Tag Archives: book recommendations

The Friday 56: The Dragonbone Chair

Today’s posts are going to be a little lighter than usual. I’m spending today and probably tomorrow preparing my end-of-year in books review, and also trying to push further ahead in Part Two of my book project (which is finally yielding its secrets to me, though it’s making me fight through every rank and take every trench). Also, Rena Partnerlove is reading Part One, and while I know I still need to fix a lot of things, her initial reports were favorable. At least, she didn’t need a vomit bucket.

Over at Freda’s Voice, they host a fun bit called “The Friday 56.” Go to page 56 of the book you’re reading, post a few sentences. That’s it. I’m finishing up The Dragonbone Chair right now, and since I already know I’ll be recommending this to everyone and their cousins (in other words, for those of you with cousins: please forward my review when it comes out this weekend) I’m posting an interesting page from the first part of this book.

Before he could bring the face around to look at it once more, Malachias suddenly put both hands in the middle of Simon’s chest and gave a surprisingly hard push. He lost his grip on the youth’s jerkin and staggered backward, then fell on his seat. Before he could even attempt to rise, Malachias had whisked through the doorway, pulling it shut behind him with a loud, reverberating squeal of bronze hinges.

Simon was still sitting on the stone floor — sore knee, sore rump, and mortally wounded dignity clamoring for attention — when the sexton Barnabus came in out of the Chancelry hall to investigate the noise. He stopped as if stunned in the doorway, looking from Simon bootless on the floor to the torn and crumpled tapestry in front of the stairwell, then turned his stair back to Simon. Barnabas said not a word, but a vein began to drumbeat high on each temple, and his brow beetled downward until his eyes were the merest slits.

Simon, routed and massacred, could only sit and shake his head, like a drunkard who had tripped over his own jug and landed upon the Lord Mayor’s cat.

Between reading this book the first time in late 1990 and reading it now, I’ve since read the Gormenghast books twice, and I think I enjoy the scenes in the castle more because I can see the influence Mervyn Peake had on Mr Williams’s writing. And like all skilled and talented writers, he works his influence in gently, like an accent, and not in bold strokes with a sharpie across the face of one’s own painting, hoping that a loud caricature of Gandalf or Steerpike will attract readers and not just amuse critics.

Have a fun and exciting morning, and I hope you have good tea, a good book, and a good day.

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Book Beginnings Friday

I hope you liked yesterday’s flash piece. It was based on family folklore dating back to my early teens, and also a sneaking conviction that my cat knows a  lot more than she reveals. I think most writers have a similar belief. Plus, flash pieces and short-short stories help clear my mind for my larger projects, and I highly recommend them to anyone who wants to do any kind of creative work.

Today is also Book Beginnings Friday over at Rose City Reader, and while this week I’ve been a little light on the blogging (I’ve taken on a few students, and I’ve been mulling over a pretty big decision) I’ll catch up this week with my musings on books and movies and Hallowe’en and other fun things. Today’s ‘Book Beginnings’ comes from a book I just started, but one I’ve meant to read for years, Katherine Anne Porter’s Ship of Fools. No, not this “Ship of Fools,” though I confess that my musically-angled brain sings this song nearly every time I look at the cover. This one:

August, 1931 — The port town of Veracruz is a little purgatory between land and sea for the traveler, but the people who live there are very fond of themselves and the town they have helped to make… There is maybe a small sign of uneasiness in this pugnacious assertion of high breeding; in this and in the methodical brutality of their common behavior towards the travelers who must pass through their hands to reach the temporary haven of some ship in harbor. The travelers wish only to be carried away from the place, and the Veracruzanos wish only to see the last of them; but not until every possible toll, fee, extortion, and bribe due to the town and its citizens has been extracted. It is in fact to the passing eye a typical port town, cynical by nature, shameless by experience, hardened to showing its seamiest side to strangers:  ten to one this stranger passing through is a sheep bleating for their shears, and one in ten is a scoundrel it would be a pity not to outwit. In any case, there is only so much money to be got out of each one, and the time is always short.

It’s always nice to pick up a book and realise that you can safely sink into the comforting hands of a true master of the craft. As a former sailor, I’ve passed through many towns that seemed exactly so, or at least they did on the surface. Sometimes, such as in Newport, Rhode Island, you could dig under the surface a little and find one of the warmest groups of people you would ever meet on the planet. And sometimes, such as in… well, a bunch of other port cities… you find that when you’ve finally dug through the garbage, there’s nothing but sewage and pain and cynical, hardened creatures quite comfortable wearing their person-suits and pretending to be human.

This weekend:  book reviews, movies, Hallowe’en, and other fun things.