Bibliodyssey: August

So, considerably sooner than my updates for June and July, here is my update for August.

August also included mad commuting and travelling, but with the added excitement of coming down with the flu, so my reading output fluctuated between ‘read a million pages, I’m bored’, ‘too busy to breathe’ and ‘so tired I can’t even focus on the pages’.

Read: Fleabag and the Ring Fire, The Eye of the World*, The Great Hunt*, The Dragon Reborn*, three volumes of the manga/manhwa One Thousand and One Nights and I began part one of the three-volume full version of the Tales from the Arabian Nights: One Thousand and One Nights.

August

Fleabag and the Ring Fire, by Beth Webb, is a book that I have begun reading many times, but as I don’t own it, I’ve never quite got to the end. While working on a writing course with Beth in early August, I found a copy in a box of her books and devoured it during my lunch breaks. It was wonderful – a fantasy quest that contains plenty of common sense (something that I find lacking from far too much modern fantasy). Fleabag himself – a sharp-tempered, three-legged black cat – has become one of my favourite characters of all time. I can’t wait for my reading list to diminish so that I can get on to the sequels.

On a whim in Cathays Library one day I flicked through the three volumes of a manwha (the Korean equivalent of manga) adaptation of The Thousand and One Nights, because I was waiting for my copy of the originals to be delivered from Amazon (more on that story later). It was a version where a young man dressed himself up as a virgin girl in order to take his sister’s place in the sultan’s harem, and ended up telling stories to save his own life. There was considerably more focus on the plot of the sultan/Sehara than the stories, though, and on the relationships between the characters, loyalties and romances breaking out all over the place. It was very much in the genre of manwha, which I thought was a shame, because it lost some of the power of the originals, but it wasn’t a bad read.

I also re-read the first three books of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. I took The Eye of the World with me on my bus journeys to and from Edinburgh, reasoning that I wouldn’t need to pay as much attention to a book I already know and so it would help pass the time faster. (It did.) What struck me was that even though Jordan’s style of writing becomes more sophisticated over the course of the story, his intimate knowledge of his fictional ontology showed through even in the opening pages of the book. He clearly knew the world in which he was working, and it is a huge strength of his writing that his world is so convincing. That kind of logic is something I really enjoy when I find it, especially in fantasy writing (see my rant on David Eddings below for many other things I dislike in modern fantasy). After reading The Eye of the World I worked my way through The Great Hunt and The Dragon Reborn, both of which I enjoyed immensely, not least because I could see where the series was going to go.

I have to confess, though, that I ended up skipping a lot of the chapters with Rand, because he’s not so exciting once you know what’s happening to him. Perrin, though, Perrin, he remains my favourite favourite character – again, common sense! And logic! And he’s so lovely! I love a thoughtful fantasy hero.

My final book for August, which I haven’t finished, and probably won’t for some time, is the first volume of a three-part full translation of all 1001 tales of The Arabian Nights. I prefer calling them The Thousand and One Nights, actually, because The Arabian Nights sounds terribly post-colonial inside my head. Maybe that’s just me. I’m up to about Night 28, dipping in and out of them, and they are magnificent. I have a children’s version of the most famous tales of Scheherezade, and I always loved her, from when I was very young, because she was clever and a girl and she told amazing stories and out-witted the sultan. Then I realised earlier this year that I must only have a vague impression of the text, because 1001 nights is 1001 stories, and decided that I wanted to know them better. There’s far too much for me to comment on for me to do any justice to them here, but they are interesting, absorbing, poetic tales that reveal a great deal about medieval Islamic culture. I’m doing a lot of thinking while reading them, which is good for the brains, and I’m enjoying them very much.

Right. That brings me about up to date with the bibliodyssey. Now I need to get over this flu, get some more reading done and have something to talk about for September.

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