Welcome to The Once Lost Wanderer. The name is derived from two poems: Amazing Grace by reformed slave trader John Newton, and All That is Gold Does Not Glitter by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Saddest Book EVER! - NOVA this week

Observations from my weekly wanderings, usually in Northern Virginia (NOVA).

I’ve read some depressing tales over the years – Nineteen-Eighty-Four, Blood Meridian, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, others – but the most heartbreaking story I’ve EVER read is…

My First Counting Book, by NAME Lillian Moore, illustrated Garth Williams.

Don't let the adorable cover fool you (I seem to remember some pithy adage about judging books by cover art). It's a classic bait and switch.

The dismal tone of this book hits you full force, first page...

One little puppy, a roly poly puppy, alone as he can be. Isn’t there a boy or girl who wants to play with me?

And if that narrative isn’t enough to tear your heart out, there is the poignant illustration. I admire Williams' talent, but the illustration is too painful for words. (and copyrighted)

I remember a morbid fascination with this book as a child. It ALWAYS broke my heart, but somehow, I kept returning to it – hoping a boy or girl would show up somehow.

I’m sure some of you remember this book – it’s a classic after all, and some might argue that the plot gets more cheerful as it goes along; there are fluffy lambs and cute kittens, other animals I’ve forgotten, but these happy circumstances didn’t cheer me up at all. They only serve to highlight the dismal condition of the roly poly puppy. 

I won’t be reading this to my grandchildren, and I hope they never make a movie rendition.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

The Adventure of the Second Stain by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Adventure of the Second Stain by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

A Sherlock Holmes short story

The Adventure of the Second Stain is part of The Return of Sherlock Holmes collection. It is Holmes seventh case chronologically. It was one of Doyle’s favorites (#8 to be precise), and Watson describes it as
…the most important international case which he has ever been called upon to handle…

The case is put to Holmes by the Prime Minister himself and the Secretary of European Affairs.

The honorable gentlemen impress upon Holmes the need for secrecy and discretion. The police are not even notified. They also stress that should Holmes fail to recover the stolen secret communiqué…the consequence could well be war.

Watson was not exaggerating.

Not surprisingly, the honor of a beautiful women is also at stake.

Bit of Doyle’s subtle humor here. Holmes, well known for his own lofty surmise of his powers of observation, defers to Watson
Now Watson, the fair sex is your department.

In the end of course, Holmes averts international calamity, while also protecting the honor of the virtuous lady – but not without some uncharacteristic duplicity.

I can see why Doyle liked this one. I did too.


Friday, June 1, 2018

A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell (99 down, 1 to go)

A Dance to the Music of Timeby Anthony Powell

…literature illuminates life only for those to whom books are a necessity. ~ narrative by Nick Jenkins, the main character

A few more thoughts from Nick…

Yet love, for all the escape it offers, is closely linked with everyday things…

One hears about life, all the time, from different people, with very different narrative gifts. Accordingly, not only are many episodes, in which you may even have played a part yourself, hard enough to assess; a lot more must be judged from haphazard accounts given by others. Even if reported in good faith, some choose one aspect on which to concentrate, some another.

The title of this novel is taken from a painting by 17thCentury artist, Nicolas Poussin. The painting has numerous mythological elements: Apollos, Aurora, Time himself playing music, and four dancers who probably represent different stages in life.

Poussin is not known to have revealed the exact meaning of his dancers; Powell however, leaves a bit more material from which to infer what he thought. He wrote A Dance to the Music of Timein four volumes – that he called movements – each undoubtedly represents one the dancers. The main character and narrator, Nick Jenkins, considers Poussin’s dancers, concluding that they are…unable to control the melody, unable perhaps, to control the steps of the dance.

As the author’s alter ego, Nick thus reveals a distinct fatalism in Powell’s world view.

I can’t say for certain what Powell might have labelled the four dancers, but I infer something like:  
Coming of age (ambitiously, awkwardly, recklessly, naively)
Setting course (success, failure, course-correction)
Fates and follies (drudge, disillusionment, despair)

First Movement – opens on Nick and a few schoolmates, unnamed college, England, late 1920s, early 1930s.
Second Movement – follows their diverging, and re-converging careers and relationships, presages of looming war.
Third Movement – their roles in WWII, mostly uninspired and bureaucratic, several fatalities
Fourth Movement – Conclusion of the many lives portrayed in this tome, but also…

Time dancing on. Like the figures in the painting – dancing in a circle – Powell ends brings the fourth volume full circle, with the aged narrator in a scene very similar to the opening scene of volume one. (Though I'd nearly forgotten the opening scene by this point.)

I thought it an impressive work, but not very enjoyable. I wasn’t invested in any of the characters. Nick is a likeable chap, but too dispassionate to be very interesting.

To give Powell proper credit, I have to admit, that it was only the first 2,500 pages or so that I didn’t enjoy. The final pages of the final movement, finally got interesting. That might sound like I’m being sarcastic – I’m not. If you dare to start this work – you need to stick it out.

I can’t help but compare A Dance to the Music of Time to In Search of Lost Time. Both are roughly 3000 pages, both cover the lifetime of the main character, even the titles are reminiscent – and both were rather a chore to read. I doubt he intended it, but I felt as if Powell’s work is the British answer to the earlier French novel by Proust. I was already making this comparison in my thoughts, when Nick begins reading and commenting on Proust’s magnum opus in the second half of Powell’s classic.

My rating: 3 ½ of 5 stars

This novel satisfies – “A Classic that scares you” category of the Back to the Classics Challenge 2018.

Excerpts – as always, I’ll include some excerpts here. This first is one of my favorites taking place during a calm moment of Nick’s army days, and is a casual conversation between Nick and his commanding General. The general, knew that Nick was an author, and literary critic.
‘Book reader, aren’t you?’
‘Yes, sir.’
‘What do you think of Trollope?’
‘Never found him easy to read, sir.’
‘You never found Trollope easy to read?’
‘No, sir.’
He was clearly unable to credit my words. This was an unhappy situation. There was a long pause while he glared at me.

‘Whom do you like, if you don’t like Trollope?’
‘There’s Balzac, sir.’
General Liddament roared the name. It was impossible to know whether Balzac had been a very good answer or a very bad one. 

And although Nick was uncertain, he must have made some points as the general then recommends Nick for a better position.

Other Excerpts: Mostly narrative by Nick

That illusion – as such a point of view was, in due course, to appear – was closely related to another belief:  that existence fans out indefinitely into new areas of experience, and that almost every additional acquaintance offers some supplementary world with its own hazards and enchantments. As time goes on, of course, these supposedly different worlds, in fact, draw closer, if not to each other, then to some pattern common to all; so that, at last, diversity between them, in truth existent, seems to be almost imperceptible except in a few crude and exterior ways:  unthinkable as formerly appeared any single consummation of cause and effect. In other words, nearly all turn out at last to be tenaciously inter-related; love and hate, friendship and enmity, too, becoming themselves much less clearly defined, more often than not showing signs of possessing characteristics that could claim, to say the least, not a little in common; while work and play merge indistinguishably into a complex tissue of pleasure and tedium.

…the persons we see most clearly are not necessarily those we know best.

Yet love, for all the escape it offers, is closely linked with everyday things, even with the affairs of others.

‘Look here,’ said Stringham, ‘I must be allowed to get in and out of my own bed. That is a fundamental human right. Other people’s beds may be another matter. In them, another party is concerned, but ingress and egress of one’s own bed is unassailable.’

‘It seems to me,’ said the General, ‘that he is a typical intuitive extrovert – classical case…’

War is not an exact science, but a terrible and passionate drama ~ quoting Foch

‘The god, Mars, approaches the earth to lay waste. Moreover, the future is ever the consequence of the past.’

‘Adventures only happen to adventurers.’

‘The war seems to have altered some people out of recognition and made others more than ever like themselves.’ ~ Isobel (Nick’s wife)

…literature illuminates life only for those to whom books are a necessity.

Friendship, popularly represented as something simple and straightforward – in contrast with love – is perhaps no less complicated, requiring equally mysterious nourishment…

You know growing old’s like being increasingly penalized for a crime you haven’t committed.

Reading novels needs almost as much talent as writing them…

When people speak of a subject close to them, they can look transformed.

One hears about life, all the time, from different people, with very different narrative gifts. Accordingly, not only are many episodes, in which you may even have played a part yourself, hard enough to assess; a lot more must be judged from haphazard accounts given by others. Even if reported in good faith, some choose one aspect on which to concentrate, some another.

…a restless soul wandering the vast surfaces of the Earth ~ Nick’s description of his Uncle Giles

A Dance to the Remembrance of Time is FILLED with numerous references to classic literature. Nick, being a literary person (and as I said Powell’s alter ego), sometimes referenced an author, a title, or merely a character from some prominent work. These are the ones I caught. There were undoubtedly more.

Les Misérables
A Doll’s House
Jude the Obscure
Joseph Conrad
J.M. Barrie
H.G. Wells
Anna Karenina
John Milton
The Idiot
Henry James
Sherlock Holmes
William Thackeray
The Waste Land
D.H. Lawrence
The Brothers Karamazov, and The Grand Inquisitor
Ernest Hemingway
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Franz Kafka
Anthony Trollope
Alice in Wonderland
George Orwell
Edgar Allan Poe
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Molly Bloom
Dr. Zhivago
Pilgrim’s Progress
Charles Dickens: Mrs. Nickleby, Mr. Micawber, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, Bleak House, The Old Curiosity Shop,Bob Cratchit

A favorite reference, a character concocts their own cocktail and calls it Death Comes for the Archbishop

And of course
Marcel Proust – Remembrance of Things Past

A Dance to the Music of Timeis officially 12 novels, published 3 at a time in four volumes/movements. Personally, I don’t think the 12 novels are truly novels, but more like rather long chapters. I don’t believe any of the novels, nor any of the volumes stand very well on their own. But of course, to get the full effect, you must commit to nearly 3000 pages.

-- A Question of Upbringing
-- A Buyer’s Market
-- The Acceptance World
-- At Lady Molly’s
-- Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant
-- The Kindly Ones
-- The Valley of Bones
-- The Soldier’s Art
-- The Military Philosophers
-- Books Do Furnish a Room
-- Temporary Kings
-- Hearing Secret Harmonies


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Top Ten Character Names - Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Wow! Can’t believe I haven’t done a TTT since November 2017. Time to rejoin the fun

May 21, 2018:Top Ten Character Names

I knew immediately what #1 would be.

#1  Sal Paradise from On the Road  (I didn’t care for the book, but this is a great name)

--The rest in no particular order

#2  Squire Allworthy from Tom Jones  (an aptronym if ever there were one)

#3  Port Moresby from The Sheltering Sky  (not a great person, but a marvelous name)

#4  Bishop Jean Marie Latour from Death Comes for the Archbishop  (another aptronym, meaning of Latour – The Tower)

#5  Father Joseph Vaillant  (Latour’s right hand man. meaning of Vaillant – Valiant)

#6  Homer Simpson from The Day of the Locust  (D’oh! Long before THE Homer)

#7  Major Major from Catch-22 (as in Major[rank] Major[last name] who was promoted by accident, due of course to his last name)

#8  First Mate Starbuck from Moby Dick  (explaining the mermaid on your coffee cup)

#9  Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird

#10  Huckleberry Finn (do I really need to say what novel this is from?)


Saturday, May 12, 2018

My Blog's Name in Books

I first saw this at She Reads Novels, but it was created by Fictionphile.

Simple Rules:
1. Spell out your blog’s name.
2. Find a book from your TBR that begins with each letter.
3. Have fun!

So here goes (all classic novels):

Tender is the Night     by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Hard Times     by Charles Dickens
Eye of the Needle     by Ken Follett

O Pioneers!     by Willa Cather
Nero Wolfe     by Rex Stout
Candide     by Voltaire
East of Eden     by John Steinbeck

Little House on the Prairie     by Laura Ingalls Wilder
One Lonely Night     by Mickey Spillane
Scoop      by Evelyn Waugh
Tobacco Road     by Erskine Caldwell

We Have Always Lived in the Castle     by Shirley Jackson
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland     by Lewis Carrol
Nausea     by Jean-Paul Sartre
Decameron     by Giovanni Boccaccio
Ethan Frome     by Edith Wharton
Rabbit (series)     by John Updike
Eugene Onegin     by Alexander Pushkin
Rebecca     by Daphne du Maurier

I also attempted this with books I’ve read. I couldn’t quite pull it off sticking only with classic novels. I don't think Roverandom or Ender’s Game can really be considered  classics, while Evidence that Demands a Verdict is non-fiction. 

The Great Gatsby     by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Heart of Darkness     by Joseph Conrad
Emma     by Jane Austen

On the Road     by Jack Kerouac
Nineteen-Eighty-Four     by George Orwell
Catch-22     by Joseph Heller
Ender’s Game     by Orson Scott Card

Lord of the Flies     by William Golding
One-Hundred Years of Solitude     by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Slaughterhouse Five     by Kurt Vonnegut
To the Lighthouse     by Virginia Woolf

Wuthering Heights     by Emily Brontë
Animal Farm     by George Orwell
Nostromo     by Joseph Conrad
Don Quixote     by Miguel de Cervantes
Every Living Thing     by James Herriot
Remembrance of Things Past     by Marcel Proust
Evidence that Demands a Verdict     by Josh McDowell
Roverandom     by J.R.R. Tolkien


Thursday, May 10, 2018

My Favorite Classic - The Classics Club Monthly Meme (May 2018)

I’m very happy The Classics Club is reviving the monthly meme and I have to admit that the topic makes sense – it’s an obvious starting place to reboot the meme – But seriously?

What is your favorite classic book? Why?

You might as well ask which of my children is my favorite. Yes, I know that is not a very original phrase. I’m just reusing it because it makes the point so perfectly.

I just can’t.

But I want to support the return of the Monthly Meme, so I’m going to make an honest effort. For starters, I’ve given nine novels 5 Stars: The Grapes of Wrath, Lord of the Flies, The Lord of the Rings, To Kill a Mockingbird, Gone With the Wind, David Copperfield, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Little Prince

I don’t give out 5 Stars easily, so I thought all these deserve mentioning. However, in my opinion, THE BEST of these Best are:

The Grapes of Wrath
Lord of the Flies
To Kill a Mockingbird
Gone With the Wind

Now it gets very hard. If asked, I might name any one of these at any given moment, but I think the one that would most often come to mind – To Kill a Mockingbird.

Why? It made me cry; it made me laugh. It filled me with rage; it filled me with hope. It moved my emotions to every extreme and it made me think. More than that – you may read my review. It isn't necessary to point out that in the review, I name The Lord of the Rings as my favorite; I’ve already confessed to being somewhat fickle on this subject.

So I did it. Now what is your favorite classic?


Saturday, May 5, 2018

You should be able to guess by now - NOVA this week

Observations from my weekly wanderings, usually in Northern Virginia (NOVA).

If you’ve been reading this blog for very long, you should be able to guess the topic of NOVA this week.

First Saturday in May?, most exciting two minutes in sports? – no? My Old Kentucky Home? – nothing?

The Run for the Roses? 

It is Kentucky Derby Day!

Statue of the Great Barbaro

As usual, in token deference to the literary theme of this blog, I’ll start by commenting on the names of the runners, which are so often creative and intriguing. This year is a bit disappointing in those terms, no names I’m absolutely in love with, but there are a few with a bit of panache. 

Mendelssohn – after the German composer
Magnum Moon – cuz, ya know…MOON
My Boy Jack – I’m not really a fan of this name, but he is the son a horse with a magnificent name – Creative Cause, who won me some pocket change back when
Vino Rosso – (Red Wine)

But my favorite this year, with a subtle literary reference, is Good Magic, whose Dam (momma), was Glinda the Good

But now for what you’re really waiting for – who’s gonna win? Some people pay for this type of info – just sayin.

The favorites will be Justify and Mendelssohn, but I hate betting on favorites cuz they don’t pay. Of course, it doesn’t pay to bet on a horse that doesn’t win either (not quite true as you can bet on a horse to place (2nd) or show (3rd)), but my point, it doesn’t pay to bet on a loser either, no matter how long the odds. But, there are a couple longer odds horses that I believe have a good chance. This is handicapping now, nothing to do with their names; I like Vino Rosso, followed closely by Good Magic.

Vino Rosso because – this is a bit involved – Todd Pletcher (best trainer in the sport today), has four runners in the Derby. His #1 jockey, John Valazquez, could have his pick of any of these four. Valazquez chose to ride Vino Rosso. This says he believes HIS best chance to win is aboard Vino Rosso, and jocks know a thing or two about horses.

Good Magic, oh I don’t know just something unknown. I think he’s sitting on a big race. And he’s already beaten five of the other horses in the Kentucky Derby, but not getting much respect.

By the way, they’re not horses; they’re colts. Sometimes there’s a gelding or a filly in the field, but this year all 20 are colts.

Exacta Box 5-6-7-16-18 can’t miss.

And click HERE for a bit of prose I wrote about the Spectacle of the Kentucky Derby and the Greatest Race horse ever.