Further Inspiration From Turkish TV, Which Isn’t Exactly A Vast Wasteland And Isn’t Exactly Interested In Other Vast Wastelands; or, Doing Well Overseas, If Folks Back Home Are To Be Believed

 

I looked up telenovela on Portuguese Wikipedia, hoping for a link to Turkish Wikipedia that would tell me how to say “soap opera” in the latter language. Well, I guess I could have gone right from English Wikipedia’s “soap opera” directly; either way, no dice. And either way, I think Elimi Bırakma, “Don’t Let Go […]

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Book Review: All the Plagues of Hell

 

There are few better pure storytellers than Eric Flint and David Freer. Individually they’re entertaining. Together, the result is splendid. “All the Plagues of Hell,” by Eric Flint and David Freer is the latest novel in the Heirs of Alexandria fantasy series. Set in the middle of the 15th century, it’s alternate history. In this world magic works.

This book centers on Count Kazimierz Mindaug, a long-standing series villain. A Lithuanian nobleman, he fled Lithuania after a failed attempt to kill its leader, Duke Jagiellon (possessed by the demon Chernobog). Mindaug took shelter in Hungary serving the evil King Emeric of Hungary and Countess Elizabeth Barthody. Both were killed earlier in the series. Mindaug escaped, but their destruction left Mindaug with no protector against Chernobog, vengefully pursuing Mindaug.

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Quote of the Day: “La Belle Dame Sans Merci”

 

She’s the ultimate femme fatale. And it’s one of the oldest stories in the world. The Beautiful Lady Without Pity. The subject of my second-favorite poem by John Keats, which was written 200 years ago, when Keats was just 23.

It’s his reworking of a 15th-century French poem of 800 lines, telling a complex story of love and loss. Keats throws out all the extraneous characters and globetrotting excesses of the original, boiling it down to a 48-line tale of one bewitched Knight, one beautiful Lady (without pity) and one withery, sedgy marsh where our bewildered hero is dumped by the Lady, after a night (one hopes) of ecstasy in her “Elfin grot.”

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Happy Saynt Valentyn’s Day!

 

. . . from Geoffrey Chaucer, who, as with so many other things, is often credited with starting it all.

His dream vision poem, The Parliament of Fowls, was written about 1380 and begins with the narrator (who seems not to know how to love, has perhaps never been in love, and will very likely never find love, in fact, he’s just pretty crotchety in general) falling asleep while reading Cicero’s Dream of Scipio. He’s transported, first to the erotic but soulless Temple of Love, and then to a lively Arcadian world presided over by the goddess Nature, in which huge flocks of birds are debating (arguing) about how, and who, to choose their mates. The dramatic tension is provided by the eagles, representing the highest courtly ranks. (Chaucer uses various bird species to represent different levels of society, and their dialog varies wildly, from those representing common, ordinary man, up through the eagles, representing the top of the heap. The poem is, in many respects a gentle satire on the emerging courtly love tradition and a commentary on contemporaneous royal marriages, as the birds mimic the behavior of commoners (whose behavior and language provides the comic relief in the poem), knights and ladies, kings and queens.)

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How To Stop Reading Too Many Books

 

First, read a lot of books. Second, go to rtvslo.si in search of a short video to watch and listen to, and find one about a certain Jakov Fak. This is a Slovene biathlete who until a few years ago was a Croatian biathlete and he was selected to carry Slovenia’s flag at the 2018 […]

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The Greatest Multi-Volume Book Series: Aubrey and Maturin

 

It’s been over a year since I posted (for all the usual reasons: work, family, political fatigue). Lately, however, I’ve been doing some re-reading of some of my favorite book series, and I’ve found it to be energizing and fulfilling. I love to read novels that collectively comprise a “series.” In the detective genre, the Adam Dalgleish novels of P. D. James and the the Lew Archer novels of Ross MacDonald. In fantasy, there’s nothing better than the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Even if the plots bear little relationship to each other, the fleshing out of the key characters is, to me, highly satisfying. It’s almost like they become old friends.

So here is the series that I’ve re-read listened to again, and, should I live so long, I’ll return to over and over for the rest of my life: The Aubrey-Maturin novels of Patrick O’Brian. Set in the Napoleonic Wars on board various English warships, this 20-novel series is my all-time favorite series. While they are war novels, the great theme is the exploration of the friendship between the bluff, hearty, Anglican Jack Aubrey, a professional navy officer, and the dark, introspective and very-Catholic physician Stephen Maturin. I love them both, and they love each other in a wonderful fraternal manner.

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Quote of the Day: “Not Law but Fraud”

 

In Mark Helprin’s 2012 novel In Sunlight and in Shadow*, we meet a returning WWII veteran, Harry Copeland, who inherits the family business from his deceased father. When the business is threatened by a mafia boss, resulting in the death of one employee, and Harry himself nearly beaten to death, Harry learns that he will find no help from law enforcement or any other authority because all of them are being paid off. Harry must decide whether he will take matters into his own hands — eliminating the mafia boss himself.

“My enemy is not the law,” he found himself saying under his breath as he walked — talking to himself was not a good sign — “but the enemy of the law, against which the law is too weak to defend itself. If the law is complicit in crime, is it the law? If, when not complicit, it not only fails to protect but proscribes self-protection, then it is not law but fraud. Anarchy arises not from those who defend themselves by natural right, but from officials who fail in their calling, look the other way, succumb to threats and blackmail, or who are themselves criminal. If without defending me the law says I can’t defend myself, it is no longer the law, and I have to defy it.”

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Wormholes in Fiction

 

I got an idea for a sci-fi novel the other day. But it relies on wormholes and I am not the astrophysics junky, nor sci-fi aficionado, that some of you are. So perhaps you can answer a couple questions. Bear in mind, because this regards a fictional setting, I am more concerned with believability than […]

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This Week’s Book Review – Arkad’s World

 

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

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Lies Told in English

 

I should preface this post by noting I’m an (now domestic) engineer — hard “g.” English is not my proficiency, unlike my Hillsdale English major daughter, the Elder. You want help with your Math homework or figuring out how to fix the ice maker? I’m your gal.

Elder recently signed up for a 300-level 17th and 18th Century British Literature class at the local branch of CU in preparation to return to Hillsdale this fall, after identifying and dealing with some health challenges. She dropped the course after attending the first session, saying, “Mom, it’s not Hillsdale.” To which I responded, “Now you know why we insisted, if you’re going to be an English major, Hillsdale should be your top choice out of a scant handful of options.”

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The Lord of the Rings: A Classic

 

I was very young when I was first introduced to The Hobbit. I could not have been older than seven when I was swept completely into the journey with Bilbo and the dwarves on their way to reclaim treasure from the dragon. When the story was over, I wanted the magic to continue, so I sought out my father’s copy of The Fellowship of the Ring, which was much more difficult to understand. (Tolkien loved him some semicolons, and I was a second grader.)

The truth was, I wasn’t quite ready for Frodo’s epic adventure then, so I had to put it aside for a while, disappointed by my first introduction to Tolkien’s next generation. I thought Bilbo’s nephew, Sam, Pippin, and Merry were a bit boring. It took them too long to do anything. I did not get beyond them stealing mushrooms, as if that was even noteworthy. Already cynical, I snapped the cover shut and quietly returned that tale to the bookcase to collect dust again in my parents’ home.

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Happy (?) Birthday

 

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know . . . is that J.D. Salinger—once a revered man of American letters— turned 100 on New Year’s Day, albeit from the afterlife. Salinger had taken criticism over a period of many years, largely as a result of disclosures […]

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For The Love of Reading

 

Greetings Fellow Ricochet members. After a few years away I have relaunched my book review blog. I will be running the reviews here as well. I read in a lot of fields. I don’t actually remember learning how to read, but family lore says I was two years old. Here you will see both fiction […]

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Book Review: ‘Star-Wheeled Sky’ Marvelous Sci-fi Entertainment

 

Second novels are frequently worse than the first. It happens so frequently that it’s called the second-novel curse. Brad R. Torgersen defies this curse. “A Star-Wheeled Sky,” by Brad R. Torgersen, a science fiction novel, the author’s second, offers a fresh take on interstellar conflict.

A millennium before this story takes place, humanity fled a war-ravaged Earth in slower-than-light colony ships. A few reached star systems connected by a faster-than-light transportation network, the Waywork. Node points, called Waypoints, offer instantaneous transportation to another star system in the network. The builders, the Waymakers, abandoned the network long before humans arrived. They remain unknown.

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Book Review: The Historical Background of the King Arthur Legend

 

King Arthur is probably the world’s best-known fictional character. Writers from the 11th century’s Chrétien de Troyes to Bernard Cornwell in the 21st century have written stories about him. And the King Arthur’s legend keeps growing. A story this well-known must have a historical basis.

King Arthur: The Making of the Legend, by Nicholas J. Higham examines that issue. It’s a search for the source of the Arthur legend.

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Philip Larkin: A Voice for Our Day and Time

 

Of all of the things one could accuse Philip Larkin of, rightly and wrongly, being a philosophical conservative or a Christian poet would hardly make the list. While he displayed certain instinctively right-wing attitudes and was by all accounts an admirer of Margaret Thatcher, Larkin hardly fleshed out a grand theory of conservative being or thought, and his pronouncements on religion certainly place him very far from any church. Yet, one of his lesser-known poems “Vers de Société,” is both an exploration of the decay of traditional society transposing itself upon the life of one man, and of the tragic almost-Christian, a thinly veiled autobiographical narrative.

Framed within an unnamed narrator’s thoughts on, and correspondence about, a party invitation, “Vers de Société” encapsulates in remarkably few words the conservative critique of modernity. The narrator reflects pensively upon all of the time that he has already wasted at parties that he knows will be quite similar to this one, conversing about little because his interlocutors know nothing beyond the present day; his time would be much better “repaid/Under a lamp, hearing the noise of wind.” However much he wishes to engage in study, to use his precious free time in pursuit of the wisdom of ancestors, he knows very well that “All solitude is selfish” in the view of modern society.

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