When you’re alone and life is making you lonely
I love Richard Adams’ Watership Down. If I ever get to the United Kingdom to visit Jacob and company, I will go all the way to the other side of the island just to visit the actual down. I want to be a rabbit so I can live there with Hazel and Fiver and Bigwig. It’s just so damn beautiful.
page count - 6,683
In the place where you live
Reading Stephen King’s The Stand this week reminded me of a time when I devoured books like they were spaghetti and meat balls. I love to read and I love books that are difficult, but I miss being a teenager, when I never felt like I ought to be pushing myself just a bit more.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot to think about in this book. But none of it is a terrible strain on the brain. Reading it is like hanging out with an old friend. There’s plenty to talk about but a lot of it is remembering how much fun you used to have.
And I did.
page count - 6,192
Not just beating up McFlys anymore.
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore is an interesting take on the Jesus story. It is exactly what it sounds like. I mean, what kind of a story would a person named Biff likely tell? In it, Joshua and his friend Biff travel to India and China to learn Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism from the three wise men. They tell a lot of raunchy jokes. Biff has as much sex as he can manage.
It definitely has its moments. Personally, I am not always the biggest fan of anachronistic humor, but there are worse ways to get a laugh. There aren’t any glaring inaccuracies in the story and it does fill in a lot of the blanks between Christmas morn and the wedding feast at Cana.
page count - 5,039
Me and Ned
It’s funny, but 300 years ago lengthy works of fictional prose really were novel. Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe was one of the earliest of what we would now define as novels, although the novel was developing for hundreds of years before Defoe came along. The narrative structure of the book is fairly primitive, although it is definitely reminiscent of Dickens’ work in its plot development. As with Dickens’ David Copperfield, say, Moll Flanders does not tell the specific events of a period of time but rather the entirety of the title character’s life. Thus, Defoe is able to ignore any attempts at plot development. Moll Flanders can simply pass from one period in her life to the next without much justification. There is truth to this; looking back on my own life I find major life changes simply happening without cause. Even so, the plot seems primitive by today’s standards.
More than anything else, though, one is bored by Flanders preoccupation with material wealth. It is a habit she never grows out of. In the final pages, as she bids us farewell, she cannot but list her assets. It is frustrating to read a novel in which the principal character shows such a small amount of growth, especially as she had an entire lifetime in which to do it. I do not regret reading the book. It is an essential novel in the canon and the title bears my name. Nevertheless, I feel that I gained little of value from the experience and I shan’t do it again.
page count - 4,595
Amerigo Vaspucci, where are you now?
Migra Mouse by Lalo Alcaraz is a collection of immigration themed political cartoons from Alcaraz’s career in the medium. They’re all right.
I read them while substitute teaching in a Spanish class at Lincoln High. But not while kids were in the room.
page count - 4,036
One thing about keeping track of the books one reads on the internet is that if there is ever a book that, for whatever reason, you don’t want people to know you read about, you have to write the occasional cryptic entry.
Done and done.
page count - 3,929
An era has ended. When Robert Jordan first published The Eye of the World in 1990, I was 11 years old and was unaware of the fact. Two years later, three books in the series had been published and my older brother handed me the first one. I then began reading a series that would be a huge part of my life for the next dozen years, with me reading and rereading volumes as often as new ones came out. I must have eventually read The Eye of the World, The Great Hunt, The Dragon Reborn, and The Shadow Rising as many as ten times or more. Later volumes have been less well read, although The Fires of Heaven and Lord of Chaos have certainly been read more times than I can count.
Through it all I have kept the faith. Even when Jordan wasted an entire volume on the internal politics of Andor, I kept it. I have loved and will always love this series, its characters, and the themes within. Jordan created a world unlike any other in high fantasy, including Tolkien’s Middle Earth. The richness of detail is unparalleled. His ability to weave so many distinct plot lines is incredible, and his hundreds of unique characters are practically unbelievable.
Sanderson wasn’t the man to finish the job, but Jordan’t untimely death left us with few options. An extremely talented author wouldn’t want to write the end of someone else’s book so we were left with a man who teaches creative writing at Brigham Young University. That was unfortunate. But he did the best he could and the result was marginally satisfying. I am glad that I believed in the series through it all and I am happy with how it ended. Of the three volumes written by Sanderson, A Memory of Light is not the worst. That prize would have to go to the first of them, The Gathering Storm. So I am happy.
Light, though. It feels so strange to be finished with something that has taken up such a large chunk of my life. In 1992 I was 11, going on 12. Now I am 33. I feel like maybe when I finished the book that that was the end of my childhood. After all, it is the last of the megaseries from my childhood. Harry Potter and The Dark Tower fell years ago. So what do I do with my life?
At least I still have A Song of Ice and Fire.
page count - 3,718
Taste of evil
Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis is the first book in an exciting new science fiction series that doubles as an alternate history series. The era is WWII and the players are Nazi created enhanced humans and British warlocks. These two supernatural powers battle for supremacy of Europe; you might be surprised at the results.
Although Tregillis falls victim to one of the more common novelist traps of the 21st century, that of writing a book that reads like a screenplay, his alternate Earth is compelling and very creepy. I suppose he can be forgiven for doubling down on his creation. Everything gets adapted these days; why shouldn’t he attempt to cash in?
This is probably a good time for me to note, for the record, that I do not approve of film adaptations of novels. Not because they cannot be good movies. No, it is what they have done to Hollywood creativity. There are no original screenplays anymore. I think that’s a shame, because where is the next Gremlins?
page count - 2,809
Little book, big ideas
“‘Following a broken telephone line north, I have come upon some wonderful places,’ continued the repairman. ‘Swamps where cedars grow and turtles wait on logs but not for anything in particular; fields bordered by crooked fences broken by years of standing still; orchards so old they have forgotten where the farmhouse is. In the north I have eaten my lunch in pastures rank with ferns and junipers, all under fair skies with a wind blowing. My business has taken me into spruce woods on winter nights where the snow lay deep and soft, a perfect place for a carnival of rabbits. I have sat at peace on the freight platforms of railroad junctions in the north, in the warm hours and with the warm smells. I know fresh lakes in the north, undisturbed except by fish and hawk and, of course, by the Telephone Company, which has to follow its nose. I know all these places well. They are a long way from here - don’t forget that. And a person who is looking for something doesn’t travel very fast.’” - Stuart Little by E.B. White pp. 129-131
I do not know if I have a romantic heart because when I was young I read books like Stuart Little or if I enjoyed books like Stuart Little because I have a romantic heart. In the end, it does not really matter. I would not have it any other way.
page count - 2,457
A personal plug
I am shamelessly promoting my other tumbl. It’s called “The End of Democracy” and it’s basically a fringe screed on what is wrong with the way we educate kids in this country we sometimes call great. (This is a synonym mistake. What we mean to say is big.)
Anyway, check it out. I promise to try to update it more regularly once it has actual readers.