The intellectual equivalent of a ham sandwich.

Posts tagged ‘book’

Attn: Ellen (4/20/16)



Back (apologies for my handwriting!)


The text of the postcard is

Dear Ellen,

I’m reading Infinite Jest, and I feel a bit like that mouse … and the book is the other guy.

It’s supposed to be brilliant, which is good. But I can tell you concretely it’s 900+ pages and I’m just now at about 200.

Words of encouragement, wisdom, support, etc are all appreciated.


P.S. After this book I will be reading a mindless book about guys with magical powers or something like that.

Why am I doing this?

All’s Whale That Ends Whale

Coming this fall prepare yourself for the latest cheap capitalization on a family name with Captain Ahab, Ishmael and the gang. Joseph H. Melville, great great grandson of Herman Melville, will take you on a brand new adventure with some familiar faces in All’s Whale That Ends Whale.

Was the white whale that Captain Ahab saw actually just a large human body floating in the ocean a ways away? And was that human body murdered? And say, didn’t that one shipmate say he used to work as a detective?

Who’s this lovely lady who is a ship inspector? Can Ahab charm her away from the unsafe practices on his ship … and into his arms?

Is the crew extra mutinous today, or is that a case of the fabled vampire scurvy, scurvy that causes vampire-like tendencies to develop?

And what’s that over the ocean, a space ship! … from OUTER SPACE?

Find out all of this, AND MORE, in All’s Whale That Ends Whale!


If I Was Missing a Cat …

Missing Cat Poster

Quotes of the Day!

The following quotes come from W. Somerset Maugham’s The Moon and Sixpence.


I forget who it was that recommended men for their soul’s good to do each day two things they disliked : it was a wise man, and it is a precept that I have followed scrupulously ; for every day I have got up and I have gone to bed.


Mrs. Strickland used her advantage with tact. You felt that you obliged her by accepting her sympathy. When, in the enthusiasm of my youth, I remarked on this to Rose Waterford, she said:

‘Milk is very nice, especially with a drop of brandy in it, but the domestic cow is only too glad to be rid of it. A swollen udder is very uncomfortable.’


It was obvious that he had no social gifts, but these a man can do without ; he had no eccentricity even, to take him out of the common run ; he was just a good, dull, honest, plain man. One would admire his excellent qualities, but avoid his company.


‘Tell him that our home cries out for him. Everything is just the same, and yet everything is different.’


I had not yet learnt how contradictory is human nature ; I did not know how much pose there is in the sincere, how much baseness in the noble, or how much goodness in the reprobate.


Only the poet or the saint can water an asphalt pavement in the confident anticipation that lilies will reward his labour.

Self and Sex Series – Book Pictures

When I was home a few weeks ago I saw some of my favorite old books in my bedroom. One of them is a book that is not mine, it’s one my mom found that is old and fantastic.

It’s called What a Young Boy Ought to Know. It was written by Sylvanus Stall as part of the Purity and Truth, Self and Sex Series. If that’s not a catchy series, I don’t know what catchy means. Wait, what does catchy mean? That’s like an adjective to describe catchers in baseball?

Anywho – here are some pictures of the book, which is great for the content, and also because it’s from 1897 (old books are fun).

Self and Sex1

So elegant. So full of … facts?

Self and Sex2

The whole series was written lucidly and purely … Whoa.

Self and Sex3

All joking aside, I was pretty surprised to see a few females (they had pages of older folks spewing kind words about these books). That struck me as fairly progressive considering the year and content of this book.

Self and Sex4

“Dad can I start reading tonight, please? Please please PUH-LEASE!”
-Any boy, after seeing the riveting enticements of chapter 1



Self and Sex5

Part II’s title … I wonder if a counter book was produced and their chapter two had the title, “Use it or Lose it.”



Self and Sex6

That’s right ladies and older gentlemen, you’re not off the hook – you all need to know what is appropriate when it come to Purity and Truth, Self and Sex.

Lincoln by Thomas Keneally

Not too long ago I read Lincoln by Thomas Keneally. I decided to read the book because I was heading to Washington, D.C. and the Lincoln Memorial is one of my favorite places to visit. Apparently the Penguin series of biographies focuses on brevity (so there’s a good chance this is the smallest biography of Lincoln that isn’t intended for children).

Lincoln Memorial

For me, a favorite D.C. activity is waking up early and jogging around the mall with Lincoln being a definite spot. Early in the morning is the only time the place is empty.

I didn’t know much about Lincoln, and unfortunately due to a lame memory I still don’t know too much – but I remembered my dad saying he liked Lincoln’s leadership style (leading by communication – culling the knowledge of those around him). The reasons all there, I started the book.

The most striking thing about the book was learning that what I consider nasty political moves were happening even during Lincoln’s rise. Lincoln was the victim of political savvy (read: worthless politicians and their games) and he played the game very well himself. I suppose it could be considered naive, or maybe I just romanticized the past, but I felt like at that time things should have been simpler: you got elected based on merit alone, not on your ability to position yourself and your opponents.

The book is very readable and interesting. I have to admit I didn’t blow through it, instead I would read a lot and then put it aside until reading a lot again. I would definitely recommend it.

The nice (and bad) thing about biographies of amazing people is that they leave me feeling inspired and ready to tackle the world, and at the same time like an underachiever and lazy bum. It’s a weird mix.

Without further ado, some quotes:

Here was God’s inscrutable will at work once more, its irrationality a further test to young Lincoln’s soul, which both despised and yet yearned for the comforts of ordinary belief.

I think it would be great if politician’s today started speaking this simply and humbly, this was from a very early campaign speech of his:

“My politics is short and sweet, like an old woman’s dance. I am in favor of a national bank, a high and protective tariff, and the internal improvement system. If elected, I will be thankful. If beaten, I can do as I have been doing, work for a living.”

(Also I wonder if he intended that as a shot at politicians – only if he is beaten will be work for a living … To the victor go the spoils, eh?)

Here is an example of something that I had associated with modern politicians, using your clothing to make a political statement:

For the journey to the state capital, Lincoln wore “a very respectable looking suit of jeans,” not the highest level of fashion but in accordance with the spirit of Henry Clay’s party – to wear jean cloth was a statement of support for American manufacturers.

In my opinion, this is a too often ignored reason for political differences. Some people look at the world and think how if it only tried a little harder, it could be much better. Other people look at the world and think how if only it had a little help, it could then improve itself and be much better.

Like many a man who had remade himself, he falsely considered that any laborer had the same gift thus to transform himself, to become a merchant or a lawyer or at least an employer of other labor.

Kudos to modern medicine.

Child deaths were common enough for books of etiquette to advise Christian mothers how to behave when they lost their children. The Mother’s Assistant described a bad mother as saying, “I cannot lose my child, I cannot. She is so bright and promising,” whereas a good mother “leaned on the Almighty and meekly bowed her head to earthly things.”

See, he was a crafty devil! … His opponent Douglas also made a “good play to the politics of fear.”

He quietly encouraged Buchanan’s Democrats to stand up against Douglas, and he asked some of his powerful supporters to direct Republican funds toward anti-Douglas Democratic newspapers.

And more of the political machine and it’s posturing.

The convention went wild, and the only figure who was not delighted at such a vote-winning display was Abraham himself.

Just a very smart statement, the whole context relates to trying to talk to the South – prior to the start of the Civil War.

“I have said this so often already, that a repetition of it is but mockery, bearing the appearance of weakness.”

After the Civil War had started, and things were looking ugly.

And yet, despite his agnosticism, he had come to believe in God as a historic force. “In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, but one must be wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God’s purpose is something different from the purpose of either party; and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are the best adaptation to effect his purpose.”

I’d like to think, because sometimes I can be optimistic (call it cynical idealism), that if a good writer came up with a biography for the average person, anyone could look good. I say this because, intentionally or not, you’re probably bound to say a few profound things in your life. Lincoln managed to say profound things while under some small amount of stress … which is pretty good I guess.

Quotes of the Day!

The following quotes are from The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. (The last book club book.)


And you can tell from the way she’s moving: she is heading towards. Maman just went by in the direction of the front door, she’s going out shopping and in fact she already is outside, her movement anticipating itself. I don’t really know how to explain it, but when we move, we are in a way de-structured by our movement towards something: we are both here and at the same time not here because we’re already in the process of going somewhere else, if you see what I mean.


(Let me say, before this quote, that the book club is all female except for myself … But I still like this quote.)

Let me explain: if, thus far, you have imagined that the ugliness of ageing and conciergely widowhood have made a pitiful wretch of me, resigned to the lowliness of her fate – then you are truly lacking in imagination. I have withdrawn, to be sure, and refuse to fight. But within the safety of my own mind, there is no challenge I cannot accept. I may be indigent in name, position and appearance, but in my own mind I am an unrivaled goddess.


Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?


True novelty is that which does not grow old, despite the passage of time.


They have one idea in mind: to be intelligent, which is really stupid. And when intelligence takes itself for its own goal, it operates very strangely: the proof that it exists is not to be found in the ingenuity or simplicity of what it produces, but in how obscurely it is expressed.


And secondly, a teenager who pretends to be an adult is still a teenager. If you imagine that getting high at a party and sleeping around is going to propel you into a state of full adulthood, that’s like thinking that dressing up as an Indian is going to make you an Indian. And thirdly, it’s a really weird way of looking at life to want to become an adult by imitating everything that is most catastrophic about adulthood …


Desire! It carries us and crucifies us, delivers us every new day to a battlefield where, on the eve, the battle was lost; but in sunlight does it not look like a territory ripe for conquest, a place where – even though tomorrow we will die – we can build empires doomed to fade to dust, as if the knowledge we have of their imminent fall had absolutely no effect on our eagerness to build them now?


For art is emotion without desire.

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