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As part of the great rereading orgy I had over Christmas (including all of the John M. Ford books I've been missing since his death, and some old Star Trek cuddly favorites) I reread Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card. Wow. I had forgotten how much I love this book. It's one of my favorites.

Let me digress here to say a couple of things about Card. I've talked to several people recently who don't read him because they don't agree with his viewpoints, especially on homosexuality. To that I say:
1) If I only read authors whose opinions I always agreed with... I wouldn't read anybody, including any of my favorite authors and *definitely* including anything written before, oh, 1980. In fact, if I only read authors whose treatment of women I agreed with... that's basically nothing before 1960, at least.
2) He doesn't write about gay politics in his novels, and his gay characters are actually really cool, nuanced characters. (So actually he gets slammed by both the right and the left, which I take to mean he's doing *something* right.) He does write about it occasionally in his essays... but... it's actually possible to boycott, you know, his essays without boycotting the books.
3) He's Mormon. This means he utterly believes, perhaps even knows, that there is a latter-day prophet who speaks the commandments of God. And, you know, you can't really argue with God. Well, you can, but you won't get anywhere, fast. You can argue that he's stupid for believing the prophet thing, but not that he ought to break away from Mormon teachings... because then he wouldn't be Mormon. It's kinda like Dante and the unbaptized babies going to hell (which honestly I think is a LOT more offensive than someone thinking homosexual sex, or even sex in general, is a sin, especially if you have the Mormon take on the afterlife)-- he was a great man and a great poet, but he believed absolutely in Catholic theology, and that meant he had to make sense of a great many things I personally believe to be senseless.

Anyway. That particular rant aside, I must say that although I used to adore his books (and still adore the earlier ones), I have not been excited about one of his books in some time-- because he's started to talk about his particular beliefs in his novels, instead of showing us through the characters, and that. Just. Drives. Me. Nuts. Heck, I even agree with most of his points-- but I just hate it when a character is all, "Listen up, youngsters! Families are good!!" Which basically happened in one of his Shadow books.

Pastwatch, however, was written before he started this trend and when I believe he was at his peak as a writer. (Lost Boys is the other ultimate Card, but one which I rarely reread as I find it painful in its intensity.) It does have the Card trademark (I used to like this, but it's semi-annoying now) where all the dialogue is between two snarky wise-guy Card-clones-- but it's got loads of ideas, being a story of history, alternate history, parallel universes (sort of), time travel (sort of), and the end of the world-- it's the sort of book where abolishing the institution of slavery and finding the historical basis of Noah's flood are corollaries of the bigger ideas; this book is on a very grand scale-- but without losing sight of the essential humanity of some great characters, most notably Columbus himself who just awesomely rocks and makes me want to research his life. And it made me cry in, like, five different places (though to be fair I hadn't had much sleep so was more emotional than usual).

Because it has the Card trademark I adore-- his vast compassion for his characters, something that I feel hasn't been as prominent in his recent books. In this book it's especially strong, because there are no villains-- oh, perhaps the occasional small-minded or petty person, especially in Columbus's time, but usually just people trying to do the best they can in the face of impossible odds, sometimes having to change themselves into something new and strange in the process-- and sometimes they fail, and sometimes they are wrong, but sometimes they succeed beyond hope.
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Finally got to Time Traveler's Wife. It was better than I had expected, though somehow I never quite had enough empathy for the main characters to really feel for them properly. Also, I think it always vaguely frustrates me when people are caught in time loops. Hm, this explains (partially) why I like alternate histories.

Glasshouse, Charles Stross. This was entertaining. The first third of the book I spent going, "But... that doesn't make any sense!" The last two-thirds I spent learning that the holes I was picking in the first third weren't, usually, really holes at all (though sometimes the resolution was still kind of unsatisfactory for me). But it still didn't get me to care about the characters enough to really follow everything that was going on.

Sayers, The Devil to Pay and He That Should Come. A reread. No idea if this is in print, or what: I got this from a used bookstore on a whim (and because I adore Sayers). The latter is a nice Christmas story (and the reason why I reread; thought I should get into the Christmas spirit somehow). The ending of the former (it's a retelling of Faust, where the ending is somewhere between Marlowe's damnnation and Goethe's saving) always makes me cry. Because I do sympathize with Faust. Umm... this probably says weird things about me...
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I keep meaning to use this lj to post on books I've read. However, lately I seem to be out of books I'm really interested in, and furthermore have entered a period of regression where all I really want to read are warm fuzzy books (I imagine I'll come out of it after Christmas or so). But anyway, here are some lists:

-Books I really really do want to read but am waiting on my silly D to buy (he's got this Problem that once he's bought a book in a series in paperback, he will only ever buy the rest of the series in paperback): Dzur, Brust. The Sharing Knife, Bujold (hmm, since this is the first in a series maybe I can sneak the hardback in as a Christmas gift for him?...)

-Mindless fuzzy stuff I've read recently: Far and away the best was Liane Moriarty's The Last Anniversary, which is fluffy and cute and chick-lit-ish, but better than chick lit, with awesome characters, and doesn't really deserve the "mindless" bit. Emily Giffen, Something Borrowed and the sequel Something Blue, which are mindless, and not nearly as good, but entertaining and better than most chick lit I've read, despite the annoying premise of the first book. Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel's Scion, which doesn't really belong in this list-- the first three books in this series, especially the third, were marvelous epic-fantasy works with interesting world-building and characters, but I found this one much less riveting, so here it goes in fuzzy category.

-Stuff I've reread lately that I really like: Emma Bull's "Silver or Gold" in After the King -- I've tried to read other stuff by Bull, I forget what now, and haven't been much impressed, but this story I absolutely adore. So presumably there is other stuff by her that I would like?? Great Expectations, which I read in high school and was like, enh, whatever, but recently reread and loved-- he gets being a kid who kind of doesn't really have a clue, and knows it, and is miserable about it, exactly right. It's almost painful to read.

-Books I keep trying to read: The Time Traveller's Wife, which I've heard from about fifty sources is good, but I keep putting it down after about two pages. Tale of Two Cities, after my other Dickens experience. Some great lines, but I haven't really gotten into it yet. Seems more potboiler than Great Expectations, at least so far.

-Stuff which the local libraries do not have because they are TOTALLY LAME: The first book of any series by Robin Hobb. They have ALL THE REST, just to tick me off. The last two books of the Emily sequence by L.M. Montgomery. WHAT?? Come on, guys, last time I checked SB was, you know, rich. Are you all completely uncivilized?

-What I read that just flipping electrified me, one of those things that there's a "before" and "after" you read it:
here. I've got to get this book, even though I have no interest in Yugoslavia in general. I may ask for it for Christmas.

-What I've actually been reading lately: Photoshop books, for the beginner-to-advanced-amateur. I'm more interested in photograph post-processing and less in Cool Photoshopped Effects. The Hidden Power of Photoshop Elements just completely rocks for me; I can see why other people might not like it (it's awfully dense, for one thing, and lacking in the way of pretty pictures) but it's like it was written for me. I also love Photoshop Wow! - I borrowed v. 6 from the library but am thinking about buying v. 7.
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I'm reading the Iliad (Fitzgerald translation) -- I do actually rather like the translation, but I am struck by how whiny and obnoxious all the characters are. If this were a novel, I would have already skipped to the last page to find out the plot. Of course, I already know the plot of the Iliad, so I guess I could even skip that step.

ACHILLES: Waah! Mommy, help!
ZEUS: Dude, I'm the god of gods here. Don't mess with me. Unless you're a pretty girl, that is. Yeah, then I'll do whatever you say. Because I'm so godly and all.
OTHER GODS: Okay, he said not to mess with him, so we'll just go behind his back. Because being a god and all, he won't realize what we're doing. Once the Judeo-Christian god gets the idea to be omniscient, he's gonna kick our butts.
MORTALS: Hey Zeus, we're making sacrifices to you and we'd like you to do various contradictory things!
ZEUS: I've already made up my mind to help that pretty Thetis there, so you could've saved your meat and wine and had it yourself. But thanks anyway.
cahn: (Default)
Okay, I think I'm getting this whole posting thing figured out. Hello!

Let's see, what else might be interesting? How about books. Can't go wrong there.

Latest (not sci-fi, or even fiction!) :

Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent.

Really very interesting. I adored the first half of the book. She is really self-aware to a much greater degree than most, I think. The chapter on "Friendship" was just excellent. The second half was also quite good, but the chapter on "Work" was almost painful for me to read, and in the one on "Life" she seemed to be kind of harsh on the monks-- at the very end she gives some tossout lines about how oh yeah, they are kind of spiritual and all too. But you would never have guessed from the rest of what she says.


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