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Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Jonathan Livinston Seagull

This is the first book in my series “Your Own Personal Canon” that is not the scripture of some major religion.  It was, however, and is, an important book in my life, albeit for reasons that even now are not completely clear to me.  It is also unusual in how it came to be in my personal canon.  For me as for many people, a book often grabs me at first read.  It hits me over the head, draws me in at once–it’s like falling in love.  Bam!  Then it’s part of the canon. Jonathan Livingston Seagull was actually not love at first reading; and thereby hangs a tale.

I first encountered the book when I was a freshman in high school in 1977.  As far as I know, I hadn’t been aware of it earlier than that.  My decision to pick it up was a pure whim.  In most of my life up to that point, my reading had consisted almost completely of non-fiction (the books of Jane Goodall, books on science in general, and such) and science fiction (particularly the works of Isaac Asimov, whose non-fiction I read widely, too; the Star Trek novelizations of James Blish; and others, mainly of the hard type).  In my freshman year, I branched out.  I read all three novels in the Lord of the Rings trilogy; Jonathan Livingston Seagull; and, if I recall correctly, 1984 and Brave New World.  It’s true that all of these are science fiction or fantasy in format; but for the first time I was reading books that were not mere genre, but which had some additional literary heft.  Perhaps my whim was a directed whim.  Who can say?

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Quote for the Week

It isn’t that I object to it. I just feel it’s the wrong adjective as applied to the films I do. Because horror to me is, say, a film like The Godfather. Or anything to do with war, which is real and can happen, and unfortunately, no doubt, will happen again some time. But the films that dear Christopher Lee and I do are really fantasy. And I think fantasy is a better adjective to use. I don’t object to the term horror, it’s just the wrong adjective!

Peter Cushing Interview 1973 (1973); courtesy Wikiquote

Wednesday Matinee: Poor Devil

Friday Matinee: The Golem

Jungle Tales of Tarzan (full audiobook)


One of my favorite Tarzan books, and one which bears great similarity to the Mowgli stories in The Jungle Book.

The Snow Queen

This made an impact on me as a kid, though I’m not sure why.

Monday Matinee: The Man Who Could Work Miracles

Movie Night: Erik the Viking

Movie Night: Some Anime for the Weekend

Book Review: Lion of Macedon

Once more British author David Gemmell has triumphed with a brilliant piece of historical fiction/fantasy, Lion of Macedon. Gemmell made his name with the Drenai series, novels set in a world roughly similar to late Antiquity or the early Middle Ages. These follow the fortunes of the Greek-like people known as the Drenai over a period of many centuries. Gemmell has also written the Jerusalem Man series, which deals with Arthurian themes and spans from the Middle Ages to the post-apocalyptic future. With Lion of Macedon, Gemmell has entered new territory, basing his story on actual historical people and events.

Lion of Macedon deals with a period of history which changed the world and whose effects are with us still: the rise of Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great. The conquests first of Philip and then his son set the stage for the wide diffusion of Hellenistic culture. It was out of this matrix that the Greco-Roman culture of the Roman Empire, and thus ultimately our own, arose. This fascinating period has been little dealt with in fiction, and it is good to see Gemmell do so. He does this by concentrating on an extremely important but “forgotten” character: Parmenion, the chief general under Philip and Alexander, and the “Lion of Macedon” of the book’s title. Although Parmenion helped develop the strategies that Philip and Alexander used to conquer the largest empire the world had seen to that point, and served as Alexander’s right-hand man, little is known of him. Thus, he serves as an excellent window through whom to present the events of the novel.

All too often writers try to get into the heads of major figures in historical fiction. This is hard to do well, as it throws the reader into the situation of seeing events from the insider point of view before understanding the context. The device Gemmell uses allows us to watch the rise of Macedon develop from the viewpoint of an outsider. We learn along with Parmenion. Meanwhile, we see the wonderful character development given to him and to the other characters. When we come to Philip finally, we feel comfortable in the ancient world on the eve of the Hellenistic period. Read the rest of this entry