Orion Reads
a diary of books etc.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Wrinkle in Time, Johnny Magic and the Cardshark Kids, Madame Bovary

Hillary gave me a copy of Madeline L'Engle's famous A Wrinkle in Time. You wanna some quick reading ? Wow, this book can really be plowed thru. It's as good as you remember it being back in 6th grade, (7th? 5th?) except a good deal less uh wonder-inducing. Definitely this time around i was more charmed by L'Engle's technique as a young-adult's author than by the story itself, but it's still definitely worth rereading. When i first read it, i didn't have the patience/maturity to be interested in the sequels, A Swiftly Tilting Planet and A Wind in the Door, but i'll definitely give them a shot now if they come my way.

So Brandon Bird drew this image of Harrison Ford playing the Magic: The Gathering card Black Lotus: .. which rules, so i printed it out and stuck it with unusually powerful magnets to the outside of my work area at work. Which it was then commented upon by Liz, our project manager, and i frankly was a bit shocked to learn that a project manager and a female, no less, not only recognized magic, but said shit like "yeah! black lotus! tap to add four mana of any color!"* So we talked about Magic and a few days later i found a copy of Johnny Magic and the Card Shark Kids on my desk. It's by David Kushner. Frankly, the writing is terrible. I don't just mean the missing hyphenation in "Card Shark"**, either. I'm talking the *narrator's* voice using terms like "hot babe" and "totally awesome". - Maybe i don't read enough sports writing to appreciate the style. Anyhow, the story itself is pretty interesting: There's a kid who's a serious geek/loser at school: brainy and weird; ergo serious misfit. He finally discovers Magic as a venue in which he excells, and eventually becomes the game's recognized world-champion. From there his interest in cards leads him to join up with a team of lawyers-turned-blackjack sharps. The team was pretty cool, with lots of different roles being played at once, disguises, etc. Then he and some other Magic-heads turned to the World Tournament of Poker, in which our hero didn't actually do so well, but a buddy of his took second. Along the way he totally transforms from fat outcast to trim and handsome man of the world. ..That about sums it up. Also, the narrator has a serious crush on the guy. If you're interested in Magic, it's an interesting book. Otherwise i'd give it a pass.

* possibly not actually said by Liz, but potentially.
** a quick google informs me that apparently the unhyphenated "card shark" has entered the american lexicon as an acceptable idiom. Ditto every other -shark and -sharp word. What's happening to this country.

Meanwhile, i've been slowly working through Flaubert's Madame Bovary. Frankly, i feel a little let down. I was expecting to be shocked, outraged, or at least titillated. At the time i suppose it may have provided all three, but to a modern reader it's less a story of moral bankruptcy than just one woman searching for romance over and over again in relationships where it almost by definition can't be found, and along the way throwing tantrums with her entire life, and how debt can kill. It reminded me of Wuthering Heights but with less drama. Flaubert's prose is for the most part medium (modulo Mildred Marmur's translation from the French, of course) but one passage did, uh, resonate with me, let's say.

Monsieur Bovary, upon discovering a fake receipt placed in his boot by Madame, in order to cover up one of her many affairs:
"How the devil did this get into my boot?"
"It probably fell from the old bill box on the edge of the shelf." From that moment on, her existence was a continuous string of lies, in which she wrapped her love as if in layers of veiling in order to hide it.
Lying became a need, a mania, a pleasure, so much so that if she said she had walked along the right side of the street yesterday, one had to assume it had been the left.

Persepolis 1 & 2

After the non-fiction on Iran and the Holocaust,
i needed something a little lighter,
and ever the literary hook-up, Sarah once again provided with .. yet more non-fiction about Iran, but this time in comic-book form! So much easier on the spirit. Persepolis 1 & 2 are comic books by Marjane Satrapi which tell the true story of her childhood in Iran during the Islamic Revolution of 1979, adolescence in exile in Vienna, and return to Iran in the late 80s. Persepolis 1 covers the childhood and beginning of exile, and 2 covers the rest. While they're both excellent books, the first was a lot more interesting because it dealt more with topics i'm unfamiliar with: namely seeing one's nation internally overtaken by religious extremists. 2 technically had more action perhaps, but it's the familiar themes of adolescent isolation, frustration, sex and drugs, etc. All in all tho, these books are excellent. The first one is successfully told from the viewpoint of a child of eight or so thru early adolescence. The events of the adult world are filtered thru this viewpoint: her uncle's death as a revolutionary has significance only to the degree by which her uncle is a more romantic figure than her friends' uncles, for example. Or how the sudden requirement that all women wear The Veil (which was actually outlawed in the 40s, then required with the rise of extremism, required in the late 70s.) affected a teenage Satrapi mostly in how it prevented her from dressing in the latest western fashions: Torn jeans, leather jackets, etc. Imagine trying to be a punker while wearing the veil!

Anyhow, the books are very well-done personal and political history.