Monday, December 29, 2003

One of the advantages of going to mom's house for Christmas is that I can catch up on my reading. I didn't grow up where she lives now and I don't know anyone. I tend to stay at the house for the entire time I visit her (especially since I don't have a car). This trip was no exception.

I started with 'Ruled Brittania' by Harry Turtledove. This was a Christmas gift. While I'd never read any of Turtledove's work before, I'd always been intrigued by his alternate reality stories (several of his series are set in a United States where the South had won the Civil War or in a world where the outcome of World War II had been completely different). This book envisioned an England where the Spanish Armada had won and England was now a territory of Spain. Set in the late 1500s, the plot deals with an attempt to free England from King Philip's rule and return Elizabeth to the throne.

The central characters in the novel are William Shakespeare, whose work is key to the coming revolution, and Spanish playwright, Lope de Vega.

Considering that these are two of my favorite playwrights and that I generally like Elizabethan dramatists (Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Dekker are also in the novel), I was really intrigued by the concept.

Generally, I enjoyed it. Good use of language and an appreciation for Shakespeare and Marlowe. I thought Turtledove's de Vega was not as well drawn as the other characters, but how many people even know who Lope de Vega was? I'll give him credit for that, at least. And he does a really good job of making the period (especially the theater and religious intrigue) come to life. Worth a read, if you can handle reading a lot of blank verse.

Next I read 'The Da Vinci Code'. Um, okay. I don't really see what all the hype is about. Wait, actually I do. We live in a country that loves conspiracy theories. This is a book about the ultimate conspiracy. Of course that would go over well.

Sad thing is, though, it isn't a particularly good book. Bland characters. Action sequences that seem very forced. Illogical events.

It would have been interesting to see a better novelists' take on this subject.

Still, at least I've read it. Now I can sit in Starbucks and not feel left out of the soccer moms' conversations.

Last book was another gift (thanks, Palochi), Michael Thomas Ford's debut novel, 'Last Summer'. I really like Ford's non-fiction works, so I was looking forward to reading this book. And I've got to say it was pretty good.

Granted, it was no 'Tales of the City', though it certainly owes a lot to Maupin. And to many other gay writers. In fact, peppered throughout the novel are enough references to gay writers, icons, movies, etc., to make this both an interesting novel and a primer for Gay Studies 101. Considering that one of the story lines revolves around a high school runaway who is just finding out what it means to be gay and that Ford has written several books for gay and questioning youth, it is clearly intentional. And good for him.

Like 'Tales of the City', 'Last Summer' deals with a group of people whose lives intersect, in this case over a summer in Provincetown. The characters are interesting, the stories are engaging, and it is often laugh-out-loud funny. My only problem with the book is that it was too short. With the number of stories being told, it seemed that things moved a little too quickly. Romances that should have taken weeks seemed to happen in days. Plots came together and fell apart with incredible speed. Life-changing decisions were briefly considered then made. I just wanted things to slow down a little.

That being said, I kind of hope that Ford continues with these characters. While I don't think they'll ever replace Mary Anne, Mouse and Mona, I was interested enough in them to want to see what will happen to them in the future.

So that was the reading side of my Christmas break. In addition, I watched hour after hour of cooking and designing shows and have come up with all sorts of things I want to do around the apartment. Now if I can just get my landlady to let me paint.

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