8-19-2011 I just finished The Song of Roland. I had read 2/3rds of it last weekend and finished it today. It's so gory and simple. I found it interesti...more8-19-2011 I just finished The Song of Roland. I had read 2/3rds of it last weekend and finished it today. It's so gory and simple. I found it interesting, but I don't find any love in my heart or admiration for Roland or Charlemagne or any of the characters. Except, maybe a little for Oliver. Roland seemed like an arrogant jerk. I found a really fun edition of it in the library, printed in 1938 for "The Limited Edition Club" translated by Charles Scott Moncrieff and introduction by Hamish Miles. It is a hardcover and has illustrations by Valenti Angelo done after the style of medieval illuminations at the beginning of each section. They are cute. I think my very favorite part of the edition is an insert pasted in the back of "The Heritage Club Sandglass; No. VIII:19" It explains the story and brags about the edition. It's full of insights like this:
Charlemagne simply did not like Saracens. So he took his army and left his headquarters at Aix in France and crossed the Pyrenees and murdered a lot of them there Saracens. Then, having had his fun, he decided to go home." and this one If now you make the remark that you would gladly give "a Roland for an Oliver", this means that you think Roland was a foolhardy person and Oliver a wise man indeed. If however you make the remark that you will gladly take a Roland for an Oliver, this means that you think Roland was a brave hero and Oliver a confounded sissy. The latter is what Charlemagne's court thought." Guess I wouldn't have fit in with Charlemagne's court. At least according to "The Heritage Club of 595 Madison Ave. New York 22" I did think the story interesting, and I was able to envision most of the battle; something I generally find difficult. The translation isn't great poetry but it is simple enough to understand. I do wonder how the heroes of our story are able to ride from challenger to challenger unmolested and it generally seems to be one on one battle. What were all the extra Saracens doing while they watched their leaders getting skewered y Roland & co.? It sort of negates the advantage of their higher numbers - no wonder they were massacred. XCIII ... When Rollant hears, what rage he has, by God! His steed he spurs, gallops with great effort; He goes, that count, to strike with all his force, The shield he breaks, the hauberk's seam unsews, Slices the heart, and shatters up the bones, All of the spine he severs with that blow, And with his spear the soul from body throws, So well he's pinned, he shakes in the air that corse, On his spear's hilt he's flung it from the horse: So in two halves Aelroth's neck he broke, ...
That's what I mean by gory and simple, but quite easy to imagine. I'm pretty interested in learning more about the historical context of this story. Next library day I should get some history books about Roland and/or about Charlemagne. (less)
I think the best thing about this book is learning along with the protagonist, Julia, about the events that took place in Paris the summer of 1942. I...moreI think the best thing about this book is learning along with the protagonist, Julia, about the events that took place in Paris the summer of 1942. I suspect that many like me, like Julia, though they know in general about the holocaust, do not know about this particular horrible event: the round-up of Parisian Jews by the French police at the request of the Nazis. The story is powerfully told and made personal by the specifically more horrible story of the second main character, Sarah. The modern story, of Julia, and how she comes to learn about the events of 1942 and of Sarah's life is a generally a good frame for the story, and helps bring out some major themes. The main theme, of course, is "never forget," a common one among holocaust literature which is very important. However the secondary theme, about why we shouldn't forget is more interesting. De Rosnay makes a point to show that those committing these crimes, and those that were abetting them through willful ignorance or inaction were human people, just like you and me, and your neighbor across the street. We should remember what was done because it is so likely to occur again, if people give in to hatefulness, give in to scapegoating, choose to separate our humanity from other groups. If we dehumanize others it makes it ok to hurt them. We should remember what was done and that it was done by humans to other humans. Some participated actively, but far more participated inactively by ignoring it, and doing there best to forget it after. I felt De Rosnay did a good job at bringing this out through details in Sarah's story and details in Julia's family's story. The weakness in this book, I think, is that sometimes the characters interacted in ways that didn't make sense to me. Also I was disappointed in Julia in the end. I've read some of the reviews here and Julia's husband gets repeatedly and deservedly bashed, but I also had a lot of sympathy for him and kind of wish that things had worked out differently. It seems like Julia could have done better.(less)
This was by far the weakest book of the series. Usually a journey provides a great frame for a plot line, but Ayla's and Jondalar's journey is way too...moreThis was by far the weakest book of the series. Usually a journey provides a great frame for a plot line, but Ayla's and Jondalar's journey is way too much like a real journey: repetitive and dull. I think I'm more interested than most people in the climate and cultures of the Paleolithic, but I still found myself skimming over long sections that once again described the minute changes of scenery along their journey, or minutely described the details of a tool (for what seemed like the hundredth time). Also, I like a good sex scene as much as the next girl, but the repetitive, overly-detailed, pages-long, essentially-the-same sex scene repeated every few pages got very old. After a while, I pretty much just skipped ahead every time Jondalar and Ayla started goggling at each other. I liked the book and the series over all, and there were many interesting encounters on their journey, but by book #4 in this series the plodding pace can get a bit tiring. This is and its sequel Shelters of Stone are the first books I've ever read that I've actually skipped or skimmed over parts, I wish Auel would have skipped them instead.(less)
Overall I enjoyed this, but there were some weak points. I primarily have the same complaint that I brought up with the fourth book. The pace can be e...moreOverall I enjoyed this, but there were some weak points. I primarily have the same complaint that I brought up with the fourth book. The pace can be extremely plodding and repetitive. Auel feels the need to explain things in such minute repetitive detail that it gets old. Also I felt there were several unresolved conflicts and plot-points at the end of this book, but as far as I know it is the last in the series. I guess that can be nice because we can resolve them in our own imaginary way. I felt a rather big disappointment in the end in general, but won't mention the specifics, to avoid spoilers. The Zelondonii were my least favorite of the cultures Auel creates, and rather wish that Ayla and Jondalar wouldn't have journeyed there.(less)
Loved looking at all the pictures. I read some, but not all of the text. It was more trivia about each painting, describing what certain details allud...moreLoved looking at all the pictures. I read some, but not all of the text. It was more trivia about each painting, describing what certain details alluded to, than how to "read" a painting. (less)
This is brutal - the grim story of Eastern Europe (primarily Ukraine, Poland, & Belarus) during the times of the regimes of Stalin and of Hitler....moreThis is brutal - the grim story of Eastern Europe (primarily Ukraine, Poland, & Belarus) during the times of the regimes of Stalin and of Hitler. I think that I am a fairly well-educated person, but this book was an eye-opener for me. As bad as I thought World War II was, it was so much worse. Most of what happened leading up to the war, during the war, and following the war in the east is just not talked about much. I found it especially interesting to learn about the history of the collectivization of the Ukraine, in light of the current events in the Ukraine - very enlightening. I listened to this as an audiobook. It was the first time I've tried to listen to a history book, instead of reading it. I found some advantage in it; in some ways hearing it is an easier method to take in the information - it is a little like listening to a lecture in class, which I have always enjoyed. However, unlike a class where an instructor would respond to the listeners by pausing for ingestion when needed, and possibly answering questions; the pace while listening as an audiobook is unrelenting. Because I listen while I work, it is not always possible for me to pause or go back if I felt overwhelmed. I did listen to some parts multiple times, because I felt like there was too much to take in the first time. I felt like the writing was quite good, the information was presented in an understandable, though unrelenting way. Midway through, I did feel a little horror-fatigue, as it is one horror after another after another. I felt like the author was very good at presenting both the numbers side of things and the personal side of things at the same time. He would often include personal stories within the larger narrative. That helped me to see the tragedies as what they were, millions of personal tragedies, not just one giant impersonal horror. I also felt like the author was quite good at presenting the reason why and how these things happened. I felt that the conclusion, which speaks about each person as individuals, both the perpetrators and the victims was insightful and useful. I do recommend reading this book, because it is so enlightening; it gave me a fuller understanding of the history that is still effecting us today; however, go into it knowing it will be a rough ride. (less)
This is a straightforward history of the rise and fall of Carthage, the great Mediterranean civilization. The struggle is...moreCarthage Must be Destroyed.
This is a straightforward history of the rise and fall of Carthage, the great Mediterranean civilization. The struggle is that most of the historical sources for the story of Carthage filter through it's great rival and eventual destroyer, Rome. The author supplements this very biased history with some archaeological evidence. He primarily teases out what can be known of the truth by comparing the sources and analyzing them in conjunction with what else is known of cultures in question. I found it very interesting to hear from this perspective. I hadn't given Carthage much thought prior to listening to this. One thing I found especially interesting was the adoption and adaption of the myth of Heracles-Melkart throughout the cultures of the region; and how it was used as propaganda. This is another history book that I listened to, instead of reading. I do find that it is a little more difficult to retain the information this way, but I still enjoyed it. (less)