Thursday, April 26, 2007

My daemon...thanks to the Golden Compass moviesite

Non-Fiction Five Challenge

Because I can't resist...

Here's my preliminary list of 5:

Gifts of the Wild: A Woman's Book of Adventure
How the Irish Saved Civilization (Thomas Cahill)
Just a Geek (Wil Wheaton)
Wolves at Our Door (Jim and Jamie Dutcher)
The Devil in the White City (Erik Larson)

If I have time, I'll read selections from this list, as my mood dictates:
Seeking Enlightenment hat by Hat (Nevada Barr)
The Land Remembers (Ben Logan)
The Way of Zen (Alan W. Watts)
Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She?
I Sleep at Red Lights (Bruce Stockler)

Monday, April 23, 2007

God of the Golden Fleece, by Fred Saberhagen

Fantasy fandom knows Fred Saberhagen through his more prolific series (Berserker and Swords) and perhaps to a lesser extent his Vampire books. In the late ‘90’s, he started writing about the gods of old; he focused on, but didn’t limit himself to, the Greek pantheon. In this installment [the fourth of five], Saberhagen chronicles the development of the newly-transferred Triton while telling Jason and Medea’s story, sort of.

Saberhagen definitely has no compunction in reworking the classic myths to perhaps tell a better story. I didn’t read the original original, and my memory of the general story is admittedly fuzzy, but I was surprised at who (and even more so, how) was brought down by the end. Saberhagen’s gods have their physical and territorial limitations, and their “powers” sometimes go completely out the window when when it comes to dealing with Giants; such is the hazard of being housed in a human host.

There’s only one left in the series, the reason for which I’ve read two explanations: 1) the publisher isn’t interested in more, and 2) the author was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer during or soon after the publication of the last book and hasn’t been up to writing more (for this series, anyway—I didn’t dig deep enough to see if anything’s been forthcoming). I do have to say that I enjoyed the first two (Mask of Apollo, Ariadne’s Web) over the last two I’ve read, but I think that the next one, set with the Norse pantheon, will redeem the series as a whole. I’m curious to see if Saberhagen actually wraps the “big picture,” or if he left it open for either his return or another’s efforts to continue.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Giving Birth to Thunder, Sleeping With His Daughter: Coyote Builds North America, by Barry H. Lopez

Barry H. Lopez collected 68 tales from 42 tribes and adapted them for non-native readers in a way that the original oral stories and culture are respected and honored. Barry Toelken’s foreward reminds the reader that Native storytelling events have "...local taboos concerning when a story may be told, by whom, to whom, and under what circumstances.” Reading these stories makes me wish that I could hear them in person, but I accept that this would be something short of a miracle, mostly for these reasons: "...the storytelling was never simply a way to pass the time. Coyote stories detailed tribal origins, they emphasized a world view thought to be a correct one, and they dramatized the value of proper behavior. To participate in these stories by listening to them was to renew one’s sense of tribal identity.” Asking to participate in an endangered culture not my own would be wrong in many ways; Natives need to hold what little they have left, and I have to respect their wishes.

Lopez manages to give a glimpse of Native mythology without betraying the sacredness of their culture. The Trickster character is in some ways unique to North America, but is also universal enough for us to recognize and appreciate. It’s been quite a while since I practiced Western monotheism, and it was few years into my alternative spiritual path that I learned the concept of “spirituality of place” (helped along by de Lint’s Forests of the Heart, and reminded of it again with my last Lackey read). Since then, I’ve been more respectful of the spiritual energy with which I work.

Lopez’s assertion that Coyote embodies both good and evil is supported over and over again in these stories. This is similar to the way many other dieties operate within their pantheons.

Some of my favorites:
Coyote and Sandhill Crane (the ending made me laugh out loud)
Coyote and Beaver Exchange Wives (yep, you read that right…the hippies did not invent wife swapping)
Coyote Loses Some Blood (nuts beget nuts)
Whirlwind Woman (Coyote gets snubbed)
Coyote Visits the Land of the Dead (Coyote blows it for the rest of us)
Coyote Finishes His Work (not Revelations…)

Read this for the Once Upon a Time Challenge at

My copy of this book is also registered at BookCrossing, so I’m glad to be able to kill 2 goals with one book.

[originally posted to 43Things and crossposted to BookCrossing 4/18/07]

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

I read this via DailyLit for my book group (Questioning the Canon), which will be meeting tomorrow night.

This book was a really tough one for me to get through. I’m glad that I read it 3-4 sections at a time. As I finished each chapter, I found that I had to go consult SparkNotes in order to make sure I’d truly understood the gist; their analysis helped, too.

I’m not sure what it was about the book that made it so…sluggish. It was difficult for me to feel the sense of place and time. The combination of third-person persepective and stream-of-conscious voice messed with my head for the first few parts.

[originally published 4/18/07 at 43Things for the 100 Books in 2007 goal]

Friday, April 6, 2007

The Serpent's Shadow, by Mercedes Lackey

It is rare for me to have synchronicity between my reading and "real" life; the friend who loaned me this book has gone into labor with her little girl the same night I finished reading it. Nothing to do with the story itself, but odd that I'd pick this one up now (instead of waiting until we were recovering from the drive to Oma's on Sunday). I should have finished my audiobook first, so that I could start another for review (I believe that Good Kids, Bad Habits absolutely has to be next). I hate having so many going at once--I feel as though I don't truly make good progress on them if I can only nibble at them.

Anyhow, I must get some sleep before I can give this the writeup it deserves. I will probably add this to the list of titles I'm reading for the Once Upon a Time Challenge.