The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

For people who read a lot they will probably know this was an important short story in

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From Wikipedia

American Literature.  It’s first inception was not a film though two films have been made of this story, neither kept to the plot.

It was written by the wonderful author James Thurber.  I love his tales. I have read him off and on for years and he had such a creative, humorous imagination. He was born in 1894, the same year my maternal grandparents were born though they were a few months older than him. He was a cartoonist, humorist, journalist, playwright, children’s book author and wit. He was best known for short stories and cartoons published in the New Yorker. (Wikipedia).

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was first published in The New Yorker magazine March 18, 1939. It is a story about a man who day dreamed his life away.  How often do we do that? I was a great day dreamer especially as I sat in school classes and it never really disappeared much into adulthood.

The story begins in Connecticut with Walter driving his wife into the city to do the shopping and have her hair done. Walter doesn’t pay much attention to the real world, but instead lives in a dreamlike state of heroic antics.

As they drive into town his wife tells him to quit driving so quickly. He goes into his imagination and sees himself as a pilot of a US Navy flying boat in a storm. There is a brief description of this episode of heroism. As they drive past a hospital he suddenly turns into a wonderful surgeon performing the trickiest of operations to save the life of his patient.

Screenshot 2Once past the hospital something else catches his imagination and he becomes a deadly assassin testifying in a courtroom. Soon afterwards he is a Royal Air Force pilot volunteering for a secret suicide mission to bomb an ammunition dumb.

Once the trip into town is complete he sees him self standing against a wall facing a firing squad. Each imaginative event is inspired by some detail of his hum drum life.

James Thurber’s stories and cartoons often displayed meek mannered men dominated by overweight, domineering wives. It seems to be a joke repeated often over time, especially in cartoons.

I remember the discussions of the story as far back as high school as his short stories, this one as well as The Catbird Seat were often taught in high school English classes. I wonder if they still are. I loved him and his stories. Screenshot 4

This story begins the exploration of the book, Funny Ha Ha, I talked about in a previous post.

 

 

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Looking Forward to 2020- Part 2

ScreenshotIt’s to be 40 degrees C (104 F) in Hobart today. The firefighters are on high alert as a large storm is expected to come through tonight and they are worried about lightning strikes starting fires. The last time Hobart hit 40 degrees C on this date was 1897. Needless to say we are sequestered in the house for the day.

It gives me a chance to finalise my challenges for next year. I am adding two other types of reading in order to diversify the books a bit. I got a book voucher for my November birthday and with it I purchased a very thick book of comical short stories by well known authors. It is called Funny Ha Ha. Authors include the likes of James Thurber, Saki, Spike Milligan, Mark Twain, Joyce Carol Oates and Dorothy Parker to name a few. There are 80 stories in all, of a few pages each.  I decided I will randomly pick one story each Monday morning and have programmed that into my phone calendar so I will get a reminder each week.

As New Year’s Day is this Wednesday, I decided to randomly pick a story today and was pleased when my random generator app chose The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber. I have read this story before, once assigned in high school and once later on. I also saw the film but didn’t get as much out of that as I did the story. I look Screenshot 5forward to reading it again.

The description of Funny Ha Ha states:

“Funny Ha Ha is the definitive collection of comic short stories. From Anton Chekhov to Ali Smith from P.G. Woodhouse to Nora Ephron, the greatest writers are those who know how to laugh. Here, award winning comedian and broadcaster Paul Merton brings together his favourite funny stories of all time. Whether it’s the silly, surreal, slapstick or satirical that makes you smile there’s a story here to tickle every funny bone. From prize-winners and literary giants, to stand up comedians and the rising stars of funny literature, this brilliant anthology is guaranteed to cheer your day. “

My second challenge is to continue with more of the books from 1001 Children’s Books You Should Read Before You Die. I started it before but it got waylaid. I’m hoping to rejuvenate that project. The only conditions I am assigning this project are I will use the Random Generator app to pick from the 900+ pages of the book and the books must come from the library.  I had a quick library search and they do have many of them. However some books are not available. There are quite a few copies that are eBooks I can download and others I need to put a hold on them.  I am choosing three books at a time and locating them in the library. I will read them once they become available or I get into town to pick them up.  Most won’t take very long to read.  I’ve not read children’s books much since I stopped working in the Education department. I like to keep up on children’s books and some young adult books.  It keeps me in the loop of what goes on with the younger generations though many of these books were classics when I was young.

Screenshot 3I also have some diaries I will try to keep up. They begin on 1 January and I will try to start my day off with the passage of the day. They are books I’ve wanted to read for awhile and if I take a year to read them I might be able to keep up. No promises on this one.

They are:

  1. The Diary of Samuel Pepys (those entries are a bit longer) Everyman’s Library, introduced by Kate Loveman
  2. A Traveller’s Year: 365 Days of Travel Writing in Diaries, Journals and Letters, compiled by Travis Elborough & Nick Rennison
  3. New York Diaries:  1609 to 2009, Edited by TeresaScreenshot 4 Carpenter.
  4. Dear Los Angeles: The City in diaries and Letters 1542 – 2018, Edited by David Kipen

Books three and four are really interesting. The editors have compiled all the diaries and letters they could find over time, in these locations, and organised the entries from centuries ago;  to current day by day of the year beginning with 1 January. So an entry might read: 1 January 1723 and the next paragraph could be 1 January 1802, and so forth. It sounds disjointed but I’ve had a read of these books here and there and they are really quite fun. Of course big events in these two cities are covered but there are also very minor characters who kept diaries and one gets a sense of what daily life’s like at the particular date.

Now I know, come 1 January, I love to take a big bite out of the book world and I am quite enthused now. But I have decided that 2020 is the year I drop way back on social media, except for my photography work and instead of wasting time looking at FB, Instagram and You Tube, I’m going to immerse myself in the books I have been collecting for decades and then moving them on.  Wish me luck.  (I know, I have an inflated sense of self and a very good sense of humour.) Screenshot 8

The 1977 Book Event

Kaggsy of kaggsysbookishramblings and Simon of stuckinabook host a regular event where a year is chosen and those who participate read a book published in that year. This time around the year is 1977.  I enjoy reading what people post up on their blogs but I have not participated before. No idea why. Other things just seemed to get in the way.

In my last post I stated I was fed up with all of the unread books on my shelves and I have decided to do something about it.  You can read about my plan here (if you are so inclined).  I have to say I am beginning this project with quite a bit of enthusiasm.  I went to random.org and entered the number of books I have on my shelf (1250) and let the wheels begin to turn.  Up popped an old paperback book on my shelf written by Helene Hanff.   Most book lovers will have read her lovely book 84 Charing Cross Road. However my chosen book is one of her lesser known books called Apple of My Eye.

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I started it yesterday and am on the last few pages now.  I have loved this story. And guess what??!! It was published in 1977.  What a coincidence.  So I am featuring this book as my entry into the event of books published in 1977. It also appears to be the only book on my shelves published in 1977.

Helene Hanff is a long time New Yorker. In 1976 she was asked by a publisher to write a tourist guide book detailing what a tourist would want to do when visiting New York City.  Well, like a lot of us, who never visit the attractions in our home city, instead opting to travel to see the sights in other parts of the world, Helene is no different.

She is telling her friend Patsy about this project and what on earth is she going to feature in this book.  Patsy also was born and raised in New York and they both start by stating they’d not visited the Statue of Liberty in all their years there.  That is the beginning of many outings they begin in exploring New York. This book is that story.

The book is so much fun to read. They visit all of the well known places, walking to most places or taking buses. They took a taxi once and would only take the underground to get home as one can’t see New York if they are underground.

They visit all of the neighbourhoods on the east and west side of Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and talk about the differences of the people who live on each side. They talk about the restaurants they eat in, the people they meet, the history of the places they visit. They talk about the newly built World Trade Centre and dare each other to visit the viewing platform at the top. Remember this is 1977 and things in New York were very different then to what they are now.

They talk about the attitudes towards redevelopment, what they think about the decaying parts of the city and some of the older decrepit buildings.  Their conversations are so amusing. I chuckled out loud a few times as they bantered back and forth with their varying views on this most diverse city.

They took a bus tour into Harlem and when Patsy’s apartment complex next to Central Park was featured as part of the tour with the guide telling visitors incorrectly who lives in it they make it their mission to correct him.

The two of them often had conversations with each other that were totally separate. Helene would chatter away filling Patsy in on the history of certain places and Patsy, not listening would be talking about something completely different at the same time.

If you enjoy books that take place in New York then this one is so much fun.  I also learned a lot about the New York of 40 years ago.  I also have a confession to make. I have travelled extensively in this world of ours but I have never been to New York City. Though it is one of my favourite settings to read about. I have such a romantic notion of what this city is like. I’m sure that bubble would burst if I actually visited the place.

I only wish Helene Hanff had written many books because her writing is wonderful, astute and informative.  I guarantee these two women will brighten your day. Snip20160609_6

A Couple of Books & a New Project

I finished a couple of books I enjoyed very much and did not finish another after 100 pages because I found it frustrating.

The book I loved was The Salt Path by Raynor Winn. A true story.  She and her husband lived in England. They owned a farm they ran as a B & B. An investment her husband made  with a good friend of his went belly up and they lost the lot. They became homeless in their fifties. They bought a couple of cheap sleeping bags and a tent and decided to walk the trail from Devon down through Cornwall ending at Land’s End and then back up the outer side heading towards Lyme Regis.  She had a guidebook by a man she had read and though he hiked much faster than them they achieved their goal.

Snip20180415_1The journey was arduous to say the least. They had no idea what they would do when they finished this project. They had little money, accessing about 30.00 pounds per week. The weather was often terrible, they went without food and lived on two minute noodles. The sleeping bags didn’t keep them warm and they couldn’t afford to stay in campgrounds that had hot showers. They camped wild. Raynor is an excellent writer and I won’t tell you what happened to them but I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this book. Their attitude, friendship and love was heartening. Did I mention the day after they were forced off their property he was diagnosed with a terminal disease? I know! How do people stay sane and cope when life throws all it has at you?

Snip20180415_2The second book I listened to on Audible was Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. I almost gave up on this book about one third through it. For some reason I persevered and ended up getting sucked into it and really enjoyed it. The ending is a real cracker. I never saw it coming.  Her personality is often debated on the Good Reads debut as being  on the Autism spectrum and whether the author meant for this or not she had the quirkiest personality.  A bright woman with very inappropriate social skills. Though at times I found I quite related to her. She didn’t suffer fools gladly and I liked that about her.  A really fun read if you give yourself time to get into it.

Snip20180415_3Then, once again I fell for the hype and got The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn from the library. I read exactly 101 pages before I thought, “For God’s sake, this is a load of nonsense and she is really starting to bore me.” I gave it the flick and it will return to the library on Tuesday.  A psychologist with agoraphobia who spies on her neighbours all day and drinks way too much.  From reading the blurb on the back of the book, I know someone is supposed to scream and then sinister goings on begin to happen but by page 101 the woman still hadn’t screamed and I was sick of hearing about her lifestyle confined to her house. 101 pages? Really? I didn’t need that level of detail to learn about agoraphobia.

While contemplating whether to finish this book or not I decided to look up my library on LibraryThing.com. Search for TravellinPenguin if you want to visit my library.

What a mess my lists of books were in. More than 1000 Penguin books still looked at me from the website. As I have sold them all and quite a few of the other books on the list I decided to delete the whole library and begin again. I still have close to 1000 books on the shelves. Actually a bit over that number. Library Thing has a new app where one can scan the isbn codes with a smart phone and magically they end up listed on librarything’s page. I loved it. So shelf by shelf, I pulled the books off and scanned all of them into the phone.  I still have a few shelves to do today when I will be finished with it all. I have a few Penguin series that all have isbn codes on the back and it is lovely to have a written list of all of the book titles available.

The advantage of pulling all the books off the shelves is for one, the shelves were dusted and cleaned and secondly I found books I forgot I had. Lovely, interesting books.  I had a good talk with myself. Why on earth do I continue to get books from the library when I have all of these beautiful stories awaiting on my own shelves? I think the acronym is TBR. To Be Read!!  Why am I succumbing to books like The Woman in the Window when I have far better written stories here at home. So I have decided that from now on I am:

  1. Going to read my own books for the remainder of the year. No buying books, no library.
  2. I will then remove those books from the house. Move them into new homes. (Unless they are sentimental favourites like Little Women or Black Beauty from my childhood. I do not need 1000 plus books in my house. I am getting old. Downsize is the word of the day.

Then I thought-How will I ever choose what to read first? They all look so good. So I hatched a plan:

3. I will enter the numbers of books I own into Random.org and random.org will     choose the book from the list on Librarything.  If I choose a book I find out I really don’t want to read and I can’t bear the thought then I will sell it on eBay or the second hand bookshop in town or give it away. The rule is once it leaves the shelf it is never to return. (Unless it is part of a set I want to keep, like the Penguin sets.)

That is the plan. I am feeling quite enthused about it so stay tuned. I have some very oddball books on my shelf. Books that are very old I rescued from the tip shop. Some recent ones that the marketing techniques of the publishers talked me into buying. Some that have gorgeous covers I couldn’t leave behind.  It will be an interesting challenge.

I also need to get back to the Deal Me In short story challenge as well as I do enjoy picking those stories with a deck of cards.

Stay tuned. This might be a wild ride. bluejumper