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One of my greatest childhood joys were trips to my grandparent’s house and going up to the third floor what constituted an attic/storage space. At the top of the stairs was a large pile of Boy’s life magazines and Walt Disney Comic books. There were my uncle’s back when he was a boy and involved in The Boy Scouts.  These were from the 50s. It was the late 60s and early 70s when I read them but I thought them ancient.  I read The Boy’s Life magazines solely for the comic series. They had titles like “Space Conquerors” and “Kam of the Ancient Ones”. I would spend hours up in the attic reading and rereading them.

The Walt Disney comics were mostly about the adventures of Donald Duck and his three nephews and their rich great uncle Scrooge McDuck.* There were other relations like Grandma Goose and Gladstone Gander – whatever happened them I wonder?

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This is a photo of one of the BL magazines I read and still possess. They were sooo 50s filled with lots of manly scouting things for white boys to emulate. It’s all nifty.

In my youth I also enjoyed newspaper comics. Each afternoon I would eagerly await the arrival of The Detroit News and directly go to the comic section to get caught up on my favorites.  I was quite judgmental about them; I had a keen eye – and opinion – on the quality of a comic’s drawing, plot, and humor. I became upset when one of my favorites suddenly dropped out of circulation. I was equally bummed when some comics kept going.**

Speaking of comics I’ve had an interest in reading – or is that rereading? – “Little Abner”. As a boy I didn’t understand what it was about. It seemed to be drawn well so it got high marks for that. ‘Lil Abner’ seemed odd and without a point.  Someone tells me the man who drew this long time comic strip was a nawful man and the cartoon was similarly odious. I want to see if this is so. I looked it up on line last night: I have decades of reading to do if I am to succeed with such. Mr. Abner may have to wait his turn as I first reread The Walt Disney Comics I brought back from Michigan.

I fantasize about waking up on a Saturday morning to see it pouring rain all day thus canceling all activities and allowing me to sit in a chair, a pot of tea to my left and a stack of comics to my right.  As it never rains here this set up never happens. If I am going to return to the likes of Pee Wee Harris and Unca Donald I better book them.

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*Back in the 50s Mickey Mouse was a secondary character, almost an afterthought; he was  hardly the ‘star’ he is today. I wonder when/why Donald and Mickey changed status?

**The worse example of this was “The Family Circus”. For Spo-fans unfamiliar with this maudlin comic, it is a one frame/one line comic with the same set up: one of the little tykes says something in the ‘aw, ain’t that cute” category. This never changed; I found it boring as hell. I hear tell it continues and remains quite popular. I see it as a sign of the general lack of taste in American mentality.

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“Enough nostalgia!” was the title of the email from The Board of Directors Here at Spo-reflections. I am to write about something anything that doesn’t involve me as a child.*  So be it. 

In the 70s/80s after her parents died Mother took from their library twenty small red books of short stories. I don’t know why she took these tomes; I don’t recall her ever reading them. They have stayed untouched on a shelf in the guest room for thirty years until last month when I took them.  

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“The World’s 100  best short stories” and “The world’s 100 best short novels” are lofty titles. Mind! these tomes were published nearly 100 years ago in 1927. I love a short story especially if it brilliant in prose and (better yet) it ’moves me’ in some way. ** For Spo-fans fond of literature, think quickly –  what short stories would you list as ‘the world’s best’?***   I am curious to see about three matters:

1 – Do I recognize any short stories still read in the present, the ones that have stood the test of time and why is that so?

2- Do I recognize the authors but not the compositions included in the elect?

3- The authors and titles unknown to me: lost masterpieces or dated duds?

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The first volume’s table of contents suggests some of each of the three categories. I recognized right away “Luck of Roaring Camp” and “The most dangerous game” having read them myself in high school. I don’t remember ‘why’ they are good so they will be worth a reread. I recognize the names of Victor Hugo and O. Henry and Mr. Stevenson – but not these stories. The other names and titles are unfamiliar. 

I suspect I am going to encounter a lot of disappointments; I fancy keeping ‘score’ as how many are ‘good’ vs. forgettable. I have my fingers crossed I will come across a few gems.

Later: I just finished reading the first short story “The two-gun man”. Page 71indeed!  It is a simple cowboy story with a plot twist ending that is quite predictable. One wonders how this  got in among the ‘Top 100’. I hope it doesn’t portend how things are to be. After all I have 99 more to read. I will keep you posted if I find any TGRs (thumping good reads).

 

*Vikings are notoriously non-sentimental beings although they are wildly superstitious about change. They will hang on to something old and long past its prime on the grounds ‘it is custom’. One shouldn’t try to update their wardrobe especially their Mack Weldons which haven’t been undated since the Punic Wars. 

**My list of my best short stories is available upon request for thems interested.

***Please list in the comments any short stories you believe are must-read-or-perish.

I am not big fan of mystery fiction. I suppose it is because I am impatient. I have to hold myself back and not rush-read to the end to find out who was the murderer or what was the matter.  I am also not certain if I am supposed to have figured it out by the time things come together. I never guess right but then again I don’t really try.  All the same I thoroughly enjoyed the “Brother Cadfael” series and I like an Agatha Christie novel from time to time.  This is mystery #1. 

I never read any of ‘The Hardy Boys’ or ‘Nancy Drew’ series. When I was a boy I read a mystery series called “Alfred Hitchcock and the three investigators”. This is mystery #2: why did I read these and not the others.  I remember boys in the series were a trinity of a smart one, a funny one, and a sort of jock who was brought along for physical matters. I was particularly drawn to one of them (I forget which) either because I wanted to be like him or maybe I wanted something else. I believe my brothers and I had all the books although I don’t remember having ever purchased any of them. So where did they come from?  Mystery #3.

In the lockdown I am reading a lot of books. I have a fancy to reread these. The series sits in Brother #3’s library. I’ve asked him to mail me the first book and after I have (re)read it I will sent the book back to him along with a five dollar bill inside its cover to pay for postage and handling for the next book in the series and so on until I’ve read them all. Brother #3 has informed me the series is incomplete; three books are missing. Neither of us can deduce if they were lost over time or we never got them in the first place. Mystery #4.  I have looked on line and at least one I remember having and reading. 

Out of whimsy I thought I would buy the three missing tomes and send them to Brother #3 in their turn and see if he notices. Patience above! My first attempt at buying these books reveals they are selling for about thirty dollars each. Mystery #5. Boomers get awfully queer about their childhood things. I think there are over forty in the series. At these prices the set could go for over a thousand dollars.  I feel obliged to complete the it so I will shell out the bucks. Oh the pain. I start with “The mystery of the green ghost” . I recall the plot is after being chased about they manage to trap and unmask the ghost to reveal it was only some a-hole adult running around in a ghost suit who curses the kids while he is dragged off by the police, shouting he would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for you meddling kids – or is this “Scooby-do” rather? Mystery #6 – how is it I can’t keep in line which mystery series did what?  Perhaps this one isn’t so mysterious viz. age and it wasn’t Colonel Mustard with the candlestick in the library.  

 

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books  La Casa de Spo has three rooms in which there are books. The ‘Blue room’ has a closet in which hangs no clothes. Rather its shelves hold books – lots of books, piled high as Fafner’s hoard and as precarious as Fibber McGee’s. I don’t often go in there not so much out of fear of an avalanche but to avoid the pain of seeing such a mess. All journeys start with a step and all projects tedious start with doing something/anything. Today I decided to pull out the books I know I won’t every read again.  

I grew up with the unspoken dogma one doesn’t throw out books. At most you gave them to charities or to bookstores to sell. Otherwise you kept them ‘for later’ and to stock your shelves in a sort of bent status symbol that shows your supper-invite your reading history. I simply do not have the room for all my/our books and I certainly would not show anyone the contents of The Blue Room closet – oh the embarrassment!  I made some progress therein but not as much I had hoped.  Here’s the report.

Most of the books stayed put.

Approximately 5% were pulled but were put back by fiat of Someone who wanted them kept for someday reading.

A handful of tomes went from one closet to another. I would find something I hadn’t read in a long time. I would exclaim “Oh, that’s a good one!” and transfer it to the “to-read’ shelf situated in the master bedroom closet.**

In the end it is estimated only 5% of the Blue Room books were actually extracted. They now lay in a cardboard box in the garage for donation. 

The process elicited in me a mental list of some books I want to read. I finished the project by going online to Amazon where I bought three new books.*** True they are Kindle-types so they won’t take up space but what the hell. This is what happens when a book-lover is asked to clean out his books. Might as well ask a dragon to fork over his hoard of gold. 

It looks like I will have plenty of time in the near future to read what with the evenings and weekends freed from outside sources of entertainment. I can’t say I am saddened by this. Some of us have been practicing social distancing all our lives and now it is vogue if not mandatory. There is nothing better way to do it than with three rooms of books. 

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*The office room (room #2) has the books of worth and desire. I see them every day and it is a joy to do so. I run my fingers over them. On occasion I pull one of them down from the shelf and read choice bits – a literary tonic that always does me good.   

**The “To-read” bookshelf (room #3) is already saturated with books; it doesn’t need more. I made next to it a new shelf which I christened “The to-reread” bookshelf. Lord help me.

*** ‘The Plague’ by Albert Camus: ‘Equal Rites’ by Terry Prachatt; ‘The Faceless Old Woman who secretly lives in your home’ by Welcome to Night Vale. Jolly good fun !

The computers are presently up to no good. The two at work were recently updated from ancient Windows 7 to oh-so-shiny-new Windows 10 so that now I can’t find anything nor print from any printer. When I pull up Word the Phoenix computer tells me I am The House Manager not myself. My Macbook laptop’s latest update made it impossible to sign into work off-site. Worse, I cannot leave comments on Blogger.com sites.* I suppose these are temporary hiccups easily fixed by that handsome IT man. Alas he’s elusive as the Questing Beast and possibly as mythical. Someone reports his phone is also pulling some shenanigans so this hints of a conspiracy. I suspect The Nargles are behind it – or the Chinese – or it’s Obama’s fault one never knows these days.

My Kindle is working for which I am grateful. It hasn’t shown any signs of joining its brothers in up-to-no-good shenanigans. I’ve read/am reading some Thumping Good Reads without the thing shutting down on me.

 

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I concluded “Rome: a history in seven sackings” which covers those interesting times invaders pillaged Rome. I found myself often taking sides with the invaders as Rome was a seething cesspool of vice, corruption, and hypocrisy. On the other hand most of the invasions (~5 out of 7) were beyond horrible. It was a jolly good read.

 

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I am halfway through the first book in series called “Discworld”. This is a sort-of satire on fantasy books: think “The lord of the rings” combined with “The hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy” in am ‘Ariadne auf Naxus’ Strauss situation. Half of me hopes this books isn’t that good because if it is I will want to read more of them- and there are over forty books in the series. Oh the pain.

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The next read is the first book in the “Bolitho series” by Alexander Kent. It is about a young Cornish lad who in the 1770s goes to sea as midshipman and over thirty years (and thirty books) advances to the top person in the British Navy. I am enjoying this one but I don’t think I will read the other twenty-nine.
My kindle needs recharging but I’ve been reluctant to do so lest it get in touch with its counterparts and they absorb it like The Borg and it becomes as difficult as the others. If it does I have plenty of ‘dead tree’ books to read as backup. They are mercifully impervious to nefarious Windows software upgrades.

 

 

*Curiously I can still do this from the home office computer, which hasn’t had any recent upgrades. I think there is a lesson here.

The Board of Directors Here at Spo-reflections sent an ’email’ as it were in the form of a Raven messenger (as is their wont) announcing they too made some New Year resolutions. I have to watchful about this: 90% of the these grandiose half-baked proposals never materialize* thank the gods but once in while these Nordic nincompoops actually follow through on some of them. I think it was 2015 when I walked into Heorot Johnsons to discover they redecorated the hall with large wooden spikes suitable for hanging backpacks and severed heads. The mentioned message has a long list too tedious to translate here. It did prompt me however to write my own list of goals for the future:

Mr. Mozart wrote over six hundred ditties now categorized into “K” numbered 1-626. I want to say I’ve heard them all. He didn’t live long but he started early. So far I am up to K. 13. K. 1-12 sound somewhat alike but who am I to judge they were written when he was about ten years old or something. It is a sobering fact that when Mozart was my age he had been dead for nearly twenty years.

 

On a similar note (E-flat) I would like someday be able to say I have heard all of Verdi’s operas. According to DuckDuckGo Mr. Verdi wrote twenty-five of them. I count I have attended twelve. The remaining thirteen will be challenging as I don’t think some of them are done anymore, especially the earlier ones. I may have to expand this goal to ‘hearing’ all of them rather. The nine/ten symphonies of Herr Mahler are more likely accomplished. Wouldn’t you die without Mahler? I know I would.

Speaking of great composers DDG is not clear on the total number of Jethro Tull records. Mr. Anderson has a lot of ‘best of’ and ‘solo’ albums which count/don’t count in the cannon. I guess I’ve heard ~ 25% of them so there is work to be done. Someone finds it extraordinary I even know what Jethro Tull is let alone like the music. There is no accounting for taste.

 

Turning to books now….

I’ve read all of Dickens so that task is accomplished. I only read half of Mr. Maupin‘s “Tales of the city” books; these would be nice to read/reread. For science fiction/fantasy there are no lack of series from which to choose.  Mr. Robert Jordans’ “Wheel of Time” series which has twelve volumes and Mr. Terry Brooks “Shannara” series which has ten – or is it the other way around? Patience above! Mr. Piers Anthony “Xanth” series has over forty books my soul swoons at the thought of this but they are quick, light, and cheap – like my men.

 

This lofty list seems enough music and literature to last a lifetime but bibliophiles and members of the clerisy like myself are always open to suggestions. If you know of any TGRs (thumping good reads) series to recommend please tell me about them. My criteria:

  1. The entire series is available.
  2. the author is preferably dead to ascertain I can get through them all without more of them arising. 🙂

 

*One of their nefarious 2019’s resolutions was burning down the ‘Fearsome Beard’ website and taking the contents for slaves or recruits. Didn’t happen.

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This was my journal entry for last night: 

2 August, 2019 – 

Mighty proud I am that I am able to write here I have finished the diary of Samuel Pepys. It took years to read and often it vexed me but in the end it pleased me very much. And now to bed.

What a job !

I now have the quiet satisfaction to say to myself and the world (if it should ever ask me) I have read Mr. Pepys diary.  Book readers are on the whole a little nuts and I am no exception. Everyone has their own list of ‘books to read” of course but many include among the ‘want to reads’ a few ‘ought to reads’ of infamous lofty tomes everybody knows but few actually read. Lovers of literature see them in the same way as mountaineers view the Matterhorn.  They are there to climb and say you did so.

Here’s the usual list; the ones I’ve set in bold type I have read. *

The Bible

The Iliad and the Odyssey 

Don Quixote 

The Diary of Samuel Pepys

Les Miserables 

War and Peace

Moby Dick

Remembrance of things past  – or whatever they are calling it these days

Ulysses

TooManyBooks The trouble with the likes of these is they are bloody long and time consuming; they interfere with reading lighter fare. They are often read more for the point of reading them than to enjoy them. There have been many times I’ve waded through a ‘great book’ like a mountain man in a snowstorm who knows there is no turning back and to just stop is fatal. This is a horrible reason to keep reading anything but these are the exception. The chief point of a journey through Balzac or Dickens or one of that crowd is to say you’ve done so and say it with pride at the next dinner party when someone brings them up.**

All the same I will miss my nightly bedtime tryst with Mr. Pepys. Although he was often wordier than Dickens he’s been a fine friend. He reminds me I should do something about my own diaries piled up next to the ‘to-read’ books (also gathering dust) lest ‘the public’ gets its paws on them like did with Mr. Pepys.   Oh the embarrassment! 

What’s next to read we wonders. I suppose I can get caught up on some lighter ‘fun’ reads that have been gathering dust on the ‘to-read’ shelf for what seems like ages. Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’ may be the best palate cleanser after years of eating heavy British boiled beef and before I bite into ‘War and Peace’. 

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*Spo-fans who are book-nerds are free to leave in the comment section any great works of literature I may have forgotten. 

**Fat chance of that. 

 I want to thank Spo-fans far and near for their praises of  the last post. The chief reason I blog is my passion to write. Most of what I scribble is nonsense and dribble but occasionally something pulls together into thoughtful and pretty prose. Yesterday’s entry felt like a success and I was blithe others thought so as well. The Board of Directors Here at Spo-Reflections was also pleased as punch. They sent me a bonus barrel of mead (the dears!) They also adamantly deny they are responsible for Notre Dame. They may relish in pyro-shenanigans towards public buildings but they are no fools to touch something that big.  

Last weekend when I visited Brother #3 we had nice morning going through his library looking at his collection of books. My Tsundoku is quite active; the last thing I need is more books. However I am always on the look-out for fabulous findings and recommendations.

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On his shelf sits a collection of books from our youth. These are the “Alfred Hitchcock and the three investigators” mystery series. A group of lads go about and solve mysteries. I read these tomes instead of “The Hardy Boys”. Would you believe it – I didn’t think I was ‘butch’ enough to read the latter. * Laying eyes on these ancient tomes lit up my eyes to elicit a euphoria the type one gets when you stumble upon a childhood memento you haven’t seen in decades but seeing them you immediately recall them and all they entailed. B#3 found them in the basement of The Progenitors; he took the lot home hoping someday my nephew The Posthumous Thomas will read them.

We noticed (as can you in the photo) some in series are missing. We can’t recall if we never had them or they are lost. This raised a mystery to solve of its own. Next time he visits The Progenitors he will try to find them. If he is unsuccessful we will hit Ebay and buy the missing ones. Meanwhile I will do some research: how they came to be and how long they went on etc.

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After we finished the tour, I took down The Mystery of the Talking Skull, which is one I books I remember enjoying, and I read a few chapters. Do you ever reread your childhood favorites? I do. This is usually a mixed bag of emotions.  There is a satisfaction nothing like rereading a story that quickly comes back to mind. On the other hand these reads are never are quite as stirring or as magical as when they were first read. “Talking Skull” wasn’t scary or as deep as I remembered. There was a sense of camp to it viz. failed seriousness.  Oh well, I am no longer ten years old.

Someday after we complete the set I hope to read them all. How many times have I said that before! I’ve got to make a more concerted effort to make time for reading. If I don’t I fear ‘The three investigators’ will sit on the shelf taunting me as books do when they want you to pick them out and enter them again.

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*I probably still am not.

 

gobooksAs it is again the season for giving and receiving Christmas prizes, my mind turns to books.  Books have always been at the top of my wish list; they never fall from fashion. The email I just sent out to my family (with my secret santa) has several titles from which to choose.

I recently heard a podcast interviewer who likes to ask his guests “What books do you like to give as gifts?”.   This is subtle; this is good.  Asking people ‘what is your favorite book” makes people a bit uncomfortable as it is often hard to pinpoint down a favorite. It is sort of like asking ‘What is your favorite food?”  Well, most people have no one favorite and it often depends on the mood.  Most people don’t want to be pigeon-holed going on record as it were into ‘one book’ .  Bibilophiles all know the disappointment of giving someone their ‘favorite read’ only to hear the recipient didn’t find it interesting. It is easy to take it as a personal rejection.

What one gives to others as gifts gets one thinking about ‘why’ they give out certain books.  These may not be so much ‘thumping good reads’ but books to instruct and amaze as well as entertain.  So, I thought I would try this myself.  Spo-fans are encouraged to leave in the comments books they like to give to others. If you wish please tell me your favorite book.

Note – as I wrote this I realized I was writing down works of fiction.  I think I will divide this into two parts; the non-fiction gift books I will do another time. 

What I give out to introduce someone to a ‘new’ author:

“The Inn at the edge of the world’ – Alice Thomas Ellis.

I often give out this book to thems longing for a ‘thumping good read’. She is one of my favorite authors. She has an exquisite style that combines pithy dysfunctional people with the uncanny or mystical.  This book is a good introduction to a wider audience and it is a jolly good fun  – a ‘thumping good read’ indeed.

What I give out to someone interested in short stories:

“Dubliners” – James Joyce.

I can not think of a better collection.  “The Dead” remains one of the best short stories ever written (do not dare to question this).

What I give out to someone interested in scary stuff: 

“Roald Dahl’s book of ghost stories” is the best collection I know. For thems who prefer novels,  “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson still gives me the creeps even after multiple reads.

What I give out when someone wants to revisit their youth:

“The Phantom Tollbooth” – Norton Juster.

This is a children’s book. However, like most good books for children, it can be read at different times of life and one never stops finding new things and meaning in it.  I sometimes include “The Phantom Tollbooth” with “The Never-ending Story” by Michael Ende as a boxed set for they have similar qualities: engaging children in reading while nourishing the desire to read.

What I give out when someone needs a laugh:

“A confederacy of dunces” – John K. Toole.

It has never failed to make people laugh and lift their spirits. It is full of awful, awful people doing awful, awful things yet it all comes off as hilarious.

What I give out when someone insists I tell them my favorite book:

“Creation” – Gore Vidal

Oh face it, I give this one out as I love it so. An elderly man dictates his memoirs to his great-nephew during the time of Pericles in ancient Athens.  Cyrus has traveled the world; he has met the Buddha and Confucius.  I explain it has wit, history, religion/philosophy, and pithy comments about Western civilization (Athens as Washington DC)  This book has it all.

“A book is a dream that you hold in your hands.”  Neil Gaiman

books1  My recent trip to Bookmans wasn’t successful that I could not locate any books to buy. My mind which is often full up with titles I want to read decided to crash as I entered the store so I couldn’t remember one I hoped to someday find. Perhaps it is a mercy for I have plenty of unread books already; I don’t need more.

I just finished a book on the science and physics of Star Wars. It turns out most of SW is not theoretically possible, which is what I thought would be the case. I gave up on Game of Thrones as between chapters I wasn’t retaining who was killing whom and who was what. I longer have time to read books that don’t entertain.

Pepys diary has been sitting on the shelf for over a year, daring me to start. I could read day at a time but if I do the math I may die before it ends, so that’s not good. Summer is for ‘light reading’ anyway. There are a several less ponderous tomes to tackle right now than Mr. Pepys diary.

I like non-fiction about a foodstuff that ‘changed the world’ or so says the author. I am reading one on salt. Apparently it was as fussed over as mineral rights are today. I am curious to see how it went from a precious commodity worth fighting for to something we have too much of and please cut down it for pete’s sake.

I think I will lay off the Kindle for awhile and read some of the ‘real books’. I still like sticking my nose into an old book and inhaling the redolence of old ink and paper. I recall purchasing something by Paul Bowles; perhaps that should be tackled next.

Lovely books. You never know where they may take you or if you are opening something marvelous.

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