Sweet Thursday

Doc laid ten big starfish out on a shelf, and he set up a line of eight glass dishes half filled with sea water. Although he was inclined to carelessness in his living arrangements his laboratory technique was immaculate. The making of the embryo series gave him pleasure. He had done it hundreds of time before, and he felt a safety in the known thing –no speculation here. He did certain things and certain other things followed. There is comfort in routine.
His old life came back to him –a plateau of contentment with small peaks of excitement but none of the jagged pain of original thinking, none of the loneliness of invention. His phonograph played softly, played the safe and certain fugues of Bach, clear as equations. As he worked, a benign feeling came over him. He liked himself again as he once had; liked himself as a person, the way he might like anyone else. The self-hatred which poisons so many people and which had been irritating him was gone for the time. The top voice of his mind sang peacefulness and order, and the raucous middle voice was gentle; it mumbled and snarled but it could not be heard. The lowest voice of all was silent, dreaming of a warm safe sea.

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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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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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