CANDIDE, Chapter 14: How Candide and Cacambo Were Received by the Jesuits in Paraguay

“She will get along as best she can,” said Cacambo; “women are never at a loss; God looks after them; let’s run for it.”

Battle Is Joined! The Battle Between the King of the Bulgarians and the King of the Abarians

Last night, self finished finished The Death of Ivan Ilyich and it was quite a letdown.

First of all, the hero dies.


It’s right there in the title, self!

Since the book she read just prior was Dexter Filkins’ The Forever War, she is by now inured to all narratives on deaths and/or dying.

What self objected to was the reading of an entire Tolstoy story and finding herself not moved. Not in the slightest. And furthermore Tolstoy resorts to


a very time-worn device: the moral redemption of the hero, introducing a startling revelation an hour before his death. Which in no way made the work more edifying or redemptive and which had self going WHAT?

Ivan Ilyich realizes he should just give his family peace. By dying quietly. And with this realization, the character’s black fear of dying dissipates (Just in time, too, as he’s going to die whether he likes it or not. And, Tolstoy crisply informs us, in an hour)

This was one of the rare book purchases self has made in the last few months, and it was not cheap. But, such is her annoyance at all the eminent critics who pronounced this one of the greatest works of all time, that she’s decided she’ll leave it behind when she flies out of Los Angeles. It will be her small contribution to the intellectual enrichment of whoever picks it up next.

She then began the next book on her reading list, Voltaire’s Candide (Self travels everywhere with at least three books in her suitcase. In case she finds herself out of reach of a decent bookstore. She’s a regular Girl Scout when it comes to being prepared)

This book is the complete opposite of Tolstoy’s. It is flat-out satire. The central character is a robust (and dim-witted) lad named Candide. He is a servant enamored with his employer’s 17-year-old daughter. The employer gets wind of the servant’s amorous intentions and of course does the right thing: he fires Candide.

Then Candide winds up encountering an army and in the worst case of mistaken identity ever, the soldiers force him to run a gauntlet, not once but twice, and finally when Candide’s back is flayed open like a gutted fish, he is pardoned by the King of the Bulgarians. And, what great good timing, the King of the Bulgarians is about to engage in war with the King of the Abarians, at which point Chapter 2 ends and Chapter 3 begins thus:

Nothing could be so beautiful, so smart, so brilliant, so well-drilled as the two armies. Trumpets, fifes, oboes, drums, cannons formed a harmony such as was never heard even in hell. First the cannons felled about six thousand men on each side; then the musketry removed from the best of worlds some nine or ten thousand scoundrels who infected its surface. The bayonet also was the sufficient reason for the death of some thousands of men. The whole might well amount to about thirty thousand souls. Candide, trembling like a philosopher, hid himself as best he could during this heroic butchery.

Well, well, well! Methinks Candide is not as dim-witted as he first appeared!

Stay tuned.

The Punjab, February 2012


Driving to The Golden Temple in Amritsar, February 2012

Someday, perhaps, self will actually sit down to write this story.

She was heading to Amritsar with the Colonel, his beautiful wife, and the Tibetan driver. The musical accompaniment, as we crossed from Himachal Pradesh into Punjab, was “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree.” Self was trying hard to concentrate.

The reason self was with the colonel was: a few weeks earlier, she’d had a huge fight with her traveling companions and parted ways with them in the small village of Bir.

Self was so angry, she remembered stabbing at some appetizers (Samosas? Pakoras?) on a plate we were all sharing, and the (Samosas? Pakoras?) kept slipping off the tines of her fork. But still she kept jabbing, thinking: I AM GOING TO SPEAR A SAMOSA IF IT’S THE LAST THING I DO. And everyone was sort of mesmerized, just watching. And then finally, after a long, long moment, the woman self will only refer to as Dimples spoke up and said: “Are you okay?” Funny she should ask. No, self was most def NOT okay.

That night, self struck off on her own. On her own! In India! In Himachal Pradesh! Where she didn’t know a soul! First time in India! She couldn’t even speak the language!

She decided she’d visit monasteries and only monasteries. Which was good, because then everyone she met along the way simply assumed she was dying of cancer and was on some kind of spiritual quest.

Unbeknownst to her, the travel agent who’d arranged the trip was having a meltdown. Self called her just before she left India, and she screeched into self’s ear over the phone:

“Oh my God! It’s you! You’re alive! WHERE ARE YOU?”

Self told the travel agent: “I’m in Amritsar.”

And the woman kept thanking heaven that self was ALIVE.

(To be continued)


Quote of the Day: Fort Bragg Public Library

Self was looking up books on sailing and ships when she overheard one library patron saying to another:

  • “I don’t care if I die because this is my second incarnation.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.



Self is inching her way towards the end of this rambunctious novel.

Did she really use the word “rambunctious” in connection to this novel?

Indeed she did!

And that is a long way from where she started.

The set-up seemed to be like any other crime caper set-up (and it’s been years since she read Leonard, not actually since Get Shorty): Hot sultry woman sleeps with everyone and gets people to do her bidding. Charming rogue Jack Foley (can’t picture anyone other than George Clooney in the role) gets out of prison and into trouble immediately; but he’s such a charmer with the ladies. Every single woman he meets in the course of this novel makes a pass at him. There’s also a dangerous rooster named Cundo and assorted colorful eccentrics.


Somewhere around page 100, however, the novel started to really get funny. Everyone is in on some kind of con, but the biggest con of all is the fake psychic, because it turns out:


A man in the audience makes fun of her powers and she predicts, almost to the hour, the exact moment of his death, two months later.

The rich widow who hires the psychic to “cleanse” her house because she thinks she is being haunted by her recently deceased husband turns out to be pulling a con of her own. In addition, the widow turns out to be the only woman in the novel who seems immune to Jack Foley’s charms, even though he’s willing to try her out, in fact spends a whole afternoon lounging with her by her backyard pool.

The psychic is of course sleeping with Jack Foley but she kills her other lover first, because he punched her for sleeping with Jack Foley. Then she ruminates about how she will kill Jack Foley. First, of course, she has to sleep with him one last time because he is such a good lover. In the course of some pillow talk, she asks Foley what he thinks she served her dead paramour as a last meal (Macaroni and cheese! She shot him three times in the chest with a Walter PPK equipped with a silencer. Hey, self’s Dear Departed Dad had the exact same firearm in a drawer next to his bed. Because Bond.)

Foley thinks:

Cockroaches and rice . . . and it came to him and he said, “Macaroni and cheese.”


Stay tuned.


Broad Comedy: ROAD DOGS

Road Dogs, by the immortal Elmore Leonard (who self has worshipped for many years, and who she can never thank enough for giving Timothy Olyphant the chance to strut his stuff in a white Stetson as Raylan Givens, in six seasons of the TV series Justified which was based on a series of Elmore Leonard novels), p. 195:

“Can you tell me,” the monsignor said, “why it’s been twenty-seven years since you’ve been to confession?”

“The last time before this,” Little Jimmy said, “I was in prison in Cuba for a crime that didn’t hurt no one. I was afraid I would die at the hands of prisoners desiring to make love to me in an excessive manner. But I was save by my boss, also in that prison, Combinado, before it could happen.”

The monsignor said, “And this time, why are you confessing?”

“I want to be on the safe side, confess to missing Mass fourteen-hundred times,” Little Jimmy said, “because I’m going to dinner in honor of my boss. There is a possibility he could have the fortune-teller, who’s preparing the food, poison me.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Everlark Comedy! Be Forewarned

Self just made her first batch of oatmeal/chocolate chip/raisin cookies ever and they are really BAD.

Good thing she got an alert for a new installment of the Detective Mellark series (Dear readers, indeed yes: There is a detective series written with Peeta Mellark as the head of a Detective Agency and Katniss Everdeen as one of his gumshoes)

In this installment of the Detective Mellark series, Katniss and Peeta decide to compete in a TV game show called “The Marriage Game” (Why? Who knows? Because detective agencies run short of funds and the quickest way to raise them is by competing in a television game show?)

Anyhoo, Katniss and Peeta are one of four couples left standing for the final round. The other three couples are:

  • Primrose Everdeen/ Rory Hawthorne
  • Gale Hawthorne/ Madge Undersee
  • Annie Cresta/ Finnick Odair

One of the questions is: “What is your partner’s favorite thing to nibble on at the movies?”

The interviewer is, of course, none other than Caesar Flickerman.

Over to you, Gale and Madge!

Gale: Um. That’s a hard one. I’ll go with Twizzlers.

(Madge frowns and turns over her card. It says: HIS FINGERNAILS)

Gale: My fingernails! Why would you say that?

Madge: Oh my God, Gale! Look at these things! (Grabs Gale’s hands and holds them up. Camera zooms in for a close-up) LOOK! LOOK! I should dip your fingertips in gasoline to keep you from biting them.

Caesar: Oh, Madge. They are stubby. You should have Octavia work on them.

Madge: That’s a good idea. (To Gale) First thing tomorrow, you’re getting a mani-pedi.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


Elmore Leonard, ROAD DOGS p. 62

“When you’re a Sagittarian,” Dawn said, “born with a Grand Trine in the center of your nasal chart, you know you have a gift. You can call me Reverend Dawn, if you’d like. I’m an ordained minister of the Spiritualist Assembly of Waco, Texas, though I started out doing nails . . .  I went to beautician school, ran around acting crazy, did drugs, almost bit my nails off I was so fucked up. That was my Sagittarian with Mars on aspect.”


Self has been laughing for two days straight. Ever since she started Chapter XXIV of Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano. She can’t remember reading with this much gusto since — Mary Gaitskill’s Bad Behavior? Wait, that was just two months ago. Anyhoo . . .

In the world of Player Piano, which is supposed to be science fiction but is so AU self wishes she could wake Kurt Vonnegut from his grave and tell him he was in the wrong category, everyone is classified by occupation, and there are book clubs (You’d think that would be the first to go in the world of the future but anyhoo). These clubs are run like so:

pp. 210 – 211

“A lot of research goes into what’s run off, believe me. Surveys of public reading tastes, readability and appeal tests on books being considered. Heavens, running off an unpopular book would put a club out of business like that!” He snapped his fingers ominously. “The way they keep culture so cheap is by knowing in advance what and how much of it people want. They get it right, right down to the color of the jacket. Gutenberg would be amazed.”

“Gutenberg?” said Khashdrahr.

“Sure — the man who invented movable type. First man to mass-produce Bibles.”

Alla sutta takki?” said the Shah.

“Eh?” said Halyard.

“Shah wants to know if he made a survey first.”

“Anyway,” said the girl, “my husband’s book was rejected by the Council.”

“Badly written,” said Halyard primly. “The standards are high.”

“Beautifully written,” she said patiently. “But it was twenty-seven pages longer than the maximum length; its readability quotient was 26.3, and — “

“No club will touch anything with an RQ above 17,” explained Halyard.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


Vonnegut: Too Funny

Player Piano is hilarious. Self didn’t go anywhere yesterday, spent the entire day reading. (She is hard-pressed to remember what other Vonnegut she has read before this)

The novel has all sorts of fun with a distinguished visitor to America, the Shah of Bratpuhr. The Shah declares he only wants to meet “representative Americans.”

  • The personnel machines had considered the problem and ejected the card of Edgar R. B. Hagstrohm, who was statistically average in every respect save for the number of his initials: his age (36), his height (5’7″), his weight (148 lb.s), his years of marriage (11), his I.Q. (83), the number of his children (2: ages 9 and 6), the number of his bedrooms (2), his car (3-year old two-door Chevy sedan), his education (high school grad, 117th in class of 233), his vocation (R & R), his avocations (spectator sports, TV, softball, fishing), and his war record (5 years, T-4 radioman, 157th Infantry Division)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


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