Sunday Sum-Up: May 2, 2021

It was a laid back week around here. Things got done! Rooms were cleaned! Shelves were built! Many other useful things were accomplished! And that’s really all I have to report about the week. Just a lot of things getting done, but none of them were noteworthy on their own.

Obligatory Mina Photo:

One of the unremarkable things I did this week was to take the recycling out. It lives in a series of bags in the bottom bathroom cabinet, and when the bags are empty Mina likes to worm her little way into the cabinets and shuffle the bags around until she is either sitting behind them or has pushed one of them out of the cabinet and knocked it over so she can hide in it. I have no idea why she does this, but she is insistent about it– to the point that if I don’t want her in there I have to close the bathroom door completely so she can’t even get in there.

She has places to hide already: the soft-sided cathouse, her carrier, under the bed, under the couch, in the laundry basket… But she wants to hide in the recycling cabinet.

Also, I’m starting to clear old stuff out of my apartment so I bought myself a new set of low shelves. They’re not full yet, and I don’t anticipate their being full any time soon. As a result, Mina is convinced that I bought them specifically for her, as she has plenty of space to stretch out and nap.

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

Njal’s Saga was surprisingly litigious. Or perhaps not? It documents the troubles between several families during the years when Iceland was changing from a pagan country to a Christian one, as well as transforming from a warrior society of kings to one of farmers and democratic laws. It’s remarkable, really, that in a feudal era like that of the mid-Medieval Age, that a bunch of raiders, shepherds, and farmers who didn’t like how kings were ruling in Scandinavia headed out to Iceland and… founded a democracy? Seriously. The first meeting of the Icelandic parliament, the Althing, met in 930 CE. But it’s not like these transitions happened overnight and without their own problems, as the core of Njal’s Saga is showing how these laws and customs ultimately brought about the death of the best man in Iceland. Definitely a must-read if you’re interested in Icelandic sagas or history.

Axiom’s End is an alternate history of the 21st century, in which extraterrestrial lifeforms have been on Earth for decades and the American government knows about it and has hidden this fact from the world. But the secret is out now thanks to the actions of Nils Ortega, a world-famous conspiracy theorist. His daughter, Cora Sabino, is just trying to get through the days, but Nils’s actions combined with a new alien’s appearance put Cora right in the middle of everything, much to her terror and chagrin. This was Lindsay Ellis’s debut novel, and it definitely reads like it, though that didn’t put me off the story. There came a point about a third of the way through when pieces started coming together and I just wanted to keep reading. As a first contact story, it’s not particularly groundbreaking, but it does have some interesting things to say about language and communication.

Word by Word is a hilarious book about dictionaries, how they’re made, the effort that goes into them, and what they really are, as opposed to what people thing they’re for. The dictionary is not a document meant the enshrine and freeze the English language into a proper shape. It documents the words we use and how they change, evolve, or are invented over time. Stamper talks about how she got her start at Merriam-Webster, how she ended up in the midst of a controversy over the definition of ‘marriage’. If you have an interest in this wild thing we know as the English language, give Word by Word a shot. It’s fantastic.

What I’m Currently Reading:

I came across Dragon Sword and Wind Child while I was searching for fantasy in translation, and my library had a copy available. I’m about a third of the way through and enjoying it so far, though I can’t tell what audience it’s meant for– youth or adults. Is it the translation, which feels a bit simplistic, or is that how the story is? I have no idea, as I’m not going to be able to read the original any time soon.

I read The Lost Road and Other Writings years ago (or at least parts of it), but I didn’t remember very much about it, so it’s nice to have a refresher. The Lost Road is the story Tolkien began after he and C.S. Lewis decided to write about science fiction topics. Lewis would write about space travel (which resulted in his novel, Out of the Silent Planet) and Tolkien would write about time travel. The Lost Road as it stands in this collection is unfinished and extremely rough, and it’s difficult to see the shape of the story or what Tolkien had planned for it. Still, it’s fascinating to see how, in spite of the subject he was writing about, he always circled back to both language and his Legendarium.

What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:

The Kingdoms is the next ARC for me to review. It’s out on May 25, so the sooner I get to it the better.

I pre-ordered Fugitive Telemetry a few months ago. It came out last Tuesday, but had a circuitous route here, according to the tracking information. Apparently it arrived here from Kansas City, spent a few hours at the post office in town, and then headed back to Kansas City for the night before arriving at my mailbox the next day. It’s a novella, rather than a full novel like Network Effect was, but that’s okay. I’m sure I will love it, too.

6 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: May 2, 2021

  1. Word by Word sounds fascinating. How was the narration of the audiobook? And I still can’t wait to start reading The History of Middle-earth books. I didn’t realize Tolkien had tried his hand at science fiction.

  2. The narration was great! Stamper did a great job, and it was good to hear the parts where she intended them to be funny. I think another narrator would have taken certain parts more seriously, and the effect would have fallen flat. Definitely give Word by Word a try if you’re interested in language.

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