Tag Archives: literature

Unfinished business

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read.

Most of you probably know that going into a new year with unfinished business is a risky proposition.  There’s no telling what sort of karmic baggage it will carry into your next year to harry you.  But sometimes it just can’t be avoided.

In my case it’s a couple of obvious items.  One being Orphans in the Sky, copyright 1941, Robert Heinlein.  I found it listed in the Johnson County, Kansas, Library and only managed to get it yesterday.  I put in into the que for reading, but unless I get cracking I won’t finish it before midnight.  I’ve only got a chapter to go.  But Heinlein isn’t the only iron in the fire.

A reader here recommended A Pirate of Exquisite Mind, by Diana and Michael Preston.  I only got it from the library the same day as the Heinlein tome, so I’ve been alternating between the two.  The Preston book is biography of William Dampier, who discovered earlier than anyone else that being a scientist and a pirate weren’t mutually exclusive.

I’ll be a while polishing off the Dampier tome, even if I manage to croak the Heinlein before the world slouches into next year.

And as for the Orphans in the Sky, I’ll confess it rattles me somewhat.   One of my favorite all time science fiction books was Starship, by Brian Aldiss.  I’ve read it at least half-dozen times over the years.  The Heinlein book reminded me of it so when I discovered the library doesn’t have it and it’s not available InterLibrary loan I checked Amazon.  And surprised myself by finding a review I wrote about it in 2004:

See this image

Starship Paperback – December 1, 1969

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful

By Jack Purcell on May 8, 2004

Format: Paperback

This book was written long before most readers of this review were born. Maybe that’s the reason this great work of science fiction lies dormant and almost forgotten. The book is absorbing, fires the imagination, is both believable and original. I don’t believe, of all the thousands of books of science fiction I’ve read over half a century, I’ve ever read one similar to this (and few better).
The basic story involves a starship the size of a small city on a voyage lasting hundreds of years. Many generations prior to the time of this plot a cataclysmic event and internal disruptions caused the crew to break into factions and isolate themselves. Thereafter the population forgot itself, what it was, and struggled to survive and understand, by the time of this plot, in a strange world.
If you’d like to discover a ‘new’ old one you’ll treasure and read many times through your life this is a good shot at finding one, while it can still be obtained. Take good care of it.
5.0 out of 5 stars
As good as Aldiss ever got. And it beats Heinlen’s Orphans of the Sky, December 30, 2014
This review is from: Starship (Paperback)
My review of this in 2004 didn’t mention the plot similarity to the 1941 Robert Heinlein tome, Orphans of the Sky. I’ve just finished re-reading the Heinlein book and it gave me a thirst to re-read the Aldiss. I’m searching my books-in-tow for it, but I’ve already checked the library system and haven’t located it. Might have to fork out $1.48 for a used copy of this classic.
I haven’t ordered Starship because I want to check whatever books of mine Jeanne has in her basement, but I might yet have to fork out $1.48 plus shipping and snag a used copy from Amazon.
Reason for my studied lack of haste:
I got the urge to re-read the late Philip Jose Farmer’s series, Riverworld one more time this lifetime.  Put them on hold [Jeanne’s library account] at the library.  Jeanne saw it and tossed all five books down in front of me.  Mine.  The originals from when Farmer first published them in the 1970s.  From her basement.
I have vivid recollections of waiting with baited breath for next sequels on these.  So there they are, more unfinished business trying to anchor me here in 2014.
Old Jules

Where desert mountain waits

Sun dried jerky of your past
Lies heavy on the stomach-heart
Grumbles, protests, lingers
Long, long after cactus
Arid faith
Uprooted by a desert mountain
Cloudburst flood
Has withered, blunted tines
No longer barbed
While jerky past still grumbles
Lies heavy on the stomach heart.

Lie still and watch
Lantern sun swings overhead
This banner day
Sliver moon salutes from darkened sky

Take heart.  Take heart.  Take heart.

Move the grumble upward to a song
To tines’ decay

Take heart take heart take heart

While dormant hidden succulents
Await return of desert mountain
Cloud burst flood
And full moon rises.

Jack Purcell, From Poems of the New Old West, copyright 2003, NineLives Press

 

Sylvia Plath and so many other suicides

Hi readers.  Someone female sitting in the lobby late one night tossed The Bell Jar aside and groaned a curse.  Headed for the wagon yard, I reckons.  So I picked up Plath’s tome and read enough to remember everything else I ever knew, ever wanted to know about Sylvia Plath.  Most vividly I remembered a poem, Daddy, by Ms Plath.  Some University of Texas poetry course caused me to write a ten page paper about it once.

I learned to hate the thought Sylvia Plath and her lot shared this planet with regular human beings.  And after reading a while on Bell Jar, chunking it, I wrote this:

Virus of the mind

The drumbeat litany of hatred
And blame;
Of smug mindless naiveté
Numbs the mind.
Alienation is a welcome gift
From the universe
When it involves the inability
To identify with THAT.

The preoccupation with death
As though death is an unnatural state,
Created by a dark maker for the shallow purpose
Of providing a source of terror and sadness
For tiny humans;
Leaves me with a yearning:

Just once I’d like to see a poem
Just once.
A poem full of truths:

“I gave you permission
to hurt me and make me angry;
because of my illusions and expectations
you never agreed to satisfy
and didn’t
now I’m angry.

“I wanted you to behave a certain way.
Because I wanted it, I demanded it
In my expectations of you
without saying so.

“I wanted you to give up your choices.
I didn’t want it
because giving them up would make you
happier
Or more fulfilled.
I just wanted it because I wanted it.

“I’m used to getting my way.
I’ll hate you if I don’t get it.

“I’ll hate you fiercely
and if that doesn’t work
I’ll threaten to kill myself
Just to get you back.”

Or,

“I’m angry.  I’ve always been angry.
Life isn’t fair and it pisses me off.
I haven’t gotten everything I want.
Sometimes my parents weren’t kind to me;
Didn’t give me what I wanted.

“I talk to my friends and they’re angry, too.
The more we talk the more we realize life isn’t fair
And it pisses us off.

“We talk among ourselves
About how cool it would be
To kill some of those flawed bastards
We don’t like.

“We savor our anger; our hatred
We wallow in it
And think of different ways we’d like to kill
The bastards we don’t like;
How much we’d enjoy killing.
We all know
Because took a voice vote.

“Some nerd who wears his glasses crooked
And isn’t cool;
Some football jock who gets all the girls
We’d like to get;
We hate the girls and the jocks.

“Some sarcastic adult who isn’t cool
And doesn’t respect our views
About how the world is.

“We’d like to kill them all.
We took a voice vote
And we all agree.”

“We haven’t studied much
Nor read much
Nor lived much
Nor listened much
But that doesn’t keep us
From knowing how life is;
How life should be.”

“We’re angry and we’d like to kill them all!
We took a voice vote.

“And by God you’ll see
You’ll be sorry
When I kill myself!”

And the Ted Hugheses of the world , the Daddys

Sort through selective memories to avoid the truth

About this creature they loved.

From Poems of the New Old West, copyright 2003 Jack Purcell

Jasper Fforde – The Fourth Bear

Hi readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read, despite the fact none of you ever take my advice about authors and books.  I’d be disappointed in you if I didn’t know you probably wouldn’t have liked them anyway.

For instance, Balzac’s Droll Stories, you’ll probably recall, I told you was the funniest book I’ve ever read.  Told you where you can download it free on wossname, gutenberg.org website.  And I’ll go to my grave confident not a damned one of you bothered to have a look.

So when I tell you about Jasper Fforde I can do it with a high level of confidence I could say anything and not get caught in a lie.

I first told you about The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde, along with The Well of Lost Plots, and maybe some others in that series.  I’ve managed to actually get a few people to try some of those and nobody liked them.  Gave some the books free.  Poof!  Not a, “Hey!  Funny, intriguing book.”  Nothing.

Jeanne likes Jasper Fforde.  Might well be she introduced me to his works.  Shows how the coincidence coordinators are always at work.  Two people, the only two in Christiandom who’d enjoy Jasper Fforde, happen to be close friends.  I love those guys, the CCs.

Anyway, The Fourth Bear is a good book I think you’d enjoy if you were ever stuck in a prison cell the way Steve McQueen was in Pappilon and not allowed to talk to anyone for several years, do anything but read the book.  Fforde explains the deep mystery, for instance, of why three bowls of porridge all poured at the same time, are vastly different temperatures.

 Fforde, for the purposes of this book, lands the reader in a world where talking bears are fighting for their rights, trying to become civilized the way Native American tribes tried to become civilized to keep from being slaughtered by whites.  But the bears come at a later time in history, when a larger or more vocal part of sympatric humanity carries some weight. 

Not to say they’re able to pass legislation, THE RIGHT TO KEEP AND ARM BEARS, to allow bears to defend themselves from hunters.  But the do put them on reservations where it’s more difficult to shoot them.

 Fforde’s main character, Detective Jack Spratt, heads the Nursery Crimes Division of a city police department.  Constantly he’s chasing down criminals out of nursery rhymes.  Persons Of Questionable Reality.

But he’s one himself, and from the time his wife died from overeating fat, he’s able to overcome certain behaviors considered compulsive.

This  plot contains a fast moving set of  plot devices involving the Gingerbread Man, various bears, Goldilox, and giant cucumbers responsible for cuclear detonations threatening the bears, the humans, and possibly world peace.

Read it if you’re ever in prison.

Old Jules

Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear? The Catch 22 Timewarp Conspiracy

This might be the most important text you’ve ever read.

It’s certainly more important than Dick and Jane and their dog named Spot whatever they might be up to these days in Centerville, Ohio.  And anything else you might have read since then probably wasn’t all that important.  Instruction manuals written by English-as-a-second-language tech writers in Malaisia, labels on boxes of muffin-mix, even novels by Stephen King aren’t as important as this.

If you are like me you have to think hard to remember characters and dialogues in books you haven’t read in half-century.  But I’ve been waiting that long for Joseph Hellers prophetic novel, Catch 22, to get caught up with by events.

Yossarian to the mental ward physician:  “Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?

Pages later, to Orr:  “Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?”

Yossarian to Major Major Major Major, pages later:   “Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?”

To Milo Minderbinder, a chapter or so later:  “Where are the Snowdens of yesteryear?”

Today all the spy-vs-spies in the world are asking themselves the same question.  Armed cruise missile operators are whispering those words into their microphones, “Give me the coordinates!”

low volume static, hissing, grumbling.

Moscow airport?  Am I allowed to target the Moscow International Airport?”

low volume static, hissing, grumbling.

“Well of course you need deniability.  It has to look like an accident.  Rogue drone kind of thing.”

low volume static, hissing, grumbling.

“World War III?  Hell, we haven’t even finished WWII yet.  Snowden was WWII.  We’re all caught in a time warp.

low volume static, hissing, grumbling.

“Yeah, we need to watch for anyone named Yossarian.  And Joseph Heller, if he’s still alive, needs to answer a few questions.  If we see someone trying to corner the Egyptian cotton market we’ll know where to look.”

Old Jules

The Limerick Masters of Yesteryear – The Lost Artform

By the time I arrived at adulthood the state of the limerick as a masterpiece of the literary foil was in alarming decline.  Playboy Magazine attempted to inject new life into the medium during the 1960s and 1970s by paying $500 for limerick submissions accepted for publication.  The selection process was tough and they accepted only true masterpieces.

During those years I submitted no fewer than ten [10] limericks per month and never had one accepted.  Hundreds of limericks.  There was no place in Playboy for second-rate hacks.

While the artform requires a particular meter, the truly well-constructed one needs more.  Internal rhyming.  Puns.  Lilting beat to simulate waves on a beach.  A joy to the tongue and ear. 

To illustrate my point, here is perhaps the best limerick ever written, once published in Playboy:

The new cineramic emporium
Is not just a super-sensorium
But a highly effectual
Heterosexual
Mutual masterbatorium.

Every time I run those timeless words through my mind, I’m humbled.

I don’t know whether the image at the top of the page depicts a man who once wrote limericks and submitted them to Playboy.  He almost certainly could have.  Possibly should have.

He might have been a contender.

Old Jules

Jeanne’s Christmas Gift to Visitors and a Few Non-Gifted Words


Jeanne does Christmas but she has a gift worth giving.  I mostly don’t do Christmas so I tips my hat in gratitude she’s here to give it.

Note from Jeanne: This is one of the largest gel pen drawings I’ve ever made. It’s 24 x 24 inches square. I did that size as an experiment for a contest entry for a casino, but when I didn’t win, I re-worked it quite a lot and decided to show it in other exhibits.  I hope you enjoy looking at it!

Morning Readers,

Hope all of you are getting the cobwebs out of your punkin heads sufficiently to maximize whatever joy a person gets out of sitting around a Christmas tree unwrapping packages.

I overslept here, didn’t wake until dawn.  Maybe some of this Christmas spirit thing rubbed off on me and disrupted my routines.  Nice morning.  Quiet outside, cool, but not a shock to hit you when you climb out from under the covers or hit you in the face when you venture outside.

A red dawn.  Sailorman would be concerned about that, I expect.

Last night the cats refused to keep me entertained, so I began reading H. D. F. Kitto’s, The Greeks.  It’s a book I’ve read before, but I occasionally read it again as a refresher course.  Kitto’s work is a fairly expansive treatise on life in Greece during the Classical Period, but he constantly jumps backward so’s to demonstrate how they got where they were and why.

Those Classical Greeks are worth the effort of remembering about.  They’re as much how we got where we are as Homer, the Dorians, the Minoans are how they came to be what they were.  We owe our ability to think in particularly organized ways to them, mathmatics, philosophy, their practical use of democracy, even our concept of drama to some extent.

But we in the West also owe the curse of the Utopian Ideal to their pointy little heads.

That Utopian Ideal has haunted us every since, even though the Greeks, themselves never actually believed in it.  They knew perfectly well that human beings are fundamentally flawed in ways that assure they’ll poison their own watering holes, then run them dry.  They knew that wherever human weakness fails to do the trick, fate, or the gods will step in to lend a hand.

Those Greeks studied Homer much the way really devout Christians study the Old Testament.  And Homer, whatever else it might be, is a refined catalog of human strengths and weaknesses.  Of the drumbeat repetition of human experience.

In their own way, the Greeks were experts on a few thousand years of history in ways we aren’t.  They learned from it, not as we believe we’ve learned from it, but haven’t, but rather as an assurance that human beings make the same mistakes over and over.  That they’ll go on making them as long as there’s a human being left to do the job.

The Greeks derived a wisdom from their knowledge of history, but the wisdom was an oblique one that provided a separate wisdom….. one that included the certainty there’ll never be any Utopia.  Never be any meek inheriting much of anything and holding onto it.

But that’s my premise, not Kitto’s.

I hope you’ll spend a bit of time remembering what Christmas was supposed to be the anniversary of the beginning of.  Not baby-Jesuses or Santa Clauses, readers, but a beginning of a spiritual commitment to peace, love, understanding.

An ideal for breaking the endless cycle of power struggles, killing, worship of gluttony and greed.  A beginning for human beings to take responsibility for their own behavior, attitudes and lives.

Christmas.  Jesus.  A beginning of not being so frightened of everything.  So angry.  So aggressive and downright rattlesnake ugly mean you want to kill strangers a long way from here who are no threat to you if you’ll leave them alone, and take joy from doing it.

A beginning of having the faith that death is part of human experience, and that isn’t something you have to be so damned cowardly scared of it keeps you furious and wanting to look away at anything at all to take your thoughts away from having to do it.

I hope you’ll remember that for a few moments, readers, but I know you won’t.

I ain’t a Utopian.

Old Jules