Book: Moby Dick

Moby Dick: or, the White WhaleMoby Dick: or, the White Whale by Herman Melville
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Moby Dick took me by surprise! I didn’t make the opportunity to read it in high school, since it was never assigned, and I wasn’t as much of a book worm then as I am now. I’m so glad I finally made time for this book.

Melville’s exquisite pontification of all things whale is simply astonishing. The story itself could have been told with very little detail lost in one quarter of the words. Indeed the story itself could have simply have been wrapped up neatly as a short story. But the masterpiece that is Moby Dick is much more than the sum of it’s parts. Melville’s command of the English language is second to none as also is his knowledge of all matters leviathan and literature. And while he uses tall words, most chapters are thankfully short and pithy.

When we learn about the theme of Moby Dick in our youth, we simply can’t imagine what all the fuss is about, especially in these days when whales are seen a simple, serene sea mammals who were nearly driven to extinction not many decades past. But in the age this book was set, whales and whaling was a much different subject. Whales were both better known and less understood. By saying that they were less understood in no way diminishes what was understood of the whale in that time. There was a surprising great deal understood about them. But it seems so far fetched in our modern imagination that this would be a significant topic for a book. All you have to do it read the book and that view will be forever shattered.

I’m writing as though the subject of the whale is all Moby Dick is about. But of course it is not. The rich veins of deposited meaning could be mined for a lifetime and never fail.

I’m going to re-read Moby Dick. This is a book that deserves to be read and re-read slowly.

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Book: Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Uncle Tom's CabinUncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Not I
by Robert Louis Stevenson

Some like drink
in a pint pot,
Some like to think,
Some not.

Strong Dutch cheese,
Old Kentucky Rye,
Some like these;
Not I.

Some like Poe,
And other like Scott,
Some like Mrs. Stowe;
Some not.

Some like to laugh,
Some like to cry,
Some like chaff;
Not I.

I was just reading reviews on goodreads.com about Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which I just finished reading. The range of opinions about this book is astonishing to me. One comment to a review wrote only the above poem. I think it frames the opinions perfectly. It’s hard to tell if RLS was being serious or sarcastic. I tend toward the latter.

I gave this book 5 stars for many reasons. Firstly for it’s importance in changing the course of history. It was the best selling novel of the 19th century and is often credited with starting the Civil War. It was written in a flowery, sentimental style evidently common to the era. And while some deride it for this, I found this to be one of it’s charms. If one give oneself over to it, the book does evoke strong emotions.

I’m concurrently reading An Experiment In Criticism by C.S. Lewis, who draws a distinction between two type of readers. Those who “use” art (in what ever form) and those who receive it.

The distinction can hardly be better expressed than by saying that the many use art and the few receive it. The many behave in this like a man who talks when he should listen or gives when he should take. I do not mean by this that the right spectator is passive. His also is an imaginative activity; but an obedient one. He seems passive at first because he is making sure of his orders. If, when they have been fully grasped, he decides that they are not worth obeying—in other words, that this is a bad picture—he turns away altogether.

Lewis, C. S. (2014-08-26). An Experiment in Criticism (pp. 19-20). Cambridge University Press 1961. Kindle Edition.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that all “good art” is “good” to all. There is still plenty of room for differing tastes even among good art. What I think this means is that there is an element in the good that is there regardless of the medium, and we can only find it out if we give ourselves over to it and allow ourselves to be used by it. If it is not good, it will produce no fruit. (I don’t mean to bring religion into this, but compare this thought to Alma 32.)

Uncle Tom’s Cabin needed to be written. The story speaks for itself, regardless of the language. People can quibble about whether the language is this or that. But the fact remains, Harriet Beecher Stowe said what needed to be said, and we must never forget the evil that was slavery.

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Book: The War of Art

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative BattlesThe War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an short read and it’s worth every second! If you have ever wanted to be a writer, or do anything creative, you should do yourself a favor and read this. You won’t be disappointed. I’m going to start it again right after I finish writing this review.

I have never read Pressfield, but you can be sure that I will now. He draws heavily upon ancient Greek influences, when talking about the subjects he presents. His language is concise and clear and I certainly feel like he is talking directly to me, (a great talent to have as a writer).

I sometimes discount books that are too short. (This one is just under three hours on Audible.) But this one is exactly as long as it needs to be. Don’t let the length of it make you think that it lack the content necessary to be effective.

I don’t write reviews for every book I ready. This one compelled me.

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The Twists That Bind

Home Grown Mutants

Look what I dug up! It’s a twisted mutant of a Kaleidoscope Mix Carrot from Burpee.

This year has been a gardening year, as I hope all future years of my life will be. I’ve tried my hand at square food gardening. I’m not sure If this will continue year after year. I prepared the soil by the book and it seems to be too nutrient poor. The book claimed that the compost added to the soil would be sufficient for the session. Wrong!  Also, the soil has a little too much drainage, so I have to water it more than I think should be necessary. Next year I’ll probably either double the depth of the square foot planters, or possibly switch to a system that requires less daily watering.

Book: Outlander

Outlander (Outlander, #1)Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love this book! I love the historical fiction of it. I love the sci-fi aspect. I really love the medicinal/herbal part of the story. But I could really do without the sex. I’m not saying that Diana Gabaldon should change her way of writing. I’m sure many people love this aspect of the book as well. And the argument can be made that it’s an integral part of the story that is being told, but I just don’t like it and I can’t recommend it to younger readers for this reason.

Still, this is the second time I’ve read (listened to) this book. The narrater, Davina Porter is AMAZING! There is no other way to describer her. I would listen to her read a phone book. She brings each character, male and female, young and old, Scottish or English to life.

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Book: The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice

The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and RiceThe Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice by Trevor Corson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book seemed to move somewhat slowly, but I really enjoyed the depth of information in the book and the way that the information was wrapped into the story line. I would give the depth of information 5 stars and the story would get 3 stars. I’ll settle on 4 stars as an average, I suppose. A non sushi lover would probably not enjoy this book as much as me. But due to my absolute passion for sushi, I found it a wonderful look into almost every aspect of it.

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The Biggest Lie

The Biggest Lie... Or Is It?

How many years has this page from this self help book (and many more like it), kept me from achieving my full potential?

Friday, while searching the web for help on “sticking to one thing,” I came across a website, puttylike.com. It was a revelation…an epiphany.

But let me back up just a little.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had the intense drive and desire to do something special with my life. But time and time again I’ve found myself going through the same pattern:

Continue reading The Biggest Lie

A New Year: 2015

D161
Has it really been a whole year since I wrote here on jamesberghout.com? Time flies when you are…err… Well, never mind about that.

I really love the coming of a new year and the chance it gives me to make a new start. Every year is different. Some years come in with less planning and goal setting than others. This one is on the high side of goal setting for me. Though I’m not setting a great deal of ‘high end’ goals, I’m setting a number of really good ‘maintenance’ goals. Those that will improve my general well being and quality of life.

My goals for myself include solving my sleep problems, keeping a better journal, tying to figure out how to exercise more frequently, and working on doing better with personal finances, among other things.

I have a lot planned for this coming year and I have a feeling that this site will be a major part of it.

Stay tuned!

random thoughts, whims and musings