September 2019: Reading Thread

Elckerlyc

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Finished reading Hannah Green And Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence by Michael Marshall Smith. Which turned out to be a very un-mundane story about a 11 year old girl who finds out her granddad is in fact over 250 years old, thanks to his connections with the devil, and the world is in jeopardy.
It's a fun read for both young and old.

So what comes next?
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
I can't decide. That all 3 titles start with a S is coincidence, but doesn't make it any easier.
*sigh* Life is tough.
 

dannymcg

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I've only read Station Eleven out of your three options, tbh I found it a bit dull and pedestrian after the world building was done with.
 

Hugh

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J.R.R.Tolkien: "Beowulf"
I guess everyone with a more than passing interest in Tolkien has to read this sooner or later, not only because it was so central to his life and work, but also because of its influence on the writing we know and love, most obviously in the Smaug- Bilbo interaction. So, I'm grateful to his son Christopher for constructing this translation out of his father's manuscripts and lecture notes. In addition, Tolkien's commentary on the poem is fascinating, not just for his depth of philological and historical expertise (most of it, however, well over my head or level of interest), but also because it must give a flavour of his discussion in tutorials with his students.

In some ways it is disappointing in that I had hoped Tolkien would use the structure of Old English alliterative verse which I find very powerful, and which I'm sure he could have managed effectively, but in using prose form he was able to, as he saw it, make as exact a translation as possible of the original poem. This in itself must have a certain value, and the prose does have a certain deep rhythm and power embedded in it.

Here are a few lines of Tolkien's alliterative verse:
Time passed away. On the tide floated
under bank their boat. In her bows mounted
brave men blithely. Breakers turning
spurned the shingle. splendid armour
they bore aboard, in her bosom piling
well-forged weapons, then away thrust her
to voyage gladly valiant timbered.


and here is his prose version:
Time passed on. Afloat upon the waves was the boat beneath the cliffs. Eagerly the warriors mounted the prow, and the streaming sea swirled upon the sand. Men-at arms bore to the bosom of the ship their bright harness, their cunning gear of war; they then, men on glad voyage, thrust her forth with her well-joined timbers.

and here's Seamus Heaney's version of the same passage:
Time went by, the boat was on water,
in close under the cliffs.
Men climbed eagerly up the gangplank,
sand churned in surf, warriors loaded
a cargo of weapons, shining war-gear
in the vessels hold, then heaved out,
away with a will in their wood-wreathed ship.


I find Heaney an easier read than Tolkien's prose, but nonetheless Tolkien's has a certain majesty, and of course is probably a more exact translation.

A couple of minor points:

I felt a sudden unexpected sympathy for Grendel:
Then the fierce spirit that abode in darkness grievously endured a time of torment, in that day after day he heard the din of revelry echoing in the hall.
Who'd want a bunch of Danes moving into the neighborhood and feasting through the night, disturbing what had been a nice peaceful neighborhood? I have some sympathy with him storming up there and creating mayhem.

And some of the etymology on the meaning of words in the commentary is very interesting. For instance the Old English Wrecca means 'exile', a man driven out from the land of his home, which could imply (more usually) a wretched existence, but also an adventurer. Today in English this has metamorphosed into 'wretch', while in German 'Rocke', valiant knight or hero.

For those interested, @Extollager started a thread with a number of excellent reviews:

 
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Vince W

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I've read the Heaney version and have the Tolkien on my shelf, but the best way to experience it, for me at least, is to hear it aloud by a good speaker. Much the way people would have when it was developed. It's really great after a good meal and a couple of pints. Joy of the cup and all that.
 

The Big Peat

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Re The Pern discussion - A lot of my favourite books in the series come later on, so I'd encourage people to read on.

As for me, I'm currently reading Sir Pterry's Interesting Times.
 

Hugh

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I've read the Heaney version and have the Tolkien on my shelf, but the best way to experience it, for me at least, is to hear it aloud by a good speaker. Much the way people would have when it was developed. It's really great after a good meal and a couple of pints. Joy of the cup and all that.
I'll try that. Years ago I used to do that with the Epic of Gilgamesh.
 

Extollager

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Just finished Piers Brendon's very readable The Dark Valley: A Panorama of the 1930s, and have begun C. V. Wedgwood's A Coffin for King Charles. I'm actually reading (now and again) a genre book too, Bujold's Barrayar, which hasn't quite taken hold of my imagination yet.
 

Victoria Silverwolf

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I have just started Miracles of Life: Shanghai to Shepperton: An Autobiography (2008) by J. G. Ballard, written at the end of his life. Already it's fascinating, in his portrait of Shanghai in the 1930's.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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Reading Echo in Onyx, by Sharon Shinn. Interesting premise (people of high status in the realm are born with mysterious multiple doubles who mimic their actions and silently follow them everywhere, presumably as a form of protection against assassination, conferred by their goddess), but too early yet to know what she will make of it.
 

dannymcg

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Escape Velocity by Jonathan Isaacs.
Book 1 of the Quantum War series.

Mil sci fi....Space Marines!
 

Parson

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I picked the guilty pleasure book Laurence E. Dahners' book Sisters. Kept reading until 2 am to finish it. I love books with ethical heroes attempting great things for humanity.

On to Dogs of War by Adrain Tchaikovsky. I doubt reading until 2 am is in the cards tonight.
 

dannymcg

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The Institute by Stephen King
This is getting dull and repetitive now, too much padding out the story.
I'll give it another chapter and if it doesn't pick up a bit then I'll save this book on my bedside table.
It'll be very handy to induce a doze when I can't get to sleep
 

Vince W

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This is getting dull and repetitive now, too much padding out the story.
I'll give it another chapter and if it doesn't pick up a bit then I'll save this book on my bedside table.
It'll be very handy to induce a doze when I can't get to sleep
I felt this way about IT. I gave up on King after struggling to the end of that.
 
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