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#Ireland: Dermot Healy


Finished: 04.03.2019
Genre: novel
Rating: C


  1. Part 1: Alcoholic playwright
  2. Part 2: Sergeant (father of actress) in RUC during The Troubles in No. Ireland
  3. Part 3: Aspiring actress in a toxic relationship with playwright
  4. ..and still sleeping her way to the top in the theatre world.
  5. These are the basic components.
  6. Part 1 and Part 3 were filled with the shenanigans of
  7. Jack (stereotype alcoholic Irishman) and Catherine.
  8. These lovers will never be compatible.
  9. They do nothing, go nowhere and do it slowly.
  10. It was like watching somebody kill themselves with a butter-knife.
  11. Part 2 was the BEST.
  12. Dermot Healy should have written the entire book about
  13. the complex character Jonathan Adams (No. Irish policeman).
  14. You sensed the fear Adams experienced
  15. of being assassinated by the IRA.


Last thoughts:

  • Strong point: the book…it is intense, part 2 is riveting.
  • Weak point: the writing is not entrancing and beautiful throughout.
  • #MyHonestOpinion





#Classic: Essays by Montaigne



  1. Michel de Montaigne  explores the human condition
  2. …in a very personal and clever manner.
  3. His essays chart the course of 20 yr of self-investigation.
  4. He pretends to most of the vices.
  5. If there be any virtue in him, he says, it got in by stealth.



  1. I enjoyed the most personal essays:
  2. Book I
  3. This selection of essays is ‘the hook’.
  4. They are personal and frank.
  5. Unfortunately there are also many essay in
  6. book II and III  …. I consider ‘duds’.

Happiness not be judged until after our death
Educating children

Book II

  1. …including 140 pages entitled “Apology for Raymond Sebond’
  2. The “Apology for Raymond Sebond” is
  3. three times as long as any other essay that Montaigne wrote
  4. The essay has been seen as an attack on authoritrian religion and
  5. a covert threat to Christian faith.
  6. It was a slog to listen to….and
  7. I just started to do some household chores
  8. …and let the words go in one ear and out the other!
  9. This essay sticks out like a sour thumb
  10. If you encounter this essay and feel as I did
  11. …just skip it!


Affection of fathers for children
On resemblence of children to fathers


Book III (…there were only 3 essays I liked)


Last thoughts

  1. Montaigne is the frankest and honestest of all writers.
  2. He does have opinions that still ring true today.
  3. Strong point: Montaigne writes about themes that charm the
  4. reader ( see my list of favorites).
  5. We relate to them.
  6. Strong point: Montaigne’s style is not dry….but daring
  7. …filled with depth and witty observations.
  8. Weak point: don’t approach these essays expecting
  9. that they are an easy read (21st C standard)…they are not!
  10. The book was published 1580 and
  11. …written to one sex only.
  12. A certain nakedness of statement was permitted
  13. …which our manners of a literature addressed
  14. …equally to both sexes, do not allow.
  15. Montaigne could have used the advice of one of his
  16. favorite authors:
  17. “The eloquence that diverts us  to itself harms its content.” (Seneca)
  18. #SomeEssaysBoring

#Fantasy Snuff by Terry Pratchett


Finished: 28.02.2019
Genre: fantasy
Rating: B+


  1. Commander Vimes is persuaded by his wife, Lady Sybil
  2. and Lord Vetinari (boss) to take a family holiday.
  3. They go back to Sybil’s roots in the countryside.
  4. Comic relief: Wilikins, Vimes’s thug-turned-butler, accompanies them.
  5. As Vimes arrives in the countryside he senses crime.
  6. “Where there are little crimes, large crimes are not far behind”
  7. Commander Vimes, pg 169)
  8. Pratchett, though diagnosed in 2007 with dementia,
  9. penned a number of sizable pieces while living with the disease.
  10. He said only his spelling and typing were affected
  11. …..he still had the
  12. words to write 5 more Discworld novels.
  13. Snuff was great fun to read.
  14. I haven’t laughed out loud while reading…in a long time.
  15. I’d love to visit “the therapeutic baths at Ham-on-Rye” (pg 25)!


Last thoughts:

  • I would recommend using an audio book.
  • Through the voices the story and the
  • quirky characters come alive!



#Classic: Hamlet



  1. Lovers:  Ophelia and Hamlet
  2. Focus: revenge – the obsession to avenge can drive one mad
  3. Family issue: Uncle kills Hamlet’s father and marries his mother (yikes!)
  4. Plot twist: ghost of King Hamlet wants revenge. Triggers entire play!
  5. Hook: Ghost in Act 1…all acts end with cliffhangers!!
  6. Genre:  Revenge play
  7. Pivotal acts:  Act 3 and Act 5
  8. Soliloquies:  7 spoken by Hamlet
  9. Tragic flaw Hamlet: overthinks everything! “To be or not to be…” (Act 3, 1)
  10. Villian: Claudius manipulative, ruthless
  11. Ophelia: weak character compared to Desdamona!
  12. Minor character who plays major role: Laertes
  13. Symbol: poison (weapon, manipulation and madness)
  14. Motif: spying (eavesdropping) to seek truth)
  15. Spies: Hamlet, Horatio, Reynaldo, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, Polonius, King Claudius
  16. Victims: Queen, King, Ophelia, Hamlet, Laertes
  17. Shakespeare’s statement: “What a piece of work is man!” (Act 2, 2)
  18. Setting:  Elsinore Castle, Danish coast, graveyard
  19. Major themesrevenge, madness. death. appearance vs reality
  20. Minor themesambition, corruption
  21. …”Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”  (Act 1, 4)
  22. Body count: 9
  23. King Hamlet (before play starts)
  24. Queen Gertrude
  25. King Claudius
  26. Polonius
  27. Rosencrantz
  28. Guildenstern
  29. Ophelia
  30. Laertes
  31. Hamlet
  32. The only main character left
  33. …standing at the end is Horatio,
  34. …who is usually seen sitting on the ground,
  35. …cradling Hamlet’s corpse.
  36. So technically, he’s not standing.
    1 drowning
    2 beheadings
    1 simple stabbing
    2 simple poisonings and
    3 aggravated stabbings (poisoned blade/some poison)
  37. Now that’s what I call a tragedy!


Trend:   Theme: illusion vs reality

  1. In Midsummer Night’s Dream, Othello and Hamlet
  2. ….Shakespeare uses this theme to drive the plot.
  3. I will be looking at other plays by WS to see if he repeats this theme.
  4. Midsummer Night’s Dream: play-in-play (illusion)….is also used in Hamlet
  5. Othello: it appears Desdemona is having an affair ( lost handkerchief)…she is not.
  6. Hamlet: it appears Hamlet is in a legitimate duel…he is not, sword is poison tipped
  7. Hamlet: Claudius appears to be praying on his knees…he is not.
  8. Hamlet: Claudius must appear to be guiltless in death of Hamlet…he is not.
  9. Hamlet: Killing Hamlet must appear to be an accident….it is not, it is premeditated


Last thoughts:

  1. I have been avoiding this play for years
  2. …too difficult, complex plot.
  3. Finally I can strike this play off my Bucket List!
  4. I ordered the Kenneth Branagh’s film  Hamlet (1996)
  5. It is the only version that includes the complete text
  6. …nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay
  7. …and is 4 hours long.
  8. #GetOutThePopcorn

#Short Story: 28 Tales by Edgar Allan Poe




  1. After a grueling fitness lesson  to increase my ‘mobility’
  2. that felt more like torture during the Inquisition
  3. I was very happy that I had audio book of  E.A. Poe’s tales.
  4. All I needed to do was lie down, relax and listen.
  5. I read 28 tales….and 1 poem.  I did not read all the letters!
  6. 50% of the 28 stories were good!



  1. I only read 28 stories
  2. …and still have 43 to read to
  3. finish the complete list of Poe’s tales.
  4. I have the highest admiration for Poe’s genius.
  5. With his words  the demon was visible,
  6. insanity palpable and  the reader
  7. …is mesmerized by Poe’s bizarre mind.
  8. Baudelaire  became obsessed with Poe and
  9. who was both is idol and as he saw it his
  10. …American double.
  11. I enjoyed reading/listening to the stories but
  12. feel that some are overrated.
  13. I’m sure Poe got paid ‘by the word’ because at times
  14. he uses 4 adjectives….where one could suffice!
  15. Pit and the Pendulum:
  16. “…with a steady movement, cautious, sidelong, shrinking and slow.”
  17. I read 1 paragraph  summary of ‘The Spectacles’ and the
  18. audio version lasted 1 hour and 13 min!
  19. So you can imagine how
  20. …Poe goes on…and on….and on.


Last thoughts:

  1. Edgar Allan Poe was an oddity.
  2. His life was odd, his literature is odd.
  3. He sent a man to the moon 30 years before Jules Verne.
  4. He created the modern detective story.
  5. He destroyed our planet with a comet.
  6. He sent shivers down my spine with the horror stories.
  7. Poe was plagued with many personal issues.
  8. “Poe purchased a couple of ounces of laudanum
  9. …to cure him of the fever called living.”  (Poe-Land, J. W. Ocker)
  10. #Classic


  • “The Angel of The Odd” – GOOD
  • “Berenice” – GOOD
  • “The Black Cat” – GOOD
  • “The Cask of Amontillado”
  • “The Maelstrom”
  • “Eleanora” – GOOD
  • “The Facts in the Case Of M. Valdemar”
  • “The House of Usher”
  • “Hop Frog”
  • “Imp of the Perverse” – GOOD
  • “Island of the Fay”
  • “Ligiea” – GOOD
  • “Man of the Crowd”– GOOD
  • “Message in a Bottle”
  • “The Masque of the Red Death”
  • “Mesmeric Revelation”
  • “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” – GOOD…but the ending…far-fetched!
  • “Never Be the Devil Your Head”
  • “The Oval Portrait”
  • “The Pit and the Pendulum” – GOOD
  • “The Premature Burial”
  • “The Purloined Letter”
  • “Silence – A Fable”
  • “Some Words with a Mummy”
  • The Spectacles” – GOOD
  • “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Feather” – GOOD
  • “The Tell Tale Heart” – GOOD
  • “William Wilson” – GOOD
  • “The Raven” – GOOD

#Short Story: J. Tiptree jr. …but not her best work!



19.02.2019 – READ – The Girl Who Was Plugged in

  • This is a ‘Jekyll-and-Hyde story about a female monster.
  • 17 yr ugly girl makes a Faustian bargain.
  • She will be kept in a cabinet strapped with electrodes.
  • She will animate the artifically grown body of a perfect girl
  • …her be beautiful!.
  • Tiptree submitted this story for publication
  • …but is was REJECTED so many times
  • …she shelved it.

Last thoughts:

  • Now I know why it was refused….it was awful!
  • The story lurches, stumbles is at times painful to read
  • …because I know Tiptree can do better!
  • I read that Alice Shelden (Tiptree)
  • …was a longtime user of Dexedrine (speed).
  • It feels like Tiptree let the drug
  • …push her creative mind a bit too far for this reader!
  • #MonsterOnSpeed


18.02.2019 – READ  And I Awoke and Found Me Here on the Cold Hill’s Side

  • Title:  is from “La Belle Dame sans Merci: A Ballad”  by John Keats
  • “Frame” POV: unnamed narrator (news reporter) tells the reader about
  • a nameless station engineer at the Orion docking junction who
  • is …telling his story about seductive aliens.
  • Tone: is NOT sentimental….but erotic, lascivious
  • Message: the man  warns reporter that
  • “Man is exogamous…one long drive to find and impregnate the stranger.”
  • In this case…aliens: Procya, Lycran, Sirians, Sellice…
  • This biological drive is where humans are most at risk
  • At risk not from a monster from a star
  • ….but a signal from the human brain stem.
  • #Strange


9.04.2018 – READ    The Last Flight of Doctor Ain:  (1969)

  • The story drifts between the past and present.
  • Dr. Ain is on a mission to save the world for a “later race”.
  • Allusions to W.H. Hudson’s novel Green Mansions and
  • the “Gaea Gloriatric“….Gaia is the ancestral mother of all life
  • are the keys that will unlock the theme in the story.
  • Dr Ain boards his last flight and
  • …no one sees the  moral insanity inside him.
  • Note: After the first reading I was confused.
  • It took a second reading and some note taking to
  • finally appreciate this
  • …classic short story by one of SF   ‘grande dames’.
  • #Readable


Last thoughts:

  1. I’ve reviewed 4 of James Tiptree jr.’s short stories.
  2. The Screwfly Solution….was very good,
  3. ..but I may have to read some ‘duds’ before I
  4. finished all the selections.
  5. I’ve included a  Wikipedia link about Alice Sheldon’s life
  6. It was unconventional….and ended in double suicide.
  7. #ReadShortStories




#Short Story: James Tiptree jr. (SF)




  1. The Screwfly Solution (1977 )… the story’s tone was playful and threatening.
  2. POV: told alternately from the perspective of a devoted husband and wife.
  3. The ‘hook’ was the POV of Anne (the wife) in her letters
  4. bubbling with news and love….but later fear
  5. to Alan (husband) in Columbia doing scientific research.
  6. After reading Anne’s letter with the words:
  7. “The quietness is worse, though, it’s like
  8. …something terrible was going on just out of sight.”
  9. I could not put this short story down! 
  10. I even dreamed about it last night! 
  11. The Screwfly Solution is a quick read, and although
  12. …knowing the ending doesn’t remotely spoil it,
  13. …I’m hesitant to spell out too much.
  14. Here is the best description of aliens I’ve ever read:
  15. “…it was big and sparkly, like
  16. …a Christmas tree without the tree.”


Last thoughts:

  1. Truly, reading short stories is  most rewarding
  2. ….intense writing
  3. …and instant gratificaton  (reading time 30-45 min)
  4. I’ve included a  Wikipedia link about Alice Sheldon’s life
  5. It was unconventional….and ended in double suicide.
  6. #ReadShortStories



#Non-fiction: The American Short Story

Raymond  Carver

William Faulkner  

John Updike

Flannery O’Connnor



Finished: 17.02.2019
Genre: non-fiction, literary reference
Rating: A


  1. This was an excellent overview of the American short story!
  2. The short story is no longer the baby brother of the novel.
  3. It is a genre open to experimentation, new ethnic voices and
  4. focuses on the most intense and life-changing experiences.
  5. Raymond Carver kept a 3×5 card on his desk with a quote by
  6. Anton Chekhov:
  7. …and suddenly, everything became clear to him…”
  8. This was an expression of the essential short story effect.


Last thoughts:

  1. In this digital age with our declining attention spans
  2. …some may consider short stories as
  3. bonbons for lazy readers.
  4. I’ve discovered  genius the day I dared to give up
  5. …on reading novels and read short stories.
  6. Example: The Complete Stories  by Flannery O’Connor.
  7. Invite the coyote into your life!
  8. Invite the short story into your TBR!





#Classic: Beowulf



  1. Plot:  Beowulf  relates the adventures of its Scandinavian hero,
  2. at the same time presenting a detailed description of
  3. the life and mood of the age during which it was written.
  4. Epic in a nutshell:
  5. Monster kills human – Grendel kills Danes in Herot
  6. Human kills monster – Beowulf kills Grendel
  7. Monster kills human – Grendel’s mother kills Esher
  8. Human kills monster – Beowulf kills Grendel’s mother
  9. Human and Monster  – kill each other
  10. Motif: quest for personal glory
  11. Major Theme: Good vs Evil…slaying of monsters and dragon
  12. Minor theme: Beowulf’s friendships… with King Hrothgar and Wiglaf (warrior)
  13. Question: Why so swords have names? Heruntling, Nagling



  1. I found the translation
  2. …by Seamus Heaney breathtaking!
  3. Strong point: crystalline alliteration!
  4. line 209:
  5. “…the warrior boarded the boat as captain,
  6. a canny pilot along coast and currents.
  7. Strong point: Heaney taps into his vivid vocabulary
  8. …and his writing  is designed to draw the reader
  9. effortlessly from page to page through
  10. …this Medieval classic epic poem!
  11. I was not prepared for such an enjoyable read!
  12. But I must advise any reader to gather the
  13. basic story lines by reading a summary (wikipedia)
  14. before reading the poem.
  15. IMO..the story is simple and  not the best
  16. part of the poem.
  17. It is Heaney’s choice of words ...his translation
  18. …that brings Beowulf  life!


Last thoughts:

  1. If you are interested in studying Medieval Literature
  2. …Beowulf is a #MustRead
  3. If not…it STILL is a must read!.
  4. Tip: there is a great family tree illustration in this book!
  5. You can’t read this poem without it!
  6. In the film Annie Hall, Diane Keaton confesses to Woody Allen
  7. her interest in attending some college classes.
  8. Allen is supportive, and has this bit of advice:
  9. “Just don’t take any course where you have to read Beowulf.
  10. I had to laugh when I read that!
  11. I don’t agree with Woody Allen…..
  12. #Classic  for all to enjoy!

#Valentine’s Day 2019


Hellelil and Hildebrand, the Meeting on the Turret Stairs (1864)

  1. …is a painting in the National Gallery of Ireland
  2. …by Irish artist Frederic William Burton (1816-1900).
  3. Based on a medieval Danish ballad about the ill-starred love between
  4. Hellelil and her bodyguard, Hildebrand,
  5. …it features the lovers sharing a fleeting moment of intimacy.
  6. Things don’t go well for them.
  7. When her father discovers their attachment he orders
  8. ..that her seven brothers should kill Hildebrand.
  9. But the bodyguard turns out to be a formidable adversary.
  10. He has killed  six of the brothers and Hellelil’s father.
  11. Hellelil  intervenes to save the life of her surviving sibling.
  12. Hildebrand succumbs to his wounds and
  13. …she decides she cannot live without him.
  14. #Breathtaking