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So I gave up on Game of Kings at about page 250. I just couldn't take it any longer.

Cut so that people who like the books can skip by )

But I did watch some clips of CSI:NY today, which I mostly enjoyed. I really liked the Danny/Lindsay introduction scene, where he tells her to call the boss 'sir', and she does and boss goes 'don't call me sir' and she's all annoyed because this is not how you want to start out working somewhere. And then she's all mad at Danny and would rather eat nails than ask him where something is. And you can see he's a bit sorry that he started off like that, but I get the feeling that's the sort of clunky way he interacts with women.

But the gore! There's a reason why I don't watch any of the CSIs and that's the blood and guts and all the rest of it. I don't want to see autopsy scenes; they freak me out. They really should do an abbreviated version of it that is all about the relationships and cuts out all the blood.
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Things that I like about this show:

1. Evil dad. He's really, really evil as you can tell by his smirk. His business empire (don't laugh) is built upon a design idea he stole off a 5 year old. The five year old has held a grudge ever since (seriously, she is mad about it, even if it does seem a bit insane as he presumably changed the design a fair bit to make it work. But he also ran off with her mum, which doesn't really seem to faze her.) Anyway, he's great and every show should have one.

2. Liang, the prettiest hero ever. If you don't believe me look at [livejournal.com profile] dangermousie's picspam: Click for lovely pictures. It should be illegal to be that pretty and wander around in public. As I find the heroine a bit wearing with her endless tears and wailing about how she will be a famous designer one day, I tend to watch for him and his very well-lit angst.

3. Er...I am not sure I have a 3. But look at the pictures of Liang! Yes.

Things that I don't like:

1. The heroine (Sui) is a bit of a wet blanket. There's a lot of clinging and very fetching tears and whining. She's alright when not whimpering but that's not a lot of the time. And unlike other the few other heroines of taiwanese soaps I've seen she doesn't actually have that much to complain about. Okay, evil designer stole her drawing as a five year old (how the hell did she even know about it? was she reading fashion magazines as a wee child?) and ran off with her mum (which no one - not even dad - seems all that upset about) but in the grand scheme of things it's perhaps not enough to have a desire for revenge that makes some Jacobean tragedy look tame by comparison.

And in incredible animal stories: Sooty shearwaters migrate for 40,000 miles. Really. Sooty Shearwater migration

ETA: I started reading The Lymond Chronicles and I know I've been told it's slow for the first 100 pages but no one said anything about the language! 'His whiskers promenaded!' 'which dislimned every shade of their privacy.'! It's like Walter Scott on acid - which might not necessarily be a bad thing, mind you.

ETA 2: There are wheens of things. And wily choleric eyes (how is that even possible? Surely if your eyes are angry they cannot really simultaneously be wily?) Soon I am sure there will be scrips mentioned! Tell me it is worth continuing with this book because otherwise it is like reading a melange of RL Stevenson and Walter Scott - authors whom I like but who are very much of their time. Which is not the 20th century.

ETA 3: Lymond has been 'infused with fresh, delicate energy' and also used a reference from Horace. One which, I might add, made no sense in this context unless he thinks his male companion is going to feck off with another man and suck his life blood dry. But I do not think I am supposed to imagine Lymond is in love with this man, so I don't quite understand.

Book Glee

Aug. 3rd, 2006 10:53 am
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So I finally managed to get my hands on volume one of the Dunnett Lymond series. (Thank you public library!) I hope it as good as people on my flist say because I am looking foward to settling down with it. I had a whole list of recs from other people but I have lost some of them (I know that [livejournal.com profile] elspethsheir had a great one a while back that I must hunt down again) which might be as well for the pile of other books I have to read.

And from me a book I love: The Great Cat Massacre and other episodes in French cultural History by Robert Darnton. Anything by Darnton is worth reading (how can you not like a man who wrote a book with the titleThe Forbidden Bestsellers of Pre-Revolutionary France) but this one is especially marvellous.

Basically it is a series of snapshots of what are really minor events in 18th century French history (they're not even what you would think of as historical events, more just odd moments gathered together); what makes the book so wonderful is how Darnton builds a world view around them. In the titular essay he tries to explain why a bunch of apprentices held mock trials for and hung a group of cats and found it so hilarious they reenacted it in pantomime again and again. And no, it's not because they were psychopaths or freaks, but had everything to do with cats being identified with their owners and the position of animals in the period. I know it might sound horrid, but when you read the essays you get carried into these scenes and you actually feel like you know something about how ordinary people thought, as opposed to their leaders or the aristocracy (because, boy, those people are always writing - it's not that hard to sort out what they thought).

I don't actually tend to enjoy the great person history book that much unless it's about a few select people or unless it's your only option (true of a lot of classical history) so Darnton is someone I always love reading.
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Poems which are easy to dislike: the Aeneid

Most people's reactions on reading the Aeneid are a bit puzzled. As in 'what is all the fuss about this poem? You're kidding me that Virgil wrote it at two lines a day and this is what he came up with?'

It has the problem of not having a very inspiring hero. Aeneas, really, is a incredibly pallid character and also a bit of a git what with the trail of dead women he leaves in his wake.* Also he is not very bright. No, honestly, he is the dumbest epic hero ever. People give him prophecy after prophecy telling him to go to Italy and he's 'oh, right you mean Thrace/Crete/where ever I happen to see next.' Mind you, his father is just as thick, and completely one with him on the misreading of prophecy. (My favourite bit: the scene where dad sees horses and says that they are either an omen of peace or war. Right. Covering your bases a bit with that one, Anchises.)

But for all that I think it is a great and horribly sad poem, mainly because Aeneas is so ordinary. Here's this bit player in the Iliad who only wants a heroic death, who is forced by his mother, Venus, to carry the glory of Troy to Italy. And he doesn't want to. All he wants to do is settle down, rebuild what he can of Troy and have a quiet life with his son and father. He keeps trying to do this again and again and it ends in disaster until he just lets himself be swallowed up by his destiny.

And in the course of the poem he loses everything. He sees his whole world ripped away from him with the destruction of Troy. He loses the woman he loves, he abandons his mercy in the final lines of the poem to kill from sheer rage. And what does he get in return? A mother who once says she'd be happy if he died as long as she can save his son, three years with a woman who probably doesn't want him, and an empire he doesn't care about. It's all about sacrificing yourself for something which will give you no pleasure because people have bigger plans for you than you can possibly imagine or want. Which is why it is both great and horrible.

*I have just realised this makes him sound like a psychopath. He doesn't actually kill the women directly, more they sort of, well, die around him.
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I've seen a lot of love for Rubicon recently on various LJs of those who watch HBO's Rome. It's a good book, but I wanted to recommend Ronald Syme's The Roman Revolution for anyone who might be interested in a classic and brilliant look at the fall of the Roman Republic.

This is a great, great work of history. It is a must for anyone who is vaguely sympathetic to Marc Antony as it attempts the almost impossible task of writing a history of the rise of Augustus from the perspective of the losing (Antonine) side. But most of all it is superbly written. Here's a sample of Syme's style:

"In all ages, whatever the form and name of government, be it monarchy, republic, or democracy, an oligarchy lurks behind the facade; and Roman history, Republican or Imperial, is the history of the governing class."

And on Tiberius' accession to power after the death of Augustus:

"From first to last the dynasty of the Julii and the Claudii ran true to form, despotic and murderous."

Read more... )
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In the wake of fandom madness over Harry Potter, I bring you an abbreviated list of insane fandom before the internet. Actually it's just two examples, but they involve classic fiction so it should count as more, surely?

1. After Arthur Conan Doyle killed Holmes off in The Final Problem, angry letters poured in - one of which started 'you brute!.' He was also hit by the handbag of one irate reader.

2. Samuel Richardson also received angry and despairing mail about his mid 18th century novel, Clarissa. One woman accused him of stealing her life story, others said they were too traumatised to finish, and still others begged him to pair Clarissa off with her rapist Lovelace. (Yay! for early shippers wars.)

Sadly, fan craziness is not new. But it does gather and spread faster than before. And I bet they didn't have icons in Ye Olde Englande.

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