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The Runes of the Earth


200px-StephenDonaldson_TheRunesOfTheEarth Last night I finished reading "The Runes of the Earth" by Stephen R. Donaldson.  From Wikipedia:

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.


Optioned by Hollywood

Who has had more of his books optioned by Hollywood than any other living writer?  What's your guess?

A recent installment of The Writer's Almanac reveals that it is Elmore Leonard:

...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:

No Country for Old Men

200px-Cormac_McCarthy_NoCountryForOldMen.jpgToday I finished reading Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men. From Wikipedia:

The plot follows the interweaving paths of the three central characters set in motion by events related to a drug deal gone bad near the Mexican-American border in southwest Texas.

I enjoyed it as I usually do when it comes to McCarthy. The Coen brothers adapted it for film and it comes out later this fall. This passage by Sheriff Ed Tom Bell was one of my favorites

Here a year or two back me and Loretta went to a conference in Corpus Christi and I got set next to this woman, she was the wife of somebody or other. And she kept talkin about the right wing this and the right wing that. I aint even sure what she meant by it. The people I know are mostly just common people. Common as dirt, as the sayin goes. I told her that and she looked at me funny. She thought I was sayin something bad about em, but of course that's a high compliment in my part of the world. She kept on, kept on. Finally told me, said: I don't like the way this country is headed. I want my granddaughter to be able to have an abortion. And I said well mam I dont think you got any worries about the way the country is headed. The way I see it goin I dont have much doubt what she'll be able to have an abortion. I'm goin to say that not only will she be able to have an abortion, she'll be able to have you put to sleep. Which pretty much ended the conversation.


A Thousand Splendid Suns

200px-A_Thousand_Splendid_Suns.gifThis past weekend in Grand Haven I read Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns (thanks for the birthday present, Alice!). From Hosseini's web site:

A Thousand Splendid Suns is a breathtaking story set against the volatile events of Afghanistan's last thirty years-from the Soviet invasion to the reign of the Taliban to the post-Taliban rebuilding-that puts the violence, fear, hope, and faith of this country in intimate, human terms. It is a tale of two generations of characters brought jarringly together by the tragic sweep of war, where personal lives-the struggle to survive, raise a family, find happiness-are inextricable from the history playing out around them.

It's a good book. Evidence suggests that people wonder if it's as good as The Kite Runner. I'd say yes. Better in fact. It's good that so many westerners are reading these stories about Afghanistan (with the films on the way). It's heartbreaking what the Afghani people have suffered, what history and culture has been lost, and it isn't over. The Taliban, those barbaric murderers, are resurgent.


The Road

200px-The-road.jpgOn vacation last week I managed to lose a book that I have been nibbling on for about a year now (I Should Be Extremely Happy in Your Company: A Novel of Lewis and Clark) but had finally been nearing the end. That was annoying. I was enjoying it OK, but the fact that it was taking me so long was evidence that it was a bit of a struggle. It was a kind of vicious cycle because the variety of narrators (Lewis, Clark, Sacagawea) made it a bit hard to follow at times, especially since I was reading it only occasionally and in small chunks. So after losing that one, I picked up The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It's one that I had been looking forward to reading since I enjoyed The Border Trilogy and several of his other novels. Lisa read The Road in a weekend a month or two ago. Like Lisa, I really enjoyed The Road, following in a mostly-understated way the relationship between a father and son who are "on the road" in a post-apocalyptic setting. It turned out that our friend Greg who we were visiting had recently read it too, and our discussion centered on the geography. Lisa assumed that it was set in the west. I knew that it was in the south because of the "See Rock City" sign that is mentioned. Greg new it was in the south and recognized the description of one particular setting as Gatlinburg. From the Wikipedia entry:

The journey passes through towns and cities whose names are known but never named. The travelers apparently set out on their journey north of Knoxville, Tennessee, crossing the Tennessee River at that city. They notice sunken boats under the bridge there, a nod to McCarthy's novel Suttree, in which the protagonist lives in a houseboat community in that location. They continue through Gatlinburg, Tennessee, across the Great Smoky Mountains - probably over Newfound Gap (elevation 5,048 ft above sea level; see below) - and through the Piedmont region of North Carolina. From there, they proceed southeastward to the coast, perhaps that of South Carolina or Georgia. One rare specific geographical indication in the book is a barn bearing the painted legend "See Rock City". One published book review (that of the novelist William Kennedy, entitled "Left Behind", the cover review in The New York Times Book Review for October 8, 2006), apparently not realizing how many barns in the upper South recommend seeing Rock City, has relied on the reference to infer that the route in The Road must pass through Chattanooga, Tennessee, but this is clearly impossible ("The pass at the watershed was five thousand feet and it was going to be very cold," The Road, p. 25).



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