Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein. -- H. Jackson Brown Jr. --
Sometimes I wonder if he wasn’t born dead. I never met a man who was less interested in the living. Sometimes I think that’s the trouble with the world: too many people in high places who are stone-cold dead. -- Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle --
The professor husband of a friend of mine has likened children to the insane. I often think of it. He says that children live on the edge of madness, that their behavior, apparently unmotivated, shares the same dream logic as crazy people's. I see what he means, and because I've learned to be patient with children, to tease out the logic that's always somewhere there, and irrefutable once explained, I've come to understand that grown-ups, mad or sane, ought really to be accorded the same respect. In this sense, nobody is actually crazy, just not understood. -- Claire Messud, The Woman Upstairs --
I recently read Maddaddam, the third book in this dystopic trilogy, by Margaret Atwood. I'm sort of proud of my three books in the series, because the first two, Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, are signed by the author. I'm hoping I one day have the opportunity to get the third one signed, making a complete set of signed Maggie-Books. I found it really helpful that Maddaddam, released in 2013, begins with a synopsis of what went on in the previous two books, especially since eight years have passed since Oryx and Crake came out, and my memory has seemed to age several decades in the same time frame. Maddaddam really brings it all together, and I think it is the finest of all three books. Atwood's future world is one in which technological genetic alteration has run amok. A new breed of emotionless vegetarian human-beings [The Crakers] roam about, and the vicious Painballers are in the woods, hunting to rape and kill anyone that is normal. Intelligent giant pigs called "Pigoons" [the frontal lobes of their brains are of human origin] are also on the loose. At first, the Pigoons are at war with the humans that have escaped the pandemic sweeping the earth -- and only much later in the book do they take the initiative to combine forces with a remnant of these normal humans [the Maddaddamites] to defeat a common enemy, the Painballers. Think of it this way -- the world as we know it is OVER… and the reason is not climate change, or even nuclear annihilation -- but rather, a form of biological terrorism brought about by humans. It's a crazy as hell book. There is even romance involved, as Toby's love for Zeb is a major part of the story. Heroine and hero. Meanwhile, other normal women are being willfully impregnated by the huge-penised male Crakers. Hmmm… what kind of babies will this produce? Only Maggie knows. She has really pulled out all the potty-mouth stops when it comes to dropping the f-bomb in this book. On one page alone I counted twelve "fucks". I'm sure if you averaged it out, you would end up with at least one or two on each and every page -- something to maybe consider before you drop Maddaddam into grandma's Christmas stocking, unless you're OK with her involuntarily swallowing her own false teeth halfway through the thing. It's an engaging read, and never boring. Even if one has not read the previous two books. Ultimately, I think it best to read all three in their order of publication, but given the aforementioned synopsis, I think Maddaddam can be read as a stand-alone book, and enjoyed. *****
Where to even begin in speaking about this book? I loved it so much. This is the problem. Where to begin. Well? How about page one, where the family of Clyde Griffiths are pounding the street yet again, seeking converts to their version of evangelical Christianity. They are street preachers. Clyde is twelve at the time -- and much less than the conversion of the masses, he's not even really interested in the conversion of himself! His dreams take place in a world far removed from that of his parents. He wants to be somebody -- get away from all this. Soon Clyde lands a job as a soda jerk in a pharmacy, and this leads to becoming a bus-boy in the most prestigious hotel in Kansas City. A formative event that gives him a glimpse of glamor. The very things he craves. Girls. Fun. Excitement. Social advancement. And we've still got more than 700 pages to go! Oh, Clyde. Oh, Clyde -- the crazy-ass decisions you are about to make! Fast forward to several years later, Clyde is working at another hotel in Chicago, and stumbles upon a chance to lift himself from poverty and obscurity -- to wealth, pleasure, and hitherto impossible romantic success. Of course he grabs at this brass ring, but in order to gain these ends he must utterly abandon the pieties of his fundamentalist upbringing and consider sacrificing his first real love, the only girl who has ever shown him true affection. All of society conspires to persuade him that his goals are admirable, perhaps even sacred -- but ultimately, Clyde, way out of his depth, resorts to criminal means in order to attain all that he wants. How far down the rabbit hole can one man fall? The answer is -- this far. As far as Clyde does. There is no farther. This book has all the potential to supplant my former favorite book of all time, and that one was written by Leo Tolstoy! So really, it is every bit as grand. Truly a gem -- I can honestly say I was riveted at every moment of An American Tragedy. It was published in 1925, a year before my own father was born -- and so many times I thought to myself -- This book has been in existence my entire life and I only discovered it now? Wow. Dreiser manages to parenthetically return in the end to a current update of Clyde's family -- now on the streets of San Francisco -- still preaching the wonder-working power of a God who seemed, in Clyde's case at least, to leave all legal consequences to the jury-decided results of human choice. What a terrific book. It was searing, moving, and most importantly to me, entirely believable. 828 pages of prose-perfect verisimilitude. If anyone out there is still wondering what you can get me for my birthday this December [start saving up now] -- you cannot go wrong with ordering this $3,500.00 signed two volume first edition set! *****
For the longest time I was sure I possessed first editions of at least two books -- To Kill A Mockingbird and Till We Have Faces. The latter book I picked up at an Antiquarian Book Fair at a fairly exorbitant price, thinking it was a first edition of a book I dearly love. Well, I still love it, but alas, I was chagrined to find that it is, in fact, NOT a true first edition after applying some of the tests demonstrated in the video-clip, below. Both of these books are stamped with the original publication date inside [1960 and 1956] but they are not first editions, as I had thought they were. Goll darn it! How about you, dear reader/collector/book-omnivore? Are you also harboring interlopers on your bookshelf? A little pot-light illuminating the spine of a "first-edition" that is all the while a third-printing? Not that I have any desire to knock the wind out of your sails, but take a few minutes to watch this video-clip and then have a second look at your own treasures to see if they measure up.
He wanted all to lie in an ecstasy of peace; I wanted all to sparkle and dance in a glorious jubilee. I said his heaven would be only half alive; and he said mine would be drunk: I said I should fall asleep in his; and he said he could not breathe in mine. -- Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights --
Do you remember what Darwin says about music? He claims that the power of producing and appreciating it existed among the human race long before the power of speech was arrived at. Perhaps that is why we are so subtly influenced by it. There are vague memories in our souls of those misty centuries when the world was in its childhood. -- Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet --
At that moment not a single sad thought entered my mind; I forgot my privation and felt soothed by the sight of the harbour, which lay there lovely and peaceful in the semi-darkness. -- Knut Hamsun, Hunger --
Just as the water of the streams we see is small in amount compared to that which flows underground, so the idealism which becomes visible is small in amount compared with what men and women bear locked in their hearts, unreleased or scarcely released. To unbind what is bound, to bring the underground waters to the surface: mankind is waiting and longing for such as can do that. -- Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) –
In light of my Splash du Jour quote from this morning, I did some thinking about re-reading books. I found that I agree with what C.S. Lewis said -- "I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." [As an astute commenter noted, he should have included "women" -- especially since they tend to read a lot more than men do. Agreed.] As I thought about it though, I found that I myself do not actually re-read a lot of books. When it comes down to it, in my entire life of constantly reading since birth, I think I have only re-read the ones seen in the above picture. And by sheer coincidence, the ones that I have re-read the most have been written by none other than C.S. Lewis! I've read his novel Till We Have Faces at least three or four times. I love it so much. I've read his Space Trilogy, but only re-read the first in the series, Out of The Silent Planet. And I've read Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia several times over. The Bible, I've definitely read that in its entirety more than once. Then there is M. Scott Peck's The Road Less Traveled, worthy of a third reading for sure. Anna Karenina, my favourite novel of all time, I've read it twice. Tess of The D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy -- twice. Tolkien's Lord of the RingsTrilogy, twice -- and the second time through, I followed along in a separate book of maps like a total geek! Shakespeare's Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet I've read twice. Other than these, I've been sort of a once-through guy, always moving on to something else. It's a lot easier actually for me to think of books and authors that I WANT to read twice, like -- pretty much everything by Jose Saramago. Especially The Cave and Blindness. Several books by Margaret Atwood are deserving of a second read. I want to re-read the books of Eckhart Tolle. Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy. Amazing books! Also, The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake -- I definitely want to re-read that. Some of the great novels of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, like The First Circle and Cancer Ward -- I've wanted to re-read those for a long time now. The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies. Gotta put that on my re-read list also! Plus, I want to one day get around to re-reading Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie -- for sure one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read.
How about you? Are you a re-reader of books? Do you also have a sort of subconscious list in your mind of things you want to re-read, but simply never seem to get around to it? *****
But to do its noticing and judging, poetry balances itself on the pinprick of the moment. Slowing down, stopping yourself completely, to read and understand a poem is like trying to acquire an old-fashioned skill like drystone walling or trout tickling. -- Ian McEwan, Saturday --
myths. They teach you that you can turn inward, and you begin to get the
message of the symbols. Read other people's myths, not those of your
own religion, because you tend to interpret your own religion in terms
of facts - but if you read the other ones, you begin to get the message.
Myth helps you to put your mind in touch with this experience of being
alive. Myth tells you what the experience is. -- Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth -- Have a great Thursday! *****