Dr. Seuss: “And to Think I saw it on Mulberry Street.”

OK, I guess I’ll weigh in on this. My two cents are worth about the same as anyone else’s, I reckon.

What we have here is an intersectionality. Where cancel culture meets book burning and freedom of speech meets banned books. Now, for the record I am against burning books and it seems like everyone has a match these days. And I have always enjoyed Dr. Seuss and even read these books to my kids when they were growing up….

But! There is no book burning going on here, no cancelling of Dr. Seuss, just a recalibration. His own estate has made the decision to not publish six books that contained overtly racist images. Six out of hundreds. And these books are still available. As a matter of fact, they are flying off the shelves!

We are living in strange times. The culture has evolved in many good ways in some bad ways. There is no question we come from a white supremacist patriarchal past. But that is not what we look like today. We are a multicultural, multiracial society and everyone deserves a seat at the table and everyone deserves to be included. It is important what books are put in front of children as they are the most impressionable among us. Reinforcement of white stereotypes and racial tropes is inappropriate. White children don’t need the reinforcing of white supremacy and children of color don’t need to be exposed to the hurtful images that remind them of their second-class citizenship.

This is a publishing decision, just like any other, but this one reflects the willingness of the estate of Dr. Seuss to learn and try to do better. It is not part of the so-called cancel culture, which I question really exists anyhow.

Zuckerman Unbound

Book Blurb

Not the best Philip Roth book but pretty good. It always amazes me how Roth can take the ordinary and turn it into literature or a simple idea like what happened to him after he became famous after publishing Portnoy’s Complaint and spin gold out of it. Pure genius! And quite funny too, I might add. I had several laugh out loud moments as I was reading this book. Highly recommend!

Top 10 Books 2020

I read 28 books in 2020. Here are my top 10 favorites:

  1. 2666 – Robert Bolano
  2. The Follies of God – James Grissom
  3. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
  4. The Adventures of Auggie March
  5. The Odyssey – Homer
  6. All Quiet in the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque
  7. Notes from the Underground – Fyodor Dostoevsky
  8. The Weight of Ink – Rachel Kadish
  9. Tropic of Cancer – Henry Miller
  10.  The Last Carousel – Nelson Algren

THE REBEL

The Rebel – Albert Camus

I’m giving The Rebel another read, a book I read when I was in my 20s, written by a man who has shaped my views more than any other, Albert Camus. You might think that The Plague might be more in order given the current plague we are now living through. Well, I’ve read that one too and it is vividly etched in my brain. But no, for me, given the current political situation in the USA, The Rebel is far more relevant. At no time during my lifetime, with the possible exception of the Vietnam war, has the idea of “man in revolt” been more relevant or more important. Updates to follow. I’ll be reading with new eyes…

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

wp-15899173769308512276441121568517.jpg

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!

 

pingback: https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/82358410/posts/967

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follies of God

Book Review

wp-15886835993568539113605201244016.jpg

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

wp-15868977527578121173895212821404.jpg

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.”

wp-15868977849824859128850211451159.jpg

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

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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.

wp-15827568331166918549186116784265.jpg

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.

wp-15807626263424730367256814486658.jpg

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.