Thursday 26 June 2008

Two reviews

I haven't actually read Alan Alda'a autobiography, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed, (lol) and possibly it might have been a good idea to have done so before I read Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself. Just for background info really, though I know him as a famous actor who starred in MASH of course - I just wasn't aware that he was such an interesting person.

This book is really a series of essays. And it's like you're sitting with a cup of tea having a long chat to the man and he's talking about his life, his family, his work, the difficulty of being a celebrity, and he's mentally summing up that life and trying to decide what it all really means. I found it fascinating because, although he's quite a bit older than me, they're the same conclusions I and many others come to as we age. That family, the way your're brought up is vastly important but perhaps not the be all and end all. And that maintaining your curiosity about life, until the moment you breathe your last, is the most important thing for the individual - something I personally agree with one hundred per cent.

One thing I didn't know about Alda was how much of an activist he has been, (and presumably still is) especially for women's rights. He's also someone who has given a lot of speeches at various events and many of those are included in this book to illustrate something he is discussing. I also didn't know that he hosted a popular TV science programme in the US because of a lifelong fascination with the sciences. This is an interesting man with a lot to say and I will check the library next time I'm in there to see if they have his actual autobiography.


Eragon by Christopher Paolini is my final book for the Here be Dragons challenge hosted by Love at Stray Talk.

The story, as the title suggests, concerns 'Eragon', a boy of fifteen who lives on a farm with his uncle and cousin in an isolated, mountainous part of Alagaesia. This is a country ruled over by a cruel despot, Galbatorix, who is the only dragon rider left since the wars and who has plans to extend his empire by using an army of urgals (vicious fighters) and strange and frightening beings such as the Shade and Ra'zac. Out hunting one night a stone literally falls into Eragon's hands, only it isn't a stone - as he discovers some time later, when it hatches into dragon. While he is away Eragon's home is destroyed and his uncle killed by two Ra'zac. By now Eragon's dragon has grown somewhat and has been named Saphira and the two of them plus 'Brom', an enigmatic old storyteller, set off in pursuit, determined to avenge the killing. A long journey ensues and naturally many adventures befall the travellers, new characters enter the fray and so on. And the end is not really the end as the second book in the series, Eldest, leads straight on, literally, from the first.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this. I knew it was written by a teenager and that the book had been popular enough to be made into a film - which I haven't actually seen. At first it seemed fairly obvious the author was young, too many very short, abrupt sentences for instance, the kind of thing I find distracting. That stopped after a while, the writing settled down and I found myself absorbed in the tale. I notice it has some good reviews on Amazon and some really scathing ones! And I will admit there is not a lot that's original - one reviewer actually accuses it of being 'Star wars with Dragons', a comparison which escaped me I have to confess. Despite *all* of that I did actually rather enjoy this book. It has some interesting characters - I really liked the female elf, Arya, for instance, and there are some interesting villains. Even the 'friends' have questionable motives and may not be what they seem. To tell the truth I'm quite in awe that a teenage boy could come up with something this good (he's now 25 I believe) and am wondering what kind of thing we can expect from him in the future. I already have Eldest and will certainly buy the last of the series Brisingr when it comes out in September.


DesLily said...

Hi Cath: With Eragon my favorite was Brom.. in the movie the wonderful Jeremy Irons plays the part! (you might want to see the movie now lol)

I read biographies now and then (laurel and hardy most recent) but I always need to be ready for them lol... I have the Marx Brothers book here and one on Ron Howard, and one on Pete Conrad (astronaut). I find I enjoy them now and then.. a nice break from the norm.

BooksPlease said...

MASH was one of my favourite programmes. Alan Alda's book sounds like another book I'd like to read. Curiosity and an interest in life are essential. I think that's way I enjoy reading so much - you can learn so much and enjoy yourself at the same time.

I haven't heard about Eragon before - and there's a film of it as well?

Cath said...

Yes, Pat, I think I will try to catch the movie now, lol!

Like you I only read biographies from time to time. I have to be a bit interested in the author or subject. An actor writing about himself can sometimes get a little tedious blowing his own trumpet or with too many details of every performance he ever gave. I'm more likely to enjoy reading about someone who has led an interesting life.

Margaret, Alan Alda's book was a very relaxing read - interesting, thoughtful and thought *provoking*. I suspect you would enjoy it.

Yes, Eragon has been filmed. As Pat mentioned above, one of the actors starring in it is Jeremy Irons. I haven't seen the film but plan to now that I've read the book.

DesLily said...

Hi Cath: yes, so right about many biographies "I, I, I, ME,ME,ME"...which is why my friend DeForest never wrote one! He said he couldn't stand writing "I and ME" through a whole book! lol

The book I reviewed on Laurel and Hardy was really interesting! It followed both men from birth till they met and then till they died.. but the author did it very well indeed! Who would have thought a that a man born in England in the 1890s would meet a man born in Georgia USA what with they way travel was back then?!!!
Another Bio I read long ago and kept was "An Open Book" by John Huston.

Cath said...

Pat: I was never much of a Laurel and Hardy fan, although I did love the song, On the Trail of Lonesome Pine, which made it into the charts some years ago. On the otherhand the book sounds like it might be interesting so I'll keep an eye out for it.

One autobiography I did enjoy was Nigel Hawthorne's (from Yes, Minister) but I think it was partly because he was such a modest and unassuming man. I can quite see why De Forest didn't want to do it even though I bet he had some stories to tell.