Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Jules Verne--Around the World in Eighty Days (1872)

So, three and a half years after undertaking this program, I finally come to the first book on the IWE list that was written in French, which is the most heavily represented foreign language literature on it by a decent margin. This particular book ironically is very little concerned with anything to do with France, featuring mainly British characters moving through English-speaking countries and territories under the aegis of the British Empire. The only nominally French character is the protagonist Phileas Fogg's manservant Passepartout, who acts more like an American in a popular magazine story of the period than a literary Frenchman. All this aside, I found the book to be good fun, and a respite--which I seem to be needing more and more of lately--not from more serious works, which works themselves I generally like, but from the weight of not really being able either to intelligently commiserate about them with other people, and of the questions and accusations which they tend to pose about my own life and engagement with, or as it were disengagement from, the active and interesting sectors of the world, which cannot help but be a little discomfiting at times.







Many stills from the 1956 film show Fogg in a balloon. He did not undertake any part of the journey in the book in a


Given all of the anguish that so many would be authors and other storytellers across time have had in trying to think up any kind of plot, the simplicity of the concept here, the structure of which practically comes ready-made, and the ease with which the author can dive right into it, would be humorous if it were not depressing to think about all of the inept plot-seekers. And for all the simplicity and general predictability of the story, many of the various twists and difficulties added to fill out/adorn it I thought were either quite interesting or ingenious, including that at the end, which, being unfamiliar with the story beforehand and not taking things like the rotation of the earth into account like a genuinely clever person would have, I had not anticipated, assuming a more strained and implausibly heroic finish. I was very satisfied with this aspect of the book. I was also quite taken by the part where Fogg purchases the ship carrying him across the Atlantic when it is running low on coal and proceeds to chop up and burn the top half of it--masts, deck, etc--mid-ocean for fuel. The whole tone is high-spirited and occasionally humorous, albeit in what I guess is a specifically Eurocentric way that at this point can only appeal to dinosaurs like me. The book is not so racist that it is any more impossible to read than most famous 19th century novels that brush up in any way with the non-European world. The offense, if there is any, would mainly be that the various non-European peoples that appear are one-dimensional and serve mainly as background. They collide at times with the European mainstream of the book but do not for the most mesh with it, nor is any attempt made to do so. Having Fogg marry the Indian lady he rescued from suttee, a peculiarly alien horror which made a strong impression on the European imagination when it first was made known there, as it makes an appearance in almost every story of the period with an Indian connection, was I thought a nice French touch, the intelligentsia of that nation being in this era more fascinated by and open to the idea of mixed-race marriage than the English-speaking peoples were, or at least would have been comfortable promoting publicly. The character of Mrs Aouda is not especially distinct however.








p.87 Sailing past Grand Andaman Island near Burma: "The savage inhabitants of the island were nowhere to be seen. They stand at the very bottom of the human scale, but it is wrong to call them cannibals." No doubt the accounts of these people brought back to Europe lacked a proper understanding of their culture. An honest mistake. Of course I know nothing about them, either, but I would know to approach any analysis of them much more sensitively.




p. 172 With the last few books, I haven't begun to mark any passages for the postings until I have been well into them. I have a lot from the American section of the trip, because I find them humorous and interesting in their impressions of our (perhaps) more vigorous forbears in this country. Regarding a railroad bridge that appeared to be well on the way to collapsing: "Several cables had given way and it was impossible to risk going across it...Besides, given the generally carefree attitudes of the Americans, you can be sure that when they start getting cautious, then there really is cause for concern." Needless to say, they went across the bridge.




pp. 177-8 Exchange with a typical western American on the train. Riotous. "And for a moment it looked as if he was going to grab the card that had been played, adding, 'You haven't a clue about this game.' 'Perhaps I'll be better at another sort of game,' said Phileas Fogg, getting to his feet. 'It's just up to you if you want to try, you bloody Englishman,' the vulgar character replied." I wonder what it says in the original though. An American of this time, or any time, probably would not have said "bloody".




p. 179 More. "'It's the next station. The train will be there in an hour's time. It stops for ten minutes. Ten minutes is enough time to exchange a few shots with a revolver.' 'Fine,' replied Mr Fogg. 'I'll get off at Plum Creek.' 'And I reckon you won't be getting back on again!' added the American, with breath-taking insolence."




p. 180 As the train was running behind schedule it did not stop for ten minutes at Plum Creek. However the conductor suggested that the combatants could hold the duel in an empty car in the rear of the train, leading Passepartout to observe that "Well, this really is America for you...and this train conductor is a real gentleman."








The image of America as a country full of gun toting maniacs goes back a long way. Passepartout purchased a small arsenal of firearms for the train ride anticipating they might be necessary, and when the band of Sioux attack the train in Nebraska all of the passengers are of course armed and give every appearance of loving the ensuing action.


pp. 209-10 More humorous American stuff: "'Burn my ship!' exclaimed Captain Speedy, who had difficulty getting the words out of his mouth anymore. 'A ship worth $50,000.' 'Here's $60,000,' replied Phileas Fogg, handing the captain a wad of banknotes. The effect on Andrew Speedy was spectacular. No true American can fail to be moved by the sight of $60,000."


I am not always sure how I will like these kinds of books that are famous but used to be mainly recommended for adolescents--some of them read poorly now--but I do like this one. Verne is an intelligent enough writer to be worthwhile for somebody at my level at least to engage with.


Since most of the older editions of the book I could find were aimed for the child market, and it does not seem to have been included in the old Modern Library or any other of the sets I collect, I got a brand new Penguin version. Perhaps because the book is not deadly serious or the source of contention among intellectuals or rival cultural communities I could stand the editing and the notes more than is often the case with me with modern editions of classic books. I probably could have read this in the original easily enough, though I might have had some difficulty with the technical vocabulary of ships and trains. However, I never got to read well enough even in English to get what I would have wanted out of reading in the original, and as with so many of the goals of youth, once youth is past and the opportunity to win such status and rewards as are best enjoyed in that period of life is largely lost, the motivation for continuing to pursue such goals dissipates.


I did learn from the notes that the Irish city of Cork was called "Queenstown" by the British during the period when they were the ruling power in that country. I mention this because I had never seen this, or at least noticed it before, and I have even been to this city, where any reference to this former name apparently has been thoroughly erased. Since it is the kind of thing I usually know to the point of boredom, I found I was actually excited to discover a new fact in this line, much as I was several years back to learn that Rhodes and several other Greek Islands had been Italian possessions from 1912 to 1943.










The Challenge


In contrast to the last Challenge, this one produced a collection of authors with decidedly unexotic names.




1. Daniel James Brown--The Boys in the Boat............................................................19,739


This book, about a group of American rowers in the 1936 Olympics, was apparently a best seller. That is a whopping point total in the annals of this game.




2. Jane Austen--Persuasion...........................................................................................1,616


Books already on the IWE list are ineligible for the Challenge, but Persuasion, which I have the impression was somewhat overlooked at the time the list was made in the 1960s, did not make it, and hence is able to compete here.




3. Around the World in Eighty Days (movie--2004)........................................................302


Another surprise here that the more famous 1956 Oscar-winning version of the story does not appear as a qualifier for the game, but this curious remake starring Jackie Chan shows up instead.




4. Wally Lamb--I'll Take You There..................................................................................106
5. Tom Zoellner--Train........................................................................................................81
6. Jeff Smith--Mr Smith Goes to Prison..............................................................................79
7. Kate Kelly--The Secret Club That Runs the World.........................................................56
8. Rebecca Ryman--Olivia and Jai......................................................................................45
9. Philip Jose Farmer--The Other Log of Phileas Fogg.......................................................27
10. Joseph F. Nelson--So You Want to Build a Steam Locomotive......................................14
11. I Love Toy Trains: The Mighty Steamers (video)...........................................................10
12. Coomaraswamy and Nivedita--Myths of the Hindus and Buddhists................................3
13. Mabel Potter Daggett--Women Wanted............................................................................0
14. Barrie Penrose--Stalin's Gold............................................................................................0
15. Richard Dean--How to Set Up a Family Budget...............................................................0




Round of 15


With only fifteen works qualifying for this Challenge, Daniel James Brown gets a bye straight to the Elite Eight.




#2 Austen over #15 Dean




I think Dean may not be a legitimate book. I don't think he would have won anyway.




#14 Penrose over #3 Around the World in Eighty Days


Penrose is in the State Library database, though there do not seem to be any copies of his book in circulation. That is enough to beat the 2004 film, which evidently flopped on its initial release. I had never heard of it.






#4 Lamb over #13 Potter-Daggett




The State Library actually has a copy of Potter-Daggett's collection of World War I letters. If I want to check it out this is the year to do so, as the book's publication date is 1918 and books cease to circulate from this library once they are a hundred years old. However the popular Lamb's latest offering is 130 pages shorter, a significant enough difference for him to carry home the prize.




#5 Zoellner over #12 Coomaraswamy/Nivedita




These books were pretty evenly matched. The Zoellner book is more conveniently available as well as, I am somewhat embarrassed to admit, having a more appealing subject, as it is looks to be a travel book (the authors rides on a variety of famous railroads).




#6 Smith over #11 I Love Toy Trains
#7 Kelly over #10 Nelson




It isn't available in any event, but I have to be honest, I don't really want to build a steam locomotive.




#9 Farmer over #8 Ryman




Farmer is much shorter. I've never heard of Ryman, whose 1990 book clocks in at 644 pages.




Round of 8


#14 Penrose over #1 Brown




Books that are shorter by 100+ pages have huge built-in advantages under my system before the Final Four. Brown was doomed.




#2 Austen over #9 Farmer


#4 Lamb over #7 Kelly




These two were almost perfectly matched as far as length, year of publication, etc. Lamb gets the nod for availability.




#5 Zoellner over #6 Smith




Smith was slightly shorter, but I don't exactly feel like reading an elite-educated white collar criminal's account of his time in prison.




Final Four


#2 Austen over #14 Penrose
#4 Lamb over #5 Zoellner




The availability factor, as well as some curiosity about Lamb, who has managed to carve out something of a commercial career while remaining at least upon the fringes of the true literati.




Championship


#2 Austen over #4 Lamb




Not a cop-out. I have never read Persuasion, I have a copy of it at home, and it comes in at anywhere between 180-230 pages. It's a no-brainer, really.















Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Rest of the Arms and the Man Post

I haven't been able to get to it until now. As I noted before in the earlier posting, I like Shaw. He seems harmless enough to me in 2017, but that obviously cannot be true, since all authors worth reading must be dangerous in some way. Arms and the Man spoofs romanticism, or the romantic mindset, but in a fun rather than seething or contemptuous way, I think. Here is a note I wrote about it in 2001, Lincoln's birthday to be precise, which was a later reading after my initial one, dated March 5, 1999:


--Much more impressed with the play the second time around, the conflict between ideality and "reality" is quite clear really, I'm not sure why I wasn't "struck" by it before. I think it seems apparent that Shaw is skeptical of the idealists, though I think he understands the need for these feelings--in his society I believe he felt their aims--and people's energies--were often misplaced.--






That doesn't say much. One ought to be able to say something intelligent about a work one likes--the point of the exercise is otherwise lost. I like that all of the characters in this, as well as in other Shaw plays, are willful and individualized protagonists whose personas impose upon each other (with the possible exception of the servile Nicola, who is however so aggressively dedicated to his servility that it achieves a kind of force in itself).


My edition is a Penguin paperback proclaiming itself "the Definitive Text". It contains just the single play though it seems to belong to a broader set of "The Penguin Shaw". The last copyright date is 1958, but it looks to be of a much later date than that, 80s or even possibly early 90s. The publisher's price was $3.50. Probably not the 90s then. I noted that I bought it in Concord. The used book store we used to have in town must still have been open then, though it did not last much longer.




This is my edition, but not my book. Someday soon I hope to have the technological capacity to take and post my own photos again.


A few favorite quotes to mark the occasion:


RAINA: ...But they don't know that it was in this house you took refuge. If Sergius knew, he would challenge you and kill you in a duel.
BLUNTSCHLI: Bless me! then don't tell him.


SERGIUS: You have deceived me. You are my rival. I brook no rivals. At six o'clock I shall be in the drilling-ground on the Klissoura Road, alone, on horseback, with my sabre. Do you understand?
BLUNTSCHLI: ...Oh, thank you: that's a cavalry man's proposal. I'm in the artillery; and I have the choice of weapons. If I go, I shall take a machine gun.


PETKOFF: We should be most happy, Bluntschli, if it were only a question of your position; but hang it, you know, Raina is accustomed to a very comfortable establishment. Sergius keeps twenty horses.
BLUNTSCHLI: But who wants twenty horses? We're not going to keep a circus.


Bluntschli is obviously, like Caesar in Caesar and Cleopatra, the Shavian alter ego in this play.





Monday, March 6, 2017

March Update

A short month + a week in Florida equals less progress on some of these books than might be expected.


"A" List--H. L. Mencken-- The American Language.....................273/697

"B" List--Jules Verne--Around the World in Eighty Days.............194/230


"C" List--Knausgaard, Vol.2..........................................................408/592


I am picking my way through the Mencken pretty slowly. It has its usefulness, I guess, although most of the various approaches to the subject of language which are described in the book are probably outdated, haphazard and imprecise by the standards of modern scholarship. There are a lot of illustrative anecdotes and tidbits about American life from colonial times up to the 1930s which serve the purpose of filling out further one's perception of what the country has been through time. For example, I had not known that the American custom of giving policemen and even railroad conductors military titles (captain, sergeant, etc) is not done in England and was considered strange in that country. Mencken's famed ability for lacerating the pretensions and ill-conceived ideas of the weaker-minded is not on full display here though one occasionally comes across a mildly amusing sentence:


"Nor is the title (Dr.) frequent among pedagogues, for the Ph.D is an uncommon degree in England, and it is seldom if ever given to persons trained in the congeries of quackeries which passes, in the American universities, under the name of 'education'."


If you are wondering where Phileas Fogg and Passepartout are in Around the World in Eighty Days, they are in Nebraska after the attack on the train by the band of Sioux warriors, being carried by sledge from Fort Kearney to Omaha, where they hope to catch a train that will get them back to New York in time to catch the steamer back to England that is the last leg of the trip. I assume Fogg is going to make it within the eighty days and win the bet, but as I am not familiar with any version of the story I am not absolutely certain.


For the most part I think the second Knausgaard book is better than the first, although most of the material in the first volume is more interesting to me, the second volume mainly being concerned with his domestic life as a thirty-something man with children living in an apartment in Stockholm, which does not come off as a particularly thrilling or vital city to live in, though I'm sure I would like it there. Perhaps I am more used to him now. Also I suspect he must have more control over his style and the effect he wants to have, since fairly banal recitations of changing diapers or the preparation of yuppie meals will often be a set up for some more interesting part. However I still haven't figured out whether the banal descriptions of everyday life are really necessary from the literary point of view. He does refer a lot to an idea which I sometimes touch on as well, that at least some people in future times will want to know what life in this time period was really like, and there will not be near enough books (there never are) that will convey that sense, which does have a power of its own when done well.


Picture Gallery









Thursday, February 23, 2017

George Bernard Shaw--Arms and the Man (1894)

This is going to be a hurried report, as I want to post before I leave on a trip so I can take my next book with me. If, unlikely though it is, I have some time with the computer one evening while I am on that trip, I may write a supplement to this post.


The first appearance of Shaw in the program. He will appear many more times, five by my reckoning, which is not as many as Eugene O'Neill will have, but I think it safely puts him ahead of every other playwright besides Shakespeare.


As I grow older I find Shaw more amusing. His plays tend to follow similar patterns, mostly arranged around puncturing bourgeois pieties and other aspects of the collective mentality of those classes, but he is quite funny and his writing is clear and fairly unique, to me, I don't think anyone else really writes like him (maybe Wilde has some similarities) or they would be just as celebrated.


I read this back in March, 1999, both before I had children and when I was a very earnest note-taker and marker up of books in the full expectation of developing into a literary man myself. I am not going to claim that my notes revealed any accurate insights, but I am astounded by how much I noticed, or tried to notice and how attentive I was to word choices and trying to articulate the intent of gestures and actions...


OK, I am not going to be able to finish this tonight. There will a supplement forthcoming with the rest of the post. This is kind of cheating on my self-imposed rules, but I don't want to put off starting the next book for almost two weeks....


 


The Challenge


1. Iron Man 3 (movie)...........................................................................................................3,663
2. Kate Andersen Brower--The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House...1,955
3. Kelly Link--Get in Trouble..................................................................................................125
4. Sarah Morgan Dawson--A Confederate Girl's Diary............................................................80
5. Ocean Vuong--Night Sky With Exit Wounds.........................................................................51
6. Sarah Bradford--Lucretia Borgia..........................................................................................50
7. Natalie Diaz--When My Brother Was an Aztec.....................................................................37
8. Flash Fiction Forward (eds. Thomas and Shepard)..............................................................28
9. Best of Lady Churchill's Rosebleed Wristlet (eds. Link and Grant)........................................4
10. Camille Rankine--Incorrect Merciful Impulses.....................................................................3
11. Salil Tripathi--The Colonel Who Would Not Repent: The Bangladesh War and its..............3
12. Danez Smith--Insert Boy........................................................................................................2
13. Ron Davis--Forbidden Fruit: Indecent Relations..................................................................1
14. Xao Seffcheque--Ja-Nein-Viellicht Kommt Sehr Gut (record)...............................................0
15. Solmaz Sharif--Look...............................................................................................................0
16. Juan Martinez--Best Worst American.....................................................................................0




Round of 16


#1 Iron Man 3 over #16 Martinez




No library recognition for Martinez's which did just come out a month ago.




#15 Sharif over #2 Brower




A somewhat stunning upset. Sharif's short poetry book is actually at my library. Incredible.




#3 Link over #14 Seffcheque




Seffcheque is undoubtedly an obscure figure, especially in the English-speaking world, but what was he all about?










According to 3 of the 11 comments on this video, this song was big in Montreal in the early 80s.


#4 Dawson over #13 Davis


#5 Vuong over #12 Smith


#6 Bradford over #11 Tripathi


#7 Diaz over #10 Rankine


#8 Flash Fiction, etc over #9 Lady Churchill's, etc


In all of these instances the winning book had received the imprimatur of having been acquired by a library--in numerous instances just one--while the loser had not.


Round of 8


#15 Sharif over #2 Iron Man 3


#8 Flash Fiction over #3 Link


#7 Diaz over #4 Dawson


#5 Vuong over #6 Bradford


I had really wanted to have a battle of the Sarahs, but it wasn't meant to be.


Final Four


#15 Sharif over #4 Vuong


Vuong's poetry offering is even shorter than Sharif's, but he is only available in Dover, while Sharif
has been embraced by four libraries, including my own public one.


#7 Diaz over #8 Flash Fiction


Championship


#15 Sharif over #7 Diaz


Diaz's book was a shorty too, but was only available in one college library in-state (Southern New Hampshire University).


This Challenge was notable for the number of diverse authors and modern books, what everyone is counting on to be the future of literature. I suspect that if Shaw were around today, he would something of a multiculturalist champion, at the snooty upper end of the scale anyway. It seems to me that if someone had the stuff to pierce urbanely through conventionalities and other nonsense, he respected them well enough, though not everyone saw him in such an enlightened light.











Thursday, February 16, 2017

Don Marquis--archy and mehitabel (1927-34)

This may be the closest thing to a comic book on the IWE list. archy was a cockroach who in a previous life had been a free verse human poet. He banged out poems, all in lower case letters due to his not being able to reach the shift key, at night on a typewriter in what I took to be a newspaper office in New York City, though evidently it was in an apartment. mehitabel was a street cat of shockingly loose morals by the standard of literary anthropomorphized animals who appeared to live in the apartment in the earlier poems though after the beginning she was out living the hardscrabble city life most of the time. The poems originally appeared in The New York Sun newspaper, often famously accompanied by illustrations by Krazy Kat cartoonist George Herriman. These stories were immensely popular in their day. The himself once much more famous writer Christopher Morley, as recounted on the dust jacket of my edition, called the stories "the wisest collection of American irreverence written in our time" and that "the grandest of all times to have been young and excitable...about 1916 when Don Marquis invented his Vermin Voltaire, archy the roach". Three books were made out of this material, archy and mehitabel, archy's life of mehitabel, and archy does his part, which in turn were collected into the one volume the lives and times of archy and mehitabel in 1934. This was the book that I read, though looking over the summary in the IWE, it stopped at the first volume, which was by far the best, and in truth, I found the second and third books to be disappointments that added little to the first. It became a little repetitious after a while. The first book, however, I did like. Its charms lie in its mixture of absurdity and matter of fact, even blunt concerns about eating and scrapping and other facets of the life of a small urban animal who possesses the instincts of said animal along with a humanlike consciousness and language. archy offers more direct social commentary in the later poems, some of which hits its mark as far as it goes, but it tends to lack the playful anarchic quality of the earlier stories.


I was very lazy about making notes for this book, so I do not have many examples to comment on.






From "quote and only man is vile quote":


"humanitys culture consists
in sitting down in circles
and passing the word around
about how darned smart humanity is
i wish you would tell
the furnace man at your house
to put out some new brand
of roach paste I do not get
any kick any more out of the brand
he has been using the last year"


An 'archygram' about living in a museum


"but it is dull associating
with mummies no
matter how royal their
blood used to be when
they had blood
it is like living in
philadelphia"


From "archy visits washington"


"it is so hot that you can
fry fish on the
sidewalk in any part of
town and many people
are here with fish to fry"


From "the league"--archy seems to have been in the main a liberal, and supportive of the idea at least of organizations dedicated to the promotion of peace, though he was doubtful about their effectiveness.




"incidentally I wonder why europe of today
is always referred to by highbrow writers
as post war europe
they seem to think that the war
which started in nineteen fourteen
is over with whereas there have been
merely a few brief truces"


From 'statesmanship"


"why in the world
says this
insect do you not
go to the country and become
grasshoppers if
living in town and being
cockroaches is getting
too difficult for you...
how i asked him are
cockroaches to become
grasshoppers
that is a mere
detail he said which i
leave to you for
solution i have outlined
the general scheme for your
salvation so do not ask
me to settle the mere
details i trust to you for
that you must do
something for yourself
we philosophers cannot do it all
for you unaided you
must learn self help
but alas i fear that
your inherent stupidity will
balk all efforts
to improve your condition"




Eddie Bracken and Carol Channing made a recording of the 'archy' material, subtitled "a back-alley opera" in 1954.


From "what the ants are saying"


"what man calls civilization
always results in deserts
man is never on the square
he uses up the fat and greenery of the earth
each generation wastes a little more
of the future with greed and lust for riches"


He was quite prescient as far as anticipating some of the attitudes of modern progressives and other cynics of the American system in particular.


mehitabel the cat was a well-conceived and very lively creation, who plays well off of archy's somewhat more constrained and frustrated persona.






The Challenge


1. Ben-Hur (movie).........................................................................................1,918
2. Emma Cline--The Girls...............................................................................1,466
3. Ben Mezrich--Bringing Down the House.......................................................571
4. Mark Helprin--A Soldier of the Great War.....................................................448
5. Thomas Pynchon--Against the Day................................................................111
6. Ray Bradbury--Golden Apples of the Sun.........................................................47
7. Randy Olson--Houston, We Have a Narrative.................................................46
8. Lake/Simmons--Bazaar Style...........................................................................22
9. Lisa Leavitt-Smith--Paris Interiors...................................................................15
10. Rico Austin--In the Shadow of Elvis...............................................................14
11. Mark Thomas--Belching Out the Devil: Global Adventures with Coca-Cola..7
12. Jen George--The Babysitter at Rest...................................................................7
13. Conan/Sorrell--At Home With Pattern..............................................................3
14. Nathalie Leger--Suite For Barbara Loden........................................................2
15. Annette Messager--Word For Word..................................................................1
16. Raymond Carroll--Only Raising Dust on the Road, Part 1...............................0
17. A Series of Unfortunate Events (TV).................................................................0


Play-In Round


#16 Carroll over #17 Unfortunate Events


This version of the Lemony Snicket stories is a streaming-only TV series.


The Sweet Sixteen


#1 Ben-Hur over #16 Carroll


I break my rule of never allowing a book to beat a film when no library has a copy of the book.


#2 Cline over #15 Messager


Cline is shorter and more readily available, and looks as if it might be a real book.


#3 Mezrich over #14 Leger
#4 Helprin over #13 Conan/Sorrell


These two are walkovers.


#5 Pynchon over #12 George


I'm not really ready at this time to read a 1,085 page Pynchon novel (though I know I should be), however I have to retain some integrity for the Challenge and I can't let him be beaten by a babysitter book.








#6 Bradbury over #11 Thomas


I was actually interested in the Coca-Cola book, but it drew a tough matchup here.


#7 Olson over #10 Austin


Despite a combined 60 Amazon reviews for their books, neither author has had a work make its way into a library in the state of New Hampshire.


#8 Lake/Simmons over #9 Leavitt-Smith


Same story here. I believe this is the first time we have ever had chalk in the round of 16.


Elite Eight


#1 Ben-Hur over #8 Lake/Simmons


Ben-Hur will fall when he runs up against a vetted book.


#2 Cline over #7 Olson
#6 Bradbury over #3 Mezrich


Finally, the first lower seed to win.


#4 Helprin over #5 Pynchon


Titanic matchup, obviously. Helprin's book, at 792 pages, is the short one by far here.


Final Four


#6 Bradbury over #1 Ben-Hur
#2 Cline over #4 Helprin


The Cline book is not obviously unserious enough to lose here.


Championship


#6 Bradbury over #2 Cline


Bradbury, along with Thomas, his first opponent, were designated for upsets, but Bradbury never really needed to rely on one as he cruised to the title.



















Thursday, February 9, 2017

Rome

I couldn't find any map or description of neighborhoods with boundaries definitively delineated enough for my purpose, so I have classed my sites here by the Metro station they are nearest to. The reason for the high number of "unknowns" is of course all of the ancient figures on these lists who were native to the city but cannot be identified with any more specific location.






Unknown...............10
Spagna.....................6
Colosseo..................5
Barberini.................2
Lepanto....................2
Garbatella................1
Ottoviano.................1
Republicca...............1
San Giovanni...........1

Monday, February 6, 2017

February Update

A List: H. L. Mencken--The American Language......................................62/697


B List: Don Marquis--The Lives and Times of Archy and Mehitabel.......396/477


C List: Karl Ove Knausgaard--My Struggle: Volume 2..............................55/592


I suspect that what is considered valuable in the Mencken book could be acceptably covered by the modern reader through pertinent excerpts. Many of the controversies and premises it addresses have been long superseded, or are long lost causes, such as the contention among the British educated classes and their American admirers that American speech was even in its highest forms a brutal degradation of the mother tongue, and the alarm in England in the 1930s when the book was written that the introduction of talking Hollywood movies would sow and spread the linguistic rot among the population there. I was also reminded of the obsession that raged among American educators throughout the first half of the last century with eradicating the word "ain't" and the abominable habits of dropping one's g's from the national vernacular. He has referred in recent pages to a study of local accents in New England that I am hoping he will go back to, as I might find that personally interesting. New England had at this time apparently the greatest diversity of local speech patterns in the United States. I am guessing this is not the case anymore. Even twenty years ago there were still a decent number of older people around with very distinct and unusual, archaic accents, as well as a surprising number of people who spoke (Canadian) French as their first language. But I guess those people must all have died off, since I don't remember encountering anyone fitting these descriptions for some years now.


Having fallen behind on my "C" List, I arranged for a string of very short titles to win my legendary Challenges, and having finished all of them in relatively short order, I decided to take up the second volume (and the longest, seemingly) of Knausgaard. So far Knausgaard has been at the same pre-school birthday party for the entire book. I do like him, and I do look forward to reading my little segment of him each day, but that is because he is like the literary-minded friend of my own generation, which I do not actually have, who is smart but not forbiddingly or inaccessibly so--in the birthday party scene he is a little befuddled by the kinds of parents who have the kinds of awesome 21st century careers that require them to go to Malaysia for conferences on a regular basis. This is about what I get from him.


Before Knausgaard, I read Jesus's Son, the Carveresque short story collection by Denis Johnson that is much praised. It was published in 1992, though most of the stories seem to be set in the 70s. The stories are set primarily in the great expanse between Chicago and Seattle, and feature characters who have a lot of problems with things like drugs, violence, employment, health, the inability to form stable or even functioning relationships with other people. You know, I was going to say something how the country has changed, that people like this used to be seen as having a kind of rawness or authenticity about them, whereas now they seem kind of pathetic. You would have to be a very strong writer to write as if you identified with them without coming off as more than a bit of a fool. I didn't think the author accomplished that here, though that is just my impression as someone who reads a fair amount of books. I would like to think that someone out there trusted my opinion, but I can't expect it. I could go more into this book if anyone was interested, but I need to get my post up for tonight.