felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
As usual, poking my head up for a rare update.

The death of Jack has been the big unhappy event lately. I didn't know him well - I had the pleasure of working with him a handful of times briefly, and I really admired his work.

Jack Layton really was as nice in real life as he was on camera. He only saw me a handful of times across the years, but - in spite of the thousands he met - he always remembered me, and remembered I was bad with crowds. Four months before he was dead, he was checking up on me. Funny, isn't it?

They used to say that Robert Stanfield was the best prime minister Canada never had. That title's been officially ceded.

Other than that, my own life has been going quite well. I increased my writing input, and I'm prepping myself mentally for a massive send-out to pretty much any Canadian publishing house I think might accept. That'll likely happen in October.

I've had a social life lately, too. Most recently at [profile] jenjoou's wonderful party on Saturday.

A lot of friends have been going through bad times, but because my own life's been going well I think I've been able to be there for most of them.

Anyway, for today's review, The King Must Die by Mary Renault.

Review continues, with some spoilers )
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Dear Mr. Pullman,

If you want me to believe that the race of witches in your novel has never even heard of angels, don't name their leader - and the one asking about the angels - Serafina. Thank you.

-- [livejournal.com profile] felis_ultharus
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So I said I'd review some of the books I've been reading.

I finally got around to Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur this summer. I chickened out and read it in translation - I've got some Old French on my to-read pile, but I wasn't ready to tackle something as long as Malory yet.

For those of you who don't know, Le Morte D'Arthur is the version of King Arthur that inspired pretty much every movie, TV show, novel, and video game you've ever seen. It's not the oldest version - people had been telling King Arthur stories for about 1000 years before Malory - but it's been the most influential.

I've read most of the older surviving stories now - The Mabinogion, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Wace, countless French romances, Chr├ętien de Troyes, among others. So I have a pretty good idea of what Malory put in and what he took out.

Cut for length - no spoilers for anyone who grew up in Western Civilization, unless they were raised in a Skinner box )

I'm on a semi-regular schedule at work this week, so I'm going to try and get caught up on my writing. My goal was to finish today. That's not going to happen, but if I hurry I can maybe make it tomorrow.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So on to happier posts.

I've been editing a lot lately. My novel should be finished by a week Tuesday. For real. I'm already looking into modes of submission for major publishers.

I've also been reading a lot lately, in my long commutes to and from English placement tests (I'm full-time at work lately. I've got a lot I want to review here, but we'll start with the novel I just finished, Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief, the only recent young adult fiction I've read besides Harry Potter.

And in fact it's rather similar to The Philosopher's Stone.

Review continues, with minor spoilers but nothing major. )

I'm always so critical in my reviews. I will say this, though. Among the many things he pillaged from Rowling, he got much of the sheer addictiveness and pleasure. I read it faster than Philosopher's Stone, and it's almost four times as long.

And yes, I will be seeing the movie when it comes out in February, even though it's Chris Columbus and I can already see strange changes in a short trailer (Trailer here).
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So I just read American Gods, being the last geek in the world not to have read it.

At first I was disappointed with it. The plot seemed unfocused and rambling. About halfway through, it turns out that a lot of the aimlessness was misdirection, and he brings it to a brilliant reveal-type conclusion -- very Rowling-like, when Rowling is at her best.

So it was a brilliant plot. And a fun read. Most of the characters were interesting and fun. Too bad that in order to make his thematic arguments, he pretty much has to build a whole universe out of straw.

Review continues, with spoilers -- a long review because it hit a few nerves )

Wow. My reviews are getting longer and longer. Could it be I actually miss English lit? These things are turning into term papers. Of course, I couldn't say most of that stuff in a term paper.

I still recommend the book. It's entertaining. It just gets messier and messier the more you think about what it's trying to say. Another bad habit I carry over from English lit, although maybe a good one for my own writing.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So I finished Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, a book that often gets called "Harry Potter for adults" -- which seems like a vague insult directed at the many adult Potter fans.

But it's easy to see why the comparison gets made. Both are a mix of comic and dark, both centre on magicians in Britain, both are crammed with plot twists, and Jonathan Strange was published in time to ride the wave of Harry Potter popularity.

Overall, I'm with most people who compared both books -- Jonathan Strange is the better work overall in terms of craft, but with some reservations. And even though I think Susanna Clarke is the better writer, I still like Rowling better because she seems to understand things Clarke doesn't.

Review continues, now with spoilers! )

On a totally different note, Vandana Shiva was on The Current this morning. I first heard about her through David Suzuki's writings -- she's a quantum physicist, an environmental activist, a feminist, and an anti-globalization activist, and I've always been a fan of hers.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So, to clarify, I think as usual the party will be kind of a drop-in, since afternoon is better for some, and evening for others. I was thinking about opening the doors around one in the afternoon on Sunday ^_^

I've been offline for the better of three days, the beginning of my usual internet detox period. If anything crucial has been happening, I apologize for not noticing.

Writing progresses. I'm trying to hold myself back to two pages a day -- that is, re-writing two, then editing them two to four times before progressing. This is the best way to ensure I don't force passages that shouldn't be rushed. It seems to be working -- my improvement in some areas is much greater than it usually is.

It also means I'll be able to integrate suggestions from my editors before I get too far in.

In the meantime -- with all the extra time that normally goes to writing and internet -- I'm reading Beowulf and trying to muddle through the Anglo-Saxon without cheating by looking at Seamus Heaney's translation.

I find that by drawing on archaic English vocabulary, my intermediate (and very rusty) German, and knowledge of the runes, I can sometimes get the gist of a sentence. I've also been able to figure out some words from context, like ymb (around) and ellen (force or power).

I'm also about halfway through the poaching sidequest in Final Fantasy Tactics, which has made my characters too powerful for any of the story-battles to last more than a minute.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
So I've more or less finished Children of Húrin -- I'm now in the "Making of" Appendix in the back.

I've read much better Tolkien -- I kept thinking that the whole way through. Even by the standards of the posthumous books, it was pretty terrible -- Christopher Tolkien just doesn't have his father's gift, and his father's rough notes just weren't enough to make a story.

Children of Húrin is pretty much every tragedy you got in high school, thrown into the blender with a dragon and Tolkien Elvish. It even threw in some incest for that warm, fuzzy, Oedipus Rex feel. Granted, Oedipus Rex could've been improved by a fight with a dragon. But with all that needless character torture, Children of Húrin feels like a bad Yuu Watase anime.

Reading the appendix at the back, Christopher Tolkien admits that his father intended to write it in alliterative verse - the same style as Beowulf, but in modern English. He only got halfway. Tolkien Junior quotes a few passages. They're quite beautiful. It would've worked that way.

Christopher should've paid some poet to render it in verse. I think he was in a rush to capitalize on the popularity of the films.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
A quiet day in the office. As always when I work on Saturdays, I'm listening to CBC, and contemplating campaigning for a memorial statue dedicated to the victims of Brent Bambury's Go.

I'm reading Children of Húrin right now. You have to admire J.R.R. Tolkien -- I hope I have the stamina to keep writing thirty-four years after my death.

As a fantasy novel overall, it's okay so far, but the racism has really astonished me. Not that it's there -- anyone who's read Lord of the Rings as an adult can't miss it -- but as the book was ghostwritten by his son in 2007 from his father's manuscripts, you'd think someone would've pointed out during the editing process that parts of it read like British National Party propaganda.

It's not even just a moral issue but also an artistic one -- it really detracts from the unfolding of a story to predict how good a person is going to be by how pale they are (dark skin = evil, dark hair but white = imperfect or unstable, blond = good).

On the other hand, the way some of the scenes are written, I have to wonder if Christopher Tolkien is playing to a slash-writing audience. I may post some of these another day.
felis_ultharus: The Pardoner from the Canterbury Tales (Default)
Today was the first day in seven that I didn't have to go into my regular job, though I was in training for my very temporary moonlighting one instead, giving Cambridge Exams. My first official day on the job for that is tomorrow afternoon. Then I'm back at my usual on Friday.

I also got my first heavy edit for my novel done today (checking for historical accuracy and internal consistency), as well as getting a little more research done. I stumbled onto a book of 19th-century pictures of British Columbia, which may prove helpful.

I also reread The Half-Blood Prince.

Only of Interest to Harry Potter fans, otherwise nothing to see here and plenty of spoilers. )

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September 2011

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