This being our annual December party, we didn't have an assigned book but instead pick books for the next few months (sometimes we've tried picking the whole next year's books all in one go, but that rarely works out for us). First, though, we just enjoyed getting together, sipping tea, enjoying book-group snacks, and playing with our host's Most Excellent cat, Max (even Max's shy companion, Maya, made a brief appearance).
After that, we revisited some of the books we wd have discussed had we managed to have the September (WICKED), October (ERAGON), and November (BEREN & LUTHIEN; TURIN) meetings. Wicked we universally found disfavor with: those who had read it all the way through (like Janice) and those who'd given up part-way in (like myself) were united in our bafflement of why people like, and praise, this book. Not only that, but why it had inspired a Broadway musical and given rise to a string of sequels. The idea of retelling a famous story from the villain's point of view, while it's becoming a bit overdone, has its potential, but here the author seemed determined to write a story about an Oz that would be utterly unrecognizable as Oz. The names were the same, but everything that made Oz 'Oz' was gone. I was reminded of LeGuin's famous essay "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie", and thought that here was a case where Elfland had deliberately been remade as Poughkeepsie -- the sense of wonder stripped out so that a dull political tale cd be substituted for it. Seeing this, I understood what the Jackson-bashers feel when they see his LotR films: a sense that he got everything that matters wrong. I think they're completely wrong about Jackson -- who I'd say sometimes screws up the details but does a great job delivering on the essence -- but just for that moment I felt their pain.
ERAGON we dealt with more summarily; the only person who'd read it strongly urged the rest of us not to, and we all pretty much felt inclined to take her advice; sounds pretty much like a mash-up of Tolkien (or Tolk-clones) + McCaffrey.
The Tolkien, on the other hand, we decided is too good to miss, so we decided to roll that over into our first meeting next year (January).
After bantering about several options (LITTLE BIG? -- no!; some Chinese or Japanese classic --where to start?; ARABIAN NIGHTS -- maybe later), we decided on what we'll be reading for the first half of next year:
January (1/16-11): THE STORY OF BEREN & LUTHIEN by J. R. R. Tolkien. From THE SILMARILLION (et al). location: our place in Kent.
February (2/20-11): JOHANNES CABAL -- THE NECROMANCER by Jonathan L. Howard. location: Chez Max.
March (3/20-11): HULDUFOLK 102 (documentary). location: Chris & Andy's
April (4/17-11): JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH by Jules Verne. location: not yet determined
May (5/15-11): WATERSHIP DOWN by Richard Adams. location: not yet determined
June (6/19-11): GILGAMESH -- the translation by Andrew George, not the novelization by Nancy Sandars.
We generally meet on the third Sunday of the month, so if you're anywhere in the Seattle area and enjoy reading & discussing fantasy books, drop us a line.
P.S.: In other news, I was astonished to learn this week that the 'Dragonlance' series has now run its course and ended. At twenty-five years it had a good run, but I'm surprised to hear it's over.