Sunday, May 03, 2015
Books Read . . . Whenever
So, I'm already far behind on keeping track of books for this year. And it certainly hasn't been a good time for especially deep or challenging books. But let me see what I can still remember.
Idylls of the King, Tennyson
OK, not deep except for this one. But this was with an online book club, or I probably wouldn't have kept plowing. Tennyson's take on Arthur is unique. In his portrayal, Arthur is not Mordred's father--which means that the undoing of the Round Table doesn't come from Arthur--or at least not so directly. Rather Tennyson focuses on the roles of ideals and idealism and our own failure to live up to them. Arthur may be an innocent figure, but he is a cold one, lacking the ability to sustain love even though he inspires from a distance. He cannot sustain what he has created and it falls under its own weight.
Carpe Jugulum, Terry Pratchett
This is one of those books I just need to read every once in a while. Despite being about witches and vampires and written by an agnostic, I find it very encouraging to my faith. I identify a lot with the Reverend Mightily Oats. Except for the acne.
The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss
This is a brilliant title. The writing is good. I found the youthful hero a bit tedious, too much fabulousness at absolutely everything, but it was tempered with enough self-inflicted disasters through overconfidence that I thought he might grow up into an interesting character. And his nemesis, the mysterious Chandrian, definitely drew my curiosity. Which was all rather a pity, because then I read the second book in the series.
The Wise Man's Fear, Patrick Rothfuss
And this was still going along OK, but it was getting more and more tedious as our hero goes to ever more places and masters ever more implausibly difficult things with absurd ease, and still gets no closer to finding out anything at all about the evil horrible things he has vowed to combat, when it took a detour that left me completely uninterested in the rest of the book. I am quite willing to accept that different cultures have different morals and customs. I cannot, however, swallow a low-tech, no magic society run by female martial artists who also practice free . . . well, they don't dignify it by the name of love so neither shall I. People can have many different customs, but they can't escape basic biology (or if you intend them to, then you better *explain* their novel biology). Either they would be pregnant most of the time--which would *really* put a cramp in the daily practice of hand-to-hand combat--or their society's in real trouble because all its strongest and healthiest young women are infertile. Sorry, that's not competent worldbuilding anymore, it's just sophomoric fanfic. So I lost interest and it had to go back to the library and I probably won't bother again. I don't find philandering to add to the appeal of a hero who was already starting to bore me. But dang, I wanted to find out about those nasty Chandrian. It just never seemed like we were getting any closer to finding out.
The Dead in their Vaulted Arches, Alan Bradley
Fortunately Flavia de Luce never disappoints.
Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand
This was for the church book club, or I never would have read a book so currently popular. It was, nonetheless, pretty good.
Maskerade, Terry Pratchett
Not only did I need some more Granny Weatherwax, but I had to do this one again because I am leading an online discussion of Macbeth. Not that it's at all relevant. I just needed to.
Macbeth, William Shakespeare
Always my favorite tragedy. I just love bloodthirsty female villains. Lady Macbeth, Medea, even the White Witch. Let's not analyze it too closely, shall we? Or if we do, let's take a Gilbert and Sullivan approach and hope no one will hold it against me for being just a liiiitle bit bloodthirsty:
The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers. This was another reread, and I don't know what to say about it. If the idea of a literary dinosaur struggling for his life in a grizzly catacomb of books and monsters doesn't appeal to you, then there's no sense trying to explain. If it does, then you should just read it and the other Zamonian stories by the same author.
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. This was a highly entertaining take on the end of the world. When the devil becomes incarnate he finds himself siding with the carnate. I'm still pondering what I think of the theology of it all, though. Perhaps too much for a work of humor, but I think it well deserved. Hey, maybe we should read *it* for the church book club. (Insert maniacal laughter)
ETA: Of course when I wait this long I forget about two of the best ones:
My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok. Like pretty much everything by Potok, brilliant and sad and beautiful. A young Orthodox Jew tries to reconcile his gift and passion for painting with his faith and community.
Snuff by Terry Pratchett. Honestly, I don't know how anyone could keep writing so many great books and keep them all just as good while dying of Alzheimer's. I was sad to think this was the last one, but Bookworm assures me there is one more in the publication pipeline. RIP.
Still in process but probably going to finish someday soon:
The Royal Road to Romance, by Richard Halliburton. An old travel memoir from the days when travel was easy but McDonald's and Coca-cola had not yet invaded everywhere. A geography possibility for a few years down the road, but I found it at a second-hand store during Duchess's birthday trip (no, her birthday isn't for a couple of months yet but we found it kept getting lost in the morass) and couldn't resist the chance to get it now.
Home, by Bill Bryson. This is lots of fun, a meandering look at how the rooms and things in our houses got to be the way they were. Though the basic message seems to be that homes in the Stone Age were a lot more comfy than you might think, and homes right up through Victorian times much less.
Little Dorrit, Charles Dickens. We watched an outstanding BBC miniseries on this last month, so naturally at the end I had to pull it out and figure out what they got wrong. Not the casting, that's for sure.