Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ambrose Bierce Short stories

Ambrose Bierce (1842 - 1914) is one of the important writers of the american literature. The main theme of his short stories  is death with the exception of only two. His stories suprise you with unexpected endings and depict supernatural topics, human weaknesses, wickedness, cruelty, fear, insanity, crime, misfortunes, civil war. Even the fate of Ambrose Bierce baffles you: he disapeared in the revolutionary Mexico of Pancho Villa. I recommend you to read Man and the snake, An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge, One Summer Night, Oil of Dog , Baptism of Dobsho and the Failure of Hope and Wandel which text is included below the trailer videos of Civil War Stories movie. The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce at Amazon.

PS – @ Erik: Tried adding this comment to your blog but for some reason it won’t let me :-( Have you come across Ambrose Bierce’s DEVIL’S DICTIONARY?
Mary Murphy

"Yes, Devil’s Dictionary is in the public domain"


by Ambrose Bierce

From Mr. Jabez Hope, in Chicago, to Mr. Pike Wandel, of New Orleans, December 2, 1877.

I will not bore you, my dear fellow, with a narrative of my journey from New Orleans to this polar region. It is cold in Chicago, believe me, and the Southron who comes here, as I did, without a relay of noses and ears will have reason to regret his mistaken economy in arranging his outfit.

To business. Lake Michigan is frozen stiff. Fancy, O child of a torrid clime, a sheet of anybody's ice, three hundred miles long, forty broad, and six feet thick! It sounds like a lie, Pikey dear, but your partner in the firm of Hope & Wandel, Wholesale Boots and Shoes, New Orleans, is never known to fib. My plan is to collar that ice. Wind up the present business and send on the money at once. I'll put up a warehouse as big as the Capitol at Washington, store it full and ship to your orders as the Southern market may require. I can send it in planks for skating floors, in statuettes for the mantel, in shavings for juleps, or in solution for ice cream and general purposes. It is a big thing!

I inclose a thin slip as a sample. Did you ever see such charming ice?

From Mr. Pike Wandel, of New Orleans, to Mr. Jabez Hope, in Chicago, December 24, 1877.

Your letter was so abominably defaced by blotting and blurring that it was entirely illegible. It must have come all the way by water. By the aid of chemicals and photography, however, I have made it out. But you forgot to inclose the sample of ice.

I have sold off everything (at an alarming sacrifice, I am sorry to say) and inclose draft for net amount. Shall begin to spar for orders at once. I trust everything to you--but, I say, has anybody tried to grow ice in this vicinity? There is Lake Ponchartrain, you know.

From Mr. Jabez Hope, in Chicago, to Mr. Pike Wandel, of New Orleans, February 27, 1878.

Wannie dear, it would do you good to see our new warehouse for the ice. Though made of boards, and run up rather hastily, it is as pretty as a picture, and cost a deal of money, though I pay no ground rent. It is about as big as the Capitol at Washington. Do you think it ought to have a steeple? I have it nearly filled--fifty men cutting and storing, day and night--awful cold work! By the way, the ice, which when I wrote you last was ten feet thick, is now thinner. But don't you worry; there is plenty.

Our warehouse is eight or ten miles out of town, so I am not much bothered by visitors, which is a relief. Such a giggling, sniggering lot you never saw!

It seems almost too absurdly incredible, Wannie, but do you know I believe this ice of ours gains in coldness as the warm weather comes on! I do, indeed, and you may mention the fact in the advertisements.

From Mr. Pike Wandel, of New Orleans, to Mr. Jabez Hope, in Chicago, March 7, 1878.

All goes well. I get hundreds of orders. We shall do a roaring trade as "The New Orleans and Chicago Semperfrigid Ice Company." But you have not told me whether the ice is fresh or salt. If it is fresh it won't do for cooking, and if it is salt it will spoil the mint juleps.

Is it as cold in the middle as the outside cuts are?

From Mr. Jebez Hope, from Chicago, to Mr. Pike Wandel, of New Orleans, April 3, 1878.

Navigation on the Lakes is now open, and ships are thick as ducks. I'm afloat, en route for Buffalo, with the assets of the New Orleans and Chicago Semperfrigid Ice Company in my vest pocket. We are busted out, my poor Pikey--we are to fortune and to fame unknown. Arrange a meeting of the creditors and don't attend.

Last night a schooner from Milwaukee was smashed into match-wood on an enormous mass of floating ice--the first berg ever seen in these waters. It is described by the survivors as being about as big as the Capital at Washington. One-half of that iceberg belongs to you, Pikey.

The melancholy fact is, I built our warehouse on an unfavorable site, about a mile out from the shore (on the ice, you understand), and when the thaw came--O my God, Wannie, it was the saddest thing you ever saw in all your life! You will be so glad to know I was not in it at the time.

What a ridiculous question you ask me. My poor partner, you don't seem to know very much about the ice business.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Romain Gary Lady L.

The power of this short book lies in it's characters and in it's interesting details even in the historical ones which adds to the exciting story.
In this novel we encounter "Lady L." the old widow of an English aristocrat  sharing with her admirer poet her well kept secret the wrecked love for Armand Denis a French anarchist.  The high society of England - which treasures her as a national asset having her grandchildren in high positions like governmantal ministers, bishops, chairmen in the  Bank of England,  officers of  her majesty the Queen - does not even think or suspect that she is not of blue blood. She is in fact Annette Boudin the daughter of a Parisian laundress and of an alcoholic printer who spends most of his time not  working but  drinking, preaching and printing the anarchist ideas of  Bakunin or Kropotkin. While he preaches against suppression and explotation the family is sustained only by  the mother's  work. Annette hates her father and sees with good eyes everything her father is talking against: governmant, police, church, aristocracy. When her mother dies she has to take on the laundry work of his mother and even becomes a prostitute to ensure the daily ratio of drink and bread for his father who shows even intentions of  abusing her sexually. Soon Mr. Boudin is found dead and Annete is just grateful for that. Working as a prostituate she is taken up by Alphonse Lecoeur the leader of the French mobsters who is involved with the anarchist. Thus she meets Armand Denis the gorgeous man who turned from a Catholic priest into a anarchist terrorist and mobster.  Lecoeur decides to turn her into a bait and spy and pais for her classes which teach her how to act like a countess. Because of her beauty and aristocratic manners she can rapidly mingle in the midst of aristocratic circles not arousing suspicion at all helping to commit terror acts like the assasination of a Bulgarian prince and robberies. Annette who loves  the angelical Armand has a serious rival. For the revolutionary Armand it is more important his passion for the masses for which he commits his crimes. He would never settle and would never want to lead a rich and calm life.
Because of these out of vengeance she causes the arrest of Armand  and marries an extravant English aristocrat  who knows her secret, even if she is pregnant with the child of Armand. But the hope of love never dies and she has the chance to encounter the fugitive Armand again. I invite the reader to discover the strange ending. Lady L. at Amazon.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The judas tree by A. J. Cronin

The novel ties you down to finish reading it, but there is  also the urge not reach the end because you sense that it will be a very bad ending. The main figure is never able to tell the truth as it is or to confront it but tries to mend the past wrongdoings by being charitable as money would solve everything. He remains  deeply selfish never really thinking what his role was and that his present good intentions may leed to even worse.
He remains undecided to the end even if he made up his mind, just thinking he might suffer  he changes his intentions. 
The Judas tree is a story of a treason, the main character is David Moray, a doctor who lost his parents in his late childhood and since then he thinks that because of his sufferings he is entitled to better. At the beginning of novel we meet Moray as a successful, rich chemist owner of an enterprise living in his new lavish palace home in Switzerland. Acting as an omen, the treasure of his  garden is a Judas tree. Soon his happy time in Switzerland is overshadowed by the rememberance of his past treason of his youth times. As a young doctor he fell in love with Mary  the daughter of a baker. Mary was  the fiance of  Walter Stoddart, a local rich man's son. But the love between Moray and Mary grew stronger, Mary broke up with the insensitive Walter against the wish of his family and became the fiance of Moray.
Everything looked bright, Moray soon secured a position as a doctor at hospital but he got sick with his lungs and in order to recover due to the chance of a better weather had to embark as a naval doctor on a ship  heading to India.
During his trip he was exchanging letters with Mary and with her brother, his good friend. But soon he grew fond of Doris Holbrook who is travelling with his rich parents involved in medicine business. The parents saw him as a potential  husband for Doris proposing him a good position in the company. He saw this as a good opportunity for richness thinking the misfortunes of his childhood would be repaid.
Dear reader I  stop here narrating, if the description caught your curiosity take up the novel.  Judas Tree at Amazon.

The Judas tree

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Train to Trieste by Domnica Radulescu

Train to Trieste  book was bought by my girlfriend in this August during our visit in Budapest.
She liked very much the book so I also read it. I found it rather mediocre but not bad at all.
I give it 3 stars out of 5.  I am also aware that a novel written in English about the life of a Romanian immigrant discussing also the life under the communism is a daunting task and not appealing to the general public. Stereotypes, preconceived ideas or even trivial facts (probably for the reader with any Romanian background) can be found in abundance in the book. Probably they are meant to make more understandable the Romanian milieu of the novel for the non-Romanian reader. But some are funny, strange, ludicrous, misplaced or even seem false when they are mentioned : unique word dor , the 14 Dacian words, oaie word, the italian senza la valigia is almost in Romanian for her and so one. Maybe reading with Hungarian background a book written by a Romanian mind  can explain it as we humans are in a natural way subjective beings.

Train to Trieste is the first novel of Domnica Radulescu who is born in Romania and lives in US since 1983, she is a professor of women studies and of Neolatin languages at Washington and Lee university in Lexington of Virginia state. The novel is narrated in the first person by Mona the main character, she remembers harsh times from communist Romania since she was 17 years old, her love for Mihai, her immigration to Italy and US and her life in the new world.
She presents the life of communist Romania a country which was run like a police state where every day life was poisoned by informers who intruded personal life, where food shortages, lack of necessities, inhuman treatments were part of existence. In the beginning of the novel we see Mona fall in love with Mihai, her deceased girlfriend's, Mariana's lover. From start her infatuation is poisoned by suspicion: she fears that Mihai has something to do with her death also later on she suspects him to be an informer of state security. Yet she continues to love him never questioning him whether he is an informer.
In Mona's case we can see what level can take the distrust, suspicion and the love can easily turn to hatred. She does not confine with him his intent of immigration, she fears that he might inform state security regarding the activity of her parents (his father is a fervent anti-communist who takes part in a conspiracy group), in fact she perceives him as an informant.
This lack of communication and even trust towards Mihai is evident. Mihai is living in Braşov while Mona is in Bucharest where she studies and she has to make travels mostly in vacations to keep up the relationship between them. When Mihai questions their relationship pointing out that they are living in two different worlds she answers with anger, hatred, hitting and spitting calling him by names an informer.

I would say that their relationship mostly a holiday type one, I would say Mona uses him to fulfill her sexual needs and fantasies without the need to confront him with her suspicion. This lack of communication is evident. Later on when her  husband Tom (whom she marries in US not out of love as she admits) tells her that they should learn to communicate she finds it preposterous. In time his marriage with Tom becomes a wreckage, she cheats him and has an affair with the Serb Jovan. The fruit of this relationship is a child. For a period it seems that the newborn will mend her marriage as Tom accepts the child as his own after the storm settles between them. But when she has a child from Tom she breaks up the marriage, yet Mona describes Tom as a man good for being a husband.

The narrative is linear from the events in Romania to the immigration to Italy  with the help of the Serbian Biljana, and the lucky travel to Trieste with an yellow Italian  Fiat run by Mario. Instead of taking the train to Trieste from Yugoslavia she takes the lucky hitchhike with the Fiat. She stays in Trieste with Mario's family who help her and are very hospitable. Here she learns that Italy does not need immigrants and is better for her to apply for USA. They find work for her at friends, at a family in Rome until she is accepted and sponsored by USA.
She asks herself sarcastically what would the Italian family do with the household without the popping up Romanian immigrants. She is sponsored by an American family, she gets to the states where she starts a new life first getting rid of the bigot religious family who sponsored her, founds job in a shop, studies at the university, marries  Tom, help his parents to immigrate to US, becomes a teacher for immigrants, has two sons. In US reaches her the news of Romanian revolution. Her relatives tell her that Mihai was shot in the revolution and he is dead, but when she visits her home country in her forties she finds out that it's just a rumor also the fact that practically Mihai was not an informer. Mihai is alive. The novel ends with her visit to her former lover who lives in the remote countryside with her hope in their future.

I uploaded the cover of the Hungarian edition titled A trieszti gyors. You can check out  Train to Trieste (Vintage) at Amazon.
If you are interested in other stories about communist Romania and about the escapes of immigrants visit the Escape ebook's site of Ernest Ionescu.

Train to Trieste by Domnica Radulescu Hungarian edition A trieszti gyors

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Spanish Gardener by A. J. Cronin

Harrington Brande an US diplomat is dispatched as a consul in San Jorge, a town in  Spain. He is a rigid, cold, arrogant, extremely pride self-righteous and self-centered person who is unable to comprehend the real needs, yearning of others and is possessed by the outmost envy and jealousy especially if his son shows great affection towards others. He thinks himself as of a person who is entitled to more and who is mistreated, misunderstood by his superiors
This type of personality caused his wife to leave the family, Harrington Brande remaining with his son Nicholas whose health is weak. Towards him shows an almost abnormal paternal love. He sees himself as the only one who can have the love of his son.
Though he loves his son fervently he is not able to comprehend what is best for him. When Nicholas befriends with Jose the young Spanish gardener he is afraid of  losing his son‘s love and treats the gardener badly and with hostility. Harrington is so bedazzled of his own “superior” personality that he is unable to see the real nature behind people. He thinks of  his butler Garcia as of  a loyal servant, ha can’t recognize the charlatan with titles in his  doctor and misunderstands the goodwill of his gardener whom he burdens with hard work out of hatred. Rarely you can read about such a misguided, vengeful character and if you read on you will see that he  is on the road to tragedy, but even so he can not fully grasp  his fate's meaning: sees it as a personal martyrdom.  He is like the turkey bird he reads about at the end,  "by nature a peculiar bird - assertive and self-sufficient - yet because of this inordinate vanity, liable to grave discomfitures ..."
I searched if  "The Spanish Gardener" is available online to read freely, but I have found only "Adventures In Two Worlds" and "Hatters Castle" by A. J. Cronin at Internet Archive site.
The Spanish Gardener at Amazon.
My book's cover is subtitled: "The famous novel from which a famous film was made".
You can watch online The Spanish Gardener at youtube. I need to say the film is different and has another ending.

Bookcover of The Spanish Gardener by A. J. Cronin

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Citadel by A. J. Cronin

A good book to read is The Citadel by A.J. Cronin, a moving story!
The novel is based on the author's life experience who was a doctor like the main character of the book the young doctor Mason who start his career in the coal mining parts of South Wales facing ill will, hardships, bad and primitive circumstances or conditions, indifference and narrow mindness of the people and authorities. He finds the love and soul mate of his life in Christine who marries him. He even becomes a research physicist with the aim of  improving the health of coal miners but the bureaucracy brings him to a dead end having to leave research for his private praxis. Soon his succesful praxis faces him with moral dilemmas and moral bankruptcy he realizes that he and his popular doctor colleagues act like charlatans and just want to take the patient's money. The Citadel by A. J. Cronin at Amazon.The Citadel was adapted into a movie in 1938 by King Vidor. You can watch it online at youtube at the given link.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The story of San Michele by Axel Munthe

I received this book on last Christmas from my girlfriend, it gives a delectable experience, an interesting and engaging reading. The title of the book holds the name of San Michele Villa from the marvelous Italian Capri island, a villa which was build by the Swedish doctor Axel Munthe as his home. In the book Axel Munthe tells his own life story ,a remembrance of a life spent as a doctor of poor, of high society and that of an animal lover. We find him in Paris as a former assistant of Charcot at Salpetriere and as a popular and successful doctor with rich clientele, in his native Sweden in Lapland, in Naples in the time of cholera fighting the epidemic, in his beloved Anacapri of Capri island where he builds his villa from ancient ruins in the garden of Cesar Tiberius and were he writes his memories. In his garden found refuge his pets: his dogs and Billy the nasty monkey. His villa still remains on of the attractions of Anacapri. The cover is of the Hungarian edition titled San Michele regénye. The Story of San Michele at Amazon. If you are keen you can read online the The story of San Michele at Internet Other online books by Axel Munthe are available at Open Library.

Cover of Story of San Michele in Hungarian San Michele regénye

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Collins Turkish phrasebook, the right word in your pocket

I noticed Turkish language adds in my blog and because I am a Turkish language learner I thought it would be a good opportunity to mention a Collins gem phrasebook. The book is pocket sized has around 200 pages with English-Turkish and Turkish-English dictionary included, it's topics focuses on basic grammar, pronunciation guide, cultural points, practical hints, common Turkish messages (including also some road signs). The book comes with an audio CD not included in the price of the book but it's useful to have.
On interesting cultural point from the phrasebook, for me the Turkish viewpoint is natural, right and unquestionable:
"While in the company of Turkish people, if you are snacking on something (e.g a bag of crisps or a packet of biscuits) it is very rude not to offer some to the people around you." See at Amazon Collins Turkish Phrasebook CD Pack: The Right Word in Your Pocket (Collins Gem).

Collins Turkish phrasebook the right word in your pocket

Monday, August 3, 2009

Simpleology by Mark Joyner

The subtitle of the book is "The simple science of getting what you want".
I came across the book by chance in a bookshop and I thought yet another self-help book but I bought it because reading into it I found it interesting and funny, it is a not a self-help book at least not the traditional one as it tackles it's subject by calling to reason and not to mystification, more ever there is nothing new under the sun but it puts facts, things in a different light and view. At the end, maybe as no other published book, it offers you a free online course at simpleology site and this free gift is not a junk freebie your are used to but one with value attached to it.
I uploaded the book covers of the Romanian translation titled "Simpleologie". I have to mention the online course is only in English, but also it can be considered as a good chance to practice English for those who have a non-English mother tongue, for me also as my first language is Hungarian. Check out at Amazon Simpleology: The Simple Science of Getting What You Want.

Romanian Simpleology book cover: SimpleologieRomanian Simpleology book  backcover

Friday, July 31, 2009

Three blind mice by Agatha Christie

An entertaining short book around 125 pages in small format, it's easy to read and good for a day when you want to rest or relax and take off your mind of anything pressing.
The crime story starts off with Molly and Giles, a couple who are new to running a small inn in their own house.
They opened it in a harsh winter and their first guests happen to be strange people: Christopher Wren the playful redhead young man from Wales, Mrs. Boyle is accustomed to giving orders and is never satisfied, major Metcalf seems holding back something, the shrewd satyrish alien Mr. Paravicini seems too much interested in women. A snow storm cuts off the inn from the outer world... Dear stumbler I stop here with the details in order to let you discover and enjoy reading the book. Still I only mention that "Three blind mice" was made into a radio play by BBC in 1947 for the 80th birthday of queen Mary, mother of the British king George the VIth. She replied to the question, what kind of play she wants by telling "something by Agatha Christie".
Later Christie turned the book into a play with the title "The Mousetrap" and since it's London premier of 1952 has been the longest running play.
I uploaded the cover of the Hungarian translation of the novel titled "Három vak egér" of course the meaning is the same. Three Blind Mice (St. Martin's Minotaur Mysteries) at Amazon.

Három vak egér - Hungarian edition of Three Blinde Mice

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Deaf Sentence by David Lodge

Deaf Sentence the new campus novel of David Lodge makes us acquainted with Desmond Bates a retired university professor of linguistics. The title reminds us of the expression "Death Sentence" and in fact Desmond feels himself sentenced to deafness due to his hearing disability which makes his life hard, it causes friction with his younger wife Fred who is becoming a successfull entrepreneur while her husband have lost interest in daily life.
But the existance of Desmond gets complicated: he gets involded with an american student who even tries to blackmail him into writing her paper on suicide letters, his father dies, his relation with Fred chills.
I can tell David Lodge is one of my favorite authors.
The first book I read from him was Paradise News, a book which made one of my summers happier. Deaf Sentence: A Novel at Amazon.

God's Hell

I've skipped reading the Bible for many years. I am not a disbeliever but I cannot be counted as a churchgoer. Yesterday I attended a kind of informal preaching titled "Where are we heading?" if I recall it correctly. One bottom line was that for non believers eternal torment awaits in hell.
I put myself the questions: if God is the outmost goodness and righteousness can He allow to exists eternal sufferance? For finite sins is it correct to receive everlasting punishment? I have never believed in the existance of hell, I've allways thought of it as an everlasting death.
Is my belief correct? I don't know. But what I can say that there is a multitude of expressed opinions from theologians for and against the existance of hell and some even admit that for this there is no clear answer in the Bible. At least I can provide some links to read and think about.

What Does the Bible Teach About Hell?

The Bible Hell

The Bible Truth About Hades and Hell Fire

Infinite Punishment for Finite Sins

Problem of Hell