Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The long wait is over

   It's been several weeks in development (the posting date in my test journal for this entry reads May 31st), but here is Dawn's book meme:

Recommend 3 books you believe everyone needs to read and say why people should read them.

The Bible...but not the way your preacher would have you read it, a verse here and a verse there. The Bible is a collection of 'books' each of which is a stand-alone piece of literature. Each of which have their own specific message. Those messages can only be understood by reading each book as a whole, carefully, and with much thought given towards what each book is trying to say. Picking a few verses out of context and trying to assign them meaning is impossible, and those churches where that kind of chapter and verse daisy picking is advocated are doing you a disservice. The Bible is an impressive piece of literature and it needs to be read as such.

The Fionavar Trilogy...I looked at a few lists of "must read" books, and many of them included Tolkien's Lord of the Rings (not really a) trilogy, but I think if you want to read a fantasy series done right, Guy Gavriel Kay is the place to start. Kay's literary approach to the classic fantasy genre was prompted both by what Tolkien didn't do, and by what everyone else writing in the genre did nauseum. This is how these books were introduced to me twenty-odd years ago: "if you liked The Lord of the Rings, you'll love The Fionavar Tapestry!"

Slaughterhouse Five...This book is as important now as it was when it was published in 1966, for exactly the same reasons. For me this book was an epiphany of sorts. When I got to the end, I had to go back and read the entire thing over again with an entirely new kind of understanding. Besides, the title page reads:



Kurt Vonnegut


I mean, how can you not?


Name three books you’ve never been able to finish and explain why.

The Bible. Yeah, uh, I kinda skimmed the begets. Because, you know, they do go on a bit. At some point, one's eyes just start to glaze over. You know those warning signs that the email you're reading may be an urban legend? Lots of extremely specific, yet completely unverifiable detail that serves to lend veracity? Yeah, the begets. I've read all the rest of it, though.

The Island of the Day Before. I've read several other novels by Umberto Eco. I had no trouble with The Name of the Rose, and quite enjoyed Baudolino, but for some reason I just can't get into this one. It may be because this one, at least to begin, is more political in nature, and less focused on religion. The other two novels I mentioned are rather satirical of the early Catholic church, which caught my fancy. So far, this one seems to be less so. Or, maybe the story just isn't clicking with me. Whatever the reason, it has been parked on my shelf with a bookmark planted at page sixty-one for almost two years now.

The Lions of Al-Rassan. I'm cheating a little bit with this one, as I have read it once. I just can't seem to get through it a second time. This is considered by many Guy Gavriel Kay fans to be his best work, but it never worked for me. For reasons which would be spoilerish to go into here I found myself feeling manipulated by the author while reading this novel. This has been discussed in some depth on the forums at Kay's official website,, where my commentsprompted a rather spirited reply from the author himself. While I will allow that authors do, to some extent, manipulate their readers in an effort to provoke a specific emotional or intellectual response, I felt that what Kay did with Lions broke the willing suspension of disbelief wall between he and I, and pulled my awareness out of the narrative, and I didn't enjoy that. Few agree with me. In fact, I can't think of one person who does on this issue.
   I've tried, over and over again, to reread the book, but always abandon it well before the instance of so-called 'manipulation' occurs. I think that I am so aware that it is coming that I can't allow myself to slip into that suspension of disbelief that is so important for a reader to adopt.
   Now, if the movie ever gets made, I'll definitely see that.

Name three books you want to read, but haven’t yet.

The Bible. Just kidding. I thought the repetition would be funny.

Pattern Recognition. William Gibson has been on the leading edge of examinations of "cyberspace" (heck he coined the term) since he published his first novel in 1984. Pattern Recognition, written over five years ago, presagedthe importance ofInternet viral video as a marketing tool long before it became a universally understood concept. This book has been sitting on my shelf since it came out, waiting for me to "get around to it."

Kiln People. I'm hot and cold on David Brin. I have loved some of his novels and been  rather blasé about others. I have heard nothing but high praise for Kiln People, and bought the book some time ago. It sits on the shelf immediately beside Pattern Recognition, waiting.

The Stone Dance of the Chameleon Trilogy, Book 3. This as yet untitled novel (untitled because it is, to date, unpublished), is will be the concluding chapter to a saga that began in The Chosen in 1999, and continued in The Standing Dead in 2002. The author, one Ricardo Pinto, has been engrossed in writing the third book for five years. This past April he began work on the second draft. I kid you not. At this rate, I may not live long enough to see it published.

Are there any books that you’ve loved, but been disappointed by the film/TV adaptation?

   Well, most of them, really. Although, I must say that I was very happy with the Lord of the Rings adaptations by Peter Jackson. I know several people who were not, and their reasons are perfectly valid. But as films, those three are very well crafted, and I'm willing to allow the liberties PJ and crew took. Except for the whole Arwen storyline. That was just stupid.
   I also quite enjoyed the Narnia movie. However, never having read thebooks as a child, I had little emotional investment in it.

   If there is one movie I have seen that completely betrayed the spirit of the novel (or novella, in this case) from which it was drawn, it would have to be Enemy Mine, starring Dennis Quaid and Lou Gossett Jr. The book, by Barry B. Longyear, won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novella of the year (the 1979 Nebula, and the 1980 Hugo, because of the dates those were held in relation to the date of publication). It is a moving story of hate, distrust, co-operation, understanding, friendship and love that Director Wolfgang Petersen beat about the head and shoulders with a big bag of rocks for several weeks until it resembled nothing more than the worst Star Trek episode you've ever imagined under the influence of tainted mind altering drugs, and bad Chinese food. Do me a favour. Look for the book, and read it, and skip the film altogether.

Which books (apart from the Potter books) do you re-read the most? 

I have to say that I am quite able to answer this question without using the Potter books as examples. While I find the Harry Potter series to be a pleasing distraction, and have reread several of them once or twice, they are by no means compelling novels, and if I was never able to read one of them again, I would feel no loss whatsoever. That said, I find it hard to narrow the field for this question. I have traditionally been a voracious reader, and will reread any book I enjoy many times. Just looking over my shoulder at the bookself, I can see more than twenty books that I have read four or more times. If I were to narrow it down to, say, three authors (I could never get it down to three books), I'd say the works of Guy Kay (with the notable exception mentioned above), the works of Frank Herbert (especially the Dune series), and the works of William Gibson.

Which books do you remember most from your childhood?

   Which books do I remember most from my childhood? Hmm... I thought about this one for a few days (sorry Dawn). My first thought was of my earliest memories of reading; the Little Golden Books, and Dr. Suess' early readers books. Discounting those, I kept thinking about it, looking for memories of other, more significant books, but very little presented itself. I think I was such a voracious reader at a young age that I ate up almost every book I picked up, and quickly went on to the next, with little retention. Which explains why I can reread a book so many times, I guess.
   I did, eventually (just as I typed this, in fact) come up with a couple of other examples. As child I had a large collection of Hardy Boys books, but what I remember more than those was another series of similarly published work, the Tom Swift series. It would have been one of my first experiences with speculative fiction, and I loved them. (To be accurate, what I read was the Tom Swift Jr. series). I think it is safe to say that they guided me into my love of Science Fiction and Fantasy to this day.
   The other read I remember very vividly was one specific book from among many. When I was a young teen, my uncle remarried. My new aunt was a divorcee herself, and when she married my uncle they bought a house together, and moved her out of the town house she had lived in with her previous husband. Among the things we moved out of her storage area were a couple of boxes of books left behind by her ex. I guess she saw me looking through them, and told me I could have them. Score!
   Now, I never met Ron Blanchard, and I know absolutely nothing about him, except this: the man had excelent taste in speculative literature. There were several books in those boxes that still reside on my bookshelf - a little worse for wear - ratty, if truth be told - three decades later, including The Science Fiction Hall Of Fame. The table of contents reads like a who's who of the "Golden Age" of science fiction. John W. Campbell, Letser del Rey, Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Judith Merril, Cordwainer Smith, James Blish, Arthur C. Clarke, Alfred Bester, Roger Zelazny, the list goes on.
   That one book introduced me to real science fiction writing. Writing that wasn't about John Wayne in space, or James Bond in space, but was about the human condition. This was literature that used fantastic or futuristic settings as a way of disguising the fact that what it was talking about was us, here, now. That one book taught me a new way of reading, and influenced the books I chose to read for years to come. So thanks, Aunt Elaine, and thanks Ron Blanchard, wherever you are.

Are there any books that you are proud to say you have read?

   Uh. Well, yeah. See above - all of the above - for a representative sample. I'm proud to say I read. That is all.

Are there any books that you are ashamed to admit reading?

   No. Listen: there has been pulp in my past. There will be pulp in my future. Get over it.
   Well, OK. I did read the first three of Robert Jordan's Wheel Of Time series before I caught on. But I'm nowhere near as sorry as those who have read all eleven to date...multiple times...if my wife reads this I'm in trouble...

Are there any booksthat have had a big emotional impact on you?  List 2.

Things that can bring a tear to this Canadian's eye:
-The death of a kittten.
-The death of Macauley Culkin in My Girl. (Don't give me any of that spoiler crap, the movie's, like, sixteen years old. Oh, by the way, Bruce Willis is dead in The Sixth Sense. So there!)
-The death of ET.
-The ressurection of ET. (Again with the spoiler complaints! Dude, if you haven't seen ET by now, what's wrong with you?)
-The writing of Guy Gavriel Kay. I know. Some of you are rolling your eyes, and thinking, "enough with the GGK pimping." What can I say, he's that good. If you haven't read any of his work by now, dude, what's wrong with you?

Books that can evoke another emotion:
-Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes. It's hilarious. Honest. Brought me to tears.

   OK, I'm done. It's been a long time coming - what, Dawn, five weeks, or so? But I wanted to do it justice, you know? I take my reading seriously. So, anyway, I'm not going to tag anyone, because I wasn't explicitly tagged. If it strikes your fancy, do this meme for yourself. If you do, be sure to drop a comment here, and let me know.


tenyearnap said...

The "begets" are my favorite part. --Cin

barryleiba said...

Hey Paul...
Just a few comments, so I'll put them here instead of "meme"ing in my own blog (especially since I generally don't do that):

Paul: Slaughterhouse Five...This book is as important now as it was when it was published in 1966

Barry: Oh yes, indeed!  And I have a S-Five story: I was sitting next to a young woman on a plane two years ago, and I asked her what she was reading.  She showed me: it was S-Five.  I said that I loved that book, first read it in high school.  Her response was an honest, "Oh... I didn't know it was that old."

Paul: Yeah, uh, I kinda skimmed the begets. Because, you know, they do go on a bit. At some point, one's eyes just start to glaze over.

Barry: "Atlas Shrugged".  Be honest: NO ONE has ever made it through the ENTIRE John Galt speech, all 30-odd pages, without doing a little skimming.  Loved the book.  Skipped the last 27 pages of the speech, or so.

Paul: under the influence of tainted mind altering drugs, and bad Chinese food
Barry: Oof!

Q: Which books do you re-read the most?
Q: Are there any books that you are proud to say you have read?

Barry: "To Kill a Mockingbird", my favourite book ever written.

Paul: Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes. It's hilarious.

Barry: OK, maybe "To Kill a Mockingbird" is second best.  Yes, DQ is a most amazing book!  And it's the source of almost as many common English phrases as Shakespeare and the Bible.


jennyp51 said...

We have a bit more in common than you thought.  I loved the Dune books, also Lord of the Rings.  I might look up that other author you mentioned a lot... Kay.  Been reading the bible non-stop fro 25 years and have it in all sizes, colours and flavours, the only book that is constantly on the top of the best sellers list which is why they do not include it.  That makes every so-called top of the BS really number 2.
Jenny <><

plittle said...

  I suspect Mr. Kay would be amused to consider the fact that his latest book, Ysabel, only ever made it to #2 on the NYT's best-selling hardcover fiction list. I know I am.

simianfarmer said...

Now I'm totally going to have to get Slaughterhouse Five.  I think it's on my list... nope -- I just checked my notebook.  Duly added.  Like my nightstand isn't already teetering on the edge of collapse from the "to-read" pile there ensconced.


princesssaurora said...

I have to say, with trepidation... I picked up a Kay book, ... and i just couldn't do it Paul.  It didn't pull me in like Asimov or Tolkein.  Maybe it was the wrong book... I don't actually remember which I tried.  

You know I ADORE HP, so I won't quibble with you over it.  I do not think it is of that caliber of much great fiction, however, I do believe the world she wove was incredibly unique and had great depth.  A wonderful coming of age, good vs evil series.  

I will have to finally read Slaughterhouse 5.  

Thank you, for doing this meme and giving it your full attention!

be well,

princesssaurora said...

And, ps... under the emotional stuff you listed movies really not books, you cheat.  And, everyone cries at kittens dying... not just Canadiens...

AND, for all the times you repeated with the bible and Kay... it really had to take 7 weeks to whip this together?????   LOL  Just kidding....

be well,

princesssaurora said...

Okay... kind of... you say that a Kay book brought you tears, but you didn't say which one!!  And, Quixote made you laugh... that isn't the same!  lol  But, I give!

I'll email you later...

be well,

barryleiba said...

Hm, and Jenny says, in comment 3, that the Bible is really at the top of the "BS" list.  Yes, I've always thought that too, indeed...........

[Barry ducks for cover...]

toonguykc said...

So glad you mentioned "My Girl" after all that brainy book stuff you wrote!  I think it's a very underrated movie.


jennyp51 said...

I think the bible probably doesn't come under the fiction heading, LOL.  As to it being the biggest selling book of all time, well i work in a bookshop and listen to the publishing reps, also here in the UK it is mentioned on the TV quite a lot and comes up in Quiz questions.

acoverforty said...

Wow do I agree with you on Slaughterhouse Five.. I guess I was thirteen and I picked up my sisters copy .. what a eye opener .. I guess after Lord of the Rings it was the first book that I had read. (other then Tom Swift)
good meme .. I'm going to give it a shot.

plittle said...

Well, Jenny, much of The Bible is fiction, so it really does belong on both lists.

princesssaurora said...

True that Paul.  It amazes me that most people truly don't get the bibles allegorical nature.  Sad, really.

be well,

zosche973 said...

I loved Lord of the Ring-did not like the film. I'm running out Monday to buy
Slaughterhouse-Five! How could I have missed it? I like pulp! LOL This would take me some time to complete-if I were to do it! Took me almost 3 days to write
my last entry on Springsteen! LOL Love your journal...thanks for sharing!

bhbner2him said...

As one who has read the Bible through several times and several ways (i.e. - straight through, chronologically, by literary types, etc.), I have to say I agree in most part with your approach as to how it should be read.

Would add that you need to remember HISTORICAL CONTEXT in many places.  (i.e - women were not to cut their hair because that's how the heathen temple prostitutes flagged it was their time to serve.  Or that rubbing warm oil on was one of the few medical remedies they had at the time.  No magic power in oil.)

In defense of many pastors of churches, they assume or advocate that members study thier Bibles at home, so that the members will know to what he alludes when he quotes one verse alone in a sermon.  Sadly, some today have an agenda of their own and not of God.  And way too many members accept Christ, and choose to remain a "babe in Christ" rather than read, study, pray and grow.  That is dangerous, for everyone.

Also, no book of the Bible can be taken alone, removed and apart from the others.  "In the Old the New is contained, in the New the Old is explained."  Quote by Henrietta Myers.  

As to the begets; yeah, they do glaze your eyes over.  But they prove Christ's lineage.  And they show God knows and remembers each and every person.  Comforting thought to me.

OH, and the repetition was funny!  ;o)  -  Barbara