Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Recent Reads and Synchronicity

Within the last couple of days I finished reading 3 books I had started at various times recently. I'm not sure how it happens, I often have several books in progress. Usually it's a book I'm reading that someone gave me, or I've had kicking around for awhile, then I get one from the library that of course I need to read and take back soon, or it's one I just got from one of my favorite series or author's I'm more interested in, so I jump into that one and then later go back and finish the previous one. I also often have one book in progress by my bed for night reading, and another in the bathroom for, well, you know. The bathroom is my branch library, what can I say?
It's usually non-fiction writing-related books in the bathroom, or magazines. (The two magazines I read regularly are "The Mother Earth News", and "The Backwoodsman".)
Regardless, the three fictions I just finished are, in no order, "Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell", "The Jamais Vu Papers" and "Slave of my Thirst".
A bit of an eclectic mix, I admit. I did enjoy all three. "Jamais Vu" was a pretty wild ride, but oddly, it fit in interestingly with the Avatar Master's course I just finished. I always find it fascinating how something like that takes on a whole new meaning after you have a viewpoint shift like that.
There was one of those odd synchronous moments also, when I realized, even though "Slave" and "Jamais Vu" were vastly different subject matters, the author Mary Shelley (Frankenstein) made a cameo appearance in both.
I run into that now and then. It's always an interesting "whoa!" moment when two very different genre books I just happen to read in sequence just happen to mention the same idea. Sometimes it's an obscure quote, sometimes it's a fictional character or real person. But it happens too often to be random chance.
Just a couple of weeks ago I read two books, one a fantasy by Lionel Fenn (Blood River Down), another a mystery by Bill Crider (Booked For a Hanging). The two were written in different decades, different authors and different genres. I picked both at random to read, one from the library, one I had bought. Yet, both mentioned the fact that the same quote from Shakespeare, "Lead on MacDuff", was actually a misquote, the original being "Lay on, MacDuff."

Okay, it's a trivial thing, perhaps, but the part that got me was the synchronicity of the same thing appearing in two very different novels I read at random.
Synchronicity is a great subject all its own. Nowhere does it crop up more often than in the study of genealogy.
Guess it all just illustrates the principle that "there are no accidents."
As to the books. I enjoyed all five.
"Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell" took a little getting used to. For me, it was one of those books that start a little slow, but I think it was necessary to truly set up the premise involved. It was well worth reading. The size is daunting to some, no doubt, but for those of us who Stephen King and Stephen R. Donaldson, that's not such an issue.
"Slave of My Thirst" was an interesting take on vampires, and worked in a lot of plausible fictional background on Dracula, Sherlock Holmes and other true and fictional issues of the late 1800's. Again, an interesting read.
I already mentioned "Jamais Vu" and how it meshed with my Avatar experience. The book came out in 1989. It reminds me somewhat of "Godel, Escher, Bach." (Another book on my "to finish" list, as soon as I find my copy again.) . "Jamais Vu" covers a lot of territory, and I don't know exactly how to describe it. I suppose most of all it touches on the relationship of "reality" and mythical universes. A lot falls within the realm of the movie "What the (bleep) do we know?" If you missed THAT, it concerned ramifications of quantum physics and mysticism. Not as dry a subject as it may sound.
I may as well talk about the other two books I mentioned above.
I find Lionel Fenn (Charles L. Grant) to be a truly funny fantasy writer, somewhat in the vein of Piers Anthony's Xanth series.
I stumbled across a few of Fenn's books by accident some time back at Half Price Books. I think my favorites are "Once Upon a Time in the East", and "The Mark of the Moderately Vicious Vampire", although every one I've read has been just as much fun. I recently got copies of "Blood River Down" and "Seven Spears of the W'Dch'Ck". Both are earlier works, I believe, but still very funny. All of Fenn's works are well worth finding and reading.
As far as "Booked for a Hanging" is concerned. My esteem for the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series of mysteries by Bill Crider is also very high. I don't know if "small town colloquial/folksy" is an actual genre of mystery, but this would be a prime example of it. Maybe a cross between "Murder She Wrote" and "Andy of Mayberry". Whatever it is, I love it! Growing up in small town Texas myself, every corner Sheriff Rhodes turns awakens a new "Oh yeah, I remember that!" from myself. I think I've already said I'm a bit envious. I hope my own planned series set in Central Texas is as good.

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