S is for…

SS is for self-righteous, shameless, and sickly:

Sabatini, Rafael
Salvatore, R. A.
Sanderson, Brandon
Sapkowski, Andrzej
Shikibu, Murasaki
Sinclair
, May
Shakespeare, William
Sophocles
Spyri, Johanna
Stevenson, Robert Louis
Suzuki, Koji
Swift, Jonathan

I thoroughly enjoyed Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini. Like The Scarlet Pimpernel, Scaramouche is set in the French Revolution. It’s hero Andre-Louis is neither a supporter nor a detractor of the revolution, but a cynic who finds both sides equally ridiculous. He is, however, swept up into the fervor against the aristocracy when his best friend is murdered before his eyes by an unapologetic dick of a nobleman. To save his own neck, Andre-Louis flees to the country where he undergoes many changes of occupation before finally returning to deal justice for the death of his friend. Scaramouche has some great humor, amazing prose and a great ending which had me at least squirming.

I’m a huge Drizzt fan. I’m just going to say that now. R. A. Salvatore‘s Dark Elf trilogy hooked me hard, and I’ve nibbled up every book I could get my hands on since. I’m not even sure why. That sort of infallibly good hero type character isn’t one that I usually like. I think there’s just something so tragic about Drizzt’s story that endears me to him.

I have not read any of Brandon Sanderson‘s works. I know that makes my fantasy education incredibly lacking (it’s not the first time I’ve had to admit it during this challenge and it won’t be the last). I got these two books for Christmas last year which made me greatly happy. I’ll get on reading them probably next year.

The same applies for Andrzej Sapkowski. I picked up The Last Wish at the beginning of last year and shelved it. It was put somewhere on my TBR list and I haven’t gotten to it yet. I think it may be on my 2014 reading list, actually.

The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu is my favorite work of Japanese literature–and I haven’t even finished it yet. This hulking volume written almost a thousand years ago is considered to be the first example of a novel. It follows the sexual adventures of the illegitimate prince Genji as he sleeps his way through most of the royal court (including his stepmother) and gets into worlds of trouble in the process. Shikibu herself was a court lady, unusually educated for her time. She wrote The Tale of Genji as an entertainment piece for the empress, delivering it in installments for the ladies of the royal court to listen to. Because she wrote about such raunchy topics, and also because of how she addressed certain events and people in her semi-fictional royal court, she was denounced by religious leaders at the time, who told her she was heading straight for hell. Whether or not Shikibu ever cared what they said is a mystery, as is who wrote the final chapters of The Tale of Genji. There is some evidence to support the theory that it was written by her daughter after her death.

May Sinclair was the pen name of British writer Mary Amelia St. Clair. She could not have had two differently paired parents. Her father went bankrupt and became an alcoholic before he died when she was still young. Her mother on the other hand was strictly religious. May was involved in social activism as well as the super natural, being a member of both Woman Writers’ Suffrage League and The Society for Psychical Research. Her short story collection Uncanny Stories is one of two she wrote, in addiction to other contributions to English literature as a whole.

There’s not much I can say about William Shakespeare that the world doesn’t already know. As far as literature is concerned. Shakespeare was a master. As far as teenagers are concerned, he’s the bane of English classes. To date I’ve read seven of his plays and a handful of his sonnets. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is still my favorite, followed closely by Much Ado About Nothing and King Lear.

I’ve only read Oedipus Rex by Sophocles and while I was already familiar with the story before I started it, I enjoyed it quite a bit. Only seven of his one hundred and twenty-three plays have survived to this day in completion. He was the most celebrated playwright of his time for fifty years, and doesn’t have a small amount of fame these days, either.

I know the story of Heidi, either from having read it as a child, or having seen it as a movie. It’s foggy now in adulthood, which means I should probably read it again. Johanna Spyri wrote Heidi in just four weeks, and like much of the rest of her writing, the story is set in the Swiss countryside. She was socially active, and wrote stories which reflected this. Before she died in 1901 she had written over fifty stories.

I haven’t read Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, but I have read The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. Stevenson had a difficult childhood. He came from a family of poor health, and the location they moved to to alleviate their symptoms only worsened his. He only moved to a more forgiving climate after his father died. After much bouncing around in life, he finally settled in the Samoan Islands, where he became something of a local celebrity there. There are too many interesting things about this writer to list on one post that’s supposed to be under three hundred words. If you’re curious, I highly recommend reading about his amazing life.

Ring, Spiral, and Loop are the three novels in Koji Suzuki‘s horror/thriller Ring trilogy. I’m sure everyone is familiar with the American film adaptation of the first novel, and I’ll tell you now, if there was ever a case of the book being better than the movie, it’s this one. Even the Japanese adaptation, Ringu is horrible by comparison. All the thoughtful, philosophical parts are cut out. The characters are changed and the interesting characters removed completely. Hell, the mail character isn’t even a woman! I highly recommend the first two books in the series (available in English), though the third one sort of lost me. It’s almost as though it’s from a completely separate series, and I don’t care much for precocious children stories anyway. I didn’t finish it.

I haven’t read Jonathan Swift‘s Gulliver’s Travels in its entirety, which is strange considering we have two editions of it. I read parts of it in high school, along with a few of his other works, and I really respect him as a writer. He packed a lot of political satire into his writing, much of which is still funny today.

Best enjoy this abundance of authors now, we’re heading into another decline after this. However, if you’d like to help me increase my S author collection, I always love hearing your recommendations in the comments below.

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21 thoughts on “S is for…

  1. You’ve got a lot of great recommendations there! (I haven’t read Sanderson either, so at least there’s two of us 🙂 )

    For Shakespeare, I read him first at school too, but since English isn’t my first language I probably liked him even less and struggled with him more than most. I’ve been re-reading his plays recently though and it’s been a bit of a revelation, I’ve loved them. They’re definitely worth a revisit! 🙂

    • Absolutely! Shakespeare is hard to understand for most of us, but his plays are a delight to read, especially when you’ve got some Cliff Notes with you. 😉

  2. Sometimes I think the rationale teachers and high school English departments have for reading Shakespeare is “If we had to read it, you have to read it.” I enjoyed The Merchant of Venice, mostly because the teacher I had made it fun to read. Not so much either Julius Caesar or Macbeth. Now, his sonnets are beautiful; my favorite is “My True Love’s Eyes Are Nothing Like The Sun.” I mentioned that to a guy I worked with, and he was able to recite the whole thing from memory.

    Now that I’ve been out of high school for 40 years, I can see how having used Cliff’s Notes would have made my life easier and improved my grades in English tremendously. My mother forbade us to use them….

    • I understand why Shakespeare is taught in classes; he’s a pretty major milestone in the development of the English language, and in literature. As far as my English teachers went, they were pretty good about making it accessible. Especially these days when the gap between Shakespeare’s English and our current English grows with every generation.

      I enjoyed MacBeth, but I didn’t like Julius Caesar, if only because my English teacher gave us an impossible test to go with it. My least favorite was Taming of The Shrew.

  3. I’m almost done Gulliver’s Travels! I’m into part 4. You are right about the political satire, I see it in this book. I love his essay “A Modest Proposal”, that was the first introduction to Swift I got.

  4. I’ve actually read quite a few of the works you mentioned today. 🙂 Great post!

    I LOVE Shakespeare. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is also my fav, and I’m pretty fond of “Taming of the Shrew”, “Hamlet”, and “Macbeth” and his sonnets. It’s pretty amazing that he came up with so many phrases that are still around today, some of them very risqué for his time, like “the beast with two backs”. 🙂

    I’ve read “Oedipus Rex”, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde”, “Heidi”, and “Gulliver’s Travel’s”.

    • Yes! Actually, I love this video (and the rest of the series) that explains just that:

      I didn’t care much for Taming of the Shrew, but I enjoyed the rest. I actually read Titus Andronicus after I watched and loved the movie adaptation with Anthony Hopkins:

      It’s brilliant.

  5. Great list! I am also a Drizzt fan – there’s just something about that character that really gets me. I’ve read a lot of Brandon Sanderson. He has become one of my favourite go-to authors because his world-building skills are incredible. (I am frankly envious.) And who can forget Shakespeare? I am just in the process of watching Joss Whedon’s version of Much Ado About Nothing, and enjoying this play all over again. My favourite is Hamlet, but I don’t usually like how he is portrayed on stage. The thing I like most about Hamlet is his wit. Most of the time actors are too busy turning him into a tragic figure to consider this side of him. Shakespeare always did well with comedy!

    • If it’s the same version of Much Ado About Nothing that I remember, and love (and lost) then I whole heartedly agree that it’s amazing. I enjoyed Hamlet too when I finally read it. It always seemed to me that Hamlet was a lot smarter than people gave him credit for.

  6. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is my favourite too! Closely followed by Macbeth and Twelfth Night 🙂 Stevenson was always a favourite, too – Treasure Island was a classic of mine growing up, mostly because my dad read it with such hilarious pirate voices 😉 Great S’s!

    • I don’t remember much about Twelfth Night, but I’m sure we read it. I used to memorize lines from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, just for fun. My friends all thought I was crazy.

  7. I like Shakespeare’s comedies, but not so much the tragedies. I’ve seen hilarious performances of Love’s Labor’s Lost, Twelfth Night, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which I loved. I’ve read Treasure Island and Jekyll and Hyde, Gulliver’s Travels, Heidi, and Oedipus Rex. I have one R. A. Salvatore: Luthien’s Gamble, which I haven’t read yet. I’ve heard of Drizzt. I’ll have to look up some of those. Scaramouche sounds interesting, too. The only other S I have is Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, which I liked very much.

  8. I’ve read a lot of Sanderson. Elantris is a good story, but I wanted to edit it *so* badly! It’s very apparent that it was his first published novel. I like Mistborn, but I’m loving his Stormlight Archive books. They are in danger of becoming a small obsession of mine, so he’d better get his backside on the chair and get book 3 out, and fast!

    • Ooo~ Maybe I should start with that one. I haven’t had many issues so far with authors and their first novels for the most part, aside from noting that they do get progressively better.

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