The Pacific Rim Review of Books: Self Wants to Eat/Read Everything

Issue Twenty-Three, Vol. 12 No. 1

 

 

Explorers of the North

Self has always been fascinated by explorers, which is why she’s writing her novel about 18th century missionaries. She also has a very long story (32 pages currently, and nowhere near done) about an alien invasion in the Bering Sea. That story is all about Ice, but every day she reads various scientific reports about the disappearing glaciers so she feels mild concern that if she takes too long to finish this story, the context of the physical setting will cease to make any sense.

Today, she reads about the Penny and Barnes ice caps on Baffin Island, and about the Laurentide ice sheet that once covered much of North America. She learns that Baffin Island was known to the 11th century Norse of Greenland and Iceland, and that Baffin Island is postulated to be the Helluland of Viking sagas.

She also reads up on Sir John Franklin. The two ships that were lost during his fourth and final Arctic expedition were named the HMS Terror and the HMS Erebus. The HMS Erebus was a 372-ton Heclaclass bomb vessel, built in Wales in 1826. The wreck has been located, in Queen Maud Gulf. The wreck of the HMS Terror lies under the water of Terror Bay. (Who names ships Erebus and Terror? Isn’t that like asking for trouble?)

She reads that Georgian Bay has 30,000 islands. Fresh in her mind is the fate of Kat, in the novel she just finished reading, Tim O’Brien’s In the Lake of the Woods. Who sets off alone in a small boat and becomes lost and lost and more lost.

She learns about the Jesuit mission of Saint-Marie, founded on Lake Huron in the 17th century.

She reads about Lewis and Clark and about rivers like the Columbia and the Hood, which she has seen, long ago, on a driving trip north that started out in San Francisco and hugged the coast of Oregon and Washington.

And she also reads about Celtic and Norse mythology, in a book she found in son’s room.

DSCN0257

So many books, so little time!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Freedom! Thinks the 21-Year-Old Narrator

And then Tim O’Brien says, Not so fast.

The border with Canada is so close, all the narrator has to do is get to the other side of a river.

  • My conscience told me to run, but some irrational and powerful force was resisting, like a weight pushing me toward the war. What it came down to, stupidly, was a sense of shame. Hot, stupid shame. I did not want people to think badly of me. Not my parents, not my brother and sister, not even the folks down at the Gobbler Café.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Sentence of the Day: “On the Rainy River” by Tim O’Brien

At some point in mid-July I began thinking seriously about Canada.

Links to Other Earths

English fields in Chris Beebart’s What’s (In) the Picture?

Beautiful paintings by Pain(t)h.D.

Beautiful picture of High Park, Toronto in crafts.feelings

A day at Griffith Island, Port Fairy in Sukies Original

Earth Day community tree-planting in Do What You Wish

Anjung Kampiun’s picture of Kaolin Lake, Indonesia

Protect our Earth. Once her resources are used up, they can never be replaced. Never.

Impregnable Quebec: MONTCALM AND WOLFE, pp 531 – 532

At this point, with less than a hundred pages to go, the Battle for Quebec is finally, apparently going to happen.

Quebec’s location requires the British forces to storm uphill. It’s bad enough they have to storm at all, but — uphill?

To make things worse, Wolfe, the British commander, is taken ill (almost on the eve of the attack, of all the bloody ##@@!!) and has to stay in bed for five days.

Meanwhile, the French have planted small detachments (with cannon. And guns) on each declivity. So that once the British get through one line of fire, they’re met by another. All coming from above.

But the British have to attack because: 1) winter is approaching; 2) months in the Canadian wilderness have significantly weakened the British Army. Wolfe, the British commander, knows it’s now or never (Self is so impressed with this commander that she gave his name to one of the characters in The Rorqual, her horror story-in-progress.)

At this critical juncture, the British are able to send a small detachment of soldiers to a hill overlooking the city. So now this small British detachment (very wee: something like only 150 men) is able to see directly into the town, behind the ramparts, from above. The British are able to reinforce this detachment by sending ships, ships that go undetected by the French. (The French fully expected the challenge to come from the front because they believed that the hills behind the city were impregnable.)

But, let’s not underestimate British determination! Not to mention Parkman’s eye for the droll anecdote!

The 22 ships are joined by “a diminutive schooner, armed with a few swivels and jocosely named The Terror of France.” She sails by the city “in broad daylight.” The French, “incensed at her impudence . . .  begin blazing at her from all their batteries.” Still, the schooner is able to “pass unharmed” whereupon the schooner salutes the British commander “triumphantly with her swivels.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

P. 443, Montcalm and Wolfe: OMG, Self Can’t Even

So here you have the British and the French armies, hiding in the woods from each other. The British commander (Rogers) forbids lighting fires at night, and orders absolute silence.

Apparently, this “absolute silence” order does not seem to apply to officers because on the morning “of the 8th of August,” Rogers and a lieutenant named Irwin “of the light infantry” decide to settle a wager “by firing at a mark.” The shots reach the ears of four hundred and fifty French and Indians, hiding in the woods.

Having settled the wager “at about seven o’clock” in the morning, Commander Rogers orders his troops forward. They find a narrow path (Indian of course) that requires the soldiers to march “in single file.” The British commander is about “a mile behind” the lead. (Self is trying to imagine a single file of soldiers stretching a mile. That’s quite a line!)

Suddenly “a Caughnawaga chief” appears, seizing the officer in the lead and “dragging him into the forest.” The Indians also seize a lieutenant and three privates.

When Rogers realizes what is happening, he endeavors with all his might to get to the front, but since he is a mile back (how fast can a horse with a man riding on its back travel, self wonders irrelevantly), he does not get there in time.

(Self must have paid extra attention during history class. She remembers learning that this was how Gaul managed to destroy the Roman Empire: by forcing the centurions to engage in forests, forests that were wholly unfamiliar. Or mebbe it wasn’t history class. Mebbe it was the movie Gladiator)

Self is imagining the terrible fate that awaited the men dragged by the Indians into the woods, but apparently one of these survived because he wrote an account of his ordeal:

They “stripped him naked, tied him to a tree, and gathered dried wood to pile about him.” He was saved only by a sudden onset of rain. And afterwards he was ordered freed by another Indian chief.

Phew! This book is such a roller coaster ride!

#amreading: MONTCALM AND WOLFE, p.395

This is such an exciting book, dear blog readers! Better than anything by James Clavell or James Patterson. The best part is that it’s all true.

Granted, Parkman’s sympathies (with the British) are very evident. But self thinks that knowing the author’s bias doesn’t detract from the book. He’s very good at portraying the British as underdogs, so as we move closer to the Battle of Quebec, one experiences a real sense of vindication.

The sentence below is perhaps the first evidence of the turning tide. It’s just one sentence about a French ship. Parkman keeps his tongue firmly in cheek while writing. There is a proliferation of semi-colons, self knows not why:

The frigate Echo, under cover of a fog, had been sent to Quebec for aid; but she was chased and captured; and, a day or two after, the French saw her pass the mouth of the harbor with an English flag at her mast-head.

After reading that sentence, self was prompted to lol

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

For the English, A Loss

TRIGGER WARNING: Graphic depictions of violence

The English surrender another fort.

At which point, the French unleash their Indians on the helpless civilians, who have made a sort of camp just outside the fort’s walls. The prisoners consisted of the wounded, and many women and children.

Starting the afternoon of the surrender, and until the following morning, the Indians harassed the English prisoners, grabbing women by their long hair and showing their knives. Finally, the prisoners on their own oranized themselves for a march out of camp, to begin at dawn. But the Indians were awake, too, constantly bullying the prisoners and entering their tents. The French did nothing.

Not long after the English prisoners began their exit from their makeshift camp, “Suddenly there rose the screech of the war whoop . . . this signal of butchery . . . was given by Abenaki Christians from the mission of the Penobscot.” The New Hampshire men, who were at the rear of the exodus, were seized first. “About eighty” of them were killed or dragged away.

At this point, the French general, Montcalm, hurried to intervene, but rather than give up their prisoners, the Indians tomahawked them. One onlooker said the English seemed absolutely “paralyzed” and presented “no resistance.”

The Canadians, BTW, were in this on the side of the French, and refused to lend the English any assistance. “When the tumult was at its height,” a witness saw “officers of the French Army walking about at a little distance and talking with seeming unconcern.”

An Englishman broke free and ran to a French guard, who “violently pushed him back among his tormentors.”

Parkman writes that “six or seven hundred people were carried off” and at the end of the day Montcalm, the French general, “succeeded in recovering more than four hundred.”

Parkman’s outrage is evident even in the footnotes, p. 353: “Montcalm, Bougainville, and several others say that the massacre was begun by the Abenakis. This Abenaki band, ancestors of the present Penobscots, were no idolaters, but had been converted more than half a century. In the French list of Indian allies they are set down among the Christians.”

War makes animals out of men, truly.

Stay tuned.

#amreading MONTCALM AND WOLFE, p. 79

Self is loving this book (she began it three days ago) so much. It’s about a battle that took place in French Canada, in 1759, a battle which culminated in a British victory.

The author, Francis Parkman, brings to life all the conflicting allegiances of that area. When he says “the Miami” and self realizes he’s referring to a tribe (not a city; not a university) — awesome.

An important ally of the British is an Indian chief called Old Britain, also referred to as the Demoiselle.

“. . . a fleet of canoes manned by two-hundred and fifty Ottawa and Ojibwa warriors” attacked an English fort, Pickawilanny, “about nine o’clock on the morning of the twenty-first.” The battle was one-sided: at the fort were eight British traders and fourteen Miamis, including the Demoiselle. Three of the British were caught outside the fort (no mention of what happened to them; self can only imagine) The other five managed to close the gate. The fort’s defenders held out manfully, “till the afternoon.”

Then, Parkman writes: “Seventy years of missionaries had not weaned them from cannibalism, and they boiled and ate the Demoiselle.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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