Sunday, November 28, 2010

(Book #40) Beowulf

'Beowulf' is a great example of archetypal hero mythology ,written by an unknown hand sometime between the 8th and 11th centuries. While not as lengthy as the works of Homer or Virgil, I still place this epic poem in the same category as these ancient classics. The story of Beowulf, while dealing with some "evil", antagonistic creatures and larger than life embellishments, still feels real enough that one could believe that the story may be rooted in actual events (I'll leave that to actual historians to determine). It was a surprisingly quick read with this particular translation and since I hadn't read it before (or seen that recent movie) it was interesting and held my attention. When undertaking this piece of writing, I discovered it was important to read the words as poetry, and not as a straight story or novel. This added another level of drama and richness to the story, and helped me understand why Beowulf is held in such high regard and how it has influenced countless other stories and variations that have been written since.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

(Book #39) Alien Zone II

'Alien Zone II' is a compilation of eleven essays by all different writers about the subject of spaces in science fiction films, pre-2000. I had actually purchased this book up back when I was still in Architecture school and occasionally picked it up from time to time to read something out of it. This reading project was a perfect opportunity to revisit some of these discourses and tackle all the rest that I never got to read prior.

Some of the pieces were really interesting and provided unique perspectives on a gamut of science fiction cinema through the ages, everything from Metropolis to Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Alien movies, the ubiquitous Blade Runner, and just about everything good or bad in between. The subjects in these essays ranged from more spatial and architectural reads of these movies, to the representation of race, women and society. Most of the essays were fairly engaging and could be read by those that were not well versed in film theory or philosophy, but there were a couple that were incredibly difficult to read due to the overly verbose language and air of superiority that the author embodied within the writing.

Overall, the essays were inspiring in a way and I'm looking forward to seeing some of the films I have read about as well as watching some of the more classic ones again with a new perspective. Science Fiction is a perfect medium to embody all sorts of concepts and to do so in a visually intriguing way. Whether a person is watching a sci-fi film to be entertained or is looking for some sort of deeper meaning, there will always be something fantastic and stimulating to grasp onto.

(Book #38) Ian Fleming - Moonraker

Next in the line of James Bond Novels, is Ian Fleming's 'Moonraker'. This spy novel is another outing for the legendary 007, and while it shares the name with one of the campy Bond movies of the 70's, that was about all it had in common with it. Fleming's novels prove time and time again to be more subtle and gentlemanly spy stories and this one was in that same light, starting out with a rousing game of Bridge with suspected villain Drax and culminating with the launching of the titular Moonraker rocket. Surprisingly, the plot had absolutely nothing to do with the Moon, and it certainly made for a better story because of it. Why they had to change that and add a hulking metal mouth to the movie is beyond me. I have a few more of these Bond novels lined up to read and look forward to doing so.

(Book #37) Ernest Hemingway - The Old Man and the Sea

I seem to be going through a few classics this year and Hemingway's 'The Old Man and the Sea' is another that embodies that category. This was the second Hemingway novel that I have read, and much like the other, this one managed to be a rich and compelling story told in Hemingway's simple prose. It was a quick read, but those pages embodied an entire lifestyle, that of a poor fisherman in Cuba. This particular tale related the events of a fishing trip of an old man, Santiago, and his epic struggle with an enormous marlin. The sparring with the fish took up at least half of the book itself and through this was an unfolding of the character. Though this was Hemingway's last published novel, it was another great example that telling a very subtle story can still relate something deeply human.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

(Book #36) - Arthur Conan Doyle - The Hound of the Baskervilles

Arthur Conan Doyle's classic Sherlock Holmes mystery 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' was another book that I read via an application on my cell phone. The portability of this medium allows for flexibility in reading time but is still noticeably less tactile than a physical book. That being said, reading this one was an enjoyable story and gave me a taste of what a legitimate Sherlock Holmes mystery is like (this is the only one I have read). As one can probably expect, there is not much in terms of action in these stories until the climax towards the end, but there is a whole lot of talking and description of the thoughts that are going on in the heads of the protagonists, Holmes and Watson. They are the reader's constant and truly the only characters that can ever be trusted. The structure of this particular story was done in relatively creative ways, which were a surprise to me, knowing the period in which these were written over a century ago. This unique feel is probably why the Sherlock Holmes stories were set apart from many other detective mysteries of its time and is still drawn upon to this day as a source of inspiration. There are many movies, and also detective (or surly doctor) dramas on television, that owe a great deal to the structure, pacing and characters of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.