Book Review #26

I don’t read anything, just to tick off boxes on someone else’s Challenge list.  I have however, recently read two candidates for ‘A Book Published Before You Were Born.’  I reread the micro-short story, The Cask of Amontillado, by Edgar Allen Poe.  When I downloaded it from the Internet, a note appeared below, saying, People who researched this, were also interested in…. and showing several other old titles, including Herman Melville’s, Bartleby the Scrivener.  I’ve never read it, and free is my favorite flavor.

Published 1853

Back in the ’60s, Ajax Cleanser had a series of TV ads where they claimed that their product was Stronger than dirt.  Since I am Older Than Dirt, it’s a struggle to find interesting books that old.

The book: Bartleby the Scrivener

The author: Herman Melville

The review:
The entire book is an un-named narrator, relating the tale of the strange actions and attitudes of a clerk that he employed.  The titled Bartleby was hired by a lawyer as a scrivener, a man who produced handwritten copies of deeds, and wills, and other legal documents, in the age before typewriters, Xerox machines, or computers.

Bartleby drove his employer to distraction.  He produced mountains of perfect copies, but quietly refused to perform any other menial task, such as proof-reading other clerks’ work, or going to the Post Office, with statements like, ”At present I might opt for not to be a bit reasonable.”

Despite it being locked up at close of work hours, the lawyer discovered that Bartleby somehow was living in the offices.  Eventually, he refused to do any work, yet continued to firmly but politely, decline to leave the premises.

While the book is 170 years old, I can’t believe that people of the time spoke, or wrote, like this.  It must have just been the author’s idiosyncratic technique.  The entire book reads like one of those machine-translated spam comments you receive.  Scores of words with two or more definitions were used with the wrong meaning in the context of the passage.

After a few phrases touching on his qualifications, I engaged him, satisfied to have among my corps of copyists a person of so singularly sedate an issue, which I notion might perform beneficially upon the flighty temper of Turkey, and the fiery certainly one of Nippers.

Turkey and Nippers were the nicknames of two of the narrator’s other law clerks.  A third was Ginger Nut, because his desk drawer was often full of shells of various nuts, which he irritated the office by cracking and eating while at work.

The fiery Nippers, among other strange actions, had been known to grasp up a ruler, point it at the cease of the room, (taken to mean ‘the far end’) and shout, “Fee the foe!”,  an expression that neither Bing, nor Google, nor Dictionary.com are aware of.  After some thought, I came to assume that the first word should be fie??  An expression of mild disgust or annoyance.

His fourth copyist, is rendered as ¼.  The third key to his private apartment, is described as .33.  It’s a one-trick-pony, or a one-joke-book.  It never sold widely.  It was mildly amusing for what it was, but not terribly deep, or socially significant, and always slightly confusing.  Ah well, it was an adventure.  Despite being as old as it is, it ticked off a box in another blogger’s Challenge.  When was the last time you tried something new?  😕

Flash Fiction #273

PHOTO PROMPT © Bradley Harris

BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL

The joys of being middle management.
The big bosses shit on you – and Labor rubs it in.
On a clear day, you can see – this job stretching into infinity.

In 9 To 5, Dolly Parton thought she deserved a fat promotion.
My boss said, “Promotion??!  You’re lucky I pay you a salary.  If I’d wanted a Vice-President, I’d have hired a Vice-President – my son.  Now get back to expediting shipments”

Four years to retirement.
Three more years to retirement, then I’m going to take my well-earned pension and savings, and move to Aruba.

I’ll have a Caribbean rum punch, please.

***

To join the fun and become a Friday Fictioneer, go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Flash Fiction #272

PHOTO PROMPT © Brenda Cox

NARROW-GAUGE ONE-TRACK-MIND

The American Military had to assign rocket scientist, Werner von Braun a driver, when he was late for a meeting – which he called!

Concerned officials eventually located him at a traffic light, with his foot on the car’s brake.  He had had an idea, and his mind had taken him somewhere other than his meeting.  The light was green just as they arrived, and he was oblivious to the traffic that was flowing past him in all directions.

My brain, with its three squirrels running on two wheels, envies him his ability to concentrate.  I occasionally need a minder also.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Flash Fiction #271

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

Hey guys!  Where you going with the Christmas tree??  Are we having a Canadian equivalent to Guy Fawkes Day – over in the park or something?

Nah, we’re taking it back to Costco, where we bought it.

Uh…  Why?

‘Cause they have a money-back guarantee.

Aaannnnd??!

Well, it’s obviously defective.

How can a Christmas tree be defective – besides, it’s almost New Year.

I didn’t get the new PlayStation that I asked for!
Yeah, and I didn’t get the smart phone that I wanted.
And I didn’t get the snowboard I asked for.

We’ll use the refund to buy pizza.  Wanna come?

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

***

Flash Fiction # 270

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

LOOKIN’ BACK TO SEE

What’s the best part of the Christmas season?  Seeing it in the rear-view mirror on Boxing Day.

Christmas sales start the same day as leftover Halloween candy.  It just never ends.  There’s no diversity.

Scrooge had the right idea.  He was just a little too enthusiastic.  I wouldn’t beat Tiny Tim to death with his own crutch, but I would prefer supermarket Muzak to play Elvis, singing Blue Hawaii, rather than Blue, Blue Christmas.

My name is Phil, and I live in Punxutawney.  I am not related to three hula hoop Chipmunks, and I ain’t comin’ out till February 2nd.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

’21 A To Z Challenge – R

I childproofed the house, but the kids still get in.

My GREAT-grandson is the world’s GREATest  great-grandson, in my own humble opinion.  The wife and daughter both assure me that he is well within the normal bell-curve of infant development.  It may be that, because of COVID visitation restrictions, I get to see him so seldom, and normal incremental changes seem to me to be great leaps of progress.

Intelligence, curiosity, and force of character just seem to exude from him.  We six living ancestors plan to stimulate his mind.  Intelligence is greatly affected by the number of mental occurrences.  His mother is already reading to him, and he responds to the attention.

We will have to soon childproof the house, both for his safety, and the wellbeing of our few more-expensive/delicate belongings – but I actually look forward to the rapidly-approaching time when he will be

RAMBUNCTIOUS

AND

ROWDY

Investigating, experimenting, learning about his world – growing smarter, stronger, and wiser.  For the third of his THREE R’s, his name is

ROWAN

One that he shares with the strong, tall, Rowan, or Mountain Ash tree, revered and respected by my Celtic Scottish forebears.  The name Rowan means “little red one.”  This is not evident yet.  Where the son was born with a reservation with a barber, this is one area where he does not excel.  He is just now growing some peach fuzz on his head.  In a family where about every third child is born a redhead, there seems no indication that he will be one.

It was all I could do to stay intellectually ahead of my son, and grandson.  I am hoping that this wee lad challenges me enough to keep a few mental cylinders firing.  Already there’s been a big increase in sentimental.

***

Some damned fool just informed me that I used the word rambunctious a year ago, in my post for R, and forgot to remove it from the ‘available’ file.  Pay no attention to that man behind the blog-screen.
Get down, you mangy mutt!  Quit pissin’ on my leg.   😯  😳

Flash Fiction #27 – Redux

In the lead-up to Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, etc., Rochelle has graciously granted us the exemption from straining our brains too much.  I’m taking advantage of the offer to reach waaayy back into my files, and republish this unpolished gem.

PHOTO PROMPT – Copyright – Claire Fuller

YOU OUGHTA BE IN PICTURES

Richie had a real mania for anything related to films.  He’d even got an autograph from some kid who held a clapper stick.  He wasn’t hard to convince to come along on an artifact hunting expedition, but, the further we got from the city, the more reluctant he became.

“Why are we way out here?  There’s nothing connected to films in this run-down little village!”

“Sure there is.  They filmed some of the Transformers movies here” I replied.  “See there.  That’s the changing room for Optimus Prime.  Maybe you could get a tailpipe, or a tire for your rec-room wall.”

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site, and use her weekly photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Flash Fiction # 269

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE

Ten in the bed, and the little one said, “Roll over!  Roll over.”
They all rolled over, and one fell out.

We started with a double bed.  I don’t like the word “Obese.” Good eating made us corpulent, so we bought a Queen-sized.

We had a dog, which was not allowed on the bed, then we got two puppies who were allowed up, but are no longer puppies.  Recently, a cold and lonely cat has added himself to the nightly pile.

There’s hardly room for my legs, and it’s almost impossible to roll over.  Somebody move, before I fall out.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Flash Fiction #268

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

UNSECURED LOAD

Without any justification, the Bible-thumper continued to pile up his unproven claims.

The Atheist has no belief.
He believes everything you do, minus your God claim.

He despises religion.
Some do.  Many despise what the Religious do to those outside their circle.

He knows nothing about Christians.
He knows nothing about the Bible.

Yet complains about the number of ‘former clergy’ who are now Atheists.

Hates Christianity, but admits its benefits.
A lie can make you feel good.  The truth shall set you free.

He keeps himself from knowing the truth about God.
Deny, accuse: we still see your insecurity.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Sailor Smart

Some people will not be educated, no matter how hard we try.

When I attended high school, each year’s English class required that all students read six non-curriculum books.  You could pick them.  They could be about anything, but to prove that you had read them, you were required to submit a Book Report on each one – remember those? – fondly??

To prevent nerds like me from submitting them all in September, rules stated that they had to be spaced out.  A lad a year older than me, from landlocked Ontario, Canada, decided that he wanted to join the Navy, so he didn’t need to read no stinkin’ books.  Nearing the end of the year, he had managed to submit only five; although I think that a couple of them were based on Classics Illustrated comic books (Remember those, too?) – so he invented one.

Possibly using a reference to Herman Melville’s book, Billy Budd – Sailor, he gave it the title Sailor Smart, supposedly printed by a known school-text publishing house – number of pages and a plot précis – the story of a landlocked, Midwest boy who wanted desperately to join the Navy.  I’d have been tempted to let him away with his ruse, just for demonstrating such creativity and inventiveness.  The tough old schoolmarm, who made Archie’s Miss Grundy look like a kindly nun, spent most of an instruction period excoriating him, and demanded a real book be read and report filed.

He must have succeeded.  He graduated Grade 12, moved to Halifax, joined the Navy, and was never seen again.  Reading for enjoyment seems to be a Yes or No proposition.  My Mother read!  My Father didn’t!  I’ve known many intelligent, successful people who won’t read a novel, even when they could spare the time.  I just can’t imagine me without a book…. Or three.

I have seen many reading challenge posts.  I recently ran into this one.

In 2021, choose 6 books that have titles that contain a:

  • One/1 (ex. One Second AfterThe 100)
  • Doubled word (ex. In a Dark, Dark WoodWolf by Wolf)
  • Reference to outer space (ex. The Fault in Our Stars)
  • Possessive noun (ex. The Zookeeper’s Wife)
  • Botanical word (ex. The Language of FlowersThe Sandalwood Tree)
  • Article of clothing (ex. Bossypants)

The writer had read 12 books in a year, for a Goodreads challenge, but had read them all in the month of January, and then added 30 more by the end of the year.  I don’t understand the point of such challenges.  It can’t be to get people to read, because those who accept, already read – usually, a lot.  It doesn’t seem to be to get readers to read outside their preferred genre sphere, because you could pick books to satisfy all these requirements – in Romance, Sci-Fi, action/adventure, murder mystery, religion or political science.

In 2020 I read almost 40 books, from all the above varieties except Romance.  I checked them against this artificially concocted list, and found that I only had a match in (Maybe) three of the six categories.  No ‘ones’ or 1’s.  No doubled words.  Outer space came with Space Vikings, Star Rangers, Star Soldiers, and When The Star Kings Die – although both of The Expanse series, Babylon’s Ashes and Nemesis Games occur in outer space, but their titles don’t indicate that.

Possessive nouns returned with Babylon’s Ashes in hand.  The mystery Kevin: Murder Beneath the Pines provided the only botanical reference.  The requirement for an article of clothing might be satisfied, if you consider a gold watch to be clothing.

I refuse to obtain books just to satisfy some synthetic list.  I read what I find, that interests me, and Damn the Book Titles!  Full speed ahead!  How about you?  Would you buy/read just to check off some list??!