Bookmarked

The Call of the Wild

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What a great book!  It reinforced some universal truths:  1)  Dogs are awesome!  2)  Men (people) possess great capacity for cruelty and  3)  You can tell a lot about a person based on the way they treat animals.

Seriously, who wouldn’t love this Dog? Look at that face!

BuckBuck-our main character (the dog) finds himself on a great (harrowing) adventure to the Yukon during the Klondike gold rush.  It makes for an exciting story.  You know what else makes for a great story?  This guy…

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Jack London was an interesting guy.  I have a feeling that Buck the dog was somewhat autobiographical.  Buck was a dog’s dog.  And Jack was a man’s man. He was a man’s man with a resume that included work in a cannery, the California Fish Patrol, Oyster Pirating, his own stint in the Klondike gold rush, and gentleman rancher-all on top of a prolific literary career.

And like all the other gentlemen I’ve read during this little project, his private life was a fascinating mess!  His first marriage was to Elizabeth “Bessie” Madden.  He and Bessie were never in love, but they were great friends.  Marriage took care of that. Within 4 years, they divorced.  Apparently Bessie didn’t approve of London’s “shenanigans” and wouldn’t let him near her when her would come home after an absence.  She was scared he’d bring home VD. Jack apparently felt that was a bit unfair,  but within a year of divorcing Bessie, he married Charmian Kittredge, “his soul mate and perfect match”.  Per Wikipedia,

” In broad outline, London was restless in his marriage; sought extramarital sexual affairs; and found, in Charmian Kittredge, not only a sexually active and adventurous partner, but his future life-companion.”

Nice.

The jury seems to be out with regard to London’s death.  It’s been a popularly held belief that he committed suicide.  Most biographers now agree, however,  he died of uremia aggravated by an accidental morphine overdose.  Whatever the circumstances, London died November 22, 1916 at the age of 40.

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Jack London wrote about the harsh realities of nature.  His language was visceral and brutal, but also beautifully written.  This was a good book, and I have to say, Buck the dog is my favorite main character to-date from my New Year’s Resolution books.  I liked Buck.  I liked him very much.

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Bookmarked

April’s Book Selection

“With the aurora borealis flaming coldly overhead, or the stars leaping in the frost dance, and the land numb and frozen under its pall of snow, this song of the huskies might have been the defiance of life, only it was pitched in minor key, with long-drawn wailing and half-sobs…”

Buck

The most eloquent dog ever!

Anyone want to join me?

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Bookmarked

Treasure Island

intelligent-pleasures-classic-literature-8175964-575-349I didn’t hate this book!…And I won’t lie, I was scared.   Frankly, Crane and the Red Badge of Courage were a bit of a set back for me.  I went on a binge of pleasure reading to clear my head.  Mostly pulpy nonsense like Lee Child or Debbie MacComber.  Book after book of pure fiction indulgence until I could again bring myself to step into the ring with literature of the masculine variety.

So I puzzled over where to go next and finally I picked a book based solely on a practical metric-word count.  Because quite honestly, if this book had sucked it like the Badge of courage did, I needed it to be short.

But it didn’t!  Hooray!

robert_louis_stevenson_by_sargentRobert Louis Stevenson was born Robert Lewis Balfour Stevenson in Scotland in 1850. He was a sickly child-pale, thin and perceived as eccentric. As he moved into his 20’s, he embraced Bohemian dress and cheap pubs and brothels.  When Robert fell in love, it was with a married mother of three named Fanny de Grift Osbourne.  He followed her to the United States where they fell into an affair that culminated in her divorce and their marriage in 1880.  (I think I’m beginning to see a pattern in the personal lives of these guys. They’re a hot mess!)

In the summer of 1881, Stevenson was on holiday with Fanny (and children) in Scotland.  Forced indoors by rainy weather, Stevenson and his stepson, Loyd, whiled away the hours creating and coloring a treasure map of an imaginary treasure island. Stevenson’s imagination was sparked and he began to write a short story based on the map to entertain the family. First published as a book on May 23, 1883, it was originally serialized in a children’s magazine between 1881–82 under the title Treasure Island or, the mutiny of the Hispaniola with Stevenson adopting the pseudonym, Captain George North.

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I’m sure you’ve all seen the movie..so I won’t prattle on, but here’s a quick overview:  The story is narrated by young Jim Hawkins.  He’s likable and he’s not stupid.  Yes, I liked him (as opposed to the dodo in the Red Badge of Courage).  From the beginning of the tale, there is suspense and high adventure. A treasure map falls into Jim’s possession, and he soon finds himself at sea with bearings set for Treasure Island!  Cool.

So here’s what I liked about it:

  • There was an authenticity to Stevenson’s characters in the book, and he dealt with moral ambiguity on a very interesting level – especially considering it’s a “children’s book”.
  • John Silver is a rascal of the first order! I love a villain that you find yourself liking consistently through the story, don’t you?
  • Stevenson was a gifted writer.  There were passages in the book I would stop and re-read because they were quite beautiful.images

It was amazing to me, how much of what we consider to be typical “pirate lore” seemed to originate with this story.  The songs, the parrot, the dialect…yes the dialect.  Predictably, Stevenson utilized  a heavy dialect for his characters throughout the text.  Accurate and contextual?  I’m sure. Written dialect just isn’t my thing.  It was done well, but I could have used less of it.

When he wasn’t using dialect though, he was pretty awesome.  I’ll leave you with a brief passage,

“I have never seen the sea quiet round Treasure Island.  The sun might blaze overhead, the air be without a breath, the surface smooth and blue, but still these great rollers would be running along all the external coast, thundering and thundering by day and night; and I scarce believe there is one spot in the island where a man would be out of earshot of their noise.”

treasure-island-photoWhat are you reading?  Share with me.  Or better yet, join me in my literary adventure.  Check out my 2013 Resolution and I’ll keep you posted on my next selection.

Have a great weekend!

 

 

2013 Resolutions · Bookmarked

The Red Badge of Courage

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So I may have mentioned that January was  a month consumed by work.  I did, however, manage to complete the first month of my New Year’s Resolution.  My first stop on what I have affectionately coined my “dude lit” trip was Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage.

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Download it for free on your Kindle, or pick it up at your local library.  This was a quick read.  This famous Civil War classic is about a boy named Henry who, overcome by patriotism and fervor, enlists to fight for the Union in the bloody, prolonged war between the states.

The long and short of it? Henry’s internal battle with cowardice proves to be as dangerous as the real-world battle raging around him.  I’m no spoiler, so I’ll skip straight to my take on this classic.  It wasn’t for me.  I was glad to turn the final page.

I just kept thinking to myself.  “Buck up, Henry.  Get on with it.  What are you doing?  Stupid!” kind of in a recurring round.  I lost patience with Henry.  Could it be that I’m just short on patience in general as of late?  Sure.  Should I some day discipline myself to re-read this classic?  Maybe.  Will I? Nope.

What was good about the book?  Crane’s prose bordered on poetry. Some of his description-specifically of the natural world providing the stage for his wartime drama, was beautiful and placed you at the scene in a most effective and gratifying way.

Not surprising that Crane was heralded as one of America’s “earliest examples of Realism and Naturalism.”  If I had read that statement prior to reading the book, I would have been better prepared.  I hate that period of literature (no offense to all the good people who enjoy it).  No wonder I had hallucinatory flashbacks to Sister Carrie and my 400-level Realism and Naturalism literature class.  Yuck, I say! Not for me.

I’ve read several reviews of the tale where the reviewers cited how remarkable it was that, having never fought in war, Crane was able to capture the emotion, and ultimately, the changes wrought by  battle.  When I read that he hadn’t experienced battle, however, I was relieved to hear it.  The narrative hadn’t registered as realistic to me. (not that I would know) It just seemed to validate my overall impression of the book to find that Crane hadn’t lived the experience first hand.

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Criticism aside, however.  Crane was a hottie, and his biography was actually more interesting to me than his book.  A contemporary of Joseph Conrad and H.G. Wells, he worked as a war correspondent, kept company with known prostitutes, and died of tuberculosis in and German sanitorium at 28. Kind of looks like a young Tom Selleck there, doesn’t he?

Sorry-be patient with me.  I am trying to expand my tastes and experiences.  I think I may go read Persuasion again, though,  to blot out the lameness poignancy of Henry’s story.  Let’s just call it a palate cleanser-kind of a literary sorbet, if you will.

Have a wonderful week! I’d love to hear what you’re reading.

2013 Resolutions

Resolution #1: Great Literature I’ve Never Read

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It’s a long and shameful list. Made more so by the artful dodging it required for someone with a B.A. in English. There are books on this list that I should have read in grade school. There are books on this list that were required reading. I took tests over these books, turned in papers about these books, and waxed pretentious on occasion about them. What was my problem? They were downers. They were downers and I knew they were downers. And well…I don’t like downers. I like stories that aren’t big fat downers. I like some tumult, with a sprinkling of crisis, book-ended by humor and happiness. I don’t like unrelenting tragedy or pathos. There you have it.

So I’m a grown up now. Supposedly. And it bothers me a little bit-all these years later-that I dodged the bullet on some of these stories. So here is number one on my very short list of 2013 Resolutions….

I will read one bypassed tome of “Great Literature” per month in 2013.

For a total of 12, which doesn’t even begin to cover the list of great literature I’ve never read. Let’s face it, life is too short and too full for a book like Moby Dick. No offense to those who love it. It’s a crazy dude and a whale. It ends badly. Gotcha.

So here they are in no particular order:

1. Bleak House…Charles Dickens 2. Treasure Island…Robert Louis Stevens on 3. The Three Musketeers or the Count of Monte Cristo….Alexandre Dumas 4. The Red Badge of Courage…Stephen Crane 5. The Grapes of Wrath…John Steinbeck 6. The Call of the Wild…Jack London 7. The Good Earth…Pearl S. Buck 8. Johnny Tremain…Esther Forbes

I’m stopping there.  It gives me four to play around with.  If you have suggestions, I’d love to see them. If it’s great chick lit, I’ve probably read it.  It’s the more masculine or primitive tales that were diligently avoided.

What are your resolutions this year?

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Bookmarked · General

Bookmarked…

“Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it”…P.J. O’Rourke

Before I was a compulsive hobbyist, I was a compulsive reader.  At any given time, I have three or more books in progress.  It’s just how I roll.  There have been many times in my life where a book took precedence over just about everything. Have you experienced that wonderful inability to make yourself stop reading?

Today, I thought I’d share what I’m reading now…

We are all about literature for young readers at my house.  Sure, sure, it’s because we have a ten year old, but it’s also because Phil and I love adventures!

I recently watched several episodes of the BBC series Merlin, and it stimulated memories of Mary Stewart’s classic Merlin trilogy. I loved these books when I first read them, and Whitney’s looking for her next “series”, so I decided to read them again.

I just finished The Crystal Cave and started The Hollow Hills.  They’re wonderful, but not at all as I remembered.  I’m not sure that Whitney is ready for them, because you know, lots of sex and adult themes  (predictably).  Oddly, I didn’t remember that at all.  You really do get something different out of a story every time you read it.  It also might have something to do with the fact that it’s probably been 25 years or so since I read them the first time.

On the non-fiction end I’m reading on a few different subjects…

In Greg’s Garden, a Pineywood Perspective on Gardening, Nature and Family by Greg Grant is a collection of essays by a well-known Texas horticulturist. The essays are knowledgeable and folksy and it’s a great guide for “native” plant species.

The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau –  In preparing to write this book, Chris identified 1,500 individuals who have built businesses earning $50,000 or more from a modest investment (in many cases, $100 or less), and from that group he chose to focus on the 50 most intriguing case studies.

Sew Everything Workshop: The Complete Step-by-Step Beginner’s Guide by Diana Rupp-I’m actually taking Diana’s sewing class on Craftsy and the book was “strongly encouraged” for the class.  It’s a good well-balanced overview/tutorial for sewing, however, and has been beneficial for my sewing “do over”.

What are you reading this week?   What’s books are on your reading “wish list”?

General

Kreativ – ity

Anna, a phenomenal blogger found at Oceannah on WordPress, has very graciously nominated me for the Kreativ Blogger award.  I’m so flattered!  Thank you!

The first thing I did following anna’s post was Google the award.  There are dozens of different versions of the rules out there! Most of them deal with information posted in groupings of seven, but not all of them do so I’m going to wing it.

First I’m supposed to tell you guys something interesting about myself.  Boo.  I’m terribly interesting, but I can never think of anything under pressure-so here are several random facts:

  • I’m a native Texan. I never planned to remain in rural East Texas.  I just grew up and realized I like it.  When you spend your life in a place, it becomes part of who you are.  Who knows what the future may bring, however.  I never rule out possibilities.
  • I’m the youngest of four and so is my husband.  My sister-in law told us not to get married.  Her theory was that two “youngest” children should never wed because all youngest children are spoiled and selfish and the marriage will inevitably blow up.  We’re 12 years into our marriage, and we’re still ok. Needless to say, she’s an “oldest” child.  You have to take her birth order wisdom with a grain of salt.
  • I love movies based on comic book heroes…all of them.  Spawn is on my top five favorite movies list.  His cape is cool. He was hot before they burned him. The little clown guy is gross. You have to take the bad with the good.
  • As a child I lived in an old school building.  There were chalk boards in all the classrooms, a stage, an auditorium and urinals in the bathrooms.  As one can imagine, living in this environment between the ages of 3 and 12 was awesome!  This was during the 70’s and early 80’s when roller skating (a la Xanadu) was the activity of choice.  I practically had a rink at my disposal.  It helped that my mom and dad put a jukebox, ping pong table and pool table in the old auditorium.  Our living room was set up on the stage.  Good times, people, good times….

That’s a lot-I think I’ll stop there.  Next I’m supposed to pass on the award to more Kreativ blogs.  I’m fairly new to the WordPress family, but there are several that I enjoy and admire:

  • Paper and Salt-I love the way Nicole intertwines her love of Cooking and Literature.  Delicious! Delightful!
  • House of 34-No stranger to this sort of award, Laurie is a Design DIY maven with a wicked sense of humor.
  • SCCLiving-Kimberly writes about her Star Creek Country Texas homestead and all the bounty it provides in a most endearing way.
  • Made by Patch-Trish blogs about her love of crochet, sewing and the occasional delectable recipe. Her patchwork is a whimsical treat!

I hope you enjoy this group as much as I have! Have a wonderful weekend!