Saturday, February 13, 2010

Big Book Read #5

The F-Word by Jesse Sheidlower

270 Pages

Jesse Sheidlower is the Editor-At-Large of the Oxford English Dictionary, what one would assume to be a very serious position. What some may not know about Mr. Sheidlower is that he is also one of the foremost authorities on obscenity in English. Now, to me this is much more exciting than working with the boring OED.

This book was given to me for my 29th birthday by my friend Lynda. I’m assuming she gave it to me, not because of my interest in the etymology of a word but because I am well known (among my friends) for my frequent and hearty swearing. In my opinion, there is nothing quite as satisfying as a well-placed f-bomb when the situation requires it.

Mr. Sheidlower begins The F-Word with a brief etymological discussion of the world “fuck”. Is it an acronym? No. Is it from the Latin? Probably not. It’s early history is in fact, rather boring. It’s when Sheidlower gets into the word’s use in literature, music and film that it gets a bit more fun.

The rest of the The F-Word is a dictionary. Sheidlower lists most of the variations and uses of our most beloved swear word, and I thank him for it. While reading it I smiled at my favorites and laughed out loud at some completely absurd variations. Who wouldn’t let out a giggle after coming across “fiddlefuck’?

Because it’s a dictionary, The F-Word can be a bit tedious to read at times. But, I had fun anyway. It’s not everyday that you get to read a book chock full of your favorite naughty word. Do I recommend it? Absofuckinglutely.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Big Book Read #4

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Pages 333

Stardust is the story of Tristran Thorn and his adventures from the small town of Wall through the land of Faerie and back again. Tristan left on a quest to recover a fallen star for his true love but didn’t quite get what he had expected. Gaiman has turned the traditional fairy tale on its head with a word and what follows is something both familiar yet entirely unique.

For any one familiar with Gaiman’s work you will know that he’s a writer with seemingly limitless imagination and a great sense of humor. This story doesn’t disappoint. Tristran’s journey through Faerie is full of adventure, danger and fun. Along the way he meets his fallen star, a unicorn, an evil witch and a sky captain who fishes for lightening, just to name a few. Ultimately, this story is about the pursuit of love. It is a fairy tale for grown-ups and its well...magical!

This book could easily be finished in one sitting and I recommend you do. I found that as soon as I picked it up I was hesitant to put it back down again. The characters are so well done that you feel as if you can hear them speaking to you from the pages and Gaiman has created the world of Faerie in such a way that you can smell the air and feel the wind on your face. You are completely drawn into the world he has created.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Big Book Read #3

SOUL OF THE FIRE by Terry Goodkind

788 Pages

Soul of the Fire is the fifth book in the eleven book Sword of Truth series by fantasy writer Terry Goodkind. The book continues the story of Richard Rahl, Seeker of Truth, War Wizard and now leader of the D’Haran Empire and his new wife, Kahlan Amnell, The Mother Confessor. The previous books have chronicled Richard’s journey from humble woods guide to Seeker of Truth bound to rid the world of evil.

The fifth book begins with Richard finally marrying the love of his life, Kahlan Amnell, his companion and protector throughout the first books of the series. Soon after their wedding however, Richard’s grandfather, First Wizard Zedd realizes that Kahlan has accidentally, in order to save Richard’s life, set “The Chimes” loose in the world. This is bad. This is very bad. The Chimes are after Richard’s soul and as they hunt for him they rid the world of all its magic, leaving Richard, Kahlan, Zedd and many others without their powers. Meanwhile the evil Emperor Jagang has amassed a massive army to take over all the Midlands. Did I mention this is bad?

I wasn’t aware until recently of Goodkind’s belief in Objectivism. As an Objectivist he is a devotee to the work of Ayn Rand (insert my husband’s eye roll here). I’m not very familiar with Ayn Rand and Objectivism but can see its influence on Goodkind’s characters. There are themes such as “people will believe what they want or fear to be true” and the rule of unintended consequences throughout the series. In Soul of the Fire Goodkind’s character Jagang can invade people’s minds as a “dreamwalker” and can force them to do things, which they would not normally do. He and his Imperial Order then subjugate the conquered using a form of religion. Looking up a bit of info on Rand shows that this is alluding to the Objectivist idea that faith and force act as destroyers of the world.

Now, even if you think this particular philosophy is complete bunk it shouldn’t diminish your enjoyment of this book, or the entire series if you are a fan of the fantasy genre. I went through four books before realizing their Objectivist undertones and it didn’t matter a whit to me. Goodkind has created a complex fantasy world with noble yet flawed heroes and some really frightening baddies. Expect six more Goodkind reviews to come. I intend to finish all eleven of these.

Big Book Read #2


299 Pages

For me How To Read Literature Like A Professor takes off where my first read, How To Read A Book, began. Although the first book was helpful, it mostly dealt with Non-Fiction reading. Foster’s book deals only with fiction and poetry and that’s just what I was looking for.

Foster has been teaching literature and writing at the University of Michigan – Flint for the past twenty years. He has written a very interesting, and at time humorous, book about major themes and symbols in literature. For example, he explains that sharing a meal can symbolize communion (but perhaps not in the traditional sense), a journey can symbolize a quest, and how when in doubt, it’s probably from Shakespeare.

As I was reading I began to wonder if reading so much into a novel would affect my enjoyment of the story in a negative way. If I’m so busy wondering if the rain the characters are walking through is symbolic or if the main character is a Christ figure am I giving up on reading for pure enjoyment? In the end, I don’t believe so. If anything I’ll find more enjoyment from the story because of the added thinking and wondering. I’ve already begun to identify certain themes in another book I am reading and I’m enjoying that part of reading quite a bit.

Foster’s book is both chock full of good information and easy to read which is a perfect combination for someone like me who never made it past Intro To Literature in college. It’s obvious he loves what he does and that makes reading his book all the more fun. He takes examples from epic poems, Shakespeare, Hemingway, Eliot and Joyce to name just a few to show that these themes and symbols can be found anywhere, as long as you know what to look for.