Archive for the ‘Books’ Category
Charles Xavier Vseslav, a.k.a Charles Kinbote, is actually Charles Francis Xavier, a.k.a Professor X
IT’S SO SIMPLE.
… is this terrible dread that you will find out you are Kinbote.
“The fact is,’’ [Sylvia A.] Earle writes, busily mixing metaphors, “that our actions relative to the natural living world, land, air, and sea, have taken us to a precipice, a tipping point, a crossroads with ourselves in the crosshairs, the ones responsible for the fix we’re in.’’
From Anthony Doerr’s review of Earle’s book, The World is Blue.
There’s something of a sad joke near the beginning of 2666: Morini, one of the four critics in the first chapter, “The Part About the Critics”, is found reading a cookbook by the poet Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. The same joke is told at the very end of the book, when Archimboldi meets a descendant of Fürst Pückler, a writer and botanist remembered now for his delicious ice cream.
Morini, reading Sor Juana’s cookbook, is approached by a man who used to work at a business which makes mugs with slogans. He quit his job when pictures–first black and white, then color–were added to the mugs. He tells his now-former manager, “That the bloody mugs didn’t bother me before and now they’re destroying me inside.”
To be a poet remembered for your cooking, or a travel writer remembered for your ice cream, is funny and sad enough; to be crushed by your work is even sadder, and even funnier. I suppose that being remembered for nothing at all, or to be crushed by your work and continue anyway, would be sadder and funnier still.
I did manage to read about two hundred sixty pages, and it wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t really great either. Having a gigantic set of books fit in your pocket is nice, but if your main goal is not portability, a nice large set of hardbound books is preferable.
The used copy I found yesterday was treated very nicely by its previous owner, who put a library-style plastic cover on each of the dust jackets, and put a list of Roman emperors and the years of their reigns in the back of Volume I. Unlike the version on my iPod, the books have beautiful illustrations: maps, and Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s etchings. Unlike the version on my iPod, the books are designed, with beautiful and legible typesetting with nice wide margins, pretty initial capitals, and footnotes placed in the margins.
The books are also physical objects, which my six-year-old daughter is able to stack on each other and leaf through to find pretty pictures. Weightlessness is nice, but weight can be too.
I love David Macaulay’s book about how the pyramids were built. The illustrations are wonderful, and it makes plain what a massive (and massively useless) undertaking it was to build the damn things. However, I should mention that it has not sustained my (six-year-old) daughter’s interest long enough for me to read the whole thing to her.
Similarly, I love David Weitzman’s The Pharaoh’s Boat which, like Macaulay’s book, has beautiful illustrations and shows how clever the ancient Egyptians were. And, like Macaulay’s book, I like it much more than my daughter does.
We both like The Star-Bearer, which is a picture book (with very pretty pictures) retelling an ancient Egyptian creation myth. We also like Gerald McDermott’s Voyage of Osiris, which retells a myth of Osiris: how he was imprisoned and then murdered by Set, how he was reassembled, and how he became the ruler of the Underworld. I’ve left out a link because it appears to be out of print, and there’s not much on it online.
My daughter loves You Wouldn’t Want to Be Cleopatra! much more than I do–she asked me to read it to her five days in a row, to my sorrow. It certainly holds a child’s attention: there’s strangling, seasickness, beheading, poisoning, stabbing, and sibling rivalry (including an illustration showing Cleopatra’s brother taunting her with, “Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah, I’m Pharaoh”). If you’ve ever been to one of the Grossology exhibits at your local science center, you’ve got an idea of the kind of book this is.
I can tell you which books my daughter enjoyed, but someone else will have to tell you how true to the facts or the source material they are, because I have no idea.
Update: I completely forgot The Usborne Encyclopedia of the Ancient World, which has a long section on ancient Egypt, and which both my daughter and I love.
Because mine grows, grows, and grows.