29 July 2011

Qaptain Qwerty Book Club

Not too long ago, some famous talk show host, whose first name starts with the letter "O", had her final show.  I never watch that show but understand she used to have a book club on the show.  I was wondering if I can start a Qaptain Qwerty Book Club to fill the void, now that the show with the influential lady is no longer around.

My reading habit has gone through a major change lately.  I used to read 99% science fiction, either Star Wars or Star Trek.  Occasionally I would pick something else other than those two "Stars".  At some point I got sick of reading about how great the Mandalorians are, that they are not mere bounty hunters with tons of deadly gadgets on them.  I just cannot get over the fact that they are just mercenaries and would fight for whoever paying them.  So out went Star Wars.  I don't have too much of a problem with Star Trek until I came across some book with the Q character.  Even though Q is not in that many stories, the whole idea turned me off Star Trek.

For a while I got into the mystery genre and followed Agatha Christie and others, usually via audiobooks.  I hungrily tore through the Millennium trilogy, even though it was quaint reading about Netscape and Eudora computer programs in this day and age.  One day I decided to go easy on my eyes and would read only books of the large-print format.  The selection is not as large but I went with whatever authors I recognize or are prolific.  To that end, I briefly got into Janet Evanovich but she lost me on the second book of the Bounty Huntress series, when she spent some time writing about shopping as a therapy.  Maybe that's what got me into sci-fi.  I need to read about fantastic stuff, not ordinary life angst.  In the same vein, story about overworked workers, be it police detectives or filing clerks, seriously turned me off.  Luckily, one day just by chance I picked up a book by Bernard Cornwell, one from the Saxon series.  Life was hard, no creature comforts, might make right, men with weapons go around killing and looting, but no one ever have to write effing reports for managers to read.  Sure, the monks often transcribe parchments by hand, but the monks are the bad guys and sometimes get killed.

Cornwell's works are considered historical fiction.  He creates characters out of thin air, or loosely based on real people, and insert them into real historical events.  Or at least as real as it was recorded.  You know how the victors usually get to write history.  It is nice how he plainly point out at the end of the book who are fictitious and who are real.  Or how he unfairly makes some historical figures wimpy or bad.  It is amusing to learn that in the Saxon world, if you are over 40 years old, you are considered old.  Also, women of 15 or so, what we would consider teenage by 2011 standard, are ripe for marriage.  I am from Viet Nam and know that women got married early, or at least 50 years ago, and maybe still do, but after 30+ years in the U.S. I sorta forgot the tidbit.

Cornwell's Saxon series has only a few books and I flew through them in a short amount of time, whether they are large-print or not.  He also has a series about a soldier named Richard Sharpe.  The first Sharpe novel that I managed to find was "Sharpe's Trafalgar" and took place mostly on the open sea.  The first few chapters of the book described much about life of the travelers who pay the cheapest tickets.  I could not help thinking back to my journey out of Viet Nam.  Sharpe knew someone high on the social echelon and got invited to dinner with the captain, but at times he had to eat things that are barely edible.  At least he ate.  I don't remember if I ate at all.  I clearly recall the water smell terribly, whether because it was just scooped right off the river where the boat was docked, or because the plastic container was new.  The water did have that weird smell when plastic is new.  I vaguely recall eating some kind of sliced bread, or maybe it was just some form of bread.  I do not remember eating much, but I doubt I could have survived without food for the multi-day journey.  I think it was 8 days.  There was not much room where I sat but some rich teenagers with long legs just spread themselves all over.  I recall one time going up to the top level and took in some fresh breath of air.  At least once I went to use the restroom, at the back of boat.  The rest is just a blur.  Scary when life imitates arts.

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