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Posts tagged ‘Classic Club’

The Spinning Story

I know, I know, the path to hell is paved with good intentions! 2019 was supposed to be the year, I read more and post more! In fact in spirit of unrivaled ambition and complete disassociation from reality, I chose a 100 books as a Reading Goal on my Good Reads. Half a year has since passed by and I am so behind, that the word “catch -up” is something that can only tickle my funny bone!

In a year of dismal reading record, the one thing that I am proud of is that I was able to participate in the 20th Classic Club Spin Read and what’s more, surprise, surprise, I was able to complete my spin book well within the timelines; though the blog post, as usual is late! I had a very “Quixotic” list this year and I cannot honestly say, I was looking forward with enthusiasm. However, the spin number turned out to be a good number and I got James Michener’s Pulitzer Prize winning classic – Tales of the South Pacific as my Spin book.

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Tales of South Pacific is a series of short stories or novellas, related with a character or an event and was published in 1947. The stories were based on Michener’s own World War II experience in the South Pacific and the stories are all fiction, steeped in real life events, based on the author’s observation and experience during his stay there. The stories deal with a variety of aspects that the US armed forces stationed in the island had to deal with – from the harsh realities of war, where death is inevitable and expected to the emotional aspects, of loves found and lost and friendships that survive the worst possible tests! The Cave , is a description of an action that happened in islands and where US Navy triumphed with of an English informer who infiltrated into the heart of Japanese military base and was later caught and killed. Mutiny traces the lives of the descendants of the infamous, Mutiny on HMS Bounty and their effort to save the natural habitat of the islands from the US Navy as the latter try and build a landing strip for the aircrafts that was vital for the success of the war in the region. An Officer and a Gentleman, looks at the loneliness and emotional desert that some of the officers felt and the many ways that they tried to conquer it, not always in the best manner or conduct. Stories like The Heroine, Fo’ Dolla, and Those Who Fraternize are all love stories that takes on the questions of color, acceptance and challenging the set norm, in times when old prejudices were slowly being dismantled by a world that had gone of the hinge. There poignant tales of courage and valour like The Aristrip at Konora and the happy memories that help keep sailors hold on to reality, like Frisco.

I can understand, why the book won a Pulitzer. It gave a brutal, honest and somewhat emotional narrative of a war, from which the US and the World was just recovering. It challenged the set status quo of class and color and privileges and sang the songs of a new World Order, which the Dumbarton Oaks Conference was supposed to achieve in the form of United Nations.  This book is all of that and then some! This was Michener’s first book and the unique narrative style that he would pioneer over other novels, like The Source, Alaska and Texas, was put down in paper for the first time. Short stories linked with one event or character came into being in the Tales of South Pacific. But it is not just the narrative style and the subject which makes this book a great read, it is the characters whom he brings to life, with all their nobleness and frailty that captures the readers imagination and makes them relate to them, admire them and sometimes, disparage them as well. The author’s thorough understanding of the Military affairs and conduct, comes through in every story, bringing authenticity and history to act as strong pillars to the stories. The  author captures the tiny detail of the people, the heat, the lack of facilities and the make do efforts to bring some semblance of comfort in the harshest conditions, and makes for the very heart of the book! While not all stories are all at par, most are and the last few tales especially bring out the brilliance of the author as he captures, in a moving and heart-breaking style, the unnecessary loss of lives of good men and women, in a war that makes little sense! 

To end, I believe in later years, James Michener produced a much higher degree of fiction, especially in novels like Caravan and The Source. However, the Tales of South Pacific is a must read for an honest, authentic and powerful story of World War II

 

And The Spin # is …..

The Classic’s Club has spun the number and it is 19! 19 seems like an odd number; excuse the pun, but we get #1, #8 or even #20 but never #19. So it’s very interesting to get a 19! This per my list, makes me read Tales of South Pacific by James Michener.

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I must own I am very very relieved to get this book and not something like The Rigveda, which is tremendously difficult to understand and takes a lot of time and concentrated focus, or so people who have read the book tell me. However, Michener can be a bit of a unpredictable read as well. I loved his  The Source and Caravan, both go into my all time favorite and not be missed lists; he has also written Sayonara, which is the most ridiculous piece of writing to come from an author as brilliant as him. I also have his Alaska, which with all my heartfelt sincere attempts have still not been able to finish and it lies next to my bed side table, with a bookmark accusingly sticking out from page 237. Also as I was discussing with Brona, all his books are chunksters, so tackling them anyway, is a challenge. Having said all of this, the fact still remains that when Michener gets it right, he writes what can only be described as deep, insightful and heart rendering books! I am hoping Tales of the South Pacific will be one of them. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948 and there is that la-de-da musical as well, but neither is a guarantee of the novel’s actual power. Many Pulitzer’s have failed to actually keep their promise, atleast to me and I often wonder, why they were rated so high. As far as the musical is concerned, well, the lesser said the better! I guess, I will find out soon enough! The book arrives today and I have per the rules till May 31st to finish it and I am hoping to do that sooner than that, as I have as always, bitten more than I can chew.

Cleo, my soul sister and my friend, who inspires me to do all great and crazy things is also participating in the Spin and her #19 is like va-va-voom interesting. It’s A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland and A Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides by Samuel Johnson and James Boswell. This is an outstanding classic and our lives are replete with quotes and phrases from Johnson and Boswell. No way, could I pass this up. It’s too complicated for me to read alone and I would have needed some proding. Well, someone heard my prayers, and now I am buddy reading with Cleo on this. I need help!

To end, the die is now cast and I have books to be read! I am super excited to be part of the Spin again and realize now, how much I missed it! Without further ado, then, let’s read! Happy Spinning all!

The Archbishop of New Mexico

Yet another late post; a book that should have been read & reviewed in April, finally trundles into mid May and I go with the philosophy, that truly, some things are better late than never! As part of The Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge, an event hosted by Adam, Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather, was my TBR book for April, and though I managed to finish the novel within the month, but just never got to posting a book review!

Death Comes

Death Comes for the Archbishop chronicles the life and works of Archbishop Bishop Jean Marie Latour and his Vicar, Joseph Vaillant , as they attempt to establish a Catholic Diocese, in the newly captured New Mexico territory of United States. The novel begins with the Bishop and the Priest travelling from Ohio though difficult terrain to establish their Diocese in New Mexico. After some initial setbacks, including a trip that took a year and on arriving, realizing that the local Mexican Clergy, refuse to recognize the authority of Jean Marie Latour, the two worthy settle down to tame the wild elements of the Church which so far had been in lackadaisical fashion managed by the Mexican priests, and bring true piety and relief to the inhabitants, whether European or American or Indians. Over the years, they develop friendships with the local Indian leaders as well the American Businessman and Mexican Ranchers; they rescue an abused woman from the tyranny of a violent husband and convince yet another, to give up on her pride and declare her true age, so that she does not lose her wealth. They try and overcome the acrimony that exists between the local Mexican Priests and the new wave of leaders that Vatican was sending forth and enable the building of  a Romanesque Church. Finally they both end their days, in this land, Father Valliant pre-deceasing Father Latur, as the Bishop of Colorado. Father Latur now retired chooses to stay in New Mexico instead of returning to his homeland in France, dying in the company and service of the people with whom he worked and whose devotion to him till the end was unstinting and complete.

Ms. Cather remains as usual her brilliant self. The dry, difficult land of New Mexico, with its parallel institutions of the Indians, Mexicans and Americans cultures and politics comes alive in this slim novel. In sparse, but succinct prose, Ms. Cather manages to convey, not just the atmosphere, but also the depth of the characters and their past history, all the while, moving the plot along, in such magnificent manner, that leaves you in awe both as a reader and a writer. The lives of Father Latur & Father Valliant, Wikipedia, advises is based on the life and times of Jean-Baptiste Lamy & Joseph Projectus Machebeuf respectively and I am not sufficiently well read to comment on how true to life the portrayals are; however in the characters of Father Latur & Father Valliant, Ms. Cather, created the epitome of spiritual leaders, who like all humans were beset with doubts and weaknesses, but still lead their people, providing comfort, support and spiritual guidance as and when needed, with minimum interference and with a lot of respect for different cultures and practices. The ensemble cast is equally good, providing much needed “materialistic” and “earthy” props to the religious/spiritual narrative of the main protagonists. The thing that really stands about Ms. Cather’s writings is her sense of humanity; writing in 1927, she made it clear in her quiet writing style that the government’s practices against the Navajos, who were exiled to the Bosque Redondo, killing many of its population was unacceptable and defined the very principles of humanity! To end, I can only say, this is a beautiful, lyrical book, that seems to sings songs of the land and lives of the New Mexico Deserts!

Holiday Hangover, April Reading and Therapy…

Hello! Hello! I am back! And while I am overjoyed to be back in the world of cyberspace and virtual interactions, I must say, I soooooo do not look forward to the Monday! But that is a bridge that I will cross and dream of August again! Where was I you ask? (Even if you did not, please humor me…I am suffering from a really bad case of holiday hangovers!) I was away for last one week from the madding crowd, to the magnificent Himalayas, specifically the Dhauladhar Range,  or the White Range and I spent the first half in an artisan village, and the second half in the city of His Holiness Dalai Lama. This is perhaps one of the most beautiful places on earth and it was one of the best holidays ever! Be rest assured, that  I will share photos and adventures soon!  Yes! Those are the joys of blogging companionship!;)

For now however, April is here and considering the amount of reading I am taking on each month, I have started maintaining a Reading Journal, just so I remember what I have to read and how much I have to read and how many books at a glance are in my TBR, atleast the ones on Kindle! Just so I start getting some more discipline in not only my reading but also my book buying spree. I am not sure if this will work, but I will keep you all posted!

Now, considering I was on holiday during a significant holiday portion of March, I manage to stick to reading plan pretty well, except I did not read the fictions that I had charted out including Up the Country by Emily Eden, The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel and The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe, because I was busy reading about Tibet! Since I was planning to do some serious cultural exploration of the Tibetan lives during my vacation, it made sense to read up some stuff but I may have gone on an overdrive!  But now I know much more beyond the Chinese annexation of 1951 and, for a somber moment, it is not a happy thought that a culture is passing away and hundred of Tibetans are dying with it while the world looks on! I will re-visit this later for sure!

For the April reading, there is an urgent need like I mentioned to discipline and close on everything that I already have and finish the open tasks! I am yet to complete my March Play, The Man Born to be King by Dorothy Sayers and since I did not want to add on more complications, I decided to mix my Drama Reading for April with my Reading England effort, this time covering Warwickshire and am going to read As You Like It by the Great Bard of England, William Shakespeare. Again because I have couple of books stemming from March, I decided to roll in Classic Club Spin#12 and Women’s Classical Literature Reading Event for the month and read Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cather. The April theme for 12 month Reading Challenge is “A classic you’ve seen the movie/miniseries/TV show of” and I read The Murders at Rue Morgue by Edgar Allen Poe. I have seen the 1983 made for television film recently and I was not very impressed, but I will read the book with an open mind and then decide on the matter! Finally, Ali is holding a Mary Hocking Reading Event and as both she and Jane have words of high praise about Mary Hocking’s works and since I really really appreciate their insights, which has led me to reading some brilliant works, I will for sure join this one reading event – Good Daughters by Mary Hocking!

My serial readings continue as before – I continue to read The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien with Cleo as part of my Lecito List and have now moved to The Twin Towers. I also hope to finish Metamorphoses by Ovid; I am down to the last two books and I really need to complete it before I move on to what I consider my reading albatross. For the next couple of months I will be reading The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser with Cleo, O, Ruth and many others . I read TFQ in college and did not like it at all. But I am hoping for a better experience this time, but for now I see it as an albatross! On the brighter side of things, I continue with the Pickwick Paper by Charles Dickens Read Along and I am beginning to really enjoy the work as well the way we are reading it! Finally Cleo again leads me into all these reading temptations and I have surrounded to them (completely my choice and my will)  after a long fight (actually no fight at all!) with them –  I am reading The Histories by Herodotus as well as 1 poetry a week for the National Poetry Month!

I know I need therapy! I wonder if there some kind of recovery program for the book reading obsessed! Do let me know if you find one….until then I am off to read!

 

Traveling in Time

The Classic Club announced its Classic Club is doing Spin#11 and I came up with The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. Wells has been on my TBR for sometime and I was really happy to finally get the right inspiration to read his work.  I got hold of the book and was surprised to see that it was less than a 100 pages; but then most adventure novels of that era were slim reads ( King Soloman’s Mine to cite an example ) and thought it would be an easy read. However I did discover that, do not judge a book by its cover and what appears may not be a true reflection of what is and all those homilies can very much be applied to The Time Machine!

The novel opens with a gathering of gentleman at the Time Travelers house, where the latter introduces them to the Time Machine, which he has invented. To further understand and discuss the machine he has invented, the Time Traveler invites them for dinner next week. The group meets on the appointed day, but there host is missing. While they are about to finish the dinner, the Time Traveler finally staggers in with torn clothes and a bruised appearance and declares that he had traveled to AD 802,701 and narrates to story of the future of the earth. He tells them of two races that inhabit the future earth, the beautiful, simple childlike Eloi and the dark and ape like creatures that stay in the subterranean regions of the earth, called Morlocks. He tells the group how he had found himself stranded in the future and how his time machine had been hidden away and he shares his efforts to befriend these creatures and his efforts to finally get back to his own era, and the tragedy that was the price for this tryst.

The novel is  for sure a Victorian adventure tale, very much in spirit of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, King Soloman’s Mine and such like. It is in essence as stiff upper lip as it gets as the British narrator assess his situation and takes action that would for sure impress Her Majesty, the Great Queen Victoria. In terms of plot construction, the story is very linear and it follows the usual pattern of introduction, discovery, crisis and the end. However the concept of Time Machine in 1894 was in itself an originality and an innovation that H.G.Wells  richly deserves all the credit. The concept of Time Travel though something bandied about very commonly today, was unique concept, when Wells wrote his novella. There is much to be said about the author’s imagination as creates a world of Eloi and Morlocks as well the variations of earth in future that the time traveler stops at before finally reaching back to his own time. There is a sense of dread and darkness and fear in the narrative as well as a distinctly humane tone as the author gently tells us that the creatures of the future are  the culmination of all the actions of the man, partly good and partly bad. The only problem is the boyish adventure tone in which the hustle and bustle of Great Britain meets the dysptopian world. The very English prep school narration seems incongruous with the dark and creepy future world. There are times when the plot sags and there is just too much of discovering this and discovering that….one of the main reasons, why the book lay on my bedside for more than a month after the initial pages had been read!

Overall, its a good novel, but not a great literature. It deserves it cult status because of the uniqueness of the concepts rather than any literary brilliance.

 

A Spining Book and a Swinging Song…..

Monday 5It’s been an awfully long Monday and there were times when I thought that the hour will just not pass! Naturally I am completely exhausted (It’s a Monday…I mean you live 20 times your average stressed day on Monday, on account of it being what it is – a Monday!! Ok!! I know that I need to REST!!) I will make this post short and hopefully sweet.

The Classic Club has finally spun for the last time for 2014 and come up with of all the numbers – 13. My 13 was My Antonia by Willa Cather. I am both overjoyed and apprehensive – I have been planning to read Willa Cather for some time and never really got around to doing it. This Spin seems to once again motivate me into reading something; I was not quite sure off. Besides, coming off from my recent experience with Elizabeth Gaskell “Mary Barton – I am quite hopeful about this being a good read, despite the very dreary blurb!! (I must dedicate one whole post on book blurbs…they are increasing becoming critical in how I may not judge a book! But that’s a story for another day!) My apprehension is the geography – Russian Siberia and American Frontier has always been a geographical bug bearer for me. I have no idea where I picked up such a ludicrous idea, but I do have it now and am kinda stuck with it. All things going well, Ms. Cather should be able to change my mind about the American Frontier at the very least!

Anyhow I will sign off here and because I promised something sweet, I want to share with you all a song my grandmother used to play to chase away my Monday blues (especially when I would be joining school on Monday after a lengthy and absolutely pampering vacation at Grandma’s place!!) Hope you all enjoy – Monday is almost over! Cheers!

 

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