Ostap Bender is an unemployed con artist living by his wits in postrevolutionary Soviet Russia. He joins forces with Ippolit Matveyevich Vorobyaninov, a former nobleman who has returned to his hometown to find a cache of missing jewels which were hidden in some chairs that have been appropriated by the Soviet authorities. The search for the bejeweled chairs takes these unlikely heroes from the provinces to Moscow to the wilds of Soviet Georgia and the Trans-caucasus mountains; on their quest they encounter a wide variety of characters: from opportunistic Soviet bureaucrats to aging survivors of the prerevolutionary propertied classes, each one more selfish, venal, and ineffective than the one before.
Well, I finally finished reading The Twelve Chairs by Ilf and Petrov… in a word, surprising. The translation from Russian to English is, to say the least, rough at times; I’m sure there are many Russian cultural jokes and references that I simply have no hope of understanding. But overall it was fairly entertaining, as long as you’re happy reading the odd passage with the knowledge that you’ll never really understand it’s meaning.
The story revolves around the two main characters, Ippolit Matveyevich Vorobyaninov, a former nobleman, and Ostap Bender, who is essentially a crook. The setup is simple: just before Vorobyaninov’s mother-in-law dies she reveals that she has hidden a cache of jewels in one of her twelve dining room chairs, which has been taken by Soviet authorities. Vorobyaninov is then joined by Bender, and the two of them go on a cross-country search to find the chairs and recover the jewels. Along the way, in order to fund their journey, Bender comes up with some rather ridiculous schemes in order to con people out of their money.Continue reading...
Brown's latest thriller (after Angels and Demons)is an exhaustively researched page-turner about secret religious societies, ancient coverups and savage vengeance. The action kicks off in modern-day Paris with the murder of the Louvre's chief curator, whose body is found laid out in symbolic repose at the foot of the Mona Lisa. Seizing control of the case are Sophie Neveu, a lovely French police cryptologist, and Harvard symbol expert Robert Langdon, reprising his role from Brown's last book. The two find several puzzling codes at the murder scene, all of which form a treasure map to the fabled Holy Grail. As their search moves from France to England, Neveu and Langdon are confounded by two mysterious groups-the legendary Priory of Sion, a nearly 1,000-year-old secret society whose members have included Botticelli and Isaac Newton, and the conservative Catholic organization Opus Dei. Both have their own reasons for wanting to ensure that the Grail isn't found. Brown sometimes ladles out too much religious history at the expense of pacing, and Langdon is a hero in desperate need of more chutzpah. Still, Brown has assembled a whopper of a plot that will please both conspiracy buffs and thriller addicts.
Hmm… what can I say. Well, first off, it was better than Decipher. ‘course, that’s not really saying much, now is it?
It’s not actually that bad of a book, as far as pulply action stuff goes. At least, unlike Decipher, it was actually written like a book, as opposed to feeling like a screenplay that got rejected and then converted. The pacing is pretty decent, the language middling, the plot not terrible, although I have to admit that I always expect stories like this to involve some amount of globe trotting, something this book certainly lacks… there are probably 6 major locations (as in, places the characters tarried for some period) in the entire novel, three in France, three in the UK.
The plot itself is decent enough… like I say, it’s not the most ambitious work of it’s type, but it keeps the reader entertained, and there is a reasonable twist at the end when you discover who The Teacher is. OTOH, I’m not the type to try and guess at plot twists while I’m reading, so I’m easily impressed when I get the answer. ;)Continue reading...
So we went to visit my Granda Kosinski on the Easter weekend… first time in, like, 5 months, much to my chagrin. Anyway, she lives down in Camrose, so we did the drive down there and visited for a couple hours and did the usual… talked talked talked. Well, during the course of discussions, we some how landed on the topic of books, and I discovered a rather interesting little factoid: apparently my great-grandma’s, and hence also my grandma’s, favourite book was/is “The Count of Monte Cristo”! Heck, my grandma owns two copies of the book, and while we were chatting about it, proceeded to describe some of the major plot points, something I can barely do with any book I’ve read. Now, this in and of itself is interesting, particularly since my great-grandma, when first introduced to the book, couldn’t actually read, and so only knew it because she heard other people reading it out loud. But the other thing that makes this all rather ironic, at least to me, is that TCMC is one of a small handful of books that I consciously chose not to finish (one of the others being “The Plague”, by Albert Camus, but I think I can hardly be blamed for that one).
Anyway, I think I can do nothing but make another attempt at the book, so back into the queue it goes. Which means I should get to it sometime… next year, maybe.
So, in my on-going search for ways to justify the purchase of my PDA, I’ve decided to try and read my first e-book on the thing, specifically “The Da Vinci Code”.
Okay, quit laughing. I’m entitled to read a little pulp from time to time, too, ya know. So piss off! And, hey, it can’t be as bad as Decipher. No, seriously, it really can’t. If an author tried to write a book worse than that, I’m pretty sure his/her own lower intestine would reach up and strangle him/her, Douglas-Adams-style.
Anyway, surprisingly enough, the experience has been remarkably positive. I absolutely love real, physical books as much as the next guy (actually, probably more… I have this really nasty habit of “stopping in” to book stores and walking out with two or three new items to add to my collection. Which would be fine if paperbacks still cost $5, rather than the current going rate which is upwards of $10… frickin’ wallet rapists), and still think that the classic paper book provides a superior overall reading experience, although that’s probably at least in part due to nostalgia. But I have to admit, this whole e-book thing might not be so crazy after all.
Now, going in, I knew that e-books have some problems:
- Eye fatigue.
- Difficult to see in bright-light conditions.
- Poorer “random access” facilities.
- Less durable (for obvious reason).
In my case, the first two were my major concerns, especially given my poorer vision. But, as it turns out, it’s not as bad as I thought. The screen on my TX is clear and readable. The brightness controls make it pretty usable in a variety of light levels (though reflection is an issue). And as for the other issues, well, I can deal with them. Plus, e-books have a few advantages:
- Smaller pocket-print, thus easier to carry around.
- Easy to read one-handed, or even no-handed with autoscroll.
- Ability to adjust fonts, colours, etc, to suit the reader.
- Can carry around a whole collection of books easily.
- Very easy to just power on and read. The reader automatically remembers where I was and opens directly to where I left off.
- Works in dark environs. I could read while Lenore’s sleeping, if I wanted.
- Allows me to easily read material from resources like Project Gutenberg without having to print stuff off.
As for actual software, I really can’t say enough good things about PalmFiction. Unfortunately, the only things the author can say are in Russian, so you kinda have to fumble a bit with it. But once you do, wow! The feature set is incredible!
- Reads txt, PalmDoc, Word files, RTF, and others, and can even read compressed files.
- Can display the text using anti-aliased fonts converted from TTF sources.
- Supports any screen orientation, so you can read left- or right-handed.
- Can display in true full screen on hi-res devices. No wasted screen space!
- Does a great job of word wrapping and hyphenation.
- It’s FREE.
And there’s probably many more features I neglected to mention. Truely an awesome program, and far better than trying to read PDFs using PalmPDF.
On a separate but related note, the next e-book on my list is a Russian work called The Twelve Chairs, by Ilf and Petrov. ‘course, I was originally planning to read The Golden Calf by the same authors, as recommended by Arkadi, our resident Syberian. However, the folks at that site haven’t completed the translation, and the last thing I want is to be left hanging halfway through. ;)
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