Monday, December 22, 2003

Merry Christmas!

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

"Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes -- how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

'Twas the Night Before Christmas or Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement C. Moore

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Holiday Picks!

As the holiday season is now lurching towards us inexorably like some drunken store Santa searching for a bathroom, I wanted to take this opportunity to present you with BookLinker's Top Ten Holiday Book Picks.

I hope that this makes your holiday shopping burden a trifle easier and please remember that if you click through to Amazon on this site and buy your books, I will receive a very small stipend...regretably very, very small....(sigh). In case anyone thinks I plan to retire to Monte Carlo on this - please be assured that the $1.67 in funds I expect to receive will be spent entirely frivously on chocolate...

On to BookLinkers Top Ten Holiday Books!

10). The Complete Far Side by Gary Larson - What can I say that anyone who has read even a single Far Side cartoon doesn't already know? Pricelessly off-kilter and fun!

9). The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl - Engrossing, literate, involving historical thriller! Damn fine!

8). The Devil in the White City : Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson - Desperately need to post the review for this one so in two words: just excellent!

7). Jarhead : A Marine's Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles by Anthony Swofford - Another pending reviews: Jarring, uncomfortable, profane and starkly unsettling but one of the best works in many a year...

6). Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis - Yet another pending review (Damn, I need to post more often don't I?). Perfect for the baseball junkie on your gift list, well-written and throughly enjoyable.

5). By the Sword: A History of Gladiators, Musketeers, Samurai, Swashbucklers, and OlympicChampions by Richard A. Cohen - Swashbuckling through the ages, an unbeatable history book that's great fun to boot!

4). Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History by George Crile - A must for the spy thriller and history junkie, it tells a story that you just plain won't believe until you read it...

3). The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd by Richard Zacks - Pirates. Need I say more?

2). Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand - The best sportsbook of the year...(and another outstanding pending review. Boy do I have a lot to answer for...)

and the Number One Pick for 2003 is....

1). Life of Pi by Yann Martel - Excellent, engrossing, thoughtful and provocative! A real winner!

As an added addition to my Top Ten Books, here is my 7 Worst, Most Overratted, Avoid-at-all-Costs books for 2003....Dan't even think about buying these books...yes, I'm talking to you. Don't do it...well, okay maybe for your mother-in-law...

7). A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson - I love Bill Bryson but this one is unfortunately lengthy, somewhat dull and not nearly as enjoyable as previous works...not bad but probably not a great holiday gift.

6). Prey by Michael Crichton - Why even bother?

5). Stupid White Men ...and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation! by Michael Moore - Nice to see that America still has professional gadflies and people challenging the system but am I the only one who wishes that he would just go away for awhile?

4). Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right by Al Franken - I have nothing against Al Franken. He is funny...sometimes... but am I alone is just finding this more of the same?

3). Who's Looking Out for You? by Bill O'Reilly - If these guys spent half as much energy thinking as they do yelling at each other, the world would be a much nicer place...quieter too...

2). The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss by Arthur Agatston - In all honesty: didn't read it. Eat less. Exercise more. Balanced diet. There, you're done! Save your money.

1). The Teeth of the Tiger by Tom Clancy - Bad. Really bad. Well, actually unfortunately worse then really bad. Extremely lame effort by the king of the techno-thrillers. Lengthy. Boring. It is also obviously a larger work deliberately truncated into two books. We can probably expect the next one next year. On the positive side it weighs less then some of his recent work...

Enjoy your holiday shopping!

Monday, December 01, 2003

Life of Pi - Yann Martel

It was the bookjacket that caught my eye.

I've never been much of a "literary" reader. I think it had to do with too much D.H. Lawrence, William Faulkner and Virginia Woolf in school. The net impact of that particular school of great literature was to drive me irrevocably away from anything remotely literary for years, if not decades...

Oh I like classic literature but my taste runs more towards the ancients and the swashbucklers- The Odyssey remains a prime favorite, Beowulf, Shakespeare and Scharazade all grace my library shelves and as for literature from the last century or so, give me Dumas, Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, ER Burroughs, Twain and H.G. Wells and keep the rest...

Life of Pi might be literary according to the critics, but I'll warrant it has more in common with the Odyssey then it does any other literary tome. Yann Martel has crafted an evocative travelers tale, an odyssey story of sorts that weaves almost magically into your head and leaves you, in the end, puzzling over the journey, your own as well as the book's.

Life of Pi is the lyical and imaginative story of Piscine Patel (the Pi of the title), a 16-year old boy on a spiritual journey of faith that takes an abrupt left turn when he is cast adrift in a lifeboat by a shipwreck, alone on the high seas - except for the one unique passenger on his boat - a full-grown 450 lb. adult Bengal Tiger named Richard Parker.

Pi's odyssey is a parable of faith, imagination and, oddly enough, zoology, giving you a quick,vivid and surprisingly effective lessons in animal pyschology and lion-taming. Martel's fable is at times harrowing, uplifting and intense, drawing you into the shared plight of both Pi Patel and Richard Parker. Life of Pi is one of those stories that you find yourself mulling over long after the book is closed. It is, on many levels, one of the most mesmerizing stories I have read and Martel's prose gifts readers with a real treasure.

How long can you survive adrift at sea? The record very probably belongs to some poor unknown sailor whose story never came to anyone else's ears but for a true survivors' tale check out Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea by Steven Callahan.

Here's some more castaways for you....

And some more Pi...

Interested in tigers? Here's a little proverb:

"Trouble rather the tyger in his lair,
than the sage among his books,
for to you
Kingdom's and their Armies
are things mighty and enduring,
but to him
they are but
toys of the moment,
to be swept away
with the flick of a finger."

For more on tigers, check out 5Tigers Tiger Information Centre, Tigers in Crisis, and the Tiger Foundation.

You might also like these guys...Magnum P.I. did.