Summerland by Michael Chabon
What would happen if you combined Native American legend, American folk stories, Norse mythology, and baseball? This book. And it is every bit as odd as you’d expect the resulting blend to be, though I have to admit that the disparate elements work together better in the story than they have any right to. The basic plot: some children join with some fairies and play baseball games across fairyland to save the world from Coyote (a.k.a. Loki).
I liked some parts of Summerland, but I did not love it. I am not a huge fan of baseball, but I have a soft spot in my heart for the sport, so I don’t think baseball was the problem. I know two baseball fans who also read the book. One loved it. The other felt, like I did, that it was a long slog, but he thought the baseball parts were the highlights. So I would recommend this book only for readers who are fans of fantasy and baseball. As to why I gave it a B+ even though I thought it was a long slog: it is well written and inventive, and I don’t regret having read it.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
In American Gods, an ex-con named Shadow is offered a job by a strange man. He takes the job and finds himself embroiled in the battle between the ancient gods (brought to America in the heads and hearts of immigrants) and the modern gods (born of television, computers, mall shopping, etc.).
Depending on your interests, you might find this premise intriguing or silly. The story is both intriguing and silly in the way it plays out. The words that I think best describe American Gods, though, are meandering, predictable, anticlimactic, and occasionally icky. One of my former coworkers, who writes so beautifully and aspires to be a published author herself, thinks this book is magnificent. It boggles my mind. But perhaps she has a bit of a point. I would have graded American Gods lower had it not been for Gaiman’s writing style, which is quite readable and the only thing that saves the book from the trash heap.
The Hummingbird by Eleanor Farjeon
I once said I hoped to read more of Eleanor Farjeon’s work. That sounds like an easy task, but much of it is out of print and consequently hard to get. I was fortunate that my library system had a single copy of Farjeon’s The Hummingbird.
The Hummbingbird is about a girl with the ability to see the past history of any object she touches. While staying with her aunt who owns an antique store, she encounters some objects of royal origin, including a hummingbird music box. The stories that these objects tell her combine fact and fiction in a strange (but interesting) attempt to answer one of history’s mysteries.
The library book was old and in sorry shape. I didn’t really mind, except that I was concerned for the book’s future (something I asked my husband to mention when he returned the book for me, because without some help it’s not going to survive many more readings). I like reading old books, even disintegrating ones. It is partly because I love an old book’s aura of history. I may not be able to read the past like the girl in the story, but just the smell of old paper stirs stories in my mind. I also like the idea of discovering a lost classic.
Time is a good at sorting the literary wheat from the literary chaff. I should probably trust it better than I do, but I know it sometimes makes mistakes. In this case, though, I’d have to say that Time’s judgment was fair. While beautifully nostalgic, The Hummingbird is dated and at times hard to follow. I liked it and I don’t regret the time I spent reading it, but I would not recommend it for others.