Monday, July 30, 2007

Alan Furst...

Instead of individual reviews for several of Alan Furst's latest novels, I think a general review is best, and for these reasons: they all have the same ambiance, they all deal with WWII, and pre-WWII, and they are all excellent novels. Furst's name was mentioned in reviews for both John Le Carre novels and Eric Ambler novels, and one comment was that Furst seems to have been influenced by Ambler. To lump Furst into the espionage genre would be a mistake because his writing is evocative, enthralling and always of the highest caliber. Although the main characters are involved in some espionage dealings in one way or another, most of them are caught in circumstances that have directed them into the shade rather than having made a choice. A Russian Marxist journalist who becomes disillusioned yet sees the necessity for anti-Nazi (Dark Star, 1991)activity, a Frenchman (The World at Night 1996, and Red Gold, 1999) of the upper class whose career as a movie director is wobbling already and brought down by the German occupation of Paris and his unwillingness to collaborate, and an Hungarian expatriate (Kingdom of Shadows 2000) who finds himself caught up in plotting by his own and opposing countries and factions - all these men and some of their associates seem to enter the flow of history and join fortune with an integrity and character they are surprised to find in themselves. Furst leaves his stories at a resting place rather than an end and we are satisfied because these stories couldn't have ended in their historical context.

For character and sense of place, Alan Furst's work is a gem of a find. I think we all at times have wondered how we would really act under duress of war and inhumanity, and we only hope we never find out. The characters in Furst's work find out.

Friday, July 27, 2007

I swear I didn't tamper with these results... we go again, this site is addicting, and kinda fun...heh. Since my favorite pets ARE cats...well, isn't it just strange and maybe...well...magic...that this site knows all? Hahhahha...
Your Ideal Pet is a Cat

You're both aloof, introverted, and moody.
And your friends secretly wish that you were declawed!

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell...

Time for a mini-review of JS & MN, the sort of book I call a tome. Very long and tending to drag in the first hundred or so pages, due to the pace being the pace of Mr. Norrell really, the book begins to pick up with the introduction of The Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair, the character about whom the book revolves.

We see Mr. Norrell commit what turns out to be a consummate crime of pride. The succeeding events roll along toward darkest days for Britain and the continent, while a war rages between England and France. Into this steps Jonathan Strange who is much more upbeat and very different from MN.

As most people know by now the book deals with the resurgence in England of practical magic, formerly a lost art, but revived by MR and honed by JS. I found the book to be somewhat precious, in that the style was intended to be Edwardian, and in fact to remind us of Jane Austen. It didn't really remind me of Jane, but I did enjoy this book. It was so different, so original, and so absorbing by the last third of it, that I can't be critical. it was well written, if a bit tedious. Very much worth reading though, especially to fans of Tolkien and J.K. Rowling, as well as those interested in fantasy and good books in general. I am waiting to see if Susanna Clarke writes a sequel.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

O.K...O.K...I am not as nerdy as I thought...and not as pretty as she is....

You Are 48% Nerdy

You may be a bit surprised with this score, but your more of a closet nerd than an actual nerd.
Stop denying your inner nerd! You're truly dorkier than you think.

Seattle Spring '07...

Another delightful trip to Seattle...not so much on the horizon this time, but another nice run of weather, no rain!People out there in Seattle want us to think it's all rain all the time but it isn't. Only once in the two weeks I was in Seattle did it rain, and then only a bit. I guess it all depends on the season you come! Lake Washington is wonderfully lovely on a sunny May day! Out on the water or watching geese at the park on Juanita Bay, all good. This time I did see and enjoy the Space Needle. Downtown Seattle is crowded, and all the things you want to see seem close, although I didn't get to the old square. Next trip! The view from the Needle is terrific, but the admission price too high! It is fun though, and really - I guess we can't put too high a price on fun! It was a dull sort of day but that didn't matter. We sandwiched the trip in before a kid birthday party on an Aikido studio. Nice drive around town in the area around the Needle as well. Funky museum and Music center there made good photo opportunities, and grandchildren made the trip extra fun! Other hi-lites of the trip were various local beaches and just the fun of the buildings and the cafes around the area. Seattle has so many little nifty coffee houses and grand cafes. When I say Seattle I mean the surrounds as well. Kirkland has a lovely downtown with shops and eateries, all very arty.

I liked Bothell and the wonderfully magnificent Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park Towne Centre. They shelve the used books in with the new! Innovative and convenient!

I love the buildings in and around Seattle. They range from the Ravenna neighborhood's lovely old Craftsman style homes to the modern cliff climbing glass and concrete apartment houses on Juanita Drive. The picture in the previous blog entry of the angles is a shot taken in Seattle. I love the sort of buildings there that are terraced up a hill, and the lines created by the interplay of the design are wonderful. As usual, a trip to Microsoft is fun and educational. Spread over quite a bit of territory and even at several locations across town, Microsoft is a fixture in the region, and has helped many a Seattle cause. This time I saw the Visitor's Center, which was not as central nor as large as I had thought it would be, but still a very interesting corporate display. I did tremendously, as always, enjoy my trip! For the aerial view from the Needle my picture shows the great view, but not on as bright a day as some days. The trip up into the observation deck was in an elevator with a lot of glass. you get to watch the ground disappear below as you ascend. You can see Seattle and a bit-o-the-Sound. Then, when you come out into the observation deck itself, you find yourself inside a nicely carpeted area - larger than I thought it would be, and hosting a nice coffee shop/snack bar. Eating a muffin at the top of the needle - the end of a good day's adventures!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Book roundup Summer' 07

I find myself woefully behind in commenting on recent books read. SO - I will make quick and simple reviews. First up is Helene Hanff, all of whose books I have now read. They make literate and funny reading, her sense of humor is sharp and her insight always to the point. From 84 Charring Cross Road to Apple of my Eye, all her books are engaging just for these qualities. In Apple of my Eye, Helene writes a guide to New York City which was written at a time of economic downturn for the city, and at the same time a nostalgic time just after the World Trade Center was new. It is not a tourist guide in reality, it is more of a love story to the city she lived in so long and loved the most. Her meanders through the city to see sights she had never seen before in order to write the book make great reading, and her always sharp wit enhances the experience. Highly recommended.

Bob Dylan...

Bob Dylan played here recently. I didn't go to the concert. Those who did talked about it a lot, and the consensus was it was one of the best they'd seen over the years. I have of course always been aware of Dylan....I mean he's a bit older than I am, but we are contemporaries. When he was young in NY, I was in NY going to nurses training, when he was a kid in Hibbing, I was a kid less than 200 miles away in upstate MN. And then he gave the concert here and I live here - weird coincidence or what???

I had of course known about the usual stuff...Blowin' in the Wind, Mr. Tambourine Man etc., but being busy with other things during the 60s and 70s, I hadn't really listened to much Dylan. So this past week I have been overdosing, and enjoying myself. I have always respected him as as writer and felt he would be remembered for a couple centuries more than almost everyone else from the music he was so instrumental in forming, but I hadn't listened to much of the lyrics he sang. What do you know! He really was a genius with words. Those songs resonate with humanity rather than any particular agenda. He says he isn't political, and I think that's true. He's a human though, and that comes through loud and clear.

I would like to pipe Masters of War into every governmental institution right now until they get the message. But the one I have sticking in my head is I Ain't Gonna Work on Maggie's Farm No More...great song, sticks in the head...

Friday, July 06, 2007

They tell me I belong in Barcelona....good call....:)

You Belong in Barcelona

When it comes to Europe, you don't want to decide between culture and fun. You want art by day and a big party by night.
Barcelona is ideal for you. You can check out some Picasso, eat some tapas, take a siesta, and then dance all night!