Yesterday I finished listening to The Pillars of the Earth. Lisa is in a book club, and Pillars is this month's selection. It's a very long book, so we decided get it from Audible (40 hours unabridged) and listen to it in the van (while the kids watch DVDs) during our road trips over the holidays and for the inauguration.
The Pillars of the Earth is a historical novel by Ken Follett published in 1989 about the building of a cathedral in Kingsbridge, England. It is set in the middle of the 12th century, primarily during the time known as The Anarchy, between the time of the sinking of the White Ship and the murder of Thomas Becket.
The book traces the development of Gothic Architecture out of the preceding Romanesque Architecture and the fortunes of the Kingsbridge priory against the backdrop of actual historical events of the time. Although Kingsbridge is the name of an actual English town, the Kingsbridge in the novel is actually a fictional location representative of a typical market town of the time.
I enjoyed it, but 40 hours of listening is a long book! I get the impression that we didn't enjoy it as much as others we've talked to about it. By the end, Lisa and I were both ready for it to be over. I think we're also both in agreement that the sexual content of the book was one of its weakest aspects. It's not like we're prudes when it comes to sex in art and movies, but in this book it was...I'm not sure what the right word is...melodramatic, cheesy, overwrought, lame...something like that. I wonder if we experienced it differently because we listened instead of reading on paper.
The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game is a book by Michael Lewis released in 2006 about American football. It features two dominant storylines. The first is an examination of how offensive football strategy has evolved over the past three decades in large part due to Lawrence Taylor's arrival in the 1980s and how this evolution has placed an increased importance on the role of the left tackle. The second storyline features Michael Oher, the current starting left tackle for the Ole Miss football team. Lewis follows Oher from his impoverished upbringings through his years at Briarcrest Christian School and on to his current position as one of the most highly coveted prospects in college football.
It was definitely enjoyable and interesting to read, especially since I'm a big football fan. Big Mike's is a "heart-warming" story of sorts, and it will be interesting to follow him as he makes the move to the pros next fall. Here's a link to an article by Lewis about Oher in NY Times magazine (link).
Night is a work by Elie Wiesel based on his experience as a young Orthodox Jew of being sent with his family to the German concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald during the Second World War.
Wiesel was 16 years old when Buchenwald was liberated in April 1945. Having lost his faith in God and humanity, he vowed not to speak of his experiences for ten years, at the end of which he wrote his story in Yiddish, which was published in Buenos Aires in 1955. In May that year, the French novelist FranÃ§ois Mauriac persuaded him to write the story for a wider audience. Fifty years later, the 109-page volume, described as devastating in its simplicity, ranks alongside Primo Levi's If This Is a Man and Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl as one of the bedrocks of Holocaust literature.
Back in August Wiesel spoke at an event in honor of Rochester Collegeâ€™s 50th anniversary (link). We were hoping to attend, but it turned out we had a previously-scheduled camping trip that conflicted. It was a rather amazing book to readâ€¦so hard to imagine that it could have happened or what it would have been like to endure. One of the most amazing parts to me was the death march (again from Wikipedia):
In or around August 1944, Eliezer and Shlomo are transferred from Auschwitz II-Birkenau to Auschwitz III, the work camp at Buna-Monowitz, their lives reduced to the avoidance of violence and the constant search for food. "Bread, soup â€” these were my whole life. I was a body. Perhaps less than that even: a starved stomach." The only time they experience joy is when the Americans bomb the camp. "[W]e were no longer afraid of death; at any rate, not of that death. Every bomb that exploded filled us with joy and gave us new confidence in life."
In January 1945, with the Soviet army approaching, the Germans decide to flee the camp, taking around 60,000 inmates, mostly Jews, to camps in Germany, on what becomes known as the death marches, shooting anyone too weak to continue. Eliezer and Shlomo march to Gleiwitz to be put on a freight train to Buchenwald, near Weimar.
An icy wind blew in violent gusts. But we marched without faltering.
Pitch darkness. Every now and then, an explosion in the night. They had orders to fire on any who could not keep up. Their fingers on the triggers, they did not deprive themselves of this pleasure. If one of us had stopped for a second, a sharp shot finished off another filthy son of a bitch.
Near me, men were collapsing in the dirty snow. Shots.
I Am America (And So Can You!) is described as being a "pure extension" of The Colbert Report, delving into the views of Colbert's "well-intentioned, poorly informed high status idiot" character on what he considers to be the most pressing issues facing America. The book draws some influence from the literary endeavors of the character's pundit models, such as Bill O'Reilly's The O'Reilly Factor (2000) and Sean Hannity's Deliver Us From Evil (2004), which Colbert says he forced himself to read as a reference.
I love The Colbert Report, so I enjoyed the book too. I didnâ€™t like the red margin notes because it was too stressful to stay on the look-out for them and make sure I read them in context. I took the book with me on my trip to Germany last January (though I ended up not reading any of it on that trip) and remember noticing someone else (probably an American) reading it in the (Amsterdam?) airport. As I got up to board the plane, I showed him that I had my copy with me, and we shared a moment of solidarity.
We recently listened to the first Harry Potter book (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone) as a family after picking up the book on tape set at Goodwill. I think Elliot and I were the only ones to make it through the whole thing. Finn fell asleep as we were listening to last chapter while lying in bed, and Lisa missed a few different parts due to being distracted by other activities. Elliot really enjoyed it.
I recently finished reading "I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company: A Novel of Lewis and Clark" by Brian Hall. From the Publisher's Weekly review:
Narrated in multiple distinct voices, this retelling of the story of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark's legendary expedition is less a historical blow-by-blow than an engaging character study of the two men. Hall focuses on a few significant episodes in the journey-such as the hunting accident that wounds Lewis and causes him to sink into his famous depression-as seen through the eyes of Lewis, Sacagawea, Clark and Toussaint Charbonneau, Sacagawea's French fur trader husband. The result is a memorable portrait of the expedition leaders.
I started reading it a couple years ago. It was slow going as I read it it little chunks. I don't think that was the best way to read this book. I had a hard time keeping track of who was narrating (Lewis or Clark) and the Sacagawea sections were also difficult to follow (intentionally, intending to represent her native American perspective).
As I finally neared the end, I managed to "lose" the book about a year ago while on vacation in Tennessee. It was one of those rare occasions when I was sitting in the the back of the van, and I stuck the book in a seat-back pouch. Fast forward a year, I'm finally in the back of the van again and find the book and finally finished it off.
I think I would have liked the first-person, faux-diary format better if it had stuck with one narrator. I'm glad to have learned a bit about Lewis and Clark but figure it would have been more enjoyable in bigger chunks.
As a reward for good behavior I recently bought the boys a couple Captain Underpants books. I'm not sure their mother completely approved, but I thought they seemed like the kind of books little boys would like as a reward. I was not wrong.
The books are cute and irreverent. I was especially interested to see how each of the books illustrates the boys' creativity with an example of them changing a sign to say something funny. Here is one:
Here is another example:
It wasn't until I was a senior in high school that I was introduced to this mode of creative fun. Late at night you find a sign with movable letters and rearrange it to say something else. Later as a freshman at Lipscomb, I passed such a sign that an apartment complex was using to advertise 1200 square foot apartments. I wrote down the words on the sign and later, while at the bowling alley, some friends and I (Jayson, Trey, and Joel?) brainstormed a funny/irreverent rearrangement. It was probably several weeks later before we got around to executing our plan. One Saturday night, David W. was the driver, and Jayson and I did the rearranging. The following afternoon, we returned to the scene of the crime for a photo shoot with Lori playing photographer. Here are the pictures:
Donaldson returns to “The Land” for the third series of novels based there. We are re-introduced to Linden Avery years after she first encountered Thomas Covenant and was forever changed by the experience. We journey once more to the familiar fantasy world where everything is again under threat.
I was first introduced to Donaldson when I saw the first and second series of Thomas Covenant novels at the public library and read them in high school. I read the two Mordant's Need books while at Lipscomb. I remember that I read them during the beginning of one of the fall semesters and didn't do much except go to class and read those books until they were finished. I came across the Gap series at a used book store and read them during grad school. I think I re-read at least some of the First and Second Chronicles at some point, too. I really enjoyed all of the above, making Donaldson one of my favorite authors, at least during those times in my life. Several months back I came across an advanced readers copy of the second book in the Last Chronicles series (Fatal Revenant) on bookmooch. I mooched it and then found a used copy of the first book (The Runes of the Earth) on Amazon (what's the point of having an advanced readers copy if you don't read it in advance, right?). A few months later I finally got around to starting The Runes... and finally finished it last night. The release date of Fatal Revenant has come and gone, so I won't be reading it early after all.
It's been a really, really long time since I read a Thomas Covenant book. It took me about 150 pages or so of The Runes... before I really got back into it again, but then I started enjoying it again. For my current tastes, Donaldson's books are perhaps a bit plodding and melodramatic (and fantasy/adventure isn't necessarily my genre these days), but this was an enjoyable read...and I'm starting Fatal Revenant right away.
Who has had more of his books optioned by Hollywood than any other living writer? What's your guess?
...born in New Orleans (1925), who published 22 novels before he had his first best-seller in 1985 with his novel Glitz. His books didn't catch on right away because, unlike most crime novels, they weren't mysteries, they didn't have a recurring detective as a hero, and they were more about the characters than the plot.
More of Elmore Leonard's books have been optioned by Hollywood than those of any other living novelist. Nineteen of them have become movies, but he thinks only three or four of those movies are any good.
A listing of the novels made into films:
- Last Stand at Saber River (1959) – also 1997 TV movie
- Hombre (novel) (1961) – also 1967 film
- The Big Bounce (1969) – also 1969 film and 2004 film
- The Moonshine War (1969) – also 1970 film
- Valdez is Coming (1970) – also 1971 film
- Mr. Majestyk (1974) – also 1974 film
- Fifty-Two Pickup (1974) – also 1986 film
- Gold Coast (1980) – also 1997 TV movie
- Split Images (1981) – also 1992 film
- Cat Chaser (1982) – also 1989 film
- Stick (1983) – also 1985 film
- Glitz (1985) - also 1988 movie
- Touch (1987) – also 1997 film
- Get Shorty (1990) – also 1995 film
- Maximum Bob (1991) – also 1998 TV series
- Rum Punch (1992) – also 1997 film Jackie Brown
- Pronto (1993) – also 1997 TV movie
- Out of Sight (1996) – also 1998 film and 2003 TV series Karen Sisco
- Be Cool (1999) – also 2005 film
Many of them were from before my prime movie-watching days, but it's kind of funny that I've only seen at most 2 of them (Jackie Brown and maybe Get Shorty).