spiral staircase - so I shall be interested to read what you think about it.
Happy reading! Michelle

jmb said...

Hi Michelle,
I have heard only good things about the Spiral Staircase but you'll have to wait a month for my report.

mhr said...

About your question (thanks for the compliment!), I was a French assistant for 2 school years over 30 years ago (ah, the good old days!) in the UK. First time in England, near Birmingham, second time in Paisley, near Glasgow.

jmb said...

Well mhr,
I think you must have been practising a little since then. What a great experience for you, I'm sure you enjoyed it. Although those English people can be a bit standoffish. I lived there for almost two years, 1960-1961. Could you understand the Glaswegians?
A bientot. (I have to find out how to do the symbols in the comment section. Probably need html, like above for bold, etc. How do you do the links in the comment section. Sorry, I'm always trying to get info.)

mhr said...

Hi jmb!
For the links, here is the magic formula:

*a href="URL"#TEXT*/a#

Replace symbols:
* with < (opening tag)
# with > (closing tag)

Replace the word URL with the URL,
and replace the word TEXT with whatever text you want to make as a clickable link.

(I had to change the symbols in the formula, otherwise you would not be able to see it)

I'm not sure what you are referring to as symbols, in the comment section.
You can use tags for bold and italics, for instance:
*b# before the word and */b# after it.
*i# and */i# for a word in italics.

[ same remark as above, you need to replace * with < and # with > ]

You'll find HERE an excellent tutorial for HTML, I can recommend it to you.

As to my English, I practise it as much as I can (I read a lot in English) but I miss conversation.
... and I just loved the glaswegian accent! I had no problem understanding it :)

jmb said...

Thank you mhr. I'm going to read and digest this and try it out.
When I was talking about symbols I meant adding the circumflex to bientot, etc. We English computer people (unless we set up macros) have to go to insert symbols to add accents in another language. You probably know this. I write a lot in Italian, so that's how I do it, via the symbol menu (I'm too lazy to figure out the macros). Italians only use two and they are always on the last letter, so everyone, even Italians, often just use the possessive symbol from the keyboard.

mhr said...

Of course, the accents!
Here are French accent tips for you!
A bientôt! :)

jmb said...

Thanks again mhr. I am doing the html tutorials, but I couldn't get the accent code to work. So now I should type A bient then type while holding down the alt key 147? I get nothing. I'm actually in Internet Explorer now, because when I was in Mozilla Firefox, my usual browser, as soon as I hit alt1 I was sent off to a Stumbleupon rating window. Don't ask! So for the moment
Au revoir (no accents needed!)

jmb said...

Ok, mhr I have solved the problem of the accents, I hope. Those alt + number things do not work with a laptop. So I found another way,maybe. I changed the keyboard to an international one so let's see.
A bientôt. Yes! The problem is that I will have to learn to type a little differently.
Au revoir. How do you say greetings?
Saluts? Do you use that as a goodbye or only a hello or frankly never?

mhr said...

Sorry I missed out your last replies :)
We say "salut" (informally) or "bonjour" when we meet, and we also use "salut" when we part, or "au revoir" or "à bientôt".
About the accents, we understand French even when the accents are missing, so you shouldn't worry too much about this!
I forgot you use a laptop, so the shortcuts may prove too much of a hassle indeed.
The international keyboard is the ideal solution! :)
à bientôt... 2 accents in 2 words!
... you worked your way around very nicely by using au revoir! Necessity makes creative :)