Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Slow Season

Wow. Almost a week has sneaked by without a post. I suppose that's to be expected at this time of year. Many things going on as the holidays swoop by. I don't really know, since I haven't blogged through a holiday season before (though my perception as a blog reader has long been that things are slower this time of year).

I notice that in my absence, Blogger has finally gotten its new software out of beta, and somewhere along the way they've managed to relocate the search bar that was supposed to be at the top of this blog all along. So that's progress.

The primary reason for my absence has not, in fact, been holiday celebrations (although there have been some). Mostly it is the fact that my little software startup company has moved into its first offices, and I've been spending a lot of cycles doing things like debugging the network, chasing phone lines, and learning where to buy lunch in the neighborhood (San Francisco, near the Civic Center, sort of).

So at least some of the time, I will now be commuting to the office, which has its good and bad points. I like the fact that I will get to see my coworkers more often. I regret that I will spend more time in transit, though much of that will be on BART. I believe it will also be easier to get to baseball games, as I will be much closer to the stadium when I am at work.

A secondary reason for my absence from scribbling on the blog is that I've been reading a very long book, Twenty Years After, which is the (first) sequel to The Three Musketeers, which I reread a year or two ago. It's very long, but I'm almost done, and struggling to finish before we take off for holiday visits. Because I really don't want to schlep an 800-page book along with me, just so I can read the last 50 pages or so.

I won't spend a lot of time writing about the book, except to say that it's quite engrossing. Not quite as swashbuckling as The Three Musketeers, which is to be expected, I suppose, with them all being twenty years older. More about politics and the motivations of the characters.

I find that it would probably be helpful to know some French. Even a little. I allegedly studied some Latin in high school, but that doesn't really help here. I've picked up some insight into the idioms in the translation, but it's no substitute for actually understanding the language. One very helpful item in the Oxford World's Classics edition I'm reading is a little two-page map of Paris in the 17th century, highlighting the locations that figure in the story. That little touch is extremely helpful to me, and would have been nice to have when I read (a Penguin Classics edition, as I recall) the first book (or Les Miserables, for that matter). But I'm learning.

Particularly interesting is the way the story meshes with my limited knowledge of European history. I've had a fascination for the 17th century ever since I took a course called Rhetorical Theory and Practice of the 17th Century back in college. It was fascinating to read Descartes, Moliere, Bacon, Jonson, and many others, and learn about them in the context of a century of intellectual upheaval. Cool stuff.

So I haven't been wasting my time, really. I just haven't been sharing very much of it with y'all.


David Schuetz said...

I haven't read the sequel, but I did read The Three Musketeers some years back, and loved it. The same goes for The Count of Monte Cristo. They're almost "lost" classics, inasmuch as it's probably read more for English class than for recreation. I remember getting a lot of odd looks from English majors in college when I told them I was reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight purely for pleasure.

If you want an interesting, rich, dense (and incredibly long) story set in the 17th century, try Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle. It's three books, Quicksilver, The Confusion, and The System of the World. Like most Stephenson books, there's a fair amount of tech, a huge amount of detail, some fantasy, and about 3 or 4 separate threads that all cross over each other over the course of the book. The characters also map (in surname and somewhat in character) to an earlier book of his set in the modern era, Cryptonomicon.

Anyway, it's basically about the forming of the Royal Society (I think that was the name), with scientists like Liebniz and Newton figuring prominently, and also the development of modern banking and monetary systems (hence the final book's title). The Fire of London, building of St. Pauls, alchemy, a Turk invasion in Vienna, and life hanging around with "Leroy" (Louis of France) all factor in as well.

I highly recommend it, especially since you're liking that time frame so much and really enjoying an equally dense series of novels. But it's definitely not for everyone, and can be a really tough read at times. It certainly taught me a lot about Restortion-era English politics, though...

Chard said...

Ah, thanks, Dave. I've been meaning to pick those up. I love Stephenson in general, and Cryptonomicon in particular. I've been a bit daunted by the volume of the cycle, but will have to acquire it and put it in the queue.

I have a number of shorter books that have queued up behind Dumas, so it will be a little while before I start another Big Book.

Annie said...

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