Archive for January, 2017

Jonathon Strange & Mr. Norrell – Susanna Clarke

Capitalizing on our penchant for stories about magic, this is a moderately entertaining book that should have been split into either two or three books or edited down to one more manageable volume. Set in the 1800s and revolving around the idea of English (as in England) magic, the story offered something different and is a good story. The length of it, however, gets a little tedious after a while.

The author uses one of my very least favorite writing affectations; the footnote. I’m sorry, but I feel that footnotes do not belong in fiction. There are those who think that, handled well, they expand the story, but to an anal retentive like me who has to look at the footnote, they destroy the flow of the story. Sure, I could just ignore them and read the story, but it always feels like maybe I’ll be missing something important to the story. In this book, I don’t think that the footnotes are a necessary part of the story and could be ignored. Towards the end of the book, I did start to skip them. It seems to me that authors who use footnotes in fiction, as in this book, have spent so much time creating their own little universe in which their book lives that they just have to share the background material they have imagined to support that universe. Just tell the story and be done with it. Let the story pull you into the universe you have created; don’t beat me over the head with a stick (or footnotes) to try to convince me. But, different strokes for different folks, and you may enjoy them.

Even after making to the end of the book, it had one of those endings that screams, “Sequel.” I won’t give it away, but it is obvious that there is more to come. If not, then you will just have to be satisfied with a story that does not wrap up all the loose ends. It wouldn’t be the first book to do that.

This story has been produced as a mini-series in Britain, and is available (or at least was, at the time of this writing) on Netflix (or is it Amazon Video?). I haven’t watched it, but apparently it has the slight variations that all films have from the original source material. At least it won’t have footnotes.

Finished 1/27/17

blizzard of ’67

Fifty years ago today was the great Chicago snowfall of 1967 – twenty-three inches of snow before it was over. I was sixteen. The only thing that I directly remember is walking to my job at Jewel as a stock boy. The snow was already about ten or so inches deep and there were no cars moving on the side streets of our small town to the west of Chicago. It was a major effort to walk through that snow. I finally made it to the store and found people stocking up on whatever they would need (or could get) for the next several days.

Part of my job was to round up the shopping carts, but that was impossible to do. Instead, as a customer would leave, they would pull their car around to the door and we would load the groceries from there. I know that the store was not open long after I got there, maybe only three or four hours or so. It was to the point that every store around was shutting down just so employees might have a chance to get home. To tell the truth, I don’t remember how I got home. I’m not sure if I had to walk home again or if one of my parents came and got me, or if I got a ride from someone else. My memory fails and my parents aren’t around to ask, even if they could remember.

I just checked the calendar for that date and found that January 1967 has the same dates as January 2017. That means this happened on a Thursday. I assume I was home because the schools closed for the day, otherwise I would have walked to the store from the high school, but I do distinctly remember walking from home. I sure wish my rememberer would work better than it does.

Once again, we are remembering the fiftieth anniversary of something that I actually lived through. How depressing. Heck, looking at the record of the ten greatest snowfalls in the Chicago area, I have been alive for a full half of them! Well, at least I’m alive to complain about being old, so I’ve got that going for me.