Friday, January 14, 2011

Once more into the zodiac

An article I read today about how the zodiac is changing reminded me of a post I wrote more than a year ago about how we need new signs.

Under the new system I go from "Cancer" to "Gemini," a change of which I approve.

Under my system, I am a "Duct Tape." A change which I now make official.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Review: World Without End

First review of 2011 is for the novel, "World Without End" by Ken Follet. It is, essentially, a sequel to his earlier historical fiction novel, "Pillars of the Earth." I say, essentially, because events in "World" take place more than 100 years after "Pillars." We meet descendants of the characters from the earlier novel, it takes place in the same town/cathedral, and some knowledge of the first book certainly helps flesh out the enjoyment of the second. That being said, it isn't really necessary to read the first to understand everything that happens in the second; most references to earlier characters/events are fully explained.

I first read "Pillars" shortly after it came out in the early 90's. It was one of the last novels I read, I remember, while living in Massachusetts, before moving to Ohio. It was also one of the first historical fiction novels I'd ever read and really enjoyed. Since then, I've read quite a bit in the genre, and, to some degree, I owe that enjoyment to "Pillars."

Neither books is particularly deep. And that's OK. They are, instead, very entertaining and (to some degree) educational. Follet had done quite a bit of research into medieval life, and it's very interesting to observe his characters motivations and reactions during a time that is much, much different than our own. That being said, some of the characters seem to benefit from a bit more "modern feeling" than perhaps they ought. We, as 21st century readers, have certain sensibilities, and the main, sympathetic characters tend to share more of these with us than do the villains.

Which doesn't distract from the pleasure. No spoilers here, but, as in "Pillar," Follet sets up a series of lifelong actions for the main characters, some of which won't come to fruition for decades. The interwoven plot lines and character developments are, as always in his work, logical, interesting and, often, tragic.

If you enjoyed "Pillars," you will certainly enjoy "World." I re-read "Pillars" before reading this new novel, anticipating that it would be more of a standard sequel. I'm glad I did... but not because it helped with the second book. It was simply a fun re-read.

If I have any complain about "World Without End," it's the title; "Pillars of the Earth" meant something within that story. If there is a deeper meaning in the title of this second book, it escapes me.

Fun grade: A-.
Serious grade: B.
Overall: B+

Note: since this is my first review, I'll explain my grading system. First of all, I like letter grades. We grew up with them, and it simply makes sense to me.

Everything I review will get two grades: a fun grade, and a serious grade. My brother, John, and I used to refer to these, for movies, as the "flick" and "film" grades. You can go see a movie that is a great, entertaining flick ("Zombieland"), but that isn't really in any way an important or interesting film; there's no "meta" there. In contrast, you can see a movie that is very stimulating from an artistic perspective ("The Seventh Seal"), but that is about as much fun to see as orthopedic surgery.

Thus, two grades for everything. That way, if you're looking for a "serious" read, you can ignore the "fun" grade, and vice versa. Hopefully that's more useful to you.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Writing about writing and a review of reviewing

I haven't blogged in awhile.

That's probably the most grippingly boring thing you can write on a blog. It's the textual equivalent of saying, "I had this really weird, long dream last night," at the beginning of a dinner conversation. The listener must despair.

But writing about writing isn't a bad thing. And since this blog is 72% self-directed practice space, I'm not too worried about cheesing off my legion of fan.

I write at work all the time. It's not particularly hard for me. Sometimes it's harder, depending on the assignment. Sometimes it's easier. But,  since it's almost always an assignment from an external source, and since it's a good part of why they pay me, it's never really a case of being able to say, "No."

I've been saying, "No," though, to my personal writing for most of last year. I've pushed out a couple poems and did a bit of work on one of my five perennially-restarted-but-never-completed novels. I can't quite get my head around where I want any of them to go... and so they don't go anywhere.

But I feel like I should be writing more. So I thought about what I could write. And I read a recent blog post from someone I respect who cataloged all the books she read in 2010. And I thought, "That's a good idea. I read a bit. And I could write a short review of everything I read so that I won't forget."

Less about being "reviews to help other people decide what to read," and more "reviews to help me remember what I read."

Towards that end, I'm going to start writing book, movie and video game reviews here on TinkerX. If they're helpful to you, super. If not, it's mostly just to keep the engine warm in case I ever decide to figure out where any of those damned novels are going.