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Archive for the ‘Patrick O’Brian’ Category

I just indulged myself with the fifh Aubrey/Maturin novel, Desolation Island.  This was a quick read, but so enjoyable; I was literally holding my breath during the ‘stern chase’ in the howling forties with the huge Dutch frigate bearing down on them.  This book leaves so many loose ends – they never even reach Botany Bay or have the anticipated meeting with Captain Bligh (the Captain Bligh), we never find out the fate of Grant and the others who set out from the iceberg, who knows what Diana is up to, etc., that I may have to break my rule of one a year and get hold of the next (The Fortunes of War). But first, I’ll listen to this one on tape, which is almost as much fun as reading them.  If I ever get through the twenty books, I may just start over again!

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La Biblioteque

Today I went to the library.  Not only did I go to return an audio book (Masterpieces of short romantic fiction or something like that, one of the cassettes was broken) and to get a new audio book (The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson), but also to get some novels.  Oh, how I miss reading novels!  I’ve been reading New Yorkers and Money Magazine and Credit Union Journal and The Language Instinct by Stephen Pinker, but I am craving a novel! I didn’t have my “books to read” list with me, but I remembered two titles from book reviews:  The New Yorkers (not to be confused with the magazine, it’s a novel about people in New York who relate through their dogs), and Three Bags Full, a sheep detective story (don’t even ask).  I also put in a request for the next Patrick O’Brian on my list, Desolation Island.  And, I picked one off the shelf by Vikram Seth, An Equal Music.  Did anyone else read A Suitable Boy?  I loved that book and would read it again, all 1400 plus pages (I think I read somewhere that it is the longest novel in English!)  Lately, all my favorite novelists have been Indian. Anyway, I’ll be bringing An Equal Music on my next plane trip and will report back. 

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Key West was great fun, with gorgeous weather and great food.  My favorite attraction was the Hemingway House Museum.  It’s a beautiful, historic house with two-story verandas, tall shutters and lush gardens.  The guide was a bit jaded, but told all the amusing stories about the wives, the cats, the pool, etc.  The photos on the wall are worth perusing and the cats are fun to observe (there is also a cat condo and cat cemetery).  After that we went to the Key West Art and Historical Society located in the Old Custom House. They had a intriguing exhibit by J. Seward Johnson who does the lifelike plaster statues of ordinary people.  In this exhibit, entitled “Icons”, he has replicated famous works of art as plaster statues, so there is a three-dimensional “Mona Lisa” as well as “The Girl with the Pearl Earring.”  By floating frames in the air in front of the statue, the viewer gets the impression of looking at the actual painting, then you can have your companion stand in the frame with the subject.  It sounds weird, but it was actually rather thought-provoking.  They also have a pretty good history of Key West exhibition and a Hemingway room that adds a slightly different perspective to what is learned at the Hemingway House museum.  Both are well worth visiting.  As you might expect, there are lots of local artists in Key West.  Some of the best local galleries are at the southern end of Duval, away from the Bourbon Street atmosphere toward Front Street.  We liked 1100 So Du and bought a painted tile of Hemingway’s House by Fran Decker.  When I settled by the pool on our first afternoon, after finishing both of my New Yorker magazines on the plane, I discovered that the book I brought with me (The Ionian Mission, by Patrick O’Brian) was not the next one I needed to read in the series (I should have brought Desolation Island instead.)  Once I am involved in a series, I must stay in order, so I started up Duval in search of a bookstore.  I was sure I was out of luck until I spied “Key West Island Books” down a side street (513 Fleming).  It is just the kind of bookstore I love, filled with a jumble of new and used books, and I quickly snatched one off the shelf, “A Confederacy of Dunces”  by John Kennedy Toole.  What a mistake! It definitely had promise, and I bought into the initial bizarreness of Ignatius, his mother and all the rest, but after awhile I gave up.  It was mildly amusing in the beginning, but gradually became tiresome.  I left it on the plane. 

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Aubrey/Maturin IV

I finished The Mauritius Command, which was very satisfying.  I think his writing is improving with each book, which is always a desirable quality in an author if he or she can manage it (Michael Connolly comes to mind).  The personality of Dr. Maturin continues to deepen, the description of Jack as a married man is bittersweet and funny, and the personalities of the Admirals and other ship captains add to the intrigue (poor Clonfert!).  Now, I am listening to it on CD in the car, which is even more enjoyable, the language is delightful. I am looking forward to The Ionian Mission (probably by Summer).

Another reading connection struck me toward the end of this book when Maturin is describing “a patient” who has lost interest in life, in all the things that used to interest him, ‘who takes a disgust to the world.’  His fellow physician answers: “I believe he perceives the void that has always surrounded him, and in doing so he falls straight into a pit.”  This reminded me of the epic of Gilgamesh, from the Teaching Company course which I listened to while raking leaves.  Gilgamesh is a hero who “looks into the abyss,” the abyss being that each of us must die.  Prof. Fears quotes the American writer, William Saroyan (The Human Comedy) as saying something like, “I know, of course, that everyone must die, but I thought an exception would be made in  my case.”  Of course, Gilgamesh is a powerful, successful (in ancient Mesopotamian terms) King, he comes to terms with death by reflecting on all that he has accomplished and will accomplish; for others, like the ‘small, indefinably odd and even ill-looking man’ that is Dr. Maturin, it may not be so easy perhaps.

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Thanks to the TeachCo lecture (“Books that Have Made History; Books that Can Change your Life”), I am awash in books.  I am up to Book 18 in the Iliad (Fitzgerald translation, which I’m finding pretty readable).  I’m also perusing The Bhagavad Gita (Sky Light Illuminations edition, translated by Shri Purohit Swami) as well as Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison.  For light reading, I am happily reading the fourth of the Aubrey/Maturin books, The Mauritius Command, by Patrick O’Brian.  Since my listening of the TeachCo course is outpacing my reading, I grabbed an audiobook on tape from the library, Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders, by John Mortimer, which is quite enjoyable.  

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