Sunday, April 8, 2012

In Which I Emerge Victorious

Since we last met, I continued working through my stack of short stories for the month of March. Next up were: 
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Body Snatchers and Markheim by R.L. Stevenson
I liked all of these.
The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura
Not short stories, not even fiction, but languishing on my beside table. This one was interesting and will be reread in the future.
Shipley's Dictionary of Word Origins
Don't ask. I probably spend a couple hours a month in this book. I have a strong desire to find out where words and phrases come from. This book has some interesting answers.
The Smith of Wooton Major by J.R.R. Tolkien
I read this one aloud to some family members while on a road trip. Kids and adults both liked it. You don't have to be familiar with Tolkien's longer works to enjoy this.
Heart of Darkness and The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad
YES! I met my past, made it my present, and allowed it to affect me and thus my future. Heart of Darkness was perfect in its structure and provocation of thought. I really should give it a separate blog entry so I won't go into it much now. It seems a shame that high schoolers are forced to endure it though; the issues that Conrad explores would have been vastly under-appreciated by my 17 yr old self (and I was no flighty teen).

In celebration of this mental milestone, I went to the library and hauled home a bag of graphic novels. I think I read them all in 3 days. Unfortunately it was sort of like eating a case of Doritos in 3 days. I couldn't stop myself, but I felt a little woozy afterwards. Here's the list:

Ultimate Iron Man by Orson Scott Card
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
Formic Wars: Burning Earth by Orson Scott Card
The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger
The Tales of Alvin Maker: The Red Prophet volume 1 by Orson Scott CardFeynman by Ottaviani & Myrick

The last one in that list was a biography of physicist Richard Feynman. It was so fascinating that I got distracted from my short stories plan and spent all my free time for the next 3 days or so watching quantum physics talks online. Physics is a recurring amateur obsession that I return to every couple of years, spending a couple weeks compulsively watching college lectures and pop science vids online before moving on to something else.

After the physics mental download I moved on to my volume of Edgar Allan Poe and read:
The Fall of the House of Usher (my favorite)
The Tell-Tale Heart (I had read this one and the next one previously. Still good though)
The Masque of the Red Death
The Balloon-Hoax (Sort of Jules Verne-esque. May have inspired Verne's 80 Days)
The Spectacles  (really funny)
The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether
The Murders in the Rue Morgue  (a little sinister, a little Holmes-ish. The first detective story!)

Poe was a great way to end the month, and he is the author who wins a spot on my bookshelf. The other volumes were released into the wild (aka Goodwill) to be discovered anew by other readers. And if we're going to continue with the Hunger Games/gladiator metaphor, it seems fitting that Poe's book killed off the others. Though I didn't know it when I began reading Poe this month, I was about to have the opportunity to visit his home in Philadelphia. I was there a few days ago and had the privilege of gently rapping, rapping at his chamber door. It was a perfect ending to a perfectly dark and disjointed month.

After all this Stevenson, Conrad, Poe and sci fi, I am feeling a little morbid. I'm not sure if April's selection will lift the doldrums or compound them. April will be spent reading Homer's Odyssey and, if I have time, a few other works inspired by The OdysseyThe Wizard of Oz, Watership Down, "Ulysses" by Alfred Lord Tennyson, and "The Waste Land" by T.S. Eliot. I'm also going to watch two Odyssey inspired films, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?.

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