Friday, November 28, 2008

In the Blink of a Book 1

Of course, as someone who spends her life thinking about, teaching about, writing about and actually writing books, it makes sense to talk more about books on this blog. So I thought I'd start my own 'In the Blink of a Book' segment. We'll see how it goes. The idea is basically to share two books each segment. One academic book - because I'm an academic - one fiction book.

Marina Warner's From the Beast to the Blonde
In many ways, this is the book that made me an academic. Seriously, everyone knew I was going to be an academic by the time I was about twelve. But I rebelled. Me? An academic? Never! Until I read From the Beast to the Blonde. "This is what I can do as an academic??? This isn't so bad..." The book is about fairy tale. The book captures the feminine spirit of fairy tale. The book gamely celebrates the importance of good hair days in fairy tale. This is a book that is both creative and scholarly. Warner writes in the spirit in which fairy tales are told, and that makes her that much more insightful. One of my favourite quotes from the book? "The enchantments also universalize the narrative setting, encipher concerns, beliefs and desires in brilliant, seductive images that are themselves a form of camouflage, making it possible to utter harsh truths, to say what you dare." (xvii) Can't you just imagine saying that with a flourish and courtly bow?

Jim Butcher's Dead Beat
I picked this book up because I loved the cover and the neat juxtaposition of detective pot boiler and magic... complete with a wizard called Harry. It's half way - or so - through the series, but that didn't bother me. The reason I include this? The introduction. "On the whole, we're a murderous race. According to Genesis, it took as few as four people to make the planet too crowded to stand, and the first murder was a fraticide. Genesis says that in a fit of jealous rage, the very first child born to mortal parents, Cain, snapped and popped the first metaphorical cap in another human being. The attach was a bloody, brutal, violent, reprehensible killing. Cain's brother Abel probably never saw it coming. As I opened the door to my apartment, I was filled with a sense of empathic sympathy and intuitive understanding. For freaking Cain." (1) Beat that, "It was a dark and stormy night," or even "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." There's also a scene with a dinosaur that shouldn't be missed, if I can get away with saying that much. This is not high literature, but it is fun.

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