Tagged: 1997

The Sagas of Icelanders

The Sagas of Icelanders: A Selection, Preface by Jane Smiley, Introduction by Robert Kellogg, 5/5

I’m not usually one to complain about scholarly features such as an extensive introduction, maps, diagrams, summaries, analysis, etc., but by page 73, I was ready to just get to the fun stories already! By any standard definition of “fun,” I would have quite a while longer to wait; the first saga’s opening paragraphs read about as smoothly as a cross between the Old Testament and War and Peace. Once I gave up trying to remember who was who’s father’s best friend’s son and where they came from and where they were going, I was able to enjoy the dramatic events for their human interest without getting too bogged down by genealogical, geographical and historical details.

That is not to say that I learned nothing about Norse culture along the way. The stories in this book corrected many misconceptions I had about Viking life; yes, they glorified masculinity to a level that many today would find intolerable, but they were far from being merely uncivilized, lawless barbarians. In fact, they had well-defined legislative and judicial infrastructure (though the enforcement of laws and rulings sometimes required one to show up with a large group of armed friends) and more respect for women’s rights than might be expected. While there are fantastical elements to some of the stories (especially the shorter tales at the end of the book), the overall tone was much more prosaic and historical than I expected.

Why I read it: I have read traditional stories from many cultures and this thrift store find piqued my curiosity. I started it while in the ER the weekend my son was born, then re-started it once I caught my breath over a year later!

The Elements of Reasoning

elements of reasoning conway munson 2nd edition wadsworth 1997The Elements of Reasoning by David A. Conway and Ronald Munson, 2/5

This book provides an introduction to informal logic, focusing mostly on valid and invalid ways arguments can be formed, along with a brief look at common fallacies and errors in reasoning.  The argument forms seem contrived and the analysis methods limited–it is hard to imagine a use for these concepts outside of a classroom and the book is certainly not written in a way meant to smooth the transition from academic thought exercise to real life.  In fact, the whole tone of the book is very dry and dead, which is a pity because the topic is fascinating and I have seen it treated in much more interesting and lively ways.  A good teacher could bring it to life, perhaps, and also provide insight on the numerous thought exercises that the authors leave unanswered.

Why I read it: I wanted to learn about the symbols used in formal logic (only a few of which are covered in this book) and the title caught my eye at the thrift store.

How to Talk American

how to talk american jim mad monk crottyHow to Talk American: A Guide to Our Native Tongues by Jim “the Mad Monk” Crotty, 3/5

This haphazard collection of vernacularisms is fun, though not at all up to the standards of a proper dictionary.  I especially enjoyed the words spelled to reflect regional pronunciation, such as “PSDS” (pierced ears), “sssta” (sister), “dreckly” (soon.  “We’ll be at the store dreckly.”), and “tamar” (the day after today).

[Why I read it: came across it in the thrift store and thought it looked interesting.]

Graham Crackers

graham crackers chapmanGraham Crackers: Fuzzy Memories, Silly Bits, and Outright Lies by Graham Chapman, compiled by Jim Yoakum, 4/5

This strange little compilation of miscellaneous writings by the late Graham Chapman (of Monty Python notoriety) is entertaining and provides some welcome insight into the inner workings of one of England’s funniest groups of writers.

[Why I read it: I found it in the thrift store.]