January 4th, 2012
|11:30 pm - [book reviews] Tudor-era Hunchback Lawyers|
Over the past week, I read all five of C.J. Sansom's Matthew Shardlake series. I cannot recommend them highly enough to fans of historical mysteries. Set in the England of King Henry VIII, they are told from the wry yet sensitive point of view of Matthew Shardlake, a barrister of Lincoln's Inn who attempts to see justice done in the corrupt courts of law and the even more corrupt courts of royalty. The author is a retired solicitor with a PhD in history, and it shows--he has clearly done impeccable research and one need not have a background in the Reformation to understand what is going on, so seamlessly is that information integrated into the text, and Sansom ends each book with a historical note and recommendations for further reading. Yet these are by no means dry tomes. Even minor players are well characterised, the pacing is fast, and the plots twist and turn.
Shardlake himself is a fascinating character: a hunchback in a time when superstition about his condition abounds, he has every reason to be bitter and to lash out at a world that often goes out of the way to be cruel to him, but he is not and does not. Indeed, he is a compassionate and honourable man of deep integrity seeking to do justice to the best of his considerable ability and is refreshing for it. Protagonists in most mystery series are dashing, womanising, too cool for school and prefer to solve problems with brawn. Shardlake's physical condition and general personality preclude this sort of James Bond nonsense; he is instead a brilliant legal mind who is socially awkward in his dealings outside the courtroom, is perpetually unlucky in love due in no small part to his fear of rejection, and who prevails by using his brain, sense of ethics, stubbornness, and courage (in the sense of carrying on despite long odds, great danger, and his own fear). Nor is he some unrealistically pure and virtuous paragon; he does his best, but at times is grumpy and short with people he cares about, leaps to erroneous conclusions, gets himself in over his head, and generally has believable flaws and foibles.
Further, Shardlake's worldview evolves and matures throughout the series as he reevaluates what he stands for and learns from his mistakes. When we first meet him in Dissolution, he is a keen reformer in the service of Thomas Cromwell, investigating a murder at a monastery in the process of being dissolved as Catholicism was gradually being outlawed. What he experiences over the course of that novel shakes his religious views to the core, leaving this once staunch religious radical no longer sure what he believes. By the third book in the series, he is becoming what would now be termed agnostic, struggling with his growing ambivalence about organised religion and unsure of his belief in God, dangerous beliefs to hold when one could be executed for voicing them. The novels increase in length as the series proceeds, but they rarely drag and I found that a couple of evenings turned into mornings as I could not put them down and go to sleep.
Five Tower Ravens out of five for the series as it stands so far. With the fifth and most recent book ending approximately six months before Henry VIII's death, I imagine it will continue into the reigns of Edward VI and of course Elizabeth I. I certainly hope so.
While I eagerly await the next installation, I've picked up a used copy of Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and Peter Ackroyd's Life of Thomas More, in keeping with the theme.
Current Location: west of Valhalla
Current Mood: calm
Current Music: the Dastardly Duo getting into things
August 8th, 2007
|10:26 pm - Once again, it's poll time! Vote to name the wee gargoyle pictured below:|
Aw, isn't he cute? He secretly has a crush on the skelly-girl on the tile, but she won't give him the time of day until he gets a name. Meanwhile, Hedgehog the Ghost is unsure about the whole thing...
What should I call him?
Igneous, or Iggy for short
Martin McArthur von Beansprout III
Ticky-box! Everyone loves a gargoyle named Ticky-box!
At least it isn't a poll about zombies.
Other (please answer in the comments)
March 16th, 2007
|03:45 am - Poll Time: Stupid vs Crazy|
Which force of evil will win the week?
Weekend Subway Service Changes
Ooh, goody, ticky-boxes!
What? No zombies?
December 16th, 2006
|03:05 am - Return of the Ticky-Boxes|
Because I am still too bogged down by finals to post actual content, I bring you
Who will win?
I'm not actually reading this, but I must...tick...the box!
Current Music: The Quakes
September 28th, 2006
August 31st, 2005
|12:46 am - When the Levee Breaks|
I'm a NOLA ex-pat. Ran screaming from the place, though I still feel fondly towards that hot, swampy, vile-smelling town that just oozes history and attitude: NOLA is like an ex-significant other with whom I remained on good terms with after the break-up. Maybe we're not a couple anymore and I think it's deeply flawed, but I'd never wish pain on that city. NYC could learn a thing or two about eating its young from New Orleans, but sometimes that steaming bowl of drunken tourists and odor could be unexpectedly beautiful. The fog would roll down the Mississippi at nightfall, a breeze would pick up, the muggers could be seen lurking in the dark, there was music everywhere, and it was possible to forget that earlier that day I had slogged five miles home, waist-deep in filthy water the entire time because a tropical storm had stalled over Texas and I was living several feet below sea level.
It boggles the mind that the Journey Steps and streetcars, the Clover Grill and Port of Call and Dragon's Den, Audubon Park and its spanish moss-covered live oaks and those bizarre damn bar/laundromats are all under water and that the emergency management people are talking about forced evacuations of the remainders, looters taking hostages, and years of recovery if they don't just abandon the Crescent City altogether...and the water is still rising because the pumping stations failed and the levees are breached. Interstate 10 is flooded and the Pontchartrain Causeway is destroyed and the West Bank is in equally bad shape, so the only way out is by air or by water. Wasn't there a bad 80s sci-fi movie about this, albeit set in a different city?
Until a couple of days ago, New Orleans was a grand lady fallen on hard times. Maybe she had to sell the family heirlooms and her house was falling down around her, but she could still pull out all the stops when she hosted a banquet. Now the poor old dame would be better off if she were living out of a shopping cart.
Here's hoping the NOLA people are safe: micahra and her critters, Robin and his mini-tribe, Bobby and her battered truck and oil-spewing bikes, and all the rest. Someday we'll meet again over beignets, pralines, and chicory coffee, even if we have to sit in a boat to do it.
Current Mood: pensive
Current Music: Irma Thomas, "Time Is On My Side"
February 22nd, 2005
|01:57 am - We are Road People.|
We are motorcycle people; we walk tall and we laugh at whatever's funny. We shit on the chests of the Weird....
--Hunter S. Thompson, Song of the Sausage People
That, I think, says it all. It is a sad day for the gonzos.
October 21st, 2004
|12:27 am - Snot Slayer! (Why yes, it is a public post. What will the neighbors think?!)|
It's cold and flu season again, and many friends and acquaintances are dealing with chills, sore throats, inflamed sinuses and congested lungs which discharge something that closely resembles battery acid. Because I don't want my friends and acquaintances to be ill, and because I don't like having battery acid phlegm coughed up on me (nor do I enjoy coughing it up), I present the Snot Slayer recipes in hopes they'll be helpful. I find that getting a couple of glasses of this gunk into my system at the first signs of a cold will usually stop it in its ugly little mucus-coated tracks. If you're already showing full cold symptoms, these two mixtures will help clear your sinuses, fight the chills, and boost your immune system. With either recipe, try to get two or three glasses of this gunk into you per day for about three days. It should help relieve the symptoms and lessen the cold's duration.
**Standard Disclaimer** I am the guinea pig for these mixtures, which obviously are not approved by the FDA. (I self-test this crap, in other words; rest assured that these recipes have not poisoned me or made me ill, but do understand that I haven't performed a proper scientific experiment complete with placebos and control groups.) If your immune system is compromised, or your symptoms don't improve within a couple of days or if they worsen, go see a doctor. Duh. If this stuff makes you gag or doesn't work, don't sue me. It would waste your time, anyway. I'm a civil servant and thus am very emphatically not wealthy.
Mix, hold nose, and swallow down. Chase with a glass or several of water.
( Snot SlayerCollapse )
( Ginger TeaCollapse )
August 29th, 2003
|01:01 am - I have a livejournal.|
Rejoice, for I can now force my ramblings and rants on an unsuspecting public.
07/25/04: My ramblings and rants are going Friends Only for now to spare the unsuspecting public. Yes, I did indeed edit all old entries to make them Friends Only as well. If you're an avid follower of my nonsense, post here and I'll likely friend you.