Friday, January 11, 2013
This week at the Library: Hunger Games, Hunting, and Baseball
I started this year off by finishing The Hunger Games: its finale, Mockingjay, utterly consumed my attention. It's the story of revolution, a war against the oppressive Capitol which erupted in the course of the 75th Hunger Games, a teenage deathmatch used by the state to humble its constituent districts. But somehow, forcing people to revel in the deaths of their children produced more than a spark of resistance, and in Mockingjay, war wages. But the war isn't between the evil Capitol and a shining city upon a hill: the rebellion and its leader have been hardened by decades of of war, and to them Katniss is a pawn to be used. Largely alone, Katniss has to overcome both the enemy and her 'allies'.
I've utterly enjoyed this series, though there were times in reading Mockingjay where I stopped reading, partially to recover from the tensity and grimness, and partially to put off the ending: when engaged in a drama like this, who wants it to stop? I can see this being a series I read again. They're action thrillers, essentially, with some character drama thrown in and a fair few brilliant one-liners, mostly from Katniss and her mentor Haymitch. The relationship angst is unobtrusive, and there's virtually no actual Romance, which almost never reads well -- at least, to me. I know there's a market for bedroom scenes on paper -- someone buys those bodrice-rippers in the supermarkers, and the 50 Shades of Grey books -- but I'm not of it. The series will be a highlight, to be sure.
I also read another short baseball book, Michael Shaara's For the Love of the Game. I would wager that practically no one knows Shaara outside of his The Killer Angels novel, which covered the battle of Gettysburg, the movie of which spurred his son into becoming a historic novelist. For the Love is written in Shaara's style, right inside the character's head, with their scattered thoughts forming the text of the book. Stream-of-consciousness writing can be grating, but with Shaara I'm drawn in completely. Here, he tells the story of an aging baseball pitcher who has spent his life with one team, the Hawks, who has one last game to prove himself. I'm not a sports fan, but I enjoyed it all the same.
This past week saw my first bit of nonfiction: Steven Rinelli's Meat Eater: Adventures from the Life of an American Hunter. I've never hunted in my life, unless you count wandering down the street with a slingshot and the naive ambition to see if I could hit some birds with it -- and I invariably brought a book to read on my childhood fishing trips. But I'm mildly curious about both, and so enjoyed Rinelli's tales of hunting, trapping, and fishing. The book is entertaining in its novelty: I'm sure even seasoned hunters in my area have never hunted mountain lion (which Rinelli shyed away from, thinking it to be not enough of a challenge) or pondered the taste of bear meat. According to him, bears taste like their diet, which is nice if you eat a blueberry-diner, but not altogether pleasant if you munch down on a beast that's been indulging in carrion. I had no idea people still trapped animals for fur: that kind of thing is straight out of the history books or Little House on the Prairie. But according to Rinelli, not only does a fur market exist, but it was rather healthy until the 1980s. Rinelli covers not only the kind of hunting average sportsmen engage in, but the adventures most only dream of -- canoing and hiking far into the wilderness in pursuit of beasts few have laid eyes on. The adventures are complemented with reflections on outdoor life, in which Rinelli muses on the ethnics of trophy hunting, or what constitutes a 'challenge'. For those interested in the lifestyle may find it, as I did, a vicarious jaunt into the wild.
Next week should see my first 'conventional' nonfiction reads for the year, as I'm halfway into Brian Fagan's The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History, 1300 - 1850 and anticipate getting into Home from Nowhere, shortly after that. Considering it's the sequel to The Geography of Nowhere, and concerns new urbanism, I may be so entirely distracted by it that I read it first.
It's a good bet.