Sat, 31 Dec 2005

Richard II

— SjG @ 9:52 pm

William Shakespeare, circa 1595, read as an eBook from

Richard II follows the arc of the tragic hero, where Richard, preferring to live in luxury and excess, makes a series of decisions that eventually bring about his downfall. Bollingbroke and Mowbray have a dispute, which they want Richard to adjudicate. Because Richard had used Mowbray for illegal ends, he cannot make the judgment, and ends up preventing their duel by banishing both men. This is his first series of errors, which he follows by spending too much, and unwisely taking land from nobles (including lands and riches of Bollingbroke’s father, John of Gaunt). His last mistake is pursuing war in Ireland to gather more wealth. Bollingbroke’s return during this time marks the inexorable falling of Richard’s reign.
The play’s pacing seemed better to me than that of King John, and the tension increases steadily as Richard’s fortunes turn for the worse. As nobles turn against him, one by one, or fall to Bollingbroke, we share the experience of his world collapsing.

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Sun, 25 Dec 2005

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes

— SjG @ 6:45 pm

Chris Crutcher, Harper Tempest, 2003

The voice of a teen misfit, with an exquisite and mature sense of self-awareness, tells this tale of high-school angst, child abuse, religious fanaticism, adolescent romance, hypocracy, disappointment, and violence. While the overall story is just a little bit too much, it’s a good read, and has a few scenes sure to warm the hearts of those of us who were outcasts and nonconformists in high school.

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King John

— SjG @ 6:19 pm

William Shakespeare, circa 1595, read as an eBook from

All I remember from Western Civ class about King John is that he lost much of England’s holdings on the continent, thereby gaining the moniker “Lackland,” and that he was forced by his nobles to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede. In Shakespeare’s history, this latter event is not even mentioned. The play is much more concerned with the succession, and the murder of his nephew Arthur.

As a story, it seems rushed (even for a play). John’s faults are portrayed through a flurry of failed diplomatic maneuvers and battles in France. His excommunication, and murder of Arthur seem more an inevitable consequence of his other failings than crimes in and of themselves. His ignoble death, too, has the air of inevitability about it

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Sat, 3 Dec 2005

The Shadow of the Wind

— SjG @ 10:11 pm

Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Penguin Books, translated by Lucia Graves, 2004.

This is a good thriller set in Barcelona, and touching on love, idealism, power, and books.

The story starts out feeling like a literary mystery, perhaps with a touch of magical realism ala Borges’ Library. However, it rather quickly becomes a mystery involving an author, a boy who gradually falls deep into a story that involves him and his friends in a recapitulation of history.

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

— SjG @ 8:06 pm

J. K. Rowling, 2005, Scholastic Press

Christ, I read this back in July, and am only writing about it now.

I’m hoping that JK knows what she’s doing. It seems like Order of the Phoenix was an awfully long book for what it did to advance the plot arc. After reading Half-Blood Prince, it almost feels like Order should have had half the material of Half-Blood, so that the next book won’t be rushed.

So with no further ado, here’re my SPOILER FILLED predictions for the next one:

  • McGonnagle is given the temporary Headmaster position at Hogwarts.
  • We will learn that Regulas Black managed to gather up, and disable pretty much all but one of the outstanding horicruxes (horicruxen?).
  • The remaining horicrux was being kept at the Black Residence at the time of Regulas’ murder. This horicrux is none other than the locket which Harry & co. failed to open during their time at 12 Grimmauld Place.
  • Kreacher manages to get this locket into his “nest” during his artifact rescuing efforts.
  • Mundungus Fletcher, during his wholesale looting of the place, gets the locket, and sells it to someone. It ends up in the hands of the Malfoys.
  • Dobby finds out about this through some house-elf channel or at a SPEW meeting or something, and the news is duly reported to the Order of the Phoenix.
  • Draco Malfoy can’t handle being a Death Eater, and/or the experience with Dumbledore on the Tower gives him severe doubts. Before the senior Malfoys recognize the horicrux for what is, Draco goes to Snape for help/moral support/inspiration. Snape obtains the horicrux.
  • While the Order is trying to destroy/deactivate the horicrux, Death Eaters (sans Voldy) pounce on the location, and a battle ensues. Neville somehow fumbles something, causing the explosive destruction of the horicrux, and probably taking out Bellatrix Lestrange as well.
  • Snape betrays the worst of the Death Eaters, and the Order of the Phoenix destroys many of them and sends a batch to Azkaban.
  • Harry has his showdown with Voldy, and it’s not going well, but Ginny dives in to take the fall for Harry, and their combined love (and magical forces) defeat Voldy.
  • Book ends with Snape teaching the Defense Against the Black Arts class, and Harry teaching something like Divination.
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