Tag Archives: books

Songs that Come to Us out of Strange Places

There is a lot contained in this post, I will only touch on one small aspect, so you should go read it for yourself. Thank you, stephencwinter, for letting me re-blog it!

Reading people have relationships with books over the course of their lives. All people have relationships with stories.

Sometimes, when a child, you like books that, as you grow, you will outgrow (though they may still carry a lovely sheen of nostalgia). Then there are the books, those wonderful books, that grow with you. There are books one has to grow into, and sometimes books that are written “for children” find you later in life and have great impact.

That is, if you let them. Some folks feel, or believe, that “childish” books are unfit for adults, and some dismiss entire genres of story-telling and art because they consider them “juvenile.” They are welcome to their opinions, of course, but I cannot agree.

There is something to be said for growing into books you would not have been able to appreciate as a child, but one shouldn’t, I think, have to grow out of any good book, no matter the genre or the “age bracket” for which it was written. By all means, read and love Tolstoy, but there is no reason to turn your back on A. A. Milne.

Wisdom from The Lord of the Rings

It is through the intervention of the Ents of Fangorn that victory is won at Helm’s Deep but this frightens the Riders of Rohan more perhaps than did the enemies they faced in the battle. For a kind of disenchantment has been at work among them for a very long time. You may remember that when Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli first encountered Eomer and his war band upon the plains of Rohan they met with mistrust and some fear. When Eomer heard that the friends had met Galadriel in Lothlorien he reacted with both wonder but also fearful hostility.

“Then there is a Lady in the Golden Wood, as old tales tell!” he said. “Few escape her nets, they say. These are strange days! But if you have her favour, then you also are net-weavers and sorcerers, maybe.”

Théoden’s reaction to his first encounter with Ents is less hostile, perhaps…

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Chridonalchett

 

Book Meme 2012

Week 6: The author by whom you own the most books

I may shock you all by NOT cheating in this blog-post. In my defense, there is not really a way to cheat here other than lying, and what is the point of a dishonest meme?

Though I have not cheated, I am still faced with a peculiar circumstance. Behold the three-way tie.

I own ten books by Agatha Christie, ten by Terry Pratchett, and ten by George MacDonald. Tolkien is the runner up with 9, but I won’t expound on him today.

One result of the literary exploration of my shelves is that I am ashamed not to own more P.G. Wodehouse. I’ve read many of his books, but I own few. This must be remedied. Unfortunately for my pocketbook, the delightful Pratchettean book store down the road from me has a lovely collection, but I digress. It is time, I suppose, to put in a word as to why I own ten books apiece from the above three authors.

Agatha Christie:

This author is my standby when I am in need of entertainment. I am fond of the mystery genre, especially when the author incorporates humor and gravity effectively, as Christie does. I enjoy attempting to unravel the puzzles she lays out, and I like watching her colorful characters waltz across the pages.

It may not be the first that I read, but And Then There Were None was the first work of Christie’s to make a deep impression on me. That book is an example of her skill, and while few of her books are up to that standard, the mind capable of creating such an intricate mystery created many more to perplex and delight.  Christie is one of those authors that I feel is well balanced. There is nothing about her writing that amazes me. She is no word-smith, but she her style is capable, and develops over time. She handles her characters and plots with skill. On the whole, if I can be as competent in writing as she, I will be very pleased.

Terry Pratchett:

Ah, Pratchett. The first book I read of his, Guards! Guards!, came early in his career, and you can tell. I have seen worse written books, certainly, but it is not up to my usual standards for fiction. And yet I ate it up, dived headlong into its sequel, and kept going.

That sort of thing had never happened to me before. My path is strewn with books that I abandoned after reading poor prose in the first chapter. What can I say? I was trained into literary snobbery from an early age. So what is it about Pratchett that overcame my reaction to his clumsy writing? His humor appeals to me, being dry and witty, but more than that, I fell in love with his characters almost immediately. I had to know what happened to Sam Vimes, Carrot, Sergeant Colon and Cecil Wormsborough St. John Nobbs. Lady Sybil Ramkin was of interest too, by the end of the book. I am still trying to absorb the lessons inherent in my reaction to Guards! Guards!. That a shoddily written book should be among my favorites tells me that my literary snobbery ought not to be the only measure by which I judge a book.

Thankfully, Pratchett’s style and skill have improved and he has been, for some time, a skillful writer. I do not agree with his worldview, but his insight into human nature is layered and often profound. I enjoy the human elements of his stories and the complex questions he raises. He makes me think and he makes me smile, sometimes simultaneously. Most of all, though, I am in love with his humor, and his characters.

Remember, “Knowledge = power = energy = matter = mass; A good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read.” -Terry Pratchett from Guards! Guards!

George MacDonald:

MacDonald’s flaws as an author are quite obvious. He wanders off in strange and obscure bunny-trails, he hits his reader with great blocks of thick, purple prose, and the paths of his stories are often as winding and bewildering as the roads of Faerie. I am not surprised that he is not widely read. The irony is that even his failings delight me. I cannot think of a single author who captivates me as MacDonald does. The landscapes of his mind, heart and soul seem released on page, and they are simultaneously strange and familiar.

His tales for children are as whimsical and imaginative as those of Lewis Carrol without the aura of nightmare beneath the dream. By this I do not mean that MacDonald glosses over the dark aspects of existence. Rather he acknowledges the darkness and is unafraid, and this gives his reader courage. What is more, he reveals beauty in the most unlikely places. He teaches his reader to look and think rather than to assume.

His fiction for adults is more difficult to read, but I find it rewarding too. The darkness lies deeper and I can tell that the author has been troubled and afraid. But, as an author, he follows his characters through mundane and fey worlds undaunted and, again, I follow. I will quote a passage from Lilith in the hope that MacDonald will speak for himself better than I can.

~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~

The moon at length approached the forest, and came slowly into it: with her first gleam the noises increased to a deafening uproar, and I began to see dim shapes about me. As she ascended and grew brighter, the noises became yet louder, and the shapes clearer. A furious battle was raging around me. Wild cries and roars of rage, shock of onset, struggle prolonged, all mingled with words articulate, surged in my ears. Curses and credos, snarls and sneers, laughter and mockery, sacred names and howls of hate, came huddling in chaotic interpenetration. Skeletons and phantoms fought in maddest confusion. Swords swept through the phantoms: they only shivered. Maces crashed on the skeletons, shattering them hideously: not one fell or ceased to fight, so long as a single joint held two bones together. Bones of men and horses lay scattered and heaped; grinding and crunching them under foot fought the skeletons. Everywhere charged the bone-gaunt white steeds; everywhere on foot or on wind-blown misty battle-horses, raged and ravened and raved the indestructible spectres; weapons and hoofs clashed and crushed; while skeleton jaws and phantom-throats swelled the deafening tumult with the war-cry of every opinion, bad or good, that had bred strife, injustice, cruelty in any world. The holiest words went with the most hating blow. Lie-distorted truths flew hurtling in the wind of javelins and bones. Every moment some one would turn against his comrades, and fight more wildly than before, THE TRUTH! THE TRUTH! still his cry. One I noted who wheeled ever in a circle, and smote on all sides. Wearied out, a pair would sit for a minute side by side, then rise and renew the fierce combat. None stooped to comfort the fallen, or stepped wide to spare him.

The moon shone till the sun rose, and all the night long I had glimpses of a woman moving at her will above the strife-tormented multitude, now on this front now on that, one outstretched arm urging the fight, the other pressed against her side. “Ye are men: slay one another!” she shouted. I saw her dead eyes and her dark spot, and recalled what I had seen the night before.

Such was the battle of the dead, which I saw and heard as I lay under the tree.

Just before sunrise, a breeze went through the forest, and a voice cried, “Let the dead bury their dead!” At the word the contending thousands dropped noiseless, and when the sun looked in, he saw never a bone, but here and there a withered branch.

~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~

Here are the links to the rest of this series, in order:

1. Motley Crew

2. Cue Music/Shout Out

3. Villainy Most Vile

4. Very Ominous Endings

5. Shapes are Only Dressess… and Dresses are Only Names

6. Chridonalchett

7. Verbage

8. The Scent Test

9. Personal Question

10. Packing Lightly


Tintin

I plan to ramble here. You have fair warning.

I seem to be one of relatively few U.S. citizens who grew up on Tintin. Not the tv series, but the books. For some reason, Tintin didn’t sweep this country as he did many others.

I never have been sure what it is about the stories that draws me in. Hergé somehow created adventures that were, on the surface, dead simple, unapologetically ridiculous, and addictive. He had a gift, and he worked very hard to share it. His gift comforted and inspired people during some of the darkest times in recent history, and continues to do so decades later. But if I wax too serious about Hergé’s work I will do it an injustice. It mocks my seriousness.

Papoose Snowy mocks my seriousness

Papoose Snowy mocks my seriousness

My brother and I used to joke that Tintin has a force-field just beneath his skin because bullets only ever graze him. My friend D, looking over my shoulder on occasion as I have been re-reading some of the books, commented on the fact that he gets hit over the head several times per story and yet he is not brain-dead. Though a pipsqueak, he has a killer punch and knows his way around firearms. He can operate any car, plane, boat, helicopter, tank, motorcycle or moon-rocket and seems to possess unlimited wealth. He sticks to his ethics, is often clever, always wins in the end, and his only vices are an intermittent lack of foresight, and being a nosy-parker.

In short, he is a Mary Sue.  I look at this list and I am amazed that I don’t hate Tintin.

But the fact is, I like him. Haddock and Snowy are my favorites, but the Great Ginger Detective is, without challenge, my favorite bland character of all time. I enjoy seeing him dash through his adventures and I am acutely aware that without him, the other characters would be whirling balls of plotless chaos. I can just see the tragic Adventure of Haddock and Snowy in the Distillery of Doom, and Calculus leading Thompson and Thomson off a cliff like a pair of lemmings.

Serious Captain is serious

Serious Captain is serious

Many stories have a bland central character, an eye of the storm that carries the plot forward, binds the more interesting characters together and acts as a blank screen onto which readers can project their own imaginations. Usually these characters annoy me or I am indifferent to them. So what is different about Tintin? Perhaps it is that Hergé refuses to take his main protagonist too seriously. Tintin is daring one moment, noble the next, and falls flat on his face a panel or two later.

But what I think is most disarming about Tintin is the honesty of his existence. He is a vehicle for the child-like desire for adventure and Hergé knew that and embraced it. Without that, Tintin would set my teeth on edge. With it, I laugh in delight when he takes control of a helicopter, or snaps an enemy’s rifle barrel with a single shot. Apparently, for me, honesty and humor are keys to making a Mary Sue acceptable.

There have been recent developments in the Tintin universe.

DUN Dun dun...

DUN Dun dun…

When I heard that Spielberg and Jackson were collaborating on a Tintin movie, I was worried. I had much the same fears when I heard of the making of Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” films. I wondered, once, how film could do justice to Tolkien and I found myself wondering the same of Hergé’s work. There was a different challenge to creating a Tintin film, too. With LotR, Jackson was up against the imagination of Tolkien’s readers. For the most part, I feel that he met that challenge. With Tintin, he and Spielberg were up against deceptively simplistic and dynamic art that has been iconic for decades.

When I saw the trailers to the new Tintin film, I was even more worried. The animation style looked weird, and the humor just off enough that it might grate on me.

I am happy to say, though, that I thoroughly enjoyed “the Adventures of Tintin: the Secret of the Unicorn”. The credits at the beginning showed me that the directors and animators had paid attention. They translated the energetic poses of the comics into motion with panache. The mannerisms of the cast were right, their voices did not irritate me and the mix of fast-paced adventure, silly humor and coshing people on the head were right out of the books.

Purists will complain, but oh well. I complained about details from Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings,” but I love the films anyway and own the extended versions. I have a suspicion that there will be an extended version of  “the Adventures of Tintin: the Secret of the Unicorn” (they need to explain that tank…) and if so, that will one day grace my shelf of films as well.

There are a few things that were not quite right, in my opinion. Something was off about the twins, or maybe I should say that something was more off than usual about them. The captain’s eyes were a bit too piggy. The tank… And I have to wonder what they are going to do in the sequel as they’ve already used the plot twist from the third book. These are all very minor, though, and as with Lord of the Rings, the changes made to the plot all seemed reasonable if not necessary.

I hope that Jackson and Spielberg will do as fine a job on the next one

Iconoclast!… troglodyte!… fresh-water pirate!… slubberdegullion!… mountebank!… nyctalope!… steam-roller!… sea-gherkin!… cannibal! (Seriously, we could learn so much about “swearing” from the good captain and vastly improve our vocabularies all the while.)


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