Sunday, January 31, 2010

review :: East of Eden

John Steinbeck

I really, really enjoy Steinbeck's writing. A lot. I expected much from East of Eden, as several of my friends have read it over the last couple of years and raved. I was not disappointed. 

East of Eden is truly epic. The story follows the lives of two families--the Trasks and the Hamiltons--and their helpless portrayal of fallen mankind. With mesmerizing characters, Steinbeck illustrates for us the age-old questions and mysteries of existence, love beyond comprehension, and the fatal tragedy of love's absence. 

On top of brilliant characters, the setting of Salinas Valley is alive and animated, and paints a rich backdrop for this modern retelling of the Biblical book of Genesis.

One of my favorite passages comes from Sam Hamilton, talking about his crotchety old horse, Doxology:
Everything was wrong with him, hoofs like flapjacks, a hock so thick and short and straight there seems no joint at all. He's hammerheaded and swaybacked. He has a pinched chest and a big behind. He has an iron mouth and he still fights the crupper. With a saddle he feels as though you were riding a sled over a gravel pit. He can't trot and he stumbles over his feet when he walks. I have never in thirty-three years found one good thing about him. He even has an ugly disposition. To this day I don't dare walk behind him because he will surely take a kick at me. When I feed him mash he tries to bite my hand. And I love him.
I was really pleased with the way the story ended. Steinbeck does not tie everything up and trim the frayed edges. It almost ends in media res. You just know that the characters are going to continue on living and struggling to live and make right choices and experience everything that human existence has to offer.

Friday, January 29, 2010

from J. D.

"Among other things, you'll find that you're not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You're by no means alone on that score, you'll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You'll learn from them--if you want to. Just as some day, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It's a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn't education. It's history. It's poetry."
~ J. D. Salinger ~

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Goodbye, Salinger

 RIP :: J. D. Salinger

J. D. Salinger passed away yesterday. You can read more here. Salinger wrote the famous Catcher in the Rye, which is another one of those books I know I should have read by now, and haven't. It's been on The List for several years. What's crazy is that Salinger published Catcher in the Rye in 1951 when he was 32. It was immediately popular and is widely acclaimed as an influential modern novel. He never published another novel. Other published works by Salinger are:
Salinger was known for being reclusive, and hasn't given an interview or other public appearance in over twenty years. I have always envisioned him as a man who had one goal. His goal was to publish a novel. He did it. And that was that. Why write another one?

Whether or not that's true, who is to say? I have often wondered, though, what else the great writer may have been capable of...

Monday, January 25, 2010

word of the day :: persnickety


–adjective Informal.
1. overparticular; fussy.
2. snobbish or having the aloof attitude of a snob.
3. requiring painstaking care.

1885-90; orig. Scots, var. of PERNICKETY.

"When the men appeared, the more persnickety ones washed in a tin basin." (Edward Everett Dale, Frontier Ways: Sketches of Life in the Old West)

* Definition from

Friday, January 22, 2010

from Daphne

"Writers should be read, but neither seen nor heard."
~Daphne du Maurier~

Monday, January 18, 2010

word of the day :: ha-ha

n. see sunk fence

[French, exclamation of surprise, ha-ha (from its being designed not to be seen until closely approached).]
sunk fence  
n.  A walled ditch or sunken obstacle, such as a hedge, serving especially as a barrier to livestock without impairing the view or scenic appeal. Also called ha-ha.
"After sitting a little while, Miss Crawford was up again. 'I must move,' said she, 'resting fatigues me. I have looked across the ha-ha till I am weary. I must go and look through that iron gate at the same view, without being able to see it so well.''" (Miss Crawford in Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen)
* Definition from

Friday, January 15, 2010

from Lucy

"That is one good thing about this world--there are always sure to be more springs."
~Anne in Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Monteromery~

Monday, January 11, 2010

word of the day :: indubitable

[in-doo-bi-tuh-buhl, -dyoo-]

that cannot be doubted; patently evident or certain; unquestionable.

1615-25; < L indubitābilis.
"There is one evident, indubitable manifestation of the Divinity, and that is the laws of right which are made known to the world through Revelation.'" (Leo Tolstoy)

* Definition from

Saturday, January 9, 2010

review :: Dracula

Bram Stoker 

One of the most interesting things about Dracula is that the word "vampire" is not used in regard to humans--or what Dr. Van Helsing refers to as the Undead-- until nearly the end of the book. The only mention of it until then is in reference to vampire bats.  I found this most intriguing. It really added to the sense of mystery and dark dread surrounding the fearsome creature.

The entire story is told through letters, journal entries from the various points of view of the protagonists, and a few newspaper clippings. This was done very well; seamlessly, in fact. I sometimes have a difficult time reading the diary or journal entry portions of novels, but the prose Stoker created reads story-like throughout.

From the beginning, I was a very curious how this tale would play out. The first quarter of the book consists of Jonathan Harker's travel to Castle Dracula on business and his slow discovery of who Count Dracula is and of his own imprisonment in the castle. His experiences are ghastly. When the story moves from Harker's journal to his fiancee's letters to a friend, I wondered where it was going, or how the letters and the fate of Jonathan Harker would tie together. One thing you never find out in the story is how Jonathan Harker escapes Count Dracula and his castle in the first place...I do wish that had been included. I thought he was a goner.

This gothic novel is scary as all get out! I have already admitted that I had to stop reading it before going to sleep at night--which is when I do most of my reading. I definitely had a few disturbing nights of rest, thanks to Stoker's gruesome tale. The plot kept me breathless at moments with its intensity.

While its main theme is horror, I found that Dracula is also a love story. Woven into the plot are threads of love--both requited and un--sacrifice, and bereavement for what (and who) is lost. And no vampire is any match for those fighting for redemption and release of those they hold dearest.

So much has been written or made into film on the vampire theme since Dracula was released in 1897. Today's vampire has been hugely romanticized. I have to say, there is nothing appealing, romantic, or sexy about Count Dracula.

See what I mean?

Not having read the Twilight Series, or seen either of the movies, or watched any of the vampire-related shows on television (The Vampire Diaries or True Blood), I cannot offer any true insight. All I can say is that we have come a long way from our introduction to the vampire as a mythological being who feeds on life essence.

Would I recommend Dracula? Yes...but it is not for the faint of heart!

Friday, January 8, 2010

from W. Somerset

"She had a pretty gift for quotation, which is a serviceable substitute for wit."
~ W. Somerset Maugham~

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

this is fun to say

ever and anon
(AKA: now and then; occasionally)

What a great phrase! I really wish people still used the word "anon" in everyday speech. My co-worker (a fellow word lover and avid book reader) and I like to use it in the office sometimes. Just because we can. He recently spotted "anon" in the English translation of a contemporary Swedish novel. I like to think that the translator chose to use "anon" in the translation, because he/she too regrets that it is somewhat obsolete.

Monday, January 4, 2010

word of the day :: cicatrised


–verb (used with object)
1. Physiology. to heal by inducing the formation of a cicatrix.
–verb (used without object)
1. to become healed by the formation of a cicatrix.
Also, especially in British, cicatrise.

1350-1400; ME < ML cicātrizāre.

cicatrize cic·a·trize (sĭk'ə-trīz')
v. cic·a·trizedcic·a·triz·ingcic·a·triz·es 
To heal by forming scar tissue.

"'As for myself, I was settling down to my work with the enthusiasm which I used to have for it, so that I might fairly have said that the wound which poor Lucy had left on me was becoming cicatrised.'" (Dr. John Seward in Dracula, by Bram Stoker)

* Definition from

Friday, January 1, 2010

from Edith

"We will open the book. It's pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day."
~ Edith Lovejoy Pierce ~