My September Reads

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel DNF
The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt DNF
The Bismarck Episode by Capt. Russell Grenfell, RN
Up Till Now by William Shatner and David Fisher
<a href="Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Wolf Hall. I tried. I really, really tried. Maybe it’s just that I’m getting a little burned out on reading. Maybe I just couldn’t concentrate on reading while sitting waiting a call to be picked for a jury (yes, I was). But I could not get into Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize winner of 2009 — maybe it was the way she wrote it, whatever. I got about fifteen pages in and I could go no farther. Having set this aside, I do intend to give it another try, and will probably take it along on my Thanksgiving break.

I think Byatt’s The Children’s Book fell victim to the same pressures. This is, again, another book that I intend to tackle.

Back in 1941, after France had fallen, and before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Great Britain stood alone against the Nazis. German submarines hunted freighters on the high seas, and the British government had calculated how many tons of it needed to be sunk for them to be forced to capitulate. That number was something like 700,000 tons. But the British were doing okay against German submarines. And then the Bismarck sailed out of the Baltic Sea: the biggest battleship afloat, the British dispatched the pride of their fleet, HMS Hood, which engaged Bismarck in the Denmark Strait at dawn the morning of May 24th. Minutes later, HMS Hood went to the bottom of the ocean, with all but three of her 1400+ crew. The British weren’t too happy about this. I mean, for one thing, the Bismarck had the power to sail unstopped across the Atlantic, sinking convoys at will, and forcing the British Empire to seek a negotiated end to the war. And for another, and some would argue more important thing: they’d blown up Hood! The hunt for the Bismarck is an incredible tale of, honestly, sheer luck. The British began assembling ships from across the Atlantic theater to find and sink this German battleship, and honestly, it’s … well, I’ll let you read the book: The Bismarck Episode was written by Captain Russell Grenfell, an officer in the Royal Navy who wrote about the whole sequence of events from the perspective of the British commanders involved. Just an incredible piece of work.

Okay, okay, this next one I’m going to take some flak on — a book by William Shatner? No less, an autobiography by him? I passed Up Till Now on our bargain racks for quite some time before a Tweet by @StopThePOTA got me to stop and pick it up. No secret than I’m a Star Trek dork, and I also spent much of last winter watching the back catalog of Boston Legal, so once I made the decision to buy the book, I was comfortable with it. And it was a quick and easy read — Shatner (or his co-writer, David Fisher) is quite a story teller, and of course paints himself in the best light, explaining among other things, why he thinks the rest of the Star Trek cast hates him.

Finally: Kafka on the Shore. This is the first Murakami book I’ve owned, but the first I read was Norwegian Wood, about two years ago. Kafka on the Shore is pretty trippy: it follows two characters, one is a 15-year old runaway, Kafka, the other is an elderly simpleton, Nakata. Kafka is running away before he fulfills an oedipal curse: he’ll kill his father, and sleep with his mother and sister. Nakata, on the other hand, can talk to cats and needs to find the “entrance stone.” This is a very strange book, admittedly, but it’s amazing, and my only regret is that it took so long for me to pick it up (my buddy Tim gave it to me as a gift back in, I dunno, ’05? ’06?)

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2 thoughts on “My September Reads

  1. I too struggled with Wolf Hall. It won so many awards and got such rave reviews I forced myself to finish it, but honestly I’m not sure I’m happy that I did. If it weren’t for the fact that I was reading it when the snowpocalypse happened and I wound up holed up inside my house for a week I think I would have given up.

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