Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Life on the Boundary

I mentioned a few days ago that I’m reading From Homer to Harry Potter, which I neglected to mention before is written by Matthew Dickerson and David O’Hara, and which looks at the tradition and importance of myth, legend, fairy tales, fantasy, whatever you want to call all of it.

I’ve only read about 65 pages (in part because I keep putting the book down to process everything they’re saying) but already there is so much that I find both relevant and… not so much enlightening as seeming to put into words the things I have always felt and thought about fantasy stories. I keep telling myself I’m going to put together a ‘real’ post about all of this, but so far I haven’t had time, so perhaps I’ll turn it into a little series of bits and pieces.

So, for today I’ll start with a quote from philosopher Peter Kreeft, as quoted by Dickerson and O’Hara:

Death is the most natural thing in the world; why do we find it unnatural? … We complain about death and time…. There is never enough time. Time makes being into non-being. Time is a river that takes everything it brings: nations, civilizations, art, science, culture, plants, animals, our own bodies, the very stars–nothing stands outside the cosmic stream rushing headlong into the sea of death. Or does it? Something in us seems to stand outside it, for something in us protests this “nature” and asks: Is that all there is? We find this natural situation “vanity” [“meaningless”]: empty, frustrating, wretched, unhappy. Our nature contradicts nature.

As humans we stand with one foot rather literally in the mortal stew of time and decay and everything else, and yet there is some part of us that sees it as unnatural, as wrong, and struggles against it. Some part of us is eternal.

And, after quite a bit of discussion and inclusion of ideas from Tolkien, Lewis, and other luminaries, the two authors make this statement:

If man is indeed the spiritual animal, the creature who lives at once both in the world of the seen [mortal] and the unseen [eternal], then those stories that take place in both worlds–that is, on the borders of Faerie–will be far more relevant than stories that take place entirely in one world to the exclusion of the other.

It is after reading passages like these that I feel like jumping up and down and cheering. This is why I read fantasy. These stories touch on truths that illuminate and inform my everyday life, because I do not live simply in the material world. No other genre speaks so clearly to my walk-on-the-boundary life.


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His Majesty’s Dragon

I just finished Naomi Novik’s His Majesty’s Dragon.  Wow.  Definitely a fan.  More later, but it’s highly recommended from me.  Unfortunately, I have a lot of other things to do before I can justify picking up the second and third in the series, but rest assured it will happen in the next month.

Go now.  Fall in love with Temeraire.  You’ll be glad you did.

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I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows earlier this evening, and I have to say that although it isn’t the best book I’ve ever read (and I mean that in the nicest way possible), it was quite enjoyable. Like visiting old friends, if you will – and really, they are old friends, characters I’ve known and adventured with for five or six years. I haven’t even known my husband for that long, which seems strange to say. It’s always a comfort to see Hermione pulling completely ridiculous facts out of thin air, Ron bumbling his way through and coming out winningly in the end, and Harry wondering the whole time if he should be going on without them, to spare them the danger.

I still don’t get how the magic system works, because even within this book there are discrepancies and entirely new features, but oddly enough in the end it doesn’t bother me much. I feel like it ought to, since I’m trying to put together a coherent, consistent magical world of my own and should be offended that something this well-known doesn’t seem to have been entirely thought through in terms of magic use, but there you have it. It doesn’t matter.

That’s not to say, when I get around to putting all my thoughts down for my personal reference that all my comments will be glowing and positive – just that I am satisfied by the ending of a good story.

Oh, and as I was waiting in the store for my copy of HP I found a copy of Melissa Marr’s debut, Wicked Lovely, and picked it up. Finished it this evening after HP and was very impressed. But then, I’ve always liked stories about faeries, too.

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When Books Entrap…

It’s hard to tell how much of the fact that I stayed up until 5:30 this morning reading is because I love all things Pride and Prejudice, because the particular book I was reading was so entirely captivating, or because with my glasses off I couldn’t see the clock and thereby had no way of knowing how very late it was. In fact, the sky was lightening noticeably when I closed the back cover on my latest find.

I spent all weekend in Pamela Aidan’s literary hands. She’s written a trilogy that complements Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but from Mr. Darcy’s point of view. Extreme purists will always balk at such a project, but Aidan handles the task quite nicely. Though some of her extrapolations about what might have happened to Darcy (particularly during the notorious “dark time” between the Netherfield Ball and the visit to Rosings Park) are somewhat far-fetched, the trilogy’s primary pursuit is the examination of the sequence of thoughts and events that could have motivated Darcy throughout the story to act in all the ways that he does. I have to say that Aidan’s understanding of his character, of the man we all know Darcy to be, is admirable. Under her careful examination, all his actions seem natural and perfectly right, and I found myself very pleased by the end result.

I have always loved Darcy, and now I love him even better.

Having slept until noon to recover, it’s time to rejoin the real world. I hope you all had equally enjoyable weekends.

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Chapter Four of Maria V. Snyder’s ‘Assassin Study’ has been posted here. This is good stuff – Chapter Five will conclude the mini-story, and then we’ll still all have to wait until March 2008 for Fire Study.

It’s a shame, really.

If you’d like to read another great first-person fantasy in the meantime, why don’t you check out Carol Berg? She’s got eight fantastic ready-to-read novels (two series and one stand-alone), which have garnered her several awards and a prime spot on my fiction shelves. AND her latest book, Flesh and Spirit, is hitting bookstores in a mere 12 days. That’s right, May 1. I’ve heard very good things from several friends who got their hands on ARCs, and my pre-ordered copy will be waiting for me to pick up as soon as I can possibly manage it. Read an excerpt here!

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