William Wilson.

Freely available online. (link goes to PDF)
Goodreads Review.

A walk on the beach spurred this laconic summation. Can a man who would rather harikari than copy, tolerate his inner reflection?

A short story told from the first person, it follows a fortunate but foul man. At first sharing his time with a virtuous doppelganger, the eponymous character becomes pursued by this fleshy voodoo doll into a literary crescendo.

If one reads this as a mental metaphor instead of a narrative, Mr. Wilson’s moral corruption becomes an effect not affect, and it warns us of extreme dedication to becoming an original thinker. Human prescience at first aids Mr. Wilson’s self-fulfilment, but even as a boy he seeks an escape from imitating a fantasy self. So he chooses an imperfection & wickedness not present in the unreal other. Vain people may exchange forgiveness for witness. This turn fits the metaphorical narrative as he percolates through international high society. Or maybe a Dukedom isn’t what it used to be…

Middle Temple Murder.

Goodreads Review.
Free Wikisource Version.

 

From the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, this novel reared itself from a literary grave into my mind via a specific reference on Wikipedia. It is not quite so much fun as Dr. Watson & Mr. Holmes, despite being from the same era and a more prolific writer. Nevertheless it is gripping, strictly profane & the ultimate reveal of the villain is deftly done, and perhaps even realistic.

 

War & Peace.

Goodreads Review.

 

If you read this great work of literature, you will learn about Mr. Napoleon. Not too much, this is a Russian book. You will be following the lives of various aristocrats and some military persons. Most of the characters were real people, so to were the events. The people who actually tend the farms (muzhik’s), are not characters so much as tiny non-essential cogs in the narrative & nation. Some landlord characters care for them, other landlords dismiss them and everybody else ignores them. Merchants are more completely ignored, as is to be expected of a feudal society.

There is no key character. Count Bezukhov is the closest, and is absent in person and in the discourse of hundreds of pages. Nor does it expound Christian theology, only a little ideological facade is proffered by Count Tolstoy. Nor does this epic tale focus on the year 1812, which was the peak aggression of the French Empire. Nor does it focus on a single conundrum. A fantasy contrast of rich & poor, which is present in a shallow form in Alladin does not fill these pages. A major exploration of the upper crust during a time of turmoil, it is an epic tale in diversity of characters and in the length of time covered from 1st page to last.

Larrikins looking for hi-jinks are better off reading Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy. For such a reader, the high point occurs in the first hundred pages or so, with the tale of the policeman & the bear. Meathead bookworms looking for violence are better off reading something by Marshall Macao. Pitched battles occur several times, not more often. Armchair philosophers (& generals) seeking a schema for regular application on the evening news will find a little. Skip to the epilogue and appendix to read Mr. Tolstoy expound on the chaos inherent to all major human organisation.

It has earnt 4 stars. Reasons are numerous. To gloat about this experience requires an aware audience. My philosophy is sharpened from having read it. I am less ignorant of the events preceding WWI & pursuant social upheavals. Madness of crowds and the cult of celebrity prior to fast communications and fast transport is a fascinating subject. Unveiling of the hidden ugliness of times past is lacking. Rag on a stick method of hygiene for example. All the varieties of clothing would be less attractive when one can & does not dress oneself and everywhere itches. War would have been less deadly with the un-rifled barrels of the time, so there would have been more safety for heroism when opposing battalions can stand in eyesight of each other, fire all day and less than a 1/4 of the soldiers are dead at the end. I digress.

If you do read this book, pay attention to the French language. The preface forewarned me as I do you now. The appendix post-warned me, in a rather oblique manner. With careful application of French, Count Tolstoy develops a theme. Whether this theme is historically realistic, which it might be from the authors extensive research, or if it is a personal whimsy, I do not know. Alternatively, I recommend reflecting on the concept of nation and of the power of a single person during the days or nights you read. Many reviews on Goodreads are pleasant, only afterwards.

I read this book. Every. Single. Page. It is a, big, big book with, small, small letters. Pleasure shall be brought to me, when guests of my house see it in an alcove, mounted on a pedestal, near to the front door. Lit from below, with candles to flicker shadows across the pages as my fingers once flitted across them. The pedestal shall stand in the nook made from the slow curl of a grand staircase. The wicks of the candles shall be made from the hair of the illiterate and the floor tiled with the bank cards of the innumerate. I digress & apologise for wasteful words.

The Rum Diary.

Goodreads Review.

 

A book which shows some roots of Mr. Thompson’s fear & loathing. The narration begins with Mr. Kemp, a U.S. soul lost from the clutches of religion, free of grasping politics, flying to Puerto Rico after high times on foreign shores. A journalist by profession, arriving to serve a new employer, unable to reach contentment, Mr. Kemp aims for a wade through a quagmire of rum & little else besides. At times nigh-identical with the travel brochure Mr. Kemp is hired to write late in the novel, and at others, (I believe) surprisingly consistent with the articles he writes earlier in the pages (which remain imaginary). Vivid descriptions of a dissipating Caribbean lifestyle are dispersed throughout the short novel, so to are shocking descriptions of local culture. Garish contrasts between the tourists and locals are described more often perhaps than the tropical idyll, and the resulting blend is a satisfactory cosmetic for the journey of a disenfranchised young man.