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42 April 3, 2012

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I got my towel and my Guide. Ready to go!

If that doesn’t answer your question, I don’t know what will.

I hadn’t read The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy since highschool and it was good to revisit it. Douglas Adams put together a very humorous space story, with crazy made up species, bad poetry, and the most improbable ship ever.

Back when I read this book, I was sometimes worn out from the never-ending British humor. But listening to this book was a totally different experience and quite fun. Stephen Fry did an excellent job, putting in the right stresses where needed to give the narration that snooty-snarky British flavor.


Some Greek History for this month April 1, 2012

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Ye Olde Book Club selection for April:

The Last of the Wine, Mary Renault

Additional reading: portions of or aboutThucydides’ The History of the Peloponnesian War

Additional reading: portions of or about Xenophon’s Hellenica

Useless Cities March 23, 2012

Posted by Elizabeth Campbell in Uncategorized.

I’m having a hard time with Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. Is it the translation? I like it, but I’m having a hard time understanding what I’m reading.

Italo Calvino was part of a Parisienne writing group from the ’60s who called themselves Oulipo. This group focused on experimental writing, giving themselves constraints within which to write, such as not using the letter “e” anywhere in the entire novel, or poems in which every line contains every letter of the alphabet.

With that in mind, I can understand that Invisible Cities is an experimental novel. All the cities that Polo describes is (are?) the same city. And every city has multiple facets depending on who is experiencing life in that city.


It reads lie a webage, or a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. You can read the book from cover to cover, or read all the Polo/Kublai interactions first, or read the different chapter headers in numerical order, or…

Here’s an interesting webpage (in Russian) with artworks, in which the webpager dude actually set up the book to do this. it’s really beautiful. Go there and tell me what you think.

I plan to read more about Calvino. He led a huge life.

New Words: binnacle March 1, 2012

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“Lighting the pipe at the binnacle lamp and planting the stool on the weather side of the deck, he sat and smoked.”
–from Moby Dick, (Chapter 30: The Pipe), Melville

bin·na·cle \ˈbi-ni-kəl\
: a housing for a ship’s compass and a lamp
Origin: alteration of Middle English bitakle, from Old Portuguese or Old Spanish; Old Portuguese bitácola & Old Spanish bitácula, from Latin habitaculum dwelling place, from habitare to inhabit — more at habitation.
First use: 1762

A Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy March 1, 2012

Posted by Elizabeth Campbell in Uncategorized.
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March 2012 selection for YOBC: A Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams.

Yes, I hear all you Literazzi sputtering your indegnation.

“Not a Classic”, indeed. Piffle, I say.

Sticks. Out of your ass. Take a load off and enjoy your March selection.

“But I already read this one!” whine, whine, read it again.

March Short Story selection: “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote“, Jorge Louis Borges

Moby Dick Chapter 19 February 17, 2012

Posted by Elizabeth Campbell in Uncategorized.

How’s everyone getting along with Moby Dick?

A question to take with you as you read this book: It was condemned and ridiculed when it was published. Melville never wrote again. Why?

Here’s an interesting discussion in the Longman Critical Edition, edited by John Bryant and Haskell Springer.

Moby Dick was heavily edited and quite stunningly modified to suit the puritanical audience of the time. For example, in Ch 18, “His Mark”, Queequeg is getting signed on to the Pequod. Captain Bildad wants to see his papers and proof that he is a member of a local Christian Church. Ishmael argues that Queequeg is a member of the first Congregational Church (lowercase “f”) and Bildad can get stuffed. Cap Bildad is confused as he’s never seen Queequeg at the First Congregational Church (capital “F”). Captain Peleg is more tolerant than Bildad. He gets the reference here that Ishmael is trying to make: that Queequeg is a member of the “Church of HumanKind” and tells Bildad to calm down.

This very long passage, which takes up most of the chapter, was edited down to a mere

“Why,” said I, “he’s a member of the First Congregational Church;” and I entered upon a long rigmarole story, touching the conversion of Queequeg and concluded by saying that in the grand belief we all joined hands.”

Some important aspects of this revision:

  • In the original, Queequeg never changes his religion, he is never a convert to Christianity, as is proposed by the revised paragraph above.
  • In the original, Ishmael is both comical and irreverent, calling the Captains’ intolerance and exclusionary views onto the table.
  • Despite the resolution in the original, Captain Bildad still can’t be bothered to get Queequeg’s name right, calling him Quohog* (a type of clam)

I thought this was all interesting. Moving to these small towns in SW VA, I was confronted with this idea of social exclusion via local church. “Which Church do you go to?” is often the first question in an introductory social setting.

So, where are you at in M.D.?

*Yes, that’s the name of the town in Family Guy.

Moby Dick, Update February 5, 2012

Posted by Elizabeth Campbell in Uncategorized.
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Where are you at in Moby Dick?

Ishmael and Queequeg are bosom buddies by now, and Ishmael has just found the Pequod and decided that this is the right ship for them.

So far, I really like Queequeg- a certain sign that he’s going to die by the end of the book, right?

I love Ishmael’s growth in their friendship. He wants to be buds with Queequeg, and struggles with his own prejudices and revulsion at Queequg’s religion. It’s neat to read Ishmael’s discussion with himself about how comes to better understand his own religion in relation to Queequeg’s.

Intro September 21, 2010

Posted by Elizabeth Campbell in Uncategorized.
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Darkcargo.com is getting a little unwieldy, so I created this page exclusively for discussing the Ye Olde Booke Club selections.

How to navigate:

Along the side is a listing of the books by title. Click and comment! Add links to your own reviews at your blog, or links to info about the books, pose questions, reading progress updates, or just sit down and write me a damn essay about the book in the comments. My intention is to make this kind of a forum, which wasn’t really possible when this was exclusively over at Darkcargo.

The top tabs are the pages, of which I made the title-pages each a sub-set.