The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp — W. H. Davies

My school house master, Peter Forest, who was also my maths teacher, one day stated in front of the whole class that i’d either grow up to be the next Einstein or a tramp, and that he feared it would most probably be the latter.   Suffice it to say, i never did get around to doing that degree in theoretical physics.

So when i found this book on Amazon it reminded me of Peter Forest and his condemnation of my future and was certainly instrumental in my purchase.   I wasn’t disappointed, so thanks Peter.

The strange thing was the timing, as i let the ‘Infinite Improbability Drive’ always select my next book from ‘The Pile’ and it’s only been a couple of books since i finished ‘Into The Wild’, about Chris McCandless, AKA, Alexander Supertramp.   This book certainly flows nicely on from that.   It makes me wonder if Chris had actually read this amongst all the other books mentioned in his story.

William covers his adventures as a tramp during the late 1800’s, where he ventures far and wide.   The funniest thing for me was that he was a trustifarian.   I had no idea that these creatures existed back in the 1800, but it’s certainly true in William’s case, and he even admits it in the book.

When his grandmother died, instead of willing him her property, which she knew he would squander rather quickly, she instead put it into trust from which he was given an allowance.   So off he goes to America, tramping around, living on hand outs and goodwill, while all the time his weekly allowance from his trust fund is being saved up for his return.   And he can return at any time, by working cattle ships from Baltimore, and even getting paid while doing so.

Even later on when he gets back the England, he continues to drop out into his tramping lifestyle while his trust fund rebuilds his bank account in order to fund his next adventure.   I wonder if William was the original trustifarian, were there others before him?

Without a doubt, a very good inside look into the mind and lifestyle of the typical trustifarian.   But, on top of that, it’s a very revealing look into this odd sub-culture of the underclass of the age and the lifestyles they lead and how they managed to support themselves.   Although, one can’t really get away from realising that most of these people were simply down where they were due to alcoholism, with every opportunity of spending any penny they managed to accrue on getting drunk always eagerly taken — no, nothing much changes.

Anyways, an enlightening piece of history of the Victorian age seen from a very different view point to the normal history books and biographies.

William’s Page

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The Little Mermaid — Hans Christian Anderson

I decided i’d read this just to get my mermaid thing going before reading ‘The Mermaid’.

I’m very disappointed.

Silly little girl falls in love with handsome prince who she can’t have because she’s just not good enough and he loves another, blah, blah, blah.   So she has to die, like dead forever, because mermaids don’t have immortal souls like human beings do because they’re obviously just animals and Anderson obviously believes that animals don’t have souls and probably agrees with Descartes that you can even nail them to doors and dissect them without anaesthetic because they’re just soulless things unworthy of our consideration.

But wait, Hans gives this disgusting, soulless animal a chance, she can have legs to go on land and woo the handsome prince but she has to lose her voice by having her tongue cut out and suffer the pain of walking on knives for her whole life to do so.   So desperate is this soulless creature that she agrees to this obscene torture.   If she gets the prince to own her through marriage thus becoming a responsible pet owner for this soulless animal then god will bestow a soul upon this creature and it can live happily ever after as the sex slave of the prince.   Otherwise she’s just going to be a bit of nothing floating on the wind for all eternity.

And then we’re told that if children are good then the little mermaid may still get a soul and go to heaven but if children are bad then she won’t.   So if you you’re ever a naughty child, even for a moment, then you’re obviously a fucking evil little shit who hates mermaids.   WTF!!!   But mermaids are soulless animals who don’t get to go to heaven so its a bit confused as to whether a child should be worried about being good when its not actually the child’s fault in the first place that mermaids are soulless animals who god obviously hates and doesn’t want in heaven anyway.

Children should not have a sense of right and wrong built upon fairy tales, imaginary beings and/or other such nonsense.   Because what do you think is going to happen when the child finds out that everything it believed you told it was true is a complete lie that you conjured up in order to hoodwink and con the child into behaving to your unreasonable demands?

I seriously would not read this to any child i had in my care.   It’s disgusting, backward, patriarchal, god grovelling drivel.   Some books should be burned/deleted.

Deleted!

Han’s Page

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1500 Eternal Masterpieces Of Fairy Tales — Various

A wonderful collection that i leave in the Waiting Room.   You never know when you might need to read a fairy tale.

Han’s Page

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Heart of Darkness — Joseph Conrad

The book that inspired the film, ‘Apocalypse Now’.

I read this book many, many years ago and i especially wanted to read it again before re-reading ‘The Little Paris Bookshop’.   From my long ago memory of Heart of Darkness it struck me that there was something similar going on in the two books so i wanted to re-read both.   More on the similarities in the next review, for this review i’m just sticking with ‘Heart of Darkness’.

So what did i think?   It has the usual politically incorrect Victorian wording and attitude to non-Europeans, which tends towards appalling, even more so than usual as this book is mostly telling a story of the Belgian Congo when the Belgians were exploiting it and its peoples.

There’s a lot been said about this book, both good and bad, and you can read more on the wiki page if you want to know more.

For me, i’d like to see the glass half full with this one.   Yes i understand the other side of the debate, and i most certainly do not condone any colonialism, i absolutely condemn it all, however: this book was written in the Victorian age and i do feel that if you are going to read Victorian literature then you have to lay aside your modern prejudices, morals, ethics, etc., and understand that the people writing it were victims and hostages of their own age as we are of ours.   It’s not so much politically incorrect as it’s far more politically ignorant.   And for me that is what a lot of this book is about: the political ignorance of the age.

Yes, Conrad uses words that are considered repugnant now, but they were not considered so when he wrote this.   And its the words, i feel, that create the problem for a lot of people, allowing those to cloud their judgement of Conrad’s attitude and opinion.   If you can take that step back and accept the words to be used as they were used in his age by white Europeans, only then can you see what Conrad was really saying ‘when’ he wrote this book.   You really cannot read this book as though it were written by someone in the 21st century for people in the 21st century.   It’s a piece of history written a long time ago, read it as such.

So considering that, from my perspective, Conrad is very clearly appalled with the worse of white Europeans descending upon the peoples of Africa appearing almost deity like — and exploiting that appearance to the maximum — simply due to their modern technology, their equipment, their immaculate white clothes in a hostile environment of sweat and mud.   What chance would any person who has lived a natural life in a completely natural world have of remaining unaffected by the power and influence over the natural world that white Europeans had at their disposal?

Conrad makes clear that he alone, amongst the white Europeans on the boat, can see the humanity in the people’s of the Congo, while others would just consider them wild animals.   How the sounds of the Congalese connected to a part of him, as only a human could connect to another human.

The only white person in the whole of Africa that Conrad wishes to speak to is Kurtz, the rest he seems to dismiss as arrogant fools and idiots who should never have been there.

One also has to remember that Conrad actually did go on this journey on a steam boat up the Congo to one of the inner stations, he witnessed what the Belgians were actually doing there, and he knew very well what Europe was being told about the people that lived there.   The most telling part of this book is simply Kurtz’s last four words: ‘The horror, the horror!’

When Marlow, the protagonist, finally arrives home and meets Kurtz’s fiancé and she asks him what his final words were he cannot bring himself to tell her the truth because he feels it would crush her to know what he did in her name, as Kurtz only went there to win his fortune in order to be considered worthy to be her husband.   One can quite clearly see the metaphor here, that Conrad himself, when he came back from the Congo, didn’t have anyone to speak to of the horror that he had witnessed being done in the name of the progress of European nations at the expense of those they dehumanise.   There seems to me that if we place Conrad in Marlow’s place, we get to realise that when Conrad was in the Congo, he had no one to understand his feelings of horror, that he only wished to find one person amongst it all that he could talk to.   And when he came home to Europe how was he to explain to the people of Europe the horror that was being done in their name by the worse of them that they would send to Africa on their behalf — and would they even want to listen?

So for me, this is what this book is, Conrad’s description of what he’d experienced in Africa that he felt no one would, or could, listen to; that he felt no one he knew would understand.

If only he could have found just one person at the end of his own journey to talk to who understood.

Joseph’s Page

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Wicked – Gregory Maguire

I read this when it first came out and it’s really good.   So now the series has been finished i’m going to collect it and then have a total Oz binge with all the original stuff as well, like i did with Peter Pan and Alice.   Looking forward to it.

Gregory’s Page

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Complete Works of Jules Verne – Jules Verne

I do keep dipping into this and reading a story occasionally, but find it quite disturbing at times due to the racism so can only manage about 1 story a year at most.   The view of Europeans back then towards Africa and its people was appalling, to put it mildly.

But it was what it was, and Jules is worth reading if you can get your head around the historical prejudices of his day.   Where would steampunk be if not for writers like Jules Verne?   And that’s who i would certainly recommend this to, anyone who has any love of ‘Steampunk’ should go back and read some of the earliest books of the genre, long before the genre even existed.   Also good stuff for ‘Vic Lit’ fans too.

The Novels

Five Weeks in a Balloon
A Journey to the Centre of the Earth
From the Earth to the Moon
The Adventures of Captain Hatteras
The Children of Captain Grant
Around the Moon
Twenty Thousand leagues Under the Sea
A Floating City
The Adventures of Three Englishment and Three Russians in South African
The Fur Country
Around the World in Eighty Days
The Mysterious Island
The Survivors of the Chancellor
Michael Strogoff
Off on a Comet
The Underground City
Dick Sand: a Captain at Fifteen
The Begum’s Fortune
Tribulations of a Chinaman in China
The Steam house
Eight Hundred Leagues on the Amazon
The Green Ray
The School for Robinsons
Kéraban the Inflexible
The Archipelego on Fire
The Star of the South
Mathias Sandorf
Robur the Conqueror
The Lottery Ticket
The Flight to France
The Wreck of the Cynthia
North Against South
Two Years Holiday
The Purchase of the North Pole
Family Without a Name
César Cascabel
Mistress Branican
The Carpathian Castle
Claudius Bombarnac
Foundling Mick
The Adventures of Captain Antifer
The Floating Island
Facing the Flag
Clovis Dardentor
The Sphinx of the Ice Firelds
The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket — Edgar Allan Poe
The Will of an Eccentric
Master of the World

The Short Stories

Martin Paz
The Blockade Runners
Dr. Ox and Other Stories
Frritt-Flacc
Yesterday and Tomorrow
A Drama in Mexico
The Mutineers of the Bounty
In the Year 2889
An Express of the Future

The Non-Fiction

Celebrated Travels and Travellers
I. The Exploration of the World
II. The Great Navigators of the Eighteenth Century
III. The Great Explorers of the Nineteenth Century

Jules’ Page

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goodreads: 2018 Reading Challenge

For 2018 i joined in the reading challenge at goodreads, and i think i did rather well.

A few of those books that only counted as one were far more than one book.

‘Magnificent Devices’ was 4 books.   So that’s plus 3 on the total.

‘Big Sigma’ was 3 books and 3 shorts, but i’d already done ‘Bypass Gemini’.   So counting the 3 shorts as 1 book, that’s plus 2 on the total.

‘Free Wrench’ was 3 books.   So that’s plus 2 on the total.

So add those 8 and i get a grand total of 70 books in one year — which looks a little better than 62.

Plus there were a few random shorts that never made it to goodreads, but i won’t be too pedantic about it and leave them out.

Or, maybe i am already being too pedantic about it?   But hey, in my defence, if i’d added and reviewed each of those books seperately that’s where it would have been.   So think me a pedant if you like, i don’t care, so there!

Anyways, while you’re here, why not have a quick look at my page about ‘goodreads’ for my thoughts about them and maybe sign up yourself for the 2019 challenge.

As for myself, for 2019 i’m gonna go with this years revised total of 70 and make sure i review any collections independently.

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