Sep. 17th, 2017

stoutfellow: Joker (Joker)
Ever since I got my Kindle, I've been making trawls through Project Gutenberg, grabbing whatever looks interesting. It's not always successful; the copy of Pepys' Diary that I downloaded was a Victorian edition, considerably bowdlerized.

One recent pickup was "Bearslayer", an epic poem by the Latvian poet Andrejs Pumpurs. It's kind of a Latvian analogue of "Kalevala"; Pumpurs gathered together a bunch of folk tales about the legendary hero Bearslayer and wove them into a single poem. I finished it the other day. It's rather interesting; the Latvian gods appear, along with devils, witches, ogres, and assorted other monsters. It's set, however, in a fairly recent time-period, during the invasion of the Baltic states by the Teutonic Knights. Bearslayer is a leader in the doomed defense. There's one bit which jarred me, though. As Bearslayer's prophesied doom approaches, it is suddenly revealed that he has bear's ears, and if they are cut off his power will be diminished. No foreshadowing at all; his bride never asks, "Honey, what's wrong with your ears?" Still, it was fun.

My current Kindle reading (I rotate through them):
Lad, a Dog, Albert Payson Terhune. Yes, Terhune was a racist, and it's very explicit when it comes up. Fortunately, it's only come up once in the first 80% of the book. Other than that, they're standard dog stories.
The Mysteries of Udolpho, by Ann Radcliffe. I think this is one of the books that Jane Austen mocked in Northanger Abbey. Not too much Gothic yet, but I'm still in the early part of the book.
Sir Walter Scott's Journal. It's pretty interesting; we get glimpses of James Fenimore Cooper, the Duke of Wellington, and various other early-nineteenth century figures. There's a story of a man who'd been exiled to Australia and, feeling for some reason indebted to Sir Walter, sent him an emu. Scott accepted it, being under the impression that an emu was a sort of large parrot. He was unpleasantly surprised by the truth. (There's a later entry: "I offered the emu to Lord ####." No indication that the offer was accepted.)
Morphosyntactic Change, by Los, Blom, and Booij. This is a rather technical work on particle verbs in Dutch, German, and English, today and through history, and I'll admit I'm in over my head. But it's interesting to see what questions they're wrestling with, and what kinds of answers they give.

I'm also rereading Peter Hamilton's Judas Unchained. It and the preceding volume, Pandora's Star, are doorstops, but the story is intricate and absorbing.

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