Thursday, September 27, 2012

My Lucky Streak

It started with The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone.  When I picked it up off the shelf I was reluctant to start reading it.  At 748 pages the fictionalized biography of Michelangelo, a subject I never felt special interest in, intimidated me.  When I finally made my way through it and came to the end, and read the last words, I was more depressed than normal to finish a book.  I wanted it to keep going.  The story is immensely detailed, from artistic techniques in the 1500s to the people Michelangelo consorted with.  I loved every page, even if I did have some trouble with the Italian names.

And no, I haven't watched the movie yet.

I decided after that I need something a little lighter.  So I moved on to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith.  The strange premise intrigued me: I couldn't help wondering how the author was going to pull it off.  The odd format took a little getting used to.  After the prologue it reads like a biography interspersed with sections from "Lincoln's journals" about his vampire hunting escapades and companions.  In the end, I actually really loved it.  You have to be able to totally suspend belief and put aside what you know about Lincoln's life and just go with it.  The narrative is clever and the book moves quickly.

And I don't know if I will be seeing the movie at all.

I've had a used copy of How the West was Won sitting on my shelf for probably close to two years.  Everyone knows how much I love Western movies.  I wasn't sure what I would think of a Western novel.  Turns out, I liked it quite a bit.  The story follows a family moving out west, how the various members become involved with the people they find there, and how their lives shape the places they live. I love the way Louis L'Amour wove the stories together and kept everything cohesive.
For a change, this book was adapted from a movie--which I haven't seen yet.

I don't really remember what drew me to People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks, other than the cover art was beautiful and the story seemed interesting.  It is historical fiction in a way, following the mid-1990s rediscovery of  an illuminated haggadah in Sarajevo.  A haggadah, I learned, is the book containing the prayers and rituals Jewish families use at the Passover Seder.  This particular haggadah is special because it has illustrations, and dates from the 1400s a time when Jewish people were not illustrating these kinds of books.  Anyway, while that part of the story is true, the rest of it was invented.  The narrative involves a modern manuscript conservator who is consulted about preserving the damaged book.  The story flips back and forth tracing an invented history of the book backwards beginning of course, during the Nazi occupation.  The story is incredibly interesting and entertaining.  I had to check Wikipedia a couple times to sort out the factual parts from the fictional ones.

This has not been made into a movie.

Unfortunately, my lucky streak came to a halt recently.  After finishing People of the Book, I picked up The Hobbit in anticipation of going to see the first movie in December.  I had avoided reading The Hobbit for a long time, and now I know why.  I was so bored that I got to about page 50 when the traveling party was put into sacks by trolls and decided that was as good an ending as any, and put the book down.  I hate quitting a story that way, but I could not muster up the energy to keep going with it.  I'll probably end up seeing the movie anyway.

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