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Books read, late August. - Barnstorming on an Invisible Segway [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Marissa Lingen

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Books read, late August. [Sep. 1st, 2011|08:57 pm]
Marissa Lingen
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Frans Bengtsson, The Long Ships. Grandpa's. This restores my faith in the potential for Scandinavian persons to write cheerful works of fiction. Of course, there's a lot of killing and a fair amount of maiming in this book, but it's not downbeat about it. Also there are some people who convert to Christianity and some who don't, and some from each group have happy fates and some unhappy. So it's an historical point that was going to come up when writing in this period, rather than a club for beating the reader. Hurrah.

Peter Brown, Power and Persuasion in Late Antiquity: Towards a Christian Empire. The main focus of this is the shift in what role paideia played in political negotiations at the time, and what kinds of persuasive request and reference were considered appropriate and effective in which times. It's the sort of cultural shift that often gets ignored when there are emperors and wars to consider, so I was particularly glad to have a book that focused on it.

Kurt Busiek, Astro City: Life in the Big City. The introduction to this graphic novel talks a great deal about superhero comics and what they can do and what they're good at. And while some of these episodes didn't really work for me as short stories (seriously, I need more than Not-Superman Is Tired for a story), but the setting is fun, what they're doing with it is fun. According to the same intro, people apparently tell Busiek that his work is realistic, which he indignantly denies and which makes me laugh, because I know just this kind of reader interaction, where the reader is trying to articulate a thing they liked and is...not quite managing to put their finger on it. What these are is psychologically introspective. Which is not at all the same as realistic, but is interesting.

Ally Carter, Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover. Third in a series of YA novels that fuse spy novels with school stories. This moves out into the larger world of politics and expands some on the stated history of the girls' spy school, which makes it sound dry and fussy, but it's fluffy and frothy and fun.

Lisa Goldstein, The Uncertain Places. It is incredibly brave of anybody to write a fairy tale or ballad novel that is a love song to a college in the early 1970s, because that territory is rather well-established in the hearts of many of the people who would want such a thing in the first place. This is so very much not Tam Lin, and happily it's not mostly trying, but the comparison seems inevitable to me; the college in question is a much different one and its city is much more relevant: it's UC-Berkeley. And that's...kind of where I felt the book fell down some, because the theme and resolution reminded me very much of Lost Twin Cities in that Goldstein seemed to love the Berkeley of the 1970s at the expense of the Berkeley of now, or to the exclusion of the Berkeley of now. As someone who was younger than the main character's son, I felt that the resolution of the book rather limited its audience, but I'd love to hear from someone else who's read this and can talk to me about it.

Jane Jacobs, The Economy of Cities. This is a slim little volume that is rather dated in that she seems to be most excited about this newfangled thing we would now call "venture capital." She's got some interesting points about where work arises, but there are several cases where I think she was overcorrecting for an older theory that has now gone rather by the wayside.

Kazuo Nishi and Kazuo Hozumi, What Is Japanese Architecture?. Lots of diagrams of temple layouts and castle floor plans and how one era made beams join in a pagoda as opposed to its predecessors. Also diagrams of medieval Japanese tools. Very interesting, useful stuff.

A. G. Little, Medieval Wales. Kindle. This is more a work of historiography than history. If you don't know the Marcher Lords from a hole in the ground, this is not at all the book for you; rather it's an overview of who told us what about this country in this era and where their biases are. It's a series of lectures given in the early 1900s, with the dating and focus of same. I particularly love the image of medieval Welsh monks having loose paper on which they could enter notable events for the year, after which one community representative appointed by the abbot would examine these notes and judge which of them was worthy and notable enough to be entered into the real bound book of historical stuff for that abbey for that year. That just made me happy somehow.

Miyazaki Hayao, Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind: Volumes 1-4. Miyazaki had room to go into a lot more depth in these volumes than he did in the movie, and I already liked the movie. And, I mean! Ohmu! So fond of the ohmu. Of course, now I kind of want to kick the translator for the movie, but whatever.

Pat Murphy, The Wild Girls. A mainstream novel from a sometimes-genre writer, another one set in the Bay Area before I was born. This one won my heart immediately by starting with the mother telling the main character how great it would be to live in the golden hills of California and having the main character discover that really they are just brown. This charmed me for two reasons: one, because that was my reaction to the "golden hills of California" thing; and two, because I was that girl when we moved to Lawrence, KS, for a year and my mother told me how great it would be to be able to bike everywhere because Kansas is so flat. She had never been to Lawrence, and she apologized profusely, but still: I was on Our Heroine's side from the start there. This is a very quiet book--even the creative writing class is not doing the things I sort of expected it to do in this literary context--but it's also one about learning to speak up. Worth the time.

Arturo Perez-Reverte, The King's Gold. And this? This is not a very quiet book. They get right down to the swashing and buckling and adventuring with miscreants more or less right away. It's the fourth in its series. If you're dead set on starting in the middle, this would do better than The Sun Over Breda, but I'd still start at the beginning here.

Pierre Pevel, The Cardinal's Blades. Translation from the French. This book is going to get inevitably compared to Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, despite being a great deal darker and, well, more French, because it's got dragons stuck into European history. In this case, though, there are more clear divergences other than the dragons right away, and I feel Pevel did a smoother job of inserting them. I will be looking forward to the next volume. And not just because I'm a sucker for Musketeers and near historical counterparts. (Not just.)

Alastair Reynolds, Troika. Sometimes I just have no idea why people rave about novellas as The Great Thing in this field. This is one of those times. I mean, it was fine enough; it was a Reynolds story with a Big Dumb Object. I swear to you that a less famous, less well-published author could have gotten this story told in far, far fewer words, and would have to, because the amount of rambling he used to tell a fairly simple story is just not available to us lesser mortals. I'm glad that authors whose novels are doing well have room to sell novellas! This makes me happy, and I hope to avail myself of it. When I'm less happy is when they use that option to just sort of wander, and that's how Troika struck me. I think I was supposed to invest more in the main character personally than I did? But I didn't. So.

Charles Stross (autopope), The Revolution Business. This is the fifth one in the series, and it's sort of barreling on full tilt. I had meant to save the sixth one for plane travel, since we own it in mmpb, but I'm not sure I'll want to wait that long.

Adrian Tchaikovsky, The Scarab Path. This is not the fifth book in the same series! It's the first book in a new series with some of the same characters in the same world! That makes me happy, and it makes me want to read more, more than I would if he was just rattling on and on. Endings! Endings are important. I can't trust that someone is going to stick the landing unless they have, and sometimes not even then. But anyway! With this one we're into explorations of the Apt and the Inapt and what that division means and whence it arises and like that. And I want more of that. Wars are okay, and barricades are even better, but poking around at implications is really for me.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: therck
2011-09-02 02:13 am (UTC)
According to my mother, The Long Ships is a really big deal as far as Swedish novels go, or was when she was in Sweden as an exchange student in the 60s. It was something everyone has read.

As I recall, there's a very bad movie based on the book.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-09-02 03:17 am (UTC)
Yes, it's one that our Swedish family sent to Grandpa as a gift one year, as one of the Swedish things he Must Have.
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[User Picture]From: redbird
2011-09-02 02:17 am (UTC)
I see what you mean about the Goldstein, but I wouldn't have described it as a love story to the college. I liked the book more than you did, though I was disappointed in the ending. I'd be happy to talk it over in email (though I may need a little while to look at it again).
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-09-02 03:18 am (UTC)
It isn't, but it starts looking rather awfully like it.
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[User Picture]From: cathshaffer
2011-09-02 03:41 am (UTC)
"This one won my heart immediately by starting with the mother telling the main character how great it would be to live in the golden hills of California and having the main character discover that really they are just brown. This charmed me for two reasons: one, because that was my reaction to the "golden hills of California" thing"

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I just had a look at those hills. Still brown. I like my green hills just fine.
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[User Picture]From: merriehaskell
2011-09-02 05:50 pm (UTC)
We have hills?
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[User Picture]From: cathshaffer
2011-09-02 06:07 pm (UTC)
I live on one! But true it's more like green swamps.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-09-02 12:43 pm (UTC)
Yes, I was entirely in sympathy with that scene. It gets nippy out there!
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[User Picture]From: columbina
2011-09-02 06:48 pm (UTC)
If you were watching the 1980's cut/dub of Nausicaa which usually appeared under the name "Warriors of the Winds," your ire with it is justified. It was a hack job. nausicaa.net:

Around the mid 1980s, a severely-edited version of this film was released in video under the title Warriors of the Wind. The editing was done without the knowledge of Miyazaki or Studio Ghibli. They were unhappy when they learned about it and want those who have seen it "to dismiss it from [their] minds."

Even the full, unbutchered cut of the film (the Buena Vista 2005 release is the full cut; I have not watched it so I don't know the quality of the English dub) can in no way approach the complexity of the books, which took Miyazaki 13 years to finish.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2011-09-02 08:33 pm (UTC)
We have been watching the Buena Vista 2005 release. But still.
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