Thursday, May 28, 2015

Lewis On Re-Reading

In the first place, the majority never read anything else twice. The sure mark of an unliterary man is that he considers "I read it already" to be a conclusive argument against reading a work. 

We have all known women who remembered a novel so dimly that they had to stand for half an hour in the library skimming through it before they were certain they had once read it. But the moment they became certain, they rejected it immediately. It was for them dead, like a burnt-out match, an old railway ticket, or yesterday’s paper; they had already used it. 

Those who read great works, on the other hand, will read the same work ten, twenty, or thirty times during the course of their life.

(C.S.Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism)

Monday, May 25, 2015

On the Post-Literate Culture


"You don't have to burn books to destroy a culture.
Just get people to stop reading them." (Ray Bradbury)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Maltese Falcon Quiz

For fans of the great movie, this quiz can be fun. But it will appeal even more to the readers of Dashiell Hammett's fine detective novel. Have at it...and, of course, don't look for the answers until the end!

1) Does the story of the falcon tribute have any factual basis?

2) Who was originally cast for the film role of Sam Spade? A) Ronald Reagan B) Robert Taylor C) George Raft D) Alan Ladd E) Gary Cooper

3) The Shakespeare reference at the end of the film (“Ah, the stuff which dreams are made of”) was suggested by A) Director John Huston B) Jack Warner C) Peter Lorre D) Humphrey Bogart

4) What previous occupation made Dashiell Hammett so effective in writing The Maltese Falcon? A) Detective B) Screenwriter C) San Francisco Probation officer D) Cleaned cages at an aviary

5) Which actor in the cast was playing their first film role?

6) How many successful novels did Dashiell Hammett write in his long career?

7) Hammett’s novel was dedicated to Jose. Who is this?

8) The Maltese Falcon was a major Hollywood hit, both with the public and the critics. How many Academy Awards did it win?

9) Where was Dashiell Hammett buried? A) Colorado B) Virginia C) California D) His ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean.

10) After Hammett sold the rights to the Sam Spade character (at a bargain price), a very popular radio series was created called The Adventures of Sam Spade. It starred: A) Howard Duff B) Orson Wells C) Humphrey Bogart D) Jack Webb E) William Conrad


ANSWERS

1) Yes, according to Dashiell Hammett’s own introduction to the 1934 edition of the book ---- “Somewhere I had read of the peculiar rental arrangements between Charles V and the Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem.”

2) C. George Raft. Raft was one of Warner’s contract players and was originally offered the part. He apparently turned it down because a) he didn't want to be directed by new director John Huston, and b) it was to be a low-budget, “unimportant” film. He had also turned down the starring role in High Sierra (which eventually fell to Bogart) because he didn't want to die at the end. In fact, Raft would go on turning down roles that Bogart would play and subsequently make famous, including the cynical and unforgettable hero of Casablanca.

3) D. Humphrey Bogart

4) A. Hammett was a detective for the Pinkerton agency.

5) Sydney Greenstreet. To play the part of sinister Fat Man Gutman, the film’s producer Hal Wallis suggested that Greenstreet do a screen test. Huston liked it and cast the longtime character actor of the stage. Greenstreet was thus 61 years old when he made his movie “debut.”

6) Only 5: The Dain Curse, The Maltese Falcon, Red Harvest, The Thin Man, The Glass Key. Besides a few other short stories, Hammett’s career was largely a disappointment. The causes? TB and a generally dissolute lifestyle, complete with drunkenness, lack of discipline and self-control, abandonment of family, and the influence of radical leftists (especially Lillian Hellman).

7) Jose was Hammett’s first wife and mother of his two children.

8) None

9) B. Virginia. More specifically, in Arlington National Cemetery.

10) A. Veteran actor (and husband of Ida Lupino) Howard Duff. Duff's most famous roles were in television, especially Mr. Adams and Eve (1957-58), Felony Squad (1966-69), and a whole gang of guest spots.

The Shadow Is a Passing Thing

Frodo sighed and was asleep almost before the words were spoken. Sam struggled with his own weariness, and he took Frodo's hand; and there he sat silent till deep night fell. Then at last, to keep himself awake, he crawled from the hiding-place and looked out.

The land seemed full of creaking and cracking and sly noises, but there was no sound of voice or of foot. Far above the Ephel Duath in the West the night-sky was still dim and pale. There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while.

The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was a light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. His song in the Tower had been defiance rather than hope; for then he was thinking of himself. Now, for a moment, his own fate, and even his master's, ceased to trouble him.

He crawled back into the brambles and laid himself by Frodo's side, and putting away all fear he cast himself into a deep untroubled sleep.

(J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Had the World Listened to Churchill, the Orwellian Century Might Never Have Happened


...Orwell can imagine that future so clearly because he has schooled himself in some of the worst things that men have actually done. No one else has gone so far in predicting how inhuman ideas will ultimately be translated into action. And it is possible that Orwell was right in divining the end result of totalitarian practice: absolute power will so deform the masters that they will forget any humanitarian pretense and will live for power alone—not only the god-like power over life and death that every sound Machiavellian wishes to exercise, but the even more monstrous power to control what the regime’s subjects think and feel…

But for all his probity and his clear-sightedness about some matters, he never quite left the Platonic cave of 20th-century politics; really he exchanged one cave for another, fleeing the redoubt of the respectable capitalist and imperialist English middle class, which he staggered his way out of by his mid-twenties, and finding sanctuary in the sweetest fantasy of socialism, which he defended even as he condemned the worst socialist realities and the lies that sustained them, but which left him in semi-darkness…

These two histories of Churchill’s [the six-volume The World Crisis and Marlborough: His Life and Times] were the most important works of political art to appear between the two wars, and if Churchill’s vision of honorable and prudent political life had been more widely recognized and seen into action the Soviet terror state might have been stopped before it started, Hitler denied his opportunity to sow devastation, and the Second World War averted. Nineteen Eighty-Four deserves its esteemed place in the post-World War II literature, but its searing horror reflects an experience of political evil that mankind could have avoided. Winston Churchill knew better than George Orwell what needed to be done in order to secure a decent and democratic world in which no one would even imagine such a definitive political catastrophe as the one that made Orwell famous. It needn’t have been Orwell who defined the 20th century. The world should never have been allowed to become Orwellian. 

From Algis Valiunas’ excellent essay “Orwell in the Orwellian Century” over at Claremont Review of Books.

Monday, May 11, 2015

More Answers to Twelve Tantalizing Questions for Book Readers

The first answers to the book questionnaire posted last week ("Twelve Tantalizing Questions for Book Readers") have shown up and I post them below. They come from 1) USAF Lt. Col (Ret.) Quint Coppi, a Vital Signs Board member and founding member of the Notting Hill Napoleons; 2) Barb Malek, one of the Directors of Assure Pregnancy Center, another original Napoleon, and author of Soft Like Steel; and 3) Pat Eberly, celebrated wit and a longtime colleague in pro-life ministry.

First, Quint's answers:

1) List ten of your favorite books in five minutes.
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni, The Song of Roland translated by Dorothy Sayers, Bleak House by Charles Dickens, Ivanhoe by Walter Scott, The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers, Adam Bede by George Eliot, Barnaby Rudge and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, and The Napoleon of Notting Hill by G.K. Chesterton.
2) What's the last really good book you read?
The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy.
3) Do you finish every book you start?
No.
4) Do you re-read books? Do you re-read any books more than once or twice? Like what?
Yes. The Chronicles of Narnia. Lord of the Rings books. Pied Piper by Nevil Shute.
5) Are there any authors whose work you have read completely? Or almost completely? Who?
Dickens, Sir Walter Scott, JRR Tolkien.
6) Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction? Why?
Fiction stirs my imagination and I love a well told story. I also love excellent writing.
7) Do you recommend books? If you do, give an example or two.
Silas Marner. The Betrothed. Les Miserables.
8) Do you read books that are more than one hundred years old?
Yes.
9) What's more important to you: the way a book is written or what the book is about?
Both. A good plot is enhanced by excellent writing.
10) Have you ever written a fan letter to an author?
No.
11) Do you keep track of the books you read?
Yes.
12) Okay, take a look at the list you made at the beginning.  Any changes you'd like to make?
No, maybe later; once I've had a chance to go over the books I've read in total.

Now Barb's:

1) List ten of your favorite books in five minutes.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy, C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy, Les Miserables, Pride and Prejudice, All Creatures Great and Small, Winds of War, War and Remembrance.
2) What’s the last really good book you read?
Mysteries help me relax, and I enjoy them. But I wouldn’t define them as “really good” especially compared to the classics.
3) Do you finish every book you start?
No, I don’t. Especially modern books I get on Kindle. Sometimes they are so badly written I can’t make myself keep reading.
4) Do you re-read books? Do you re-read any books more than once or twice? Like what?
Yes, I do. Especially my favorites. I think I read the Lord of the Rings books at least a dozen times. I may have read the Space Trilogy that many times as well. I have reread all my favorite books, except for Les Miserables (but I have seen most of the movie versions and the musical several times).
5) Are there any authors whose work you have read completely? Or almost completely? Who?
I think I have read most of C.S. Lewis’s works, and much of Tolkien's. I have also read most of the books by Leon Uris. There are a few mystery writers that I have read almost all of their books as well.
6) Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction? Why?
I have a preference for fiction, because they are easier to read, but I usually have one of each that I am actively reading on my Kindle.
7) Do you recommend books? If you do, give an example or two.
I think everyone should read the Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis. He is so brilliant and insightful and those books are amazing. And, even if people have seen the movies, they should read the Lord of the Rings books as well.
8) Do you read books that are more than one hundred years old?
Yes, many.
9) What’s more important to you: the way a book is written or what the book is about?
By far, the way a book is written. If a book is badly written, I don’t care what it is about.
10) Have you ever written a fan letter to an author?  No.
11) Do you keep track of the books you read?  Not officially.
12) Okay, take a look at the list you made at the beginning.  Any changes you’d like to make?
No.

And Pat's:

1) List ten of your favorite books in five minutes.
Isaiah by Isaiah...Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe...The Great Divorce by CS Lewis...The Cloister and the Hearth by Charles Reade...Lorna Doone by Richard Doddridge Blackmore...Victory by Joseph Conrad...Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim...Peace Child by Don Richardson...Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain...A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean...Cancer Ward by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
2) What’s the last really good book you read?
A Peace to End All Peace by David Fromkin.
3) Do you finish every book you start?
Nearly all…..some after putting them down for months……some for years.
4) Do you re-read books? Do you re-read any books more than once or twice? Like what?
Have read some 7-8-9 times.  All on my top ten at least twice, most three times or more.
5) Are there any authors whose work you have read completely? Or almost completely? Who?
Most of Conrad, Wolfe, Sherwood Anderson, C. S. Forester, Anthony Burgess, Dos Passos, Dreiser, Orwell, Twain, Larry McMurtry up through Lonesome Dove (gaccck), all but one of Kerouac's, Wells, etc. Also with some I read all that I happen to come across. (A good portion of my books are from thrift stores.)
6) Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction? Why?
Ficton when I was younger, nonfiction for the last 15 years.   Why?  1. Ran out of fiction I wanted to read.  2. Wanted to see if reality matches ideas/ideals.
7) Do you recommend books? If you do, give an example or two.
Have recommended all on my 'favorites' list above, and many more.
8) Do you read books that are more than one hundred years old?
Yes, as long as the cover isn't falling off, or there are missing pages.  Hard to find them that old, tho.
9) What’s more important to you: the way a book is written or what the book is about?
Both, but if I am going to waste my time, I would rather read a well written book about nothing, than a great subject poorly written. Shakespeare, for example.
11) Do you keep track of the books you read?
I keep a big majority of books I read.
12) Okay, take a look at the list you made at the beginning.  Any changes you’d like to make?
Yes. I need to get up earlier, and cut back on sweets.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Interested in Culture & the Humanities? Check Out These Articles.

* “Progressives Love Anti-Religious Art — as Long as It’s Anti-Christian” (Jonah Goldberg, National Review)

* “E-Books Are Damaging Your Health: Why We Should All Start Reading Paper Books Again” (Lecia Bushak, Medical Daily)

* “The Conference Manifesto” (Christy Wampole, New York Times)

* “Frank Capra’s America and Ours” (John Marini, Imprimis)

* "Monsters: Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Victorian imagination" (John J. Miller, Claremont Review of Books)

* “If You Read To Your Kids, You’re ‘Unfairly Disadvantaging’ Others” (Katherine Timpf, National Review)

Two Minutes with David McCullough (On His Favorite Writers)

Bernard Cornwell Describes His New Book on Waterloo

In this extremely interesting and enjoyable 10 minute podacst, popular author Bernard Cornwell talks about his new non-fiction book, Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles.

Cornwell describes what was at stake on June 18, 1815, whether Napoleon or Wellington was the better general, and what it was like to be an ordinary soldier on the battlefield.

Check it out.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Twelve Tantalizing Questions for Book Readers

Using some of the existing questionnaires I found around the web, I've compiled this list of questions for my "bookish" friends. Would you like to answer, perhaps copy the list to pass around to friends and family? By all means, do so.

After listing the questions, I will post my answers below -- and Claire's too.

Then I'm going to send the questions to my fellow members of the Notting Hill Napoleons, our long-standing literary club. Maybe they'll send along answers I can post here as well. And if you would like to join in the project, send your answers along.

Here are the Tantalizing Twelve questions:

1) List ten of your favorite books in five minutes.

2) What’s the last really good book you read?

3) Do you finish every book you start?

4) Do you re-read books? Do you re-read any books more than once or twice? Like what?

5) Are there any authors whose work you have read completely? Or almost completely? Who?

6) Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction? Why?

7) Do you recommend books? If you do, give an example or two.

8) Do you read books that are more than one hundred years old?

9) What’s more important to you: the way a book is written or what the book is about?

10) Have you ever written a fan letter to an author?

11) Do you keep track of the books you read?

12) Okay, take a look at the list you made at the beginning.  Any changes you’d like to make?

And now for our answers.

1) List ten of your favorite books in five minutes. (I'll naturally assume the Bible would make your favorites list.)
Denny's answers:
Heaven by Randy Alcorn
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
The NeverEnding Story by Michael Ende
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Manalive by G.K. Chesterton
The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Civil War: A Narrative (3 Volumes) by Shelby Foote
A Christian Manifesto by Francis Schaeffer
Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Whichever Charles Dickens novel I last read

Claire's answers:
Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes
The Mitford series by Jan Karon
The Sherlock Holmes canon by Arthur Conan Doyle
Pied Piper by Nevil Shute
A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Watership Down by Richard Adams
Heaven by Randy Alcorn
The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens
The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis

2) What’s the last really good book you read?
Denny's answer: Why Men Hate Going to Church by David Murrow
Claire's answer: The Gentleman from Indiana by Booth Tarkington

3) Do you finish every book you start?
Denny's answer: No.
Claire's answer:  No.

4) Do you re-read books? Do you re-read any books more than once or twice?
Denny's answer: Yes.  Along with those mentioned in #1, I re-read with frequency the novels of Dickens, Dumas, Buchan, Tolkien, and several others.
Claire's answer: Yes. The Mitford series. The Chronicles of Narnia. The Tolkien books. Charles Dickens. Heaven by Randy Alcorn.

5) Are there any authors whose work you have read completely? Or almost completely?
Denny's answer: Yes. Shakespeare. Solzhenitsyn. Dostoevsky. Dickens. Tolkien. Lewis. Chesterton. Schaeffer. James Mills. Erle Stanley Gardner and a whole lot of other mystery writers.
Claire's answer: Willa Cather. Jan Karon. Arthur Conan Doyle. Tolkien. C.S. Lewis. Charles Dickens. Alcorn.

6) Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction? Why?
Denny's answer: Fiction. Because it's often more true.
Claire's answer: Fiction. I love the combined experience of learning, entertainment, challenge, and appreciating the creative talents of storytellers.

7) Do you recommend books? If you do, give an example or two.
Denny's answer: Yes. Besides the Bible, my most regular recommendations are Heaven by Randy Alcorn and Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.
Claire's answer: Yes. Pied Piper by Nevil Shute, the Mitford series by Jan Karon, and Heaven by Randy Alcorn.

8) Do you read books that are more than one hundred years old?
Denny's answer: Yes, many.
Claire's answer: Yes.

9) What’s more important to you: the way a book is written or what the book is about?
Denny's answer: Both.
Claire's answer: Both.

10) Have you ever written a fan letter to an author?
Denny's answer: Yes. The most notable was one which created a friendship between James Mills and I.
Claire's answer: No.

11) Do you keep track of the books you read?
Denny's answer: Yes.
Claire's answer: Yes.

12) Okay, take a look at the list you made at the beginning.  Any changes you’d like to make?
Denny's answer: Only if I could add to the number.
Claire's answer: I couldn't take any of them away, but I could certainly add a lot more.