Thursday, August 14, 2014

Rabbit Run Updike and the sequels

I've tried this before.  I've always thought I ought to read this famous series.  Frank is reading the first one now and so I thought I'd read with him.

I understand what makes the novel off putting for me.  The character is very self focused and yet I feel like Updike wants us to identify.
For me he was the classic spoiled suburban guy with plenty of good things to enjoy but feeling sorry for himself.  So he runs from his marriage and family.
He has a small boy and another child on the way, and he seeming lack of any concern about them just seemed cold.  He does not seem to miss them or appreciate the pleasure of having children.  In fact, he is one of those fellows who is so much a child himself that he has no real parenting energy.
So impulsively he makes a run.
That seems stupid too.  I left a marriage and it took a long, long time to think it through and plan the departure.  He just goes with a few dollars in his pocket and then hooks up with whomever.
He finds a prostitute who is in my feeling one of the least desirable women in literature.  Somehow he charms her.  The classic feeling that the right kind of lover can reach the cold sexual place of the prostitute and be proud of that is just too much macho crap for me.
Currently, he is forming a rather strange relationship with an Episcopal priest who thinks that playing gold with Rabbit is the way to win him back.
It would all be pretty funny were it not so sad.

Characters include an old coach who is degenerate and weak in memory and any sensitivity although he helps Rabbit a bit, giving him a place to rest and introducing him to the prostitute Ruth.

The sexual scenes were certainly a bit different for the age of the novel, but they really turn me off.  It is the opposite of erotic.  I can see why as a college kid in the age where sex was fun and included relationship would be turned off by this sexual relationship.  And I'm getting that she is now pregnant because neither of them acted to preclude that.  I never quite got the idea of how men and women who were screwing daily could be so unconcerned about possible children.

I got the novel on disc and I like the reader.  Then I have a paperback for when I am home, so the novel goes along well enough.

Perhaps I am just too old.  Perhaps I want everything to be like funny 30's movie where the romance happens between people I like and in the end things work out somehow.  Not a very educated way to filter fictional experience, I guess.
In the end I finished all the Rabbit books and felt much more attached to Rabbit and his issues.  I feel I accomplished a like long goal of reading in doing this even if I have no one to discuss the novels with.

The Goldfinch

This book is going through my personal community like a wildfire.  It was in Elizabeth's book club, will be in the men's book club I never visit, and Abigail stayed up late to finish the long work she got so engaged.
I am reading it on Kindle and liking that.  I zip right along.  I miss taking notes and I'll miss recording some of the wonderful language in this book.  It is amazing.  It is rare in this age of sound bites to find an author who takes time for all the details possible.  At times I want it move faster, want it edited down.  At other times it is a fine indulgence.
Plot moves too slowly.  That could be shortened without loss. 
Just now the author skipped ahead 8 years.  Odd for an author who does not seem to be able skip ahead 8 minutes.  I can't figure out why.

I always liked coming of age fiction, even before I taught school.  So it is the right kind of story and character.  I can identify with this character, unlike the spoiled Rabbit in the Updike book.  

Vegas was strangely presented.  It was seen from its worst perspective.  There is some truth to it, but it was not balanced.  Even the poor RTC took a hit from this author.
New York on the other hand is a dreamy place, full of interesting characters like Hobie, a fine furniture repair guy who we admire and who has the most influence on the main character.

His one love relationship is very romantic and classically so because conditions cause him to be unable to pursue her, at least as far as I've gotten.

The subplot of the "stolen" art and what to do about it seems very unrealistic.  It would seem that it would be very easy to get this returned with no questions asked and no criminal repercussions.  It could be returned to an anonymous art lover or to the FBI.  It could be left in a locker and the key sent to the police.  Instead the main character seems stuck with it and afraid of what might happen were he discovered to have it.

I'm also a bit put off that there is so much tragedy.  Everyone seems to die a violent and early death.  This moves toward less than the believable.

E's bookclub split on the book.  Some loved it and some hated it.  Some agreed it should have won the Pulizer and others thought it did not count as literature.  Francine Proze was very critical of the work which in some ways is the sort of story she writes, with adolescents as main characters.  However, I think Proze has an inflated idea of her own expertise.  This is as good a novel as the two I've read by her.  As to what is great literature, that seems a rather pointless  kind of decision.  Great literature is partly determined by its own merit, by how many books are in an author, by the politics of the selling of the book, and by the way the book grabs the audience in mass.  On one level the question of what is great literature cannot be answered unless we wait until the author is as old as Shakespeare is now or at least as old as Twain.

Anyway, it is fine to be reading again on a regular basis.  It does take me out of all the Peter worries and put me in a different place for a while.  That is great.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Portugal Fishing book

Finally located this book I read a few years ago.
And a few notes on another book by the same author.

BELGRADE - Anna Proper stood out her back door overlooking a sprawl of 60 acres south of Belgrade, which she and her late husband bought in 1987.

"Sometimes he grabbed me and gave me a big hug," Proper said. "He then pointed and said, 'Do you see that?'"

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He showed her wildlife, trees and plants, which blanket the couple's property.
That was Datus Proper's way: to pay attention to detail. And, with wit and charm, he shared nature's details with his family, friends and readers.
Datus drowned Sunday evening while fishing Hyalite Creek. An author of four books, Datus also was a regular contributor to Field& Stream magazine and a former U.S. diplomat. He was 69.
He grew up in Yellowstone National Park, before driving his Indian motorcycle to Cornell University in New York to get a degree in English. He then served in the Foreign Service in Angola, Brazil, Portugal and Ireland, where he met Anna.
Monday, Anna and friends of Datus huddled in the author's office, where many of his books line the shelves and antique fly rods - along with several flies - hang on the wall for display.
"He loved the outdoors, children and his dogs," said longtime family friend Tammie Jaumotte. "He had a lot of dignity. He had an aura around him that was so different from other people."
David King, who called Datus his best friend, said the writer "worked at every sentence, so each was packed with extra layers of thought."
Along with fishing books, Datus wrote about pheasants and a travel guide for Portugal dubbed, "The Last Old Place."
He trained German shorthair pointers and two of his old dogs, Huck and Trooper, are buried on his land under a tree next to a winding stream.
Anna said Datus often fished the stream called Thompson's Creek, but he referred to it as Humidity Creek in his writings.
"He never went to a stream and said I want to catch a lot of fish," Anna said. "Instead, he just loved figuring out what the fish were taking."
King, who was fishing with Datus on Sunday when the author apparently slipped on the rocks on Hyalite Creek and drowned in the shallow water, said he didn't see what happened.
"My best guess is he slipped on the rocks and hit his head," King said.
While standing out her back door, Anna said every time she begins to cry about losing Datus she remembers the last thing he was doing.
"That's what I think about," Anna said. "That when he died he was doing what he loved."
Datus Proper finished a rough copy of a book on hunting before he died. His wife, Anna, said she is hoping to publish the writer's fifth book. Along with Anna, Datus leaves behind a son Scott Proper, 26, who is attending Oregon State University.

Running Waters by Datus Proper

I rarely read a trout book, but this one held my interest. I skimmed over what I was not very interested in, and just enjoyed his general remarks on fishing.

He was clearly inspired and published by Nick Lyons who has brought so many good fishing books to our attention.
p. 61 " Edward R. Hewitt's opinion is that the fisherman has three ages: when he wants to catch as many fish as he can, when he wants to catch big fish, and when he strives to catch the most difficult fish" That author likes this, but does not like it if there is any sense of score involved. p. 152 An entire chapter on scoring. " If your appetite is greater, may you catch all you need--as long as your prey remain creatures of flesh and blood. If they turn into scores, something has gone wrong." This the way I feel when I watch bass trournaments, especially when the dance of the landing of the fish is shortened to an abrupt getting him into the boat so the next pound can be caught.
However, I don't see much difference between needing to outwit the most difficult fish either. I like to think of the fishing more as being one with the water and the catching as being a dance in the wilderness that collects a fine meal. The big fish are fun, but I am content with those that fill my live well and are good at breakfast. As for the most difficult. I tend to think those are the fish in overfished water.
The fly fisherman also approaches scientist with all the reading the bellies, the tying to duplicate the hatch, etc. p. 101 "But I want to fish not by folklore but like a scientist, knowing what I am doing and why." I'd rather play in areas of story. He may be talking more about just having a pragmatic technique, but I think fishing should be much less work and just fun.

There is a fine chapter on fishing for carp with a flyrod. The key was perhaps finding a place where the carp would feed on the surface. Still, it all looked like a good bit of fun. He mentioned an Isaac Walton recipe for carp. That would be fun to search out.

Carp end the book, "Have you ever tried to dream about trout? They are too fast, pure quicksilver, and you cannot hold them in the torpor of sleep. For dreams you need monsters, a slow drift along the cliffs at the end of the world, bright sunlight and deepest shadow."
I think that you can dream bluegills. I do it.

p.96 : "Angling is a game you can't lose... you might even catch a fish eventually, but the fish will never catch you." Ironic that he drowns in a stream. Perhaps he did not respect enough the things that can happen while fishing.

an elosion of knowledge
oyle to swim up to the surface from the salmon while it ferments


Friday, January 31, 2014


Great read.  It was a good bit of fun and caught my attention quickly.  I found I wanted to get back to it and see what happened next.   The stories are all parallel in presentation and it is half the book before the two creatures meet.
While it is fantasy, the characters are developed as having real human characteristics and feel full to us.  In fantasy I've discarded, the characters are shallow and often multidimensional with the delight in them totally based on their super natural abilities.  Here they face their condition with the conflicted and complex sense of the problems in life as do all characters.
Attractive is the traditional use of old books as the source of magical knowledge that has been lost to mankind in general.  The rabbi's search through all the old libraries of other rabbi in his area is a great device.
Religion is very mixed in the book, being much a part of the fantasy world and yet absent of any real God.  All actions need to be made by the characters.  There is no intervention by God.

Helene Wecker -  There was some biographical information and it all made me really like this author. 
She went to Carlton college like Julie.
Her discussion of how she was motivated to write and book and especially what got her to write a book with fantasy since that was what she liked to read.

Elizabeth found this background information that overviews the afterlife beliefs of Jews and that is helpful in understanding this book.

This conflicts with the information build into the Rabbi detective books as he discounts afterlife.

They ride the elevated a lot in this novel.  Here is what it looked like in 1899


The Jinni is fascinated by fish.  He has never been underwater because that much water would kill him.  In the aquarium he visits the fish often.

p. 151  Chava was "a miracle of productivity"

p. 154  Aging is compared to a fabric.  No matter how well you take care of it, it gets frayed along the edges.

Souls exist within the frame of the novel.  So does reincarnation.  Of course, Chava most likely does not have a soul.

P.193    An oud is mentioned


and the Dabke


The structure of the novel is to allow the individual threads to progress quite a while parallel to each other and then to begin to overlap.  It is over 200 pages before the Jinni and the Golem meet each other.

I never got a real sense of the back story on the ice cream.  Why does the ice cream man end up being able to make a perfect ice cream?

SEX  This is another novel where sex is just not celebrated.  The Jinni has great sex, but it is not within a marriage and it results in terrible suffering or death.  The Golem has been created without sexual drive or interest or pleasure.  Strange when she has so many other emotional traits.
Irene dabbles in premarital sex and the results are terrible.
Too bad.

Policemen come and go, they die, and they don't matter as characters. 


There is a bit too much coincidence in all the finding and losing of magical papers and even the intersection of  characters.  NYC even in those days is huge.  The plot device of giving the bad rabbi a talent in tracking works well, but other times the characters just bump into one another.

p. 443 - odalisque
p. 462  virtiginouos - causing vertigo esp from great height.

apostate is the word used to describe Michael's religious position.  He is one who renounces religion.



near eidetic  memories - photographic memory.p27

jinniyeh - female Jinn  in context p.28
narghile - p68  A tobacco pipe that draws through water.  IMAGES OF NARGHILE


The head of John the Baptist may still be in the shrine mentioned on p 39.  Umayyad Mosque.  It was bombed.  Here too is where Christ is to come on the day of the second coming.

the Hebrew Sheltering House where Michael works is a real historical place


Included here are some late 1880 views of Central Park.  the author notes that it was indeed against the rules to walk on the grass in the beginning of the park, but those rules were relaxed as more and more people used the park.  In the beginning boys could not play baseball in the park without a permission note from their school teacher

"The creation of Central Park coincided with a boom in sports in general and baseball in particular. Because of this fact the majority of post Civil War ball clubs were populated by citizens possessed of (Gasp!) somewhat less than the best pedigree. So the park commissioners came to the peculiar conclusion that since the park could not accommodate all the local ball clubs on its new fields they would make it unavailable to everyone. Except local schoolboys that were able to produce a note from their teacher. (Really.)
In any case the park now boasts 26 ball fields in total which are all open to the general public. The only requirement now is that the note from your teacher has been replaced by obtaining a permit".