pisistratus’s masterpiece

Pisistratus being the ostensible author of “My Book”, actually written by Edward Bulwer-Lytton…  this is a long book with lots of characters:  about a thousand pages;  i got a Kindle to read it, as the book was big and awkward…  it took two charges to get through it…

“O muse, who doth temper the sweet sound of the golden shell of the tortoise, and couldst also give, were it needed, to silent fishes the song of the swan.”  This quote or citation is at the beginning of book 12, the last chapter, and gives a broad idea of BL’s writing style…  and his delight in surprising and unusual turns and tropes included in the plot development…  The Caxton family is sitting around the 19th C. fireplace, ensconced in their 19th C. library, listening to Mr. C expound at length on Sir Thomas Browne and other, many other, philosophical topics;  meanwhile, Pisistratus is busy writing away on his book, comments from the surrounding kibitzers being plentiful and suggestive…  the book really starts in the second chapter, after the Caxtons and friends have discussed P’s approach and general ability in his proposed project…  which begins:…

In Hazeldean, the principal center of Squire Hazeldean’s manse and acreage…  there’s a lot of characters, from the Squire, his lady, son, various permanent house residents, villagers, friends, neighbors….  there is no particular “hero”, just four or five main characters, whose lives and troubles are described more or less serially, with the usual, in Victorian Lit, relational complications, interdependencies, ambitions, miscommunications, and erroneous conclusions…

Watching “Green Arrow” with Ms. M on television, we noticed that all the problems in the struggles of the characters derived from them trying to protect each other from various dangers, which threatened all of them from evildoers plotting their nefarious schemes…  and the same is true in BL’s novel, to a great extent…  a secret marriage, a misunderstood elopement, a lost letter, Italian emigrants, evil dukes and moneylenders, the high ton society of London, the poor choices of elder sons:  all interweave a plot that for complexity, would be hard to duplicate…

It’s probably fruitless to try and compare/contrast BL with Dickens, Trollope, Thackery, Ainsworth, Eliot, or other of his contemporaries…  the Victorians loved long drawn out plotting, repetitive character descriptions, and scenery descriptions;  imagine sitting in a cold drafty library or study with the long dark night all around, no TV, radio, or other attention grabbers…  if one had a long, involved, complicated volume to while away the hours, sitting in the loneliness of a dank room, life would be good…  and that was why such books sold and were written…  these tome-like productions would not seem to be appealing to moderns, with technological wonders all around, but if one can immerse his/her imagination and learn something about that era, enjoyment can be mined from most of these dense novels…  imo, anyway…  oh…  lost it for a second, there…  what i was going to say re BL:  he does use surprise as one of his writing tools;  he loves to shock the reader with unexpected developments every once in a while, and this makes his plots difficult to predict;  and i imagine this added greatly to the attraction of his work, to readers of that century…

This book was preceded by “The Caxtons”, one of BL’s previous works, which i haven’t read…  yet…  i may do so just to clear up some vague points in “My Novel”, although the latter is not by any means dependent upon the former…

well, if any out there have the courage to tackle this long Victorian excursion, i’d be delighted to hear about it…

rain

my daughter gave me her 27 speed, carbon fiber frame bike, a 24″, because she said she didn’t want to ride it anymore…  it had all the complicated gadgetry:  speedometer, calorie calculator, step shift, etc….  i didn’t like all the complexity:  i think i’ve been entering my second childhood lately;  or maybe never got out of my first…  anyway, i took all the fancy stuff off and converted it into a one speed:  fairly easy, except it had vertical dropouts, which made the chain the wrong length…  i solved that by using a half-link…  i put quite a few miles on it, riding around our local town.  then i got tired of not being able to go up hills, so i converted it into a 3 speed, using an old SA hub i had lying around…  and it worked okay until the chain fell off.  it had a coaster brake on it, so, no chain, no brake…  hmmm,,,  he said to himself….  i think the frame was too flexible and when i hit a bump while pedaling, the chain came off…  so i changed it back to a one speed, but with a 20 tooth rear sprocket, so it was easier to pedal at about 12 mph…  now i haven’t been able to go out and try it since it’s been raining constantly ever since i did the work…  today the report says 100% chance of rain, but i’m going to go for a ride anyhow;  i’ve been cooped up to long…

comparing Bulwer-Lytton and Trollope:  the former has a formidable grasp of classical literature and history, and a sort of mechanical view of human behavior that infuses his writing with enviable descriptive abilities and limits his dramatic creative proficiency as regards plotting to a soap opera standard…  he’s very good at what he does, but it’s, as i indicated it the last post, a view typical of the cartoonish beefeater Briton, which means it’s not very relative to what really motivates human conduct.  Trollope, on the other hand, has in some respects less imagination than BL, and he’s less, how to put it, fiery, imaginative, creative…  his plots are good but he repeats himself a lot…  i think he has some grasp of psychology, but his use of that interferes with his overall conception instead of enhancing it…  he often overemphasizes character traits to the point of driving the long suffering reader to depilation…

So, for excitement and unusual plotting and sudden surprises, BL is excellent;  and T is  a master of the flowing phrase and the presentation of the usual, the mundane, as it were…  imo, anyway…

wind and nevil shute

we’re expecting 70 mph gusts today, so this morning i was out cutting kindling and gathering firewood…  last night the power went out twice, so winter is now officially upon us…

i Just finished reading “What Happened to the Corbetts” by mr. Shute…  i’ve read most of his work with pleasure and this one was no different:  it describes the destruction of Southhampton by enemy bombing (the book was written just before WW2) and the measures taken by the Corbetts to deal with the consequential chaos:  bad or no water, infrastructure damage, disease, and the loss of food resources.  ultimately they find themselves sailing their single masted boat to France, but in the interim experience what it’s like to deal with overstressed officialdom and unbending law officers.  they save a couple of pilots who’ve ditched in the ocean while attempting a landing on an aircraft carrier, thereby earning the gratitude of the Royal Navy, who are material in their successful effort to reach Brest…

Shute is an excellent writer, imo…  the first book i read of his, “Trustee from the Toolroom”, concerned the efforts of a father to aid his daughter in the South Seas and follows his efforts to construct a kind of weir, as i remember, to protect the atoll she lives on…  S’s style is simple and accurate, as one might expect, he being an aeronautical engineer with experience designing dirigibles and having run his own aircraft manufacturing business.  plus he has a gentle way of leading the reader into his stories;  the effect on the reader is sort of like conversing with a very old friend…  this kind of style, i’ve found, is found in certain English authors, but is not common elsewhere;  H. Rider Haggard had it, and Bulwer-Lytton as well, although the latter’s works contain more pomp than Shute displays…

meanwhile, back at “My Novel”, Dr. Riccabocca has decided to marry squire Hazeldean’s cousin, a widowed lady with 4000L who’s also looking for a husband…  after a series of contretemps, the affair is arranged satisfactorily until parson Dale realizes that the Dr. is most likely a Catholic, and everyone else involved is Church of England.  this being a book by BL, this doesn’t raise much of an alarm, as he is nothing if not a polite and nonviolent author, so to resolve the problem, Dale rides over to talk over the situation with the good Dr. in an attempt to achieve a resolution….  ushered into the Riccaboccan library, the two sit down and begin to discuss the matter;  Dale comes right out with the question about the Dr. converting to Protestantism, and after a brief glance from the Drs. black, gleaming eyes, Dale is startled by, quick as thought, the Dr. jumping out of the window!  BL seems a predictable, solid, beef-eating Briton usually, but he does have a penchant for surprising the reader quite unexpectedly…  and he adopts a humorous attitude most of the time, which makes his style pleasant and fragrant(he likes flowers)…  so we’ll have to see what other surprises await in the many pages ahead…

i’d better sign off now:  the wind is coming up and we could lose power at any time, and i want to get this published…  tx for your patience…

The Evil Italian

it turns out he isn’t so evil, after all (this is all about characters in Bulwer-Lyyton’s “My Novel”…  Lenny, who Stirn (the local bully) has maneuvered into guarding the village stocks, gets in a fight with Randal Leslie, an impoverished scion of a local landowner, and, instead of receiving kudos from the wicked Stirn, finds himself in the stocks, unjustifiably, due to Stirn’s greedy irascibility…  mourning his unfair treatment, he’s consoled by Riccabocca, the Italian, who just happened to be passing a short time later…  So Riccabocca, ends up freeing Lenny, who runs home gleefully…  poking around, examining the structure and appurtenances associated with the stocks, R accidently locks himself into them…  luckily, his red umbrella is within reach, so, opening same and smoking his pipe, he placidly awaits the next development in the ongoing tale of the stocks..

stay tuned for the next episode…

James Thomson (1700-1748):   Winter

From pole to pole the rigid influence falls,

Thro’ the still night, incessant, heavy, strong,

And seizes Nature fast.  It freezes on;

Til morn, late rising o’er the drooping world,

Lifts her pale eye unjoyous.  Then appears

The various labour of the silent night:

Prone from the dripping eaves, and dumb cascade,

Whose idle torrents only seem to roar,

The pendant icicle;  the frost-work fair,

Where transient hues and fancy’d figures rise;

Wide-spouted o’er the hill, the frozen brook,

A livid tract, cold-gleaming on the morn;

The forest bent beneath the plumy wave;

And by the frost refin’d the whiter snow,

Incrusted hard, and sounding to the tread

Of early shepherd, as he pensive seeks

His pining flock;  or from the mountain top,

Pleas’d with the slippery surface, swift descends.

from”The Seasons”

portents of the oncoming season…

mr. caxton

mr. caxton: “Exactly-in the nursery of the human race – just here (and my father pointed to the globe), bounded, you see, by the river Halys, and in that region which taking its name from Ees, or As (a word designating light or fire), has been immemorially called Asia.  Now, Kitty, from Ees or As our ethnological speculator would derive not only Asia, the land, but Aesar, or Aser, its primitive inhabitants.   Hence he supposes the origin of the Etrurians and the Scandinavians.   But if we give him so much, we must give him more, and deduce from the same origin the Es of the Celt and the Ized of the Persian, and -what will be of more use to him, I dare say, poor man, than all the put together – the Aes of the Romans., that is, the God of Copper-Money – a very powerful household god he is to this day!     this statement is a good example of Lyyton’s humor…  conflating money with the ancient gods and locating the source of same in Armenia..  well, i think it’s funny…!

i’m only just beginning the novel;  it’s styled as written by mr. caxton’s son, pisastratus, and goes on with an English country baron, poor widow, her son, a bucolic parson, and, most significantly, an Evil Italian!  not to mention the village stocks…looks to be great fun and i’ll attempt, between digressions, to keep you up to date with the plot…

Mrs M, with my interference, labors on to establish a working mode for this communication medium, and hopefully we’ll get new spark plugs and a general tune-up and maybe install a blower here pretty soon…

one small step

we didn’t mean to shout…lol when we realized we had been typing in the title font…so one small step….still can’t quite figure out some things…

1..I get a box telling me I haven’t saved the edits I’ve made, but there is not save button on the page….yikes.  at least not one I can find…

2.  I seem to have a main page that has only Muddle-T’s posts on it and not the comments…but there is another mystery page that shows up from time to time with Muddle-T’s posts, the comments, and other stuff…haven’t figured out where that page is, how to call it up, and if you all see it…so more to learn…Ms. M