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 Welsh
Hotspur: I had rather hear Lady, my brach Howl in Irish
Lady Percy: Woulds’t thou have thy head broken? 
Hotspur: No 
Lady 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)

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

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

Alice, on being made queen in a life-size chess game.

“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!”


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 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?
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.


The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe

The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus 

God forbade it, indeed; but Faustus hath done it…

This play, often referred to simply as Dr. Faustus, is a tragedy, by English playwright, Christopher Marlowe, late 16thcentury.

It is the story of learned Dr. Faustus, who disdains his conventional education and turns to dark texts.

          Ay, these are those that Faustus most desires.
          O, what a world of profit and delight,
          Of power, of honour, of omnipotence,
          Is promis’d to the studious artisan!
          All things that move between the quiet poles
          Shall be at my command: emperors and kings
          Are but obeyed in their several provinces,
          Nor can they raise the wind, or rend the clouds;
          But his dominion that exceeds in this,
          Stretcheth as far as doeth the mind of man;
          A sound magician is a mighty god:
          Here, Faustus, tire thy brains to gain a deity.

Faustus often speaks to himself, and refers to himself in first person.

I’m not certain, but Marlowe may be the creator of the well used trope of the devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other, as Dr. Faustus is often visited by a good angel and an evil angel. When they find him reading of the dark arts, the good angel warns:

          O, Faustus, lay that damned book aside,
          And gaze not on it, lest it tempt thy soul
          And heap God’s heavy wrath upon thy head!
          Read the scriptures:  – that is blasphemy.

          This word “damnation” terrifies not him,

Dr. Faustus sells his soul to the devil in exchange for 24 years of power and prestige. One of Lucifer’s chief lieutenants, Mephistophilis, is put at Dr. Faustus disposal. When Faustus questions that fallen angels must not be condemned to Hell, because after all – here is Mephistophilis free from hell, the demon responds:

          Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it:
          Think’st thou that I, who saw the face of God,
          And tasted the eternal joys of heaven,
          Am not tormented with ten thousand hells,
          In being deprived of everlasting bliss?

At the end of the 24 years, as midnight, the hour of reckoning approaches, Faustus of course regrets his choice but finds
          But Faustus’ offence can ne’er be pardoned…

I was surprised by this short play. I expected Marlowe, educated, intellectual, and atheist to use the play to mock Christianity and make Faustus something like a hero, but no.

Marlow is knowledgeable of Christianity’s tenets, and treats them respectfully – almost, dare I say, reverently. Faustus is indeed portrayed as the fool, who gained the world, and lost his soul.
God forbade it, indeed; but Faustus hath done it: for vain pleasure of  twenty-four years hath Faustus lost eternal joy and felicity.

I read this for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2019: a classic play

Faustian legend is based on the German alchemist, astrologer, and magician Johann Georg Faust, of the 15-16th centuries. Numerous writers have told a version of the legend, but Marlowe's play is perhaps the most well known. They vary greatly in details, but the common premise is a man who compromises his morals, ethics, or mortal soul in exchange for worldly fame, fortune, and pleasure.


Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (novel #133)

My way of life, my plans, ambitions, every expectation I had had, they were all wiped out at a stroke, along with the conditions that had formed them.

The Day of the Triffids is a post-apocalyptic, sci-fi novel set in England, mid 1950s. A meteor shower leaves nearly all the earth’s human population blinded – all but a small remnant like the hero, and first person narrator, Bill Masen who was recovering from eye surgery the fateful night of the meteor shower. Artificially blinded by his bandages, Bill awakens to a world that makes no sense to his remaining senses.
When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere. ~ opening line

Bill, slowly comprehends what has happened. The unfolding horror is exacerbated by a second, and seemingly unrelated cataclysm – triffids – a mobile, poisonous, and apparently sentient plant species turns aggressive and carnivorous.

Man – is no longer the dominant species on the planet. 

There are others, like Bill, spared by freak circumstance, including of course a beautiful, young, slightly needy, but strong-willed woman. The sighted survivors are faced with three dilemmas: forming groups (there are conflicting visions of the future state of human civilization); what to do with the blind (trying to help them may only impede rebuilding society); and exterminating the triffids, though some were resigned to mankind’s new role – that of prey, seeking merely to survive.

Bill, and others choose to hope.
…perhaps they were at the beginning of something, after all, rather than at the end of everything.

I was excited to read this thriller as classics do not include a lot of sci-fi or horror. Plus, I thought the premise was intriguing, and I was very quickly rewarded. Wyndham doesn’t waste time setting things up. Through Bill, the reader must slowly, but immediately make sense of a world gone mad. 

I was quickly rewarded, but in the end a bit disappointed. I wasn’t disappointed with the ending, which leaves the fate of humanity still in doubt, but rather with how Wyndham got to that end. It felt as if he tired of his own story. After the first half or more of the book covered a few days, then a few weeks, some of the final chapters cover years in a few paragraphs. There was just so much that Wyndham could have delved deeper. It’s a great story, but for me, poorly told especially the second half. Wyndham used the novel to promote a distinct world view or political agenda, but he was pretty subtle, so I don’t object. Even fictional characters must have opinions after all, and it would be a boring world of literature if they were all the same as my own.

My rating: 3 1/2 of 5 stars

There are parts of the story very reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove (one male, with multiple female mates for rapid repopulation) and Stephen King’s The Stand (the sudden culling of humanity).

This is the first time I’ve read The Day of the Triffids or John Wyndham. Have you read this novel…this author? What did you think?


Thursday, August 8, 2019

War, What's it Good For

We all know that the original title of Tolstoy’s most famous work was War: What’s it Good For? and that it was only at the urging of his wife Sophia that it was changed to War and Peace.
However, this is not the only literary masterpiece that had the title changed from the author’s original intent. I wonder, if these works would have been as successful with their original titles?

PUBLISHED AS                                     ORIGINAL TITLE
War and Peace                                       War, What’s it Good For?
Gone with The Wind                               Well, That Just Happened
To Kill a Mockingbird                              People with Weird First Names
The Count of Monte Cristo                     I’m Gonna get you Sucka
The Lord of the Rings                            More About Hobbits
Anna Karenina                                       Triumph and Tragedy
Les Misérables                                       Les Comfortables
Death Comes for the Archbishop           Do You Know the Way to Santa Fe?
The Catcher in the Rye                          The Hatefulness of Cheap Suitcases
Animal Farm                                           Pigs 
Moby Dick                                              The Tale of the Essex…sort of
Ulysses                                                  An Arcane Retelling of The Odyssey
On the Road                                          The Odyssey
Remembrance of Things Past               The Longest Book You’ll Ever Read 
                                                              (except you won’t)

* No, not really