Monday, April 16, 2018

Mathew Arnold--Balder Dead (1855)

I suppose I could make the claim that Matthew Arnold is one of my favorite poets, based on the circumstance that "Dover Beach" and "Thyrsis" are two of my favorite poems. I was not however familiar with any of this author's other poetic productions, though I have read several of his famous critical essays over the years, and I generally liked those too (he is a staunch Great Books kind of guy after all). I felt that my readings of the last two longer form Victorian poets that came up on this list, Swinburne and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, were not as satisfactory as might have been hoped. It is possible that the poems in question were not especially great (I don't think that they were, in fact), or that the style in which they are written has become too difficult for my aging 21st century brain to follow (I hope not), but I also made the mistake when reading these of trying to keep on a schedule, even if it meant reading later at night when I was tired, or was otherwise distracted. It was after the Browning book I believe that I decided not to be so ironclad about following the schedule going forward, at least where poems or other more, I don't want to say difficult, books, but books requiring more time or concentration, were concerned. So I determined to take my time with Balder Dead, though my pre-existing affinity for Arnold's poetry also led me to hope that I would be able to get into the poem more easily.

As is not infrequently the case with the IWE listthis particular poem is something of an eccentric selection, not because it is not a decent poem, but because I feel like it is not very well known, and it is even difficult to find a copy of the full poem in a bound book put out by a major publishing house within the last 100 years. I ended up ordering a 1942 Oxford edition of Arnold's poems from somewhere in Wales, which was the only place I could find selling a copy of this book. I discovered when it arrived that it is actually a fairly short poem, only 31 pages. The IWE doesn't say anything about Arnold, and only notes that "the story of Balder is a favorite in Norse mythology" and then goes on to relate some of the basic elements of the story. Why Arnold chose this particular story to be the subject of a fairly long poem none of the materials I have at hand has anything to say about at all.

As is usual with me, I did not mark any passages until I was a good way into the reading.

II ll. 166-8: "And old men, known to Glory, but their star
Betray'd them, and of wasting age they died,
Not wounds..."

I thought it interesting that even the brave and glorious don't make it to Valhalla if they don't die in battle.

III ll. 162-72. Almost the whole third section of the poem is given over to Balder's funeral.

"...then the corpse
Of Balder on the highest top they laid,
With Nanna on his right, and on his left
Hoder, his brother, whom his own hand slew...
And slew the dogs which at his table fed,
And his horse, Balder's horse, whom most he lov'd,
And threw them on the pyre..."

A lot of living creatures needed to be slain to be tossed on Balder's pyre, including his wife, who had already been taken care of in these lines.

III ll. 190-215. The description of the burning ship is good. Appropriately grim, especially the references to the northern forests, the sound of fires in winter, and the like.

As noted earlier, I had a difficult time discerning Arnold's particular motivation for choosing this story. Obviously he had one. And it is a good poem after his style, I am just not sure what he is so taken by in it. Is it the dramatic and serious manner in which this culture addressed death?

III ll. 509-14. Perhaps this is it? The ghost of Balder is speaking:

"For I am long since weary of your storm
Of carnage, and find, Hermod, in your life
Something too much of war and broils, which make
Life one perpetual fight, a bath of blood.
Mine eyes are dizzy with the arrowy hail;
Mine ears are stunn'd with blows, and sick for calm."

III ll. 565-70. I like this image. It also revisits the theme of storks which is prevalent in a lot of European stories.

"And as a stork which idle boys have trapp'd,
And tied him in a yard, at autumn sees
Flocks of his kind pass o'er his head
To warmer lands, and coasts that keep the sun;
He strains to join their flight, and from his shed,
Follows them with a long complaining cry--"

Is Balder referring to Christianity at the end, from his ghostly perch (of perception)? It is not clear to me.

The Bourgeois Surrender Challenge

The keywords in this one were two source specific to bring up many titles outside the realm of Norse mythology.

1. D'Aulaire's Book of Norse Myths..........................................................237
2. H. R. Ellis Davidson--Gods and Myths of Northern Europe...................58
3. Graham Masterson--The House That Jack Built.....................................45
4. Dan McCoy--The Love of Destiny, etc....................................................41
5. Robert J. Mrazek--Valhalla.....................................................................34
6. Snorri Kristjansson--Swords of Good Men..............................................20
7. Urdu to English Dictionary......................................................................19
8. Allen Mawer--The Vikings.........................................................................3
9. A Guide to the Common Epiphytes and Mistletoes of Singapore..............0

This subject does not appear to attract a lot of women authors. I thought Snorri Kristjansson might be one, but he too is a man.

Play-In Game

#8 Mawer over #9 Guide to Epiphytes

Round of 8

#1 D'Aulaires over #8 Mawer
#2 Davidson over #7 Urdu to English Dictionary
#3 Masterson over #6 Kristjansson

These are both genre books, though I would have been inclined to give Kristjansson the edge based on his being from a foreign literary culture, being a native of Iceland, though it looks like he may write and publish primarily in English anyway. Masterson was entitled to an upset however.

#4 McCoy over #5 Mrazek

Because I dread genre fiction so much I always try to make sure it loses when I have a chance.

Final Four

#1 D'Aulaires over #4 McCoy
#2 Davidson over #3 Masterson


#2 Davidson over #1 D'Aulaires

Published in 1964, which is in the heart of the era wherein I actually trust the intent of much academic scholarship, H (for Hilda!) R. Ellis Davidson's study might be difficult to procure a copy of, but I think it is the clear choice here. I have many of the D'Aulaires' books at home, and I have always been a fan of theirs, but they are essentially children's writers. I'll have to see if I can make this happen.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

April 2018

A List: Jules Verne--20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.....................76/257
B List: Between books
C List: Kathleen Ann Goonan--In War Times.............................341/348

This has been the year (or so) of Jules Verne, whom I had never read all the days of my life before taking on Around the World in 80 Days and Journey to the Center of the Earth, and now this, all in a relatively short space. I have found them all to be entertaining. In this one some of the technical talk, about atmospheric pressure and oxygen pumps and such subjects, seems to be too much for my concentration and/or understanding and my eyes tend to glide over these parts. This cannot be said to be a fault of the book, I suppose.

In War Times I have liked quite a lot, though in terms of strict construction and intellectual power I don't think it holds together very well. There are a number of different strains in it that appeal strongly to me however even if they don't necessarily cohere with each other. The first half of the book takes place during World War II, and the narrative centers around an able young male American engineer who belongs to a company of mostly fellow able young male American engineers and their wartime experiences in New York and England and Germany. I am always taken in by stories of the able young men of the Allied forces in World War II. I wish that there was a way, in the absence of stupendous and overwhelming intellectual or creative ability, to recreate the intensity and energy of experience that the able young men, at least as depicted in books, seemed to get out of the war, and the camaraderie also, without the accompanying horrors of the actual conflict. Of course there probably is not. In any event I like reading stories of smart young men, and I like reading stories of 1940s America, and the victorious part of World War II, and the camaraderie of men who have succeeded together in worthwhile enterprises. The able young white buddies in this are big jazz fans, which they see as related to developments in modern physics, and they even end up playing one night with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. This part is admittedly rather corny, but from my point of view I rather liked it too, this music is one of the defining energies of that era, but it isn't always clear if you're someone like me how to find a way into it, but I felt like there was something of that here. After the war ends there is more of a science fiction plot that takes hold. The main character continues to live in the postwar world that we know, the Cold War and Vietnam and so on, but most of his old Army mates, including his best friend whom in his world died in Germany in 1945, live on in an alternative postwar world where Stalin was overthrown, Berlin became a boomtown, the nations work together on space exploration, technology and economic growth progress even faster than they did in the familiar world, Kennedy was not killed, and so on. The guy stuck in our world is able to know this because there are nodes of time where these differing strains of history briefly come together. So he can reunite with his friends from time to time (often near his home in Washington, D.C; They are confused as to why it is so shabby) but then at some point they will get up to go to the bathroom and not come back and the node is lost. This idea made an impression on me for some reason. (This alternative worlds thing is the result of some atomic energy that the protagonist got hold of during the war that has been channeled to work differently from the way the atomic bombs did, or something like that. I am out of time, I have to stop now...)


Friday, March 30, 2018

Fannie Hurst--Back Street (1931)

Another American book--it seems like about the fourth or fifth in a row--from that 1900-1940 period that thus far dominates this list. While I do love much of the literature of this period, after this one, I am ready for a little break from it, which it looks like I am going to get (towards of this, perhaps because it coincided with St Patrick's Day, I felt a craving for an Irish novel of the old kind, which sort of thing I have not read in a long time. I don't have any coming up however). Back Street is not a terrible book, and the premise of the story seems to me a good enough one, but it isn't great, it's quite a bit longer than it needs to be, it's depressing, and, compared to the best books of the period, it's rather drab and colorless.

I noted during the Sholem Asch post that the IWE list did not feature a lot of Jewish writers, and many of the ones it did seem to be rather obscure now. As with Gertrude Stein previously, I had not realized that Fannie Hurst was Jewish. Unlike in the Gertrude Stein book, there is an emphasis in Hurst on the distinction and line between Jews and gentiles, though in contrast to the what some might expect, this works decidedly to the advantage of the Jewish characters in her book, who mostly become wealthy and powerful, while the main ethnic German characters mostly stagnate or decline into shabbiness.

The IWE said of Back Street that it was "the only one (of Hurst's novels) that critics have treated as significant literature", though I don't think many do anymore. The only other title by this author that is recognizable even to me is Imitation of Life, which like Back Street, was adapted several times into notable movies, in particular the 1959 Douglas Sirk version (which I have seen recently but have not gotten around to writing up on the other blog yet). It also notes that "Fannie Hurst, born of a Jewish family in St. Louis, wrote Back Street with peculiar (sic) knowledge of the wholly similar German and upper-class Jewish communities of Cincinnati at the turn of the century". Kind of a peculiar sentence.

The first note I took was on page 48, when the young Kurt Shendler, who would later go on to become an automobile tycoon, unsuccessfully attempts to woo the heroine Ray:

"There's not a doubt in my mind that, let alone, you'll go down in the history of this town as one of its first crack business girls. But you're going to quit it and go down in the history of my life instead." The last part of this prophecy did not come to fruition. My comment was "male arrogance even among betas". Shendler's character was a little odd in that even after coming a millionaire many times over he remained fixated on Ray and never seems to have any other love interest, which I think is implausible.

On page 50 I wrote, "(The depiction of) melancholy nostalgia brought about by change is good (well-done). Refers to Ray's life after her father's death and the sale of his business to new ownership. I was experiencing a lot of similar emotions in at the time.

I'm not going to gratuitously recount all of the social observations about marginalized groups in these books anymore. We all know what they are. Judging by this and the Imitation of Life movie that I saw alone without consulting her biography, this author was quite progressive for her era, if tame by present standards.

p. 252, a reference to the "One-Hoss Shay", a recent favorite from my reading of Holmes
As noted above, another between the wars look at the Midwest, following Lewis, Dreiser, Tarkington, et al, Cincinnati and Youngstown especially making rare appearances in literature, or at least literary-like books such as I read. I feel like this region's former strong presence in the national reading life has become underappreciated.

Note around 2/3rds of the way through: "Pace little slow, repetitive. Depressing, without Tolstoy quality mind to carry book (acknowledging that Anna Karenina or The Death of Ivan Ilych could be considered to be depressing). Lead character ultimately lacks agency of a kind (though she regards Hugo, Freda, etc, as hopeless in this regard).

Since I think this book is no longer well known, the plot involves a beautiful, rather languid young woman who ends up falling in love with and becoming the mistress of the eventual head of a major international bank, giving up everything else in her life. The title comes from the idea that she inhabits the "back streets" of her lover's life. He sets her up in a relatively shabby apartment in New York for example, in contrast with his Park Avenue mansion, and when he brings her to Europe she is relegated to a nondescript pension while the magnate and his family stay in the most lavish hotels. The mistress seems to be comparatively independent and resourceful in most situations apart from the banker but she has barely any ability to protest the most constricting and insensitive decisions he repeatedly makes for her, so it is difficult for me to develop any real feel for what she is supposed to be as a character.

p. 348 "She found herself committing the cardinal sin of wishing the passing of time."

p. 350 "He waved her back to her position on her knees on the floor. 'Stay that way. I like it.'"

Isolated like this it sounds like innuendo, and maybe it is, but in fact they are just talking, and I assume this is meant to illustrate the attitude of Saxel rather than to be titillating.

One area where I did feel the book to resonate a little was in its generational relation to me, especially when I thought Fannie Hurst was born in 1889, as printed in the IWE, though everything on the internet places her in 1885. The difference is not that great, though 1889 would put her right in the middle of the Lost Generation, which corresponds exactly with my birth position (1970) in the middle of the so-called Generation X, and these two generations are of course supposed to be correlated in the cycle. This is a long way of saying that this strikes me as being Generation-X like in its character, being rather gloomy, pessimistic, resigned, not much given to genuine indignation in the way that the neighboring generations on either side seem to be. I still don't think it's a great book, but I can feel the mood that infuses it.

Towards the end after Saxel dies basically from overindulgence in unhealthy food and the now-abandoned Ray is aging: "God this book is depressing." Excerpt from pages 403-4:

"Dentistry had become so terribly expensive...One dentist in Louisville diagnosed her trouble as pyorrhea and advised a period of three months treatment before estimating the amount of salvaging work that might then be done...the price of even the preliminary treatments mounted into the hundreds...At first this was repelling and not to be considered, but after months of the considerable odds and ends of dentists' bills, for just temporary reliefs...she surrendered, and two weeks later, with a temporary 'set' in her mouth, began the long period of attempting to adjust the rigid plates to her healing gums...It was horrible."

I worry about my own situation endlessly, but in this world people in old age are selling off possessions to buy chicken feet and cabbage. Maybe it would not take much to get me there without my wife and family, but I hope I have assembled a capable enough support group to stave off such an ugly fate.

I was unable to find an older hardcover edition of this online that appealed to me, so I ended up reading it in a "Vintage Movie Classics" paperback, which series actually includes a few other books on this list (Alice Adams, Cimarron).

The Challenge

1. John Steinbeck--East of Eden...........................................................1,719
2. Jeffrey Eugenides--The Marriage Plot................................................737
3. The Young Pope (TV show).................................................................525
4. Death Race (movie-2008)....................................................................354
5. Guy de Maupassant--Bel Ami.................................................................53
6. Ken Ham & A. Charles Ware--One Race, One Blood...........................31
7. Dave Donelson--Heart of Diamonds......................................................17
8. Cheryl Mendelson--Love, Work, Children.............................................12
9. Alexandre Dumas--The War of Women...................................................4
10. Thalia Field--Experimental Animals......................................................4
11. Richard Crockatt--Einstein & Twentieth-Century Politics....................1
12. James Bell Pettigrew--Design in Nature, etc.........................................0
13. Litteratura Norteamericana...................................................................0

The field features three IWE list authors (Steinbeck, de Maupassant, and Dumas) with books that did not make the cut for the master list.

1st Round

#13 Litteratura Norteamericana over #4 Death Race
#5 de Maupassant over #12 Pettigrew
#11 Crockatt over #6 Ham & Ware

A lot of Einstein books seem to pop up on this list. I read one of them last year. Ham and Ware appear to be pop Christian writers of some kind. At first glance I would have to say their book is unfortunately titled. Even if they are advancing the idea that we are all one in Jesus, it immediately conjures up images of white supremacists and other undesirable elements.

#10 Field over #7 Donelson

Donelson looks like a dreaded genre book.

#8 Mendelson over #9 Dumas

Mendelson gets an upset.

2nd Round

#1 Steinbeck over #13 Litteratura Norteamericana
#2 Eugenides over #11 Crockatt

The Eugenides here is a Pulitzer Prize winner.

#10 Field over #3 The Young Pope
#5 de Maupassant over #8 Mendelson

Mendelson comes up short in a bid to take down two 19th century titans of French literature back to back.

Final Four

#1 Steinbeck over #10 Field
#5 de Maupassant over #2 Eugenides

I gave Eugenides a chance to go toe to toe here, but de Maupassant's book is older, shorter, and foreign, if we count French classics as foreign, and Eugenides has no upset cards to play so he loses in a good game.


#1 Steinbeck over #5 de Maupassant

Steinbeck does have an upset card to play, and he needed it here, since East of Eden is even longer than The Marriage Plot. Believe it or not, I have never read Steinbeck before. His most famous books are on all my lists, but none of them have come up yet.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

March 2018

A List: Dickens, Martin Chuzzlewit..................606/841
B List: Fannie Hurst, Back Street......................286/464
C List: Harry Dolan, Very Bad Men..................332/412

My reading pace slowed a little this month because I was not feeling that great in the early part of it and then I went on vacation, after which I have been feeling much better. I hope it lasts. Also I have been sluggish since I don't really love any of these books. Dickens is one of my all time favorites and Chuzzlewit is good in parts, but I find some of the subplots either hard to follow or not commanding my attention in the manner of his better work. The minds of the authors of genre books, at least that they reveal, just aren't interesting enough to me. Yet whenever you make inquiries into being a professional author it seems like that style of writing is what is pushed on you to try to cultivate. I suppose one cannot learn by practice to write like Tolstoy or Proust, but you would think there would be more interest in encouraging people to try to develop in something like that direction, since the endless repetitions of these genre books is so insubstantial.

On my way back from Florida I stopped off, as I always do, in Annapolis and Philadelphia, my long-ago stomping grounds. For the first time in many years I thought how pleasant it might be for me at least to live in these places again, at least in February and March, which are relatively warmer and more lively. If I ever had the time and were still in good enough health to do so, I might like to come down to Annapolis for a few weeks during the winter and attend some of the lectures and concerts they have at the college and go to the library and so on. It might help combat the annual depression and fixation on my children growing old and my own death. Strangely I don't have a lot of sad nostalgia with regard to my college, perhaps because it doesn't seem to have changed that much since I was there, certainly compared with just about everything else. Being back there usually makes me feel happier and more optimistic than is usual with me. I was very happy to be back in Philadelphia as well. Since my mother sold her house a few years back and moved into an apartment we have largely stopped going down as there is nowhere for all of us to stay anymore for more than a single night. It seems a great deal must have changed there but almost all of the people I grew up with are still around, albeit they are getting ever older, though the older people still seem to get on fine. The younger generations, the under 40s, who I don't know as well, seem to have more problems, but that may be a matter of perception and the circumstance that the consequences of anything bad that happens today seem to be so exaggerated. Certainly my 50 and 60 something relatives partook of behaviors in the 1970s that would be considered alarming now to say the least, yet they were permitted to recover and progress in their lives...

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Sinclair Lewis--Babbitt (1922)

It seems to have just gotten harder to steal pictures.

From the IWE's introductory comments:

"Main Street was Sinclair Lewis's first and biggest success on the subject of small-town quasi-culture, but Babbitt, which came two years later, was a better book on the same subject. If it is not Lewis's best novel (a rank that is usually accorded to Arrowsmith or Dodsworth), it is not far from it."

I haven't read Main Street (which is also on this program) since I was in high school and I haven't any sense at this point how it compares to Babbitt (or whether it even matters anymore), but I did just read Arrowsmith and wrote about it here within the last year, and while that did strike me as the more accomplished book from the literary standpoint, there was, somewhat to my surprise, much in Babbitt that I found poignant--the trip to Maine with Paul, especially the poker, and then the return trip the next year without him got to me the most, but there were numerous episodes that struck deeper than I would have expected them to throughout the book. While Babbitt's personality and business-oriented outlook on life are decidedly unlike mine, he is in the book the same age that I am or have recently been--46, 47, 48--and a lot of the impulses and disaffections he has upon reaching this stage of life ring true to me (Lewis, interestingly, was only 36-37 when this was published). I didn't make as many notes as I wish I had now, in part because I was quite engaged by it, in other part because I have been really more than usually depressed this winter, and while these old books are often a great comfort to me in such times, I still didn't have much energy for writing thoughts down. While certainly Lewis would never have intended his novel to induce nostalgia, it ends up having something of that effect, to me at least, because the world of 1920s America still retains some vividness for me. I suspect even such sense as I have for it must be increasingly lost to younger people though.

I'm tempted to write more about my depression, but I might do something that alludes to it on the other blog after I finish this.

I made my first note on page 164, a sentence about a civic convention that I found funny:

"The pastor of the First Christian Church of Monarch...informed God that the real-estate men were here now."

This was set in, if not the absolute heyday of train travel, still a dynamic period for it. The description of the brand new station at Zenith is clearly intended to be satirical, but from the vantage point of our own era of transportation it sounds rather nice:

"It was a new and enormous waiting-room, with marble pilasters, and frescoes depicting the exploration of the Chaloosa River Valley by Pere Emile Fauthoux in 1740. The benches were shelves of ponderous mahogany; the news-stand a marble kiosk with a brass grill."

There is as well a suggestive undertone throughout the book as well that electricity, plumbing, appliances are perhaps not appropriate for the masses, as of course most middle-aged people at least in 1922 would have grown up without them. When this novel first came out and for the fifty-sixty years afterwards when it enjoyed some fame, it was primary noted for its satire, but that is now the most dated heavy-handed aspect of it. It has other, much more subtle, redeeming qualities though.

Prohibition made forty-five year olds have to act surreptitiously like teenagers. This is at the hotel at the realtors' convention:

"At half-past seven they sat in their room, with Elbert Wing and two up-state delegates. Their coats were off, their vests open, their faces red, their voices emphatic. They were finishing a bottle of corrosive bootlegged whisky and imploring the bell-boy, 'Say, son, can you get us some more of this embalming fluid?'"

The quest for illicit booze did make some of the forty-something women more festive though than perhaps they would otherwise have been inclined to be.

I didn't note what page I was on, but at one point I wrote, 'Still interesting, but hard to see where book is going between Paul (spoiler alert--Paul goes to jail for shooting his wife, non-fatally), Babbitt's midlife crisis, return to Maine, etc. Never clear why Babbitt loves Paul so much, more seemingly even than his own family.'

p. 339 "Their life was dominated by suburban bacchanalia of alcohol, nicotine, gasoline, and kisses."
I liked this sentence.

p. 391 I'm not really in the right frame of mind to make political pronouncements, but I thought this sentence about The Good Citizens' League, accepting a membership in which marks the end of Babbitt's identity crisis and his firm return to sound business principles and all the rest of it, was too obviously pertinent to the present not to recognize it:

"All of them agreed that the working-classes must be kept in their place; and all of them perceived that American Democracy did not imply any equality of wealth, but did demand a wholesome sameness of thought, dress, painting, morals, and vocabulary."

Absolute equality of wealth will obviously always be problematic given the different natures of people, especially in large societies, though perhaps there could be somewhat more of it than there is at present. And there doesn't seem to be much danger nowadays of the working classes forming any kind of a threat to the established order, so that keeping them in their place is not as much of a labor-intensive-task as it may once have been, but the gist is familiar.  

I have not elaborated much on what I think it is that this book gets right that makes it as affecting to me as it was, but I think it is the way that one's life (often) feels as it is becoming stalled in the 40s, especially the late 40s, when I think it really hits you that if you aren't declining already, or at least not too much, that that might start accelerating noticeably at any time. In some ways of course I stopped going forward a long time ago, but the continuous adding of children over the years kind of masked that and gave me a sense, certainly that I was still relatively young and had a long future ahead of me, but that my experience, life force, or whatever, was still expanding. But all of a sudden I feel disturbingly old and vulnerable, and I'm wondering what I was thinking having another baby at age 45, as beautiful and delightful an addition to the human community as she is. I feel like I'll be lucky to see her get her through high school and college, and making it to her 30th birthday seems like a longshot. For that matter I could really go at almost any time. I know that was always the case but up until two months I had no real consciousness of that, it was not real to me. Anyway, a lot of the better part of this book is about this creeping sense of the genuine futility of one's existence and how to keep moving forward. Paul of course was pointedly unable to do this.

No uploadable pictures of the book anywhere. I'll have to get my own camera working again.

For a relatively famous book there aren't a lot of attractive editions of it available on the market. There was an evidently limited run Modern Library edition in the 50s but I couldn't find any copies of this online. There was one advertised that I tried to order but I was sent a 1960s era Signet paperback or something like it instead. I ended getting a bland gray Harcourt Brace edition from the 50s which matches my copy of Main Street.
The Challenge

1. Rebecca Skloot--The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks..............................5,819
2. Kate Turabian--A Manual For Writers of Research Papers, Theses, etc.......752
3. Ruth Rendell--The Girl Next Door.................................................................423
4. Gloria Steinem--Marilyn................................................................................231
5. The Reverend William J. Barber II--The Third Reconstruction.....................110
6. Praxis II Middle Scholl English Language Arts...............................................44
7. Natalie Babbitt--The Eyes of the Amaryllis......................................................33
8. The Wise Owl Guide to...(DSST): Here's to Our Health..................................12
9. DSST Principles of Statistics Exam....................................................................9
10. Girl Gangs, Biker Boys, and Real Cool Cats (eds. McIntyre & Nette)............3
11. Victor Hugo--William Shakespeare..................................................................0
12. Isabel Burton--The Life of Captain Sir Richard Burton....................................0

Once again a complete field of 16 eludes us. The top four seeds--all women, incidentally--receive first round byes.

1st Round

#5 Barber over #12 Burton

While Sir Richard Burton is an interesting subject, the 1893 biography of him by his wife doesn't seem to have earned a reprint anytime in the last 100 years and no one carries a copy of it.

#11 Hugo over #6 Praxis

#7 Babbitt over #10 Girl Gangs, etc

The Girl Gangs book, the subtitle of which is Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture 1950-1980 looks somewhat interesting, but no one has it.

#8 Wise Owl Guide over #9 DSST Principles

Round of 8

#11 Hugo over #1 Skloot

The Hugo book is only available in a couple of academic libraries, but they do have it. As I am currently weary of the kinds of contemporary writers that my game keeps turning up, the 19th century European giant had a decided psychological advantage.

#2 Turabian over #8 Wise Owl Guide

#7 Babbitt over #3 Rendell

Rendell is a straight genre book. I'm not exactly sure what this Babbitt is, but it looks like it might be more soulful. It's also older, dating I believe from 1977.

#4 Steinem over #5 Barber

Kind of a toss-up that the higher seed wins by a hair.

Final Four

#11 Hugo over #2 Turabian

#4 Steinem over #7 Babbitt

The Steinem would probably be something different and more interesting. A ho-hum final four.


#4 Steinem over #11 Hugo

The Steinem book is in my library, and it's also pretty short. I might have been inclined to go with Hugo anyway because my intellect is in such decay, but I will give this a try.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Author List Volume XIII

Eric Knight (1897-1943) Lassie Come-Home (1940) Born: Menston, Yorkshire, England (plaque at village library). Buried: Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, Lemay, Missouri.

John C. Winston (1856-1920) Born: Darlington, Indiana. Buried: d. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1920. College: Haverford.

Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873) The Last Days of Pompeii (1834) Born: 31 Baker Street, Marylebone, London, England. Pompeii, Campania, Italy. Buried: Westminster Abbey, Westminster, London, England. College: Trinity Hall (Cambridge)

James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851) The Last of the Mohicans (1826) Born: 457 High Street, Burlington, New Jersey. (*****(7-16-02)***** Buried: Christ Episcopal Churchyard, Cooperstown, Otsego, New York.  Fenimore Art Museum, 5798 NY-80, Cooperstown, Otsego, New York. Farmer's Museum, Lake Road, Cooperstown, Otsego, New York. College: Yale

John Phillips Marquand (1893-1960) The Late George Apley (1937) Born: Wilmington, Delaware. Buried: Sawyer Hill Burying Ground, Newburyport, Essex, Massachusetts. College: Harvard

Victor Hugo (1802-1885) Les Miserables (1862) Born: Besancon, Franche-Comte, France. Buried: Pantheon, 5eme, Paris, France. Maison de Victor Hugo, 6 Place des Vosges, 4eme, Paris, France. Hautville House, 38 Rue Hautville, St Peter Port, Guernsey, Channel Islands, England. Musee Litteraire Victor Hugo, 37 Rue de la Gare, Vianden, Luxembourg.

Napoleon III (1808-1873) Born: 17 Rue Lafitte, 9eme, Paris, France Buried: St Michael's Abbey, Farnborough, Hampshire, England. Napoleon III Apartment, Musee du Louvre, 1ere, Paris, France. Chateau de Pierrefonds, Pierrefonds, Picardie, France.

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) Leviathan (1651) Born: Westport, Malmesbury, Wiltshire, England.  Buried: St John the Baptist's Church, Ault Hucknall, Derbyshire, England. College: Magdalen Hall (now Hertford) (Oxford).

Clarence Day, Jr (1874-1935) Life With Father (1935) Born: New York, New York. Buried: Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York. College: Yale.

Clarence Day, Sr (1844-1927) Born: New York, New York. Buried: Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York.

Russel Crouse (1893-1966) Born: Findlay, Ohio. d. New York, New York. ashes scattered (?)

Howard Lindsay (1889-1968) Born: Waterford, Saratoga, New York. College: Harvard

Ferenc Molnar (1878-1952) Liliom (1909) Born: Jozsef Boulevard 83 (?), Budapest, Hungary. Buried: Linden Hill Methodist Cemetery, Ridgewood, Queens, New York. Paul Street Boys Monument, Prater Utca 11, Budapest, Hungary.

Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849-1924) Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886) Born: 141 York Street, Cheetham, Manchester, Lancashire, England. Buried: Roslyn Cemetery, Greenvale, Nassau, New York.

Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) Little Women (1868) Born: 5427 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Buried: Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Middlesex, Massachusetts. Orchard House, 399 Lexington Road, Concord, Middlesex, Massachusetts.

Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938) Look Homeward, Angel (1929) Born: 92 Woodfin Street, Asheville, North Carolina. Buried: Riverside Cemetery, Asheville, North Carolina. Thomas Wolfe Memorial, 52 N Market Street, Asheville, North Carolina. College: North Carolina

Max Perkins (1884-1947) Born: New York, New York. Buried: Lakeview Cemetery, New Canaan, Connecticut. Snapdragon Inn, 26 Main Street, Windsor, Vermont. College: Harvard

Edward Bellamy (1850-1898) Looking Backward (1888) Born: Chicopee, Hampden, Massachusetts. Buried: Fairview Cemetery, Chicopee, Hampden, Massachusetts. Edward Bellamy House, 91-93 Church Street, Chicopee, Hampden, Massachusetts. The Bradbury Building, 304 South Broadway, Los Angeles, California. College: Union.

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) Lord Jim (1900) Born: Berdychiv, Ukraine. Buried: Canterbury Cemetery, Canterbury, Kent, England. Museum of Joseph Conrad, Voikova Street, Berdychiv, Ukraine. "Joseph Conrad" (ship), Mystic Seaport, Mystic, Connecticut.

R. D. Blackmore (1825-1900) Lorna Doone (1869) Born: Old Rectory, Longworth, Oxfordshire, England. Buried: Teddington Cemetery, Teddington, Middlesex (London), England. Doone Valley, Exmoor National Park, Somerset, England. College: Exeter (Oxford)
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) Born and Buried: Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, 4079 Albany Post Road, Hyde Park, Dutchess, New York. (This is quite a complex, including 3 houses, the library, grounds, etc.  Franklin Roosevelt Memorial, 1850 West Basin Drive SW, Washington, District of Columbia. Franklin D Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, Roosevelt Island, New York, New York. Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk and Beach, Staten Island, Richmond, New York. College: Harvard.

Macbeth (1005-1057) Buried: St Oran's Cemetery, Iona, Argyll and Bute, Scotland.

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) Madame Bovary (1857) Born: Musee Flaubert et d'Histoire de la Medecine, 51 Rue de Lecat, Rouen, Normandie, France (*****6-26-99*****) Buried: Rouen Cemetery, Rouen, Normandie, France (*****6-26-99*****) Pont Gustave Flaubert, Rouen, Normandie, France.

Charlotte Underwood (1914-1978)

Theophile Gautier (1811-1872) Mademoiselle de Maupin (1835) Born: Rue Brauhauban, Tarbes, Guyenne & Gascony, France. Buried: Cimitiere de Montmarte, 18eme, Paris, Ile, France.

Frans Sillanpaa (1888-1964) The Maid Silja (1931) Born: Hameenkyro, Finland. Buried: Hameenkyro Vanha Hautausmaa, Hameenkyro, Finland. College: Helsinki. 

Francis Beaumont (1584-1616) The Maid's Tragedy (1610) Born: Manor House, Grace-Dieu, Thringstone, Leicestershire, England. Buried: Westminster Abbey, Westminster, London, England. College: Pembroke (Oxford)

John Fletcher (1579-1625) The Maid's Tragedy (1610) Born: Ancient Rectory, Rye, Sussex, England. Buried: Southwark Cathedral, Southwark, London, England. College: Corpus Christi (Cambridge)

H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) Born: Baltimore, Maryland. Buried: Loudon Park Cemetery, Baltimore, Maryland. H. L. Mencken House, 1524 Rollins Street, Baltimore, Maryland (not currently open).

Charles Laughton (1899-1962) Born: The Victoria Hotel, Westborough, Scarborough, Yorkshire, England. Buried: Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles, California.

Agnes Moorehead (1900-1974) Born: Clinton, Worcester, Massachusetts. Buried: Dayton Memorial Park, Dayton, Ohio. College: Muskingum.

Sir Cedric Hardwicke (1893-1964) Born: Lye, Worcestershire, England. Buried: Golders Green Crematorium, Golders Green, London, England. College: Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Charles Boyer (1899-1978) Born: Figeac, Lot, Quercy, France. Buried: Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, Los Angeles, California. Kasbah des Oudaias, Rabat, Morocco. College: Sorbonne

Tyrone Power (1914-1958) Born: Cincinnati, Ohio. Buried: Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles, California.


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

February 2018

A List: Dickens--Martin Chuzzlewit.................................420/841
B List: Between books
C List: Harry Dolan--Very Bad Men.................................178/412

Going kind of leisurely through Martin Chuzzlewit. Parts of it I like, they are more or less characteristic Dickens in their humor, romance, high-spiritedness and so on, but then there are other parts--namely those with the undertaker and Mrs Gamp and that scene--that aren't making much of an impression on me. This is also on the IWE list, albeit probably 20 years away. Not so clear anymore that I'm going to make it that long. Nonetheless I expect to read it again and more closely, so I am getting what I can out of this reading and not sweating over it too much.

Harry Dolan is a writer in the crime genre. His books are praised, but I don't know if I'm going to finish this one. This kind of writing is too lacking in any sort of distinct or interesting voice for me. There's no kick to it, no poignancy, no absorption in the story. I don't think there will be too many more books of this kind anyway.

It's been a tough winter. After going through a period last year where I feel like I was happy, I have had a lot of anxiety because of that stupid kidney stone. I'm embarrassed to say that even though I am over it and feel fine, I am convinced that now that something has happened to me, the floodgates must be open and I am going to be imminently overwhelmed with medical problems that will prevent me from ever living my old normal life again. I am avoiding any further medical attention now that the immediate crisis has passed, because if you let them look hard enough they will convince you there is something wrong with you. I imagine now that I was impossibly happy my whole life before all of this happened (which obviously is not true) and that I will never be able to be happy again (which may be true). If I can hang on for 2 and a half weeks I am going to go to Florida, which is a trip I need desperately, as I haven't even been farther than Massachusetts since this time last year, and I've never gone this long without taking some road trip since I moved up here. I am counting a lot on this trip to restore me somewhat to feeling like my old self again, which probably is unrealistic, but maybe it will once I get there. There are still people older than me who are very active and travel and do all kinds of things. There should be hope.