Saturday, September 4, 2021

Six Degrees of Separation: from Second Place to The Pilgrim's Progress

Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly meme hosted by Kate @ booksarmyfavouriteandbest


I usually try to stick to the classics, though that isn’t among the official rules. 


This month’s chain begins with Second Place by Rachel Cusk (haven’t read it). But, as the Olympics just wrapped up last month, second place reminds me of the silver medal, and that reminds me of…


The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier, which I also haven’t read, but it’s in my TBR. And silver reminds me of…


Nostromo by Joseph Conrad, wherein a silver mine is central to the plot. This is a very good novel by the way, better in my opinion than Conrad’s better known novel…


Heart of Darkness, which was adapted to film as Apocalypse Now...a very loose adaptation, with geographic and historical setting completely changed. That reminds me of...

The Tempest by William Shakespeare, because it was also loosely adapted in film as Forbidden Planet. The Tempest has the character Caliban, and that reminds me of…


Vanity Fair by William Thackeray, because one of the characters refers to Caliban. And finally, Vanity Fair reminds me of…


The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, as Thackeray quotes from Pilgrim’s Progress, and of course Vanity Fair, is one of many allegorical settings in Pilgrim’s Progress.




And that’s how you get from Second Place to Pilgrim’s Progress.



Thursday, September 2, 2021

A Medicine for Melancholy and Other Stories by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury is probably best known for his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 (the
one work cited on his tombstone). He was also a versatile short-story author, writing across numerous genres: horror, sci-fi, macabre, and realistic fiction. A Medicine for Melancholy is a collection of some of his short stories. 


I liked the fact that it had a sampling from all of the different genres, but I chose this collection primarily because it contained one story that has haunted me for half century. 


Sometime in my childhood, I read "All Summer in a Day", about adolescent Earth girl, Margot, whose family moved to Venus when she was very young, but not so young that she could not remember the warmth and sunshine of Earth. Margot’s Venus-born classmates dislike her and are incredulous of her Earth stories, because you see, on Venus it rains 24-7. On the day of the story however, there is a weather phenomenon that will result in a 2-hour period of clear skies and sunshine. Even as they prepare for the glorious summer in a day, the children continue to tease Margot, until their teasing escalates to a cruel prank. The rain stops, and they revel in the glorious summer. The rain returns, and...they remember Margot!


Oh, it is so beautifully heart breaking! The children could not, would not understand Margot because her experience was different than their own. And then, when they could know what Margot knew, their empathy came too late. 


Sigh! If only we could…


Medicine for melancholy indeed. The collection is worthwhile for this story alone, but it is filled with numerous gems. The cover depicts “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit”, “A Medicine for Melancholy” is an individual short story, as well as the name of the collection. There is a macabre homage to Edgar Allan Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado called, “Pillar of Fire”. Bradbury is a grand story teller. His elegant prose, at times, feels more like poetry.


I highly recommend him for his novels and short stories.