Another TBR Triple Dog Dare Update

TBR Final Dare

The final TBR Triple Dog Dare is sponsored by James at James Reads Books and here’s another update. The Dare requires participants to read only books that they already have during January, February and March. Only a few more weeks to go and while I can’t get too excited about how many books I’ve read during these months, the books I have read have been worth reading. In February, I completed Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, a classic that has been on my shelf for a long time. I’m glad to have added this to my “Books Read” list.

Currently, I’m in the middle of Emily’s sister Charlotte’s novel Jane Eyre.  So far, I’m liking this one better but it’s taking even longer to get through it. Look for a post about “Volume The First” sometime soon. Reading the forewords and afterwords in these novels, has sparked an interest in the Bronte sisters. At some point this year, I might have to read a biography or two about this family of authors.

I received Andy Weir’s novel The Martian for my birthday last month so it will probably be the first book I read in April which at the rate I’m going will also be the book I read after Jane Eyre.  If I, by chance, finish it before the end of March, my plan is to read some more Ray Bradbury short stories that are already on my shelf.

Are you currently taking the dare? If so, how is it going?

Advertisements

Voices in the Night: Stories by Steven Millhauser – Part 2

Continuing with Steven Millhauser’s collection Voices in the Night: Stories, here are my thoughts about four more stories:

“Coming Soon”

Levinson is quite proud of moving to a small town which perhaps could also be considered a suburb of a large town. Millhauser includes tons of small town details about Levinson’s neighbors and streets and shopping mall.  As the story progresses, the small town changes almost before his eyes. And keeps changing. All of these changes get the full Millhauser detail treatment; however, I’m never sure of the point Millhauser is trying to make. Unless of course, all of these constant changes have no point. That’s a possibility.

“Rapunzel”

This is the retelling of the fairy tale so the plot isn’t necessarily new although it might have a couple of different twists. What I thought was intriguing was the detail with which Millhauser describes the doubt and uncertainty the Prince has about Rapunzel. On a humorous note, the Prince actually enjoys climbing up the tower more than he does seeing Rapunzel. Meanwhile, Rapunzel wonders what takes him so long.

22543938

“Elsewhere”

This story took me a while to understand and I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I still understand it. This is my take, though. As a kid, so much anticipation went into the start of summer vacation. An anticipation that many times never lived up to the hype by the end of the summer. In the story, this type of anticipation seems to cause a town to produce paranormal activity they can never quite figure out. My evidence for this interpretation comes from this paragraph – which I’m pretty sure will rank up there as one of my favorites this year:

By the middle of August we felt the exhaustion of adventures that had never taken us far enough. At the same time we were inflamed by a kind of sharp, overripe alertness to possibilities untried. In the languor and stillness of perfect afternoons, we could already feel the last days of summer, coming toward us with their burden of regret. What had we done, really? What had we ever done? There was a sense that it all should have led to something, a sense that a necessary culmination had somehow failed to come about. And always the days passed, like riddles we would never solve.

This reminds me of Ray Bradbury’s summer stories – from a different perspective. And of these four stories, this is my favorite.

“Thirteen Wives”

Is this the story of a chauvinistic polygamist or just a man who appreciates feminine complexities? Or put another way: how many wives does this dude really have? Readers, themselves, can be the judge.

 

Bradbury of the Month: December-The Sound of Summer Running

For my final installment of Bradbury of the Month, I read “The Sound of Summer Running”.  Just by the title, I could tell it would be full of themes familiar to Ray Bradbury readers.

50014

Many of Bradbury’s stories contain some sort of fantasy or magical element; however, it’s not uncommon for him to take something ordinary and give it a magical twist without turning it in to fantasy. In “The Sound of Summer Running”, the very ordinary act of a young boy wanting new shoes for summer gets the Bradbury magical treatment:

Somehow the people who made tennis shoes knew what boys needed and wanted. They put marshmellows and coiled springs in the soles and they wove the rest out of grasses bleached and fired in the wilderness. Somewhere deep in the soft loam of the shoes the thin hard sinews of the buck deer were hidden. The people that made the shoes must have watched a lot of winds blow the trees and a lot of rivers going down to the lakes. Whatever it was, it was in the shoes and it was summer.

The young protagonist makes a deal with the shoe salesman to work so he can pay for his new shoes. While it’s not as obvious, Bradbury seems to also put something magical into the act of working to buy one’s dreams. The kid’s excitement is inspiring.

For 2016, I will be selecting another Annual Featured Author. I’ve narrowed it down to a couple of authors. Unlike Ray Bradbury, in 2016, I’m going to be a little riskier and select an author whom I’ve never read before. Stay tuned to see who I finally pick.

 

Bradbury of the Month: November – R is for Rocket

There was this fence where we pressed our faces and felt the wind turn warm and held to the fence and forgot who we were or where we came from but dreamed of who we might be and where we might go…

Yet we were boys and liked being boys…

Ray Bradbury’s “R is for Rocket” has some of his usual themes – boys growing up and the excitement that comes with it, but in addition, the sadness of boyhood going away.

Bradbury always has a soft spot for summer and Saturdays. He has an understanding of what these mean (or meant) to children. I like that Bradbury doesn’t discount the importance of school room education but he readily affirms the idea that a type of education can also be found outside the classroom.

To reach for the stars, both figuratively and literally in Bradbury’s story, one has to move beyond summers and Saturdays but something is lost when one no longer has them.

50014

 

Bradbury of the Month – October: The Golden Kite, The Silver Wind

It’s already October.  It’s hard to believe that after this post there are only two more editions of “Bradbury of the Month”.

This time around, I read Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Golden Kite, The Silver Wind”. Similar to “The Flying Machine”, this story is also written as an Asian fable.  It revolves around two cities back in ancient times when cities had walls built around them.

One city is bothered my the other city’s wall because it’s in the shape of an orange (I presume that would be round).  In an effort to one-up the “orange” city, the other one builds their wall in the shape of a pig – because a pig can eat an orange. This results in the “orange” city building a wall in the shape of a club – because a club can beat a pig. Well, it probably would not surprise anyone at this point that this goes on and on and on and on and on. It’s a sort of fairytale version of an arms race.

50014

Of course, these are only walls in different shapes. It’s not as though there is an actual pig to eat an actual orange – or that any of the other shapes are real. They are only symbols and Bradbury has an interesting take on symbols:

Life was full of symbols and omens. Demons lurked everywhere, Death swam in the wetness of an eye, the turn of a gull’s wing meant rain, a fan held so, the tilt of a roof, and, yes, even a city wall was of immense importance.

While this story has some fairytale traits, it ends on a positive note (unlike most original fairytales). The title gives a clue as to the amicable ending.

Bradbury of the Month: September – I See You Never

For September’s Ray Bradbury story, I picked his very short story “I See You Never”.  I picked it because it’s title sounded a little different from other Bradbury stories – and it was. This story contains no science fiction or fantasy, no comedy or hyper-reality, but it still showcases Bradbury’s ability to tell a story.

50014

Mrs. O’Brian, who runs a Los Angeles boarding house, answers her door to find Mr. Ramirez, her best tennant, with two policemen.  The entire story takes place within the doorway during this brief encounter.  Mr. Ramirez is being deported back to Mexico and has come to get his few possessions and say good-bye to Mrs. O’Brian.  Bradbury masterfully lets the reader know what a loss this is to Mr. Ramirez as the tennant looks past his landlady to the kitchen where her kids are eating breakfast.  The thoughts of Mr. Ramirez run through his various jobs and his ability to save money during his stay at the boarding house.  Meanwhile, Mrs. O’Brian remembers visiting old Mexican border towns.

Only a brief exchange of words take place between the two; however, the title phrase that Mr. Ramirez uses allows the reader to understand the finality of the situation.  That nothing ever stays the same and everything must sometime come to an end are the themes that Bradbury manages to brilliantly express with such a seemingly minor incident.

Here is one of the stranger paragraphs that I’ve read from Bradbury, but it somehow works within the context of the story:

Inside Mrs. O’Brian’s kitchen, pies were baking in the oven. Soon the pies would come out with complexions like Mr. Ramirez’ – brown and shiny and crisp, with slits in them for the air almost like the slits of Mr. Ramirez’ dark eyes. The kitchen smelled good.

Bradbury of the Month: August – The Exiles

For the August edition of Bradbury of the Month, I read another of Bradbury’s literature-laced stories, “The Exiles”.  I first heard of this story from Jay over at Bibliophilopolis.

In the year 2120, horror stories have been banned and most books destroyed. This includes the likes of Edgar Allan Poe, Ambrose Bierce, William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens. These authors, along with their imaginary creations, live in exile on Mars.  As a rocket ship from Earth travels toward Mars, the three witches from MacBeth attempt to prevent it’s arrival.  Poe takes center stage in the group of authors as he discusses the possibility of no longer existing.

I enjoyed the touch of humor as Dickens continuously insists he is not a writer of horror stories even if ghosts occasionally showed up in his writing.

50014

As I’ve come to expect, Bradbury writes incredible descriptions expecially of Poe, himself:

He was like a satan of some lost, dark cause, a general arrived from a derelict invasion.  His silky, soft black mustache was worn away by his musing lips.

As the battle to live takes on epic proportions, the reader begins to see where Bradbury sees true horror:

And there were hating serpents and angry demons and fiery bronze dragons and spitting vipers and trembling witches like the barbs and nettles and thorns and all the vile flotsam and jetsam of the retreating sea of imagination, left on the melancholy shore, whining and frothing and spitting.

As Jay mentioned in his post, it’s easy to see in “The Exiles” the beginnings of Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451.