Thursday, October 18, 2012

Book Club: Let's Try That Again

The October discussion topic for our modest little book club was to be Janny Wurts' Curse of the Mistwraith. I say was because only one of us in attendance had completed the book -- and she was the one who had recommended it and was enjoying it for the second time. The rest of us were generally a third of the way into the book.

I have to admit, I read maybe 19% into the book and then skimmed another 10% before our session last night. I read and enjoy science fiction and fantasy, so I was well aware that fantasy novels can start out slow as the author establishes the setting and rules of magic. For some reason I found CotM more difficult than usual to engage my interest and comprehension. My personal preference would have been to become grounded with one key character before the whole cast steps on stage. I know novels are supposed to begin in the middle of the action, but there were so many characters, locations, historical events, etc., coming so fast and furious -- I felt overwhelmed. It also didn't help that by the time I settled down to read I was tired and dozing off.

However, by the time I had skimmed a third of the way into the book, I was getting into the story. The other members of our book club had similar experiences. In CofM Wurts has created a dense fantasy setting with an elaborate history and backstory. Definitely not a book for skimming, as I was attempting to do. Wurts has written the novel in a formal style with many descriptive passages -- reminiscent of Victorian novels and appropriate for the tone of the story about a long ago and far away culture. It needs to be approached at a slower pace. And it did hook most of us (one member didn't have her interest piqued and another said she must be too literal-minded to read fantasy).

So -- we've agreed to finish the book and discuss it in November.

Guess I'll go back to the beginning to refresh my memory before continuing where I left off and give the novel more attention.

We also agreed that this is not a book for an e-reader. It contains a glossary of characters and places at the back of the book and I find it a hassle to flip back and forth on my Kindle. Also, the traditional book includes a map, which is missing in our e-books. Bit of a Luddite here when it comes to literature.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

With the help of Melody Snyder of Simply Organized, we spent two days sorting through our garage. We managed to toss out and recycle quite a bit of stuff. And we discovered a lot of items we'd forgotten about, not to mention all the family mementos stashed away for decades.

My mother found the Meier & Frank gift box containing The Oregonian issue announcing the attack on Pearl Harbor. In an identical box I came across my father's letters written while in the Army. Last night I sorted them by date (1940-45) and began reading the letters.

Rather than take the chance of being drafted my father joined the Oregon National Guard (41st Infantry Division) as a band member (trombone). He'd started playing professionally in Portland, and he was a member of the popular Woody Hite Band. The Guard was stationed at Fort Lewis (Tacoma, Washington) and environs, so he could make weekend trips home when issued a pass.

So far I've read through his 1940 correspondence and I'm well into 1941. My father was not impressed with the Army and he counted down the months of his one year commitment. The infantry made a trip to California (outside San Francisco) for maneuvers and his descriptions of the mock battles are pretty funny. As they prepare for the return north the men are hearing rumors that they may not be released when their time is up.

At midnight last night I decided to go to bed -- I'd not yet come to the December 1941 correspondence.

It's interesting reading the thoughts and feelings of my 20-year-old father. He declared his mother's cooking the best in the world, teased his younger brother who was completing high school, and talked music with his father (violinist with the symphony). He asked about his high school buddies, and complained when the band unit lost several good musicians who returned to civilian life. He repeatedly asked his parents to send more stamps (note the 3 cent price) because they weren't always available at the base canteen. He sent money orders home to have most of his pay deposited in a savings account.

Reading the letters of a young man who'd rather be home playing his trombone with a jazz band and enjoying his mother's cooking is even more poignant knowing what was to come. My grandparents would soon have two sons fighting at opposite ends of the globe.