Eugene Onegin, written by Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837)

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A challenge by Elisabeth from A Russian Affair

I am no literary scholar but I do like to play around the edges some. So, in the spirit of playing around the edges, I submit the following for your consideration.

First of all, I would like to thank Elisabeth for introducing me to Alexander Pushkin and this delightful verse novel, Eugene Onegin. I had of course, heard of Pushkin, but never read him. So, it was a pleasant surprise.

As I was reading, Eugene Onegin, I heard some echoes of Poe, and Shakespeare. There were of course, dozens of other literary references throughout the work, which were richly detailed in the appendix. I was put in mind of Poe’s, The Raven, and Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Although the meter was quite different, there were similarities such as the generous use of alliteration, the rhyming scheme and some of the same words rhymed. Poe and Pushkin were contemporaries and I could not help but wondering if their paths might have crossed or if one influenced the other. So, I did a little digging and found some interesting references.

There is an account of Poe and Pushkin mentioned in the novel, Time, Forward, by Soviet writer Valentin Kataev. The novel’s American character, Ray Roupe, says, “Certain of Pushkin’s poems had kinship with the stories of Edgar Poe, which is of course paradoxical, but quite explicable. When still a youth, Edgar Poe travelled to St. Petersburg on a boat. They say that in one of the taverns there he had met Pushkin. They talked all night over a bottle of wine and the great American poet made a gift of the plot, Man of the Crowd, to Pushkin.” So, I guess I wasn’t the only one who imagined that.

The Raven, by Edgar Allen Poe, has internal rhyming and a general rhyme scheme of ABCB BB. Meter is Trochaic Octameter which is one stressed syllable followed by one unstressed or Dum-da, Dum-da,  Dum-da.

Eugene Onegin consists of 366 14-line stanzas that more or less meet the definition of a sonnet but which serve as paragraphs in the verse novel. There are over 5000 lines of poetry. The meter is Iambic tetrameter. An iamb is a beat in a line of poetry where one unstressed syllable is followed by a stressed syllable, that sort of sounds like this: duh-DUH, duh-DUH, duh-DUH, duh-DUH with a rhyme scheme of ABAB; CCDD; EFFEGG

Here are some examples of similarities and references to Poe and Shakespeare:

Pushkin: “I’d seek to borrow – languid sorrow”(Chapter 3 Stanza 30)

Poe: “Vainly I had sought to borrow from my books surcease of sorrow.”

Tatyana’s letter to Onegin: “There’s no one else I adore. The heaven’s chose my destination and made me thine for evermore.”

“My life til now has been a token in pledge of meeting you, my friend, and in coming, God has spoken.

You’ll be my guardian in the end.”

Poe: “Nevermore” is used throughout The Raven. “That God we both adore,” “Leave no black plume as a token of the lie thy soul has spoken.”

Pushkin (Chapter 5 Stanza 11):

And what an awesome dream

She’s been dreaming

She walks upon a sunny vale

All around her dully gleaming.

Poe: “All the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming.”

Pushkin: (Chapter 7 Stanza 15)

“…Of fisherman were dimly gleaming

Tatyana walked, alone and dreaming,”

Pushkin: (Chapter 8 stanza 20).

“Was this the Tanya he once scolded

In that forsaken, distant place?”

 

Poe: “By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—

Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,”

 

Pushkin: “Our lives were weary, flat, and stale.” (Chapter 1 stanza 45)

Shakespeare: “The world is weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable.” (Hamlet, Act 1 scene 2)

Pushkin: “Poor Yorick!” (Chapter 2, stanza 37)

Shakespeare: “Poor Yorick!” (Hamlet, Act 5 Scene 1)

 

In Chapter 1 I became convinced Pushkin my have had a foot fetish:

“I love their feet-although you’ll find

That all of Russia scarcely numbers

Three pairs of shapely feet…And yet,

How long it took me to forget

Two special feet. And in my slumbers

They still assail a soul grown cold

And on my heart retain their hold.” (Chapter 1 stanza 30)

I also found it quite interesting that Pushkin foreshadowed his own death in his description of the duel with Lensky. That was a bit of a chill!

All in all a very fun read! Thank you again for this marvelous challenge!

 

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Follies of God

Book Review

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Follies of God is a book that came a long at just the right time for me. I had been thinking about Tennessee Williams for a while and had just read one of his plays. He has long been a figure that has fascinated me, both the man and his work.

I was watching YouTube videos one evening and came across an interview with a young man who told a story about meeting Tennessee Williams. It seems he got a call one morning and his mother woke him and said there was a man on the phone who says his name is Tennessee Williams. The young man realized that it must be him because he had written him a letter asking for advice on how to be a writer. He took the call. As the young man related the story, Tennessee asked him to come to have lunch with him. Where are you, he asked? I am in New Orleans, Tennessee answered. But I’m, in Baton Rouge. Well, you better hurry. So, the next day James Grissom drove to New Orleans to meet Tennessee Williams for lunch and thus began the amazing story of how this book came about. Well, I was hooked. I ordered the book that night on Amazon and it arrived very shortly thereafter.

James met with Tennessee Williams and was given a mission. To find the women that had meant so much to him, the women who appeared in his plays and movies, and some of whom were his muses and characters he modeled his characters on or wrote for. He wanted to know if he mattered to them. He called these women, The Follies of God. The characters he created for the stage he called, The Women of the Fog. Tennessee described his writing process as one of creating a mental theater in his mind. The fog rolls in across the boards and a female emerges. “I have been very lucky. I am a multi-souled man, because I have offered my soul to so many women, and they have filled it, repaired it, sent it back to me for use.”

This book is the story of that mission and how it came to be. It also gives us deep insight into the mind of one of the most creative geniuses of the American theater. Tennessee Williams needed a witness and young James Grissom was who he chose.

“Good Lord, can I get a witness? Here is the importance of bearing witness. We do not grow alone; talents do not prosper in a hothouse of ambition and neglect and hungry anger. Love does not arrive by horseback or prayer or good intentions. We need the eyes, the arms, and the witness of others to grow, to know that we have existed, that we have mattered, that we have made our mark. And each of us has a distinct mark that colors our surroundings, that flavors the recipe of every experience in which we find ourselves; but we remain blind, without identity until someone witnesses us.”

During the course of fulfilling his mission James Grissom talked to some of the most important figures on the American Theater scene: Lillian Gish, Maureen Stapleton, Marlon Brando, Elia Kazan, John Gielgud, Jessica Tandy, Kim Hunter, Geraldine Page, and Katherine Hepburn, to name a few. This book is the fascinating account of his interviewing these witnesses and the sometime startling things they had to day. And yes, Tennessee did matter, and so he still does.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Loving Blackness

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During the time of Coronavirus I  took the opportunity to attend  an online Buddhist Seminar entitled : In the Footsteps of Thich Nhat Hanh. I consider Thich Nhat Hanh to be my guru. It was a five day summit, but since I was stuck at home I had plenty of time to attend. On the second day of the summit, at the end of the day, there was a short video that featured the writer bell hooks. Now bell hooks would be just about the last person in the world I would ever expect to encounter at a Buddhist seminar. Not there is any thing wrong with bell hooks. I like bell hooks. I know bell hooks. I’ve read several of her books and I have tremendous respect for her. I met her once in Philadelphia at a lecture she gave at the Free Library. I brought a book along with me for her to sign after the lecture, which she graciously did. When it came my turn I stood before her and smiled at her and told her that we shared the same name and that we both were from Kentucky. She liked that. She autographed my book with the following inscription: “To Loving Blackness.”

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It was an evening  I would not forget. Bell hooks is a woman with a fierce intellect and strong opinions and she is a woman who is full of rage.  She would be the first person to admit that. So, it was not without a little bit of surprise to run across this video of her at the summit. In the video she describes her encounter with Thich Nhat Hanh. She described how she was a little apprehensive about meeting the zen master.  She told him when she met him that she was filled with rage. He met that rage with loving kindness. He said that was OK. Hold onto your rage and use it for compost for your garden. Well, at moment, she had a little aha experience. And she was able to transform her anger, and that was the point of the video. Perfect!

The Plague

Social Distancing in Elizabethan England in the Time of the Plague

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William Shakespeare

In William Shakespeare’s time, London was ravaged by the bubonic plague. Public health regulation was haphazard at best in Elizabethan England, but one official measure that people seem to understand was that isolation of plague victims seem to slow down the spread of the disease. Hence the nailing shut of quarantined houses. They grasped too the relationship between the progress of the epidemics and large crowds. Authorities did not cancel church services, but when plague deaths began to rise they did shut down the theaters. This, of course, included the Globe Theater in which Shakespeare mounted his productions. The rule of thumb to shutter the theaters was 30 deaths per week. The enemies of the theaters became even more strident in their criticism, shouting that God had sent the plague to punish London for its sins, above all whoredom, sodomy, and playacting.

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The Globe Theater

Source: Will in the World, by Stephen Greenblatt

Photos: by Benn Bell

Travel Light, Move Fast

This is the title of Alexandra Fuller’s latest book and my new motto.

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I just received this book in the mail after a long waiting period. It didn’t come from the Amazon Warehouse right around the corner where most books come from. Oh, no, no, no. This book came from a book depository in Jolly Olde England and it took it’s sweet time about arriving here. Some weeks in fact. Well, it was much anticipated and I am sure it will be much loved. I had pre-ordered it as soon as it was available. Not to worry, I am sure I will enjoy it all the more .

This will be the fourth book I have read by Fuller. The first three: Cocktail Hour Under Tree of Forgetfulness, Don’t Let’s go to the Dogs Tonight, and Leaving Before the Rains Come. She is a terrific writer and I can’t wait to get started on this book.

Alexandra was born in England and raised in Africa where she lived until she was in her twenties. She then moved to Wyoming. Her stories of growing up in Africa with her eccentric family are fascinating and endlessly entertaining told by a gifted story teller.

Review to follow.

Top 10 Books Read 2019

I only read 17 books in 2019. Short of my goal, but most of what I read was challenging and on the longish side. I vow to read more this year. My goal is 36. I’ve already read four, so I am on track.

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Here are my top 10 books for 2019:

  1. Look Homeward Angel – Thomas Wolfe
  2. The Big Sleep (Annotated) – Raymond Chandler
  3. The Clown – Heinrich Boll
  4. Ulysses – James Joyce
  5. Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel García Márquez
  6. Beloved – Toni Morrison
  7. Cities of the Plain – Cormac McCarthy
  8. Dream of Fair to Middling Women – Samuel Beckett
  9. Quichotte – Salman Rushdie
  10. Will in the World – Stephen Greenblatt

Some of these books I have been wanting to read all my life but never got around to, like Look Homeward Angel, which inspired a trip to Aheville NC,and Ulysses which was I must say the most challenging of all. Love in Time of Cholera was a pure pleasure to read. Beloved was Toni Morrison’s masterpiece. So sad we lost her last year. Cities of the Plain completed the Border Trilogy. I try to read at least one Cormac McCarthy book each year. Terrific writer! Quichotte by Salman Rushdie was was a pleasant surprise. First one of his I’ve read in a while. I remember reading Satanic Verses when it first came out and created such a stir. The Big Sleep was pure pleasure. If you have never read anything  Heinrich  Boll, I highly recommend him to you. One of my favorites for a long time. The Clown is a good one! Dream of Fair to Middling Women was Samuel Beckett’s first novel and was not published during his lifetime. It is very instructive to read it and see some of the characters and themes introduced early on that we see later in more mature works.  Highly entertaining. And, finally, Will in the World. I learned so much about William Shakespeare and Elizabethan England reading this book. 

 

 

 

The Monty Hall Problem

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My young friend Victoria had been wanting to take me to this speakeasy she knew about downtown for the longest. We had our chance the other night to go so we went. Only thing is you can’t just show up, you have to be invited. So, Victoria went through the necessary machinations to secure our invite and we showed up on time in our finest costumes for the occasion.

We walked through the unprepossessing door from an alley off Main Street. We entered a small cubbyhole of a space manned by two standing gentlemen and a woman seated at a desk in front of a locked door which was located directly behind them.

“Papers, please.”

We showed our IDs and it was dutifully checked against a roster resting on the desk. When our names were found the woman handed our ID’s back and slightly nodded to the gentleman guarding the door. He swung it wide and we stepped through to the top of a sharply declining stairwell.

As we made our way down the steep stairway, I couldn’t help but notice the atmosphere changing with each step. The air seemed to grow denser as if perfumed by some unknown censer. The lighting changed gradually and it seemed to give off a soft reddish glow. The temperature was getting colder by degrees the lower we went. At the bottom of the steps we were greeted by our smiling host. In the background we could hear music of the period playing and I swear I could hear the strains of “Put on a Happy Face.”

“Step this way please.”

We followed our host past a long and rather ornate wooden bar into the inner sanctum of Hell or High Water to our assigned seating.  We arrived at a small round glass topped table flanked by two high backed leather chairs. He placed two drink menus in front of us and said, “Your server will be with you shortly.”

We looked the menu over and tried to decide what specialty cocktail to order. When the server came over, I decided to ask for a recommendation.

“Do you like the smell of smoke or leather?” he asked.

I allowed as I did.

“Well then, I recommend Sparks Fly.”

I took a look at that and saw it contained Mezcal, Cardamaro, Benedictine, Crème de Cacao, and Gun Powder Proof Rum.  Sounded like an explosive concoction.

“Ok. I’ll try that.”

Victoria had the Devil’s Advocate, which was fitting.

I looked behind me at the room and on the back wall was a gigantic bookcase filled with books. The lighting was extremely dimmed and the music hushed.

As we sat sipping our drinks and soaking up the atmosphere, I was searching my head for something unfoolish to say.  Victoria is such a good listener I wanted to come up with a good story that would put her in awe and elicit her rapt attention. She was my best audience.

I thought about a book that I had been reading and there was a particularly good scene in it I wanted to share with her about a logic problem. Victoria liked logic problems.

“I say, have you heard about the Monty Hall problem?”

She shook her pretty head no. Her eyes fairly glistened in the low light.

“Well, there’s this book I’m reading called, Sweet Tooth. It’s by Ian McEwan. Very clever piece about a female British spy in the 70s. In one of the chapters the protagonist, Serena Frome (rhymes with plume) and her lover/writer/friend Tom Haley were having dinner in their favorite seafood restaurant in Brighton and Tom says, ‘I’m always telling you stories about poems and novels but you never tell me anything about math. It’s time you did. Something counterintuitive, paradoxical.’

“Serena thought for a while.”

‘Well there was this one story making the rounds at Cambridge while I was there. It’s called the Monty Hall Problem.’

I took a sip of my drink and paused for emphasis.

“So, let me tell it to you as best as I remember it. I think you will like it.”

“It seems there are three boxes. Two are empty and one holds a fabulous prize, like an all-expense paid vacation to some exotic place on earth. You have to choose which one you think it might be in. You choose box number one. The host, Monty Hall, who knows what’s inside each box, opens another box. Say, box number three. It’s empty. He then says to you, ‘Do you want to choose box number two or stick with box number one?’

I then asked Victoria which she would do. She says it doesn’t make any difference because you have a fifty-fifty chance either way.

“Not true,” I say. “If you switch you have a two in three chance of winning. If you stick you only have a one in three.”

“No. that can’t be. If you have two boxes remaining, it’s a fifty-fifty chance.”

“I know that’s what it seems like, but if you do the math that’s not right. It’s sort of a paradox. It’s really about re-evaluating your decisions as you get new information. Monty filters your choice by opening one of the boxes. You now have new information. You know the fabulous vacation is not in box number three. This changes the odds.”

Victoria sat back in her leather chair and stared into the middle distance processing this information. I saw in her face the slow signs of recognition as she grappled with the problem and gradually came to understand the solution with the new information I had supplied to her.

“Oh! Now I get it. I don’t know why I didn’t at first.”

“That’s because it’s counterintuitive. Most people don’t at first. By the way. Tom didn’t get it at first either. Now here’s the kicker, getting back to the book. Tom takes this math problem and decides to incorporate it into one of his short stories.”

The server came over and asked us if we’d like another drink.

I nodded my assent and said, “Yes, but I think I’ll have something more traditional this time. Do you have Old Forster?”

He says, “Yes.”

“Good! Well then, I’ll have an Old Forster and soda. Club soda.”

He writes that down.

“And for the lady?”

Victoria says she’ll have a rum and coke.

The server gives a slight bow and disappears back into the gloaming.

“So,” I say. “Getting back to the book. Tom and Serena spend the rest of the weekend together back at Tom’s apartment. He claims to have had an epiphany and now totally understands the solution to the Monty Hall problem, although at first, he insisted just like you, that there was only a fifty-fifty chance the prize was in box number one or two. Serena gave him another way of looking at it. She said what if there were a million boxes? And you choose box six hundred thousand? Monty opens all the other boxes except box number ninety-seven. Now the only closed boxes are yours and ninety-seven. What are the odds now?  Tom still insists fifty-fifty. ‘No! It’s a million to one against it being in your box.  And an almost certainty it’s in the other! Finally, he gets it.

“So, they go back to the apartment and Tom thanks her for the idea and starts writing a story about the problem. He calls it, “The Adultery Probability.” They make love, eat left overs and on Sunday afternoon Tom escorts Serena to the train station. She takes the next train back to London.

“Monday morning, she is back at her job at MI-6. Tom doesn’t know she is a spy and is responsible for his new found fortune of being awarded a financial grant so that he doesn’t’ have to work and instead can concentrate on his writing. This is the “dirty little secret” that is hanging over Serena’s head and stands between them like the sword of Damocles as she tries to figure out how and when to tell him about it.

“Three days go by and Serena gets a manuscript in the post. It’s Tom’s story. He has attached a note: ‘Did I get this right?’ She reads it before going to work and is horrified to learn that alas, he did not get it right.”

I can see Victoria is getting a little bit restive. Must be her ADHD kicking in again, I thought.

“Do you want to walk around a bit and explore,” I ask Victoria.

“Sure,” she says. Victoria is always up for a little adventure.

“We’ll continue on with the story when we get back to the table.”

So, we pushed our chairs back and grabbed our drinks and went for a little trek about the place. We were sitting in the Library Room which was two stories tall and opened up to the ceiling. Up a flight of stairs there were two other rooms and a mezzanine looking over the downstairs portion of the library. Off to either side of the mezzanine were the two other two rooms, the Boudoir Room and the Fumoir Room, only there was no smoking in the Fumoir Room. What went on the Boudoir Room, I wasn’t certain. Each room was richly appointed with distinctive features of the period offering its occupants intimacy and privacy. Each had a maximum capacity of five. We took a peek in each room. Downstairs, off the bar, was a larger room called the Gaga Room which held up to 14 patrons. These rooms were offered for rent by the hour. In the bar area there were lounges made of richly upholstered plush red velvet with lamplight gently streaming over each one. One had the feeling that one could sink down into that velvet lining and disappear forever. We stood there transfixed for a while as if hypnotized by the ambiance. We snapped out of our reverie and headed back to the table in the library.

We sat back down and a little silence ensued as we thought about what we had just witnessed.

“Don’t you just hate that?” Victoria asked.

“What?”

“That awkward silence when no one has anything to say?”

“Oh that. No, I don’t mind. Sometimes it’s good to just sit and think about things for a while and something naturally will come up of its own accord.”

“Well, I tell you what. Why don’t you tell me the rest of that story?”

“Good idea.” I raise my drink to her and say, “Here’s looking at you kid.”

She smiles back and touched her glass to mine as I resume the story.

“Now, where was I? Oh yes! Serena has just read Tom’s story and discovered to her horror that Tom indeed did not get the problem right. His story went something like this. A London architect suspects his wife of fooling around. One day, when he has time on his hands, he follows her to a sleazy hotel in Brighton. He spies her in the lobby with a man. They obtain a key from the desk clerk and head up the stairs. Terry, the architect, stealthily enters the hotel and follows them up the stairs, staying out of sight. They reach the fourth floor and Terry can hear a door open and close, but he can’t see which one. When he arrives on the floor, he can see there are only three rooms, 401, 402, and 403. His plan is to wait until the couple is in bed together then break into the room and catch them in flagrante delicto. Only one problem. Which room are they in?

“He listens for a sound but hears nothing. Time passes. He needs to make a choice. He chooses door 401 because it’s closest. He steps back to make a run for the door when the door to 403 opens and an Indian couple with a baby come out of the room.  They smile at Terry and go down the steps.

“He figures he has a one-in-three chance his wife was in room 401. Which means that until now there was a two-in-three chance she’s in either 402 or 403. Now that he knows 403 is empty there must be a two in three chance, she’s in 402. Only a fool would stay with his first choice, for the laws of probability are immutable. He makes his run and crashes through the door of 402 and catches the couple in mid-stroke. He gives the chap a slap across the chops and make a hasty retreat out the door and heads for London to file for divorce.

“Serena thinks about this story all day long after she gets to work. It was a good story but it was flawed. It couldn’t stand as written. It didn’t make sense. The Indian couple coming out of room 403 did not tip the balance in favor of 402. Their emergence was random while Monty’s choice was not. He knows what is in each box. If Terry had chosen room 403 the Indian couple could not magically transfer themselves to another room so they could come out another door. After they come out of 403 Terry’s wife was just as likely to be in 402 or 401.

“Serena didn’t think she could just tell Tom the story didn’t work, rather she felt she had to fix it. She had an idea how. Tom could re-write the story and make it work. First, she had to get rid of the Indian couple. Then as Terry take a few steps back to run at the door to room 401, he overhears two housekeepers talking on the landing below. One says, ‘I’ll just pop upstairs and do one of the two empty rooms.’ The other says, ‘Be careful, that couple are in their usual room.’

“Terry quickly re-figures the odds and decides to stand in front of room 401 forcing the housekeeper to go into one of the other two rooms. She knows where the couple is. Whatever room she chooses, Terry will move to the other door, doubling his chances. And that is exactly what happens. The housekeeper goes into 403. Terry makes his move and crashes into 402 and voila, there they are!”

“And there you have it. The rest of the story!”

I finished my drink and the server came over and asked if I wanted another but I said no I’d had enough. Victoria declined as well. We spent the rest of the evening in pleasant conversation as is our wont to do and we were well positioned to engage in another one of our favorite pastimes, that of observing other customers and making fun of them or making up stories about their lives. We found this to be very amusing. Oh, I know, we were perfectly awful, but it was fun.

Later I got to thinking about that evening and thought it would be fun to reconstruct it as a story. I thought the parallels between the couples were interesting. Similar, but slightly different. Sort of like an alternate universe. There was magic in the invention. You take a little from here and a little from there and you take all the parts and put them together to form a comprehensive whole, synergized and harmonized. Sort of like a stew cooked by chefs to create something new and delicious. A story within a story, like the windmills of your mind. We had fun that night. And I vowed we would come back someday, no matter what it took. Come hell or high water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dream of Fair to Middling Women

A Novel by Samuel Beckett

Book Blurb

Dream of Fair to Middling Women is Samuel Beckett’s first novel which he wrote in a fever pitch at age 26 and could not get published in Ireland due to it’s salacious content. He kept it under wraps his whole life and it was published posthumously a little while after his death per his wishes. He referred to it as “The chest into which I threw my wild thoughts.” It is a tour-de-force in rhetorical bombast and a great deal fun to read, small on plot, strong on wordplay.

WORD OF THE DAY – DECIMATE

Kill One in Ten.

Originally from the Latin: decimatio (decem – ten). Historically decimation was a form of military discipline used by senior commanders in the Roman Army to punish units or large groups guilty of capital offences, such as cowardice, mutiny, desertion, and insubordination, and for pacification of rebellious legions.

It has since come to mean to kill, destroy, or remove a large percentage or part of, as “the project would decimate the fragile wetland wilderness.” Or more recently, “the hurricane decimated everything in its path.”

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Graham Greene wrote about this concept, in the historical sense, in his novel, The Tenth Man.

A group of Frenchmen were being held hostage in a Gestapo camp. A German officer enters the cell one afternoon and announces that there were three murders in the town last night. He is ordered to shoot one in ten of them in the morning. There are thirty men in the camp, therefore three men must be shot. He doesn’t care who. They choose. They chose by lot. Louis Chavel was the tenth man.

Things get tricky from there, but Greene supplies a heavy dose of irony as the plot unfolds.

Book Notes

The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway and Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

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So, I finished one book and started another. I finished The Snows of Kilimanjaro and started Sweet Tooth.

The Snows of Kilimanjaro is a book of short stories by Ernest Hemingway, some I have read before and some of which were new to me and I was reading for the first time. The last story in the collection was The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, my favorite Hemingway story and quite possibly my favorite short story of all time. The last time I read this story I was in my 20s. I remember when and where I read it and under what circumstances I was my reading it. It made such a large impression on me. So, these many years later, I read it again with great joy and new eyes. It still made a great impression on me and revived many fond memories. This story taught me at an early age that Hemingway lived by code and it was possible to even have a code. This was an early and important teaching in my life and one I have always tried to live by.

I picked up Sweet Tooth and began to read it. Within 10 pages I knew I was going to like it. First of all, it was dedicated to Christopher Hitchens. One of my favorite writers and one to whom I most look up to and strive to write like when I attempt to write nonfiction. It is not easy. He has set a high bar. A few pages in McEwan references some of my other favorites writers and books as well. These are writers of fiction who are also my heroes: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, Vladimir Nabokov’s Bend Sinister, and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. All of which I have read. I am betting this book will prove to be a good read!