Favorite Books & Authors

Here are some of my favorite books and authors. Painfully aware of my limitations, I have decided to write about them in summary form, rather than try for intelligent, critical reviews. Many of the books I plan to talk about over the coming weeks, months, and years are titles from my own collection, the bulk of which resides in a sturdy bookshelf made by my brother and me long ago in a night woodshop class. Some were given to me for safekeeping by my mother, who, bless her heart, has since given up on their return. Most can still be found in libraries, used bookstores, or purchased online. All are important to me, and have to some measure, I suspect, influenced my own work. If not, they continue to remind me of the great opportunity and responsibility a writer has, each and every time he sits down to work, to see himself and life more clearly, and to communicate what he sees to others. That much said, I hope you enjoy this rather haphazard section of the website. Your comments are most welcome. Please check in often for new material.
                                                                                                               � William Michaelian

For quicker access to the books and authors included so far, choose from the following links. Related excerpts and other information can be found on the right side of the page.
William Saroyan       Fyodor Dostoevsky       Kahlil Gibran       Guy de Maupassant
The Rub�iy�t of Omar Khayy�m       Alexander Pushkin       Nathaniel Hawthorne
This Is My Best       Honor� de Balzac       The Giant Book of Scottish Short Stories
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner       Webmaster�s Reading List

Separate Pages
Doctor Zhivago       The Adolescent       Look Homeward, Angel       Peer Gynt
More Saroyan       The Grapes of Wrath       Tristram Shandy       Cannery Row
Life on the Mississippi       Letters from the Earth       Ulysses       Zorba the Greek
Finnegans Wake       In Watermelon Sugar       Bound for Glory

Related Notebook Entries
The Reader�s Encyclopedia       Yevgeny Zamyatin       Humboldt�s Gift
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

A Random Selection of Books and Authors
And I Quote

A Compendium of Odd Words and Literary References
You Don�t Say

Kilmarnock wabsters, fidge and claw
Robert Burns: A Glossary of Scottish Terms

More books, poetry, notes & marginalia
Recently Banned Literature

William Saroyan
The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze and Other Stories
This is Saroyan�s debut collection of short stories, published in 1934 to wide critical acclaim. Written when the author was twenty-six, it is still considered by many to be the best fiction he wrote. While this is surely open to debate, there is no question that Saroyan�s spontaneous style changed the American short story forever, and for the better. His portrayal of life on the poor side of the tracks was accurate, heartfelt, sympathetic, optimistic, defiant, and poetic. This book should be read by anyone interested in the short story form, and should be required reading for teachers and students of writing alike.

My Name Is Aram
The autobiographical tales that comprise this enduring collection are set in Fresno, California, where the author was born in 1908, and the surrounding area. The book makes a good bedside companion, because the stories can be read in any order � though I recommend reading them from start to finish at least once. I also recommend them for children. Stories like �The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse,� �The Pomegranate Trees,� and �The Journey to Hanford,� just to name three, are refreshing for their innocence, and are a beautiful reminder of what life was like before television. In my opinion, all of the stories owe their success to the long storytelling tradition Saroyan inherited from his family and his Armenian background. This is interesting, because the characters have been widely hailed as quintessential American, defined as they are by the Great Depression and their common goal of making good. At the same time, they are rooted in the ways of the Old Country, and spend their time telling stories, sipping Armenian coffee, and smoking cigarettes in parlors and coffeehouses, and longing for what was left behind. Last, but not least, is the book�s classic humor. Saroyan�s humor is great because he understands and is willing to admit his own insignificance. Neither does he run from sorrow. His laughter comes from a deep well.

The Human Comedy
Saroyan�s first novel, The Human Comedy (1943) was a bestselling wartime classic. In its pages, he professed the ultimate innocence of mankind, and refused to let his characters be spoiled by the hideous crime humans were committing against each other on such a grand scale. Set in the fictitious town of Ithaca, California, the author drew on his own youthful experience as a telegraph messenger to paint a nostalgic picture of his hometown, Fresno. The story centers on Homer Macauley, a fourteen-year-old boy determined to be the fastest bicycle messenger in the San Joaquin Valley, and his widowed mother, his sister, Bess, and his little brother, Ulysses. His older brother, Marcus, is away at war � a separation made all the more painful due to the absence of their father. While delivering telegrams, Homer sees many things that cause him to laugh and think. He sees life as a dance of small things that are significant because of their very simplicity. In real life, Saroyan�s messenger rounds took him to offices, bars, and brothels, revealing to him a world of posers and performers. This is beautifully captured in the book. More than anything, though, what transforms Homer is having to deliver telegrams from the War Department, and having to witness the personal horror of a mother who learns from him that she has forever been deprived of a son. This is all the more troubling and poignant, because he realizes the same thing could happen to his family. It is a good reminder of war�s true cost � that for every soldier wounded, maimed, or killed, there is a family and circle of friends that is changed forever. The Human Comedy was illustrated by Don Freeman, who also did the artwork for My Name Is Aram. Freeman, also born in 1908, is well known for his book for children, Corduroy. His drawings are outstanding and perfectly suited to Saroyan�s message and style.
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Fyodor Dostoevsky
One thing I especially like about Dostoevsky is that he can go almost an entire book without mentioning the weather or the landscape. The landscape he is concerned with is the vast and often densely populated space between a man�s ears. When he does take time to mention the weather, it is usually to enhance some dreary aspect of one of his characters or the predicament he is in. Everyone wrestles with his conscience. There is a great deal of nervous pacing and gesticulating that goes on, a great deal of questioning of one�s own existence and the existence of God. But this is all done within clever plots worthy of the best suspense and mystery writers, in some cases with political overtones. Oddly enough, the first novel I read by Dostoevsky was the last he wrote. I picked up a paperback edition of The Brothers Karamazov, considered to be his masterpiece, in a bookstore in Visalia, California, prior to hopping a plane to Jerusalem. By the time I�d arrived, I knew life would never be the same. Back home a week later, I began a serious Dostoevsky marathon that went on for several novels, including Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, The Possessed, and A Raw Youth. Then I read a book containing quite a bit of his short work, plus The Gambler, Notes from Underground, and The House of the Dead. The latter recounts the time he spent in Siberia after enduring a mock execution for his involvement in a radical political circle. Fully expecting to be shot, at the last moment his sentence was reduced to exile. Talk about a rough day. My favorite translations of Dostoevsky�s work are by Constance Garnett and David Magarshack. I think Dostoevsky is one of the greatest writers of all time. For just a taste, read his short story, �The Dream of a Ridiculous Man.� It is a triumphant, melancholy work that reveals his concern for the human race.
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Kahlil Gibran
The Prophet
First published in 1923, this is Gibran�s masterpiece. It has been widely translated and has sold millions of copies. Gibran, also an artist, was born in Lebanon in 1883. During the last twenty years of his life he called the United States his home. During that time he learned English and developed a unique writing style that blended poetry and prose. He died in 1931. In The Prophet he sets forth his rich philosophy of life within the context of a simple tale told about a wise man who, ready to set sail for the land of his birth, is called upon to speak to the people. Deeply moved by their love and concern, he answers their questions about love and marriage, children and giving, the meaning of work, friendship, time, and law. On giving, he says, �You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give. . . . There are those who give little of the much which they have � and they give it for recognition and their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome. And there are those who have little and give it all. These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty.� The Prophet is a book that can and should be read many times, and at different periods of one�s life. It is a book that cannot be understood by the minds of petty politicians and warmongers. It is a literary, artistic achievement that is about as close to a friend and companion as a book can be. After reading it, I would also recommend The Madman, Spirits Rebellious, and two of his plays, Lazarus and His Beloved and The Blind. The prior two titles are widely available. The plays are contained in a book called Dramas of Life, published with an interesting introduction by Gibran�s cousin and namesake and his wife, Jean.
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Guy de Maupassant
The Collected Stories of Guy de Maupassant (Avenel, 1985)
Back in 1985, I had the good fortune of stumbling on this massive collection of short stories, written by a nineteenth century author whose work I had heard about, but never read. The book, a hefty hardcover edition set in an old-fashioned double-column format, contains 1003 pages, with 223 stories divided into 10 volumes. The collection was originally published by Walter Black, Inc., around 1903. The translations were done by M. Walter Dunne.

Maupassant was born in Normandy in 1850. Guided in his early efforts by French writer Gustave Flaubert (Madame Bovary), his first story to appear in print was �Ball of Fat,� published to huge critical acclaim in 1880 by Emile Zola (The Earth, Germinal, L�Assommoir). During the next eleven years, he published some 300 stories and 6 novels, as well as essays, poems, travelogues, and critical articles. Plagued by increasing mental instability brought on by syphilis, he was hospitalized for the last two years of his life. He died insane in 1893.

Maupassant was a keen observer who gave himself to living without reservation. Often, in one paragraph, he revealed more about a character than many other writers accomplish in an entire book. Take a look at the following few lines, from his story �Waiter, A Bock�:

. . . So I went and sat down by the side of a man who seemed to me to be old, and who smoked a half-penny clay pipe, which had become as black as coal. From six to eight beer saucers were piled up on the table in front of him, indicating the number of �bocks� he had already absorbed. With that same glance I had recognized in him a �regular toper,� one of those frequenters of beer-houses, who come in the morning as soon as the place is open, and only go away in the evening when it is about to close. He was dirty, bald to about the middle of the cranium, while his long gray hair fell over the neck of his frock coat. His clothes, much too large for him, appeared to have been made for him at a time when he was very stout. One could guess that his pantaloons were not held up by braces, and that this man could not take ten paces without having to pull them up and readjust them. Did he wear a vest? The mere thought of his boots and the feet they enveloped filled me with horror. The frayed cuffs were as black at the edges as were his nails. . . .

Soon after making these observations, the narrator is addressed by the man he has just described, and discovers he is an old friend from college. How the man arrived at his current state of disintegration constitutes the rest of the story, which hinges on a terrible domestic scene his friend witnessed as a child.

Maupassant was also adept at making use of current headlines, turning many news stories of his day into works of fiction. In story after story, he exposed the hypocrisy of the powerful in a way that makes the reader hate them and love them at the same time. He excels equally in his portrayal of the simple and downtrodden, the wayfarer and the wage earner, the rural and urban. All of this is accomplished in a flowing, poetic style.

Another benefit of reading Maupassant�s stories, as well as his novels, which I�ll also write about as we go along, is their historical value. A great deal can be learned about the time and society in which he lived � practical, everyday matters, as well as people�s outlook on life. It is also possible to trace the author�s encroaching madness, as some of his narratives take on an almost desperate quality of self-searching and self-justification. It is worth a trip to the library to see biographies containing photographs taken of this great writer when he was handsome, robust, and athletic, and when, just a few short years later, he was thin and drawn, his talent sacrificed to his disease.

If you haven�t read any of Guy de Maupassant�s stories, don�t wait any longer. Read �Waiter, a Bock.� Read �Ball of Fat.� Read �A Piece of String.� Read �The Inn,� �A Family,� �A Vagabond,� and �Simon�s Papa.� These are just a few stories, taken at random. There are many more that are worth your time. And while the style isn�t exactly twenty-first century, the predicaments and concerns of his characters are often painfully contemporary.
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The Rub�iy�t of Omar Khayy�m
Translated by Edward FitzGerald, First Edition, 1859
This poem divided into seventy-five short verses is said to have originated in eleventh century Persia. Its resignation to fate and embrace of earthly pleasures was brought to the English-speaking world by a Victorian recluse who gave himself the freedom to blend Eastern and Western thought to suit his own outlook and temperament. When it first appeared, the poem made hardly a ripple. All but forgotten, it was discovered by following generations of booklovers, whose appreciation transformed it into one of the best-selling second-hand books of all time. Here are a few of my favorite verses:

Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night
Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight:
And lo! the Hunter of the East has caught
The Sultan�s Turret in a Noose of Light.

Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse � and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness �
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.

Oh, come with old Khayy�m, and leave the Wise
To talk; one thing is certain, that Life flies;
One thing is certain, and the Rest is Lies;
The Flower that once has blown for ever dies.

Then to this earthen Bowl did I adjourn
My Lip the secret Well of Life to learn:
And Lip to Lip it murmur�d � �While you live Drink! �
for once dead you never shall return.�

And if the Wine you drink, the Lip you press,
End in the Nothing all Things end in � Yes �
Then fancy while Thou art, Thou art but what
Thou shalt be � Nothing � Thou shalt not be less.
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Alexander Pushkin
The Poems, Prose and Plays of Alexander Pushkin
(Random House, 1943)
I was lucky enough to find this Modern Library edition twenty or so years ago during a one-day book-buying trip with my wife�s brother in Berkeley, California. We visited so many used bookstores that day, I can�t remember them all. But I know I paid six dollars for the book, because the price is written on the inside cover. Quite a bargain. Another bargain was being able to avoid, at the last possible second, a small pile of lumber that had fallen off a truck in front of us on the freeway as we were nearing Berkeley. Apparently that was a good omen, because I found several great books that day, including a beautifully illustrated hardbound copy of Victor Hugo�s Les Mis�rables, a book that weighs about forty pounds. (Anyway, it�s heavy.)

Pushkin was born in 1799 in Moscow. He died in 1837, two days after being wounded in a duel with the husband of his wife�s sister. According to an anonymous letter, Pushkin�s in-law was guilty of having a rendezvous with Pushkin�s wife, Natalie. The poet�s short time on this earth was enough to secure him a place of high honor in the pantheon of Russia�s great writers. He lived a reckless life and was a constant concern to the state, which found it necessary to read his incoming and outgoing mail and censor what he wrote. He loved women, he loved nature, he loved literature, he loved to gamble, and he had little patience when it came to politics or business affairs. On several occasions he begged to leave Russia, but to no avail. Instead, his movement was restricted and he was closely watched.

Above all, Pushkin is remembered as a poet. He wrote many lyrics and ballads, and is best known for his narrative poems, �The Bronze Horseman� and �Eugene Onegin.� He also wrote folk tales (�The Tale of the Golden Cockerel,� the basis of an opera by Rimsky-Korsakov); plays (�Boris Godunov,� �Mozart and Salieri,� �The Stone Guest�); and prose (�The Tales of Belkin,� �The Queen of Spades,� �The Captain�s Daughter�). Written in 1833-4, �The Queen of Spades� is considered a humble ancestor of Dostoevsky�s Crime and Punishment. �The Captain�s Daughter,� practically the last thing he wrote, was, according to Tolstoy, Pushkin�s greatest achievement.

The following poem, �Remembrance,� was written by an already world-weary Pushkin in 1828. The translation is by Babette Deutsch.

When noisy day no more assails the ears of men,
And on the silent city slowly
Night�s pallid shadow falls, while after toil again
The wage of sleep repays them wholly �
Then in the hush my hours drag out their dismal course,
No peace my weary vigils bring me:
But through the listless night the serpents of remorse
With piercing fangs more shrewdly sting me;
Obsessed by seething dreams, the over-burdened soul
Can neither bear its pain, nor cure it;
In silence Memory unwinds her lengthy scroll
Before me, and I must endure it.
And loathing it, I read the record of the years,
I curse and tremble like one baited;
For all my bitter groans, for all my bitter tears,
The lines are not obliterated.
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Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Portable Hawthorne (The Viking Press)
I value this book as much, I think, for editor Malcolm Cowley�s fascinating introduction, written in 1948, as I do for the fine work of Hawthorne himself. In it we learn of the countless hours spent by Hawthorne alone, observing nature, talking to himself, and creating his rich, flowing fiction:

. . . There is more to be said about this inner monologue which played such an important part in his life and work. In one sense it was a dialogue, since Hawthorne seems to have divided himself into two personalities while dreaming out his stories: one was the storyteller and the other the audience. The storyteller uttered his stream of silent words; the audience listened and applauded by a sort of inner glow, or criticized by means of an invisible frown that seemed to say, �But I don�t understand.� �Let me go over it again,� the storyteller would answer, still soundlessly; and then he would repeat his tale in clearer language, with more details, and perhaps repeat the doubtful passages again and again, till he was sure the invisible listener would understand. . . .

Nathaniel Hawthorne, best know for his novel The Scarlet Letter, was born in 1804 in Salem, Massachusetts. He died in 1864, in Plymouth, New Hampshire. He wrote several romances (The Scarlet Letter, The House of the Seven Gables, The Blithedale Romance, The Marble Faun, The Dolliver Romance); and a number of tales (�An Old Woman�s Tale,� �Feathertop,� �Rappacini�s Daughter,� �The Celestial Railroad,� �Ethan Brand�). He also filled many notebooks and penned many revealing letters, examples of which are included in this volume.

If you are new to Hawthorne, don�t try to read him in short bursts. It takes time to appreciate his pace and style, which, once you are in tune, is very much like taking a leisurely walk with him through the woods. The details and observations are important. He wants you to see, to feel, to notice. So be patient. You will be impressed by his symbolism, and caught up in his still pertinent themes of loneliness and alienation.

The following excerpt is from The Scarlet Letter, his Puritan-based story of adultery, defiance, and shame:

. . . Discerning the impracticable state of the poor culprit�s mind, the elder clergyman, who had carefully prepared himself for the occasion, addressed to the multitude a discourse on sin, in all its branches, but with continual reference to the ignominious letter. So forcibly did he dwell upon this symbol, for the hour or more during which his periods were rolling over the people�s heads, that it assumed new terrors in their imagination, and seemed to derive its scarlet hue from the flames of the infernal pit. Hester Prynne, meanwhile, kept her place upon the pedestal of shame, with glazed eyes, and an air of weary indifference. She had borne, that morning, all that nature could endure; and as her temperament was not of the order that escapes from too intense suffering by a swoon, her spirit could only shelter itself beneath a stony crust of insensibility, while the faculties of animal life remained entire. In this state, the voice of the preacher thundered remorselessly, but unavailingly, upon her ears. . . .
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This Is My Best
Edited by Whit Burnett (The Dial Press, New York, 1942)
About ten years ago, I paid two dollars for this unusual 1,180-page anthology. I still haven�t finished it and, at the rate I�m going, I probably never will. The book features a very diverse selection of work by ninety-three American authors. What sets the anthology apart is that the work was chosen by the authors themselves, as each was asked to include his or her favorite piece of writing. Some choices are predictable, others surprising. As an added bonus, each piece is prefaced by the author�s letter to editor Whit Burnett, explaining why the piece was chosen. In many cases, the letters are every bit as enjoyable as the writing that follows. In others, they are stuffy and dull, not unlike the writing that follows. All, though, help form an interesting record of the times.

As a sampler of diverse talent, a book like this is hard to beat. There are stories by Theodore Dreiser, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Morley Callaghan, Willa Cather, Dorothy Parker, Erskine Caldwell, William Faulkner, Katherine Ann Porter, and Booth Tarkington, just to name a few. There are poems by Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Edna St. Vincent Millay, William Carlos Williams, and Marianne Moore. There are novel excerpts, several essays, and excerpts from biographies about Mark Twain, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Beethoven. Drama is represented by Robert E. Sherwood, Eugene O�Neill, Thornton Wilder, and Clifford Odets. There is even a preface by William Saroyan, who confidently states that his is �a lucky piece, as Saroyan is a lucky writer,� and then, �I doubt you will find a luckier piece in this whole book.� The preface he chose was to �Hello Out There,� a one-act play he dedicated to George Bernard Shaw.

The following excerpt from Whit Burnett�s introduction gives an idea of what This Is My Best accomplishes:

. . . In no small, single way, this book is America. America in its many moods, its various colors, its many aspects. It is the New England of Frost and Coffin and Mary Ellen Chase; and the South of Glasgow, Stuart, Rawlings and Faulkner; the Middle West of Tarkington and Ade; and the Far West of Steinbeck�s old pioneer, stopped and baffled forever at the Pacific Ocean and the end of the frontier, in a later day. It is dinner with the Babbitts, a scared Negro washerwoman in Mississippi, the stockyards of Chicago. It is a preface to a Saroyan fantasy, an editor in Kansas writing an editorial on the death of his daughter and projecting a wisp of a girl into a kind of immortality. . . . It is another side, less lovely, but exerting its power always throughout the land, the America of the jungle, of wasted lives and lost illusion; it is America Was Promises, the American Dream, and contrastingly it is Studs and Bigger in the black slums of Chicago. . . .

If I live long enough, I�ll probably get around to writing a little about some of the individual writers and pieces in this book. For now, I am content to be overwhelmed by such a large collection of good writing, and authors so worthy of further investigation.
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Honor� de Balzac
So much has been said of this great nineteenth century French writer that anything I add here is likely to seem superfluous. My first taste of his grand style came through the Penguin Classic edition of his novel Lost Illusions, which he completed in 1843 seven years prior to his death. In the introduction to his English translation, Herbert J. Hunt said

. . . Balzac may indeed have distinguished himself as a �secretary� of society, but he was also a great creative artist, and from his study of contemporary society emerged, not a mere copy of the world around him, but a new world which may appropriately be called �Balzacian�: a vividly striking world, teeming with extraordinarily vital and energetic people, impressively real from one point of view, but so heightened and dramatized, so metamorphosed that it is difficult to say at what moment reality is transcended and imagination takes control. . . .

This is truly an understatement. Balzac�s frantic pace of living, keen power of observation, and exhaustive knowledge of almost any subject make reading his work feel like one has been caught in a literary whirlwind. At one moment, his vigorous narration (often directed at the reader) reveals a character�s appearance, thoughts, and motivation; at the next he is off on a fascinating history of printing and paper-making, or a scalding condemnation of the devious world of journalism and newspaper publishing. That he personally tried his hand at these various enterprises (and failed, like so many of his characters) adds depth and verisimilitude.

If I remember correctly, Balzac wrote somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred novels, most of which he gathered under the general title The Human Comedy. According to Herbert J. Hunt�s introduction to Lost Illusions, it was Balzac�s idea to present the social and moral history of his times in a series of novels and short stories that would also include his interpretation of life and society as he saw it. His massive undertaking was loosely divided into scenes of private, provincial, Parisian, political, military, and country life. Whenever he sensed something missing or discovered an unturned stone, he quickly inserted another novel. He accomplished this feat by drinking huge amounts of coffee and working twenty hours at a stretch, killing himself in the process. He was driven by debt incurred from failed business ventures and extravagant living, as well as the certain knowledge that he was the one person most qualified to explain and judge society. The extent to which he succeeded spawned an entire Balzac industry that occupies, like his own work, many miles of library shelves.
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The Giant Book of Scottish Short Stories
Edited and introduced by Carl MacDougall
Peter Bedrick Books, New York, 1989 (first American edition)
I found this 568-page volume here in town at the public library, in the little bookstore operated by the library�s Friends. Editor Carl MacDougall presents an assortment of delightful writers who have tapped into Scotland�s rich storytelling tradition, which has its roots in the spoken voice and in first person narration.

There is a sense of immediacy and familiarity in these stories that make them hard to resist. Last night in bed, for instance, I started a story by Duncan Williamson when I was tired and should really have turned out the light. �Death in a Nut� had no trouble keeping me awake. The story, transcribed by the author�s wife, captures the Scots� travelers� dialect that Williamson was immersed in for much of his life. In a lesson about accepting the inevitability and importance of death, the narrator tells about a son and his mother, and what happens when the son, Jack, refuses to let his mother die. Here is a passage from the story:

. . . Bi this time it was daylight as the sun begint tae get up, and Jack walkit up along the shoreway jist in the grey-dark in the mornin, getting clear. It must hae been about half-past eight-nine o�clock, (in the wintertime it took a long while tae get clear in the mornins) when the tide was comin in. Jack walked along the shoreway an lo an behold, the first thing he seen comin a-walkin the shoreway was an auld man with a long grey beard, skinny legs and a ragged coat o�er his back an a scythe on his back. His two eyes were sunk inta his heid, sunk back intae his skull, an he wis the most uglies�-luikin creature that Jack ever seen in his life. But he had on his back a brand new scythe an hit was shinin in the light fae the mornin.

Noo, his mother hed always tellt Jack what like Deith luikit an Jack says tae his ainsel, �That�s Deith come fir my auld mother! He�s come tae take on�y thing that I love awa fae me, but,� he said, �he�s no gettin awa wi it!� . . .

In more straightforward English, the book also features many fine tales of the supernatural. From the editor�s introduction:

. . . Our fascination with the supernatural is not as simple as it might seem and Scottish writers have seldom opted for straightforward ghost stories or tales of the unexpected. Of course Scott and Hogg owe a lot to the uncanny world of the old ballads, while Cunninghame Graham, Duncan Williamson, R.L. Stevenson and even Conan Doyle satisfy the perennial demand for a mysterious tale well told. Even so, the strange stories of Robert McLellan and Eric Linklater make powerful social comments, while the uncanny experiences described in Margaret Oliphant�s �The Library Window� go behind the supernatural to provide an outstandingly sensitive account of a young girl�s awakening sexuality. In quite different ways George MacDonald and Neil Gunn are haunted by intimations of a realm beyond our own that is somehow more real than realism. In this respect the stories by Betsy Whyte, Fred Urquhart and James Hogg deal equally strikingly with a world of changing boundaries and sexual ambiguity. Joan Ure and Brian McCabe take us back to Macnair Reid who reminds us that the real world can be just as strange and disorienting as any supernatural realm. . . .

The Giant Book of Scottish Short Stories includes work from eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth century writers. Each story is accompanied by an interesting note on its author�s background and his or her place in Scottish literature. The collection is an excellent introduction to Scotland�s literary wealth, and its contribution to world literature.
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The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Dover, New York (1970)
This poem is a harrowing story told by an ancient mariner to a young man who is on his way to his relative�s wedding. Powerless to resist, the young man is horrified to hear how, years earlier, the mariner lost his crew after he�d shot an albatross that had brought them luck after the ship had been swept violently off course into a frightful land of ice and snow-fog never before seen by man. Abruptly, upon the good bird�s death, their fortune changed and the ship was blown into still, warm waters. A drought ensued, leaving them parched and speechless. To the very last man, the crew died, leaving the mariner alone and tortured by their condemning gaze. A �death ship� approached; two women, �Death� and �Life-in-Death,� cast dice for the mariner�s life; �Life-in-Death� won. . . . and the ancient mariner�s riveting story goes on, and the young wedding guest learns what finally happened to the crew, and to the mariner, and why, to this day, the mariner must wander from land to land, teaching his awful tale.

Coleridge, an English poet and critic, was born in 1772. He died in 1834. His major works include Lyrical Ballads (1798), a landmark volume of poetry published in conjunction with his friend, William Wordsworth, and which contained the first great works of the Romantic School; Kubla Khan; and a tragedy, Remorse. Later, in 1816, estranged from his family and addicted to opium (a battle he fought most of his life and lost), he occupied himself with Biographica Literaria (1817), a wide-ranging series of autobiographical notes that included philosophy and literary criticism, many of which were considered brilliantly perceptive. That same year he also published Sybylline Leaves and delivered his last lecture. Later, while in seclusion at the home of physician James Gillman, he published Aids to Reflection (1825) and Church and State (1830).

I like The Rime of the Ancient Mariner as much for its illustrations by Gustave Dor� as I do Coleridge�s poem. Like most of Coleridge�s poetry, Ancient Mariner has a supernatural theme, to which Dor�s temperament and talent were ideally suited. Dor� (1832-1883), born in Strasbourg, began drawing as a young child. At fifteen, he�d already begun his career as a professional artist in Paris. He had an exceptional memory, worked quickly, and was in great demand, both professionally and at parties, where he performed tricks and various acrobatic stunts such as walking on his hands. The first edition of Ancient Mariner featuring his inspired, unearthly woodcuts appeared in 1875.
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Webmaster�s Reading List
When he isn�t busy with computer programming or website maintenance, my son, Vahan, is either playing basketball, listening to music, or reading. His self-taught basketball skills are phenomenal; his knowledge of Classic Rock from 1966-1975 is encyclopedic and rapidly growing; and his sustained, systematic attack on my book shelf is inspiring. All this, and he�s only eight years old. (Just kidding. He�s in his early twenties.) I wish I could say he gets it from me, but everyone knows his mother is the brains of the outfit, as proven by her ability to fix bicycles and figure out math homework. This is also why I won�t be reading his collection of technical books any time soon.

At right is a fairly inclusive list of what Vahan has read so far. The titles are grouped by author. This list also gives an idea of how far I have yet to go in this section. Vahan just started reading Victor Hugo�s Les Mis�rables. I�ll give an occasional update on his progress. . . .

Update #1:
Les Mis�rables is almost done. In fact it would be, if Vahan hadn�t taken time out to read all fifty-six Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. The stories are in a nice volume published by Chancellor Press, of London, and are accompanied by the original illustrations that appeared with the stories when they were first published in The Strand magazine. It turns out I also forgot to mention some other things Vahan has read: Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, published by Penguin and translated by J.M. Cohen; and The Works of Edgar Allan Poe, published by Avenel. The latter book contains sixty-seven tales, plus Poe�s novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, as well as �The Raven� and thirty other poems.

Update #2:
Well, that takes care of Les Mis�rables. About the edition: published by The Heritage Press, New York, 1938; translated by Lascelles Wraxall, authorized by Victor Hugo; introduction by Andr� Maurois; illustrations by Lynd Ward. Vahan�s next project is Homer�s Iliad, translated by E.V. Rieu and published by Penguin Books in 1950. Frankly, I�m jealous. After the Iliad, he will read the Odyssey. . . .

Update #3:
The Iliad and Odyssey are history. They already were, of course, but now they are also part of Vahan�s reading history. And the books seem to have had quite an effect on him. Instead of continuing as a computer programmer, he is thinking about building a stout vessel and sailing it on the wine-dark sea in search of adventure � or new Classic Rock CDs. After Homer, he took me up on my suggestion to read The Shade Returneth, a poetic drama in two acts by John Berbrich. You will find a brief discussion of this title and information on its whereabouts well along into the forum page. Next up: The Winter of Our Discontent, by John Steinbeck. I also read this book recently, and commented on it in the September 21, 2003, entry of my daily journal, One Hand Clapping.

Update #4:
Vahan said he really enjoyed Steinbeck�s The Winter of Our Discontent. When I asked him what he thought of the ending, he agreed with my opinion that it wasn�t quite up to par, but that the novel is still good in spite of it. The next book he read was Not Dying, by William Saroyan. He didn�t enjoy it as much as most of the other Saroyan books he�s read, but seemed to think it was okay. You can read my comments on Not Dying by visiting my second page about the author, More Saroyan.

Update #5:
Possibly due to the onset of winter weather, Vahan has returned to the Russian authors. On a recent visit to my book shelf, he was pondering my copy of The Poems, Plays & Prose of Pushkin when Alexandr Solzhenitsyn�s The Gulag Archipelago caught his eye. I told him a little about it and said it was definitely something he should read, but he said he wasn�t quite in the mood for straight nonfiction. So I showed him Solzhenitsyn�s novel, Cancer Ward. He read it in just a few days. Having read Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Goncharov, and Gogol, he found Solzhenitsyn�s style pleasantly familiar, though he prefers Dostoevsky and Tolstoy and nineteenth century writing in general. I asked him if Cancer Ward was as good as Steinbeck�s The Winter of Our Discontent. He said maybe, maybe not, and that they were both good. It was the old apples and oranges thing � or, perhaps, vodka and bourbon, or cabbage soup and clam chowder. The important thing is that he read the book, and that he has already moved on to Doctor Zhivago.

Update #6:
Vahan calls Doctor Zhivago a �dark, chilling epic.� (For a few slightly more revealing details about this poetic classic by Boris Pasternak, you can read my observations.) After that he read The Adolescent, a novel by Dostoevsky given him at Christmas. When I asked him what he thought of it, he said it was a �story too vast and all-encompassing to be summarized in just a few words.� A minute later, he and his brother left to play basketball. I first read the book back in 1987, but now I�ve decided to read it again. Incidentally, the title of the translation I read was A Raw Youth. I like that better than The Adolescent. The translator was probably Constance Garnett, but since the book was from the library and I foolishly returned it, I�m not sure. The present volume was translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.

Update #7:
We can now add Balzac�s Eug�nie Grandet and Zola�s Nana to the webmaster�s reading list. Vahan didn�t think Eug�nie Grandet was in the same league as Lost Illusions, or that it was as good as Old Goriot or Cousin Pons, but he still found it enjoyable. He had similar feelings about Nana; while he is accustomed to Zola�s methodical writing style, he found Nana much more predictable than, say, Germinal, which he enjoyed far more. Next up: A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway.

Update #8:
I was interested in Vahan�s opinion of A Farewell to Arms, because the little I�ve read of Hemingway over the years has usually left me cold. He said the writing did leave something to be desired, but that the story itself was good. To confirm this, I read the book immediately after he did. The following is from the April 21, 2004, entry of my daily journal, One Hand Clapping: �I found the sentence structure somewhat annoying, though I got used to it after the first few pages and was able to proceed. Over all, the writing was decent and even shined briefly in spots, but it relied too much on what to me felt like a gimmick of calculated understatement. I think this betrayed the two main characters in the end, mainly because the language didn�t reflect the urgency of their situation. I also think the novel would have been better treated as a short story. � So there you have the short version of my opinion, for what it�s worth. After A Farewell to Arms, Vahan turned to Thornton Wilder�s The Bridge of San Luis Rey. He enjoyed the book, and said the writing was definitely better than Hemingway�s. Now he�s reading Cry, the Beloved Country, by Alan Paton.

Update #9:
Vahan wasn�t too excited about Cry, the Beloved Country, but he did say it was a good book, and that he liked it better than A Farewell to Arms. Since he doesn�t blab on and on about things as I do, when he finishes a book I usually ask him to compare it and its author to another. This was the case not long ago when he put down Sixes and Sevens, a collection of twenty-five short stories by O. Henry. �How were they?� I said. �Did you like them as much as Maupassant�s?� He said they were nowhere near as good as that, and that Maupassant is in another league altogether. After that, he read all fifty-six Sherlock Holmes stories a second time. �Well?� I said. �Well, what?� he said. �How were they? Were they as good as O. Henry�s?� No. They were better, especially the earlier stories. �Fascinating,� I said. �So. What are you going to read next?� We went to my book shelf. After considering the possibilities for about thirty seconds, he settled on Thomas Wolfe�s Look Homeward, Angel.

Update #10:
Vahan was thoroughly impressed by Look Homeward, Angel. It took him awhile to get through its 520 pages, because he has been playing his Fender Stratocaster and Gibson Les Paul a lot lately � which only makes sense since he also bought two new Fender amps. I guess this is what happens when you have a real paying job. You can afford all sorts of things. Hmm. I wonder if I should take the hint and � no, that would be ridiculous. Anyway, he agrees with me that Thomas Wolfe is great � all the more so since Wolfe wrote the book when he was in his twenties. After Look Homeward, Angel, Vahan followed my advice and read Steinbeck�s Cannery Row. He loved it. What�s next? I don�t know. I�d ask him, but he�s busy with his guitar and I�d have to shout for him to hear me.

Update #11:
Well, that kid of mine is still reading. We can now add William Faulkner�s The Reivers to the list, as well as Ernest Hemingway�s For Whom the Bell Tolls. He is currently working on another Balzac volume I picked up at a used book store. That book contains three works: The Gondreville Mystery; La Grande Bret�che; and Ferragus, Chief of the D�vorants. It took him awhile to get used to Faulkner�s circuitous writing style, but he said The Reivers was a pretty decent story, and he wouldn�t mind tackling a little more of Faulkner�s work. Hemingway, he said, was still Hemingway. He didn�t notice much difference between A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls. Generally speaking, he doesn�t mind reading Hemingway, but he doesn�t mind not reading him either � not the greatest recommendation, but one I agree with.

Update #12:
After his triple shot of highly caffeinated Balzac, the webmaster switched gears and read Mark Twain�s Life on the Mississippi. Like me, he found the book fascinating and entertaining, right down to the footnotes and appendix. While we were talking about what he might read next, the subject of Hemingway came up again. Now that he�s had more time to think about it, he couldn�t find anything much to like about Hemingway�s characters, and feels the author �copped out� on the endings of A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls. Interesting. Since I picked up a sturdy used copy recently, I asked him if he wanted to read Norman Mailer�s The Naked and the Dead. (I read the first several pages and found Mailer�s method of describing characters a bit irritating, I�m afraid.) He said no, not at the moment, then settled on The Web and the Rock by Thomas Wolfe � another recent acquisition. So we�ll see where that leads.

Update #13:
Because guitar-playing is taking up more and more of his time, the webmaster has slowed down a bit with his reading. But he hasn�t stopped, and doesn�t intend to. He finished The Web and the Rock and was impressed, though not quite to the degree he was with Look Homeward, Angel. And yet he said it was far better than most books he has read. I�ve yet to start on it myself. Well, I started, but then switched to Ulysses, by James Joyce. I�m about 300 pages into the Joyce tome � only 600 to go. Next up for the kid: Victor Hugo�s The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Update #14:
Fascinating � Vahan liked The Hunchback of Notre Dame well enough to go back and re-read Les Mis�rables. That�s a lot of Victor Hugo. To top it off, he picked up a copy of Hugo�s The Toilers of the Sea and has started on that. One thing that impresses him about this author is the sheer amount of knowledge he packs into his pages. The same can be said of Balzac, of course, but Victor Hugo tends to be a bit more level-headed about it. Not that he is shy in any way. It has been years since I read Les Mis�rables, but I still recall the author�s lengthy excursions into history, which almost seemed like novels in themselves.

Update #15:
On a related note, the youngest member of our family, an eighteen-year-old who is also a guitar player (folk-acoustic), has been doing quite a bit of reading himself lately. A few titles I can think of right off hand are Dante�s The Divine Comedy, Whitman�s Leaves of Grass, Jack Kerouac�s On the Road, Dharma Bums, Big Sur, and Book of Blues, and Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs (with a great deal of help, apparently, from Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg). He has also read a number of mostly Beat-related poets. It will be interesting to see where this leads.

Update #16:
Well, the boys are still at it. The webmaster finished up with The Toilers of the Sea, and is now reading Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis. His brother, meanwhile, devoured and was amazed by Dostoevsky�s classic Crime and Punishment � I forgot to mention in my last note that he had read Dostoevsky�s short story, �The Dream of a Ridiculous Man,� as well � and has since moved on to Twain�s humorous and sarcastic travel account, The Innocents Abroad. A couple of other used volumes he picked up recently are Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck.

Update #17:
As soon as Vahan finished Zorba the Greek, he jumped into Yevgeny Zamyatin�s science fiction classic, We, and polished it off within a few days. He enjoyed both, but he definitely preferred the earthy eloquence of Zorba. Now he is moving into John Steinbeck�s East of Eden. Our other reading musician, meanwhile, is done with Steinbeck�s war-time story, The Moon is Down, which he said made for a day�s nice reading. He�s still working on Mark Twain.

Update #18:
Vahan has officially declared East of Eden to be �excellent.� He is now going to change literary gears and tackle Remembrance Rock, a thousand-page novel by poet Carl Sandburg. Along with The Innocents Abroad, his brother is reading Spoon River Anthology, a collection of poems by Edgar Lee Masters written in 1915 in the form of epitaphs. If I remember correctly, Sandburg and Masters knew each other in Chicago. If I don�t remember correctly, maybe they knew each other somewhere else. Our youngest reader also brought home a massive volume of poetry by William Blake, and has devoured a fair-sized portion of that. Blake died in 1827, the same year as Beethoven. A meaningless coincidence, unless they too met in Chicago.

Update #19:
According to a recent report, Remembrance Rock has been slow-going thus far. But it is going, and that�s what counts. Meanwhile, Guitar Player #2 has read a few other interesting titles, such as Illuminations and Season in Hell by the demented and influential French poet Arthur Rimbaud. He also enjoyed two of William Saroyan�s early prize-winning plays: My Heart�s in the Highlands and The Time of Your Life. And, most recently, he finished Richard Brautigan�s In Watermelon Sugar, Trout Fishing in America, and The Pill versus the Springhill Mine Disaster. He is currently working on Great Expectations.

Update #20:
Vahan is about a third of the way through Remembrance Rock. When I asked him the other day if he liked the book at all, or if it had become more of a job, he said that it is actually quite good, in its own poetic and densely woven way. So that�s good to hear. His brother�s reading adventures also continue. I don�t know if he�s still reading Dickens. He did read Woody Guthrie�s autobiography, Bound for Glory. He also just finished Orwell�s 1984. And since it�s in a similar vein, he�s reading my copy of We by Yevgeny Zamyatin. To satisfy his liking for poetry, he is working his way through the collected works of Yeats, which he says varies from unremarkable to quite good.

Update #21:
Our intrepid webmaster still isn�t done with Remembrance Rock. However, since our last update, he has acquired two more guitars and read One Flew Over the Cuckoo�s Nest by the late Oregon author Ken Kesey. He read it in about three or four days and enjoyed it a lot. In fact, I�m thinking about reading it again myself, possibly after I finish Humboldt�s Gift, a novel by Saul Bellow. Meanwhile, here�s a partial list of what Vahan�s brother is reading, or has recently completed: Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler (quite good, he says); Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant; a New Directions publication of selected poems by William Carlos Williams; Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems by Gary Snyder (Shoemaker & Hoard); Thomas Wolfe�s masterpiece, Look Homeward, Angel; Selected Poems of Ezra Pound (New Directions); and Dante�s La Vita Nuova (Penguin).

Update #22:
I was absolutely delighted when I saw Vahan pack my still unfinished copy of Remembrance Rock in the big suitcase he and his brother took with them on a week-long road trip early this morning. Of course, they also took a couple of guitars, so it�s hard to say how much reading he�ll do. In the meantime, Vahan�s brother is rapidly catching up, with titles such as Windblown World, The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947-1954; e.e. cummings 73 poems; Allen Ginsberg Collected Poems; Kerouac�s The Subterraneans; The Tibetan Book of the Dead; Baudelaire�s The Flowers of Evil; and William Faulkner�s The Sound and the Fury and Light in August. I wonder how many bookstores they�ll visit while they�re away?

Update #23:
Not a one, as it turned out. But since then, many weeks have passed, and Vahan still claims he�s reading Remembrance Rock. Did I say weeks? I meant months � during which time he and I have made several trips to local used bookstores. At the moment he�s almost 500 pages into Thomas Wolfe�s Of Time and the River, which he says is fantastic. And he now has an impressive stack of his very own used books to go through. I really need to make a list. Rugged hardbound novels, mostly.

Update #24:
When I was at Vahan�s house the other day � yes, time has passed and he has his own house now � I asked him point-blank if he�d finished Remembrance Rock. He said he had only thirty pages to go, and that the book has proven to be very worthwhile, very enjoyable. And since I had a few minutes, I started making a list of some of the beautiful old books on his shelves � books that he�s picked up on our visits together to used bookstores in the area. I made only a small dent, but here are the titles I scribbled down:

The Count of Monte Cristo
�Four Volumes in One�
by Alexandre Dumas
illustrated by Lynd Ward
with an introduction by Andr� Maurois
The Heritage Press, New York (1941)

Hallam�s Works
The Constitutional History of England

Volumes 1 and 2 (Volume 3 missing)
by Henry Hallam
W.J. Widdleton, Publisher, New York (1865);
also The Middle Ages
View of the State of Europe During the Middle Ages

in three volumes (1866)

The Magic Skin
by Honor� de Balzac
translated by Ellen Marriage
A.L. Burt Company, Publishers, New York (no date)

Robinson Crusoe
by Daniel Defoe
Whitman Publishing Company, Racine, Wisconsin (no date)

Emerson�s Essays
First and Second Series
by Ralph Waldo Emerson
J.M. Dent & Co., London
E.P. Dutton & Co., New York (sixth printing, 1909)

Absalom, Absalom!
by William Faulkner
The Modern Library, New York (1964)

By Order of the King
by Victor Hugo
A.L. Burt Company, Publishers, New York (no date)

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

by James Joyce
International Collectors Library, Garden City, New York (1964)

Five Great Dialogues
�Apology�; �Crito�; �Phaedo�; �Symposium�; �Republic�
by Plato
translated by B. Jowett
edited with an introduction by Louise Ropes Loomis
Walter J. Black, Inc., Roslyn, New York (1942)

The Complete Works of Rabelais
The Five Books of Gargantua and Pantagruel

translated by Jacques Le Clereq
The Modern Library, New York (1936)

Beethoven the Creator
by Romain Rolland
translated by Ernest Newman
Garden City Publishing Company, Inc., New York (1937)

The Human Comedy
by William Saroyan
illustrated by Don Freeman
Harcourt, Brace and Company, New York (1943)

The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze and other Stories
by William Saroyan
with a new preface by the author
The Modern Library, New York (1941)

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Also by William Michaelian

Winter Poems

ISBN: 978-0-9796599-0-4
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
ISBN: 978-0-9796599-1-1
80 pages. Paper.
Cosmopsis Books
San Francisco

Signed copies available

Main Page
Author�s Note
A Listening Thing
Among the Living
No Time to Cut My Hair
One Hand Clapping
Songs and Letters
Collected Poems
Early Short Stories
Armenian Translations
Cosmopsis Print Editions
News and Reviews
Highly Recommended
Let�s Eat
Useless Information
Flippantly Answered Questions
E-mail & Parting Thoughts

A few words about my favorite dictionary . . .

From �Seventy Thousand Assyrians�
The Daring Young Man on the
Flying Trapeze and Other Stories

by William Saroyan

. . . I had twenty cents and a half pack of Bull Durham. I rolled a cigarette, handed the pack to one of my contemporaries who looked in need of nicotine and inhaled the dry smoke, thinking of America, what was going on politically, economically, spiritually. My contemporary was a boy of sixteen. He looked Iowa; splendid potentially, a solid American, but down, greatly down in the mouth. Little sleep, no change of clothes for several days, a little fear, etc. I wanted very much to know his name. A writer is always wanting to to get the reality of faces and figures. Iowa said, �I just got in from Salinas. No work in the lettuce fields. Going north now, to Portland; try to ship out.� I wanted to tell him how it was with me: rejected story from Scribner�s, rejected essay from The Yale Review, no money for decent cigarettes, worn shoes, old shirts, but I was afraid to make something of my own troubles. A writer�s troubles are always boring, a bit unreal. People are apt to feel, Well, who asked you to write in the first place? . . .

First paragraph, Notes from Underground
by Fyodor Dostoevsky
translated by David Magarshack

I am a sick man. . . . I am a spiteful man. No, I am not a pleasant man at all. I believe there is something wrong with my liver. However, I don�t know a damn thing about my liver; neither do I know whether there is anything really wrong with me. I am not under medical treatment, and never have been, though I do respect medicine and doctors. In addition, I am extremely superstitious, at least sufficiently so to respect medicine. (I am well educated enough not to be superstitious, but I am superstitious for all that.) The truth is, I refuse medical treatment out of spite. I don�t suppose you will understand that. Well, I do. I don�t expect I shall be able to explain to you who it is I am actually trying to annoy in this case by my spite; I realize full well that I can�t �hurt� the doctors by refusing to be treated by them; I realize better than any one that by all this I am only hurting myself and no one else. Still, the fact remains that if I refuse to be medically treated, it is only out of spite. My liver hurts me � well, let it damn well hurt � the more it hurts the better.

Two parables from The Madman
by Kahlil Gibran

The Grave-Digger
      Once, as I was burying one of my dead selves, the grave-digger came by and said to me, �Of all those who come here to bury, you alone I like.�
      Said I, �You please me exceedingly, but why do you like me?�
      �Because,� said he, �They come weeping and go weeping � you only come laughing and go laughing.�

The Fox
      A fox looked at his shadow at sunrise and said, �I will have a camel for lunch today.� And all morning he went about looking for camels. But at noon he saw his shadow again � and he said, �A mouse will do.�

From �The Novel�
An essay about writing, reading, and criticism
by Guy de Maupassant
translated by Leonard Tancock

. . . Talent is long patience. It is a matter of looking at anything you want to express long enough and closely enough to discover in it some aspect that nobody has yet seen or described. In everything there is an unexplored element because we are prone by habit to use our eyes only in combination with the memory of what others before us have thought about the thing we are looking at. The most insignificant thing contains some little unknown element. We must find it. To describe a fire burning or a tree on a plain let us stand in front of that fire and that tree until for us they no longer look like any other tree or any other fire. . . .

From the foreword of The Collected
Stories of Guy de Maupassant

by Ari Salant

. . . Maupassant always insisted on his professionality, that he was, above all, a workman who could have made his way in many other fields. His stories evidence the veracity of that statement, which on the one hand was designed to shock his readers � and indeed still does � while on the other hand, indicated how close he was stylistically to the better painters of his time and to the natural scientists. Likewise, the stories encapsulate Maupassant�s wide scope of material. . . .

Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks with a Circus
by James Otis

I don�t read every used book I buy. Occasionally I bring one home because I can�t resist its appearance or its title, or some other aspect of its existence. I bought this book for four reasons: first, it was only two dollars; second, it was published in 1905; third, on the inside cover, someone wrote �Xmas 1907, Aunt Kittie�; and fourth, the design and illustrations are great. The book was published by Harper & Brothers; the name of the illustrator isn�t given. If I remember correctly, Toby Tyler is an orphan who joins the circus, only to discover the owner is a mean S.O.B. I�m pretty sure there was a movie based on this book, but if there was I never saw it, and I have no intention of finding out. But I have the book. That�s what counts.

From �The Captain�s Daughter�
by Alexander Pushkin
translated by Natalie Duddington

. . . Uncertainty as to Marya Ivanovna�s fate tortured me most. Where was she? What had happened to her? Had she had time to hide? Was her refuge secure? Full of anxious thoughts I entered the Commandant�s house. All was empty; chairs, tables, boxes had been smashed, crockery broken; everything had been taken. I ran up the short stairway that led to the top floor and for the first time in my life entered Marya Ivanovna�s room. I saw her bed pulled to pieces by the brigands; the wardrobe had been broken and pillaged; the sanctuary lamp was still burning before the empty ikon-stand. The little mirror that hung between the windows had been left, too. . . .

Miscellaneous notebook entries
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

People who write about themselves and their feelings, as Byron did, may be said to serve up their own hearts, duly spiced, and with brain-sauce out of their own heads, as a repast for the public.

Instances of two ladies, who vowed never again to see the light of the sun, on account of disappointments in love. Each of them kept their vow, living thenceforth, and dying after many years, in apartments closely shut up, and lighted by candles. One appears to have lived in total darkness.

A story, the principal personage of which shall seem always on the point of entering the scene; but shall never appear.

A ray of sunshine, searching for an old blood-spot, through a lonely room.

From �Aesthetic Jurisprudence�
An essay about criticism
by George Jean Nathan
from the anthology, This Is My Best

. . . Criticism, at its best, is a great, tall candle on the altar of art; at its worst, which is to say in its general run, a campaign torch flaring red in behalf of aesthetic ward-heelers. This campaign torch motif in criticism, with its drunken enthusiasm and raucous hollering born of ignorance, together with what may be called the Prince Albert motif, with its sober, statue-like reserve born of ignorance that, being well-mannered, is not so bumptious as the other, has contributed largely to the common estimate of criticism as a profession but slightly more exalted than Second Avenue auctioneering if somewhat less than Fifth. Yet criticism is itself an art. It might, indeed, be well defined as an art within an art, since every work of art is the result of a struggle between the heart that is the artist himself and his mind that is the critic. Once his work is done, the artist�s mind, tired from the bitterness of the struggle, takes the form of a second artist, puts on this second artist�s strange hat, coat and checkered trousers, and goes forth with refreshed vigour to gossip abroad how much of the first artist�s work was the result of its original splendid vitality and how much the result of its gradually diminished vitality and sad weariness. The wrangling that occurs at times between art and criticism is, at bottom, merely a fraternal discord, one in which Cain and Abel belabour each other with stuffed clubs. . . .

A passage from Lost Illusions
by Honor� de Balzac (1799-1850)
translated by Herbert J. Hunt

. . . When the company was complete, when the talking came to an end � not without many warnings given to the chatterers by Monsieur de Bargeton, whom his wife sent round like a church beadle smiting his wand on the flagstones � Lucien took his stance at the round table, with Madame de Bargeton by his side, in a state of violent mental turmoil. With quavering voice he announced that, so as not to disappoint the expectations of his audience, he was going to read the recently discovered masterpieces of a great but unknown poet. Although Andr� Ch�nier�s poems had been published in 1819, no one in Angoul�me had heard of him as yet. Everybody interpreted this announcement as an expedient adopted by Madame de Bargeton in order to safeguard the poet�s self-esteem and put the audience at its ease. Lucien started by reading The Love-sick Youth, which was received with flattering murmurs; then The Blind Poet, which was too long for these mediocre minds. While reading, Lucien was a prey to the excruciating suffering which can only be understood by artists or by those whose enthusiasm and high intelligence raise them to a similar level. If poetry, when read or when recited, is to be understood, devout attention must be paid to it. There must be a close bond between reader and listener, for without this the electric communication of feeling is impossible. If this cohesion between souls is lacking, the poet then feels like an angel trying to sing a celestial hymn amid the jeering laughter of demons. . . .

An excerpt from
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Dover, New York (1970)

. . .

The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
The furrow followed free;
We were the first that ever burst
Into that silent sea.

Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down,
�Twas sad as sad could be;
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea!

All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody Sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

. . .

And every tongue, through utter drought,
Was withered at the root;
We could not speak, no more than if
We had been choked with soot.

Ah! well-a-day! what evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.

. . .


Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Double; White Nights; A Disgraceful Affair; Notes from the Underground; The Gambler; The Eternal Husband; A Gentle Creature; The Dream of a Ridiculous Man; Bobok; A Nasty Story; The House of the Dead; Crime and Punishment; The Possessed; The Idiot; Brothers Karamazov; The Adolescent.

Leo Tolstoy
The Death of Ivan Ilyich; Resurrection; War and Peace.

Ivan Turgenev
Fathers and Sons; Rudin.

Anton Chekhov
Grief; Agafya; Misfortune; A Boring Story; The Grasshopper; Ward 6; Ariadne; The House with an Attic; Ionych; The Darling; Lady with Lapdog.

Nikolai Gogol
Dead Souls

Ivan Goncharov

Guy de Maupassant
Bel Ami; Pierre and Jean; A Life; also approximately 240 short stories.

Honor� de Balzac
Lost Illusions; Old Goriot; A Marriage Settlement; Cousin Pons; At the Sign of the Cat and Racket; Eug�nie Grandet; The Atheist�s Mass; The Conscript; The Purse; The Gondreville Mystery; La Grande Bret�che; Ferragus, Chief of the D�vorants.

�mile Zola
The Earth; L�Assommoir; Germinal; Nana.

William Saroyan
The Human Comedy; My Name Is Aram; Tracy�s Tiger; Little Children; Papa You�re Crazy; Not Dying.

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
Don Quixote

Edgar Allan Poe
Sixty-seven short stories; The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket; �The Raven�; thirty other poems.

Arthur Conan Doyle
Fifty-six Sherlock Holmes stories

Victor Hugo
Les Mis�rables; The Hunchback of Notre Dame; The Toilers of the Sea

The Iliad
The Odyssey

John Berbrich
The Shade Returneth

John Steinbeck
The Winter of Our Discontent; Cannery Row; East of Eden

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Cancer Ward

Boris Pasternak
Doctor Zhivago

Ernest Hemingway
A Farewell to Arms; For Whom the Bell Tolls

Thornton Wilder
The Bridge of San Luis Rey

Alan Paton
Cry, the Beloved Country

O. Henry
Sixes and Sevens
(twenty-five short stories)

Thomas Wolfe
Look Homeward, Angel; The Web and the Rock; Of Time and the River

William Faulkner
The Reivers

Mark Twain
Life on the Mississippi

Nikos Kazantzakis
Zorba the Greek

Yevgeny Zamyatin

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