WWW Wednesday. This meme is from shouldbereading.
• What did you recently finish reading?
Middlemarch, by George Eliot. A somewhat longish review here.
Prisoner, by Lia Silver.
This is the first volume in what will be a longer series, but doesn’t drop you off a cliff. It takes its time setting up the characters and situation. All characters are complicated, especially the main two. Both have serious emotional damage as a cost of becoming supremely badass. We begin in Afghanistan with DJ Torres having to turn his best Marine buddy into a werewolf to save his life, in spite of the extreme danger of so doing. Their helicopter has just crashed, and they are waiting to be medivac lifted out.
DJ is put under, and wakes up in a lab. He finds out very soon that it is a secret lab, and he runs . . . and nearly dies. Echo, the emotionally distant, hyper efficient assassin, is sent to bring him back, and she does. The evil lab holds them both by their loyalties to others, and DJ has terrible trouble adjusting; then he meets a very messed up bunch of made-wolves, and mayhem ensues.
Silver took the time to give personality and reasonable human motives to the ordinary workers at the lab, which steps the novel to another level for me. The subsidiary characters are not mere human-figures in a video game, meant to be blown away without thought by the rampaging heroes. Every action has consequences, which for me rachets up the stakes for what is going to happen next, yet it came to a satisfying coda.
Invention as a Social Act, by Karen Burke LeFevre, reread.
This is a solidly academic, carefully built refutation of the old, romantic (small r) notion that writing is a solitary act, performed in seclusion, often with the writer in mystic communion with his or her inner self. LeFevre builds her case that invention is better understood as a social act,” in which an individual who is at the same time a social being interacts in a distinctive way with society and culture to create something.”
This is largely the point that Diana Pavlac Glyer makes in her The Company They Keep: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as Writers in Community, which, for purposes of the writer who wishes to better understand what it is she’s doing by seeing how others have done it before, does much better. I don’t fault LeFevre for being careful, substantiating her premise to exhaustive detail. But it was slow going to plough through it, as compared to Glyer’s book, which was detailed, profound, yet eminently readable.
Two Years Before the Mast, by Richard Henry Dana
Rereading this book is a real pleasure. Dana was an extraordinarily good writer, his images so clear that it is easy to follow the complicated life aboard ship. It is of especial interest, I think, to California residents, as he spent most of his time sailing up and back along the coast, and thus describes what well-known cities were like during his time of visitation. One of his frequent stops was just a few miles from me–and the house still exists, now protected.
• What are you currently reading?
Life of a Sailor, by Frederick Chamier. A delightful memoir of maritime life, which includes eyewitness anecdotes about Byron swimming the Hellespont (Chamier was there, a midshipman sent along with Byron’s party) and other interesting encounters.
The Edge, by Dick Francis. Known for his tightly plotted suspense novels usually set around racetracks and horse racing, Francis sets this one in the racing context, but aboard a train. Where a ‘murder mystery’ is being enacted. The hero has to take on a role in order to chase the villain. It begins slowly as Francis painstakingly sets the scene, but as soon as they get to Canada and the train rolls, wow, the pacing picks up!
What about you? What are you reading, have you been reading, wanting to read next?