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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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review 2017-11-20 06:36
Duties, responsibilities and the author's obligation to tell the truth
The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers - John Gardner

 

One of the most interesting things about this book is how attitudes have changed in regards to what it means to be an author.

 

The Art of Fiction - Notes on Craft for Young Writers by John Gardner, was published in 1984, long before the advent of online platforms that make self-publishing free and easy to any and everyone.

 

This is not your "How to Write a Novel for Dummies" and Gardner definitely would not have supported "everyone's right to publish" as proclaimed by many indie authors and the entire self-publishing industry.

 

Gardner felt that aspiring to be an author was almost akin to a "higher calling" and required rigorous study and practice. As well as hard work and sacrifice such a career choice came with duties and responsibilities.

 

The most important of which is telling the truth, and not just getting facts right, but making sure your fiction is believable and not perceived by the reader as a lie. Foremost it must "affirm moral truths about human existence".

 

Good fiction according to Gardner "creates a vivid and continuous dream" for the reader.

 

Though the book contains good suggestions on craft they're not presented point by point but rather embedded within the text. That means enduring a lot of with Gardner's rather academic, elitist attitude.

 

Is it worth it? Definitely - if you're serious about becoming an accomplished author.

 

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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 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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text 2016-01-17 23:51
Remembering Alan Rickman
Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass - Lewis Carroll
The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood - Howard Pyle
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - J.K. Rowling,Mary GrandPré
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer - Patrick Suskind,John E. Woods

One of the greatest actors of our time passed away this week. He was only 69, but cancer doesn't know age, fortune or fairness. And it surely doesn't care about genius. But since I can't change a damned thing about Alan Rickman's passing, except for being more grateful for my "survivors" who are still with me, I decided to pay this brilliant man my respects in the most lasting way I know of. With books. 

 

Because, sure, he starred in some pretty damn awesome movies. I will never forget Dr. Lazarus in Galaxy Quest - "By Grabthar's hammer, by the suns of Warvan, you shall be avenged!". He was sweet in Love Actually, broke my heart in Snow Cake, slayed me in Sweeney Todd - which was a wonderful Tim Burton adaption of the musical. And he was absolutely on fire as the genderless (maybe) voice of God, Metatron, in Dogma. I LOVED him to death!

 

 

Same goes for Phil Allen in Blow Dry. That was HIS movie  - nobody cared about Heidi Klum at any point in time. Plus, the foot tatoo inspired some people in my life in a way you wouldn't believe. Really, you wouldn't. 

 

 

 

 

But even more remarkable were his roles in filmizations of really great books. Starting with a classic. Granted, I'm not a fan of Jane Austen, but Alan Rickman was great as Colonel Christopher Brandon in Sense and Sensibiltity. 

 

And do you remeber the great voices he did in some movies? Marvin the Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? Awesome! And Absolem! I adored Absolem, and Alan Rickman was the perfect voice for him in the latest Alice in Wonderland! And I can't put in words how much I'm looking forward to Alice through the Looking Glass this year.

 

And let's not forget him as one of the best known villains of all time, yes? As George, Sheriff of Nottingham, in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I love the tales and ballads of Robin Hood - always have, always will. And Alan Rickman made one formidable Sheriff. He also nailed his performance as Antoine Richis, father of one of Grenuilles obsessions in Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. His pain was my pain in the end - despite me not liking the movie.

 

I could go on and on like that. 

 

But of course there is one role that fit him like a second skin. The one role he filled like nobody else ever could. The one that changed my perception of a "villain/hero" in the story from this: 

 

 

to this: 

 

https://heavyeditorial.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/41.jpg?quality=65&strip=all&w=748

 

Alan Rickman managed something that only happened once or twice in my life as an avid reader so far. He REPLACED the character of Professor Snape I imagined in my mind while I'd been reading (and re-reading) the Harry Potter books for years - after only watching the first movie. Once.

 

Alan Rickman became the face of "my" Severus Snape in my own mind. That never happened to me before - not to that extent. I'm not sure if it was because he was perfect for the character, or the character was perfect for him, but either way, he was the most amazing actor in these movies. I grew up with this man as an idol, loved him to pieces as  an actor AND as Severus Snape and I not only had tears in my eyes when his character died, but again when he left the real world behind. So while I'm not mourning an man I knew personally, I still mourn one of the greatest talents that - directly or indirectly - has been an influence on my life for many years. 

 

And when somebody asks me in twenty years if Alan Rickman is still one of my most favorite actors, and if I still think of him when I think of Harry Potter - after all this time? 

 

I'll answer: 

 

"Always". 

Source: seveninchesofyourtime.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/rickman10.png
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