Posts Tagged ‘ book ’

Invoice the puppy!

One thing made my day today.

It wasn’t creating a PowerPoint presentation about reciprocal borrowing schemes. Honestly, if PowerPoint makes your day, you really need better days.

It wasn’t browsing the bookshops at lunch time. I really can’t afford to buy any more books at the moment, so that was actually mildly depressing.

It wasn’t the fact that I didn’t have to reconcile the stupid library till at the end of the day. That was quite pleasing, though.

It was having to withdraw two copies of popular books from library stock.

Yes, that’s right. Normally, this would be very annoying, and probably the result of extreme vandalism, or on one memorable occasion a terrible accident with a bottle of cherryade. Today, though, a student came in sheepishly with two books in terrible condition. She was most apologetic, and offered to pay for replacements. ‘You see’, she explained, ‘my new puppy got into my room and attacked my library books.’ This time, the dog came very close to eating the homework. We could even see the tooth marks.

So, no, I am not going to invoice the student for replacement copies, though I did toy with the idea of sending an invoice to the puppy. The incident brightened my day so much that I could have forgiven the young lady for any number of library sins. How often do you get to dispose of a book that has been mauled by a puppy?


My most recent read was suggested by friends from the wonderful h2g2 site and is Pilgermann by Russell Hoban, author of my favourite book, Riddley Walker.  My brain is still whirling around trying to absorb this absolutely fascinating tale – Hoban certainly doesn’t write beach reads or airport novels!

The book concerns a wandering Jew, who finds himself in Antioch during the Crusades, and is about all sorts of things.  The search for order and meaning, the nature of God, the pattern of history, the dance of death, the weaving of fate.  The title character does little of his own volition, moving through life as fate, or God, or whatever, directs.  As he does so, he gains a strange circle of friends, most of them dead, who challenge his view of himself, the world and his place in things.  In some ways nothing happens, and in some ways everything happens.  There is love, sex, war and death, but the two main characters also spend a lot of time making a large pattern of tiles.  Oddly, this tile pattern is one of the most compelling things in the book, setting the mind spinning just as it causes a change in the culture of Antioch.  Movement and stillness in one thing, an infinity captured in one place.  Be still, my shooting neurons. Continue reading

Caesar, beware the monotheistic religions of March…

I recently finished reading Roma Eterna by Robert Silverberg.  This is an alternate history, asking the question ‘what if Rome never fell?’  Or it purports to ask that question.  The real ‘what if?’ is ‘what if the Exodus never happened?’ – the main effect is that Rome doesn’t fall, and at various points during this alternate history, the theme that a monotheistic religion would be dangerous to the Roman Empire is hammered home with all the subtlety of a herd of elephants walking across bubble wrap.

It’s an absolutely fascinating concept for a book, and it contains oodles of intriguing ideas and situations, but it completely failed to grab hold of my imagination or to excite me, and I’m not entirely sure why.  In the end, the whole thing is just rather dull, falling far short of my expectations.  History is often cyclical, but the repetition of situations and stock characters throughout the ten snapshots from 1500 years of Rome’s history soon becomes tedious.  Ooh, look, here’s another supposedly idle prince who reveals greater depth to his character.  And heavens, is there an old retainer who thinks that Rome is slipping into decadence?  Why, yes, there is!  Yawn.  Civil war, assassination, conquest and romance all blend into an insipid, unsatisfying soup of unfulfilled potential.

I like alternate histories.  Fatherland is a particularly fine example.  And I often like stories based in Rome.  But this just bored me.  Too many ideas and too little execution.  I think the problem is that the author got ever so excited thinking ‘ooh, ooh, ooh, wouldn’t it be exciting if the Romans had trouble conquering the New World’ and forgot to put any excitement in.  Ah, well, never mind.  Hopefully, my next read will redress the balance and exceed expectations.  Fingers crossed…

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