03 April, 2010

Book 51: Old Peter's Russian Tales / Google and Me

As I'm coming up to the end of my 52 Book Challenge - one book to go after this! - I thought I'd share some of the better searches people have used to find my blog. I've been subscribing to a couple of google stats thingies for a while now - sadly not all year, or I suspect I'd have some ever better results. I use the word 'better' lightly.

Firstly, there's the people who have stumbled across my blog while trying to do their homework. How do I know they were trying to do their homework? Well, because they used to following searches:
  • an excerpt from agatha christie's book that explains her life but in diferant characters
  • how was yu-fang able to be happy even though she and dr. xia lived in abject proverty in wild swans
  • how does yu-fang (the grandmother) escape her life as a concubine?
  • what does the author think of the kuomintang rule in the book wild swans
  • where does a pocket full of rye take place?
  • sparknotes for the graveyard book
  • waht's bad about dreams of my russian summer
and my personal favourite: in what country did the bloodhound invented

Children, Auntie Helen has a piece of advice for you, and this is it: the best place to find out what happened in a book is to read the Goddamn book. Also, here is some other advice: just typing your homework question verbatim into google will probably not find you the best website for answering it. I mean, you might end up here.

I'm giving this advice for a reason: sometimes people land here looking for some! They want to know what would happen if while visiting a friend at his house, you accidentally broke an expensive vase. They want to know why all redheads look the same or what guys notice about you within 6 seconds. And they want to know how did you notice if it is manual book. If my blog has managed to help just one of these desperate souls, then that has made my life all the richer.

Other stats coming soon, possibly, if I think they're interesting. (They're probably only interesting to me.)

Title: Old Peter's Russian Tales (1916)

Author: Arthur Ransome

Why this book:
I read Arthur Ransome's childrens' adventure series, Swallows and Amazons, growing up, but it wasn't until I read a somewhat-mostly-partially fictionalised account of his own life in Blood Red, Snow White that I realised how truly badass he was. He was an Englishmen living in Russia at the time of the revolution who may have been a spy for the British, and may have been a spy for the Russians. He definitely married Trotsky's secretary, at any rate. Anyway, I was interested enough in Ransome's life in Russia to be interested in this book.

What's it about?
Old Peter's Russian Tales is basically a collection of Russian folktales, and was (I believe) instrumental in taking these stories to a foreign audience. Some of the stories may be familiar to readers, like the tales of Baba Yaga; others are a little more obscure, but fascinating nonetheless.

I'm particularly fond of Baba Yaga myself, but there are so many good stories in this slim volume that it's impossible to mention them all. Frost is similar to the story of Cinderella, only more people die (they don't mess around in Russian folktales). Little Master Misery is a morality tale of the good-poor-brother mean-rich-brother, but there's always something enjoyable about people getting what they deserve. Oh, and Who lives in the skull is great too. It's about some animals who... live in a skull. Until a bear squashes them. That's the whole story.

The Good and the Bad
One of the lovely things about this book is that it's written as a grandfather, Old Peter, telling the stories to Maroosia and Vanya, his granchildren, and in that way they're stories that are just dying to be read out loud, perfectly inkeeping with the idea that these would have traditionally been oral tales. There's also interruption in the stories as Maroosia and Vanya ask their grandfather questions; but in such a way that the narrative flow is steady. I also love that, when his grandchildren are too disbelieving of his stories, Old Peter insists that of course they're true - he knew one of the characters, or was at their wedding.

So should I read it or what?
If you like folktales and fairytales, then definitely; otherwise, it's not a book that's going to hold much interest to you. However! I do highly recommend Blood Red, Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick. Quite apart from starring Arthur Ransome, it's an interesting and readable account of the revolution, which does contain fictionalised scenes but is pretty good on most of the facts.

1 comment:

Sadako said...

Oh, google search terms. :D

And I totally want to check out that Blood Red, Snow White book. Looks awesome.