Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Books #3 and #4

Off to a slow start this year! The first e-book I ever read is one of the first classics of world literature I tackled. I read Notes from Underground (a different translation) in 11th grade and wrote a paper about it; I recall having to write a synopsis of my paper and present it at some event at the Cockeysville Branch of the Baltimore County Public Library.

I think I had more cogent things to say about it then! The narrator is disarmingly aware of his own flaws and the absence of a sturdy moral foundation in the Age of Reason has confused his moral compass and set him adrift. If nothing is meaningful or worthwhile, than the old mores and systems are no longer valid; stuck between a desire to fit in and a desire to mock and destroy, the Underground Man festers like an unlanced boil. His treatment of Liza is particularly brutal. This translation is much less clunky than the one I read decades ago; I also recommend their Brothers Karamazov.

I never read YA fiction until it became a professional necessity. Sometimes I wonder why I read anything else!

The Kite Rider is just a blast, with family intrigue, seedy docks, Mongols and Chinese, the mighty Khan, boats, kites, dragons, spirits, omens and oracles, gambling, and characters drawn with the delicate finesse of a fine calligrapher. Next time I teach ancient China the kids will do a novel study and I'll make them record evidence of culture and traditions. Loved it!

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