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Showing posts from 2015

The Song of Bernadette, by Franz Werfel, translated by Lewis Lewisohn (1941).

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Even if you're not religious, this story is sure to evoke a smorgasbord of emotions. The accounts of poverty and politics during this period (circa 1850) are rich in detail and absorbing. The cast of characters are touching and real. This is more than a good yarn. This is beyond subtle commentary on faith and doubt and human nature. The telling is packed with great, sometimes heart-wrenching, scenes. Understandably, this classic maintained the New York Times Best Seller list for 13 weeks.
As a nod to the Catholic Rosary, the novel is comprised of five parts, each part containing ten chapters. To my surprise, part one takes on present tense. I'm not sure whether this qualifies as unique for novels written seventy-five years ago, but it might.
What intrigued me most was Bernadette's simplicity. Since fiction writers are forever instructed to make their protagonists interesting, whether by introducing a glaring flaw or a striking quirk (such as my youngest sister shaking a br…

The Riddle-Master of Hed, by Patricia A. McKillip (1976)

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When a friend recommends a novel, my first question is never, “What's it about?” Instead, I always ask who wrote it. If not familiar with the author, and if I know my friend has discriminating tastes, I ask, “What's the writing like?” I once loaned my copy of Tolkien's The Children of Húrin to a friend with the qualifier, “The subject matter is pretty morbid.” This triggered a raised brow. “But,” I said, “the writing is superb.” To which he replied, “Well, it's Tolkien!”

Whether you revel in stories involving space aliens, 19th century sleuths, druids of antiquity, lovers in the Victorian Era, modern day cyber criminals, fairies with an inexhaustible supply of pixie dust, or talking animals, no qualifier exists to gauge the value or validity of such interests. To each his (or her) own, I say. 

The rules of grammar, on the other hand, while not the ultimate factor for determining a thumbs up or down of any given work, is a good first step toward gauging quality of prose a…

The Slow Regard of Silent Things, by Patrick Rothfuss (2014)

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Before commenting on this book, I need to give you some background. Just eleven days ago, BuzzFeed Books online posted “The 51 Best Fantasy Series Ever Written.” It listed Rothfuss at the top with his novel The Name of the Wind. Yesterday I drove to my local library, but that novel was checked out. So I grabbed his book The Slow Regard of Silent Things instead. I read it the same day. It's a short book.
Now we've all run across these sorts of online lists before. Last year I found the site “BestFantasyBooks.com, which boasts several lists: 100 Best Fantasy Novels, 100 Worst Fantasy Novels, Best Fantasy for Women, Best Fantasy for Children, Fantasy with Dragons, etc. And after recognizing some of the entries, some of which I'd read and considered crap, coupled with the fact that the site is maintained by a book critic whose writing – spelling errors and bad grammar galore – failed to inspire confidence in his skills in discernment, I ultimately dismissed that site as a wast…