Monday, March 20, 2017

For a Change, Let's Talk About Actual Books (Part 22)

I do like to read things that aren't horsewords sometimes, after all.  So, here's a look at what non-horsewords I'm reading at this very moment, and what I think of them!

Below the break, as always.

Dueling With Kings, by Daniel Barbarisi

What it is:  A history of DFS (daily fantasy sports, i.e. the one-day leagues which they aired commercials for every thirty seconds for a while, a couple years back), and the author's journey from professional beatwriter to DFS shark.

How I'm liking it so far:  As someone who regularly plays "regular" fantasy football but never really understood the appeal of DFS, this book did a nice job of explaining the gambling-esque (DFS proponents are very careful to explain that what they do should not, legally, be understood as "gambling," though for practical purposes it is) draw, and dives into the legal history--why this is allowed in the US but online poker isn't, and the battle over its legal status.  It also looks at the lifestyle and personalities of the major players in DFS, and at how professional players are able to consistently turn a profit.  Unexpectedly, there are some parallels to the pony fandom too--this is a story of a burgeoning hobby springing up, growing at a ridiculous rate, and then hitting its wall hard--though as far as I know, no attorneys general have ever tried to ban MLP from their states.  Barbarisi doesn't paint a terribly flattering picture of himself, but the decidedly human element from the author helps ground a story full of extravagant luxuries and extreme passion over a silly-on-the-surface enterprise.

Recommendation:  If you'd like to know more about DFS, or if you enjoy Word Freak-esque "author learns to run with the big dogs in an esoteric discipline" stories, this would be a good choice.

Battles of the Medieval World, by Kelly DeVries and others

What it is:  A coffee table book about, well, major battles fought in medieval Europe.

How I'm liking it so far:  Despite being a coffee table book, there's a surprising amount of detail in the text; this is no in-depth history, to be sure, but it's not quite as light reading as you'd expect.  That said, I'm mostly pawing my way through this because it's chock-full of luscious maps and military diagrams, and I'm very impressed with how well laid out they are.  Military nonfiction doesn't have enough maps and the ones it does have are too limited and abstract, as a rule, and if this book doesn't offer a whole lot else, then it's still something I'm glad to see.

Recommendation:  Unless you're specifically looking for easy-to-examine diagrams of battles, you almost certainly needn't bother with this.  But if, for some reason, you too enjoy such things, then this is a nice addition to more serious books on its battles and wars.

The Romance of Tristan and Iseult, arr. by Joseph Bedier (translation by Hilaire Belloc and (later) Paul Rosenfeld)

What it is:  Only one of the most famous romances ever to be told!

How I'm liking it so far:  I'm trusting that everyone knows the gist of Tristan and Iseult's tale, so instead I'll comment on this retelling.  Supposedly Bedier's arrangement of the story uses the oldest surviving texts of this tale as its base, with (significant) missing fragments filled in by himself based largely on the events in later versions.  This telling certainly has the feel of a work like Mallory's: it is a Romance in the capital-R sense, told via archetypes, and little concerned with many storytelling conventions we take for granted in the modern day.  I enjoy this style, personally, and so I'm enjoying this work itself.

Recommendation:  If you're looking for things like realistic characters, motives, or "pacing" as we understand the term in modern literature, then a more modern adaptation is probably going to be more your speed.  And if you're looking for something strongly academic, then this isn't that, either.  But if you're looking for a faithful-to-style retelling, this would be a good choice.

Phantoms and Fairies From Norwegian Folklore, by Tor Age Bringsvaerd

What it is:  A catalogue of mythological creatures from Norway, including their habits, origins, and what famous tales are told about them.

How I'm liking it so far:  I picked this book up thinking it would actually have some of those tales in it, but no dice.  Still, although I'm a little disappointed, the book is fine for what it is; more mini-encyclopedia than mini-anthology.  Also, my paperback of it has a really badass cover of a giant bat swooping over a witch, though I can't seem to find a picture of that cover via google search to link to here.  Maybe I have a rare edition that's worth thousands of dollars?  It'd be nice to imagine... anyway, the writing is a bit on the dry side, but there's a pleasant density of folklore information, and plenty of comparison and contrasting of different versions of legends.

Recommendation:  Although this isn't a collection of stories, it might interest readers looking for something of a cross between the history of those stories, and a treatment of their denizens.

1 comment:

  1. >I'm trusting that everyone knows the gist of Tristan and Iseult's tale

    You severely underestimate the level of my ignorance.

    Also, if that cover image is somehow not on the internet yet, then you know you have a duty to bring it to us.