“The Eighth Day” (Post 4/4)

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[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

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[169]

Boredom is energy frustrated of outlet.

(p.266)

[170] Reference:

Came the Night of St. Joseph, the nineteenth of March, the night of wrath, the night of long sickles. The smoke that arose from thirteen great plantations could be seen from Martinique. (…) The night is, of course, remembered with horror.

(p.267)

 

Saint Joseph’s Day, March 19, the Feast of Saint Joseph is in Western Christianity the principal feast day of Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is also Father’s Day in some Catholic countries.

I think Wilder may have invented the Saint Kitt’s St. Joseph’s Day massacre. (Or it might be a legend?) Continue reading

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“The Eighth Day” (Post 3/4)

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[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

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[112] Reference:

Schopenhauer’s matchless essay on [women].

(p.199)

 

On Women” (1851) by German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860). (Notes, p.771)

The full essay can be found here.

It includes such insulting passages as:

Women are directly adapted to act as the nurses and educators of our early childhood, for the simple reason that they themselves are childish, foolish, and short-sighted – in a word, are big children all their lives, something intermediate between the child and the man, who is a man in the strict sense of the word. (…)

That woman is by nature intended to obey is shown by the fact that every woman who is placed in the unnatural position of absolute independence at once attaches herself to some kind of man, by whom she is controlled and governed; this is because she requires a master. If she is young, the man is a lover; if she is old, a priest.

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“The Eighth Day” (Post 2/4)

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[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

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[52] Wilder uses repetition of words and phrases like the following (and also tics like “talk, talk, talk”) which adds to the rhythmic nature of his prose:

Spring is very beautiful in Coaltown.

(p.72)

 

Autumn is very beautiful in Coaltown.

(p.86)


CHAPTER 2: “Illinois to Chile” 1902 – 1905

[53]

We did not choose the day of our birth nor may we choose the day of our death, yet choice is the sovereign faculty of the mind.

(p.91)

 

“Every death is a right death. We did not choose the day of our birth; we may not choose the day of leavetaking. They are chosen.”

(p.164)

Neither time this sentiment is given does the speaker acknowledge suicide. Suicide seemingly is not an option in Wilder’s universe. Continue reading

“The Eighth Day” (Post 1/4)

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Thornton Wilder’s 1967 novel. I read a Library of American edition (which I also used for Theophilus North).

3 out of 5 stars.

Times Read: 1

The Plot:

On his way to be executed for Breckenridge Lansing’s murder, John Ashley is rescued by an unknown group. Ashley flees the country while his family – and Lansing’s – struggle to continue living in Coaltown, Illinois without their patriarchs.

As always with Wilder, none of my complaints are with the quality of writing. On a sentence-to-sentence level, I love with Wilder’s style. His problems come with plot; specifically, moving plot along.

In The Eighth Day, Wilder explores each character’s deepest emotions and motivations. He lives inside of each one. The problem for the reader is that this exploration doesn’t lead to plot. Very little happens in this book beyond the description I’ve already given you: Lansing is murdered and Ashley is rescued. We think more will happen; each chapter sets up more complications and characters which should come together or pay off in the end. But it just continues to sprawl, giving too much detail without enough overarching purpose.

My edition has a Notes section in the back which explains references in the text. I’ll be deferring to that (instead of my usual Wikipedia default) when possible. When I fill in a definition/reference from the Notes, the page number will be included. Continue reading

“Carrie” (Post 2/2)

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[27] King overuses his gimmick of mid-sentence parenthetical thought and does it in distracting lower case. It calls itself out so much that it takes you the reader out of the story instead of immersing. In the future, he’ll handle it better:

A runner of snot hung pendulously from her nose and she wiped it away

(if i had a nickel for every time she made me cry here)

with the back of her hand.

(p.55)

[28] Reference:

In the case of Andrea Kolintz (…) “The medicine cabinet flew open, bottles fell to the floor.”

(p.65)

Invention of King.

[29] Reference:

“I’d advise you to check Monondock Consolidated School District vs. Cranepool.” (…)

“Neither the Cranepool case (…) or the Frick case cover anything remotely concerned with physical or verbal abuse. There is, however, the case of School District #4 vs. David.”

(p.67)

Inventions of King’s. (Monondock sounds like a twisting of Monadnock, a mountain in New Hampshire.)

Continue reading

“Carrie” (Post 1/2)

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Stephen King’s first published novel, released in 1974. I read a movie tie-in paperback with a ton of typos. 

3 out of 5 stars.

Times Read: At least 3.

Seen the Movie:

DePalma: Yes.

TV remake: No.

2013 Remake: Yes.

The Plot:

Bullied outcast Carrie White takes revenge against her classmates using her telekinetic powers.

It’s hard to give Carrie a fair rating. The story is so ingrained in public consciousness that it seems more classic fairy tale than modern novel. King brought a new archetype to the table to join Dracula and Frankenstein and Mr. Hyde and it’s easy to take that for granted. While reading Carrie again, I was sitting around a 2-star rating because I know the story too well at this point and I started fixating on the flaws instead of seeing the very cool aspects of its plot and presentation.

Carrie may have become so instantly iconic because it’s Cinderella in reverse. It hits fablelike beats through a distorted mirror. The crazy, heartbreaking thing about Carrie is, no matter how many times you read it, you always hope for things to go well. You think, maybe this time, it will turn out okay…
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“Spoon River Anthology” (Post 2/2)

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[32] Albert Schirding

Masters’ main message seems to be: You will never be happy with anything or anyone; men always want what they can’t have. Or maybe that failures always find someone else to blame (?).

Jonas Keene thought his lot a hard one

Because his children were all failures.

But I know of a fate more trying than that:

It is to be a failure while your children are successes.

(p.118)

Contrasted immediately after with Jonas Keene:

If even one of my boys could have run a news-stand,

Or one of my girls could have married a decent man,

I should not have walked in the rain

And jumped into bed with clothes all wet,

Refusing medical aid.

(p.119)

Continue reading

“Spoon River Anthology” (Post 1/2)

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Edgar Lee Masters’ influential 1915 free verse collection. I read a Macmillan Company 1970 paperback.

 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Times Read: 1

The Plot:

Dead residents of Spoon River, Illinois share tales of life and death; lessons and warnings to those who still live.

Spoon River Anthology kept coming up last year (referenced in Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, an influence on William March’s Company K) and I wanted to give it a try. The concept is fantastic: the dead of a town take turns telling their short (usually no more than page-length) tales.

If Spoon River had been a hundred and fifty poems I probably would have upped my rating by a point, but at 244, it goes on too long. The stories become repetitive and redundant, making the same points and giving the same lessons. I’m also not sure what method Masters used in ordering them. Only a couple of poems seem to have a logical or complementary flow when placed together. My initial idea that this was a walk through a single graveyard proved wrong: not all of these people are buried in Spoon River. Some are in Europe, some in other areas of the United States.

My most petty complaint: no dates with the names. The best way to situate a reader in this graveyard is to give years of birth and death but Masters doesn’t give us that. All of the poems seem to take place around the late 1800s but I really don’t know.

Women are treated more fairly than I expected and in greater number. They are mostly limited to housewives and mothers but that’s not Masters’ fault – it’s likely a good reflection of Spoon River during his time. Interestingly, these women are sometimes given full names (Ollie McGee) and sometimes defined by the names of their husbands (Mrs. Benjamin Pantier). Masters is sympathetic to women who had more children than they wanted, who were damned for an abortion or rape, who were driven out of town and shamed for pre-marital relations, who believe divorce would be better than a family living together in hate.

It’s probably unfair to judge this from a modern perspective, but that’s how I do things. I admire some of Masters progressive and sympathetic sentiments but the prose just isn’t that interesting and he goes on long past the point when he’s actually saying something.

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