Readers Imbibing Peril X

I think this is the third year I’ve imbibed peril along with many other readers out there.   Previously hosted by Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings, this year we have Andi and Heather of The Estella Society to thank.  I’m sure we are in good hands and that’s good because some of us may read something too scary.   Info is here: The Estella Society

rip10500http://www.abigaillarson.com/

Book the First complete

Once again I’m going to do my best to read at least 4 books that fit under the mystery/suspense/thriller/gothic, etc. heading.   It’s a very wide tent.   Plenty of room for all kinds of things.  We have from Sept 1 through Halloween, so join in, won’t you?   No one should do this alone.

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Three Men in a Boat

Last week, before skipping town, I finished, finally, Three Men in a Boat (to say nothing of the dog) by Jerome K. Jerome a classic comic story of three friends based on Jerome himself and two of his friends who go boating/camping along the Thames for a couple of weeks.  I don’t know why it took me a while to finish this – I enjoyed it every time I opened it.   It gives a charming picture of a Victorian vacation as well as being funny.    There is no plot to speak of.   The men get together, rent a boat and it’s just a description of what happens and what they see along the way with occasional digressions.   I thought I had highlighted some passages, but Kindle Cloud Reader denies this, so here is a passage quoted in Wikipedia to give you an idea of his style.   They are making stew for dinner.  Montmorency is the dog.

I forget the other ingredients, but I know nothing was wasted; and I remember that, towards the end, Montmorency, who had evinced great interest in the proceedings throughout, strolled away with an earnest and thoughtful air, reappearing, a few minutes afterwards, with a dead water-rat in his mouth, which he evidently wished to present as his contribution to the dinner; whether in a sarcastic spirit, or with a genuine desire to assist, I cannot say.

There are some sentimental and historical passages which are a bit tedious, but fortunately, not many and not too long.

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Don’t look at the map too closely as it does contain spoilers.   Not that there’s much to spoil, so maybe you won’t mind.

Years ago I read the Connie Willis novel which references this, To Say Nothing of the Dog, and enjoyed it a lot.   Maybe worth a reread now.

I wondered about his name as who in their right mind would name a child Jerome Jerome?  Surely, it’s a pen name, I hoped.   It turns out his father was named Jerome Clapp and renamed himself Jerome Clapp Jerome and named his son after his new name with the difference being his middle name is Klapka after an exiled Hungarian general.

I intend to read more Jerome books at some point and I’m using this as my Comic Classic for Books and Chocolate‘s classics challenge.

Stats, or What’s Up With That?

I realized over the past couple months that my post The Sadness that is the End of the Minithon was getting views on a regular basis.   Far more than whatever my most recent post was.  34 in July and August.   That’s one every other day for a post that should not have interested anyone but the 6 or 7 people who participated in the Minithon in May.  I chat about The Wimbledon Poisoner – a book I never finished – and peanut butter pretzel nuggets.   Hard to believe anyone’s searching on those things.  I therefore come to the conclusion that people are drawn to the picture of the sad bunny which I stole off the internet.   I further conclude that the road to fame and fortune, or at least more visits, is pictures of cute animals.   The posts may go unread, but the traffic will be excellent.

hedgepig

I wonder when I see stories of people who apparently make a living being a Youtube sensation or a blogger, how much traffic is that?   When someone’s year long project is parlayed into a book and maybe even a movie a la Julie and Julia, what level of interest did it have to reach to jump the divide to real-world book or movie?   And then if you look for Julie now you can find she did another blog for a bit and wrote a book about carving meat, but that didn’t have the same success.   What do you do when your personal internet bubble bursts?

tolstoypurplechair

I’ve started reading Tolstoy and the Purple Chair despite the fact that I know it’s more grief memoir than a book about reading.  Definitely a few dozen of us who would’ve preferred a book about the reading, but then we’re demented.  I am somewhat obsessed with the idea of reading a book a day, even though I know I couldn’t do it.   Or maybe because I know I couldn’t do it.   I started it yesterday and have gotten through about 70 pages.   But even if I didn’t have a job, I don’t think I could do it.   I couldn’t manage 100 pages a day last December when I was trying to finish off 10 or 11 books for various challenges.   Even if I stuck to short books, (and really, they couldn’t be too short or it wouldn’t count) I’m still too slow a reader.   She did read some darned short books, but she also read The Elegance of the Hedgehog and Watership Down, each in a day.  So even if for some reason I no longer had to work, I’m pretty sure I would get tired of it and want to do anything other than read after a while.  Whether that while would be 3 days or 3 months I’m not sure.  And I am so easily bored that finding 365 books that I could read straight through would be a miracle.

I was hoping that reading the book itself would cure me of thinking about it.  But so far, it has not.   Maybe because I want to be reading not about her family during WWII or her sister, which was the whole reason she did this in the first place, but more about what it’s like to read a book each day.   And how it is at the end of a month.   Do you remember them?  Is it just a sea of muddled prose in your mind?  Do one or two stand out and the rest is grey?   There’s also a frustrating vagueness much of the time as to what prevents her reading, what caused her to wind up with 200 pages to go at 10 pm?   I would be sunk right there.   But also I couldn’t deal with a midnight deadline.   I’d have to go noon to noon or something like that.   Reading at night in bed is one of my favorite things.  And she and I are just not much alike, so instead of identifying with or even empathizing, I just wish she’d tell me more about other stuff.  And why am I even thinking about this?  Unless an eccentric millionaire pays me to take a leave of absence to read books for a year (I’d like to do it at the beach, dear eccentric millionaire), it’s not a possibility.   Usually I’m fairly good at accepting that things are impossible and dealing in the realm of the possible, but this, keeps bugging me,

Go Set a Watchman

Here’s a rare thing.  I’ve read a book within a month of its publication.   I figured I would eventually read Go Set a Watchman (whose title, which still annoys me comes from Isaiah) and I got tired of seeing all these spoilers so I went and read it.  And now, I’m not sure what to say, because it can’t really be talked about without spoilers, so if you haven’t read it, don’t read on.   Or, don’t read past this paragraph in which I will state that there are some wonderful scenes in which Scout looks back on her childhood, beautifully written glimpses into how life was in the South, and probably still is cuz damn they don’t change.   Pretty sure Alexandra’s grandmother gave coffees not unlike the one she gives in Watchman.  So it has some great parts and the first third is enjoyable and then it is by turns appalling and sort of a mix of dismaying and non-plussing.   I would definitely be curious to see what anyone says about it who hasn’t read Mockingbird, because as this guy points out, it doesn’t really seem to stand on its own.    Spoilers in the article though so just go read the book if you want to avoid them,   It’s the only way.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/07/27/sweet-home-alabama

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Okay, spoilers galore now.   Atticus, as you may have heard, has feet of clay.   One feels this dramatically if you’ve admired him since reading TKAM.  The epitome of what the Southern man could and should be: just, patient, loving, fair-minded, and unprejudiced.  Ha!  Turns out, he only loves the law and the difference between him and the rest of the South is that his racism is some sort of high-minded bullshit as opposed to the foaming-at-the-mouth loathing of Mr. O’Hanlon.  He sees the “negroes” as children, to be brought along in paternal fashion, but who can never truly grow up and be the equal of the white folks who are so much more advanced.   Maybe someday.  In a hundred years, or two, they’ll be ready to eat at the same table, go to the same theaters, learn from the same teachers, and even vote or hold office.   Maybe.  It’s horrifying and to give Scout credit, she’s thoroughly appalled.   Her semi-fiance is one of these people which is painful enough, but her father was, as Lee puts it, a god to her and finding out he’s merely a non-violent racist is as horrifying to her as it is to us.   For several chapters.   Then I think Lee didn’t know what to do, or maybe I don’t understand what she did, but there’s a big confrontation, Scout starts to run away from everyone, but is stopped by her uncle who blathers on about not running away and your friends need you when they’re wrong not when they’re right and she can do the most good by coming back to Maycomb and what…?   She’ll just end up being that eccentric, token non-racist Scout Finch who likes to wear trousers and pretend that race doesn’t matter.   She’s not going to make an actual difference that I can see.   Life goes on as it did before.  She gives her father a ride home and goes on another date with her racist fiance, who she intends to eventually let down easy.  Don’t string him along, Jean Louise, you were right in the first place – end it.   You can’t marry him and it looks like there isn’t a non-racist in all of Maycomb you could marry.    Wondering if Jem is left out because she didn’t know whether to make him a racist or not.

Go Set a Watchman is a mostly well-written portrait of racism, the South and using the 10th amendment to justify treating people like shit.  I found it extremely painful to read and if that makes me a bigot (as Jean Louise’s uncle calls her) because I’m unwilling to entertain peoples’ ideas on why racism is actually okay, so be it.

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So, I’m starting to think that the reason Harper Lee didn’t write another book nor have this one published for 55 years was that To Kill a Mockingbird was edited into a thing better than she was capable of — that her own views were not so evolved as the book that came out in her name so when and if more books came from her pen they would, as this one has, revealed thinking that was in no way as progressive as Mockingbird would lead one to think.   Similar to the statement All men are created equal.   It has been vociferously pointed out to me the writer of that statement only meant landholding white males, but I firmly believe we can say true things that are better than we ourselves are capable of believing.   We are creatures of our times, but we sometimes have a glimpse and are able to articulate something better, something forward thinking, something true.   If challenged on it, we’d probably fail because we don’t have the conviction of what we said, but it’s right nonetheless and the only way we move forward is by seizing on these diamonds of insight and holding onto them as showing us the way to go.   Like a small star to guide us.  Mockingbird was fiction – no such person as Atticus existed.   Watchman is cold, sad fact – many such people as Atticus existed and still exist and they are solidly in the wrong.