Category Archives: Book Review
I’m reading The Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin on my Kindle, because let’s face it … the books are too damn long to read in print. Score one for the Kindle: my wrists don’t get sore reading really long books (and those are the best ones, don’t you think?) Score two for the kindle, I don’t get judged for reading sci-fi/fantasy, unless I happen to go on the internet and blog about it, but you’ll forgive me, right? Knights in shining armor, ladies in distress, a few fire-breathing dragons, and some frozen zombies are nothing to be ashamed of, right?
Except that I’ve just finished book 3 in the series, and I’m starting to get a little annoyed. You see, just about every main character that I care about is dead. Old age, poison, falling off a tower, drowning, burning alive … t’s all there. I think every main character is dead. Except then they’re not. But then they are again. I can’t keep it straight … someone gets their head cut off, and I think “Finally! This one is dead FOR REAL!”, but then some magic priestess comes and breathes life back into them. ARGH! I’m getting to the point where I DID care if you lived or died, but now I kind of just want you to die so I can get on with the story!
Anyone else feel this way?
Okay, so the blog title is a bit of “duh” for anyone who knows me. Yes, I am totally obsessive about books. But at least I work in publishing, where it’s a bit more normal than the rest of the world, where – I’m convinced – no one actually reads anything anymore (which will in turn cause problems for the publishing industry, so I should enjoy my job while I can). A bit of a tautological leap there, but moving on!
Right now I am interested in re-reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy by JRR Tolkien. But first I have to state a few things: 1) I passionately loved the books. 2) I only saw the first movie. 3) I hated it. Not because it was a bad movie, but any means – it was amazing and creative and visually stunning … but it’s not MY version of the story.
I read the books for the very first time when I was in third grade (in Mrs. Severson’s class). I can still point out to you what shelf in the library they were kept on (on the low shelves under the window by the hallway, in the second section from the left on the top shelf). (Yes, I am a freak.) These books had a big impact on my life. I was only 9 years old, but I “discovered” this amazing new world – no one else I knew of had ever read or heard of Tolkien (remember this was back in the 80s) – it was long before the movies were even a twinkle in Peter Jackson’s eye. I think I re-read the books at least every year since thing (until the movies came out, anyway) – so at least 10 or 12 times. I would periodically mention them to other people, and most just rolled their eyes or called me a geek for liking such arcane/weird/British things (and yes, those are three were synonymous to that particular social group).
You can tell that I have a very personal connection to the tale, and when the movies came out I was really heartbroken because suddenly this special little thing that was just all mine was POPULAR – and wildly so. I felt a bit like my favorite band had sold out, except on a more personal level. My private diary was open to the world – MY elves and dwarves and hobbits were everywhere, but I didn’t want to share them! ARGH!! I tried to keep an open mind when I saw the first movie, but really I was disappointed because I had pictured things just a little bit differently. Gandalf was nice, but in my mind he was scruffier. Frodo was okay, but he should have been more tubby. Samwise was faithful alright, but I thought he was made of sterner stuff, both physically and emotionally. I decided NOT to see the second two movies, and I won’t be going to see The Hobbit if it ever comes out, because I want to try and preserve my imagination and how I read/experience the books.
Which brings me to my current obsession. I want to re-read the trilogy, but I only want to read THE SAME VERSION that I read for the first time. Crazy? Obsessive? Yes. I know. I acknowledge and take full responsibility for that. BUT … what if a different version/copyright of the books HAS A DIFFERENT ENDING? As an editor, I know how much gets changed in an edit. And I’ve seen how books get altered for the American or UK markets. So what if the version I read now is different than what I remember? Have you ever thought of that? The only way to make sure you have the same experience is to read THE SAME BOOK. Literally. (At this point I’m debating if I need therapy.) So short of calling my elementary school and begging them to see if they still have the copy from 1989 (which I doubt), I turn to the internet to find out. Obviously I didn’t note the publisher or ISBN from when I read it in third grade (now THAT would be crazy!)
But I do have a remarkable memory, and I can swear to you that I read the edition with these covers:
Now my mission begins – to find out who published this edition, when, and how I can hold of a copy! Any suggestions?
UPDATE: it’s the 1988 Hougton Mifflin edition, and I’ve just ordered the complete set from abebooks.co.uk! Yay!
When I was 15 I went on a trip to Europe with my dad, part of which was spent on a coach tour through Germany, Hungary, Switzerland, and Austria. That sounds like a lot of fun, and it was, except there were many hours on the coach that were spent on non-interesting freeways rather than the scenic mountain passes you imagine. Consequently I was desperate for something to read, and at one of the hotels we were staying at I found a copy of Clan of the Cave Bear in the library. So I started reading one evening, and the next morning when we left … well, I stole it. Yikes! Now, in my defense, it probably wasn’t a major crime because it was in a B&B library, and I think those tend to be fluid — have one, leave one; need one, take one — at least I hope. If I could remember when and where it happened I would send them a replacement copy!
Anyway, the whole upshot of my criminal act was an introduction to Jean M. Auel, who wrote the Clan of the Cave Bear and several other books in the Earth’s Children series. Now, I know it’s not exactly high-literature … but overall I really like these books! I don’t necessarily read them for the brilliant turn of phrase, but rather as a lively ethnographic exploration. They take place during the last Ice Age, when Cro-Magnon man and Neanderthal man both existed across Europe. I find the anthropological implications really interesting, even if the main character is a bit of super-woman who can do no wrong. (There are also a lot of sexy bits, which is always fun.)
Last night Alex and I went to see Jean M. Auel speak at the Natural History Museum here in London. She was in conversation with Museum palaeoanthropologist, Professor Chris Stringer. They have a long history (going back to 1984) of exchanging ideas and information about paleolithic peoples, and I was really fascinated to hear about the research that Auel foes while writing. She takes great pride in making sure her science is accurate, and as such she enjoys a certain sense of respect from the scientific community. I think so many writers, particularly in science fiction, just bend the rules of science and fact whenever it suits them. But I respect the fact that Auel tries her best to get it right, without sacrificing any artistic freedoms. I also really enjoyed listing to Chris Stinger. In my next life I want to be a palaeoanthropologist!
I did ask a question at the end of the evening. I wondered whether there were any great scientific advancements since her first book was published (many years ago) that she wishes she had been able to incorporate into her texts. For example, they recently discovered a skull in the Cheddar Gorge region here in England that was obviously carved out and shaped as a drinking vessel. They suspect it was used for ceremonial purposes, but they don’t know the truth. Unfortunately the author took the safe life and said that her books were perfect as-is, and she wouldn’t change a thing.
After the event, the audience had the opportunity to pre-purchase her new (and final) book in the series, The Land of Painted Caves. Since it’s not actually on the shelves until the end of March, Auel was signing a book plate that you could then stick in your copy once it’s available. I decided not to go for it, since I don’t actually own any of her other books. But the whole series is definitely on my list for “someday I’d like to own all of them, in a really nice collector edition”.