Mobileread
MobileRead Discussion: Professor and the Mad Man by Winchestor Simon (spoilers)
#11  Sparrow 03-22-2009, 02:18 PM
I didn't like the way the book was based on the myth of how Minor and Murray met.
It gave the impression that the true story was too slight, and the author had to resort to padding and dissembling to make a book out of it.
Also, the focus on the two men's relationship gave a deliberately misleading impression imho.
Murray chose to be buried alongside a colleague (and presumably a dear friend) when he died. Minor was probably a small part of Murray's life; but it didn't suit the author's agenda to portray their relationship as too unequal.
There was also a lot of imaginative interpretation around the scenes in Ceylon, the murder and speculation about the causes of Minor's illness.

Overall, I felt manipulated and slightly cheated by this book.
5/10
Reply 

#12  Ea 03-22-2009, 02:25 PM
Quote pilotbob
The def I have is:

present information about (something) in a way that provokes public interest and excitement, at the expense of accuracy

Which is what it sounds like you are saying. But, it may not be what you mean.

BOb
From Random House Dictionary at dictionary.com:
"To cast and present in a manner intended to arouse strong interest, especially through inclusion of exaggerated or lurid details"
That was the way I understood "sensationalized" (even before looking it up). So no, that's not what I meant. I meant that the author embellishes fact, and write them down so it reads like fiction. I mean, you don't believe someone actually wrote down a dialogue word for word in their diary? He would have to make it up. Also descriptions of scenes have a lot of detail and uis described in a manner that is usually found in fiction. I don't think I can describe it better than this.

I assume he's doing it this to make it more palatable and easier to read. As I mentioned, I've seen the same trend in historical TV programmes. It's just not my cup of tea. If the facts are interesting enough, they don't need to be presented as if they were fiction. Perhaps it's because I like facts and are able to 'embellish' and imagine on my own - I don't need to have it pre-digested as I feel this trend is doing.

Edit: Sparrow's "imaginitive interpretation" is another way of saying it.
Reply 

#13  Barcey 03-22-2009, 04:24 PM
I too really enjoyed it. I didn't know any of the history of the OED and was amazed that the project could run so long without getting terminated along the way for lack of progress.

The author does go off on a lot of tangents and provides trivia about people surrounding the project but I found it all interesting. I had already read his book on Krakatoa so I was expecting this.

On my own tangent... I absolutely cringed during the self mutilation in Chapter 11. I really have to self examine why I'm so desensitized about the murder scene (which didn't get any reaction) but curled up in the fetal position when he pulled out the pen knife.
Reply 

#14  MelC 03-22-2009, 10:14 PM
I'm jumping into this group. Hope its okay.

I haven't quite finished it yet - just hit the self-mutilation chapter but my initial thoughts are as follows... I didn't mind the story-telling style applied to history. I have experienced it before with authors like Alison Weir and find that it makes it easier for non-hardcores like me to wade through historical events. I will say, however, that the author might be trying a little too hard to imitate a certain style of Victorian writing that I actually found a little off-putting. The way that I often have a hard time accepting a gender reversal in an author's main character, I guess I also find it distracting when a modern author imitates the voice of another era although I can understand why this particular author made this choice. I also found that the author repeated himself in the book and I can't tell if that was for effect or if he just forgot that he had explained that point previously. On the whole, however, I think the 3 out of 5 is fair. The topic is interesting and it hasn't been hard going. Plus it totally makes me want to go out and get a dictionary...unfortunately not the OED. Did anyone else think that Samuel Johnson's dictionary would make a great read or is it just me?

Mel
Reply 

#15  Ea 03-23-2009, 01:27 AM
Quote MelC
... The way that I often have a hard time accepting a gender reversal in an author's main character,
...
Mel
I'm not quite sure I can follow you - do you often read books where the main character changes gender?
Reply 

#16  bbusybookworm 03-23-2009, 03:13 AM
Have to say, it was an interesting book, though one I would probably not have picked up for my self.

What I found Myself wishing for, as I read the book was that the author had gone into a little more detail on the making of the OED, as I found those parts, the technical details the most fascinating.

Another though lesser point of interest for me was the portrayal of how people lived during that period and their altitude towards different parts of society. What i really liked was that while the portrayal was more or less true to that time period, it wasn't very heavy handed or too dry so you could enjoy the flavor without being overwhelmed by it.

Its got me interested in finding a few more books on similar subjects, and I'm currently looking for a ebook version of

A Bawdy Language: How a Second-Rate Language Slept Its Way to the Top by Denis Whitaker, Shelagh Whitaker
Reply 

#17  Sparrow 03-23-2009, 04:40 AM
Quote bbusybookworm
...Another though lesser point of interest for me was the portrayal of how people lived during that period and their altitude towards different parts of society.
A fascinating insight into how the various strata of the lower classes lived is given in Henry Mayhew's 'London Labour and the London Poor'.
Reply 

#18  MelC 03-23-2009, 11:06 AM
Quote Ea
I'm not quite sure I can follow you - do you often read books where the main character changes gender?
No, although I guess I did read Middlesex. No what I meant was where the author was of a different gender than his/her protagonist. Eg. "Water for Elephants" or "She's Come Undone".

I have now managed to finish the book and had a few more thoughts...

Loved the reference to the "undertow of words". I really wish he had focussed more on this, the incredible task undertaken and completed in the (from current perspectives) face of a lack of appropriate tools and resources.

Was, like others, a little put off by his memorializing of Merrett. First, because while he uses all these over the top words he has completely failed to make us as readers care about him as a victim. And second because he, somewhat offensively in my opinion, seems to be saying that Merrett should be honoured as a hero because his death made Minor's contributions to the dictionary possible. A little too much moral relativism for my taste.

I am now very enamoured of the word "poodlefaker" and must try to find a way to use it in everyday language.

Finally, when he uses the word "humorist" as a central definition and comments on how it ties into his own life - (i) it's on the OED bookplate he owns, (ii) it was the name of the horse that won on his mother's birth date he seems to be not so subtlely implying that he, himself, is a "humorist" but is too modest to say so. My only response is that if he is a "humorist" he has not demonstrated it by this book unfortunately as it could have done with some humour. I envisage how Stephen Fry or P.G. Wodehouse would have tackled the story...

Mel
Reply 

#19  Ea 03-23-2009, 11:18 AM
Quote MelC
No, although I guess I did read Middlesex. No what I meant was where the author was of a different gender than his/her protagonist. Eg. "Water for Elephants" or "She's Come Undone".
Aha! It's not something I've noticed much, that it should be an issue, I mean.
Reply 

#20  MelC 03-23-2009, 11:30 AM
Quote Ea
Aha! It's not something I've noticed much, that it should be an issue, I mean.
Maybe I'm the only one but to me it creates a bit of a dissonance. The characters don't act/react entirely as expected because the perspective of the author is different - outside looking in. It just doesn't always ring true. However, not to say that these books weren't interesting anyway and worthwhile reads, it just grates a little bit. And, it is pretty rare for an author to do this. Most authors stick to their gender.

Obviously off topic somewhat for this book, however. I was just trying to give another example of how sometimes an author can create minor disruptions in the otherwise harmonic flow of the text or story by adopting elements (in this case language style from another period) that can be hard to sustain seamlessly and believably.

Mel
Reply 

 « First  « Prev Next »  Last »  (2/4)
Today's Posts | Search this Thread | Login | Register