books

Least Miserables Book Ever… Just Kidding. It Sucks.

Do not read Les Miserables if you are afflicted with any of the following symptoms:

  • Depression
  • Deriving Humor From the Pain of Poor People
  • Zero Tolerance For Sometimes Pointless Tangents From the Story
  • Hairy Mustache
  • Hungry Stomach
  • A Tendency to Kick Baby Unicorns

I am dead serious, people. This book is classic because of its depressing storyline–well, and the play and movie it spawned…but mostly the storyline. You will leave each reading session thinking to yourself: why am I still interested in reading about this poor neglected child, or even that saintly criminal who hates himself every single chapter? What’s that? Take a break and learn about the Battle of Waterloo? Okay, why not?

My God, there are also times when I question my patience with some writers, specifically Victor Hugo and his tendency to drag on about things which do not directly relate to the storyline but for a snippet at the end of a section. Granted, he was born into a literary family, and all know with literary families there is going to be heavy doses of symbolism or deeper meanings in their works. And he was in the French Revolution–anything to take time away from there was crazily sought after.

But if you do enjoy books about the struggles of poverty stricken families–cough cough, sadist–and you can stand long trips into other realms of Paris and the warlike atmosphere, like me, then Les Miserables is your book.

And quit kicking those baby unicorns.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

 

Talking Like A Sailor–Not Swearing

One of the things I love most about Moby-Dick is its realistic dialogue: while reading of the endeavors of the crew of the Pequod and the ballistic Captain Ahab you feel as if you are stowing away inside the ship and listening to the commonplace interactions between sailors–except there are no rats, nor are there leaks…unless you like to read in the bathtub.

The words they use sound lifelike–granted, sailors have a special lingo like that of businessmen: instead of data they say stowage; instead of bathroom they say poop deck; and while these words are enjoyable they are nothing compared to a good ol’ Aargh! or Shiver me timbers! 

But I am talking about whaling sailors, not cartoonish pirates. Here’s looking at you, Blackbeard.

Ahab is by far the most articulate individual aboard. Whenever he comes into the next chapter a shiver runs down your spine–and as you change your drawers you hear aloud his insulting orders towards Starbuck–hey, isn’t that the coffee place?–and Stubb.

My favorite line is from Ahab: “I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.”  To me that sounds supremely badass. I picture a muscle bound Ahab with a gold casing on the tip of his peg  leg soaring on a white whale bone sled towards the jeering sun. Not enough badass? Give him a harpoon gun fueled by the blood of Moby Dick that fires high velocity water torpedoes. And a dragon–put a dragon at the front of the sled.

I am reasonably sure there are sailor dictionaries out there in the wide world of this-book-is-random-but-it-is-still-loads-of-fun-to-read sections. If I checked out the comedy section in Barnes and Noble it would likely be stowed between a copy of training a crocodile to drink tea and the Klingon dictionary–my uncle can converse in the language.

Take this as a book recommendation. Go find a copy of Moby-Dick to educate yourself in the cultured dialogue of whalers, if not to savor the knowledgable bits on the actual topic of whaling. Herman Melville knew his stuff…

Think daily,

A Southpaw

 

 

Tarzan–Alter Ego: APE-MAN!

I will admit my mistake:

As it turns out in the book Clayton is not the father of Tarzan. Yes, that may come as a shocker–it did to me. William Cecil Clayton is not remotely an enemy in the book either; however he is a jealous dog when it comes to the budding relationship between Tarzan and Jane. At one point he wants to kill Tarzan to get his girl…Maybe stretch the boundaries some more on English politeness a bit there, Clayton; she is after all attracted to Tarzan’s primal nature.

Tarzan surprises me. His range of abilities and strength seems never-ending; add to that the comparisons Burroughs makes between Tarzan and Apollo, as well showing him off as the penultimate athlete of the human race, and he is a near indefatigable superman. I expect next to read that he can leap tall buildings in a single bound…

Watch, he’s going to put a big green T on his chest, and tell Jane Porter it stands for Bananas. Don’t get me started on the cape–weaved of the finest jungle vines and colored with two spoonfuls of lion blood. He is Ape-Man. All obey Ape-Man. All feed Ape-Man bananas and raw meat.

Okay…he doesn’t eat bananas. Silly me, stereotyping Tarzan as an ape.

At least the Tarzan-Jane-Clayton love triangle is bearable. Although after listening to Jane Porter gush over the primitiveness of her godly “jungle man” and how it makes her feel dangerous and free; and then ditching him because Clayton jealously claims he is a cannibal, I cannot tell where her loyalties lie. Is this the Secret Life of the Woman Who Takes A Trip to Africa and Finds A Suitable Husband Before Ditching Him For A Man With the Middle Name Of Cecil?

Not that Cecil is a bad name…but compared to Ape-Man–where else are you going to find a man who has more skill than the whole of the human race? The answer: Africa.

Note: Apologies for the late post. I have had a lot of excitement the past few days and it has kept me busy; but if ever I get busy again and miss a day be assured I will post as soon as possible.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

 

Tarzan: The Book Version…Not Disney

How many here knew Tarzan was based on a book series?

I will be the first to admit I had no idea. Until several months back when I bought a copy of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes the only Tarzan I remembered was the shaggy haired romancer from the Disney flick in the early 2000s. Let’s crack that up to literary ignorance and leave it.

Did you know he fights his own father in the movie? Clayton is the bad guy in the film; however in the novel Clayton is the last name of the family from which Tarzan is stolen by the apes. Major mistake on the part of Disney there. That could cause Tarzan serious psychological damage–not that he has much to fret over being raised by monstrous apes until he is in his mid twenties.

But Mowgli seemed to fair all right…

The book is pulp fiction–not the Tarantino movie…the genre–and is written in a style which I find mildly distracting at times. Burroughs likes to use one complex sentence to construct his paragraphs; and he will place them one after another in some sections. This can detract from the story a little; although he is skilled in creating the one sentence paragraphs and attaches a strange fluidity to them.

As I am reading Tarzan is slowly developing as a character–in his younger years he learns how to tick off all the apes. And I am currently awaiting the arrival of the woman who will educate Tarzan in his humanity and come to love him. Will it be Jane? Will it be a woman who had no presence in the Disney movies at all?

I can only read and wait and pound on my chest.

Think daily, 

A Southpaw

 

 

Vampires: You Know You Want To Be One…

There is something about the way Anne Rice writes of vampires which make them seem so enticing…that you think of the fun times to be had as a night prowler skipping over rooftops and draining victims as you flutter over sea and land like a dark god.

Only I think so?

Others have likely entertained such thoughts of power and immortality–leaders like Napoleon and Hitler wanted more than anything to live eternally through their global changes.  Fascination comes with immortality. Fascination comes with vampires.

Disadvantages:

One, never seeing the sun. I love the sun and the shadows it creates.

Two, blood is your only source of energy. That means I have to give up pizza and chicken and ravioli and chocolate cake and yogurt and milk and…

Three, all life despises you. As of now I have prepared my letter of goodbyes to my family, wishing them a pleasant life without me and my silly thoughts–oh, and, sis, yes, my nails were extremely long yesterday morning–and in my pets’ beds I have placed tiny notes attached to treats so that they might garner an understanding of my absence.

Cut the last part–dogs and cats can’t read…pity. That means the copy of Clifford: The Big Red Dog I left in my dogs’ cage was never savored. Double pity.

Perhaps I should consider living as a werewolf.

Full moon anyone?

Think daily,

A Southpaw

 

 

 

 

Another Body Snatcher Tale? Close…

Welcome to the Invasion of the Body Snatchers with Vampires!

Oh, yes, those are combined for a reason. The latest–I say latest when this novel was published in 1985–chapter of the acclaimed Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice is The Tale of the Body Thief–now that has a dark ring to it. In this novel the narcissistic vampire Lestat de Lioncourt wishes for death; he is fed up with the same old blood drinking routine and wants his immortality to cease. So he finds a body thief who offers him his own mortal body…and the action rises from then on.

You’re thinking now: haven’t I read books about body switches? Didn’t I, like countless other children–well, I was a child when it came out–watch Freaky Friday starring Jamie Lee Curtis? And you would be correct…but maybe you skipped on Freaky Friday and watched the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers; on which I blame you not.

But Anne Rice writes Tale of the Body Thief so enticingly; and as Lestat is one of the best first person characters ever to traipse into narrative you forget the classics and embrace the modern–speaking of modern the novel’s setting is the 1980s in Georgetown and Rio and New Orleans in their current states; except everyone uses pay phones and fax machines, so…

In and of itself the premise is hooking. I read the first thirty pages and was enthralled by the serious threat to the main character–a quality difficult to find in most books today. You have no idea why Lestat is giving up his invincible vampire armor for a meat sack he starts to hate after living in it for ten minutes; but while he is experiencing these relatable human situations you cannot contain the giggle in your stomach saying, “Tee-hee, I know the feeling!”

So far my favorite part has been when Lestat eats a plate of spaghetti and burns his tongue.

Ooh, doesn’t look so funny written down in so base a description, which, as always, Anne Rice excels in. The descriptions of the European and American towns are startlingly vivid, here, “…[t]his is South Beach at sunset…clean and thriving and drenched in electric light, the gentle breeze moving in from the placid sea…”(Rice 9).

Beautiful, eh?

Stay tuned to The Tale of the Body Thief.

Think daily, 

A Southpaw

 

 

A Portrait of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn As A Finished Book–A Review.

Here is the review of AOHB–look at the new acronym! No, that doesn’t seem too fitting to me either…

Fine.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn deserves a fair send off; methinks it fitting to comment on all its excellent features; however, it has its share of slow sections–not slug slow…perhaps sloth?– which continue to provide thrilling entertainment– my use of thrilling before entertainment makes me sound like a literary critic who uses too many flowery adjectives.

There are undoubtedly lovable sections here, but those can be overlooked by readers when they hear someone breath classic; as classics are those books people like to put on their bookshelves to gather dust until an opportunity to impress houseguests comes along. An especially cherished part for me is the planning of the prison break as proposed by Huck and Tom: Tom thinks himself the escapist auteur and forces Huck to obey his time-wasting schemes.

I appreciate the continual references to Alexandre Dumas’ wonderful novels, The Man in the Iron Mask and The Count of Monte Cristo; the latter is an excellent read if you should get around to it.

The theme of acceptance, too, carried through the novel, is a skillful weaving of the storyline. Years before the Emancipation Proclamation is an inkling in Lincoln’s head,  Twain unintentionally writes a heavy abolitionist minded story: a slave in the South is freed by his captors–a miraculous turn of events if ever there was one. And as a reader you come to love Jim, so it seems justified he should receive the freedom he deserves.

Now for the bad part. All I can say for the sluggishness of the middle portion of the book is that it is somewhat a necessity to the flow of the story, and on the other hand an abrupt shift from the steadily increasing narrative. The story has picked up from the moment Huck reacquaints with his father; then when Jim and Huck go together on the the raft the action began to dwindle a tad in adventurous exploits.

Other than slow structure the non appealing parts are like leashes on a lizard.

I heartily recommend this novel to those who love the classics and to those who want a thoughtful hero’s journey to ponder over. It features mystery and adventure; as well youthful foolishness and a sense of undying curiosity towards the socialite world–what more could a voracious reader ask for in a book about a backwoods boy and a black man sailing together on a raft across the Mississippi River?

Maybe a faster plot line.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

A Literary Emancipation

There are strong controversial matters tied to Gender Studies and Queer Theory in the last few chapters of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn;  controversial of course at the original time of publication in 1844–years before the initial reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862 by President Abraham Lincoln.

The controversy: treating a black slave with respect and granting him freedom.

Mark Twain was by no means a closet abolitionist. Still, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is  by far the heaviest criticized novel in his literary career–some states went so far as to ban the book from their libraries because of his divergence from the then current racial views–and many have been especially critical on the matter of freeing Jim at the end of the novel, says Huck, “[w]e had Jim out of the chains in no time…and fixed him up prime…and gave him all he wanted to eat…” (Twain. 292).

The controversy begins when the villagers recapture Jim; and at first they do not want to grant him his deserved freedom, as to them the racial rules of society are to be strictly followed; and a black person should remain a slave until the end of his days. They are  eerily described while gathered in the sitting room at night “…and every one of them [with] a gun[…]” (Twain. 273). Their views start to change when the doctor tells them of Jim’s caring nature towards his friends: “I liked the nigger for that…gentlemen…a nigger like that is worth a thousand dollars–and kind treatment, too.” (Twain. 286); so they then “…softened up a little…” (Twain. 286).

Now, while in the States softening up to slaves was frowned upon, and if someone was pleasant it was a miracle, in the novel it is written as if it is a commonplace event and those who enacted his release are as much unaffected as the boy narrating the novel.

As said before Mark Twain had no deeper interest in abolitionism than what is written in the book, and so his attitude towards the topic is expressed mundanely; however it takes nothing away from the historical implications of freeing a slave twenty years before the Emancipation Proclamation–double points for Mark Twain.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

The Dumas Legacy

Most of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is classic for its literary and real world references and allegories; and so it is no surprise the most suspenseful section of the novel imitate works from French author Alexandre Dumas–the master of the adventure novel, whose works range from the renowned The Three Musketeers to The Count of Monte Cristo.

A string of Structuralism and Semiotics follows through Chapters 34 to 40; constantly are Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer comparing the prison escape attempts of fictional characters to their methods of springing Jim from the Phelps’ shed. Tom proposes one tactic: “…when…[Jim]wants to send any little…message to let the world know…he can write it on the bottom of a tin plate…and throw it out of the window. The Iron Mask always done that…” (Twain. 243); this of course referencing The Man in the Iron Mask (1848-50) by Alexandre Dumas; and a later reference to the Chateau d’If in The Count Of Monte Cristo (1845), “…look at one of them prisoners in…the Castle Deef, in the harbor of Marseilles, that dug himself out…” (Twain. 246).

The boys are using their fantastical minds to seek out ways to free Jim; however, the ideas they produce are generally more time consuming than a simpler form of action, pointed out by Huck as they are digging a hole with case-knives, “[t]his ain’t no thirty-seven year job, this is a thirty-year job…”(Twain. 247).  As with other children they are concerned with the undying glory and the shocked reactions gained from the captors–a classic trait of a couple of imaginative young boys hunting for recognition.

Adventures of the Dumas novels are paralleled nicely with the numerous imitating scenes–the flinging of the plate and the digging out of a hole with case-knives among others–and so contribute to the theme of young playfulness and naivety which pairs the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn next to such a book as The Three Musketeers, in which  young protagonist D’Artagnan is a naive musketeer fighting alongside his experienced partners who drag him out of constant trouble.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

Eating–A Study Of Vampirism

I like vampires.

I also like food; combine those two in such chapters as Nice to Eat with You: Acts Of Communion and Nice to Eat You: Acts Of Vampirism, and magic occurs…

In the 1980s Anne Rice was the undisputed master of the vampire genre; under her literary belt are such titles as Interview with the Vampire; The Vampire Lestat; and The Queen of the Damned; and those all are included in the Vampire Chronicles…an excellent trilogy, by the way; and not strictly about bloodsuckers.

In the opening to The Vampire Lestat, the titular vampire Lestat details his beauteous narcissism: “I’d step into the solar lights before the cameras…reach out and touch with my icy fingers a thousand warm and grasping hands…[and]…I’d lead them to the truth of it…” Lestat hungers for glory and recognition; but neither of those keep him living–it is the blood of his fans which he needs, and the attention of his fans which he desires.

The point: vampires are not base predators–rather they are sophisticated socialites  who classily pursue the cultural trends of a generation before draining them dry in the dead evening; of course it is easy to lure their victims–all they must do is dress currently and speak currently and live currently; the social tycoon offering more than money or a car ride…simply in the times.

All memorable monsters are reflections of ourselves.

Step once more into the dining room…this one is reserved for humans.

Communion, or perhaps the opposite, in dining is expressed brilliantly in The Dead by James Joyce, as cited by Foster; but for me there is the tense scene in the science fiction novel Dune by Frank Herbert–a quiet dinner between the Atreides Family and the Harkonnen Family on Arrakis.

I admire this scene because of its suspenseful air, the type that grabs you by the throat and squeezes tighter and tighter until the expulsion of pressure; however it is also key to uncovering the relationship between the families and the deceitful nature of each. At dinner are accusations and whispers and spies and tension and arrogance and secrets–so dearly this scene is remembered in my heart as complex; and complex for purposes of union, especially the lack thereof.

The families are biased towards each other and so eat dinner slowly, exchanging accusing statements in between chews. Neither family wishes to be near the other, hence their separated seating–one family member for every other chair. The eyes are watchful, yet their mouths are motionless; and their hands remain on the utensils until a disturbance summons the host away from that minefield and all are relieved their selfish hearts have not imploded.

Eating together can be discordant or unifying; but either way people are communing upon a solitary meal entirely void of the emotions, of benefitting or malevolent intent, sinking into its bare atmosphere.

Think daily,

A Southpaw