Monday, 30 May 2011

MY Yellowstone Education

So my first full month of Yellowstone has come to a close.  I've noticed the books I have read this month and am somewhat upset.  I realize I am not reading the "copious amount of books" that I was in 2008.  Not even close.  I hope that June will allow much more reading time and that my job will become less about work and more about reading.  I can't wait to see what June will bring.  Right now I only have somewhere between 3-4 hours nightly to read at work, which is a sharp drop from 2008s 5-6 hours.  Hopefully this will change and the tourons will let me be.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

#28 Children of Dune

ref=sr_1_1.jpgChildren of Dune, Frank Herbert 408 pages.

I have read few science fiction books that are as complicated and at times confusing as this book.  I think Herbert has amazing ideas and at times strange plots.  I haven't really sat down and thought about the motivations of the characters, but while reading this they were unpredictable.  I'm not even sure if this book works, but couldn't tell you why I felt that way.  How do you understand a book when the two main characters are children who were born with the life experiences of millions of people already in their mind?  I think Herbert wrote the two "children" convincingly, but not sure.  His approach would have been different than mine.  Having all that life experience I would have the children walk away from the world and leave it all behind.  But he had them become integral parts of the active world.  So a little confused with what was going on, but at least I could never guess the next plot point.  Who could've guessed if you let a bunch of sand trout crawl all over you and eat you that you will not only become superhuman strong, but will live for 4000 years.  I think he just makes this shit up as he writes.  Sometimes its hard to believe.

Maybe I will be able to better follow the next novel: God Emperor of Dune.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

#27 Malory: The Knight Who Became King Arthur's Chronicler

I read this biography hoping to learn something about Malory not discussed in the brief bios at the beginning of most versions of Le Morte Darthur.  There isn't really much to be known about this man.  Hardyment was very ambitious with this work, hoping to illuminate something about Malory, but there is really nothing more to learn about him unless someone finds a cache of letters written by him.  But short of that miracle the best we can do is make literary connections to the man through his main surviving work.  Hardyment places Malory throughout the time in armies, places, jails, and battles.  But his mere presence alone in France during Henry V's famous offensive does not really tell us who Malory is as a person.  He is assumed to be Knightly, and to follow the rules of being a knight, but still this is only a code of ethics.  What he was as a person is only through conjecture and assumptions.

As a biography this work has limitations due to records of Malory being scant.  But as a historical overview of Malory's age it is very useful.  malory lived during the beginning of the War of the Roses, between the Lancastrians and Plantagenets.  This biography is better at explicating the times than the writer.  I would recommend this as a history book that dwells too much on a writer, than as a biography that almost only covers history.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

#26 1215: The Year of the Magna Carta

ref=sr_1_1.jpgby Danny Danziger and John Gillingham.  290 pages.

I tore through this popular history.  Immensely informative and enjoyable.  Though there were times when it just seemed like review.  That at some point popular histories begin to overlap.  This one, like other histories showed what medieval life was like back then. Covering the politics, religion, economics, and also relations within the European world.  Each history will have new information depending on the inclinations of its authors, but the overlap is always going to be there.  The charm of medieval history are the anecdotes.  Here is one of my favorites from this book:

"Since the fifth century leprosy had often been interpreted as the reward for sexual excess.  One of the early Norman bishops of London, Hugh d'Orival, chose to be castrated in the hope of obtaining a cure but, according to William of Malmesbury, the only result was that he spent the rest of his life a eunuch as well as a leper" (206).

At first this was a delightful little anecdote of a man doing something ludicrous.  I laughed heartily at his error, knowing full well that castration is never a cure for leprosy.  After I caught my breath I felt sorry for the bishop.  He used his faith and failed, and had the rest of his tragic life to meditate on that fact.  This is one of those times that it is and it isn't funny.

Monday, 2 May 2011

#25 The Dying Animal

The Dying Animal, Philip Roth, 156 pages.

I just finished this book no more than a minute ago, so my reactions are fresh and lack any serious thought. having said that, his writing is smooth and read really well.  There is not much in there to confuse or confound.  It was an engaging book to read, and at times enjoyable.  This is my first Philip Roth experience, and I wonder if all of his books are as such.

To begin with I'm not sure what age group or demographic this book is aimed at.  It is a confessional of a 70 year old male pervert.  Maybe pervert is wrong--maybe an older gentleman that sleeps with his students who are about a third his age on a regular basis.  I guess this book is meant to challenge the readers idea of what is acceptable.   The narrator is a semi-known aesthetician and criticism teacher who narrates as though he is writing a treatise on love/marriage/freedom.  All three go together for him.  This does not read as a traditional novel, nor do I think it is supposed to.  I feel the narrator is speaking for dual purposes.  It is part cathartic and part argument for his lifestyle.  It is both persuasive and apologetic.  I have very little sympathy for the narrator, but I don't hate him, I just disagree on some points.

I'm not sure I was the age group the book was destined for.  Maybe if I was twenty years older I would have found more of myself in the narrator, or not.  The sexual exploits of a 70 year old are not things I often ruminate on.  I don't regret the book, though I'm not sure it was a useful book for me.

These are my initial reactions.  This book also marks a milestone for this year.  I am exactly 25% of the way to reading 100 books.  Though I am roughly a month behind.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

#24 True Grit

This is the first of my many books to be read in Yellowstone National Park.  So I decided to start off with an entirely enjoyable western that was funny and also a great story.

True Grit, Charles Portis, 224 pages.

I don't know where to begin.  While reading the Coen Brothers adaptation so dominated my mind while reading it was near impossible to imagine LeBouef as anyone other than Matt Damon, who embodied that role.  Rooster was a little easier to read as Bridges and Wayne both handled that character with varying degrees of success.  Mattie Ross looked just like the little girl from the recent movie.  I pictured the movie and not the images that Charles Portis took care to describe.  I read each scene anticipating each move and dialogue, and was not disappointed.  This is by no means a bad thing, it was like singing along to your favorite song.  You enjoy it, and so did I.

One thing though that was added to the movie was the Jeremiah Johnson frontiersman who was lugging around a toothless corpse.  Portis did not have this short scene.

The one thing that was more visible in the novel was that Mattie was more inclined to her religion and money, saying so much at the close of the novel.  I think this is a nice little bit of information about her and shows that her accusers were wrong about her.  She does love things other than religion and her bank, she loved her father.  It played out like a business transaction, but the motive was not business.  She hired Rooster, a drunk, but followed him years later to Memphis, not for business, but for love.  I guess I'm trying to say she was a slightly more developed character in the novel.  She may not have intended being developed in her narrative, it came out despite herself.