Books I Read 4/28/2015

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.

This Week I Read:

A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor: Patrick Leigh Fermor, when he was eighteen, decided to walk from London to Constantinope, and this is the first third of that trip. I suppose this isn't quite Marco Polo but amongst travel writers in the 20th century it reigns pretty much untouched.. To have been able to explore this last fragment of pre-modern Europe – Germany before it was turned to ash, Central Europe before fifty years of a Soviet yoke! – is something that no serious traveler cannot look upon without undisguised jealousy. And there is a great deal here that any backpacker, even those of us in this dull and benighted and progress-throttled modern age, can appreciate. The sudden fortuitous kindness of strangers, the stunning, childlike jubilation one feels when one is utterly alone and untraceable in some strange place.

On to the downside. Fermor is tremendously erudite, which can be marvelously fun when you are dealing with intersecting interests (the 30 year war, the early migrations of peoples in Europe) bot at other times can grow quite ponderous, as for instance the phenomenally rococo descriptions of steeples and church naves. It has to be admitted even by a fundamentally positive reviewer that Fermor's linguistic excesses grow wearisome. Three times in the book Fermor has occasion to use the term Caracol, a cavalry maneuver which utilized the pistol and which saw brief use during the Wars of Religion but swiftly fell out of favor as reducing the shock value of the charge itself and generally being less valuable than just riding up and sabering people. It has a lovely sound to it but is unknown except amongst specialists and probably not the thing a good editor should let slip past. In any event, in none of the instances does Fermor appear to use it properly, but rather as a simple euphemism for ride, which is really just bad writing all around. I only harp on this because it was one of the innumerable obscured words in the book that by coincidence I happened to be familiar with, and because I can't help but think that many of these linguistic bric-a-brac, if investigated might reveal a similarly dubious provance.

Put another way – were I more clever, Fermor might appear less so.

Happily, I am not that clever, and anyway when Fermor returns to his narrative, winking (asexual?) trysts with German maidens beneath the claws of Nazi SS leches, making a living as a professional portrait artist in Vienna, being invited into the castles of the fading Dual-Monarchy nobility, it is impossible not to enjoy yourself. I would certainly have picked up the next two in the trilogy if I wasn't about to follow Fermor's example (if, it goes without saying, in a less admirable and courageous fashion) and going traveling for a while, and thus can only take giant books which will take me a long time to finish. It might also be the reason why next Tuesday you don't get a blog entry. Heartbreaking, I know.

Were there swords: No, there were no swords.