Monday, March 31, 2014

LOTR Read-Along: Journey to the Cross-roads (TTT Ch. 18)

Sorry it's been a while between posts.  My kids are sick.

Turns out I don't have a lot to say about this chapter.  I did like how Faramir's farewell to Frodo and Sam includes "the manner of his people, stooping and placing his hands upon their shoulders, and kissing their foreheads" (p. 680).  That is exactly how Aragorn said farewell to Boromir when he died, and I love that detail, that Aragorn knew enough of Gondorian ways that he knew how to properly say farewell to a Captain of Gondor.

Favorite Lines:

"Maybe," said Sam; "but where there's life there's hope, as my Gaffer used to say; and need of vittles, as he mostways used to add" (p. 685).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Sam dreams he's back at Bag End, heavily burdened and tired.  Frodo sleeps "unquietly" and mutters Gandalf's name.  What do you think their contrasting dreams say about their own mindsets at this point?

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Faramir: A Guest Post by Heidi

(Warning!  This contains spoilers about events farther on in The Lord of the Rings.  If you're unfamiliar with the whole story, save this to read later.)

by Heidi

Faramir... I can still remember piecing together who this ‘grave young man’ was ‘whose words seemed so wise and fair’ as my father was reading The Lord of the Rings aloud for the first time (that I can remember, that is). I must have been about eight and I can still remember the thrill when I realized he and Boromir were related.

So many people like Faramir, but what makes him such a wonderful character? (Note: I haven’t watched the movie, so in the following I’ll be discussing him as he appears in the book.)

When first we meet him in Ithilien, he is both rough and commanding, but his courtesy is soon set beyond a doubt. When interrogating Frodo (much to Sam’s displeasure) he is ‘stern and commanding’ with ‘a keen wit behind a searching glance.’ He says, ‘I do not slay man or beast needlessly, and not gladly even when it is needed. Neither do I talk in vain.’ A man taking time for thought, refusing to act in haste, he is quick and decisive in action. ‘I will not decide in haste what is to be done. Yet we must move hence without more delay.’ He sprang to his feet and issued some orders.’

Weighing his words, he is a truth-teller, ‘I would not snare even an orc with a falsehood.’ He doesn't immediately let out all he knows -- parrying and questioning Frodo before telling what he himself already knew of Boromir -- guarding his words when speaking with his father -- waiting -- knowing what to speak when the time comes ripe; revealing the better part of wisdom.

Faramir seems to have the ‘long-sight’ associated with the blood of Westernesse, for Gandalf says of Denethor, ‘Whatever be his descent from father to son, by some chance the blood of Westernesse runs nearly true in him; as it does in his other son, Faramir... He has long sight. He can perceive, if he bends his will thither, much of what is passing in the minds of men... It is difficult to deceive him, and dangerous to try.’ Earlier, in the cave of Henneth Annûn, ‘Slowly Gollum raised his eyes and looked unwillingly into Faramir’s. All light went out of them, and they stared bleak and pale for a moment into the clear unwavering eyes of the man of Gondor...‘There are locked doors and closed windows in your mind, and dark rooms behind them,’ said Faramir. ‘But in this I judge that you speak the truth.’ Later, first encountering Éowyn, ‘...he was moved with pity, for he saw that she was hurt, and his clear sight perceived her sorrow and unrest.’

Gentle and yet stern, he is patient and long-suffering with the wayward and headstrong -- Boromir, Éowyn, his father. Amazing in how it’s done (especially as it’s understated -- and in Boromir’s case we never see them together), but we never doubt his great love for both father and brother.

A courageous leader, his men give him their love and trust. Beregond says of him, ‘Things may change when Faramir returns. He is bold, more bold than many deem; for in these days men are slow to believe that a captain can be wise and learned in the scrolls of lore and song, as he is, and yet a man of hardihood and swift judgment in the field.’ Éowyn ‘looked at him and saw the grave tenderness in his eyes, and yet knew, for she was bred among men of war, that here was one whom no Rider of the Mark would outmatch in battle.’

In the cave of Henneth Annûn, when the Ring itself comes within his grasp, he withstands its lure, saying, ‘I am wise enough to know that there are some perils from which a man must flee.’ Later Sam says, ‘You took the chance, sir.’ ‘Did I so?’ said Faramir. ‘Yes sir, and showed your quality: the very highest.’ Faramir smiled, ‘...Yet there was naught in this to praise. I had no lure or desire to do other than I have done.’ Perhaps, at first glance, a little disappointing -- we might like him to have more of an internal battle before relinquishing his opportunity -- but in fact, evidence of the highest quality indeed. Authority sits easily on him, but he does not desire ultimate power. He does not desire it because -- above all -- he is a valorous servant.

In his valor and courage, he yet knows weakness and grief. As he lies near death, Aragorn reads his hurt as, ‘Weariness, grief for his father’s mood, a wound, and over all the Black Breath... He is a man of staunch will, for already he had come close under the Shadow before ever he rode to battle on the out-walls. Slowly the dark must have crept on him, even as he fought and strove to hold his outpost.’

Captain of the White Tower -- Steward of Gondor -- a servant of the king and passing through death in his service–he is healed and brought back to life by that King. ‘Suddenly Faramir stirred... and he looked on Aragorn who bent over him; and a light of knowledge and love was kindled in his eyes, and he spoke softly. ‘My lord, you called me. I come. What does the king command?’ ‘Walk no more in the shadows, but awake!’ said Aragorn, ‘You are weary. Rest a while, and take food, and be ready when I return.’ ‘I will, lord,’ said Faramir. ‘For who would lie idle when the king has returned?’

Joy, obedience, and valorous service... A wise and daring servant, he is exalted in honor. May we strive to live likewise with the same end in view -- the heart-fulfilling, soul-satisfying commendation of our King.

(Hamlette's note -- thanks for this great post, Heidi!  I'm more and more intrigued by Faramir, and I love the insights you've got going on here!)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"Tales of the Jazz Age" by F. Scott Fitzgerald

More Fitzgerald!  I think that, on a whole, I liked this collection better than Flappers and Philosophers (though it's hard to beat that title, isn't it?) just because there are more stories here that I want to read again.  Like his first short story collection, most of these had been published in magazines previously, and they're a pretty eclectic mix.  Which is such fun, because you never know what you're going to get when you begin a story.  Will it be gaudy?  Funny?  Melancholy?  Wacky?  They run quite a gamut.

Once again, here's a little of what I thought about each story:

"The Jelly-Bean" was okay, and a nice way to ease into the collection.

"The Camel's Back" made me laugh aloud.  A recommendation for this story from Dale at Mirror w/ Clouds is what led me to try Fitzgerald's short stories in the first place.

"May Day" has that depressing desperation that always feels to me like the crux of the Lost Generation.

"Porcelain and Pink" was sweet and funny and makes me smile just remembering it.

"The Diamond as Big as the Ritz" was weird and over-the-top and amusing.

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" was great.  I liked it better than the Brad Pitt movie that's based on it -- the movie went on too long, but the story is just right.

"Tarquin of Cheapside" was, um... odd.  Why Fitzgerald decided that Shakespeare stole a woman's virtue and then wrote "The Rape of Lucrece" as a result is beyond me. 

"O Russet Witch!" was also odd, but also enjoyable in a wistful way.

"The Lees of Happiness" was my favorite.  And it made me cry.  Fitzgerald has never made me cry before.  It's tragic, but not hopeless.

"Mr. Icky" was downright wacky.

"Jemina" was kind of lame, but slapstickishly funny here and there.

On a while, I enjoyed this collection a lot and would like to reread most of the stories some time.  I'll buy a copy should I come across it in the used book store or the library book sale.

Particularly Good Bits:

It is youth's felicity as well as its insufficiency that it can never live in the present, but must always be measuring up the day against its own radiantly imagined future -- flowers and gold, girls and stars, they are only prefigurations and prophecies of that incomparable, unattainable young dream.  (from "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz")

"It was a dream," said John quietly.  "everybody's youth is a dream, a form of chemical madness."  (from "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz")

Down long and sinuous lanes twisted the hunted and the harriers, always in and out of the moon in a perpetual queen's move over a checker-board of glints and patches.  (from "Tarquin of Cheapside")

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for mild innuendo, occasional mild bad language, and alcohol consumption.

This is my sixth book read and reviewed for The Classics Club, and my fourth for the I Love Library Books challenge.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

LOTR Read-Along: The Forbidden Pool (TTT Ch. 17)

I hate this chapter.  Hate it hate it hate it hate it.  All those warm fuzzies from last chapter?  Gone.  This is pretty much the only time I truly sympathize with Gollum -- how betrayed he must feel when Frodo coaxes him closer and then strange men pop a bag over his head and tie him up.  It's awful!  Hate it!  Yeah, yeah, it's necessary for the plot and whatever.  But I'm still sitting here glaring.

When Faramir says "I will declare my doom" (p. 675) to Frodo and then says he's going to let Frodo and Sam and Gollum go free, I always took that to meant that he was dooming himself to death if Frodo and Co. didn't behave themselves, that it was his doom.  But that's not it, is it.  He's declaring his decision, a doom for them, a verdict.  Huh.

Favorite Lines:

"It is a place of sleepless malice, full of lidless eyes" (p. 677).

"I must take such paths as I can find" (p. 678).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Faramir says to Gollum, "There are locked doors and closed windows in your mind, and dark rooms behind them" (p. 674), and then he says he knows Gollum is planning something treacherous because Faramir "perceived [it] clearly in his mind" (p. 677).  And that he knows Gollum has done murder because he "read it in him" (p.678).  So does Faramir have some mind-reading abilities, or is he an extremely shrewd judge of character, or what?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

LOTR Read-Along: The Window on the West (TTT Ch. 16)

This is more like it!  Finally, we're talking about Boromir again!

Okay, honestly, even if Boromir wasn't mentioned, I would be so happy with this chapter.  A brief reprieve from wandering around in the grey dismality of Almost-Mordor.  Food and rest for poor Sam and Frodo.  Whew.

And hello, Faramir!  It's weird, but I've never paid a whole lot of attention to Faramir before this reading.  I tend to just think of him as Boromir's little brother, and isn't it nice how much he loved his brother, etc.  But this read-through, I was really struck by just how grand Faramir really is.  He's like a knight out of a King Arthur story, chivalrous and honorable to a fault.  

And he listens better to the old stories than Boromir, for Faramir says of Lothlorien, "few of old came thence unchanged, 'tis said" (p. 652), while Boromir said, "it is said that few come out who once go in; and of that few none have escaped unscathed" (p. 329).  Aragorn, of course, corrected Boromir thus:  "Say not unscathed, but if you say unchanged, then maybe you will speak the truth" (p. 329).  

He's something of a paradox, this Faramir.  He's obviously a good warrior, since his followers told us in the last chapter that "he leads now in all perilous ventures" (p. 645), yet he himself says, "I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory" (p. 656).  Unlike Boromir, he doesn't enjoy deeds of valor for their own sake, but does them out of necessity.  

I used to feel like, if I liked Faramir a lot, I was somehow being disloyal to Boromir.  Yeah, I know -- they're fictional!  Machts nicht.  That's how I felt.  This is probably because I had friends who, when I saw the second movie, seemed to expect that I would suddenly throw off my love of Boromir and see that Faramir is far the superior person, blah blah blah.  And I've got that fiercely loyal thing going on -- Boromir was my favorite, he was going to stay my favorite, and if that meant dismissing Faramir as not particularly interesting, so be it.

But that's just lame!  I'm not Denethor, I don't need to be all "Boromir is awesome, and since Faramir is different, he's not awesome."  I despise Denethor for that very attitude!  So, from now on, I'm a fan of "this grave young man, whose words seemed so wise and fair" (p. 657).  I'll place him around Aragorn in my list of favorites.  Which now looks like this, then:

1.  Boromir
2.  Sam
3.  Gandalf and Eomer
4.  Aragorn and Faramir
5.  Merry and Pippin
6.  Legolas and Gimli
7.  Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth

Which makes that my top eleven now, but round numbers are overrated.  I cannot leave Prince Imrahil off!  He's so full of shiny awesome.  And yes, I have two people for four places because I like those two characters equally well and can't place one above the other.

Oh, and... Faramir has grey eyes!  Pattern still holds.

And then Faramir makes me want to hug him because he says of seeing Boromir's body:  "Whether he erred or no, of this I am sure:  he died well, achieving some good thing.  His face was more beautiful even than in life" (p. 654).  Aww.  Very sweet.  And then he says Boromir was "a man of prowess, and for that he was accounted the best man in Gondor" (p. 664).  

Okay, okay, I'll quit.  I just get so happy in this chapter over how appreciated Boromir was at home, especially since I keep feeling like a lot of people write him off as "a bad guy."  

Favorite Lines:

"We are a failing people, a springless autumn" (p. 662).

"Your heart is shrewd as well as faithful, and saw clearer than your eyes" (p. 666).

"...the praise of the praiseworthy is above all rewards" (p. 667).

He planted himself squarely in front of Faramir, his hands on his hips, and a look on his face as if he was addressing a young hobbit who had offered him what he called 'sauce' when questioned about visits to the orchard (p. 650).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Faramir says, "We are truth-speakers, we men of Gondor.  We boast seldom, and then perform, or die in the attempt" (p. 665).  Does that differ from what Eomer said back in "The Riders of Rohan," when he claimed that "the Men of the Mark do not lie, and therefore they are not easily deceived" (p. 424)?  Why does Tolkien place this great emphasis on truth-telling?

Anyone want to write a character post about Faramir?  It's been a while since we had a character post.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

"Two Guys Read Jane Austen" by Steve Chandler and Terrence N. Hill

This is certainly an enjoyable approach to literary criticism!  Two writers who have been friends since childhood read Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park and exchanged a series of emails and letters regarding the books.  Hill had read Austen's books before, but Chandler had never read any of her works, which led to some very interesting discussions.  

Of course, they discover that Austen's books are not "woman's fiction" or "chick lit" at all -- I myself have read enough history about her books to know that it's only in the past 70 years or so that Austen's books have been categorized as "girly."  According to Jane Austen's Cults and Cultures, during WWI, soldiers read her in the trenches.  During WWII, British people of both genders turned to Austen for a reminder of why they were fighting so hard to preserve their country.  When the books were published, men read them as avidly as women, so it is only now that the idea of two guys reading Jane Austen would be regarded as weird.

I was a little disappointed that they chose to read Mansfield Park for their second book, as it's my least-favorite Austen novel.  Still, I did acquire some new insights into it that, if I can remember them, will make another read-through of MP more interesting if I ever decide to undertake such a thing.  

The authors digressed a lot, mentioning or discussing things like baseball, their wives, and popular culture too.  They watched some Austen-related movies too, and talked about those a bit.  But all in all, this was a fast, fun book, and I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys learning about other people's perspectives on books.  

(I won this book in a giveaway on Reading in the Dark.  Thanks again, Hannah!  This was such a fun book!)

Particularly Good Bits:

By illuminating what happens inside the human mind when it believes narrow things, Jane Austen is as good as War and Peace (p. 32) (SC)

And to those macho guys who are too ough to read anything softer than a violent crime thriller I say you are missing a lot if you don't read Jane Austen (p. 38)(TH)

A good book in a quiet room is still the most profound experience known of one person's art being downloaded into another human being's mind.  Nothing compares (p. 38)(TH)

I am amazed at how much I loved reading pride and Prejudice.  I also was sorry it had to end.  In some ways it's a shame that so many good movies have been made of the Austen books.  Because they give the impression that she is all about love and romance and clolorful flirting and manners.  What the movies cannot get to -- or do justice to -- is the intelligence.  And not just the flashing sarcastic wit of Elizabeth and her father.  But deeper still into intellectual courage and character (p. 50)(SC)

So what characterizes Jane Austen for me is that she is a novelist of the mind.  A writer who captures beautifully the interplay of intelligences when they are challenged by love and status and money.  (p. 51)(SC)

Jane Austen allows male readers a secret look into the minds of brilliant, creative, virtuous women.  one heroine (Elizabeth Bennet) outgoing, another (Fanny) introspective.  But Austen's heroines are each true to themselves and win in the end.  Classy women who combine high intelligence wtih inner strength and virtue (p. 122)(SC)

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  Not Rated.  It's like a PBS documentary, kinda.

This is my third book read for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge.

Friday, March 14, 2014

LOTR Read-Along: Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit (TTT Ch. 15)

I quite like this chapter.  Why?  Because Frodo and Sam get to eat their herbs and stewed rabbit!  That makes me so happy.  In the movie, they get interrupted by the Oliphaunt, and that saddens me deeply.  Also, we finally get to walk through some more pleasant countryside.  And more happens than just trudging and being weary.

And look!  Faramir!  While he's not a major favorite of mine, I've always had a fondness for him just because he's Boromir's younger brother.  Now that Boromir's been gone, Faramir's been promoted to leading "in all perilous ventures" (p. 645).  Good for him!

And didja notice that the guys with Faramir all have grey eyes?  Yup, them too.  Maybe it's a Dunedain thing?

Favorite Lines:

"Know, little strangers, that Boromir son of Denethor was High Warden of the White Tower, and our Captain-General:  sorely do we miss him" (p. 641).

"Wise man trusts not to chance-meeting on the road in this land" (p. 644).

"May the light shine on your swords!" (p. 644).

To his astonishment and terror, and lasting delight, Sam saw a vast shape crash out of the trees and come careering down the slope (p. 646).

Possible Discussion Questions:

Do you like potatoes?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Dipped in a Story: A Guest Post by Sarah

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” 
— J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

The sun was dipping behind the mountainside as we slid down into a valley campsite, our home for the night. Finally I could unstrap my pack and rub my aching shoulders. And breathe. And look. My husband David and I had traveled all the way across the country for this—these towering trees with blue sky peeking between the branches, these flowered meadows, and soaring views of snow-sprinkled mountains looming ahead. We were halfway up the Middle Sister in Oregon, and it was breathtaking. (Literally!) The money we’d squirreled away for months, the planning, the shopping for gear . . . and the books we’d read for years had all carried us here. Here we were, with everything we needed for a few days strapped onto our backs, enveloped by the immensity of the forest. We were Lewis and Clark. We were Jill and Eustace. We were Sam and Frodo.

We were on an epic journey.

Reading stories, especially reading The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, fuels and inspires the hiking experience. C. S. Lewis once said, 
“The value of the myth is that it takes all the things we know and restores to them the rich significance which has been hidden by ‘the veil of familiarity.’ The child enjoys his cold meat, otherwise dull to him, by pretending it is buffalo, just killed with his own bow and arrow. And the child is wise. The real meat comes back to him more savory for having been dipped in a story... by putting bread, gold, horse, apple, or the very roads into a myth, we do not retreat from reality: we rediscover it.” 
The very roads that wind their way into the heart of the woods or mountains bring so much more satisfaction and emotional connection once they have been dipped in a story.

And of course, the opposite is true as well: the scrambling among rocks, the fording of rushing streams, the aches and pains and sweat, the spreading vistas: these experiences- turned-memories fuel the books you read and re-read. Now you can relate and imagine in ways hitherto unknown, once you have done some dayhiking or backpacking. You can join Aragorn and feel what it must have been like to track Gollum. When you turn to the pages when Sam stews his brace of conies, you can let the smell of the campfire cooking come back to you. You can be so thankful to be reading indoors with a cup of tea when the weather is poor, because chances are you instantly are transported back to that 8-mile push along an exposed ridge in cold rain.

I’ve always loved books, but it took true love to get me into backpacking. When I met my husband-to-be, David, I found out that he enjoyed hiking and after we got married, we decided to try out backpacking. For an exercise-hater like me who had rarely camped before, the idea of carrying everything you’d need on your back and heading into the wilderness without a stitch of air conditioning and with nary a bathroom in sight... well, the idea was unnerving.

But true love carried the day, and the love of The Lord of the Rings has added fuel to the fire. And today, reading and backpacking have joined forces to bring me a happier, healthier life. Backpacking has its ups and downs. Sometimes it’s not that fun and sometimes downright painful, but you know, so is reading Tolkien. It’s a beautiful thing: dipped in story, hiking becomes even better, and dipped in hiking, stories become even better. It’s a win-win.

Sarah and her own little hobbit.
(Hamlette's note:  Thank you for this thought-provoking post, Sarah!  I love how you've gotten hiking and books to complement each other.

Everyone else, you really must visit her Etsy shop at the link below.  She writes LOTR quotes on pottery.  In Elvish.  With gold paint.  They're breathtaking!  I just ordered I think my seventh piece from her.)

When Sarah Rees is not backpacking with her husband David and their two-year-old son, Jadon, they live in Crestview, FL. Sarah blogs at and sells stuff on Etsy at They are currently working on adopting their second baby and hope to have many more hiking and reading adventures in their future.

Monday, March 10, 2014

"The Phantom Tollbooth" by Norton Juster

Sigh.  Either I'm too old for this book, or I'm just not the right audience for it.  I did try to read it once when I was like eleven, and never got into it, so I'm inclined to say I'm just not the right audience.  But so many people (including my husband) rave about this book that I decided I must read it after all.  And it took me a couple of weeks, but I finally finished it!  

I think my problem is that I really don't get into books where Everything Means Represents Something.  Like Pilgrim's Progress -- it's all clever and allegorical, and the story loses me because Everything Means Represents Something.  I'm not even the hugest Narnia fan because sometimes I feel bogged down by trying to figure out all the allegory.  I like three or four of the books quite well, and the rest I just read because I kind of feel I ought to.  

So.  The Phantom Tollbooth is a clever book about a boy named Milo who travels to a fantastical world full of places with names like Ignorance and Wisdom, and with characters named things like Rhyme and Reason and Humbug.  And it kind of drove me nuts.  However, I think my six-year-old is going to find it hilarious, and that's really why I read it -- so he and I could discuss it.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.  Squeakily clean, like junior fiction ought to be.

This is my fifth book read and reviewed for The Classics Club and my second for the Mount TBR Challenge.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

LOTR Read-Along: The Black Gate is Closed (TTT Ch. 14)

Frodo waxes rather philosophical in this chapter.  As they face the Black Gate, he says, "I am commanded to go to the land of Mordor, and therefore I shall go... If there is only one way, then I must take it.  What comes after must come" (p. 624).  It quite reminds me of the point toward the end of Hamlet where Hamlet discusses death with Horatio.  He says:  
"If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all. Since no man knows aught of what he leaves, what is't to leave betimes? Let be."    (V, 2)
That's one of my favorite moments in the play, when Hamlet finally stops fighting against everyone and everything and accepts that there's not a lot he can do anymore except see this mess through.  And that's exactly what Frodo seems to have decided.

But then there's Sam.  Sam "never had any real hope in the affair from the beginning; but being a cheerful hobbit he had not needed hope, as long as despair could be postponed" (p. 624).  And so now that everything looks like it's ending, he's going to stick by Frodo and see this through too.  The readiness is indeed all.

Of course, Gollum's not anywhere near ready to just give The Ring up -- he still has hope of regaining it, and he convinces them to go elsewhere.  So the hobbits take fate back into their own hands and struggle on.  Frodo believes that "if both led to terror and death, what good lay in choice?" (p. 630).  And indeed, it seems pretty pointless right here, though we who know how the story ends can nod our heads and look wise.

Favorite Lines:

Another dreadful day of fear and toil had come to Mordor (p. 623).

Possible Discussion Questions:

When pondering whether to go through the Black Gate or follow Gollum elsewhere, Frodo things "[i]t was an evil fate" and "[t]his was an evil choice" (p. 630).  Why do you think Tolkien uses the word 'evil' here instead of 'unpleasant' or 'difficult'?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

"Flappers and Philosophers" by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Wow.  This is my 200th post on this blog!  I feel like I should throw a party or something.  That's pretty groovy.

Anyway, Flappers and Philosophers was Fitzgerald's first short story collection, and from what the foreword of the copy I read said, many of the stories had been published in magazines previously.  Some are better than others, and a couple are superb, but they all have that Fitzgerald flair for jewel-like prose.  Here's a little of what I thought of each story:

"The Offshore Pirate" was amusing at first, a little tense in the middle, and had an ending that I liked first-rate.

"The Ice Palace" was sad, but kind of predictable.

"Head and Shoulders" felt like an O. Henry story, with one of those 'do you get it now?' endings.

"The Cut-Glass Bowl" was depressing and I didn't like it.

"Bernice Bobs Her Hair" kept me equally amused and exasperated, and by the end I liked it a great deal.

"Benediction" confused me a bit -- what was the ending supposed to mean?  If you know, please tell me.

"Dalrymple Goes Wrong" annoyed me at the end, when justice was not served.

"The Four Fists" was nifty and amusing, and had a pretty original idea behind it.

Overall, I really liked this collection, and wouldn't mind owning a copy.  I'm liking Fitzgerald more and more all the time -- I think I liked this better as a whole than both The Great Gatsby and This Side of Paradise.  In fact, I can't wait to read more of his short stories -- probably Tales of the Jazz Age.  It'll be interesting to watch his writing progress, as that was his next collection.

Particularly Good Bits:

When Ardita defied convention -- and of late it had been her chief amusement -- it was from an intense desire to be herself, and she felt that this man, on the contrary, was preoccupied with his own defiance.  (from "The Offshore Pirate")

Yet, like all men who are preoccupied with their own broadness, he was exceptionally narrow.  (from "The Cut-Glass Bowl")

At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look; at forty-five they are caves in which we hide.  (from "Bernice Bobs Her Hair")

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for occasional mild innuendo and alcohol consumption.

This is my fourth book read and reviewed for The Classics Club and my third for the I Love Library Books Challenge.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Classics Club Monthly Meme: March 2014

This month's question is:  "What is your favorite 'classic' literary period, and why?"

I thought I would beg off this month because I didn't really know enough about what books and authors belong to what period.  And yes, that's a terrible thing for a person who took enough lit and history classes in college to get concentrations in English and History -- you'd think between the two of those, I'd know what books and authors belong where!  Silly me.  But then Ruth at "A Great Book Study" posted this awesome chart, and now I have no excuse.  Ain't that always the way!


So.  Going by the list of my favorite authors, I guess... I don't have a favorite.  I mean, I love Realists like Rudyard Kipling and Robert Louis Stevenson and A. Conan Doyle (or is he a Victorian?), Victorians like Charlotte Bronte and Robert Browning, Modernists like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and what exactly would you call Raymond Chandler, anyway?

So, yeah, I have no favorite literary time period.  Now, if we were to discuss genres...

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

LOTR Read-Along: The Passage of the Marshes (TTT Ch. 13)

Drearily we stumble along, stumble along, stumble along...

As Tolkien himself says here, "The next stage of their journey was much the same as the last" (p. 611).  Sam continues to suspect Gollum/Smeagol of ulterior motives, and to help Frodo by "supporting him if he stumbled, and trying to encourage him with clumsy words" (p. 617).  Everything is ugly and horrible and ghastly.  And that's all I have to say about that.

Favorite Lines:

"Day is near," he whispered, as if Day was something that might overhear him and spring on him (p. 607).

Dead grasses and rotting reeds loomed up in the mists like ragged shadows of long-forgotten summers (p. 612).

Possible Discussion Questions:

What do you think the lights above the dead things in the marsh signify or represent or mean or whatever?

Saturday, March 1, 2014

LOTR Read-Along: The Taming of Smeagol (TTT Ch. 12)

And now we enter what I tend to refer to as "the boring Frodo and Sam wandering around part."  Maybe 'boring' is the wrong word -- 'sleep-inducing' might be more accurate.  This chapter isn't so bad, but there will come a time when I will probably fall asleep reading parts of this section.  Is that a terrible thing to admit?

The first time I read The Two Towers, I barely made it through, to be honest.  The second time, I'd read somewhere that if you pay attention to Sam and his character growth and arc, all this is a lot more interesting, and I tried that.  It does help, and keeps me from bashing my head against a wall, at least.

And yes, I realize Tolkien is Making A Point with how long and tortuous and dull Frodo and Sam's journey is at this point, that being heroic isn't always exciting.  So I slog through it dutifully.  But I'm so glad that in the movies, Peter Jackson intercut the various sections so we didn't spend two hours trudging and then an hour doing the more interesting stuff.

So anyway, we have Gollum with us now, and I'll write more about him another time.  Meanwhile, look how cheerful Sam is!  Faced with climbing (or falling) down a steep cliff, he says lovely, heartening things like, "I suppose it's always easier getting down than up," and "Looking's better than climbing" (p. 592).  Dear, dear Sam, the sturdy hobbit.  It says later that, when they're climbing down using the rope, Frodo "had not quite Sam's faith," (p. 596), and I find that such a telling phrase.  Sam believes wholeheartedly that they'll get where they're going, they'll succeed.  He believes the rope will hold, he believes they'll find a way into Mordor, he believes they can somehow find Mount Doom.  

And when they capture Gollum, although Sam doesn't trust him one bit and hates having him around, when it comes to tying Gollum with a rope, "Sam was gentler than his words" (p. 603).  Doesn't that phrase warm your heart?

Favorite Lines:

"I wish there was a clear path in front of us; then I'd go on till my legs gave way" (p. 598).

Possible Discussion Questions:  

How do you feel about the "Frodo and Sam wandering around part" of this book?