Books I have read in May: Charles Williams, Tom Cox, and Silvana de Mari.
21st-Century Yokel by Tom Cox
This is such a lovely book and I am really enjoying it, but I am still only half-way through it. Tom Cox’s quirky perspective on life, scarecrows, animals, landscape, and walking is delightful, and by turns poignant and laugh-out-loud funny. I also love the way his dad talks in ALL CAPITALS.
The Last Elf by Silvana de Mari
(translated into English by Shaun Whiteside, now titled The Last Dragon)
I bought this book in spite of its depressing-looking cover, and this is the second time I have read it. It’s a sweet but uncompromising book, that doesn’t shy away from depicting awful things like the tyranny of the city of Daligar, which steals all the food from the surrounding countryside and terrorizes the people with hangings and brutality. It also has an elf who has a very original perspective on life, and some humans who overcome their fear of elves. The bits about the dragon are very funny and original. I am not sure of the target audience of this book – it’s ostensibly a children’s book, and would be a good way of introducing children to the horrors of residential schools, which the orphanage in Daligar rather resembles – but there’s plenty of food for thought in this book for adult readers too.
Got Ghosts, by Fiona Glass
Almost forgot to include this book — a fun ghost story where it’s not the ghosts that are disturbing but the weird and annoying TV crew that comes to film them but completely ignores them manifesting all over the place. I really enjoyed this book. It was quite short but great fun.
Shadows of Ecstasy, by Charles Williams
This is a very odd book and would have benefited from some editing of the more purple passages, but it’s a fascinating idea. I can’t decide whether the portrayal of Africans in it is racist or not – the idea that they are only stirred to rebellion by the intervention of the sinister Nigel Considine is rather racist in the deterministic sense, but on the other hand it was quite exhilarating seeing them invading London, and the character of Inkamasi is respectfully written, and Africans are not the only ones who fall prey to Considine’s dreadful allure. The characters of Inkamasi, Bernard, Philip, Rosamond, Roger, Isabel, and the priest are well-drawn. Brenton Dickieson wondered if AE Waite was the model for Considine; I disagree.
I don’t think AE Waite was the model for Considine. For one thing, the reason Waite split from the Golden Dawn and formed his own occult order, was that he wanted something more explicitly Christian. My impression of him from reading a biographical account was that he was actually a rather boring and pedantic individual – very far from being a Svengali type. If there was a real-life model for Considine, I should think it was Aleister Crowley. Lots of people sacrificed themselves (not to death, but in other ways) for Crowley, and he was an exact contemporary of Williams. Of course Crowley was a fascinating and complex character who cannot be so easily dismissed; but he’s much more likely to have been the model for Considine.
Many Dimensions, by Charles Williams
This was a fascinating read, and the portrayal of Islamic mystics is particularly sympathetic. I did find the ending rather depressing though. The story is well-written and compelling, and much easier to read than Shadows of Ecstasy.
The Greater Trumps, by Charles Williams
I am still part-way through this, but the idea of the Tarot as a series of archetypal images with magical powers is interesting. Of course that’s what they are: expressions of archetypes from the collective unconscious, but I like the way that Williams has made this concrete and created the mysterious dancing figures. I also like the characters of Henry and Nancy, Henry’s father, and Nancy’s aunt Sibyl. Nancy’s father is suitably awful, parochial and middle-class, but I wonder if he will turn out to be pivotal to the story.
(My Goodreads reading challenge was to read 30 books so I’m clearly going to exceed that.)
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4 thoughts on “Books I’ve read in May 2019”
Agree with you about Shadows of Ecstasy. I thought the first part was good, and the African priest was very authentically drawn, but the second part, with long abstract speeches, got almost as boring as Ayn Rand’s Atlas shrugged.
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Yes somebody should’ve gone through it with a blue pencil!
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