Archive for February, 2011


Happy 478th Birthday, Michel de Montaigne!

February 28, 2011

Perhaps, it’s our mutual recent readings of Sarah Bakewell’s fascinating and all around delightful Montaigne biography How to Live: Or a Life of Montaigne in 1 Question and 20 Attempts at an Answer, or maybe it’s the fact that it’s February 28th and I am in a birthday frame of mind that I feel we should take a moment from our fledgling Vilette discussion (full disclosure: I haven’t started reading it), and wish Michel de Montaigne, father of the essay, a happy 478th birthday, and while this sentence is more Proustian (in it’s many, many clauses), hopefully it’s highly discursive nature makes it sufficiently Montaignian to do ol’ Michel honor.


Happy birthday dear, Michel Eyquem de Montaigne.
Happy birthday to you.

Oh, and happy birthday to you, too, Twinner. Even though you haven’t single-handedly invented a literary form (yet!), I hope you have a great day!

Next time: Vilette!



What Do You Say About A Girl Like Villette?

February 24, 2011

That’s a real question…what do you say about a girl like Villette?  After the first chapter I’m not even sure that Villette’s in it yet (I’m assuming she’s the somewhat Jane Eyre-ish protagonist–who yet remains nameless.)  All I’ve got is that she’s sneaky (because she fakes being asleep) and she’s bland (because I don’t find her interesting).

But it’s early yet right?  I’ve only read the first chapter and its all of about 6 pages long in my book.  All we’ve got is that the narrator (Villette?) is living with Mrs. Bretton who has now taken in young Paulina.  And Paulina came with a housemaid Harriet (who’s also sneaky…I didn’t realize she was a character until like a page and a half after her entrance…I just thought Paulina talked funny during this interaction:

“What’s my little one’s name?” (Bretton)

“Missy” (who’s talking here…Bronte doesn’t say so I guessed orginally the aforementioned “little one”, but now I’m thinking maybe sneaky Harriet)

“But besides Missy?”

“Polly, papa calls her.” (Here originally I thought “why does Polly talk like Yoda?” but now I think (think) this actually might be Harriet talking…in my first reading I still didn’t realize that the character Harriet existed at this point.)

“Will Polly be content to live with me?”

“Not always; but till papa comes home.  Papa is gone away.” She shook her head expressively.  (Now here I think this definitely Polly…right?  Why would Harriet have expressive heads shakes about a man that means nothing to her other than a paycheck?)

“He will return to Polly, or send for her.”  (Mrs. Bretton)

“Will he ma’am? Do you know he will?” (Polly)

“I think so” (99.9% sure this Bretton)

“But Harriet thinks not: at least not for a long while.  He is ill.”  (Once again…this must be Polly…the first time this is where I was like “Who the hell is Harriet?”…or maybe Harriet’s just really pretentious and always refers to herself in the third person).

This is made all the more confusing because Bronte has an aversion to dialogic attributives in this chapter.  Going through it again it seems odd that Harriet would only be talking at the beginning and would then pass the conversational baton to Polly to carry on from the middle of the conversation.  So maybe Polly does talk like Yoda.


Anyway…Harriet’s sneaky.

Until next time,




February 13, 2011

Congratulations Twinner!  I knew you could finish!

Also I have a ready answer for the lack of TMNT-themed humor in my posts…how could I make Donatello-themed joke without leaking out a hint of where the plot was going?  You’ve time and time again scolded me for making such gaffes, so instead I stayed silent.  I did not want to be the Rocksteady and/or Bebop of this blog (for those not literate in crime fighting mutant turtles that translates into “bad guy”).

I’ve been taking this extra week that you necessitated for finish Lathe to explore some of my latest literary obsessions.  They are as follows.

  1. Sherlock Holmes.  I read The Sherlockian and although I felt over all pretty “meh” about that book it did make me realize that I have been remiss in my mystery reading to never have read the casebooks of the world’s foremost sleuth.  So I’ve checked out volume one of the Complete Annotated Sherlock Holmes.  Because mystery stories and footnotes are two of my favorite things, this book makes me as happy as a puppy with two tails.
  2. Father Brown.  I’ve rediscovered this maybe lesser-known British sleuth…largely because the first two books featuring him are available for **FREE** via the Stanza app on my iPhone (cf.  Innocence of Father Brown, Wisdom of Father Brown).  So I’ve decided to become a Father Brown completist and I’ve queued up book three and then after finishing all the stories (I think there are five books total?) I plan to watch the BBC series via Netflix (already queued up there too!).
  3. Montaigne.  Oh Montaigne!  I’ve long been fascinated by the father of the essay.  I’ve had his complete essays on my shelf for sometime, but never cracked the gigantic Penguin classic, but Sarah Bakewell’sHow to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer is reigniting and fanning the flames of my fascination.  Did you know that Montaigne shares our birthday…he was born February 28, 1533…we’re practically literary soul mates! (N.B. Blog readers two shopping weeks left until our birthday…carpe diem!)Reading this book I finally understand what that look in your eye means when you talk of Samuel Johnson.

But fear not!  I plan to carry on with these only tangentially now that we’ll be re-engaging in our tandem book reading.  I’ll dig Villette up from my book shelf and crack it in the next day or two.

Until then, have a Happy Valentines Day!


P.S.  You didn’t say…what the hell happened at the end of Lathe of Heaven…I was/am very confused.


Turtle Power

February 12, 2011

First things, first: I finished the book.

While reading the last quarter of the book, I couldn’t help but notice that turtle-like, elbow talking aliens played a, shall we say, featured role. And maybe it’s just me, but I thought it was a sort of unwritten rule of this blog that when turtles (or metaphysical turtle-like beings) play a featured role are we not at least marginally obligated to make at least a passing reference to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

I was waiting for you to say something like:

Jon: Boy, didn’t you think E’nememen Asfah was a literary antecedent to TMNT’s Raphael?
Justin: Please, E’nememen Asfah had the whimsicality of Michaelangelo, while demonstrating the pragmaticism of Donatello, and the deep spirituality of Splinter.
Jon: Splinter wasn’t a turtle, he was a rat.
Justin: Cowabunga!

Well, I couldn’t help but notice that your last few posts had failed make any mention at all to everyone’s favorite heros on a halfshell. Well consider that wrong, righted.

Actually, what really struck me about this book was that even though it’s 40 years old, a futuristic, dystopian novel written today could use many of these same elements. (Although, I can’t help but think that the internet and computers, in general, might play a larger role.) But the issues like climate change, population worries, etc. could be used almost wholesale.

In any case, I liked the book, but I am ready for something new. A change of pace, if you will, and I can’t help but think that if nothing else Emily Bronte’s Villette will be a change of pace from this alternate reality, alien-infested sci-fi romp.




Two Can Play At That Game

February 5, 2011

The Seven Samurai, eh? Oooo, someone is watching important movies, and making them relevant to this 1970s sci-fi classic. Well, Jonny, just like chess, checkers, Battleship, or Connect Four: Two can play at that game!

Why just the other night, after I slipped on leather slippers, tamped down the tobacco in my pipe, exchanged my tweed sportscoat with leathered elbows for my smoking jacket, and poured myself a snifter of brandy (now who’s cultured?), I popped a classic foreign film on DVD and couldn’t help but notice some startling parallels to Ursula K. LeGuin’s startling vision for the future!

Okay, so almost none of that is true. I mean I did watch a movie, but I was in a t-shirt and jeans, drinking Diet Coke, and I might have been watching Despicable Me (it was either that or The Last Song) and I didn’t so much “see parallels” as think: “Boy, I bet Heather LeLache and Orr would have loved to have that Gru’s shrink ray. That would have made short work of those Moon Aliens!”

Then I thought: “Ha! Short work-shrink ray! That’s hilarious! I didn’t even do that on purpose. I am writing that down. It’s going on the blog.”

And so it is.

Okay, so one game we can’t both play, is the “I Finished the Book Game.” It, like solitaire, sudoku, or the jumble must only be played by one. I’m working on it, though, and I am hoping to (maybe) finish Lathe this weekend. And now that you’ve enticed me some Bronte, well, just try and stop me.

There’s just one more thing that needs saying:

You sunk my battleship. (Sorry, can’t mention Battleship and not say it.)



The Dream Is Over

February 3, 2011

That’s right twinner…consider this book finished!  Let me tell you…those volcanoes, they emitted some fire.  I won’t go into detail…mostly because I’m so confused about what exactly happened. I hope you’ll have some insight about what exactly happened.  Help me.

To celebrate the end of the novel here’s a photo of Mount Hood:

Ah…makes me want to listen to some Beatles and talk to aliens about kitchenware.

Which reminds me of my favorite quotation from the book it came right near the end…

E’nememen Asfah stood immense in greenish armor, holding an egg whisk.

Also I’ve decided the next title on our reading odyssey…I’ve decided I want to get my Bronte on– let’s read some Villette.


P.S.  The image comes from misternaxal via Flickr.  CC.


The Code of the Samurai

February 1, 2011

**Spoiler Alert!** (I’ll just start every post that way from now on…I don’t want any surprises ruined for you.  Oh no mustn’t do that.  You know what’s another way to keep me from spoiling the story for you?  You actually picking up the book and reading a bit of the story every now and again.  That’s right Justin J. you’ve been served! (N.B.: I’m breaking dancing in my living room)).

I spent this afternoon watching Akira Kurosawa’s classic Seven Samurai…this fact is important for two reasons…1.)  It’s gotten me thinking about the Code of the Samurai and 2.)  It shows how amazingly cultured I am–Day off from work?  I’ll spend it watching a 3-and-a-half-hour long Japanese movie from the 1950s. (Pretty cultured.  I’m sorry I mistyped that…pretty AND cultured).

What does the Code of the Samurai have to do with Lathe of Heaven…nothing that I can see.  But Chapter Nine is a bit of dud.  Sure one character’s dead (maybe!–vague: your welcome).  I guess Orr does finally act (a little) by murmuring defiantly “‘Volcanoes emit fire.'” (at the end of a discussion with another character–once again vague–I don’t want to tell you who this character is that you may deduce the now missing character–I’m doing a lot of planning just for you, twin brother).  Way to end that fight with a cryptic non sequitur, Orr!

This saying is officially going to be my “go to” in arguments.  When I can’t justify leaving my dishes on the counter right above dish washer, instead of actually putting them in the dishwasher (I’ve tried, “I like to do all my bending at once”–it didn’t work)….I will now murmur with vehemence as I loudly clang each dish and glass into the plastic trays “Volcanoes emit fire.  Volcanoes emit fire.”

So my guess for the penultimate chapter is this…some volcanoes are going to emit some fire.

Wait!  I just got the meaning on another level…volcanoes often sit dormant for long periods of time (not unlike our Orr) until they unleash fiery destruction.  So maybe Orr is going to cause some mayhem…The Day the Milquetoast Went Sour!

See I was distracted by a very literal interpretation, because right before Orr murmurs this there’s some poetic waxing aboutt Mt. St. Helen’s.  (Is it Mt. St. Helens or Mt. St. Helen’s?–I’m too lazy to fact check)..or at least it gets mentioned.

See how useful this blog is for working out my thinking process!

****Spoiler Alert*******