Arjun and the Good Snake
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As my attempt to refrain from overlapping from the flukes of the big dick have failed to a degree, I will start slowly. I think some of you are nearly finished with my book and some reading both Moby Dick and mine.
So here is the official beginning. And as Porius has suggested some knowledge of Hinduism could be helpful for Arjun and, my first substantive post below will present some of my thoughts, which should also serve to slow this train down so Moby Dickers have time to catch it.
Arjun and the Good Snake is a religious book. I say that comfortably because I see no essential difference between religion and philosophy, other than that when religion is bereft of philosophy it is inevitably malignant. It should be no surprise that the philosophy in the book is subcontinental. My personal needs begin where the Levantine religions leave off, after learning how to behave, at the point of understanding myself in order to save myself, whatever that means…whatever that means even if it is limited to behaving as I have learned to. Aside from my personal needs, there have been intellectual attractions to subcontinental thought. I was for a long period fascinated by what I perceived as a convergence between Western nihilism and Tantric Hinduism, as each appeared to me. Nihilism I understand to be a sort of application of phenomenology toward the clearing of structures (of thought, cultures, proscribed quotitdians) in an attempt to begin again to attempt to be human despite societies/civilization. Tantric thought begins with the notion that during the Kali Yuga, people are no longer capable of rising to the gods, which was the first elemental purpose of religion, and therefore the gods must be brought to the people; the method is any means of re-sacralizing the mundane. Most of my life, with less focus as a boy, I have been trying to understand how to behave in the bizarre, anti-human context I have found myself in, and while doing so, while trying to understand this, I’ve found that the greatest obstacle is that it seems to have to be accomplished alone. Friends of like mind have one after the other made compromises that I could not make—at first this was repulsive, after some time it became quite understandable. Being on the wagon for me means maintaining contact with this most familiar and acceptable of selves; off the wagon means at times madness…at others…well, nothing good ever comes of it. So In the summer of 2009, having six weeks and three days in India before me, and realizing I was off the wagon, the natural move, that which would bring something back together if it was not too late, would be a writing project, something that could be completed—the deadline inherent in the project, that could not help but address my current concerns, a process that would lead me to examine my self once again, if not more so.
I was wondering when you would overcome your natural reticence and get a thread going...
I'll refrain from further comment until you get a critical mass of readers. It is a thought provoking book.
I'm enjoying it thoroughly, Rick. congratulations on a super book. I love the blend of anecdote, history, personal stuff. It's a real page turner, moving and thought provoking at the same time.
This may be an odd move, but still introductory...Some pre-memoir data may be of help, but as the book is non-fiction and I am a fictionologist by nature, I decided to include as background a fictional auto-biographical chronology inspired by the real chronology provided for a novel by Gustav Meyrinck that read quite blessedly fictional to me. This is from a current novel that is lingering in the early stages, and the chronology ends with my move to Slovenia:
17 May 1959 Al Sussewe born in St. Ignatius Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, legitimate son of Geneva Raines and Johnson Robertson Sussewe, out of wedlock.
1959-1977 Lived in Toronto alternatively with J.R. Sussewe and his wife Eleanora Aquitanus Sussewe and his three step-brothers, and Geneva Raines and a succession of live-in male friends, mostly jazz musicians.
1977-1982 Studied literature at McGill University, member of anarchist student group, several incidents involving disciplinary action, left the university without obtaining a degree.
1982-3 Travels to Vancouver. Has affair with model, suffers first nervous breakdown, returns to Toronto. Re-enters McGill University, drops out after three months.
1983 On the dole. Thrown off the dole for ‘swindling’ case worker. Early attempts at writing fiction.
1983-1986 Period of intense political activity. Under sway of mysterious anarchist Iranian woman. Affair ends with restraining order filed against her, Sussewe in poverty, homeless, receiving numerous death threats.
1987-1990 Writes first novel, The Stupid Persistence of Inanimate Things. Loses manuscript. Returns to McGill University, graduates with highest honors.
1990 Travels to India to take a teaching job at a school in a hill station in the Nilgiri Mountains. Arrives to find the job is a fiction. Scandal involving a betrothed woman and her family in Bangalore ensues. Sussewe arrested, passport confiscated, Sussewe deported after three months. Arrives in Toronto in the midst of his second nervous breakdown.
1991 Marries Chinese painter Wan Fung Chang in civil ceremony before anonymous witnesses.
1992-1995 Alternates between working as a taxi driver and periods of intensive writing. Completes two novels: Taxi Cabaret and The Appearance of Death to a Hindu Woman. Travels to Hong Kong, has nervous breakdown. Amicable divorce from Chang in 1994.
1995 Takes teaching position at the University of Chiba, near Tokyo. Arrives in Tokyo August 3, nervous breakdown begins the next day, continues until Sussewe flies back to Toronto, extending his own experience of the fiftieth anniversary of the Hiroshima atomic bomb by thirteen hours.
1995-1997 Returns to McGill for his master’s degree in literature, meets creative writing instructor, prize-winning novelist McNeill Cray, whose agent discusses Sussewe’s work with two New York editors who praise the writing style, but question the ‘overall’. Sussewe receives Master’s degree.
1997-2000 Former student of Cray, Stanford ‘Rabbit’ Warren, becomes an agent at a small, prestigious New York firm. Al Sussewe becomes his first client. Sussewe writes and publishes (with small, prestigious upstate New York press, Ziggurat, Inc.) his Canadian Swamp Trilogy: Ride of the Norse Mosquitoes; Johnny Really; and The Qualms of Evolution.
1998 Ride of the Norse Mosquitoes is received with some excitement by critics, though is snubbed by the larger newspapers. Distribution in the United States brings flattering reviews from small, prestigious publications, but the New York Times dismisses the book with a brief, taunting paragraph.
1999 Johnny Really answers the critic, but the literary world is focused on an astonishing confluence of famous literati, experimental, reclusive, even several Nobel Prize candidates, who are being published on the precise date, 1 September, as Johnny Really. The San Francisco Chronicle gives the book a rave review in January of 2000. Sussewe is awarded McGill University’s McNeill Cray award, worth 12,000 Canadian dollars. The book also is listed as the third best Ontario novel of 1999 by the Toronto Librarians Association.
2000 French publisher, small and prestigious, purchases with intent to translate Ride of the Norse Mosquitoes. Johnny Really is picked up by a well-known Hollywood agent. Two weeks later the agent, aged 53, dies. Warren tells Sussewe that Hollywood will have to wait for the publication of The Qualms of Evolution.
2001 Johnny Really and The Qualms of Evolution are both translated and published in France. Sussewe’s French Publisher, Noir-Merde, announces their intent to reprint both Ride of the Norse Mosquitoes and Johnny Really as mass market paperbacks. In late summer Noir-Merde goes bankrupt.
2002 After a delay of two years caused by the depression of his editor, Qualms is finally published in the US, but in paperback, no reviews noticed.
Page turner is certainly one thing it is. You lure the reader forward raconteur-style--although that term has sort of bullying associations, and you know much better how to establish a sense of the sharing of confidences--and part of that is the episodic nature of the book, not only in terms of story-then-gloss-in-italics, but also in terms of these sort of efflorescences of non-narrative language that box off the stories, sometimes abstract, sometimes koanic, sometimes framing-story reminders where you're telling a story to Arjun as well as us and coming back at the end to remind us. It sort of shunts "the reader" (me) into a weird space--reflective, certainly, but also adrift, like "here is a thing, a story. This is what this thing is. Now this thing is gone." And you can ask yourself "What did you make of it?" in a move-forward-then-consolidate way, but also you can feel just a frisson--it's not a heavy-handed book--of the limits of the possible for meaning-making in an existential sense; like, there's no climax or lesson, and we're thrown back onto meaning in the signification sense, and a new episode begins.
It's structurally a lot like a snake encounter, in a way: We don't really know why we're out looking for snakes, but it cannot be denied that snakes are awesome, and so we go, and are faced with something glittering in the Indian night or failing to thrive in a Croatian bucket or just bathetic, like not finding any snake at all, but when the snake looks you in the eye and vanishes--like the king cobra that you couldn't shoot--it leaves me with kind of that same feeling of being in the presence of the (literally, if we're talking venomous snakes) ungraspable. Is that the Tantric nihilism? (And didn't Alexander Theroux miss a trick by not including "Tantric nihilists" in his house of horrors?)
I'm suffering from lack of focus. Joyce was gonna be mentioned, and alcohol, and page 81, and page 46 is also a good one. I like this book; it's quite winning.
Arjun comes across really effectively. He's a very charismatic child, as no doubt you're aware, with a kind of kidly self-possession that usually only goes with kids who are kind of junior scolds. As someone whose strong relationship with his sister comes from sharing everything equally whether we need to or not, I hope for more Bhairavi, although I guess she was quite small when you were writing this.
My comment, of course, was mean to be #5. The timeline does it more honour. I notice Sussewe is childless.
Really enjoyed the bio. Bhairavi proves the bolder (or, being younger, less knowing) at one point.
Arjun trained to have a sharp, but not forked, tongue.
I most dug so far the portrait of the homi-sui-cidal driver relative, but I am liking it all.
Serious themes appearing in the pages, most or all deliberately invoked by the writer:
The death wish.
Relationships - familial, communal. Related: blood. How thick is it? Refosc?
Stories - source of and need for.
Pilgrimages, washing, sanctification. What if washing/sancitifcation is destructive? See tidal waves. And monsoons? And death wish?
If I mention Tantric nihilism and someone finds it somewhere in the book it would be impolite of me to say no, that's not what I mean, not there. But, as far as I can tell, the way Tantric nihilism worked for me as I wrote starts there, with the ungraspable...yet heavy, and needing to be grasped, whether possible or no, and if no, then the attempt to grasp must become as heavy as the image of the ungraspable.
What's your secret Rick? Peter, if you are listening?
At some fundamentally important level I don't give a shit what anybody thinks.
I am not sure that qualifies as a secret, but I can believe that it helps.
Which fundamentally important level? Are we using chakras for reference or....
>11. I have all kinds of little habits, a certain time of day, place to sit, kind of pen, notebook, cigar, etc. They are only of significance because they incline or propel me to work, or I come to believe so, and out of that the fiction of it becomes real. As with Charles, and no doubt Rick.
As your guide or something, let me ask who is here and where they are in the book and what they want to know or say, and please if you have something impolite, impolitic, or devastatingly critical, by all means let's have it.
Bhairavi is only a year and a half younger, and you'll see how she 'manages'.
I'm about half way through. There is a coconut seller selling coconuts when you can pick them up off the ground for free. nice touch.
Rick, one of the things that interests me is the gap between your real life and your 'fictionalising' of it in your book. Could you say something about that?
How impudent! (Sorry, was just watching the Marx brothers). To my knowledge there isn't anything fictional in the book. Unless I forgot something. Is there any particular scene you have in mind?
The worst thing, for my reputation, was that it being my book, I had to leave out potentially exculpatory information--including it would have made me a weasel, though.
Rick, I have just downloaded it to my kindle, plan to start tomorrow.
haunted by the murr question...Is there any fiction in the book? Dialogue? I remember some fast note-taking talking with Arjun, but the stuff with Gopal the driver was over ten years ago. It's vivid in my memory, but do I remember what I settled for that was as close to accurate as I felt I could manage?
That's one thing.
But now mainly I wonder specifically what TC meant, for he seems to assume some extensive fictionalizing. This could be fun.
In the spirit of de-lurking I am not rreading the book Rick, but am following the thread with intent.
Particularly interesting was your view of convergence between nihilism in the west and tantric hinduism in the east...
By the way, could I ask someone such as Martin to confirm that you are real and not fictional? Sometimes it all gets too confusing.
Please do, but I fear Martin's answer. (I can email you a pdf of the book if you like)
One example I can think of is the elaboration by you and Arjun of the story about the village snake, but that is disclosed by you in the narrative.
No, Slick, that wouldn't count.
Zeno: email@example.com'll send the pdf as soon as i get the mail
Porius, are we confused likewise, clockwise, or anticyclonic? You're finished? The book is not fiction, but we have to wait for Murr to wake up so he can elaborate on his question. Can you elaborate on yours?
Zeno, a man claiming to be Rick Harsch picked us up in Trieste and whisked us away to his aerie overlooking the Adriatic, where he fed and refošked us, and I understand later there was a run-in with some Italian townies, but I was already unconscious. Exploits that followed included the smuggling of live snakes (and uncredentialled children) across international borders, atmospheric interludes for bootlegged liquor in several low dives, a visit to a crumbling chapel housing ancient secrets, a deathbed conversion, and a last-minute escape through the hills led by a partisan with a missing ear. Rick's last words to us were "It was all a dream ...."
Beyond that I really don't know what to tell you, since I'm pretty sure he was wearing a rubber face. Really, you want to ask Miloš and Ištok.
(His actual last words to us were probably "Stop apologizing!" It makes Americans so mad when we do that!)
Rick, I'm at the part with Bhairavi and the crocodile. Manages indeed!
31 Martin - now I have to wonder whether you are actually a character in one of RH's novels....
sorry, Rick, I don't mean to suggest that you are lying or anything like that. I'm thinking more in terms of the general transposition of life into art. I mean, on a very general level, the selection and presentation of detail from the plethora of your life must involve at least some consideration of re-arrangement; the organisation of material into an artistic, narrative structure. This is what I mean by 'fictionalising'.
another way to look at this is from the reader's perspective. I know nothing about your life, or the people in it, so reading this book, I can only read it as a book, not as a personal document - it is published after all. I can only judge it not in terms of its truthfulness to your life, which I know nothing about, but on its own terms, as I would any other book: characterisation, thematic coherence, deeper meaning, overall structure, linguistic effects etc etc.
Themes include, snakes, of course, family relationships, alcoholism, and suicide
The structure is nicely rambling, as Martini said, snaking like a snake
characterisation is excellent- the sections on Gopal were awesome, I was on the edge of my seat, and the poor goat (don't tell urania)- your characters really come alive.
so I was just wondering to what extent you were conscious of all this transposition of life into narrative art when you were writing?
It's an odd combination because to get the book done I had to fill ten notebook pages a day. Arjun told me yesterday he remembers that trip, me with the notebook all the time. It turned out I wrote 400 plus notebook (size of trade paperback) pages in 54 days, so there was little time to arrange in some respects. On the other hand I had a lot of material from a previous effort on snakes in India (all of Gopal was re-written here, which means mostly transcribed). I remember after a few days being glad my writing was actually in India and not pre-India memory for context. But largely themes and structure in this case were intuitive, nor did I expect that I would add material after India, but the themes played on, life went on, and problems went on.
Another answer is that a lot of what went into this book was in my head for so long that writing was often like transcribing--this has happened before. With the novel The Appearance of Death to a Hindu Woman, the book was in my head so long that when I had the time finally to write it relatively undisturbed it was all there, even the phrasing. One Christmas break I had ten days absolutely free, so I decided to jump ahead to a section that was going to be, I guessed, 100 notebook pages, so if I wrote ten a day I would finish it. It was 98 pages. This book was a lot like that, although there were innumerable times when something during those six weeks led to impromptu digressions. I didn't know I would write about the Idiot American Woman until shortly before I did, but as I did I had near total recall of her ten years previous, including dialogue that was if not exact, very close.
'...the organisation of material into an artistic, narrative structure...' Actually, very little of that because a diary is a diary, so I strove for as many facets of authenticity as possible. If something popped into my head it was because of where I was, and so the book was arranging itself according to method. this was less true with the italicized sections which had to be 'placed', but I don't recall any lengthy deliberations in that regard. And after a couple friends read the first version the only change made was to make more clear for the reader where he or she was in place and time.
I guess I am admitting this book is rather artless. But that's because of the way the themes and events worked inside me before during and after, with their own logic.
I'm glad we're getting some dialogue going.
Boomslang is one hell of a word, though, eh?
Not off to a great start had to check the dictionary for a word in the first sentence of the Preface, but bolus is a good word.
>37 thanks for your long response Rick. you confirmed what I thought, that the book is artless, but I wasn't sure whether that was a conscious 'artistic' decision, or just simply the generic nature of the beast: diary, memoire, confessional.
I just read the nasty American woman last night, and I wanted to slap her. I have met many like her - not only Americans I should add - especially in Thailand, where travellers love to slag off the natives and treat them like shit.
Boomslang is a fabulous word. Perhaps Citygirl should name citybaby it.
I'm greatly enjoying the insights into hinduism, which I know nothing about, and the long excerpts from the Mahabarata (I'm assuming this is the origin of the Parakshit tale or is it another Hindu text?) fit the tenor of the book very well.
ETA and I lovooooooved the paragraph with the ants!
I'm looking forward to the weekend when I can spend more alert time with ARJUN so I can have something reasonably intelligent to say on the matter. The book is no featherbed for sluggards. I aim to give it the effort it deserves.
Thanks Captain P. And TC the book is now officially a grand success now that you singled out my ant paragraph! This is the kind of thing I write for now that cashing in seems such a long shot. (Actually it was what I wrote for all along, but then cashing in became an option, I actually earned a grand total of 14,000 usd on advances for the three novels plus a 12,000 usd award...) But the ant paragraph! You can have no idea how happy that makes me.
What does ETA mean? Outside train stations.
The Parikshit story is indeed from the Mahabharata, but I wish it weren't so I could impress you with my knowledge of the other tens of thousands of pages of various Hindu tales.
The story itself was originally in a book I had to toss for reasons that still pain me and have to do with editors and agent, which was a collection of snake tales told by locals that was, after a fifty page intro, about 75% footnotes. That story was a footnote in chapters 6, 7, and 8, each time the reader thinking it was finished only to find it continued quite naturally.
(Hey look: there's a Bulgarian business card on my desk, cyrillic one side, from about nine years ago. How did it escape?)
Just want you to know that I will catch up, but of course have not had time to read much. I am refraining from reading the thread until I get a little bit more into the book.
Just checking in. I've been down with a bug for the past week and while I read the first twenty pages, I have no memory of them, except that your son is three weeks younger than my son.
I plan to begin again in a few days. I'll catch up.
Lisa, if you wrote a book about boats and I had a chance to go snake hunting...
RG, My son will never catch up.
Question for readers: How do you feel about the 'first' section of the book, the prelude to India?
#51 Not finished it yet, but I envy you your view from your apartments balcony.
I stopped reading I jest after sixty or seventy pages.
I have done so much editing over the last ten years and still don't know the jargon.
THE wikipedia might be wrong
I considered the boomslang but thought it looked too long and I have never seen a photo of one with such green, but they're right--the head shape gives it away. Plus the length only differs by about 35cm, so it was a bit dumb to go by that. I am a poor ophidiologist.
I have read the first section of the book.
It seemed to flash past in an instant, it is so alive. It would seem to be a great introduction to the author/speaker and his son Arjun. I felt I was there with you at the wine festival and felt the lurking danger behind the brush with the drug dealers.
needless to say it rings true as a description of an alcoholic, only partly aware of the dangers around him. A reliable witness so far I think. Great local colour and I enjoyed all the stuff about turtles and snakes. I am looking forward to India.
I was happy about the ancient mariner, but sad about the non-appearance of Ištok.
Also, my foreign characters have been fucked up for weeks, and the lack of crisp assurance in my eššes makes me feel like I ca't even be in the same room as you.
Read the first 3 sentences when the pdf came through. Will try to get going this weekend....would you consider yourself an anarchist Rick?
verifiable proof bias? no. but I do want to know where the question comes from.
Names changed to protect the innocent. OF course. Thank god. Thank you.
Actually, that was what I called him for the first few years I knew him. it's horrible slovene, grammatically, but most find it funny, even he does, luckily--the funny thing was he knew I called him that long before I told him about it.
A serial killer of young males, Gacy, maybe, was reported to have been obsessed with the peritoneum.
Is there an intentional correspondence in Arjun between venom and alcohol? Where does that leave eradification efforts?
Hey Rick, can I call on your ophidiological services here? I am going to East Africa (mostly Uganda) this summer, and I like to poke around in the bush. What's the best way to not get bit by a saw-toothed viper? Will Beatle boots do the job?
Cos I mean, the Beatles never had any major snake troubles.
The saw-scale viper will be the least of your worries. East Africa is loaded with killers. You will have them in your mind and watch locals go about barefoot as if snakes didn't exist.
Actually the saw-scale viper may not be all that common in east Africa, not as much as in the north. But you'll have spitting cobras, mambas green and black, river jacks...If you see a mamba don't make sudden moves. Boots to just below the knees would be good.
Christ, that's great news, slick. About the venom/alcohol question: it was such a natural the challenge was to leave it alone as much as possible.
'You're from Wheeling. I know it from the drive-in.' Please, do go on. I was in Wheeling and Buffalo Grove until the first year of High School.
Rick, how does one pronounce those Slovenian words with the accent marks over/under the sses and the c's. I hate it when I am reading and don't know how to pronounce things.j
Obviously, I am way behind. I have made it to India, but barely. And reading by the pool is not conducive to deep thought.
>50 If I had a chance to go boat hunting and you had a chance to write a book about snakes--oh, that's what we did. Better that you should write, believe me.
I like the boomslang.
č is tch...ć is ch...š is sh
you have to hope the boomslang likes you
Wait, what's the difference between tch and ch? Besides the obvious.
Martin, in Rick's absence--and I am probably wrong--the tch is a harder sound. The ch is midway between sh and tch. Only guessing based upon passing familiarity with other languages.
Rick, I like the name boomslang. Unlike you, I won't deliberately get close enough to one to find out if it likes me.
nearing the end, on the final cobra hunt. Your description of the eyes of the cobra sent a chill through me. And the episode on the beach with Arjun has real emotional power.
I'm greatly enjoying the quality of the prose. The description of India on pages 235-237 is fabulous: like a pointiliste painting, you build up the details dot by dot, most evocative. and the word games, I especially liked Achilles heal.
Rick, can you explain a bit more about the term buhli.... whatsit? you use it several times I can't find it now, but do you know what I mean? I"m interested in knowing more.
Some bits that caught my eye:
Powers acquired through austerities are of Manichean aspect in Hindu lore: merit is assigned for the achievement, with no consideration given to intention.
Good literate Westerners are no longer as literate as the literate amongst us were, or were supposed to be back then.
Those were better days, Bulkington! (reference to Moby DIck?)
The road to Little Nell is paved with bad intentions.
Agreed. There are some drowsy tinklings for some fastidious, and even some slowtidious ears. RH is the real item, no doubt about it.
For instance: ditch versus rich---a town in Croatia: Ičići--not a palindrome..with tch the tongue is flattened up to the roof, with ch a lot more air is allowed through. probably if you pronounce ditch and rich the same no one would notice, but if you do the same with č and ć here folks would notice
bhulbulaiyan is a Hindi word that more or less means lost place, which i interpret as a place where I am lost, and I suppose everyone is lost: is it the same bhulbulaiyan or do we each have our own? All these existential questions require indirect approach and so it is very difficult to be satisfied with the results of our searches, requiring the laying aside of our main guide through life, our rational mind...but the rational mind does not take quietly to such treatment..once you're satisfied it leers up and asks sarcastically Oh Really? The bhulbulaiyan offers a place where though the discomfort of living without answers may remain, the nagging of the rational is muted.
Bulkington/Moby Dick: of course--there can never be another Bulkington after 'The Lee Shore'.
thanks for the explanation of bhulbuliyan. Beautiful concept. and I like the way you apply it in the book.
Time for a beginning of the end review. Who is where? What do you think of____________. What must the author answer for? Where did it all go so wrong?
Aha! Yes! I know of what you are speaking. Chinese has it too, the difference between "q" (ć) and "ch" (č). In the parlance, the latter is "grooved" (and "postalveolar," but that shouldn't be discussed in polite company).
I like the sound ć.
Rick I am in the car and am so far behind! Only to p. 123. If it goes wrong, I don't want to know and I will have to stop reading the thread until I finish.
I was curious, Rick, as I told you in a PM, about you handled your son as a character--though you write in the straightforward tone of what I prefer to call a nonfiction novel than a memoir, or a diary--as if what you see, think, say and do is just you living your life. I was interested in the father-son thing in particular because I'm writing about my daughter now, from when she was born to whenever I decide I've had enough end the book, or my imaginary reader decides for me. I delve for what made and makes my daughter tick, or seems to at various points of her young life, in my usual "I think, therefore who am I?" mode. I found it a relief, given my own approach, that you present Arjun as a character not to be deconstructed, but just there; not unlike the narrator. I like that air of acceptance.
>94 beginning of the end? I have only just begun. I am beginning the end of the Preface.
for me he is phenomenon, so the ticking is mine, my response to the phenomenon, my consideration of the phenomenon, what I need to be in the face of the phenomenon.
I suppose it would be different if I were to write about him when he's older--then there are the fascinating, exasperating, surprising changes I would guess. For instance, he is well-adjusted at school and I will be relieved when he decided he doesn't like and won't tolerate a particular teacher...
Choco, You may not be the only one. I think some are done, some are just starting, some are on page 119.
We had some people over on Saturday, since which time my copy has been awol. Of course I was hoping one of our guests absconded with it, but today I found it in the recycling under a pile of beer bottles, sticky but not really the worse for wear. I am on page 145.
"The tortoise is already an improbable beast..."
Only up to page 15, but enjoying it very much so far.
You have so much going on in your mind that when you post on a thread there always seems to be more you could say, more mental energy waiting to burrow out - whereas the expansiveness of a book appears (at least after 15 ps) to give you appropriate space.
Moving along . . . up to about 154 or so. I don't know what the author has to answer for, but I am really finding the juxtaposition of the writing while in India with the insertions fascinating. Honestly, Rick, the only thing that is perfectly clear to me so far is your love for your son. I think this book also takes in love for your daughter and your wife, but I am not yet sure.
Liked the bit about the monkey tossing the coke bottle away around that part. I have been busy and am only at about 200, despite my early start and enjoyment of the writing.
I bring the reader's attention to p. 157, The Birth of the Ganga or Arjuna's Penance. Here, I think, we find RH at the top of his game.
Yeah! The whole next 30 pages, with all the Takshaka stuff, is a stint of pure gold.
What's funny to me is that I think I have a whole new level of reader here. Normally I have friends who are great readers, friends who are not, and at one time an agent, who is not a reader at all in the sense that his perception of his job prevents him from seeing what is before him. Here there is delight in digression, where all but a couple friends find that anything but a delight (too confusing, for instance, I often hear, or I didn't like the snake parts, or less of the snake parts, and so on--while I feel that when I read my first task is to take what I am given, understand why it was put down as it was...)
when I read my first task is to take what I am given, understand why it was put down as it was...
less snake parts? didn't like the snake parts? Are these people retarded?
'...more of the family drama...' and the like--quick resolutions, or more problems...Retarded? I hope so. I know my ex-agent is, literally.
I've read a lot more books with family drama parts than snake parts. Let's give the snakes their day on a rock in the sun.
less snake parts? It is the underlying theme. Or maybe the overlying theme. The book would not be the book without the snake parts. Sometimes in the digression I am thinking "but what about the snake hunt?" This, by the way, from a person who has an absolute aversion to snakes.
P, MM--yes, yes.
it's about obsession: snakes, Arjun, alcohol and suicide: the Big Four. They all feed off each other. Take one away and the whole edifice crumbles.
You drink Pepsi? Hmm.
A friend of mine's grandparents lived in rural PA and they owned a monkey named Muggs who loved Coke or Pepsi and would not touch the other. (I forget which way his tastes ran.) Sadly, Muggs was killed by a neighbor with a shotgun when that neighbor caught Muggs pulling tiles off his roof.
Murr, you always get to the heart of the matter.
Rick, I am past 200, but don't remember how far (in pages). I will certainly finish this weekend.
In India it's best not to trust bottled water bought amongst tourist locales. I drink more cola in six weeks in India than six years elsewhere. Muggs probably had a relative who died of dysentery from drinking bottled river water.
First time as thread leader, I am afeard when little comes in for days. My idea: all readers: Attention! One post apiece here, even if you're done. As a writer of a memoir, I am quite unsure what to think of meeting readers when I have done some of the things I have done, meaning most of all abusing a fellow 'character' (not to spoil, see, I mean for future readers...). Let's have it out!
Rick, I am close to the end. I was thinking about you as leader of this thread and how difficult it must be. Not being a writer, I can only surmise that you said in the book what you wanted to say about this time and these relationships. How do you "lead" a read of your book? "Knowing" you, I find it somewhat difficult to comment about a story that is about you.
I love your use of language. The style of moving back and forth in time is engaging. Despite having always had a fascination with India and its culture, I am ignorant of the Hindu religion and so find myself wallowing and sure I am missing some of your points.
Anyway, as you all know, I am not as deep a reader as the rest of you. To be trite (and not on the trite nonsense thread) I don't know anything about literature but I know what I like and I like Arjun.
I love all your self-effacing comments (not as deep a reader), for I have never without your pointing my attention that way, thought of you in this regard one way or another other than as quite personable and ready to dive in. I suspect others feel the same. if I wanted to, or had such inclinations, I suppose I could feel a bit inferior to Porius for his vast and eclectic knowledges, Murr and Mac and Bas and whoever I left out for their reviews, Ur for vast literary experience and easy depth of insight, and so on, but I don't find any evidence of anyone here being the lest self-exalting. For lack of a better analogy, we're like a bunch of old farts playing basketball once a week out of passion: my legs aren't what they used to be so my fakes get me nowhere, but I can still pass with the best of them (if they are old enough).
Yes, it is a different thread leading style, but I am interested in any engagement with readers.
Rick, I have not started reading Arjun yet. One more book and it is your turn. I promise to appreciate your spectacular book in a most boring review!
Let's let things simmer a bit. It's not an easy task dealing with ARJUN.
For lack of a better analogy, we're like a bunch of old farts playing basketball once a week out of passion: my legs aren't what they used to be so my fakes get me nowhere, but I can still pass with the best of them (if they are old enough).
Note to self - must not use this in a review it would be plagiarism.
Got side tracked from Arjun last week, but will pick it up again this week.
Still at the beginning. A cold and then the frantic catch-up left me capable of nothing other than crime novels and emails (the former for recreation, the latter out of grim necessity). I'm caught up, relatively so, at least the urgent stuff, and so plan to enjoy the book this week. I hate being behind; it punctures my smug feelings of competence.
I'm still near the beginning too. But the few times I did begin to read a bit, I found it hard to stop. Which, if you get me, makes it harder to start again, cos it means something else won't get done, such as sleeping. (This is true, not just saying it because you are the author, R.) It's easier to snatch a few minutes of Titus Groan, though that's pretty darn immersive too.
These days I'm swamped by all those peripheral things that aren't literature and LT. It's a pain.
At Page 20 - but determine to take a big bite out of it this week.
I found it near unputdownable this a.m. I thought the epigram you selected from Sinbad was choice.
P.S. sauCYkala? sasSYkala?
Finished yesterday. Great book, Rick! I was happy to see that final photo. I also liked the MGR appendix. Glad you included it but I can see why you did not want it in the main narrative. I need to mull things over a bit before I write a review.
I'm glad you like it, of course. The MGR appendix, like the structure of the book itself, was thought anathema to the 'general reader', but in this case I figured because I had it near the end it was all right to move it further so as not to detract much from the family business. The structure in general simply requires a reader more or less engaged with the book and this is the problem with editors and agents: they assume an idiot's involvement with a book, while my argument to them is that each book teaches the reader how to read it.
I thought the structure worked well. You unfolded several issues together and derived the benfit of some synergy. Also, I would not have enjoyed a straightforward and standalone family story, travelogue, addiction narrative or meditation, nearly as much. Even those catagories don't seem quite right to me, but I have to use some terms to make my point.
What to call your book is perhaps a silly concern, but it did come up for me again and again, especially when people asked - "What are you reading?" but also as I mused about it along the way. How would you characterize the book to yourself? How would you have me characterize the book to those who ask/ed "What are you reading?"
Forgive me, I see on your profile page that it is accurately , but incompletely, described as a literary memoir. I see Arjun and the Good Snake has not been touchstoned in this conversation yet. Done. Finally, I see you write the word "and" when you enter the title. The ampersand on the book cover seems much more appropriate for a book that features a mania for snakes.
I have finished. I think this from Rick's post above is important to the book:
bhulbulaiyan is a Hindi word that more or less means lost place, which i interpret as a place where I am lost, and I suppose everyone is lost: is it the same bhulbulaiyan or do we each have our own? All these existential questions require indirect approach and so it is very difficult to be satisfied with the results of our searches, requiring the laying aside of our main guide through life, our rational mind...but the rational mind does not take quietly to such treatment..once you're satisfied it leers up and asks sarcastically Oh Really? The bhulbulaiyan offers a place where though the discomfort of living without answers may remain, the nagging of the rational is muted.
Back in Izola, does the rational mind nag?
slick, i guess I consider memoir a vast swamp in which to toss the book.
lisa, the nagging is the work of an arboreal venomous snake like a mamba that can go a long time without visiting but show up quite unexpectedly. more literally, i am not dry, but for the most part under control. and the 'family problems' have been overcome as far as i can tell...
My kindle tells me I am 30% through Arjun. Some charming photo's of Bhairavi holding the baby crocodile. Rick's sojourn in India is bringing back many memories for me and so I am already loving this book. It does feel so real and of course Rick is a larger than life character.
What do you mean by what do you mean?
As the narrator of this slice of life, who does not hesitate to tell us what he thinks and at times what other people think of him, then he is all present in this book. However having read many of your posts on librarything I might be getting confused by the narrator of the book and Rick Harsch on LT.
I am only 30% into the book, but it seems to be about you Rick
>139 So Rick, the MGR section, where did it go originally in the book?
"Each book teaches the reader how to read it." absolutely and well said!
Interesting about editors, who feel they know more about what the reader wants than the writer does, when what they only (think they) know is what will sell; and of course there's a big gulf between what will be read and what will sell. I remember reading a piece about the influence of that New York Times critic (I forget her name, the japanese thing). the article claimed that it was her influence that created the dreadful uniformity of modern writing, and I wonder if editors are not also in the same way responsible for this creation of modern taste. I have heard an editor in this forum say that metaphors should not be tolerated and other nonsense like changing anglo words to american ones, all in the interests of uniformity and ease of reading.
to what extent should editors impose their tastes on the writer (and reader)?
The MGR section is crucial for the themes of corruption and history, and what a fucking snake he was! your editor was wrong to think readers wouldn't get it. What a putz, what a moron.
Lisa posted this on PK thread, but it's pertinent to this posting too.
I was thinking of Rick when I read Steinbeck's letter. Steinbeck sounded just like Rick!
the Rick of the book should be the same rick you have here. Larger than life is Babe Ruth to me--that's whay I balked. (Find the second baseball reference, Islanders--by the way Scotland 1 Slovenia 1 last night in Futbol.)
RE: MGR. Actually it was my antagent of yore who objected. My editor was a friend whom my publisher said fine fine fine to. That's one of the benefits of dealing with a tiny Slovene press that doesn't expect to make money anyway.
I chose the route I chose because it made the book bottom heavy. I included in the narrative what was important, but as the book was about to end I didn't want the reader's mind to be off somewhere when some emotion was required here and now. I love appendices or appendectomies or whatever they are.
Editors should not be allowed to impose ANYthing on the writer. I had a good editor for my first three novels. The first one I disagreed with EVERYTHING he said and he laughed it off saying Okay, I guess it's a driftless thing. The second book he had two points that made a great deal of sense and greatly improved the beginning and end of the novel. The third one he was depressed, hoped for something more grand for the end of the trilogy, while I went out in a minor key like a dying cellist. He had two years of critical depression besides, so I did it all myself and am still very happy about the result.
The problems is that two few writers are willing to say: you bought the fucking book, live with it. I have lost a career for saying it, first through my agent, then to my agent. There are not many different ways to say to the agent in euphemism: you fucking idiot, you don't even understand it. i ran out, he ran out. 8 years later we tried again and he was despicable.
I just read the Steinbeck letter. Oddly, I bear no relation to him until he begins the dialogue and then we are compadres in a cheap and dangerous Mexican taverna.
Yes, Rick, it was the dialogue--and description of "reader"--that made me think of you.
154: I was internally howling while I read his description of the dialogue between the writer and the other guys and the hybrid monster "reader" who is absolutely exacting yet too stupid to appreciate subplots... If we put you and Peter in a room (since he is a copyeditor for his "day job") would you end up like the Cats of Kilkenny? :)
Just read the piece about Neale's death from snake bite (just past p. 100 I think.
Liking the style and pace. Rick you know a lot of drunkards, drug dealers and madmen!
158: "drunkards, drug dealers and madmen"
Sounds like an album title.
Rick, you make me ashamed of my hysteria when face to face with that brown snake. I see now I should have picked it up and put it in a bottle.
Don't think Cher belongs in Rick's book http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWeezUxIzaE
First review! No spoilers. Check it out: http://www.librarything.com/review/80679245
Thanks. If you haven't read the reviews offered by Rick's writer friends, check them out. I especially like Gupta's and Albertsen's. They blurbed the book for publication. I thought there was a place to put such blurbs on LT, but I can't find it. Rick put them up in his own review and it got flagged as an abuse of the TOS. You can "show" and read them, though.
I think you can post outside reviews, but in a different area than the reader review place. I have seen them listed on some books without any flags or any problems but they are in a separate category than the regular reviews that we post as LT members.
yes, well done slick.
My experience with editors has been about the same. Only one of them said anything helpful. The rest were utter cretins, who couldn't even spot the typos in my text (I can't spot them either, but then, I'm not getting paid for doing so)
Further to our discussion of editors, I was struck by the question of what would happen if Dickens - or one of the other 19th century giants - were to submit one of his manuscripts to a modern publishing house. I came up with this.
Murrcat--I have to run to the social welfare net, but am hurting my stomach cackling first at: one of our interns could do it and then at Milwaukee, where one of my brothers lives...
oh my god it really hurts...
New Project Manager
Simian and Shyster
America's Biggest and Best Books™
LLACSL: laughd loudly and couldn't stop laughing (even though i have to go to the social welfare fucks, i mean folks...)
I'm still cackling--thank the gods my wife isn't here, just dogs bird and turtles...all a LLACSL!
Rick has just invented a new acronym - everybody take note.
Enjoyed your spoof TC.
TC That was so funny. llacsl and later in the day I will still be lqarl.
thanks everyone, although I feel a bit guilty about taking the wind out of slick's sails, and his review of Rick's book, which is much more important than my little squib.
It was clever enough that no apology is necessary. It clears the table for another review.
Marvelous. This interesting thing is that she could never handle an Indian cobra that way, for her tactic is to hold it off at a near precise point about a foot and a half below the head. With the Indian cobra, the tactic--sometimes for the same event--is to gauge the radius of its potential strike: you can't do that with a king cobra because it can move forward rapidly while in the striking position.
I have only just begun. About 20 pages in. Finally got the second kindle I've purchased to read this on.
First point: Rick, you swear uncommonly well. Most swearing in literature this days is quite poorly done. Pamuk sucks at it. He takes it too seriously, he does it with too little pleasure. Others think the words themselves communicate something. Bullshit! Bullshit! Bullshit!!! Swearing is a full body sport, and the words have to jump off the page or it's all just dreck.
But I say, this is some of the best, most choicely used vulgarity I've seen.
Still here. I will probably finish long after everyone else. Most of my reading these crazy days is done on the hoof, as it were, and I can't take my laptop in my handbag.
Don't wait for me.
A_, that's a nice compliment, and one I don't think I've ever received. thanks.
choco: i guess because I was reading about the floods i first saw your reading done on the roof. glad I was wrong.
I'm still working through - in small but quite intense bite size chunks. Very entertaining, liking it still very much....
Rick, the floods have really only reached my part of the state today. A lot of roads and trains are closed, but I am still at work. Roof reading is probably happening in Wagga and Forbes. Hoof reading still applies to most of Sydney.
But how nice of you to read about flooding in far-off Australia!
Finished Arjun tonight, which I really enjoyed
Rick, you are a bit old to be called an "angry young man" but I thought there was a lot of anger in the book.
I will post a review in the next couple of days.
pimping my review of Arjun.
Murr--just what I was thinking except that you know how to say it! Thumbed.
Very nice, Mr. Murr.
I have to say, I particularly enjoy the style here. Rick, you have a great voice here. I am really enjoying it.
It's very odd to read reviews by people I know...The writer has a hair-trigger when reading reviews: in my case a ready laugh for misconceptions, sheer idiocies, etcetera. So far here the experience with the book has been gratifying, the very fact of it being read, the comments, and now the reviews. This was my least consciously artful book, so it is all the more odd--and interesting--to read the reviews. And then there is the length of the book versus the length of reviews, which is always an interesting dynamic: what do the reviewers choose to discuss? A bad review is for sport, but good reviews, positive ones, are like unfamiliar insects: they're fascinating, but a little disturbing, too, in many ways, but particularly in the indefinable distortion of meetings, between the reader and the book and the writer and the reader and the writer and the reviewer, and the writer and the book, the insect and the experiment...
in the indefinable distortion of meetings, between the reader and the book and the writer and the reader and the writer and the reviewer, and the writer and the book
this is what's so interesting to me as a reader, how the reader takes a book and runs with it to areas the writer never envisioned, perhaps. I hope you feel I was true to the spirit of the book as I saw it while reading, rick?
oh, certainly...what is odd, though, is that I somehow feel a stranger to the book to some degree when I read even the finest review. and the main thing is that in commerce being true to the spirit of the book cannot be counted on. Here, it is to be assumed that the reader knows how to read beginning with an openness to the text. I loved your review, but that was the easiest thing to say.
And stars! Why not two or four? I feel the same with stars as I do about grades when I taught. So of couse I was condemned for being an easy grader.
stars are so subjective! Murr's three might be my four. I think they can only be used by the person giving them to compare to other things that same person has read.
Reviewed your book Rick, http://www.librarything.com/work/11294103/83773728
come on salinistas, get yer thumbs out. Let's fill the Hot Reviews page with Rick's book, and get the man some sales.
Bas--great review, but especially I finally earned the epithet idiocy! Thank you. May your southern France be northern Mediterranean!
As I told Bas in a PM, I was serious: there is idiocy aplenty on my part in the book and I don't want reades to be delicate; so I was glad to see the word.
Rick, it's an alarmingly honest book, which is part of its charm and fascination, besides the great style to the writing.
At the end of the day, the awful things you record are but superficial, that which is below the surface is not awful at all (I'm not done, so perhaps there is still something coming....) but often inspiring.
Sam, have you got to the bit yet where Rick washes his arse in the sink in his school's toilet - awful or what?
Out of it all, the image that keeps coming back to me is the pruning of the bush so that no leaves remained. I hope that was in Rick's book! It was, wasn't it?
Oh, I didn't find that one so awful. Maybe it says something about me, but if that happened to me, about a year or so after the event, I would be proud to tell that story.
As to bushes, I have more than once battled one down to having no leaves, usually more than half hoping it was done for, and often enough in anger. Bushes have a nasty habit of not behaving.
214> Precisely what, Bas, do you find awful? The reaction of the staff?
I was joking when I suggested that the incident in the loos might be awful. I was wondering when you look back on it whether it amuses you now Rick. It made me laugh.
The reaction of the staff was probably understandable, but officials can be so heavy handed; it's the nature of the beast.
There is of course a more serious point here; I think it is much healthier and cleaner to wash rather than use toilet paper. I got used to washing in India - it does a much better job. I have never been able to persuade anybody in England or France that a pot of water is much better than toilet paper. Interesting reactions when you remove all toilet paper from your loo and just provide a pot of water.
Sorry to lower the tone on the Arjun thread.
The loo is to me a wonderful icon of east and west. The book gets down to basics. We ought to be talking about it.
220: I lived in the middle east and came back with the same ethos. I keep a jug of water by the toilet and the rest of the family think I am a weirdo.
Chalk up another. Japan beat the toilet paper out of me. Washing is so obvious. There is NO DRAWBACK, assuming you have soap at hand.
I don't know why you humans get all worked up about such things. just let it dry and then you can lick it off. easy.
'Sorry to lower the tone on the Arjun thread.'
Of course we all know we are actually RAISING the tone, nature's marvel the cat aside (lucky beast--I lack the flexibility to even lick any part of my leg).
Bas, I could never work up the laughter now that came spontaneously then; and isn't it perverse that uncontrollable laughter (combined of course with gushing water and boken porcelain) should suggest drunkenness? But I WAS drunk on laughter. And partly because I knew I couldn't come straight out with the explanation, a fact of which I am not proud. But my ex-boss, the principal, bought my book, and I immediately directed him to that page and told him I was sorry I had lied to him. (Is it any wonder I was my ass at home these days?)
But, lordies, look at my company here: a bunch of ass washers!
I am in south Florida today where I saw many a snake, including a nesting water mocasin, and told my son the story about Rick's ass. A good day.
lucky you--I've never seen one, of course. ironically, elsewhere in salon, while my ass is the predominant topic here, my use of an anatomical is objected to...
Well, those freedom of speech threads challenge a feller, not to mention a gal.
In context, it seems to me it should hardly be noted, for whatever synonym could be used all concerned would probably use it towards that particular thread-starter.
Nonetheless, if YOU are offended I do certainly apologize--to you.
But while on the topic, I find it near-alarming that in insulting a known insulter, I find myself so easily tossed into the same category as Rush Limbaugh. I find that quite more obscene than any word that can be tossed about. (I did not include 'slut' in the list of words I use because I don't think that way and it has not lost any meaning as slang. I don't think in 52 years I have ever called anyone a slut.)
It does bring up the broader question of just what the proper form of address for Merkel is as she spins Europe ever closer to catastrophe. The sexually neutral "asshole" isn't strong enough, and most of the feminine voice slurs don't rally carry the right connotations.
Something I thought of a while ago and just remembered for some reason. Arjun calls you Rick. You use honorifics to refer to--and I assume--address your Indian parents. Any reason?
The Tamil family has terms for every relation (older brother is Anna, two older brothers are both Anna, so there are limits...), and I found it easy to use Amma, Appa...less so Akka (older sister)because she is a wretch. But me and my wife never thought much about what the kids should call us before they started to. It was an irritant to Sasi's parents, but the children did manage Tata and Ammama for grandfather and mother.
Unfortunately, my wife is the youngest, so I can't use Thambi, my favorite--younger brother; nor thangachi--younger sister. I may start using Thambi for my beloved brother-in-law since he is four or five years younger than me.
I've been trying to do justice to Rick's book but just can't seem to pull it together. The rigors of a long season has taken its toll on my 63 year old brain. All I can say at the moment is that ARJUN and is a first rate work of the imagination, deserving of a wide readership. I wish there was some way we could bring this about, but these are strange times. Strange times indeed.
Rick, what does it cost to have the book sent to Texas? (Not to the chair.)
between the upper sixes and mid eights, but it has to get through texan customs
I'm reading now. I respect your anxiousness to hear from us as we are reading. You have the honor, Rick, of being the person who got me to read off a Kindle. Sob!
-‘dribbling and drooling’ Nice!
-declaration of intent “ obsession with snakes, a love for a son, and an alcoholism darting with suicidal imagery....”
-scope widened in the rewriting process....
-a warning: I am not a good boy
-rudeness to agent -- v. funny!
-“Fuck a monkey” Arjun, aged 2 RH’s son, discovering the power of language
-Izola, Slovenia. The balcony. Wonderful- a liminal place, A diary is a balcony.
-3 years later, 2008....suicidal feelings, but never when with A. (I remember telling my husband, ignore it when she says she hates you.)
- ‘my limitations and his specific bask of eternity’ lovely
-lizards and snakes and tortoises.. seeking the timber rattlesnake -- v. vivid. - 1st venomous in Slovenia. Enthusiasm convincingly established!!!
-My oldest brother was a reptile fiend, I know you!
-W/Arjun - seeking a rumored tortoise....find a beaut, take home....
-intro of babysitter Tina -- a drinking binge...illustrative depilatory adventure,
-abandonment .....followed by perfect anecdote w. A in liquor store. balanced
- V. funny abt. Bambi! Looking for snakes at Bosko.... capture....her death.
-Trying to cut back after abandonment event. Festival...refosk.
-Dogs and barking.... illistrative seat of the pants coping.
-Ending of this section, shift to italics, the question of misunderstandings, esp across languages, cultures, - the anecdote of the shoelaces also reifying this - how easily one can say the wrong thing....transition worked for me.
Convincing doses of each of the ingredients named: love of snakes and of son, vulnerability to alcohol and a recurring death wish. Ist reading was rough, 2nd much smoother and the pieces fit together better. I’ve never read anything on a kindle, so..... I attribute some of my initial ‘rough’ to that.
Nice balance of complexity and questing, interwoven with anecdote and information.... big q.is 'trustworthy narrator' - tentatively, yes, the text feels 'honest'. Does work reach out and include me, sweep me up, trust me to understand? I think it does. One such 'moment' was / Arjun in the liquor section of the market.
Rick -- when I read something attentively this is what I try to do, just reflect what sticks to me, then a little more personal reflection and response. If you'd rather I PM'd to you, please let me know. I do my best to see and reflect what I find, no more. You are very brave to put your work out there in this forum -- although it is equally clear to me you have some long-term and trusting friendships here -- still a nutter could pop up anytime (and I notice they have....) and you could feel v. beleaguered. So hats off.
Thanks much... I like it a lot, the notebook style of response. I hope it generates a discussion or two.
My first attempt is to deny the least bit of bravery--I wrote the book, and so naturally want people to read it. And I know enough people who don't like my writing but like me that I do get a good skewering one way or another...
The writing compulsion is something aside from whatever bravery is made of
Trustworthy narrator? I never doubted Rick for a minute. I mean who would want to make some of that stuff up?
No seriously, that is one of the strengths of the book I think. Rick tells it as he sees it and then comments on it afterwards, when necessary.
I meant 'big q' as something I always consider when approaching a new read... in the first person - whether fiction or non. I am looking for clues as to what my 'attitude' is supposed to be. In the memoir form the latter - exclusion of the reader from the 'uniqueness' of the life - is more often the problem. Rick is 'sound' on both accounts!
What a serious windbag I sound like today. Apologies. Am trying to be sooooo responsible!
It is odd to read a book written by someone one "knows". Clearly I cannot really know Rick since I have only "talked" to him through LT, but Arjun just seemed real based upon this acquaintance.
It is also difficult for me to divorce my reading from what I think I know about Rick. I can only say that I think the book is worth reading and thinking about.
Regardless of how well a reality is presented, it becomes surprising after such a border as a book is established. It almost feels as if someone else wrote the book about someone else.
I stayed up past my bed-time reading AatGS.
If you knew me better you would know what a rare event that is.
Spent some blissful time yesterday looking at photographs of the shrine, temple? in Chennai with the elephants - Birth of Ganga story.... Very intimate and moving place, it looks like.
I want to keep doing a notebook type read, but that is not going to be possible -- in part it's the Kindle problem - my problem really because I'm not adept and so can't move around as fast as I'd like to -- I've kept some 'notes' and highlighted some stuff but even so, it's awkward and new.....
What I will say is that the main text has taken me up and out of myself fully gripped by the story and into sympathy w/ Rick's issues -- I'm choosing Arjun over and over rather than some other book in my ungainly 'currently' pile. I'm eager to learn all that Rick will tell me about snakes, as well as the people who join him in his snake pursuits. I'm interested in his thought processes, curious about where the story will take me in the end.
When I'm done I will go over what I've highlighted (nowhere near what I should have as I find it cumbersome -- I'm the queen of pasting stickies into books until they look like multicoloured hedgehogs)...
From 7 a.m. to now, 2:15 p.m. I sat reading Arjun to the very end. What a feast!
I did my best to work with the 'highlight' feature on the Kindle - lots to think about for a review, which is likely to take a little while. Easiest is joy at the passion and well-informed clarity in all the snake-related writing and the dogged attentiveness to the question that is the book's spiritual bedrock: Why live? Much harder for me to digest will be the constant emotional shifting I experienced, while reading: amusement, irritation, sympathy,disgust, anger, respect and around and around again as the 'story' unfolded - many of the darker emotions called up from my own personal history.
It's a very very very good memoir Rick.
Thanks much. Now with your, sibyx's, comments, this has been a thoroughly impressive process. I can't get over the quality of the thinkers/readers/reviewers here.
MM has written an extraordinary review of the book that should be more than thumbed, bronzed maybe.
Thanks sibyx! The Vasco da Gama part was super memorable and depressing and, like Rick, I'm glad you mentioned it; also the gold and silver snakes.
The flying snake thing -- I know I've seen some illustrations - Edward Lear? Gorey? Ardizzone? Someone -- with a snake flying - gliding ..... driving me bats!
You will be glad to know Rick that you caused me to spend an hour reading on line about Vermont's snake (about 8-9 varieties) - we sometimes have them in our woodpile and I get crazy about protecting the babies from the cats. I've locked the cats up for days until I'm sure they've scattered.
My favorite Vt. beastlet, not reptile, but amphib. is the newt in the eft phase:
Both those reviews are great and add to the read. This one really was a truly memorable and fun read.
'Most human affairs are carried on at the same nonsensical rate, which makes me (who am now grown superstitious) think it a fault to laugh at the monkey we have here, when I compare his condition with mankind.'
Lord Rochester in a letter to Henry Sevile
'Were I, who to my cost, already am
One of those strange, prodigious creatures, Man,
A spirit free, to choose for my own share
What sort of flesh and blood I pleas'd to wear,
I'd be a dog, a monkey or a bear,
Or any thing but that vain animal,
Who is so proud of being rational.'
Rochester, 'In Imitation of the English Satire of Boileau'
My uncle keeps a rough-scaled brown snake in a barrel. He feeds it mice. He caught it this way: saw its tail disappearing up a piece of polypipe, but had no idea what sort of snake it was (this is in carpet-snake country, could easily have been harmless). So he got his daughter (no, her name is not Arjun) to pick up the polypipe, and they up-ended it into the barrel, the daughter bashing at the top end with a star-picket. The snake coiled up inside the pipe, not wanting to come out - but when it did, it was feisty. Details of what happened next are vague, but they got the lid on the barrel, and have kept it as a pet ever since.
From wikipedia: The Rough-scaled snake is a highly venomous snake. Its venom is a fast acting powerful neurotoxin that it is both presynaptic and post-synaptic. It has potent post-synaptic neurotoxins as well as potent pre-synaptic neurotoxins. It also has potent coagulants as well as myotoxins. It will readily bite and is known for its foul disposition and defensive nature. Several fatalities have occurred due to this species and it will strike rapidly in defense.
Probably not as mad as the snake. I hope it's a deep barrel.
By the way, that's a story complete as is that could also be expanded a few hundred pages.
Rick, you have had an influence on me. There was a time when I could not look at even a picture of a snake without cringing. Looking at CM's picture, I almost think that snake is beautiful!
My uncle is slightly mad - nature mad, anyway. He was very exciting when I was a kid, showing me spiders and frogs and animal tracks and the like. I guess in this case he couldn't bear to kill the thing, but knew it'd be madness to let it go.
Rick, feel free to use it, it's not copyright! I used to think I could write, but these days I have my doubts, except in the occasional small yarn in the salon. And I think your influence on Lisa calls for celebration. Jelly snakes anyone?
If that influence ever leads you to want to pet a brown snake, please reconsider.
Choco, You already wrote it.
No interest in touching a brown snake either, but..... one thing I like about snakes is the way they feel. Incredibly alive, for one thing, and and and.... hmmm.... something to do with the smoothness w/a sort of suggestion of texture, a feeling that is 'as if' oily, but isn't?
Yes, and as you are lulled to sleep, near sleep--a texture like the afterbreeze of intercourse, so cool around your neck in the summer--the contraction has already reached that point at which the chin has become your death, and slowly, slowly, you are sleepier and, paradoxically, more and more lucid...
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