July in Review

Books Acquired:
Le Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Malory
Sex Criminals, Vol. 2 by Matt Fraction

Books Read:
14 by Peter Clines
The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
Sex Criminals, Vol. 2 by Matt Fraction
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

I’m not sure where this month went. I feel like I jumped forward in time a few weeks somewhere. For a good chunk of the time we were dealing with exciting dog issues. Paisley had a hot spot on her tail, so we had to have her in a cone until it healed. Unfortunately, since the injury was on her tail, she could still reach it with a standard cone, so she ended up with this monstrosity:

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You can see how impressed she is with it. Her tail made a fairly swift recovery, and just as we were ready to remove the sadness collar we brought her back to the vet to get spayed. Her external wounds are healing up nicely, but there are deep emotional cuts that may fester for years to come.

Someone left a copy of Le Morte d’Arthur on the coffee table in the lobby of our building. I’m pretty sure it was left out to be taken for free, but there was no note, so there’s a little part of me that feels I’ve stolen this. I nonchalantly snatched it up as I strolled past whistling and took off in a sprint. I plan to plea ignorance should I be tracked.

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It’s bloody huge, with many many words in it, so I’m finding it a little daunting. I’ve always wanted to read it, but I have a feeling I’ll lose interest midway in, so I’m thinking I’ll read it in chunks over a year. It’s divided into eight ‘books’, so I’ll maybe break it into two-book pieces to get through. I figure if I decide I’m not into it, I can just donate it at next year’s book fair.

Movies watched:
None.

TV watched:
None.

Games played:
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015) (PC) – I thought I’d finish this by now, but nope still going. It may have something to do with those few weeks missing from my memory. I’m charging for the end now, though, and skipping (or at least postponing) the side content. I’ve been playing this for two and a half months now, and it just needs to end.

Electronic Super Joy (2013) (PC) – A very short game that was good fun. It’s a tough platformer fueled by Euro-pop dubstep, which is awful in the best possible way.

Rocket League (2015) (PS4) – Soccer with rocket-propelled cars. It sounds stupid, but it’s pretty much the greatest thing ever. An absolute blast to play with friends.

What have you been reading/watching/playing this month?

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The Lost World

The Lost World (Jurassic Park, #2)The Lost World by Michael Crichton
Published: 1995
Length: 430 pages

I just read the first Jurassic Park novel last year and loved it. I watched the original film adaptation in theatre four times and was mildly obsessed with it for years after, and I was reminded of my love for it last year when the 3D edition was released. With all of this, and the new movie in the news (which I still haven’t seen), I’m an easy sell for a dinosaur adventure.

I was sad to see Alan Grant excluded from this. I thought someone had told me that this is what differs from the second film, that Grant is actually in the book, but unfortunately it isn’t so. It makes sense that he isn’t, because he wasn’t stupid enough to return to that island, but it was a little disappointing.

Instead, the main protagonist is now Ian Malcolm, which seems an odd choice to me. In the first book he was an arrogant, exposition-spewing bore that killed the pace of every scene he was in. He also died, which in other novels is usually a more permanent condition, but in this sequel he’s made a miraculous recovery and now lectures on chaos theory with a sexy limp. He also used his recovery time to seemingly learn all there is to know about dinosaurs, despite having hated dinosaurs before and vowing to have nothing to do with them ever again. I suppose he secretly became obsessed with them after the trauma on the island. Thankfully, the events of the last book have changed Ian Malcolm to be a much more likable person overall. Unfortunately, the other main protagonist, Richard Levine, is even more insufferable than original Ian Malcolm ever was. He’s a pompous, childish, know-it-all lunatic who I wished death upon for the entire novel.

The main problem I had with this was the characters acting in ways that just didn’t ring true, be that true to their character or just true to any member of the human race. Why are you chasing that Tyrannosaurus Rex on a bicycle, I found myself asking. Why aren’t you mentioning to anyone that someone just tried to murder you and that they’re currently on this island? Why are you punching that Velociraptor in its face?

I picked this up at a used book sale, and found that it was a signed first edition when I got home. I’m going to assume a Michael Crichton probably isn’t a huge collector item, particularly this one, but it was still a neat surprise.

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This novel is completely unnecessary and a little ridiculous, a less believable re-hash of the original, but I found myself really enjoying it, against all reason. I gave it four stars on Goodreads, which seems almost silly after what I just wrote, but I still found it to be a lot of fun. I guess this is what would be considered a guilty pleasure, although I feel no guilt in liking it. I would, however, only recommend it to others after a healthy disclaimer. It’s stupid, but I like it.

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The Nerdist Way

The Nerdist Way: How to Reach the Next Level (In Real Life)The Nerdist Way: How to Reach the Next Level by Chris Hardwick
Published: 2011
Narrated by: Chris Hardwick
Length: 06:14

I love The Nerdist podcast and Chris Hardwick is great, so I knew I’d eventually have to pick up this up. It’s essentially a nerdy self-help book, more in the ‘life-hack’ sense than the ‘find yourself’ sense, and he narrates the audiobook himself.

This is split into three parts – mind, body and time. Mind focuses a lot on anxiety and addiction, something that Hardwick has had to overcome personally. More generally, the section is about mindfulness and focusing obsessive thoughts (that are common to most nerds) on positive, creative things rather than toxic, self-restricting things. Body discusses how he started working out, after never doing so before, and gives detailed workout plans aimed at gym newbies. Time discusses project management, finances, the importance of saying no, and how to be an evil genius.

This is self-help through a nerd lens. At the beginning, he has you build a D&D-esque character sheet that you work on and develop throughout the book. Different tasks will give you experience and you can level your character up to see your progress. You begin by having to be honest about your own abilities and attributes, knowing that your goal will be to improve the areas that need it. It’s a fun way to motivate yourself. I didn’t do any of this because I was listening to the audiobook and I’m lazy (that would be a trait on my sheet, had I made one), but it still serves the book well to illustrate the points he’s making.

I choose the audiobook for this because I’ve listened to countless hours of The Nerdist Podcast and like Hardwick’s comedic delivery. Any chance to listen to a comedian narrate their own work, I’m there, but this would probably work a lot better in book form. Obviously if you want to follow along with the character sheet, that will work better if you don’t have to pause, and the gym section doesn’t make sense in audio. He describes multiple workouts, with detailed descriptions of the exercises and how many repetitions, and it’s quite a long list. It’s a great resource, but it’s the sort of section that should be scanned and returned to for reference, so it really makes no sense in this format. Have you ever been in conversation with someone who was describing their workout in detail to you? Did you spend the time imagining different ways to harm them with gym equipment? Twenty minutes of this audiobook is that.

This is a fun book. It’s interesting while being full of fun references and Hardwick’s humour. It probably won’t change your life, it’s fairly short and lacks major substance, but it might provide the motivation to start down the right path. Most importantly, to me, it’s entertaining.

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Earth Abides

Earth AbidesEarth Abides by George R. Stewart
Published: 1949
Narrated by: Jonathan Davis
Length: 15:04

I love a good apocalypse story. There’s something about wandering the remnants of civilization as we know it, with everything we think of as permanent out of reach, that is just so eery and interesting. Obviously I’m not alone in this, as it’s an incredibly popular genre in all forms of media, one that has only gotten more and more popular in recent years. It’s something that we all seem to daydream about, for whatever reason.

As an aside, a few years ago I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. It’s something that I’m thankfully able to, for the most part, control with medication, but while I was still coming to terms with the whole thing, it occurred to me that no matter how much I prepared for an apocalypse, having a chronic illness like this means I wouldn’t make it. I could have incredible survival skills, expertise in all forms of combat, stores of food and the means to rebuild, and I’ll still likely just die pooping in a bush. It was a surprisingly depressing thought at the time, and I had to modify all daydreams to incorporate a sudden cure for the disease.

This is the story of a small group of people, all of whom have properly working immune systems, facing the aftermath of an apocalypse and having to start again. We follow Isherwood Williams as he awakes from an illness, a rattlesnake bite, and finds himself basically alone in the world. He sets out to travel across America to find survivors. The beginning of this was my favourite, as that’s exactly the kind of novel I was in the mood for – searching for others, scavenging for supplies, and piecing together the mystery of what happened. He even has a dog companion!

The rest of the book shifts and becomes more of a higher level view of what was happening year by year. We still follow Ish Williams in specific scenes, but the story skips vast amounts of time and spans over half a century. This is probably the more interesting and unique part of the book, to be honest, but I think my problem was that I was digging the beginning so much. It can be difficult when the tone of a book shifts as dramatically as this, but it was really interesting to see the long-term effects of the apocalypse. So many stories show the immediate struggle to survive, or they’re set in a world that went through this in the past and have now settled, but it’s not often we get to see that journey. How does the near-extinction of humankind affect other species? What food do you try to grow when none of you are farmers? How do you deal with childbirth when none of you are doctors? How do you pass on old-world knowledge to children, and how will the children think of the pre-apocalypse world? He brings up a lot of questions and really takes time to explore them.

Men go and come, but earth abides.

I think one of the most frustrating parts of this was Ish trying to teach the children to read and no one being behind him on it. They had two libraries nearby, lost worlds of knowledge, and society was losing the ability to read. Of all the adults, Ish was the only one who could understand why this was such a travesty. I don’t know if these people were just particularly stupid or if, with the Internet and the immediacy of information we have these days, written knowledge is more revered, but it was so painful to watch that slip away from them. He was considering this from a survival point of view, those books contained farming and medical information for example, but even from just a cultural point of view it would be such a shame to have thousands of books and no ability to read them. I guess the moral of this near the end of the book was that humankind would find ways of adapting, but just no. Learn to read, you imbeciles.

There were several scenes in this that I found a bit bewildering, where people just didn’t act in ways that made sense to me. Near the beginning, one of the first people Ish finds is a man drinking himself to death, and instead of trying to help him for even a moment, he is just an immediate asshole to him. Sure, he’s not the sort of person you want at your side in this scenario, and it was a way to show how some people wouldn’t cope mentally even if they survived physically, but at this point Ish wasn’t sure if they were the last two people on earth of not, so it seemed a bit rash. Another example was near the end of the novel. Ish was an old man who the tribe relied on for advice, a wise man held in an almost religious light, and when he wouldn’t answer them right away or started to drift off, they would keep pinching him. Is this a thing we used to do to the elderly in the 40’s? Or something an adult would do to anyone, ever? Has pinching just gone out of style now?

Overall I really enjoyed this. There were bits that dragged a little, but I think they served their purpose for the story as a whole, so I’ll give them a pass there. Like The Time Machine, this is another case of a novel influencing an entire genre but managing to have more substance than most of the derivative works. I always assume novels like this will be simpler than their contemporary counterparts. for some reason, but that seems often to not be the case.

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June in Review

Books Acquired:
None.

Books Read:
The Lost World by Michael Crichton
Walking on Glass by Iain Banks
Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee
The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein

This wasn’t the best blogging month (three posts, where did the time go?), but it was an enjoyable reading month. It’s been incredibly sunny here, the hottest June we’ve had since I moved here actually, so I’ve had a great time walking Paisley and listening to audiobooks. They’re a life-saver for dog walking.

There was a Steam sale at the beginning of the month, so I’ve sunk a lot of my free time into gaming these last few weeks. I don’t buy much in the sales anymore, but they do still get me really excited to play some games. Unfortunately that does cut into my reading and blogging time. I just have too many competing hobbies sometimes.

Movies watched:
For No Good Reason (2012) – Documentary on Ralph Steadman, the artist who did the illustrations in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I didn’t know anything about him, so this was a great introduction. I’d like to seek out some more of his work.

Hyde Park on Hudson (2012) – I love Bill Murray, and his performance was great. Everyone’s was. The plot was a bit dull, but it was still an enjoyable watch.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014) – I knew this was going to be bad, but I figured what the hell. It was actually a tiny bit worse than I had anticipated. It was fun revisiting the franchise, as I was a rabid Turtles fan as a kid, but it was overall forgettable.

TV watched:
Chef’s Table: Season 1 (2015) – I loved this so much. Produced by the guy who did Jiro Dreams of Sushi (also amazing), it’s a really interesting look into the lives of six of the top chefs in the world. It’s more about their personal approaches to cooking and the choices that got them to where they are than the food itself. The music and camera work make it oddly epic.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Season 2 (2014/2015) – Season 2 was even better than season 1. I did not expect to like this as much as I do, but it really won me over.

Games played:
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015) (PC) – Still playing this and will likely finish it this month. Very long game, and I thought I’d lose interest by this point, but the more I play the more I’m into it. Amazing game.

10000000 (2012) (iOS)You Must Buy a Boat, by the same studio, was released this month, so I decided to try their previous game first. Loved 10000000. It’s perfect for playing a minute here and there, which is what I like in a mobile game. I lost interest halfway through You Must Buy a Boat, though.

Dreamfall Chapters: Book Two – I loved the first two games and want to love this so much, but there were some noticeable issues in this chapter. I love the world still, but this felt rushed and not put together. Book Three is already out, so hopefully it begins to pick up again.

What have you been reading/watching/playing this month?

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The Big Sleep

The Big SleepThe Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
Published: 1939
Length: 231 pages

With each novel I read, I become more and more a fan of Raymond Chandler. He has such a great way with words, his character descriptions are brilliant, and his novels are a blast to read.

I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.

Writing a synopsis of one of these novels is tough. The plots tend to twist all over and are difficult to keep track of, but this one begins with the our detective Philip Marlowe being hired by a rich dying man to find a blackmailer. As with all of these novels, the investigation leads to much more than that (including pornography, which is fun in a 30’s novel).

This is the first Philip Marlowe novel, but it interestingly feels like it could be any book in the series. None of the novels I had previously read started with a real introduction to the character or any backstory at all, and I always thought that was because I was in the middle of the series, but this novel did the same thing. We’re given the bare basics and you learn about the character through his actions and dialogue, which is great. He isn’t the most complex character in fiction, but it’s nice that you get to be surprised by his actions occasionally. Not in a ‘this is out of character’ way, but in a ‘oh, that’s the kind of person he is’ way.

As honest as you can expect a man to be in a world where its going out of style.

There are some issues, of course. Chandler’s writing doesn’t really have a lot of emotional depth, and at times the plot seems a bit unstructured, so you really have to be taken in by the wit and fun writing.

This also has a gay character that is spoken to in a pretty abusive way. In reading a lot of classics, I’ve become somewhat used to the casual racist terms, prejudice, and misogyny that can be attributed to being a reflection of the those times, but Philip Marlowe was openly hostile to the character in a way that was a little gross to read.

Other than that scene, the book was a fun read. The writing did feel a bit less developed than his later books, but still worth reading.

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What We See When We Read

What We See When We ReadWhat We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund
Published: 2014
Length: 425 pages

Peter Mendelsund is a book cover designer, so I imagine he’s someone who’s spent a lot of time considering how to visualize what we see in our mind’s eye while reading a novel. I’ve been a fairly avid reader my entire life, but I never really stopped to consider what I’m actually picturing as I read and how that might differ from what others are seeing.

I was really enjoying this at first. It’s a fascinating concept and the book is formatted in a really fun way, with diagrams and illustrations that make it feel like an art project. This was my problem as I read further, though – it reads more like an art project than a book, and as such feels a bit stretched for substance. There were a few ideas that he introduced at the beginning and then went over them again and again in different ways. Each iteration was meant to delve and little deeper into the concept, but I found myself thinking ‘okay, I’ve got it already’ quite a few times.

When we see plays performed on the stage, we work with a different set of standards. Hamlet is ours to picture as we’d like, as he might be played by a different actor in every new production produced. We do not refer to Hamlet as a character as much as a ROLE. He is clearly meant to be inhabited: played. And Denmark is a SET. It can be anywhere the director and stage designer imagine it to be.

(Perhaps these terms –ROLE and SET– should be used when describing novels?)

An author gives an outline of a character and the reader fills in the rest, so no two readers have the same picture in their head. While I disagree with him that Hamlet is never referred to as a character, I love the idea of thinking of characters in novels as roles we play. We know reading is highly subjective, but this example really highlights the idea that reading is a meeting of two minds. This is why sometimes you find yourself loving a novel you know is mediocre or hating a novel that is celebrated by others. It’s the same way an actor’s performance can, in rare cases, still save a film from a poorly written script.

Authors provide a few key descriptions of a character or setting and then leave our imaginations and past experiences to fill in the rest of the picture, and we’re better off for it. In the same way a horror movie is always scarier when the monster isn’t explicitly shown on the screen, just a shadow here and a quick movement there, our minds can come up with an overall scene that is perfect for us alone.

I would have liked more science included in this, to have some interesting studies cited would have been fantastic, but this book was really just his personal musings on the subject. Despite this, and the repetition, I did really enjoy the book. It’s a quick read, more of a big illustrated essay than a book, and definitely worth checking out. I do wish, in a way, that Mary Roach had written it though.

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May in Review

Books Acquired:
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
City of Thieves by David Benioff
The Human Factor by Graham Greene
Thud! by Terry Pratchett
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
The Lost World by Michael Crichton
The Star’s Tennis Balls by Stephen Fry
The Napoleon of Notting Hill by G.K. Chesterton
The Club Of Queer Trades by G.K. Chesterton
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett
I Dreamed of Africa by Kuki Gallmann
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Books Read:
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
Earth Abides by George R. Stewart
The Nerdist Way: How to Reach the Next Level (In Real Life) by Chris Hardwick

My acquired list is massive due to the annual used book sale I attended earlier this month. The best part is with my new shelves they all fit without any double-stacking needed. In fact, I could even buy more! I’m almost giddy with power right now.

In other non-book related news, we have a new dog! She’s a two-year-old miniature schnauzer and she’s named Paisley, after my mom’s hometown. We would have liked to adopt a rescue, but living in a condo and being allergic to most dogs gave us some narrow adoption parameters. We called a breeder to see if they had an older dog for adoption, and they had Paisley. They had hoped to breed her, but she wasn’t having any of it.

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I’ve started using Instagram again after realizing I can follow famous chefs and see what they’re eating for lunch, so I’ll probably be posting many images of her there.

Movies watched:
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) – I loved this, in some ways even more than the first one. James Spader as Ultron was just perfect.

Mad Max (1979) – I’d never watched any of the Mad Max films before, so I thought I’d try to watch them all before the release of the new movie. This one was a fun introduction to the world, and the beginning and end had some exciting moments, but it did drag a lot in the middle. I liked it for what it was but my girlfriend hated it.

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) – This was my favourite of the three. Just as brutal and relentless, but with more of a budget to really show off the action.

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) – This seems to be everyone’s favourite, and I did like it, but it felt a little Disney-fied from the previous two and the premise felt very lazy.

Magic in the Moonlight (2014) – Beautiful setting and costumes with some really fun dialogue, but overall not enough of the Woody Allen wit came through on this. I still enjoyed it, though.

TV watched:
Outlander: Season 1 (2014/2015) – My girlfriend is an Outlander fanatic, so of course we watched this. I love the cinematography and the music and the costume design. My mother’s side of the family are Mackenzie, so I like to pretend it’s a bit of family history. I do think it dragged a bit mid-season. I’m also not a fan of torture porn, so the last couple of episodes were a bit much for me, but overall I enjoyed it.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Season 1 (2013) – I had no desire to watch this at all, but it was short and on Netflix and we’d heard some good things about it. Anything sentimental or dramatic completely fails, but it is hilarious at times. Everyone on the show is really funny in their own way. We’re hooked now.

Games played:
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015) (PC) – I’m in love with this game right now, and I’ll probably be playing it for some time. There were a few bugs on release, but they were patched out a day later, and it’s been really stable since. Great writing and voice-acting, and so much detail put into the world.

What have you been reading/watching/playing this month?

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French Lessons

French Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork, and CorkscrewFrench Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork, and Corkscrew by Peter Mayle
Published: 2001
Length: 240 pages

I read a couple of Peter Mayle’s books prior to this one, and I really enjoyed them. A life in the south of France as a writer, drinking pastis and eating three-hour lunches, is a life I’d gladly live. He’s a British ex-pat who’s been living in France since the late 80’s, so he’s in the interesting position of being integrated into the culture enough to really understand the day-to-day life, while also having a different enough background that he can pick out what’s interesting to foreigners. He’s also an incredible descriptive writer, and quite funny, so his books are a joy to read.

The early part of my life was spent in the gastronomic wilderness of postwar England, when delicacies of the table were in extremely short supply. I suppose I must have possessed taste buds in my youth, but they were left undisturbed. Food was fuel, and in many cases not very appetizing food. I still have vivid memories of boarding school cuisine, which seemed to have been carefully color-coordinated — gray meat, gray potatoes, gray vegetables, gray flavor. At the time I thought it was perfectly normal.

My favourite bits of his last books were the food-related stories, of which there were many. He enjoys his food and takes great pleasure in seeking out the unusual and traditional, which I love to read about. So I was very excited to pick up French Lessons, his book consisting entirely of food-centric stories.

Strangely, though, I found this book less compelling than his others. In his other books he describes incredible meals and wine tastings that leave you salivating and unable to sleep, but most of these stories were around festivals involving food. He focused more on the story of his time at each place rather than the food itself, which I found to be a bit of a let down. We go to a frog fair in Vittel to taste frog’s legs, but there’s very little written around the actual taste and preparation. It’s still an interesting, and at times hilarious, story, but it was a bit like sitting down for dinner and instead getting a movie. However good it may be, I was distracted by the hunger.

I still have Encore Provence, which I think might be the last of his French memoirs that I haven’t read. He’s also published quite a few novels, and I have the first of his mystery series on my shelf now, so maybe it’s time to jump into those.

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In the Ravine and Other Short Stories

In the Ravine and Other Short StoriesIn the Ravine and Other Short Stories by Anton Chekhov
Published: 1983 – 1900 (In the Ravine was 1900)
Translated by: Constance Garnett (from Russian)
Narrated by: Kenneth Branagh
Length: 3:35

This is a collection of Chekhov’s short stories, spanning from 1983 with The Trousseau to 1900 with the title story, In the Ravine. I hadn’t read anything by Chekhov before, and I’m usually not a huge short story fan, but a small collection narrated by Kenneth Branagh seemed like a great place to start.

This collected the following stories:

  • Oh! The Public
  • The Chorus Girl
  • The Trousseau
  • A Story Without a Title
  • Children
  • Misery
  • Fat and Thin
  • The Beggar
  • Hush!
  • The Orator
  • An Actor’s End
  • I In the Ravine
  • II The elder son Anisim came home very rarely
  • III In the village Shikalovo lived two dressmakers

I was surprised by how modern the writing and plot felt in some of these stories. I suppose I get that feeling with a lot of classics, but I think since these are so short and focused it’s easy to imagine some of them happening in our time. If the details of the setting aren’t relevant to the plot, they aren’t provided (Chekhov’s Gun I suppose), and I think that makes some of them feel timeless in a way.

Some of these are actually quite funny. Oh! The Public deals with a clueless train ticket collector dealing with angry customers. He tries to follow the rules but they just lead to more and more issues. The funniest of the bunch, I thought, was The Orator, in which a man at a funeral gives a eulogy but gets his information wrong. Instead of eulogizing the man in the casket, he accidentally speaks about a man in the audience and causes some offence.

Your speech may be all right for a dead man, but in reference to a living one it is nothing but sarcasm!

Hush! is a great little story of a writer blaming his lack of progress on everything around him. Too much noise, and not enough tea. He blames everything but himself and can’t see what a pompous tyrant he is to those around him while he tries to write. It reminds me a bit of when I try to write anything.

I loved Misery. It’s the story of a horse-drawn sledge driver who just lost his son, and he tries desperately to confide in each passenger he picks up. He wants to tell them what happened, but none of them will pay him much mind. It perfectly captures how surreal and isolating it can be to lose someone close, to have your world change so dramatically and then step back into your regular life to find that no one else is affected. To find that your loss is about as relevant to them as the five-day forecast, and how, as selfish as it seems, sometimes you just want to tell someone everything and try to have them understand a bit of what you felt. This man has no one in his life who will listen.

Just as the young man had been thirsty for water, he thirsts for speech. His son will soon have been dead a week, and he has not really talked to anybody yet… . He wants to talk of it properly, with deliberation…. He wants to tell how his son was taken ill, how he suffered, what he said before he died, how he died…. He wants to describe the funeral, and how he went to the hospital to get his son’s clothes. He still has his daughter Anisya in the country…. And he wants to talk about her too…. Yes, he has plenty to talk about now. His listener ought to sigh and exclaim and lament….

I listened to this on audio, which Branagh narrated perfectly, so I had no idea of Chekhov’s fondness for ellipses until just now. I wonder if that’s common in all of his stories?

Weirdly, In the Ravine was one of my least favourites of the bunch. It seems to be the most popular, so I might have to revisit it at some point and see what I missed. As a whole, though, I really enjoyed this. Maybe I’ll read one of his plays next.

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