Friday, July 07, 2006

Summer Reading

I've done it. This year will be the first year (and possibly only year) that I will have read more books than Jenny. And I'm not just talking Harry Potter, Star Wars and Lord of the Rings either, I'm mean real, legitimate, big freakin books.
It all started innocently enough, with Lord of the Rings keeping me company on the train. I quickly finished five of those, and then decided that I wanted to "expand my horizons" a little and read stuff I hadn't read before- heck, even read genres I hadn't read before. So I consulted my live-in librarian who gave me several suggestions. For the most part I've been pleasantly surprised- and its nice to have someone there to explian post-modern literary theory to me when the reading gets a little weird.
Heres what I've finished so far:

Holy the Firm- Annie Dillard
Name of the Rose- Umberto Eco
Baudolino- Umberto Eco
Housekeeping- Marilyn Robinson
Cosmicomics- Italo Calvino
Foucault's Pendulum- Umberto Eco (just started)

You'll notice there are three Umberto Eco books. I've found I really like his writing. Those three are historical fiction/mystery. Foucault's Pendulum has been called "the thinking man's Da Vinci Code", meaning that it is actually historically accurate, with much better writing. In fact, one of the reasons I love reading him is that except for the obviously fiction parts, his books are very historically accurate- he is a professor who dabbles in philosophy, semiotics, and medieval history, and fills his books with little bits of medieval trivia that inspire me afterwards to go to wikipedia and investigate more fully the history he alludes to.

Cosmicomics was a fun book to read. It is a collection of short stories that use various physical phenomena, laws of physics, and creatures as a backdrop for exploring lots of 'what if' questions that simulteneously explore things like human nature, philsophy, etc. It was a fun read- I look forward to reading more of his works.

I know Marilyn Robinson is one of Jenny's favorite authors and while I admit that she writes very beautifully, the book I read of hers just didn't sustain or even catch my interest. It felt like the book was written in beautiful writing, but for its own sake. It just didn't go anywhere. Not that I think all books must have a plot, its just that I thought that while the actual writing was phenomenal, the book itself just fell flat. Its like it had all this potential, but it was all pretty fluff and no substance. I guess I'm more of a plot kind of guy.

Anyway, what is everyone else reading/hoping to read this summer?


The Shark said...

Hey! I remember Salsa Night!!!

I stumbled across this blog when I clicked on my brother's name to view his profile, then noticed that he's an author on THIS blog, too, so I came to check it out, and lo and behold... old friends from my first couple semesters at BYU!

Anyways, good to see all y'all. Nick, good job reading stuff that I've never heard of (I admit to being uncultured in literature). I'm kind of a bum and have only read one book this semester: "The Da Vinci Code." I actually found it to be a little predictable, and it drove me nuts that I was able to figure out some of the clues faster than the supposed genius protagonists. But it was a fun read... probably wouldn't read it again. I still want to read the Lord of the Rings series, as well as all of the Chronicles of Narnia, before the summer's through.

-The Shark

P.S. Although I am uncultured in literature, I take pride in being a film nerd. Different medium, but I still get to critique up the wazzoo.

Nick said...

Its the Shark!! Where are you now?

So does critiqueing up the wazzoo include writing movie reviews? Is it worth it to go see superman in the theater or should we wait to rent the dvd?

I've never actually brought myself to read the da vinci code- too many people have given me reviews like yours. I highly recommend foucault's pendulum though- I'm only 150 pages into it (of 600), but I'm already hooked. I bought it hardcover on amazon for about a buck (plus shipping).

(For those who might not know, the Shark is Jared's (cabeza's) brother.)

The Shark said...

If you enjoyed the original "Superman: The Movie," then you will probably enjoy "Superman Returns" as it is in continuity with the original film and the creators did a really good job of maintaining the same classic feel of it. It's not as fast-paced as "Spider-Man," per se, but I liked the character development, for the most part, and the action sequences that were there were pretty dang impressive. They had me cheering, anyway.

They really push the Christ figure element of Superman's character in this one, which I'm okay with, except there was one shot where Superman is unconscious with his legs straight and together with his arms outsretched to his sides. This part I felt was a little too obvious a juxtaposition and wish they would have toned it down a little bit. I've found that in most movies I dislike it when the symbolism is shoved down my throat like that. Jared and I rented a Clean Flicks version of "Matrix Revolutions" a while back and they do similar imagery with Neo. Meh.

There is one major plot element that really got to me, and that I think was probably a bad idea to include, but I don't feel like it utterly destroyed the movie. I would pay to see it again and plan on buying the DVD when it's eventually released. So, like I said, if you like the original then go see it!

(I have written movie reviews before but I found that to do a full-fledged, Ebert-esque review it takes me too long to adequately express everything in detail, so I usually settle for brief summaries...)

As for me, I'm still at BYU, but I'm a senior now... with three semesters left. But I probably won't be taking classes in the fall because my work is planning on sending me to New York to film some church history stuff for these mini documentaries we're developing for the religion department. I should be gone for 3 to 4 weeks, and I'm pretty psyched because I've never been out to New York before. I'll probably take an extra week off when we're done so I can play a little bit. I checked out the Broadway website and it looks like we may be in town around the same time that "Les Miserables" will be performing, so I hope I can catch that. There's another book I should read this summer as I'm not entirely familiar with the story, aside from the movie adaptation that was done a while back that I watched in high school.

Jenny said...

I just wanted to say that I finished a book today (yes, I've been reading it since April, but I did finish ...).

Jared said...

I've had a bumper year for reading. I think it was moving out here, not having any homework to do, not having much of a social life, and being within walking distance of the library. Here's what I've read so far:

The Horse and His Boy - C.S. Lewis
Dandelion Wine - Ray Bradbury
Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
The Giver - Lois Lowry
The Golden Apples of the Sun - Ray Bradbury
His Excellency George Washington - Joseph J. Ellis
The Magician's Nephew - C.S. Lewis
The Unexpected Mrs. Polifax - Dorothy Gilman
Gathering Blue - Lois Lowry
Messenger - Lois Lowry
The Last Battle - C.S. Lewis
The Illustrated Man - Ray Bradbury
The Pelican Brief - John Grisham
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - Mark Twain
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain
The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
The Fellowship of the Ring - J.R.R. Tolkien
Take the Cannoli (Stories from the New World) - Sarah Vowell
The Two Towers - J.R.R. Tolkien
The Return of the King - J.R.R. Tolkien
Around the World in 80 Days - Jules Verne
Holy the Firm - Annie Dillard
1984 - George Orwell

Now, per Nick's suggestion, I am reading Foucault's Pendulum. I started last night and I'm only about 7 pages, and I'm hoping that he won't always be so technical, or at least that he'll start explaining more of what he's talking about. There were several times where I just sat there and said "...." I'm an analyst, not a physicist, dang it Jim!

Nick said...

Jared wins. Thats a lot of books.

Don't give up- his books are often confusing for the first 50 pages or so, and lots of the confusing stuff at the beginning is explained as the book goes on. I often go back and re-read parts and they make much more sense having read material from later on in the book. I also find myself doing wiki searches as I read along to give it a little more context. I guess thats why I really like the book, I'm a european history buff and it gives me an excuse to do some extra-curricular learning.

Warren said...

Jared, I notice Freakonomics is not on your list even though someone lent it to you months ago. Even Fabio is into it,
( I don't know what you're waiting for.
My list of books is mostly all econ. I keep meaning to expand my horizons, but I'm trying to get a head in school. I keep buying books on sale and have about a dozen waiting to be read.

Nick said...

Jared- I'm about halfway through, and I'll be honest- its starting to drag. While I do enjoy all the historical stuff, sometimes I just wish he'd get on with it already and get to some action.

The Shark said...

So tonight I watched "Crash" (from Clean Flicks, of course) and finished reading "The Magician's Nephew."

As far as "Crash" goes, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I now own this movie since I bought it from Clean Flicks knowing that they will be out of business by the end of the summer thanks to the recent government mandate on all such businesses. I can tell that some parts of the movie were really hacked up by the censor who re-edited this (probably due to strong language), so I think I missed a couple plot elements that developed the characters, but thanks to some quick online research I think I'm mostly filled in. If you guys get a chance to view this movie edited, DO IT. The immediate message of the film is most obviously and specifically in regards to racism, but there is a deeper meaning that teaches us to not judge a book by its cover and to be careful of how we think of others. It was really interesting to watch how these many characters interacted during a 24 hour period. The plot is very character-driven, and though the story is interesting it was the portrayal of the characters through direction and acting that made me want to keep watching. Oh, and Tony Danza has a brief part in the film, which is always rewarding. He's looking ugly these days, though. Anyways, two thumbs up. Definitely one of those movies that you like, but that you never really finish since there is so much to think about afterwards.

And "The Magician's Nephew" was great. This is my first C.S. Lewis book, and he's a genius. He writes so that a child can understand and enjoy his stories, but at the same time an adult can learn important lessons. I don't think this story was an allegory, per se, but it WAS allegorical (I may still be misusing this word, but in my mind its definition fits) in that so many parts of it point to true principles and/or events. I liked the characters and it was fun to see Narnia created. I also find it interesting that, although there is definitely "magic" rooted in several story elements, there is also a sense of realism that allows us to accept certain ideas. For example, we are told that the worlds that Diggory and Polly see are not in our universe, per se, but that they exist in a different reality of sorts. This could easily be an excuse to turn things all topsy-turvy (and I guess in a sense it is... I mean, talking animals?), but what struck me as interesting is that Charn's sky is red because its sun is nearing the end of its life. So the laws of physics somewhat apply, still. I think these foundations of laws that we are familiar with allow us to better connect with these other worlds, and therefore allow us to better experience the magic that DOES occur since we know what the ordinary and extraordinary are.

Next up is "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe." I've seen the movie, which from what I understand is pretty true to the original story, but I trust that there will be enough detail and difference to keep me tuned in. Oh, I also appreciate that I better understand the Professor's character in the movie now and why he reacts certain ways to the children's interest in the wardrobe.

Anyways... Shark's thoughts. Until the next fortnight, then...

Jenny said...

Shark--I just saw "Crash" this weekend while Nick was out of town camping with the Teachers ... and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised--I second your recommendation. It definately made me think through race relations in ways I hadn't before. (It also made me decide to never move to L.A., but I was pretty well set against it before ...).

Nick said...

Ok, I finished foucaults pendulum. Barely. It started to REALLY drag. Ok, it just got downright boring. The only place where it picked up was for about 40 pages near the end.

It wasn't all bad, I mean I don't regret reading it. I still really liked learning about all the medieval cults and occult stuff. Before, I had no idea about any of the following: Templars, teutonic knights, rosicrusians, cabalism, knights who say nee (just checking if you're paying attention), comte de saint-germain, the old man of the mountian and the assassins of alamut, umbanda, and a bunch of other medeival and enlightenment terms and theories that I had never heard of. I just think he could have done better in terms of pacing and length. He could have easily cut 200 pages out and it would have beeen much better, and make the chase by the diabolicals at the end a little more....lengthy, I mean here we have 550 pages talking about the mysterious masters of the world, and then we only get to see a few pages of them.

From Umberto Eco, I definitely like Baudolino better, as it has more of a plot and much more action, as well as the historical stuff.

Anyway, I've returned to Italo Calvino. I started If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, which I must say grabbed me from the first paragraph which starts out: "You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a Winter's Night a Traveler. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought..."
Any book that acknowledges in the first sentence that it is just a book and proceeds to offer suggestions to help you be more comfortable during the read automatically gets a giggle from me. I'm only 30 pages in and it has already made me giggle several times on the train today. Not belly laugh, just giggle.