What We're Reading Wednesday

Sept. 25, Feasts of Saint Finbarr of Cork, from whence my husband's maternal family hails.  The Irish saint drove out a great serpent from the lake in Gougane, creating the channel that is now the river Lee.

Today is my husband's birthday!  We love you, cariad!

However, he has no interest in books, so the above three are my picks.  (Interestingly, and totally unrelated, two of the three books above have punctuation marks as part of their titles.  Huh.)

1.  Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton

I've been interested in this book ever since I caught scenes of the movie The Thirteenth Warrior on television and saw that it was about VIKINGS.  I wanted to know more, and gathered over the years that it was based on a book that was a re-telling of the Beowulf epic.  I knew then I had to read it.  However, I could never find it in the library, despite the popularity of this author (Crichton also wrote Jurassic Park, among others).  So last time I was at the book store, I bought this little inexpensive copy and am very happy I did.

The story is narrated by a real historical figure whom the author borrowed and adapted for his novel, naturally infusing it with veracity--but he doesn't stop there.  He makes the narrative a kind of "found" manuscript, with notes and insertions from translators and even an appendix in back, with imaginary sources and experts in the field.

Crichton adopts the voice of the Arabic courtier, Ibn Fadlan, and makes a pretty good transition between the original, true accounts and the fictional ones.  I notice a greater tendency toward poetic description and more personal reaction in the fictitious part, which makes up the entirety of the book after the first three chapters, but I didn't really notice the transition until I was already well in and won over.

The premise of the novel is that the monsters of Beowulf, particularly Grendel, were based on a historical event--actually a tribe of remnant Neanderthals that survived in Scandinavia and attacked Hrothgar's (Rothgar in the novel) hall.  The account of the event through a foreigner's eyes is well chosen because Ibn Fadlan gives us explanations and reflections that he wouldn't have if he were a Northman.  I enjoyed reading about their unique customs and culture (not sure what was fact and what was fictitious--this book has made me realize that I need to pick up some non-fiction reading on Vikings) and also this re-adaptation of a classic of Western civilization.

According to Crichton, he set out to write Eaters of the Dead to prove to a scholar friend that the saga of Beowulf was not boring.  I say, good for you!  And well done.

2.  Call to Action or Call to Apostasy? by Brian Clowes

I rented this from the parish library on a whim.  I was intrigued because I accidentally attended a Call to Action talk in college at the local Franciscan center and was shocked into a cold sweat by what the woman was saying.  It took all my strength to remain sitting, firmly gripping my chair, my jaw clenched--and a few dozen Hail Mary's besides.  This is basically a rudimentary booklet outlining the way dissenters attack the four aspects of the Church--one, holy, catholic, and apostolic--with some resources and advice for beginners wanting to get involved.  The author remains charitable and makes a clear distinction between the dissenters themselves and their unworthy intentions.  He writes, "It is not us against them.  It is all of us against Satan."  Very important.

It was a quick and easy read, and I'm glad for having read it.  However, there are probably more thorough and contemplative studies out there, if CTA, CORPUS, WATER, and other agitation groups aren't new to you.

3.  Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara

I.  Love.  This book.  It's most everything I cherish about my childhood memories of Halloween between two covers, accented by beautiful, tri-chromatic illustrations.  The crisp, elegant, and cute illustration style is so typical of Japanese children's art (think Hello Kitty), and the white-orange-black combination is surprisingly stunning and effective.  It looks like Ms. Kohara cut out tissue paper for the ghosts and glued it to her wood-block-print pictures.

The story itself is cute and fun, from the ghosts in the washing machine to the little white cat who puts on a black "catsuit" when his mistress dons her pointy witch hat!  My two-and-a-half-year-old son loves this, and I love reading it to him!  New favorite.  Perfect for Halloween.

I really want her other picture books now, Little Wizard and Jack Frost.



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