It’s always tough to acclimate to life in the wake of Scarborough Renaissance Festival, especially while I know it’s still going on. Sure, I regret nothing and had a great time, but now I’m more or less broke, redistributing funds towards adult responsibilities, and fighting that inevitable sense of ennui.
The chief weapons in my arsenal in that fight are books. Just because I can’t afford to go back to Scarborough, that doesn’t mean I have to stay fully present in my own world either. While I await the upcoming Audible pre-orders I wrote about yesterday, I’m sifting through a couple of more lengthy reads.
I’ve got a couple of author review requests I’m currently working through, which I’ll reveal when I post reviews. Mostly I’ve been reading these either on my lunch break at work or in the middle of the night when insomnia strikes. Why not, right? So far that seems to be working for me too. I’m looking to set aside a lazy Sunday this weekend as well.
I’m still working through Durant’s The Story of Civilization vol. 2. I’ve been cranking through this one for a couple of months now. I never seem to get any traction on it in the moment, but I do seem to be making progress in spite of myself thanks to the daily commute. I’m finding that taking this one in these smaller segments is really helping. I tell you, I’m no stranger to Ancient Grecian history, but this book is really busting through the romance their ruins left behind.
After dinner last night, I broke ground on Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part I. This is one I’ve not read before, though I’m certainly familiar with the history behind the story. I had mixed feelings going into this one. On one hand, it’s Shakespeare, so how bad could it be? It can’t. Even if I somehow confront this and find it lacking on some level, the Bard is still a genius, and there will be a great deal for me to wrap my head around. On the other hand, this play guest-stars one of my favorite persons in all of history, Joan la Pucelle, aka Joan of Arc. The play already has me at hello, but… the Bard really despises her and everything she represents. I’ll get into more when I finally do the big write-up on this later, but suffice it to say, history is out the window here. Usually Shakespeare gets it close enough that I can roll with it, but he doesn’t even try when it comes to the Maid of Orleans. But I do understand and appreciate the continued propaganda war he’s waging with Queen Elizabeth, so everything makes sense in that regard as I puzzle it together. It is more than a bit uncomfortable to see Joan demonized so, however. Historically, she was more of a knight than most of the legitimate knights and men-at-arms on that battlefield. Don’t get me wrong, I get it. “Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate…” From the lens of perspective, it’s actually pretty fascinating to see how the English feared her so much that the Bard’s cartoon account of her became the accepted understanding of her for much of the world outside of France until Mark Twain came along, did the research himself against all odds and set the record straight — in fiction — before official historical research finally confirmed what he set down. This, my friends, is why I hold historical fiction writers to higher standards. Just because it’s fiction, that doesn’t mean you get to shrug off the responsibility of quality and accuracy. After all, writers today aren’t exactly fighting a not-so-subtle propaganda war against high-ranking political figures. We have Twitter and Facebook for that. If that comparison depresses you as much as it does me, well, what’s a higher example for if not to inspire others to strive for better? Anyway, I’m sure there’s going to be a great deal for me to talk about in the course of three Henry VI plays. I mean… this is where the entire concept of the War of the Roses happens. The people living through it certainly didn’t call it that any more than the Renaissance was understood for what it was in its own time.
I’ve got some shorter works lined up in my Audible queue that I want to cover the next couple of days during my work hours. I discovered a new audio-only short story called Divestment by Helene Wecker, author of The Golem and the Jinni. I found an audio detailing the actual Roman ritual of The Rite of Exorcism by Michael Freze. Being versed in angelology and demonology as I am, I’m understandably curious about this one. If nothing else, it’ll be interesting to see how it compares to Blatty’s famous novel. Edith Wharton’s Afterward and False Dawn are in the short story queue, as is Mary Shelley’s The Mortal Immortal.
The last on my immediate short list is an old Shadow pulp novel by Maxwell Grant (pen name of Walter B. Gibson) called Partners of Peril. It’s the first of these classic pulps translated to audio in its entirety (without first being stripped down and completely reworked for a half-hour radio drama). And best of all, it’s performed by a full cast! Sort of seems to come full circle for me in that regard. What makes this one especially interesting is that this very novel is the one oft-branded as “the story that inspired Batman.” Bob Kane ripped off, *ahem* I mean, was inspired by a great many things when he created Batman It’s been a dog’s age since I last read it, so I can’t even tell you which story this is anymore, but I remember really enjoying it at the time. Of course, at the time, I was devouring pretty much anything with The Shadow in it, so a lot of it ran together and created this general sense of awesome in my geek brain. Those were the days.
So… what are you reading these days?