Season of Storms – 4/5 Stars
If I haven’t said it before, I really like the sidequests more than the main quest. So far I have read the first two main novels, this novel which is a bit of a prequel, and the two story collections, but of which tell of previous adventures and previous meetings. I would gladly read many more novels and collections that move away from the main story for a few reasons. One, the main story is often focused on political intrigue, but in large ways, and that’s perfectly interesting, but I don’t quite like the way it functions here. Two, the smaller interactions are much more interesting and weird. Plus, they tend to be more character driven. For example, a very large part of this novel is concerned with Geralt having his swords stolen and looking to find them or replace them. We learn that the special techniques of his sword-fighting means that a perfectly balanced and fitting sword would take a year or more to perfect. This is funny if you’ve played the game as most of the swords are a lot like each other and you end up changing and upgrading them a lot.
There’s a sense that this book is a bit of an extra book, that it doesn’t move the story much, but does offer up more of the things we like. I wouldn’t know that exactly as I still have 60% of the main stories left, which includes the two later novels which are significantly longer.
Porterhouse Blue – 2/5 Stars
|I didn’t really like this novel, and I probably could have told you that going in by looking at the cover of my copy. On my copy there’s some outlandish caricatures of campus novel figures from the old codger of a professor emeritus (or whatever it would be called in a British university college), the penny-pinching craven dean, and the new seductress lady who is causing all kinds of issues.
I am not a super mature person or anything, but the kind of humor here, which trends toward bawdy and oafish, while also being cutting and sardonic is probably successful and fun for this novel if you’re experiences give you a better foothold on the referents. But it didn’t for me.
Everything that Rises Must Converge – 5/5 Stars
I’ve read this book a dozen times maybe, and I’ve also already written a longish review in the past about it, so I am going to mostly muse a little about it. The book is her second collection and the writing of these stories take us up close to her death. There’s always something fascinating about reading an author’s work when we know they are about to die. This is probably a case where Flannery O’Connor also knew she was about to die. So many of her stories deal with a similar phenomenon: where someone kind of figures our they’re about die. Whether this happens over the longer course of an illness, or because of old age, or in a single moment just before. In the first collection, “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” the grandmother, who is officious and racist and awful to her family, has a moment of grace right before she dies that possibly saves her. In “The Life You Save May Be Your Own,” we shouldn’t hold out much hope for Tom T Shiflet, our runaway husband. In this collection, this moment happens for two of our character — Mrs May in “Greenleaf” right before she’s gored by the bull, she has a moment to reflect, a coup de grace if you will. However, in “The Enduring Chill” what seems like a possible moment gives way to a lifetime of annoying suffering. In that story our main character wants to inflict suffering on his (not) poor mother by dying and writing her a letter with all her sins so that when he dies, she will be left with a lifetime of “chill” to remember him by. He’s an unpublished and possibly untalented (hard to tell when he’s not written much) writer who is stuck in the cycle of blaming his mother, looking toward art, art failing him, and blaming his mother for that.
The other stories in this collection tend not to have those moments. But they often have a different kind of moment, where someone decides what’s best for someone else, makes it happen, and realizes not only that it doesn’t work out the way they planned, but comes at a significant cost. For example, in the title story, our protagonist decides that his racist mother needs her comeuppance. It’s the 1960s after all and integration is fast becoming a reality. His problem of course is that he wants to wield Black people as weapons against his mother not actually get to know any people himself. He’s the kind of liberal he takes the right stands, but certainly doesn’t live the life they require. In “Parker’s Back” a heavily tattooed man who is married to a devout Christian has just about decided to leave her when she gets pregnant. She hates his tattoos, but married him anyway. He’s been saving his back, not out of sacrifice, but because he likes to look at the handiwork, and decides to get a huge tattoo of Jesus back there as a present. You can imagine how that goes over.
The collection is just wall-to-wall solid. The stories are old in their approach, almost 19th century in heft, with the obvious sentiment and idiom of the 20th century. Her death which shadows this whole collection is such a significant loss to all of us.