August 29th, 2008

wayfaring wordhack


I've been meaning to post about my current reading , but I've been busy, uh, reading. Still, I will delay no more!

Herein you will find no reviews, just a summary of what I've been up to; I'll leave reviews to the likes of tatterpunk  who can do them justice.

First off, I've been concentrating on nonfiction, researching for The Bitter River. I've only begun to scratch the surface of what I'll need to  write this book.  One aspect of the story deals with ancient Mesopotamia, and amidst the narrative--which takes place in what is modern-day Iraq, set in the early 1800's*--there are letters, diary entries, and sundry other texts from 300ish AD (perhaps earlier) to the mid and late 1700's and the story's present day. Naturally, then, I have to read up on the epistolary form for those time periods so that I can master voices and give versimiltude to the correspondence. Among myriad other subjects, I also have to find maps of the area at different times in history to have the correct place names; I have to find out who controlled what and the political situations at the time(s), not to mention find out what daily life was like.

For the daily life in Mesopotamia, I have three books, the first of which I'm reading now, titled, surprisingly, Everyday Life in Ancient Mesopotamia. It is a collection of articles on subjects such as the origin of the Sumerians; love and sexual mores in ancient Babylon; women's rights (or lack thereof, unless she was in possession of some powerful womanly wiles); how the Assyrians viewed magic and religion; and discussions about three popular myths: the Assyrian flood, the Sumerian tales of Gilgamesh, and the Semitic invention of sin.

I'm three-fourths of the way in, and so far, I find the book interesting in general and maddeningly vague in the specifics I was hoping to discover. This is not a criticism of the book, however, rather an acknowledgement and reinforcement of what I've garnered about certain subjects from Internet sources. It also shows that the field is wide open and I can twist certain legends to my liking. The canon I was hoping to find rooted in Mesopotamian history is actually a Hellenistic invention, so I've either got to abandon that angle, rework it, or pretend that today's historians and Assyriologists are just not in possession of something my characters shall find. This being fiction, I'll likely take option three, but I want to hold off on making a decision because another angle may occur to me. I already have a semi-inkling of what the different angle could be.

Another huge area I have to cover is archaeology in the 1800s. Luckily, at a local library, I found a most interesting and useful book, La Conquête de l'Assyrie, 1840-1860, (The Conquest of Assyria: Excavations in an Antique Land). Nuria checked this book out for me twice last year, but both times I didn't get around to reading it, which is why I never moved it off my "currently reading" list on Goodreads. But it's the reason I got my own library card on Grande Terre. It follows, among others personages, Austen Henry Layard and Paul-Emile Botta in their unearthing of Nineveh and is so interesting and just so right in terms of what I need that I entertained the idea of getting the book for myself in English...until I saw the price on B&N. Ouch.

But all is not nonfiction and research; I'm also reading, Notre-Dame de Paris, by Victor Hugo. I've never picked it up in English, nor did I see the Disney version, only glimpses of certain scenes. I'm only a hundred or so pages in, but the Disney Quasimodo? What a joke compared to the picture Hugo paints of him. I've read a dozen or so books in French of late, but Hugo is another level, and for my French, the going is slow. Maybe once I get past the descriptions of Paris-of-the-Past and return to the characters, things will speed up. Having lived in Paris for several years, though, I find those passages fascinating, and I wish I had brought my street map of the city here to Mayotte, so I could trace what he is talking about and compare it to what still exists. It's interesting to see his view of medieval-to-rennaisance Paris contrasted with the Paris he knew in turn contrasted with the Paris I know.

I'm also reading a friend's ms ::waves at pjthompson ::** and have a short to crit (I received the file with no worries, footlingagain ), so I'm a busy little worm these days. So much better than being in a book drought. And the reading deluge shall continue for I'm soon due to receive jpsorrow 's Throne trilogy and frostokovich 's Shadowbridge duo!

And writing about reading has taken up my morning. Alas, there are chores to do...

*I'm still waffling about this date; it all depends on how brilliant and advanced (and lucky)  I want my characters to be.

**I'm over the halfway mark, and I've just passed what I read before. I'm finally going to find out what happens! Woot!