Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Book Review: The Last Wish, by Andrzej Sapkowski

The Last Wish (The Witcher, #1)The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was disappointed with this title. I was hoping that this would be a better introduction to the character of Geralt, but in the end felt that he came off as more of a caricature rather than a fully developed round character.

I had difficulty following the plots of the short stories as well. I'm sure it would read better if you read each short story in one sitting, but I am rarely able to sit and read for that long these days. I especially found the Voice of Reason story very difficult to follow because it was split up throughout the book. At the end, I couldn't tell you what happened at the beginning of the Voice of Reason story, why Geralt was in conflict with those men. It was a poor choice in my opinion.

My favorite story was The Last Wish. I thought that plotline was the most interesting.

I doubt I will ever read a Witcher book again, unfortunately. He is a cool video game character, but not that great as a character in a book. And I don't really have much else to say about this book. It was extremely underwhelming.

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Thanksgiving Break Hiatus

Fellow lovers of literature! In a surprising turn of events, we have come upon the holidays. Thanksgiving is upon us.

Mr. Barbaric Yawp will be taking a week-long break. Enjoy your turkey and potatoes and cranberry sauce and pie. But most importantly, enjoy the extra time with family and friends.

See you on the other side.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Different Direction: Defining Literature

Quite a bit of my media consumption of late has been about Bob Dylan receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature. Initially, I had missed this announcement. I usually am uninterested in things like this, but here we are several months later and I am blogging about this unusual choice.

When I think of literature I think of Shakespeare, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Joyce. I don't normally think of Bob Dylan. Up until recently, I didn't even listen to Bob Dylan. I knew several of his songs through other artists, but I found his voice to be grating. Literature is poetry and plays and novels. Things that a reader can really dig into. I do not consider The Hunger Games literature. Nor do I consider The Martian by Andy Weir, although I absolutely loved that book. There is a lot that is not literature and up until recently, I would have had song lyrics on that list as well. But now everything is up in the air. 

So, I want to explore this topic in further detail. I have several things that I am going to be reading, watching, studying and I will post them here so you can follow along with my journey.

Here is the video that started me on this quest, check it out if you would like.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Dysthymia: Stagnant Traffic

I read this poem when it hit my inbox in Sept. but I needed to save it till now. I am writing this post on 11/1/2016; Halloween was yesterday and we have just launched into the Holiday Season. Fourteen school days till Thanksgiving Break and then just a short three weeks until Winter Break. We have at least four major holidays in our future before we get a break. So, with that in mind, now on to the poem.

Dysthymia: Stagnant Traffic

by Cate Lycurgus

the exit’s not marked    Post-
partum  Seasonal  Psychotic  or the often

merrier  Manic    not half the frolic     
of a holiday party   whole nights

drowning in punch lines   strong 
orchestra of laughter     to keep us from

crying      over the on-ramp’s
stubborn curl    ribbon a red loop 

nuisance to tug     un-loose back 
at home  with the heat left on   

and your scarf like a noose   no one
diagnoses          generic danger

strangling us     on a normal
basis       unwrapping a new numb

not so formal    it won’t         come 
buckle       the small       of your back

a caress     snuck up and     un-
seat belting   out a welcome so     

concrete who      would not soften 
who could not      resist
I love the message of this poem. I don't mean to be harsh, but the holiday season sucks. We try to cram so many things into a short amount of time with the intention of having fun. We want to make memories and enjoy time with our friends and family, but too often we just stress ourselves out and make ourselves miserable in the process. The holidays then become a disappointment rather than the most magical time of the year. Lycurgus uses images and diction to help cement this idea into the reader's mind. Words like psychotic, manic, drowning, crying, stubborn, nuisance, noose, generic, strangling, and numb help in this respect. The merry-makers are drowning in their punch lines, scarves around their necks like nooses. I also really like the formatting in this poem. The extra spaces almost act as line breaks which adds more ways to interpret the poem. Often you can read the word in isolation, but you can also read it in the greater context of the line, or sentence.

Lycurgus doesn't provide the reader with a solution either. The poem brings this problem to our attention, but does nothing to help us overcome it. We are stuck, as we are so often in life, with the problems and asked to solve them for ourselves.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Too Many Book Clubs? Coming Soon

I have been joining, starting, or suggestion book clubs all over the place these last few weeks/months. Cards of Grief was for a book club with my colleagues in the department, as was Silence. That book club has moved on to something that I have no interest in reading, so here we are reading a new fantasy novel. This time, I am reading with my two brothers. We were all able to purchase this book on the cheap as a Kindle sale option. We all like fantasy and we've all enjoyed The Witcher video games, so we decided to dive in and try the book which inspired the development of the video games. The Sword and Laser book club would be proud of us, having just finished this selection themselves. I think it will be an interesting experiment reading a book and discussing it with my brothers.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Review: Spontaneous

Spontaneous Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was a wonderful palate cleanser. I needed something less serious, something just for fun and this book absolutely fit that bill. After reading Their Eyes were Watching God, Cards of Grief, and Silence I really needed that break.

I thought that Spontaneous was a hoot. It is such an interesting premise and the author handles it just perfectly. It isn't morose or too serious, he discusses high school students blowing up in a mass of blood and guts with enough levity to keep the book moving and not depress the reader. Not too much levity though, it wasn't irreverent towards life and the importance of life, but really helped to highlight the theme that life is so so important and that we should continue to just live day by day because you never know...

When I started I thought that Spontaneous would be another teen drama. I've read a couple and haven't been impressed with these author's ability. They usually are just story with lots of emphasis on the romance and the main character's feelings. While this did have romance and "feels" Aaron Starmer has some writing chops. There were sections where I was genuinely impressed with this teen drama author and his abilities. He is no Faulkner or Fitzgerald, but the man knows his stuff. Nice metaphors and wonderful use of anaphora to name a few.

The book moved at a good clip. I certainly wasn't bored while reading it. But I was disappointed with the ending of this novel. Throughout the whole of the book both the characters and the reader are trying to figure out what is causing these high school Seniors to blow up. There are a lot of theories, and I didn't like the way the novel handled the ending with all the theories. I won't go into much more detail than that because I don't want to spoil the end, but this could easily have been rated a 9 if not for that one thing right at the end that soured my experience.

Still, I really enjoyed Spontaneous and would probably read a sequel if Starmer wrote one. A fun, brainless read. And sometimes you just need something fun and brainless.

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P6: Dickinson Nature Poems CCCR

P5: Dickinson Nature Poems CCCR

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Anaphora in Spontaneous

I picked up Spontaneous as a fun read after all the serious books I have been reading lately and it hasn't disappointed. I have been pleasantly surprised with this one. I also have been impressed with Starmer's writing. There are two notable sections where he uses anaphor to wonderful effect. One I will not quote on my blog because of the content of that passage, but the effect makes that moment for the two main characters very special. This other passage is more appropriate for the blog but has less of an impact than the first one. You'll just have to read the novel now to understand what I am talking about.
"Yes, this is what happens when your boyfriend spontaneously combusts in front of you. You fall to your knees. You press your face into the pavement as the blood drips, thick and languorous, off you, as if it were ice cream in the sunlight. You howl like you've never howled before, and the howl confirms that there are things deep inside you. Things darker than the darkest things you've ever imagined. And you believe in those things. Entirely, without question."
The repetition of the "you" does have the effect of placing the reader in the shoes of the main character. The author wants us to feel this moment, which you have to say is an earth shattering one. The metaphor in the second line is all at once beautiful and grotesque. But the repetition and switch to second person point of view is really what makes this paragraph for me. 

Like I said, the other passage was much better in its execution, but there is a lot to like in Spontaneous, by Aaron Starmer.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Charles Dickens in Spontaneous

I've begun reading Spontaneous. It is fun and humorous and interesting and fast paced and the perfect palate cleanser of a book. I really needed to read something like this after the last few books I've read. Especially since Silence was such a disappointment. 

I was interested to find a quote from Dickens' Bleak House at the beginning of the novel:
"Call the death by any name Your Highness will,attribute it to whom you will,or say it might have been prevented how you will.It is the same death eternally--inborn, inbred,engendered in the corrupted humours of the viciousbody itself,and that only--Spontaneous Combustion,and none other of all the deaths that can be died."
I don't know if Stramer is saying that he pulled the title for his novel from Dickens, or if he is just making a connection to more classical literature, but I thought it really set up the novel well when I started.

It is also interesting that Stramer has presented this Dickens quote in a poetic form, even though these lines are prose in chapter 32 of Bleak House. He separates out the words "body itself" so they appear on their own line, thus giving them more emphasis. The repetition of the word "will" on the end of the first three lines is also interesting.

I don't know how much this quote from Bleak House will factor into the novel, but it was nice to see Stramer using this classical lit quote.