King Arthur – Freakin’ Moron, or Morte Darthur Readalong Part the Last

In the beginning I estimated 15 pages a day to finish Malory (or Maleore)’s Morte Darthur along with Jean and Cleo (http://howlingfrog.blogspot.com/2014/08/its-morte-darthur-readalong.html).   Fell a bit behind, and needed to read 20 pages a day, then 25, then 30.   It wasn’t looking good.   My fellow readalongers were full of encouragement and if not for them, I probably would have set the blasted thing aside long ago (saving dozens of hours, but I won’t think about that now, that way lies madness).   But then just when all was looking darker than dark…   a funny thing happened.   Either Malory learned to write or I lost my mind.  Not quite sure which, but once past book ten, he actually offered stories which held some interest and not just the same old fight between differently named knights I’d read a thousand times.

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First, we finally got to the tale of the Holy Grail or Sangreal as it was known.   While not the world’s most gripping story and Galahad is a bit of a stiff, but then so’s his old man, it was, finally, a story.   The fights still occur, but they’re in aid of something.   Sir Galahad, Sir Percivale, Sir Bors and Sir Lancelot (among lesser knights) all go off in search of the sangreal which is never quite explained.   It was brought into England or Logris by Joseph of Arimathea, just a few years back, and then for some reason, Solomon’s wife enters into it and makes a nice boat to transport them all.   Sir Galahad gets to know Sir Lancelot a bit, which is nice.  It’s a strange story.   Percivale’s sister joins them and then offers her blood to save some random woman who can only be saved from a dreaded curse by the blood of a young woman as pure and well-born as Percivale’s sister.   Why?   Who knows!   But we have a goal now and it’s not just a lot of knights accidentally killing their brothers because they never, not once, ask each other’s names before fighting.   The Sangreal seems to be the blood of Christ not the cup or whatever it’s in and it seems pretty clear that England has not lived up to its standards, so its going home.   Can’t blame it.   Only 3 1/2 pure knights in the whole place.   Pretty poor, really.

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But then there are still a couple hundred pages left, which surprised me.   And we learn more about Lancelot and Gwhenever.  She’s rather annoying.   He shows up disguised with another woman’s sleeve on his helmet and she’s all ‘you don’t love me any more!’   Don’t worry, Gwen, Lance is the Ice-Man.   Let’s the Lily Maid care for him as no woman has ever cared for man and then he offers her a pension.   Ouch.   Dude, she wasn’t looking for a job.   I realize he can’t love her, but it seems just cruel to let her nurse him for ages when he didn’t care two hoots for her.   But back to my earlier point, Malory is now telling stories and they’re pretty good.   And who ever guessed “The Lusty Month of May” is straight out of Malory?   But then, we get to Arthur again.   Arthur, who basically hasn’t been the center of attention for 800 pages is now back center stage.   Things are going pretty well.   Everyone’s back from the Sangreal quest who’s coming back.   He’s got the greatest bunch of knights ever.   They hangout and joust for fun.   Nothing says fun like getting knocked off your horse with a spear, apparently.   And then, trouble.   Snake in the garden Sir Agravaine and his brother Sir Mordred are thinking ‘The King should be told the Queen is sleeping with Lancelot.’   No no no, says everybody.   Things are going great.   Life is nicely balanced.   We’re all friends, let’s not rock the boat.    Not really clear what Agravaine is hoping to get out of this, but he’s set.   He’s rocking the boat.   So now Arthur’s in a bind.   They have to be caught in flagrante because essentially the law is – in cases of treason, each side calls a champion and winner is right.   A painfully stupid law, but there it is and Lancelot is top of the heap.   No one can beat him.   So, they have to be sneaky.   I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who wades through the 900 or so pages to get there, so suffice it to say Arthur and Lancelot are now on opposite sides.   Neither really wants to be, which leads to some absurd moments war-wise, but Gawaine won’t let them make up.   And here’s the thing.   Gawaine’s not king.   Arthur is supposed to be king.   But does he make any decisions for himself?   Does he think of the good of the country and put it above Gawaine’s personal vendetta?  No, he does not.    Basically, when it comes to making a decision he does whatever Gawaine wants to do.   And when that includes leaving the country, he hands the reins over to…  Mordred!    Good choice!   How many people in the country?   You could not have chosen worse, Arthur.  You are a moron.   But that was the whole problem with inherited power wasn’t it?   Nobody had to be qualified.   They just assumed somehow God or DNA was going to solve everything.   You went with your son, even if he was totally evil. It’s a mess.

Bedivere

But here’s the main point, which you probably guessed if you’ve read this far.   I finished!   w00t!    I did it!  It’s like the reading equivalent of an ultra-marathon.   1131 pages long.   Much of it extremely repetitive and yet, somehow it never stopped being compelling.   Or maybe that was not wanting to let down the other two people on the planet who’ve read the whole thing.   Really, folks, just pick up TH White.    If you do make your way through this behemoth, drop a comment.   It’s like a small, exclusive and yet pointless club we belong to.   This sucker qualified as a chunkster (should count as two chunksters!) and a Arthurian Lit challenge entry.   Sadly, it was written just a wee bit too late to be my Pre-Printing Press entry.   In fact, it was one of the first books printed in England.

All Quiet on the Western Front

I just opened this up to see how long it is and ended up reading the first chapter.   I figured from this I had a much better chance of finishing it by the end of the year than I did Guns of August, which is excellently written and all, but long.   All Quiet is all the things you probably expect it to be:  a grim story of all too brief lives in the trenches of World War I, the violence, the senselessness, the boredom, the horror, and moments of enjoyment seized when possible.   I’m not sure anything – short of sharing the experience – could paint it so vividly and while Erich Maria Remarque was writing about German soldiers, I’m sure many men on the opposite side had the same experience.   This was one of those that I’ve heard about forever and knew I should read, but really didn’t want to – and that was a mistake.   It is surprisingly engaging.  It is so easy to identify with Paul and his reactions.   Whether it’s the matter-of-factness of the style or some other factor, I don’t know, but it is clear how a generation of young men were destroyed whether or not they survived the war physically.

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These pictures are British, but otherwise, could be taken from the book.

So, I have Karen at Books and Chocolate to thank for me finally reading this and while I’m not sure that with a book like this ‘enjoy’ is the correct verb, I’m definitely glad I read it at last.   It is the second to last book for her Back to the Classics challenge and the last of the required books, so technically, I’ve completed this, but I still want to read the Historical Fiction Classic.

The Goldfinch

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Sorry for the long time between posts.   Blame it on King Arthur.   I’m quite sure it’s not MY fault.   Also my talking with my friend about the Goldfink over Thanksgiving sort of took the urge to blog out of finishing it.   What do I have to say about this?   Not much.   It’s excellent.   I’d recommend it to anyone who isn’t bothered by 1) long books, 2) lots of detail and 3) drug use.   Theo’s mother’s a wonderful character.   So is Boris.  And Hobie.  Some of Theo’s choices are hard to understand, but then I’ve never been in his situation.   It seems highly realistic.   There are people out there like all these people, with the possible exception of Theo, whose character seems at times more chosen to illustrate a point than embodying a real person, but maybe that’s just me.   As one of those points is we don’t choose who we are, and I tend to believe that’s mostly true, I can’t really argue against the philosophy of the book.

At any rate, I found it highly readable.  Never got bored in nearly 800 pages, which is saying something.  I think I will seek out her earlier works.   This fullfilled the

5. (Not So) Fresh From the Oven: Do you remember you bought/got a new released book last year but never had a chance to read it? Dig it from your pile and bring back the 2013.

from the Lucky 14 challenge.   It’s also a chunkster, if there ever was one.

Mini Minithon End – The Sadness and Birdman

Thank you, Tikabelle, for a fabulous minithon, which though I missed half of it, was still super fun and I can hardly wait until next time.   Thanks, everyone, who stopped by or who tweeted, including the guy who was just happy about his new Mini Cooper.  I will continue this mini-madness on my own for what remains of the evening as I’m really into the Goldfinch.   It was a shame I had to leave you all.

And especially a shame because I wasn’t all that keen on the movie I went to see:  Birdman.  94% on Rotten Tomatoes and I was left with a sort of, um, okay, I guess I don’t really get it feeling.  I don’t want to tell you all the end, so I can’t go into that, but I was nonplussed.   Michael Keaton plays an actor who was famous as Birdman 20 years previously who is now trying to they say resurrect his career by opening his own adaptation of Raymond Carver on Broadway.  Sorry, even if it works, that’s a really different career than playing a superhero in movie blockbusters.   All the actors are really good.  And it has a lot of good scenes, but somehow I’m not clear in the end on what any of it meant.  It’s a strange combination of realism and fantasy that may or may not be all in his head.   Different scenes seem to indicate different things.  I dunno.   Overall, I guess I’d rather have been home reading, tweeting and snarfing mini m&ms.

Anyway, back to the book.   I’m at that horrible point where I want to finish it, but have too many pages for one night.  I have little doubt I will stay up too late trying and failing to finish it.

Mini-Minithon

I even got up early to post so I would miss as little as possible.  Okay, that’s not why.  I got a phone call and it didn’t seem worth going back to bed.  But I was unable to keep this eight hour span free, so I’ll leave at some point and maybe try to make up for it afterward.  I bought a pile of mini junk food I can’t show you because my camera cable has wandered off, but it includes mini M&Ms, mini Triscuits and mini Pretzels coated in Butterfinger candy.  Who knew there was so much mini junk out there?

And for the mini-reading:

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The Goldfinch is a mini-bird.  A scarlet pimpernel is a mini-flower.  There is nothing mini about Morte.  Except perhaps the number of people who are reading it.  I’m part of a mini-readalong.   In a great burst of effort, I finished book IX, which is also the end of volume 1 and should count as a chunkster by itself, but alas, does not.  Apparently Book X is like a doorstop itself.   If I make it through that, the rest is cake.   I may need more coffee.

Rankings, Minithon and Mort Report

I was trying to figure out how to log on to my blog at another computer and a search revealed my Alexa rating – my global ranking is 22,350,244.   When I’m rich and famous, I’ll try to remember all you little people who got me there.  Up, up, up the ziggurat, lickety-split.   I have no idea if this is out of 22,350,244 sites or a billion or what.   I was just surprised to find I have a rank.  I’m also pretty sure all the people I visit and who visit me are higher up the rankings, so perhaps I should put a lid on any ‘little people’ comments.  Thank you, dear readers, both of you, for making this possible!

MiniThon No Date

Reading the Bricks is hosting a minithon for the lazy.  I am highly qualified for this mini-thon, I might even be over-qualified, but I’m hoping they won’t kick me out because of that.   This Saturday, the plan is to eat mini-foods, read mini-books, and…  well, that’s it really.   Only 8 hours instead of 24, so totally doable.

And then there’s Mort.   Ah, Mort.  I keep wanting to throw in the towel.  I was supposed to report days ago on the second section which is supposed to be books VII – X, I think.   I believe I’ve now made it to IX.   Sir Tristram turns out to be (so far, anyway) quite the jerk himself.   Telling La Beale Isoud he loved her forever, handing her to his uncle Mark, and marrying the very next Isoud he meets.   Oh, but he doesn’t consumate the marriage, so that’s supposed to somehow make it all right instead of being even jerkier, which is how I see it.   Isoud de Beaux Mains can’t have a real husband because she’s married to Tristram who only kisses her because he actually loves someone else.   How much would that suck?   I forget all the other jerky things he did.   That’s the problem with this book.   It’s sooo repetitive and sooo long that even though I read it within the last few weeks, I don’t remember what Tristram did.    I should probably write about it more often, but then, who would want to read this?   It’s just like Rimmer giving the turn-by-turn description of his game of Risk, but instead of rolling a 2 and a 6, Sir La Cote Male Taile feutres his spear and knocks someone to the ground.   I did acquire, however, the illustrations Aubrey Beardsley did for Mort in 1892 or so.   All the illustrations are by themselves in a big book.   Might have been nicer to have the illustrations with the work, but this was cheap.   It is gorgeous.   I’ve hardly looked at it, so maybe if I do that a bit more it will inspire me to carry on.   After all, I’m almost halfway through this sucker.   Surely I’ve come too far to quit now?

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A Pocket Full of Rye

Time flies when you’re not posting.   I decided to take a break from looooong books and read Agatha Christie’s Pocket Full of Rye because it begins with P like Phinnea and that’s one of my challenge items for the Lucky 14 challenge.   So I did that.   And it’s a good one.   I knew pretty early a good chunk of the solution, but can’t really take credit for this because I might have read it in my teens.   The reason I started keeping track of my reading in my teens was because I read an Agatha Christie twice and was annoyed about that.   I’m not a re-reader (or I wasn’t) and if I did, I wanted it to be on purpose.   I’d love to find that notebook again.   I’m sure it’s packed away somewhere.

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This is not the one I read, but I love this cover.

Obnoxious business man is poisoned and in his pocket is found a bunch of rye.   What can it mean?   Christie was fond of using nursery rhymes and other poetry for her work, though I don’t actually remember the others well enough to know if they formed an integral part of the mystery or not.   I’m inclined to think not.   Aside from the device of the nursery rhyme there’s nothing special about this one.  Standard Christie – small group of suspects, most with a motive, a mansion, and breakfast served in silver chafing dishes.  I think it might be Dame Agatha’s fault I want to live like that.   Anyway, good story that begins with a P.

This was my cover:

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Not bad, but why do people upload such tiny pictures?   Yes, I could take one myself, but it hardly seems worthwhile.

Idle thoughts on books and movies. Some new, but mostly old.

Idle thoughts on books and movies. Some new, but mostly old.

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