205 Books: Afghanistan

So, you may have noticed my review of The Scar. Which means I am officially starting my Around the World in 205 Books challenge (henceforth shortened to 205 Books for reason of I don’t want to keep typing all that). In case you have forgotten, that is where I start at the start of the alphabet and work through every country in the world (205 of them according to the list I found on the net), picking books by authors from that country or about that country or, preferably, both. This is obviously to try to get out of my reading comfort zone.

I went to the library yesterday so borrow a copy of The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini which, yes, is a fairly mild choice for Afghanistan (seeing Hosseini is American) but I couldn’t find a lot of options. But then, I was told that my local library is the only library in the entire Moreton Bay Shire Council area that doesn’t have a copy in stock. They did have A Thousand Splendid Suns, however. So, one book in and the plan already changed. Sorry to those of you who decided to get ahead with your homework. You will just have to start again.

After rigorous research, I discovered that exactly 51% of the internet thinks that A Thousand Splendid Suns is the better book anyway so it all worked out nicely…

I have already started reading and so far so good… I will post my thoughts in a new blog post when I finish but if anyone wants to discuss the book in the comments (avoiding spoilers would be good) then that’s ok. The next country is Albania, so I will also be taking suggestions for the next book in line. Surely someone in Albania must have written a book…

China Mieville: The Scar

scar

I know China Mieville doesn’t need me to do a review of his book, The Scar, but I’m going to do it anyway.

The short review… Wow.

The slightly longer review, that really tells you nothing of substance… I read Perdido Street Station years ago and loved it. But I can’t remember it being anywhere near the same level as The Scar. There is the same sort of invention with the world and the characters, but the plot just seems to start as this little thing and it keeps expanding like some type of fantastical, steam-driven schematic of a fantastical, steam-driven machine. (Don’t ask me about steam driven schematics. I have no idea how they work.) It just keeps unfolding and you keep seeing more and more of the crazy, epically-detailed device. And not only is the device itself amazing, but the paper has an amazing texture and the drawing is beautiful and the ink smells of magic and…

So, yeah, I didn’t mind it.

The Great Mozart Marathon: Episode 3

 

Okay, I’ll get this out there now… I don’t really like the harpsichord. It’s kinda like the slide guitar of the keyboard world for me. (And yes, I know it’s old and the technology moved on and all that, but still.)

I did quite like the 1st movement though, despite that. But while I’m doing comparisons that everyone else will probably not see, the 2nd movement sounded a bit like the UB40 of classical music. Yes, Mozart was 7 or something years old when he wrote this so comparing him to some musicians who have somehow made a living with their elevator reggae for 40 years or something may not be very fair, but I stand by it. The 3rd movement didn’t leave much of an impression at all. (Maybe I was still thinking about UB40 and my mind was mush.)

So, nothing revelatory today but I thought I needed to get the next episode done or I’d be doing this until I’m 72.

The Great Mozart Marathon: Episode 2

 

Mozart’s first violin sonata. This was his first composition for more than one instrument and it seems to me his first real attempt at a proper composition (though I’m no expert). The previous ones seem more like exercises in composition. (Yes, I know, he was 5 or 6, give the kid a break.)

I hated the first (Allegro) movement. The harpsichord just seemed to repeat ad-infinitum in the background. The second (Andante) movement, though, I enjoyed. Much more harpsichord movement and it seemed that the violin worked with it more instead of just hanging out in the same piece of music. Overall the piece is obviously much more advanced than the previous ones, so any sort of comparison (for me) is hard.

So, that’s all from me. Stay tuned for the next violin sonata…

Around the World in 205 Books

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With my Great Mozart Marathon off and running it is time to introduce my next “project”.

I do quite a bit of reading (though I am pretty slow) but generally stick to fantasy and science fiction. And I generally stick to the more well-known (in the west) authors. Now, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with that, but I thought I would try to branch out a bit anyway. So, as the title of this blog entry suggests, I am going Around the World in 205 Books.

I’m reading The Scar by China Mieville at the moment (and loving it, BTW) but after that I’m going to find a book by an author from Afganistan because Afganistan is the first county in an alphabetical list. Or, failing that, a book set in Afganistan or… You get the picture. Then Albanian, Algeria, Andorra and so on. All the way to Zimbabwe. According to my list, which I found on the American State Department website, that is 205 countries. (Though somewhere else on the web said there were only 196 countries, so who knows. My list does include Taiwan, which technically isn’t a country, but I’m not sure where any other discrepancies might be, unless some new counties have formed recently.) Anyway, 205 it is.

After each book I’ll be doing a review. Or at least posting something about it. And I am not guaranteeing to finish every book. If it is crap I might just dump it and move on to the next country (and come back to that one later).

At this point, my choice for Afganistan is The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. He does live in American but has the required background and, I have to say, there really weren’t all that many choices that I could find. If someone else has any suggestions, be sure to let me know. If there are any suggestions for the upcoming countries, let me know them as well.

If it comes down to a choice between two books that sound interesting I will be probably be leaning towards books by women, just because, and books that are shorter, for the obvious reason that I will probably be doing this thing for the rest of my life, (one a month is about 17 years…) especially since I will not just be reading books for this challenge.

So, let me know what you think. Offer some suggestions. Offer to accompany me on this wild and wonderful (and bloody crazy) journey.

The Great Mozart Marathon- Episode 1

So, it’s been a while since my crazy Year of Poetry ended and I was looking for something else to do. (I wasn’t actually, but you know.) So, now I have it, my new project. The Great Mozart Marathon.

What I will be doing is listening to every one of Mozart’s compositions chronologically. Well, that’s the plan. I will be looking for them on YouTube so I don’t have to pay, and it is quite possible (though unlikely) that I won’t be able to find some. If that happens I’ll see what else I can do. (If I miss any, please let me know.)

Now, I’m not an expert on any type of music and I picked Mozart ‘randomly’. (The other choices were probably Bach, Beethoven, Handel and Hayden. They seem like the big names to me though, as noted earlier, I’m not an expert.)

So, I’m starting right now with his first few short works.

 

I don’t want to keep saying “I’m not an expert” so I won’t and I’ll just have to hope that people coming along later pick up on that fact on their own.

But, to me, the jump in the maturity of the music after the first two piece is noticeable. (Admittedly, this could also be about the performance.) According to the website that I’m getting the list from (http://www.mozartproject.org/compositions/) the first ones were written in ‘Early 1761’. The rest were from Dec 1761 to Jan 1762. (All were written in Salzburg, which probably isn’t really relevant to the level of dissecting that I’ll be doing 🙂 .) Minuet in F and Allegro in F are probably my two favourites. (Maybe I just like F?)

Anyway, that’s it for today. Stay tuned for more episodes in the Great Mozart Marathon. These episodes will come along whenever I feel like it. I will not be trying to keep to any type of schedule with them. I will be announcing another ‘project’ ver soon as well. That will not be run like clockwork either.