Unforgettable Ketchikan

The way Jonathan Evison describes it, it’s a really depressing place to end your Alaska cruise:

  • A working-class town smelling of barnacles and rust, wood rot, and diesel smoke, wet dog hair in heaters, and fish nets hung out to dry. Despite civic-minded efforts to splash some vibrant color about, there’s no disguising the town’s blimp gray underbelly.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

You Should Not Have Gone On That Cruise, Harriet Chance!

Nearing the end of Jonathan Evison’s novel, This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!. Self began reading it in, of all places, Paris. It’s been very entertaining. Only wish there had been more of Rudy, the Filipino cabin steward.

The Alaskan cruise which is the “frame” for this novel about Harriet Chance’s entire life, isn’t such a good idea. The views are breathtaking, but the people are anything but. Self is so glad, because now the novel has cured her of the desire to go on an Alaskan cruise. All you do is gain five pounds and spend dinner talking to strangers.

p. 266:

“Y’all mind if I join you?” says a morbidly obese fellow, who has materialized suddenly at the end of the table. He’s clutching a Caesar salad and wearing a black T-shirt that says I SEE DUMB PEOPLE.

What is Harriet’s obsession with other people’s weight? As if to oblige her, most of the people she meets on the cruise are overweight.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Still Reading: THIS IS YOUR LIFE, HARRIET CHANCE!

Hugely enjoying this Jonathan Evison novel from a few years back, This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! Turns out Evison isn’t even remotely close to being the age of his protagonist. That is what happens when you have imagination!

pp. 94 – 95:

“I feel so strange,” says Harriet. “Am I . . . dead?”

“Not yet,” he says, examining the television remote. “Trust me, you’ll know.”

“Should I be frightened?”

“Won’t do you any good,” he says, setting the remote aside. “Don’t bother planning.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Still Reading THIS IS YOUR LIFE, HARRIET CHANCE!

  • She never mentions her husband, but that diamond must be four karats. Likewise, she never enquires about Bernard, or your children, or your home.

p. 31, This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison

#amreading: THIS IS YOUR LIFE, HARRIET CHANCE!

Yes, we’re getting ahead of ourselves again, but hey, it happens . . .  The reflective mind is a pinball, pitching and careening, rebounding off anything it makes contact with.

— p. 29, This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison

#amreading: THIS IS YOUR LIFE, HARRIET CHANCE

Self is very much enjoying her first Jonathan Evison novel, This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance. She is in Paris, enjoying the vibes. The book she read before this one, The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey, by Rinker Buck, was about crossing America in a covered wagon; she began reading it in Cork, almost a month ago. She was still reading it in London. Still reading it in Bath. Finally, finally, in Versailles, she finished it. Because mules just do not go with chateaus, just saying.

Now, at least, she’s reading about cruises. Much better:

The weight of the impending cruise sits on her shoulders, a heavy dread. If only she could cancel without breaking Mildred’s heart. From the beginning, Harriet hoped that Mildred would decline, so she wouldn’t have to go herself, but she should have known better.

— p. 23, This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison

Since the book blurbs all state that the cruise is going to happen, self doesn’t have to wallow in the main character’s dithering. Rather than condemn, she relates.

It is a painful, really painful, idea to go on a cruise.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

Last Moments of the Trip With Irene: Evanescent 4

DSCN0404

Self with her usual gear: The book she’s reading is the novel THIS IS YOUR LIFE, HARRIET CHANCE!

DSCN0257

A Woman stares out into the gardens of the Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte. Woman stood there so long that self got tired of waiting for her to move and made her a part of the picture.

DSCN0184

Mementos of a Trip, Never To Be Forgotten: Paris, May 2017

 

Battle in Robert Harris: p. 248 of Conspirata (Or, If You’re in the UK, Lustrum)

Cicero’s great enemy is Catilina. Catilina is dispatched, as self knew he would be (She’s read about Catilina’s dispatching in both SPQR and Tom Holland’s Rubicon). But, as Harris writes a few pages earlier, No victories in politics are permanent (This is a paraphrase; self has little time to be hunting up the exact page, as the day is almost done and she hasn’t met her day’s writing quota).

Still, Harris manages to make Catilina’s defeat exciting:

  • It was a terrible carnage and Catilina was in the thick of it all day. Not one of his lieutenants surrendered. They fought with the ferocious abandon of men with nothing to lose. Only when Petreius sent in a crack praetorian cohort did the rebel army finally collapse. Every one of Catilina’s followers, including Manlius, died where he stood; afterwards their wounds were found to be entirely in the front and none in the back.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Greek Philosophy in Robert Harris

The Stoics vs. Aristotle & Plato

pp. 199 – 200 of Conspirata (Lustrum in the UK; self has to make that distinction every time, it’s a bear)

Cicero delivers a speech to the Roman Senate, making fun of his colleague Cato:

For there was a man of genius called Zeno, and the disciples of his teaching are called stoics. Here are some of his precepts: the wise man is never moved by favour and never forgives anyone’s mistakes; only a fool feels pity; all misdeeds are equal, the casual killing of a cock no less a crime than strangling one’s father; the wise man never assumes anything, never regrets anything, is never wrong, never changes his mind.

Now I must admit when I was younger I also took some interest in philosophy. My masters, though, were Plato and Aristotle. They don’t hold violent or extreme views. They say that favour can sometimes influence the wise man; that a good man can feel pity; that there are different degrees of wrongdoing and different punishments; that the wise man often makes assumptions when he doesn’t know the facts, and is sometimes angry, and sometimes forgives, and sometimes changes his mind; that all virtue is saved from excess by a so-called mean. If you had studied these masters, Cato, you might not be a better man or braver — that would be impossible — but you might be a little more kind.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

CATO in Robert Harris (Conspirata, p. 92)

#amreading all Imperial Rome narratives

Until next week, when self begins Rinker Buck’s The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey

Robert Harris’s Conspirata (In the United Kingdom it’s got a different title: Lustrum) covers exactly the same ground as the books self just finished reading: SPQR by Mary Beard, and Rubicon by Tom Holland. So she knows how everything is going to end. But Harris is such a good writer (She read Fatherland, years ago: highly recommend) that self is giving Conspirata a go.

Here’s a speech by Cato which self thinks is fascinating for what it reveals of the character (Also, it is interesting that millions of youths around the world see the name Cato and think immediately of that blonde bully in The Hunger Games):

Never be moved by favour. Never appease. Never forgive a wrong. Never differentiate between things that are wrong — what is wrong is wrong, whatever the size of the misdemeanour, and that is the end of the matter. And finally, never compromise on any of these principles. “The man who has the strength to follow them — is always handsome however misshapen, always rich however needy, always a king however much a slave.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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