Another week has come and gone, and it was mostly a lovely week– weatherwise, anyway. Work was pretty crazy thanks to all the things going on around town (I mean, it’s October. It’s about the only month with reliably nice weather, so everyone is doing All The Things), but I think it will get a little steadier through the end of the year instead of being absolutely nuts for a few hours each day.
I went out for a lovely walk instead of going over to some friends’ house for dinner on my day off. I was lucky with the weather- there were some fantastic clouds and great light, so I had a great time wandering out the park, even when I was in the midst of grass and reeds taller than I am.
I took a couple of other photos while out on walks, though I only had my phone with me, so the photos aren’t as nice as the ones I took with my big camera:
Obligatory Mina Photo:
Mina had to go to the vet this week. She’s fine, she just needed her yearly vaccinations, but she was definitely not happy to get in the car and go to the veterinarian. That said, she was very well-behaved and was mostly calm– even when the vet was examining her teeth and eyes. She got her shot and a clean bill of health, and we were home within an hour.
Once we got home, though, she walked around the house for while sniffing everything like she was worried that we had come back to a different place. She did this for about half an hour before she was satisfied that she really was at home, ate her treats, and settled down for a nap. After a few hours, she seemed to have forgotten our trip to the vet altogether. Hopefully, we won’t have to go back there for another year.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- A Wizard of Earthsea (The Books of Earthsea #1) by Ursula K LeGuin, audiobook narrated by Rob Inglis
- Thirteen Storeys by Jonathan Sims
- The Tempest by William Shakespeare
- Macbeth by William Shakespeare
- There Are Places in the World Where Rules Are Less Important Than Kindness: And Other Thoughts on Physics, Philosophy, and the World by Carlo Rovelli, audiobook narrated by Landon Woodson
I finished A Wizard of Earthsea last Sunday, and it was as thoughtful and insightful as I remember it being. Ursula K. LeGuin was so good at examining human nature and writing about it so clearly and with such gentleness- even when Ged is at his lowest or worst points, she and the other characters never condemn him (or the characters who goad him) for being fallible. And Le Guin’s prose is so clean and clear, it’s just a joy to read. I’ve already downloaded the next book of the Earthsea cycle, The Tombs of Atuan, and I’m looking forward to getting to it.
I finally finished Thirteen Storeys by Jonathan Sims. For me, it was kind of a slow read thanks to its structure. It’s about thirteen different people who live in the same apartment building in London. Some of them live on the wealthy, privileged side, while others live on the cheap side of the building and are struggling to make it for one reason or another. What they all have in common is that they’ve had some sort of supernatural experience in the building, and so were invited to a dinner party hosted by the billionaire living in the penthouse apartment. I found this book slow because the first thirteen chapters detail the stories of each of the people invited. As I’m generally not a fan of short stories, it was hard for me to get into each of them, even though I could tell that it had a similar structure to one of Sims’s other projects, the podcast The Magnus Archives. Both tell interconnected stories that appear to be independent of each other, but are connected by a greater metaplot that ties together all the different elements. Overall, I thought Thirteen Storeys was just okay for two reasons 1) I’m not a fan of short stories in general, and 2) when the dinner party actually happens, the POV shifts from one character to the next very quickly, and while the shifts are made clear, it’s still hard to keep track of whose perspective is who. I am glad I read this one, as I want to support Sims, but I think that The Magnus Archives is a better example of Sim’s writing abilities.
While the second half of my workweek was incredibly busy, the first half of it was pretty quiet so I ended up downloading a couple of Shakespearean plays to read during the slow hours. The first one was The Tempest, which is one of my favorite plays to watch simply because of how it can be presented as either high comedy or high drama, depending on the director’s vision. My favorite version is Julie Taymor’s film adaptation which stars Helen Mirren as a gender-swapped Prospera. It’s interesting to see how the parent/child dynamics change when you have a woman in the lead role (as Prospera) instead of a man in the lead role (as Prospero). Though, I’ve seen a college production’s gender-swapped version of The Tempest, that had mothers Prospera and Alonsa (instead of fathers Prospero and Alonso). Save for the actor playing Caliban, it felt less like an investigation of gender roles in Shakespearean stories, and more like they hadn’t had enough people show up for auditions, so cast whoever happened to walk by. Still, I enjoyed rereading The Tempest, and I’ll probably rewatch Taymor’s film adaptation one of these days.
The other Shakesperean play I read was Macbeth because it felt like it fit right in with spooky season thanks to the witches and elements of prophecy. We read Macbeth my senior year of high school, but that’s been a while ago, and I’ve only seen a few productions of the play since then. All those adaptations cut out Hecate’s role, which is a little sad, as it makes this a more compellingly pagan story. But I understand why, as most people are more interested in what Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are up to, and what schemes they’re scheming. My favorite film adaptation of this play is Justin Kurzel’s version starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. It was filmed in Scotland, and has the most interesting version of the witches I’ve ever seen. Instead of casting elderly women and making them as ugly as possible, Kurzel hired three generations of younger women (a child, an older teen, and a more middle-aged woman) to play the witches, which I think does a better job of showcasing the maiden/matron/crone aspects of various Celtic mother goddesses. Kurzel’s staging of the battles, the locations, and the quiet-yet-intense acting (and the music and cinematography) are all fantastic and make it one of my favorite Shakespearean films of all. I will definitely be rewatching this soon- probably this week.
Part of the reason I reread the plays was because I want to try to read Shakespeare’s complete works by the end of 2023. I sat down and wrote down all the plays I’ve already seen or read (eleven, I think), plus the sonnets. Shakespeare has thirty-seven plays and a bunch of poetry, so I have a bit of a start, but there’s still a lot of work to do. I plan to mine my local library system for productions of the plays, as rereading The Tempest and Macbeth reminded me that it’s a much richer experience to watch the plays rather than read them. So there will be some movie watching in my future.
There are Places in the World Where Rules are Less Important than Kindness is a collection of Carlo Rovelli’s articles and essays he wrote for various publications between about 2008 and 2020. They deal with a variety of subjects but are generally linked by their point of view that science and philosophy are intrinsically linked, and it’s a good idea to look at perspectives from the past because those perspectives can tell you a lot about the modern world. There is a lot of optimism in it, too, as Rovelli points out more than once that human nature, at its core, is generally good and caring. If our needs are met and we’re not being manipulated by political forces pushing us to do terrible things, then most of us are happy to coexist in peace with our neighbors. While I wasn’t a fan of the narrator (he did a perfectly adequate job, I just didn’t care for the timbre of his voice), I always enjoy seeing Rovelli’s perspective on things. He always makes me think and look at the world just a little bit differently.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (347/1216)
- Ordinary Monsters (The Talents Trilogy #1) by J.M. Miro (88/672)
We’ve reached Lothlorien in my reread of The Lord of the Rings. I rarely annotate my books, so this project of annotating for a friend has been an interesting story and it’s showing me just how much I already know about the book and the writing of it, and also what things I don’t know about it. It also showed me that I know more than I thought I knew about medieval English history, which was the foundation Tolkien build Middle-earth upon. I don’t think I’ll start annotating more books, but I’m looking forward to making more notes in The Lord of the Rings– especially now that I have Galadriel’s chapters coming up. It’s been fascinating seeing the parallels between this book and the show The Rings of Power. It’s making me look back on the show with even more fondness. I’ll probably start my first full rewatch later today.
Ordinary Monsters is about two children– Marlowe and Charlie Ovid– who have strange powers. Marlowe’s skin glows, and if his emotions are heightened, strange things happen around him. Charlie has lived a horrendously rough life, but his skin has no scars, as he heals from any injury inflicted upon him. They both live in untenable situations until two detectives show up to escort them to a special school in England where other children with strange Talents live. Neither Marlowe or Charlie realize it, but they are being hunted by a mysterious figure made of smoke. I haven’t gotten very far into this one, but I am thoroughly enjoying it. The writing, the atmosphere, and the characters are all so compelling, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of it. I’m always drawn to historical fantasy novels set in Victorian England, and so far, this has been one of the better ones I’ve encountered.
What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:
- The Tombs of Atuan (The Books of Earthsea #2) by Ursula K. LeGuin
- The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher
The Tombs of Atuan is the second of the Earthsea books. I have the audiobook, which I think is narrated by Rob Inglis, who narrated the first book, A Wizard of Earthsea, as well as the first audiobook of The Lord of the Rings. I’m looking forward to this one, as I think I’ve only read it once– when I was twelve or thirteen. I have vague memories of it, so there is a lot that will feel very new to me.
I have no idea what The Hollow Places is about, but I liked the books I’ve read by T. Kingfisher, and I’ve heard good things about her horror novels, so I’m looking forward to this one, too. Hopefully, work will be calm enough that I will have proper reading time over my lunch hours.