Thursday, November 24, 2005

Patroclus Considers Reading Something Improving, Thinks Better Of It

Back in the early nineties, when days had no beginning and days had no end, moreover when shadows grew no longer etc. etc....oh no, wait, I've already done that one. Anyway, back in those days, I had ample time on my hands to read all kinds of improving works of fiction. Somehow I even managed to read Lawrence Durrell's entire Avignon Quintet, which at 1,300-plus pages of exquisitely beautiful mindscapes, is quite some commitment I can tell you.

Nowadays, what with the internet and work and all that, I'm lucky if I can get through a copy of Glamour magazine. But with the nights drawing in, the frost dusting the fallen leaves, the goose getting fat, popular fancy turning lightly to thoughts of tangerines etc. etc., I reckon it's about time to read something a bit more challenging than Decline and Fall (even though it *is*, as PP rightly points out, the finest comic novel in English).

I was half inspired by Wyndham, who seems to have found an admirable balance between work, cultural things and parenthood, and to whom I appear rashly to have promised that I will read the whole of Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time, and half inspired by the results of the Guardian's quest to find the Top 20 Geek Novels of All Time* (of which I've actually only read five, but I usually pretend I've read Neuromancer, so I'll say six. And I've seen Blade Runner (original and director's cut), which practically means I've read Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, so that's seven. I could go on.).

But enough of this nonsense. It's coming up to Christmas, which means the only viable option is Susan Cooper's exemplary kids' fantasy novel The Dark Is Rising. This is yer pre-Christmas read par excellence, full of pagan ritual, Arthurian legend, mince pies, Herne the Hunter, the forces of ancient good vs the forces of ancient evil, and so on. What more could you possibly wish for?


* Or, rather bizarrely, "since 1932".

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28 comments:

Pashmina said...

Extremely pleasing to see that they've kept the original jackets for The Dark is Rising (or at least they have if you don't click through from the thumbnails on Amazon, at which point they turn into something alarmingly Philip Pullman-esque).

It's always particularly satisfying to re-read the books that made the biggest impressions on you as a child and still be riveted. No reading after lights out though, young lady...

owkflowk - a minor TDIR character, surely?

james henry said...

And don't scare youself.

Possibly the only epic fantasy series to mention Truro, though I'm happy to be corrected...

frangelita said...

This was one of the books my mother bought me as a teenager, I read some of it but its one of the few books I never finished reading (along with Don Quixote and the Aeneid - there are others which left less of an impression) because I found it all a bit irritating and earthy. Although I do like the idea of a fantasy set in Truro...

GreatSheElephant said...

I've managed six. Do I have to add or deduct points for having read all the Terry Pratchett novels once and many of them as much as three times?

patroclus said...

As long as you've read Cryptonomicon, any other indiscretions can be excused.

patroclus said...

Oo and Pash, I was going to say the same thing about the original jacket. Most reassuring.

They didn't actually have it in Waterstone's yesterday, though - boo.

entropy said...

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? baffled me by hardly bearing any resemblance to Blade Runner. Seem to remember it was a good read all the same.

arqkmo - obscure futuristic company name

Wyndham said...

P. I may have some questions for you about Cryptonomicon. The whole Qwghlm business is baffling me somewhat at the moment.

patroclus said...

Bring it on, W! There's nothing like a good heated debate about Qwghlm.

Wyndham said...

So there's such a thing as a heated debate about it. I'm guessing then that the nature of Qwghlm is not overly explained. Is its something to do with Pritchard's delicated state of mind?

entropy said...

Excatly what were the geekdom criteria? I don't think The Colour of Magic is especially geeky in the strictest sense of the word. Any fule kno that Hex (the Discworld equivalent of the computer) doesn't appear till much much later in the series. Only now I've forgotten which one (Hogfather, maybe), but the Department of High Energy Magic were the wizards wearing anoraks.

I was just about to say American Gods is not at all geeky till I remembered who the minor villains were and now am taking it back.

I'll just slink out, then...

belladona said...

Yes! I outgeek you! I've read seven of 'em (not so sure this is actually any sort of claim to fame). I also own Dune but its always made me want to cry with boredom whenever I try to read it so I don't think that counts. Still haven't read Cryptonomicon though. Ahem. I do own The Dark is Rising though.

Tabby Rabbit said...

>>Susan Cooper's exemplary kids' fantasy novel The Dark Is Rising>>

I love that book! I read it when I was growing up in a country pub surrounded by countryside and overlooking the Lougher Estuary. Used to daydream about it all happening to me - our skies were always dark (but I think that was the rain, it being Wales), and there were always thinks lurking in the shadows (sheep - ditto) and I wished for an eccentric elderly relative that would reveal another side of the world, rather than loads of strange ones that wanted to introduce me to things like knitting, baking, oh, and drinking.

I have only read three books on the list (hangs head in shame) - unless reading the first 8 pages of Cryptonomicon counts?

belladona said...

Ooh, I've read I, Robot too now I look at that list again.

LC said...

I read Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake recently and thoroughly enjoyed it - suspect it might be your kinda thing P. Am currently ploughing my way through Cryptonomonicon, but I'm not as sharp as I used to be and it's making my brain hurt. I should be finished with it sometime around my 40th birthday...

I loved American Gods, might have to dig out some of Gaiman's other stuff soon, it's the only one of his I've read.

Also, I've read pretty much everything Pratchett has ever written, and I am not ashamed. Well, not of that anyway.

Smat said...

I prefer Pratchetts' children's stuff - The Wee Free Men is hysterically funny (especially if you know some hard-drinking Scots).
I've only read 4 on the list, so don't classify as a proper geek. Also must go and dig out The Drak is Rising - not sure if I've actually read Biggest Baby Smat's copy.

patroclus said...

W., as I recall there are many convoluted theories about the supposed real location of Qwghlm, but my guess is it's an amalgam of Fair Isle, the Aran Islands and the Scillies. It's the kind of place where there were listening stations in the war (there's a big map of them at *cough* Bletchley *cough* Park).

*Patroclus gives up and goes off to consult the Neal Stephenson Metaweb (oh yeah.)*

There, that's better.

ScroobiousScrivener said...

I am greatly relieved by this comment thread, I was mortally ashamed to find I'd only read about five and a half of the books on the list, when all my friends were going "gosh, I missed one!" Then again I have no real claim to geekdom, so I guess it's forgiveable.

Never read the Dark is Rising, though, and of that I truly am ashamed.

One thing puzzles me on that list: Neal Stephenson gets THREE mentions? Asimov only two, everybody else one, but Stephenson gets three? Who made this list up anyway?

Also, Colour of Magic is definitely the wrong Pratchett to have there. Pyramids, maybe (all that quantum), or one of the Hex ones. But not CoM.

PS Much to my distress I can't make the pub next week after all. Really, *much* to my distress. So you all please have a lot of fun and decide you really have to do it again in January.

entropy said...

At this rate, a second meeting will turn into a book group.

lc - might I suggest a spot of Good Omens? Pratchett *and* Gaiman.

Wyndham said...

It kind of comes out of left-field, the whole Qwghlm thing. The giant lizard, I can live with that. I guess Stephenson must have thought, I've got the Heller and the Gibson sides of this enormous book tied up nicely, now I'll add the Pynchonesque stuff.

I am astonished to discover that I have an urge to go to Bletchley Park myself.

patroclus said...

Welcome to the slippery slope, W. I hope you've got your least grippy plimsolls on.

Speaking of Heller, I'm mightily disappointed that no one's acknowledged my cunningly inserted Catch-22 quote. What kind of audience *are* you?

Urban Chick said...

i too have been "half inspired" by wynders

only half mind

got as far as waterstones and then thought the better of it

Wyndham said...

UC, I promise to buy something at TK Maxx if you manage to get inside Waterstones.

nibus said...

Ha. I score a big fat 0. Unless, like Tabby, I can claim the first few pages of Cryptonomicon (and I suspect both copies came from the same source). Mind you I did once manage to write a 120-page SGML process manual.

GreatSheElephant said...

yup, I've read Cryptonomicon. Took A While though

Juggling Mother said...

Shit. I've read 11!!

and five more are on my amazon wishlist!

I'm not a geek! I did the geek test & it told me I'm not a geek! I don't understand computers. RPG's leave me cold (well actually, they leave me very pissed off).

Ummm, I do blog pretty much every dsy though.

Oh ok, sometimes a couple of times a day

And I've read some of them more than once

ok, more than 6 times

And I could name the sequels/other works by the same auther for every single one

Most of which I have read

More than once

Shit. Maybe I am a geek.

Is that good *looks hopeful* ?

patroclus said...

Mrs A, all the best geeks don't think they're geeks, so you win hands down.

Although the office consensus yesterday was that yer true geek never reads fiction, but instead has shelves of O'Reilly books and Java programming manuals, which means nibus wins too!

I'm a terrible geek-hag, as I may have mentioned before, so it's all good as far as I'm concerned. Although, I'm quite disappointed that Hari Kunzru's Transmission didn't make the list. That's a top book.

mig bardsley said...

My goodness, I've read 15 of the geek novels. I must be so improved, now I can borrow The Dark is Rising from one of the children.
Cryptonmicron though, that's a book and a half. Or maybe a few more. Very very good value.