Archive for September, 2011

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The Things He Carried

September 28, 2011

That was a very pretty picture of books.  But I don’t care, read this one.

Good try though…attempting to distract me with pictures of books…I could look at pictures of books all day.  Most notably here and here.  But I will not be waylaid in guilting you to start this book.  Each chapter is nine pages (and its not exactly Derrida).

I chose Derrida there because I had to read some of his stuff in college and I never knew what the hell he was saying, but after reading him my brain always hurt and I needed a nap.

But don’t fear that I’ve left you back on shore…oh no!…Stevenson stingily keeps the open seas (and pirates and treasure) well hidden through the first four chapters of this book.  Way to play his cards close to his chest!

So I’m still a reading “landlubber”.

I wanted to share an amusing aspect of the character of Bill the “Pirate” (there has been no indication that he is, in fact, a pirate–other than his penchant for sea shanties).  I hope this facet of his character doesn’t skew your virgin reading.

Here, drum roll please, is what is in Bill’s pockets:

A few small coins, a thimble, and some thread and big needles, a piece of pigtail tobacco bitten away at the end, his gully with the crooked handle, a pocket compass, a tinder box…

These seem more like the things our grandmother would carry with her (although Stevenson leaves it up in the air as to whether Bill had secreted a tissue in his sweater sleeve).  Arrgh ye can’t terrorize the seven seas when ye got a tear in your pantaloons!  I never plunder booty without me thimble!  Polly want an etui?

Another thing I’m noting in this book is Stevenson’s abuse of the adverb (although I’m not sure what he employs actually qualify as real adverbs…they seem more like adjectives with an “ly” haphazardly tacked on).

Here are two examples:

  1. A full moon was beginning to rise and peered redly through the upper edges of the fog…
  2. This sudden noise startled us shockingly…

How does something peer redly?  How else would one be startled but shockingly?

I don’t how much of that I can take I exasperated aggravatedly.

Jon

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8 Simple Reasons I Haven’t Started ‘Treasure Island’

September 24, 2011

So, you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t started Robert Louis Stevenson’s pirate ship adventure yet. Sadly, I missed out on the kismet of starting the book on National Talk Like a Pirate Day. (Unfortunately, my pirate-based holidays begin and end with International Shake Your (Pirate) Booty Day–Arrr!)

Honestly though, there is a more practical reason for my delayed start. That reason is best expressed in the following visual aid:

 

My blessing and my curse

 

 

That’s right, roughly every book that I have ever put a hold on at the local library has come in at once. So, I have three weeks or less to read this mammoth pile of prose.

I will do my best to squeeze in a chapter or two of Treasure Island in the meantime. I hate to abandon you on the high seas yourself.

So, look for more from me soon.

Justin

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A Little Treasure Island on Pirate Day

September 20, 2011

I couldn’t resist opening our discussion of Treasure Island on “International Talk Like A Pirate Day”.  I’m not usually one for celebrating made up holidays (I’m looking at you Halloween!–I also don’t like holidays that place societal pressure on me “costuming”…I really don’t like Halloween), but the kismet-like quality of me actually learning that this day exists (today–thanks Facebook!) and my starting Treasure Island seemed too perfect to pass up.  So although I know this book is officially your pick I thought I’d get the ball rolling.

First things first.  I’ve definitely read (or at least skimmed) this book beforeI wasn’t sure when you suggested it, but revisiting the early chapters at the “Admiral Benbow” have produced an echo of a trace of a half-forgotten remembrance.   My memories on what actually happens are very vague…and opaque…opaquely vague.  So I’ll enjoy the chance to re-read…or at least I won’t hate it (I hope).

This book continues a theme that keeps arising in our readings (perhaps in literature writ large?) of bumbling medicine men.  From Charles Bovary to Tristram Shandy‘s Dr. Slop we’ve seen a lot of medical incompetence.  And now we have Dr. Livesey who treats a case of “stroke” by slicing the arm of his patient.  Was this standard medical practice?  Did “stroke” mean something different then?

I do enjoy the irony that Bill (The Old Buccaneer) finds his life threatened not by a pirate’s cutlass, but rather poor lifestyle choices (too much stress, too much rum).  More Don Draper than Smee.  Good to know that pirates had the same problems as all the rest of us.

Well I’ve got to go celebrate today with a glass of grog and (finally!) getting my hands on a shoulder parrot.

Happy International Talk Like A Pirate Day!

Jon


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Lucy Snowe and Pirates

September 11, 2011

Well twinner, I’ve finished. I actually finished Thursday night, but other things kept me from getting around to actually posting until just now, nearly two days later. Those purposefully vague “other things” included, but were not limited to live blogging my first viewing of Marley & Me.

I had some issues with the last quarter of the book—that long debate between Catholicism and Protestantism, that confusing midnight fete (the proper time for fete is two in the afternoon!), the decision on Bronte’s part to stop caring about the characters of John Bretton and little Polly—but overall I kind of liked the book. I don’t think another draft would have hurt it (never before have I felt so much like I was reading a book as it came to the mind of the author), but I found the book entertaining (if not completely compelling).

This book you’ve picked next is definitely a horse of a different color. Pirates and treasures and islands…sounds like it should be a thrill a minute. I kind of think I’ve read it before, but since I can’t remember for certain I don’t think the second reading will hurt me.

I shall look forward to swashbuckling literary conversation.

Until then…SHIVER ME TIMBERS!

I had to get that out of my system…I’m ready to progress now.

Jon

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Imprecise Terminology

September 10, 2011

When I am wrong, I am wrong. I freely admit and seek to correct my errors.

You rightly called me out when I referred to Lucy’s new found interest in M. Paul as a “plot twist.” You’re right, “twist” implies a certain level of subtlety, unexpectedness, or surprise. And while, I admit it did come as something of a surprise to me this could have more to do with my aforementioned half-assed reading of this book than any narrative trickery.

So, on second thought I should have referred to this narrative change of heart as a plot lurch. A sudden, violent shift in direction of the story.

Not be confused with a dramatic Lurch.

Anyway, rumor has it you’ve actually managed to find your way to the end of Charlotte Bronte’s epic tome. That being the case, I guess it is up to me to pick the next book. I was giving some thought to what might be a bit of a change of pace I feel like we’ve already done stream of conciousness (Swann’s Way), we’ve done dystopian (Brave New World, and we’ve even done turtle-like alien life forms (Lathe of Heaven.

But you know what we haven’t done?

Pirates.

This is a wrong that must be righted. So pull out your treasure chest, tricorn hats, and shoulder-jockeying parrots and find yourself a copy of Treasure Island, and I will see you the Jolly Roger. (Matey.)

Arrrgh,
Justin

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The Stockholm Syndrome of Lucy Snowe

September 5, 2011

Ironic/Sarcastic positivity is not, in fact, positivity. I give that last post a D-. (Since I assigned you the task, I also get to assign you a grade–that was fun!). I should have realized that the task I set before you was as hopeless as asking Lucy Snowe to extemporaneously compose a French essay in front of the entire student body and their parents.

But I think if you had tried a little harder you should have been able to identify some truly admirable aspects of this reading experience. There are some things to like in this book, things like Charlotte Bronte’s out-of-nowhere bats*!% wacky extended similies:

As monkeys are said to have the power of speech if they would but use it, and are reported to conceal this faculty in fear of its being turned to their detriment, so to me was ascribed a fund of knowledge which I was supposed criminally and craftily to conceal.

I don’t know what to do with that sentence. Was it a commonly held belief in Victorian England that monkeys could actually talk and were just willfully silent? That simile just raises too many questions.

What I don’t like about this reading experience is the “plot twist” which you foreshadowed, but say that I still haven’t reached. (Henceforward the aforementioned “twist” is only to be referred to in ironic quotation marks). While I think I have reached (and probably passed) it. I am beginning to think that you misunderstand the term’s basic concept.

It is, to clarify, when the book takes a turn that is completely unexpected. Are we starting with the same working definition?

If yes, then my last guess to what you were referring to, is Lucy’s new-found love for M. Paul. Granted it’s a little odd…because her earlier interactions with him include him locking her in an attic and forcing her to perform in his (sick) pantomime, and because she knows that he periodically rifles through her personal things. So whatever psycho-sexual peccadillo that Lucy is exploring is, I will grant you, different. Maybe even a little bit weird (I don’t judge). But “twisty”? The jury’s still out.

Anyhow…I didn’t get as much reading done over the weekend as I had hoped, but I am giving Villette my full attention until it gets finished. So I should (hopefully) be done early this week (but by the end of the week for sure). Feel free to either justify your “plot twist” claim or reveal our next read anytime soon.

Back to the wonderful world of Victorian coincidences!
Jon

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Things That I Like About This Book

September 3, 2011

So, apparently, I have been somewhat less than positive in my recent posts. (A little glass half empty, if you will.) In an effort to accentuate the positive, I have been spending much of the last week developing a list of the aspects of this reading experience that I like:

1. Dr. John have you met Graham Bretton: Or Mr. Home have you had the distinct pleasure of making the acquaintance of M. De Bassompierre? Why create multiple characters when you can just give on character multiple names?

2. Now That’s What I Call a Coincidence: You quickly learn that when a character in this book exclaims “Could it possibly be…” The answer is undoubtedly: Yes. Could three separate British families who had a brief shared experience years and years ago possibly all find themselves in the same small French city? Of course! Doesn’t that sort of thing happen every day?

3. It Could Be Worse, I Could Be Lucy Snowe: one thing this book does provide is a healthy dose of perspective. Feel bad about your life? Just read the last few paragraphs of this book. It just the elixir to heal what ails you.

And finally, what I like most about this book is:

4. I Am Done.

How was that for the power of positivity? So, Twinner, let me know when you can say the same thing, and I will get something new picked.

Justin