Sunday, July 18, 2010

Breaking and entering

I suppose it is appropriate that I just finished Stieg Larrsen's "The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo", seeing as how I'm going to go break into the library to get my hands on "The Girl Who Played With Fire." I don't think they're the best written books of all time, but golly. I'm hooked. Maybe. The way you're hooked to watching a train wreck. Sort of.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I write like
James Joyce

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

You'll like it. Bunnies get killed.

In Watership Down, Richard Adams created an ecology of rabbits, warrens, and downs set against man's world of hrudru (manmade things), white sticks (cigarettes), and iron monsters (trains or automobiles). What a lovely book! And a terribly unlovely book. Confessions: I was inspired to buy after I saw a picture of my favorite college professor holding a copy of it. I was inspired to read it after Sawyer on LOST told Benjamin Linus, "You'll like it. Bunnies get killed." Sold.

Well there are bunnies, and who doesn't love bunnies? Adams gives them a language, an operational philosophy, a heritage, a religion, and individual strengths and weaknesses. The fascination of supposing animals live not only as sentient but as preferential beings has inspired writers and readers for centuries and why wouldn't it? The bunnies of Watership Down have distinct opinions of man and man's undertakings. Would we want to hear them if we could understand their words? Which leads me to the...

Adams' desire to create a formal language system--right down to the phonemes and morphemes--just about does the book in. In desiring to remove the rabbits' speech from the readers' speech, the language becomes impossible mumbo-jumbo. Rooted in nothing the reader has experienced or understands, it sounds like so much mush-mouthedness. I tried saying some of it out loud, with laughable results. Yeah, just try saying "hrair" and "hrudru" and laugh at the results. Instead of sounding reasoned Tolkein's languages, it just sounds made up. Now, I should tell you this book came out of the Fiction section. Fortunately for you, Dear Reader, the dialogue is in English most of the time.

The book is interesting for its anti-pastoral qualities: Set in woodlands, populated by animals...animals that behave just like humans in their self-interested destruction of one another. I stopped counting dead pelts by four or five. Communism, imperialism are the operating themes of most of the warrens, with only our hero, Fiver's, warren operating on principles of true democracy. I would call it constituional monarchy, but that may be ascribing too much intent to the writer. You may be thinking of Animal Farm as a good comparison, but it really isn't so much. Our warren operates well internally, and only faces external foes. It is rather telling that the only outside rabbits that successfully acclimate to our warren are the frightened dams forcibly rounded up by Hazel and the Gang. Even relationships between the male and female rabbits parallel the lives of actual rabbits: little emotion is wasted on murdered rabbits and sexual relationships are dictated by the need to procreate with no regard for monogamy or emotional investment.

Did I like it? Hm. I wouldn't read it again, but I now I can at least confidently name it in my next Facebook survey of "Books I've Read".

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

National Poetry MOnth

National Poetry Month is being celebrated over at Letters from the American Interior. That's most of my reading for this month.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Watership Down: Bound

Finally finished reading Richard Adams' Watership Down, an anti-pastoral novel about warfare between two rabbit warrens on Watership Down, the idyllic country to which our rabbits have fled to escape the ravages of men, their hrudrudu and white sticks. Adams begins each section with a quote or passage from another work by way of preface. Seems a bit overdone in most instances, especially considering many of the chapters are but 3-4 pages long. This one struck me. Adams used only the first stanza of this poem, "Two Fusiliers" by Robert Graves.

Graves, a veteran of the first World War, clearly writes about wartime experience. I was struck with the lines highlighted:

AND have we done with War at last?
Well, we’ve been lucky devils both,
And there’s no need of pledge or oath

To bind our lovely friendship fast,
By firmer stuff
Close bound enough.

Friendship, love, community often feel like a war. Or maybe, it's that the battles we are called on to fight for love must be fought just like battles for nationhood, imperialism, resources, or pride. Maybe these are all just different forms of the same thing.

More about the novel later. Just wanted to get the poem down first.