Thursday, November 6, 2008

There is more pleasure to building castles in the air than on the ground.-Edward Gibbon

Tuesday, on the subway, I finished up Owen Chase’s The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex. It’s an absolutely crazy account, although I guess not that crazy since it did actually happen. Basically, the case of the Essex is the first recorded incident of a whale purposely ramming a whaleship (twice actually). After the second ramming the whaleship foundered, and the crew was left to survive in three whaleboats. Over the course of months spent at sea, the three boats end up separating from each other, rations run out, members of the crew start to die, and the remaining members resort to cannibalism to survive.

Chase’s account is very to the point and factual, without any frills or over embellishing, but that’s part of what makes it so great. Even though the reader knows that it must have been an absolutely harrowing experience, we are spared the crews inner thoughts and spoken words, and thus the work doesn’t begin to take on the veneer of fiction. I believe that it would be very difficult for a reader (at least me anyway) to stay attached to this story if there was too much detail; it would be just too graphic and desperate. However, if you like that sort of thing, there is also Nathanial Philbrick’s In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. I’m not sure I can read that one though.

I began reading Mansfield Park by Jane Austen again (third time, I think), but yesterday I was at the thrift store and spotted Sophie Kinsella’s latest Remember Me?. I read the entire thing last night (it’s near 400 pages), and I liked it. Kinsella’s books are great when you just need a breezy, upbeat, good-ending type of read. I’ve read everything by her now, except the stuff she has under another name. I really liked this one because it had a different kind of struggle for the heroine than any of the others. This one is really about being your “authentic self” (as Oprah would say), and what happens when you change who you really are for other people, money, ambition, etc. I liked it, although I would have liked a slightly different ending, but that’s just me. I really needed this type of book right now, it’s been a rough few days since my Grandmother had a heart attack on Tuesday and has been in the hospital since. I hope she’ll be okay.

Now we’re back to Mansfield Park again…again.

Monday, November 3, 2008

How vain it is to sit down to write if you have not stood up to live.-Henry David Thoreau

I finished up reading Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen by P.G. Wodehouse on Saturday. As I said in the previous post, of course I enjoyed it since it’s Jeeves and Wooster. Nothing is better than Jeeves and Wooster when one feels the need for a little mayhem and a good laugh.

After finishing it up, I decided that a trip to the bookstore (or two bookstores as was the case) was what I needed. First, I went to see the man who always sets books aside for me since I haven’t seen him in about a month due to the amount I had been working. He hadn’t found anything new to set aside for me, but I grabbed a couple of Nancy Drew books. The first was #24 The Clue in the Old Album in yellow hardback, with the 2nd cover art, and with 25 chapters instead of 20 (meaning that it’s the unrevised text). The second was #37 The Clue in the Old Stagecoach in yellow with the back cover picture adapted from The Secret of Red Gate Farm. I *heart* Nancy Drew.

After leaving the first bookshop, I went next door (yes, right next door) and got a copy of E.L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which I had been wanting to read. I read it all in about an hour and a half yesterday, curled up in my chair next to the heater, listening to City and Colour’s CD Sometimes on repeat. All in all it was a very pleasant time. I really enjoyed the book, which I hadn’t read as a child, unlike a lot of people I’ve talked to. It’s about a sister and brother who run away from home, hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a week, and try to solve the mystery of whether or not a recently acquired statue was carved by Michelangelo. The premise of running away from home and staying in the Met for a week was what really got me, and made me want to read the book. It’s like a dream for me; kind of like why I went and saw Night at the Museum in the theater – because it’s always been a fancy of mine that museums really do come alive at night. I really enjoyed the book, and sometimes it’s really nice to just pick up a children’s book like that and fall into another time.

Now I’m reading The Wreck of the Whaleship Essex. It’s an account written by Owen Chase, first mate of the Essex, and one of only five men to survive the months spent adrift after the wreck. Basically this is the true story that inspired Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. I’m not very far in yet, but I like that I have read to this point.