Just some updates, in no great detail, of my current reading - and non-reading. I'm tired.
I just finished Ellis Peters's ninth Brother Cadfael mystery, Dead Man's Ransom. It was as perfect and lovely as both predicted and expected. This one, though, has gone further towards integrating historical setting into plot than the previous novels, and I think it really works.
Dead Man's Ransom is set in the winter of 1141; the war for the throne between Empress Maud and King Stephen and their respective followers continues but in this installment, the consequences for Shrewsbury have become personal. The town's sheriff, Gilbert Prestcote, has returned gravely injured from fighting for the king (and the king has been captured and imprisoned by the empress's devotees!). Prestcote is settled into the infirmary of Shrewsbury Abbey and his healing begun only to be murdered in his bed there...
Brother Cadfael, of course, eventually solves the crime but not before participating in some sensitive political maneuvering to help form an alliance between his adopted English town and some of his Welsh countrymen to the northwest. The outside world persists in intruding into Cadfael and his brethren's sheltered world and the lesson of this novel would be, if there were anything so pedestrian and pedantic as a lesson here, that the official removal from society which constitutes entering the cloister is no removal at all. Indeed, Cadfael and his peers are allowed respites from the outside world almost as short as their secular peers enjoy.
For me these novels constitute a sort of sincere utopia, not in which nothing bad ever happens, but in which the majority of people behave in ways motivated primarily by lovingkindness. I'm sure I say the same thing every time I blog about Peters but I can't help it; I'm continually astonished by her portrayal of the majority of people as both essentially good and generally likable - convincingly. In my cynical world, nothing is more fantastic - and sweet - than the world according to Ellis Peters.
The horror of it all was interesting but what was more compelling was Brock's consideration of the power of marketing to convince otherwise sane and sufficiently intelligent people of the craziest bullshit imaginable. Brinkley's success was all about marketing and what is scary is that all his effective and almost exclusively unethical techniques are the norm now, particularly with regards to pharmaceuticals advertising! Brinkley was the first to really successfully use - on a mass scale - people's anxieties about their health and wellness against them. He set the stage for the world we live in now - the world in which shyness (at any age) and not being able to f*** 5 hours a day when you're 95 are illnesses properly treated with drugs.
I would like to tell you about what I'm reading and enjoying now, because it's not free of the gimmick or the fun, but I'm afraid I'll jinx myself. It'll have to be a secret until I actually finish it, which I hope I'll do. Perhaps I've already said too much.
Always look on the bright side of life
Even though I hate to give up on books, especially if I've made it past page 50, I think the fact that I'm able to do so now is a positive thing. I used to feel compelled to finish any- and everything I began, regardless of how atrocious or offensive or boring it might be. I'm glad I'm able to move on to something more enjoyable when the going is too irritating. Life's too short to waste reading time. I'm 35 - I might have only another 35 years left of reading to me!!