- Shakespeare for Squirrels – Christopher Moore
- The Sandman: Audible Adaptation – Neil Gaiman
- Financial Freedom: A Proven Path to All the Money You Will Ever Need – Grant Sabatier
- H is for Hawk – Helen Macdonald (unfinished)
- A Beginner’s Guide to Japan – Pico Iyer (unfinished)
- A History of Reading – Alberto Manguel (unfinished)
Better late (in the month) than later (several months down the line). But like last month, October has proved to be something of a whirlwind. I suppose you could say that my time was somewhat misspent in September. I read some, but I also had other draws on my time. This pandemic business, where you notice more things at home and just have to take care of it right then, can be a bit of a nuisance, especially when you just want to wind down with a good book.
That said, the bulk of downtime was spent not in reading, but rather in listening – to Sandman, which I had read before in its graphic novel form. As I’ve mentioned previously, Gaiman is one of my favorite authors. This Audible adaptation clocks in at just under eleven hours, so it was a good chunk of time.
The cast of did a great job telling the story, and while some criticized the sound engineering (effects and such, calling it too cinematic), I enjoyed the added ambiance of the production. The titular character, created by Gaiman for Vertigo Comics by pulling out a minor piece in the DC Universe, is an immortal being – one of the Seven Endless: Destiny, Death, Dream, Destruction, Desire, Despair, and Delirium.
In a botched attempt to capture the personification of Death, a warlock accidentally imprisons Dream, causing a cascade of effects that must be set right once the prisoner is able to escape. The main story follows this line, interspersed with stories told in different eras, the saga of the Endless unfolds for the listener. This was part one of several, collecting the first twenty issues of the comic (or three trade collections: Preludes and Nocturnes, A Doll’s House, and Dream Country.)
Audible has committed to an entire run, and the Netflix adaptation is also currently in pre-production.
I was thinking recently about why some stories seem to resonate with the reader so much. While I read a lot, I do tend to stick with certain genres. Or, at least, themes. My introduction to Gaiman was Neverwhere, a story of a normal guy who gets Aliced into a new kind of Wonderland, this one residing beneath, above, and just beside normal, everyday-London. It has trains with Royal Courts, bounty hunters, guards and bravos, and even an angel. It would fall under the heading of urban fantasy, and that is a genre I do enjoy sticking with. Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files and Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim, for example.
I’ve also read a good number of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series. And, I guess these three being series, it’s easy to stick with it. To follow the arc of a character up against seemingly-insurmountable odds, and yet somehow always coming out on top. I was introduced to The Destroyer series, by Warren Murphy, a long time ago. Yet I hadn’t read the books I was given. I came across them recently and decided I would give them a try. Amazon even has the first in the 112-book series available for free.
So, what is it about certain stories that resonate? Perhaps we find something within the protagonist that we recognize in ourselves. Perhaps there are echoes of our past in those pages, or our hopes and aspirations. When you read, you open up something within yourself that is much greater than just the words printed on the page, or on the electronic screen in front of you. You open up possibility.
As for the others… Hawk was published in 2014. I recall seeing it at the library, sometime probably around 2016. It was in a section that I didn’t quite get, spirituality or religion perhaps. I’d see it, and there was something about birds in my recent past that always made it stand out… I just didn’t pick it up.
The author has a new book out – Vesper Flights. I think seeing that made me finally get to the point of looking at the book. I’m not that far into it. The author is talking about her Father’s passing, and this is the start of the birding story of Hawk. So, yeah.
Death. There are likely those who view death as it is – an end to the physical manifestation of this lifetime and a doorway into the next, whatever that happens to be. Death is the culmination of one’s life, and it is equal in that all die, regardless of status, stature, or wealth. Death can be celebrated, even while the connections to the deceased tend to induce mourning.
For some, the mourning is all that they see. I think Macdonald likely had a similar experience, so connected to the grief of her father’s passing that the Falconry, and subsequent memoir, were her way of letting go. There is something to be said for writing as letting go.
– This being so late in October when I sit to write this, I’ll admit I haven’t picked it back up yet. I’ve actually been listening to more music lately, rather than reading. November, though, I will commit to getting through this book.
Iyer and Manguel were a couple of authors I honestly wasn’t too familiar with. Though, I’ve been reading both now, on and off. Manguel writes a love letter to books that is heartfelt and refreshing.
“I don’t think I could live without reading. reading – I discovered – comes before writing. A society can exist – many do exist – without writing, but no society can exist without reading.”
He’s written several books on the subject of books, as well as reading and libraries. They are currently on my list.
As for Pico Iyer, he’s a travel writer living in Japan. I know very little of travel writing. I do try to get into the content of travel writing. I’ve read Bryson, Mark Adams, among others, and will soon be getting into Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley. But, on the whole, the genre so far eludes me. Truthfully, I think I prefer fiction to nonfiction, though it is something I am working to balance out.
All that said, I like Iyer’s Japan. Small, bite-sized chunks of thoughts and observations. Each one could fit into daily blog post, for instance. And there’s humor, and wonder, and sometimes just plain oddity. As Japan is someplace that holds much allure for me, delving into Iyers thoughts on his adoptive home makes me want to go even more.
Financial Freedom is a guide book of sorts, it came recommended. Mostly common sense. I’ve read financial books before, and this one doesn’t necessarily stand out among them. Best advice summed up – if you can save enough to life off the passive income it generates, you don’t have to work for a living. If you want to work, you can save less and make money doing what you love while supplementing with the passive income your savings and investments generate. Writing this, I am curious to know the author’s take on the pandemic and economic situation currently. (If I weren’t so late in writing this, I’d do the research now. Instead, it’ll wait, and maybe I’ll do a post on that in the next couple of weeks.)
Which brings me to Christopher Moore. I don’t know what to say about Mr. Moore. Only, if you’re in the mood for frivolity, absurdity, and/or irreverence, this is your author. I think I first read Lamb, which is the telling of a new Gospel of Christ through the perspective of his childhood friend and travel companion, Levi who was called Biff. According to the story, Biff is the sound you get when you’re smacked upside the head, as the misbehaving Levi was often the recipient of from his mother.
I later read other works, including Sacré Bleu, Bite Me, and Fluke, as well as the two precursors to Shakespeare for Squirrels, Fool and The Serpent of Venice.
Two months before Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was published, back in 2009, Christopher Moore’s Fool was released, a raunchy retelling of King Lear, with the court jester in the protagonist role. Later the fool, Pocket, returned for The Serpent of Venice, which, as you may guess, is the tale of the Merchant of Venice. Now, Moore takes on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. While I haven’t started it yet, I’d like to say that the cover art on Moore’s hardcovers, and the bindings themselves, are really top-notch. I think that’s what first attracted me to his books so many years ago.
And that, as they say, is that. With October swiftly approaching its close, I’ll need to work on the next edition of this reading list before too long. Last year for October, I think I was writing about Bradbury’s October Country, how it’s always busy this time of year, and how I tried diving into ghost stories for fun. How much difference one year can make…