The Curious Case of Sidd Finch

Finished Curious Case of Sidd Finch last night. Bizarre, but Plimpton TWICE mentions the guy who attached helium balloons to his lawn chair to float over Long Beach back in the 80s. The last mention was on the last page. Last week I saw the link to the NYTimes article from back in the 80s when it happened. I was reading along and when i got to that part i was like, “Hmm, this is oddly familiar.”

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Washington Square

A named place (Washington Square NYC). A named half century (1850). A named, sucessful, respected, clever physician (Dr. Sloper). A mature blossom (daughter Catherine, age 22). An unnamed emotion (greed, love, despair). A proposed match with a plausible coxcomb (Morris Townsend). Infinite modesty (Catherine).
A rejected lover (the mercenary Mr. Townsend). A silent battle of wits (Dr. Sloper & Catherine). Obstinacy. Treachorous traitors within the ranks (aunt Penniman). An extended trip to Europe (Dr. Sloper & Catherine, one year). Catherine remains in love, prepares to be married. The return home, to Washington Square, where Morris has been lounging about for the past year with aunt Penniman, drinking deeply of the doctor’s cellar, fingering the expensive cigars. An abrupt break (Morris knows he will never see the money, flees). Catherine’s coup over her father (tells him she has broken off her engagement with Mr. Townsend).
Seventeen years later (1868), Catherine is an elderly matron, unmarried, greatly liked, living out her life fully. Her father is dead. Morris comes back from the void, asks for an audience. Aunt Penniman takes the liberty of granting him one, traps Catherine into seeing him.

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What Makes Sammy Run

Notes typed up from discovered notepad scribblings tucked away and forgotten:
The story of a boy-man on the move, always looking to advance himself and his career. Sammy’s story told by his closest friend, Al. The exposure of the Hollywood lifestyle and the falseness of everything from love to scenery. Sammy moves fast throughout the story, which keeps the excitement on the surface, keeps involvement in the story.

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The Sacred Fount

Notes typed up from discovered notepad scribblings tucked away and forgotten:
The narrator meets Gilbert Long and Grace Brissenden on the way to Newmarch for a weekend party. He finds them both remarkably changed ~ Mrs. Briss much younger and lovelier, GL more witty and friendly. Obsession begins to figure out their secret. Gradually Mrs. Briss goes from 42, 43 to 50 to 73 in N’s mind.
At Newmarch, he sees Mrs. Server, who is to become the other obsession. She too looks lovelier, but her mind is gone. “Guy Brissenden, at any rate, was not much younger. It was he who was old – it was he who was older – it was he who was oldest. That was so disconcertingly what he had become. ”
“Guy Brissenden, at any rate, was not a much younger. It was he who was old — it was he who was older — it was he who was oldest. That was so disconcertingly what he had become… He looked almost anything — he looked quite sixty.”
The first two chapters are quite easy to get through, light and delightful. The rest becomes a tangled mess of conversation between the narrator and various persons at the party.

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Blithedale Romance

Notes typed up from discovered notepad scribblings tucked away and forgotten:
Zenobia- strong woman, beautiful, wealthy, kills herself. Coverdale’s reaction: why did she have to do this? sympathetic. Blithedale farm- unreality. Reality was in the city scenes. Veiled Lady was Priscilla for the entire novel? Very strange the way all the pieces come together, at the crisis point when Coverdale (C) and Hollingsworth have their falling out, C leaves the farm, espies P & Z in town. Best scene: bar scene with Moody? or Hollingworth’s speeches? C’s confession not unexpected- the book kept opening to the last page, so I saw this last line previous to actually finishing. C floats in, wants to know their life, cannot insert himself into the bloodstream, makes guesses, his guesses become the romance.

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Ivanhoe

Good scene in Torquilstone, the battle is described to Willfred by Rebecca, who hears and sees the battle from the tower. Good use of character perspective. Also: “And I alone escape to tell thee” out of De Bracy’s mouth to Prince John. Good action and plot. The 1st battle a mock battle, the 2nd a real battle (Torquilstone). Althestane’s rising from the dead 3 days FETCHED-FAR. Better to leave him dead. Frustration at Rebecca’s plight- no resolution for her. Frustration good for a reader. Other thoughts: too long, some of it could have been cut. Every book needs an editor.

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Things Fall Apart

Majority of book about pre-white man tribal life in Africa. Harsh customs of killing for the gods, but ancient customs, links to their ancestors. Now, with Christianity intruding, the tribes lose legality of their customs and come under the jurisdiction of the Queen of England. Ends with the thoughts of a white man, who will use the tragic material of Okonkwo’s death in his book, maybe a chapter, maybe just a paragraph. It is sad how totally the culture is consumed and westernized, how it remains powerless against forces of modernization. Inclusion of folk tales well done.

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Treasure Island

Constant action, some (most?) farfetched, the boy becomes hero of the island, at least in his description of the action. One small part switched to the Doctor’s point of view. Tale of pirates, treasure, one-legged men, sea adventures, Hawkins wrests control of the boat which is adrift… rather abrupt ending telling about the dispensation of the monies.

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The Crying of Lot 49

Surprisingly good for a modern novel. The characters beg for observation, not empathy. Oedipa Maas’ quest to figure out the Thurn and Taxis sub rosa postal empire ends with the auctioning off of the stamp collection. No closure, and yet it needs none. The reader does not wonder what happens next, does not care what becomes of Mucho Maas, does not question who is the mysterious bidder for Lot 49. It simply ends. The middle and early sections give a clear picture of the muddled state of late 20th century life in America. Everything is aptly named, from Dr. Hilarius (Oedipa’s shrink) to the Paranoids (the American British rock group), from San Narciso and the Echo Courts hotel to Genghis Cohen the stamp expert. This book dizzies you as you read, but not nauseatingly so. Just enough to make the 6 o’clock cocktails unnecessary.

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Hoop Dreams of a Lunatic

I moved into this house full of howling lunatics in mid June. It is now well nigh July and I am (almost) as crazy as them. They think my madness stems from too much reading. I think it’s from living in close proximity to them, with their noxious breath and vapors steaming into my pores whenever I shower. To safeguard from germs, I cover every inch of my body with a combination of mosquito netting and linen. But every once in awhile I must strip myself down to the bare essentials and wash. They get me every time. I figure on four injections of their lunacy so far. But between the ingestion of their flimsy germs and my nighttime visitor, I am nearing madness.
You see, the full moon keeps creeping into my room at night.
You might find it odd, but it is nevertheless quite true that, no matter what day of the month it happens to be, the full moon crawls into my bed, into my head almost, every night of the week. I’ve even hammered an extra layer of boards onto the window to try and keep it out. It seems to slide in through a slat in the Venetian blinds, wriggle in beside a splinter and pop out full sized, snuggling under the covers with me.
You would think the moon to be an interesting bed mate, I’m sure, all cool and smooth and full of delightful bedtime stories. But no, this moon is wrinkled and covered in coarse, stiff hair and grunts as it slithers into bed, a tad too chilly and gritty for my taste as I nibble on a crater here and there. And once it’s in bed, it just lays there, gaping, like it expects to be entertained by me as a guest, instead of explaining itself or doing any twirling of its own.
Worst of all, I wake up with a gravelly taste in my mouth and must uncrumple myself from that sliver of space left to me once the moon (bigger than you’d think) slips into bed. In the morning, it’s long gone before I can dash out to announce the tidings of its sleepover. Only a deep indentation and a scattering of moon rocks remain.
But I have a plan. I will trap it. Tonight.
I stretch my way out of bed and shake out the sheets. Meanwhile, I can hear them jabbering away behind my door. I turn up the volume of the song inside my head and drown them out while busying myself straightening out the room, pulling the sheets to the head of the bed, taut enough now to bounce halves on. I am quite finicky about the tidiness of my room, especially the bed, which is why the moon rocks and other remnants of the evening visits grate on me so.
I spend most of my day lying on my back in the short grass, minus one quick thieving mission at the playground. I’d be safe in tall grass, too, because of the mosquito netting, but there’s none to be seen. Someone around here has a thing about cutting the grass.
After dinner, amidst laughing cries of “Catch all your zzzzs tonight, there’s a new moon!” and “”Stop mooning about this place all day,” I proceed to my room. I fasten the last lock on the door and sit on the bed to wait.
Time weighs heavy on hands that hang on the windowsill in anticipation. The moon is late. Or maybe it knows I lie in wait for it, and, like a watched turkey, decides not to pop. At some point, my eyelids weigh heavier than time and droop. I slip under the covers and into a light sleep.
I dream I am walking through the desert, covered in pink gauze, searching for something. I can hardly breathe, the air heavier than lead. I stumble toward a patch of cacti that resemble a tea party. The closer I approach, the further away they seem. I begin to fall to the ground and feel something watching me.
Cautiously, I open one eye and see a moon beam struggling through the board. I close the eye and tightly clutch the round cage held in my hands under the covers.
“Oof! I’m getting too big for this,” grumbles the moon as it smashes through the splintered slit.
It shoves me over onto my slice of bed against the wall and proceeds to snore. I slide my hand over its prickly surface, petting it gently. I search for the ticklish spot in its largest crater and wiggle my fingers deviously.
The moon roars awake and gasps as it squirms in my grasp. In its greatest moment of ecstatic torture, I pounce and slide the hula hoop around its body. When the tickling stops, the moon settles back into a comfortable wheeze of steady breathing.
Morning breaks and I scratch my leg against a rocky surface. The moon is still in bed! And it is peering over its rim at me, quite dismayed. I leap from the bed, clapping my hands together.
“Oh yes! Now to show the others!”
I lift the moon carefully, trying not to jostle off the hoop. This proves no easy task, because the moon weighs much more than, say, an ordinary crate of lemons.
Stumbling into the kitchen, I place the moon onto the table before everyone’s mildly surprised eyes.
“What is that? Some boulder dug up from the yard?”
The moon is unresponsive to my pokes.
“Nooo…” I’m indignant and poke harder. “It’s the very moon that keeps slipping into my room at night.”
“Oh, right,” someone winks and nods around the room. “But why-ever isn’t it lurking in the sky over Tokyo right now?”
He pushes a finger into the moon’s side. “Hey buddy, what gives?”
The moon slowly opens one eye, tired. It is none too pleased to have been trapped and tricked and, to top it all off, teased.
“Well, I’ll tell you,” starts the moon in its gravelly voice, stopping to clear its throat, “I would be over Tokyo right now but for the connivery of your friend here.” He nods toward me.
I shuffle and mentally pat myself on the back.
“But why are you here at all?” another prod from the peanut gallery.
The moon rolls back on its haunches and warms up to all the attention.
“Why am I here? Why am I here? Well, a long time ago when the earth was spinning away from the epicenter of the…”
“Stop,” I snap, realizing the moon is on the verge of weaving an eon-long tale, “We mean, why are you here in this house?”
“Oh.” The dejected look of a thwarted storyteller shades softly to a look of sheepishness. “This house has lunatic written all over it. I thought I’d be more than welcome to take a load off here; you know, scratch that psychological itch with people who can relate. I’ve found myself quite jumpy in my orbit lately, with sudden spasms that hop me across the sky… kind of like hiccups.”
“Or tics, ” I add, the situation suddenly dawning on me.
I brush the dew from my arms and point at the moon, “You’re a luna with a tic. You’re even crazier than us.”
I yank the hula hoop off and the moon drifts up and away.
Someone behind me yells, “Get a flea collar!” and collapses into giggles.
I begin to smile.