March 2004 Archives
Bridge of Birds: A Novel of an Ancient China That Never Was
Hello, I hope you enjoyed Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart. This “novel of an ancient China that never was” is a quirky fantasy often classified alongside such fantasy books as The Last Unicorn and The Princess Bride. I chose this book because I thought it was a nice, funny adventure. I loved all the characters and was constantly surprised by all the twists that the plot took.
My favorite character was Master Li. I thought he was very wise (despite the slight flaw in his character) and always had the best of intentions. I also really liked the part where he opens up to Number Ten Ox and reveals the story of his origin. You think it’s going to be something profound but it turns out that his parents were robbers and his mother named him after the “finest paint remover and worst wine ever invented: Kao-liang.” So funny. Who was your favorite character?
What did you think of the plot as a whole? The children in Number Ten Ox’s village are struck with a plague. He sets out with the only wise man he can afford and they go in search of the Great Root of Power. They meet all kinds of colorful characters who keep reappearing again and again in the story (especially Pawnbroker Fang and Ma the Grub). I know it’s hard for some people to read fantasy or sci-fi novels but I thought this was one that anyone could enjoy.
I think Hughart did a really good job describing everything, from the funeral procession for Fainting Maid to the labyrinth under the Duke of Ch’in’s palace to the Hand of Hell to the city beneath the Lake of the Dead. Also, I like that this story was a period piece, taking place in the Year of the Tiger 3,337 (A.D. 639).
In the end, were you surprised to find out who the Duke of Ch’in was? After hearing the story of Jade Pearl from Mister Shen, I knew something was fishy with Lotus Cloud but the revelation about the Duke of Ch’in totally knocked me in the chin.
And I’m a sucker of happy endings. I like the one in Bridge of Birds particularly because after the actual bridge of birds is forming and Number Ten Ox and Master Li are flying away on the Falcon, you get to read a small vignette about other characters as they fly over them. I thought that was really heartwarming.
If you enjoyed the story, there are two sequels: The Story of the Stone and Eight Skilled Gentlemen. From what I can tell, the second one is out of print and the third one is available (but $19.00 for the paperback). Bridge of Birds tied for best novel at the World Fantasy Awards in 1985. The other winner was Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock. I haven’t read it yet, but I definitely will.
Just a Friendly Reminder
I hope you read (and enjoyed) Bridge of Birds. If you haven't read/finished it yet, you still have this weekend. The discussion will kick off around 8 a.m. [EST] on Monday.
Where Are They Now?
I had some extra time on my hands today, so I thought I'd do a little bit of poking around to find out if past BookBlog authors have been up to anything interesting recently. They're quite a busy bunch.
Steve Martin [Shopgirl] - The March 8th issue of The New Yorker includes script notes on Mel Gibson's The Passion from funnyman Steve Martin. LawGeek was kind enough to share some of it with all of us ("Possible title change: 'Lethal Passion.' Kinda works. The more I say it outloud, the more I like it.") since The New Yorker is kind of stingy with its online content. (link)
Gregory Maguire [Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister] - Damn, I missed it. This past Friday, Maguire was at the Columbus Circle Borders in New York City to sign copies of Wicked. However, the musical version continues to do well on Broadway, and you can buy $100 a pop tickets through its official web site. (link)
Chuck Palahniuk [Invisible Monsters] - On Tuesday, March 16th, Palahniuk will be live online with The Guardian. The author chat starts at 4:00 p.m. GMT, which is 11:00 a.m. EST. Questions posted include "[I]s it really a good way of meeting hot chicks?" and "There was a bit of graffiti on one of the bridges crossing over the 405 from 13th to 14th street. It read: Be boring. Be deathlike. Be Eva Lake. There was some other good graffiti around town, but I don't want to repeat it here. Have you any favorites?" If you, too, have an inane question for Chuck, get it in now. (link)
Jose Saramago [Blindness] - University of California television will be celebrating National Poetry Month by showing poetry-related programs Thursday and Friday nights throughout the month of April. On April 2nd, they will air From Memory to Fiction through History with Nobel Laureate Jose Saramago, a taping of a talk the author gave at UCLA. According to the UCTV site, you should be able to watch it on demand using RealPlayer, but I couldn't get it to work. Maybe you'll have more luck. (link)
J.K. Rowling [Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone] - Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has been shortlisted for The Butler & Tanner Book of the Year by the British Book Awards. Will she Bend It Like Beckham (Anyone else seen this flick?) and beat out the footballer's autobiography to the top prize? The winners are to be announced on April 7th. (link)
Haruki Murakami [Norwegian Wood] - This summer's Lincoln Center Festival is to include The Elephant Vanishes, a multimedia retelling of three stories by Murakami in Japanese with English supertitles. The performances by Tokyo's Setagaya Public Theatre will be shown from July 21st through July 25th, and tickets for multiple events go on sale beginning April 6th. (link)
Scott Heim [Mysterious Skin] - According to Heim's rarely updated blog, the movie version of Mysterious Skin, which stars the kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun, is nearly complete. Andy, who moderated the book and also runs realityblurred.com, should be pleased to know that Heim reports being "utterly consumed by reality TV again." Suggestion for Heim: permalinks. xxmarydell. (link)
John Kennedy Toole [A Confederacy of Dunces] - The movie version of our August 2002 selection continues to have trouble getting off the ground, but still stars Will Ferrell as Ignatius J. Reilly. I'm not exactly sure how I feel about Elf, but IMDB message board posters have come up with some interesting alternatives: Oliver Platt, John Goodman, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. (link)
100 Most Often Mispronounced Words and Phrases in English
i got a link to a list of words at YourDictionary.com from My Yahoo!
i'm proud to say that i am guilty of about 5 words, the most!
click here to see the list!
p.s. mary, did i do a good job this time? ;)
Infinity: Novelist's Math, Physicist's Drama
I came across this article while browsing the news on my isp's news site:
Numbers and narratives, statistics and stories. From Rudy Rucker's Spaceland to Apostolos Doxiadis' Uncle Petros and the Goldbach Conjecture, from plays such as Copenhagen, Proof, and Arcadia to many non-standard mathematical expositions, the evidence is building.
There has always been some interplay between mathematics and literature, but the border areas between them appear to be growing. Increasingly, fiction seems to come with a mathematical flavor, mathematical exposition with a narrative verve.
Click here to read the rest of the article.
Too Many Books