Monday, December 22, 2014

Wintry Reading (Cont.): The Platypus Reads Part CCLXXVII

Christmas Vacation is finally here and with it some time for Winter reading.  Winter reading isn't the long, lazy, meandering sort of thing that Summer reading is.  For one, the time is too short.  For two, the holiday season and the end of the quarter leave little time for easy ambling.  Winter reading is the sort of thing that gets done in a busy airport, in the shotgun seat of the car, while relatives watch t.v., or right before bed.  It's a way of filling in the corners of holiday time, a way to savor the last bit of the season.

So what have I crammed in to my Christmas Break?

Smith of Wootton Major: We read this Tolkienic scripta minora in one go with the Inklings Club this weekend.  Smith of Wootten Major is a melancholy tale about a boy who is given a passport to Faerie that he must surrender when he reaches old age.  Tolkien advised his audience to simply read and enjoy, but it's hard not to see this as Tolkien's musings on the limits of creativity and the threat posed to the Numinous and the Beautiful by Modernity.

Father Christmas Letters:  It was a Tolkien weekend that began on Friday with an Upper School trip to see The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, and continued through a Saturday evening of food, fun, reading.  When the Inklings finished Smith of Wootten Major, we took a break to eat, fellowship, share our own creative endeavors, and then plunge back in to the world of Tolkien with his hilarious Father Christmas Letters.  The antics of Father Christmas and the North Polar Bear had us in stitches.  It was emblematic of the weekend that by the time we got to the fight with the goblins all I could think of was the North Polar Bear with his jaunty little scarf sitting on the body of Azog the Defiler and swigging a glass-bottled Coke.

The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci: I've admired the work of Johnathan D. Spence ever since grad school when we read Treason by the Book.  Since then, I've gobbled down The Gate of Heavenly Peace, The Death of Woman Wang, and God's Chinese Son.  Spence has a truly literary flair and writes the best history of any living writer I've encountered.  I'm still working my way through this short book, but the level of form following function is astounding.  This is a true master-work and reminds me that some people have in fact earned the right to tenure, chairs, and research positions.

And Then There Were None: Agatha Christie is always good for a little fluffy fun.  In this case, we're reading her to get ready for this year's school play.  We have a new, experienced director who's also an alum, so I'm very excited to see this one on stage.

Clariel: I haven't read anything by Garth Nix before, but I have several friends who rave about him, so he's been on the list for some time.  The inciting incident for this particular read: I have a sad little book languishing in edit hell that needs some help with its reluctant hero and I've been told on good authority that the titular protagonist of Nix's book can point a possible way forward.

So there we go.  Who knows what of this I'll actually finish, but as with Summer reading, the point of Winter reading is not to finish but to have fun.

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