Friday, December 3, 2010

Books Read Of Late

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (and other poems,)by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Sitting down on a Sunday night to read the title poem and I was thrilled by Coleridge's descriptive and quotable prose.
"Water, water everywhere, - Nor any drop to drink"
I also enjoyed the long poem 'Christabel' which enchants but unfortunately was never finished. It opens the door of eerie possibilities and leaves us hanging. 'Kubla Khan' also dazzles with its luxurious (but not confusingly unpronounceable *see below) language. Part of the appeal for me beyond the prose was Coleridge's intent of making the supernatural seem tangible. These are deserved classics.

Tros of Samothrace
, by Talbot Mundy

This was a strange one for me, in that I love historicals, druids battling Caesar is right up my alley-and while each chapter opens with a fragment of the High Druid Taliesin's wisdom (excellent snippets) and there were great characters and twists for some reason it took me forever to get through it-and it is a relatively short book. Something I can't put my finger on kept making me put it down and grab something else. (I started in June) I wonder if Tros is too self-righteous or if Mundy's prose is clever but sleep inducing? I've finished but still unsure of why this was such a difficult book to get through. I want to figure it out, because I need to be sure I don't ever write like Mundy. Great concept-sleepy delivery.

The Catilinarian Conspiracy, by Sallust

Sallust was a Roman praetor under Julius Caesar and the first governor of Numidia. As a Roman politician, he of course had friends and enemies and among them was Lucius Cataline a would-be usurper of the Roman republic (not long before Caesar himself-wink)
What I found most fascinating was the parallels (as Sallust tells us) between the oaths and conspiracy of Cataline and the Gadianton Robbers as I envision them in my own work. Cataline (like Akish-Antum, Lenin, Mao, Hitler, etc) surrounded himself with multitudes of the young, desperate and impressionable-I labeled the formula the "Lost Wolf Protocols" in Heroes of the Fallen.
Among the oaths he bound his followers to himself with was the drinking of bowls of human blood mixed with wine-that they would all be united to each other in solemn ritual and share the guilty knowledge of a dreadful deed-likely murder to begin with.
After an unsuccessful first attempt not unlike Hitler's Beer Hall Putsch, Cataline regrouped and went about after another route to power-manipulating the Roman Senate-when that failed-he went back to the politics from the barrel of a gun/sword philosophy.
After a number of battles and political maneuverings he was finally slain in battle-the similarities to men such as those listed above as well as Zerahemnah, Amalickiah and Giddianhi from the Book of Mormon are uncanny.

Black Colossus: CONAN graphic novel adaption, by Robert E. Howard, Tim Truman, Tomás Giorello

Among my favorite Conan tales are any with the color "Black" mentioned in the title. Truman's adaption takes a few liberties, but I don't recall anything that would upset the purists too much. I like Giorello's art, it is visceral, bloody and even risque at times-it captures the essence of the tale perfectly. Overall I think it is one of the better Dark Horse collections-but that might also be because it is one of my favorite stories anyway. The Conan movie is coming up next year-its too bad they didn't just film this instead of whatever nonsense they will cobble together.

Elric of Melnibone, by Michael Moorcock

I have meant to read Moorcock for years upon years, you would think I would have but no, never had until I read the Elric novella Red Pearls, last month in Swords and Dark Magic.
So I went back to start at the beginning and read the first Elric novel. I had a very hard time getting into it. The first few chapters were so much laboring and luxurious descriptions of Melnibone (Elric's kingdom) and not enough action. I was sorely tempted to put the book down numerous times, it wasn't until about chapter 4 or 5 that I really started enjoying it. The novel kept a good pace from then on and had wonderfully inventive magics and settings, BUT I still would not class Moorcock on par with so many other S&S authors. (even if Moorcock coined the term)
Because Moorcock's prose can be too much, the names are too exotic and confusing, I kept thinking he was trying too hard to be different, the unpronounceable names slowed a story that was already shuffling along.
I will still keep reading (I believe I have every Elric story in my library) but I am sure I am gonna read Howard, Leiber, Wagner and Gemmel before I get back to Moorcock.


Lagomorph Rex said...

I have to sort of agree with you on both Tros and Moorcock.

It took me an exceedingly long time to work my way through the 5 Tros books (Zebra published these, and it is to my knowledge the only way to get all of them from one publisher) I don't know why, but it was rather similar to William Morris. the stories were great but something about the writing style just made it difficult.

Moorcock, I can agree with you about it feeling sometimes as if he was trying too hard to be different. I seem to remember reading at one point that his goal was to create an 'Anti-Conan' with his Elric character.. and I'd say he did just that.

David J. West said...

Lagomorph-yeah, I felt like I should love the Tros stories but it just wasn't happening. Reading The Worm Ourobourus felt easier.
and I'm hoping Elric book 2 gets right into story rather than Moorcock's atmosphere-we'll see.

Lagomorph Rex said...

Once I got past the rather odd names, Worm Ourobourus was a snappy read. It really picked up after the invasion of Demonland.

I'm due for a re-read of the Elric books, but I do remember they do get better. I've recently bought the two White Wolf volumes of the Elric stories.. which actually place the Fortress of Pearl and Revenge of the Rose in their chronological places as well. It's a pretty nice two volume set. Certainly, to me anyway, preferable to the way the DelRey reprints have been presenting the stories.

David J. West said...

Glad to hear it Lagomorph, I may get to book 2 sooner than planned.

Paul R. McNamee said...

I have some Tros on my Kindle wishlist. I haven't read any of the stories yet.

Yes, the first Elric novel is a retrofit. As James Enge said, Elric and Moorcock are at their best with the original shorter tales where you can feel the rush of off-the-cuff creativity and the sparks flying off the page.

There are other series from him, Corum and Runestaff (Hawkmoon,) that some people enjoy more than Elric but I haven't gotten to them yet, either. I have read some of the Eternal Champion novels. The best (IMO) was 'The Silver Warriors'.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've read the Coleridge and the Moorcock. I have the Tros but have not read it yet. I've kind of figured the Tros stories would be pretty slow and heavy going. I like Moorcock's Castle Brass stories better than his Elric.

David J. West said...

Thanks Paul, I'll have to check those out.

Thanks Charles, I'll have to look for those too.

Milo James Fowler said...

Looks like there will be some new additions to my reading queue...

Anonymous said...

Had to re-follow you. Lost my followers when a blogger glitch forced me to do a new blog!

I like The Rime and also Kubla Khan. The latter, I agree, is dazzling!!
Ann Best, A Long Journey Home

David J. West said...

Very cool Milo. There is always more great stuff to read.

Hope you have it all worked out now Ann.