Saturday, April 02, 2011

"A good samurai will parry the blow"

She must have loved that quote, I lost track of how often she quoted it.  It can't have been too many, because that would be wrong -- and for me there was nothing wrong with this book.  I'm not sure which book this one pushes off my top ten list, but it's position is secure.

Art, science, religion, philosophy, growing up, settling vs. striving....this book weaves them all into a fabric that wraps reality and dreams together.  At various points I might have told friends what I though this book was about, but that changes as you read it.  Unlike Cien AƱos de Soledad, which also follows a family through the generations, this book comes into sharper and sharper focus as the years go by, and you realize the character you at first enjoyed is really background for the more vibrant character you are enjoying now.

One point that should be kept in mind: this book has no relation to the Tom Cruise movie of the same name, and only a passing relation to samurais - the title is an allusion to the Kurosawa movie "The Seven Samurai", which is a favorite of one of the characters.  It does have some negative criticism for the movie:
Cast your mind back to this film for one moment.  Identify, if you can, a suitable moment at which to place your arm around the shoulders of your companion and kiss her.  You cannot?  No more could I.  After half an hour, no suitable moment presenting itself, I chose an unsuitable moment -- I was rebuked.
I really want to recommend this book, but I'm not sure that everybody can appreciate it.  Although the book has no sluggish parts, it does use some techniques that might be confusing and off-putting if you don't get them.  There will be things beyond your comprehension you might want to just skip over, but they are brief.  If you are contemplating suicide, there are some helpful techniques to avoid it (for example, watching "The Importance of Being Earnest"), but they might not work -- but if you do commit suicide after reading this book, it is not because the book depressed you, it is because the depression was just too deep for the book to lift.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Quote of the day

Nearly finished the book (highly recommended for those who crave highly intelligent reading material, and aren't put off by the occasional challenge), so here's one more:

My mother went to a Swiss finishing school -- her mother was Lebanese, and frightfully cosmopolitan -- and the girls were all made to study French, German and English, with Italian for bad behavior.
(Helen DeWitt, "The Last Samurai")

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Shipwrecks in Shakespeare

I don't think they got it quite right tonight on Jeopardy, although I might not have gotten the text of the question completely straight - I thought it was something like "One of the two plays of Shakespeare where the action began with a shipwreck".  My first thought was "The Tempest", and that's the answer all three contestants got.  The second choice offered was Twelfth Night, which was not the first thing I thought of when looking for a second choice.

How about The Comedy of Errors?

From Act I, Scene I (bolding mine):
O, had the gods done so, I had not now
Worthily term'd them merciless to us!
For, ere the ships could meet by twice five leagues,
We were encounterd by a mighty rock;
Which being violently borne upon,
Our helpful ship was splitted in the midst;
So that, in this unjust divorce of us,
Fortune had left to both of us alike
What to delight in, what to sorrow for.
Her part, poor soul! seeming as burdened
With lesser weight but not with lesser woe,
Was carried with more speed before the wind;
And in our sight they three were taken up
By fishermen of Corinth, as we thought.
At length, another ship had seized on us;
And, knowing whom it was their hap to save,
Gave healthful welcome to their shipwreck'd guests;
And would have reft the fishers of their prey,
Had not their bark been very slow of sail;
And therefore homeward did they bend their course.
Thus have you heard me sever'd from my bliss;
That by misfortunes was my life prolong'd,
To tell sad stories of my own mishaps.

Since nobody guessed that, I guess I'll never know why that was not considered a valid answer

Quote of the day

"Andy Warhol is still famous for saying 43 years ago that in the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes. It’s more likely that in the future everyone will be famous to 15 people."

- Steve Sailer

Monday, March 28, 2011

Quote of the day

Now blotches rankling, coloured gay and grim,
Now patches where some leanness of the soil's
Broke into moss or substances like boils;
Then came some palsied oak, a cleft in him
Like a distorted mouth that splits its rim
Gaping at death, and dies while it recoils.
Robert Browning, "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came"