SarahMichigan (sarahmichigan) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
SarahMichigan
sarahmichigan
50bookchallenge

Books #11 & #12

Book #11 was "The Narrative of John Tanner," the 1956 edition. I'd read about Tanner in "Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country" by Louise Erdrich earlier this year and was really intrigued. Tanner was a white child kidnapped by Native Americans when he was 9 or 10 (accounts vary) in the 1790s and grew up with them, becoming a sort of honorary Ojibwe. In this edition, there are two introductions, the narrative, and a part 2 with glossaries of terms, lists of ceremonies, a section on poetry and music, etc.

In my opinion, the "introduction" from the time the story was originally published in the 1830s is completely useless and I would recommend skipping it. The briefer introduction to the 1956 edition was more helpful, putting the events in chronological context and explaining what happened to Tanner after his "Narrative" concludes.

The actual "as told to" narrative section is pretty fascinating. There were times I got bogged down in the hunting scenes and would have liked him to talk more about his family life (which he often totally ignores for years at a time in his narrative) but overall, this was a fascinating insight into Great Lakes Native American culture at this time. It's set largely in Michigan, though his band roves a lot, so names like "Drummond Island" and "Mackinac" and "St. Ignace" are very familiar to me, and it's fun to think about the history of those places. One thing that stuck out to me is that we white Americans have this idea that Indians are so respectful of animals, and in some ways they are, but in others, they aren't. There are several incidents of feuds between American Indians ending with the stabbing of someone's horse or the killing of someone's hunting dog. I guess assholes come in all colors and ethnic backgrounds.

The supplementary material in the second half is interesting, but again, I'd skip most of the horribly condescending and patronizing commentary by the white man who recorded it. I enjoyed learning the names of animals and plants, information about how their various ceremonies were carried out and the unique way they recorded the "lyrics" for songs in pictograms. This section is worth at least skimming, in my opinion.

I really liked this and would recommend it to others interested in this part of American history.

Book #12 was "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell" by Susanna Clarke. I know this book was hugely popular when it came out and I'm late to the bandwagon, but this book is, in short, amazing. In hardback, it's over 800 pages, and it was slightly over 1,000 pages as a paperback, and yet it never felt like a slog. In fact, when I got to the final 50 pages, I *still* didn't want it to be over.

At 100 pages in, I was thinking, "This is really fun and clever!" At 200 pages, I was thinking, "Wow, this is darker than I expected it to be." At 300 pages, I was cursing Susanna Clarke - how DARE she write something so good and so cleverly-constructed as her first freaking novel! By page 400, I had read that it took her 10 years to write the book, so I was a little less jealous. There's something about a very long novel, if done right, that really sucks me in and makes me feel like I'm living in another world, and that was the case here, in this story set during the Napoleonic Wars. It's about two English magicians who meet, work together but soon have a falling out, and how the events they set into motion bring real, practical magic (rather than theoretical magic, or history of magic) back to England.

If you've heard this book hyped and thought it must be over-hyped... it's not. It's really that good. Highly recommended.

1. Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection Paperback [fiction/graphic short story collection]- Matt Dembicki -Ed.
2. Light Music [fiction]- Kathleen Ann Goonan
3. The Indian Clerk [fiction]- David Leavitt
4. The Diving Bell & the Butterfly [non-fiction/memoir]- Jean-Dominique Bauby
5. Clarence Darrow: American Iconoclast [non-fiction]- Andrew E. Kersten
6. Blue Champagne [fiction/short stories]- John Varley
7. A Person of Interest [fiction]- Susan Choi
8. Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country [non-fiction]- Louise Erdrich
9. Nobody Nowhere [non-fiction]- Donna Williams
10. The Three Musketeers [fiction]- Alexandre Dumas (unabridged audiobook)
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