Alright, now where were we?
Oh yes! The last time I was here, I explained that I’ve been busy planning curriculum for my new position as 8th grade English teacher (as opposed to the last 3 years as 7th grade). Before that, I submitted an “Inspired Adventures” post on LARPing and The Return of the King.
Whoo! It’s been a while!
Alright, well let’s catch up then, shall we?
Still, I am very much in the depths of reinventing the wheel when it comes to teaching 8th grade English. I have to learn the new levels of rigor embedded in the 8th grade English standards. No longer are my students simply expected to “identify an idiom”. Now, they must be able to translate said idiom and explain what it’s purpose is in the overall text and what its effect is. Higher level stuff. Plus, I’m trying to figure out how to make my class digital, what with the inclusion of iPad technology in our classroom. That will be interesting, engaging, and convenient (not so much paper!) once I figure it out. So, there’s that.
What else has been going on? Well, you may have heard through the internets that I have a new blogging job. I’m proud to announce here that I am now a contributor to Insatiable Booksluts, and my first post will be published this week. It’s an essay on the works of Stephen King. Not a big surprise for those of you who know me and read my writing here. I’m a big fan of King and it was a blast planning and working with the ladies of IB on this week’s event, which will be a week-long event commemmorating King and all of his work. If you don’t follow Insatiable Booksluts (which you should! It’s a phenomenal book blog.), I will let you know here when my post is published this week. This essay was a major undertaking, a major labor of love, and I really hope you all read it. If anything because I put A LOT of work into it (let’s just say that I’ve been working on this essay in varying levels of effort since April or May).
I need to also tell everyone that I am VERY PROUD to have been asked by Susie of IB to contribute to their blog. Anyone who reads my blog or Twitter feed knows that I am a huge fan of Insatiable Booksluts, and to be asked to write for them feels like a major promotion. I admire those ladies a lot, and I hope that I can live up to their standard of excellence in book blogging. I’m also just excited that this means I get to collaborate with them. They’re fun ladies to hang out with on Twitter, and any excuse to engage with them is alright in my book!
I haven’t read much, if at all since the school year started. I have listened—I’ve been listening to World War Z by Max Brooks in the car and on my iPod. I’m almost done, and I really like the book. It’s like the back story to The Walking Dead. Unfortunately, while it’s a really good audiobook, I fail at audiobooks. I space out and have to rewind all the time. I’m probably going to have to re-read this one.
Since I haven’t been reading much, I have been spending my evenings after work watching Fringe. Super-awesome show. It’s right up my alley. I’ll probably write something about Season 1 this week.
Speaking of this week, I’ll be posting a few times here. No. Really. I will. I’m going to write and schedule my posts right now. Until my work load lightens, that’s pretty much how it’s going to have to be–writing on the weekends. I’ll be around on email and Twitter, but I really don’t have much time to write for the blog during the week.
With that said, I’ll see you all around!
So, even though I said I wouldn’t post about any of my Stephen King reading this week, I can’t help it.
As the Tower-ite’s beloved Jake Chambers puts it: I’ve completely lost my shit and am going nineteen over Stephen King, The Dark Tower, and the whole friggin’ SK Universe. Derry, Castle Rock, Juniper Hill, Shawshank, Midworld, Endworld, ALL OF IT!
And that’s all I’m going to say about that! For now…
Today, in honor of my reading of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, I have posted my review of the first book in the series, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I read the book in April, so I can’t believe that I never got around to posting a review. I absolutely loved it!
So, check out my review as I read the next book in the series!
(By the way, my full-time reading is going excellently! I finished Dragonfly in Amber yesterday and got a quarter of the way through the amazing Song of Susannah!)
• Wizard and Glass by Stephen King
• Paperback: 668 pages
• Publisher: Plume, 2003 (originally published in 1997)
• ISBN: 0452284724
• Genre: Fantasy/Horror
• Recommended For: Any reader of the Dark Tower series (you have to read this one to continue on); anyone who wants to read a Stephen King romance (75% of the book is romance!).
Quick Review: Two stories in one. The ongoing story of the Dark Tower ka-tet continues in Wizard and Glass and is awesome. Unfortunately, this story only constitutes 25% of the book. The other 75% of the novel is Roland’s back story, and this story is lackluster to say the least. But, you’ve got to get through it to continue on with the ka-tet and the genius that is the Dark Tower series. So, I recommend you read Wizard and Glass.
Overall, the book receives a 72% or 3.6 stars. This score has been calculated by rating the two different sections of the book: the present-time plot and the flashback plot. See critique and analysis below for a full explanation of the score and the corresponding rubrics.
How I Got Here: The Waste Lands ends on a MAJOR cliffhanger, and Wizard and Glass picks up right where it left off. This book satisfies tasks for The Dark Tower Challenge and The Stephen King project.
The Book: Goodreads’ Synopsis
Roland and his band have narrowly escaped the city of Lud and boarded Blaine, a train that will take them to, of all places, Kansas, where the ghost city of Topeka has been depopulated by a superflu and where, alongside Interstate 70, an emerald palace rises enchantingly. Before Roland and the companions of his ka-tet continue along the Path of the Beam, Roland must tell his companions the tale that defines him both as a man and hero, a long-ago romance of witchery and evil, of the beautiful, unforgettable Susan Delgado, of the Big Coffin Hunters and Rhea of the Coos. And when his tale is finished, Roland confronts a man who goes by many names, a man who “darkles and tincts” and who holds perhaps the key to the Dark Tower.
My Analysis and Critique:
Ahh…Wizard and Glass. Was I so eager for all things Dark Tower the first time, or am I just not interested in flashbacks? Am I so jaded when it comes to first love? Or do I only care about my precious ka-tet of Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy? I don’t remember disliking this book or trudging through it the first time I read it, but this second time, seven years later, I struggled. Not with all, but the majority. Let me break it down…
Wizard and Glass can be broken into two very unequal parts. There’s 25% of the book that covers our main Dark Tower characters: Roland, Eddie, Jake, Susannah, and Oy. The book begins with them and their ongoing predicament aboard Blaine the Mono and their few subsequent adventures. Then, Roland and the gang take a seat (literally) in the middle of the road and Roland finally tells the ka-tet the story of his first love and his first real challenge as a bona fide gunslinger in the small town of Mejis. This flashback portion of the novel takes up exactly 75% of the novel. The remaining bits of the 25% of present-set story arc show what happens to the ka-tet after they finish their story-time with Roland. This is a measly 52 pages more. While the present-day story of the ka-tet is, as always, very strong, it very quickly gets overshadowed by the “Susan story”, the not-so-interesting flashback to Roland’s youth that is mainly told via Susan (his one true love)’s perspective (how Roland knows her perspective so well is unknown, and unfortunate for the readers).
Because this novel is really two stories in one, and one is very strong while the other is weak, I made a difficult decision, one that I sometimes make as a teacher grading student essays and stories. I decided to critique this novel in two parts instead of as a whole. So, I completed two rubrics: one for the present-day story of the ka-tet and one for the flashback story of Susan and Roland. I then gave each portion its due based upon the percentage of the book it occupies. Thus, the grade for the flashback story counts for 75% of the overall grade, while the grade for the present-day story counts for 25% of the overall grade. Here are the rubrics: The Present-Day Story: Wizard and Glass_present Rubric and The Flashback Story: Wizard and Glass_past
and here are the calculations and overall grade:
The Present-Day Story earns a 96% and provides 24 points to the overall grade out of 100.
The Flashback Story earns a 64% and provides 48 points to the overall grade out of 100.
Therefore, Wizard and Glass earns 72 points out of 100, or 3.6 stars.
So, now let me explain a few points for and against these two parts of the novel.
The Present-Day Story: This book starts off with thrills and chills. Blaine the Mono (the creepiest train that ever was) is tormenting our ka-tet on a suicide mission, forcing our gang to try to come up with a riddle that Blaine can’t solve. Unfortunately, Blaine knows every riddle there ever was. This opening plot was just jaw-dropping “wow!” and the characterization was perfect, every member’s riddles fit them perfectly and their interactions with the ultimate bad guy Blaine were so fitting for their individual personalities. The climax of this scene was a fist in the air, Arsenio Hall-style “Whoo-whoo-whoo!”. So, exciting!
The plot goes on to reveal new twists and connectivity between the Dark Tower plot and other King works (namely, The Stand), which this constant reader always loves. The themes were solid and intriguing, it was super-addictive, and the setting came alive. Everything was as solid as The Waste Lands. Then, Roland had to go and ruin it all.
The Flashback Story: I really am interested in Roland’s back story. What happened to all of the other gunslingers? What was he like before he was so cold and stoic? What does it exactly mean that “the world has moved on”? Moved on from what?
You learn a bit about this in the flashback story, but not enough. Mostly, you learn what it’s like to be a girl whored off to a knuckle-cracking old man in Mid-World, and how much it sucks when you’re secretly in love with a dashing 14-year-old gunslinger from the Camelot-like barony of Gilead. Too much Susan! I don’t hate Susan, but I didn’t really want her story. Well, I didn’t want it from her point of view. I wanted Roland’s story! The plot was not exactly light in the flashback (there are definitely some intense, gruesome scenes), but it wasn’t strong either. The characterization was lackluster because the reader didn’t get to know the truly interesting characters as well as they might’ve liked, but really got to know Susan. The supporting cast was very strong–I loved all of the chapters that focused upon the tension between the three young gunslingers (Roland, Alain, and Cuthbert) and their nemeses, the Coffin Hunters. Plus, the setting of Mejis did truly come alive. Yet, if I had a choice, I would NOT re-read this portion of the book again. It did very little for me, and did not sate my appetite for more answers about the world of the gunslingers. I’ll check out the graphic novels for this and hope I get the story I really want.
Back to the Present Day Story: After the long story of Susan, I just really wasn’t feeling it anymore. I think that the remaining pages of Wizard and Glass were solid again, but I wasn’t as engaged with the plot anymore. The mood was gone. This is unfortunate, but hopefully I’ll be all amped up to be back with the ka-tet again when I begin reading The Wind through the Keyhole, the latest Dark Tower novel, next!
Hi all! I was absent here and on the Twitterverse for the last couple of days as I had a whirlwind in-laws weekend! My husband’s uncle from Illinois was in town, my mother-in-law had a birthday, and it was, of course, Easter, so I’ve been celebrating all over the place in San Diego! I didn’t get much reading done this weekend, but it’s been a few days since I checked in here with my current reads, what with all of my Hemingway posts, so today will be a great time to discuss what I’m up to, reading-wise.
I am currently reading multiple books: one wayyyy harder than I thought, one that isn’t as gripping as I like, and the rest are graphic novels, so whatever.
First, the Chaucer…
So, my Classics goal for April is to read The Canterbury Tales. Now, I thought that I had read The Canterbury Tales in college. I was wrong. I read “The General Prologue”, “The Miller’s Tale”, “The Wife of Bath’s Tale”, and “The Friar’s Tale”. And, I think that I read them translated.
Well, that’s not the major endeavor I am setting on right now at all! In fact, I must admit that I am intimidated!!! This book is hard! It’s a little easier than reading Catullus in Latin, but a lot harder than reading Shakespeare. It gets easier with every paragraph I read, as I’m starting to translate some of the words on my own (i.e. I recognize now that “eek” means “also” and “aventure” means “chance”), and if I read it aloud I can figure out what Chaucer is getting at. However, I am reading the footnotes and appendices ravenously to where it takes me about five minutes to read one page of poetry. Here are the opening lines of “The General Prologue”:
When that Aprill with his shoures soot
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veine in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour,
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Ispired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halve cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the night with open eye-
So priketh hem nature in hir corages-
That longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kouth in sondry londes;
And specially from every shires ende
Of Engelond to Caunterbury they wende,
The holy blissful martyr for to seke
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.
Here’s my translation:
When April with his sweet showers has pierced the drought of March to the root,
and has bathed every plant in such liquid,
by whose power engendered is the flower,
Also, when the West Wind has breathed his sweet breath on every wood and field,
the tender shoots of plants, and the young sun has completed his half course in Aries,
and small birds make melody,
Nature so pricks them in their hearts,
that they sleep all night with an open eye,
and folks long to go on pilgrimages,
and these pilgrims go to seek strange countries for far-off shrines,
renowned in various lands;
and especially from every shire’s end
from England to Canterbury they go,
They go to seek the holy blissful martyr (St. Thomas a Becket),
who had helped them when they were sick.
Using the footnotes closely, that’s my translation, although there are definitely parts I’m still not sure on (are the birds sleeping with one eye open or is it the pilgrims? I’m guessing it’s the pilgrims, since they’re so excited.). It’s actually easier to translate Latin verse, as you always know what each modifier is being applied to, thanks to the endings of words.
So, this book is tough. Why am I reading this toughie? Well, I’ll discuss that on another day. I’ve set up a reading schedule so that I can finish it by the end of April (How cool is it that I’m reading it in April [the same time as the pilgrims are leaving for Canterbury]? Complete accident!):
As you can see, I can only handle about 30-40 pages per day with this book, which usually equates to one pilgrim’s tale per day. So, this should take me right to the last day of April! Wish me luck! While it’s hard, I have read one excellent story (“The Miller’s Tale”). It seems that gross-out humor has been popular for a very long time–this one is rife with gross-out humor!
So, there’s my Old World reading—now, lets discuss my Mid World reading.
I’m now in book 4 of the Dark Tower series–Wizard and Glass. The cliff-hanger ending of The Waste Lands has now been resolved, and now I’m reading the flashback chapters that tell of Roland’s youth and first love. While I don’t hate these flashback chapters as much as my blogging buddy SJ, they are quite a let-down after all of the excitement of Blaine the Mono, and the curiousities the ka-tet finds in Topeka. But, I am interested in Roland’s past, and I do want to know how Roland’s world has moved on. While his flashback doesn’t really reveal this, it does show what civilized people were like in his world. Which is interesting.
I also want to get some revelation on how Roland started on his quest and how all of the other gunslingers died, so I am also reading the graphic novel series in concordance with the novel. For this reason, Wizard and Glass will probably take a lot longer to finish than the other books, as I think that I will read all of the graphic novels before picking up with Roland’s present day story. Thus, when his flashback chapters end, I’ll continue to read on with the graphic novels. Maybe I’ll get some questions answered that way. In addition, I’m going to read “The Little Sisters of Eluria“, a short story contained in King’s Everything’s Eventual, so that I can get a peek at Roland on his quest before the start of The Gunslinger. I’m doing a lot of backtracking!
But, that’s okay, as The Wind through the Keyhole doesn’t come out until the last week of April, so I have time! I think I pre-ordered it already, so it should be on my doorstep on its release date!
Ah, a reader’s work is never done!
• The Waste Lands by Stephen King
• Paperback: 588 pages
• Publisher: Signet, 2003 (originally published in 1991)
• ISBN: 0451210867
• Genre: Fantasy/Horror
• Recommended For: Any serious Stephen King fan who wants to truly understand the Stephen King universe via reading the Dark Tower series; fans of fantasy.
Quick Review: Earns a 98 %, or 4.9 stars out of 5. Check out my rubric for my detailed assessment. The Waste Lands Rubric
Simply put, this book (the third in the series) is amazing! If you have tried to read The Dark Tower series and couldn’t get into it, I’m guessing that you didn’t get this far. Keep going!
How I Got Here: It was next. It should be noted that this, and all of the Dark Tower series, is a re-read for me. I first read the series in 2004-2005. This book satisfies tasks for The Dark Tower Challenge and The Stephen King Project.
The Book: Goodreads’ Synopsis
Roland, the last gunslinger, moves ever closer to the Dark Tower of his dreams and nightmares as he travels through city and country in Mid-World – a macabre world that is a twisted image of our own. With him are those he has drawn to this world: street-smart Eddie and courageous, wheelchair-bound Susannah.
Ahead of him are mind-bending revelations about who and what is driving him. Against him is arrayed a swelling legion of foes-both more and less than human…
My Analysis and Critique:
When you love a book as much as I loved this one, the review is either very easy to write, or very hard. I’ll do my best to write well. Sometimes the best writing is simple, so I’ll keep it simple.
Simply put, this book (the third in the series) is amazing! If you have tried to read the Dark Tower series and couldn’t get into it, I’m guessing that you didn’t get this far. Keep going! Although I loved The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three, neither are as good as The Waste Lands. Yet, they are definitely essential for building the back story leading to this action-packed thriller/horror/fantasy novel.
So much happens in this book, and I don’t know how to discuss it without giving spoilers (ugh, I hate the limitations caused by spoilers!). The plot is quick, yet full, loaded with world-building, mystery, and suspense. The characters are fully-functioning and developed–I have completely fallen in love with the Ka-tet of Eddie, Roland, Jake, and, of course, the billy-bumbler Oy (Susannah still needs room to grow, but I remember loving her in book 5, so I’ll give it time). The themes have grown huge in this novel–I have questions about other dimensions, nuclear holocaust, time travel, cross-textual themes, and so much more that I can’t even explain. This book makes one think and question.
The Waste Lands is the point where my Dark Tower addiction begins. I can’t get enough of the connectivity between the Dark Tower series and King’s other novels, and this is where it really begins (fans of The Stand–if you want more Randall Flagg, you’ve gotta read this series!). I love the mystery of The Beams, the legends behind the Guardians of The Beams, the horrors of a world devastated by some sort of nuclear disaster (you know when King writes it, it results in some seriously frightening mutants), and the thrills I get when Jake is in danger (twice in this book). And then there’s Blaine. Blaine the pain.
Hopefully, I’ve sold you. Read the Dark Tower series. Read it so that you can read The Waste Lands. You won’t be sorry.
Review Bonus Features:
Soundtrack to the Book (the drums heard throughout the novel):
I just started re-reading The Waste Lands, book 3 in the Dark Tower series by Stephen King, and I’m loving it (of course), but I’m also a little bummed.
I miss my pictures!
I think that the first time I read this book, about seven or eight years ago, I read the hardcover. With all of the awesome illustrations. Now, I’m just reading some crummy, mass-marketed paperback with a picture of a skull-faced train on the cover.
Not good enough!
I realized this when I read a description of Mir, the giant cyborg bear, and had an image in my head that I knew wasn’t placed there from reading the description. I was picturing this:
Pretty awesome, right?
But, that awesome picture isn’t there for me now. I have to use my rotten imagination. Boo.
At least, I know that all of my next books in the series are all illustrated (I think that I checked out books 1-3 from the library, and bought all of books 4-7 myself). But, man. I didn’t realize how much I loved the art until it was missing!
How do you feel about book art? Do you think art, such as the above images, really adds to the novel, or is it a far second in importance? There’s some really trippy art in Wizard and Glass, so I can waver on my opinion probably next month (although, I love Dave McKean’s work with Gaiman!).