It has been a rough couple of weeks. I was exposed to Covid and ended up in quarantine (yes, again) so I had to stay in my house for a week. At this point, I am used to it. But instead of harping on that fact, I thought I’d focus on something positive. The things I have been enjoying in quarantine (and out) that have gotten me through the last few days with my good mood (mostly) intact. So, here are three things that are making me happy right now!
Eragon by Christopher Paolini
When Eragon first came out, I was teaching middle school. The kids absolutely loved it. I never read it, mostly because I’d heard from some fellow writers that it was trash, that it was just a rehash of Star Wars in a fantasy setting, and that it was written really dreadfully. The author was only 17 years old when he wrote it, I’d heard, so that tracked. So, I never read it.
I didn’t hear much else about the series over the course of the years that made me want to change my mind, though it did come to be more well-regarded by its original audience. I still wasn’t interested.
Well, recently my bff Nick started reading it (because he loves dragons). I told him what I’d heard, and he was like, ‘wtf are you talking about? This book is awesome.’ Then the Writing Excuses podcast talked about it as an example of how to fulfill the promises you make in epic fantasy, and I thought to my self FINE I’LL READ IT! So, I checked it out of the library.
Well, I picked it up finally in quarantine, and I have to apologze to Christopher Paolini for all the bad things I’d ever thought about him. This book is pretty solid.
To answer the Star Wars question, yes, it has a lot of similarity to Star Wars. Some characters seem to have one to one correspondence to the trilogy. But to be honest, for me at this point in my life? That is a feature not a bug. The characters are fun, the plot is engaging. Paolini is definitely playing with longstanding fantasy tropes here, and while he may not be doing anything groundbreaking with them, he’s turning in a solid story. And that’s all I’m asking at this point.
The book is not challenging, it’s just fun, with some solid action scenes. Nothing has really been a surprise, but nothing has struck me as particularly stupid, either. The writing is not atrocious, as I’d heard. It’s clear, and lyrical in places, and suits the story. I think a lot of authors got hung up on Paolini’s age and bashed this book unfairly. Is it the best book I’ve ever read in this genre? Not even close. But it’s entertaining and I like the characters. That’s more than enough for me.
I read a lot of challenging books. This is not one of them, and frankly, I’d glad. I needed just to enjoy something I didn’t have to think too hard about. There’s nothing wrong with that. It is, in fact, admirable.
So, Eragon. I’m a little late to the party but I’m all in.
Station Eleven (HBO Max)
I started watching this series with some trepidation. I had heard good things about the novel, but it was about a pandemic that kills most of the human population of the world, and I just wasn’t sure I wanted that., since I barely made it through The Stand last year. But I’d heard this series takes a different approach, and was, instead, about hope surviving after a disaster, and that sounded like something I needed.
Station Eleven starts out with the pandemic, and flashes back to the disaster often, but it mostly takes place twenty years in the future, following a group of Shakespearean actors who put on plays for the communities that survived the apocalypse. It’s a beautiful story about what happens to people who are processing a worldwide trauma and is interested in the question of how we preserve what was best about the world that was as we try to build a new one.
There is danger in this new world. It’s not just a happy romp through a broken world. There’s treachery, and unrest, and tragedy still to come in the new world. But unlike other post-apocalyptic fiction, it never embraces despair. The performances are great, particularly Lori Petty as a crotchety playwright. The world evoked is at once recognizable and transformed.
And yes, it’s about the power of embracing hope. I really needed that message the last couple of weeks.
I first became acquainted with the music of singer/songwriter Kate Voegele back around 2010. It was fun pop music, but with interesting lyrics and dynamic arrangements. It was really enjoyable to listen to, and had its moments of depth despite its love of a hook.
Through Apple music I found out that Voegele has released numerous additional albums over the course of the last few years, so I added all of them and have been listening to them over and over. Her lyrics are still clever, her melodic progressions are engaging, just as they were before. The music is damn catchy, and that is not an insult.
These songs vary in subject matter but most of them fall along the spectrum of “I’m in love and it’s a problem!” which, relatable. If you like fun, hooky pop songs you can’t go wrong. I’m surprised she never became more famous, as she’s remarkably talented. Sometimes you just want to open the windows and sing at the top of your lungs about a guy who did you dirty.