Scripturient: Three, six, seven, nine… how many basic plots?

When I was in school, back in the last century, I was taught there were three basic plots in which every story ever written could be classified: Man-vs-man, man-vs-nature and man-vs-himself. That was in the days when it wasn’t politically incorrect to use the word man to mean everyone. Today we’d say it differently, use ...

Scripturient: Book collecting: snobbery or reading passion?

The book has always been a sign of status and refinement; a declaration of self-worth – even for those who hate to read. That’s the lead into a recent piece on Aeon Magazine about book collecting and collectors. It’s also about reading and the snobbery of readers. Fascinating piece. For me, anyway. Pretty much everything ...

Scripturient: Reading Moby Dick

Recently, coincidental to while I was reading Herman Melville’s classic novel, I read a story that some folks in Vancouver took offence to the name of a restaurant: Moby Dick’s Fish & Chips. Apparently the property overseers mistook the “Dick” in the name for a euphemism for penis, rather than reading the name of the ...

The Wandering Joe: NYE Resolution Update 1: January

As I mentioned in my very recent post, I’ve committed to reading a new book and buying a new album each month. Why am I doing this? I want to hold on to what limited brain plasticity I have, and this seems like a good way to do it. So, January is wrapping up and ...

Scripturient: Leonard Cohen deserves the Nobel Prize, too

News that songwriter Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for literature shook the literati worldwide. Here was a pop icon sitting in the august company of Alice Munro, Mario Vargas Llosa, Doris Lessing, Harold Pinter, V.S. Naipaul, Gabriel García Márquez, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Yasunari Kawabata, Ernest Hemingway, T.S. Eliot, Bernard Shaw, W. B. Yeats, Rudyard Kipling ...

PostArctica: Marguerite Duras – The War, A Memoir

A friend recently told me that he likes to save texts, not quotes but texts, larger pieces, that he finds interesting. I am reading this book and thought this was a powerful passage. It is the end of the Second World War and she is wondering if her husband is still alive, thousands reenter Paris ...

Scripturient: Everything Flows

Tonight’s book-with-wine discussion is about Vasily Grossman‘s novel, Everything Flows (New York Review Book, USA, 2009). It was his final work, and left unfinished at the time of his death, in 1964. It’s not a difficult read, but it isn’t easy. Readers unfamiliar with Soviet history, particularly the Stalin era, will not understand much of it. ...

Dead Wild Roses: Virginia Woolf – On Literature

“Suppose, for instance, that men were only represented in literature as the lovers of women, and were never the friends of men, soldiers, thinkers, dreamers; how few parts in the plays of Shakespeare could be allotted to them; how literature would suffer! We might perhaps have most of Othello; and a good deal of Antony; ...

Scripturient: O tempora, o mores!

Nihil est incertius vulgo, nihil obscurius voluntate hominum, nihil fallacius ratione tota comitiorum. Marcus Tullius Cicero wrote those words in the short book about a Roman court case, Pro Lucio Murena (For Lucius Murena). They mean, in English, Nothing is more unpredictable than the mob, nothing more obscure than public opinion, nothing more deceptive than the ...

Scripturient: On the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death

“Is There Such a Thing as a ‘Bad’ Shakespeare Play?” asks a recent article on the Smithsonian website. It adds, “Shakespeare, despite the efforts of notable dissenting critics and writers to forcibly eject him, has occupied the position of world’s greatest playwright since his star was re-affixed to the firmament in the late 18th century. ...

Scripturient: The Bard’s Best? Nope…

To help celebrate the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birthday (April 23), the website Mashable has put together a “battle” for the “Best Shakespeare Play Ever.” It’s done up as a sort of sports playoff grid (a tournament bracket), broken into four categories. Four? That’s right. Even though the First Folio was only divided into three ...

PostArctica: Abandoned Literature – Romeo and Juliet, Finnegans Wake

From my ongoing Abandoned Literature series. Message or email me if you would like a print. If you can’t make out the text in these images (these are small low res versions) here is the first page of Finnegans Wake and here is the excerpt from Romeo and Juliet.

Scripturient: The Crafty Crow and the Doves

Once upon a time, an old crow lived by the seaside. He had grown fat over the years because he was too lazy to work for his food. He preferred to sit than fly. He followed the other animals to get their leftovers, taking what wasn’t his, and annoying them by begging for some of their ...

Scripturient: Aesop is Still Relevant

A MONKEY perched upon a lofty tree saw some Fishermen casting their nets into a river, and narrowly watched their proceedings. The Fishermen after a while gave up fishing, and on going home to dinner left their nets upon the bank. The Monkey, who is the most imitative of animals, descended from the treetop and endeavored ...

Scripturient: Reading Pablo Neruda

One hardly expects poets to generate spirited debate in the media these days*, but they did, not that long ago, well within my own lifetime. Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) was one of those who sparked great, passionate emotions in people, for both his writing and his leftist politics. And in his own country, Chile, he was ...

Scripturient: Decoding Alice in Wonderland

It is tempting to suggest author David Day’s lush new book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Decoded is the final word on the mysteries and secrets behind Lewis Carroll’s iconic children’s fantasy, but alas, it would be an over-reach. Surely others will follow, perhaps even Day himself will extend his research to a sequel. Aside from the difficulties of ...

Scripturient: Where Have all the Readers Gone?

No, it’s not a remake of Pete Seeger’s famous 1955 anti-war song. That’s the title of an article that appeared in the Globe and Mail this week, by Peter Denton, lamenting our overall slide into image-based information with the “…intellectual attention span of squirrels…” * It grabbed my attention from the headline, but I stand ...

Scripturient: Who By Fire

I’ve been reading a biography of Leonard Cohen, recently: the 2012 I’m Your Man, by Sylvie Simmons. It’s an interesting journey through the life and thoughts of an exquisite artist who is, by nature, somewhat reclusive and stays out of the spotlight, but is deeply dedicated to his art. I don’t normally read “star” bios or autobiographies ...

Molly'sBlog: Love Poems of Ovid

Love Poems of Ovid selected and translated by Horace Gregory, Mentor Books, Toronto, 1964 Ovid (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ovid) – full name Publius Ovidius Naso – is considered one of the greats of Latin literature, up there with Virgil and Horace. Certainly his ‘Metamorphosis’ is a great work, one that has influenced many other authors, Dante, Boccaccio, Shakespeare, Cervantes, ...

Molly'sBlog: Love Poems of Ovid

Love Poems of Ovid selected and translated by Horace Gregory, Mentor Books, Toronto, 1964 Ovid (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ovid) – full name Publius Ovidius Naso – is considered one of the greats of Latin literature, up there with Virgil and Horace. Certainly his ‘Metamorphosis’ is a great work, one that has influenced many other authors, Dante, Boccaccio, Shakespeare, Cervantes, ...

Molly'sBlog: Love Poems of Ovid

Love Poems of Ovid selected and translated by Horace Gregory, Mentor Books, Toronto, 1964 Ovid (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ovid) – full name Publius Ovidius Naso – is considered one of the greats of Latin literature, up there with Virgil and Horace. Certainly his ‘Metamorphosis’ is a great work, one that has influenced many other authors, Dante, Boccaccio, Shakespeare, Cervantes, ...

Scripturient: Judas, a Biography

Long before Darth Vader, long before Lord Voldemort, long before Stephen Harper, Judas Iscariot reigned as the supreme icon of evil in Western mythology. Judas betrayed God. How much worse can you get?* For 2,000 years we’ve used the term Judas to refer to anyone who betrayed anything, any cause, any belief, any friendship. Yet, like all ...

Scripturient: Read, Re-read, Repeat

I’m currently re-reading Mikhail Bulgakov’s fantasy novel of Soviet life under Stalin, The Master and Margarita. Since this is actually a newer translation than the original one I read many years ago, I’m not sure it properly qualifies as “re-reading.” However, for me, re-reading a novel is uncommon. I seldom have the time to re-read, ...

Scripturient: In Praise of Audio Books

Although I had listened to them in the past, I really discovered the joys of audio books several years ago, when my 92-year-old father entered hospital for his final months. As I travelled to and from the city frequently that summer, audio books kept me entertained and my mind from dwelling on the more serious ...

Writings of J. Todd Ring: Lament For A Nation – A Review

(Originally written as a review for Good Reads) Here is a must-read for all Canadians – George Grant’s classic masterpiece, documenting the poor decisions which led to the loss of sovereignty of Canada to the US empire, just at a time when the British empire had been weakened enough that our former subservience to that ...