Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Ancient Mariner & Christabel by Coleridge (1800)

Found this 1907 printing that includes The Mariner, Christabel, Kublai Khan.

The mariner was no big deal but I really liked Christabel!

The Christabel poem is beautifully written, it just flows of the tongue.

I didn't bother with Kublai Khan because after the disappointing (abrupt) ending on Christabel and researching Coleridge's inability to finish just about anything I decided enough was enough.

He lived near Wordsworth and his wife so there is an interesting real life story here. 

The lesbian overtones in Christabel are delicately rendered.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Canterbury Tales by Chauser (1478) Illu. Rockwell Kent

Wow, a difficult read; maybe a different translation would have helped but I doubt it.
Some parts are simply slow and tedious,  and I have read some tedious stuff!

I still like the Candide Kent renderings the best but I now have a small collection of books illustrated by him.

There are however some outstanding life lessons in several of the tales, others are just sophomoric humor.

In general the prose is rarely enjoyable, however there are a few very good portions. 

I especially like The Manciple's tale; regarding your closest friend's Love interest you must keep your advise to your self.

The Parson's "tale" is simply unbearable, I could not help but skim thru it, something I never do.

The Summoner's Tale illustrates that the hypocrisy of the clergy was as prevalent then as now.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The African Queen by C. S. Forester (1935)

Well the movie has a substantially better ending than the book.
But Rose is a much stronger woman in the book, has lots of internal dialog, and the narrator adds much more too than in the movie, thus making her far more interesting.
Actually Kate could have played her just as written, she had played many strong and resourceful women, but I guess the producers wanted a more post war "wife"?  But you can always tell when you are in the middle of a John Houston movie; it just moves from scene to scene; not a minute wasted. Bogart is amazing; his facial expressions are brilliant!

I think we have to remember that writing in the 30's was beginning to experiment a little more on the racy side; and so the character became something that would have been unthinkable in the previous century.

When finally on her own out from under the men of her own family Rose comes into her own for the first time in her life. She however understands how men work and how to manipulate them too. Charlie is a man that needs a mission, direction, and a goal, that's all. He is a capable man that can make, fix, & repair anything. In the 30's he would be the equivalent of today's twenty something that can do anything with any media devise.

Got this cool 1st ed. from Abe.

This was my first Forester foray, and I have to say that it seems like he simply got tired at the end and threw the manuscript on the floor, "done." Without the brilliance of the movie ending it is a let-down. The reading is quick and easy and makes a great companion to the movie.

Passages I like:

Forester describes Rose' approach to the next rapid. "where the hand had to be steady and strong and subtle and the will resolute."

Rose' take on "men." "She could not conceive of a man finding anything impossible in his world, as long as he was not bothered, and given plenty to eat."

The naivete of Rose is described as such: "She did not yet know she could scold; she had never tasted the sweet delights of giving rein to ill temper."

 Here we get Forester's German jab: "Allnutt's contact with the German nation had been unfortunate; the Germnas were a race it was easy to hate if hatred came easily, as it did in those days."

Forester is writing while looking directly into the teeth of the Nazi raise to power.

Monday, August 10, 2015

An Outcast of the Islands by Joseph Conrad, (1896)

An Outcast of the Islands starts out slowly, I waited and waited for the story to pick up the pace and about a 3rd of the way thru it really started steaming along. At first I thought I was reading Victory or Lord Jim over again until it took on a life of it's own. I think that this, of the 4 Conards I've read is by far the most "Descriptive" in writing. He has whole pages devoted to a few seconds in real time, as well as pages devoted to a single human emotion, belief, or status. This book more so than the others dives deep into each character not once but several times; each time we get a look into the rational for the their latest actions.

I see Willams as an opportunistic thief with little forethought as to either the long or short term effects of his actions have on others. Like an addict he blames anyone else for his own misdeeds.
Many of Conrad's characters are familiar; a big tough guy afraid of no one, a clever opportunist looking to make a fast lot of money, and the subservient Women.

I am certainly getting the Conrad view of the world; a world that has the EuroWhites (those who are the type to go out "There" and Take) dominating the world. As I see it the type of person with this desire is the very person that posses the insatiable appetite for riches as Conrad describes them. This then is the singular type of person that "represented" EuroWhite to the rest of the world; the greedy, impatient, lawless type.

Passages that I like:

Comparing the Sea to a Women:
Like a beautiful and unscrupulous woman, the sea of the past was glorious in its smiles, irresistible in its anger, capricious, enticing, illogical, irresponsible; a thing to love, a thing to fear. It cast a spell, it gave joy, it lulled gently into boundless faith; then with quick and causeless anger it killed.

 An interesting take on fatalism:
  Fatalism is born of the fear of failure, for we all believe that we carry success in our own hands, and we suspect that our hands are weak.

Powerful men in a lawless world:
He had removed an enemy once or twice before, out of his path; he had paid off some very heavy scores a good many times. Captain Tom had been a good friend to many: but it was generally understood, from Honolulu round about to Diego Suarez, that Captain Tom's enmity was rather more than any man single-handed could easily manage. He would not, as he said often, hurt a fly as long as the fly left him alone; yet a man does not live for years beyond the pale of civilized laws without evolving for himself some queer notions of justice. Nobody of those he knew had ever cared to point out to him the errors of his conceptions. 

The fate of so many:
He would be dead. He would be stretched upon the warm moisture of the ground, feeling nothing, seeing nothing, knowing nothing; he would lie stiff, passive, rotting slowly; while over him, under him, through him—unopposed, busy, hurried—the endless and minute throngs of insects, little shining monsters of repulsive shapes, with horns, with claws, with pincers, would swarm in streams, in rushes, in eager struggle for his body; would swarm countless, persistent, ferocious and greedy—till there would remain nothing but the white gleam of bleaching bones in the long grass; in the long grass that would shoot its feathery heads between the bare and polished ribs. There would be that only left of him; nobody would miss him; no one would remember him.  

Monday, July 13, 2015

Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey (1912) Illu. Douglas Duer

What a great read. Many parts had my heart pounding. It took me a short while to get the hang of Zane's style and I think I learned a valuable lesson in "Fast - Slow" reading; when you come to the descriptions you have to dial it way back. Some of it was quite sad, the loss of what you have and had because you can't see the truth. The things that we do and say and think are part of the continuum that sets up the rest of our lives. Every step we take slowly limits and slowly creates what we are to  become.

Many criticisms could be laid upon this book but if the bottom line is "I can't put it down" then it passes well.

I had for a long time thought that I would not bother with a "pulp fiction writer" such as Grey but found a 1st Edition for $3 at an Estate sale a year ago and put it onto the "to be read pile."

The annual trip to the Lake was coming up and I had already finished my favorite writer for the summer JFC so while rummaging thru the pile it finally took my hand.

Summed up; it is two separate yet crossing love stories interwoven with Mormon hating, detailed horse riding, and the very grand and very purple scenery of the West.

Our writer was very familiar with both the outdoors and the love affairs, so he speaks from experience. But the "thing" that Writers do; describing the view be it from the eye or from the heart is what sets each of them apart. Initially I was put off by it but once you get into the rhythm it is a fun place to be; Zane can describe with the best of them.

I rarely include pics other than from my own copies but this dust cover painting is captivating.

 The copy I have is an I-N Printing so according to the ZGWS it is a Harper & Brothers, NY 1912, code letters I-N (September 1913) copy although it says 1912.

 Once again I find the most interesting illustrators may be some of the forgotten ones. Douglas Duer is great with drama in a very old but story relevant style. There are some good references on the endless web.

The section regarding the shooting of the Masked Rider includes some creative "Old-timey titillation" otherwise the modesty of the time leaves you deciding when or if they touched each other.

Some of the passages that spoke to me:

I think only a man who had ridden and talked Horses most of his life could envision this. By 1912 Henry Ford had irrevocably changed the landscape of the East but for those who longed for the outdoors I think you could leave the "Modern" world far behind.

Elements of eternal feminine... yes indeed!
In this exchange Bess is immediately jealous; by accounts Grey may have had several occasions to experience the jealous woman. Elements of eternal feminine... yes indeed!

Men were Blood Spillers!
I'm not sure that on this planet we can change this?

Another thing that had always been a question of mine: back long before cell phones a hiker had to REMEMBER the trail. For the 1st time in my readings Zane makes it clear that in fact a wanderer had to actively commit to memory a brain-photo of what it was that he/she needed to know for the return trip. This is and was a life & death matter when there was no way to click it and forget it like we can now.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Master of Ballantrae: A Winter's Tale by Robert Louis Stevenson (1889)

The Master is a real page turner; RLS makes the most readable stories, this is an extremely engaging story.
The story begins 1745 when two brothers flip a coin to see which one will go to the Jacobite rebellion and which will go to the crown. The family is attempting to hedge their bets during the uprising the end result is the splitting of it.

My 1918 printing has a Preface written by RLS' wife and describes the story of his trials and their travels while finishing this story.

A rough copy but all there.

I really like the cover leaf patterning.
This story takes place over more than 20 years and this family is one dysfunctional mess. The older brother "The Master" with all the gifts; looks, charm, education, hates his younger brother. The younger "steady Eddie" has none of the advantages of birth other than the wealthy family. The Master is an insane risk taker, the younger brother stays at home to rescue the family fortune.

I really recommend looking into this story because of the outstanding stories sub stories, and side stories.

The one passage I set aside that speaks directly to my visions goes something like this:
"Hard by, I told myself, was the grave of our enemy, now gone where the wicked cease from troubling, the earth heaped for ever on his once so active limbs.  I could not but think of him as somehow fortunate to be thus done with man’s anxiety and weariness, the daily expense of spirit, and that daily river of circumstance to be swum through, at any hazard, under the penalty of shame or death."

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Pathfinder, or The Inland Sea by James Fenimore Cooper (1840)

The Pathfinder may well be the best of the three Leather Stocking series I've read so far.
Extremely typical of JFC writing in that it may take a page or two to define a small point but what are we reading for anyway?

Being from Michigan and having spent 1000's of hours on the Great (and other) Lakes I really enjoyed the sea fairing parts.

This book even more than the others has Natty constantly describing everyone's "nature." JFC living in a time and place where this must have been the only way of dealing with the Melting Pot that the North American Continent was (hmmm, still is.)

Just as in "The Last of the Mohicans and The Dearslayer we have Hawkeye delivering distressed white men & women from the dangers within the sparsely inhabited North American Continent. Much less warfare in the writing and much more sailing and danger in place.
We talk so little about this time in American history, its as if American History started with the civil war.

I have also come to believe that JFC was trying to create a desperately needed America myth. It hasn't stayed with us the way that Wister's "The Virginian"did however.

My copy is abused, maybe from the 30's.

Some of the Passages I like:

Mabel looks out upon Lake Ontario for the fist time...
Part of the reason I love this old writing is the Grandeur that that was everywhere, the sense of small that one had when adventuring. Now its a bit different; when I flew to Oregon it was the world that was small.
And again; to have a world laid out in front of you that was Endless, and there for the taking. Now its a bit different...

 Here we have a scene from the Fort where the Men have a shooting contest...

JFC certainly nails the deception of the young by the old in this passage. The belief that fairness and for an outcome as dictated by providence is what we have when we are young. It is later that we notice a finger on the scale.

The character of "Cap" is a wonderful "blowhard" from the East, your classic "expert at one thing knows and applies it to everything sort of load mouth." A great piece in the story's puzzle.
Its the last sentence that illustrates JFC's insightful and humorous snap at the end of a moment sharpening the human side of the scene.

In a long passage we witness Mabel's father dying of wounds received thru indiscretion of impatiences (as pointed out by Cap several times.)
My takeaway however relates to the inevitability of our parents leaving us alone on this earth.

In this scene The Pathfinder is resolved to give Mabel (whom he has every wright to) up to Jasper.
The part that strikes me has been a favorite subject of mine (one that doesn't interest others to talk about)  Its the way in which we aggrandize our friends; we give them all sorts of superior powers over and above other mortals, we wish only the best for them and excuse every transgression.

Ultimately The Pathfinder falls victim to the very thing he adheres to most; his insistence in "one's nature" this is the reason that he cannot take Mabel for his wife. And so with all kindness hands her over to Jasper for the all the reasons that are natural.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Daphnis and Chloe by Longus, 200AD

Daphnis and Chloe, was my idea of a break from "The Whale"

Typical of early works it is simple but provides human insights that never seem to change even over 1800 years.

This 1949 publication is illustrated by Aristede Mailol

 Basically a coming of age tale.
With the classic by the way we are actually (abandoned at birth) royalty; this plot devise always provides for a happy ending.
The erotic passages are very clipped or short but good. It is entertaining to see not much has changed. These two young people have not been educated in the birds and the bees so they are on their own for a while.
Daphnis receives training in the basics of love making (as all young men should) from an older woman. Daphnis also learns about men that "like" boys; this is clearly indicated as being despicable behavior.

Living in paradise they have a complete peasants world. But like any fruitful land it is invaded by pirates and the like.

A couple of passages that I like:

But Daphnis for his life could not be merry, because he had seen Chloe naked, and that Venus of her beauty, which before was not unveiled. His heart was gnawed, as with a secret poison; and had deep sentiments of grief and anguish: insomuch, that sometimes he puffed and blowed thick and short, as if some body had been in a close pursuit of him: sometimes again, he breathed so faintly, as if he had been quite spent in running. That washing seemed to him more dangerous and formidable, then the Sea: And he thought his life was still in the hands, and at the dispose of the Tyrian Pirates, as being but a young Rustic, and yet unskilled in the Assassinations and Robberies of Love.

Ah, Love that makes you so happy, you are sad!

 It was the beginning of Spring, and all the flowers of the Lawns, Meadows, Valleys, and Hills, were now blowing; all was fresh, and green, and odorous. The Bee's humming from the flowers, the Bird's warbling from the groves, the Lamb's skipping on the hills, were pleasant to the ear, and eye. And now when such a fragrancy had filled those blest and happy fields, both the old men and the young, would imitate the pleasant things they heard, and saw; and hearing how the birds did chant it, they began to carrell too; and seeing how the Lambs skipped, triped their light and nimble measures; then to emulate the Bees, they fall to cull the fairest flowers.

Spring is always the same... 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Moby Dick or The Whale by Herman Melville (1851) Illu. by Rockwell Kent (2nd reading)

The 2nd reading is far better than the 1st; you are fully aware of what you are in for / up against, can sit back and savor the details better than in the headless slog of the 1st reading. The reading is not unlike the progress of the 80 foot leviathan; slowly, deliberately through the ocean swells, then dive deep, then come up for air.

Its like reading a hundred short stories, or maybe like a thousand ideas that could be turned into short stories.

Hint for you aspiring Writers, take any one page and create a story from the depths of insight that little Herman provides free for the taking.

The Rockwell Kent illustrated version is more pleasing than the previous version I read. The illustrations are more woodcut like and invoke the earlier time being portrayed. Kent also illustrated one of my other readings Candide

One quote that spoke to me:

I try all things; I achieve what I can.

The reading is a wild experience in that there are so many complex statements that if you stopped at each of them to ponder the depth you might never finish.

This is typical of the 19th cent. heroic language that Melville loved to use:
The wind that made great bellies of their sails, and rushed the vessel on by arms invisible as irresistible; this seemed the symbol of that unseen agency which so enslaved them to the race.

Kent took a more realistic (in most instances) look at MD than in Candide because MD one being pure fantasy and the other not so much. 

 Arrrgh... the Spouter-Inn
 Rendering of the vast South Pacific
 Moby D takes revenge!
 Everyone up on the yard arms

There are now several web based outlines of the passage.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Yvain, the Knight of the Lion (1170) by Chr├ętien de Troyes

What a great story, this Burton Raffel translation is very readable. By not attempting to rhyme I believe that the story comes thru better. For the tops in English rhyming, try The Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott

Classic love story with the reality of life and death at every corner. Yvain kicks ass on a local bully and gets that guys wife to fall in love with him. His childhood buddy (drinking buddy) Gawain, convinces him to on an adventure and that's when the marriage falls apart. Yvain really loves his wife and so goes mad when he looses her. He is restored to sanity when when a young maiden rubs a magic potion all over his body (always does it for me.) After numerous death defying adventures he is reunited with his wife.

The local reader and I were motivated to read Yvain because the GPPL Friends invited Peggy McCracken,

(Domna C. Stanton Collegiate Professor of French, Women’s Studies, and Comparative Literature
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor) to come speak to us about it; what a treat.

So this French Author is actually credited with being the founder of the Arthurian Romance and wrote 5 of them. He is credited with the initiating the accepted mythology surrounding King Arthur and his Knights. The 12th cent. is an amazing time.

Every country needs a history or Mythology for identification, this story reminds me of The Virginian, America needed a mythology and the cowboy is our Yvain! The two stories are dramatically similar.

My takeaway:

Luna gives Yvain good advice;
"But guard your tongue, keep it in control for violence and passion and impulse only cause trouble if you give them a chance, and I call that wicked and cowardly, not brave."

Later as she hides Yvain from his potential captors he reflects on the hiding place as a prison comparing it to being in love.

Now the night of the Lion (Yvain) is being pursued by many a maiden because of his renown as a great knight.
At this point Yvain decides that:
"Saying No wins no man fame, no more will I say No"

I once decided to try and stop saying No for just a single day, try it its not as easy as it sounds.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott (1810) Illu. Howard Chandler Christy

The Lady is a joy to read; the words drift and swirl off the tongue.
As with any of prose from so long ago I go to summaries and modern interpretations to help get the the story.
I saw this book online and discovered that it was in Providence, turns out I was going there and so I was able to pick it up in person.
It is not listed as a 100th anniversary publication but it certainly was that, I suppose by then it was beginning to loose its hold on the reading audience. Certainly after WWI I think people were looking for "Modern" writing.
In its day it helped propel Scott to Rock Star proportions,Scott was a genius.
The cover has some unfortunate blotching on it however internally it is in good shape.
The signature maybe the 1st owner, Mary Jane Glenn?
Ellen and Lufra with the Title page.
Ellen goes across Loch Katrine to find the mysterious bugler and meets James.
An interesting outline of Clan conscription; the small cross is consecrated with an oath and then carried around to every hill and dale demanding allegiance. In this instance a marriage is interrupted with the command.
Roderich, who has open wishes for Ellen, secretly sees her as she prays, he is over come with the realization that this is the last time he will ever see or hear her.

 It is important to note that the Prayer that Ellen recites is in fact the inspiration to Robert Schumann for his incredible Ave Maria.

Smitten after their 1st meeting James returns to the island to woo Ellen. Christy's work is so theatrical!
Roderich and James meet without knowing whom each other is at first.
Ellen realizes in a flash that James is King James and falls to her knees.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott (1821)

I'm on a S.W.Scott tear and so after Durward I decided to stick with the 1500's and get into Kenilworth.
I have to admit however that the motivation to read it came from Owen Wister and the multiple references made to Kenilworth in The Virginian.
The message Wister was trying to send is very clear; Chivalry, court manners, and how ambition and talent are rewarded. Wister and his buddy Roosevelt were trying to create the mythology of American exceptional ism and the model was based on the Chivalry Europe.

Its a story of intrigue, love, deception, hate, and ambition (to name a few.)

This little 1928 copy of Kenilworth has tiny font!
Kenilworth is an excellent book.
Scott provides a huge wealth of English language knowledge that requires a close connection with a dictionary in order to keep up with the hundreds of unused and alternative meanings. For instance, being impolite in Court might be dis-courteous. The origins of polite society are rooted in the Courts of nobility.
A great deal of Court behavior and etiquette is relayed to the reader and in it we can see how much of our Curtseys and manners were developed, derived, and refined in those courts. 

This copy has a tremendous set of notes in the back, well worth finding a copy that includes them.

Just as in Durward, Kenilworth is Historical fiction, it is a tremendous lessen in history, QE I is the period and what a period it was. I would like to get into the Elizabethan history now.

Every period longs for the one that just past and Scott's is no exception; not only did Scott long for the Chivalry of the past but the characters in his story did as well.
In the story near the culmination of the intrigue there is a performance put on for QE that depicts the entire history of the English peoples. So again Wister could only fabricate for America what England had many versions of; a past.

We get introduced to Wayland Smith (Wayland Smithers?) a very talented smith that is mostly unappreciated. He is whom I relate to.

A great passage:
When the Queen finds out that Her Doctor was refused access to her liege:
The Queen answered hastily, and without affecting to disguise her satisfaction, "By my word, I am glad he is better. But thou wert over-bold to deny the access of my Doctor Masters. Knowest thou not the Holy Writ saith, 'In the multitude of counsel there is safety'?"
"Ay, madam," said Walter; "but I have heard learned men say that the safety spoken of is for the physicians, not for the patient." 
 Well little has changed.