Monday, September 16, 2019

Classics Club Spin #21

Classics Club Spin #21

It is time for the 21stedition of the Classics Club Spin – List 20 books from my CC TBR, by September 23, the mods then pick a random number, and I have until October 31 to read the corresponding book.

‘cept I’m gonna cheat. That really shouldn’t surprise you. I cheat on most memes, challenges, double dog-dares, and quests. For reasons that I won’t go into (cuz it would be boring and no one cares), I’m only going to list 10 books. I used a random number generator to pick their order. If the chosen spin number is one of my BLANKS, I exempt myself from the Spin, without forfeiting the associated cash prize.

5. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
6. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
7. Dracula by Bram Stoker
8. Lost Horizon by James Hilton
9. Under the Net by Iris Murdoch
10. Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow
11. The Greek Interpreter by Arthur Conan Doyle
12. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
17. At Swim Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien
18. Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Saturday, September 7, 2019

R.I.P (a spook inspired reading challenge)


I’ve always wanted to participate in R.I.P (Readers Imbibing Peril) – well, not always, but since whenever I first became aware of it – but some self-imposed reading schedule has precluded me in years previous.

But not this year – I planned ahead; wrapped up my Back to the Classics 2019 Challenge early, so I’d be ready.

I’m going for Peril in the First Degree by reading four works from the loosely defined criteria. I will read:

The short stories of Edgar Allan Poe

The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter (a Sherlock Holmes short story)

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Dracula by Bram Stoker


Sunday, August 25, 2019

King Henry IV, First Part by William Shakespeare

King Henry IV, first part by William Shakespeare 

England did never owe so sweet a hope ~ Sir Richard Vernon regarding Prince Henry

Henry IV, part one is the second play in Shakespeare’s tetralogy or Henriad: four plays regarding the succession from King Richard II – Henry IV – Henry V. Written in the late 16thcentury, it covers part of the reign of Henry IV, who reigned from 1399 – 1413.

In the previous play, Henry Bolingbroke usurps the crown from his cousin King Richard II, and becomes King Henry IV. Although this play is named for Henry IV, it is really more about his son Prince Henry, who will later become King Henry V.

If this were a novel, I’d call it the coming of age tale of Prince Henry.

Early in the play, Prince Henry is something of a wastrel. 

But when his father’s reign is in peril, and after being chided by the King, Prince Henry vows to become a better man and worthy of his line to the throne. The prince assures his father, that he will redeem himself in defense of the Kingdom.

     And God forgive them that have so much sway’d
     Your Majesty’s good thoughts away from me!
     I will redeem all this on Percy’s head,
     And, in the closing of some glorious day,
     Be bold to tell you that I am your son:
     When I will wear a garment all of blood,
     And stain my favours in a bloody mask,
     Which, wash’d away, shall scour my shame with it

And in short, the prince makes good on his vow. 

Although this is a historical play, it contains a bit of comedy. Prince Henry, who associates with the craven Sir John Falstaff, often mocks him for his laziness, cowardice, and hedonism. Prince Henry says to Falstaff, who is quite fat:
How long is’t ago, Jack, since thou sawest thine own knee?

In the rebel camp, Lady Percy, wife of Henry Percy aka Hotspur is coaxing Lady Mortimer to sing.
Lady Percy:…hear the lady sing in WelshHotspur: I had rather hear Lady, my brach Howl in IrishLady Percy: Woulds’t thou have thy head broken?Hotspur: NoLady Percy: Then be still

I enjoyed this play very much, mostly because as I said, it is the coming of age of Prince Henry. I am vaguely familiar with the noble character he will become – at least in Shakespeare’s rendering – and so it was satisfying to see the prince abandon his youthful indiscretions and become a Prince.

The quotation at the beginning of this review:
England did never owe so sweet a hope ~ Sir Richard Vernon regarding Prince Henry
…is notable, as Vernon was among the conspirators, or enemy of the King and prince, and yet he would still make such a testimony to the prince.

Modern day colloquialisms from Henry IV part one
Give the devil his due
The better part of valour is discretion

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Ernie Harwell: My 60 Years in Baseball by Tom Keegan

Ernie Harwell: My 60 Years in Baseball by Tom Keegan

This biography is about the greatest sportscaster of all time. That’s just my opinion – not sorry. Ernie Harwell was the voice of summer.

His biography took me back to the summer of 1967; I was 6. I didn’t know much of America’s pastime yet, but I learned that summer my father was a Detroit Tigers fan. He and several neighbors would gather on our front steps and listen to Ernie call the games. There was excitement that year as the Tigers were in a race to the American League Pennant – we lost the race on the final day of the season to the Red Sox. That first sports heartbreak of my life was relieved the following season, when the Tigers ran away with the Pennant, beating the “Birds” (Baltimore Orioles) by 12 games, and then won the World Series – beating the other “Birds” (St. Louis Cardinals) in seven.

In those two seasons I began to learn the names: Dick McAuliffe, Mickey Stanley, Norm Cash, Jim Price, Bill Freehan, Mickey Lolich, Denny McLain Willie Horton, and Al Kaline. I learned them from Ernie Harwell. I did not learn till decades later that it was Harwell who, with the exception of Kaline, would be the more legendary Detroit Tiger.

Harwell began his broadcasting career in 1943 with the minor-league Atlanta Crackers. He got his major-league debut in 1948 when Branch Rickey* traded a catcher to the Crackers for Harwell’s services in the Dodgers’ broadcast booth. (*Rickey was a MLB pioneer, best known for signing the first African-American, Jackie Robinson, to play MLB.)

For the next 12 years, Harwell would call games for the Dodgers, Giants, Orioles, and the occasional golf tournament or college football game, before joining the Detroit Tigers – where he called games for all but one season between 1960 and 2002.

In addition to being the first, and only, broadcaster to be part of a player trade, Harwell was the first broadcaster inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame (1981). He is in three other Halls of Fame: National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame (1989), The Michigan Sports Hall of Fame (1989), and the Radio Hall of Fame (1998). He is one of the very few sportscasters with a statue at their team’s stadium.

But, more notable than these official honors, the biography very clearly depicts Harwell’s most impressive quality – you just can’t find anyone with a bad word to say about Ernie Harwell. He was loved and/or admired by everyone who met him. He was a Christian gentleman, who took the golden rule literally.
I’m going to try to find somebody who doesn’t like Ernie Harwell. I hope I live long enough to do that because that means I’ll never die. ~ Al Kaline
I can honestly say there is nobody better that I’ve met in all facets of life. He’s a great announcer and a great human being. I miss him. I really do miss him. ~ Alan Trammell

There was one debacle in his career, for which Harwell bears no responsibility. In 1990, Harwell’s long-time broadcasting partner Paul Carey informed management he was going to retire after the 1991 season. Management thought it good time to make a complete change, presumably to attract a younger audience. They offered Harwell a one-year contract, hoping he would accept it and retire gracefully. Harwell however, made it clear that he was in good health and wished to continue broadcasting. Management was firm and put him on notice. When Harwell made a public announcement, stating simply and truthfully that 1991 would be his final season in the Tiger’s booth, not by his own choice, the outcry was immediate and widespread. The Detroit News called it…
…the most flagrant public relations disaster in the history of sports

The station and the team could hardly handle the calls and mail, which ran 97% in support of Harwell. But management only entrenched their position more firmly – or perhaps more stubbornly. After the 1992 season, when Harwell broadcast for the California Angels, the Tigers were purchased by a new owner, who made it his first priority to rehire Harwell, and subsequently to fire the management team that forced his departure. Harwell took the high road throughout, and proved that nice guys don’t always finish last.

Besides reliving the satisfying poetic justice of that incident (I was one of the outraged fans), I had a very personal reaction and moment of pleasure from this book. In the opening chapter, A Gentleman Wronged, the biographer describes that Harwell was encouraged, during the painful events just described, by letters from fans, especially young fans. He quotes from two letters, and then one more…
At that point, [after Harwell was fired] most believed the only way to listen to Harwell calling a Tigers game again would be to listen the way a missionary boy who had left Detroit for Papua, New Guinea, with his family listened. 
Isaac Michaels wrote to Harwell: “I am not able to listen to baseball games over here and so I listen to a tape of an old Tiger game with you broadcasting on it and I still go to bed listening to a Tiger game, just like I did when I was eight or nine years old.”
That young fan, is my wife’s first cousin, whom I have shared Tigers memories with more than once over the years.

Ernie was always ready with advice for aspiring broadcasters. He said there were four things needed to be a good broadcaster
          Have the enthusiasm of a fan
          The reactions of an athlete
          The impartiality of an umpire
          And the background knowledge of a writer

Ernie Harwell was also a poet. Here is a recording of Ernie's golden voice reciting his poem, The Game for All America.

Harwell was known for several catch phrases – part of the glorious color of baseball:
Two for the price of one ~ a double play
Long gone ~ home run
Souvenir caught by the lucky fan from Kalamazoo [Ernie would insert some random Michigan city here] ~ foul ball
And my favorite – he stood there like the house by the side of the road ~ when a batter takes a called strike

And regarding that unfortunate chapter when he was forced to take a year off from calling Tigers games, Harwell simply says…
It doesn’t matter. All that matters is everyone is forgiven.

With this biography, I’ve wrapped up a series of biographies I chose on Detroit Sports legends: Harwell, Tiger great Ty Cobb, Red Wings legend Gordie Howe, Lions champ Bobby Layne, and Pistons star Isiah Thomas.

My edition of Tom Keegan’s biography is autographed by Ernie Harwell. He didn’t sign for me in person; I just bought it, but it is still one of my prized books.

Final note: according to popular legend, Ty Cobb was the most hated man in baseball, and in retirement was reportedly bitter and incorrigible and rarely granted interviews. Harwell however once requested an interview with Cobb and was quickly invited to visit Cobb in his home. Harwell found Cobb courteous and gregarious. 

Oops, one LAST final note: Harwell has a couple literary connections. Fellow Georgian Margaret Mitchell was a customer on Harwell’s boyhood paper route. Harwell’s older brother Dick Harwell was a friend of Mitchell’s and one of her numerous biographers. Much later in life, Ernie and his wife Lulu lived next door to, and occasionally entertained, Erskine Caldwell. And finally, in the movie adaptation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Harwell’s voice can be heard calling the 1963 World Series.


Saturday, August 17, 2019

Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carrol (novel #135)

Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carrol

Oh, Kitty! How nice it would be if we could only get through into the looking glass house! ~ Alice

Through the Looking Glass is the sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It’s more of the same: a children’s story and literary nonsense.

Though calling it nonsense is a bit unfair. There is some very serious stuff, such as the great battle between Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee over a broken rattle. While preparing for battle, Tweedle-Dee remarks…
“You know,” he added very gravely, “it’s one of the most serious things that can possibly happen to one in a battle – to get one’s head cut off.”

But it didn’t wow me. Like Alice in Wonderland, It should be read as a child. I learned a few things though. For starters, most film portrayals of Alice in Wonderland are actually composites of both books. Second, the possible inspiration for Alice – Alice Liddell – is mentioned cryptically in Through the Looking Glass, which concludes with a poem. The first letter of each line of the poem, form an acrostic, spelling out her full name – Alice Pleasance Liddell. Carrol always denied that Liddell was the inspiration for fictional Alice.

We can’t know of course. Regardless, I’m glad to have finally read these classics even if they didn’t appeal to me much as an adult. 

My rating: 3 ½ out of 5 stars

“Well this is grand!” said Alice. “I never expected I should be a Queen so soon – and I’ll tell you what it is, your majesty,” she went on in a severe tone (she was always rather fond of scolding herself), “it’ll never do for you to be lolling about on the grass like that! Queens have to be dignified you know!” ~ Alice – on being made queen in a life-size chess game.


Friday, August 16, 2019

It's So Classic - book tag

It's So Classic

The good folks (I don’t actually know em, but assuming they are) at Rebellious Writing have launched the – It’s So Classic Tag. Not a lot of rules, but I’m gonna break one that is sort of implied: I have to give more than one answer for most of these. I consider the rules more like guidelines.

The Wanderer’s answers:

What is one classic that hasn’t been made into a movie yet, but really needs to?

100 Years of Solitude, I don’t know how it would be done, but I’m sure Ron Howard could figure it out. 

Others: The Catcher in the Rye, Invisible Man, Nostromo, and Lord of the Flies – which has been done, but not well.

What draws you to classics? 
Return on investment. Reading a book is an investment of time. Classics have stood the test of time, and therefore I have confidence my time investment will be rewarded. Classics are the blue chips. More times than not, they give me a return on investment. What is the return? Powerful feelings, exalted thoughts. Reading the book – adds to me. 

What is an underrated classic? 

Dune – because Sci-Fi doesn’t get a lot of love in the classics, and this is the gold standard.

Nostromo – Better than Conrad’s more famous novel in my opinion.

The Man Who was Thursday – I will have to reread this throughout my life, and I doubt I’ll ever comprehend all its meaning.

What is one classic that you didn’t expect to love, but ended up loving anyway? 

All the King’s Men – The synopsis didn’t excite me (political corruption in the South), and it isn’t a happy story, but the intellect, philosophy, and insight of the narrator, Jack Burden made me think and feel.

What is your most favorite and least favorite classic?

After I cringe a little over “most favorite” and then again over “least favorite” (it’s me, it isn’t you), my answers are:

Favorite? Easy – The Lord of the Rings, marvelous, magical escape, yet easily relatable: terror and courage, loyalty and betrayal, sacrifice and greed, epic contests and personal struggles, triumph and tragedy, and love of peace and beauty.

Least favorite – see, now technically that means, pick out my favorites (say top 10), and then which one of them is #10 – the “least” of my favorites. But I think the spirit here is which classic did I most dislike? Easy – Remembrance of Things Past, all 1.2 million words of it.

What is your favorite character from a classic? 

So many: Atticus Finch, Ma Joad, Alyosha Karamazov, Starbuck, Nick Andros, but my hero of heroes: Sydney Carton

Who is your favorite classic author? 
Hmmm…now what precisely does this mean? If LOTR is my favorite classic, must not Tolkien be my favorite classic author? But for me, The Hobbit + LOTR is it for Tolkien. I’ve read his other works; I like em, but they don’t thrill me. However Dickens almost never lets me down. I think that’s a little bit more what this means to me, so I’ll go with Dickens, but I’m gonna put Dickens on notice. I haven’t read much by C. S. Lewis yet, but thus far, he has STUNNED me every time. Do I need to simplify my answer?
Charles Dickens
J. R. R. Tolkien
C. S. Lewis

Relating to newer books, what attributes does a book need to have in order to be worthy of the title “classic”?

In my opinion, a book can’t be a classic until it has stood the test of time. It may be great literature, but “great” and “classic” are not synonymous. I’m not willing to set a time limit, though I’d say it has to be widely ready by more than one generation. So, what qualities in a book today, will make it timeless – destined to be a classic. I’ll get back with you on that one.

I saw this tag first at Reading Backwards and I’ve also read answers at The Edge of the Precipice (they both cheated too btw). I’d be interested to see the answers at: Words and Peace, The Vince Review, Fanda Classiclit, A Great Book Study, Brona's Books, and Classical Carousel, and just so many more

Oh and, today is the Octus textusscriptus anniversaries (8thanniversary) of The Once Lost Wanderer. If you need gift ideas, anything bronze is appropriate for the 8th. Remington statues should do nicely. The End of the Trail is particularly nice.


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol (novel #134)

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carrol                                        illustrated by Arthur Rackham

Alice had begun to think that very few things were really impossible.

…and what is the use of a book,” thought Alice, “without pictures or conversations.


Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, commonly referred to as Alice in Wonderland, is a children’s story and literary nonsense – that’s not a description, but a genre – new one on me.

Though it’s a pretty apt description as well. I really should have read this as a child, though I wouldn’t have – it was decidedly, in my opinion at least, a girl’s book. Still I wish I had read it as a child, just to have a recollection of what I thought of it then, because as an adult I found it rather – meh. 

It’s clever at times, cute at others, and absurd almost entirely. Although, I understand it may be less nonsense than it appears. There are reportedly mathematical concepts throughout, symbolism, and characters possibly mapped to persons great and small from Carrol’s day. Perhaps. I’m not inclined to investigate. 

This all sounds rather critical, and I don’t mean it to. I think Alice’s adventures would probably be a fun diversion for a child. It just didn’t do much for me as a curmudgeon. Did you read Alice in Wonderland as a child? As an Adult? What were your reactions? 

My rating: 3 ½ out of 5 stars

And the book DOES NOT answer the question/riddle posed by the Hatter;
Why is a raven like a writing desk?
And I for one hate riddles without answers. So, let me answer this once and for all: a raven is like a writing desk, because Poe wrote on both. I wish I had solved that myself. I didn’t, but it’s the best answer I’ve heard.