A person gains attention on the internet mainly by talking about themselves. To that end: here are the books I read this week, and how I feel about them. Why would you be interested in this? I have absolutely no idea.
Last Week I Read:
The Tale of Heike, author unknown, Royall Tyler translator: I bought it as as being the Japanese Iliad and it lived up to that billing in terms of being the artistic expression of a highly militarized society of great physical violence and also a profound sense of poetry. The Iliad is fascinatingly the product of a civilization at a fairly early stage, in so far as literacy and the complexity of the polity and so forth go, while Heike is from a much more advanced society. Anyway, the style is completely foreign although sometimes quite beautiful (I am completely unequipped to determine if the translator has done an admirable job, though to judge by its reception the answer seems to be yes) and anyone with any narrative sense can appreciate the very long build up of violence which explodes furiously close to the end of the book. It's hard to recommend this sort of thing blindly since it is about 700 pages and sometimes sort of impossible to understand but on the other hand you can't go wrong with reading the foundation text of a major human society which by all account this is. Infinitely more readable then The Tale of Genji, which really is on a different level altogether. Were there sword fights: Yes, people fought with swords.
The Old Devils, Kingsley Amis: I've been on an Amis kick lately but this probably broke me of the habit. Not because it's not good—it's very good. It is written with the same style and excellence which everything that I've read by Amis at this point has been, and the subject matter—which is simply put, the social, romantic, and national friction caused by the return of an aging 2nd rate intellectual to his hometown in rural Wales—is admirable in putting a serious focus on a period of life which receives short shrift in literature. Digression: why are there so few good novels dealing with aging? Is it simply because many great writers with their tendencies towards self-destruction don't make it that far? That having reached that stage, few have the energy to dedicate towards their last stage of life, or they would rather think about earlier times, or that no one has a creative peak (especially not writers) that lasts from the beginning to the end of a career? What was the best novel by a writer in his/her dotage? End of digression. Anyway, it's clever and well-written but maybe a little bit dry. It was also my 5th Kingsley Amis in like a month, which probably had some effect on my not liking it to the degree it might deserve. Were there sword fights: No, there were absolutely not any sword fights.
Right Now I Am Reading:
War and Gold: A Five-Hundred-Year History of Empires, Adventures, and Debt by Kwasi Kwarteng. I mean, hell, what's not to get excited about on this one?