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Wednesday, 18 January 2006 00:00

Recommended diversions

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A Soldier of the Great War

Recently a friend recommended this book to my 17-year-old son as a sort of fictional primer for growing into manhood. Though I had enjoyed the novel when I read it 10 years ago, I found that when I began thumbing through it I had forgotten what a fine book it really was. Mark Helprin’s story of Alessandro Giuliani, a septuagenarian war hero and professor of aesthetics, is a tale of incredible adventures ranging from mountain climbing in the Alps to some of the savage battles of World War I. Helprin’s Alessandro is a wise man, filled with insights from a lifetime of loving life itself. Particularly fine is Alessandro’s comments on the subjects of beauty, sex, women, and love.

“Lord of the Rings,” Expanded Version

The difference between “The Lord of the Rings” videos and the expanded version of the same film was astounding. Even my sons, who have frequently seen director’s cuts and other expanded versions of different films, were blown away by this difference. The expanded version tells us much more about each of the characters, gives us greater insight into the storyline, and deepens our appreciation for the films’ great music and cinematography, all without getting tedious or boring. Indeed, this expanded version seems nearly a new movie altogether. See these films when you have lots of time to enjoy them.

Winter Hiking

In many ways, the winter months provide some of the best hiking of the year, particularly on those days when the temperature rises into the 50s and the sun is shining. There are no insects, no snakes for those who fear snakes, only a few tourists, and no foliage to hide spectacular views. Even an in-town hike — here in Waynesville, the path through the recreation park is one I often use for walking or running — can provide an easy, quiet sense of solitude and peace.

Apple cider

A friend recently gave me a gallon of apple cider that she had sparked up with spices, a few tablespoons of sugar, and a dash of orange juice. On those cold winter evenings when you’re reading A Soldier of the Great War, watching Frodo and Sam battling the forces of darkness, or recovering from a day hike, a cup of this cider simply adds to the great pleasure of being alive in these mountains.

— Jeff Minick

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