While I was dead recently I did take the opportunity to blow through a few random books from the ever-increasing book backlog. While I don’t have an ocean of words just pressing against the inside of my head waiting to get out in this vein I’d consider it a disservice to myself if I didn’t at least put down in some form my immediate thoughts on what I’ve recently tickled myself with.
The War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells – Over the years, I’ve read this tiny thing at least a dozen times and as usual, it lived up to my expectations though after this many readings it’s not nearly as dramatic as it was the first eleven times. Well worth missing an evening of network television for even if it was the 112th time.
Cousin Henry, Trollope – Yeah, I admit it, I’ve read a bit of Trollope. You don’t read Trollope for any of the good reasons you’re supposed to read things. You read Trollope because it’s just damn entertaining. In the literary world, this is the equivalent of the daytime soaps but the antiquated setting and verbiage makes it somehow much more satisfying. So yeah. I read Trollope. You wanna make somethin’ of it? On Cousin Henry specifically I’ll say that this is one of the best of Trollope’s works. I can still see the little worm sitting in the library staring at the book that holds the missing will. *sigh*
Brave New World, Huxley – Somehow in my upbringing I missed Huxley’s Brave New World. I’m honestly not sure how as it’s much more striking than Orwell’s 1984 so I regret the years I’ve lived without its influence. Well, without its direct influence anyway. I think we all suffer from it in a way as our world creeps ever closer to that of Huxley’s imaginings.
Alexander’s Bridge, Cather – One of the gifts and curses of having the pending reading queue right outside in the garage is the ability to grab any old thing at random and sit down and read it. Alexander’s Bridge was one of these cases but I’m hard pressed to determine whether this one was a gift or a curse. I’d categorize this as an OK first novel; it’s clearly better than my first novel.
The Riddle of the Sands, Childers – This little ditty was much more firmly entrenched in the ‘curse’ category. Written in 1903, this is purported to be one of the progenitors of the modern spy novel. Unfortunately, the plot was so laden down with nautical jargon, maps of sand bars and hopeless specifics that it was hard to keep one’s eyes open. Still, not a bad idea as plots go but filled with fluff.
Lady Audley’s Secret, Braddon – Did you ever read a book and have this creeping sense that you’d read it before? I still cannot identify WHEN I would have read this but when George Talboys disappears my mind went immediately to the well, even before it was mentioned. I must have been a warped child to have read such a thing long enough ago to have forgotten it so completely. At any rate, a pretty decent way to spend a couple days, especially if you don’t know about the deal with the well. Er… did I say well? I meant … storm at sea, yeah, he’s lost at sea. That’s it.
Gulliver’s Travels, Swift – For some reason this book reminds of Swiss Family Robinson. Well, actually, there’s at least one obvious reasons it might. There’s the whole shipwreck motif of course but in addition there’s this grand dichotomy of what the book REALLY is and what most people think of when you mention the book. With the Family Robinson people think of it as a ripping family adventure yarn but actually it’s a veiled religious diatribe and encyclopedia of misinformation on the botany and zoology of the tropics. Gulliver’s Travels conjures images of fantastic creatures and far-away lands for most people but if you actually read the thing it’s one long political cartoon. I will say that the book is clearly deserving of its status as a classic but it’s difficult to appreciate without knowing a bit about the political systems of the time to understand exactly who Swift is poking fun at in such a pointed manner. This gives one the idea what Doonesbury will be like in another 100 years when all the main characters are long dead and mostly forgotten.
The Natural, Malamud – Yeah, we’ve all seen the movie. Fortunately, it doesn’t really have a whole lot of similarity to the book. Poor Roy Hobbs … but what do you expect when you take a bribe and throw the game and there are only five pages left?
Soul of the Sword, O’Connell – Alright, at last some non-fiction you’re surely saying. O’Connell in his smallish tome traces the history of human weaponry from sticks to ICBMs. As an overview, it’s not bad and gives some interesting historical side notes but for my taste it lingers over long on the more modern side of things. It seems to spend half its contents blathering about the development of the gun and while I realize the gun is the single most important weapon in the history of civilization we needn’t have given it that much attention.
Gaskel, Cranford – This one is amusingly plot free but an interesting snapshot of life in Victorian (1837-1901) England.
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Sparks – Another random selection that was clearly more of a curse than a gift. Not a bad concept for a novel (teacher corrupts students into her servitude even into their adulthood) but somehow dull despite that. Oh well.