I am, in fact, alive. There is Bad Stuff going down at work, and of course I'm not going to talk about my work on my blog because I'm not an idiot. (Well, I am in many aspects, but not this.) Anyhoodle, due to the Bad Stuff, reading and the blog have both been neglected, except that I forced myself through the entirety of Ivanhoe, which I didn't enjoy one bit, because I am disappointed in myself regarding the Bad Stuff and so needed to be punished.
(Eventually I did start to skim. Like the chapter where the fool and Richard the Lion-Hearted trade twelfth-century Saxon jokes for fifteen pages? Skimmed like the wind!)
I do not recommend Ivanhoe - Scott is really invested in clothes, castles, and food, and leaves the plot pretty much entirely up to the reader. I remember rather liking it as a teenager, but can't now recall why. The 1982 miniseries, however, comes highly recommended (of course I had to watch that other feather in Anthony Andrews' cap after "The Scarlet Pimpernel"). It mostly consists of everyone, including the director, just staring open-mouthed at Olivia Hussey. This is natural. Holy cow, that face.
I also read Good Bones and Simple Murders by Margaret Atwood, which was very odd. It's an early bunch of what are not even quite stories, but very short (sometimes only a couple of paragraphs) takes on myths and fairy tales. Some of them I liked; some were embarrassingly amateurish, especially "Gertrude Talks Back". I came across that somewhere else years ago, and was floored to see it again here; I had no idea it was by Atwood. This collection reminded me a lot of Neil Gaiman's short stories / myth fragments: occasionally awesome, mostly unimpressive.
I could see, however, where she came back to some of these ideas for The Penelopiad, and that makes me glad she tried them out. It's like reading Hilary Mantel's incredibly flawed A Place of Greater Safety after reading Wolf Hall - I'm glad she wrote the first one, because it was clearly a testing ground for the second, and is probably the reason the second is so good.
Now reading Death in the City of Light: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris by David King. It is an absolutely crazy story. I'm not sure what I think of King's writing per se, but the story is so bizarre that it's fairly gripping.