Category Archives: Books

Bishop Robert Barron, Popularity, Blog Stats, Father Elijah an Apocalypse

I have noticed that I have provided links to two of Bishop Robert Barron’s articles or videos in the last month or so. I have noticed that those links have not been used. Even when yesterday’s post would have been better understood with the requisite background. I believe that is because most people’s thought nowadays are “Priest? What the hell do they know?”

Hilariously, I have seen this said about love or relationships – what would a priest know about it? After I clean my pants from laughing too hard I would say – a lot than you would think.

Now, the “logical” thing for me to do, given modern ways of thinking, is to look at my stats and say, “hmm, this Barron guy isn’t very popular with my audience such as there may be (Hi Mom!), he will have to go.”

But, unless you are new here, I detest modern ways of thinking. So, I am going to bump up my links, weekly, of related topics Bishop Barron covers. I may even see if I can find an esoteric blogger of Christology.

Heh heh heh, my thinking may seem to not make sense, stand on your head and it will be clearer…

Sometime in the whirlwind that was early last year Mr. Wright at his blog was praising a book he was reading during Lent instead of what he was supposed to be reading for Lent. I have a strange memory where I will remember such a thing as such a post, what was said in it and the comments, and the book author and title.

So, last Thursday I was back at one of my old haunts Half-Priced books in Bellevue WA (East Side!) and came across the title sitting on top of the Hindu section under “religion.”

I am hoping it is a good read and not a Left Behind clone. Not that I’ve read the latter and not that I will – yuck. I think I have read every sort of genre out there except this one. And yes, I have read Westerns. Alright no Romance novels… But what man has?


Yet Another Acquisition and Tommyknockers Knockin’ at my Door

This one I had to get because, at the time, it was the only available copy on the internet and I already had number two. You never know if the one on the internet is the first of forty to show up tomorrow or the only one that is going to show up for forty years. So I bit.

I have to put a temporary halt on book buying. I can no longer even pretend that I am keeping up. Hell, last Friday I decided to reread The Tommyknockers by Stephen King on a whim.

Not totally a whim. It is one of my favorites. For one it was the first book I read in my very first place on my own. No television. Just beer and piles of books. And that was when I could read for 6 hours at a spin. Now I have to start fighting a nap within a half hour. That may be because I wear x3 magnification and hold the thing up to my face.

No television, no internet, no computers. Ah, those were the days, brother, those were the days.

Another reason I like it is it is a good story. Stephen King said in an interview it was his least favorite book and he doesn’t remember a lot of the writing. It was at the height of his drinking and cocaine days. And there are places in the book where you think, “ah, man, this was an eight-ball night for him for sure.” By this time he was a lot like Lucas I would imagine – editors as yes-men.

King’s strongest story-telling has always centered around friendship and this one is no exception. That, and the man knows the throws of alcohol abuse – quite intimate on that he is.

Anyway, it is one of my favorite science fiction / horror stories. Those are two genres that haven’t always mixed well, or believably. This one is a gem in my book. Love it. And it’s fast too. There is no hidden symbolism in King’s work, no meta-anything – just straight forward storytelling, contemporary Americana, and some shots of terror.

Hey, I just started a book called The Resurrection of the Son of God – go look up the table of contents. I need some rest after some of my reading!


STORMBRINGER II

Still not quite done with this book yet but…

I have a few more observations. First is the bleakness of it. In this world there are two opposing forces Chaos and Law. The reign of either spells the doom of man. Chaos is winning and Elric the “hero” (and, comparatively, to today’s standards he passes as one – he’s basically Conan with albinism who draws his power from his runeblade’s ability to suck out the souls of its victims) must defeat the forces of Chaos and establish the reign of Law. The reign of law will also spell the end of man. This would be the end of magic basically and the warrior man and bring about common man like us.

Something like that.

But either way, Elric and his race are fighting for their own doom. He does not save the girl she dies horribly, etc, etc.

The other observation is I believe Moorcock wrote this either on amphetamines or close to lethal doses of caffeine. The pace is relentless nobody stops for anything. And this includes the author who often did not check to make sure to carry through his character’s action through exposition.

There is one sea battle scene where three of the heroes are treading water amongst the debris of wrecked ships and dark Chaotic forces. Also one of their number is unconscious and is being supported in the rough waters by the other two. In comes their “guide” in some sort of bubble craft. He starts to “info dump” and they are having a page and a half discussion.

After a while I was thinking, “Why doesn’t this jerk let them into his craft, they’re going to drown gabbing away like this.” A few sentences later the writer has them exiting this bubble craft back at the guide’s lair (sorry, I don’t have the book in front of me I don’t have all these names on recall) in Nahrain (I think that’s it).

Hold it. What? But they never left the water! And – before any one contradicts me, you are wrong! If you do not take them out of the water, they stay in the water. It is not my job as a reader to, when they suddenly exit this bubble-craft I did not know they were on, to backtrack in my mind, “oh, well, they were on it the whole time!” No, you have just thrown me out of the story.

Another instance was merely clumsy. Elric comes to his wife Zonizoria (its close something like that) who is hiding from the forces of Chaos that have almost taken the whole of the earth. He tells her he must leave, he cannot stay long. And then proceeds to make sweet love to her and to stay all night until the next morning. And the next morning when he is getting ready are his three (or two?) war companions simply waiting for him as if they instinctively knew that even though he had to leave soon, that meant at least a full night’s sleep and making whoopee. Are these characters or things that are just there when they need to be? The way it is written makes it hard to feel anything or care when they later die.

Later on in the book they have to go steal a magical shield from some giant that protects against the maligning forces of Chaos so Elric can get in there and kill the baddies. The giant has known for eons, through prophesy, that Elric would one day come to slay the giant, himself, for this shield. When Elric and gang fight through the giant’s defenses and confront the giant himself, the giant, sad and resigned to his fate (he had been immortal, made mortal and spent eons fearing the encroachment of his death) he asks Elric mercy and lays the sword at his feet.

Elric agrees to let the giant die by the passage of time at not by his soul-sucking blade, and so the giant walks off and Elric picks up the shield and turns to leave. Oh, hell no, thinks one of his compatriots and murders the poor giant from behind – because? Prophesy. Oh, and Elric killed one of his own fighting through the giant’s defenses (and not entirely by accident) so the giant has to die because Elric couldn’t control the power and passionate rage that courses through him when he and his sword are slicing through the flesh and sucking up the soul of their enemy in battle.

That did get a reaction out of me. I felt sorry for the giant, and I thought “man, Moorcock, you dick. you had a nice moment there, but you had to ruin it for a little more blood.” Seriously, I bet George RR Martin worships this guy.

Anyway, that is probably all I’ll write about this book. I will remember some parts of it, but as you can see I can barely remember some of the names as I am reading it. It is not, by far, the worst book I have read in recent years. That still goes to Ann Leckie’s terribly galactic letdown.


STORMBRINGER

I am only about halfway through this book but I feel safe in calling this one. This book is stupid. The writing is inept while at the same time having pretension. I wish I had written down some of the stupid phrases I have read in this work so far. At one point Elric stands up from a sitting position followed by the phrase “his eyebrows lifted.”

What? his eyebrows lifted him out of his seat? His eyebrows lifted why? In relation to what event?

In another scene two warriors are having a discussion about a runesword. The main character, Elric, holds out his hand – “Give it to me,” Elric said quickly.

And then they proceed to stand there and talk a while longer. Why did he have to say “Give it to me,” quickly? It is out of place, there is no action requiring him to ask for it quickly. He just stands there holding it for a few more minutes of conversation.

The book is full of such disjointed, out of context writing.

It is also the sort of work that could not be put into film unless all parts were acted out by drunken cross- dressers. No one else could pull such laughable melodramatic seriousness. And the action, first this and then that, the world ends if you do this, the world will end if you do that. Literally the world will end. Within the first 20 pages we are buzzed into a full blown world war and extravagant backstory of Elric’s warrior ancestors and the rule of Chaos and blah, blah, blah.

I will finish it. It is not a hard read, and the book doesn’t let you vest any emotion in any of the characters so you slam through it. Can’t remember a character (ah, and it comes with numerous lands, people and gods that share a single characteristic – goofy names that are hard to retain or pronounce, and they are made up so you can’t go look in the dictionary) who cares! Just pay attention to the albino hero, Elric. He will succeed or he won’t – screw it on to the next book!

Not bad if you know you are going into pretty much worthless cheese.


THE LAST UNICORN by Peter S. Beagle

Finished this gem last night. I am a little old to have been reading the book but I thought I had a gap in my reading of fantasy classics. It wasn’t until near the end that it flashed upon me that I had already read this work as either a child or young teenager.

On another level the book is suitable for adult reading as well as it deals in subject matter that would be lost on children or even most young adults. It deals with the eternity of beauty, the ephemeral status of things that pass, what it means to be a hero (and the book gets it head on). A lot of themes almost passed me by as I was not expecting the book to cover any deep territory. They had almost passed me entirely by before I thought, “Wait a minute, this guy is saying something more here!”

The book ended on a sort of melancholy note (at least for the unicorn) as the unicorn had tasted the pain of mortality, of want and of loss and would therefore never be the same as she was before. The before state was of an immortal, unchanging perfection. From here you can see the philosophical and theological themes at work in the story.

The book was a delight to read. And was certainly what I needed after sailing aboard Lafferty’s ARGO. Not that I didn’t enjoy that thoroughly, but they make you work your ass off on that damned ship!


FIRST THINGS talks PAST MASTER

The Christian online (online?) magazine FIRST THINGS, talks PAST MASTER, and DEAD LADY OF CLOWN TOWN, MANSIONS IN SPACE, and a few others.

Hey, they got the essential theme right!


New Acquisitions in Fantasy

I found a good source for widening my fantasy reading experience. I hope. I haven’t read very much in fantasy as compared to science fiction. I feel that this is because while science fiction had many influences (including fantasy itself) a lot of fantasy is occupied by derivatives of Tolkein’s works. Current releases probably mirror George RR Martin’s work which is really just a nihilistic, modern take on conventional fantasy. In fact, I was in the science fiction/fantasy isle lat month and saw two such titles by different authors that began like “A Game of…” “A Dance of…”, much like in the late 90’s and early 2000’s you ran across YA books like “Charlie Bone and the….” Derivative.

The source for widening my fantasy experience is Lin Carter’s Ballentine Adult Fantasy series from the 60’s and 70’s (note – many of the works in the series predate the 60’s and 70’s by several or more decades, many being rereleases). Hat tip (yet again) to Mr. John C. Wright for bringing this series to my attention.

Right now I have about 50 pages of Peter S/ Beagle’s THE LAST UNICORN left and then Michael Moorcock’s STORMBRINGER. Then I think I may rip through these and then tackle R.A. Lafferty’s PAST MASTER again.

Happy Reading everyone!


Book Find

Found this at used bookstore today. I love etymology. Although I usually find the highly abbreviated compact script of these books to be cumbersome, they really aim when you are trying to fully flesh out a word.

I’d also like to share an online resource that I use quite frequently: ONLINE ETYMOLOGY DICTIONARY

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The link goes to the list of sources this man (and yes, apparently it is a one man project, but he has been doing it for years) uses for the site. It is quite an impressive list (although somehow it manages to not have the above resource).

I’ve often thought of getting the Barnhart, or the Chambers etymological dictionaries as well. I had the Oxford one for a week or so, but it was so concise and abbreviated I didn’t want to take the time to master a whole language of abbreviations and symbols.


Going for Easy, Maybe Going for Stupid

I am almost two and a half months into reading Lafferty’s Argo tales. I am near the end of Argo itself, and then there are the related items, some shorter works centered around the main books.

I’m beat. My next several reads are going to be easy. I have the next three lined up: STORMBRINGER by Michael Moorcock, YOU WILL NEVER BE THE SAME by Cordwainer Smith, THE LAST UNICORN by Peter S. Beagle. John C. Wright’s THE VINDICATION OF MAN will have to wait until the late spring. I can’t follow up a Lafferty read of this length with his stuff, I need a break!

I always go into a first Lafferty read knowing that I will probably be rereading it – especially the novels. So I don’t try to pick up every nuance on the first outing. I don’t make it an aim to seek out all etymological word plays (and he has a lot of them) or to tie in all references to theme, etc, etc. I do some, but I like to get a view of the forest on my first pass.

For instance, the first time I read Past Master (2012? 13?) there is a scene where More is at Mass on Golden Astrobe. The scene is bizarre, there are commercial advertisements, I believe the wine is some sudsy popular drink, a sign says something like these crispy sweet wafers brought to by! Such scenes passed me by in the first round as being just plain hilarious and bizarre fun. I didn’t realize at the time that it was also commentary by Lafferty against, or caricature of, Vatican II, which he opposed.

Anyway, going for easy for the next several rounds.

Reading the ARGO series has got me interested in fantasy in a way that I haven’t been… ever? Let me make a confession – this may be hard for some of you to hear – Tolkien bores me. Now, it may not be Tolkien himself, but the endless repetition of his work over the last several decades whereby if I see a knight on a horse (or a magical kingdom that needs to be saved) I am hitting the snooze button.

The ARGO series can only be classified, if we must choose a classification, as fantasy, perhaps, it may turn out, classifiable as a ghost story. It is a wholly different fantasy than I have read before. And there was fantasy before Tolkien. Eddison’s excellent The Worm Ourboros to name but one. So I am open to trying some more fantasy in the months to come.


THE MAN WITH THE SPECKLED EYES

laffertyvol4

 

As usual I am reviewing the introduction and, maybe, later reviewing some of the stories, or the book as a whole.

But probably not. I never do seem to get back to it.

And I usually see no reason to when I get into the book. It is a collection of Lafferty stories, nearly all I will enjoy immensely, and a few I will understand.

So far the only failing of this series (for me anyway) is in the choices for who writes the introduction. So far it is following the opposite of the Star Trek movie rule. The first and third introductions were good, the second and fourth were told by two men who mostly talked of themselves.

However Harlan Ellison had the advantage of having some relation to the man. And took a paragraph or two to relate something about Lafferty from his experience and not himself.

Richard A Lupoff spends most of his introduction talking incoherently about Lafferty being a practitioner of Orwell’s doublethink. And questioning how someone as smart and educated as Lafferty could believe in something as profoundly stupid as Catholicism. It should be noted that Lupoff has no real knowledge of Catholicism.

At the beginning of the introduction Lupoff confesses he only had a passing acquaintance with Lafferty – handshakes and a ‘how do you do?’ at conventions. At the end he goes into this bucket list fantasy about his friend Lafferty and Jack Vance.

I rarely, if ever, read introductions. No one buys a book for the introductions. But I read the Lafferty introductions because Lafferty is my favorite writer and I would like to read of the man. I hope, in future volumes of this series, they will get some writers (or editors or publishers) who had some interaction with the man – something real to relate.

And, perhaps, one who did not wonder how “someone so smart could believe in something so stupid.”