Tuesday, May 29, 2007



I've been painfully slogging through Moby Dick for the past month and a half. I treat walking away from classics as a personal failure, so I had been determined to stick with it through the end.

But honestly, I can't do it. The damn book was making me hate life. It was such a disappointment. It started off all excitement, but soon enough dove into a lengthy comparison of right whales and sperm whales. I'm not one to give up, but please. Herman Melville. No wonder you died impoverished.

(okay. that's calling on bad karma, and it pretty much guarantees that I'll never sell a book. but I'll say it anyhow, because it deserves to be said.)

So, last Friday, I was in Border's (no, not the one I had been kicked out of) and eager for something good to read. I was planning on spending tons of time at the pool this weekend, and the thought of cracking open Moby Dick reeked too much of homework, and not enough of fun.

I was in a difficult mood, and was pretty much deeming each back cover I read as trash. Or unoriginal. Or boring. Or painfully, painfully bad. Recognizing my difficult mood, and growing all the more difficult by the second, I decided to pull the ole "shut the eyes and point to a book" trick.

Miraculously, it worked.

My finger settled on The Final Confession of Mabel Stark, by Robert Hough. It's a fictional account of the life of a (real life) female tiger trainer, who had her heyday back in the early 1900s. I was a sucker the second I saw the loud front cover, but the fact that the back cover said she was "brazen, suicidally courageous, sexually adventurous, and survived a dozen severe maulings—and five husbands" cinched the deal.

Sounded like my kind of read. And I love this book. So much so that when I was at the bar last Saturday, and talking to some random guy who was revealing his life story much too soon, my mind kept coming back to the book that was in my pocketbook, that was on the chair. I really, really wanted to crack it open and read. Admittedly, that guy wasn't too far from a dud, but still.

This book makes me happy. It's the way reading should be.

"When he looked at me, unblinking, I could never quite tell whether he was someone who'd do a good job protecting me or whether he was someone I needed protecting from, and it was this mixture that grabbed my attention."
- pg. 66

Right? I've seriously tried to read "classics" of American literature. Some were ok. Others were unbearable. I read "A Farewell to Arms" last summer on vacation, because it was the only book laying around the house. The only thing I took away from it was a strong desire to buy a gun and kill myself. It explains a lot about Hemmingway's demise...

I wish it was still acceptable for me to just continue reading the Hardy Boys.
Moby Dick was an absolute disgrace. I even had the added advantage of living in Massachusetts, but it was unbearable nonetheless. I think the chapter "A Squeeze of the Hand" scarred me for life.

jc, I actually liked A Farewell to Arms. I don't quite know why, but I enjoyed it. I think it was because I understood the protagonist, he wasn't glamorous or melodramatic or anything. Except you know, the last two pages wanted me to blow my brains out a la Hemingway, so yeah.

Meg, read River Town. I think you would love it.
JC: sometimes...you can't go back. I used to love the Hardy Boys! I still have a few lying around the house in Massachusetts, and I picked one up last summer to see if the magic was still there. It wasn't, not really. Definitely sad.
And I think it was Hemingway's gameplan to spread the misery. Why let others be happy, when your life is chock full o' melancholy?

bub: yeah! I can't believe you liked that book. The ending was just...a kick in the gut.
Speaking of MD, I'm going to reference that chapter, so I can read your life-scarring passage.
River Town? I'll give it a shot!
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