Vehicle For Dissertation

Books I read, music I hear...My imperious opinion on both.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Brothers Karamazov Revisited @ ThinkBlog

I have the book Notes from the Underground by Fyodor Dostoyevsky on my "to read list" (though I can't remember why or where I first noticed him) so this post from ThinkBlog caught my eye. Looks like The Brothers Karamazov could find its way to that same list. The following is an excerpt from the post. (The first paragraph is a quotation from the book)

Lamentations comfort only by lacerating the heart still more. Such grief does not desire consolation. It feeds on the sense of its hopelessness. Lamentations spring only from the constant craving to re-open the wound.
Such a good word. I have thought much of David's sorrow over the prospect of losing his son; or, more broadly, on the ancient Jewish customs of grief at large. Namely, there is a set period of mourning, and then it's over with. You move on. You stop complaining and worrying and fussing over it. You are able to look back on X time in your life and you remember that you have fully grieved the loss, whatever it is, and so do not need to continue to be sad. What an enormous insight into the nature of depressive psychology, and how true! (continue this post reading here...)

I thought this was interesting. I'd wondered before about the times for mourning observed by Biblical figures but it never really occurred to me why it might have been customary to mourn the death of a person death for such a specific number of days.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Nickel Creek's New Album Finished

According to Sara's journal entry, Nickel Creek has completed their latest album. She says:

...Oh yeah - the record is completed, mixed and mastered! It will be called Why Should The Fire Die and the release date is August 9th. Horrah!...

I thought it'd be out sooner than August though. Nothing to do but wait though. The title is a departure from the style of their previous ones. Why Should The Fire Die is more similar to Chris Thile's Not All Who Wander Are Lost than it is to the debut album, Nickel Creek, or This Side. I know from another journal entry that there's a track titled Best of Luck and that there were seventeen songs in consideration, but that's about all the info I have on their latest project, so far...

Found this a bit later:

Chris Thile talks about the new album

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Eight Cousins - Louisa May Alcott

The book Eight Cousins begins with an orphaned girl of "no constitution" tearfully contemplating her future among her many aunts. And as the title suggests, she also finds that there are many cousins as well. All boys, creatures with which she'd no positive experience.

It didn't really strike me until I finished it but this is a very moral story. Rose, the main figure of the narrative, is improved in health and character by the influence and care of her well-traveled Uncle Alec. She in turn becomes something of a benefactor to Phebe the maid and an example of good character to her seven "cousinly relations."

I actually don't object to "moral stories." It is just that when written in a certain fashion they become so very condescending to both the reader and characters within the book. In a way you might call the works of Charles Dickens "moral stories" because the honorable folk are always brought to happiness and fulfillment while such misers and villains as Mr. Ralph Nickleby and Mr. Quilp either hang themselves or fall into the river at night. Laddie, by G.S. Porter elevates good character and values but with humour and mischief that I find much more endearing than the formal narration which L.M. Alcott uses in this book.

Interestingly enough Louisa May Alcott also wrote some quite different type books under the name A.M. Barnard. Here's an excerpt from

...A lesser-known part of her work are the passionate, fiery novels and stories she wrote, usually under the pseudonym A. M. Barnard. These works, such as A Long Fatal Love Chase and Pauline's Passion and Punishment, are of the type referred to in Little Women as "dangerous for little minds" and were called "potboilers" or "blood-and-thunder tales" by Victorians. Their protagonists are willful and relentless in their pursuit of their own aims, which often include revenge on those who have humiliated or thwarted them. These well-written works with an uncommon point of view achieved immediate commercial success and are highly readable today.She also produced moralistic and wholesome stories for children..

Hopefully I don't betray excessive repulsion...I like reading so well that it is rather hard to label a book "bad" or "boring" so I label this one as such: "below average."

You can form your own opinions with a look here:

Eight Cousins Online

About L.M. Alcott

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

When I began this book it was with the clear freshness of one who views pleasant scenery in an unfamiliar place. Alexandre Dumas, though known to me by name, was an unfamiliar author and I found myself quite quickly drawn into the era he writes of. In the opening chapter of The Three Musketeers one can feel as a person appearing by magic in the town of Meung. The citizens are all rushing to some sort of uproar in various states of armament. Dumas explains that such occurrences were common in that French town in those days. There were battles between nobles, there were robbers and Huguenots and so on. They all caused trouble so it was not an unusual site to see the citizens in their current defensive posture.

The cause of the commotion was the arrival in Meung of a young man, one Monsieur D' Artagnan. This young man, from Gascony, was on his way to Paris seeking Monsieur de Treville and a position with the King's Musketeers, of whom the said Monsieur de Treville was commander. His father had sent him on the journey with the advice that he should waste no chance of facing an opponent in a duel. He was to take all insults as an affront to his honor and avenge them with the sword. This advice he took quite seriously and had put it into practice against an insolent gentleman at the inn of Meung who had mocked his steed. A crowd convened because of the fighting which was over shortly with the result that D' Artagnan was taken to an inn room unconscious.

The hero of the story recovers, of course, but Dumas has already cast the edge of a shadow over the Gascon. It is the shadow of the Cardinal and his agents with whom he will strive against more courageously (and effectively) later.

Despite having witnessed his father's injunction to make no hesitation concerning dueling, it is somewhat comic how readily D' Artagnan got into such situations. After arriving at the headquarters of the King's Musketeers he promptly schedules a duel with three of these worthy gentlemen, specifically: Athos, Porthos and Aramis. Athos because he was lectured on manners (among other offenses), Porthos for a quite similar reason, and Aramis for an indelicacy concerning a handkerchief. The duels were never fought since the Cardinal's Guards intruded on the event, though only to their own hurt. This circumstance, however, bound the four men together as friends for the rest of the narrative.

Though fiction, this work is also partly history. The author sets the characters in the past and gives them a part to play in the events we now call: “history.” D' Artagnan and his friends become deeply involved in covert court matters working on the side of the Queen (Anne of Austria) who was persecuted by Cardinal Richelieu and distrusted by King Louis XIII. The shadow of the Cardinal's agents, introduced in the first pages, returns seeking to trap the Queen and her admirer, the Duke of Buckingham . The arrogant man D' Artagnan had seen in Meung reappears, along with the vicious Milady (also known as Lady de Winter) who D' Artagnan becomes dangerously fascinated with.

Dumas explains that those times were morally different than the times in which he was writing. It becomes very apparent around midway through the book as things become quite treacherous. All the friends, excepting Athos, have mistresses. Since D' Artagnan's mistress is in the Queen's service they are in peril of the Cardinal's spies which leads the young Gascon to play the double-agent with Milady. I was rather glad to be through with the double-crossing of this section. In truth I was getting exasperated with D' Artagnan since after Madame Bonacieux, his first mistress, was kidnapped, he went on to become perilously associated with Milady who was a conspirator in the kidnapping. He was on the brink of a chasm and was destined to walk along that brink through the remainder of the chronicle.

Historical events interfered with the proceedings in Paris. Huguenots and other rebels were entrenched at La Rochelle and the English were engaging in the fight. The musketeers and other soldiers (D' Artagnan was actually not yet a Musketeer) left for battle. The friends are imperiled by Milady's attempts at revenge besides the intermittent fighting with the enemy. Athos reveals his past associations with Milady and they all strategize ways in which to defeat the schemes she and the Cardinal develop. Since this is historical fiction not everything can end happily ever after. The musketeers succeed in getting out a warning, but Milady is able to bring about the Duke of Buckingham's death despite efforts in opposition. After this the rebelling elements are suppressed by the forces of the King and Cardinal.

As I said previously, unlike many books by Dickens or other writers the conclusion doesn't bring joy to all the heroes and woe to the evil characters. This, of course, is not the end of the story of the four friends so the comparison is not complete. There is some degree of retribution on “the evil side”, in other words: on the adversaries of D' Artagnan and friends. However, the men also suffer some tragedy to themselves.

Alexandre Dumas was able to write in a way that, for myself in any case, is quite engrossing to read. The historical aspect is also pleasing since I like to familiarize myself with those occurrences besides just enjoying the narrative. As I mentioned when I began, one is drawn into the story until you “see” both the characters and the culture which forms their environment.

The Three Musketeers @ Wikipedia

The Three Musketeers @ The Online Literature Network

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Plot Against America - NY Times Review

I've read about this book written by Phillip Roth a few times in the past several months. Perhaps it's time to read it??? This NY Times review I came across is quite extensive and interesting. In short (in case you didn't know) The Plot Against America is an alternative history based on the election of Charles Lindbergh as President. Lindbergh was to some extent a Nazi "sympathizer" and his election could have drastically changed the course of WWII, the 1940s etc. He was, according to this review, actually discussed as a presidential nominee at one point.

The Plot Against America :: NY Times Review

Thursday, April 07, 2005

26 Miles - Sean Watkins

Despite my favor for the group Nickel Creek, I've so far only posted concerning individual members. Back in January about Chris Thile's album Not All Who Wander Are Lost and now concerning 26 Miles by Sean Watkins.

Sean plays the guitar (mostly) on the group's recordings as well as singing lead and harmony vocals. 26 Miles is his second solo project and differs from the first, Let It Fall, in that there are only three instrumental tracks instead of the almost exclusive instrumentals on that first album. I've had my eye on this CD for some time and finally got one off of eBay.

The songs here are similiar to those you'll find on the album This Side. Musically I like This Side better and of course the vocal variety is missing (remember I'm coming from the perspective of hearing the group together) although Sara Watkins does do some of the harmony vocals on the song Locking Doors. That reminds me... I was looking at the tracks on Deceiver by Chris Thile and the songs on this CD and was wondering why they both have tracks titled Locking Doors and On Ice. Turns out to be because of "The Game." You can read more about that and a short explanation behind each song (pretty neat) at this link to Sean's website and in the bio section.

I think my votes for favorite songs go to:

Letters Never Sent


26 Miles

And virtually all the rest! Read more at the links below:

Sean Watkins Website

26 Miles Lyrics

Underneath the Stars - Kate Rusby

Kate Rusby's Website

My comments pending...

Monday, April 04, 2005

Worrisome Wallpapers...

If you know how to properly define, "worrisome wallpapers", then you may be interested in clicking here to obtain some. With all due respect...

Set #1

Set #2