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.