Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: reading Page 1 of 10

The Reader: Final Thought on Journal of a Novel

the reader
Photo by Ehud Neuhaus on Unsplash

I was going to wax poetic about how wonderfully magical Journal of a Novel was, but the last page summed up the whole book.

“The Reader – Well, by God, Pat, he’s just like me, no stranger at all. He’ll take from my book what he can bring to it. The dull witted will get dullness and the brilliant may find things in my book I didn’t know where there.

And just as he is like me, I hope my book is enough like him so that he may find in it interest and recognition and some beauty as one finds in a friend.”

That’s exactly what happened when I read East of Eden. It’s what happens each time I read any book. That’s what is supposed to happen. A book, especially a novel, isn’t a lesson or a lecture, it’s a version of events. We each bring to the story our own being and when we read it, something magical happens. There’s an interaction, almost a chemical reaction of sorts. Something new is created in us.

And when we share those interpretations with others, combine them with the world we know and the impressions others had while reading those same stories, something even bigger comes of it all. The author’s struggles and efforts to put words together turns out to be more than what he had thought to create.

Life can be lived in much the same way if we allow ourselves to be honest. When we come together to share our stories, we create new ones, if we can keep an open mind and respect the being of those around us.

Hmm… I’m still reading Reflections on a Mountain Lake each morning before my meditation time, and just this morning she was mentioning something similar. Each time I meet a new person, read a new book, or experience some new something, I grow a little bit if I allow myself to be open to the experience and not try to control it, let it be there as it is instead of trying to force it onto a frame of my own construction.

I’m so glad I found this book. It was a beautiful follow-up to East of Eden. As a writer, it gave me so much to relate to. I feel like a part of a community. I’m not alone or completely nuts. I was never a fan of John Steinbeck’s books, but now I feel like we’re friends.

The Gift of Choice: Final Thoughts on East of Eden

Reflecting on the gift of choice as I close the final pages …sigh…

the gift of choice
So much reading to do!

I finished East of Eden. Ten days, 778 pages in 18.58 hours. Nearly two hours a day I spent in that book, and that’s a lot because I’m currently reading two other books. I loved it so much. The story covers three generations, and I never thought the story dragged. I never ached to know what was happening next. I never thought, “Why in the world is this chapter here?” I just watched it unfold, and every chapter was beautiful.

When I got to the end of the book, I paused before I turned to the last page. Please, please, please don’t destroy my dreams with your words, Mr. Steinbeck! It was gorgeous.

So, what’s the book about? Choice. Every single one of us has a choice in life. Do we do good for ourselves and those around us? Or do we do them wrong? We are all good and evil combined. It’s what we do with our lives that counts.

Chapter 24. around halfway through the book, was my “Ah-ha!” moment.

Lee explains to Adam his study of the story of Cain and Abel from Genesis. Word translations come into play, something I’ve spent time questioning myself. When we translate something from one language to another, it isn’t an easy task. One small tweak of a word and the whole thing changes tone. We also put our own background and culture on top of the words we’re translating, not to mention all the time that has passed between the original manuscript and our current work.

I don’t think the following quote will spoil anything, but if you want a pure reading, maybe save it for later and skip to the bottom.

“Don’t you see?” he cried. “The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin, and you can call sin ignorance. The King James translation makes a promise in ‘Thou shalt,’ meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word, the word timshel – ‘Thou mayest’ – that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open. That throws it right back on a man. For it ‘Thou mayest’ – it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.’”

“Any writing which has influenced the thinking and the lives of innumerable people is important. Now, there are many millions in their sects and churches who feel the order, ‘Do thou,’ and throw their weight into obedience. And there are millions more who feel predestination in ‘Thou shalt.’ Nothing they may do can interfere with what will be. But ‘Thou mayest’! Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win.”

“It is easy out of laziness, out of weakness, to throw oneself into the lap of deity, saying, ‘I couldn’t help it; the way was set.’ But think of the glory of choice! That makes a man a man. A cat has no choice, a bee must make honey. There’s no godliness there.”

We all have choices to make every single day.

It reminds me of last year when I cut my finger chopping onions for a sauce. I learned a lesson that day: always cook first, or at least finish using sharp tools, and then get a nice adult beverage. Never the reverse!

It’s rare that I hurt myself badly enough to need a visit to Urgent Care, but after holding it for thirty minutes the blood just came gushing back the minute I let go. I needed stitches. My husband drove me down to town and was thrilled to find out that, due to Covid restrictions, he didn’t have to go inside with me. He hates that kind of thing. Poor guy. I wouldn’t have made him anyway.

Once inside, the nurse took me in, numbed the pain, and then sewed up my finger. The process was fascinating to me, and I took the sharp pain of the needle without complaint. Once it was numb and she started sewing, I loved watching. I’ve never had stitches before. It was exciting.

I told the nurse what a great job she was doing, and I was so thankful that she was around to help me through my stupid moment. Everyone makes mistakes, right? Good thing there people around to help you through the pain of fixing them.

She was so grateful. She said most people come in angry when they are hurt. They snap at her as she tries to clean a wound and give them the means of healing it. “Why would they do that? We aren’t animals.” I commiserated. Everyone’s on edge lately.

Animals don’t have a choice to behave better. They only react to the present moment. They can’t see the bigger picture. We can if we take the time to calm ourselves and see it. We can respond instead of reacting. A large dog bred to fight, doesn’t think, “It’s in my blood and training to fight strong and win, but what if I don’t want to?” But a human has something animals don’t, that choice within them. It may be hidden away under years of experience and trauma, but it’s there. Which leads me to another track: my mediation this morning. But that’s another post.

I’m glad I found East of Eden at that used bookstore. I didn’t know I wanted to read it, only knew the title because I was sure it was an old movie, and Steinbeck. He’s famous, right? It was my first read from my Classics Club five-year reading challenge post. Not a bad start!

What’s next? That amazing find that came to my mailbox when I first started reading East of Eden, The Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters by John Steinbeck!

The Power in Stories: East of Eden #3

Another morning, nearly two hours straight, completely absorbed in a story. There’s so much power in stories. And it’s not only the story that’s grabbing my attention, but also the truths he’s touching on. The way he writes, narrating not only the story, but coming out of it to talk to you like he just thought of something to mention. It’s more like a conversation than a novel.

power in stories

Four days, and this is where I am. Halfway through a fat novel I didn’t know I even wanted to read in the first place. It makes me want to go back and read his other novels that I initially hated. Was it the story I didn’t like, or was his voice different? Or was it because the first time was in a high school classroom, forced to read a story before I was ready?

The last few pages I read this morning are what I want to highlight today. And you don’t have to worry about spoilers. These are taken out of context and related to me personally. That’s the way I read. Author’s probably hate it.

“I think when a man finds good or bad in his children he is seeing only what he planted in them after they cleared the womb.”

There’s a lot of truth here. How our children behave has a lot more to do with how we raised them, than how we conceived them. Do we honor their natural temperament or squash it? Have we dealt with our own past demons or are we passing on that lesson, to be learned by the next generation?

“An unbelieved truth can hurt a man much more than a lie. It takes great courage to back truth unacceptable to our times. There’s a punishment for it, and it’s usually crucifixion.”

Have you ever told the truth and been ostracized for it? It destroys more people than lies do. The fear of it makes us hide our feelings, our thoughts, our true selves, from the world around us, especially those closest to us. Safety is a rare space.

“Lord, how the day passes! It’s like a life – so quickly when we don’t watch it and so slowly when we do.”

It’s lines like this, ones that express so eloquently what all of us know instinctually, that make my heart skip in joy.

“No story has power, nor will it last, unless we feel in ourselves that is true and true of us.”

That brings me back to wondering about those Steinbeck stories I read when I was younger. For whatever reason, they mean something to humanity in general, not individuals at any given time. Something that means something to generations, no matter what you personally get from it, are worthy of respect. As you change, they change. Something in them is important, something in them reflects humanity, you may not be able to see it yet.

“I’m feeling my way now – don’t jump on me if I’m not clear.”

This should be on the title page of my blog. It’s exactly how I feel each time I start to write a post.

Samuel had leaned on his elbows on the table and his hands covered his eyes and forehead. “I want to think,” he said. “Damn you, I want to think. I’ll want to take this off alone where I can pick it apart and see. Maybe you’ve tumbled a world for me. And I don’t know what I can build in my world’s place.”

Lee said softly, “Couldn’t a world be built around accepted truth? Couldn’t some pains and insanities be rooted out if the causes were known?”

This is the essence of my thinking lately, one I learned to see through secular Buddhism. We should be tearing down our worlds and rebuilding them constantly, not clinging to what we believe we already know. It’s the only way to stay sane. Keep an open mind, stay curious, try to see what’s right there in front of us, and use that information to build new worlds. This is progress.

Yesterday afternoon, I stopped at the mailbox on my way into town for groceries. This was inside.

power in stories

It’s that book I told you about when I first started reading East of Eden a mere four days ago, Journal of a Novel. I thought I’d read it alongside East of Eden, but I’m already still heavily involved in The Portable Atheist and Reflections on a Mountain Lake. I’ll have to wait, but it’s definitely next.

By the way, I did make a bit of a fool of myself when I found the book in the mail. I ripped open the package right there in the car and took a picture, quickly texting it to several people I knew would be just as excited to hear about it. Yes, I’m THAT kind of geek!

Click back to my first post on East of Eden by John Steinbeck for more.

East of Eden: New Read

I love it when a plan comes together!

What plan? Michelle, you never have a plan. You just run into life head on, no regard for consequences, and then see what happens. Later, when things slow down, you sit back and put the puzzle pieces together as if you had a plan all along.

Yeah? So? I bought a book.

No! Really? You?

Yes, I did. And it was a book I didn’t need. I have a whole shelf of books to read. In fact, I have four shelves of books to read, even though I swore that I would never have more than one. That…well… it wasn’t working out for me and it all started when a friend moved out of state and gifted her library to little ol’ me.

east of eden
My brother said I find books in my yard like an Easter Egg Hunt.
I should try a better storage system. Always the comedian, my family is.

There I was, relaxing in Big Bear, out for a day in the (slightly) cooler temps of the mountains and a dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant. I can’t be there and not check out the used bookstore. That would be wrong. I don’t need more books, but then again, “need” really is subjective. Isn’t it?

I try to keep my spontaneous book purchases to used books, preferably classics. I need to find a way to create a list on my phone of what I already have though. Suggestions are extremely welcome in the comments. I picked up five books that day, one of which was a disappointment. I wasn’t paying close enough attention. Probably the extra margarita. And it turned out to be an abridged version of a book I had been wanting to read. I don’t like those. But at least I only paid $4.

I came home and posted a picture of my haul on my Facebook page, and my brother mentioned he wanted to read one of them, East of Eden. I told him I’d send it to him and then rethought it and told him to buy one of his own. That way, maybe we can read it at the same time.

Sidenote: Searching for a link to East of Eden on Amazon, I found this: Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters. And now THAT is on its way to my house as well. I may have a problem, but how can I pass that up? Steinbeck wrote letters to a friend as a warmup while writing East of Eden. I’ll be reading this alongside the novel; as it should be, make it so, engage!

The next week, I stumbled across The Classics Club and immediately joined it. Looking through their classics list to create my own five-year reading list, I saw East of Eden and decided it would be my next read, the first one to check off the list. I started reading it this morning and lost my mind.

The only thing I knew about East of Eden before I started reading it was that it was by John Steinbeck. I wasn’t a fan of Steinbeck. I read Of Mice and Men when I was in high school, by force, and it was depressing and boring. And this book…wow…it’s a thick one, like Stephen King thick. 778 pages. I only hoped it wouldn’t be as terrible as I remember Of Mice and Men being.

I had a vague recollection there may be a movie of the same name. My husband confirmed it. East of Eden? Yeah, babe… James Dean? You don’t remember that?” I looked it up and, of course, it’s not on any of the streaming platforms that I pay for. Nothing that I search for directly ever is. But you bet I’ll be watching it once I finish the book.

When I started reading this morning at 4:30am, I was instantly pulled into the story. I was there. Forty-five minutes later felt like an instant to me when my husband walked in and reminded me we were going to go for a walk. All I could think was that I needed to get back there as soon as possible.

This is going to be a great read.

Want to read more of my thoughts about East of Eden? Check out:
Fiction Can Transport You
The Power in Stories
The Gift of Choice: Final Thoughts on East of Eden

The Classics Club: My TBR List

I’m so excited! Why? Two big reasons of which I shall now elucidate!

First of all, thanks to Laurie at Relevant Obscurity, I have discovered The Classics Club! What?! A blog that links together other classic readers?! Yes, please! I know, I get excited about the strangest things, but it’s not often that I find other people that are reading the same kind of books that I read.

the classics club
The first NINE books from the list!

As per their rules for membership, this post is a declaration of sorts. I’m listing fifty classic books that I promise to read between now and August 29, 2027. Five years to read fifty assigned books is perfect for me because it let’s me read many of the other glorious books that come across my path at the same time. But what to choose?!

The first thing I did was print their list and find the books I had already read. That was a little disappointing. It turns out I KNOW more of the titles on the list than I have actually read, but I’ve read quite a few, so I’m not unhappy, I’m inspired.

The second thing was to look on my TBR shelf for any books from the list that I have already bought. I found ten, so that takes me well into the first year of the challenge. And it gave me the nice picture for this post!

The last thing to do was put a mark next to any book on the list that I had heard of and was planning on reading already.

And now I have my list! Are you ready?

Flatland by Edwin Abbott
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? By Edward Albee
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Plague by Albert Camus
Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Middlemarch by George Eliot

The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster
Faust by Johann Goethe
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiel Hammett
A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

The Iliad by Homer
The Odyssey by Homer
The Alchemist by Ben Jonson
The Dubliners by James Joyce
Ulysses by James Joyce
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
The Man Who Would be King by Rudyard Kipling
Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
Death in Venice by Thomas Mann

Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
The Misanthrope by Moliere
The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust
Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott
East of Eden by John Steinbeck

The Red and the Black by Stendhal
Rosencratz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard
Idylls of the King by Alfred Tennyson
Candide by Voltaire
The Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
The Once and Future King by T.H. White
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

A formidable list to be sure, but at less than one book a month, it is doable even when the book gets hard or I have other books I MUST read or else perish. Yeah, feeling a tad dramatic. I’ll be coming back and linking any post that I write about these books as I read them, so stay tuned.

But Michelle! You said there were TWO reasons you were excited. What is the other reason?

Oh, yeah! Well, it pertains to this list, the blog, and spending countless hours reading and writing in general. You’ve probably read something from me along the lines of angst and broodiness since my sons have deserted me…I mean grown up like they were supposed to and struck out on their own. I’ve been a housewife and mom for over twenty years now. What am I supposed to do with all my time now that I’m not raising other humans?

I thought about getting a job to fill the time. Didn’t sound very exciting, and amazingly it’s not as easy as it sounds, even in today’s economy (at least the one reported on the news). It seems that the old story (which I do not understand) is true, businesses aren’t keen on hiring people that haven’t worked in years. Maybe they’re jealous, I can’t say. But I’ve put out ten applications in my town and only one called me back, but still no work. I decided to take it as a sign that I was needed elsewhere.

I love reading and writing about things, but it doesn’t pay at all. I’m not published, and this blog isn’t all the popular. I get discouraged. What’s the point of spending all this time?! And then it dawned on me.

I’m happy and content with my life. Why do I feel like I need to be paid to be making a difference in the world?! And I do make a difference here, in small ways. So that’s what I’m doing. I’ve been reading more blogs like mine, branching out, talking to people, and then this classics club shows up in my feed and I’m off to the races!

My husband laughed at me as I sat at one of my bookshelves with a printed list of books.

“What are you doing? You look like you’re on a mission.”
Glasses on, pencil in hand, on the floor running my finger across the spines. “I joined and book club of sorts and I’m finding books to add to my list and write about. They read books like I do!”
“That’s what I love about you. You get so excited about things.”

I can’t wait to get reading! I finished The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy this morning, so I’ll be picking my next book from the list this afternoon.

Finished The ULTIMATE Guide

Finished! 21.58 hours - 815 pages

So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish

Three Douglas Adams quotes that make me love So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish.

Before I start here, a quick question for my fellow readers. This big ol’ fat book is a collection of five novels in one binding. If you were going to count books, would you count this as one book, or five? I say five. These are the things I ponder in the evening before I sleep.

so long and thanks for all the fish

Second, I think that, so far, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe is my favorite Douglas Adams novel. It’s the one with the most lol’s in the margin. And I’m not using that term figuratively. My husband believes I may be slightly more insane than I was before I started reading, because I’ve been bursting out in laughter every few pages. When I try to read to him what was funny or explain the joke, he just stares at me. Some people just don’t get it, but I still love him.

The following three quotes came up towards the end of the novel, and they just…well…you’ll see.

“Yes. They are the words that finally turned me into the hermit I have now become. It was quite sudden. I saw them, and I knew what I had to do.”

The sign read:

“Hold stick near the center of its length. Moisten pointed end in mouth. Insert in tooth space, blunt end next to gum. Use gentle in-out motion.”

“It seemed to me,” said Wonko the Sane, “that any civilization that had so far lost its head as to need to include a set of detailed instructions for use in a package of toothpicks, was no longer a civilization in which I could live and stay sane.”

This has actually happened to me, several times. The first was this:

It’s an actual sign at Disneyland that my stepdaughter took note of. She about fell to the floor in astonishment but didn’t because she was still aware that she was in a public bathroom and just because it’s Disneyland does not mean it’s clean enough to roll around on doubled up in laughter. She was still sane at the time. Please do not attempt to explain this to me. It is not the only incident, and it will not be the last.

“But the reason I call myself by my childhood name is to remind myself that a scientist must also be absolutely like a child. If he sees a thing, he must say that he sees it, whether it was what he thought he was going to see or not. See first, think later, then test. But always see first. Otherwise you will only see what you were expecting. Most scientists forget that. I’ll show you something to demonstrate that later. So, the other reason I call myself Wonko the Sane is so that people will think I’m a fool. That allows me to say what I see when I see it. You can’t possibly be a scientist if you mind people thinking that you’re a fool.”

This should be quoted in every science class, everywhere. It’s not only good for scientists, it’s a good rule for anyone attempting to live in the world we actually experience and a great way to make it a slightly better place.

“I come in peace,” it said, adding after a long moment of further grinding, “take me to your Lizard.”

“It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…”

“You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”

“No,” said Ford, “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”

“Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”

“I did,” said Ford. “It is.”

“So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t the people get rid of the lizards?”

“It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”

“You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”

“Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”

“But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”

“Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in.”

I don’t think I need to expound on this commentary on the political thought process. For those that believe this has only been the case the last few elections here in the US, this book was published in 1984 in the UK.

Every time I open the book to read, I hear this.

Next up, Mostly Harmless! I’m so glad I decided to re-read all of these. It’s been a wonderful romp.

How Every Day Begins

Some Much Needed Douglas Adams

You’ve probably been wondering what happened to me. “She was writing every day for so long and then it petered out and she disappeared into the ether! What could have happened? Did she suffer an enormous blow to her charmed life? Was she not able to cope with the devastating effects of ennui? Anything could have happened?!”

douglas adams

Never fear. It was nothing serious. Just life happening along its happy little path, catching the big toe of its clown-sized Converse on a small pebble and tipping forward, catching itself but then, realizing it was being watched, deciding to make a big show of a small mishap and do a double somersault, attempt to land on its feet but land on its head, knocking itself unconscious for a moment. When it came to, there was an overwhelming amount of work piled up around it, so it stood up, dusted itself off, stuffed its hands into its parachute pants pockets and sauntered off whistling a tune and hoping no one would notice.

I think I’ve OD’d on Douglas Adams lately. Looks around sheepishly. But what else can you do when you get in a funk and can’t seem to find your way out? It all started when I took a few days off from my entire routine to visit with my parents, and when I got back, I just couldn’t get back on track. Much was achieved during those four days, many notes were taken, a-ha moments were had, and I came back a slightly different person. On top of that I was still reading, still thinking, still listening to podcasts, gathering books from bookstores, and adding more titles to my ever-expanding TBR list, but I hadn’t had any intelligent way of sharing any of it.

It’s happened before and I know it will happen again (because it is happening now), but here I am wondering where and how to jump back in and restart the flow. That thought has been overwhelming, so true to form, I just didn’t. Like my friend Life, I stuffed my hands in my pockets and sauntered away, but instead of whistling, I got another giant glass of iced coffee and picked up The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and hid inside.

Remember when I went into Barnes & Noble (I swear for the last time) just to pick up that book and then walked out so much poorer in cash and not much richer in books?

Hitchhiker’s is the book I jump into when I “just can’t” anymore. Can’t what? Can’t. Just plain can’t. It’s fun and hilarious and has brilliant lines like, “I’m so hip I can’t even see over my pelvis.” I originally started reading the books in high school, I think. My dad shared it with me, and we’ve been laughing about it ever since. We know the answer and have been helping to look for the question. We’re real cool froods, man.

douglas adams 42

Although I haven’t been able to get my sons to read the books, they are far too serious, when they were younger, I did get them to carry towels with me on Towel Day. And they are well aware of significance of 42.

douglas adams towel day

For the past week, I’ve been spending my morning hitchhiking with Ford across the galaxy. Time not wasted. My brain needed the break. I’m halfway through this collection of “five novels in one outrageous volume” and, believe it or not, it isn’t all random craziness. There is reason and depth.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Marvin, the terminally depressed robot, and I think I may write a whole post about it. The meaning of life, the concept of sentience, improbability, and so much more all comes up to make you laugh and (if you’re paying attention) think in these books.

This morning I’ve spent quite some time procrastinating…again. I’m very good at it, so I’m not all that sure why I spend so much time practicing, but I do. Suddenly, it came to me. I’ve reached critical mass. I know exactly where I’ll pick up and start writing. Right exactly where I am. The past is gone, the future is unknown, but right now, right here…that’s real, at least as far as my senses can tell. I could be dreaming, but as Mickey says, “This is MY dream!” So, I’ll do what I want. And what I want is to tell you, once again, that I’m back and I’m reading, and I’m excited to start sharing what I find with you again.

One more thing before I run off. So much of Douglas Adams is quotable. This time around, I find myself reminded of Dr. Who and Rick & Morty, both shows I hadn’t seen when I’ve read the book before. I’ve been putting down a mark at lines that I literally LOL’d at and this one… you’ll love it.

“All right!” bawled Vroomfondel, banging on a nearby desk. “I am Vroomfondel, and that is not a demand, that is a solid fact! What we demand is solid facts!”
“No, we don’t!” exclaimed Majikthise in irritation. “That is precisely what we don’t demand!”
Scarcely pausing for breath, Vroomfondel shouted, “We don’t demand solid facts! What we demand is a total absence of solid facts. I demand that I may or may not be Vroomfondel!”
“But who the devil are you?” exclaimed an outrage Fook.
“We,” said Majikthise, “are Philosophers.”
“Though we may not be,” said Vroomfondel, waving a warning finger at the programmers.

Reminds me of a Monty Python skit.

Thoughts on Youth by Joseph Conrad

Youth by Joseph Conrad is the first short story in my edition of Heart of Darkness and Selected Short Fiction, and I liked it very much. The title reflects the recurring thought of “youth” as if he were saying, “Sure, this is what happened, but maybe I’d do things differently now that I’m older.”

Stories about the ocean, ships, weather, etc. are usually beyond me. You might as well be talking about an alien world. I’m not an ocean enthusiast, not by a long shot. I don’t even like hanging out at the beach, a mortal sin for a Southern California native. And sailing?! The extent of my experience ON the sea boils down to two instances.

When I was in my 20’s, I worked as a stage hand at Disneyland and during the strike each night at Fantasmic!, I would pretend I was a pirate on the Columbia while I coiled cables, threw lighting fixtures into the hatch, and stacked things away in the hold for the next nights show. Also, I once went on a cruise to Mexico, and I was sick nearly the entire time.

So, when I read, “…England, where men and sea interpenetrate, so to speak – the sea entering into the life of most men, and then men knowing something or everything about the sea, in the way of amusement, of travel, or of bread-winning.” I had a feeling I’d be a bit lost in this one.

But amazingly, I was not! Conrad sure does have a way with words. Every scene is crystal clear, even if you are unfamiliar with ship terms. In this edition, there are footnotes for some terms, and I found them a tad annoying, especially when it would explain one term that seemed obvious from the context and then not another. Those I had to look up, but I’ve seen enough movies to get the picture.

Describing the ship that he’s about to be First Mate on:

“There was on it, below her name in big letters, a lot of scroll work, with the gilt off, and some sort of a coat of arms, with the motto “Do or die” underneath. I remember it took my fancy immensely. There was a touch of romance in it, something that made me love the old thing – something that appealed to my youth!”

When we’re young, that “do or die” attitude is so appealing. As we get into middle age, the motto “do and see what happens, it’s all good” seems more appropriate.

Here’s something I could relate to:

“It was January, and the weather was beautiful – the beautiful sunny winter weather that has more charm than in the summer-time, because it is unexpected, and crisp, and you know it won’t, it can’t last long. It’s like a windfall, like a godsend, like an unexpected piece of luck.”

And other synonyms. Joe, please. We get it. I do love that feeling though. In the desert, we get it in the reverse here in the summer. Those unexpectedly cool days when a summer storm comes in, the sky clouds up, the wind blows…mmm…so nice. But you know it’s only a cool day. The tomorrows won’t be colder and colder.

And then this about a sudden explosion on ship:

“…felt a dull concussion which made my ribs ache suddenly. No doubt about it – I was in the air, my body was describing a short parabola. But short as it was, I had the time to think several thoughts in…”

My sons have both described something similar when they have crashed while racing dirt bikes. One said that he saw me as he took a jump a little wonky and thought, “Oh my poor mom is going to freak out!” Yes, I did. I had the same feeling myself when I fell ten-foot bungy jump scene on to the top of junk yard car at Knott’s Berry Farm while building the Halloween Haunt. “This is how I die.” I didn’t.

He drank.
“Ah! The good old time – the good old time! Youth and the sea. Glamour and the sea! The good, strong sea, the salt, bitter sea, that could whisper to you and roar to you and knock your breath out of you.”
He drank again.
“By all that’s wonderful it is the sea, I believe, the sea itself – or is it you alone? Who can tell?”

It’s youth. Those things we look back on, even if they were hard times, when we are older always seem so romantic. For me it was the shows I worked on at Knott’s and Disney. Starving, scrambling to pay rent, relationship drama, growing away from family, late nights, exhaustion, broken limbs, and near misses.

It wasn’t the job, or the art. It was youth. Everything was amazing, new, an adventure! Not so much now. I’d rather read about it, have a nice meal, and go to bed early. The young can keep their adventures.

Like I said, I enjoyed story much more than I thought I would. It turns out there is a lot to relate to. Even if the context of life isn’t the same, the humanity rings true to us all.

Page 1 of 10

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

%d bloggers like this: