Friday, January 30, 2015


edited by Gerry Conway

I used to read more of this stuff in my youth--essays on popular culture, analyzing or speculating on the movies, comics or TV series of the day. But slowly I graduated to essays analyzing or speculating on the real world--religion, history, politics, sociology. Last week, I was over at the Bellevue library. My daughter wanted to borrow a few books that the had on their shelves.* I took the opportunity to raid their graphic novels and grab some brain candy. Amongst the other books on 741 shelves was this tome, a collection of essays on Spider-Man. Reading it gave me a flash of nostalgia. I didn't savor them like I used to do with those old articles on Star Trek or The Legion of Super-Heroes. But then, I think that's more to do with my current tastes than the quality of Webslinger's contents. Some of the essays were entertaining, some were meh. In the end, I was left with a desire to grab some Spider-Man comics off the shelf. The problem is, I'm in the middle of reading all my Avengers issues. So many comics, so little time...
*as Seattle residents, we can get a library card and borrow books from the King County Library System, but we can't place holds or get them delivered to the branch of our choice.

Amazing waiting room material
LibraryThing link


Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Passage to India

by E.M. Forster

 Set in the 1920s, A Passage to India is a tale of conflict between native Indian and the ruling British people. Having lived overseas, the book struck a cord in me. I certainly sympathized with the Indian nationals, but I realized that as an expatriate I was akin to the British. I hope I was never as big an asshole as the lot in Passage, but I probably had plenty of times when I failed to be a good guest. Quite an uncomfortable thought, that.

 One thing that struck me while reading the book was the lack of religion or at least Christian virtues amongst the British. In my own experience overseas, or even hobnobbing with former ex-pats, is that the "missionary" element is part of the culture. My wife cites the antipathy between the British East India Company and missionaries as a possible reason for the culture in Passage. That's possible. Or maybe it's that the colonial era of the 1920s is quite different from the globalization era of the 21st century. Or maybe I just need to broaden my social circles. Who knows? Anyway, I can't say I liked the book, but I wouldn't say it's not worth checking out.

LibraryThing link


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Hornblower and the “Hotspur”

by C. S. Forester

Chronologically, this is the fourth book in Hornblower series, telling the tale of Horatio Hornblower's command of the Sloop-of-war HMS Hotspur. He spends over two years on this tour of duty--dealing with espionage, politics, bad weather, homesickness, and, once or twice, actual war. ... That didn't sound too exciting, did it? Well, that was my writing. Mr. Forester made it all quite interesting. It was very easy to put my feet up and lose myself in Hornblower's world of 1803.

As I enjoyed the book, I occasionally mused over Star Trek. As I mentioned before, I've read that Horatio Hornblower was part of the inspiration for Captain Kirk. I think one reason I'd rather pick up this novel rather than one of the multitude of Trek novels out there is that Hotspur shows the challenges of not only fighting a war but the regular hardships of keeping a warship afloat and functioning. It's a depth of setting and character that you don't get in lesser works. Anyway, that's why Hornblower and the “Hotspur” goes on my shelf, and will undoubtedly be followed by the other books in the series.

LibraryThing link

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Friday, January 09, 2015

Lord of the Flies

by William Golding

If I organized books by genre, I think I'd place this one with the horror books. There's nothing supernatural about it, but it creeps me out just the same. Lord of the Flies is a tale about a group of British school boys who survive a plane crash on a deserted island. Whatever adults there were on the plane died. The oldest kids take charge after a fashion, the leader being a boy named Ralph. At first it's kind of cute--even the elder kids are obviously children and it's amusing to see them try and establish a bit of order. But even at this stage in the book there's an aura of death. It's mentioned that the whole reason for the flight was to evacuate the children from a nuclear strike. And while at the start there's no explicit death scenes, it's pretty well established that some of the kids didn't survive the first night on the island. As time passes, the little society falls apart and the infant evil within the kids blossoms into full blown murder. It's a depressing little tale. But also so well written that I had no problem picturing the setting and the characters. I'm definitely glad I checked it out.

LibraryThing link


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