This week my friend Jamie Adair discussed How Much Violence is Too Much on Game of Thrones. I was amused to hear that Emilia Clarke, who plays Daenerys, was covered with so much fake gore after shooting one scene that, during a break, she got stuck to the toilet seat. But I really don’t find Game of Thrones that violent. Too much sex, yes. But the level of violence in Game of Thrones is not enough to make me cover my eyes, I might have cringed once or twice, but it’s not like watching a Tarantino film. I lost count of how many times I covered my eyes when I was watching Inglorious Basterds in the cinema. Django Unchained wasn’t actually quite as bad (although I might have covered my eyes once or twice). It was the scalping in Inglorious Basterds that got me. That is what I consider really violent. In fact, looking at the inspiration behind A Song of Ice and Fire, which is largely French and English medieval history, the show is quite tame. It could, in fact, be far more violent. And it seems fans expect violence.
I’ve been covering the chaos JK Rowling has caused this week over on Nerdalicious , and not without mirth. Her stunt-double Robert Galbraith’s debut novel The Cuckoo’s Calling has gone from respectable sales to number one book everywhere literally overnight. The book was receiving quite a bit of praise from the critics before the author’s true identity was revealed
The cat versus dog argument is as old as time. In The Curious Incidence of Dogs in Publishing Daniel Engber argues that while cats rule the internet, dogs reign in print. Alison Flood responded with Are cats top dogs in the world of literature?, claiming that literary cats still hold the crown.
Waris Hussein, director of the very first Doctor Who serial starring William Hartnell, voiced his disapproval at the romantic undertones in some of the story-lines of the recent Doctor Who series. Rather he called it “sexuality”. I’d rather call it what it is. It’s called love. And it’s something you’ll find in most every epic tale ever told, dating back to when stories were passed on in song and poetry.
I’ve been watching with interest the storm of controversy regarding author Hilary Mantel which started late last night here, and is still flooding my Facebook news-feed. The Daily Mail published this article with selected quotes from a piece by Hilary Mantel entitled Royal Bodies, in which she calls Kate Middleton a “plastic princess”.
As is to be expected, people are rushing to Mantel’s defense saying the article quoted her out of context, as of course it has. The Daily Mail does make a rather vague reference to Mantel’s original article half-way through or so;
This is an excellent addition to my dragon’s-hoard of books, which I was very pleased to find today. Considering I have just finished re-reading His Dark Materials it was nice timing. This is the first omnibus edition of the trilogy from 2001. It has my favourite cover art featuring the Alethiometer.
I am still suffering some severe Hobbit-fever.
Of course January usually begins with Tolkien for me, and I’ve finished my yearly read of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. This year for the first time I’ve gone straight into further reading, and a few days ago I finished reading The Silmarillion for the first time in many, many years (and seemingly no less difficult than the first time I read it). Last year I painstakingly collected the massive 12-part-plus-index History of Middle Earth, plus the two-part History of the Hobbit to add to my collection. After checking out an article from the Tolkien Library on Recommended Reading Order I’ve decided to continue on with Unfinished Tales and The Book of Lost Tales part One and Two for this month.
“I am in fact, a hobbit in all but size” J.R.R Tolkien
I have been enjoying a rather Hobbity holiday. This is usually the time of the year I start reading Lord of the Rings, and watching the movies (my new Blu Ray boxed set this year) but I don’t always read The Hobbit before I start LOTR, in fact I will usually read it later. Having read it directly before I started Fellowship of the Ring I was able to enjoy it more as a prequel, more than usual in any case. I sometimes forget the references to Dale and the Mountain during Bilbo’s birthday party, the last chapter in The Lord of the Rings in which we are still allowed to be children.
There is a good reason why there hasn’t been a book review for two weeks, and that’s because I haven’t managed to finish my book. It is an excellent book, by the way (still reading A Confusion of Princes). But I’ve been glued to the computer trying to set up a new website with the crap-cart-I-shall-not-name which has drained the life out of me, and if I have been managing to finish before 5 a.m I have been watching Big Bang Theory with Craig. And not reading. It’s appalling. Even more appalling is the fact that almost two weeks of working on this cart and I’m about to ditch it for another one.
1984 is as devastating, as stimulating, as simple and complex, as thought provoking, as when I first read it as a teen. The final chapter, a small essay on Newspeak, which I undoubtedly skipped with the impatience of youth, has interesting implications. Rather than being written from George Orwell’s perspective, in his present, it is written from an historical perspective, from a not too distant future in which the all-seeing, all-controlling all-powerful totalitarian Party, which seemed a psychopathic state so implacable and unstoppable to Winston Smith, has been defeated.
I want to read that book, in which the Party and its seemingly unrelenting, psychopathic, true-believing functionaries like O’Brien, are defeated. I want to know how, I want to know why.
The implications of a Newspeak that enriches, that expands vocabulary, rather than destroys it, that generates ideas, rather than limiting, also has intriguing possibilities.
If there is one book that must be read, this is it.
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Year of the Dragon indeed. City of Dragons the latest instalment in the Rain Wild Chronicles by Robin Hobb, is the book I am most looking forward to in 2012. I think all of her fans were longing for a return to Bingtown and the Rain Wilds (well actually we’re also all longing for a return to the Six Duchies but I’m sure it’s not going to happen) and what a return it was. They were nothing short of brilliant. Something akin to when you get to the end of an epic fantasy series and everything happens exactly as you want it to happen and fills you with all sorts of rampant glee. Only these were just the first two. It could be because they were originally intended to be just a two volume series (the thought fills me with horror) and the pace is a lot faster than her usual sort. With the world building long established the books plunge straight in, with a disparate host of new characters and a group of Dragons who you fall desperately in love with and almost forget about the humans.
I actually managed to knock over a whole lot of my reading list this year, at least two or three books a month, including re-reads. I am, quite frankly, surprised at myself (and insufferably pleased with myself I might add) that I not only managed to get through a large quantity, I branched out a lot and read a good variety. It is no mean feat that I get through a book that (if not an Enid Blyton) does not grace me with the presence of a dragon.