December 19th, 2008

Conspiracy Theory

There is a conservative conspiracy right in the heart of San Francisco and it is controlling my every move. Sure, San Francisco has a reputation as a liberal Mecca, full of lifestyles so alternative most people have never even heard of them, but it’s all lies.

Worse, this conspiracy exerts subliminal pressure in addition to its regular coercive power. Any move in a more liberal direction is heavily discouraged, fined, and, in extreme cases, punished by vigorous re-education.

It’s the traffic signs. They’re out to get me.

Right Lane Only. No Left Turn. How could it be more clear? All down Market Street (and notice the inherent capitalist mentality??) any shift to the left was forbidden. I was being tracked! Only the fear of the authorities kept me from severe civil disobedience (well, that and the increase in insurance premiums and the threat of traffic school).

Eventually, I managed to get home, but I’m probably not even safe here now that I have unmasked this cabal. Eat this message.

Fall Reading Contest

So as of today, T.R. and I have finished our second reading contest. This time he actually wrote down what he read. I have to ask him what multiplier we decided on before I can tell you who won. If I had to read four times as many pages as he did, he won; if it was three times, I won by about 700 pages. Either way, I think there will be fondue involved in the prize. My connection is going extremely slowly, so I am not making links for all the books this time around.

His focus, as usual, was on the work of Brian Jacques. He read five of his books since school started: The Long Patrol, Legend of Luke, Doomwhyte, Martin the Warrior, and the original, Redwall. We chose Inkheart by Cornelia Funke as our read-aloud, but T. got so engaged in it that he finished it without me. He’s having a similar experience with the sequel, Inkspell. I gave him credit for all the pages in both books, because I’m nice that way and I would actually like him to win. Finally, he read J.K. Rowling’s new book, Tales of Beedle the Bard. Eight books and over 3,000 pages is not too shabby for a semester.

For my part, I read 27 books and almost 10,000 pages, with comments to follow:

Captain Blood: This was a classic pirate book. I ate it up. Swashbuckling! Romance! War! Slavery! And, of course, a golden-hearted pirate at the center of it all.

Anathem: I worship at Neal Stephenson’s shrine. While I thoroughly enjoyed all gazillion pages of this book, my experience was slightly tainted by going to his reading at The Long Now. How can someone so brilliant read so poorly? This reinforces my belief that he should be shut up inside all day, every day, producing more books for me to read.

City of Dreaming Books: As a person who struggles to write plot, I deeply admire the flurry of incident that crowds all of Walter Moers’s books. He makes me laugh and moves me and engages me in ways that few other writers can. Highly addictive reading. Note to self: do not pick up this book when children might ask something important and require an actual answer.

Finn: I wrote about this book when I finished it. I like books that explore other books from different angles and this one did not disappoint. The writing was luminous, even if the subject was depressing.

The Rock That Is Higher, Love Letters, Sold into Egypt, The Anti-Muffins, and a biography of Madeleine L’Engle: This batch of books was all about wishing that the author hadn’t died. Sadly, it appears that the novels she wrote that aren’t widely available are that way because they are significantly less well-done. I enjoy her specifically Christian writing, but mostly because she’s kind of an off-beat Christian and because she insists that Christian art should be art first, not given any brownie points just for pious content.

Tales of Beedle the Bard: I read this before loaning it to T.R. A quick and yet satisfying read. In some ways, I wish it had been published as a series of lavishly illustrated picture books so I could give each tale to various small children of my acquaintance (and myself…).

Harry Potter 3, 4, and 5: Reading Beedle reminded me that I needed to visit Hogwarts again. So I did. (Will get to count books six and seven on the next contest sheet…) Reading these over again did count toward the contest, we agreed, because it has been a long time since I read them last.

The Camel Bookmobile: This book caught my eye in a used bookstore. It is an engaging story about the unexpected interactions between a tribal society and a first-world librarian. I enjoyed the multiple perspectives and the well-drawn characters.

The Graveyard Book: Neil Gaiman! Love him! And his tribute to The Jungle Book is terrific. What I particularly love about his work is that he finds ways to see the culture around utterly freshly.

The Private Patient: Not P.D. James’s best book, but I am a sucker for more mysteries from this talented woman. More twist to the plot would have helped.

The Golden Age: Another used bookstore find. I bought it to see what else the author of The Wind in the Willows could do. It’s an odd book because it is hard to tell for whom he intended it. Mostly it seems to be a memoir of childhood, told from a fairly childlike perspective. Lovely writing, really, in a dreamy, Beatrix Potter kind of landscape way.

Matilda: Several people told me to read this book in conversations I had, so I did. I think I would have liked it better had I read it as a kid. Now I find myself slightly appalled at the violence, not of the villains, but of the “good guys.”

Adverbs: Too experimental-ish for my personal taste. I liked the interweaving of narrative, but I do actually kind of enjoy linear storytelling. I want to say, “Sure, you’re brilliant, much smarter than I am. Now shut up with the fireworks and tell the damn story.”

The Grand Tour and The Mislaid Magician: These are sequels to The Enchanted Chocolate Pot and equally charming. The “mystery” in The Mislaid Magician was a little transparent, but the ebullient voices of the narrators kept me duly entertained.

The Hero’s Trail: This was kind of like The Book of Virtues except that I didn’t feel like barfing. T.A. Barron explores different kinds of heroism in real life and in literature with the goal, more or less, of asking readers to go and do likewise. I am older than the target audience (you think?), but managed to be inspired anyway. It would make a good gift book for someone heading off to middle school.

Inkdeath: I’m one book ahead of T.R. in the series. The conclusion to the trilogy does not disappoint and leaves a little window open just in case. I would NOT be sad if another book in the series were to appear.

Toll the Hounds: I don’t know how many books into this Malazan series I am, but this latest continues with the adventure and gore that I’ve come to enjoy in this series. Erikson has created a detailed world with clever and exciting characters. May his coffee cup never be empty.

Simon’s Dream: Again, the last in a series. I love comic books.

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey: Another sequel. It had many of the same qualities that made me enjoy the first book, particularly the invitation to figure out the puzzles along with the characters.

Soap Opera: This was an academic book on the history and defining qualities of soap operas, focused on British ones. I read it as research for a character in my writing and it was not what I was looking for, but came in useful nonetheless. I feel like I have a good theoretical grounding in the genre at this point.

And then I ran out of time, for which I’m sure anyone still reading is grateful.