Archive for March, 2017

Norse Mythology

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

Unknown-1By Neil Gaiman

The Short Take:

If you were ever interested in knowing more about Norse mythology but felt intimidated by famous yet dense translations like The Poetic Edda, this treat of a book is perfect for you. And, isn’t everyone into Vikings and Norse culture these days? Especially Thor?

Why?

Norse mythology is very different from that of the Greeks or Romans — there’s much more violence, meanness, gluttony, and general carousing. But best of all, it features one of the most entertaining gods ever — Loki.┬áLoki is handsome, personable, witty, tricky, and a first-class troublemaker. He also features in most of the Norse stories Gaiman retells in this volume.

Gaiman’s goal was not to put a twist on the stories he loves very much, but to make them more accessible to modern readers. Much of ancient Norse culture has been lost, but what remains is exciting to explore. You’ll find interesting, even complex, characters, and a fair amount of humor (though often of the black variety). Keep in mind these gods and their exploits were affiliated with a harsh climate and that hostile environment influences the direction of these tales and the gods involved.

A Little Plot:

The books starts with the creation of the world. Then there are various Norse tales about the gods (the ones Gaiman includes feature Loki in particular). Finally, there’s the destruction of that world. Sort of.

For more about Neil Gaiman and his works (and I highly recommend reading some of Gaiman’s original work), click here.

Moonglow

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

UnknownBy Michael Chabon

The Short Take:

This wonderful non-memoire is tightly woven, elegantly written, and infinitely diverting. Written as if it were his own family’s story (particularly the story of his grandfather), Chabon explores what could have been, what might have been, and what difference would it make(anyway).

Why?

At first I fell for the conceit it really was his grandfather’s life Chabon recounted — despite the warning he clearly states before his narrative begins. He does a good job of seducing you into this faux family, where the patriarch is a space-loving, quiet man who devotes himself to saving his wife, a Holocaust survivor with recurring mental illness. It’s a love song, a morality play, war story, and science fact — a captivating mixture of human frailty, love, and hubris; wrapped in and warped by the greater powers of war and governments.

Of course, Chabon is already recognized as one of the exceptional authors of our times. This novel lives up to his reputation. And strengthens it.

A Little Plot:

Michael’s taciturn grandfather is dying. The pain drugs he takes make him unusually voluble so he tells his grandson the story of his life, his passion for space, his hatred of Von Went, and his commitment to his wife and daughter.

For more about the author and his works, click here.

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