Distracted by light
Look up from the book and then
Gaze down on the clouds….
I 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 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.
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:
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.”
What 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!
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.
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.
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.
A month. That’s how long it’s been since I’ve posted. January 8th-February 10th. That’s whack. Why? You may ask-I’ll be glad to share.
A month of grueling, thankless (except for the paycheck), work.
It’s the enemy of leisure, you know. So I’ve had to be selective with my time. Kids…hubbie…tired. Fatigue is also the enemy of leisure. I haven’t been completely off-goal, but I have been very limited. I’ve done some reading, and I’ve done some knitting, and that my friends, sums it up. Throw in a couple of rented dvd’s and a few good meals and I’ve just recapped the last month in 105 words.
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?
Shriveled leaves scuttle
Two denuded oaks stand watch
We burrow inside
I woke up this morning and cuddled with my six year old. He still likes to cuddle with mom, thank goodness! I made Nutella cocoa and a rich, strong latte and sat down with my family in the morning light. And I felt happiness. In that way that you feel it in random moments. Tired, but relaxed and content. So lucky. Such Comfort and Joy!
You take pictures of things that are beautiful!
Pictures of Comfort and Joy!