books

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

 

 

 

The Apple Falls Far From The Tree?

Pap Finn–the abusive father of Huckleberry Finn; not abusive in the sense of beatings, but rather a mentally insulting abuse: he was dealt a bad hand in life; his son was dealt a hand of triple aces; he wants to steal those triple aces out of his son’s hands and pass him a rotten deck. The same cards for each man. The same troubles for each man.

Huck’s cards, in this case, education and reading and writing, are to Pap a bunch of “…hifalut’n foolishness…” (Twain. 21). and all his son is accomplishing is “…puttin’ on frills…” (Twain. 22). He cannot stand to see his son best him–a universal reaction of fathers to their sons as their child grows beyond their mold to experience life personally.

Sons model themselves after their fathers. They are expected to see a role model in their parent, and when these expectations fall short what else does the father do than try to change himself in the eyes of his son; so the son can in turn turn over his own leaf and go out into society a responsible man, so says Pap Finn, “I’ll learn people to bring up a boy to put on airs…and let on to be better’n…his own father…” (Twain. 21).

This situation flips in the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

To the casual reader it is clear Pap Finn loathes his son’s good fortune and his carelessness towards all things homely–the uneducated backwoods lifestyle of Pap Finn. He does so because of one reason: the widow, a woman who “…put[s] in her shovel about…things[s]…ain’t none of her business.” (Twain. 21). She has taught Huck how to read and write; how to be civilized; and how to speak grammatically correct; and since these qualities were not easily afforded to Pap Finn he is bitter about his turn of the cards and so pursues a nasty path of guilting his son into giving him liquor money.

Apply the symbiotic father-eat-son relationship to the current world and the first and most prominent example is immigrant families: a son is granted an education of higher standing than his father; the father is outraged at his spread of knowledge and good fortune; and both men argue over their expanded stances on life–a moment forever repeating in history.

Such is the same between Huckleberry Finn and Pap Finn. Once the son receives education and traces the shape of his corner of the world he wants to do all he can to escape; even if that includes leaving his father a duller man, which is how it appears to the latter.

All is indicative of Structuralism and Semiotics.

Think daily,

A Southpaw 

 

 

 

BEAUTIFUL IRONY! And Some White Whales…

What is one of the most popular symbols in classic literature?

Incidentally it is not a storm or a ray of sun; rather it is a large white whale, specifically Moby Dick, the titular star of Moby-Dick. Notice the emphasis on white? That’s because Herman Melville refers to the color almost thirty times in one chapter of his novel, meaning it to be the emptiness of all things–without color things lack substance…gravitas.

Let’s grab another symbol here–oh, by the way, this is courtesy of the chapter It’s My Symbol and I’ll Cry If I Want To. Here’s a good one: the vases in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. They are brought by Quasimodo to the towers of Notre Dame, one cracked and the other in unscathed; symbolic, of course, of the perception of beauty between Esmeralda and Quasimodo.

Many stories feature symbolism. Their presence better personifies a work and gives off a smoking literary attractiveness. Take To Kill A Mockingbird, the first book ever written by Harper Lee, and yet forty or so years later the story is still kicking because it has such purposeful symbols and themes in so tiny a novel. Then there is The Outsiders, with memorable bits of innocence gained and lost keeping it afloat from generation to generation.

Harry Potter has a symbol on his forehead!

Achilles has a symbol in his ankle!

Captain Ahab is wearing a symbol!

Symbols–here to stay forever long!

Now, let’s traipse over to irony…

Irony is the leftover crumble of crust on a sandwich, says Foster in Is He Serious? And Other Ironies, “…when what should happen doesn’t…”He cites examples from Hemingway and Burgess; and defines irony as simply…the unexpected. 

Such cases are at work in the stories of Douglas Adams, author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, one of our best modern satires. From the Earth blowing up to the meaning of all life answered–it is 42–this is a comedic barnyard of irony; although in a first reading it is difficult to notice all uses of irony but to the trained reader.

Also read The Princess Bride for an irony stuffed plot…or watch the movie; either way an enjoyable experience and one you’ll be laughing equally hard at no matter the medium.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

 

Familiarity In A Woman’s World

Intertwining the backwoods war of the Grangerfords and the Sheperdsons is the  tale of a young woman poet and painter taken abruptly from her craft forever; she was Emmeline Grangerford and painted and sketched morose images of laboring women surrounded wholly by death–this is indicative of Gender Studies and Queer Theory.

This is how one of Emmeline’s paintings is described, “…a woman in a small dress…[and]…a large black scoop-shovel bonnet with a black veil…[and]…leaning pensive on a tombstone…under a weeping willow…” (Twain. 104). The present darkness parallels that of any painting by Goya–the grim atmosphere and the use of darker shades to convey hopelessness–and in paralleling Goya her painting is received with familiarity in technique by the reader.

In the early 1900s there was hardly familiarity in a woman’s world.

If a woman wished to be an artist she must then have published under a pseudonym, that, or found a company willing to cross a boundary in accepting her work. Notable exceptions are Mary Shelley and Virginia Woolf, among others; and of the two Shelley is renowned for the novel Frankenstein (1818) and its Gothic themes of death and rebirth, which were ideas still in foundation when she wrote the novel, and which many believed a woman to hardly be credited for.

Much neither changed nor improved up into the age of Emmeline Grangerford; and it is in this section that the reader must imagine the future of her works had she lived to publish them. Though they are connected aesthetically to works of Goya there is little in the book to suggest she had had much success in establishing her own artistic identity: “…[she] made poetry…when she was alive, and it didn’t seem right…there warn’t nobody to make some about her…” (Twain. 106).

Poor luck was unfortunately a taboo on women of the time. The closest they came to actual benefiting labor was in the household and, specifically, the kitchen; not until the beginnings of World War I in 1917 did they acquire a societal role.

Emmeline Grangerford is described as a prodigy, one that may have seen success later in her lifetime: “If [she] could make poetry like that before she was fourteen…ain’t no telling what she could a done by-and-by.” (Twain. 106). She is also symbolizes the struggling woman in the predominately male century of the 1900s.

Think  daily, 

A Southpaw