Monday, March 31, 2014

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

Title: The Name of the Rose
Author: Umberto Eco (translated by William Weaver)
Publisher:  Harcourt (1983)
Thank goodness for my ongoing partnership with Michael! For one, it's super fun and, for two, teaming up with Michael is always recommended. But, also, because without this ongoing series I would be completely out of the book blogging game these days. 

If that sounds familiar, it's because it's exactly what I said last month. Now, I'm still fully grateful for the joint fun Michael and I have every month with these posts but, my gosh, I'm so tired of the book slump I'm in. I discovered why I have been so quiet about books: It's hard to have anything to say when these are your results over the last few months. *sigh* I'm just not connecting with anything these days book-wise. And I'm very sorry to say, this book did not get me out of the slump.
For those that are new to our monthly series, this is when Michael reviews a film adapted from a book which gets a review here.

Click here for Michael's film review of The Name of the Rose

Adso and his mentor, the monk William of Baskerville, have arrived at an unnamed Abbey in Italy as an envoy for the Emperor. Unknown to them, a monk has died at the abbey, and they will shortly be embroiled in an investigation of this and other deaths.

...I could argue endlessly about fine points of theology and morals.

The above quote should be applied liberally to any discussion of this title. It might be that you, dear reader, do not have the patience to read "endlessly about fine points of theology and morals" and so may have to pass on this one. (Also, they are specifically Christian theology and Christian inspired morals, not necessarily a broad treatment of either.) There is certainly a traditional murder mystery set-up with the attendant collection of suspects but that cannot be separated from the historical setting of the novel. Ye have been warned.

And if I felt the need to warn you it's probably a tip off that I found the setting tedious rather than intriguing. After reading for a while, I got the impression that Eco realized his historical expertise might not be appreciated by every reader. Each chapter has a concise, accurate (and sometimes funny) descriptor:

In which Cardinal del Poggetto arrives, with Bernard Gui and the other men of Avignon, and then each one does something different. 


In which there occurs a fraternal debate regarding the poverty of Jesus. 

Making it quite easy, if one so chooses, to simply skip the chapter and move on to another that might actually have something to do with the mystery. A well-paced thriller this is not.

Adso is telling this story in his old age. Adso the younger is not exactly the quickest of wits but his elder self happily comments on past behavior making for some interesting moments of self-reflection. William, being idolized by Adso the younger, comes off a little perfected but it rarely detracts from his earnest self-expression and delightful sense of humor. (Admittedly, said sense of humor ends up buried between pedantic moralizing but, hey, some people might like that.)

Along with the mystery, my favorite part of the novel was the labyrinth library and all the chatter about books. The Abbey runs one of the weirdest libraries I've ever encountered in fiction. The bizarre organization of books is only the start of this decidedly cultish library.

And the books are arranged according to the country of their origin, or the place where their authors were born, or, as in this instance, the place where they should have been born. The librarians told themselves Virgil the grammarian was born in Toulouse by mistake; he should have been born in the western islands. They corrected the errors of nature.

Despite being interested in whodunnit and just what the heck was going on in the library, I can't really recommend this title to anyone who does not have a very specific interest in Catholic doctrine and church politics from the 14th Century. There's a good book in here, it's just buried beneath the historical setting. It's quite a shocker to this fan (huge fan, actually) of historical fiction to have been so bored while reading but there it is. It happened.

Now about that movie... Don't forget to check out Michael's post.

rating: 2 of 5 stars

Click here for an index of the joint post series

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Alan Rickman Reel: Robin Hood Prince of Thieves

My household are big fans of Alan Rickman. As such, we've decided to (continue) review(ing) his films from start to finish. Using IMDb, that puts us starting with...

Die Hard (DIE HARD!!!!) and continuing with...
Closet Land (our review coming soon)

It doesn't matter that this movie is shitty. I can't help loving it!

Dr Musacha: So yeah, back in the Alan Rickman saddle again.  And what a movie to start with!

sgwordy: You want to be "in the Alan Rickman saddle?" Feels kind of overly familiar when we don't even know the guy.

Dr Musacha: Five blog posts in and I feel like he wouldn't mind.  So Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.  I remember this movie from my about YOU?

sgwordy: Yes. Yes, I remember it from my childhood. And teenhood. And adulthood. All my hoods are totally cool with RH.

Dr Musacha: Sadly, much like Thundercats and G.I. Joe The Movie, I wish this one had stayed in my childhood.  Before we talk Rickman, how do you feel this movie holds up all these years later?

sgwordy: Oh it doesn't at all. It's terrible. I mean, really awful. But I can't seem to care. My younger selves keep rearing their heads with all my awesome younger self reactions and I just went with it. In the midst of being fully aware of how terrible the movie is, I was still loving it.

Dr Musacha: I guess nostalgia wasn't enough for me, because I was shocked at how terrible this film is.  Costner and Slater are "knock off renaissance fair" bad in this thing, and the dialog is really corny -

sgwordy: Wait! What????
"You came for me. You're alive!
I would die for you!" 

And you're saying that's corny? That's... it's just... hold on, I'm tearing up...

Dr Musacha laughs  I guess agree to disagree and all that, but yes the dialog is pretty terrible.  But this isn't a movie review, it's an Alan Rickman review. 

sgwordy: I don't know if I can quite agree yet. I mean, there's this -
Why a spoon, cousin?
Because it's dull, you twit, it'll hurt more.

That's pure genius. Ok, ok, yes, moving on. How about with -
Locksley, I'm gonna cut your heart out with a spoon!

Am I getting off track here?

Dr Musacha: Possibly, but I love it!  I've said before that Hans Gruber is my all time favorite action villain. How does Sheriff of Nottingham rank against that performance?

sgwordy: That's a tricky comparison because Gruber is a straight up badass villain and the Sheriff is a comic villain. Rickman does him perfectly but in a head to head with Gruber, Gruber is going to win because Gruber is just better.

Dr Musacha: Tipping my hand here, but I thought Rickman was easily the best thing about this film.  He was the only person who seemed to understand that the whole thing was ridiculous and inject enough camp into his performance to fit the bill. Agree?  Or did you feel he was taking this role seriously?

sgwordy: Totally agree. He does it right though. Performers can realize what they are in is ridiculous but still not commit. He is completely committed and it makes the performance winning rather than cringe worthy. (Can my 13yo self pipe up here and admit to loving him and Robin equally at that age? I didn't even notice Costner's terrible accent when I was that young.)

Dr Musacha: Speaking of younger selves, my younger self was not nearly as aware of how normalized this movie made violence against women seem.

sgwordy: So true. That trait was certainly not limited to this movie, but it's the one aspect of Rickman's character that is not campy but just plain creepy and genuinely scary. Though if we start in on these types of faults, it'll be a black hole of Robin Hood awfulness and we're here for the good bits of Rickman.

Dr Musacha: Agreed. What did you think of the outfits? How 'bout that hair? But, most importantly, did you miss the 'stache?

sgwordy: Rickman is rocking the best outfit of the whole cast and I love the flowing locks. They really work with the unintentional spittle he gets going in some scenes. Nobody could miss that 'stache.

Dr Musacha: I've said all I have to say on this one. Any final thoughts?

sgwordy: Just this.

Rate the movie on a scale of 1 to 10:
Dr Musacha – 3
sgwordy – 3

Was Rickman the best thing about this movie?
Dr Musacha – Yes.
sgwordy – Without doubt.

In the context of his body of work, on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate Rickman as Rickman?
Dr Musacha – 6
sgwordy – 9

Favorite Rickman quote from this movie?
Dr Musacha: That's it then. Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans...
sgwordy: Locksley, I'm gonna cut your heart out with a spoon!

Monday, March 24, 2014


'You're not upset, are you, Orr?' Brooke says, pouring wine into my glass.
'Merely sober. The symptoms are similar.'

The Bridge by Iain Banks

Reading Roundup

My reading still feels quite slumpish, with only brief jumps up into something that makes me want to read more than play Bejeweled 3. It's annoying to find it so easy to put down books. I sure could use a stretch of awesome reading. Any suggestions? Here are mine, for what they are worth right now...

currently reading
The Bridge by Iain Banks
The Infinite Air by Fiona Kidman
Predicament by Ronald Hugh Morrieson
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (narrated by Jake Gyllenhaal)

The Empress Dowager Cixi by Jung Chang
The Sisters of Sinai by Janet Martin Soskice
Quest for Origins by K.R. Howe
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman**

recommended with reservations
This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz (short stories)^^
The Writing Class by Stephanie Johnson
Devices and Desires by P.D. James
The Adventures of the Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison
Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt by Tracy Farr
by William H. Armstrong
The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

not recommended/did not finish
Relative Strangers by Emma Neale
A Death in Calabria by Michele Guittari
The Floating Island by Elizabeth Haydon
The Truth About Ruby Valentine by Alison Bond
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker
Conspirator by C.J. Cherryh
Clockwork Princess
by Cassandra Clare
The Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt

** my only unqualified recommendation that is fiction and, honestly, i had to go back and read the blurb before i could even remember what it was about. i think that tells you just how barely above average even my enjoyable reads have been.

^^ with a title like "this is how you lose her" i shouldn't have been so surprised at how depressing these stories were but that's why the 'with reservations.'

So, that's it! Every title I've read/sampled in 2014 so far. Is it any wonder saving butterflies has been more appealing than reading lately?

It's good to be an adult

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Sunday, March 16, 2014


Merle doesn't really want to depress them. It's a balance between unrealistic expectations and utter hopelessness.

The Writing Class by Stephanie Johnson

Thursday, March 13, 2014

"What's Your Name Again?"

Watching this video was joyful. Like watching folks reunite at the airport; it was equal parts surprising, awkward, funny and smile-inducing!