Monday, April 29, 2013

A Study in Scarlet

Book: A Study in Scarlet
Author: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Edition: Gutenberg
Read: April 2013
178 pages
Rated: 4 out of 5

Dr. Watson, meet Mr. Holmes, and the Bake Street Irregulars. Doyle introduces us to both of these characters, with Holmes ability to analyze and work back to the origins, and Watson's ability to be baffled by his friends abilities.

Two men are murdered with the London police chasing after the wrong clues. Holmes solves and catches the murderer in front of the detectives. But that is only half of the story. Doyle goes on and tells why, through the mouth of a third party and the eyes of the murderer. While Holmes does not visit Utah, the reader does and gets exposed to some of Doyle's views on Mormonism.

Did Dolye visit the States? How and where did he get his information on Mormonism? How accurately does Doyle portray the LDS church of this time? About the same time, I read Jon Krakauer's book, Under the Banner of Heaven. There was a lot of similarities of what Krakauer said with how Doyle portrayed this period LDS history.

From what I have read, Doyle did not visit Utah. But was retelling the common rumors of the day concerning Mormonism. Doyle's dauhter thought that her father would say this was a work of fiction and there was all kinds of errors concerning Mormonism. 

The portrayal is a religion which is a law to itself. It is us against them. If you are not part of us, then there is not a concern for you. Also if you turn your back on the faith, you are a deadman. As Krackauer presents things, this is due to the persecuted the LDSchurch faced.

This plays into the plot line of the book. Vengeance leads to murder. But the vengeance is because of an older murder. Doyle explores how vengeance takes over a man's life. This vengeance compels a man across a continent and an ocean. But it does not leave the man in peace, only having a purpose.

Holmes is interesting in that he has a very mechanical, logical mind. There is vast stores of knowledge stored in his brain, but of limited scope-such as geology and botany. But he does not have too much knowledge of literature or music, except for the violin he plays. What does this say about Holmes. He able to deduce the socks off of anybody, but does he enjoy himself? Is he really experiencing being fully human?

This is the original Sherlock Holmes book. It is entertaining and a delight to read. Watson becomes much than just the Holmes biographer; you see him as someone who has confronted danger on his own. But you also see a lot more rawer version of Holmes. Holmes does not have the polish he has in later mysteries. But you learn of his background and why he has the relationship with the police he has.

This is a good and enjoyable read. You will neither be scarred for life by it, or heighten your sense of awareness after reading A Study in Scarlet. But you have have gotten a couple hours of enjoyment.  You could do a lot worse.

Good Quotes:
  • First “IN the year 1878 I took my degree of Doctor of Medicine of the University of London, and proceeded to Netley to go through the course prescribed for surgeons in the army.
  • Last Line: “In the meantime you must make yourself contented by the consciousness of success, like the Roman miser—”
  • “To a great mind, nothing is little”. Part I, Chp IV, page 73 


Monday, April 8, 2013

Same Kind Of Different Me

Book: Same Kind Of Different Me
Author: Ron Hall, Denver Moore with Lynn Vincent
Edition: 2006, 1st Edition
Read: March 2013
235 pages
Rated: 3 out of 5

Ron Hall is an art dealer who got rich by falling into the profits of selling art. In a different turn of events he and his wife Deborah would have been on the streets-that is if his initial gamble had fallen through. Instead, he lived very comfortably amongst the upper crust of Ft Worth society.

Denver Moore was born and raise in the plantations of Louisiana. As a black, there was no way to escape from the sharecropper life, except to runaway. That is what he did, winding up in Ft Worth, living on the streets 30-40 years, with a stint in the worst of Louisiana's prison. He was feared on the streets.

Deborah was Ron Hall's wife, the one who was in tune with God. God gave her a vision for a work she could do-be in Ft Worth's rescue mission in the food line. During this time, she understood that there was a man whom she would meet who would change the city.

This is the story about how these pieces come together and the city starts on the course to be changed.

When we use labels, we lose relationship.

Relationships are what round is into real people.

A catch and release program of friendship is not friendship but manipulation.

The book title comes at the end where Denver is talking about how different he is than everybody else. He is even different from those who are homeless and definitely different from the Hall's. This is the root of Denver's concerns-how can people accept him if he is that much different than everybody else? His realization is that everybody is different, hence the title.

This true story is told in two voices: Ron Hall's and Denver Moore's. Most of the time, this is effective-because Moore's voice is that of a black, Southern, while Hall's is more white, sophisticated. The contrasts does work, but occasionally, there is less of a difference and you need to figure out who is talking.

What it does do is give a picture of the naivety of Hall and the distrust of Moore as the relationship is forming. Hall does not want to leave the comfort of what he has earned, the station of where is at. While Moore has figured out how to live homeless person and does not leave his life. Also his experience is that white people no matter how full of goodwill, are not to be trusted to be there for him.

There are lessons which the authors would like us to learn:
  • oppression is not a thing to be studied as in past history, but is practiced today in different forms, but with the same results
  • see beyond the outer shell of a person. Understand what is there inside.
  • we do not understand nor comprehend the workings of God. But that does not mean we are emotionless when we are hurt.
  • commitment is part of friendship.

Notes from my book group:

  • How did the back and forth stories work for you?
  • After reading about the hamburger scam, are you looking at the freeway panhandler's any differently?
  • How believable is this story for you?
  • What did you learn by reading this book?
  • Who would you recommend this book to?
  • Do you agree that everybody is different? If so, how? How are we the same?
We had a good discussion on this book.

Good Quotes:
  • First Line: Until Miss Debbie, I'd never spoke to no white women before
  • Last Line: so in a way, we all is homeless--just working our way toward home.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Beowulf, translated by Lesslie Hall

Book: Beowulf
Translator: Leslie Hall
Edition: Gutenberg
Read: April 2013
325 pages
Rated: 3 out of 5

Beowulf is a hero story and one of the oldest pieces of English literature. It talks about how Grendel a monster, related to Cain, was terrorizing the Danes. Beowulf comes from over the seas and grapples with Grendel and kills him. Grendel's mother seeks revenge and try's to kill Beowulf, but once again Beowulf defeats this monster's mom with his bare hands. Beowulf is lauded with honor and wealth, returning home a hero.

He then has the challenge of facing a dragon in his liar. Beowulf is deserted by his companions, except for one. The dragon gives Beowulf a mortal wound; but Beowulf's remaining companion slays the dragon. Beowulf's funeral pyre is bright and big enough to be a beacon for sailors.

The story of Beowulf is well worth reading. There is much in the story to give one pause to consider. My evaluation of a three is more because of me than the work. I had a hard time with the translation and understanding terms not in common 21st century usage. So the flow of the story and understanding of it was interrupted. This meant the natural flow of the story was broken.

But the sense  sense of magnificence of Beowulf showed through. I am looking forward to reading this in a different translation, which a friend suggested: Seamus Heaney's version.

A good thing about Hall's version is he gives a short synopsis of the story. Then in the actual story, he has notes about what the section of the story is about. These were very helpful to me, and not too intrusive. 

Good Quotes:
  • First Line: “Lo! the Spear-Danes’ glory through splendid achievements
    The folk-kings’ former fame we have heard of,
    How princes displayed then their prowess-in-battle”
  • Last Line: “So lamented mourning the men of the Geats,
    Fond-loving vassals, the fall of their lord,
    An ideal king.
    Said he was kindest of kings under heaven,
    Gentlest of men, most winning of manner,
    Friendliest to folk-troops and fondest of honor.”