Category: literature

The Bibliophile’s Journal V

My reading schedule has collapsed over the last month, due to a new job with longer hours and commute than my old part-time gig, in addition to apartment hunting. It’s been a struggle even to keep up with my anime-viewing, but I do have a few things I’ve finished over the last few weeks.

The biggest project is the fourth and final volume of Sir Winston Churchill’s History of the English-Speaking Peoples, the first volume of which I read roughly a year and a half ago. The books are actually pretty engaging for the most part, so I’m not sure why I let months pass between each volume; too many other options, I suppose.…

Read More The Bibliophile’s Journal V

The Bibliophile’s Journal IV

I’ve decided to provisionally make The Bibliophile’s Journal a regular, probably monthly, feature of the blog. My stated purpose with the blog is to share my thoughts on what I read and watch, but with most books I don’t have enough material to justify a dedicated review, but do have a few things to say. This is especially with individual volumes in ongoing series (e.g., Gunslinger Girl this month). Depending on how it goes, I may also just start posting very short, say one- or two-paragraph posts on everything I read.

Anyway, I’ve burned through a lot of graphic novels in the last few weeks. The volume 13-14 omnibus of Gunslinger Girl is the main attraction. This volume is almost entirely action, including a climactic confrontation between the Croce brothers and Dante, the terrorist who’d killed their parents and sister. As usual, the action is well-handled, and whereas the previous omnibus spent a lot of time trying to build up a sense of dread but was so unsubtle that it turned a bit silly, this one flows much better by jumping into the action quickly and not dwelling on backstory and unnecessary dialogue.…

Read More The Bibliophile’s Journal IV

On Surrounding Oneself with Books

I’ve occasionally mentioned, here and on Twitter, that I love books – not just reading, but the actual, physical objects, and try to surround myself with them. That “surrounding” is, in fact, literal since I don’t have much space in my room, and I long ago ran out of shelf space and have to stack new volumes on the floor. It’s something like stuffing the Library of Alexandria into a broom closet, or Yomiko’s room from R.O.D.

room

I haven’t even read many of these, and at the rate I collect more may well never have time to read them all. Is that a waste? Why do I feel compelled to buy so many books that I don’t even have time to read?…

Read More On Surrounding Oneself with Books

The Bibliophile’s Journal III

As far as reading goes, the big event of the past couple months is that I have a Kindle Fire HD now. I owned and had mixed feelings about the Kindle 2, but since this one is basically a tablet I’ve been getting more use out of it. I’m still not a fan of e-books, but it is a decent way to conveniently get things that would be difficult otherwise (like French-language books), or things available for free online but that are too long to read comfortably at a computer, like the Vatican’s online library of papal encyclicals.

Casino Royale, by Ian Fleming, was the first book I read on the device, and which was free through Amazon’s lending-library programme. It’s about what I expected; an enjoyable read, but I don’t really plan on continuing in the James Bond series unless I hear the later novels are significantly better.…

Read More The Bibliophile’s Journal III

A Touch of Spice & Wolf

Spice & Wolf is a series that I’ve wanted to write about for a long time, but I’ve struggled with actually putting pen to paper for it. It’s like the Haruhi series in that it’s charming and competently written, but lacks the subtlety and complexity that make for a great, re-readable novel series.

Spice & Wolf’s basic premise is that Lawrence, a traveling merchant in a world loosely based on late Medieval or Renaissance Europe, meets Holo, a wolf-spirit and harvest goddess in a village he does business in, and agrees to help her return to her homeland of Yoitsu, far in the north. The overall plot is a promising one, but author Hasekura Isuna has also set up a potentially major story-writing problem, because one of our protagonists is an almost literal deus ex machina.…

Read More A Touch of Spice & Wolf

The Anti-Waterworks – My (Not So) Emotional Reactions to Fiction

Last week, Charles over at Beneath the Tangles asked “What scenes from an anime or which series have evoked a powerful (and perhaps unexpected) response within you? Why?” It’s an interesting question, but I couldn’t think of anything off the top of my head. So I thought about it some more later in the day, and found that even if I broaden the question’s scope from anime to media in general I still couldn’t come up with much.

I can’t think of any fictional work that’s moved me in the sense of changing the way I think or behave, at least not in any way discernible to me. As for a simply emotional response, I’ve never been an emotional person; I’ve never cried over a novel or film, and never really get worked up over real-life events, either. During an election, for instance, my father commented that he wished he had my stoicism. Even if we broaden the question further still to non-fiction, the only such work to effect an almost-immediately discernible change in me is Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Quadragesimo Anno.

After some reflection, though, I can name a small handful of works that, even if they didn’t move me to tears, did provoke a fairly strong emotion, whether that be sadness, fear, or just a great sense of satisfaction.…

Read More The Anti-Waterworks – My (Not So) Emotional Reactions to Fiction

“For a Few Thousand Battered Books” – Ezra Pound and the First World War

This post is a revised version of an essay I wrote a few years ago; I’m posting it here in honour of Pound’s upcoming birthday. Please forgive its length – I’ll go back to my normal style shortly after this. For now, think of it as a preview of the literature-focused website I mentioned working on in last week’s post.

———–

Though many poets write about social, political, and economic issues, few have made such matters as integral to their work as Ezra Pound. Literary criticism would always form a large part of his prose work, like ABC of Reading, but he wrote at least as much on economics and politics, like ABC of EconomicsJefferson and/or Mussolini, and segments of Guide to Kulchur. Even in his poetry, references to historical figures like John Adams and Sigismundo Malatesta outnumber artists.

The apparent catalyst for Pound’s concern with socio-economic matters was the First World War. Prior to the war, most of his writing deals directly with encouraging a revival of the arts, and poetry in particular. After the war, beginning with Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, he began to seriously consider the war and its causes, and his conclusions on the nature of and relationship between politics, economics, and the arts would shape his poetic and prose output for the rest of his career, especially in his epic poem The Cantos.…

Read More “For a Few Thousand Battered Books” – Ezra Pound and the First World War

The Bibliophile’s Journal

It’s been a while since I’ve done a round-up post, but I’ve of course continued to read quite a bit. Here’s the highlight reel.

The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien – I’ve been meaning to re-read The Lord of the Rings, since I haven’t read it since shortly before the film trilogy came out ten years ago. I tend to approach long books reluctantly, though, so it’s taken me a long time to get around to it. I’m about 2/3 through, though, and loving it. Tolkien does a fine job easing the reader into the world of Middle Earth, avoiding long infodumps by giving the reader just enough information to make each place feel real, and incorporating explanations into dialogue whenever possible. The hobbits work well as our innocents abroad. He also walks a fine line in his prose style, which is generally straightforward but not too plain.

Twenty Prose Poems by Charles Baudelaire – I just finished this one. It’s the first book I’ve read in French, though I should note that it’s fairly short and a parallel text edition. I wouldn’t call it profound, but I always enjoy reading Baudelaire’s dark, dry humour combined with some fine individual lines.

X by CLAMP – I just finished the recently-released third omnibus volume of the comic. The art looks excellent, as most of CLAMP’s work does, though a few times they get a little carried away with unusual panel layouts, but I’ll confess I have barely a clue as to what’s going on. All the talk about the protagonist deciding the fate of the world has gotten rather tiresome, and I suspect that half the characters could fairly easily have been left out, though of course I can’t say for sure midway through the story. The generous gore has lost some of its effect by volume three. I do own a copy of the film, and plan to watch that… well, it’s in the backlog, so I’ll get around to it at some point.…

Read More The Bibliophile’s Journal

Golding’s Golden Lord of the Flies

This past week, I read through William Golding’s Lord of the Flies for the first time. It’s been a few years since a book held my interest so firmly, and I made it through the novel quickly. It’s the sort of book that reminds me of why I love literature so much, being symbolic but not presumptuous, intense, and realistic. It does have a few problems, but overall I loved this novel.…

Read More Golding’s Golden Lord of the Flies

The Moral Dimension of Judging Art

Every once in a while, usually after something sensational and traumatic, discussions crop up on the moral dimension of art, by which I mean the question of to what degree art reflects or influences society and individuals, and whether we should therefore take this into account when evaluating a work, especially in popular culture.

On that first question, on whether art primarily influences society or is merely a reflection of it, one can begin with the observation that a work must be created by somebody in an act of will. This creation is not done ex nihilo, however, because the will is informed by the intellect. “No man is an island,” and that intellect relies on outside data, such as interactions with other people and what a man has read or watched, including the artwork he’s encountered. Thus, those who create art are themselves influenced by other works, and their own work influences others, creating a circular relationship between art, culture, and individuals. The impact of any particular work will almost always be small, except perhaps for children for whom each individual experience is weighted more heavily in their minds, and for the mentally unstable, but the general themes found across a large number of works in a society can tell us both what that community generally believes, and where it is likely to go. For the individual, though he certainly possesses free will, he must use the information he has in his intellect to inform his will, and the art he’s experienced will certainly factor into that calculus.…

Read More The Moral Dimension of Judging Art