Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Hobbit

The last time I read The Hobbit must have been back in 6th grade. I feel like I've read it since then, but can't remember when. I definitely remember reading it in 6th grade. The passage that resonates the most is the point where the eagles swoop in and safe Bilbo and the rest from the whargs and goblins who are having a meeting just beneath them in the fields. I don't know why this was so poignant, but I remember distinctly where I was when I read that chapter. Stuck with me all these years.



That being said, much of what is in The Hobbit stuck with me. I appreciated it all so much more this time. I was only reading it because I wanted to read the novel prior to seeing the new movie. Despite my motivation, I loved reading every moment.

I only marked one passage.  Not exactly sure why I marked it. Obviously Tolkien was inputting his theme here, but what's particularly interesting are the ties that line has with the audio book I'm listening to about the rise of Glock. This one:


If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.

Tolkien, J.R.R. - The Hobbit

Knowing why Tolkien wrote the Lord of the Rings trilogy and having read about the misdeeds of Glock, I think it would be quite easy to write another trilogy on the same theme. Same song different century. Great fun to read and reminisce though.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Repost I Completely Agree With

There is a fan in my life who tries to influence me to write humor as well. I demur for the same reasons outlined in this post from The Kill Zone by PJ Parrish entitled Writing Funny.

The snippets I agree with are as follows:

 (A)ny idiot can tell a joke. But very few can tell one for 250 pages. 

I've found, after several days of writing that this is particularly true.

The Vegas Book went into cold storage. We went back to writing our gritty Louis books. Then about a year ago while I was cleaning the office, I found the Vegas Book on an old external drive. Yeah, I opened it. You know what they say about letting your manuscript "bake" a while before you go back in and read it cold, how this will help you rewrite with a clear eye? The Vegas Book had turned into Limburger.

This too I've found to be true whether dealing with humor or with novels in general.

Humor? Well, I shant completely discount it, but until I get the gumption up to try, I'll leave it to the pros. Still it was a good article for anyone who writes.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Morning Again

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I have a penchant for noting, highlighting and re-posting quotes and passages about the morning. I believe that "Morning Quotes" occur far more often in literature than afternoon, evening or mid-morning quotes combined.

To that end I offer this little ditty from the novel I'm reading right now:





The sea was mostly flat, with a slight chop, and high above Arlie could see the sun, a fuzzy pale circle, trying to burn its way through the clouds. Be bright and hot within the hour, he thought.

Clancy, Tom; Blackwood, Grant - Dead or Alive

So, not so much a "Morning Quote" as a nautical quote, maybe I'll need to make that its own catagory, but for now, it's still one more tick in my favor.

Monday, January 28, 2013

BACK!

Sorry it's been so long. I was out skiing with the family for a few days, then last week I spent getting back into work. That being said I ran across a quote that did a lot for me and I hope that anyone reading this who needs a helping hand up, in the form of a motivational quote, will enjoy this.




Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

Calvin Coolidge

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Maybe I Read Too Much

I've started to notice that most of my posts fall into one of three categories  first lines, last lines or book reviews. I'm wondering if I'm reading too much. That being said, I've decided that 2013 is going to be all about the thriller. No more Dickens, no more Christie, no more anything but military style thrillers. There is a reason I'm going all thriller which I'm sure I'll expound on in this space as soon as I finish with all these first lines, last lines, and book reviews. To that end I offer the next first line:



LIGHT TROOPS— Eleven-Bravo light infantrymen, according to the United States Army’s MOS (military occupational specialty) system— are supposed to be “pretty” spit-and-polish troops with spotless uniforms and clean-shaven faces, but First Sergeant Sam Driscoll wasn’t one of those anymore, and hadn’t been for some time. The concept of camouflage often involved more than patterned BDUs. No, wait, they weren’t called that anymore, were they? Now they were called “Army combat uniforms,” ACUs. Same, same. 

Driscoll’s beard was fully four inches long, with enough flecks of white in it that his men had taken to calling him Santa— rather annoying to a man hardly thirty-six years old, but when most of your compatriots were an average of ten years younger than you . . . Oh, well. Could be worse. Could be “Pops” or “Gramps.”

Clancy, Tom; Blackwood, Grant - Dead or Alive

I like Clancy's early works, but have been cautiously hesitant about his later ones. I suspect they're a bit more "fluffy." Still, having read the opening sample before buying I was happy with what I read (perhaps due to the fact it was about some 2nd Battalion Rangers in Afghanistan). Now, a quarter way in, I'm starting to see fluff.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Latest Last Line

Just finished The Hobbit. What a depressing and quick ending!





“The new Master is of wiser kind,” said Balin, “and very popular, for, of course, he gets most of the credit for the present prosperity. They are making songs which say that in his day the rivers run with gold.” 

“Then the prophecies of the old songs have turned out to be true, after a fashion!” said Bilbo. 

“Of course!” said Gandalf. “And why should not they prove true? Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!” 

“Thank goodness!” said Bilbo laughing, and handed him the tobacco-jar.

Tolkien, J.R.R. - The Hobbit

Monday, January 14, 2013

Starting the Week with Serviceable


I ended last week with a first line, I am starting this week with a last line. This one from Explosive Eighteen.

He thought for a moment. “Better,” he finally said. “Warm.” His eyes got dark and soft, and the corners of his mouth tipped into a smile. “Very friendly.” He reached out for me and pulled me into him. “Come here, Cupcake.”

Evanovich, Janet  - Explosive Eighteen


Light, fun (if you know the whole of the story) and endearing (if you have read other books in the series). Not my favorite of the series, and not the most poignant of last lines. Serviceable.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Prelude to a Movie

As I want to go see the movie, I thought I'd bone up on the source material. The last time I read it was in the sixth grade.



In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

Tolkien, J.R.R.- The Hobbit

Just a breezy and light novel compared to the Lord or the Rings. Walk down memory lane.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Been Said (here and there) Before . . . In Fact Just Last Week

It was funny to see this article in the WSJ just a day after having seen this one. It seems like I just discussed the e-reader phenomenon and the resulting withdrawals. What's the point of reading Don't Burn Your Books—Print Is Here to Stay by Nicholas Carr.



There were a couple of reasons. I have pasted two passages below. The first relates to the fact that e-book sells are slowing and declining a bit. I say this is good news. Hopefully, like I wrote in last week's post, this will encourage more aggressive pricing. Hopefully, we'll see a swing back down in the prices for mainstream novels on Amazon.

Half a decade into the e-book revolution, though, the prognosis for traditional books is suddenly looking brighter. Hardcover books are displaying surprising resiliency. The growth in e-book sales is slowing markedly. And purchases of e-readers are actually shrinking, as consumers opt instead for multipurpose tablets. It may be that e-books, rather than replacing printed books, will ultimately serve a role more like that of audio books—a complement to traditional reading, not a substitute.

This second passage is interesting for different reasons. I've seen this in practice and in my daily life. I'll run around to people constantly talking about how much I love my Kindle. I was an early adopter. I didn't mean to be, but thanks to the wife, I was. I loved traditional books. LOVED EM! I never wanted an e-reader. Then I gave it a try and I can't look back. It's not that I don't want to look back. I can't. I've tried. I love that e-reader too much to go back.

The initial e-book explosion is starting to look like an aberration. The technology's early adopters, a small but enthusiastic bunch, made the move to e-books quickly and in a concentrated period. Further converts will be harder to come by. A 2012 survey by Bowker Market Research revealed that just 16% of Americans have actually purchased an e-book and that a whopping 59% say they have "no interest" in buying one.

Personally I doubt we've reached the pinnacle of demand for e-reader. They'll continue to evolve and find new markets (see the graphic that I found at http://dvice.com/archives/2010/01/skiff-takes-e-r.php). But unlike the media maven quoted in the article, I am not going to predict the death of the traditional book by 2015. That's just silliness.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Just Finished David Copperfield


Last year I made it a point to read more “commitment” book. Two years ago I made a commitment to read more Charles Dickens’ works. David Copperfield I think fulfills these requirements.



I’ve read David Copperfield before, but I read it in high school when you gloss over much of it and read the Cliff’s Notes to help get through the quizzes. It’s a different animal when it’s read for fun. That being said, I watched David Copperfield on Masterpiece Theater where they had Daniel Radicliff as the young Trot, and Maggie Smith as Aunt Betsy. It was nice to read this sucker with some of those characters in mind. It took me a bit longer than I expected to wade through it, but when I saw the progress bar on my Kindle compared to some other “commitment” books I’ve read (Shogun, Red Storm Rising, Armageddon) I realized it wasn’t so much my reading speed, but that it was much much longer than I remembered.

I noted a couple of passages that I particularly loved. The first was the description of the house where he was born. I liked “giants whispering secrets” line.

The evening wind made such a disturbance just now, among some tall old elm-trees at the bottom of the garden, that neither my mother nor Miss Betsey could forbear glancing that way. As the elms bent to one another, like giants who were whispering secrets, and after a few seconds of such repose, fell into a violent flurry, tossing their wild arms about, as if their late confidences were really too wicked for their peace of mind, some weatherbeaten ragged old rooks'-nests, burdening their higher branches, swung like wrecks upon a stormy sea.

Then this description about how he ate his meals when he came home to live with his step-father. Sounds excruciating.

What meals I had in silence and embarrassment, always feeling that there were a knife and fork too many, and that mine; an appetite too many, and that mine; a plate and chair too many, and those mine; a somebody too many, and that I! What evenings, when the candles came, and I was expected to employ myself, but, not daring to read an entertaining book, pored over some hard-headed, harder-hearted treatise on arithmetic; when the tables of weights and measures set themselves to tunes, as 'Rule Britannia', or 'Away with Melancholy'; when they wouldn't stand still to be learnt, but would go threading my grandmother's needle through my unfortunate head, in at one ear and out at the other! What yawns and dozes I lapsed into, in spite of all my care; what starts I came out of concealed sleeps with; what answers I never got, to little observations that I rarely made; what a blank space I seemed, which everybody overlooked, and yet was in everybody's way; what a heavy relief it was to hear Miss Murdstone hail the first stroke of nine at night, and order me to bed! Thus the holidays lagged away, until the morning came when Miss Murdstone said: 'Here's the last day off!' and gave me the closing cup of tea of the vacation.

There were several quick analogies. This one dealing with Ham Peggotty.

Peggotty meant her nephew Ham, mentioned in my first chapter; but she spoke of him as a morsel of English Grammar.

Then these dealing with Uriah. I think Uriah isn’t half so evil as the movies and the descriptions make him out to be.  

I caught a glimpse, as I went in, of Uriah Heep breathing into the pony's nostrils, and immediately covering them with his hand, as if he were putting some spell upon him.

Then this one just a page later.

I observed that his nostrils, which were thin and pointed, with sharp dints in them, had a singular and most uncomfortable way of expanding and contracting themselves—that they seemed to twinkle instead of his eyes, which hardly ever twinkled at all.

This one though might be my favorite. Dickens uses this one when describing a fight David had with the butcher and his recollection just before he gets knocked out.

The preliminaries are adjusted, and the butcher and myself stand face to face. In a moment the butcher lights ten thousand candles out of my left eyebrow.

Finally there is this one, also in the running for favorite. David’s description of his apartment while he is reelingly drunk.

 The whole building looked to me as if it were learning to swim; it conducted itself in such an unaccountable manner, when I tried to steady it.

Really though for me the character who makes this book is Aunt Betsy. From her Donkey hating to her abrupt, superior manner, she is the most fun character to read. When she came onto the page I read with more verve and attention. Wish she’d been the whole of the book. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

First Line Right Now

Just coming off a "commitment book" so naturally I'll want to follow that with a trash book. The selection? Explosive Eighteen by Janet Evanovich.



NEW JERSEY WAS 40,000 FEET below me, obscured by cloud cover. Heaven was above me, beyond the thin skin of the plane. And hell was sitting four rows back. Okay, maybe hell was too strong. Maybe it was just purgatory.

Evanovich, Janet - Explosive Eighteen

Perhaps it's not fair to call it trash, but when bracketed by Charles Dickens, I'm not sure what to call it.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Last Line Last Read

This is the last line that I last read. It comes from Charles Dickens' David Copperfield, the latest of my "commitment books."



And now, as I close my task, subduing my desire to linger yet, these faces fade away. But one face, shining on me like a Heavenly light by which I see all other objects, is above them and beyond them all. And that remains. 

I turn my head, and see it, in its beautiful serenity, beside me. 

My lamp burns low, and I have written far into the night; but the dear presence, without which I were nothing, bears me company. 

O Agnes, O my soul, so may thy face be by me when I close my life indeed; so may I, when realities are melting from me, like the shadows which I now dismiss, still find thee near me, pointing upward!

Dickens, Charles- David Copperfield

Great last line. Love the fact that Agnes replaced Dora by the end. A bit of a soap opera? Sure. But we all need that sometimes.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Niche E-Readers

There is an interesting article today in the WSJ entitled The E-Reader Revolution: Over Just as It Has Begun? by Greg Bensinger that struck a chord with me.

Just last night as I finished reading a novel that I enjoyed, I was casting about for the next book. I ran to my computer to browse the choices, eventually settled on one and when I went to bed Pop! there was the book all ready to go on my Kindle.

Now, as an owner of both a Kindle and an iPad, I can attest that the Kindle has severe limitations. It is just for reading, but still, I like that sucker. It's light, easy, no frills, durable and the battery life is second to none. That being said I've made ample use of the iPad as both an e-reader and a tablet computer and have been quite thankful for having that capability, particularly when travelling.

Will e-readers become a niche product? The question is moot. They already are and have been for several years.




The non-mooted question I have is this: will the prices of books on e-readers come back down or settle more or are we seeing the prices we are stuck with. The prices for e-readers are phenomenally low. 

The prices for books on my kindle have never been so high. I went to buy a new book by a well known author and found that it was going to cost almost 25 dollars for the e-book. I’ve railed about this before, specifically in these posts and these posts, and I don’t begrudge publishers and authors for using the free market to their advantage, but I’d like to see someone come along and discount their older works more. Why should I pay the same price for books of differing ages? How bout a scale that bottoms out at 3.99 for all books over ten years old. I know I know the price is what the market will bare, but I sure think I’d be more apt to purchase some of those older works if they were more aggressively priced. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Thinking Outside the Box

I read with growing disappointment, as none of my favorite authors were mentioned, this article entitled  As Trash Goes, Authors' Clutter in the Right Hands Is Very Bankable in the WSJ by Barry Newman. It's a fun article to read, more fun I'm sure if your favorite authors are Faulkner, Philip Roth or Ronlyn Domingue. It discusses how the flotsam and jetsam of an authors life are treated and sold after they die.

The passage that caught my eye I have pasted below. It's not that I particularly like Rushdie, but the fact that he let Emory sort his own mess was particularly ingenious, especially in that he later used it for his own ends.

Emory University, 65 miles away in Atlanta, can. In 2006, for an undisclosed amount, Salman Rushdie sold it 200 "falling apart, crappy cardboard boxes," as he said at the collection's opening in 2010. After Emory's archivists put his "mess" in order, Mr. Rushdie capitalized on their tidiness to research his own 2012 memoir.

Thankfully, worrying about my own detritus and how it will be treated once I pass is not a concern I carry around with me day to day.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Holy Cow Moments


There are times when I stop and say “Holy Cow!” when I read. Today was one such time.

I knew when I got about a quarter of the way through David Copperfield that I was highlighting so many passages that I would have to break this book up into several reviews and posts, so I’m not surprised that this post it coming out today. I just didn’t know till last night . . . the Holy Cow incident . . . that I knew that this passage(s) would speak so soundly to me and I would want to post them.

First though, I should mention that I find the most infuriating aspect of this book to be the relationship between Trot and his wife Dora. Even worse is this than Uriah Heep’s mechanization  or Steerforth’s making off with Little Emily underneath the nose of Ham, so this is probably why this passage affected me. I just don’t like this woman! I find it hard reading the chapters that include Dora. Just irritating.




The old unhappy feeling pervaded my life. It was deepened, if it were changed at all; but it was as undefined as ever, and addressed me like a strain of sorrowful music faintly heard in the night. I loved my wife dearly, and I was happy; but the happiness I had vaguely anticipated, once, was not the happiness I enjoyed, and there was always something wanting.

Then later he writes:



'There can be no disparity in marriage, like unsuitability of mind and purpose.' Those words I remembered too. I had endeavoured to adapt Dora to myself, and found it impracticable. It remained for me to adapt myself to Dora; to share with her what I could, and be happy; to bear on my own shoulders what I must, and be happy still. This was the discipline to which I tried to bring my heart, when I began to think. It made my second year much happier than my first; and, what was better still, made Dora's life all sunshine.

Dickens, Charles- David Copperfield

Now, anyone reading this cold will probably wonder "Why do I care?" or "Why am I reading this silly person's silly post on his silly blog" and had I not been in the midst of reading the novel I'd agree. However, in toto, this sucker is stark and pseudo-life changing not just for Trot but for the reader as well.