THE CONSTANT RABBIT: A NOVEL BY JASPER FFORDE

The Constant Rabbit: A Novel

By: Jasper Fforde

Narrated by: Andrew Wincott

England, 2022. There are 1.2 million human-size rabbits living in the UK. They wear clothes and can walk, talk, and drive cars, and do pretty much anything most human beings can do. They are the result of an inexplicable Spontaneous Anthropomorphizing Event 55 years earlier. Nobody knows what the Spontaneous Anthropomorphizing Event was intended to accomplish. No one knows why the rabbits came to populate Great Britain, but as a result, there are people — human, standard people throughout the UK, and then there are rabbits. Human-like in terms of how they live, what they do with their lives. But they are oppressed. Avoided. Never given the “good” jobs.

It’s systemic Rabbit Oppression. And logically, by all the standards of British law, these rabbits should have the same rights as other sentient creatures, they don’t. What is more, there are human foxes who slaughter rabbits … because they are foxes and some weird law say that rabbits are prey and foxes have the right to kill prey. Those are some scary foxes, too.

Jasper Fforde used to write very funny books about books and nursery rhyme people, but in his last two standalone books, he has gotten more serious. He’s still lighthearted, at least some of the time … but the issues of the day have struck home and this one, in particular, is not an amusing romp. It isn’t a dark book, but it isn’t as twinkly as his earlier books. I think the world has changed so much, he can’t write the way he used to.

Suffice to say this is — in its own very unique way — a brilliant book. I can’t tell you a lot about it without giving away more plot than i want to offer. But there is a lot to think about in this novel. It gets stuck in our head, too and doesn’t go away.

Set in the ancient village of Much Wenlock in the middle of Hereford (which is in the middle of the UK), this is a book to read at least twice. It’s beautifully well-written and as an audiobook, also beautifully narrated. There is love, loyalty, fear, bravery, and romance (both human and rabbit-style). There’s bad government, unfair laws, and the distinct feeling that rabbits might really be immigrants. And there is also something strangely Beatrix Potter going on …

I highly recommend it. If you want — need — something to think about but not so dark that it makes you cry buckets of tears, this is the book. I’m not sure what you would call it. It’s sort of science fiction, but it’s not only that. It’s something else.

TZU HSI: THE LAST EMPRESS AND THE RAPE OF CHINA By PEARL BUCK

Tzu Hsi – The Last Empress and the Rape of China, by Pearl Buck

This is the story of Tzu Hsi, a woman who rose from obscurity to rule first as regent to her son, the boy emperor, then ultimately as the last Empress of China from 1861 to 1908. Her death heralded the end of the old China. The empire collapsed only three years after her death, in 1911. First chosen as one of many concubines to the young emperor – no more than a child himself – she manipulates herself into position as his favorite, cultivates his favor until he depends on her completely. Still in love with her childhood sweetheart, a single night of love produces a son, the next emperor.

Intelligent, highly (self) educated Tzu Hsi makes herself essential to her debauched, physically weakened, opium-addicted husband. His early death leaves her regent to her son. She is forced to preside over the destruction of Chinese culture. Her fight against white imperialism is hopeless. As the representative of the last Dynasty, she tries to find her way while the China she has known is assaulted by wave after wave of western imperialist pirates under the guise of missionaries, traders, and ambassadors.

Once the rape of China begins, she is powerless to stop it. Even the rare victory is no more than a holding action. Despite all evidence, she cannot believe China can lose to these invaders and she never loses her unyielding belief in the superiority of Chinese culture … the ultimate irony given the unyielding belief of the Western powers of their superiority. The unstoppable force meets the immoveable object and the result is – as might be expected – tragic.

In a way, she was more right than she knew. The old China collapsed but from its ashes, the new China has gained more power than the old ever had. There are a number of ways to read this book. It’s a brilliant, detailed picture of a vanished civilization … beautiful and to modern minds, bizarre. And, it’s the story of Tzu Hsi, her life, her deeply flawed, complex personality. Her bad decisions based on the logic of a world already gone to which the rules no longer applied.

You can also read Imperial Woman as a much larger story, how the western nations took the oldest culture on earth and destroyed it so we could plunder it for opium. How we destroyed thousands of years of art and cultural treasures so each country from the west — who had no right to any of China — treated the Chinese people as if they were the barbarians because they did not want to become just like us.

Portrait of the Qing dynasty Imperial dowager Empress of China –1900s

The European powers with the help of the United States transformed China into a monster. Then we have the gall to complain we don’t like the way it turned out. China would never have become what it is today or taken the path it did without the brutality and devastation wrought by European imperialism. And of course, look what opium and all that has followed in its wake has done to improve our society? Karma is a nasty bitch.

Written in 1956, the story is probably more relevant today, 30 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and subsequent to the transformation of Communist China into the world’s biggest, baddest economic superpower. On many levels, for a lot of different reasons, it serves us right. We destroyed China. Now, in its own way, China is destroying us. One good turn deserves another.

I read Imperial Woman not long after it first came out. I was in my early teens and it was just a story. I read it as an interesting, even fascinating story. But at the time, it meant no more than that. Reading it now meant a lot more not only because of the changes in my perspective, knowledge, and interest in China’s history, but because the world has changed.

Imperial Woman was written at the peak of the Communist witch hunts in the U.S. and during the hottest part of the Cold War. The world in which we live today different yet weirdly similar. If you have a reasonable knowledge of history, a sense of destiny and fundamental belief in Karma, you will find Imperial Woman contains many layers of meaning. It’s elegantly written, not even slightly dated.

Imperial Woman is available on Kindle. It’s also available on Audible.com and as a paperback. It’s probably available at your local library. It’s a classic and absolutely worth reading as much now as ever.

WHEN A COMMENT TURNS INTO A POST – HOW DO I FEEL ABOUT HARRY POTTER?

To Melanie’s two part “Share My World” — How do I feel about Harry Potter?


I’m grinding slowly towards the conclusion of our refinance. As of this morning, we have cleared all the hurdles. They needed this month’s mortgage payment information, a copy of the last bank statement (I sent the wrong statement, oops). Meanwhile, I’ve got some big bills lurking in the near future so this needs to be finished.

I think it’ll be another week to 10-days before it’s completed. Worrying about money is the pits. I can’t quite let it go, though I try. It sits in the back of my brain and gnaws at me. To top it off, I have a toothache and I may need to cancel something else and get this seen to because it really hurts.

About Harry Potter.

I wasn’t a wild-eyed fan of the Harry Potter books. I liked some of them — especially anything about Quidditch because I always wanted to fly — but I didn’t like the relationships and I downright disliked a lot of the people. The books were cleverly written. I appreciate wit. The movies were more fun because they left out annoying details.

There will always be bullies and victims and Harry certainly had his share of being victimized. But I didn’t care for all the sneaking around in the Potter books, eavesdropping, and rumors perpetrated by the so-called “good” guys. Maybe there’s a teaching moment in there, but I didn’t see it. All I saw is that when confronted by bullies, victims can then use any means to get back at them.

I had never given any serious thought to the books. They were light entertainment. The problem is, these questions forced me to actually think about the series. I know it was supposed to be good fun, but when you have to think about the books, there’s a lot of nastiness and meanness. It didn’t bother me because I read them at super high speed and forgot them pretty much immediately The teachers were more interesting than the kids. I still want to know Dumbledore’s motives. Other teachers were downright kinky.

Harry Potter audiobooks

The Potter books don’t hold up well compared to many other good children’s sagas. I doubt I’ll read them again. Other series, like the Narnia books, “Little Women,” “The Black Stallion” series and other books about young people learning how to become adults have much stronger messages. The Hobbit has a more stalwart sense of honor and ethics. The “Little House” books are wonderful a hundred years after publication. To give children a sense of ethics and morals, the author needs to have to have a grip on them too. To convey meaning to kids, the writer has to be invested. In none of the Potter books did I get anything more than a sense of fun. But I liked Quidditch.

I’ve read the Narnia series half a dozen times and once during the past 6 months. I think they are better now than they were when I first read them. I’ve read “Little Women” so many times I can recite it. I reread “The Black Stallion” a couple of months ago. Even “Pollyanna” had a sincere message. But the Potter books don’t. To be fair, I’m not a fan of “youth fiction.” There’s a lot of it being published and most of it isn’t worth the time. It’s no different than reading comics and some of them had more principled characters. I always believed in Superman, The Lone Ranger, and Hopalong Cassidy. Those were GOOD guys.

Are the Harry Potter books fun? Yes. If your goal is to find something that your child will read, these books might accomplish that. Anything that gets kids to read books is by definition a good thing. Just don’t tell me really think about them!

THE END OF THE REPUBLIC

Cover of "Imperium"

Imperium, by Robert Harris
Random House
Sep 7, 2010
Fiction – 496 pages

It’s déjà vu all over again as we travel back with author Robert Harris to Republican Rome just before it became Imperial Rome.

In America, we complain of corruption. Lying politicians. Fearing the end of our Democracy. We wonder about conspiracies. We brood darkly on the failure of the government to address issues of inequality.

We deplore the bribery of officials. The world, we say, is going to Hell or, depending on our point of view, has already gone to Hell.

Except that the government went to Hell a long time ago and you could easily argue that government — all government — was always hellish. Compared to Rome, our government is a clean machine, as clean as a fresh snowfall. It’s a matter of perspective.

English: Bust of Cicero, Musei Capitolini, Rom...
Cicero, Musei Capitolini, Roma Italiano: Bust of Cicero, Musei Capitolini, Rome (Photo: Wikipedia)

Reading history puts the world in which I live into perspective. Whatever problems we face, we — the human family — have faced them before. We survived. It’s important to remember our ability to survive is greater (for the most part) than our ability to screw up.

Imperium, by Robert Harris, is about a guy named Cicero. You’ve undoubtedly heard of him. Famed as a lawyer, more famous as an orator, Cicero rose to power during a critical cusp in history as Rome was about to change from Republican to Imperial. Julius Caesar had just stepped onto the stage of history.

It was the beginning of the greatest imperial power the earth had ever seen … and the end of the greatest republic the world would ever know.

Perspective.

Marcus Cicero started his journey to power as an outsider from the provinces. His first significant legal case put him head-to-head with the dangerous, cruel and utterly corrupt Gaius Verres, governor of provincial Sicily. Using his stunning oratorical abilities and displaying a dogged determination and persistence in the face of impossible odds, Cicero beats Verres in court. He then goes on to triumph over many powerful opponents, making friends — but more enemies — along the way.

Cicero seeks ultimate power — imperium. His allegiance is to the Republic. Cicero’s secretary and slave, Tiro, is the inventor of shorthand and has become the author of this biography of his master. Tiro was at Cicero’s right hand throughout his career, by his side, through triumph and catastrophe. Through his voice, the world of ancient Rome is brought to life.

It’s a fascinating story. Pompey and Julius Caesar stride across the stage of this deeply corrupt, depraved, dangerous and strangely familiar society.

imperium audibleRobert Harris is a brilliant story-teller and author of historical fiction. He lures us into a violent, treacherous world of Roman politics simultaneously exotically different from and startlingly similar to ours.

This is part one of a duology.  The second volume in the American printing is titled Conspirata. In Great Britain, the same book is titled Lustrum.

Both books are available on Kindle, paperback, and Audible.com.

ADMIRATION IN THE AGE OF LIARS AND CORRUPTION

Fandango’s Dog Days of August #8

I’m afraid to admire anyone these days. Just when I think I’ve found someone really admirable, I discover that they’ve been abusing women, molesting children, or have a secret fascination with pederasty. So I think I’m going to go with my favorite admirable people. Authors.

I love authors. I love writers. The moment I know someone is a writer, I like them better. If it turns out they are great writers? I fall immediately in love. Man, woman, or anything in between, it’s love. I love people who are witty. I love people who can create a world from words. Who can explain the past by drawing a picture in the present that makes the past as real as now. I adore people who make me believe in magic and who make a locked room mystery unfold.

The other day Garry and I were watching Seth Meyers and it was mentioned that he had been the lead writer for “Saturday Night Live.”

“I didn’t know he was a writer,” I told Garry. “I think I like him a lot better now than I did before.” Garry nodded. “I always like writers better than other people. Is that a prejudice?” Garry just laughed, probably because he loves writers too. Maybe that’s why he loves me. I don’t think it’s for my incredible good looks so there’s got to be a reason. Maybe it’s the writing. Come to think of it, our first meaningful relationship — other than sex — were the letters we wrote back and forth to each other for the nearly nine years I lived in Jerusalem. They were very intense. Garry wrote to me every day and I returned each of his letters with one of my own. As my life in Jerusalem began to deteriorate, I lived for those letters. Garry told me I was special. Admirable. Intelligent.

I told him he was brilliant and had the ability to find the truth — the real truth — in any story. And he does. When he interviews you, you know you’ve been interviewed.

Which writers do I admire most? I have favorite writers, but really, I admire people who write. I admire people who use words beautifully, with wit and probity. On another level, I admire all artists. I admire creativity, I admire people who have strange and wonderful ideas, hopes, and dreams. In essence, I admire all of you, my friends and followers who I follow too. You are all incredibly special. I don’t know if I could have survived these last four months without you. Even if I can’t read everyone every day — there are too many blogs and I’m also writing and photographing and the hours disappear too fast. I usually get around to FINALLY reading after midnight, when Garry is already in bed watching old movies gloriously without me. It’s what keeps me up until 3 in the morning … and also why I wind up getting up so late. I tried going to bed late AND getting up early, but it turns out I’m too old for that.

PEACE TALKS – HARRY DRESDEN IS FINALLY BACK! – by JIM BUTCHER

I looked it up. I have waited six years for book sixteen in the Harry Dresden world to be published. I have waited patiently, then less patiently. A few months ago, there was a book by Jim Butcher called (tada!) Spiderman: The Darkest Hours. It wasn’t Harry Dresden, but it was good and it was Jim Butcher. It kept me from madness. This is truly a year in which if books disappeared, my brain would slither out through my ears and I would be officially brainless (as opposed to intermittently brainless).

Peace Talks is as good as I had hoped it would be and it is eerily timely, given COVID-19 and our so-called president sending his own secret service into the streets to beat down protesters. Peace Talks are the least peaceful talks ever attempted. The next book, to be released at the end of September, will really be part two of this duology. I don’t know if it will also be the end of the series. I hope not, but I have a feeling it might be. Because I’m not sure what more Harry Dresden could become beyond what he has already become. He was always powerful, clever, and funny. But now, multiply the earlier Harry by the power of 10 and he’s one seriously magical dude.

I waited for the previous five years for this new episode. This year — year six — I was getting desperate. I couldn’t bear the idea of reading one more political insider story extruded from our dark and creepy White House. I’m pretty sure it has become the opposite of Demonreach — a place where the worst of the worst can safely hide.

I needed magic. I needed Harry. I needed Jim Butcher. Considering you-know-who is threatening Chicago with his secret police, Harry, it’s time to come out of hiding. Chicago won’t survive without your help. Hell, Harry, the WORLD is waiting. In the meantime, I need you.

Peace Talks is satisfying on so many levels. Earlier books ended with more resolution than these past few. Now, each book is an episode in a continuing storyline heading toward a Dresdenesque apocalypse. Jim Butcher extracts Harry from impossible predicaments in which he faces overwhelming odds, then adroitly weaves these events into the storyline, taking Harry and the series into the next book. He wastes nothing. No phenomenon is accidental. Everything is part of a giant jigsaw puzzle, a piece of a picture to be finally revealed.

I love the Dresden universe. My world has more than enough evil to keep an army of wizards busy, but the evil in my reality plane makes fighting them similar to trying to punch a hole in jello. You can’t beat them; they have no substance.

There is one more book to come, though I can’t help hoping for more. Regardless, it is going to be gigantic.


The  Dresden Files


Book 1: Storm Front

Book 2: Fool Moon

Book 3: Grave Peril

Book 4: Summer Knight

Book 5: Death Masks

Book 6: Blood Rites

Book 7: Dead Beat

Book 8: Proven Guilty

Book 9: White Night

Book 10: Small Favor

Book 11: Turn Coat

Book 12: Changes

Book 13: Ghost Story

Book 13.5: Side Jobs: Stories From The Dresden Files

Book 14: Cold Days

Book 15: Skin Game

Book 16: Peace Talks (now available!)

Book 17: Battleground (September 29, 2020)

THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT: A LOVE STORY – EDWARD LEAR

The Owl and the Pussycat

by Edward Lear

I

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
‘O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!’

II

Pussy said to the Owl, ‘You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?’
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows
And there, in a wood, a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

III

‘Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?’ Said the Piggy, ‘I will.’
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

APRIL REALLY WAS THE CRUELEST MONTH: THE WASTE LAND, BY T.S. ELLIOT

I tell people I don’t like poetry. That’s not exactly true. I do like poetry. I like funny poems, I like poems that remind me of things that were important but have faded in memory. I don’t like my own poetry, even though when I was a teenager, I wrote a lot of it. I have to admit to a youthful passion for Ferlinghetti and ee cummings. Also, T.S. Eliot and occasionally, Ezra Pound, especially when they weren’t taking themselves too seriously.

And because he was so very much New England’s own poet,  Robert Frost. We even have an Eisenstadt (original) photograph of him in the house. Garry interviewed him during his last years. He understood this strange part of the world and the crazy people who live here. He understood the woods and the rocks and the roots and the snow.

Today, however, I am treating you to a T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” which opens with a line to which at long last, we can all relate: April is the cruellest month.

It has been a cruel month and sadly, although we have slid into May, the cruelty has not finished with us. When T.S. Eliot wasn’t writing about cats, he was not an easy read.

The Waste Land

FOR EZRA POUND
IL MIGLIOR FABBRO

              I. The Burial of the Dead

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.

Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the arch-duke’s,
My cousin’s, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.


HOISTED ON A WHAT? Marilyn Armstrong

Last night I said to Garry “Aha! He is hoisted upon his own petard!” And Nat Helms wrote a piece about Trump hoisted on his own petard. But really, how many of us have the slightest idea what a petard is or was? I didn’t know until … (gasp) … I looked it up.


“What,” I asked Garry, “Is a petard?”

“I have no idea,” said my husband. This is when I realized I’ve been using this expression my whole life and didn’t know what it meant. Petard sounds French, but what is it? I grabbed my laptop and typed  “hoist on his … ” into Google. Before I got to petard … up it came. Don’t you just love it when that happens?

petards

Voila! Courtesy of Wikipedia, here is the rest of the story.

petard was a bomb used to blow up gates and walls when breaching fortifications. Castles. Walled cities. That sort of thing. The word was originally (duh) French and dates to the sixteenth century.

Typically, a petard was metal (bronze or iron), shaped like a cone or box. Filled with two or three kilos (5 or 6 pounds) of gunpowder and using a slow match for a fuse, the petard was a primitive, powerful and unstable explosive device.

After being filled with gunpowder, it would be attached to a wooden base and fastened to a wall, on or under a gate. The fuse was lit. If all went as planned, the explosion would blow a hole big enough to let assault troops through.

Thus the phrase “hoist on his/her own petard” came to mean “harmed by one’s own plan to harm someone else.” It suggests you could be lifted — hoisted — by your own bomb.

BRAIN SNOBS – Marilyn Armstrong

It isn’t just culture that divides us into classes. What we watch on television, see in the movies, and read also puts us into a category, often unfairly by people who don’t “get” why we like what we like.

72-ct-books_05

I read a post about how dreadful — yet gripping — romance novels can be. The not-so-subtle insinuation is that anyone who reads them is probably not too bright. While it’s true that romance novels are the potato chips of the literary world (bet you can’t eat just one) that’s not the point.

double dip in bookcase

As a former editor of the Doubleday Romance Library, I assure you that research showed readers of romance novels are better educated than most readers.

They read romance novels because they are pulp. Those readers aren’t looking to be informed or improved, to have their world expanded, reading-level or awareness raised. They want a book they can pick up, read, put down, and forget. If life gets in the way, they can just never finish the story — without regret.

72--cook books_07

I read each 3-book volume, every month. Three romances: 2 modern manuscripts with a Gothic novel sandwiched in between. Every novel had the same plot, the same outcome. They sold gangbusters.

Regardless of what we, as writers, would prefer people to read, many people (including me!) don’t necessarily want to read “good” books. I void “good” books. I don’t want to go where that book would take me. I’m not stupid or lacking in culture. I just don’t want to read it. Don’t enjoy the subject matter. Don’t need to be further depressed by the ugly realities of life or history.

Good books can be too intense, too serious, or for too educational for this moment in time. Too close to reality. I read to be entertained. I’m not seeking enlightenment through literature. Perhaps I should rephrase that. I am no longer seeking enlightenment through literature. If I ain’t enlightened by now, I’m pretty sure it won’t happen in this lifetime.

75-Books and stuffNK-1

The wondrous thing about the world of books is there are so many. Enough genres, themes, and styles for everyone. An infinity of literature. No matter what your taste — low-brow, high-brow, middle-brow, no-brow — there are thousands of books waiting for you. That’s good. I’d rather see someone reading a bad book than no book.

75-BooksHP

I’m not a culture snob. I think reading crappy novels is fine if you like them. Watching bad TV is fine too.

Snobs suck the fun out of reading. While I’m not a fan of romance novels, if you are, that’s okay with me. I love reading about vampires and witches. I’d be more than a hypocrite to act as if your taste is inferior to mine.

old favorite books

These days, I’m rarely in the mood for anything serious — except maybe a conversation. Tastes change over time. Life has been a very serious business for too many years. When I read, watch TV, or see a movie, I want to escape, Reality will still be there when I get back.

Finally, my favorite professor at the university I attended — a man I believe was profound and wise — was a big fan of Mickey Spillane. He said there was much truth in those books. I believe for him, there was.

A WORD MEANS JUST WHAT I CHOOSE IT TO MEAN by HUMPTY DUMPTY

Photo: Wikipedia

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’

Alice was too much puzzled to say anything; so after a minute, Humpty Dumpty began again. ‘They’ve a temper, some of them — particularly verbs: they’re the proudest — adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs — however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!’

‘Would you tell me please,’ said Alice, ‘what that means?’

‘Now you talk like a reasonable child,’ said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. ‘I meant by “impenetrability” that we’ve had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you’d mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don’t mean to stop here all the rest of your life.’

‘That’s a great deal to make one word mean,’ Alice said in a thoughtful tone.

Today, Humpty Dumpty is ruling the world.


From “Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Carroll

BYE BYE GAME OF THRONES. THE PARTY’S OVER – Marilyn Armstrong

Again, I tried reading “A Dance With Dragons” by George R.R. Martin. It is book five of an interminable series called “A Game of Thrones,” the most violent, grim, and repetitive — and long — series ever written. It makes “Lord of the Rings” look like a short story.

Originally, I gave it three stars, but I’m dropping it one. I disliked the books and hated what little I saw of the television show. The books are dark, long, and monotonous interspersed with periods of horror.  The series may go on forever, but I will not be there for its conclusion.

The first time I encountered a 40-page description of the food at a royal banquet and drifted into a coma, I thought “Hmm. Filler.” Shortly thereafter,  Mr. Martin began to knock off any character to whom I felt anything resembling affection or empathy, leaving only the characters I would have happily killed on my own. That didn’t give me any warm fuzzies either.

To enjoy a story, I need to feel some kind of positive relationship with at least one character. In these books, I dislike everyone and relate to no one, I lose interest through boredom, but the distaste comes first. Reading a very long series when there’s no character I like or respect is like going to a  big party that goes on forever … but you have no one to talk to. I don’t usually go to parties for exactly that reason.

Science fiction/paranormal/fantasy/alternative reality fiction is my favorite reading arena, the one in which I spend most of my literary hours. The problem is not a lack of familiarity with the genre. I just don’t like this series.

It is long and slow. The plot never seems to advance. The situation never changes in any substantial way. Just one set of machinations replaced by another in an endless cycle of nastiness, back-stabbing, murder, and intrigue. I guess I need more than plotting and murder to hold my interest.

Does its placement in an alternate reality improve the story? Not for me. These days reality is alternate enough.

This is a popular series. I own a bunch of volumes because I optimistically assumed I would like it. Big mistake. I was glad the series ended although I was part of a very small minority who was relived it finished. Apparently, people enjoyed it. Why? I do not know. Good acting doesn’t improve and the storyline. Ironically, this was a series that apparently followed the original books pretty well.

Garry and I watched the first quarter of the first show. It was enough. The rest I learned about on talk shows. And of course, by reading a couple of the books hoping that I’d discover I like them.

I didn’t happen and I’m pretty sure it never will. Oh well.