Avox in Arcadia (perpetual) wrote,
Avox in Arcadia

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Books Lately: Revenge of the Literature

Covered in this installment: War of the Worlds, A Tale of Two Cities, Ulysses, Bend Sinister, and Green Rider.

War of the Worlds ended well: in a modern sci-fi you couldn't get away with the aliens being chased away by the sudden discovery that Earth contains something toxic to their biology - wait. That's not true. Man I'm talking like I don't even remember the ending of Signs. Anyway, my point is that it kind of seems like a cop out, but the way it's presented as the natural world itself rebelling against the invaders is actually really moving. You get your battle-turned-massacre, and then you get a victory against hopeless odds, and isn't that what an adventure story should be?

My next Kindle classic was A Tale of Two Cities. I've read surprisingly little Charles Dickens (surprising because he's right up my alley, and anyway I've taken all those English classes), so I was happy to have him on the plane with me and I went through the book pretty quickly. Since the setting resembled both Les Miserables and an episode of Blackadder that I watched recently, it sparked some interest in discovering some actual non-fictional history, which is possibly one of the best things you can get out of reading literature (and watching old Britcoms). Oh, I haven't actually gone so far as to crack a history book, but I did just google "French Revolution". Tomorrow, the world.

Found one of Dickens' most famous quotes hiding modestly at the end of the book. So much better in context. Romance, humor, drama, and death - that's what an adventure story should be, too. I have Great Expectations in my queue, which is coincidentally the one I have read, but I'm giving it another go since I read it in college and I think near the middle I pulled my English major trick of not doing the reading and acing the class anyway.

The book that came up for me next, though, was Ulysses by James Joyce. I didn't think I would like it, and so far, I don't, so I'm letting myself give it a half-assed read-through. I very rarely read without giving the book my full attention, but it's kind of liberating to turn the page without worrying if I fully comprehended it or even if I read every word. It's a wicked long book, and I'm confident that if there are passages of real value to me, they'll catch my eye and I won't miss them. Only question is, when I'm done, how do I answer if someone asks me if I've read Ulysses?

Haven't gotten much further in Bend Sinister, but I like it, and I'm going to share a really weird writing-nerd moment I had reading it. You know how sometimes an inconsequential sentence or phrase is so melodious or accurate that you repeat it over and over again in your head, full of sheer joy? Well, this time there was a scene in which two old men are riding bikes at night, and from some distance, someone watches them get off and inspect the "anal ruby" on one of the bikes.

Anal ruby. When you think about the location of a bicycle's rear reflector and the way it shines red, it makes perfect sense. But now it's something repulsive, and at the same time it's a valuable gem, and it's still a completely ordinary object in an ordinary setting. Two words. Eight letters. Masterpiece.

And amidst all my drooling over the high-falutin' household author names, I was handed a well-worn fantasy paperback novel in one of those situations where you weren't looking for a book to read and you knew you weren't really interested in this one but you didn't want to hurt any feelings. The lender is my roommate's girlfriend, who I don't know too well but would like to be friends with because of our incidental proximity and because she's a geek, buuuuut. Green Rider by Kristen Britain is exactly what it looks like from the cover: a modern sword-and-sorcery cookie cutter tale for young (or young at heart!) readers.

It's the kind of thing I ate right up as a teenager, and I probably would have loved this one, with its girl on a horse, and monsters, and stopping at inns where you pay with coins in denominations determined by the kind of metal they're made from...but I just don't have the time, and I had to tell her the truth, that I was just skimming it. Later she saw me watching Bones and recognized DB as Angel, and that's how I came to find out that she only watched the fifth season of Angel because Spike was in it, and okay we can still be friends but no more recommendations from you, missy.

To be fair, though, she is younger than me, and I should also put in a word for the value of honesty in a fantasy series. The Amazon review praises its lack of pretension, and I felt the same way: why shouldn't readers love revisiting the old comforting hero's quest, and why shouldn't the author love rewriting it? Maybe that's really what an adventure story should be.
Tags: a book i read, a movie i saw

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