I was reading some short stories by H.P. Lovecraft today and stopped to ponder on his greatness. I don't remember the first thing of his that I read, but it hooked me and got me to keep on looking for more. I realized that the more I read, the more I enjoy it. There is a distinct reason for this that I haven't experienced with any other author.
His stories stand on their own as, for my money, the greatest horror fiction ever written. But what makes Lovecraft so rewarding to keep coming back to is the repetition of common themes and recurring names that build up into a common mythos that unites the individual tales. Each short story sheds light into a new dark corner of that hideous world, and enriches the entire Lovecraftian oeuvre.
The true genius of it is that the references are not explicit, but rather tend to act as little gems for observant readers to spot and exclaim, "ah-ha! I've seen this before!" It's like the second time through a good movie when you are hit over the head by foreshadowing and vague hints that just slipped by and failed to register in your consciousness during the first viewing. But it's even better than that, because it brings additional elements into the story you are reading that open it up onto a larger world.
I'm not sure where to go with this post. If you're an avid Lovecraft reader, I suppose you've already noticed the things of which I speak, and if not then you probably don't care. But you should care... one of the handy things about his short stories is that they tend to be easy to find online. If you've never read him before, go do it now. Then come back and tell me what you think. Take all the time you want; I can wait for you.
Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, by Neil Postman
This was an interesting read. A book about the dangers and drawbacks of the medium of television, written twenty years ago. It's well done, and a lot of it is still relevant and interesting, but a lot of it is really out-of-date. All I could really think about as I was reading was how much things have changed since then. He talks about the impact of television on education before Channel One had moved into classrooms. Computers are only mentioned peripherally, and he writes, "I believe the computer to be a vastly overrated technology". It would be interesting to read a book written by him today, exploring the ways that Internet has eclipsed television, and in some cases even allowed for more of the rational discourse and logical reasoning that television was supposed to have stamped out. But I guess that overwhelmingly, it's just more of the same. Just with more potential, and infinitely more freedom of discernment... I don't know. The book felt like it was missing something, but that's not the author's fault; just the inevitable effect of time.
A Series of Unfortunate Events
I heard the buzz on these books before the movie was announced, but didn't get around to actually reading them till now. I got The Bad Beginning for Christmas, and my first thought was, "I can't believe this cost $11.99." It is a very small book. I liked it, though, which means I'll probably have to read the rest of them. My favorite passage was about halfway through:
But one type of book that practically no one likes to read is a book about the
law. Books about the law are notorious for being very long, very dull, and
very difficult to read. This is one reason many lawyers make heaps of
Very clever. More than anything, this book reminded me of Roald Dahl's short stories. The best part is that you could read the entire series in a matter of hours. This novel was good enough to make me want to read more, but I'm going to get the rest of the books from the library.
The Thought Gang by Tibor Fischer
The story is about a fat philosopher who robs banks, mostly, but the book is all about wordplay and black humour and fast-paced wit. One zinger after another. Nice short chapters. I thought it was great, except for a couple of dirty bits that kind of caught me off guard. Otherwise it's a really enjoyable book. There's praise on the back cover from Tom Robbins, which is a good clue for whether you'll like it or not. I agree with his assessment: "Strange and wonderful! This cat can flat-out write!"
Surprised by Joy short book review
If you hate C.S. Lewis, then you will not enjoy this book.
If you are a card-carrying member of the Clive Staples fan club, as I am, then you will find this book full of fascinating insights into the early life of a brilliant man. It's a quick read, so pick it up if you like Lewis or autobiographies.
I was telling my father-in-law a few months ago about my plans to buy a motorcycle. It must have made him nostalgic for his own biker days, because he went out and bought a vintage Honda Scrambler. It kind of sounds like a truck stop breakfast entree, but they look like beautiful bikes. I haven't actually seen his yet; it's currently being worked on at his brother's garage. He told me they would restore it and then I could learn to ride on it. Glee!
I left for Duluth with J on New Year's Eve morning. The weather was cold and windy, and the farther north we drove, the more snow there was on the ground. We arrived just after noon and had lunch at a great place called the Lake Ave. Cafe. There was a really weird couple in the booth next to us, a young woman and an old man, and we spent the whole time trying to figure out their relationship to each other. They were creepy. The food was great, but at the moment I'm drawing a total blank on what we ordered.
After lunch, we found our B&B and drove around a bit since it wasn't check-in time yet. We spent some time at Big Lake Books & Records, which was a crazy place with homemade wooden shelves all at different angles. We didn't check out the adult section. Snow was starting to fall when we headed back to the B&B and settled in. The lady who runs the place (innkeeper? proprietress? hostess?) was a bit eccentric, but very nice. We had a room with a view of The Lake. I ordered a bottle of sweet white Romanian table wine from the cellar and we drank a couple of glasses, then we piled on blankets and took a nap for an hour or two.
Dinner was at Fitger's Brewhouse Brewery & Grille (or just "the Brewery"). While we waited for a table, I explored a local wine shop. Found a bottle of NZ Cloudy Bay Chardonnay for $28, but didn't shell out for it. They had a good selection of Argyle wines as well. Nice place. Fitger's was a really cool establishment with a great vegetarian menu. J got a big, delicious rice burger, and I ordered the fish & chips along with a beer sampler platter. Seven little beers for five dollars--awesome deal. We were stuffed.
We had the B&B all to ourselves when we got back, so we played cards by the fire and then went back up to our room for more wine. The original plan was to return to Fitger's at 9:30 for a jazz show, but we didn't feel like going back into the cold and we were getting sleepy anyway, so instead we just curled up and went to sleep around 10:00. On New Year's Day, we slept in and coffee and orange juice were brought up to our door. We had breakfast at 9:00; bread pudding, grapefruit, eggs, and some sort of tomato thing.
There was time to kill before lunch, but not much was open that day, so we took a scenic drive with great views of Duluth and Lake Superior. There was just an inch or two of snow on the ground and everything was powdered white and pretty. The roads were just a bit slick, but not too bad. Our big going-home lunch was at Bellisio's, where our waitress assured us they had the largest wine list of any restaurant in the entire Midwest. Nice. It came in this huge book that I could have looked through all day. In a quick perusal I did find one bottle for just shy of $1,000, but I settled for something more in my price range, a flight of four Super Tuscan wines for $12.
It was the best lunch I'd had in a while. We were there for about an hour and a half, and I wanted to stay forever, walk around and see all the wines (displayed in gorgeous floor-to-ceiling racks along the walls). I told J that this might be my only chance to touch a $1,000 bottle of wine, you know, maybe just stick it down my pants for a second. But J was getting antsy to go, so she went to warm up the car while I used the little boys' room. There was ice in all of the urinals. After a minute of being fascinated by this, I realized that I was probably too satiated and lazy to operate a motor vehicle, so J drove while I took a happy wine nap.
Yesterday she said to me, "I feel like all we did this weekend was eat." Yeah, it was a great weekend.
Categories: wine, travel