Take Me Away

September 18, 2008 at 7:41 pm 1 comment

Those of you who know me (which is, um, all of you) know that I have moved about three, maybe four times since January and am about to move again to a city which I’ve never been to. As much as I’d like to think of myself as a free-spirited, wild-eyed rover, that is really about as far away from my true personality as possible. So obviously, I feel the need to escape from the sheer panic induced by words like “plane” and “airport” and “moving boxes” and “luggage.” Me being me, I bury myself in a book.

This is cheesy, but all of you already know this on some level – books create worlds of their own. They are reflections of how the author thinks the world works, or how the world could work with a few modifications. With enough modifications, the author can create a world of their own, and then the book could become science fiction or fantasy, depending on how in depth the modifications are and the direction they take the novel.

So, my reading life lately has been all about escaping this world for alternative ones. Here’s what I’ve been turning to instead of dealing with the trials of my everyday life:

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

This, I think, is the best book ever to read in an airport. The chapters are relatively short, and the beginning and end are very exciting, and the middle is marginally so. What this means for you is that as you’re waiting for your flight to take off, you will be totally engrossed in the novel, but not so engrossed that you can’t fall asleep during a long flight. You’ll have plenty of the novel to occupy you during a layover, and then enough to keep you awake during a short flight that you don’t want to drop off during.

This novel is a mostly prewar vampire hunt, in which two graduate students, prompted by the disappearance of a professor, go to hunt down Dracula’s tomb. The story is told in the form of the one graduate student telling his daughter what happened, letters the professor left before his disappearance, and the daughter filling in narration from her own vampire hunt that resulted from her father’s. It’s amazing – even if the first time I read it, I did have to give up in the middle and try again. It does take a little focus, but if you’re in an airport, you have nothing but time and nothing else to focus on.

The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb

Okay, I’ll admit it – I’m a fantasy nerd. Like, so big of a fantasy nerd that I have to keep myself from reading it, or it’s all I’d read. In fact, when I found Robin Hobb, her books are all I did read for the course of a few months.

I actually got into her Farseer books from her book Golden Fool, which has some of the same characters but not the same plot line. The trilogy is basically about this young boy named FitzChivalry (oh, I know) who is the lovechild (mm-hmm) of the late and lamented Prince Chivalry and some woman from the mountain country. Turns out that not only can Fitz communicate with animals and perform some pretty powerful magic, he has what it takes to be the official Royal Assassin and help Prince Verity and King Shrewd keep their kingdom from being taken over.

I don’t even remember whom, exactly, they are fighting – all I know is that Fitz makes friends with a wolf puppy named Nighteyes somewhere in the second book. From then on I was hooked. Probably not a book to really read in public unless you don’t care if other people judge your reading choices.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

I just put that title down for the sake of naming a specific Harry Potter book; really any of them will do, but I tend to prefer the later ones for escapism. I enjoy Goblet of Fire because it isn’t nearly as dark as Order of the Phoenix, all the good characters are still alive, and Harry isn’t quite an obnoxious teenager yet.

Half-Blood Prince, though, would also be good, or Prisoner of Azkaban – just note that the later ones are a little more sophisticated than the first few, which makes them better suited to the purpose of keeping your attention for a longer period of time. And I don’t know about you, but I can never remember exactly the way the book turns out, even if I’ve read it before, so there’s always that element of suspense.

The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Wow, is this a book that sucks you in and won’t let go. It’s a retelling of Authurian myth but with an emphasis on goddess worship and Lancelot’s heritage as the son of the Lady of the Lake. Here’s my only caveat: I haven’t read this whole book, and what I did read was a long time ago.

However, this is more the exception that proves the rule, as the only reason I didn’t finish it was because I was in my uber-Christian high school years, and couldn’t separate the fact that I thought goddess worship was wrong from the fact that maybe it was okay in the context of the book and, you know, for fictional characters. I am going to go back to it, though, once I have the chance, because I remember being so drawn in, that I could barely make myself stop. I did, though, because this is what good Christian girls are supposed to do, resist heresy and Satan in all his forms, even if that form is a really, really interesting book. This is also why I didn’t read Harry Potter until I was almost 20, but that’s another story.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

The only book in this list that I have barely even started, but that’s because I am saving it for the inevitable breakdown that will surely follow my move to Dublin. I need an extraordinarily good book to keep me occupied between the time my mother drops me off at Buffalo’s airport and the time I finally settle into life at Trinity, a period of anywhere from a week to two months (after which I will fly back to California, only to have to make that adjustment all over again. Yay fun).

But this really isn’t about me complaining – I think this novel will do the trick, as it’s about magic returning to England during the Napoleanic Wars and, apparently, a rivalry between two magicians. And hey, Neil Gaiman liked it, and I like Neil Gaiman, so who am I to doubt his word?

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Entry filed under: Collections and Lists, Contemporary Fiction.

What’s the story, morning glory? Works in Progress

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. A Lesson in Contrast « Literary Transgressions  |  July 6, 2009 at 12:02 am

    […] the plot that drags as the reader’s energy. While this is exactly the sort of book I enjoy reading on airplanes, maybe The Crimson Petal and the White is best savoured slowly, chapter by chapter. […]

    Reply

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