Durbin Finishes Reading a Book!

Heh, heh! Yes, it’s worthy of a headline, because it happens so rarely. It’s a terribly busy time right now: this week, I’ve been correcting rough drafts of student essays from my writing class. They’re doing some great work, but checking the drafts is a major project requiring pretty much all free time. What’s made it a little more stressful is the timing — right now, my agent is waiting for me to get back to him on the draft of The Sacred Woods. He’s been through my much-revised manuscript and has made extensive notes and suggestions. Before he can proceed with submitting the book, I need to check over everything and see what I think. That’s the task I’m drawn toward with all the fervor of my writerly being, but there’s this matter of 36 writing students depending on me to return their essays on Wednesday. . . . One of my definitions of Heaven is “the place where day jobs will never again keep us from our writing.” Writing will be the “day job” — at least, for those of us who love to write.

Anyway, this book I finished reading was Lost Lands, Forgotten Realms: Sunken Continents, Vanished Cities, and the Kingdoms that History Misplaced, by Bob Curran. It’s published by New Page Books, a division of Career Press, Franklin Lakes, NJ, 2007.

Aside from the fact that it’s simply great fun to read about these places we’ve often heard of (but may not know many details about), what I like most about the book is that it’s a fountain of story ideas for a fantasy writer. Here are discussions of such places as El Dorado, The Kingdom of Prince Madoc, Hyperborea, The Hollow Hills, and The Lost Dutchman Mine [This list is not inclusive, by any means!], and every one of them is a fantastic springboard into Story, suggesting romance, drama, and high adventure against a fascinating backdrop. These places whisper and sing with the allure that has always beckoned our kind.

Have you wondered what is the exact difference between Avalon and Lyonesse? Have you been intrigued by tantalizing references to Hy-Brasil? Have your ears perked up at the mention of Prester John, Judaculla, Shangri-La, Davy Jones and his watery locker, Yggdrasil, or the Green Children? There’s even material here to fascinate the Lovecraftian, in the section on Irem: City of Pillars, which yes, does figure into much of Lovecraft’s work.

I’ll quote here from my reading log, the record I keep of books I’ve finished:

I started reading it at 1:07 p.m. on Saturday, March 22, 2008 at my desk . . . ; I finished it at 1:10 a.m. on Friday, January 15, 2010 at the table. . . .

I read this book almost exclusively during lunches, usually on Mondays, at my desk. It was a huge amount of fun and offers a wealth of story ideas just begging to be developed!

I hope to get back here with another post sometime this week. In the meantime, has anyone else out there read a good book lately?

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9 Responses to “Durbin Finishes Reading a Book!”

  1. Elizabeth Says:

    Congrats, Fred! The book sounds wonderful enough I’m now tempted to go find and copy and add it to my extensive pile. 🙂

    I’ve been reading Lost to the West, which is all about the Byzantine Empire. It’s fascinating, and I’ve been moving through it slowly to savor it.

  2. Marquee Movies Says:

    Your mention of Shangri-La is timely for me because I just did a Utopia/Dystopia in the Movies presentation this week, and an example of a Utopia (that I don’t have time in my presentation to show) that I love is in the film Lost Horizon, starring Ronald Colman. It’s a fascinating film, and one that addresses the notion of a “perfect” society better than any I’ve ever seen. Basically, in addition to being this very beautiful land with a wonderful mixture of serious and happy people, everyone is encouraged to pursue that which interests them most. For instance, there is one character who says he wants to improve the water supply system, and tells the leaders he’d like to undertake this large engineering project. They say, “Sure!” Lots of books, many waterfalls and horses….if Fred found himself in Shangri-La, then he would indeed have the time and space to write to his heart’s content. As for the last book I read, it was Sid Caesar’s autobiography, “Caesar’s Hour,” a fascinating read about the brilliant and talented man who had a ground-breaking (and back-breaking!) 90 minute show on for most of the 1950’s. He created the template for The Carol Burnett Show, SNL, and all other sketch comedy shows. One of Caesar’s great talents was recognizing talent in others – some of his writers were no-names, but Sid found them and groomed them into becoming world-wide talents – Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Carl Reiner, Neil Simon, and one of my favorites, Larry Gelbart, who just passed away, who created the TV show MASH, and co-wrote the greatest comedy of all time, Tootsie.

  3. Catherine Says:

    OK, Fred, I think that’s proof that you aren’t a speed reader! I suppose that way it sinks deeper into your system than if you read it, snap, in an hour or so (which is the way it goes for me).

    As for books:

    Beowulf. Translator: Seamus Heaney. I can’t believe how much I liked it, not being an epic-poetry sort of person. Beautiful language, a lot of rich Biblical allusion (one thing I like to find) and of course a good story.

    Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Translator: W.S. Merwin. AAAACK! It keeps going back to hunters cutting up dead animals. “They took the intestines and the blood and mixed it with bread and gave it as a reward to their faithful hounds. Then they found more intestines which they ate themselves. Then they cut the animal up along the backbone . . .” I can pass on that one.

    The Scarlet Letter. Author: Nathaniel Hawthorne. Fascinating psychology. Very human characters facing the consequences of their own sin and an almost demonic villain. A little slow because Hawthorne’s prose was definitely a product of the 19th Century describe-everything-to-the-nth-degree vogue. Also he uses superlatives to talk about one of the children in the story. So precocious, so elf-like, precocious and elf-like again . . . we got that part . . . ! Still, an interesting read.

    (Exit Catherine and specimens of her high school literature course . . .)

    • Chris Says:

      Catherine, I have vague memories in my distant past of reading “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”. But it seemed so strangely structured and non-linear I was unsure what it was I was reading at the time. I need to go back and re-read it I suppose since right now in my aging memory banks I place it alongside “Naked Lunch” in terms of overall “sense”. But I could be mistaken.

      I’ve still got my old copy from the 1970’s (Probably bought it at Fred’s parents’ bookstore in about 1978 or 77)

  4. John Says:

    Besides The Scarlet Letter, which I also had to read, I just finished President James Buchanan, a biography. It was an interesting account of how the union came to split despite the best efforts of politicians like Buchanan. Now I’m taking a break and reading His Majesty’s Dragon.

  5. Chris Says:

    I am currently in the middle of “Storms of My Grandchildren” by James Hansen. He’s one of the big researchers at NASA into global warming. The book is really well written with a lot of passion and a goodly amount of real science.

    Any book with “graphs” in it these days is a good book (IMHO).

    • I just finished Says:

      reading “A Slobbering Love Affair” by Bernie Goldberg about the media coverage of the 2008 presidential elections.

      And, Chris, I also just finished Paul Wilkinson’s “Rat Salad: Black Sabbath, the classic years 1969-75”. It is a breakdown of the early band and their first six (awesome) albums, song by song, with much detail given to Iommi’s writing.
      The book is chock full of things like: chromatic, diatonic, mediant, interval, tones, etc. so it is not a “they rocked!” book but rather an almost academic breakdown of the music itself (and of Iommi’s balls in bringing the tritone, the diabolus in musica, out in his music).

      One other thing: What do Tiger Woods and the climatoligists at East Anglia all have in common? They have all been hit in the face by a model! HA HA HA HA

      • Chris Says:

        The Tiger joke is a good one. I’m going to have to remember that (I am involved in some online debates on global warming science. While I believe in Human-caused Global Warming, and am not as upset by the “climategate” stuff, I still appreciate a good joke)

  6. jhagman Says:

    Fred, reading this post made me sad! I think it was Samuel Johnson who said “it takes a half of a library to make one book”, at your rate of reading it might be a lifetime of a 100 yrs before we see another book! While reading ESL papers of students does constitute “reading”, unless they are like Joseph Conrad, you spend the bulk of your year not reading literature,,,ugghh! Can they pay a person enough to live like that? When I was at Fort Benning (paratrooper school) I got through two books – “The Trumpet Major” by Thomas Hardy, and David Lindsay’s “A Voyage To Arcturus”, and the school I was in was for me no picnic. If I can do it, you can do alot better with your reading! Lecture over, but when one of my favorite writer’s reads a book a year,,,enough said.

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