Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goat Mountain by David Vann


Goat Mountain by David Vann is stunning. “This has was the first time I’d be allowed to kill. Illegal still in age, but old enough finally by family law.” Now aren’t we off to a good start. Killing is in man’s nature stresses the narrator, years after a life-altering event. A poacher, a powerful rifle, an eleven year old.
Four men go hunting, the boy, his father, his grandfather, and his father’s best friend, Tom. With the poacher strung up and bagged like a dead deer, the three men go at. The grandfather thinks they should kill the boy. Tom wants to go to the sheriff. The father will blame it all on Tom or just wants to bury the body. There is in fighting, as one would imagine. The boy is the narrator, so we have to wonder what comes of his first kill. Lots of Biblical references to killing and finding God. More Old Testament than New Testament.
Everything has changed as they slowly lose themselves in the woods and the burlapped body spins in the wind as a reminder of the deadly deed. Some say the eating of the dead animal’s liver and heart make a man of a boy. Perhaps. So what makes that man moral and good? This is a violent family wrestling with God.


Friday, December 27, 2013

Rustication by Charles Palliser


When I saw this title Rustication by Charles Palliser, I couldn’t help think about Neil Young. Different reference, but so what. This novel starts out in such despair; I couldn’t put it down. A baby thrown into a fire? We are in England in December of 1863 to January 1864. A journal, horrid letters, demented people, and a ball dominate the action of these two months. Oh and don’t forget the sins of the father. Opium and Laudanum in this story too.
Now on the brighter side, Richard has not been asked back to Cambridge, his father died and he wasn’t told about it, the widow and his sister have moved from their comfortable digs to a remote mansion in the middle of nowhere and in the marshland. In addition they are broke and the house they are in now may not be theirs and they will have to vacate it within the year. With each page it gets worse. Then his mother asks him to leave.  He has no money, no home, no future.
Things have changed and Richard is staying. He has secrets, his sister has secrets and there is someone harming animals and writing disgusting almost illiterate letters to people. A most strange society. Money, marriages, bastards, greed, and lies make this a most entertaining tale with a grand ending.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Mr. Lynch’s Holiday by Catherine O’Flynn


Mr. Lynch’s Holiday by Catherine O’Flynn has a King Lear feel about it. Dermot, the dad from England, drops in on his son, Eamonn, who lives in Spain. Dad is retired. Dermot has another story, wife after eight years left, car battery is dead, and he lives in a town of expat Brit retirees, and still owes lots of money on his house. Oh the weight.
This is about the father and the son. In one exchange they discover they both agreed about the same event. Eamonn complained that his father didn’t want to see a holiday show in which his son performed. The father replied that he sat through the whole show and had to search for his son, who lurked in the back. His son replied that he didn’t want to be in the show. He continued that he was sorry his mother dragged his father to the show. The father admitted that it was he who dragged his mother to the show. Why is it that fathers and sons take so long to straighten things out?
Perhaps one of the most fundamental questions in our western Christian life is asked by the son, “Why does Jesus have to die? Why didn’t God die?” Damn good question. What father that you know wouldn’t die for his son? What father wants to bury his son? This is one of those A-Ha moments. It is a story of how a father and son get to know each other, finally. They even learn something about themselves after their women have left them. Better communications, that’s what life is about, then you get fired. A poignant moment when father and son are talking about dead mother, father says, “I’ve been less lonely since she’s gone.”
Lots going on in this book, a great read.

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton


The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton is stellar and the 2013 Man Booker winner. Everyone has a story and Catton regales us with lots of stories woven into a magical novel.  Walter Moody arrived in New Zealand in January 1866 on a barque, The Godspeed, that began with eight passengers arrived with nine and has further secrets aboard. He stayed in a hotel with twelve men who were meeting but didn’t want anyone to know. Moody was there to get rich in the goldmines. Catton sets the table beautifully as she divulges so much in so little time.
After reading the first chapter, I’m discovering that I am revisiting Thomas Hardy and George Eliot; a simple, innocent lie compounded is how it starts and undulates for hundreds of pages. The joy begins with the creation of Ted, the filling of the pipe and lighting it, the dialogue, opium pipes, gold, and whores make for fabulous reading. The book is addictive as I am charmed by the prose and the flow of the plot. The narrator controls the action, fills in blanks, and otherwise provides us with what we need to know when the narrator deems fit. Long stories abound. No long stories told short, no no no. In fact we hear the same story told from different perspectives. We know more than most characters, but not more than the omniscient narrator. “But our point has already been made; we ought to return to the scene at hand.” Follow Carver, but that’s obvious.
Ghosts? Sort of. More like heavenly bodies. Hint: Chapter titles have a zodiac spin. The narrator uses astrology as credible evidence. From one of the characters to another: “I have heard that in the New Zealand native tradition, the soul, when it dies, becomes a star.” A luminary. All energy is devoted for the séance being performed by the dead man’s widow. Surprises take over and in a novel like this, they are expected and cherished. The Chinese connection is a grand surprise. The letters of Crosbie Wells are brilliant. When twelve men plus one make an oath, how soon is that oath broken and how many times?
It will take a trial of the whore and her beau to flesh out the truth, whatever that may be. Which would you choose, Honesty or Loyalty? Once we step back into time this becomes the question, which affects the future.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Necromancer’s House by Christopher Buehlman


The Necromancer’s House by Christopher Buehlman is filled with words, spells, and magic. The words are words people don’t like. She doesn’t like the word lesbian, though she is one who spent time in jail for her choices. He doesn’t like the word wizard, maybe because he is one. We are on a lake in upstate New York, close to Oswego. They met at an AA meeting and became lovers, sort of, but definitely friends who like to play pool. Did I mention the luminaries? The artificial light kind. Catton’s next.
Dreams and reality mix, not even separated by being awake or asleep. In a world of magic, wizards, those of different luminary status, we are seldom aware of reality and not, unless Buehlman wants us to know. It’s not safe to follow someone into the woods. It is amazing how cruel cruel witches can be.  The battles, the war produces a lovely coven.
Before I dive into The Luminaries, I must pick up Jim Wilson from the airport.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Others of my Kind by James Sallis


Others of my Kind by James Sallis may be a short novel it is loaded with great allusions, Stephen Dedalus, Hester Prynne, and many more as well as witty clever sentences and use of language. It is a joyous adventure about a woman who lived in a box under a guy’s bed, in a Mall, and somehow got an education good enough to be an editor of a newspaper. One needs to suspend disbelief. Lots of dysfunction too. The whole story hinges on the magic eight ball, you know the icosahedron.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson


Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson is about a young girl, Marina, coming of age in a house of women, a grandma, great aunts, and a mother, Laura. Because Marina wants to go to Cambridge, she is sent to a coed boarding school for her last year. The family sacrifices everything for her. Mother and daughter are obsessed about sex. Hungarian women are a handful, Marina’s boyfriend Guy is warned by his father.
Marina’s family roots are Hungarian. She is foreign. She is in an English boarding school preparing for Cambridge. She is not interested in her past, only her future. She and her mom are two confused women about their men, their lives, and themselves. As it turns out, Guy’s dad is the son of a man who stole from Marina’s grandparents. Her dad has returned from “being dead.” He has cancer. Her mom might be pregnant. It is all very complicated and ends just at the right place for a sequel.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Hit by Richard House


The Hit by Richard House is the fourth book of four in The Kills.  This quartet is a Tarantinoesque thousand-page tome.  It has been a maze to wander, stories to follow, plot twist upon plot twist. This book begins with the first Sutler, all three of them. We are regaled with lessons and a story about a man who kills a dog with his bare hands after the dog has killed another dog or was it a cat or a rat? Then the killer dog approaches a boy outside a church or was it a mosque? A story, that’s when all the trouble starts.  
The trouble began with some murders. Then there was the book about said murders. Author ran into trouble. Then there was a movie. Now when people speak about the murders they don’t know if they mean the book or the movie. Isn’t that always the case. Many of my students wrote book reports about the movie.
So where does all of this start? We don’t even know how it ends.
There is a webpage.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Kill by Richard House


The Kill by Richard House is the third book of four in The Kills.  We have a novel within a novel. The Novel being written is The Kill and the surrounding novel is The Kill. Finn is the author writing about three killings in Naples. He explores their connections to each other and researches these heinous crimes much like the method used by Truman Capote in his In Cold Blood. An American student is murdered, a murderer is murdered and a prostitute is murdered. How these three murders connect is the story of the first part of the novel. In the second part Finn unravels the sequence and details as best he can. The five pointed start within a circle seems to be the main link. Follow this symbol.
The action takes place over three years. In the third year a movie is made and one wonders if the killings ever happened.