The Three Musketeers

The comic-book-style cover might have been the greatest thing about this book. Apparently this is the best translation, Pevear’s, but my god (mondieu!) what a ghastly affair. Somewhere midships I was about to jump overboard as Dumas got carried away having D’Artagnan fall in love with Milady and completely forget about his apparent true love, Ms. Bonacieux, who was locked up in a convent for her protection by the queen. Somehow I have missed all the Disneyfied retellings of this story, so it was with fresh ears that the tale of D’Artagnan and his three musketeer friends (Athos = great lord presumed dead, Porthos = boisterous and pretending to be in love with a rich married woman, Aramis = always yearning for the church). Swordfights, gentlemen of honor, handkerchiefs dropped. Tiny chapters that belie the serialized nature of the story parceled out in spoonfuls to the Parisian illiterate. A bland basic story muddled with miles of dialogue that go nowhere. Spoiled by the Count of Monte Christo, I am.

Bossypants

A quick and sometimes funny read, picked up in the airport and devoured on the flight home. The origin of Tina’s scar, what she can tell about you depending on how quickly you ask about the scar, the scar’s impact on making her feel special. The impressiveness of father Don. A crappy job at a YMCA in Chicago, then improv classes then Second City then SNL then 30 Rock. Having a kid and running the show, debating having another.

Sometimes a Great Notion

It was a great notion to pick this one up for a re-read almost 15 years since I last read it. My vague memories of rain and river were confirmed, but I had forgotten about the lyrical prose, the beat, the cadence of the language, the way the story gripped you until the bitter end. The Stamper family has carved a place for themselves on the riverbank in Oregon, daily battling to keep the bank from crumbling into the river. The story drops you in the middle of the union dispute that Hank Stamper is thumbing his nose up at (his family business un-unionized), with an arm left dangling with the middle finger from a hook above the house, taunting onlookers. We shuffle into the Snag, a local bar filled with neon signs that act as trophies for the other bars Teddy has put out of business, we find Hank’s wife Viv crumpled damp in the corner, leafing through a family album. She takes us on the tale of what led up to all of this.
“Never give an inch!” plaque on the wall above Hank’s bed growing up, old Henry inflexible and full of tales of logging in yesteryear. The family logging business, Joe Ben staying at the house while his own is built in town, perpetual enthusiasm up until the minute of his drowning as the river rises to catch him but not float the log he is pinned underneath. Half brother Lee, out of his gourd back East, comes to help out and harbors a revenge fantasy to free himself from his childhood demons of spying on his mother and brother Hank.
One of the best books I’ve been carried away by in recent times.

Letters from a Stoic

Campbell curates the collection of 124 letters to Lucilius into 40 relevant ones which include nuggets of wisdom both from Seneca and from readings he consumes (Hecato, Epicurus, Pomponius). His nuggets are referred to as “deposits to his account”, as if he owes them to Lucilius.
Letter II:
Getting to know each other, instructing him to remain steady in his reading habits, not wandering about. Advice to pick one thought to be digested thoroughly that day.

Be careful, however, that there is no element of discursiveness and desultoriness about this reading you refer to, this reading of many different authors and books of every description. You should be extending your stay among writers whose genius is unquestionable, deriving constant nourishment from them if you wish to gain anything from your reading that will find a lasting place in your mind. To be everywhere is to be nowhere. People who spend their whole life traveling abroad end up having plenty of places where they can find hospitality but no real friendships. The same must needs be the case with people who never set about acquiring an intimate acquaintanceship with any one great writer, but skip from one to another, paying flying visits to them all. Food that is vomited up as soon as it is eaten is not assimilated into the body and does not do one any good; nothing hinders a cure so much as frequent changes of treatment; a wound will not heal over if it is being made the subject of experiments with different ointments; a plant which is frequently moved never grows strong. Nothing is so useful that it can be of any service in the mere passing. A multitude of books only gets in one’s way. So if you are unable to read all the books in your possession, you have enough when you have all the books you are able to read.

Letter III:
On the nature of friendship and being true to one’s self. Judging people carefully before becoming friends, behaving as if you are by yourself when with a friend.
Letter V:
on the proper conduct and manners of a Stoic; inwardly different from the crowd but outwardly conforming. Living in harmony with nature, simple living. Cease to hope so that you cease to fear.
Letter VI:
Part of the joy of learning is that it enables him to teach. Sharing knowledge instead of greedily lapping it up to store away for one’s self.
Hecato’s wisdom, “What progress have I made? I am beginning to be my own friend.”

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