(Expect a Wolfe update soon. This is just to keep things alive)
The walls are closing in as the semester, but reading week is giving me a moment of respite.
In terms of bedside reading, I spent most of January reading Dashiel Hammett’s hardboiled detective novel, Red Harvest. A mysterious fellow only referred to as the Continental Op arrives in the town of Personville to find it under the control of a bunch of crime lords. He attempts to bring them down by playing the various sides against each other – showing in the process that he’s not much better than they are. It’s bleak, cynical fare, but it kept me with it until the end, which is a first for an American crime story. Perhaps I may finally be making inroads into the likes of Raymond Chandler and James Ellroy.
More recently, I’ve begun Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, which may perhaps have the most misleading title in the history of classic English lit. It conveys a bit of a similar feel to the Historical books of the Old Testament with its terse and episodic style – and also some of the difficulties; at times I wish I had a chart I could refer to that would remind me exactly who did what every now and then. I love the 15th century prose: you don’t see too many “passing glad”s or “wroth”s these days.
That inspired me to rewatch Disney’s The Sword in the Stone, a movie which I remember fondly from my childhood. Alas, the reality does not live up to the memories. The story is ostensibly young Arthur’s coming of age tale, but any semblance of plot or character is lacking. Arthur pulling becoming king at the end doesn’t feel like any sort of real climax; it’s just another thing that happens to the kid. The characters are one-note and most of the dialogue is given over to lame jokes. Merlin comes across as an irascible snob who selfishly imposes himself into Arthur’s life, and the rest of the cast don’t fare much better. The most sympathetic character is Merlin’s cranky owl, Archimedes, who likes to sass Merlin and Arthur.
This version of the Arthur legend uses T.H White’s Once and Future King cycle as its source material. Having not read White, and being aware that the cycle is seen as something of a minor masterpiece, I’m going to give the man the benefit of the doubt in assuming his books are better than this mediocrity.
On a whole happier note of nostalgia, I traded in some games that were collecting dust (goodbye, Shadowgate!) for a copy of Pokemon SoulSilver. It’s a DS remake of Pokemon Silver, a second generation game which dates from 1999-2000ish, and was the last Pokemon game I owned. Like most kids in the late 90s, I had a case of Pokemon fever. Although the franchise is still going strong, it’s weird to reflect upon just how big it was then. You played the game and used that gameboy link cable to fight your classmates during lunchtime; you collected the trading cards; you watched the tv show; you saw the movies, etc. Facebook didn’t exist back then, you see, so instead of collecting friends we had to settle for collecting imaginary monsters and making them fight each other.
And now, in 2015,
Cardcaptor Pokemon Trainer Sakura leaves home to fill out her Pokedex and become the new champion…