Sunday, September 15, 2013

Fortnightly Book, September 15

I've gone back and forth about what to do for this fortnighly book; it's a weird time of term, when I might have the time for something substantial and might not. It's best not to commit to too much. It would make sense to do something light, but the danger with those is that if they are too light and I'm busy, I'm tempted to put it aside until the last three days. On the other hand, there are works that I want to get around to -- like re-reading London's The Sea Wolf -- that I fear I won't do justice to if I get too busy. So what I really need is something not too heavy, that is a re-read, and that I won't be disappointed about if time constraints make it difficult to get something out of it, but at the same time that isn't something I can do too easily. After some thought, I've settled on Tim Powers's Declare. I think it's a good one for this sort of situation; it's a re-read, and not a super-light bite. When I read it before, I wasn't hugely impressed by the execution, although I liked the basic idea; but a lot of people seem to like it much better than I did, so it's a worthwhile choice for a re-read: I know I can get through it without simply hating it, but I might get more out of it. Some books are like that: OK on the first read, very good on the second.

Tim Powers is a guy who writes things. I actually don't know much about him except that he's still alive and a writer of secret histories, i.e., historical novels with a strong fantasy or science fiction element that puts a different interpretation on the events. Declare is his most famous work, and is essential a Cold War spy thriller with djinn. The title comes from Job 38:4:

Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Declare, if thou hast understanding.


  1. MrsDarwin7:26 AM

    I've always enjoyed Declare and have certainly re-read it more than three times. Declare is Powers's most famous book for good reason; it's his best, to my mind, though Last Call is a close second and well worth reading when you get the time. (Last Call is part of a loosely-connected trilogy, each book of which can stand on its own. The other two are good, but Last Call is the most evocative, and you may enjoy it as I think you linked recently to the article on the history of tarot cards.)

    Tim Powers is a Catholic and was an acquaintance of Darwin's late father, who used to sell him books back in the day. I often feel like some of the more "magical" phenomenon in his books involves some fast hand waving -- I've never quite understood the "nothing right here" stepping pattern in Declare, for example -- but I'm willing to overlook that if the rest of the book is gripping.

  2. branemrys6:52 PM

    I think it may have been precisely that pattern which interfered with my enjoyment the first time around, but we'll see how it goes.


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