Monday, January 26, 2009

Trekking through Trollope

Last year, I must've been churning through Anthony Trollope's Barsetshire series and through his Palliser series, for I rated Phineas Redux high enough to want to return to it in a year's time. Well, I've got plans to get down with 'Can you forgive her?', which is the 1st book in the Palliser series. But before I get through this one, I've got a few words to say about 'Orley Farm', which I just finished reading. Trollope, not one to be modest where his own scribbles are concerned, considered this book to be the best of the bunch. I'm tempted to side with him by saying that this is a rather good book. I have only one fault to make with Trollope's writing, but I shouldn't really lay the blame on him, but on British society at that time in history. If they had come up with other forms of diversion at that time, Trollope would have probably employed these other diversions. I can't blame the artist for the scenery being bad.
Anyway, I was enjoying 'Orley Farm' and along came a damned fox-hunt scene! Dickens, preferring the bleakness of poverty or sturdiness of the middle-class, rarely, if ever, dragged a fox-hunt into his works. Trollope is overly fond of throwing a fox-hunt into his books when he wants to take a break from the main plot and ventures into a romance between some young buck and a fresh, unspoiled young maiden. This time, one of the lordlings broke his leg and a few ribs while hunting the fox, and he spent a lot of time recuperating on a couch and mooning over the lady of the household. I was pretty pleased that it was one of the hunters who ended up getting hurt. The fox gets the short end of the stick, don't you think? Also, none of the horses got hurt, which is also a good thing.
Apart from the dreary fox-hunt as sub-standard sub-plot advancement device, the main plot was very good. I got into the story pretty early on, and found myself a little disappointed when I learned that the main character, whom I was cheering for, turns out to be guilty. I should've known this would happen. Every sapient creature has the capacity for good and evil, and this character was no different. I was pleased enough with the outcome of the book, though. It was a resolution, which any good writer should shoot for. I would've like a somewhat better outcome for the main character, but bad things happened to the 'bad guys' in the book, so there was something for everyone.
All in all, though I won't return to 'Orley Farm' in a year's time, I do recommend it. BYE.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Watching history

Thought I was going to talk about Obama, eh? No doubt thousands of bloggers are going to trumpet o'er this moment in U.S. history, but the history I'm talking about goes back a bit farther. I finished reading an odd little tome called 'The memoirs of Pontius Pilate' yesterday, and quite honestly, I had no opinion. As far as length and details go, it was sadly lacking. A fictional account, as precious little is known about Pilate; not nearly enough to put together a long and detailed account of the man's life. I forgive the writer (one James R. Mills) for being so brief with his book. After all, Pilate's role in Biblical history is minimal. Crucial but minimal. He's there for a moment, debating with the fractious, hypocritical Jewish leaders over what to do with Jesus.
This engimatic figure has left me musing for some time. The fellows who recorded what became the Gospels don't paint Pilate as a truly bad man, but at the same time he's no hero. The flawed folk are the most interesting ones, it is said. Mills paints Pilate with several qualities that could be considered flaws, depending on who you are. He's Roman, first and foremost, and to the Jewish community, Rome is evil and untrustworthy. Pilate looks at the Jews with a frustrated and cynical eye. Their religion is so foreign to him (as it is to most Romans at that time) that he finds it fascinating. He sends his spies and minions to observe what the Jews do and that's how he first hears about 'the carpenter'.
And so it goes, with Mills making the critical scenes very potent and poignant at times. Although the account is from Pilate's eyes, it's the priests who are once again the villains here. They tie Pilate's hands and force him to send Jesus off to his death. On the other hand, J.C. is doing what he must to fulfill the Scriptures, and all Pilate can do is watch in bemused wonder. He compares Jesus to Socrates at one point, and admires the calm and serene way J.C. chooses his destiny, which confounds the priests who have dragged J.C. in on trumped-up charges. I admire the cynical eye Mills has Pilate cast over the whole proceedings, and I love how he brings Pilate wife into the story. She definitely had more sympathy for J.C. than the priests did.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who would like to learn what Pilate's opinion might've been. Worth exploring. BYE.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Leery of series?

I started reading the last leg of Stephen King's 'Dark Tower' series and was reminded of how much I've forgotten from the previous six books. I don't think I've actually read the series from beginning to end yet, and this got me thinking. As wonderful as a series of books can be (familiarity with characters and plot), there are some series out there that can really get on my nerves. 'Dark Tower' is King's only long-running series out there, as far as I know, and he has gone years between books before putting fingers to keyboard again, which probably frustrates more than a few of his fans. This doesn't get me all that much - just the knowledge that I need to start out, from the beginning, to get things in order is a mild inconvenience.
Another author I could have a bone to pick with (but don't) is Robert Jordan. His 'Wheel of Time' series caused me no end of frustration because it's so damn long and each book is chock-full of details (some I thought unnecessary, but that's me). Unfortunately, Death robbed Jordan's fans of a complete and total resolution for this series about a year ago, and although I cursed Jordan every chance I had while he lived, I can do this no longer. One author's works I encountered and enjoyed is Terry Goodkind. His 'Sword of Truth' series, while bleak at times, had a mostly satisfying and honest resolution. I admire his resolve and plan to revisit this series after a while.
Then there are the authors who have written several series (Piers Anthony, Anthony Trollope, Isaac Asimov, I can go on). Good books for the most part, but it's easy to lose track of which book is from which series. I'm of the school that feels that if I am to enjoy one book in a series, I need to revisit all the books in the series. That is what I'm planning to do with a series by Anthony Trollope very soon. I am trying to keep track of about a half dozen series right now. That's the real thing about series. A person could start with 'Spongebob Squarepants' or 'Captain Underpants' as a child and read nothing but series after series for the better part of forty years. You get comfortable with a certain set of characters and want nothing more but the same. I'd rather not live like that. I like to keep my horizons as broad as possible.
A final note before I close this post down. My real pet peeve is with those authors who insist that people read their series from beginning to end, although each book works as a stand-alone. Hear that, Anne McCaffrey?! BYE.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Proper mentality?

I've come to the conclusion that I'm a pretty cold fish. I was driving home the other day when a song came on and the guy was singing about how he would die if the she in his life were to leave him. Warning! This post might get a little edgy, but please keep reading even if it doesn't! Several impulses go through my head whenever I hear a song like this, and I worked through these mental impulses as I was driving home the other day. First off, the singer who says 'I'll die if you leave me/don't love me... etc...' is problematic. Either he/she is emotionally troubled or is completely insincere. Either way, the one who puts death into a sentence like that is better off left alone until they change their perspective.
Now, I know that these songs are figurative for the most part. Just the length a person is willing to go to prove how important someone is for them, and to be without this other person would be a very rough time. However, if someone were to tell me, be it in song or otherwise that they would die if I left them or did not love them, I would probably tell them off. First off, if they earnestly promise to go through with this and don't, I have the right to call them insincere and dangerously in need of help. A person like this I am better without anyway. I would hope that such a person means it only in jest, or else I foresee trouble ahead. On the other hand, going through with such a decision indicates something far worse than insincerity.
I wonder if I was looking at this concept with my semi-Buddhist eyes, for I've been applying karmic balances and debts to various thoughts/words/deeds lately. I refuse to accept blame for someone's suicide. If someone came to me and sang 'I'll die if you don't love me etc...' I would (hopefully) say. "Do not lay your death on my doorstep!" I am not responsible for someone else's death unless I either orchestrate said death or do it myself, and I do NOT accept responsibility for someone taking their own life. Their grim deed gathers karma for them, not for me or for anyone else, and I refuse to take any responsibility for it.
Romantics would probably say that since I am not in love with anyone, I am not able to look past such lines and understand the real meaning. If I were in love, they might say, I would say something like 'How touching! Why can't my he/she say something like that?' Agreed, I am not in love with anyone, so my mindset is possibly totally out of whack. However, I would rather have this mindset and wonder why the singer would go to such lengths to prove him/herself to someone else.
Hmmm. This looks like an interesting vein. Maybe I'll ponder it further and get back to you. BYE.