The Horse and His Boy

I’ve been dragging my feet with these Narnia books.  Hell, it was back in March when I finished the second one.  The plots kind of force themselves forward, demanding a resolution, but at no point inspiring a lot of empathy for any of the characters.  They also make a lot of painfully bad decisions, but they’re all kids, so I guess that’s the point.  Still, it makes the reading difficult.

But I’m determined to get through these eventually, and I managed to finish The Horse and His Boy.  My initial thoughts were: “Ha.  I get it.  The horse can talk.”  And the story seemed to have used that one twist to drive the plot endlessly.  Fortunately, it eventually delved into more complex scenarios, with more adult themes.  I had to make it about halfway through, but the protagonist got to experience some life-changing events that turned him from an incidental character that forced the story along into a relateable character who inspired my commitment to see the resolution.  The obnoxious horse (and seriously: fuck that horse–I hate it), was revealed to be intentionally irritating, though all worked out in in the end in a way that was satisfying but not overly-convenient for a children’s novel.  There’s even battle, described in a gripping manner, however unconventional.

It took 3 books, but the chronicle is getting darker and more interesting.  Although I don’t really care for that lion.  He seems to be more of an ex machina than Lewis intended.  I get now why people keep trying to force symbolism upon it–it shows up as some sort of Old Testament god, driving events to his will while never really answering any questions, all the while inflicting appropriate punishments at his own discretion.  And while he was critical to the plot of the last book, his presence in this one seems largely unnecessary.  But again, maybe that’s the intent.

If nothing else, this book motivates me to continue with the series.

–Simon

Aldo Leopold

Sometimes events align in an uncanny relation.  I recently parodied a book from my youth: A Sand County Almanac, by beginning a series of posts from my childhood journal.  I recalled that the book’s setting was in Wisconsin, so when we took our trip up there recently, the book was on my mind.

Then, when driving into town on a liquor run, I saw this:

Curious, I delved deeper and discovered that there is no “Sand County” in Wisconsin, at least not as a political delineation.  The name is used in reference to the geographical region of Wisconsin which has sandy soil.  I wondered: how far did that region extend, and was this turn of phrase in the common local lexicon–and therefore this business name being of no relation, or was this business name indeed an intentional nod to the author?

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a clear physical boundary of “Sand County”.  But the Wausau region is still very glaciated and sandy, being interspersed with a lot of lakes, so I think it qualifies.

Additionally, I discovered Leopold has a historical marker.  Obviously the marker would be placed in the physical region, so I input the coordinates into a map:

Wausau is about 50 miles away, and on the way home, the closest we got was 31 miles.  So while I’ll never know the above business owner’s intentions, I think this concludes that we were officially in Sand County, and enjoy the historical significance for what it is.

–Simon

A Requiem Not Eternal

As I’ve mentioned before, my former job involved maintaining an internal website of procedural company information.  I also tend to have an over-abundance of humor.  This often created unexpected results, much to the irritation of management (e.g. hidden Pokémon GIFs).

At one point, the idea arose to create a serialized novel, hide it in the website, and share the link with just enough people that it would remain an amusing easter egg.  Two chapters in, I wisely chickened out.  However, I now had the seeds for a story.  I dabbled with it off and on, for I always enjoyed writing, and while I knew the chances of ever becoming a published author were akin to being struck by lightening, completing a novel had long been on my bucket list.

My colleagues found the burgeoning story entertaining enough that they encouraged me to continue, so I (always the one to shamelessly find distractions) took the opportunity and indulged.  And because of my coworkers, I had a constant supply of feedback–something critical to the project.  It would have been all too easy to devolve into rhetoric, or abandon it completely.  Except now I had an audience who was expecting regular updates, and advising me where they felt the story should elaborate more (character development, violence, philosophy, universe creation, etc.).  It was because of their involvement that this came to fruition.  Coworkers, I thank you.

Once completed, I debated what to do with it.  Ultimately I submitted my manuscript to a literary agency just to see how the process worked.  They promptly rejected it (as I expected).  I considered repeating the process with other agencies, but decided against it as I did not want to exhaust my emotional energy over a non-critical side-project.  But, growing in popularity is the paradigm of self-publishing.  Of course, it certainly doesn’t carry any prestige, but that hardly mattered.  It allows people to distribute their works contract-free with little risk.  I see it as an opportunity to officially label this project as complete and to finally close the book (so to speak), that I can move on to the next project.

For those interested, it can be obtained here, print on demand:

https://www.createspace.com/7086065

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1545316090/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1492798678&sr=8-1&keywords=a+requiem+not+eternal

Additionally, I found CreateSpace’s comprehensive guide incredibly fun and straightforward.  If anyone else is looking to self-publish, so far I’d recommend them.

While a work of dubious literary value, may it still bring you cheap entertainment.

–Simon

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

I never read the Narnia books.  I remember attempting this particular installment in the 4th grade, then quickly setting it aside and reading The War of the Worlds instead.  I always did like science fiction, but I enjoyed fantasy too.  Maybe I just didn’t like C. S. Lewis’ writing style at the time–who knows?  In any case, having read The Lord of the Rings series in high school, the Narnia books have been on my radar since (The Inklings).  And after an Isaac Asimov binge, I felt like a genre change.

I did read The Magician’s Nephew last year, which bears mentioning due to relevance, but for the sake of this blog I’m going to focus on books as I read them.

I noticed two themes upon mentioning this series to people.  First: no one agrees on the order in which to read them: chronological or date of publication?  Normally, my preference is date of publication, but this was a box set (my wife’s), ordered chronologically.  Maybe it was because this was the order in which I presume my wife read them and I hoped to replicate her experience, or perhaps because they were numbered and I succumbed to the box’s suggestion.  In any case, I’m glad I read The Magician’s Nephew first, because I did not find it an interesting read at all, and was therefore happy to have gotten it out of the way.  Still, I think for the sake of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, it would have been better to have read The Magician’s Nephew after, because The Magician’s Nephew doesn’t make nearly as interesting an introduction to Narnia as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe did.  The mystery and awe of Narnia was kind of spoiled for me, as was the Professor’s hint at having knowledge of Narnia.

Second: Jesus.  On this point I’d just like to say, can we shut up about the allegory thing already?  First of all, Lewis was an atheist at the time.  Second, he was a returning First World War veteran, so the allegory interpretation doesn’t really resonate with the context of Lewis’ experiences.  Third, Lewis himself refuted this analysis.  Fourth, just shut up and form an original interpretation of your own and stop spouting what everyone else has already said about the book.

Now my thoughts on the story: I feel it would have been a fun fantasy adventure book had I read it when I was of the age for which the book was intended.  Still, it was fun to go along for the ride, and it hints at a greater complexity I hope to discover in greater depth as I progress through the series.  If nothing else, it’s worth the read for the cultural and literary significance.

Also, this might simply be pedantic musing, but Lewis, having been an Oxford alumnus, omits the Oxford comma from the title of this book.

–Simon