I’m back from my off-the-grid Christmas week. Much more rested, ready to get back to work, and…er…five pounds heavier. It is just cosmically unfair that it’s even POSSIBLE to gain five pounds in a single week. I mean, there were the home-made sticky buns, and the cookies (pecan balls and peanut blossoms and sugar cookies and gingerbread and spritz) and the pies (chocolate chess and lemon and pumpkin and buttermilk and cherry) , and the lobster (with roast potatoes and drawn butter) and prime rib (with Yorkshire pudding) Boxing Day dinner, and…

OK, I guess the five pounds isn’t really that unfair. It was a good week.

Anyway, I’m signing back on to tell you about the Tournament of Reading at Medieval Bookworm. Here’s the description:

This challenge is designed to get us all reading a little more medieval literature in 2010. The challenge will run from January 1st to December 31st, 2010, and will be hosted right here at Medieval Bookworm. Challenge genres include history, medieval literature, and historical fiction. Medieval, for simplicity of definition, will be from 500-1500, and literature from all over the world is welcome, not just western Europe. There are 3 levels:

Peasant – Read 3 medieval books of any kind.
Lord – Read 6 medieval books, at least one of each kind.
King – Read 9 medieval books, at least two of each kind.
You’re not required to make a list or stick to one, but it would be fun if you did! A recommendations post will also be up today, to help you make choices.

You can sign up at Medieval Bookworm. And–wait for it–I’ve got a suggestion about what you can read!

The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade

Showing 8 comments
  • dangermom

    This sounds really great! I’m going to go sign up.

    Incidentally, I’m reading the advance copy of your book right now, and had to show off to my Korean SIL about how now I know the names of the three kingdoms….yep, she’s descended from the nobility of Silla.

  • Beth in New Jersey

    Does Cadfael count? I love Brother Cadfael.

  • Beth in New Jersey

    Answer to my own Q: Yes, Cadfael counts. My list — King Level, of course:

    I keep trying to get my library to BUY this, but they tell me their vendor doesn’t supply it. Hmmm. They have ILL’ed this for me how many times? Two? Three? At $40 a pop? We could just go down to the bookstore and get it for less than that, duh. Whatever. It’s on the list because well-written junior books are great starting points for novices like me.

    I’m looking forward to seeing the new volume. Hey! I need to ask my library to BUY this!

    Either one, or another, or both — it depends on what I can find at my library.

    I’ve always wanted to read this, now I have a legitimate reason to do it besides, “I think I’ll read the Mabinogion for fun.” Need some Cliffs notes.

    2. BEOWULF
    I like this story of friendship and rage, and I’d be happy to read it again. But I think this time I’ll try to study it a little deeper, not simply read through.

    Probably not the whole thing! Just the ribald parts. Oh, wait, that IS the whole thing.

    1., 2., and 3. I’m not sure about this genre. I’ve read all of Cadfael (during pregnancies, does that count?), but I know all the plots. Who killed whom, and how, and why. Sigh. That’s the thing with mysteries, once you’ve read them, the only thing they’re good for afterward is as insomnia reading. Or pregnancy reading. (Sudden thought — What does it say about one’s personality that one chooses to read murder mysteries only during one’s pregnancies?)

    Back to the list. I’ll look into Bernard Cornwell’s Saxon Chronicles. Have any of you read these?

    Susan, thanks for the heads-up on this challenge. Only five pounds? Lobster and prime rib are worth at least twice that much, I think. Go run around the farm and quit complaining.

  • Colleen in NS

    Did you really celebrate Boxing Day?? Do you have Brits or Canadians around you?

  • Bet

    It MIGHT be fair that one could gain 5 pounds in a week if it were also possible to LOSE 5 pounds in a week with a corresponding amount of effort. 😉

  • Deborah

    Don’t sweat the five pounds – the calorie math suggests that you can’t possibly gain five pounds of actual *fat* in a week. Probably just extra water from additional sugar and salt in richer food. I do it all the time, not just holidays (unfortunately).

    Thanks for the reminder on the medieval volume of the histories … I’ll have to look for it. (Just bought a new six-foot, five-shelf bookcase at Target, so I’ve got to have some more books, of course!)

  • Sahamamama

    Count: 1 down, 8 to go
    Read: The Last Kingdom
    Author: Bernard Cornwell
    Category: Historical Fiction
    Rating: 3 out of 5
    Pros: Uhtred’s story pulled me in.
    Cons: Uhtred’s story wore me out.

    Well, I read it. I could have lived a happy, clueless life without ever experiencing the killing, burning, and rape scenes in this book, but we are on a trip to the Middle Ages, right? I suppose that comes with the territory. The book did weary me, all those endless descriptions of heads being chopped off, bowels spilling out of slashed leather, victors pissing on enemies, humping whores, selling slaves, and so on. Sigh. I am tired now. I need a good, hot bath and some chamomile tea…..

    Leave it to me to pick a book that is only one part of a still-unfinished series (so far, there are five parts), and once I started it, I finished only because I started. Now I feel as though I’ll need to drink a gallon of Clorox to get through the rest of the books in the series.

    Do I really want to read more of this, or will I let Uhtred’s story go? Here’s an excerpt from the next installment, The Pale Horseman. The main character, Uhtred, is speaking to his shipmate, Leofric:

    “Of course I’m right! I’m a lord! I’m right and I’m going to be rich! We’re all going to be rich! We shall eat off gold plates, piss down our enemies’ throats and make their wives into our whores.” I was shouting this nonsense as I walked down the boat’s centre, casting off the sail’s lashings. “We’ll all be rich with silver shoes and golden bonnets. We’ll be richer than kings! We’ll wallow in silver, shower our whores with gold and shit lumps of amber!”

    In the second book I hope Uhtred starts on a high-fiber diet, otherwise it’ll be painful pooping out that amber. I can hardly wait to begin again. Where’s my library card?

    (Do you ever just slog through a series simply to get to the end of it?)

  • Beth in New Jersey

    Medieval Reading Challenge: Second Report

    I made a mistake by beginning with historical fiction. What was I thinking? How could I have missed the obvious: The Saxon Chronicles? There had to be more than one book, right?

    Actually, I didn’t begin with TSC, but made a brief, unproductive attempt at Mabinogion (without Cliff notes). I might have pronounced the names correctly, but reading them for hours on end was a bit tiring. The overall layout of the collection is somewhat clearer now (in truth, I had no clue prior to this first attempt), but the preface that was supposed to illuminate the text must have been written with only Welsh-speaking Welsh scholars of Welsh literature in mind, as it was so dense as to be mostly incomprehensible (to me, that is). The purpose of these stories – to entertain? – is lost on me. I must be too far removed from the stories to have been pulled into them. The storyline never did pull me in. In the end, I couldn’t really make sense of it, but I did learn a new word – calumniated, meaning “falsely accused”– from that impenetrable preface, which discussed the theme of “the calumniated wife.” As far as I understood the tales, they made me glad to be married to my husband and living today in the USA.

    While we’re on the subject of being glad to be here (and now), Bernard Cornwell’s series is bloody, gory, and addictive. This was a story that pulled me in, even though in one sense I didn’t want to be part of that violent and turbulent world. There was a narrative force to the Saxon Chronicles that took me through murder, war, rape, pillage, crucifixion, slavery, torture, severed heads, prostitution, child brides, spousal abuse, sorcery, and Uhtred’s brash and fully expressed hatred of Christianity and Christians. I happen to be a Christian; at times, it felt like a personal attack. I found myself wanting to witness to him, LOL. It would be interesting to sit down with the author and try to figure out how much of the vitriol was Uhtred, just being his pagan self, telling his life’s story, and how much was Bernard Cornwell. Interesting….

    At any rate, I endured the battering and belitting of my faith, along with all the medieval mayhem, because the rage pouring forth from Uhtred was true to his character. He sincerely hated Christians, and I can handle that. If I could sit down with Uhtred… well, I’d rather not, at least not without a fully-loaded automatic weapon. But Uhtred’s story fizzled out for me in the last book, I’m not sure why.

    I’ve previoulsy commented on the first book in the series, The Last Kingdom. The second book was The Pale Horseman, which takes place during the time when Alfred was hiding out in the swamps of Athelney. Pale Horseman was followed by some additional reading on Alfred, who seems to be hard to pin down. I’m certain that the animosity of Uhtred (Cornwell?) towards Christianity impacted his (their?) portrayal of Alfred, who is painted in a bad light throughout the series. The histories I read were overal more favorable, and revealed how even historical fiction can have a strong bias and leave out so much.

    The third book was Lords of the North. More gore, more war – again – but the book did make me ponder the tragic lives of slaves, and the prevalence of slavery in those times. And today? The storyline for book number four – Sword Song – was set in “Lundene,” and left me thinking, along with its narrator Uhtred, about the inexorability of war. Uhtred tells us, “Alfred wanted peace, but peace fled from him and [enemies] came, and he had no choice but to fight. [Later], more [enemies] came… and what can a man do but fight for his land, his family, his home and his country? I look at my children… and I know they will have to fight…. So long as there is a kingdom on this windswept island, there will be war. We cannot flinch from war. We cannot hide from its cruelty, its blood, its stench, its vileness or its joy, because war will come to us whether we want it or not.”

    Despite the violence, these were thought-provoking books, in some ways, but I am worn out with Uhtred’s story. When the fifth book came in at the library, I checked it out, brought it home, read one page, and took it back the next day. It wasn’t the vulgarity or the profanity or the Christian-bashing that did me in, although that was tiresome. It was the warrior’s life, Uhtred’s life, that wore me out, I suppose.

    On to something better — such as The History of the Medieval World! I’m only on Chapter Two. We were out driving today, and I was trying to read about the Three Kingdoms and the Jin dynasty in the van, but my husband was listening to classical Spanish guitar (think: frenetic). I gave up on reading. The music and the book didn’t juxtapose for me. I kept picturing a medieval, guitar-playing Chinese bullfighter.

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