Showing posts with label Book recommendations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Book recommendations. Show all posts

Friday, January 11, 2013

Great Rainy Day Books: "Beowulf"

If you're like me you don't read enough poetry. You think you can live without it and then you fall in love or you get married or somebody dies and suddenly nothing else will do. Why wait for a life-changing event to turn to poetry? Start with this smash hit from the tenth century.

Ezra Pound: “Literature is news that stays news.” 

from page 15:

"These were hard times, heart breaking
 for the prince of the Shieldings; powerful counselors, 
the highest in the land, would lend advice,
plotting how best the bold defenders
 might resist and beat off sudden attacks. 
Sometimes at pagan shrines they vowed
 offerings to idols, swore oaths
 that the killer of souls might come to their aid
 and save the people. That was their way, 
their heathenish hope; deep in their hearts 
they remembered hell."

Sound familiar? The original Old English (included on facing pages) is so distant that Seamus Heaney had to almost rewrite the poem based on the original. Poetry translators know the problem well: as the linguistic gap widens, say, Japanese or Finnish to English, the roles of translator and poet begin to merge. Here the result should be good for another thousand years at which point somebody will have to translate Beowulf again. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Great Rainy Day Books: "Over the Edge of the World"

We've had many days (weeks?) of rain with more to come, a reminder that Humboldt County is in the SW shadow of the great NW rain forest that stretches up to Alaska. Sure, you can ride anyway in a driving rain. Let me know how it goes.

As Albert Einstein famously pointed out, cycling concentrates the mind. But that doesn't mean you're stuck thinking about one thing at a time. The last thing you want to do is "be here now" on a bike ride. Say you're on a bluff with a panoramic view of the Pacific. What better place to listen to "Coltrane Live at the Village Vanguard" on your iPhone--or in your head. Better yet, when you're coming off a long rainy spell, you may have read a truly great book that you can savor on a bike ride. If not let me suggest a few. You don't want to settle for anything mediocre to bring to that moment above the Pacific.

Here's a truly great book recommendation with a link to the author's website (you'll find it online and at your neighborhood bookstore):

The adventure to end all adventures! Magellan is pursued from day one by jealous rivals who plan to kill him--and almost succeed. Utterly lost much of the time, he sails on even though the food stores have spoiled, the ships are wrecked, half the men mutiny and seize a ship, another ship deserts and the natives are hostile. What follows is akin to the discovery of an entirely new planet. Nobody handles it well, least of all Magellan who reaches for his inner Jesus Christ in the Philippines.  It's a tough act to bring off.

Bergreen spins a terrific yarn. I'm not going to spoil the ending--or the beginning--for you but I've never read anything remotely like this astonishing history.

More book recommendations to follow...