We’ve been having some friends visit, and one of the topics of conversation of course ends up being, “What are you reading right now?” Authors get asked that a lot in more formal circumstances, too, so I thought I’d start a thread here where once in a while we could post what we’re reading at the moment, with maybe a sentence or two about the books. Most, of course, will have absolutely nothing to do with the subject of the blog, except tangentially.
So, what am I currently reading? No manga at the moment, I’m afraid. The next Fullmetal Alchemist doesn’t come out until January, alas.
The General Danced at Dawn, by George MacDonald Fraser
– Semi-fictional memoir of a young officer in a Highland Regiment just after the Second World War. I’ve been trying to read Flashman, too, but I’m not really liking the latter. It’s just far too women-as-things for my taste. That’s Flashman’s view of the sex, of course, but in a first person narrative, there’s no opposition to it. However, The General Danced at Dawn and the other stories narrated by “Dand MacNeill” are a delight.
Churchill, the Great Game, and Total War, by David Jablonsky
– An interesting study of Churchill’s war experiences and how that influenced his perception of the value of intelligence (and thus the history of the world). It’s well written and very good so far, but the author makes one noticeable error, when he claims that in Buchan’s Greenmantle, Hannay refuses to shoot in the back a man intending to infect British troops with anthrax — the anthrax is in Mr Standfast — but that’s easy to do, make errors in quoting from memory. One’s far more likely to do it with things that one knows well, in fact, because one doesn’t bother checking. I know I’ve done it myself, and had to cringe, later, when whatever it was had gone to press and I woke up at three in the morning in a sudden flash of realisation, “Oh d–n, did I say that?” (I know I got who kissed whom wrong in an essay on McKinley’s Spindle’s End, for instance.)
Ammie, Come Home, by Barbara Michaels
– One of her early supernatural thrillers. Fun,scary, and by now, almost a social history of the time of its setting and publication, the late sixties.
Crystal Star, by Vonda N. McIntyre
– Yes, eek, I’m reading a Star Wars novel. I haven’t, not since the classic three Han Solo ones of the, er, well, some former decade when I was younger and shorter. I like this. It’s kind of neat having an adult novel with whole chapters done from the point of view of a five-year-old. Okay, a precocious five-year-old, but still … I was yearning for nice, straightforward, fantasy adventure without gratuitous sadism, which seems to be infesting fantasy and sf these days, and picked up this for a break.
Die Zwei Türme, by Tolkien
– My ongoing effort to improve my German by reading Der Herr der Ringe, unfortunately in the Wolfgang Krege translation. From some of the oddities that even I, with my less-than-impressive German, can notice, and from the reviews and other discussion online, I think I’d have preferred the older translation by Carroux. Having Sam always calling Frodo “Chef”, i.e. “Boss”, is really grating — modern slang, not the affectionate, semi-formal respect of “Master”. Why not simply go with “Herr”?
The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs and Feisty Fido: Help for the Leash-Reactive Dog, by Patricia B. McDonnell (the latter by McConnell and Karen B. London)
– I’ve read The Other End of the Leash before; it’s the best book on dog behaviour that I’ve found. It’s not a “how to solve problems” book but simply a fascinating study of animal behaviour. Feisty Fido, on the other hand, is a slim volume on techniques for dealing with “leash aggression”. Mr Wicked I. falls into the category of social dogs who get frustrated when they don’t get to charge up and meet and greet the other dog/person and proceed to have a tantrum, working themselves up into a big show of barking, snarling, and lunging because they’re full of adrenaline and toddler-like frustration at not getting what they want. Feisty Fido is a useful book. It explains the various causes of leash reactivity or leash aggression (excessive enthusiasm thwarted isn’t the only one; some dogs get aggressive on a leash because of fear of other dogs). It talks about tactics for dealing with it when it happens, and methods of diffusing the reaction and training your dog out of it. These are somewhat helpful, though the methods are designed for ideal circumstances. There’s not, for instance, much on how to attempt to distract your dog (who doesn’t like food — yes, I know, a dog who doesn’t care about treats, but he has IBS and though that’s under control, he’s never really become convinced that food is his friend — and thinks dogs are better than toys so who cares if you’re dangling a tug-sock in his face), while attempting to restrain fifty pounds of solid athletic muscle and clutching a wildly swinging squishy bag which has somehow gotten wrapped around both wrist and leash and is twacking you in the face, on an icy sidewalk, with cars coming so you can’t cross the street.
If Mr Wicked does get to meet the other dog or person, he’s all bounce and joy and wriggling. Unfortunately, if he’s started his little tantrum, they’re unlikely to remain on the scene, marching hastily by with grim looks (“What an ill-trained/savage dog/bad dog-owner,”) or fleeing lest they become, they fear, lunch. He lets small puppies stand on his chest and chew his face, honest.
So, I’m still working with Feisty Fido, and am seeing some improvement, though I’m really not looking forward to icy-sidewalk season, which will start in about six weeks.