“Customers of Irish descent need not apply”
Thursday, May 23, 2013
“That may be so,” replied Sancho, “but if you pay your debts, you don’t worry about guaranties, and it’s better to have God’s help than to get up early, and your belly leads your feet, not the other way around; I mean, if God helps me, and I do what I ought to with good intentions, I’ll be sure to govern in grand style. Just put a finger in my mouth and see if I bite or not!”
“God and all his saints curse you, wretched Sancho,” said Don Quixote, “as I have said so often, will the day ever some when I see you speak an ordinary coherent sentence without any proverbs? Senores, your highness should leave this fool alone, for he will grind your souls not between two but two thousand proverbs brought in as opportunely and appropriately as the health God gives him, or me if I wanted to listen to them.”
— A taste of the dialogue in Don Quixote , by Cervantes
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Henry Miller and Jean Luc Picard. “Engage:”
Who can match Evelyn Waugh’s aristocratic airs? Lord Grantham, that’s who:
Swap the pince nez for regular specs and Anton Checkov isn’t that different from a goateed Robert Downey Jr:
Fyodor Doestoevsky wasn’t exactly handsome. In kind of the same way that Ron Howard’s brother isn’t handsome:
I wasn't sure this was really William Butler Yeats, and not a Steve Martin bit character. I'm still not completely convinced:
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Yesterday we reviewed Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage , but said next to nothing about what the title actually means. Is it a military insignia? An honor bestowed by one’s superiors for valor on the field of battle? Not exactly. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 9, the one and only place the term is mentioned in the narrative:
“The youth fell back in the procession until the tattered soldier was not in sight. Then he started to walk on with the others.
“But he was amid wounds. The mob of men was bleeding. Because of the tattered soldier's question he now felt that his shame could be viewed. He was continually casting sidelong glances to see if the men were contemplating the letters of guilt he felt burned into his brow.
“At times he regarded the wounded soldiers in an envious way. He conceived persons with torn bodies to be peculiarly happy. He wished that he, too, had a wound, a red badge of courage.”
Monday, May 20, 2013
My reading’s been all over the map this year, but since I hadn’t tackled any Civil War-era war stories, I didn’t see any reason to turn my nose up at Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage .
Truth is, I had no idea what I was about to read. If you asked me a week ago, I would have been hard-pressed to tell you the difference between Captains Courageous , Profiles in Courage , and The Red Badge of Courage . All reportedly great books, all on my mental To-Be-Read list for years, but all of them a confusing jumble of "courage" in my poorly-read head.
Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage , as it turns out, is not a daring rescue at sea or an examination of valiant senators, it is a fictionalized account of the Battle of Chancellorsville, and of the second bloodiest day of the American Civil War as told from the perspective of a “youth” who is seeing battle for the very first time. And while there’s lots of tactical blow-by-blow, that’s not what makes it great. What makes it great is Crane’s fascinating probing into the psyche of soldiers who are in fact scared spitless.
You see them wrestling with the same questions we would all probably face in their shoes: Will I run when it gets ugly? Or will I have what it takes to stand up and fight? And what’s great about it is that we get to follow a main character whose experience runs the gamut: over the course of a few days he turns tail and runs, he deserts wounded comrades, he finds his regiment again and then fights bravely, he picks up the flag when the color sergeant goes down- and through it all he doesn’t come to consider himself a coward or a hero, so much as he comes to truly know himself and grow through the experience. It’s a book that’ll make you think.
And the language is beautiful. Here’s the first paragraph:
“The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting. As the landscape changed from brown to green, the army awakened, and began to tremble with eagerness at the noise of rumors. It cast its eyes upon the roads, which were growing from long troughs of liquid mud to proper thoroughfares. A river, amber-tinted in the shadow of its banks, purled at the army's feet; and at night, when the stream had become of a sorrowful blackness, one could see across it the red, eyelike gleam of hostile camp-fires set in the low brows of distant hills.”
Anyway, it’s short, and it’s sweet. You should do yourself the favor of checking it out.
Friday, May 17, 2013
Thursday, May 16, 2013
A few days ago we shared a documentary on the Shakespeare & Co. bookstore on Paris’s left bank. Here, just for the heck of it, is a map showing the locations of all three iterations of the famous bookshop (plus some links to the current Google Street views for each).
The first, opened by Sylvia Beach at 8 Rue Dupuytren, is basically just across the street from the Odeon metro stop. And if you want to, you can get your hair cut there. It is now the location of “Easy Cut.”
The second, larger location is just a stone’s throw away, at 12 Rue de l’Odeon. If you want, you can complement your new haircut with duds from "Moi Cani" the small shop that has taken over the space— or browse in the tiny French boostore next door at no. 10.
The third and current location, originally opened by George Whitman as “Le Mistral” in 1951, and re-named Shakespeare & Co. in 1964 after Sylvia Beach’s death, is just a short walk across the river from Notre Dame Cathedral at 37 Rue de la Bucherie- not on the river, but one small street beyond it.
The current proprietor? George’s daughter: Sylvia Beach Whitman. Naturally!
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
One of my all-time favorite Hemingway stories is “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” You may recall this image from the story, from which its title is drawn:
“Then they began to climb and they were going to the East it seemed, and then it darkened and they were in a storm, the rain so thick it seemed like flying through a waterfall, and then they were out and Compie turned his head and grinned and pointed and there, ahead, all he could see, as wide as all the world, great, high, and unbelievably white in the sun, was the square top of Kilimanjaro. And then he knew that there was where he was going.”
I stumbled across Google’s satellite time-lapse Earth Engine the other day, and thought it would be interesting to train the lens on those famous snows of Kilimanjaro. Go here, to see how they’ve evolved from 1984 to today. Hem's metaphor could be lost before long...
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
It’s commencement season, and David Foster Wallace’s somewhat famous commencement address to Kenyon College grads in 2005 has received a YouTube makeover. But it’s not just for recent college graduates or fans of Mr. Wallace. It’s for anyone who’s ever had to deal with “repulsive, stupid, cowlike, dead-eyed and non-human” people, or boring jobs, or any of the other crap that real life hands you. Enjoy:
-H/T, a whole bunch of people.
Monday, May 13, 2013
Over the weekend our staff worked to diligently put another month into the Shelf Actualization archives. Above are the authors covered in the past 30 days, and below are our 5 most popular posts from that period:
- A Ramling Riff on Rememberence in Swann’s Way
- Short Story Club: “How the Devil Came Down Division Street”
- Author Look-Alikes Vol. 13
- (Fictional) First Line Friday: Chuck Stone spy novel
- WhatThey Were Reading: Clive James
Finally, the nutty search terms that brought readers this way:
- Edward Hirsch >> A basketball poem for tourney time.
- Delta Wedding >> The review, or the Paul Simon lyrics
- How to write like Kerouac >> Easier than you would think
- White whale metaphor >> And a little Three Amigos for good measure
- Significance of the dog in vast hell >> Search me. But the story was good.
- Arthur miller and Eudora welty >> Was there a connection? Hmmm.
- How are they alike Grapes of Wrath and Cry the Beloved Country >> It's the intercalary chapters, stupid.
- Fictional geography >> That didn't end up being fictional
- Map of don quixote’s travels >> Ours are as good as anything out there.
- Is being unathletic bad? >> Well, it worked for Joyce.
Thanks for stopping by! You’re always welcome back.