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Great Expectations . . . Or Not

Passing thoughts about books and authors:wise_owl_on_books

In keeping with my idea of reading a “bucket-book” list, I recently started Dickens’ “Great Expectations.” I remembered having read it back in high school days and being absorbed in its world. Figuring this would be an easy one to check off the list, I began. Oooops! Something has changed in the forty-some-odd years since I last read it. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Pip or Miss Havisham. Or Mr. Dickens.

Has anybody out there ever come back to a book you thought you knew and enjoyed and found it somehow . . . lacking? I sure did with this book. The 16 chapters I managed to get through before I finally put it aside required an effort of sheer will. I struggled with the language, the pace, the characters and the plot. And this is considered to be his last great novel. What am I going to do when I come to, say, Homer’s Iliad or Odyssey? Or even Dante’s Divine Comedy?

I left my bookmark where I stopped, at the start of chapter 17. When I come back to it, I’ll pick up there. Maybe a cup of PG Tips would help?

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A few weeks back I re-read Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island.” Written in 1883, it presents challenges to the modern reader similar to the ones I faced with “Great Expectations.” Issues of style and language were again prominent. Yet I managed to finish it and even enjoy it. Long John Silver is a character for the ages.

And I’m beginning to realize that Stevenson was a writer for the ages as well. He also wrote “Kidnapped” and “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde, ” along with a variety of short fiction and even poetry (the delightful “A Child’s Garden of Verses.”) In poor health most of his life, he died at a young 44 years old, while working on a novel, “Weir of Hermiston.” An amazingly talented writer gone too soon.

In spite of the iron composure of his features, his eye was wild, scared, and uncertain; and when he dwelt, in private admonitions, on the future of the impenitent, it seemed as if his eye pierced through the storms of time to the terrors of eternity.

                    – from the short story “Thrawn Janet” (Thrawn; a Scottish expression meaning lacking in pleasing or attractive qualities)

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One of the area’s thrift stores had a half price sale yesterday, so of course my wife and I were there. I needn’t tell you where I spent my time looking. But while exploring the religion section, I came across two novels that looked interesting: “King Solomon’s Mines” by H. Rider Haggard, and “The Resurrectionist” by Jack O’Connell. I purchased them both.

What I want to know is why these novels were in the religion book section. Sure, the titles would suggest a connection, but a cursory look at either book would have informed the stocking person that these belonged in the fiction area. But then again, I often wonder why Joel Osteen’s books are in the religion section too.

Some things are just a mystery.

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Here’s a Bucket List Anyone Can Afford

Image Courtesy of Irish Welcome Tours' Flickr Stream

Image Courtesy of Irish Welcome Tours’ Flickr Stream

Is there anybody alive who hasn’t heard of Bucket Lists, as in the bucket that shall be kicked by every one of us? I thought not. Between out-of-the-way places to visit or rare experiences to arrange, it can be very expensive to get out of this world. You may have no money left for that genuine Viking funeral you wanted. Pity.

Have no fear. Here’s a list anyone can afford, and you needn’t wait until you’re middle-aged to start. I call it the Bucket Book List. All you need is a library, a library card and a list of classic books you wish to read before meeting your Maker. Heck, they don’t even really need to be classics. Just books you’ve always wanted to read. They can be fiction or non-fiction or poetry. Read a cookbook if you’d like. And if you MUST, you can buy them if you wish.

Actually, I prefer buying. Books make wonderful companions and look marvelous in bookcases or just stacked up on a desk or the floor. And they’re a whole lot less expensive than airfare to Borneo. Or Chicago for that matter. But it’s more than the money. It’s like time-travel. Exploring the greatest stories and ideas from human history. Ideas and stories that get deep inside your mind and into your very soul. Ideas that shaped civilizations. Stories that escorted you into dreams. And still can.

I’m working on my Bucket Book list now. I am 60 after all. The Bible says I have about ten more years to go. I’m hoping for more. Whatever the actual number is, it’s past time to get going. There’s so much to read. I like both fiction and non-fiction so I’ll need two lists to start. Well, three actually. I like so-called “children’s” books. So I’ll need adult fiction, children’s fiction and non-fiction. Should I sub-divide things any further? I probably will.

For now, in fiction, I’m looking at the Divine Comedy by Dante, Paradise Lost by John  Milton, The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer, of course. Oh, and don’t forget Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. In non-fiction I’ve got Will and Ariel Durant’s The Story of Civilization (not all 10 volumes, though), Churchill’s The History of the English Speaking Peoples and Abraham Lincoln by Carl Sandburg. I will also be putting together a list of American classics as well as children’s classics. I’ve got some work ahead of me.

So what do you think out there? Does this sound like a good idea? Let me know what you think. Tell me what books you’d put on your list. Or give me a few additions for my own. I’ll keep you posted as I develop this further.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2015 in Uncategorized, What I'm Reading

 

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A New Year

But I’m not promising anything. I mean, a few months back I wrote here that I was going to be more regular about posting reviews, especially about young people’s books. I really meant it too. But everyone knows how to make God laugh, right? Just tell Him your plans. Sure enough, after my promise to write more, life threw me two hard, inside sliders followed by a slow, rainbow curve on the outside corner. Whiff-City, folks!

So why haven’t I been writing? Can’t really say in this forum. Personal family-type stuff.

I haven’t stopped reading though. Reading is one of the few things that has kept me somewhat sane the past few months. I did finish Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series of books. My opinion? Read the first two books and leave the other three. It’s not that they’re awful really. They just don’t match the quality of the first two. Cooper tries to introduce all sorts of Celtic legend and myth in too short of a time period and it gets rather confusing, especially in the last book, “Silver on the Tree.” For a series finale, it lacks that certain punch I was hoping for. Stick with the first two.

I’m currently reading Sir Walter Scott’s “Ivanhoe” at the request of an old friend. Halfway in and still interested in spite of the Ye Olde English language used at the time. I’ll let you know how it finishes, though I won’t promise you when.

Well, that’s about all for now. I have a few other thoughts and ideas rattling about in my skull but those will have to wait for another post. Hopefully that won’t be too far away. In the meantime, watch out for those slow curves!

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2015 in Book Review, Uncategorized, What I'm Reading

 

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Little House in the Homeschool

Those of you who have read this blog over the past year or so know that I am a big fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie” Little House Booksseries of books. So naturally when I came across this offer I just had to share it with any of you who might be interested.

It’s from a homeschooling website and it’s full of free resources to use in your own homeschooling program based on the Little House books, including free printables and unit studies. So click here and check out these great materials to help your young ones learn and soak in the true spirit of pioneer America.

Enjoy!

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2014 in Children's Books, Uncategorized

 

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A Quick Question

Two years ago I wrote a two-part review of a book by William Manchester called “A World Lit Only By Fire.” The book was a wonderfully written history of the early middle-ages and beyond. I enjoyed it so much that I had to write a long, two-part review. It got a fairly good response and I was happy at that. But over the past year or so, I’ve noticed that I’m getting a huge number of hits on those reviews. For example, over the past week “A World Lit Only By Fire, Part 1” has had 177 views, and Part 2 has had 132 views.

So, what’s going on here?

Is there a history class out there that’s using my posts for study aids? Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with that. Flattered even. I’m just real curious about the who and what and why, etc. So, if any of you viewers have a spare moment please drop me a comment and let me know where all the views are coming from.

And thanks!

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2014 in History, Uncategorized

 

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The Good, The Bad, and the Orc-ly

OK. I apologize for the above title. Really. It was the best I could come up with at the time. I needed to get your attention so you’d check out middle_earth_according_to_mordor-460x307this post. I mean, this is important. We’ve all been mislead.

It seems that Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” was nothing but Western propaganda. Did you know that Gandalf was actually a bad guy out to destroy technology and science? And that the elves were out to rule the world? Further, Mordor was a progressive center of science and rationality, the very essence of enlightenment as compared to the pie-in-the-sky West. That is evidently the premise of a book newly available in English. “The Last Ringbearer,” by Kirill Yeskof, was originally published in Russia back in 1999, but an English translation has just become available (via a FREE download, no less!). It tells the story of the War of the Ring through the eyes of Mordor.

I haven’t read it yet, but Laura Miller over at Salon.com has and I’m linking to her review here so you can check it out. Viewing things from the bad side’s perspective isn’t exactly groundbreaking stuff, though it has become even more prevalent these days in books and in television. What strikes me about this book is that it seems to want not only to make the bad guys sympathetic, but to present the good guys as the ones who are evil. Is this taking things a step further?

I don’t know yet, but I’d be interested in  hearing your opinions on this. Whatever your view, it looks like a fascinating read.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Coming Soon to a Kindergarten Near You?

One of my weekly pleasures is reading the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal. It’s an excellent paper and one of the few left in the country that has a conservative opinion section. (There, I’ve outed myself.) But while the Journal may be a conservative publication, it is most definitely a secular one as well. Witness Alison Gopnik’s Mind & Matter column from this past weekend.

It seems that some scientists think that evolution, particularly the natural selection component, is too difficult for young children to understand. I’ve provided a link to the article above so I won’t go into all their reasoning for this seemingly obvious insight, however the upshot is that they recommend that children should be exposed to picture books that help them understand natural selection. As early as kindergarten. They’re afraid that these young minds may actually come to think that our earth and the life on it was created somehow by, gasp!, some transcendent, intelligent being.

These proposed natural selection “story books” are characterized in the article as “powerful intellectual tools.” I think it’s just a blatant attempt at indoctrination dressed-up in lab coats, clip boards and plastic pocket protectors.

What do you think?

 
 

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