“55 Bookish Questions…”

With regards to not posting for a while, a few more general ones will do fine is my reasoning and since I did promise that I’d answer these book-questions to a friend of mine I thought to begin with them.

As a short introduction, it seems to be a list of 55 questions that can then provide some sort of insight (for others, that is) to one’s reading habits. The one my friend filled in (a disastrous 12 days ago which is also how long it has taken me to get this far) is located over here – ‘Logic Tree: 55 Bookish Questions’.

Here I go.

1. Favorite childhood book?
‘Talks with a Tiger’ by Donald Bisset.

2. What are you reading right now?
Unfortunately, this is a mess as always for me. The names I need to mention are A.C. Clarke’s ‘Cradle’, J.Campbell’s ‘Guardian’, J. Barr’s ‘A Line in the Sand’, and last but not least an indomitable book on Bismarck that is there in case I just want to hit myself on the head with something. Oh, and I’ve just started rereading ‘Lord of the Rings’ as well.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
None. I don’t really have a good enough schedule for libraries.

4. Bad book habit?
Buying a few too many and then stacking them up so that they wait to be read.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
Nothing. As above on the libraries.

6. Do you have an e-reader?
Yes, a Kindle Touch.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
One on my Kindle and one on paper, but it just doesn’t work out.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
Not really. I may make the occasional effort of posting authors who are not as well know as they should, but aside from that, not really.

9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)
I haven’t come across anything that horrible this year, but I did score something rather low on Goodreads. That would have been… ‘Black Wind’ by Clive Cussler. I generally really like his books but this one wasn’t quite up to the standards I’ve come to expect.

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
I finally had the chance to take a look at Haruki Murakami’s ‘1Q84’ and that was certainly worth it. Ryotaro Shiba’s ‘Drunk as a Lord’ came by me early this year as well, so those two are probably at the top of the list.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
Probably a fair bit of the time.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
The sci-fi I know and have read before, including the Star Wars books I have.

13. Can you read on the bus?
Yep, and a very good way to spend the time.

14. Favorite place to read?
Couch.

15. What is your policy on book lending?
“I only lend to close friends and those that I know will take care of books.”

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
Very rarely…

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
No, but I want to. There’s just so very little to add.

18. Not even with text books?
No, not really.

19. What is your favorite language to read in?
 Depends on what language the author wrote in. Reading English and Estonian means I have a small leeway in choosing a hopefully better translation for a German, Russian, or French author.

20. What makes you love a book?
A story that I cannot guess, characters that feel real, and people for whose fates I want to care. And, a world that brings me in and keeps me there is also a good addition.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
Knowing the person and what they might read. Or rather then, what I would have liked to read if I were where they are, assuming I can put myself into a situation like this. But I am also afraid of recommending books because what if the people won’t like them…

22. Favorite genre?
Fantasy/science-fiction and naval histories.

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)
Non-fiction, aside from history. I should probably read more scientific things as well.

24. Favorite biography?
I think that at the present moment I would have to venture the thought of Alan Sked’s look on the Austrian Field Marshal Johan Radetzky von Radetz. That book had a tone to itself.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
Hmmh, I think I have. I would be hard pressed to name them though. I think it might also depend on what exactly is classified as a “self-help” book (I’ve certainly read philosophical insights into oneself and how to do things ‘properly’ which might not quite be the regular type of this genre assuming it is this genre at all).

26. Favorite cookbook?
None. I don’t have cookbooks.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
‘The Glorious First of June’ by Sam Willis, and ‘Captain Vancouver’ by E.C. Coleman.

28. Favorite reading snack?
Tea. Occasionally bread or chocolate.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
Harry Potter books, I would think.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
Sometimes, yes. More often than not, I don’t.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
If I didn’t like what I read, there was a reason, and I would hope to bring that reason out in a review of mine. I am not just saying that something was bad, but there was something which made it bad for me. And I would rather have people know of what that was so they can think of whether the same device will ruin their read.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?
Japanese.

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
I think that taking into account the times, this would have been Hesse’s ‘Siddharta’. It changed so much.

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
I generally don’t like starting many new series, just because I think I might like them if they turn out good at all. But I can’t think of any specific books right now.

35. Favorite Poet?
JRR Tolkien or Saigyo. It depends on the mood I’m in, and what kind of poems I’m looking for.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
None.

37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?
A few times, I guess.

38. Favorite fictional character?
Maybe Gandalf. There’s so much speaking for him. But maybe there’s someone else I like better. I can’t really say.

39. Favorite fictional villain?
Darth Bane is a badass. There are not very many proper villains in the books I read though.

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
Whatever I want at that moment.

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
“I have absolutely no idea!”

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
‘Exile’ by Jakob Ejersbo. I did give it a scathing review on this very same blog though. 🙂 And I did get around 20% through before I gave up and decided not to kill my head with it.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
When I’m into a book, it is difficult to distract me.

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
I have to admit ‘Lord of the Rings’ was done pretty well, although I might not call it a favourite. I can’t think of others right now though so….

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
‘Eragon’. Horribly done.

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
Probably around £30.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
I sometimes take a look inside but I don’t really skim it. Just look at a few interesting locations.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
If reading it is bringing mental aggravation (also why I stopped reading ‘Exile’, mentioned above).

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
Yes. But it isn’t happening.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
Keep, keep, keep. Build me a library…

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
No.

52. Name a book that made you angry.
I don’t think I can name a book like that.

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
Before having read anything else of Mr Tolkien, I was given ‘The Hobbit’. And never would I have thought that I would like it. But I did. So very much. 🙂

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
I thought I would like ‘The Ionian Mission’ by Patrick O’Brian better than I did. I am not quite sure why that wasn’t the case though.

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
Tolkien, Clarke and Ryotaro Shiba.

‘Revenge of the Sith’, M. Stover

For some reason, I really enjoy the audiobook version of Matthew Stover’s ‘Revenge of the Sith’ novelization — and I might have realized why when I listened to an interview on the book and how the author had written it in the beginning of last week. What Mr Stover said was that he wanted the book to convey feelings — how a person was feeling at a specific moment after which I then thought of this way of writing, and realized it complemented the movie (by George Lucas) very thoroughly.

And, yet, at the same time the book went beyond the movie and introduced me to another world. The book was more of a story than a movie although I guess that is a property of any book: they contain more emotion and strength.

As a very beautiful quote from this novelization, I’d like to bring out the following:

The invisible gnat-clouds of starfighter dogfights became a gleaming dance of shadowmoths at the end of Coruscant’s brief spring.

Mind you, the first part is nothing special, but the phrase ‘Coruscant’s brief spring’ is again what Matthew Stover said he’d do — it is emotion, and it is strength. I think that this is one thing the author does really well: he likes contrasts, and very much of everything is portrayed in such a way as to make it distinct. And if we consider it to be a ‘brief spring’ cast against the soon-to-come ‘end of civilization’ then I believe we can glimpse a hint of melancholy.

Jonathan Davis is the good voice bringing the audiobook to life, and I have to say that he must be my favourite audiobook reader. I might even listen to his stuff if I didn’t like the content for he is serene and peaceful — that tone of voice that always is just out of reach when one tries it themselves.

The dark is generous, and it is patient.
It is the dark that seeds cruelty into justice, that drips contempt into compassion, that poisons love with grains of doubt.
The dark can be patient, because the slightest drop of rain will cause those seeds to sprout.
The rain will come, and the seeds will sprout, for the dark is the soil in which they grow, and it is the clouds above them, and it waits behind the star that gives them light.
The dark’s patience is infinite.
Eventually, even stars burn out.

Another thought that I really enjoy was also introduced in this novel. Namely, that of stars dying out. There is a relevant trail of thought relating to Anakin Skywalker and his fear of death which can be summed up by “Even stars burn out.” And they do, which is something I might have never realized before I noticing it in this novel. Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t, but I know that I had never considered it as important as I have done since.

Lastly, I might just add that in that interview where Mr Stover explained his writing of the book, he said that Obi-Wan was his favourite character. I think I might have enjoyed hearing that very much, for he is also mine. Which means I could be a bit biased — although I did learn of this after going through the book at least three times. Unless one could notice it in Mr Stover’s writing…

In every exchange, Obi-Wan gave ground. It was his way.

 

 

On the Multiple Qualities of Jar Jar Binks

It is an unfortunate consequence of watching the prequel trilogy that many people develop an intense dislike towards a character of great significance. Namely, the Gungan Jar Jar Binks, is often derided due to his absolute clumsiness and ability to annoy the life out of everyone.

I personally see him in a very different light: he is annoying, and he is clumsy; but these two characteristics of his are very different from what makes him into one of the greatest people in the saga at all.

Namely, Jar Jar does not know treachery. He is loyal. He is a true friend. It might take some discussion to understand why this is so significant; if we consider that he is from a less advanced (technologically and probably, by socio-economic measures) species who have often clashed with the humans on his homeworld, that he accepts first Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, and later Padmé Amidala as friends is significant on its own. If we add that he is also fiercely loyal, going out of his way to help his friends whenever they need his help, he proves to be a much better person, a much better friend, than the majority of people.

That the majority of his undertakings end in disaster is no fault of his : being graced with a quantity of bad luck that is otherwise unknown would make most others morbid — Jar Jar, however, manages to stride through and continue with his good wishes and will. Where most others would not even try because of fear, Jar Jar rises above this fear and acts to help, and that is what is important.

Jar Jar will undoubtedly be an annoying presence in nearly every cinematic appearance, but I tend to look past the annoyance — even imagining what he thinks can be saddening. If one were to consider looking at Jar Jar from his own self, then the following scenario can very easily happen : he puts his full concentration and strength out there to solve a problem/situation, with the best of hopes for the outcome, and the result is more often than not destruction. You try for the best, and what happens is the worst. A sincere (indeed, more sincere than most other things in that galaxy, I would imagine) try to help others, and yet the outcome is never as hoped.

Trying to say that he could do nothing is silly at this point. His character does not allow for that — how could he sit idly while his friends are in danger; how could he not try to do something ? He can’t be idle, so he tries to help, and almost never succeeds.

Jar Jar, in short, is the expression of a tragedy, and yet he goes on. That is why he is wonderful!

‘Survivor’s Quest’, T. Zahn

Ah, the wonders of science-fiction. I yesterday (by now, the day before yesterday) finished a wonderful (rephrase: another wonderful) book by Timothy Zahn, this one being named ‘Survivor’s Quest’. I guess it made a lot more sense given that I’m rather well versed in the Expanded Universe (disclosure: ‘Survivor’s Quest’ is part of Star Wars Expanded Universe //one of several hundred books there//, and takes place quite a bit of time after any of the movies) but also since I’ve read the so-to-say prequel ‘Outbound Flight’ (also by T. Zahn).

I can’t really tell what fascinated me most about this book, except for the fact that it had some really deep moments — these insights into people, why they act, and how people might be better of acting; and yet Zahn did not disappoint with action or logic (unless you, the reader, are one of the people who kindly says that science-fiction by itself defies logic etc etc and therefore should not be read).

One of his greatest achievements for the EU has been the inclusion of a wonderful species named the Chiss. The who, what and why are rather irrelevant, but this books brings up a few new Chiss characters (previously 95% of the interaction with the by-now-deceased Grand Admiral Thrawn) and they illustrate a beauty which many species (either imaginary or real) lack: a love of tactical thinking, or at least that is how it seems to be portrayed.

I’ll bring out a quote illustrating the Chiss:

“It is completely and purely a matter of honor and morality. The Chiss are never to be the aggressor people. We cannot and will not make war against any until and unless we have been attacked. That has been our law for a thousand years, [Master Skywalker], and we will not bend from it.”

I believe this displays what I wished to convey earlier on: and what humans, in this case, certainly are not — principles die too easily for us.

Somehow Zahn also manages to include a number of references to correct military behavior (e.g. nearly every EU book of his beginning with an Imperial Star Destroyer in space and a few notions of proper naval etiquette).

And a few other quotes for the conclusion:

“… it would be the height of arrogance and pride to risk their lives, not to mention the lives of our companions, by insisting on amateur leadership when a professional is standing by. Don’t you agree?”

 

“Past thoughts are irrelevant to the realities of the present.”

To Spend Time On…

… reading. Lately, I’ve read quite a bit — science fiction mostly, the rest would fall under the genre of philosophical writings. I’ve also got my hands (finally, around six-seven years after starting with the first book!) on ‘Noble House’ and ‘Whirlwind’ which means that when I wish to continue reading about British arrogance and commerce in the Far East I can freely continue doing so. Clavell is a bit too good to miss out, so I’m planning to take it up as one of the next (not the next though: first I’ll make sure I’ve got all of the New Republic Era //all == as much as I can and have// read; after that a bit of Mahan, and then, I guess, onwards to the Clavell books). 

I started using an interesting web-site called GoodReads.com. Seems to keep a list of what I’ve (you’ve) read — something that I consider rather useful. I have tried to keep such a list in the past but it never works out; on the computer/online it should amount to something better though. 

Reading the New Republic Era has made quite an impression though: with the previous ten-odd books by J. Marsden (on Australia and such) and now a whole lot by different authors I’ve seen how there’s a difference between styles, and what that actually means. Just to bring out a few, then if we look at Matthew Stover (Natalie would probably cringe just on hearing his name) then he often starts long discourses about things not-that-directly related to everything else. Yet, it suits me well since I see the relevance of the things he poses and it creates a deeper background; Roger MacBride Allen on the other hand uses deeply comical situations along with fast-paced action which has made me like the overall depth less though the few scenes that are in all of them do make a sort of impression as well as the characters he creates; Timothy Zahn is just great, of his creation is the tactical genius Thrawn and I believe that (much like John Howe in his newsletters) Zahn allows himself to dedicate the entire art-ful being that he projected into Thrawn into the entire action of his writing — the books simply flow and while not as funny as MacBride Allen’s they still offer a sense of completeness and thoroughness; finally, John Marsden

Ah, John Marsden’s books… I have to say, it might have been the first young adult (or whatever-nonsense they call that) series that I ever read, but it was good. Enjoyable. The language, as has been often noted, was exactly that — deeply in line with the intended audience. The books — content — is not that wonderful in the Tomorrow and Ellie series but it is still an interesting question to wonder about, especially given the war is a simple background setting to the larger problem of human interaction. I do deeply recommend reading Marsden and not for the same reasons for why people should read either J.R.R. Tolkien, J. Clavell, W. Somerset Maugham, or Kawabata Yasunari. No, the reason to read John Marsden is to read about becoming human/inhuman, growing up — no, not exactly that: I cannot place my hand (paw?) on what it is that is there, but there’s something worthwhile… it is not the beauty of the style nor any other obvious literary quality, but something less tangible perhaps (or therefore, instead, more tangible?).

I did also want to say a word about a few of the characters that have struck me as wonderful as few can be from the New Republic era books that I’ve read, but I believe I’ll keep that for another time now.