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Monday, January 9, 2006
Splash the Wonderdog
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 3:20 pm

Via the AP: Sen.
Kennedy to Publish Children’s Book

Meet the latest children’s author, Sen. Ted Kennedy, and his Portuguese Water Dog, Splash, his co-protagonist in “My Senator and Me: A Dogs-Eye View of Washington, D.C.”

Scholastic Inc. will release the book in May.

Ok, first off, I have a hard time thinking of Senator Kennedy as a children’s book author. But, ok-no reason why he can’t.

But second, does the man not have a publicist? I have known for a while that his dog was named “splash” but this is surely taking it to a whole new level.

It always struck me as, well, odd that he names his dog “Splash” in he first place-kind of like Nixon having a dog named “Plumber” or Clinton having a dog named….well, you can write your own joke…

Professor Bainbridge also comments.

Filed under: US Politics, Books | Comments (3) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Saturday, December 31, 2005
Preparing for a Feast
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 3:40 pm

I received A Feast for Crows for Christmas, and am about 100 pages into it (so far, so good). Ideally I should have re-read the first three volumes, but was too anxious to get to this one. However, given the lack of a synopsis (a gripe I share with Steve Bainbridge), I went looking for an online source to help me with the copious dramatis personae and the myriad plot threads.

I found it here: An Encyclopedia of Ice and Fire ~ Tower of the Hand

And, specifically, there is a A Feast for Crows Primer that provides an overview of the plot going into Feast.

Filed under: Books | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Monday, December 12, 2005
Mississippi Libraries
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 3:32 pm

Harry Boswell of The Kudzu Files highlights an effort to rebuild libraries in Mississippi in the wake of Katrina.

Filed under: Books, Hurricanes | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Friday, December 2, 2005
Fun with Quizzes
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:47 pm


take the WHAT BAD BOOK ARE YOU test.


and go to mewing.net. not as good as reading a good book, but way better than a bad one.

I guess that is the prefect book for me, as I actually like the book and have read it numerous times.

h/t: Jay at AV (who’s a book I’ve never heard of either).

Filed under: Blogging, Books | Comments (4) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

Caerdroia linked with What Bad Book Am I?
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
In Memoriam: Stan Berenstain
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:41 pm

Via the AP: Author Stan Berenstain Dies at 82

All three of my kids love the Berenstain Bears, and I even had several of their books (although the Bears series per se) when I was little.

Filed under: Books | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Saturday, November 26, 2005
Two our of One Hundred
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:00 am

It’s that listy time of year, and here’s one from the NYT: 100 Notable Books of the Year.

Of the list, I have only read two. I am not much of a “mainstream fiction” kind of guy, and rarely read brand new stuff anyway (too cheap to plunk down the cash for brandnew hardcovers, unless it is something I have really been looking forward to).

My two:

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE. By J. K. Rowling. Illustrated by Mary GrandPré. (Arthur A. Levine/ Scholastic, $29.99.) In this sixth volume of the epic series, the Dark Lord, Voldemort, is wreaking havoc throughout England and Harry, now 16, is more isolated than ever.

and

1776. By David McCullough. (Simon & Schuster, $32.) A lively work that skewers Washington’s pretensions and admires citizen soldiers.

Funny, I didn’t come away from 1776 feeling as if there was skewering, per se, of Washington-except the already well-establshed fact that he screwed up at New York and had to re-think his strategy against the British.

At any rate, I would recommend both.

Looking at the 2004 list, I note that I have read (actually amy just now finishing) only one book:

ALEXANDER HAMILTON. By Ron Chernow. (Penguin Press, $35.) A biography of the founder who created American capitalism and died in a duel with Aaron Burr.

From the more-than 100 in the 2003 list, I didn’t read a single one.

Filed under: Books | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Tuesday, November 8, 2005
A Feast for Crows
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:01 pm

For those who care, George R. R. Martin’s A Feast for Crows goes on sale today.

The Song of Fire and Ice series is perhaps the best fantasy series I have ever read, and hence am pleased that the current volume is finally completed. I am even tempted to go out and buy it, even though I have plenty of reading material on hand.

Of course, if Bantam wants to send me a review copy…

I will say that the online excerpt isn’t really awe-inspiring. If you haven’t read A Game of Thrones and you like fantasy, you must go get it now.

I also noticed that the new Wheel of Time book is in stores as well.

Filed under: Books, SciFi | Comments (3) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Monday, October 31, 2005
Another Reason to Avoid Indictment
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 1:23 pm

It might lead to greater scrutiny of one’s dubious skills at writing sex scenes.

Filed under: US Politics, Criminal Justice, Books | Comments (1) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here
Monday, October 24, 2005
GeekPoints to Glenn
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:45 am

Give Glenn Reynolds kudos for a Retief ref.

Filed under: Blogging, Books, SciFi | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Saturday, August 27, 2005
I’m not Obsessed! I’m Not
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:10 pm

Vai the BBC: Author denies ‘Ripper’ obsession

Crime author Patricia Cornwell has taken out full-page ads in two national newspapers to deny she is obsessed with Jack the Ripper.

This strikes one as a tad odd-but as much as the fact the she spent over 3 million British pounds to research a book that sounds far from conclusive.

Filed under: Criminal Justice, Books | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Proving the Worth of the Silmarillion
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:06 am

Well, it may not have garned much discussion, but I got at least one hit for someone Googling: The Silmarillion movie.

So, I guess my previous post was worth the effort.

Filed under: Pop Culture, Movies, Blogging, Books | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
Debating the Silmarillion
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:08 pm

Since Scott Nokes is suffering slings and arrows over his post the other day on the Silmarillion, I feel I must come to his aid as I meant to comment on his post at the time.

The sin committed by Dr. Nokes is to be found in the following passage:

This book has sold millions of copies, and (if I can say this without incurring the wrath of the many Tolkienophiles) is boring beyond belief. It doesn’t have characters so much as it has concepts; it doesn’t have a plot so much as it has general movement; and it doesn’t have prose so much as it has an homage to the language of Romance. I can’t imagine why anyone would read it for itself — rather, I think, people read it in order for such revelations as saying, “Oh, that’s why Frodo starts chanting about Elbereth” and other such things.

As has been noted on numerous occasions, I am quite a Tolkien fan, and have read the Silmarillion at least twice and while I have enjoyed it for what it is, I have long thought that, on balance, it was mostly a boring book whose appeal existed in its linkage to the LotR rather than as a stand-alone work. On balance, it is an extended version of the fascinating, but hardly novel-like, appendices at the end of the LoTR. At a minimum it comes across more as an academic tome, rather than a piece of fiction.

However, the last time I read it I was especially struck by what Nokes above: the general lack of true plot, character development and actual narrative. Just thumb through a copy and notice how little actual dialogue there is to be found. Certainly there is a marked dearth of extended dialogic passages. There are characters aplenty, but not really any character development. Yes, we hear a great deal about Melkor, Turin and and such, but mostly we get sketches rather than actual stories about who they were, why and what they really did. Like the Old Testament, much of the Sil is broad-brush strokes of history and people that does not really tell us all that much about the characters or the history, but rather seeks to made a broader point.

It is, as Nokes states in his original post, basically the publication of Tolkien’s notes. They are fascinating on one level, but not comparable to the LotR, or even The Hobbit-indeed, Sil isn’ t really the same kind of book. That the book has been read by millions is a testament to Tolkien’s entire body of work, less a testament to the Sil itself.

(And for what it’s worth, I think I enjoyed Unfinished Tales more than the Sil because it had more actually narrative pieces).

And I would note that I love exploring backstory in mythology/fictional universes. I was geeky enough to read the Tolkien Companion and like books like they were novels and less as reference works when I was in late Middle School/early High School.

Noke’s defense is here, where he notes:

The Silmarillion is little more than a mythological scaffolding upon which to build a real mythology — that of LotR. The blueprints might be lovely, but when it starts raining, it’s time to get in the bricks-and-mortar house.

I think that that is an accurate description.

He also notes:

I still find fault with The Silmarillion because it would fail as a free-standing work. Presumably Paladin and Chris read The Silmarillion after reading The Lord of the Rings and therefore read it through the prism of LotR. Try imagining you had read The Sil first. Would you have read LotR? Or The Hobbit? Or any of the other collections of half-written works? I cannot see into your hearts, but I doubt it.

Paladin notes that he views the Silmarillion as a work in its own right that he loves it apart from the LotR-fair enough, but speaking for myself I have a hard time seeing that. I must admit that my main motivation in reading the book was because of the trilogy and doubt I would have read it once, let alone twice, if it was Tolkien’s only work. Like some soundtracks I love (and love at least in part because of the images they conjure from certain films and TV shows), I wonder if taken wholly our of context that Sil would fare as well. I am fairly certain that to me it would not, and I suspect I would not be alone. It certainly wouldn’t have sold as well as it did.

One thing’s for certain: without a radical re-working, there isn’t going to be a Silmarillion movie.

Indeed, the Silmarillion is a example of something I used to say about graduate seminars (and still say about class in general, as well as panels at conferences): it is possible for an activity to be simultaneously fascinating and boring.

Filed under: Books | Comments (7) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

Unlocked Wordhoard linked with Dr. Taylor Joins the Fellowship
PoliBlog: Politics is the Master Science » Proving the Worth of the Silmarillion linked with [...] on, but I got at least one hit for someone Googling: The Silmarillion movie. So, I guess my previous post was worth the effort. Filed under: Pop Culture, Movies, Bloggin [...]
Arguing with signposts… » QotD, academic/sci-fi geek edition linked with [...] onferences): it is possible for an activity to be simultaneously fascinating and boring. - Steven Taylor Yup. Even though I’ve never heard of the Silmarillion. [...]
Friday, August 5, 2005
FFM: Books I Couldn’t Finish
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:05 pm

After a one week hiatus (I was to busy last Friday), the Friday Fun Meme returns.

BOOKS I COULDN’T FINISH

I am sure I could figure out 10, especially if I thought back to college text books, but these are the ones that leap to mind:

1. Little, Big by John Crowley. I bought the book because Mel Gilden, author and co-host of a SciFi radio show, Hour25, swore it was the best fantasy book he had ever read since LOTR. I tried mightily to get through, and have kept it for over twenty years with the possibility that I would one day try again. Mostly it read like a plodding LSD trip.

2. The Sword of Shanara. In High School I was always looking for the next LOTR and tried Sword. It struck me as too derivative and for some reason never caught my fancy. However, clearly many people disagree with me. Who knows, I might give it a try some day.

3. Lord Foul’s Bane. I think I gave this one a try in early High School. For some reason I could not get past the first couple of pages. I can’t even remember what it was that turned me off. I may give a try again some day, as I found his Gap novels most impressive, even though there was a general lack of respectable characters and one has to wade through a brutal tale in the first novel.

4. Battlefield Earth. I tried. I really, really tried. But several hundred pages into the book I just lost all enthusiasm. And consider: I was reading it as a Sophomore in High School right after we had moved from Texas to SoCal and I had yet to acquire any friends, so it wasn’t like I had anything else to do.

5. The Day Lincoln was Shot. I had to read it for 8th grade American History. The first time I ever used Cliffs notes in lieu of completing a book.

6. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. This one was for AP Literature when I was a senior in High School. That one really required Cliffs Notes. UGH.

7. The Book of Lost Tales. As one might note from the above, I am huge Tolkien fan-and was especially such in Middle and High School. However, even my hard-core Tolkienness could not get me to actually read all of the drafts and notes in the BoLT. I own it and several other of the edited volumes that Christopher Tolkien put put out (but not all of them). I have skimmed through them, but have never read them.

Feel free to jump in. If you link from your own blog, note that inline trackbacks and pingbacks are now working, so as log as you send one, you’ll get a link below. Also: if your blog doesn’t have trackback capability, you can use the link below to send a manual trackback.

Filed under: Blogging, Books, Friday Fun Meme | Comments (11) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

The Kudzu Files linked with Books I Couldn’t Finish
Arguing with signposts… » My Tolkien confession linked with [...] Dr. Taylor: Books you know you should read that you can’t seem to finish. Oh, wait. It already has been. | Trackbacks (0) [...]
The Bemusement Park » VENI, LEGI, CONCIDI linked with [...] sty.com"> 8/5/2005 VENI, LEGI, CONCIDI From Steven Taylor comes his Friday Fun Meme: ‘Books I Couldn’t Finish.’ Forthwith, here are mine: The Lord of the [...]
Monday, August 1, 2005
Reviewing Ed Klein
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:40 am

Via the NYT’s review of The Truth About Hillary comes, no doubt, a dream review for author Ed Klein:

As an expert on sordid nonfiction, I would not put ‘’The Truth About Hillary'’ anywhere near the top of my list; it pales by comparison with Geraldo Rivera’s sublimely vile autobiography, ‘’Exposing Myself,'’ and seems demure, nuanced and levelheaded by comparison with masterpieces of partisan venom like the 60’s cold-war classic ‘’None Dare Call It Treason.'’

No, I am not suggesting that Edward Klein is a fair, balanced, persuasive, scrupulously honest reporter or a gifted writer. Resorting to chilling Rip Van Winklisms like ‘’Bill and Hillary often grooved the night away at Cozy Beach, spinning the latest Jefferson Airplane platters,'’ Klein sometimes sounds like a cryogenically preserved Maynard G. Krebs. Like, dig: the cat is far out.

What I am saying is that if Klein purposely set out to write the sleaziest, most derivative, most despicable political biography ever, he has failed both himself and his readers miserably. ‘’The Truth About Hillary'’ is only about the 16th sleaziest book I have ever read. Though, in fairness to the author, reading creepy, cut-and-paste books is my hobby.

Hylarious.

Meanwhile, Ann Althouse has clipped her favorite phrases from the piece.

Filed under: US Politics, Books, 2008 Campaign | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Sunday, July 31, 2005
Darn You, J.K. Rowling!!
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 1:39 pm

The NYT has a review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which I just finished last night (thumbs up and more on that later).

The reviewer hits this on the head, for sure:

Suffice it to say that this new volume culminates in a finish so scorchingly distressing that the reader closes the book quaking, knowing that out of these ashes, somehow, the phoenix of Rowling’s fiction will rise again - but worrying about how on earth Harry will cope until it does.

All I can say is drat Ms. Rowling for writing such a cliffhanger that waiting for the next book will be a misery.

Filed under: Books | Comments (2) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

The World Around You » Blog Archive » Half Blood Prince: Thumbs Up linked with [...] 0 I agree with Steven’s endorsement of the latest Harry Potter novel. I have not read the Potter books, p [...]
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