The Lady, the Unicorn, and Grendel: High Summer Read-a-Thon Wrap Up #HSReadathon

28 Jul

high summer read-a-thon 2014 (437x600)

I really enjoyed participating in the High Summer Read-a-thon! Despite a busy week with work demands, I finished one book and made good progress in two others. I looked forward to the focused reading time when I was able to grab it!

I finished The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier, our July selection for TuesBookTalk Read-a-longs. My Goodreads review is here. Chevalier is best known for The Girl with the Pearl Earring, which offers a narrative to accompany the creation of Vermeer’s famous painting. Once again, in The Lady and the Unicorn, she teaches well  the process of art-making–tapestry weaving, in this case–and engagingly imagines the lives of the people who commissioned and executed this ambitious project just at the turn of the 16th Century. The real series of six tapestries is currently housed in a dedicated room at the Musée national du Moyen Âge, formerly the Musée de Cluny. Its website gives a glimpse of some of them, but the whole set can be viewed online, something I did while reading the novel and especially after I finished it.

Lady and the Unicorn cover

I’m past the halfway mark in my reading of John Gardner’s Grendel–enough to catch the tone of its surly, surreal power. It feels as archaic as the world of the Beowulf poem–probably more so, since it is told from the viewpoint of the primeval, man-crunching monster. But very much as in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the monster’s sad, frustrated musings become a satire on the human world he can never really enter. In Grendel’s case, it is especially a commentary on heroic poetry and the morality of masking violence in literary grandeur–the ways such art can distort our very memory of events.

Grendel cover

As I read, I was also struck by Emil Antonucci’s cryptic interior illustrations of the hairy Grendel’s face, which headed each chapter. In profile (below), his features were discernible, but when he was shown facing forward, the features were hidden and then gradually emerged like a visual illusion.

grendel by emil antonucci

I became quite absorbed in Elizabeth Gilbert’s impressive novel The Signature of All Things. I decided to concentrate on it rather than splitting my time between it and Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, which I had just begun. I ended up reading about one third of Gilbert’s botanical family-saga, and so much has already happened! I will return to say more about this one when I’ve finished it.

Signature of All Things cover

Here is a summary of my reading for the week:
1. The Lion and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier (finished).
2. Grendel by John Gardner (halfway done).
3. The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gardner (one third done).
4. Beowulf, trans. by J. R. R. Tolkien, intro. By Christopher Tolkien (read introduction and a good start on Tolkien’s magnificent prose).
5. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (just a taste so far, but good).
6. Last Bus to Woodstock by Colin Dexter (didn’t get to this one, except for the Prologue).

Big thanks to Michelle, who is indeed The True Book Addict, for organizing and hosting the event at Seasons of Reading! I’ll be back next season!

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4 Responses to “The Lady, the Unicorn, and Grendel: High Summer Read-a-Thon Wrap Up #HSReadathon”

  1. Laura @Booksnob July 28, 2014 at 4:53 pm #

    I finished the Lady and the Unicorn too and am looking forward to next month’s book by Sue Monk Kidd. I just got it in the mail today. I need to start Goldfinch soon because that is my book for august in Book Club.

    • fictional100 July 28, 2014 at 11:07 pm #

      Thanks, Laura, for stopping by! We’re definitely in synch with our upcoming reading–I still need to get Kidd’s book myself. I’ll be interested in your opinions on any/all of these. 🙂

  2. thetruebookaddict July 30, 2014 at 3:22 am #

    I’m so glad you joined me for the read-a-thon, Lucy. You had a productive reading week. I’m happy you enjoyed it. I have had Grendel on my shelves for years and you have made me really want to read it. I think I will very soon. Perhaps this Fall.

    Sorry I missed the chat last night. I have severe environmental allergies (to dust, etc.) that I keep in check with Zyrtec and I ran out and missed taking it for two days. I had respiratory issues all day yesterday. Ugh. I’m almost finished with Lady and the Unicorn. I have to say, I really loved it. I was a big fan of Pearl Earring so I’m not really surprised. Signature of All Things is also on my list to read very soon.

    • fictional100 July 30, 2014 at 9:59 am #

      Thanks, Michelle! I really enjoyed the event!

      I have pollen and mold allergies, which I have to keep after daily, so I completely understand. Hope you are feeling better and can truly breathe a sigh of relief today. 🙂

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