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Garett Hornwood

Second Quarter 2019 Reading

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6 hours ago, Garett Hornwood said:

I'm on vacation this next week, I'll be focusing on The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides mainly because I'm a week behind my reading due to allergies making life miserable for a week earlier in the month.

Good luck! It's dense. Am curious to see if you can determine who you think Thucydides "sides" with, since (if memory serves correctly here from when I read it in university) he's trying desperately hard to not take sides. 

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Currently reading The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Topical, and I have never actually seen any of the film adaptations, so I am going in blind. 150 pages in... Hugo loves himself some Gothic architecture.

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On 4/10/2019 at 12:00 AM, Garett Hornwood said:

I finished Peace and Turmoil by Elliot Brooks this past Sunday, the first half of the book was good and interesting but it completely fell apart during the third-quarter because the big political developments--that make some people think this is a fantasy political thriller--just don't make sense and really soured the book for me.  Overall Brooks' writing was good for a first time author and even though I didn't like how the political stuff turned, Brooks did craft an interesting climactic ending to set up her next book.

I've started reading World Mythology by Donna Rosenberg, which is retellings of myths from around the world by Rosenberg along with analysis and set up at the beginning of each.  Apparently this is a textbook, which I didn't realize when I purchased it when I was in college 15 years ago from my local used book store.  Anyways, some of her analysis is WTF (she's a real proponent of Great Goddess/matriarchal religions being suppressed by patriarchal religions) and some is insightful.  I haven't left the Greece/Rome section yet so haven't expanded out into the wider world.

I own far too many mythology books but I don't have too many that are comparative. They are generally books about one area of mythology. So I might check this out. 

On 4/14/2019 at 2:14 PM, Astromech said:

I am also at the end of the audio-book version of Nathaniel Philbrick's Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold and the Fate of the American Revolution. Enjoying it. 

This sounds right up my street. I'm adding it to my list, thanks.

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@Isis It's very good. Won the George Washington Book Prize. Philbrick does narrative history quite well and the story of Benedict Arnold has always interested me. The only issue I had with it was the ending was a bit briefer than I was hoping for.

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6 hours ago, The Marquis de Leech said:

Currently reading The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Topical, and I have never actually seen any of the film adaptations, so I am going in blind. 150 pages in... Hugo loves himself some Gothic architecture.

I read this book many years ago and I am curious as to how you respond to it.. 

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8 hours ago, The Marquis de Leech said:

Currently reading The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Topical, and I have never actually seen any of the film adaptations, so I am going in blind. 150 pages in... Hugo loves himself some Gothic architecture.

I love Hugo.  My favorite chapter is his slight digression into  a description of medieval Paris and its architecture. Followed closely by the chapter describing the Cour des Miracles.

 

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Posted (edited)
13 hours ago, maarsen said:

I read this book many years ago and I am curious as to how you respond to it.. 

OK. Finished it (it was one of those "just a few more pages before I go to bed" books, where you end up finishing it at an ungodly hour)...

Spoiler

It is a book both brilliant and frustrating. The first half is a slog, with Hugo's architectural digressions going from charmingly eccentric to annoying - I read the unabridged version, but I can see the temptation to abridge, even in a book that is 400-500 pages or so. I also realise that Hugo was trying to make the Cathedral the main character - which I am not sure works, at least in terms of structure. The temptation to edit the thing just kept growing.

My other irritation is that in the thrilling second half, Hugo throws in comic turns of phrase completely at odds with the increasingly serious mood. The one where Jehan confronts Quasimodo atop the Cathedral... Hugo compares it to a man having an affair with the wife of a menagerie-owner, and accidentally finding oneself face-to-face with a white bear(!). The one where Louis XI is sorting the royal expenditure - OK for establishing character, but as the pages wear on, it gets a bit silly. The less said about the sodding philosopher and his goat fetish, the better.

Otherwise, I loved it. Claude Frollo is a truly amazing villain - notwithstanding the attempted rape, I actually empathise with his descent into madness. Poor, crazy guy, with so many redeeming features before the animal lust took over. Phoebus, IMHO, was the true monster of the book - and Esmeralda was just a naive little fool, like something out of a Twilight novel. Quasimodo was adorable.

I also spotted the social commentary too. The book is quite hostile to traditional power structures, whether they be royalty (Louis XI the penny pinching Tywin Lannister), the judiciary (who don't actually care whether the murder victim is dead or not), and the Church (unnatural celibacy drives you insane). And, of course, the book just culminates in one tragedy after another, in a "if it can go wrong, it will go wrong" sense.

The passage where Quasimodo is pouring out the burning lead, making it seem like a stream of fire, was especially moving, given recent events.  

 

Edited by The Marquis de Leech

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30 minutes ago, The Marquis de Leech said:

OK. Finished it (it was one of those "just a few more pages before I go to bed" books, where you end up finishing it at an ungodly hour)...

Gods I love how brilliant people here are. 

Marquis: I don't know how you earn your bread and butter, but jeez man, if you're not writing fiction analysis (rather than simple 'reviews'), I hope you one day start to do so! Your posts are just so wonderfully long and interesting! 

#slightfanboy 

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8 hours ago, The Marquis de Leech said:

OK. Finished it (it was one of those "just a few more pages before I go to bed" books, where you end up finishing it at an ungodly hour)...

  Reveal hidden contents

It is a book both brilliant and frustrating. The first half is a slog, with Hugo's architectural digressions going from charmingly eccentric to annoying - I read the unabridged version, but I can see the temptation to abridge, even in a book that is 400-500 pages or so. I also realise that Hugo was trying to make the Cathedral the main character - which I am not sure works, at least in terms of structure. The temptation to edit the thing just kept growing.

My other irritation is that in the thrilling second half, Hugo throws in comic turns of phrase completely at odds with the increasingly serious mood. The one where Jehan confronts Quasimodo atop the Cathedral... Hugo compares it to a man having an affair with the wife of a menagerie-owner, and accidentally finding oneself face-to-face with a white bear(!). The one where Louis XI is sorting the royal expenditure - OK for establishing character, but as the pages wear on, it gets a bit silly. The less said about the sodding philosopher and his goat fetish, the better.

Otherwise, I loved it. Claude Frollo is a truly amazing villain - notwithstanding the attempted rape, I actually empathise with his descent into madness. Poor, crazy guy, with so many redeeming features before the animal lust took over. Phoebus, IMHO, was the true monster of the book - and Esmeralda was just a naive little fool, like something out of a Twilight novel. Quasimodo was adorable.

I also spotted the social commentary too. The book is quite hostile to traditional power structures, whether they be royalty (Louis XI the penny pinching Tywin Lannister), the judiciary (who don't actually care whether the murder victim is dead or not), and the Church (unnatural celibacy drives you insane). And, of course, the book just culminates in one tragedy after another, in a "if it can go wrong, it will go wrong" sense.

The passage where Quasimodo is pouring out the burning lead, making it seem like a stream of fire, was especially moving, given recent events.  

 

Did you read it in the original French or a translation? I only ask because I don't remember some of the comic phrases you mention. It has been a few years since I've read it though.

The social commentary is classic Hugo. Not as pronounced as in Les Miserables, mind you, but not subtle either.

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I finished The Ember Blade by Chris Wooding and enjoyed it. Very traditional in most ways with some coincidences that helped solve some challenges but all in all, it was exactly what I was looking for at the time of reading it.

Just started Rage of Dragons by Evan Winters. We'll see how this goes.

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10 hours ago, IlyaP said:

Gods I love how brilliant people here are. 

Marquis: I don't know how you earn your bread and butter, but jeez man, if you're not writing fiction analysis (rather than simple 'reviews'), I hope you one day start to do so! Your posts are just so wonderfully long and interesting! 

#slightfanboy 

Cheers. I actually write fiction as well as fiction analysis, though neither is my day job, and I only get paid for the former.

(My publisher has suggested that I write a book of essays on the fantasy genre. It's something I'd like to do at some point, but it'd involve far more extensive research than usual. There is a big difference between writing 2000 words on a subject and writing 15000 words on a subject).

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1 hour ago, Astromech said:

Did you read it in the original French or a translation? I only ask because I don't remember some of the comic phrases you mention. It has been a few years since I've read it though.

The social commentary is classic Hugo. Not as pronounced as in Les Miserables, mind you, but not subtle either.

English Translation (it's the Wordsworth Classics edition).

Here's the line in question:

Jehan had then hidden himself behind one of the stone kings, not daring to draw breath, but fixing upon the monstrous hunchback a look of wild apprehension, like the man who, making love to the wife of a menagerie-keeper, and going one evening to meet her by appointment, scaled the wrong wall, and suddenly found himself tete-a-tete with a white bear. (p.361.).

It's a lovely simile, but out of place in context, I think.

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Posted (edited)

Th translation is exact. I thought maybe the translator added something, but no. Perhaps slightly out of context, but it worked for me. Jehan was trying to sneak into Esmeralda's hiding place but stumbled into Quasimodo along the way. I thought it was an appropriate comparison since it matches Jehan's character and foolishness.

Skimming through my version, I forgot just how much happens in the novel and how often Hugo digresses. I loved the digressions, but I can see how others would get annoyed. The info dumps are subjects I'm very interested in so I found myself wanting more of them.

Edited by Astromech

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I read De Castell's Tyrant's Throne, which I had been saving for a while, and loved it as I thought I would.  Next I attempted to start Tchaikovsky's Shadows of the Apt but couldn't get into it.  Now I'm reading Lawrence's Holy Sister.

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Posted (edited)

I finished Rage of Dragons in like 3 days. It had a very Blood Song feel to it and I thoroughly enjoyed a lot of the action sequences. I didn't love all the plot elements nor did I love the main character but it was written in a way where I wanted to keep reading and I give Evan Winter a lot of credit for that. 

Next up is Dune. My wife and I are doing book club.

Edited by Mexal

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Finished listening to the audiobook of David Philipps's Wild Horse Country: The History, Myth, and Future of the Mustang. Philipps traces the history of the wild horses in North America from their origins to their disappearance and their reintroduction by the Spanish; the myth of the mustang in popular culture; and the battle between the BLM, ranchers and horse lovers over their future.  The three-way struggle between those parties is very interesting yet also very frustrating.

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Finished off Purgatorio, by Dante (I read Inferno years ago, and am finally getting around to reading the rest to the Divine Comedy). It's the Mark Musa translation, and as the poem's imagery gets weirder, the commentary is rather a necessity.

I'm not starting Paradiso immediately - I'm aware it's pretty heavy going. So I'm lightening things up with a couple of Agatha Christies first.

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In today's post, our hero moves on to a reread of Bernard Cornwell's Excalibur

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