Friday, May 18, 2018

The Clan of the Cave Bear - Jean M. Auel

The Clan of the Cave Bear - Jean M. AuelThe Clan of the Cave Bear
Jean M. Auel
Copyright Date: 1980

The product description:
This novel of awesome beauty and power is a moving saga about people, relationships, and the boundaries of love.

Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read

Through Jean M. Auel’s magnificent storytelling we are taken back to the dawn of modern humans, and with a girl named Ayla we are swept up in the harsh and beautiful Ice Age world they shared with the ones who called themselves the Clan of the Cave Bear.

A natural disaster leaves the young girl wandering alone in an unfamiliar and dangerous land until she is found by a woman of the Clan, people very different from her own kind. To them, blond, blue-eyed Ayla looks peculiar and ugly—she is one of the Others, those who have moved into their ancient homeland; but Iza cannot leave the girl to die and takes her with them. Iza and Creb, the old Mog-ur, grow to love her, and as Ayla learns the ways of the Clan and Iza’s way of healing, most come to accept her. But the brutal and proud youth who is destined to become their next leader sees her differences as a threat to his authority. He develops a deep and abiding hatred for the strange girl of the Others who lives in their midst, and is determined to get his revenge.
It's been a while since I read this one - possibly before Shelters of Stone was published, much less Land of Painted Caves. Definitely it's been long enough that I only remembered the broadest strokes of the storyline. However, I do remember that by the end of the series, the books have long since stretched my credulity as to the impact and number of new discoveries/inventions one person can be part of.

That is my one grumble with this series, but you won't see any of that in the first book. What I did notice this time around was how much foreshadowing of events there was for the later books in the series - especially the third book and later. I'm also completely amazed as to the amount of research that had to have gone into the writing of this whole series - all the details about nearly every aspect of life during the ice age are laid out in these books - tool making, medicinal and edible plants, hunting strategies and so much more. Even better? None of it feels as though it's an information dump on the reader.

I know from reading reviews on sites like that the level of detail that Jean Auel includes in the Earth's Children series isn't going to be for everyone, but I found it quite enjoyable, although there are some things that I feel sure I saw hints of in some of the National Geographic magazines I read as a child (my parents had a collection that went back into the early 1970's, and in fact managed to break the bookshelves we kept them on).

Keeping on the theme of details, Jean M. Auel is a very descriptive writer who incorporates all of the senses into her writing - tastes of the foods being cooked, details of color and texture, plant life, animal tracks etc. for sight, all of the smells of life under scent, sounds of all kinds and even the feel of the things the characters touch. All of it can add up to make an amazingly detailed picture of life in the reader's head.

One thing I wondered about this time reading The Clan of the Cave Bear is how well the author's research has held up to any new discoveries about the Neanderthals that have been made in the nearly 40 years since The Clan of the Cave Bear was first published. Definitely might be a topic worth looking into, given the lasting popularity of this series.

Nonetheless, although there were a few parts of this book that I didn't care for (I found a few scenes to be a hair too far on the graphic side, though I should have remembered that from previous reads), I definitely found it to be a page-turner that kept me going for hours at a time. I've already gotten over a hundred pages into the sequel, The Valley of Horses.

The Clan of the Cave Bear movieAlso, before I forget, there is at least one movie adaptation for The Clan of the Cave Bear - and I think I might have watched it once (according to IMDB it came out in 1985). I can't really remember, although the faces in the trailer on Amazon are vaguely familiar, and I am sure I remember some of the scenes in the movie (and how they were different from the book). I don't remember though how the movie handles some of the more graphic scenes from the book. I've also seen rumors that there was a second adaptation that came out a couple of years ago, though I don't know anything more about it.

To be honest, I can't remember enough about the movie to say whether or not I recommend it, especially given how old it is now, but it definitely says something about the popularity of a book when there is at least one movie adaptation made.

If anyone else can say if they liked The Clan of the Cave Bear movie or not, I'd definitely be curious.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Perfect for the cooking gardener

With all the kitchen gizmos out there, and there are a lot of them, every now and again I discover something perfectly simple and brilliant. This is one of those that I first saw last Christmas as a gift.

They're a set of herb scissors that are perfect for cutting chives or parsley for your food.

I know that I love fresh parsley and chives garnishing my soups and pastas, but using a knife and cutting board isn't my all-time favorite way of chopping them. I also know you can use a set of regular scissors and a glass to chop herbs, but again I don't find it all that efficient. These on the other hand? With five sets of blades perfectly spaced apart, each snip provides bits of herb that are just the right size. They're not that difficult to clean either. Most of the time I find running water washes away any clogging bits. The rare times it doesn't - or if I'm not done using the scissors to chop, a knife blade works well - just as I would use one to clear a pastry-cutter.

I will admit that these herb scissors aren't ideal for all types of herbs - thyme or rosemary are still better chopped against a cutting board. Still, since I got myself a set I've been finding that I duck out to the garden to get some parsley or chives a bit more often than I did last year. The convenience factor of these is great.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth is only a couple of months away now

And I can't wait! I only wish I was able to visit Oxford to see the actual exhibit.

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth
Ed. Catherine McIlwane
Bodleian Library, University of Oxford
Release Date: July 15, 2018

The product description:
The range of J. R. R. Tolkien’s talents is remarkable. Not only was he an accomplished linguist and philologist, as well as a scholar of Anglo-Saxon and medieval literature and Norse folklore, but also a skillful illustrator and storyteller. Drawing on these talents, he created a universe which is for many readers as real as the physical world they inhabit daily.

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth explores the huge creative endeavor behind Tolkien’s enduring popularity. Lavishly illustrated with three hundred images of his manuscripts, drawings, maps, and letters, the book traces the creative process behind his most famous literary works—The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion—and reproduces personal photographs and private papers, many of which have never been seen before in print.

Six essays introduce the reader to the person of J. R. R. Tolkien and to main themes in his life and work, including the influence of northern languages and legends on the creation of his own legendarium; his concept of “Faërie” as an enchanted literary realm; the central importance of his invented languages in his fantasy writing; his visual imagination and its emergence in his artwork; and the encouragement he derived from his close friend C. S. Lewis and their literary group the Inklings.

The book brings together the largest collection of original Tolkien material ever assembled in a single volume. Drawing on the extensive archives of the Tolkien collections at the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, which stretch to more than five hundred boxes, and Marquette University, Milwaukee, as well as private collections, this hugely ambitious and exquisitely produced book draws together the worlds of J. R. R. Tolkien – scholarly, literary, creative, and domestic—offering a rich and detailed understanding and appreciation of this extraordinary author.

This landmark publication, produced on the occasion of a major exhibition at the Bodleian Libraries in Oxford in 2018 and at the Morgan Library in New York in 2019, is set to become a standard work in the literature on J. R. R. Tolkien. 
Over 400 pages of essays and Tolkien material from the Bodleian Library, Marquette University and private collections! I'm almost drooling just thinking about it! Of course, some of it may have been reproduced in other volumes (I'm thinking of the Letters from Father Christmas for example). I just wish I could see somewhere a list of who the essay-writers are. I can definitely think of some well-recognized Tolkien scholars who I'd love to read more from: Verlyn Flieger, Dimitra Fimi, Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull, John Garth, etc...

With the sentence in the description "...his concept of “Faërie” as an enchanted literary realm; the central importance of his invented languages in his fantasy writing; his visual imagination and its emergence in his artwork..." I wouldn't be surprised to see one or two of the above named scholars having contributed. I know that two of the more recent Hammond and Scull books were on Tolkien's artwork in the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Dimitra Fimi has written on Tolkien and language, and Flieger has written a fair bit on Tolkien and Faerie in the past. However, those are just my guesses. I guess I'll just have to wait until I order and receive a copy of Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth to see who's contributed.


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