Monday, August 18, 2003

Reading notes today:

:: Figuring that it's long past time I started digging into some of the really bedrock literature of the world, I began reading The Iliad yesterday, in a translation by Robert Fagles. If all goes according to plan, I'll be following up with The Odyssey. This is literature I haven't much encounted since my freshman year in college, when we read very small snippets in handout-form. I always found the whole "Read this two-page excerpt from this thousand-page work of literature" approach pretty much useless; rather than confer upon me some bit of familiarity with the work in question (the point of the whole "liberal arts" thing), I rather found it made for an "in one ear and out the other" effect, and thus my knowledge of The Iliad is confined to my very basic knowledge of the events at Troy and the fact that in some way the work depicts the Gods as being a fairly capricious and mean-spirited lot.

A more personal hang-up of mine regarding the Greek literature is that, for some reason, all the Greek names sound the same to me. Now, I can keep Tolkien's cast of thousands in Lord of the Rings pretty much straight in my head; ditto George RR Martin's Song of Ice and Fire and a host of other works. But inevitably, when I start delving into Greek stuff, I have to keep referring back to see who certain people are. I don't know, maybe it's because so many of them end in 's' -- Achilles, Atrides, Atreus, et cetera -- but that's pretty much a personal stumbling block. It's weird, the little "mental blocks" we form.

Anyway, I'm reading The Iliad in pretty small doses, so I expect it to take a while.

:: Over the weekend I plowed through my first ever novel by F. Paul Wilson, Conspiracies. This novel features a character named Repairman Jack, a secretive soul with a very shadowy background who uses his treasured anonymity to go around solving problems. Sort of a one-man "A Team", blended with Frank Black from Millennium. In Conspiracies, Jack is hired by a husband whose wife has fallen in with an organization of way-out conspiracy theorists (the book is worth reading just to catch up on most of the biggie conspiracy theories of today) and since disappeared. Along the way, a lot of supernatural stuff starts happening; this is apparently the third novel to feature Repairman Jack, but I hadn't read the first two. This didn't pose much of a problem to me, since the novel seems to give whatever information about previous events is necessary to understanding what's going on here. Wilson keeps the plot moving, he has a good eye for detail, and the book is by turns funny and scary. My only complaint was the ending. There isn't one. It's like the old feeling I used to get when I'd watch the first part of a two-part episode of a favorite TV show, but I wasn't aware that it was a two-part episode beforehand, and with five minutes to go I'd suddenly realize, "They can't resolve all this by the end of the hour." Oh well -- at least I know that the follow-up novel has already come out, so it's not like I have to wait a year or anything.

:: I should also note that I read Catherine Asaro's Primary Inversion a week or so ago. This is the first in a series of hard-SF space operas set in Asaro's "Skolian Empire". I enjoyed it, although it's a bit clunky at times and meandering in its plot. It was good enough, though, that I definitely want to read more of this series. It's a stand-alone novel, but I'm not sure if all the "Skolian Empire" novels are stand-alones or not.

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