Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Empty Bottle Was Half-Empty

#78 -- "A Grand Illusion?" by Tony Judt
#79 -- "Wizard and Glass" by Stephen King

I did a little searching on Judt recently to see if he had anything new coming out, and geez, he's apparently been stricken with a pretty severe case of ALS and is now paralyzed from the neck down. Details here. Horrid news and I wish him all the best. That spurred me to finally take "A Grand Illusion?" off my shelf and give it a full read. It's a collection (or adaptation, not really sure) of three lectures on Europe from the mid-1990s. The first one talks a lot about the European Economic Community and agricultural laws and the like, which is why I never got through it before now. Getting by things that I'm not really into, it's very good, of course, though parts are outdated. No longer much of a question over whether the Baltic nations will get into the EU or whether Schengen will be expanded. But the more timeless issues -- nationalism especially -- get good treatment.

"Wizard and Glass" is part four of King's "Dark Tower" series -- I get to this now after last reading part three in 1993 or so. That's probably not ideal as far as keeping up with the plot, but it's easy enough to get back into it. I won't take 16 years to get to part five, but I'm not going to rush to it either -- even though about 75 percent of this is up there with King's best work. The lengthy flashback to the main character's youth takes up most of the book and is fantastic. When it gets back to the "present" and his journey with three damaged people from the real world, my interest subsequently plummets. It's interesting and a fun ride but I'm not sure how cohesive the whole thing really is -- just in this volume alone (and with a very sketchy memory of the others) it seems more like Dungeons & Dragons than a novel. The characters meander along and get new challenges tossed at 'em. But I also know this series ended up being pretty well-loved so I'll get back to it at some point.

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