Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Killing it with his First Book - Lee Child Floors Readers

Music in novels is something I've begun to look forwards to with joy. Now, there are various functions for music that goes with reading. One can read whilst listening to music and what could be better than to read to music mentioned in a book?

Lee Child has a relationship with music as you can see below: 

To give you a bit of background, Lee Child writes the adventures of Jack Reacher. Ex of the US army. Military Police, in fact. He's huge, and now walks the length and breadth of the US of A. Every novel begins with trouble he encounters on these road trips. And then he has his unique way and philosophy so that he has no credit card and owns no more than the clothes on his back and a folding toothbrush. 

Lee Child is British. Not American. And he's written some 24 Jack Reacher novels. After I'd read a few, breaking my self imposed rule of never reading more than one of any author, I decided to try and follow the chronology but then which one? The order in which they were written or the chronology of the Jack Reacher story? 

Killing Floor is Lee's first book. And an award winner. Naturally. 

Reacher is in a town looking for a Blues musician. He's arrested for murder. And somewhere during the long wait in the police station he listens to music in his head. There's fan tribute to that at The music in my head. 

Besides the internal music there's the radio:
I fiddled with the radio built into the nightstand thing. Came up with a station playing something halfway decent. Sounded like they were playing through an early Canned Heat album. Bouncy and sunny and just right for a bright empty morning.

More on the radio:

I fiddled with the radio dial and heard Albert King tell me if it wasn't for bad luck, he wouldn't have no luck at all. 
And back to inside Reacher's head:
I was leaning up in my corner running a Bobby Bland number through my head. An old favorite. It was cranked up real loud. “Further On Up the Road.” Bobby Bland sings it in G major. That key gives it a strange, sunny, cheerful cast. Takes out the spiteful sting from the lyric. Makes it a lament, a prediction, a consolation. Makes it do what the blues is supposed to do. The relaxed G major misting it almost into sweetness. Not vicious.
But then I saw the fat police chief walk by. Morrison, on his way past the cells, toward the big office in back. Just in time for the start of the third verse. I crunched the song down into E flat. A dark and menacing key. The real blues key. I deleted the amiable Bobby Bland. I needed a harder voice. Something much more vicious. Musical, but a real cigarettes-and-whiskey rasp. Maybe Wild Child Butler. Someone you wouldn’t want to mess with. I wound the level in my head up higher, for the part about reaping what you sow, further on up the road.
I started dreaming about John Lee Hooker. In the old days, before he got famous again. He had an old steel-strung guitar, played it sitting on a little stool.
To calm down, I ran music through my head. The chorus in “Smokestack Lightning.” The Howling Wolf version puts a wonderful strangled cry on the end of the first line. They say you need to ride the rails for a while to understand the traveling blues. They’re wrong. To understand the traveling blues you need to be locked down somewhere. In a cell. Or in the army. Someplace where you’re caged. Someplace where smokestack lightning looks like a faraway beacon of impossible freedom. I lay there with my coat as a pillow and listened to the music in my head. At the end of the third chorus, I fell asleep.

So, if you've not read a Jack Reacher yet, begin now. After all, you have your playlist handy!

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Sunday, March 17, 2019

An Unexpected Diversion - My Hobbit Habit

People have books they like to read time and again and mine was The Hobbit. And The Trilogy. It was somewhere a little before 1969. My father had returned from a posting in Boston, I think. And he had brought the set back with him. It was literally a set, set within an elegant cardboard five-sided box. As I cannot find a free to share picture of that experience, I offer you a preview of the first book of the series from Amazon:

My father told us the stories, a little bit at a time, every day, when he got home from work. And they were among the first books that I read. I continued to re-read them annually, well into the years of motherhood when I read them aloud to my son.

But, first of all, let me tell you what a hobbit is. A hobbit is like a small person, except that hobbits have furry feet. And they live in a hole in the ground. In fact, that is how the whole concept began. Apparently, Prof Tolkien was quite upset with the nonsense a student had written and he wrote as comment: "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit." But it was 
Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
The Hobbit can be read alone and some feel that it might be better to read it after tackling The Trilogy. For The Hobbit can be perceived by some as a book for children. Indeed, one can read all of them at any age but Disney and ilk have used business sense to convince some of us that there are books for each age as well as for each gender.

The very first chapter of The Hobbit, The Unexpected Party, is a delight. Imagine how you would feel if some thirteen dwarfs and one wizard gate crashed your place and demanded to be fed. You would be fed up! And it would not be a good morning at all. Except that that is how the story sort of begins:
“Good Morning!" said Bilbo, and he meant it. The sun was shining, and the grass was very green. But Gandalf looked at him from under long bushy eyebrows that stuck out further than the brim of his shady hat.
Gandalf is the wizard in the story. 
"What do you mean?" he said. "Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?"
"All of them at once," said Bilbo. "And a very fine morning for a pipe of tobacco out of doors, into the bargain.
However, the wizard appears thick skinned and Bilbo, the hobbit, decides to be firm:
"Good morning!" he said at last. "We don't want any adventures here, thank you! You might try over The Hill or across The Water." By this he meant that the conversation was at an end."What a lot of things you do use Good morning for!" said Gandalf. "Now you mean that you want to get rid of me, and that it won't be good till I move off.”
The story is bound to make you chuckle, not only at first reading but even later, when memories bubble up.

So, the dwarfs and the wizard make themselves at home in the hobbit hole and soon begin to sing: 
Chip the glasses and crack the plates!

I do hope you haven't seen the film and I do hope you won't. The book is much better.

Bilbo's heart sinks as the purpose of the party slowly manifests: to set off on a treasure hunt fraught with dangers. 
The dark filled all the room, and the fire died down, and the shadows were lost, and still they played on. And suddenly first one and then another began to sing as they played, deep­throated singing of the dwarves in the deep places of their ancient homes; and this is like a fragment of their song, if it can be like their song without their music. 

Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away ere break of day
To seek the pale enchanted gold.

To compound matters, Bilbo is to be a key figure in the enterprise. But I leave you to discover the joys of Tolkien's tale on your own. 

For those who are already smitten with the story, let's see what other devotees have done. A tidbit for the newbie: a hobbit is fond of food. So, it was a delight to discover AN UNEXPECTED PARTY MENU AND RECIPES

For music to read by, do try Music from Middle-earth.

So I leave you to gate-crash the story and hope to follow this unexpected diversion of mine with some Roast Mutton - the name of the second chapter of The Hobbit.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Psychoanalysis, a Long Poem and a Short Story - Jung, Browning, and Vonnegut

My father was a psychiatrist. Those who have some acquaintance with the field will immediately think of Freud. A few might also recall Jung. My father was averse to Freud and I have inherited that phobia. Freud appears obsessed with sex. And I admit that I have not read his works and that my bias is based on what I have heard of his theories and how I see their influence. However, as he is not the focus here, I leave you to do the digging. 

Freud, father of psychoanalysis. Google Images - CC BY-SA 4.0

When I was a child I grew up in a house where books reigned supreme and among those was Carl Jung's Memories, Dreams, Reflections

Upload by Adrian Michael - Ortsmuseum Zollikon, Public Domain
Though not without faults, Jung's was one of modern history's most intriguing minds and Memories, Dreams, Reflections presents a rare, infinitely insightful glimpse of its inner workings...

Maria Popova

Read it hereAs for me, Jung brought me the concept of persona and of archetypes. Again, it's just in a crude way and so for me, persona is 
a face to meet the faces that you meet

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock - T S Eliot

And as for archetypes, it is a fascinating concept. 

These archaic and mythic characters that make up the archetypes reside with all people from all over the world, Jung believed, and it is these archetypes that symbolize basic human motivations, values, and personalities. He believed that each archetype played a role in personality, but felt that most people were dominated by one specific archetype. The actual way in which an archetype is expressed or realized depends upon a number of factors including an individual's cultural influences and unique personal experiences.Jung identified four major archetypes, but also believed that there was no limit to the number that may exist.

The 4 Major Jungian Archetypes

Now, that I've dangled a morsel of psychoanalysis over you, I have to confess that Adler is whom I really want to look into at some point!
Having dragged you through your subconscious, I shall now let you down gently with a poem about murder. From the past. Browning's brooding protagonist is driven by the demons of the subconscious:

Arthur Hughes [Public domain]

Porphyria's Lover 
The rain set early in to-night,
The sullen wind was soon awake,
It tore the elm-tops down for spite,
And did its worst to vex the lake:
I listened with heart fit to break.
When glided in Porphyria; straight
She shut the cold out and the storm,
And kneeled and made the cheerless grate
Blaze up, and all the cottage warm;
Which done, she rose, and from her form⁠
Withdrew the dripping cloak and shawl,
And laid her soiled gloves by, untied
Her hat and let the damp hair fall,
And, last, she sat down by my side
And called me.

Robert Browning

Click on the poet's name above to read what happened next!

And from the dungeons of the past I now fling you into a far future with Kurt Vonnegut's Report on the Barnhouse Effect.

The story reflects archetypes related to war. A good tale for those of us who appear to have forgotten the cost of conflicts between countries. Listen to it here:

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