Folklore of the Teeth, Leo Kanner, The MacMillan Company, 1936.
This is one of those fascinating pick-a-topic-collect-its-folklore trivia books that c...moreFolklore of the Teeth, Leo Kanner, The MacMillan Company, 1936.
This is one of those fascinating pick-a-topic-collect-its-folklore trivia books that can be endless fun for geeks. Modern specimens of this highly specialized genre usually fall flat; you have to find one by somebody who lived between 1800 and around 1950, somebody who probably read Notes and Queries for sheer joy and could tell Pliny the Younger from the Elder. In the original Latin. That kind of guy.
Maybe it's not a coincidence that the best of this genre was written before the age of television, you know, before "trivia" became all about sports, celebrities and U.S. presidential history.
This book, ha, has a frontispiece of St. Apollonia holding a tongs and raising her blessed eyes to heaven, and that's as close as it comes to celebrities.
It has eight chapters straight of various cures for sore teeth ... moles' paws, for instance. Bite off a mole's right paw and you'll never suffer toothache. Or how's this? "Make up a powder of dried glowworm, add leaven the size of a hezelnut, mix both, make a plaster, put it on the ear lobe, leave it there for two or three days, it makes a blister; lance this and treat it like any other blister." That ear treatment (!) is a German prescription against toothache.
It's got a history of the toothpick and toothbrush throughout world cultures. And a whole lot more! I bought my own copy. I like this kind of trivia; it's endless fun.
Five stars for this book, or rather five stars for it and its prequel as a team act. They're both great. Two great books, with very different points!...more Five stars for this book, or rather five stars for it and its prequel as a team act. They're both great. Two great books, with very different points! I loved The Magicians, but there's an obvious reason why it's shelved in literary fiction rather than in the fantasy section. It is firmly in the literary tradition, being about an ordinary man's flaws and failings (though true, against a wonderful pseudo-Rowling-and-C.-S.-Lewis mashup romp of a setting with side mentions of Tolkein, and who wouldn't love that?) - but an absolutely great book, one that makes its point with crystal clarity. However, its point is that if you're going to be neurotic, then even going to Hogwarts and discovering the door to Narnia won't help, and that's firmly in the literary tradition.
The Magician King is pretty firmly in the fantasy tradition, though. Its point is quite different ... well, perhaps because it has no such definite point as The Magicians. If you read The Magicians and loved it as literary fiction, you'd be disappointed in its sequel. But if you loved the fantasy dress-up in The Magicians, you'll adore the sequel because it is adventure in the same setting, with the universe's magic at stake. Anyway. I adored it as such. It even has a happy ending, with room for a third book to come, and if there is one I'm going to go crazy and buy it the moment it comes out.(less)
Alas. Probably the worst fantasy novel ever written, but bad in all the ways that books usually aren't. Its surface is lovely, enticing. It's full of...moreAlas. Probably the worst fantasy novel ever written, but bad in all the ways that books usually aren't. Its surface is lovely, enticing. It's full of beautiful made-up words and details, and the ideas are good too. Evocative. Looks like good worldbuilding to come, at first. But once you get past the promise of the first fifty pages or so and into the story, well - it isn't. There's no depth, nothing gets developed, the protagonist goes on a vague journey and vague things seem to be happening, but it's like a snapshot that goes the more out of focus the longer you try to figure out what the picture's all about. Argh. And then it ends, and nothing's actually happened, and I wanted to throw the book at the wall and scream.
It's terrible in, yes, a unique way. I've kept my copy and gone back to it from time to time simply to analyze what not to do; it's like a textbook of what not to do as a writer. I've never read anything else quite like it, and probably never will again.(less)
This is my current favorite of Pratchett's books, and the only one I keep rereading. Why? Because it's also the first of his books that segues out of...moreThis is my current favorite of Pratchett's books, and the only one I keep rereading. Why? Because it's also the first of his books that segues out of pure farce fantastic into a more mature drama/comedy. It doesn't lose anything by the change, because Pratchett's chief comic strength is in his style; that comes at the level of sentences and surface details, not the actual storytelling. But for some reason, when he goes into Vimes' head, he becomes able to handle the grimmer parts of the story without reverting to pure comedy (for the worse example of Pratchett going for pure comedy in a clinch, try Monstrous Regiment). I'm pretty sure he could do this more often if he wanted to; he's a mature writer with diabolical skilz. But he usually declines, he goes for the farce instead.
I like the difference here. It makes the work rereadable. It's the seriousness that does it, I think; the qualities that make a book rereadable are deep-down ones, nothing to do with the surface style that is Pratchett's strongest note. But it's telling that I can reread Night Watch about twice a year, while the rest of his books? I certainly don't want to let go of my copies! But I only revisit them every five years or so; they are a delight, but not beloved.(less)
Alas. I read the Russell/Holmes series for swashbuckling Russell mixed with ironic Holmes, but I still lost interest in this narrative approximately h...moreAlas. I read the Russell/Holmes series for swashbuckling Russell mixed with ironic Holmes, but I still lost interest in this narrative approximately halfway through. Then I skipped forward to the end, went back and browsed through the last half, and then went on to other books. It may be that I'm just shifting gears into a state of Total Nonfiction (something that happens to me roughly every six years; it is like an obsession, I can't help it - something in my subconscious causes it, maybe? I dunno) but, anyway. I couldn't finish this book.
I do know why. The setting and the minor characters were okay, but they don't have the oomph of swashbuckling Russell and/or ironic Holmes. So when they dominated the book throughout the entire first half, with Russell functioning just as a viewpoint and Holmes offstage, I lose focus.
Russell really was just a viewpoint. She wasn't called upon to do anything but observe; she wasn't even able to draw conclusions, because she didn't get to see anything except the normal antics of a black-and-white movie crew cavorting on location. No clues. Nothing to deduct, no call for action.
Holmes really was offstage right through to the latter half of the book. I did expect that, because it's been a feature of some earlier Russell/Holmes books. Russell's the protagonist, not him. But I still feel his absence.
So the first half of the book is all about a film crew, and that wasn't what I signed up for.
In the second half, things do happen, including action and fun and kewl Holmes with violin, and Russell was good as usual, but by then my attention had left the building. I can't even review it accurately! I only browsed through it. Alax.(less)
When I was nineteen, I picked up The Game of Kings by mistake, started reading it, and spent the next two and a half months in a Dunnett trance, going...moreWhen I was nineteen, I picked up The Game of Kings by mistake, started reading it, and spent the next two and a half months in a Dunnett trance, going off my food, reading nothing but the Lymond Chronicle. I imprinted on Dunnett's work like a baby duck. Virtually everything I know about writing background and exposition comes from her. I reread the Lymond Chronicle so much that I made myself sick on it; that's how much I like it, and The Game of Kings is my favorite book of the six.
It's also different from the following books. The style is more elaborate and I like that. I loved the other five books, mind you, but in a different way ... it's as if the emotional heights of The Game of Kings are more high-octane, as if it's a standalone book - a headlong sprint - and the remaining five books are paced like a marathon, building toward the series finale.(less)
I read this book years ago, in pre-internet times. A library copy, and I was never able to find anything else by this author, though I searched for a...moreI read this book years ago, in pre-internet times. A library copy, and I was never able to find anything else by this author, though I searched for a long while and then forgot even her name (but not her storytelling, obviously).
It's the sequel to The Magic Stone, which (see above) I was never able to find and read. It's about a boy named Chris who lives in the woods learning magic from a crotchety witch named Janna, who belongs to something called the 'loose thread association' whose members communicate by sending each other pieces of crochet. It's charming. This book has stuck in my head for, oh, years, even though I'd forgotten the author and even the book's title. I knew Kooiker's name started with a K, and that was about all. Last week I went hunting and found Legacy of Magic on Amazon, and ordered it and the earlier book. Yes. The internet rules.
Yesterday Legacy of Magic arrived, and I picked it up and opened it for a moment, intending to leave it at home and go off to work instead with Arthurian mythology in the French canon instead. That's what I'd planned. But noooh, I read about two pages of the Kooiker, tucked it under my arm and ruthlessly abandoned Arthur and Lancelot.
There are very few children's writers who can do fantasy full of magic delight (as opposed to full of magical events) but everything that happens in this book is delightful - written in a kind of evening silver light of enchantment. Chris is forbidden by his association to use his magic stone for a year (to prove his self-control) so he doesn't. He runs around and explores with a friend named Alex, and there's a mystery about a lost coin collection, and things happen, this and that. A spell is cast, and cast again. Janna's upset with Chris and decides to kill him. Nothing's explained, it just happens. It all adds up to the evening silver light, which is really a matter of pure mood.
Kooiker reads like Margaret Storey, which is just about the highest praise I know for children's fantasy.
I came across this book in the University of Calgary library, shelved in the Viking history section, in a bland darkish clothbound hardcover just like...moreI came across this book in the University of Calgary library, shelved in the Viking history section, in a bland darkish clothbound hardcover just like all the other nonfiction. Really, this is no joke. I checked it out along with a bunch of other books on Viking culture, took it home and was a third of the way through before I clued in and checked the author's name, and then of course I knew this was the book made into The Thirteenth Warrior. Ha. Shame, shame, Univerity of Calgary librarians!(less)
More nonfiction should be like this. This is a book that, well, describes stuff ... but saying so is like walking out of a candy shop and saying, "Wel...moreMore nonfiction should be like this. This is a book that, well, describes stuff ... but saying so is like walking out of a candy shop and saying, "Well, that was a place that sold sugar." Schafer has assembled chapter after chapter of gorgeous things from T'ang China: the horses, the books, the gemstones, the references to strange herbs now unknown to science. It's a book of wonders, a very old-fashioned thing, and so yummy that I could put on weight just leafing through the chapter on horses.(less)
Too much dry-as-dust history (ie, dates and placenames) and not enough about the diamond itself! Because royal European gemstones are the subject of t...moreToo much dry-as-dust history (ie, dates and placenames) and not enough about the diamond itself! Because royal European gemstones are the subject of this book, and yet the book focuses on how the gems went from hand to hand - not just the Sancy Diamond, but lots of gems - while barely bothering to describe the gems themselves. Too bad.(less)
This is a neat story idea here! And I loved the meshing of the big-picture science fiction with the protagonist's own story of growing up and becoming...moreThis is a neat story idea here! And I loved the meshing of the big-picture science fiction with the protagonist's own story of growing up and becoming Kim. In fact, my only beef is actually a non-beef: I wanted to read the whole story, but to do that, I'm going to have to read the sequels, because there's obviously more to come.(less)