Monday, June 20, 2016

The Mating Season by P.D. Wodehouse (1949)

I chose this because it was described as a Jeeves novel, and I never did understand where the Ask Jeeves of early internet days came from. The reading of the book was very rapid and it took me a while to get into the style and language and it was difficult to keep track of all the characters in the beginning. Looks like this book is one of many Bertie Wooster and his man Jeeves stories. Bertie narrates this story of mistaken identities and star-crossed lovers, a theme much used in literature, and at time reminding me of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream. Esmund loves actress Corky, but pretends to like Gertrude, while it seems Corky is falling for Gussie. Gussie loves Madeline but sends Bertie to replace him at a visit to a country home. Catsmeat who actually loves Gertrude comes as Bertie's supposed assistant. And Constable Cobbs loves the butler's daughter Queenie, who for a while seems to be engaged to Catsmeat.

Though Jeeves is asked to solve many a trivial problem, and his richness of knowledge seems to be more at a gossip level, I assume that over all the books he has shown the intelligence that led to attach his name to the Ask Jeeves website.

Though I can't say I am fond of this upper-class life-style, I did find the language of Wodehouse fascinating. Since I listened to the book, I didn't get a chance to jot anything down and we don't own this particular book in our library, but I remember getting a kick out of all the words Wodehouse transformed into verbs, e.g. "center aisleing" was his way of saying "getting married."

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Old Age: A Beginner's Guide by Michael Kinsley (2016)

This small book grabbed my eye in our Popular Reading section and since I have been feeling old recently, thought it help, and it did. Kinsley is a columnist and editor in publications like Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Economist and founded Slate and has been dealing with Parkinson's disease for 20 years, though he is only a bit older than me. He addresses us baby boomers as we are all aging. He has a lot of valuable observations, especially having lived with with some aging characteristics decades before the rest of us have to face them. "We are born thinking that we'll live forever. Then death becomes an intermittent reality, as grandparents and parents die, and tragedy of some kind removes one or two from our own age cohort. And then, at some point, death becomes a normal part of life - a faint dirge in the background that gradually gets louder." The main thought I came away with was that it is not that we want to live as long as possible, but to live as long as possible with all of our marbles. 

In his last chapter he looks at us baby boomers and compares us to the Greatest Generation. He refutes some of the common assumptions about both. I realize that my generation has done a lot of good, but has negative sides, like sowing mistrust of authority and government, often rightfully so, but it has gotten extreme on both sides of the political fence. Kinsley suggests that my generation leave some sort of positive legacy, large gesture, like helping America get out of debt, possibly by reinstating estate taxes. 

The whole book reads easily and actually had me laughing at times - a good approach to aging. All in all, might we worth buying this book to have on hand.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Hard Day's Knight by Katie MacCallister (2004)

It was fun to spend some time in the world of a Renaissance Fair and jousters in particular. I did learn something about the sport of jousting and their competitions. I think it is very brave of anyone to get up on a horse knowing that you will most likely get thrown off and in the beginning knowing positively that you would get thrown off. I hurt just thinking about it. I remember the jousts at our local Ren Fairs. There was a lot of fanfare around them, whipping up the audience, and these were just for show, though one year there was a higher caliber of jousters. Will have to see if I can find a Ren Fair nearby to see another joust again.

I have some colleagues and a friend that have devoted time to this, but I have never had the time to get involved in the Society of Creative Anachronism or similar medieval alternate worlds, but always enjoyed everybody getting dressed up, playing roles and speaking old English. I did buy a couple of simple clothing pieces once as Ren Fair garb. I would love to spend a week in this atmosphere, but don't think it is happening in this lifetime - or maybe when I retire, but is that too late? Well, at least I got to live in this world for a while through author MacAlister.

Now to the story. Pepper Marsh comes to not just a Ren Fair, but a world jousting championship in Canada with her cousin CJ, who is in love with a jouster from England. Pepper has never been to a Ren Fair plus she has an obnoxious cat Moth (short for Behemoth) who keeps getting her into trouble - but then again, it seems to be a great judge of character. Within minutes of being on her own, she almost gets killed by a galloping horse and gets saved by a knight in shining armor - Walker. He has a velvety low voice, when he is not yelling, and bright silver eyes, but why is he no longer jousting? And what is with Pepper herself? She started out in vet school, but gave up and is now an unemployed computer geek and seems to get annoyed by animals. Well, of course they get together, she learns to joust during the fair, lots of stuff happens including someone sabotaging Walker's team, another knight vying for Pepper's attentions, and there is some nice hot intimacy. I do have to say Pepper's inner and sometimes outer monologue grated on my nerves at times, but I realize that with all that I enjoyed this humorous book and may try some others by MacCallister.