Thursday, May 14, 2015

I: Important Moment(s)

I don't recall any important reading moments in my life. There are books, of course, that I enjoyed and that had a large effect on me, but this seems like a slightly different question. This seems more like a moment that is related to reading itself rather than to the thing being read.

I'm told by my mother, though I don't remember the moment, that I began reading on my own at the age of three. Precocious to be sure, but the result, at least in part, is that reading is so integral that it seems inseparable from life itself. To live is to read. I suppose this also is partly why understanding Christ as Logos, the Living Word, is very satisfying to me.

If I have to choose then, there were a large number of days in my youth were I would ride my bike down the hill to the library and stay there all day reading. I'd go in the morning when it opened, skip lunch and just come home in the afternoon. I wasn't very old, 8 or 9 at best, so I wasn't reading a lot of great literature (the notions in Matilda notwithstanding, I am not so clever as all that just because I began reading early), but I lived those days in the stacks. Good times.

The inspiring post is here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

H: Hidden

I'm afraid that my choice for a more obscure book is not nearly so erudite as she whom I follow in writing these posts. Though, perhaps I do him a disservice by saying so. After all, I am perhaps not a particularly good judge of such things and I haven't actually read the book that Terpsichore chose.

My choice is Lord Talon's Revenge by Tom Simon. Mr Simon is a self-published author, but, despite the immediate negative connotations that will conjure in most minds, he is actually quite good at what he does. I own several (perhaps all?) of his published books. I find him to not only be a lucid and engaging writer, but also one who has sound opinions on most topics.

Lord Talon's Revenge is a fantasy novel that both plays with tropes of the genre and also takes cues from Tolkien in the way that the primary story is resolved. The main character is one who believes fervently in the tales of the bards and attempts to live his life as he imagines that a model of chivalry would. This, of course, gets him into all kinds of scrapes and trouble since the real world is not very tolerant of noble idealists, but at the same time he wins through to triumph because men of true nobility are so rare that they often earn deep respect as much as they do scorn. The book stands alone and while it doesn't have quite the high and noble feel of Tolkien, he doesn't have the same despairing nihilism that mars Pratchett. As an inexpensive e-book, I would suggest it to anyone with even a passing interest in fantasy.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

G: Glad I Gave It a Go

That's not strictly the prompt, but I have a weakness for alliteration.

In a sense, I'm glad I gave this first book several chances. I started to read Moby Dick and found it tiresome and dull the first two times. In each case I waited a few years before trying it again and it finally paid off. The third time I couldn't put it down. The characters came right off the page and even the whaling how-to couldn't put me off.

Articulating why, precisely, I found this book so engaging is difficult. The book is a masterpiece of language, learning, and full of mystery and portent. It is surreal at times and always dream-like. It is a book in which one can get lost.

The second book that I think of when I consider books I'm glad I read despite not being initially drawn to them, is The Brothers Karamozov. This one I read without having to stop and start several times and I was enraptured by both the beauty of the writing and the moral lessons that are articulated by being shown in the characters' lives rather than preached by their words. To be sure, they do discuss, argue, explain, and pontificate, but the primary method of presenting the ideas to the reader is via the actions they take.

Talking about them has mad me want to read them again. I'll add them to the list for this year. I might ought to read the book Terpsichore writes about, but even her praise fails to elicit much interest. As I get older, my desire to read new fiction seems to be diminishing. Hum...

Monday, May 11, 2015

F: Fictitious Dates... Really? Really!?

As seems to keep happening, I would like to associate myself entirely with the first couple paragraphs of Terpsichore's post. There are a lot ideas that would occur to me before I thought about fictitious characters I would have wanted to date in high school.

In fact, since seeing that this would be one of the prompts, I have racked my brain and come up empty. I can't think of any fictitious character I would have dated in high school. This is largely due to two reasons. Reason the first: I don't read books about high schoolers. Never have and the prospects of my beginning to do so aren't high. Reason B: related to the first reason, I would not have, in high school, dated someone outside of that age range.

Now, I suppose I could make something up. I could pretend that there is someone or I could do something like pick Arwen because with an elf there's going to be a ridiculous difference in ages no matter what you do. But I'm restrained by the idea that, not only would I have to be or have been interested in dating the young woman in question, but honesty compels me to consider whether or not she would have been interested in me. The odds of an immortal elf princess finding me irresistible seem... long. To say the least.

As a result, I don't actually have an answer for this one. In my defense, allow me to say that the young woman I did date in high school was wonderful in all regards and I am quite pleased that she later consented to marry me. We are rapidly approaching the point at which the majority of our acquaintance will be after the marriage instead of before it and, were I to given to decide now, I would marry her all over again without hesitation. If not exculpatory, then I hope that is at least explanatory.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

E: E-Reader

I have a Kindle as well as the Kindle app on my phone. I find both to be very useful for a limited, but not rare, purpose. There is no question that it is preferable to read books in their traditional physical form, but this form has one significant drawback: bulk. Books take up a lot of space and are heavy. They are, after all, made from woodpulp. In some sense, we are loading boxes full of wood and lugging them from place to place as we move and then displaying them on shelves.

This, then, is the area in which e-readers excel. When I travel, whether it is the long commute each weekday or longer trips to other parts of the country, having my Kindle and phone along allows me to take along large numbers of books without having to endure the time, expense, and trouble of schlepping a heavy suitcase full of books along.

Beyond the aesthetic pleasures of physical books are the obvious advantages. E-readers then are not in any way a replacement for the books that preceded them, but an enhancement and supplement that allows us to read more books in more places than before.

(I didn't think of a clever way to work in a reference to the inspiring post, so you can just go here and read it.)

Saturday, May 09, 2015

D: Beverage, er... Drink

When I started reading Terpsichore's post about beverages I was in complete agreement. The beverage selection while reading is, plainly and simply, whatever one wants or has to hand while engaged in a book. What utter nonsense to think that there is a particular drink that goes with reading more than another!

But then she goes right off the rails and claims that *shudder* tea is the obvious choice. Tea is never a good beverage choice. It will forever be a mystery to me how soaking bitter leaves in hot water and then drinking the weak, foul-tasting remnants became synonymous with civilised behaviour. If one must choose a single drink, then what could be better than a large glass of milk as cold as it can be? It was good enough for Archie Goodwin, and what better endorsement do you need?

Friday, May 08, 2015

C: Currently Reading

If I'd finished this post the day I started it, I might could have put The Voyage of the Dawn Treader on the list, which I finished it while waiting for my daughter to finish her gymnastics class. (Ah, paralipsis, how I love thee!)

I'm roughly halfway through GK Chesterton's Heretics, which I have never read before despite reading Orthodoxy multiple times. It is interesting that the second book that loose pairing should have turned out to be the more enduring and long lasting. It's good, but I think it didn't last as well because the particular heretics which Chesterton inveighs against are now 100 years in the past, or very nearly.

I am technically about halfway through The Lord of the Rings since I am reading it aloud to my elder daughter. This is her first experience with this book, though I read The Hobbit to her last year. She's enamoured with it, but is longing for more women characters. Which, I understand, but I hope she doesn't let that blind her to the value of the work. On the other hand, we haven't met Éowyn quite yet, so...

Since starting this post, I've started re-reading a Father Brown omnibus. I'm not sure if I should refer to the omnibus as the book I'm reading or the first of the smaller volumes it collects.Regardless, it's a mere three books I'm reading currently. I have grand plans to finish them and start more, but if recent history is any guide that will take a while and longer than I plan.

Time was when I would sometimes have more than 7 or 8 books going at once, but those days have long since passed away. They may return, but for that to happen I think I will need to reach a point where I don't have children under the age of about 5 or 6.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

B: Best Sequel... Ever?

I share the mild trepidation at selecting the greatest of all sequels. The gods do not look kindly on hubris, after all. But perhaps I can venture a timid opinion without tempting fate too far.

It had not occurred to me until reading the comments on the post linked above, but The Lord of the Rings is a species of sequel. I am reluctant to choose it, however, because it seems too easy to praise and its virtues are well known. So I shall choose another.

In the original reckoning of The Chronicles of Narnia, The Horse and His Boy was the fifth book. Chronologically, it falls inside the first written book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In the more recent collections of the series, the volumes are numbered in story chronology instead of authorial chronology. I agree with those who think this is a mistake.

Briefly, this is why. When Lewis wrote the tales, he did not have it in mind to write the subsequent books, so each was written with what had already been told in mind, and the world and history expanded from there. To read HHB right after LWW fails to provide any of the set-up that Prince Caspian or The Voyage of the Dawn Treader or The Silver Chair contain. HHB contains references to these books. Further, the deliberate introductions of Calormen and Archenland are made in other books.

But all that to one side. The reason this is this best sequel it's that it so dramatically expands the world of Narnia. All the other books (except VDT) take place solely in Narnia. The characters are Narnians and children from our own world. But HHB is in other countries, and mostly about native characters. Only a few pages even venture into the borders of Narnia. There are hints of even more countries away to the south. We see and learn about Calormene society. Of all the books, this is the one that makes me want to live in and explore that world.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A: Author

Terpsichore's post which inspired this one.

As will come as no surprise to anyone who knows my reading tastes at all, the author, of whose books I am most widely read, is PG Wodehouse. I don't exactly know how many of his books I've read, but it's got to be about 80-85. I own a few more than that (92); I haven't gotten around to reading the most recent acquisitions. I'll update with a picture later.

In a distant second is most likely Agatha Christie. I own 44 of her books, but I've probably read 50-55 when I include volumes checked out from the library. I mind very much less owning her books in cheap paperback editions.

Other notable mentions are Rex Stout (high 30's), Terry Pratchett (low-to-mid 30's), and Ngaio Marsh and Stan Sakai (31). Sakai is easiest to figure because I own all the books and I've read all the books. His are comic book collections, so if those don't count, we'll skip past him and Hergé (all 24 Tintin books) and light upon Patrick O'Brian (24 or 25).

I don't think I've read quite all of the 25 Albert Campion stories by Margery Allingham, but nearly. CS Lewis is at 19.Tolkien is muddled; is the author of The Silmarillion JRR or CR Tolkien? In any event, I'd put the number in the high teens. To get down out of double digits would take a significant list. Beverly Cleary, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Gene Wolfe, Terry Brooks, John Keegan, Tom Clancy, Roald Dahl, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Lloyd Alexander... Some of those might not really count, being as most of their books are children's books, however. Anyone else want to chime in?

Monday, April 27, 2015

An Alphabet of Books

One of the Muses from the delightfully named Egotist's Club has decided to do a series of posts on books with each relating to a different letter of the alphabet. Click the link if the lateness of the hour has caused me to write that description poorly.

Since I'm looking for things to write on my blog about as I try to get back into the swing of actually sharing what I'm writing about, and I love books, I thought I'd end up giving it a whirl too. So I'm putting the marker down that I will both write and post my own set of posts on the topics and follow along.

I am the last person to know this

Sitting here, listening to music and the song How Soon Is Now? by The Smiths comes on. Fair enough, I really like this song. But Amazon Music has a feature that shows you the lyrics for some songs. I have it turned on and I discovered that the opening line is "I am the son and the heir". All this time I had been hearing it as "I am the Sun and the Air". I didn't get it, but, whatever. I'm not sure it makes a lot more sense, but I'm glad to know what's up.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Isn't it a great day for baseball?

Planning another baseball trip with my dad for this year. It's been nearly two years since our first excursion and I'm really looking forward to checking of some more parks. Not sure I'll be any better about blogging this trip, but one lives in hope. I still have half a draft about the Orioles game that will probably never see the light of day.

The slow death of friendship

In Megalopolis the sentiment of friendship wastes away. Friends become, in the vulgarism of modern speech, "pals," who may be defined as persons whom your work compels you to associate with or, on a still more debased level, persons who will allow you to use them to your advantage. The meeting of minds, the sympathy between personalities which all cultured communities have regarded as part of the good life, demand too much sentiment for a world of machines and false egalitarianism, and one detects even a faint suspicion that friendship, because it rests upon selection, is undemocratic.
~ p. 31
Ideas Have Consequences

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Always With the Negative Rays

There is a weird World War II movie called Kelly's Heroes with Clint Eastwood as the titular character. It's an odd film. Donald Sutherland plays a kind of hippie tank commander who is obsessed with the psychic rays people send off. Anyway.

It's interesting how many tweets on Twitter are so negative. Some are clever and funny, but it seems that most are just clever and cruel. Things like this.

https://twitter.com/davidharsanyi/status/562737936396218368

Also this.

https://twitter.com/baseballcrank/status/562740289824370688

It probably has a lot to do with the really succinct nature of the medium. But sometimes it seems excessive. I'm sure I've been guilty of it, but I will try to be better.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

World Cup : Olympics

It's World Cup time, again. And I could make all kinds of snarky comments about the game of soccer. But really, it's just not worth it. It would be like being rude about beating a little kid in a race. So, to World Cup enthusiasts, let me just say this:

Ooh! That's very nice. You're doing a really good job there. Keep up the good work and maybe you could start having a championship every two years!

Monday, June 02, 2014

Fenway needs a facelift

Okay, finally up to the penultimate game from the baseball tour. The Red Sox benefited for a long time from everyone of sense and good taste despising the Yankees. But, what they failed to realise is, no one outside of New England really likes the Red Sox either. They were just a convenient stick with which to beat the hated Yankees. It's not like the rest of country was waiting with bated breath to see Sox ascendant.
Fenway used to be a nice park. It has a lot of history still going for it, but frankly, the place is a dump. It needs to be completely renovated or replaced. Anyway, despite that, I was glad to be there and see a piece of history.


Bonus Stripped

I'm a big fan of the Stripped documentary. (About comic strips! Get your mind right.) You ought to buy a copy yourself, it's well worth watching. But if you really like comics, then you can also splurge for the extra features, the best of which are the extended interviews with a lot of the cartoonists. It's fascinating to hear all the different perspectives about comics, where it's going, and what it's all about. Check out the trailer here.