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Middlemarch: An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds, Reviews and Criticism (A Norton Critical Edition)
Bert G. Hornback, George Eliot
The Magic Mountain
Thomas Mann, John E. Woods
Love in the Time of Cholera
Gabriel García Márquez
Last Argument of Kings - Joe Abercrombie A few nice narrative surprises here, as it turns out. Not sure if it brings everything together or not, but it's good times nonetheless.

One refrain throughout is Adorno's point from The Authoritarian Personality and Fromm's in Escape from Freedom that "the vast majority of men would far rather be told what to do than make their own choices" (Abercrombie 140). It's presented numerous ways, again and again. How that works with the determinist causality identified in volume II is not something through which I've thought.

A few admirable moments of self-ridicule, such as when, after the novel had previously suggested that a king and a peasant girl may marry, it concludes "The king and the peasant girl. Absurd. The most hackneyed storybook would never suggest it" (229).

The book's conclusion is reminiscent of The Thousandfold Thought, to the extent that there's a military-magickal showdown in the center of an important city, with innovative magickes of mass destruction deployed. The similarity stops there, though. (The little wedding dance competition thingy (268) recalls a similar scene in Beaulieu's The Winds of Khalakovo, incidentally.) The final quasi-solution in the battle reveals the setting to possess an anti-Gandalf--one who would in fact take the Ring, and use it.

Some folks have made a big deal over how things fall out for a certain bride. I see the gender critics' point: the non-heterosexual character's function is to be raped so that another character or the setting is exposed as Evil, &c. That said, the character in question is an absolutely and irredeemably horrible person, possessing a heinous sense of self-entitlement and the most execution-worthy class-based snobbery & privilege:--a true aristocrat, deferring only to blood & soil: "at least his blood was clean!" (271), and so on. (Perhaps, however, part of the gender critics' point is also that "oh, of course the non-heterosexual can only be a complete asshole.") It's nasty. Not suggesting that gangrape is a suitable punishment for aristocrats--but execution is fine, as far as I'm concerned. Sadly, the narrative goes the wrong way on that issue.

The kingmaking sections certainly reveal an anti-Merlin, especially when the anti-Arthur was "bought from a whore" for "six marks" (596). I suppose this means that the failed quest of volume II is this anti-arthurian story's inversion of the Sangraal segments in Malory's Frynsshe Booke, and that, even though the "Lord's Round" is destroyed in this tale, the major players tend to carry on. Definitely the coolest part of the series, as it turned out, and I'm confident that a close reading of the entire trilogy will bear out both micro- and macro-inversions and refutations of the Matter of Britain.

Very much recommended for men made of murder, those who think rules are for children, and tellers of secrets.