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I made one last pilgrimage to the dying Borders up at Six Forks Road the other day, and I made out like a brigand.  Some Terry Pratchett, a lovely set of Jane Austen novels, a journal, and some Calvin and Hobbes were added to the collection.  The excursion was made even better when I was mistaken for an employee:

Guy: “Excuse me, where do you keep your books on war?”

Me (struggling to carry my pile of books while browsing for more): “I, uh, don’t actually work here–”

Guy: “Oh, I’m sorry!”

Me: “But I think I saw some war books over in the history section.”  *shifts pile to one arm so I can point*

Guy: Thank you!  *scurries off*

My work here is done.  I felt quite honored.

 

In other news, Hurricane Irene has thus far been exceedingly anticlimactic, at least where I am.  I had nonperishable food!  Flashlights!  Candles!  I was prepared, darn it.  Ah well, I’m enjoying the stiff breeze, and I’m glad for those on the coast that it wasn’t as bad as anticipated.

Beautiful:

Amusing:

Fascinating:

I finally read Mere Christianity by CS Lewis the other day.  I shouldn’t have waited so long–forever ago, before I knew CS Lewis at all, I ran across a copy of Mere Christianity and for some reason thought it would be tedious.  It is not.  In fact, it would have been the perfect introduction to his nonfiction works, had I known it.  I was on Goodreads looking at my book stats and realized that this is the 20th book I’ve read by CS Lewis, and I still haven’t read huge portions of his ouevre.  Lewis was such a prolific and blindingly original author, even though I’ve read so much, I feel like I’m barely scratching the surface.  I already feel like I need to reread Mere Christianity, this time underlining everything.

Then I read The Book of Merlyn by TH White, which was originally supposed to be the fifth book in his Once and Future King, but was published separately.  Maybe I was more wide-eyed and apt to fall in love with White’s writing when I read Once and Future as a youngster; maybe Merlyn really isn’t as good.  At any rate, I did not recall Once and Future being so darned preachy.  I loved the hedgehog all the more in this volume just because he was quiet a good deal of the time.  Still, the parts that had nothing to do with politics were genuinely moving and fit well into White’s Arthurian saga.  Worth checking out if you’re a fan, possibly even if you’re not.

Now I’m reading a book of stories by Thomas Mann, which is an interesting and thoroughgoing German experience, even if it is in translation.  Brings back all sorts of memories from German philosophy and the Love and Death classes.  I wish I were in a class like that now so we could hash out all our theories and figure out the layers of meaning.

 

Had a marvelous time last night with good friends.  The evening included dinner at Neomonde’s, tag in the arboretum, and hilarious conversation at the Langdon domicile. When we all disbanded, it felt just like old times at CU, where no one wanted to go back to their dorm, and we all just wanted to stay and talk until we fell asleep where we sat.  The difference being, of course, that now we all had sizable drives home instead of leisurely walks back, and work in the morning instead of 8am classes.  Much more difficult to get away with nodding off at work than in Logic class.

Bookish links:

Miscellaneous internet finds:

Now, this DIY video for making cool designs on t-shirts with bleach is pretty neat in its own right, but what amused me most was the laid-back-yet-effective way this guy does a DIY video.  Compare that to this terrifying and overly complicated video I found on how to make homemade microwave popcorn, and I have to say, I prefer that my step-by-step videos NOT induce nightmares.

I finished up Alighieri’s book, and maybe I don’t have the right to be so flippant as I was earlier.  The Divine Comedy is undeniably a classic, influential in so much that came after it.  There’s something of worth there, or it wouldn’t have endured for so long and affected so many writers.  Maybe I’m not enough of the intellectual to see it.  Still, I have remarkably little tolerance for it when I compare it to, say, Milton’s Paradise Lost.  Both make me uneasy for the same reason: I don’t see that anyone has any business writing about God, the afterlife, etc. as if the author’s biblically inspired fiction is as true as its inspiration.  Many people know more about Dante’s idea of hell than they do the biblical idea—they have the fiction confused with the truth, probably because Dante’s idea has infiltrated popular culture far more than the biblical one.  The same could probably be said of Milton’s Satan versus the biblical portrayal of Satan.

But Milton–arrogant, insufferable, and scripturally inaccurate though he may be–doesn’t rub me the wrong way quite how Dante does.  For one thing, the misconceptions his works have fostered regarding religious themes seem less destructive than Dante’s in terms of religious doctrine.  Not a lot of Christians know their Bibles well enough to either refute or prove Dante’s points, but his ideas have infiltrated Christian belief.  Milton didn’t insinuate that Paradise Lost was a direct vision from God; rather he openly stated that it was his goal to “justify the ways of God to man” through an epic poem.  He very nearly chose to write about King Arthur instead, because he felt it would also have afforded him the scope he desired.  He needed a big canvas for his art, but it didn’t have to be the Bible.  I would also argue that Milton’s images are more vivid and his language more arresting and poetic than Dante’s, though perhaps some of that is a function of translation (I wasn’t fond of the Dante translation I had).

Maybe it does all boil down to personal preference, in the end.  I enjoy Milton’s cutting wit, fearsome intellectuality, and utter impatience with foolishness.  I loved Areopagitica, and his essays and pamphlets, and I read Paradise Lost under the tutelage of a professor who loved Milton as well and was brilliant at instilling that love in his students.  If I’d had something similar for Dante…maybe this review would be shorter and a lot more positive. 😛

I finished up the book on the frigates, which was lovely.  If you’re interested in that period of maritime history at all (and you should be!), you definitely need to check it out.  Fair warning, though: the book series focuses on American ships, which feels a little odd (at least for me) with the British Royal Navy having done it all before us, but it’s still fascinating.

I read Deerskin by Robin McKinley (of The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown fame) in a couple big gulps this week.  I think anything would’ve gone down smoothly, after gnawing on the Divine Comedy for so long, but I particularly enjoyed this book.  It’s based on the Donkeyskin fairy tale, collected in several fairy tale anthologies though probably first appearing in Perrault’s collection.  Doesn’t sound any grimmer than any other original telling of the rather bloodthirsty fairy tales we’ve Disneyfied into a G rating, does it?  McKinley made it very dark.  Very, very dark.  I can’t deny that she did a fabulous job at adapting the story, however.  A few things did irk me: I was actually kind of annoyed when McKinley did weave anything magical into the story, she was doing the gritty realism so well.  And the symbolism at the end seemed simultaneously heavy-handed and vague.  Overall, though, it was quite gripping, and I found myself staying up horrendously late to see what would happen next.

The immense amount of personal satisfaction I feel when my Goodreads yearly reading challenge monitor says, “Good job, you’re on track!” is pretty pathetic.  As is the amount of chagrin I feel when it says, “You’re one book behind!”  Not that my feelings of personal self-worth are determined by a website, but…oh, who am I kidding. 😛

I’m currently slogging my way through The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri.  I’m not really sure why, except that it was on my shelf and it seemed like a good idea at the time.  I was stuck in hell for AGES, and now it feels as though I’ve been in purgatory for just as long.  So far I am supremely unimpressed and a little bit aghast at how seriously we take this guy’s ideas about the afterlife.  Basically he just stuck all the folks he didn’t get along with in hell and gave them bizarre punishments; my copy has extensive footnotes about how so-and-so was a student with Dante and they didn’t hit it off.  Then, once we got to purgatory, it’s all about Dante’s friends who have died, and he’s all, “Dude, how’d you get this far along?  I thought you’d still be stuck way down on the lower levels, considering you were kind of a jerk.”  And the dead guy is all, “Naw, man, my awesome wife has been praying for me.”  And Dante’s thinks, “Huh, yeah, your wife is pretty awesome.”  At the same time, Virgil’s trying his darndest to get Dante to hurry UP already.  Every few pages he says, “Dante, seriously, man up and climb the stupid hill.  No, you can’t rest.  I don’t care if you’re tired.  I’m DEAD, don’t be complaining to me about how rough you have it!”  Every few pages Dante also rhapsodizes over his paralyzing fear and how he is basically a wuss.  I am displeased.  But it seems a shame not to finish it, at this stage.

You seem to have stumbled upon a storytelling of ravens. Watch for falling collective nouns; you may find a wing of dragons or a charm of hummingbirds caught in your hair. Hardhats are recommended.

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