I've read this essay again and again, so this is a rating of the "Harvest" edition here. Excellent introduction, notes I never had in any version I've...moreI've read this essay again and again, so this is a rating of the "Harvest" edition here. Excellent introduction, notes I never had in any version I've read in all these years, and bibliographies by topic. All of her major works are out in this format now, all edited by Woolf scholars -- so don't buy a random dusty old edition if you're doing research. (less)
The rating is for the edition rather than the work. Shakespeare gets five stars, Yale gets four I guess. The notes were nice and unobtrusive, but ther...moreThe rating is for the edition rather than the work. Shakespeare gets five stars, Yale gets four I guess. The notes were nice and unobtrusive, but there weren't any interesting or illuminating things added. A nice clean copy for looking things up, and it looks snazzy on your desk too.(less)
I love the density of this poetry and I dig a lot of his critiques. I like when I see Milton peeking through. And I especially like how important Pope...moreI love the density of this poetry and I dig a lot of his critiques. I like when I see Milton peeking through. And I especially like how important Pope makes the role of the critic. But I have the hardest time knowing what the hell is going on, for like the first five stanzas or so. Where are we? Who the hell are you talking to? Too much ceremony, apostrophe? I don't know. And I read for a living.(less)
One of the only things I've read in a long time that had me going 150pp at a sitting. I'm writing a paper on the adaptation to film, and the story tha...moreOne of the only things I've read in a long time that had me going 150pp at a sitting. I'm writing a paper on the adaptation to film, and the story that made it to the screen is one of a number of stories, all intertwined, that live in the book. (I guess I'll have more to say when I'm done with the project.)
A little biased here, too, because the novel is set in Maryland, in the very county and town (although under a made-up name) where my parents grew up. The first quarter of the book abounds in description of this place, so it got an excellent hold on me from the start.(less)
The four star thingy says it means I really liked it -- and I did, I really liked it! This is the first Anglo-Saxon period historical novel I've read,...moreThe four star thingy says it means I really liked it -- and I did, I really liked it! This is the first Anglo-Saxon period historical novel I've read, and it's penned with a fantasy sort of style to it. It's really reminiscent of George RR Martin, but Hollick's writing is not quite as good.
I loved the character development, the solid references to real history (I forgave the slightly off things -- it's a novel!), and the quick pace. I was a little annoyed by how much time gets skipped, but since she's trying to stay faithful to recorded history insofar as the major events go, she can't fill in too much with made up stuff. So think of the Anglo-Saxon chronicle. Take a few lines that sum up a whole year. Focus on one or two of them and expand them in great detail. Then skip to the next year leaving a whole lot unsaid. That's what she does. The other thing that bothered me is I've gotten used to this style of writing so it shouldn't call so much attention to itself. But her writing is anything but transparent. Not that I think writing should be unadorned, but I think you should strive to have your style just meld with the content and not scream JUST LOOK AT THAT! The use of archaic language and similar flourishes is laid on thick at times, and not handled as expertly as when Martin does it (and I only compare her to him because I really think that's who she's emulating). This is a pageturner, but doesn't make it to all the crescendos it could have had.
OH -- the most awful thing in the writing was these sentence fragments that start with verbs and leave out the subject. No matter how many times she did it I couldn't stomach it. I am no grammarian either. I like my fragments and language experimentation. But you could tell she was TRYING something, and it just felt awkward. "Tossed over his shoulder..." "Was rewarded with a shy smile." "Was laughing with her, not at her." That kind of stuff. Blech.
All that aside, it's great to see this bit of history from a woman's point of view. A powerful woman at that! Hollick is deft at handling the myriad conflicting emotions and decisions that come with a crown, from dealing with the inevitability of a king's (husband's) keeping of whores and second wives, to giving up your own children to protect them from whoever is after the crown this time.
Ok, this is the kind of thing I want to do! Only, as the fella who wrote the introduction says, I have to make sure Tolkien hasn't already written exh...moreOk, this is the kind of thing I want to do! Only, as the fella who wrote the introduction says, I have to make sure Tolkien hasn't already written exhaustively on my particular Saxony topics. (The guy presented a brilliant paper at a conference only to have everyone there tell him "Tolkien already wrote that.")
I just translated Sermo Lupi from the OE. I'm getting there!
Okay so I only read the first one in the giant three volume set. Besides the Latin parentheticals (which is, like, most of the book) I really liked it...moreOkay so I only read the first one in the giant three volume set. Besides the Latin parentheticals (which is, like, most of the book) I really liked it! If you picked this up to feel better, today's self help books don't compare, because those authors write from a place of knowing resolution of all their neuroses. This fella wrote while he was down, to help himself get back up. His reflections and his appeals to authorities (other than himself) are all the more effective on the reader's own melancholy, because we are figuring it out right along with "Democritus." And especially since he won't let us dwell too long on melancholy itself, but distracts us with a potpourri of 17th century theories of everything. A healthy (and educational) way to take your mind off your black clouds.
Also of course, it's a nice catalog of allusions. A dilettante's delight.(less)
This is a quick read and a nice complement to reading "serious" history. The writing is lively. The title refers to THE year 1000, like from January t...moreThis is a quick read and a nice complement to reading "serious" history. The writing is lively. The title refers to THE year 1000, like from January to December. The authors were inspired by a calendar full of images of plowing and feasting and everyday life. So while they touch on some major historical events, they only do so editorially (see below). The book is mostly about what the Anglo-Saxon man and woman did every day, in villages around Angla-lond.
The authors love those Anglo-Saxons, to a fault. They seem to hate Vikings, and even despise their Norman descendants for destroying what they call a flowering A-S culture. It's kind of funny because the Anglo-Saxons did the same thing to the Celts a few hundred years earlier, but they don't talk about that. They get so mad they won't even write "1066" but seethingly call it "that year that everyone remembers so well." I didn't really mind the historical laments though, not only because they add personality but because I didn't read it to learn objective truths about foreign invasions (there are other books for that), and they made no claim of writing a book like that. I wanted to see what the average Aelfric did with himself in the 11th century, and it is an easy-reading, entertaining repository of information on everything domestic, from foodstuffs to clothing to digestive troubles. (less)
Ok I'm not "finished" but I'm done with the part Baker wrote. I'm translating the readings now, because all the first bits worked!
The book is not exci...moreOk I'm not "finished" but I'm done with the part Baker wrote. I'm translating the readings now, because all the first bits worked!
The book is not exciting until chapter 13. The first half of it is grammar and phonology and other linguisticy stuff that is not fun unless you are a linguist. But it is necessary. There are a ton of grammar books out there that are just handbooks, but Baker takes it further by spending time on the fun stuff like the "contexts" of Old English -- that is, the physical places we can read it. Manuscripts, engravings on weapons and at burial sites, etc. Some of it is in runes. Other fun stuff: poetic meter and word order. Also, the reading selections are solid (much of the hit parade of OE worth translating) and start off easy, and the glossary is good. (Although no little book like this can take the place of a dictionary.)
The best thing about this book by far is the online "Workout Room." The new U of VA "Old English Aerobics" site, with the interactive boxes where you drag and drop "cwenas" and "cyningas" into the right grammatical and syntactical slots, is not only fun but it cements this stuff. The practice sentences are funny too, sometimes referring in a silly way to actual texts (This book says he was a good king!) and sometimes just making up the kinds of scenarios we ALL want to read when we finally find ourselves reading Old English (With his sword he laid waste to every man he encountered)(Bring me my beer!). But beware the exercise that uses Jonathan Swift's English to teach the parts of OE.(less)
As the one other reviewer notes, this book is too short to go in depth on any particular origin of those English people. But it is an excellent introd...moreAs the one other reviewer notes, this book is too short to go in depth on any particular origin of those English people. But it is an excellent introduction, and not just for the total beginner at English history. I came into it with a lot of knowledge about language change from studying the historical linguistics of OE, and only had my history only through the literature and relevant historical "factoids." This book clears up (and sometimes necessarily complicates) where influences on the language and culture come from, and helped me to put everything in a tidier order in my mind, and to have a broader and more historically contextualized picture of those thousand years or so from the landing of the Romans to the landing of the Normans.
What I really loved about Saklatvala is that he's a historical positivist (I just learned that word because I've only just begun reading histories!). That is, if there is good evidence that something cool happened, he REALLY WANTS to believe it happened, and gets really excited about it. This makes the book exciting to read, even though there are gaping holes in the recorded history of the period and we can't know some things for sure. It's such a murky mystery and that's what makes it titillating to think about. And the more clues you find, the more wild your imagination gets with what those clues might mean, until you're like "This could maybe possibly maybe mean they rode around on dragons right? That would be so cool, so let's say they did, right?" So Saklatvala is not one who goes the conservative or rock-solid facts route with his historiography, and maybe he tries some things on for size that just don't fit, but I wouldn't call him biased or anything like that (the A-S bias in this review is my own). He just wants cool things to have happened, and who can blame him? His sources are Tacitus, Bede, The A-S Chronicles and the like, so it's not like he talks out his ass.
What I learned from this book that I had not learned elsewhere was much about the origin and the character of the Anglo-Saxons in particular. Because they were the longest-reigning people of the middle ages, and they were so harried by the Danes, I think some picture them as just hanging out and being plundered by a stronger people who they could barely fight off. I don't think of the A-S's as having settled down so much since 449 that they just sort of watched the Danes roll in and were helpless because they were busy plowing and praying. The A-S folk were in some ways even MORE warlike than the Vikings. They killed the shit out of the Britons to take their land from them. They didn't just kill to make their mark and some money, and then settle down and hang out with the English and adopt their gods like the Scandinavian invaders did (though I really admire that about the North Germanic folk - they are good colonizers). So maybe Vikings are more honorable than Anglo-Saxons, who not only bit the hand that fed them (since they were being paid to protect Britannia) but devoured the whole body too. (Now, the relationship between Britons and A-S invaders is complicated too and I wouldn't say the Britons just laid down and took it either. They were some tough sonsabitches, and there is much good stuff on them in this book. But they were not so warlike, and most tribes did get decimated, absorbed, or pushed to the fringe.) Anyway, in my English heritage I always felt the closest affinity with the A-S people, rather than the Celtic folk or anyone else, and it doesn't bother me to find out what assholes they could be. Assholes who did settle down to some extent, and who were bettering themselves with scholarship when they were "confronted with the embodied ghosts of their own seafaring and piratical ancestors" as the Viking ships came in and disrupted (for several hundred years) their dream of making England one land. So to be fair, as Saklatvala shows us, no one should ever characterize any of the civilizations of England as just getting kicked to shit by some invader. Celts, Britons, Anglo-Saxons, Danes, Normans, were all tough and awesome in their own ways.
The bits in the book about Roman rule were excellent too, because those dudes documented so much. But it's after they leave that things get murky, and therefore (in my opinion) more fun to think about. I also lose some respect for the Romans because they knew about fertile Britannia for 500 years before they went there. Why? They were afraid to sail a sea that has, like, WAVES and other frightening things you wouldn't know how to deal with if you learned to sail just by tooling around the balmy Mediterranean all the time.
I could keep going but I have to think about it for a bit and look back at my notes. Yes, it had so much stuff in it I had to take notes!(less)
Phascinaticng philology! The writing is a little unexciting in places, which is a bummer in such a dense text, but the treatment of words and themes i...morePhascinaticng philology! The writing is a little unexciting in places, which is a bummer in such a dense text, but the treatment of words and themes intermixing in Norse and Saxon literature is masterful, nuanced, and deep. I'm in awe of the thoughtfulness and the amount of work that went into this book. Some of the words Taylor deals with are only found in a single manuscript, yet have myriad contexts and possible etymologies contributing to their meanings. He treats all the theories that are out there, sorts out the improbable ones, and develops his own conclusions that are either illuminating, or realistic and apologetic in acknowledging the vagaries of translating a dead language and understanding stories that have never come to us in anything but fragments.(less)
I haven't rated any theory as five stars in a while. Not since my initial infatuation with it. (Now we're like an old married couple.) Some of those s...moreI haven't rated any theory as five stars in a while. Not since my initial infatuation with it. (Now we're like an old married couple.) Some of those stars there are for this being a book you need to know if you want to do narrative theory, and the rest of those stars are just because I love Genette's style, that is, his style both on the page and in his head.
Two main style things:
Turns of phrase -- he keeps it interesting and even informal in places. Funniest bit: "capital erotic habits." Capital! Just capital, I say! (I know this is a translation, but the thought is there even in the French.)
Evidence of painful, painstaking thinking -- Holy shit, footnotes! He ANGUISHES over choosing terms, for instance. To paraphrase: "Here's the etymologies on all these parts of the term, and here's why it doesn't quite work, and OH I regret that I even need to coin a term at all, but I do!"
I'd like to do this better justice, but the book is on my desk at the office, because it's in use for paper-writing.
A note: While Genette is the author of the most famous (in America) two books on narrative theory, that's hardly what he's interested in. He's done so much other work on everything but. (less)
Uuuggghh. I'm loving the narrative theory course I'm taking, but this book was an "experiment" of the professor's. I don't think he's going to use it...moreUuuggghh. I'm loving the narrative theory course I'm taking, but this book was an "experiment" of the professor's. I don't think he's going to use it again. Here is a not very scholarly review (because reading this guy's English broke my brain):
Schmid (I keep wanting to call him Wolf) covers just about everything, and considers just about every theory. He gets rid of the ones that just don't work (but introduces them so you know what used to be out there), then he takes the remaining viable theories and follows whatever middle road he can find. It's a cross between a survey of narrative theory and a guy actually coming up with some new theory. Diagrams and schematics run rampant! Also, he uses real life examples to try to illustrate how narrative contraptions work with fictive happenings, and it just doesn't come off. His literary examples are all Russian.
Some of the chapters open with what seems like a statement, then you find out the point of his argument in the chapter is to counter that statement. I realize this is a perfectly fine way to introduce an argument, but I kept getting tricked because he'd say something cool on the first page and then say why it doesn't work. Lots of disagreements and "why not's" from me in the margins.
I am really trying to think objectively about whether this book would be helpful as an intro to narrative theory, and I don't think it would be. I think it only works for a review, comparison tool, or quick reference if you already have some knowledge of narrative theory. And even then, it's really no fun at all.
Did I mention the crabbed English? Weird thing -- this guy is German, of course, but rewrites his books in English. No one translated him. I guess it's kinda cool that he reworks the thing for an Anglo audience (he points to the list of references saying Look! I added Joyce and Woolf so you can understand! And yeah, everyone else is still a Russian...), but maybe next time he should just hire somebody to English it for him.(less)