Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hurple-ing Along


The cover of one Ellis Peter's medieval CSI Brother Cadfael stories--which has to be one of the best series ever for both quality and consistency in every aspect of the writer's craft through twenty volumes. There is no falling off.

I have been offline due to sheer exhaustion. I ran away from the net to indulge myself in such comfort reads as the Cadfael books and did damnall else. From a critical standpoint, I think one could spend a lifetime analyzing the virtues of this series.

A couple of posts ago I enthused about the figurative language and imagery in another series. But the Cadfaerl stories reminds me that imagery must not only be clever, it must be consistent with the period, the characters and the settings. (I retain a sense of anachronistic outrage over a story set in the 12th century I read once that had someone collapse "like a sack of potatoes.")
With Ellis we may put away such suspicion. We have such passages as "time was snapping at his heels like a herdsman's dog," "Behind them the looming clouds multiplied with black and omnious speed, dangling like overfull udders of venomous milk."
And " In the hall, the servants had begun to kindle the first torches and set them in their sconces, but in every corner, and in the smoky beams of the lofty roof, darkness gathered and clung, draped cobwebs of shadow."

Moreover, so good are her descriptive passages in general--whether of river, fields or interiors, of moonlight, starshine, or sunrise, of storms or seasons and their passing--that I remember and recognize these landscapes, seen that torrent, felt that heat or cold. She has found wonderfully visual words for those sights and the inchoate thoughts and feelings they engendered in me since childhood.

But besides the beauty and skill of her language, it is reassuring to read stories that invoke the values of courage, honour and duty and the basic decency of humankind.

20 comments:

Chris Eldin said...

Hi Bernita!
Your post below cracked me up. Thanks for the laugh!
:-)

A medieval whodunit! I love this concept. Off to check it out further..

About the floor, you see, with a puppy you wouldn't have to mop such spills. just sayin'...

moonrat said...

wow, what a coincidence--i've gone into a shell of re-reading (and then re-watching the BBC miniseries of) Cadfael this summer. in fact, i was planning a post on the series.

guess i'm in good company :)

laughingwolf said...

love it!

also those tales by umberto eco...

there was a series on cbc-tv[?] i quite enjoyed, believe it was the eco stories... or was it peter's?

'the name of the rose' was excellent...

glad you had time off just to rest and recuperate... hope it eased the back pain some, too :)

laughingwolf said...

i thought monk's hood was also a flower, it is:

http://www.nybg.org/visit/flowering_results.php?month=10

Travis Erwin said...

I think we all require that breather now and again.

Natasha Fondren said...

Oh nice! Have you read Eric Mayer and Mary Reed's mystery series, based in 5th century Constantinople? Or somewhere around there. *ducks head*

I've been thinking of you, Bernita. *hugs*

Whirlochre said...

It's a testament to taste, decency and all-round aptitude that the TV Cadfael role was awarded to Derek Jacobi over Sting and Mickey Dolenz.

According to Dolenz' agent, the ex-Monkee spent 6 months in Tibet preparing for the role only to discover that Sting had busked the whole monastic spiritualism thing c/o a surfing holiday in Honolulu.

Jacobi was originally hired as a mediator between the two pop icons, but so medieval-friendly was his hairdo, and the cut of his sack-cloth chic, he charmed the BBC production team into casting him.

Lana Gramlich said...

I used to watch Cadfael on TV. The books sound wonderful. I know we have some at our library. I'll have to check them out someday.

Charles Gramlich said...

Glad you've recovered a bit from your exhaustion. Sometimes it happens.

writtenwyrdd said...

Reading binges are one of the things that make life worth living. I hope you are fully recharged now.

I loved the Cadfael shows I saw, and was impressed by the qualities of humanity that infused them. I've never read the books, though I have several times thought about it.

One of these days, though.

writtenwyrdd said...

PS I'm still working on the Mrs Pollifax books. Mom loves the ones she's read so far. (I got 7.)

Angie said...

I actually have a couple of those. I remember liking them, but they're still packed so I don't know which ones they were. :/ One of those series where I meant to get more and haven't gotten around to it yet. It's great reading in a medieval setting where the writer clearly knows her stuff, though. That's one of my periods, and I'm hard to please there.

(I retain a sense of anachronistic outrage over a story set in the 12th century I read once that had someone collapse "like a sack of potatoes.")

[facepalm] Gads, yes. Or an idea hitting the character like a jolt of electricity. Or just modern colloquialisms, like, "Seriously, what were you thinking?" Nothing there that couldn't have been said in the Middle Ages (with proper translation to Middle or Early Modern English) but it screams modern. I also have issues with modern names, like a medieval romance featuring "Lady Taylor." [more headdesking] Seriously, what are these writers thinking? And what are their editors thinking, to let that into the published version? :(

Angie

stacy said...

You make good book recs, Bernita. Those are going on my wishlist right now.

raine said...

Glad you're resting & enjoying your reading, Bernita.

Bernita said...

Hi Chris!
I often use the dogs for floor cleaning but didn't want them to imbibe the cafffeine.
Am glad they are not puppies...else there might be a different kind of puddle to clean...just sayin'

You have excellent

Funny, LW, I find Eco tedious in the extreme. Maybe I didn't have my mouth set right when I read The Rose.
Monkshood as a title is a deliberate pun. The mystery revolves around a poisoning.

Travis, I've been overwhelmed to the point I just wanted to lie back, read, and Not Think.

Bless you, Natasha.Don't think so. Must put it on my list.

Interesting, Whirl! Haven't seen the series but I trust he did justice to the character.

You will not be disappointed, Lana, and you will enjoy the print visuals.

Thank you, Charles. Feel guilty about it though.

Am so glad about the Polifax books, Written!
You won't regret Cadfael either.

Exactly, Angie! But nothing jarred me in the Cadfael books and I thought the civil war of Stephen and Maud, its allegiances and factions, which is the socio-political background of the stories was well and fairly represented.

Stacy, I'm sure you'll love them. A truly satisfying series.

Thank you, Dear Raine.Hope to crawl back soon.

laughingwolf said...

no worries re. eco... if we all saw things the same way, many of us would be redundant ;) lol

figgered a pun was involved ;)

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