Aug 16, 2008

Short Story Sunday - The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar

The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar by Edgar Allan Poe was published in 1845. It was published without the specific clarification that it was a fictional account. Poe was one of the earliest American short story writers. He used a recurring theme in his stories that focus around death and the questions that arise from it, including physical signs of death, decomposition, premature burial, reanimation of the dead, and the process of mourning. Poe seemed to enjoy the effect his horror "hoaxes" had on his readers.

Poe was one of the first masters of horror. In this story he uses a particular amount of gore. He refers to much of the physical aspects of death throughout this story. Elizabeth Barrett Browning comment that Poe had an uncanny ability of "making horrible improbablitities seem near and farmiliar." The narrator of the the story tells the facts of the case and shares his curiosity of hypnotising someone at the point of death to see what effect it would have. As the narrator approaches the death bed of Valdemar he recalls, "His face wore a leaden hue; the eyes were utterly lustreless; and the emaciation was so extreme, that the skin had been broken through by the cheek-bones." These details become the basis to undestanding the transformation of Valdemar through hypnonsis and then finally to death.

A short time later the hypnosis or mesmerize is attempted. "At five minutes before eleven, I perceived unequivocal signs of the mesmeric influence. The glassy roll of the eye was changed for that expression of uneasy inward examination which is never seen except in cases of sleep-waking, and which is quite impossible to mistake."

Even after his physical death the mesmerized Valdemar is suspended in life. Like a whisper it is heard. "Yes;—no;—I have been sleeping—and now—now—I am dead." When the narrator attempts to wake or release the dead man from the hypnotic trance Valdemar decomposes instantly. "Upon the bed, before the whole company, there lay a nearly liquid mass of loathsome—of detestable putrescence."
I found this story interesting but felt slightly alienated by the archaic language. I was curious to know while reading it what type of person proclaims, "I love Poe!" Are you one of those people? What do you find so interesting about his stories? This particular story is considered very gory. And I guess, in part, up to modern standards, I find that confusing to.
Have you read this story? Pleas share your thoughts.




Suburbia is a modern Utopia,
Of gracious living a cornucopia.

The average family income, I hear,
Is twenty-five thousand dollars a year.

Station wagons adorn valleys and ridges,
And the sports cars travel in swarms, like midges.
Here are gardens where no one weeds
or delves,
And, should furnace or freezer act less than dandy,
There's always a quaint old handy-man handy.
The summer weekends are always cool

Round the barbecue grill and the swimming pool,
And in winter the family hovers in glee

O'er the Hi-fi set and the color TV.
With the joys of Nature in such propinquity
There's an absence of juvenile delinquity.

The children (each home has two and I third)
Are the kind that are seen and never heard,
So at nightfall instead of the city's turbulence
You hear a kind of soothing suburbulence

As the young obediently hit the hay
And parents drive off to the P.T.A.

Such is my vision of Suburbia,
Where I'd rather live than in Russ
ia or Serbia.

--Ogden Nash--

Aug 15, 2008

Fun Friday - Comic Books

When I told a friend I was reading Rumble Fish by S.E. Hinton, he brought to my attention that it was also a movie and the movie happened to have Nicolas Cage in it. I highly dislike Nicolas Cage and I think my friend likes to bring up his name as much as possible just to annoy me. (why would anyone EVER want to do that? He must have a death wish.)

But I actually appreciated it this time. It has been interesting to read about the movie in which Cage plays the minor role of Smokey Bennett. It was also brought to my attention that Nick Cage isn't Nick Cage at all, but Nicolas Kim Copula. I remember vaguely hearing in the past, since he is the nephew of Francis Ford Copula. Who happen to direct Rumble Fish and The Outsiders. Cage was asked to help out his uncle during the audition process and ended up getting his role from it. It was his 4th movie (including a bit role in The Outsiders.)

So, what happened to Nicolas Kim Copula? He noticed that people treated him differently because of his last name and changed it. He named himself after the comic book hero Luke Cage.

Luke Cage is Power Man, a Marvel Comic and one of the first African-American to have his own comic book series. He possesses superhuman strength and stamina. He is also highly resistant to physical injury.

But Luke Cage/Power Man is just the first of many comic book tie-ins for the Mr. Cage, who considers comic books a type of modern day mythology. And I sort of like that assessment. The friend who brought this to my attention in the first place called him a nerd (the friend is just deflecting truth about himself!) but I really like this idea of mythology (Tolkien felt the same about his own works). And comic books are becoming more mainstream and more credible as pieces of literature.

In 2007 a Ghost Rider movie was released. Who did it star? Nicolas Cage. The ironic thing is that he has been a fan of the series for a long time. And every day his tattoo referencing it needed to be covered up. What a dream to play the role of one of your childhood heroes. He was quoted saying, "Oh yeah, absolutely. I enjoyed the image of the skull on fire when I was a boy and the mythology of it, the Faust-like storyline was so original for a Marvel comic book character."

Instead of a "hard drinking and smoking bad ass" Johnny Blaze, Nicolas Cage decided to give him more d
epth. "I'm playing him more as someone who... made this deal and he's trying to avoid confronting it, anything he can do to keep it away from him". I have never seen the movie nor been a fan of the comic. Have you? How did he succeed in his portrayal?

Cage has even created a comic book series with his son called Voodoo Child. He says that the series is different because it's "more spiritual than, say, a Superman or a Batman." He share that “Weston has always been a huge inspiration to me,” Cage said of his son. “He has been drawing comics since he was three.” Weston says he had tinkered with the idea for Voodoo Child since seeing hurricane damage in New Orleans, where he and his father lived part time for years. The first of the six-issue miniseries was published in July 2007.

And finally, how big is Cage's comic book o
bsession? When his third wife Alice gave birth to a boy two years ago, the Cages named him Kal-el, which every comic-book addict knows was the name that Superman was given as a baby on the planet Krypton.

After all this I just wasted a good portion of my life researching an actor I don't particularly like and, well, actually enjoyed it! I have been interested in learning more about comics for some time but this idea of mythology has suddenly made it more approachable. So, we went from Rumble Fish to comic books, and it was an extremely interesting journey. Did I leave something out? Enlighten me!

For someone newly interest in comic books/graphic novels, where is a good place to start? Would you consider it representative as modern day mythology?

Aug 14, 2008

Thursaday Thirteen - Literary Music

1. Paperback Writer - The Beatles

Paper back writer (paperback writer)
Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?
It took me years to write, will you take a look?
It's based on a novel by a man named Lear
The song's lyrics are in the form of a letter from an aspiring author addressed to a publisher. The song includes a reference to the nonsense poet Edward Lear.

2. Don't Stand So Close To Me - The Police

It's no use, he sees her
He starts to shake and cough
Just like the old man in
That book by Nabakov
The line "Just like the old man in that book by Nabokov" alludes to Vladimir Nabokov's famous novel Lolita which covers similar issues. However, Sting mispronounces "Nabokov."

3. Wrapped Up In Books - Belle and Sebastian

Our aspirations, are wrapped up in books
Our inclinations are hidden in looks
The band name Belle & Sebastian is inspired by Belle et Sébastien, a children's book by French writer Cécile Aubry.

4. Atlantis - No Angels featuring Donovan

But a remnant of The Atlantian culture.
The antediluvian kings colonised the world
All the Gods who play in the mythological dramas
In all legends from all lands were from far Atlantis.
5. Hey Jack Kerouac - 10,000 Maniacs

Hey Jack, now for the tricky part,
when you were the brightest star who were the shadows?
Of the San Francisco beat boys you were the favorite.
Now they sit and rattle their bones and think of their blood stoned days.
This video outlines Kerouac's journeys.

6. Chapter 24 - Pink Floyd

The time is with the month of winter solstice
When the change is due to come.
Thunder in the other course of heaven.
Things cannot be destroyed once and for all.
These lyrics are inspired by text from chapter 24 of the ancient Chinese tome I Ching.

7. Slouching Towards Bethlehem - Joni Mitchel

For what is this rough beast
Its hour come at last
Slouching towards Bethlehem to be born
Slouching towards Bethlehem to be born
This song is adapted from Yeats poem called "The Second Coming."

8. Tom Sawyer - Rush

Exit the warrior,
Todays tom sawyer,
He gets high on you,
And the energy you trade,
He gets right on to the friction of the day.
In the December 1985 Rush Backstage Club newsletter, drummer and lyricist Neil Peart said: "Tom Sawyer was a collaboration between myself and Pye Dubois, an excellent lyricist who wrote the lyrics for Max Webster. His original lyrics were kind of a portrait of a modern day rebel, a free-spirited individualist striding through the world wide-eyed and purposeful. I added the themes of reconciling the boy and man in myself, and the difference between what people are and what others perceive them to be - namely me I guess."

9. Romeo and Juliet - Indigo Girls

Ah Juliet
When we made love you used to cry
You said I love you like the stars above
Im gonna love you till I die
10. Open Book - Cake

Shes writing, shes writing,
Shes writing a novel.
Shes writing, shes weaving,
Conceiving a plot.
It quickens, it thickens.
You cant put it down now.
It takes you, it shakes you,
It makes you lose your thought.

But youre caught in your own glory.
You are believing your own stories.
Writing your own headlines.
Ignoring your own deadlines.
But now youve gotta write them all again.
11. Desolation Row - Bob Dylan

Cinderella, she seems so easy
"It takes one to know one," she smiles
And puts her hands in her back pockets
Bette Davis style
And in comes Romeo, he's moaning
"You Belong to Me I Believe"
The use of the word "Desolation" is a strong indication that Dylan was referring to Jack Kerouac's novel Desolation Angels. Kerouac spent the summer of 1956 as a fire lookout on Desolation Peak, and wrote The Dharma Bums and Desolation Angels from his life transforming experiences on the peak. On the other hand, John Steinbeck's Cannery Row is a place where the outcasts of society found a home (as in "Skid Row"). A further indication that Dylan was inspired by Steinbeck is found in his reference to Cain and Abel.

12. Tell Your Story Walking - Deb Talan
Tell your story, tell it, tell it.
Tell your story to anyone who'll listen.
Tell your story, don't stop talking
Just tell your story walking.
This song appears on the 2002 album Songs Inspired by Literature (Chapter One), a benefit of the organization Artists for Literacy. Tell Your Story Walking was the winner of Artists for Literacy’s 2002 songwriting contest.

13. Breathe - Depeche Mode

I heard it from Peter
Who heard it from Paul
Who heard it from someone
I don't know at all
I heard it from Mary
Who heard it from Ruth
Who swore on the bible
She's telling the truth

What literary songs do you enjoy?

Aug 13, 2008

Writing Wednesday - Pure Drivel

The Kennedy Center dubs him "a Renaissance comic" and continues saying, "He is without doubt one of the most versatile and popular actors before the public, a performer with happy feet who wears many hats well beyond his signature arrow-through-the-head gear."

Pure Drivel was published in 1998. It is a collection of stories originally written for The New Yorker. The following is from the essay entitled "Writing Is Easy."

"Writing is one of the most easy, pain-free, and happy ways to pass the time in all the arts. For example, right now I am sitting in my rose garden and typing on my new computer. Each rose represents a story, so I am never at a loss for what to write. I just look deep into the heart of the rose and read its story and write it down through typing, which I enjoy anyway. I could be typing "kjfiu joewmv jiw" and would enjoy it as much as typing words that actually make sense. I simply relish the movement of my fingers on the keys. Sometimes, it is true, agony visits the head of a write. At these moments, I stop writing and relax with a coffee at my favorite restaurant, knowing that words can be changed, rethought, fiddled with, and, of course, ultimately denied. Painters don't have that luxury. If they go to a coffee shop, their paint dries into a hard mass."

Steve Martin shares his experience of writing Pure Drivel with Charlie Rose.

Come on, isn't writing that easy for you too?

Aug 12, 2008

Teen Tuesday - Her Smile

Teen Tuesday is the day we set aside for teen book lovers visit with each other to find out what's being read in the world of young adult literature. You can comment whether you are a participant or not. Visit all the posters at

Well I have been getting a lot of reading done. Picking up book after book and reading a few pages and not making it far.

The young adult books I am currently reading are:
The Second Mrs. Gioconda
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

The books I recently finished are:
The Book Thief
Vampire Plagues: Paris, 1850

I think it is interesting when books two books you are reading have a common element. It is to be expected if you are reading two books on the same topic. But I think it is really interesting when it happens when you are reading books on two different topics.

You know when you are needing to be reading a pile of books but there is one just this one that keeps staring at you? You see it calling to you out of the corner of your eye?

Well as I was pushing through Vampire Plagues 2 (and it was a real push cause I as hating it, big disappointment after I liked the first book) and I came across a passage. As I did my eyes darted to that book I am not supposed to be reading because I am already reading WAY TOO MANY BOOKS! I read the words again, "Jack had no idea at all why Emily and Ben were so enthralled by the painting. IT was not very big, and there was a tint over the whole thing that made it look as if it has been painted in greenish haze" (44). So what was Jack looking at? The painting has been around for over 500 years and one of the most famous ones in the world. It also happens to grace the cover of the book I am trying not to read.


I have lots more I want to read and lots more I need to read.
I will be (I hope) exploring The Book Thief throughout the week on my blog. I found it to be so dense that every time I try to write about it my head explodes. I decided it will be more manageable in small pieces, please stay tuned and check it out!

What did you read today?

Aug 10, 2008

The Sunday Salon - Bordello of Books

The Sunday It has been a long time since I have had the time or the inclination to go about blog visiting. It has been a joy to start off my morning doing so.

Contrary to the previous months where I have been reading very little, now it feels like I am reading too much, and doing it so slowly that it doesn't change from week to week. Last Sunday I darted out of town for what was supposed to be a day/overnight trip and bloomed into a bit of a longer trip. It was fun and amazing. I traveled by myself and listened to audiobooks. I really hate driving so this was a bit of an experiment to see if audiobooks made it any better for me. It did help quite a bit, but I still got REALLY TIRED on the long stretches.

Yesterday I went to the library. There is really no reason for me to go to the library as I have more than enough books here. I am sincerely trying to cut back, yet every time I got I check out more books than I did the previous time. I came home with 6 books. Big books, bigger than I will be able to read in a two week time span. Not to mention the 3 other books I still haven't finished from the last visit. And the books that I OWN that I am in middle of. So what did I get at the library?
  • The Master and Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov
  • Feed - M.T. Anderson (already listened to the audio, so this book doesn't really count)
  • The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon - Stephen King
  • I Love You Beth Cooper - Larry Doyle
  • Pay It Forward - Catherine Ryan Hyde
  • The Princess Bride - William Goldman
What's the last book you got from the library? Why did you take it out of the library as opposed to buying it? Did you need to read that particular book?

Last week I was going to post a wrap up for the books I read in July. But I was so preoccupied with my trip I never managed. I think I only read two measly books. I am determined to read more this month. Right now I am working on The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon and Vampire Plagues 2. I was hoping to get Vampire Plagues done last night, but I am only half way through. I am also only a few pages into The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon and it is the first King book I have ever read. I have heard a lot of mixed things about King as a writer but generally people tell me he is a decent/good writer and his movies don't do him justice. The first few pages have been very interesting for me; I am highly critical and have the red pencil in my mind sharpened to a precisely pointed tip. On one hand I am trying to reserve judgment for a few more pages, but on the other I am ready to take out my notebook and outline the first few pages noting everything I liked and everything I would change. Are you a Stephen King fan? What of his books is your favorite?

I am still in the middle of reading Good In Bed, but I misplaced it there for a few days following my return. I still have to write reviews/reactions for a few books and everything is swimming in my head and getting dulled out by new information. The kids leave in a few hours, or as soon as I get them into the car and drive them off. So hopefully I will sit down with my pen and paper and get some my ideas out before they are gone forever.
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