Monday, November 24, 2014

Those Crazy Captains, Part II: Moby Dick’s Captain Ahab

I’ve done something for Herman Melville that I haven’t even done for some of the authors I’ve loved the most: I’ve read Moby Dick twice.  The first time I read it was for high school—in fact, since I was home-schooled this was self-assigned literature reading on my part, since I had heard Moby Dick, or, The Whale, was a classical giant that everyone should read.  I’d bought a very nice hardcover copy at my local library’s booksale, some reproduction edition from the 1950’s with such deep-pressed type I could have read the words in the dark simply by tracing my fingers across it. 

I remember clearly sitting on a chair in my room, my feet propped up on my bed, and thinking, “This is the most boring thing I’ve ever read.”

Monday, November 17, 2014

Those Crazy Captains: A Character Analysis. Part I: Introduction

It’s been an age since I’ve done a series of Character Analyses posts, mostly because I have to have read several books containing similar or comparable characters, all within a relatively short space of time so that I can adequately compare them.  This doesn’t happen much, since I try to “space out” reading books that are too similar so that I don’t mix them up later.

For some reason, though, this summer I read a lot of books with a nautical theme.  I’ve already reviewed the nonfiction The Outlaw Sea and The Pirate Queen, but shortly after a third audiobook I’d had on hold for a long while came in at the library.  The Caine Mutiny is a book I’d wanted to read since seeing the Humphrey Bogart adaptation (I tend to read pretty much anything that was adapted into a Humphrey Bogart movie, now that I mention it).  While reading it I couldn’t help but compare it to other seafaring novels I’ve read in the past, such as Typhoon and Lord Jim, the Horatio Hornblower series, The Sea Wolf, and of course Moby Dick

Not only does it feel natural to compare these novels because they have similar characters in obviously similar settings, it also is natural for me to be interested in comparing their themes, morals, and symbolism.  I live in a relatively land-locked area, with plenty of streams and rivers and ponds and lakes, but the idea of the large expanse of a sea or ocean is something I pretty much have to rely on my imagination and these books to even begin to grasp.  The ocean fascinates me. What would it be like to look out and only see water from one horizon to the next?  What would it be like to owe one’s very existence to a floating object, and one’s continued existence to the cooperation and toil of everyone else living there?  Even with engines, a ship is subject to the tides, currents, winds and weather, all of which are fleetingly inconstant and often unpredictable.  The concept is as alien as a science fiction story.  


Aside from the instant suspense that an author achieves by simply putting all his characters on a boat, there’s also a symbolism that I’m not alone in finding attractive.  After all, isn’t life as malleable and unreliable as the sea?  

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Finish Line At Last

This past week I finally finished my yearly quota of one hundred books.  I’m a little early, I know, but I planned to read ten books a month for ten months, in order to have the last two months freed up for the holiday season.  After this, anything else is just gravy.*

Below is my list.  As I self-restricted myself, not included in the list are any picture books, graphic novels, How-To books (comprised mostly, though not entirely, of quilting or cookbooks), or any books I re-read.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Bringing Books Out Of Chaos

Source: http://bookriotcom.c.presscdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Color-Organized-Bookshelves.-lovely.jpeg
Detective stories help reassure us in the belief that the universe, underneath it all, is rational.  They’re small celebrations of order and reason in an increasingly disordered world.  
~ P.D. James

Books are where things are explained to you.  Life is where things are not.  
~ Julian Barnes


We read deeply for varied reasons, most of them familiar: that we cannot know enough people profoundly enough; that we need to know ourselves better; that we require knowledge, not just of self and others, but of the way things are.  
~ Harold Bloom