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I’ve been travelling through space and time a lot this week.  I’ve been to the desert planet of Arrakis, 8000 years into the future.  I’ve been to late 19th century England and Narnia (again) to watch the world’s beginning and the entrance of evil before it was even 5 hours old.  And now, I’ve just returned from a frightening not-to-distant future United States.  Oddly enough, they have more in common than just time.

In all three books, Dune, The Magician’s Nephew, and Fahrenheit 451, there is oppressive rulers and the reaching into the minds of people to control their very thoughts.  With Dune, the Bene Gesserit wish to control who gets knowledge and sight, who marries whom, and even what sex a child will be.  The Harkonnens and Sardukars viciously hunt and kill the Fremen in a pogrom, because the Fremen are independent and refuse to kiss the perverse butts of the disgusting Harkonnen “rulers.”

With The Magician’s Nephew, the Witch destroyed her own world in a bid to control it and take the throne from her sister, using the deplorable word to kill all life except the one who speaks it.  Then she tries to take over England, but without her magic, she’s just a violent nutter on a thieving rampage.  Once in Narnia, however, she’ll hide and bide her time… then make the move to enslave and opress the land for her own pleasure.

Fahrenheit 451, though, is the one I’ve most recently finished, so the thoughts about it are still tumbling around.

The fun thing with Fahrenheit 451 is that it’s been on Mt. TBR since before there was a Mt. TBR, way back when it was just an “I’m gonna read that soon” pile, when there were maybe 20 books on that pile.  I have NO idea how many books are on Mt. TBR now. Library Thing says I have catalogued almost 1000 books, but some of those are books I’ve read, or books I’ve mooched away and NOT read.  I have tagged 493 books either unread or TBR, but I’ve gotten lazy and haven’t been tagging any of the books I add, so I’d say Mt. TBR is well over 300 books (simply “unread” don’t count as TBR books).

So, some of my thoughts on Fahrenheit 451… 

One of the things that Guy Montag has to do is to decide which book he’ll sacrifice.  Captain Beatty knows he took a book and tells him if he turns it in within 24 hours, it’ll be forgiven.  Montag’s not sure if Beatty knows he has one book, a hundred books or which title, so he figures if he brings him one book, any book, he’ll pass without suspicion.  But how can he choose?  He decides not to turn over the last known surviving copy of The Bible, which was a funny moment with his wife, who asked him:  Which is more important, me or that book?  Der, easy answer… 

*SORTA SPOILER ALERT*  After running from the police, Montag finds a group of men hobo’ing who have memorized a chapter of a book, or even entire books, and burned the hard copies, and now wait for a time when society will return to it’s senses and want literature again.  They half-jokingly introduce themselves as the particular book title, i.e. “Hi!  I am Plato’s Republic, and Simmons is Marcus Aurelius.”  Knowing how the statement “I am” is an affirmation, and also that the more you say it, the more it takes hold and becomes a truth about you,  I wonder who they’ll be in 20 years.  Their personalities, and such.

In Fahrenheit 451, Mildred, Montag’s wife, is very attached to her “family,” the people on the television.  These “relatives” yell at each other, call each other names, act the fool, and are otherwise “entertaining”.  They have a device that allows the owner to hear their own name in messages and shows, and the picture is even adjusted to make the actor’s lips appear to say the name.  So that for her, the announcer says, “Mrs. Montag, wouldn’t you love to try Denham’s Dentifrice?”  And their living room, or parlor room, has wall-sized screens (remember, this was written in the late 40’s – early 50s), and when you had all 4 of your wall-screens installed, it would be just like being in the show… surrounded by your “family”.  Creepy!  and sad…

Clarisse McClellen is the oddball neighbor that sets Montag’s feet on the road of awakening.  She tells him of how kids her age frighten her.  They enjoy killing each other and themselves and destroying things.  They go to the “amusement park” and break windows in “Vandalism Town” or drag race legally, as long as they have enough insurance they can destroy whatever they want. 

One of Mrs. Montag’s friends tells how she thinks it was nice having kids, and she does her best to accommodate them the 3 days out of a month she has them (the rest of the time they’re away at school… grade schoolers, btw).  She just plopped them down in the parlor with the “relatives” as soon as they got home from the hospital.   But, she doesn’t know why they hate her.  Hmm…

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And now for something completely random and different  (because the vid clip I wanted to post is embedding disabled).

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So, If you had to sacrifice one of your books to save the rest, which one would go into the fire?

I’d be tossing the Babysitter’s Club ones… maybe the stray Captain Underpants one I think’s somewhere around here. The Reader’s Digest condensed books could be chucked, too… if they’re still here.

If you were one of the books (which was the vid clip, btw… Montag meeting the Books), what book would you be and why?

It’s a book I’d re-read mentally and recite every day… it’d become a part of me and eventually I’d become that book to an extent…. I think I’d pick the book of Proverbs (Montag was the Book of Ecclesiastes) because it’s wisdom. Everything you need to know about dealing with people, living life, psychology… everything…. is in Proverbs.

Your turn! What book would you sacrifice? Which would you be? Why?

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A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Title:  A Wrinkle In Time

Author:  Madeleine L’Engle

Paperback:  247 pages

Publisher:  Square Fish

Publish Date:  2007

ISBN:  9780312367541

Miscellaneous:  Originally published in 1962 (after 26 rejection letters, I might add), A Wrinkle in Time is the first book in The Wrinkle in Time Quintet book series.

Meg’s eyes ached from the strain of looking and seeing nothing.  Then, above the clouds which encircled the mountain, she seemed to see a shadow, a faint think of darkness so far off that she was scarcely sure she was really seeing it…  It was a shadow, nothing but a shadow.  It was not even as tangible as a cloud.  Was it cast by something?  Or was it a Thing in itself?

The sky darkened.  The gold left the light and they were surrounded by blue, blue deepening until where there had been nothing but the evening sky there was now a faint pulse of star, and then another and another and another.  There were more stars than Meg had ever seen before.

“The atmosphere is so thin here,” Mrs Whatsit said as though in answer to her unasked question, “that it does not obscure your vision as it would at home.  Now look.  Look straight ahead.”

Meg looked.  The dark shadow was still there.  It had not lessened or dispersed with the coming of night.  And where the shadow was the stars were not visible.

What could there be about a shadow that was so terrible that she knew that there had never been before or ever would be again, anything that would chill her with a fear that was beyond shuddering, beyond crying or screaming, beyond the possibility of comfort?

A Wrinkle in Timeby Madeleine L’Engle, pages 81-82

I have started reading and put down without finishing A Wrinkle in Timeby Madeleine L’Engle three or more times in my life.  It is one of those few books that I have felt like I’m suppose to read it, or that I should read it, but have never been able to finish.  I have long felt like I couldn’t let the book beat me, even going so far as to watch the movie in hopes of encouraging myself.  And now, I can finally say that, after first picking it up nearly 25 years ago in fifth grade, I have read A Wrinkle in Time.

I’ve always said that I didn’t know why I couldn’t get into this book, and this time around I figured out what it is that grates my nerves about it.  MEG.  Meg is whiny, and mopey, and self-deprecating.  She’s horrid, to be quite honest, and every time she spoke I rolled my eyes so hard they nearly fell out.  “Wah Wah Wah… nobody likes me.  I’m dumb.  I’m ugly.  Blah, blah, blah.”  BUT, she does change, thank GAWD!  In fact, as the book neared it’s end, her attitude and behaviour is explained.

“I’m sorry… I wanted you to do it all for me.  I wanted everything to be all easy and simple….  So I tried to pretend that it was all your fault… because I was scared, and I didn’t want to have to do anything myself” -page 220

Beginning with a groaner of a first line, “It was a dark and stormy night…”  A Wrinkle in Timespins a tale that crosses the universe and even dimensions.  Young Charles Wallace is different from other people, he understands the world around him in a unique way.  He is very protective of his sister Meg, whom he sees as needing him.  Meg is a sulky teen girl going through an ugly duckling phase, who prefers math and science to anything having to do with the world of words.  The two of them plus Calvin, a local sports hero and relates to the world around him in a similar way to Charles Wallace, travel across the universe by tessering, something akin to a wormhole.  They are on a mission to save Charles and Meg’s father from IT, the controlling entity on Camazotz, a planet which has submitted to the darkness.  To accomplish this task, they will all learn much about themselves, their talents and faults, and ultimately about love, the only force capable of conquering evil.

I really wish I had stuck with this story when I first started it.  I think I would have truly appreciated it had I pushed through the first fourth of the book.  As it is, I still enjoyed it, and want to read A Wind in the Door, the next book in the Quintet.  I was surprised by L’Engle’s Christian references.  If people are shocked and wish to challenge Narnian books on the basis of their religious overtones, then these same folk would have apoplectic fits when reading actual passages from the Bible in A Wrinkle in Time.

The fact that the book is so overtly Christian, though Buddha and Gandhi are also given credit as “lights” in the fight against the darkness, is even more stimulating when you take into consideration that the story takes Einstein’s theories about time and gravity as inspiration AND makes a further bold step (mind, this book was FIRST published in 1962, before civil rights and ERA) by making the hero and saviour a female.  The story itself is interesting, if not a bit simple, but the context surrounding it and the complex science it incorporates make A Wrinkle in Time an impressive book and a literary classic.

A Wrinkle in Timeby Madeleine L’Engle incorporates science and religion in a harmonious way and said that guys aren’t the only heroes, is math and science just for men.  For all that the story is and what the book represents, I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

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The following video is a clear and concise mathematical explanation of a tesseract. It incorporates lines from the book, as well.

Oww… OW! My brain hurts!!!

Friday Fill-Ins -Where’s the TP?!

 

1. If I could travel back in time, I’d go to the early 80’s and buy $5000 of stock in Microsoft.

2. Give me Ioan Gruffudd or give me a lifetime supply of chocolate.

3. I am listening to Hannah Montana (Maggie loves HM and is watching it right now).

4. Somewhere, someone is thinking “CRAP!! All the toilet paper’s gone!!”.

5. I’ll always be weird, ’cause I like me that way.

6. My idea of a good time includes grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, chips, sweet tea, my mom’s deviled eggs and potato salad, my baked beans, cakes, pies and brownies and all my family together for fun, visiting, rehashing old arguments, accusing each other of cheating at euchre, and otherwise sharing all the love a family can.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to reading The Richest Season (it’s really a beautiful book), tomorrow my plans include shopping for school clothes and supplies for my kids, and Sunday, I want to have finished and reviewed The Richest Season.

Rant by Chuck Palahniuk

Rant by Chuck Palaniuk
Title: Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey
Author: Chuck Palaniuk
Publisher: First Anchor Books (Random House)
Publish Date: May 2008
ISBN: 9780307275837

Shot Dunyan: How weird is that? A sexually conflicted thirteen-year-old rattlesnake-venom junkie with rabies -well, it’s safe to say that’s every father’s worst nightmare.

Very weird and bizarre, but I suppose it wouldn’t be Palahniukif it wasn’t. This is actually the first book by Chuck Palahniuk I’ve read. I saw the movie Fight Club when it came out on DVD, but did not know it was a book until a few months ago, and then I’ve only known it was by Palahniuk for a couple months. Just from my limited exposure, though, I can safely say he is one of my favorite authors.

It will be difficult to review this book without spoilers, but I shall try. Rant is written in the form of an oral history. You start out with Wallace Boyer, daytimer car salesman, telling how he first met and talked to Rant Casey after Rant had died. HUH? And it stays just as mind-bending, alternate-universe-like, for the rest of the book’s 319 pages.

Within it’s covers, you read about rabies, time-travel, car crashing parties, people raising themselves to godhood, superhuman abilities, government conspiracy, and effective salesmanship. Is Rant Casey the patsy for a government’s true objectives, population control and maintainance of the class system? Or is he really a superspreader of a new, incurable form of rabies? What would happen if you went back in time and killed your parents before you were born?

At some point in time before Rant’s high school career, a technology is created that allows a person to “plug in” to a port at the base of your skull, and re-experience someone’s life experience that they recorded while experiencing it. And, of course, the experience aloneisn’t enough to keep people’s attention, so before the masses get it, it has been experienced and “out corded” by a possible variety of people from babies, the deaf and the blind, to junkies. These out corded experiences of the memory (or neural transcript) are then mixed in with the original. The final product is an amped up, or boosted peak, providing the consumer with an experience of heightened sensitivity and awareness; a memory that is more real and alive than they’ll ever experience in their own life. However, a person with the “Rant Rabies” cannot receive the neural transcripts, so they must seek the highs elsewhere, one way being through “party crashing”. Party Crashing is like a sport with teams of people in cars driving around and crashing into each other… for fun.

There are several scenes in the book that I really liked, but my favorite is the Halloween haunted house where the fifth-grader Rant hosts the blindfolded game of “These are brains! These are eyeballs! This is intestines!”. Most of us have played this, and we know that it’s just maconi-and-gelatin mold, peeled grapes and cooked spaghetti noodles. MMmm, well… Rant’s is real.

Buster “Rant” Casey is the hero/anti-hero of this book. In his childhood, he was the most popular kid and most infamous in his small Texas town. He was the Tooth Fairy of the fifth grade class, giving hundred-year-old gold coins for teeth and upending the Middleton economy. In high school, he led the Erection Revolution seeking gender equality for male students. And when Rant left town for the big city, he left a large population rabies infected.

I was enraptured by this book. It’s weirdness and unexpected events kept driving me to turn the pages. By the middle of the book, I could not even begin to fathom where this book was going nor how it might end. I couldn’t say, “Oh it’ll end this way because that’s the rules of literature.” It’s Palahniuk! He writes his own rules, then breaks them.

Graphic and nauseating in spots, sexually explicit in others, and weird through and through, this book is definitely not for the squeamish, the nice-story and happy-ending seekers, and don’t even bother picking this book up if you aren’t willing to fulling suspend logic for the duration. But if you are the type of person who would hide out at the freak show until after closing time, just to see what might crawl out of the cages, this book is for you.

Skeleton Crew by Stephen King

Skeleton Crew cover artTitle: Skeleton Crew

Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Signet
ISBN:0451168615

Publication Date: 1986

Skeleton Crew is a collection of 22 stories.  Most are short stories, with the exception of 2 poems and the novella, “The Mist.”  Like most collections, some of the book’s stories are better than others, two of which have been translated to film.

Aside from the Introduction, the book begins with “The Mist“.  This novella is the whole reason I picked up this book.  It has been recently made into a movie, also titled “The Mist.”  In my opinion, with the exception a few other entries, this is the only story that is worth reading in this book.  Since the movie’s release, “The Mist” is now in print as a stand alone novel. 

This story begins in the aftermath of a hundred-year storm that has left residents without power and a hefty chore of cleaning up.  Steff Drayton asks her husband, David, to run into town to get a few items on her grocery list.  David takes his son, Billy, with him along with his neighbor, Brent Norton, with whom he had had a recent court case that left both men with hard feelings toward one another.  As he gets ready to take off, Drayton takes one last look out on the lake where a bizarre mist has been rolling in from the direction of a nearby military base.

In town, the three enter the Federal Foods Supermarket.  But before they can get their shopping done, all Hell breaks loose… literally.  Stuck inside the store with several area residents and summer tourists, Drayton fights to keep his son and fellow shoppers calm and safe while huge tentacled beasts, ginormous flying bugs and spiders, and pteradactyl-type monsters loom on the other side of the Federal Food’s plate glass windows. 

While beasties troll outside, the breakdown of society occurs inside when Mrs. Carmody, area mystic and resident crackpot, begins spewing Apocalyptic references and claims only the human sacrifice of little, innocent Billy will keep them safe.  Drayton and a handful of others realize it’s no more safe inside than out, and decide to make a daring escape.  But is there any world left out there to go to?

The Monkey is another worthy-to-read story.  It is about a small boy finding a toy monkey that claps the cymbals permanently attatched to his simean paws when wound.  But when he winds it, he discovers it doesn’t work.  Later, when it spontaneously claps and chirps to life, young Hal is frightened.  But when he finds out that, at the exact moment it began to play, his babysitter died, he becomes terrified and throws it back in the closet.  But the monkey likes Hal.  He wants to stay with Hal.  The monkey refuses to stay gone, even after he’s given to the junk man and later thrown down a well, all the while clapping his symbols and taking lives, just to return, once more, to the boy he stalks.   I will never buy one of these monkies after reading this… never ever ever!

The second story that was turned into movie magic is The Raft; it was one of the segment stories  in the second Creepshow movie.  I still remember, to this day, this one scared the bejesus out of me.  I went to summer camp, which had the wooden deck floating in the middle of the pond, just like in the story.  I was so excited when I came across the written story in this book.  Basically, it’s the story of 2 couples, over-sexed college students, who decide to take a forbidden swim in the lakem which is closed for the season.  As their swimming out to the anchored deck, what appears to be an oil slick begins to float towards them.  It is no oil slick… it is some bizarre carnivorous floating monster, stalking the lovers like prey.

Other stories worth honorable mention are: Mrs. Todd’s Shorcut (her obsession with finding the fastest shortcut would stymie Einstein), The Jaunt (you can teleport to Mars, just don’t do it conscious).

Paranoid:  A Chant is actually a poem, but I thought it was pretty cool.  So I will end this review with a quote from it:

“Last night a dark man with no face crawled through nine miles

of sewer to surface in my toilet, listening

For phone calls through the cheep wood with

chrome ears.I tell you, man, I hear.”