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Powering Through

March 1, 2011
No, I did not choose Liz Lemon’s path.

 

It’s been a while.  I’ve got plenty of reasons for that but the most relevant is that, for about three weeks, I fell asleep on page five of Olive Kitteridge every single night.  It was a double-edged sword, much like dating someone exactly like you.  On the one hand, I had something that would, without a doubt, put me to sleep every night.  It was my own version of a sleeping pill.  On the other hand, I couldn’t get through my second book.  However, unlike Liz Lemon and Carol Burnett, I persevered and did not break up with my book on an airplane (though, to carry this analogy along, I literally almost did while en route from Florida).

Speculation on NBC no longer being able to afford both Elizabeth Banks and Matt Damon aside, I am five (of thirteen) chapters in.  The book thus far is actually very interesting and certainly a change from the terseness that is Hemingway.  Now, for anyone who might read this book, be aware that it isn’t your standard piece of fiction – Olive Kitteridge is a grouping of short stories in which the character of Olive Kitteridge is usually involved.  For me, this was a major shock since I am apparently incapable of reading quotes on the front cover.   For others, you may have been perceptive enough to figure that out before being an entire chapter in.

Missed it… by that much.

As I said, I’m about five chapters in and have read five completely different stories.  Each story involves Olive Kitteridge, the slightly tactless and very forward title character, in some way.  In one story, Olive enters in a brief scene towards the end.  In others, she is the focus of the story.  Regardless, each story shows you not only a new character or two, but also some aspect of Olive’s personality.  At first, I found her to be completely loathsome, but after five stories, I find that I now feel sorry for her.  At this rate, by the end of the book, I’ll feel like she’s my best friend, I’m sure.

So, point being, it’s a good book and I’ll talk more about it with the next, hopefully more punctual, post.  And the real take home point is that if you decide to read it and have a narcoleptic moment around page five, power through.  I think it’s worth it.

As a final note, I would like to let you in on a secret: I never finished Lord of the Rings.  I fall asleep in the first paragraph of chapter four of the first book every time I read it.  So, my powering through Olive Kitteridge is kind of a big deal.

I was just listening to Gandalf. He said I shouldn’t pass.
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Things to Note When Hunting a Marlin

January 30, 2011
Warning: Sharks like blood.  Especially from noble marlins.

As I sat down to write this blog, it dawned on me that a group of lions, which Santiago is constantly dreaming about, is called a pride and a huge theme in The Old Man and the Sea is pride.  Coincidence?

There’s a reason why I don’t write fiction.  Or attempt to write any sort of analysis on any “deeper meaning” in literature.  I’m sure you were wondering.

Everything about the book was outstanding, I thought.  Would it have been helpful for me to have known even one single thing about fishing?  Yes, probably.  On the plus side, I now know quite a few things about taking a long voyage out at sea while in pursuit of a marlin:

  1. Bring weapons to kill the sharks that will inevitably follow me and trail of blood the dead marlin will leave (refer to the picture above and take note of the consequences of being ill-equipped to fight sharks).
  2. Bring limes and salt to cook and preserve the smaller fish I catch for sustenance.
  3. Bring other food because I don’t think I’d particularly enjoy lime-salt fish.
  4. Bring a book and flashlight – spending days talking to myself is not my idea of a good time, though it does lead to interesting revelations on ideas of manhood, pride, nobility, and independence.
  5. If a little boy, perhaps by the name of Manolin, befriends me and takes care of me, maybe bring him, too.
  6. Bring a first aid kit, because while the marlin might be in pain because I’m trying to catch and kill him, there’s no need for my hands to be in such immense pain.  This also holds despite Joe DiMaggio’s bone spur.
  7. Maybe also bring gloves so that the fishing line doesn’t cut my hands so badly.
  8. This might be cheating, but bring a crew of sailors since I have never sailed a boat and have a feeling I wouldn’t be particularly good at it.
  9. And at least one experienced fisherman as I have also never been fishing.

All joking aside, though, this book was a very interesting look at one man’s battle with a creature that he felt was his equal, and even more noble than a human.  The description of the marlin’s loyalty to his mate and perseverance despite almost certain death was the driving force behind the story, allowing us to see the traits Santiago valued and explaining why he needed to pursue this marlin.

In other news, the book was also made into a movie, which is baffling to me – most of the “dialogue” is Santiago talking to himself.  But then, I remembered the movie Cast Away existed and if Tom Hanks can have a conversation with a volleyball, then Santiago’s story can most certainly be told on the big screen.

Wilson in his Oscar-worthy performance

And now, on to the next book: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.

This Novel May or May Not Be Moby Dick, the Abridged Version

January 19, 2011
Moby Dick
Possibly an old man. Definitely at sea.

As it stands right now, I’m closing in on being halfway through The Old Man and the Sea.  Now, to preface this and any post about this book, Hemingway ranks up there with some of my most favorite authors.  Point being, this could be biased.

Anyway, I’m here to give you first impressions on the portion of the book I read.  Actually, let’s step back, and I’ll give you first impressions on the summary text on the back cover.  First thought: sounds like a “Hemingway does Moby Dick sort of a situation.  Now, this might seem totally unfair, but the back of the book said it was about an old man (which I gathered from the title – I also figured he was, at least at some point, involved with the ocean or some other large body of water.  Deductive reasoning!).  The back of the book also mentioned that the old man was involved in a chase for a fish.  Using my incredible comparative skills by substituting “whale” for “fish” (a larger jump than you might realize considering one is a mammal and the other is… a fish), I realized that the two premises are very much alike.  This would be, I thought, Hemingway’s retaliation to the beast of a novel that is Moby Dick.  I could practically see him telling Melville that they had accomplished the same thing, but his was much shorter.

All comparisons between the two end there, much to your dismay, I’m sure.  See, as it happens, I never read Moby Dick.  The farthest I got into it was when Matilda read the first line to Miss Honey.

Matilda Reads Moby Dick
Call me Ishmael. End scene.

But let’s move back to The Old Man and the Sea.  The setup to the adventure and the introduction of the old man (Santiago) took much longer than I had expected, not to say that’s a bad thing.  In fact, I would say the entire first quarter of the book is dedicated to explaining that the old man is lonely, poor, unlucky, and (shockingly) old.  Hemingway paints a vivid picture, though, and by the end of this unofficial introduction, you definitely have an idea of the entire character.  True to form, Hemingway didn’t waste a sentence.

However, the only other character of note (from what I can tell so far) is the boy, Manolin, who reveres Santiago.  If I could tell you much more about his character, I would.  All I can tell you is that, despite the rest of town’s ostracism of Santiago, Manolin remains firm in his belief that Santiago’s luck will change (perhaps because of a three week fishing spree they seem to have recently had).  I can only hope that we see Manolin again because, otherwise, his only use appears to be in keeping Santiago alive by feeding him.  Which is important, because without him it would just be “the sea”, but not quite what I would want as the defining characteristic of the only other character in the novel.

I could go on ad nauseum and talk about the Joe DiMaggio reference or about the lions, but to be honest, while those two things are clearly symbolic, I couldn’t tell you what they were symbols for yet.  Tonight, I’ll be picking up right where I left off: the old man is waiting for his big catch.   And, you guessed it, he’s at sea.

A (Nonbinding) Quest, or Why This Blog Is Not About Photography

January 17, 2011
My Future Library (name suggestions encouraged)

 

 

I can’t write about photography.  I consider a picture a whopping success if it’s in focus (and when it’s not, I call it “artsy”).  No one wants to read that and that’s why this blog is not about photography.

This blog idea all started with a $50 gift card to Borders, a lackluster Buy One Get One 50% off table, and a walk through the Literature section.  About sixteen books-in-hand later, I realized that a majority of them were Pulitzer Prize winners.  It was by chance – I promise I wasn’t trying to be pretentious.

But it got me thinking.  What if I read all the Pulitzer Prize winning books?  And I realized that I would be accomplishing two goals:

  1. I would perhaps be one of the most well-read people in finance (though, admittedly, that’s not too hard to accomplish)
  2. I would be another step closer to acquiring enough books to make my very own Beauty and the Beast library which, let’s face it, is the only reason why I work at all.

And so, right there in Borders on State Street, I resolved to read all the Pulitzer Prize winning books; it was sort of a two birds, one stone situation.  I proceeded to check out and feel unimaginably pleased with myself.  Until, of course, I looked up a list of the winning books and realized that the award goes back to 1918, wherein a prize was given out almost every single year since then.  However, I made a (nonbinding) commitment to read every book, so… there’s that.  The blog was born as a means to honor that commitment.  Because, honestly, the only thing more official than a nonbinding agreement with yourself would have to be a blog.

So, I will be reading one book every two weeks in no particular order, starting with The Old Man and the Sea.  There are a few winners that I’ve already read and will likely not be reading them again, a decision I made after realizing that Beloved was a winner and that, no, I do not want to read that again under any circumstances.  But that’s a topic for another time.