Inspired by a diary

I’ve decided to skip Huckleberry Finn and instead read another classic novel, the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle.

I recently listened to a special on NPR about Arthur Conan Doyle’s journals being published for the first time in a book called Dangerous Work: Diary of an Arctic Adventure. One of the editors, Jon Lellenberg discussed it on the broadcast, Doyle’s early influences and the story of how he ended up on an Arctic Whaling Ship at the age of 20.

“The only difference in the weather is that the fog is thicker and the wind more utterly odious and depraved,” says Jon as he quotes from Doyle’s diary written in 1880, years before his first Holmes novel.

I stumbled upon this book at Barnes and Noble after minutes of precarious searching, turns out it’s in the Nature section. I opened it’s wide pages and surprisingly found actual scanned copies and sketches from Doyle’s diary; I started reading through his barely legible text.  I fell upon a passage where he arrives at a port city, “Passed the skerry light, and came down to Lerwick but did not get into the harbour as we are in a hurry to catch the tide at Peterhead, so there goes all my letters, papers and everything else. A girl was seen at the lighthouse waving a handkerchief and all hands were called to look at her. The first woman we have seen for half a year.”

Clearly, although he’s only 20, you can already see very powerful storytelling capabilities emerging in the way he describes his voyage. I have to be honest, it impressed me; I couldn’t wait to start reading his developed narrative about the detective Sherlock Holmes. And lucky for me, behind the tall bookcase in the nature section sat the entire series of Sherlock Holmes in one book on the corner shelf of the bargain section. Sorry Kindle, sometimes I need to feel the weight of a book in my hands.

I do plan on eventually reading Dangerous Work: Diary of an Arctic Adventure. And don’t worry you don’t have to cipher through his handwriting, there’s a transcript in the back.

Looking forward to reading through the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and blogging about it. I’ve gotten through a few of the cases already as I can’t seem to put the book down.

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Moby-Dick; or, The Whale

Another one of those books we can all quote from and make obscure references to, although we’ve never actually cracked open a copy: Moby-Dick, the Moby Dick of classic literature. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself)

Moby-Dick offers a very simple and straightforward plot. It starts with a lost, young man named Ishmael who wanders about a port city with a hopeless dream, to sail from Nantucket on a whaling ship; he believes it’s his destiny. It’s not long before he confides in a savage and cannibal named Queequeg. They soon become good friends and register for the same whaling ship, the Pequod. The rest of the novel takes place at sea, where we meet Captain Ahab, the main protagonist and his obsession with revenge on a whale named Moby Dick.

Clearly and undoubtedly, Moby-Dick displays the intellect and imagination of the writer Herman Melville, one of the many similarities between the classics I’ve read so far. But is it the swashbuckling sea story we all imagine it to be? Well, in my opinion, no. It describes whales and the process of whaling in great detail which becomes very daunting. So much at times to the point of sympathy for the narrator for being so passionate and persuasive about a topic that few people wish to know. And while the novel provides adventure, it lacks action.

However, with all that said, I’m glad I read the book and I’m not saying that to just say “I read Moby-Dick.” There were times of great prose and reflection. The fascinating research that went into its writing awed me; the poetic language left me feeling mysteriously content; the story of a passionate, young sailor against the force of nature both humbled and frightened left me bewildered; and the obsession and madness of Captain Ahab gave me an understanding of the human mind I never knew before.

If you haven’t read Moby-Dick, I recommend you do. If you read Moby-Dick only in High School or when you were young, I recommend reading it again; you will appreciate it more.

Onward to Huckleberry Finn!

The Reading List (Update)

Thanks fellow bloggers and friends for suggesting great classics for my journey to read 100 classic novels!

I’ve received a bunch of new requests and wanted to update the list.

I’m currently reading Moby Dick (About 20% through says the Kindle), look-out for that blog soon.
so, here is the list….

1. Cather in the Rye – Completed

2. 1984 – Completed

3. Of Mice and Men – Completed

4. To Kill a Mockingbird – Completed

5. Pride and Prejudice – Completed

6. Lonesome Dove – Completed

7. A Tale of Two Cities – Completed

8. Siddhartha – Completed

9. Walden – Completed

10. The Grapes of Wrath - Completed

11. Moby Dick

12. Huckleberry Finn

13. A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man

14. The Fountainhead

15. Catch-22

16. Animal Farm

17. The Hound of Baskervilles

18. My Man Jeeves

19. A Separate Peace

20. Through the Looking Glass

21. The Fall of the House of Usher

22. Orlando

23. Fahrenheit 451

24. Lord of the Flies

25. Sophie’s Choice

26. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

27. The World According to Garp

28. Gone With the Wind

29. For Whom the Bell Tolls

30. Anna Karenina

31. East of Eden

32. Prince of Tides

33. Rabbit Run

34. Watership Down

35. Things Fall Apart

36. Old Man and the Sea

37. Anthem

38. Slaughterhouse 5

39. King Solomon’s Mines

40. Red Badge of Courage

41. Sherlock Holmes

42. The Chocolate War

43. The Outsiders

44. The Great Gatsby

I think I’m good for now but if you think of anymore, please comment. You post it, I’ll read it ;)

The Grapes of Wrath

The journey to read 100 classics continues with the completion of The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

Basic summary includes a novel about a family in Oklahoma, the Joads in the 1930s. The mere 619 pages take you through the trials and tribulations of the family.

This definitely had more substance than the previous Steinbeck classic I read, Of Mice and Men. But it seemed like every chapter was a new episode in the life of the Joads and just when you think it’s all going to climax, ‘POOF’ the moment is gone.

On a good note, John Steinbeck does know how to develop characters in a special way. It always felt like every characteristic was intrinsic.

I’m not bashing the novel. I thought it was well written and engaging; just not what I thought it was going to be. Maybe I’m underestimating my needs as a reader; I’d like to think that the many years of senseless, tantalizing entertainment of American Media has not tarnished my patience and consideration for a timeless art, literature.

So onward to my next adventure, Moby Dick. And what no better time to start this novel than now as I head to Florida to enjoy the open waters of the gulf :)

Also, please suggest more classics as I’m getting closer to the end of the already suggested ones. You can find the full list of classics currently on the list below in my blog titled “The Thrilla of the Bibliophelia”

Thoreau, the amateur naturalist

I find it very coincidental that Walden or Life in the Woods was next on my list after just reading Siddartha a short time ago.

As a young man, Henry David Thoreau leaves his comfortable home in the town of Concord to live in the woods near Walden Pond. Walden, Thoreau’s collection of thoughts/recounts on life in the woodsis nothing more than an attentive meditation of one man (the author), both solitary and philosophically inclined on his path to transcendence; though one might better describe it as a collection of musings.

I want to summarize the book simply in the sentences above to make one point, this book is boastfully overwritten. So here it is, my first negative review:

1 star out of 5 stars

So Thoreau went to “live by himself” but he was a mere 2 miles away from town, really??

An abundance of his assertions are condescending views of society or “idiots”, evidence that Thoreau was obviously pointing the finger even if he claimed to be independent or above everything.

“For more than five years I maintained myself solely by the labor of my hands…” – well, what about the support you received from your family and neighbors in the form of goods, food, supplies, shelter? And then he has the audacity to denounce philanthropy and his distaste for the poor.

While Thoreau has a few good truisms, I just can’t stand listening to his words; it all eventually falls short to his vanity, contradictory statements, self-righteousness, and bombastic, elitist attitude.

Today, Thoreau reminds of those people who say, “What?! You own a television!?” and then starts texting on their iPhone.

Argg, Thoreau! I really thought I was going to like your book.

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Ego-trip, the journey to self-understanding

Notes on Siddartha, Author is Hermann Hesse

“Siddartha” is about a man named Siddartha on a spiritual journey to find enlightenment, similar to Buddha. Unconvinced of traditional, spiritual teaching and scripture, Siddartha embarks on a existential quest to find self-understanding through experience. Hermann Hesse does a great job of maintaining all moving parts of the story simultaneously while not writing abundantly. Siddartha’s story is so intriguing you will most likely blow through this book in a few hours, but you will feel like you just traveled the world!

This book takes me back to when I was in college to just getting out of college. I would bet for most, that time in your life was similar to mine; we were trying to find our place in the world, right? I remember very clearly reading an article on existentialism and relating to it so much. “I can only give meaning to my own life”, is what I recall “what can I do for myself to succeed, to find happiness.” Like Siddartha, I emotionally distanced myself from mankind and focused more on finding myself through knowledge.

You don’t have to be a Buddhist to enjoy this book; although it’s contextually based on eastern ideologies, philosophies and religion, it’s heavily influenced by western culture as well. Throughout the book, you are constantly on the edge of your seat with Siddartha’s next moves. Will he ever find enlightenment? Will he ever reach Nirvana? I will not spoil the ending but I will say that Siddartha learns that it’s not about how you get there or what path you take, it’s about the experience. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to happiness; however, it DOES take great experience.

This book inspires me to live a more purpose driven life; to experience ; to appreciate this world and everything in it; to accept change.

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Made it to Montana!

The grass is always greener on the other side.
Well, that’s what we all hope…
Once famous Texas Rangers, Woodrow Call and Augustus “Gus” McCrae believe just that in Larry McMurty’s Hercules of a novel, The Lonesome Dove. Life is not easy being situated on the Texas/Mexico border in the late 19th century, the unforgiving wilderness of the frontier as it once was. In their small town of Lonesome Dove, Call and Augustus are struggling with their cattle and horse company. And because of it’s location, vaqueros from south of the border are constantly stealing their horses.
So, Call decides to drive all the cattle to Montana, the last known frontier.
What an amazing story of adventure-a company of men driving thousands of cattle across the country, living off the land and sleeping under the stars. Sounds great, sign me up!
“NOT SO FAST MY FRIEND” *in the manner of Lee Corso
Okay… so I was sugar coating it a tad… add the hostile indians, heat waves, sandstorms, snakes and blizzards – definitely not the dream I had growing up as an inspiring Cowboy. However, I have reason for my sarcasm because I DO truly think it’s an amazing story of adventure; when I first thought about the idea of reading a western I thought just the opposite, a shiny perception of cowboy life. The later seemed attractive but I was very satisfied with the “real” writing of Mr. McMurty and commend him for it.
But please don’t get me wrong, it’s not depressing. Well, except for the 900+ pages (I felt like I was the one driving the cattle cross-country). No, really… It’s filled with good, some bad, and exciting escapades in-between. It is definitely worth the trip ;)

Pride and Prejudice finished, on to Lonesome Dove

Have you ever watched a movie where the main character is caught in some act that is misportrayed and you end up saying throughout the whole movie, “If they only knew what really happened!”?

That’s how I felt when reading Pride and Prejudice.

The plot has a very simple structure, two people hate each other on the first page and end up together on the last. It’s what’s in-between those pages which makes the book a “classic”. It’s filled with surprise, witty dialogue, satirical misunderstandings and truth and insight into the Victorian upper class.

It amazed me in every way and I want to talk more about the “if they only knew…” feelings. Since the love story was motivated by misunderstandings (and I wrote them down as I was reading), I want to list them. It makes this book very unique in it’s time and some of them can be easily forgotten.

SPOILER ALERT — I wouldn’t read this if you haven’t read the book; You will find most of these as you read. After reading come back and refresh yourself :) I hope I included most of them.

Misunderstanding #1

In order to protect her sister, Elizabethsuggests it’s best for Jane to be stand-offish towards Bingley. This sets up the foundation for Bingley to misunderstand Jane’s feelings.

Misunderstanding #2

Darcy begins to take an interest in Lizzy. He tries to pay her attention by following her around and listening to her conversations secretly. However, Lizzy thinks he is making fun of her.

Misunderstanding #3

Darcy compliments Lizzy by emphasizing her preference to read as something good. However, Lizzy thinks Darcy is just trying to remind her what skills and accomplishments a woman must have to get a man like him, Darcy. Once again, Lizzy is rude to him because of this misunderstanding.

Misunderstanding #4 

Darcy accuses Lizzy of misunderstanding him intentionally because of all the times before she has misinterpreted his true intentions. However, Lizzy doesn’t take his accusations as such.

Misunderstanding #5 

The Bingley sisters put Darcy in an awkward position when they include him in a plan to excludeElizabethfrom a long walk in the gardens. Darcy tries to smooth things over with Lizzy but it looks like he is trying to insult her despite his good intentions.

Misunderstanding #6 (this one might be out of order)

Lizzy is so sure about Darcy’s condescending behavior that she believes Wickman with a blind-eye. Wickman makes her believe that he is a good guy and Darcy is a bad guy. This is a large misunderstanding throughout the book that takes Lizzy awhile to realize is false.

Misunderstanding #7

Mr. Collins misunderstands Lizzy’s refusal of his marriage proposal. He believes she is playing ‘hard to get’. But Lizzy soon let’s him know her refusal is sincere.

Misunderstanding #8

There is a big misunderstanding as to why the Bingleys left Netherfield. This is between Lizzy and Jane. Lizzy blames Miss Bingley, but what they didn’t know is that Darcy is the one behind it.

Misunderstanding #9

The letter from Darcy was meant to clear up many misunderstanding. Lizzy uses the information to clear away the misunderstanding about Darcy’s character to her aunt and uncle. However, she is still a little uncertain how she feels.

Misunderstanding #10

Jane misrepresents her feelings for Bingley, but Lizzy knows they are very much in love.

Misunderstanding #11

Mr. Collins writes a letter to Mr. Bennet, Mr. Bennet is made to believe that Lizzy and Darcy are engaged. Mr. Bennet doesn’t realize at the time that Mr. Collins is on the right track. No explanation is given by Lizzy to her father on how she feels. She is embarrassed.

 

Reading Lonesome Dove now and will post about it later :)

Vocab list – Pride and Prejudice

Okay here is the vocab list so far for Pride and Prejudice. Yes, I am still reading the book. Don’t judge me! Hahah.

Vocab list for Pride and Prejudice:

Indolent – wanting to avoid or an exertion; lazy

Complacency – a feeling of smug or uncritical satisfaction; okay with

Solicitude – care or concern for someone or something

Apothecary – someone who gives out medicine; 19th century pharmacist

Benevolence – well meaning and kindly

Countenance – a person’s face or facial expression

* Be careful, Jane uses this ambiguous word in two ways, the above and with the meaning, encouragement or moral support.  (yes, Jane and I are on a first name basis)

Nonsensical – to make no sense

Abominable – causing moral revulsion, very unpleasant

Mirth – amusement expressed with laughter

Censure – express severe disapproval of someone

Paltry – petty, trivial, meager

Salaced – comfort or consolation in time of distress

Profuse – exuberantly plentiful; abundant

Estimable – worthy of great respect

Disposition – a person’s natural qualities of mind and character

Agreeable – enjoyable Andy pleasant

Genteel – respectable, polite

Efficacy – the ability to produce a desired or intended result; power lot produce an effect

Perpetual – never ending

Commendations – praises

Odious – extremely unpleasant

Contrive – create or bring about an item by deliberate use of skill

Disarm – reduce the suspicions of

Reproof – criticism for a fault

Panegyric – a public speech in praise of something or someone

Affront – cause of offense

Supposition – an uncertain feeling

Alacrity – brisk ands cheerful readiness

Obstinate – refusing to change ones opinion

Celerity – swiftness of movement

Laudable – of action, idea or goal deserving praise

Perturbation – anxiety

Acquiesce – accept something reluctantly but without protest

Querulous – complaining in a petulant or whining manner

Propitious – giving or indiction a good chance of success

Laconic – using very few words

Increduious – unable to believe something

Dejection – a sad and depressed state

Encumbrance – a burden

Candour – English translation – the quality of being open and honest in espression; frankness

Disdain – the feeling that someone or something is unworthy of ones consideration or respect

Impropriety – a failure to show due honesty or modesty

Discernment – ability to judge well

Deigned – something that one considers to be beneath their dignity

Impertinent – not shoeing proper respect; rude

Pride and Prejudice… I didn’t expect this

I’m really glad someone recommended Pride and Prejudice and I put it on the list. *Ahem, greg!* I will admit I was a little hesitant when the book was mentioned on the blog. My exact thought was “really, a romantic novel?” And it was soon after starting the book on the contrary to my lowbrow opinion, I was amazed by the banter and eloquent, unfamiliar 19th Century language. But WOW, so much of challenge; I got through half of the book and felt like I needed to start over, so I did!

What’s the point in blowing through a book if you aren’t going to understand or enjoy the art of the writing, right?

I have now accumulated 4 pages of vocabulary words and a page of family origins and characters. I want to do it right this go-around; I’m looking up every word I don’t know, even if I think I know it based on context clues; I’m writing down character names and relations; and most importantly, enjoying every minute of it :)

I hope I’m not the only one that agrees this isn’t the easiest read…

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