Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Squire, His Knight, and His Lady by Gerald Morris

This book recounts the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, with a few parts from other Arthurian legends thrown in for good measure. This series is very enjoyable, if a bit predictable (because it works with such well-loved material). I also think it's a bit rosy for a King Arthur story--these stories, I think, at heart are not meant to be entirely happy ending stories (and to be fair, the one I just read is not entirely a happy ending story), but the role of the fairy realm ultimately seems to be to take the edge of the sadness, and I'm not sure how much I like that.

World's Greatest Sleuth! by Steve Hockensmith

I picked up this book after reading a review of three books that dealt in some way with Sherlock Holmes; I didn't realize I was going to be getting the fifth in a series of murder mysteries. I enjoyed the 1893 Columbian Exposition setting, and I thought the story itself was pretty well-plotted. I found the main detectives a bit overwhelmingly country at times, but I may read some of the other books in the series.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick

This book recounts the true history of the whaleship Essex, which was rammed by a whale in 1819. Of the twenty men on it at the time (one deserted before disaster struck), only eight survived. This book does an excellent job recounting not only the disaster and the survivors' response and tactics, but also in giving a wider, contextual picture of the whaling industry at the time. This story has been told before (by survivors, by historians, and most famously by Herman Melville in Moby Dick and by Edgar Allen Poe in Narrative of the Life of Arthur Gordon Pym), but Philbrick gives a clear, cogent, and fun-to-read (if horrifying) account of the tragedy.

Vortex by Troy Denning

In this book, the conflict between the Galactic Alliance (and specifically Natasi Daala) and the Jedi really heats up. Meanwhile, despite their better judgment Luke and Ben find themselves increasingly forced to trust Sith apprentice Vestara Khai. This book really picked up in its second half. It's strange to be caught up with the story--now I have to wait for the final three installments (next is due in May). I just requested that the library purchase it.

The Squire's Tale by Gerald Morris

This book is an entertaining, YA retelling of some of the King Arthur legends. It focuses on Sir Gawain and his squire, and basically recounts The Wife of Bath's Tale from Chaucer. The prose is entertaining, even if the story is familiar.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The New History in an Old Museum: Creating the Past at Colonial Williamsburg by Richard Handler and Eric Gable

This book contends that even as Colonial Williamsburg has adopted social history as its mode of presentation of the past--which entails embracing the dirt of the past and acknowledging that history changes not so much because of the discovery of new facts as because of the appearance of new people interpreting it--it does not fully follow out on the principles that this social history approach would suggest (for example, in job mobility, in relative pay scale, and in creative and unique interpretations of the past). I found the book easy to follow in its argument and enlightening in its scope. I really enjoyed seeing the behind-the-scenes picture of Williamsburg, even if I'm not quite so radically critical of the enterprise.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Voyager by Diana Gabaldon

This book continues the adventures of Claire, who has returned to Scotland to find Jamie. It took a while for the main plot of the book to start up, and there were a lot of revelations saved to the end that show this story's place in a larger web, but that didn't exactly clarify what's going on--we're left with quite the cliffhanger. Still I enjoyed reading this book and look forward to reading the next one.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan

This book picks up in Fal Dara, with Rand realizing he should have left a week ago, the arrival of the Amrylin Seat, and the theft of the Horn of Valere. I enjoyed following the journeys of the characters, especially Rand, who gets separated from most of the hunt and develops his leadership skills. I'm intrigued to see how this series will stretch to 15 books (counting the prequel and A Memory of Light, due next spring).

Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism by Frederic Jameson

This book is a massive cultural study of postmodernism that declines to define postmodernism. I found parts of the book very difficult to follow: the theory was dense (and drew on philosophers with whom I am not familiar). I thought Jameson offered convincing readings of film (in ways that reminded me of the way that film works in Infinite Jest) and architecture especially. This book makes me glad my interests are in the nineteenth century.