Book Notes III

Having trouble keeping up with this, need to get better about jotting down thoughts on books as I complete them, rather than trying to retroactively write notes.

  • The Knight and The Wizard by Gene Wolfe (A)
    • Two books that, like most (all?) of Wolfe’s series, are really one long novel.  Ranks among my favorites by Wolfe, below New and Short Sun series, but ahead of the Long Sun and most of the standalone books (This is all pending a re-read of the Latro series), who I consider to be the greatest science fiction author of all time, but it’s hampered by a slow start to the second book.  I didn’t hate this section, exactly, but it was definitely slow, slow, slow.  You’re just sort of waiting for something to happen for chapters on end, and then, when it does happen, the book becomes exhilarating again.  Given that it’s Wolfe, I’m sure there’s some larger narrative purpose this slowdown serves, but I couldn’t discern it. Basically, had the whole been the quality of the first book and the last half of the second, it would have been easily S-tier and maybe my second favorite by Wolfe.  As is, its full potential isn’t realized. 
  • Selected Poems and Fragments by Friedrich Hölderlin (A)
    • Quite good, though difficult at times.  Hölderlin magnificently captures a sense of the numinous, something massive and transcendent lurking beneath the surface of things.  This often gives his poems a jagged character that I’ve encountered in other, similarly metaphysical poets. An example, I believe one of his more famous poems, short enough to include here:
      • Half of Life
        The earth hangs down
        to the lake, full of yellow
        pears and wild roses.
        Lovely swans, drunk with
        kisses you dip your heads
        into the holy, sobering waters.

        But when winter comes,
        the flowers, the sunshine,
        the shadows of the earth?
        The walls stand
        speechless and cold.
        The weathervanes
        rattle in the wind.
  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (S)
    • Breathtaking, a true classic.
  • The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono (B)
    • Really just a short essay, expanded to novella length by forwards and afterwards.  An enjoyable little essay for all that, touching on something profound.  Giono’s A King Alone is a novel that I continually find my mind returning to, even though I barely noticed at the time.  This persistence is, I think, deeply meaningful, and I must return to the book soon.  If only I hadn’t misplaced my copy…
  • New Hope for the Dead by Charles Willeford (C)
    • In a previous set of book notes I wrote:
      • He’s certainly got talent, and you get the sense that he could definitely write something more gripping, though I worry that my relationship to him might ultimately be the same as to Elmore Leonard, where I read a number of his books, like a good deal of what’s in them, but am never truly captivated, always feeling like he just doesn’t quite get over the hump.
    • Well, I’m still worried.  This one was less good than Miami Blues and The Burnt Orange Heresy.  I’m not sure I’m going to continue with Willeford, though I will recommend the film adaptation of Miami Blues starring Alec Baldwin and Fred Ward, which is an entertaining and gritty, albeit fairly minor little movie. 

One response to “Book Notes III”

  1. […] Book of Knights by Yves Meynard (A) – Wolfe lists this book as an inspiration for his own Wizard Knight and uses a passage from it as the epigraph.  The connection is clear, both concern a young man […]

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