FF: Trying is Worth It!

This week, two of the novels I read tried to be more than they were – but I enjoyed them both, even though I felt there were stumbles.  I also liked how they caused me to do a lot of thinking about writing as a craft.

Book Chat, Two Cats

Book Chat, Two Cats

New to this feature?  The Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include either short fiction or magazine articles.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby.  Audiobook.  Saying this is YA fantasy is like saying a slice of bread with a slice of tomato and another of American cheese is pizza.  I understand reviewers are calling this “magical realism.”  I wouldn’t go that far, but the author did strive hard.  Definitely liked the characters.  Vivid and engaging.

Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. Sayers.  I’ve read this before, but it still hooked me in.  The murder might have been “perfect,” but the murderer could not leave well enough alone – especially after Peter Wimsey pokes his long, aristocratic nose in.

The Documents in the Case by Dorothy L. Sayers, with Robert Eustace.  This is not a Peter Wimsey novel.  It violates Show, Don’t Tell in a very interesting fashion.  If you like the idea of reading other people’s mail, you’ll like this novel.  Does a lot with how people see each other, and themselves.  Perhaps not wholly successful but, worth the attempt.  Robert Eustace provided medical and chemical background.  Very unusual that he was given cover credit!

In Progress:

The Change: Tales of Downfall and Rebirth, edited by S.M. Stirling.  Last time I did an event for this book, I was at a great disadvantage in that I’d only read my own story.  Since there’s another event this Saturday, I decided to see how much of that I could remedy.

So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane.  Audiobook.  Although this book is clearly intended for the junior high set, it doesn’t pull any punches with vocabulary or breaking the rules in world building.  If you read it wanting Harry Potter, you’re going to be disappointed.  If you read it with no expectations, there’s a lot to like.


I’m still reading Island Dreams by Gerald Hausman.  A poetry collection spanning many years and many places. It’s rich enough that I’m reading a little at a time.


8 Responses to “FF: Trying is Worth It!”

  1. Jay M. Says:

    As you knnow, I’ve been mainly reading first books in various pre-WW2 series.
    Finished: The Secret Adversary, by Agatha Christie (first Tommy and Tuppence novel)
    Currently reading: Murder at the Vicarage, by Agatha Christie (first Miss Marple novel)

    I’d read the first Poirot novel earlier. It’s interesting how Christie used different POVs for each series. Poirot is told in the Sherlock Holmes style, narrated by his sidekick. Tommy and Tuppence are told in third person limited omniscience, alternating so we can see each of their thoughts, but there are also a few other scenes which T&T can’t know about … a very movie/TV style of storytelling in a novel. Meanwhile, the Miss Marple story is told from the POV of a one-shot character. Very unusual.

    I might read the first Albert Campion novel next, or I might jump ahead a few decades to the first Inspector Morse novel, to see how it differs from the TV series.

    • janelindskold Says:

      Not all the Poroit novels are narrated by Hastings… He’s not a constant attachment.

      I really love Albert Campion. Like Peter Wimsey, he changes in the course of the series.

      Poroit and Miss Marple, both being rather elderly, do not.

      Have you read The Mysterious Mr. Quinn?

  2. Louis Robinson Says:

    My copy of Unnatural Death is a perfect example of putting too much on the cover – except, how do you know? I knew exactly what was going on about 10 pages in, because the weapon was prominently featured on the cover, thinly disguised among a few other, irrelevant, objects. But that’s because I’m in the trade, and like anyone who actually uses them professionally, I know the danger, and how to misuse it.

    The question is, how many people would that happen with? You might not think there are many – the number of people in medical & paramedical professions is limited, for example, compared to supermarket cashiers, as is the number of railway engineers & brakemen, or astronomers – but odd devices figure in a lot of books, some of them pretty popular. Somebody who just read one of them could look at your cover and go ‘Oh, no! Not another…!’

    Yet another reason covers often have only a limited connection to people, places or events in the text.

  3. Paul Dellinger Says:

    The weapon featured on the cover of “Unnatural Death” reminded me of a former mystery author whose key to the solution was what weapon was used – and the publisher put the weapon right on the cover!

  4. chadmerkley Says:

    I haven’t done much reading this last week, and no novels. I did read Rare Bird: Pursuing the Mystery of the Marbled Murrelet by Maria Mudd-Ruth, which combines, history, natural history, and personal narrative quite nicely. I now have a new favorite folk-name for a bird: fog-lark.

    I also read The Book of Hours by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Barrows and Macy. I liked a lot of the content and imagery, but I found myself getting frustrated by the translators’ notes. They did things like omit lines (or even whole stanzas), combine separate poems, change the order the poems were presented in….I totally understand that translating anything, much less poetry, can be ridiculously complex and subjective. I get that things like scansion and rhyme don’t translate well, but this came across feeling like they were editing with an agenda. I’m trying some of Edward Snow’s translations for comparison. The edition I found has both the English and the German, on facing pages, so I can get at least a sense of the original structure.

    • Jane Lindskold Says:

      The translation story IS upsetting. One thing to substitute an idiomatic expression for one that doesn’t translate, but re-write???

      • J. M. Says:

        Funny grad school story about translations:
        I was the only grad student in a mixed grad/undergrad class. The professor gave us a poem in German, a straight word for word translation of that poem, and a poetic translation. He then asked us which version we liked best.
        Most of the class chose the poetic translation.
        A few chose the prose translation.
        I was the only one who chose the original German.
        “Do you speak German?” the professor asked me.
        “No,” I said, “but I can explain. I can pronounce German, and the two translations told me what the poem meant. Only the sounds of the German version conveyed those meanings to me.”
        The professor looked at me for a second, shook his head, muttered “graduate students,” and continued with the class.

      • Jane Lindskold Says:

        I like it! I always watch anime subtitled, not dubbed, because — although I don’t speak Japanese — I get so much out of how the lines are delivered.

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