Master and Margarita Pt. IV

Get me.  Posting on time.  And for like the fourth day in a row.   If this unwarranted verbosity is tedious, don’t worry, this’ll be it for a while. I finished chapters 27-32 too late last night.  I even got into the Pilate chapters.  The ball is a magnificent scene with all the dead wrongdoers coming back to life and dancing and swimming in champagne.  The cat has a bowtie and everyone else is either in a tux (males) or nothing (females).   Margarita has a hellaciously tedious time greeting everyone as the queen of the ball, but then, after a bit of back and forth, she wishes to get her Master back and does.   He is neither well nor grateful, but hopefully that will come in time.   It seems like the happy ever after which is weird because this is a story about Satan, plus there’s still a quarter of the book to go.

It’s nice to hear you address a cat so politely.  For some reason cats are usually addressed with the familiar ‘thou’ despite the fact that no cat has ever drunk Bruderschaft with anyone.

At the ball, Margarita has to wear a necklace with a poodle on it.  This reminded me there’s a black dog in Goethe’s Faust and that this is a variant on the Faust story.   A very strange variant.   Unfortunately, I don’t remember much of the Faust story beyond the standard outline, Faust sells his soul and, well, I remember the Marlowe version and am not at all sure if in Goethe’s he dates Helen of Troy or throws food at the Pope while invisible.   I guess I should look this up.   It’s a very strange version, as I said, not just because all the weird stuff that happens, but Faust, presumably the Master, hasn’t sold his soul.   Unless Moscow’s supposed to embody Faust?   Heck, I got nothin’.  But otherwise I don’t understand the poodle necklace at all.


I do find it bizarre that the various minions keep scolding people for lying, greed, selfishness, and various other crimes large and small when aren’t they supposed to be encouraging those so everyone winds up in Hell?   Korovyov (or was it Azazello) yelling at the old woman “You old witch, if you ever find anything else that doesn’t belong to you, turn it over to the police and don’t hide it in your bosom!”    This is just one of many instances when the evil retinue is castigating or punishing people for sins they should approve of, don’t ask me why.

So, the Master has a few drinks and goes home with Margarita.  Then we’re back to Pilate and I won’t go into that, but it is still very different from the story we know.   And now on to the end.   Will they live happily ever after?   Will Woland move on with his retinue to some other country?  What will happen to the apartment?     Stay tuned for the final part of Master and Margarita next week!

Master and Margarita Catching Up Pt. 3

While for the most part I flunked Dewey yesterday, I did read chapters 17-22 of Master and Margarita.  So, that was good.   And they were still entertaining.  And still confusing.   Half of Moscow is in an uproar over the mysterious show that left so many women running around Moscow in their skivvies.   People are still trying to get the apartment, namely Berlioz’ uncle who seems to escape without any major difficulties, unlike the man who is now nothing but an empty suit.   The bartender who stupidly tried to get his money back also miraculously survived, possibly because he doesn’t have long to live, and now the doctor he ran to is being harassed.   There’s no way to escape these folks if you come to their attention, except perhaps to join them.   While we don’t see the Master or Ivan during this section, we re-meet Margarita who, of course, has not forgotten her love for the Master.   She longs for him so much she would sell her soul simply to know if he’s alive.   A stupidly low price in my book, but then she thinks it’s just an expression.   And maybe it is.   Has she sold her soul?   She’s become a witch with the knowledge she will pay a high price, but so far the price seems to be freedom and the ability to fly and be invisible.  She and her maid Natasha take to this like ducks to water.


A number of people reading have decided the Master’s Pontius Pilate novel was dreck.  It might be, I don’t think we’ll ever know, but I don’t think it’s important how well written it was.   The problem with it was that it said things about Pilate and presumably the whole Jesus story that got the various powers in the literary world’s panties in a bunch.   If a book is just bad, you don’t write editorials about it.   You don’t essentially destroy the author about it.  Whatever the Master had to say the Administration Did Not Like It.  Not enough to put him in a gulag, but clearly they did not approve.

One thing you can say about this book is that it’s unpredictable.   Someone was complaining (my apologies for being too lazy to go back and look up who it was) that the Devil and his minions were a bit too much like ordinary low-class thugs.   I think that’s on purpose — they’re supposed to symbolize, I think, the secret police and not-secret police and administrators who harass and bully the populace whenever they feel like it.   This is thinly disguised by the black magic, but really these guys are just like a brutal dictatorship.  Mercy, sense and justice are out the window.   If they want you in jail, or the madhouse, or in Yalta, that’s where you’re going and it doesn’t matter what you did or didn’t do.


It certainly has inspired a lot of great art.  I cannot believe how I could have completely forgotten this book aside from the fact there was a human-like cat in it.   I’m glad in a way.  It’s like reading it for the first time, but it seems weird to me that such a bizarre tale could be so utterly lost in my own personal mists of time.  I also can’t imagine how they made a play out of it, but then I’m only 3/5 of the way through.   But am now only six days behind and could, in theory, report on Monday on time.   It seems unlikely as that’s tomorrow, but still.   It’s possible.

I think the housing crisis was because they were trying to move from an agrarian to an industrial society very fast.   But I could be making that up.  Also the whole thing about Margarita being descended from a queen of France and ‘blood telling’ really bothers me.   I don’t believe that guff for a minute.   And it makes me sad to think that Bulgakov put any stock in it.   If he did.  Which I’m not sure yet.   Very Victorian and earlier notion.  The poor little waif with good manners always turns out to be from a good, meaning rich, family.   Like we can’t all read the papers or history books and see thousands of examples of good people from poor families and rotten people from rich and noble families.   How do these damn fool notions carry on even to today?   I’ve met people, not many, but a few, who believe that wealth equals, well, any other great thing you can think of, brains, skill, general worth.   People who think having a king is a better idea than having a congress or parliament.   Educated people!   Argggh!   As you can see, that’s a button of mine.  Blood will tell.   What a load of codswallop.



Dewey’s October 2016

I’m late to the party.   I woke up with a headache and I can’t read with a headache so back to sleep I went.   I think I’m okay now, though it’s kind of hovering.   Here’s hoping it’ll fly away.   Here’s my Opening Meme – Better Late Than Never, Right?

Opening Meme:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

Maryland, USA

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

Stack.   Yeah.   I don’t get through stacks of books in a day.   I’m going to try to catch up on Master and Margarita, maybe Woman in White, although watching Blandings last night made me want to read Something New.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

I went and bought way too many, but probably these Korean baked potato crackers which I may have started last night in a moment of weakness

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I hate the spacing on this blog.   It’s too big.   This is my third year doing this, I think.   I’ve never managed to stay up all night.   If only this were a thing when I was younger.   I used to be able to stay up all night.
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

I don’t know what I’ll do different.   Probably nothing.  I enjoy the readathon and there’s not much I can do about the fact I read slow.  I seem to recall napping a lot last time.   Maybe less of that?


I’m late with the mid-event survey because I did not have a totally free day:

Mid-Event Survey

1. What are you reading right now?

Still Master and Margarita
2. How many books have you read so far?

.1?  Even for me I haven’t read much today
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

Oh, let’s not kid ourselves.  I will fall asleep in a couple hours having read a bit more M&M
4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

Just one, but it was long.  I had plans for the evening and just got back.

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

How few snacks I’ve eaten

End of Event Survey

  1. Which hour was most daunting for you?  I wasn’t really into the readathon enough to be daunted.   I read what I could and went to sleep when I was too sleepy.  I did last until almost 2 AM, I think
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?  I’m finding Master and Margarita quite interesting, but not everyone would
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next season?  I don’t know.   Clearly I wasn’t that into it, but that could just be me.
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?  Sorry, wasn’t paying enough attention to know
  5. How many books did you read? .2
  6. What were the names of the books you read?  Master and Margarita  Oh and half a chapter of Something New
  7. Which book did you enjoy most?  Same as above.
  8. Which did you enjoy least?  I guess Something New, though I’m not sure.   I liked them both.
  9. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?   Given my general lack of enthusiasm?  I’m not sure.   But probably will.  Try to visit more blogs next time.

Master and Margarita Read After Pt. 2 & Dewey

Chapters 9-16 read and that was a lucky thing because early in the week I lost my Kindle!   I felt sure it was in the house, but time was going by and with the Readathon tomorrow, I thought I can’t be without it, or at least not without the books I’m trying to get through so I finally decided I would go to the store and buy a couple of books including M&M and give the Kindle time to resurface when I looked under the right chair and life was happy once more.  I simply couldn’t imagine reading off the computer for a large number of hours.   So here I am, only 11 days behind with the second reading and hoping to make a large dent in this book tomorrow.   Usually I like to ignore what I’m reading and start fresh, but I’m so far behind in my various reading commitments it will never do to fritter away major reading time on some new thing.

So, right.   Master and Margarita.   Well, we’ve met the Master.   Who wrote a book about Pontius Pilate and is in the same asylum as Ivan.   In fact, he’s the one who tells Ivan exactly who he met at Patriarch’s Ponds.   Woland and his crew put on a show about Black Magic which is supposed to include an exposé of it, but doesn’t, because Woland only knows the genuine article.   Everyone who crosses his path ends up either embarrassed on the street, driven mad, transported to Yalta or otherwise greatly inconvenienced, if not dead.   Satan in other stories can’t usually harm one it seems except if you make a deal with him and then it’s your own fault, but Woland thinks nothing of ripping your head off for his own amusement.   Which I suppose was pretty much what it was like living under Stalin.  But aside from that, I’m not sure what any of it means.   Pontius Pilate?  The changes to the Jesus story?   I got nothin’.   I guess I better read some other peoples’ opinions about it, but I hate doing that mid-book.  I’d rather interpret for myself, but if I’m at a loss, and I think I am, what choice is there?

It is certainly lively enough.  Plenty happens.  So I read the quote Alice put up on her blog and did not think it really explained anything.  Woland doesn’t remove the veil of order and allow them to act naturally, they are trying to behave in a rational manner and he won’t allow it, is how it seems to me.   Trading old clothes for new seems rational to me.   The contracts made with him are rational.  The attempts to tell the authorities what he’s doing are rational, he just stops them.   And when Nikanor Ivanovich or Ivan tries to tell people what actually happened they are treated as though they lost their minds though they are telling the perfect truth.  Rational behavior is impossible around the devil unless perhaps if you’re as quick-witted and lucky as Rimsky.

But I love the sign also found by Alice:


Don’t Talk to Strangers

Master and Margarita Read After

So, you’ve heard of a readalong, yes?   Group gets together, virtually or IRL, and reads a book together.   Well, I meant to do that, but I got distracted first by RIP and second by The Labors of Hercules and I forgot to sign up and then I read slow and now I’m 12 days behind.  I hope they won’t mind having me tag after them like the last kid in the race.  Cuz that’s what I am.

I read this book in college, I believe, more years ago than I’m going to tell you, and honestly only remember 1) that it’s strange, 2) I liked it, 3) there’s Moscow and a cat.  Having read the first 8 chapters, that’s still all I can tell you.   Okay, not quite, I can sum up the whole thing, but can I explain it?  No.   But that’s probably all right.   The Devil went down to Moscow, or at least a gentleman, possibly foreign, though maybe not, appears at Patriarch’s Ponds (though on the map it sure looks like only one pond) and starts chatting with two men having a discussion about Jesus and his non-existence.   One is high up in MASSOLIT, the literary establishment of Soviet Russia, and the other is a poet and the editor is trying to get the poet to write an article about this.   The stranger barges in and through his conversation seems to indicate that he’s been hanging out and chatting with people for a couple of millennia at least.    He tells the story of Pontius Pilate in such a way that both men feel they are there, witnessing it.   The man says other things, too, indicating he knows how Berlioz, the editor will die, and is just generally pretty freaky.  What the man says then comes true and this sends the poet out of his mind.   He chases after the man who is joined by another strange man and a large cat.  The cat is capable of human like behavior and tries to pay his fare to get on a streetcar when they separate.   Ivan keeps chasing, but never gets any closer and winds up performing such a series of bizarre stunts that he winds up hospitalized, rambling about this consultant and Pontius Pilate.   There’s more.   But that’s enough to give you an idea.

I’m pretty sure that when I read this the first time I must have read the Mirra Ginsburg translation which was based apparently on a censored edition.   If I were a faster reader, I might track down a copy to see what’s missing.   This time I went with the Burgin-O’Connor based on a one-sentence comparison I found on the web.  There are a number to choose from, this has become quite a classic and a miracle it survived to publication.  And there are seemingly hundreds of great covers for this book.  I’m enjoying it as I did the first time, but feel no wiser as to what it means



1947 Club and RIP Book 2

The Labors of Hercules published in 1947 is a set of twelve stories in which Poirot decides to solve twelve final cases before retiring to grow vegetable marrows.  He was always talking about retiring to grow vegetable marrows which always seemed a singularly tedious retirement to me.  At any rate, Christie is clever with her modern takes on the twelve labors, but I rarely find short stories satisfying and this was no different.   One barely gets started before it’s over.

laborsofhercules I can also use this cover for the Vintage Cover Scavenger Hunt because it has a painting.

Trying to think up something worth saying about this, but nothing is coming to mind.  They’re pretty good stories, the framing device works well enough, solid, but not spectacular.   I believe Kaggsy read and reviewed this and probably had something much better to say.

And then I had the idea to watch the David Suchet version.  Couldn’t imagine how they would do it, except perhaps to take 3 or 4 of them and film those, but they are cleverer than I.  What they did was to change some settings and a few other plot points and mush half of them into one trip to a grand old watering hole on a Swiss alp.  After an opening murder/jewel theft/painting theft to get Poirot emotionally invested, we adjourn to Switzerland where the spa guests are trapped by an avalanche – these include plots of The Stymphalean Birds, The Arcadian Deer, elements of The Girdle of Hippolyta, The Capture of Cerberus and The Erymanthian Boar.  It does seem a shame to have no Miss Carnaby and the Pekingese dog, but the pug does his best.   A pretty good adaptation if you aren’t too particular about fidelity to the book.  Here’s the Hotel Olympus looking far faker than it does when you’re watching:


Overall an enjoyable read and watch.

Into the Wild

Here’s a shining example of my distractibility.  I found myself reading a bunch of articles about Christopher McCandless, a young man who in 1992 went to Alaska to live off the land and died there.  There are many articles because Jon Krakauer wrote a book, then Sean Penn made a movie and all the while Alaskans are writing articles about what a dope McCandless was and you should not do this.   Do not go unprepared into the Alaskan wild, they say.   Can’t say they’re wrong.   If you’re all romantic about Nature and simple living, but don’t want to die, probably better to take a few safety precautions.  Like a good map and a radio.   McCandless wasn’t that far from civilization when he died, but there was a raging river between him and it.   So after reading a bunch of articles on how exactly he died (Krakauer has believed since the beginning there was more to it than pure starvation) and another bunch on what a damn-fool thing it was to do and people should stop comparing him to Thoreau and Muir, because people keep following him to the ‘magic bus’ and one drowned in the river.   They won’t build a bridge because that would just encourage people.   I find that thinking a lot like when they take the trash cans out from the park to make people carry out their own trash.   They don’t.   And they aren’t going to stop pilgrimaging to the magic bus, so build a bridge already.   Maybe that will take some of the excitement out of it.

So, after all this article reading castigating and defending Krakauer and McCandless, I finally said to myself, “Just read the book.”   That will probably scratch this itch better than finding another article and it did.   It’s a good book.   I think Krakauer paints quite a good picture of McCandless, both his wildly underprepared and overconfident side and the nature that drove him to this project to begin with.   It follows McCandless as much as possible for the two years after he graduated from Emory and essentially lived rough travelling around the American west.   McCandless was a decidedly odd duck from early on.  He went on long road trips before he even graduated and apparently loved it despite losing 30 pounds and almost dying in the desert.   I’m pretty sure that would have put me off for life, but as soon as his parents had gone home, he had his mail held and lit out for the territories.   By the time he got to Alaska almost two years later, he had survived quite a lot, which probably contributed to his overconfidence.   Krakauer seems to have done a great job tracking down the people McCandless became friends with on the road, where he went and how he lived.   He seems to have only gotten regular work a few times.   He’d work a month or two and then head out again.   He didn’t worry much about food or clothes or shelter.  He could live for a month off rice.   This is my idea of Hell, but for McCandless, this was just the overture for the main event — surviving in the Alaskan wilderness.


It’s no spoiler to tell you he didn’t.   It’s the first sentence of the book.   It’s even on the cover.   But you should read the most recent version to get Krakauer’s final take on what really went wrong.   Also there’s a – and this is a minor spoiler and a speculation, so stop reading if you don’t want to know – small mystery about some cabins in the area that were not just damaged by a vandal (or vandals), but destroyed.   Not just food stolen, but lamps smashed, carpets and mattresses dragged outside, windows broken, all three cabins rendered uninhabitable.   Some Alaskans think Chris did it.   It happened while he was there.  Krakauer thinks he would not have been able to resist bragging in his ‘journal’ about it, which is a fair point given what we know of McCandless’ character, but this journal is little more than a list.   A ship’s log is more detailed.   If you had an assignment to keep a diary that was 3 words or less a day, this is what this ‘journal’ was like.   I think he did it.  And I think he did it, not because he was anti-government (one of the cabins belonged to the Park Service), but because he didn’t want to cheat.   If those cabins were there, full of bedding and food and light and relatively warm, he might not have been able to resist holing up there when the going got tough.   So, he destroyed anything that made them appealing.   Now, this is just my theory, maybe someone else tramped through there and had their own reasons for destroying three cabins, but nope.  I don’t buy that.  He might have done it before settling in the Magic Bus.   Because the argument against my theory is that he sheltered in the man-made bus.   Didn’t destroy it.   I think he ended up having to shelter in the bus because otherwise he would’ve died of exposure.   He had a tent and a sleeping bag his mom sewed for him, but when he got up there in late April it was still below freezing at night.  He did not have equipment to deal with that from the sound of it.   At any rate, that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.    If this story interests you at all, Krakauer’s book is a good, fast read, and really, the only game in town unless you want to Google all the articles you can find.