Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury- My Hero

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Teaching English is Fun- F451

Well, it has been six years since I posted anything and I can't believe my account hasn't been deleted. A lot has happened in those past six years: divorce, marriage, career change, house sold, house bought, kids had... not all exactly in that order or relative in time. Most importantly to this forum I've read a lot of books. Since no one really cares I'll continue to write about it here, where no one really cares :∆)

Now I'm an English teacher and this career suits me well enough. I have patience for kids and I enjoy literature, though my knowledge of grammar and punctuation leave a lot to be desired, as evident by my previous posts. Luckily this masturbatory exercise in self absorption is just for me.

Teaching gives me a look at myself from years on. It allows me to ponder my ignorance, naivete, arrogance and insecurities of this time period. I just don't see them reflected in one student, but in almost every one of them. Books at that point hadn't caught a foothold in my life. I hope I can spark an interest in a few of my students. At the very least I get to read and discuss a few stories and books.

The most significant one we've read is "Fahrenheit 451." Of course it is by Ray Bradbury, one of my favorites. It is very timely and has been for over 60 years. Our culture is both growing and decaying, at the same time, at tremendous rates. The mechanisms of growth and decay are usually one in the same and unfortunately we haven't learned that we should be looking to identify the tipping points. This book is about just that, a culture who didn't bother to acknowledge a tipping point. As the Buddha lays out in the idea of the middle way, we learn that too much of a good thing is always a bad thing. Bradbury delves into the future with eerie precision when discussing how we would become increasingly addicted to making everyone in society feel good and how we obsess over the convenience of technology. It has started interesting discussions in class and I believe the book has fostered some thought in my students' heads. I will hold off on a full analysis, but will say it is entertaining and thought provoking.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A River Runs Through It

"A River Runs Through It" has always been one of my favorite movies. It is an amazing and powerful movie and since I found out it was originally a short story by Norman Maclean, I have wanted to read it. I looked in several book stores, but couldn't find it so I broke down and ordered it online. I took a break from Sherlock Holmes to read it and it was amazing. I thought the movie was powerful, but the story is simply amazing. It is poetic, beautiful, moving and haunting. The language and pace was unreal. It is really a novella around 100 pages, which gives Maclean enough time to go into detail, but also allows a steady, yet descriptive pace.
Beyond the magnificent skill of Maclean this story is a perfect crossing of subject matter, pacing, language and scenery. As I have stated before I have many styles of writing that I love (Bradbury and Hemingway). Each left up to his own devices, though I still enjoy it, can lean towards their stronger style. For Hemingway it is short, direct sentences that allows your mind to fill in the blanks, while Bradbury uses an array of language to excite a feeling from within you that can sometimes be poetic with it's allusions. Maclean I believe can do both and does them both very well. At times he is short and sweet and lets you fill in gaps, but he does indulge in the poetic and romantic prose along the way. I liked this transition. Sentences that are to long, poetic and descriptive can wear me out and my ADD kicks in and I forget what is being described, this is why I totally agree with Twain's comment on Jane Austen- paraphrased- "Reading her makes me so mad, I want to dig her up and hit her in the head with her own shin bone."
The scenery is also possibly one of my favorite landscapes, the Rocky Mountains and plains. I love the Rockies and to see the Great Plains crash into the majestic Rockies is truly breathtaking. I have been relatively near Montana where the story takes place, Wyoming, so when Maclean describes these majestic scenes I am entranced. Plus the idea of fly fishing in the Rockies is about the closest human can now get to it's original state in nature, short of getting lost in the woods and eaten by a bear. This story is part London, part Hemingway and part Robert Frost. It is simply beautiful and amazing and the final couple paragraphs I would vote as the best finish to any story I have ever read.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sherlock Holmes- A Study in Scarlet compared with A Study in Pink

So as I previously explained I recently found a copy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes' stories vol. 1 compilation. At the same time I discovered that the new BBC show "Sherlock" is on Netflix. The original story is called, "A Study in Scarlet" and the title of the BBC episode is called, "A Study in Pink". I was very happy about this, but was left with a difficult choice. Should I wait and read the stories first or should I watch the show? Would it ruin the surprises in the book? Well, at least for the first story it didn't. I think the show was done very well. It follows key parts of the story, but twists happenings and facts so the stories are unique and with different turns. Though each episode of the show is around ninety minutes, Study in Pink leaves out a very large part of the original Study in Scarlet storyline.
"A Study in Scarlet" is a great novel and as I came to find out is written in parts. This first story of the compilation seemed rather short and the case is wrapped up fairly quickly and easily by Holmes. I finished what I thought was the end of the story and felt rather disappointed. I should have known better. The next story began in America and includes the story of the Mormons and happenings on their way to Utah. There is no word of Holmes or Watson anywhere. For several chapters I began to think the editor had just slipped another of Doyle's stories in. I didn't read the lengthy introduction (I usually don't, especially when I am excited to read the actual work) so I didn't know. It was a very compelling story in it's own right and by the end low and behold it ends up back in England and serves as an intricate back story to how and why the culprit came to cross Holmes and Watson. So in the overall novel, Holmes and Watson's characters don't turn out to be the meat of the story, but are used to propel the story forward and ultimately to it's end. This also seems to serve as a means of expressing Doyle's opinions on Mormonism.
"A Study in Pink" doesn't include any of the American back story, but creates a modern twist off of facts in original story. It basically takes the story a different way. I would hope Doyle might appreciate their creative take. In this way the story becomes similar in some ways to the popular modern forensic science drama/ police drama, but is way less predictive and all around more entertaining. I highly recommend both "A Study in Scarlet" and "A Study in Pink" to fans of Sherlock Holmes and people who aren't fans yet, I believe one of these might get you hooked; Doyle's Sherlock Holmes' stories are as addictive as the morphine and cocaine Holmes shoots into his arms and are way more affordable.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sherlock Holmes

The other day I was in my favorite kind of place (a book store), but the Judas of all bookstores (Barnes and Noble) and I saw volume one of compiled Sherlock Holmes stories and books... yep, very cool. If you have read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle you know what I mean. Several months ago I read the Hound of the Baskervilles and I was immediately taken in. I felt like a kid that just discovered an unidentifiable object in the back yard and was convinced it was from another planet. I thought, I can't believe that I have lived twenty-six years of my life and never have read these amazing stories. Look, I admit I have no excuse, everyone knows who Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are, but I just assumed growing up (wrongly) that it was just a bunch of stuffy turn of the century British literature, it turns out that is one of my favorite periods of literature, so far. I found a used old copy of the Hound of the Baskervilles at a big covered flee market in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It sat on the shelf as I read other books, nagging at me. I would look at it and it's cheap old cover and something told me it's gonna be awesome, so I picked it up and started reading... needles to say it only took a few days for me to read. I was enthralled the whole time and since then I have been wanting to put my hands on more of his stories; so when I came upon the compilation of stories I was like a kid in a candy store. At the time I was reading "In Our Time" by Ernest Hemingway. "In Our Time" was amazing and I will discuss that more later, but as I finished it the Sherlock Holmes book sat on my coffee table eating at me. If I had been reading a lesser book I would have possibly stopped or sped through it to get to Sherlock, but it's Ernest Hemingway. Every time I stop in the middle of a book a piece of my soul is paused till later, even books that have lost my interest. These books haunt me until I go back and finish them. One that currently haunts me is The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub. I digress, lets talk about Sherlock Holmes. I have never been much a crime mystery reader. There seems to be a lot of crime stories/books around, but only a few writers do it really well. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has to be the gold standard in this field. His stories draw you in. You are trying to guess who the culprit was and how it happened, and the reader always believes they can, but he always finds a way to still surprise you. He does this without having to make a crazy unbelievable twist in the story, like so many mystery stories. This is the brilliance of the character of Sherlock to always connect all the dots and his explanations are done within the context of the story. This combined with the setting of 19th century London makes anything possible. The sun didn't set on the British Empire and it was a city with ties to the entire world. It makes you want to go back in time and walk the streets and hail horse drawn cabs. I think this series is enhanced if you have visited London. The city and it's architecture and diversity lends itself to Sherlock's time. Brilliant stuff. I haven't been this excited to read a story since I finished the Harry Potter series. It again shows that great works are timeless.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Jack London

Jack London Credo: I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time
A year or so ago now my wife and I went to the North Georgia mountains to stay in a chalet that we try to go to every Fall. We visited a small independent used book store that we like. There I found an awesome book of short stories by Jack London. It was published in 1962 and includes some of his best. I became a huge Jack London fan after I read "Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer. Christopher McCandless' story was amazing and the impact of Jack London's writing on his life made me very curious. I read "Call of the Wild" and "White Fang" and became hooked. This book of short stories explores many different terrains like the south Pacific, inner cities and of course the northern wilderness. Jack London is a great artist that is multifaceted and can bring to life a wide range of characters and situations. The most powerful character of all of his stories has to be life. The realities of life is always one of his main characters if not his lead. London has a great way of letting you step into the scene in which he describes. His writing also satisfies that since of adventure a lot of people have in them. That feeling that makes you want to leave all your belongings and start hitchhiking around the country. He also leaves enough room for warnings against foolish thoughts and actions. So he glorifies nature and the realities of life in a way without idolizing it. That is a thin line and some think he tips one way or the next, but overall I believe he toes it pretty well, especially compared to others. Like Hemingway and O'Connor, London has a way of bringing out the magnificence of the average occurrence. Or should I say, like London, Hemingway and O'Connor do? So if you would like your head to be filled with some of the most beautiful sceneries in the world, live and share the struggles of complex individuals, then any Jack London story is worth the read.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Dandelion Wine- Ray Bradbury

"Dandelion Wine" is more than a book, but an x-ray of a young, curious boy's soul. Ray Bradbury was the biographer of my childhood, of many children's childhood. Ray Bradbury's use of the English language is something to be in awe of. As a writer I am in constant debate with myself about when is it too much description, too many adjectives crammed into a sentence. Ray Bradbury to me is the master of just the right amount. His use of adjectives that leads some critics to believe that he is overly romantic. Mr. Bradbury's lasting influence and popularity through the better part of the 20th century argues otherwise. Stephen King, who I am a fan of and who lists Bradbury as one of his influences, criticizes Bradbury in his overview of horror/sci-fi, "Danse Macabre" for romanticizing his characters and their stories. What I fear King is missing is that, many of Bradbury's stories are written through the eyes and perspective of a child. When one is a child everything is black and white and romanticized. If you are not good than you are evil. If you are not right, then you are wrong. Bradbury is a master of writing through this perspective and remembering what it felt like with a child's limited knowledge of the world, but increased senses and instinct. Dandelion Wine is a compilation of glimpses of a town that tells the story of one boy and his brother. Just now I was trying to think of the most memorable stories to talk about, which is impossible, so I will simply say that I will highlight several stories that had an impact on me. One being the story of Doug and Tom Spalding's grandmother. She is featured in parts throughout the story and is a very interesting character that is the clear matriarch of the family and she climbs the roof every spring to replace shingles. Another is about a serial killer on the loose in the town. The overall book leaves a good feeling and deals with several very important issues, but the inclusion of this ominous serial killer lingers through the story and Bradbury's description the scenery is spot on. I feel that almost every good scary story, movie, TV show gets it's most frightening aspects from Bradbury stories. I just watched the first episode of American Horror Story and saw many borrowed ideas from Bradbury's stories. His inclusion of this shady character in Dandelion Wine and the build up and plot set ups bring large portions of the story into focus. Stephen King I feel always tries to prove the authenticity of his story through dialogue. I believe he is good at that. For Bradbury real life happenings, feelings and plot twists authenticate his stories. What I mean by the use of "authenticity" is the attempt to lure the reader into believing your story. That is why I love reading the words of Stephen King's books, but I dread the point when he is going to try and pull a unicorn out of a tube of chapstick. I enjoy the words and look forward to Bradbury's twists. By far one of the best side stories is that of the happiness machine a local craftsman tries to make. I refuse to elaborate on these stories now, because I don't want to give away the great parts. Not that anyone is reading this, but to keep up that illusion in my head, I won't reveal good parts. Easily one of my favorite books.