Archive for June, 2009

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Quell Surpise

June 27, 2009

Hold on a second and let me get pretend to be surprised that your favorite character is the only animal on the boat.  You did after all make me read The Wind in the Willows.  Why I bet the only thing that could make Bebe more likeable to you was if he wore a monocle and drove a roadster…now that would be a story!

I like Jenny.

But I agree that all the characters are still confusing (and putting similarly named characters in the same room…David and Denny–what?!).  I’ve stopped trying to tie them to any back story I may already know.  I just enjoy each little vignette for what its worth and if I remember any traits of the characters that have previously been mentioned…why that is just frosting on the cake.  (mmm, frosting).

I’ve been cococting my own Ship of Fools backstory.   Since everyone on this journey has a back story filled with drama (no one’s just like, “I’m on vacation…look at that sea gull!”).  I’d be a young librarian on my way to rebuild Germany’s libraries after World War II.  Trying to leave behind memories of my broken heart…only to find my ex-lover(s) on the ship.  This boat is too small for us both Herr Glocken!  I won’t let you hurt me anymore Graf!  I miss your oily skin and double chins my sweet, sweet Elsa!

Dramatic, no?

I enjoyed that you slipped in just how far you were in the book and I admit that you are a bit further ahead (I still haven’t found the pingpong part!)  But I’m making good progress.

I’m working on themes found in this book…here’s what I’ve got so far

  1. Travelling sucks.
  2. Take airplanes.

It’s a work in progress.

Until next time…

Jon

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Playing Favorites

June 25, 2009

That, Twinner, is an interesting question you pose:

Who is my favorite character?

After giving this much thought, making a thorough review of the 177 pages I’ve read so far, and revisiting the handy-dandy roster of characters in the front portion of the book, I have come to this conclusion:

Bebe.

That’s right, the Hutten’s seasick bulldog.

I can identify with his inability to gather his bearings, his desire to please, and his occasional bouts of seasickness. That and the dog is really the only character I can accurately remember in this sea of Fraus and Herrs, Captains, and Doctors.

Ship of Fools is sort of the novelistic equivalent of a Where’s Waldo illustration. Only, I don’t know who Waldo is or what he looks like, and he’s not wearing his eye-catching stocking cap. Each page is packed with so much detail (some enlightening, some extraneous) that I don’t know what I am supposed to be taking away from each episode.

But that’s my problem and not yours. 

Amid the ocean of detail I did come across what perhaps has been my favorite line in the book so far:

Stop tying everything up in your neat little bowknots!”

The funny thing is, I say the exact same thing when I get frustrated.

Justin

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Your Welcome, The 80s, and Twins

June 23, 2009

Hallo hallo!

First off you’re welcome for the trip down memory lane…I remember many a night we spent in our shared bedroom in Slater reminiscing about Mother’s Tea memories (“Oh how I to-ed and fro-ed…and away I went!” and “The tea was a delight, such weather!  such teacakes!”–and then I’d be like “Justin we have to go back to college tomorrow…time for sleep.”) that I thought you might appreciate another return visit.

Second, it’s funny that Mr. T haunts your reading of Ship of Fools for me its another 80s icon, Max Headroom

Max Headroom

Max Headroom

“Herr Glocken’s head appeared between the l-l-l-long curtains. Long curtains.”

And how about me randomly picking a second (!) book that features twins in this blog about twins reading.  Amazing no?  First it was the ninety-six twins of Huxley’s dystopic Brave New World and now Ric and Rac–that troublesome twosome of Lola’s wreaking havoc with their high sea shenanigans.

What a happy coincidence.

So do you have any favorite characters (goodness knows there’s plenty to choose from!).

My favorites right now are the abovementioned Herr Glocken and Herr Graf, the invalid, and his angry nephew Johann…what’s up with them?

Well I’ll read on now and find out,

Jon

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I Pity the “Fools”

June 22, 2009

Thank you for that trip down memory lane with your colorful invocation of the Annual Mother’s Tea. I remember many an afternoon practicing polkas and other traditional dances. I remember my moving rendition of “Heel and Toe, and Away We Go” brought a tear to many eye.

Perhaps, I missed my true calling in life. I could have had quite the career as a professional folk dancing. I could have done for folk dancing what Beyonce has done for pop music.

I have a Ship of Fools-related confession to make. Ever since you’ve picked this title, I read the title and I instantly think of Mr T saying “I pity this Ship of Fools.” From there it went to imaging Mr. T summarizing key plot points (e.g. “I pity the fool who takes a boat from Veracruz to Bremerhaven” or “I pity the fool who forced La Condesa into exile”).

But now, it’s gotten a bit out of out hand, I now imagine  Mr. T’s voice reading the entire book. This has lead me to two thoughts:

1.) I spend a lot of time while reading this book pitying fools.
2.) Mr T. should think of a second career as an audiobook performer. (In my imagining his reading of Mrs. Treadwell is absolutely heartbreaking.)

Well, I best get back to the Ship. Here’s wishing you smooth sailing.

Justin

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To and Fro and Away We Go

June 18, 2009

Your last mention of to-ing and fro-ing has transported me back 20+ years to a beautiful spring day in Slater.  It’s first grade and the students of Slater Elementary are hosting the mother’s tea–celebrating our maternal affection through a series of circle dances.

Actually when you mentioned the narrative to and fro-ing it made me think of the gentle undulations of a sea voyage…the narrative reinforces the very journey the characters are on…Miss Porter you are a genius!

I haven’t got to the ping pong match, but I for one find table tennis to be inherently erotic…just like head cheese.  But I was surprised to find out that little Lizzi had any kind of romance on the ship…Jenny love’s description of her was less than kind:

…the discouraged face with the double chin, the crease of fat like a goiter at the base of the throat, the oily skin, the faded gray eyes without the light of spirit, the dull thick hair, the heavy haunches, the gross ankles.

Gee Jenny love, you forgot her hunched back and love of bell-ringing (because that description makes here sound like Quasimodo–but I guess even Quasi had his Esmerelda.  Note:  I’m citing the Disney musical movie and not the actual book, which I haven’t read).

And how can ankles be gross?

Oh I just realized that I got Lizzi mixed up with Elsa–who the hell is Lizzi?

This description reminded me of Aldous Huxley’s less than kind description of Linda in Brave New World.

I’ve just got to the part where they leave Cuba…in case you want to know so you don’t give anything too good away (i.e.  things involving ping pong).

Best,

Jon

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“Fool”-ish Thoughts

June 17, 2009

Well, I too was on vacation last week, and put aside Ship of Fools for a few days. I picked it up last Sunday to while away the time while I was traveling home. Katherine Anne Porter and her boatload (literally!) of characters were good company on a rather long flight.

Whether it was youthful and hotblooded David and Jenny or Herr Professor Hutton and his seasick dog, or  La Condesa on her way to political exile, or one of the handful of other characters I can’t keep straight because they haven’t been all that well developed. 

The narrative to-ing and fro-ing jumping from one story line to the next makes me feel like I am in the middle of what might be the longest soap opera ever produced. Not since Days of our Lives: Cruise of Deception has so much drama taken place on the high seas. I am just waiting for La Condesa to become possessed by a demon or find out that Dr. Schumann has an evil twin. 

While this narrative approach does keep things interesting (I am no sooner bored by Elsa the Swiss hotelkeepers’ daughter before Lizzi Spockenkieker gets into a sexually charged game of ping-pong with Herr Rieber.) it makes it a challenge to keep all the various characters and narrative tracts straight in my mind.

But I guess this is more a flaw with me than with the book. (I know what you’re thinking: me, have a flaw, hard to believe.)

Anyway, the voyage continues. I am about a quarter of the way through the book. According to the book, we’ve got 20 more days on the boat, so we’ll see if Katherine Anne Porter can sexually charge any other popular leisure activities. (Lookout shuffleboard!)

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Travelling with Ship of Fools

June 14, 2009

So I didn’t read any of Ship of Fools while I was on vacation in North Carolina…I was heartily distracted by Lake Wobegon Days, hammocks, ice cream trucks, and Wright Brothers history…so the book stayed in my bag, nary a page turned.

But I did learn that Orville and Wilbur Wright were geniuses…with only a high school education, the tour guide said so like eight times.

But I’ve righted (Wrighted?) that wrong on my most recent trip to Austin.  While I sat on perhaps the world’s tiniest airplane I got lost in the mini-vignettes of my fellow travellers Mrs Treadwell, Wilhelm Denny, and little Hans.  As the baby wailed three seats back and the beverage cart squeaked by I felt like I, too was on that ship.

As I begin my novelistic voyage I feel slightly overwhelmed by all the characters being thrown at me (who’s got the big arm bruise?  Who’s the dwarf?) but I really like the way Porter effortlessly glides from character to character and I’m excited to read more.

I also find myself constantly thinking “Was this character played by Vivian Leigh?” (I think it was Mrs. Treadwell).

Here’s what I’ve noted…these people are traveling because of “necessity and not the caprices of a pleasure voyage.”  I think that’s important.  If I were the casually highlighting type I would have probably dayglo-ed (orange, methinks) this fragment.  Perhaps even put a little exclamation point in the margin (in ink…I don’t do highlight marginalia).

I’ll be interested to hear what you’re thinking,

Jon