Contented Reader

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Archive for September 2012

Other things I read this week

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  • The Woman Warrior, by Maxine Hong Kingston
  • Ethics, by Aristotle
  • Powers: Volume 11: Secret Identity, by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Deming
  • Barbara Kruger
  • Mike, by P. G. Wodehouse
  • Under the Poppy, by Kathe Koja
  • Reading Herodotus: A Guided Tour through the Wild Boars, Dancing Suitors, and Crazy Tyrants of The History,by Debra Hamel
  • The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases , edited by Jeff Vandermeer and Mark Roberts
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Written by Contented Reader

September 28, 2012 at 6:27 am

Posted in What I'm reading

Moby-Dick Big Read

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Something wonderful is happening.

I suspect something wonderful is happening, at any rate.  I haven’t actually listened to it for myself yet.

It is called the  Moby-Dick Big Read.

Every day, one chapter of Moby-Dick will be released.  Each chapter is read aloud by a different well-known actor.

Chapter one is read by Tilda Swinton.  That alone is enough to sell me on the project.

I haven’t listened to any of them yet, but I will.  I will listen to all of them.  And as I do, maybe I’ll even post a proper blog entry or two about what I’m hearing.

Written by Contented Reader

September 27, 2012 at 7:05 am

Posted in Reviews

Free ebooks

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  • Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen.  Other people’s favorite Austen book is Pride and Prejudice, or Emma, with their sparkling, witty heroines.  Other people mock me when they find out that my favorite is Mansfield Park.  Well, it is, anyway.
  • The Cryptogram, by James De Mille.  Never heard of it.  Never heard of the author.  But I read part of the first chapter, which involved a conversation between a reclusive lord and a general returned from India, about the pain of their lost loves, a conversation which takes place in an ancient and crumbling castle.  I think there’s a lot of promise here.
  • The Gully of Bluemansdyke, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  This collection of short stories has nothing at all to do with Sherlock Holmes.  They appear to be Westerns!
  • Ruth Hall, by Fanny Fern.  Our favorite newspaper columnist’s autobiographical novel, which tells the story, lightly fictionalized, of her marriage, her descent into poverty, and her rise to popular acclaim.

Written by Contented Reader

September 26, 2012 at 6:57 am

Posted in Project Gutenberg

The Swoop!

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The Swoop!

P.G. Wodehouse

Project Gutenberg

I’m engaged in a lengthy, slow-motion project to read ALL THE WODEHOUSE.  I might possibly finish before I die.  Or not.  The project has paid off today, because I never would have read this book if I hadn’t been simply working my way down the list of Wodehouse’s books in chronological order.

Today in class, my students took vocabulary tests, and while they were working, I graded the tests of previous classes and tried to maintain a positive attitude toward my life.  Not always easy to do while grading vocabulary tests.  When I finished a set, though, I rewarded myself with a chapter or two of The Swoop!.

It’s the story of an invasion of England by foreign armies.  This was written in 1909, long before the Battle of Britain, even before the first world war.  There was a vogue in England for speculative ‘invasion fiction,‘ novels that explore what would happen if England were invaded, and that cautioned that the nation was ill-prepared for such an event.

The Swoop! is a parody of this forgotten genre.  In this book, England is invaded by not one but nine competing armies.  For the most part, they go unnoticed, except to the extent that their invasion interferes with the cricket or the golf.  Their fiercest opponent is a Boy Scout named Clarence.

It’s exactly as funny as it sounds.

There are, of course, some of the unpleasant racial stereotypes you might expect to find in a book from this time and place.  I found them sad, but not so distracting that I couldn’t enjoy the book.

It made the vocabulary tests go down a little easier.

Written by Contented Reader

September 25, 2012 at 7:06 am

Things to read

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Written by Contented Reader

September 24, 2012 at 6:29 am

Posted in What I'm reading

The Stand

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The Stand

Stephen King

Signet

This has been my favorite of King’s books, ever since I first read it.

I first read it in college.  I think it’s likely that was the same paperback copy I have sitting on my knee right now.  It was a memorable first reading.  In the book, a plague- a government-engineered superflu- kills about 99% of the population of the world.  The survivors slowly come together in an eerily deserted country, and try to rebuild some sort of civilization, with the sides of Good and Evil drifting together in different cities.  The most effective bits are the images of a deserted America.  My first time, I read it when I had remained in my dorm over spring break, when nearly all of the other students were gone.  With plenty of time on my hands, I’d read about the eerie, deserted, corpse-filled buildings for hours in my eerie, deserted dorm lounge.  Then I’d walk back up the quiet empty halls to my empty room, microwave something for supper… and try to go to sleep.

You really couldn’t choose a better setting in which to read The Stand.

I like this book, even though I am better able to see its flaws now than I was as an undergraduate.  I don’t think King spends much time revising, or tightening his prose.  But he keeps the story moving, and now, as then, I love the characters.  I see myself especially in their flaws- in Harold’s awkward pretension, in Larry’s awareness of his own cold selfishness, in Lloyd’s desire to be loyal even to a bad master.  I like the powerful images it creates.  And if it’s sometimes bloated, or sometimes a little more ambitious than it lives up to, well, that’s forgivable in the service of a good story.

But I do have one question for Mr. King.

Something I never noticed before.

It’s strange that I never noticed it before.

Mr. King, can you help me understand the conversation that Mark has with Harold and Fran and Perion over dreams and the theological significance of the superflu on page 535?  My specific question about their conversation is related to the death of Mark on page 532, and the death of Perion on page 533.  I was just a little puzzled by that, was all.

Written by Contented Reader

September 22, 2012 at 7:12 am

Posted in Reviews

Other things I read this week

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Written by Contented Reader

September 21, 2012 at 7:15 am

Posted in Uncategorized