The Once and Future King, Part 2

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The second book of The Once and Future King, by T.H. White, is called Queen of Air and Darkness and it is, indeed, a much darker part of this story. Unlike the first book, The Sword in the Stone, this section is not a story for children. It is full of the brutality and evil of the Medieval world young King Arthur enters as he begins his reign.

Everything is set into motion in this section. The idealistic and innocent youth become a man, and we watch his development as both leader and philosopher as he experiences his power as king and comes to understand what that power means and how it can be used for Right.

At the same time, the ultimate tragedy of King Arthur and his dream is set in motion by a sinful, though unknowing, act. Using trickery and witchcraft, Queen Morgause seduces Arthur (her half-brother). His son, Mordred, is conceived…

It is why Sir Thomas Malory called his very long book the Death of Arthur….It is the tragedy…of sin coming home to roost . That is why we have to take note of the parentage of Arthur’s son Mordred, and to remember, when the time comes, that the king had slept with his own sister. He did not know he was doing so, and perhaps it may have been due to her, but it seems, in tragedy, that innocence is not enough.

In this book, I found the brutality of Morgause and her sons quite disturbing. It was a stark contrast to the upbringing and education of Arthur, and I had trouble with the images Mr. White painted. I also had trouble with how often he inserted his own opinions, and the happenings of his own time period, into the story. Perhaps, if I just wanted the story of King Arthur without editorializing, I should have been reading Le Morte d’Arthur!

At any rate, it’s a complex story, not one that can be ready lightly or quickly. Although there were humorous elements in this section, it was overall a very dark book. So now I’m on to the next section: The Ill-Made Knight.

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Queen Guinevere, by William Morris

I am reading this book for Carl V’s annual Once Upon a Time-VIII reading challenge.

 

The Once and Future King, part 1

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Painting by Alan Lee…

The stories of King Arthur have long captured my imagination. I’ve read many different versions and enjoyed each one. Many years ago, (to be truthful, it’s been 41 years!), I read T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. I loved it! So for Carl V’s annual Once Upon a Time reading challenge this year, I decided to listen to the audiobook version of this wonderful classic, and revisit an old friend, so to speak.

It’s a very long book, divided into four parts which were written and published at different times. The Sword in the Stone tells of the boyhood of Arthur, called “Wart” by his family, and of his education by the wizard, Merlin. And what a wonderful education! –full of nature and folklore and imagination! It was a very enjoyable “listen,” and, if I were still teaching 6th grade, I would consider reading it aloud to my students as a stand-alone book.

The Sword in the Stone is very much about learning and about the relationship between this special student and his teacher. I retired last year after 27 years of teaching, and one reason I chose to become a teacher in the first place was because I love to learn, so this quote from the book speaks a particular truth for me about the joy of becoming a lifelong learner.

“The best thing for disturbances of the spirit is to learn. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love and lose your moneys to a monster, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then–to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the poor mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.”

Other hidden pleasures in this section of the book were the many quotes from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and also the inclusion of Robin Hood in the story. What fun! This part of The Once and Future King was written for the child in all of us.

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Painting by N.C. Wyeth…

Once Upon a Time, again!

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It’s Spring at last, and with the return of the season comes Carl V’s (Stainless Steel Droppings) wonderful Once Upon a Time reading challenge. This is his 8th time hosting, and I’m so happy to be participating again this year. I know it takes a lot of work to organize and run this event, so I want to thank Carl for another Spring full of very enjoyable reading!

This is a reading and viewing event that encompasses four broad categories: Fairy Tale, Folklore, Fantasy and Mythology, including the seemingly countless sub-genres and blending of genres that fall within this spectrum.

You may choose your own level of participation in this challenge, and I have chosen “QUEST the FIRST” again for this year. The instructions are simple:

1. Read at least 5 books that fit somewhere within the Once Upon a Time categories. They might all be fantasy, or folklore, or fairy tales, or mythology…or your five books might be a combination from the four genres.

2. Have fun!

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I begin this challenge by listening to the audiobook of The Once and Future King, by T.H. White. I read it many years ago and remember loving it. I enjoy Arthurian literature, and I’ve been wanting to reread this one for quite awhile, so this is perfect timing. Along with The Once and Future King, here are some other books I’m considering for this challenge. I’m looking forward to reading the reviews by those taking part in this annual event . Happy reading, everyone!

The Martian Chronicles

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Mars from the Hubble…

A local news item last week caught my fancy. It was a story about a young woman from Eugene, Oregon, who has applied to be one of the first people to colonize Mars. A company called Mars One is planning to establish human settlements on Mars, starting in 2024. Crews of four will leave Earth for Mars every two years, and this young lady is one of 1000 people to make the first cut for the first flight. I admire her dream and her courage! What a fascinating idea! Here comes the Future!

The news item couldn’t have been more timely for me because I just finished reading Ray Bradbury’s, The Martian Chronicles, which is a classic science fiction book about that very thing — humans colonizing Mars. I wonder if this young woman has read the book? I wonder if the people in charge of the Mars One organization have read it? I hope so because I think it would be an important book for them all to read before they leave Earth to establish those human settlements on the Red Planet.

RayBradbury-tributeBradbury, himself, narrated the audiobook version I listened to, and I enjoyed listening to his voice. The best parts of all, however, were his comments at the end of each story explaining his writing process and/or the inspiration for that story.

The book is a series of stories told chronologically, each separate yet with references to happenings or people in the other stories. The first story is about the arrival on Mars of the first humans and of their immediate demise. Each subsequent story is about another group of settlers, a larger group each time, and the problems they face with the planet, and the native Martian population, and with each other.

I was expecting a more fanciful, plot-driven, movie-like story about Mars and Martians, but the book is really a very insightful exploration of what it means to be Human. Ray Bradbury has the eye of a sociologist but the heart of a poet, so his stories and creativity are wonderful to experience and leave you with a deeper understanding of the human condition. This book was somewhat awkward at times, and one story, in particular, was very disturbing to read (a story that is definitely politically and culturally incorrect in today’s world.) So I gave the book only 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads, but I’ve discovered it’s one of those books that lingers. I’ve thought a lot about it since I finished it, and like it more now than I did when I finished the final page.

I chose this book for Carl V’s 2014 Sci-Fi Experience, and I really enjoyed the reading experience. It’s certainly a book that gets you thinking, and that’s why I hope it would be required reading for anyone seriously contemplating relocating to Mars!

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2014 Sci Fi Experience Challenge

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“For my part I know nothing with any certainty,
but the sight of the stars makes me dream.”

~Vincent Van Gogh

I love Carl V’s, (of Stainless Steel Droppings) reading challenges!  My very first reading challenge as a book blogger was in 2007 — his first Once Upon a Time challenge! (I’m looking forward to this year’s OUaT starting in March.) It’s been a few years since I participated in his Sci Fi Experience Challenge, but I’ve been reading many classics recently and decided it would be fun to read a classic of science fiction. Since I am late starting this challenge, which is already underway from December 1st through January 31st, I will focus on just one book:  The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury. I have the audiobook version from the library, narrated by the author, which should be especially interesting. As always, this will be an enjoyable reading (and listening) experience!

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A Long-Awaited Read

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If you look at the “challenges page” on this blog, you will see that I used to participate in many reading challenges. For a person who considers herself “not a joiner,” I shattered that self-perception. I loved that these challenges introduced me to new friends, new authors and genres, and helped to expand my reading exponentially.

After a long hiatus from both blogging and reading challenges, I am looking forward in 2014 to participating again in some of these challenges. My approach this time around, however, will be for minimal stress and maximum enjoyment with each challenge attempted.

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My first challenge of 2014 is A Long-Awaited Reads Month, hosted by Ana and Iris, two special blogging friends. I am reading a book 100yearsthat’s been sitting on my bookshelf for 38 years! — One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez. My friend, Nancy, recommended it to me and I immediately bought a paperback version intending to read it. However, the book seemed like a chunkster to me (it was that fine print!), and life was terribly busy with my preschool-age son, and I just never read it. See how long you can set a book aside!? So 38 years later, it is my long-awaited read for this challenge. And, oh yes…in order to deal with that chunkster intimidation factor, I figured out that if I read a minimum of 15 pages a day, I can finish the book within the month. Okay, Nancy…I’m on my way, 38 years later!

A Tomie Christmas

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Tomie dePaola is one of my favorite author/illustrators. His books ArtistToArtistSelfPortraithave brought great happiness to my family and my students over the years. For me, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without revisiting some of his special holiday books each year, and checking to see what new ones he has added to his prolific body of work. Celebrate with me a Christmas with Tomie dePaola, as part Marg & Kelly’s Virtual Advent Tour 2013.

It’s no secret that Christmas is my favorite time of the year. It has been ever since I remember.” This sentence Christmas_Rememeredbegins Tomie’s lovely book, Christmas Remembered, and is a simple explanation of why he has produced so many beautiful holiday books over the years.  Although many of those holiday books are family favorites — including a few featuring our beloved Strega Nona — this one is my personal favorite. It is full of beautifully written stories with lovely illustrations about his own Christmas memories, and it touches my heart.

There are books and stories for all ages among the collection of holiday books by Tomie dePaola. They are a celebration of family and friends, and of the true meaning of Christmas. If you already know and love Tomie’s work, revisit some of his Christmas stories. If you have never read anything by Tomie dePaola, give yourself a special gift this year and read some of his books. His stories are filled with love and compassion, and celebrate the child in each of us.

Some of Tomie’s holiday books on my own shelf:

Finally, please visit the other bloggers who are part of this year’s Virtual Advent Tour! Thank you, Kelly and Marg, for hosting this special celebration again this year!

The Jungle Book

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Illustration by John Lockwood Kipling, father of Rudyard Kipling.

Rudyard Kipling published The Jungle Book in 1894, a collection of his highly imaginative stories and poems for children, written especially for his daughter. They were fables with moral teachings, and the stories and characters became beloved the world over. My favorite story in the book was “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi,” which told of the mongoose that saved the English family living in India from the villainous cobras Nag and Nagaina. I also enjoyed reading about Mowgli, the boy who was raised by the wolves, and about the White Seal who witnessed the brutal clubbing of the seal cubs and was determined to find a place where the seals could be safe from the hunters and those killing fields.

Somehow, I didn’t read this book when I was a child, and I’m sorry to say that I didn’t read it during my teaching career, either. It would have been interesting to read aloud some of the stories to my own children or to my students. I wonder how they would have felt about them?

Kipling was a brilliant writer (he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1907) and a very complex man with a strong personality. I’ve been quite fascinated with learning more about him since watching “My Boy Jack,” starring Daniel Radcliffe, which was the poignant story of the loss of his son in WWI.  It was Kipling who pressured military friends to allow his son to enlist despite the fact that Jack was severely nearsighted and had already been rejected by the military numerous times. A combination of Kipling’s own prejudices and stern beliefs, plus the social pressures on the young men of wartime England, brought Jack Kipling to the battlefield in France, where he lost his life on the second day of the Battle of Loos. Kipling never got over that terrible loss.

As so often happens with me, I am captured by both the writer’s life and by his works. I’m going to continue reading and learning about Kipling, and soon I’d like to read his Kim, Captains Courageous, and Puck of Pook’s Hill.

Rudyard Kipling writing

Long-Awaited Reads Month

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Although I don’t sign up for many book challenges anymore (because I don’t seem to finish many of them!), I am going to participate in a fun January challenge hosted by my friends, Ana [Things Mean A Lot] and Iris [Iris on Books]. They call it the “Long-Awaited Reads Month,” and all you have to do is read a book or books that you have been intending to read for a long time. There is one book on my shelf that has been patiently awaiting “the right moment” for probably 35 years! (My list of excuses for not reading it before now is a history in itself!) I’m going to dust it off and read it for this challenge in January! The book? …Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude! Am I the last person on the planet to read it?

Favorite author, Gabriel García Márquez

Favorite author, Gabriel García Márquez

Challenged by Challenges

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My reading life has changed a lot over the last few years. I started blogging about books in 2007 and almost immediately discovered the fun and pleasure of a variety of organized Reading Challenges. The first one I participated in was Carl V’s Once Upon a Time, and it was a really fun way to discover books and authors unknown to me, and it also introduced me to many wonderful blogging friends. I was hooked on challenges from then on.

I still love reading challenges, but my life has changed a lot since those early blogging days, and I find myself not finishing my challenges…for many different reasons. I take them on with good intentions! Last week, I was reading The Ivy Tree for Anbolyn’s Mary Stewart Week…one book in one week. No problem? Well, I am only half way through the book, and that celebratory week ended yesterday and I’m not ready to review.

The scheduled, organized, motivated Reader inside of me just quails to admit that I didn’t finish another challenge. But the pragmatic, look-at-the-big-picture part of me says, “no worry…write a review or post a comment when you DO finish…life’s too short to feel guilty or self-pressured…and it was an enjoyable challenge, nonetheless.”

So I’m going to practice being kinder to myself about my reading. I still want to participate in those wonderfully creative challenges, but I am going to give myself permission to enjoy them whether or not I finish them the way I intend when I sign up. My life is full of books and reading pleasures. But it is also full of friends and family, Grandboy, new knitting projects, gardening, going for walks, and enjoying our new town and our new life. The real challenge for me is finding a balance so I can enjoy all of these wonderful parts of my life!