logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: MbDFiction
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-04-18 05:55
Dead Interviews: Living Writers Meet Dead Icons
Dead Interviews: Living Writers Meet Dead Icons - Dan Crowe

Several modern day writers answer the question, if you could go back in time and talk to any famous writer, who would it be? by imagining how such interviews would go.

 

Some are straight-forward, some are really very clever, like the Samuel Johnson/Boswell interview imagined by David Mitchell, or Rebecca Miller's take on how an interview would go with the Marquis de Sade.  Some of them aren't even authors; Douglas Coupland interviews Andy Warhol, who he imagines finds heaven very dull.

 

I bought this because I saw Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on the list and he's just about the only author I'd travel back in time to talk to, if I could.  Ian Rankin did the honours, but I was rather disappointed with his efforts, to be frank.  Very little came out of the exercise except perhaps a wicked hangover for Rankin if he was lucky, a court-ordered psych eval if he wasn't (fictitiously speaking, of course).

 

The weirdest by far was Joyce Carol Oates' disturbing and intensive extended grilling of Robert Frost.  I think it's fair to say, fictional imaginings or not, she does not like Robert Frost!  At the end of it, she is careful to remind readers it's a work of fiction, "though based opon (limited, selected) historical research", and then points the reader in the direction of Meyer's biography of Frost.  I'm betting there's a story to tell there somewhere.

 

It's an amusing collection of what-ifs, some of which, like with all such things, are better than others.  

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-04-14 12:22
The Delight of Being Ordinary
The Delight of Being Ordinary: A Road Trip with the Pope and the Dalai Lama - Roland Merullo

The subtitle of this novel says everything about why it appealed to me from the start:

 

A Road Trip with the Pope and the Dalai Lama

 

Then there was the author's note:

 

I am inclined to put my trust in spiritual figures who show a sense of humor, rather than those who take everything—including themselves—with a miserable seriousness. Life can be harsh, yes. The struggle to live a meaningful life, however we define that, can be rich with problems and challenges. But humor exists to soften the sharp edges of things. And so Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama, both of whom laugh a lot, seem to me like wise teachers, extraordinary men in the difficult position of guiding billions of followers, of steering vessels with a heavy cargo of good and bad history, in the same general direction, across the rough seas of modem life. 

 

That right there is guaranteed to get my attention.  At school, part of the curriculum was world religions, because, as the nuns said, you can't respect what you don't understand.  

 

So, a story about the Pope and the Dalai Lama dodging their security teams and going on a 4 day road trip?  Yes please!  When it arrived I couldn't wait to get stuck into it, and what better day to read it than Good Friday?

 

It was so much more than I expected; true, I didn't quite know what to expect - I bought it on blind faith and the subtitle, but there was the humorous road trip I'd expected, plus theology, and mystical adventure and ultimately, the story of a marriage in crises and a startling narrative on the emotional baggage a relationship accumulates over time.

 

I didn't go the whole-hog 5 stars because even though I loved it, it did drag in a few places.  I think this is my fault; I couldn't put the book down and there's a lot of (really interesting) theology here; real, everyday, relatable theology, and I think the pacing would have worked better had I read this over several sessions, savouring instead of devouring it.  Also, the MC and narrator, Paolo, and his wife Rosa are a little too real.  The reader is truly inside Paolo's head and that insight to his thoughts is not always comfortable; he's a good man, but he's deeply flawed.

 

As much as I love this book, I can't honestly say it's for everyone.  Those who have confidently turned away from faith in anything greater than man need not bother, although the book does offer an accurate view of what faith should be about.  Those who do categories themselves as spiritual or religious or faithful might find this interesting, but it's going to depend on the rigidity of those beliefs. There are as many flavours of Christianity as there are stars in the sky (almost/not really) and RC offends quite a few of them.  And even RCs might have a tough time swallowing the ending; I admit I balked myself, at first.  What Merullo offers as a plot twist is confronting and I can't say reacted any better than Paolo did (at first).

 

Still, I loved this book; there are so many parts that resonated, from the faith through to the marriage.  I adored Pope Francis before this book, and still do, but now, I might have a bit of a crush on the Dalai Lama.  :)

 

 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-04-13 11:48
Letters From Paris
Letters from Paris - Juliet Blackwell

A Cajun woman who escaped her rough childhood to live the corporate life in Chicago, returns home to take care of her dying grandmother.  While she's there she rediscovers an old death mask in the attic (death masks were made from plaster moulds taken after someone died - it was a thing about a century ago), that leads her to Paris, searching for answers about the elusive face of L'Inconnue.

 

I really enjoy Juliet Blackwell's writing and this book did not disappoint.  It's not a perfect read; there are moments that aren't followed through at all or very well in the first half of the book, but overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the story.

 

I bought this for the mystery and the setting; I've read her other book The Paris Key and remembered how vividly she brought Paris to life in my mind.  Paris came to life again here, although the mystery sort of fizzled. (I don't know how to explain it without spoiling so I'll leave it at that.)

 

The big surprise (for me) was the romance.  It was excellent!  I expected it to be more a suggestion of romance (as she did in her last Paris book), but here it was much more a part of the plot, and it made the book so much better.

 

What can I say?  I liked it - I'd recommend it.

 

 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-03-15 22:36
The Book of God and Physics
The Book of God and Physics: A Novel of the Voynich Mystery - Enrique Joven,Delores M. Koch

I loved every single thing about this book.  Except the writing.  Or maybe the translation.  Probably the translation.  Either way, what could have been a story to blow The DaVinci Code out of the water, was instead a worthy read for only those that are interested in the Voynich Manuscript, astronomy, and/or the intersection of faith and science.

 

I am incredibly fascinated with all of those things - except astronomy, of course - so I couldn't give up on the book.  For those unaware of the Voynich Manuscript, it is a real, illustrated manuscript believed to be about 500 years old.  It's full of beautiful ink and watercolour drawings that encompass chemistry/alchemy, botanicals, and astronomy, and it's written in a language that doesn't exist anywhere else.  It remains to this day undecipherable.  The manuscript currently resides at the Beinecke Library of Yale University and they have it online here.

 

Anything that has remained untranslatable for over 500 years becomes an unavoidable conspiracy theorist magnet, but the author of this book includes an introduction, where he makes it clear that other than the creation of the MC and his two friends, everything else in the book is historically accurate; all the other characters are real and their back-stories were kept intact without creative license.  Knowing this also kept me glued to the book when the prose would have sent me fleeing long before chapter 2.

 

The book is heavily centered in the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits).  (They owned the Voynich Manuscript until 1912 when Voynich secretly bought it from them.)  My gender aside, the Jesuits are my people.  I make no secret of my faith in God and my faith in science; a stance that neatly pisses off everyone in one go: atheists because I believe in God, and those calling themselves Christians because I'm a heretic for accepting the Big Bang (first hypothesised by a Belgian priest*, btw) and evolution. The Jesuits also find no contradiction between God and science and in fact, most of the major contributions to science - experimental physics, specifically - in the 17th century were made by Jesuits. They weren't slackers in the 18th century either.

 

So, a story about a real coded manuscript, in its historically accurate setting, involving science and theology, taking place in a Jesuit school in Castile.  And I haven't even mentioned the secret tunnels, hidden passages and coded messages, or the major supporting characters that include Tycho Brahe, Kepler, Dee, Kelly, Galileo and Cassini.

 

Unfortunately, as I've already said, the writing translation is the major sticking point. The narrative was choppy and there was a general abuse of pronouns, leaving the reader sometimes wondering who was being talked about at any given time.  Dialogue jumped around too so that there were a few leaps of logic I couldn't follow because I couldn't parse the writing.  The ultimate care the author takes to make sure the history and the science are explained carefully (and sometimes repetitively), inclines me to fault the translation.  The author's love and knowledge of the subject matter screams from the page, as does his concern that the reader understand as much of the hard stuff as is possible, so it doesn't make sense that the story itself was written with so little care.

 

If I were only rating the writing, this would be 1 star.  But the subject matter and the plot were 5 stars, so in the end I split the difference and went with 3.  Don't bother with this one if you're only looking for a thriller or adventure, but if you're fascinated by the other stuff, maybe see if your library has this one and give is a go.  It'll be work, but it'll be fascinating too.

 

(* Georges Lemaître was the first to formally propose his hypothesis of the primeval atom, which became known as the Big Bang Theory, first published in 1931 in Nature.  He was a Jesuit priest and professor of physics.  He was also the first to note the expansion of the universe, and the first to derive Hubble's law and made the first estimation of what is called Hubble's constant - all misattributed to Hubble, at least in name.)

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-02-21 09:21
An Academic Question
An Academic Question - Barbara Pym,Kate Saunders

Pym is widely regarded as an Important Author in her time and genre, and as I've never read her I grabbed this at a library sale.  I knew going into it that it wasn't considered 'major Pym' but is was a dollar and I figured it would give me a general idea of what to expect from her other works, one of which is on the TBR cliff.

 

All I can say is I think I missed something.  Possibly, I missed everything.  The cover's pull quotes all talk about the comedy and the introduction, written by Kate Saunders, refers to it as a 'comic novel'.  I didn't see it.  It's not a cultural thing either, I don't think; I generally find the British sense of humour incredibly funny.  

 

Caro is the wife of an academic, in what I think must be somewhere around mid-century?  70's maybe?, who is bored, dissatisfied with her life and disinclined to do anything about it (or maybe feels helpless to do anything about it - it's unclear).  She starts reading to a blind academic at the local old folks home, who happens to have a trunk full of papers that will advance her husband's career, so he visits with her one day and steals it.  And lets her bear the burden of the guilt. Apparently a comedy of errors ensues; apparently so subtly that it flew right past me without notice.

 

I thought about going 2.5 stars, because honestly nothing ever happens, but in spite of its unfinished feel, I didn't mind the writing.  I wasn't bored when I was reading it, and that has to be worth something, I guess.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?