Best of 2001

Gross Family argross at
Wed Jan 16 06:12:59 EST 2002

Hallie wrote:

> I think the books you couldn't finish might be the most useful to
> write down.  Maybe it's just my bad memory, but while I'll never
> forget reading _Passage_ this year, there are a few I tossed into
> Oxfam a couple of years ago which I really, really wish I'd written
> down.  That way I wouldn't keep avoiding authors I think just might
> be the one who wrote "that awful book I didn't finish".

Yes. Often, though, I fail to finish a book not because I think it's awful
but because for some reason, I don't feel like reading it at the time.
Admittedly, nowadays I hardly ever fail to finish a book--even if I have to
just read it rather sloppily.

> >[rest snipped to save space!] [ditto from me]
> >
> >So, using my own categories, here's my (highly messy and illogical) list
> >2000:
> >
> >Book that affected me most in 2000: _Passage_ by Connie Willis. I loved
> >way Willis refused to give easy answers in this book--not even the easy
> >scientific answer which I think may be closest to her heart--or am I
> >here?
> Can I give my opinion *without* answering the "am I wrong here" Ros?
> :)

Of course...:-)

It occurred to me that the following discussion might constitute spoilers
for those who haven't read the book, so here is some spoiler space.


> By this time, I'm not at all sure what I actually got from the
> book, what I got from things CW said about her (religious and other)
> beliefs other places, and what I put together from the previous two
> and my own beliefs.  But FWIW, as you asked.  I think CW explains the
> NDE's pretty much completely by the scientific answer.  But I think
> she offers a possible vision of life after death which is completely
> *different* from the easy answers offered by the pap-peddlers.

Yes, absolutely. FWIW, what I meant was that I've reveived the impression
from various places that
Willis is a person of some religious conviction but one who also respects sc
ience deeply; I sort of felt through the book that she herself might feel
happier with a purely scientific explanation, but refused to do so, while
also refusing to give the conventional religious one either. On
consideration, I think what you say is more accurate than what I did: that
she seems happy to explain NDEs scientifically, but tries to say that there
may be something after death that defies either traditional scientific or
religious answers. I'll now word it slightly differently: she's managed to
give both their due without falling prey to the delusions of either. I like
what you wrote about her offering a completely different vision.

I'm not sure, but I think what I've just said is that basically I agree with
you. :-))

> [Unnecessary digression for those who might conceivably still be
> interested:  My mum read extracts of an article in The Lancet
> (respectable medical journal) in which doctors and scientists seemed
> to say that there actually were some differences between "real" NDEs
> and the laboratory-induced ones.  She's getting the original article,
> which I'll be interested to have a look at.]

I find the whole topic of NDEs fascinating. I'd be interested to know what
the article claims.

> >Somewhat Disappointing Book: I'm going to have to disagree with what
> >like half the list here
> :)  Glad to see someone else doing this.

Well, someone's got to do the dirty work. :-))

> >and say that I found _One for the Money_ by
> >Evanovich somewhat disappointing. I was told it was hysterically funny;
> >made me smile but I didn't find it *that* funny. I enjoyed the romance
> >aspect of it--I often enjoy romances.
> At least I can't be accused of having called any of them
> "hysterically" funny - wasn't me.

No--a friend of mine claimed that.

> I think the quirky family humour
> grows a bit through the series.  But it's a long time since I read
> the first, and I lent it to someone ages ago and never got it back,
> so can't see how that one held up to rereading.  The "romance" is
> kept very involving (well, I find it so) - through the introduction
> of a rival to Joe.  (For those who have read the later ones, I'm
> rooting for the rival.)

So you think it might be worth my while to continue reading the second and

> >Most Disappointing Book: _Eccentric Circles_ by Rebecca Lickiss. It
> >like my kind of book, and the theme was interesting. But the characters
> >failed to come alive for me, and I think it didn't work well for me
> >basically, the writing was pretty pedestrian.
> Yup.  I need to do the list-keeping thing.  I remember now that when
> I said on the list that I'd found EC disappointing, you'd replied
> that it was on your books to read pile, and I was interested to hear
> what your reaction was.  But I'd forgotten about it enough not to
> consider it for the MDB category.

I'd completely forgotten that you said you'd found it disappointing! So I
decided that all by myself! :-) Seriously, I'm glad that I'm not the only
one who felt that.

> I still think _Sing the Four
> Quarters_ wins hands-down, as I expected more from a rec. by DWJ than
> from Charles de Lint.

I'm going to have to be a renegade again and say that, contrary to quite a
few people on the list, I really, really liked _Sing the Four Quarters_ (I
completely forgot to say this in my list!). What did I like about it? The
characters, the way they are *naturally* bisexual, without any hand-waving
or fuss; the world it's set in with its magical system--I found the whole
thing quite charming. I enjoyed the others in the series, too, though I
found numbers two and three in the series a bit less enjoyable than the
third and last. But the second and third contained that delicious idea of
two souls inhabiting the same body (or something along those lines--my
memory is a bit unclear about it).

> >
> >Book I'm Sure I Will Love When I Read It This Year: _The Tower at Stony
> >Wood_ by Patricia McKillip--which didn't get read during 2001 by sheer
> >Next to be read, I think.
> I really expected to love this to pieces, but didn't (nor did Becca,
> to whom I read part of it).  It doesn't qualify for disappointing
> book as it was a mood/reaction thing, not any kind of reflection on
> the book itself, and I'll try it again.

I'll let you know what I thought when I've read it. You might have to remind
me, as obviously my memory is not entirely reliable!

> I'll propose a new category, which I hope some others will at least
> Book I Most Enjoyed While Thinking It Was Awful.  Mine is _Evelina_
> by Fanny Burney.  I read it because of Jane Austen's wonderful
> defense of the Novel scene in _Northanger Abbey_.  I think it's
> actually another book by FB mentioned there, but I found this one
> first.  It was really enjoyable, in a very painful way.  Swoonings on
> virtually every other page, fits of weeping galore, and the most
> pitiful, silliest heroine one could wish for. :)  I kept thinking how
> far JA brought the novel on...

Sounds interesting! Wasn't the novel actually mentioned in _Northanger
Abbey_  _The Romance of the Forest_ by Mrs. Radcliffe (I've forgotten her
first name)? I'm not sure. My daughter was studying those kinds of gothic
books in her uni course last year; I think they were comparing them with
Austen's books and looking at the role of "the gothic" in them (I'll have to
ask Zoe; my memory seems to be getting worse and worse).

I understand this category! Right at this moment I can't think of a book
that fell into it in 2001 for me, though.


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