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text 2015-04-24 23:20
Semi- Annual Library Sale Haul!
Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1) - Hilary Mantel
Bring Up the Bodies - Hilary Mantel
Ahab's Wife: Or, the Star-Gazer - Sena Jeter Naslund
Roses - Leila Meacham
A Prisoner of Birth - Jeffrey Archer
Magnolia City - Duncan W. Alderson

My mom and I are doing a mother/daughter three day weekend. But before we set off on our road trip, we stopped by the library for their semi-annual sale. Perfect start to any trip I say. My mom picked up firefly lane, which made me happy cuz I know she'll enjoy it. And cry her eyes out. 

 

I did a dance when I saw they had Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. I had almost ordered these two earlier this week, but put them on my list for next stop at the used book store. To find them there made the detour worth it. Naturally I picked up more than that...

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review 2015-02-14 15:18
There she blows!
Moby-Dick: Neu übersetzt von Matthias Jendis - Herman Melville

 

 

 

First of all - Moby Dick is an amazing book! Although the whaling topic is quite out of time, I would still call Melville's writing very modern and I would suggest to all of you to read it.

 

I appreciate, that my edition of Moby Dick has an Appendix with explanations of all his nautic blabber, because without such a thing, reading it would feel like:

 

 

 

I was impressed by the number of chapters dealing with scientific descriptions of all different species of whales or the anatomic differences between the skeleton of a sperm whale and a right wale (now I even know, that there is such an animal as a right whale) or, for instance, by a whole chapter dealing with possible interpretations of the colour white. Nevertheless, even when I read about the number of teeth in a sperm whale's jaw or the number and dimensions of his ribs, I was fascinated by Melville's writing style. Moby Dick is a mixture of so many different styles and thoughts (some chapters are even written as dramatic dialogue), there are so many references and autonomous characters, it kind of felt like reading a happier and funnier Dostoevskij.

 

Melville's writing really is amazing – it's still very fresh (of course not all of it) and funny and it carries you away into the strange but fascinating world of the sea on board of the Pequod. I think Melvile himself got a little bit carried away by it while writing, given the sheer amount of motifs, styles and also incoherences and mistakes, like characters that appear to be important at first (because it is hinted that they will play an important role in the story), but are never mentioned again..

When reaching the last 5 chapters, you actually start to wonder when the white whale will finally show up (or if he will show up at all), you are actually as eager as the crew on the Pequod to finally spot him!

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review 2014-08-24 13:04
Kapitän Ahab jagt Walt Whitman
Paper Towns - John Green

„Paper Towns“ habe ich im Rahmen der John-Green-Lesewoche gelesen, die Kim von All these special words initiiert hat. Eine Woche lang lasen wir gemeinsam Bücher dieses Autors und beantworteten Fragen, die Kim sich ausgedacht hatte. Für mich war diese Woche die erste Annäherung an John Green, der zurzeit wahnsinnig erfolgreich mit seinem Werk „The Fault in our Stars“ / „Das Schicksal ist ein mieser Verräter“ ist. Trotzdem war es nicht dieses Buch, das seit einiger Zeit auf meiner Wunschliste stand, sondern „Paper Towns“.

 

Quentin Jacobsen kennt Margo Roth Spiegelman seit Kindertagen. Doch wie das eben so ist wenn Kinder erwachsen werden, haben sie sich mit den Jahren auseinander gelebt. Umso überraschter ist Quentin, als Margo eines Abends an sein Fenster klopft und ihn wie ein Ninja gekleidet zu einem wilden Ausflug entführt. Sie erleben eine magische Nacht und Quentin hofft, dass er Margo nun wieder näher kommt, doch am nächsten Morgen ist sie verschwunden. Anfangs denkt sich niemand etwas dabei, denn schon früher brannte sie des Öfteren einfach für ein paar Tage durch. Aber dieses Mal ist es anders. Margo hinterließ Hinweise, die eindeutig für Quentin bestimmt sind. Er folgt ihrer Spur aus Brotkrumen und sucht das Mädchen, das er seit seiner Kindheit kennt. Doch je weiter er vorankommt, desto klarer wird ihm, dass sich am Ende dieser Spur eine völlig andere Person befindet, die vielleicht nicht auf ihn wartet.

 

Ich fand „Paper Towns“ überraschend tiefsinnig. Ich hatte nicht damit gerechnet, dass John Green sich mit der Spannung zwischen der Realität und der Illusion einer Person beschäftigt, doch genau darum geht es meiner Meinung nach. Quentin hatte dieses idealistische Bild von Margo, das er jahrelang gehegt, gepflegt und erweitert hat. Im Laufe der Schnitzeljagd erkennt er jedoch, dass es eben auch genau das war: ein Bild, zweidimensional und ohne echte Tiefe. Durch ihre Hinweise verrät Margo ihm eine Menge über ihre wahre Persönlichkeit, die nur bedingt etwas mit der Fassade zu tun hat, die sie sorgsam aufrechterhielt. Erstaunlich ist, dass Quentin auf diese Weise nicht nur viel über Margo lernt, sondern auch über sich selbst. Ohne es anfangs zu ahnen, begibt er sich auf eine transformative Reise. Ich glaube, ihm ist das ganze Buch über nicht bewusst, dass Margo in gewisser Weise nur eine Stellvertreterin ist. Ja, er sucht sie, aber eigentlich sucht er sich selbst und mit jedem Schritt in Richtung der echten Margo wird auch er selbst ein bisschen echter. Dieser Selbstfindungsprozess ist in meinen Augen auch der Grund, warum Quentin sich ab einem bestimmten Punkt ziemlich obsessiv verhält. John Green hat diese Fixierung wunderbar herausgearbeitet, indem er sich eines literarischen Gleichnisses bediente. Es ist garantiert kein Zufall, dass Quentin ausgerechnet „Moby Dick“ im Unterricht liest, denn er hat durchaus Ähnlichkeit mit Kapitän Ahab. Margo hingegen hat eine Schwäche für die Gedichte von Walt Whitman, was mich dazu brachte, darüber nachzudenken, inwiefern sie durch seine Werke repräsentiert wird, während sie selbst abwesend ist. Ich glaube, es geht gar nicht um ein spezielles Gedicht, wovon Quentin überzeugt ist, sondern eher um Whitmans Art und Weise zu schreiben. Den weiten Interpretationsspielraum, den er seinen LeserInnen lässt.
Mir ist noch ein weiterer Punkt aufgefallen, den ich für ein literarisches Gleichnis halte. Quentins Englischlehrerin heißt Dr. Holden. Klingelt es da bei euch? Holden. Wie in Holden Caulfield. „Der Fänger im Roggen“. Einer der populärsten Analyseansätze geht davon aus, dass dieses Buch von J.D. Salinger primär eine Kritik an der amerikanischen Gesellschaft und an der Idee des amerikanischen Traums ist. In „Paper Towns“ ist es Margo, die eine ähnliche Kritik äußert; sie empfindet das Leben im Inbegriff des amerikanischen Traums – der Vorstadt – als flach und farblos. Es ist äußerst interessant, dass Dr. Holden diejenige ist, die Quentin hilft, Whitmans Gedicht „Song of Myself“ zu interpretieren und ihm damit den Schlüssel zum Verständnis von Margo schenkt. Das kann kein Zufall sein. Guten AutorInnen passiert so etwas nicht einfach so. Ich glaube nicht, dass John Green nur zufällig über diesen Namen gestolpert ist.

 

Ich habe die John-Green-Lesewoche mit der Lektüre von „Paper Towns“ wirklich genossen. Es hat mir viel Spaß gemacht, mit Quentin auf die Reise zu gehen; herauszufinden, was es bedeutet, eine andere Person wahrhaft zu kennen und was dafür nötig ist. Ich hätte nie gedacht, dass mich so viel Tiefgründigkeit erwartet, unterstützt von Figuren, die nicht nur sympathisch sind, sondern mir auch rasant ans Herz wuchsen. Es hat mich begeistert, dass John Green nicht nur hypothetisch über die Facetten und das Ausleben einer Persönlichkeit schreibt, sondern seine Überlegungen auch umfassend auf seine Charaktere überträgt. Sie alle sind lebendig und glaubhaft.
Ich verstehe nicht, warum „Paper Towns“ bei vielen John Green – Fans weniger gut ankommt, denn ich fand es toll. Ich musste nur einen Blick hinter die Fassade werfen.

Source: wortmagieblog.wordpress.com/2014/08/24/john-green-paper-towns
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review 2014-04-24 19:12
The Pirates! In an Adventure with Ahab
The Pirates! In an Adventure with Ahab - Gideon Defoe,Richard Murkin

bookshelves: adventure, doo-lally, flufferoonies, winter-20112012, seven-seas, series, published-2006, pirates-smugglers-wreckers, ouch, period-piece, paper-read, amusing, young-adult

Read from January 02 to 03, 2012


** spoiler alert ** dedication: To Sophie, who still has a quarter of a million pounds of which I have not seen a penny, even though this is the second entire book that I have dedicated to her

Opening: 'That one looks almost exactly like a whale!'



Again - lovely-jubbly maps and interesting factual footnotes such as #7 - The cement exuded by barnacles is an extremely tough protein polymer. It is twice as strong as the epoxy glue used on the space shuttle. Also, the barnacle penis is ten times as long as the rest of its body.

On page six the cap'n is making a list of when it is acceptable for a pirate to cry:

1 - when holding a seagull covered in oil
2 - when singing a shanty that reminds him of orphans
3 - when confronted by the unremitting loneliness of the human condition
4 - chops


If you like Pterry-like humour, and like the idea of a send-up of ol' Ahab this will suit you just fine. The lads here are arguing over who will read this next.

4* - The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists (2004)
4* - Pirates! In an Adventure with Whaling (2005)

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review 2013-10-20 00:00
Moby Dick and the Absurd: A Camusian Reading
Moby Dick (Vintage Classics) - Herman Melville
It is scarcely easier to describe in a few pages a work that has the tumultuous dimensions of the oceans where it was born than to summarize the Bible or condense Shakespeare.

 

Albert Camus, ‘Herman Melville’, Lyrical and Critical Essays


I begin with this quote for two reasons: it’s absolutely true, and: I decided to read this book based on my Camus Centenary reading rule of alternating between a Camus-authored book and a Camus-related book. However, this was a long voyage, perhaps appropriately… On the high seas, I was within these pages over three months, due to a distinct lack of pleasure-reading time. But it was worth it. Majesty, pure majesty in every way, and in a way that does make one think of the Old Testament and Shakespeare. I reread sentences, paragraphs, sometimes whole pages, just for the sheer pleasure of the words, how they sounded in my head, how they sounded out loud, how they ‘meant’ to me, how they ‘meant’ to my ideas. Due to the sheer magnitude of this book, I am happy to limit my response here to a very Camus-based reading, and look at it through the prism of his ideas. Otherwise, I could be caught up for another three months or so just writing a review. 

 

 

In the same short essay, Camus goes on to say that the book represents…

...one of the most overwhelming myths ever invented on the subject of the struggle of man against evil, depicting the irresistible logic that finally leads the just man to take up arms first against creation and the creator, then against his fellows and against himself.





So Camus wants us to consider this book as a moral tale, whereby there is a tension between what is ‘good’ or ‘right’ and what is ‘evil’ (not ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’, but ‘evil’), and that through the pursuit of directly struggling against ‘evil’ (not trying to do what’s ‘good’ or ‘right’, but opposing ‘evil’ itself) there is a fall into destructive behaviour, including, finally, self-destruction.

We are introduced to the world of Moby-Dick through a narrator, Ishmael; the pseudo-author who has quite a philosophical bent. He sets up his ideas on humanity and the world he occupies early on, waxing lyrical:

…the meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all.

 

But it’s too late to make any improvements now. The universe is finished; the copestone is on, and the chips were carted off a million years ago.


There is certainly a bleakness being established here, and a sense of the Absurd, whereby the universe is not providing for us the meaning we desire from it. And already a taste of self-destruction on page three with the mobilizing of the myth of Narcissus in this way. But is there any hope?

But Faith, like a jackal, feeds among the tombs, and even from these dead doubts she gathers her most vital hope.


And the Preacher in the pulpit sets up the idea of ‘evil’, that being something that is purely bad, even on a spiritual plane, something that is inherently against Grand Meaning…

“Jonah did the Almighty’s bidding. And what was that, shipmates? To preach the Truth in the face of Falsehood! That was it!”


and

“Woe to him who would not be true, even though to be false were salvation!”


And while Ishmael is hardly the Bible-thumper, and often expresses an antipathy towards Christian thought, he is very concerned with the idea of Truth and Meaning. He has a kind of Naturalist bent in his thoughts, something Camus also explored in his early work, like in ‘Summer in Algiers’. Ishmael, ever-the ironic reflector, reflects:

But, perhaps, to be true philosophers, we mortals should not be conscious of so living and so striving.


and

It is not down on any map; true places never are.


And eventually comes to a conclusion which echoes the idea of the brokenness of the human condition in the Absurd:

…and Heaven have mercy on us all—Presbyterians and Pagans alike—for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.


Then we are introduced to Ahab, who is the real protagonist, slowly. He’s a ghost for quite some time. Just stories are told, as if he is some kind of mythic figure, the man who will be true, even if to be false would mean salvation, the man who is mad enough to fight something that is un-fightable, who demands too much. He becomes no longer human, a superhuman? A god? Which is of course too much. 

He’s a grand, ungodly, god-like man, Captain Ahab…


But there is something left in him.

No, no, my lad; stricken, blasted, if he be, Ahab has his humanities.


Finally, he emerges, but only days after the Pequod has left harbour, and they are well away from land.

…but moody stricken Ahab stood before them with a crucifixion in his face; in all the nameless regal overbearing dignity of some mighty woe.


And, of course, the antagonist, the white whale, Moby Dick. He too is told about through stories, and emerges physically only much later. Starbuck and Stubb play pivotal roles in the Camusian reading of this book: Starbuck is reason, Stubb is sans-reason; Starbuck is the humanist and for humanity and unity and brotherhood, Stubb is the nihilist, for the pursuit of whatever he can get from this meaningless void of the universe. Early on, Starbuck is made uncomfortable by Ahab’s quest, Stubb is only uncomfortable by how is personally treated, but works through that. In arguing with Starbuck, Ahab sets out his model of the Whale, it’s Meaning:

“All visible objects, man, are but as pasteboard masks. … If man will strike, strike through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is that wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there’s naught beyond. But ’tis enough. He tasks me; he heaps me; I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate.”




So here is the ‘evil’, and the ‘evil’ is established with a certain Platonic Truth/Forms sort of flare.

…all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified and made practically assailable in Moby Dick.


So is he crazy to think that Moby Dick is ‘all evil … visibly personified’? Or is he crazy to think that such a thing, even if it was, could ever be ‘practically assailable’? Both, would be my Absurd suggestion. Ishmael thinks differently:

God help thee, old man…


he worries

…thy thoughts have created a creature in thee; and he whose intense thinking thus makes him a Prometheus; a vulture feeds upon his heart for ever; that vulture the very creature he creates.


But this is previous to him whaling. The more he whales, the more Ishmael seems to almost disappear into the story. He is hardly even present in the Epilogue as the survivor. Is it him? If it is him, he does not sound the same.

We find in them [Melville’s oeuvre] revolt and acceptance, unconquerable and endless love, the passion for beauty, language of the highest order—in short, genius.

 

Albert Camus, ‘Herman Melville’, Lyrical and Critical Essays





Ishmael turns savage, and rebel.

I myself am a savage, owning no allegiance but to the King of the Cannibals; and ready at any moment to rebel against him.


And herein, he begins to establish the patterning of the Camusian Absurd Hero; but, unlike Ahab, he sees in the whale (the whale generally, not the White One necessarily…) the very model of this.

Oh man! admire and model thyself after the whale! … Do thou, too, live in this world without being of it.


and

…see the omniscient gods oblivious of suffering man; and man, though idiotic, and knowing not what he does, yet full of the sweet things of love and gratitude


And Ahab, in response to the ‘omens’ of destruction as he nears the end of the quest, spits at them, in a very Macbethian way.

“I now know thee, thou clean spirit, and I now know that thy right worship is defiance.”




This is a different variety of rebellion though to Ishmael’s. It is the rebellion of the hero who is aware but refuses. Ahab’s madness begins to be sullied by fraternal thoughts, interestingly brought on through the psychologically damaged Pip, ‘like curing like’; but through this Ahab begins to question himself and his relentless pursuit of the whale, the wall between him and Truth. Is it worth it. He begins to recognise the roles Stubb and Starbuck are playing:

Ye two are the opposite poles of one thing; Starbuck is Stubb reversed, and Stubb is Starbuck; and ye two are all mankind.


And he begins to favour the Starbuckian idea of mesure, eschewing the Stubbian All-or-Nothing zeal when he is rallying the men for the attack on the White Whale:

”D’ye feel brave men, brave?”

 

“As fearless fire,” cried Stubb.

 

“and as mechanical,” muttered Ahab.


Despite Starbuck’s temptation to murder Ahab—and, in fact, maybe because of it—under Starbuck’s influence he is almost ready to abandon the quest…



But, in the end, Ahab has come too far. Starbuck is not enough. He collapses, a little like how Hamlet collapses when he considers the fate of man and the fall of a sparrow:

“Ahab is forever Ahab, man. This whole act’s immutably decreed. ’Twas rehearsed by thee and me a billion years before this ocean called. Fool! I am the Fates Lieutenant; I act under orders.”


And he acknowledges his collapse and failure in the face of the Absurd. Starbuck, like Stubb, isn’t even aware of the Absurd, as Ahab is, but Ahab’s failure is his inability to live in the tension, as Ishmael has.

“Close! Stand close to me, Starbuck; let me look into a human eye; it is better than to gaze into sea or sky; better than to gaze upon God.”


…or Truth. Ahab is aware enough to acknowledge that it is the humanist/Starbuckian that is missing for him. 

“…but Ahab never thinks; he only feels, feels, feels.”


He tries to save Starbuck, but he will not save himself. He demands the annihilation of Truth. And his final act before the final chase is an act of Starbuckian fraternity to Starbuck.

I am old; shake hands with me, man.


And he dies the death of a criminal. The Truth sentences him, as he knew it would. As it had to. Otherwise, it would stop being.

To separate myself very briefly from the Camusian reading, I wanted to express my thrill and appreciation for the two chapters that quite obviously paid homage to the exchanges between Hamlet and the Gravedigger, with Ahab and the Carpenter stepping forward for the roles. I'll finish by briefly quoting a part of one of these, which uses some neat irony and heavy punning to play with a kind of Camusian principle that I haven't really touched on here…

[Carpenter]“Faith, sir, I’ve——”

 

[Ahab]“Faith? What’s that?”

 

[Carpenter]“Why, faith, sir, it’s only a sort of exclamation-like—that’s all, sir.”

 

[Ahab]“Um, um; go on.”
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