Book Report: Worlds’ Finest, Volume 2: Hunt and Be Hunted (2013)

Book coverI’ve been reading DC comic books that I bought at the most recent Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book sale. I was saddened to find that I spent more than a dollar each on the issues on half price day (because they were priced at over $2 each inside the front cover). So I read a disconnected set of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World (by John Byrne no less). Which was kind of a good primer for this graphic novel which collects six issues of recent Worlds’ Finest comics with Huntress and Power Girl.

Well. For those of us NOT keeping up: In the middle 1980s, DC consolidated its comic book universes in a limited series called Crisis on Infinite Earths. One of the net results of this was that some of the heroes from other versions of Earth were on our Earth. Or other Earths. Just not an infinite number now. Or something.

In this case, we have alternate Earth versions of The Huntress and Super Girl (Power Girl) who are looking for a way to return home. Within this set of comics, they investigate and fight the minions of a rival technology company who is supposed to be dead.

To be honest, it’s been a couple weeks since I finished this book, too, so that’s about all I remember. Except that the science minion of Darkseid makes an appearance from Apokolips. Who I recognized because I’ve been reading Fourth World.

So it’s not selling me on DC over my preferred Marvel. Of course, I didn’t really get into the X-men titles or Fantastic Four when they got to fiddling with the timeline and alternate versions of comic book heroes. I prefer simpler stories, which is why I read paperback men’s adventure novels. So there you have it.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: The Undiscovered Self by C. G. Jung (1958)

Book coverI picked up this trade paperback because I’m running out of good, smart-looking mass market paperbacks to be my carry book. As such, I could not stick it into my pocket for easy travel, but I guess I don’t need that as much as I thought, since most of my outside-the-home reading places have places for me to stow books when not in use.

I enjoyed this book, as you might guess by my posts quoting it (here and here). It’s styled as a psychology book, but Jung really gets more into philosophy than psychology. He discusses the role and experience of the individual relative to mass movements, both the State and the Church and discusses how the individual gets wrapped up in them and how they in turn enwrapture the individual to the individual’s detriment.

Of course, I agreed with the assessments of the individual versus the State. For people of a certain stripe, like me, trends have indicated the Federal government is creeping and sometimes bolting towards an omnipresent I didn’t agree with the assessment of the Church, though. Perhaps it’s because I attend a less centralized church than the Catholic church or because I’m up close and personal with the people who make up the church that I can see the atoms in the conceptual object, but I don’t see it as monolithic as the State. I guess one could say the State is likewise composed of well-meaning individuals who sometimes go astray in pursuit of well-meaning ends, but the State and the Church are different in that the Church has to operate through spiritual and moral suasion and the State has the military and law enforcement to compel its well-meaning urges. So they are very different indeed.

It’s been a while since I actually read this book (I finished it way back in July), but I’ve put off posting about it because I took a lot of notes on it and considered writing a really long, thoughtful post on it. In addition to the wisdom of posts linked above, I took some notes like this:

  • P46 Jung contra Objectivism; he says the world would not exist without consciousness. Jung says:

    Without consciousness, there would, practically speaking, be no world, for the world exists as such only in so far as it is consciously reflected and consciously experienced by a psyche. Consciousness is a precondition of being.

    Anyone who knows his or her Objectivism (and a bit of Existentialism) knows these hold the existence of an external reality precedes the consciousness that perceives/experiences it.

  • P58 wisdom. I have no idea what I meant.
  • P81 individual slipping into purely conceptual world. Does it contradict p46 above? Jung writes:

    Nothing estranges man more from the ground-plan of his instincts than his learning capacity which turns out to be a genuine drive for progressive transformation of human modes of behaviour. It, more than anything else, is responsible for the altered conditions of his existence and the need for new adaptations which civilization brings. It is also the ultimate source of those numerous psychic disturbances and difficulties which are occasioned by man’s progressive alienation from his instinctual foundation, i.e., by his uprootedness and identification with his conscious knowledge of himself, by his concern with consciousness at the expense of the unconscious. The result is that modern man knows himself only in so far as he can become conscious of himself – a capacity largely dependent on environmental conditions, knowledge and control of which necessitated or suggested certain modifications of his original instinctive tendencies. His consciousness therefore orients itself chiefly by observing and investigating the world around him, and it is to the latter’s peculiarities that he must adapt his psychic and technical resources. This task is so exacting, and its fulfilment so profitable, that he forgets himself in the process, losing sight of his instinctual nature and putting his own conception of himself in place of his real being. In this way he slips imperceptibly into a purely conceptual world where the products of his conscious activity progressively take the place of reality.

    It highlights the dangers, but it does not contradict the assertion of consciousness preceding reality.

  • P84 reiterates the primacy of the psyche. Jung writes:

    All the same, nobody can deny that without the psyche there would be no world at all, and still less a human world.

    So he’s all in on the consciousness first.

  • P92 church attendance is an expression of faith, not the source. I think I was arguing against what he wrote on p91:

    In view of the general ignorance of and bias against psychology it must be accounted a misfortune that the one experience which makes sense of individual existence should seem to have its origin in a medium that is certain to catch everybody’s prejudices. Once more the doubt is heard: “What good can come out of Nazareth?” The unconscious, if not regarded. outright as a sort of refuse bin underneath the conscious mind, is at any rate supposed to be of “merely animal nature.” In reality, however, and by definition it is of uncertain extent and constitution, so that overvaluation or undervaluation of it is pointless and can be dismissed as mere prejudice. At all events, such judgments sound very queer in the mouths of Christians, whose Lord was himself born on the straw of a stable, among the domestic animals. It would have been more to the taste of the multitude if he had got himself born in a temple. In the same way, the worldly-minded mass man looks for the numinous experience in the mass meeting, which provides an infinitely more imposing background than the individual soul. Even Church Christians share this pernicious delusion.

    This doesn’t resonate with the experience I have in church attendance, where it’s more an expression of faith, a reinforcement of it, and a time for fellowship with others who believe similarly rather than a place for direct divine interjection. But I don’t go to a snake-handling or speaking-in-tongues church.

  • p93 The Psychological Advantage of Communism. I think I refer to this passage:

    Communism has not overlooked the enormous importance of the ideological element and the universality of basic principles. The nations of the Far East share our ideological weakness and in this respect are just as vulnerable as we are.

    Aside: I confess I’m swiping text from this translation which differs from my text; in my text, nations of the Far East appears. In the online version, it’s coloured races. A quick reminder that this is, in fact, translated text subject to all the attendant risks.

  • p107 defense of modern art. I have no idea what this means.

So where was I? Oh, yes, digressing and rambling. The notes are as far as I got into a thoughtful post.

At any rate, Jung comes at the questions as a psychologist, which means his entry point into the questions is the discrete experiences of individuals, and he conceptualizes and generalizes from their to his conclusions. So where I disagree with him on the greater meanings and movements of Modern Man, it’s from these faulty macro-level concepts and less on the experiences and recommendations made for individuals in the milieu. Well, I also reject a priori the idea that the whole of reality depends upon the psyche. No, the individual’s experience and the shared and transmitted experience relies on psyche, consciousness, and communication, but not the world itself.

So I feel smarter for having read the book even though I didn’t agree with some of it. What a difference between modern books; is it possible to read something written in the last twenty years that won’t insult people who disagree?

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: The Art of Manet by Nathaniel Harris (1982)

Book coverOkay, John, I read this book outside of a football game, and I didn’t get much more out of it than if I’d read it during a football game. Mostly, it’s about looking at the pictures. Even when given the opportunity, I didn’t linger on the pictures or particularly study them. I assessed whether I liked them or not and whether I thought they were good or not, and then I moved onto the next or the text describing the artist’s life and relationship with his peers.

The goal is to get a better familiarity with the artist, and I did. So I can speak intelligently about Manet and his relationship with the Impressionists and whatnot. And I can say I like Manet not quite as much as Renoir, but better than Monet and Degas.

At any rate, Manet is the old man of the Impressionists; he preceded the movement and dabbled with it, but his relationship with the formal French art structure of the end of the 19th century (I almost said “Last century” and then I realized how old I am) differed from the young ones. He wanted acceptance and commercial success (and got some degree of it), but he also alienated the academy with some of his work, subjects, and treatments. He also provided support for the young Impressionists who would eventually surpass him.

So it’s worth a browse whether during a football game or not. If nothing else, browsing the book helped me comprehensively identify my favorite Manet painting (The Bar at the Folies-Bergère).

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Southern Words and Sayings by Fabia Rue Smith and Charles Rayford Smith (1976, 1988)

Book coverWell, hang my britches and slap my hound, but this book is listed on Amazon for between $30 and $55. Whether it sells for that is a rather different matter. Still, I got it as part of a pack of similar books (Boogar Hollow’s Scraps of Wisdom, How To Talk Pure Ozark, and How To Speak Southern) for a buck from the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Book Sale this autumn for a buck. So I might be way out ahead here in the fictional money of Internet e-commerce.

At any rate, where the other books play it for laughs, this book plays it pretty straight. Its goal is not humor, but rather an actual account of the ways people speak. I guess it spoke to some people, as the copy I have is in the sixth printing from twelve years after the original.

So it’s a bit informative; I suppose it might be so if one has spent one’s life living in a semi-southern state. As I’ve discovered with the other books, some of these sayings are just part of my vernacular.

The book also includes some food-related words that identify some elements of Southern cooking, some portent-based sayings, and some general colorful sayings and idioms.

Not a bad thing to flip through; it’s a couple dozen pages of listicle in a chapbook form from an era when this is the way these cultural memes were transmitted. Well, as cultural memes. The actual content was conveyed orally amongst families, neighbors, and peers.

Books mentioned in this review:

It Makes Up For The Lucky Beard Commercial

I see a lot of this while reading art books on Sunday afternoons:

This article redeems him:

When Andrew Luck looks like the best quarterback in the NFL—as he often has in previous seasons—the Indianapolis Colts are a playoff team. When Luck throws interceptions and takes sacks—as he often has this season—the Colts are mediocre.

It’s possible no group of players in the league is more dependent on one individual than the other 52 members of the Indianapolis roster.

They’ve even come to depend on Luck when choosing what books to read.

“He’s always saying ‘I read this great book,’ ” said backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. “He’s recommended books on concrete architecture, Rob Lowe’s autobiography or ‘Mountains Beyond Mountains,’” a 2003 account of a doctor working to fight tuberculosis.
More on the NFL

In the same way that Oprah Winfrey has become known for vaulting books she likes to popularity across the country, Luck can make his favorite reads become the talk of the Colts locker room. Some of the books he recommends are for inspiration, players say, if a teammate is going through a tough time. Others are passed on simply because Luck enjoyed leafing through them. “He’s a voracious reader and he likes talking about it,” said center Khaled Holmes, a beneficiary of Luck’s penchant for recommending his favorite titles.

Now, he has to overcome the DirecTV commercial.

Book Report: Boogar Hollow’s Scraps of Wisdom by Nick ‘n Willann Powers (1972)

Book coverThis book is a cross between the southern language dictionaries I’ve been reading of late How To Talk Pure Ozark and How To Speak Southern) and Poor Richard’s Almanack: Benjamin Franklin’s Best Sayings which I read earlier this year. As such, it’s a pithy collection of observations about life and advice.

A couple of the items made me chuckle, a couple made me want to quote them (minus the vernacular spelling), and one led indirectly to a tweet. So it was worth browsing for sure. It’s make a better gift than the aforementioned Southern dictionaries, although a Southern dictionary with a Southern variant of aforementioned might be interesting. For one definition.

The book itself is in chapbook form, which is what I think when I think cardstock cover over photocopied and saddle-stapled booklets. Instead of typewriting them or using Microsoft Word on them (which Dan Rather insists is truthy for the time period), someone hand-lettered the pages and hand-drew the graphics and images therein. That’s a lot more work than we have to go through in 2015 to do professional quality work, my friends.

Apparently, this was one of a series of Boogar Hollow books; the front material lists several titles in the series. I hope the couple that put these together about the time of my birth broke even at least on them. At the very least, I’ll bet they had fun.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: How to Talk Pure Ozark by Dale Freeman (1961)

Book coverThis book is very similar to How To Speak Southern. It was written by a newspaperman (in this instance, a Springfield newspaper editor) based on some columns or essays, and this one dates back to 1961. It did not get nationwide distribution, though: this is a chapbook and was probably only locally distributed and not for very long.

It also collects phonetically spelled Ozark accent words in a dictionary form; however, this one had thinner, less humorous definitions, so it was a bit less enjoyable to go through. It has a lot of overlap with the later collection (not directly–nobody’s plagiarizing here), but enough so that it was not fresh. Sometimes I had to read the words a couple of times because in some instances, instead of giving a definition, the word would include a sample of it in an Ozarks sentence. Which was full of other Ozarks words, so I had to read it a couple of times to figure out what word it was supposed to be. You know, having to work for the punch line doesn’t make humor more rewarding.

As in the previous book, this one includes something I didn’t think was a particular Southernism: The word mull meaning “to think over.” Of course, in this instance, it only identifies the definition of the word and not its etimology, so I have no idea why this is particularly Southern.

So I didn’t really learn anything from the book, and I’m not sure how true-to-life it is 50+ years after it was written. Much of the Pure Ozark sounds a lot like South City Hoosier. Of course, the line of my family that lived in Lemay a long time and pronounced the French invisible R in toilet and wash originated in the Ozarks anyway. So there I go.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: The Libya Connection by “Don Pendleton” (1982)

Book coverYou’re forgiven if you think I’ve read this book before–after all, the immediately post-Pendleton Executioner books have a single plot with different locations and, if you’ll pardon the pun, different execution by the different house authors. But, no, I was remembering that I’d read a book called The Libyan Contract. Which was written about eight years before this book (and I read it five years ago, if we’re really into historical records). It shares a certain element of plot that I’ll get to in a moment.

At any rate, it has a similar complaint to the others I’ve read this year: The plot is basically the same. Bolan has to go somewhere exotic to rescue someone and defeat some terrorist plot in the midst. In this case, he’s going to Libya to track down a Puerto Rican agent he’s worked with along with a military shipment of a biological weapon. As in The Libyan Connection, the American agent helps to preserve Khaddafi as the ruler as Bolan thwarts a Soviet-backed coup in the process.

As I read these forty-year-old thrillers, I can’t help but wonder: What if there’s a conspiracy amongst thriller writers to keep the world in an agitated state of turmoil which is why the same places keep boiling up time and again? It’s either that, or history marches at a pace of decades, which means it’s too long for myopic modern audiences to understand or to support when it comes to cultural and military conflict. But, sadly, that’s a very reality-centric view that gets no truck from modern American consumers.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Ernest Hemingway: A Critical Essay by Nathan A. Scott (1966)

Book coverThis book does not appear to have been a library book; however, it is of the time period (1966-1968) of the last few books I read. So there’s that.

Like the 1959 booklet Ernest Hemingway, it’s a short pamphlet, targeted to college students perhaps, that discusses the work of Ernest Hemingway. This book is from a series called Contemporary Writers in Christian Perspective, so it has a little bit of that going on.

There’s a short bio that captures the highlights of Hemingway: A child who liked the outdoors, a veteran(ish) of World War I, a newspaperman who lived in Paris and began his writing career there, and the time frame of his major works. Then this author describes a couple threads in Hemingway’s work, the ethics of the man living up to an ideal, the piety, the belief in the healing powers and almost sacred nature of, erm, nature. Then the author goes onto a little rant about people who find fault with Christians finding Christian themes in books that are not found in the Christian fiction section of the book store (well, that’s a contemporary thing, but you get the idea).

Overall this author approves of the work of Hemingway, as do I. So I’m going to start saving up for those complete collections of Hemingway that cost thousands of dollars. All I need to do is forego book sales for the next two hundred years.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: The Story of Silent Night by Paul Gallico (1967)

Book coverThis book is a little remaindered book from the Hillcrest High School library. It didn’t have to travel far; Hillcrest is in Springfield.

As the title indicates, it’s a little biography of the Christmas song “Silent Night”. It discusses how the two composers, a teacher with a guitar and an assistant pastor with a poem and an organ inoperative for the Christmas Eve service came together in a little Austrian town to compose it for one performance only. Some months later, a traveling organ repairman stuffed the sheet music in his pocket and shared it with some traveling singers, and the composition was attributed to anonymous or author unknown until one of the authors told the story some decades later.

A nice little book. It might have gone on a bit long for the story, but it was an informative story that is helping me get ready for the Christmas season.

How did it do as a library book?

Better than The Medium Is the Massage. On this card, it was checked out for the first time when I was an infant and for the last time when I was seven years old.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: The Medium Is The Massage by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore (1967)

Book coverNo, it’s not a typo: The word in the title is really massage.

This book is an ex-library book from El Camino Real High School. There’s not an El Camino Real High School nearby; as a matter of fact, the only one I found on the Internet is in Los Angeles. There might be another one in Arkansas or something (let’s face it, the Spanish Camino Real was akin to highway numbering/designation–in St. Louis, it’s known as Kingshighway still and encompassed part of Lemay Ferry Road).

So, what do we have here? We have a mixed media style presentation where McLuhan continues to develop his theory of cognition and his errant philosophy of life in the digital age. As he spins his theory of how electronic media circa 1967 are altering brains and freeing the youth from the old, square ways of thinking, we get visual elements like like a series of close-ups of a foot with toenails zooming out throughout the book, repeated words making the prose into a concrete poem, and approximately six visible womens’ breasts in various images. Counting them makes me feel prudish, but this was a high school library book, and I’m hearkened back to a local controversy vis-a-vis Slaughterhouse Five.

At any rate, I thought McLuhan gets some of his prognostications correct in how immersive electronic media would become (remember, he’s writing this before home computers, smart phones, and the Internet). He does understand a bit of how that will alter the thinking of youth–fifty years later, it has continued, but not beyond his imagination. Kids have the ability to do greater and greater mash-ups. But.

Unfortunately, he suffers from a big bunch of Platonic thought in that he thinks the concepts described in electronic media are primary and more important than the things being described and conceptualized and seems to indicate that everything that happens (happenings, he calls them, in that sixties way) are instantiations of something else.

But that’s not the case, and the freedom he loves about electronic media is unmooring youth from the concrete aspects of the world so that electronic media and the people who learn cognition from it seem to be all idea and little attachment or understanding of the underpining reality of concrete things that drive that world of ideas.

Maybe the reprinted advertisement for developing a powerful memory on page 115 or the picture of a face stretched horizontally across the top 56-57 where the text is printed upside down in the book refute me on this.

It’s an interesting, thought-provoking essay in a history-of-philosophy sort of way that calls the youth of the Boomer era to some inchoate protest and to open the doors of perception or something. Unfortunately, the essay is couched in a collage of images, goofy printing and design tricks that must have seemed paradigm-shattering at the time (and perhaps reinforced the message, again, at the time) that detract from the staying power of the volume.

How did it do as a library book?

Either nobody borrowed it, the book was remaindered after a card had been filled up and before anyone else borrowed it, or the book was immediately stolen by a teenaged boy.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: How To Speak Southern by Steve Mitchell (1976, 1980)

Book coverThis book was written by a Palm Beach Post columnist and illustrated by a cartoonist at the same. It’s funny, but you don’t tend to think of Florida as the south probably because it was really not much but swamp and heat throughout much of our nation’s history and because it was not a big part of the Civil War (although, undoubtedly, there are Florida Civil War buffs who will testify that it really was–as many Missourians will tell you about all the firsts of the Battle of Wilson’s Creek just up on that hill over there). Although the author himself is from North Carolina, which is the most north you can be in the south.

At any rate, the small book is mildly amusing; it’s written in glossary style from Ah to Zat. If you liked Jeff Foxworthy twenty years later, you’ll like this book. A lot of his schtick and even a bit of his about how Southerners talk mirror its content, but I guess that would have to be the case with Southern comedians with accents. You never hear about comedians from Wisconsin and Minnesota doing bits about the northern accent, do you? I don’t.

The book was a bit educational, too, as it explains the etimology of the phrase spittin’ image, which is a corruption, pardon me, Southerners, correction of “spirit and image.” I see, that makes sense.

At any rate, I got this as part of a bundle I bought last Thursday, and I was so eager to look through the titles within that I put on a meaningless football game just so I could flip through books during it.

So it’s not a bad waste of 30 minutes unlike some of the things I flip through.

Books mentioned in this review:

Good Book Hunting, October 24, 2015: Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library Book Sale

On Saturday morning, my boys and I went to a couple of book sales, and late Saturday afternoon, a birthday party sugared my children to approximately 62,000 Hz. (My scientific studies have shown that a lot of sugar can make children very high pitched, no amount of sugar can actually render them too high pitched for me to hear. Unfortunately.) Once they hit that peak, the time was right to go somewhere where they could easily get bored: The Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library book sale. It was half-priced day, so I focused on the books (but there were some albums in the Better Books section, so I bought some of them, too).

Some highlights include:

  • Several books on painting to browse during football games, including collections of Matisse, Manet, Toulouse-Lautrec, and William Blake.
  • A Teaching Company course on Chinese History and a course on Mozart ($15 and $5 respectively because they’re priced per binder, and one is in library binders that allow you to check out a couple discs at once instead of the whole series).
  • A couple of graphic novels featuring the White Knight (?) and DC’s The Huntress.
  • A stack of comic books; once we looked them over and the boys selected a couple of Archie comics, they were no longer bored.
  • Growing Up a Twin by a local author.
  • A Classics Club edition of Old Goriot. I didn’t think I have it. I looked at the spreadsheet of my collection, and it says I don’t have it. I haven’t checked the physical inventory yet, and I suspect I’ll learn that the spreadsheet is out-of-date.
  • After America by Mark Steyn.
  • Miracle in the Ozarks by Chester Funkhouser.
  • T.S. Eliot by Harold Bloom.
  • Mom at War, a retrospective of women at war.

The albums include:

  • Together, a two record set by Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme.
  • The Christmas Album by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Although my beautiful wife gave this to me for Christmas last year, I also have a copy for the record player upstairs now.
  • Six Presidents Speak, a collection of presidential speeches, I think.

I have a couple more, but I’ve mixed them in with the ones I bought on Thursday.

Even at half off it was a pretty big bill. Looking at the list, I have to wonder how much each individual comic book was listed. A couple bucks each, maybe. Oh, well, I will get my money’s worth in enjoyment, and it’s for a good cause.

Good Book Hunting, October 24, 2015: Friends of the Clever Library Book Sale and Republic Relay for Life Sale

So yesterday morning, I played hooky from the dojo to go to the Friends of the Clever Library Book Sale down in the fire station in Clever. I had a spot of trouble finding it because they put up a new Walmart Neighborhood Market in front of it which hid the fire station from view as I came west along Highway 14. But I got there. It was a smaller sale than usual with about a table less worth of material, but I found a couple books there. It looked like an English teacher from the 1960s might have divested of books, as there were a collection of pre-Cliff Notes summaries and surveys of books, a lot of classics in paperback, and some related literaria and teacheraria.

Additionally, as we were driving to a park in Republic, we happened upon the Relay for Life fundraiser sale at Hope Lutheran Church. I didn’t see that it was going to be this weekend, but there it was. It had more books than usual and several boxes’ worth of direct-to-video slasher and horror movies. I think that’s a plea for help from someone who gets the counseling he or she needs.

Here’s the pic of my plunder:

Some of the highlights:

  • The Cross and the Switchblade and Beyond the Cross and the Switchblade, two books about being a priest at a church in a bad part of town. This was a genre of television for a while if I remember, and the first title was made into a movie starring Pat Boone. I know because the sale had two copies, and I opted for the movie tie-in edition with full color photos.
  • Two humorous western novels, Hey, Cowgirl, Need a Ride and Hey, Cowboy, Wanna Get Lucky? by Baxter Black. The Republic Monitor used to run a newspaper column by him, I think.
  • Two by Isaac Asimov, Lecherous Limericks and Adding a Dimension.
  • The Deep Range by Arthur C. Clarke. I don’t particularly like Clarke, but last night, while volunteering at the localer Friends of the Library Sale, I saw someone with a stack of Clarke paperbacks, and I guess I’m easily influenced.
  • A book of Jack Kirby’s work from the late 1940s before he went to Marvel.
  • GI Joe: The Story Behind the Legend which is about the toy and not part of the fictional canon.
  • Flawed Dogs, Berkeley Breathed’s young adult novel. Note this is in my stack, not the young young adults’.
  • The Incas, a history of the Incas appropriately enough.
  • The C.S. Lewis Handbook.
  • Faust.
  • Ernie’s America, a collection of travel columns by Ernie Pyle from before his writing in World War II.
  • How to Find Missing Persons. Probably from the pre-Internet age.
  • The Best TV and Trivia Quiz Book Ever. I hope I fare better than the The TV Theme Song Trivia Book.
  • The Starcraft Archive, a collection of StarCraft fiction.
  • The Medium is the Massage (not a typo) by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore.
  • Wolverine: Weapon X, a novel.
  • A couple westerns, Two Pistols South of Bradwood and The Sharpshooter. Both from different series old enough to not have a lot of boom chocka chocka.
  • E.B. White’s The Second Tree from the Corner.
  • Four great plays by Checkov.
  • Andre Norton’s The Starman’s Son. Probably not related to the Starman television series.
  • Doctor Who and the Day of the Daleks, one of the old Dr. Who books from the 1980s.
  • Two Ross Thomas novels, Cast a Yellow Shadow and If You Can’t Be Good.
  • A book about medieval myths.

Book Report: George Washington Carver by Sam Wellman (2013)

Book coverI received this book as a gift at my mother-in-law’s birthday party. She was giving away things which came with a request; in this case, I got this book and information about the George Washingont Carver National Monument just south of Joplin, Missouri, and a request that I take my children there this summer. So I started reading this book in the beginning of August, and I took my children to the historical site as requested, but the book sort of fell to the bottom of the stack on my side table.

The book itself is a young adult faith-based biography of the plant doctor. As such, its chapters are short and punchy and it features a lot of Carver talking to God or reflecting on scripture. As Carver was a devout Christian and often lead prayer groups in his various colleges, it’s probably not out of place, but I’m sure there are plenty of 21st century readers who would take issue with it. If you’re such, this is not the biography for you. But as a young adult book, it’s probably a good starter and high level overview.

I won’t recount the fascinating life of the fellow who was born a slave, lived in southwest Missouri during the aftermath of the Civil War, and became an artist before going to school for biology and agriculture. I will, however, note that he walked all over Missouri and Kansas to find a better life for himself and to take advantage of various opportunities and that he did all this and homesteaded for a couple of years in Kansas before going to the university. He did a lot before he was thirty and then his life and fame took off.

That is what fascinates me: how self-reliant young people were in the ninteenth century. I can even tell tales about my father hopping a train with a gun at thirteen to go hunting in northern Wisconsin, but it’s so far from my late twentieth century urban childhood that I cannot imagine that sort of thing without reading about people who actually did it.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott (1820, 1982)

Book coverI remember this book being mentioned explicitly (well, not that explicitly) in George Carlin’s comedy routine in his album What Am I Doing In New Jersey?. The bit is the driver behind him has his high beams on, and Carlin says that’s great because he just happens to have his copy of this book with him. At any rate, it’s taken me a long time since listening to that bit over and over on my monthly trips back from Missouri to Milwaukee right after I graduated the university, but I finally read this book (although, in my defense, I only got it last year).

The book is the story of a son of one of the few remaining Saxons in post-Norman Conquest England returning home from the Crusades. His father has disinherited him for supporting the Norman king (Richard II). He helps a Jewish moneylender and merchant and, as a reward, gets armor and a horse so he can enter a tournament, wherein he beats the best of the Normans along with the Black Knight. A Templar is smitten with the daughter of the money lender, and…. Well, there are some nefarious plots afoot, and it involves Prince John and Richard II. Of course, if the story takes place during the time of Robin Hood, one expects Robin Hood to appear. So he does, but he remains a secondary figure.

As I was reading, I confused Sir Walter Scott with Sir Walter Raleigh, so I thought the book was written 200 years before it was; as such, I was very impressed with the treatment of the Jews within the text. Although the characters curse the Jews, they’re treated well by others and are not the villains of the piece; the Normans and some of the clergy are. A bit of post-reading research (I read the Wikipedia entry) put the book in its proper historical context.

Still, in the 21st century, I can see collegiate English papers beginning with the thesis that the book is anti-Semitic (at least until the researcher gets to the Wikipedia entry). Or maybe not.

At any rate, it’s not a bad read. It’s in relatively modern English, although the style is a little more florid than modern readers expect (see also Frankenstein). However, it’s still only 212 pages. How do modern thrillers get three times that large without florid prose? I’d tell you, but I don’t read much modern stuff.

And the edition: This is a 1982 Legendary Classics edition, which means someone grabbed the public domain copy, introduced a couple of typos to protect their copyright, and printed this cheaply. The book identifies a number of others in the series (of which I’ve read only a few). But this edition is blessedly free of introductory essays explaining what you’re about to read (and throwing in spoilers) before you get to the actual novel. My goodness, the middle-of-the-twentieth-century editions of classics are worth more than the modern Penguin editions just for the freedom from interruption and pretension of telling you what you should think about what you haven’t even read yet.

So if medieval romances are your thing, this might be the book for you. I certainly recommend the edition.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: The Art of the Impressionists by Janice Anderson (1994)

Book coverThis book is a quick little sampler of Impressionist and sort-of impressionist paintings. It gives a bit of text describing the history of the Impressionist movement and then goes to the images. The book covers painters like Monet and Renoir, but also other people who exhibited with them, including van Gogh, Vuillard, Morisot, Cassatt, Gaugin, Gonzales, Sisley, Cezanne, Bazille, and others. As a matter of fact, the book gives a little more weight to the other painters as opposed to Monet and Renoir.

It shows a lot of breadth and variation in the school–and the nearby styles–so it’s a touch more educational than some of the other Impressionist picture books I’ve looked through (see also Treasures of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism and The Impressionists).

But I still like Renoir the best, although my beautiful wife might someday convince me to decorate our home in something other than Renoir prints.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: Wisdom in Rhyme by Nora O. Scott (1980?)

Book coverYou know, there was a time when I might have made fun of a collection of poetry like that contained in this book. Probably a time when I was younger and more cocksure, a bit arrogant, and impatient with the mediocre in life. I was destined for greatness, and anything less than greatness was worth mocking. That’s what youth does, and growing older gives us a little better perspective on life and the pursuit of greatness.

So I’m not going to mock this book. The poems within it are not bad poems. I’ve read bad poems. These are merely common. They have end rhymes and a decent sense of rhythm. The subjects are domestic and landscapish and Christian, with a couple of little ditties about people she knows thrown in. She’s got a couple little poems about her children growing up or having grown up from being little babies. She writes about the landscape of Arkansas, her native state. It’s the sort of thing you see a lot of in small writing groups and clubs.

The poems span a number of decades; the book was prepared and maybe published by the pastor of her church ahead of her 92nd birthday in 1980. This volume was inscribed as a gift in 1984. So that’s what it’s circa. But it represents a woman of the ninteenth century, probably with limited schooling, writing poems for most of her life and not doing badly at it. So I’m going to appreciate that for what it is. She was reaching higher and giving it her effort, and her goals might not have been more lofty than having something to show her friends and family. And here it is.

Books mentioned in this review:

Book Report: The Toilet Zone by Dan Reynolds (1999)

Book coverThis book is pretty much what you would expect from the title: toilet humor.

It’s a collection of cartoons featuring toilets and bathrooms for the punchlines.

Heaven help me for buying it, but I did; not only that, but I chuckled at some of them because some of them are more clever than modern sitcoms.

Even my beautiful wife, who does not like scatalogical humor at all, snickered at one or two of the cleaner jokes amongst them.

So this is worth the price, which in my case was probably a quarter.

And no doubt it will keep my boys entertained for a far longer time than an adult would enjoy the book.

Books mentioned in this review:

Good Book Hunting: Friends of the Christian County Library, October 16, 2015

Well, just in case you were missing the Good Book Hunting posts, I went to the Friends of the Christian County Library book sale yesterday afternoon in Ozark. We picked our children up from school, and the whole family cruised down to check out what they had. As I already own many, many books, I assured my beautiful wife that I would not be buying too many.

Well, books.

Here’s what I got:

Friends of the Christian County Library book sale October 2015 purchases

It was the videocassettes that got me. I’ve taken to watching films in the evenings after a bit of a lull, and I’ve been procuring them from garage sales and thrift stores a lot lately. Among yesterday’s accumulation, I got:

  • Romancing the Stone and Jewel of the Nile
  • The Grizzly Adams movie Grizzly Mountain. Remember, children are impressionable and are guided by what they see on television as was proved when a bunch of them got eaten by bears based on the pro-ursine propaganda in that television series.
  • A collection of bits from Bing Crosby’s Christmas specials.
  • Two Chuck Norris films: Missing in Action III and Lone Wolf McQuade.
  • A Rutger Hauer film, Wanted: Dead or Alive. Which is a reboot of the Steve McQueen television series.
  • Charade which features Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. And was the first thing I watched of the set.

I also picked up nine Toby Keith albums which is almost half of his canon.

Amongst the books, I picked up:

  • Two Tom Wolfe titles, The Right Stuff and Back to Blood.
  • I Ching.
  • White Night by Jim Butcher which is a fantasy novel with a hard-boiled wizard if the cover is to be believed; I expect it to be similar to Hard Magic in some regards.
  • A Rod McKuen collection of poetry, Moment to Moment.
  • Space War which is a nonfiction prediction about how World War III might start with engagements in space.
  • An Isaac Asimov mystery, A Whiff of Death.
  • A book of book lists, Book Lust.
  • Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor.
  • The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope. Apparently, it’s a classic of some sort according to the book’s imprint.
  • The Seige of Eternity by Frederik Pohl. The cover says it’s as good as Gateway, but covers being covers, the proof of the gooding is in the reading.
  • Two books I already own: Widows by Ed McBain and Mind Prey by John Sandford (see the book report? I didn’t when I was at the book sale.). If I don’t know I own them, I often buy books just in case I don’t, especially if the books are cheap. In the case of the Sandford books and so many modern series, the similarity of the titles makes the books harder to tell apart. I’ll probably send the Sandford book to my brother but I might keep the Ed McBain book on the to-read shelves as an excuse to read it again sometime in the future.

All in all, it was a pretty good gathering of content to consume. Because it was half-price day, the total came to $18. Definitely cheaper than a movie.

The best part: Since I’ve been reading a little more this year and not buying as many books, I had room on my to-read shelves for the books. Well, I mean, it’s not like they’re tidy or single stacked or organized or anything, but I did not have to stack these new volumes in strange places.

Next week, though, all bets are off.