June 15, 2007

Reading Again

And wow, does it feel good.

I finished The Children of Hurin. Fantastic book . . . and I'm in awe of the amount of effort it must have taken to piece this book together so seamlessly. Without adding any significant prose of his own (I forget how he put it, exactly . . . but the claim is that essentially everything was written by the man himself) Christopher Tolkien has managed to turn a jumble of notes and half-written ideas, some of them conflicting, and make it look like it was composed in adeveloped and ordered fashion to begin with.

This would probably be a great gateway book for anyone having trouble transitioning from The Lord of the Rings to The Silmarillion. The book has a much less mythological/fantastical feel about it, I think, and more of literary/historical feel. I can really see Middle Earth here as a very ancient Britain full of things and events that history has forgotten.

And of course Tolkien uses this story to great effect as an exploration of the tragic flaw of pride and the many ways, foreseeable and unforeseeable, that it can bring us down, with a heavy undercurrent of fate vs. free will. Is Turin's doom inevitable, or necessitated only by his stubborn, prideful choices? Is his very nature an element of the curse that is on him, or could he change? And, on a deeper level, how responsible are we for our own sin nature, inescapable since the Fall? Fascinating questions wrapped up in an action-packed epic . . . Tolkien always delivers.

Speaking of Tolkien, and Inklings in general, I just heard about a few things; namely this and this. The gist: The former is a comic book, the latter is young adult fiction. Different authors, same premise: That Tolkien, Lewis, and Charles Williams didn't just write some of the greatest fantasy literature ever, they lived this stuff. The comic book has them squaring off against Aleister Crowley in 1938, while the other finds them meeting for the first time in 1919 and traipsing through all sorts of magical lands together.

The book is #1 in a proposed series of 7, and it has already been nabbed by Warner Bros. for the big screen. The concept is strangely horrifying and compelling all at the same time, but I'm gonna check it out. Perk of the job: I can just locate the book and go pull it for myself, or in this case, note that it is due back in four days, put it on reserve, and wait for it to appear on my desk next Tuesday.

Meanwhile, I also read through The Children of Men. Wow, what an amazing book. This is so beautifully written and deeply felt, quite possibly the best apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic that I have read. And what a stunning, effective premise! In 1995, human males lose the ability to impregnate women, and the book takes place in England in 2021, beginning on the day the youngest person in the world dies at the age of 25. Half of the story is narrated in the third person while the other half consists of excerpts from the diary of Theo Farron (the main character).

Children of Men, the film adaptation, was one of my favorite movies of the spring, and now this is certainly one of my favorite books of the year. I recommend both, with one sidenote: See the movie first, like I did. The two share absolutely nothing but the central premise and the names (but not necessarily roles) of major characters. These are very different stories with very different purposes, and I think the book deserves the final say. As a film, the movie version is great. As an adaptation, it is nothing.

Oh, and I finally finished Madame Bovary yesterday. And, while portions of it were very much like watching the grass grow, it was by equal turns absorbing and hilarious. The cast of characters was especially memorable, my favorite (of course) being the pompous windbag parody of Voltaire and his ilk, Monsieur Homais. While at first I wished the book had had the decency to end after its title character did, I found that I rather liked the ending after all.

I had gone to get Reading Lolita in Tehran, being determined to re-read it as previously mentioned, when I found something else to read first; an even better follow-up to Madame Bovary. The book is Little Children by Tom Perrotta, on which my surprise favorite movie of the Spring was based. I started it in the evening and, although I had to put it down almost immediately, I did so with great difficulty. The book began, in fact, with a brief quote from Madame Bovary, and then dove right in. I think I'm going to like it. Let's see . . . What else?

I'm reading Star Wars books again.

Yeah, yeah. Don't ask me what prompted it, I dunno . . . but I'm going through them all. I haven't opened one since before Episode III came out, and a lot of things have changed since then for various reasons. I want to survey (and re-survey) the territory and, in particular, discuss it . . . That's right, I know at least a few of you people have read heavily (or at least dabbled) in Star Wars novels. If you're really interested, read and re-read along with me. If you're only moderately interested, just read some, or discuss off of what you know or remember. I've started at the very beginning, with Darth Bane: Path of Destruction. I have a feeling none of you own it, either . . . there should be a copy kicking around at your local library. Go get it. We'll have fun.

Posted by Jared at June 15, 2007 04:48 PM | TrackBack