How a Friendship Can Be Ruined by Bad Hair: The Summer Book, p. 25

Self loves Tove Jansson’s The Summer Book. Loves, loves, loves. The prose is so simple, yet has such a magical quality.

A little girl (Sophie, who’s six) and her grandmother spend an entire summer on an island. They’re not the only ones on the island, of course. There are farmers, and also the girl’s father, who is always shut up in the house, working. The girl’s mother has just died. But there is no grief, just a series of snapshots of the girl, the grandmother, the island. Love it.

There’s a section called Berenice, about the first time Sophie invites a friend to the island: “a fairly new friend, a little girl whose hair she admired.”

The fragile bond is broken only a little while later:

Sophie: Well, that does it. She’s impossible. I got her to dive, but it didn’t help.

Grandmother: Did she really dive?

Sophie: Yes, really. I gave her a shove and she dived.

Grandmother: Oh. And then what?

Sophie: Her hair can’t take salt water. It looks awful. And it was her hair I liked.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

This Book

In the section self reads this evening, the husband (who someone on Goodreads refers to  as a “fat, white pig,” all self could think was:  “Oh. Mr.Rochester was FAT? I don’t remember that part.”) decides to call Antoinette ‘Bertha.’ Now, who’s crazy? How could anyone in their right minds change a woman’s name from ANTOINETTE to Bertha? There’s no preamble, either, to the announcement of the wife’s new name.

Bertha. B.E.R.T.H.A. BERTHA.

Positively cruel. It’s as if self were ordered to change her name to Caligula, for no other reason than that spouse has always liked the name (At least, this is the explanation the husband gives Antoinette)

SPOILER ALERT

  • How does the husband know that Antoinette put a spell on him so that he would sleep with her? He was suspicious even before he tasted the wine Antoinette gave him (According to him, it had a “bitter” taste) so perhaps he is psychic?
  • Why does the husband, immediately after sleeping with his wife, go next door to her servant’s room and sleep with the servant?
  • Why does the husband write for information on so-and-so Christophine? He is so stupid. Hasn’t he ever heard of the adage: Never look a gift horse in the mouth?

It reminds self of an article she read on Kristen Bell, star of The Good Place, in which her husband tells the interviewer that when he first met Kristen, he was mistrustful of her relentless enthusiasm.

Here, the husband is mistrustful of his wife because of a series of letters from a complete, effing stranger named Daniel Cosway, who claims to be Antoinette’s half-brother, and who says she had an affair with a very handsome man named Sandi.

What proper husband would put any credence on such a letter?

A proper stupid husband, that’s what!

The servant decides immediately after sleeping with the husband that she is leaving her employer. Wow, it must not have been very good. Mebbe the servant knew that if she stayed, she would be expected to keep sleeping with the husband? And maybe she thought: Why should I endure sleeping with the “fat, white pig”? My employment contract surely doesn’t cover that!

Anyhoo, Amelie is smart. Antoinette should have listened to Christophine and left, too.

Moving to next novel, The Summer Book, by Finnish writer Tove Jansson.

Stay tuned.

Still More Liquid!

Bright and early Saturday morning, self was in front of SFMOMA. She had tickets for the opening day of the Rene Magritte exhibit. There was a crowd waiting for the doors to open at 10 a.m.

Below was one of the first Magrittes she saw. Of course, she immediately thought: THE DAILY POST PHOTO CHALLENGE! Good thing they allowed pictures.

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Rene Magritte at SFMOMA

This morning, self had her usual cup of coffee: Organic Rendezvous Brew, purchased at Moody’s in Mendocino. The cup she used was something she bought at the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, years ago: that’s a triceratops, half-submerged in her coffee:

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Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“Has Anyone Seen Telemachus?”: Book 4 of The Odyssey

Self can hardly wait until she gets to the part of The Odyssey where someone says:

Daddy, can you paint my wagon …

She thinks it’s about halfway through the book. She read that section while she was browsing in the Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino.

In the meantime, here’s Noemon (son of Phronius), addressing his fellow rivals (suitors) for the hand of Penelope, Telemachus’s mother (One interesting thing about this Emily Wilson translation is that she makes it clear that the suitors are no older than Telemachus himself. How weird is that? It would be as if son or one of his classmates decided to woo a woman 20 years older. And such is these suitors’ scorn for convention that they’ve been bullying Telemachus, for years. Telemachus brings out all of self’s Mommy instincts. As she makes her way through this section, self wants to yell: Leave my boy Telemachus alone, you dirty rats!)

Noemon

Do we know . . .  whether Telemachus is coming back
. . .  He left with my ship.
I need it, to cross over to the fields
of Elis, where I have twelve mares with mules
suckling their teats and not yet broken in.

They were all
astonished, since they had not thought the boy
was gone to Pylos, but was somewhere near,
out with the sheep or pigs.

This is so, so . . .

Points, Telemachus!

Antinous

Damn! That stuck-up boy
succeeded in his stupid trip. We thought
he would not manage it.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Bodies at Sea: Chapter XXV, TREASURE ISLAND

Do not fret, dear blog readers. It’ll be over soon, self promises. Judging by the book’s overall thickness, she only has about 1/4 of Treasure Island left to read. If you are getting sick-and-tired of pirate tropes, rest assured: in a few days, there will be no more pirate tropes. Instead, there will be epic Homerian Odyssey tropes. Because the next book on her reading list is Emily Wilson’s 2017 translation of The Odyssey.

pp. 174 – 175, Chapter XXV, I Strike the Jolly Roger:

There were the two watchmen, sure enough: red-cap on his back, as stiff as a handspike, with his arms stretched out like those of a crucifix, and his teeth showing through his open lips; Israel Hands propped against the bulwarks, his chin on his chest, his hands lying open before him on the deck, his face as white, under its tan, as a tallow candle.

Stevenson doesn’t come right out and say it, but . . . is this the last we’ll get to see of seaman Hands?

Such a good read so far! Five stars!

Stay tuned, dear blog reader. Stay tuned.

TREASURE ISLAND, Chapter XII: “Council of War”

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This past week has been a great, angst-y week. Not only did self definitively decide that she couldn’t bear to read further than p. 253 of The Amber Spyglass — it would break her — but she saw Avengers: Infinity War, and — she just can’t seem to escape the bloody angst. Because the movie — just ask anyone who’s seen it — has angst to the nth power.

As soon as she got home, she resumed reading Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson. (For such a slim novel, it is taking FOREVER for her to read through, maybe because she keeps having to blog about pirate tropes, practically every page)

Today’s reading had mild angst. For one thing, a mutiny has just been discovered by the captain of the Hispaniola, a rather decent man named Mr. Smollett (The name alone does not encourage confidence regarding his eventual fate).

So, what are we to do? asks someone of the captain (He means: what are we to do about the mutiny?)

“First point,” began Mr. Smollett. “We must go on, because we can’t turn back.”

The captain and his mates then begin to try and figure out which members of the crew are loyal and can be counted on. They consider a crewman named ‘Hands.’ (Self loves the names in this novel. First there was Barbecue, the ship’s cook. Now there is a seaman named ‘Hands.’)

“Hands was one of mine,” says the squire.

“I did think I could have trusted Hands,” added the captain.

“And to think that they’re all Englishmen!” broke out the squire.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Robert Louis Stevenson: TREASURE ISLAND, pp. 42 – 44

So far:

  • Two dead seamen
  • A close call for young Jim Hawkins and his mother
  • a blind beggar who turns out to be a pirate
  • a mysterious oilskin packet which contains “two things: a book and a sealed paper”
  • a Dr. Livesey
  • a discussion of whether Jim Hawkins deserves better than “a cold pie” (he does)
  • a mention of Flint, “the bloodthirstiest buccaneer that sailed . . . Blackbeard was a child to Flint.”
  • a mention of buried treasure

p. 44:

Perusing the papers contained in the “oilskin packet”: “This is the black-hearted hound’s account book. These crosses stand for the names of ships or towns that they sank or plundered.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

“Blood, Romps, and Lashings”: The Guardian Review of VERSAILLES, Season 1

Self is watching Versailles Season 2. She is so happy the series was renewed! It has proved extremely addictive.

The Guardian: With ladies in milky baths, ocular torture and piles of flesh, Versailles returns for more pre-revolution rumbustiousness (Shouldn’t that be rambunctiousness? Whatever). But is there depth beneath the bling?

Where were we then in Versailles, which returns for a second series? The palace is still under construction, and 1,000 workers have died so far. Versailles was clearly the Qatar of its day, and those gold gates are very Gulf State chic, no?

The writer is Sam Wollaston.

Self bows to your wicked wit, Sir. She bows.

From her visit to Versailles, May 2017:

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Versailles, 28 May 2017: It was too bloody hot.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

The Hedgehog: THE GOLDEN COMPASS, p. 72

Self began The Golden Compass having already made the acquaintance of Lyra and Lord Asriel in La Belle Sauvage (Volume One of Pullman’s new trilogy, which takes place ten years before the events of The Golden Compass).

In LBS, Lyra’s an infant. When The Golden Compass opens, Lyra’s a feisty little girl whose best friend is a boy named Roger. Together, Lyra and Roger go ranging over the rooftops of Oxford and exploring in crypts. This part of the story is sheer delight.

It’s not until Chapter 4 of The Golden Compass that she meets two other characters from LBS: Dame Hannah Reif (who is described as “an elderly, gray-haired lady” — a far cry from the woman she was in LBS. How could a person have aged so much in just ten years?) and Mrs. Coulter (who doesn’t seem to have aged a day, despite the 10 years etc)

Now, these two women (accompanied by a third, mystery woman) appear for dinner at Jordan Hall, and Lyra learns she is being sent off with Mrs. Coulter, the very next day. It doesn’t take long for self to google “Mrs. Coulter” and discover that Nicole Kidman played her in the movie adaptation, which then causes self to dislike Mrs. Coulter because self never could abide Nicole Kidman in anything, just saying.

There is a lot of cloak-and-dagger stuff even at this early stage of The Golden Compass, and self really loves how deftly Pullman navigates between the simple certainties of childhood and the edges of terror. Before Lyra leaves Jordan Hall (forever), the old Master slips her an alethiometer which isn’t actually as fabulous as it sounds because the device reveals who is lying to you, and that information always hurts because it is never who you expect.

Self loves that Lyra’s daemon is called Pantalaimon because it sounds like a cross between Shakespeare and Don Quixote, and also it is such a mouthful compared to other daemons’ names, like Ben or Asta. So the reader will never, ever forget it. And after a while, when you succeed in getting Pantalaimon to roll trippingly off your tongue, you will feel so smart. Like you’ve just aced your finals.

The daemon Pantalaimon has a tendency to shift into the most amusing animals, such as a hedgehog:

“she snapped at him, when he became a hedgehog out of pique.”– p. 72

Has self ever shared with dear blog readers that she has a special fondness for hedgehogs? She even used “hedgehog” as the worst cuss word on the planet, in her story of the far future called “Spores” (published in decomP Magazine)!

An excerpt from self’s story:

“We be needing foxes,” I said once.

“You lousy hedgehog,” the boss said, giving me a good one. My right eye swelled up almost immediately.

Would you believe that at the time self wrote the story, she had never laid eyes on an actual hedgehog? A few years ago she was at the San Francisco Zoo and finally got to see a hedgehog. It was all by itself, huddled in a far corner of a kind of pen, and it looked positively miserable.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Beginning THE GOLDEN COMPASS

Self is so glad she read La Belle Sauvage before beginning His Dark Materials. The backstory of the Great Flood and Lyra’s totally adorable infant stage are still fresh in self’s head. (But so are the questions about Malcolm and Alice: what happened to them? They’d better not have come to any harm!)

Funny that His Dark Materials is considered “Children’s Literature” when the very early scenes have a man’s mummified head, clear evidence of trepanning, being carted to Oxford and shown to distinguished Dons in a meeting called by Lord Asriel. Lyra watches the proceedings while staying concealed in “a wardrobe.” (Self thinks “a wardrobe” sounds ever so much better than “a closet.”) Lyra waits until the coast is clear, then emerges from the wardrobe and tells Lord Asriel: “If you wanted me to be a spy in the wardrobe, you ought to tell me what I’m spying about. Can I see the man’s head?”

Lord Asriel’s response is to laugh “shortly” and say, “Don’t be disgusting.”

Love it.

Stay tuned.

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