bunn: (George Smiley)
I haven't finished reading this yet, but I already know it's going to be the kind of book where I just want to read out random passages to strangers, so here is a bit I liked:

"To the lawyer, truth is facts unadorned. Whether such facts are ever findable is another matter.  To the creative writer, fact is raw material, not his taskmaster but his instrument, and his job is to make it sing... Was there ever such a thing as pure memory?  I doubt it.  Even when we convince ourselves that we're being dispassionate, sticking to the bare facts with no self-serving decorations or omissions, pure memory remains as elusive as a bar of wet soap."

This is so true.  I don't remember actual stuff that happened.  I only remember the story I told myself about it afterwards.  It's a way better story, anyway. Internally consistent, people have motivations that make sense, it's just so much better than the primary world.

The first chapter is titled "Don't Be Beastly To Your Secret Service"  and is mostly about people working for MI5 and MI6 ranting at spy-thriller writers.  It amused me enormously, and here is a randomly selected line, about his experience at MI5:

"Spying on a decaying British Communist party twenty-five thousand strong that had to be held together by MI5 informants did not meet my aspirations."

Or, on British Intelligence in general "I would guess there is not a spy agency anywhere in the Western world that has enjoyed more mollycoddling from its domestic media than ours. Embedded scarcely covers it. Our systems of censorship, whether voluntary or imposed by vague and draconian legislation, our skills in artful befriending, and the British public's collective submission to wholesale surveillance of dubious legality are the envy of every spook in the free and unfree world."

He contradicts himself a bit, but I find him too hilarious to care.

Oh drat, some LJ change has disabled my 'all power corrupts but we need electricity' tag for being too long.  ALAS.
bunn: (dog knotwork)
I was just reading this interesting blog about possible origins of the place name Teversham, and came across this quote from Eilert Ekwall:

Old English tīefran ['to paint'] corresponds to German zauburn, Dutch tooveren 'to practice sorcery', and Old English tēafor 'red pigment' to Old High German zoubar, Old Frisian tāver, Old Norse taufr, 'sorcery'.

I had come across the idea that pagan Saxon magic involved singing before, but this was the first time I'd come across the idea of sorcerous Saxon painting.  

I was reminded of the magical painting in Over Sea, Under Stone: "He has painted his spells!"    Now I want to use this idea in a story.
bunn: (Bungles)
I can only assume that all the people voting for Brienne and Jaime to win in a battle against Sabriel and Mogget, have only read A Song of Ice and Fire, but not the Abhorsen series, and don't really understand what they are up against.


Sabriel is way more resourceful than either Jaime or Brienne, and has powers they don't.  But Mogget is essentially a Vala.  Actually, it occurs to me that Mogget is more or less Morgoth.  Morgoth, if someone had turned him into an adorable cat at an early stage in his career.

And Jaime Lannister?  You are not Fingolfin.  You aren't even Boromir.  If someone dumped you into either the Old Kingdom or Middle Earth, I'm pretty sure you'd be crying to go home within a week.

Brienne could probably make a go of it in Middle Earth, or indeed the Old Kingdom, but she's no match for Mogget!Morgoth. 
bunn: (Brythen)
It stopped raining!  Well, not entirely, but at least enough to remind us what sun and blue skies look like.
The river Lynher was very full and cold and clear and fierce, but it was inside its banks, which it was not last time we came this way.  I wished I'd brought the real camera, but I didn't, so I just took a few phonephotos.
Read more... )
Someone mentioned when I posted about reading 'Farthing' by Jo Walton that it was written as a response to the worldbuilding of Josephine Tey.  I'd only read 'The Daughter of Time', which is the one that tries to rehabilitate the reputation of Richard III.  So I read 'The Francise Affair' and 'The Singing Sands'. 'Farthing' makes so much more sense read as Tey fanfic than it does as stand-alone. 
bunn: (dog knotwork)
This book came with a recommendation by Ursula Le Guin on the cover  "If Le Carré scares you, read Jo Walton"  it said.    So, here is a quote from one of my very favouritist authors, referencing one of my other very favouritist authors?  Ooo!

Not that simple, alas. )


Jul. 31st, 2015 05:55 pm
bunn: (Trust me)
I went to a school with a house system.  The houses were given attributes that now seem very familiar from Harry Potter.

We had a brainy Ravenclaw-equivalent, and a rather foolish bumbling Hufflepuff-equivalent (nobody wanted to be in the Hufflepuff-equivalent!) and two other houses.  With the benefit of hindsight, I can now see that both of the remaining two houses *thought* that they were the Griffindor-equivalent, and considered the other one to be the Slytherin-equivalent.

The similarities were clear enough that when I first read Harry Potter I actually wondered if Rowling at been at my school, but no. So now I suspect these characteristics of being widespread among school houses, at least in the 1980s.
bunn: (Smaug)
I found this, with a little irony, in one of my email inboxes this morning : Why can't we read any more?

It doesn't say anything new, of course, but it encapsulates a problem I've had, and so have you probably.  Email. Usenet. Web based forums. Lj.  Twitter. Facebook.   I have got  a great deal out of all of it, of course, and have learned a great deal.  But I have also spent way too much of my time sucked into things that don't matter, getting cross about things I can't change and focussing on things that don't leave me feeling I've achieved much.

The only thing I can't agree with in that blog is that it presents books as an alternative to this, and I don't honestly think they are.  Books for me are subject to exactly the same addictive behaviour.  I can remember my parents in the 70's talking about the guilty pleasure of 'committing book' - ie getting sunk into a book when you should really be getting on with something else.Read more... )


Feb. 3rd, 2015 09:44 pm
bunn: (dog knotwork)
I've been reading Mary Renault's Alexander series - Fire From Heaven, The Persian Boy and Funeral Games.

Read more... )

Verw nadan

Oct. 26th, 2014 03:12 pm
bunn: (Smaug)
I was re-reading The Other Wind yesterday.  In The Other Wind, it is revealed that long ago the people of Earthsea made an agreement, the Verw nadan, that they would divide into two peoples based on a choice.

Some of the people chose to keep the power to make new things and build wealth.  They renounced the Old Speech, the Langage of the Making and of magic, in which the true names of all things are made, and they gave up the power to fly on the wind, travel far and live long lives as dragons.  Those were the humans.

The other people, kept the ability to be dragons and speak the Old Speech, and to keep these things, they gave up the ability to make things and stories.

Now I am wondering which I would pick.
bunn: (Dark Ages)
In which I witter on at considerable and probably tedious length about two books that I read, and my uninformed and confused ideas that those books sparked off each other in my head.

My Place by Sally MorganContains some spoilers for 'My Place' )

Gaudy Night - Dorothy L Sayers

brief details, no spoilers )
Apparently I still find the twentieth century an odd place )
bunn: (Berries)
I have picked a big bag of crab apples, and a smaller bag of rowan berries, and am making rowan jelly.  There are still a lot of crab apples left, so I think I may pick some blackberries (it's such a good blackberry year!) and make some blackberry jelly too.  I wonder if you can embalm whole figs in jelly?  I have got so many ripe figs, I am running out of things to do with them!  The heatwave may be over, but the skies are still blue enough and the sun warm enough to ripen figs on a south-facing wall.

It's the time of year when I find myself constantly stopping to snack on blackberries and hazelnuts from the hedges.  There are so many nuts that there are enough for the squirrels and plenty to spare for me.

Which reminds me of a book I read recently: "Witch Light" by Susan Fletcher.

Read more... )

I meant to pick the nuts in the garden today, and then cut back the nuttrees, but instead I have cut back the big sycamore near the window, which was leaning out perilously over the lane and (I suspect) annoying the neighbours who have to get past it.
bunn: (Az & Pony)
I have finally managed to find a copy of Sutcliff's "The Rider of the White Horse" about Thomas Fairfax (a man who I am delighted to discover, is also called Black Tom. I bet Sutcliff will give him a dog. Black Tom's Dog! For £2.50! There are second hand copies floating around still but most of them seem to be at least twenty quid and often much more. 2.50 is the bargain of the year!

Now I need to make time to read it...

In other news, because people keep emailling to ask if we have been overtaken by 'a great dark wave climbing over the green lands and above the hills, and coming on, darkness inescapable', no, thankfully we haven't. We are a long way above sealevel, fortunately - if waves are crashing on the shoulders of Hingston Down, then I'm afraid most of the rest of you will already be fishfood. It's even sunny at the moment although there's another storm on the way, so fingers crossed for the poor souls down on the coast.
bunn: (dog knotwork)
Hey, it's Wednesday, and it's actually occurred to me to post about what I'm reading!  I keep seeing other peoples 'what I'm reading' posts on Thurs, and thinking vaguely 'maybe I'll do that next week'. And apparently, this is that week.

What I have just finished reading: The King's Peace by Jo Walton.  Dark Age Arthuriana set in a mildly alternate universe, told from the point of view of Arthur (Urdo)'s war leader, a woman called Sulien,    Fabulous world building, with a lovely epic Irish feel in places and in others, a little End of the Empire Sutcliff.  Sometimes a little confusing - there's a huge cast of characters, some of them pretty minor, and some who are mentioned in half a sentence towards the end of the book after having died years earlier.   There are definitely some places where the story could have used a little revision to make it clearer who is speaking, or remind the reader which character is which.   The format of the book is, similarly to Sword at Sunset, a telling by the elderly hero reporting on the events of her past life, and I don't think Walton slips from future to past as effortlessly as Sutcliff.

But on the whole:  a compelling retelling, and I shall read the next one.

What I'm reading now: Mist over Pendle by Robert Neill.  It's 1611, and Margery Whitaker, youngest daughter of a family of relentlessly joyless Puritans, has been sent off to live with a remote (but rich) cousin, because she has a disgraceful tendency to crinkle her forehead enticingly at young gentlemen.   I am not sure where this is going, but it seems very readable so far.
bunn: (George Smiley)
I recently read "The Lost Prince" by Frances Hodgson Burnett (yes, the 'Secret Garden' lady) at the recommendation of [livejournal.com profile] sineala.  It's a flawed book in some ways (let us just say that the Lost Prince takes a ridiculously long time to figure out that he is, in fact, in a book called 'the Lost Prince') but it also has a lot of charm.  One of its great points is its setting in a sort of alternative early twentieth century Europe, in which there are political tensions, and an extra country called Samavia - but no First World War.

The book was published in 1915, but I would really love to know *when* in 1915, and whether it was written before the declaration of war, or during the early months, or...  what.

I have this great desire to find out: is FHB deliberately writing the War out of her version of history, or did she think it was a minor scuffle that would be over by Christmas, or did she just not see it coming?

Anyone with any ideas where to look to discover this?

(If anyone wants to read it, it's free on Gutenberg but the Gutenberg record doesn't contain the covers or endpapers and things that might give a hint in a paper copy, so no clues there.)

Edited because this absolutely has to have my George Smiley icon, because Smiley taught me about Estonia and Latvia and Lithuania, back in the days of the Cold War, when those little lands were lost, as far as we knew then, forever disappeared, along with so many of their population, into the Soviet Union.  Even now, those names have a strange magic for me, because I met them first as Lost Lands of desperate memory, and now they are real again. 

Some books

Sep. 29th, 2013 10:31 pm
bunn: (dog knotwork)
A Bloody Field By Shrewsbury - Edith Pargeter : a deeply unfair and biased review by [livejournal.com profile] bunn.
Read more... )
Our Game - John le Carré
This is another of le Carré's books about belief, which I think in the end is what his Smiley books were about too...Read more... )

Wine of Angels - Phil Rickman
Read more... )

The Lost Prince - Frances Hodgson Burnett
Read more... )

Currently reading: Fire & Sword by Louise Turner, aka [livejournal.com profile] endlessrarities :-)
bunn: (Dark Ages)
I have just realised that although I have read innumerable descriptions of situations where an isolated fort or outpost is assaulted by a wild tribal onslaught, I don't think I have *ever* read a description of a wild tribal onslaught from the point of view of the onslaughters, rather than the onslaughtees.

During that bit where the people inside the fort are biting their nails, patching things up, putting out fires, eating emergency rations and trying to snatch some sleep etc - what are the assailants *doing*? Touching up their war-paint? Barbecues...? Are they napping too, or are they formulating some complex and carefully-planned strategy that comes over to the onslaughtees as 'suddenly there were attackers everywhere'?
bunn: (Logres)
I re-read Susan Cooper's Over Sea Under Stone, and Greenwitch, since it was summer, and the season seemed right - and then it occurred to me that I'd never visited Mevagissey (the village that Trewissick is based on).  So we resolved to go and do that.   It's only about 40 miles to Mevagissey, but the roads are narrow, winding and busy at this time of year.   So rather than going all the way there by car, we decided to go to Fowey, and take the ferry the rest of the way.

We got to Fowey a bit early for the ferry, so had to hang about a bit admiring the view.  We had not actually come to admire Fowey, but since we were there... FoweyRead more... )
bunn: (dog knotwork)
I kept seeing people recommending this Second World War novel, about a British agent (Scottish!) and her English pilot in occupied France. Eventually, I buckled to the power of suggestion and came by a copy. Then it sat on my 'to read' shelf for ages without quite managing to pull me in. Yesterday, I finally got around to it - and got sucked in with a sort of loud SCHLOOP noise like something going horribly wrong with plumbing. I read the whole thing pretty much at one sitting.

The premise is that it's 1943, and the agent, Queenie, has been captured. The Gestapo have been torturing her (rather more torture description than I prefer to read in general, but I never felt that it tipped over into being gratuitous or self-indulgent) - and she's writing down everything she knows about the British War Effort.

For some reason, she is writing it in the form of a story told from the point of view of the female pilot who flew her to France. Queenie is an aristocratic scion of an old Scottish family, the pilot is heir to modest wealth from the new motor cycle industry, and the story is really about how they have become friends.

Seriously, read this bit only if you have already read the book. It's a really good and enjoyable book but if you read this first it will spoil it. )
It was a bloody good book though.
bunn: (dog knotwork)
This is a fat book (well, a fat book containing two thinner books) telling the story of a man who wakes up with a head injury after a battle, and finds he can't remember anything since his childhood.

He starts to explore his world, and we discover that he is in classical Greece, and that not only has he forgotten everything, but that the forgetfulness is ongoing: he can only remember one day into the past, and everything else is lost in the mist.   People call him 'Latro' so he assumes that is his name, although eventually we find out that this means 'soldier' or 'mercenary' and that his actual name is Lucius.  Oh, and he can see gods, fauns, ghosts and centaurs, and his touch allows other people to see them too.   The entire book is written as Latro's own notes to himself.  In an attempt to keep track of what is going on around him, he keeps a diary, but as time goes on, he finds that he is not able to read the entire book, or even part of it, every day, which can lead to misunderstandings.

It's an intriguing premise, but makes for a strangely unstructured book.   It made me realise that a lot of the time when I am reading a book, I tend to wander along behind the protagonist admiring the scenery.  I assume that the protagonist is keeping track of the plot.  Should I forget the details of that crucial conversation in Chapter Three, the protagonist will probably know what's going on and I can work it out from his/her reaction.    Latro can't do that : he has no idea what's going on most of the time, and just to confuse matters further, he translates most of the place names into English - so Athens becomes Thought, for example.  I don't think I really have the classical background to appreciate this, although I suspect there are in-jokes and clever references that I missed.    I found myself almost wanting to make notes as I went along. Many of the plot threads don't really resolve, they just wander off.    Beautifully written though, and Latro is a likeable if somewhat puzzled man.

One thing I liked was that on the whole, everyone is very nice to Latro.    Bad things do happen, but there seems to be a general feeling that Latro is a favorite of the gods, and as a result he is taken advantage of much less than one might expect.
bunn: (George Smiley)
A tenet of my belief is that there is no situation which cannot be interpreted in or illuminated by the light of
1) Le Guin
2) Le Carré
3) Scott Adam's Dilbert cartoons
4) and occasionally Tolkien.

It's a somewhat eclectic set of reference works for life, I am aware...

On this occasion, I am reminded of this useful scene from Le Carré's 'Call for the Dead'. )


bunn: (Default)

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