Archive for the ‘Ship of Fools’ Category


“This is a ship of fools”

August 18, 2009

I kid you not, this is actually how the movie version of Ship of Fools

Is this little, less-than-subtle nugget communicated to us through a bit of conversation between Jenny and David, or a confidential aside from Herr Professor Hutten to seasick Bebe? Uhh…no.

It’s told to us in a direct address from Herr Glocken as he speaks to the audience in the opening minute of the movie. And that, my friend, is fairly indicative of the level of subtlety found throughout the movie.

In the book a little piece of Dr. Schumann dies as he leaves La Condesa at Tenerife and he reboards the Vera for Bremerhaven.

In the movie, he just dies. One can only assume of a broken heart. (Unfortunately, his tragic death leaves the ship without a doctor to make this less than scientific diagnosis. That would have been in keeping with the rest of the movie.) 

Okay, now that I’ve read the book and seen the movie, I am ready to put all things Ship of Fools behind me. 

So, tomorrow, I start my travels with Lemuel. 



Fool Proof

August 13, 2009

You know when you start talking about Big Brother it’s like you go from sensical English to some gibberish-based language that I cannot make heads or tails of. For example you say:

“Give the nominee a chance to win the power of veto.”

I hear:

“Gibbidly-knock blah-blah ting booooonnnng burffidy thwap.”

So you can imagine my confusion. Perhaps instead of watching voyeuristic “reality” television you should be spending some quality time with Herr Glocken, La Condesa, and the crew (literally, the crew) and reading some Ship of Fools.

I’ve been enjoying some non-SOF reading. Here’s a sample from Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith:

“Uly needed a windmill water pump fixed, and my brother stepped up to say he and I knew windmills like the back of our hands–which would have been true had our hands been something we saw only on occasion, and then from a distance.”

See, don’t you wish you were done reading Ship of Fools too?



Still Asea

August 11, 2009

I had such good intentions of finishing this book this weekend…but this weekend ended up being filled with my good intentions falling by the wayside…first my good intention to see Julie and Julia was quashed by tornado sirens (I decided to take cover instead) and  now not finishing Ship of Fools.

On Saturday I pushed through like fifty pages in the afternoon and it seemed so promising, but then I just couldn’t motivate myself to pick it up on Sunday (even God rested on Sunday…cut me some slack).  Instead I watched some Big Brother on the Roku (I bet we’re thinking the same thing….”How could they backdoor Casey?”   On a purely Big Brother related tangent…I feel like in the last few seasons “back-dooring” has really become the standard as opposed to the exception….to me it feels a bit like dirty pool–at least give the nominee the chance to fight for the Power of Veto–and that’s all I’ll say about BB).

So the end of the shipride party is just beginning where I’m at in the book and I’m a little confused…it seems like there’s some random costume wearing while others are just dressed gaily–this party doesn’t seem to be very well organized.  I guess this kind of lack of planning makes for “good reading” but I think in “real life” I’d mark this Evite “Not Attending”.

Well I’m going to get back this ship,



All Ashore, Whose Going Ashore

August 9, 2009

Fear not Twin Brother, you are not alone in your confusion over the definition of irony. For a cinematic explanation may I recommend 1999’s Teaching Mrs. Tingle wherein a sadly misused Helen Mirren chides her captors on their inappropriate use of the word irony. (And, believe me, the concise explanation of irony is the only reason to watch that terrible, terrible movie.)

That should clear up any questions you have.

Let me just say, when Katherine Anne Porter decides to end a voyage, she really decides to end it. After describing the minutiae of every going on from the poop deck to the writing room and every internal, external, spiritual, emotional, physical, metaphysical, verbal and nonverbal happening she goes from a First Class bacchanal to an all but empty ship in about 10 pages.

That being said, I am done with the book, and, boy, is it good to be back on literary dry land, and as much as I am going to miss Bebe, that lovable seasick bulldog, I cannot say I will greatly miss any of the other characters.

Okay, now it’s time to start thinking about the next book we’ll read next. After hours of pondering (and by that I mean, I went and randomly pulled a book on my bookshelf) and the winner is Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels.

I believe this book reports on several sea voyages by one Lemuel Gulliver. Looks like we’ll be exchanging Ship of Fools for the ships of a fool. (Your never going to believe this, but I just made that up right on the spot.)

Well, let me know when you’re done, and we can get going on Gulliver. Until then I will be reading Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice.

Yours in books,


Land Ho!

August 7, 2009


I believe a wise man once said…if you have nothing nice to say, say it in a haiku.  So here goes nothing:

Gosh Ship of Fools, is

long, long, long, long, long, long, long

End Part II, land ho!

Please note the irony of my utilizing the briefest of poetic forms to talk about this longest of novels, SoF.

But a lot has been happening that I thought we should discuss.

Bebe’s Odyssey

I could only imagine the pleased look on your face when Bebe became the connecting thread of all the narratives.  I imagine it was the look that comes across you face when you find yourself with a warm pizza and new season of Perry Mason on DVD.  Then the horrific turn!  Bebe overboard!  And I imagine your countenance changed…is that poop on my pizza?  Why are their episodes of Caroline in the City on Perry Mason DVDs!?

And were you as surprised as me that the character who lost his life to save Bebe was a character who had not been mentioned in the first 300 pages of the book?  I was on the edge of my seat…which character jumped overboard to save the dog?  (My money was on Freytag)  And then the announcement… it was Etchegaray.  Who?  Can you just make a major plot point happen to a character that you introduce on page 320?

Then and I think this is ironic (I’m never sure)…but Porter seems to chide her characters for only caring about this man after he sacrifices his life to save the Huttens’ dog…but she didn’t care enough about him to give him any sort of backstory or even mention him until that point either.

So I was  a little frustrated, but mostly I’ve gotten over it.

If the Ship is a rockin’, don’t come a-knockin’

Turn away if you’re embarassed by shockingly awkward love scenes…I’m pulling out a new favorite quote:

They began to fumble awkwardly at the more obstructive articles of each other’s clothing as if they meant to tear each other apart, and slumped over in a head and grappled together like frogs [nothing says romance like frogs!].  After inordinately prolonged labors, floundering, groaning, grunting and rolling in a savage wrestling match, they collapsed melted together into nerveless quivering and long moans of agonized pleasure; then lay joined for a plesureable time in a triumphant glow of exhaustion, their marriage mended almost as good as new, their feelings fresh and purified.

Um…what just happened here?  Oh to be a fly on the porthole in the Hutten cabin…and in front of Bebe and everything.

On to part 3!



Where Art Thou, Gilligan

August 6, 2009

I agree, Twinner. This boat is rife with, well, less than likeable folks. In fact, I’ve been trying to identify a compassionate character in the lot and the closest I can come to is Mrs. Treadwell and she’s drunk more than she’s sober. (Well, I guess there’s Bebe–poor, jolly Bebe.)

During times when I am asea with this boat-full of jerks, I often find my mind wandering to more likeable maritime characters, and I start looking for parallels between this Ship of Fools and everyone’s favorite wacky castaways on Gilligan’s Island. (Now, that’s my kind of ship of fools!)

My favorite pastime to wile away a long descriptive paragraph is to match Gilligan’s Island characters to their Katherine Anne Porter counterparts. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

Skipper: Captain Thiel
Professor: Dr. Schumann
Ginger: La Condesa
Mary Ann: Jenny
Lovey Howell: Mrs. Treadwell
Thurston Howell: Herr Graff

But the questions I can’t answer is: Where’s Gilligan?

What do you think?

In my long tradition of equating classic works of literature to sitcoms of the 1960s I think this stands up right alongside my thoughtful comparisons of Long Day’s Journey into Night to The Donna Reed Show and my insightful analysis of The Patty Duke Show as The Prince in the Pauper.

Consider that food for thought. Bon Appetite!




August 2, 2009

Dear Twin,

I hate to quibble with your close reading skills…but I don’t think that that was “medicine” in the hypodermic that Doctor Schumann plunged into the bicep of La Condesa.  I’m pretty sure it was what the kids call “skag”.  You may have missed that La Condesa is, in fact, a drug addict.  She was getting her fix.  The only thing she “wants” is another hit.

But I shouldn’t throw close reading stones…I’m nearing page 300 (note the progress!) and I just figured out this book isn’t taking place in the Sixties (when it was published) but rather in 1931.  But in my defense I think the only place that they note that date is in the ship’s manifesto at the beginning…and that I skipped.  The new time line, I guess, explains (but doesn’t excuse) the raging racial intolerance on the boat.

Which gets me to wondering when does a book stop being a reportage of racial intolerance and start to perpetuate it?  I know there are times in this book that make me distinctly uncomfortable.  Anyway feel free to ponder.

I’ve been pretty much reading this book exclusively and I’ve got to admit its getting me down…all of the passengers on this ship are so unpleasant to each other.  If I were on this ship I think I’d stay in my cabin (well because of a combination of the unpleasantness and my love of portholes!  Round windows!).

I’m going to keep plowing through…”land” is in site and I’m ready to “disembark”.

Gotta run, I’ve got to take a Ship.