Monday, January 24, 2005

Yet More Books

Finished another Agatha Christie, The Patriotic Murders. It was okay. It wasn't one of the best, but it was one that clearly illustrated why Poirot is my favourite of the Christie detectives. The book is, primarily, about solving the murder of Poirot's dentist. And it talks about communists and the overthrow of existing society and conservatives and all kinds of social things in a peripheral way. Without giving away who the murderer is, Poirot comes across at the end as being, no solely, but primarily interested in finding the Truth and serving Justice. (And I'm not being slyly sarcastic with those capitals.)

In all of the Poirot novels, I can sympathise easily with his desire to catch murderers, people who have usurped Authority and committed a grave injustice. A devotion to Truth is admirable and exemplary of the way in which I would want to live my life. I can connect with him as a character. Most of Christie's other detectives I can similarly identify with to varying degrees. There is one exception, however. Miss Jane Marple. I just can't stomach her. She always strikes me as simply being an elderly woman with odd "progressive" views. I could be wrong, she's probably Christie's crowning literary creation, but I just can't make myself sympathise with her character and I find myself bored with any book that features her.

I've finished with the third Earth-Sea book: The Farthest Shore. It wasn't bad, it was about like the first two. It was a good book, but it wasn't a great book. I'm not sorry I read it. I'm glad I've read them all so far, but the lack of depth in LeGuin's world keeps her from being on a par with Tolkien and Lewis.

Arevanye (check out her C.S. Lewis blog) speculates that the books might appeal more to women than men, and that's certainly possible. I don't know enough people who have read them to form much of an opinion on that. She also notes that LeGuin's plots impress her a great deal. I'm not so enamoured with her plots, really. They're fine, but they don't enthrall me.

What really bugs me is the whole idea of balance that runs through her books. What's so great about balance? Not everything needs to be given equal time, equal weight. Truth doesn't need to be balanced with falsehood. Beauty doesn't need to be balanced with ugliness. It's a kind of dualism that seems related to the philosophy found in the Eddings books. (LeGuin is clearly a superior writer to the Eddings, though!) I know that one side is wrong and the other is right when I read their books, but if I was to subsume myself into their philosophical viewpoint, I'd probably end up siding with the "bad" guys.

For example, in The Farthest Shore the bad guy is essentially trying to kill everyone and send them to the land of the dead. Okay, why is that bad? Talk about your ultimate equilibrium! Nothing ever changes, everyone is the same and equal. If Balance is what Everyone Should Want, why are we rooting for the guys that are trying to prevent this? Her philosophising doesn't convince me.

Lastly, I ended up not reading the other book on Groucho Marx. It was written by someone who spent time with him only in the latter part of his life and thus dealt pretty much only with the depressing years of his decline. I decided that I didn't particularly want to cover only those years again.