Friday, 17 November 2017

37 - Asimov/Whitman/Singer

Short Story:
Isaac Asimov: Star Light.
Another murder story, but this time of a space traveller who kills to get access to millions, only to find he has space-jumped through hyperspace to the worst place he could have imagined.

Walt Whitman: I Sit and Look Out (1860)
Another gut wrencher:

'All these -- all the meanness and agony without end I sitting look out upon,
See, hear, and am silent.'

Peter Singer: The value of a pale blue dot (2009)
The title refers to the picture Voyager took of Earth from around 6 billion kilometres away, at the request of Carl Sagan. Here it is:
Earth is the tiny speck about half-way down the brown band (caused by diffraction by the camera's optics) on the right. (

Singer's argument is basically that we need to confront the truth of our insignificance in order to achieve the greatness of which we're capable.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

36 - Asimov/Whitman/James

Short story
Isaac Asimov: The Dust of Death
A murder mystery cleverly linking Titan, platinum black, hydrogen and oxygen, and ridding the world of a credit stealer.

Walt Whitman: The Wound Dresser
Written in 1865, it's hard to imagine the horrors of 19th century warfare, but this poem about a nurse (I assume) dressing wounds of the soldiers brings the horrors to life. I can see it all, smell the blood. Horrifying.

Clive James: Not Drowning but Waving
This essay, published in the New Yorker in 1987 celebrates the poetry of Stevie Smith. I'm sorry to say I'd never heard of her, but I wish I had, and will seek her out.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

35 - Asimov/Whitman/Raimundus

Short story
Isaac Asimov: A Loint of Paw.  A short story about how time travel will affect the statute of limitations (or will it?). Interesting and with the last line a pun just as likely to illicit a groan as is the title! Fun.

Walt Whitman. The Artilleryman's Vision. A veteran awakens in the night and is haunted by the memories of the war. A chilling poem:

(The falling, dying, I heed not, the wounded dripping and red I heed not, some to the rear are hobbling.)

It may be stretching it to call this an essay, but John Cabot's Discovery of North America (1497) is a collection of letters that is definitely worth reading. He was commissioned by King Henry VII to explore (looking for a route to China, I think), and discovered North America (probably making landfall in what is now Canada). He found a few signs of inhabitants, including a needle for making nets and snares for catching animals, but apparently made no contact.

Starting again

This was such a great challenge and I was learning so much that I've decided to start again. I had a rough time for a long while after I first began this challenge, including caring for my mother and coping with her subsequent death, but things have settled now and I'm ready for the challenge again. Bring it on!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Suspending the blog

I haven't suspended the writing a story a week or reading an essay, story and poem, but I have found that the blogging about it took up too much time, and took time away from writing, as it takes as long or longer to blog about the reading than to just do the reading. I will make an occasional report, but that's all for now unless I find some extra hours in the day.

Friday, 16 August 2013

34 - Greene/Browning/Greer

Germaine Greer. The Pulitzer Divorce (1983). Essay about injustice in divorce in America, especially when the wife is poor and young, and the husband is older and rich.

Robert Browning. Incident of the French Camp. Poem about a boy soldier meeting Napoleon as he is cut down. A sad tale of war, and all the sadder because nothing has changed and boys (and girls now) are still dying in stupid wars.

Graham Greene. The End of the Party (1929). A weird story that was boring at first as it seemed to drag on and on. The ending was strange, and I still wonder why Francis was so frightened when his twin was not. A well-crafted story, but for me (living some 84 years after it was written), I thought it needed some editing and tightening up. Which is probably more a reflection on our shorter attention spans than on Greene's genius as a story teller.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

33 - Greene/Lovelace/Greer

Germaine Greer. The Dalton Syndrome ~1981. The syndrome is usually known as PMS, but Greer names it after a Dr Dalton, who spent her career on premenstrual syndrome, treating it with progesterone, and keeping women who did terrible things out of prison using PMS as their defence. Greer's argument about PMS and the underlying mysogyny is a powerful one.

Richard Lovelace. To Althea from Prison. A poem about liberty, famous for the lines:
Stone walls do not a prison make
Nor iron bars a cage
Graham Greene. Brother (1936). A powerful story about powerlessness in the face of external conflicts. A group of communists enter a cafe and demand drink but don't pay. Then the police come with their guns and drive the communists away, and then they demand drink. The proprietor has empathy for the communists and the Germans with them, but he is trapped and powerless with both groups.