A little reading check-in. I am 51 pages from finishing Kristin Lavransdatter (yes, I’m counting). Do you remember my video review of The Wreath from two years ago? I am also reading some history (TBA), picked up some new books (also TBA), about 10 pages into Confessions, and several essays into Huxley. But Kristin has my fullest attention at the moment.
My long-suffering YouTube channel has fallen by the wayside. A whirlpool of recent events (not least of which, my computer threatening its sudden demise) has left me reluctant to work on videos. I have lots of material in mind, including that promised review of The Woman in White. I am just feeling a little uninspired and uncertain when it will happen now. After recovering from my cold, I seem even more drained of energy, if that’s possible (!).
So…March will probably be taxes, and other paperwork, and upgrading my OS. 😐
On a brighter note, my sister and I watched another Studio Ghibli last weekend, Castle in the Sky.
This was a sweet little movie that had a lot of things I love in a story… airships, cute friendship, and a mad scientist (of sorts). Now that I think about it, it almost feels like a remix of The Magician’s Nephew… could Miyazaki been partly inspired by it? Either way, very enjoyable for me and surprisingly deep, in parts.
It’s rapidly approaching my most reading-ful time of year . . . the time-off I take around Christmas! This year, it is only going to be one week—I am saving up PTO for some thing splendid—but I intend to read a fair bit anyways.
First off, and hopefully before break even starts, I shall finish The Unwomanly Face of War and Dune Book I (of the first novel). The former will officially kick off my War & Pacifism reading project, and the latter will bring me (plot-wise) to the end of the 2021 film. Both have been excellent reads so far, though in different ways. I think Alexievich’s book is profoundly important, potentially a new Axe for me, and I don’t say that lightly. As for Dune, while the writing style leaves a great deal to be desired (being as spoiled by great prose as I am), the political-ecological detail you find in the novel is very satisfying compared to the movie. I understand why the movie is as simplified as it is—it makes for better cinema—but I am glad the reading experience is offering more depth.
I am also interested in finishing Anita Brookner’s Look at Me. I started this a year ago (literally, December 19), flew through the first third, then set it aside because it was drearily relatable. However, after a gut punch of a year that made the book seem lighthearted by comparison, I have returned to it now, eager to complete it. I’m heartily enjoying Brookner’s style and psychology—she reminds me so much of Charlotte Brontë, sans Christian themes. I’d never heard of her before, but in the 80s Brookner was a prolific and prestigious British author. This was one of those random library ebooks that caught my eye, showing that once in a blue moon, you can judge a book by its cover. (Well . . . I must not speak too soon. Let’s hope it ends satisfactorily.)
I haven’t started The Unconsoled yet. It is a bit of a chunkster. Nonetheless, I have a mental image of reading it over the course of 1-2 days nonstop. In the past, my favorite Ishiguro novels have been utter page-turners. I shall know quickly if it is a hit or a miss.
I read chapter 1 of Daniel Deronda recently and really enjoyed it. It is so different from Middlemarch, at least so far. The writing flows and pulls you in. I am very doubtful of having time to really get into it, so this may have to be deferred.
Also on the horizon: Book III of Kristin Lavransdatter and The Woman in White (reread). I’m very stoked to finish Kristin, which is Norway for Reading the World. It’s been quite a while since I read the first two novels (The Wreath in autumn 2020 and The Wife in spring 2021). I’m somewhat of a changed person since I read those two, and I’m curious what effect that will have upon my reading of Book III (The Cross), if any. There is also something nice about returning to a familiar setting and cast of characters.
“Life has been hard lately, but I keep on trucking . . .” This sort of thing seems to be an increasingly common refrain of mine, and I am getting tired of it. In this post, I shall focus on the good things. 😉
I am reading again! Mainly, these two (yes, they are both niche . . . ’tis glorious):
We Had a Little Real Estate Problem: The Unheralded Story of Native Americans & Comedy by Kliph Nesteroff
Started reading this with a local group; about 1/4 through and loving it so far. It’s written in the style of a Ken Burns documentary—there’s a frame narration, not too verbose, while the bulk of the book is made up of interviews, quotes, and newspaper/media excerpts. It covers not just comedy but media and show business going back to the 1800s, sometimes with disturbingly dark origins. In modern times, comedy has become a way for Native Americans to express themselves, deliver social commentary, and help reframe their respective tribes’ cultural images in the US and Canada, strongly countering the “cold, stoic” stereotype with wit, laughs, and warmth. I appreciate the frequently nuanced approach; for example, some time is spent on the complexity of Will Rogers’ achievements, identity, and prejudices, rather than simply depicting him as a hero. For those completely unfamiliar with most of these figures, the book is easily supplemented by YouTube searches (“New Moon Wolf Pack Audition,” a satire on Hollywood casting, was ahead of its time). So far, recommended . . . very much in the same space as Interior Chinatown but in nonfiction format.
Retrieving Augustine’s Doctrine of Creation: Ancient Wisdom for Current Controversy by Gavin Ortlund
Ortlund’s YouTube channel has been a source of solace and education over the past year or so, which has compelled me to read his books. This one covers Augustine’s views on Creation from several of his writings and how we might reframe and examine various Creation debates today around his thought. I am not far into it, but I am already inspired to read Confessions and have put it on my TBR shortlist for the end of this year.
To my great sadness, Rings of Power Season 1 came to an end after eight (all too short) episodes.
Looking back, there were so many things that added up to make it enjoyable, but I especially loved the dialogue. There’s tons of great quotes and sayings throughout the series—here’s a few of my favorites:
Hope is never mere… even when it is meager. When all other senses sleep, the eye of hope is first to awaken and last to shut.
Choose not the path of fear, but that of faith.
The way of the faithful is commit to pay the price, even when the cost is not known.
It darkens the heart to call dark deeds good. It gives a place for evil to thrive inside us. Every war is fought both without and within.
While awaiting new installments of Dune and Rings of Power . . . my family and I have gone back to watching movies. We recently saw two Liam Neeson films, The Commuter (2018) and Unknown (2011). I enjoyed The Commuter, it’s basically a retelling of Non-Stop (2014) but on a train instead of a plane. The “remake,” if you will, is a less believable story, but it fleshes out side characters more and is rather fun to watch. I didn’t particularly like Unknown, never could get into the Jason Bourne types of movies, but it has its high points, along with some interesting angles on undocumented persons and Cold War history. Altogether, if you’re looking for something engaging to watch, these “aging family man can still punch bad guys” Neeson films are pretty cool.
We also watched Dark Victory (1939), a film featuring Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, and a young (!) Ronald Reagan in a small role as a man-about-town. I found it extremely tedious . . . it opens with high emotional stakes and nearly plateaus for the rest of the movie. Bette Davis is a very talented actress, but here the script doesn’t serve her well; she spends nearly two hours as a constantly distressed character who is diagnosed with a brain tumor. Such a film should increase your interest and empathy as it goes on, but I found the opposite to be happening. The film portrays some pretty sus medical professionalism (er, lack thereof). Young Bogart is just . . . there, an awkward male love interest with very little to do with the story. A long ways from Key Largo or The Caine Mutiny (my favorite Bogart film).
Today I was scrolling through Goodreads and got hit by a funny feeling of nostalgia. Seeing other people had finished books one after the other, I felt both inspired and a bit saddened.
These past few months have been weird on several fronts, with so many changes in my personal life, good and bad. I miss the simpler times when summer meant making a dent in my reading list, sitting outside (in milder temperatures!) and getting lost in a tale of yore. Reading in 2022 has been painfully slow for me, and though I’ve more or less settled down into a brand-new life, it hasn’t really caught up yet.
If I had a week to myself, this is the sort of summer I’d like to have:
Finish Middlemarch and all my other current reads
Pick up an “axe” of a book—maybe the rest of Flannery O’Connor’s short stories or another stab at The Mosquito Coast
Read another Japanese novel
Finish Andrew Yang’s Forward or Matt Sheehan’s The Transpacific Experiment
Watch more adaptations of books I’ve read
Even if I can’t get to all this, it is nice to write it out.