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review 2017-12-19 22:16
This is bona fide angst
Grendel - John Gardner

I have to assume that a large majority of you studied the epic poem, Beowulf, when you were in high school. If you recall, this is often cited as the oldest example of an epic poem in Old English and it tells the story of the hero, Beowulf, who comes to aid a king who is plagued by a monster known as Grendel. It goes on to discuss Beowulf's homecoming and his continuing adventures (with a dragon no less). All I remember of the poem was a fight in a cave. (Clearly I was unimpressed with this work's historical lineage.) So it might come as a surprise that when I saw Grendel by John Gardner I was intrigued by discovering that it was a kind of retelling of the poem in narrative format...from Grendel's point of view. Straight out of the gate, this was an absolutely bizarre piece of literature. I came away from it thinking that it was too cerebral for me (Farewell hubris!) because there were many times I felt like I had absolutely no clue what was going on. I think part of this lies with the narrative style which mixed Old English language (like the original) with contemporary phraseology (curses galore, ya'll). I was nearly tempted to reread Beowulf for reference. (Spoiler alert: I didn't.) This is a philosophical novel that ponders the nature of existence and what it actually means to be 'good' or 'evil' because for something to be truly 'good' there needs to be a corresponding 'evil' to balance it...right? Grendel is a classic example of an antihero but boy does he jaw on and on and on about his place in the universe. I found him bitter and whiny but I don't know if that's due to characterization or if it's the author's 'voice' projected onto the character. I guess I'll have to decide if I want to read more of Gardner's works to find out the answer. It's hard for me to sum up my feelings on this one other than to say it wasn't an especially enjoyable time and I don't know who I'd recommend this one too because it's very niche. It's a 3/10 for me.


What's Up Next: The Great Questions of Tomorrow by David Rothkopf


What I'm Currently Reading: Mine Own Executioner by Nigel Balchin (and also Scythe which apparently I'm never going to finish)

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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text 2017-09-15 21:35
Weekend Reading
Grendel - John Gardner
Misery - Stephen King
Akata Witch - Nnedi Okorafor
Nine Coaches Waiting (Rediscovered Classics) - Sandra Brown,Mary Stewart

The weather has cooled down here in Calgary considerably.  I haven't any big plans for the weekend, so I hope to do some baking and read some Halloween Bingo books.


I've read part of both Grendel and Misery, so I just want to finish them up.  Akata Witch is the next book due at the library (with holds so I can't renew).  And I think that Nine Coaches Waiting will be an excellent Friday evening book.


Happy weekend, everyone!!

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review 2017-01-05 00:00
The Grendel Affair
The Grendel Affair - Lisa Shearin DNF @ 20%

Another UF that is just not working for me. This is not holding my attention, so it's time to move on
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review 2016-01-24 05:24
The Grendel Affair - Lisa Shearin

Somewhat less amusing than the novella introducing the world would lead you to believe.


Not sure about a second Seer going by the name of Mac - thousands of names and you picked that one as a nickname? At least she's teamed with a human.

Pondering a bit. It's a bit of MIB with a side order of errr...things that go bump in the night. The boss's sister has issues and siccs several grendels on Manhattan to send New Year's off with a bang of sorts. Missing is how exactly these beasties were controlled.


The entirety of the book seems to have taken 2 days. Much of it was investigating, either onsite, or in the office, with the last quarter maybe in the hunt for the nest and the adults.

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review 2016-01-22 02:37
Grendel - John Gardner
Grendel - John Gardner

I'm embarrassed to admit that I had never read this fantasy classic until after I heard it recommended twice in one day at last year's World Fantasy Convention.

Most English-speaking readers are familiar with Beowulf. Even if it wasn't foisted upon you in a high school or college English class, most people have at least heard of it: the eleventh-century epic poem that was among the first, if not the first, instance of English literature. The story, set in Scandinavia, tells of a monster that terrorizes a local lord's hall until Beowulf, our hero, comes from across the sea to slay it. Once he does, the monster's mother comes after Beowulf, seeking revenge.

The monster's name is Grendel -- and in Gardner's book, he tells the story from Grendel's point of view. But Grendel is the narrator here, not just the main character, and he is caught in an existential morass -- forced by fate to attack these people over and over again:

I understood that the world was nothing: a mechanical chaos of casual, brute enmity on which we stupidly impose our hopes and fears. I understood that, finally and absolutely, I alone exist. All the rest, I saw, is merely what pushes me, or what I pus against, blindly -- as blindly as all that is not myself pushes back. I create the whole universe, blink by blink.

Well, he's young. As he grows older, he visits a dragon (a very funny scene), and takes the dragon's philosophy to heart. Eventually, destiny catches up with him in the form of Beowulf, as we all knew it would, and the ending scene echoes the story's beginning, as the wheel of time turns and the world moves on.

While it's always interesting to read a famous story from the villain's point of view (see Gregory Maguire's Wicked), Grendel is far more than that. Gardner is a superb writer, and he's managed to make Grendel almost a sympathetic character -- almost (dare I say it?) human.

Highly recommended, and required reading for anybody who aspires to write epic fantasy.

Source: www.rursdayreads.com/2016/01/grendel-john-gardner.html
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